"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!" (Mary Quallo, St Louis)

"Who in their right mind wouldn't want to read a book by Mark Barry!"  (Mary Quallo, St Louis)
The Night Porter - In The Vatican (Photo: Justin Scholes)

Sunday, 29 March 2015

An American In Britain - fun YA novelist and reviewer, Barb Taub, is...Around The Cauldron!

Today, in the ominous, awe inspiring shadow of the Burj Khalifa, here in downtown Dubai, I meet Barb Taub. YA writer, reviewer, commentator and classic American wit in the Mary Tyler Moore mould. 

Barb now lives and writes in the Green and Pleasant. I met her through the brilliant Rosie Amber’s review site, where she reviewed my novel The Night Porter.  
Whatever grade Barb gave TNP was less important than the stunning quality of the review itself, like a newspaper article, and I swiftly sent the Goblins out to research her.
I discovered she’s a writer (as you will see of Mature YA novels) and very popular in this little corner of our vast and sprawling Indie world. I also discovered she’s a superhero buff, which etches her name in indelible ink in my personal cool book.  Picking up the Wizphone, I tracked her down as she walked the dogs on a freezing  spring day somewhere up North. Here’s what she had to say. 

As an American lady, how did you come to live over here? What are the key differences and what was the hardest thing you had to leave behind?

I used to say that when I retired, I'd move to an island and open a coffee shop. It would, of course, not be a particularly good coffee shop. (I was picturing a cheap automatic drip pot with some generic grind right out of a can.) That way I would have plenty of time to write trashy novels without constant interruptions er… customers. It just happened a bit earlier and not quite the same way as I planned when my company was sold and my husband was offered early retirement. 

We decided to go for the adventure—he took a job with a university in England and we ended up living in one tower of a medieval castle owned by some friends. So the island was a bit bigger than I expected, and there wasn't a coffee shop in our little village. But I did serve at coffee-mornings once a month. And I did start turning out those novels.

The key differences? I had to learn to speak British, of course. Mostly, this meant not talking about my pants (here men wear them under their trousers) and not saying I was pissed (here it means drunk instead of angry). I do miss a few things about the US though—good Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurants, celebrating the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving (for some reason, holidays commemorating successful decoupling from England just haven't really caught on here...), and people who know how to pronounce “aluminum”. But oh, what I get in return—fabulous cheese, even better chocolate, and cheap flights to France.

We recently moved to Glasgow, going from a 200+room castle to our tiny Hobbit House, so my current goal is to understand Weegie-speak.

Scottish icon and tourist ambassador Francis Begbie
enjoying a quiet night out

Tell us about your work. What’s the latest?
My daughter Hannah and I have this tiny little life-altering addiction to superhero movies. Okay, we’d probably starve to death with chocolate only a room away if a Marvel hero was in front of us. (Except Hulk, of course, because that would be just wrong in so many ways, starting with the costume.) But in general, give some guy a spandex outfit and a mask and he owns us.

One night we started talking about superheroes with awkward powers. Let’s say you are the Man of Steel, but you don’t dare have sex with Lois Lane because your LittleMan of Steel could quite probably split her in two. (And we’re not even going to discuss the havoc your Swimmers of Steel could wreck on Woman of Pasta…)

The point is that when you think about it, most people with special powers would be lining up to get their normal lives back. That’s where Null City comes in. It takes our fantasy worlds and turns them into everyday life. After one day there, those with extra gifts turn into their closest human counterparts. Imps, for example, become baristas. 

(Of course, they’re now ex-PhD candidates in literature or classics who claim to be experts on third-world coffee blends and obscure world music groups. But hey – there is only so close to human that hellspawn can get…)

And then what? What if you’re one of the superheroes going about regular human lives as plumbers and realtors and smartphone app developers, and someone pulls the plug on your city? The dogs you’re walking turn back into third-generation hellhound/toy poodle mixes. 

(Hoodles?) The kids you’re babysitting turn out to be part witch, part dragon, and part Minnesota Lutheran and start conjuring golden hotdish casseroles and flying jello molds. And after several generations of backyard barbecues and poker nights, nobody’s spandex fits anymore.#

My daughter and I talked about Null City for her last year of highschool. The one thing we couldn’t figure out was who the villain would be, when everyone is a hero. The problem with heroes, though, is that they don’t all have the same goals. What if each group – angels, superheroes, and just plain humans – is willing to do whatever it takes to make their right thing happen? 

So Hannah headed off to University in Scotland and I headed to my computer. One year and many hours of video chats later, the first Null City book, One Way Fare, was published by Taliesin (now Hartwood). Its backstory is the founding of Null City. 

In the second book, Don’t Touch, the backstory is the Metro train, Null City’s connection with the outside world. Book three, Round Trip Fare, explores what happens when saving Null City might mean destroying the world. Along the way, I also published Tales From Null City as a fundraiser for the no-kill shelter movement.

Can we have an extract, Barb?

ROUND TRIP FARE by Barb TaubMarch 2011: Seattle
“Wait here.”She had, Carey reminded herself, served ARC warrants on some of the most dangerous and violent runners the Agency had ever seen. She’d been shot at, stabbed, and hit upside the head with a surprisingly lethal Prada handbag. Just today, she’d brought in her prisoner, and she had all the proper approvals signed-off for the check she’d requested. So was she really supposed to cower out in the hallway because some Accords Agency accountant was glaring at her?
When the accountant in question was a were-badger whose eyes were squinting, nose quivering, and top lip even now raising over her teeth?
Carey dove for the gray plastic chair by the doorway. “You got it.”The clock on the wall outside of Accounting must have been left from the days when the Agency’s offices belonged to the previous tenant, a now-bankrupt software company, because it showed the time in binary code. Near as Carey could figure, she’d been looking at featureless gray walls and floors accented only by the red lights on the binary clock for 38 minutes. Or three days. She never quite got the hang of those flashing dots. Either way, her shot at making it to her class was history. Even as she mentally winced at that pun, Carey heard her name.“Warden Parker. You haven’t brought me any work lately. Where’s the love?”“Hey, Frankie. Believe me, I was tempted today.” She grinned at the petite figure in the lab coat. The Agency’s resident pathologist had autopsied more than one of Carey’s search targets. “So, resurrected anyone lately?”
“As I explained at the time…”  The scientist’s tone was severe, but the eyes behind the rimless glasses crinkled with amusement. “He was only mostly dead.”“If you want to hang onto your geek creds, Frankie, you need to quote something more badass—or at least more recent—than Princess Bride.”
Carey’s former Academy roommate, Claire Danielsen, had once explained patiently that the three of them—Claire, Frankie, and her partner Warden Laurel Franklin—were Carey’s friends. Carey wasn’t sure about that whole friends concept, but when Claire translated that as good people to get drunk with, she decided she could live with the definition.
Carey moved her chin slightly toward the accountant glaring at them.
Frankie’s freckles stood out against cheeks gone suddenly pale. Short, frizzy brown hair fluttered as she held up both hands, palms out. “Uh, right. Well, I’m… going somewhere. Tell Marley that Laurel and I are off to Portland for the weekend but we’re on for Beer Tuesday.” As she backed carefully toward the door, Frankie didn’t take her eyes from the quivering accountant.
Carey didn’t blame her in the least. After all—badgers. “Hang on. I’ll come with.”

Does your work have a genre?
It's the urban fantasy/sort-of-steampunk/the odd time travel/romance/humor genre. (It's kind of a niche genre.) My publisher calls it “mature young adult” but I think that's just because condoms are involved.

In your review of The Night Porter, you said you don’t go for Literary Fiction. Why is that? I hear it is making a BIG comeback after years on the genre-enforced sidelines.
I was once in a bookclub that fancied itself literary if they read anything that made the Booker shortlist. [still shuddering] The thing is that nobody actually liked any of those books, but I was the only one with the nerve to say so. Why did I keep going? Well, since the books were so awful, they had to pad the meeting with incredible food and much (very good) wine. I'd still be going if we hadn't moved away.

The latest craze in New York. Nude book groups

Of course, if the books were all like The Night Porter, I might start going for the discussion too. (Who am I kidding? It would probably still be the wine...)

You are a noted – and brilliant – reviewer. A blogger too. How do you describe what you do when you meet someone for the first time?
Okay, I'm having trouble getting past the “noted and brilliant” bit. I have to read that about another—oh, say, million times—before I can focus. So (Noted! Brilliant!!) right... the question. If you're asking about how I do reviews, it's simple. I give every book five stars. Then as I'm reading, I make notes and take stars away for painful, stupid, awkward bits. 

For edit fails (I read a lot of self-pubs, which somehow often seems to mean self-edited) I give them three fails within the first few pages. If it goes over that without being cancelled out by great writing, I tell the author I can't give them a good review. In a few cases, stars that are taken away get returned for excellent writing and overall entertainment value. 

In very rare cases (The Night Porter!!!) I wish I had more than five stars to give.

If you're asking what I do when I meet human people in the real world? They pretty much get three strikes too. Most of them take those right away.

Paperbacks or e-reader?
E-reader please. (I travel a lot.) I will say that the daughter of a good friend came to visit recently. When she saw our little Hobbit House here in Glasgow, she commented that in the old days you could learn so much about people by looking at the books on their shelves. But now everyone has those on their Kindles.

How do we get kids off the X-Box and back in their bedrooms with a book?
First of all, I like the X-Box. Second, I must see a different group of kids, because I'm not sure how big a problem this is. Online, in social media, and by email I'm constantly meeting kids and young adults who are completely addicted to reading, and to writing as well. 

Frankly, my big worry is who will read all the volumes they are generating. That's a good problem for the world to have, if you ask me.

Three favourite books, two favourite CDs and favourite film
Books? Good Omens by Neil Gailman & Terry Pratchett is my go-to desert island fare. 

After that, I'd probably take Cien años de soledad by Gabriel García Márquez because I've always wanted to read it in the original Spanish but never really had time to focus. And finally, I'd take the biggest blank book I could find because I pretty much like my own stories best.

CDs? I love Beethoven's Piano Concerto #5, by Alfred Brendel with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Levine. Okay, I know people say there are better versions, but for sentimental reasons (I heard them in amazing concert performance!), this is the one. 

The other CD (this week anyway) is Trio, with Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, And Emmylou Harris.

Favorite film? Could I have the first (and only) season of Firefly? If not, how about Pride and Prejudice (the Colin Firth version of course).

You are invited for a walk with an inspirational figure. Where would you choose to go walking and who would you like to walk with?
I like to be around smart people. And the smartest person I ever worked for or met—arguably one of the smartest people on the planet—is Stephen Wolfram, physicist and youngest winner of the MacArthur “genius” award. 

When he needed a framework for his discoveries, he invented Mathematica, which calls itself (and is) “the world's definitive system of modern technical computing”. But the thing that never ceases to amaze me is just how interested Stephen is in pretty much everything. Hands down, that makes him the most fascinating person I've ever known, and I'd pretty much walk anywhere because I wouldn't be looking around anyway.

What does 2015 have in store for readers and supporters of Barb Taub?
Hopefully, with Round Trip Fare finished, I should be able to get a good start on the final book of the series. I've also been having fun blogging about travel, and that should continue. And of course, I have to focus on learning to at least understand Weegies.

Barb,  it’s been an absolute pleasure to meet you round the Cauldron, and I hope you have a terrific 2015 with your books - and also with the learning Glaswegian project.
Thanks Wiz, the pleasure was all mine.

Contact Barb

Buy Links:

Contact Barb Taub

BIO: In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb Taub wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side and an HR career. Following a daring daytime escape to England, she's lived in a medieval castle and a hobbit house with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled AussieDog. Now all her days are Saturdays, and she spends  them consulting with her daughter on Marvel heroes, Null City, and translating from British to American. 


Sunday, 8 March 2015

Who Dares Wins: Thriller author, Sheffield's E.L Lindley is....Around The Cauldron!

E.L Lindley, is, I am sure, familiar to many of you from her immensely supportive Twitter engagements and I met her recently through Rosie's Review Team, a popular and increasingly influential review and book blogging collective. 

For once, I didn't have to spend a fortune on phone calls as E lives just up the road from me in thriving Sheffield, the famous steel city of yore, where she writes accessible, funny and dramatic novels and short stories (of which one, linked here, is attracting rave reviews). A delight to talk to, I caught her by Wizphone as she wandered that remarkably nice new concourse just approaching Sheffield station. Here's what she had to say.

Tell us about yourself, E?
Well, where to start ... Hopefully, I’m a pretty nice person who happens to love stories. I love writing them, reading them, watching them on the big or small screen and listening to them in song form. I am a sucker for a story. 

Consequently, I spend most of my time either writing, reading or at the cinema. I try to allocate a bit of time for friends and reluctantly have to fit work in there as well, to fund my otherwise loafer-esque lifestyle. By trade I am a teacher although I ‘retired’ from the job proper in 2008 and now just do enough to keep the boat afloat so to speak.

You are a prolific author. Of your novels, which is the one that you recommend for new readers?
I suppose it depends on what you like as a reader. I love a good series to get my teeth into so, for me, I’d go straight to Business As Usual, which is the first story in the Georgie Connelly series. 

Buy EL Lindley's books HERE

Book Market

I know that for some readers though, a series is too much commitment and they prefer standalones, in which case Dare To Lose might be a good place to start. What I like about it is the fact that the protagonist, Nicola, is knocking on a bit. I know a lady’s not supposed to reveal her age but, when I wrote it I made her the same age as me – late 40s with 50 looming heavily on the horizon. I was fed up of only reading about young people having adventures and wanted to give a better representation of women. I know lots of fabulous women ranging from their 20s to their 70s and they are all more than capable of kicking a baddie’s arse.

When I read Dare to Lose, the face of Amanda Redman kept
appearing unbidden. in my consciousness

Can we have an extract?
Go on then, especially for you I’ve picked the bit where Valerie is introduced ...

"As Nicola ambled down her street, she had to admit she felt a little bit tipsy but life was definitely looking better than it had a few hours earlier. Even the thought of facing her mother didn’t seem so daunting. Pushing open the door, she immediately inhaled the tell-tale sign that her mother had been smoking although she had tried to mask the fact with liberal amounts of her cloying, cheap perfume.
“I’m home,” she called out, surprised that her mother wasn’t rooted in her usual spot at the kitchen table, reading a trashy women’s magazine or painting her nails. Nicola paused listening; she could hear faint sounds coming from upstairs her mother was obviously home. Sighing, she made her way to the kitchen, wondering what to make for supper.Gazing into the fridge for inspiration, she could hear voices and, at the same time she realised her mother wasn’t alone, Valerie appeared in the doorway wearing her robe. Nicola gaped at her confused, since when did her mother favour afternoon naps? Her mind was struggling to process what was actually going on when a silver haired man in his seventies suddenly appeared behind her mother, adjusting clothing which had obviously been hastily thrown on. He was sweating and looked uncomfortable as Nicola glared murderously at him. This was just too much.
“Get out of my house!” she shouted, surprising herself as much as the two pensioners, who were now staring at her like naughty children. “Go on, out!” She moved towards the man, who quickly made his way to the front door. Valerie glowered at her daughter petulantly before hurrying to see him out.
Standing in the middle of her kitchen, Nicola took a series of deep breaths. She could barely believe what had just happened. Her mother swept back into the kitchen, pouting in outraged umbrage. Nicola lifted a hand, silencing her before she could begin to speak.
“Do not say a word,” she ordered, “Not one word.” Valerie huffed and puffed before dropping her eyes away from Nicola’s blazing, accusatory gaze. “How dare you bring dirty old men back into my house for sex? You disgust me! In future, I recommend that you book a hotel room or better yet find yourself somewhere else to live and move out.” There she had said it. Valerie looked at her sadly.
“Oh Nicky, we were just having a bit of fun. Ron is not a dirty old man; he is a very nice gentleman from my dance club. We have been partnering up for a few weeks now, there is a lot of chemistry between us I don’t know if you noticed.”“For God’s sake, mother, you are seventy years old.”“So what? I am still alive and kicking aren’t I? We are a long time dead Nicky, you would be as well to remember that yourself.” With that, the other woman breezed out of the kitchen, stomping up the stairs back to her own room."

I am thoroughly enjoying “Dare to Lose”. Is that autobiographical in origin? The mother in the book is extremely funny.
Thank you, I’m so glad you’re enjoying it. It’s not strictly autobiographical but I suppose inevitably there are bits of me in there. I wrote Nicola as a disillusioned teacher because that’s what I know and I gave her the dream of owning her own cafe because that was my not so secret fantasy. I got to run my own cafe vicariously through Nicola and I have to say it put me right off – I was exhausted just writing about all that cooking and baking. In real life, I can barely cobble beans on toast together so I had to rely on my friend, who’s a terrific cook, for food ideas. 

David Kelly (RIP). Kitchen porter in seventies cafecom, Robin's Nest

As for the mother character, Valerie, I love the idea of a wild pensioner and Georgie Connelly has a larger than life mother as well. My own mother is nothing like that; she is very quiet and sensible, if anything the opposite of Valerie. Maybe exploring the idea of crazy mothers is a form of therapy or wish fulfilment. Strangely all of my protagonists seem to have had fractured childhoods, whereas my own was very stable and ordinary.

Why are Georgie’s thrillers set in the US? Is there a reason for that?
When I first started out, I decided to set the stories in the US for a number of reasons. Georgie is a film maker so it makes sense that she would be based in LA and, as a reader, the thrillers I like best are the ones set in America. I think I’ve watched too many films because, even though I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the US, it still holds that magical, exciting quality for me. I suppose it’s a form of escapism from the everyday familiar. The beauty of Google means, as story tellers, the whole world is quite literally at our finger tips.

Your novels are substantial beasts. Are you a fan of the long book? Is there a place for the long book in a world where a limited concentration span is apparently valued?
Again I think it’s horses for courses, there are lots of great shorter books available for people who prefer a quick read but I like something to get my teeth into. I have to confess when I’m writing I can’t bear to think about an audience, it would cripple me with anxiety, so I have to write for myself. I write the books that I want to read although it’s always a bonus if someone else likes them as well. I’ve written one shorter book, Family Ties. 

Initially I wrote it with the idea of submitting it to Mills and Boon who have a 50k word limit. I’d never attempted a straight romance before and the pesky thing kept trying to get away from me, straying into action/adventure territory. I did submit it to Mills and Boon and they said lots of nice things about it but ultimately it didn’t fit into any of their romantic sub-genres. It was because of their positive feedback that I published it myself anyway but I have to say, I found the shorter format a bit frustrating as I had to curtail so many ideas.

Of your novels, which is the one you would take to the Final Ball.
Ha ha – that’s like asking a parent who their favourite child is. The last book I wrote was the fourth one in the Georgie Connelly series called False Allegiance and so I hope that’s the best one. 

Without sounding too hippy-dippy, I like to think that as writers on a life-long journey we evolve and improve so that the best writing is always whatever is in front of us. That being said, I’m really fond of Business As Usual because it was my first novel and the one that starts the ball rolling for Georgie. I’m prevaricating, aren’t I?

Indeed you are! You wrote a brilliant short story http://ellindley.weebly.com/blog/welcome-to-the-jungle-short-story
about being a teacher. How accurate is this? I was in physical pain reading it.
That’s very kind of you to say, thank you. I think the sentiment behind it is accurate but the protagonist is just made up. I started teaching in the mid 80s and it was the best job in the world but there’s a reason why we are now looking at a critical shortage of teachers. The constant scrutiny that teachers are under from all sides is unbearable. 

In terms of the catastrophic collision between the professional and the personal, that’s a danger that’s always been there especially when you’re young. 

My early teaching career was in Brighton and there was always the potential for bumping into an ex-student or sixth formers when you were out on the lash. 

Later in my career I came back to my home city of Sheffield and then, it became the horror of sitting across from parents who looked vaguely familiar, and worrying that you maybe snogged them behind the youth club as a teenager.

Sheffield's Finest, Heaven 17

How do we get kids off the PS 3 and back in their bedrooms with a book?
Getting kids reading is something I feel very strongly about and I applaud your Brilliant Books initiative. 


I think the problem lies with the way that over the last ten years or so, the respective governments have used education as a political football and one of the biggest casualties has been reading for pleasure. 

Education is now about passing exams and coaching students in the skills they need in order to do that. The pressure on schools to perform well in the league tables has created exam factories with no room on the curriculum for actually reading books. The sad thing is, the less affluent schools have the most pressure on them to drive exam results up and yet these are the kids who might not live in homes where reading is a priority. 

Given the current economic climate and proclivity for ‘zero hour contracts’ it’s not unusual for some parents to be working three jobs to make ends meet and so it’s understandable that they might not have time to read with their kids in the way we would all, in an ideal world, like to see. This is where schools should have a moral obligation to step in and bridge the gap. 

It’s ironic that exam results have never been so high but employers and universities are all complaining that young people don’t have independent thinking skills, good literacy or empathy and that’s because we no longer give our children a well-rounded education but simply train them to perform in exams. I told you I feel passionately about it and I’m not even done yet. I also think the problem is exacerbated by the poor role models that kids look up to. Boys in particular look up to footballers and, I’m sure there are some well-read ones, but sadly the whole football culture seems to me tarnished by testosterone fuelled thuggishness. Boys don’t want to be associated with reading as they think it makes them look weak. 

Joey Essex - a triumph of form over content

Likewise with all the reality shows that elevate stupidity, in the form of people like Joey Essex, to levels of entertainment and acceptability. It’s ironic that reading is often viewed by kids as something that will lessen their standing and reputation because it’s actually the most empowering thing in the world.

Three favourite books, two favourite CDs and favourite film
Well, in light of what I’ve just said, one of my favourite school memories is of my English teacher reading aloud to the class, purely for the joy of it, and my favourite was The Mayor of Casterbridge. 

The strange thing is, I’m not a massive fan of Thomas Hardy but I think it was the experience of being read to with a group of people that made it so enjoyable. As a teacher, one of the books I used to love reading with my classes was To Kill a Mockingbird, it’s a book that has the power to really change how kids see the world. 

I think it was a real surprise for most people when Harper Lee recently announced that she is to release the sequel after all these years. There must be an incredible amount of pressure on her though to live up to the success of To Kill a Mockingbird which is such a beloved book by so many readers. 

My third book would be Birdy by William Wharton, which I’ve read a couple of times and find really moving. It’s about two boys and how WW2 destroyed their lives. One is physically maimed and the other one mentally.

As for CDs, this is tricky. I’m going to refine my search by imagining I’m going down on a plane and only have time to listen to one CD so it will be the last thing I ever hear. Right, my top choice would have to be Meat is Murder by The Smiths, I’d want to go out with Morrissey and I think the songs on here are just timeless. 

I never get tired of listening to them – I mean who wouldn’t want to listen to Rusholme Ruffians in their final moments? 

My other choice would be The River by Bruce Springsteen, although it’s a double album so the plane would have to drop slowly. I think Bruce is king of the story telling song which is why I like him so much. My favourite song is Point Blank, it’s so poignantly beautiful.

I’m going to choose a film that I could literally watch on a loop. Whatever your ailment, this film is the cure for it and it is Guys and Dolls. 

They should actually prescribe this film on the NHS it’s so feel good – it’s got everything, style, great songs, it’s really funny and we get to see Marlon Brando singing and dancing. What’s not to love?

Invite a) one author b) one musician and c) one inspirational figure to dinner at your house. The cooker is on the blink again so you have to ring out. What would you choose?
The pressure, the pressure – right, I’d go for Sam Shepard because I think he is one of the best living playwrights. He really gets to the heart of what it is to be human and all the messy business that goes with it. Plus I quite fancy him, even though he’s in his 70s he’s still got it. 

My musician would be Morrissey for no other reason than I adore him to the point of borderline insanity. 

He has been my invisible friend for many years so it would be nice to actually meet him. As for inspirational figure, I’d go for Mae West (even though she’s dead), who I don’t think a lot of people realise was a woman before her time. 

She was a writer and staunch feminist long before the term had even been coined. Her writing was deemed so unsuitable for a woman because it dealt with issues such as sexuality, she was arrested. More importantly though, I imagine she’d be funny as hell and keep Sam and Morrissey on their toes.

The food would be tricky because of Morrissey’s rabid vegetarianism. He’d probably throw a strop if I served anything that had even looked sideways at a meat product so maybe a vegetarian curry. Or perhaps we’d just bypass the food and get straight to the wine.

What does 2015 have in store for readers and supporters of EL Lindley
I’m hoping that 2015 is going to see two novels published. I’ve almost finished the fifth in the Georgie Connelly series, which is set in London and sees Georgie making a rare visit to her home territory. It’s been a long time since my last novel was published, largely down to a combination of a stint spent working full-time, which made it hard to devote much time to writing and writer’s block. 

Before I started the Georgie one, I was about 70k words into a standalone when I suddenly became blighted with the dreaded block so I left it and switched to Georgie. Once this is up and running though I’m going to get back to it and finish it. Then, who knows?

E, thank you for joining me today. It's been an absolute pleasure. I adored Dare To Lose and am looking forward to reading your other work this year. I wish you the best of luck.

Thank you so much for having me around the cauldron. I’m a big fan and have really enjoyed answering the questions which, as always, were A+.


Twitter - @LindleyE
Review blog - http://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

Tears are Not Enough. ABC - more of
Sheffield's favourite sons...

Kids love to read -let's get them excited about it! #brilliantbooks

Friday, 20 February 2015

Blogger and War of the Roses author Catherine Hokin is...around the Cauldron!

Last week, on one of Twitter's many Share Days, I noticed a blog called Heroine Chic written by one Catherine Hokin. I know very little about her - as much as you do - but was extremely taken with the blog. It's wit, humour, subtext and clarity of language was notable. Once I discovered she was an author - whose book is due to be released shortly - I contacted her and arranged a natter on the Wizphone. A native of Glasgow (where this week, the iconic Kings Cafe was taken over and turned into a burger joint), I learned loads about her. Here is what she had to say.

Tell us about yourself, Catherine
Delighted to be at the cauldron - given that I once wrote a thesis on witchcraft, it seems a good place to be! I live in Glasgow, have 3 kids of varying sizes but all bigger than me and run my a business with my husband. In previous incarnations I’ve been a teacher, a political speech writer and a marketing drone. 

I’m married to a Chicago boy who understands that creativity depends on regular supplies of chocolate and Honey Jack.

https://www.catherinehokin.com - incuding "Twisted" short stories  #Follow

Whereabouts are you from?
The Lake District via a Liverpool family. The main thing that living in the country taught me was that I love living in cities.

Have you been writing and blogging long, or is this new?
I started blogging in December 2014 in a blatant attempt to build an audience for my about-to-be-published novel – I hadn’t realised how much fun it would be. I’ve tried different styles of writing on and off for years but it all started properly in January 2014 when I realised I had to stop treating becoming an author as a pipe-dream and really give it a shot.

Catherine's Excellent Heroine Chic Blog

What have you written? What’s your latest work?
I have my first novel out this year with Yolk Publishing – it’s historical fiction, is called ‘Blood and Roses’ and is about Margaret of Anjou, one of the key protagonists in the Wars of the Roses. 

Getting an actual proper publishing contract was amazing, I still don’t quite believe it. I’ve also started writing short stories – one of them was chosen as runner up for the 2014 Prolitzer Prize, the best name ever which I make sure to mis-pronounce on a regular basis.

Can we have an extract?
The novel is still with the editor but I can give you a peak at the cover mock-up:

This is only temporary and has been described as looking like a 1970s gardening catalogue - (ha ha ha - Ed) - trust me there’s more blood than roses in the real thing. There’s an extract from the published short ‘Now You See Me’ at my website 

Are you flamboyant and productive? Or methodical and considered?

The clothes belie the writing style! I dress like the first and write like the second…

 I’m passionate about writing but the best advice I was given was to treat it like a job if you want to make it real – I have 2 or 3 things on the go at once so there’s always something to write and I don’t need to wait for inspiration. Once I start writing, all kinds of writing starts.

What challenges are you facing as an author and a blogger? How are you overcoming them?
The challenge for any writer is to get people to read what you write, otherwise it’s just marks on a page. I was lucky that I got an agent interested enough in the first draft of ‘Blood and Roses’ to give me loads of input into what wasn’t working. Three redrafts later it got picked up by a publisher. As a blogger, again it’s about getting heard among the noise – I’ve found Twitter invaluable and there’s a great community there if you engage, #Sunday Blog Share and #Monday Blog have been fantastic for routing traffic. And try to write like a reader – I’m still learning.

Why did you remove unrepentant leftie from your Twitter profile? Have you converted to UKIP?
Ha ha – not even if hell froze over! I just wanted to mix the message up and didn’t want to be accused of jumping on the bandwagon that is the 50 shades of grey of current electioneering. Damn, just jumped on another bandwagon…

Why Day of the Dead?
I’ve always been fascinated by death customs – where I come from there is an old tradition of sin-eating where you basically paid someone to eat a cake at a funeral which contained the dead person’s sins. 

Awesome. When I was teaching literature, I taught a lot of South American magical realism – this led to a study of Day of the Dead rituals and the art associated with it, a lot of which seemed to involved skeletons in sequins. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Three favourite books, two favourite CDs and favourite film
So hard to choose! 

Current film


Books – which keep changing like everything else:

Invite a) one comedian  b) one writer and c) one inspirational figure to dinner, chez vous. And what food theme would you choose?
I’m going to cheat – my comedian is TinaFey&AmyPoehler who I have decided is now one entity, my writer is Will Self and my inspirational figure is Charles Rennie Mckintosh (not Frank Zappa who my daughter once mistook him for)

They are all wonderfully opinionated so I decided the food theme should be ‘Eat Your Words’. Left to me that would be three courses of alphabetti spaghetti so I’m going to call on the services of Heston Blumenthal and ask him to do one of his amazing feasts. I imagine something involving breakfast foods and lemons for my comedians (tv show gag), that is beautifully constructed for Mr Mackintosh and has something absurd like a cockatrice for Mr Words.

What does 2015 have in store for readers and supporters of Catherine Hokin
The publication of my novel ‘Blood and Roses’ by Yolk Publishing

Lots more recasting of tv, film, literature and life in general at Heroine Chic – the idea is to keep it funny but also make some serious points about the way women are portrayed in the media and society. I do like a rant.

Catherine's Excellent Heroine Chic Blog

Lots more engagement with fellow writers – I’ve done a couple of reviews and it’s a real pleasure to be asked – and lots more attempts to turn this mad craft of writing into something resembling a proper job so I don’t have to keep going to the proper job.

Catherine, thank you for coming around the Cauldron and I wish you all the best for the future.
Cheers, Wiz.

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