Monday, 25 February 2013

Interview: Stephanie Cage

What have you had published?
‘Perfect Partners’ is my first full-length novel, and I have one novella, ‘Desperate Bid’, published with The Wild Rose Press.  Before that I mostly wrote short stories and poetry.  I’ve won story competitions in two magazines –Woman’s Own and Yorkshire Ridings Magazine – and both winning stories were published.  I’ve also written some business reports and articles, but they’re not quite so interesting! 
What genre(s) of book do you write?
I’ve dabbled in all kinds of things, and I’m still quite experimental with my short stories, which include science fiction, fantasy and horror, but the focus of my longer fiction is always contemporary romance. 
What inspired you to write your first book?
I wrote ‘Desperate Bid’ because I was curious to imagine what it would be like to hand over control of your life to another person.  At the start of the story Alex is fed up and somewhat tipsy and he and his flatmate decide to put his life up for sale on an online auction site.   Then, when Sarah places the winning bid on him, he has to live with the consequences.  And, of course, Alex and Sarah turn out to be very attracted to each other, but things are a little awkward because of the power dynamics between them.  That’s the area I particularly wanted to explore in the story, although I also loved writing the song lyrics (Alex is a musician and Sarah a music lover – just one of the ways they’re great for each other). 
How long did it take you to write “Perfect Partners”?
Forever!  I started it back when Strictly Come Dancing was quite a new thing and nobody was sure whether the public’s fascination with ballroom dancing would be a flash in the pan.  The first draft was very rough and mostly focussed on Redmond and Lisa and their relationship.  I put the manuscript away for quite a few years, then took it out and submitted it to the RNA New Writers’ Scheme.  The feedback I got helped me not just to polish the story, but to rewrite it completely, with much more drama surrounding Lisa and Red’s experiences in the competition.  That was the version accepted by Crimson Romance. 
What is the working title of your next book(s)?
I tend to have a lot of projects on the go.  The working title of the sequel to ‘Perfect Partners’ is ‘A Step in the Right Direction’ and I’ve written about 30,000 words of that. I’m also editing a short Christmas romance with the working title of ‘The Santa Next Door’, and in last year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) I completed the first draft of a sequel to ‘Desperate Bid’ called ‘Desperate Measures’, but I haven’t started editing it yet. 
When and why did you begin writing?
I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t write.  I’ve always loved fiction and when I was very young I used to invent Enid Blyton-esque adventures involving me and my friends, so it was a natural progression from that storytelling to putting my stories on paper. 
Do you self publish your books or go through an agency?
I don’t have an agent but I do go through publishers rather than self-publishing.  I know you lose some control that way, but I like having the support of professional editors, cover designers, etc, and I’ve been lucky that my two publishers – The Wild Rose Press and Crimson Romance – are both very supportive and easy to work with. 
What part of writing books do you find the hardest?
Finding time for it!  It’s so easy to put off until another day, but if I put it off for too long I get very grumpy, so I’m trying to be more disciplined about fitting writing in regularly around my day job.  
What do you do in your spare time?
I read a lot and I enjoy watching films and going to the theatre, especially to see musicals.  I’ve been in amateur productions of Anything Goes and Sweet Charity, and I’d love to do more performing.  I enjoy swimming and ice skating and have recently taken up Zumba (as recommended by Darcey Bussell). 
Who is your favourite author?
I never know how to answer that question because there are so many books I love in different genres.  Possibly Louise Bagshawe because I always come back to her books when I need a pick-me-up.  I especially love ‘The Movie’ because it’s so glamorous and exciting.  
What’s your favourite genre to read?
I probably read more romance than anything else at the moment, but I also enjoy fantasy, science fiction and crime.  I’d get bored if I had to stick to one genre! 
Do you have any advice for other writers?
The main thing I always advise writers to do is read – but not just to race through books to find out what happens at the end.  It can be hard when you’re enjoying a story to stop and ask yourself how the author is drawing you in, why their characters are so convincing and what you like about the settings and writing style, but you can learn so much from that sort of thoughtful reading. It’s well worth taking the time, even if you have to go back through the book a second time to do the analysis. 
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Just to say thanks for inviting me to be interviewed.  I’ve enjoyed it - the questions really made me think!  

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Question and Answer with Sarah-Ann Smith

Q - Your career has been on a high professional level in diplomacy. What led you to decide to write a novel, and particularly a novel about wartime Vietnam?
A - My Foreign Service assignment during the last two years of the war was in the Indochina section of the State Department. In that position I was deeply aware of the way the war, and its ending, tore apart people’s lives, both American and Vietnamese. And there were many refugees, or émigrés really, in and around Washington, and I got intrigued by what their lives must be like here, after starting over. I started thinking, they would make an interesting story.

Q - Had you been to Vietnam when you started the book?
A - No, but as soon as travel bans imposed by our government were lifted, around 1988, about thirteen years after the war  ended, I did go to Ho Chi Minh city and environs, wandering the streets, keeping a journal and describing places that I thought would be where scenes in the novel might have taken place.

Q - How did you manage to connect places in wartime Saigon with what was there a decade and more later?
A - Actually, it wasn’t as hard as one might think. Vietnam at that time had not begun to develop economically, so there hadn’t been much physical change, modernizing and so forth. Saigon was like a ghost city full of people, the remnants of American service stations with the American signs, rusted but still hanging; American-style signal lights at the intersections, most of which were no longer working. The highest buildings on the skyline were American-built, so that the place looked much like a mid-1960s Midwestern city, with the older French buildings and small Asian storefronts mixed in.

Q - How long did it take you to write the novel?
A - I wrote it in fits and starts, beginning back in the mid-1980s. Other things, such as family illness, kept getting in the way. When I finally did have something I thought was worth sending to agents, the response was very discouraging, and I would periodically get stymied. But gradually it took shape, and the final version – before the copy-editing and publishing process took place – was done about four years ago.

Q - Do you speak Vietnamese?
A - No. I did try to learn such things as names people give their children, forms of address –Miss, Mr., etc. And I do speak Chinese, so Asian-language tonalities and speech patterns weren’t completely unfamiliar to me.

Q - How did you go about writing the novel? Did you do a great deal of research?
A - I had some background to start with, from my academic studies, which focused on East and Southeast Asia, and from my Foreign Service experience, though I never actually served in Vietnam. When I began working on the book, I started with the story, then tried to be sure it was as historically and culturally accurate as I could make it. That isn’t the way all authors work, it’s just my way. Some writers do it the other way around, doing lots of research, then writing the book.

Q - Did you particularly identify with one or more of the characters, Trang Sen, for instance? Are there others that you dislike?
A - To a certain extent, particularly as the characters were being developed, I identified with each of them. I don’t think I could create a character that I disliked from the word go. Once the book was in editing stage, I liked some better than others – I’m not going to say which ones.

Q - How would you describe the focus of the book?
A - I originally intended it as a coming-of-age story about a young woman with conflicting desires and ambitions. And it is a coming-of-age novel, but I’ve been surprised that readers see it as a way of understanding certain things about the Vietnam war that they never understood before. So I’ve come to see that it really is both, and perhaps other things as well.

Q - How accurate is your description of the issues faced by Vietnamese immigrants when they arrived in the U.S.
A - In my own personal experience, which is reflected in more objective studies, it was terribly difficult for many of them. Refugees who were highly trained professionals found themselves in menial jobs as the only way to make a living – that’s very humiliating for an educated person. Some committed suicide. Teen-agers were also adrift, and some went terribly astray.

Q - Did you know any couples like the one you describe?
A - Working in the State Department – and because of the personal stories that went around at the end of the war – I was aware that there were many relationships, and many kinds of relationships, between American men and Vietnamese women. Some of them were quite good and ended in marriage, but many were little better than the kind of liaison between a G.I. and what I refer to in the book as Tea Girls.

Q - Will there be a sequel?
A - A lot of people have asked me that. I think everyone who reads the book ends up wondering what will happen to Trang Sen in her new life. But given that this book took so long to write, I don’t know that I’d want to undertake that commitment right now.

Interview: Sarah-Ann Smith

What have you had published?
Trang Sen is the first novel I’ve had published. I’ve published a number of op ed pieces, and for two years was a columnist for a paper in North Carolina; I also have some unpublished short stories.
What genre(s) of book do you write?
I’m hesitant to consider my work as any particular genre. As I noted in the Q and A, I intended Trang Sen as a coming-of-age novel. It is that, but readers have also found it a way to understand some things about the Vietnam War. So I think it can be different things to different readers. In terms of writing style, it is traditional literary fiction – what used to be called “trade fiction”.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My Foreign Service assignment during the last two years of the war was in the Indochina section of the State Department. In that position I was deeply aware of the way the war, and its ending, tore apart people’s lives, both American and Vietnamese. And there were many refugees, or émigrés really, in and around Washington, and I got intrigued by what their lives must be like here, after starting over. I started thinking, they would make an interesting story.
How long did it take you to write “Trang Sen”?
I wrote it over a number of years. It took me a long time because life kept intervening, such events as the final illness and death of my parents, and other projects to which I was committed. The final version was completed about four years ago.
What is the working title of your next book(s)?
My next book will be a memoir, but not the straightforward type, more image- or memory-directed reflections on some of the more significant parts of my life. I don’t have a working title yet.
When and why did you begin writing?
About the same time I learned to read, because I love it. I have a pencil-written account, on a small notepad, of a trip my family took to New York City when I was 8 years old. As a child, I wrote plays for my brother and me to perform, and some truly dreadful fiction.
Do you self publish your books or go through an agency?
Neither, actually. I worked directly with Pisgah Press in the publication of Trang Sen. Pisgah will almost certainly be my publisher going forward.
What part of writing books do you find the hardest?
That is really hard to say. I love all parts of the process: The creation of characters and situations; the research necessary to ensure accuracy; editing and proofing.
What do you do in your spare time?
Cooking and entertaining, especially Chinese cooking; attending figure skating  championships; movies; trying to keep up with my very energetic Pembroke corgi.
Who is your favourite author?
Wow, that is hard to say. Given how much space she takes up on my bookshelf, I’d have to conclude it is Ursula K. LeGuin.
What’s your favourite genre to read?
I love really good fantasy and science fiction, continually enjoy the Harry Potter books, and also the novels of Guy Gavriel Kay.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Just to keep at it and don’t get discouraged. I’m leery of the advice to “write what you know”. Maybe “write what you dream and imagine” is better advice. 

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Review: "Against the Odds" by J. Adams

“Against the odds” is the perfect book to read before you go to bed. I read this book in one afternoon as I was hooked by the storyline and wanted to find out what happened to Raine and Hayden.

It is a simple, fast placed novel set on a ranch in New Mexico and tells the story of Raine and Hayden. J. Adams’ writing style flows well and is easy to read. The story is written in the first person from Raine’s point of view.

J. Adams creates characters that are easy to relate to and she makes you feel as though you are in the story, living the adventures alongside the characters. If you’re looking for an easy to read, well written, romance novel then this is the book for you.

(4/5 Stars)

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Interview: Tammy Robinson

What have you had published?
Charlie and Pearl, available on Amazon.
What genre(s) of book do you write?
I find the whole genre area to be a bit narrow at times. Charlie and Pearl, for example, has romance in it, but I’m loathe to list it under Romance on Amazon as the majority of those books are of the Mills and Boons kind of romance. Nothing against them at all, but if someone bought my book expecting that kind of story they would be sorely disappointed! I guess I write under the General Fiction/Contemporary fiction umbrella, with a touch of romance. I’m also really interested in magical realism, and hope to write something in that genre some day.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. It is the only thing I’ve always been certain that I want to do in life. For years I travelled and worked overseas and never had the time to dedicate to it, but now I’m back in NZ and settled, I write whenever I get the opportunity (not often at the moment with a baby in the house!)
How long did it take you to write “Charlie and Pearl”?
Around 4-5 months of writing most nights after work and on weekends. 
What is the working title of your next book(s)?
Er, ‘From the first minute’, which is total crap. I can never really think of the ‘right’ title until the book is finished. Charlie and Pearl for example was called, ‘This exact moment’, while I wrote it which is also crap and doesn’t suit the book AT ALL.
When and why did you begin writing?
I have dabbled in writing all my life; short stories here and there, a novella when I was 19, a couple of unfinished manuscripts shoved in the back of the office cupboard. It’s just something that’s in my blood. I can’t imagine ever not writing.
Do you self publish your books or go through an agency?
I self published. In the end it was remarkably easy and I wish I’d done it sooner. My advice to anyone considering it is to go for it! New Zealand is a teeny tiny country compared to the UK and the US, where I imagine there are scores of publishers and literary agents. I did a Google search for literary agents here and there were about five, and four of them weren’t accepting submissions! A lot of overseas agencies don’t accept electronic submissions, so I just found it too hard to try and go the traditional route from here. Also I read some great advice from self-published authors who highly recommended doing it yourself and retaining control over your work. 
What part of writing books do you find the hardest?
In this day and age of Facebook and blogging and oh so many entertaining things on the internet, it’s hard not to get distracted. Motivation can sometimes be a little tricky too, although once I sit down and start typing I’m happy and can go for hours.
Also there’s the fear that you are pouring your heart, soul and time into something that maybe no one will like.
What do you do in your spare time?
Spare time is non-existent now with a baby in the house! I was sadly misguided and thought that once Holly came along I’d have all this time while she slept to write. Sadly, she doesn’t like to sleep during the day and if she does it’s usually crashed out on me, so it’s all I can do to make sure the TV remote is within reach before she does.
Who is your favourite author?
I can’t narrow it down to just one! I do love the non-fiction books ‘Tales of a Female Nomad’ by Rita Golden Gelman, ‘Grounded’ by Seth Stevenson and more recently the book ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed.
Fiction, I enjoy Laura Esquivel, Paula Wall and Fannie Flagg.
What’s your favourite genre to read?
I don’t have a particular favourite. I’ll read just about anything (except horror, erotica, misery-lit, you get the idea). I enjoy everything from Literary fiction to teen fiction (if you haven’t read the Georgia Nicholson diaries you’re missing out) I do have a soft spot for Travel memoirs, especially humorous ones.
Right now I’m reading ‘The Taste of Apple Seeds’ by Katharina Hagena.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. If writing is what you love then write. Write until you’re happy with what you’ve written and then publish it. Don’t be afraid to go down the self publishing path.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for this opportunity!
Twitter: @TammyRobinson76

Monday, 11 February 2013

Interview: Lila Veen

What have you had published?

Besides a whole mess of fan fiction (and I strategically use the word “mess”), Killing Kate is my first book to be published.
What genre(s) of book do you write?
I tend to stick with romantic suspense and throw some erotica in there just to make sure people are paying attention!  Right now I’m working on a family saga with a supernatural element.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I wanted to write a book that took place in Chicago and involved a psychological disorder I’ve always been fascinated with.
How long did it take you to write “Killing Kate”?
Three months to write and three months to re-work.
What is the working title of your next book(s)?
I’m working on a four part family saga, the first of which is tentatively called “Flame”.
When and why did you begin writing?
When I was just out of college, I had a really boring job that I could perform with my eyes closed.  I started writing to pass the time and found out that I really enjoyed it, so it because a hobby outside of work.
Do you self publish your books or go through an agency?
I self-publish for now.
What part of writing books do you find the hardest?
Keeping everything straight!  I’ve actually adopted a new practice of keeping hand written notes of everything – setting, characters, plot, quirks, etc – that way I don’t have to scroll through my documents and have my notes at my fingertips.
What do you do in your spare time?
Besides writing, I participate in community theatre, read anything that’s a series and shuttle my two kids off to various lessons.
Who is your favourite author?
Do I have to pick one?!  I love Orson Scott Card, Vladimir Nabokov and V.C. Andrews, but I wouldn’t want to put those three in a room together.
What’s your favourite genre to read?
Family sagas!  I’m always looking for a new one to read.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write it and share it.  Even if you think it’s crap, do it.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Feel free to check out my book, Killing Kate, on, and let me know what you think!  I love to hear all reviews – good or bad.  I’d rather get a bad review from someone than no review at all.  I say that now….

Review: "Charlie and Pearl" by Tammy Robinson

I read this book in one sitting which is unusual for me. It was three o’clock in the morning when I put this book down and realised what the time was. The story is told from both Charlie and Pearl’s viewpoint which helps you to relate to the characters and hooks you deeper into the story.

Not only can you relate to the characters but you can also relate to the plot. The plot line is quite simple and could easily happen in real life, it’s frightening how realistic this story is and it certainly makes you think about your own life. The story is fast paced and there is something happening all the time. Every word is there for a reason.

At points the story can be rather dark and serious but there’s also humour weaved into it (I particularly like the character of Pete who features at the beginning). This story flows well and is written well. I think there is something in this book for everyone.

I would recommend this book. Buy. Read. Enjoy. (Maybe cry a little.)

(5/5 Stars)

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Review: “Black Rose, An Erotic Novella: Episode One” by Jane Aire

Black Rose, An Erotic Novella: Episode OneI like a book with a good plot that flows easily and keeps you hooked right to the end and for me this book doesn’t do that. The first half of the book moves slowly and several times I thought about putting it down. It wasn’t until the middle of the book that things started to heat up a bit. Some people may like this type of book but I definitely did not. If you want to write this type of book then fine but I would not have chosen to read it if I knew what it contained. The blurb of this book needs to be edited to make sure that readers are aware of the extreme use of BDSM in this book because at some times it is truly frightening.

I also didn’t like the accents in this book, although that’s just my opinion and I’m sure they wouldn’t bother many people, I found them distracting. My focus was mainly on trying to read and understand the accents used rather than what was happening in the book although by halfway through I’d got used to this.

I felt a slight connection to the characters but not as much as I’d have hoped for. I felt sympathy for Chris, I felt Christina’s pain and I quickly formed a disliking of Ty but I felt that the connection between the reader and the characters could’ve been a lot stronger.

I feel that I’ve been very harsh in this review so I’d like to end it on a good note. Jane Aire has great potential. Her descriptive writing is fantastic so much so that you feel as if you are in the situations, seeing things for yourself, and her punctuation is up to scratch. You can tell that this book has been heavily proofread and edited to remove all errors. I would not read this book again but I’m sure that many would enjoy it.

(2/5 Stars)

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Review: "The Valentine Voyeur" by Kara Leigh Miller

Kara Leigh Miller has done it again. Another five star book which is well written, with an original plot line and characters you grow to love.

This story is written almost in a diary format with the main part of the story based at different times over one day, Valentines Day. Greg Markson is a detective who has been working on a case for three years trying to catch a peeping tom who only ‘peeps’ on Valentines Day.

Alexandra is a thirty-year-old woman who hasn’t been with a man since she broke up with her fiancée several years ago but all that is about to change when her friend, Rebecca, takes her to a Valentine’s party.

A quick and easy read with an unusual plot line. A must read!

(5/5 Stars)

Review: "Teaching Tom to Share" by Nia Bradley

Teaching Tom to ShareThis is a relatively short book but just long enough to give this story what it needs. Unlike some erotic stories, this story is well written and flows well. Punctuation is used effectively and it is clear that someone has put in a lot of effort to proofread this story and make sure that it was ready for publication.

There is a little bit of a story behind this tale but it is mainly about a guy who has sex with both Rachel and her 18 year old daughter, Naomi. The sex scenes are well explained but are a bit repetitive, saying this, there are only so many ways to do the same thing. This is a great story for when you have a spare half an hour and I would recommend it.

Available on Amazon.

(4/5 Stars)

Review: "Broken Rules" by Elle A. Rose

Broken Rules (The Chronicles of Amber Harris)This is the third book I have read by Elle and I have enjoyed them all. This book follows on from the last one in “The Chronicles of Amber Harris” series. The story tells the tale of how Amber goes to the rescue of Lance’s family and ends up leaving with more than she bargained for.

This is an easy read. To begin with I felt that the plot was a bit forced because it just seemed to be one event after the other with nothing really joining them together. At this point I was debating between giving the book three or fours stars and settled on three and a half because I didn’t feel it was quite as good as the previous book in the series and so did not deserve the same rating as it, however, as I neared the end half of the book things started to pick up pace. I couldn’t put the book down and ending up reading it late into the night, well after I was supposed to be in bed. For the full effect of the book you must read it right to the end as this is what brings it all together.

I have liked Elle’s writing style in all of her books. It flows well and she uses everyday words so that you don’t have to sit with a dictionary by your side. The only thing that lets Elle down is her proofreading, especially in this book. Many times I’ve seen “where” used instead of “were” and there are words missing from several sentences. I think most of the problems where the wrong word has been used is down to spell check correcting a misspelt word and replacing it with the wrong word e.g. “get” and “got.”

Saying all of this, something that never fails to impress me with Elle’s writing is her ability to create characters and make them life-like.

(4/5 Stars)