Posted in Cambridge, Contemporary Fiction, Writing


Good morning Carol and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?

Good morning, Jo, and many thanks for inviting me round. I live in London and img_0541Cambridge, with my new husband and our ginger cat, and I’ve got two novels to my name, the latest being Hampstead Fever. My novels came after a string of non-fiction books, most of them on health and parenting. I have three sons, including twins, which obviously inspired some of my books. “The boys” are all grown up now, and they haven’t turned out too badly.

You qualified as a doctor, are a medical journalist and have published several parenting guides. How did the switch to writing fiction come about?

I’ve always wanted to write fiction, but I was busy with non-fiction books and health journalism, not to mention being a doctor, so it was difficult to find the time. The creative urge was there all along, though, and eventually I could ignore it no longer. By the time I set out to write a novel, I had a reasonable grasp of the process of producing a book. But, of course, it wasn’t plain sailing. The proof is a drawer full of manuscripts that will never see the light of day.

Your novels are set in London. Are you planning to use this as a base for future stories or would you ever be tempted to use another city?

I enjoy using London, especially North London, as a setting for my novels, but as I also livejacaranda_ebook-cov_may2016 in Cambridge, you can expect a little more of East Anglia to feature in a future book. I prefer writing about what I know, so I’d never use somewhere I didn’t know well as a location. One of the books I am planning at the moment will be set mostly in Egypt. I grew up in Alexandria and my memories of it are still vivid.

There are a few well known writers who have switched genre – Rom Com to Thriller or Crime is one example. If you were asked to write something other than Contemporary Fiction, what would be your choice?

I’m in awe of anyone who can write a good thriller. I’m not nearly devious or clever enough myself. If I were to choose another genre, I’d go for something completely different. I love writing dialogue, so I think it would be a screenplay.

Can you tell us something about your current WIP?

I’m actually writing two more books. One is the novel I mentioned which is set mainly in Egypt. Unusually for me, the story will unfold from just one point of view. The other book I’m working on will take many of the characters from Hampstead Fever and let them experience changes in their careers, their relationships, and their family lives. Like my first two novels, it’ll be a multi-viewpoint story, with both male and female voices. I like getting inside people’s heads. Maybe that’s the doctor in me.

Describe your writing room. Do you prefer to write in silence or with background music? If the latter, have you any favourites?

I have in the past written under all sorts of conditions. Some of my parenting books were img_2053produced two feet away from a computer where my children played Command and Conquer, at full blast. At times I’ve found it productive to write with music on, especially choral music, but nowadays I prefer utter silence. Because I write my first draft in pencil on paper, I can do it in most places. That usually means on the sofa in my living room, but in good weather it can equally be by the banks of the Cam.

And lastly, you’re holding a dinner party and can invite four famous people. Who would they be and why would you choose them?

Barack Obama, Prince Harry, Howard Jacobson and Kate Atkinson. Three of them (Obama, Jacobson and Atkinson) are terrific writers, and they’re all warm, witty and articulate. I think they would each have some great stories to share, which would make for a memorable evening.

for-jd-1-resizedimageAbout Carol

Carol Cooper is a writer and doctor. She is a journalist for The Sun newspaper, broadcasts on TV and radio, and has a string of non-fiction books to her name including an award-winning textbook of medicine. Now she writes novels all about complex characters looking for love.

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Summertime and the living is…. complicated.

Ex-con Dan should be blissfully happy. He has the woman of his dreams and a job in a trendy Hampstead bistro. But his over-anxious partner Laure, engrossed in their baby, has no time for him.
After surviving serious illness, Sanjay’s got his life back. Now he wants adventure. Where does that leave girlfriend Harriet?
Casual sex with the football coach makes up Karen’s love live. As a single mum of four, romance is on her to-do list, just below laundry.
Stressed doctor Geoff finds solace in the arms of a mercurial actress. But why does she seem intent on upsetting everyone?
In a London heatwave, six people’s emotions rise to boiling point. And the fever spreads.

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Posted in Writing


shoppingAs a writer if there’s one thing I’m grateful for it’s the ability to type. Finishing school I enrolled at college for an OND in Business and Finance with secretarial training. The latter was very much involved with unlocking the mysteries of shorthand, audio typing…and typing.
Faced with a typewriter for the first time and looking at the QWERTY keyboard, I was at a loss to understand how anyone could use this machine and produce anything that resembled the written word. But we did and sitting down at a desk and spreading your fingers across what was termed your ‘home keys’ soon became second nature.

We had a formidable woman teaching us – Mrs Cameron Smith. She was built like an Amazon with muscular calves and elegantly arranged pale lilac hair – at the time it was fashionable for ladies of a certain age to camouflage any grey with pastel shades of lilac or blue. Her golden rule was NEVER look at your keys while typing. We learnt on manual typewriters which meant you had to exert quite a bit of pressure to get the keys to make any impact against the platen and the paper. It soon made us aware of how weak our small fingers were but after a while they became as strong and flexible as the rest.

At the beginning of each lesson (once we were fairly proficient) we warmed up by typing to music, usually to The March of the Tin Soldiers – something that still haunts me. This was followed by a speed test – five minutes of copy typing from a printed sheet of A4. While this was going on Mrs C-S would wander up and down the aisles between desks with eyes like a hawk and a twelve inch ruler lurking behind her back. Woe betide anyone who so much as glimpsed at their fingers. Luckily I was never the recipient of the flat of a ruler over my knuckles (something that in today’s world would surely have been labelled assault). Persistent offenders had the addition of having a special box placed over the keyboard to cure them of their illegal downward stare. They were instructed to use a huge poster of a typewriter keyboard on the wall at the front of the room to guide their fingers.

After leaving college I had only been working for a short while when the electric typewriter arrived. This was a ibm-typewritertotal revolution! At last we were all able to say goodbye to aching fingers. Everyone coveted – and I was lucky enough to have – a red IBM Golf Ball typewriter and at the start it took some getting used to. No more keys leaping out of the type basket to make their impact on paper; this circular metal ball covered in letters simply whizzed up and down. There were downsides of course. It wasn’t a good idea to rest your fingers on the keyboard at any time as the slightest pressure on any one key would automatically set it off like a machine gun, leaving a trail of gibberish across whatever you were in the middle of typing.  Olivetti also produced an electric daisy wheel typewriter. The beauty of this machine was that you could Print Elementsbuy replacement wheels with different typefaces making it a very versatile piece of equipment. Today, of course, the computer leaves us spoiled for choice with innumerable typeface options, so different from those dark days!

Things settled down for a while and then the electronic typewriter arrived. I guess this was the forerunner of word processing as the one I wedges-017used had a small window built into the front to enable text to be edited – very cutting edge at the time. By the late ‘80’s early ‘90’s computers/word processors were beginning to become norm in the provincial workplace (no doubt London and other big cities already had them). My first session on a word processor was surreal. In the past typing had been about movement and noise. Now here I was, sitting in front of a strange detached keyboard. When my fingers hit keys there was a gentle tapping sound but nothing felt as if it had connected with anything else. It was only when I raised my eyes to the screen in front of me that I saw words appearing as if by magic. It was probably as weird an experience as the progression from manual to electric typewriter.

800px-hardwarewordprocessor-optimizedIn early desktop computers  WP packages were almost an afterthought and in some instances not very user friendly. Therefore I opted for a dedicated word processor instead, using the computer for spreadsheets and databases. Suddenly it seemed you no longer needed to be able to type to use a computer. Of course it completely transformed how things were done in the workplace. A manager doing his own typing? Shock, horror! That would have been unheard of during my early years at work. Then it was all about dictation and audio tapes and getting the secretary to type it all up.

Although the workplace has radically changed,  I’m glad I went through the fire and brimstone of Mrs Cameron Smith’s teaching sessions. It wasn’t wasted because if I hadn’t learned the skill I’d be reduced to two finger typing and working at a snail’s pace. As far as I’m concerned touch typing is definitely an added bonus if you’re a writer. So here’s to the unforgettable Mrs Cameron Smith with her lilac rinse. athletic calves and menacing ruler. I’m forever in her debt.

Posted in Writing

It’s 24th January and publication day for The Girl on the Beach by Morton S Gray



Who is Harry Dixon?

When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.
For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …
But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.


Ellie Golden is introduced to Harry Dixon, the new headmaster of Borteen High and knows she’s seen him somewhere before.  Gradually it comes to her, but it doesn’t make sense because then he was known as Ben Rivers and he’s no longer alive.

So from page one you have this mystery about Harry.  Is he really Ben and if so, who was buried in his place?  As the story progresses we get  glimpses of the truth told from both Harry’s and Ellie’s perspectives.  Both have physically changed since they last saw each other. Harry, an undercover detective working in Cornwall, was beaten and left for dead by a drugs gang.  Ellie had to have reconstructive facial surgery after being attacked by her husband Rushton, a member of the same gang, who is currently serving time in prison. Since his change of identity and hair colour Harry has left the police force and gone into teaching.  He’s lived abroad but is now back.  The beating left him with gaps in his memory and he certainly doesn’t remember Ellie.

Once Rushton was jailed Ellie, a painter and potter, filed for divorce and left the area with her son Tom, now fourteen. For the past few years she has run a small art gallery in Borteen.  When Rushton is released from prison, he comes looking for Ellie and the money she took from him.  Tracking her down to Borteen, he discovers Ellie is not the only past he needs to catch up with.  There’s a man there who bears a striking resemblance to Ben Rivers and he has a score to settle with him too.

It’s a well-paced story, with lots of twists and turns to keep you wondering what happens next.  There’s a good selection of supporting characters too, from Ellie’s bubbly friend Mandy to Nicholas a disadvantaged boy with a talent for painting. There’s everything there – romance, drama, danger and some sad moments too. All in all a lovely debut novel.



About Morton


Posted in Writing

Tuesday Talk catches up with Crime Writer Rob Ashman to talk about desert island choices and what’s next on his writing agenda…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGood morning Rob and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?

Firstly Jo, I would like to say a big thank you for inviting me onto your blog today. I have been a follower of yours for some time so to be featured in your Tuesday Talk is a real buzz.

My name is Rob Ashman, I’m 56 years of age, live in North Lincolnshire with my wife Karen and have two daughters.

I am originally form South Wales and like all good welsh valley boys I left school at sixteen to join the Coal Board and spent six years working as an electrician. Then the pit closure programme began to bite and I left to go to university at the tender age of twenty-three. Since then I’ve worked and lived all over the UK and abroad, and we finally settled in a small village called Barrow Upon Humber twenty-two years ago.

We have a wide circle of friends and like nothing better than hosting a house full of people for the six nations rugby, having a curry and draining the contents of my beer fridge.

How did your writing journey begin?

Those That Remain took me twenty-four years to write – yes you heard that correctly. I had the story lodged in my head for years and only got serious about writing it when my dad got cancer. It was an aggressive illness and I gave up work for three months to look after him and my mum. Writing the book was my coping mechanism.

After my dad passed away my family read it and said ‘This is good, you need to do something with it and besides the story isn’t finished’. So, not one for half measures, I got myself made redundant, became self-employed so I could write more and four years later the Mechanic Trilogy was written. I didn’t set out to write a trilogy it just happened that way – my wife says it’s because of a total lack of planning on my part. She is, as usual, correct.

I finally plucked up the courage to push the button and self-published in October last year. It has been a whirlwind three months. I still can’t quite believe my book is out there, let alone that people are buying it and leaving 5* reviews. I have to pinch myself from time to time. It’s been quite a journey.

What attracted you to writing crime?

I know it’s a bit of a clichéd response but it chose me. It is never a good thing to admit in public but my inspiration to write crime comes from the voices in my head. And in my case those voices are always from psychotic killers and the people whose job it is to catch them.
When I’m writing, my characters talk to me incessantly. They compete for my attention – they row, they laugh, they fight, and of course try to murder each other. When I woke the morning after I had finished writing the final book in the Mechanic series the voices were gone. It was as though the story had been told and they were silent. It’s was a very strange sensation not having them there anymore.
I find all of my characters are damaged in some way, there is a dark thread running through the books which comes from them. They are all deeply flawed, each one capable of doing bad things and making the wrong choices. But sometimes they surprise me by having flashes of doing the right things as well.
We met a woman on holiday who was interested in the books and asked Karen what they were about. After Karen finished describing them the woman screwed her face up and Karen said ‘I know, it’s worrying to think that goes on in his head.’

Who are your favourite authors and have any of them influenced your writing?

I have an awful admission to make … I seldom read. I know that to other authors and readers alike I am committing a cardinal sin, but it’s true. I first realised this was frowned upon when I went to London Book Fair in 2014, when I told people I was a writer it was always one of their opening questions. At first they thought I was joking, then their faces changed when it dawned on them I was serious.
I have read one book while on holiday which had me hooked – I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes. I loved the way he wove the strands of the story together, very clever plotting.

How do you carry out research for your writing?

As far as setting is concerned my first book takes place in Florida, the second is set in Vegas and the third is set between San Diego and Vegas, which are all holiday destinations we love. My wife has suggested the next one should be set in Lanzarote because we holiday there as well, though I’m afraid it is not a place renowned for its serial killers.
Also, one of my BetaReaders has a medical background and she advises me on the gorier aspects of my storylines. She is a fantastic source of knowledge, though our coffee shop conversations do cause some raised eyebrows from those within earshot.
Other than that, like many authors I’m sure, I use the internet for the rest. If my laptop was ever seized my search history would get me into a whole heap of trouble. With topics like how to strip down a Glock 17 to the effects on the human body of drop hanging, it does not make good reading.

What are you working on at the moment?

As I mentioned before my inspiration to write comes from the voices in my head and they were quiet after I completed the Mechanic Trilogy. They remained silent for four months. Then I was working on a project in Blackpool and out of the blue a different voice started telling me about himself, where he lived and what he had done. This guy is a complete psycho and is now the focus on my fourth book. The story is set in Blackpool, which is a change for me, and is much darker than my previous work. My wife loves it so far but my daughter says it’s too scary.

The other thing on my to-do list is publishing my second book titled In Your Name. It is currently with my BetaReaders and I plan to publish in the next couple of months. The third book Pay The Penance will shortly go through the formal editing process.

And lastly, you’re getting away from it all for a year on a secluded desert island. What four ‘must haves’ would you take with you and why?

In answering your question Jo I am making the assumption that I can’t take family or friends and the secluded desert island miraculously has electricity.

I would take one of my guitars. I have four altogether and the problem would be deciding which one to take. My family would be delighted if I did because I’m not very good.

The second item would be my knives, I am a bit of a foodie and a frustrated chef. I love to cook and my chef knives are my pride and joy in the kitchen. I once went on a cooking course and took them with me – the tutor was very envious.

I am also a bit of a chilli-head and love spicy food, so my third item would have to be the contents of my spice cupboard. When I cook curries and chillies for other people my wife won’t let me add the spices because she says I make it too hot, despite the fact there is no such thing.

And the last item would be my laptop, so I could continue writing and giving a voice to the characters that live inside my head.



A thrilling read to grip you from the first page to the last sentence.

those-that-remain-bookfront2-copyNothing is as it seems …

The heat of the Florida sun is relentless. Lucas is coasting to retirement in a mundane Florida police precinct. His world falls apart when a brutal serial killer lands on his patch.

Three years ago they thought Mechanic was dead. But Mechanic is very much alive and the savage ritual murders continue. No family is safe from the threat of slaughter at this sadistic killer’s hands.

Mechanic is always one step ahead and Lucas is forced to operate outside the law. Who can he trust?

The shocking truth is more terrifying than Lucas could ever imagine … and he has to put his life on the line to get it.

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Posted in Writing

Tuesday Talk joins Crime Author Hemmie Martin talking about her writing influences and favourite authors…

lovely-1-of-me-peter-2016Good morning Hemmie and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?

Good morning Jo, and thank you for having me on your blog. I don’t consider myself to be from anywhere in particular in the country as I spent the first nine years of my life in Buckinghamshire but then moved around to places such as York, Norwich, and six years living in the south of France. I’m currently living in Essex but plan to move back to Norfolk in the near future. I’m a mother to two daughters who are both at university studying veterinary medicine and computer science, respectively.

How did your writing journey begin?

It has stuttered over the years, usually curtailed by raising a family or studying for a degree in child and adolescent mental health. My writing journey really took off when I was retired on ill-health grounds from my nursing career and I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. They do say when one door closes another one opens, and it was certainly true in my case.

What attracted you to writing crime?

In my youth, I wanted to be a police woman but ended up a nurse. However, I did end up working alongside the police as a forensic mental health nurse in a youth offending team, so in a roundabout way, I ended up working in the field of policing.
I have always enjoyed crime novels and films; becoming hooked via Agatha Christie, the mistress of crime. Looking further back, Enid Blyton’s The Famous Five were my foray into the world of mystery – it just goes to show how important it is for young people to read or be read to.

Who are your favourite authors and have any of them influenced your writing?

I have a plethora of authors I enjoy reading, from the aforementioned Agatha Christie, to Anita Brookner, and Maggie O’Farrell. I think Christie influences me when writing crime to having a setting where the cast of characters are based, for example, in a hotel or living in a small village. O’Farrell and Brookner have inspired me with delving into atmosphere and description, which is perhaps more noticeable in the women’s contemporary novels I also write.

Which are the best and worst parts of writing for you

I love creating new characters, especially the antagonists with deep flaws in their personalities, as it really fires-up my creativity. When writing my contemporary novels, I love seeing where the journey and characters take me, without too much of a plan to adhere to, when writing the first draft.

However, writing crime requires a lot more planning, and this is something I don’t always find enjoyable; it can be restrictive in the early stages of writing the novel.

Something I really enjoy doing for both genres is editing. I love deleting words or sections that add nothing to the flow of the story, and I love refining sentences and discovering new words to convey what I am meaning.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am in the process of editing The Reluctant Mother, which is a contemporary novel about a woman suffering with postpartum psychosis, whose life and marriage is crumbling around her. I have worked with James, an editor provided for me by my publisher, for the past five years, and I believe we really understand one another after all this time, and I have learnt a lot from him over the years.

I am also 50,000 words into the first draft of the next DI Eva Wednesday novel – the fifth in the series.

And lastly, you’ve been invited onto I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. If you could choose four of your companion contestants, who would they be and why?

Ooh, lovely question, Jo! My first choice would be Greg Davies, the actor and stand-up comedian, as his humour would lift my spirits in what would be an arduous few weeks for me. Next, I would like to have Emma Thompson, as she is someone I have always admired in the acting arena, and she comes across as a very interesting and caring woman in interviews. I would love to have the novelist, Maggie O’Farrell, there to discuss the world of writing and her novels – which I thoroughly enjoy. Lastly, I would like Sandi Toksvig, as I find her clever and witty – a dynamic combination. I like the idea of being entertained and having thought provoking conversation whilst in the jungle, but please don’t nominate me to eat the disgusting parts of animals – it wouldn’t be pretty viewing!

Hemmie Martin spent most of her professional life as a Community Nurse for people with learning disabilities, a Family Planning Nurse, and a Forensic Mental Health Nurse working with young offenders. She spent six years living in the south of France. She now writes full time.
Hemmie created the DI Wednesday series, featuring DI Eva Wednesday and DS Jacob Lennox, set in and around Cambridge, with fictional villages. There are four books in the series so far. Hemmie has also written a psychological thriller, Attic of the Mind, and two contemporary women’s fiction, The Divine Pumpkin and Garlic & Gauloises. Mental health often features in her novels due to her nursing background. Hemmie is a member of The Crime Writer’s Association.





wha-coverWhat happens after the murder? A killing has occurred during a Parting Ways weekend, where couples attempt to divorce amicably. The fallout points in many directions as Wednesday and Lennox are faced with a widow, sparring couples, the group facilitators, and the hotel staff, all as suspects. While the confounding case strengthens Wednesday’s negative views on relationships, it brings Lennox to a place of reflection as he analyses his past and contemplates his future.




gg-coverAlice Calwin finds herself without purpose in life after the death of her mother, whom she’d been caring for following a stroke. Theo Edwards, a literary journalist, has a sour outlook on life, bolstered by his ongoing divorce, and is feeling the pressure to revitalise his column in the newspaper.

They encounter one another at a writers’ retreat in France, but Alice’s shameful past and Theo’s deceptive reasons for being there end up affecting them both in very different ways.

When someone finally acknowledges their mistakes, is it ever too late to make amends?


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I’m really pleased to be joining the tour celebrating Laura’s paperback release of What Doesn’t Kill You. Today I’m welcoming her as a guest on my blog and I’ve also taken the opportunity to include my Amazon review for this compelling read.

The Happiness Jar

Hi, Jo, and thank you for helping me celebrate the paperback release of my novel, What Doesn’t Kill You. I received an extra present in the post over Christmas – my author copies of the book. Holding the paperback version was a special moment and if Evie, one of the wdky-spinesmain characters in WDKY, had received such a gift, she would have written the moment down on a slip of paper and popped it into her Happiness jar.
The idea of the Happiness jar developed early in in the plotting of What Doesn’t Kill You. It’s Evie’s jar, but it’s for the family – Griff, Evie’s husband, and Tess, Evie’s fifteen-year-old daughter, also contribute to its content, adding notes of particular achievements, successes and happy times – times hard to come by for the Hendry family.
Tess considers how the jar reflects their lives, especially her mum’s.
From the corner of my eye I can see a glass container sitting on the terracotta-tiled sill. It’s Mum’s Happiness jar, and it has two measly slips of paper languishing at the bottom. To the inexperienced, they could be dead, decaying moths. It’s sad. I pray it’s not a reflection of her life. She deserves so much more. She deserves a greenhouse filled with happiness, Crystal Palace even, not an old, empty jam jar.

The plan is for Evie to empty the Happiness jar on New Year’s Eve and read out the notes to the family. It’s a way of keeping precious memories so they can be enjoyed and celebrated.
With New Year’s Eve 2016 behind us, I wonder how many people emptied their Happiness jar and how many started one for the first time this year?
I don’t keep a jar, but I do have plenty of photographs and videos and with today’s technology, it’s easy to find out when they were taken, and then sort them into digital files. Does that count as a virtual jar?
My mum was diligent when it came to photos. She liked to have an actual photo which we’d put into albums and then label. Second copies of photos of my children were slipped into small, hand sized photo wallets and kept in the toy box for them to view whenever they visited. My son and daughter loved going through them with their gran, seeing themselves as babies. I can picture them now, snuggling up to her on the sofa and pointing out the tiniest things in the photo and asking a hundred questions. It kept them amused for hours.
How long the notes in Evie’s jar keep her amused depends on how empty or full the receptacle is …
With that thought I’d like to thank you for having me here and for your wonderful review of What Doesn’t Kill You, Jo, and wish a happy New Year to you and your readers.

Laura x



I have read Choc Lit novels before, but nothing like this one. It’s a wonderful new departure – dark, deep and incredibly emotional.

Griff thought he had a good marriage with Evie but now she is pushing him away and he doesn’t know why. Evie, who is Griff’s father’s carer is in a difficult situation. Arthritic and in constant pain, Logan has asked for help with something that goes against everything she believes in. The only way she can cope with this dilemma is by distancing herself from Griff. Tess, Evie’s daughter from her first marriage is still affected by the abuse she saw her mother go through. At fifteen and wary of men she’s still not sure about Griff and at the same time is struggling with her own sexuality. And even Griff has his own torments – haunted by the death of a friend and still at odds with his father for not doing enough to prolong his mother’s life when she was diagnosed with cancer. This is a complex story written very skilfully from three viewpoints which allows you to be intimately connected to the challenges faced by Griff, Evie and Tess. Definitely deserving of every one of the five stars I’ve awarded.
Posted in Writing


Good morning Karen and welcome. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?

Hi Jo, thank you so much for inviting me on your blog. I’ve lived in Worcester for the past few years, but also spent a few years living in Cornwall – about ten minutes’ walk from the beach. Beaches feature a lot in my stories! I write romance novels, books for children, and teach writing.

How did your writing journey begin?

I had a poem published in the children’s corner of a local newspaper when I was eleven, which spurred me on to write more. My first ‘grown up’ piece of writing published was for Jackie magazine. I spent many years writing for teenage and children’s magazines such as My Little Pony, Postman Pat and Winnie the Pooh, alongside writing children’s books. I’ve had 120 children’s books published at the last count. I started writing romance stories and novels about ten years ago and am delighted to have a three book contract with Accent Press. My first chicklit, ‘I do?- or do I?’ is out now and my second one will be published in July. I’m just finishing writing my third one.

Are you a panster or a plotter?

A bit of both. I usually get the character first, then the story plot. I write an outline of the basic plot, so that I know it works and have a structure to work too, then I get writing. Sometimes my characters and the plot take off on a course I hadn’t expected, and if it works I go with it.

Your writing career has taken you from children’s books to romantic fiction and now chick lit. Is there any other genre you would be interested in writing?

I’d love to write ‘laugh out loud’ books but I can’t write funny. I’ve had an idea for an emotional drama ticking over for a while and want to write that up.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m finishing my third chicklit for Accent Press, a YA and some short stories.

Name the top two destinations on your bucket list.

Hmm, that’s a tough one, I love travelling and would love to see as much of the world as possible. I’d like to go to China and Tibet, they both sound fascinating.

And lastly, you’re planning a dinner where you can invite four celebrities. Who would they be and why?

Let me think, I’d need someone to cook for us so Jamie Oliver, someone to entertain us so Robbie Williams and someone to talk to and have a laugh with so Julie Walters and Joanna Lumley would be ideal.

kk-head-and-shouldersABOUT KAREN

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, Karen King writes sassy, fun, heart-warming romance. ‘I do – or do I?’ is her first chick-lit for Accent Press and has recently been nominated for the RONA. She has been contracted for two more chick-lit novels. In addition, Accent Press have republished her earlier romance novels, The Millionaire Plan and Never Say Forever.
Karen has also written several short stories for women’s magazine and had 120 children’s books published.
When she isn’t writing, Karen likes travelling, watching the ‘soaps’ and reading. Give her a good book and a box of chocolates and she thinks she’s in Heaven.

Author links

Twitter: @karen_king
Karen King Romance Author Facebook Page
Karen King Children’s Books Facebook Page


Local journalist Cassie is getting married to hot-shot lawyer, reliable Timothy, and his mother Sylvia, who Cassie has nicknamed ‘Monster-in-Law’, wants to plan the entire wedding. When Sylvia books the exclusive ID Images to take photographs of the extravagant do, Cassie has no idea what she’s walking into.

The elusive JM, ID Images’ newest photographer, just so happens to be Jared, Cassie’s first love and ex-fiancé, who broke off their engagement to travel and take photos of far-reaching wonders. He’s back to pay for his next wild adventure.

Cassie decides it’s best to pretend not to know him, but when she’s asked to write an article for her newspaper, she’s tasked with a column surrounding all things wedding related. When Cassie jokingly writes a column meant for herself depicting her situation, a co-worker submits it in place of the real article and it’s soon making headlines, with readers asking the age old question – Who Will She Choose?

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Posted in Writing

It’s 6th January – publication day for Sue Fortin’s new psychological thriller Sister Sister…



Alice: Beautiful, kind, manipulative, liar.
Clare: Intelligent, loyal, paranoid, jealous.
Clare thinks Alice is a manipulative liar who is trying to steal her life.
Alice thinks Clare is jealous of her long-lost return and place in their family.
One of them is telling the truth. The other is a maniac.
Two sisters. One truth.


After reading The Girl Who Lied I was looking forward to the arrival of Sister Sister and I wasn’t disappointed.

When Clare was seven her parents divorced and her father Patrick took her younger sister Alice to America to live.  Although over the years Marion Kennedy has received infrequent calls from her ex-husband, she has no idea where he’s living or how Alice is.  Marion has never been able to come to terms with the loss of her youngest child. After all these years she is still buying and storing Christmas and birthday gifts for a daughter she hopes one day will return.  Clare too, has spent time and money in an unsuccessful search for her father and sister.

Clare is now a partner in a law firm. She is married to artist Luke Tennison and has two young daughters, Hannah and Chloe.  They all live with Marion in the old family home.  Luke paints and acts as house husband and the day-to-day family dynamics work well – it’s a happy home.  Then out of the blue Marion receives a letter from Alice. Patrick has recently died and her stepmother Roma has given her their address. She asks if she can come to stay and bring her friend Martha with her. However, in the end Martha can’t make it and Alice arrives alone.

From the moment she arrives, Marion dotes on her, eager to make up for the years she lost.  For Clare it is a happy ending after years of searching.   So why is she finding it so hard to like Alice?

I was glued to this book.  OK some of the things I saw coming, but others I certainly didn’t.  Right from the beginning I liked Clare.  She seemed unfazed by everything, keen to take on challenges at work as she successfully juggles her career and home life.  After Alice arrives things slowly begin to unravel. She’s not happy with her sister’s behaviour – the close way she interacts with Marion, her over familiarity with Luke and her keenness to play happy families with the girls while she’s at work.  There are times when she feels Alice is trying to slip into her skin; to replace her. She berates herself for having these jealous feelings but the unease around Alice keeps resurfacing.  Luke is a laid back, easy going character who obviously loves his wife and kids. He has infinite patience but even that becomes tested to the limits in the face of Clare’s behaviour.

It was interesting to watch quite innocent things become monumental problems as Clare struggles to convince herself she’s not losing her mind.  But everyone seems to be on Alice’s side and everything that happens seems to have a logical explanation. However when things go badly wrong at work and she finds herself suspended, she knows if she’s to save her marriage and her job, she needs to take drastic action.

Sister Sister has everything – conflict, family secrets and betrayal, all of which go to make it thoroughly deserving of the five stars I’ve given it.

My thanks to NetGalley for a pre-publication copy of this book.

About Sue Fortin

91copd67ull-_ux250_Published by Harper Collins’ imprint Harper Impulse, Sue Fortin writes gripping dramas.

Sue is an Amazon best selling author, The Girl Who Lied, reaching #1 in the UK in 2016. Her novel, Closing In, became a best seller in 2014 reaching #1 in the Kobo Romantic Suspense chart. Her originally self-published debut novel, United States of Love, was awarded the INDIE Brag Medallion and later when published by HarperImpulse was short-listed for the Joan Hessayon Award (2014). Sue was also short-listed for the Festival of Romance, New Talent Award (2013). Sue blogs regularly with the on-line writing group The Romaniacs (

Lover of cake, Dragonflies and France. Hater of calories, maths and snakes. Sue was born in Hertfordshire but had a nomadic childhood, moving often with her family, before eventually settling in West Sussex.

Sue is married with four children, all of whom patiently give her time to write but, when not behind the keyboard, she likes to spend her time with them, enjoying both the coast and the South Downs, between which they are nestled.

You can find out more about Sue at

Twitter : suefortin1
Facebook : Sue Fortin Author

Posted in Writing

It’s publication day for Victoria Cornwall’s debut novel for Choc Lit – The Thief’s Daughter…


Hide from the thief-taker, for if he finds you, he will take you away …

Eighteenth-century Cornwall is crippled by debt and poverty, while the gibbet casts a shadow of fear over the land. Yet, when night falls, free traders swarm onto the beaches and smuggling prospers.

Terrified by a thief-taker’s warning as a child, Jenna has resolved to be good, but when her brother, Silas, asks for her help to pay his creditors, Jenna feels unable to refuse and finds herself entering the dangerous world of the smuggling trade.

Jack Penhale hunts down the smuggling gangs in revenge for his father’s death. Drawn to Jenna at a hiring fayre, they discover their lives are more entangled than they first thought. But as Jenna struggles to decide where her allegiances lie, the worlds of justice and crime collide, leading to danger and heartache for all concerned …


THE THIEF’S DAUGHTER by Victoria Cornwall


1765, Cornwall

As quietly as she could, Jenna slowly released the breath she was holding, instinctively her body sucked in another. Her eyes widened in fear at the sound of her soft gasp. Did he hear her? She prayed he did not.

She could hear the man’s boots pacing the floorboards in the adjoining room. His boots are muddy, she thought, hearing the grit on his soles scoring the wood beneath. Frightened, she remained silent and hidden, not breaking her cover even when she heard her mother and father begin their cursing. It did no good, more boots arrived and her parents were forced away.

Jenna hugged her knees to make herself smaller. She stared at her little toes, as she felt the vibration from his footsteps through her feet. The vibration grew as the boots came into the room and she tried to shrink even smaller. She fought to control her silent, shallow breaths, while the rest of her body froze with fear. She was cocooned in her hiding place, scared of being found, yet inside her heart hammered loudly as if daring to be heard. She hoped she would wake up and discover it was all just a bad dream. And she was safe. And her brothers and parents were too. But it was happening and the fear she felt was real. Her head began to throb and tingle as she listened to the grit scratch the floorboards with each step. Mother will be angry when she finds out he is ruining her floor, thought Jenna. Such a silly thought, considering the circumstances.

The man shouted and more boots entered the room. He had found what he was looking for: her brother, Paul. A scuffle broke out between them, more cursing, more shouting and more mud on mother’s floor. It sounded like Paul was putting up a fight. It did not surprise her; he always said he would if the man came to get him. A valiant attempt, but Jenna knew that his resistance would do no good. Only moments before they had taken David and he was the strongest of all her brothers. This morning everything had been normal, now she had lost two of them and everything had changed. And she might be next.

For a moment there was silence, but even so, Jenna dared not move. She would wait until her mother came to get her, just as her parents had told her to do. The sound of a man’s boots returned to the room again. She strained to listen for the noise of the grit. She could not hear it. Had it worked loose or was it her father?

The footsteps stopped before her. The silence that followed felt heavy and her legs began to tremble, causing the pile of clothes that covered her to shake too. The slight tremor was enough to give her away. A large, thick-fingered hand reached underneath and grabbed her bare foot, pulling her roughly out into the daylight and causing her dress to ride up behind her head and expose her knees. She lay stiff and motionless at his feet, like a submissive dog, waiting to be slayed. ‘Hide from the thief-taker,’ her parents had told her, ‘for if he finds you, he will take you away.’

The man looked down on her. His dirty beard covered his lips and hid any expression of a smile he may have had at finding a four-year-old child at his feet. He reached down and grabbed her clothing. His fist twisted in the cloth of her dress as he lifted her off the floor. Her face came level with his. As her bare, grimy feet dangled in the air, she dared to look into his face and saw there was no smile.

‘Do I scare you, child?’ he asked her menacingly. ‘Do I make you want to weep?’ He gave her a little shake, making her body sway in the air. His breath smelt of rotten eggs and she could see her frightened face reflected in his bloodshot eyes. Struck dumb with fear, she was unable to answer him. ‘Remember what it is like to be caught by a man such as me.’ He looked down at her thin body dressed in rags. ‘Your family has bad blood running through them and you will turn out the same if you don’t mind your ways. If you don’t, we will seek you out and hunt you down.’ He held her closer until she could feel his breath on her face. ‘Remember, child, we will watch you as you grow, and one day a thief-taker will come calling and he will take you away.’



The story opens with four year old Jenna hiding in a cupboard.  Strange men have come to the house and have taken away her parents and two elder brothers.  These men are known as thief takers and they track down and apprehend those who rob and steal.  Discovering Jenna one of them hauls her from her hiding place and leaves her with a stark warning.

We meet Jenna again twelve years later as her brutal husband is being hung for poaching.  Her only remaining brother Silas, with whom she has a close bond, is currently in debtor’s prison.  Now free from the horrors of her marriage, Jenna is desperate to find the money to pay off Silas’s creditors and get him out of prison.  She sets off for the Hiring Fayre with the hope she will find employment.  There she sees Jack Penhale, the man who helped her escape from the crowd at her husband’s hanging. When her first job ends badly she returns to the Fayre where she runs into Jack again.  After saving her from the clutches of a lecherous potential employer he hires her for one day, pays her and tells her to go. But Jenna is determined to work for the money she has received and follows him back to his cottage.  Against his better judgement Jack relents and soon agrees to take her on indefinitely, unaware she is a member of a local family of disreputable thieves – the Cartwrights.

After his father was brutally murdered by smugglers Jack became a thief taker, working to bring lawbreakers to justice.  He is currently living in a rented cottage and working locally with the militia, trying to root out a smuggling ring.  When Silas persuades Jenna she can earn more money to free him by joining the smugglers she knows although it places her in great danger she can’t refuse him.  Dressed as a boy, she is helping retrieve the goods when the smugglers are attacked by the militia.  She escapes capture only because Jack is there to save her. Jack knows having Jenna under his roof is dangerous for both of them.  For not only are they on opposite sides of the law, he is beginning to fall in love with her.

I love historical romance and this novel really entertained.  Jenna and Jack were both strong individuals.  Jenna is a feisty young woman and the only member of her unsavoury family with anything resembling a moral compass. And dark, handsome, enigmatic Jack shows both determination and compassion in his fight against smuggling.  Silas, a selfish, lying, manipulative individual proves a worthy antagonist too.  Right up until his exit from the story, he endeavours to trick both Jack and Jenna’s and manipulate their lives.

A great debut with a wonderful heroine and a worthy Choc Lit hero.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to reading Victoria’s next novel.


About Victoria Cornwall
victoria-cornwall-photoVictoria Cornwall grew up on a farm in Cornwall. She can trace her Cornish roots as far back as the 18th century and it is this background and heritage which is the inspiration for her Cornish based novels.
Victoria is married, has two grown up children and a black Labrador, called Alfie. She likes to read and write historical fiction with a strong background story, but at its heart is the unmistakable emotion, even pain, of loving someone.
Following a fulfilling twenty-five year career as a nurse, a change in profession finally allowed her the time to write. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novel Society.
The Thief’s Daughter is her debut novel and the first in her series of Cornish based novels published by Choc Lit.

Social Media Links:-

Twitter: @VickieCornwall

Posted in Writing


Good morning Lisa and a big welcome as my first guest of 2017. Can I start, as always, by asking you a little about yourself?

Thanks for asking me to do this, Jo. I am trying to convince myself that I’m not a fraud being interviewed by you as I’m not a proper, grown-up author yet! However, we all have to start somewhere, eh?
I should have just given you my profile for this part. It got me a husband after all. True story! Although, he may be asking me questions if I’m flirting with the readers of this interview through my dating profile. Moving on…
I’m in my 40s and I am very lucky to live in Bournemouth, close to the sea. I’m originally from Oxfordshire which is about as far from the sea as you can get.
I used to be a secondary school English teacher but I decided that I liked having a life and not feeling perpetually stressed, so I escaped.
I loved the job in terms of encouraging the next generation of readers and writers but this isn’t Dead Poets Society. Often the English teacher is met with groans when poetry and Shakespeare rear their heads. No one ever stood up on a desk and called me ‘Captain’ either.

How did your writing journey begin?

I came late to writing. It’s funny how I’ve spent years teaching writing skills, been an avid reader, and studied the classic authors to Masters level, but have never ventured into writing territory myself.
Here’s my time to boast – allow me this moment if you will, there aren’t many – I wrote a blog post about how I came to writing and won an international blogging competition in the process!

If I am allowed a cheeky bit of shameless self-promotion, here’s a link to the winning post:

In short(ish), when I was 11 years old, I wrote a novel about a child spy called Pete whose exploits were fuelled by cheeseburgers. I handed it over to my favourite English teacher for her praise and adoration. I was gutted when she barely glanced at it and stuck it away in her drawer. It never saw the light of day again.
It may sound silly now but that rejection remained with me. Every time I attempted to write fiction after that, I felt like I was substandard. This lasted for decades!
In early 2016, I took stock of my life in many ways. I got married and was in the best place in terms of confidence and having a supportive partner.
I decided that I had something to share so I started writing. It wasn’t an epiphany; more of a slow burner. There has always been a writer in me wanting to get out shouting and screaming. I cannot shut her up now!

If you hadn’t become a writer is there any other occupation you would have chosen?

Before I became a writer I had so many different jobs, trying to find where I fitted in, that I think I may have exhausted my options!
Trite as it may sound I have finally found what I was always meant to be doing; writing and blogging. I wish I had come to this sooner. I would then have been spared awful jobs such as cleaning, working in a call centre and being verbally abused daily, and being a retail manager (also verbally abused).
I don’t even want to consider any other occupation now *shivers in horror at the thought*.

 Can you tell us something about your current WIP?

One of the aspects that drove me to begin writing was my passion for enlightening people about the pain and struggle of both living with mental illness and being the loved one of people who have it. I have had major depressive episodes, on and off, for 20 years.
I decided to begin by ‘writing what I know’. That was tough in a few ways: to go back to dark places of personal experience, and to have some scathing authors sneering at the ‘newbie’ making the rookie first novel mistake of writing something partially autobiographical. I’ve always been a bit of a rebel. So I carried on.
I believe this novel had to be written; for me and for anyone who cares to be informed and entertained by it. It’s about depression, but depression isn’t all doom and gloom. Depressives are some of the funniest people in the world. Many comedians have depression.
I completed the first draft of the novel. I was proud to achieve something and I loved my main character and how she documented her highs and lows. I was just beginning the revising stages and then life imitated art; depression returned.
Long story, but I am beginning recovery now. I haven’t worked on the novel for months. It has been too painful to deal with concerning its subject matter and the illness rendering me incapable of doing much at all. I will, however, be picking it up again. This novel nags at me to see the light of day. It will.
I have also been scribbling short stories, which I really enjoy, and I have an outline and some characters planned for my second novel.
The one thing I have been consistent in writing throughout depression is my writing blog. I love it! I am now going to sound like a really sappy writer but writing that blog every week kept me going. It still motivates me.

Name the top two destinations on your bucket list.

I was extremely lucky to cross one of these off my list last year when I honeymooned in Rome. It is such a wonderful place to discover and eat your way through!
I’d love to travel around more of Italy in the future. I fell in love with Italy years ago from seeing it on the screen. It did not fail to live up to my expectations in real life.
I have wanted to go to Australia since the ‘80s days of Neighbours. I was a huge Kylie Minogue fan back in the day!
I’d love to visit Oz in the future. I even thought about moving there in the past, possibly to stalk Kylie. I’m sure Australia and Kylie are thankful that I didn’t.
Kylie is safe now. I’m over my fandom. Australia? Not so much.

And lastly, you’re planning to get away from it all for a year on a desert island. What four things would you take with you and why?

Do the Husband and cat count as ‘things’? If so I guess they’ve just taken up two of my list. I couldn’t live without them.
The Husband is so encouraging of everything I do, even when I make humongous mistakes. He also makes amazing dinners out of all the bits he finds in the food cupboards, so we’d be okay for meals!
Feegle, the cat (named after Terry Pratchett’s Nac Mac Feegles) is a given. I caved in and got a cat because it’s apparently writer law and I was jealous of all the cat pics on social media.
The next item would be a pen and notebook. I’m counting those as one as they go together, and frankly, I’m cheeky like that.
I would need to write, I’ve written journals since I was a child. Although I do wonder how exciting this journal would be: ‘Dear Diary, The sun is hot, the sea is wet and the sand is, well, sandy.’
My bookcase full of my favourite books is a must. I cannot live without my books! I’m not sure if I’m allowed a Kindle due to possible lack of electricity. Even if I could power it up, I’d still plump for the physical books.
I am old school. I delight in the feel of a book, with its delicious bookish smells, textured pages, and words spilling out across my hands. There’s nothing quite like it.


Social Media Links
Blog, ‘Reader I Wrote It’:
Facebook Page:




Author Bio
Lisa Sell is a fiction writer and blogger. When not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, the cat, and the Husband. Not particularly in that order.