Meet Carole Matthews – winner of the RNA’s 2021 Romantic Comedy Novel Award.

Welcome, Carole!Matthews summer days sea breezes author

How long has your road to success been from that first publication breakthrough?

I had my first book published in 1997, Let’s Meet on Platform 8, and since then I’ve written another thirty-three novels. I didn’t realise when I started that I’d still be around twenty-five years later.

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What has being a member of the RNA meant to you over the years?

Friendship and support. It’s lovely being able to mix with a group of like-minded people who are willing to share your successes and struggles. It’s a great asset for authors.

What was your reaction to firstly receiving the RNA Outstanding Achievement Award and now this one?

The Outstanding Achievement Award was wonderful. I shared the honour with Jill Mansell and we were both presented with our awards by Barbara Taylor Bradford which was amazing – what a woman! It’s very nice to be recognised by your peers. I received three nominations – two for Sunny Days & Sea Breezes, plus one for Christmas for Beginners which was a lovely surprise. To receive the award for Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year was such a thrill. Sunny Days & Sea Breezes has already proved to be one of my most popular books with readers and this feels like the ultimate stamp of approval.

Happiness for Beginners was inspired by a real animal farm helping people – how do you balance the harsher realities and issues of life with a lighter touch to convey a heartfelt and serious theme?

That’s something that I’ve tried to do with all of my books and I think they reflect life in general. It’s not all ha-ha-hee-hee, but sometimes we’re able to see the funny side in difficulties. While my books are romantic comedies, I hope they reflect real life too. With Happiness for Beginners, the real farm helps people with behavioural and mental health issues, so that created the darker side of the book. They also rescued troubled and damaged animals and they definitely provided the comedy element!

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Are you a detailed plotter or do you develop your work on the screen as you go and through revisions and edits?

A detailed plotter! As I’ve written two books a year for the last ten years, I don’t have the luxury of wondering what happens next – I need to know! I do, however, change and adapt as I go, but I start off with a definite beginning, middle and end. I spend about two weeks writing out character profiles and that helps me to get into their heads. Each morning, I start by editing what I’ve done the day before and then I have one final pass at the end. I do as little editing as humanly possible.

Your locations vary, keeping your work fresh and inspiring. Are there any that have been particularly memorable?

I have been fortunate to be able to base my books in some wonderful locations over the years. Part of With or Without You was set in Nepal and that was a very memorable trip. I loved every minute – the people and the culture are fantastic. I went to Swedish Lapland and stayed in the Ice Hotel as research for Calling Mrs Christmas and that was wonderful too. We had the most fabulous display of the Northern Lights – one of the highlights of my life. My latest, Sunny Days & Sea Breezes, is set on the Isle of Wight and I’ve fallen in love with the place and plan to visit time and time again. I must have described it nicely as many of my readers – and my editors – booked holidays there as a result!

You are a prolific author, but roughly how long does it take to do the research, writing, editing to final manuscript?

I’ve been doing a book every six months, so research, writing and editing all tends to roll into one. I’m usually researching the next book while writing the current one and editing the last one. I really wouldn’t like to see inside my brain!

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What is next for Carole?

Lots to look forwards to! The paperback of Sunny Days & Sea Breezes is out in May, so I’m looking forward to that. My publisher is re-jacketing and reissuing a lot of my backlist which is quite a job with thirty-odd books to do. The new-look Chocolate Lovers’ Club is out in eBook at the moment for 99p and the whole series will be reissued in paperback in August. This series of four books is among my most popular worldwide, so it’s nice to see them given a new lease of life. Later in the year – October – will see the paperback of Christmas for Beginners which was also nominated for an RNA award and sees another visit to Hope Farm.

Meet Shirley Mann – winner of the RNA’s 2021 Romantic Saga Award

 

Welcome Shirley!

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Huge congratulations on winning the RNA Romantic Saga Novel of the Year 2021!

Hello Valerie, thank you so much for asking me. In the last three years of my mum’s life, I suddenly thought I might like to see, after years of writing factual content, whether I could write a novel and my parents’ wartime romance was so fascinating, I couldn’t wait to get it down on paper. I never thought I could make a career out of it, but it probably came at the right time for me – I was making films for environmental organisations and was running out of enthusiasm for scrambling over stiles carrying heavy camera equipment but the transition has been gradual and completely unexpected. OK, the truth is, there was no conscious decision and there’s nobody more surprised than me about where this journey is taking me.

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Research is obviously something you are very used to doing and experienced in, but roughly how long do you spend researching and planning each novel?

Oh, the joy of writing your first novel when you have years to fiddle around with the words, visit endless museums and wander all over the country finding incredible women in order to get their personal stories to make sure the books are authentic. Now, novel #2 and so on, that’s a different story. I am basically doing one a year and that means I really have to get a move on. I start with a basic plot idea and then just get stuck in. Research can be overwhelming so I do the basics and then the rest takes place as I go through the book but I do get a tad obsessed. My background as a journalist means that I love the safety blanket of facts and I panic until I know that a scene I’m writing actually could have happened so I have to be careful that I don’t get completely side-tracked by research. I once spent two days finding out whether they had ginger spice in 1942 to make biscuits before it occurred to me that my character could make garibaldi ones instead. However, I am astounded how the story starts to unfold as soon as I begin to write. I once wrote the words: ‘She had to think fast’ without realising that ‘she’- my character- meant me. I had no idea where I was going next. So, a cup of tea and a strong talking to and eh voilà, it came to me- no idea where from.

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Bobby’s War was inspired by strong women such as Mary Ellis, ATA pilot. Can you share with us some of the inspiration behind this and your other novels?

I was so lucky to get to meet Mary Ellis about two months before she died at the age of 101. I couldn’t help but come away inspired, awe-stricken and to be honest, with a little bit of a girl crush! She was just fabulous. My mum was my inspiration for ‘Lily’s War’ and I now realise how lucky I was that she was a WAAF in Bomber Command doing a glamorous job. The fact that my dad was in the 8th Army meant I was able to use his war time experiences as inspiration as well to tell his side of the story. I like to learn something in books I read so I want to emulate that and love giving something in the books that is unexpected so I like to look at the war from the viewpoint of a Tommy in Africa and Europe for example, or explore the shadowy world of an enigmatic civil servant or maybe even ( plot spoiler) a German POW. However, when my parents died, in a panic, because I hadn’t asked them enough questions, I raced around the country to find other servicewomen including Land Army girls, explosive workers and plotters etc and every time, I just found myself completely overwhelmed by what they had achieved- and put up with- at an age when I was having fun in the Uni bar. I loved imagining walking down the street with them in the 1940s and finding out those little details that aren’t in the history books. It made me determined to help readers walk down those streets too and make sure the women’s legacy was recorded so it would inspire future generations.

Shirley Mann with ATA pilot, Mary Ellis

What tips would you give your younger self about becoming a novelist?

Don’t give up your day job! It’s such a slow burn to establish yourself, get people to know and hopefully, like your work at the same time as writing enough books to establish credibility. I’m in my 60s and I honestly don’t think I could have done this earlier when, of course, I needed to make a living and there are certainly no  financial guarantees with novel-writing. Working for the BBC and running my own media company on top of having a family didn’t leave me much head-room to be able to think a story through, write it and deal with the social media and publicity to make my books stand out amongst all those other millions of books out there. I naively thought you just wrote a book!  I think the one advantage I had at this age was that I wasn’t afraid to fail, I just wanted to see whether I could do it, so maybe the answer to this question is, certainly take the writing seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously and enjoy the ride.

What have been the highlights of your professional life: as a journalist and as a novelist?

I’ve been so lucky in my careers- I just didn’t mean to have this many of them. As a journalist, I’ve met a huge array of famous people and can out-bore any dinner party guest (when we’re allowed to have them again) with insider gossip but it was the real people who left me humbled, the ones who strove against adversity and triumphed quietly- like the woman who worked to help the mothers whose children had been snatched by estranged husbands or the family who moved to a remote hillside in India to try to save threatened tigers. I suppose the same applies with the novels. I still talk to my lovely servicewomen- now in their late 90s- who talk in matter-of-fact tones about how they were young women living every moment despite bombing raids, being constantly hungry and  being asked to do things that would terrify a super hero. On days when I’ve been feeling sorry for myself because I haven’t been able to see friends or go on holiday, that common sense pulls me up sharply- these are the highlight moments of all of this for me.

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What has the RNA meant to you over the years?

I’m such a newbie at this, ‘Lily’s War’ was only published last year so I’m only just finding out what an amazing organisation the RNA is and how incredibly supportive it is of romantic fiction writers. I’m about to start a course with them to find out how to use social media to promote my books and my daughters, who are on a hotline Whatsapp group, are incredibly relieved that someone else is taking me in hand and teaching me what NOT to press. Added to that is the fact that the RNA has just amazingly given me an award for only my second novel, so hell, yeah, I think they’re incredible! 

 

What is next for Shirley?

I’m just finishing Book 3 which ‘Hannah’s War’ about a Land Army girl and I did struggle with this to begin with because both Lily and Bobby were such strong characters doing exciting jobs and I wanted to make Hannah a different sort of girl, one who was shyer and less confident of her potential. I soon realised that these LA girls were every bit as heroic as the ones like Lily and Bobby. They toiled in all weathers, in all circumstances and often, deprived accommodation to feed the country. Hannah’s journey is perhaps even more admirable because, without the war, she was one of those girls who would have remained tied to their mother’s apron strings and would, I suspect, never have discovered how strong they really were. Then it’s straight onto Book 4, which is set in the Isle of Man where they had internment camps, housing everyone they didn’t know what to do with- so Germans lived alongside Jews, Conscientious Objectors, gypsies and Italians. What a fantastic melting pot for a novel!  My parents lived their last years in the Isle of Man and are buried there. I love the island and as a next step, it seems a perfect way to complete the circle from ‘Lily’s War.’ I just need to be able to get over there to start the research.

Oh, and what else is next? ….I want to get my hair cut!

 

Celebrating: The Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel shortlist!

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The Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel

Bestselling author Katie Fforde lives in the beautiful Cotswold countryside with her family and is a true country girl at heart. Each of her books explores a different profession or background and her research has helped her bring these to life. She’s been a porter in an auction house, tried her hand at pottery, refurbished furniture, delved behind the scenes of a dating website, and she’s even been on a Ray Mears survival course. She loves being a writer; to her there isn’t a more satisfying and pleasing thing to do. She particularly enjoys writing love stories. She believes falling in love is the best thing in the world, and she wants all her characters to experience it, and her readers to share their stories.

Every author has their own unique story to tell about how and why they came to be a novelist. Read on to find out the stories behind the talented authors shortlisted for the prestigious award, as they reveal them, and the inspiration behind their lovely novels.

Cow Girl – Kirsty Eyre

HarperCollins UK

Cow Girl was inspired by my mum, my friend and a herd of cows. Billie’s voice came first (my friend), then the setting (the smells and sounds of a dairy farm in Yorkshire), then the battle (my mum, like Billie’s dad, had a brain tumour). Misogyny. Romance. Homophobia. Charity pantomime cow races. The story is as much about female friendship as it is about romance, the herd a silent, reassuring feminist ally.

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The Bookshop of Second Chances – Jackie Fraser

Simon & Schuster

I’m usually inspired by a place – sometimes a building – or the idea of a particular kind of character or relationship. I started writing The Bookshop of Second Chances while on holiday in Dumfries and Galloway in the Scottish Lowlands, inspired by the little towns strung out along the A75. This gave me my setting, and I knew I wanted to write about older people and the challenges and opportunities of starting again in your forties.

Fraser bookshop second chances coverFraser - bookshop second chances author

The Silent Treatment – Abbie Greaves

Century, Cornerstone

Like many authors, I’d always wanted to write a novel, but the problem was finding a story with the legs to walk 80,000+ words! When I read a newspaper article about a man who hadn’t spoken to his wife for twenty years, I became fascinated with the idea of a silence settling at the heart of a relationship and I knew there was enough there to sustain a whole book. THE SILENT TREATMENT was born.

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This Is Not A Love Story – Mary Hargreaves

Trapeze

I have always found writing easy – that sounds pretentious, but I don’t mean it to; for me, putting the contents of my brain into written words is always easier than speaking them aloud. I spent my childhood and teenage years daydreaming and weaving new worlds in my imagination, and decided to finally bite the bullet and write This Is Not A Love Story when I was 23. It’s the best thing |’ve ever done!

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A New Life for Ariana Byrne – Liz Hurley

Hera Books

Why I write? Well, oddly enough because someone asked me to. Or rather they asked if I knew anyone that could write a lifestyle column for the local newspaper. I own a bookshop so presumably they thought I knew loads of authors. I did, but not anyone suitable. So, I volunteered. And I loved it. I have always written letters and diaries, this was just an extension. From there it was an inescapable slide into fiction! And I’m loving the ride.

Why I wrote Ari

The idea for a story came fully formed with a whole series of adventures for each sister. I wanted something that just pushed the boundaries of everyday life but still actually plausible. It had to be happy and uplifting and I felt that inheriting a great big old house, a title and loads of money would be just the start. And of course I had to set it in Norfolk, the happiest place in the world. But then I’m a Norfolk dumpling, so I would say that.

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The Authenticity Project – Clare Pooley

Bantam Press

My life, six years ago, appeared idyllic. In reality, I was grappling with a self-destructive addiction to alcohol.

I knew I had to quit drinking, and as therapy, started a blog into which I poured out the truth.

That act of authenticity transformed my life, and the lives of thousands of people who read it. Which made me wonder: what would happen if other people told their innermost truths to strangers?

And that was the inspiration for my novel: The Authenticity Project.”

Pooley authenticity project coverPooley authenticity project author

The winner will be announced on the 8th March 2021.

Please feel free to leave a comment or like the post.

Celebrating: The Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel shortlist!

Goldsboro Books is the UK’s leading independent bookshop, specialising since 1999 in first editions, signed, collectable and exclusive books. Situated in Cecil Court in London’s West End, and – as of December 2020 – Brighton’s famous Lanes, it has gained a reputation for championing debut authors, as well as creating the UK’s largest book collectors’ club, and is influential in selling large quantities of hard-back fiction. 

The Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel

Every author has their own unique story to tell about how and why they came to be a novelist. Read on to find out the stories behind the talented authors shortlisted for the prestigious award, as they reveal them, and the inspiration behind their lovely novels.

Goldsboro Books is the UK’s leading independent bookshop, specialising since 1999 in first editions, signed, collectable and exclusive books. Situated in Cecil Court in London’s West End, and – as of December 2020 – Brighton’s famous Lanes, it has gained a reputation for championing debut authors, as well as creating the UK’s largest book collectors’ club, and is influential in selling large quantities of hard-back fiction.

Heartbreak in the Valleys – Francesca Capaldi

Hera Books

The idea for Heartbreak in the Valleys came from a document I discovered on Ancestry.com. It was the WW1 record for my great grandfather, Hugh Morgan. It revealed that he’d enlisted into the Rhondda Pals but was discharged on medical grounds eight months later, with tachycardia, while still training. Wondering what he must have felt, with his pals off to war, and how it affected those around him, I came up with the basis of the novel.

The Coming of the Wolf – Elizabeth Chadwick

Sphere, Little, Brown

I wanted to write a story about how people of every culture coped after the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and The Coming of the Wolf is the result, with a Cambro-Norman hero and an English heroine. I wrote the novel long ago, but dug it out to edit and put a few chapters online. My readers immediately demanded the rest and it was their encouragement and push that ultimately led to the novel’s publication and subsequent shortlisting.

Spirited – Julie Cohen

Orion Fiction

Daniel’s Daughter – Victoria Cornwall

Choc Lit

Daniel’s Daughter tells the story of a character who appeared at the end of one of my previous novels in the Cornish Tales series, The Captain’s Daughter. I always wondered what would happen to Grace should she discover a secret that would destroy her trust in everyone she loves. The books in the Cornish Tales series are stand-alone stories and can be read in any order, however writing Daniel’s Daughter brought closure to me as a writer.

The French Wife – Diney Costeloe

Head of Zeus

Encouraged by my publisher father, I have written stories all my life. In 1980 I entered Woman’s Hour’s romantic novel competition, and though I didn’t win, I was shortlisted and so I submitted my novel to Robert Hale. It was the beginning of my published career. I wrote ten romances for them and others before moving on to historical fiction, 19th century, WWI, WWII but always with a romantic element. That’s where I am now.

People Like Us – Louise Fein

Head of Zeus

As a child, I always had my nose in a book. I think I wrote my first story aged around six. It wasn’t until my youngest daughter’s illness forced me to give up work that I began writing seriously. I took a master’s degree and began working on a novel. That novel, the first I ever wrote, became People Like Us. It is beyond my wildest dreams to be published and shortlisted for this award!

The Lost Lights of St Kilda – Elisabeth Gifford

Corvus

The Lost Lights of St Kilda was inspired by the last families to live in Scotland’s most remote island who had to abandon their beloved home in 1930.

I was able to visit St Kilda with its magnificent scenery, and the abandoned village. I combined this with a story of a WW2 Scottish soldier who stays on the island as a student, and falls in love with an island girl. He is captured during the Dunkirk evacuations. His escape to get home to Chrissie was inspired by our grandparents’ stories of helping escapees to escape Nazi-held France.

Rags-to-Riches Wife – Catherine Tinley

Mills & Boon Historical

In Regency Romance, there is an emphasis on the world of high society. My own ancestors though would not have been aristocrats. We were farmers, tradespeople, servants. This was my chance to delve into the life of a regency servant. Jane is a lady’s maid, and is invited to stay with wealthy relatives. How will she manage as she wears silk dresses instead of cleaning them, as she is mocked for her chapped hands and lack of schooling, as she finds herself falling in love with a gentleman – someone above her social class?

The Skylark’s Secret – Fiona Valpy

Lake Union Publishing

I was travelling in the far north of Scotland and I came across the Russian Arctic Convoys Museum. I was astonished – it was a WW2 story that I’d known nothing about. Loch Ewe was chosen as the

muster point for ships braving the Arctic seas, running the gauntlet of Nazi U-boats and air strikes to keep the Russians supplied with food and armaments. The idea of this peaceful, remote crofting community suddenly becoming such a strategic focal point in the war inspired The Skylark’s Secret

The winner will be announced on the 8th March 2021.

Please feel free to leave a comment or like the post.

Meet Ian Logan and Jonathan Glancey, authors of Logomotive – Railroad Graphics and the American Dream.

Meet Ian Logan and Jonathan Glancey, authors of Logomotive – Railroad Graphics and the American Dream; a delightful visual tribute to the heyday of US railroad graphic.

Welcome, Ian and Jonathan,

Your careers to date are as colourful as the posters in your beautifully crafted book. What was the spark that ignited your passion for this project?

Jonathan:

Ian’s photographs of US trains – their logos, liveries, if sometimes dishevelled appearances – before so many American railroads were either closed or swallowed up by less characterful corporate giants from the 1970s.

Ian:

I have had a love for visual decoration for as long as I can remember. When I was very young I would stand outside the tobacconist’s shop in my village admiring the wonderful designs on the cigarette packs and cards. I still have a large collection of the cards.

Then when I first went to the US and saw “Americana” and my first US train with “Rock Island” on the side I was in heaven!

Did your love of the marketing designs, created to sell the dream image, capture your interest first or did that come out of a passion for trains and the history of the railroads?

Jonathan:

A fascination with trains, their looks, sounds and their habitat – stations, goods yards, viaducts, distant hills and engine sheds – before uncovering the history of railways themselves and how their services have been created for and sold to the public over the generations.

Ian: 

I have always loved machinery, especially steam locomotives. I was an apprentice in a company that made parts for the railways. I also have a love of old aircraft. For me it is the power, colour, speed, and visual excitement that is the passion.

3.      Was it your mutual love of design, or for the actual locomotives and the networks, that brought you together on this project?

Jonathan:

Design, yes. I hadn’t known that Ian was quite so keen on trains and railways as I am. I was a regular customer of the delightfully eclectic design shop he ran near Smithfield Market in the City of London. 

Ian:

Design is the inspiration, without doubt. I had read and knew about Jonathan from his articles and he used to come into my design store. He was the most obvious person to collaborate with.

4.       Do you still travel extensively on the networks and do have a favourite older locomotive that still operates in the US?

Jonathan:

I would love to travel again post-Pandemic! My favourite operational US steam locomotive is No 611, a very powerful, very fast and ultra-reliable glossy black, Indian red and gold-lined streamlined J-class 4-8-4 built in 1950 to pull Norfolk and Western Railway long-distance passenger trains like the Powhattan Arrow from Norfolk, Virginia to Cincinatti, Ohio. No 611 is as muscular as a heavyweight boxer yet as lithe as a marathon runner. 

Ian:

I have travelled on the network and would love to travel again. It’s a sensational way to view the country.

I loved the designs of the GM.  E and F unit diesel locomotives and their paintwork and liveries of the different railroads. I also have a love of the design functionality of modern US freight locos.

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5.       Do you have a bucket list of ‘must see, visit, or find’ regarding the trains, lines or graphics?

Jonathan:

I’d really like to ride with the engineer and fireman on the footplate of the Union Pacific’s “Big Boy” No 4014, as, freshly restored to service eighteen months ago, this compelling black and anthracite liveried mobile thunderstorm tackles the mountainous route between Utah and Wyoming, its mournful whistle resounding through twisting passes, its train ideally at least a mile long. 

Ian:

I would love to ride in the cab of Union Pacific’s 600 ton 4-8-8-4 “Big Boy”.

I flew to LA before lockdown to see Big Boy while it was touring the western states for the Centenary of ‘The golden spike’. You could not but be in awe of the sheer size and power. 

6.       Do you have a favourite design – or designer’s work, that stands out for you?

Jonathan:

Henry Dreyfuss’s design of the New York Central’s peerless 20th Century Limited overnight express that ran from New York to Chicago from 1938, a masterpiece of cocktail-era Streamlined Modernism, and Paul Kiefer’s design of the cinematic silver and grey Class J3a locomotives that speared this supremely glamorous train between the two great American cities.

Ian:

There are a bunch of designers, illustrators and artists that I have admired over the years. Milton Glaser is way up there for originality and sheer inspiration. Pentagram design group for their original philosophy.

Raymond Loewy for his design styling of the Pennsylvania railroads S1 steam loco. And his design for the beautiful Greyhound Scenicruiser bus and logo.

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7.       How much has your own work and designs been influenced by this golden age?

Jonathan:

I’ve written about US locos and trains in my books Giants of Steam (2012) and The Journey Matters (2019). I show them in talks and lectures about architecture and design, too.

Ian:

Within the design group I had during the 60s to the late 90s it has always been there in the background.

8.       Since John Bull trains have come a long way, do you find they have lost or gained appeal to you?

Jonathan:

Most contemporary trains, however efficient, are anodyne and all but generic in terms of design. They could belong anywhere. There is no sense of place about them. Steam locomotives, whether shunting wagons in small yards or racing with restaurant car expresses are never less than alive. They have an elemental quality, a rhythmical one, too, that has never been replaced, much less bettered by later machinery. They belong to the townscapes and landscapes they inhabit.

Ian:

There was a time when the competition created all different trains and that excited thousands of young boys taking their numbers on stations all over the country but now they all look the same!

9.       Are there any designs that you have not managed to track down that you would like to collect? Do you collect originals?

Jonathan:

I’m not a collector. Over to Ian!

Ian:

I have a collection of English railway posters from the 1920s and 30s and love this period of art and illustration. There is one poster I would love to own. It’s part of a WW2 series illustrated by the great Frank Newbold titled ‘Your Britain fight for it now’. It shows a shepherd walking over a hill with his sheep and dog with the farm and sea in the distance. I also love the Batsford book jackets by Brian Cook depicting English country scenes.

10.   This book is a first, like the first railroad it is a pioneering work. Will there be a ‘Logomotive 2’?

Jonathan:

I think this depends on how many people buy a ticket to ride with Logomotive 1!

Ian:

Jonathan’s answer!

Logomotive: Railroad Graphics and the American Dream by Ian Logan and Jonathan Glancey, published by Sheldrake Press. 

Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm and insights for this beautiful project. I wish you both every continued success for Logomotive and all your future projects.

Thank you for being my guests!

Catching up with Peter Jones

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Can you tell us about your exciting new self help weight loss book?

Sure. It’s called How To EAT LOADS And LOSE WEIGHT. Or just EAT LOADS, LOSE WEIGHT. And that’s pretty much the entire concept, right there in those four words. How to eat loads of proper, tasty, satisfying meals, and yet somehow still lose weight – all without feeling hungry, without calorie counting, and without exercise.

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What makes your book different from the established slimming regimes?

I suppose the key difference is that this book is based on actual science.

The mainstream low-fat diet advice that we’re used to hearing on a daily basis is actually rooted in a misunderstanding of how the body works; ie. the idea that your body needs a certain number of calories (per day) to sustain itself and stores any excess. But in more recent years we’ve discovered that this is actually a huge over simplification. What you eat – so it turns out – is actually more important than how much.

Of course, being a huge nerd, this is what got me excited about the subject in the first place. I wanted to get to the bottom of how the body actually works. If it isn’t fat making us fat, what is? If calorie counting doesn’t work, what will? If cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease what does?

Turns out the answers weren’t all that difficult to find. Just complicated. So a large part of my job when writing this book – the bit I enjoyed the most – was to describe those biological processes in a way that the average man (or woman) on the street would a) understand and b) find interesting and entertaining.

That’s the kind of non-fiction I love to write.

How has your opinion on diets and dieting changed since writing the book?

It’s made me more cynical! We’re a nation of people struggling to maintain our collective health, yet the mainstream media would have us believe that it’s all our fault: We’re lazy. We’re greedy. We’re not doing enough exercise. We’re eating too many fatty foods. We’re ignoring the experts. We’re not buying diet books. We’re not going to slimming classes. But it’s all nonsense! The data shows the exact opposite – yet somehow we’re still getting fatter, and sicker.

But it’s difficult for governments to radically change health guidelines that have been in place since the 1980s without raising eyebrows and risking an angry outburst. It’s difficult for doctors to dish out advice that isn’t in line with strict NHS policy. It’s difficult for slimming clubs and food manufacturers to switch to a weight loss model that would work so well people wouldn’t need to come back. And it’s neigh-on-impossible for drug companies to support any kind of advice that might eliminate the need for their most profitable products.

But the tide is turning. Slowly. There are more and more books like the one I’ve just written. And I’m proud to be apart of this health revolution.

What feedback have you had from your readers?

The feedback has been lovely. I decided to start a Facebook group for readers of the book (or those interested in learning more) and rarely a day goes by when someone doesn’t post about how much weight they’ve lost, how that gnawing hunger has dissipated, and how much better they’re feeling. People keep sharing recipes, and tips, and giving each other encouragement, and sometimes I have to pinch myself and say “you started this Jonesy – you!”

Where can interested readers contact you?

Several places!

Amazon: http://getbook.at/ELLW

The website: http://www.eatloadsloseweight.com

The Facebook group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/443208936345878/

Promotion Time!

Stolen Treasure is now only 99p!

Some secrets are intended to stay buried...

In 1809 Elizabeth Matthews shares many a childhood adventure with her soul-mate, Thomas Lamb, son of the estate’s handyman.
Elizabeth is entrusted with the safe keeping of a tin box by her Mama but instead, leaves the task to Thomas’s father Joseph. However, life in the windswept north-east coastal village of Alunby is left behind when she is promptly sent away to be schooled in the city of York.
Risking her reputation, and a possible marriage match, Elizabeth dreams of the day when the secret inside the tin box will be revealed to her, and goes on a journey of rediscovery to find Thomas and seek out the stolen treasure.
Some secrets were intended to stay buried, however, what Elizabeth discovers is of greater value than she could ever have imagined.

‘Great read, especially for the price!’

Catching up with Margaret James!

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Welcome back, Margaret! I was amazed when I realised that you were my first guest in 2013!

I was amazed, too! My goodness, doesn’t time fly? Perhaps this is because writing a novel is such a long process and sometimes another year goes by without us really noticing? It’s very good to be back. I see that since we were last in contact you’ve had several of your books published by Endeavour Press.  Many congratulations!

Thank you! I love the cover of your new novel ‘Girl in Red Velvet’, which is book 6 in the Charton Minster Series. What inspired you to create this series?

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The inspiration for the Charton Minster stories was driving past a country house in Dorset at least a decade ago. I wondered who lived there and later that evening my imagination started to run riot, conjuring up a whole family and their descendents. The first novel in the series is The Silver Locket, which is Rose Courtenay’s story. The subsequent five novels are about Rose’s children and grandchildren and even her great grandchildren.

Who is the ‘Girl’ in Red Velvet?

The girl in Girl in Red Velvet is Rose Courtenay’s granddaughter Lily Denham, who goes to university in the 1960s and meets two men who become her friends, the three of them have some great fun together, but then Lily finds she is falling in love with both of them. She makes a choice which looks as if it will turn out to be a very bad choice indeed. Or will it? What do all three of these people want and how will they get it? I hope I’ve given them plenty of challenges but that I’ve also given all their stories satisfying endings.

Do you remember the 60s with fondness?

I do because I was young and at university myself and having a lovely time living away from home. It’s quite difficult for younger people alive today to realise what a huge place the world was then. I went from living in a small rural community where I never met anyone who wasn’t British and white to living in a big city where I met and made friends with people from all over the world.

What is next for Creative Writing Matters?

We’re expanding our range of writing-related services all the time. We run two major international competitions (The Exeter Novel Prize and the Exeter Story Prize which incorporates the Trisha Ashley Award for a humorous story) and we offer mentoring and various shorter courses and smaller competitions, too. We’ve found that offering feedback on competition entries has proved very popular so next year we will be doing more in that respect by offering feedback on some of our short story competitions as well as on entries for the Exeter Novel Prize.

What is next for Margaret?

It’s reading the entries for this year’s Exeter Story Prize, which closed on 30 April. We’re constantly astonished and impressed by the range and quality of entries, so although this is a pleasurable task it’s always quite demanding, too.

I wish you every success with all your amazing ventures. Reader’s can follow Margaret on: Facebook Twitter    or you can visit  Margaret’s blog

King Ludd & trouble at the mills!

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The term ‘Luddite’ is widely used even today, but its origins are shrouded in both truth and myth.

Two names that are supposed to have been associated with it are Ned Ludd and King Llud. Whatever the truth, the term has stayed in common language. Today it is used to describe someone  who is averse to technical change, but its origins stemmed from men who thought they were fighting to save their livelihoods and their families from being destitute.

Since medieval times the wool trade had been of great importance to the working people of our nation. Traditionally women and their children spun the yarn and the menfolk were skilled loom weavers. Each piece of cloth was then taken to market to be sold in the Piece Halls. In the early nineteenth century new inventions took over this traditional family method of making and selling cloth.

With new cotton and wool mills growing in size and numbers, the workers that left their villages to work in them need not be so skilled. They could be taught a task and become part of the overall process.

The volume of cloth produced could therefore be increased. Uniformity and scale of production would be guaranteed by the use of these wider weaving machines. But the downside was that the employment was no longer a cottage industry, but required a central approach, breaking up communities and leaving men without the means to feed their families. With the price of food, particularly bread increasing, the men felt somehow their concerns needed to be heard.

The actions of a man allegedly called Edward Ludlam also knonw as ‘Ned Ludd’ in 1779 was given the label ‘Luddite’. He was accused of breaking two frames in anger. So when in Nottingham in 1811 groups of weavers gathered and planned attacks on targeted mills to destroy the machines that had taken away their livelihood, the term ‘Luddite’ was used again and stuck.

These attacks spread to Yorkshire and other counties and continued for a number of years. Groups banded in numbers of up to three figures, but surprisingly few were actually caught or hanged.  Some were transported, perhaps unjustly, as those who were accused of being part of a gathering or an attack would have little defence heard to save them. King Llud was used on letters of demand to add weight to their threats and demands.

In 1812 The Frame Breaking Act made the breaking of stocking-frames a capital felony, hence allowing the death penalty to be given to those caught. Rewards were offered, but the local people were the very families of the men who were trying to stop a revolution of machine replacing manual labour, soit was unlikely that many would provide information. It is also likely they would be in danger if they were discovered by the gang members. It was a battle they could never win,

The government and the mill owners did not listen to their pleas. Workers, including young children, were paid low, had no say over their conditions and were often exploited.This was exactly the situation Phoebe and Thomas escaped from in Phoebe’s Challenge. As mills developed not all owners were as harsh (they were by comparison to today’s working practices) but some introduced education, shorter hours for children and healthier diet and living conditions. This is where the idea for Laura’s Legacy came from.

Just click on the link to see how Phoebe rises to the challenge or how Laura’s Legacy survives!

Laura's Legacy

 

Catching up with Valerie-Anne Baglietto!

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Hi Val, welcome back!

Your first interview was back in 2013. So what exciting things have happened since then?

When you asked me, just before Christmas, if I’d like to do this update, I seem to remember silently screaming, No, go away, can’t cope with this, or something along those lines. Basically I was in festive meltdown – organising kids, grandparents, husband etc. – and didn’t want to have to think about work. After I calmed myself down and messaged you back, you kindly reassured me I could leave it until after January.

So here I am, revisiting my old self from a few years back, remembering what goals she set and what she was planning writing-wise. I’m satisfied that she appears to have achieved her aims, and of course, she’s set some new ones since then, too.

 (I’ll slide firmly into first person POV now, so I don’t sound any more pretentious than I have to.)

Firstly, ONCE UPON A WINTER, which had just come out before I was last here on Val’s blog, went on to top the Amazon UK Fairy Tale Chart in 2013 and at the last count had over sixty 5-star reviews. Understandably, I was thrilled about that, considering it was my first attempt at modern magical realism. The feedback from readers, both old and new, was encouraging.

Last time round, I also mentioned a short story I was contributing to the ‘Sunlounger’ anthology organised in 2013 by Belinda Jones. There was another one the following year, and I took part in that, too. My second tale, PANDORA  AND THE MUSIC BOX, has also been a featured read on Wattpad. I hadn’t attempted a short story in years, but I valued the discipline of keeping to a strict, low word count.

As for the novella I spoke about last time, I actually ended up writing two that year. A GIRL I KNEW (formerly known as The Trouble With Knights in Shining Armour) and my Christmas themed THE LITTLE BOOK OF LOST HEARTS. The latter set the scene for the next full length work, FOUR SIDES TO EVERY STORY, which I have to admit is the favourite of my contemporary fairy tales so far. It was shortlisted in the 2015 Love Stories Awards and was a 5-star read of 2015 on Chat About Books.

Last year was a bit of a departure, though, as I started working on something different from anything I’d attempted before. I even invented a pen-name – a whole other person to hide behind, which was liberating. But as the year drew to a close, I realised I wasn’t happy. I missed my fairy tales. For reasons rooted in insecurity, I’d begun to think they weren’t ‘proper’ books, not worthy somehow, and could never stand alongside the amazing, emotive fiction being published today.

Then it all changed. FOUR SIDES TO EVERY STORY was listed as a top read for 2016 on Portobello Book Blog, along with a dozen other titles, many of which I’m in awe of. Out of the 140 or so novels Joanne (@portybelle) had read that year, mine had been memorable enough to hover in her top 10(ish). I felt touched, and very grateful. Something clicked in my fragile writer’s brain. A realisation. Just because I choose to weave reality – or our concept of it – with traces of magic, doesn’t mean my work isn’t of value, or unable to hold its own in a crowded market. If this were true, then why is it  some of the most famous and enduring stories in our culture happen to be fairy tales, myths and parables? All through history, fiction has worked to make sense of the world around us, and often metaphors are the best way to do it.

So, when the kids went back to school at the start of this year, I dug out a notebook bursting with the plot for a sequel to FOUR SIDES TO EVERY STORY, and sat down as Valerie-Anne to begin this new project. And that’s what I’m working on right now. Oddly, it’s as liberating as having a pseudonym. I feel as if I’ve come home, having forgotten what a wonderful place it can be. I’m  energised by my writing again, rather than drained, and excited to find out what 2017 holds for me.

Thank you, Val, for inviting me to return to your blog, to share an update. I’ve enjoyed looking back as well as forward, and come to the conclusion that it’s quite a healthy thing to do at this time of year. Maybe everyone should give it a go!

 Exciting times for you, Val. I wish you every continued success in the future!