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Monday 14 September 2015

FIVE GUNS BLAZING - an interview with Emma Rose Millar

Today I'm thrilled to welcome to my blog the lovely Emma Rose Millar.  Emma's new novel, Five Guns Blazing, is released tomorrow by Crooked Cat Publishing, but has already reached bestseller status on pre-orders alone.

Welcome, Emma!  Please tell us a little about your new novel, Five Guns Blazing. (I’m particularly intrigued by the title!)

Five Guns Blazing tells the story of Laetitia Beedham, a pauper from the backstreets of London, who in 1710 is transported to Barbados along with her conniving mother, Molly. Laetitia is a vulnerable but surprisingly resilient character who survives two years in the workhouse, seventy gruelling days on the open sea and a punishing regime on a Caribbean sugar plantation. On her eighteenth birthday, Laetitia is sold to pirate captain John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham but soon finds herself torn between her admiration for the captain and her feelings for his beautiful but double-crossing wife, Anne Bonny. As the King’s men close in on the pirates, Anne hatches a devious plan, set to speed Laetitia straight to the noose.

The title comes from Anne Bonny’s final piratical escapade, when the ship was stormed by Governor Lawes’ men whilst most of the men were drunk below deck. She fought valiantly, with a pistol in each hand, along with Mary Read and another unknown pirate, their five guns blazing. As the pirate hunters threw boarding hooks onto the deck of Anne’s sloop, she swore and cursed at the cowardice of her male shipmates, shouting, “Dogs, all of them! If only we’d had some more women with us instead of these damned weaklings!”

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I was at a barbeque and someone was playing an old Adam and the Ants song called Five Guns West, which contained the lyrics, Ladies can be captains and ladies can be chiefs, just like glorious Amazons, Anne Bonny, Mary Read. Up until then, I’d never heard of any female pirates; women supposedly weren’t allowed on pirate ships because they brought bad luck! How did an ordinary girl from London and an attorney’s daughter from County Cork come to be the most villainous women ever to take to the seas? The more I read about the pair, the more fascinated I became. Their sloop, Revenge was captained by the handsome, charismatic pirate, John Rackham, known more for his gentlemanly conduct and outlandish fashion sense than his treacherous exploits. He was a Romeo, the Lothario of the high seas.  It was the women who were the most vicious members of the crew, wielding pistols and machetes, lighting fuses, and ordering the men to kill their captives. Anne in particular was slippery as an eel and managed to escape execution on numerous occasions. It seemed there was a novel just begging to be written.

How did you first hear about Crooked Cat Publishing, and what made you decide to submit to them?

I discovered Crooked Cat just by doing a google search for independent publishers. They were closed for submissions at the time but I loved the idea of being a part of a supportive community of authors, and their eclectic mix of books, many of which seemed to fit into more than one genre, as does mine. I kept checking back on their website and as soon as they were open for submissions I sent my manuscript straight away. I was so happy when they accepted Five Guns Blazing. Everyone has been so welcoming; it feels like it was meant to be.

What can we expect from you next, writing-wise?

My first novel, Strains from an Aeolian Harp, is a dark tale of obsession and opium addiction set in 1920s Britain. I’m re-editing it at the moment and am hoping to find it a new home. I’m also working on a novel called The Women Friends, based on the painting of the same name by Gustav Klimt, which was burnt on the last day of World War II. I have also written a children’s picture book series called The Amazing Adventures of Nathan Molloy, which I have had a lot of interest in.

Please tell us a little about the real Emma Rose Millar:

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

I’m very busy, Sue. I’m a single mum with a five year old son, so I mostly do kids’ stuff when I’m not working, like swimming and fruit picking, and I’ve resurrected my old hobby from the 1970’s – roller skating! But if I do get time to myself then I love live comedy and live music, especially blues, reggae and ska.

What is your favourite food?

I’m really greedy and there’s nothing much I won’t eat, but I’d say my favourite food is Italian. I love the country, the language, the culture over there… and of course the wine!

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

Definitely Jamaica – well all of the Caribbean actually. It hasn’t always been a place I longed to visit, but once I started researching Five Guns Blazing, I became spellbound with all things piratical.  I’d love to go on a Caribbean cruise; it’s one of the many things I’ve got planned for my retirement.  I’d also like to go on a spa break in Iceland and visit the cities of Barcelona and Vienna. My latest novel’s set in Vienna and the Austrian countryside – I really should go there!

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

Just about everything! I’ve made so many mistakes over the years and no doubt I’ll keep making them! I suppose that what makes life so colourful and gives us authors plenty to write about. I wish I’d spent more time with my grandma - she died last year aged ninety after a short illness. In general I always wish I could be a nicer person. Having my son is the one thing I wouldn’t change though; becoming a mum is the best thing I ever did.

Thank you, Emma - it's been lovely talking to you.  Please come again!

Five Guns Blazing is available now on Amazon.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

PRIDE & REGICIDE - an interview with Cathy Bryant

Today I have the great pleasure of welcoming as my guest the amazing Cathy Bryant.  For some years Cathy has been a prolific and prize-winning poet and short-story writer, but 2015 marks the beginning of her career as a novelist.  Cathy's debut novel, Pride & Regicide, will be published by Crooked Cat Publishing on 29th September, and is now available for pre-order by following this link.

Welcome, Cathy!  

Please tell us a little about your new novel, Pride & Regicide.

It's a light-hearted crime thriller set in the world of Pride & Prejudice, three years after the events of Jane Austen's novel. Mary Bennet, together with her best friend Cassandra Lucas, finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I was looking for my copy of P+P one day and said to myself, "That's funny, I can't find Pride and Regicide. Wait, what?!" It was a simple slip of the tongue and it might have stopped there, except that I remembered one of the minor characters from P+P: Miss King. She was engaged to Mr Wickham and we never did find out why the match was broken off...

This is your first novel, but I know that you’re no stranger to writing.  Can you tell us a bit more about your other work?

I've been lucky enough to have about 200 poems and short stories printed in various magazines and anthologies, and three books published. Two have been published by Puppywolf: Contains Strong Language and Scenes of a Sexual Nature (my first poetry collection), and How to Win Writing Competitions (and make money), where I explain what I did to win 19 writing competitions and literary awards, and how the reader can do it too. My second poetry collection was Look at All the Women, published by Mother's Milk Books, which got some lovely reviews. I write everything, from horror to nonfiction articles.

Wow - that sounds pretty impressive.  Where can readers by these books?

Click here!

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?

It was by an odd circle of events, really. I have a website designed to help other writers: Cathy's Comps and Calls, in which I list calls for submission and writing competitions that don't require any fees and can be entered, or submitted to, electronically. I listed Crooked Cat on there when they had an open submission window. It so happened that two of my favourite writers (including one Sue Barnard, who wrote a terrific book called The Ghostly Father, you really should read it) had novels published by them, and I was very impressed by the quality of both books and publisher. So when the next submission window came around, I made sure to submit! I am so thrilled that such a prestigious publisher has accepted my novel and they've been a delight to work with.

Please tell us a little about the real Cathy Bryant:

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

When not writing I'm generally reading, sleeping, eating, cuddling cats or my other half, or chatting to friends in person and online. I'm not the physically adventurous sort - if I want to travel somewhere exciting, I open a book. I do love to perform, though, and there's little I enjoy more than making a roomful of people howl with laughter.

What is your favourite tipple?

I rarely drink alcohol - probably about four units a year - as with all my painkillers (I have arthritis and a number of other conditions) booze tends to send me to sleep. I like the occasional Amaretto or a good brandy or port. The best wine I ever had was a Beerenauslese 1976, but that was a long time ago. It tasted like liquid sunshine.

So I down a lot of decaf coffee and tea, and a hot chocolate/cocoa hybrid of my own devising. I drink various types of water, too (gosh, Im thrilling, aren't I?!) and I suppose the most exotic thing I sometimes drink is a really good tea - a single estate Darjeeling or a Russian Caravan or Assam. At our Occasional Austen meetings (I am a member of a Janeite group who meet up in Regency dress and talk about Austen-related things (and anything else we like)) I get to sit in my gown and drink good tea while fanning myself. It's rather blissful.

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

In life, or the novel?! 


In life - gosh yes! I'd have stopped trying to be sensible about either a career or marriage, and let myself be a writer twenty years earlier; and I'd have spent less time listening to bad 1980s music, I should think.

In the novel - hmmm....I probably should have killed another person, and also involved the servants more - I read Longbourn by Jo Baker and it demonstrated how invisible the servant class was in the novels and society of the time. I have a plan to involve a servant in Northanger Alibi, the sequel to Pride and Regicide. He or she will play a vital part in the uncovering of information.

Tell us three things about you which you think will surprise us!

1. I was struck by lightning and bitten by a poisonous spider on the same day, at a wedding in Tennessee. The bride and groom are still together, fourteen years later, so it wasn't an omen.

2. I was born on Friday 13th, which means that all superstitions are reversed for me. Apparently I'd also make a good witch.

3. My first names are Catherine, Jane and Elizabeth, which have all been used as the names of characters in works by Jane Austen and those of the Bront√ęs (Catherine Morland, Jane Fairfax/Bennet, Elizabeth Bennet; Catherine Earnshaw, Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Hastings).

4. (I am a rebel...)  Although I love to perform and I appear quite extroverted, it's an uncharacteristic aspect of me - I'm really terribly shy, and I've only been able to come out of my shell because people have been so encouraging and kind to me. I get very nervous in company, even (or especially) when I really like the people. Many thanks to all those reading this who are among those who have helped me and supported me. I'd still be quivering unhappily and not daring to try anything without you.

Thank you for being my guest today, Cathy!  Please come again!

Sunday 6 September 2015


Today I'm over on Cathie Dunn's blog, talking about the city of Romeo & Juliet, and also on Jennifer C Wilson's blog, talking about historical fiction in general.

Hop over and take a look!