the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Come celebrate publication day!

It’s been a long time coming, but today sees the release of This Much Huxley Knows.

The fountain may be dry but the champagne will flow…
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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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#GuestPost from Gail Aldwin #Author of ‘This Much Huxley Knows’ ~ A Story of Innocence, Misunderstandings, and Acceptance @gailaldwin

I am delighted to have a piece on Cathy Ry’s blog about the background stories to some of the fictional settings in This Much Huxley Knows. Click here to pop over for a read.

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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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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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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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Introducing Linda Rosen

I’m delighted to welcome fellow Black Rose Writing author Linda Rosen to The Writer is a Lonely Hunter. Formerly a fitness professional, Linda became an novelist when her debut The Disharmony of Silence was published in March 2020. I’m so pleased to be able to connect with Linda who splits her time between New Jersey and Florida. As an early reader of Linda’s second novel Sisters of the Vine, I became immersed in the story of Liz, a most tenacious protagonist. I’m thrilled Linda has joined me for an interview to share more information about herself and her books.

About Sisters of the Vine

Housewife and mother with a loving husband to take care of her – that’s all Liz, a Fifties gal, ever wanted. Over her father’s objections, she drops out of college to marry Rick, who dreams of living off the land. They buy a farm on a verdant hillside in the Hudson Valley, but can’t agree on what to plant. When they discover French-American hybrid grapes, Liz is confident they’ll be happy. Grapes are classy.

As the rich soil sinks into her soul and the vines begin to thrive, the marriage grows rocky. Refusing to disappoint her father again, Liz is determined to make her marriage work . . . until she discovers a photograph hidden in the old barn.

Faced with impossible decisions, Liz is desperate. She has a vineyard ready to harvest and no idea how to accomplish the task. Does she have the moxie to flourish? Or will she and the land turn fallow?

Sisters of the Vine is released 25 March 2021 and is available for pre-order through the publisher Black Rose Writing.

Q & A

Sisters of the Vine is your second novel, can you tell us about your debut, The Disharmony of Silence

Thanks for asking. I’m happy to. The Disharmony of Silence is about a clandestine love affair in 1920s Brooklyn that leads to a family secret held for eighty-four years. Carolyn Lee, the protagonist, is desperate for family. When she discovers this shocking secret, she is determined, against all advice, to reveal it. The secret has the potential to tear lives apart. Or, it could bring her the closeness and comfort she longs for. It all depends on how she handles it.

The Disharmony of Silence was published at the start of the pandemic. How did this impact on you as a writer launching a debut novel?

Actually, having my debut published during this time was, for me, the silver lining in this pandemic. With book events all turning to virtual, I was able to “meet” readers from all over, from places I never would have gotten to if events were in person. In addition, the writing community is extremely giving and many well-published authors stepped up to help promote me, as well as my fellow 2020 debuts. Facebook groups were formed with on-line book clubs and podcasts and Zoom took over virtual book talks and interviews. I’ve met so many wonderful writers who I now call friends. And met readers, as I’m doing now on your blog, who I probably never would have met if not for Covid 19 shutting down in-person events. That said, I am looking forward to this pandemic being over and am so very sorry for everyone who has lost a loved one to this horrendous virus. 

A sense of place is important in Sisters of the Vine. How do you choose your settings?

Thank you. I worked hard for the vineyard to come alive. Settings are so important to me when I read a novel that I wanted to make mine evocative. I want my readers to inhabit place, smell the aromas and feel the textures. Therefore, I choose places that I know well, where I’ve walked the streets and ate the food, heard the birds sing, or as in Sisters of the Vine, stood in vineyards, felt the grapes in my fingers, smelled the rich moist earth and tasted the bold wine. 

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Blog tour, discount Christmas shopping and further adventures

Where would a writer be without readers? Thank you to everyone who has shown interest in Pandemonium. This week starts a big push to help my children’s picture book reach a wider audience with support from book bloggers. Do watch out for posts on social media with links to further reviews.

If you’re thinking of purchasing a copy of Pandemonium for a young child in your life, now’s the time to do it. There’s a 30% seasonal discount from all Victorina Press titles using the coupon code XMAS2020. Purchasing directly from the publisher is a good way to support this independent press in furthering their ambition to discover unheard voices and promote diversity in publishing. While visiting the Victorina Press bookshop for Christmas purchases, why not treat yourself, too? I can recommend you pre-order Amanda Huggins‘ wonderful novella All Our Squandered Beauty. It’s a captivating read.

I’ve had more fun taking Peta on further adventures in Pandemonium. See what she’s up to now:

In the café, Peta gets hungry …

Enjoy the last week of November and I’ll touch base again on publication day, 1 December 2020.

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Adventures in #PanDeMoNium

Since the start of November, I’ve posted photos on social media of a cheeky purple panda who’s out and about. This is to help promote my forthcoming children’s picture book Pandemonium. In case you don’t follow me on Twitter @gailaldwin, here’s what’s been happening this week.

Last hot chocolate for a month and clinging on for dear life.
Up to something or just hanging around?
What’s happening hare?
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Welcome to Catherine Randall and ‘The White Phoenix’

This post celebrates the publication day of The White Phoenix for friend and children’s novelist Catherine Randall. She’s wanted to write since she was a child and now Catherine has fulfilled this ambition with a fabulous middle grade children’s bookI adore the feisty thirteen-year-old protagonist in this novel, Lizzie Hopper, who helps to run the family bookshop near St Paul’s in the year of the Great Fire.

“Catherine Randall brings the streets of 17th century London vividly to life… A heart-warming and skilfully told tale.” Ally Sherrick, Black Powder and The Buried Crown

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Welcome Catherine.

Can you start by telling us where your writing journey began?

My writing journey began when I was a six-year-old living in Lincolnshire and I wrote my first ‘book’, alarmingly entitled, ‘Catherine, Lucy and the Goat’. We moved to Shropshire when I was seven, and I continued to write ‘books’, mostly thinly disguised imitations of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series, with a few Victorian melodramas thrown in. When I grew up I tried my hand at adult short stories, but realised quite quickly that my heart was in children’s books. The books I read as a child remain the ones that resonate most deeply with me, and now I love reading new children’s books, partly as research, and partly just because they’re a great read.

What inspired you to write The White Phoenix?

I’ve been fascinated by the Great Fire of London ever since I was a child. When I visited London from Shropshire at the age of ten, the first thing I wanted to see was the Monument to the Fire. When I moved to London in my early twenties, I loved walking round the City, with its ancient churches and old street names dotted among the modern glass and steel buildings. Much later, at a time when I was looking for a subject for a story, I caught part of a radio programme about the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire, and it reawakened my interest. When I started researching I discovered that London in 1666 was a great setting for a novel, not just because of the Fire but because of all the other things that were going on – war, fear of invasion, the plague, as well as all the prophecies swirling round London about the year 1666. I was initially going to write about St Paul’s, but then I realised it would be more fun to write about the many bookshops that clustered round the cathedral, especially as it was possible for a woman and her daughter to run a bookshop by themselves.

I started writing some time ago, but many of the themes in the book have turned out to have more resonance today than I could ever have imagined.

What are the challenges of publishing your first book during a pandemic?

The first thing to say is that I am absolutely delighted to be having a book published, and the thought of publication has been a beacon of light in what has been a tough year both generally and personally. However, there’s no denying that there are significant challenges. I think the worst thing is that I’ve not been able to do any events with children at bookshops or libraries. I know authors are doing virtual school visits, but it’s quite daunting if you have to start like that. I’m used to going into schools to talk about the Great Fire, but not so used to going into schools to promote a novel as well. But it is something I would very much like to do so I’ll have to get my head round it!

And of course I can’t help being sad that I’m not able to have a proper launch party, because there are so many people who have shared in this journey with me and whom I would like to thank. However, I am having a series of very small parties instead, so that’s going to be fun.

Who is the ideal reader for The White Phoenix?

I really hope that children aged from about 9 to 12 or 13 will enjoy it. I suppose it is a cliché to say so, but I have written the sort of book that I would have liked to read at that age. However, I also know that quite a few adults have read and enjoyed it, so that’s very gratifying.

Is there a message in the novel that you want young readers to grasp?

Lizzie, the main protagonist in the book, refuses to give in to the prejudice of other people around her and makes friends with a Catholic girl at a time when Catholics were very much considered the enemy. I hope that young readers will take away the message that they should never let others tell them what type of people they can or can’t be friends with.

I also hope that young readers grasp the message that you should stand up for what you believe in, which is what Lizzie tries to do, though not always successfully.

Which children’s authors have influenced you?

From my own childhood – Gillian Avery who wrote wonderful, vivid stories about Victorian children such as The Greatest Gresham;  Penelope Farmer who wrote my all-time favourite children’s book, the time-slip story Charlotte Sometimes; and K.M.Peyton, author of the Flambards books among many others. I had the privilege of meeting her once and she was so lovely.

More recent writers who have influenced me include Eva Ibbotson, Hilary McKay (I just love her family stories) and Lydia Syson who has written some terrific historical novels for teenagers.

But I am discovering new children’s authors all the time, and they all have an influence.

What’s next, Cathy?

I’m very excited about my new historical novel set largely in the early nineteenth-century, so once The White Phoenix is well and truly launched, I’m looking forward to getting back to that. However, I have to say that quite a few people have asked about a sequel to The White Phoenix, so I might give that some thought too. I love the characters so much, it would be a pleasure to go back to them.

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The Blurb

London, 1666. After the sudden death of her father, thirteen-year-old Lizzie Hopper and her mother take over The White Phoenix – the family bookshop in the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral.

But England is at war with France and everywhere there are whispers of dire prophecies. As rumours of invasion and plague spread, Lizzie battles prejudice, blackmail and mob violence to protect the bookshop she loves.

When the Great Fire of London breaks out, Lizzie must rescue more than just the bookshop. Can she now save the friend she wasn’t supposed to have?

Purchase links

Foyles, Waterstones, Book Guild Bookshop, Amazon.

Social media

Twitter: @Crr1Randall

For children’s literature that is emotionally engaging, do give The White Phoenix a read. You won’t be disappointed.

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At the London Book Fair 2019

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