Thursday, May 17, 2018

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan



The cover, the description and the title of this book made it an instant must have for me. I added it to my wish list as soon as I heard about it. I went to the bookshop looking for it on publication day. I spotted it on the shelf, bought it and started reading it straight away. The book features five heroines; mothers and daughters of the OrchiĆ©re family. They are Roma and hereditary witches who flee persecution in early 19th century Brittany and find refuge firstly in Cornwall and later in Wales and England. Full of wonderful storytelling and compelling characters; both good and bad, the book details the women's fight to preserve their magical power, hand down their craft and traditions to each subsequent generation, avoid detection and keep their secrets. From the humble farm they restore in Cornwall to Buckingham Palace this is a sweeping saga of strong women and the changing world around them. I raced through the pages desperate to know what was coming next. If you loved Practical Magic or Ami Mckay's The Witches of New York then this is for you. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Baby's Bones by Rebecca Alexander

Blog Tour




A Baby's Bones is the brand new novel from Rebecca Alexander author of the Jackdaw Hammond trilogy of supernatural adventures. While A Baby's Bones is slightly different in style, it has the hallmarks of Rebecca's previous books; well rounded characters, a compelling plot and more than a hint of the dark and thrilling. A Baby's Bones is a dual time narrative featuring stories in the present day and in the sixteenth century, with The Isle of Wight as the setting for both. Archaeologist Sage Westfield is working on a sixteenth century well in the garden of a private residence when she discovers the bones of a newborn baby. The sixteenth century story details the daily lives of the Banstock family; purchases and sales, births, marriages and deaths, carefully building a picture of a community at peace and then in crisis.  The book blends crime procedural with historical mystery, who done it with why done it and adds a sprinkling of witchcraft, folklore and the supernatural. Rebecca Alexander's gift for period detail shines through as does her passion for history. While the drama and suspense will make you turn the pages, it's the careful character details that will hold you there and the supernatural elements will send a shiver up your spine, even if you take this to the beach to read. The character of Sage is fascinating and I'm delighted to discover that this is the first of a series. I look forward to reading much more about Sage and her extended family and friends. This book is a must read for fans of Elly Griffiths and James Oswald. Thanks so much to Titan books for asking me to be involved in this blog tour. Check the banner above for further info. A Baby's Bones is out in paperback now. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Shipyard Girls in Love Blog Tour



I'm delighted to have a Q&A today with the fantastic Nancy Revell author of the wonderful Shipyard Girls series of historical novels which tell the story of just a handful of the many tough and resilient women who worked at Sunderland Shipyards during The Second world War. This month sees the release of the fourth in the series Shipyard Girls in Love. The latest instalment is set in 1941 and sees Gloria face her violent former husband while trying to hide the secret of her baby's true parentage. For Rosie the respite in air raids means a chance to fall in love. Fans of the series will be delighted to hear that there are more books on the way.



Q1.    What's the one piece of essential writing advice you would give to an author who wants to write historical fiction?

I’d say to really research the period you’ve chosen to write about, but equally so, don’t get so immersed in the research that you forget the fiction. It’s so easy to become engrossed in exploring the past and lose sight of your main objective which, of course, is to write a good story. It can be a tenuous balance!

Q2.      What draws you to writing about the hard working women of the North East?

When I started throwing around ideas for a new saga series and found out that there were women who worked in the Sunderland shipyards during WW2 (and WW1), I couldn’t believe I had not heard about them before. I was even more incredulous that not many other people had heard about them either. In fact, they seemed to have been totally overlooked. There had been next to nothing written about them. I felt passionate about shining a spotlight on these incredible women, who were spending up to twelve hours a day doing backbreaking and dangerous work. Many of them then went home to cook, clean and bring up their families and most of them had loved ones on the front line. I’m very proud to say that plans have been put in place for a statue to be made which pays tribute to this amazing and inspirational women.

 Q3.      Do you think you will write about other women during WW2? As this period is full of amazing stories or do you have other ideas tucked away for after this series?

At the minute I’m more than happy concentrating on my women welders. I feel the story has really just got going and there is so much more to come. The more research I do, the more ideas I have – but, it’s mainly ideas for The Shipyard Girls series. When I write, my focus has to be one hundred percent on what I am doing, and for the foreseeable future that focus is The Shipyard Girls. But you’re right, this period is full of so many amazing true life stories – especially about the women who were not just keeping the home fires burning – but doing just about everything else as well!

Thank you, Lisa, for having me on your blog.

If you enjoyed Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows or Milly Adams Sisters at War then you will love Nancy Revell's brilliant books. 

You can find out more about the Shipyard Girls Series at the Penguin Random House website HERE

The blog tour continues all this week, details below





Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Madwoman in the Attic #9 Anne Fuller


Very little is known about Anne Fuller, there is scant evidence of her life and her work is these days obscure and long since out of print. She hailed from Kerry and died in Cork in 1790. She is important however, as she was one of the first women to work in the Gothic tradition and one the first writers of historical fiction. Her work was dismissed by many early twentieth century critics; as was a lot of women's writing. However more recent critical texts which examine the Gothic tradition such as The Emergence of Irish Gothic Fiction by Jarlath Kileen of Trinity College Dublin and The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the Gothic have included her as an important part of the early Irish Gothic tradition along with Regina Maria Roche, Ann Burke and Sydney Owenson. She is being restored to her place in the canon of Irish Literature by the rise in studies of both Gothic fiction writers and of women writers of the 18th Century in general. The acclaimed scholar Ellen Moody in particular sees The Convent or, The History of Sophia Nelson (1786) as a precursor to Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. 
For further information on the connections between Fuller's work and that of her contemporaries, the following essay is particularly useful. Ellen Moody



Monday, February 26, 2018

Kin by Snorri Kristjansson


Kin is the first book in the Helga Finnsdottir series. It marks a new departure for the author who is already established in the fantasy genre having penned the epic Valhalla Saga. Kin will undoubtedly thrill Kristjansson's established fan base but also earn him a legion of new fans as the book melds Viking historical fiction with scandi-noir to create a stunning mystery. As Unnther Reginsson prepares to welcome back his grown up children, his adopted daughter is keen to finally meet them all. But as family tensions simmer it's up to Helga to investigate when it seems there is a killer in their midst. This book will appeal to fans of Bernard Cornwel's Last Kingdom series, fans of the Vikings TV show, fans of historical mysteries and fantasy fans. This series is set to be a huge success not least because it's leading lady is one of the smartest and funniest you will encounter.
Publishing on 8th of March, thanks a million to Olivia Mead at Jo Fletcher for a proof copy. 

In Love and War by Liz Trenow


I was delighted to be involved with the blog tour for In Love and War in January. I have read three of Liz Trenow's books now and she is definitely a writer that has earned a place on my shelf of favourites. In Love and War is set in the aftermath of the Great War and highlights the search for graves and information that many families faced after losing their loved ones. As early as 1919 there were battlefield tours which met with a mixed response. Many families felt it gave them comfort to see where their sons, brothers and husbands had fought and died while others felt it was shocking and distasteful. This novel tells the story of three women who have each lost someone and of how their lives interweave as they come to terms with those loses while visiting the battlefields of Belgium. I raced through this book in two days, becoming utterly wrapped up in the lives of these brave, strong and interesting characters. Liz Trenow is a powerful storyteller and In Love and War is a powerful book which despite the gravity of its subject is ultimately uplifting.

Available in paperback and ebook from Pan now. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Elizabeth Murray on her Inspirations and Influences





Inspiration is Everywhere: The Nine Lives Trilogy by E.R. Murray

Elizabeth Murray is the author of The Nine Lives Trilogy. The last book in the series The Book of Revenge was just published. She lives in County Cork, Ireland.






For me, inspiration is everywhere; in words, pictures, memories, sounds, film, sights, thoughts, theatre, emotions, art, the landscape. The question – where do you get your ideas from? – always baffles me. Rather than suffering from writer’s block, my challenge is to collect and contain the myriad ideas that bombard me daily, sifting through the chaff to find the decent sparks. Sometimes, a shot of inspiration might lead to a book, other times it might add colour or texture to a manuscript or a short story that’s already in progress.

Now, I trust in hard work but I don’t think sitting at your desk staring at a blank screen for hours on end is ever the answer. I truly believe that if you open your senses, become a participant as well as an observer, you’ll never be stuck for inspiration.

Talking about inspiring books or writers is impossible; I have far too many writers and stories that I’ve enjoyed over the years and am discovering new and wonderful voices all the time. So instead, here’s a list of some of the things that I find most inspiring outside of the book world…


Places to write


Libraries – I spent my whole childhood in libraries and they’re still my go-to place for some quiet research and a bit of nurturing.

Trains – there’s something about the motion, I think. But trains in Ireland are more sociable than elsewhere so I’ve taken to wearing headphones to ward off the chatterers!

Countries where I can’t speak the language – there’s nothing better than being surrounded by lots of people you can’t understand. There’s a wonderful buzz to it that really drives me on.

Outdoors – being outside helps me think up ideas, write descriptions of events or the landscape, and work out problems in the current WIP. For me, the outdoors can’t be beaten; I always have a notebook, pen, pencil and Dictaphone handy.

Swimming pool – when I wasn’t in a library as a child, I was in the pool and it’s still one of my favourite environments. I don’t take my notebook into the pool but I have it ready for afterwards and often think up new ideas while doing laps.

Graveyards – I adore graveyards. When I was growing up, they were the greenest and most peaceful spots around and I spent hours in them alone or hanging out with friends. I still go to graveyards for peace and focus – and they’re great places to discover names.



Memories


My father’s caravan – holiday visits to my father underpin my appreciation of the countryside and rural landscapes and my awareness of the beauty and healing of nature stems from these memories.

The ‘Black Path’ – lots of the journeys I wrote about start with me remembering trips I took along this disused railway track as a child. It comprised of a tarmac road, steep banks, blackberries, bird nests and discarded eggshells, foxgloves and fabulous stone-arched bridges. I walked this path to visit my aunty, to run away from home, to pick fruit, to make dens. It was more than a path, it was a whole world.

Adventures – when I write, I want to feel good. I don’t think writing should be difficult or painful, though many people find it such. So after I ‘finish’ any piece, if I don’t feel as exhilarated by it as the time I ran with bulls or swam with sharks or skydived, then I know it needs more work.

Turning down a gymnastics show – I really wanted to say yes to being in the show but I hadn’t expected to be asked and I accidentally said no because I copied everyone else. I was six years old and didn’t know how to tell the coach I’d made a mistake and wanted to reverse the decision. I was heartbroken and I learned to always follow my heart and my instinct and a lot of strength came from that lesson.



Speeches

Malcolm X – Any Means Necessary – I was shown this speech in primary school and it made me think very deeply about human rights and how I felt about being from a country that colonised. I liked the way he made the greater issues so personal and understandable.
Neil Gaiman - Make Good Art – I absolutely love this and all it stands for.
Malala Yousafzia – Nobel Speech – as a child, I learned quickly that education was a way to break poverty, but Malala’s story brings it to another level. To hear her speak is always incredible. It doesn’t matter that I’m twice her age, she’s one of my heroes.



Artists


Picasso – I was inspired by his art from a young age. I loved how he followed his gut, how he fashioned a new style.

Frieda Kahlo – I love her strength, resilience, honesty, feminism and skill. Her life and her art are inextricable. And all that colour!

Van Gogh – he only ever sold one painting yet did what he loved passionately, voraciously. Now that’s dedication!

Harry Clarke – the intricate design and texture, the gorgeous colour and detail. It’s just stunning. I seek Harry Clarke’s glass all over Ireland and it never fails to impress. His Hans Christian Anderson illustrations were sublime.



Women


My Auntie Rita – Always firm but fair, my auntie was the oldest sibling, the kindest and most thoughtful and always brutally honest. She died last year, but continues to inspire me. I think of her when I’m writing about honesty, integrity, and determination.

Maya Angelou – “And still I rise” – these words were written a year after I was born, but I learned them in college (aged 17) and they have never left me. What an incredible woman.

Helen Keller – we were taught about Helen in primary school and I was always intrigued by her story. I couldn’t help but be inspired by her tireless campaigning for people’s rights.

Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks – both of these women refused to follow local law and give up their seats based on their skin colour. I think of them when I’m writing about bravery, hope, and beating the odds.

My friends – I have so many strong, fun, interesting, determined, intelligent, quirky, kind and creative female friends and they inspire me every day in their own individual ways.



Sounds


Rain – I live in a mobile home and the sound of rain beating on the roof is one of the most comforting and relaxing sounds – it always leads to good writing.

Storms – moody, wild, dramatic – all the ingredients for a good story. I love storms and their ferocity and if I have any dark scenes or stories to write, they get dragged out for an extra editing bash when a storm arrives.
Playlist for WIP – this is a new approach for me as I used to always write in silence but I’m trying to bring more music into my world to make writing less isolating. And so, I’ve created a playlist for my next WIP and play it when I write. It’s quite dark and depressing though, so I don’t use it every time!

Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, I’m always soaking the world in. Downtime is important and so is creative input – we can’t just pour our heart and soul onto the page and create our best work. I believe ideas stem from stimulation, whatever that may look like in your world. I wonder, when you search your heart and soul, when you think about your happiest
moments writing and where you were when the best ideas hit, what is it that truly inspires you?