Catching up with Author @Karen_King

To mark the publication of her next novel, One Summer in Cornwall, I am thrilled to have the wonderful (and prolific) Karen King on Off the Beaten Track today, as the next stop on her book blog tour.

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Book cover and dates and names of contributors
Sandy Barker May 2

Congratulations, Karen, and welcome!

Tell us what inspired you to write One Summer in Cornwall.

I love Cornwall, and have set several books there. The first romance novel I set in Cornwall, The Cornish Hotel by the Sea, was set in the fictional town of Port Medden, and became a Kindle bestseller both in the UK and Australia. As it was very popular I thought it would be nice to write a sequel. One Summer in Cornwall features some of the much-loved characters from The Cornish Hotel by the Sea. Marcus the chef at Gwel Teg, was named in the Cornish Hotel but never featured, so I thought it would be lovely to give him his own story. Then Hattie came roaring into my head on her electric blue Harley Davidson and I had my hero and heroine. My friends have a cheeky Amazon parrot, who is the inspiration for Buddy. Then I threw in a fisherman’s cottage left to Hattie and her father and my story was born.

When did you start writing seriously?

Well over thirty five years ago now. I was first published in the 1980’s, writing for Jackie Magazine, but it was writing for children’s magazines such as Thomas the Tank Engine, Postman Pat, Barbie and Winnie the Pooh that gave me my ‘big break’ and enabled me to earn a living by writing. I also wrote children’s books. My first romance novel, Never Say Forever, was published as a People’s Friend Pocket Novel in 2009, and is now republished by Headline. One Summer in Cornwall is my ninth romance novels and I’m contracted to write two more for Headline. I also had my first psychological thriller, The Stranger in my Bed published by Bookouture in November 2020 and a second one, The Perfect Stepmother, will be published in June this year.

What do you love most about being an author?

Making up stories! My mind is always bursting with ideas and I love it when a story finally starts to come right. Getting good feedback from readers is a lovely bonus too. When I was writing children’s books I enjoyed visiting schools to encourage children to read and write. Children have such an incredible imagination and we had a lot of fun making up stories as a class.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a Christmas romance for Headline, the second book in my three book contract. The third one will be out next summer. It seems odd to be writing a Christmas story in the summer, especially as this one is set in a little village in Devon, complete with snow and an outdoor carol service. I’m feeling very nostalgic as I write.

What do you hope readers will take away from One Summer in Cornwall?

I hope they enjoy the read and it leaves them feeling a little happier. We live in strange and worrying times so it’s nice to lose yourself in a feelgood, heart-warming book sometimes.

More about One Summer in Cornwall

Cover of the book, One Summer in Cornwall. Woman painting outside of a thatched cottage by the seaside. A boat is sailing offshore.


Escape to Cornwall this summer…

When Hattie is made redundant and evicted from her flat in one horrible week, she needs time to rethink. Her Uncle Albert left her and her father each half of Fisherman’s Rest, his home in the Cornish town of Port Medden, so this seems the perfect place to escape to until she can figure things out.

As Hattie stays in the cottage, clearing it out, tidying it up and getting it ready to sell, she starts to find her feet in Port Medden and making a new home here begins to feel right. If only her dad didn’t need a quick sale and things weren’t complicated by her unwelcoming neighbour Marcus…

A gorgeous feel-good read, perfect for fans of CATHY BRAMLEY and PHILLIPA ASHLEY.

Where you can buy it

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo | Nook | Waterstones (UK) | Foyles (UK) | Booktopia (AU) | Dymocks (AU)

More about Karen

Karen King author photo - a smiling with blue eyes and red hair wearing a floral top

Karen King is a multi-published author of both adult and children’s books. She has had eight romantic novels published, one psychological thriller with another one out later this year, 120 children’s books, two young adult novels, and several short stories for women’s magazines. Her romantic novel The Cornish Hotel by the Sea became an international bestseller, reaching the top one hundred in the Kindle charts in both the UK and Australia. Karen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. Karen now lives in Spain where she loves to spend her non-writing time exploring the quaint local towns with her husband, Dave, when she isn’t sunbathing or swimming in the pool, that is.

Follow Karen

Website | Amazon | Facebook | BookBub | Twitter

Thank you for sharing with us, Karen, and all the best for publication day!

Thank you so much for inviting me over to your blog, Sandy!

Catching up with Author Ella Cook

It is a pleasure to welcome Ella Cook to Off the beaten Track to talk about her debut novel, Beyond Grey. Thank you for joining us, Ella!

Tell us what inspired you to write Beyond Grey?

The idea for the book came from a very long, wet and difficult drive home. A storm hit us when we were around 50 miles from home, and the roads flooded really quickly. It was all too easy to imagine a situation in which an accident could happen. Thankfully, we got home safely, but in this book, I explore what happens when the journey home ends in tragedy.

I’ve experienced a few ‘white feather’ moments in my life, and times when we’ve believed there’s someone watching over us. I was going through my own period of difficulty, so was inspired to write a way to get through ‘the grey’ and come out the other side.

When did you start writing seriously?

Writing has always been a huge love for me – and I’ve been incredibly privileged to turn it into my career: I write bids and funding applications to help families and children who are facing challenges.

I started writing contemporary when my Mum was having treatment for cancer – quite often while I was sitting on oncology wards with her (some of the treatments made her very sleepy). It gave me something positive to focus on and her something to read.

I’d written before, when I was younger, but got distracted by life and work and other commitments for a few years, before coming back to fiction.

What do you love most about being an author?

Beyond Grey is my debut novel, so it’s quite early to ask this, but I’ve been fortunate enough to receive some amazing reviews, and I’m loving being able to share my stories with the world.

What are you working on now?

My next book is with my publishers at the moment: It’s about a little girl called Summer whose last Christmas was basically cancelled (sound familiar to anyone?) because she was so poorly. Her village community is tight-knit and they adore Summer and her family, and work together to bring the magic of the festive season into August to celebrate ‘Summer’s Christmas’.

What do you hope readers will take away from Beyond Grey?

In one word: Hope.

Beyond Grey is a story that deals with some really sensitive issues. It’s starts in one of the darkest places, with death and loss, but ends with healing and happiness. I’m going to be cheeky and quote a review here, because when I read it, I thought ‘Yes! That was the reaction I was hoping to give people’.

“Although the book is based around a difficult subject it was a genuinely heartfelt and life affirming read. You to get to know a family as they experience one of the most awful things to happen to anyone and discover the joy in living and loving.”

It might seem like odd timing, to publish a novel about death in the middle of a worldwide pandemic – but it truly is a book about healing and finding the spark of hope in the darkest, most painful of places. And I really think that hope is something we could all do with a little more of right now!

More about the book

Jenn and David had the perfect love story. They were teenage sweethearts who married, and had two wonderful children. Everything was going to plan and they were looking forward to growing old together. Until Jenn is killed in a tragic accident, leaving David distraught and struggling to cope without the love of his life.

But for Jenn, death is not quite what she expected. Instead of resting in peace, she is trapped in a ghostly, grey world, struggling to reach the people she loves the most. To reach beyond the grey to help her family find happiness again, even if it means forgetting her to move on.

Where can you get it? Amazon AU | Amazon UK | Amazon US

More about Ella

Ella Cook, smiling woman, with shoulder length hair

Ella grew up in London, where her grandparents has a miniature wishing well in their garden where fairies would leave gifts for well-behaved children. She now lives in Warwickshire where there are almost definitely more fairies. She shares her home with her ever-patient husband and two small, demanding parrots who like to chase her cursor across the computer screen.

She still looks for moments of magic in everyday life, and is surprised by how often she finds them.

Follow Ella: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Catching up with Author Daisy Tate

Today I welcome the lovely Daisy Tate for an author catch-up, whose latest book is A Bicycle Built for Sue.

We’ll find out more about Sue later. First let’s catch up with Daisy

Tell us what inspired you to write A Bicycle Built for Sue?

In all honesty, I came up with the title first. I’ve been on a couple of cycling tours myself and found them incredibly difficult, not just because of the physical challenges, but because of the thinking time. I’d also been on a charity run recently (I promise you, I’m not a gifted athlete, just too up for a challenge!) and everyone had on shirts saying why or who they were running the race for and I was in floods of tears for most of the race because I was making up stories for absolutely everyone. I don’t want to give anything away, but I narrowed it down to Sue (fictional, of course), and her story is about a woman reeling in the wake of a personal tragedy. She finds help and support from a trio of women she least expects, who crowd round and keep her head above water. It’s something I have found to be true on numerous occasions when you’re blindsided by loss or heartache of some variety. And yes, sometimes the people you expect to help do, but sometimes they don’t and it’s always interesting to see who steps in to lend a hand when you need it most.

When did you start writing seriously?

I started writing seriously about six years ago. I’d had lots of stop/starts along the way, but my husband and I had moved out of London to a farm and I found, particularly in the winter, I needed some intellectual stimulus. So, I thought, ‘Get yourself to a keyboard!’

What do you love most about being an author?

The surprises that blossom along the way. I love writing dialogue and sometimes something will come out of someone’s mouth and I’m all … whaaaaaaat? You’re saying that now? To them? I write almost every day but those moments definitely stand out as extra special ones. I also LOVE hearing from readers. I read a review recently where the reader thought she wasn’t going to like the book because it was ‘too relatable’ (the dark parts) but she persisted and said by the end she’d actually felt more hopeful about her own situation. Those kind of moments are amazing.

What are you working on now?

I have an alter ego – Annie O’Neil – who writes Christmas books, and I’ve just put the finishing touches on this year’s book, A Miracle on Christmas Street. It’ll be out later this month. I also have, and I’m not kidding, about ten pitches I’m polishing up for my agent and editor to see if any of them appeal. I love them all and can’t pick, so I’m definitely going to need an outside eye to help me home in on just the one.

What do you hope readers will take away from A Bicycle Built for Sue?

I hope, most of all, that they know they’re not alone, that no matter how sad or lonely or desperate or isolated someone can feel, there is ALWAYS someone there. They may not come in the package you expected, but they will be there. It’s not a mandate to join a charity cycle ride, but I have taken part in a few charitable events (even wiggling a tin in front of a grocery store) and it’s always rewarding. Most of all, I would like readers to take away a belief that everyone is stronger than they think they are and deeply, deeply lovable.

That is lovely, Daisy, and such a good reminder to us all.

Here’s the blurb for A Bicycle Built for Sue

Sue Young has never asked for much apart from a quiet life. She’s always been happy with her call centre job and dinner on the table at six o clock; that was until a tragedy tore her tranquillity into little shreds.

With her life in tatters, Sue is persuaded to join a charity cycle ride led by Morning TV’s Kath Fuller, who is having a crisis of her own, and Sue’s self-appointed support crew are struggling with their own issues. Pensioner Flo Wilson is refusing to grow old, gracefully or otherwise, and a teen goth Raven Chakrabarti, is determined to dodge the path her family have mapped out for her.

Can the foursome cycle through saddle sores and chaffed thighs to a brighter future, or will pushing themselves to the limit prove harder than they thought?

Get is here: Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US

Follow Daisy: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Website

Thanks for the catch-up, Daisy! Looking forward to your (Annie’s) Christmas book too!

#SummerSolsticeReadalong

It’s that time of the year! Solstice!!!

I am excited to be participating in the Summer Solstice Read-along.

Solstice Read

‘But, Sandy, aren’t you in Australia?’ I hear you ask. Why, yes, I am, but I always celebrate Winter solstice each year, as even though we’re less than a month into Winter by now, the days will start to get longer – something to be grateful for when you are a Summer lover like I am.

So, for the inaugural Summer Solstice Read-along, organised by the fabulous Emma Jackson, there are 15 romance authors who have all swapped books. I am reading Lynne Shelby’s latest, The Summer of Taking Chances. I’ve loved Lynne’s previous books and this was no exception! Such a great read and I will tell you why in just a moment.

So, join us! Post your pics (where and what are you reading?) and book covers on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #SummerSolsticeReadalong and share your reads on Facebook too!

SUMMER OF TAKING CHANCES

About the book

It’s been ten years since Emma Stevens last laid eyes on Jake Murray. When he left the small seaside village of South Quay to chase the limelight, Emma’s dreams left with him.

Now Emma is content living a quiet and uneventful life in South Quay. It’s far from the life she imagined, but at least her job at the local hotel has helped heal her broken heart.

But when Jake returns home for the summer to escape the spotlight, Emma’s feelings quickly come flooding back. There’s clearly a connection between them, but Jake has damaged her heart once already – will she ever be able to give him a second chance?

My review

You will fall back in love with life in this wonderful, romantic story of second chances. I’m a lover of all things theatre, especially Shakespeare, so the small town production of Romeo and Juliet was a wonderful thread throughout this story. I absolutely loved the cast of characters, especially Emma, who lost sight of her dream, and was a heroine to champion!

This is a deep dive into the themes of second chances, being true to yourself and following your dreams.

A must read!

Where can you get it?

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo

Catching up with Author Katie Ginger

It is a pleasure to welcome the wonderful author, Katie Ginger, who is here to talk about her latest book Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay and all things writing.

Tell us what inspired you to write Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay?

I really love writing books set in the summer and had originally pitched this to my editor as being set at a music festival. We have a chat about what fitted better with the genre and decided that a food festival would be better and much more on trend. As a result, Swallowtail Bay’s strawberry festival was born with a main character who wanted to turn it into a food festival. Though the setting changed a little, the characters all remained as I’d envisaged them with Hetty being strong and feisty and John being grouchy in his crumbling country home!

When did you start writing seriously?

I took redundancy from my job in 2014, and decided to do something completely different from working as a manager in the museums sector. I signed up for a distance learning novel writing course as I’d always loved writing but had never felt confident about it, and it all went from there! I decided to really try and get a book deal after my cousin passed away from cancer and was lucky enough to be offered a two-book deal with HQ Digital in January 2018. It’s kind of just snowballed from there!

What do you love most about being an author?

Everything! Can I say everything?! But I really do love everything about it. I love thinking and plotting stories, figuring out who my characters are and what they do and what their emotional scars are. I love the excitement of the first draft and discovering the story and then editing. Editing is, I think the hardest thing but a necessary evil! Weirdly, the stage I love most is copy editing. I am so in awe of copy editors who know all the technical rules about dangling participles and all that stuff. That’s when a manuscript really gets shined up, I think!

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on edits for the Christmas novel: the final book in the Swallowtail Bay series! I’ll be kind of sad to say goodbye to that little town! Then I’ll be working on some ideas for romantic comedies for next year (very excited about those!). I’m also venturing into a bit of historical cozy mystery writing under the pen name K E Coburn. It’s pretty full on, but I love it!

What do you hope readers will take away from Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay?

I really just want to give readers a little bit of respite from this crazy world we’re in right now. I hope I manage to make them laugh and smile and enjoy being somewhere else, away from the day-to-day worries. If I can do that, then I’ve hit the jackpot!

More about Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay

Grab your strawberries and cream and get ready to return to the beautiful Swallowtail Bay!

Summer is in full swing and the locals are getting excited for the launch of the Swallowtail Bay strawberry food festival. But will all run smoothly when festival organiser Hetty’s heart is torn between lord of the manor John Thornhill and successful bakery owner Ben?

Buy Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Amazon CA 

More about Katie Ginger

Katie lives in the South East of England, by the sea, and she really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay is her fifth novel. The first, Spring Tides at Swallowtail Bay is available now. Her debut novel The Little Theatre on the Seafront was shortlisted for the Katie Fforde Debut Novel of the Year award, and her stand- alone Christmas novel Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage was a US Amazon bestseller.

When she’s not writing, Katie spends her time drinking gin, or with her husband, trying to keep alive their two children, Ellie and Sam. And there’s also their adorable King Charles Spaniel, Wotsit (yes, he is named after the crisps!).

Follow Katie

www.keginger.com | Facebook|Twitter | Instagram

 

Catching up with Author Fiona Leitch

I am very excited to welcome fellow author, Fiona Leitch to my blog. Her debut book, Dead in Venice, is hands-down the funniest book I’ve read in years―I was laughing out loud on page one. It is also one of the sexiest and most gruesome! yes, you read that correctly. Dead in Venice is a romcom meets crime thriller. You can read more about the book below, but first, let’s chat to Fiona!

Tell us what inspired you to write Dead in Venice?

I’ve always been fascinated by Venice, even before I went there. I’ve always loved the sea, and the thought of a city surrounded by water just really appealed to me. When I finally visited in 2015, I fell madly in love with it. It was like every picture, every movie, every painting you’ve ever seen of Venice, only more so. Beautiful. But what really got to me was the atmosphere. It’s a city of contrasts. You’ve got the touristy areas that are absolutely rammed with people, it’s complete madness – but take a few back streets and you can soon be absolutely, utterly on your own. It’s really easy to get lost in the little passages and alleyways – even the locals get lost, because not all the streets are signposted, or the name was changed 200 years ago but everyone still uses the original name, and the house numbering is eccentric to say the least. I loved the idea of losing yourself there, not just physically but emotionally. And at night, take a wrong turn and you’ll find yourself in a dead end, with a deep dark canal blocking your way. It was easy to imagine nefarious shit going down!

When did you start writing seriously?

I first started to take it seriously 20 years ago. I wrote a sitcom pilot and sent it off to a few TV production companies in the UK – this was in the days when you could do that and they’d actually read it! I had a few meetings and phone calls, with Tiger Aspect, Hat Trick and Anne Mensah at Noel Gay (she’s now a Very Big Cheese at Sky). It all seemed to be on the verge of happening for me…and then it just didn’t. Then real life took over. I met my husband, got married and became a mum, and I didn’t write seriously again for about 14 years. I got back into it after seeing (of all things) a Marvel movie with my daughter. I’d started writing sitcoms again, low budget TV stuff, but my heart wasn’t really in it. I watched Thor and Avengers Assemble and decided I would write my own blockbuster superhero movie, just to see if I could write 90 minutes of material. And I could! I decided I was going to write movies. Dead in Venice started life as a screenplay, then a friend of mine told me they thought it would work really well as a novel. The thought of having to write all those words was terrifying, but she nagged me until I started the book and that was it – I’m hooked on writing novels now! Then Audible picked it up as one of their Crime Grant finalists and the rest, as they say…

What do you love most about being an author?

I love being able to escape, not just to different places but into different peoples’ heads. I like setting my books in exotic locations – Paris, Barcelona and Berlin to name a few – and I always like an excuse to travel. I also love writing funny female characters and getting them to say all the witty, sassy comebacks that in real life I only ever come up with two hours too late.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished novel number 4, which is the follow up to Dead in Venice, and am hoping novels 2 and 3 find a home soon! I’ve also got an ideas list as long as your arm, which I am slowly working my way through.

What do you hope readers will take away from Dead in Venice?

Without giving away any spoilers – I hope it will surprise people (I think the end twist is definitely unexpected!) and I hope it will maybe make readers ask themselves what they would do in that situation.

Here’s the blurb for Dead in Venice

AUDIBLE CRIME GRANT FINALIST 2018

Award-winning crime novelist Bella Tyson has it all: a successful career, devoted fans – and a bad case of writer’s block. So when a fan sends her a book of Venetian ghost stories and offers her the use of an apartment near Piazza San Marco, Bella jumps at the chance to get her Eat Pray Love on, consume her bodyweight in gelato and explore the atmospheric canals of Venice.

She meets Will, a mild-mannered, middle class Interpol agent working in the city, and is swept away by him. And when a series of gruesome murders occur he’s on the case – with Bella in tow.

Her writer’s block is well and truly cured, her new novel is under way, and she’s madly in love. But Bella realises that not everything in Venice is as it seems…

Praise for Dead in Venice

“Absolutely stonking book. Rom-com meets crime in such a fresh and refreshing way. Dirty laughed through half of the book and cried at the end. Amazing book.”

“Bella is the kind of heroine most women would love to be and Will the kind of man we’d love to meet. Funny, loud-mouthed, mature protagonists with flaws, curves and the kind of wit that makes Fiona Leitch’s writing reminiscent of Richard Curtis’ films.”

“Oh what fun! Hilarious and witty protagonist in one of the best cities in the world. Suspenseful and kept me hooked.”

“Ms Leitch’s light tone contrasts with the very serious subject matter, which makes it all the more emotional and powerful. It is in turn horrifying, funny, tender, hopeful, or sad. This is a courageous book, devoid of sentimentality but full of sentiment.”

“A combination of gritty crime thriller, hilarious romcom, with a splash of the heart-wrenching emotions. And it works.”

“An entertaining mash-up of romcom and crime.”

“DEAD IN VENICE made me fall in love with fiction again.”

Buy Dead in Venice 

Amazon AU | Amazon UK | Amazon US | mybook.to/DeadInVenice

Follow Fiona on socials (she’s just as much fun online as she is on the page)

Twitter | Instagram | fionaleitch.com

 

#ArmchairTravel is (literally) the only way to go

chair-270980_1920

So, we are in very strange times. The world has been sent to its room and now we must find a new kind of balance in all that we do, when all that we do is in the confines of our homes.

As a lifelong traveller, someone who longs to go, see, and do, this lockdown means I need to find a new way to travel. And to do that, I will be reaching for the books of my colleagues in the travel fiction and travel biography genres.

I’ll be picking up Frances Mayes and Julie Caplin, Kiley Dunbar, Linn B. Halton, and Paige Toon. There are dozens of us who write about faraway places and evoke just what it’s like to be there.

My next book, That Night in Paris, will take you on a whistle-stop tour of Europe, and the one after that, A Sunset in Sydney, to London, Hawaii, New Zealand, and Sydney. You could even catch up on my first book, One Summer in Santorini, which will whisk you off to the Greek Islands.

So in this unprecedented time when the only way to travel is from the comfort of home, seek out your travel adventures within the pages. And from me is a promise to keep taking my readers to wonderful locations.

See you amongst the pages.

Image by Hans Braxmeier.

Catching up with Author Nina Kaye

It is a pleasure to welcome fellow author, Nina Kaye to my blog. I asked her some questions about her debut novel, The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating, which I absolutely loved, and about her work as an author.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating?

The seed of my debut novel, The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating, was first planted when my literary agent, Kate Nash, said to me, ‘whatever you write about, make sure it has gin in it’. But obviously there was more to it than that. The three key ingredients were the beautiful setting of Edinburgh, my experience working in the hospitality industry, and (of course) my appreciation of gin! It was important to me to bring real life issues into my novel, but I also wanted to show the light-hearted side of life in Scotland. I’ve actually written a guest blog post on ‘the story behind my story’. You can read it here.

When did you start writing seriously?

I started writing properly just over five and a half years ago when I was fighting a debilitating illness and desperate to get my life back. This is a story I intend to share when I’m able to bring my most recent work in progress to my readers, so I’ll park that for now and focus on my journey to publication instead.

My initial goal was to see if I could write a full-length novel. It was daunting to begin with, but it came more easily than I expected, and after six months I had my first full draft. Then, after lots of editing to shape and polish it, I asked myself: what next? I knew nothing about the publishing industry, so I did some research and decided I had nothing to lose by querying with Literary Agents. Fifteen rejections later (thankfully, with encouraging feedback!), I accepted that my first novel wasn’t going to be my big break and self-published instead. But a month later, a late response came back from my querying, and this turned into an offer of representation.

After more shaping and polishing, my manuscript went on submission to publishers for their consideration. I spent months biting my nails as one rejection after another flowed into my inbox (but with very encouraging feedback once again). By then, I was writing book number two and the focus had shifted to that. We then went through the same process, and first came the inevitable flurry of rejections – which I was used to by then. People kept saying to me, all it takes it one person to say ‘yes’, and they were right. The day my publishing offer flashed up as a notification on my phone, my legs went to jelly and I shared an emotional hug with a perfect stranger in the ladies toilets of my then workplace.

That was last June and after working closely with my publisher on yet more shaping and polishing, my debut novel, The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating, was released in November. It’s been an amazing (and nerve wracking!) process, and I’m so glad I kept at it. Now my focus is on building my profile as an author and getting visibility for my book.

What do you love most about being an author?

There’s so much I love about being an author. Someone once referred to me as a ‘frustrated creative’ and that label really struck a chord. In my day job I’m creative, but I’m also very structured and focused – and it’s those skills that people tend to seek me out for most often. I’ve long needed a creative outlet that’s mine and mine only, and writing is perfect for that. I love that I can escape into this whole other world where the story takes whatever direction I choose. It’s so vivid, I feel like I’m there watching it unfold.

I also love the new friendships and connections I’ve made through being a client of the Kate Nash Literary Agency and a member of the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA). So many like-minded people I can really connect with, and we’re all on this journey together. The RNA is fantastic. I’ve never been part of something that has such a sense of community before. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a newbie or an esteemed author, you’re welcomed and included – and everyone cheers each other on!

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on two different pieces. My main work in progress is another romantic fiction novel about a character who’s diagnosed with a life changing illness, and her determination to reclaim her life (including her romantic life). I’m using my own personal experience as inspiration for this. It’s perhaps a bit more poignant than my debut because of the subject matter, but I’ve used plenty of humour to keep it as light and engaging as possible.

My second piece is the sequel to my very first novel, which is currently unpublished. This ‘two-parter’ is a fast-paced, humorous story about a woman who’s very ambitious but who lacks the confidence to be the assertive, successful person she wants to be – and there’s a dollop of romance in there too.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating?

The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating is a light-hearted romcom, so I have no unrealistic expectations that it will change anyone’s life. But this is a tough world we live in, and I felt it was important to represent some of that struggle within the story. I also believe it’s important that we (and by ‘we’ I mean the human race) never lose our sense of humour. People say ‘laughter is the best medicine’, and while I realise this saying has become a bit of a cliché, I know that having a sense of humour has helped me through some very difficult times.

Ultimately, what I hope for is to give my readers a good laugh, make them think a bit, make them feel good – and give them that satisfying happy-ever-after.

If you haven’t read it already, here’s the book blurb:

When life gives you lemons… add a splash of gin! 

When Liv’s high-flying career goes off the rails, she finds herself working at a glitzy new gin bar to pay the bills. She’s never let romance distract her, but with one very hot colleague, a mysterious online follower who might just be her soulmate, and a lot of cocktails, her dating life is about to be shaken up…

But is Liv looking for a sparkling flirtation, or something a little stronger?

Sometimes you have to face up to your past, seize your future, and mix your own recipe for happy ever after…

And here’s where you can get your own copy:

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US

 

Write what you know, right?

In the late 90s, I was a European Tour Manager for a company that specialised in tours for 18-35 year olds. See?

EE 1997-No Contiki

Aside: Gotta love those ‘mom jeans’.

I always said I would never go on one of these tours, let alone work as a TM, but when you have a devastating breakup in Paris from a 5-year relationship and you still want to see all the places you were supposed to see on that trip with your now ex-boyfriend, you book a last-minute tour.

After said Parisian breakup, I arrived home (in London) on the Eurostar, got on the phone, and booked a 2-week trip that started the next morning at 7am. I was back in Paris within 24 hours of leaving and on that trip, I met 5 women who became my bus besties. I am still in touch with Michelle, the tall blonde.

Venice 1996

Months later, while I was living in London and doing day-to-day relief teaching, I saw that the tour company was hiring. “I could do that job,” I thought. I applied, along with a couple thousand others, and after an interview process that would NOT pass muster in this #metoo world, I got a spot on the 7-week training trip.

Surviving that was like getting to the final four of Survivor. It was something akin to bootcamp, but with less creature comforts. We averaged 4-5 hours of sleep a night and we slept in tents – in winter – in the snow. We were quizzed relentlessly on routes, opening times, history, currency conversion, places of interest, and architecture. I made lifelong friends, because, really, in the extreme circumstances, all we had some days were each other.

And then I was placed in charge of my own tour – a 5-week camper – the first of a long season that took me into November. It was one of the best and worst years of my life. The best because of the friendships I made, the places I saw, and the experiences I had. And the worst because … well, that’s another blog post.

But, one of the most incredible things about that time is the material it has given me for my writing.

In my 1st and 3rd books, the main character is Sarah Parsons, and like me, she once ran tours in Europe. When her sister, Cat (the main character is book #2), books a 2-week bus tour around around Europe to escape her lovelorn flatmate, Sarah is able to rattle off the full itinerary without hesitation.

And Cat booking that tour meant that I got to write a 2-week bus tour around Europe!

Cat’s 3 bus besties are inspired by my real life bus besties. Michelle inspired Mama Lou, Weyleen (far left above) inspired Jaelee, and Sophie (second from the left) inspired Danielle. I was able to write the places in great detail, because I’d been to them many (many) times. And I was able to write exactly what it’s like to travel on a bus tour – right down to the (ridiculously) early starts, the heinous ablution blocks, the tight schedules, the fast-but-firm friendships that are formed, and how wonderfully Europe excites and entices the senses.

Here’s a little peek into that world…

It was brilliant fun writing That Night in Paris. Early readers are loving it, and you can preorder now (April 15 for the ebook and June/July for the print version) – just follow the link above.

Ciao!

New Year’s Absolutions 2020

2020

It’s that time again! Time to reflect on the year that was and absolve myself from those niggling ‘shoulds’ that I just can’t bring myself to do.

So, in time for the kick-off to the 2020s, I absolve myself of …

Finishing my ‘to be read’ list before buying new books

I LOVE books – as in, I love them so much I should marry them. I once said that if the TBR list on my Kindle was a stack of books on my bedside table and it fell on me in the night, it would crush me and I would die.

That’s still true.

And even though I feel guilty about the ones I haven’t read yet, I won’t stop buying books. It’s because of that moment when I’m contemplating ‘next read’ and I have so many options that I can find exactly what I’m in the mood for.

So, no more guilt. I’ll just keep buying all the books. BUYING. ALL. THE. BOOKS!

Taking up running (again)

I used to be a runner. I ran here, I ran there, I ran all over the darned place. Then I got runner’s arthritis and had foot surgery (it hurt worse than the arthritis for more than a year). And I kept promising myself I’d get back to running, because the truth is (and I know that may change what you think of me), I love to run.

LOVE IT!

It’s my meditation, it clears my head at the end of a long day, it fuels my creativity, it revs me up at the start of the day, and it does wonders for my legs. Or, it did. It’s been years since I ran regularly. It’s just too painful on that foot – not during the run, but afterwards and sometimes for days.

Still, that niggling promise rears its head from time to time.

So, new promise: no more running. I am, however, contemplating a new spin bike…

Doing keto

Keto is a fantastic way for some people to manage their sugar sensitivity, break their sugar addiction, lose weight, and live a healthy life. (BTW, if you think keto is eating as much bacon as you like, that’s not accurate and it’s worth reading up.)

Yet …

Having tried several stints of keto over the past 18 months, ever since I started learning about the health benefits, I know for sure that it is not for me.

I have a sensitivity to artificial sweeteners and to high fat food, even if it is good fat. I never get to the point where I feel great and have loads of energy. Keto has never once made me feel better, so never again.

However, I do intermittent fasting (intermittently – a couple of times a week) and that works amazingly to make me feel great.

Going 100% digital

My partner, Ben, is something of a tech aficionado and he’s tech savvy to the point of savantness. Thinking back over 2019, I can count the times I’ve seen him put pen to paper on one hand – and they were signing cards or documents.

I, on the other hand, am passionate about all things paper. I write lists, I scribble reminders on Post-its, I muse into notebooks (love me a good notebook), I write my character profiles by hand, and in my day job, I will sketch out plans and ideas on butcher’s paper. A stationery store is the mother ship to me.

So, no matter how many tech tools get designed and made to replicate all these paper-driven activities, I will fiercely hold onto my pen and will wield it to organise, plan, pontificate, create, and remind.

After all, the pen is mightier than the latest piece of software.

That’s all for this year. I wish you all the best for 2020 – may it be filled with grand adventures and lots of what makes you happy.

And remember to add a comment to this post with your absolutions …