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Q&A with Anne Coates author of Perdition's Child

Perditions Child cover artwork 1

Anne is well known for her Hannah Weybridge books, and she's here to chat about her latest in the series,  Perdition's Child which is my personal favorite. 
 
Anne, welcome. 

What inspired you to write Perdition’s Child?

For many years I abridged fiction and narrative non-fiction for Readers Digest for the UK and Australia. During this time I worked on a memoir by a man who had been sent to Australia as a child, part of the Child Migration Scheme. He eventually returned to the UK to trace the family he had been told didn’t want anything to do with him… It was a heartbreaking memoir, which haunted me. I thought of those parents whose children had in effect been stolen and eventually an idea germinated. Perdition’s Child tells part of their story but within a crime thriller setting.

The Hannah Weybridge series is set in the 1990s, why?

Simple reason I wrote the first drafts of Dancers in the Wind, in 1993! It was eventually published by Urbane Publications in 2016. Publishing director Matthew Smith proposed a Hannah Weybridge trilogy. I had written the first three chapters of book two years ago and so ran with that. I love writing about that era when technology as we know it today didn’t exist. Even mobile phones were relatively rare. 

Perdition’s Child – the fourth book turning the trilogy into a series – is set in 1994. In all the books I love adding historical tidbits even cricketing events and Tony Blair being elected leader of the Labour Party. During the course of these narratives, one of Hannah’s friends, Joe, is elected as an MP in a by-election caused by the events in Death’s Silent Judgement, which adds another dimension. 

I had a few ideas for number five in the Hannah Weybridge series but nothing definite I also started writing a contemporary standalone. However when lockdown struck I found it difficult to continue writing. It was then that I came up with an idea for the fifth Hannah Weybridge. Returning to the 1990s has been a blessing.

What is the standalone?

It’s a psychological thriller inspired by a short story I wrote years ago. I have the beginning, the ending… and a fair amount of the middle! Plus I also began writing a new crime series, again contemporary, but coronavirus put paid to that as well – for the time being!

Going back to the Hannah Weybridge series, it is set in London, a lot of it in the south-east and Waterloo. What draws you back to Waterloo?

The area has a special place in my heart as it was where my mother was born and lived with her parents until she married and moved to Clapham where I was born. My maternal aunt and all but one uncle also lived in SE1. Some of them have provided my characters with their little idiosyncrasies but I’m not divulging which ones!

Much later I worked at IPC Magazines in Stamford Street and I used to walk through the Bull Ring and witnessed the Cardboard City, which features in Death’s Silent Judgement. That district has changed enormously now and I love strolling along the South Bank (especially when my Westie, Fliss, was alive as she strutted about as though she owned the place) plus it has some of my favourite theatres – The Old Vic (where my mother used to go with her mother), The Young Vic. The Globe and the latest addition: Bridge Theatre.  It’s an area where I feel very much at home. 

Twitter: @Anne_Coates1

 

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Q&A with Jane Davis author of At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock

Author Jane Davis is no stranger to this blog, and it’s a real privilege to host her once again in advance of the publication of her latest novel, “At the Stroke of Nine O’ Clock.”

Jane is not only an exceptional writer and successful self-publisher, she’s a really lovely person who works hard to offer sound, practical advice to authors trying to grope their way through the publishing maze.

I was keen to find out more about this new book, what motivates her to keep writing and her views on the future of the book industry. Her responses are fascinating. Before you read what she has to say, two final things from me:

The pre-order price for the kindle version is just £1.99. Get in now before the price rises. https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08B1PCTC1
If that gorgeous book cover doesn’t suck you in, I’ll eat my new manuscript!

What inspires your themes and in particular this book? 

Most of my books have been based on factual events, albeit slightly unexpected ones. One of the things that inspired me to write These Fragile Things was the discovery that a woman in Surbiton – close to where I live – claims she has seen visions of the Virgin Mary every day for the past thirty years. When challenged that that there were too many coincidences in I Stopped Time, I referred the reviewer to the biography of model-turned-photographer-turned-journalist Lee Miller. I see myself as a magpie. I collect obscure facts and think, how can I recycle them?

At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock began in much the same way. I had watched the episode of the BBC arts series Imagine about the actress Ingrid Bergman, and was hooked. I ordered her autobiography and a biography (I like to read both an autobiography and a biography whenever I can). My next two book choices also happened to be biographies about two very different women who had lived through the 1950s. Each contained an anecdote about Ruth Ellis, the last woman in Great Britain to be hanged. It struck me that everyone who lived through this era, which was dominated by dual standards, would have had a very strong reaction to the story of the platinum blonde club hostess who shot her racing-buy lover, and then immediately asked a bystander to call the police. Reactions to Ruth’s plight divided people. Some felt very strongly that her sentence should be carried out, others (many of them to who themselves suffered domestic violence) petitioned the Secretary of State to grant a reprieve. It was the public outcry that followed Ruth’s execution that led to the introduction of the partial defence of diminished responsibility. Although we may like to think that the world is a very different place. Ruth’s story has so many themes that resonate today. Domestic violence, coercive control (behaviour that was only criminalised in 2015), mental health issues, how women are treated by the justice system.

“Women who are violent are monstorised by the system.” “The law doesn’t work well for women in relation to issues of violence. If a woman reacts and fights back, they are often punished more severely than a man that’s violent.” ~ Harriet Wistrich, human rights lawyer, Justice for Women, speaking about Sally Challen in 2019

The list goes on. 

I remain wary of writing about recent history from the point of view of real people. You have to tread so carefully, especially when relatives of victims are still alive. This was the same challenge I faced when writing Smash all the Windows, which was inspired by the result of second inquest to the Hillsborough Disaster. Then, I asked myself what I could add to the material that had already been produced and if a fictional account be welcomed? And what right did I have to tell the story? My decision was to create a fictional disaster to explore the issues faced by the Hillsborough families. Although I haven’t been conscious of it until answering this question, I adopted much the same approach for At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock. Instead of writing from Ruth’s perspective, or including her as a major character, I created three very different women and had them face some of the same struggles that Ruth faced, so that when they learned of her fate, each would have their own reason to say, ‘There but for the grace of God.’

My character whose trajectory most closely follows Ruth’s is seventeen-year-old Caroline Wilby. Like most working-class daughters, she’s expected to help support her family and for her this means leaving the family and everything she knows behind. Alone in a strange city, she must grab any opportunity that comes her way, even if that means putting herself in danger. She is our direct route into the world of afternoon drinking clubs, where hostesses must rely on powers of persuasion and feminine wiles to part male customers from their money. 

Then we have star of the silver screen Ursula Delancy, who we meet when she’s just been abandoned by the man she left her husband for. Already hounded by the press, it won’t be long before she’s making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Like Ruth, is pre-judged by those who think they know her because they’ve read about her in the press. And, like Ruth, Ursula appreciates all too keenly that it’s impossible to tell your side of a story without hurting those you love. 

Making up the trio is Patrice Hawtree. Once the most photographed debutante of her generation she is now childless and trapped in a loveless marriage, and her plans to secure the future of her ancient family home are about to be jeopardised by her husband's gambling addiction. 

Although none actually suffers Ruth’s fate, lied to and exploited by men, each finds a way to fight back. But when they defy others’ expectations of them, they must pay the price society demands.

I am really interested how you keep motivated to write and battle with the publishing world as it is today?

The publishing world is constantly evolving – to be honest, the emergence of independent publishing is one of the key drivers of change. We indies have advantages that many traditionally published authors lack. For example, access to real time sales data allows us to react far more quickly to market forces. 

That said, the ease and advantages of self-publishing mean that competition is tougher than ever. According to Just Publishing Advice, between 1670 and 7500 new eBooks are published every day. Although over 6 million eBooks are available on Amazon, there’s very little change to the number of adult readers. This means having to work even harder for every sale. And, of course, I don’t write in the most popular genres.

That said, my writing has never been entirely about money. (I’d be very disappointed if it was!) An email from a reader who shares a personal experience, or leaves a thoughtful review, can make such a difference. Last year’s competition win at the Selfies (a new award for independently-published fiction) was also very motivating, particularly because it acknowledged the quality of self-published books and the professionalism of indie authors. It was also quite a kick that the award ceremony took place at London Book Fair.

We don’t yet know what permanent changes will come about as a result of this year’s pandemic. The importance of independent presses has grown in recent years, as they do so much to nurture new talent, but with margins in publishing being as small as they are, 60% of independent presses surveyed estimate that, without financial support, they will go out of business. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/may/07/majority-of-small-publishers-fear-closure-in-wake-of-coronavirus

This would be a huge loss to the publishing world.

As my collection of books grows, I’m also beginning to see them as my legacy. As someone who doesn’t have children, they are the mark I will leave on the world. So another reason for writing – one that I didn’t think about in my mid-thirties when I started out on this path – is to create a legacy that I can be proud of.

Many writers stick to a series, like the super successful LJ Ross, but I like the fact that all your books are different. 

I think that certain genres naturally lend themselves to series – in fact there are some genres where readers expect a series. Crime (the genre LJ Ross writes in) being probably one of the best examples, but they’re also the norm for sci-fi, fantasy and supernatural novels. I’m not aware of many authors of contemporary or literary fiction who write books in a series. Ali Smith produced her ‘Seasonal Quartet’ (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter), although this was really a collection of standalone books rather than one continuous story broken down into volumes. Having said that, I’m often asked what some of my characters are up to, so who knows? 

At the Stroke of Nine O’Clock will be released on 13 July, but you can pre-order it now for the special price of £1.99p/£1.99 (Price on publication will be £4.99/$4.99). The Universal Link is https://books2read.com/u/brWppZ

Blurb

London 1949. The lives of three very different women are about to collide.

Like most working-class daughters, Caroline Wilby is expected to help support her family. Alone in a strange city, she must grab any opportunity that comes her way. Even if that means putting herself in danger.

Star of the silver screen, Ursula Delancy, has just been abandoned by the man she left her husband for. Already hounded by the press, it won’t be long before she’s making headlines for all the wrong reasons. 

Patrice Hawtree was once the most photographed debutante of her generation. Now childless and trapped in a loveless marriage, her plans to secure the future of her ancient family home are about to be jeopardised by her husband's gambling addiction.

Each believes she has already lost in life, not knowing how far she still has to fall. 

Six years later, one cause will unite them: when a young woman commits a crime of passion and is condemned to hang, remaining silent isn’t an option.

“Why do I feel an affinity with Ruth Ellis? I know how certain facts can be presented in such a way that there is no way to defend yourself. Not without hurting those you love.”

Books2Read Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/brWppZ
Amazon Link https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08B1PCTC1
Goodreads link https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53955188-at-the-stroke-of-nine-o-clock

Social media links:

Website: https://jane-davis.co.uk
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JaneDavisAuthorPage
Twitter: https://twitter.com/janedavisauthor
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/janeeleanordavi/boards/

Bio

Jane 0008Hailed by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch’, Jane Davis is the author of nine thought-provoking novels. 

Jane spent her twenties and the first part of her thirties chasing promotions at work, but when she achieved what she’d set out to do, she discovered that it wasn’t what she wanted after all. It was then that she turned to writing. 

Her debut, Half-truths & White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award 2008. Of her subsequent three novels, Compulsion Reads wrote, ‘Davis is a phenomenal writer, whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless’. Her 2015 novel, An Unknown Woman, was Writing Magazine’s Self-published Book of the Year 2016 and has been shortlisted for two further awards. Smash all the Windows was the inaugural winner of the Selfies (best independently-published work of fiction) award 2019. 

Jane lives in Carshalton, Surrey with her Formula 1 obsessed, star-gazing, beer-brewing partner, surrounded by growing piles of paperbacks, CDs and general chaos. When she isn’t writing, you may spot her disappearing up a mountain with a camera in hand. Her favourite description of fiction is ‘made-up truth’.

 

 

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THE HOPE VALLEY, PEAK DISTRICT, DERBYSHIRE

 Readers often ask me why I’ve chosen to set my Edna Reid Investigates books in the Hope Valley area of Derbyshire. (UK) 

  Here are three good reasons.

  1. Because it’s where I grew up. 

  2. Because the Peak District is one of the most beautiful parts of the country and 

   3. It gives me a good excuse to spend time up there doing my research and having a pub lunch in my favourite place, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Castleton. 

  The Hope Valley is part of what is known as the Dark Peak because of the atmospheric gritstone moors, as opposed to the White Peak known for its limestone and rolling dales. 

 Potholers, trekkers, cyclists, hang-gliders and rock climbers are drawn to its challenging terrain in all weathers as well as its fascinating   Blue John caverns. 

 Winnats Pass is mentioned in my books. A steep, winding road cuts through the towering limestone cliffs and provides a spectacular backdrop to any “cosy crime”. Mam Tor, or Shivering Mountain as the locals call it, dominates the landscape and from here you can take the challenging walk to Losehill and down into the village of Hope, the setting for Love Bytes Back.  The fictitious St Hilda’s is based on Hope Parish Church with its splendid Saxon cross. 

 There are plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants for when you need a well-deserved break from rambling, and my favourite place to stop is nearby Hathersage with its open air lido and a church famous for its brass rubbings. It’s a busy village with strong literary connections. 

 Charlotte Bronte was a regular visitor and included it in her writings. She probably chose the name Eyre (Jane) as it is local to the area. Its industrial past included the manufacture of pins and needles. 

  The Hope Valley line connects the area with Sheffield and Manchester and passes through some of the most stunning scenery. Rugged hillsides and dramatic cliff edges call intrepid walkers and climbers from all over the country. Be sure you have a good pair of boots and a backpack of necessities as the weather can be unpredictable. 

 Why do I love it so much? It connects me with my long-departed grandfather who used to take me to Surprise View, a spectacular viewpoint to watch sunrises and sunsets. It’s also an official Dark Skies spot for star gazing.

  There used to be an ice cream van every Sunday back in the sixties and, of course, I was always treated to whatever I fancied. 

   The Hope Valley is a place for all seasons but my favourite is winter when the snow frosts the peaks – gone are the days of heavy snowfalls of my childhood – and the skies burn with red and gold. I can see my grandad leaning over on one of the many five bar gates and gazing into the distance. He’d say, “You can travel the world but there’s nowt like Derbyshire, m’duck.’

  

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Talking About Death, Celebrating Life

YODO! No, it’s not a new greeting. It’s shorthand for You Only Die Once, so why not make it a good death? There has never been a better time to get talking about those “face behind a cushion” topics we’d all rather pretend weren’t going to happen. At least, not to us.

The international Death Cafe movement has been encouraging us to share what’s on our mind about death, dying and bereavement since 2011 when Jon Underwood set up the first Death Cafe meeting in Hackney, washed down with tea and sweetened with a bit of cake. Over 6000 meetings in 56 countries have been held to date but you won’t find negativity on the menu.

It’s a safe space run with no agenda, no aim to convert to a belief or sign up to a philosophy of life (or death). No one is under pressure to do or say anything. No long lectures or guest speakers pontificating, no funeral services representatives trying to sell you a plan. Just you, others like you and the facilitator wanting to share what’s on their mind. To find out about a meeting in your area or to see what’s involved should you want to set one up, visit www.deathcafe.org Follow them on Twitter @DeathCafe

Let’s get back to YODO. Being near Birmingham, I shall be attending A Matter of Life and Death Festival (May 10th – 26th), an arts of cultural programme of events with death as a core theme. BrumYODO is a local collective set up with the aim of helping the people of Birmingham have more open and honest conversations about death and dying. The collective describes themselves as “a growing group of artists, undertakers, food artists, hospices, palliative care professionals and generally all-round interesting folk. http://brumyodo.org.uk/matter-life-death/

So why am I so passionate about the need to talk about all things mortal?

As someone who has suffered from death anxiety (thanatophobia) ever since my Grandad died when I was ten (fifty years ago), I discovered that I wasn’t alone. Part of any fear is driven by not owning it. Bringing it out into the open is one way of disempowering that fear and empowering ourselves. In doing so, we add more value and quality into our daily lives by making every moment count.

            I’ve attended a number of Death Cafe meetings which have provided the inspiration for my latest novel, EDNA’S DEATH CAFE, set in the Derbyshire Peak District, my childhood stomping ground. Fiction can often reach parts that other communication channels cannot. We can be alone with a book, argue with the characters, ponder on their words and reflect on their lives, hopefully to find resonance with ours.

            I’ll be writing more about the book, about bereavement and my work as a newly trained funeral celebrant. I’ll leave you with my favourite bit of philosophy. Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside is while we live. Norman Cousins.

Edna’s Death Cafe will be published by Matador in September 2018. Keep up to date with the news on Twitter. Follow @Angelena Boden @matadorbooks

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