Monday, 23 January 2023

Talk to Me Reviews - Part Two

 

I have a few more advance reviews to share for talk to me about when we were perfect, and they're all great! I'm so happy that everyone is really 'getting' this collection, as I feel my poetry is more personal than my fiction and so it feels really important to me that readers enjoy it!

It's launching in March and will be available to pre-order NOW from Victorina Press.

***

 “It’s magical.” Ralph Dartford, author of Hidden Music

***

"The writers I love the most really capture how it feels to be human; Huggins is one of them. This poetry collection expresses our melancholy, longings, griefs, and joys; it absorbs us in summer romances, lost loves, coming-of-age tales, what-might-have-beens, our struggles to navigate relationships in all of life’s seasons, and does it in a fresh and accessible way.

I have a sensation of familiarity with Huggins’s poetry, not because it’s the same as others I’ve read but because I’m so close to the emotions she conveys. The poems feel as though they have a warm amber tint, drawing you into their nostalgia, a glimpse into something private and personal. 

Each poem is evocative and reaches far beyond the page. ‘no doubt’ is my favourite, no doubt about that; it’s a poem I wish I’d written! I was also particularly moved by ‘sparrow footprints’, ‘all those years, we were dancing’, ‘the sound of a heart breaking’, ‘the ending’, ‘a ribbon of red’, and ‘listing’. 

I wouldn’t describe myself as a ‘poetry person’; sometimes it feels (rightly or wrongly) that the meaning is deliberately obscured, but that’s far from true with talk to me about when we were perfect. If you think poetry isn’t for you, try reading this collection. Read slowly; read aloud to feel the words. Huggins proves that she is a writer with great emotional understanding and the technique to express it; her work is deep, beautiful and truthful, free from pretension. 

Kazuo Ishiguro said in his Nobel Lecture in 2017, ‘Stories can entertain, sometimes teach or argue a point. But for me the essential thing is that they communicate feelings… In the end, stories are about one person saying to another: This is the way it feels to me. Can you understand what I’m saying? Does it also feel this way to you?’ 

When it comes to Amanda Huggins’s poetry as well as her prose, my answer to these questions is always yes." Hannah Retallick, author and award-winning short story writer


"I love this collection and savoured every moment. Thank you for giving me the chance to enjoy it ahead of publication. talk to me about when we were perfect is a beautifully presented poetry collection by the wonderfully talented Amanda Huggins. The cover image, French flaps and illustrations underline the quality of this product. The poetry inside sparkles. I admire the careful ordering of poems, from the almost-baby in 'a ribbon of red' to 'egg' that follows. I love the reflective quality which captures young life and enabled me to re-experience the confusion or joy and spontaneity of youth. There are some absolute crackers including 'out chasing boys' which nails those heady days and 'dizzy with it' which captures the exuberance of the time. I highly recommend talk to me about when we were perfect. Treat yourself to a copy."
Gail Aldwin, author of This Much Huxley Knows and The String Games

 

 

 



Wednesday, 28 December 2022

talk to me about when we were perfect


My new poetry collection will be out in March, and the first reviews are already in...

Thanks to Leo Boix and Bethany Rivers for their generous and in-depth appraisals.


Leo Boix, author of Ballad of a Happy Immigrant

"Amanda Huggins’ new collection, talk to me about when we were perfect, explores issues of female love and desire, intimacy, memory and loss with sheer clarity and devastating honesty. The narrative quality of many of these exciting poems, coupled with the highly lyrical voice of the poet, takes the reader on a surprising journey of self-discovery and wonder. In her collection, Huggins looks in detail at the miracle of everyday life, the complexities of human relationships and what it means to be in love. ‘If I ever question my love for you,/aware that the years have wearied its shine,/knowing we can’t outrun/the ravages of familiarity,/then I picture life without you.’ writes the poet in ‘no doubt’. 

The book scrutinises the often-overlooked interactions between us and the puzzling world surrounding us. Many of Huggins' poems have a sense of life passing and the light quality. Such is the case in ‘komorebi’. ‘My heart will keep hold of that Japanese word/for dappled sunshine spilling through trees,/the interplay between light and leaves,/and it will never forget the dizziness of love/like an unending intake of breath.’ 

This is a dazzling book of poems full of light and compassion that stay with the reader long after the last page is read."

(You can buy Leo's collection here via the Penguin website)


Bethany Rivers, author of Fountain of Creativity and the sea refuses no river

"Your senses will be delighted by this debut poetry collection by Amanda Huggins. She has a particular gift for highlighting the special moments in everyday life. Even in poems of longing and sadness, there is a tenderness there that will make you smile. Huggins skilfully handles moments of love, humour, grief, with a wonderfully light touch. There is a delicate interweaving of both the sorrows and the beauty of life, which feels like a celebration of what is.

These poems have a keen eye and ear turned towards those extraordinary moments within the domestic world. In ‘at the kitchen table’, we see a couple leaving an idyllic holiday cottage of ‘a dog-eared novel/ the weekend papers’ and ‘ice-melt from the trees / pattering on the bonnet’ back to the world that is ‘a little less bright / and a little less kind’ but still what the narrator remembers, and the reader is left with is the poignancy of ‘a newborn lamb’ with ‘his pink ears backlit by the sun’.

‘okaeri’ (a Japanese word for welcome) is simultaneously full of longing and welcome for our loved one, as we learn to ‘wait out winter / warm our love on a low flame / fashion its cloak from fallen feathers / anchor it with stones’.

In the middle of the collection, Huggins pays homage to that old favourite poem by Ezra Pound. Her language musically and succinctly plays and expands upon the illusory nature of life ‘everything gone and everything gathered’, as well as offering the reader the deep resonance of universal truth of ‘Each of us a single grain of rice, / each of us a petal on a rain-splashed bough.’

Throughout the collection, Amanda Huggins captures beautifully the central detail of people’s lives and how far reaching those ripples expand."

(Check out Bethany's collection here)

 

Monday, 7 November 2022

A Writer Reading - Erica Crompton

 

 A WRITER READING - ERICA CROMPTON



The first book I remember reading
The first story I became hooked on was one called The Cockyolly Bird by Enid Blyton. I actually listened to it on audio format, read by Joanna Lumley. The story follows a bird, my memory is sketchy but I still remember vividly an image the cassette conjured up of a brightly coloured umbrella with a regal, gold crown on the top!

The books which shaped my childhood
My mom would take us to the local library when I was around twelve where I discovered the Sweet Valley High series by Francine Pascal. Those books were not only a sweet escape from my young teenage growing pains but also like a map for middle school. I adored the twins.

The books I read as a teenager
I read magazines a lot between the ages of thirteen and sixteen – Elle and The Face were my favourites. My mom had a big pile of women's glossies stored in the bottom of her wardrobe and I'd spend many happy hours sat on the floor pouring over their contents. You can see the influence of magazines in The Mind Surfer, I hope, especially the first-person pieces you get in women's magazines.




The first book which made me want to be a writer
It was always my young ambition to work in a fashion department on a magazine or newspaper, in particular as a fashion assistant. I read a story about a fashion assistant in Elle magazine as a teenager and fell in love with the tragic glamour of her buried in a suitcase of designer clothes and Stussy jewellery. The fashion assistant was upset she had to send all the clothes back to the fashion houses after a shoot and she spent all her working day in a fashion cupboard full of designer clothes!

The writer who changed my view of the world
Susie Orbach, without doubt! I read her book, Hunger Strike, when I was working in London and struggling with my eating. I was quite poorly with my eating which I touch on in The Mind Surfer, but Susie Orbach's book contextualised my struggles and brought my eating and weight back on track when (very expensive) private therapists had failed. It was the first time I experienced first-hand the power of books and how they can help people and I guess, aged twenty-one, reading this was a turning point where I decided to write my own books to help others once I was in a better place with my mental health.




The book which will always have a place on my shelves
Probably The Mullet by Barney Hoskyns and Mark Larson, a novelty hardback book my mom bought me when I went to university in London. The mullet was back in fashion and I unashamedly sported one for two whole years.

The book I tell everyone else to read
Ways of Seeing by John Berger. It's on the reading list of many artistic degree programmes in the first year and opens the doors to viewing art with more discerning eyes. It also demystifies lofty museums and expensive art tags. Also anything by the French writer Colette, my favourite being Claudine and Annie in the Claudine series – I had tears of joy finishing that book.

The books I didn’t finish
I have three bookshelves at home and about 85% of the books on these shelves are still unfinished.

The book I am reading right now
Recent purchases I plan to read are The Picador Book of Contemporary Scottish Fiction because I love Scotland. And Baha'i Basics that introduces the reader to the Baha'i religion – I describe myself as spiritually curious and enjoy learning about different faiths from all over the world.

The book I turn to for comfort
Anything by the Singaporean writer, Catherine Lim. She writes short stories which suit my attention span and they're all so painfully ironic they never fail to make me feel better about my own life – in the same way I listen to Coldplay and am just really happy I'm not Chris Martin! She's the master of irony and her love stories especially got me through many lonely nights when I was single.


ABOUT ERICA

Erica Crompton is a spokesperson on mental health issues and schizophrenia. She has a history of paranoid schizophrenia with a current diagnosis of schizoaffective and lived experience of psychosis. While dealing with her own illness, she has still managed to maintain a job as a freelance journalist. She has handled her illness with therapy and medication for almost two decades. During this period, Erica spent one week on psychiatric ward in 2009 after surviving a suicide attempt in a run-down flatshare in Birmingham, UK. As a keynote speaker, Erica inspires audiences with her unique story of living with psychosis and schizophrenia.

She has a degree in journalism and is working full-time as a freelance journalist and editor. Erica is a former Editor of Ophthalmology Times Europe. Additionally, she has held long-term and full-time staff positions at The Daily Telegraph, the Mail Online, John Lewis’ head office and as a radio script writer at UTV, all while experiencing psychosis. Working as a freelance journalist, Erica has written about her mental illness for The New York Times, The Independent, The Lancet Psychiatry, Woman Magazine, The Mail on Sunday and Chat.

Erica is based in Staffordshire, UK. She enjoys walking and loves Brazilian dancing. In her spare time, she is a mental health activist, and she is running her own fashion label and ‘mad-to-order’ t-shirt design service, Medfed.

Erica Crompton's memoir, The Mind Surfer, is published next month by Victorina Press. 

Part memoir, part self-help book, The Mind Surfer is aimed at all those whose lives have been touched by psychosis. 

You can find out more and pre-order here

Tuesday, 1 November 2022

Book Review by Judy Darley

A fantastically generous in-depth review from Judy Darley for An Unfamiliar Landscape!


Extract from book review by Judy Darley

An Unfamiliar Landscape

Amanda Huggins

...If you’ve read Amanda Huggins’ fiction before, you’ll be aware of the richness of her writing. Equally comfortable writing page-long tales, novels and poetry, Huggins appears to inhabit the worlds she conjures, adding details with the power to be both delicious and disconcerting.

In An Unfamiliar Landscape, Huggins’ third full-length collection, the opening short story Aleksandr offers vapour trails of backstory and future story, so that when it ended, it left me hungry and eager for more.

“I know he hates being on land, that he feels tied to the sea by an invisible thread, that it pulls him back with every ebbing tide.”

It’s easy to fall hard for Huggins’ characters, who spring from pages fully formed and eager to make your acquaintance. Their emotions are deftly, colourfully painted, with yearning a key trait. Even seen through others’ eyes, many seem wistful and searching, making me want to offer solace.

Huggins is able to weave more into a single paragraph than many achieve in pages of text, adding texture and significance to the worlds she creates for her characters to inhabit. Many of these worlds are salt-scented UK coastal settings, while others  lure us further away, inviting us to explore Tokyo, Paris, Berlin and other places....

 

You can read the full review here



Thursday, 6 October 2022

TODAY'S THE DAY! Publication day for An Unfamiliar Landscape

 

Today is publication day for my third full-length short story collection, an Unfamiliar Landscape, which was commissioned last year by Teika Bellamy for Valley Press.

It's a mix of prizewinning stories from the last couple of years, a few older stories which I have re-worked, and a whole set of brand new pieces. I'd been working hard on my poetry collection (out in March next year) up until this book was commissioned, and prior to that I'd written and published two novellas with Victorina Press, both of which won the Saboteur Award for Best Novella, in 2021 and 2022 respectively. But returning in earnest to shorter fiction has really felt like coming home and has inspired a whole new wave of stories, many of which will be included in my 2024 collection of Japanese-set fiction.

I have already garnered some great advance reviews for An Unfamiliar Landscape, and I hope you enjoy it!

 


 

THE BLURB:

From a rain-soaked Berlin to a neon-lit Tokyo, the midwest of North America to the Parisian backstreets, a suburban London kitchen to a fishing village on the Yorkshire coast, wherever these characters are travelling from or to, they are all navigating unfamiliar ground in search of answers. These are stories of yearning to belong, of the urge to escape – tales of grief and alienation, of loss and betrayal, love and hope.

 


THE REVIEWS:

'Huggins’ atmospheric and evocative prose has the power to transport you around the globe while tunnelling deep into your soul. The tiniest details make the greatest impact as Huggins explores grief, relationships and self-discovery in her latest collection of short stories. A masterclass in short form fiction.'

Sarah Linley, author of The Trip and The Wedding Murders
 
'I savoured the moment of opening this new collection of short fiction by Amanda Huggins. She always writes outstanding stories but this collection is absolutely exquisite. The writing is rich with detail and the settings lodge themselves within the reader’s mind as one might expect from the title An Unfamiliar Landscape. I also love the disparate cast of characters Huggins introduces, each with their own challenges and dilemmas. They behave in unexpected ways which makes every story intriguing. A superb read.'

Gail Aldwin, author of The String Games and This Much Huxley Knows

'An Unfamiliar Landscape is another wonderful collection from an author whose writing never ceases to inspire me. She drew me into the characters’ experiences, painting their internal scenery with insight, empathy and compassion. I often found myself thinking, ‘Wow, she’s reading my soul’ – different circumstances but familiar emotions. There is such comfort when, as the reader, you feel understood.
 
Now I’ve finished my greedy binge-read, I’ve put this book on my to-reread-ASAP pile and shall savour the collection as it deserves, pausing between stories to let them resonate. I have no doubt that I’ll discover more and more each time.'

Hannah Retallick, author.




You can buy a copy here! 



Friday, 30 September 2022

The September Newsletter from Valley Press



IN THE SEPTEMBER NEWSLETTER FROM VALLEY PRESS I'M TALKING ABOUT MY NEW SHORT STORY COLLECTION...

This month we'd like to introduce you to An Unfamiliar Landscape, with author Amanda Huggins to tell you a bit more about it...


An Unfamiliar Landscape by Amanda Huggins

An Unfamiliar Landscape is my third collection of short stories, and my first publication with Valley Press. VP did actually reject my first collection around five years ago – but they were right to do so! I received some very encouraging feedback from their external readers, but I can see see now that it still needed a lot of work.

            More recently I’ve published two novels with Victorina Press – All Our Squandered Beauty and Crossing the Lines – both of which went on to win the Saboteur Award for Best Novella in 2021 and 2022 respectively. However, I’m thrilled to have returned to the world of short story writing for this collection, as it will always be my first love – in fact both of my novels started life as two-thousand word stories.

           Crafting a tale in so few words requires a different set of skills to novel writing, and I don’t think the former should ever be seen as practise for the latter — a piece of short fiction isn’t a miniature novel any more than a novel is a protracted short story. I think short fiction is well-suited to the pace and attention span of the modern world, yet some readers say they don’t read shorts because they can’t lose themselves in the action the way they can in a novel. It is true that they demand your fine-tuned focus, that each sentence needs to weigh in heavy to earn its place, and so short stories need to be read slowly and savoured. Yet this brings its own rewards. A cracking story will repay your time and attention by leaving you with something to think about for days after you’ve read it.


Amanda Huggins, author of An Unfamiliar Landscape

I’m a big fan of all things Japanese, including literature. Japanese writers are renowned for sparing and effective use of language, a certain nuance and elusiveness. These are qualities which suit the short story form and which draw me back again and again and inform my own writing.

           An Unfamiliar Landscape takes us on a journey from rain-soaked Berlin to neon-bright Tokyo; from mid-west North America to the back streets of Paris; from a suburban London kitchen to a Yorkshire fishing village. Yet wherever the characters live, and wherever they travel to or from, they are all navigating unfamiliar ground in their search for answers.

           In ‘The Names of the Missing’ Kara walks the streets of Berlin, photographing the homeless and the displaced while looking for her own missing boys. Sam and Isla’s familiar world is irrevocably altered ‘In the Time It Takes to Make a Risotto’, and in ‘Waiting to Fall’ Gina is unsettled by the wild landscape when she stays at remote Ragwood Hall. In ‘Something in the Night’ an urban forest plays tricks on Anna’s perception of reality, and in the title story, Sophia moves through Tokyo almost unseen; simultaneously freed and trapped by her apparent invisibility.

           These are stories of the yearning to belong and the urge to escape; tales of grief and alienation, loss and betrayal, love and truth, change and hope; they are stories from places where everything is not always as it first appears. I hope you enjoy them!

An Unfamiliar Landscape is available to pre-order now here and will be released 6th October 2022

ABOUT THE AUTHOR...

Amanda Huggins is the author of the novellas All Our Squandered Beauty and Crossing the Lines, both of which won the Saboteur Award for Best Novella, in 2021 and 2022 respectively. She has also published four previous collections of short fiction and poetry. She was a runner-up in the Costa Short Story Award 2018 and her prize-winning story ‘Red’ features in her collection Scratched Enamel Heart. In 2020 she won the Colm Toibin International Short Story Award, was included in the BIFFY50 list of Best British and Irish Flash Fiction 2019–20, and her poetry chapbook, The Collective Nouns for Birds, won the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet. In 2021 she won the H E Bates Short Story Competition and was Highly Commended in the Fish Short Story Prize. Her short fiction has also been broadcast on BBC Radio and her travel writing has won numerous awards, including the British Guild of Travel Writers New Travel Writer of the Year Award. Amanda grew up on the North Yorkshire coast, moved to London in the 1990s, and now lives in West Yorkshire.

Saturday, 17 September 2022

An Unfamiliar Landscape

 

My new book is here!

 An Unfamiliar Landscape – the third short story collection from Amanda Huggins

From a rain-soaked Berlin to a neon-lit Tokyo, the midwest of North America to the Parisian backstreets, a suburban London kitchen to a fishing village on the Yorkshire coast, wherever these characters are travelling from or to, they are all navigating unfamiliar ground in search of answers. These are stories of yearning to belong, of the urge to escape – tales of grief and alienation, of loss and betrayal, love and hope.

“Amanda writes with empathy, an eye for vivid detail, a sense of adventure, and great charm.” – Alison Moore, Booker-shortlisted author of The Lighthouse

“Huggins writes with an attentive, painterly touch for the emotional details of her characters’ lives.” – Rónán Hession, author of Leonard and Hungry Paul

“Beauty is never squandered in Huggins’s work. This is a writer who grasps it, weaves it through in the details of lives.” – Angela Readman, author of Something Like Breathing

Edition: Paperback

Date Published: 2022-10-06

ISBN: 9781912436828

Catalogue Number: VP0199

Number of Pages: 160

An Unfamiliar Landscape launches 6th October and you can pre-order from Valley Press here

 


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.
 
THE BLURB:
 
 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.

MY REVIEW:
 
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.
 
THE BLURB:
 
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.
 
 
 
MY REVIEW:

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

 


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

 

 

Talk to Me Reviews - Part Two

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