Creating the perfect man… isn’t this most women’s dream? You can design what he looks like (tall, dark and handsome), how funny he is (very), what he does for a living (tax inspectors need not apply), how romantic he is (runs the bath for you, and pours you a wine), you can essentially devise a wish list and watch as every box gets a big tick put in it. But perfection is boring. I wouldn’t want to share my life with a walking talking demigod – because I know that by comparison I’d never match up, so you have to throw a few flaws in there too, but nothing that can’t be overcome. We’re talking about a little bit moody (Fitzwilliam Darcy), a bit bumbling (Mark Darcy), or in the case of Will Scarlet, my loveable, gorgeous hero in Me, You and Tiramisu, a little bit famous. For Jayne, watching on the side-lines as Will rises in popularity, his charisma and killer cheekbones are swiftly becoming the biggest obstacle to their happiness. Jayne loved him when they were spotty teenagers drinking cheap cider from plastic cups in the park, this new Will is now public property and suddenly perfection seems very overrated indeed.
If you think about all the best romantic comedy heroes, they’re all quite charming (usually in a floppy-haired sort of way – Hugh Grant, I’m looking at you) but also, they’ve all got their foibles. Will, my hero, is undeniably gorgeous, but he also has a pair of grotty tracksuit bottoms that he insists on wearing when he has man-flu. He can cook a delicious feast, but also makes the kitchen look like a tornado ripped through it.
For me to want my characters to succeed, for them to get their happy-ever-after, I need to love them both, I need to want to root for them, and I want my readers to as well. I want them to fall in love with my hero, and I want them to like my heroine, and I want them to feel sad when it’s all going wrong and cheer when it turns the corner (for those who haven’t read the book, this may or may not happen, who knows?!) Will Scarlet is my first fictional hero, and he and his tiramisu will always have a special place in my heart…
Me, You and Tiramisu
23rd February 2017
Fall in love with the perfect feel-good romance for fans of Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell and Carole Matthews.
It all started with a table for two…
Life for self-confessed bookworm Jayne Brady couldn’t be better – she has a twin sister she adores, a cosy little flat above a deli and now she’s found love with her childhood crush, gorgeous chef Will.
But when Will becomes a Youtube sensation, thanks to his delicious cookery demos (both the food and his smile!), their life of contentment come crashing down around them. Can Jayne have her Tiramisu and eat it?
Writing about families: how to strike a balance between your personal life and fictionby S.D. Robertson
I seem to find myself writing about families a lot.
My first novel, Time to Say Goodbye, was all about the close bond between a single father and his young daughter.
Now my new book, If Ever I Fall, looks at how a marriage has been devastated by a horrific incident from the past. (Sorry, I can’t tell you much more than that without giving too much away.)
The point is that families and the various relationships that exist within them are at the heart of my fiction. Why? I suppose it’s because they offer a rich seam of possibilities for an author to mine, including the potential for lots of conflict, which is what drives narratives forward.
I can’t say that I specifically set out to write about families. It just happened that way. I’m a big believer that as a writer you don’t always get to consciously choose your topics. Often they seem to choose you, although in fact they’ve probably been simmering away in your subconscious, waiting for the right moment to appear.
One tricky thing when it comes writing about families is gauging how much to tap into your personal life for ideas.
How do you strike the balance between real experiences and fiction?
Mostly, I go with my gut. If something feels a little too close to home, I either change it there and then or I ask for someone else’s opinion – most often my wife. If I’m still in doubt after that, I change it. Your nearest and dearest won’t thank you for recreating their private moments letter for letter in a story.
It’s also worth pointing out that real life is rarely as exciting as fiction. However, readers need to be able to associate with your characters and what they go through; using genuine experiences really helps with that.
So I’m not suggesting for an instant that an author shouldn’t use their personal experiences. They absolutely should, but more for inspiration than reproduction.
A good example is Time to Say Goodbye. It was inspired by my own close relationship with my daughter after I gave up my day job and became a stay-at-home dad.
However, that’s not the story I told. Instead, I imagined a terrible scenario in which my protagonist got killed in a road accident and became a spirit unable to tear himself away from his child’s side. I made him a single father, unlike me, to ramp the stakes up even higher. And then, with my fictional world in place, I was able to weave in bits and pieces of real experiences to add colour.
It’s a similar story with If Ever I Fall. I placed my two central characters in an impossible situation unlike anything, thankfully, that my wife and I have ever been through. And then I tapped into situations we have experienced and used these, in combination with my imagination, to craft something that I hope feels genuine.
To conclude then, I’d say the key is to try to use your personal experiences rather than to copy them. You could remember how one thing made you feel, for example, and then channel that into something else – something fictional. All you should really lift directly from real life, in my view, are the little details you pepper throughout your story to help make your imagined world jump off the page and come to life in the reader’s mind.
*Former journalist S.D. Robertson quit his job as a local newspaper editor to pursue a lifelong ambition of becoming an author and to spend more time with his wife and daughter. If Ever I Fall (Avon HarperCollins, £7.99) is his second novel. A heart-rending story of family tragedy, it is published on 9 February 2017.
Today we are joined by the lovely Bella Osborne as she contemplates a Christmas without Santa…..
Hi , Thank you for having me on your blog today. Can you imagine Christmas without Santa? Well, very soon I am going to have to face up to this as my daughter is ten years old and I feel I have done very well for her to have believed in Santa this long. However, I know it won’t be for much longer and I am dreading the day it happens. But why? Surely it’s all part of growing up? I used to have perfectly happy Christmases as an adult before my daughter came along – so why do I hate the idea of her not believing? I think it’s because it is at this point that the magic of childhood starts to fade when they realise that the impossible is no longer possible, that magical worlds don’t actually exist* and evil cannot be conquered with special powers. Also, if I’m being honest, for the last few years I have been able to indulge my love of Christmas, make it extra special and go slightly overboard on the silliness.
In our house we have a visit from the elves who stay for most of December and do something naughty every night before Santa picks them up on Christmas Eve. I think this has helped to keep the magic alive as my daughter totally believes that the elves come to life and get up to all sorts of things because each morning the evidence is indisputable – paper chains hung everywhere, marshmallows strewn across the kitchen and two elves holding more aloft ready to throw, elves in her remote control car and a makeshift race track in the living room and one of my all time favourites: green elf wee in the toilet and toilet roll unraveled all around the bathroom. I mean no grown up would do this so it has to be the elves, right?
I fear the elves will soon have to find another house to visit and create mayhem in and perhaps I will replace them with a treasure hunt, which just won’t be the same. We also put out our stockings on Christmas Eve (yes we all do this) because who doesn’t like a stocking full of presents on Christmas morning? My husband and I open our stocking presents with as much glee as the child to see what silly things we’ve bought each other – it’s a great excuse to go a bit daft.
I will still continue to fill a stocking with all the small items I know she’ll love but perhaps knowing that I’ve done it won’t be quite the same as the magic of the elves gathering all the information to get her these much wanted gifts or Father Christmas making his journey around the world in one night to deliver them in person. Or, as my husband points out, perhaps she will understand on another level how much she is totally adored by two adults who will go to great lengths to make her life as magical as possible for as long as we can. That or she has plenty of evidence to get us both sectioned!
Have a very Merry Christmas!
*I do still harbour a hope that there are magical worlds that are hidden from us, most likely for our own safety.
Part two of a cosy and heartwarming seasonal romance, perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley.
Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a safe place for little Leo.
When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric! A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage.
Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose…
Willow Cottage is part of a serialized novel told in four parts, following the journey of Beth and her new life in the Cotswolds. The full book will be out next June, but for now, enjoy Willow Cottage seasonally!
I’ve always been inclined towards the Gothic, veering to the darker and more tumultuous side of both books and film when it comes to romance.
Gothic fiction combines the elements of both supernatural horror and romance, with suspense and mystery added to the mix. A damsel in distress in an unfamiliar and frightening environment, pursued by a sinister being (usually male or otherworldly) is a recurrent theme. The settings are invariably dark and atmospheric, the buildings often representing the decay of human creations and, especially in present-day Suburban Gothic, can reflect social issues of the time.
Gothic stories are primarily based on fear and desire, contain both physical and psychological terror, and often delve into the dark and twisted psyche of the main characters. The focus and intensity of the aforementioned varies but, in essence, these are the fundamental elements associated with the genre.
Amongst my favourite books in classic Gothic literature are Wuthering Heights, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Dracula. Within Modern Gothic, it’s Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. I first read Wuthering Heights when I was seventeen and was instantly enthralled not just by the book, but the author who so bravely wrote a dark and tortured hero into a romantic role. My encounter with Heathcliff no doubt had an impact on my view of romantic heroes or, as I should put it, romantic anti-heroes.
Anyone who has read Wuthering Heights will know Heathcliff’s not exactly the most pleasant of characters, at times tyrannical and cruel even. In fact, he’d probably get quite the slating on contemporary romance reviews for what can be deemed as abhorrent actions throughout most of the book. Although his behaviour can’t be excused, what Emily Bronte achieved was to enable the reader to understand him and, more importantly, empathise with his plight. Add into the mix Catherine Earnshaw (the heroine), who has many non-redeeming features of her own, and what developed was a passionate and subsequently damaging relationship.
For me, the beauty of Wuthering Heights was Emily Bronte willingness to push aside what is deemed appropriate and right as to how heroes and heroines should behave and interact on the page to, instead, focusing on enabling the rawness and power of the romance to take centre stage above social conventions. The reader is left knowing that Heathcliff loved Catherine and Catherine loved Heathcliff – a love that survived beyond the end. Albeit dark and tumultuous and destructive, ultimately their love was meant to be.
Although there were numerous influences on my Blackthorn series, I have no doubt my passion for such books played a part in what it became.
It was twenty years ago this month that I first came up with the idea of Blackthorn. After walking home one night only to get lost in a very isolated and run-down part of the city I’d just moved to, I’d decided to keep calm by creating a story. My setting became an urban, gritty backdrop of social unrest where the ‘third species’ (vampires, lycans etc), as I named them, brushed shoulders with humans. They weren’t evil, they weren’t cursed, and they certainly weren’t the undead – just physiologically different, defined primarily by their shadows in place of souls. Because of this, humans were calling the shots in this dystopian world shrouded by segregation, prejudice and the fear of difference. In the wake of it, my anti-heroes emerged as being as dark, dangerous and unpredictable as the Blackthorn district itself.
Over the years, Blackthorn became about how these characters, having been forced into this melting pot of injustice, were going to overcome it. It was a concept that became the ideal backdrop for the intense forbidden romances that would become the catalyst for the revolution their oppressive world needs.
With my seventh book in the overarching plot of my series out today, it won’t be long before my readers find out if that change will be achieved.
Thank you so much for hosting me, Kelly. 🙂
Lindsay J. Pryor is the author of seven novels in her Amazon bestselling BLACKTHORN series. Her complex, dark and gritty urban PNR has achieved numerous Gothic and PNR Amazon number ones both in the UK and the US, thousands of 5 star reviews, and more than thirty blog nominations and awards. Blood Shadows – Lindsay’s debut novel – was optioned by US film giants Relativity Media.
Lindsay has been creating stories since she was nine years old, having quickly decided that fantasy was more interesting than reality. More than thirty years later, writing remains her passion.
Lindsay is a qualified Psychology lecturer and English teacher. Before becoming a full-time author, she taught for eighteen years, primarily to improve literacy for children with special needs. She was born and grew up in Wales but now lives in England with her husband, their rescue bunny and a plethora of wild woodland creatures.
To find out more about Lindsay or her books, please visit www.lindsayjpryor.com or visit her Facebook page where she regularly chats to her readers.
What readers are saying about Lindsay J. Pryor…
‘I don’t think I have read such a finely executed dark PNR world before…This series truly surprised me. I didn’t think I would love it that much or be intrigued by it. I couldn’t stop thinking about these books once I was done with them… The world-building is spectacular. The characters are enthralling and addicting… Plain fabulousness.’ Gaga Over Books
‘I am completely enthralled with this paranormal series. You get so wrapped up in the story and characters that you lose track of time… This is one of my favorite series so far this year!’ Paranormal Book Club
‘This is a paranormal universe like none you have encountered before… There are stories that are so powerful, so intense that I do not believe anyone should warn you about what is to come… I truly do feel that if you love the Paranormal genre and have not yet discovered Lindsay J. Pryor or these novels then you need to read them, experience them firsthand.’ Keeper Bookshelf
‘I am officially addicted to this series. Why, you ask? Because Lindsay Pryor is my kind of fearless author. She isn’t afraid to “go there”, to create characters and situations that challenge me as a reader.’ The Demon Librarian
‘Not only are Pryor’s characters and fathomlessly dark love stories fabulous, but her continual world building of Blackthorn blows me away.’ Gravetells.com
‘If you’re looking for a new PNR series that has a dark world and complicated characters, then you’ll want to grab a copy of this. I can’t wait to read the next book.’ FictionVixen.com
* * *
Lindsay J. Pryor
Author of the BLACKTHORN series
The inspiration for Twisted River arose in part from discussions I had when considering doing a house-swap for a family holiday. On the brink of committing to the idea many times, I’ve always chickened out, imagining a whole host of things that could go wrong. Friends have had successful holidays, exchanging homes for villas in France or amazing homes on the west coast of the US. For me the prospect seemed riddled with hazards.
To date I’ve considered it a leap of faith that could so easily unravel into much more than a house swap. Entering a space that someone else inhabits, into someone else’s world and they to yours seems fraught with all kinds of risk. The experience could be far more than just benignly stepping into the bricks and mortar that bound someone else’s home.
The notion of people you have never met in real life wandering casually around your home is quite peculiar. The house-swap challenges comfort zones and notions of privacy. In an age where social media smudges the edge of personal space, for most people their home still remains their castle – somewhere where they can pull up the drawbridge at the end of the day.
Despite assurances and safeguards from websites, when arrangements such as house-swaps are conducted on the web, what guarantees do we really have that people are who they say they are, or indeed that they are the owners or occupants of a property in question?
Curious things can happen when you travel and more of the inspiration for Twisted River came from the more bizarre things that have happened to me while travelling. On one particular business trip, I returned to find the grounds of the English country house where I was staying swarming with police. The hotel manager accompanied me to my room in an annexe on the grounds, explaining the police presence was due to the arrival of golfing celebrities. The local TV news bulletin in my hotel room told a different story. When challenged, the police in the corridor outside my room confirmed that the couple stabbed to death in the murder/suicide on the news bulletin were in the room right next door to mine. The violent events had taken place the previous night as I’d slept.
On another occasion, while on a business trip to Long Island, I missed the company-arranged transport back to JFK for my flight home and had to use the services of a freelance taxi driver. The car that arrived wasn’t in great shape. Neither was its owner. When the driver learned that I was a technical writer, his alarming driving became even more erratic. He threatened to abduct me so that I could write his memoirs and tell of his experience of US government conspiracies. He claimed the US government was denying all knowledge of US soldiers trapped on the border between Laos and Vietnam. He also maintained there were efforts to poison him while on his way to fight the drugs war in South America. I managed to persuade him to get me as far as JFK whereupon I made a swift exit and left him shouting and kicking at his car in a rage.
The period prior to going on vacation can be a flashpoint for all kinds of emotion. The excitement and anticipation of a vacation often blighted by the stress of completing work projects or domestic tasks. I personally find packing a suitcase for an outward journey a particularly loathsome task. Unless of course you’re lucky enough to travel First Class, travelling invariably involves standing in line and being squashed together in confined spaces and all the irritation that brings. When travelling in close confines, it’s much more difficult to ignore the unsaid conversation or strange behaviour, and secrets are harder to hide.
Although I have yet to brave the waters of a house swap, in writing Twisted River I decided to explore and tease out all these potential hazards. I also thought it was a platform ripe to explore notions of privacy in the “share” generation of Internet and social media.
Twisted River by Siobhán MacDonald is published on 18th April by Canelo, price £1.99 in eBook.
18th April 2016
She would never have fit as neatly into the trunk of his own car.’
An unmissable psychological thriller about two families in crisis and a house swap gone terribly wrong
Limerick, Ireland: Oscar Harvey finds the body of a woman in a car boot, beaten and bloody. But let’s start at the beginning…
Kate and Mannix O’Brien live in a lovely Limerick house they can barely afford. Their autistic son is bullied at school and their daughter Izzy wishes she could protect him. When Kate spots a gorgeous New York flat on a home-exchange website, she decides her family needs a holiday.
Hazel and Oscar Harvey, and their two children, live on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Though they seem successful, Hazel has mysterious bruises and Oscar is hiding something.
Hazel is keen to revisit her native Limerick, and the house swap offers a perfect chance to soothe both troubled marriages.
But this will be anything but a perfect break. And the body is just the beginning.
1. If you have any kind of OCD (however mild) you will need to work outside your home. My house is constantly messy but I don’t care. I literally step over piles of laundry and go into my tiny office and write.
2. You have to protect your writing time. Turn off your phone and internet access, ignore the doorbell etc etc. Your writing time has to be precious or your book will never get written.
3. ALL authors have doubts about their books, particularly about a third of the way in. This is normal. Don’t let it stop you from moving forward.
4. Be passionate about your subject matter. This will help you on the bad writing days. Also if you are passionate about your characters and plot, your readers will feel it.
5. Write, even when you don’t feel like it sit down and put one word in front of the other. You’ll be amazed at what comes out when you don’t even feel like writing.