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REMEMBER NO MORE

 BY JAN NEWTON

Genre: Crime

Series: A DS Kite Mystery # 1

Release Date:  16 March 2017

Publisher: Honno Press

A DS Kite novel – a city detective joins the mid-Wales force
bringing new insights and ruffling country feathers

Newly promoted DS Julie Kite is at a crossroads.  Her husband’s desire for a different life takes her away from urban Manchester and its inner city problems to tranquil mid-Wales. It is to be a clean slate for them both. On her first day at Builth Wells police station, Julie is thrust unexpectedly into the centre of an investigation into a suspicious death in a remote farming community.

Back in Manchester, Stephen Collins is set free from HMP Strangeways.  Bible in hand he makes his way to mid-Wales, the scene of the heinous crime for which he was imprisoned, in order to confront those who had a hand in his incarceration.

The twists and turns of the investigation into solicitor Gareth Watkin’s death force

DS Kite to confront her own demons as well as those of her rural community and, ultimately, to uncover the lengths to which we’ll go to protect our families…

My Review:

This is a plot with many twists and turns. The depths of the historic layers are slowly revealed alongside the introduction of the protagonist, Detective Sergeant Julie Kite and her struggles in both her work and home life. I loved the author’s ability to balance  – and juggle – both, and to keep the reader interested throughout the story. For me the genre of crime fiction can only work if there are false leads, clues that baffle or can give a ‘eureka’ moment. Remember No More does all these.

 The story is told from an omniscient point of view, weighted mostly from the protagonist’s viewpoint and this works, as I have the feeling we will be hearing more from DS Kite. But there is also an insight to the other characters and this adds depth to the them; to their struggles, their loyalties, their place in both the community and their families. The characters are well rounded and it is easy to empathise with some of them – and to recognise the weakness and malevolence in others. 

 The dialogue works well, differentiating the Welsh born characters and contrasting with the accent of Julie Kite and other Northern England characters. The internal dialogue gives greater perception to them all. I liked the slow internal acceptance of the protagonist’s change of life and work situation from Northern England to Wales.

I think one of the great strengths in the author’s writing is the descriptions of the settings. If I can’t picture the world the characters live in, it doesn’t work for me. Jan Newton  bases her book in mid Wales. The details are authentic and give a tangible sense of place. I admired  her ability to bring the sense of place alive. I was immediately drawn in by a very early description: ” the road was hemmed in either side by reeds and grasses, which had been bleached by the winter’s snow and were still untouched by the spring sunshine…”.And later, “the car rattled over a cattle grid and a vista of villages and isolated farms opened up below them as the road hair-pinned to the right, before descending along the edge of a steep valley. the tops of the hills were the pale browns of moorland, but the valley bottoms were already lush with meadows and hedges.” Good stuff!!

If I had any reservations about the story it would be about the relationship between the protagonist and her husband. But this is only because I wanted to know the background of their marriage. Perhaps this is just the author being enigmatic; maybe this is something to be revealed in the next story of DS Julie Kite. 

A couple of last mentions; I love the cover, the image is wonderful, I feel it is the scene that the buzzard sees in the Prologue. Oh, I do like prologues!

 I enjoyed reading Remember No More. It’s an extremely good debut novel and I do hope this is not the last we hear of DS Julie Kite and her collegues. 

This is  a book I have no hesitation in recommending to any reader who enjoys a good strong crime mystery.

I’ve also interviewed Jan. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/2oBcgHY

 BUY LINKS

http://www.honno.co.uk/dangos.php?ISBN=9781909983564

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Remember-No-More-Jan-Newton/dp/190998356X/

https://www.amazon.com/Remember-No-More-Jan-Newton/dp/190998356X/

https://wordery.com/remember-no-more-jan-newton-9781909983564

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ABOUT JAN NEWTON

Jan grew up in Manchester and Derbyshire, spending her formative years on the back of a pony, exploring the hills and moorland around her home.  She lived and worked in London and Buckinghamshire for 19 years until moving to Wales in 2005, where she learnt to speak fluent Welsh. Jan has won several writing competitions, including the Allen Raine Short Story competition, the WI Lady Denman Cup, and the Oriel Davies Gallery competition for nature-writing. She has been published in New Welsh Review.

A WORD FROM JAN NEWTON

I wrote my first novel when I was seven, all about the adventures of a little green one-legged spaceman, who crash-landed his tiny ship in my north Manchester suburb.   We had plenty of adventures, Fred and me, filling fourteen Lancashire Education Committee exercise books and earning me two gold stars in the process.  But when I was eight, a rotund Welsh Mountain Pony by the name of Pixie trotted into my life, and writing was immediately relegated in favour of all things equine. 

It took more years than I care to admit for me to resume my writing career.  In 2005 we moved to gloriously inspiring mid Wales.  In 2009 I stumbled across an Open University creative writing module and the rest, as they say, is history.  After completing my OU degree, I fulfilled a lifetime ambition and enrolled on an MA course at Swansea University.  The whole experience was magical.  It was like being taken by the hand and led back to a place where my imagination could run riot.

I began by writing short stories, which I love, but I always feel disappointed when I have to say goodbye to my characters so soon, and so the next challenge was to attempt a novel.   It’s been a fantastic experience, from its shaky start in a brand new exercise book, but now, finally, I have my second novel.  I still have a horse – this one’s been with me for over twenty years – but these days I seem to be able to allow the two obsessions – books and horses – to run side by side.

Twitter:  @janmaesygroes

Blog:  https://jannewton.wordpress.com

Website:  www.jannewton.net

 GIVEAWAY

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4be03017222/?

jan

 

 

 

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today with Jenny Lloyd #MondayBlogs

Over the next few months I’ll be chatting with authors who, like me, write Family Sagas, (#familysaga) a genre that can cover many countries, years  and cultures.I am thrilled that so many excellent writers have agreed to meet here with me. I’m sure you’ll find them as fascinating as I do. All I can say is watch this space. Your TBR list of books will be toppling over!!

 

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Hi, Jenny, Lovely to see you here today

Thank you for inviting me to this interview, Judith. The questions you’ve asked have given me reason to reflect upon my writing life and the why and how I write what I do. It has been a challenging and enlightening exercise which I have thoroughly enjoyed!

What made you decide to write in your genre?

When I began researching my family history and discovered the real-life stories of my ancestors. Discovering the tragedies in the lives of my grandmother, and her grandmother, set me on a journey to find out why and how such things could happen. Researching the religious and social norms of the times made me realise just how absent were the rights of women and how entrenched were the inequalities and double standards. There were no support systems, no safety nets, and society and its institutions served to reinforce traditional attitudes and beliefs that women were both a dangerous temptation to men and inferior to men. Women were always to blame in cases of sexual assault and rape, and women had to be controlled and contained within a life constrained by familial and marital duty. Across Britain, women who attempted to see their assailants prosecuted were openly jeered, mocked and humiliated by courtrooms of men. It is a disgrace that women were ever treated thus. I remember that time, back in the eighties, when they were closing all the old mental asylums. Aged women were coming out who had spent their entire adult lives in mental institutions. Some had been sent there in their teens for having got themselves pregnant out of wedlock. It was shocking. Inequalities applied to all women, but in isolated, rural communities such as in Wales, influenced by the rigid, non-conformist, hell-fire preachers of the time, the expectations placed on women to uphold ideals of purity were equal to the punishment if they were discovered to have fallen short. I have no doubt that many grew up in loving families, married loving husbands and lived contented lives in these idyllic surroundings; but for those who were failed by families, lovers, or husbands, it was a very different outcome. My grandmother had a terrible life, just terrible.

What other authors of your genre are you connected/friends with, and do they help you become a better writer in any way?

I do read a lot of books by other historical authors, regardless of whether I am socially connected with them. Some are awesome, are the most excellent of writers, and fill me with aspiration and ambition to improve.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

I think that to sustain the amount of energy needed to write a full-length novel you must feel passionate about your subject. Personally, I write from a sense of outrage at the cruelties and injustices which have sprung from socially sanctioned inequality. Wherever there is inequality, there will always be those who will use that imbalance of power to their own ends, whether that be in a marriage, a community, or society as a whole. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to feel that strongly – it fuels the fire and underlies my feeling that I must write to the best of my ability to do the subject justice. If I thought I failed to do that, I would give up writing and leave the job to someone else.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I don’t write in a particular style for the sake of originality. As a reader, I am slightly put off if I feel the author is trying to be original either in their choice of subject matter or in the portrayal of their characters. Originality, in that sense, can be at the expense of authenticity, I think. I don’t know about originality, but I am quite particular in how I like to tell a story, i.e. I tend towards more than one point of view because that gives a more rounded, unbiased story, I hope. As in Leap the Wild Water, I thought it essential to know Morgan’s side of things, too; that was all part of illuminating the ‘how and why’ such things can happen. And I like to twist things up, not for the sake of it, but for instance, though Megan has her own voice in the narrative, we learn a great deal about Megan through Morgan’s eyes, and vice versa – their private thoughts and feelings about each other are particularly revealing. I put a great deal of thought into viewpoint and who will be telling which aspect of the story, before I begin. I think if someone told me I must write in a different style to that which is very much my own in order to ‘deliver to readers what they want’, I would be totally gutted. Too many novels are written to a ‘formula’ which has obviously proved, at some point in the past, to have made for a ‘popular’ novel. There has been a noticeable increase in this type of novel in recent years, so I guess agents and publishers believe it is what the reading public wants but it isn’t what this reader wants, and it isn’t the kind of novel I want to write.

 

leap-the-wild-water

I have to say here, this is the first book I read of yours; I loved it.http://amzn.to/2lkjDFg

How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

Let’s face it, I do take my readers on an emotional roller-coaster. They’re going to love some characters, despise others. They’re going to feel angry, exasperated, and outraged at the things some of these characters get up to. They’re going to cry. They’re going to laugh too, I hope; in short, all the emotions I feel when I’m writing. I do make demands on my readers but I am always careful not to depict anything in a gratuitous or graphic way.

Do you want each book to stand-alone or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I’ll bow to the judgement of one of my readers on this one, who told me he’d read the last one, Anywhere the Wind Blows, without having read the first two books and though he really enjoyed it, he went on to say he’d now read all three and felt they should definitely be read in the order they were written!

wind-blows

http://amzn.to/2lkDG6J

 

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

A trunkful of my earlier attempts. Until Leap the Wild Water I hadn’t managed to complete a single full-length novel.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

I grew up with six brothers. Although not one of the characters in my books is remotely like any of my brothers, I do feel that growing up with them has offered me some valuable insights into the male psyche. Morgan, the main male character in Leap the Wild Water, is very much Welsh and very much a man of his time and place. I found his character easier to write than Megan’s, at times.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Right now, I am coming to the end of a few months of research in preparation for the next book. The next one will have a whole new set of characters and will be set in an earlier time, and across a wider social stratum, so I’m beginning again from scratch. I did a lot of research before I began writing the Megan Jones trilogy. A vast amount doesn’t get used but it all adds to my understanding and portrayal of the domestic, social and geographical contexts in which those people had to live out their lives. I research anything and everything which helps me do that. There are so many old documents, journals etc., available online now, it is a social historian’s dream.

How do you select the names of your characters?

Sometimes, they may be given the name of an ancestor – Morgan is an old Welsh family name going back many generations. Often, though, a character’s name will have a deeper meaning. Megan’s mother, Esther, gives Megan’s baby the name of Fortune. Not only did she rob Megan of her child but of the opportunity to name her. That one act alone said so much about Esther and her attitude to and relationship with her daughter. Esther named the child Fortune ‘because that is what she will cost us, one way or another’. That was all Esther could see. Fear of public shame and loss of reputation blinded her to everything else. She quite literally throws away a fortune in the form of her own beautiful granddaughter.

What was your hardest scene to write?

Without a doubt, the scene when Megan realises her baby has been taken. To do that justice, I had to ‘become’ Megan while writing it, get right there inside her head and heart. Even now, recalling it, it still has the power to move me to tears. A young mother who read Leap the Wild Water asked me if what happened to Megan had happened to me because the scene seemed so real she felt I must have experienced the same. I haven’t, except through Megan.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

Both. When I am writing the first draft I’m flying. It is the most exhilarating experience, ever. It is only after finishing subsequent drafts and publication that exhaustion sets in and I honestly have to walk away from writing for a few months.

What would be the advice you would give to your younger writing self?

Believe in yourself, write for the love of it, and don’t allow your self-belief, hopes and dreams to be undermined or destroyed by selfish, insecure people. People who really care about you would not place obstacles in your way.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

john-waterhouse

I have this reproduction of ‘Boreas’ by John William Waterhouse hanging above my writing desk. I first came across it not long after I’d finished the first draft of Leap the Wild Water. I was astounded when I saw it because it was so close to my vision of Megan picking the wild daffodils on the hill above Carregwyn. It was as if the painter had had the same vision as me, but a hundred years before me. I had to buy it. Only when I’d finished the last book in the trilogy did I realise that the painting represents the entire trilogy – there is Megan amid the daffodils (Leap the Wild Water) and in the back-ground there is a raven flying (The Calling of the Raven) and of course, the subject of the painting is the north wind (Anywhere the Wind Blows). Every time I look at this picture it reminds me of the power of the subconscious, and in my moments of self-doubt it serves to remind me that I once thought myself incapable of writing just one novel, let alone three.

raven

http://amzn.to/2lRQH4z

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Every book, text book or fiction, that I have read. My text-books have educated me and through reading novels I have learned how to go about writing one.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I didn’t write Leap the Wild Water until I was in my fifties so I’ve always had to do other work and fit my writing around that. I left home, and school, within a month of my fifteenth birthday. I was desperately unhappy and thought running away would fix things. It didn’t. My first job was with Laura Ashley, making those beautiful, Edwardian style dresses and blouses with all the pin-tucks and lace. I was a ‘mother’s help’ for a wealthy couple in London, for a time. We lived in an enormous, luxurious flat over the King’s Road. That introduced me to a very different life from that of growing up on a farm in Wales! It was great while it lasted but when the job ended, I decided to leave London as the ‘hiraeth’ for my beloved Wales had become overwhelming. For most of my life, my work has involved textiles, making clothes or furnishings. I trained as an upholsterer, too. None of it, really, what I most wanted to do but drifted into and did to pay the mortgage and the bills, as we do. As the years went by, my frustration grew until I twigged that my hopes and dreams were as important as anyone else’s. From that day on, I began to dedicate every spare moment I could to writing. Even while working, I’d be writing. I’d keep a notebook beside me all the time, hand-stitching curtains while pausing to write the stories unreeling in my head. And I began to try to make up for all those years of education lost through leaving school so young, reading everything I could lay my hands on and discovering those subjects which most fascinated me – social history and social psychology, subjects which have greatly informed my writing.

Have you ever had reader’s block?

What’s that?! Did you mean writer’s block? If the latter, only when I am in between novels. I am capable of devoting vast quantities of energy into not beginning a new novel, to the point where I must begin or go insane. Once begun, the main reasons I don’t get writer’s block are that the characters are more in charge than I am, and I always end a writing session with an unfinished scene so I’m always looking forward to what happens next.

Has there been any author’s work you disliked at first but grew into?

Nope. For me, reading fiction is an escape. I know within the first chapter of a book whether I’m going to love it. It works for me from the off or it doesn’t work at all. There are so many books I want to read, so many things I have still to learn, life is too short to spend it reading anything which does not transport, inspire or instruct me.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

What do you think is the best way to market your books?

Somebody tell me the answer to that one, please!

 (Laughing! Yes, please do, someone.)

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I am incredibly lucky in that I have never had a bad review (not when I last looked, anyway!) and I am eternally grateful for every one of the reviews I’ve received. I don’t ask for them or expect them, so it is an absolute delight when I get one. I regard it as an act of pure generosity when people take the time and thought to write one. Those reviews have encouraged me more than anything else to keep putting my stories out there.

Would you like to talk about your latest book here?

I most enjoy portraying the darker side of human nature. The worst characters fascinate and horrify me in equal measure, and none more so than the malicious gossip, Mary Williams, who really comes into her own in Anywhere the Wind Blows. Generally, most of my characters redeem themselves at some point but Mary wholly fails to do so. She is an envious and bitter woman without boundaries or conscience when spreading scandal and rumour, and breath-taking in her ability to say anything, regardless of truth, to destroy those she envies and resents. And isn’t it always the best people, the nicest people, who are the targets of the Marys of this world? Unfortunately for Megan and her brother Morgan, they find themselves the targets of Mary’s vindictive spleen during the aftermath of Eli’s shocking death. Mary has made trouble for Megan in the past but in Anywhere the Wind Blows, when love and a chance of lasting happiness arrives with Cai Traherne, Megan is to discover just how dangerous an adversary Mary is. I won’t say how it turns out!

Please supply links to all your social media including websites.

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Pinterest; http://www.pinterest.com/jennyoldhouse

https://jennylloydwriter.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

 

Tales of Our Holiday Lets. Or … Is it Really Worth it? Or … Tales of the Unexpected!#MondayBlogs

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Well, yes.looking back down the years and now we no longer let the holiday apartment attached to our house, I know it was worth it. We loved letting, despite the unexpected. It  brought us many friends; visitors who returned year after year in the summer to enjoy the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and all the other attractions this part of West Wales offers. We loved seeing them again. And we were fortunate to meet many new people as well. But there were downsides. Or should I say, occasions that made us think again about sharing our home.

Such as the Sports Fanatic.

Before I go any further I think I should mention that although we live along a quiet lane we are only a five minute walk to the village. In the centre is the local Co-op. The frontage is very old fashioned; it’s an old building. For years there’s has been talk of building a new store on the outskirts  (actually about five hundred metres behind the existing one, on the edge of common land) but nothing has come of it. In winter the place trundles sleepily along; goods not available because of snow somewhere up country.  the odd garbled message over the tannoy that everyone ignores, staff huddled in corners exchanging local gossip, wandering around, trying not to make eye contact in case you want to ask them something. It’s a place to meet up with local people who haven’t been visible all summer due to being too busy keeping holiday visitors entertained.

Which, as an aside, reminds me of a time I asked Husband to go and buy a red cabbage from the Co-op.

After half an hour he returns, empty handed and looking stunned.

No red cabbage?’ I enquire.

‘No, couldn’t find one. Asked an assistant. She said cabbages were on the veg stall and there  was red food colouring in the baking section.’ He shook his head. ‘You couldn’t make it up!’

In summer the place comes alive: more than one assistant on the tills, lots of bustle, filling up shelves,assistants eager to help. Lots of happy visitors always glad for a natter, which inevitable ends with the comment,”you are so lucky to live here.’

I don’t argue… we are.

The visitors! (Should add here there is a sign asking customers not to shop in their nightwear) Apparently beach wear is acceptable. Nowhere else have I seen people shop half undressed: men in shorts (even Speedos … don’t think too long on that image; not nice mostly), bare chests and nothing on their feet, accompanied by shoals of similarly dressed and bare-footed children.  All very  jolly… until someone runs over toes with a trolley. Or they step in something.

None of this, by the way, has anything at all to do with the Sports Fanatic.

The couple arrived late one Saturday evening. The man struggled out of the car and walked, wincing, slowly along the drive, using two sticks, irritated-looking wife marching in front of him.

‘He’s sprained his ankle,’ she said, tilting her head towards him and without introducing herself. ‘happened yesterday. I came home from work and there he was, lying on the settee, bandaged up. Apparently,’ she stressed the word, ‘apparently our neighbour took him to hospital.’

‘Good of him,’ her husband said. ‘Nice chap.’

Wife snorted. ‘Fine start to our week,’ she said.

‘Mrs Morris?’ I asked. I knew they were down for a family reunion. Her family reunion.

She ignored me. ‘This way, is it?’ Pointing towards the apartment door and stomping off.

‘She’s a bit cross,’ her husband offered. Struggling with sticks he held his hand out to Husband and shook it. ‘I’m Simon,’he said, ‘you got Sky Sports in there?’

sports-mad

The following day it was the the reunion. The husband apparently had hardly moved from the settee in the living room of the apartment. 

Mrs Morris was no less cross than before. ‘He’ll have to stay here,’ she said. ‘he says he’s in a lot of pain and can hardly stand.’ She stared at Husband. ‘I’ll be out all day. Would  you go in and see if he’s okay every now and then, perhaps give him a cup of tea. I’ve left sandwiches on the coffee table for his lunch.It really is a nuisance.’

Husband was clenching jaw, the ears were giving off warning signs..

‘It’s fine,’I said, hurriedly. ‘Don’t worry.’

Half an hour after she’d driven off Husband went in to the apartment ‘ I can’t find him, he said.

‘In the loo?’I offered.

‘No! Anyhow, he’s not supposed to be able to move around at all.’

The implications of that suddenly struck us.

‘I’m not bloody clearing up after him if anything happens,’ Husband says.

I don’t answer but I knew it wouldn’t be me, either.

We searched around the apartment, then the garden.

‘He won’t be out here,’I said. ‘He can’t walk.

Just then Mr Morris came running around the corner of the house, a pack of six cans of pale ale in his arms.

We stood and looked at one another

Then, without an ounce of shame, he  said, ‘can’t stand her family. Anyway, there’s loads of sport on the telly I don’t want to miss.’

sports-fanatic

And with that he grinned, walked past us and into the apartment.

Not quite sure what happened the rest of the week but Mrs Morris left on the Friday and the last we saw of Mr Morris was him trudging off the drive, carrying his suitcase, to make his way to the railway station on the Saturday morning

 

 

 

 

Today With Jan Newton.

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Introducing Jan Newton with her debut novel to be published by Honno in March 2017. Jan grew up in Manchester and Derbyshire and spent almost twenty years in the Chilterns before moving to mid Wales in 2005. She has worked as a bilingual secretary in a German chemical company, as an accountant in a BMW garage and a GP practice and as a Teaching Assistant in the Welsh stream of a primary school, but now she has finally been able to return to her first love, writing.

She graduated from Swansea University with a Masters degree in Creative Writing in 2015 and has won the Allen Raine Short Story Competition, the WI’s Lady Denman Cup competition, the Lancashire and North West Magazine’s prize for humorous short stories and the Oriel Davies Gallery’s prize for nature writing. Remember No More  is her first novel.

The Blurb for Remember No More 

Newly promoted DS Julie Kite is at a crossroads. Her husband’s new job takes her away from urban Manchester and its inner city problems to a new life in tranquil mid-Wales. It is to be a new start for them both. On her first day at Builth Wells police station, Julie is thrust unexpectedly into the centre of a murder investigation in a remote farming community. At the same time, Stephen Collins is set free from HMP Strangeways. He immediately makes his way back to mid-Wales, the scene of his heinous crime, in order to confront those who had a hand in his incarceration.

The twists and turns of the investigation into the death of solicitor Gareth Watkin force DS Kite to confront her own demons alongside those of her new community and the lengths to which we’ll go to protect our families.

 Hi Jan, I’m really pleased to be chatting with you today. These must be exciting times for you?.

 Hi Judith, Lovely to be here. And yes, I’m thrilled to be having my novel published with.Honno.

 Tell us, Jam, how did you become involved with the subject or theme of your book?

Having moved around the country I’m interested in the theme of ‘fitting in’, and the fact that there are different cultures and groupings in new places, but there are also other ways in which we can move into new, untested territory.  Remember No More investigates some of these – Julie Kite moves to Wales, but she is also entering a new phase in her marriage and in her work relationships.  Other characters have new situations to deal with in their lives.  This theme of being somewhere new and different intrigues me.

So why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?  If you write more than one, how do you balance them?

I have always loved crime fiction and its adaption for television.  The best tv series, for me, combine fabulous production values and a sense of place – this is what I’m attempting to do in Remember No More.  I love the fact that writing crime fiction allows an author to comment on contemporary life – it’s all about life and death, the human condition.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

The story goes that it was much easier to teach me to read than to walk.  I could read before I went to primary school.  The Headmaster interviewed each child before they started in the infants, and when he ran out of reading cards, apparently, he asked me to read a story from The Telegraph.  I have always been a voracious reader.  I read every Enid Blyton and adored Swallows and Amazons, Black Beauty, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Bobbsey Twins – anything I could get my hands on.

How long have you been writing?

I was at primary school when I wrote my first novel, at the age of seven.  It was all about a little one-legged spaceman who crash-landed his spaceship (fortuitously for me) in my own suburb of north Manchester.  My teacher, Mrs Richmond, was very encouraging.  She baulked only slightly as she handed me my fourteenth Lancashire Education Committee exercise book in as many days.  Then, with the arrival of a Welsh Mountain Pony by the name of Pixie the following year, my passion turned to horses.  It was a very long time before I took up writing again, in 2008, with an Open University creative writing module.  Once I’d finished the OU degree I was lucky enough to go to Swansea University to do a Masters in Creative Writing, graduating in 2015.

What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc.?

I’ve always felt that storytelling brings people together – whether on a family level, where parents read to their children, or on a much larger scale.  Charles Dickens, for instance, had the nation gripped with his serialisations, and JK Rowling (a good old-fashioned storyteller herself) captivated a generation of children with her Harry Potter novels.  In the age of the computer game and the soundbite it’s heartening to see that children can still escape into a good book and spend time there, using their imaginations.

How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?

I’m at my happiest in the great outdoors.  I grew up on the edge of the Peak District and spent every spare hour on a horse.  Remember No More is set in the same sort of vast, landscape, in mid Wales.  People are important in areas like this.  They may be few in number, but they are a real community and I have tried to depict that closeness which is, sadly, so rare in our frenetic world.

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What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?

My main aim was to introduce my little part of mid Wales and to give a flavour of what it’s like to be an incomer.  I wanted to show the differences and similarities, the wonderful people and the scenery – as well as solving the crime, of course.  I hope people may want to come and see it for themselves.

What do you think most characterises your writing?

People.  I’m an inveterate people-watcher.  I love the way people interact, their relationships, strengths and weaknesses.  Place is very important too.  Certain places have had a huge influence on me, particularly Manchester and the Derbyshire where I grew up, but also mid Wales where we have lived for almost 12 years.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Starting it.  I didn’t know if I would be able to write a full-length novel.  I was writing short stories and nature writing – essay length pieces – so sustaining it, not paring down to basics was interesting.   I also found editing a challenge.  When I write short stories, they tend to arrive fully-formed and it’s just a case of writing them down, but to edit over and over requires a certain amount of patience and fortitude.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

I really enjoyed staying with my characters for such a long time.  I’ve always felt with short stories, that you go to so much trouble with your characters, to get to know them, to understand them, and then a mere few thousand words later they’re gone.  It was a treat to be able to allow them room to grow.

Are there vocabulary words or concepts in your book that may be new to readers?  

I’ve used a smattering of Welsh words in the book.  This area of Wales doesn’t have a high percentage of Welsh speakers, but I worked as a teaching assistant in the Welsh unit of the primary school in Builth Wells and can confirm that the language is very much alive and well.  I wanted to give a flavour of the language, to show that it is still very important.

What inspires you?

All sorts of things inspire me.  The scenery in mid Wales is stunning.  It’s hard not to be inspired by the hills and valleys of Powys or the Ceredigion coast.  People too are a great source of inspiration; they’re capable of so many amazing things.  I’m also an inveterate people-watcher and eavesdropper, which can lead to tricky situations, but can also result in stories and even novels, with a little imagination and a huge amount of poetic licence.

How did you get to be where you are in your life today?

I’ve been very lucky.  Until I was eleven, we lived in Manchester, which I still think is the best city in the world.  Then my father, who was a television cameraman, decided he wanted to take on a run-down farm on the Cheshire/Derbyshire border.  We found ourselves in 30 acres and with half a dozen horses.  I was never indoors.  Fortunately, life has come full circle and we live on a smallholding in the Welsh hills, with an aged horse and a small but very bossy goat.

Who are some of your favourite authors that you feel were influential in your work?  What impact have they had on your writing?

I have always loved Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen –  Hardy for his ability to paint a scene, to put the reader into Casterbridge or on Egdon Heath and Austen for her wit and her deep understanding of what it is to be human.  Alan Bennett is an absolute genius, as was Victoria Wood, both of whom manage to tread the extremely fine line between humour and pathos so brilliantly.  I suppose these two, along with Ann Cleeves and Ian Rankin, are the writers who have influenced me the most – Bennett and Wood for their absolute attention to detail and Cleeves and Rankin for their ability to tell a gripping tale.

What did you find most useful in learning to write?  

I think my love of reading has been incredibly useful.  For me, nothing beats that feeling when I have to stop and re-read something which has been said so brilliantly it takes my breath away.  Then I have to work out how it’s done, which words have been chosen and why.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

I would love to be a full-time writer.  I need much more discipline to do that, and to get over the feeling that it’s not a ‘proper’ job.  I find that because people assume it’s a hobby, there are so many demands on my time.  I’m hoping that 2017 is the year that I can persuade myself I’m a writer.

What are some day jobs that you have held?  If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.

I’ve had a variety of jobs.  I qualified initially as a bilingual secretary and worked for a German chemical company.  I’ve also worked as accounts manager in a BMW garage, fund-holding manager in a GP practice and teaching assistant in the Welsh unit of a primary school.

I’ve been married to Mervyn for over thirty years.  He has supported everything I’ve ever wanted to do – from playing flugel in a brass band to studying (two degrees with the Open University and a masters with Swansea University) to becoming a writer.  I think he hopes I might have stopped wanting to learn now, but I’m not sure I know how to stop.

For those interested in exploring the subject or theme of your book, where should they start?

I would be so pleased if people wanted to explore mid Wales as a result of reading the book.

How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

I still prefer to read print books.  There’s nothing quite like the smell and feel of a new book, or the sound of turning the pages.  I do read ebooks, but for me it’s much harder to escape into them, with e-mail notifications pinging up every couple of minutes.  Having said that, if more people read because of ebooks then that can only be a good thing.

What do you think is the future of reading/writing?

I think people will always read.  I do wonder whether we’ll go back to reading in instalments, as we did in Dickens’ day, waiting for the next chapter to be published.  People seem so short of time this may be an option in the future.  I worry that we are becoming so celebrity-obsessed that the quality of what makes it to publication may suffer, but I just can’t imagine a world without books or without writers and readers.

What process did you go through to get your book published?

I was very fortunate.  I was on a course at Ty Newydd in Llanystumdwy in 2013 and one of the tutors, Janet Thomas, told me that Honno were interested in crime fiction.  I sent them the first few hundred words and then the first few chapters and they offered me a contract.  They have been absolutely brilliant, helping me with every aspect of publication.

What makes your book stand out from the crowd?

As far as I know there isn’t much crime fiction based in mid Wales.  I hope the location will help it to be memorable.

Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two?  Summarize your writing process.

When I write, it’s as though I’m there, in the story with the characters, so in that respect it’s intuitive.  Later, when I edit and make sure it makes sense, the logic kicks in.  I do think this balance might be different for different types of writing though.  I’ve found that writing a crime novel requires more up-front logic than writing short stories, for example.

 What are some ways in which you promote your work?  Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time?

I’ve still a lot to learn about the promotional side of things.  I’m not a life and soul of the party sort of person and find it quite difficult to promote myself.  I have to say though, that it does make me think about my writing in a different way.  It’s lovely to sit on my own in splendid isolation and write, but it’s even nicer to think that people may want to read what I’ve written.

What do you like to read in your free time?

I do like to read crime fiction – Ann Cleeves, Ian Rankin, Phil Rickman, Val McDermid, for example, but I also love good non-fiction.  Kathleen Jamie is a favourite, as, of course is Alan Bennett.  His diaries are sheer escapism for me – a social history of Britain seen through the eyes of a remarkable writer.

What projects are you working on at the present?

I’m working on two novels.  One is based in the north of England and the other is the second Kite novel, a sequel to Remember No More.  I’m also working on a collection of nature writing essays, mostly based here in mid Wales, which I’m hoping to publish eventually.

What do your plans for future projects include?

I would love to write a sit com or a really good radio play.  There’s such skill involved in plays for radio.  I may be some time

 I’m sure one day we’ll be listening to a Jan Newton play on Radio Four. Good luck with all your writing and thank you for being here today, Jan. 

Thank you for for inviting me, Judith,it’s been fun.

That’s all for today, everyone.  Please see below all the links to find Jan and her book, Remember No More. 

Buying Links:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2k1kGJx

 Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2jqC7CB

Honno: http://bit.ly/2jqDilL

 Connect with Jan at:

 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jan.newton.3

Twitter: https://twitter.com/janmaesygroes

The Tenby Book Fair is moving and Being Renamed…The Narberth Book Fair. Ta dah!!

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Welcome to the first post of the Narberth Book Fair.

Just to let you know that we have decided we have outgrown the Church House in Tenby.  Having searched around for a suitable place we have found the perfect venue. So the Tenby Book Fair will no longer be held in Tenby. In fact it will no longer be the Tenby Book Fair but the Narberth Book Fair. We are quite excited  to be having a new challenge and I’m sure we will be bigger and better… just in a different hall. In a different town.

From now on the Book Fair will be held at the Queens Hall there. Check out their website    https://www.thequeenshall.org.uk/. As you can see it’s a vibrant and busy venue in a bustling little town full of interesting shops, antique places, cafes and restaurants. And there is a large nearby car park. But, sorry… no beach.

The date will be Saturday, the 23rd September. 10.00am to 4.oopm.

I’ve been to a few craft fairs at the Queens Hall with my books and always there is plenty of footfall.

A little information on Narberth; the former capital of Pembrokeshire boasts one of the best high-streets in the county. It’s a gorgeous little market town in the east of Pembrokeshire. Multi coloured Edwardian and Georgian buildings line the high street which has developed quite a reputation as a shopper’s heaven. many of the cafes, pubs and restaurants are award winners..

Transport:  Narberth has a railway station about a mile outside of town. And there are quite a few taxi firms based around and in Narberth. And, I’m sure, one or two of the authors who would be willing to pop there to meet stranded fellow authors 

Accommodation: Check out this website: http://bit.ly/2grbFXY. But I’m sure there are more dotted around

The History of Narberth:

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The town has grown around the walls of its stone castle, but the name is older than the castle. Narberth is derived from ‘Arberth’, the pre-Norman name for the district (or commote). This Celtic heritage is also represented in the myth and legend of the Mabinogion – ancient Welsh folk tales that were written down in the 14th century, originating from an earlier tradition of oral storytelling. Two branches of the Mabinogi in particular are centred on ‘Arberth’, which was reputedly the court of Pwyll, Prince of Dfydd.

So.. we have already had many of our usual authors wanting to take part in our inaugural book fair in Narberth. But we’re always thrilled to welcome new authors. Those interested in taking part please contact me: judithbarrow77@gmail.com 

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Introducing Irene Husk

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I first met Irene at the Rhondda Book Fair. An interesting and entertaining person to chat with I was thrilled when she gave me her books to read. I  especially loved  The Valley Beyond, which is why I’ve added a short review in the middle of this interview.

 

Hi Irene, please introduce yourself to everyone.

Hi Judith, here goes. I was born in my Granny’s house in the Rhondda Valleys and later moved to Pontypridd where I spent the remainder of my childhood.  I lived in Wales for most of my adult life however I spent 5 years living in France running a bed and breakfast before returning to this side of the channel and eventually settling back in South Wales. Before embarking on my overseas adventure, I worked in the health sector both in administrative and practical roles and ran my own private chiropody clinic. I have an amazing husband and beautiful children and grandchildren who give me joy and purpose in life.

I wrote my first novel under the name of Sheila Cooper which was my mother’s maiden name, it is my little tribute to her and the main character Annie is just like her. My other projects are written under my actual name, particularly the ones in the chic lit books, as I think my mum would have been quite disapproving of the language I used in them.

Tell us what were you like at school?

I loved junior school, I was bright and enthusiastic and did really well right up to the start of high school where my academic success plummeted. I wasn’t the best pupil and fiercely resented the fact that the year I was due to sit the 11+ exam, was the year it was scrapped and instead the new assessment plan came into force and I wasn’t chosen to go to grammar school. I couldn’t understand this, I felt cheated and that all my hard work was for nothing so I suppose it stands to reason that from that moment on I hated school. However, older and wiser and with plenty of hindsight, I wish I had realised then what an important part of my life was being frittered away with frustration and dislike of the system. Luckily I realised my wasted youth was a by product of my own despondency and took solace in the propriety of being a successful mature student.

 Were you good at English?

Yes, I was pretty good at English, I loved reading and more particularly writing, it was one of the subjects I enjoyed most at school, together with history and home economics.

 Which writers inspire you

As a small child I read all the Enid Blyton books I could get my hands on, followed by the usual classics like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Kidnapped, which, although mainly written for interest towards boys I found were full of the adventure and historical flavour which I still love today. I love Alexander Cordell’s Rape of the fair country, Hosts of Rebecca and Song of the earth, so full of Welsh history in the iron-making industry in the valleys although some say they are quite political, I love the insight into the generational makeup. I love Catrin Collier’s Hearts of gold as I can relate to life in Pontypridd where I was brought up and Catrin’s obvious love of Wales reflects in her stories. I love Jean Plaidy/Victoria Holt’s numerous historical novels, based around our Royal families and giving a great insight into life at that time. I was recently and instantly hooked on the Girl with the dragon tattoo trilogy by Steig Larsson, what an amazing writer he was it is so sad that he died before the films were made of his work, his writing was so committed and the storylines were incredible.

 What genre are you books

My ideas are varied from Historical/romance to Chic lit and Murder mystery

So what have you written

My first published book, The Valley Beyond, is a novel set in the heart of the Rhondda Valleys in the early 1900’s. The story tells of one woman’s struggle and the harsh reality of life in a mining village. The characters are loosely based on members of my own family and the story is a little tribute to my mother who died very young and the protagonist is much the same in temperament as her.

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The Blurb

The story is set in the heart of the Rhondda Valleys in the early 1900’s – Her idyllic life is shattered and Annie struggles to make ends meet as her badly injured husband becomes more and more unbearable. Meanwhile, the community already on the brink of revolt, seek someone to blame following a mining accident, which killed several men and boys.

My Review:

Two comments firstly: I love the cover and I don’t think the blurb sells this strong story. That being said I did enjoy reading this book. Writing under the name of Sheila Cooper, Irene Husk writes with a easy-to-read, down to earth style that instantly portrays the characters and the world they live in. The harshness of both the era the book is set in and the existence within a Welsh mining village comes through on every page. The descriptions are detailed and evocative. The characters are mostly all multi-layered (I especially liked the protagonist, Annie, with her pragmatism and practical ‘Welshness’). The dialogue, both internal and spoken, is excellent and identifies whoever is speaking. There is humour, pathos and as a reader I could empathise with a lot of the  rich portrayal of both the lives of the minors and their families. A novel to be recommended.

                                                                                *

I have also published a chic lit: Five Nights in Ponty

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How much research do you do

I think it’s pretty important to do your research, particularly if you are using factual information and giving information. Also it makes your story more accurate and believable if your research is done well.

 Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand

On anything to hand when I get an idea, I’ve amassed mounds of scraps from sweet packets and parking tickets to loo roll.  But I mainly work on the computer as my typing speed is quite high so my ideas can flow from my brain to my fingers uninterrupted. For The Valley Beyond I already had the storyline from start to finish as the characters are loosely based on my own family. However for my other projects I usually just see where an idea takes me and go with it. The plot for Five Nights in Ponty came from embellishing on overheard gossip.

 What are your thoughts about good or bad reviews

I think constructive criticism is always really helpful, I don’t think there is a need for anyone to be ungracious about other author’s contributions, as everyone has their individual style,  acerbity can be very disheartening and anyway, there are always nice ways to say things even if they have a negative aspect about them. It’s always nice to be complimented on your work, particularly if you have put your heart and soul into it but writing is so diverse, not everything is everyone’s cup of tea and one man’s honey is another man’s salt.

 Whats the hardest thing about writing

Writing is it’s own reward so sometimes when I feel depleted of ideas or not in the mood or perhaps even feel I can’t be bothered, I still do it because as soon as I begin the actual act of writing (you know that thing I had to persuade myself to do) , I usually find I don’t want to stop even if the end product goes nowhere, at least it is a good shot at making a contribution and using your imagination as who knows where it will take you.

 What made you become a writer

I have always been a scribbler and written short stories, most of which went in the bin, However, I have had the entire book of The Valley Beyond inside my head for years wanting to put it in print, I finally plucked up the courage to write and publish it after having it professionally edited and finding that the feedback was unexpectedly good.

How do you organise your writing day

I work full time and I am currently studying to be an accredited counsellor, so it’s pretty hectic and although I have a couple of ongoing projects, I have to fit them in when I have a spare moment. I usually find myself grabbing my computer during my lunch break but the time always to fly by, so the progression is pretty slow. When my course is finished I will write in the evenings, after work and in the company of my uncomplaining husband and a large glass of sparkling white.

 What do you enjoy most about writing

Everything, but it’s really exciting when an idea flows and you find your beginning, your middle and the end of your story. Inspiration is gratifying.

 Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing etc come from

I have always been aware of the joy books can bring, I was brought up in a fairly impoverished family, we didn’t have a lot but we always had books, our mum used to get second hand ones from Pontypridd market where they had a book exchange stall. Later when I had my own children, I often made up bedtime stories for them, unfortunately I never wrote any of them down and they are lost forever in the obscurity of my consciousness.

 What are some of the references you used when researching your book

I needed to know what vehicles were around in 1912 and how much things cost, for instance how much a loaf of bread was and the cost of renting a miners cottage etc., so I used my trusted search engines and discovered several historical sites that offered a fantastic insight into the cost of general living during the dates relevant to my story. I also found sites like, for instance The history of electric powered motor cars, I could deduce from this what type of horseless carriages were available by gentry in the period of interest to me.  I also used Mining disasters in the Rhondda Valleys to find out some information and relevant dates which I embodied in my history information when describing a tragic accident in my story. I looked at several pictures of clothing worn in poor communities and found old sewing patterns to show the more elegant garments worn by the affluent which helpfully gave me hem lengths and suggested materials etc.

 What is your favourite motivational phrase

It’s a ten minute walk if you run.

 Which famous person living or dead would you like to meet and why

I would love to have met Sir Walter Raleigh and I would have asked him  – why on earth did you bring tobacco back to this country?

 Do you think giving books away free works and why

Yes it helps to get unbiased feedback from sources that might not read that particular genre and it’s always nice to be generous. Also, it stands to reason, in any case, that not all of us can be the next JK Rowling and become millionaires so if I don’t give some away there’s a pretty good chance that no one would choose to read them as no one knows who I am.

 Do you proof read/edit your books or do you get someone to do it for you

My first offering was professionally edited by Doug Watts at Jaqui Bennet Writers Bureau, but all other projects are proof read and edited harshly by my English Teacher big sis.

What books are you reading at present

I am halfway through Tom Jones Biography

 What are you working on at the minute

I currently have a murder mystery and another chic lit waiting in the wings until I finish my studies.

 What are your ambitions for your writing career

Several people have told me that my book The Valley Beyond would make a great TV play, so obviously, if this ever happened it would make my day.  But be that as it may, I write mainly for the love of it and just to see my work in print and have positive feedback is an amazing achievement for me.

Whats your motto or favourite quote you like to live by

I hope I don’t die while there is still dessert in the fridge.

Tell us one thing about you that most people don’t know or would surprise them.

My birthday is the same day as Her Majesty’s and my dad wanted to call me Elizabeth.

What single piece of advice would you give new authors?

Don’t let anyone put you off your writing, have faith in yourself don’t forget that any negative feedback is simply the opinion of that one person. Be true to your work and write about what you know.

How did you get published?

I sent my work to Doug Watts at Jaqui Bennet Writing Bureau for editing, via that source, I found and self published through Createspace.

Find Irene at:

http://www.jbwb.co.uk

Buying Link:

The Valley Beyond:  Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2fkeThy

Five Nights In Ponty: Amazon.co.uk:  http://amzn.to/2eJv7ig

Both books also available from

The Rhondda Arts Factory Arts Factory
Unit 11
Highfield Ind Estate
Ferndale
RCT
CF43 4SX

Tel: 01443 757 954 Fax: 01443 732 521

http://www.artsfactory.co.uk/index.html

I’ve Decided To Go Wandering For A While… At Least In My Head #amwriting

So many things have happened over the last year (and some are still ongoing) that have stopped me from writing. So now I’m giving myself a break and I’m going a wandering. I need to finish/tidy-up/sort out the prequel to my trilogy

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Its working title is Foreshadowing.

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And it’s been languishing on the PC for far too long.

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 I’ll be popping back every now and then to post one of the eight reviews of books that have toppled off my TBR pile- and that, I am ashamed to say, have been neglected.

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I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has been such a support over the last few months – friends both in the ‘real’ world and friends who I might never meet but who I appreciate.So, before I get too maudlin… cheerio for now.

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As someone once said…”I’ll be back.”

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http://bit.ly/1p0UA8H

http://bit.ly/1RZ6njq

http://bit.ly/1QAQL6r

http://honno.co.uk/