Latest Posts

Cover Love . . .With Sue McDonagh

Posted on 5th June, 2020

This week, I am delighted to welcome a new visitor to my blog - contemporary romance author Sue McDonagh. As well as being a writer, Sue is also an artist, so I specially wanted to feature her in my Cover Love series, as she is in the highly unusual position of being her own cover artist.


Here she is to tell you all about it.


* * * *


I’d read that authors who ask to design their own covers were very frowned upon, that it was a sure sign of amateurism. So I’d resigned myself to having nothing to do with the cover design of my first novel, Summer at the Art Café, published by Choc Lit.


But it turned out to be really very difficult to lose control of something that I was most connected with. I very cheekily sent in a loose sketch, which was instantly returned as not suitable. I can’t even believe now that I was completely undeterred, and sent in a more finished version of that early sketch. This one hit the mark, but wasn’t quite up to scratch for Berni Stevens, who does all the Choc Lit covers. At that time, I had no idea about the design guidelines for a successful cover, but I learned quickly!


By the time I’d sent her within the next 24 hours, a further three versions of my design, she replied ‘Stop!’ and what has followed has been a wonderful relationship which has resulted in three covers in total, all bearing my paintings, and Berni’s unmistakeable hand in the font positioning and a considerable amount of patient photoshop type tweaking on her part.



Other authors have asked if I’d advertise my skills for their book covers, but I know perfectly well that my covers only work because someone who knows what they’re doing is responsible for positioning them just so!


I’m attaching some of the original paintings that are now the covers for the Art Café series, and you’ll be able to see that liaison.



I love how my readers write to me, telling me they’ve visited that bay on trips to Gower. I always reply in the positive, despite the fact – I’m not sure whether I should tell you this – that that bay does not exist! Summer at the Art Café is a combination of the headland from my local beach, the beach and cliff is Langland Bay, where I’ve spent much time painting, the building was inspired by a National Trust photographed and substantially changed, and the foreground was from St Davids, West Wales, another favourite location of mine. Oh, and that purple motorbike? I really wanted to buy it at a local dealers but couldn’t really justify having two motorbikes… I keep promising myself that one day, I’m having that bike, as it’s inspired the series that has worn BestSeller banners regularly since publication.


Having created this cover, it had become my brand, and I had to ensure that the others in the series tallied with it. It’s quite a challenge to make them appear connected, but not all the same!


The table and chairs on the cover of Meet Me at the Art Café were ‘borrowed’ from a local seaside café, and out soon third novel Escape to the Art Café swops the view around, so that we’re sitting on a bench on the beach at the other end of the bay.


After much hunting on Google for the exact reference, I used my own very old garden bench, and a blanket that I crocheted some years ago, particularly as crochet, one of my passions, appears in the novel.


I have my fourth book sort of planned out – will this tie in with the Art Café? And what cover will I design for it? You, like me, will have to wait and see! x


* * * *


Sue's Links:  


Summer at the Art Cafe  


Meet Me at the Art Cafe  


Escape to the Art Cafe  


Sue's Twitter page    





A Chat With Tania Crosse

Posted on 30th May, 2020

This week, I am delighted to welcome to my blog my fellow saga author Tania Crosse, whose book, The Street of Broken Dreams, earlier this year won the RNA's award for the best Romantic Saga.


Tania, welcome!


First of all, many congratulations on winning the RNA’s very first Romantic Saga of the Year Award. Before I ask about the book itself, The Street of Broken Dreams, I’d like to know how you and your saga-writing friends feel about the saga genre finally being recognised in this way.


Thank you, Susanna. I feel deeply privileged to have won this major award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and think of myself as an ambassador for this wonderful genre. It sometimes isn’t appreciated that it covers such a huge range of topics, eras and styles of writing that there is something to suit every taste, from the more traditional, cosy sagas to authors who, like myself, write gritty, hard-hitting stories. So it really is gratifying that the genre should have been recognised by such a prestigious organisation as the RNA.


The appetite for family sagas seems bigger than ever. What is the appeal of the saga to the reader.


Family sagas do indeed seem to be more popular than ever, particularly those set in the Twentieth Century. For some, it’s a case of nostalgia, but I believe the advent of the e-book has drawn those of a younger generation to the genre, too. The world has changed so much that they are curious about how their parents and grandparents lived. I also think that Twentieth Century sagas feel more accessible to younger people than, say, Victorian – even though that has always been my own favourite era and is still extremely popular. Combine all that with gripping story lines, engaging characters and, very importantly, a well-written narrative, and the reader is hooked.


Gripping, gutsy, unputdownable.’ ‘The historical detail is superb and this story is full of heart.’ The Street of Broken Dreams has received some wonderful reviews. Could you tell us something about the inspiration behind the book?


I myself lived in Banbury Street, Battersea, the street of the title, as a small child, and I always like to write about places I know. Ballet has been a life-long passion, and I’d wanted to write a story with a dancer as the heroine for a long time. Like Cissie, I once danced solo on the stage of Wimbledon Theatre, although only in an amateur way. So it was wonderful to give Cissie all the talent I never had. What happens to her in the 1944 prologue, however – and I must warn you, it’s pretty shocking – was inspired by a frightening encounter my mother experienced during the blackout. Thank goodness she was unharmed, but she never forgot what happened.


I studied dance under Miss Doris Knight for over a decade, and remained good friends with her throughout her life. She was a huge fan of my books, and told me all about her life as a dancer in repertory during the war. That became the Romaine Theatre Company in the story. Sadly she didn’t live to see the novel that she partly inspired.


In the book, Cissie’s friend, Mildred, has her own story. That was partly inspired by the fact that my father served in submarines in the Far East. My mother was one of those who was unable to celebrate VE Day while the war still raged against Japan, not knowing if Dad would return.


Many of your reviews comment on your attention to historical detail. Do you enjoy the research? How do you go about it?


I absolutely love doing the research! It’s fantastic when you discover a detail you’ve been searching for, or a surprise one that can set off a new scene or even thread to a story. In fact, for me, the history comes first, and the characters and plot grow out of it. I do my research in all sorts of ways, from original documents, books written by experts, or articles on the internet, but always cross-referencing. First hand accounts are a wonderful source. Sometimes I’ve been lucky enough to interview people who have lived through the era, although that is obviously more difficult as time passes and sadly, I’ve recently lost someone who had become a good friend I’d originally made in this way some years ago. But the BBC’s WW2 – The People’s War project remains accessible online. And now that I’m writing about an era only just before my own time – and things didn’t change for many years after the war – I’m drawing on my own memories as well.


The Street of Broken Dreams is your second Banbury Street story, following on from The Candle Factory Girl. What are the challenges of writing a sequel that also has to be a stand-alone book?


The Candle Factory Girl and The Street of Broken Dreams form a mini-series in that they are set in the same street. But they take place a decade apart, and we have a new cast of characters – with the important exception of down-to-earth, golden-hearted matriarch of the street, Eva. She and her husband have six children, the eldest two of whom are among the main characters in The Candle Factory Girl. But they have moved on, and it’s the turn of Eva’s two middle children, now adults, to have their story in The Street of Broken Dreams, together with their new neighbours.


So, in this case, there was no problem at all. My two previous stories, though, Nobody’s Girl and A Place to Call Home, were more clearly prequel and sequel. The first book is an entire story in itself with its own happy ending, but I do hint at the approach of war. The second book does indeed take the same characters through WW2, with the addition of the evacuees who come to stay. The main thing is to make sure that anyone who hasn’t read the first book has enough information about what happened previously to understand the situation, but without boring someone who has read it. The situation with my previous Devonshire series was slightly different. Each book was based on a different aspect of local history, moving forward in time, and had its own happy ending. I created links so that I could bring back characters from earlier novels in a minor way, but without revealing their own story.


Have you ever written about a character who was meant to have a small part in the story, but who unexpectedly blossomed and wanted a larger part in the plot?


Very much so. All my characters talk to me, and sometimes they take over. Eva is a prime example. When we lived in Banbury Street, we shared a house with a lovely elderly lady, and Eva was inspired by her and a mix of her visitors and a good dose of my own imagination. Eva has lived in the street all her life. In The Candle Factory Girl, she is best friend and confidante to a neighbour – whose daughter is the heroine. Eva was meant to be a minor character, but I found that she had kept her friend’s devastating secret for eighteen years, only revealing it at her friend’s dying request. Eva keeps a chaotic house and is arguably the worst cook in the world, but it is to her that everyone turns in a crisis. She grew as the book progressed, and I loved her so much that I wanted to explore her further. She is one of the main reasons I set another story on the street, with Eva very much as a major character.


If The Street of Broken Dreams was chosen by a book group, what do you think would make a good discussion question?


I think the obvious one would be who would you consider the main character, Cissie, Mildred or Eva? But you could also ask if anyone has spotted the link between this book and one of my 1950s Dartmoor sagas, Lily’s Journey.


What’s next for you? More Banbury Street?


For various reasons, I’ve taken a break from writing anything new, but I have been doing some research for a possible new WW2 novel. However, Eva has two younger children. Perhaps they have a story to tell, too, so it might be back to Banbury Street at some time in the future. It would, after all, be lovely to pop in to see Eva again, and see how she is faring!

Many thanks for joining me here today, Tania.

Thank you for inviting me onto your blog, Susanna. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed answering your questions!


* * * *


Tania's links:


Her author page on Amazon 


Her Facebook page 


Tania's Twitter page




Where I Wrote . . .

Posted on 26th May, 2020

A week or two ago, I showed you where I was when I wrote the scene in The Sewing Room Girl in which Juliet visits Adeline Tewson's textiles factory for the first time. Today, I'm going to show you where I wrote a scene in The Deserter's Daughter.


It's the scene in which Ralph bursts into the Jenkinses' kitchen and confronts his father, Joseph Armstrong, and they argue about the antiques shop. Joseph knows exactly how he wants the family business to be run, but Ralph has his own ideas - and his own agenda.


I wrote the scene in the prettiest place you can imagine - sitting at one of the outdoor tables belonging to Haulfre Tea Rooms, which is the delightful cafe in Haulfre Gardens on the side of the Great Orme in Llandudno.




It was a sunny morning and there were lots of people enjoying drinks, cakes and snacks. Meanwhile, I was writing a highly charged scene with a violent ending.


* * * *


Here is an extract for you:


Ralph ghosted his way down the back entries until he stood outside the Jenkins’ house. The wooden gate might be in need of a lick of paint, but someone had kept the hinges oiled and it opened quietly onto tidy yard - mangle in the corner, tin bath hanging on the wall next to the rain-water butt, a pot of herbs on top of the coal-hole. Ducking beneath the washing-line, he cracked open the back door onto the scullery. Brooms and pail, clothes horse, roller towel, the copper, two sinks - not bad. This might be a simple two-up two-down, but if it had separate sinks for dishes and clothes, it was a better place that he had thought. His opinion of the widow went up a notch.

    The door to the kitchen was ajar. Good.

    Dad's voice. ‘I’ll tell thee straight, Mrs Jenkins. You need protecting from your husband’s actions.’

    ‘Mr Armstrong, please – ’

    ‘Nay, madam, let me finish. I can offer that protection. I’m prepared to buy a house. Buy, mind, not rent.'

    Buy? Where was the money to come from?

    'Somewhere with indoor plumbing and a garden, electrics too maybe, and right away from here. By the sea, if that suits you. Southport’s reet grand, or Lytham St Anne's. Young Carrie can come too, and welcome.’

    Southport, Lytham. As far away as you damn well please.

    Mrs Jenkins whispered, ‘What would your lads say? Aren’t they expecting to have the shop one day?’

    ‘Not Adam. I paid for him to get a fancy education and he's a doctor. As for Ralph – well, yes, in different circumstances he would get the business; but he can get a job in one of them posh antiques places in town. He’s even mentioned us having an auction room - as if we have time for that! But if auctioning is what he's set his heart on, working in a posh place on Deansgate would be a good move. He might even see if there's an opening at that auction place in Chester - Foster and Whatsit's. Don't fret: I'll see him all right for money.’

    Ralph’s heart caught between his ribs. So this was it. The old bastard wanted to wrench the business away from him. He planned to sell the whole bloody concern to the highest bidder so he could piss off and grow roses in Southport. All Ralph's years of work counted for nothing. All the years he, Dad and Adam had assumed - more than assumed - had known, dammit, known that the business would one day be his were to be dashed aside. Bung him a few hundred and send him to Deansgate - did Dad really think that was enough?

    Did he really think Ralph would permit it?

    And it wouldn't be just Ralph's inheritance he was selling. It would be the highly lucrative future that he and the others had bided their time and waited for. His associates wouldn't tolerate being let down. Just see what had happened to Jonty Fellowes when he pulled out.

    He wouldn’t let it happen, by Christ he wouldn’t, and he would deal with it now, here, in this house, in this kitchen. Contain the damage. Before she could accept the escape route on offer. Before Dad could march off to Brookburn with the glad tidings. Before anyone else could know what had been suggested. Kill it now. Kill it before it could grow.

How could Dad do this to him? How could he show him such lack of concern, such disrespect?

    Heat pumped round his body, preparing him. His brain surged with small explosions of argument, persuasion, anger. He barged through the door, seeing everything at once; the war had taught him that. Two faces turned to him, eyes wide, mouths slack. They were sitting facing one another across the kitchen table.

    'What the hell d'you think you're playing at? Sell everything and fob me off with a job on Deansgate? Not on your life. That's bloody outrageous.'

    'Watch your language in front of a lady.'

    'My language is the least of your problems. You want to retire - fine. Off you go, and about time too. But you don't need to sell the business and you don't need to buy a house.'

    'I'll do as I please.' Dad came to his feet, the chair screeching on the tiled floor.

    'You damn well won't.' Ralph strode forward. He squared his shoulders and expanded his chest. 'I've worked in that shop my whole life. I was running errands and doing small deliveries when I was eight years old. Every minute I wasn't at school, I was in the shop, watching, learning, listening to you and Weston discussing pieces, pricing them. Adam never did that, even before he got his high-and-mighty calling. But I did, because I knew what I wanted - and you're not taking it away.'

    'Nay, your ideas for the shop are pie in the sky. Adding an auction room - have you lost your senses? If you keep the shop, you'll end up losing everything because of your fancy ideas. You want a better class of customer - go to Deansgate. You want auctions - go to Chester. But don't kid yourself I'm going to let you run my business into the ground. I'm doing you a favour.'

    'A favour?' He took another step forward, crowding the old fool. He planted his feet apart, jutting his chin, but kept his voice low. 'Destroying my inheritance - a favour? You think I can't manage the business? You're the one that can't cope. You're stuck in the past. Who needs a delivery van when there's a perfectly good horse and cart? Who needs elegant displays when you can cram the windows full to bursting? Who needs modern ideas when you can carry on as if Victoria is still on the throne? Your time is over. You're holding me back; you're holding back the business. I don't care what you do as long as you do it somewhere else and leave me to build up the shop as it deserves - as I deserve. I worked hard for this. I've fought in a war, for God's sake; and I did it in the expectation of getting the business when I came home. This is my time, old man. Your time is over, finished.'

    A potent mixture of resolve and triumph poured through his veins. He took a step closer, forcing his father to step away, step backwards, old man giving way to young, old ways and old values submitting beofre the inevitable might of the new, the enterprising, the ambitious.


* * * *


The Deserter's Daughter at Amazon


Cover Love . . . with Linda Huber

Posted on 23rd May, 2020

Today I'm delighted to welcome you to the start of a new series called Cover Love. Cover Love is exactly what it sounds like - it's all to do with what makes a book cover special. In this series, authors will pick a cover of their own to talk about from their own perspective. It's going to be fascinating.


Launching the series is psychological suspense author Linda Huber. Linda is Scottish but has lived for a long time in Switzerland. The first of her books that I read was The Cold, Cold Sea, which I found complex, disturbing and utterly gripping. I've been a fan ever since. I once wrote a blog in which I dubbed Linda 'The Queen of Creepy' and that sums up her books - ordinary people in ordinary situations that gradually turn out to be not so ordinary after all.


Time for me to be quiet now, so that Linda can share her own particular Cover Love.


* * * *


I love the cover-choosing part of being a writer – after poring over words for so long to get the story right, working with images and finding the perfect cover is a welcome contrast. My books are a mixture of traditionally and self-published, so for some I’ve had more say in the cover image than for others, but it’s always fun.


What I try to find for my books is something eye-catching, whether it’s the image itself, or the colour, or the contrasts. Also important is that you can read the title easily on a thumbnail image –fonts play a big part here – and that the image is suitable for the genre.


The really crucial thing, though, is that the cover fits the story. Most of mine are self-explanatory: The Attic Room has a spooky door on the cover; The Cold Cold Sea has quite a lot of, you’ve guessed it, cold sea, and Stolen Sister has a pair of baby shoes with smoke swirling around them and the tagline: What happens when a baby goes missing? Chosen Child with its vivid turquoise butterfly is less obvious, but when you read the book, it’s clear.


In my new release The Runaway, main character Nicola spends a lot of time searching for her teenage daughter Kelly, who has disappeared. I wanted something on the cover that would illustrate Nicola’s search, and show too the desolation in her soul as the days passed and Kelly was still unfindable. Imagine what it must be like, tramping city streets, searching for your child day and night, knowing that nowhere is safe... Who wouldn’t ache for a mother (or anyone else) in that situation?


At the same time, this was a difficult book to find a cover for - I was very aware that the image shouldn’t be misleading. The title is The Runaway, but a picture of a running teen wouldn’t be right for the story. There’s more than one way to run away, and in the book, there’s more than one person running, too.


Sometimes, you’re just lucky with cover images. I work with The Cover Collection, who offer both premade and custom-made covers, so I opened their website one day to make contact about the new book. There staring up at me in the premade section was the perfect cover image. I didn’t change a single pixel, though the designers in The Cover Collection will tweak things like brightness, background colour etc even for premade covers. I emailed straightaway, and after adding the title and other etceteras, The Runaway had its cover. The paperback will be out in summer, and I can’t wait to see it on my bookshelf!


* * * *


The Runaway blurb:


Keep your secrets close to home...


Bad things happen in threes – or so it seems to Nicola. The death of her mother-in-law coincides with husband Ed losing his job and daughter Kelly getting into trouble with the police. Time to abandon their London lifestyle and start again by the sea in far-away Cornwall.


It should be the answer to everything – a new home, a new job for Ed and a smaller, more personal school for fifteen-year-old Kelly. But the teenager hates her new life, and it doesn’t take long before events spiral out of control and the second set of bad things starts for Nicola.


Some secrets can’t be buried.

Or… can they?


* * * *


Linda Huber's links:


Linda's Amazon author page  


Her author page on Facebook    


Chat with Linda on Twitter 


Linda's website, including her blog




Another Lockdown Walk

Posted on 19th May, 2020

The weather here in North Wales, which was glorious all through April and into early May, has now turned cooler and a bit overcast. After such a gorgeous April, I have to keep reminding myself that April was unusual and the weather we're having now is normal for the time of year!


Just before the weather changed, I went on a walk to share on this blog, so here are the pictures in all their sunny glory.


This first picture was taken from the side of the Great Orme, looking down onto North Shore and the promenade and hotels. The prom and beach should be full of holiday-makers at this time of year.



Standing in the same spot and turning to look across Llandudno towards Pen Morfa/West Shore and Snowdonia, this is the view. The water you can see in the Conwy Estuary, which is a tidal estuary.



The final picture was taken facing the other direction and here is the pier, looking empty. Again, at this time of year, there should be lots of holiday-makers walking up and down, enjoying the views and the sea air.



When I was a girl, you had to pay to walk on the pier during the day. Then, in the early evening, at about 6pm or 7pm, they opened the gates and everybody was allowed on for free. We only ever went on in the evenings, because my parents woudn't pay!




Where I Wrote. . .

Posted on 16th May, 2020

As the lockdown continues in Wales and I am continuing to write in the conservatory, I have been thinking about where I normally do my work. I often write in the public library. I think I have told you before that I seem to have trained my brain to knuckle down and get to work as soon as I settle myself at a table there. But, of course, living by the sea, I also like to take my writing out and about with me.


A while back, I showed you a photo of where I was when I wrote the chase-through-the-fog scene in The Deserter's Daughter. Now I'd like to show you where I wrote the scene in The Sewing Room Girl where Juliet first visits her grandmother's textiles factory.


On the right of this photo, you can see one of the flights of steps in the gardens rising from Llandudno's Happy Valley.



If you come with me up the steps, here is where I wrote that scene - sitting on that bench.




* * * *

Here is the beginning of that scene:



Juliet stood beside her grandmother outside a vast building with TEWSON'S TEXTILES painted across the brickwork. She remembered standing on the hill above Annerby, seeing its factories, so dark and forbidding, but the windows here were sparkling. She recalled Mother quoting Adeline on the subject of good light. Even Mrs Whicker had ended up quoting Adeline Tewson.

     Adeline led the way upstairs. Juliet emerged onto a landing with doors along one side while on the other was nothing but a rail between her and a drop to the floor below. She gazed upon ranks of women working treadle sewing machines. Adeline strode ahead; she hurried to catch up. A woman in a grey jacket with red piping came towards them. She stood aside and curtseyed. Adeline swept by without so much as a nod. Mortified by her grandmother’s rudeness, Juliet murmured a good morning.

    Further along, Adeline waited for her. She gestured over the workroom below.

    ‘My empire. Are you impressed? You should be. This is a magnificent achievement for a woman. I’ve had to work twice as hard as any man.’

    It was impossible not to be impressed. All those machines, all those women. All the woman looked the same, each one bending over her work, concentrating on the needle flashing in and out, expert fingers guiding the fabric. Then, with a snip of the scissors, the item was finished, folded and dropped into a basket on the floor even as the woman leaned the other way to pluck the next piece from a basket on the other side. No one spoke, no one looked round. It was always work, work,

work with Mother: Clara’s words. Juliet remembered Adeline's description of taking on her first three workers and sacking one at the end of the first day. Did these women work under a similar threat?

    ‘Do you still consider it will be, and I quote, “fine” to work here? A fancy sewing room and a second-rate shop in the middle of nowhere – you don’t know what real work is.’

    ‘I’ll manage,’ she replied.

    Adeline was on the move again. Juliet scurried behind. A door opened onto a staircase. She thought Adeline would lead her downstairs to the workroom, but Adeline went up.

    Leading her through another door, Adeline said, ‘This is the next-door building. When I took it over, I had doors knocked through on each floor.’

    This building didn’t have a vast work-floor with overlooking landing. Adeline opened a door to reveal a long sewing room with lines of women sitting at machines. How light it was. Yet the windows, though clean, weren’t especially large, and the brightness was the same all over the room.

    ‘Electricity,’ said Adeline.

    ‘Is it true the lamps turn on and off without you going near them?’ Juliet whispered in awe.

    Adeline indicated a switch in the centre of a small brass square mounted on the wall. ‘According to the literature, flicking the switch is so easy that a lady may do it. No need to trouble the servants.’

    Juliet’s fingers itched. All those lamps being extinguished in one go was more than she could imagine.

* * * *





Here are The Sewing Room Girl's two covers - the audiobook version (which is also the large print cover) and the standard print version.


Here is the book's page on Amazon UK.




Lockdown Reading: Wartime Sagas

Posted on 12th May, 2020

In April, I posted a couple of blogs of recommended reading for lockdown and I thought it was time for another. This time, following on from the VE Day commemorations held last week, I am concentrating on sagas set in wartime - not just the Second World War, but also the First. Let's start with the Second World War stories.


* * * *


East End Angel by Carol Rivers


The story opens with Pearl at her wedding reception. Sounds like a happy occasion? It is... until her old flame turns up (and has she really got over him?) and guess what, his latest girlfriend is Pearl's younger sister, who has no intention of listening to big sister's dire warnings.


Roll all this together and you've got a gift-wrapped guarantee of secrets, dilemmas and complex relationships, all wrapped in a convoluted plot. A page-turner that is full of secrets, suspense and family drama, this is Carol Rivers at her best.


* * * *


A Ration Book Childhood by Jean Fullerton


This is the third of the Ration Book stories, a series that gets better and better, which, considering the excellence of the first book, A Ration Book Dream, is saying something.



As with the earlier books, Childhood is filled with details of the ordinary everyday life of the time. We are back with the Brogan family, but the past has come back to haunt them and threatens to change their previously rock-solid family feeling for ever. I was rooting for Ida every step of the way. The story is enriched by various subplots that add depth, colour and emotion to a wonderful page-turner.


Although this is book 3 in the series, I think it could also be read as a stand-alone novel, though my advice would be to start with book 1 and immerse yourself in the lives of the Brogan family.


Book 4, A Ration Book Wedding, was published recently and is on my TBR pile.



* * * *


The Way Home by Kay Brelland 


The third and final instalment of the Bittersweet Legacy series starts in 1916 and follows Livvie between the field hospital where she works on the Western Front and her home in the East End, on the toughest street in London, where her family life is complicated, to say the least. There is a strong sense of the time and places involved on the story - the grinding poverty, the terrible bloodshed, but also the staunch friendships and the resilience of the human spirit.



Today I am delighted to welcome my lovely friend and fellow Sister Scribe, Kirsten Hesketh, back to my blog. If you've been a visitor here for some time, you'll remember Kirsten's monthly blogs about the trials and tribulations of working towards signing with a literary agent.



Now Kirsten is back again and this time she is sharing the best possible news. Take it away, Kirsten!


* * * *


Over and out from the querying trenches ….


Hello everyone!


It’s so lovely to be back on Susanna’s wonderful blog and a big thank you to Sue for welcoming me here again. It’s lovely to ‘see’ you all again and I do hope everyone is keeping safe and well and sane in these strangest of times.



I wonder if any of you remember my ‘Despatches from Querying Trenches’ from a few years ago? It was so generous of Sue to welcome an aspiring author here each month and to let me have my own very own corner of the internet – at a time when having my own website was still a twinkle in my eye (and is still woefully underused). I really enjoyed sharing the ups and down of my bookish ambitions – when getting an agent, let alone a publisher, was the stuff of dreams – and all the lovely feedback and the friendships I made on here, spurred me on to persevere, persevere, persevere ….


Well, lovelies, the book I was pitching way back then is actually being published! I ended up signing with the fabulous Felicity Trew at the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency and now … drum roll ….


My debut, Another Us, is being published by Canelo on May 14th 2020.


As you may remember, Another Us is a book very close to my heart, and I am so, so thrilled and grateful to Canelo for taking a punt on a debut.


It is, of course, a very strange time to be being published and – obviously – the whole thing fades into complete insignificance compared to what is going on in the world at the moment. The launch party and most of the publicity has had to be cancelled and Another Us will just be an ebook for the time being – but, for me, it is still marvellous and exciting. I am loving the build-up to publication and feel so lucky to have featured in Waitrose Magazine and Woman and Home this week and on a podcast and an online panel … and it’s all just as exciting as I hoped it would be. So far, the early reviews have been wonderful but I have my big girl pants firmly strapped on for when – inevitably – people haven’t enjoyed it.


So it’s goodbye from the querying trenches for now and hello to a brand new adventure. Thank you for following my journey.


And, of course, a huge congratulations to Sue. Four fabulous books under her own name and now the wonderful The Surplus Girls as Polly Heron - and all achieved with a quiet grace and generosity of spirit. Hats off to her and lots of love to her and to you all.




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Link to Another Us at Amazon UK    Amazon US   Amazon Canada   Amazon Australia


Pre-publication reviews say:


". . . painfully real and at times painfully funny." Chrissie Manby, author of Seven Sunny Days


". . . will break your heart only to glue the pieces back together."

Jenny O'Brien, author of Silent Cry  


"A searing and honest look at a family reaching breaking point."

Maddie Please, author of The Summer of Second Chances

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The Sister Scribes won't be able to be together on Kirsten's big day, but when we do see one again, there will be a big celebration and probably a few daft photos.


Here we are celebrating one of Kitty's publication days.


From the top: Kitty, Jane, Cass, Kirsten and yours truly.



Today I am delighted to welcome back Jan Baynham to my blog. Jan's first collection of short stories, Smashing the Mask and Other Stories, was published last autumn and now her debut novel, published by Ruby Fiction, is also available.


Her Mother's Secret is a dual-time saga, as a daughter goes in search of the truth about her mother's life and what happened to her years ago on a Greek island. Book reviews highlight Jan's "love and knowledge of Greek society and customs". One reviewer said, "There's a bit of everything. . . mystery, romance, thriller and a whodunnit."



Isn't that a gorgeous cover?


I asked Jan some questions about wriitng the book. Here's what she told me:


You started out as a short story and flash fiction writer. What made you decide to write a full-length novel?

On retirement, I joined a writing group where I wrote my first short story. Very soon, I could see my stories getting longer and longer. After enrolling on a novel-writing course at Cardiff University, I enjoyed being able to explore characters in more depth and delve further into their stories. I still write shorts but now it tends to be when I’m editing or doing research for a novel. When writing a novel, I love getting to know my characters so well that I miss them when I come to the end and I enjoy visiting new locations with them. The length of a novel allows me to create more involved plots and sub-plots for the characters to experience than I’m able to do in a short story or piece of flash fiction.

What was the initial idea behind the story from which it all grew?

The novel started out as a short story. At the time, I’d been reading a novel where the rustling in the trees sounded like whispers and inanimate statues took on the form of the ghosts of people they represented. Combining both ideas, I asked myself what if the whispering could show the presence of a past family member. Always fascinated by family secrets and the bond between mothers and daughters, I knew I had the basis for a story. In both the story and the novel, I leave it to the reader to decide what the whispering represents. In the short story, Alexandra’s search for the truth was resolved quite quickly whereas in the novel there are many more twists and turns, obstacles and setbacks before the story concludes.

Tell us about the places that feature as the backdrops of the story.

Once I’d decided that my main character Elin would be an artist, I chose a setting where the surrounding colours would be more vibrant and intense than in her home country of Wales. Having visited many times and being struck by the wonderful palette of colours seen in every landscape, Greece was my choice of background. The island is not based on one particular place but is an amalgam of areas I’ve visited. Every holiday has contributed to the whole backdrop where I’ve tried to show the climate, the vivid colours of the sea and the flowers as well as the warmth of its people.


How important is the mother-daughter dynamic to the story?

The mother/daughter relationship is central to the novel. Alexandra is grieving after the untimely death of her mother, Elin. She experiences a whole gamut of emotions from deep loss and its accompanying sadness, through to anger that her mother has abandoned her. When she learns there is part of her mother’s life she knew nothing about, Alexandra goes to Greece with the hope of finding answers.

What have you learned about the writing/editing process? Is there a piece of advice you'd like to share?

Everything suggested by my lovely editor at Ruby Fiction was very clear and straight-forward, but one thing stood out. I hadn’t always got the dates or passing of time issues right. Elin’s story is interspersed with diary entries and these didn’t always tally! The way I dealt with these continuity edits was to have a calendar in front of me and highlight the dates as events happened. Although a diary may not feature in another novel, I will definitely use a calendar to check the passing of time in future.


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Jan's Links:


Jan's author page on Amazon     


Her blog - Jan's Journey Into Writing      


Jan on Twitter      


Jan's author page on Facebook      




Join Me On a Lockdown Walk

Posted on 1st May, 2020

Welcome to the weekend! First of all, I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who followed the progress of The Poor Relation throughout the blog tour. I had some wonderful reviews and am feeling very proud.


Today, I hope to bring a breath of fresh air to my blog by taking you with me on a lockdown walk. The walk actually took place last Monday - and it's a good job it did, because the glorious sunny weather vanished after that!


The walk starts in Haulfre Gardens on the side of the Great orme and then goes down onto North Shore. I hope you enjoy the photos.


This is the view from Haulfre Gardens across the rooftops of Llandudno towards North Shore, with the Little Orme furthest away.



Llandudno has a close connection with the Liddell family - Alice Liddell was the child who inspired Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. Dotted around the town are huge wooden sculptures of Wonderland's characters. These two charmers are in Haulfre Gardens.



Next is a photo of North Shore, showing the very edge of the Great Orme. The large white building at the start of the pier is the Grand Hotel.



And this is the view, standing in the same place and looking the other way, with the Little Orme in the distance.



Last of all on this walk is a picture taken on the promenade, in which you can see the Great Orme in the background and a few of Llandudno's many hotels in the middle-ground. The tall structure is the Cenotaph.



It felt so strange to be out and about on my walk and to see hardly anyone around. In normal circumstances, this would be a very busy time here, as indeed it would in all seaside places. I hope our holiday towns survive the lockdown and can return to being the thriving places they deserve to be.


Stay safe xx