The Flower Angel, by Katrina Hart

This post is dedicated to Katrina’s lovely nan, Jean, who sadly passed away yesterday. Jean was an avid reader and a quiet encourager of writers everywhere, but especially of Katrina’s writing, and also my own. 

Today I’m featuring Katrina Hart’s latest novella The Flower Angel.

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The Flower Angel is an imaginatively written contemporary romance which also features elements of fantasy. Here’s a brief description of the story:

The Flower Angel: Two strangers. One past. Can the Flower Angel help Lara and Chris find love? Lara and Chris are strangers when they meet at Forget-Me-Not-Inn, the place where lost and lonely souls come to find love. Drawn to one another from the start, Chris soon realises that they have a traumatic secret in common – something that Lara will find challenging to forgive… Will the Flower Angel be able to work her magic and help Lara and Chris find true love together? Anything’s possible at Forget-Me-Not- Inn.

But I thought that, rather than tell you my thoughts on the story, I’d let you read a little of it for yourself. So, without further ado, here’s an excerpt:

One Year Later…

Chris swung his bag over his head and waved to his friends who’d insisted, a week ago now, that he take up their offer of a weekend at Forget-Me-Not Inn. They’d told him its secret: that all who entered fell in love with their soulmate, destined to find forever love. Of course he’d not believed either of his friends as they’d followed him about his bar reading the brochure out loud. He’d thought it most likely seemed that way because couples took romantic nights there together or something.

He knew his friends were only being kind and believed he should relax and stop working every hour at his country club. They never stopped reminding him that he should get back to looking for love after his break up with a girl who’d never really loved him in the first place, no matter how much he loved her. In truth he’d been hoping that every moment he was working he’d heal from the dreams that consumed his sleeping hours. The night the accident happened not only left him broken hearted, but with a tortured soul and many questions he might never have answers to.

He turned to face the huge stone inn and started walking through the tall grass towards the building with stained glass windows and flowers around the door. As he got closer he noticed that all the flowers were blue and open in the sunshine. A flash of those flowers landing on the chest of the young woman he’d crashed into a year ago had him clutching his chest struggling to breathe.

Katrina Hart has also kindly agreed to answer a couple of my questions about the story and the writing of the novella.

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Welcome, Katrina!

Thank you for having me on your blog Kendra.

Firstly, where did the inspiration for this story come from?

Well, The Flower Angel started after I completed Love in Little Snow, my first novella. I was inspired to write my new novella by the publisher who had published my first one (Love in Little Snow). However, while writing the story of Chris and Lara, I found that I was also inspired by my boyfriend–those feelings of new love and the idea of two people colliding in a life changing way. Also how one moment can impact on a huge part of one’s life be it in a good way or not.   

I’ve always been fascinated by angels ever since I was around seven. I think they watch over us when we need it most, in a spiritual way. But also there are people in life who try to help each other and bring love and peace into each other’s lives. They kinda remind me of earth’s angels, a bit like Sally and George at Forget-Me -Not Inn.

Where did you get the idea for a flower angel? I love this idea.

I’ve always loved the idea of angels and believed in them ever since I was around seven, because at that age I believed one flew into my window and she transformed into my mum’s nan who died that night. I didn’t actually know that my mum’s Nan had died until I told my mum about the experience. But ever since then I believed that angels watch over us from just out of our eyes’ view, unless they choose to let us see them of course.

So, when writing The Flower Angel I imagined all kinds of angels and that’s how The Flower Angel came about.

How have you found the publishing process? I understand that the novella was initially going to be produced by a publisher who unexpectedly stopped trading.

I’ve found the publishing process very interesting. It was exciting working on the cover with the cover designer and then having the book formatted for both Kindle and paperback. I think it was a great experience getting to grips with how the whole publishing process works and it’s possibly something authors should consider trying at least once, to get to see how it all builds up and turns into the finished book.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about this story or the writing of it?

The Flower Angel is a mixture of a moment that changed two people’s lives and their inner strength to try again.

Thanks so much for sharing your lovely novella with us and for answering my questions. Best of luck with The Flower Angel and with all of your writing!

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The Flower Angel is available as an ebook and a paperback. You can obtain the paperback from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Angel-Katrina-Hart/dp/1540629341/

The ebook is available from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Angel-Katrna-Hart-ebook/dp/B01N579TF6/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Flower-Angel-Katrna-Hart-ebook/dp/B01N579TF6/

To check out more of Katrina’s novels and novellas, visit her Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Katrina-Hart/e/B013KPPUGK/

You can catch up with Katrina by visiting her blog: https://katrinamarie25.wordpress.com/

Checking out her website where you can also read her short stories: http://katrina134.wixsite.com/muses/books

Follow her on Twitter:@KatrinaHart2015

Like her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Katrina-Hart-1785712648319624/

 

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Interview with Carol Lovekin, author of Ghostbird

Today I’m welcoming the delightful Carol Lovekin to my blog. Carol is the author of the magical and poignant novel Ghostbird which is published by Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press, an independent co-operative press run by women and this year celebrating 30 years of publishing books exclusively by women.

In case you missed my review of Ghostbird, you can read it here: https://kendraolson.wordpress.com/2016/09/07/my-review-of-ghostbird-by-carol-lovekin/),

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Welcome, Carol! Thanks for coming by to talk with us today about your novel.

It’s my genuine pleasure, Kendra. Thank you for inviting me.

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Credit: Janey Stevens

Firstly, could you please describe the story for readers?

My central protagonist is Cadi Hopkins, fourteen years old, lonely and surrounded by ambiguity. She lives with her emotionally distant mother, Violet, in a remote Welsh village where each year it rains every day throughout the month of August. Next door lives Cadi’s witchy aunt Lili, guarding a secret she knows she should never have agreed to keep. It’s a frustrating existence for Cadi – all she knows is her father and little sister died not long before she was born. When the ghost of her sister attaches itself to her, Cadi begins a search for the truth. The rainmaker and an ancient myth cast spells and the secrets wake up. In the process, each of the three Hopkins women comes of age, proving you are never too young or too old. The myth of Blodeuwedd – from the Mabinogion – is a thread running through the story and one of its meanings is the origin of the book’s title. In Welsh folklore the barn owl – the bird Blodeuwedd is changed into – is known as the ghostbird.

What is it that makes this story unique?

I’m not sure any story is unique. What sets Ghostbird apart is, perhaps, my ghost. She’s little more than a baby and although at first she scares Cadi it’s less from evil intent than frustrated confusion. And I’ve written a consciously female-centric narrative; reimagined Blodeuwedd’s story from her perspective. I used my vision of her change, together with my imagined metamorphosis of the ghost, as a device to illustrate the transformations of Cadi, Lili and Violet. (My male characters are, I trust, as sympathetic as they deserve to be!) My aim when writing the magic was to make it unobtrusive; incidental almost because it’s part of the Welsh landscape. It’s as authentic as my reader decides it is.

When did this story begin, for you as the writer?

What a great question! Nothing comes from nowhere; all stories begin somewhere and many years ago when I first moved to Wales and read the Mabinogion, I found myself particularly fascinated by the story of Blodeuwedd, a woman created from flowers, by men, for their political ends. How, as a punishment for her perceived betrayal, she was cursed by being turned into an owl. To my mind, being turned into a bird meant Blodeuwedd would gain her freedom. Wouldn’t she? This seed lay dormant until I was ready to make it germinate.

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revolves around the lives of three women – Lilwen, Violet and Cadi Hopkins. Why did you choose to put women and their stories at the centre of the novel?

I’ve always considered fiction an excellent vehicle for telling women’s stories. Dramatizing real narratives gives them an added dimension. Writer and reader can delve deep; explore their own lives and experiences beyond received wisdom. I am a great delver! I’m also a feminist and women’s stories matter to me. From the moment I read Blodeuwedd’s I wanted to reclaim it – give her a voice and tell her story from her viewpoint. (Cadi came to me out of another blue somewhere on the wings of a bird, fully formed and in agreement. She became my ally.)

Traditional Welsh village life features in the book, yet in many ways the themes are quite modern. Was this conscious on your part and, if so, how did you navigate the literary terrain between the modern and the traditional?

In many Welsh communities, traditional life remains a reality. The old ways still exist, even if they are largely disguised. I’m not a historical novelist in any sense of the word, preferring modern settings, and the myth is a trace – a hook to hang the ghost’s story on. Initially, her voice had far less prominence, hardly more than a whispered soundtrack. Once my editor, the astute and talented Janet Thomas, pointed out the ghost needed more of a voice, I wrote her story in isolation, slotted it into the main narrative and to my surprise discovered I was writing a proper ghost story!

One aspect of the novel that I appreciated was that you feature lesbian characters but did not highlight their sexuality to readers – in other words, their sexuality isn’t of particular importance to their character. Why did you choose to write your characters in this way?

The frivolous answer is I’m on a mission to change the world of fiction one lesbian at a time! You have already addressed the more serious one: Lili’s sexuality is of absolutely no importance in reference to her place in the story. She’s a lesbian, dear reader, move on! Lesbians (and gay men) in literature rarely need explaining. It pleases me that so few reviewers have commented on Lili’s and Pomona’s relationship, those who have, wisely noting how it doesn’t need to be an issue.

Dreams, apparitions, imagination and the subconscious all feature in the story. Some have referred to the novel as ‘magical realist’, myself included. Would you agree or disagree with this statement and why or why not?

In a way, this question feeds into the one you asked about the notion of a story’s uniqueness. If my reader interprets what I write as ‘magical realism’ I’m honoured – it’s a noble tradition. (Frustratingly it’s become confused with fantasy and is too often horribly misappropriated.) I write from a place I have been deeply familiar with for decades. If my reader can suspend disbelief and accept that a woman can have fingers so green her garden never needs weeding, I’m content. If she can accept the possibility of a rain spell, or a ghost in the shape of a child reincarnated as a bird, my work, so to speak, is done. Magical realism is in the eye of the beholder.

Did you encounter any challenges when writing the novel and, if so, how did you get around these?

Writing is a challenge, from first word to last and I enjoy it more than I can describe. As a latecomer, I’m writing to catch up. That’s the real challenge: getting all the stories in my head down on paper while I still have my marbles!

I understand that you’re currently working on a new novel. Are you able/willing to tell us anything about the story?

I’ve recently completed another ghost story. It’s also set in Wales, is darker than Ghostbird, and the ghost is Victorian. It’s another sister story (my favourite kind), features far less rain, an abundance of snow and some Cream Legbar chickens. The only other thing I’m able to tell you is it’s with my editor, pending approval.

Thanks so much for coming by to talk with us today! Best of luck with Ghostbird and with all your writing!

Thank you, Kendra! It’s been enormous fun. And may I say, as a writer, you and the other bloggers and reviewers who continue to support us are the bee’s knees deserving of our undying gratitude.

Thank you! 🙂

Readers can obtain Ghostbird from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ghostbird-Carol-Lovekin/dp/190998339X/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Ghostbird-Carol-Lovekin-ebook/dp/B01AOMVP2U/

Honno the Welsh Women’s Press: http://www.honno.co.uk/dangos.php?ISBN=9781909983397

Learn more about Carol and her writing by visiting her website/blog: https://carollovekinauthor.com/

 

 

 

Interview with Denise Ersalahi Erguler, author of children’s fantasy novel The Adventures of Shifting Jack

 

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I’m delighted to be welcoming the talented Cypriot children’s author Denise Ersalahi Erguler to the blog today to talk about her novel, The Adventures of Shifting Jack, which is released today as an ebook. My review follows the interview.

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credit: Olkan Erguler

Welcome, Denise!

Firstly, could you please describe the story for readers?

Yes with pleasure, it is about a family of bird shifters that have been in hiding moving from country to country

What’s the inspiration behind The Adventures of Shifting Jack?

I had an idea for an adult fantasy novel rattling in my mind for a while, so I decided to write my book called The Essence. It’s about a planet called Nageena. Fiona, an interior designer, is kidnapped by  aliens who are hoping Fiona can help them with the civil war that is killing their planet. They picked up on Fiona’s unique brain waves – she has empathic abilities – but it doesn’t help the civil war as they have a problem with the planet’s defence system. Fiona meets the man of her dreams, literally. She has been dreaming of a man since she was a little girl. In her dreams they grew up together, and now she meets him in the flesh. However, she doesn’t feel anything for him. Even worse it looks like he hates her!

The Denizens of planet Nageena are shape shifters, they host a symbiant entity called The Essence, which allows them to shift into various animals.

My son wanted to know what I had written about, so I told him the clean version. His face lit up when I told him about shifting, so I thought I would write a shifting story for children.

Jack and his father, Militis, are shape shifters—half breeds. What appealed to you about shapeshifters and, for those who don’t know what a shapeshifter is, could you please describe one?

A shape shifter is being that can change their body into another shape like a human into a bear, or bird.

One of the things I took away from my reading of the book is the value of respecting nature and being kind to animals, and each other. This is a very important message, especially for young children. Did you consciously weave this lesson, and others, into the book?

Yes, Mother Nature needs to be looked after better. It’s always easier to start with children of a young age, you would be surprised what they pick up on.

How long did it take you to write the story and what obstacles did you encounter along the way?

It’s been three years since I wrote my first word. The biggest obstacle we came across was when I was diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. Since then I have been focusing on getting better–my writing has taken the back seat for now.

Once your first draft was written, did you have a lot of rewriting to do? Could you talk readers through your writing process?

First I wrote a basic outline, then I expanded that into chapters. Once it was finished I passed it on to Anne Hamilton to edit. Once I had her feedback I changed one scene and added other scenes and events.

The story is written in close third-person, from nine-year-old Jack’s perspective. Did you find it difficult to write from a child’s viewpoint, and what challenges did you come across as a result?

I didn’t find it difficult to write as a nine-year old, as I have a nine-year old boy myself.

How did you come to writing? Have you always enjoyed storytelling?

 I’m a dreamer, sometimes I think I’m away with the fairies more than I am on earth. I lived in The Essence story for over a year. It was hard to end the book.

Are there any future novels in the works?

Yes, I’ve just started to plan out the second Shifting Jack of the series.

Thank you for the interview and a big congratulations on the publication of The Adventures of Shifting Jack!

Readers can obtain The Adventures of Shifting Jack from: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01I5GAMNA

You can follow Denise on Twitter at: @Denise_Jack16

Catch up with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Denise-Erguler-Author

My review of The Adventures of Shifting Jack

Nine-year-old Jack and eight-year-old Lily move with their parents, Linda and Militis, to Turkish Cyprus, uncertain of what to expect from their new school and home. The family has already moved numerous times for Militis’s work. Jack and Lily have become used to switching schools and not having friends. As a result, Lily is shy and withdrawn and Jack feels it’s his duty to look out for her; Lily is all he has in terms of a playmate. Linda worries about them and wishes they could stay put for once.

When Linda takes the kids to their new school, she’s impressed. The staff and students are welcoming and friendly, far more so than those at the previous schools they attended. Lily makes a friend almost immediately—Bahar—whose mother also reaches out to Linda. Before they realise it both families have become close.

As the kids are playing on the playground one afternoon, a small earthquake hits. Jack reaches out to try and help Lily escape from a falling swing-set when something remarkable happens—his hand turns into a claw and grows feathers. When it changes back again, he thinks he must have imagined it.  But Militis confesses to Jack that they’re shifters—creatures who are both human and bird. Jack knows he’s finally figured out why his family have always seemed different to him.

Unfortunately, Bahar’s father, Ali, is a hunter—an activity which Jack’s family is firmly opposed to. When it comes to light that Ali isn’t only a hunter but is also being blackmailed by foreign poachers, Jack and Militis decide to get involved by using their shifting powers to help. But will they be too late? And will Jack ever master his shifting, or will he end up getting himself, and his family, into trouble?

The Adventures of Shifting Jack is a delightfully imaginative fable for middle-grade children whose fresh and different perspective will also appeal to their parents.

Interview with J.A. Corrigan, author of Falling Suns

Today I’m welcoming debut novelist J.A. Corrigan to my blog as part of the Falling Suns blog tour. Her psychological thriller, Falling Suns, is published by Accent Press and will be released on the 14th July. It is available to pre-order on Amazon now.

J.A. Corrigan is holding a book launch for Falling Suns on Thursday 21st July 2016 at Daunt Books, 158-164 Fulham Rd, London SW10 9PR. If any readers would like to pop in for a glass of wine, contact J.A. at jacorrigan.writer@btinternet.com

My review follows the interview.

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Welcome, J.A.! Thanks for coming by to talk with us today about your writing, especially your debut novel, Falling Suns.

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credit: Graham Keutenius

Firstly, could you describe the story for readers?

Thank you for having me on here, Kendra.

The story is essentially a tale centred on the themes of grief, guilt and revenge. Rachel Dune’s son is brutally murdered. She is devastated, and feels some guilt that in part she is somehow to blame. Rachel is an ex-detective; she is mentally strong, and possesses a vigorous sense of what she thinks ‘right.’ Being an ex-policewoman she is endowed with many of the necessary emotional and physical ‘tools’ to carry out her revenge.

However, as Rachel moves closer to her target and begins to remember her own past, reservations emerge about both her actions, and motivation.

Why did you choose to write this story? Your novel contains some very dark, distressing themes which I can imagine would not have been easy to write about!

The idea for this story arose from, I suppose, being a mother, and all the emotional turmoil that comes with being a mother; the real angst and worry that something tragic could happen to your child. How would you cope? Especially when the child is brutally murdered, and as is so often the case, murdered by someone known to the family, or within the family itself. I thought hard about Rachel’s decision and path to revenge. I even did straw polls of mothers! Only a few said that they could not contemplate revenge – that to lose a child would be so devastating that any thoughts of reprisal would be the last thing on their mind. But as I questioned more, more mothers agreed that given a chance, and if they were given the opportunity to do so, they would indeed think about revenge. 
I carried out a lot of research for this novel, and some of the events are based loosely on that research; but as we all know, fact can be a lot stranger than fiction. I also wanted to explore areas of criminal behavior that are less well-documented and discussed.
Parallel with the revenge theme, I set out to explore institutional corruption and the effect it can have on the patients within those institutions. And so the story of Rachel’s revenge became woven into the murderer’s own tale.

Did you carry out any research for the novel? If so, could you describe this for readers?

As I have mentioned in the previous question, I did carry out extensive research for the novel. I read non-fiction books about the United States’ penal system, and many of those books were written by psychiatrists who had spent their life working with inmates on Death Row. I also researched psychiatric hospitals in the UK – looking online at old news reports etc. I am very lucky to know a criminal lawyer, who after years representing many of the people who were subsequently sectioned and sent to one of these institutions, now works as a lawyer sitting on mental health tribunal panels.

I also did substantial research into Method acting, speaking at length with an actress who was great in answering my questions, and generally really helping me understand not only about Method, but acting in general. I researched Chinese Medicine too, although as with some of the medical scenes with Rachel, I did draw upon my own medical background – I am a qualified physiotherapist and have used Chinese acupuncture for pain relief with my patients.

What obstacles, if any, did you encounter when writing Falling Suns?

I think the main obstacles were firstly, achieving the balance with Rachel’s character – she has to be strong and quite hard-nosed, but also emotionally fragile. Secondly, I did find writing the more harrowing scenes difficult and often found it hard-going to write them. In the end I had to take myself away and pretend I was someone else (like an actor) and just write those scenes.

I understand that an early draft of Falling Suns was longlisted for the 2013 Mslexia Novel Competition. How did making the longlist affect you as a writer? Do you think that being longlisted helped you to achieve publication?

I think for any aspiring novelist, being longlisted (and definitely shortlisted) in a prestigious writing competition can only be a motivator. It did give me the impetus to carry on, and rework the novel. I think being longlisted in the Mslexia competition made me realise that with more work ­I might just make the grade! The bar is set high these days. The standard of writing is towering in these competitions, as there are so many authors out there with talent, and a desire to succeed.

What do you feel you’ve gained through the writing of your novel?

With Falling Suns I honed more my craft both as a writer, and to a large extent – I think – became a ‘nicer’ human being. Writing Falling Suns encouraged me to think a lot about life, and the emotions of grief, loss and anger. About what is important, and what is not so important.

On a more practical level, writing Falling Suns really did hone my skills in writing a coherent story – a story with a beginning, middle and end. I think the novel taught me how to build some tension in the story, which is so important, and something that has taken me years to be able to do … well, I hope I manage to do it!

You’ve chosen to publish under your initials. Why did you choose to do this and what went into this decision?

In many ways, I wanted to be genderless. I wanted the writing and the book to stand-alone ­– away from my name, and me. I also quite like J.A. Corrigan!

I understand that you’re also a published short story writer. Do you feel that writing a novel was a natural next step for you? How did you make the transition?

I started my writing ‘career’ with the short story form and I think many writers do begin this way. The discipline of making every word count is essential to the novelist. The trick is – not to write the bits that the reader skips over and I truly believe writing shorts assists the aspiring novelist in achieving this.

I decided to write a novel when I realised that each short story I wrote was in fact like a mini-synopsis for a novel! I think I was itching to write a longer length work, although at the time I had no conception of how difficult it would turn out to be, which in retrospect is probably a good thing …  

Are there any future novels in the works?

Yes, I am working on my next novel, which is another dark tale and the same genre as Falling Suns.

Many thanks for coming to speak with us today, and best of luck with the publication of Falling Suns!

Falling Suns is available from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Falling-Suns-J-Corrigan/dp/1786152495

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Falling-Suns-J-Corrigan-ebook/dp/B01FUI9NKY/

Falling Suns is also available from Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/falling-suns/julie-ann-corrigan/j-a-corrigan/9781786152497

The Guardian Bookshop: https://bookshop.theguardian.com/catalog/product/view/id/414323/

And WH Smith: http://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/falling-suns/9781786152497

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My review

Falling Suns is an emotionally intelligent, well-plotted thriller which explores the experience of being a mother, with its unwavering responsibilities and attachments which may not always be understood–or accepted—by others. Rachel and Liam Dune would appear to have a good life, when viewed from the outside. Rachel’s ever-helpful best friend, Charlotte, lives nearby as do her parents and aunt and uncle. Her husband, Liam, works from home as a renowned painter. So when Rachel eventually decides it’s time for her to go back to work as a detective it would seem that their son, seven year old Joe, will be well looked after in her absence.

Of course, appearances can be deceptive and sometimes what is hidden can be more dangerous than what we think we see. When Joe goes missing, his parents fear the worst. Rachel has worked on cases such as this herself, and understands more than she’d like to.  How will Rachel’s worst fears compare with the reality of what’s actually happened to Joe? When Joe is later found dead, and Rachel’s cousin Michael Hemmings admits to the crime, will her suffering give way to grief, or will it simply continue on, taking new and ever changing forms?

Four years after Michael Hemmings has been confined to a secure psychiatric unit, Rachel receives notification that he’s being moved to a less-secure unit in order to begin reintegrating him into society. Unable to bear the thought that Hemmings may one day be free, Rachel Dune decides to quit her job on the force in order to make sure that never happens. But to achieve her aim, she’ll have to cut ties with everyone, and everything, she thinks she knows.

Rachel’s character is the antithesis of the distraught, oppressed female heroine who silently suffers while the men in her life go out and right wrongs. Not only is Rachel a character to be reckoned with, but Corrigan does not shy away from showing readers the more disturbing elements of Rachel’s personality, thus turning female stereotypes on their head.

Corrigan explores the layers which make up families, friendship and society as a whole, and the ways in which relationships can go terribly wrong. Falling Suns raises interesting questions about the nature of the mental health institutions we have in place in modern-day Britain and how effective these are at both assisting individuals in need and in containing those few who really are a danger to others. Oh yes, and it’s a gripping read too.

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Interview with Katrina Hart, author of Love in Little Snow (Snow Globe Christmas Collection)

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Christmas? But it’s barely summer, I hear you say. Of course, you’re right, and while I’m not quite ready to skip ahead either, I did want to take this opportunity to speak to the very talented young author Katrina Hart about the recent publication of her novella, Love in Little Snow, published by Lovely Christian Romance Press earlier this month. Love in Little Snow is currently available as an ebook and will be released as a paperback during July (full details to come later).

Katrina Hart is also the author of the fantasy novel Finding Destiny which was published by Pilrig Press last year (you can read my interview with her about her debut novel here: https://kendraolson.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/author-interview-katrina-hart-author-of-finding-destiny-fantasy-ebook-just-released-by-pilrig-press/ ).

My review of Love in Little Snow follows the interview.

Welcome, Katrina! Thanks for coming by to talk with us today about your writing, especially Love in Little Snow.

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Firstly, could you describe the story for readers?

Thank you for having me back.  Love in Little Snow follows Dr Bailey Cartwrite who is devastated when his girlfriend, Lucy, is killed. However, in her last act of love, Lucy appears to Bailey as an angel and sends him to the world of Little Snow – the snow globe world for Christmas. Now he must open his heart to the new woman in his life and find his way back to God before the end of Christmas day.

The novella has a Christmas feel to it, but it also speaks of new beginnings and helping one another and that in turn helps Dr Bailey while he gets used to his life in Little Snow. Also this novella has a lot of love to it. Love in Lucy and her gift to Bailey, and love in Holly and her devotion to Bailey in his new life.

How did Love in Little Snow come about?

I did a bit of reviewing for Lovely Christian Romance Press and the publisher asked if I’d like to take part in her Snow Globe Collection. I love Christmas, not just the lights and snow and happy music, but the feeling of love for family and friends and being together sharing in the magic. So of course I wanted to give it a go and I thoroughly enjoyed writing Dr Bailey Cartwrite’s story.

With summer creeping up on us here in Britain, how did you manage to get in the Christmas spirit while writing your story? Did you carry out any special, pre-writing rituals to assist you, such as drinking hot chocolate or playing Christmas music? If so, could you tell us about them?

I listened to a lot of Christmas music and had my snow scented Yankee candles burning while writing Love in Little Snow. I also drank hot chocolate and cold chocolate and just felt the spirit of Christmas. For me, Christmas can never come quick enough and I think those emotions of the holidays are always there with me when I’m around loved ones; I just feel that love and joy.

What is your writing process like?

For this novella I started with a synopsis and then just began to write with my music on and my candle lit. I love to just follow characters and see where they go and where the story really ends. I did a lot of thinking and day dreaming too on this story…  After I wrote it I sent the story out for editing and then back to the publisher. 

What inspires you?

Authors like yourself inspire me to write, reading great books really gets your mind all in dreamy land ready to write your own stories. My boyfriend also inspired me a lot while writing Love in Little Snow.  Love and the magic of being able to write about snowy lands always has me in a magical world of my own.

Love in Little Snow is a romance, and your first novel, Finding Destiny, is a fantasy. Having read and enjoyed both, I feel that they each contain elements of both fantasy and romance. How important is the idea of genre to your writing? Do you begin a story intending it to be in a certain genre?

Honestly, when writing, I normally just follow my characters and the worlds they are in, not really focusing on genre. I think I often discover where my story fits instead of picking either to fit it in. Although with Love in Little Snow I wrote it intending to create a Christmas romantic feeling.      

Your first publication was a novel. How did you find the experience of writing a novella?

I really enjoyed the experience. I love writing short stories and the novella felt a bit like an extension of writing a short story. It’s lots of fun and can be written in between writing novels.  

The novella seems to have had something of a comeback recently. How do you feel about the form? Do you think that novellas offer new opportunities for writers?

Yes, I think novellas offer other opportunities for writers to do what we love–write stories. And with a novella one can finish it within a week or so then spend time on editing and making it as perfect as one wants it to be. 

I understand that, in addition to Finding Destiny, you’ve also written other novels for which you’re currently seeking a publisher. Could you tell readers a little about these?

Sure. I’ve written two other novels since Finding Destiny. My second novel is called The Lost Town of Man’s Crossing. It follows Suzy and Bill from Finding Destiny on their adventure in a whole new town. Suzy, along with her friend, Bill, find themselves in The Lost Town of Man’s Crossing, a land to which the chosen few are transported by their personal Crossing Creatures to a second chance at life. On arrival, Suzy receives twenty coins and a mission she must complete before her coins run out, in order to move on to a new land – or everyone will die.

My third novel is called Thawing Hearts. It follows Courtney as she travels to Snowlight City and while there she sees that everyone is frozen until she meets Miss Snowglow, child of Lightcity, who sends her on a mission to stop Xaviershadow, a monster of the water. However, this leads her to find more of herself and her heart than she’s ever imagined.

I’m also working on The Awaking Spark of a Dying Man, so I’m looking forward to seeing where this story leads…

Thanks so much for taking the time to come and speak with us about your work. Best of luck with Love in Little Snow, and with all of your writing!

Love in Little Snow is available from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01FL4SAPQ/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Love-Little-Globe-Christmas-Collection-ebook/dp/B01FL4SAPQ

Finding Destiny is also available from Amazon. In the UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Finding-Destiny-Katrina-Hart-ebook/dp/B00U1WUFSE/

In the US: https://www.amazon.com/Finding-Destiny-Katrina-Hart-ebook/dp/B00U1WUFSE

Find out more about Katrina’s writing by visiting her blog: https://katrinamarie25.wordpress.com/

Like her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Katrina-Hart-1785712648319624/

Follow her on Twitter: @KatrinaHart2015

Kendra’s review:

As with Katrina Hart’s debut novel, Finding Destiny, this too takes place in a magical world which parallels our own. Of course, not everyone is a fan of Christmas—that one time of year when everything is meant to be perfect, but never quite is. And the main character in this story, Bailey Cartwrite, is no exception.  Since losing his girlfriend, Lucy, in an accident, his life hasn’t been the same. He’s lost faith in everything: love, life, God and himself. But when Lucy appears to him holding a snow globe, his life changes forever. Yet will he be strong enough to take the second chance she’s offering him?

A lovely romance containing all the Christmas touches: there’s hot chocolate, gently falling snow, carollers, snowmen in abundance and (perhaps most importantly) love—not only of the romantic persuasion but also love of family, friends and the less fortunate. While listed as a Christian romance, Love in Little Snow can also be enjoyed by non-believers as it is a story which heartens, and heartening is exactly what is needed at Christmas-time.

By the time you’ve finished reading this, you too will feel that all truly can be made right, and not just for the one day, but year-round, if we’d only let a little of that “Christmas magic” into our hearts every day.

Love in Little Snow is the perfect story to get you in the holiday mood, whatever the month!

Interview with Eva Jordan, author of 183 Times a Year

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Today I’m welcoming the lovely Eva Jordan to my blog. Eva’s debut novel, 183 Times a Year, is currently available as an ebook and was released as a paperback on the 28th April (my review follows the interview). To celebrate she’ll be doing a book launch at Waterstones in Peterborough on 12th May. The address is 38-40 Bridge St, Peterborough PE1 1DT, and the event will run from 7 to 8.30pm. Do drop by if you’re in the area.

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Welcome, Eva! Thanks for coming by to talk with us today about your writing, especially your debut novel, 183 Times a Year.

Hi Kendra, thank you so much for having me on your wonderful blog.

Firstly, could you describe the story for readers?

183 Times a Year is a laugh out loud look at contemporary family life. The story is seen from two points of view and heard through two very different voices, namely Lizzie and Cassie. Lizzie is the exasperated Mother of Cassie, Connor and Stepdaughter Maisy. She is the frustrated voice of reason to her daughters’ teenage angst and gets by with good friends, cheap wine and talking to herself—out loud. Then there is 16-year-old Cassie—the Facebook-Tweeting, Selfie-Taking, Music and Mobile Phone obsessed teen. Cassie hates everything about her life and longs for the perfect world of Chelsea Divine and her ‘undivorced’ parents—and Joe, the gorgeous boy every girl fancies. 

What inspired you to write this story? I understand that you’re the mother of four teenagers.

It is the women in my life, including my mother, daughters’ and good friends that inspired me to write my debut novel. I wanted to show people the extraordinary amongst the ordinary. For, despite living in a world of advanced technology, where everything is available to us, and anyone with opposable thumbs can document, broadcast, and stream just about anything, smartphone in hand of course, it also feels, at times, like a lonelier, more insular place. It’s easy to believe when scrolling through our friend’s social media pages that somehow everyone else has got it right and yours is the only dysfunctional family on the planet – which just isn’t true of course.

I’m a mother to a 19-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son. I’m also a step mum to my other half’s son and daughter who are both now in their twenties. Ours is a blended family and like most families, we’ve had our ups and downs. Parenting, including step-parenting, isn’t easy. At times it can be difficult and challenging, especially with teenagers, but it can also be extremely rewarding. I have many friends with children, some are blended families, some not, and many of the problems that arise in my novel are common to most families. However, although tragic at times, 183 Times a Year has many laugh out loud moments. It is an amusing exploration of domestic love, hate, strength and ultimately friendship. A poignant, heartfelt look at that complex and diverse relationship between a Mother and daughter set amongst the thorny realities of today’s divided and extended families.

When reading 183 Times a Year I was struck by how honest you were in your depiction of teenagers and their relationships with their parents at that age (or seeming lack thereof!). I have to admit you made me cringe with embarrassment at how much of my teenage self I recognised in young Cassie, and, while I don’t have kids of my own, I definitely sympathised with her mum, Lizzie. How difficult was it to re-create these relationships in fiction, and how much of the story was drawn from personal experience?

I’m glad you cringed – that was exactly the emotion I wanted to evoke. The story was drawn from personal experience but not just mine, it was also the experience of friends, family and information gathered through research. As a parent of teenage children it wasn’t particularly difficult to re-create these relationships. I know a couple of readers have struggled with the way Cassie speaks but I wanted to keep her as real as possible. Some readers have said they find Cassie annoying and frustrating – to which I have wanted to reply, “Err hello – welcome to my world and that of most parents of teens.”

Like my own children, Cassie can be extremely annoying at times. Her view of the world is naïve. She sees things as black or white and hasn’t had enough life experience to fill it with all the colours in between. Her moods can often seem extreme swinging from endearing through to narcissistic but, at the end of the day, she is just a young woman struggling to make sense of her place in the world. Lizzie also struggles, especially with parenthood but like a lot of mothers, she does her best with her children. However, although older and wiser she is also at odds with herself, questioning if this – being a librarian and mother – is indeed her lot in life. And if so, is it actually enough? She forgets how difficult it is being a teenager. The universal need of most of us, in one way or another, to assimilate, to somehow fit in and belong in a world that doesn’t always make sense.

What would you like readers to come away with, after reading your book?

To remember that we’re all human, all flawed and that we all make mistakes. Remember to love family and those that love and support us – it’s easy to take people for granted. If your Mum drives you crazy, remember she’s just doing her best, being a parent is one of the most difficult but rewarding jobs in the world and one that comes without an instruction manual. Alternatively, if your teenage children, step children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or your friends’ children are driving you to distraction, remember you were young once. I’m not saying we have to pander to our children but just remember that whilst you are busy worrying about important things like how you are going to pay the rent or mortgage, if that lump you discovered is something to be concerned about or if you really can afford to go on holiday this year, your son’s concern that his acne-pulsating face is preventing him from getting a girlfriend or your daughter’s anxiety at her exclusion from that party that everyone else has been invited to, are also very real to them. After all, true wisdom comes from compassion – for yourself and others.

What obstacles, if any, did you encounter when writing 183 Times a Year?

Time, there just isn’t enough of it. I need a 48-hour day and 14-day week to fit everything in – like most people I think! I’ve also struggled with people’s perception of writers – especially those starting out like me. General consensus seems to suggest that because you work from home you can be interrupted, if you’re caught staring into space you can be interrupted, if you ask not to be interrupted – yep, you’ve guessed it – you can be interrupted. I for one, work very long hours as a writer and there are those who just don’t understand or appreciate that. However, having said that, I have also had a great deal of support and encouragement from friends and family alike. And often, that support has come when I have felt like giving up, during those moments when terrible self-doubt creeps in. So in that sense, I have been very lucky.

The novel is written from the alternating viewpoints of teenage Cassie and that of her mum, Lizzie. Was it difficult to write from two different points of view, and how did you manage it? For example, did you write the story chronologically or did you write all of Cassie’s parts and then all of Lizzie’s, or vice versa?

Being a mother and having witnessed the language and behaviour of four teenage children, it wasn’t too difficult to write the two very different points of view, namely that of a mother and her teenage daughter. I did write it mostly in chronological order as one point of view easily followed the other. However, there were times where I just imagined a particular scene with one of the characters so I would write that conversation or chapter and then fit it into the story at a later date.

What do you feel you gained through the writing of your novel?

I achieved a life-long ambition but I gained so much knowledge, information and made many new friends. Online and off, I have met some wonderful, amazing people. The writing community, including readers, reviewers and bloggers are unbelievably supportive and helpful. It would be natural to assume, especially amongst the writing fraternity, that because there is a lot of competition out there, there must be less desire to help one another, however that couldn’t be further from the truth. Don’t get me wrong, you have to do the legwork, put the time in and put yourself out, but if want help, advice and support, it’s there, in abundance.

Once your story was down on paper, did you do a lot of rewriting? Could you talk us through this process?

Yes, I did have to do rewrites but it was more about joining the dots, making sure there was enough foreshadowing and keeping the characters in character – sometimes Cassie sounded too grown up and more like Lizzie!

How did 183 Times a Year come to be published?

I initially self-published my debut novel as an ebook with Troubador in September last year. I then met a lovely reviewer online who read my book and suggested I send it to a publisher she knew, which I did. The publisher in question was Matthew Smith of Urbane Publications. During the run up to Christmas last year, Matthew read my book and agreed to collaborate with me on the paperback version which, I’m happy to say, was released on 28th April. Matthew and Urbane Publications have done a wonderful job and I couldn’t be more pleased with the end result.

I understand that you’re also a published short story writer. Having written both short stories and a novel, which form do you prefer? What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks of each?

I actually like both forms, short stories and novels but because I always tend to write more rather than less, the short story is a great exercise in editing and condensing which then serves to remind me that I don’t always need to say so much in my novels.

Which writers have influenced your work?

How long have you got – I’ve been inspired by lots of different writers. I have a degree in English and History and my reading has been wide and varied. I’m not a reading snob either – the classics are great but so is a lot of contemporary fiction. Many writers have inspired me from Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Joseph Conrad to Angela Carter, Sue Townsend, Stephen King—and recently Anna McPartlin, Gillian Flynn and Louise Doughty. I’m currently reading a great debut novel, The Long Weekend, by a writer I recently met called Jane E. James, which is brilliant. I enjoy stories that force the reader to observe the daily interactions of people with one another set against the social complexities of everyday life, be that through crime, love or comedy.

Are there any future novels in the works?

Yes – absolutely! I’m writing the sequel to 183 Times a Year at the moment. It’s three years later and there’s lots going on. It’s still humorous but much faster paced with some unexpected dark moments. I also have an idea that I’m collaborating on with one of my brothers – it’s a completely different genre to 183 Times a Year – a thriller I suppose – but very exciting. I’m also working on an idea for a YA novel.

Finally, how can readers get hold of your novel?

Now released as a paperback, you can find or order 183 Times a Year as both an ebook or paperback through most bookshops and retailers including Waterstones and W H Smiths, Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Google Play.

You can also order it in print from Urbane Publications: https://t.co/UTxfI9RsYT

Thanks so much for taking the time to come and speak with us about your work. Best of luck with 183 Times a Year, and with all of your writing!

Thank you so much for having me!

About Eva Jordan

“I am a short story writer and author of the debut novel 183 TIMES A YEAR. I live in a small town in Cambridgeshire with my fiancé and ours is a blended family. Between us we share one cat and four children, all of whom are a constant source of inspiration! My career has been varied, including working in a Women’s Refuge and more recently at the city library. However, storytelling through the art of writing is my true passion.”

Learn more about Eva’s writing by visiting her website:  https://evajordanwriter.com/

Like her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EvaJordanWriter/

Follow her on Twitter: @evajordanwriter

Kendra’s review of 183 Times a Year

“Why had I been so unforgiving? Even Cassie had had the good sense to see it was just one stupid mistake.”

With a mortgage to pay, an ex-husband who is less than supportive (monetarily or otherwise), cuts being made at work, family illness and friend troubles, Lizzie has little time left to herself. Enter three children and a modern-day blended family and life becomes even more complicated. Her stepdaughter, Maisy–who prefers to be called Mania–hates her. As does her own daughter, Cassie, who refuses to so much as sit at the same table with her should they go out for coffee together, though she is more than happy to let her mother buy the drinks. Lizzie’s only consolation is 11-year-old Connor, who has yet to hit puberty, and who therefore still respects her and enjoys her company.

As the pressure at work mounts due to budget constraints, Lizzie struggles to cope. When Amber, a young, unemployed, library volunteer, confesses to Lizzie that she wants to become pregnant so she won’t have to continue looking for work (and failing to find it), Lizzie does her best to try and help. But is it possible for someone to be too caring?

Meanwhile, Cassie is struggling to pass her exams at school, and uncertain about college. With the most popular girl in school’s party coming up, and Cassie uninvited, she’ll have to do her best to appear “sick” (or “cool”, for those of us from older generations). Unfortunately, her supposed friends seem to forget all about her when she needs them most.  Will Cassie have the courage to be herself for a change, and, if so, where will it take her?

183 Times a Year is a hilarious,  deeply empathetic and almost uncomfortably familiar, exploration of the ins and outs of family life. Jordan does a remarkable job of capturing the relationships between teenagers and their parents and made me look at my teenage years in a very different light. A highly enjoyable read.

Interview with Miles Salter: Writer, Musician and Storyteller

KIPPA MATTHEWS - COPYRIGHT NOTICE

Welcome, Miles! Thanks for coming by to talk with us today about your work, especially your latest novel, Howl: A Small and Heavy Adventure. Those who follow this blog will remember reading my review of Howl: A Small and Heavy Adventure.  For those who haven’t, you can read my review here: https://kendraolson.wordpress.com/2016/01/07/review-of-howl-a-small-and-heavy-adventure-by-miles-salter/

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Firstly, how did the story come about?

About six years ago, I was at home one day and I had this little moment of inspiration. What if I could write an updated version of Little Red Riding Hood, but with a modern flavour? That was the start. It was very much influenced by some of Roald Dahl’s writing. I wanted to write a book for kids that they would love. The book I would have loved when I was ten years old. But it took six years to finish it, mainly because I kept changing it as it went along. The wolf became a werewolf and the ‘Grandma’ character changed into Mrs Winters, the mysterious old lady in the story. I must have written  60,000 words but the final thing is only about 30,000 words. I am pleased with it, though, and I think I’ve kept to the spirit of that initial idea – a fun story with a frisson of something scary. The reaction from kids has been fantastic, so far – it really works as a kids book, which is great.

Have you always enjoyed writing or is writing something you came to as an adult?

I’ve always enjoyed it, but in a strange way, the better you get at writing, the harder it is, because you become much more self-critical as time goes by. I still enjoy it but writing a long project is a kind of work. You have to be very self-disciplined to make a long piece of writing hold together. It’s much harder than it looks. Apparently Fred Astaire once said of dancing:  ‘If you don’t make it look easy, you’re not trying hard enough.’ (Or words to that effect.) And that is exactly right – to make it seem casual, you have to work really hard!

What inspires you?

All kinds of things. Friends. Good conversation. Bruce Springsteen. Bob Dylan. Van Morrison. Great writing. Funny stuff – old comedy things like The Young Ones or Monty Python. Tintin. Sacred places. The outdoors. A walk in the woods. Train journeys. Sunsets. Films. Poetry. At the moment I’m listening to a CD of Dylan Thomas reading his work from the 1950s. It’s on when I’m in the car and it’s fantastic.

I understand that you do a lot of work with schools. Could you tell us a little about this? Did your experience of working with children in a school environment help you with the writing of Howl?

I’d been doing creative workshops in schools for a few years, and kids kept asking me what books I had written. I’d written two books of poetry and a book for Young Adults, so I was really keen to write a book for the 8-10 age group. I’m doing quite a few schools things this year so I’ll tell them about the new book. When I asked children why they liked a particular book they often said ‘Because it’s funny’ so humour was really important to writing ‘Howl’ – it had to be as funny as I could make it.  So yes, the work in schools was a big help.

You’ve also written a series of picture books called Zip and Pop, as part of a medical research project with Queen Mary University in London. Could you tell us a little about how you became involved in this project and the purpose of it?

A friend of mine sent me a link to a job advertisement. Queen Mary University in London were looking for a writer and researcher. It was an unusual project. They wanted to research children’s bedtime routines, and I had to write some children’s stories that would encourage kids to brush their teeth. So as a team, we came up with these fun stories involving two frogs called Zip and Pop, and they had various adventures. They were always brushing their teeth. I was pleased with how the books came out. And I made some new friends – Sai Pathmanathan, the researcher, became a friend, as did Olivia Boutrou (the illustrator) and Niall Sweeney, the designer. Niall had a wicked sense of humour, we had these hilarious conversations about what diet the frogs should be on. The books were circulated in schools in London, where the research took place. I have a few copies of the books at home. The books haven’t been made available to the wider public. We also made a DVD with animations on it.  

In what ways does writing for children differ from writing for adults?

Writing for adults you can do much more in the way of characters’ lives, atmosphere etc. With children, you have to be more direct. Children aren’t so interested in ambiguity.

What are the greatest challenges in writing for a young audience?

There was a superb article written by Michelle Paver, the children’s writer, which appeared in The Writer’s Handbook in 2011. Michelle wrote about how hard it is to write for children because young readers won’t tolerate getting bored. You can get away with stuff for adults that you can’t with children. Before Howl was published, one publisher suggested we take out nearly 10,000 words. It was hard to take, but I think in the end it made it stronger. Waste nothing. Cut, cut, cut. The same is true of poetry and journalism. Know what you want to say, and say it. Roald Dahl’s work is impressive here – he keeps it pithy, and he’s always in control of the material. The story must skip along when you are writing for children.

Your website states that you are a ‘writer, musician and storyteller’. Do you see these roles as going together? How does music enter into it?

I’m lucky that I get to do lots of things around communication. I do often think that I should do one thing very well, rather than several things, but I enjoy the variety. I adore music, and play gigs with friends when I can. When I was younger I wanted to be Bruce Springsteen but the job was already taken! Yes they do go together. I take the guitar with me when I go into schools, and sometimes do gigs with poetry and music.

Could you tell us a little about some of your other books?

My first book was ‘A Song For Nicky Moon’ which was self published in 2010. It was shortlisted for The Times / Chicken House Children’s Writing Award in 2010. Only 100 copies were pressed and it’s not currently available. I’ve written two books of poetry – The Border in 2011 and Animals in 2013 – both with Valley Press. Howl is my most recent book.    

Are you working on anything at the moment?

I’ve just started working on a follow up to Howl, as people are already asking me when the next book is coming! Also I’ve been working on a book for Young Adults, but it’s not ready yet. I’m hoping to finish it in 2016…everything takes an age!

Do you have any advice for budding children’s writers? Or indeed, children who would like to learn to write?

It’s not complicated. You only have to do two things: read a lot and write a lot. Immerse yourself in books. Read all the time, and lots of different things – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, journalism, short stories. Everything! And write as much as you can. It could take a long time to become a decent writer, so be willing to keep going, and keep going, and keep going! Start young! The younger the better. So many writers were bookworms as kids, or at least they were interested in books. 

Thanks so much for taking the time to come and speak with us about your work. Best of luck with Howl: A Small and Heavy Adventure, and with all of your projects!

Kendra, thanks so much, it’s been great!

Howl is available from Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Howl-Small-Heavy-Adventure/dp/0993300014/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1452701413&sr=8-1&keywords=Howl+Salter

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0993300014

Visit Miles’s website http://www.miles-salter.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter @MilesWrites