Saturday, 30 April 2011

Book Draw Winner for a Copy of 'Riversong' by Tess Hardwick!

 I would like to say a great big thank-you to everyone who joined my blog as a new follower or were already a follower and entered the draw and posted some wonderful comments, during this event! It is very much appreciated. Again I wish that I could send everyone who entered this draw a book, but within the rules, there were to be only one lucky draw winner! For those of you who have not won this time, there are plenty more giveaway draws to come. Please keep visiting this blog and entering the Giveaways. You never know your luck, you could be one of our next winners! I visited earlier today and the winner of this particular draw is, drum roll!!!



I will contact the winner for their mailing details. If I have not been able to make contact with a winner within 48 hours of this post, another winner will then be drawn. Thanks again to everyone who entered this draw and who follow my blog. Happy reading!

Friday, 29 April 2011

Movers and Shakers: Interview with Author M. Leighton, Official New Book Release and e-book Giveaway Draw!

M. Leighton is a native of Ohio, but she relocated to the warmer climates of the South where she can be near the water all summer and miss the snow all winter.  Possessed of an overactive imagination from early in her childhood, Michelle finally found an acceptable outlet for her fantastical visions: writing fiction.  Four of Michelle’s novels can now be found on Amazon, as well as several other sites.  She’s currently working on sequels, though her mind continues to churn out new ideas, exciting plots and quirky characters.  Pick one of her books up and enjoy a wild ride through the twists and turns of her vivid imagination.

TSR: Michelle, a very warm welcome to you and very big thank-you from us all, for taking some time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today. Today is also extra special for me, as Michelle has chosen to officially launch her latest new novel on my site today as well!

Michelle,can I start our interview by asking what do you like best about where you are living now, and why?

Probably, the mild weather.  I can still have a taste of all four seasons, but winter doesn't last forever and neither does summer.  I do miss snow, though.  I've lived around cold, snowy winters all my life and I miss that beautiful fluffy stuff.

TSR: What sort of books did you enjoy reading as a child?

I loved Golden Books, especially Poky Little Puppy and Cinderella.  Even then, I was shaping up to love magic, romance and animals.  I grew physically bigger, but otherwise, not much has changed since then. J

TSR: Do you think the books that you read as a child influenced your current writing in any way?

I would say absolutely, and most specifically in one way in particular.  I love happy endings, and you’ll find one in all of my books.  That’s not to say that every ending is sown up neatly, without any cliff hangers or continuing problems, but there’s always the hope of what’s to come in the next book, the promise of happiness when all is said and done.  I never close a story on a sad note.

TSR: Did you always want to become a writer?

Truthfully, I always loved to write—short stories, biographies, research papers—but I never once considered actually becoming a writer.  I always viewed writers as almost mythical creatures, not human at all.  Sort of like movie stars.  Like any other fantasy, I thought that becoming an honest to goodness, bona fide writer was something that one might dream of, but never actually be able to accomplish.  I suppose I grouped all writers in with the likes of Edgar Allan Poe and J.R.R. Tolkien, and with poets such as Walt Whitman and T.S. Eliot. To me, writers were those people who write something so profound, so epic, so enchanting that the entire world has no choice but to read it in awestruck silence as their lives are forever changed by it. 

TSR: Do you have a set routine when you are working on a new novel?

Heavens no!  I wish I did, but I seem to end up with a mess on my desk no matter how much I try to do it differently.  By the time I'm finished with a novel, I have the beginnings organized nicely in a notebook and, on top of that, a huge pile of post-its and notes that constitute the vast majority of the book.  My process is very spontaneous and haphazard, much like me *sigh*.

TSR: Where do you do your writing best?

In my bright, quiet office.

TSR: What advice would you give to someone who was starting to write a book for the first time?

Write like you mean it.  Write everything like it’s happening to you.  Describe it vividly and, hopefully, readers will feel it, too.

TSR: In relation to your recently released YA book ‘The Reaping’, what made you decide to base this story on the paranormal?

My love of all things paranormal!  I've actually started to pen a “regular” book more than once, but somehow the paranormal works its way in there.  It’s the way I think, what I like, where my mind goes naturally (or supernaturally) I suppose.  I might conquer it one day and write something different, but for right now, that seems to be my niche.

TSR: ‘The Reaping’ has a cleverly thought out story line, how did you manage to keep track of the many ‘high level’ threads that run throughout this story when you were writing it?

Copious notes!  After I’d finished writing the first draft, I went through ‘The Reaping’ and I made notes about any thread that I dropped or didn't explain to my satisfaction (considering that I wanted some questions left unanswered for the benefit of the second book) and I went back and added what needed to be added.  Then I went back through all my “novel notes” and made sure I had included all the things that I wanted to include and then I read and edited it again.  I think your only real choice is to do that over and over again, until it comes out the way you want it.

TSR: If ‘The Reaping’ was to be made into a film, which actors would you like to play the lead roles?

Honestly, that is one of the hardest questions I ever get asked.  I usually say Amanda Seyfried and Chace Crawford and that has more to do with their youth than anything.  It would be hard to cast and I have the utmost respect for casting directors who manage to, in their infinite wisdom, make the right choices.

TSR: What is your favourite book and why?

‘The Wolf and the Dove’ by Kathleen Woodiwiss.  It’s amazing.  It’s all things that a romance should be. A classic, in my opinion.

TSR: What is your favourite pass time and does it play a role in your writing?

Movies, I love movies and, yes, I think they have a huge impact on my writing.  I see scenes and characters like they are playing out in my head, just like a movie.  I hope that, in turn, I am able to bring the story to life for my readers just like I see it in my head, that maybe they’ll see it, too.

TSR:  We are officially launching your latest novel ‘Blood like Poison’ on this site today? Can you introduce us to your new book without giving too much away?

Right off I can say that this book is much more of a romance.  If you can imagine, I have that dreamy look on my face just thinking of it.  It’s the story of love, love between a girl named Ridley and a vampire named Bo.  Their story, their love, is, at times, both powerfully painful and deeply satisfying.  There are things about Bo, disturbing things, dangerous things that Ridley finds out as the story progresses, things that might’ve deterred her from becoming involved with him at one point.  Unfortunately, by the time she discovers those dark secrets, Ridley’s heart is already lost to Bo and at that point, her only choice—the only one that she can live with—is to love Bo, to give her-self to him heart and soul, whatever the consequences.

TSR: Michelle, I am delighted and very honoured that you agreed to be interviewed and chose to launch your new book on my literary site! I would like to thank-you again for taking the time to speak to us today and also in supporting us by providing an e-book copy of your latest novel ‘Blood like Poison’, for an International giveaway draw!

Thank you so much for having me and for the incredible support that you’ve shown not only me, but writers of all backgrounds and genres across the globe.  I am truly grateful!

If you would like to find out more about M. Leighton and her writing, just click on the direct link to her website below:

International e-book Giveaway Draw!
Michelle has very kindly provided an e-book  copy of her brand new book 'Blood like Poison' for an International Giveaway Draw to go with this interview and Official Book Release, here at 'The Secret Writer'!

It is very simple to participate in this draw . If you visit this blog and have joined as a 'Google Friend Connect' follower, leave a comment on this post (also include your e-mail address in your comment so I can contact you if you are a winner), you will be entered into a draw for the e-book copy of Michelle's latest novel 'Blood like Poison'!

There will be one winner of this draw. Each entrant to the draw will be allocated a sequential number. After the closing date for this draw (Friday 6th May 2011 at 23.59GMT), the winning number for this draw will be chosen by This is an International Giveaway for all my GFC Followers! Thank-you to Michelle for providing this great prize for a draw and for choosing to launch her latest novel with us here today!

Good Luck Everyone!

Official Book Release! - 'Blood like Poison' by M.Leighton

Like most seventeen year olds, Ridley Heller thought she had her future all planned out.  What she wanted most in life was to get out of small town Harker.  Her only goal was to keep her mouth shut and her grades high so she could win a cheerleading scholarship to Stanford.  But that was before she met Bo. 
In Ridley’s wildest dreams, she could never have planned for someone like Bo, for a love so intense it left her breathless.  No human girl could.
A haunting stranger that watched her from afar, Bo stole Ridley’s heart from the moment she laid eyes on him.  But he has secrets.  Bo’s a vampire.  Both his past and his present are a danger to Ridley, but the biggest threat is not her blood; it’s her heart.  He’s feeding a thirst for revenge that will cost him his life, and it may already be too late.  
The more darkness Ridley uncovers, the more she realizes that her life will never be the same—with or without Bo.  Can she sacrifice her future and her heart for someone who has a death wish?

Amazon.Com Link
 Also available on Barnes and Noble and Smashwords

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Recent Book Release - 'Evenfall' by Liz Michalski

Released: February 2011 

Published by: Berkley (Penguin), New York
ISBN No: 978 0 425 23872 1

Cross a Murphy woman and she'll haunt you the rest of your days!

That's what they say in Hartman, Connecticut, where the Murphy women are known for their beauty, wilfulness, and disastrous luck with men. No one knows the truth of this saying better than Frank Wildermuth. Fifty years ago, he fell in love with Gert Murphy, but through fate and bad timing wound up married to her sister. He spent the rest of his life quietly regretting his mistake. Now Frank's dead -- but not quite gone—and it's time to do some haunting of his own.

All Andie Murphy ever wanted was to get out of town. But she’s back to settle Evenfall, her Uncle Frank’s estate, where some things never change -- and some things have changed a lot. Aunt Gert, for example, still drives her crazy. On the other hand, Cort, the wide-eyed farmboy she used to babysit, is all grown up -- with a whole new definition for the word sleepover.

But if you're a Murphy woman, love never goes smoothly. As Andie struggles with her feelings, Frank sees a chance for redemption -- one that could cost his niece dearly. They'll both need to decide --

Is true love really everlasting? Is home just an address, or a place you carry in your heart? And if you truly regret your mistakes, can the long-buried dreams of your youth come alive again?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Author Interview with Ann Mauren and International Book Giveaway Draw!

Ann Mauren is always on the move between her three careers as a Marketing Coordinator for an American Foodservice corporation, ‘Director of Home and Childcare Management’ for her family, and Author of Romance and Suspense fiction for herself and like-minded readers.

TSR: Ann, A very warm welcome to you, and can I thank-you for taking time out of your schedule to talk to us today.

Thanks! I’m excited to join you.

TSR: For our International readers can I begin by asking what are your best memories from your childhood of growing up in Kentucky, and what do you like best about now living in Ohio?

Though it’s known as the “Bluegrass State” my memories of Kentucky are coloured in every shade of green. Gorgeous rolling hills, water ways and woods are broken up by farms, parks, and now, unfortunately, the odd but unstoppable scourge of strip malls. I’ve only lived in two places: Louisville, Kentucky growing up, and now Cincinnati, Ohio. They share the same river and most if not all of the same franchised restaurants and stores. Ohio is very much like Kentucky, but without the southern accent. Happily, both places still feel like home to me.

TSR: Do you think books that you read during your childhood may have influenced your current writing in any way?

I have such happy memories of my mother reading aloud to me. It was truly a performance as she always incorporated her unique mimicking abilities while reading works like ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ by Beatrix Potter with a British accent, or Ludwig Bemelman’s ‘Madeline’, in the most velvety French-kissed dialect imaginable. Selections from Dr. Suess featured voices that were as diverse and exotic as the odd little illustrated characters they portrayed. I pull right up with childish glee and enthusiasm whenever she ‘performs’ these classics for my little boys. It’s an incredibly pleasurable portal through time back to my own childhood. Without a doubt, all those beloved building block stories have formed the foundation of my own writing platform, with a special emphasis on unique characters and their humorous sensibilities.

TSR: Did you always want to become a writer?

The idea to write came to me only recently and as a result of unusual circumstances. While pregnant with my second child, health restrictions left me housebound and immobile and I did a great deal more pleasure reading than I had been used to prior to that time. A particularly commercially successful ‘saga’ was all the rage during that period, and I decided to investigate the uproar about it, interested in determining the key to its extreme popularity. At the same time I was trying to locate work I could perform from home and I kept coming back to jobs that required writing, though nothing that fit my particular needs turned up. Thinking back on how much I enjoyed reading for pleasure combined with a deep desire to find employment that allowed me to use my imagination and communication skills to the full, the notion that perhaps I could be a fiction writer sprouted and I’ve been slowly cultivating the idea ever since.

TSR: Do you have a set writing routine when you are working on a novel?

I began writing my first novel when my baby was just a few weeks old. Back then I did most of my writing at night and in the early morning. Even though I am most definitely not a night owl, it was and still is the best option for peace, quiet and convenience. With two very active and noisy boys rolling through the house, if I want to experience quiet, disruption-free stretches of time in which to think and write, I must 1) Leave the premises, 2) Disconnect my hearing and engage my cloaking device, or 3) Wait until everyone is asleep. Option three always wins because it doesn’t require the services of a babysitter or futuristic technology to achieve.

As any parent will tell you, life with children requires flexibility, so depending on what’s happening that day and how tired I am, I will try for some time after everybody is in bed, or set the alarm for 4:30 a.m. and try to get an early crack at my writing for the day. Somehow coffee manages to make itself taste better in the small hours before dawn.

TSR: Where do you write best?

I fantasise about having my own writing den or remote cabin to be alone with my stories, but that is not the reality I inhabit. Most of my writing sessions occur in the baby’s nursery in an upholstered glider with a TV tray pulled up on which to set my laptop and my drink. Notably, the door to this room has never locked successfully or kept short trespassers out with any degree of effectiveness. My only ally in the battle for private time is my housemates’ recurring need for sleep.

TSR: Can you tell us a bit about your book ‘In the Spotlight’?

‘In The Spotlight’ is the first in a collection titled “Mayne Attraction”, named for the series’ heroine, Ellery Mayne, a young woman who discovers that she is being shadowed and protected by a private security force. This instalment provides Ellery’s own narration of her efforts to uncover the secrets behind her mysterious guardians and the experiments she conducts to test the responses of highly trained professionals who think she is clueless about them.

Though they are extremely illusive, their protection and feelings for her become plain to see—especially those of the team’s youngest member, Ash Ryan, whom Ellery discovers after one of her ‘experiments’ sends him panicking in a call for reinforcements. Secretly observing him while he secretly observes her, she forms an attachment over time and eventually declares her feelings to Ash, who is blindsided with joy and a sweet romance unfolds. However, they must carefully hide their love because his team will lose its lucrative security contract if their mysterious employer learns of this secret relationship.

When her first love, Grayson Gregory, abruptly returns seeking to rekindle a relationship that she thought was over forever, she suspects she’s discovered the source of her security team’s employment. Deeply buried affections for Grayson resurface and battle with the love and loyalty she feels for Ash. Probing for the answers she needs and conscious that her actions will impact so many, this once shy and lonely girl finds that her life is ‘In The Spotlight’ and that she is the ‘Mayne Attraction.’ The series will be continued from the unique perspectives of both of Ellery’s suitors in the books ‘In the Smoke’ and ‘In the Shadow’.

TSR: What was your inspiration for the theme that you have followed within this story?

I was intrigued with the idea of what it would be like to have a security detail following my every move: how I would feel about it and how I would react. Imagining myself in Ellery’s position was great fun and the story began to write itself.

TSR: You have talked about writing other books telling this same story from the perspective of other characters from within this story. Are you still planning on doing this and if you are, why?

I have always been fascinated by the divergence that occurs when you compare one person’s account of a situation with that of another’s—especially when something very important to those involved is at stake. This series embraces those shades of gray in the overlap where stories coincide, intersect and ultimately depart. Though a few scenes overlap in each instalment, the majority of the two follow-up books present new passages, secondary character development and back story not considered by the other main characters in the love triangle at the heart of the tale. You will only have the full story once you’ve completed the series.

TSR: What genre would you say that your book fits into?

It is a Romance with elements of humour, suspense, and coming of age. (So does that make it a ‘Rom-Coming of Age’?)

TSR: Working and looking after a family and home can be very demanding, as is writing novels to publishing deadlines, do you have any hobbies or other interests that you enjoy in order to give you a break from these regular full time demands?

Is Twitter considered a hobby? When my time is my own and I can do exactly what I want, it usually involves me and my Kindle...

TSR: Can you give any advice to new writers, as they struggle to try to achieve a work life balance when working, bringing up a family, writing and also possibly trying to promote their books as well?

The best words of encouragement I can think of weren’t really aimed at writers, but I like them all the same: “The fact that some achieve great success is proof that anyone can.” – Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States.

The recipe for success has room for all sorts of customizations, but making set times to write and paying it to yourself like bill instead of giving in to the temptation to put it on the back burner is the framework for writing success around which every other related task and additional responsibility in life must be built. And it’s okay to slow down if you need to, just don’t stop all together.

TSR: Ann, which do you prefer, Mac or PC?

I have Mac daydreams to pass the time while my PC reboots. My sage advice: Always save your work, folks, and in more than one place.

TSR: What is your favourite book and why?

Because I enjoy a deep love of nature, 'Americana', and laughing to the point of crying, Bill Bryson’s ‘A Walk In The Woods’ is one of my all time favourite books. It chronicles his efforts to hike the Appalachian Trail as an out of shape, middle aged arctophobic (person with a fear of bears). Bryson has a way of simultaneously educating and entertaining with beautiful language and engaging perspectives that I’ve never encountered anywhere else. He has been described as one of the finest writers still living. (This probably gives him the creeps!) I actually got to meet him in the fall of 2010, and though the decade is still young, I’m quite certain that for me the encounter will remain as one of its brightest highlights.

TSR: Are you currently reading any books at the moment, and if so what are they?

I give priority to the works of my indie author friends. There is nothing quite so pleasurable and satisfying as enjoying the imagination and craftsmanship of personal acquaintances. Plus it more clearly illustrates and drives home the truthfulness of Mr. Lincoln’s sentiments as mentioned above. “The fact that some [of my amazing author friends] achieve great success is proof that any one [yes, even silly little me] can.

At this moment my Kindle features the books “THALO BLUE”, by Jason McIntyre, and “In Memory of Greed”, by Al Boudreau, two of my favourite authors on the indie scene.

TSR: From what you have shared with us today, it can be clearly seen that you are kept very busy within your life but enjoy it to the full! To conclude this interview can you finally tell us what simple things in life make you smile?

Being mimicked by my toddler, in both speech and actions. It’s a constant compliment and chagrin, a joy and a joke. It makes me smile more purely than almost anything else in life.

TSR: Ann, it has been a great honour for me to work with you on this interview for my literary site. I would like to thank-you once again for taking the time to speak to us today.

Thanks for picking me out of the amazingly colourful bouquet of literary talent you have to choose from these days. The pleasure and honour was all mine!

Readers can check out excerpts of Mayne Attraction as well as images and music that inspired the story by clicking on the direct web link below:

International Book Giveaway Draw!

Ann has very kindly provided a copy of her book 'In the Spotlight' for an International Book Giveaway Draw to go with this interview, here at 'The Secret Writer'!

It is very simple to participate in this draw . If you visit this blog and have joined as a 'Google Friend Connect' follower, leave a comment on this post telling me in a couple of lines where your dream place for a perfect summer holiday would be and why? (also include your e-mail address in your comment so I can contact you if you are a winner), you will be entered into a draw for a copy of Ann's novel 'In the Spotlight'!

There will be one winner of this draw. Each entrant to the draw will be allocated a sequential number. After the closing date for this draw (Monday 2nd May 2011 at 23.59GMT), The winning number for this draw will be chosen by This is an International Giveaway for all my GFC Followers! Thank-you Ann for providing this great prize for a draw!

Good Luck Everyone!

My Draw Winners for the Happy Easter Eggstravaganza Blog Hop!

I would like to say a great big thank-you to everyone who joined my blog as a new follower or were already a follower and entered the draw and posted some wonderful comments, during this fantastic event! It is very much appreciated. Again I wish that I could send everyone who entered this draw a book, but within the rules, there were to be only three lucky winners! For those of you who have not won this time, there are plenty more giveaway draws to come. Please keep visiting this blog and entering the Giveaways. You never know your luck, you could be one of our next winners!

I visited earlier today and the winners of this draw are, drum roll!!!

Elizabeth - 'Scarpetta' by Patricia Cornwell

Adrianga - 'Gallows Thief' by Bernard Cornwell

Ren - 'Magic Study' by Maria V Snyder


I will contact the winners for their mailing details. If I have not been able to make contact with a winner within 48 hours of this post, another winner will then be drawn. Thanks again to everyone who entered this draw and who follow my blog. Happy reading!

Monday, 25 April 2011

New Book to be Released Soon!

  Cold Kill by Neil White 
Release date: 2nd June 2011
Published by: Avon Harper Collins

When Jane Roberts is found dead in a woodland area, Detective Sergeant Laura McGanity is first on the scene. The body bears a chilling similarity to a woman – Deborah Corley – murdered three weeks earlier. Both have been stripped, strangled and defiled. When reporter Jack Garrett starts digging for dirt on the notorious Whitcroft estate, he finds himself face-to-face with Jane’s father and gangland boss Don who will stop at nothing until justice is done. It seems that the two murdered women were linked in more ways than one and a dirty secret is about to surface that some would prefer stayed buried. As the killer circles once more, Jack and Laura must get to him before he strikes again. But his sights are set on his next victim and he’s watching Laura’s every move…

Neil White is a Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service in the North of England and uses his vast knowledge and expertise to create authentic, hard-hitting crime novels. He lives with his family in Preston, Lancashire, and is the author of four previous books. Fallen Idols, Lost Souls, Last Rites and Dead Silent, are all published by Avon.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Author Interview with Tess Hardwick and International Book Giveaway Draw!

Tess Hardwick is a novelist and playwright. She began her artistic pursuits as an actress, graduating with a BFA in Drama from the University of Southern California. In 2000 she wrote her first full-length play, My Lady’s Hand which subsequently won the 2001 first place prize for new work at the Burien Theatre, discovering during that experience that the types of stories she wanted to tell were better done in novel form. RIVERSONG, her first novel, comes out in mid-April by Booktrope.

Except for her brief stint in Los Angeles for college, Tess has resided in the Pacific Northwest for most of her life. She grew up in a small town in Oregon but has lived in Seattle, Washington for twenty years. She currently lives just east of Seattle in Snoqualmie, Washington with her husband, two small daughters and a teenage stepson.

TSR: It is my privilege and pleasure to welcome and introduce you all, to the author Tess Hardwick. A very warm welcome to you Tess, and very big thank-you from all of us for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us here today.

Tess: Thank you so very much for having me. It’s a privilege to be here. I feel a bit like a rock star!

TSR: Tess, you used to live in Southern Oregon. For the benefit of our International readers can you tell us a bit about Southern Oregon and your memories about living there?

Tess: I think we all have a sense of nostalgia about the places we grew up, so it was probably inevitable that my first novel would be set in Southern Oregon, almost as a homage or love letter to the beauty of the landscape and the people I once knew. Southern Oregon is one of the most beautiful places on earth; jutting pine covered mountains and clear rivers that weave in and around communities. They have mild springs, hot dry summers and crisp autumns. I’ll conveniently forget to mention the rainy season in the mid-winter! And the stars at night – you’ve never seen anything as spectacular as the Milky Way on a clear night in Oregon.

TSR: You now live just east of Seattle. What do you like about living in this area?

Tess: Seattle is a beautiful city surrounded on all sides by bodies of water. The Puget Sound on one side, and Lake Washington on the other. On a sunny day, I can't imagine any place better - imagine that everywhere you look there is blue water accented with green foliage. But we have a long rainy season (feeling particularly long this year). Locals joke that the rain starts the day after Labor Day in early September and doesn't end until July 5th - the day after our Independence Day celebrations where it's inevitably rainy. Not that it keeps true Seattle residents inside. We just grab our hats and add an extra layer!

My family and I just moved to a suburb east of Seattle last summer, built at the base of Mt. Si, which is part of the Cascade Mountain range. We love it here - feels like a small town and is very family oriented.

TSR: Can I ask you what sort of books did you enjoy reading during your childhood?

Tess: I loved the classic favourites for girls – ‘The Little House Series’, ‘The Secret Garden’, ‘Anne of Green Gables’, ‘All of a Kind Family’. As I grew older, I discovered Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Willa Cather and the quintessential American novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. With all of these writers, I felt that thing that all good books do for a reader: that they were written just for me. I still read these over again, especially when I’m feeling down or lonely. They’re like coming home.

TSR: Do you think the books that you read during your early years influenced your writing in any way?

Tess: Of course, the obvious answer is yes. Everything you read influences your writing style; especially early in life when you devour books in a sort of focused intensity afforded only the youth. And there is no better way to learn to write than to read. That said, as I was answering the previous question, it occurred to me how very much these books did influence my sensibilities about character and storytelling. They are all stories about girls who are on the fringe of a society whether it’s because of poverty or familial circumstance. They are all about relationships and community, which are central themes of ‘RIVERSONG’, as well as my current manuscript.

TSR: Did you always want to become a writer?

Tess: When I was a little girl, obsessed with books, it never occurred to me that I could or would write, as I was solely focused on being a reader. I never believed I would be able to write well enough to be worthy of the writers I read. So I dismissed it as something for those with more talent. I studied acting, believing it to be the art I showed the most talent for. I was good but I didn’t love it as much as I loved messing around with books. I approached acting in an almost academic way, a dissection of story, seeing it unfold in my mind not as an actress in the moment but as a writer might.

When I was in acting class my senior year of college, I was doing an exercise where you spoke extemporaneously through an intimate moment designed to free your emotions. After that exercise, a classmate said, “When I hear how Tess puts words together, it makes me know she’s a writer.” That was the first time anyone said it. In that moment I knew it was true. I was a writer.

As I’ve grown older and more focused, my desire to create story is like a rash that must be attended to, an agitation, like an addict looking for my fix, I’m not at peace until I sit at the computer working on my latest project.

TSR: Where do you do your writing best?

Tess: I have a home office where I work most of the time. Because I have young children, I find it essential to have a room of one’s own, so to speak.

TSR: Can you tell us a bit about your new novel ‘RIVERSONG’?

Tess: RIVERSONG is about a woman who awakens one day to the news that her husband’s committed suicide and left her with a huge debt to a dangerous man. She escapes to the small Oregon town where she was raised, hoping to salvage what’s left of her mother’s dilapidated home in order to sell it and pay off her debt. While there, she becomes ensconced in the community of this little rundown town, becoming part of a group of people who band together to reinvent it as a tourist destination. It’s a light read, about love and friendship, the power of community, meant to uplift the reader and give hope that no matter how bad your circumstance, there is always an opportunity for a second chance.

TSR: Has it been difficult to bring your first novel to the actual stage of publication?

Tess: Yes, it’s been a bit of a journey. I started writing it when my youngest was eight months old. She’s about to turn five! After many queries, none of which yielded any real interest, I put ‘RIVERSONG’ away and was well into my new manuscript when I got an unexpected call from a friend. She’d taken a job at an independent publisher in Seattle (Booktrope) and pitched ‘RIVERSONG’ in the interview. They gave me a contract shortly thereafter.

TSR: Do you have a set routine when you are working on a novel?

Tess: For the first draft my goal is 2500 words each day. I don’t allow myself to quit until I’ve reached that number. Sometimes it goes from one chapter to the next in organized succession but often I have to skip a section that I’ve not worked out completely and come back to it when the plot pieces fall into my mind, usually in the shower or while I’m driving, listening to music. For the second draft, I’m a little more disorganized in my approach. I try to start at the beginning and work my way through but sometimes I meander a bit. I am not an outline writer and allow that I may not know all the plot answers at the beginning. My stories are character driven, so much so that they sometimes take over the story and pull it in a direction I hadn’t intended. For example, ‘RIVERSONG’ was not supposed to be a love story, but the character Tommy wanted what he wanted with no credence to my wishes whatsoever. He wanted Lee and literally took over the keyboard so that he could have her!

TSR: What is your favourite book and why?

Tess: ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. As I said before, it is one of the quintessential American stories in that it shows the best and worst about America. I’m moved by the courage and insight of Atticus Finch – standing up for what was right in a time when it was not only unpopular to do so but actually dangerous. Told from a child’s point of view about something so shameful in our collective American past makes it that much more poignant. Oh, it’s just perfect in every way!

TSR: Are you currently reading a book at the moment, and if so what is it?

Tess: I’m reading ‘The Three Weissmanns of Westport’ by Cathleen Schine right now. It’s wonderful!

TSR: Have you any another books in the making at the moment?

Tess: I’m currently working on a historical fiction called ‘Duet for Three Hands’, set during the 1930’s in the American south. The idea came to me from some letters and a short story written by my Great-grandmother who lived during that time in Alabama. It’s a much more ambitious novel than my first in that it’s told from five perspectives. Not to mention the amount of research it’s taken!

TSR: Tess, I would like to thank-you once again for taking the time to visit and speak to us today. I would like to wish you every success with your future writing career.

Tess: Thank you so much for the opportunity to chat. I would love to come back, anytime.

For further information about Tess and her writing you can visit Tess’s website at:

International Book Giveaway Draw!

Tess and her publisher Booktrope have very kindly provided me with a copy of the novel 'Riversong' for an International Book Giveaway Draw to go with this interview, here at 'The Secret Writer'!

It is very simple to participate in this draw . If you visit this blog and have joined as a 'Google Friend Connect' follower, leave a comment on this post telling me the name and author of the book you are currently reading at the moment? (also include your e-mail address in your comment so I can contact you if you are a winner), you will be entered into a draw for a copy of Riversong', which is a new release that is just hot off the printing presses!

There will be one winner of this draw. Each entrant to the draw will be allocated a sequential number. After the closing date for this draw (Friday 29th April 2011 at 23.59GMT), The winning number for this draw will be chosen by This is an International Giveaway for all my GFC Followers! Thank-you Tess and Booktrope, for providing this great prize for a draw!

Good Luck Everyone!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Happy Easter Eggstravaganza Blog Hop!

Welcome to the 'Happy Easter Eggstravaganza Blog Hop'!  
This is a 6 day blog hop taking place from, Wednesday 20th April to Monday 25th April 2011.Thanks to 'I am a Reader' and and 'Once Upon a Twilight'  for helping host this awesome hop! There are 200+ blogs signed up to host a book related giveaway, so you have a great chance of winning something!

I am based in the UK, so have posted this up earlier than the majority of blogs that are taking part in this hop, which are mainly based in the United States of America/Canada, as they are about six hours behind me time wise, so their link blog hop posts will not go up until 00.01 am on 20th April in their specific time zones.

If you visit this blog and have joined as a 'Google Friend Connect' follower, leave a comment on this post (also include your e-mail address in your comment so I can contact you if you are a winner), you will be entered into a draw for one of the following great book titles:

Magic Study by Maria Snyder
Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell
Gallows Thief by Bernard Cornwell

Only one book can be won by each draw winner. There will be three winners from this draw. Each entrant will be allocated a sequential number. After the closing date for this draw (Monday 25th April 2011 at 23.59GMT), the winning numbers entered for this draw will be chosen by This is an International Giveaway!

As I have already said earlier, there are over two hundred blogs taking part in this giveaway! When you have entered this draw click on the links below to move onto the other participating blogs to see what prizes they have on offer once their links are up according to their time zones! 

Good Luck Everyone!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

An Interview with Author Sara Sheridan.

Sara Sheridan was born Edinburgh and studied English Literature at Trinity College Dublin. Sara has been published in a variety of genres from contemporary commercial fiction to ghost writing and historical fiction to children's picture books. A self-confessed swot, Sara is obsessed with stories, words and historical detail. She thoroughly enjoys events and in the last year in addition to a variety of book festival and library appearances Sara took part in an exhibition of writers' responses to historical objects at the V&A during London Design Festival. This involved Sara writing a poem that was displayed only a couple along from Andrew Motion's. Sara professes herself to be unexpectedly geeky! She runs her own website and often finds herself evangelising twitter and blogging on a variety of sites including the London Review of Books and the Guardian as well as writing for the printed press (most recently the Scotsman, The Natural History Museum magazine, The National Library of Scotland magazine and -believe it or not - the Women's Institute Magazine). Sara sits on the SOAIS committee and is an active member of 26, a UK group dedicated to the importance of all kinds of writing in our society. In 2011 Sara will be taking part in the Edinburgh International Book Festival (among other events). Sara has two books out this year so it’s going to be an especially hectic time ahead for her!

TSR: A very warm welcome to you Sara, and can I thank-you, for taking time out of your especially busy schedule to talk to us today. For the benefit of our International readers can you tell us a bit about Edinburgh and why you like living in this very historical Scottish city?

Sara: Well for a start, my family is here! I’m very family oriented though I have lived other places, and I travel a lot, Edinburgh is home. It’s a great city and I'm very urban so I live in the centre of town. One of the things I like most about Edinburgh is that it assimilates its history into the modern world and I also love that it’s just so beautiful. Sometimes I'm walking around and I turn a corner and I see a view I haven’t seen before, and I just think Wow!

TSR: Can I ask what sort of books did you like reading as a child?

Sara: I was a huge reader! I loved lots of kinds of books but the ones that really influenced me were, let me see ---- ‘Heidi’ from when I was younger because it imaginatively engaged me. One time I’d been reading it and my Mum came in the next morning to wake me up for school and I crawled across the bed-cover saying that I couldn’t walk cos I had the same disease as Clara and she’d better send me to Switzerland to recover! I remember enjoying ‘The Secret Garden’ and staying up half the night with ‘Wuthering Heights’ (I couldn't sleep after that scene where Cathy haunts Heathcliff) Also influential was ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ (I can’t resist historical adventure) and I loved Georgette Heyer, (‘Devil’s Cub’ remains a favourite, even today).

TSR: Do you think the books that you read as a child influenced your writing in any way?

Sara: I have this crazy memory for words and phrasing – I’ll carry the form of something in my mind for years and re-jig it and use it again and again, in different ways. It could be a sentence structure or particular words that have a resonance for me. So yes, almost certainly, I get something out of almost everything I read – always have.

TSR: Did you always want to become a writer?

Sara: No not at all! The story of me deciding to write is sickening! I had separated from my husband and had a small child to look after and I was struggling, really. I wasn't coping. So one night my best friend and I decided to figure out what might help and we decided that working from home (at least for a while) would be a good idea. We made a list of all the jobs I could manage from home and I picked the idea of writing a novel. If it hadn't worked quickly (In the sense of – if I hadn't got published) the plan was to move on to something else on the list. I gave myself a year. I wrote my first book, sent it off, and had an offer within a matter of weeks. I know! It’s sickening! I told you.

TSR: Do you have a set routine when you are working on a novel?

Sara: Well I work quite hard when I'm writing a novel but the routine might be different. Sometimes I need more research than others. Sometimes I find that I have a slightly faster or slower pace but almost always I can tape 1000 – 2000 words a day on average and I work five days a week.

TSR: Where do you do your writing best?

Sara: I'm not tied to one place. I know that works for some people. Mostly I write either in my laptop in bed or at my desk, but I've written on planes, in hotel rooms, in libraries, on holidays and in coffee shops! It’s the head-space that’s most important, not the location.

TSR: What made you decide to write historical fiction novels?

Sara: I love historical fiction. I’d been working in contemporary, commercial fiction and had three novels published by Random House but I decided I wanted a change of direction. There were lots of reasons – partly because the books hadn't taken off sufficiently (they worked, but didn't fly) and partly because I was interested in history and found a story that intrigued me – that story turned into ‘The Secret Mandarin’.

TSR: Can you tell us a bit about your book, ‘The Secret Mandarin’?

Sara: It’s based on the real-life adventures of Robert Fortune, a Scottish plant hunter from the mid-1800s. I was at a party and I met a forester. We were chatting about adventures and he said’ you should look up the plant hunters if you’re after an adventure story’, so I did, and I was amazed! Fortune went into China after the Opium War on an industrial espionage mission for the East India Company.  He stole tea plants and exported them to help set up the Himalayan tea plantations. He was reactionary, difficult, unforgiving and very brave. The idea for the character of Mary Penney came to me very quickly – she’s the fictional element of the story – his sister in law, who drives him crazy by threatening his stratospheric career path with her unconventional lifestyle. I then took it from there!

TSR: ‘What was your inspiration for writing ‘Secret of the Sands’?

Sara: I was in the John Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland and the archivist showed me three letters from James Raymond Wellsted (a lieutenant in the Bombay Marine). I was hooked. He went into the interior of the Arabian Peninsula and he had this very fresh voice and I was intrigued. I wanted to evoke Oman and the Indian Ocean and the heyday of the British Empire (the good and the bad) and the idea for the book, (or rather the way it would feel), came to me immediately.

TSR: How did you think of and develop the main characters’ in your books?

Sara: Well some of them are real, of course. And the fictional ones I develop to highlight the real characters and what actually happened to them or to fill in the gaps (history is intriguing particularly for the gaps). I'm a bit mad when I’m writing – I disappear into the world I've created in an alarming fashion. Sometimes just a phrase can set off an idea – something from a diary or a letter that reveals something and I think ‘I can use that – I can develop it.’

TSR: I liked the unusual use of the character ‘Farida’. Why did you choose to use a person from another land within this particular role in your book?

Sara: Well there were white slaves on the Arabian Peninsula (probably still are – the human rights record in the region is horrifying to this day), so it was perfectly possible. I also wanted an indomitable character – one who could make bad fortune work for them and always seemed to fall on her feet. And I fancied a bit of burquah-clad rebellion. She was also a means to make a very foreign culture more accessible – she could give a European view but still an insider’s view of Arab culture. I liked that – I thought it would help a reader get into the world.

TSR: Which character in ‘Secret in the Sands’ do you like best?

Sara: Hmm. Tough one. I suppose Wellsted. He was brave and forward thinking and open minded. I did have fun writing Farida though – she made me laugh!

TSR: What is your favourite book and why?

Sara: ‘Water Music’ by TC Boyle. It is the story of Mungo Park’s doomed trip up the Niger in the early 1800s. Boyle’s use of language is magical.

TSR: Are you currently reading a book at the moment, and if so what is it?

Sara: Good heavens yes! I'm almost always reading a book. ‘Selim Aga’ by James McCarthy today (non-fiction) and I also have ‘Cloud Atlas’ on the go.

TSR: Do you have any hobbies or interests that you enjoy in order to give you a break from your normal routine and your writing?

Sara: I love films. I watch a lot of films. I'm a huge swot – so often my interests are related to writing. I’ll go off to the architectural archive for fun (I get teased about that all the time – I’ll have a day off and end up in the library anyway).

TSR:  Have you any other books in the making at the moment and when are they due to be published?

Sara: Yes! I'm having a three month catch up – editing a 1950s crime book I wrote to get it ready for sale and also taking my earlier, published contemporary fiction stories and re-editing them to put up as Kindle Editions. After that I’ll start another historical novel (I have four ideas and a meeting next week to pick which one should be first). I've had two books out this year (‘Secret of the Sands’ and ‘ I'm Me’) so it’ll take a little while to catch up.

TSR: It has been an absolute delight to talk to you today and I am very honoured that you agreed to be interviewed for my literary site. Once again, thank-you for taking the time to chat with us today.

Sara: It’s been my pleasure!

If you would like to find out more about Sara and her writing, the link to her website is given below: