‘Sunwise’ spoiler-free review, and an interview with author Helen Steadman!

Hey everyone! I’m delighted that today is my stop on the blog tour for Sunwise, the sequel to Helen Steadman’s Widdershins which I read in 2017 and loved! I have been eagerly awaiting the sequel since I found out that Widdershins wouldn’t be a standalone – especially since I’ve had a fair bit of communication with the author on social media and she is so lovely! So not only am I reviewing Sunwise today but I’m also sharing an interview with Helen herself! I hope you’ll enjoy it 🙂

Sunwise


synopsisWhen Jane’s lover, Tom, returns from the navy to find her unhappily married to his betrayer, Jane is caught in an impossible situation. Still reeling from the loss of her mother at the hands of the witch-finder John Sharpe, Jane has no choice but to continue her dangerous work as a healer while keeping her young daughter safe.

But, as Tom searches for a way for him and Jane to be together, the witch-finder is still at large. Filled with vengeance, John will stop at nothing in his quest to rid England of the scourge of witchcraft.

Inspired by true events, Sunwise tells the story of one woman’s struggle for survival in a hostile and superstitious world.


my thoughts

Straightaway, I was reminded of how fantastic the author’s writing is. There is a real sense of quality to it, in her word choices and sentence composition. I particularly enjoyed the kern supper scene; Helen’s talent for descriptive writing is really displayed well here. It made me so hungry! Honestly, you could probably get away with reading this book as a standalone but I recommend reading the whole duology simply because the prose is such a treat.

Just like Widdershins, the narrative voices in this sequel are distinct and believable. I had no trouble whatsoever switching between the two perspectives; it was an instant shift. The reader goes from sympathising with Jane one minute to incredulous loathing towards John the next, and there is never any confusion or delay.

Once again, I adored the familiar settings of Scotland and North East England. I think part of why I love these books so much is that I recognise the local area and feel a connection with it.

I love witchy stories anyway but what Helen Steadman has created here is one of my favourites. The multitude of herb lore included shows that the author clearly knows her stuff, lending a wonderful level of believability to the story. Widdershins and Sunwise are both fabulous, and I passionately recommend them!

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And now onto the interview!

 

Hi Helen! I’m delighted to be helping promote Sunwise today and I’m so grateful to you for agreeing to answer my questions. Can you tell us what inspired you to write your first book, Widdershins?

I signed up for an MA in Creative Writing to help improve my novel-writing. I had ages to think about what to write before starting. After reading Hilary Mantel’s amazing Wolf Hall, I immediately knew I wanted to write a historical novel (even though I’d not read many and had no real clue about research). I had no idea what to write about, but I wasn’t too worried as I had a considerable stretch of time ahead of me. One day in the woods, I came across loads of felled trees, which revealed a natural amphitheatre. This set me thinking about what might have gone on there. Florence Welch’s song ‘Rabbit Heart (We Raise It Up)’ sprang into my head and I knew I was going to write about witches. So, I started reading widely about witches and was stunned to learn there’d been witchcraft trials on my own doorstep.

I read that despite the witchfinder being accused of fraud, sixteen people were still hanged on one day, making it one of the biggest (and least well known about) witch trials in England. I was intrigued by the girl who escaped the hangman’s noose, and so Widdershins came into being. That makes it sound a bit easy, but in reality, there were six years from having the idea to getting the book in my hand. At the outset, I was terrified of doing the research, and it seemed very daunting, but once I started, I absolutely loved it.

 

It’s fascinating that Widdershins is based on true events. Did you always plan to write a sequel or was Widdershins originally going to be a standalone?

Widdershins was going to be a standalone, and by the time it was published, I’d begun a PhD at the University of Aberdeen to write my next book. But once Widdershins was out in the world, the characters sprang back to life in my head and I realised they had a lot of unfinished business. The only way to get them out of my head would be to write them out, so Sunwise came along.

 

Who would you say are your writing influences?

I’ve always loved reading and it’s always hard to answer this question! Hilary Mantel inspired me to write historical fiction – I’ve read all of her books, but I love her historical ones best and cannot wait for her next book. My favourite book is Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News and I read this at least once a year. She has such amazing economy of language, and yet she elevates it into something quite beautiful. My favourite author is Peter Carey, and for me, no one does character better. I particularly love Illywhacker, Oscar and Lucinda, and Theft: A Love Story by him. The book that had the biggest effect on me in my whole life was George Orwell’s 1984. I read this at school, and it exposed me to new worlds of ideas and writing. I’m currently reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck and I’m hugely impressed with how he deals with landscape. And poetry-wise, I love Sylvia Plath.

 

One of the things I loved most about your first book was the setting; I grew up in the North East of England, so I recognised a lot of the places mentioned. Did you always plan to write a book set in your local area?

I hadn’t really thought about writing about my local area at all, but when I found out about the Newcastle witch trials, it was impossible to write about anywhere else. My third book is set pretty much on my doorstep and the fourth will be a little further up the east coast. What’s good about writing about the local area is that I know it so well – so I have years and years of pictures of plants, landscapes and so on through all the seasons and can say with a reasonable degree of confidence that a particular plant blossoms at a particular time, which is vital in Widdershins and Sunwise, given the number of plant-based references.

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It was a brave decision to include some Geordie colloquialisms in your books (though one that I thoroughly appreciated!) Were you ever worried that non-local readers would have difficulty understanding certain phrases?

While I wanted to use some vernacular language to make the characters’ speech authentic, I tried to have a light hand. During my MA, we studied Lewis Grassic Gibbons Sunset Song, which made me think about dialect and how much is too much. In the end, I pared it right back, because what works in real life can quickly become overwhelming on the page. What I tried to do was to keep the Geordie dialect primarily with Tom and Meg. Likewise, I tried to be light-handed in the Scottish chapters. I hope what I’ve done is given a flavour, without bogging the reader down too much, or sending them off to dictionary corner too often.

 

Your two main characters, Jane and John, both had very distinctive narrative voices in Widdershins and Sunwise. How easy do you find it to write from different perspectives?

I found this quite easy, really, and I like trying on new people for size. In the original draft of the book, which ran to well over 120,000 words, there were seven different points of view. If memory serves: Jane, John, Tom, Rev Foster, Meg, Lambert Hobson (the ship’s surgeon) and Annie. A few people in my critique group complained (vociferously, in some cases) that this was too many and so I cut it down to three: Jane, John and Tom. This was still a very long version. Slightly before I submitted the novel for my MA, I worried that it was still over long, and I rewrote it without Tom’s perspective. This was a bit of a shame as he has quite an adventure at sea, and I really enjoyed all the medical and nautical research.

 

I love all the natural remedies featured throughout your books. Are you a believer in these practices yourself?

I suffered from terrible allergies for many years (face and head would swell up alarmingly, huge lumps all over me) and nothing helped – it just kept getting worse and worse. My GP insisted on sending me to the NHS Homeopathic Hospital in Great Ormond Street. I protested, saying I’d tried homeopathy, and it hadn’t worked, but she asked me to trust her. I chatted to a lovely homeopathic doctor for about an hour and she prescribed three vials of Calc. Carb. along with a list of what not to do while taking them (no strong-smelling food or drink like coffee, mint toothpaste, etc). After I took them, I had one of the worse reactions in my life and thought I was about to die, but as promised by the doctor, each subsequent attack was less violent until eventually I had no further problems. So that converted me!

Once I realised that many people accused of witchcraft were just healers quietly going about their business, I decided to learn more about herbal medicine. So I signed up for a course in Tree Medicine at Dilston Physic Garden and I can highly recommend it for courses, herbal remedies and just for a lovely day out. I learned to identify different trees and plants (probably the single most important skill to learn in herbal medicine) and then gathered various barks, leaves, berries and flowers and turned them into a variety of linctuses, tinctures and powders. I then bought lots of herbs and set up a herb patch at home. This really helped me to understand the plant lifecycles, smells, tastes, properties and so on. My cupboard is still full of various herbs, spices and essential oils! That said, sometimes all else fails and I get a bad chest infection and then I’m usually to be found begging the GP for antibiotics.

 

How do you switch off and unwind when you’re not writing?

In the past, I would unwind by reading and writing, and by taking occasional walks, but my sedentary lifestyle is catching up with me, so, I’ve recently bought a bike. I must confess that this is an e-bike as I live in a very hilly area, and between my dodgy knee and my asthma, I wouldn’t make it up some of the steep hills without a bit of battery assistance. I haven’t been out over the winter, but I’m looking forward to getting back out in the spring. I was really pleased when I managed to get all the way to Newcastle Quayside and home by myself. I’ve also changed my office into a home gym to try and get a bit fitter and I’ve been surprised at how much I enjoy this – especially the cross-trainer and weight lifting. Otherwise, I take my dogs for walks in the woods and on the moors, and I still spend a lot of time reading and writing, because that’s what I love. I would have added drinking red wine at the weekend, but I’m on the wagon for a bit (we’ll see how that goes)!

Helen and Eric

 

Are there any aspects of your work that you find particularly challenging?

The thing I struggle most with is just not having enough time. I work full-time, I’m doing my PhD, writing and researching novel 3 and currently promoting novel 2. But I love writing and researching, so these are lovely problems to have really. I sometimes find social media a bit overwhelming. I had to get to grips with Twitter and Instagram quite quickly when Widdershins came out, but it feels like sometimes it can take over your life if you let it. I’m trying to limit the number of times per day I look at email, social media and so on to try and get back some control (and much-needed time)!

 

I think you do very well with the social media side of things! Can you tell us anything about the projects you currently have on the go? Anything exciting that we might get to see in the future?

I’m currently writing book 3, whose working title is Running Wolves. This is about a group of Lutheran swordmakers who left Prussia in the late seventeenth century and came to live in the north east of England. The research for this has been very exciting as I’ve carried out some blacksmith training. So far, I’ve made a (badly burned) pendant, a rat-tailed poker, a firesteel and – best of all – my very own sword! I also have a substantial chunk of book 4 written, but to keep myself relatively sane, I’ve banned myself from doing any work or research on it until next year. I must confess, though, there is a sparkly notebook next to my bed (bought by a kind friend with excellent taste) and bits of book 5 keep finding their way into it…

 

How exciting! I look forward to the day we get to read more of your work. Thank you so much, Helen, for your wonderfully eloquent answers; it was fascinating to learn more about you and your writing process.

Thanks very much for having me along to talk about Widdershins and Sunwise today, Alex, I’ve really appreciated it, and thank you for being such a champion of my writing.


Well I hope you all enjoyed that! Helen is genuinely such an interesting and lovely person to chat with; I could have gone on all day! If you’re a fan of historical fiction, particularly stories about witches, I highly recommend Widdershins and its sequel Sunwise.

You can find Helen at the following social media links:-

Website/Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

And don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour! x

Final blog tour

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Interview with C. G. Drews!

Hey everyone! I am so excited to be bringing you an interview with the fabulous C. G. Drews! In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, Cait is basically an internet queen, running a fantastic blog and bookstagram and frequently going viral on Twitter. On top of this, she’s also a successful author. Her debut, A Thousand Perfect Notes, released last year and was one of my favourite reads of 2018, and now we are less than two weeks away from the release of her second book, The Boy Who Steals Houses!

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Cait recently and I’m delighted to be sharing that interview with you now 🙂


Hi Cait! Thanks so much for agreeing to an interview; I can’t wait to sing your praises on my blog! Your blog was the first one I ever discovered. Can you remember what your first ever post was?!

Honestly, my blogging beginning was rather tragic in that I had no idea how to blog and alternated between posting Lewis Carroll poems and holiday photos haha. I do believe my first ever post was the Jabberwocky poem?!

 

I love the Jabberwocky! So that was your first post… but what would you say is your favourite blog post you’ve written?

I am  really fond of a post I wrote back in 2016 called 10 Dreadful Things That Will Happen If You Read Too Much and it’s a total parody that made me laugh a lot while I wrote it!

 

Ah I remember that one! It definitely gave me a giggle. How do you maintain a balance between writing and blogging? Would you consider yourself quite organised?

I’m noooot organised! Sometimes I’m scraping to put up a blog post at the last second or writing ’til midnight because I spent hours formatting a post. (So basically if anyone has the secret spell to get more hours in their day?! I would love to know. Muchly so.) My best way to keep balance is just that I don’t blog AND write on the same days. That way I don’t have to shift focus too much.

 

I need that secret spell too! Do share it if you ever find it hehe. What were the pros and cons of being famous in the blogging community before releasing your first book?

Aw, I’m blushing that you said famous! I’m not sure I am that well known haha, but it did give me a solid base of readers who were already lovely and loyal and keen to read my writing! My blogging community’s support has been priceless.

I think the sole con is that many people assumed my blog is the reason I got a book deal. It’s not true oops. I was writing and working towards publishing before my blog even took off. And I hope that encourages fledgling writers too: your work gets you published first and foremost!

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You describe The Boy Who Steals Houses as a genderbent Goldilocks retelling – what inspired that genius idea?!

I often go on long walks, so passing empty houses led my imagination to ponder the idea of a teenage burglar who maybe was there to steal the house instead of the things inside it. I’m a huge lover of retellings, so this fit with the premise of Goldilocks… and my story unfurled from there.

 

What would you say is the unique selling point for your books, the one thing that makes them stand out from the crowd?

I’d like to say it’s my writing voice! I love mixing whimsical metaphors with punchy banter, and I write in a very close 3rd person. I hope my words fold around readers and make them feel like they’re inside the story. (And I always think YA needs more books that feature big families. So I can’t wait for everyone to meet my De Laineys and their seven loudly messy kids.)

 

I can’t wait either! Your writing voice was one of my favourite things about your debut. What have been some of your favourite reactions to A Thousand Perfect Notes? Did you get responses from famous authors?!

It’s made my day to have people storm into my mentions in all caps saying: WHY DID YOU HURT ME LIKE THIS. So nice! So kind! I do my best! And having readers make fanart, or enamel pins, or design bookmarks to go with ATPN!? I can’t even express how much that means to me!

Also, Laini Taylor replied to my publication day tweet with a congratulations and I HAVE ASCENDED.

 

We’re all here for the heartbreak 😉 And Laini Taylor is a QUEEN, I would have died. Now, to help us survive the wait for The Boy Who Steals Houses and the inevitable hangover afterwards, can you recommend any books that you feel are similar to your own work?

Ooh yes! Try to pick up A List of Cages by Robin Roe, Boomerang by Helene Dunbar or The Wicker King by K. Ancrum while you wait! Can’t recommend these three enough and they’d fit nicely next to The Boy Who Steals Houses.

I second Cait’s recommendation of The Wicker King, it’s fantastic!

 

You have spoken on social media about being an #ownvoices autistic author (thank you so much for this!) How do you find that this affects you in your role as an author, and life in general?

One thing I loved being able to include in TBWSH was Sam’s autistic older brother: Avery. While his experiences and reactions aren’t mine, I did pull a lot of autism feels from my own life and I hope readers fall in love with this messy, explosive but sweethearted kid. As for autism affecting my work as an author: it definitely does. I have a lot of communication fails when writing how I see the world vs how neurotypical people interpret things. But that’s also part of learning to write: you grow and you do your best! And an amazing part of being an autistic writer? I’m able to hyper focus. So when people ask how I can write a draft in 3 days?! This is how!

 

Thank you for sharing your experiences! While I don’t have experience of autism, I do relate strongly to your battles with anxiety. Can you share any tips with readers on how you manage this?

I rely on two things: (1) having friends and family I can lean on to vent or just listen while I whine like a miserable gnat for a while, and (2) distraction! I am master of writing a million books so I don’t have to think about the anxiety-inducing parts of publishing. (Also, I’m not saying cake cures anxiety, but it’s pretty freaking delicious. So have at it.)

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Sound advice 😉 Speaking of, what’s your favourite type of cake?

Chocolate brownie cheesecake!

 

And just for fun, what is your Hogwarts house?

I’m a Slytherin.

 

And your OTP?

Both Blusey and Pynch from The Raven Cycle ahhh!

 

Thank you so much Cait for taking the time to answer my questions! I hope everyone is as excited for The Boy Who Steals Houses as I am!


C.G. Drews lives in Australia with an overworked laptop and the goal of reading every book in existence. Consequently, her brain has overflowed with words and she spends her days writing novels to make you laugh or cry (or both). She never sleeps and believes in cake for breakfast.

c g drews

You can find Cait at these social media links!

And if you’re interested in reading my review of Cait’s debut, A Thousand Perfect Notes, you can find it here!

 

Interview with Holly Ducarte!

Hi everyone! Today, I’m wishing Holly Ducarte a happy book birthday as her debut novel The Light Over Broken Tide releases today! I had the privilege of reading an ARC of Holly’s debut and today I’m treating you to an interview with the lady herself!

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Hi Holly, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview! I loved The Light Over Broken Tide and it’s a pleasure to have you on my blog today.

Thank you so much for inviting me! I feel truly honoured you loved my book.

 

First of all, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure! I’ve lived in a small town most of my life in Alberta, Canada. I’ve got two sisters, one of which is my identical twin. I grew up around creative people and so it isn’t surprising that I am pursuing something within the creative arts. I enjoy travelling and being outside. I find my peace in nature. I’m a big family person. They’ve supported me in this endeavour to write and I really want to make them proud. I’ve been married for ten years to my best friend. I’m a mother of an amazing little girl, who is turning three soon. I collect books, antiques, and funko pops. Music and movies inspire me all the time. Coffee and tea are my writing fuel. I have a thing for birds. And last but not least, my Hogwarts House is Gryffindor.

 

Gryffindors unite! Great to find out more about you 🙂 When did you decide to start writing The Light Over Broken Tide? Was it a natural progression from your poetry?

I began writing it five and a half years ago. But writing, in general, has been a part of my life since I knew how to do it. Poetry seems to come to me immediately when inspiration hits. It’s concise, and yet one can say a lot with so few words. Novel writing is more complex in that it isn’t concise, and an idea doesn’t just fully form. You’ve got to plot-plan, do character sketches, research etc. I’m not sure it was a natural progression so much as poetry fused with my novel-writing style. It’s just a part of me. I hope that answers your question.

 

That fusion was something about your novel that I loved. How would you describe your writing process?

In a word: sporadic. I’m not one to hunker down and write every day. It’s not feasible. Besides, I have to feel the muse in the room. When it comes, though, I’m all in. I can stay at the computer for hours and write scene after scene. I’m quite the night owl, working best late. The house is quiet then and I can think and plan better. Sometimes I have music playing, depending on where I’m at with the novel. Lately, I’ve been at my kitchen table typing away on my laptop.

 

The setting in The Light Over Broken Tide was one of my favourite aspects of the book. Was it inspired by a real place?

Yes. Lunenburg, Nova Scotia exists, and a lot of the names of the stores and shops within the book aren’t fictional. It’s truly a gorgeous town with that quintessential sea-side appeal. I recommend looking it up online and viewing the pictures. It’ll be like stepping into my novel, I’m sure of it.

(I took the liberty of doing a Google search and Holly is not wrong. Look at the pretty!)

 

The Peter Pan connections in the novel were also lovely. Did you always intend to include these or did they sneak in as you were writing?

As Shawn developed as a character, they kind of snuck in. Peter Pan is one of my favourite classics, and while writing, I just felt the two shared similarities. Both had big dreams and weren’t in a hurry to grow up. When you consider “doesn’t want to grow up”, Peter Pan automatically springs to mind.

 

That’s true. So, who are some authors that inspire you?

I always find this a tough one to answer, because I’m an eclectic reader and there are so many great authors that I love for different reasons. The ones that I thought of first, and in no particular order, are JK Rowling, JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, JM Barrie, William Shakespeare, Gaston Leroux, Arthur Conan Doyle, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Mitch Albom, Harper Lee, Kim Edwards, Erin Morgenstern, Jeannette Walls, Emma Donoghue, and recently Leigh Bardugo, Lang Leav, and John Green. Honestly…I could go on and on.

 

That’s a fantastic list! We share a lot of favourites. Do you have any hobbies (besides writing) that help you to unwind?

Probably too many to be honest. Is reading books considered a hobby? I do lots of that. I also like to write music, sing, and strum a guitar. It’s very meditative. I paint or draw from time to time. I do crafts here and there, like rustic, wooden sign boards or sewing. I recently purchased a paddle-board and am looking forward to using it a lot this later Spring and in Summer. I’m not one to sit idle for too long.

 

Do you have any current projects in the works? Can you give us any teasers?!

I do. It’s quite the jump from contemporary fiction, which is The LOBT. I am working on a historical suspense. I don’t want to give away too much, but I can say it takes place during the Victorian Era. The main character is a precocious young woman of eighteen named Deidre Pryor who becomes a woman scorned by her fiancé. She seeks out the spirits in the woods the children around town are calling Di Inferi, and she means to request their counsel on the perfect revenge.

It’s riddled with drama, suspicion, and thrill. Its theme is: “Vengeance is like a rose. Appealing until we are pricked by its thorn.” It also has another theme underlying about “the masks we wear”.

I will share the excerpt I’ve put on Instagram, but of course in the process of editing, it is subject to change: “Miss Pryor, we cannot simply allow you to leave and take your word alone that you will not tell a soul about us. As I said, assurance must be made. Now, do not become too alarmed at this…but I am going to cut you. Nothing big, mind, about Twopence in size. It is a sharp knife and I am very skilled.”

 

Well, that sounds amazing! I’m looking forward to it already. How can readers find out more about you and your work?

All of my social media links can be found on my website www.hollyducarte.com under the Contact section, and they can read further info on me, my work, author visits, and press.

 

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview!

It’s me who is thankful for your support.

 

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Well, I hope you all enjoyed that! It was a pleasure to interview Holly; I find her so inspiring. If you’re interested in reading my review of The Light Over Broken Tide, you can find it here. And the book is available now! 

Interview with Dana Fraedrich!

I recently read Out of the Shadows by Dana Fraedrich (which incidentally turned out to be my 100th book of the year!) It is a steampunk adventure following feisty heroine Lenore and a fantastic cast of characters. You can check out my spoiler-free review here.

Dana was kind enough to agree to an interview which I’m delighted to be presenting to you now! Make sure you read right to the end for an exclusive reveal… 😉

 

Hi Dana, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview! I really enjoyed Out of the Shadows and it’s a pleasure to have you on my blog.

Thank you so much for having me, Alex.  It’s an absolute pleasure. 🙂

For readers who don’t know you from the ‘bookstagram’ community, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Sure thing! I grew up in Virginia but live in Nashville, TN now, which is a little funny because I have no musical talent whatsoever.  Not that it stops me from singing very loudly (and very badly) in the shower, car, grocery store, etc.  I’ve always written.  Pretty much as soon as I could read, I started writing down whatever little stories came into my head, and writing assignments were always my favorite in school.  I still have a lot of my old pieces too, though I think only one will ever see the light of day…after I do a lot of work on it.  I wrote it over ten years ago, so it’ll need a lot of editing.  Besides that, I enjoy video games (Skyrim and Dragon Age FTW!), cooking, and reading.

When did you decide to start writing Out of the Shadows and why?

I actually started writing Out of the Shadows as a lark. I wanted to see if I could write a steampunk story.  I never imagined it would grab me like it did.  I adore that world and the characters now!  I finished the first draft in under a year.  Given that I wasn’t writing regularly back then and only did it whenever the mood struck, that was pretty impressive for me.

How would you describe your writing process?

I think I write in layers, if that makes sense.  The first draft is always a rough skeleton of what I really want to end up with.  Then I go through and start refining details and setting scenes—I always think of action and dialogue before settings.  I plump this or pare that down.  When I get to about the third or fourth draft (it’s hard to keep track), I do all the fiddly work of searching for problem words like “very” and “that” and trying to refine it.  Only after that do I send it to my editor.

The steampunk elements in Out of the Shadows are particularly detailed and fascinating to read about. Did you have to do a lot of research?

Sort of? See, my dad is an engineer, so I grew up learning about how things fit together and work.  If I had a question about how a machine functions, I’d ask him first.  Anything that had to do with chemical reactions, though, I had to research those.  That made for a really unsettling browser history, especially when it came to gunpowder and poisons.

If you absolutely HAD to choose, which of your characters would you say is your favourite and why?

Ugh, this is like choosing between children.  Haha.  My answer would probably change day to day, but right now I have to say Lowell Thorne.  He has such a beautiful heart, and he’s so clever and fun to write.  He’s featured more in Into the Fire and the new forthcoming novella, so I’m excited for people to get to know him better.

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Who are some of your favourite authors?

Oh my gosh, there are so many amazing ones. Okay, Robin McKinley is my all time favorite.  If I ever met her, I’d probably just giggle uncontrollably.  Also, JK Rowling for her world building and Chris Wooding for action scenes.

Do you have any hobbies that you use to switch off and unwind when you’re not writing?

Playing video games always helps me. Everything I play is pretty immersive, so I can’t think about writing or problems or whatever when I’m busy talking to NPCs and fighting baddies.

Are there any aspects of your work that you find particularly difficult or challenging?

This might sound kind of unbelievable, but I never really dealt with proper insecurity before I started pursuing my career as a writer. I’ve always been pretty confident and good at adapting to general life stuff, but publishing my writing introduced me to a whole new world of self-doubt.  You go into these spirals of “Actually, I don’t know if I’m any good at this…like, at all” and “Is this entire story terrible?  Because I really can’t tell anymore.”  Because I’ve never had to develop coping mechanisms for the kind of deep, soul-wrenching insecurity that comes from putting your passion out there for the world to see, it feels like I’m flailing at the bottom of a pit when it hits me.  I still struggle with regaining objectivity when I start slipping down that path, but I’ve never been good at sitting still.  Thankfully, so far in this journey, when I’ve fallen prey to dark thoughts, the urge to move and do something—whether it’s going to someone I trust for encouragement or just pushing forward even if I’m not certain what I’m doing—has outweighed my fear.

I’m especially eager to read your second book, Into the Fire. For those readers who might not know what it’s about, can you tantalise us with anything specific (but non-spoilery!)?

I’d be happy to! In Into the Fire, readers get to explore a part of Invarnis we haven’t seen before.  Of course, all the loose ends from Out of the Shadows cause trouble for everyone.  I found myself really challenging my characters in this second book.  They’re in unfamiliar, disadvantageous, painful, and/or dangerous situations wherein they have to make difficult choices.  Not gonna lie, my heart hurt for my characters as I was writing this book.

Can you give us any hints about projects you currently have in the works?

My current WIP is a standalone story set in the Broken Gears universe. In it, readers will see the history of Invarnis and how we got to the current point in its history.  A lot of secrets will be revealed in the book, and some familiar side characters will get spotlight roles.  I plan on releasing it during the first half of 2018.

Is there anything you’d like to add that I haven’t included?

I do a lot of live events like book festivals and author signings because I love meeting people and geeking out about books. If any organizers/bookstore owners/etc. out there would like to have me attend their event, drop me a line on my website.  And speaking of book festivals…Alex, I didn’t tell you this was coming.  I haven’t announced this anywhere just yet, so what better place than here?  I am very excited to let you all know I will have at table at BookCon in New York City this June.  I’ll be at booth #1140, so feel free to come by and say hi.  I met some amazing people there last year and cannot wait to go back!

 

Well, I absolutely loved finding out more about Dana! It’s great to remember that those authors are real people 😉 If you are interested in finding out even more or following any of Dana’s social media accounts, I have included some handy links below.

Dana Fraedrich Author Pic.jpg

Website and Blog: http://www.wordsbydana.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danafraedrich/

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Dana-Fraedrich/e/B008QB3QXI

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6494889.Dana_Fraedrich

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wordsbydana/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DanaFraedrich

 

And there you have it! I hope you all enjoyed reading this interview – huge thanks to Dana for giving up her time for it! If anyone goes on to read Out of the Shadows, be sure to let me know so we can chat about it!

Interview with Becky Wright!

Today, I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with the lovely Becky Wright, author of Remember to Love Me and The Manningtree Account. I read Remember to Love Me in May and thought it was a beautiful and original story. You can read my spoiler-free review here. Read on for the interview!

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Hi Becky, thanks so much for agreeing to this interview! I really enjoyed Remember to Love Me and it’s a pleasure to have you on my blog.

 

1. Many readers will know you from the ‘bookstagram’ community but, for those who don’t, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Thank you so much for allowing me to share a little about my writing.

I’m an independent author, an ‘Indie’ as we’re affectionately known, maybe a rather cooler title than the demanding work that’s involved, but it’s my dream job. I’m blessed to live in the heart of the Suffolk countryside, rolling green fields, picturesque timber-framed villages, country pubs and rural churches. I’m married to my soul mate, with a young son and a crazy puppy, I also have four remarkable grown up children, two grandchildren and another on the way. As you can imagine, my family are very important, and although I always state, I’m a full-time writer, first and last, I’m Mum.

 

2. When did you decide to start writing Remember to Love Me and why?

It’s almost fourteen years ago, that I started writing Remember to Love Me. I hadn’t penned anything in the form of a story since I was a child. And although, I know it sounds utterly bizarre, I literally woke up and thought, today I’m going to write a book. Within the next day or so, I had pretty much sketched out the whole plot and characters. I’d say it was a simple as that, but it’s never that simple, it took another four years to complete, as I was writing in spurts around a career and four children. I can honestly say, it was never meant for anyone else’s eyes, it was therapy for my busy brain, I just had an inner need to put this story to paper, as if the characters themselves just needed to be heard.

 

3. Are there any aspects of Remember to Love Me that were inspired by real-life experiences?

That’s a good question, and one that I’ve never been asked before. It’s also a hard one. Although the story line itself is true to my own beliefs, it is completely fictitious. The characters however, in part, are incredibly real. I sit at the heart of all the girls, Annabelle, Emily and April, they each possess a different accept of my own personality. And, of course the location is my hometown of Bury St Edmunds. I feel my love for the town makes the book rather intimate, with references to specific locations, such as Nan’s house and the graveyard beyond, vividly painted. But, I think above all the story is about love, in all guises, and that is very real, and very true to my heart.

 

4. How would you describe your writing process?

My work time is split into zones. It’s nigh impossible to write with a three-year-old tearing around; playdoh and a laptop do not bode well, so when he’s home it’s research, promoting and social media. My most valuable time is those precious school hours. I can’t afford to waste them so I’ll write continuously until he’s home. As for writing itself, a new story always starts with a spark. The idea could come from anywhere, quite often it’s a conversation. My husband is incredible at both listening to my ramblings, and prompting ideas. The initial spark may roll around gathering momentum for days or weeks, until I have enough to do some research, and then it starts. The first draft is always a little awkward, with a few miss-starts. And, I hate to admit, I tend to edit as I go – not fully, I know it’s ‘against the normal rules’ – it will take three drafts to get to a place where I’m happy, then it’s off to my editor. I have a type of word blindness, the most obvious things will elude me; I’m extremely lucky to have an editor who understands and knows how I work.

 

5. Are there any authors who particularly inspire you?

I’m finding new authors all the time. You know yourself, with social media and our fantastic bookstagram community, new authors appear and we are reading a lot of independent books that we would never have found before. I’ve read some incredible books, by talented writers who I’m now lucky enough to call friends. Whilst writing Remember to Love Me, I was reading Kate Morton; she has a terrific way of creating a clear defined timeslip story, she certainly aided my own process. I’m also a lover of historical fiction, which sits at the heart of all my books. I adore Elizabeth Chadwick. She has an in-depth knowledge of her subject time and era, with great research ethics and strategies.

 

6. The time-slip scenes in Remember to Love Me are particularly beautiful. Did you find it easier/more enjoyable to write about the past?

I belong to another era. I have nostalgia coursing through my veins. Most certainly, I feel more at home writing the past, but of course, the contemporary scenes were a must to tell the story. Although, if you look closely, there is an old-fashioned feel, a timeless quality to even the modern scenes. I made a conscious decision that the main essence of the book be historical, about the family, their lives and emotions. I tried not to give too much weight or credence to modern luxuries, with the locations in Remember to Love Me remaining the same in both eras.

 

7. How do you switch off and unwind when you’re not writing?

I’m not sure I do switch off; I suffer terribly from bouts of insomnia, mostly as my brain is always on the go. I do find it hard to unwind, those pesky characters tend to ramble on as much as I do. The evening is my reading time, although I’m not a fast reader; it can take me quite a while to get through a book. I like to digest and let the story seep through my skin. My husband works very long hours, comes home late; for him to unwind we tend to watch tv, mostly boxsets – normal tv doesn’t interest me, I hate soaps, reality and quiz shows. It’s a historical series that will spark interest, maybe with a little supernatural thrown in. I love a good British made historical drama.

 

8. Are there any aspects of your work that you find particularly difficult or challenging?

Yes, lack of writing time and concentration when I’m doing housework or playing Lego.

But most of all, marketing and promoting my books. Being an independent author has lots of advantages, I work to my own deadlines, I write what I love, I am my own boss. But the flip side of that is, it’s all down to me, I’ve no one to hand it over to, no marketing team, or sales promoter. Advertising is so difficult; there is a very fine line between effectively marketing your new book to your readers and just plain bombarding them ’til they are sick of the sight of it. I come from a background of sales and marketing, and although it has its advantages, it can be challenging.

 

9. Your latest book The Manningtree Account is quite different from Remember to Love Me in terms of style/topic. What inspired you to go dark and did you enjoy the change of direction?

They are very different indeed. Where Remember to Love Me has a very gentle pace, soft, romantic, although very emotional, The Manningtree Account, is a dark thriller. I loved writing it. I must be honest, I wrote Remember to Love Me so long ago, that it would be hard to write that again now. My life was very different, it was my form of escape. I think we all grow as authors; the more we live, challenges life throws at us, the books we read, the people we meet, we are constantly carving our creative selves, we are forever evolving characters. As for my dark side, it’s always been there, lingering in the shadows. The Manningtree Account, itself, started as a short story for a writing course I attended a decade ago. It lay dormant for ten years, until I stumbled across it again last year. I had been reading some darker fictions, and it grabbed. I am leaning toward the dark side; it’s far more fun to write, I must be a little wicked myself.

 

10. Can you give us any hints about the second book in the Legacy series, Rose de Mai?

This is where my challenge starts. I always intended to write a trilogy; the story was carefully mapped out to span three books. Though, for those who have read Remember to Love Me, it is a standalone; the story is complete, all the little loose ends are tied neatly with a pretty bow. Therefore, at the moment, and foreseeable future, the book will remain so, a standalone. Rose de Mai has been put aside for now; I can’t say I will or that I won’t write it, but at this time I just can’t do the characters justice. I feel the dark side has captured my heart and soul and I’ve unfinished business there. The Manningtree Account sparked a fierce flame and there are so many more dark tales I’m longing to tell. I had no idea that The Manningtree Account would be received with such admirations. As it was only ever released as a kindle download, I’ve been working towards an extended edition for release as hardcopy and download. This is almost ready, in its new guise, with new title and cover. No release date yet but sometime this August.

 

11. Is there anything you’d like to add that I haven’t included?

My next project it even darker. The cogs are still whirring with this one; it’s almost ready for research, I need a little more in-depth investigation. I’m reluctant to give too much away, though I’m hoping it will live up to the title of a Gothic Horror.

 

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview!

 

I loved finding out more about Becky and her writing process, and I hope you did too! Below are some useful links to Becky’s social media accounts if you would like to find out more about her and her books.

Website / Blog: http://www.beckywrightauthor.com/

Amazon author page:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Becky-Wright/e/B01MDTW47Y/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/beckywrightauthor

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/BeckyWrightAuthor

Litsy: BeckyWrightAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16048432.Becky_Wright

Twitter:   https://www.twitter.com/beckywright1971

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What a beautiful lady! Thanks again Becky, I really appreciate you taking the time to do this interview. Best of luck with your continued writing career!