Catching up with Author Rosie Travers

Welcoming the lovely Rosie Travers to Off the Beaten Track today to celebrate the recent release of her latest book, A Crisis at Clifftops. I’ve loved Rosie’s first two books and am excited for this new cosy mystery series.

Cover of A Crisis at Clifftops by Rosie Travers, English Manor in the background, gardens in the foreground. Additional text: Eliza Kane Investigators Book One

Tell us, what inspired you to write A Crisis at Clifftops?

A Crisis at Clifftops is a humorous cosy mystery set on the Isle of Wight. It would be difficult to reveal the actual incident which inspired this novel, without giving away a major plot twist! However, the original idea was conceived while taking a short break on the island a few years’ back. I initially planned a ‘coming home’ story, featuring a jaded sportsman who returns to rejuvenate the family’s seaside business. My sportsman soon became a sportswoman (after all, why not?) and as soon as the opening line, “My grandmother had picked the perfect day to get arrested,” popped into my head, I decided it would be far more fun to write a cosy mystery. I realised I could use my main character, professional golfer Eliza, to solve a whole string of vintage mysteries based on the island’s geographic landmarks and cultural history.

When did you start writing seriously?

I began writing seriously about ten years ago.  We had moved from our home on the south coast of England to California, I changed from being a busy working mum, to a lady of leisure with plenty of time on my hands. I started a blog about my somewhat surreal life as an ex-pat wife. I’d scribbled a few stories as a teenager and the blog rekindled that desire to become a writer.  When we returned to the UK three years later I took a part-time creative writing course at my local college, thinking I’d write a book about my US experiences, but soon discovered I preferred writing fiction to fact. When my husband took another overseas assignment to the Netherlands a couple of years later, I was able to concentrate on writing full-time, and my first novel, The Theatre of Dreams, was published by Crooked Cat books in 2018.

What do you love most about being an author?

I was an avid reader from a very early age and have always loved escaping into a good book. When you’re engrossed in a book you can shut out the rest of the world, and I love the idea that as a writer, I can now provide that sense of escape to my own readers. I have a very vivid imagination, and I enjoy creating puzzles, setting my characters challenges and giving them dilemmas. It’s like being a puppet-master, although the puppets quite often take over! Having now decided to take the plunge into self-publishing I’ve also realised I don’t have to conform or write to a market, which has reignited my creativity.  I have the freedom to write the books I want to read.

What are you working on now?

I’m hoping to publish my second Eliza Kane mystery, The Puzzle of Pine Bay, early in 2022. Having also regained my rights to The Theatre of Dreams, I’m working on a sequel to that too, which all being well, I’ll publish later next year.

What do you hope readers will take away from A Crisis at Clifftops?

My main aim is always to provide escapism and entertainment, so I hope readers come away with a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment. Although the book starts off as a murder mystery, it also explores the relationship between the main protagonist, amateur sleuth Eliza, and her grandmother Lilian, the chief suspect. I hope this book may also make readers take a closer look at their own elderly relatives. Sometimes it’s easy to forget they weren’t always old!

More about the book

When Lilian Hathaway is named as the chief suspect in a murder enquiry, her granddaughter Eliza drops everything to rush to her side. After a string of crushing defeats, professional golfer Eliza is facing a career crisis of her own. She seizes the opportunity to hide away with Lilian at Clifftops Hotel, the family’s home on the Isle of Wight, determined to defend her beloved nanna’s innocence.

But just how innocent is Lilian?

As the evidence starts to mount up, Eliza turns amateur sleuth in a race to uncover the truth. Family loyalty is stretched to the limits when she discovers a series of events in her grandmother’s past which could have far-reaching consequences, not just for Lilian but also for Clifftops, and Eliza’s own future.

Available from

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon CA

More about Rosie

Author photo, a middle aged woman with shoulder length blonde hair and blue eyes.

Rosie Travers grew up in Southampton on the south coast of England. She spent many years working in local government before moving to California in 2009. With time on her hands she started a blog about life as an ex-pat wife which rekindled a teenage desire to become a writer. Now back in the UK, Rosie lives with her husband Neil and cat Ed on the edge of the New Forest.

Her debut novel The Theatre of Dreams was published in August 2018 and her second, Your Secret’s Safe With Me, followed in February 2019.   She is currently working on a series of humorous cosy mysteries set in the Isle of Wight.

Follow Rosie

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Amazon

Great to have you on the blog today, Rosie!

Publication Day for Leonie Mack

Huge congrats to Leonie Mack on the publication of Italy Ever After. I was fortunate enough to get an early read and absolutely LOVED this book – it’s romantic and whimsical and is set in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, Northern Italy. To celebrate the occasion, I asked Leonie a few questions about writing the book and about her author life.

Cover of book Italy Ever After. Man and woman riding scooter along coast of Lake Garda in Italy.

Tell us what inspired you to write Italy Ever After?

As with most of my ideas, it started with the setting and the character dynamic. I had the idea for a romance between a divorced mum and her daughter’s teacher. The music camp setting allowed them to get to know each other in close confines (while having a lovely summer holiday) and then the characters exploded from there.

When did you start writing seriously?

I started writing with a serious intent to publish about three years ago, although I’ve always written as a hobby and finished my first experimental novels in my early twenties. It took me more than ten years to realise I had to put in a bit of hard work if I wanted to make something from it! My first book, My Christmas Number One, came out last year and now I have two coming out in 2021 and another already contracted to my publisher for 2022!

What do you love most about being an author?

I love spending my days in amazing places with my characters. I love dreaming up people and crafting situations that bring that satisfying tension. And I love that moment when the book is getting really complex and I feel like I have a universe in my brain.

What are you working on now?

It’s very exciting. My next two books are a little series set in Venice, so I have spent winter (virtually) on the canals, watching glassblowers, going to a ball for Carnevale and eating lots of delicious fish and fried pastries. One day we’ll all be able to go there for real!

What do you hope readers will take away from Italy Ever After?

I want readers to feel like they’ve been on a holiday to Italy with their best girlfriend and a handsome love interest!

More about the book

TV journalist Lou feels battered and bruised after her divorce from Phil, the father of her daughter Edie. Her confidence and sense of fun have steadily been drained away, and she isn’t sure who she is any more.

When the opportunity arises to accompany Edie on a music camp in Italy for a month in the summer, Lou jumps at the chance for new adventures, new horizons and new friends. The hazy warmth of the summer sun, shining brightly over the stunning Lake Garda, slowly brings Lou back to life.

Nick Romano, Edie’s music teacher, loves being home in Italy, but coaching his students for their concert in Milan, is bringing back difficult memories. His blossoming friendship with Lou is the perfect distraction, although a summer fling would be easier to conduct without the scrutiny of his mother Greta, not to mention the interference of his extended Italian family.

As the summer passes, full of sunshine and breath-taking scenery, gelato and delicious feasts, Lou and Nick get ever closer. But as the time for farewell creeps up on them, will they be able to say goodbye and leave their memories behind in the Italian sun, or can a summer romance last a lifetime?

Where you can get it

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo | Google Play

More about Leonie

Smiling woman in her 20s or 30s with long brown hair and brown eyes

Leonie Mack is an author of romantic comedies with great locations and big feelings. She loves a happy ending and shares that love in every book she writes! Leonie is a journalism graduate, a language nut and loves to travel, particularly on foot, by bike and by train. After growing up in Australia and living most of her adult life in London, she now lives in Germany, among the vineyards on the Main river.

Follow Leonie

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Thanks for visiting Off the Beaten Track, Leonie and all the best with Italy Ever After.

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.

Book Blog Tour Banner
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 again with Author Fiona Leitch

It is with great pleasure that I welcome fellow Renegade Author, Fiona Leitch to Off the Beaten Track, especially as it is publication day for the first book in her new cozy mystery series with One More Chapter! Let’s learn more about Murder on the Menu and the new series!

Cover of Murder on the Menu. Wedding cake in the foreground with a sharp knife sticking out of it. In the background, the coastline of Cornwall.

Tell us what inspired you to write Murder on the Menu?

I love murder mysteries that are cozy, without being either too graphic or, at the other end of the scale, too twee. I love ‘Midsummer Murders’ on the telly and I wanted to see if I could create something similar. But it would have to include three things I love: a great location, a strong female protagonist, and warmth and humour. I used to live in Cornwall and it is truly beautiful, but it’s also not always an easy place to live, what with lack of work and just being so cut off from the rest of the country. So I wanted to write about it, but not just as some glorious seaside town where the sun always shines.

I wanted a detective who’s not a complete bumbling amateur. Someone who could cut corners and not be tied to working within the law, as the police would be, but who isn’t constantly just stumbling over clues; she has to work for it. Ex-copper, Jodie, might be unorthodox, but she knows what she’s doing. She also knows how to rustle up a three-course meal for 100 people and make a banging Victoria sponge.

And finally, I wanted my protagonist to be warm, relatable and human. Jodie has responsibilities, she has a daughter and an elderly mother (and a dog!). She’s made mistakes in her love life and she may well make more. Then again, she may choose more wisely this time…

When did you start writing seriously?

I’ve been writing for years. I started out writing screenplays, which were always on the verge of being The One to break out … I had meetings with producers, got shortlisted a couple of times for the BBC Writersroom scheme, was a finalist in a big screenplay contest – but it never quite happened.

And then in 2017 I was persuaded to turn one of my screenplays into a novel. I’d always resisted writing a book, as there just seemed to be too many words! But once I started, I loved it. That novel, Dead in Venice, was picked up by Audible as one of their Crime Grant finalists. It came out in 2018, and that was when I realised I might actually be able to do this for a living.

What do you love most about being an author?

The same thing that I love about being a reader – the ability to escape into someone else’s life for a while! I get a little bit obsessed with my characters. They feel like real people to me, and I’m almost bereft when I get to the end of the book because it feels like I’m saying goodbye to them. Luckily, I can always write another adventure for them!

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on the outlines for what I hope will be the next three Nosey Parker books. I love writing about Jodie and her friends. I’ve also got three romcoms outlined AND I want to write another book in the Bella Tyson series (Dead in Venice is book 1), so you could say I’m pretty busy.

What do you hope readers will take away from Murder on the Menu?

That a ‘cozy’ mystery doesn’t have to be twee or talk down to the reader, and that it can be well written. I think cozy mysteries, while massively popular among readers, have something of a poor reputation among book snobs. What they don’t seem to realise is that some of our best-selling and most critically acclaimed writers – Agatha Christie, MC Beaton and Alexander McCall Smith to name but three – could easily be categorised as cozy mystery writers.

More about Murder on the Menu

A sparklingly delicious confection to satisfy the mystery reader’s appetiteHelena Dixon, bestselling author of the Miss Underhay Mysteries

Still spinning from the hustle and bustle of city life, Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is glad to be back in the Cornish village she calls home. Having quit the Met Police in search of something less dangerous, the change of pace means she can finally start her dream catering company and raise her daughter, Daisy, somewhere safer.

But there’s nothing like having your first job back at home to be catering an ex-boyfriend’s wedding to remind you of just how small your village is. And when the bride, Cheryl, vanishes Jodie is drawn into the investigation, realising that life in the countryside might not be as quaint as she remembers…

With a missing bride on their hands, there is murder and mayhem around every corner but surely saving the day will be a piece of cake for this not-so-amateur sleuth?

Where you can buy Murder on the Menu

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Kobo | Nook

More about Fiona

Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. After living in London and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Fiona is represented by Lina Langlee at the North Literary Agency.

Follow Fiona

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Thanks so much, Fiona! No doubt Murder on the Menu will fly off the shelves!

Catching up with Author Andreina Cordani

Very excited to welcome Andreina to Off the Beaten Track on the publication day for her intriguing first novel, The Girl Who… Welcome Andreina and huge congrats on your publication day!

So, tell us what inspired you to write The Girl Who…

I was in a features meeting at the women’s magazine I was working for – the editor was talking about a child who had been a victim of crime years ago. Her face had been on the front of every newspaper, she’d won awards for bravery, been the subject of a couple of books and by then would have been about eighteen years old. It suddenly struck me how impossible it would be to grow up in a situation like that, with the whole world thinking you’re an angel/martyr/inspiration. You woudn’t be free to make the usual teen mistakes, to decide for yourself who you are. So that’s where the idea started – it kind of got darker along the way.

When did you start writing seriously?

I always knew I wanted to write books, but when I left university I didn’t feel qualified somehow, so I trained in journalism thinking that, at least, I could hone my writing skills while I waited for inspiration to strike. In a way it was a good move – I learned so much from my interviewees and the amazingly talented people around me – but it also meant I took my eye off the writing ball a bit. Then a few years ago I suddenly realised that if I didn’t do it now – right this minute – I’d never do it. I had to step back from my career to give myself the mental space and time to do it. My bank manager is not so happy about this, but I feel much better for it.

What do you love most about being an author?

As a journalist I wrote within very stringent requirements – producing x-amount of words based on hard facts and designed to appeal to a very specific set of readers. Now I love being in charge of the story and creating characters from scratch. Of course, I work closely with my editor and change things as needed but it’s a much more flexible process. I really enjoy it and hope I get to keep doing it!

What are you working on now?

I’ve just delivered book two to my editor and while writing it I learned so much more about twists and turns… and planning. Definitely more planning next time. So now I’m doing outlines for book three – it’s the fun stage where all sorts of possibilities are swimming through my head, where the idea could morph into pretty much anything. That’s always exciting.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Girl Who…?

I think a lot of what I write is about understanding people in impossible situations, often under the glare of a media spotlight. These days I think we all understand that what we see in the news and online is only one part of the truth, I’m hoping that this book helps people think about that even more.

More about The Girl Who…

The girl who… survived
The girl who… inspires
The girl who… has something to hide

People can’t bring themselves to say what happened to her. They just describe her as ‘the girl who… you know…’. But nobody really knows, no one sees the real Leah.

Leah is the perfect survivor. She was seven years old when she saw her mother and sister killed by a troubled gang member. Her case hit the headlines and her bravery made her a national sweetheart: strong, courageous and forgiving.

But Leah is hiding a secret about their deaths. And now, ten years later, all she can think of is revenge.

When Leah’s dad meets a new partner, stepsister Ellie moves in. Sensing Leah isn’t quite the sweet girl she pretends to be, Ellie discovers that Leah has a plan, one she has been putting together ever since that fateful day. Now that the killer – and the only one who knows the truth – is being released from prison, time is running out for Ellie to discover how far Leah will go to silence her anger . . .

Where can you get it?

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Waterstones | UK Bookshop | Hive

More about Andreina

When she was at school, Andreina Cordani used to get out of gym class by saying she would use the time to write a book and dedicate it to her gym teacher. Sadly it took years of exercise-dodging before she was able to complete The Girl Who…, and she hasn’t been able to touch her toes since 2002.

In the following years, she pursued a career in journalism, working for women’s magazines including Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping. Specialising in ‘real life’ stories, she interviews seemingly ordinary people about their extraordinary lives – most of which you wouldn’t believe if you read it in a novel.

She lives on the Dorset coast with her family where she reads voraciously, watches YouTubers with increasing fascination and swims in the sea.

Follow Andreina

Twitter | Instagram | TikTok: @acordanixo

Thank you, Andreina, and all the best for your new release. No doubt it will fly!

A year to remember

I created this meme several months ago and it turned out to be a perfect foil for the despondency I felt when the Premier of Victoria announced that we were going into the strictest pandemic lockdown in the world ― and not for a pre-determined amount of time, but (seemingly) indefinitely, until we reached zero cases for two solid weeks.

It seemed impossible ― impossible ― that we would ever achieve such a lofty goal, something no other city, region, state, or country had achieved after having such a proportionately high number of daily cases of COVID-19.

Like many others, I felt trapped, claustrophobic in my home, my city, even in the state of Victoria. I started house-hunting online, seeking a rental property in coastal and/or regional Australia ― for when they let us out.

But as we emerged from Winter, as the days started to get longer, and as we started to see results from our compliance with the newly-enacted laws, hope started to show its face again.

I had some saving graces during this time, aspects of my life for which I am extremely grateful, and I wanted to share those with you. I do want to say that I write this post knowing exactly how fortunate Ben and I are. Throughout 2020, we have remained healthy, our loved ones are (as I write this) safe and healthy, despite many of them living in hot zones, such as the UK and the US, and we retained our income and, subsequently, our home.

Space

Our apartment is in an older building in downtown Melbourne (older meaning 15+ years) and that means an expansive floorplan and enough separate spaces for two people to cohabitate 24/7 for months on end without getting (too much) in each other’s way.

I have a super splodge work station for my day job and writing (I commandeered the guest room after realising we would have exactly zero guests for the rest of the year), and we have a stunning view (2 angles, 2 different times of the day).

Exercise

I need to exercise ― it is critical to my mental wellbeing and with our gyms closed and time outside limited (or just super shitty weather in the dead of Winter), I relied on home workouts and riding my spin bike (so glad I bought it in March!). I’d tee up back seasons of The Great British Bake Off and ride and ride and ride ’til I was a sweaty mess. Pure escapism. And when I ran out out of British Bake Off I watched the Aussie version. When I ran out of that, onto the Canadians. Oddly, it’s highly motivating to cycle while watching people make cake. Don’t ask me why.

When the gym opened back up, I was there ― mask and all.

Date night

Once we realised we would be in lockdown for months, not weeks, we committed to a weekly date night. When you can’t leave the apartment, this means dressing in nice clothes (and makeup for me), putting on some music, cooking something special or ordering in from a local restaurant, opening a nice bottle of wine, and eating at the table (how novel!).

Date nights reminded us that although we saw each other all day every day, we are still each other’s person. He’s the love of my life, the man who makes me think and smile and laugh out loud, who thinks of me and cares for me and lets me do the same for him. I chose him and he chose me and that doesn’t go away, no matter how much time we spend together.

(I love you, babe)

Getting out and about

We were allowed out. We could walk together for up to an hour a day (with masks). We could bike ride (without masks!). And at one point, we could have a socially distanced picnic in the park with our besties. And we took those opportunities to get outside, breathe fresh air, get a different perspective, and just be out. And, I have to say, our ‘hood, Docklands, is just gorgeous, which is great food for the soul.

Consuming creative content

People are clever ― really clever ― and a massive saving grace for me this year has been watching, listening, and reading other people’s creations (and not just Bake Off). I’ve watched entire television series from the beginning ― new, new to me, and old faves. I’ve watched films, concerts, plays, documentaries, and cast reunions. I’ve listened to podcasts, concerts, pop, classical, rock, techno ― really, just name it. And I have read a few dozen books this year ― mostly chicklit, some histfic, and (my fave) crime thrillers.

Busy, busy, busy!

For me, this year was not a time for much introspection. Perhaps 2021 will bring me the mental and emotional space to look inwards, but as well as voraciously consuming content, I’ve been creating it. I’ve published 3 books since the start of lockdown (including all the editing, marketing, and social media that go along with publishing a book). I’ve finished a work-in-progress and have nearly finished a book I started in August (my 5th and 6th books).

For me, lockdown meant ‘head down’. I threw myself into my work ― the ultimate distraction from a world on fire. I know this was not the case for a lot of authors, but for someone unwilling to spend much time on proper introspection (something I tend towards when the world is not on fire), it was an excellent panacea. With my fulltime job in online learning (and didn’t our industry pick up exponentially this year?) and authoring, it was typical for me to be at my desk 12 hours a day and most of the day on weekends. Work was an excellent distraction.

Publication day celebrations:

I’m in WA now (Western Australia), where we’ve been fortunate enough to travel to for the holidays. Spending time with our family and friends in my home state has been our ultimate reward for what has been an unforgettable year.

And when they ask how we survived it, there is one simple answer: together.

My inspiration for The Christmas Swap

Out now!

Cover of The Christmas Swap
A beach in the lower half with a couple sitting next to two bathing boxes
A snowy mountainside view in the top half, a couple walking into a ski lodge

I am super excited about this book, as it celebrates one of my favourite times of the year, Christmas. I decided in June last year that I wanted to write a Christmas book, and as I do for all my books, I turned to my own travel experiences for inspiration.

You see, I am an ‘Aus-Meri-Pom’ as my grandma Joan used to call me. I have an English father, and American mother and I was born in Australia. I have lived in all three countries and consider the UK and the US my second homes, especially as I have so many loved ones in both countries.

With so many Christmases to choose from – some snowy, some wintry and cosy (but no snow), many hot, I considered how to pack more than one Christmas into one book.

That’s when I got the idea to have three childhood friends swap Christmases. This way, I could dive into what makes each one special, seeing each Christmas through fresh eyes.

The UK

My sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and great aunt all live in the UK, and we’ve had a couple of (lovely) Christmases with them in recent years (in 2014 and 2108). I LOVE how beautifully and traditionally Christmas is celebrated in the UK. Yes, we had chocolate oranges in our stockings; yes, we had plum pudding and brandy sauce; yes, we went to Christmas Fairs and Winter Wonderland, and sipped mulled wine and hot chocolate; yes, we watched the Queen’s speech; and yes, we even had a(n early) traditional Christmas lunch in a 500 year year old pub! All the yeses to this kind of Christmas.

I’ve also had many Christmases in the US, but one that has stuck with me all these years is the Christmas I visited a dear friend and his (lovely extended family at their mountain cabin in Colorado, then met up with my partner, Ben, for a ski trip to Breckenridge and New Year’s in Denver.

It is a stunning part of the world, and Breckenridge is one of those towns that looks like a filmset of a Christmas movie. These pics are from our drive into town.

And this was the “cabin” we stayed in for Christmas:

Large log cabin nestled in the snow surrounded by fir trees

There were 13 of us for Christmas – and we all had beds, with some to spare! Me in Colorado, all rugged up. Look at those mountains and that sky!

Most of my 51 Christmases, however, have been in Australia. It’s hot, sometimes swelteringly so, and we celebrate traditions that are as much about the family gathering together in summertime as they are about the holiday.

I always make a pav(lova).

We have a fake, but festive, tree (thanks to Ben for the gorgeous pic on the left).

There are salads, fruit platters, champagne (lots of bubbly), Christmas carols (even the snowy ones), some sort of roast, cheese platters, maybe a baked salmon, or some prawns or crayfish on the barbie, and I’ll always bake my fave Chrissie bikkies, Russian Tea Cakes (recipe for you).

We go to the beach, play boules after lunch, call our loved ones far and wide, play games out on the veranda, like Trivial Pursuit and Cards Against Humanity, while we sip crisp, white Aussie wine – you, know, Christmassy, family stuff – Aussie style.

With my dad and step-mum at Light’s Beach, Denmark, Western Australia

I absolutely LOVE Christmas, and if you do too, I hope you will love The Christmas Swap (buy links included). It’s out now!

Catching up with Author Abigail Yardimci

Super excited to welcome Abigail Yardimci to Off the Beaten Track today, especially as she is a fellow travel fiction author, who met the love of her life while travelling – just like I did! And she’s got a publication day coming up next Monday, Sept 21!

Welcome, Abigail!

Abigail Yardimci - author photo

Tell us what inspired you to write Destiny is Yours.

Cover of Destiny is Yours; a beach with two stones and a gentle wave lapping on the shore

Destiny Is Yours is based on a chapter of my own lived experience from 2006. At the beginning of that year, my fiancé and business partner of seven years just decided he didn’t want that life any more. He left with hardly a whisper of warning and I felt like all the rugs had been pulled out from under me. Ultimately, I had to decide if I was going to disappear into a shadow of my former self, or, eventually, pick myself up and open my eyes to the world in a different way.

I chose the latter and part of that involved me jetting off for a whole month to the Western coast of Turkey so I could figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I went with a friend of mine who was also newly single and we both knew we had a lot of soul-searching to do but we also wanted a bit of an adventure. Well, we got it – in bucketloads. And because that month away was so awesome and surprising, I decided it just had to be written down as a story. In fact, I wrote three books based on the whole year, of which Destiny Is Yours is the second – it’s called the Life Is Yours trilogy.

We’re all likely to suffer from heartbreak and lose our way at least once in our lives – whether it’s from the end of a relationship or something completely different – so tales of recovery and renewal are always going to be important . . . especially ones that involve sun, sea, sand and, well, you know!

When did you start writing seriously?

I’ve been writing on and off for a lot of years – probably since I was about six or seven to be honest. I studied Creative Writing at university but got disheartened by the kinds of assignments we were given and went off-track for a while. It wasn’t until I encountered intense heartbreak followed by a slow and steady reawakening to the world in 2006 that I realised I’d forgotten that writing completely fed my soul. So, I guess that’s when I started writing seriously, when I knew I had to write the Life Is Yours trilogy and somehow get it into the hands of a publisher.

It was hard work though – and life threw many a challenge in my way just to make sure that’s really what I wanted. But I kept at it slow and steady and finally, twelve years after putting pen to paper, I found the publishing deal I’d been hoping for.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love that I’m really doing my life’s work here. Even if nobody ever read my stories, I’d feel like I was doing the right thing because writing is who I am. The process of writing is undeniably hard and really eats through my confidence sometimes . . . but I just can’t leave it alone and I know that’s because I’m meant to do it. Recently, I found some type-written stories I’d written when I was seven and I really smiled to myself. Even then I knew what it was I was supposed to be doing.

I also LOVE hearing from readers. It is a heart-soaring kind of feeling when somebody divulges how they’ve identified with a character or been touched by a particular passage. A few people have even used some of the journaling and coaching techniques that my main character, Jess uses in book one, Life Is Yours. That really made me happy that people could pick something out of the book and make it their own to help themselves going forward. Beautiful.

What are you working on now?

Oh, I seem to have so many projects on the go! I’m currently re-editing the final book in the Life Is Yours trilogy. It’s as yet unnamed so I’m racking my brains trying to think up a snappy title that will work with the rest of the series.

After that, I have a very special writing project which will see my main character, Jess, several years later after the original books, about to embark on a month of fasting for Ramadan with her Muslim husband. Again, this will be based on lived experience and I’m excited because there will be humour and hilarity as well as some hard truths, epic learnings and intense emotional connections.

I also write a regular blog post about creative living, mindful parenting and top tips for sneaking more joy into your life, so I’ll be working on that. Plus, I have some top secret writing I’ve done over lockdown that I hope to shape into something resembling yet another novel!

What do you hope readers will take away from [DESTINY IS YOURS]?

What a great question! I hope readers will take some ideas about how to shake up your life when you’re feeling a little stale, broken or confused. I hope they’ll open their minds to the awesome world we live in and how there are opportunities everywhere for us to make connections and be present. I also hope they laugh and smirk and cry and cringe and gasp and imagine and sigh and smile – too much to ask, do you think?!

Here’s the blurb

There’s something about New Year’s Eve that brings people together.

How else could the two strangers, Lindy and Jess have met on a random Turkish beach with midnight gently beckoning? Slowly, they become friends through Jess’s story of heartbreak and loss . . . but the story is about to twist into something with a little more soul and a lot more adventure.

Jess’s heart is newly mended. Cracks still healing from an epic break-up, as well as a spectacularly failing business, she’s gone and booked the trip of a lifetime to Turkey with best mate Gillie, also newly single. Jess has had it with streaked mascara and sobbing for England – she wants to kick-start a life with more focus, more clarity and maybe even a little bit of magic.

Surely travelling round Turkey will do the trick? Jess is determined to find the answers somewhere and although she expects the delicious cocktails, the charming waiters and the golden beaches, she perhaps isn’t prepared for a mysterious pack of challenges sent by a friend; a book that transforms the way she sees her place in the world; starlit nights that begin to take over the days and an impromptu fortune-telling moment that changes everything . . .

Here’s where you can get it

Life is Yours (Book 1) Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU

Destiny is Yours (Book 2) Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU

More about Abigail and how you can follow her

Abigail Yardimci is an author, blogger and creative mindfulness practitioner. She is a Geordie girl living by the sea in South Devon in the UK with her Turkish husband and two terrifying kids. She loves to blog and gets her kicks through mindful parenting styles, creative living and chocolate.

Her writing inspiration comes from scratching the surface of everyday life to find the underlying magic that connects us all. The fire beneath the frustration, the creativity beneath the boredom, the stillness beneath the chaos.

Abigail’s debut novel, ‘Life Is Yours’ and second novel, ‘Destiny Is Yours’ are available now on Amazon and published by Britain’s Next Bestseller. Abigail also stays sane in the world of parenting by writing a popular blog called ‘Mum In The Moment’.

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

You can also buy signed copies of Life Is Yours and Destiny Is Yours, as well as a fab range of bookish gifts, on Abigail’s website.

Catching up with Author Kitty Wilson

Kitty Wilson Author Photo

Welcome Kitty – so great to have you here!

Thanks ever so much for inviting me on your blog. It’s lovely to be here. I thought I’d talk a little about Christmas Wishes as it has just been released in paperback and we are fast approaching the time of year to snuggle down with Christmassy reads.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Cornish Village School – Christmas Wishes?

Cover of Christmas Wishes, a snowy village with floral Christmassy foliage framing a church.

The Cornish Village School series had been up and running for a little while by the time I wrote Christmas Wishes. Initially the series had been inspired by my love of Cornwall and the sense of community I found living there, my experience as an Infant teacher and the fact that I loved nothing better than to escape into a romantic comedy. As the series developed it was clear that the books were representing each of the seasons and I had always wanted to write a Christmas book, to steep myself in everything Christmas, so this book was a happy inevitability. I wanted a Nativity, Carols, choirs, Christmas elves, all the fun of being in a school in that last week of Christmas term where everything is glitter and snowmen and celebration so I crammed it all in.

I also wanted to write a book about the outrageously good-looking vicar in Penmenna. He had started off as a minor village character with all the women of the parish panting after him and I wanted to expand his role, have a hero that the world thought encapsulated handsome whilst he himself had so much baggage that not only did he not see it, the attention was completely inexplicable to him. I hope by the end of it, readers see him as a man who’s truly heroic because of his character and his actions, that his looks have very little at all to do with it. 

When did you start writing seriously?

I have always wanted to write, ever since I was a tiny little thing and have been putting pen to paper most of my life, but in truth never seriously until a few years ago. I was working as a Reception teacher and absolutely loved my job when chronic illness struck. Suddenly I was unable to work, unable to parent the way I always had and my life as it was disappeared before me. I did try and hang on for a very long time but it made me worse and worse. It wasn’t long before I was dependent upon my children and the community around me for the most basic of tasks.

It took a couple of years to get used to and after a little wallow I realised I could reframe things. I had always wanted to write and I believed that one day I would get back to the classroom but until then I would use the time to write and indulge the dream. If nothing else it would be good for me to have a purpose, be something to do on the days I was well enough to type, and show my children that just because life dealt tough blows didn’t mean you didn’t try again.

I may not be back in the classroom, and I don’t suppose I ever will be, but I have five books published, a new career that I absolutely love and have found my tribe within the writing community.

What do you love most about being an author?

This could easily become an essay. I love SO many things about being an author. There is all the obvious stuff like working from home, living in pyjamas and eating biscuits all day if I so choose. Then there is the sheer indulgence of being able to lose yourself in thought for hours at a time and claim it’s work. The world-building, the development of characters and setting and plot and all of that being a little bit tricksy until you have one magic moment where it all falls into place and you can’t wait to get it down onto paper. Seeing snippets of life as you walk around in the world and loving something so much that you then work out how to weave it into your manuscript. This is all bliss.

Holding a book in your hand that is full of words that wouldn’t exist if you hadn’t sat down day after day and made them up is pretty awesome and whenever I have a new book published into paperback I do spend a couple of days with a really daft grin on my face but I think the most special thing for me is when readers reach out. When I get a message or read a review saying thank you, this made me giggle at a time in my life I really needed it. That right there, that is the very best thing about being an author.

What are you working on now?

Oh joy, joy, joy! I am writing another Christmas book and I am so excited, I really am. It is a little different to the Cornish Village School, but is still a light-hearted romantic comedy. It’s set in Bristol – I moved here the same weekend the very first Cornish Village School book came out – but despite the city being very different to Cornwall I seem to be weaving community though as much as I did with Penmenna. I am thoroughly indulging my own humour and my inner geek as I write it – which is giving me far more joy than should be legal. And that is all I can tell you at the moment!

What do you hope readers will take away from Christmas Wishes?

I hope that Christmas Wishes gives my readers that real seasonal escape that festive reads bring every year. I hope that they get caught up in the humour and relax a little with the Penmenna community as they read and enjoy a few hours away in a fictional Cornish village at Christmas time. I have to admit I really love the mischievousness of this opening chapter and Ethel and Annie (an elderly parishioner and Dan the Vicar’s grandmother) are two of my favourite characters.

But as with most light-hearted reads there are deeper issues sitting underneath the comedy and the will-they-won’t-they romance, and this one is about identity, insecurity and how we perceive ourselves compared to how others in our community perceive us. So, I also hope it helps remind people that we are all too often our harshest critic and we should be as kind to ourselves as we are to those that we love, especially at this fabulous but slightly pressured time of year.

Here’s the blurb:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in Penmenna…

Teaching assistant Alice has sworn off men, which is fine because with Christmas coming she’s super busy organising the school Nativity. This should be a blast with the help of close friend and village vicar, Dan – if she can ignore those more-than-just-a-friend feelings she’s developed for him…

Dan is happy to help Alice – his secret crush – but not only is his beloved Granny Annie about to be made homeless, the church choir has disintegrated and he’s battling some dark demons from his past.

With meddling grannies and PTA wars thrown in the mix, can Alice and Dan overcome their past hurts to move forward? Will they be spending Christmas together as friends… or something more?

Here’s where you can get it:

Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | GooglePlay | Waterstones (UK)| Hive (UK)

And here’s where you can follow Kitty! She loves to hear from readers.

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Catching up with Author Rosie Marshall

Today, I am please to welcome Rosie Marshall to ‘Off the Beaten Track’. Rosie lives in South Wales and when not reading or writing, she loves visiting the seaside with her family. It looks stunning! 

shoreline of South Wales, houses leading to the water's edge, author and family on the shore

She’s here today to talk about her book I Saw You.

Tell us what inspired you to write this book.

We have an allotment – it has a strict rule that no one is allowed to stay there overnight. It got me thinking: what would it be like to camp out in our spidery shed? What could have happened to someone to lead them to needing or wanting to sleep there?

I began plotting out my story. As I fleshed more out, I felt that it was going to be a murder mystery with maybe a little peril involved. Suddenly, I needed a more dramatic setting! I think it was my husband who suggested beach huts when I said I’d like it to be based near the sea and a dangerous causeway…

When did you start writing seriously?

I have a work in progress that’s been going on for a few years! Like many people, lockdown made me think about what I wanted to do, moving forward. How was I ever going to be an author if I didn’t just go for it? So, I fitted in writing almost every day, between working from home and looking after my kids.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love the moment when you hit a flow and the characters are doing and saying things and you have no idea what they’re going to do next. That and reading great reviews!

What are you working on now?

Book two!

I had a lot of requests from people wanting to know what happened to Vi and Jasmine after this book finished. Rashly, I have set it at Christmas time so I have my fingers crossed (when they’re not busy typing!) that I will get it done for Christmas 2020!

What do you hope readers will take away from I Saw You?

I want them to have been gripped and to have been surprised by the twists and turns but, most importantly, I want them to see the journey of the main character, to feel the importance of looking around you and really seeing the special people in your life.

Here’s the blurb

Cover of I saw You

When murder refuses to let you live a quiet life…  

Vi’s life is everything she wants it to be. Every day, she successfully manages to avoid human contact: her sister, her ex, the strangers who wander the beaches of Saltford Sands. Living in a beach hut makes it easy to hide away.

Then Vi witnesses something that sends her life into a tailspin.   

Dragged unwittingly into a murder investigation, Vi discovers that she has a natural aptitude for detective work. She’s almost having fun…until threatening notes start appearing at her hut. 

It’s a race against time: can Vi solve the crime before she becomes the next victim? 

Vi faces inner and outer demons in this page-turning murder mystery. 

Here’s where you can get it

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US

And you can follow Rosie on Instagram! Thanks for joining us Rosie!