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 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:
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.
Milly’s Marvelous Mistakes, Illustrated and Written by Peta Rainford (Dogpigeon Books, February 2020)
Rating: 5 stars
Being the ‘author of a family saga series, I’m always searching for books that not only tell stories but also provide instruction. Having two artists in that series, especially my first one with teenage Lydia, I was immediately intrigued by Milly’s Marvelous Mistakes.
Some of the greatest lessons in life are found in books for young readers. With Milly, one of life’s great lessons is narrated in such a beautiful poetic form: good things require hard work, and to be good, you must also be willing to be bad first. Or as my grand would say, nothing good comes without patience and effort.
In a world of instant gratification, taking the easy way out, and so called “instant success” (which usually never is), we’re reminded that part of life is making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. They make us better people if we’re willing to learn from them, and they make us who we are.
While it’s important to strive for excellence, we can also remember that those bad spots make us unique, and sometimes more prized.
The book is beautifully illustrated with vivid colors and whimsical drawings that bring the story to life.
This is certainly a must give for any child on your list or for teachers of young children. It made me smile through and through.
Milly’s Marvelous Mistakes is available in paperback at Amazon and other fine retailers.
About the author:
Peta writes and illustrates her funny picture books on the Isle of Wight, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and hairy jack russell, Archie. Peta loves going into schools to share her books and inspire children in their writing and art. She has appeared at a number of festivals and other events, including: Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, Isle of Wight Literary Festival, Exmoor Dark Skies Festival and Ventnor Fringe. She is one of the organisers of the inaugural IW Story Festival, taking place in February 2020.
On a very special Valentine’s Day edition of Northern Reads, we have romance writer Paula Martin joining us to discuss her novel Changing the Future.
Welcome, Paula. Tell us about Changing the Future, and what inspired you to set it in the Lake District?
Changing the Future is set on the edge of the English Lake District in North West England, mainly in a (fictitious) higher education college near the town of Kenton. Readers who know the area will recognize the town as it has a flourishing Arts Centre which I’ve featured a couple of times in the story. My heroine lives in a village near the college; in this case, I ‘moved’ one village that I know well to a different location!
I set the story in the Lake District because, being a ‘Northerner’, I’m very familiar with this area. I had a caravan there for many years which I visited as often as I could – and even climbed few of the fells (when I was younger!). It’s always easier to write about a place you know, and I hope I’ve been able to give readers a flavour of the Lakeland area as well as a glimpse of its beautiful mountains and lakes.
It also provides a contrast to the dramatic scene in the latter part of the story when the hero is caught up in a volcanic eruption in Iceland!
Lisa Marshall is stunned when celebrated volcanologist Paul Hamilton comes back into her life at the college where she now teaches. Despite their acrimonious break-up several years earlier, they soon realise the magnetic attraction between them is stronger than ever. However, the past is still part of the present, not least when Paul discovers Lisa has a young son. They can’t change the past, but will it take a volcanic eruption to help them change the future?
To purchase your copy, visit this page to find your favorite bookseller:
I’ve lived in North West England all my life. Born and brought up in Preston in Lancashire, I now live near Manchester.
I had some early publishing success with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while I brought up a young family and also pursued my career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. I returned to writing fiction after retiring from teaching, and since then I’ve had 11 novels published in the last eight years. My original publisher closed just over two years ago, but my current publisher, Tirgearr Publishing, has re-published six of my backlist and also two new novels.
To find Paula on the web and social media, visit here:
On this first Northern Reads edition of February, we welcome crime novelist Keith Dixon to share his novel The Cobalt Sky set in Cheshire.
Tell us about The Cobalt Sky and how being born in Yorkshire and later living in Cheshire has influenced your writing.
The Cobalt Sky is set in Wilmslow in Cheshire, a very posh town in a very posh county, south of Liverpool and Manchester. The plot concerns the theft of a valuable watercolour painting from the home of the painter, who then hires PI Sam Dyke to find it. To carry out his investigation, Sam has to delve into the family of the painter and the relationships between them – which is not a straightforward job. Sam begins to realise that the past—as so often in crime novels—is having a huge influence on the present.
I was born in Yorkshire but moved south to Coventry when I was 3 months old. As a young man I went to college and then stayed in Cheshire, eventually working in and around the North West – Stoke-on-Trent, Chester, Stafford, and later Manchester and Wilmslow. I lived in the area for over thirty years before moving to France, where I now live. The impetus behind my Sam Dyke series was to explore what it would be like to be a private investigator in the leafy suburbs of Cheshire. My PI is from working-class stock in Yorkshire but finds himself dealing with the rich and wealthy people of Cheshire as his clients and victims. I also wanted to use the style and tropes of the classic private eye novels, being heavily influenced by Hammett, Chandler, Robert Crais and Ross Macdonald. Sam Dyke is even named in honour of Hammett’s Sam Spade (and my mother’s maiden name!).
Living and working with northerners—and being one by birth myself—has led me to value their honesty and warmth. The bad guys that Sam comes up against are often interlopers from the South who try to manipulate people for their own purposes, not understanding that they’re going to be found out and punished in the end. Sam Dyke is also a stranger to the posh environment of Cheshire, but as the series progresses, he understands it more and wouldn’t live anywhere else.
More about The Cobalt Sky:
Edward Ransome is one of England’s most famous artists – rich, a friend to celebrities and known for his devotion to his craft for almost fifty years.
Then someone steals his favourite painting – the painting that set Ransome on course to fame and fortune but was never sold and rarely seen.
Sam Dyke is hired to find the painting, and the thief, but quickly discovers that the loss of the painting is only one of the many losses suffered by Ransome, and his family.
What’s more, whoever stole the painting is keen to keep it a secret, and committing murder to do so is not out of the question.
Soon Dyke finds he has more than a simple burglary on his hands – it’s a case that spans generations and includes more than one ordinary crime.
The Cobalt Sky is a subtle but exciting exploration of the ways in which families can hurt each other over time … without even trying.
From the two-time winner of the Chanticleer Reviews CLUE Award in the private eye/noir category, for The Bleak and The Innocent Dead.
The Cobalt Sky is available in paperback from Amazon and bookstores world-wide. It’s currently available in Kindle format from an Amazon store near you. Click here: http://authl.it/B07W1GBRBQ
Keith Dixon was born in Yorkshire and grew up in the Midlands. He’s been writing since he was thirteen years old in a number of different genres: thriller, espionage, science fiction, literary. Two-time winner of the Chanticleer Reviews CLUE First in Category award for Private Eye/Noir novel, he’s the author of nine full-length books and one short-story in the Sam Dyke Investigations series and two other non-crime works, as well as two collections of blog posts on the craft of writing. His new series of Paul Storey Thrillers began in 2016 and there are now three books in the series.
Not long ago, an author friend posted about her current working title for the second book in her series, and how she was undecided about the final title. Many authors will have a working title that we let the reader know about, only to change that title when it comes time to cover creation. Others just find it later.
I had titled my fourth book “Ball of Confusion” for most of its journey as a work in progress. I had even gone through the rewrites and structural edits and had toyed with changing the title, but nothing seemed to convey the central theme of the book.
It was research that led me to it, though. Back in December I was reading Elizabeth Kim’s memoir Ten Thousand Sorrows as she is a Korean War orphan and nearly my character Suzy’s age. I wanted to hear about her experiences and challenges of growing up in America. If you haven’t read her book, I highly recommend you get it, and also invest in some hankies. I read it nearly in one sitting.
A central theme of Kim’s book was fear of abandonment, and as the daughter of divorced parents from an early age, I could relate to her so much. So when she quoted Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Song of the Nations” as a poem that gave her peace, a lightbulb went off immediately.
As a writer and a creator, you have to trust your gut. It’s one of your most prized tools, and you must cherish. The moment I read that first phrase, I knew I had a title. Once I read the entire poem, I was bobbing my head up and down, because everything I wanted to express in this book was encapsulated into one poem.
Here is the poem in it’s entirety:
Out of Night and alarm Out of Darkness and dread, Out of old hate, Grudge and distrust, Sin and remorse, Passion and blindness; Shall come Dawn and the birds, Shall come Slacking of greed, Snapping of fear– Love shall fold warm like a cloak Round the shuddering earth Till the sound of its woe cease.
After Terrible dreams, After crying in sleep, Grief beyond thought, Twisting of hands, Tears from shut lids Wetting the pillow; Shall come Sun on the wall, Shall come sounds from the street, Children at play– Bubbles too big blown, and dreams Filled too heavy with horror Will burst and in mist fall.
Sing then, You who were dumb, Shout then Into the dark; Are we not one? Are not our hearts Hot from one fire, And in one mold cast? Out of Night and alarm, Out of Terrible dreams, Reach me your hand, This is the meaning of all that we Suffered in sleep, — the white peace Of the waking.
I discussed my thoughts with my editor and she, along with one of my beta readers, loved the new title. My old art instructor used to say, “Now you’re cooking with gas.”
From there I was able to form a clear picture of the cover. Two women clothed in contrasting black and white, representing the imagery of coming out of depression and despair into healing and affirmation. Doubt and self-loathing into confidence.
The rest was orchestration, playing on images found in 1960s fashion ads and dress pattern illustrations. My designer, the fabulous Victoria Cooper of Victoria Cooper Art, and I went back and forth on dresses and hairstyles until I had that “That’s it!” moment straight out of a Charlie Brown Christmas.
I’m so pleased to reveal that inspiration with you, and to introduce Kate and Lydie’s story. I often return to themes in my series, and this one touches back on elements of books one and two in the saga. The first is that although darkness may seem impenetrable, light is always out there. The other is that no matter what your past may be, no matter what place you have come from, your future is in your hands. You have the choice and the chance to change that and become the person you want to become. It isn’t an easy path by any means. In my own life, it has sometimes been a series of one step forward and two steps back. But as long as you keep moving, even if you must crawl, you are still on that path.
Out of Night is available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo.
It’s time for another edition of Northern Reads! Today on my blog we’re in Bolton as another family saga author, Patricia M. Osborne joins us today.
Hi Kellie, thank you for inviting me over to talk about how living in Bolton as a child has influenced my novel House of Grace.
House of Grace is a riches to rags story and the first book in a family saga trilogy. Book One is split into two parts and runs from 1950 to Christmas Eve in 1969. A bulk of Part I is set in Bolton, Greater Manchester. I chose this setting because, although I was born in Liverpool, when I was seven years old we moved to Bolton, then known as Bolton, Lancashire, rather than Greater Manchester. In Bolton, I lived in a two-up and two-down terrace with my Mum, Dad, two sisters and baby brother. We had no bathroom but bathed in a tin bath by the fire. Poor Mum had to drag it out to the backyard to empty once we’d finished. This memory was great material for a scene in House of Grace.
When I was eleven, we moved to Surrey as my dad had acquired a new job which was to be a fresh start for us all. Our new house had not only an indoor bathroom and toilet but a huge back garden.
My time in Bolton made a great impression on me and it crops up in my writing a lot. House of Grace was no exception.
When my protagonist, Grace Granville, visits Bolton for the first time to stay with her best friend Katy, she visits places that I myself had enjoyed. For instance, Bolton Museum with lion statues outside the town hall. My late sister and I spent numerous hours in the library, museum and aquarium. At the ages of six and seven we would walk from Daubhill into Bolton town centre and spend our day bobbing from the library, museum, to downstairs in the aquarium. We were fascinated by it all so much. The museum was eerie with mummies and old porcelain dolls. Those dolls had a hypnotic effect on me and stayed with me for years. On fine days we loved to play outside the museum around the town hall lions, stroking their manes. My protagonist, Grace is fascinated by the museum and lion statues too.
In 1990, I returned to Bolton with my eldest two children so they could see where I’d lived, went to school and of course visit the museum. I was disappointed to find that so much had been demolished. My home had gone, and the small church school, Emmanuel, had gone too. Castle Hill in Tonge Moor was still standing but looked tiny, unlike my memory that it was a large school. My children loved the museum just like I had as a child, however I was disappointed because this huge space that I’d remembered seemed to have shrunk.
Samuel Crompton’s house was another old haunt of ours. A gang of us, including my two sisters, used to hike up to Hall i’ th’ Wood. The older kids would frighten we younger ones when stepping into Samuel Crompton’s house. They said if we rocked the cradle then the floor would open, we’d be swallowed up and the ghost would get us. At seven that was quite scary.
The Palais was the place where the young people liked to go dancing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t old enough as I was only eleven when we left Bolton but my elder sister used to go on a regular basis. This had an impression on me too as I made sure Katy took Grace to the Astoria Palais de Danse, and this is where she meets the love of her life, coal miner Jack Gilmore.
Sketch by Helen A James, 2017
Because I never got to go to the palais, a Facebook memory group came to my aid and told me what the interior was like in 1950, and even how much it would have cost for a cup of coffee. Members of the Bolton Palais Facebook Group who read House of Grace said I had described the Palais just like they remembered it. What I didn’t know just after publishing my novel was the fight the people of Bolton had on their hands to save their beloved dance hall. Alas they lost their battle and this wonderful iconic building was demolished. However, The Palais de Danse lives on in House of Grace.
‘…large round building on the corner of Higher Bridge Street.
I looked up at the sign. ‘Astoria Palais De-Danse.’
‘Yes,’ Katy answered, ‘only we Boltonians call it the Palais. Come on, let’s go in.’
Book two, ‘The Coal Miner’s Son’, will make its appearance in March 2020. Part I of this book runs alongside House of Grace but told in the point of view of Grace’s nine-year-old son, George. It opens in 1962 and ends in 1971, so the second part works as a sequel. Following this is ‘The Granville Legacy’, the final book in the trilogy. It begins in 1981 and as it is a work in progress, I’m not sure where it will finish yet. I then have the potential to produce more novels or novellas in the series with different characters’ stories. I am sure that Bolton will pop up in those too.
About House of Grace:
All sixteen-year-old Grace Granville has ever wanted is to become a successful dress designer. She dreams of owning her own fashion house and spends her spare time sketching outfits. Her father, Lord Granville, sees this as a frivolous activity and arranges suitors for a marriage of his choosing.
Grace is about to leave Greenemere, a boarding school, in Brighton. Blissfully unaware of her father’s plans, she embarks on a new adventure. The quest includes a trip to Bolton’s Palais where she meets coal miner, Jack Gilmore. Grace’s life is never the same again.
Is Grace strong enough to defy Lord Granville’s wishes and find true love? Will she become a successful fashion designer? Where will she turn for help?
House of Grace is the first book in the historical fiction family saga trilogy.
If you like Mr Selfridge and House of Eliott then you’ll love this riches to rags 1950s/60s saga. Delve into House of Grace and follow Grace Granville as she struggles with family conflict, poverty and tragedy.
Patricia M Osborne is married with grown-up children and grandchildren. She was born in Liverpool and now lives in West Sussex. In February 2019, Patricia graduated with an MA in Creative Writing (Merit) via the University of Brighton. She is a novelist, poet, and short story writer. When she isn’t working on her own writing, she enjoys sharing her knowledge, acting as a mentor to fellow writers and tutoring poetry online for the Writers’ Bureau.
Her poetry pamphlet, ‘Taxus Baccata’ was a winner with Hedgehog Poetry Press and will appear during 2020. Patricia has had many poems and short stories published in various literary magazines and anthologies Her debut novel, House of Grace, A Family Saga, set in the 1950s/60s, was released in March 2017.
In 2017 Patricia was Poet in Residence at a local Victorian Park in Crawley and her poetry was exhibited throughout the park. In 2019 her poetry was on display at Crawley Museum.
Patricia has a successful blog at Patriciamosbornewriter.com where she features other writers and poets.
Her hobbies include walking around her local park and lake, swimming, reading, photography, and playing the piano when time permits. All these activities offer inspiration to create new writing.
It’s Friday, and that means another edition of Northern Reads! Today on the blog we welcome Rob Campbell from Manchester with his YA mystery novel Monkey Arkwright.
Welcome, Rob! Please tell us about Monkey Arkwright.
Monkey Arkwright is the first part in my “Wardens of the Black Heart” YA mystery trilogy. The second part – Black Hearts Rising – is also available, and the final part – The Well of Tears – will be published in February 2020.
Monkey Arkwright tells the story of budding teenage writer, Lorna Bryson, who is mourning the recent loss of her father. She has a chance meeting with Monkey Arkwright, the boy who loves to climb, and through Monkey’s adventurous exploits amongst the churches, woodlands and abandoned places in and around their home town, the two teenagers soon become embroiled in a mystery that has serious implications for the town and some of its inhabitants. Across the three books, a tale of dark secrets, hidden messages, sinister organisations and treacherous betrayal unfolds. Whilst it’s billed as a YA novel, the story has sufficient depth such that older readers can immerse themselves in the labyrinthine mystery at the heart of the story. When I see the success of books like the His Dark Materials series and Netflix’s Stranger Things, I know there’s an audience for this kind of intrigue, and I hope that my books will appeal to fans of this type of unusual story.
Monkey Arkwright is set in a fictional town in England, but I’ve been careful not to specify an exact geographical location. So, whilst it’s not necessarily set in the North, it’s written with an imagination that was well and truly cultivated there. There are several scenes in the book that are influenced by the places that I knew whilst growing up. The scenes where Lorna and Monkey spend the last days of summer in the woods are based on my memories of Alkrington Woods, in Middleton, north Manchester. When you are a child, these places seem so vast and make for a world of adventure, but can also be both intriguing and frightening, depending on the time of day or the weather. There’s also a scene where my protagonists get to climb an abandoned school building. This scene is based on my old high school, St Dominic Savio, which shut its doors for good several years after I left. The school building consisted of a wonderful assortment of oddball-shaped wings, with no two adjacent parts seeming to be the same height. I can still remember that some of the braver kids (not me!) would shin up a series of drainpipes, moving from one building to the next until they stood on top of the gymnasium roof, which towered above the playground. There’s definitely some of Monkey’s character in these kids that I remember from my youth. I could see this huge gymnasium wall from my house, which was just a one-minute walk away. It’s sad that the building was demolished to make way for a housing estate – another part of my history gone forever – a sense of loss echoed in the story through Lorna’s memories of her school.
It’s probably also worth mentioning that the scenes at the reservoir are based on real-life settings in the hills above Oldham.
Of course, I wouldn’t be a true Mancunian if I didn’t mention the weather! Manchester is famous for its incessant rain, and the elements are another major influence on my writing. I’m probably in the minority here, but I wouldn’t swap Manchester’s weather for any other climate. We get scorching sun in the summer, a bit of snow in the winter (although not as much these days) and the colours of the trees are glorious to behold come the autumn. If you get bored of the weather around here, then just hang on for a few days because it’ll change before you know it. All these rich colours, biting winds, drizzly rain and foggy mornings act as a wonderful fuel for the imagination, and although I’ve said that my books are not necessarily set here, there’s plenty of the local weather in my writing.
So, between the weather, the memories of places I knew growing up, and the fact that I still call Manchester home, I’d say that my books are Northern at heart. Hopefully, readers will feel all of this rich atmosphere seeping off the pages when they read my books, and maybe it will remind them of their own home town, wherever that may be.
About Monkey Arkwright
Budding writer Lorna Bryson is struggling to come to terms with the recent death of her father when she meets Monkey Arkwright, the boy who loves to climb. The two strike up an immediate rapport, and Monkey challenges her to write about him, claiming that he can show her things that are worth writing about.
True to his word, Lorna is catapulted into Monkey’s world of climbing and other adventures in the churches, woodlands and abandoned places in and around their home town of Culverton Beck.
When the two teenagers find an ancient coin in the woods, claims from potential owners soon flood in, including the mysterious Charles Gooch, who is adamant that the coin is his. But this is only the opening act in a much larger mystery that has its roots in some dark deeds that took place more than a century earlier.
Combining their talents, Lorna and Monkey set about fitting the pieces together in a tale of budding friendship, train-obsessed simpletons, the shadow of Napoleon and falling pianos.
Rob Campbell was born in the blue half of Manchester.
He studied Electrical & Electronic Engineering at Manchester Polytechnic, gaining an honours degree, but the fact that he got a U in his Chemistry O-Level helps to keep him grounded.
Having had a belly full of capacitors and banana plugs, on graduation he transferred his skills to software engineering. He still writes code by day, but now he writes novels by night. Listing his pastimes in no particular order, he loves music, reading and holidays, but he is partial to the words and music of Bruce Springsteen.
His favourite authors are David Morrell, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch & Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
He lives in Manchester with his wife and two daughters.