Showing posts with label Interviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Interviews. Show all posts

Dec 7, 2015

Agi & Suze's Christmas Countdown: Interview with Daniel Riding & Giveaway



About Daniel Riding

31, Writer, Book Blogger & Artist. Former Co-Editor of @mensfashionmag - Lover of tea and cake. Currently writing my first novel(s)
http://www.danielriding.com/

Interview

1) What’s your best Christmas memory?

I don’t have one particular Christmas memory that stands out, although this year will be Christmas in a newhome so I’m looking forward to making some wonderful memories.

2) What are your 3 favourite Christmas reads?

Ummm does the TV guide count? haha. This year have a number of Christmas books that I am already looking forward to such as ‚A Christmas Cracker’ by Trisha Ashley and ‚How To Stuff Up Christmas’ by Rosie Blake.

3) If you could choose one person, dead or alive, to celebrate a one time special Christmas with, who would you choose and why?

It would have to be Marilyn Monroe. I have been a fan of hers for as long as I can remember and can you imagine how lovely it would be singing christmas carols with her around a white baby grand piano. *sigh*

4) What are your thoughts about Santa?

I like to believe in the magic that the idea of Santa and Christmas can bring. The festive season has always felt so magical to me and I love that Santa is a part of that.

5) What are your best and worst Christmas gifts and why?

I love any gift that has had some thought put into it. I’m not bothered by expense int he slightest, I also love getting gifts that have been made by the giver. I think that is such a lovely idea. I hate it when people give you gifts that have no thought behind them. Christmas is about spending time with the ones you love and doing something simple that they will love. Not palming them off with a lazy gift such a set from the Boots 3 for 2 deals.

6) Your favourite Christmas song?

It absolutely has to be Run Run Rudolph – The Kelly Clarkson version. It gives me goosebumps.

7) Your favourite Christmas movie?

The Grinch – the Jim Carrey version. I love that film so so much.

8) Top 3 books that you’re giving as Christmas presents?

Hmmmm, I haven’t started Christmas shopping yet or even begun to think about what I am getting people. But the top three books that I am looking forward to, maybe giving myself as gifts if that counts are:

Follow Me by Angela Clarke
Anything by Amanda Hocking (I love her books)
A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

9) Most favourite and least favourite part of Christmas?

The magical time I spend with loved one and the food is the best bit by far. The tidying up is the least favourite for sure.

10) I must ask, sorry – the best Christmas food is…?

How dare you make me pick, I love all the food. I really do. So in fact I won’t pick because I love all the Christmas food, even the stuff some people don’t like such as sprouts.

Giveaway

One very lucky reader of our blogs will receive two wonderful prizes: 


The winner will receive a We're All Mad Here bag designed by Daniel Riding and a paperback copy of The Winter Wedding by Abby Clements. Good luck!


Dec 6, 2015

Australia Days: Interview with Carla Caruso


Australia Days interview – Carla Caruso, 

About Carla Caruso

Carla Caruso lives in Adelaide and loves fun, frothy reads. Check out her author blog (pretty please) or her other one,The Un-Italian Wife. Alternatively, peruse herbio. The choice is totes yours. (Yes, sadly, the word, "totes", was used...)

www.carlacaruso.com.au

Interview

6 Questions by Tanya

1) Could you tell the readers a bit about yourself? 

Sure! I’m a romantic comedy (and sometime cosy mystery) author from Adelaide, Australia. My background’s in print journalism – magazines and newspapers. These days I write fiction whenever my two-year-old twin boys nap (only a few hours a day now!). I also love running, fashion, horoscopes, pop/R&B music, and trashy TV. Oh, and my rescue cat, Luca. 

2) What do you like about Australia? 

It’s home! Family, friends, and all that. Plus, sometimes I like the fact that it’s quite isolated from the rest of the world when scary things happen internationally! I think being one big island also means we’re naturally more casual, laidback kind of people. And I quite like the heat in summer. (Although it’s 38C as I’m writing this and that’s pushing things a little.) 

3) How do you find living with dangerous spiders? 

Haha. There are not that many crawling around in the ‘burbs thankfully. But whenever I spot one, I usually point it out to my husband and get him to dispose of it, ha. Though, I only let him kill it if it’s a nasty, dangerous one. Funnily, the bigger and scarier looking they are, the more harmless most often.

4) Have you ever wanted to live anywhere else? 

New York! I still haven’t got there yet. I’ve lived in Australia’s equivalent of a big city, Sydney. And it actually kind of put me off the big-city thing, though that’s what I’d always dreamed about as a kid. (Adelaide, where I’m from, is a small city – some say more like a big country town.) I’m hoping the Big Apple, when I get there one day, will live up to my movie-like expectations. I also dream of ‘summering’ in Italy or France’s south with the kids, but the long-haul flights are not so fun.

5) What writing process do you use?

 The ‘just keep writing’ process, ha! Having little ones has really made me focused about knuckling down and typing when I have spare time (which is not often enough, unfortunately). I try to write every day if I can manage it – a scene at a time. My background’s in journalism, as I said before, so I can be a bit impatient about working on long-term projects like novels. I want everything finished yesterday. And recently I’ve only been doing one edit of my books before sending them on to a publisher. But I think I need to slow down a little, refine the words some more. What’s the rush? Who am I trying to keep up with? It’s just working out what works best for you. Writing’s a continuous learning curve.

6) What advice do you have for anyone trying to write? 

I think just try to be yourself and don’t think about the market too much when you write or you’ll come across like a phony. Sometimes I’ve tried to fit into that ‘traditional romance/Mills & Boon’ style, because that’s what sells and is so popular, but I don’t feel like I do the emotional angst as well. I’m more of a chick-lit/rom-com kind of girl. I can’t really do serious, so I should leave it to the professionals!

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7 Questions by Suze

1) The female main characters in Pretty Shore are very different, what are the 3 things you like best about Celeste and what are the 3 things you like best about Flip? 

Good question! Hmm… I like that Celeste is a little bit neurotic (because it makes me feel normal!), hates clutter (me, too), and is kind to her friends and family (when they deserve it). Flip is her younger, sometimes surly assistant. I like her rebelliousness, her creativity (she doodles fashion illustrations in her spare time), and the fact that she’s dating a gorgeous polo player/model in book two! Who wouldn’t? 

2) Pretty Shore is set in a glamorous world, where did you get the idea? 

I live in a leafy, prestigious sort of area in Adelaide. But I’ve only spent half my life here, so I still feel like an ‘outsider’ sometimes and find the locals’ quirks amusing – the posh mums’ penchants for white jeans, their inability to drive their Hummer-sized SUVs, and so on. Astonvale’s based a bit around that! In a previous life, I also worked as a newspaper gossip columnist and fashion editor, so I’ve dealt with people from all walks of life who’ve proved inspiring. ;) 

3) Where did you get the inspiration to create the Astonvale series? 

As a writer, you often have little ideas for future stories whirling about in your head, and for some reason, I’d always wanted to do something involving a professional organiser (the kind who de-clutter people’s homes and offices for a living). My mum is also a super neat-freak, and hence, my parents’ house permanently looks like a magazine spread. So, when I read a feature article on local professional organisers, an idea about a clean-freak professional-organiser-turned-amateur-sleuth started clicking into place in my head. I think a TV series here, Mr & Mrs Murder (about a couple who run a crime scene-cleaning business and wind up solving the mysteries), also gave me a creative nudge! 

4) What are your 3 favourite Australian books? 

1. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta – it’s about an Italian-Australian girl trying to find her place in the world, and really resonated for me as an Italian-Australian teen! (It’s since been made into a movie, starring Pia Miranda.) 

2. Mad About the Boy by Maggie Alderson – Maggie is a former magazine queen turned novelist, and this is a comfort read for me. A little bit of mystery and romance, my two loves! 

3. I recently read that Zoe Foster’s The Wrong Girl is being turned into a TV series here and I’m so inspired (and ultra-jealous). 

5) Mystery and intrigue are themes that are always part of your stories, what do you like so much about them? 

I do like my ‘cosy’ mysteries haha, particularly the TV variety! So long as there’s no blood or gore, and laughter at the end, I’m there. I think it was growing up on series like Murder, She Wrote and Columbo. As a writer, I also like that, by having a mystery or secret running throughout, it keeps a reader hanging on until the thing’s solved. It naturally drives the story forwards and keeps people turning the pages (hopefully). 

6) You write about the rich and famous, what do you like about them? 

My younger sister, Daniella, often buys celebrity-weekly magazines and passes them on. (Actually Daniella’s quite a cool fashion illustrator, like Flip, mentioned earlier – http://carusodaniella.wix.com/illustration). I can’t help devouring the glossies when she hands them over, though I try not to buy them myself or I’d never get anything done! Who wouldn’t want to be sunning themselves on a yacht in Barbados like Beyoncé, or wearing some frothy gown on the red carpet, or being torn between, say, Zac Efron and Tom Hardy? It all looks good from afar. It’s aspirational. Although as a journalist, having done many celebrity interviews, I’m definitely more comfortable hanging out with ‘normal’ people. But I like the idea of the celebrity perks. And the private jets!

7) What are your plans for the future? 

Well, there’s a third in my ‘Astonvale’ series now out, dubbed Pretty Famous – http://bit.ly/1zkNIGZ. Celeste’s nemesis, interior designer Imogen Karmel, gets her day in the sun alongside Celeste. I also have a short tale, Six-Star Weekend, in a new ebook anthology, Hot Stuff: Surfing Love – http://bit.ly/1MMsXaG. And I’m waiting to hear back on a manuscript I’ve written, which draws on my Italian ancestry and market gardening heritage. In the meantime, I’ve been blogging about the research that went into the novel here: www.theunitalianwife.com. Thanks so much for letting me ‘crash’ your lovely blog today!

Dec 5, 2015

Australia Days: Interview with Jennie Jones & Wonderful Book Giveaway!


Interview

1) Could you tell a bit about yourself?

I’ve been an Australian for 20 years and it’s very much ‘home.’ But I was born in Wales and loved anything with a romantic element from an early age. Books, movies, history – the lot. The only thing I wanted to do was be an actor. At age 15 my careers teacher told me I was a stupid girl for wanting this and he wouldn’t help me. He said I had two choices: become a secretary or a nurse. My drama teacher at school wouldn’t speak to me or have me in her class because I did Pantomime and she thought it degraded theatre. For a shy kid, I didn’t do too badly - I ignored them all and got what I wanted. 3 years of poverty in drama school in London, another 10 years of semi-poverty working in theatres all around the UK. Life was grand! Then I met a New Zealander and eventually we moved to Australia where I worked as an actor occasionally but more often as a secretary! After bringing up our daughter, I suddenly needed an artistic outlet again, so I took up writing. So far, it’s another grand life.

2) Your Swallows Fall is about a small countryside town, what inspired (or which place) you to write about this town?

The House on Burra Burra Lane (book #1 in the Swallow’s Fall series, although all books can be read as stand-alone novels) was my debut book. I started writing it before I thought about where it might be set. As the characters formed, I knew it had to be the country, and preferably remote. As I knew next to nothing about cattle, sheep, droving or mustering I stayed clear of the beautiful outback (I was too scared then, as a beginning writer, to take a chance on messing up the story with pitiful research). Instead, I found the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales. I loved it instantly because they have four distinct seasons, not just snow. It’s also a beautiful area, with much on offer – and it’s very countrified rural. So it was the area itself that inspired me as I wrote the stories, using a different season for each.

3) Your main characters come to Swallow's Fall to find something, why is it the best place for them to go to?

Most of the main newcomers to Swallow’s Fall are looking to get out of something else in life that’s bothering them or that they’re not happy with. I think they’re looking to find themselves, and think that by tucking themselves away in a rural town with only around 89 people they’ll have that chance. But life isn’t so easy, is it? Not even when we run away from trouble. So they face new challenges: of fitting in, of adjusting, of falling in love and of coming to terms with themselves as people. So regardless of doubts and conflicts, it’s the town itself that eventually creates their future. 

4) What are the 3 key qualities your main characters always have to have?

Integrity – because it’s a virtue that can be relied upon no matter how hard. Courage - for themselves, and for others in need. And humour - because I believe humour has a kind of courage and integrity too, and who doesn’t like a person who can smile or laugh, especially when things get tough?

5) You know how to make the inhabitants of the small town come to life, are they inspired by real people or did you get the idea for them elsewhere?

Those colourful, sweet or quirky characters in Swallow’s Fall found me. Or maybe they found themselves on my page, and I liked their company so allowed them to stay. Not that some of them gave me much choice, there are a few opinionated townspeople in Swallow’s Fall but fortunately, their hearts are usually as big as their opinions. But I think it’s the wise and rugged character Grandy that I love the most. He is in each story – I couldn’t not have him around Swallow’s Fall, even in memory. He has helped each of my main characters through their troubles.

6) What's your favourite place in Australia and why?

My favourite place is everywhere I haven’t yet been! I still need to see so much: the Kimberley in WA, Queensland, Uluru and Alice Springs and most importantly – the Snowy Mountains (it’s true – I haven’t been there yet).

7) What does the word romance mean for you?

It means life. There’s romance in everything we do. Romance is love, and love is there all around us even when it doesn’t appear to be and even when horrid things are occurring in the world. Love is friends, family, and commitment. Love is having integrity, courage and humour to just get up every day and get on with whatever we need to do. So the word ‘romance’ has a very definite connotation for me. It’s drama, for a start – and we all have drama in our lives. So when I write a romance story, I focus on the drama and the issues my characters face and hopefully grow the romantic side of the story through those aspects.

8) Christmas in the UK (Wales) versus Christmas in Australia, is there a big difference?

Oh yes, definitely. The heat and lack of snow is the first, obviously. I admit it took me a good ten years to come to terms with Christmas being in summer and not in winter but now it’s normal to wear bathers while decorating the tree. Otherwise, the sense of giving and holiday atmosphere is no different. There’s a kind of freedom to having Christmas in summer too because you can go outdoors without the need of Wellington boots, thick coats, hats and scarves. Those snow scenes are very beautiful – but it’s incredibly cold and hard work (think digging three foot of snow from your driveway just to get the car out and attempt to drive to work.)

9) You've travelled a lot, what's your favourite place in the world and what do you call home?

I call Australia home, there’s no doubt about that. I truly believe I was meant to come here. But I would like to return to Buenos Aires one day as I loved that vibrant city and all its history, and if the chance came up I’d live in Wales again for a year or so, because we never forget who we are and where we came from. I’d also like to tour Europe and visit all the stately homes and castles I can. I would never tire of doing that. 

10) What are your three favourite Australian books?

My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin was a great incentive to me as a teenager. I longed to visit Australia because of her book. Next is S’pose I Die by Hector Holthouse and is the story of Evelyn Maunsell, an English girl who arrived in Cairns in 1912. Then – one of my favourite stories ever, A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. Oh my, the drama, the romance, the pain and the joy – these books touched my heart. I wanted to be every single heroine in every single story. As I read all these books in my youth in Wales, it’s no real surprise I landed in Australia, is it?

11) What can we expect from you in the future? 

I have a rural romance coming out in the first half of 2016 which I’m very fond of. It was the first story I wrote after 5 books set in Swallow’s Fall so it was quite a challenge, but so refreshing. Again, it’s a small country town, again in NSW. There are three stories in this anthology, the other two written by good writing friends Catherine Evans and Lisa Ireland.

I’m also just about to slap The End on another small town story. This one set in the Goldfields in Western Australia which focuses on a heroine in a bit of trouble and a hero who’s officer in charge of the shire’s Police force, but regardless of their jobs and the troubles, the intent of the story is to focus on the remote small town atmosphere and what it offers – for those who wish to stay. After which time I may return to Swallow’s Fall and write three shorter length novels around the daughters of the hero and heroines in the original series.

Thank you so much for having me here! I have loved answering your excellent questions.

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Giveaway

One very lucky reader of my blog will receive a book from Jennie Jones. If the winner's in Australia it will be a paperback and for the rest of the world it will be an eBook.

Good luck!


Dec 3, 2015

Agi & Suze's Christmas Countdown: Interview with Jenny & Giveaway


About Jenny

Jenny is a blogger who loves Slytherin and Disney. She is a F1 fan. She is a bit like Cinderella; always cleaning, befriending animals and losing her shoes.

http://jennyinneverland.com/

Interview

1) What's your best Christmas memory?

I tell you what, this isn’t the best start to this Christmas themed Q&A but I find it so difficult to think of one specific Christmas memory because I’ve always had very low key Christmases. Ever since I was little, we would do the usual; presents, Christmas dinner, my grand parents would come round but that’s really it. Although it was slightly after Christmas, I’d have to say my best memory of that specific time of the year would be when I spent it in Disneyland for New Years. All the Christmas decorations were still up and they had an almighty firework display - it was magical.

2) What are your 3 favourite Christmas reads?

I loved With Love at Christmas by Carole Matthews. A truly enjoyable and fun read! I also loved The First Christmas Without You by Michelle Betham. I also loved Carole Matthews short story, Sunshine With a Chance of Snow, although it’s very emotional! Don’t you just love Christmas covers?!

3) If you could choose one person, dead or alive, to celebrate a one time special Christmas with, 
who would you choose and why?

I’d have my nan back for another Christmas. We always had a routine with my mum’s parents; we would go and pick them up around lunchtime, bring them back to mine then my dad and my granddad would go out for a few hours whilst me, my mum and my nan would stay at home and watch TV. Then we’d all eat dinner when they got back. That all changed when my nan died and although it’s been a long time, Christmas Day is always the time when I think about my nan and how she should be here at home with us.

4) What are your thoughts about Santa?

I swear, when I was like 7, I looked out the front door window of my old house on Christmas Eve night and saw a cloud that looked EXACTLY like Santa’s sleigh! I always believed in Santa when I was little because my parents always encouraged the idea by leaving out mince pies and carrots (and then eating them whilst I was asleep) and leaving a sack with presents in. It was really nice to have that though - this magic that I couldn’t quite explain.

5) What are your best and worst Christmas gifts and why?

Oh my, I just don’t know! I tend to be quite appreciative of presents - whatever they are so no present I’ve got I’ve thought, “Well, this is rubbish!” I make use of whatever I receive! My best Christmas present/s would have to be my laptop and camera because it’s what I do all my blogging on!

6) Your favourite Christmas song?

None. Sorry, I hate Christmas songs!

7) Your favourite Christmas movie?

Oh okay but I do love Christmas films! The Nightmare Before Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Love Actually, The Snowman, Four Christmases!

8) Top 3 books that you're giving as Christmas presents?

Ooh, I do love giving books as Christmas presents. This year, I’d definitely give Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart as a gift. I’ve recently read and reviewed it and it was SO funny!

9) Most favourite and least favourite part of Christmas?

Most favourite… Buying gifts for other people. I absolutely love it and I love spending ages finding the perfect gift for everyone. Least favourite, oh God the SONGS!

10) I must ask, sorry - the best Christmas food is...?

Pigs in blankets… Obviously!

Giveaway

One very lucky reader of our blogs will receive these super cute lollipop pens from Jenny. Good luck!



Dec 2, 2015

Agi and Suze's Christmas Countdown: Interview with Lynn Marie Hulsman! + Giveaway


About Lynn Marie Hulsman

Lynn Marie Hulsman is the bestselling author of three romantic comedies, who also writes cookbooks. She enjoys Nora Ephron movies, pop psychology, terriers, and napping. She is not a fan of people walking three abreast on New York City sidewalks or spiders of any ilk. She does not believe in white chocolate.Once a stand-up comic, and now a PTA mom and corporate ideation agent, she spends a lot of energy keeping her wise-cracks to herself. Find out more about Lynn Marie by following her on Twitter and Facebook, and by visiting her website. She's on Pinterest, but accepts defeat in the face of true crafty types. Don't be shy about reaching out to say hi -- as a Black Belt Procrastinator, she welcomes the distraction. 

Website: www.lynnmariehulsman.com

Interview

1) What's your best Christmas memory?

I had a little toy poodle named Bitsy, that my mother got from my aunt when it turned out my cousin was allergic to even a non-shedding dog. They got her for me because I was the only girl of five children, which meant I didn’t share a bedroom, and I was the youngest. I was scared to go upstairs in our large suburban house by myself, and Bitsy was my companion and friend. She passed away… she was never really healthy, but getting into the stockings under the tree and eating the chocolate may have been what sealed the deal. She died shortly after Christmas when I was 13. My mother said we’d never get another dog because there was too much heartbreak when they passed away. The next year, I had no hope that a dog would be a possibility, but on Christmas Eve, I was led into the “good” living room… the one we only went in at Christmastime when the tree was set up, and told to close my eyes. When I opened them, a tiny, shiny black tangle of curls with two gleaming dark eyes came out from behind the coffee table. I kept asking, “Is he mine? Is he mine?” I named him Bonkers, after a dog in a John Irving novel. (I know… what was I doing reading John Irving when I was 14, but helicopter parents hadn’t been invented yet). The whole thing was like a television commercial. The memory is sparkly and technicolor.


2) What are your 3 favourite Christmas reads?

It’s so hard to pin down only three! I’ll make you a deal… I’ll tell you three of my TOP choices for this year if you promise not to hold me to them forever. And I’m going to choose only from my favorite genre, Romantic Comedy. If I start getting into Dickens or Dr. Seuss, we’ll be here all day. 

Number 1: Bridget Jones, by Helen Fielding. I’m going to say both 1 and 2, and count that as one answer. I love the first one for Mark Darcy in his Christmas jumper and the shenanigans of the oldies at her parents’ house. I love number two because the scene in the church, where Bridget comes to some great realizations had such depth. It’s a really well written piece of literature. I cried and cried. It was so cathartic.

Number 2: The Great Christmas Knit-Off by Alexandra Brown. It had it all: Heart, humor, romance, and a dog. I really enjoyed the mythical village in which it was set, and the magical joy of the season. 

Number 3: Tinsel and Terriers by Cressida McLaughlin. Dogs, England, Christmas, conflict, and a happy ending. It’s like it was made for me.

Number 4: All the Christmas books by Carole Matthews, Trisha Ashley, Miranda Dickinson, and Katie Fforde. (Sorry, I told you this was really, really hard for me).

3) If you could choose one person, dead or alive, to celebrate a one time special Christmas with, who would you choose and why?

My mom. I lost her five years ago, and with hindsight and with children of my own, I can clearly see how hard she worked to make so many people feel joy for the holidays. I’d like a chance to explain that I really get it, and to truly thank her. 


4) What are your thoughts about Santa?

I think Santa is different to every person the way God is different to every person. My Santa doesn’t have a naughty list. My Santa is like the one in the film A Miracle on 34th Street. He’s kind, and smart, and good, and very, very real. He’s like a very intelligent and benevolent granddad who only wants the best for everyone, and has no ego of his own. I love that guy.

5) What are your best and worst Christmas gifts and why?

I guess the worst, if you could call it that, are sweet food gifts. Not because I don’t welcome the sentiment and the thought, or even the gifts themselves. It’s just that in the holiday season, there’s so very much of this type of goodie that it almost ceases to be special. I’m almost jealous of people in the olden days who truly got excited about a Christmas cake, the occasional mince pie, and oranges and nuts in the toe of a stocking because they were so rare. It’s like I tell my kids, “If everything is special, then nothing is.” 


Best? Time with people. Honestly, I’d rather have the undivided attention of my friends and family than anything I can unwrap. We’re all so busy with working from home, and screen time, and trying to do things better. Downtime is sacred. Unhurried conversations make me so happy. And if someone really wants to get me something… I wouldn’t say no to gift certificates for spa massages and mani/pedis, or promises of boozy lunches. 

6) Your favourite Christmas song?

Let it Snow! It’s because of what I’ve just said. Nothing could be better than to be ‘forced’ to stay put in front of a fire with some drinks and lovely food and good company. Resting, enjoying, and sharing company are what the season is about for me. 


7) Your favourite Christmas movie?

I love The Bishop’s Wife with Cary Grant, David Niven, and Loretta Young. It’s so poignant and complicated, and it boldly examines marriage and what women’s lives are like. It’s funny, too, which I love. And the ending isn’t pat. I don’t know why it’s not ranked up there with It’s a Wonderful Life. 

8) Top 3 books that you're giving as Christmas presents?

The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes because it’s just really, really, really good.

Debbie Johnson’s Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper to all my Rom Com/Anglophile friends because it’s festive and English.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty because wow. It’s funny and dark and scary and layered. I’m in awe. 


9) Most favourite and least favourite part of Christmas?

Most favorite: Relaxing and laughing with friends and family without any pressure to do anything else or be anywhere else.

Least favorite: Cleaning the house for guests. I’m the worst housekeeper, ever. 

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10) I must ask, sorry - the best Christmas food is…?

In England: Tiny mince pies. Bonus if they’re warm and are served with Stilton cheese. 

In America: Really buttery homemade cut-out Christmas cookies with glazed icing. They are so special and rare.

11) Do you perhaps know what's your Christmas gift is going to be?

So far, I’ve asked for a sea salt mill. I have high hopes that it could happen.

Giveaway

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One very lucky reader of our blogs will receive paperback copies of the fabulous Christmas at Thornton Hall and the amazing A Miracle at Macy's. Good luck!




Dec 1, 2015

Agi & Suze's Christmas Countdown: Interview With Samantha Tonge + Signed Book Giveaway


Interview

1) What's your best Christmas memory?

Watching the children open their presents when they were small, their faces lighting up – nothing quite beats those magical moments.

2) What are your 3 favourite Christmas reads?

I loved Christmas at the Gingerbread Cafe by Rebecca Raisin, she creates such a cosy set of characters... but I really haven’t read much festive fiction over the last year or two, as December is the one time of year, more than any, that I don’t do much reading - I am so busy promoting my own Christmas book and then things get busy with preparing my family celebrations. 

3) If you could choose one person, dead or alive, to celebrate a one time special Christmas with, who would you choose and why?

It would be my mum who passed away over ten years ago. I miss her every day and wish she could have seen me become a published author. I would love to talk to her about the children, to hear her laugh one more time and, more importantly then anything, enjoy one of her very special hugs.

4) What are your thoughts about Santa?

I think Santa is a very hardworking, selfless, cheery, thoughtful person who can teach us all a lot about Christmas spirit and how we should try to carry it thought the whole year.

5) What are your best and worst Christmas gifts and why?

Best? Just to have a few chilled, quality days with my family – we are all so madly busy the rest of the year it is great to spend a lot of relaxed time together.

Worst? Bailey’s Cream. I was once VERY ILL after drinking a little too much of it ☺

6) Your favourite Christmas song?

Anything by Michael Bublé – he has such a smooth voice.

7) Your favourite Christmas movie?

It’s not strictly Christmas but can I have New Year’s Eve with Ashton Kutcher and Zac Efron? The stories within it are soooo romantic and heart-warming.

8) Top 3 books that you're giving as Christmas presents?

Ooh, if I had to choose 3 top books it would be The Fault in Our Stars, Twilight and something by Lucy Diamond!

9) Most favourite and least favourite part of Christmas?

Favourite? That full, after-dinner feeling when you have eaten lunch, the hard-work and preparation is done and everyone can just sit down, chill, watch telly, play board games or chat. Heaven.

10) I must ask, sorry - the best Christmas food is...?

Please don’t ever apologise to me for talking about food ☺ Even though I am, at heart, a chocoholic, the best Christmas food for me is a cold turkey and stuffing sandwich, accompanied by a glass of chilled white wine. Yum. I cannot wait!!

About Samantha Tonge

Bio

Samantha Tonge lives in Cheshire with her lovely family and a cat that thinks it’s a dog. When not writing, she spends her days cycling and willing cakes to rise. She has sold over 80 short stories to women’s magazines. Her bestselling debut novel, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award in 2014. Her summer 2015 novel Game of Scones hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart. 

Blurb

Things don’t always run smoothly in the game of love…

As her Christmas wedding approaches, a trip back to snowy England for her ex’s engagement party makes her wonder if those are wedding bells she’s hearing in her mind, or warning bells. She longs for the excitement of her old London life – the glamour, the regular pedicures. Can she really give that all up to be…a fishwife?
There’s nothing for it but to throw herself into bringing a little Christmas magic to the struggling village in the form of a Christmas fair. Somewhere in amidst the sparkly bauble cakes and stollen scones, she’s sure she’ll come to the right decision about where she belongs…hopefully in time for the wedding…

Perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk and Debbie Johnson. Don’t miss the Christmas Wedding of the year!

Links




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Giveaway

One very lucky reader of our blogs will receive a fantastic prize:


A signed copy of Mistletoe Mansion will be for the winner of this giveaway. Good luck!

Nov 28, 2015

Australia Days: Interview with Bridie Blake


Interview with Bridie Blake by Anniek

1. Could you tell a bit about yourself?

I live in Melbourne, Australia and am very lucky to have my friends and family live nearby, and even luckier to have my parents (and their fully stocked kitchen) within walking distance. I work five days a week in administration and the majority of my spare time is spent writing.

I have a dog, Poppy, and cat, Mac and until I have kids those two are my babies! And I’m one of those people who takes an insane number of photos of my animals and then forces people to look at how cute they are. If you meet me, you’ve been warned!

I hate to fly, but love to travel so I’m waiting on someone to invent a machine that transports me from one country to another in a flash. Fingers crossed. 

2. How does it make you feel to learn that Violet is loved just as much by your readers as by you?

Ecstatic! As a writer, you spend so much time getting to know your characters, being inside their heads and feeling what they’re feeling, and when someone tells you they love your characters it’s a pretty special thing. That’s what you want. You want readers to identify and sympathize with them. You want them to finish the book and remember the characters you created. I was a little worried in creating Violet that some people might get frustrated with her and not see past some of her flaws, but so far the response to her has been great. 

3. I love it that you tell on your website how A Distant Voice came to life: http://bridieblake.com/2015/10/01/a-distant-voice-the-idea/#read.
What made you write about this?

I love hearing where authors get their ideas from. Imaginations are a wonderful thing and I think it’s interesting to find out how people go from one simple thought to having a story, or a song or poem written. 

I have a friend who is a fellow writer and we’re constantly having discussions about our story ideas and where they come from, and it’s something I like to share with people. Plus, I love talking about writing and every step of the process so I see it as another avenue to talk about what I love.

4. You have a large family. You are one of nine children. If we would ask one of your siblings to describe you what would they say?

I wish it were something cool like ‘she’s fearless’ or ‘she’s one of the smartest people I know’, but they’d be lying. If you asked my youngest brother he’d probably tell you that I’m boring. Or annoying. I live alone so when I go over to my parents’ place I do tend to talk a bit. And ask questions. Hey, I’m a writer. I’m supposed to be inquisitive.

They’d probably say I’m a daydreamer. I’ve always been a daydreamer, and I always will be.

5. On your website you are introducing the characters of A Distant Voice to your readers. Did you have these images of them before you finished your book or did it come to you afterward?

I always have images in my head of my characters because it helps me form their personalities. I wish I had the ability to draw so I could paint them how they appear in my mind but sadly the best I can do is a stick figure. So, I go to the next best thing, which is the internet and celebrities. When I first came up with Violet, Hailee Steinfeld popped into my mind.

The images on my website I found after I’d finished the book and was working on my book trailer. Luckily they ended up being fairly spot on to what I had in my mind. Although I struggled to find the right Carter. When I first thought of him, I had Matt Lauria from Friday Night Lights in my head.

6. Who is your favorite character and why?

If I’m choosing one I’ve created, I pick Violet. She can annoy me at times but I love her. Flaws and all. I found it really easy to stay in her character while I wrote her and never felt the need to switch POVs at any time because I loved following her thought process and reactions to things. She’s impulsive with her words when she’s angry and then has to live with the consequences of them, and she’s very unsure of herself and awkward when offering a kind or supportive word.

My favourite book character of all time is Sirius Black (and coincidentally he’s Violet’s too). From the moment he appeared in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban I was hooked. He suffered and lost so much, but his belief in what was right stayed with him to the end. His relationship with Harry was one of my favourite parts of the Harry Potter series. 

7. What do you daydream about the most?

Story ideas, plot lines and character conversations take up about 90% of my daydreaming. They go through my head non-stop. When I’m not thinking about those things I daydream about anything and everything. Travelling, recipes I want to try, characters and storylines I wish had never been introduced into shows, books I want to read, books I wish were made into movies. Everything!

8. You love musicals. If you could be in one which one will you choose and why?

How do I choose?? I think I’d lean towards Wicked. I’ve seen the production a number of times, I listen to the soundtrack non-stop and dream of a movie version.

Telling such a well known and loved story from the perspective of the villain is such an interesting concept. I've read the book it's loosely based on and found that just as interesting. By the end of the book and show, you're rooting for the Wicked Witch over Dorothy. It's great! 

I know the words to all the songs and have been known to belt them out with a friend of mine, who will probably hate me for mentioning that! ‘For Good’ is a favourite. And I love ‘No Good Deed’. Well, there’s not really a song I don’t love so yes, definitely Wicked. I wouldn’t even care what part I played. I’d happily stand there and pretend to be a tree. 

9. On the first three places of your top five Contemporary Young Adult Books you have placed books from the author Melina Marchetta.
Could you tell us why she (and her books) are so amazing?

I’m a tad Melina Marchetta obsessed! Her books are incredible and if you love YA, you need to read her. She pulls you into her stories from page one and takes you on an emotional rollercoaster no matter how many times you read it. She can have you laughing one minute, and then on the next page you’re sobbing. She’s a master at it. I will read anything she writes.

10. If you could be anybody for one day who would you be and why?

J.K. Rowling because I’d love to be the genius mind behind Harry Potter. Even if it is just for one day. And in being her for the day I’d know all the answers to every question I’ve ever had about the series. Life would be pretty sweet.

11. What are your plans for the future?

Books, books and more books. I love writing and I don’t ever want to stop. I’m working on a new Contemporary YA at the moment and I’m hoping to have the second draft completed before Christmas. I also have an idea for a follow up to A Distant Voice. Over the Christmas break I’ll work on an outline and see if there’s a story behind the idea. If not, I have plenty of other stories waiting to be told.

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A review of A Distant Voice will follow soon. I highly recommend this book!

Nov 25, 2015

Interview With Linn B. Halton & Giveaway


Interview

1) Could you introduce yourself to my readers?

Hi Readers! My name is Linn B Halton and I began writing in March 2009. It was rather like opening the floodgates when I (finally) found myself in front of the computer with one aim – to realise my dream of becoming an author. I wrote five manuscripts, literally one after the other without stopping. I edit as I go, usually focusing on about fifty pages at a time, before moving on, and then do a full edit/review once it’s complete. I then look at it again after about three months, when I can see it with a fresh set of eyes!After a few months I thought I’d better find out what you actually do once you write ‘The End’ and that involved a lot of very late nights on the computer. But it meant that while I was on my writing marathon I did at least submit my first manuscript - which was accepted. By the time it was published (Feb 2011 in hardcover only) I had put down my writing pen for a while to set up my first website

2) You have a website called Loveahappyending and you write romance, what do you like so much about it?

Loveahappyending Lifestyle emagazine has a group of contributors, of which the vast majority are authors. It has a wide range of life and style articles - everything from film reviews and gardening tips, to relationship advice and – of course - books! For me life is about celebrating the positive things, in a world where negativity seems to grab the headlines all too frequently. Yes, bad things are happening all the time, but there’s also a lot of GOOD being done out there on a daily basis. Kind acts and deeds, people taking the time out of a busy day to listen to someone in need of a shoulder to cry on, so the online magazine celebrates the good things in life. As a former interior designer, my regular column is ‘Home by Design’ and I write about projects that can be done around the house that are relatively inexpensive. It’s fun to do!

I am in incurable romantic – I think love really does ‘make the world go around’ and most people begin dating in the hope of finding their one, true soulmate. I found mine and discovered that love is so much more than just that first flush of instant attraction. It deepens as the years go by, and I know that, with my husband by my side, no matter what life throws at me I can cope. I suppose that’s why I write about the pursuit of love, because I want my characters to find that same intensity, passion, and sense of fulfilment that true love can give you.

3) Your main characters often have psychic experiences. I love that little bit of magic. What makes it so special for you?

Even when there is no psychic element involved in the storyline, I usually find a little reference creeps in, often without realising it. Feeling spirits around me is so much a part of my daily life that it’s as natural to me as talking about the weather. Psychic experiences have been a part of my life since I was a very young child. It took me many years to accept it and ‘believe’, simply because it’s far easier not to believe. It took a shared experience with my husband to make me realise it wasn’t ‘imagination’ or ‘wishful thinking’. Now it’s a great source of comfort. I love that readers write to me to share their own experiences, often for the first time, after reading one of my psychic romance novels. And that IS a very special connection.

4) You write about horoscopes in Under The Stars and Quintessentially Yours. Do you follow any professionals and have you ever had a personal horoscope made? If so, what were the two best things about it?

I’ve followed Jonathan Cainer for many years and am a 5-star member of his website. He’s uncannily accurate and told me back in 2009 that I would be pursuing a new career utilising my creative side more fully – he even gave ‘writing a book’ as one example! He has done my full birth chart and it covers a period of 15 years. One of the main things that stood out for me is that there would be times when I was going to be under a lot of pressure, but with the caveat that I would cope. I will admit that this year has been a testament to that, as I literally haven’t stopped! The other thing was that the planetary alignments would be giving me a lot of help at various times throughout that long span of time. We are going through one of those very positive phases now and last week A Cottage in the Country, published by Harper Impulse, hit the top 100 Kindle chart on Amazon.co.uk. While I believe very firmly in the power of astrology, I also know that it’s the readers and reviewers who help spread the word. So while I’m thankful to the planets, I’m equally as thankful to the lovely people who have supported me every step of the way! In truth I’m feeling blessed.and the rest is history!

5) In A Cottage in the Country you write about a house that needs a lot of work, but that’s well loved. Why have you chosen this topic?

While it is a work of fiction, and the characters are ALL fictitious, the basis of the renovation ‘story’ reflects what happened when we moved into our cottage in December 2013. The cottage wasn’t flooded, but most of the area around us was affected and we did, literally, spend the first night sleeping on the floor, as indeed, Maddie did in the story! It was such a comedic situation at the time – the central heating wasn’t working, deliveries couldn’t get through … and Christmas day with no kitchen, not even a sink to wash up in – well, I spent the day painting and my husband took down a wall. We laughed so much through that period, even though we were freezing most of the time and covered in dust – eating mainly sandwiches and takeaways! It was the perfect setting for Maddie, Lewis and Ryan’s story – which is about discovering who you are and being brave enough to step outside your comfort zone.

6) Several of your novels have been published this year. What’s the best thing about that?

It’s literally a dream come true. Any writer who receives a ‘yes’ from a publisher will know what a HUGE thrill it is! As I write across a couple of genres it has worked really well this year, as I feel each one published has the ‘right’ home. It’s also invaluable for me, as a fairly new writer, to work with different editors. I believe it is helping me to grow and take on board a lot of sound advice from some amazing people with a wealth of experience behind them.

7) What’s your romantic novels top 3?

If you are talking all-time favourites then:

Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë

The Angelique Series – Sergeanne Golon

Twilight – Stephenie Meyer

8) What are the three most important characteristics your main characters should definitely have?

A. First and foremost the desire to love and be loved.

B. Honesty – I wrote from multi points-of-view to allow the reader to share what’s going on inside a character’s head – which might be very different to the words they would choose to share with anyone.

C. A happy ending – I want a story to be uplifting, even if (and it’s only happened once so far) the ending can’t be the traditional fairytale one …

9) What’s the most romantic thing that ever happened to you?

My husband planned a trip to Paris without telling me and even contacted my boss (at that time) to book a week off for me! We had the most amazing time, which involved a trip to the very magical Palace of Versailles. Looking back on it I remember picnics alongside the river with wine, cheese and fresh fruit, a lot of laughter and seeing the Sacre-Coeur under a starlit sky. We stayed in a hotel on the edge of Montmartre and could see the outline of the Eiffel Tower from the balcony!

10) What can we expect from you in the future?

January 2016 sees the launch of my first Choc Lit book, with a second due out later in the year. There will be a Christmas 2016 novella … and two more works in progress to keep me busy! So watch this space ha! Ha!

Linn B. Halton's Books 

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And more!

Giveaway

One very lucky reader of my blog will receive a fantastic prize:


A signed copy of Under The Stars will be for the winner of this giveaway. Good luck!

I will contact the winner via e-mail. If I don't get a reply within 60 hours the prize will go to someone else. All of my giveaways are international, you can find the official rules here.

Nov 17, 2015

Interview, Book Review & Giveaway: With A Friend Like You by Fanny Blake



Interview

1. Could you introduce yourself to my readers?

I’m Fanny Blake, novelist and books editor of Woman & Home magazine. I worked in publishing, acquiring and editing fiction and general non-fiction, for many years before becoming a journalist. To begin with I wrote book-related pieces and reviews then added interiors and travel. As a result, I was asked to write various books that tied in with TV shows such as Grand Designs, A Place in the Sun, House Doctor and more. From those I moved on to ghost a number of celebrity memoirs. Eventually I felt it was time to try and write something for myself. I was dying to write a novel, so wrote What Woman Want. Here I am, five books later …

2. With a Friend Like You is a book about two women who are falling out because of a pregnancy. Why have you chosen this topic?

I wanted to write about friendship between women of a certain age. I wanted to see what would happen if two women who had been the closest of friends for years, whose families were closely intertwined as a result, fell out. If the falling out was serious enough, would they be able to find a way back and repair the friendship? Could things between them and their families ever be the same again? It’s not really the pregnancy that’s important, it’s the fact that Beth feels her friend Megan has betrayed her by not telling her what she knows. Things then begin to escalate …

3. Beth versus Megan, what are the two biggest differences and similarities in their personalities? 

Beth is both ordered and organised. She hates mess and clutter. Her daughters can be as untidy as they like in their rooms, but otherwise she likes a neat and tidy home. That’s what calms her when she comes home from a hard day’s work at her lawyer’s practice. She’s ambitious for herself and her two daughters and is finding hard to let go. Megan has a much more laidback attitude to life. What comes around goes around. She believes that you have to stop trying to control your children once they reach a certain age. Her house is untidy, full of stuff she and her husband Pete have collected over the years. She became a primary school teacher so she could be at home with her children. What the two women have in common is that they both love their husbands and their children and would go to the ends of the earth for them. They’ve married Jon and Pete, whose friendship goes back a long way, and their children have virtually grown up together. These are two women who want the best for their families but set about achieving that in rather different ways.

4. Do you like Beth and if so what do you like about her? And what about Megan?

Perhaps Beth’s quite a difficult person to like but yes, I do like her. She loves her family and has spent her life trying to give them everything she never had. I’m a bit of a workaholic myself so I also like her work ethic and I like the fact that, as a family lawyer, she has chosen a job that benefits other people. It’s ironic that although she so often sees how other people’s marriages and families break up, she can’t distance herself enough to be able to stop the same thing happening to her. Megan is a much easier character to like. She’s relaxed, less complicated, loves her family to bits, loves children and is a fine deputy head of a primary school. She’s would help anyone if she could.

5. Ella is the person who’s unintentionally causing the rift between the two families. Do you think she’s handled things the right way?

I think she’s handled it the right way for her. Most teenagers don’t think far beyond themselves, and she’s not an exception. But she knows Beth, her mother, expects a lot of her and does think through how she can make her life work in a way that should please both of them. All she has to do is convince Beth that she’s right! 

6. What was the most fun part of writing this novel?

I enjoyed writing the whole thing, but perhaps I had most fun with the scenes in Beth and Megan’s book group and at the spa when Megan takes Ella away for the weekend. And most of all I enjoyed when Beth lets rip about halfway through the book and reveals a family secret that she has vowed never to mention, and the scenes immediately after that.

7. A big theme in your story is being unreasonable, how was it to write a story like that?

Not difficult inasmuch that each of the characters believes they’re being nothing but reasonable - whatever anyone else thinks. Beth can’t understand why the others don’t share her point of view. Once I’d put myself into all their heads, I could see exactly why they behave the way they do and why, to them at least, their behaviour is completely reasonable. Most of us are like that really, aren’t we?!

8. Two families who used to be amazing friends are fighting, how would you handle a situation like this? Would you be like Beth or Megan or would you behave differently?

That’s such a difficult question to answer because it depends so much on the personalities involved and the situation. Of course, I like to imagine that I’d remain calm and be the voice of reason and sort it all out quickly. In fact, I’d probably say or do all the wrong things and make things worse before they got better. If I have to choose I hope I’d be like Megan, but I do have a lot of sympathy with Beth.

9. There’s a lot of anger and resentment, how was it to play with these emotions in your story?

Huge fun, and probably a bit cathartic (though I probably shouldn’t admit that). I don’t get many opportunities to let rip in real life, so doing it through my characters is pretty exciting.


10. There are so many secrets in this book, do you like reading about them as well? And if so, what are your 3 favourite books about family secrets?

Yes, I love reading about secrets. My three favourite books about family secrets? Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre – there can’t be a much bigger secret than a mad ex-wife in the attic! Though Emily Bronte’s Rebecca comes close. What did really happen to Rebecca, Maxim de Winter’s first wife? And lastly, on a more recent note, I loved Liane Morarty’s The Husband’s Secret. And can I have Penny Vincenzi’s erfect Heritage as well?

11. What can we expect from you in the future? 

My new novel, House of Dreams, is being published on November 5th. A brother and two sisters journey to their family home in southern Spain to celebrate their late mother’s life. Over one long, hot week weekend, past secrets spill out, telling them the truth about their mother’s early life and making them question themselves, the choices they’ve made and where their future lies. 

Book review

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Review by Suze

Beth's career has always been important to her. She aims for perfection in both her professional and her personal life. Her family seems ideal. She has a devoted husband and two beautiful and smart daughters. She also has a wonderful friendship, Megan is Beth's best friend and their families often spend time together. Unfortunately Beth's life is starting to fall apart when her teenage daughter Ella is pregnant. All of a sudden anger, chaos and resentment are starting to dominate Beth's life and her friendship with Megan is under a lot of pressure. What will happen to the two friends who were once so close?
The blurb of With A Friend Like You intrigued me. Even before I started reading this book it managed to captivate me. Friendship is an interesting theme for a novel and Fanny Blake has used it to write a brilliant story. Beth and Megan are very different. Where Megan is laid back and easygoing Beth is strict and stern. The goals she's set for herself and her daughter are important to her. I kept wishing she'd loosen up a little, but I also understood where she was coming from. I felt ambivalent towards the whole situation which was fantastic to experience. 

There's no right or wrong side in this book. It's easy for the reader to choose either Beth or Megan, but things are happening, so opinions can change. I liked this manipulation of the perspective of the reader very much. Fanny Blake has told this story in such a clever way. Things are spinning out of control, but there's nothing that can be done to stop it once the whole thing has been set into motion. It's like a train that keeps going faster and faster. I loved that feeling and enjoyed the ride very much.

Giveaway

One very lucky reader of my blog will receive a paperback copy of With A Friend Like You. Good luck!

I will contact the winner via e-mail. If I don't get a reply within 60 hours the prize will go to someone else. All of my giveaways are international, you can find the official rules here.
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