the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Blog tour – the results!

You may remember around three weeks ago, I wrote a post about the blog tour I’d organised to promote This Much Huxley Knows. (You can read it here.) Last week, everything went according to plan and book bloggers who had signed up, posted a review or excerpt on the agreed day. It wasn’t without last minute hitches, one blogger had mislaid the electronic copy of This Much Huxley Knows but with only a short while to spare, managed to read and review the novel in record time.

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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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Interview for Boomers on Books

If you’d like to find out more about the background to This Much Huxley Knows (and much more besides) do pop over to Boomers on Books. Just click the link!

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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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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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First page pitch at Cork World Book Fest

Librarians based in Cork selected the first five hundred words and a two sentence pitch of my work in progress Little Swot for feedback from literary agent Simon Trewin as part of the Cork World Book Fest. Alongside nine others (including Jean M Roberts and Andrew Wolfendon – both fellow Black Rose Writing authors) I read my pitch an opening to a large Zoom audience. The feedback was as follows:

  • include only the most pertinent information in the pitch
  • think about adding three new paragraphs the at the beginning of the novel to act as a prologue
  • make the dialogue sound less written and more spoken

Here’s my revised elevator pitch for Little Swot, a dual timeline crime novel

Following redundancy in 2010, menopausal journalist Stephanie Brett investigates the earlier disappearance of a teenage, West Country girl in a cold case podcast. Through the 1978 timeline, Carolyn Forster tells her own story of infatuation and exploitation.

I’m still working on the new first three paragraphs and the updated dialogue. Watch this space for further developments!

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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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Reading outside my comfort zone

I’ve been experimenting with genres of books I wouldn’t normally read. With increasing years, I’m told people are less open to new experiences because we feel more comfortable staying within the predictable. As I have a big birthday approaching, now seems a good time to try some new reading material. Please find below reviews for three books that have taken me beyond the contemporary fiction, women’s fiction and historical fiction that I normally read.

The Future BuildersD N Knox and Colin Payn

Science Fiction/Techno Fiction/ Climate Change Fiction

First it was the compelling cover image then it was the fascinating title that piqued my interest. From the very first page of The Future Brokers, I was intrigued by this ingenious glimpse into the world of 2050. Medical advances mean that following an accident, George’s body is fitted with devices that give him an edge which becomes of particular interest to others. The world in which he lives is oddly recognisable but strangely sinister. From the multiple viewpoints and distinct voices, (I particularly love George’s sense of humour) I was able to understand the motivations of the different characters which became an excellent way to drive the plot forward. As the threads come together, momentum builds to offer a tense and exciting climax.

Amazon UK

The HeronJean M Roberts

Time Travel Fiction 

The rich, sensory writing in The Heron drew me into the story. Jean Roberts introduces the setting of the novel as Pine Tree House, Oyster River, New Hampshire. Using a dual timeline, the story switches from a contemporary narrative to the seventeenth century. Abbey is a feisty protagonist who visits the house and is inducted into paranormal happenings by Jeremiah and Miriam. She navigates the past and the present to identify similarities in experiences. This is a confidently told story, full of detail and description. It’s an impressive, sensory and engaging read. 

Amazon UKAmazon USA

Mother of Floods, Madeleine F White

Science Fiction and Fantasy Art

A patchwork of women’s experiences, Mother of Floods is embroidered with traditional tales to pinpoint key beliefs and values. The rich prose adds rhythm to the story, resonant of the drums that bring about change. In this ambitious debut, White weaves together stories of family struggles in Zimbabwe, Indonesia and Iraq. In Britain, Dave the deceased husband of Martha, slips into the virtual world to keep tabs on his family, discover new insights into their challenges and dilemmas, and intercepts to give the support he was unable to offer while alive. Their story explodes into one of universal significance. The dystopian world that evolves casts light on individual experiences and the golden thread that joins us. A remarkable story.

Amazon UKAmazon USABookshopUK

What do you think are the advantages for writers in reading outside their normal comfort zone? 

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