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Tuesday 27 April 2021

AN ACT OF LOVE - an interview with Carol Drinkwater

Today I'm thrilled to welcome to my blog my dear friend the award-winning actress, writer, film-maker and all-round lovely person, Carol Drinkwater.  Carol's latest novel, An Act of Love, is published just two days from now.

Welcome to Broad Thoughts, Carol.  What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

I have been writing since I was about eight years old. From the age of four onwards, or from any consciousness about the future and making choices, I wanted to be an actress. I then discovered words.

When I was naughty my parents used to banish me to the spare bedroom. This room had two wonders as far as I was concerned. The first was that there was a large square wooden platform that stood about five feet off the ground. This became ‘my stage, my theatre’. I could climb onto a chair and from there onto the stage where I could ‘perform’. The other gift the room gave me was that this spare room was where my father stored all his fancy dress costumes. As well as being a musician, my father also had his own theatrical agency at the back of which was his fancy dress shop. He would travel all over buying up costumes from old theatres or fancy dress shops going out of business, or wherever. He stored them in this room. It reeked of mothballs and old bits of fur. Those smells were potent to me, they held all possibilities.

So, now I had a stage and costumes, but no plays, no words. Daddy got me a huge Shakespeare jigsaw puzzle, like an enormous round plate. At its centre was Shakespeare’s head. Encircling this portrait were thirty-seven coloured images. Each was a depiction of a moment from one of Will’s plays. That jigsaw puzzle took up a large section of my stage. I skirted about it, prancing back and forth (about two steps each way!) dolled up in costumes from Daddy’s rails of clothes. I was attempting to imitate the silent figures in the jigsaw portrayals.

My next precious gift was a Complete Works of Shakespeare. My very own hefty black Bible from which I copied out words, sentences, that I did not understand. Those words were the beginning of writing for me. The seed, the keys to universes I had not yet encountered. Coxcomb, for example. What was that? I put the words in the mouths of the characters I was dressed up to represent. Even if I didn’t understand the difference between Falstaff or Mistress Quickly and Cleopatra! But those names conjured up so many ideas for me.

Then I began writing short plays or exchanges of dialogue between my newly-born characters. By the age of ten I had written a play that I produced, directed, starred in at school. This we performed at my Irish convent and then I took it on a “tour” to local old people’s homes. The residents watched on from their wheelchairs in utter bemusement!

That sounds intriguing.  I wish I'd been there to see it!

Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?

It is a Bildungsroman, a coming-of-age novel. It is also a WWII story of love and courage. One young woman’s journey from the revelation of first love, through her darkest hours, to ...  (The novel tells the rest!!)


What was the inspiration for this book?

Inland of where we live on the French Riviera, the Côte d’Azur, I came across a remarkable story of a small mountain village whose inhabitants welcomed into their community almost a thousand fugitive Jews. They hid these refugees for almost a year between November 1942 to September 1943 when the Nazis arrived into this Free Zone region of France. At that point the Jewish families who had made friends, built relationships with their French hosts, were obliged to flee.


Did you do any research for the book?

MASSES and masses.

I love research, but it's a real thief of time...

What does a typical writing day involve for you?

A great deal of hard work!  When I am at work on a novel or novella, I usually write for about seven hours. It sleeps with me too. The characters, their journeys, their desires, disappointments and confusions. It is a twenty-four hour commitment!


How do you decide on the names for your characters?

Interesting question. Some characters seem to name themselves. Others I look for in local directories or I take them partially from people I have met or heard of.


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

I am one of those who sets out to work without knowing where I am going. The stories unfold and develop as I write. It is an exciting and sometimes terrifying process.

I know exactly what you mean.  That's happened to me too.  I've tried plotting out a novel in advance, only to find that the characters have their own ideas and take the story in a whole new direction!

Which writers have influenced your own writing?

So many. Well, Shakespeare as a beginning. Marguerite Duras, Isabel Allende, Graham Greene, William Boyd. Every writer I have ever read has had some tiny influence on my work, even if only for me to say "I don’t like that" or "This story doesn’t speak to me". Films, too. I am a film fanatic, and watching films is a method of comprehending and getting to grips with story-telling for me.

I filmed episodes of James Herriot’s stories for so many years that his work began to seep into me. I understood that his love of his territory and those around him gave his books a special magic. And he never wrote down to his readers. Two very important lessons for me.


What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?

Holding the finished work in my hands, talking to readers at literary festivals and other book events, sitting on a plane or train and spotting someone reading one of my books – that is all very special.


Does your new book have a message for the reader?

I don’t think in term of messages. I find such an approach too didactic for me. I aim to tell stories, to reveal the public and private journeys of my characters. The women,  mostly women,  that I am writing about move through time and space and their perception of life changes and life impacts on them. I am fascinated by the inner lives of people, their secret selves. It was one of the early attractions of becoming an actress too. Damage, passion, urges that have no brakes, cannot be held back by reason, acts that cannot be undone ... these are a few of the areas that fascinate me.

If you kill someone you cannot bring them back to life. No matter how much you regret your act. The same if you hurt someone, you can apologise if you are able to, but the damage has been done. All forms of love and violence towards others, judgements of them. These all impact on other people. Everything is on the move, interacting with everything else.


Do you have any advice for new writers?

WRITE, just keep at it. There is no other way, no magic solution. No one else will write YOUR book. It comes from you and that can be both a joyous and a painfrul process, dragging it out into the open and onto the page. But it is also a WONDROUS process. It never fails to amaze  and thrill me. (PS: I should listen to my own advice more frequently!!)


Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you, Sue, merci, for inviting me here and thank you to those of you who have given your time to read this. I hope you will read An Act of Love and it will excite you.  Cx

Thank you so much for visiting my blog today, Carol.  It has been a real honour to host you.  Please come again!

Carol Drinkwater is a multi-award-winning actress, writer and film-maker.  As an actress, she is probably best known for her portrayal of Helen Herriot in the BBC television series All Creatues Great and Small (based on the books by James Herriot).

Carol is the author of twenty-four books, both fiction and non-fiction, and has achieved bestselling status (over a million copies sold worldwide) with her quartet of memoirs set on her Olive Farm in the south of France.  Carol's fascination with the olive tree extended to a solo Mediterranean journey in search of the tree's mythical secrets.  The resulting bestselling travel books, The Olive Route and The Olive Tree, have also inspired a five-part documentary film series.

Carol's four Kindle Singles - novella-length stories commissioned by Amazon - are The Girl in Room Fourteen, Hotel Paradise, A Simple Act of Kindness and The Love of a Stranger.  They have reached the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Her latest novel, to be published by Penguin on 29th April 2021, is AN ACT OF LOVE.

Wednesday 21 April 2021

THE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING - a guest post by Miriam Drori

Today I'm delighted to welcome back to the blog my dear friend and fellow-author Miriam Drori, who is here to talk about her first venture into crime fiction - and, in particular, the importance of setting in a story.

Welcome, Miriam!  Please, tell us more...

Thank you for hosting me today, Sue. I’m excited about the launch of my first crime novel, just five days from now.

I will get to the topic of setting, I promise, but I have to start by explaining how my first crime novel came about. The first novel I ever tried to write, in about 2004, was flawed because it didn’t really have much of a plot. It took me a long time to realise that, and I’m glad I eventually discarded it. But the main character, a loner who lived in Bournemouth, UK, remained with me. I just needed a good story for him. I came up with two ideas. What if he was accused of committing a murder? And what if he was sent to Japan on work? The second idea won and turned into my novel Cultivating a Fuji.

The first idea continued to intrigue me. But I couldn’t write that story with the same character, because Cultivating a Fuji follows my character to the end of his life. So I created a new character with some similarities to the other, and marked differences, the main one being that I removed him from Bournemouth and plonked him in Jerusalem, Israel – my home town.

What did that do for my character (now called Asaf), my story, my readers and me?

His apartment becomes smaller. I could have put him in a larger flat, but this one seemed right for him. Rentals are expensive here. He rides on buses, while in Bournemouth he walked. He sings songs in Hebrew for motivation. His work colleagues, rather than going off to the pub, hold a celebration in the office. Each attendee drinks one little glass of wine and eats a slice of cream cake.

The story includes several colourful Israeli characters and Nathalie, a new immigrant from France. Nathalie sometimes struggles with the language and customs, but she’s strong and not easily swayed. She continues to believe in Asaf’s innocence even though no one else does. Jerusalem has plenty of places that fit the story. The liberty bell (symbolising freedom) and French cheeses and baguettes in the market (reminding Nathalie of home) are two examples.

Readers will get to see a fair bit of the city they wouldn’t see as tourists. Dwellings range from a small place in a rundown (though improving) neighbourhood to a large, beautifully renovated house in the most sought-after location. Other fascinating cites are introduced in the novel. You can see some of them in this post.

I loved wandering around my city to research this novel. Setting the story in my home town also made it easy for me to take photos to show off to potential readers and anyone interested. That proximity would be convenient at any time, but particularly during these strange times when travel is so complicated.

Style and the Solitary

An unexpected murder. A suspect with a reason. The power of unwavering belief.

A murder has been committed in an office in Jerusalem.  That's for sure.  The rest is not as clear-cut as it might seem.

Asaf languishes in his cell, unable to tell his story even to himself.  How can he tell it to someone who elicits such fear within him?

His colleague, Nathalie, has studied Beauty and the Beast.  She understands its moral.  Maybe that's why she's the only one who believes in Asaf, the suspect.  But she's new in the company - and in the country.  Would anyone take her opinion seriously?

She coerces her flatmates, Yarden and Tehila, into helping her investigate.  As they uncover new trails, will they be able to reverse popular opinion?

In the end, will Beauty's belief be strong enough to waken the Beast?  Or, in this case, can Style waken the Solitary?

Both paperback and ebook versions of Style and the Solitary can be ordered now from Amazon.

About Miriam

Miriam Drori is the author of several novels and short stories. The genres of her novels have ranged from romance to historical fiction to uplit. In her latest novel, she ventures into crime and returns to her home town of Jerusalem.

When not writing, Miriam enjoys reading and (when permitted) hiking, travelling and folk dancing. She is passionate about raising awareness of social anxiety.

Miriam can be found on her website and blog as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and elsewhere. Do follow her for news of events, including an exciting joint online book launch on 6th May. She’s also hosting a Facebook online party for Style and the Solitary on launch day.

Saturday 17 April 2021


Today I'm delighted to feature the debut novel of fellow Darkstroke author Dan Clark.  The Boy in the Well is a tense psychological thriller with a shocking twist which took me completely by surprise.  It was published on 13th April and is already gaining rave reviews.

I had the pleasure of working with Dan as editor of this amazing story.  Highly recommended.

The Boy in the Well

A time to mourn. A gruesome find. A race for the truth.

After her husband and son are killed in a tragic car accident, Carolyn goes to stay with her mother in a quiet, rural town. She hopes the break will help her cope with her loss.

Soon, Carolyn discovers that the small town holds unforgivable secrets. One she stumbles upon when she discovers the body of a young boy down a well – only to find he has disappeared when she returns with the police.

The local residents, including Carolyn’s mother, doubt her discovery and blame it on her current state of mind. Rumours begin to spread.

With somebody determined to stop Carolyn uncovering the truth, she knows she needs to prove what she saw. Not just for the boy and his family but also for herself.

Will Carolyn be able to find the proof she needs? Or will her life be in danger if she continues her search?


Purchase Link -

Author Bio – Dan was born in the North West of England. He started reading Stephen King from an early age and is still a committed fan today, believing this is what inspired him to start writing.

After leaving school, he studied Accounting before realising working with numbers wasn’t for him. He has done numerous jobs which include, working in retail, in busy restaurants as a Chef, driving a taxi and moving on to driving lorries.

Dan lives with his fiancée, Rachel, and easily-annoyed cat, Burt. In his free time he loves to find a comfortable chair with a large cup of tea and read thriller and horror novels. He enjoys walking and being out in the countryside and devotes most of his time to his passion: writing his own stories.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @DanielRClark3


Facebook page.

Instagram: @dan_clark100

Huge thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.

Wednesday 7 April 2021

THE LEWIS CHESSMEN - a guest post by Yvonne Marjot

Today I'm delighted to welcome my friend and fellow-author Yvonne Marjot, whose amazing novel The Calgary Chessman is the Ocelot Press Book of the Month for April.  She's here to talk about the real-life discovery of The Lewis Chessmen, which provided the inspiration for the story.  

Welcome, Yvonne!  Please tell us more.

The Lewis Chessmen

Central to the plot of The Calgary Chessman is the discovery of a mysterious object buried in the sand at Calgary Bay – an object that resembles one of the famous Lewis Chessmen. So, what do we know about the Lewis Chessmen?

Where and when were they found?

Factual information provided here came from several books, Archaeology magazines and websites including Although the Calgary chess piece is of course pure speculation, the Lewis chess pieces themselves are full of mystery, as almost nothing is known for sure about their origins, who they were made for, or how they came to be where they were found.

At some point before April 1831, at Uig* in the Isle of Lewis (Leòdhas), in the Outer Hebrides, a cache of just under 100 carved figures was found. The exact number and the circumstances of their finding remain clouded, though local legends name Malcolm MacLeod of Penny Donald (Peighinn Dòmhnall) in Uig as the finder. *Gaelic ‘Uig’ from Norse ‘Vik’ meaning a bay.

In 1831 Roderick Ririe from Stornoway (Steòrnabhagh on Lewis brought 93 ivory objects, most readily recognised as chess pieces, to a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, in Edinburgh. He sold some to a local dealer, but 10 had already been sold to Charles Sharpe. These (and one other) eventually ended up in the care of National Museums, Scotland. Later that year the British Museum purchased 83 pieces. The British Museum display is a highlight of any visit, and the pieces have real character and presence. I never visit the museum without paying them my respects.

It’s easy to imagine a lone man digging in dunes, perhaps where a storm has shifted the sand, and spotting something interesting. But Sharpe’s description (by this point at least third-hand) suggests the pieces were in some kind of stone-lined chamber or vaulted room, which became exposed by erosion. This was said to be associated with a nearby nunnery (although no evidence of the nunnery remains) but might instead have been a souterrain, an Iron Age underground storage structure, common in this part of Scotland.

There is speculation, with some justification, that the find spot was in fact not Penny Donald but an abandoned township called Mèalasta, near Uig Strand, where there was a medieval church and a quite substantial and wealthy township, the kind that might well have been able to afford expensive luxuries such as gaming tokens. It is also believed that rather than being a single chance find, some of the chessmen could have been discovered as early as the 1780s, and may have been displayed in a local house until an antiquarian (perhaps Ririe himself)  happened to see them and realise they must be ancient (and possibly valuable).

In The Calgary Chessman I’ve stuck with the idea of a chance find, dug out of beach sand. Calgary Bay, with its wild north-western outlook and scattering of homes, bears a strong resemblance to Uig strand today: white shell-sand dancing across empty beaches backed by machair and rising sand dunes. It’s easy to walk there today and imagine that treasure could be hidden beneath the sand, just waiting to be discovered. 

How old are they, and where did they come from?

The age of the chessmen (calculated by a range of means, including details of their decoration) suggests they were made during the ascendancy of the Lords of the Isles. Their design harkens back to Viking times, but they are not believed to originate from that era, despite the some of the ‘warders’ (the equivalent of rooks in the modern game) being depicted as berserkers, biting their shields in rage. More is said about this in The Calgary Chessman, but amongst other evidence is the fact that these are amongst the earliest chess figures ever found that have the bishop pieces wearing their mitre (hat) sideways, as bishops do today.


It’s generally agreed that they date from the period 1150-1200A.D. This includes the period where the Archbishop of Nidaros (Trondheim) in Norway. was given authority over all the bishops of the Isles. This might prove important, as there is strong evidence the chess pieces originated in Scandinavia, perhaps even at Trondheim itself.

Two chess pieces similar to the Lewis hoard were found in digs at Trondheim, and that seems too big a coincidence to ignore. On the other hand, it looks likely that the walrus ivory from which most of the pieces were made came through the Icelandic trade, and an argument can be made for a craft workshop based in Iceland itself. These days, Scandinavia seems very remote from Scotland, but during the early Middle Ages there was a strong trade presence right down the west coast of Scotland and through the Isles, and also between Norway, Iceland, Shetland and the Orkneys. There’s every reason to expect Norse traders to be working in the Inner and Outer Hebrides at the time.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this taste of the tale of the Lewis Chessmen (utterly real and solid and sitting in museums waiting to greet you when we are once again allowed to visit), and that it whets your appetite to read more about my imaginary chess piece, and the role it comes to play in the life of my protagonist, Cas Longmore, in The Calgary Chessman.

Yvonne Marjot is a lost kiwi, now living in the Inner Hebrides. She has been making up stories and poems for as long as she can remember, and once won a case of port in a poetry competition. Her archaeological romances, beginning with The Calgary Chessman, are published with Ocelot Press, along with her paranormal romance, Walking on Wild Air.

 She lives on the Isle of Mull where she is volunteering during the Covid19 pandemic, but normally runs the local public library. She has three grown-up children and a very naughty cat. 

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