Tuesday, 5 July 2022

My Latest Book Reviews


The first of my recent reads is The Movement by Ayisha Malik, which comes out on July 7th.
 With words come power. But do you speak out or shut up?

Everywhere Sara Javed goes - online or outside - everyone is shouting about something. Couldn't they all just shut up? One day she takes her own advice.

At first people don't understand her silence and are politely confused at best. But the last thing Sara could anticipate is becoming the figurehead of a global movement that splits society in two.

The Silent Movement sparks outrage in its opposers. Global structures start to shift. And the lives of those closest to Sara - as well as strangers inspired by her act - begin to unravel.

It's time for the world to reconsider what it means to have a voice.

A sharply observed novel, charged with compassion and dark wit, that will spark important conversations about how we live, relate and communicate now.

Funny, bold and smart, The Movement is a thought-provoking work that packs a really hard punch. Sara Javed, an author about to win an important literary award, chooses to stop speaking and discovers that silence can be truly deafening. She becomes the figurehead for ‘The Silent Movement’ inspiring others around the world. As silence gains strength, division and uncertainty grow, and the lives start to fall apart, including those close to Sara. A novel for our messy times, this is a truly original book filled with eye-opening observations. It wasn’t what I expected, and I’m not sure I would have picked it up in a bookshop because it isn’t my usual type of novel, but I found it an absorbing read and finished it really quickly.

The second is The Black Dog by the comedian, Kevin Bridges, out August 18th.
Declan dreams of becoming a writer. It's a dream that helps him escape the realities of his life - going through the motions at college and stacking supermarket shelves part-time, whilst fighting a battle with the ever-darkening thoughts in his head.

He has his pet Labrador for companionship and his best friend-turned-mentor, a pseudo-intellectual who works as a greenskeeper at the local municipal golf course, both of which help keep the worst of his anxieties at bay. But following a drunken row with local gangsters, Declan's worries threaten to spiral out of control.

James Cavani - Declan's idol and his hometown's claim to fame - is a renowned writer, director and actor. But despite his success, his past hasn't relinquished its hold of him, and through his younger sister's battle with drug addiction, he finds himself returning to a world he thought he had escaped.

At face value, their lives couldn't be more different, but perhaps fate has a way of bringing kindred spirits together - and perhaps each holds the other's redemption in their hands.

I’m not overly familiar with Kevin Bridges stand-up comedy, but I know he is a great storyteller and The Black Dog certainly didn’t disappoint. Well-written, great characters, funny, heartwarming and authentic. As to be expected, Bridges is a natural when it comes to writing dialogue, and the more serious issues are handled thoughtfully and without sentimentality. Well-paced and plotted and a great ending – highly recommended!

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Interview with author, Sarah Linley


Hello Sarah, and welcome to Troutie McFish Tales! Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your two psychological crime thrillers, The Trip and The Wedding Murders.

Thanks for having me! I am a crime writer based in West Yorkshire, and have two novels published by One More Chapter, the digital imprint of HarperCollins.

The Trip was published in February 2020. Primary school teacher Holly is living a quiet life in the Yorkshire Dales but is haunted by a tragic event from her past. Five years ago, she went backpacking around South-East Asia with her best friends from university, only one of them didn’t come back. Now, someone knows she lied about what really happened that night in Thailand and will stop at nothing to uncover the truth…

The Wedding Murders was published earlier this year. Libby is a guest at a celebrity wedding in the Yorkshire Dales. She’s the plus-one of her boyfriend, Matthew, who used to be a drummer in a pop band. It’s the first time the group have got together since their acrimonious split in the 90s and Libby soon discovers they all have secrets to hide…

Tell us about your publication journey.

It took me a long time to get published – almost ten years since I started working on my first novel and I racked up plenty of rejections along the way. I was struggling to stand out in a crowded market and although I got positive feedback from agents, no one ever really loved my writing enough to represent me. The Trip was actually the third novel I wrote.

I was lucky enough to be taken on by Killer Reads which has now amalgamated into One More Chapter. As a digital-first publisher, they take more risks than traditional publishers and you don’t need to be represented by an agent to have your work considered.

I managed to secure an agent to represent my second novel, The Wedding Murders, and returned to the same publisher for that.  


Most authors have to do most of their own marketing these days, including arranging readings and events. Do you enjoy this side of your writing life or is it a necessary evil?

Connecting with readers is fun and I have enjoyed the events I have done so far, but they are quite nerve wracking! You’re never quite sure what people are going to ask you. Everyone so far has been really lovely.

You were a journalist before you wrote novels. Style-wise, was it difficult to make the initial transition from non-fiction to fiction, and do you think your years as a journalist have influenced the way you write your books?

Yes, it was quite difficult to adjust my style. Journalists are taught to write concise prose, to tell a story in just a few sentences, so adjusting to writing long-form fiction was quite difficult. I often need to layer my prose. I write the story down first, and then I add description and details in subsequent drafts. Many writers have to cut down their first draft – I always have to increase it!

On the plus side, as a former journalist, I am very committed to deadlines, so I am probably quite easy to work with in that respect, and I am very accustomed to being edited! 

What do you like most about writing crime novels? And what’s the hardest part?

I love the puzzle aspect of crime writing – trying to work out who the killer is, what really happened, and who is telling the truth. It is very satisfying to create a baddie, and it’s fun to write an action-packed, multi-layered plot. On a more serious note, crime fiction is a prism in which you can write about society, psychology, and life in general really. It acknowledges that bad things happen to good people and examines some of the reasons why.

The hardest part is getting the clues right. You want to respect your readers, so you have to be subtle about the clues you plant but if you are too subtle then the ending isn’t satisfying. One difficulty in writing contemporary crime fiction is how advanced DNA, forensics and surveillance technology is now. It’s increasingly difficult to get away with murder!

Your novels presumably require you to do a lot of research. Do you enjoy it, and is that another area where your journalistic skills are useful?

I love interviewing people and talking to them about things they are passionate about. I have interviewed some really interesting people for my novels, including a Parkour coach, a crime scene investigator, a midwife and a Taekwondo expert.

I take my research seriously and consult experts to get aspects of the police procedure correct. I read a lot of non-fiction books and watch documentaries such as 24 Hours in Police Custody to try to make my books feel authentic.

I do enjoy research, but it is difficult to get everything right. For example, knowing what flowers might be in woodlands at a specific time of year or how long it takes to die from a stab wound. Everyone so far has been really helpful, and happy to chat about their area of expertise, but you always worry you are going to get something wrong.

Do your novels ever take on a life of their own, or do they end up being exactly as you first plotted them?

Definitely! I think that’s one of the pleasures of writing. Your characters can sometimes surprise you and you find the novel takes you in different directions from what you first intended. Sometimes it feels like the story is there all the time, and you’re just unearthing it.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to be too rigid about plotting. The story will also change when you get your agent and editor involved. They will make suggestions, as will beta readers. You have to let the story take you where it wants to go and welcome the deviations. They usually make the book better.

Tell us about your favourite authors. What did you like reading as a child and a teenager, and how have your tastes changed over the years? Do you have an all-time favourite book, or is it too difficult to choose just one?

My favourite author is Khaled Hosseini – he writes so beautifully - and my favourite book is And The Mountains Echoed. I also love The Secret History by Donna Tartt and The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Emily Barr is one of my favourite writers.

In terms of crime, I enjoy books by Shari Lapena, C L Taylor, Ruth Ware and Cara Hunter. I have just read The Castaways by Lucy Clarke and now I want to read her backlist as I thought it was brilliant.

I have eclectic tastes and will basically read anything and everything. I can easily be seduced by an interesting cover or title. I recently discovered Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior on the title alone!  

As a child, I loved mystery and adventure books – The Famous Five and Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton, and I enjoyed fantasy as well. I loved Tom’s Midnight Garden and The Ghost of Thomas Kempe. When I was a bit older, I devoured Stephen King and Agatha Christie books.

I believe you are working on two books at the moment – do you find it easy to juggle two storylines and two sets of characters?

No! And at times it’s been impossible. I haven’t got the storylines or characters mixed up, but it can be hard to drag yourself out of one world to occupy another. That said, if you get stuck, it can be nice to switch projects to keep things fresh.

It’s easier when the books are at different stages – so you can do research for one while you’re editing the other. I think all authors juggle several books to a certain extent. You are often promoting a novel while editing or writing another, and readers may be asking you questions about a book you wrote several years ago.  

What’s next? Do you have a publication date for book three yet? And are there any more novel ideas fermenting in your head right now?

Book Three is currently with my agent so we will hopefully be submitting it to my publisher soon. So, no publication date yet. I am about to start writing Book 4 and looking forward to that stage.

And yes, I have lots of novel ideas. I have mapped out the next five books in fact! I’m just not sure what order I’m going to tackle them in yet. I have a notebook full of ideas that will keep me going for a long while to come and I’m always adding to it! 

Thanks so much for talking to me, Sarah – I've really enjoyed finding out more about your writing journey. I loved both your books and I'm looking forward to the next one!

You can buy The Wedding Murders HERE 

and The Trip HERE

To find out more about Sarah and her books follow her on social media and check out her website:

@linleysarah1 on Instagram and Twitter
Sarah Linley Author on Facebook
Website: www.sarahlinleyauthor.com


Friday, 24 June 2022

Review of Blue Hour by Sarah Schmidt


This complex novel is dark and often disturbing, exploring the ways in which the inherited damage caused by two different wars affects the lives and marriages of mother and daughter, Kitty and Eleanor. These two women are trapped by circumstance, changed by grief, and have few options to transform their fractured lives. The chilling dread builds and burns, the characters resonate and the twists and turns are captivating. Schmidt’s prose style is luminous and she writes with a strong sense of place. A beautifully-written and moving novel.




Tuesday, 14 June 2022

A Writer Reading - Morgan Davies



The first book I remember reading

Noddy and the Magic Boots. I had no interest in Noddy as a small child until he left behind the safety of Toyland and entered Be Careful Wood. This was a place of darkness and danger, one which helped me to understand that the world contains not only love but cruelty as well.

The books which shaped my childhood

As a child I didn’t read much fiction. Instead, I spent hours poring over illustrated histories of the world and fat encyclopedias. I loved ghostly tales, mythological beasts, cross-sections of castles, ancient battles and so on.

The books I read as a teenager

Like many teenagers, I read and re-read The Catcher in the Rye again and again, convinced I was the only person who understood it. I was very taken with G K Chesterton’s Edwardian metaphysical adventure The Man Who Was Thursday. The other-worldly short stories of M R James and H P Lovecraft were also favourites.

The first book which made me want to be a writer

Listening to Bob Dylan led me to the collected poems of Dylan Thomas. Thomas introduced me to the raw power of language and left me wanting to use it.

The book which changed my view of the world

I was very influenced by D H Lawrence’s The Rainbow. For all its faults, the central theme of the book struck a chord with me. In sensual, lyrical, almost biblical language, Lawrence gives voice to the idea that we are all seeking individual fulfillment and that this is becoming increasingly difficult the further we distance ourselves from the land.

The book which will always have a place on my shelves

The Sun Also Rises is a sublime, flawless novel, and a great introduction to Hemingway. If you want to be a writer, then you must read Hemingway. I can think of few other writers whose style helped transform the landscape of fiction forever.

The books I tell everyone else to read

Welsh fiction is often wrongfully overlooked. I would recommend that anyone read the brilliant One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard, which was winner of The Greatest Welsh Novel. I’m always telling people to read anything by the fantastic Mid Welsh authors Cynan Jones and Tom Bullough.

The book I didn’t finish

I really don’t like abandoning books partway through, so I try to be very discerning when I commit to reading a book. I can remember enjoying Don Quixote at the start, but I hadn’t the stamina to stick with it.

The book I am reading right now

Anna Karenina. I like to have one fiction and one non-fiction book on the go at any one time. I alternate between contemporary and classic fiction. The classics are classics for a reason. Luckily, so many have accumulated over the centuries that there are more than enough to read in one lifetime.

The book I turn to for comfort

I think most good books are challenging in some way, rather than comforting. That said, like many people, I find re-reading The Little Prince very comforting.


Morgan Davies

Morgan Davies is a writer interested in landscape, place and nature. He has a master’s degree with distinction in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh and a PhD in Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University for which he was awarded a departmental postgraduate studentship. His short stories set in rural Wales have been published in winning anthologies and performed in London. He lives in Mid Wales with his wife and sons. The Burning Bracken is his first novel.

 The Burning Bracken

Sarah is starting again, alone. Hafod Farm gives her the chance for a new life, away from the pain of the past. Taken in by hardworking hill farmer Evan and his wife, Sioned, she begins to see a new future for herself. But beneath the beauty of the Welsh countryside, all is not as peaceful as it seems.

The landscape is changing. New ideas are challenging the old farms. Conservationists lead a growing movement to rewild the land. Newcomers are settling in the empty houses, seeking a spiritual connection with nature. When catastrophe befalls the landscape, tensions explode, and the situation grows increasingly desperate, sinister and violent.

The Burning Bracken is a thought-provoking work of eco-fiction which questions our relationship with the rural landscape, how we are to live with it, and what it means to us.


You can order The Burning Bracken here



Thursday, 26 May 2022

Growing Up in Gaza - Ahmed Masoud



Growing Up in Gaza
Ahmed Masoud

I grew up in Gaza in a crowded house, with ten people including my parents, at the heart of the Jabalia Camp. We barely had space for ourselves let alone good living conditions. My two-bed home which I shared with my eight siblings and parents was just a few bricks covered in asbestos sheets. It was like a boiling oven in summer when temperatures reached around 42°C in August and the total opposite in winter. Between January to March it always felt that being outside the house was warmer than inside. 

Every corner of this place was filled with either our UN-donated flour rations, cooking oil, dry baby milk and lots of old rugs used as mat to spread the dough on when my mum made bread. However, and somehow, there was enough room for books at home. They weren’t stacked on a bookshelf, but dotted everywhere in the house. I would often step over a biography of Lenin’s thrown down by the TV stand, or I would open the wardrobe to get dressed and the first thing my hand would touch was the complete works of Ghassan Kanafani. Mahmoud Darwish’s various anthologies were by the window ledge, Emil Habiby’s classic The Pessoptimist was under the stand which had the mattresses we slept on and only got out at night.

My father studied Arabic literature in Cairo and he loved books. He brought a new one with him every time he got back from work. He used to make me read by asking me to circle certain words throughout the book, promising a prize at the end of it, things he could never afford and I never saw. We grew up poor and there were many days we couldn’t afford to eat. Chicken was a treat once a month, and only if we had guests coming over. They would eat first, then we would finish the bones.

But the books around me carried me through this harsh childhood, and took me far away from the stench of sewage in winter. I smelled the oranges in Ghassan Kanafani’s works so vividly that I dreamed one day I would become like him: a Palestinian writer who tells stories of people from Palestine. I read more, I studied hard while working at a construction site at the age of eleven.

All of the above is captured in my new novel Come What May – not my personal story of course but the sense of life in Gaza, the houses, the food, the smells. There are some scenes in my memory that are hard to forget and as a writer they have become the backdrop for my writing. The novel, therefore, paints a picture of the Camp and life under Israeli occupation in general. But it goes deep into the psychology of the people, spending time in the green room of those characters to get the reader to know more about them, about who they are and what made them behave in certain ways.

Having lived in London for a while now, visiting Gaza every year to see my family, I wanted to write a novel which talks about people as they are – to say to the world that we are just like any other society, we have the good and the bad, we are not some kind of aliens. This is why I chose crime as a way of spotlighting some of the many social issues in the besieged Strip, from class differences to gang culture, to murder and love and betrayal. Come What May is a literary work that delves deep into the beautiful culture of a people who are often dismissed as sub-humans.

It's very different from my last novel, Vanished – the Mysterious Disappearance of Mustafa Ouda, in the way it takes the reader to Gaza and leaves them there for a while. The tour guide is your main character, thirty-five-year-old Zahra who is on a mission to find her husband’s murder.

Thanks to Victorina Press for giving my words the podium to be read and for being the teleport to a place which is almost impossible to go to. 

 Ahmed Masoud is a writer and director who grew up in Palestine and moved to the UK in 2002. In 2019, he worked with Maxine Peake on Obliterated, a theatrical experiment and artistic protest – you can find a
small piece on Youtube.

Ahmed’s Theatre and Radio Drama credits include: Application 39 (WDR Radio, Germany 2018) Camouflage (London 2017), The Shroud Maker (London 2015 – still touring), Walaa, Loyalty (London 2014, funded by the Arts Council England), Escape from Gaza (BBC Radio 4 2011). Ahmed is the founder of Al Zaytouna Dance Theatre (2005 – 2013) where wrote and directed many productions with
subsequent tours in the UK and Europe, including Unto the Breach (London and Vienna 2012) Between the Fleeting Words (London, Zurich, Freiburg, Ljubljana, Madrid 2010 – 2012). Ila Haif (London, Freiburg 2008-2010) Hassad (London 2007 – 2008). After finishing his PhD research, Ahmed published many journals and articles including a chapter in the Britain and Muslim World: A Historical Perspective (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011). Most recently, Ahmed launched his new artistic initiative called PalArt Collective. For more information, please see www.ahmedmasoud.co.uk

You can buy a copy of Come What May here

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Saboteur Awards 2022


It was the Saboteur Awards 2022 at Birmingham's sparkly library last night! My publishers, Victorina Press, were shortlisted for Most Innovative Publisher, and the flash fiction anthology 81 Words (which I have a story in!) was up for Best Anthology. And as if that wasn't enough, Crossing the Lines was on the shortlist for Best Novella. 

And guess what reader – we won all three awards! 

This is the third year in a row that I've won a Sab Award, and I was delighted to make it a hat trick – thanks so much to everyone who voted!


Here's Jorge with my gin!

Saturday, 30 April 2022

A WRITER READING – Eric Marks, author of From the Cliffs of Cornwall to Kilimanjaro


I'm delighted to welcome Eric Marks to Troutie McFish Tales today to talk about the books and authors which have shaped his life and inspired him as a writer. 

Eric is the author of the recently released travel memoir From the Cliffs of Cornwall to Kilimanjaro, and you can read my review and more about his book below.


The first book I remember reading

The first book I remember was a Rupert the Bear adventure story in the typical cartoon form. I spent hours and hours with that book, and I don’t remember any other books being available

The books which shaped my childhood

I think the book that stands out from my childhood reading was The Sound of the Sea by Leo Walmsley. This is a charming set of childhood adventure stories set in Robin Hood’s Bay on the Yorkshire coast. I have had a great love for the sea and estuaries ever since.

The books I read as a teenager

As a teenager, my most fruitful source of books was from our school library. I seem to recall that such books as Swallows and Amazons figured largely in my taste. I joined the armed forces at the age of fourteen in the junior leaders scheme, and reading receded into the background for a few years, apart from some reading about great leaders like Sir Winston Churchill and Lord Wellington.

The first book which made me want to be a writer

In my early twenties, I read the book that let me imagine myself as being a writer. The Path to Rome by Hilaire Belloc was that book. This is Belloc’s account of his pilgrimage from the Moselle to Rome. It introduced me to solo long-distance walking and backpacking, but into a world of horses and carts, peasants, good wine, and simple foods along the way. The sense of adventure that unfolded in the book completely captivated me, and I have been its captive ever since. Reading that book was my epiphany. I wanted to experience the long walking trails, and then go on to writing about my adventures. But life gets in the way. Now, entering my eightieth year, I have at last started to write about my experiences while walking over the years on the South West Coast Path, especially on the north coasts of Devon and Cornwall, and more recently on the giant volcano of Kilimanjaro.

The book which changed my view of the world

As above – The Path to Rome by Hilaire Belloc.

The book which will always have a place on my shelves

No contest here. It is The Collected Works of William Shakespeare. It has been observed that he traversed the multi-dimensional labyrinth of the human soul. His writings also suggest that he was supremely open-minded, and allowed each of his prominent characters to express themselves in a forthright way  that embraces a huge range of viewpoints.

The books I tell everyone else to read

Shirley by Charlotte Bronte. A marvellous novel where the well-drawn characters interact in surprising ways. We are taken into the minds of the main characters in a way that is truly ahead of its time. I allow for the structural weaknesses that are commonly alluded to by critics, and just revel in the literary joy of this novel. I must also lavish praise upon Iris Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea. What a story this is! Very few novels have so enthralled me as this one has. The failings and flaws of the central character are super-abundant, yet we can identify with him on so many levels. A great literary novel worthy, I think, of its Booker Prize.

The books I didn’t finish

I cannot recall ever having left a book unfinished, although some have been a real challenge, especially War and Peace and Ulysses!

The book I am reading right now

Galileo and The Art of Ageing Mindfully: Wisdom from the Night Skies.

The book I turn to for comfort

For comfort, I read my hand-written journals, crammed with wisdom, advice, and observations about life and the human condition from many of the great minds of the past and present. These include Montaigne, Seneca, Socrates, Lucretius, Boethius, Emerson, and Roger Scruton.


From the Cliffs of Cornwall to Kilimanjaro


The idea of writing a book suddenly dawned on Eric Marks as he walked along the South West Coast Path from Minehead in Somerset to St Just in Cornwall. The experiences he'd had, the great seascapes he saw, and he people the met were a pageant for his senses and things were only just getting started.

From the Cliffs of Cornwall to Kilimanjaro documents Eric's incredible decision, at the age of 76, to walk 252 miles with his nephew along the South West Coast Path of Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall as part of their training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, later that same year. Was this a late-life crisis, or what? Sharing his memories and stories with the reader, we're taken on his trek, from the comforting sights of home to the exotic landscapes of Africa and joining the thousands of people who every year volunteer to climb the tallest mountain in Africa.

Unexpected situations, both home and away, including some near-death moments, slingshot the reader from highs to lows, but one thing is certain: it really is surprising what part serendipity plays when you are on the walking trail for several days at a time. An inspiration for other readers into their later life, Eric has proven that you're only as old as you accept you are in a journey that is dynamic and demanding, satisfying yet humbling.



Eric Marks is a charming and eloquent companion, and I thoroughly enjoyed following his journey along the South West Coast Path and up the slopes of Kilimanjaro. From the Cliffs is a well-paced mixture of memoir, travel writing and useful backpacking tips. There are some lovely passages of vivid and evocative description here, and as well as the main narrative we are treated to numerous entertaining stories of the author’s previous backpacking trips. There are heart-stopping moments, a great deal of humour – particularly in the banter and in-jokes which Eric and his nephew share – and we meet plenty of interesting characters along the way.

Many of the stories have stuck in my mind, but one passage which really touched me was the tale of the exhausted swallows arriving at Land’s End. I also loved the flashback story of the unexpected snow blizzard encountered by Eric and a previous walking companion.

From the Cliffs of Cornwall to Kilimanjaro is both a satisfying read and an inspiring story.

You can buy a copy here





Saturday, 23 April 2022

Review of The Taking Part by Joe Williams



The Taking Part is a short collection of poems on the theme of sport and games, encompassing television quiz shows, pub sports, and board games, as well as more traditional sports like football, cricket and athletics.

As Joe says: ‘Sport and poetry might not seem like an obvious combination, but the best sport stories are really stories about people, and I think that’s what these poems are too. Games and competition have been an important part of our culture throughout human history. They can be central to our relationships, our memories, and our ambitions, and I wanted to write about all of those things.’


My Review:

You don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy this themed collection from Joe Williams – as in all good poetry there there is universal appeal to be found in the specific. These poems are humorous,  nostalgic, evocative, and surprisingly tender. I have many favourites (including the witty clerihews), but in particular I was wooed by the fledgling love story in ‘Jackpot’, by the brilliant ‘If Only I’d Made the Team’, where the poet is nostalgic for an appearance on University Challenge that never happened, and the more heavyweight (boxing pun there :-) ) ‘It Started With a Kiss’ written for Nicola Adams.

  You can buy a copy here

Saboteur Awards

I'm delighted that Crossing the Lines has been shortlisted in the Best Novella category in this year's Saboteur Awards! Final round voting is now open until May 7th – so if you enjoyed Crossing the Lines (or you just have love in your heart :-) ) then I'd really appreciate it if you could spare a minute to vote.

The link can be found here


I was also thrilled to see my novella is such good company on the shelves in Book Corner Halifax this morning!



Friday, 18 March 2022

Review of Unfurling by Alison Lock



This beautiful and delicate poetry collection explores the fleeting glimpses of joy and hope the poet discovered in lockdown through daily connections with nature, and she urges us to uncover our own fresh sources of inspiration. These poems present the enforced isolation period as a chance to reconnect with the inner self away from the everyday norms, expectations and pressures. Hedgerows are harbours, the wingbeats of swans make us feel alive – nature’s cycle can never be cancelled or stalled. These poems encourage us to re-evaluate our lives and find our own individual route to peace – a peace symbolised by the white petals of snowdrops. These are poems of meditation, of quiet observance, they are poems encouraging us to press the re-set button, to return to our factory settings and start anew, to find a new way forward within a framework of kindness and spiritual discovery. We are asked to consider how our lives effect everything around us, to nurture our hearts and attend with care to the world we live in. 

You can order a copy here



Alison Lock is an award-winning Yorkshire-based writer of poetry, prose and short stories.

Monday, 28 February 2022

A Writer Reading – Deborah E Wilson






The first book I remember reading

One of the earliest books I remember reading as a bedtime story was about a fairy with a flower-petal hat, named Victoria Plum. In trying to find them online, I have just discovered that these books were written by Angela Rippon!

The books which shaped my childhood

My favourite books as a child were classics such as Beatrix Potter’s stories (Tom Kitten and Jemima Puddleduck were my favourites), The Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan and Heidi. I’ve always enjoyed Roald Dahl’s books (and regularly make sure to read them in my classrooms!) – Danny, Champion of the World and The Minpins made a distinct impression on me then and have stayed with me ever since. As I got older, I discovered fantasy books such as The Hobbit, and of course the Harry Potter phenomenon, which arrived just as I, like Harry, was approaching my teenage years.

The books I read as a teenager

I’d always enjoyed reading, but at secondary school I was able to discover a wider range of books, developing as a reader – and a writer. Stand-out favourites for me were Skellig, Wuthering Heights, The Lord of the Flies, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Handmaid’s Tale and Pride and Prejudice. Each era and author introduced me to something new and gave me a desire to explore further.

The first book which made me want to be a writer

As my time at secondary school came to an end, and I was preparing to study English at university, my ambition was to gain more knowledge of classic literature, to prepare me for what was to come. One of the novels I was keen to read, knowing how it shaped a whole popular culture, was Dracula. I hadn’t ever encountered such a book! The concept of shaping an entire novel around letters and diary entries opened my eyes to the freedom that writers have, to shape narratives however they choose – there isn’t a set formula. It was also one of the first Gothic novels I read, starting a life-long appreciation for the genre.

The book which changed my view of the world

This is a tricky question! I feel that all great books, and writers, have the ability to alter a reader’s perspective. The mark of a great book, in my opinion, is coming out at the other side of it feeling like a different person than the one who started.
    I suppose one that left me feeling the most bereft, particularly due to the way it ended, was Cold Mountain. I’d have happily continued to walk in the wilderness with Inman, despite his hardships, for years to come. The novel ignited a desire for exploration in me, and walking outdoors, observing nature, has become one of my favourite meditations. Many times I’ve contemplated climbing out of the window, like Inman, and seeing where the road takes me. 

The book which will always have a place on my shelves

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is a modern classic. Susanna Clarke is a historical fiction writer I look up to immensely – and would love to have even a speck of her talent and renown!

The books I tell everyone else to read

Anything by Daphne du Maurier – particularly for those who have enjoyed the film adaptations, her writing is even more impressive and impactful.
    I also wish I could find someone else who has read Under the Dome by Stephen King and would discuss the plot with me. I’ve never devoured a such a book so quickly, and it kept me thinking for a long time afterwards. Despite asking others close to me to read it, no one has yet!

The books I didn’t finish

Unfortunately, I could never get my head around James Joyce’s Ulysses, and I wasn’t immediately hooked into Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (if the first chapter doesn’t sway me, I usually move on. So many books, so little time!).  

The book I am reading right now

The works of M R James, for good old-fashioned ghostly scares on winter’s nights!

The book I turn to for comfort

Many of Joanne Harris’ fantastic books are very comforting to me. The idea of living in idyllic rural France, sampling delicious cuisine, is always a comforting thought! Joanne also writes wonderful characters, who invite empathy immediately and speak to you like old friends. 

You can buy a copy of Deborah's novel, 

An Artist's Muse, here

My Latest Book Reviews

      The first of my recent reads is The Movement by Ayisha Malik, which comes out on July 7th.   THE BLURB:     With words come power. But...