Friday, 30 September 2016

Getting To Know...Dane Cobain

Today on Getting To Know... I'm bringing another excellent author, Dane Cobain, who has kindly answered my questions, 

Your debut novella, No Rest For The Wicked, is a supernatural thriller, what drew you to that genre in particular?

That’s a tough one to answer! I write in a lot of different genres, but I don’t necessarily start with a particular genre in mind – in fact, I’d never actually categorised it until it came to release it. No Rest for the Wicked was inspired by a nightmare that I had about the Angels – I developed the idea after going back over the notes that I made, and it just sort of turned into a supernatural thriller when I worked on the story line and the Angels’ backstory.

Your collection of poetry, Eyes Like Lighthouses When The Boats Come Home, was released earlier this year, do you have a preference between writing a novel or poetry?

I like them both, in different ways. I tend to write a poem a day on my cigarette breaks, whilst a novel takes at least a year to plan, write and edit. I memorise my poems and perform them and so a poetry collection pretty much writes itself over time, so I guess it’s a little easier. I usually say that the difference between No Rest for the Wicked and Eyes Like Lighthouses is that the former represents my heart and the latter represents my soul. Please don’t make me choose between them!

Novels written in verse are very popular at the moment, will we ever see you combine the two?

I have no immediate plans, although I did start a project like that about ten years ago, when I was first starting out. I have done some work on an epic poem based on the story of the Titanic and so that might surface at some point, but it’s not a priority at the moment!

You also have a fabulous book review blog, Social Bookshelves, what inspired you to set this up?

I work in social media marketing, and so I thought it’d be a good idea to set up a blog site so that I could get a little more practice. I love books (all authors do!) and so it seemed like the natural thing to write about. In the end, I decided to review every book I own – which is every book I’ve ever read!

When you are writing, so you have to set a certain mood or be in a set place depending on whether you are writing poetry or a novel?

I suppose that different moods and settings help me to be a little more efficient, but I can write at any time in any place. Plus, with poetry, I just distill whatever I’m feeling into whatever I’m writing – if I’m sad, I just write a sad poem.

When you're not reading or writing, what would we find you doing?

I’m almost always either reading or writing – if I’m not doing that, I’m probably either at work or at the pub. I also play guitar and sing, so sometimes I do that to blow off a little steam.

Do you have a favourite author?

It’s hard to pick just one, but I love Graham Greene, Charles Bukowski, Ernest Hemingway, Phillip Pullman, Terry Pratchett and a bunch of others. I’m also getting heavily into Stephen King at the moment – I’m in the middle of reading his Dark Tower series at the moment.

Have you always known that you wanted to be an author?

Pretty much – when I was a kid, I wanted to be a rock star, but then as I grew a little older, I realised that it wasn’t really achievable. Besides, writing is my passion – writing songs and making music is just a facet of that.

I believe that you're also a musician, what instruments do you play and can you sing?

I like to think I can! I mainly play guitar and sing, although I dabble with other instruments when I’m recording – mainly bass, a chord here and there on a keyboard and some percussion on a cajon.

What can we look forward to from you in the future?

I’ve got loads of stuff planned! My next release, a non-fiction book called Social Paranoia: How Consumers and Brands Can Stay Safe in a Connected World, came out on August 22nd. After that, I’m working on a horror novella and screenplay called Come On Up to the House and an anthology of new writing with 21 other authors, which will be called Subject Verb Object. I’m also writing the first draft of the first book in a detective novel series, which should be out sometime in 2017. It’s all busy, busy, busy!

Thank you so much to Dane for taking time out of his SUPER busy schedule to answer my questions!

To connect with Dane

Twitter - @danecobain

A Cornish Christmas by Lily Graham - Release Day Book Blitz

Life Of A Nerdish Mum is taking part in the release day blog blitz of A Cornish Christmas by Lily Graham and as it's such a special occasion I have information about the book and a peek at chapter one! 

A Cornish Christmas synopsis

Nestled in the Cornish village of Cloudsea, sits Sea Cottage – the perfect place for some Christmas magic …

At last Ivy is looking forward to Christmas. She and her husband Stuart have moved to their perfect little cottage by the sea - a haven alongside the rugged cliffs that look out to the Atlantic Ocean. She’s pregnant with their much-longed for first baby and for the first time, since the death of her beloved mother, Ivy feels like things are going to be alright.

But there is trouble ahead. It soon emerges that Stuart has been keeping secrets from Ivy, and suddenly she misses her mum more than ever. 
When Ivy stumbles across a letter from her mother hidden in an old writing desk, secrets from the past come hurtling into the present. But could her mother’s words help Ivy in her time of need? Ivy is about to discover that the future is full of unexpected surprises and Christmas at Sea Cottage promises to be one to remember. 

This Christmas warm your heart and escape to the Cornish coast for an uplifting story of love, secrets and new beginnings that you will remember for many Christmases to come.


The Writing Desk

Even now it seemed to wait.
Part of me, a small irrational part, needed it to stay exactly where it was, atop the faded Persian rug, bowing beneath the visceral pulse of her letters and the remembered whisper from the scratch of her pen. The rosewood chair, with its slim turned-out legs, suspended forevermore in hopeful expectation of her return. Like me, I wondered if it couldn’t help but wish that somehow she still could.
I hadn’t had the strength to clear it, nor the will. Neither had Dad and so it remained standing sentry, as it had throughout the years with Mum at the wheel, the heart, the hub of the living room.
If I closed my eyes, I could still hear her hum along to Tchaikovsky – her pre-Christmas music – as she wrapped up presents with strings, ribbons and clear cellophane, into which she’d scatter stardust and moonbeams, or at least so it seemed to my young eyes. Each gift, a gift within a gift.
One of my earliest memories is of me sitting before the fire, rolling a length of thick red yarn for Fat Arnold, our squashed-face Persian, who languished by the warmth, his fur pearly white in the glow. His one eye open while his paw twitched, as if to say he’d play, if only he could find the will. In the soft light Mum sat and laughed, the firelight casting lowlights in her long blonde hair. I shut my eyes and took a deep breath, away from the memory of her smile.
Dad wanted me to have it: her old writing desk. I couldn’t bear to think of the living room without it, but he insisted. He’d looked at me, above his round horn-rimmed glasses, perpetual tufts of coarse grey hair poking out mad-hatter style on either side of his head, and said with his faraway philosopher’s smile, ‘Ivy, it would have made her happy, knowing that you had it. . .’ And I knew I’d lost.
Still it had taken me two weeks to get up the nerve. Two weeks and Stuart’s gentle yet insistent prodding. He’d offered to help, to at least clear it for me, and bring it through to our new home so that I wouldn’t have to face it. Wouldn’t have to reopen a scar that was trying its best to heal. He’d meant well. I knew that he would’ve treated her things reverently; he would’ve stacked all her letters, tied them up with string, his long fingers slowly rolling up the lengths of old ribbon and carefully putting them away into a someday box that I could open when I was ready. It was his way, his sweet, considerate Stuart way. But I knew I had to be the one who did it. Like a bittersweet rite of passage, some sad things only you can do yourself. So I gathered up my will, along with the box at my feet and began.
It was both harder and easier than I expected. Seeing her things as she left them should have made the lump in my throat unbearable, it should have been intolerable, but it wasn’t somehow.
I began with the drawer, emptying it of its collection of creamy, loose-leafed paper; fine ribbons; and assorted string, working my way to the heart of the Victorian desk, with its warren of pigeon holes, packed with old letters, patterned envelopes, stamps, watercolour brushes, and tubes of half-finished paint.
But it was the half-finished tasks that made the breath catch in my throat. A hand-painted Christmas card, with Santa’s sleigh and reindeer flying over the chimney tops, poor Rudolph eternally in wait for his little watercolour nose. Mum had always made her own, more magical and whimsical than any you could buy. My fingers shook as I held the card in my hand, my throat tight. Seeing this, it’s little wonder I became a children’s book illustrator. I put it on top of the pile, so that later I could paint in Santa’s missing guiding light.
It was only when I made to close the desk that I saw it: a paper triangle peeking out from the metal hinge. It was tightly wedged but, after some wiggling, I pried it loose, only – in a way – to wish I hadn’t.
It was a beautiful, vintage French postcard, like the ones we’d bought when we holidayed there, when I was fifteen and fell in love with everything en fran├žais. It had a faded sepia print of the Jardin des Tuileries on the cover, and in elegant Century print it read ‘[Century font writing] Carte Postale’ on the back.
It was blank. Except for two words, two wretchedly perfect little words that caused the tears that had threatened all morning to finally erupt.
Darling Ivy
It was addressed to me. I didn’t know which was worse: the unexpected blow of being called ‘Darling Ivy’ one last time, finding out she’d had this last unexpected gift waiting for me all along, or that she’d never finish it. I suppose it was a combination of all three.
Three velvet-tipped daggers that impaled my heart.
I placed it in the box together with the unfinished Christmas card and sobbed, as I hadn’t allowed myself to for years.
Five years ago, when she passed, I believed that I’d never stop. A friend had told me that ‘time heals all wounds’ and it had taken every ounce of strength not to give her a wound that time would never heal, even though I knew she’d meant well. Time, I knew, couldn’t heal this type of wound. Death is not something you get over. It’s the rip that exposes life in a before and after chasm and all you can do is try to exist as best you can in the after. Time could only really offer a moment when the urge to scream would become a little less.
Another friend of mine, who’d lost his leg and his father in the same day, explained it better. He’d said that it was a loss that every day you manage and some days are better than others. That seemed fair. He’d said that death for him was like the loss of the limb, as even on those good days you were living in the shadow of what you had lost. It wasn’t something you recovered from completely, no matter how many people, yourself included, pretended otherwise. Somehow that helped, and I’d gotten used to living with it, which I suppose was what he meant.
The desk wasn’t heavy. Such a substantial part of my childhood, it felt like it should weigh more than it did, but it didn’t and I managed it easily alone. I picked it up and crossed the living room, through the blue-carpeted passage, pausing only to shift it slightly as I exited the back door towards my car, a mint green Mini Cooper.
Setting the desk down on the cobbled path, I opened up my boot, releasing the back seats so they folded over before setting the desk on top, with a little bit of careful manoeuvring. It felt strange to see it there, smaller than I remembered. I shut the boot and went back inside for the chair and the box where I’d placed all her things; there was never any question of leaving it behind. On my way back, I locked up Dad’s house, a small smile unfurling as I noticed the little wreath he’d placed on the door, like a green shoot through the snow after the longest winter. It hadn’t been Christmas here for many years.
Back to my car, I squeezed the chair in next to the desk and placed the box on the passenger seat before I climbed in and started the engine. As the car warmed, I looked at my reflection in the side mirror and laughed, a sad groaning laugh.
My eyeliner had made tracks all down my face, leaving a thick trail into my ears, and black blobs on either side of my lobes so that I looked like I’d participated in some African ritual, or had survived the mosh pit at some death metal goth fest. With my long dark blonde curls, coral knitted cap and blue eyes, it made me look a little zombiefied.
I wiped my face and ears and grinned despite myself. ‘God, Mum, thanks for that!’ I put the car in gear and backed out of the winding drive, towards the coastal road.
It was hard to believe I was back, after all these years.
London had been exciting, tiring, and trying. And grey, so very grey. Down here, it seemed, was where they keep the light; my senses felt as if they’d been turned up.
For a while, London had been good though, especially after Mum. For what it lacked in hued lustre, it made up for by being alive with people, ideas, and the hustling bustle. It was a different kind of pace. A constant rush. Yet, lately I’d craved the stillness and the quiet. So when The Fudge Files, a children’s fiction series that I co-wrote and illustrated with my best friend Catherine Talty, about a talking English bulldog from Cornwall who solves crimes, became a bestseller, we were finally able to escape to the country.
In his own way, Stuart had wanted the move more than I did; he was one of those strange creatures who’d actually grown up in London, and said that this meant it was high time that he tried something else.
In typical Stuart fashion, he had these rather grand ideas about becoming a self-sustaining farmer – something akin to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – and setting up a smallholding similar to Hugh’s River Cottage. The simple fact of it being Cornwall, not Dorset, was considered inconsequential. Which perhaps it was. I had to smile. Our River Cottage was called Sea Cottage (very original that), yet was every bit as exquisite as its namesake, with a rambling half acre of countryside, alongside rugged cliffs that overlooked the aquamarine waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the gorgeous village of Cloudsea with its mile-long meandering ribbon of whitewashed cottages with window frames and doors in every shade of blue imaginable, perched amid the wild, untamed landscape, seemingly amongst the clouds, tumbling down to the sea. It was the place I always dreamt about when someone asked me where I would choose to live if I could magically supplant myself with a snap of my fingers or be granted a single genie’s wish. Cloudsea. And now. . . now we lived here. It was still hard to believe.
So far our ‘livestock’ consisted of four laying hens, two grey cats named Pepper and Pots, and an English bulldog named Muppet – the living, slobbering and singular inspiration behind Detective Sergeant Fudge (Terrier Division) of The Fudge Files, as created by Catherine, Muppet’s official godmother.
Despite Stuart’s noble intentions, he was finding it difficult to come to terms with the idea of keeping animals as anything besides pets. Personally, I was a little grateful for that. We assuaged our consciences though by ensuring that we supported local organic farms, where we were sure that all the animals were humanely treated.
But what we lacked in livestock, Stuart made up for in vegetation. His potager was his pride and joy and even now, in the heart of winter, he kept a polytunnel greenhouse that kept us in fresh vegetables throughout the year. Or at least that was the plan; we’d only been here since late summer. I couldn’t imagine his excitement come spring.
For me Cornwall was both a fresh start and a homecoming. For the first time ever I had my own art studio up in the attic, with dove grey walls, white wooden floors, and a wall full of shelves brimming with all my art supplies; from fine watercolour paper to piles of brushes and paint in every texture and medium that my art-shop-loving heart could afford. The studio, dominated by the mammoth table, with its slim Queen Anne legs, alongside the twin windows, made it a haven, with its view of the rugged countryside and sea. One where I planned to finish writing and illustrating my first solo children’s book.
Now, with our new home and the news that we’d been waiting seven years to hear, it would all be a new start for us.
I was finally, finally pregnant.
Seven rounds of in vitro fertilisation, which had included 2,553 days, 152 pointless fights, five serious, two mortgages, countless stolen tears in the dead of the night in the downstairs bathroom in our old London flat, my fist wedged in my mouth to stem the sound, and infinite days spent wavering between hope and despair, wondering if we should just give up and stop trying. That day, thankfully, hadn’t come.
And now I was twelve weeks pregnant. I still couldn’t believe it. We hadn’t told Dad yet; I didn’t want to get his hopes up, or tempt fate; we’d played that black card before.
Our hopes. . . well, they’d already soared above the stars.
It was why I so desperately wished Mum were here now. It would have made all of this more bearable. She had a way of making sense of the insensible, of offering hope at the darkest times, when all I wanted to do was run away. I missed how we used to sit up late at night by the fire in the living room, a pot of tea on the floor, while Fat Arnold dozed at our feet and she soothed my troubled fears and worries – the most patient of listeners, the staunchest of friends. Now, with so many failed pregnancies, including two miscarriages, the memory of which was like shrapnel embedded in our hearts, so that our lives had been laced with an expectant tinge of despair, primed for the nightmare to unfold, never daring to hope for the alternative; we were encouraged to hope. It was different, everyone said so, and I needed to trust that this time it would finally happen, that we’d finally have a baby, like the doctors seemed to think we would. Stuart had been wonderful, as had Catherine, but I needed Mum really, and her unshakeable, unbreakable faith.
There are a few times in a woman’s life when she needs her mother. For me, my wedding was one and I was lucky to have her there, if luck was what it was, because it seemed to be sheer and utter determination on her part. It had been so important to her to be there, even though all her doctors had told us to say our goodbyes. I will never know what it cost her to hold on the way she did, but she did and she stayed a further two years after that. In the end, it was perhaps the cruellest part, because when she did go, I’d convinced myself that somehow she’d be able to stay.
But this, this was different. I needed her now, more than ever. As I drove, the unstoppable flow of tears pooling in the hollow of my throat, I wished that we could have banked those two years, those two precious years that she had fought so hard and hung on for, so that she could be here with me now when I needed her the most.

To connect with Lily Graham 

Lily's Twitter - @lilywritesbooks

To pick up a copy of A Cornish Christmas click here for the UK and here for the USA

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Hunted: The Zodiac Murders - Mark Hewitt

Recently I have been wanting to read more non fiction and one of my favourite things to do while ironing, cleaning etc is to watch documentaries on serial killers. It's my guilty pleasure. In turn I also enjoy reading about serial killers and so when I got the chance to read Hunted: The Zodiac Murders by Mark Hewitt I jumped at it.

I have seen documentaries on the Zodiac killer, so I knew a lot of the basic information about the killings and the investigation, I actually thought I knew quite a lot but this book certainly proved that I didn't. There is so much information that I had never heard before and so many leads which sound incredibly interesting that would have changed my perspective about the whole situation had I heard them before.

This book is incredibly well researched and is very well written, there is no sensationalising of the facts or any particularly biased opinions forced upon the reader. The author very clearly lays out the information and in chronological order which I always think is a bonus.

There were at times what I felt like information dumps, which I can imagine was very hard to prevent with how much information was being presented throughout the book, but there were two occasions I had to stop myself from skimming because I was getting too much information to process in one go. Having only two moments of this though in a long book with a lot of information is actually really good.

Overall a very good and fascinating read and one I will recommend. I am also now looking forward to future books in this series by Mark Hewitt.

Thank you very much to Genius Book Publishing for a copy of Hunted in exchange for an honest review.

Hunted: The Zodiac Killers is now available HERE


The Zodiac occupies a special place in the annals of the “Serial Killer Hall of Fame.” Claiming the lives of at least 5 young victims and taunting the police in telephone calls and cryptic letters, he terrorised Northern California from 1966 to 1974 and beyond. Despite his appalling acts of violence, he was never arrested—he has never even been identified. 

Thousands of men have been accused; nearly 2,500 have been investigated. The police lack only the name of the perpetrator. Never has there been more passionate interest in the Zodiac serial killer. Never has there been more FOIA-released information on his crime spree and the subsequent law enforcement investigation. Yet, never before has a carefully-researched scholarly treatment of this otherwise eminently solvable riddle been attempted. That is, until now.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Upcoming Book Spotlight - Her Last Breath by J.A. Schneider

Last week the pre order became available for Her Last Breath by J.A. Schneider and at the same time the cover was released - just how beautiful is that cover! On Life Of A Nerdish Mum today I'm giving a spotlight on the book with an extract and the poster for the upcoming blog tour which begins on the 21st of October which is the day of release for Her Last Breath. 

About The Book

A chilling psychological thriller about a woman caught between two men...
Mari Gill wakes to horror in a strange apartment next to a murdered man, and can't remember the night before. Accused of murder, she feels torn between her husband, a successful defense attorney, and a mysterious, kind man who wants to help. Can she trust either of them - or even her friends? Detective Kerri Blasco battles her police bosses believing Mari is innocent...but is she?

It begins in horror…
Mari Gill’s hand felt sticky.
That was the first thing to trouble her, still clinging to the safe, solid darkness of sleep. Next came pain in her head, a different kind of pain from the other thing, so she squeezed her eyes shut, dreading the day…
…but the stickiness bothered.
Involuntarily, she felt her fingers open and close.
Something was wrong there, in her hand. She squinted open; peered at it. 
Her palm was smeared dark red.
She blinked. Saw more red smear on her forearm, then the torn cap sleeve of last night’s black dress, then the sheet under her arm, stained with…
“Huh?” Her eyes grew wide before her mind processed it.
Thrashing onto her back, Mari saw bloodied sheet reaching halfway up the torn front of her dress, and then saw an arm. A man’s arm, faintly blue and blood-smeared – and with a cry her whole body practically flipped from the bed. “Oh God!”
She hit the floor hard and then scrabbled back up, gaped wildly and saw him. Her shocked vision jumped and saw two then one then two of him on his back, eyes closed, mouth open dribbling caked blood. She froze; gasped. Couldn’t take in air seeing his black hair, his chest hidden under a tent of bloodied sheet. 
A high, involuntary whisper. Mari’s heart rocketed but she felt compelled; jerked out a hand and pulled away the sheet.
Under it a knife, its handle long and black, protruding from his chest. 
“Oh God!” Her scream got it out but used up breath as she spun on her knees, recognizing the new trouble. Where was her handbag? What was this place? Who was that guy?
Her bag, her bag…she crawled over hardwood and a man’s flung jacket and hit a cold, metal pole. Something crashed down on her, crashed to the floor but she crawled more, over broken shards with her breath coming harder, wheezing high like a small, dying animal. 
Where, where…? She gasped and scrabbled. 
Her bag, way under a desk. How could it be under a desk? She was always so careful to keep it close but no time to think, she was upon it, fingers fluttering getting it open, her cries a child’s high mewling as she dug past her phone – no time to call - found her inhaler, got her fingers around it then saw it fly from her and skitter through an open doorway.
Wheezing harder she crawled toward it, the little white plastic thing that meant life or death to her. Her chest heaved, and heaved again. Her vision blurred and she couldn’t pull in air. She made it through the door onto a wider floor, was inches away with her hand reaching desperately. 
Then her vision darkened and she collapsed, crying; lay her cheek down on the polished cold hardwood. From far away she heard a crash. Her eyes closed. She lay, her fingers stretched futilely toward the inhaler. Her desperate wheezing stopped. 
Running feet. Someone’s hands on her, strong hands. “Lady! Omigod, lady!” 
From deepest, dying sleep she felt herself raised up; heard a voice, urgent, telling her to breathe, breathe - “Please, lady!”
She felt hard plastic pushed through her lips. Felt the little blast of life, then a man’s warm stubble press his lips on hers. He was breathing her. Two good breaths and then holding her, rocking her. 
Her eyes stayed closed as she heard him call 9-1-1

About J.A. Schneider

J.A. (Joyce Anne) Schneider is a former staffer at Newsweek Magazine, a wife, mom, and reading addict. She loves thrillers…which may seem odd, since she was once a major in French Literature - wonderful but sometimes heavy stuff. Now, for years, she has become increasingly fascinated with medicine, forensic science, and police procedure. Decades of being married to a physician who loves explaining medical concepts and reliving his experiences means there’ll often be medical angles even in “regular” thrillers that she writes. She lives with her family in Connecticut, USA.

And Finally The Blog Tour Poster!

On the 23rd of October I will have my review of Her Last Breath as well as a Q and A with the author! 

Getting To Know... Mary-Jane Riley

Today on Getting To Know... I have the lovely author of The Bad Things and After She Fell, Mary-Jane Riley. She took time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. 

Your two novels, The Bad Things and After She Fell, are both psychological thrillers, what in particular draws you to that genre?

I’ve always loved reading all things crime, but I think psychological thrillers are more concerned with extraordinary things that happen to ordinary people and the way they deal with them. That’s what I like to explore. The struggle for survival. Actually, crime writer Belinda Bauer puts it really well: ‘Life is the river and crime is the rocks. It’s only when we hit a rock that we find out whether we are one of life’s swimmers – or one of life’s sinkers.” Neat, isn’t it?

You have worked as a journalist, is writing an article and writing a novel completely different or do you go about it in a similar way?

It is pretty similar (except for the length!) in that you have to have a great opening paragraph, a fabulous middle and an intriguing and satisfying end. The first paragraph of an article has to hook the reader in, so does the first paragraph of a book. Both disciplines use the six Ws – What, Who, When, Where, Why and How. Working for BBC NewsOnline meant we had to be extremely accurate in our facts – something I’m still a little obsessed with but am learning that I’m writing fiction – and in our grammar and spelling. Mind you, when I had the first lot of edits for THE BAD THINGS from my editor I’d made so many errors despite reading it through a million times, I felt very ashamed! One thing that has stood me in good stead is that when writing news stories you have to put it together and get it written very quickly. You also had to use simple words, straightforward construction. I try to do all that now in my fiction.

You have also worked as a BBC radio talk show host, can you tell me what that was like?

Enormous fun! I interviewed all sorts of people from writers (Ruth Rendell, P.D.James to name only two) to politicians (slippery) to stars of the entertainment world (mixed) to ordinary people who had a story to tell. They were generally the most interesting – the woman whose daughter had been murdered and how she, the mother, had been living with the fact they never caught the killer; the man who was transitioning to become a woman; a man living with AIDS; a girl who was paraplegic due to a skiing accident; a couple who were living with having won the lottery. All sorts. Many years ago I did a programme on an Independent radio station late at night where I had an expert in the studio and people ringing in about their sex problems. I learned a lot from that.

You and two friends formed a group that helps charities in telling their stories, can you tell me more about that?

Yes, it started in a small way when Sue Welfare (a fabulous writer of romantic comedies and now psychological thrillers) asked me and a qualified counselor, Andrea, to help disadvantaged people to write their life stories. Anyone could come along. It was a free course in conjunction with the BBC and the University of East Anglia. By the end of six weeks everybody had a paragraph about their lives to take home. It was wonderful seeing how people blossomed. We did that for about three years, then branched out as Write Out Loud into helping people with disabilities, elderly people, and people with serious illnesses to write about their lives. A few years ago we were asked to go to a conference in Nigeria to take writing classes for aid workers. That was so interesting and eye-opening in all sorts of ways, not least because Nigeria is not the most settled of countries.

Do you find yourself drawing inspiration from your time as a journalist when plotting your stories?

Most definitely! I’m a bit like a magpie, taking elements from this news story and that news story to make up my own. I still trawl news websites and read a newspaper everyday. It’s also useful to have been at police press conferences and spoken to police officers in the course of my work….but in the past I covered stories that would almost be too much for fiction!

When you're writing do you have a set routine or a certain place you enjoy to sit?

I like to write first thing in the morning… it’s a habit left over from when I did a lot of early shifts…I had to be writing copy at six o’clock in the morning so I’m quite fresh first thing…. But I don’t get up that early any more! I like writing at my desk in the spare bedroom. The window looks out over the common so I see trees and grass and wildlife. I also write notes in longhand at the kitchen table and also sit outside when its sunny. I’m yet to try the coffee shop/library option, but I think that may come.

When you're not working what would we find you doing?

Being very boring! Reading, walking the dog, plotting, going to the cinema. Cooking (I love reading cookery books). Enjoying when my family come home for the weekend. Watching the latest Game of Thrones – I’ve only got one more episode to go!!!! What will I do then???

Do you have a favourite author?

I love Daphne Du Maurier, Ruth Rendell, P.D. James, Belinda Bauer, Louise Doughty, Linwood Barclay, Harlan Coben, Lee Child (I’m a little in love with Jack Reacher), Helen Dunmore (Her latest, Exposure, is just magnificent) and recently discovered William Shaw….I could go on….

What is your favourite thing about being an author?

Entertaining people. That’s all I want to do with my books… write something I want to write and that people will enjoy.

What can we look forward to from you in the future?
Well, I’m writing the third book featuring Alex Devlin (my journalist protagonist in THE BAD THINGS and AFTER SHE FELL) and I have an idea for a standalone psychological thriller that I am very excited about…

Thank you so much to Mary-Jane for answering my questions!

To connect with Mary

Mary's Facebook Page
Twitter - @mrsmjriley
Instagram - maryjanerileyauthor

The Bad Things

Alex Devlin’s life changed forever fifteen years ago when her sister Sasha's two small children were snatched in broad daylight. Little Harry’s body was found a few days later, but Millie’s remains were never discovered.

Now Jackie Wood, jailed as an accessory to the twins’ murder, has been released, her conviction quashed by the Appeal Court. Convinced Jackie can reveal where Millie is buried, Alex goes to meet her.

But the unexpected information Wood reveals shocks Alex to the core and threatens to uncover the dark secret she has managed to keep under wraps for the past fifteen years. Because in the end, can we ever really know what is in the hearts of those closest to us?

To buy a copy of The Bad Things click here for UK and here for USA

After She Fell

There are so many ways to fall…

Catriona needs help. Her seventeen-year-old daughter Elena was found dead at the bottom of a cliff near her boarding school. The death has been ruled a suicide, but Catriona isn’t convinced.

When her old friend, journalist Alex Devlin, arrives in Hallow’s Edge to investigate, she quickly finds that life at private boarding school The Drift isn’t as idyllic as the bucolic setting might suggest.

Amidst a culture of drug-taking, bullying and tension between school and village, no one is quite who they seem to be, and there are several people who might have wanted Elena to fall…

To buy a copy of After She Fell, click here for the UK and here for the USA

Friday, 23 September 2016

Getting To Know...Graham Smith

Today on Getting To Know... I have the absolutely fabulous Graham Smith, author of Snatched From Home

You have written books in a couple of genres but your most recent, Snatched From Home, is a crime fiction. Is there anything in particular that draws you to this genre?

I’ve loved crime fiction since the age of eight and love it for the twists, mysteries, suspense and general drama.

Did you do a lot of research into the police procedure side of your novel?

I do as little as I can get away with. One or two of my writing friends are cops or ex-cops so when I need to do some real research I call them up for a blether.

The main character of Snatched From Home is DI Harry Evans, is there any of you in his character? If so which bits?

I couldn’t possibly comment on any similarities between me and a bald man who drives too fast, drinks too much, swears a lot and generally creates mayhem wherever he goes. If pushed I’d say he has my sense of justice.

Have you always wanted to be an author?

Not really. Authordom came to me later in life although there was a horrific attempt in my teens to write a Hardy Boys type story.

When you'e writing is there anything you do to get into the right frame of mind or to set the right mood?

Not really. Other than having a smoke and a pee before I start there’s no real ritual. If I’m pissed off, I tend not to write as every one of my characters gets killed to death in the most sweary way possible. Then once I’ve calmed down, I have to resurrect the characters and remove all the profanity.

When you're not writing what would we find you doing?

Reading, spending time with my wife and son or working. (my day job is that of hotel manager for a Gretna Green wedding venue)

Do you have a favourite author?

I have too many writer friends to fully answer that question without upsetting someone so I’ll simply say yes.

Do you have any talents other than writing?

I’m so good at football I’ve won trophies for darts.

What is your favourite thing about being an author?

Meeting a reader who loves my work. I such a warm fuzzy feeling when I learn someone else enjoys listening to the voices in my head.

What can we look forward to from you in the future? Will we see more of DI Harry Evans?

Harry will feature in a novella – Matching the Evidence – in September and a full novel in October – I Know Your Secret. After that he’s taking some time off to swear at people and then I’ll be back to work on book three in the series which has a provisional title of When the Waters Recede

Thank you very much to Graham for answering my questions amongst his super busy schedule!

To connect with Graham

Twitter - @GrahamSmith1972

Matching The Evidence is now available!

Carlisle United are playing Millwall and the Major Crimes Team are assigned to crowd control as punishment for their renegade ways. Typically, DI Harry Evans has other ideas and tries to thwart the local firm’s plans to teach Millwall’s notorious Bushwhackers an unforgettable lesson.
Meanwhile an undercover cop is travelling north with some of the Millwall contingent. His mission is to identify the ringleaders and gather evidence against them.
Three illegal immigrants have been transported to Carlisle and are about to meet their new employers.
Nothing is as it seems for Evans and his Major Crimes Team as they battle to avoid a bloodbath while also uncovering a far more heinous crime.