The story behind the story – TE Taylor talks about the inspiration behind Revolution Day

IMG_4707I’m delighted to welcome Tim Taylor on what is a very special day – the launch of his novel Revolution Day in paperback. Thanks for dropping in, Tim, what can I get for you today?
Hello, Katy. Many thanks for inviting me along to your coffee shop! I’ll have a cappuccino with gingerbread syrup, please. Ooh, and an almond croissant, if you’ve got one. Yum yum!
How are you feeling today about the book going into paperback?
Excited! Revolution Day has been out for a while as an e-book, but it’s great to have it as a physical object that I can put on my bookshelf. And in my experience, there are still a lot of readers out there who prefer ‘real’ books to e-books, so this is an opportunity to bring it to a new audience.

IMG_4706

 

How are you planning to celebrate the launch?
Well, it will just be an ordinary day (I fear I’ll be marking student essays!), but rounded off by an enjoyable evening discussing the inspiration for the novel, reading excerpts and signing copies. And there will be wine! (For any of your readers who happen to be in or near West Yorkshire, it’s at 7.30 this evening in Holmfirth Library, HD9 3JH.)

 

 

 

What gave you the idea for the novel?
IMG_4705The idea first came to me a few years ago. I’d had at the back of my mind a vague idea for a novel about someone who has had great power but is starting to lose it. Initially I was thinking of a king. However, around that time a succession of dictators who had been in power for decades and seemed unassailable fell one after the other in the space of a few months during the ‘Arab Spring’ (there’s a post about one of them, Colonel Gaddafi of Libya, over on my own blog https://timwordsblog.wordpress.com).

So it occurred to me that I could write my novel about an ageing dictator instead. That thought crystallised the existing formless ideas and gave me the premise for what became Revolution Day.
What had most interested me about the Arab Spring was not so much the specific background to those events, but the wider issues they raise about the corrupting and deluding effects of power and its ultimate fragility. So I decided to set my novel in Latin America, with its long history of dictatorship.

IMG_4704

My dictator, Carlos Almanzor, is fictional and not based upon anyone in particular, but in creating him I drew on the lives and careers of many real-life dictators: for example, he looks a bit like General Pinochet of Chile, but with a beard.

 

 

 

The other central character in the novel is Carlos’ estranged wife Juanita (who has a bit of Eva Peron about her). She is writing, while under long-term house arrest, a memoir which charts Carlos’ rise to power and his subsequent descent from idealism into autocracy and repression.
After 37 years in power Carlos is feeling his age and seeing enemies around every corner – and with good reason, as his ambitious and embittered Vice-President, Manuel, is intriguing against him. As Manuel makes his bid for power, Juanita will find herself an unwitting participant in his plans.

It sounds fascinating. Thanks for telling us about it!

Links
Revolution Day on Amazon: http://authl.it/4yo
Website: http://www.tetaylor.co.uk/
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/timtaylornovels
Twitter: @timetaylor1

More About Tim
Tim ‘T.E.’ Taylor was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1960 and now lives in Meltham, near Huddersfield, with his wife Rosa. He studied Classics at Pembroke College, Oxford, and some years later did a PhD in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London. He spent a number of years in the civil service before leaving in 2011 to spend more time writing. Tim now divides his time between creative writing, academic research (he has published a book, Knowing What is Good for You, on the philosophy of well-being), and part-time teaching in ethics at Leeds University.
Tim’s first novel, Zeus of Ithome, is set in Ancient Greece and follows the real-life struggle of the Messenian people to free themselves from Sparta. His second, Revolution Day, is about an ageing Latin American dictator who is clinging to power as his vice-president plots against him. As well as fiction, Tim writes poetry: he won the 2016 National Association of Writers Groups open poetry prize. He also plays electric and acoustic guitar, occasionally in public, and likes to walk up hills.

Countdown to publication

IMG_4713

I’m very excited to say that the wait is finally over and I now have a publication date for the Silence – June 8th.

Pre-order and win a prize!

You can pre-order the kindle for £1.99 by clicking on this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071D6JTMS/ref=cm_sw_r_an_am_at_ws_gb?ie=UTF8

Getting orders in before publication day means the world to me. To thank you for your support I have an Italian-inspired gift of prosecco and chocolates (UK only) and Amazon gift cards (international). Let me know you’ve ordered and you will be entered into the draw for one of these. Winners will be drawn at random on publication day, June 8th.

IMG_4717

You can find out more about the book in my next newsletter which I’m about to send out. If you haven’t already signed up and would like to receive a copy here is the link http://eepurl.com/cy3CEn

Meanwhile please keep JUNE 8th free for the online launch event – you are invited! Details to follow very soon.

Love, Revenge and Limoncello

Today I’m posting a short story that I wrote about a chance encounter between two elderly women on the Amalfi coast in Italy. I hope you enjoy reading it!

IMG_4643

Love, Revenge and Limoncello by Katharine Johnson

“Do you mind if I sit here?”asked Joan.
“If there’s really nowhere else,” replied the figure sprawled out in the cane chair as she lifted and lowered enormous sunglasses.
The woman fanned the front of her large-print floral dress, exposing an ample, reddened cleavage that formed deep cracks as she rearranged herself against several cushions. Her legs propped up on a second chair resembled two glistening hams.
“I’m afraid there isn’t,” said Joan.
She wasn’t going to let this woman spoil the first day of her holiday. The lemon-clad pergola framed the view of twisting pine trees, explosions of bougainvillea and glittering sea. Rough stone steps spliced through a series of terraces to the water’s edge. So rare to find somewhere that surpassed the description in the brochure.
“Isn’t this glorious?” she said, removing her hat and feeling the gentle breeze ripple through her short hair.
Her companion harrumphed. “Seen one piece of paradise you’ve seen them all…”
How sad, thought Joan. I hope I never get to be so blasé.
She took a gulp of the icy yellow drink that the waiter had proffered and felt her head crowd with pleasurable thoughts.
“Araminta Fitzhughes,” barked the woman.
“Oh. I’m Joan. Joan Baker.”
The drink hit her stomach, a mix of fire and ice. Devilishly good. And then without thinking she added, “I knew an Araminta once, years ago when I was a student. Ghastly woman!”
As the words left her mouth something told her to stop. But it was too late. Nothing to be done. She couldn’t see the other woman’s eyes behind the glasses but she felt them on her like sharpened screws.
“Girton, Cambridge ’58-’61?”
Joan felt her smile freeze. This old woman was hardly recognisable as Araminta Hill as she had been called back then. Araminta who Joan had once wished with all her heart would die a horrible death. She felt herself colour as she recalled her fantasies about Araminta losing control of her car on a mountain road or getting a debilitating disease. Now that she thought about it there was something familiar about the voice.
“Yes,” she murmured.
The braying laugh was unmistakable. “Well at least I made an impression. Let me see – Joans were two-a-penny back then. Were you the one who was sent down after being caught cheating in her exams?”
“No I was not.”
“The Joan who auctioned herself as a slave for rag week and…?”
“Certainly not. I believe her name was Jane. Or Jean. Jean Something.”
Araminta tutted. “Then you must have been Mousey Joan.”
“I suppose I was.”
“Well, well.”
She’s forgotten. Thank God she’s forgotten.
But after some minutes her companion added drowsily, “Didn’t you have a thing about my Rupert?”
She might as well have inserted a needle into Joan’s kidney. Half a century after the event the remark still winded her. She felt the blush creep up her face and she couldn’t blame it entirely on the drink.
“He was my Rupert first,” she said through tight lips.
“Well he’s neither of ours now,” said Araminta. “Died years ago. Crashed his car. Ended up a complete vegetable. Not a pleasant thing but he brought it on himself. Too much of this.” She threw her head back and made a drinking gesture. “Such a waste for a man once tipped to be Prime Minister.”
Joan swallowed. Somehow she managed to say, “I’m sorry.” For a moment she found it hard to breathe but she mustn’t show it. When? How? she wanted to ask.
Anger burned in her stomach. One thing she was sure of: Rupert wouldn’t have turned to drink if he’d been with her instead. If things had turned out differently.
“Comes to us all,” said Araminta.

Freshers Week 1958:
Joan hovered in front of the notice board outside the dining hall trying to look purposeful. Groups of fiercely intelligent young women jostled past, talking intently. Did they even see her? She shouldn’t be here. This whole thing was a ghastly mistake. She’d only applied because her Classics teacher had told her she must and she hadn’t liked to disappoint her.
The sea of gowns parted to allow through the most exotic creature Joan had ever seen. Toweringly tall with polished gold hair, the girl was obviously used to other people’s silent adoration.
“Classics?” she asked Joan. “We’ll be seeing a lot of each other then. A few of us are going for cocktails. Coming?”
Joan tagged along feeling small and dull and wishing she could think of something interesting to say. But as it turned out, that was the night she met Rupert.
He wasn’t the first person you would notice on coming into a room – not the tallest, the darkest, the loudest or the wittiest – but he was the one whose impression would stay with you afterwards. Something in his smile made Joan feel known.
How it happened she could never be sure but within a few minutes of meeting each other they found that they shared passions for Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Irish wolf hounds, the smell of nutmeg and the world of silent movies.
“Time for some dancing,” announced Araminta, springing open a vanity case that turned out to be a record player.
“I don’t know how to rock and roll,” stammered Joan.
“Neither do I,” he said. “Shall we just make it up as we go?”
She found herself being pushed, pulled, turned and twisted. They collided a few times and she laughed so much it hurt.
“Into my arms,” he ordered.
She jumped. With a scream, she found herself rolling around his back. Somehow she landed on her feet. He grabbed both hands and she slid through his legs, then back up again. She blushed as all around her people burst into applause. She didn’t want to stop.
When the record finished he gave a little bow and said, “For God’s sake let’s get out of here.”
They walked along the river where the punts were tethered. He took her arm to guide her round obstacles as the moon dipped behind a cloud. She told him things about herself and he listened, prompting her with questions. “What made you do that? – How did you feel about that? – If you could live that moment again…?”
He played down his own background (“Nothing interesting about it”) but made her laugh with tales of irate teachers and classmates with revolting habits.
“How do you know Araminta?” she asked.
“Minty? Oh God, we’re related. Distantly. Our mothers are cousins of some sort. I’ve been in love with her since I was ten but she won’t have me, just keeps me dangling.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
He laughed and shook his head. “No, it’s a long-running joke. She’s got all sorts of habits that drive me mad. I wouldn’t have her now if she asked.”
They watched the sun rise over Grantchester and he pulled her towards him. She felt weightless, dizzy, drunk. That night she smoothed down a new page in her diary and recorded the moment. Afterwards she couldn’t sleep, thinking about it.
That kiss was the start of everything. Cycling to lectures over the cobbled streets, gowns flying out behind them, staircase parties, moonlit walks, punting up the river for picnics under the willows. Tickets for the May Ball. It all went down in the diary.
Sometimes she questioned herself. Why did she need to capture it all on paper like a crazed butterfly collector? But surely she owed this to herself? To be able to look back when she was old and know that it had really happened. Reading over the pages she’d written before she met Rupert, she cringed at how insipid her life had been. Each day now was intoxicating.
And yet Araminta was always there. Ruffling his hair, blowing kisses, throwing her arms around him, making flirtatious comments.
“You don’t mind, do you darling?” she asked Joan. “None of it means anything. You know that, don’t you?”
And yet there were times – things Araminta said, looks she gave Rupert – that made Joan curl her hands into fists. The only outlet for her frustration was her diary – a friend that listened but didn’t judge.
Two nights before the May Ball the love affair ended. Rupert seemed like a stranger. That cold dismissal. “I’m sorry. I think we both need some space.”
Although it turned out he didn’t need so much space after all. Araminta accompanied him to the May Ball and Araminta was engaged to him by the end of the Final year.

IMG_4642

 

“It was your own fault,” said Araminta, sensing Joan’s thoughts as they sat under the pergola. “You drove him away. Your silly jealousy, your insecurity, your neediness…I only offered tea and sympathy but it turned out we were good for each other.”
“But I never expressed those feelings,” said Joan. She had been so careful. Only the diary had known the truth. And nobody knew about the diary except…
“You read my diary,” she said, seeing at last. “And you showed it to him.”
That night Rupert broke off with her she had reached for the diary in agony, desperate to make sense of it all. It had gone. She searched everywhere. She blamed the cleaner although the woman denied it.

“You had no right,” she said to Araminta. “You turned him against me because you wanted him for yourself.”
Araminta erupted into a honking laugh. “All’s fair in love and war, girl. Turned out for the best in the end.”
A breath of wind rustled the trees. A lemon fell, rolled along the ground and split, releasing its scent into the air.
“Except it wasn’t quite the end.”
Joan felt blood rise in her cheeks as she said it. She should stop. It was childish and petty and so long after the event. No, she would say it anyway. “I met Rupert again – ten years after we graduated. Quite by chance. In London. I was teaching at a school in Putney.”
Araminta had gone quiet.
“It was raining. He was standing in the road trying to read a map. It kept folding up in the wind. I offered to help him and we recognised each other. We ducked into a coffee house to escape the rain. Found we still had a lot in common. The old spark was still there.”
“Oh?” An attempt to sound bored but it failed.
“I asked if he had any regrets.” Joan didn’t seem able to stop herself now. “And I’m afraid he said he’d married the wrong woman.”
Araminta snorted. “Did he now?”
Joan stopped talking. She was thinking about the year that followed. A year of secrets and lies, of snatched moments at stations, guarded telephone conversations, dinner in anonymous restaurants, hurried good nights before returning to the empty bed in her school boarding house.
But then she’d spoiled it, hadn’t she? “I can’t go on like this,” she had said one evening in the car outside the station. “I’m not cut out to be someone’s mistress.”
He looked stricken. “What are you saying? Are you forcing me to make a choice? You must realise what that would mean – the publicity? And Minty’s not well. She’s so unstable at the moment I don’t know what it would do to her.”
She bit her lip. “I don’t know what I’m asking. I’m going away at the end of term. I saw an advertisement in The Lady. A cottage in Cornwall. It will do me good – give me somewhere to walk, paint – think about what I really want.”
He caught her arm. “I’ll join you.”
She lifted his hand. “Only if you intend to stay.”
“How will I find it?”
She rummaged through her bag and wrote on the back of an envelope. “Port Quin. Lavinia’ Cottage.”

A wisp of cloud drifted across the bay, laying a veil over Capri.

“The affair was no surprise to me,” said Araminta. “I knew he was seeing someone. Hopeless liar. Found a theatre ticket in his trousers and the receipt for a meal at a restaurant I always refused to go to – the chef didn’t wash his hands. I gave him an ultimatum. Me or the Other Woman. I didn’t know it was you. If I had, I wouldn’t have worried.”
Joan wished she was fifty years younger. If only she could seize Araminta and hurl her over the rocks into the sea. Despite everything Rupert had said, he had chosen Araminta. Again.
Joan had waited and waited in the Cornish cottage, listening to the rain battening the windows and the waves grating on the beach below. For the first few nights she prepared dinner for two just in case. At midnight she blew out the candles, threw the dinner in the bin, locked the front door and went to bed. He didn’t come the next week or the one after. He didn’t write to explain. But thinking about it she felt such a fool. Saying those silly, needy things, driving him away again.
At the end of the summer she told the school she wouldn’t be coming back and took the train to Paris where she enrolled at a language school, teaching English.
“It’s obvious you’ve spent your whole life feeling bitter about it,” Araminta was saying. “What a waste. I feel sorry for you.”
“Please don’t. I have my memories.”
A smile crept across Araminta’s face. “Yes but that’s all you have, isn’t it? Whatever happened between you didn’t last. A meaningless fling. And what were you left with? Nothing.”
Joan looked out to sea. “That’s not how I see it,” she said quietly.
“Well I don’t know about you but I need another drink,” said Araminta clambering out of her chair. “Where’s that blasted waiter? There he is, all the way down there chatting up that young girl.”
She leaned over the parapet, waving her arms. “Hello? Up here! More of the lemon curd drink please.”
People on the terraces below turned to look up, shielding their eyes from the sun. The waiter stood up and started walking towards the steps. Araminta squinted, took a step back and felt for the chair behind her. “Shouldn’t have stood up so quickly.” Removing her glasses, she wiped her face.
Emboldened all of a sudden Joan asked the question that had been on her mind throughout. “When did Rupert have the car crash? Where was he?”
Her old friend recovered quickly. A look of triumph passed over her old face. “1972. You see, my dear, we weren’t the only women in his life. He had a bit on the side down in the West Country too. Crashed at a crossroads called Indian Queens. Pulled out singing at the top of his voice apparently. Hit a tractor. You can guess the rest.”
Joan’s heart hammered. “Indian Queens? That’s in Cornwall isn’t it?”
Araminta shrugged as though it was of no importance. “Bit of a detour from Birmingham, that’s all I know. Suitcase in the back, packed with a few more things than necessary for an overnight stay.”
“So,” said Joan, her stomach jumping now, “he was leaving you.”
Araminta tutted. “Moment of madness, that’s all. So drunk he didn’t know what he was doing. And yet I took him back. What was left of him. Not many women would have done that.”
“No,” said Joan, frowning. “So why did you?”
For a moment she wondered if Araminta had heard her. She had to lean in close to hear what she was saying.
“With every spoonful of mush I fed him in the months that followed I asked myself that same question. Love. It isn’t easy loving someone when you know you don’t have all of them. Whatever you do you know there will always be a small part of them that belongs to someone else. I didn’t know who she was but I felt her presence all the time. And when he had the accident I thought at least he would be mine now. After all, nobody else would want him. I told him he’d been stupid and this was his punishment but I wouldn’t abandon him, not like the other woman.”
“Abandon? I hardly think that’s fair.”
Araminta didn’t seem to hear her. Her voice had taken on a brittle quality. “But even that wasn’t enough. One day after everything I’d done he fixed me with a horribly knowing look and said quite distinctly, “I don’t want you. I want her.”
Her features were twisted now, lines radiating from her tight mouth, eyes unfocused. Her voice was cold and dangerous. “‘You don’t know what you’re saying,’ I told him. But he wouldn’t stop. Just wouldn’t.”
Laughter rose up from the terrace below as a group of guests greeted each other. A seagull wheeled overhead.
Joan felt a chill spread through her stomach. “So what did you do?”
Araminta laughed a bitter laugh, but she didn’t reply.
“You finished him off?” Joan whispered. “You”re a monster.”
Araminta waved her arm as though erasing it all. If only she could. “Prove it.”
“I can’t. You know I can’t.”
At last the dark hair of the waiter appeared at the top of the steps. Something about his long, loping stride and the swing of his shoulders made Joan’s heart dance. Araminta stared at the figure silhouetted against the sun.
“It can’t be.”
And suddenly Joan saw what her old friend was seeing. It wasn’t the waiter at all. She was seeing Rupert, not as she had seen him last but when he was young, confident, filled with light. Rupert in his prime before his marriage went sour, before his wife’s nagging and rages had driven him into the arms of someone else. Before the accident robbed him of the ability to do anything for himself.
“Joan, do you see him?” Araminta whispered. She shrank back into her chair, mumbling something like, “It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t…”
He was young and beautiful, breathing and unharmed. An avenging angel walking towards them.
“It was an accident. That tube just came out.”
But he kept walking. Araminta tried to say something else but her voice didn’t see to be working. Ignoring her, the young man held out two hands to help Joan out of her chair.
“All right, Mum?”

The end

 

My five favourite films set in Italy

The coffee shop has relocated to Italy for a couple of weeks and I’ve been thinking about why this country makes such a great setting for stories . These are my favourite films that were made or set in Italy. It was a really tough choice! Which films would make your top five?
IMG_4618The Talented Mr Ripley, Anthony Minghella 1999
Tom Ripley is hired by wealthy shipping company owner Herbert Greenleaf to go to Italy and persuade Mr Greenleaf’s playboy son Dickie to come home to America and face up to his responsibilities. Tom finds Dickie and his girlfriend Marge living in southern Italy. He is seduced by their lifestyle and infatuated by Dickie. Tom’s three talents include telling lies, forging signatures and pretending to be other people which all come in handy after Dickie’s death as Tom takes on his persona and opulent lifestyle. But gradually people get suspicious and he is driven to further and further extremes to hide the truth about how Dickie died.
I’m a huge Patricia Highsmith fan and loved the book but Anthony Minghella added his own touch of genius to the story with a superb cast, stunning locations and the addition of Meredith whose appearance at key moments increases the tension and the chance that Tom will be unmasked.
IMG_4619Stanno tutti bene (Everybody’s fine), Giuseppe Tornatore, 1990
When his adult children are unable to make it to a family reunion in Sicily, their father, Matteo Scuro, a retired bureaucrat, takes the train up through Italy (Naples, Rome, Florence, Milan and Turin) to pay a surprise visit to each of them so that he can reassure his wife that they are all fine. But it turns out none of them is living in the way he has been led to believe – and his own story isn’t what it seems either.
This film is poignant, beautiful and full of surprises. Marcello Mastroianni is superb as the main character. A different version of the film was made in 2009 set in America which I really should see but I am so attached to this one!


IMG_4622Cinema Paradiso, Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988

In this exquisitely shot coming of age story, Salvatore (‘Toto’), now a famous film director, returns home for the funeral of a man who had the biggest influence on his life. He recounts his childhood relationship with Alfredo through flashbacks. As a mischievous young boy living in the war-torn Sicilian village Toto likes to sneak into the cinema run by an old man, Alfredo, and he ends up helping Alfredo operate the films. When the cinema catches fire, Toto rescues Alfredo but the old man’s sight can not be saved. A new cinema is built when one of the villagers wins the lottery and Toto operates it but he relies on his blind friend for advice on film and love.


IMG_4621Don’t Look Now, Nicholas Roeg, 1973

John and Laura Baxter stay in Venice while John is restoring a church. They are still recovering from the death of their little girl in a tragic accident. They meet two elderly sisters, one of whom is blind but is a clairvoyant. She tells the couple she has seen their dead daughter and that the child is warning them that John is in danger. The wife believes them but the husband dismisses their story. When their son’s school tells them that their son Jonathan is seriously ill Laura, convinced that the old woman has got it right, hurries back to England to be with him but the premonition is not what it seems.
This is such a brilliant story by Daphne du Maurier and although I prefer the story to the film it’s hard to go wrong with Venice as a setting, full of mystery and menace.

 

IMG_4620Tea with Mussolini, Franco Zeffirelli 1999

A group of elderly ex-pat women enjoy a civilised lifestyle in Florence surrounded by art and beauty. They refuse to accept the growing threat of fascism and put their trust in Mussolini who offers them his personal protection. But when the Allies declare war on Italy his promise turns out to be worthless. Elsa, a wealthy Jewish American who the ladies have despised for her brashness and who she in return has dubbed ‘the scorpioni” decides to help them anonymously. She enlists the help of Luca, the son of her best friend who died, to move them from their uncomfortable conditions to a hotel in San Gimignanofooling he officials into thinking they are following il duce’s orders. Lady Hester, widow of the former Ambassador to Rome, continues to despise Elsa and remains convinced that they have Mussolini to thank for their improved situation. But when America enters the war, Elsa is no longer safe. Luca is infatuated with Elsa and his jealousy of her lover puts her life in danger. Can Luca and “the scorpioni” help Elsa escape and protect the village from the Germans?
This is a brilliantly-cast, compelling story, made all the more fascinating because it is based on Zeffirelli’s true experience.

The story behind the story – Angela Wren talks about the inspiration for her novel Messandrierre



IMG_4441Today I have the pleasure of welcoming author Angela Wren into the coffee shop. How lovely to see you Angela. What would you like to drink?

Hello Katy, thanks for inviting me to your wonderful coffee shop. What an amazing place! I’d like a black coffee please. I like my coffee weak, so if you’re grinding beans, just the one will do!

You can have decaffeinated if you prefer?
No, it’s OK, the poisonous stuff is fine for me. I like to live dangerously! I find decaffeinated coffee has an odd aftertaste.

And anything to eat?
That looks like chocolate fudge cake over there. May I have a piece of that please?

Of course. I really enjoyed reading Messandrierre. What made you decide to set the story in France?

Since being a teenager I’ve spent as much of my spare time in France as I possibly could. This has meant that I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to travel the length and breadth of the country and then some!

From, more or less, the same time I’ve always wanted to write. I can recall one Christmas – now with mortifying and cringing embarrassment – telling an elderly aunt that I wanted to be the world’s next Shakespeare. My only defence in making that incredibly rash statement was that I was very young at the time! And, as you can probably work out, I haven’t made much progress in that direction! But, put those two things together and it seems to me that a novel about my most favourite place was on the cards long before I even consciously took up my quill – sorry, I mean biro – and made that very first brief note about an odd idea that had been circling at the back of my mind.

Where did the idea for Messandrierre come from?
The very first idea came whilst I was travelling in the Cévennes in September 2007. The Cévennes is an area of south west France that is mountainous and sparsely populated. The villages are small, the land is rugged and wild and the weather can change in a moment. As it did, overnight on September 28th/29th, 2007. I woke that morning to find the landscape covered in snow and it was that white covering that kept my mind exercised until I had formulated the idea of using snow to cover someone’s misdeeds – and the first paragraph of my story was born.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
‘I died beneath a clear autumn sky in September, late in September when warm cévenol afternoons drift into cooler than usual evenings before winter steals down from the summit of Mont Aigoual. My shallow grave lies in a field behind an old farmhouse. There was no ceremony to mark my death and no mourners, just a stranger in the darkness spading soil over my body. Only the midnight clouds cried for me as they carried their first sprinkling of snow to the tiny village of Messandrierre. My innocent white coverlet allowing the earth around me to shift and settle unseen and become comfortable again.’

What happened next?
It was three years later, whilst I was staying in the Charente, when I met a lovely English couple in the local supermarket. Running into them again, a few days later, and I was invited for tea and cakes – and who can turn cakes down? It was a single, innocent remark during the course of conversation that afternoon, that stayed with me and kept my brain working for the next few days. That was when I finally worked out who the body was, how the death had occurred, who the killers were and who my hero was going to be. All of which meant a lot of hastily scribbled notes on any bits of paper that I could put my hands on.

The really hard work began at the end of 2013 when I started to actually write the story that had been haunting me. Some 50 pages in and I realised I didn’t know enough about my central character, Gendarme Jacques Forêt. This time I did my further thinking in the Cévennes, Aude and Hérault.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With scenery like this to look at, it is hard not to be inspired. Jacques soon became a fully formed character in his own right along with the other villagers and my heroine, Beth.

And then the book was published…
Yes, that has been the greatest surprise of my life thus far. I submitted the first three chapters and a synopsis in April 2015, expecting nothing in return. In June, whilst I was in the Puy de Dome, I picked up an email that had been sitting there unread for a few days and asking me to submit the whole manuscript. Which I did, still expecting nothing in response. Back home again, and working on another story, when at the end of July came the offer to publish and the contract. And since then I seem to have been propelled on a wind to who knows where!

Thanks so much for telling me about your publishing journey. Good luck with the publication later this year of next book in the series, Merle

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I’m an actor and director at a small theatre a few miles from where I live in the county of Yorkshire in the UK. I did work as a project and business change manager – very pressured and very demanding – but I managed to escape and now I write books.

I’ve always loved stories and story telling so it seemed a natural progression, to me, to try my hand at writing and I started with short stories. My first published story was in an anthology, which was put together by the magazine ‘Ireland’s Own’ in 2011.

I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.

My full-length stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year. I’m currently working on the follow-up to Messandrierre and an anthology of alternative fairy tales which I intend to self-publish.

IMG_4442About Messandrierre – the first in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt: Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre. But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman for all the work on the case. Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?

Amazon UK    Amazon US   GooglePlay  Anthology  Website   Blog  Facebook
Goodreads  Contact an author : Angela Wren

Today is publication day for Taming the Tango Champion by Cait O’Sullivan


IMG_4449

I’m so excited to be hosting Cait O’Sullivan and her book Taming the Tango Champion which is published today by Crooked Cat Books! If you love romantic fiction with a bit of spice this is the perfect book to pack in your suitcase this spring/summer.

IMG_4447.PNG

Welcome Cait  and many congratulations on your book! Help yourself to some fizz 

THE BLURB

There’s passion on the Dance Floor

On return from a trip around the world, TV presenter, Ava Whittaker, has a baby by Matthias de Romero, Argentine Tango champion, hacienda owner, and the man she loves. The problem? He doesn’t know.

Fast forward two years, and Ava reluctantly agrees to be a contestant on a new dance show on TV, but to her shock, Matthias – the man she never expected to see again – is one of the judges.

Matthias de Romero is leaving his beloved stallions in Argentina to assuage his pride. Two years previously, the one woman he thought he could care for walked out on him after just one glorious night. He arrives in London ready for revenge.

Will Ava’s secret cause their intense feelings to burn out, or fan further the flames of love?

The first line:

“Ava, wait until you hear what I’ve got for you… The pilot of a new dance show, To Dance or Not to Dance.”

EXCERPT

Ava Whittaker choked on her cup of tea, dropping the phone in her fluster. Her agent must have gone mad if she thought this totally preposterous idea was anything but. She picked the phone back up and caught it between her ear and shoulder to clear away the lunch dishes.

“Absolutely not. Sorry, Caroline, I don’t dance.”

So what does she do? What would you do? Ava is a single mum on maternity leave from her job as breakfast television presenter…she has been out of the spot light for nearly three years, travelling for the first and oh…guess you need to buy the book to see what happens. Then again, my favourite passage might give you a hint:

“Ah, good.” Daniel raised his voice and held his hand up to beckon someone over. “Matt managed to make it. We’re over here, Matt.”
Ava shook, the bubbly in her glass held halfway to her mouth mimicking the tremors running through her. For pity’s sake, get a grip. A tingling sensation accosted the base of her spine. Matthias had no reason to be in London to judge a dancing competition.

But he was a dancer…

She grimaced to herself, making a mental note to get out more. Jeez, the first time she left the house and look what happened, imagining every man was Matthias. Perhaps her ability to socialise had been stunted from the time spent in the safety of her own home. Maybe her brain was a stuck record. Oh, who knew…
Ava stepped back from the circle to allow space for the newcomer, and maintained a tighter grip on her shaking glass. Her heart hammered as though someone had put it on loudspeaker. Keeping her eyes downcast, she felt a presence loom closer.

Apprehension squeezed her heart. She drew a shuddering breath, a breath which told her all she needed to know. The tantalising smell of dark amber and spices sent her nerves sky-high. Daunted, she closed her eyes to the flickering images of her and Matthias in the firelight, until she summoned the courage to open and take him in.
Wide shoulders encased in a white silk shirt, opened at the neck. The sleeves, rolled to his biceps, enhanced the muscles defined beneath the sheer material. Black, fine wool trousers hugged a tapered waist, and while the light silk of his shirt did nothing to disguise the six-pack, the thin fabric of his trousers showcased the powerful thighs honed by years of breaking horses.

Shivers raced up and down her body, and she fought against leaning closer to him.
The first time she met him, she’d been in a heap at his feet, having just fallen off a horse on his ranch. Her weakened legs now threatened to put her in the same position once more. Swallowing hard, she summoned her courage and raised her chin.

Glacier eyes met hers. The gold flecks hadn’t been imagined, but the temper crackling from the steady green gaze made her jump, spilling champagne. The last time she’d looked into his eyes, they had held nothing but passion; she had been the most beautiful girl in the world. That memory slipped away shyly under a new contemptuous glare.
Matthias de Romero was in town…

Where did you get the idea for this story, Cait?

There is a lot of me in Ava, I travelled the world on my own but no, didn’t make passionate love with a hot Argentine rancher deep in the Andes. But falling in love when I travelled was something I was so conscious not to do—for the very reason that Ava leaves in the first place. Love across continents is no easy thing, and I would’ve done the same as she.

 Thanks so much for dropping by and telling us about the book – I hope it’s a big success!

About the author

You can generally find Cait when she’s not in her writing cave or hanging around her favourite spots in nature somewhere on the internet:

Cait’s Place (blog)

Facebook Author Page 

Goodreads
Instagram
Twitter

Buy the book