RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED ABOUT THIS BOOK.
YES, I'M SHOUTING.
BUY IT. YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.
OVER AND OUT.
Book Blitz: Within and Without by Deborah Maroulis
Welcome to the book blitz for
Within and Without by Deborah Maroulis
presented by Lakewater Press!
Grab your copy today!
Within and Without by Deborah Maroulis
While the weekdays consist of thickening scars derived from high school wounds, weekends have become a peaceful respite from the noise of fake laughter and competing early morning parking lot music. Instead, the humming of the farm equipment accompanies the melody of the songbirds. I click off my alarm two minutes before it’s set to ring, the light casting gray streaks on the walls and sideways shadows on the dolls lining them. I’ve never understood why the sun saves its best colors for the evening. Seems to me it’d have more energy for pretty things early on. The house is silent—Granny’s probably already in the vineyards barking at her crew. God knows where Mom is. My stomach gurgles, and I move my tongue around my mouth and swallow as much saliva as I can generate. Familiar tension creeps through my ribs and squeezes my lungs. Sitting up, I slide my journal from under my pillow and hold it close to my chest. Its slick, cold cover pressed against me pushes away the dread. I draw in a deep breath and release it slowly, letting the air and spit be enough nutrition for now. The aroma of bacon and griddle cakes waft through the cracks of the old house, and my stomach churns. I move around my tongue and swallow again. Tucking my legs under me, I open my journal to an empty page and record my food allotment and exercise routine. The more I write, the less I shake.
I'm so thrilled to be able to share with you the BEAUTIFUL cover of my LOVELY friend Taryn Bashford's NEW book today. But first, here's a little about the book...
Dutiful daughter. Classical singer. Secret pop songwriter. And suffering from stage fright.
Trust Fund Kid. Indie singer. Immensely gifted performer. And refusing to sing again.
Are they polar opposites? In his grief and fury at the world, Jacob certainly thinks so.
But when Jacob loses everything and Astrid uncovers a shocking family secret, they may need each other to make sense of their lives.
And here's the cover...
HOW LOVELY IS THIS COVER?!!!
Click to check out the book trailer here...
And now pre-order here...
Taryn is the author of The Harper Effect and currently lives on the Sunshine Coast with a family that includes teen children and a highly-strung dog. Taryn’s lived on four continents, meaning her job experience has been varied: an advertising sales rep, a ski chalet chef, a late-night newsreader and the CEO of an internet company, but writing and Australia are her true loves. Taryn is currently working on her PhD in Creative Writing while tutoring undergraduates and writing more novels. When she’s not writing or teaching, she’s training for triathlons in the hope they will compensate for the fact she spends ten hours a day sitting on her tushie.
Follow Taryn here!
I'm delighted to be a part of the cover reveal tour for the fabulous Marisa Noelle's debut, THE UNADJUSTEDS, coming November!
CHECK IT OUT!
I like to offer my blog to authors from time to time, put them in the spotlight and show the world who they are and what they write. And, today, I'm pleased to welcome Margaret Rodeheaver. Read on to learn a little about her romance novel, read a short excerpt, and to hear her answers to my quickfire "Which do you prefer?" interview!
Welcome to the small town of Chinkapin, Georgia, where recently-divorced Laurie Lanton is starting her new life in a warmer climate. To keep her mind off her ex, Laurie joins Mary and the other volunteers at the Treasure Chest, a charity thrift shop run by 'St. Mark's Across from the Tasty Chick.' Anything can happen at the Treasure Chest - and does. Two robberies, a leaky roof, and an invasion of mice give Laurie plenty to think about. But a couple of new men have also caught her attention.
Will she pick Chase, the interesting and talented musician from St. Mark's choir? He sure is easy to be with, but there's something in his past no one wants to talk about. And just when things are heating up between them, Laurie overhears something that throws their future into doubt.
And what about Jeff, the new painting instructor at the local arts center? He seems to have a few secrets of his own, including something he’s discovered about an old painting at the thrift shop.
When disaster strikes the Treasure Chest, will Laurie's "super power" be enough to save it? Because if not, the Treasure Chest might have to close, and then what will happen to St. Mark’s?
An excerpt from “Hidden Treasure” by Margaret Rodeheaver:
“That sure smells good,” Laurie said. “One of these days I’m going to have to break down and get some for myself.”
“Have one!” Carol held out a chicken tender.
“No, thanks. I’ll stick with my peanut butter crackers.” Laurie rummaged in her purse. She sat
in the chair by the desk, and as she opened the pack of crackers, she saw something out of the corner of her eye. “Oh my gosh! Did you see that?”
“What?” Carol saw the expression on Laurie’s face and froze, her cup of soda midway to her mouth. She swept her eyes from side to side trying to see the whole office without moving. Suddenly a little brown mouse scurried out from under the table and disappeared under the cabinet near the door.
“Ew!” Laurie said, jumping up. Carol scooped her food into her lap and scooted her chair into the middle of the room.
Mary had just come back from the restroom and stood in the doorway. “What’s all the excitement?”
“We just saw a mouse!” Carol said, a note of hysteria in her voice.
“Well, no doubt! Those tenders smell so good I’m surprised you don’t have all kinds of critters fighting over them. I was hoping I might swap my salad for them without you noticing.”
Laurie still had a worried look on her face. “It came from under there,” she said pointing to the table.
Mary leaned over slightly and peeked under the table. There were two large boxes stuffed with bags and bits of paper used to wrap fragile items. “You guys, anything could be living under there. Snakes, spiders, who knows what.” Carol gave her a nasty look. “Well, I would have straightened that stuff out,” Mary said defensively, “but in case you haven’t noticed, I can’t bend over.”
“Thanks for cheering me up, Mary. Lord, just wait until Virginia hears about this. Bless her heart, she was about ready to quit after Alice got whacked in the head. This might just put her over the edge.”
“You sound pretty nervous yourself,” Mary said. “I guess we need to find some mousetraps.”
“Ooh! We could get a live trap and sell it as a pet!” Laurie said.
“Right, you do that.” Mary rolled her eyes.
“Come to think of it, we have some mousetraps. I priced them the other day. They’re in the furniture room, next to the fishing poles. Watch my lunch. I’ll go get them.” Carol left the room. Mary and Laurie looked uneasily around, and squealed simultaneously as the mouse ran back across the room.
“Did you see him again?” Carol crept back into the room with a two-pack of mouse traps.
“Yep. He’s back under there.” Laurie pointed under the table.
“Well, here. Let’s get these baited.” Carol pulled the plastic wrap off the mousetraps. Laurie and Mary baited them with pieces of chicken, careful not to pinch their fingers.
“Guys, I’ve read that mice can’t see very well, so they run along next to walls and things,” Laurie said. She placed the traps against the wall on either side of the office door.
“This one must have better eyesight than most. He was out in the middle of the room,” Carol observed.
“I wish we had another trap or two,” Mary said. “Because you know, if we saw one mouse, there are probably several more.”
It was almost closing time and, as usual on Saturdays there was a rush of customers. Mary waited on them as Carol finished tagging the jewelry. Laurie looked around the shop for another trap, and came back to the office carrying a bird cage.
“Look. What do you think? We can put some food in here and rig the door so it slides down if something goes in.”
“You’re serious about catching them alive, aren’t you,” Mary said.
“Catch and release. Like I do with my men.”
“Wow!” Mary raised her eyebrows and smiled. “You go, girl. Do you have any bait left?”
“You mean for man-catching?”
“Honey, you’ve got all the bait you need for that!” Mary said.
WHICH DO YOU PREFER?
Dogs or Cats: Dogs, but I like cats too!
Paperbacks or Ebooks: Paperbacks - esp. for study or reference. Ebooks for traveling w/ a library at my fingertips.
Ketchup or Mayo: Ketchup!!
Beach or Mountains: Beach
Inside or Outside: Inside (preferably with a view!)
Morning or Evening: Morning
Drive or Walk: Walk
Keyboard or Notebook: Keyboard
Drama or Comedy: Comedy
Drafting or Revising: Revising
Margaret Rodeheaver writes short fiction and novels for children and adults. She enjoys listening to music and visiting coffee shops, and lives with her husband near Macon, Georgia. For more information about Margaret Rodeheaver and her books, sign up for email updates at www.MargaretRodeheaver.com
Many congratulations to the brilliant Lynnette Beers on the release of her brand new novel, SAVING SAM, out today!
As an experienced San Diego lifeguard, Sam Cleveland has been trained to save others. On what becomes the most treacherous beach day ever, she battles the sea as her ability as a lifeguard is tested. While she risks her life to rescue swimmers from the rough surf, her world comes crashing down when she learns that her brother Robert has been in a serious accident. She then must leave San Diego and the young woman she’s recently started dating to return to her hometown—a place that holds a horrid memory from her childhood.
Once back in Mississippi, Sam sits vigil at Robert’s bedside. Always protective when Sam was a child, Robert clings to life as investigators search for the person responsible for his accident. As she faces the possibility of losing her brother, Sam is reminded that her hometown holds an unspeakable secret that she and Robert vowed to always keep buried.
On the hunt for the man who intentionally harmed Robert is Lieutenant Annie Wright—the woman who captured Sam’s heart years ago. Now just friends, Sam and Annie work together to find the person responsible for Robert’s injuries. But as painful childhood memories resurface, so do old feelings of love. Will Sam choose to move forward with the chance at new romance in San Diego, or will she return to the comfort of familiar love with Annie in Mississippi?
BUY NOW ON AMAZON!
Can you tell us a little about how your writing journey began - at school, as a teen, later in life? Were you good at English at school?
For as long as I can I remember, I loved to read. As a child, I liked that I could get lost in a good story. I was good at English from a young age, most likely because my parents encouraged me to read when I was little. I was in third grade when my teacher, Miss Brinker, got me excited about writing stories. It was by far my favorite part of school because I could let my imagination run wild as I wrote my little kid stories. When I was a teen, the writing shifted to analytical essays, and it wasn’t until I was in college getting a BA in English that I knew I wanted to be a writer. I took a few years off after I received my bachelor’s degree, but once I enrolled in an MFA program, I grew so much as a writer. During those years in grad school, I felt encouraged and challenged by my fellow MFA students, many of whom are still dear friends.
Did you always want to be published, or was there a moment when you decided to take your writing out into the world?
Before I even considered writing a novel, I only wrote short stories and narrative essays, but after I went on a summer study abroad trip to London, I started to come up with ideas for a novel. I ended up going on three summer study abroad trips to London when I was in graduate school. By the third trip, I had a clear idea of where that book was headed as far as the plot and characters. It was at that point when I knew I wanted to be a published novelist. Once I did a major revision of my novel, I felt incredibly driven to become a published author. Now, I’ve got two novels published, a third one completed, and another one just starting to take form. I can’t not write. When working on my work-in-progress, I feel I’m doing what I was meant to do.
Did you have a team of readers and critique partners, or people you used to help you polish your work before submitting to publishers? Do you still have these people on your team even now you're published?
No, I don’t have critique partners. When I write my books, I’m very much focused on the story. I don’t share the completed book until it has been revised and edited numerous times. For my most recently released novel, Saving Sam, I had a few beta readers review the manuscript and give me suggestions for improvement. I know writer’s groups can be valuable to some writers, but they’ve never worked well for me because it’s hard to hear so many differing suggestions during the creative process. I tend to want the entire creative process to be a solo journey, which seems to work well for me. I’m especially fanatical about editing my books. Many people say to just get out a finished draft, but I’m the type of writer who edits as I go. As I wrote Saving Sam, I became almost overly fixated on getting each chapter just right before I moved on to the next. I still do another overall final edit before I send the book to my publisher, but my process seems to work well for me so far.
Can you tell us a little about when you first received an offer of publication? How did that go?
For about a year and a half, I sent out query letters to try and get Just Beyond the Shining River published. I went to writers’ conferences and pitched my book idea to editors and agents. A couple of agents seemed eager to see my manuscript, but they ended up not offering me a contract to publish my book. I decided to submit to a small publisher called Regal Crest Enterprises. They’re a lesbian publisher and seemed like a good place to start as far as me publishing my novel. Regal Crest’s submission guidelines asked to see the full manuscript, along with a synopsis and bio. I submitted my book to them sometime in December of 2016. In the meantime, I was still going to conferences to pitch my book to agents. In January of 2017, I received excellent feedback from an agent who in turn said she wanted to see my entire manuscript—after I trimmed off 30,000 words! I then set out to cut chunks of material from the book, realizing in my gut that I shouldn’t cut so many words. I might’ve cut around 3,000 words when I received an e-mail in January of 2017 from Regal Crest offering me a contract to publish my book. I was at the hair salon at the time, and when I glanced at the e-mail, I thought it’d said, “We would not like to offer you a contract.” It took me a couple moments to realize it said, “We would now like to offer you a contract” (italics added for emphasis). I even showed the e-mail to my hairstylist to have her read it to make sure I’d read it right. I was over the moon at this news and almost couldn’t believe it. I knew nothing about publishing contracts, so that was a whole new area for me to research. My publisher is incredibly fair, reliable, and supportive. The process to get the book in print consisted of more edits (by two of Regal Crest’s editors and also by me). The whole editing process was both interesting and mostly painless.
How is life as a published author? What's been the highlight and the lowlight? What things have you struggled with up to this point? Is your publisher good at helping with marketing and promotion, etc?
The highlight for me is seeing my book in print and signing my books. I’m a full-time college professor, and sometimes my students will buy my novel. I get such a thrill to sign one of my books for a student. The lowlight is not knowing how to convince new readers to read my books. My publisher and editor say that it could take three or four books for readers to take me seriously. One thing I learned early on is that agents are usually hesitant to represent a new writer. It’s all about sales, and there’s a big risk to take on a debut author. I’m grateful that my publisher is so supportive of new writers. As far as marketing, Regal Crest has an excellent website and uses social media to promote their writers, but marketing for the most part is done by me. That’s another lowlight—figuring out how best to promote myself as an author. My first book was a Goldie finalist for best debut novel (a Golden Crown Literary Society award), and that increased sales slightly. As most newer authors know, marketing can be difficult.
If you had one piece of advice for upcoming writers what would it be?
My advice is always this: Don’t give up but also dedicate a lot of time to your craft. This means getting your manuscript in the best shape possible before sending it to agents and publishers. It’s also important to not let rejections discourage you. As a fellow writer kept telling me when I was sending out query letters, “It only takes one yes.”
Lynnette has been telling stories ever since she was a child, but it wasn’t until adulthood that she realized she wanted to pursue a career in writing. After earning degrees in English and film studies, she went on to get an MA in literature and an MFA in fiction writing. She’s been a professor of creative writing, British literature, and composition for over twenty years. Her first novel, Just Beyond the Shining River, takes place in England and is partially told through old letters which reveal scandalous family secrets. Her most recent novel is titled Saving Sam, an intense, fast-paced story about a lifeguard in San Diego who, after finding out her brother has been in a serious accident, must return to her hometown in Mississippi—a place that holds a horrid memory from her childhood. When not writing, Lynnette enjoys mountain biking, hiking, and ocean swimming.
Congratulations to my lovely friend, debut author Kristy Fairlamb on the release of her YA supernatural thriller LUCID this week. Such a fantastic book. And, listen, I loved it so much I acquired it myself at Lakewater Press!!!! It's got EVERYTHING a YA book should have but also so much more. And the concept is so original and dark and unusual that you will just love it!
Check out all the details you need here and be sure to keep scrolling to the bottom so you can enter the release giveaway to win CHOCOLATE!
LUCID BY KRISTY FAIRLAMB
A Terrifying Power. A Horrifying Curse.
Lucy Piper lives a lonely existence on the precipice between life and death. She possesses the horrifying ability to resurrect real-life tragic events in her nightmares, reliving over and over, as if she were there, the last few moments before the victim takes their final breath. Car accidents, drownings, plane crashes – Lucy has seen it all. No one understands what it’s like living death by night and fearing sleep by day.
When Tyler Sims and his family move to town to escape past traumas, Lucy is drawn to him. The two of them are linked through their dreams, and with Tyler’s trust and friendship, hope for a brighter future returns to Lucy’s world. But Tyler’s presence awakens something else in Lucy, and with this new knowledge she will be forced to make impossible decisions. Decisions that will change history, and the future.
Chilling, haunting and compelling, this novel is the first in a two-part series for fans of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and The Hidden Memory of Objects that will leave you breathless for days.
Kristy Fairlamb is an Australian author of young adult novels. She enjoys spending her days drinking coffee and torturing her characters with loads of tension (both love related and the nail-biting kind)!
Long before her days of writing began, she spent half her childhood in a make believe world, daydreaming about growing up, falling in love, and travelling the world. She’s worked as a nanny in country England, a junior matron in a boy’s boarding school south of London, a governess in East Timor, and made coffees and cleared tables in the New South Wales snow fields.
Kristy lives with her husband, teenage daughter, and two sons in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, where they’re lucky enough to get the occasional visit from the local koalas. She’s terrible at gardening, likes her bookshelves sorted by colour, and recently checked off a lifelong dream of jumping from a plane. When she’s not writing or daydreaming about her stories, you’ll find her reading, cooking for her family, or doing anything to avoid the housework.
WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN WIN!
I'm delighted to welcome the wonderful Savannah Hendricks to the blog today to help celebrate the release of her latest novel, GROUNDED IN JANUARY! Check it out!
Kate Wilson hates to admit it, but she’s unhappy and can’t figure out why. Fearful of flying yet determined to find a reason for her unhappiness, she boards a flight headed for her Washington hometown.
Inn of the Woods owner and pilot, Oxnard Swanson struggles with accepting his multiple sclerosis diagnosis, realizing his dreams of marriage and a family might be over. Determined, he bides his time managing the inn, piloting his Cessna, and training his rescue dog Bayou.
Sparks quickly fly between Oxnard and Kate, when a snow storm forces her to find refuge in the Inn of the Woods. Maggie, a wise guest, suggests the couple step outside, where the magic of the snow offers answers to their search for happiness and a second chance at love.
Kate and Oxnard find love is like a snowflake, a unique and beautiful reminder of life’s continuation, as each snowflake melts into the eternal hope of spring.
INTERVIEW WITH SAVANNAH
Can you tell us a little of your journey to publication with this book?
To be honest, Grounded in January took a rather quick path to publication. I work full-time and managed to write the story in about five months. I started small with submissions because it was my first time submitting an adult novel and I was hoping that if it was rejected I could obtain some feedback before I continued on. I’ve been writing for over fifteen years and most of my work is in children’s literature, so this was a huge step in a different direction. While I have written other adult pieces, this was the first time submitting a full-length novel.
How and why did you write it, how long did it take, how did you find your publisher, etc?
I wrote Grounded in January because I’ve always wanted to spread awareness about multiple sclerosis. My mom was diagnosed with it and our short relationship was centered on the disease. It affected my childhood in a negative and positive way. Of course, I didn’t want to make Grounded in January a depressing story. I’ve seen so many great outcomes of people with MS that I wanted to make sure when I had control (unlike real life) that everything worked out alright.
I started working on the story in November of 2017 and submitted it to a small number of publishers in June of 2018. At the time I’d recently lost my ‘heart’ dog and decided to write him into the story. To be honest I didn’t really see the dog’s role as a big piece until I started on edits and realized he blossomed into a bigger character and I loved it. A lot of writers out there will probably strangle me (I swear I have been in the trenches with rejections for years with other stories), but I had amazing feedback and requests for ‘fulls’ instantly.
I’d submitted children’s lit to Brother Mockingbird Publishing earlier, but they passed. So I figured I’d try again with Grounded in January. I was looking for a small publishing company because I wanted to have more say on the cover art and wanted the important aspects of the story to remain as is, and they allowed for both of these.
Is there a message in your novel for readers? Anything you'd love for them to take away from the experience?
Yes, I think because of my early childhood education background I find myself always writing with a universal message. For Grounded in January the message is about hope and discovery. It’s also about not assuming that your path has ended simply because you made a wrong turn earlier in life. I felt this way about my own life, getting married at nineteen, and divorcing twelve years later. I thought because I picked that specific path nothing would work out later in life, that I’d “blown it” so to speak. And I’m grateful that I had the hope and the faith to remind myself that it didn’t mean that at all.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Oh gosh, outside of writing in general (because plotting, characters, etc is hard work), writing about MS and putting my sweet dog’s mannerisms in the story was the hardest. Seeing my dog come back to life on the pages was bitter-sweet.
How have you grown as a writer and person from writing this novel?
This book has taught me more than I could possibly discuss in an interview without boring people! But overall, it has helped me realize I can write a complex story and that I’m rather great at it. It sounds stuck-up, but when I read the editor notes going through, even she wondered how I managed to weave all these little things in and out of the story. I’ve improved on my abilities to tell a story and improved my editing skills. There was a time when I would send a chapter to a CP and it was all marked up with red because of so many small grammar errors, but as grew in my skill set the red lessened immensely.
What books have most influenced your life and writing style/approach?
This is tough because when I wrote and sold my first picture book (Nonnie and I) nearly all of my fifty plus rejects read: LOVE THE STORY! HATE THE VOICE!
And I couldn’t change my writing style or voice so I improved on my craft, the way I told a story. Everyone that knows me knows how much I adore The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh, her writing has influenced me the most because it’s amazing. I actually find myself pausing and re-reading sentences in her books, and I never do this with other authors. My favorite books are books from the nineties and early two-thousands; I simply love the way they were written and the richness of the storytelling.
Which writer/s would you consider a mentor/inspiration?
(Again) Kat Yeh. She is so nice, always replying on social media if you reach out to her. I understand authors are busy and many are at celebrity status, but there is a disconnect for me when that happens. I love to showcase books I’m reading and post about them and if the author reaches out to me and acknowledges that, I remember. We are all equal and without readers, authors wouldn’t sell a single book.
Will we meet these characters again? What's next for you?
I’ve toyed with the idea of a follow up for Grounded in January with a few secondary characters, but we will see how well it does. I have two other sweet romance novels I’m readying for submission and those come first. After that I’m returning to a manuscript that I love more than chocolate cake and seeing what I can revise on it because I want it to see on bookshelves. I’m not giving up on it!
I have two picture books coming out later this year as well and will need to switch my focus over to them in the coming months. One is with the same publisher as Grounded in January, titled: Winston Versus the Snow, and the other is: The Book Who Lost its Title with Big Belly Book Co.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When Savannah Hendricks is not writing, she is a medical social worker. Prior she worked with special needs preschoolers and spent seven years as a nanny. She holds degrees in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s in Criminal Justice. She is the author of Nonnie and I, a picture book about the first day of school anxieties set in Botswana. Her stories have been included in over 20 children’s magazines, and is the co-author of Child Genius 101: The Ultimate Guide to Early Childhood Development: Vol 1 & 2. She has two new picture books releasing this year, Winston Versus the Snow and The Book Who Lost its Title.
FOLLOW SAVANNAH'S JOURNEY HERE!
Her Crown of Fire
Cover Reveal: All Boy by Mia Kerick
Welcome to the Cover Reveal for
All Boy by Mia Kerick!
Be on the lookout for this new title from Lakewater Press.
What do you think of the cover?
All Boy by Mia Kerick
Available for pre-order:
IT'S PARTY TIME FOR MY LOVELY AUTHOR FRIEND FIONA ERSKINE TODAY!
And what a book it is! I first read Jaq Silver's story a couple of years ago and what can I say -- I knew then that what Fiona had created was a masterpiece and just what the world of thrillers needed: an intelligent, smart, woman of science main character.
You will love this book because it has clever and beautiful writing, a fast and exciting plot, and more tension than most books can handle!
I couldn't be more delighted for Fiona and all I can say is GET THIS BOOK TODAY!
Grab your copy here:
And follow Fiona here:
Here's an interview with Fiona and her publisher so you can find out more about this brilliant book!
How did you begin writing The Chemical Detective?
In 2012, I had a skiing accident. Waiting to recover enough to fly home, I took strong painkillers and gazed out at the slopes through the panoramic windows of a hotel bar. My daytime companions were Russian men who started drinking at breakfast. Jaq Silver appeared with a story to tell and wouldn’t let go.
How long did it take you to write it?
About six months. I needed time off work after surgery and devoted myself to writing. And then it took six years to edit that awful first draft into The Chemical Detective, leaving plenty of material to spare.
What did you enjoy most about the writing process?
For me, writing fiction is a way to make sense of the world around me. It’s also an escape. I travel a lot with the day job and it fills the waiting hours far from home. My characters come first and when they run off to places without permission, or pick fights with one another, I have enormous fun weaving plots around their antics. It’s also delightful to ski expertly and fight injustice while tucked up in bed.
Your heroine, Jaq Silver is a chemical engineer, and like you, she lives in Teesside. Are there autobiographical elements in her character?
The similarities stop there. Jaq is much better than me at all things academic and athletic. She had a traumatic childhood, caught up in a civil war – my childhood was peaceful and idyllic – growing up in Scotland and the Lake District with my brother and sister, bikes and enormous freedom. Jaq loathes her feckless mother, I adored my brilliant, eccentric, loving parents. Jaq has serious commitment issues – I have been in love with the same man, my husband Jonathan, since we met in 1982.
Is she an alter ego?!
Aha, now you have me. She seduces fit young men, eats and drinks exactly what she fancies, remembers everything she ever learned, and takes sweet revenge on the corporate psychopaths of the world.
Would you recommend being a chemical engineer?
I would heartily recommend it. Chemical engineering is all about transforming raw materials into useful, everyday products. The clothes we wear, the food and drink we consume, and the energy we use. Better nutrition and improved health; greater social mobility; warmth and light; protection of the environment, conservation of our scarcest resources, clean air and water. Having a practical skill set allows you to choose where and when you work, and to travel the world if you want.
What are the advantages… and the drawbacks of working in a male-dominated profession?
When I started work, I was the first female engineer among hundreds of men. There is no doubt I got my first opportunity, in part at least, because of my gender. The local management were terrified by my request to work night shift. Leith docks could be rough when the ships came in and the other working women were afforded less respect. So, they gave me a fantastic chaperone, an experienced shift foreman with all the practical experience I lacked. Effectively I was given a full-time coach and mentor and we remain firm friends. Since then I’ve worked with female scaffolding crews in China and female construction labourers in India and female scientists, technicians and engineers the world over. I think we focus far too much on gender and not enough on the natural variations between people. The best teams have complementary skills, regardless of race, class, gender, sexual orientation. The loneliest places for women are still at the top, but I think that’s the same in all professions. And it is changing.
Is blowing things up a part of the job?
Not for me. I supervised several factory demolitions, but neither wrecking balls nor explosives were used. Most of my working life has been dedicated to avoiding explosions by careful control of the hazards. However, it’s far more memorable to read stories about things that go wrong.
Which thrillers do you enjoy reading? Are you a fan of the James Bond films?
I devoured every Graham Greene novel as a teenager. And many of the Russian greats (loved War and Peace, loathed Anna Karenina) and Dickens. I only started reading thrillers after I tried to write one, to see where I had gone wrong. Now I adore Lionel Davison, Robert Harris, John le Carré and Lee Child. And yes, I was always a fan of James Bond films. Although never entirely comfortable with the disposable women.
Which is your favourite James Bond film?
I love them all. Daniel Craig brings a fantastic gravitas to the role. The opening chase scene in the remake of Casino Royale, on a building site, is one of my favourites, as is the Tosca scene in Quantum of Solace: perfect timing. But if I had to pick my all-time favourite James Bond film, it would have to be From Russia with Love. Sean Connery is gorgeous as 007 and Lotte Lenya is terrifyingly brilliant as Rosa Clebb, but Istanbul and Venice steal the show.
If you had a choice, who would play Jaq in a film?
Meghan Markle or Ira Verbitskaya (Wake me Up, 2016)
The Chemical Detective taps into real fears about terrorism and chemical attack. Could the events you describe actually happen?
Thanks to the work of the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) it is increasingly unlikely. When I worked for a fine chemicals company, we tracked and accounted for every drop of scheduled chemical used (substances that have legitimate uses but could be horribly misused). Handling even the most basic chemicals safely requires an extremely sophisticated organisation. The recent events in Salisbury remind us that it is not just terrorists we have to worry about, but national governments.
The book opens in the Julian Alps in Slovenia and travels to Portugal, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Chernobyl - why did you choose these locations?
My first foreign holiday was a school trip to Russia and Ukraine in 1977. I was studying Russian language and Russian history at school, thanks to a Scottish education system that eschewed the artificial arts-science divide. I have maintained a hopeless love for the former Soviet Union ever since.
On a more recent family holiday in Slovenia, my husband and I swam the lakes while our children went cycling and canyoning and para-gliding. The mountain scenery is glorious, and it was the perfect place to open the story.
I lived and worked in Portugal for almost a decade, I speak Portuguese and suffer saudades - that sense of love and longing for a place that is no longer your home.
I remember the Chernobyl accident in 1986 and the shock that an accident so distant could affect so much of Western Europe. Writing a technical paper for the 30th anniversary of the accident, I was dumfounded to realise that the initiating cause was a safety test that went catastrophically wrong.
Teesside also features prominently in the book. Why did you choose to set the book there?
It’s not a place that people are familiar with and deserves to be on the map. Teesside is still a major driver of the British export economy, with a thriving chemical industry. It’s my home now, and a great place to live and work. The people are fantastic, music everywhere, it’s surrounded by gorgeous countryside – North York moors, Yorkshire Dales, Lake District, Northumbrian coast.
What’s next for Jaq Silver?
Poor Jaq. However hard she tries to get back to straightforward engineering projects, she’s going to have to do a bit more crime fighting. Next stop, China. Then she’s off to Brazil. And maybe India to complete the BRIC quartet.
HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY, FIONA!!!!!
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