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.

Motivation – Where Art Thou?

Marketing Controller and author, Sophie Morgan shares her top tips for getting motivated to write your book…

They say everyone has a book in them. Some people have characters speaking in their heads, some think in iambic pentameter, some look at their life and think, heck, I have had an interesting journey. Whatever kind of book you have that’s tapping its foot and waiting for you to put yours on the accelerator pedal, there can be no better time than now to sit down at a desk and do this. Write THE book. But how do you start?

I think very often people can sit down at that desk with their tools of the trade, enthusiasm buzzing in their blood. And then they look at that blank page. And think, actually I have some laundry to do. Or there’s that TV show I haven’t watched yet. Or maybe I’ll go bother wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/pet/friend/fill in your own blank.

There is nothing scarier for writers than a blank page. We’ve all been there, feeling the indecision fuelled by the excitement (that has now drained to nerves) that you’ll fail before you’ve begun. So, here are my five top tips to battle the blank page and write your own masterpiece (I write novels but a lot of this can also be applied to other genres/forms you may be writing.) Here we go:

1) Create a “Work Day”. We all work in specified blocks of time and our minds are conditioned to accept that from X to X we will be at work. Writing is no different, and it can often help take the pressure off ‘waiting for the muse to strike’. Look, she’s busy so you have to schedule her in if you want her to visit.

2) Warm-up. Depending on the kind of writer you are, sometimes it helps to ‘warm-up’ the imagination. Automatic writing can be a great tool for this. It’s simple: put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and start writing what you’re thinking. It can be as mundane as This Little Piggy, but maybe stretch a bit – why did the piggy go to market? Maybe he didn’t go to be sold for meat but to do his best Del Boy patter to get enough money so he and his siblings don’t have to separate. Set the clock for five minutes and see where it takes you! If nothing else, it could spark a story!

3) Start anywhere. We all get hung up with finding the perfect place to begin your book and the consequences if we haven’t. Don’t. Just begin! I read somewhere that the original Lord of the Flies began about seven pages before the boy picked his way across the rocks. That’s what good editing is for. So just begin!

4) Write. It sounds like a waste of a tip, right? We’re all writers here, it’s our passion, our duty, our reason for walking this planet. But too often we let our fears overwhelm our creative instincts and we get bogged down in the minutiae of showing not telling or using too many dialogue tags. The best advice I have been given is to write, write, write – it’s easier to fix a bad page than a blank one. And the more you get into the flow of writing, the more you’ll loosen up, the more likely it is that you’ll write something great.

5) Have fun. Seriously, why are you doing this otherwise? Writing should be fun at the end of the day. If you’re taking it too seriously, the fun element will go for you and most likely for your readers. Take an unexpected turn that you haven’t meticulously plotted. The worst that can happen is that you’ll delete ten pages, but you’ll have got to know your protagonist a lot better as a well-rounded character instead of a 2D idea in your head. And that will serve you and your book better in the long run too.

I hope the above tips help inspire you to start, continue or finish your book! And remember, writing is all about the journey, no matter how long it takes you.

Introducing Your Book to the World of Instagram


Instagram, the home of the ‘bookstagrammer’ and book reviewing elite, is becoming a very popular tool for authors and publishers to market their books. We launched our Instagram account in Spring 2018 (@Troubador_Publishing) after discovering its great potential for reaching new audiences, and we now use Instagram to promote all aspects of our business – from self-publishing with Matador, mainstream and partnership publishing with The Book Guild and sharing live updates from events and book fairs, it’s become a key part of our social media offering.

According to the MPA (The Association of Magazine Media), Instagram has had the highest growth rate among the social networks it tracked (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) in the past three years. This figure is pretty substantial considering that Instagram has over a billion monthly active users (What’s New in Publishing, October 2019).

We are always looking for ways to increase our social media presence and the current climate means that more people are staying at home and are reaching for their bookshelves to provide comfort and entertainment.

As an author, the best person to sell your story is – you. That’s why we are launching a new Instagram series to showcase our authors and their books. We will be doing a video-style Q&A with authors – one author per week – over the coming months, and it’s a great way to let new readers know about you and your book. Any interested authors are urged to contact us at [email protected] for information and guidelines on how to take part.

Note: authors must have access to a camera or smartphone to record their answers on.

The Art of Choosing Your Next Read

Books will be a solace for many at the moment, but how do readers pick new books?

Indie authors often step into the writing arena with the preconceived idea that a review in The Sunday Times and an endorsement from Stephen Fry are the ways to get your book noticed. But is this the case?

For publishers, the million-dollar question is: ‘What makes a reader buy a book?’ Publishers analyse their data and question readers regularly on this topic. Similarly, reading recommendation and promotion sites such as Goodreads and BookBub also survey their customers to find out how they choose books. The results of these? Time and again the answer is ‘recommendation by friends and family’. If someone you know and trust loves a book and recommends it, you are far more likely to buy that book – and even buy it at full price. Which is great news for indie authors.

BookBub – the ebook recommendation and promotion site – analysed their own data (BookBub Insights) and found that (from their surveyed customers) 39% of readers picked books based on a recommendation from someone they trusted; and 39% through online bookstore recommendations. While research released by Capital Crime (Late 2019) surveyed 1073 people to look at their reading habits, finding that 47% claimed they would be unlikely to pick a book based solely on whether it has been shortlisted or won an award.

Other big factors in book purchase decisions are; reviews on a trusted review site, the book being next in a series or because a reader is already a fan of the author. Anecdotal evidence also cites cover design as a major factor in purchasing decisions – especially within genres such as sci-fi and romance, where readers are often willing to explore new voices.

So, don’t underestimate the power of recommendation and use this in your marketing plan. Book bloggers are a great way to access trusted reviews, and sites such as NetGalley also help readers find books – and then share their reviews to a wider community. Readers love book recommendations – and they can really enhance the marketing you are doing. A strong cover and some passionate readers can really boost your sales, so why not look at the additional marketing options we offer, including both blog tours and NetGalley reviews to utilise the online review community?

Details of our additional marketing options can be obtained from your Marketing Controller.

Odd Men Out in History by John-Pierre Joyce

For LGBT History Month, author John-Pierre Joyce gives some insights into his book Odd Men Out: Male Homosexuality in Britain from Wolfenden to Gay Liberation, 1954-1970.

Fifty years ago this autumn, on 13 October 1970, students and teachers held a meeting in a small basement classroom at the London School of Economics. The gathering was organised by LSE undergraduate Bob Mellors and former sociology student Aubrey Walter. Only 19 people attended what was the inauguration of the British Gay Liberation Front. But after activists distributed leaflets around London, membership of the fledgling GLF began to grow, and within a month meetings were attracting around 200 people. At the end of the year, the GLF drew up a manifesto which put forward a set of key demands, including an end to discrimination against gay people, a ban on the medical treatment of homosexuality, the equalisation of the age of consent, the reform of sex education in schools and freedom for gay people to express affection in public.

The birth of the Gay Liberation Front marks the end of Odd Men Out, which looks at the social, legal and cultural history of gay men living in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. It also marks the beginning of a long and at times painful campaign for equality. Just how long that campaign took (over a period of 30 years from the passing of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which permitted homosexual behaviour in private between consenting adult males over the age of 21) came as a surprise to many people who attended the book launch events I held in London and Leeds in September 2019 to mark the publication of Odd Men Out. It was only in 1992 that the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. The age of consent for homosexual acts was not lowered (and equalised) to 16 until 2000. The offenses of gross indecency, soliciting and importuning (which exposed men to police arrest for as little as nodding or smiling at another man) remained on the statute book until 2003. Discrimination in the provision of goods, services and education on the grounds of sexual orientation was only outlawed in 2007.

Left: ‘Odd Men Out’ by John-Pierre Joyce.      Right: John-Pierre Joyce, Author

LGBT History Month provides the opportunity to look back at the efforts made by reformers 50 years ago to push back prejudice, discrimination and hostility against gay men. It also gives us a chance to reflect on and to understand what everyday life was like for gay men. It was this question that prompted me to begin researching Odd Men Out more than a decade ago. I knew and had read about the Wolfenden Report (published in 1957 after a three-year investigation by a government-appointed committee into the ‘problem’ of homosexuality) and the Sexual Offences Act. But there was scant information about ordinary gay men’s lives in between and beyond those dates. The years 1957 to 1970 were largely glossed over as a time of slow but inevitable legal change, accompanied by a gradual tolerance of and freedom for gay men. Despite a crop of books on gay history published in the 1990s and early 2000s, there was a dearth of recent publications on the subject, except for a few narrowly focused, theory-driven academic studies. This encouraged me to find out more for myself about the British gay male experience in the 1950s and 1960s.

Along the way, there were some fascinating discoveries. The first-ever mention of the word ‘homosexuality’ in the broadcast media, for example, was made in 1953, on BBC Radio’s Behind the News. The Lord Chamberlain (who from 1843 to 1968 had the power to grant licences for public performances of stage plays) lifted the ban on depictions of homosexuality in 1958 after a controversy about drag queens in a comic revue called We’re No Ladies. More darkly, medical cures for homosexuality were practised on hundreds of men by doctors who knew that such treatments were ineffective and, in some cases, lethal. The Sexual Offences Act was far from being a landmark of permissive legislation. Rather, it was a grudging tidying up of legal anomalies highlighted by the Wolfenden Report. Instead of freeing up gay men’s lives, it opened the door to a new era of oppression, injustice and hostility.

Odd Men Out tries to set out the facts of gay men’s lives, without making judgements about those who expressed views or acted in ways which – ironically, in the opinion of many of the men I interviewed – are no longer considered acceptable. Through these interviews – as well as letters, diaries, novels and newspaper reports – I have tried to preserve the voices of a generation of gay men and others who are beginning to disappear from our lives and our collective memory. Keeping a record of their words and deeds is vital in order to educate younger generations about the not-so-very distant past. They need to know about history if they are to preserve their own liberty and to guard against old and new forms of prejudice, discrimination and persecution. It was Antony Grey, the long-serving secretary of the Homosexual Law Reform Society, who pointed out in 2008 (at about the time I started my research): ‘I think it’s very important that people should remember how it was and how it could be again in the future because I think things can go backwards as well as forward. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.’

During LGBT History Month, John-Pierre will give two talks and readings from Odd Men Out:

Wednesday 26 February, 6:00 pm

Male Homosexuality in Britain, 1954-1970 – The Leeds Link

Leeds Central Library. Free event. Book a ticket here! 

Thursday 27 February, 7:00 pm

Odd Men Out in the East End, 1954-1970

Idea Store Whitechapel, London. Free event. Book a ticket here! 


Odd Men Out is available from our bookshop!


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!