Sunday, 19 February 2017

Sunday WW1 Remembered..

Whilst I was researching Women at Work I came across this enlightening poem
by Madeline Ida Bedford. 

It was written in 1917.

Munition Wages

Earning high wages?
Yus, Five quid a week.
A woman, too, mind you,
I calls it dim sweet.

Ye'are asking some questions –
But bless yer, here goes:
I spends the whole racket
On good times and clothes.

Me saving? Elijah!
Yer do think I'm mad.
I'm acting the lady,
But – I ain't living bad.

I'm having life's good times.
See 'ere, it's like this:
The 'oof come o' danger,
A touch-and-go bizz.

We're all here today, mate,
Tomorrow – perhaps dead,
If Fate tumbles on us
And blows up our shed.

Afraid! Are yer kidding?
With money to spend!
Years back I wore tatters,
Now – silk stockings, mi friend!

I've bracelets and jewellery,
Rings envied by friends;
A sergeant to swank with,
And something to lend.

I drive out in taxis,
Do theatres in style.
And this is mi verdict –
It is jolly worth while.

Worth while, for tomorrow
If I'm blown to the sky,
I'll have repaid mi wages
In death – and pass by.

Female workers at work on munitions in a large factory, working over the Easter holiday - finishing and assembling bullets.

© IWM (Q 110357)

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Close to Home...Debbie Johnson

As a book reviewer I have made contact with authors from all across the globe and feel immensely privileged to be able to share some amazing work. However, there is always something rather special when a book comes to my attention which has been written by an author in my part of the North of England. So with this in mind I have great pleasure in featuring some of those authors who are literally close to my home. Over the next few Saturdays, and hopefully beyond, I will be sharing the work of a very talented bunch of Northern authors and discovering just what being a Northerner means to them both in terms of inspiration and also in their writing.

Today I welcome North West Writer

Debbie Johnson

Hi Debbie, welcome back to Jaffareadstoo - Tell us a little about yourself and what got you started as an author?

I’m 47 and a half, married with three kids aged between 9 and 19, and the proud dog mum to a pair of elderly and flatulent pooches – one black lab and one Golden Retriever. I’m originally from the Midlands (Stoke on Trent to be precise) but have lived in Liverpool for the last 25 years, which is terrifying now I put it into words! I moved here after university with my then-boyfriend, and ended up getting a job at the local newspaper, the Liverpool Echo. In what feels like about five minutes, I’d laid down roots – kids, work, schools, friends, extended family.

I took redundancy from my job in 2005 after the birth of my second child, and went freelance, doing journalism, PR and copywriting. Like most journalists, I’d always wanted to write a book – and the year I was 40 I finally got around to it! I entered a contest called the Harry Bowling Prize for New Writing, and amazingly won it. I’d like to say the rest is history, but it’s taken years to get where I am now – which isn’t even that far! There were a lot of rejections, a lot of failures, and a lot of frustrations. It’s not a career for the faint-hearted. Obviously, it’s not like working down a pit or anything – but you have to be resilient, I’d say.

I’m now published with HarperCollins, and write what I suppose I’d describe as warm-hearted fiction – there might not always be romance, but there will always be humour, and soul, and sometimes tears. Usually a dog as well!

Your books are written in North West England, but not always set in the North West – how have the people and its landscape shaped your stories?

My earliest books were set in Liverpool. There was a supernatural crime thriller called Fear No Evil which was published digitally by an imprint of Avon – it’s still out there! It’s not set the world alight sales-wise but has great reviews, and I have to say it’s still one of my all-time favourite pieces of work. The central character is a Liverpool-based private detective, and she’s awesome – smart, funny, kind, tough. A lot of the charm of the book, for me, is the way it reflects Liverpool in all its glory – the good, the bad and the ugly.


I also wrote two urban fantasy books set here – Dark Vision and Dark Touch – which were published by Ebury. That was a gift: which better modern UK city to use as a setting for vampires, magicians, and ancient Celtic Gods? I really enjoyed playing with the location, tapping into the Irish heritage here, and also making the Liver Birds come to life and fly away!

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Liverpool is a fascinating place – an endless source of amusement, inspiration and yes, sometimes despair. I would love to write more books set here – though I often sneak it in. For example, in The Birthday That Changed Everything, the lead character is originally from Liverpool, and in my upcoming book The A-Z of Everything (there’s clearly an Everything link – I’ll call the next one Everything you Ever Wanted to Know About Everything!), one of the leads went to university here and ended up staying, so quite a few of the scenes are Liverpool-based.


As a writer based in the North West, does this present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your books and if so, how do you overcome them?

I don’t think it does, apart from a social and networking perspective – the parties and events are, inevitably, in London, as are most of the publishers and agents. But more and more we market ourselves online, which is geographically blind.

If you were pitching the North West as an ideal place to live, work and write – how would you sell it and what makes it so special?

I think for me it’s the diversity. You have these magnificent cities – Liverpool and Manchester – that are teeming with life and energy; so historic and architecturally quite beautiful. There is always a buzz, always something going on, wonderful museums and galleries and music. Plus, you know, great places for a night out! But not very far away you have access to some of the most stunning landscapes in the world – the Lake District, the coastline, places like the Trough of Bowland and the Yorkshire Dales (though technically I am aware that’s not the NW!). You can experience so many different versions of life in the North West – the solitary and the natural; the coastal and the mountainous, the thrillingly urban.

Plus, here in Liverpool,we’re basically only a two hour train journey away from London – so you get the best of both worlds!

Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors?

I am lucky enough to have some close ‘virtual’ friends – other authors I email or chat to on the phone, who understand the experience. But as well as that, we’re actually blessed with being the home territory for a lot of people I can meet up with in real life – at book launches, nights out, etc, there are writers I see a lot of. Jane Costello is one of my best friends (we worked together at the Liverpool Echo for many years), and there are also some other lovely people here. We didn’t actually realise how many of us there were until we all met at a mutual friend’s launch, and since then have stayed in touch and organised dinners etc.

How supportive are local communities to your writing, and are there ever any opportunities for book shops, local reading groups, or libraries to be involved in promoting your work?

I have had some signings at one of my local bookshops, and also taken part in a few events at the Waterstones in Liverpool. In all honesty I am a bit of a recluse, and tend to live like a hermit crab between school runs – I am sure there is a lot more I could do in terms of local outreach!

And finally, if someone is new to your work, which book do you think they should start with?

That’s a tough one as I have written so many different styles! If you like crime and Liverpool, go for Fear No Evil. If you like fantasy and Liverpool, go for Dark Vision. If you like women’s fiction with a lot of heart, go for the Comfort Food Cafe series. If you like very rude comedies with a hefty dose of sex and swearing, try the Birthday That Changed Everything! My next one – the A-Z – is slightly different again, and is really a story about love, grief and redemption within a family that has fallen apart.

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Huge thanks to Debbie for spending time as my guest today.

I hope that you've enjoyed reading more about Debbie's writing life in this

 Close to Home Feature

Comin next week : June Taylor

Friday, 17 February 2017

Blog Tour ~ Jerusalem Ablaze by Orlando Ortega-Medina

Jaffareadstoo is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for

Jerusalem Ablaze: Stories of Love and Other Obsessions

I am delighted to welcome the author, Orlando Ortega-Medina to the blog.

Today, Orlando is sharing a selection of his experiences which inspired aspects of the stories in 
Jerusalem Ablaze

Cloud Lodge Books
February 2017

The stories in Jerusalem Ablaze are inspired by 4 periods of travel in my life: California, Quebec, Israel, and Japan. Following are notes from 2 of my Quebec stories: 

"The Shovelist" is based on the real scenario of pensioners performing menial chores for their neighbours in the townships to earn extra money. In "The Shovelist", the chore is the shovelling of snow, which comes down by the bucketful in that corner of Quebec. Jake and Ronnie, being city outsiders, don't understand the importance of allowing Guillaume to shovel their snow, as they are perfectly able to shovel their own. So Guillaume has to find a way of demonstrating to them the value to having him shovel their snow. Jake and Ronnie eventually "get it" and accede, to their benefit (in my view). It's one of the gentler stories of the collection that strikes a chord in many readers.

"Tiger at Beaufort Point" is based on a real event. Near our township lived an eccentric gentleman on a large country estate who, controversially, bred domestic cats for sale to the public. He also kept a veritable menagerie of exotic animals - including a huge Bengal tiger he regularly hired out to film production companies. My partner and I drove to his estate to see his collection of animals. He kindly agreed to show us around and introduced us to his tiger, which he kept in his garage in a cage with thick metal bars. I remember coming to within inches of that tiger, close enough to feel its breath on my face, and experiencing the combined thrill of fascination and fear. One day he unexpectedly showed up in our township, having decided to take the tiger for a walk down our main street - to the delight of some and the consternation of others. The rumour was he was getting the tiger ready for a film and wanted to get it accustomed to being around crowds. My partner and I were having lunch at a nice restaurant when he suddenly walked past with the tiger, with half of the town in tow. I got quite upset, imagining the tiger breaking free and attacking the crowd. I probably overreacted. But the image of that tiger being walked around our town, surrounded by a crowd of people (children included) stayed with me, and I just had to write a story about it.

Orlando Ortega-Medina was born in California and is of Judeo-Spanish descent via Cuba. He studied English Literature at UCLA and has a Juris Doctor law degree from Southwestern University School of Law. At university he won The National Society of Arts and Letters award for Short Stories. Jerusalem Ablaze: Stories of Love and Other Obsessions is his first published collection. Orlando is now a British citizen and currently resides in London with his life partner, where he practices US immigration law. 

Twitter @OOrtegaMedina

Jerusalem Ablaze ( Cloud Lodge Books) by Orlando Ortega-Medina will be out on Thursday 16th February 2017

Cloud Lodge Books
16 February 2017

In Jerusalem’s Old City a priest and a dominatrix converse in the dying light; on Oregon’s windswept coast a fragile woman discovers a body washed up on the beach after a storm; and in Postwar Japan a young protégé watches his master’s corpse burn, with bitter thoughts blazing in his mind.

Jerusalem Ablaze: Stories of Love and Other Obsessions collects thirteen eclectic works of dark fiction, taking the reader from Los Angeles to the eastern townships of Quebec, and from Tokyo to Jerusalem. Ortega-Medina’s characters are flawed, broken individuals, trying their best to make sense of their lives as they struggle with sexuality, death, obsession, and religion.

Gripping and intriguing, the stories are sometimes bleak, occasionally violent, and often possessed of a dark humour. 

This major debut explores the imperfections of life and the unpredictability of death

My thoughts about Jerusalem Ablaze...

I'm always in awe of authors who have that unique ability to take me away from my quiet life and transport me to an altogether different world, to a world that I would never inhabit in any of my wildest dreams. In the thirteen stories which make up Jerusalem Ablaze the author certainly takes the reader on a rather dark journey straight into the hearts and minds, of people, who are each, in their own way, superbly flawed. 

It must be said that I enjoyed some stories rather more than others, and I found that I didn't want to read too many of the collection all in one sitting, which is why I think that Jerusalem Ablaze is one of those clever short story collections which will sit happily upon your book shelves, waiting patiently for that moment in time when you feel the need for a finely woven, and intelligently written, short story.

My thanks to the author for sharing his experiences with us today and also to Eve at Midas PR for her invitation to be part of this blog tour.


Thursday, 16 February 2017

Review ~ Pirates : Truth and Tales by Helen Hollick

Amberley Publishing
15 February 2017

What's it all about..

The historian R. H. Tawney famously wrote, ‘The sixteenth century lives in terror of the tramp.’ The eighteenth century lived in terror of the tramps of the seas – pirates. Pirates have fascinated people ever since.

It was a harsh life for those who went ‘on the account’, constantly overshadowed by the threat of death – through violence, illness, shipwreck, or the hangman’s noose. The lure of gold, the excitement of the chase and the freedom that life aboard a pirate ship offered were judged by some to be worth the risk. 

Helen Hollick explores both the fiction and fact of the Golden Age of piracy, and there are some surprises in store for those who think they know their Barbary Corsair from their boucanier. Everyone has heard of Captain Morgan, but who recognises the name of the aristocratic Frenchman Daniel Montbars? He killed so many Spaniards he was known as ‘The Exterminator’. The fictional world of pirates, represented in novels and movies, is different from reality. What draws readers and viewers to these notorious hyenas of the high seas? What are the facts behind the fantasy? 

What did I think about it..

I must admit that when I think about pirates, what usually springs to mind is the classic, Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, a story I read as a child curled in a chair immersed in the excitement of buccaneers and pirates, of buried treasure and golden doubloons, of marauding seamen and dastardly sea captains. And then, of course, much later, came the rather delectable image of the dangerously addictive, Jack Sparrow, the swashbuckling hero of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. However, the reality of piracy is a whole world away from the glitz and glamour of the movie screen and even the adventures of young Jim Hawkins, aboard the Hispaniola, pales into insignificance alongside the reality of what the real life pirates got up to as they sailed the Seven Seas.

In this informative and comprehensive book, the author takes the idea of pirates and piracy, a subject close to her heart, and shows how the literary and movie images of pirates, often bears little, or no, resemblance to the actual physical reality of the real life sea terrorists of the 17th and 18th centuries. The 'golden age' of piracy whilst steeped in mystique and legend, was, all too often, a time of great danger and uncontrolled violence. Interspersed throughout the book is the author's impressive knowledge of historical detail and it is obvious that a great deal of research has gone into bringing this piratical guide to life. Skillfully blending historical facts with literary fiction, sometimes, the book reads as lightly as a novel, but then, at other times, we come sharply back to reality with daring tales of mischance and menace, of lives ruined by too much grog and too many loose women, and which ended, all too often, dangled at the end of a hangman's rope.

Throughout the book, the author's real life buccaneers nestle comfortably alongside their more colourful literary counterparts. I especially enjoyed seeing the author's own pirate creation, Jesemiah Acorne, from The Sea Witch Voyages, come to vibrant life in his own much deserved chapter. The book has a rich and lively vocabulary, with snippets of interesting facts about pirates and piracy that you never knew you needed to know, but which are all recounted with the authors sparkling wit and fine attention to detail. For the songsters among you there are words to popular sea shanties, some familiar like, Spanish Ladies and What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor and others such as, The Top Man and the Afterguard, which are rather more obscure but no less fascinating to read of their origin and usage.

However you like your pirates, be they real or imaginary, there is no doubt that Pirates:Truth and Tales, is a great dip in and out of kind of book and whichever page the book falls open at, you are guaranteed to find a fascinating snippet into the life and times of these colourful, and it must be said, decidedly, dangerous characters.

Best Read with....A tot of Damson rum and a generous slice of rum laden fruitcake...

About the author

Helen Hollick is a British author of historical fiction.She is the author of the Arthurian Trilogy, Pendragon's Banner and two Saxon novels, Harold the King and The Hollow Crown. Helen was selected by US publisher Sourcebooks and became a USA bestseller. Her Sea Witch Voyages are nautical adventures with a touch of fantasy and are inspired by the Golden Age of Piracy. Helen lives in Devon.

You can find out more about the author by going to her website by clicking here

Or follow on Twitter @HelenHollick

My thanks to Phillip at Amberley Publishing for sending me a review copy of Pirates : Truth and Tales


Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Blog Tour ~ The Devil in the Snow by Sarah Armstrong

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to host today's stop on 

The Devil in the Snow Blog Tour


What's the book about ..

Sandstone Press
16 February 2017
All Shona wants is a simple life with her young son, and to get free of Maynard, the ex who’s still living in the house. When her teenage daughter goes missing, she’s certain Maynard is the culprit. Her mother, Greta, is no help as she’s too obsessed with the devil. Her Uncle Jimmy is fresh out of prison and has never been entirely straight with her. Then there’s the shaman living in her shed. Shona soon discovers that the secrets she buried are as dangerous as the family curse haunting her mother.

As part of the book's blog tour, I'm pleased to be able to share a tantalising extract of The Devil in the Snow with you today...

Shona always felt relieved when she’d left Rob to get back to his life. She could feel herself slipping into the role of wife, rather than lover, if she stayed too long. The state of his room did make her feel better about her own house, untidy as it was. She tried to feel a little guilty for not having picked up shoes or emptied the dishwasher or, as Cerys kept pointing out, having sorted the last three weeks’ worth of washing. It would all keep. It would all need doing again tomorrow, whether or not she did it today.

She checked one last time that she had her mobile and keys, threw her leg over the bike and paused to unwind her wool scarf a little. Outside was warmer than inside, although the sky was still brutally clear. She decided to cycle the long way so she could go flat out on the fields by the school. Here, on the roads, she cycled slowly, enjoying the mild chill of the wind. There were leaves gathering in the gutters and a sense of bonfires to come, yet the schools had only just started their year. Only the week before honeysuckle had tingled in the air. 

She turned into Victoria Road and stopped pedalling, putting one foot down. That boy was there again, where she’d last seen him a couple of months ago and two or three times before that. Dominic? That sounded right to her. He’d said something about the 1960s which she hadn’t quite understood. She had always regretted not telling anyone he was there. Not that she knew who to tell, but he was, maybe, sixteen – or older? It was hard to tell. 

The bike wheels clicked around as she slowly coasted towards him. He didn’t look up. He was dressed in old clothes again that looked slightly too big for him, jeans and only a T-shirt. His hands were placed, palms upward, by his side, and his knees bent up as he leaned against a tree. As she got closer, she could see goose pimples on his arms and his bare feet buried slightly into the soil.

‘Hey,’ she said. ‘Are you all right?’

He opened his eyes. ‘I’ve been waiting for you.’

‘Have you?’

He nodded. ‘I’ve been waiting.’ He held his hands close to his face. ‘I think I’ve been here a while.’

‘Why are you waiting?’ she asked. 

He put his hands back by his sides.

‘Is there someone I can call for you, let them know where you are? It’s Dominic, isn’t it?’

‘I have been waiting for you. I have to get my instructions.’

Shona waited to hear what they were but he carefully placed his hands on his knees and his head dropped forward. She rested her bike against the tree and crouched down next to him. There were bruises on his cheeks, cuts on the backs of his wrists, his eyelashes surprisingly long and dark. 

‘Do you think that I might be the one to give you instructions?’ she asked.

Dominic lifted his face. ‘I think I need to stay with you.’ 

Shona bit down the automatic ‘no’. He needed help and she had to help him. It had to be a ‘yes’. Just until she found out what kind of help he needed.

She said, ‘I think you could come home with me for a little while to warm up. And we can decide what to do.’

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘It is you. Meghan sent me to tell you that there’s a message for you, when you’re ready.’

Shona swallowed. ‘Meghan?’

He nodded and she waited, but he didn’t say anything more. Meghan. How would he even know her name?

She stood up and held out her hand to him but he raised himself from the missing paving stone where the tree grew. As he got up he grabbed a handful of soil and put it in his pocket. 

He pointed back the way she’d come. ‘I suppose you don’t want to go the quickest way. Past his house. He might be looking.’

She looked back down the road and back to him. ‘Have you been watching me, Dominic?’

‘So many people are watching you.’ 

His hazel eyes blinked once and he smiled. She shuddered. She didn’t want to know what he meant by that.

Sarah lives in Essex with her husband and four children. Her short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies, and she teaches creative writing for the Open University.

Follow Sarah on Twitter at @sarahsiobhana

My thanks to the author and Keara at Sandstone Press for sending me a copy of The Devil in the Snow and for the invitation to be part of this blog tour.

Blog tour runs 13th - 18th February 


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Review ~ Sealskin by Su Bristow

Orenda Books

What's it all about..

Donald is a young fisherman, eking out a lonely living on the west coast of Scotland. One night he witnesses something miraculous, and makes a terrible mistake. His action changes lives—not only his own, but those of his family and the entire tightly knit community in which they live. Can he ever atone for the wrong he has done, and can love grow when its foundation is violence? Based on the legend of the selkies—seals who can transform into people—evokes the harsh beauty of the landscape, the resilience of its people, both human and animal, and the triumph of hope over fear and prejudice. With exquisite grace, Su Bristow transports us to a different world, subtly and beautifully exploring what it means to be an outsider, and our innate capacity for forgiveness and acceptance. Rich with myth and magic, Sealskin is, nonetheless, a very human story, as relevant to our world as to the timeless place in which it is set.

Out now in ebook @OrendaBooks

What did I think of it..

The myths and legends of our isles and islands are in the very fabric of our bones, they're in the call of the wind and in the ebb and flo of our tides. They come to us in the memories of those who have gone before us, and are as familiar as family, and yet, can also be as uncomfortable as a stranger in our midst.

Sealskin is a story that starts with a great wrong. A wrong so wrong that it may never be put right, but it's also about the power of love, the inherent need for forgiveness and the genetic call of the wild, which lives in all of us.

The writing is wonderfully lyrical with words that have magic and meaning and yet, there is also the irresistible simplicity of silence when everything is conveyed by a look and or a glance and in the soft touch of hands which say ‘I remember’ far more eloquently than any words. Sealskin shows us that love, in its many guises, can bring us together or it can tear us apart. It can be the most glorious feeling in the world or it can devastate us so much that we become as jagged as a stone.

In many ways Sealskin acts a salutary warning, which leaves us in no doubt that, for all of our actions, be they good or bad, there is always a price to be paid, and reminds us that, so often, after great happiness comes great hurt. And yet, for all of its inherent sadness, there is also celebration and, ultimately, Sealskin is a glorious love story to the myth and legend of our shared heritage. 

There is no doubt that the literary magic lingers long after the last beautifully written word is ended. He does not forget, and neither will I.

Best Read with... A single malt whiskey, pure and clear, with the irresistible tang of generations of peat fires.

About the Author

Su Bristow is a consultant medical herbalist by day. She's the author of two books on herbal medicine: The Herbal Medicine Chest and The Herb Handbook; and two on relationship skills: The Courage to Love and Falling in Love, Staying in Love, co-written with psychotherapist, Malcolm Stern. Her published fiction includes 'Troll Steps' (in the anthology, Barcelona to Bihar), and 'Changes' which came second in the 2010 Creative Writing Matters flash fiction competition. Sealskin is set in the Hebrides, and it's a reworking of the Scottish and Nordic legend of the selkies, or seals who can turn into people. It won the Exeter Novel Prize 2013. Her writing has been described as 'magical realism; Angela Carter meets Eowyn Ivey'.

Follow on Twitter @SuBristow #Sealskin

Happy Valentine's Day


Monday, 13 February 2017

Blog Tour ...What You Don't Know by JoAnn Chaney

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be taking part in the 

What You Don't Know Blog Tour

I am delighted to welcome the author

JoAnn Chaney

Hello JoAnn and thank you for spending time with us on your blog  tour...

Where did you get the first flash of inspiration for What You Don’t Know?

My first inspiration came when I saw an article about Jerry Sandusky—an American child molester. The article was actually about his wife, and asked whether or not she’d actually known about the crimes her husband was committing against kids, and if she had, why she’d kept the secret for so long. This article was the seed that grew into WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW.


As a writer, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that everyone keeps secrets. From each other, and for each other, and even the lies they tell themselves. These are all reoccurring themes that occur in my writing.

Without revealing too much, what can you tell us about the story?

WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW is about the years following a serial killer’s arrest and is told by three people who were each connected to the murderer: the killer’s wife, the detective who broke the case, and the reporter who covered it for the paper. The story begins when a copycat murderer begins operating, and they are all once again drawn together to relive the old nightmare.

Where do you get your inspiration from – are you inspired by people, places or do you draw purely from your imagination?

I’d have to say that it’s a combination of all three. WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW is set in Denver, where I’ve lived previously, and there are specific locations and businesses that I mention in the book. I’ve read books that happen in locations I recognize, places I’ve been—and it’s a huge thrill. It gives the reader a personal window into the story, and I love inviting readers in like that.

I also love to people-watch—it’s one of my favorite things to do when I have a chance. I work in retail, so I’m with people all day, and I’ll sometimes take notes on the little quirks and habits I notice from customers that I will later work into my characters. I’d also say that I’m inspired by the news—I spend a huge amount of time online, catching up on headlines and social media, and I’ve found that truth is often stranger than fiction, and usually makes for great stories.

Are you a plotter...or ...a start writing and see where it takes you sort of writer?

This question makes me laugh, and here’s why: I’m not a plotter at all, but my editors are trying to shape me into one.

This is my normal writing routine: I’ll sit down with an idea and just write, without any idea of where it’ll go. This is the fun part of the writing for me, the best part. Just the writing, pure and simple, without any worry about where the story is heading. But this sort of free-form writing causes issues, and leaves plot holes a mile wide. And since I tend to write stories with lots of characters with intricate backstories doing complicated things, I really should plot so I don’t have to do extensive rewrites.

For WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW, there were plenty of plotlines that didn’t make sense with the first draft, so I ended up rewriting it three or four times over the course of a year. I have all the extra stuff that didn’t make final cut saved in a document, hidden away where no one will ever see it—it’s about 200,000 extra words that’ll never see the light of day. I feel a little ill just saying that.

For the book I’m working on now, I’ve written a pretty detailed outline to follow as I write, but it’s not working out as well planned. Instead, I tend to go off in different directions with the plot as I write, which then screws the whole thing up, and then the outline has to be rewritten. And my editors have asked me not to write until I have a solid outline, and I end up sending emails that say things like CAN’T STOP WON’T STOP as a joke although I’m completely serious. I’m like an addict who can’t back away from the keyboard.

If my editors are reading this, I’m sorry. I’m trying to become a plotter, I swear.

What were the challenges you faced whilst writing this novel?

Besides my issues with plotting, my writing challenge is always this: time management. I hold a full-time job, I have three kids and a husband; I have a lot of things going on. I always have to carve out time to write—sometimes it’s during my lunch break, or late at night after everyone is in bed, but it’s always in those odd moments when not a lot is going on.

Fortunately, I write fast.

Whilst researching the novel, did you discover anything which surprised you?

I ended up doing a lot of research on serial killers for this novel—obviously John Wayne Gacy, and Ted Bundy—and I was surprised to learn that these were men people liked, they were respected, they seemed to be normally functioning members of society. If you’d met these men on the street, you wouldn’t have had a clue they were killers. That scares me, and fascinates me.

Can you tell us if you have another novel planned?

I do, and I’m very excited about it! It doesn’t have a title yet, and without giving too much away it’s the story of a marriage gone wrong—I’ve had it compared to THE WAR OF THE ROSES by early readers, but without any of the funny bits the movie had.

Thank you, JoAnn  for answering my questions so thoughtfully and for giving such a fascinating insight into how and why you write. 

You can find out more about JoAnn on her website by clicking here

Visit her on Facebook or Follow on Twitter @joann_chaney

Thanks to JoAnn for her informative answers to my questions and also to Abbie at Macmillan for sending a copy of What You Don't Know to me and for the invitation to be part of this blog tour.

Blog Tour runs 6th -14th February