Behind the Book – Merle


Merle - AW



This week I’m joined by mystery writer Angela Wren (yep back to where I’m most at home – murder mystery!) Her novels are set in beautiful France which is enough to get me wanting to read for a bit of escapism. As always I’m fascinated by why people choose the locations they use and what the connection is to that place.


Tell us the basic premise of your novel?


At its most basic level, the central plot revolves around the death of a woman.  That’s were the book begins and there is a short description of the crime scene included below.

la fête des morts


 It was the tightly scrunched ball of paper that captured the attention of Magistrate Bruno Pelletier. His trained eyes swept around the room, only glancing at the naked body in the bath, and came to rest once more on the small, ivory-white mass, challenging and silent against the solid plain porcelain of the tiles. He stepped over the large pool of dried blood, iron red against the white of the floor, and, with gloved hands, he retrieved the object. Carefully prising the paper back into its customary rectangular shape, he stared at the contents and frowned as he read and re-read the single six-word sentence printed there.


 Je sais ce que tu fais


 After a moment, he dropped it into an evidence bag being held open for him by the pathologist.


 all hallows’ eve, 2009′


Did you take any inspiration from any real life crimes?


No, I’m really not that interested in reading about real-life crime. To do so seems quite voyeuristic to me.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t take inspiration from real life and everything around me.  I do.  The scenario in Merle uses my extensive business knowledge in order to create the project management team that the dead woman worked for when she was alive.  My experience working in that field enabled me to build a whole office organisation to provide the appropriate, and I hope believable, background within which my investigator, Jacques Forêt, had to work.  Some of the scenes in the office were built from a remembered remark or conversation, and by asking myself ‘What If?’, I was able to work up a number of aspects of the central plot.  Naturally, some of it was also pure imagination.  Trying to get the blalance right is difficult but I tend to look at that kind of detail once the story is finished and I’m working through the various levels of edits required.


Why did you choose the setting you chose and do the locations hold any real life significance to you?


The office environment was critical to the central plot, so the plot really dictated the setting.  The location of the Cévennes, in south central France, kind of came about by accident.  I spend a lot of time in France and I was in the Cévennes when the very first idea for a story came to me.  Although it was only September, I woke up one morning to find that it was snowing and the whole countryside had taken on a new white blanket.  The idea that snow could cover someone’s misdeeds had taken root in my head and in December 2015, Messandrierre (Book 1 in the Forêt series) was published.  Merle follows on from Messandrierre and begins a few months afterwards.

As for significance – yes the Cévennes is very important to me.  It’s a fabulous upland area of France.  The village where I like to stay is about 1000m above sea-level, so that’s the equivalent of camping at the top of Snowden, but with better weather!  The area is sparsely populated and the villages are tiny and few and far between.  The principle city of Mende, sits in a valley about 400m further down the mountain and has a population of around 13,000.  Over here, we’d call that a small town!  The scenery is stunning, the weather can change in a moment and there’s a silence there that I can’t seem to find anywhere else.  It’s a location that I will always go back to.


Did it take a lot of research for your locations and story line?


I suppose the truthful answer to that is Yes and Yes.  I’ve been visiting France since I was a teenager, and although I didn’t know it at the time, the research about the country began way back then and has just continued constantly.  I have a book-shelf full of journals created on my many visits, I have acres of photographs and a whole forest full of leaflets, pamphlets, maps, and books about France, all of which I refer to from time to time as I’m writing.

However, specifically for Merle, I did need to get some expert advice.  Luckily I know some very kind people who were willing to put up with my constant questions.  The workings of the office IT system was one issue that I needed to research along with the detailed advice that I required from the West Yorkshire Fire Service – my next door neighbour is a fireman!


When did you know you wanted to be a writer?


When I announced to an elderly aunt one Christmas that I wanted to be Shakespeare when I grew up.  My defence in making such a rash, and now cringlingly embarrassing, statement is that I was very young at the time.  And as you can probably work out, I’m still striving to achieve that particular goal!


Oh didn’t we all want to be Shakespeare at some point! If you could choose a detective to go crime solving with who would you choose and why?


Wow!  That’s a really tough question.  I’ve always been an avid reader and I grew up on a book-diet of Agatha Christie, Conan-Doyle, Wilkie Collins, Allingham, Sayers and many more besides.  I think it would be fascinating to go sleuthing with Gordianus the Finder in the Stephen Saylor books set in ancient Rome.  That would give me the opportunity to look at Roman life and times first hand.  But then there’s Jane Marple isn’t there?  I wouldn’t so much want to go sleuthing with her but I would want to have tea with her and quiz her about herself and her life before she became the astute, elderly observer that she is in the books.  But there’s also the gutsy Vera Stanhope, she may not have much dress sense but she’s a down-to-earth solid character.  I would probably have to tidy her up before we got down to any detective work!

The more I think about this question, the more I realise that perhaps I should just count myself lucky and say Jacques.  Afterall, in creating each of the books, I go sleuthing with him at my side every time I sit at my desk to write.


What are you working on next?


I’m working on the third book, Montbel.  Jacques has an old case that he’s asked to review and once he starts to look at it, the more unanswered questions he finds.  In time, this book has moved on almost 2 years from the previous one and Jacques is living in the apartment in Mende that he bought during the course of book 2.  But, he still comes across the villagers in Messandrierre and spends time there.  Gaston and his wife still run the village restaurant and bar and Pierre Mancelle, although a little older, is still keen to be a policeman when he’s an adult.  It might be a new and intriguing case but there are still some familiar characters around.

A huge thank you to Angela for stopping by….although I kind of need a holiday in France now….

You can keep up to date with Angela and find out more about Jacques Foret and the next mystery he will be embroiled in here –





Official Website

Buy the series of books on Amazon here


Behind the Book – Forest Dancer

Forest Dancer - Susan Roebuck(1)


Sticking with my look at romance novels, and how woefully ill informed I am on them, I had the great pleasure to chat with author Sue Roebuck about her latest novel, Forest Dancer, a romance set in Portugal (somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit).

Tell us the basic premise of your novel?


It’s about overcoming self-doubt and having the courage to take life by the horns if necessary.

This is a short blurb: Forest Dancer is set in the magical forests just outside Lisbon, Portugal. Classical ballerina with a London company, Flora Gatehouse, has just recently lost her father, but she has also suffered a devastating blow in her career: her failed audition that sees her moving to a small cottage in Lisbon, Portugal, the only inheritance left to her by her father. She embraces the life of a small village with its dark secrets, and falls for the forest ranger, Marco. But the questions are can she totally become part of this little hamlet and can she ever reconnect with her dream to become a principal ballerina?



What was your main inspiration for the story? 


I live close to Sintra (which is about twenty kilometres south west of Lisbon). ( Find out more about this gorgeous locations here ) Being British, I’ve always appreciated how cool and green Sintra is in the boiling hot summers of Lisbon and I’ve often been to ballets and concerts which are held on summer evenings at one of the many monuments in this magical place. Mind you, it was so misty one night that the ballerinas kept slipping about all over the damp stage.

I also love trees and forests (Sintra has its own national park) and I wanted to portray the beauty of them – and their mystery.



I have a thing about trees too…..(endless scary forest scenes in Purgatory Hotel)

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?


The answer’s going to be what all writers say: Always! When I was fourteen I entered a writing competition and won! Goodness knows what was going through my head but the little novelette was set in World War II (of which I knew nothing) in a small village in England. The inhabitants hated the fact that the army had built a training barracks on their land and were trying all sorts of ways to get rid of them. Sounds quite ambitious, doesn’t it? One day I’ll have to read it again. I think my brother gave me a bit of help – he gave me names for the characters, one of which was called Willy Wormtongue.


I’d love to read that!

If you could spend an evening in a Portuguese cottage drinking wine and eating good food, with any famous people – alive or dead- who would you choose?


Well, Byron visited Sintra and I think he would have to be one of the guests. We’d have a riotous time, I think, and drink all the wine that was on offer. Another guest would be Vasco de Gama who was the first explorer to navigate from Europe to Asia. I might have a go at him about his treatment of the natives he came across. Then I’d invite Saint Anthony of Lisbon because I like him and I think he and Byron would have a great discussion. And, also for Byron, I’d invite one of Portugal’s most famous poets and writers. I’d eavesdrop on their conversation for hints.


Ah Byron, I’d love to meet him, can I come too?

What are you working on next?


On another in the Portuguese series (the first one was called “Rising Tide” and set in the Alentejo region of Portugal – which is between Lisbon and the Algarve – in a small fishing village that time and most of Portugal has forgotten). “Forest Dancer” is the second. The next one is called “Joseph Barnaby” and takes place in Madeira. Joe is a farrier who prevents the favourite steeplechaser to run in the Grand National because he believes the horse isn’t fit enough to race. The aftermath of hate-mail, death threats and blackmail send him whirling into a deep depression and all he wants is to go to the end of the world. He finds just the place in Madeira.

Thank you so much for stopping by Sue!

You can get Forest Dancer from Amazon here

Keep up with Sue online and find out more about her here:






Behind the Book – The Cocktail Bar

coctail bar



So very happy to be welcoming author Isabella May back to my blog today. Her new book The Cocktail Bar will be out on the 13th February and I love the front cover! So apparently there’s more than just cocktails on the menu here and a mystical undercurrent that has caught my attention…..

Welcome back Isabella!

Thank you so much for inviting me again, Anne-Marie! I come bearing gifts (well, one gift): a Tor In The Mist… one of the uniquely created cocktails found in the pages of my new book, The Cocktail Bar – created by author Vanessa Couchman. Enjoy. Just watch the dry ice (fog)… it creates a beautiful effect but is enough to induce frostbite…


Tell us the basic premise of your novel?

Rock star, River Jackson, is back in his hometown of Glastonbury to open a cocktail bar… and the locals aren’t impressed.

Seductive Georgina is proving too hot to handle; band mate, Angelic Alice, is messing with his heart and his head; his mum is a hippie-dippy liability; his school friends have resorted to violence – oh, and his band manager, Lennie, AND the media are on his trail.

But River is armed with a magical Mexican elixir which will change the lives of the Three Chosen Ones. Once the Mexican wave of joy takes a hold of the town, he’s glad he didn’t lose his proverbial bottle.

Pity he hasn’t taken better care of the real one…


Tell us a bit about why you used Glastonbury as a location? Is it anything to do with the area’s magical reputation?

I have long thought that the UK’s (arguably) most mystical town isn’t featured as a backdrop in mainstream novels anywhere near enough. So, yes, Glastonbury popped up in my first book, ‘Oh! What a Pavlova’… and here it is again in ‘The Cocktail Bar’. There’s nowhere quite like it, and, having grown up on the ley lines of Avalon, I can (hopefully) offer a unique perspective in terms of scene setting and characters!


What inspired you to write this story?

Honestly, a distinct lack of cool places to hang out as a late teen (ie. an official drinking age teen) and an early twenty-something. I was still living in the town during that period of my life and a night out on the town consisted of scarpering north, east, south or west to somewhere more ‘happening’… frequenting the local working men’s pubs… or putting on a pair of fairy wings and engaging in tantric yoga.
In other words, Glastonbury’s high street has been screaming out for a delectable cocktail bar (such as River Jackson’s) for a very long time.


Are your lead characters based on anyone?
River Jackson is loosely based on any one of the indie singers who hail from the town and its surrounding areas. Very loosely though… for his rival in the book is Gary Stringer from local-band-gone-global, Reef. Gary actually went to my high school!


I’m a big fan of cocktails – mine’s a Pina Colada by the way – what’s your favourite cocktail and did you do a lot of research for the drinks on offer at the Cocktail Bar in your story?
You and me both. I love a well-made Pina Colada. It really is hard to beat. But just like a Tiramisu… or a Carrot Cake, the mixology of said tipple can be very hit and miss. I do recommend the Waldorf Astoria’s version in NYC though.
But I digress.
Yes, I had to do a fair bit of research to write The Cocktail Bar because River, as a mixologist, is the antithesis to all things Sex on the Beach and Screaming Orgasm. Rather he’s all about the unusual and sophisticated. If I had to choose one of the cocktails gracing his menu (other than the unavoidable lure of the ‘Magical Mañana), I’d plump for the Frisky Bison; liquid alcohol apple pie in a glass. It sounds delectable.


If you could throw a cocktail party who would be on your guest list?
What a great question… hmm. This requires a cuppa and some thought. Okay, I’ll go for a handful of different personalities who could fast create a party atmosphere:

Prince would be in a number one on that list. I know that would require something of a miracle, but he just has to be there. Then I reckon we’d need Nigella to make sure we were getting some decently exciting drinkies. Janet Street Porter because I love her wit and sarcasm and we need some good (heated) discussion. Leonardo DiCaprio for the eye candy. And Lee Evans for the comedy. Yeah, I think that would make the perfect mix.



What are you working on next?
I’m just finishing off the first round of edits for ‘Costa del Churros’ (trying not to eat too many of them in the process), and that will be released in the autumn. It’s an exciting year.




You can follow Isabella May on her website and social media here:

Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks

Facebook –

Instagram – @isabella_may_author


Behind the Book: Heathcliff


Back in 1992 when I was a moody, misunderstood teenager, desperate to read all the literature I could lay my hands on, I bought a cheap copy of Wuthering Heights after seeing a poster for the movie adaptation starring Ralph Fiennes. I loved the book and not long after watched as many tv/movie adaptations as I could.

I studied it later for my GCSE’s and re read it countless times over the years that followed.

I was in love with the supernatural element of the love story, the fierce bond between Cathy and Heathcliff that seemed to survive beyond death, her childish rejection of him tying their souls together forever. It’s fair to say it influenced my own novel in part, just because I could never get past the drama of the fiery love affair.

When I heard that my fellow Crooked Cat Books author Sue Barnard was releasing a spin off novel I was intrigued, and very excited to learn more. And also to have a bit of a geek off about Heathcliff with a fellow fan.


Tell us the basic premise of your novel?

In the original Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff disappears from the story for three years and returns as a rich man.  What might have happened to him during that time?


Wuthering Heights is one of my favourite novels. I recall being very affected by the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff. How would you describe it to someone who has never read the book? 

In a word: complicated!  She loves him (or claims to), yet she marries someone else – then expects her husband to welcome her old love back into their lives!  Result: anger, frustration and heartache all round.


What inspired you to take on the story and create a backstory for Heathcliff’s missing years?

It was a chance remark by a former school friend.  More years ago than either of us care to remember, we studied Wuthering Heights for English Literature O-Level (as it then was), along with Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.  The latter went on to provide the setting for my third novel, The Unkindest Cut of All (a murder mystery set in a theatre).  My friend commented on the connection, and asked jokingly if my next writing project would also be based on something we’d done at school.  I replied, equally jokingly, “How about Heathcliff?”  At the time I laughed off the idea, but somehow it just wouldn’t go away.


 Many people feel very negatively about Heathcliff; I have always had a sort of sympathy for him. How would you describe your feelings towards him?

When I started writing the book I promised myself that I would try to portray Heathcliff in a sympathetic light.  I think he’s a very troubled soul, and I’ve tried to explore the possible reasons why.  Pivotal to the story, of course, is that he never gets over Cathy’s decision to marry Edgar Linton.

To be honest, I’ve never really liked Cathy.  She starts off as a spoiled little brat, grows into a spoiled big brat, and ends up as a spoiled dead brat.  Heathcliff and Edgar are both devoted to her (in their different ways), but in my opinion she isn’t worthy of either of them.

One interesting discovery I made during the course of my research is that Heathcliff is only about sixteen or seventeen when he disappears.  Having seen him portrayed several times on screen by actors who are in their twenties or thirties, I hadn’t previously appreciated how young he was.


Did it take a lot of research for your locations and story line?

Yes.  It’s always important to get your facts correct, but even more so if you’re writing anything historical.  You can be sure that if you get even the tiniest detail wrong, some eagle-eyed reader will pick up on it, and it will come back to haunt you for ever.

The dates in Wuthering Heights are very precise (Heathcliff’s missing years are 1780-1783), which proved to be extremely constraining.  I originally wanted him to have spent those years as a pirate, or possibly to have made his fortune in the American or Australian gold rush.  But when I started my research I soon discovered that I couldn’t use either of those ideas; the heyday of piracy was too early, and the gold rush years were too late.  So I had find something which did fit with those exact years, and work my story around that.  As to what that turned out to be, you’ll have to read the book to find out!


What is your writing environment like? Where is it etc?

It’s all over the place.  My computer (where I do my main writing) is set up at a desk in the front room, but I have notepads and scraps of paper in just about every room in the house, because I find that inspiration can strike at any time.  My smartphone, which lives in my pocket, is particularly useful if I need to make notes when no other option is available.


 If you could sit down and have drinks with any famous writers (alive or dead) who would you choose?

I’d start by inviting all my fellow-authors at Crooked Cat Books.  Then I’d invite Shakespeare (having written two novels and several poems inspired by his work), and Emily Brontë (though with some trepidation, in case she doesn’t like what I’ve done with her most famous creation!).  Then I’d add some great crime writers, such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Josephine Tey and Val McDermid, plus some comedy writers, such as Ronnie Barker, David Renwick, Tony Robinson, Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, the Horrible Histories team and the Monty Python gang.  And no writers’ gathering would be complete without Terry Pratchett and J K Rowling.

At this rate, I think I’m going to have to hire a whole pub.


Well that sounds like a great night out! I will definitely be there!

Big thanks to Sue for giving me a sneaky early interview about Heathcliff, I am very much looking forward to reading the book and returning to the world of the brooding anti-hero again.

Until then you can follow her on all the links below and read her other books while you wait to find out what became of the mysterious man during his missing years…..



Blog   Facebook   G+   Twitter   Instagram   Amazon  Goodreads

Romance with a twist(2)


The Ghostly Father: Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, NookApple iBooks, GooglePlay

Nice Girls Don’t: Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, NookApple iBooks

The Unkindest Cut of All: Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, NookApple iBooks

Never on Saturday: Amazon


Heathcliff: coming in 2018




Behind the Book – Hunter’s Chase

HUnters Chase cover


This week I am delighted to welcome author Val Penny to my blog. Her Edinburgh based crime novel Hunter’s Chase is due out through Crooked Cat Books on 2nd February 2018.

I am a lover of crime fiction, from Jo Nesbo to Patricia Cornwall and Agatha Christie to Arthur Conan Doyle, my love of sleuthing has been firmly set from a young age (I blame my parents!) I grew up in a busy household full of brothers and sisters who also loved to read crime fiction and I would always grab what they had finished with. The Detective is always the greatest character (followed closely by their nemesis) and I always love the development of their personality and how they solve the crime in question.

So naturally when I heard about Hunter’s Chase and found I had the opportunity to ask a few questions I jumped at the chance!


Tell us the basic premise of your novel?


Hunter by name, Hunter by nature: in Hunter’s Chase, Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson struggles to ensure the crime in Edinburgh does not go unpunished. Hunter’s Chase introduces a new detective, DI Hunter Wilson into Tartan Noire.

I think all crime novels explore the triumph of good over evil. The readers know the criminals will not succeed. Still, the thrill of the chase and the problems overcome to achieve justice for the victims must enthral and satisfy the readers.


Did you take any inspiration from any real life crimes? 

I did not refer to any specific real life crimes but I did want to explore power and politics. Also, as I have a large family, the importance and problems caused by family ties is interesting to me.

Big cities all have issues with illegal drug use. One of the hidden problems is the risk to the health and security by people who are functioning drug abusers, who may continue to study or hold down challenging jobs. I find this both confusing and fascinating.


Is your lead character, DI Hunter Wilson inspired by anyone?

Hunter Wilson, like all my characters in Hunter’s Chase, is a combination of several people that I have found interesting. I needed my main protagonist to have certain characteristics including patience, perseverance and a desire to achieve justice for those who could not attain that for themselves. Hunter is a compassionate man who fights for the underdog and is a fine team player. These are important qualities in my main character.

But I also needed Hunter to have flaws. Everybody has faults and to make Hunter believable, he had to have them too. He is not a saint. He is divorced, he is untidy, he likes to win, he bears a grudge.


Why did you choose the setting of Edinburgh and do the locations hold any real life significance to you?

Although I am originally from California, USA, I lived in Edinburgh, Scotland for many years, so it is a city I know well. I chose Edinburgh as the setting for Hunter’s Chase because it is a beautiful, multi-cultural city which is well-known and loved around the world. Edinburgh is a big enough city for any problem that Hunter needs to solve to plausibly have taken place. Nevertheless, because it is a city of only half a million people, in many ways it is like a big village: there is a feeling that everybody knows everybody else. That is an amusing conceit when I am writing.


Did it take a lot of research for your locations and story line, how did you research the police work?

I did need to do a lot of research for Hunter’s Chase. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed that.

When I was choosing places for action to take place in my novel, I needed to check that what I was asking of my characters could actually happen. That was fun. Revisiting and exploring again the beautiful city of Edinburgh is always a joy.

Also, you will not be surprised to know that I do not have first-hand knowledge of drug trafficking! I found the research for that quite exciting: of course it was all theoretical research.

I had to research the roles of Crime Scene Investigators too and received a great deal of assistance with that from my friend Kate Bendelow. Her book, The Real CSI: A Forensic Handbook for Crime Writers, is indispensable. I was also lucky to have good support when I was researching police procedures. This came from former Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Gibbon. His book, The Crime Writers’ Casebook is invaluable to those writing historical or modern day crime stories.



What are you working on next?

I am presently working on the sequel to Hunter’s Chase –  Hunter’s Revenge. My publishers, Crooked Cat Books, have just confirmed that it will be published in August/September 2018, so I better get a move on and finish it.

Hunters Chase will be released through Crooked Cat Books on 2nd February 2018, pre order your copy here

You can keep up with whats happening with Val on the following links;


Val Penny Website

Val on Facebook

Friends of Hunter’s Chase Facebook Group

Val on Twitter

Val at Crooked Cat Books

Behind the Book – The Silence

The Silence


This week I was very fortunate to get to speak to Katharine Johnson, author of thriller The Silence. Ever since my early obsession with the Agatha Christie novel Sleeping Murder I have had an interest in stories about secrets and repressed memories, and this book fits that bill perfectly.

Naturally I wanted to get behind the book and find out where Katharine got her inspiration from for this dark tale.


Tell us the basic premise of your book?

Doctor Abby Fenton has a rewarding career, a loving family, an enviable lifestyle – and a secret that could destroy everything. When human remains are discovered in the grounds of an idyllic Tuscan holiday home she is forced to confront the memories she has suppressed until now and relive the summer she spent at the villa in 1992. A summer that ended in tragedy. The nearer she gets to the truth the closer she comes to losing her sanity. In order to hold onto the people she loves most, she must make sure they never discover what she did. But the reappearance of someone else from that summer threatens to blow her secret wide open


What made you choose the location of Tuscany and do the locations hold any significance for you personally.

I chose Tuscany because I love its multi-layered character. Beautiful locations often harbour a gruesome history. I wanted the backstory of The Silence to take place somewhere beautiful so that in Abby’s memory it would have a dreamlike quality, making it hard for her to decide if the events were real, and also somewhere hot so that as the temperature rises so do the tensions among the dysfunctional family she’s staying with.

I also felt that because many of these tiny mountain villages are so remote and the vegetation so fast-growing that it would be easy for a crime to remain hidden for many years. But with the trend for foreigners to restore old houses and turn them into holiday homes it was inevitable that the secret would be uncovered at some time.

Tuscany does have a personal significance for me. I’ve lived in Florence and have had a house near Lucca since 2003 where I wrote much of The Silence.


The book deals with secrets and the effects they can have on a person – did you find it difficult at all getting into the mind of your lead character?

The main character in my previous book was a 21 year old man with a violent temper living in the 1930s so by comparison writing Abby was a breeze! The thing about Abby is that because she’s very good at compartmentalising, her adult life is very normal – she could be any mum you see at the school gates and she has two little girls so I can relate to that. The dark secret obviously required imagination as my life is far less interesting but that’s what I love about writing – putting myself inside someone’s head and thinking, how would I deal with that situation?


What made you want to become a writer?

I’ve loved writing since childhood and wrote my first book aged nine about the adventures of a naughty chimp, probably influenced by Paddington stories which I loved. I’ve written for a living all my adult life but mostly as a magazine journalist. I’ve written about yachts, planes and automobiles but my favourite subject is houses. I’ve visited so many intriguing places with stories to tell although often these stories couldn’t be included in the feature, including a house that was haunted by Katherine, wife of John of Gaunt, one where a horrific suicide took place and one which the police interviewed me about because they were investigating the owner.


Do you have a favourite author?

So many! Overall it would have to be Barbara Vine. I love the way most of her characters are people on the outside of things and much more interesting than they appear


Who would you most like to sit down to dinner with to talk about books and solving crimes?

Patricia Highsmith – she could really get into the mind of a criminal


What are you working on next?

I’m really excited that my next novel The Secret will be published by Crooked Cat Books in 2018. Like The Silence it is about a secret harboured by Villa Leonida in the fictional mountain village of Santa Zita but this secret goes back to wartime. It’s about two girls growing up in Mussolini’s Italy. Their paths diverge after one of them marries into the family living in Villa Leonida where she discovers nothing is as she imagined, leading to a secret which has devastating consequences



Well I am loving reading The Silence so I cant wait for the next book Katy! Thanks for chatting with me, look forward to another chat about your journey back to the sinister Villa Leonida……


Katharine Johnson

Grab a copy of The Silence here;


You can keep up with Katy by following the links below!




Behind the Book : The House at Ladywell


Continuing my look at authors and the inspiration behind their books – this week I was lucky enough to talk to Nicola Slade about her new book. There’s a touch of the Nicola Slade Picparanormal at work here and along with a historical mystery, I had to get involved and ask more about the background.


Tell us the basic premise of your novel?

Freya Gibson, PA to Patrick Underwood, a best-selling novelist, inherits an old, run-down house from an unknown elderly relative. She falls in love with the house but waiting for her is an enigmatic letter from Violet, the elderly cousin, telling her that she must ‘restore the balance’ of the house, beginning by reciting a Latin verse. Freya does so, while wondering whether it’s a prayer or a spell.

She learns that Ladywell was known as a place of healing and the house begins to work its magic on her as she discovers family secrets that shake her foundations.

Woven into Freya’s contemporary story are echoes of the family through the ages and although the reader learns why things happened as they did in the past, Freya is unaware of the house’s history.


What or who inspired you to become a writer?

My mother and grandmother were great readers and meals were always quiet as we all ate and read at the same time! I realised when I was very young that books came out of people’s heads and knew that was what I wanted to do.


Are your locations based on a real place? and do the locations hold any real life significance to you?

In this book my fictitious town of Ramalley is based on Romsey, in Hampshire, a bustling market town between Winchester and Southampton and about five miles from where I live, so it’s a place I visit frequently. When I was small I used to visit an aunt who lived not far from the town and I’ve always loved it so I was delighted when we moved to Hampshire back in the 80s.


Did it take a lot of research for your locations and the historical aspect of the story line?

I’m passionate about history so I mostly enlarged on historical events that fascinate me and I had a lot of fun reading up on them. The Lady’s Well – part of the history of the house – was  inspired by the font at Mottisfont Abbey, a National Trust property not far away and I had a couple of interesting day trips to check out the Chalice Well at Glastonbury and the Wishing Well at Upwey in Dorset. I blogged about it here .



There’s a supernatural feel to the story, do you believe in ghosts?

I’d like to! But I’m not sure though I do think some places have a distinct atmosphere. It’s not a spoiler to say that some people can smell flowers in The House at Ladywell even where there’s not a petal in the place!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe House at Ladywell has legends about hares all through the book – partly because, like so many people, I find hares magical.





What is your favourite genre to read and to write?

I love historical mysteries and have written a cosy mystery series, The Charlotte Richmond Mysteries, set in the 1850s. I don’t like to read anything too gritty or gory and I do like a happy ending!


 What are you working on next?

I’ve written the first draft of a cosy mystery set in 1918, actually in the same fictitious town of Ramalley as The House at Ladywell and I’m about to start on the serious revisions.

‘Three sisters struggle to keep the home fires burning but are hampered by wartime shortages, lack of money, demanding lodgers and a difficult mother. As though this isn’t enough, there’s a rumour that their late, unlamented father may not be dead after all and their lives are further inconvenienced by murder!’


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