Sunday, 23 February 2014

Step Back in Time with Ali McNamara

I've always loved adventures in space and time, from when Lucy found Narnia in the back of a wardrobe, so I was really pleased to discover Step Back in Time by Ali McNamara.
Jo-Jo, a career girl in 2013, gets knocked over on a zebra crossing and taken back to 1963. Of course, that was the year The Beatles really became famous and, lucky girl, she gets a job at EMI records! But that is not the end of it, she travels on again to the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties.
Each time she meets George who owns a shop called Groovy Records, whom she knows from the present. He doesn't change, apart from ageing, but her other travelling companions, Ellie, from Liverpool, and the gorgeous Harry do, from decade to decade. ( I couldn't help but see Harry as a younger version of Colin Firth!)
George seems to know some of the answers to why she is travelling through time, but is not letting on, so Jo-Jo must try and find out for herself and somehow get back to her life in 2013, but will it be the same?
I loved this story, having lived through all those decades(!), and Ali has created the atmosphere of each one really well.
It's a great magical mystery tour which kept me reading to find out what happened next, how she would manage to get home and whether she would ever get it together with Harry!
I enjoyed looking out for all the fab Beatles' references too!
I think it would make a great film!

Do you have a favourite time travel book?

Sunday, 9 February 2014

My First Radio Interview!

I was excited when Vanessa Woolley asked me to be interviewed on Marlow FM 97.5, but last Friday, as the minutes ticked on towards eleven o'clock, my heart was thundering in my chest!
But I needn't have worried, it was all very relaxed, and I felt that I was chatting to friends.
Vanessa, who's one of the presenters of the monthly Book Club feature, phoned me to do a sound test, and said that she'd put me on hold and the next time we spoke we would be on air!
She'd sent me some outline questions in advance, and I had jotted down some notes, but actually when I got into the swing of it, I didn't need them. When you think about it, no one knows more about writing a particular book than the author!

We talked about my novel, Gipsy Moth, and I told them:

It's set in 1929, and Kathy has been sent to Aunt Sylvia's in Devon because she's pregnant and Ben's family won't let them marry. However, her aunt's step-son, Paul, has fallen in love with her and supports her dream of flying a Gipsy Moth . . .

Haldon Aerodrome
How I came to write it:

I did a Creative Writing course and the lecturer offered two tickets to a literary luncheon for the best first 1,000 words of a novel. I didn't win, but I'd got those 1,000 words as a base to build on!
I was also interested in the role of women in the 1930s. Things were changing for them, but unmarried mothers were still being snubbed by society.
I wanted to set the novel in Devon, but had no idea, until I visited the Teignmouth Museum website to plan a trip, that there had been an aerodrome up on Haldon Moor. It was a lucky coincidence that the Prince of Wales (Edward VIII to be) flew his Gipsy Moth there in May 1930 to a reception like Robbie Williams might receive today, and that month Amy Johnson was setting off to fly solo to Australia. It really made my story take off too!

My writing routine:

When I said that I didn't sit down at 8am and write 1,000 words each day, there were words of agreement from the ladies on the show! They agreed it's difficult to write regularly when life gets in the way, (but of course we get on with it when we have time!)

What I'm working on now:

I'm working on two novels at the moment: one is a time slip set in the present day and in the First World War, and the other is a modern chick lit type of romance which is a bit of a relief because I don't have to do so much research!
I actually love research and spend a lot of time living in the past and not writing! So I thought I'd try something different.

All too soon it was over, and we were talking about where you can buy my book:
On line from Amazon, or from The Wallingford Bookshop, Wallingford OX10 0DL Tel. 01491 834383,
or The Quayside Bookshop, Teignmouth, Devon TQ14 8DE TEl. 01626 775436

I had a great time, but I was relieved when it was all over!

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Judging Books by Their Covers - Life, Death and Vanilla Slices by Jenny Eclair

They say that you should never judge a book by its cover. Well, I often do, and I'm quite lucky with my choices!
The creamy yellow cover of Life, Death and Vanilla Slices caught my eye in Waterstones, where I was meeting someone and not intending to buy a book at all.
I think it was the vanilla slice that attracted me next, and then I saw it was written by Jenny Eclair. I only knew her as a comedian on TV, and didn't know that she'd written three novels. On the cover of this one were endorsements by Jojo Moyes and Jo Brand, two of my favourite ladies, so I reckoned that it must be good. Then, turning it over to read the blurb, I noticed that the heroine was called Jean. . . I was sold, and so was the book!
Jenny has such excellent storytelling skills that you are immediately immersed in the story of the Collins family when Jean is knocked down in an accident, dropping some vanilla slices which she only buys for family celebrations. Why has she bought them? She hasn't bought any for years.
It's a story of two women: Jean, the mother, who's in a coma and is sorting through her complicated life and trying to put it in order in her mind, and Anne, her middle-aged daughter, who has come to visit her in hospital, and is reassessing her own life too.
You discover that something terrible has happened in their family, but you don't know what it is or whether it was Jean or Anne who caused the awful event.
As she looks back at her life, Jean holds back from reaching the point when this thing happened, and Anne fights to keep the dreadful secret tucked away where she has hidden it at the back of her own mind, but eventually, they both have to face up to the past.
Jenny paints equally well a picture of life in the seventies, down to the stainless steel coffee pot (which I happened to have in my cupboard for the photo!), and life for Anne in the twenty-first century with her lazy, spoilt sons and indifferent husband.
She also cleverly combines the human drama and tenderness of Jojo Moyes with the dark humour of Jo Brand.
It's an excellent book and I'm glad I was seduced by the cover: it kept me hooked until the end.
And the vanilla slice that I bought for the photo from Sainsburys? Delicious!