Catch up with what’s happening on our social media feeds, and find out about the latest authors to publish with The Book Guild… there’s also company news, the latest author events and a round-up of our latest reviews and media coverage.

Video introductions


Catch up with what’s happening on our social media feeds, and find out about the latest authors to publish with The Book Guild… there’s also company news, the latest author events and a round-up of our latest reviews and media coverage.

Cream of the crop – Dean Moynihan’s debut makes ‘Best First Novel’ shortlist

On Monday 13th January, Marketing Controller Philippa Iliffe joined author Dean Moynihan at the prestigious Writers’ Guild Awards (WGGB) in central London. Philippa recounts their experience of the evening:

Dean and I arrived at the Royal College of Physicians to be welcomed by a marvellous red-carpet entrance and a swarm of eager paparazzi. The event, which was hosted by writer, comedian and actor Katy Brand celebrated the epitome of UK writing talent in an audience made up of those from a range of creative industries. Joining some of the most critically acclaimed writers and creatives for a champagne reception before the awards was an absolute honour.

The fifteen categories awarded during the ceremony spanned film, TV, theatre, radio, books and more. Finally Woken by Dean Moynihan was in the shortlist for the ‘Best First Novel Award’ and was pitted against stiff competition from Season Butler (Cygnet, Harper Collins) and Angela Readman (Something Like Breathing, And Other Stories). In Finally Woken, Max Hope wakes up in hospital to find that he is under arrest for murdering his wife and children. However, a severe head trauma causing retrograde amnesia has wiped all memory of his adult life. The murders were motiveless; the investigation is questionable; the defence lawyer is clueless. Max’s life as a seemingly successful family man unravels into a story of failure, paranoia and lies…

Opening the ceremony, host Katy Brand said of the event:

“I am thrilled to have hosted the WGGB Awards 2020 this evening, not least because it means I spent an evening with the best writers in the world without having to worry about winning anything myself. I just enjoyed the immense throb of talent in the room, and hopefully helped make the evening entertaining, inclusive, and a celebration of all the outstanding work of the past year – congratulations to all the deserved brilliant winners.”

Dean Moynihan comments, “It was incredible to be shortlisted for this prestigious award and to be sharing the centre stage with so many talented creatives was a pleasure. In the end, it was Season Butler’s ‘Cygnet’ that took home the Best First Novel Prize, but it was a great accolade to make the final shortlist and I look forward to seeing what comes next.”

Throughout the evening, awards were presented by some of the most-loved figures of the creative industries. Among them included Sandi Toksvig OBE, Paula Wilcox, Samira Ahmed, Simon Beaufoy and Nigel Plaskitt with Hartley Hare. In a final speech by the WGGB President, Sandi Toksvig OBE said:

“Congratulations to all the Writers’ Guild Awards 2020 winners, it’s a sheer joy just to be in a room amongst such wonderful writers. These ridiculously talented people have kept us entertained throughout the year with their brilliant writing, they have brought us much-needed tonic during these challenging times, and we have been spoilt rotten by their wonderful creations.”

Finally Woken is available from our bookshop.

Book Guild’s Cracking Christmas Reads – Day 9

On the last day of Book Guild’s cracking Christmas reads we are sharing an interview with Fran Raya.

Q 1. Tell us a bit about your books

These books are the first two in a planned series. I actually wrote the original manuscript in 1996 in the form of one huge book, in three parts. I came very close to having it published but it didn’t quite happen. A few of the rejections were standard but more were very complimentary. They just found it hard to pigeon-hole the genre, because although it is a thriller, with a paranormal edge, it is far more descriptive than other books in this category.

The main character, Randal Forbes, is phenomenally telepathic but uses his gift in a very dark way, as family life goes on around him, adding credibility, where there should be none.

In 2004 I put it all on one side, and it lay in a cupboard collecting dust, until we sold the house and downsized into an apartment.

I rediscovered it in 2016 and my husband mentioned it to a good friend, who wanted to read it. He rated it and really encouraged me to try again. So, I decided to rewrite it in the form of a series, keeping the original story but adding dialogue, and other key scenes, with new characters along the way. I am so passionate about this whole series and wish to thank The Book Guild for publishing my books and making my long-standing dream come true.

Q 2. Where do you find the inspiration for your characters?

I have always been fascinated by paranormal activity and supernatural events. The original 1960’s film, ‘The Village of the Damned’, based on a story by John Wyndham, gave me the idea of eyes that radiate, when in the throes of demonic arousal. Also, I was into the film, ‘The Dead Zone’, based on a Stephen King novel. It starred one of my favourite actors, Christopher Walken, and centred around a character who had come out of a coma to find he had psychic flashbacks when he touched another person’s hand.

I wanted Randal Forbes to be very ‘other’ but not too gimmicky with his gift. I imagined him to be stunning, androgynous, very educated and from a respected family. In appearance, he is the antithesis of evil, but in essence, he has a devastating dark side. He stretches the boundaries of telepathy. He touches many lives and destroys others. His supporting cast is also visual, and readers will identify with their particular real-life stories. So, my inspiration is an unusual spin on reality and fantasy.

Q 3. How long have you been writing, and have you always wanted to be a writer?

As a child I was always writing. I remember my parents buying me a cute, little desk which sat in the corner of the room and I’d spend hours scribbling away, making up poems and stories. In my late teens, I began writing songs, both music and lyrics, but the words were always meaningful. I find it very hard to compose anything head-side-up. I have to be gut-inspired and then the ideas flow. I’m now in the autumn of my life but have never lost the need, or desire, to create. So, I guess you can say I’ve been writing forever. I’m quite old-fashioned and write with a pen. Then I take it all to the computer and smack it into shape.

Q 4. If you had to describe Randal Forbes in three words, what would those three words be?

Dynamic, demonic and decadent.

Q 5. What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing your books?

This planned series was originally borne out of a tiny idea in 1996, for a possible short story about a little boy with paranormal powers. It took on a life of its own and has now snowballed into a satanic saga! I never thought I would become so obsessed with a work of fiction. The characters are very real to me and the Randal-effect is ever-evolving. Even though I’m the creator of his dark powers, the homicidal activity even gets to me! I’m sat here thinking where the heck did that come from? I’ve always had a vivid imagination so I shouldn’t really be surprised at any idea that springs out of original creativity.

I don’t write in the conventional way. I never have a beginning, middle or conclusion. It’s always spontaneous and one idea leads to another. In fact, I don’t have a clue what Randal is going to do next. It just happens.

Q 6.  Do you write listening to music? If so, what music inspired or accompanied this current book?

I don’t as such, but my career has been predominantly in music. I was a singer-songwriter who performed both here and abroad for many years, although these days I just compose. I had the good fortune to be the support act for Eric Clapton throughout Scandinavia in the 1980’s and I’ve also worked with other artists. My songs are eclectic and some of them ethereal. I wrote a musical concept called ‘Priestess’ which is very mystical. I’ve decided that some of the lyrics will now belong to Randal, as he becomes a celebrated author, so I’ve slipped a lot of my own work into the series. It’s a sneaky way of showcasing my projects! If this series was ever made into a film, I have songs that would suit its theme. Now that would be truly amazing!

Q 7. What do you hope your readers will take away from your stories?

I hope they will be drawn into the storylines, regardless of Randal’s dastardly crimes. Yes, he is malevolent, but he is also benevolent when he wishes to be. This is crime but approached in an unusual way. The telepathic theme is nothing new, but I’ve given it a different slant by simply basing it all around family life with a plethora of human emotion and transgression. Ideally, I would love my readers to be eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. That would be music to my ethereal ears!

Q 8. Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?

Don’t let any rejections or reversals spoil your ambition, and above all, don’t let it interfere with the creative flow. Try not to think of your inventions as a product, more a creation, and let your imagination run free. If you have a dry spell, that’s all it is, because you can turn it around by focusing on your gift. Think of your characters as flesh and blood people because then your readers will be drawn into their lives. You will know instinctively if the story is engaging. Don’t be afraid to delete anything you are not happy with because it will be replaced with something even stronger. I wish every aspiring writer the drive and good luck needed to open the door to success. I am familiar with your dreams. I don’t have to know your names. I empathize with your desire to succeed. Never give up.

Q 9. What’s next in the writing pipeline for you?

The whole of the Poetic Justice series. I will be submitting the third book ‘Poetic Justice: Fame’ in January 2020. I would love Randal Forbes to become a really well-known fictional character. I think that is my New Year’s wish. So, let the writing begin, along with Seasons Greetings and a Very Happy and Fruitful New Year.

A huge thank you to all at The Book Guild, for their invaluable help and encouragement.

Fran’s books are available to buy from our bookshop!

Book Guild’s Cracking Christmas Reads – Day 8

On day eight of Book Guild’s cracking Christmas reads we are sharing an extract from The Sun Shines Through by Sharon King, as well as a mini Q&A.

Extract (From ‘Who We Were’):

People have asked me, ‘Does this story have a happy ending?’ What can I reply? I haven’t got there yet.

I have learnt so much over recent years:

How to be patient, endlessly. How to be a patient.

How to sit for hours, for lifetimes, waiting for outcomes.

I have learnt how to be still, how to quell fear and longing, how to reside alongside grief in its many forms and faces. How to live and be a part of a picture that is broken, sore and compelling. How to accommodate loss, live carefully amongst it and defer it at times, so it does not pull me under at every turn.

Love can be compared to a needle and thread; it sews us together and binds us. It is also a needle so sharp; it stabs us with longing and loss, in expected and wholly unexpected ways, but it still holds strong through its rips, tears and pulls; it cannot be undone.

We, the bereaved, reside in that place between night and day. Imagine being on a flight and looking out the tiny window at the sun setting over a high horizon; above the line the sky is red, through orange, yellow and blue; underneath it there is only darkness. The grieving live within the line. Sometimes we soar above in the orange, yellow and blue, carried by memories and hope. Mostly we live below, in the darkness of the cloud. As life goes on, as surely it must, we learn to fly higher, to seek the light, to pull the threads tight and take our lives and our loss and our memories with us.

I have begun to hope for a happier ending. I am willing to consider it and hope that it is not too greedy of me to want it. I have been gifted with so much love already; I cannot complain if that’s all there is. These days I am lighter in heart and spirit; the sun shines through.

Q 1. Tell us a little bit about The Sun Shines Through

The book is a memoir about love, hope, cancer and cannabis oil.  I was driven to write it after caring for my husband Jasper, from his diagnosis in January 2013 to his death from stage 4 lung cancer in April 2015, while also coping with my own diagnosis of stage 2a breast cancer. We decided to try and save our own lives with home-made cannabis oil, and the book details the ups and downs of this process and our journey through years of anticipatory grief and the years beyond.

Q 2. What was the highlight of writing this book?

Having it accepted for publication! And the cathartic experience of writing down what couldn’t be initially be articulated or expressed. I’m still on cloud nine about the publishing process and the finished product. I am delighted with it and the attention it is receiving nationally.

Q 3.  What’s your favourite spot to visit in your own country? And what makes it so special to you?

The Isle of Eigg, which part of the Small Isles of Rum, Muck and Eigg, situated off the west coast of Scotland. It was our second home for many years and I still have a caravan there on my friend’s croft. It is a haven of deciduous trees, bees, birdsong, dragon flies, constantly changing weather, stunning views, Golden eagles and rare light.

Q 4. What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I love to walk the woods and the river Tweed close to where I live, with my small but long dog Frida Kahlo. She and the trees never fail to lift my spirits, be it rain or shone. It’s very beautiful and mostly unspoiled. I enjoy playing my guitar and occasionally gigging, as I am also a singer / songwriter. I also love talk radio and crosswords, cooking meals and talking with friends.

Q 5. What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?

I hope readers will find resonance with their own situations, some companionship and hope, and some acceptance of the madness that grief brings. I hope readers will also find the humour in the book, and that our experiences with Maggie’s Centre and Marie Curie are helpful to others.

The Sun Shines Through is available to buy from our bookshop!

Book Guild’s Cracking Christmas Reads – Day 7

On day seven of Book Guild’s cracking Christmas reads we are sharing an interview with Paul A. Mendelson.

Q 1. Can you, for those who don’t know you already, tell us something about yourself and how you became an author?

I was originally a lawyer and then an advertising copywriter, working for major London ad agencies. I finally decided that it was time I wrote something longer than 30 seconds, so I found a bigger sheaf of paper and created the comedy series ‘May to December’. Happily, the BBC commissioned it and it ran for six years, winning me my first BAFTA nomination. I then created and wrote ‘So Haunt Me’, ‘My Hero’ (starring Ardal O’Hanlon) the Martin Clunes cancer drama ‘Losing It’, as well as an animated series for DreamWorks and several plays and adaptations for Radio 4. A few years ago, I decided to try writing a novel, which I had always wanted to do, so I invested in even more paper and went back to the extraordinary case that had caused me to leave the law so many years earlier. This became ‘In the Matter of Isabel’ and I became an author.

Q 2. What are your books about?

Story-wise they are all, I think, quite different, but if I had to find some unifying features, I would say a mixture of humour and suspense (of the emotional rather than criminal kind), permeated with a large dollop of genuine heart. Of course, two of my five books (so far) are for children from aged nine upwards, so they have a slightly more fantastical and dystopian texture.  If indeed I have a range, this is probably best exhibited in my most recent book, ‘The Art of Listening’, a diverse collection of shorter fiction.

Q 3. What is your writing process when it comes to writing a new book?

Because of my background in TV and film, I tend to think of scenes and dialogue and the characters and stories emerge through this. I find I have to see and hear my ‘people’ clearly. Once I have this – and, of course, my central underlying theme – I write my first draft. In movie parlance it’s called the ‘vomit draft’, when everything just splurges out. From some place deep inside, beyond thought. And then you craft it. Again, and again and…

Q 4. Who is your favourite character out of all your books and why?

I think it has to be Rick Davenport, the flawed hero and narrator of ‘In the Matter of Isabel’. He isn’t me, although as a rookie lawyer-in-training he is handed a case not unlike the one I first handled. But there is something about him that has always appealed, and he was a joy to write. And, thankfully, he must have appealed to others, as the film rights to the book were picked up by Hollywood within a week of publication.

Q 5. Where do you draw inspiration from for the characters in your books?

A mixture of experience, memory and pure imagination. None of them are based on anyone in particular yet I can recognise particular characteristics and qualities in each of them. So, they must have their foundations in people from my past. I’ve always been an observer and a listener. I like and am fascinated by people., All writers, I think, write about themselves – but not in the most obvious or identifiable of ways.

Q 6. What advice would you give to a new writer looking to begin their publishing journey? 

My first TV director gave me the best piece of advice – ‘don’t get it right, get it written!’ You can’t sell an idea that only exists in your head or wait for it to emerge fully formed. And you can’t let whatever else is out there determine what is inside you bursting to come out. Once it’s the best you think you can do, seek some professional advice to help you make it even better. You can be too close to something and not see the wood for the trees. And then choose the route to publication that’s best for you. Happily, these days there are plenty out there.

Q 7. If you could co-write a book with any author, who would it be and why?

Anne Tyler. Because of her humanity, her wit and her genius. It would be like learning from an American Jane Austen.

Q 9. Your new book The Funnies is coming out in 2020. Tell us a bit about it ­– what was your inspiration for the story and who should read it?

‘The Funnies’ is about an un-named country in which they have worked out how to eliminate a person’s sense of humour at birth. And in this way render its people more docile and compliant, less questioning of their government. The Funnies are a subversive band of outlaws who have somehow evaded the ‘zappers’. The story is told by 12-year old Marius K who is on the run from the ‘Fun Police’ and is captured by the Funnies in the forest. The inspiration comes from the fact that my whole life and career have revolved around humour and my re-discovering every day how important it is to our lives and to society.

As to who should read it, I think children aged nine and upwards will hopefully find it a very enjoyable, exciting and thought-provoking adventure. But for adults it can also work as an allegory on totalitarianism and the suppression of the individual. As one advance reviewer has said ‘it is like Animal Farm, but with laughs’

View the video trailer for ‘The Funnies’ here!

Q 9. What’s next in the writing pipeline for you?

Another ‘grown-up’ novel. My third, after ‘A Meeting in Seville’. And again, I’m investigating humour, but this time in the form of a contemporary romantic comedy. ‘Must Have GSOH’ is about a shy and lovelorn horticulturist who discovers, from examining all the dating sites, that what a partner demands most in a mate is GSOH – a Good Sense of Humour. Trouble is, our guy doesn’t have one. Not a single jot. Nothing daunted, he sets about finding himself one. And discovers it isn’t as easy – or as painless – as it looks.

Paul’s books are all available to buy from our bookshop!

Book Guild’s Cracking Christmas Reads – Day 6

On day six of Book Guild’s cracking Christmas reads we are sharing an extract from An Extra Shot by Stephen Anthony Brotherton, as well as a mini Q&A.

Extract (From An Extra Shot):

Freddie – August 2015

I could feel she was waiting for me to say something, but my body and brain had gone numb as soon as she’d said the word. I had so many questions, not least what she’d told them about me, but it was another lifetime ago.

‘I thought you’d gone, Freddie,’ she said.

‘A baby,’ I said. ‘You and I could have had a baby?’

‘That’s the point. There was no us. I thought you’d gone.’

I realised that I’d let go of her hand. I held it again and she smiled at me.

‘You should have told me,’ I said. ‘Got in touch. I could have helped.’

‘I know. Years later, I knew, but it was too late. I was married, Amy came along…’

‘I mean at the time, Jo-Jo. I’d have come back.’ 

I let go of her hand again.

‘You’d left me, Freddie. I thought you’d gone for good.’

‘You should have contacted me,’ I said.

We stared at the house in silence. I thought of my daughter, Becky, a picture of her as a baby, hair in pigtails, her mother leaving me, another town, another man. I thought of another picture, Becky sitting on a wall grinning a false grin at the camera. We’d just been to Gimbles to buy her some clothes, which they let us have on credit. Another memory, me coming home from a forty-eight hours on-call shift, her mum racing out to work, taking over the car, Becky kicking me because she didn’t want her mum to go.

I felt Jo-Jo take my hand.

‘What happens now?’ she said.

‘I need to think,’ I said.


Jo-Jo – August 2015

Amy was waiting for me when I arrived back at the hotel. We walked across to the gardens and sat down on the bench underneath the eucalyptus trees. I sniffed at the menthol aroma from the trees, closed my eyes and sucked in the bird song and the woo wooing of the pigeons.

‘He needs to think?’ said Amy.

‘It’s the shock. He’ll be talking it through with Jack.’ 

‘It’s about time he grew up. Did he ask about you? How did you leave it?’

‘He said he’d call.’

‘I can’t believe him. It was thirty-five years ago. I’m going to phone him, ask him what he’s playing at.’

‘Leave him alone, Amy.’

‘I can’t believe you’re so calm. I’d be steaming at him.’

To be honest, I’m relieved he knows.’

‘And what about next? Do you still want to be with him?’

I opened my eyes. ‘I think so. I never expected it, but I still love him.’

‘Oh, Mum, What a mess.’

It’s fine, darling. I’m fine now I’ve told him.’

She put her arm around me and hugged me into her shoulder. ‘I think we deserve a stiff drink,’ she said.

‘I’m not drinking any more of that bloody awful whisky,’ I said.

Q 1. Tell us about the Freddie and Jo-Jo Trilogy

The Shots trilogy tell the story of Freddie and Jo-Jo, who fall in love when they are seventeen, separate and then meet up again thirty-five years later. Presented in first-person vignettes from both of their perspectives, it goes backwards and forwards in time to show what happened in their lives together, their lives apart and what happens when they meet up again over three decades later. The trilogy asks a fundamental question: Can the untarnished passion of first love ever be reignited?    

Q 2. What three things do you think your readers should know about you or your writing?

  • The trilogy is semi-autobiographical and inspired by a first love romance I had at the end of the 1970s/early 1980s. I feel my best writing has an auto-biographical basis, which is why I prefer to write from a first-person perspective.
  • Freddie & Jo-Jo’s story contains a lot of cultural references from the 70s & 80s, including music, T.V. and film – all of these references relate to my teenage years.
  • The books explore the psychological impact of earlier life relationships and events, showing how these can tarnish our view of the world and the way in which we engage, or disengage, in relationships. 

Q 3.  When writing a series how do you keep things fresh, for both you and your readers?

The Freddie & Jo-Jo trilogy was kept fresh by the continuation of the story and my life-time ambition to get these stories out of my head and down on paper.

Q 4. What’s next in the writing pipeline for you?

That’s a difficult one. The Freddie and Jo-Jo trilogy is now complete with the last book, ‘One Last Shot’, scheduled to be published in March 2020. I’ve lived with these characters as a creative writing project for the last five years and I’m going to miss them. As part of NANOWRIMO, I’ve been working on a story about two brothers, Alfie and Archie. Alfie is seven and Archie is seventeen when their dad dies. The story is about the impact this has on the lives of both brothers. Watch this space…

Q 5. Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you?

Instagram: @freddiejojoreunited

Twitter: @FreddieJoJo1

Stephen’s books are available to buy from our bookshop!

Book Guild’s Cracking Christmas Reads – Day 5

On day five of Book Guild’s cracking Christmas reads we are sharing an interview with Amy Stone (A F Stone).

Q 1. When did you realise that you wanted to become an author?

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I think I even signed a teacher’s yearbook in high school with something along the lines of, ‘if you ever see a book by A F Stone, it’s me!’ so there you go – all these years later he might actually do that!

Q 2. Tell us a bit about The Raven Wheel?

‘The Raven Wheel’ follows three troubled teenagers as they struggle to seize control of their lives. Wayward Tye wants to finally make his father proud. Bright but awkward Kian is desperate to reconnect with his estranged mum. Impulsive rebel, Ria, harbours a secret desire to murder her father. Their lives intertwine as they strive to succeed and find themselves in too deep, too late.

Q 3. What three things do you think your readers should know about you or your writing?

  1. I tend to gravitate towards tragic tales but I’m working on it.
  2. This work contains extreme violence and strong language. Graphic? Yes. Gratuitous? Never!
  3. I have to admit to using performance-enhancing-playlists.

Q 4. What’s the most important thing you have learned while publishing the book?

I think the main lesson to take from the process of getting published is how to deal with the journey up to that point – particularly all the rejection! If I were advising someone going through the soul-destroying process of submissions/queries, I’d just say keep going. You’ll be sick of people telling you to stick with it, but that’s the only way anyone succeeds. It took me ten years of obsessing, breaking my heart and melting my mind to finally get somewhere with my writing, and even then, it’s only a very modest first step. Just because you shouldn’t quit the day job doesn’t mean you should give up your dreams – we all have to make a living but if you’re lucky enough to have another endeavour that gives your life meaning, make time for it.

Q 5. If you were a character in your story, which would you like to be?

That’s a really difficult question! If you do read my book you’ll understand why there is no good answer here… Let’s just say there are characters I love dearly, but I wouldn’t want to live this particular chapter of their lives!

Q 6. Which book do you wish you had written? 

I’ve always loved ‘Junk!’ by Melvin Burgess and would like to think my book occupies a similar space. It’s one of those books that you read and think, this was in my head already, I swear, and you’ve just brought it out. ‘Junk!’ was the book that made me want to write YA.

Q 7. Where do you like to do your writing? Do you have a set writing process?

I would love to have a set place, time and process, but with a toddler and a baby that just isn’t possible! I find myself writing on the sofa, in bed, on the bus. I prefer to write on my laptop, but I do end up writing on my phone out of necessity. I find google docs is great for the first draft because you don’t have to worry about losing your work – I once had a laptop stolen with a lot of files I’ll never recover on it and still wonder if they could have turned into anything useful. 

Q 9. What is your favourite childhood book?

There are too many to pick one. I particularly liked collections of stories – ‘Tales for the Telling’ by Edna O’Brien, ‘Sleeping Beauty and other Favourite Fairy Tales’ by Angela Carter – the illustrations by Michael Foreman made them absolutely spellbinding. Another collection that really got under my skin was ‘Tales from the Threepenny Bit’ by Wendy Eyton and Penny Dann.

Q 9. What’s next in the writing pipeline for you?

I’m attempting to write another YA novel, but it’s quite a departure from ‘The Raven Wheel’. This one is a dystopian tale set in the future we could soon inhabit, if far-right populism continues its advance. It sounds like another dark one, but I’m hoping it’s ultimately a positive story about hope. There’s a good cat in it, too.

The Raven Wheel is available from our bookshop!

Book Guild’s Cracking Christmas Reads – Day 4

On day four of Book Guild’s cracking Christmas reads we are sharing an extract from Outreach by Shelly Berry, as well as a mini Q&A.

Extract (From Chapter 17):

Outside I could hear laughter from within the pub, no doubt at my expense. The wooden decking was slippery with a coating of winter drizzle. Tentatively I picked my way through the revellers outside, shivering in groups or glued to their phones as they smoked. Spotting an oversized planter by the window, I pushed past a couple immersed in each other’s embrace and perched on its edge. Tears were falling freely down my face, but nobody noticed. Nobody cared. A new wave of self-pity deepened my sobs.


I didn’t need to look up to see who it was. And I certainly didn’t want him to see how upset I was. As I quickly wiped my face with the back of my hand David sat next to me, wobbling slightly as he balanced on the narrow rim. I glanced at his knees, almost touching mine. His forearm was resting on his lap, a cigarette dangling from his fingers. He lifted it towards me.

“You want a drag? I’d offer you one but I had to skag this one off someone else.”

I shook my head vigorously before taking a peek at his face. His earlier joviality had disappeared. His blue eyes searched my own blankly. I dared to stare back at them for a moment before looking back down at the floor, wishing desperately that he was easier to read. I heard the tobacco crackle as he pulled on his cigarette. He was so close to me that I could hear his breath as he exhaled.

“So, are you going to tell me what’s wrong or am I going to have to try some amateur psychoanalysis on you?”

My response was half laugh, half sob. As I put my hand over my mouth, I felt David’s hand on my shoulder.

“Christ, Em, I know it was a bad joke but I didn’t think it was that bad.”

I managed a giggle in return and looked at him again. His face had softened, his eyes smiling. I felt a pang of guilt as it hit me how much seeing my tears had upset him.

“Sorry,” I stammered. David raised his eyebrows.

“Sorry? What for?”

I pointed at my damp face. His frown was exaggerated, clown-like.

“Hey, don’t worry about it. It’s a Christmas do. Someone’s got to have an emotional meltdown, right?”

I giggled again.

“I was starting to worry that I was going to have to do the honours. I thought it was Fran’s turn but even my best attempts to wind her up didn’t crack that nut.”

His mouth broke into a smile as I laughed some more. He released my shoulder to push his hair out of his face.

“That’s better. Now, tell your Uncle Dave what’s up.”

I shrugged and looked down at my hands, my laughter fading.

“Oh, it’s nothing…”

“No, it isn’t. Now spit it out.” He elbowed me softly as he spoke, his warm smile encouraging me. I took a deep breath.

“Okay, well…” I bit my lip and looked up at him through my eyelashes. He nodded his encouragement. “It’s Fran. If she isn’t criticising me then she’s making fun of me. You should have heard her just then.” The words tumbled out of my mouth, almost tripping each other up in their haste. David’s eyebrows drew together.

“Really? Why, what was she saying?”

I hesitated for a moment, suddenly unsure whether telling my manager, our manager, was the best way to deal with Fran. But it wasn’t just our manager; it was David.

“She was making comments about what I was wearing.” Involuntarily I sniffed. “I know I’m not exactly cool or anything, but…”

Hey, hey, enough of that.” This time his arm was around my shoulders, squeezing me. “No more tears, okay? And, you know what? There’s nothing wrong with how you dress. I mean, just because Fran chooses to dress like a skinhead stuck in the seventies doesn’t mean that you have to.”

I covered my face with my hand as I snorted another laugh.

“Okay?” He squeezed me again. I looked at his eyes. They were so close to mine, my face so close to his. I felt my stomach lurch with excitement.

“Okay,” I whispered, my gaze not leaving his, willing him to kiss me. He stared back for what felt like an eternity before his eyes flickered away. His arm fell away from me, taking with it the heat of his body. I followed his gaze as it scanned the scene in front of us. A handful of hardcore smokers were still gathered by the door, huddled together like penguins. Suddenly I was all too aware of the bitterness in the air around me. David put his hands on his knees and pushed himself to his feet.

“Good, that’s settled then,” he said, turning to face me as he dug his hands into his pockets. His smile was bright but void of the intimacy I had just felt. I stared at him dumbly.

“Bloody hell it’s cold. I’m going back in. You coming?” He shivered dramatically as he nodded towards the door, his hands still firmly in his pockets. I looked behind me through the window of the pub. The party was in full swing, my colleagues getting louder by the minute as alcohol melted away their inhibitions. But not completely. Even in his inebriated state, David wasn’t about to admit his feelings for me here, not with the entire service looking on. I turned to him. He grinned back before striding over to the door. He swung it open and waved his hand through grandly.

“Ladies first.” He nodded his head in a small bow as he spoke. I stood up and gingerly walked towards him, unsteadied by heels and wine. As I approached him I glanced up at his face. Meeting my gaze his smile intensified, deepening his dimples. I smiled back before walking into the pub, my head bowed, not with embarrassment, but to hide the joy that was illuminating my face.

Q 1. Tell us a bit about Outreach

Outreach tells the story of a young woman, Emily, who moves to London to pursue a career as a support worker and to prove to the world – and her emotionally distant father – that she can make it in the big city. It’s heavily influenced by my work in the public sector, but it really came out of my curiosity about what would happen if someone developed a crush that they were unable to let go of, even if all the signs suggested that they should…

Q 2. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love crafting and making art. I’m currently in the throes of making a couple of Christmas presents – I can’t tell you what though, as it might spoil some surprises… My day job as a counsellor can be quite demanding, so spending time relaxing with friends or my partner, whether it be by walking in Epping Forest, enjoying some live music or chilling with a glass of wine is an important part of my self-care. As is the occasionally Sunday morning lie-in followed by a roast!

Q 3. What books or authors have had the most influence on your own writing, and why?

I think my writing has a dark streak which perhaps originated from my love of Roald Dahl as a child. As an adult reader I have devoured the work of many great female contemporary authors who don’t shy away from writing about challenging situations, from Donna Tartt to Zadie Smith to Margaret Atwood. ‘Notes of a Scandal’ and ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ are hugely inspiring novels that really get under the skin of characters that leave the reader feeling more than a little uncomfortable.

Q 4. What advice would you give to other budding authors?

I think it’s really useful to go on some writing courses and read some books and publications like Mslexia to help get you started – but at the same time, don’t let them take away your unique voice.  And keep going – the more you write, the better your writing will become.  I swear by diarising writing time, setting myself a target, and keeping going – even if I think what I am writing feels like drivel. Quite often when I read it back, it isn’t as bad as I thought it was when I first sat down to it!

Q 5. What’s next in the writing pipeline for you?

On December 7th I hosted a writing workshop as part of Walthamstow’s High Street ADVENTures event (a creative response to supporting the local night-time economy). I supported participants to write about their sensory experience of Advent. It’s a new venture and one I am very excited about. I’m also in the middle of writing a series of short stories I intend to amalgamate into a novel. It’s about a group of people whose paths cross on a housing estate in central London riddled with crime and ‘anti-social behaviour’. Watch this space…

Outreach is available to buy from our bookshop!

Book Guild’s Cracking Christmas Reads – Day 3

On day three of Book Guild’s cracking Christmas reads we are sharing an interview with Trisha Hughes.

Q 1. What drew you to write in the historical fiction genre?

I’ve always loved history so when I was in a car with my grandson on the way to the beach, he told me one of his subjects at school was history. I was delighted to have something to talk to him about, so I asked him, ‘So you know all about Henry VIII?’ Because well, doesn’t everyone? When he looked at me blankly, I was shocked. It started me thinking. Why don’t we know more about our history? It was that day I decided to write a book on British Monarchy. Two years later, after I’d been gathering research notes, I realised I had enough to fill three books.

Q 2. Tell us a bit about your books and what they cover

I’ve published three books on British Monarchy. The first one is called ‘Vikings to Virgin – The Hazards of being King’ and covers the early Vikings up to the day Elizabeth I stepped up to the throne. The second in the series is called ‘Virgin to Victoria – The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen’ and covers the life of Elizabeth I until Victoria took the throne. The last is called ‘Victoria to Vikings – The Circle of Blood’. The one covers the life of Queen Victoria and all the monarchs after her, including the current monarch, Elizabeth II. I gave it the sub-title, ‘The Circle of Blood’ because this book explains that it’s not just the present monarch who can trace her lineage back to the Vikings, but her husband Prince Phillip as well.

Q 3. What, in your opinion, makes your characters so memorable?

British history is amazing. Stories of early monarchs are shocking, heart wrenching, horrifying, brutal and sometimes funny. But what is truly amazing is they are real. And that’s what makes them memorable. My stories are not fictitious stories. They’re real characters who fought real battles, won the heart of their women and suffered diseases… just like us.

Q 4. What are your top tips for an aspiring historical fiction writer?

The best tip I can give is to do your research. It’s time consuming and boring at times. But it’s absolutely necessary if you are telling a historical story. It needs to grab the interest of your readers and it has to be believable. Know what they ate. Know what they wore. Who they loved and who they hated. Only then you can weave the story the way you want it.

Q 5. What research do you carry out before writing your books?

My best research came from reading other books. Some were written by academics and some were written by other historical fiction writers who had done their research. Wikipedia always gives reference books to search and this has been invaluable to me.

Q 6. If you could invite one character from your books to dinner, who would it be and why?

That’s difficult. I have two characters that I can’t choose between. The first one is Richard III for obvious reasons. Did he actually kill his nephews or was he just vilified by Shakespeare because Shakespeare had to kowtow to Elizabeth I, a Tudor, and the granddaughter of the king who usurped the throne from him during a Battle of Bosworth Field?

The second one at my dinner table would be Charles II. I’m a little in love with Charles. In history, he was a philanderer, a spendthrift and he was definitely arrogant. But he was a lovable rogue and he was loyal to his country and loyal to the people he loved. When Parliament told him to rid himself of his wife who could not bear him any children, he refused. When Parliament told him to disown his Catholic brother James as the heir to his throne, he refused. And when fire was destroying London during The Great Fire, he was out there with his people filling buckets of water and trying to save them. I definitely would have Charles II at my table, and I’d sit him next to me.

Q 7. What topic or subject have you found most challenging to write about?

In all my books, the most challenging would be World War I and the lead up to the war. It’s intricate and detailed and there are so many reasons behind what happened. Nothing is ever cut and dried and this particular story pulls at my heartstrings. Many will read about Kaiser Wilhelm and his betrayal of his family, but deep down, that’s not what happened. Inside he was just a little boy who felt rejected by his family and strived his whole life to prove to them he was worthy of their love. He just went about it all wrong. Then there is the story of the massacre of the Romanovs and their little boy with haemophilia. It’s brutal and heart-wrenching and I found it difficult writing that part of the book because of the intense sadness. But then, isn’t all war sad?

Q 8. Where do you like to do your writing? Do you have a set routine?

I write most days. If I’m not writing, I’m researching. I go everywhere with a pad and pen and when something occurs to me, I write it down for future reference. But sometimes, the juice doesn’t flow and these are the times to step away from the computer and let your brain settle. Things will come when they’re ready. You just have to be patient.

Q 9. What’s next in the writing pipeline for you?

I am putting the finishing touches to a mystery novel, the first I hope to be in a series based in my native country Australia. I have a lovable character and a crime that needs to be told. It’s very different from historical fiction but I love the challenge.

Trisha’s books are available to buy from our bookshop!


Book Guild’s Cracking Christmas Reads – Day 2

On day two of Book Guild’s cracking Christmas reads we are sharing an extract from A Hedgehog Story: Hedgehog Christmas by David Hills, as well as a mini Q&A.

Extract (From pages 1–4):

It is late December and the night is bright, as the ground is covered with the sparkle of fresh snow.

The air is cold, crisp and silent.

Alistair awakes. His room is lit by a strange light. The silence is loud.

Alistair sits up and stares at the window. He leaves his bed and pulls the curtains to one side and – “WOW!” – giant lumps of white, soft, cotton-like snowflakes are falling from the sky.

Alistair becomes excited and then a tiny bit worried that the hedgehogs will be in difficulty due to the deep snow.

“I will go to the garden first thing in the morning and help them,” he says quietly to himself.

Morning comes, and Alistair rushes to the garden as soon as he can.

The snow is deep and so soft, but a little difficult to walk through.

“The hedgehogs are sleeping safe in their warm homes, I hope,” says Alistair.

He leaves the garden and goes into his house.

He stops suddenly when he notices a small, white box on the table.

“What is in there?” he asks himself.

Hello!” he calls around the house. “Anyone here…? Mum…? Dad…?”

At first, no answer.

Then, “Hello, Alistair.” He hears his mum’s voice from behind him.

“Where did that come from? What is in it?” he says eagerly.

“We do not know!” says his mum. “It just appeared, have a look,” she says, smiling. “Be careful with it!”

Alistair hurries to the table. The box is white and has small holes around the top and a little handle that sticks out from the shaped lid. It is made from cardboard and is sparkling.

Alistair gently pulls the top of the handle. The box opens slightly.

Immediately, one big shape pops out of the top of the box.

“Is it moving?” the little boy questions, surprised.

Then, POP, another one. Same shape, size and colour.

Alistair stands back from the table. He is a tiny bit confused, but also amazed.

“Go on, then, look inside,” she says.

With that, the little boy peeks into the depths of the box, and there is a small dark shape…

Q 1. Tell us a bit about your Hedgehog stories

My stories follow the magical adventures of Hamish the sparkly, magical hedgehog and Alistair the young boy who is chosen by the hedgehog queen to become the hedgehog protector. These little stories take Alistair through the magical world of the hedgehogs.

Starting with a fun packed summer, a big birthday party and meeting the hedgehog queen, the stories then move through the autumn to a sparkly but scary forest and Alistair has his first chance to show that he really is the hedgehog protector, with new and lost friends, reunited families and some fireworks to celebrate. This takes them all to Christmas. The magic and splendor of Christmas is enjoyed by Alistair and all his best friends with an unexpected ending.

Q 2. What inspires your writing?

For ten years now I have been lucky enough to enjoy visits from this wonderful little creature of nature… the hedgehog. This is what inspires these stories.

Q 3. What’s your favourite thing about writing children’s fiction?

The best thing about writing children’s fiction is that you can use your imagination to its fullest and create something original.

Q 4. When did you realise that you wanted to be a writer?

For many years I had the desire to write a book, but completion was difficult. Thank goodness for my dear friends – the hedgehogs.

Q 5. What’s next in the writing pipeline for you? Will there be another Hedgehog adventure?

I have recently completed the next tale in the ‘Hedgehog Story series’, which will be available in 2020. 

David’s books are available to buy from our bookshop!

Book Guild’s Cracking Christmas Reads – Day 1

On day one of Book Guild’s cracking Christmas reads we are sharing an interview with Ian McFadyen:

Q 1. What inspired you to start writing and how long have you been writing?

I first started writing in 2000; the intention being to try and write just one book. However, I enjoyed the process so much that I carried on, with my latest book being number eight in the series.

Q 2. Tell us about the DI Carmichael series

All eight titles are based around the same core team of detectives located in rural Lancashire. The books are a series but are written as stand-alone stories, so they don’t have to be read in any particular order.  

Q 3. How do you develop the plot and characters?

Obviously, the plots and characters are key to any crime fiction story. My method of devising my plots normally follows a similar sequence of events. Firstly, I try to think about the kernel of the story. This could be the twist, an interesting series of events that would drive someone to murder, or maybe just something as simple as a strong title that lends itself to a particular story. My latest book, ‘Blood on his Hands’ was inspired by a thought I had about someone confessing to murder. Once I have the kernel, I then spend a few weeks just thinking about the plot, occasionally jotting down some notes, so when I start to write I can pick up any train of thought I may have had. After that it’s simply a case of getting out my memory stick, plugging it in and then and starting to write. With regards to characters, my central characters tend to remain the same; DI Carmichael, his core team of detectives, his wife, family and a few regulars from the local area. Other characters, who tend to only appear in one book, are often created from people I know or people I’ve read about; although almost without exception the final creation will end up quite removed from the person who acted as his or her inspiration.        

Q 4. What provides the inspiration for your stories?

As stated earlier, it can be many things. The only common factor is that it normally just comes to me – so not something I’ve ever had to work hard to find.      

Q 5. What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of a good crime novel?

Great question: I think crime novels need to have pace and should allow the reader to start trying to piece together the evidence and spot the clues almost from page one. When they’ve finished reading the book, I want my readers to feel they were given all the information they needed to solve the puzzle – but, of course, I don’t want them to have managed to work out what’s actually happening before it’s revealed.

Q 6. What’s your favourite part of publishing a book?

I love every stage, from the initial idea, the solitary activity of writing for months, right through to the post-launch marketing. In fact, the only thing I dislike is proof reading (but I’m afraid that’s absolutely vital).

Q 7. Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you

I very rarely read the work of other crime fiction writers!

Q 9. What advice would you give to a new writer, someone just starting out?

Don’t be scared! Just get on with it. Every author had to write their first book, not knowing whether they were any good, so don’t worry if you feel that way at times!

Q 10. What’s next in the writing pipeline for you?

I have three potential Carmichael storylines in my head at the moment. My plan is to decide which one I want to develop into number nine in the series during December. I’ll then start writing that book on 1st Jan 2020, with the aim of getting the first draft finished in about September.   

Ian’s books are available to buy from our bookshop!