Friday, 30 September 2016

** BLOG TOUR ** The Kill Fee (Poppy Denby Investigates) by Fiona Veitch Smith

This book is published by Lion Hudson and is available now. My thanks to them for the review copy and inviting me on the blog tour.

The Kindle edition of this book is now available on

As well as the pb edition:

Poppy Denby’s star is on the rise. Now the Arts and Entertainment Editor at The Daily Globe, she covers an exhibition of Russian Art at the Crystal Palace. A shot rings out, leaving a guard injured and an empty pedestal in the place of the largest Faberge Egg in the collection. The Egg itself is valuable, but more so are the secrets it contains within – secrets that could threaten major political powers. Suspects are aplenty and Poppy is delighted to once again be in the middle of a sensational story. 

But soon, the investigation takes a dark turn. Someone connected with the exhibition is murdered and on the list of suspects is an employee of the newspaper. Embroiled in a story that will rock the political world, more is at stake than ever before. Can Poppy see this story through to the end or will the cost be too high? 

With the first book in the series (The Jazz Files) having been shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association’s Endeavour Historical Dagger, you can be assured that you are in safe hands when you dive into Poppy’s enigmatic world. Filled with flappers, Jazz clubs and scandal, Poppy’s next adventure will have you ready to abandon everything so you can follow her.

My Thoughts:

This book for me has seen a welcome return of Poppy Denby who works at The Daily Globe. The Kill Fee is another murder mystery set in the 1920's. These books work for me because this a period in history that I am interested in. 

The author is clearly well researched. This time the historical facts centre around the Russian Revolution. The author clearly knows her stuff and this makes the book all the more engaging. These books are actually are like an adventure individually. The mystery side of the story and the historical side of the story. I feel that I have learnt something from reading this story.

Poppy Denby is a character I love, forward thinking and ahead of her time. She makes this story, along with a cast of as equally good characters. Full of mystery and suspense. I found this book to be entertaining and beguiling. 

There was an excellent plot with plenty of twists and turns that kept me guessing. This book was like returning to old friends, with a story that is more complex than the cover might make you think.

A thoroughly enjoyable read.

About the Author:

Formerly a journalist, Fiona Veitch Smith is now an author of books for adults and children. Based in Newcastle, she has also written theatre plays, screenplays and been a university lecturer. Her adult mystery series set in the 1920s, Poppy Denby Investigates, is published by Lion Fiction. The first book in the series, The Jazz Files, is a nominee for the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Endeavour Historical Dagger award, 2016. The second, The Kill Fee, was published in September 2016.

 For more information on the author: 
Twitter: @fionaveitchsmit

Please do have a look at the other stops on the blog tour:

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Hope Family Calendar by Mike Gayle

Published by Hodder & Stoughton this book is available now in Hardback and Ebook with the paperback due to be released 1st December 2016. My thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

Tom Hope is broken. Ever since his wife Laura died he hasn't been the same man, and definitely not the same father. Luckily for Tom, his mother-in-law Linda is around to pick up the pieces and look after his two struggling daughters, Evie and Lola.
Linda has put her own grief aside this past year to help her family in their time of need - moving into the family home to be there for her son-in-law and grandchildren. But Tom getting arrested on the first anniversary of his wife's death is the last straw for Linda.
In a last bid attempt to make Tom reconnect with his life, she takes drastic action and leaves for  Australia. There, Linda realises she must face up to her own past before she can find hope for the future.  

At home, with two fast-maturing girls on his hands, Tom has to learn how to accept his responsibilities and navigate the newly discovered world of single fatherhood - starting immediately. With only himself to rely on, will Tom fall back into grief or finally step up and be the father his girls need?

My Thoughts:

I have previously read books by this author and I enjoy his writing very much. This one is somewhat of a surprise but a pleasant departure from the wit and humour that I have read in his previous novels. This one is a lot more serious but is sensitively handled and beautifully written.

I love the way that Mike Gayle's books are written from the male perspective, but there is empathy and warmth in all of the characters. In this book we are told the story through the eyes of Linda and of Tom. This works well as you can see both sides of the story coming to light and both lots of emotions. The children Evie and Lola are strong and courageous given they have lost their mother. 

Linda has lost her daughter and Tom has lost his wife. Tom in amongst his grief has forgotten he has children, children who are grieving too. This is a story of grief and loss but of also moving forwards into a new future. A future that nobody expected but one they all have to get used to nonetheless. 

Some might say that the worst of Tom's behaviour is indulgent but I just found it heartbreaking and really created empathy in the reader for his bereavement and feeling alone in the world. His wife Laura was the organiser, the planner and the doer. Without her, Tom is completely cut adrift. The narration style works very well as it shows Linda is struggling too, although on the surface she is the one that tries to hold everything together. 

There are still traces of humour throughout that keep this story at the right end of touching. Strange that the family name is Hope, as in amongst the grief and loss this whole story takes on a sense of hope. Moving, entertaining and beautiful, Mike Gayle has triumphed again. Now to clear the lump in my throat.

Pass me a hanky please!

About the Author:

Previously an Agony Uncle, Mike Gayle is a freelance journalist who has contributed to a variety of magazines including FHMSunday Times Style and Cosmopolitan. His bestselling novels include MY LEGENDARY GIRLFRIEND, MR COMMITMENT, TURNING THIRTY, HIS 'N' HERS and BRAND NEW FRIEND. He keeps a website at and can be found on Facebook and on

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney

Published on September 22nd 2016 by Harper Collins my thanks to the author and the publisher for the review copy.

The day that Jess’s daughter, Anna, is reported lost in an avalanche is the day the changes everything.
Left to explain her absence to Anna's five-year-old daughter, Rose, Jess isn't yet ready to admit to herself that her daughter might not be coming back. But Anna's disappearance has opened a Pandora's Box of lies and Jess begins to discover that she never really knew her daughter at all.

And when she unearths a secret that could irrevocably change her world and her family, she has to decide whether a mother's love is unconditional...

My Thoughts:

I was delighted to be sent a review copy of this authors second book, having read and enjoyed her first, You, Me and Other People last year. You can see my blog tour post for that here.

Fionnuala Kearney is an author that writes with real heart and soul. She manages to create characters that have their own nuances who on the whole aren't perfect and this brings a reality to her stories. She writes about realistic situations and I think she is manages to actually drill down into the characters emotions and that is what makes this story come alive.

This story is a portrayal of how a family can implode, running amidst the trailing emotions of bereavement. When secrets and lies come to light after the event and threaten to effect everybody. We have a few central characters. Jess, Anna, Theo and Rose. Jess is Anna's mother and is struggling to cope, she refuses to give up hope and is struggling to forge a way forward. She seems overprotective and overbearing. She is on a knife edge all the time. Anna's side of the story comes in the form of blog entries. I found this to be a useful tool as it allowed her story to come out in her owns words over the course of the book. Rose is five years old and is Anna's daughter, she is being cared for by her grandmother and I think is lost and confused as to where her mother is. Theo is Anna's best friend, a local GP and somewhat of an enigmatic character. Theo, Theo, Theo, I wasn't quite sure whether to love or loathe him. 

I wasn't quite drawn into an emotional state when I read this, but it does possess some very emotive storylines about Mother and Daughter relationships, about family secrets and trust. It is also a story of grief and love. That at times I was deeply moved. This story implies that nothing is perfect, even that which we think is, indeed that is what is known as the human condition.

A beautiful, poignant page turner from a talented writer, with a cast of richly drawn unforgettable characters. When is book three coming out?

Really recommend this author. 

About the Author:

Fionnuala Kearney lives in Ascot with her husband. They have two grown-up daughters (both with deliberately simple monosyllabic names). One of seven children, Fionnuala likes to write about the nuances and subtle layers of human relationships, peeling them away to see what’s really going on beneath. The Day I Lost You is her second novel. She can be found on Twitter @fionnualatweets.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Willnot by James Sallis

This book was published on 23rd June 2016 by No Exit Press. My thanks to them for the review copy.

In the woods outside the town of Willnot, the remains of several people have been discovered, unnerving the community and unsettling Dr Lamar Hale, the town's all-purpose general practitioner, surgeon and town conscience. 

At the same time, Bobby Lowndes - his military records missing, and followed by the FBI - mysteriously reappears in his hometown, at Hale's door. Over the ensuing months, the daily dramas Hale faces as he tends to his town and to his partner, Richard, collide with the inexplicable vagaries of life in Willnot. And when a gunshot aimed at Lowndes critically wounds Richard, Hale's world is truly upended. 

My Thoughts:

When I picked this book up I had never heard of the author, not realising quite how prolific he is. Now however he is an author I won't forget. This book is quite simply sublime. It is only 192 pages long and yet its brevity belies the quality and the quantity of work that is inside it. 

This book turned out not to be quite what I was expecting and yet it turned out to be so much more. If you are reading this expecting a straight forward crime and mystery you might be disappointed to start with but then will feel compelled to keep reading just like me.

A crime has taken place of course, bodies have been found in the woods and there is a couple of mysterious men knocking around. Really however this crime is almost a sideshow to the real heart of the story. This is the kind of book that is open to so many interpretations and views so I can only give you mine. 

To me it is an examination of small town USA life. It is in my opinion very allegorical. The author touches on religion, politics and the medical and teaching professions. Our main character is Dr Lamar Hale he is the town Dr, friend, peer and pillar of the local community, he lives with his partner Richard. They are both disillusioned with their professions, Richard is a teacher. Lamar is questioning his own mortality, ironic given he is a Dr and a surgeon. He is having something of an existential crisis. There are elements to his parts of the story where he is having dreams or visions or suchlike. He is such a curious character. This story is part an examination of human fears etc. 

The writing enclosed within these pages is bold and beautiful. It makes you think and it makes you care. Within such a small space James Sallis has created a glimpse at the location and cast of individual and fantastic characters all as if the reader is looking through a window. The characters all have a uniqueness but no one is more important than another. The writing is sparse and poetic. At times brutal but always honest. 

I loved it and will read more by this author. This was stunning. 

About the Author:
James Sallis has published sixteen novels, multiple collections of short stories, essays. and poems. He has written about books for the LA Times, New York Times, Washington Post, and for some years served as a books columnist for the Boston Globe. He has received a lifetime achievement award from Boucheron, the Hammett Award for literary excellence in crime writing, and the  Grand Prix de Littérature Policière. The Cannes award-winning film Drive derived from his novel of that title. Jim plays numerous intruments with his string band Three-Legged Dog and with other musicians in the Phoenix area. He stays busy. 

Monday, 19 September 2016

#MondayMusing with Guest Author: Christina Philippou

A product of contemplation; a thought: "an elegant tapestry of quotations, musings, aphorisms, and autobiographical reflections" (James Atlas).

Today I would like to welcome Christina Philippou to the blog. She has recently had her first novel published. She has written a piece about her writing and her route to publication. Many thanks to her for doing this and for being so supportive and sharing on social media. 

Lost in Static

Sometimes growing up is seeing someone else's side of the story.

Four stories. One truth. Whom do you believe? 

Callum has a family secret. Yasmine wants to know it. Juliette thinks nobody knows hers. All Ruby wants is to reinvent herself. 

They are brought together by circumstance, torn apart by misunderstanding. As new relationships are forged and confidences are broken, each person's version of events is coloured by their background, beliefs and prejudices. And so the ingredients are in place for a year shaped by lust, betrayal, and violence... 

Lost in Static is the gripping debut from author Christina Philippou. Whom will you trust?

Lost in Static is available from, amongst others, Amazon UK, Amazon US, and direct from the publisher, Urbane Publications.

Happy Monday! Delighted to be on Reflections of a Reader today, musing away on ‘the journey’ to publication – thank you so much for having me J

So who am I and why am I here? Well, I’m just fresh from the release of my debut novel, Lost in Static, which tells the same story from four students’ (sometimes very) different points of view. But apart from that, I’m fairly normal. I have a job and kids and a very hectic life…

I wrote Lost in Static while on maternity leave with my second child. Completely overwhelmed and frazzled with my life, my husband sat me down and told me I needed to find some time for myself. I laughed. Then I cried. And then I decided he was right and registered on an online creative writing course ‘for fun’.

I’ve always loved different structures of narratives. Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet had impressed me as a younger reader, along with books that played with perspective and reader expectations, like The Turbulent Term of Tike Tyler by Gene Kemp or Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. And so, when I started to draft a story, I decided that I, too, would play with perspective.

But it wasn’t that simple. People always recount the same events slightly differently, and I wanted to show that through my writing. My biggest fear wasn’t that people would disagree with the multi point-of-view (POV) narrative style (more on that later), but that they would think that the characters sounded the same. I needn’t have worried too much about the latter, but the former was actually the biggest sticking point when it came to publication.

Most multi-POV narratives ‘pass the baton’, so that the story moves along as the characters take the story onwards. I didn’t want that – I wanted to show the four different versions side-by-side, so each chapter is one event retold by each character present, with each retelling revealing a little more of what happened.

Once I’d finished writing and editing, the real work began. I believed in the novel so I submitted to agents, but the ones that discussed my work were worried about the structure, thinking it too risky and different, and suggesting a less complex style or a third person narrative. The editing service I used, on the other hand, loved the structure but thought that most publishers would want me to change the ending. I started to wonder if I should self-publish instead of trying to find a traditional publisher that would want to change what I considered the fundamentals.

And, while I was debating this, I went to a writer’s day and met Matthew Smith of Urbane Publications, an independent publisher who talked about taking risks on new authors and interesting books. I submitted to Urbane and I was delighted that the publisher not only offered me a contract, but was also happy with both the structure and the ending of the book. And, after another year of editing, Lost in Static was published in September…

Author Bio

Christina Philippou’s writing career has been a varied one, from populating the short-story notebook that lived under her desk at school to penning reports on corruption and terrorist finance. When not reading or writing, she can be found engaging in sport or undertaking some form of nature appreciation. Christina has three passports to go with her three children, but is not a spy. Lost in Static is her first novel.

Christina is also the founder of the contemporary fiction author initiative, Britfic.

You can connect with Christina on TwitterFacebook, Instagram and Google+.

Friday, 16 September 2016

** BLOG TOUR ** Matching the Evidence by Graham Smith

Carlisle United are playing Millwall and the Major Crimes Team are assigned to crowd control as punishment for their renegade ways. Typically DI Harry Evans has other ideas and tries to thwart the local firm’s plans to teach Millwall’s notorious Bushwhackers an unforgettable lesson.
Meanwhile an undercover cop is travelling north with some of the Millwall contingent. His mission is to identify the ringleaders and gather evidence against them.
Three illegal immigrants have been transported to Carlisle and are about to meet their new employers.

Nothing is as it seems for Evans and his Major Crimes Team as they battle to avoid a bloodbath while also uncovering a far more heinous crime.

My thanks to the author and publisher for inviting me on to the blog tour and for sending me a review copy.

My Thoughts:

I was really pleased to be invited to do this blog tour as I really enjoyed the first outings for Harry Evans and you can read my thoughts about that here.

This book, well novella really picks up where we left off and I love the fact that it feels as if we have never been away. There is an atmosphere around the Police Station. Harry Evans is somewhat of a renegade, someone who also goes out on a limb but is ironically a little anti establishment. He likes to do things his own way and unfortunately after last time, himself and his colleagues are feeling the heat. They need results and they need to do the job the right way. 

With a strong sense of location, I love these stories. This one revolves around football hooliganism and illegal immigration. The author is not afraid to tackle bold themes and weaves them expertly into a taut plot. 

Harry is now on the way to retirement but I can't wait to read more about him. He is a vibrant character who breathes the life into these stories, whilst having an amazing supporting cast who are all great in their own ways.

Graham Smith has delivered again, a fast paced and thrilling story whilst keeping it realistic and me on the edge of the seat.

More please!

I am delighted to welcome Graham to the blog today and he has written a great guest post on the location of his Harry Evans stories, thanks for stopping by:

Location Location Location

Apologies for the somewhat cheesy headline, but for this guest post I thought I’d talk about the locations I’ve chosen for my DI Harry Evans novels, novellas and short stories.

I’ve set them in Cumbria which includes the fantastically beautiful Lake District, the Northern Pennines and hundreds of miles of coastline. Cumbria is home to the city of Carlisle, countless small towns and villages, a plethora of wide open spaces consisting of moorland, rolling fells, deep lakes and small forests. (Many of these are good places to dump a body which is always important for us crime writers.)

Stepping outside the City of Carlisle, the towns and villages are tourist traps, ports, market towns. Tourism is huge business in the Lake District, but Cumbria also plays home to a nuclear power station, a naval base and factories which produce everything from crisp packets to biscuits via tyres. Farming is a huge part of the community and there are many dairy, sheep and cattle farms throughout the region although the hills do mean there’s a distinct lack of arable farming in the area. (This diversity of location gives me the opportunity to write a rural or city based story without having to move my characters away from their usual stomping ground as the whole of Cumbria is their patch.)

The M6 motorway and countless A and B roads afford access around the county, but there’s also many single track roadways when you get off the beaten track. (For a crime writer these are great for allowing speedy progress or causing tension inducing displays as required by the story.)

Cumbria has an amazing history which includes the Romans, the reiving families of the borders and the many wars between Scotland and England. All of this makes for a landscape which is rich in varied influences and ancient cultures. (West Cumbria had its own unique language which still shows in the speech patterns of those local to the area.)

Another governing factor in my choosing Cumbria and the Lake District as my location of choice is the fact it is an area which many readers from the north of England and Scotland are likely to have visited. Most readers like to read about places they know and as such it was something of a no-brainer for me to choose to write about and area I’m local to and fairly familiar with. (Don’t tell anyone, but one of the main reasons I chose Cumbria is so I can have a nice day out in the Lake District and call it research.)

A lesser but still important consideration was that very few people are setting crime stories in Cumbria. All the other cities close to me have already been claimed by those who know them far better than I
With all these attributes available in a location so close to my home in Scotland (I live just three miles from Cumbria) I’d have had to have been very brave or foolish to choose anywhere else.

I might be a coward, but I’m not an idiot!

About the Author:

Graham Smith is married with a young son. A time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since Christmas 2000 he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland.

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer and interviewer for the well-respected website since 2009

He is the author of four books featuring DI Harry Evans and the Cumbrian Major Crimes Team.

Matching the Evidence

Snatched from Home

Lines of Enquiry

I Know Your Secret – Out October 2016

Please do have a look at the others stops on the blog tour:

Monday, 12 September 2016

#MondayMusing with Guest Author: Irenosen Okojie

A product of contemplation; a thought: "an elegant tapestry of quotations, musings, aphorisms, and autobiographical reflections" (James Atlas).

Today I would like to welcome Author Irenosen Okojie to the blog she has written a novel called Butterfly Fish. It is her short story collection Speak Gigantular that she is here to talk about. Below are the details of the book which is released on 15th September by Jacaranda Books. Irenosen has also given us Five Reasons to read it. Welcome to the blog Irenosen and thanks for visiting...

A startling debut short story collection from one of Britain's rising literary stars. These stories are captivating, erotic, enigmatic and disturbing. Irenosen Okojie's gift is in her understated humour, her light touch, her razor-sharp assessment of the best and worst of humankind, and her unflinching gaze into the darkest corners of the human experience. In these stories Okojie creates worlds where lovelorn aliens abduct innocent coffee shop waitresses, where the London Underground is inhabited by the ghosts of errant Londoners caught between here and the hereafter, where insensitive men cheat on their mistresses and can only muster enough interest to fall for one-dimensional poster girls and where brave young women attempt to be erotically empowered at their own peril.Sexy, serious and at times downright disturbing, this brilliant collection sizzles with originality.

Five Reasons To Pick up Speak Gigantular
         By Irenosen Okojie

       1.   Content

There’s a boy who has a tail who has a mother that doesn’t know how he got the tail. There’s a man who struggles with feeling invisible so he commits bank robberies dressed in a chicken suit. There’s a woman who seeks intimacy with strangers, she has a pet from an escalator that refuses to leave. There’s the woman who faces a series of interruptions that look like her. There’s the lost girl chasing her endings because we acquire so many and never know what to do with them.

   2. Label

Easily digestible but not necessarily always easy.

   3.   Expiry Date­

These stories won’t expire. They’re weird, slanted and sly. Stories don’t have a sell by date. You pick up a collection. You read one story, you leave the book in your bag, let it breathe. You pay your electricity bill, have coffee with a friend, remind yourself you’ve run out of Hoisin sauce, to get some more. On the train, you read another story. Your chest is full of the story you read in the morning. You spend the journey home interpreting, reinterpreting. Afterwards, you buy a can of ginger beer. You bump into a homeless man who asks you for your sweet beer, who says he has nothing to offer in exchange. He tells you he slept in the local A&E’s hospital reception the night before. He thinks he knows your face.
And there is a story.

    4.        Guarantee

If you pick up this collection you’ll laugh. Perhaps not when you expect to, you’ll scratch your head, your chin and you’ll wonder because stories are like that. You can spend a few hours attempting to understand the breadth of them or a lifetime. They’re shape shifters whose fluctuating weight and meaning you cannot know unless you keep trying to. Like any collection, there’ll be some that strike you more than others. If I’m lucky, a couple that stay with you.

5.  Ingredient

He told her, “Lately, I’ve developed a taste for eating uncooked food. The other day, I ate half a packet of sausages raw. I don’t know where this has come from or why I’m telling you.” She nodded because she understood the arrival of things you couldn’t explain.

This is an exchange between two characters in my collection of short stories Speak Gigantular. Pick up a copy if you want to know the context, or if you want to know and add your own. 

Irenosen Okojie is a writer and Arts Project Manager. Her debut novel Butterfly Fish won a Betty Trask award. Her work has been featured in The Observer, The Guardian, the BBC and the Huffington Post amongst other publications. Her short stories have been published internationally. She was presented at the London Short Story Festival by Ben Okri as a dynamic writing talent to watch and was featured in the Evening Standard Magazine as one of London’s exciting new authors. Her short story collection Speak Gigantular is out now, published by Jacaranda Books.

            Twitter: @IrenosenOkojie 

Monday, 5 September 2016

#MondayMusing with Guest Author: Lyn G. Farrell

A product of contemplation; a thought: "an elegant tapestry of quotations, musings, aphorisms, and autobiographical reflections" (James Atlas).

Today it brings me great pleasure to welcome Lyn. G Farrell to the blog. I am not too shy to admit I was over the moon when she agreed to answer my questions, you see I adore her debut novel The Wacky Man. It is a book that I would urge everybody to read. You can see my thoughts on it here.

My new shrink asks me, 'What things do you remember about being very young?' It's like looking into a murky river, I say. Memories flash near the surface like fish coming up for flies. The past peeps out, startles me, and then is gone... 

Amanda secludes herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised. 

As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape?

Without further ado, I shall hand over to Lyn. Welcome to the blog and thank you so much for taking the time. 

1)      Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

You could describe me as a ‘late bloomer’. As a former chronic truant due to my situation at home, I lived in an isolated limbo for a long time, though I read anything I could lay my hands on and watched mammoth amounts of American black and white melodrama in the afternoons. I returned to education at nineteen and university at twenty three, studied for my Masters at thirty five, joined a band at thirty seven, had my first novel published at forty seven and will (hopefully) pass my driving test at forty eight. My motto is ‘It’s never too late’ J

My younger life was all about survival but nowadays it’s about creativity and caring. I like to campaign for human rights and animal welfare and I’m addicted to learning (FutureLearn is the most incredible, free resource for anyone who wants to study a plethora of subjects from journalism to song writing) and some of my favourite things include world cinema, reading, growing my own tomatoes and chillies, and learning to drive (yes, really, I love it).

2)       As you know I loved your novel. Could you tell us a bit about The Wacky Man, for those who haven’t read it yet?

Thanks so much for your kind words and so pleased you liked it. The Wacky Man is about Amanda, an intelligent, articulate teenager, who is struggling to cope with the violence and abuse she has suffered at the hands of her father. She is raw and angry and in desperate need and the reader finds themselves sitting with her as she tells her story.

3)      Which writers do you admire?

I love so many writers that I could write a list that filled a book! I like a lot of genres, from sci fi to literary, love classic or contemporary fiction, and I like to read translated fiction (trying to read my way around the world as it were). So when I’m asked this question, I just have to write down the authors that spring to mind first. It would be easier to photograph my bookshelves and even that wouldn’t show the countless books I’ve given away after reading!

I would love to have the imaginative power to write fiction similar to that I loved as a child. Some of my favourite childhood books - Watership Down, The Water Babies, The Golden Goblet, Huckleberry Finn and the Mr Men.

I came across Marge Piercy, Margaret Atwood and Alice Walker as a teenager and they showed me that difficult subjects can be the focus of quality, literary fiction. I love Barbara Kingsolver, Elif Shafak, Sandra Cineros, Doris Lessing, Jean Rys, Hilary Mantel, Kate Grenville and Zadie Smith. I read fiction by men too; Yevgeny Zamyatin, Kurt Vonnegut, George Orwell, Honor de Balsac, Cormac McCarthy, Chekov, Italo Calvino, John Irving, Sid Smith, Gabriel García Márquez and Haruki Murakami.

4)      If you had to give one book only as a present, which would it be?

It would have to be ‘Woman on the Edge of Time’ by Marge Piercy. This had such a powerful impact on me as a young teenager and raises lots of questions about society and what it is to be male or female. It really was a pivotal book for me and I’ve often bought this to give away as a present. I really recommend it. 

5)      Are you writing currently, if so is there something you can tell us about that?

I’m preparing for my second novel – lots of note making and research. It’s about the healing power of unusual friendship so it’s a very different feel to my first book. Though it will also focus on the way life can be derailed, it’s looking at it from the opposite, healing, side of the experience.

6)      How important is the cover of a book in your opinion?

I’d never thought of this in any depth until I saw the amount of interest the cover to my novel generated. It made me realise the impact it was having and I then thought about my own ‘cover’ behaviour. I am often put off by pastel coloured covers with swirly writing and I think I’m missing some absolute gems because of the cover design. A bold cover that leaps out but doesn’t fully explain itself draws me in so I’d say it’s absolutely crucial. I struck gold with my cover designer.

7)      What made you become a writer?

I had the Wacky Man in my head since I was about thirty. I thought if I ignored it, it would go away but it just bubbled away until I had to get it written down. I sometimes struggle to see myself as a ‘writer’ because the novel took me ten years to write (about ¾ of that just learning how to write – on reflection a creative writing course would have saved me lots of grey hair and stress). I have another novel ‘bubbling away’ now in the back of my mind but I am finding that it’s a slow process once again. I hope it won’t take me another ten years but who knows?

8)      The themes in The Wacky Man are dark and presented in a bold way that you can’t shy away from but also with a bit of humour in places, did you intend it to shock?

I never intended it to shock, no. I wanted people to actually feel the life that Amanda was living, that so many battered kids have to face, and that was the driving force behind the way I wrote. I knew it would be difficult for people to read but felt that a battered child has as much right in fiction as any other character.

I understand that many people who haven’t experienced abuse in childhood will find this a shocking novel and that many want different stories to the one I wrote but I would hope they can see why it was written (imagine surviving such a childhood when you read this novel). I wrote The Wacky Man from experience, with care and purpose and with every ounce of skill I possess. I’ve seen other books with tough subjects called misery fiction, misery lit or misery porn and I find that a truly disappointing and dismissive label. It’s a way of reducing some writing into a perceived ‘lesser’ or ‘not worthy’ form.

I’m really heartened by the fact that so many reviewers, including your good self, have described it as ‘tough subject, beautiful writing’ because I had two aims with this novel: to raise awareness about battered children and to write the most beautiful fiction I was capable of. I am overwhelmed that the vast majority of readers so far saw what I was trying to do with The Wacky Man.

9)      What are your writing habits and space like?

I tend to have periods where I can nothing but write followed by times when I’ll do anything but write. My writing habits of late have been rather ill disciplined because I’ve become addicted to ‘The Good Wife’ and there are still about five seasons to get through! I also have to write around my full time job so my productivity is decided by how long or challenging the work day has been. I’m lucky enough to work at home at least half of the week which gives me extra time and even if I’m not writing I will be making notes, jotting down ideas or researching and reading so I’m never completely removed from the process.

I have a room where I write which sounds glamorous but actually it’s just my bedroom. It’s a large room but I have everything squashed in there. Bed, wardrobes, desk, computer, bookshelves, cross trainer! My desk is by the window so my view is of one of the car parks to my block of flats which luckily isn’t terribly busy in the day, otherwise I’d be more distracted.

10)  What is the strangest thing you have ever had to research online for your writing?

Recently it would be the ‘Sky Burial’ – in parts of Tibet the dead are cut up and left out for the vultures to eat. I felt a bit ‘funny’ at this ‘funeral practice’ compared to our own prayers and coffins but when I looked at it in context  it makes perfect sense. The mountainous ground is far too hard to bury people in and vultures in Buddhist culture are important because they eat meat but never kill so they’re seen as a force for good. Worms eat our dead anyway – it’s just more hidden from us! I think this Tibetan burial practice is a great example of how, when you examine something deeply, it stops seeming strange or even sinister sounding and becomes something human and peaceful.

11)   Could you tell us something about you that people wouldn’t necessary know?

I sing. I have always loved singing but far too shy to sing in public. I finally plucked up courage to join an evening class and went on to do open mics and even join a local band – and all of this in my late thirties. I found performing too anxiety provoking so gave it up for a few years but have just got back into singing at a local music night that I’m running with a friend. I find singing taps into a very different part of me than the writing does, but I love it just as much.

Lyn G Farrell grew up in Lancashire where she would have gone to school if things had been different. She studied Psychology as an undergraduate at the University of Leeds, later gaining a PGCET and most recently, a Masters in ICT and Education. Having worked in a number of IT and teaching roles, she is currently an online tutor in the School of Education at Leeds Beckett University.

She has also been nominated for Not The Booker Prize 2016.
Twitter @FarrellWrites