I am delighted to invite crime writer and artist Michael Fowler back to my site. So what has changed since 2015?
Last year I made the difficult decision to leave the publishing company I had been with since 2011; not an easy decision but I felt I had gone as far as I could with them and needed a fresh challenge, and so with a certain apprehension, but also a sense of excitement, I began pitching my work again.
A bold decision for an established author to make, but one that has worked out well.
For two months nothing happened and the doubt set in but then in in the same week I got three offers from publishers, two on the same day. I was buzzing again, and after a bit of googling and research, I learned that Sapere Books were spearheaded by three young, talented people who had experience of the publishing industry and produced terrific eye-catching covers for their authors so I plumped for them. A year on my DS Hunter Kerr series is about to be launched with re-edited versions of previous books, a brand new prequel, two further additions – one of those set on the island of Sark – and more lined up.
I am going to take Hunter Kerr into new territory that will be revealed in the very near future.
Aside from that, in the past week, I have been approached by a script writer/producer asking for an option on my true crime novel – Safecracker – to develop a movie or TV series from the book. I am so excited to see where this develops.
I wish you every success with DS Kerr series and hope the TV option works out on Safecracker.
Welcome, to my website, Peter, and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
When and where did your passion for writing begin?
Pretty much as soon as I could string two words together I was ‘making books’. I would kneel on my grandmother’s living room carpet, fold several sheets of A4 paper in half, staple down the folded edge, then start writing a story and drawing the pictures to go with the story – and once finished my books would be passed around my family on a kind of a ‘read and return’ basis.
Which came first fiction or non-fiction?
Well, technically I guess it was fiction (back when I would visit my grandmother). By my twenties I was writing science fiction short stories (although none of them were ever submitted for publication). In my thirties my wife encouraged me to start writing a rom-com novel… but it was HOW TO DO EVERYTHING AND BE HAPPY – a self-help book – that first made it into print.
How did you become a ‘self-help’ guru?
Well therein lies a tale: I met my wife Kate in my mid-thirties. At the time I was a frumpy grumpy banking consultant. She was a NLP practitioner (a kind of hypno-therapist). She taught me so much about how our brains work, how we motivate ourselves, how to get more out of life… and then she died. Of a brain haemorrhage. Thirty nine years of age. And I was devastated. More than that I was crushed with guilt, because back then I wasn’t a particularly happy person. I had been a misery to live with! What’s more, Kate and I had managed to waste most of our three years together working. Oh, we had big plans about how we’d make enough money to move somewhere sunny… but it never happened. We ran out of time.
So I decided to do something about it. I set about fixing my life. I made lists, drew up plans, devised new habits… and it worked. Some of those ideas actually made me happier. One day a colleague said “you ought to write this stuff down – turn it into a book.” So I did. That ended up being HOW TO DO EVERYTHING AND BE HAPPY. Published by Harper Collins and Audible.
Still not sure about the term guru though! Michelle Ward (of Phoenix FM) gave me that label. But really I’m just a fix it man at heart.
You seem to love public speaking – has this always been the case?
I’m afraid so. I’m just a big show off! No, actually there’s more to it than that. My childhood love of storytelling morphed into a desire to become an actor. To me, writing and acting are the same thing. In fact, one of the joys of writing is that you get to play ALL the parts, even the women. But there’s something utterly amazing about being in front of an audience. I used to be part of a travelling theatre company, but now public speaking fills that need. My talks are quite ‘theatrical’.
You seem to be a very organised person is this essential to the way you approach each project?
I guess I am. I never used to be. In my teens, twenties, even thirties I lived in a perpetual state of barely-organised chaos. Kate was the organised one. Becoming organised was part of my get-happy strategy. A way of taking control of my chaotic, unhappy life.
But you’re right. It bled into everything I do. Becoming organised was how I finally managed to finish that novel that Kate started me writing; THE GOOD GUY’S GUIDE TO GETTING THE GIRL. There have been two more since then and I’m finishing up my fourth.
I love the RNA! I was a real sceptic at first. Couldn’t see how belonging to an organisation like that would be particularly useful. Surely it would be a lot of flouncey women writing about chiselled jawed heroes? But then my pal Bernadine Kennedy said “it’s quite good fun,” and If anyone knows about having a good time, it’s definitely Berni. And it turned out she was right! It is fun! But more than that it’s been enormously useful rubbing shoulders with all sorts of creative people, all of us trying to carve a living out of what we love.
What key advice would you share on writing or on life.
Write what you love. Do what makes you happy.
Each author has their own favoured way of working – would you share yours with us?
I try to write at least three days a week. I start at 7am and count the number of words I’ve written at the end of each hour. If it’s less than 200 I give myself a good talking to! By midday I’m usually done. In the afternoons I talk about writing or do post, answer emails, tackle the admin…
What has been the highlight of your writing career to date?
The day my agent told me that a producer in Hollywood had enquired about the film rights for THE TRUTH ABOUT THIS CHARMING MAN was pretty special! But actually there have been far more less dramatic, more humbling moments along the way. Recently a teacher’s assistant in Dubai emailed me to tell me that she’d enjoyed my ‘happy book’ and had been asked to do a presentation to the staff about it. Turns out my book is on a recommended reading list, in India. And her school adopts some of my happiness ideas for the children!
That is amazing, Peter. What project are you working on now?
My fourth novel is currently out with my first readers, so in the meantime I’m working on another self-help book. My fifth. I’m particularly excited about this one… though I can’t say much more at this point.
What is next for Peter?
Who knows!? Hopefully more novels.
Although after some encouraging advice I might take a break to work on a film proposal forMY GIRLFRIEND’S PERFECT EX-BOYFRIEND. So long as I can continue to make a living putting a smile on the faces of my readers (or audience) I really don’t mind.
Sunday has always been a family day to me. One traditional dish that I have fond memories of, especially on a wet and windy winter’s day, was a roast dinner with home made Yorkshire Puddings accompanied with a fresh mint sauce.
Although this lovely staple regional food is highly regarded it is very simple to do.
This is the recipe that has been passed on down through time to my Aunty Mary who then gave it to me.
The first recorded reference to this versatile savoury pudding was in the early eighteenth century, when it was described as ‘dripping pudding’ but I suspect it had been used for a long time before that. It started as a way of using up the dripping fat from the roast with a simple batter to make a filling accompaniment to the meal.
200 ml whole milk (you can use semi-skimmed)
200 grams plain flour
pinch of salt
one tablespoon of cold water
Heat up an oven to 200C
Whisk the eggs until light and fluffy in a bowl and then whisk in the milk. A hand whisk is all that is needed for this.
Then spoon in the sieved flour and add the pinch of salt until you have a smooth mixture that just coats the back of a spoon smoothly when poured over it. You can stir in a spoon of cold water or leave the mixture to stand a few hours in a fridge.
Prepare a 12 bun baking tin by coating each bun case with either lard, or a sunflower or vegetable oil that can take high temperatures. Place the tin in the hot oven and leave for 5 minutes until the oil is smoking and hot.
Remove the bun tin from the oven and pour in the batter evenly between the 12 indents. It should instantly begin to fry and bubble.
Replace the tin in the oven quickly and bake for for 15 to 20 minutes at 230C until the Yorkshires rise and are golden brown and crispy on the outside.
Their are all sorts of things written about the height and size of a Yorkshire pudding, but a simple recipe and a wholesome pudding should just be enjoyed as it has for many years.
Yorkshire pudding batter has been used in many variations over the years and I would love to learn of people’s favourite recipes as it is such a feel-good simple part of a meal.
Congratulations to Amy, Caoimhe and Richard on there first birthday as Sapere Books.
Amy has taken time out of her busy schedule to share some of the events that have happened in this amazing first year.
Since we last caught up in March 2018, a lot has happened at Sapere Books! We now have over 40 authors who have joined the Sapere family, and we have published lots of fabulous novels in our first year.
The genres we were looking for initially are thriving: crime fiction; historical fiction and romantic fiction are all very popular with our readers, and books in a series do particularly well for us. We are just about to publish in a genre we haven’t tried yet: military ‘action and adventure’ fiction, and we are preparing to launch titles in that genre by this time next year, including a Vietnam combat series and Tudor-era naval fiction.
The team with the winner of The Sapere Books Popular Romantic Fiction Award, Catherine Isaac
One of the most exciting announcements for us in our first year is our sponsorship of two excellent writing awards. In March we sponsored a new award for 2019 from the Romantic Novelists’ Association: The Sapere Books Popular Romantic Fiction Award. The shortlist was very strong and the winner was Catherine Isaac for her wonderful novel YOU ME EVERYTHING. We are also the new sponsors of the Crime Writers’ Association Historical Dagger Award. The shortlist will be announced at CrimeFest in May and I can’t wait to read them all! We are also currently interviewing for our first full-time staff member, which is very exciting, so we should have a new Editorial Assistant to introduce to our authors soon!
Many of the authors we signed up before our launch are working on new projects with us, as they are thrilled with reader feedback and the wonderful work Caoimhe has been doing marketing our books: we regularly feature on Amazon’s best-seller lists, and have been getting Kindle deals world-wide, from the US to Australia – and even India!
We don’t anticipate growing our list hugely in the next year, as we already have so many amazing books scheduled for release, but we will continue to support our Sapere family and we hope all of our authors will continue working with us for many years to come!
The humble rhubarb has gone from being known as an ancient cure, to a favourite British dessert, to one that post WWII fell from grace. During the war years the price was controlled so that everyone could afford it and many, like my Aunty Mary learned how to use it in a variety of recipes from tarts to Rhubarb and Ginger Jam.
This article looks at the ever popular Rhubarb Crumble.
So what is it and how did it come to be linked so strongly with Yorkshire?
It is a large leafed herbaceous perennial growing from rhizomes – a vegetable, the stalk of which provides vitamins K and C but lacks sweetness and so is low in calories. However, the leaves are high in oxalic acid which can damage the kidneys.
Because it is not sweet sugar is used in recipes and this will affect some of the benefits eating the stalk can bring, when cooked properly. It is thought to have been used as far back as 2700 BC as a medicine. Claims that it could treat gut, lung and liver problems kept it popular. In recent years it has come back into fashion and there is still a Wakefield Rhubarb Festival held in February.
Rhubarb was a native crop in Siberia growing on the banks of the Volga. Marco Polo is attributed with bringing it to Europe. In the seventeenth century it is claimed to have been more valuable than opium.
The Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle began around 1877 when the method of forcing rhubarb was brought to West Yorkshire. Forcing had been discovered by accident in the Chelsea Physic Garden, London, in 1817, but the conditions of the sheltered area between Leeds, Wakefield and Bradford in the shadows of the Pennines provided a perfect growing environment. The rain, cold and the high nitrogen available from ‘Shoddy’ – a by product of the successful woollen mill industry that also thrived in the area – all helped. The Yorkshire coalfields provided an ample supply of fuel to heat the sheds needed to grow the crop in the dark. Then excellent railways in the region linked to London and Covent Garden market as well.
Forced rhubarb was grown in sheds and the first crop early in the year was said to be the best.
The following recipe is for a simple dessert and not a health recommendation for this unique rhubarb crop.
When picking rhubarb go for early and straight, thin colourful stalks. If the stalks are limp they are not fresh. Later in the year you might need to strip off the tougher outer layer before cooking.
6 Stalks of rhubarb
Two teaspoonfuls of ground ginger
1 level tablespoon of Demerara sugar
For the Crumble
7 oz unsalted butter
7 oz golden caster sugar
14 oz plain flour
Rub butter and the flour together until crumble is fine. You can substitute some flour with oats to make the top crunchier.
Add in the sugar (to taste).
When finely mixed it should clump together when squeezed once and fall apart again a separate time.
Leave in the fridge to chill.
Top and tail the crunchy stalks of rhubarb.
Either soften in a pan with a knob of butter and the ginger and sugar until softer, or bake on a tray in the oven on 170C for ten minutes.
If the pan method is used, drain off some of the fluid. If the oven method is used then transfer to the serving dish once the rhubarb has been tested to make sure it is tender.
I would love to receive any other original recipes for the versatile and unique rhubarb.
The first conflict in For Richer, For Poorer occurs when heroine Miss Parthena Munro ‘borrows’ a coin purse from Mr Jerome Fender.
I used the term ‘coin purse’ rather than wallet because, unlike the pre-plastic card society where paper money had been the norm it was not so commonly used in Regency England.
Banknotes outside of London were not guaranteed by the Bank of England until 1826 when its first branch outside the City was opened in Gloucester. Privately owned regional banks in England and Ireland had unique notes that were signed by their own chief cashiers and therefore their continued validity depended on the success of the issuing bank. This meant that banknotes were not as secure as they are today, should a run on such an establishment occur, it could wipe out a person’s assets.
Coins had immediate and standardised values and so, although weighty, were accepted everywhere.
The golden guinea had a value of 1 sovereign and 1 shilling making it the highest denomination.
Next was the sovereign (1 pound) worth 20 shillings.
Then a half sovereign worth 10 shillings
A Crown equalled 5 shillings
1 shilling equalled 12d (old pennies)
1/2 shilling was known as a six pence piece.
A groat was 4d
A farthing was 1/4d
However, not everyone in Regency England was expected to pay their bills immediately. The aristocracy, upper and middle classes lived on credit to a large extent. This seems a strange inequality to us today, but it was the lower classes who were expected to pay coin for their goods and services on demand.
This created a highly unfair society. It also led to a number of Debtors’ prisons such as York prison, Marshalsea and The Fleet. Charles Dickens’ father was in the former under the Insolvent Debtor’s Act of 1813, when he failed to pay his debts to a trader. It was a hard system to break free from even though there was the chance of day-release to go and work, but debts continued to mount.
This period marks the beginning of change in what had previously been the norm because of the inability of debtors to pay their cumulative debts to their creditors, which could then bring these companies down as they also had creditors too. Therefore, the system had to change and settlement by cash was being favoured, yet the debtors still kept these prisons throughout Dickensian times.
What Parthena did could have cost her liberty, her life or seen her transported to the . It was just as well that it was Jerome she borrowed the coin from!
Nothing felt more homely and welcoming when I was growing up in my home town of Redcar, North Yorkshire, than entering my Aunty Mary’s old terrace house and smelling the delights being created in her kitchen.
Artie, her friendly black spaniel, also shared my enthusiasm for her cheerful personality and her home cooking hospitality.
One such recipe, Parkin, is a traditional cake (not for the health conscious or diabetic) that is basically a ginger cake packed with oats and treacle. It is mentioned in my books, such as: For Richer, For Poorer, as its recipe has been passed down the generations.
It was certainly made during the Industrial Revolution and gained favour as the ideal snack to partake of in November on a cold Bonfire Night on the 5th. The first Sunday of that month is referred to as ‘Parkin Sunday’.
This rich cake, full of flavour, also helped to keep hardworking folk filled and warmed through the cold winter months.
Lancashire also has its own recipes for parkin, but there are differences between the two versions. Yorkshire includes oats and uses more black treacle (molasses) giving a darker distinct flavour. Lancashire Parkin tends to be lighter and sweeter using more golden syrup (not corn syrup, which is different) instead. Opinions on this vary, as much as the recipes because some people leave out the oats all together, but this version hits the mark when you want to feel re-energized on a cold and dreary day.
The recipe I have included here is the one my Aunty Mary used and the one that when I do indulge takes me back to my childhood, a warm and loving home with my aunt and of course dear old Artie.
5 oz oats
4 oz SR flour 1/2 tsp baking powder 2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Pinch of salt
5 oz black treacle
3 oz golden syrup
4 oz soft brown sugar 4 oz butter 2 large beaten eggs
1 tbsp milk
Line a 1lb loaf tin with baking paper or a paper loaf case.
Preheat oven to 150C
Assemble dry ingredients in a large bowl
Melt the brown sugar with the treacle, syrup and butter – DO NOT BOIL THEM – remove from heat once the sugar has melted. Allow to cool slightly.
Pour the hot mixture into the dry ingredients and mix.
Add eggs and milk – stir well. You should have a thick liquid batter mix.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for between 1 to 1 hour and 20 minutes. Or until a skewer comes out clean when tested. The cake should be firm and springy.
Allow to cool in the baking tin.
The resulting cake should be dark, sticky, and spicy and has a flavour that improves if it is left in an airtight tin for 3-5 days after it has been allowed to cool.
Then enjoy a slice with a nice cup of tea – but in moderation!
If you know any other versions of this old favourite or more about the origins of it I would love to see your comments.