I’m pleased to welcome back Patricia M. Osborne to Northern Read again, this time discussing her new release, The Coal Miner’s Son.
Hi Kellie, thank you for inviting me back to ‘Northern Reads’, this time, to talk about The Coal Miner’s Son.
The Coal Miner’s Son is a riches to rags story and the second book in family saga ‘House of Grace’ trilogy. It opens in 1962 and is set in a two-up and two-down terrace in Wintermore, a fictional coal mining village on the outskirts of Wigan in Lancashire.
I was born in Liverpool and moved to Bolton in 1962. The experience of growing up in a two-up and two-down terrace with an outside toilet and bathing in a tin bath in front of the fire not only influenced my writing in The Coal Miner’s Son but was fabulous material to use.
After tragedy hits the small coal mining village of Wintermore, nine-year-old miner’s son, George, is sent to Granville Hall to live with his titled grandparents.
Caught up in a web of treachery and deceit, George grows up believing his mother sold him. He’s determined to make her pay, but at what cost? Is he strong enough to rebel?
Will George ever learn to forgive?
Step back into the 60s and follow George as he struggles with bereavement, rejection and a kidnapping that changes his life forever. Resistance is George’s only hope.
Patricia M Osborne is married with grown-up children and grandchildren. She was born in Liverpool but now lives in West Sussex. In 2019 she graduated with an MA in Creative Writing (University of Brighton).
Patricia writes novels, poetry and short fiction, and has been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her first poetry pamphlet ‘Taxus Baccata’ is to be published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in Spring 2020.
Patricia has a successful blog at Patriciamosbornewriter.com where she features other writers and poets. When she isn’t working on her own writing, she enjoys sharing her knowledge, acting as a mentor to fellow writers and as an online poetry tutor with Writers’ Bureau.
Her debut novel, House of Grace, was published March 2017 and The Coal Miner’s Son, the second book in the ‘House of Grace’ trilogy was released 9th March 2020.
You can find Patricia on social media or the web here:
Today on my blog I’m pleased to welcome the lovely Clare Flynn as she discusses her novel Storms Gather Between Us, partially set in Liverpool.
Welcome, Clare! Please tell us all about your book and why you chose Liverpool as a setting.
The book is an indirect sequel to my first novel, A Greater World, which has its opening chapters in the North of England, including Liverpool, but then transfers to Australia. Storms Gather Between Us focuses on one of the secondary characters whose career in the merchant navy brings him to Liverpool – where he becomes involved with other characters who were in the back story of the first book.
It’s a book about loss, domestic violence, the oppressive nature of religious bigotry but most of all about the redeeming power of love. It’s set in the late 1930s up to the outbreak of World War Two. It’s possible that at some time I may return to the characters and write another novel to take them through the war. I always endeavour to make my books work on a stand-alone basis and to complete the story arc – but that doesn’t stop people asking for more though – sometimes quite forcefully!
I was born in Liverpool but left as a child. I came from a large extended family so throughout my childhood we went back frequently for holidays – something I kept doing even through my years at university, often escaping to the Pool for weekends. As someone born in the mid-fifties, my childhood memories were tinged by the relics of the war – there were still empty plots on street corners where bombs had fallen, lots of ruin and decay and smoke-blackened buildings. Yet it felt magical and exciting to me as a child. Some of my favourite memories were taking the ferry across the Mersey to Birkenhead and New Brighton from the Pier Head, shopping in the big department stores especially Lewis’s and going to the seaside at Crosby and Formby. I have been able to draw on these memories in my writing.
Yet Storms Gather Between Us isn’t all pre-war Liverpool – the book also pays brief visits to Naples, Lisbon and Zanzibar – I’ve never been able to resist the lure of romantic locations.
Fascinating! What’s it all about?
Since escaping his family’s notoriety in Australia Will Kidd has spent a decade sailing the seas, never looking back. Content to live the life of a wanderer, everything changes in a single moment when he comes face to face with a ghost from his past on a cloudy beach in Liverpool.
The daughter of an abusive zealot, every step of Hannah Dawson’s life has been laid out for her… until she meets Will by chance and is set on a new path. Their love is forbidden and forces on all sides divide them, but their bond is undeniable. Now, they will have to fight against all the odds to escape the chains of their histories and find their way back to one another.
About the Author:
Clare Flynn writes historical fiction with a strong sense of time and place and compelling characters. She is the author of ten historical novels and a collection of short stories. Her books often deal with characters who are displaced – forced out of their comfortable lives and familiar surroundings. She is a graduate of Manchester University where she read English Language and Literature.
Born in Liverpool she is the eldest of five children. After a career in international marketing, working on brands from nappies to tinned tuna and living in Paris, Milan, Brussels, London and Sydney, she ran her own consulting business for 15 years and now lives in Eastbourne where she writes full-time – and can look out of her window and see the sea.
When not writing and reading, Clare loves to paint with watercolours and grabs any available opportunity to travel – sometimes under the guise of research.
Clare’s latest novel, The Pearl of Penang, was published in late 2019.
Where can we buy your books and follow you on social media?
Today on my blog, I’m having a chat with historical fiction author Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger about her books, research, and latest projects. Welcome, Chrystyna.
Tell us about your books. What topics inspire you? Are there any particular settings that you’re drawn to?
My stories tend to focus on the things that make my blood boil. One of my greatest values is fairness, tolerance and justice. Combine that with my love for discovering stories beneath the surface of things, and you’ve got a writer who writes the institutionalized stories: join ‘em, leave ‘em or take ‘em down.
My Reschen Valley series is set in northern Italy, in the province that was once Austria, and is based on the building of a dam. The fascist regime destroyed the entire valley and displaced hundreds of German-speaking families.
Souvenirs from Kiev is based on my relatives’ histories during WWII in Ukraine and takes readers on a perilous journey from the Underground to the DP camps of Germany.
Magda’s Mark, which is releasing in a collection, The Road to Liberation, this May, is based on a true story about my friend’s husband. Her father-in-law was a district SS officer in Moravia. When his son was born, he was returned to the mother circumcised.
Now, can you imagine the repercussions? My first thought was, “Holy ****! Who had the cajones to do that —pun intended—and what had pushed that person to take that great of risk?” My next question was, “And when we are pushed that far, are we not just becoming ‘one of ‘em’?”
As soon as I start asking those questions, I know I have a story—or an entire book. Magda’s Mark started off as a short story but when I got invited to take part in the Road to Liberation collection, it was burning to be expanded into novel length. I’m so glad I tackled that. I loved going to the beginning and to the end of Magda’s story.
What inspired you to become a historical novelist and write about the Second World War?
I had no intention of being a historical fiction novelist. It just happened that way. First, was the project I undertook in my mid-twenties to record the events my relatives experienced in WWII Ukraine. After I was done with writing what would become an publishable piece of work, I drove down to South Tyrol—that area of northern Italy I mentioned above—to recover. I passed Reschen Lake as I always did, haunted by that steeple poking out of the water. But this time the community had set up an exhibit illustrating exactly how the valley had been flooded. I took a walk after that, and wham! Like spirits rising from the waters, I had a whole cast of characters hovering before me, just above where those villages had once stood. I took in a deep breath and thought, another historical? Really? But they all crawled into my Nissan Micra and accompanied me for the next ten years.
I’ve got two more books to go and when I hit the WWII years with the current WIP, I realised I still have quite a few WWII stories in me. Souvenirs…came out in January and to rave reviews! Magda’s Mark was written in parallel and releases May 5th. I’ve got at least two more in me that I will tackle after the current series.
How do you go about researching your books?
I always, always visit the places I write about. I’m grateful to be able to do that. I live in central Europe, so hopping into the car and driving to my locales is hardly a challenge. In January this year I visited Litomerice, Czech Republic with my friend and cover designer. She goes on these research trips with me because she finds them inspiring and enriching. The visit was a surprise. I had written ahead to some of the libraries and ministries requesting to meet with sources I needed. Litomerice is not a terribly small town but a number of people knew who we were when we arrived. They’re kind of excited that someone from America is writing about them.
How do you think fiction, especially historical fiction, help us learn about different eras?
I think stories help us to understand the past, the present and the future. We function on narrative as much as we do on air and water. Now, in my opinion, historical fiction and science fiction serve the purposes of helping us to understand ourselves as a species, and the societies we live in. Surely, we learn historical details from our novels, but these stories are character-driven. They should resonate with the reader. Otherwise, we are writing non-fiction. I made that mistake of not drawing the lines in my first manuscripts. I still read some historical fiction and think, uh-oh, the author is info-dumping and the characters—as one mentor of mine remarked about my first drafts—are just being moved around like pieces on a chess board. I even saw a play like that in London a week ago. I was at the theatre with Marion Kummerow, who also writes WWII, and the story took place in Austria from 1899 to 1955. There was so much info-dumping done by the characters through monologues, Marion and I would glance at each other in the dark and kind of roll our eyes.
What can we look for next with you?
I’ve got a number of audiobook projects in the works—three to be exact, but the virus is preventing us from moving further on certain aspects—and then I will be releasing at least Book 5 of the Reschen Valley series by the end of October and perhaps the last one in December or January. Then possibly a whole slew of non-fiction books for my other business, two more WWII novels, and then I’m switching to a series that takes place in the 16th century in the Ottoman Empire. It’s going to be a doozie. In either case, if I have to be quarantined for a long time, I have a thousand ways to keep busy.
Can you give us a teaser of Magda’s Mark?
When the German military rolled past Voštiny, they were on the road opposite the Elbe River. Magda and her mother were singing “Meadows Green” and threshing the wheat but at the sight of those black automobiles and grey-green trucks, their song dissipated like smoke into the air. Magda’s mother straightened, one hand on her headscarf, like a gesture of disbelief. No tanks. No marching soldiers. Just the caravan, moving on south, growing smaller in size but larger in meaning.
When she looked towards the fields, Magda saw her father and her two brothers also pausing, one at a time, to witness the Germans chalking off the Sudetenland boundary with their exhaust fumes. The Nováks’ farm lay within it.
Magda’s father faced the cottage, and an entire exchange silently took place between her parents.
Then the rumors are true, her father said with a simple lift of his head.
What now? her mother asked via a glance toward the river and the pursing of lips.
Her father lowered his head. We finish the wheat.
And with that, Magda, her two brothers, and her parents stuck their heads in the sand and went back to work.
Later, at midday, urgent knocking rattled their door. Everyone froze except Magda. She looked around the room, as if this was to be the last scene she should remember. Her father held the edge of the table. Her mother stood. She was straight and proud and beautiful with an open face, the kindest light-brown eyes, and full lips. Magda’s brothers sat rigid in their chairs. Each of their wives held a child. And her grandparents sat so close to each other on the bench against the oven that they might as well have been in each other’s laps.
The knocking came more insistently, and this time they stirred into action. Magda’s father pushed himself from the table and left the room. The rest were in various stages of trying to look normal. A moment later, her father returned with the village heads. With baffling lightness, he offered them Becherovka, as if it were Christmas, and shared a joke about a cow and a farmer—Magda could never remember the story or the punch line that had made them laugh so.
The Sudetenland, the village wisemen announced, was now part of the Third Reich. Hitler was protecting his people. And that was why none of the other countries called foul on breaching the treaty.
“But we will not go to war,” one village elder had said, “as we may have feared.”
“Imagine that,” Magda’s father had said abruptly, in the tone he used when angry.
Her brothers, however, had visibly relaxed. They shouldn’t have.
Today I’m thrilled to welcome saga author Mary Wood (who also writes as Maggie Mason) to my blog as she discusses her Sangronian Trilogy series set in Blackpool by Maggie Mason. For those of you who have read my debut novel, you’ll know that Blackpool has a special place in Lydie’s heart. The Sangronian Trilogy Set in Blackpool by Maggie Mason.
Welcome, Mary! Tell us about how you chose Blackpool as your setting and how the north influenced your writing.
About the books – why I chose your setting – how the north influenced my writing.
The trilogy begins in the late 19th Century, in a Blackpool that is only just seeing its famous tower being built.
I have lived in, and around the outskirts of Blackpool for thirty-seven years. During my last ten years of my working life for The National Probation Service, I was posted in Blackpool, Fleetwood, Blackburn and Lancaster.
Working and living in the north has given my writing a depth, as even for my Mary Wood Books, which are set in many places from London – to France to Poland, I have always brought in a Northern Lass.
I love the north of England, for its down-to-earth people, its culture, its varying dialect and its beautiful countryside scenery.
Since living in Blackpool and surrounding area, I have come to discover that it is far more than the heart of its economy – The Golden Mile, its spectacular illuminations, and its accolade of being the most popular, British Holiday Destination.
It is home to a transient and cosmopolitan population.
And in its back streets and housing estates, the community spirit that was once the backbone of Great Britain, still thrives amongst the Sandgronians – those born in Blackpool, and the Blackpudlians – those who have made their home here, of which I proudly number myself.
Since beginning to set the books I write under a pen name of Maggie Mason in the town, I have also discovered that it has a fascinating history.
This trilogy spans a period of change both in Blackpool and the world as it takes us through life in the latter part of the 19th century through the 1920’s.
The Books, their availability and Blurb.
BOOK ONE: BLACKPOOL’S ANGEL: Published by Sphere, 25th July 2019 available on kindle and to order in paperback from Waterstones, and all online stores
BOOK TWO: BLACKPOOL SISTERS: Published by Sphere, available on kindle now, and in paperback on June 25 2020 from Supermarkets, Waterstones, and online.
BOOK THREE: A BLACKPOOL CHRISTMAS Published by Sphere in all formats on November 12th 2020, available on kindle, Waterstones and Supermarkets as well as on all online outlets.
Tilly is a young wife and mother of six-year-old twin daughters, Beth and Babs. She is happy and very much in love with her husband, when suddenly tragedy strikes and she is left alone to care for her children, in a world where the only help is charity handouts.
A talented basket maker, Tilly collects willow and hedgerow material to craft her wares and trudges the streets of Blackpool and nearby St Anne’s on Sea trying to sell them. But she cannot keep the wolves from the door.
When she secures a job with the local greengrocer, she thinks her life will improve, but he wants more than help in the shop. A desperate Tilly gives into his demands sealing her fate of sending her life into a downward spiral and she loses everything.
Homeless and penniless, Tilly and her children are offered help by the local gypsies in exchange for her teaching them her craft.
Falling foul of the women, as her vibrant and voluptuous looks turn the eyes of their men, she is duped by them. One night they drug her. When she wakes in hospital, they and her twins have gone and she doesn’t know where to, or if she will ever see her children again.
The gypsies have introduced her to gin – loving the effects of drinking this fiery liquid, Tilly finds solace in the bottle setting off a series of events that leave her out of control of her life and in a deep pit of misery.
But friends she makes sustain and help her.
The twins grow up as gypsy girls, they love the couple who are now their parents, but never forget Tilly their real mother and yearn to be reunited with her.
They take different routes to try to achieve this, Babs, runs away when she is just fourteen years old, which leaves her vulnerable to predators and floundering alone, resulting in her losing her way.
Beth leaves much later, by which time she has learnt to manipulate the gypsy couple to get her own way in life.
As Tilly begins to prosper, having met a man who takes care of her and whom she adores and at last realizes her dreams to follow her talents – for both of her girls,The First World War is a turning point in their lives, bringing each a taste of happiness, and yet heartache as events unfold that change the course of their lives – through it all they always long to reunite with each other and with their true mother.
Will this ever happen? And if it does, will it bring the happiness all three desire? Or will hidden forces work against them making it impossible for them to live in harmony?
It is never easy to go back to a place in life you long for and yet, you are may be seeing through rose-tinted glasses.
I am the author of 22 novels to date – as we go to press, four of those are in the pipeline. I write under my own name,
Mary Wood published by Pan Macmillan – Historical Saga Fiction
Maggie Mason published by Sphere, an implant of Little Brown Books and Hatchet –
Regional Sagas, set in Blackpool
Molly Kent – Self-published on kindle, writing Gangland Thrillers – to date, I have just one title – The Sweet Taste of Revenge on sale.
I like to think that my talent comes from my Great Grandmother, Dora Langlois, a late 19th century – early 20th century author, who in her day was not only known for her novels, but her informative books, her stage plays and as an actress, and also for her short stories in The People’s Friend. I am honoured to follow in her footsteps to be a contributor to that wonderful magazine – over a hundred years later.
Born the 13th child to a family of 15 children, life hasn’t always been easy, but I am lucky to say, it has been happy.
My education consisted of the four r’s – reading, writing, arithmetic, and religion, but I have since accumulated a wealth of knowledge from The University of Life.
I have a large family of my own now, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and during the summer, live with my adored husband of 57 years in a beautiful lodge in a small village on the outskirts of Blackpool. In the winter months we head south to Spain – this is my writing retreat months, which I love.
If you want to check out my books, or interact with me on social media, where you will be so welcome, here are some links to point you in the right direction.
Amazon page for Maggie Mason – links to all ‘Maggie’ books can be found here:
Today on my blog, I have a stellar book review of Judith Barrow’s latest novel, The Memory, out today from Honno Press. Many thanks to Honno for an advanced review copy.
Hauntingly poignant, The Memory by Judith Barrow had me hooked from the beginning. Relationships between mothers and daughters aren’t always the picture-perfect images we see on social media. In fact, sometimes they are anything but. The relationship between main character Irene and her mother evolves around the birth of baby sister Rose, who was born with Down’s Syndrome during a time when children with handicaps or special needs were treated with shame by society.
Barrow’s beautifully written narrative perfectly captured the tensions that sometimes we inherit from one generation to the next beween mothers and daughters, and our ability to hold on to something we love at any cost.
I loved Irene as a character because although at times heartwrenching, she never gave up on the people that needed her. Her bond with her little sister, Rose, her gran Nanna, her father Derek, and the love of her life, Sam, painted an honest portrait over time of the joys and utter despairs of being a carer for nearly everyone else. I so wanted for her to finally have some peace in the end.
A must read for any mother and daughter as we navitage this challenging thing called sisterhood. Highly recommended. Five stars.
As I always try to show support for my fellow art in fiction authors, it’s a pleasure to welcome historical fiction author Drēma Drudge to my blog today with an excerpt of her novel Victorine, releasing on March 17th by Fleur de Lis Press
Chapter One: Portrait of Victorine Meurent, Paris, 1862
I am called The Shrimp, Le Crevette because of my height and because I am as scrappy as those little question-mark-shaped delights that I used to study when my father took me to Les Halles. I would stand before the shrimp tank and watch the wee creatures paw at the water, repeatedly attempting to scale the tank, swimming, sinking, yet always rising again. I hoped eagerly for one to crest the tank, not realizing until later that the lid was there precisely to prevent their escape.
So why am I reminded of that tank today?
Today, while I am giving a guitar lesson in my father’s lithography shop, the gifted yet controversial painter, Édouard Manet, enters the shop. He gives me the nod.
I cover the strings of my guitar with my hand to silence them.
Pѐre has mentioned Manet’s recent patronage of his shop, of course, but I have never been here when the artist has come by.
“M. Manet, this is my daughter, Victorine. I believe you’ve. . . .”
“We’ve met,” I say.
“And where is it we have met, Mademoiselle?” he asks, wincing as he looks in the vicinity of my nose.
Is this a snub? I run my hand over the swollen, crooked lump of flesh on my face.
“I must be mistaken.” I turn away, smiling bitterly at my quick temper, at my trying to turn up a nose such as this. Of course he doesn’t recognize me.
I motion for my student to put her guitar away: “That’s enough for today, dear.” Though she looks at the clock with a puzzled brow, she does as I say.
My father graciously allows me to give lessons in his shop, claiming he loves to hear young musicians learning to play, though I suspect it’s more because my mother hates allowing anyone into our house besides her regular millinery clients.
Manet moves toward me, puts his face close to mine; I don’t pull away, but only because that is the way painters see. I would have punched another man for standing so close. He snaps his fingers. “Le Crevette?” he exclaims, backs away.
I raise my chin to regard the posters on my father’s wall. The Compagnie Francaise de Chocolats et des thes declares my father’s fine sense of color, his signature mingling of coral and scarlet. The other posters reveal his repeated twinning of these colors.
Manet grasps my hand with frank friendliness that I almost believe. Want to believe. “It is you; I’ve seen you model at Coutoure’s. But what has happened to your nose?”
I rise on my toes, though the height it gives me is minimal. I motion for Gabrielle to gather her music, and she shuffles the sheets.
I move closer to him while withdrawing my hand from his, take out my emerald green enamel cigarette case (a gift from a wealthy student at Coutoure’s studio) and light a cigarette. I empty my lungs straight at the yellowing ceiling, though my torso is not a foot from his.
My father frowns and waves the smoke away; how many times must I tell him that I am eighteen and I will smoke if I please? He smokes a pipe sometimes. What’s the difference?
“I give guitar lessons now. Obviously, I’m no longer a model.”
Manet’s eyes graze on me. I stand straighter. When I realize it, I relax.
To continue reading, purchase your copy of Victorine here:
In 1863 Civil War is raging in the United States. Victorine Meurent is posing nude, in Paris, for paintings that will be heralded as the beginning of modern art: Manet’s Olympia and Picnic on the Grass. However, Victorine’s persistent desire is not to be a model but to be a painter herself. In order to live authentically, she finds the strength to flout the expectations of her parents, bourgeois society, and the dominant male artists (whom she knows personally) while never losing her capacity for affection, kindness, and loyalty. Possessing both the incisive mind of a critic and the intuitive and unconventional impulses of an artist, Victorine and her survival instincts are tested in 1870, when the Prussian army lays siege to Paris and rat becomes a culinary delicacy. Drema Drudge’s powerful first novel Victorine not only gives this determined and gifted artist back to us but also recreates an era of important transition into the modern world.
About the Author:
Drēma Drudge suffers from Stendhal’s Syndrome, the condition in which one becomes overwhelmed in the presence of great art. She attended Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program where she learned to transform that intensity into fiction.
Drēma has been writing in one capacity or another since she was nine, starting with terrible poems and graduating to melodramatic stories in junior high that her classmates passed around literature class.
She and her husband, musician and writer Barry Drudge, live in Indiana where they record their biweekly podcast, Writing All the Things, when not traveling. Her first novel, Victorine, was literally written in six countries while she and her husband wandered the globe. The pair has two grown children.
In addition to writing fiction, Drēma has served as a writing coach, freelance writer, and educator. She’s represented by literary agent Lisa Gallagher of Defiore and Company.
For more about her writing, art, and travels, please visit her website, www.dremadrudge.com, and sign up for her newsletter. She’s always happy to connect with readers in her Facebook group, The Painted Word Salon, or on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Today on my Northern Read series, I’m proud to have fellow historical fiction author John R McKay on the blog discussing how growing up in Wigan influenced his WWI novel, The Sun Will Always Shine.
Welcome, John. Tell us about how The Sun Will Always Shine and why you set it in the north?
The book is set before and during World War One and is about two brothers who live on a dairy farm with their parents and young sister (who has learning difficulties). Their father is abusive towards them, and, not to give too much of the plot away, they commit a gruesome crime to free themselves and their sister from his evil ways. To escape the fallout, one of the brothers joins the army and ends up in the trenches of the Western Front, whilst his older brother stays at home to face the consequences of what they’ve done.
I chose the north of England for two reasons. The first is that I am from Wigan in Lancashire/Greater Manchester and wanted to write a novel set near to my home town. The second is that I wanted to write something about the ‘Pals Battalions’ of the First World War, many of which hailed from the north of England. These were groups of friends who joined up together and paid the ultimate price together on the Somme and other battles. Rather than just write about what happened to those young men, I decided to incorporate a drama around those events to show the human element to an awful historic event. Being from the north of England myself and having been stationed near to a lot of WW1 sites when in the RAF in Belgium, this is a period of history that has always fascinated me.
I have managed to incorporate a couple of scenes into the novel that are set in my home town of Wigan, including a convalescent home that actually existed at the time.
I am proud to be a northerner and my latest project will also be set in the north west of England.
Can’t wait to read it!
More about The Sun Will Always Shine:
Set before and during the First World War The Sun Will Always Shine tells the story of brothers Harry and Charlie Davenport, who live on a farm in northern England, and their attempts to protect their mother and sister from their abusive and violent father. They believe that their father’s increasing brutality needs to be stopped and they will need to carry out strong action to do that in order to protect their family. With war approaching they realise that these actions could have terrible consequences upon the very people they have sworn to protect. As suspicions grow ever stronger, could they find an escape in the trenches of the Western Front before their secret is revealed and their world is ripped apart? This is a tale of war, grief, horror, lost love and sacrifice and is John R McKay’s most powerful novel to date.
About John R McKay:
John R McKay was born and raised in Wigan, Greater Manchester where he lives with his wife, Dawn. He has two grown up daughters Jessica and Sophie. John has recently become a USA Today Bestselling author following the success of the anthology ‘The Darkest Hour – Tales of WW2 Resistance.’ John’s contribution to the anthology ‘V for Victory’ has now been released as a standalone novella. His other works include ‘The Absolution Of Otto Finkel’, a historical novel covering largely unknown events of World War 2 and how war affects people in different ways. His latest novel, ‘Codename: GREYMAN’ concludes the tale. In ‘Mosquitoes’, which is a break from his normal genre, John has produced a contemporary study of how a man can ‘lose the plot’ when circumstances in his life change suddenly. A black comedy, Mosquitoes is a uniquely written story, told from the perspective of a man unable to cope with the both the pressures of modern society and those pressures he puts upon himself in a constant struggle to accept the situation fate has given him. His novel, ‘The Worst Journey In The World’ is set aboard a Royal Navy frigate which carries out perilous journeys to the Soviet Union during World War 2. He cites his modern literary favourites as Sebastian Faulkes, Robert Harris and Wilbur Smith.
John is a qualified Advanced Open Water Scuba diver and also enjoys cinema, reading books of various genres and following the fortunes of his beloved Liverpool Football Club.
I loved V for Victory! Where can we find you on social media?
This week on The Road to Liberation blog series, I’m pleased to welcome Fenella J. Miller, as she shares her inspiration for A Long Way Back, and a lovely extract to boot.
A Long Way Back, my contribution to this incredible ten book collection of World War II stories, was inspired by a comment from my editor. I was racking my brains as to what to write about that fitted the title – The Road to Liberation – when she suggested that I write about a character from my bestselling Barbara’s War series. Squadron Leader Alex Everton, the hero of the series, is missing for half the final book as he’s been shot down somewhere over France.
The Long Way Back is his story and fills in the missing nine months. I became so engrossed in my research I’m determined to write a series featuring the French Resistance.
Everything that Alex experiences after his Spitfire is shot down over Dieppe actually happened to someone during the war. Obviously, no Evader was unfortunate enough to endure all the hardships and misadventures that he and his fellow pilots did, but he’s a resourceful young man and, of course, eventually made his way back to his wife and son.
I always have RAF fighter pilots as my heroes because both my father and stepfather were in the RAF during World War II. When they were alive, I wasn’t a historical fiction writer and I really wish that I’d talked more about their exploits when I’d had the opportunity.
Here is an extract to give you a taste of what my book’s about:
They’d barely reached cruising height and speed when the radio crackled into life. ‘Red Leader, bandits include many snappers. I say again, many snappers, keep a good lookout. Over.’
Snappers was the codename for Messerschmitt 109s. He acknowledged the information and kept his eyes peeled. Then he saw them approaching. They looked like a small swarm of bees from that distance.
There was a well-known saying in the RAF that it wasn’t the Jerry that you saw that got you, but the one that you didn’t. How true that was.
‘Tally-ho, lads, stay in your pairs. Good luck and good hunting.’ There was no time to say more as the first of the 109s screamed towards him. Streams of tracer twisted past his port wing and he could see the flashes of the Germans guns. His eight Brownings spluttered and the pungent smell of burnt charges filtered into his mask. The bullets found the target and the cockpit of his enemy disintegrated.
No time to congratulate himself as two more were on him seeking revenge. He hauled on the stick and the drag pressed on his face and he almost blacked out. He kicked on the left rudder in the hope that this would confuse his opponents.
His head cleared and for a moment the sky was empty. Then from nowhere they were on him. A stream of solid fire engulfed the kite. He was hit. Flames engulfed his right wing. Bail or burn. He heaved and struggled to get out.
Fenella J Miller was born in the Isle of Man. Her father was a Yorkshire man and her mother the daughter of a Rajah. She has worked as a nanny, cleaner, field worker, hotelier, chef, secondary and primary teacher and is now a full time writer.
She has over fifty Regency romantic adventures published plus four Jane Austen variations, four Victorian sagas and eight WW2 family sagas. She is a hybrid writer producing two World War II books a year for Aria Head of Zeus as well as four Regency romances. She lives in a small village in Essex with her British Shorthair cat. She has two adult children and three grandchildren.
To connect with Fenella, visit her website, connect with her on social media, or email her.
Today on the blog for this edition of Northern Reads we welcome Anne Marie Brear as she discusses her novel The Slum Angel which is set in York.
Welcome, AnneMarie. Please tell us about why you chose to set The Slum Angel it in York?
Although Australian born, my family are from Wakefield in West Yorkshire. I’ve lived in England and love the history. The Slum Angel is set in York, where several of my books are set. York is a great place and I only lived an hour’s drive from there so I could visit and walk the streets to help with my research. York has a fascinating history in all eras, and I thought to set a book there which highlighted the slum problems in the Victorian era.
That’s fascinating! My grandfather’s name was Wakefield. 🙂 He never got to see his namesake, though. What can readers expect from The Slum Angel?
Orphan Victoria Carlton is brought up by her uncle, a banker, to be a lady and make a good marriage. Yet, she is drawn to help the poor families in the slums, much to her family’s disgust. When her uncle dies suddenly, her cousins blame Victoria, and she is thrown out of the house with nothing. Victoria flees to the poor side of York to start again in a world that is full of perils. To combat the heartache of being without her family, she befriends the destitute women and children in the slums, but such friendships come with the danger of disease, and increasing poverty, and the threat of a brutal man could cost her everything. Can Victoria find the security she has lost? Will a certain doctor be the man she can give her heart to? Or will the ghosts of the past return to take away everything she has worked so hard for?
Amazon UK bestseller and award winning Australian author, AnneMarie Brear has been a life-long reader and started writing in 1997 when her children were small. She has written 22 novels and several short stories. She has a love of history, of grand old English houses and a fascination of what might have happened beyond their walls. Her interests include reading, genealogy, watching movies, spending time with family and eating chocolate – not always in that order!
On this edition for Northern Reads in February, we cap the month off with Jo Fenton and her brand new release Revelation.
I’d like to thank you, Kellie, for allowing me to appear on your blog today.
Revelation is my latest novel, released by Darkstroke Publishing on Monday 24th February.
It is set in Manchester in 1989, and is about students, Becky and Dan, whose friend, Rick, was found dead in suspicious circumstances. It’s a story of unrequited love, grief, friendship, betrayal and revenge.
The setting is the Halls of Residence where I lived as a student, and other areas around Manchester University and Fallowfield.
I remained in Manchester after graduating, as my parents moved to North Manchester at the end of my first term at University, and I’ve lived in the area ever since. I definitely consider myself an adopted Northerner!
Revelation is the start of a series of books, featuring Becky as a Manchester-based detective.
In Revelation, she investigates the death of her friend, Rick. In subsequent books, we meet her as a middle-aged adult – married with kids, and a recent trauma.
My detailed knowledge of the area and community where I live features strongly in the novels, and adds a distinct local flavour. However, readers will not need to know the area to enjoy the books.
Book 2, Paparazzi, is in progress, and will hopefully be ready for release next winter.
About the book:
A student, Rick, is found dead in halls of residence.
His friends get caught up in the aftermath: Dan, who was in love with Rick; and Becky, who is in love with Dan.
Their fraught emotions lead them into dark places – particularly a connection to a mysterious Kabbalistic sect.
Will Becky discover who killed Rick in time to save her best friend?
About the author:
Jo Fenton grew up in Hertfordshire. She devoured books from an early age and, at eleven, discovered Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer. She now has an eclectic and much loved book collection cluttering her home office.
Jo combines an exciting career in Clinical Research with an equally exciting but very different career as a writer of psychological thrillers.
When not working, she runs (very slowly), and chats to lots of people. She lives in Manchester with her family and is an active and enthusiastic member of two writing groups and two reading groups.
Revelation was released on Amazon on 24th February