Friday, 28 February 2014

Guest Blog - Tom Winter

I am SO delighted to have the author of Lost & Found, Tom Winter, as a guest author on my blog today! In August 2013 Lost & Found was chosen as the Book of the Month by the Mail on Sunday's You Magazine book club. That summer, the Kindle edition was also a No. 1 bestseller on Amazon UK. I can totally see why. It is beautifully written and I howled with laughter one minute and was in tears the next. 

Hi Tom, thanks for being my guest today! I have just finished your clever, funny, poignant and all round fantastic book, Lost & Found  and can’t wait to pick your brains. No, not really – that would be really painful, (a bit like that joke.)

The blurb on your book reads : Meet Albert and Carol, two lost souls, brought together by a series of unforgettable letters ... Can you tell us a little about how you came up with such a unique idea?

It all began in early 2010. I was at the end of a rather messy five-year relationshipnot the kind that ends in screaming and smashed crockery, but rather the sort that slowly chokes itself to death after stripping all the oxygen from the air. The experience made me want to write a story about a woman who persisted in a marriage long after she knew it was doomed.

 As the character of Carol became clearer in my mind, it was obvious that shed got herself into this situation precisely because she couldnt express her feelings face-to-face, so it made sense that shed choose to put her thoughts in anonymous letters. Yet shes also reached the stage where she has a desperate need to be heard (by someone, anyone), so writing letters alone wouldnt have been enough for her. At first I imagined her leaving the letters around her local park, perhaps tucking them into tree trunks or leaving them on benches, but as I began to imagine the kind of person who would find them, and why these anonymous letters might mean something to him, I developed the character of Albert. From that moment on, the story fell into place very quickly.


Are any of the characters based on anyone you know or bits of them? I dont mean like an arm or leg, but traits within a personality.

The people in my life have probably been wondering the same thing, though none of them have been brave enough to ask yet! My writing draws on many thoughts and observations, so there are definitely elements that I could trace back to certain individuals. Mostly, however, the two characters are based on me; they are two very different aspects of my personality.

Do you think Max ever got over the flower incident, or do you think it tipped him completely over the edge?

No, I think it pushed him right over the edge. I believe theres a certain kind of bully who chooses to be mean to people as a defence against his own brittle fragility. As soon as someone fights back, he disintegrates. I imagine Max living out the rest of his days with the living room curtains drawn tightly shut.

You have a cracking sense of humour. The bit about the protective clothing to guard against exploding office workers had me in tears of laughter the most. Are you a funny person in your day-to-day life?

I suspect youd find me very disappointing in real life! I do like to make people laugh (though its easier said than done here in Germany). I come from a mad familymad in the classic, medieval sense of the wordso making people laugh was an important skill to have as a child. Although Im always thrilled when people find my writing funny, in truth its the distillation of many hours spent staring at a blank wall, which means I actually qualify as the most boring person you know.

 Ha! I doubt that very much! 

Lost & Found is your debut, have you always written, and how long did it take to achieve your success?

Ive been writing since about the age of four, when I took my mothers diary and filled in many of the entries with statements like This is my snot. Hopefully it was obvious to everyone that these werent my mothers words, least of all because Id also decorated the pages with smears of the real thing.

In all the years since, I have always imagined being a published novelist, but I struggled for a long time to find my voice as a writer. A few years before Lost & Found, I wrote a very different book which, after endless rejections, got me an agent in New York. For a while I thought my career was taking off, but in retrospect I can see that I had written the wrong book, and chosen an agent who wasnt right for me. The experience was a tough learning curve, but I finally got back on my feet and started all over again by writing Lost & Found. Happily, that led me to the perfect agent, Juliet Mushens at The Agency Group, who became a real champion of my writing.

That kind of support is crucial, so pleased you found Juliet. And as I have just finished laughing again because of your 'snot' explanation, I am further convinced that you are NOT boring!
 Can you tell us a little about your next book, Arms Wide Open?

Its about a brother and sister who discover that their long-dead father may actually be alive. The only person who knows the truth is their mother, who has succumbed to early-onset dementia, a rare and hereditary form of the disease. Over the days and weeks that follow, Jack and Meredith are forced to consider both the past and the future: their memories of their mother, their hopes for finding their father, and the fear of whats in their bloodline. As in Lost & Found, Ive used black comedy to lighten very difficult subjects. The paperback is out in April.

Cue a shameless plug: You may also like to know that Im currently writing my third book, Days of Wonder, which will be published next summer. But thats another story (no pun intended).

Fantastic, I love the title! Will look out for that too. And Arms Open Wide sounds like another roller coaster ride of tears of sadness one minute, and laughter the next. Can't wait to read it. So, Tom, what is the one bit of advice you would give to writers trying to get published?

Never give up! Keep writing. Keep honing your craft.

That advice is so important. I always say the same thing :) And  can you tell us who is your very favourite author?

Im going to cheat and give you two. I love Nick Hornby and David Sedaris. They could publish their shopping lists and I would still buy them.

Good choices! Thank you so much for taking the time to be a guest on my blog, Tom. It was great fun and  can’t wait for  Arms Wide Open and Days of Wonder!J

Here is the link for the paperback of Lost & Found  Click on the link above if you would like to purchase the Kindle version. I guarantee you will not be disappointed ... unless you have no sense of humour and/or are a very boring person. 

Monday, 24 February 2014

One Week and Counting!

I am VERY excited! A week tomorrow (March 4th) my e-book-version of Somewhere Beyond the Sea will go live, and on the Friday of that same week another e-book Dancing in the Rain will be launched. YES - that's two! I can hardly contain myself. What actually does that phrase mean? How would one contain oneself - in a box? A trunk with a padlock perhaps, Houdini fashion... sorry I digress.

So, they are very different books, though both within the romantic suspense genre. Somewhere Beyond the Sea is a mystery/suspense set in Cornwall, where all is not what it seems in the household of Dr Tristan and Karen Ainsworth. One of them has a dark secret that is at risk of exposure. But how far will the keeper of the secret go to protect it, and could their marriage survive if all the skeletons were to come tumbling out of the cupboard? I loved writing this book, because I found it a challenge to try to keep the reader guessing who has the secret and what that secret actually is. I hope I managed it!

Dancing in the Rain, as well as being a mystery/suspense also has a paranormal/spiritual aspect. It was the first adult novel I every wrote about eleven years ago. Needless to say it has been carefully edited and changed as I have learned so much about writing since then! It starts in England when our hero - research scientist, Jacob Weston's job and troubled dreams lead him thousands of miles away to Monument Valley Arizona. There, he finds answers to who he really is. His world is rocked by the realisation that his past has been built on a lie, but what is expected of him in the very near future is even more terrifying.

As you can imagine, I am over the moon (another odd phrase) that this novel is now being published and I hope both of them will be well received. I am already getting second (and third) book nerves! After the success of my first novel with Choc Lit PublishingA Stitch in Time, I guess it's only natural that I wonder if it could be repeated. 
So, with a huge amount of excitement and a little dollop of trepidation, I'll carry on counting down the days ... 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

A Stitch in Time Wins an Award!

I was so chuffed yesterday to discover that I have won an award for A Stitch in Time!  Here is is!

It is from the Single Titles Reviewers' Choice Award and more information can be found about it and other winners here. It was totally unexpected and made my day! 

Another thing that made my day was seeing the new artwork for my new ebook  with Choc Lit Lite Dancing in the Rain  out soonish. I hope to be able to share the cover sometime in the near future - but for now you will just have to wait! It is all under wraps :)

Somewhere Beyond the Sea is due out on the 7th of April too, so I have an exciting few months ahead. Can't wait!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Real Life Copying Fiction?

So ... two weeks ago I eventually joined a choir. Hurrah!

I have been talking about it for the past few years and just never got round to it. I have always loved to sing, and once I sang to an audience of over a thousand. Okay, granted, they were a captive audience - (a school summer assembly) and I had the help of two other colleagues, one on keyboards, one on guitar, but I did do it! The TV programme - The Choir also convinced me that I wanted to join one, but I didn't want to sing classical stuff. So I looked up the Rock Choirs that have sprung up all over the shop but decided that they were a bit too pricey. Then I found one about twenty minute's drive from me, but the dark winter nights put me off.

And then ... just when I had forgotten the whole idea, my daughter told me that she'd found out from someone at playgroup that there was one just down the road - less than ten minute's walk! Well, you can imagine, I jumped at it. The Indian Queens Community Choir turned out to be just what I had been looking for. There are about 26 of us, mixed ages and gender (though it has to be said, there are more women than men) and seem a really nice bunch. So far we have sung  Rule The World, (Gary Barlow) Sweet Child of Mine and last week joy of joys, Coldplay's Viva La Vida! They are one of my favourite groups and I know most of their songs very well. I was told by the lady next to me, Barbara, who is Justin, the choir leader's mum, that Fix You was on the list too. I love that song! So, I was chuffed to little mint balls.

The strange thing is that Somewhere Beyond the Sea, my next paperback out on the 7th of April (ebook version March) has a choir in the story too. One of my main characters, Karen Ainsworth, has an extraordinary singing voice, (unlike me) and though she has many worries in her life, eventually decides to try and put those behind her when she joins her local choir in the fictional Cornish village of Kelerston. Unfortunately, that's where the real nightmare begins for Karen and her husband...

Now, of course I really hope for my sake that I don't encounter such horrors at my local choir!  I can't see that happening actually, as my group are a real nice bunch and there's a great community atmosphere in the room. I love belonging to a community. Since we moved to Cornwall in August from Bristol I have met some lovely folk who are so friendly. Even strangers on the street say hello when they pass.

So if you live in the area why not come and join in? You will be really glad you did :)