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Wednesday 26 July 2017

TEA FOR TEW - an interview with Columbkill Noonan

Today I have another fabulous guest: Columbkill Noonan, whose debut novel Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab is released today by Crooked Cat Books.

Welcome, Columbkill.  You have a fascinating name.  Please can you tell me a bit more about it?

Sure, I’d be happy to! My dad is a dentist, and when I was growing up he had a lot of nuns as patients (comes from growing up Irish Catholic, I think!). Anyway, my favorite was a nun named Sister Columbkill; she used to crochet the cutest little dollies for me and my sister. So when it came time to pick a pen name, I just knew that I had to be ‘Columbkill’. As for Noonan, that’s just a family name (Irish, again!). It was between that and my maiden name, which is Hickey. Noonan won out.

What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

I’ve always wanted to write, but was always caught up with work and life and just plain busy-ness. But one day a short story just jumped into my head and wouldn’t go away. It was about the ghost of a little boy who gets stuck at a boarding school and has to haunt the place in the most ridiculous of ways. It was published by the first place I submitted it to (Strangely Funny II) which really gave me confidence to keep on writing things.

Can you summarise your book in just a few words?

Ohhhh, that’s a tough one! I’d say cozy, fun, and a little bit weird. “Barnabas” is a hero like no other, really. He’s anxious, excitable, and probably overly constrained by social niceties, but he takes his responsibilities very seriously and tries so very hard to not let all those other things get in his way.

What was the inspiration for this book?

The Barnabas character has been banging around in my head for awhile now. It was clear that he was there to stay, and that he needed something much more than a short story. He pretty much demanded to be written, the pesky little bugger! I am fascinated by history and mythology (and mythological history!) so there was never any doubt that I’d put Barnabas in a mythological setting.

Did you do any research for the book?

I did, and I had the best time doing it! I used the university library, online sources, and bookstores to read any-and-everything I could find about Egyptian mythology. It’s very fascinating! And I learned a lot of things I didn’t know before. For example, I had no idea that there was a feminist Egyptian goddess. So of course she had to play a part in the book!

What does a typical writing day involve for you?

I wake up, have some tea, and sit down to write for a couple of hours before I go to work (teaching Anatomy and Physiology at a university). Every single day my cat Orangina sits on my lap while I write (in fact, she’s here right now, as we speak!). I have to have a blanket draped there for her just so or else she’ll meow piteously at me until I comply. It’s a bit distracting, come to think of it!

How do you decide on the names for your characters?

For historical names, I usually look up a list of baby names from that place and era. Then I scroll through until I find one I like the sound of, or that has a meaning that resonates with the character I’m writing. For example, in the book I’m writing now there is a horse by the name of Hynder… which means (drum roll, please!) ‘horse’ in Old Norse.

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

A little of both. I outline the chapters, and give the characters a particular job that they absolutely must do (or a place to which they absolutely must go). Then I let them take care of that on their own.

Now the book is published and ‘out there’ how do you feel?

It feels a bit surreal, to be honest. And a bit scary, too! When you put your all into something and then put it out there for everyone to see (and judge!), well, you just want people to love it the same way you do. It’s like that feeling when you try a daring new haircut, only amplified.

Is there a message in your book? 

That the little guy can be a hero, once in a while. That even when you’re nervous and scared and have no idea what you’re doing, sometimes things can still turn out all right anyway. Or at least almost all right. Barnabas is, ahem, a bit excitable, shall we say, and has a lot of self-doubt, but still he tries and that’s what’s important.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Keep at it, and if you get a harsh rejection, pull a face, stick your tongue out at that email and submit someplace else. I once had a short story rejected by an editor who was so harsh in his criticisms that he even said he didn’t like my name, and offered an in-depth description of what, exactly, was wrong with it. My name! I get that ‘Columbkill’ is a bit unusual, but that’s why I like it. I’m certainly not going to change my name to ‘Bob’ just because someone doesn’t get it. By the way, a week later I received the most glowing acceptance email ever for that same story. So there.

What can we expect from you in the future?

Well, right now I can’t even imagine a day spent without Barnabas, so I’m currently working on the sequel to Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab. Really, I’m planning a whole series. In each book he’ll go to a different afterlife, so I’ll have loads of fun researching all the different mythologies and religions. This next book is already shaping up to be quite action-packed, because, well… Vikings! (Oops, did I let that slip? Barnabas will be terribly put out if I give away his surprises!)

Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab is now available on Amazon.

Connect with Columbkill:
Twitter: @ColumbkillNoon1

Monday 10 July 2017

SOYEZ LES BIENVENUS - an interview with Angela Wren and Jacques Forêt

Today I have not one but two special guests on my blog: my fellow-author Angela Wren, and Jacques Forêt, the hero of her two detective novels set in the Cévennes.

A Cévenol Village

Hello, Sue, and thanks for inviting me to your blog today.

I've brought my lead character, Jacques Forêt, with me and I hope you don't mind if we take this opportunity to talk about his new case.  I'm certainly very eager to hear what he has to say and I'm hoping that he might, perhaps to give away one or two juicy pieces of info about what has happened to him and Beth…
AW  Welcome back Jacques, and you’re not in uniform I see.
JF  Yes, that’s right.  I’ve left the rural gendarme service and I now work in investigation in Mende.

AW  So, just to recap on your career thus far.  You joined the police force in Paris as a detective until you were injured whilst on duty and then came to Messandrierre as a rural gendarme. 
JF   That’s correct.  It was after I recovered that I came here.

AW  So why the further change?
JF  I found I missed the intricacies of handling major investigations along with the thrill of solving such complex crimes.  My last case in Paris involved breaking a drugs cartel and I’ve worked on cases involving people trafficking.  All very testing with many and varied leads to follow.  My current case means that I can use those skills again.

AW  And can you tell us anything about your new case?
JF  It’s very different from my previous cases and involves commercial sabotage, but some the evidence is pointing to other types of crime.  The more I delve, the more complex this case is becoming.

AW  How interesting.  Any suspects yet or dead bodies?
JF   It’s early days.  I only picked up the investigation a week ago, but there are a number of suspects that need to be narrowed down.  There are also some lines of enquiry that are leading me to believe that there are other malpractices that need to be investigated, which might mean there is fraud to be uncovered.  There are no dead bodies at the moment, but… if the evidence does lead me where I think it might, then yes, someone might have the motive to commit such a serious crime.  Naturally I will do all I can to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Colours of the Cévennes

AW  Of course.  Working in Mende, has that meant many changes for you here in the village of Messandrierre?
JF  Not really.  I’m still the Policeman from Paris to everyone living here and I still seem to be the first person they come to when there’s trouble.  Gendarme Thibault Clergue has taken my post here in the gendarmerie.  I don’t want to tread on his toes so we work on things together when necessary.

AW  Back working in investigation, does that mean you’re working with Magistrate Bruno Pelletier again?
JF  Not at the moment. I do sometimes bump into Bruno in the city, but if my case develops as I think it might, then I may need to involve him.  And I will do that as appropriate.

AW  When we first met I seem remember you saying that you would like to ‘have ‘someone to share your life with.’  Those were your precise words, I think.
JF  Ahh, I was wondering when you would get around to that!
AW  And you can tell us… what?  The Readers do need to know, Jacques.
JF   I also remember telling you that it was complicated.  It still is… But I know what I want… Beth just has to make the right decision for her.  Moving to another country requires a lot of consideration.

AW  Are you saying that you’ve asked—
JF  Non!  And before you ask, I didn’t say that I was moving to England either.  What I am saying is that, if Beth and I are to move forward then we both need to consider very carefully how we achieve that.

AW  Well, you may no longer wear uniform, Jacques, but you are ever the policeman!
JF   Perhaps
AW   And that smile of yours tells me everything.  Thank you, Jacques, for being here today.

You can read more about Jacques’ new case, the village and Beth in Merle, Book 2 in the Jacques Forêt mystery series.  It was published by Crooked Cat Books on 5 July 2017.

Jacques Forêt, a former gendarme turned investigator, delves into the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where information is traded and used as a threat.

The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his own life is threatened.

When a body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to it. 

Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?