Behind the Story: Angela Bissell

NZ PhotographerToday I’m excited to welcome the delightful Angela Bissell on the Story Behind  the Story. Angela is addicted to daydreaming and romance from a young age, Angela suspects she was always destined to become a writer although she did travel a convoluted career path on her way to authordom. Like many an intrepid Kiwi she also travelled the world, backpacking through Europe, Egypt, Israel, Turkey and the Greek Islands, before settling down to live and work for a few years in London. Now she lives back home in the vibrant harbourside city of Wellington, New Zealand, never taking a day in her beautiful country for granted and loving the challenge of pursuing her writerly dreams. Over the years her list of incurable addictions has expanded to include coffee, chocolate, Pinterest, her iPad, and her husband, though not necessarily in that order!

Alli, thanks so much for inviting me to share my “story behind the story” today. It’s great to be here!

 What inspired you to write Surrendering to the Vengeful Italian?

Many years ago I lived in London and worked at The Dorchester, a beautiful hotel on Park Lane that was owned back then by the Sultan of Brunei and was, as you can imagine, a world quite different from the one us ordinary folk inhabit. Although I worked “back of house” in personnel and recruitment, one of my duties was to lead visiting groups of students from Europe’s top hospitality management schools on tours of the hotel. It meant I was able to escape my little cubicle in the basement now and again and get a wee glimpse of how the rich and famous live! I loved those little excursions above ground, not only for the chance to revel in luxurious surroundings but for the tantalising prospect of spotting a Hollywood starlet or famous celebrity or two on my jaunts around the hotel.

It was, of course, terribly glamorous and my writer’s imagination often ran riot thinking about the types of people who stayed in those beautiful suites and rooms. I’ve always loved a good rags-to-riches character, a hero or heroine who, against the odds, has clawed their way out of poverty and attained a level of success no one had believed they were capable of achieving. But I was also fascinated by the idea of the reverse scenario—a character born into wealth and privilege who then chooses to walk away from that life. What would motivate someone to make that decision? What sacrifices would they have to make and why? And would they grieve for their old lifestyle, or would they enthusiastically embrace the challenges of their new life?

So, I guess Helena and Leo in Surrendering to the Vengeful Italian were ultimately born out of those early musings. Seven years before the story starts, they were lovers irresistibly drawn to each other from different worlds, Leo from humble beginnings in Rome, Helena from a background of money and privilege. When they’re thrown together in the present day of the story, their positions are dramatically reversed. Leo has enjoyed a meteoric rise to success during the intervening years and now enjoys the power and privilege that comes with being a wealthy man, while Helena has turned her back on that world and chosen instead a modest life far removed from her family’s wealth and connections. It makes for an interesting dynamic in this story about second chances, and just to make sure Helena and Leo’s path to Happily Ever After wouldn’t be too easy, I threw another of my favourite romance tropes into the mix—revenge!

Oh, and did I mention the opening scene is set in a glamorous London hotel? Of course. I couldn’t resist!

Why did you choose to write category romance? 

I discovered Mills and Boon romances at the tender age of thirteen when I found a box of them in the bottom of my mother’s wardrobe. I can’t remember what I was doing when I stumbled upon them (quite possibly snooping for Christmas presents!) but the minute I started to read, I was hooked! Fans of category romance will know that these stories are shorter than single title books, and that was one of the things about them that immediately appealed to me—that I could effortlessly devour one in a single sitting. Also, the smaller word count makes for a fast-paced story that focuses very intently on the hero and heroine’s relationship, without any secondary plot lines, and I love the powerful emotional intensity of these stories. Of course, I don’t only read category romance. I read many kinds of commercial and romantic fiction of varying lengths and enjoy all sorts of genres and subgenres. But traditional category romance was my first love and what I always dreamed of writing—and now do!

coverBlurb for Surrendering to the Vengeful Italian

 One step from surrender…

 For seven years, formidable Leo Vincenti has planned his vengeance on Douglas Shaw and nothing will stop him. Not even Shaw’s stunning but treacherous daughter, Helena, who—right now—is pleading for leniency. Grim satisfaction spreads through him as he knows she would willingly never take up his challenge to return to his side.

 But he has greatly underestimated Helena. Secrets drive her as if the very devil were on her heels. And suddenly the passion that left them undone years before is forcing them both to the brink of surrender…

 Buy Links










 Connect with Angela





Story Behind the Story: Christina Philippou

prfileToday I’m delighted to introduce you to the lovely Christina Philippou. Christina’s writing career has been a varied one, from populating the short-story notebook that lived under her desk at school to penning reports on corruption and terrorist finance. When not reading or writing, she can be found engaging in sport or undertaking some form of nature appreciation. Christina has three passports to go with her three children, but is not a spy. Lost in Static is her first novel.

Welcome, Christina. Can you please tell us about your story behind you story?

Hello Alli, and thank you so much for having me on your blog today to talk about the story behind Lost in Static.

Based in a university, Lost in Static tells the same story of first year betrayal, lust, and violence through four students’ (sometimes very) different perspectives. Rather than the story, I’m going to talk about what the book’s focus really is about: the writing structure.

For years, I have hunted down multi-point of view stories, as people’s different perspectives have fascinated me. I loved The Alexandria Quartet by Alexandre Dumas, mainly because it does what few other multi-POV stories actually do: retell the story from a different perspective rather than ‘pass the baton’.

And then came my own history. Every time my (long-suffering) husband and I reminisce about how we got together, our versions of events are markedly different, and not all of that is to do with the passage of time – they always were completely different. Every one views events through their own likes, dislikes, ‘tinted glasses’, culture, and personal history, amongst other things, and I’ve always been intrigued by that and it’s lack of exploration in fiction.

When I sat down to write a piece of fiction (that subsequently became my debut novel), I started thinking about perspective. To add to the husband’s version-of-events disagreement, a friend and I had been to a party the previous evening and our recollections were not aligned.

“Right,” I thought, “let’s get this human predisposition for spinning the truth depending on narrator into a story.”

And so Lost in Static was born, along with its four protagonists, which required a lot of thought to enable me to tell the story the way wanted to: from a variety of viewpoints. This is why, for example, the protagonists are not polar opposites to each other. I didn’t want culture to play too large a part in the differences in the narrative, so I gave them all English middle-class (albeit with disparities in income and county of origin) backgrounds. With similarish cultural background, one of the variables in reasons for altering perspectives was ‘stable’.

For similar reasons, I didn’t include disability or obvious racial differences (of the protagonists). I made them similar in those ways and then hit them with differences in schooling, intelligence, character (part nature, part nurture) and money. I then rendered my characters raw by giving them secrets they would go to great lengths to ensure remained so, and then put them in situations that would bring prejudices (or lack of) to the fore.

Writing the same events from four different perspectives was very stretching, as I kept having to put myself in (sometimes very dislikeable) shoes and see how the event in question would appear to them. But it was also very rewarding.

One of the things I have loved most about reading reviews of Lost in Static is how individual readers seem to like or sympathise with different protagonists. And that, to me, has been the most rewarding thing about bringing this multi-perspective seed to life.

coverLost in Static

Sometimes growing up is seeing someone else’s side of the story.

Four stories. One truth. Whom do you believe? 

Callum has a family secret. Yasmine wants to know it. Juliette thinks nobody knows hers. All Ruby wants is to reinvent herself. 

They are brought together by circumstance, torn apart by misunderstanding. As new relationships are forged and confidences are broken, each person’s version of events is coloured by their background, beliefs and prejudices. And so the ingredients are in place for a year shaped by lust, betrayal, and violence… 

Lost in Static is the gripping debut from author Christina Philippou. Whom will you trust?


 Lost in Static is available from, amongst others, Amazon UK, Amazon US, and direct from the publisher, Urbane Publications.

You can connect with Christina on her websiteTwitterFacebookInstagram and Google+.

Behind the Story: Sandy Curtis

Sandy Curtis headshot June 2014.jpgToday I am delighted to introduce you to the lovely Sandy Curtis, who lives on Queensland’s Central Coast, not far from the beach where she loves to walk and mull over the intricate plots in her novels. Her husband says he doesn’t know how she keeps it all in her head, and her friends think she must be far more devious than she appears. After having dealt with the chaos involved in rearing three children, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and a kookaburra (teaching it to fly was murder), creating complex characters, heart-wrenching stories and edge-of-your-seat suspense is a breeze for Sandy.

Interviewers often ask Sandy to describe her normal writing day. “Normal is when the chaos in my life subsides to frantic rather than frenzied. I once told a friend that I must have a chaos attractor glued on my forehead and she said that creativity hovers on the edge of chaos, to which I replied that I’d long ago fallen off the edge into the middle.”

Her various occupations, from private secretary to assistant to a Bore Licensing Inspector, as well as hitch-hiking around New Zealand and learning to parachute, have given Sandy lots of people and research skills. It’s the paperwork going feral in her office she has trouble with.

Thank you so much for being on the blog today, Sandy. Please, tell us about your story behind the story!

Alli, thank you for having me as a guest on your blog. It’s wonderful to be here.

Although my previous books were romantic suspense and short contemporary romances, my women’s fiction, Murder, Mayhem & Men On Pause, has a lot of humour and focuses on the lives of the three main female characters (although there’s a gorgeous cop with a more-than-professional interest in Ellie and a novel use for avocado oil).

What inspired you to write Murder, Mayhem & Men On Pause?

I’m not sure where the idea for this book came from. I started writing it over ten years ago, but after the first few pages I couldn’t keep going. I had envisaged the story of three friends whose lives suddenly implode and they are forced to confront the loss of everything they value. It was going to be full of angst and drama, and, frankly, it depressed me to think about it.

Fast forward ten years and my long-rejected characters, Ellie, Cass and Kandy, raised their voices in protest. They told me that I had had enough time to realise that women have the kind of enduring strength that enables them to cope with what life can throw at them. Yes, they might go down for a while, but they grit their teeth and get back up and take control of their lives.

But what they really emphasised is that women support each other. Women look out for their friends. And women often see the humour in life, especially when it comes to men and relationships.

So I started writing the story again, but this time with a different flavour. Yes, there are losses, and sorrow, but there’s also happiness and laughter, and the kind of friendships that I’ve been incredibly lucky to have in my life.

mmmop-coverWhy did you decide to set the story in Brisbane?

I grew up in Brisbane and although I haven’t lived there for quite a few years I still love the city, and I particularly love the suburb of New Farm. It’s such a diverse area and offers so many iconic settings such as the Powerhouse.

New Farm was also where I met the first person who considered themselves a “writer”. I left school at fifteen because Mum couldn’t afford for me to continue, but I’d always wanted to write. I tried to become a cadet journalist, but at 152cm and 43kg I looked more like a jockey than a tough “journo”, so started working for accountants. My boss, on discovering I wanted to be an author, introduced me to a bookkeeper he knew who wrote short stories and she invited me to lunch at her unit (called a ‘flat’ in those days). Greying hair, less-than-average height, plump, living alone, she was soft and gentle and kind, but to my sixteen-year-old sheltered self she was someone who was living only half a life. No excitement, no adventure – none of the things I wanted in my future.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how we remember certain things. She cooked us lamb chops, mashed potatoes and peas, followed by lemon pudding and custard.

Although life, in the form of love, marriage and children, intervened in my writing journey, I never forgot the three-storey red-brick building she lived in, or the marvellous view from her unit to the river in the distance. Or New Farm park with its massive trees and echoes of past lives.

Those memories live in Murder, Mayhem & Men On Pause. As I wrote Ellie walking up the wide timber staircase to the top unit, I felt again the admiration I had for generations past who lived without the conveniences we take for granted. As I researched the furniture Ellie would need to give an authentic 1920s feel to the units, I marveled at the craftsmanship, the elegance, the intricate detail of the beautiful pieces. Like Ellie, I learned so much. And like Ellie, I felt the joy of having friends who were there for you no matter what happened in your life. So far from being the angst-ridden story I had initially envisaged, it became a joy to write, and Ellie, Cass and Kandy sprang from the pages and allowed me to share their lives.

Thanks so much, Sandy, what a fabulous story behind your story! Folks, you can find Sandy’s books here:


AMAZON (Australia)


You can find out more about Sandy HERE.