The Story Behind the story – Jennifer C Wilson talks about Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile just before it goes to press

With me in the coffee shop today is Jennifer C Wilson who’s here to talk about her second novel, Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, the follow-up to Kindred Spirits: Tower of LondonHello Jennifer, how lovely to see you. Can I get you anything?

IMG_4824Hi Katy, and thanks for welcoming me along to visit today! I never used to be a coffee shop person, but thanks to attending a weekly writing group in a wonderful little café in Newcastle, my tastes are expanding! So I’ll have my favourite banana twist tea, if you have it, and really up the fruit and veg ante with a slice of carrot cake, if that’s ok? That’s got to be a portion!


Of course. So the big day’s nearly upon us – are you all set for the launch?

I cannot believe we’re so close now – I’m excited and terrified all at the same time, and very much in need of more sleep.

Can you tell us a little about your books?

The concept of the Kindred Spirits ‘world’ is eavesdropping on the ghostly inhabitants of our greatest historical sites and buildings, and for somebody who loves history, it’s bliss to write about. Helped along, I have to confess, that I can break the rules a little bit, and if my version of Mary, Queen of Scots has a slightly modern take on life, that’s fine – her ghost has been hanging around ever since her death in the 1500s, she’s surely allowed to pick up some modern slang or attitude? She’s even been on a plane, so she’s definitely a modern woman.

Exploring the Tower of London’s residents came about fairly randomly, but I’ve wanted to write about Mary, Queen of Scots for years, and have pages of notebook scribblings, trying to find a ‘way in’ to one of my favourite historical characters. She has always been a heroine of mine, and almost a family joke, when, on family holidays, almost every house or castle in Scotland seemed to have a room she had apparently stayed in (and we visited a lot of Scottish houses and castles!). Therefore, following the publication of the first Kindred Spirits, there was only one place I could possibly write about next – the Royal Mile, Edinburgh.

IMG_4828The Mile has so much history crammed into one relatively small patch, so narrowing down the buildings and characters to include was tricky, and for a while, it all felt a bit scattergun, but having Mary as the central character, joined by her father, James V of Scotland, one of his courtiers, Janet Douglas, Lady Glamis, and Sir William Kirkcaldy, the man who tried to keep the Castle for Mary, it all started to fall into place. And I knew I had chosen wisely when, on a recent visit to the castle’s esplanade at night, I overheard one of the ghost tours talking not only about Janet, but one of the other ghosts who turns up in the novel too – definitely validation I had picked my ‘cast’ well.

Once I had the characters in place, the next task was to figure out who might be interacting the most with who, and how? In the end, I went for a brainstorming approach, writing lots of scenes to try and get to know the characters a bit, then gradually, a thread for Mary came about, helping her father, and dealing with her wastrel of a husband, Lord Darnley.

IMG_4827Being a massive history fan, but not consistently interested in the same period, it’s great thinking about how folk from different eras might come together and interact. My biggest hope is that people enjoy reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it!





I’m hosting an online launch for Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile on Thursday 1st June, on Facebook, and you and your readers are more than welcome to attend – just click here for more information, and I look forward to seeing you there.


Thanks Jen, it sounds like a great opportunity to find out more about the book and have a bit of fun. Count me in! Thanks so much for coming along today.

About Jennifer

Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who spent much of her childhood stalking Mary, Queen of Scots (initially accidentally, but then with intention). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consulting since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to develop her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. She is also part of The Next Page, running workshops and other literary events in North Tyneside.
Jennifer’s debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London,  was released by Crooked Cat Books in October 2015, and Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile is coming June 2017. She can be found online at her website

on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at The Next Page’s website.


The Allure of Secrets

I’m with Miriam Drori today discussing secrets. Join us!

An' de walls came tumblin' down

I’m delighted to be visited today by Katharine Johnson, author of Lies, Mistakes and Misunderstandings, and now of The Silence. She’s going to talk about her fascination with secrets, so, over to her.

KatyJohnsonI know publishers and bookshops like books that have clearly defined genres. It makes them easier to market and display which in turn makes them easier to sell. The trouble is not all readers are as easy to categorise. I’m sure there are people who only buy romance or historical novels or detective stories but I’m not one of these. I like books from lots of different genres. You’re as likely to find me reading a family saga as a thriller and some of my favourite books don’t fall into any genre that I can identify. But I suppose if I had to find a common thread to the novels I love it would be…

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Sunday Sojourn – Tuscany

I was thrilled to be invited by Jennifer C Wilson to contribute to her Sunday Sojourn series. Come with us today on a virtual trip to north Tuscany where The Silence is set!

Jennifer C. Wilson

Having been watching BBC 2’s Second Chance Summer in Tuscany, and dreaming of running away to a dream life in Italy, I’ve been looking forward to hosting my guest today, Katharine Johnson, to talk about her upcoming novel’s inspiration…

katy j

Hello Jennifer and thank you for inviting me onto your blog. I love reading your Sunday sojourns so it’s a real treat to be taking part in one.

Today I’d like to take you to Tuscany where my psychological/coming of age novel the silence is set.

tuscany 1

Most people probably associate Tuscany with the gentle rolling hills, art cities and cypress-lined roads around Siena that we see on calendars and postcards. But the landscape in north Tuscany where my novel is set is wilder and less hospitable with jagged mountains, narrow gorges and thick forests. The hills are crowned by Medieval villages which are enveloped by cloud some of the year and can…

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Published today – The Hanging Murders by Rex Carothers

IMG_4971Today is launch day for The Hanging Murders by Rex Carothers so it’s fantastic to see Rex in the coffee shop. What can I get you Rex?

Hello Katy, I’ll have an espresso and biscotti please.

Certainly. Congratulations on the book. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Yes, it’s set in 1957 in and around the area of Lone Pine, Inyo County, California, which was the birthplace of filming westerns in 1920.

My protagonist, the flawed county sheriff of Inyo County, California, Jim Cobb, has been on a four-month drunken binge since the deaths of his wife and daughter while they were leaving Inyo County’s rural setting and the Sheriff for a History Professor at UCLA.

Jim has given up on his job, the people surrounding him, and all reason for living. In the depths of Jim’s despair, the Hanging Murderer returns, after a fifteen years hiatus. Between 1932 and 42, ten unknown men, all drifters, were murdered by hanging in the county. None of these cases were solved. All the previous murders occurred under the watch of Merrill Cobb, the Sheriff for thirty-six years, and Jim’s father.

Jim doesn’t think he could solve the crimes if his father couldn’t while he was Sheriff. A week after the discovery of the latest Hanging Murder, Jim’s best friend and retired sheriff’s deputy, Barton Haskel, is found dead in a car out in the Alabama Hills, a location area for movie westerns. Haskel’s death, at first, looked like a suicide, but Jim Cobb knows it was murder.

It sounds great. What gave you the idea to write it?

I wanted to write a damn good murder mystery and I’m a big fan of westerns.

Have you always enjoyed writing or is it something you’ve taken up recently?

I wanted to write since junior high, I loved inventing characters and stories, I even had an imaginary friend named George. My favorite stories were mysteries, thrillers, and suspense.

Who is your favourite writer?

My all time favorite writers are Elmore Leonard, Joseph Wambaugh, Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, to name a few.

The Hanging Murders is the first in a series, isn’t it? Are you working on the next book?

Yes, I plan to write sequels to The Hanging Murders, the next in line is Blind Revenge dealing with Japanese internment at Manzanar in Inyo County.

Sounds fascinating – thank you for dropping in today, Rex and best of luck with the book.

The Hanging Murders us available to buy from Amazon

IMG_4972Get in touch with Rex through his website,  Facebook,  Twitter or Crooked Cat Books 

The story behind the story – how Romeo and Juliet inspired Sue Barnard to write The Ghostly Father



With me today is Sue Barnard, author of the ghostly father. I’m fascinated to know what prompted her to write this book.

Welcome back to the coffee shop, Sue. I’ve just finished reading Never on Saturday which I loved so I’m very much looking forward to reading this book. What made you write it?

Hello Katy and thanks for the coffee. I wrote the book I wanted to read.

It’s more than thirty years since I first saw Franco Zeffirelli’s wonderful 1968 film of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house at the end, and I came away thinking: This is the world’s greatest love story – so why does it have to end so badly?

That question haunted me for many years. Then, a few years ago, I chanced across one of those lists of Things You Must Do Before You Die, and the one which caught my attention was Write The Book You Want To Read. The book which I’ve always wanted to read is the alternative version of Romeo & Juliet – the one in which the star-cross’d lovers don’t fall victim to a maddeningly preventable double-suicide.

Why, I asked myself, should there not be such a book? And the answer came straight back: Why not indeed? And if it doesn’t exist, then go ahead and write it.

IMG_4738I mulled over the idea, but it took a while before anything definite happened. I’d dabbled with Creative Writing in the past, and had taken a few courses on the subject, but I’d never attempted to write anything longer than poems, or short stories, or the occasional stroppy letter to The Times. The thought of tackling a full-length novel, even one on a subject about which I felt so strongly, was a daunting prospect. Then, in one of those serendipitous moments which really make one believe in Guardian Angels, I was browsing in a bookshop in France when I came across a novel which took the form of the lost diary of a woman who had been the secret lover of Count Dracula. A voice in my mind whispered: “A lost diary? You could do something like this…”

Back at home I powered up the laptop and started writing. I was writing the book mainly for myself, because it was the outcome which I’d always wanted, but when I’d finished the first draft (which took about six months) I showed it to a couple of close friends, who both said, “This is good. You really ought to take it further.”

Even so, despite this vote of confidence, it was another year or two (during which time the manuscript underwent several revisions) before I plucked up the courage to submit it to Crooked Cat Publishing, for whom I’d recently started doing editing work. I wasn’t very hopeful, so when I received the email from them telling me they wanted to publish it, I had to print it out and re-read it four times before I could convince myself that I hadn’t imagined the whole thing.

IMG_4739The book’s title, The Ghostly Father, is based on a quotation from the play (it’s how Romeo addresses the character of Friar Lawrence), and the story, which is a sort of part-prequel, part-sequel to the original tale, is told from the Friar’s point of view. I’ve always been fascinated by the Friar, and have often wondered why, in the play, he behaved as he did. By giving him what I hope is an interesting and thought-provoking backstory, I’ve tried to offer some possible answers. Plus, of course, I wanted to reduce the overall body-count, and give the lovers themselves a rather less tragic dénouement.

The book was officially released on St Valentine’s Day 2014. Since then, judging by the number of people who have bought it, read it, and have been kind enough to say they’ve enjoyed it, it seems as though I’m not by any means the only person who prefers the alternative ending. As one friend was generous enough to say to me recently: “Now I will never feel sad in Verona again.”

Thank you so much, Sue. It sounds a great read and the perfect book for me to take with me when I go to Verona this summer.

About Sue

img_4245Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet. She has devised questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult “Round Britain Quiz”. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck.

In addition to working as an editor for Crooked Cat Publishing, Sue is the author of four novels: The Ghostly Father, Nice Girls Don’t, The Unkindest Cut of All and Never on Saturday. She is also very interested in Family History. Her own background is far stranger than any work of fiction; she’d write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her. Sue lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.

Author and Editor at Crooked Cat Books 

Blog   Facebook  G+   Twitter @SusanB2011 Amazon


The Ghostly Father: Amazon   Smashwords  Kobo  Nook Apple iBooks

Nice Girls Don’t: Amazon Smashwords kobo Nook Apple iBooks

The Unkindest Cut of All: Amazon, Smashwords, KoboNook Apple iBooks

Never on Saturday: Amazon

So coffee shop visitors, is there a story that you would change the ending to if you could? If so, I’d love to hear from you. My choice? I wish that little boy hadn’t been permanently turned into a mouse in Roald Dahl’s The Witches.

What about the book you want to read? If you can’t find it in the bookshops why not write it yourself?


The story behind the story – Cristina Hodgson on her debut novel A Little of Chantelle Rose

With her first novel A little of Chantelle Rose about to hit the bookshelves in two days, Cristina Hodgson has popped into the coffee shop to talk about her feelings



Hi there, Cristina – what can I get you?
Hi Katy, thank you. I’d love something to eat. However it will have to be lactose free please, as I’ve just recently been told that I’m lactose intolerant.

That’s fine. When my daughter turned vegan last year I discovered a recipe for a dairy-free carrot cake which is the best I’ve ever tasted. Congratulations on your book! How does it feel to see your novel go out into the world?
It’s a dream come true and I’m obviously thrilled, but also very nervous. This is like the birth of my third child. Chantelle Rose isn’t about me or my life but it’s a part of me. And this part of me is now out there for all to read and criticise, and that alone is nerve-wracking. I’m aware that everyone has different literary tastes, I just hope that people who do read Chantelle Rose, or any novel, understand that behind the words sits an author who’s shed more than one tear to finish the text and sweated more than most marathon runners do. The finish line in this case is when you type “The End.”

I know exactly how you feel! What gave you the idea for the story?
After graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in PE and Sports Science, I travelled and worked in various jobs. One of these was as an extra in a British-produced gangster film which was filmed in Nerja, Spain. It goes without saying that my sport mechanics and kinetic energy knowledge weren’t put to maximum potential in this part-time job. But it was certainly a fun and unique experience, and most importantly it gave me an idea.
A year later I sat down and started writing, and within three months Chantelle Rose was born.

What next? Do you have a new writing project?
Funny you ask, the only thing I can reveal is that my current WIP is a bit of a secret at the moment. If you read my debut novel you’ll understand why.

I’m intrigued! Good luck with it anyway and I hope A Little of Chantelle Rose is a huge success.

IMG_4756About the book

At the age of twenty-four, Chantelle Rose has all a city girl can expect: a tiny bed-sit in South London, a lousy poorly-paid job, a tyrannical boss, and quite a few exes added to an ever-growing list. Desperate for change, she becomes an extra in a seedy crime film. When that leads to the opportunity of a lifetime – a role to play with a million dollars to win and seemingly nothing to lose – she accepts without thinking twice. After all, what could possibly go wrong?


Find out more at Cristina’s online launch party this Thursday May 4th on this link:


IMG_4754Where to find Cristina
Twitter: @HodgsonCristina
Amazon buy link: