Behind the Story: Jen J. Danna (aka Sara Driscoll)

Jen J Danna.jpgToday it is my pleasure to welcome the lovely Jen J. Danna to Behind the Story. A scientist specializing in infectious diseases, Jen works as part of a dynamic research group at a cutting-edge Canadian university. However, her true passion lies in indulging her love of the mysterious through her writing. Together with her partner Ann Vanderlaan, they write both the Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries and the FBI K-9s (as Sara Driscoll). Jen lives near Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and two daughters.

Jen/Sara, please tell us about your story behind the story!

Finding out what inspired an author to write a certain book or series of books is always an interesting peek inside that author’s mind. Sometimes it’s practical. Sometimes it’s a passion. The FBI K-9s series started as a combination of the two.

Ann's 5 Pitt Bulls

Ann’s five pit bulls

Both my writing partner Ann and I are animal rescuers. She has a current roster of five rescued pit bulls she has saved from shelters. I have four cats—one adopted from a rescue, one rescued off the streets after it had been abandoned when its owners moved away, and two kittens live-trapped in our backyard last month because they were slowly starving to death. So, to say we’re animal lovers is a small understatement.

Milo and Autumn

Milo and Autumn

The idea for the FBI K-9s series actually came out a lunch our agent extraordinaire, Nicole Resciniti, had with Peter Senftleben, then an editor at Kensington Publishing. He was looking for a procedural with a service dog theme. At that time, Ann and I had published our first three Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, with a fourth in progress, and were looking to stretch our wings a bit. Nicole meets with a lot of editors and sends their requests to her authors. When we saw Peter’s idea, we knew it was a great fit. And where I hadn’t owned a dog since I was a child, Ann more than made up for my lack of knowledge at the time.

Launching into a new series also gave us a chance to open our horizons. I love writing Abbott and Lowell, but police jurisdiction can be a little constricting—every case had to take place in Essex county around Salem, Massachusetts. Any other city or county would have the same restrictions around jurisdiction.  But we had the perfect solution, getting around this issue by setting our K-9 team within the FBI. Now the entire United States was our playground, as well as beyond under the right circumstances.

Luna and Nala

Luna and Nala

Within the FBI there are several different K-9 groups: criminal apprehension, explosives detection, and forensic applications. It was the last group that really caught our eye. The Forensic Canine Program consists of the Victim Recovery and Human Scent Evidence Teams. The Victim Recovery Team is made up of cadaver dogs who search for human remains. This is a crucial function, but it ran too close to the forensics of Abbott and Lowell. However, the Human Scent Evidence Team consists of handler and dog teams who search for live humans. We saw the possibilities of this team right from the start—from suspect tracking, to natural disaster rescues, to recovering the missing and lost, there were lots of realistic options for cases and stories. We were also excited to write not just the main K-9 team, but also a number of other handler and dog teams who feature prominently throughout the series. With a black Labrador, a German shepherd, a border collie, and a hound dog, this team has the dogs best suited to this type of rewarding and sometimes heartbreaking work.

Enter Meg Jennings and her search-and-rescue black Lab, Hawk. Meg was a K-9 patrol officer with the Richmond, Virginia PD until her German shepherd, Deuce, was shot and killed while apprehending a suspect. Meg returns to her parent’s animal rescue to grieve, and ends up bonding with a recently abandoned and extremely ill puppy. Nursing Hawk back to health gives her time to grieve and also allows for a steadfast bond to form between woman and dog. It is this bond that makes them such a great team. They intuitively understand each other and each would die for the other (and has come close, on occasion).

In this second book in the FBI K-9s series, BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE, Meg, Hawk and the rest of the Human Scent Evidence Team become entangled in a case where a serial killer plays a deadly game with them with victims’ lives at stake:

Before it's Too Late HCIn this powerful K-9 crime thriller, FBI Special Agent Meg Jennings and her trusted search-and-rescue Labrador, Hawk, must race against the clock before a diabolical killer strikes again…
 
Somewhere in the Washington, D.C., area, a woman lies helpless in a box. Beneath the earth. Barely breathing. Buried alive. In Quantico, the FBI receives a coded message from the woman’s abductor. He wants to play a game with them: decipher the clues, find the grave, save the girl. The FBI’s top cryptanalysts crack the code, and Special Agent Meg Jennings and her K-9 partner, Hawk, scramble to follow a trail of false leads to the scene of the crime. By the time they solve the puzzle, it’s too late. But the killer’s game is far from over . . .

Soon another message arrives. Another victim is taken, and the deadly pattern is repeated—again and again. Each kidnapping triggers another desperate race against time, each with the possibility of another senseless death. That’s when Meg decides to try something drastic. Break the Bureau’s protocol. Bring in her brilliant sister, Cara, a genius at word games, to decipher the kidnapper’s twisted clues. Meg knows she’s risking her career to do it, but she’s determined not to let one more person die under her and Hawk’s watch. If the plan fails, it could bite them in the end. And if it leads to the killer, it could bury them forever . . .

LONE WOLF finalBEFORE IT’S TOO LATE releases September 26, 2017 in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook formats. The first book in the series, LONE WOLF, is available now in hardcover, mass market, e-book, and audio.

Buy Links for BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE:

Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Chapters/Indigo, B&N, BAM, IndieBound, Target, Walmart, Hudson Booksellers

Website:  https://jenjdanna.com/ and http://saradriscollauthor.com/

 

 

 

 

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Behind the Story: Cathryn Hein

Cathryn Hein author photoI’m super excited to have Cathryn Hein on the blog today. Cathryn is the best-selling author of ten rural romance and romantic adventure novels, and a regular Australian Romance Reader Awards finalist. A South Australian country girl by birth, she loves nothing more than a rugged rural hero who’s as good with his heart as he is with his hands, which is probably why she writes them! Her romances are warm and emotional, and feature themes that don’t flinch from the tougher side of life but are often happily tempered by the antics of naughty animals. Her aim is to make you smile, sigh, and perhaps sniffle a little, but most of all feel wonderful.

Cathryn currently lives at the base of the Blue Mountains in New South Wales with her partner of many years, Jim. When she’s not writing, she plays golf (ineptly), cooks (well), and in football season barracks (rowdily) for her beloved Sydney Swans AFL team.

Welcome, Cathryn. Please tell us your story behind the story!

I come from a land of volcanoes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Not what you think about when you think of Australia, is it? But it’s true. Australia has one of the best volcanic fields in the world. The Newer Volcanic Province stretches from Melbourne through to Mt Burr, north-west of my home town of Mt Gambier, and contains a whopping 400+ volcanoes. There are at least 20 eruptive sites around Mt Gambier alone.

Volcanoes are what I grew up with. As a kid, a great day out was climbing to the top of Mt Schank crater, south of Mt Gambier, and sliding to the bottom again on your bum. We also did it around Mt Gambier, from the Potter’s Point lookout to the Valley Lake far below. We’d get filthy, tear clothing, occasionally hurt ourselves and have the best fun imaginable.

Mount Elephant in western VictoriaThere’s a kind of romance about volcanoes too. They’re ancient, majestic and the view from the top is spectacular. I love them – their crooked forms and cratered bellies, their eroded slopes and stony ridges. And I’m particularly pleased that my favourite, Mt Schank, is only dormant. That it’s like a hibernating bear, snoring softly as it waits for the right moment to reawaken.

It seems inevitable then that I would one day write about a volcano. Not only write about one but develop a whole series of stories set in the shadow of my fictional Mt Schank, Rocking Horse Hill.

Rocking Horse HillRocking Horse Hill is the first in my Levenham Love Story series, and features an old money rural family with an historic property at the base of a volcano. The hill plays a pivotal role in the story, as a place of beauty and passion, as well as great drama and heartache for both its heroine Emily Wallace-Jones and sexy hero Josh Sinclair. At its heart, Rocking Horse Hill is a lover’s reunited story, but it’s also a story about friendship and family, and its lush southeast South Australia setting is stunning.

My latest release Wayward Heart continues the story. It’s a friends-to-lovers romance, a much-favoured trope. And in the Jasmine and Digby’s case, these friends are also two very broken people—Digby from tragedy and grief, Jasmine from heartbreak and humiliation. When circumstances bring them close, they discover unexpected strengths and wonders in each another. What happens next is deeply emotional and passionate, but it’s a relationship tangled with family drama and the wreckage of Digby and Jasmine’s past, and their happily ever after isn’t going to be easy.

Summer and the Groomsman 800x1200Other books so far in the Levenham Love Story series are Summer and the Groomsman – set around Josh and Em’s wedding – and RomantiSanta and the Saddler - 400x600c Book of the Year finalist Santa and the Saddler, which introduces two new characters and their families. Its follow-on story, Chrissy and the Burroughs Boy will release this year and there are plenty more to come. I think at last count I had at least 5 more in the pipeline.

I can’t keep away from the place but there’s a reason for that. I feel passionately about the setting, it’s in my memories and in my heart and I want my characters to find as much happiness in this land of volcanoes as I had growing up.

Wayward Heart by Cathryn HeinCathryn’s latest release is WAYWARD HEART, available in all good bookstores and online now.

Blurb for Wayward Heart:

Jasmine Thomas should feel safe in her cosy cottage at Admella Beach after finally putting an end to an ill-advised romance. But her perfect sanctuary is shattered with the arrival of hand-delivered threatening notes. Someone has discovered her secret.

When the notes escalate to vandalism, Jasmine’s anxiety rises. But in such a small place, telling the police would mean the whole town finding out.

Digby Wallace-Jones is stumbling through the motions of life, wrapped in a fog of grief since his fiancée Felicity died. Withdrawn from his family, Digby doesn’t care about anything beyond his loss. But in a chance meeting with Jasmine, his sister’s best friend who he’s known forever, even he can see the tension she carries. Worried and feeling protective, he continues to drop by, but it’s more than that. Jasmine soothes him; and, unlike the rest of his family, he can talk to her about his pain without fear of judgement. But as much as he likes Jasmine, Digby’s enduring love for Felicity means he has nothing left to give and he pushes Jasmine away.

Jasmine knew they were supposed to stay friends ‘with excellent benefits’ but she can’t help her wayward heart from falling for this tortured, kind and sexy man. How can she ever loosen the grip Felicity’s memory has on Digby’s soul and remind him he still has a life ahead of him?

If you’d like to see Cathryn climbing Mount Schank click here!

A SPECIAL GIVEAWAY!

Cathryn has kindly offered to send one lucky commenter on the blog a book of their choice from the volcano/Levenham stories: Rocking Horse Hill, Wayward Heart, Summer and the Groomsman, or Santa and the Saddler. 

What we’d like to know is: what’s your favourite landmark and why? It can be from your childhood or now.

Good luck everyone! Comment by June 30 for your chance to win!

Discover more about Cathryn and her stories at cathrynhein.com or email Cathryn at cathryn@cathrynhein.com

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Behind the Story: Renee Conoulty

profile 2.jpgI’m super excited to have Renee Conoulty on the blog today. Renee is an Australian Air Force wife and mother of two. Her debut chick lit novel, Don’t Mean a Thing, is available through Kindred Ink Press. She has also published Catching Onix, a short story which is available for free here. https://www.instafreebie.com/free/OSTdp

When she’s not devouring books, reviewing and blogging on HeySaidRenee, or writing her own stories, Renee can be found swing dancing. Or possibly napping. She tweets about reading and reviewing @HeySaidRenee and about writing, military life and dancing @ReneeConoulty, but hasn’t created a handle for nap talk yet.

Tell us about your story behind the story, Renee!

Ever since I took up swing dancing many, many years ago, I’ve been looking for novels with swing dancing in them. The closest I’d come was finding a couple of swing dance scenes scattered amongst the 850 pages of a Stephen King tome.

When my husband joined the military, I looked for military stories I could relate to. I found plenty of alpha male hot romance stories, historical military books and novels dealing with PTSD but there was a lack of fun contemporary Australian military stories and very few women in the military.

When I found out our family was being posted to Darwin, I wanted to get a feel for the area we were moving to so looked for contemporary Darwin stories. I found plenty of outback stories and some historical but not much set in the city.

profile 1I couldn’t find the books I wanted to read so I decided to write one that combined all three ideas. I’d never contemplated writing a novel before I started Don’t Mean a Thing. Writing novels were something amazingly talented, creative people did, not ordinary people like me. I’d been living in Darwin for three years when it occurred to me that, maybe, I could write a book. I was an avid reader (I’d joined a reading challenge group in Goodreads when I first moved to Darwin and was treating reading like a competitive sport). My love of reading led to writing reviews and sharing them on a blog. My blogging led to meeting authors online where I discovered that, yes, they are amazingly talented and creative but authors are also ordinary people like me. I made lots of friends, like Alli, and became immersed in the world of books but still had no aspirations to write one. Where would I start? I didn’t know how to plot. And books had so many words – I struggled to write a blog post, how could I ever write a novel?

It was this blog post I read in the middle of 2015 that inspired me to give it a go.

http://www.natashalester.com.au/2015/06/24/the-two-things-you-need-to-get-started-writing-a-book-time-and-one-idea/

Natasha Lester told me (she wrote that post specifically for me, I’m sure) that I didn’t need a plan and an outline, I just needed some time and one idea.

My husband was going away for a few weeks with the military, so I had time to fill after the kids went to bed. I even had three ideas, not just one. A girl in the military who moves to Darwin and takes up swing dancing to make friends. Scene by scene, I wrote a book. 


Sign up for Renee’s monthly newsletter for her highlights on blogging, reading, writing and life. 
http://eepurl.com/bPay5r

Website

http://heysaidrenee.blogspot.com.au

coverBlurb:

What if you finally took the lead, but life refused to follow?

Thirty-year-old introvert, Macie Harman, has finally found a career she is passionate about, and after months of training, she’s begun her new job in the Royal Australian Air Force. Leaving behind her family, friends, and the life she knew, Macie has travelled to the other side of the country where the only person she knows is Rachael, the extroverted girl she went through basic training with. Everywhere Macie goes, Rachael is there too.

While looking for a way to widen her circle of friends in her new town, Macie discovers a local swing dancing class. The jazz music captures her heart, and Matt, the sexy swing dancer, sweeps her off her feet. Matt has claimed the tropical Northern Territory as home and has no plans to leave. He loves his teaching career with its predictable routine and has a great bunch of friends. All he wants now is the right girl to make his house a home.

Military life is tougher than Macie expected, and not everyone can deal with the inevitable separations and last minute changes. Is this exciting but unpredictable life something Macie wants to fight for, or could she give it up and put down roots with Matt? 

Universal purchase link – http://books2read.com/DMAT

 

Behind the Story: Sarah Williams

profile.jpgToday I’m delighted to welcome Sarah Williams to my blog. Sarah spent her childhood chasing sheep, riding horses and picking Kiwi fruit on the family orchard in rural New Zealand. After a decade travelling, Sarah moved to tropical North Queensland to enjoy the heat and humidity and run around after Crocodiles.

When she’s not absorbed in her fictional writing world, Sarah is running after her family of four kids, one husband, two dogs and a cat. She helps to run the local writers centre and supports her peers achieve their publishing dreams.

Take it away, Sarah!

The Brothers of Brigadier Station is my debut novel, but not the first novel I ever started to write. I have always loved reading and writing fiction and wrote my first full length (historical) novel in high school. It wasn’t until I attended a ‘How to write a Romance’ presented by Barbara Hannay, in Townsville in 2015, that I found my genre. Everything clicked together. Not only was I a romance writer, but I was also a rural romance writer.

The next day I outlined The Brothers of Brigadier Station and after many rewrites, editing, writing workshops and practice, it is finally out in the world!

As well as writing, running a business with my husband and raising four young children, I am an avid reader. I love all Australian rural romances, but I am partial to ones set in Queensland. I have lived in this state for the last fifteen years and have travelled extensively around it. Julia Creek was my setting simply because I knew people there, but after actually spending time there I fell in love with it. Admittedly it is too remote for me to want to live there myself, but it is a fantastic setting. It is flat, dry and rather desolate. We visited in the midst of the worst drought ever and I have used that in this novel and will continue it in the rest of the series.

landscape 2In The Brothers of Brigadier Station we meet Lachie, Darcy and their mother Harriet. The second and third books in the series will be released in 2018. Everyone has a story to tell and I am excited to share it with my readers!

Blurb:

She came to the outback to marry the love of her life. She just didn’t expect him to be her fiancé’s younger brother.

When Meghan Flanagan, a vet-nurse from Townsville, moves to Brigadier Station in outback Queensland to marry the man of her dreams, she is shocked to discover that perhaps her fiancé isn’t the man she wants waiting for her at the altar. The man she’s destined to marry, just might be her his younger brother.

Cautious of women after a disastrous past relationship, Darcy is happy living on his beloved cattle station, spending his spare time riding horses, going to rodeos and campdrafting. He didn’t expect the perfect woman show up on his doorstep. Engaged to his brother.

With the wedding only hours away, Meghan must make the decision of a lifetime. But, her betrayal could tear the family apart. She knows all too well the pain of losing loved ones and being alone.

Now that she has the family she so desperately wants; will she risk losing it all?

Set in the drought stricken plains of Julia Creek, North Queensland and the coastal city of Townsville this is a rural romance that will leave you asking: Will she marry the right man, for the right reasons?

landscape 1The Brothers of Brigadier Station is the first in the Brigadier Station series and can easily be read as a standalone. Each of Sarah’s stories are linked so you can find out what happens to the other brothers and your favourite characters in future books.

Buy links:

http://mybook.to/TheBrothersofBrigadierStation

https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Brothers-of-Brigadier-Station-Sarah-Williams/9780648046202

coverThe Brothers of Brigadier Station ebook is available only on Kindle Unlimited until mid-August 2017.

It is available in print through all online booksellers.

Sarah is regularly checking social media when she really should be cleaning.

You can find her online at:

www.sarahwilliamsauthor.com

Sign up to Sarah’s mailing list and receive a free 3 chapter preview!!

www.facebook.com/sarahwilliamswriter

www.twitter.com/SarahW_Writer

 

 

 

 

Behind the Story: Rachael Johns

bio-page2I’m super delighted to introduce to a talented and lovely writing friend, Rachael Johns. Rachael is an English teacher by trade, a mum 24/7, a chronic arachnophobic and a writer the rest of the time. She rarely sleeps and never irons.

In 2016 The Patterson Girls was named General Fiction Book of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards. Rachael has finaled in a number of other of competitions, including the Australian Romance Readers Awards. Jilted won Favourite Australian Contemporary Romance for 2012, The Patterson Girls won the same award for 2015 and she was voted in the Top Ten of Booktopia’s Favourite Australian Author poll in 2013.

Rachael lives in the Perth hills with her hyperactive husband, three mostly gorgeous heroes-in-training, two fat cats, a cantan¬kerous bird and a very badly behaved dog.

Take it away, Rachael!

TALK OF THE TOWN has been mulling about in my head for a few years and, like all my books (and probably most author’s books) it is a collaboration of a number of tiny little ideas that refused to let me be.

Ghost towns – abandoned or neglected old towns fascinate me. As I have lived in small rural communities for the last 11 years, I have driven through a number of these towns on my way to and from other places and I always wonder about how and why what was once a thriving community died. I feel sorry for the beautiful, old, neglected buildings. I always knew I wanted to write about a town that had been abandoned by its residents and left to fall apart.

cows.jpgDairy farms – I’ve written a lot about sheep farms and even beef cattle farms, but TALK OF THE TOWN is my first rural romance set in dairy country. This is surprising because I have always loved dairy cows, ever since spending a few days on a friend’s dairy farm in the Isle of Gigha (Scotland) when I was twenty-four years old. That is a long time ago now so when I decided that my latest rural hero would own a dairy farm, I had to do a little more recent research. A friend of mine grew up on a dairy farm and still lives in dairy farming country. So she asked friends of hers if she could bring me round one morning (early one morning, like before the sun rose) to get an idea of exactly what being a dairy farmer involved. I got to see them bring in the cows, put them through their rotary milking machine, ask lots of questions and even meet their newest calves (which are simply adorable). I took lots of notes and lots of photos, which I looked back on when writing the dairy scenes of the book.

rach on farmFinal piece of the puzzle – I cannot tell you exactly what this is because… spoilers (you’ll have to read the book to find out what I’m talking about), but the heroine of TALK OF THE TOWN is actually loosely based on a friend of mine who once told me about her dark past and how she’d left it behind. A few years back when I was running (during my brief dalliance with jogging) past her house early one morning, a line appeared in my head: “She had enough skeletons in her closet, she could deal with a few ghosts!” I knew then and there that this line and the “she” it would refer to needed to go in a book and that it was finally time to write my ghost town where this “she” person could have escaped to.

It still actually took a few years before I wrote this book and during this time I mulled this story over in my head – adding other things that I thought would fit, including ice-cream and Maremma sheep dogs – so when I finally sat down to write the plot was pretty much in my head. But that didn’t mean it was easy to write. TALK OF THE TOWN was a challenge because both the hero and heroine are keeping secrets from each other (one on purpose, one without realising it) and this made it hard to show them getting to know each other and falling in love. But hopefully I pulled it off and hopefully if you read TALK OF THE TOWN, you enjoy my story which was inspired by ghost towns, dairy farms, friends, ice-cream and dogs!

Talk Final coverLawson Cooper-Jones has two priorities in life – his son, Ned, and the survival of the dairy farm that has been in his family for generations. Despite the best efforts of the town matchmakers and the determined pursuit of local girl Adeline Walsh, Lawson’s heart belongs still, and only, to his late wife.

But when a flat tyre strands Lawson and Ned in nearby Rose Hill, he’s surprised to find a woman living alone in the old general store of the deserted town. Ned immediately forms a bond with the beautiful stranger called Meg, and Lawson is surprised to find himself captivated by her too.

Although shy at first, Meg starts to open up to him about the haunting secrets of her new home and, with Lawson unable to get her out of his head, they agree to investigate the history of the old building together. Soon they find their friendship has bloomed into something more.

But when meddling Adeline makes it her mission to uncover the truth about the newcomer and her real identity is revealed, Lawson and Meg’s budding romance comes crashing down. Can they both learn to forgive in order to claim a future for their damaged hearts?

CLICK ON LINKS BELOW:

AMAZON

iBOOKS

BOOKTOPIA

Websitewww.rachaeljohns.com

AND A GIVE AWAY! Winner’s choice on any print book in Rachael’s backlist!  Leave a comment below and on 10 May Rachael will draw a random winner. 

What Rachael (and I!) would like to know is  what is your favourite farm animal and why?

UPDATE: And the lucky winner is RITA WRAY! Congratulations, Rita! 

Behind the Story: Sue Featherstone and Susan Pape

Sue 2.pngToday I am delighted to introduce you to not one, but two amazing writers. Sue Featherstone is a former journalist and public relations practitioner turned academic. Her career started in local newspapers before switching to PR to become internal communications manager with a large utility company. She completed a degree in English Literature as a mature student and subsequently moved into higher education, teaching journalism to undergraduate students at Sheffield Hallam University. At the beginning of 2017, Sue left Sheffield Hallam to focus on her writing.

Together with her friend and writing partner Susan Pape, she has written two successful journalism text books – Newspaper Journalism: A Practical Introduction; and Feature Writing: A Practical IntroductionTheir first novel, A Falling Friend, was published by Lakewater Press in 2016 and a sequel will follow summer 2017.

They now write about books at https://bookloversbooklist.com/

Keep reading for more information on Sue and Susan’s special give away …

What makes a successful work partnership?

Don’t ask me.

Nor, my writing partner Susan Pape.

Neither of us has a clue why our partnership – 27 years and counting – works so well.

Especially as, initially, our relationship was a marriage of convenience rather than a love match.

I don’t even remember much about our first meeting but I was so desperate I would have teamed up with anyone with the requisite number of typing fingers.

And, I think she was beyond being over-fussy either.

We were introduced by Susan’s partner, now her husband, who did some freelance work for the company where I managed internal communications.

I’d just returned to work after maternity leave and was looking for a job share other-half.

Susan, whose local newspaper and PR background was similar to mine, wanted to return to Yorkshire and her chap suggested we might be a match.

We quickly discovered our complementary skills – did I tell you she’s incredibly organised? – made for a dynamic duo.

And, although in theory, as job share partners, we should have worked opposite ends of the week, the nature of the job – writing, editing and producing a range of internal communications projects – meant it was often sensible to double up at busy times.

It was a very happy time.

Susan Pape (left) and Sue Featherstone

Susan Pape (left) and Sue Featherstone (right)

Eventually, however, we decided to move on – and both ended up as mature students. Different universities but both studying English Literature.

After graduation we both freelanced at a mix of PR and journalism jobs and then both gravitated into teaching journalism. Me at Sheffield Hallam University and Susan at Leeds Trinity.

Of course, we’d kept in touch and, one day, over lunch – we lunch a lot, usually with a glass of wine – we were both bemoaning the lack of a decent, simple, how-to write like a journalist text book when one of us said: ‘Why don’t we…?’

I’m sure it was my idea. Susan probably thinks it was hers.

We approached four academic publishers and had positive responses from three. Our first book Newspaper Journalism: A Practical Introduction was published by Sage in 2005 and the follow-up, Feature Writing: A Practical Introduction, also published by Sage, came out a year later.

Both are still on the reading lists of many university journalism courses. (There’s even a Chinese edition.)

That’s when Susan came up with her BIG idea. ‘Let’s write a novel.’

Between us we came up with a rough synopsis and, after several drafts and much re-writing and editing and long periods when we didn’t write a single sentence, our novel A Falling Friend was published by Lakewater Press in 2016. 

Please note: although our main characters work in the local media and post-1992 universities, any resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental.

Honestly.

We’ve had some decent reviews – we were named as a Yorkshire Post top five book and as a book of the month by the Book of the Month Club http://booksofmonthclub.com/a-falling-friend/   – and, though we haven’t set the world on fire, yet, we’re happy.

And, we’ve both particularly enjoyed speaking at book clubs and other events where we’re always asked: ‘How do you write together?’

I don’t know, we just do.

How do other people write on their own?

It must be so lonely without anyone else to bounce ideas off.

Or to talk you up when you hit a brick wall.

I did once start a novel without Susan – but, after half a chapter, I decided it wasn’t much fun so I winged an email with my opening pages and asked her to join in.

A Falling Friend coverWe haven’t completed that book yet because we’ve been too busy putting the finishing touches to a sequel to A Falling Friend so we’re saving it for later.

And we have absolutely no plans for a divorce.

You can find Sue Featherstone on Twitter –  @SueF_Writer

And you can get a copy of A Falling Friend HERE.

A little more about the book:

“CHIC LIT WITH ATTITUDE!” – Amazon Reviewer
“A FAST, EASY POOLSIDE READ” – Goodreads Reviewer
Chosen as The Yorkshire Post’s Top 5: Pick of the Best Books!

This “witty and pacy” character-driven masterpiece is “reminiscent of Bridget Jones” and proves that there really are two sides to every story.

After spending her twenties sailing the globe, making love on fine white sand, and thinking only of today, Teri Meyer returns to Yorkshire – and to studying. That’s when she discovers John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester, and poet of all things depraved. What she doesn’t realise is even beyond his grave, his influence over her is extraordinary. To hell with the consequences.

Having gone out on a limb to get old friend Teri a job at the university at which she teaches, it doesn’t take long for Lee Harper to recognise a pattern. Wherever Teri goes, whatever she does, every selfish choice she makes, it’s all setting her up for a nasty fall. But Teri’s not the sort to heed a warning, so Lee has no choice but to stand by and watch. And besides, she has her own life to straighten out.

GIVE AWAY TIME! To celebrate the one year anniversary of A FALLING FRIEND, Sue and Susan are offering THREE (yes, you read that right!) e-book copies to three lucky readers. All you need to do is comment below is tell us who you would like to be in partnership with on any project you wish (you don’t need to leave their full name if you don’t want!). Winners will be announced May 10.

Behind the Story: C.C. Wiley

profile.jpgToday we have the super talented C.C. Wiley, who lives in Salt Lake City with her high school sweetheart of over 35 years and their four wacky dogs. When given a choice, she prefers a yummy, well-written, historical or contemporary romance that is chock-full of hope, love and a Happy Ever After. She believes there are courageous characters waiting for someone to tell their story. It’s her hope that each adventurous romance she writes will touch the reader and carry them away to another place and time, where hopes and dreams abound.

C.C., please tell us about your story behind the story …

Whether in art or in writing, I love telling a story. When my painting skill came to a point where I couldn’t express the picture in my head, I turned to writing and began painting with words. Sometimes events that have touched me in some way find their way into the tale. And sometimes a bit of traveling will inspire a story.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to travel to England, and while touring through Bath and Bristol, I stopped at a cathedral. The sights and sounds, the scents, and richness of history came to life. I noticed a knight and his lady, their effigy caught in stone, were laid side-by-side for eternity. I couldn’t help wondering about the strength of their relationship. Did they love each other? Was it a love match? My imagination took hold, and I had to know more about medieval knights and the women who captured their hearts.

I like research. I adore a story that brings together, love, history, and adventure. Even if I have a story outline I am still researching while I write. The desire to learn more has the power to carry me down one path and then another. The ‘What if’ list continues to grow. Over the years I’ve had to rein in myself with the promise of keeping notes of what interests me. You never know. It might be that one idea that takes off.

The Knights of the Swan series came about while doing my research. I discovered the Dunstable Brooch. It was found in the Dunstable Priory, hidden in the mortar of the wall. No one really knows who it belonged to, where it came from or why it was there. This caught my attention. Then I learned there was a swan connection through Henry V’s mother. I asked myself, what if his mother set about protecting her son and ensuring he arrives on the throne unscathed? And since he was on the battlefield at a very young age, he would need extra protection that had to reach beyond all the struggles for power.

And from there the secret brotherhood, Knights of the Swan, was formed. I like to think of them as King Henry V’s Secret Service of the Middle Ages.

This band of brothers, formed in childhood, now serve King Henry V in secret. They are his eyes and ears of the court and of the land. While they are about the task of protecting their king and England, their lives are touched by strong women; women who capture their hearts.

I love it when history comes to life, but in the end, I believe it is still the characters’ personal story and a happy- ever-after that is most important.

In KNIGHT SECRETS, Sir Ranulf, Lord of Sedgewic, is a member of a secret brotherhood, Knights of the Swan. Ranulf fears he has seen and done too many things in the name of his king to be worthy of love. His fate is to be a lonely Knight of the Swan. Like Rapunzel, the emotionally abused Lady Clarice Margrave dreams of being rescued by a knight who vows to love and respect her. But those dreams are shattered and are nothing more than broken fairy tales. Her quest for the truth plunges into the world beyond the Margrave walls and forces her to look closely at what she truly wants: To love and be loved at least once.

The next book in the series, Knight Quests, is scheduled to release July 25, 2017.

READER GIVE AWAY!

C.C. has kindly offered two Knight Secrets: Knights of the Swan series e-books to give away to some lucky person who comments. Contest will be open until 13 April, 2017 11.59pm AEST. Good luck!

Knight Secrets_FINAL.jpgSworn to protect the crown, a Knight of the Swan must never surrender—not even to love . . .

England, 1415. Ordered never to leave the lonely tower on her family estate, Lady Clarice Margrave is suddenly set free when her home is plundered. Now she is determined to discover the truth behind her father’s alleged treason. But an act of daring only propels her into a new prison, with the very knight who destroyed her home as her keeper. Sir Ranulf, Lord of Sedgewic, is ruthless in his inquisition, though there is a searing tenderness in his touch. Is it possible her bold jailor is the Red Wolf of whom her father spoke—and the one man she might be able to trust?

As a knight, Ranulf never questions his troth, but his beautiful prisoner stirs his heart and mind like no other. Clarice is achingly vulnerable—and extremely closed-mouth about her possible ties to the plot against the king. Duty demands he keep his distance, though he yearns to take her to his bed and adore her until he discovers what lies within her heart. And he would—if he weren’t in danger of losing his own . . .
Buy links:

http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/book.aspx/34414

https://www.amazon.com/Knight-Secrets-Knights-Swan-Wiley-ebook/dp/B01HWKNJEO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489533939&sr=8-1&keywords=9781516101009

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/knight-secrets-cc-wiley/1124064084;jsessionid=A86802F94FB56B81ED19AC197B3418F4.prodny_store01-atgap10?ean=9781516101009

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/knight-secrets

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/knight-secrets/id1153379728?mt=11

https://play.google.com/store/search?q=9781516101009&c=books

You can find more about C.C. below:
Website: www.ccwiley.com
Twitter: @AuthorCCWILEY.  
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CCWileyAuthor

 

 

 

 

Behind the Story: Laura Heffernan

Laura Heffernan profile.jpgI am delighted to introduce you to Laura Heffernan, fellow Kensington Books author. Laura is living proof that watching too much TV can pay off. When not watching total strangers participate in arranged marriages, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys travel, baking, board games, helping with writing contests, and seeking new experiences. She lives in the northeast with her amazing husband and two furry little beasts.

Take it away, Laura!

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been writing. Short stories here and there, a play in fifth or sixth grade I sincerely wish I still had a copy of (tiled ‘A Shot in the Dark’, it opened with a gunshot and a scream), and later, law review articles. As an adult, I poured my creativity into Yelp reviews while ghost-writing blogs about news. When my best friend was cast on a reality show, I started a blog to recap the episodes. While the blogs were largely informative, I also used them explore my voice by providing commentary on what happened. I shared my blog with friends, who raved about the writing style, but I still didn’t feel like I was capable of writing a full novel. I’d tried several times and stalled out. 

 Then a friend told me about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and something clicked. Write roughly seventeen hundred words a day for a month? I could do that. And if I couldn’t, well, that was okay, because I’d only lost a month rather than years. Unfortunately, I had a ridiculously busy November planned–including three trips out of town in four weeks. (At that point, I hadn’t yet discovered that airplanes are the best place to write.) So I put it off. That same month, I got engaged, and all writing thoughts took a back seat to planning my wedding and upcoming move to another state.

While on my honeymoon, my husband and I booked a day at a spa. Amid all the relaxation, my mind started to wander. And I realized that if I wanted to write a book, if I wanted to get fifty thousand words on the page in a month, I didn’t have to wait until November. I could just do it. Ideas started spiraling, and the day after we got home, I started writing.

I wanted to write something fun, the type of book I’d want to read. My tastes in books has always run toward beach reads: Confessions of a Shopaholic, Something Borrowed, Jemima J., to name a few classics. The previous summer, my best friend has appeared as a contestant on ABC’s The Glass House, and my friends loved a blog I’d maintained about the show during the experience. As a huge reality TV fan, I thought it would be fun to incorporate some elements of her experience into a book about a show I created.

It took me three weeks to get to fifty thousand words. It took another couple of weeks to finish the story, but I was very proud of that first draft–just the fact that I’d done it. I edited the book – or so I thought – and then I started querying.

The book wasn’t ready. When I started to send it out, I got no requests. Not even a nibble. The rejections started to trickle in. An agent tweeted that she hated the type of opening I’d chosen…eleven seconds before her rejection landed in my inbox. Some research told me that I’d managed to choose one of the top 5 most clichéd openings. Yay me!

But I picked myself up, and I rewrote the opening of the story. I started to connect with other writers on Twitter. I discovered writing contests. I didn’t get in, but I met and swapped work with other writers. Slowly but surely, my story improved. I started to get agent requests. I got a couple of revise and resubmit requests that pushed my story closer to where it needed to be. And after several months, I got an offer from an agent who loved the story as much as I did.

It took time, and a couple more intense revisions, but now that first manuscript is being published. A sequel is in the hands of my publisher, and I’m finishing writing the third. I still can’t believe that all three of them will be published.

Even better, I get to tell myself that watching reality TV is important “research” for my next book.

ANRS Final CoverAMERICA’S NEXT REALITY STAR

SEEKING THE SMART ONE

Twenty-four-year-old Jen Reid had her life in good shape: an okay job, a tiny-cute Seattle apartment, and a great boyfriend almost ready to get serious. In a flash, it all came apart. Single, unemployed, and holding an eviction notice, who has time to remember trying out for a reality show? Then the call comes, and Jen sees her chance to start over—by spending her summer on national TV.

Luckily The Fishbowl is all about puzzles and games, the kind of thing Jen would love even if she wasn’t desperate. The cast checks all the boxes: cheerful, quirky Birdie speaks in hashtags; vicious Ariana knows just how to pout for the cameras; and corn-fed “J-dawg” plays the cartoon villain of the house. Then there’s Justin, the green-eyed law student who always seems a breath away from kissing her. Is their attraction real, or a trick to get him closer to the $250,000 grand prize? Romance or showmance, suddenly Jen has a lot more to lose than a summer . . .

Links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2jmWQYt

BN: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/americas-next-reality-star-laura-heffernan/11244851765

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/america-s-next-reality-star

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/americas-next-reality-star/id1128178788?mt=11

Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Laura_Heffernan_Reality_Star_1?id=ZlxxDAAAQBAJ&hl=en

You can find Laura at:

http://www.twitter.com/lh_writes

http://www.facebook.com/lauraheffernanbooks

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7086797.Laura_Heffernan

Behind the Story: Shona Husk

profile.jpgToday I’m excited to introduce you to Shona Husk, who is the author of the Shadowlands, Blood and Silver, and the Face the Music series. You can find out more information about Shona at http://www.shonahusk.com or follow her on Twitter @ShonaHusk, Facebook http://www.facebook.com/shonahusk or join her newsletter: http://mad.ly/signups/119074/join

Shona, please tell us about your story behind the story …

The Blood and Silver series came out of a challenge I set myself when I was made redundant during the Global Financial Crisis. I’d been writing for a  couple of years and had finished 2 novels (which still lurk in the back of a cupboard, but around that time I’d come to the realization that if it took me over a year to write a novel it was going to take me a long time to learn the craft. So I’d turned my attention to novellas and was reading heaps of them (on my computer because I didn’t have an e-reader…I’m not even sure e-readers were around or had reached Australia back then). Novellas had plot and character and dialogue and setting, all things a novel needed but without subplots. I thought if I could learn to write a novella, I’d be able to transfer those skills to a bigger project.

So while I was jobless and looking for work I set myself the goal of plotting and writing a novella every 2 weeks. I was aiming for more words a week than I’d ever written, but then I did have more spare time because of the lack of a job.

Lady of Silver wasn’t called that back then. It was the last 15k novella that I wrote before finding a job. It was also the one which I knew could be more.

The other three novellas sold. The next novel I wrote sold (so my theory about honing story structure by writing novellas paid off, YMMV). Lady of Silver got re-written and expanded. I plotted the next book in the series because I now knew what the overarching plot thread would be—I like series linked by a plot thread (although I have written a few stories that share a universe but no common thread).

Then the paranormal romance market died. As a paranormal romance writer this hurt both creatively and financially.

So I dabbled with contemporary romance, I started writing urban fantasy under a different name and I kept writing paranormal romance on the side because I knew it would come back eventually.

I re wrote Lady of Silver again, because I still believed in the idea and it combined a few of my favourite things.

I love lost civilizations. Stories about ruined cities found in a jungle/under water/buried in a desert will always get my attention. What happened to the people? What was it like when they lived there? Who were they?

Medieval witch hunts have also fascinated me, how can people be whipped up into such a hateful frenzy? And be so cruel to others (I’ve been to a medieval torture museum and it was sickening)? Unfortunately as I’ve gotten older I can see how easily it happens…

I also wanted to read a story where the hero was human and the heroine was the one with the magical powers and he had to come to grips with her world because usually in paranormal romance it’s the other way around.

So the premise for the Blood and Silver series was the survivors of an ancient and magical civilization struggling to live on, while being hunted by those who still see them as a threat. Oh and there’s vampires…evil vampires…because it’s about time vampires got back to feeding and killing and be bad.

lady-of-silver-highres-smallMore about Blood and Silver: 

A man on a mission
A brutal crime is haunting detective Dale Morgan. A young woman has been murdered on the city’s outskirts, and her blood drained. Dale suspects the leader of a depraved cult may be to blame. Yet with barely a shred of evidence at the crime scene, Dale will have to turn to the one person despises almost as much as the killers he puts behind bars.

A woman with secrets
To humans, Saba Venn is a psychic, but she’s Albah, a race long forgotten by humans but who live amongst them, her powers fueled by blood and silver. She agrees to help Detective Morgan, if it means stopping the vampire cult she believes is behind the killing. But the attraction she feels with Dale is immediate, and as their relationship intensifies she begins to doubt she can keep her secret from him.

Buy links: Amazon Kobo iBooks Barnes and Noble All Romance eBooks
Website: http://www.shonahusk.com

Behind the Story: Penelope Janu

profile penelope janu.jpgToday I am super excited to introduce you to the wonderful Penelope Janu. Penelope ives in Sydney with her husband, six great kids, and two big dogs. As a lawyer she spent many years working in legal firms and academia. She has a strong interest in social justice issues and the environment, and it was while teaching a university course about the legal regulation of climate change that the inspiration for the environmental aspect for In at the Deep End came to her.

Penelope has travelled widely, and last year hiked over 300 km from the west to the east coast of England (stopping at numerous pubs for refreshment along the way). Although she likes adventure as much as her heroines, Penelope is yet to go to Antarctica, one of the settings for In at the Deep End (she is praying for a film offer that might take her there …) In at the Deep End is her first book.

So Penelope, please tell us your story behind the story!

Why this story?

As part of my day job, lecturing in a university course, I’d been doing research on the legal regulation of climate change. It was a new area of law for me but I’d always had a fascination with the environment and was interested (and concerned about!) about global warming. This led to a determination that my heroine Harriet Scott would have some sort of connection to an environmental cause. My hero Per Amundsen is a scientist as well as a naval officer, because research is a crucial element in environmental preservation. Scientists and environmentalists often strive for the same outcomes, but use different means to achieve these outcomes. These varying perspectives are an essential element to Harriet and Per’s rocky path to romance.

Many of the historical references in the book made me laugh—but by the end of the book, I’d learnt a lot about Scott and Amundsen and their race to the South Pole. Can you explain how this aspect of the book came about?

Climate change and the environment led me to Antarctica, and Per’s surname (Amundsen) led me to Roald Amundsen, the first man to make it to the South Pole. The man Amundsen beat to the South Pole (by just a few weeks) was Robert Falcon Scott. The contrasting ways in which these early twentieth century explorers approached their journeys mirrored personality traits of Harriet and Per. Harriet, like Robert Falcon Scott, is passionate and persuasive (if a little high risk). Per, like Roald Amundsen, is capable and considered (in a control freak kind of way). Many communications between Harriet and Per are short, sharp and funny—but the research that went into them fills quite a few folders and many weeks of research!

Was the book always going to be a romance?

Definitely! Like many writers, I’d spent years not writing anything, but thinking I’d like to. A legal career and boisterous family (six children nine years apart) gave me a busy, fulfilling life, but also kept my plots in my head rather than in a notebook. My ‘stepping stone’ into creative writing was through a university masters degree (populated largely by writers of literary fiction), but I was determined to write what I loved. An early reviewer of In at the Deep End said there was sustained ‘simmering tension’ between my hero and heroine and I loved reading that! For me, that’s what romance is all about.

How did the elements of environment, exploration and romantic comedy come together?  

My heroine is an adventurer and so is the hero, and the book is first person, present tense and fast paced (elements common in the romantic comedy genre), but to be honest I wasn’t fully aware I’d written a romantic comedy until my publisher told me I had! Since then, I’ve worked out how important voice is in creating this type of book. Harriet has suffered loss and tragedy in her life. She also has a terrifying phobia—fear of the water. But most importantly she’s independent, thoughtful and smart—prepared to fall in love but unwilling to settle for anything less than that.

You’re a debut novelist. How have you found this experience so far?

Everything is new! Starting out a second career has been a wonderful challenge, but a challenge nevertheless. I get nothing but joy from the writing itself (I’ve recently finished another manuscript featuring another Norwegian hero, Per’s twin brother Tør) and having a traditional publisher in Harlequin Mira has made my journey easier in many respects, but the author platform and everything else that goes with it is all new to me. Now the book is finally available I can’t wait to connect with readers.  

Thank you Alli for having me today—this is my first visitor blog post ever!

It’s a pleasure, Penelope!

DeepEnd_HighRes_FC.jpgMore about In at the Deep End:

A quick-witted, contemporary romance about losing your cool.

What woman doesn’t love a real-life hero? Harriet Scott, for one. The fiercely independent daughter of famous adventurers, she grew up travelling the world on the environmental flagship The Watch. So when Harriet’s ship sinks in Antarctica and she has to be rescued by Commander Per Amundsen, an infuriatingly capable Norwegian naval officer and living breathing action hero, her world is turned upside down.

Like their namesakes, the original Scott and Amundsen who competed to reach the South Pole first, Per and Harriet have different ways of doing things. Per thinks Harriet is an accident waiting to happen; Harriet thinks Per is a control freak. But when Harriet realises that Per is the only one who can help her fund the new ship she desperately wants, she is forced to cooperate with him.

Per refuses to assist unless Harriet allows him to teach her to swim. But there is more to Harriet’s terrible fear of water than meets the eye. Can Harriet face her fears and come to terms with the trauma and loss of her past? And will she begin to appreciate that some risks are well worth taking—and that polar opposites can, in fact, attract?

BUY LINK:
http://www.harlequinbooks.com. au/product/9781489214553

You can find more about Penelope at http://www.penelopejanu.com