Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Please welcome, friend and author, Jeannette Hensby...

... to my blog today.  Thanks for making some of your precious time available to us, Jeanette.  Now tell me, What is your current release?
JH   My latest book, released late in 2018 is an anthology of crimes committed in North Yorkshire: “North Yorkshire Moors Murders”, but if I were to point anyone unfamiliar with my work to the book that I think is my best so far it would be “The Abdy Farm Murders”.
AW   Real crime - how interesting!  What first got you into writing and why?
JH    For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by true crime and I’ve read endless books in that genre.  I never expected that I would write any.  However, when I was about nine years old, I sat listening as my grandma told me stories from the past.  Most of the things she told me were about long-dead family members, and I was too young to have any real understanding or interest in such stories, but she got my full attention when she told me about the murder of a girl; committed by someone that she knew.  The story stayed in the back of my mind until 2014 when I came across an account of the crime in a book called  “Rotherham Murders” by Margaret Drinkall.  It was so good to be reading more details about the crime after all those years, but I was stunned when I got to the end of the story and read the name of the person that was hanged for the crime. It wasn’t the person that grandma had named.  Persuaded, egged-on and bullied by my younger sister, I spent about a year researching the crime, and came to the conclusion that there had been a miscarriage of justice.  I believe that the person named by my grandma did in fact commit the murder and that an innocent man went to the gallows for it.  Then I wrote the book “The Rotherham Trunk Murder” and published it in 2016.
AW  You write real crime.  I suppose that means that you also undertake a great deal of research.  How do you keep the reader interested and make the facts much more than a series of notes?
JH   I learnt a great deal, of course, from all the true crime books that I have read over the years.  Without consciously realising it, I was always analysing the difference between interesting true crime books, and those that were less so. That, of course, has been extremely useful to me since I became a true crime writer.  I feel that the secret of a good true crime book is to ensure that readers “get to know” the people in the story, and to care about what happens to them. The story needs to be brought to life and to engage people’s emotions: sadness, horror, anger, sympathy etc.  I also like to try, as far as possible, to keep the case as a whodunnit, in order to hold the reader’s interest throughout the book.  One reviewer called me the true crime Agatha Christie, which I thought was very flattering, although I don’t pretend to be in Agatha’s league.  My pet hate in books is “padding out” where irrelevant information is added in to bulk out the book, and so I never ever do that.
AW  Agatha Chrisite - I cut my reading teeth on her books and I still re-read her novels too.  But what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with creative writing in any form?
JH   Since I published my first book in 2016, I have published a further four, and I am researching a fifth at the moment.  I really enjoy researching/investigating true crimes and then working out how to structure the book to make it interesting.  The structuring is as far as my creative talents go.  I don’t have the imagination to write poetry or fiction, so I have no desire to try any sort of real creative writing and I’m sure that, if I did, no-one would want to read it!
AW  Famous authors, such as Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas, had a special space for writing.  Do you have a writing ‘shed’ of your own?
JH   I have an upstairs study that looks out over a beautiful back garden, which backs onto open countryside.  The only downside is trying not to get distracted by all the wildlife that visits the garden, and spend time looking out of the window instead of writing.
AW  Finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with any one individual, living or dead or a character from a book, who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?
JH   If I could spend an afternoon with anyone, it would be with the American true crime writer Ann Rule, sadly no longer with us.  If anyone knew how to write a book that drew you in, and touched every emotion it was Ann.  The story of how she got into writing is fascinating.  She worked as a volunteer answering the phone in a “Samaritans” type capacity, and a fellow volunteer working alongside her was the man who was eventually found to be the serial killer Ted Bundy.  She was interested in becoming a crime writer (having worked as a police officer) and had secured a book deal for her to write her first book.  The deal was for her to write the story of the serial killer once he was caught.  When Bundy was caught, he was allowed the one phone call, and it wasn’t to a lawyer it was to Ann.  He said “Go write your book Ann”.  I was interviewed in December by true crime writer/actor/broadcaster Burl Barer on his show ‘True Crime Uncensored’ live from Los Angeles.  He had met Ann, and it was so interesting to hear anecdotes from someone who had had that privilege.  If I could spend an afternoon with her, I should just like to listen to her talk about the cases that she was involved with, and to gather any writing tips that she would share.

... about the book On the 15th of November 1912, two young cousins, ten year old Amy Collinson and seven year old Frances Nicholson were brutally murdered on their way home from a rehearsal for a Christmas concert.  Amy had also been raped.  A 24 year old man called Walter Sykes was soon arrested, tried and executed, but local people thought that Sykes was innocent and that Amy's foster father, Arthur Collinson, was the perpetrator of this horrendous crime.  More than a hundred years later, local people still believe that to be true. The author examines all the evidence to try to answer the question as to who committed the crime.  Was it Walter Sykes?  Was it Arthur Collinson?  Or was it someone else?
The updated version of the book gives fascinating information provided by a Spiritualist medium to a family member - allegedly from the murdered girls themselves.

...about the author A long career in Local Government Social Services Departments, and in N.H.S. Mental Health Services in Sheffield instilled in  me a keen interest in psychology and in people’s behaviour. When I took early retirement I envisaged a lazy life with lots of  time to indulge myself in one of my favourite pastimes - reading True Crime books, but that wasn’t to be. A childhood memory, a dark family secret, and a possible miscarriage of justice led me to thoroughly research an eighty year old crime, and then to write a book about it “The Rotherham Trunk Murder”, which I published in 2016.  I had caught the writing”bug” and a whole new career has opened up for me, researching and writing about true crime cases; with a particular interest in those that might have involved a miscarriage of justice. I have been particularly pleased to hear from relatives involved in two of the cases that I have written about after the books were published, resulting in me republishing both “The Rotherham Trunk Murder” and “The Abdy Farm Murders” in 2018, with new information from relatives added.

You can follow Jeanette on her  Website  Facebook and on Radio Anchor FM  You can also follow Jeanette on Amazon where you can sample the first few pages of her books.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Writer and friend, Kate Field...

Carbis Bay, St Ives
... is visiting the blog today.  Hello, Kate, and thanks for taking some time out to be here.

One of the things I love best about writing is the way that my books become scrapbooks of memories.
Sometimes, the memories lie in minor details that I add here and there: the name of a pub or house that forms a link to my childhood, or a character name that has a family connection.  Other times, they might come from a trait that I give to a character: in the WIP I’ve just finished, the protagonist’s grandmother likes to nudge people with her elbow to get their attention or to emphasise a point, just like my own grandmother did.
More often than not, the memories relate to places that I’ve been and that are connected to a particular book.  I still remember sitting in a leather, wing-back chair in a draughty holiday cottage in Kent, writing my first novel, even though it was over twenty years ago.  I’ll never forget being in Jersey when I wrote the scene in my first published book, The Magic of Ramblings, where Cassie realises that she’s in love with Barney, because I had no idea that it was going to happen at that point in the story!  And whenever I think about Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings, I remember the fun lunches shared with the Authors on the Edge in Hebden Bridge.
In my latest novel, The Man I Fell in Love With, I used some of the locations I’d travelled to recently as the setting for the book.  Most of the story takes place in Lancashire, where I live, and Ethan’s house, Waterman’s Cottage, was inspired by a small building on the edge of a reservoir about a mile away from my house. During the course of the story, the characters spend a summer holiday in St Ives in Cornwall, and that was great fun to write because I’d visited St Ives on holiday the year before I wrote the book.  The lead character,
Mary Black, does many of the things we did on holiday: she visits the Minack Theatre, walks the coastal path from Carbis Bay to St Ives, and has breakfast at the Porthminster Café.  I can’t look at those chapters now without memories of a wonderful holiday rushing back.
Brooklyn Bridge, New York
The other location that features in The Man I Fell in Love With is New York.  I wrote the story not long after visiting New York with my husband to celebrate a special wedding anniversary, and that undoubtedly influenced my choice of setting for an important scene in the book.  We had an amazing time in New York, strolling through Central Park, walking the High Line, exploring Brooklyn and marvelling at the view from the Top of the Rock observation deck.  You’ll have to read the book to find out what the characters get up to in New York!

about the author... Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire, where she lives with her husband, daughter and mischievous cat.
She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers in 2017.
about the book... Sometimes we find happiness where we least expect it…
After twenty years of contented marriage, no one is more surprised than Mary Black when her husband announces he’s leaving her... for another man.
For the sake of the children, Mary has no choice but to pick herself up and start again.  She hosts family meals that include Leo and his new partner.  She copes with the kids wanting to spend less time with her, and more time with their “fun” dads.  But one thing she can’t quite ignore is Leo’s gorgeous brother, who has just come back to town…
After living a life of sliding doors and missed opportunities, can Mary finally put herself first and take a chance that could change everything?
A wonderfully uplifting novel full of wisdom, spirit and charm – this is a love story with a difference…

You can get Kate's book  Here

You can follow Kate on  Amazon  Twitter and  Facebook

Another fellow Author on the Edge will be visiting the blog next month, so watch this space...

Saturday, 16 February 2019

What better time is there...

…than the week that includes Valentine's Day to review Stephanie Cage's latest novella, Paris Proposal?  As I can't think of a better time, that's what I'm doing today!
Published in December 2018, this is a book I've been waiting to read in its entirety ever since I heard the first hint of the idea that has become the whole story.  Set in the heart of Paris, with engaging characters and an exciting storyline, I found I could not put this piece of writing down until I had got to the end.  Yes, I read it at one sitting.
The central character, Holly Gardiner, is whisked off to Paris for New Year's Eve by her boyfriend, Ryan.  Holly is expecting one outcome, a romantic one that involves a ring.  Ryan, on the other hand, delivers something completely different, and Holly finds herself, tearful, alone and a bit drunk in the most romantic city (in my humble opinion) in the world.
In a nightclub, as midnight draws closer, she meets Jean-Luc and his friends, Marc, a lawyer and Pierre, a journalist.  As time moves on Holly becomes more enthralled with Jean-Luc, and then he surprises her.  Holly isn't quite sure how to react.  But midnight has not yet struck.  Jean-Luc is showing little sign of leaving Holly to her own devices and his friends have suddenly and sensitively disappeared into the background.  Is the Frenchman quite what he seems?
I can't answer that question for you but what I can say is that both Holly and Jean-Luc are believable and fully rounded characters.  Holly's distress at the outset of the story, covered by her bravado is cleverly woven through her thoughts words and actions.  Similarly with the charming, caring and sincere Jean-Luc.  But then a hint of danger begins to seep into the mix, and I was left wondering how it would all end.
Using Paris as the backdrop for the story was an ingenious choice.  As I followed Holly and Jean-Luc across the city, I could almost feel the cobbles under my feet and hear the water of the Seine as it lapped around and under the arches of the bridges.  There really is something magical about being in the heart of Paris at night - and if you haven't experienced that yet, then make sure you do soon.  You won't regret it.
A fabulously romantic story, set in a beautiful city that is a favourite of mine, and a plot that keeps you turning the page.  What more could you wish for from a book?

You can find out more about Holly and the book Here and you can get the book on Amazon

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Crooked Cat Publishing's Loved Up Sale...

...is now on!

Loads of books for sale at 99p/99c or equivalent.  Not just Romances, but Mysteries, Thrillers, Contemporary Fiction... Check it out... 

Shhh! Don't tell anyone else I said this... but my own books, available from Amazon, are also included in the sale and Montbel is being featured today on www.mybookplace.net and on www.booklemur.com  

Check out the links and grab yourself a bargain ebook!

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

A favourite poem for Valentine's Day...


Looking by chance in at the open window
            I saw my own self seated in his chair
With gaze abstracted, furrowed forehead,
            Unkempt hair.

I thought that I had suddenly come to die,
            That to a cold corpse this was my farewell,
Until the pen moved slowly on the paper
            And tears fell.

He had written a name, yours, in printed letters
            One word on which bemusedly to pore:
No protest, no desire, your naked name,
            Nothing more.

Would it be tomorrow, would it be next year?
            But the vision was not false, this much I knew;
And I turned angrily from the open window
            Aghast at you.

Why never a warning, either by speech or look,
            That the love you cruelly gave me could not last?
Already it was too late: the bait swallowed,
            The hook fast.

                      Robert Graves

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Jottings from the Journals... Nevers

Tuesday, 19th

…Camped near Nevers and strayed into town for a brief look round.  Need to decide how long to stay…
… the Palais Ducal dates from the 15th century.  It is a quite magnificent example of Renaissance architecture, with its round towers and the pointed roof that give it that very French look.  According to my guide book, it was once the home of the Dukes of Nevers.  Now it houses an annexe to the law courts.  It appears that the Chevalier au Cygne (The Swan Knight), an early ancestor of the family, inspired the tale of Lohengrin which Wagner used as the basis for his opera.
But Nevers has an even more interesting tale to tell, that of Vert-Vert.  Vert-Vert was a parrot who lived with an order of nuns in the city.  He was very well looked after, so much so that the sisters of the motherhouse asked for him to be sent to them so that they could enjoy his company.  After much debate within the order, Vert-Vert was prepared for his journey along the Loire to Nantes.  Regrettably, his travelling companions - two Dragoons - were of 'the lowest sot' and Vert-Vert began mimicking their foul speech.  By the time he had reached Nantes, Vert-Vert did not want for 'curses and oaths' as he 'could out-swear a devil in a holy font.'  One can imagine the looks of shock on the nun's faces at his first utterances.
Porte du Croux, Nevers
Vert-Vert was returned to his original home in Nevers.  In order the bring the unruly bird under control, Vert-Vert was condemned to silence along with a period of fasting and solitude.  Having re-acquired his good manners, he was then brought out of confinement to live amongst the nuns, who spoiled him.  Eventually, 'Stuffed with sugar and mulled with wine' this rascal of a bird 'Changed his rosy life for a coffin of pine.'
But that is not where this story ends!  Jaen-Baptiste Gresset (1709-1777), a poet and dramatist, published his poem 'Vert-Vert, histoire d'un perroquet de Nevers' in 1734.  The story and the poem inspired paintings by Jean François Millet, Auguste Couder, Fleury François Richard and their respective canvasses hang in galleries across France.  Later, in 1869, Jacques Offenbach staged his comic opera based on the poem in Paris.
I think that parrot has a lot to answer for!

When I got home after this trip I looked up the poem and there are a number of English translations.  It is quite a tale!