2014 has been quite a special year for me. I signed my first contract, published my first book (The Empath), launched my blog, got a runner-up award and met and chatted to some incredible people. When I started Inky Inspiration, I wanted to do something a little different and try to go into the writing process and minds of industry professionals and authors who had really inspired me. What I hadn’t expected was that I would adore doing it and that other people would enjoy reading deeper into what goes on behind the pen (or print.)
Today I’m going to take a whirlwind tour of the guests, as they appeared, my favourite quote from the interview and my pick of their books.
It goes without saying that Sandra is effortlessly cool. Her writing is intense in a way that leaves you dwelling on her books for months afterwards. I can quite honestly say that I’ve been emotionally battered by her books, challenged and completely in awe of just how she does it. Sandra was my first ever guest on Inky Inspiration and I am so glad that she holds that very special place. Her quote sums up her commitment to delving into the unknown in a way that only wonderful authors truly can.
“I write the stories that appeal to me. It’s interesting and fun on my end of it. It might turn out to be frustrating to people who read my books though, because they will never know what to expect. My hope is that they will trust that it will be interesting, if nothing else.”
I will choose Letters Never Sent for the simple reason that it was the book that introduced me to her. It’s won the following awards:
Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction, Triangle Awards (Finalist)
Rainbow Award for Historical Fiction (Winner)
Rainbow Award for Lesbian Debut Novel (Winner)
Rainbow Award for Best Lesbian Novel (Finalist)
Ann Bannon Popular Fiction Award (Winner)
GCLS General Fiction Award (Winner)
It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, this novel is the kind of book that will challenge you, move you, anger you, fill you with joy and basically overload your senses… All in the best possible way.
Letters Never Sent
In 1997, shortly after Katherine Spencer’s death, Joan O’Connor travels to Lawrence, Kansas, to clean out her estranged mother’s house. Hidden amongst her mother’s things, Joan finds a wooden box containing trinkets and sealed letters to a person identified only by a first initial. Through the letters, Joan learns that her aloof and unyielding mother was anything but – that she had loved deeply and lost that love to circumstances beyond her control.
The story shifts to 1930s Chicago where Katherine has left her small town in Kansas and the marriage proposal of a local boy, to live on her own and work at the glove counter at Sears & Roebuck. It’s here that she meets Annie Bennett, a bold, outspoken feminist who challenges Katherine’s idea of who she thinks she is, in addition to what she thinks she wants.
The decades-long, often tumultuous relationship between Katherine and Annie, Katherine’s subsequent marriage to a man she grows to hate, and the fractious relationship between mother and daughter ultimately shows that despite their differences, they’re more alike than Joan had ever realized.
I wanted to look at a different part of the publishing world and Zoe is the head of Print Management Solutions. I didn’t really know much about the actually printing process when I chatted to her but it really showed me the dedication an artistry of those working behind the scenes. When I asked her about the digital versus paperback argument, I loved her answer,
“Any avid reader cannot deny themselves the feel of a real book in their hands, it gives you a connection to what you are reading and engaging in rather than just staring at a screen full of words.”
I couldn’t argue with that, (Although I do love both eBook and Paperback/Hardback versions,)and her thoughts shone with her passion for her work. It made me look at printing in a whole other light.
As a woman who launched a Facebook group that brought together readers and authors from all over the globe. Her discussion group gave me my first official author weekend back in September and made The Empath book of the month. Getting to learn just what inspired her to launch the project and why she loves writing and poetry so much really gave me insight into the woman behind the group.
“I like to write about characters and how they relate to other characters. I was a psych. nurse for twenty-two years I like understanding what makes characters and real people tick.”
Harry has the honour of being the only gentleman on Inky Inspiration so far and his Writers’ workshop has played a big role in my own development. His series on the edgy Welsh detective Fiona Griffiths is a bestseller and for very good reason. I loved that Fiona got him to write in a POV he really dislikes (first person present tense) and that she inhabits his mind as if she’s always been there. Harry advice to rookie writers was,
“The main thing is to pick a really strong concept for your first project and then really work at it. Your first draft will be horrendous, most likely – but that doesn’t matter. It’s what you do to get it right thereafter that counts.”
I really loved that message and it is a spirit that shines through from his heart. My pick of his books is Talking To The Dead which is where you first get to meet Fiona. Her often abrasive hard outer shell seems to draw you and you can’t help but follow this diminutive Welsh woman on her journey. It was made into a serial for television and he has more planned for Fiona. In Harry’s own words
Talking To The Dead in 100 words:
Fiona Griffiths is the youngest, most junior detective on the South Wales Major Crimes unit. And when a young mother and her six-year-old daughter are found dead in a squalid Cardiff squat, Fiona is given a minor-seeming task to perform. She performs that task – sometimes following the rules, sometimes not so much – and starts to uncover a much wider and more brutal crime. That crime is finally solved – in blood – on a remote Pembrokeshire coast. And the reader learns just who this detective is – and quite why she’s so interested in corpses.
Talking to the Dead is the most interior of the Fiona books – it’s the one which introduces her and the ‘mystery’ element in the novel is as much to do with Fiona herself as with the murder that she’s investigating
There’s not much shoot-bang-car-chase type action in the book, though the ending is pretty explosive.
We start to meet characters like Fiona’s father, her colleague DS Dave Brydon, and the shadowy Lev who we’ll meet again in later books.
Although people sometimes describe the book as very graphic, I think it’s not really. I mean: it describes scenes of violence without pretending that they’re nicer than they are, but on-screen violence? There’s not a lot, y’know.
The big-hearted, welcoming tones of Liz McMullen are something that many listeners recognise when they tune into her show. Liz has interviewed authors, been read to by authors, giggled with them and this year joined their ranks with her debut novel If I Die Before I Wake. Listening to the journey she took to get her novel from concept to written to published really showed how grit, belief and determination are what counts. Her advice to writers was,
“It’s very important to read in the genre you write, as well as outside the genre to learn what’s out there, what works and what doesn’t. Plus I love talking about books and sometimes they read me stories…which I adore.”
Which gives me fond memories of recording and reading with her. Liz’s support for other writers through her work in the GCLS make her someone inspiring. Her debut novel, that very same one she talks about in the chat, was runner-up at the Rainbow Awards this year. Now doesn’t that make you cheer? I did!
Charlie Dempsey has recently lost her beloved grandmother and is surprised to inherit a treasured family heirloom, the necklace her great grandmother wore on the boat from Ireland to the New World. But with possession of the necklace comes unwelcome and unseen guests that spark a paranormal awakening within Charlie and shakes up her once comfortable life as a first grade teacher in seaside college town.
A dark spirit is stalking her, a ghostly child is haunting her, and she finds herself romantically drawn to Faith Lorian, a witch who is the key to unlocking the mystery of banishing the dark spirit once and for all.
Together, can Charlie and Faith succeed, or will Charlie be irrevocably drawn into the darkness determined to ensnare her?
A name that most readers will recognise, Radclyffe has over forty novels to her name, she’s the founder of the might Bold Strokes Books and she is one of the nicest authors I’ve chatted to. Getting her thoughts on her catalogue of bestsellers was fun and I loved her fire and ambition.
“To think small is to stay small and that was never my plan.”
It is testament to her vision that many authors, who are favourites of readers around the world, have become such.
“I think part of a publisher’s responsibility is to support an author’s career on all levels – from marketing and building a readership to enhancing craft. Putting an author’s work in front of readers worldwide is a big part of that, and we work hard to keep our authors and readers connected.”
It’s not often that you get the chance to look behind the scenes and to learn from her. Her advice to authors was,
“Take advantage of all the info that’s out there to educate yourself, not just about the craft of writing, but about the business of being an author. And don’t give up.”
A great thing to keep in mind that it’s not just putting words on a page but making sure readers know that they’re there!
My pick of her books is Firestorm. It’s an action/adventure novel that takes in the fight against flames and, of course, attraction. I loved Jac in this book and I felt like I was there with them. If you love G.I Jane or The Guardian then you will love following Jac and Ice’s progress, battle and their stories. It was a profession I knew nothing about before I read the book but, boy, are these guys cool.
Firestorm – A First Responders Novel
Firefighter paramedic Mallory “Ice” James commands a crew of smokejumpers—twenty women and men who eat together, sleep together, and parachute into the face of raging forest fires together—and she has thirty days to whip the rookies into shape. Discipline and teamwork mean the difference between life and death on the line, and she’s earned her reputation as cool and controlled in the face of danger. Mallory isn’t happy when “Hotshot” Jac Russo shows up unannounced for boot camp along with a reputation for being trouble. Jac is none too pleased about her cold reception, even if the new boss is drop-dead gorgeous and hotter than the blazes they’re supposed to be dousing. Mallory and Jac may not like each other much, but lust isn’t something either can control—and they soon discover ice burns as fiercely as flame.
(and you can even get it on audible.com!)