Tuesday, 27 May 2014

May Random Recommendation Giveaway "Ruby's Tuesday" by Gillian Binchy & Author Interview

This is my second mention of Gillian Binchy's novel this month, but I cannot recommend it enough!  For anyone who has not heard of this story, please scroll down the page for my review and open your mind to a debut novel with both heart and soul......

What would you do if you were told that your unborn baby will be profoundly handicapped? What choices would you make? 

With her husband Luke away on an extended business trip to China, Afric Lynch goes for a routine ultrasound and is told this terrible news. Fearing that Luke will not have the strength to cope with the truth, she chooses not to tell him while he is so far away. 

Afric must face her dilemma and make her decisions alone...alone but for her little unborn companion who is with her every step of the way. 

Raw, painful, and often hilarious, this novel takes the reader through a kaleidoscope of emotions, on a mesmerising journey of love and heartache.

Gillian has very kindly allowed me to interview her about the creation of Ruby's Tuesday and how it has affected her both professionally and personally. 

As with all my Random recommendation, this Giveaway is open INT. Just enter via rafflecopter below and best of luck.


Gillian Binchy grew up on a farm in County Limerick. She studied in UCD, UL and Dublin Institute of Technology. Her love of travel and the outdoors, plus a passion for sea-swimming, inspired much of this debut novel. Gillian has worked both in Ireland and abroad in the travel and tourism industry for many years. She is married to Gary and they live in County Dublin. The loss of their daughter in May 2013 motivated her to write this book.


  1.       Have you always known you wanted to write?
Always but it took me a good twenty years to get going!  I started writing when I spent six months in the Australian outback – up in the Northern Territory outside Fitzroy Crossing, mustering cattle and working as a cow girl and cook during the mustering season. I wrote a lot up there. Every evening, after sitting around the campfire and chatting, there little else to do – so I wrote describing the screaming sunsets, the locals and their traditions, wrote about mustering. I sent those letters home and at the same time kept a very detailed journal then in 2007, I started a skiing novel. It was a love story set on the slopes in Austria – boy meets girls and happy-ever-after ending. I was busy having a great life and my writing discipline back then was not as good as it is now. Then I fell in love and sure that takes up time – a lot of time – making Gary fall in love with me and then with Ireland was in itself a full-time job! So my dream of writing once again took a back seat until the summer of 2013.

2.       This book is based on a very upsetting personal experience, do you think this made a difference to your writing style or would you have written with the same emotion with any subject?
Well, I think I am by nature an upbeat humorous so while the subject of the novel Ruby’s Tuesday is dark and painful, I didn’t want to deny the more joyful side of life or depress my readers too much! Some of the most serious scenes in the book, though heartbreakingly sad, are normalised by touches of humour and other times they are wrapped up in an entertaining style. I think in a bizarre way the story is uplifting and that is how I wanted it to be.  Looking back now, my writing style back in 2007 is very similar to style in Ruby’s Tuesday, uplifting, witty and straightforward. But I was also conscious of the fact that the humorous slant on things served a purpose particularly for this novel.

3.       Sharing your story was a very brave move that I, for one, cannot praise you enough for.  Were you worried that sharing it would bring unwanted attention to your personal life?
No, I was not particularly worried about unwanted attention. People to date have been extremely supportive and respectful and have not intruded in our lives in any way. We have only received encouragement and compassion – people have been truly supportive. Maybe it is because I believe that people are inherently good that I was not over anxious about unwanted attention.

4.       I have read that you got a three book deal from Poolbeg and Ward River Press. Have you got the writing bug now or do you worry about the dreaded second novel that so many authors talk about?

I have signed a three book deal with Poolbeg Press as part of the Ward River press imprint. To date most of my attention has been focused on the publicity for Ruby’s Tuesday and it has been very busy! So when all that is done, then I can really focus on the second novel.  The plot for my second novel I had crafted before I sat down to write Ruby’s Tuesday – so the basis of the plot is there. It has a beginning, middle and an end already - so now it is about sitting at the desk and the putting in those long hours to get words on the page and to get the story told well.

5.       The story of Ruby’s Tuesday is based in the Irish Republic and focuses on the need to travel abroad for certain medical procedures.   Can you tell our non-Irish readers a little about this?
In the Republic of Ireland termination for medical reasons is not allowed. This means if you are carrying a child with a fatal fetal abnormality you have to carry the unborn baby to full term.  Knowing that your unborn child is incompatible with life, devastated and heartbroken you must travel outside of Ireland to have a termination. In the Republic of Ireland, you are denied the right to choose to have a termination for medical reasons.  I think that women should have the right to choose whatever their choice is – choosing to have a termination for medical reasons or choosing to carry the child if possible to full term.

6.       Did you find the finished book as you had originally pictured it or were there changes made that altered your initial vision?
The finished version of Ruby’s Tuesday was probably eighty percent what I had first written. Thanks to the great efforts of my amazing editor Gaye Shortland the final version was a much more well rounded and better told story. The structure remained pretty much the same.  The scenes around Dublin and the whirlwind tour that Afric takes Ruby on in the novel – were all part of the first draft. The ending did not change – there was no great miracle – no fairy tale where Ruby’ survives!

7.       Do enjoy talking about Ruby’s Tuesday to the media, book clubs etc or is it bitter-sweet?
I am not sure that I would go as far as saying that I enjoy talking about it. Some days I find it hard going, there are times when I have to fight back the tears, try to hold it all together.  The media have been very respectfully even supportive so that has made it easier. People have been very sensitive and compassionate. I think Ruby’s Tuesday is an important novel, while it is not written to be a self help guide or to be the A-Z directory on fatal fetal abnormalities, it does tell the story of early child loss and all the heartache, disappointment and loss that goes it. There are also some very humorous scenes in it – so those passages I enjoying talking about a bit more.

8.       How did your family react to the final draft of the book?
Gary and I are blessed to come from very liberal, open minded families. Our families, like our friends and work colleagues have been a huge support for us both and have greatly encouraged my writing career. Our families are proud – very proud in fact that I had the courage to write so open and frankly about something like early child loss

9.       Have you heard from others who have been through a similar situation to Afric? Could they identify with the book?
Yes, I have heard from a lot of women you had been faced with the same shocking reality as Gary and I were.  Some of the women had chosen to carry the child for as long as they possibly could, other has chosen to go to the UK to have a termination for medical reasons. What I found rather shocking were the amount of women that contacted me who had for lots of different reason told their family and friends that they had had miscarriage while on a weekend away in Liverpool.  It would seem that still in some cases in Ireland termination for medical reasons in the Ireland is still considered a taboo subject.

10.   Can you tell us anything about your next novel yet?
Yes, that I have just started it. Part of the novel with be set in Dublin and some of it will be set in the outback in  Western Australia, to date I have tended to write what I know about. It will be a similar genre – maybe even more uplifting than Ruby’s Tuesday.  Very often what you set out to write – does not resemble in any way the finished product – so I am careful not to give you too many detail as during the writing process it may all change with a dash of inspiration. !

I came across this novel via The Irish Times online.  The synopsis had me hooked and after browsing the author's website and watching a TV3 interview with her, I went straight out and bought the book within an hour.  Most unlike me, as I have a massive To-Be-Read pile!

Afric Lynch is devastated to learn, during her routine ultrasound, that her unborn baby has major complications and is "incompatible with life".  Her husband is away on business and she must digest the awful news alone, afraid and heartbroken.  As the laws in Ireland forbid terminations, she is forced to travel to Liverpool to enable her to deliver her child at 24 weeks.  Choosing to do this alone, the trauma of such a trip is intense and the reader is along for the journey.  Afric talks to her baby all through the novel and her fears and sorrows are narrated with tinges of sadness and uncertainty.  The topical decision to travel to the UK for the early birth is one that has been discussed plenty in the media recently as the country tried to imagine how difficult it must be for a woman to carry a baby to full term, knowing the devastation ahead.  Try to imagine the idea of people, unaware of your unborn's illness, asking you are you ready for the birth, are you excited, how many more weeks left and other well-meaning nuggets of endearment being uttered at random moments.  Try to see your reaction to these moments.  Could you cope with the questions afterwards?  What did you have? When did you have it? Where is the baby now?  Now try to visualise that moment when you realise your baby cannot live outside the womb and all your hopes and dreams for this little person are now shattered.....
" I sat there, upright on the examination table, like a lost little girl.  It was like someone had flicked a switch on my life and my world turned from colour, to a dull black-and-white."

The trip to the clinic in Liverpool is written with so much emotion.  The atmosphere is described as calm and welcoming with the staff, who are more than used to their share of tragedy,  helping Afric come to terms with her immense loss.  After the birth, baby Ruby is brought to her mother so they can spend some time together before being separated forever.
" My fingers touched the side of her cheek.  Her skin was soft and perfectly tender, like a normal baby's skin"
Gillian Binchy has written these details so well, that I almost felt like I was intruding on Afric's privacy at the most heartbreaking moments of her life.  I could feel her pain and anguish as she kisses her daughter goodbye.  These chapters were the most painful to read.  I cannot, for the life of me, picture myself going through that experience without having my husband beside me, to allow him the chance to say goodbye too, and while Afric was trying to protect her husband from the inevitable pain,  I just couldn't identify with her decision to do this alone.

This is a work of fiction, based on the author's experiences and is a tug-at-your-heart read, well written, raw and intense at times but with some balancing humour injected at times.  I read it in a two hour period and am glad that I ran out to buy a copy as quickly as I did. I'm just raging that I didn't know about the book sooner as I would have liked to have met the author at its launch last month.  I hope the subject matter brings some serious talks into government meetings and that the process of having to travel for such traumatic procedures will become something of the past.  

Highly Recommended .................

Ruby's Tuesday is published by Ward River Press and is available in paperback or ebook format 

See the TV3 interview with Gillian Binchy on her blog http://gillianbinchy.net/
You can follow the author on Twitter @GillianBinchy1

Monday, 26 May 2014

"The Decline And Fall Of The Dukes Of Leinster 1872-1948" by Terence Dooley. Guest Review

Thanks to Aidan Halpin for his Guest Review of this non-fiction title.  I will also be reviewing and interviewing the author in the next few weeks ......

This book tells the story of the decline and fall of Ireland’s premier aristocratic family – the dukes of Leinster – who, for almost 300 years, lived amidst glorious splendour in their grand Palladian mansion, Carton House, Co. Kildare.
From the 1870s they were engulfed by public and private events: Land War, Home Rule, the Great War, revolution, global economic collapse, sadness and madness, the consequences of the beautiful Hermione, 5th duchess of Leinster’s extra-marital affair and a profligate 7th duke.
The story moves from the little Irish town of Maynooth to London to continental Europe and America before returning to Carton. In its epic scope it encapsulates the reasons for the decline and fall of so many Irish and British aristocratic dynasties.

Having read and immensely enjoyed Terence Dooley's Murders at Wild Goose Lodge a few years ago I was looking forward to reading this book.  His area of expertise is The Big Houses of Ireland and, in far too many cases, their ultimate demise.  This is a highly readable work of meticulous accuracy resulting from painstaking research. 
The first few chapters deal with the history of the Fitzgerald family in Irish history from their arrival on these shores in the 12th century with the Normans, Silken Thomas and Lord Edward Fitzgerald were not only aristocratic but also rebellious towards the hegemony of the English in mid 16th century and 1798 respectively.
It is when he examines the story of the Fitzgeralds with the marriage of the 5th Duke Gerald and Hermione that the decline begins and fact becomes stranger than fiction.  The Land Acts of the late 19th century were with hindsight fatal blows to the social elite.  These years saw the triumph of democracy at the cost of the aristocracy.
The ruling classes lost reliable rental income from the "hoi polloi" and tried to replace it with investment income.  In many cases this transition was attempted unsuccessfully and few were more unsuccessful than the Fitzgeralds.
By this stage the 5th Duke Gerald and Hermione had died and left behind three children under eight years of age.
The Big Houses of Ireland received three further blows of a devastating nature between 1914 and 1922 with World War 1, the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.
The 6th Duke Maurice suffered from epilepsy and was treated as a "lunatic" until his early death in 1922.  The solid and reliable Desmond died during World War 1.  Edward the 7th Duke was financially irresponsible and was declared bankrupt on numerous occasions.  He was also married four times.
Carton House was saved from Edward thanks to the intervention of Henry Mallaby-Deeley.  Mallaby-Deeley was "the fairy godmother of the estate" and may have ensured that Carton House remains standing today unlike so many other Big Houses.  Eventually even Mallaby-Deeley lost the struggle to keep Carton House as a going concern and was forced to sell.
All in all, this is a story that puts Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisted" in the shade.  Nobody could invent this human tragedy.

About the author
Terence Dooley is associate professor and director of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates, National University of Ireland, Maynooth. He is the author of several books on country houses and the land question in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Ireland. 

The Decline and Fall of the Dukes of Leinster is published by Four Courts Press and is available in paperback 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

" The Closet Of Savage Mementos " by Nuala Ní Chonchúir

This novel, and its author, have been in the press a lot over the past few weeks.  A lot of hype surrounded the author's supposed dissing of female fiction or chick-lit and how she didn't care enough about shoes or handbags to actually read it.  While some people were upset about these comments, I am sure they were meant as a statement of fact, rather than a personal attack on other female writers.  I have invited Nuala down to Bleach House Library, for a chat with my bookclub, about her current novel and was determined to read it myself with an open mind and from the approach of a book lover, not a critic of her recent comments.

Lillis escapes the grey world of grief, and the ties that bind her in 1990s Dublin,  and heads to a small village in Scotland where she takes a live-in post as a waitress in a Country Inn.  Here she shakes off the memories and looks at life from a different perspective.  She finds love and friendship with her older boss and her days are filled with good food, wine and afternoons of making love.  However, when life throws her a couple of curve balls, a return to Dublin seems the only option.  Will returning home make things better or worse?  Will she forever run from her problems or learn to face them head on?

The novel is split into two sections; each twenty years apart.  Reading the first part is like being a fly on the wall of a family with nothing in common. Verity, Lillis's mother, is a car-crash character.  A failed mother and wife as well as an alcoholic, her children end up caring for her rather than the other way around.  An artist, with the temperament to match, she is brilliantly written and her bitterness hops off the page.  Robin, Lillis's brother is fearful of his future role in supervising his mother and wants to flee Dublin for the more tolerant world of San Francisco.  Himself and Lillis both need their own space but resist complete estrangement.
The second section fast forwards to current times and the author returns to Dublin and Lillis's new life.  The past is still interwoven and we get glimpses of how Lillis has ended up where she is and how she feels about it.  An unexpected package brings the narrative to its final furlong and answers some questions for both Lillis, and the reader.

Based, in part, on the author's life, this is a story of love, loss and change.  One minute Lillis is fiesty and determined, the next she is immature and needy.  Her journey is not one we have not heard of before, but the way it is written makes you feel that it is.  Nuala Ní Chonchúir writes with great flair, attention to detail and with melodic prose.  The descriptive passages, especially the ones in Scotland, are divine.  The interaction between Lillis and her difficult mother are intense and real.  I am sure there are many daughters out there who will recognise the pain felt when a parent slices through your heart with a nasty comment or look.  Reading the character of Struan, the older lover, the reader can see how a young girl could be attracted to such a man.  He lavishes attention at times and treats her like the adult she has become.  The backdrop of the Scottish landscape would most certainly help this feeling of awe that Lillis seems to have when around him.
On her return to Dublin, Lillis is in a dark place and the author uses her language skills to describe this mood:

" I was pulled tight between forgetting and remembering.  Any sense of myself as a competent human being, with things to do and achieve, had left me.  I was a rag doll, floppy and useless.  I signed on the dole and stayed in Verity's; I slept during the day, for hours and hours, and drifted through the weeks, doing little.  I unscrewed the mirror from the dressing table in my old bedroom and put it against the wall, so I wouldn't have to face myself.  Everything seemed pointless, even absurd.  Why should I shower every day? Why should I eat proper food? Why should I care about getting a job, or socialising, or about anything at all? I woke up each morning without myself, glum with the realisation that I had to get through another day."

This novel is written by a woman, with perfect observations on love, sex and family along with some of the expectations imposed on women.  However, it should not be limited to a specific genre.  It is part contemporary fiction, literary fiction and can also be placed in the bookshops under many guises; Irish Fiction, Female Author, Bookclub Selection.  If I had to choose a table to place it on, in bookshops throughout the country, I would choose Modern Classic.  It deserves the title for the beautiful prose and touching narrative, even if it is a new release.  Well done Nuala Ní Chonchúir. You have written 190 pages of perfection!

The Closet Of Savage Mementos is published by New Island Books and is available in paperback and e-book format.


Monday, 19 May 2014

Mia interviews author Erika McGann about the award winning "The Demon Notebook"

Last week Mia and I were lucky enough to meet with the fantastic Erika McGann and have a chat about her award winning children's book The Demon Notebook.  Mia had lots of questions and was truly delighted to be able to chat with Erika about books, cakes and Ouija boards!

Debut Irish children’s author Erika McGann has been announced as the winner of this year’s Waverton Good Read Children’s Award. McGann scooped the award for her deliciously spooky debut novel,The Demon Notebook, beating seventeen other shortlisted titles for the top spot.

 More young readers will soon fall under the spell of The Demon Notebook as it has been selected as a recommended read in the fantasy/sci-fi category for this year’s ‘Read for my School’ campaign run by Booktrust.

The story continues in the sequel, The Broken Spell, which is out now and the third book in the series,The Watching Wood, will be published in Ireland and the U.K. in September. U.S. rights for both The Demon Notebook and The Broken Spell have been sold to Sourcebooks, with The Demon Notebookset for publication in the U.S. next month.

Here is a sneak peek at the wonderful USA cover of The Demon Notebook : 

Mia's review of The Demon Notebook

Grace and her four friends want to be witches, but it turns out to be harder than they thought! After a session with a Ouija Board, strange things start to happen and the girls lives are about to change.

This book is definitely in my top three reads of all time.  The story is full of mystery and magic. The five friends are in secondary school and often get picked on by the school bully, Tracy Murphy, and want to get even. Unfortunately, things get a bit out of control and the girls need to get help from a local witch, Mrs Quinlan,  to get things back to normal.  Miss Lemon, their French teacher is also called in to help and she is shocked with all the drama.  

I really like the way Erika writes and even though I am in primary school, this was a perfect read for me.  I kept turning the pages and tried to read past my bedtime!  I have already started the next book, The Broken Spell and cannot wait for the third one, The Watching Wood, due out this September. I will recommend this book to all my friends and would give it 5 out of 5 !!!

Mia's Interview with Erika McGann

1. How long did it take for you to write The Demon Notebook?

"It took me about eight or nine months, which is quiet a long time, but it was my first go at writing and I was kind of learning as I went.  It was a little bit slow and a little bit clunky and it took me kind of a while to work things out."

2. Was it fun to create Mrs. Quinlan?

" Yes, it was. I love Mrs. Quinlan. I think she is one of my favourites. I love her. I always describe her as that neighbour in your street that if your ball went over into their back garden, you don't go and get it. You know that kind of neighbour that you are kind of scared of? I loved creating her. You can kind of say whatever you want as her aswell, she's so rude to the girls, you don't have to be careful, you don't have to be polite, so I love her!"

3. How did you come up with the Non-Una character?

"The girls are all kind of based on my friends, that I was in secondary school with, which is fun because they are trying to pick themselves out of the book now! I love the fact that when Una changes, she changes so much, she becomes really polite and she essentially became like me, when I was in school, all hand up, collected the books for the teacher and I loved that thing where they knew something was wrong as she was way too nice, way too polite."

4. Is there going to be a third book about Grace and her friends?

"Yes there is, and it's out in September. I'm working on the edits right now.  It is called "The Watching Wood". I'm loving it at the moment and hoping it goes down really, really well.  It's really exciting and I can't wait for that one."

5. Did you ever use a Ooija Board?

"Yes I did. I always wondered if it was that little button that was too far? When I was doing sessions I was kind of nervous, that it was the one thing that was going to get me in trouble, but to be honest, I think it is a different time now, it's not taken so seriously.  I actually own one of the proper ones, that I got in America, the ones that you see on TV, as you just can't get them here.
I was never afraid of it. I just wanted to believe in it, I wanted to believe in ghosts and spirits. It was more fun than anything. Everybody has a story of a friend, of a friend, not someone close to them though. But I can understand some people being nervous of them."

6. Why did you choose to write children's books?

"I think because I'm not grown up enough to write adult books, I think there's too much of a kid inside me and there is real freedom in writing kids books. There's no restrictions or anything, you can kind of do what you want."

7. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

"When I was really young, I wanted to be an author. I used to read and write stories a lot. But then when I got a little bit older I wanted to be a vet, but that is hard to get into in Ireland so I found a course in England called animal behaviour and welfare and I decided I wanted to be David Attenborough! I went to college and did that degree."

8. Have you always been interested in Witchcraft and the occult?

"Yes, I think that's what drove the book really. It came from me and my friends in school. we loved the idea of witchcraft, anything supernatural, ghosts and all that kind of thing."

9. What were your favourite children's books or authors as a child?

"I think probably my favourite children's author would be Roald Dahl. I think it always will be Roald Dahl ! I loved him when I was young. The BFG was my favourite, but when I went back to read them, it's not my favourite now at all. I really like Matilda.  There weren't a lot of books like his, he was kind of nasty and grotesque and still now there's nothing quite like him. I loved the Narnia books aswell and I loved The Worst Witch."

10. Did you use the library or buy books when you were young?

"The library. It was all about the library. When I was pre-teen, me and my friend used to make a trip to the library every two weeks together. The library was a big thing when I was young. It was our access to books."

11. Tell us three things that most people don't know about you.

" I'm actually afraid of balloons. I worked briefly in a party shop and we used to do balloon arrangements and when you are working on them, some of them pop and it just made me so tense! 
I did a volunteer placement in the Bahamas and I got to work with sharks, even swimming with them!
I read a lot of YA books. Grown up, mature books, I can't handle at all. When I'm in a book shop, I ignore the adult section entirely. "

12. What is your favourite dessert?

"Anything with chocolate! I am a chocolate fiend! I think, chocolate fudge cake....."

13. What was your favourite childhood holiday?

"We went to France a lot, which I loved, as we have relatives over there.  My Mom speaks very good french and she double, double checked all the french I wrote in the book. But if I was to choose a great, really mad holiday, we used to go down to Trabolgan in Co. Cork and remember that being the awesome, awesome holiday !! We were set free and had so much fun ...."

14. What famous person, alive or dead, would you give your last Rolo to?

"I would give it to Jane Austen because, despite Mansfield Park, I absolutely adore her. I re-read her books constantly and  for the time, she was so advanced, talking about women, and she was so witty. I think she would be really, really fun."

Thanks so much to Erika for agreeing to meet us and allowing Mia to ask her all those questions!  We cannot wait for the new book in September.........

The Demon Notebook and the Broken Spell are published by The O'Brien Press and are available in all good bookshops or in e-book format.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

" Closing In " by Sue Fortin. Book Tour Review and Giveaway

Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn?

Helen has had to leave everything she’s ever known behind; her home, her family, even her own name.
Now, returning to the UK as Ellen Newman, she moves to a small coastal village, working as a nanny for Donovan, a criminal psychologist. Attractive, caring and protective, this single father and his sweet daughter are a world away from Ellen’s past. She thinks she’s escaped. She thinks she’s safe.
But something is wrong. Strange incidents begin to plague her new family, and their house of calm is about to become one of suspicion and fear. Who can be trusted? Who is the target? Who is closing in?

I am delighted to be part of Fiction Addiction's Book Tour for Sue Fortin's second novel, Closing In.  Very different to her debut novel, United States of Love, this is a fast paced page turner with plenty of twists and turns along the way.  Following the story of Helen, who is running from the past , the author brings us on a journey of new beginnings, new friendships and second chances.
Donovan is a strong character who, despite circumstances, gives Helen the stability she needs and makes her feel alive again.  The chemistry between them is great and I can certainly see why Helen would be attracted to him.

The writing is plain and simple with a nice pace, making it possible to read in one or two sittings.  It has a few subplots, with an ex-wife and one of Donovan's cases interwoven through the novel.  This adds to the suspense and intrigue.  A recommended read for fans of Dorothy Koomson and Nicci French.  Enter the rafflecopter giveaway below for your chance to win an e-copy of Closing In, an Amazon gift card and a cute tote bag....



The bag had been hidden at the back of the loft for several weeks now. Packed and ready to go. Helen checked the contents. The all-important papers were there. Deed poll, change of name. New bank account. New bank card. New passport. She ran her finger over the gold embossed coat of arms of the little red book before flicking through the green pages, pausing at the photograph. The face that had stared back at her all these years was the same; shoulder length blonde hair, hazel eyes and fair complexion but the name betrayed the picture. Helen Matthews was no more.
‘Hello, Ellen Newman.’ It was a whisper. Helen barely dared to say her new name out loud. The past twelve months had taught her caution at all times. She had been waiting for this opportunity for what seemed like forever; like a sleeper cell, her escape plan could finally be activated. Her hand shook at the thought of what lay ahead. A mixture of anticipation and fear. She took a moment to calm her breathing and bring the rush of adrenalin under control. She needed to keep a clear head and not panic. She had rehearsed this over and over again in her mind for several months. The anxiety passed, allowing the control to take its place. She closed the passport and stuffed it back into the holdall. ‘Come on, Ellen, let’s get you out of here.’

‘What do you mean, you don’t know where she is, Kate?’ He squeezed his mobile phone tightly, feeling the frustration rise but fought to keep it in check. ‘You’re her best friend. Surely she told you where she was going?’
‘Look, Toby, I honestly don’t know where she is.’
Toby didn’t miss the guarded note in Kate’s voice. She wasn’t going to tell him anything. He took a deep breath and forced a conciliatory tone. ‘I don’t even know why she took off. I got back from a weekend away clay pigeon shooting and found a note. I’m worried about her. That’s all. Please, Kate?’ Jesus, was he going to have to beg?
‘Okay,’ Kate relented. ‘If I hear from her, I’ll tell her to ring you or something.’
‘Thanks. I really appreciate it. I feel lost without her.’ Finishing the call he dropped his phone on to the sofa and picked up the note Helen had left.
Toby, by the time you read this, I will be gone. I am leaving you for good and not coming back. Things between us have become too bad. Please don’t try to find me. It’s over between us. Helen
P.S. Please remember to feed Scruffs. I’ve stocked the cupboard up with cat food so you don’t need to buy any more for at least a week.
He looked at Scruffs stretched out on the sofa next to him. Toby reached over and ran his fingers up and down the cat’s neck. He could feel all the tiny bones of its skeleton beneath the fur and skin. Scrawny little thing. Helen adored that cat and, yet, she had left it. This was all so out of character for her. Running out on him, on the cat, on their life together. It was the last thing he thought she would do. How had he not seen this coming and where in God’s name could she have gone? He was sure Kate knew. In fact, he’d stake his Square Mile bankers’ salary on it. Scooping the cat up, Toby continued to stroke the tortoiseshell fur as he walked over to the full length window. He stood looking out over the Islington skyline.
His finger and thumb massaged the back of the cat’s neck, before sliding all the way around, meeting under its chin.
‘You’re out there somewhere, Helen.’ He dropped Scruffs to the floor, ignoring the squeak of protest at the rather unceremonious dismissal. Toby pressed his forehead against the glass, the palms of his hands following suit. ‘I’m not letting you go without a fight, that’s for sure, sweetheart.’

Closing In is published by Harper Impulse on 15th may 2014 in e-book format

About the Author

Lover of cake, Dragonflies and France. Hater of calories, maths and snakes. Sue was born in Hertfordshire but had a nomadic childhood, moving often with her family, before eventually settling in West Sussex.
Sue is married with four children, all of whom patiently give her time to write but, when not behind the keyboard, she likes to spend her time with them, enjoying both the coast and the South Downs, between which they are nestled.
To find out more about Sue visit her blogs www.suefortin.wordpress.com  and www.theromaniacs.co.uk Twitter : suefortin1. Facebook : Sue Fortin Writer's Page

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Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Guest Post - Lisa Redmond interviews Hazel Gaynor about her novel " The Girl Who Came Home ".

Lisa from http://lisareadsbooks.blogspot.ie/ has kindly let me use the link to her great Q&A session with one of our favourite authors, Hazel Gaynor.  ( For my review of "The Girl Who Came Home" please scroll down under the interview. )

Hazel Gaynor Writing Process Interview

Q1  What are you currently working on?

With my debut novel, THE GIRL WHO CAME HOME, recently released, I'm currently busy with promotion, which is a really fun side of the writing process, and one I've never really experienced before. I've done lots of radio interviews with stations in the U.S. and Ireland and have been busy answering lots of great interview questions for book bloggers and the press. So much of the job of writing is spent in isolation so it's been really great to connect with readers and reviewers and come out from behind the laptop for a while! Other than that, I'm expecting final edits back any day for my second novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE FLOWERS, which will be published in early 2015. I'm also deep in the first draft of my third novel and tinkering with an idea for a screenplay.

Q2 What is about your work and your writing process that is different from other writers?

I suspect I'm very similar to most other writers in that I struggle and I suffer from self doubt and I procrastinate and I wonder how on earth I'm ever going to write another book! I consider myself to be on a wonderful learning curve and I expect (hope) to get better with each novel I write. Every book is an opportunity to stretch yourself that bit further and to learn from the experience of each novel. I'm a long way from where I want to be as a writer, and I know that I have lots more words and novels to write in order to get there, but I am relishing the process and the experience and am excited to see where my writing might go in the future. I'm probably way more disorganised than other writers. Thankfully, nobody can see my desk!

Q3 Why do you write what you do? (and why do you write?)

I write because I simply cannot not write (if that makes sense!) Even when I was at my lowest point, without an agent and with two novels that had failed to secure a publishing deal, I found myself back at the laptop or scribbling ideas in my notebook. It was the only way to lift myself out of my dreadful writing funk. I think if writing is in you there's not much you can do about it but let yourself write. I write historical fiction because I'm fascinated by the past. There are so many untold, intriguing stories of people, events and places and I really find it a wonderful basis to explore for a novel. I write fiction, rather than non-fiction, because I love the creativity. It's the possibilities and the imagined insight into what someone might have felt, thought or said in those historical settings that really interests me. I am excited by the lives of the people whose stories I want to tell in my own words - it is that which gets me out of bed at 6am.

Q4 What is the writing process like for you, what is a typical day?

There isn't really much that is 'typical' about my day. At the moment, I work during school hours (8.30am to around 1pm) and the afternoons are mainly about family and playdates and after school activities, but I can sometimes get a little work done, too. With my publisher and agent being based in New York I also find that I work at the end of the day, when the boys are in bed. It's a little chaotic and ideally it would all be far more organised, but that's not how my life is at the moment. It rarely is when young children are involved! I feel incredibly lucky to be doing a job I adore which gives me time with the children, so I have to be flexible and juggle to allow that to happen. Of course I have visions of the perfect writing space with no interruptions and a sweeping landscape to inspire me and weeks of uninterrupted creative time, but for now the attic, a sleepy cat and a messy desk is just perfect, because that's my normal.

Finally any advice that you would offer to aspiring authors?

Write what you want to write and what you are really passionate about. Don't try to force yourself to write a novel about something if that something doesn't excite you. It may have turned into a bestseller for one author, but that doesn't mean it will do the same for you. I wrote The Girl Who Came Home in 2011 and I am as excited and enthusiastic about the subject matter now as I was when I first wrote my research notes three years ago. I hope to be talking about the book and Titanic for many more years. Write the book you would want to read - and don't give up. Ever. You never know what's ahead.

Thank you so much Hazel for taking time out of your busy schedule to pop by. I had the pleasure of meeting Hazel at the launch for The Girl Who Came home and here is the girl herself (the book that is) with the rest of my haul from the bookshops of NYC

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