Category: Interview

Blog Tour: The Picture

Today is the last day of the blog tour for Roger Bray’s The Picture and I get to end the tour with an interview! I also participated in the cover reveal earlier.

Book Description:

A warehouse in Japan used as an emergency shelter in the aftermath of the 2011 Tsunami. A distraught, young Japanese woman in dishevelled clothes sits on a box, holding her infant daughter. Ben, a US rescue volunteer, kneels in front of her offering comfort. They hug, the baby between them. The moment turns into an hour as the woman sobs into his shoulder; mourning the loss of her husband, her home, the life she knew. A picture is taken, capturing the moment. It becomes a symbol; of help freely given and of the hope of the survivors. The faces in the picture cannot be recognised, and that is how Ben likes it. No celebrity, thanks not required.

But others believe that being identified as the person in the picture is their path to fame and fortune. Ben stands, unknowingly, in their way, but nothing a contract killing cannot fix.

Roger Bray on Amazon:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room): Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born just north of London but was raised in Blackburn in Lancashire, which I consider my home town.  I went to a grammar school there and despite the best efforts of the teachers I was a very mediocre student.  School was something I endured rather than embraced and as soon as I could I left and joined the Navy.

It took quite a bit of travel and a couple of career changes before I found myself medically discharged from the police force after being seriously injured at work.  Contrary to my previous scholastic efforts I decided to go to university, which I did and thoroughly enjoyed,  realising my academic direction 30 years after my peers.  It also relit my love of writing which I had had at school but never followed except for a few short stories and magazine articles.  I am married to the love of my life for 32 years.  We have three children that don’t live at home and an overly cute but needy cat which does.

JRR: I have two cats and one is co-dependent too! He’s about 20 pounds and his sister is 10 pounds.  Did you always want to become an author?

I always aspired to write but I cannot say that I always wanted to become an author.  I had many ideas which seem to run out of steam during the initial conceptual process.  Maybe I was being too critical but I often felt that there were major plot holes which I couldn’t resolve in a satisfactory way.  Age I think has mellowed me and given me the experience to understand the realities of plots and definitely the fact that sometimes things I had considered to be ‘far-fetched’ were actually perfectly plausible.  Possibly cynicism in an imperfect world has taught me that most things are possible. Except possibly Blackburn Rovers winning the FA cup again in my lifetime.

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?

I was a voracious reader from as early as I can remember.  The Famous Five and Secret Seven, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were staples of my pre-teens.  I think the first author that influenced me, there have been many others, was Gerald Durrell who gave me a love of inquiry and travel.  Some scenes in his books stay with me to this day and still give me a chuckle.

JRR:  Who is your favorite author as an adult? Who inspires you?

Robert Harris for a number of reasons.  He is not locked into any particular genre so each book he writes is a new take on him as an author, his books are well researched which lends an authenticity to them and, he writes about things that I am interested in. Dreyfus and Enigma to name two.

JRR:  What inspires you to write? Where did you get the idea for The Picture?

I was standing on my back veranda, looking out over the courtyard having breakfast, which then consisted of a cup of coffee and a cigarette.  It was daylight but overcast and grey.  I was thinking of nothing in particular that I recall when there was a crack in the clouds and a beam of sunlight broke through.  I didn’t have any sort of epiphanous moment where the whole idea clicked into place, more of a question as to how to use such an event, what it could portray and anyone would be remotely interested in it.  I filled in the gaps for the scene which became the title of the book within a few days, and built the plot around it.

JRR:  Well, you wrote it and people do want to read it!  I love the idea of a simple picture becoming a symbol, which many have. There are many iconic pictures out there that people think of. 

Where you there for the 2011 Tsunami? Did you base your protagonist Ben off anyone you know?

No I wasn’t, but I have been involved in a lot of rescue and recovery work after natural disasters.

Ben?  Like any character he is a composite, he is definitely not me but my wife can see me in a lot of what he does and says, whereas I had other people in mind for him.  I do find it easier to write a character if I have a person in mind, maybe not for the whole character but for some basic concepts – how they might look, walk, talk etc.  My doppelgänger for Ben was Russell Crowe who also shares his birthday with my wife, the fact of which she hasn’t stopped banging on about since I told her I used him for Ben.

JRR:  I will picture Russell Crowe now once I can get to it! Even better than he shares his birthday with your wife!  Now, what does your writing process consist of? Do you research, handwrite vs typing, music or no music?

Research – I do a lot of research, most of which never makes it into the book and my editor tends to cut out a lot of the woffle taking the rest out as well.   But it is never wasted as much to realise what cannot be done as what can.   Often research revolves around a single word, a medical procedure or single concept.  I try to be accurate without spending pages trying to fit my irrelevant research in regardless, just because of the time I spent on it.  When reading there is nothing worse than a blatantly wrong fact.  It is like a mental speed hump, slowing the flow of the book.

Music – No.  I don’t find Led Zeppelin, Floyd or Lynyrd Skynyrd conducive to writing, I get too lost in the music and smack down on the keyboard too hard.

I do all my work on a computer.  I have embraced technology since I first bought a ZX81, I had to type a lot as a police officer and find the machines hate me.  I have dual screens so I have my manuscript on the left and research / notes / maps on the right.  When my wife’s cat isn’t trying to sit on the keyboard I find I can power along quite nicely like that.

My writing process is pretty much sit down and write, I write until I run out of ideas, then keep writing some more.  I do find that I am better suited to getting a few days in at a time rather than trying to snatch an hour here or there.  By doing that I feel more immersed in the story and better able to see where I am going with it.

JRR: If you could have dinner with three people(living or dead) who would they be and why?

Freddie Mercury – The guy was a genius, talented and brilliant.  Taken too soon I think he had a lot more to give.

Max Webber – My academic area is in politics and international relations and although Webber was predominantly a sociologist his influence in politics cannot be understated.  He was instrumental in the drafting of the Weimar Constitution in post world war 1 Germany and had he not died of Spanish Flu in 1920 his influence could have meant a completely different, better world to what we see today.

Maggie Smith – A beautifully brilliant, talented actress.  She had me in hysterics in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet and even in dramatic roles her sense of humour still manages to show itself.

JRR:  Great group!  Which book have you always meant to get around to reading, but still not read?

The Silmarillion which I bought, first edition, in 1977.  I have tried a few times to read it but just cannot get passed page 50 or so. I’ve tried and failed so many times that it has almost become a badge of honour that I haven’t read the damn thing.

JRR: What’s the best advice you have ever received?

With regard to writing – be professional.  Have your work professionally edited, have a professionally developed cover.  I bumbled along for a time before I realised the wisdom of that advice.  I have a great editor in Emma Mitchell, she is forthright and honest and I take notice of what she advises.  At the end of the day I want my readers to enjoy my writing and I would be underselling myself and them if I wasn’t professional.

JRR:  Awww, I adore Emma!  I worked with her in blog tours when she offered them and she is great to work with!  If you are a writer looking for an editor her site is here. Is there anything else you would like to share?

I would like to thank you for inviting me along to your blog.

Above you asked the best advice I had received.  To add to that I would add some advice of my own, getting a good editor helps you become a better author, the potholes, most of which I unerringly found I can now avoid while I am working on my third novel.

JRR:  Thank you so much for your time with this interview Roger! I look forward to reading The Picture (hopefully soon!).

About the Author:

I have always loved writing; putting words onto a page and bringing characters to life. I can almost feel myself becoming immersed into their lives, living with their fears and triumphs. Thus, my writing process becomes an endless series of questions. What would she or he do, how would they react, is this in keeping with their character? Strange as it sounds, I don’t like leaving characters in cliffhanging situations without giving them an ending, whichever way it develops.
My life to date is what compels me to seek a just outcome, the good will overcome and the bad will be punished. More though, I tend to see my characters as everyday people in extraordinary circumstances, but in which we may all find our selves if the planets align wrongly or for whatever reason you might consider.

Of course, most novels are autobiographical in some way. You must draw on your own experiences of life and from events you have experienced to get the inspiration. My life has been an endless adventure. Serving in the Navy, fighting in wars, serving as a Police officer and the experiences each one of those have brought have all drawn me to this point, but it was a downside to my police service that was the catalyst for my writing.

Medically retired after being seriously injured while protecting a woman in a domestic violence situation I then experienced the other side of life. Depression and rejection. Giving truth to the oft said saying that when one door closes another opens I pulled myself up and enrolled in college gaining bachelor and master degrees, for my own development rather than any professional need. The process of learning, of getting words down onto the page again relit my passion for writing in a way that I hadn’t felt since high school.

So here we are, two books published and another on track.

Where it will take me I have no idea but I am going to enjoy getting there and if my writing can bring some small pleasure into people’s lives along the way, then I consider that I will have succeeded in life.

Contact Roger:
Twitter @rogerbray22

Blog Tour: Game Show @rararesources

Today I am one of the stops on the blog tour for Game Show by Allie Cresswell. I will be interviewing her!

Book Description:

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.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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.

Contact Allie:

Look out for the rest of the blog tour!


Blog Tour: Spring at The Little Duck Pond Cafe

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.

Novella Description:

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?

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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.