the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Having a blast at the Mani Lit Fest

Over the weekend, I was delighted to present a workshop and talk at the Mani Lit Fest in the Peloponnese, Greece. The invitation came as a good excuse to continue our itinerant lifestyle and we’re spending the next month roaming around the country. Stoupa makes a delightful starting point and the Mani Lit Fest was a wonderful event to be involved with. I delivered a Get Creative! workshop where I shared prompts and exercises to generate ideas for short fiction. One of the participants had read This Much Huxley Knows and throughly recommended my novel to the gathered group. The following day, I gave a talk about my experience of being published by small presses. This was well received and an email arrived soon after from a member of the audience who said my input was thought provoking and reassuring.

There was a real buzz around the Lit Fest. The highlights for me included a talk from James Heneage (founder of the Chalke Valley History Festival and Ottakar’s bookshop chain) who shared stories from his new book The Shortest History of Greece. Carol McGrath gave a hilarious presentation on Sex and Sexuality in Tudor England (the name of her forthcoming non-fiction book) and then there was a delicious introduction to the cookbook Salt and Honey from Nicholas Tsakiris and his daughter. (David followed a chilli lentil recipe last night which was very tasty.)

The Lit Fest was held at a local restaurant where the venue created a cocktail in honour of Huxley. A non-alcoholic drink (Huxley is only seven years old) can you guess what it contains?

There was also delicious cake (enough for two) called Ekmek Kataifi. It’s made with a layer of syrupy shredded filo pastry, another of vanilla custard, a layer of whipped cream and topped with pistachios. It goes very well with Greek coffee although I think it’s also good with tea.

If you’d like to enter the Mani Lit Fest Flash Fiction Competition (I’m the judge), send up to 1000 words on the theme of return. The competition is free to enter and is open until 30 November 2021.

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Newsflash: competition longlist

For those of you who aren’t active on social media, I’d like to share the news that my work-in-progess has been longlisted in the Novel London Literary Award. This competition invites international submissions for complete works of fiction, which may be unpublished, self published or newly published. As my manuscript is up against published novels I don’t expect it will get any further in the competition but it’s good to see my details on the publicity poster. Well done to all longlistees.

I’m continuing to work on the manuscript following feedback from beta readers. I’ve also changed the title from Little Swot to Extra Lessons which better reflects the novel. Here’s the draft blurb:

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Acts of kindness on Twitter

If you’re active on Twitter, you’ve probably seen tweets about This Much Huxley Knows bounding around your screen. I’ve been fortunate to have the support of many book bloggers who generously tweet about my recently published novel. And there are others on Twitter who retweet about reviews and posts and yet more who share details. Whenever this happens, I like to find out more about the kind person who is helping to spread the word about Huxley. Often I follow them and sometimes I make contact. This is what happened when I came across a tweet from author Stevie Turner. She has such a interesting website with information about her books, her awards and certificates and much more. There are also pages offering support to other authors including interviews. When I read some of the fascinating conversations with a whole range of creative people, I wanted to be amongst their ranks. And following my moto, there’s no harm in asking, I sent an email request. Stevie was very gracious in her reply. She thought up a list of twenty questions which I answered and Q&A now appears on her website. It’s such a boon to have the support of another writer.

Now that the interview is live, can I encourage you to pop over for a read? And while you’re there, do have a look around Stevie’s website to find out more about this generous, multi-genre author and blogger. Here’s the link.

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Two months in Cambridge

We’ve had a wonderful time staying with an old friend in central Cambridge. Although we’re here for another fortnight, I wanted to share are the highlights so far:

Cambridge Shakespeare Festival

Open air theatre is a particular delight and when plays are staged in Cambridge college gardens, there can be few better venues. Over a six week period we’ve seen plays that I know and love including Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, A Comedy of Errors and two plays which were new to me, Richard III and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Richard III wins the prize for the most gruesome and A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a sheer joy.

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Call it Huxley in a Comedy of Manners

Novels by three women writers are showcased on John Nixon’s blog. Besides sharing space on his bedside table, what do books by Nancy Mitford, Marianeh Bakhtiari and me have in common? Click on the link to find out.

 

Source: Call it Huxley in a Comedy of Manners

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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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