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Sunday 16 August 2015

FILLED WITH GHOSTS - an interview with Karen Little

Today I have an extra-special guest on my blog - the fabulously talented artist and writer Karen Little.  Karen and I first met on Facebook last year, and since then we have met several times in real life.  During those meetings she achieved what I'd thought was impossible - she taught me how to produce passable pieces of artwork.  That was something which I'd long since written off as a lost cause!  But I will never be as good as she is...

Welcome, Karen!

You’re a lady of many talents – artist, dancer, poet…  Please tell me a little about your work in those fields. 

I was quite the problem child at my secondary school, but obsessed with painting. At age eleven I had a strange ‘visionary’ way of painting; there would be a pleasant still life of fruit set up and I would be painting abstracts based around bones.     

I ran away from home to London while still a teenager, and didn’t go to Art college at that point. I was in love with Kate Bush, and started doing dance classes at The Place, home of London Contemporary Dance Company, because it was where Kate rehearsed. I auditioned and got into the full time school a year later, and then joined a dance theatre company.  A few years later I did a sculpture degree at Camberwell School of Art.  I was mixing it up, dancing, painting, exhibiting and performing. Oh and I had a son along the way. I have exhibited art and performed as a dancer in London, Germany, and Spain.

I didn’t start writing as my main expression until I came to Manchester five years ago, after living in Spain for six years. I say "came to Manchester," but really I was dragged back by family after a psychotic episode that spanned several months. I painted throughout, and I suppose the ‘visionary’ is apparent in them!      

In Manchester I started doing various poetry workshops, and reading poems at events. In the last year or so I've started submitting them to magazines, anthologies, competitions, and have been surprisingly successful at getting published.

Having read some of your poetry, I have to say I don't find that at all surprising!  And I believe you’re currently working on a novella.  Please can you tell me a little about it? What inspired you to write this particular story?

The novella, Filled with Ghosts, is very recently ‘finished’, and I am starting to hunt out potential homes for it. More than one person has mentioned an element of poetic stream of consciousness in its make-up, and I cannot deny that the initial 40,000 words were written rapidly, through that method. At that point the work began for me, as I structured it, and decided which characters had the POV for a chapter; the story unfolds through several characters’ first person narrations. It is set in Southern Spain, and the story originated as a ten-minute play, which was a fictionalised account of my psychotic episodes in Spain.  Three of the characters in the play appear in the novella, and a narrative version of the play is seeded in there. I am not sure if my writing methods are bizarre, but there is an overlap and crossover between novella, short stories, poems, such that often when I am writing I don’t know in which direction the piece will develop.

What’s next on the creative agenda for you?

The writing of novella two is in progress. I say novella, because I have a tendency to pare things down. Filled with Ghosts was 65,000 words at one point, but the sculptor in me took over.
I am writing poems and reading them at events. Still mixing it up!  Writing short stories too, and if you are interested you can find my most recently published one in this fab anthology. I went to the launch in Wales on 15th August, and five of us read our stories. The proceeds are going to the mental health organisation SANE.

Please tell me a little about the real Karen Little. Is there anything which, with hindsight, you would have done differently?

I think I am quite hard work. Like most people with mental health issues I take enormous advantage of the times when I am able to be sociable and active, because the other side of the coin is complete withdrawal. This doesn’t stop me creating, and much of my painting and writing has been done when for long periods I cannot face a soul. It does feel very precarious, but it is a life-long condition, and I now understand myself more, and am gentler with myself. It was harder when I was young and I would be as confused as everyone else when I suddenly had to walk out on people, things, life, and disappear.

I think I would find it difficult to say "would have done differently." I feel very driven, I feel very fortunate.

What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

My two young dogs are very demanding at eight and eighteen months old, and need a lot of walking. Animals are my total soft spot. I would love to be somewhere the dogs could just run free. I also have a gecko and fish.       

I paint sometimes, and I read when my concentration lets me. My concentration varies, and some days I can easily write pages of stream of conscious, and many days  go by without my being able to read it back, let alone edit it.

What is your favourite tipple?

Wine. Mmm…If only wine was good for me in large quantities….

Find out more about Karen on her blog and her Facebook page.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

BARGAIN BOOKS - for this week only!

Just to let you know that all three of my novels are available on Amazon Kindle for just 99p each (or the equivalent in your local currency) for this week only, in the amazing Crooked Cat summer sale.  Click on the book covers on the right to find out more!

Saturday 8 August 2015

REVOLUTION DAY - a guest post by Tim Taylor

Today I have another extra-special guest on my blog - my friend and fellow-Crooked Cat author Tim Taylor, who is here to talk about Life, The Universe, Revolution, and the Crooked Cat summer sale.

Welcome, Tim!

Hello, Sue, and thank you very much for inviting me to visit your blog.

My pleasure, Tim.  Please tell us a little about your new novel, Revolution Day.

It follows a turbulent year in the life of a fictional dictator, Carlos Almanzor. Now in his seventies, Carlos is feeling his age and seeing enemies around every corner. And with good reason: his Vice-President, Manuel Jimenez, though outwardly loyal, is burning with frustration at his subordinate position. 
                Meanwhile, Carlos’ estranged and imprisoned wife Juanita is writing a memoir in which she recalls the revolution that brought him to power and how his regime descended into repression.
                When Manuel’s attempts to increase his profile are met with humiliating rejection, he resolves to take action, using the resources at his disposal as Minister of Information to manipulate Carlos and drive a wedge between him and Angel, the commander of the army. As Manuel begins to pull the strings, Juanita will become an unwitting participant in his plans.
            There is more information about the novel, plus some tasters, on my website.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

For a while I had been toying with the idea of a novel about someone who has been very powerful but is starting to lose his grip as he becomes an old man. Initially I envisaged him as a king, but when a string of dictators (Hussein, Mubarak, Gaddafi) fell in quick succession I thought ‘why not a dictator?’. Then, as the ideas started to come together, I settled on Latin America because I wanted a strong, politically active female character, which would have been more difficult in a middle-eastern context. 

How does it relate to your previous novel, Zeus of Ithome?

There is one point of similarity in that both novels describe a revolution – and because of that, there is a kinship between the aspirations of certain characters in both novels. But that is more coincidence than anything else; in other respects, they are very different. Revolution Day is set in the present, in a fictional country, whereas Zeus is set in the 4th century BC and chronicles real events – the struggle of the ancient Messenians to free themselves from three centuries of slavery under the Spartans – albeit through the personal stories of fictional (as well as some historical) characters.

As a fellow Crooked Cat author, I’m sure you will agree that Crooked Cat is a wonderful publisher.  How did you first hear about them, and what made you decide to submit to them?

A friend of mine in Holmfirth Writers Group, Kimm Brook (a. k. a. K B Walker) had published a novel (Once Removed) with Crooked Cat, and spoke highly of them. So I submitted the first three chapters of Zeus of Ithome and the rest, as they say, is history! They are indeed very nice people to work with.

Now please tell us a little about the real Tim Taylor!

What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

Well, I like to play my guitars (I have fourteen!), and a bit of piano. I like walking up (or just being among) hills and mountains, especially on a clear day. I like to visit museums and watch plays. And I must admit that on occasion I succumb to the charms of general slobbing about. 

What is your favourite tipple?

Either Newcastle Brown Ale or a nice red wine, depending on my mood and circumstances.

Is there somewhere you’d love to go but haven’t so far visited?

Oh, so many places!  South America, the Himalayas, China, India. If I won the lottery (or had a huge bestseller) I’d buy a big boat and spend a lot of my time travelling the world. 

Is there anything which, with hindsight, you would have done differently?

If I could have back the few months I wasted getting bored at home before I went to university, I would do a lot of the travelling I have never had time to get around to since then, and go to some of the places I have just mentioned!  At the time, I didn’t realise how rare and precious it is to be free of commitments and responsibilities. 

Thanks again for hosting me, Sue, and for those thought-provoking questions. 

Thanks for coming, Tim; it's been a pleasure.  

BREAKING NEWS: Both of Tim's novels, together with lots of other great holiday reads, are currently just 99p each for a few days only, in the great Crooked Cat Publishing summer sale. Snap them up now, before the price goes back up!

More about Tim:

Tim was born in 1960 in Stoke-on-Trent. He studied Classics at Pembroke College, Oxford (and later Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London). After a couple of years playing in a rock band, he joined the Civil Service, eventually leaving in 2011 to spend more time writing. 
                Tim now lives in Yorkshire with his wife and daughter and divides his time between creative writing, academic research and part-time teaching and other work for Leeds and Huddersfield Universities.

                Tim’s first novel, Zeus of Ithome, a historical novel about the struggle of the ancient Messenians to free themselves from Sparta, was published by Crooked Cat in November 2013; his second, Revolution Day, in June 2015.  Tim also writes poetry and the occasional short story, plays guitar, and likes to walk up hills.

Tuesday 4 August 2015

TIME AND TROUBLE - a guest post by Nancy Jardine

Today I once again have the pleasure of chatting to my dear friend and fellow-scribe Nancy Jardine, who is here to talk about her new mystery thriller, Take Me Now.

Welcome back, Nancy!  Over to you...

Thank you, Sue!

How much trouble is time with you? Hmm. That might sound like an odd way to introduce a blog post but, for me, the aspect of time is a huge factor in my novels.

Getting the timeline correct for my contemporary mystery thriller Take Me Now took a little work since my main female character, Aela Cameron, has a finite amount of days in her temporary employment contract with Nairn Malcolm. There’s no hanging about for Nairn who likes everything done in a hurry – even though he’s a tad incapacitated. The mystery needs solved before what is potentially lethal really does become a deadly outcome, so the days are numbered in the storyline.

In Take Me Now, I wanted to convey two main things about Nairn Malcolm. One was that a normally active and energetic alpha male like Nairn would have major difficulty with incapacitation and wouldn’t stop doing what he normally does just because he’s sporting a pair of crutches under his armpits. The second thing was that someone like Nairn’s business schedule would still be equally as important to him as finding the saboteur who is both harming his businesses and himself.

The sequence of events in Take Me Now is compressed into a few short weeks, the temporary contract for Aela being set at one month. I dithered a little over that decision because the healing of broken bones averages at around 6 weeks but then concluded that after four weeks an enterprising invalid will have found sufficient strategies to make being ‘almost normal’ a workable thing. Since I wanted to inject some humour into the novel, I’ve made Nairn’s initial weeks after his mysterious accident very action-packed, though also very frustrating for a developing romantic situation. Crutches and broken ribs do not make a casual amorous clutch!

I’ve personally never suffered from any bone fractures so imagination had to kick in big time when I wrote the novel. How about you? Would you say it’s a reasonable assumption to state that after around four weeks, even though still in plaster cast/s an accident victim will have ‘almost’ normal mobility? And that an alpha male, aided by an equally alpha female (if there is such a phrase), would manage to cope much sooner in the recuperation phase, as Nairn has?

Whatever your answer, I thoroughly enjoyed creating my damaged Highland Hero- Nairn Malcolm in Take Me Now.

Thank you for inviting me here today, Sue - it’s lovely to pop in to see you…

Nancy Jardine writes historical romantic adventures (Celtic Fervour Series); contemporary mystery thrillers (Take Me Now, Monogamy Twist, Topaz Eyes - finalist for THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE 2014), and time-travel historical adventures for Teen/YA readers (Rubidium Time Travel Series). All historical eras are enticing and ancestry research a lovely time-suck. She regularly blogs and loves to have guests visit her blog. Facebook is a habit she’s trying to keep within reasonable bounds. Grandchild-minding takes up a few (very long) days every week and any time left is for reading, writing and watching news on TV( if lucky).

Find Nancy at the following places
About Me   

 Goodreads   Twitter @nansjar  Google+ (Nancy Jardine)   YouTube book trailer videos   Amazon UK author page   Rubidium Time Travel Series on Facebook