the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Round up of activities since publication

It was a fortnight ago that This Much Huxley Knows was released. Since then, lots has happened including a Twitter launch which involved some love authors sharing their experiences of childhood to celebrate my seven-year-old narrator, Huxley.

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You’re invited!

There’s going to be a Twitter launch party at 3pm BST on Thursday 15 July to celebrate the release of This Much Huxley Knows. Everyone is welcome, especially you!

Twitter launches are a lot of fun and provide the opportunity for readers and writers to mingle virtually and chat about books and reading. To join, all you need to do is use the hashtag #ThisMuchHuxleyKnows in your tweets to follow the conversations. It’s best if you use a social media management programme like Tweetdeck (https://tweetdeck.twitter.com) which allows you to filter tweets with searches on hashtags or specific accounts.

This is what my Tweetdeck looks like and you can see from the columns what I’m following.

If you’d like to start using Tweetdeck, Twitter provides two excellent step-by-step guides covering both the basic (here) and advanced features (here). YouTube is also a great source for user generated how-to videos about using Tweetdeck, such as here or here. (Thank you to Women Writers’ Network for the links.)

I’d love to have you join the Twitter launch for This Much Huxley Knows. It lasts for just one hour and there’ll be questions to put everyone at ease and start chatting. If you need a little more advice or encouragement, do get in touch by emailing gail@gailaldwin.com.

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Meet author Paula R C Readman

I’m delighted to introduce Paula R C Readman to readers of The Writers is a Lonely Hunter. Paula and I have been previously published in anthologies by Bridge House Publishing and have met at celebration events. As we’ve both had novels published this year, we thought it would be a good idea to share our experiences. Paula’s answers to a series of questions are posted below.

1) What type of books or genre do you write?

I would class myself as a horror writer, or at least, the darker shade of pale because of my love of Victorian ghost stories. It’s the simplicity of how the Victorians told their dark tales without relying on the use of blood, guts and gore which I love most.  I hope I’ve recreated their chilling tension in my stories too. Of course I do add a bit more bite to my tales as and when they need it, but I don’t overdo it or add it for an unnecessary shock element.    

Of course, die-hard horror fans might find my work more cosy horror/crime rather than what they are looking for, but I feel there’s a market for my kind of work. It’s just finding the right place to market my books, which has me stumped as it isn’t quite horror and not quite a crime novel. I categorise my writing as Gothic Crime.  

2) What was your inspiration behind Seeking the Dark book?

Seeking the Dark is a vampire story with a twist. When I first wrote the novel back in 2005 I had no idea how to write a book.  I had some success with writing nonfiction articles about researching my Readman family roots in Whitby, North Yorkshire

 After suffering a couple of rejections with the nonfiction, I decided to turn my hand to writing short stories. I wrote a story about a girl catching the last bus home. In the last paragraph the twist is revealed and the reader discovers that she’s a vampire. I took the short story into work and showed it to a friend I trusted. Lisa liked the story but wanted to know more about the girl. The short story then became a book. It went through many changes as I learnt the skills needed to refine my ability to write. I have sent it out to quite a few publishers over the years. Unsurprisingly, it suffered quite a few rejections, but on receiving plenty of good feedback it kept me motivated. In the end, I set it to one side and focused on writing short stories for publication as I wanted to build a writing CV of published work in hope to increase my chances of finding a publisher. It wasn’t until my third written novel was published that I decided to submit Seeking the Dark after I had finished editing it again.    

3) Give a short taster of your plotline, and introduce us to your main character. 

Investigative journalist, Jacob Eldritch, is obsessed with solving the mystery of the Dead Men Sleeping, a series of unexplained deaths, but he isn’t aware that the Dark force is gathering strength. 

One evening, he spots a man leading a white-haired beauty through the crowds at his local bar.  A few days later, he sees her again at a hotel, in the company of a different man.  A week later, both men are dead and the police add their names to the unexplained death list. 

While conducting some background research at the library, a young girl doing her homework gives Jacob an unexpected clue. This turns the mystery of the Dead Men Sleeping on its head when he discovers they’re linked to the death of a Whitby ship owner two hundred and twenty-four years ago. 

As the Dark closes in, Jacob must fight, but will he survive?  

4) How did you choose the names of your characters?

I have two books which I tend to reach for when deciding on my main characters’ names, plus I collect interesting names from the television while watching the news. 

The Dictionary of Surnames, by Mark Anthony Lower is part of a collection of nonfiction books I kept from my days spent researching my family history. The second book is a Dictionary of Fictional Characters by William Freeman. I pick and mix my character’s name though sometimes the characters tell me their names as they develop in my mind. I’m dyslectic so find it difficult to pronounce certain names. If I keep stumbling over them when reading my work aloud, I have to change it for something that flows off my tongue.     

5) Will your readers find your main character likeable or not?

Yes, I think most readers will find Jacob Eldritch likeable. He’s very much your boy next-door type of a guy, though he can be a bit self-contained as he has a failed marriage behind him because of his obsession. I hope the readers find Amanita Virosa an intriguing character, if a little scary.   

6) How did you choose the title for your book? Had you chosen the title before writing the book, or on completion?

Seeking the Dark has changed titles four times as I was concerned that the first few ideas were too religious and might put readers off. The final idea for the book title came from a comment I heard on a radio show when driving home from work. The radio guest said, “Well, it was like seeking in the dark.” I have no memory of what they were chatting about, as all I could do was just keep repeating the phrase Seeking the Dark until I got home so I could write it down.

7) How did you choose the cover picture? Did you have an idea of what you would like?

I always imagined the book cover would have a woman wearing a large brimmed hat that covered the top half of her face as I always saw Amanita as the lead character in the book. She would be holding a champagne glass, with a half-smile playing on her lips. For years, I had focused on her point of view, but while editing the book last year, I suddenly had a light bulb moment and realised that Jacob was in fact the main character.  This helped when my publisher at Darkstroke asked me to select a cover picture from a website. I first looked on Amazon at the same category as my book came under to see what the norm was. Most of the books under Vampires had bloody fangs and neck chewing. I wanted my book to stand out from the crowd as it isn’t a straightforward vampire novel.  On seeing the cover picture I chose, I felt it had both elements of my plotline and title. I hoped it would speak to the reader as the picture shows Jacob at the bottom and the ominous Dark hanging over him. 

8) If a film maker chose your book to adapt, would you be happy with a based on version film or series, or would you want them to stick as closely as possible to your original idea? What wouldn’t you be happy with .i.e. too much violence, complete change of character etc.? 

Hmm, this is a difficult question to answer because I know that a filmmaker has a limited amount of time in which to tell the story. A novel gives an author more freedom to explore different elements within their storyline. I hope I would at least recognise my characters, and they wouldn’t just focus on the sex and violent parts within my plotline.  

9) Have you started writing your next book? Is it something original or a follow on novel?

As the Crow Flies isn’t quite a follow on to The Funeral Birds as that was a novella. It will be more of a standalone which allows me to go into more background details of the main characters. Most of the readers that reviewed the book wanted to know more about the characters especially Granny Wenlock and who she was. As The Crow Flies will be a darker book with the same sense of humour between the husband and wife private detective agency team.    

10) While writing the book did you have a light bulb moment when everything came together, and what triggered it?  

As I’ve already said, for years I had focused on Amanita Virosa being the main character in the novel. Since 2005 while writing the book and re-editing over the years I had always seen it from her point of view until last year.  For eight straight months, I worked, with an online friend, Kim Martin on editing Stone Angels. In that time I learnt a great deal from her. 

Once my first published novel, Stone Angels was accepted by Darkstroke I then worked alongside the publisher on its final edits. All the skills I learnt from both Kim and Laurence, I then put into action when editing Seeking the Dark. As I was editing the novel, it became clear that Jacob had the stronger point of view. This revelation became the turning point in the novel’s life and made it far easier to edit. I feel it’s a more powerful book too.   

Thank you so much for being my guest, Paula. You’ve give some really good insights into your writing process.

Paula’s novels are well worth reading so do use the links below to buy your copy.

Purchase Links

Seeking The Dark, Stone AngelsThe Funeral Birds, Days Pass Like a Shadow

Social Media Links

Blog: https://paularcreadmanauthor.blog
Facebook: https://facebook.com/paula.readman.1
Twitter: Paula R C Readman@Darkfantasy13

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Say hello to Just One Look by Joanne Kukanza Easley

I am delighted to introduce fellow Black Rose Writing author Joanne Kukanza Easley for an interview. She is an active supporter of women writers and I was pleased to be able to return the favour with an early review of her engaging second novel Just One Look. I was so fascinated by the characters and setting in this novel, I invited Joanne for an interview. She kindly agreed. As today is the release date of Just One Look, we also have the launch to celebrate. Congratulations, Joanne!

About Just One Look

In 1965 Chicago, thirteen-year-old Dani Marek declares she’s in love, and you best believe it. This is no crush, and for six blissful years she fills her hope chest with linens, dinnerware, and dreams of an idyllic future with John. When he is killed in action in Viet Nam, Dani’s world shatters. She launches a one-woman vendetta against the men she seeks out in Rush Street’s singles bars. Her goal: break as many hearts as she can. Dani’s ill-conceived vengeance leads her to a loveless marriage that ends in tragedy. At twenty-four, she’s left a widow with a baby, a small fortune, and a ghost-make that two.

Set in the turbulent Sixties and Seventies, Just One Look explores one woman’s tumultuous journey through grief, denial, and letting go.

Q&A

Just One Look is your second novel, can you tell us about your debut, Sweet Jane?

Sweet Jane tells the story of a young woman who thinks she has overcome her past by putting it in a box. When her estranged mother dies, she returns home to confront the people and events of her past that made her the woman she is. The story unfolds in alternating chapters of past and present, that juxtapose parallel stories of struggle and growth.

The dialogue in Just One Look is so effective and includes humour. How do you create authentic voices for your characters?

I love crafting dialogue and work at hard at nuances of word choice to make my characters distinct. Listening to how people talk is important. I also have a clear mental image of my characters and know their backstory—because I wrote it.

You capture young love effectively. Which books do you admire that also have a yearning love at their centre?

The two classics that come to mind are Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. But I rely on my own experience and memories when I write about love.

Paige, Dani’s younger sister, is a great character and always a foil for Dani’s romantic relationships. Was this always your intention?

Yes, I wanted the contrast between the characters. Not only do the sisters not look alike, they have very different personalities. Dani is jealous of Paige as a teen but grows to appreciate her.

I love the product placement in your novel, for example, the different colognes that you name. How do you choose these items?

I chose them by the era. When I was a teen, the boys drenched themselves in Jade East. And I drenched myself in Yardley’s Oh! De London. 

Just One Look is set in the Chicago neighbourhood where you grew up. How important is the setting to your writing?

Just One Look pays homage to the place I grew up and helped form my character. (I’ve assured my childhood friends this a work of fiction.) In each book, the setting is an integral part of the story, almost like a character. 

John’s family heritage is from Hungary shown through the food and traditions. How did you research this?

Researching on the internet is my main method; although, as a child, I had a neighbor who baked Hungarian pastries.

With your second novel now published, what are your future writing plans?

I am working on my third novel I’ll Be Seeing You. It’s the story of Lauren Eaton, Sweet Jane’s AA sponsor, who was always secretive about her past. Jane appears in the novel too. The story spans the years from 1940-1986, requires a lot of research, and takes the reader from a Texas cattle ranch to Manhattan, then back to Texas.

About Joanne Kukanza Easley

Joanne Kukanza Easley’s multi-award-winning debut novel, Sweet Jane, was released in March 2020. The novel was named the winner in adult fiction in the 2020 Texas Author project. A retired registered nurse with experience in both the cold, clinical operating room, and the emotionally fraught world of psychiatric hospitals, she lives and writes on a small ranch in the Texas Hill Country. Just One Look, her second novel, will be released on June 24, 2021. Her current project I’ll Be Seeing You features characters from Sweet Jane.

Gail’s review of Just One Look

Set against the backdrop of war in Vietnam, teenage Dani falls in love with John, a new boy from Tennessee. His Hungarian family settle into multicultural Chicago, the city where Just One Look is set. Dani’s commitment to her first love contrasts with the turbulent love life of Paige, her younger sister and the marriage break up of her parents. The narrative is punctuated by national and world events, including conscription. John joins the 101st Airborne but never returns leaving Dani to steel herself for a future without him. Bereft, this young woman navigates family responsibilities, educational and employment challenges, unexpected events and much more to come out the other side ready for a proper new relationship. This character-driven novel is filled with wonderful period, cultural and culinary details that enliven the story. Read this book and experience the tumultuous emotions of a young woman. 

Purchase links for Just One Look

Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, Amazon UK

Find Joanne on social media

Website, Facebook, Twitter

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Approaching publication day

It’s an anxious time waiting for the launch of a new novel. Fortunately, I’ve received lots of wonderful early reviews for This Much Huxley Knows on Goodreads. If you’ve offered one, let me say here and now how terribly grateful I am. Getting positive feedback is a brilliant way to calm the nerves. I’ve also been distracted by housework and went back to one of my old favourites – cleaning the oven – such a satisfying job!

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One month until lift-off

My second contemporary novel for adults This Much Huxley Knows will be released by Black Rose Writing on Thursday 8 July 2021. It’s an absolute delight that this uplifting and humorous book will be available in print and on Kindle. There are so many people to thank for bringing This Much Huxley Knows into the world, so if you fancy reading a copy, do check out the acknowledgements. Of course, if you can’t wait until launch day it’s possible to request an electronic copy from Netgalley.

Later this month, the blog tour begins. I am so impressed with the voluntary workforce of bloggers who do so much to promote books and reading. Here’s the poster:

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A few delights from Edinburgh

We’ve been in Edinburgh for three weeks and are coming to love the city more and more. Previously, we’ve been here during the Edinburgh Book Festival and the Fringe in August, so spending spring in the city is a new experience. Edinburgh seems such a chilled place outside the summer rush. And the real pleasure has been discovering the walkways and paths that crisscross the city. Here are a few of our adventures.

On my sixtieth birthday, we walked to the summit of Arthur’s Seat. (This is the main peak from an ancient volcano that overlooks the city.) It’s very craggy at the top and I had to scamper up like a mountain goat. The views are spectacular. When we were walking down the other side, we met an elderly woman carrying a shopping bag who was on her way up. We stepped aside to let her pass and my husband told her she was nearly at the top. She replied, ‘Och, I know that. I’m taking a short cut home from my Tai Chi class.’ If I’m that fit at her age, I’ll be very happy.

We are renting a flat in Stockbridge which is a few minutes from the walkway of the Water of Leith. From there we can stroll to the sea or go further around the city. The paths are like nature reserves although recently there’s been a distinct pong from the wild garlic. (The figure in the water is by Anthony Gormley.)

Today we walked along the Edinburgh and Glasgow Union Canal then took a turning back to Stockbridge along the Water of Leith.

Who knows what walking joys await us next week.

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Grab a bargain!

You can now pre-order a kindle or paperback copy of This Much Huxley Knows from AmazonUK, AmazonUS, Barnes and Noble or if you want to grab a bargain, order it through the Book Depository with a 10% discount and free postage worldwide.

Lovely reviews continue to be posted on Goodreads about This Much Huxley Knows. Do pop over and take a read – I’m really chuffed with the response to this novel. This Much Huxley Knows will be released on 8 July and I’m planning some social media activity to celebrate the launch.

Meanwhile, I’m continuing to write across genres and I recently had word that a poem I’d written during a workshop offered by Tolu Agbelusi will feature in the first Quay Words anthology to be published by Literature Works.

Onwards and upwards!

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Approaching publication

My second contemporary novel for adults This Much Huxley Knows will be released on 8 July 2021. In preparation for the launch, advance reader copies have been sent to fellow authors and I’ve received some lovely early reviews posted on Goodreads.

One of my favourite reviews is from fellow Black Rose Writing author Sasha Lauren:

This book surprised me. It’s an innovative, delightful, and insightful story told in first person by a child. The narrator, Huxley, is an innocent, playful, provocative seven-year-old, an “only lonely,” (no siblings), who is achingly searching for a true friend and pushing those around him to be caring and reasonable. What is so extraordinary is that Gail Aldwin beautifully transports the reader inside Huxley’s head and heart. 

Huxley is a busy guy: he avoids football but longs for his turn on the monkey bars, covets the relationship his best mate Ben has with his wee sister, Juno, (which is both adorable and sightly heartbreaking), and strikes up a sweet friendship with Leonard, an old man in a scooter. All the while, he keeps himself amused, (and captivates or annoys others), with his whimsical words-within-words. 

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Introducing Barbara Conrey

I love writing a blog because I’m never quite sure who my posts will reach. Earlier this year Barbara Conrey got in touch and introduced me to her debut novel Nowhere Near Goodbye. It’s a well-paced, intense and thought-provoking novel which has received many superb reviews. I’d like to welcome Barbara to The Writer is a Lonely Hunter to discuss her book. 

About the author

Barbara Conrey is the USA Today Bestselling author of NOWHERE NEAR GOODBYE, published on August 4th, 2020, by Red Adept Publishing. 

NOWHERE NEAR GOODBYE is Barbara Conrey’s debut novel.

Previously, Barbara worked in the health care industry before opting for an early retirement, which lasted all of three months. She then accepted a finance position, for which she had absolutely no background, and four years later, she decided to write a book. But not about finance.

Travel is her passion, along with reading, writing, hiking, and exploring antique shops. Her greatest love is Miss Molly, her rescue beagle. There are stories to be told about beagles, and Barbara hopes to incorporate some of them into her books.

Barbara lives in Pennsylvania, close to family and friends.

About Nowhere Near Goodbye

A mother’s love vs. a doctor’s oath.

Oncologist Emma Blake has dedicated her life to finding a cure for a rare brain cancer. Twenty-five years ago, Emma’s childhood friend Kate died of glioblastoma, and Emma vowed to annihilate the deadly disease. Now, Kate’s father, Ned, is pushing her to work harder to fulfill that promise.

When Emma discovers she’s pregnant, she’s torn between the needs of her family and the demands of her work. While Ned pressures her to do the unthinkable, her husband, Tim, decorates the nursery. Unwilling to abandon her research, Emma attempts to keep both sides of her life in balance.

Emma knows she needs to reconcile her past with her present and walk the fine line between mother and physician. But Ned has a secret, and when Emma discovers what he’s been hiding, the foundation of her world cracks.

Nowhere Near Goodbye is a story of family, failure, and second chances.

Q&A

Nowhere Near Goodbye is a great title. Were there others in contention? Why did you settle upon this title?

I also love this title (Nowhere Near Goodbye)! My first title was Remembering Kate because the story was originally about the child who died of Glioblastoma, not the doctor who researched the disease and discovered a procedure that would remove the tumor in its entirety without destroying healthy brain tissue.

Nowhere Near Goodbye was really organic: Emma, the pediatric oncologist who discovered the cure, was (first) Kate’s childhood friend. She was nowhere near ready to say goodbye to Kate when Kate died.

The novel has a gorgeous cover. Can you share the thinking behind this design?

I had seen a book cover that portrayed a window, and I loved it for its simplicity. When I explained to the designer who created the cover what I wanted, I ended up describing one of the most poignant scenes in the book. The only surprise was the African violet that sits on the windowsill. That was the designer’s addition. Unbeknownst to him, African violets were part of the table settings in my daughter’s garden wedding reception and have always been a favorite house plant of mine.

There seems to be an absence of grieving in the novel for the early death of Kate. Does this happen off stage or could it account for the ways some of the characters behave?

The absence of grieving was purposeful because the story was not about Kate. Still, Kate was never forgotten, and it was her death that caused so much good to happen: Emma’s determination to become an oncologist and find a cure for Glioblastoma. 

Mother-daughter relationships are put under the microscope in Nowhere Near Goodbye. Was this always your intention?

Yes! I want to put these relationships under the microscope to study what makes us (as both mothers and daughters) do the things we do. Love the way we do. 

I find the subject fascinating, maybe because of my relationship with my own mother, where I never realized she understood me until she was dying, and maybe because of my relationships with my own daughters. Writers can mine a wealth of stories just from studying mothers and daughters and the love/hate emotions they inspire. 

In reading work by the feminist theorist Judith Keegan Gardiner, she proposes that for women writers the hero is her author’s daughter. What is your relationship to the characters you have created? 

I’m part of all of my characters. I’m torn between what I should do and what I want to do, like Emma. I’m irreverent, like Kate. I’m driven, like Ned. I’m feisty, like Miss Maggie.

What’s next for you, Barbara? 

Next is Miss Maggie’s story. I fell in love with her in Nowhere Near Goodbye. She entered the story as a sixty-year-old woman who has her own demons to fight, but she always had Emma’s back – even when Emma thought she was against her, Miss Maggie was only trying to show Emma the difference between what she wanted and what she thought she wanted.

Gail’s review of Nowhere Near Goodbye

A remarkable novel of ambition, heartbreak and redemption, Nowhere Near Goodbye follows the journey of Emma who is inspired to find a cure for a rare cancer that killed her childhood friend. Emma is a driven woman who prioritises research commitments over relationships in order to make amends for the misplaced guilt she shoulders over Kate’s early death. Are her sacrifices worthwhile? Only if the promise of a fresh start comes to fruition. A thoroughly absorbing read.  

Purchase Links for Nowhere Near Goodbye

Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Bookshop.org

Find out more about Barbara through her social media links:

www.facebook.com/baconreywriter

www.Twitter.com/barbaraconrey

www.Instagram.com/barbara

Barbara Conrey Books – BookBub

Website

www.barbaraconreyauthor.com

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