Monday 22 August 2016

Guest Interview With Sam Carrington
Today, I’m delighted to be chatting to my on-line friend and author, Sam Carrington. Sam’s debut novel, Saving Sophie', was published by Avon Books, a division of Harper Collins Publishers on Friday 12th August and I’m very pleased to welcome her onto the blog to talk about the book.

Welcome, Sam. We haven’t met in person but I feel I ‘know’ you from your support on Twitter, Facebook and, of course, this blog. I’ve followed your writing journey with interest and now it’s happened. Your debut novel is out there - huge congratulations! Perhaps you’d like to introduce yourself and tell us a little about your writing.

Hello, Jan – thanks for having me on your blog!
I was pretty late to the writing game really – I was 38 when I began writing short stories, and I had some success with a few of them being published in women’s magazines and anthologies. But it was always novels that I really wanted to write, so at the end of 2013 I’d made up my mind to start! I began my first novel (which is now ‘in a drawer’ as they say) in January 2014. By the end of that year, I was thinking about the next. The early version of this second novel was long listed in the 2015 CWA Debut Dagger award, and became 'Saving Sophie'.

Can you tell us what inspired you to write ‘Saving Sophie’?
Well, I had various ideas before settling on the topic and main themes for 'Saving Sophie' - having worked in a prison I’m not short of those, but everything was in note-form. Then inspiration came unexpectedly, from a source close to home! A particular ‘incident’ left me with many ‘what if?’ questions, and so I used these to form the basis of 'Saving Sophie’s plot. I believe, as a parent, some fears are universal and I wanted to explore the mother-daughter relationship when it’s put under pressure, as well as think about how teenagers can often hide an awful lot from their parents!

Before I read a word of the book, the cover drew me in. The image of a solitary girl behind the mesh of metal fencing set my mind racing with so many possibilities about her situation. How much say did you have in the cover design?
I was sent a few mock-ups of the cover by the publisher and asked my thoughts. It’s a very strange feeling to see how your story, the themes and characters are translated into pictures or art work. I was thrilled with the cover, although I had one reservation. This was discussed, and the picture tweaked. So I was involved a bit, which was lovely, and unexpected actually – I hadn’t thought I would have any say in the finished cover. I loved the colours – which again underwent a few changes – and I think the overall look they’ve gone with is very striking. The e-book and paperback editions are slightly different – the font colour for e-book is a bright pink, whereas the font on the paperback will be a hot coral pantone. I’m very excited to see how that looks.

‘Saving Sophie’ is both disturbing and gripping, staying with me long after I’d finished reading it. 
That’s lovely to hear, Jan! What more could an author ask for?

When the story opens with a murder and later when a body is found, did you know then how each of the characters would react or were they developed as you got further into the writing of the novel?
I had vague ideas of how I thought each character would respond to the devastation that unfolded. But, having said that, as I was writing – and particularly with the emotional scenes – I did kind of ‘go with the flow’ a number of times. I’m hoping that the reactions, the character’s inner turmoil and their interactions with each other, therefore, come across more naturally.

The reason I ask that is that you seem to get right inside the heads of your characters, especially Karen and her daughter, Sophie. How has your study of psychology and your work in prison enabled you to explore their inner thoughts and emotions?
Firstly, as a mum, I think that the worries, fears and reactions Karen experienced were easier to bring to life – after all, I share many of those fears! But I believe that through my work, firstly as a nurse, then as an offending behaviour programme facilitator in the prison, I have come across many emotional and challenging situations and I have been privy to a lot of people’s most vulnerable moments. So I have a wide range of experience dealing with the fallout of illness, death, crime and of managing the many emotions which surround these. All of this, I believe, supports my writing.

Because it’s a crime novel, the role of the police, DI Lindsay Wade and DS Mack, is there throughout the book, obviously, but it seems to be secondary to the relationship of Karen and Sophie who are the first to solve the crime. Is there a reason for this?
I didn’t ever want 'Saving Sophie' to be a police procedural novel, so the decision that they should take a back-seat was there from the outset. I felt it was important to have this ordinary-seeming family central to the story and have the police there as support characters, rather than main ones. I do use DI Lindsay Wade as one of the main viewpoints; she has some of her own chapters, but again, this is really to give a taste of who she is as the police investigation obviously plays an integral role in the overall story. The most important relationship I wanted to get across was the mother-daughter one.

I believe you’re writing a second novel, Sam. Can you tell us what it’s about? How much planning has it involved so far?
The next novel introduces forensic psychologist, Connie Summers. There is more from DI Wade and DS Mack in this novel, although again, the focus is more on Connie and her client, Steph, who is under the protected persons scheme. Old family secrets, guilt and revenge are the key themes in this novel. Ultimately, though, it’s about how one action or behaviour can have far reaching implications for others – like the butterfly effect, and about seeking justice for those who’ve been wronged.

Although I have a clear vision, detailed plans and have been working ‘behind-the-scenes’ on character biographies and sub-plots for some months, the actual writing of book two has slowed. The publishing of 'Saving Sophie' came much sooner than I’d anticipated, so it rather took a back seat! I’m looking forward to getting back into writing though, and am hoping to hit the deadline…!

Finally, what is the biggest compliment you could have for writing ‘Saving Sophie’?
The best compliment would be hearing that someone has read and enjoyed the novel and taken something away from it. And hopefully that it will be remembered!

Thank you so much for taking the time out to chat to me, Sam. I wish you loads of good luck with your book, both as an e-book and again when it’s published as a paperback in December. 

‘Saving Sophie’ is published by Avon/Harper Collins Publishers 

Here are the links to buying the book and finding out more about Sam:



Sam Carrington Writer Facebook page: //

Rating: 5*
This novel had me gripped from the moment I read the disturbing prologue through to the shocking conclusion. I couldn’t put it down and kept thinking about it long after I’d finished it. A teenage girl arrives home drunk and is unable to remember anything about the evening out she’s just had with friends. We soon learn that another girl has gone missing and from then on, the twists and turns of the story make it compelling reading. Sam has a wonderful knack of delving deep into the psyche of the main characters and the relationship between Karen Finch, who has agoraphobia, and her daughter, Sophie, is particularly well done. By telling the story from both their viewpoints, more relationships and subplots are explored to keep the reader turning the pages to find out their secrets. The use of social media plays an integral part in the novel and its possibilities for both good and, most definitely, for evil are played out to perfection. ‘Saving Sophie’ is fast paced, well written with an excellent twist at the end and I can’t recommend it highly enough. An exciting debut!

Thank you for reading my interview with Sam. I couldn't put 'Saving Sophie' down. What makes you keep turning the pages? 

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

*** There will be no blog posts from me for a few weeks as I leave for two weeks in Crete next weekend. I'm trying to tell myself it's research for my next novel which is set in Greece. ;-)

Sunday 21 August 2016

 And The Winner Is...
A big thank you to all who read my interview with Honno author, Thorne Moore, last week especially those who left a comment.The draw ended at midnight last night. 

Names were written on post-its, the papers folded and placed in a hat. I am delighted to announce that the name pulled out, and therefore the winner, is Susanna Bavin. Congratulations, Sue.

All that needs to be done now is for Sue to send me her contact details to forward to Honno who has very kindly donated the give-away.  A copy of The Unravelling will be on its way to Sue before very long! 

I hope you will enjoy reading your prize, Sue. :-)

Saturday 13 August 2016

Guest Interview With Thorne Moore
Today, I’m thrilled to be chatting to author, Thorne Moore. Those of you who read my blog will know I'm a big fan of Thorne's previous books and I was eagerly awaiting her third novel. ‘The Unravelling’ was published by Honno on Thursday 21st July and I’m so pleased she has agreed to appear on my blog.

Thorne, welcome.
Thank you for asking me, Jan. It’s a pleasure.

 Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your writing.
Well, I grew up in Luton, which I have milked remorselessly for settings for my books, and after studying history at Aberystwyth university, I worked in Luton library for a while. Then I moved to Pembrokeshire, where I ran a restaurant with my sister. Pembrokeshire provides another setting for my books. I’ve run a business for years making miniature furniture (hand carved Tudor furniture for dollshouses), but now, more and more, I am concentrating on writing, which is all I ever really wanted to do.

Can you tell us what inspired you to write ‘The Unravelling’?
Mostly it was the setting – the estate in Luton where I grew up. Which sounds a bit absurd,
being inspired by a very ordinary council estate, but when you are young, the place you live can have all sorts of undertones that lurk in your subconscious, even a very ordinary council estate. I was remembering my walks to and from school, with the myths we children concocted, like killer leeches in the culverts, or witch’s cottages that we had to run past. Once I started remembering, and overlaying it all with an adult’s view of things, I began to imagine all the dark things that might have happened, even though they didn’t – apart from the setting, it’s all fiction, honest.

You’ve dedicated the book to the lovely, Janet Thomas. Perhaps you’d like to share with us the role Janet played in your writing of the book.
It was a book that had been in my mind for years. I’ve lost count of the number of times I started it, because I knew I really wanted to write it. But for some reason I always put it on a back burner  and moved on to something else. After the publication of my second book, Motherlove, I had lunch with my then editor, Janet, who asked me what I was working on, now. I had various ideas that I ran past her, and then I mentioned the plot of The Unravelling. It unravelled itself so completely on a plate in front of us that she said ‘write it.’ Since I trusted her judgement implicitly, I couldn’t argue, so I went home and wrote it. Without her, I’d probably still be nursing the idea as the book I was always going to write, one day.

I'm so pleased Janet said 'write it!' because I have to tell you straightaway that I loved ‘The Unravelling’ and couldn’t put it down.
Thank you! That’s the best compliment there is for any writer. You know we are all on agonising tenterhooks when we put our new babies out for inspection.

You seem to get right inside the heads of your characters, especially Karen. You explore a whole range of human emotions through them. Can you say which came first, the characters or the story you wanted to tell?
I think it was a chicken and egg situation. It’s been in my head for so long that the characters and the story have always been fused. What fascinates me most, in the realm of crime dramas, is the idea of long-term consequences that aren’t neatly tidied away when the clever detective has revealed all in the drawing room. I wanted a story revolving around a lot of characters who have all been damaged by a single long-ago event. I am a bit alarmed, though, by the ease with which I got inside Karen, who really has major problems. I’m not sure what it says about me.

The setting of Lyford and the sense of place is very real in this latest book.  I felt I was there every time Karen returned to it. In ‘Motherlove’, the babies are born in Lyford hospital. Is Lyford based on a real place?
Lyford is Luton. And then again, it isn’t. I grew up in Luton, so I knew it very well, but I left it in 1983. Lyford is a fictional rearrangement of all my images of Luton as I used to know it, like a pack of cards thrown up in the air and reshuffled. I don’t suppose my Lyford bears all that much resemblance to Luton as it has developed since the 1980s. Then again, it might. I do also describe the rural downland around Luton, and I don’t think that’s changed much at all.

The theme of memory is so well explored and the fact that bad memories can be suppressed and hidden so deeply makes me wonder how much research into the psychology of the human mind you had to do before writing the novel?
I should have, shouldn’t I? But I didn’t do any research at all for this book. I know that memories, often very insignificant ones, can be triggered by all manner of things – a smell, a taste, a trick of the light. I just ransacked my own memories and applied my own imagination. Karen has ‘problems’ but while I let her list various labels that might be applied to her, I resist giving a clinical diagnosis. I think we can all look inside ourselves and imagine what sort of mental trickery we might employ to shield ourselves from things we can’t cope with. Or am I exceptionally mad?

More of a case of having a wonderful imagination, I suspect.
The title ‘The Unravelling’ is just perfect for the story.  Was that something you came up with from the beginning or was it a title that evolved as you were writing the book?
It sprang on me at the end. I’d called it, vaguely, “Looking for Serena” until it was finished and I actually had to start thinking about a title. Then it occurred to me that Karen refers to her own unravelling, and that’s what happens on several levels in the story.

How much planning did you do for ‘The Unravelling’?
Two answers to that. A) thirty years of taking a run at it and then stopping. B) none at all. When Janet persuaded me to get on with it, I just sat down and it flowed, as if it had been there all the time. If only all books did that.

Well, it certainly paid off this time!
On a more general note, do you have a particular writing routine?
I wake up and write. 6-7 o’clock. That’s when my brain works. I only write after mid-day if I’m seriously on the last leg of a book and can’t stop. I do do a lot of composing in my head when I take a walk after dinner. All sorts of problems resolve themselves then. I sleep on them, and everything falls into place in the morning – mostly.

Where do you write?
In bed! I just reach for my laptop, switch it on and get writing. Why waste precious writing time getting dressed?

For me, all three of your novels have been real page-turners and they gather in momentum as the stories unfold. Can we expect your next book be a psychological thriller, too?
Thorne's other novels
I certainly hope so. I have another book with my agent at the moment, which is another psychological mystery, but this time with a slight supernatural twist – not a ghost story, but I am interested in how someone would really cope with paranormal feelings that other people don’t share. Would they cope at all? I don’t think it would be something that could possibly make life easy or comfortable. It’s another book set in the wilds of Pembrokeshire.

I can't wait!
How did you celebrate the launch of ‘The Unravelling’?
By swearing loudly at BT because my broadband wasn’t working. But then, with a family get-together, a gorgeous plate of spaghetti al nero di seppia with smoked salmon, and a glass of champagne. Yummie.

Thorne on publication day

That sounds lovely! :-) Thank you so much, Thorne, for taking time out to chat to me. I wish you good luck with your latest book.
 Thank you for inviting me. It was great to talk and I am so glad you enjoyed the book.

‘The Unravelling’ is published by Honno Press

Links to the book on Amazon:

To find out more about Thorne, here are some links:

Twitter: @ThorneMoore

Rating: 5*
This is a dark, disturbing tale that kept me gripped until the end. I couldn’t put it down and read it over a few days. The title is just perfect as the reader is presented with an unravelling of what has made the main character, Karen, so emotionally damaged. The contrast between her thoughts as an adult and her thinking as a child is well executed. We are able to move seamlessly from one to the other as Karen’s memories are slowly unlocked. All the characters are credible and very well drawn, displaying deep emotions of how they are all damaged in different ways by what happened thirty-five years before. The novel reaches a satisfying conclusion and justice is done, as far as it can be. I was still thinking about the issues raised in the novel long after finishing it and for me, that is the sign of an excellent read. I cannot recommend The Unravelling’ highly enough.

Thank you for reading my blog and I hope you enjoyed finding out about Thorne and her novels. Why not visit her website to find out more? 

Honno Press has kindly allowed me to offer a give-away of 'The Unravelling'. If you leave a comment about why you would like to win the book on the blog by midnight on Saturday 20th August, your name will be entered into a draw. Good luck everyone!

You may follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer             Facebook page.

Sunday 7 August 2016

Tenby Book Fair 
24th September 2016 - Why not mark it in your diaries now? Apart from the town being an absolutely stunning place to visit, the fair holds an important place in the calendar for readers and writers alike. It is held in the centre of Tenby in St Mary's Church House. My first visit was last year and found it was a wonderful opportunity to meet the authors and browse their books. There was a real buzz about the whole day.

This year looks as if it's going to be even better and bigger and I've been following the Tenby Book Fair Facebook Page with interest. It will be a showcase of Welsh talent of authors from a wide range of genres - children's, romance, science fiction, crime, historical, thrillers, sagas, magical, poetry, short-stories, biographies and non-fiction. Phew! It's a very impressive line-up and you may read more about the authors HERE.  For more in-depth interviews with writer friend, Judith Barrow, you may find them here on her excellent BLOG.

As well as authors, Welsh publishers will be present and offering talks about their work and advice about submissions. 
Here is the list of talks that will be going on throughout the day:

Some talks, readings, Q&A sessions will be held in an adjoining room at the fair. Numbers will be limited, so it is advisable to reserve a place in advance. There is no charge.
  1. 11:00    Cambria Publishing Co-operative will be giving a talk and taking questions about the services and assistance they offer to independent authors.
  2. 11:30    Poet Kathy Miles will be giving a reading of some of her work.
  3. 12:00    Firefly Press will be talking about publishing children’s books and what they look for in submissions.
  4. 12:30    Prizes for the short story competitions will be presented in the main hall – no booking necessary.
  5. 1:30      Colin Parsonschildren’s writer, talks about his popular work
  6. 2:00      Honno Welsh Women’s Press will be talking about their work, publishing contemporary novelists, anthologies and classics, and discussing what they look for in submissions.
  7. 2:30      Matt Johnson, thriller writer and ex-policeman, talks about his work and experiences.
  8. 2:55      Main hall (no booking required): raffle prizes.
There are also three writing COMPETITIONS this year:
  1. Children - For entrants aged 7 - 12, an essay (one page) entitled: "My Favourite Character".

  2. Young Adult Flash Fiction - For entrants aged 12 - 18, a 100 word "Creepy Tale".

  3. Adult Short Story - For entrants 18 and over: a short story, "The Bag Lady."

The closing date is Saturday 13th August so you haven't got long! Good luck. 

An event such as this would not be possible without a lot of hard work and effort. I thought you may like to see the three organisers who are responsible for getting the show on the road:
Alex Martin           Judith Barrow      Thorne Moore
They are all very successful writers and you can find more about their books on their websites: AlexJudith, Thorne

If you can visit Tenby on the 24th September, I know you won't be disappointed. Hope to see you there! :-)

What literary event have you attended and would recommend? I'd love to hear from you. :-)

Thank you for reading. You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Monday 1 August 2016

Distinctive Voices
Things have been a bit quiet on here lately but I've reached a plateau. I don't want to make this a negative post so I'm going to appeal for your help! After arriving back from the RNA conference on a high, I set about re-editing my novel based on the critique I had received from the NWS and the 1-to-1 sessions with publishers and editors. I'd decided I'd put aside the month of August to re-edit the novel with the view to submitting it in early September.

The first thing I did was to go through the report again in detail and reflect on which points I agreed with. Whoever my reader was, I can't thank her enough for time taken to produce such a full and analytical critique. There are many positives in it; these points are spurring me on to think it's a story worth persevering with and trying to get the manuscript much better before submitting it. Most comments were easy to address and were quite specific - for example, an overuse of the word 'looked' or 'looking' on one page or a certain paragraph that was pronoun heavy in a particular chapter. However, one other observation is causing me more trouble:
'I think that the voices of Clara and Rose are very similar. The tone of their thinking and the way they act did not differ much......Could you make them stand apart in some way so that they are differentiated in the reader's mind yet still reflect the bond between them?'
I can see what my reader means and trying to make the two voices distinct from each other has been my main focus over the last week. When I wrote the first draft, I tried to make sure that Clara would use some sayings or slang from the '60s whereas Rose spoke more formally in 1947 but I need to take it further. For example, I've looked at whether Rose would address her father as 'Father', especially as he was a disciplinarian, whereas Clara calls him 'Dad.' I need to look at the way the two characters act and react and make sure they are unique in their own ways. 

Here are some other ways I've been considering: 
  • giving the characters a verbal habit or saying unique to them, saying 'umm', 'err'
  • varying the lengths of the characters' sentences - maybe, short, sharp stilted sentences to reflect one character
  • mannerisms such as fiddling with her hair, twirling it around her finger when she's concentrating
  • contrasting reactions to unpleasant news - for example, one could be a sulker/one a ranter
  • differing inner thoughts - does one keep thoughts to herself, and one more open and says what she thinks?
  • character traits unique to each one
Perhaps you help me here.  How do you make each of your characters unique and distinct from each other? All suggestions gratefully received! Thank you. :-)

Writing friend, Catherine Burrows, has recommended this book. It's very readable and details may be found HERE. Once I've got my protagonists' voices right, this is how I shall be spending my writing time during August. :-)

Thank you for reading. How will you be spending August? 

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.