Today I am one of the stops on the blog tour for Game Show by Allie Cresswell. I will be interviewing her!
It is 1992, and in a Bosnian town a small family cowers in their basement. The Serbian militia is coming – an assorted rabble of malcontents given authority by a uniform and inflamed by the idea that they’re owed something, big-time, and the Bosnians are going to pay. When they get to the town they will ransack the houses, round up the men and rape the women. Who’s to stop them? Who’s to accuse them? Who will be left, to tell the tale?
Meanwhile, in a nondescript northern UK town a group of contestants make their way to the TV studios to take part in a radical new Game Show. There’s money to be won, and fun to be had. They’ll be able to throw off their inhibitions and do what they want because they’ll all be in disguise and no-one will ever know.
In a disturbing denouement, war and game meld into each other as action and consequence are divided, the words ‘blame’ and ‘fault’ have no meaning and impunity reigns .
Game Show asks whether the situation which fostered the Bosnian war, the genocide in Rwanda, the rise of so-called Islamic State in Syria and the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar could ever happen in the West. The answer will shock you.
JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room) Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a mum and a granny, with two grown up children, two granddaughters, two grandsons, two cockapoos but just one husband, Tim. We live in beautiful Cumbria. Apart from writing and reading I enjoy cooking and gardening. I also knit and crochet.
JRR: You have a big family! Did you always want to become an author?
Yes, I think so. When I was about eight I asked for a stack of writing paper for Christmas so that I could write stories down. Later I appropriated my mum’s Remmington typewriter and taught myself to use it so that people could actually read what I had written although this backfired on me. The first story I shared was met with gales of laughter from my family – it wasn’t meant to be funny. After that I went underground with my writing and was reluctant to share anything.
I deviated slightly in my later teens, thinking I would like to be an actor – which is really the same thing – just bringing stories to life in a different way. I went to Birmingham University to study English and Drama but soon found the acting part of the course too intimidating and the ‘lovies’ likewise. I stuck it out, doing lots of behind the scenes jobs. But the English element of the course really inspired me. I read lots. I began to understand the way story, character, language and theme work together. After Birmingham I went to Queen Mary College to do an MA, specialising in the novel as form, and studying Henry James who, to me, is the master of novel writing.
JRR: Who was the most influential author you read when you were growing up? Did his/her writings influence you to want to become an author?
As a child I read voraciously, encouraged by my lovely mum. I loved Noel Streatfield, Malcolm Savile, LM Montgomery and Francis Hodgson Burnet. I still have their dog-eared paperbacks on my shelves today. If I had to pick one it would be Noel Streatfield. Her books swept me away; I loved her strong, determined heroines who followed their dreams. For a quiet, unremarkable little girl like me they were such an inspiration. I had dreams and ambitions too. Maybe, just maybe I could achieve mine.
JRR: Who is your favorite author as an adult? Who inspires you?
That is a really tricky question. I couldn’t possibly pick just one! I adore all the nineteenth century greats – Dickens, Trollope, the Brontes, Wharton – as well as Jane Austen. But these days I have discovered some other fantastic writers who tell compelling stories and use great language – this, to me, is the hallmark of good writing. Recently I discovered an American writer called Laurel Savile – her writing is sublime. Elizabeth Strout has an ability to describe atmosphere, intonation and sub-text which is almost extra-sensory. Patrick Gale tells such poignant stories, and he tells them so well. All these writers inspire me.
JRR: I know, you can’t just pick one! 😉 What inspires you to write? What inspires you to write the books that you do write?
I am an inveterate nosey parker and listener-in to other people’s business. I pick up bits of conversations in shops and cafes, I see things – an incident in the street, say – and wonder, ‘What’s happening there? What caused it? What will happen next?’ Before I know it I am creating character and inventing dialogue – and a story is born.
There have been aspects of my own life which have inspired some of my books. I worked through a lot of personal issues in the Lost Boys quartet, for example.
I don’t write genre. Each of my books is different. They were all inspired by a certain individual situation or idea and I wrote them to explore the causalities, the sub-text and the psychology. I wrote them to provide outcomes which I could never know in real life. That’s the problem with people-watching, they leave the café and you never do know how things turn out for them. But, when I write, I can provide an ending, which is always satisfying.
JRR: What does your writing process consist of? ( Do you research, do you hand write or type, do you listen to music or need silence?)
Firstly, the idea. It must excite me. I will find myself thinking about it while I’m hoovering or walking the dogs. Then, the most difficult thing of all. Beginning. Opening a new document and getting the first few paragraphs down. Then, seeing my way. I never know the end from the beginning. It unfurls before me. Sometimes it unfurls wrong, and I have to retrace. I research as I go: did people have mobile ‘phones in 1992? What was women’s underwear like in 1945? How long would it take to drive from Middlesborough to Manchester?
My writing day starts at about ten. I have a room which is set aside for writing where I can be quiet and relatively undisturbed. I can’t stand any kind of background noise at all, so no music. Usually I re-read whatever I wrote the day before, tweaking and amending, adding, subtracting.
Then I write until about 3.30 or 4. I stop, read over, save and walk away.
JRR: Where did the idea for Game Show come from? What made you decide to include reality television with 1992 and the Bosnian/Serbian war?
Game Show developed following an experience as a member of a real TV game show audience. It was in 1992. News about the Bosnian War was just filtering through to us. I had two small children at the time. It was so harrowing, watching the news, seeing families trudging across the countryside or those poor boys and men starving and abused and traumatised in the concentration camps. Nowadays, unfortunately it is all too common – Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Myanmar. But then, it was new and shocking. As I sat in the audience and watched people cheat and lie and pretend – all for the sake of what wasn’t, even in those days, a really amazing prize – the stark contrast between the two situations really hit me. The one so tragic and desperate, the other so superficial and phoney.
The similarities of the two didn’t hit me until I was well in to writing the book and I got to understand the situation in Bosnia better. It took me ten years to write Game Show partly because the history of the war didn’t really emerge until then. Also, I came across Dr. Philip Zimbardo’s book The Lucifer Effect which really explained situational psychology to me. I had been groping towards an understanding of it feeling that my original premise – that people are fundamentally evil – wasn’t right, but not knowing what was. Situational psychology explains both the psychology of the Bosnian War (and of many other conflicts, political scandals and celebrity outrages since) as well as the way ‘reality’ TV can provoke people into acting out of character.
JRR: Wow! Thank you for that insight, that makes you think. Now are you a reality tv fan? How ‘real’ can reality tv be?
No. I find it specious and embarrassing now that I understand what’s going on. I think of the participants as victims. Of course, as in Game Show, it is possible for people to reject the total situation which is trying to herd them into mob mentality, and become heroes, like Barry in Game Show. But, sadly, these incidences are rare.
JRR: If you could have dinner with three people (living or dead) who would they be and why?
Perhaps this is too personal but I would give my right arm and my left one too to spend an evening with my mum and dad – to tell them all the things I never got round to saying and to show them their great grandchildren. They would be so proud.
I would love to meet my step-daughter, who doesn’t speak to us, to understand her feelings and to get to know her a little.
If you feel that it isn’t appropriate to mention these things, I would choose Stephen Fry, who would be an interesting and amusing dinner date, Henry James, who would give me some tips on novel writing, and Stephen Spielberg, who might agree to make Game Show into a film.
JRR: Your answers are not too personal at all! That’s why I like to ask that question! I like to get to know authors personally. Which book have you always meant to get around to reading, but still not read?
I have read almost all of Dickens but I have never read The Pickwick Papers. I have tried numerous times, but just not been able to get in to it.
JRR: What’s the best advice you have ever received?
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
JRR: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Game Show is set in 1992 – 26 years ago. But what is so interesting about its premise is that it explains so much that is happening today. The Harvey Weinstein affair, the Oxfam Haiti prostitute scandal, the organised grooming of children for sexual exploitation, even the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter – all these occur when people feel they are given permission to act as they wouldn’t ordinarily do, told that there will be no consequences or feel that it’s OK, because everyone else is doing it.
JRR: Thank you so much for your time with this interview Allie!
About the Author:
I have been writing stories since I could hold a pencil and by the time I was in Junior School I was writing copiously and sometimes almost legibly.
I did, however, manage a BA in English and Drama from Birmingham University and an MA in English from Queen Mary College, London. Marriage and motherhood put my writing career on hold for some years until 1992 when I began work on Game Show.
In the meantime I worked as a production manager for an educational publishing company, an educational resources copywriter, a bookkeeper for a small printing firm, and was the landlady of a country pub in Yorkshire, a small guest house in Cheshire and the proprietor of a group of boutique holiday cottages in Cumbria. Most recently I taught English Literature to Lifelong learners.
Nowadays I write as full time as three grandchildren, a husband, two Cockapoos and a large garden will permit.
Look out for the rest of the blog tour!
Today I am one of the stops on final day of the blog tour for Spring at The Little Duck Pond Cafe by Rosie Green. It is the first in a series of novellas. It is a short one at just 127 pages! Today I will be interviewing Rosie.
Fleeing from a romance gone wrong, Ellie Farmer arrives in the pretty little village of Sunnybrook, hoping for a brand new start that most definitely does not include love! Following an unscheduled soak in the village duck pond, she meets Sylvia, who runs the nearby Duck Pond Café. Renting the little flat above the café seems like the answer to Ellie’s prayers. It’s only for six months, which will give her time to sort out her life, far away from cheating boyfriend Richard.
But is running away from your past ever really the answer?
Clashing with the mysterious and brooding Zack Chamberlain, an author with a bad case of writer’s block, is definitely not what Ellie needs right now. And then there’s Sylvia, who’s clinging so hard to her past, she’s in danger of losing the quaint but run-down Duck Pond Café altogether.
Can Ellie find the answers she desperately needs in Sunnybrook? And will she be able to help save Sylvia’s little Duck Pond Café from closure?
JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room):Tell us a little about yourself.
I studied English Literature at Dundee University and worked as a journalist on teenage magazines and several regional newspapers in Scotland. Then I moved to Surrey and had my own business delivering boxes of fresh, organic fruit and veg to people’s doors, which I loved. It was much later in life that I decided it was high time I wrote a book!
JRR: Did you always want to become an author?
Yes, I started scribbling mystery stories when I was about nine. Even then it was my burning ambition to see my name on the cover of a book I’d written.
JRR: And you have done that! Congrats! Who was the most influential author you read when you were growing up? Did his/her writings influence you to want to become an author?
It has to be Enid Blyton. I was a real bookworm from being small and I would devour every ‘Famous Five’ or ‘Mallory Towers’ (and all the rest!) that were published. The mystery stories I started writing were heavily influenced by her books!
JRR: Who is your favorite author as an adult? Who inspires you?
It’s hard to name just one. Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella, PD James, Ian Rankin.
JRR: I know about it being hard to pick one! Sophie Kinsella is great! She was the author that got me reading again. What inspires you to write?
I love the whole business of writing books and I can’t imagine a time when I won’t! I love the part where I’m dreaming up a new idea and new characters – that’s really exciting – and I love writing that very first page of a new book, although it invariably changes. I’m not so keen on writing the middle because it still seems as if you have a mountain to climb. But there’s a real excitement when the end is in sight and I start writing faster! I love the editing part, where you can polish a rough draft and make it sparkle. I just love it all!
JRR: It sounds like you have so much fun with the writing process. Speaking of, what does yours consist of? Do you research, do you hand-write or type, do you listen to music or need silence?)
I write on a laptop, sometimes sitting on my bed, but usually at the dining table (my son has commandeered the study/spare room as a music studio!). I do my best work first thing in the morning and when the house is blissfully quiet.
JRR: What made you choose the Romantic Comedy genre? What is your favorite book/movie of this genre?
I like to write romantic comedies because I have to work on them every day, and if I was writing dark psychological thrillers, I think I might get a bit down! I love Marian Keyes’ The Other Side of the Story, and I never get tired of watching The Holiday!
JRR: I love The Holiday! That is a great film! Where did you get the idea for Spring at The Little Duck Pond Café? Did you base Ellie off anyone you know?
I wanted to write a series of novellas set in a café in a pretty village in the south of England, where I lived for a time. I knew I wanted the village to have a duck pond. And then I thought why not marry the café and the duck pond together! I never base characters on people I know – not consciously, anyway – although I’m sure elements of people I know do slip in there sometimes. I’ve got a good friend who always reads my books looking for clues, thinking I must have based the ‘plump heroine’ on her – but it’s just not true!
JRR: If you could have dinner with three people(living or dead) who would they be and why?
I’d love to have dinner with Jane Austen. I think the conversation would be very lively, witty and full of gossip! I’d invite my lovely paternal grandma, who’s no longer with us, and ask her all about our family’s history – questions you never think to pose when they’re alive. And I’d quite like to meet Hugh Jackman because I think he’s lush!
JRR: Sounds like a great dinner! Which book have you always meant to get around to reading, but still not read?
War and Peace
JRR: What’s the best advice you have ever received?
As an unpublished writer, the best advice I received was to never give up. Despite all the rejections, I carried on – and thankfully, in the end, my persistence paid off!
JRR: Yes it did! Thank you so much for your time with this interview Rosie.
**It’s time for a Giveaway!!! (UK Only)**
Win wooden duck ornament and chocolates
During each day of this blog tour, clues will be revealed to the true identity of Rosie Green.
Today’s Clue is: ‘Among the Treetops’ is the place to find love in my latest book!
In order to enter, you need to follow Rosie Green on Twitter, RT this tweet and then take a guess using the hashtag #WhoisRosieGreen
Find Rosie on Twitter here.
-You may guess more than once.
All entries using the hash tag will be entered, and the giveaway closes 23:00 BST 12th April
***The identity of Rosie Green will be revealed on Twitter after 12th April as will the giveaway winner.***
Good luck and don’t forget to look at posts on other days of this tour, for more clues.
About the Author:
Rosie Green has been scribbling stories ever since she was little. Back then they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’. Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all, unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love.
Rosie’s brand new series of novellas is centred on life in a village café. The first, Spring at the Little Duck Pond Café, is out on March 22nd 2018.
Find Rosie on Twitter.[Top]
Today I am on the Blog Blitz for Dead Watch by Steve Liszka. The publication date was yesterday, March 28th. Dead Watch is published by Bloodhound Books. Today Steve is sharing why he wrote Dead Watch!
Life for the firefighters of Red Watch, East Brighton, is already complicated due to the imminent closure of their fire station. But this is soon to be the least of their worries.
When the team stumble upon a car in a ditch, they discover the driver is dead and a bag containing five hundred thousand pounds in cash. Before anyone arrives, the crew decide to take money, believing it to be a victimless crime.
When they later learn that the driver was killed by a bullet wound to the head their world is turned upside down.
Then a stranger appears at the station claiming the money belongs to him.
Soon the firefighters are drawn into a dangerous underworld and find themselves at the mercy of violent criminals.
But is this stranger who he claims to be?
And can Red Watch escape with the money and their lives in tact?
Buy Dead Watch Now!
Why I wrote Dead Watch
Looking back on it now, it seems obvious that I should have written a book about my job as a firefighter, but back when I started writing, I couldn’t see it. My first novel This Machine Kills was released in 2012, but I probably started writing it 5 years before that. It was a violent dystopian tale where the country was run by a businessman who wanted to build walls around his cities to keep the people protected from the poor, massed at its edges. It seemed quite far-fetched at the time but since Donald Trump has come into power I’m not too sure anymore. After not being able to secure an agent or publisher, I eventually self-published the book. It received some very positive reviews and sold a few hundred copies, but soon disappeared into the internet ether.
When I decided I wanted to write something else, it struck me that there were very few books written about the fire service. Thousands of books are published each year regarding the police, but I have never read anything about my own profession, a job I have done for seventeen years. I therefore decided that this time I would ‘write what I know’, and with that, had to work out how to go about it.
I quickly realised that it was going to be trickier than I thought. For one thing, I knew I couldn’t write a procedural type book, as is often the case with police-based thrillers. The jobs we go to in the fire service, tend to be dealt with within a few hours, unlike the weeks, months or even years it takes in the case of police investigations. Even particularly large incidents are usually done and dusted within a day or two, therefore I couldn’t really write a story about an incident I was likely to attend as it would only be a few chapters long at most! I also knew I didn’t want to write a memoir type book. I’ll leave that to more experienced firefighters when they write their autobiographies.
Writing about an arsonist would probably seem the obvious choice, but in reality, most of these are not master criminals, striking terror into the heart of the city with their actions. The arsonists I have mostly come across tend to be people with mental health issues and often those actions are a cry for help. Their targets are not normally buildings either but tend to be rubbish bins or something equally unexciting. Very often these people hang around at the incident and in some cases try and help us put the fire out. When you spot them at the next fire, it doesn’t take a genius to work out who did it, and I think often, these people are looking to get caught. Like I say, it is a cry for help. For this reason, I didn’t want to sensationalise the roles of arsonists in society.
Ruling out these options I fell back on the chats that we have around the canteen table. A question that has popped up before (not just on my watch, but probably every canteen in the country), is, if you found a large amount of money at an incident and were sure you would get away with it, would you take the money? I thought this was interesting route to go down that would demonstrate that we are all only human and liable to lapses in judgment. I also wanted to show that even though they had done something wrong, the watch involved would do whatever it takes to make amends, even if it meant risking their own lives.
Something else I wanted to write about was the role of the modern-day firefighter and how fires are only one of many incidents that we are likely to attend. Many people are not aware of what we really do, and so I thought this was a perfect opportunity to explain! I also wanted to try and convey what it is really like to go into a building on fire. On TV and in the movies, the picture that is painted of a brave firefighter running into a building to tackle the fire is about as far removed from reality as you are likely to get. I have spoken about it in more detail in the book, but most of the time when we into fires, we operate in zero visibility conditions. It is the reason why, when we do our training, we cover up our masks as we know that when it’s for real, we’re not going to be able to see a thing.
I also thought it was important to write about the camaraderie that exist on a watch and how, due to the things we experience together as a team, there is a deep bond that exists between watches that would be difficult to find in many other places. Similarly, and again this is something I discuss in the book, the infamous black humour in the service is a coping mechanism used to deal with some of the incredibly traumatic things we witness.
In the book I have also discussed the affects of austerity on the fire service nationally. All the services in this country have had their budgets cut massively in the past few years and as a result, jobs have been lost, fire appliances have been removed and, in many cases, stations have been closed. This has already had a devastating effect, with fire deaths in the country rising, despite claims to the contrary by the government. Even though it has been argued by those making the decisions, what it comes down to is this; the longer it takes us to get to you (with the proper resources) the more likely you are to die at a fire. Anyone who says any different is a liar.
For reasons like this, there is an unapologetically political edge to my book. I served as a rep for the Fire Services Union (FBU) for five years. In that time, and ever since, we have been involved in a fight to protect not only our stations and staff members, but also our conditions of service and even our pensions. There is also a looming threat of privatisation to the service, and again this is something I have discussed in the book (I and all my colleagues are viciously opposed to it).
Saying all that, I love my job and the people I work with. It is hard to imagine doing anything else as varied, and with so many unique challenges. I just hope that in the book I have done the job, and the firefighters of this country justice.
About the Author:
Steve has been an operational firefighter for the past seventeen years and it was his job that led to him writing his latest novel Dead Watch. He is based at Preston Circus Fire Station in Brighton, one of the busiest in the South East. Originally from Swansea, Steve now lives in Worthing with his wife Angela and children, Buddy and Sylvie.
Steve has always been an active sports person, competing in rugby, amateur boxing, rock climbing and many other pursuits. For the past ten years, he has run his own old-school outdoor fitness classes using kettlebells, tyres, sledgehammers and various other instruments of torture.
Steve’s first novel This Machine Kills was released in 2012. It is a violent dystopian tale where the country is run by a businessman who wants to build walls around his cities to protect the residents from the poor people outside. As if that would ever happen…
I personally have a high respect for fire fighters. Back in 2004 I took a class called the Citizen’s Fire Academy where you get to learn about the fire department. We even put on their turnout gear and went on ‘ridealongs’ on the fire truck!