Friday, October 31, 2014

A Special Treat for Halloween...


I wanted to bring you an extra-special treat for Halloween, so I am delighted to welcome a very special guest onto this week's vlog: the incredible A. G. SMITH. I'm a massive fan of his horror-fantasy and ghost stories and I wanted to share his chilling work with you...

As a confirmed wuss (Bob will tell you I even have trouble watching Scooby Doo because the ghosts and monsters scare me), I have to say that A.G. Smith's work terrifies me, but the quality of his writing, together with the horrifically chilling mental images he conjures in your mind are too good to miss. This week, I went to hear him read the full story that the excerpt below is taken from and it was soooo scary!

Watch the vlog if you daaaaaaare and then read on below for a brilliant interview with the man himself - including his recipe for a truly terrifying tale...



Have your nerves recovered? Read my interview with the amazing A. G. SMITH...


What do you love about writing horror and fantasy stories?

I remember watching some archive interviews with horror legends like Boris Karloff, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, and it struck me that whenever they were asked about their work in horror films, all of them were very dismissive of that term, preferring to call their films fantasy movies. That has always stayed in my mind whenever I work on a new horror story. My aim is never to upset the reader. I don't think I am the kind of writer who could write extremely gory or horrible passages. I much prefer restraint and I think that suggestion is far more powerful and frightening. I am keen to ensure that the stories have a fantastical element to them, but leave you with just enough plausibility to make you think this might actually happen to you. The same is true in my Harvester of the Now trilogy. I love fantasy fiction, but I was very keen to ensure that my stories had one foot firmly placed in reality. I think that helps the reader to identify with the main characters. I also wanted to create a hero who was deeply flawed and just as capable of running off in a panic than he was of standing his ground to fight. It just felt more realistic. We all hope we'll be heroes when the time comes, but none of us know how we'll react until we are tested by something unexpected.

Which authors have inspired you?

Authors who inspired me to start writing include my childhood hero, Robin Jarvis. I grew up reading his Deptford Mice books, and I have kept reading his novels throughout my life. I'm so pleased that he is still writing and I encourage as many people as I can to read his books. His latest trilogy is the brilliant Dancing Jax. One of the best and most original fantasy novels to have emerged for years. He has such a grasp of language and he creates living nightmares that you can see climbing out of the pages as you read. Just incredible.

As a horror fan I love the work of M.R James, truly the master of the ghost story. Robert Aickman, whose 'strange stories' are so brilliantly unsettling and H.P Lovecraft who blurred the lines between science fiction and horror so intelligently. Conversely, I also love the travel writing of Mark Wallington. I think Mark is the most hilarious and original voice in non-fiction, his books are laugh-out-loud funny and I never miss a new one.

On a far more personal note, authors who inspire me not only because they are brilliant writers but also because they are so encouraging to new writers like myself include the fabulous Miranda Dickinson - a fantastic writer and a true champion of the work of others. Miranda's kindness and encouragement means the world to me and many others. Also, the wonderful Ian Thornton, whose The Great and Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms is easily the best book I've read so far in 2014. Incredible writing, which is more than worthy of numerous awards for literature. Ian is also a true gentleman who continues to selflessly help other new writers like myself.

Hats off to you all!

What are the ingredients of a really scary story?

First, take a tablespoon of scene-setting. Not too much, just brief descriptions of the main players and the location. I tend to do this by having a principal character who bookends every single one of my horror stories. He is the Librarian at Weeping Bank Library. He is never named but it is assumed that he is a gentleman approaching retirement who has spent his lifetime collecting these eerie tales. He sets the scene, and also provides a sense of comfort and humour to lull the reader in before the scares really begin. At the end he will usually return and give you a 'possible' explanation for what has happened.

Then, add a sprinkling of unease. Just the occasional word or phrase that will let your reader know that there is something happening on the periphery, but make it clear that it will soon draw closer.

Next, I bring it to the boil with the first true scare (if I'm reading the story to an audience, this will be the point where we take a half-time break.) The moment has to be truly terrifying, almost to the point where you want to close the book and look away.

Then I will just let it simmer for a few more pages, allowing time for the main characters to calm down and seek shelter or reassurance from other characters in the story before finally bringing the whole thing up to temperature again with a final terrifying sequence that has to stay with the reader long after they close the book.

Serve with a glass of port to calm the nerves!

Have you ever spooked yourself writing your stories?

I certainly have. If I'm not frightened or worried about my characters then the story just isn't working. In the case of The Hay Man (the story I’m reading in the vlog), there are two key scenes that trouble me. The first is a very brief diary entry where you realise that the 'thing' has been standing in the wardrobe of the main character (Larissa) and silently watching her sleeping at night. The second moment is the ending, which always leaves me cold and sad when I read it to an audience. I can't possibly spoil it here though...

Tell us about what you're working on now.

I have just finished editing a new ghost story, which I will premiere for my family on Christmas Eve and that will become the story I take out to read to audiences next autumn. I am editing the second volume of my Harvester of the Now trilogy and also working on a brand new novel, called Maris Reever, which crosses over between horror and fantasy and takes the reader on a dark and dangerous journey in the company of characters they are not going to feel all that comfortable with. After Christmas I shall begin work on a new Tale from Weeping Bank Library and this one will see the Librarian take more of a central role in events, something which I have never allowed to happen before.

Thanks to A. G. Smith for a brilliantly spooky story and cracking interview! You can find out more about his work at his website, and follow him @harvesterOTnow on Twitter.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Writer Spotlight - Dan Holloway


On Coffee and Roses I like to bring you news of exciting authors who are either waiting to be published or published and worth checking out.

This week, I have great pleasure in welcoming the fantastic author, poet and performer DAN HOLLOWAY into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight...

When did you first decide that you wanted to write?

I don't know that I ever decided to be a writer. It was one of those things that always seemed to be taken for granted. My parents bought me an old wooden school desk as my third birthday and I'd sit at it late into the night scribbling nonsense, And when I was six my mum told me one evening that a gypsy had stopped her in the street, telling her that she had a son and he would grow up to make his fortune with pen and ink. I still haven't made my fortune!

What interests you as a writer?

I am fascinated by outsiders: people who find it hard to define themselves by terms that society understands and go about life by their own rules. It's a way of exploring all the things I wish I could be if only I had the courage.

Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?

Absolutely not. My very best writing time is as early as it gets in the morning - I've always been a lark. By the time it gets to 8 o'clock or so, I've pretty much had it for the day. That said, I do love sitting outside on a busy pavement, leaning against a wall with a coffee on a sunny day, tapping away while the world goes by.

Which authors inspire you and why?

So many - I hate when those Facebook "10 writers who've left their mark on you" memes go round - how could I keep it down to 10? So how do I answer this in a sensible length? OK - Haruki Murakami has perfected the art of using the fantastical to represent a deep truth; Thomas Harris never uses a spare word; Elfriede Jelinek gets deeper inside relationships than you could imagine; Milan Kundera makes me see the world in different ways; Katelan Foisy breaks my heart; Adelle Stripe and Banana Yoshimoto make the everyday lyrical and beautiful.

Tell me about your latest book.

No Exit, released in May, is a big departure from my recent literary novels and poetry collections. It's a novelette, part of the Singles collection from the amazing Pankhearst group who publish the darkest Fem Noir. It's going to be the start of what I hope will be a long-running series about Petrichor, a group of outsiders who inhabit the doorways and rooftops and tunnels of Oxford - not to mention the corner of cyberspace. In No Exit, two women who have never met and know nothing about each other are about to commit a murder together, and we go back in time to discover what brought them to this point.

What are the best things about being a writer?

The thought that, one day, you might make a difference, even if only to one person; that one night someone might be alone and at the end of the line and your words might be the hand held out that brings them back from the edge.

And the worst?

Never quite being able to write the things you want to. So many people say they never self-censor. By and large they are people with very vanilla imaginations. Readers still find it too hard to separate the author as person from the things they write, so there inevitably comes a time when you pull a punch, and that hits you right in the gut because you know you are letting your readers down. It's something I battle with every book. No Exit is the darkest thing I've written. It goes places a lot of people never go but there are still things left unsaid, emotions I haven't let the characters explore.

What are you working on now?

Crush is the second Petrichor book. It centres on Keph, whose middle class comfortable life is turned on its head when she finds herself on the wrong bus home, witnesses a horrific act of cruelty and flips, battering the two teenage boys responsible to death, having just seconds to make a decision that will change her life - to run.

Do you have a dream project you would love to write?

I'm as much a performance poet as a prose writer - I've been taking shows to festivals and fringes for five years now, and have worked with some amazing people. I think my dream would be to put on a show with Patti Smith and Amanda Palmer.

What are your top three tips for aspiring writers?

I've just written a book, Self-Publish With Integrity, that aims to guide writers through the labyrinth of choices that face them. The real question I try to get them to answer is a simple one – know exactly what they want from their writing, in ultra-specific terms. That's the only way to be sure you don't get sidetracked.

More specifically writing-y advice – know exactly what the writers you admire do. And then do something different.

And devote ten times longer than you think you need to learning to write dialogue.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Go to a live literary night. Perform your work there. And, of course, thank you!

Thanks to Dan for a cracking interview! You can find out more about Dan and his books at his website and follow him on Twitter @agnieszkasshoes. Also check out his fantastic novel, Songs from the Other Side of the Wall.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Writer Spotlight - Jessica Thompson


On Coffee and Roses I like to bring you news of exciting authors who are either waiting to be published or published and worth checking out.

This week, I have great pleasure in welcoming the very wonderful JESSICA THOMPSON into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight...


When did you first decide that you wanted to write?

I don't remember making a specific decision... I loved books as a child and wrote a lot in my spare time. My dad and I used to make up a lot of silly rhymes in the car on long journeys, and so I grew to love the magic and playfulness of language quite early on. I wrote a lot of poems and stories in my teens as a way to express all that angst! I knew when I was about 14 that I wanted to write for a career so I eventually pursued journalism while writing creatively in my spare time. My first novel, This is a Love Story, was written while I was a reporter based in London.

What interests you as a writer?

I love novels that revolve around characters that express ideas and concepts I can relate to in some way. I don't always need (or want) a big, complex plot, or even a happy ending, but anything that takes an interesting view on life's events and really touches me will always capture my attention. I'm no book snob. I read everything, from old classics to contemporary fiction. I love it all!

Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?

I like to write in blocks of several hours. I don't like writing for half an hour, or an hour here or there because I always get wrapped up in what I'm doing and don't want to tear myself away! I'm useless in the mornings so afternoons and evenings are better for me. I like to lose myself in the writing process, so I can't have the washing up waiting to be done or anything like that, I like to be able to focus entirely on what I am doing.

Which authors inspire you and why?

Jojo Moyes because her characterization is perfect, and I've loved every book of hers I've ever read. Lionel Shriver because she wrote We Need to Talk About Kevin so powerfully that I had to stop reading it at one point because I was so freaked out! I think an author who makes you feel something so strongly has a very special talent indeed. I also adore Jeanette Winterson – Why be Happy When You Could Be Normal made me cry several times, it was stunning. I could list many more, but those are some standout examples for me.

Tell me about your latest book.


My third novel, Paper Swans, is out now. It's about a subject very close to my heart that affects so many people, and I think I had to write this book. I'm so excited for it to come out, but the usual nerves are kicking in as well!

What are the best things about being a writer?

I think it's that wonderful feeling when you have worked on your plot for a while, and then you can finally start to write it. It's such an exciting time, and when the characters start to come to life in my mind there really is no better feeling! Hearing from readers always makes my day too. I feel so privileged that these people have not only read my books, but also took the time to let me know what they thought... That's wonderful for me.

And the worst?

I think moments, or sometimes even prolonged periods of self-doubt are the worst. I always tend to feel a bit worried about whether or not I even like a book I've written while I'm editing it! This is because I am so caught up in it that I can't see the wood for the trees. Usually some time away from the script enables me to look at my work from a better perspective, and feel confident and excited again. It can be a bit of a mindset that you have to work hard to get out of, but it can be overcome.

What are you working on now?

I am about to start writing Book Four. I'm just refining the last few plot details and then I can start. I am ridiculously excited!

Do you have a dream project you would love to write?

Hmm... There isn't anything specific in terms of a plot that I consider to be a 'dream plot' that I'm aching to write. I do think that it's good to see each up and coming book you are working on as the 'dream project' though. You need to be positive and confident when you start, and know you can achieve what you set out to do and I think that's a good sentiment when writing a book. If you don't feel very passionate about it, then maybe the plot isn't the right one for you to be writing at this stage.

What are your top three tips for aspiring writers?

1) Read, read, read! In my opinion it's vital to read the work of other writers as much as you can, and try not to stick to one genre or period. Be open minded, and take inspiration from everything you can... Creativity is everywhere.

2) But be careful when you are writing your own book... I tend to read a lot when I am editing or having some time out from writing, however I find it difficult to read other people's work when I am drafting my own. It's good to make sure you are being true to your style, and keeping your head as clutter-free as possible. I know this won't be the case for everyone, but it's definitely best for me!

3) Don't panic. If you are struggling with a plot, a particular chapter or even a sentence, the worst thing to do is panic. Be kind to yourself, and give yourself the space and time you need to work out the problem and deal with it in the best way possible.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Thank you so much for your support, and thank you for having me!

Thank you so much to Jessica for braving the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight!

Paper Swans is a fantastic novel - warm-hearted, funny and poignant, with two lead characters you can't help but fall in love with. It will leave you with a huge smile and a firm belief in the power of love. I loved the book!

You can follow Jessica on her blog, on Twitter @Jthompsonauthor and on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Writer Spotlight - Neal Doran


On Coffee and Roses I like to bring you news of exciting authors who are either waiting to be published or published and worth checking out.

This week, I'm delighted to welcome the very wonderful (not to mention a fab former Future Star) NEAL DORAN into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight...

When did you decide you wanted to write?

I decided I wanted to write when I was a teenager.
I decided I was going to sit down and actually finish something when I was in my mid-30s.
For a while that gap between the two events did make me feel like I’d wasted DECADES not doing something I wanted to do. But more recently I’ve realised that taking that time was fine. Every half-finished project and idea that never came to anything – the attempts at short stories, stand-up, or screenplays, or whatever – was a part of the training that meant when I finally had the personal experience I needed to write about what I wanted to write about, I’d learnt what I needed to know about writing to be able to do it.
The difference between wanting to be a writer and becoming one feels to me to be a matter of timing. You might want something, but it takes a while for everything to fall into place so it can happen. Without wanting to get all Thought For The Day on you, I think that applies in most areas of life…

Are you a dedicated plotter or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-winger?

When I started secondary school we were taught in English to write stories with this really clear and clever way of turning our ideas into something that resembled an actual proper story. This was done first by coming up with a series of ‘thoughts, words and phrases’ that summed up what we wanted to write about; we were then told to order these into a structure that would support a coherent story, and then write a sentence that would describe each paragraph. We could then use that plan to write the story.

I used to write the story, then go back and make up the plan when I’d finished it so I could hand it in with my homework as demanded.

This probably tells you all you need to know about my leanings on the plans/pants spectrum.

When do you write? What does your typical writing day look like?

I get my writing done in the time before the rest of the house has to get up at 7 in the morning, so I have an hour or two most days except Sunday when I get a lie-in.

It’s a brilliant time to work because it’s quiet in the house (and on the internet) and I think being half-asleep in a strange way makes it easier to write without being overly conscious and critical of what I’m doing. Then from 7am, when I wake up my wife, Jo, with a cup of tea, and get cracking on packed lunches, the rest of the day is daydreaming about what I’m going to write the next morning.

When people I’ve known since childhood hear that I get up before 6am, six days a week, to write novels the bit that surprises them most is I’m getting out of bed before I absolutely have to.

What inspires you as a writer?

I’d say it the little things, tiny details, minor setbacks, small triumphs. I think it’s in those run-of-the-mill aspects of life that everyone shares that you find the everyday romance that goes towards making up the big things in life.

Not What They Were Expecting is your new novel. Tell us about it!


Not What They Were Expecting is the story of Rebecca and James, a couple that have just found out they’re having a baby. Their exciting news is trumped though, when their family goes into meltdown after Rebecca’s dad, Howard, gets arrested for allegedly propositioning a policeman in a gents’ public lavatory. Then James’s activist parents start a protest campaign to bring attention to Howard’s plight and, as life gets even more complicated, the pressure builds on the relationships between everyone in the family -- including the parents-to-be.

It’s about two people trying to be strong together as the world around them goes crazy.

What inspired the story? I was looking for something about a couple going through a significant moment in their lives. Having a first child seemed a pretty important one… I remember when Jo was first pregnant what an exciting time it was, full of possibility from day one, even though in a lot of ways nothing had changed yet – we still had the time to think about what it could all mean. It was the most life-changing event that’s ever happened to me, and I wanted to write about it (although my whole family likes me to stress that all the incidents in the book are entirely made up).

Another thing that inspired me, particularly when writing about the grandparents-to-be, was that moment in your life when you go from being permanently on edge about your potentially embarrassing parents, to holding up your hands and saying ‘I have no responsibility for their behaviour whatsoever’ and letting them get on with it.

How did you find writing your second novel? Was it a different experience to writing your first, Dan Taylor Is Giving Up On Women?

The main difference was the help and support I had while I was doing it.

Writing Dan Taylor is Giving Up on Women was a pretty solitary experience. I didn’t show anyone anything till I was finished, and there weren’t many people that even knew I was writing.

The second time around it felt there were people cheering me on. Obviously, Miranda was a big help with her Future Stars support – listening when I got stuck in a slump at the halfway mark and not sure how to get out of it, and being an all-round magnificent cheerleader. Other writers have been lovely too, for example Matt Dunn, Kitty French, and the other authors who share my current publisher Carina. They’ve all answered questions, given friendly advice, and made me feel welcome in Write Club.

Then on Twitter and Facebook there were people who’d read Dan Taylor and were saying nice things about it, and how they were looking forward to what I did next. That in particular really, really helped on the mornings staring at the screen asking myself, ‘who would ever want to read this?’ I hope that the readers and bloggers that make that effort for authors realise how much it is truly appreciated.

What have you learned about your writing since becoming a published author?

I think I’ve learned to have more confidence in my writing, and to give ideas a bit more time and space. On my first novel I was obsessed with making sure the jokes and funny lines were coming at an almost sit-com pace. This time around I was more confident that the situations were funny and entertaining without having to constantly prove it.

Not What They Were Expecting is simultaneously more relaxed and more ambitious. It’s like Lord Sugar in the titles for The Apprentice, standing on his yacht. Or Des Lynam juggling seven flaming torches.

Do you have a dream project you'd love to write?

I’d love to create a cast of friends and family that would become part of the readers’ friends and family. A group of people dealing with everyday life in all its glory, and trying to figure out what it means. I’d love for it to start as a little seed of a group of young people really still starting out in life, but over years and decades (it’s a dream project: I can be ambitious…) it would become a story featuring multiple generations on a stonking big tree that’s full of life hidden in all sorts of places.

What's next for you? I’m hoping to make a go of something that could, in the end, become my dream project…

Not What They Were Expecting is available from Amazon and also all other good e-retailers! I am a massive fan of Neal's books - they will make you laugh, cry and think, with brilliantly warm characters you root for and a razor-sharp wit that will leave you breathless. I thoroughly recommend you add his novels to your e-reader as soon as possible. He's fast becoming a star in romantic comedy writing!

You can follow Neal on Twitter, @nealdoran and on Facebook.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Miranda Writes 30 - Do writers need agents?


All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my sixth novel, I'll Take New York. This week, there's another chance to #getinvolved with Book Seven and I talk about whether writers need agents...

Thank you so much for all your fab entries for last week's #getinvolved challenge - I reveal the winner in this week's vlog! I'm loving writing Book 7, even if it is currently in snatched hours between nappy changes and feeds... I've another chance for you to appear in the book this week, which I tell you all about in the vlog.

This week' question is one I'm asked a great deal: do writers need agents? I've been on both sides of the fence - without an agent for my first two book deals and with an agent for my third - so hopefully I can shed some light on the pros and cons. The lovely lady who asked this week's question is the wonderful Joanna Cannon, who is a phenomenal writer. Click here to visit her website and read some of her work.

If you have a question you'd like me to answer, ask me! Leave a comment below this post, email me at mirandawurdy@gmail.com or tweet me @wurdsmyth.

Enjoy! xx

p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled:'The Invisible Chihuahua'

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Miranda Writes 29 - Overcoming The Fear...


All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my sixth novel, I'll Take New York. This week, I have another #getinvolved challenge for Book Seven and talk about facing The Fear as a writer...

I'm getting back to work after a few wonderful months of new-mum-hood and this week have been checking the page proofs for I'll Take New York - which has been lovely and scary in equal measure. It made me think about The Fear - a phenomenon known only too well to writers. How do you keep writing when the doubts creep in? When the inspiration won't come and you're staring at a blank page? In this week's vlog, I talk about how I tackle The Fear.

Talking of finding inspiration, have YOU booked your ticket for one of my WriteFoxy! Writers' Inspiration Days in November and February yet? They're going fast for both dates, so don't miss your chance to be inspired, fired up and have your love of writing rekindled by an amazing line-up of speakers. All the details are HERE...

So, here's this week's vlog - enjoy!

p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Si-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ing!'

Monday, May 26, 2014

Miranda Writes 26 - Plotting vs Pants-ing and New Mum Writing...


All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my sixth novel, I'll Take New York. This week, I talk about plotting novels, dream film adaptations and my new life as a Writing Mum...

I'm so chuffed that many of you loved last week's cheeky extract of I'll Take New York - keep your eyes peeled for more sneak-peeks coming soon... In the meantime, I answer your questions on writing, including whether I can see my books as films, how much I plot my novels and how becoming a mum has changed my writing process. You might be surprised by my answer!

What would you like to know about writing, publishing, books or anything else? Leave me a comment below, tweet me your question on Twitter @wurdsmyth, post it on my Facebook page or email me at mirandawurdy@gmail.com.

Enjoy! xx

This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled: 'Ooh, put that away!'

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