Alice Castle is on the blog today. She’s the author of The Girl in the Gallery, available now from Crooked Cat Books.
Welcome to my blog, Alice!
Name: Alice Castle
Book Title: The Girl in the Gallery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
How would you describe your latest book?
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to Dulwich… Beth Haldane stumbles on a mystery that lays bare frightening truths about life in south east London.
How did you come up with the idea for The Girl in the Gallery?
I’ve always loved Dulwich Picture Gallery, which the book is based around. It’s a very beautiful building but at its heart is a mausoleum containing the dead bodies of the two founders of the gallery and one of their wives. It’s such a weird and creepy idea. I always thought it would be the perfect place to set a murder mystery.
What have you learned in your journey from fledgling writer to published author? And how do you feel you’ve grown or changed as a writer from your first published title to your latest?
I’ve learned that writing the books is only half of the job – you also have a duty to let people know about your work, but there’s a fine line between putting the information out there, and bombarding people. I’m learning all the time – or trying to. My first book was published in 2011 and is a chicklit novel, quite a different genre to the cozy whodunits I’m writing now. I feel I’ve come home with the murder mysteries. I love writing them and ideas seem to leap out at me at the moment, which is a blissful state of affairs. Long may it continue!
How did you celebrate when you learned The Girl in the Gallery was going to be published?
Believe it or not, I went out and bought some Liberty bedlinen that I’d been craving for ages. It sounds very low key but for me it was a special moment. I’ve always loved Liberty prints and this one is my favourite. I still can’t believe I spent that much money on duvet covers.
If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read The Girl in the Gallery?
Everyone loves a mystery – I think there’s a deep human need to solve puzzles. This one has all the pieces you need in plain sight – go on, I dare you to see if you can find the clues and identify the culprit. Plus, if you’ve got teenage girls or love art, I hope you’ll connect with the themes of the book.
What’s one piece of advice you would offer a writer who feels discouraged?
Just keep on going. I always think of JK Rowling when I feel low about writing. She fought back from so many rejections to become such a beacon. You may not love her books but she does incredible work for charity and has helped millions of children get the reading bug. Plus I love her pithy comments on Twitter.
Thank you, Alice! The Girl in the Gallery is available now.
Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times, and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.
Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, will be published this summer, with Homicide in Herne Hill due to follow in early 2019. Alice is currently working on the fifth London Murder Mystery adventure. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.
Alice is also a top mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website: https://www.alicecastleauthor.com
She lives in south London and is married with two children, two step-children, and two cats.
Today on the blog is Isabella May, author of The Cocktail Bar out now from Crooked Cat Books!
Welcome to my blog, Isabella!
Name: Isabella May
Book Title: The Cocktail Bar
Genre: Contemporary Rom-com
How would you describe your latest book in one (or maybe two) killer sentences?
I have so much going on in my stories that it’s always quite tricky to condense them into a couple of sentences. You have set me a hard task! Here goes:
Rock star, River Jackson returns to his hometown to set up a cocktail bar with a spiritual twist… amidst a frenzy of opposition.
How did you come up with the idea for The Cocktail Bar?
I grew up in the town of Glastonbury, UK, where The Cocktail Bar is set. Despite it being a unique and captivating little place, it was seriously lacking in the entertainment department during my late teens and early twenties! You’d have to travel to neighbouring towns and cities for a decent night out. And that got me thinking… how amazing it would be if an unconventional yet classy cocktail bar were to set up shop in the High Street! How would the locals react (bearing in mind that Glastonbury is a mixture of the hippie-dippy and working class)? How would the bar survive?
What have you learned in your journey from first draft to published author? And how do you feel you’ve grown or changed from your first published title to your second, and now your third?
When you set out to write your first book, patience is everything. It’s also crucial to take time out. It might seem a little extreme, but it took me seven years to knock my first novel into shape. Nowadays, when I set my mind to it, I can write a novel in six to nine months. So those seven years were very much my apprenticeship and a necessary journey to find both my style and voice.
One of the biggest things I have learned is that writing a decent debut novel is one thing. If you want to replicate that then it’s a good idea to read voraciously, and across genres too. The more I read, the more fluidly and assuredly I write.
How did you celebrate when you learned The Cocktail Bar was going to be published?
I usually find these things out on a Monday. This news was no exception! I think I stayed up on my own with a glass of champagne and then waited until the weekend when I had several more glasses…
If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read The Cocktail Bar?
I have quite a distinctive voice, and hopefully offer something for many readers, since my writing is pretty multi-genre, too. Contemporary Romcom is probably the closest fit for my books, but in truth it’s impossible to pinpoint them to any one literary market. The Cocktail Bar covers a wide range of subjects from magical realism and drinks (I had to research a fair bit to polish up on my historical liquor knowledge!), through to travel, Somerset, romance and comedy.
What’s one piece of advice you would tell a writer who feels discouraged?
Write a little every day. It’s amazing how quickly your words can snowball from mere sentences to paragraphs to chapters. Also, don’t worry if you have no idea where the story is going. Never let that put you off. My past two novels were written that way and eventually your characters will ‘speak’ to you. It’s always a revelation when that happens and then the story really starts to flow!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, put your blinkers on to the naysayers…
Where can readers find you (website, blog, social media, etc.)?
Thank you, Isabella! The Cocktail Bar is available now.
Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing.
As a co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – www.theglasshousegirls.com – she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One).
She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative ‘drops’!
The Cocktail Bar is her second novel, following on from the hit sensation, Oh! What a Pavlova, published in 2017. Her third novel, Costa del Churros, will also be published with Crooked Cat in September.
The Cocktail Bar is available to buy from Amazon via this universal link: http://myBook.to/thecocktailbar
I’d like to welcome my friend and writer, Margarita Montimore, to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of Asleep from Day! She and I got to know each other three years ago when she mentored me for a writing contest called Pitch Wars, and we’ve been friends ever since.
Welcome to my blog, Margarita! Let’s get started, shall we?
Name: Margarita Montimore
Book Title: Asleep from Day
Genre: Upmarket Fiction/Psychological Suspense
How would you describe your latest book in a couple of sentences?
Asleep from Day is about Astrid, a young woman recovering from being hit by a car who is unable to remember the twenty-four hours leading up to the accident. As she begins to piece together her lost day, she realizes she spent it with a mysterious stranger named Theo and goes searching for him. This sends her on a series of unusual misadventures throughout Boston, which make her question her sense of reality and wonder if Theo actually exists.
Boston plays such an important role in this book. What made you choose this setting?
I lived in Boston when I attended Emerson College and those were some of the most memorable years of my life. It was a time filled with inspiration, creativity, and all kinds emotional rollercoasters—the city was a great backdrop for all that. During a couple of visits in subsequent, I noticed the city changing, with many of my favorite places closing down. So I wanted to create a time capsule of the Boston I remembered, to revisit the city as I knew it, and to share what I loved about it with others. Most of the locations featured in the book were real places I frequented, including the diner, the clubs, and the Eatery in Chinatown (even the apartments are based on real ones). These places play an important role in the story and Astrid’s quest to recover her lost memories.
Was the decision on how to structure the novel obvious?
Not at all. In fact, the structure was one of the trickiest aspects of the story had to sort out because they are three narrative threads: Astrid’s present day, Astrid lost day, and her dreams. Weaving the three together into one cohesive story was like putting together a puzzle. It involved a wall of Post-its and multiple spreadsheets and I spent a lot of time rearranging the scenes until they fit into the right places.
If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read Asleep from Day?
I think the book could appeal to a variety of people, especially if they’re looking for something different. I’ve seen readers respond to the mystery and suspense elements, whereas others were drawn to the romance. Some just liked the offbeat and surreal nature of the book. I think fans of Liane Moriarty would enjoy it, but also fans of David Lynch. And there’s a discussion guide included for book clubs—the ending alone is sure to spark plenty of conversation!
Do you feel under pressure to make your main characters likable?
I do, because I think unless you’re writing a thriller it’s tough to get away with an unlikable protagonist. But I try not to think of it in terms of being likable as much as relatable. Giving readers a character they connect to can immerse them more deeply in a story, and we tend to connect with personality traits that reflect real people and real emotions. But when it comes to what I enjoy reading, I don’t mind an unlikable protagonist as long as they’re fascinating on some level, saying and/or doing things we wouldn’t, but drawing us into their narrative nonetheless because we want to find out what they’ll say or do next.
Does your day job help or hinder your writing?
When I worked full-time in social media, I wasn’t able to get much personal writing done. I enjoyed the work, but between the long hours and high-pressure situations, I had little creativity leftover for myself when I was off the clock. Now that I work part-time as a freelance editor/book coach, I find my current job does help my writing. Seeing what elements strengthen or weaken other people’s stories helps me identify things to improve in my own work. There been many times I’ve found issues that I’d pointed out to a client while revising pages I’ve written. And since my current hours are shorter and I can be more selective with the projects I choose, I have far less stress then I did before, and plenty more time to dedicate to writing.
What’s one piece of advice you would offer a writer who feels discouraged?
Keep writing and remember the love. It’s easy to get sidelined by the world outside of writing, by negativity, indifference, and rejection. You can’t control what happens in that world, but you can control the worlds you create. Focus on what you put on the page. Tell your stories and hone your craft. To borrow a line from Steve Martin, “be so good they can’t ignore you.”
Where can readers find your book and connect with you (website, blog, social media, etc.)?
So many places! Here are bunch of links:
Thank you, Margarita! Asleep from Day is available now.
Margarita Montimore received a BFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. She worked for over a decade in publishing and social media before deciding to focus on the writing dream full-time. She has blogged for Marvel, Google, Quirk Books, and XOJane.com. When not writing, she freelances as a book coach and editor. She grew up in Brooklyn but currently lives in a different part of the Northeast with her husband and dog.
Margarita writes upmarket/literary fiction that tends to be left of center and flirt with multiple genres. While she loves all things dark, strange, and surreal, she’s also optimistic—verging on quixotic—and a pop culture geek, so her work tends to incorporate all those elements to varying degrees.