My latest release, SPITFIRE, is a short story set during WW2, and features a male protagonist, Sam, a fighter pilot flying sorties over Dunkirk during Operation Dynamo. I have no idea where he came from except to say that one morning he simply materialised, and in good time too. As the 80th anniversary of the evacuation of the Allied forces at Dunkirk approached, I wrote this short story. I was in the planning stage for the next WW2 novel, so maybe that was the nucleus, either way young Sam stomped into my world and he’s here to stay, at least for a while. You see, he’s to be the protagonist in my next book, so that’s a good thing as I’ve come to know him quite well as I attempt to plot and build scenes around him. It truly is a strange writers world, unique, serendipitous, and exciting.
A gripping tale of the courage and heroism of Churchill’s “Few” based on true events. Perfect for fans of Robert Radcliffe and Laura Hillenbrand.
May 1940. The French and British armies are in retreat as Hitler’s blitzkrieg storms through France. Finally, they are beaten back to the coast at Dunkirk, with nowhere left to flee. Churchill is determined to rescue as many men as possible, for without her army, Britain is sunk. A plan is hatched to evacuate the men from the beaches by sea, but it will take the combined strength of all the forces to ensure its success.
Sam, a young RAF pilot flies sorties daily over France, engaging the enemy in the skies over Dunkirk. He is determined to protect the men trapped on the beaches below, and give them a fighting chance of returning to home shores. Day after day he returns to base when others do not. He witnesses friends shot down by the Luftwaffe, sometimes lost at sea. And each time he wonders when his luck will run out, yet still, he returns to the hell in the skies.
Survival is Victory.
2020 is the 75th anniversary of VE Day. While the war still raged on in the Pacific, it was finally over for all in Europe and great celebrations rolled out around the world. Why not celebrate by reading a new book about those remarkable times, and in doing so, remember the “Few” who gave their all for us today. Lest We Forget.
I have loved reading about history for as long as I can remember. On more than one occasion, I was asked what class I was reading a book for and I had to admit that it was something I had selected to read for enjoyment. Yet, I was not familiar with the story of the “radium girls” until I listened to Kate Moore’s excellent book.
It was one of those snippets of history that seems unbelievable. When you think things are changing for the better, something happens and everything gets worse. Then you realize that events just like it continue to occur to this very day.
Called radium girls because of the luminescent paint they used to make watch and instrument dials glow in the dark, the young working-class women who were exposed to radium on a daily bases began sickening and dying in the years immediately following World War I. The companies they worked for denied liability, rejected the idea that radium was the cause of the women’s problems, and made any excuse at their disposal to avoid a decrease in profits.
The women had little help from the outside. Doctors, who had been using radium as a sort of miracle cure, were reluctant to admit that it might be dangerous. Most lawyers had no interest in taking on the case of women with little ability to pay fees and insufficient support to win their case. Worker’s compensation laws varied by state and often didn’t include the women’s situation. They were left at the mercy of the corporations that had caused their health to fail and then often fired them when they were unable to work.
When women began to die of radium poisoning, the symptoms were attributed to all manner of diseases. Diphtheria, tuberculosis, and even syphilis were documented causes of death for some of the poor girls. Some of the results of radium poisoning, such as sarcoma and infections, were listed as cause of death without an understanding of the underlying cause. Some doctors were in the pocket of the radium industry. Others simply didn’t know any better.
In Luminous, I have focused on the story of Catherine Donohue, an employee of Radium Dial in Ottawa, Illinois. Catherine was a typical small town girl, who counted herself lucky to obtain a good-paying position at the dial studio, until she developed a limp that never healed. Then she watched one of her friends collapse at work and another die of an infection that spread like wildfire. Catherine stood up for the Ottawa dial painters, even as her own health failed. Luminous is her story, and I hope that it is one that inspires curiosity about the past as well as a hunger for justice in the present.
Samantha Wilcoxson is a history enthusiast and avid traveler. Her published works include the Plantagenet Embers series with novels and novellas that explore the Wars of the Roses and early Tudor era. Luminous is her first foray into 20th century American history, but she suspects that it will not be her last. Samantha enjoys exploring the personal side of historic events and creating emotive, inspiring stories.
My most recent release is a novella, Christmas at Blue Hydrangeas, a prequel to my novel Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story. So many readers told me they wanted to return to Blue Hydrangeas, a Cape Cod bed and breakfast, after reading BH that I had to revisit the Harmon family and write another story. The book was inspired by The Great Blizzard of 1978 and takes place decades before Sara’s Alzheimer’s. It’s a heartwarming holiday read fans love. Description: It’s Christmas Eve, and, as Sara waits for her husband and son to arrive home to Blue Hydrangeas, a blizzard threatens to close the bridges, stranding all travelers to and from the Cape. As she prepares for the holiday, unexpected visitors arrive, all sharing the common bond of grief. Sara is determined the storm and sadness will not spoil Christmas, and ensures Santa will find his way to two fatherless children far from home. A sweet slice-of-life story about loved ones and strangers coming together to share the spirit of Christmas.
You write in various genres. Can you tell us a little more about that.
I consider myself a storyteller, and my stories sprout from real-life experiences and events. For instance, Blue Hydrangeas was born not only from my witnessing the Alzheimer’s and dementia several family members encountered, but also from my work as a registered nurse caring for patients and families living with these diseases. My Young Adult novel Swim Season was inspired by my daughter’s 10-year varsity swimming career. And the short stories in my Daisy Hunter series are reflections on pivotal events in my childhood. I’m not married to any particular genre. I market my work as Contemporary, Women’s, and Young Adult fiction, but collectively they are all heartwarming, family stories that appeal to a variety of readers.
Tell us more about your writing process. Are you a plotter or a panster?
Is one method better than the other? If you asked a hundred writers you’d get a hundred different answers. For me, a more hybrid approach seems to work. When I start a new story I have to feel comfortable with what I’m writing, and actually have something to write. I’m not one to sit in front of a blank page and wait for inspiration. The inspiration has to be eating at me for a while before I start typing. I need at least a working title, a theme, the setting, a few well-thought out characters, and a series of scenes in mind that will drive the story from beginning to end. Sometimes I write this stuff down on random slips of paper or in designated notebooks. For the most part it’s locked in a special vault in my writer’s mind. Yet I don’t like feeling confined and am willing to explore new directions and plot twists as they arise.
What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? The least?
It may seem odd but I enjoy the often dreaded rewriting process the most. I love ripping apart a story, adding illumination, “killing my darlings” to make the story stronger, and running it through a variety of checks to make sure it’s the best it can be. I use a tool called Autocrit as well as a few other tricks to do this. The part of the writing process I like the least is the chronic pain I live with due to repetitive strain injuries caused by an inappropriate computer work station. This has tormented me since 2006, and slows my writing down to almost a crawl, if I’m able to write at all. You can read more about this here.
When did you begin writing?
My dream of being a writer started when I first realized writers make books, and I’ve loved books since I was a small child. In grade school, I often wrote “books,” which were scraps of paper covered in prose and stapled together. In high school, I discovered journalism and decided I wanted to be a newspaper reporter. In college, I majored in English and learned how to write. I worked for several newspapers as a freelancer and was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. After graduation, I struggled to find a full-time news job and failed, so I took a detour and went into nursing. I didn’t write for years, but then the nursing department at my hospital started a newsletter and I volunteered to take over as editor. This reignited my desire to write, and I soon held the first draft of my first novel, Blue Hydrangeas, in my hands. I haven’t stopped writing, and since 2013 have published three novels and three short stories. My work is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.
Any tips for new writers?
New writers need to understand that it’s exceedingly difficult to land a literary agent or to succeed in traditional publishing. The self-publishing boom has allowed millions of aspiring authors to publish their work, so the marketplace is flooded. It’s a challenge to find footing in this market. You will most likely not become rich or be able to quit your day job to be a full-time writer. If money is your motivation, find something else to do. If you truly desire to write and find a few readers, proceed with care. There is much to learn, know, and do, but it is not impossible to publish your own work and find an audience.
A growing number of authors listen to music as they write. Apparently, it can induce creativity. Do you listen to music or do you prefer silence?
It depends on my mood. Sometimes I listen to music but it can be distracting. I also find silence distracting because breakthrough noise – street sounds, my cats racing around the house – interrupts my concentration. I often have the TV on in the background, turned to something I don’t want to watch, but the voices keep me company. When I do listen to music it’s usually while plotting, thinking deeply about my story, often when driving. For instance, when writing Swim Season I came up with a playlist to inspire me. Many of the songs ran through my head as I composed important scenes. That was very motivational.
What are you reading now?
I belong to four book clubs (manage two!) so I’m usually reading something for one of them. I don’t attend or read for all four each month, I don’t have time for that, it depends on what we’re reading. I like to travel in my reading, so this month I’m going to Africa in Homegoing, written by Yaa Gyasi, an epic novel that, from the jacket, “traces 300 years In Ghana and along the way becomes a truly great American novel.” I’m always reading something on my Kindle too, and my current read, Nantucket White Christmas by Pamela Kelley, takes me to one of my favorite spots, Nantucket Island. I just finished Let it Snow, a highly recommended read from my favorite Nantucket author Nancy Thayer. This one just may be her best. February kicks off with the classic Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, a book club selection for Black History Month. So, you can see I’m an eclectic reader and travel far and wide geographically and throughout time via books. You’ll never find me not in the middle of at least two or three.
What are you working on at the moment?
My current work-in-progress is about a wedding. It’s another prequel to Blue Hydrangeas aptly entitled A Wedding at Blue Hydrangeas. I started it during Christmas week, 2018, shortly after publication of Christmas at Blue Hydrangeas. Ironically, my daughter became engaged in March, 2019, and I put aside my manuscript to focus on planning a real wedding, held December 29th, which was very different from the fictional wedding I conjured for my novella. In AW@BH, our heroine Sara is planning an outdoor, July reception for her son David and his bride Anne at their beautiful bed and breakfast, Blue Hydrangeas. They’re hosting a traditional Cape Cod clambake for 60 guests after a church ceremony. Unfortunately, a series of unforeseen events threaten to disrupt Sara’s careful planning. WIll the wedding go on? You’ll have to read the book, but first, I have to finish writing it.
An Excerpt from Christmas at Blue Hydrangeas
Sara peered out of the window and noted another inch of fresh snow on the ground. Time to get out the shovel.
She bundled up in an old parka and headed outside. The snow was light, and she cleared it with ease. She enjoyed working in the frigid weather, the cold air stinging her cheeks, her body made warm by her efforts. While she worked, she hummed a medley of Christmas carols.
The wind whipped the snow around her, and she remembered the empty bird feeders. She cleared an additional path to them and filled each with seed. She couldn’t bear to see her birds suffer. Satisfied, she moved on to the front of the house and was almost finished clearing the front walk and stairs when the sound of an approaching motor vehicle broke the silence. Seconds later, a pickup truck carrying a load of Christmas trees made its way up the drive.
She finished removing the last of the snow from the entrance to the house. “Come on in,” she called to the truck’s occupants as they exited the vehicle.
Minutes later, two burly men carried a magnificent Colorado Blue Spruce, ordered direct from the tree farm, up her front walk and into the house. She guided them into her formal living room and indicated the space in front of the window, a tree stand in place.
“Right there will be fine, Kenny,” she told the man in charge. His partner, Tom, was younger and smaller and never said much. She shed her parka and gloves, dropping snow onto the hardwood floor, and made a mental note to mop it up as soon as the men left.
“Do you want us to set it up for you?” Kenny took a small saw out of his pocket.
She nodded, and the men proceeded to cut an inch or so off the tree’s trunk. They stood the tree to its full height and inserted it into its sturdy metal stand. While she gave instructions, they positioned it to its best advantage.
“A little more to the left. Now back a bit. Not that far back. OK, that’s good. Leave it there.”
Pleased with the positioning of the tree, she waited while they secured it. They stood when finished and stepped back to appraise it with her.
“It’s a nice tree,” Kenny said. “We cut it down just yesterday morning.” He took a deep breath. “The room already smells like pine.”
She inhaled, closing her eyes. “It’s wonderful.”
“Anything else we can do for you before we hit the road? The snow’s getting heavy. The town’s plows can’t keep up with it.”
“How bad are the roads?”
“Getting worse by the minute.
Her hopes plummeted. “But the weatherman on the radio said the heavy snow will end later this morning.
“Haven’t you heard?” Kenny raised his bushy eyebrows. “Old news. The storm’s taken a new path. Most recent report says it’s supposed to get worse before it gets better. A lot worse.”
“What are you saying?” She’d turned off the radio after the weather report to enjoy the silence and hadn’t kept up with the news.
“A blizzard is on its way, the second big one this year. Seventy-eight will go down in history as one of the snowiest years ever.
“But it’s Christmas Eve,” she cried, and immediately felt silly. Mother Nature didn’t care about Christmas Eve
“That look on your face tells me David and Jack aren’t home yet.”
“No,” she revealed, even more disheartened. The thought of another blizzard to rival last February’s Great Blizzard of 1978 terrified her. The power had gone out. No heat. No stove. They were snowed in for days. But they were together, camped out in front of the fireplace, keeping warm, able to heat up cans of soup and brew coffee. It was a miserable welcome their first winter as full-time Cape Cod residents. During those long, cold days she considered going back to New York, but remembered the winters there were also wretched. She bucked up and soldiered on.
And now this.
Her debut novel Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer’s love story is a Kindle bestseller, IndieReader Approved, a Library Journal Self-e Selection, and a BookWorks featured book. It’s also available in paperback and audiobook on Amazon. A prequel to that novel, Christmas at Blue Hydrangeas, is available on Kindle and in paperback and audiobook. It was New Apple Literary’s Solo Medalist Winner in the 2019 Summer E-Book Awards for Short Story.
Marianne Sciucco is not a nurse who writes but a writer who happens to be a nurse. A lover of words and books, she dreamed of becoming an author when she grew up, but became a nurse to avoid poverty. she later brought her two passions together and writes about the intricate lives of people struggling with health and family issues. Her stories are considered “clean,” meaning free of overt sexuality, graphic violence, and offensive language.
Her Young Adult novel Swim Season is the fast-paced drama driven story of Olympic hopeful Aerin Keane, starting senior year in her third high school and trying NOT to win. But can she hide her natural talent and competitive streak? Especially with a 50,000-dollar scholarship on the line? Swim Season was an Official Selection in the 2017 New Apple Book Awards: Young Adult General Fiction, and is a 5-star Readers’ Favorite and a BookWorks Featured Book of the Week. Available in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook on Amazon.
She’s also published three short stories in Kindle and audio: Ino’s Love, Collection, Daisy Hunter Story No. 1, and Birthday Party, Daisy Hunter Story No. 2.
Marianne’s writing and publishing career led her to become a founding member of AlzAuthors, the blog for authors writing about the dementias. Their goal is to raise awareness of these diseases and to spotlight carefully vetted books and blogs recommended for caregivers and others looking for knowledge and support. Each week they feature a new author/blogger.
A native Bostonian, she lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, and when not writing works as a campus nurse at a community college. Everything she knows about publishing she learned on her own by reading books and blogs, joining writers’ groups, and attending writers’ conferences. This led her to share her knowledge both online via her blog and Facebook and Twitter account, and she also teaches classes in self-publishing at three colleges.
She loves books, the beach, and craft beer, and especially enjoys the three of them together.
N.N. Light’s Book Heaven New Year New Books Fete running throughout January.
Runs January 1 – 31 2020.
Draw to be held on February 1, 2020.
Calling all readers! It’s a brand new year and I’m ringing in 2020 with N. N Light’s Book Heaven New Year New Books Fete. 39 books from multiple genres featured plus a chance to win one of the following:
Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
Enter to win a $25 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
Enter to win a $10 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
I’m thrilled to be a part of this event. My book, Madame Fiocca, will be featured on 2 January 2020. I even talk about my resolutions/goals for the new year. You won’t want to miss it.
Bookmark this bookish get-together and tell your friends:
People often ask me when I began to write and why. Well, the answer is, it crept up on me. My first desire to write cropped up during my English lit degree with the Open University. For those of you familiar with the OU, one chooses which module they wish to study from a selection of courses relevant to the degree. I was in my third year, and at a crossroads. None of the options appealed to me, so I chose creative writing. Well, I thought I love to read, so why not? And that was that. With my love of history and a particular interest in WW2, I was hooked.
For me, it was a defining moment and I have not stopped writing since my degree years. It is fascinating how even the smallest of events define us, often altering our life’s path, encompassing great change. Perhaps we are drawn to the historical past because many events, situations remain current, and so people can identify with the past, and feel a certain connection.
My interests in military history range far and wide, but having come across an old biography written in the 1950s, about Nancy Wake, I was mesmerised. Later, I bought the memoir she wrote herself, published in the 1980s. While it was a captivating read, it mainly detailed her life in France on the eve of war and during. I learned about her time as a journalist in the 1930s, her first encounter with her future husband, Henri Fiocca, a wealthy industrialist, her courageous work as a courier with the Resistance, and finally, her life as an SOE agent.
All accounts talk of her war work, and I often read about this fierce Guerrilla fighter, a leader of seven thousand maquisards, who could drink any man under the table and still be sober enough to recall every detail. But instinctively I knew there was more to this fearless lady. Yes, she was strong-willed, she was angry, so ferociously angry with the Germans, and for a good reason. Mad enough to have the will to do something about their cruel ways.
Nancy was a lady who enjoyed the finer things in life, beautiful clothes, and dining. She was as far removed from the fighter she became when she first stepped onto French soil in 1933. Once I’d read all about her, a picture formed in my mind, but it was one mined with gaping holes, where secrets lay, buried, forgotten, and I had to uncover them to get to the heart of this amazing woman.
Nancy Wake was a frivolous, decent, young woman when she decided to study journalism in the early 1930s. She’d left her home in Sydney, unhappy with family life, embarked on a cruise, docked in England at the finale, and had to make a living. So, having completed a six-month course, armed with the basics in reporting and typing, she was fortunate enough to be offered a post in Paris, working with the Hearst News Group. In the beginning, life was idyllic.
She had suitors, dined out, and enjoyed the jet-setting lifestyle of a reporter, travelling the breadth of France, venturing across borders into Europe. It was her travels where she began to hear and see for herself, the ugliness metered out by the Nazi Party. Like so many at that time, she was intrigued by Adolf Hitler, but when she finally witnessed the brutal treatment of Jewish people by the SA in Vienna, she’d seen enough. It was a turning point in her young, gentile life. A defining moment. Hatred of the Nazis began to burn in her soul, one that would burn until her dying breath. What she witnessed in Vienna defined her in a heartbeat, and she would seize her chance when it sailed along, making a decision that would change her life forever.
The Nancy I went searching for, was a young girl in Sydney, having moved there with her family at the age of two. Originally born in New Zealand, her mother was descended from the French Huguenots and Maoris, her father from the British. Nancy had a tough upbringing, and her parents divorced when she was six years old. Sadly, her father sold the family home, effectively leaving his wife and children homeless. A new home elsewhere beckoned. Nancy was the youngest of all of her siblings, and so childhood was lonely at home. But when she went to school, she found friends and was a bit of a tomboy by all accounts.
It was this innocent child that drew me in because I began to picture a girl who had been shaped by hard family life, disappointment, rejection, an apparent lack of parental affection, and scarred by the absence of her father. As she once said, ‘I adored my dad, but he was a bastard.’ Nancy never saw her father again.
As people, we are so complex, and Nancy was no different. It seemed essential that I discovered every detail possible, to truly know the subject of my novel. Not all detail needed to be included in the book, it’s more about finding the person. After much digging and trawling genealogy sites, I’d gathered as much information as I was likely to find. Finally, I’d found Nancy. And she was quite different to the figure in those biographies.
Once we find what we are looking for, we must make sense of it, and things aren’t always as they seem. Nancy was often quoted as saying that she was never afraid. She was too busy to be scared, or her hatred of the Nazis flowed so deep that eclipsed all else. Well, you see, I believe Nancy was afraid, and, quite rightly so. I think what she genuinely realised was that fear would not be a barrier. She really was far too busy to dwell on it, and, like most people, simply got on with things. As a writer, we have an option to exercise some creative licence when writing about real people, while taking care to be as factually correct as reasonably possible.
As any writer of historical fiction knows, the research phase of writing can be exhausting, producing mountains of notes, many of which are never utilised – at least not in the written sense. But much of what is uncovered is used in other ways because the writer is now informed, and such insight informs their writing, characterisation, voice etc. It is the light bulb moment – a defining event. And it’s exciting, and satisfying when that finally happens.
Madame Fiocca is available to buy now from Amazon as an e-book. It is also available to read for FREE via KindleUnlimited – mybook.to/MadameFiocca
My love of military history has led me to the most fascinating discoveries – of people and their stories. Of those, one, in particular, stands out from the crowd.
Serenade To The Big Bird was written by 1st Lt. Bert Stiles, of the United States Air Force. Before this, Bert flew bomber missions as a co-pilot with the 91st Bomb Group and was based in Bassingbourn, England. After completing his tour of duty, he had the opportunity to return to his homeland but he had always wanted to fly fighters and so he requested to do so. He had 35 bomber missions under his belt. Incidentally, Bassingbourn was also home to one of the more famous B-17’s, The Memphis Belle.
Prior to the war, Bert had enjoyed success with his short stories, selling them to various publications. Throughout his war service, he continued to write. His dream of becoming a fighter pilot was finally realised and he began flying missions late 1944.
Tragically, Bert lost his life at the grand age of twenty-four, when on the 26th November 1944 he became a victim of target fixation whilst chasing an FW-190 in his P-51.
This book was published posthumously by Bert’s mother in 1947 and is a collection of his journal entries from his war service. It details his service from the first time he becomes part of a crew right up until their last mission, thus following some of the air war over Europe. However, the way he wrote is so natural and relaxed and very reminiscent of Hemingway.
Bert details life outside of flying, the social side of the air force. He talks about losses, planes and men. He mentions the fact that he finds it difficult keeping the ship in tight formation. He describes flak so thick you could get out and walk on it. It’s rather a warts and all version but without being too gory.
I particularly love one sentence, where he’s just had a gruesome experience. He’s talking about a waist gunner who was killed on a mission. He didn’t know him but he says, “Maybe the guy was a quiet one who taught Sunday-school class, maybe a dreamer waiting for a princess to dance down a moonbeam out of the sky, maybe a drunk.” Such simple words yet powerful and emotive. Bert was poetic, imaginative and an emerging fantastic literary talent.
Stiles is interred in the Ardennes American Cemetery, Neupre, Liege, Belgium. He was awarded the Air Medal (with five oak leaf clusters), the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart. His book, Serenade To The Big Bird, is considered a classic among aviation enthusiasts.
So, if you’ve ever wondered what it was really like for those boys, go grab a copy because I’m telling you, it’s fascinating. R.I.P. Bert Stiles. I salute you.
Today I’m so pleased to welcome historical fiction author, Anne Allen, whose latest book, The Betrayal, will be released tomorrow, October 20th.
Hello Anne and welcome! Congratulations on the new release! This is a very exciting time for you as you’re launching the sixth book in The Guernsey Novels series and I’m sure you have a number of fans eagerly awaiting the release.
There’s such a lot involved when you’re an Indie author. Can you tell me how you’ve found the publishing process so far?
Let’s say it’s not been easy! When I wrote my first novel 11 years ago, I naively thought I’d find an agent and they would, in turn, magic up a grateful publisher. Some years on and I realised this was not going to happen, in spite of some encouraging words from an agent or two. Fortunately, this coincided with the advent of self-publishing, and I took the plunge and used a service publisher, Matador, to launch ‘Dangerous Waters’ onto the unsuspecting, and probably not very interested, world. Since then I’ve established my own imprint and published another 5 titles. The advantage of going Indie is that I have more control and all of the royalties; the disadvantage is that I have all of the work, and the buck stops with me. But, I carry on, as I enjoy the writing process and there’s nothing quite like seeing the fruit of one’s hard work sitting on shelves in bookstores or lined up virtually on an Amazon page. ☺
I understand completely and I have to agree with you – and it’s definitely a lot of hard work but so rewarding as you say. What inspired you to write this story?
My latest in The Guernsey Novels series is ‘The Betrayal’ and is dual-time, split between the German Occupation of Guernsey in WWII and the present day. Two separate historical facts inspired the story: Renoir’s visit to Guernsey in 1833 when he painted numerous views of Moulin Huet Bay and the forceful deportation of Jews on Guernsey to concentration camps by the Germans.
That’s so fascinating – I love how the art concept captured your imagination and how you weaved it so seamlessly into the story.
Can you tell us a little about The Guernsey Novels?
All the stories take place predominantly on Guernsey and are linked by characters popping up from one book to another. I see them as together offering the ongoing story of a ‘village’ spread, so far, over 6 years. Each book is standalone with fresh new lead characters with their own links to the Occupation years having an impact on the present. A mix of mystery, family drama and love story and influenced by my love of the island where I spent many happy years. Guernsey itself is always a main character in the books, offering a gorgeous backdrop to all the sorrows, joys and tragedies I describe.
Place is such a vital element in a story, evoking mood, tone and memories for instance and it certainly shows that you know this place very well.
Are you a full-time author?
Only in that I don’t have another job! I was a psychotherapist for many years and started writing when I moved back to England and had few clients. For the past 4 years, I’ve decided writing is much more fun than listening to people’s problems every day ☺
Well it sounds as if you had a fascinating previous occupation and I’m sure that’s proved helpful in some ways to your writing.
How do you approach your writing and research? Do you plan strategically or do you wait to see where the muse takes you?
I have to have a plan, even if it’s a little hazy at the beginning. I always know the starting point and where I want to end up, or rather, where I want my characters to end up. My last two books have been dual time, which complicates the planning, but makes it more interesting. Most of my research is focused on the earlier time frame, WWII, as I’m pretty well up on modern Guernsey unless police procedure is involved and then I phone a policeman! I enjoy the research aspect but have been known to get carried away and forget I’m writing a novel which may only need a little background information. Shades of my days as a student studying history!
I empathise over the dual timeline and the difficulties of planning – something I’ve recently discovered for myself.
Have you ever been tempted to write in another genre?
As my books are cross-genre, I feel I’m dipping in and out of different genres anyway. I couldn’t write horror, fantasy or sci-fi, but perhaps one day I might be tempted to try psychological suspense or crime. Having said that, my books are littered with bodies…
What are you working on now?
‘Working’ is probably an overstatement as I’ve only started playing with the overall idea for book 7, ‘The Inheritance’. This will take me into new territory as part of the story will be set in late 19th Century Guernsey, the home of Victor Hugo for 15 years. He actually finished Les Miserables during that time, as well as publishing a number of other works. My character, Eugenie, is employed as his copyist and it’s her story I shall be telling. The other part of the dual time is set in the present and concerns a young woman, Tess, who inherits the house once owned by Eugenie, and goes on to discover family secrets.
That sounds amazing – looking forward to book 7 already.
What’s the hardest part about writing a series?
Not repeating myself! As the books are set in the same location of Guernsey, it’s difficult to find something fresh to say about the island in the present; not so hard when writing about the past. As characters pop in from book to book, I also have to remember what’s happening in their lives – partners, children etc. I really need to set up a spreadsheet!
I know – it’s only when I came to write novels that I discovered how unorganised I am! There’s so much to keep track of.
When you wrote the first book in this series, did you know it was to be a series from the beginning or was this something you realised after completing the book?
It took until the third book, ‘Guernsey Retreat’, to realise this was a ‘proper’ series, as opposed to books set in the same place. At that point I had new covers designed to form a brand, making all the titles instantly recognisable.
I love your brand – it’s something that’s vital, especially if you do write a series.
What part of the research process do you enjoy most?
Talking to people who have the specialised knowledge I can draw on. For example, with ‘The Betrayal’ I had long phone calls with a policeman and a funeral director. Makes for interesting conversations!
Can you tell us your latest news?
I was chuffed when ‘Echoes of Time’, book 5, won The Diamond Book Award 2017, a prize for Indie authors. It was also a finalist in the Readers Favorite Award an international award for all authors.
Congratulations on that news, Anne – that’s so wonderful for you. Thank you so much for chattingwith us today. It’s been a pleasure and I wish you much success with your latest release. All best wishes to you.
Paperback & ebook available to buy from October 20th, 2017:Amazon
Treachery and theft lead to death – and love
1940. Teresa Bichard and her baby are sent by her beloved husband, Leo, to England as the Germans draw closer to Guernsey. Days later they invade…
1942. Leo, of Jewish descent, is betrayed to the Germans and is sent to a concentration camp, never to return.
1945. Teresa returns to find Leo did not survive and the family’s valuable art collection, including a Renoir, is missing. Heartbroken, she returns to England.
2011. Nigel and his twin Fiona, buy a long-established antique shop in Guernsey and during a refit, find a hidden stash of paintings, including what appears to be a Renoir. Days later, Fiona finds Nigel dead, an apparent suicide. Refusing to accept the verdict, a distraught Fiona employs a detective to help her discover the truth…
Searching for the rightful owner of the painting brings Fiona close to someone who opens a chink in her broken heart. Can she answer some crucial questions before laying her brother’s ghost to rest?
Who betrayed Leo?
Who knew about the stolen Renoir?
And are they prepared to kill – again?
I have now enjoyed all of Anne Allen’s novels, and I’m becoming a big fan. She is a very ‘lively’ writer who seems to enjoy giving her readers a wonderful set of characters in a soft, almost velvety setting. Her books also offer a strong historical element, most often World War Two when the Germans invaded the island.
In the sixth novel in the set, Fiona and her twin brother, Nigel, discover hidden artwork in the walls of an antique shop. They attempt to discover whom it belonged to but, when Nigel ‘supposedly’ kills himself, Fiona attempts to discover the truth.
I must say that The Betrayal has a very different feel to it than the other novels in the set. The island is still lovingly described, the characters just as interesting and well developed, but the underlying mystery is so prominent in this story; in fact, in parts, it is almost a thriller. The pacing is faster right from the opening chapter with Teresa and Leo deciding whether to run from the invading Germans or not. And the ending is just as exciting. All in all, totally unputdownable!
To sum up, this is a wonderful novel, with tons of pace where pace is needed, and a setting so lovingly described, it is almost a character in the book. I am happy to recommend this story, in fact, all of them, to anybody who enjoys a well-plotted mystery populated with convincing and always credible characters. ∼A ‘Wishing Shelf’ Book Review.
Source: Advanced reader copy received from publisher.
Having read Anne’s last book, Echoes of Time, I couldn’t wait to read her latest, and I wasn’t disappointed. The novel alternates between WW2 and 2011 and is set on the beautiful island of Guernsey. The Betrayal features twins, Fiona and Nigel, who discover a Renoir within the walls of their antique shop in 2011. When Nigel is found dead, and suicide is suspected, Fiona refuses to believe that her brother would end his own life and she sets out to uncover the truth. Unravelling the mystery will carry her on a journey back to 1940, and to the dark days of the German Occupation and the deportation of Jews.
The story is well crafted with beautiful scenes of the island of Guernsey springing to life and all things WW2 perfectly portrayed. Historical facts are seamlessly interwoven into the story which is well paced with realistic, well-developed characters set within a fascinating plot with twists and turns. All in all, it’s an engrossing read and one that will sweep you away to war, mystery and romance. I can highly recommend it. ∼Review by Suzy Henderson
Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children, and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby. Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns.
By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist, but long had the itch to write. Now a full-time writer, she has written The Guernsey Novels, five having been published and the sixth, The Betrayal, is due out in October 2017.
For all the latest book and writing news, be sure to follow Anne here:
Today I’m thrilled to announce The Du Lac Princess – a fantastic new release by award-winning author, Mary Anne Yarde, available to buy now. For fans of her series, The Du Lac Chronicles, this latest release is certain to be a hit with new and existing fans alike.
War is coming…
The ink has dried on Amandine’s death warrant. Her crime? She is a du Lac.
All that stands in the way of a grisly death on a pyre is the King of Brittany. However, King Philippe is a fickle friend, and if her death is profitable to him, then she has no doubt that he would light the pyre himself.
Alan, the only man Amandine trusts, has a secret and must make an impossible choice, which could have far-reaching consequences — not only for Amandine, but for the whole of Briton.
“This isn’t a laughing matter,” there was censure in the monk’s words.
“If I don’t laugh then I am going to cry. I have been made to feel like a sinner even though I haven’t sinned, not really. I am a woman without hope and without any friends or family. I have lost everyone I ever loved, and now you tell me that life is going to be difficult. How much more difficult can it get?”
“The Pope has condemned you with Bell, Book and Candle,” Brother Daniel stated. “But that is not all. The Abbot made sure that the Pope was all too aware of your crimes. I am sorry, Amandine, but the Pope will never welcome you back into the Church.”
Amandine gasped, her laughter faded and any colour that was left on her face vanished. “What?” her voice was quiet, barely audible. “But I thought…all the penance. I thought… Tell me it isn’t true.”
“You are damned,” Brother Daniel confirmed. “No one will want you, neither man nor Church. You are completely at the mercy of Philippe. But rest assured, I believe he has every intention of protecting you. I will not lie to you, my dear, you will be shunned, even with the King’s support. The chances of you marrying again are very slim.”
“I wasn’t looking for a new husband,” Amandine said as she tried to make sense of Brother Daniel’s words.
“It also means that you will never be able to leave the protection of the castle. The protection of this room.”
Amandine scoffed with realisation. “I am to be Philippe’s prisoner? Why don’t you just say what you mean?”
“You are not his prisoner, think of it as being his special guest. This is for your own protection. Many would see you hang or worse. I have spoken to the King. Alan will be in charge of your safety from now on. Philippe thought you would find no fault in that, as you and Alan appear to be on good terms. Amandine, you must understand there are many who saw what you did the day Merton died. They saw how you were dressed in his clothes. They saw how you threw yourself at him. How you got down on your knees and begged the King for mercy on Merton’s behalf. They saw how Merton reacted when you were threatened. And those who didn’t will have listened when the Abbot condemned you. You are a fallen woman, a threat to their good Christian souls. Our main concern now is keeping you alive. You must never leave this room. Ever.”
“But I thought—”
“That you were doing penance? So you have said. Did you really think that the Abbot was going to pardon you of all your sins? Oh, Amandine, you are not stupid. He was never going to give you absolution.”
Amandine shook her head, and she began to wring her hands together in despair.
“You must be strong,” Brother Daniel reached across and stilled her hands with his. “And brave. Just like our Lord Jesus was in those darkest of days. Remember, he too was condemned for a crime he did not commit.” He smiled at her and squeezed her hands. “I must leave you now. I shall make sure some food is brought up, but it will be tested before you eat it, so do not fear about being poisoned.”
“Poisoned?” Amandine gasped, she had not even thought of that.
“You need to rest and regain your strength.” Brother Daniel rose to his feet and smiled down at her. “I will be back tomorrow to listen to your confession.”
“If I am damned, then what need do I have to confess?” Amandine asked, staring defiantly back at the monk. “Besides,” she looked away, “I consort with demons. I am evil. I am a sinner. My soul will burn in Hell. I will be damned forever—”
“Ask for mercy, and you will receive it,” Brother Daniel stated, interrupting her.
“I have,” Amandine challenged back, “and look where that has got me.”
Mary Anne Yarde is the Award-Winning author of the International Best Selling Series — The Du Lac Chronicles. Set a generation after the fall of King Arthur, The Du Lac Chronicles takes you on a journey through Dark Age Briton and Brittany, where you will meet new friends and terrifying foes. Based on legends and historical fact, The Du Lac Chronicles is a series not to be missed.
Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne Yarde grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury–the fabled Isle of Avalon–was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.
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Today it’s a pleasure to have historical fiction author, Samantha Wilcoxson with us to chat about her writing life. Her latest novel, Queen Of Martyrs was released on April 12th, 2017, and is the third book in the Plantagenet Embers series. Welcome, Samantha.
How have you found the publishing process so far?
Now that I’ve been through the process a few times, I enjoy taking responsibility for my work from start to finish. Self-publishing offers many challenges in editing, formatting, and design, but it also offers incredible creative freedom. I used to spend days getting things to look just right, but once I came up with a system of formatting from the moment I begin a new project it became much simpler. The independent writing community is extremely supportive, and I have received help and encouragement from more people than I can say.
What inspired you to write this story?
A friend recommended that I write about Queen Mary upon completing Faithful Traitor. I was already gearing up to travel back to the beginning of the Plantagenet dynasty when he pointed out that I had left readers wanting to know more about what happened to that little girl whom Margaret Pole had loved as if she were her own. At first, I dismissed the idea, not having much interest in carrying on into the Tudor dynasty and certain that Mary’s story must have already been told. What I found when I began looking for historical fiction sympathetic to Mary’s point of view was that I was wrong. I quickly became passionate about filling that void.
Can you tell us a little about your novels?
What has become the Plantagenet Embers trilogy, began with a desire to write about one woman, Elizabeth of York. Hers was a story that had gone largely untold despite her proximity to kings, tragedy, and mystery. When she was mentioned, it was often as an inactive bystander to events. I wanted to look at the tumultuous events of the end of the Wars of the Roses and the beginning of the Tudor dynasty more deeply from her personal point of view. By the time I had completed Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen, I knew that I had to carry on with the story of Margaret Pole, a woman overlooked to an even greater extent than her royal cousin. Before I knew it, I was looking at a trilogy of the York remnant rather than a stand-alone novel.
Each of these novels is told from a close third person point of view. Therefore, the reader sees history play out as it would have been seen by the protagonist. I do not jump to a battle scene but wait with Elizabeth as she prays for her husband’s safe return. Margaret is left to wonder what is going on at court and get her news where she can, so the focus of her story is not on Henry VIII’s scandals outside of where they personally impact Margaret. Mary’s story is told the same way, though, in her case, she does become the reigning monarch. Each woman’s personality colors the way they interpret and react to well-known historical events.
Are you a full-time author?
I would have to say sort of. I do not have a job outside of writing, but I do have three children. My working hours are generally limited to when I do not have any of them home or housework to do, but that is another great benefit of a writing career. It easily fits within and around the other demands upon my time. I look forward to truly writing full time in a few years when they are all off to college.
How do you approach your writing and research? Do you plan strategically or do you wait to see where the muse takes you?
As I suspect is true with most authors, I do a little bit of both. I begin with researching the person that I have chosen to write about. Because I live in the US and write about England, that generally means ordering lots of books rather than research trips, though I was blessed enough to take a trip to the UK in 2015. I begin with a detailed timeline of my protagonist’s life, including both personal events, such as marriages and childbirths, and the broader historical events going on around them. Based on these facts, I begin to create personalities and motivations that make sense to me, evolving that timeline into a personal story. In each book, characters have blossomed into more than I thought they might be when I began. Cecily of York is an example of that from my first book. I did not plan to make her a major character or to give her such a spunky personality, but she has ended up a readers’ favorite. The same thing happened when I was able to bring Catherine Gordon, the wife of Perkin Warbeck, into Margaret’s story. I hadn’t previously realized how much their stories intertwined. It is fascinating to see where that stark list of facts can take my characters.
Have you ever been tempted to write in another genre?
I started out writing another genre because I was intimidated by my beloved historical fiction. My first published work is middle-grade inspirational fiction titled No Such Thing as Perfect. I also published a middle-grade historical fiction novel, Over the Deep, before convincing myself that I needed to explore my true passion. I’m so glad I did! There is no place I would rather be lost than in historic England.
Though I do not ever see myself stepping away from writing about history, I am also taking the plunge into nonfiction with a group project coming out this summer from Pen & Sword Books. The British Stripped Bare will be a look at romance throughout the history of Britain, and I am privileged to work on it with a group of wonderful writers. My personal contribution will be a look at the barriers to making a marriage in Tudor England and a few scandalous couples who snuck around them.
What part of the research process is the most enjoyable?
It is a joy to see historical figures come to life centuries after they are gone, even if it is only in my imagination. I love finding little tidbits of information in biographies that make great story elements, such as the fact that Margaret Pole and Catherine Gordon served Princess Mary together or Elizabeth of York’s odd final progress while she was ill and pregnant. A great biography can be just as compelling as historical fiction, and I appreciate the glimpse into the way people thought and lived differently. I especially enjoy exploring the way faith was such an important facet of their lives. This especially comes out in Mary’s story, of course, with her attempt at counter-reformation, but each of these women made many of their important life decisions based on teachings of the church. It is such an entirely different worldview than we hold today, and I find it captivating.
Like any incurable bibliophile, I have many, but I am also devoted to trying new authors. Sharon Kay Penman is probably the greatest inspiration for my writing. My style is my own, but her dedication to extensive research and giving life to those long dead is a philosophy I have attempted to emulate. I also adore the writing of CJ Sansom. His Matthew Shardlake has to be my most beloved fictional character. When he is hurt or disappointed, my heart aches. Toni Mount’s new Seb Foxley series greatly reminds me of Shardlake, so I have a growing attachment to her books as well.
Of course, every writer also has their favorite classic authors. Mine is Charlotte Bronte. Villette is a book that spoke directly to my soul, and I love the eloquent use of descriptive language in each of the Brontes’ novels. They have a way of writing about matters of the heart that make the reader say, ‘Yes! That’s just how it feels!’ Edith Wharton is another favorite. I love the slow build and inevitable heartbreak.
That’s a tough one! I would have to say Hebrews 10:24. ‘Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.’
I’m not much of a movie fan, though I have a soft spot for Star Wars. I prefer period dramas, such as Downton Abbey, The Borgias, Victoria, John Adams, North and South, The Crown, and even the questionably accurate The Tudors.
Samantha Wilcoxson is an American writer and history enthusiast. She has written three novels and works as a freelance writer. Living with her husband on a small lake in Michigan with three kids, two cats, and two dogs, Samantha has plenty of writing inspiration.
‘Plantagenet Princess, Tudor Queen’ has been named an Editors’ Choice by the Historical Novel Society. This most recent of Wilcoxson’s novels has been long-listed for the 2016 HNS Indie Award.
Today I’m delighted to welcome author Nicky Clifford into the spotlight. Welcome, Nicky! Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello and thanks for inviting me. I’m married with two children and I work part-time for a local charity. Writing has always been my passion, but I never felt confident enough to pursue my dream so I entered the corporate world of HR & Training. Now my sons are teenagers, and with the amazing support of my husband, Mark, I finally feel able to focus on my writing.
What genres do you write and why?
Never Again is a romance, as are my three other completed and three half-finished novels hidden away in my ‘to be revamped at some stage’ folder! I have always been intrigued by the numerous and bumpy paths to romance, combined with the complex ‘will they, won’t they’ couples’ dance as they journey towards their ‘happy ever after’.
When did you first become aware of wanting to be a writer?
At primary school, I loved writing poems and making up stories. I was always told that I had a “lively imagination”; I’m not sure that was thought to be a good thing! Everywhere I went I had to have a pad with me (and still do!) in case some line for a poem or some other idea popped into my head. My mum used to keep all my letters; by the time they spilled out of the biggest box you can imagine, I had to do some much-needed culling!
Which authors do you feel have influenced you the most?
When I was a teenager, I went through Mills & Boon at the same speed as most other teenagers go through tubes of sweets, although I did go through sweets as well, but maybe not at quite the same pace . . . Enid Blyton was one of my favourite authors; the suspense and magic that she weaved through her words gave me hours and hours of wonderful escape, which ignited my imagination.
Please tell us about your latest published book or your current WIP.
Never Again is a contemporary romance: Mountains, Mystery, Romance: Can you run from your past? Harriet Anderson’s life is spiralling out of control. Unused to such mayhem, she ditches her high-powered job to take refuge in the Swiss Alps where she meets Philippe Smith, a crime writer with a dark and shadowy past. Thrown together by chance, is their fate intertwined? Will the karma and romance of the mountains and the quaintness of the Alps soothe their troubled souls? Or will their rocky paths create avalanches that cannot be avoided…
What do you love the most about writing and what do you dislike?
I love it when my writing flows, and when I look back at what I’ve written, I’m often astounded that this is something I created. What I dislike are certain aspects of life that interrupt my writerly flow, particularly the boring admin and house-cleaning, gardening-type things, but excluding, of course, friends, family and my husband and sons! Seriously though, I do have to execute more discipline when I am in the midst of editing my book, particularly if it is for the 5th, 6th or 7th plus time!
What do you love most about being an author and what do you dislike?
Holding my book in my hand is the most indescribably amazing feeling – that is what I love the most, oh and of course when someone loves reading my book – that is pure gold! I’m not so fond of the complicated process of self-publishing and the times when self-doubt whispers persistently in my ear.
Can you share with us the next book on your reading list?
I have started reading The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes. I haven’t got that far in but am already engaged in the story. The other book I am starting this week is The Taming of theQueen by Philippa Gregory – for me, she brings history alive with plenty of drama and a lot of swishing of underskirts and the regular partaking of gigantic feasts! I now have a compelling incentive to ensure I fit in more reading as, following my interview this week with Bill Buckley at BBC Radio Berkshire, Bill has invited me back to join their Book Club next month!
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
I am much better at everything in the morning, as my energy starts to flag later in the day. I also particularly like it when I am alone in the house, and I can completely lose myself in my world of words without a breath of interruption, that is until the phone rings!
A little extra about Nicky
Having completed a writing course at Reading University, she is a member of her local writing group who have been instrumental in Nicky reaching ‘The End’ of her debut novel, Never Again. Nicky was a keen ice skater, managing to perfect backward crossovers and one-foot turns but has recently hung up her boots to spend more time cycling by the canal and practising ballroom dancing with her husband, as well as relaxing with her friends and family at home in Berkshire.She has decided to make a donation from the book royalties to the charities, Auticulate and Childhood Tumour Trust.
Never Again launched on 21st October and is available in Kindle and Paperback from Amazon: