Hidden Colours

Nillu Nasser

Each evening, nestled in Berlin’s Treptower Park, the immigrant circus comes to life.
When Yusuf fled Syria, he lost everything. Now the circus, with its middle-eastern flair, is the only home he knows. When the lights go on, the refugees dazzle their audience, but off-stage tensions flare.
Ellie is passionate about the circus and drawn to its broken people. Even so, if she wants to keep her job at the newspaper, she must head up a campaign against it.
One night, in the midst of a show, two young circus boys come to blows. With the circus at risk of closure, Ellie must convince her readers that we can have compassion for those we fear, or Yusuf will be forced to uproot again.


What is your favourite thing about writing books?
I write for the clarity it brings, that sense of immersion and wonder. I can take the time to weave intricate sentences or get the nuance just right without worrying that it is already someone else’s turn to speak. I can examine a thought carefully, tangibly, without it slipping through the fog of my brain like a wandering child at a funfair. In a world of constant change and fleeting lives, writing a book is an act of love and attention.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?

It’s so hard to choose, but in Hidden Colours my favourite character is probably Zul the Clown, one of my protagonist’s best friends.

Before writing Zul, clowns used to scare me: big red noses, white-painted faces, windsail trousers and giant shoes. Pennywise in It is murderous rather than funny. Heath Ledger’s awe-inspiring Joker in The Dark Knight is not a man you’d like to run into, even in daylight. They are not good-humoured buffoons performing slapstick and tricks; they are maniacs.

Towards the end of 2016, I read the story of a Syrian man called Anas al-Basha, who became a clown in Aleppo when it was besieged by fighting, to bring a smile to children there. He’d refused to leave the city and was killed by a strike at the age of twenty-four. My character Zul is based on Anas. I imagine his story continues here.

The Clown of Aleppo’s story made me aware of the humanitarian aspect of clowning. Clowns are compassionate and clever. They are artists, outliers and risk-takers. They aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. They remind us not to take ourselves seriously, to pick ourselves up when something goes wrong. The more I researched, the more I was struck by their empathy.

Zul doesn’t have much page time, but when he does, my heart goes out to him. He’s such a lovely guy despite trying circumstances. Maybe one day he’ll get his own novel.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?

It has to be a cuppa of Twinings Everyday Tea, which is beautifully rounded and a delight. The problem is that the moment I’ve made the tea (it has to be the right colour), I get engrossed in work and forget all about it. Cold tea just isn’t the same.

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
Yes I do! Not stretching enough, especially if I’m in full flow. I know from other writers that it’s best to stretch regularly before your body begins to creak. I also often begin my writing days listening to music with lyrics, when I know my focus is deeper and my pace quicker when I listen to instrumental music. I write while my children are at school so I really do need to wean myself off that initial temptation to have a singalong.

How do you research your books?
By the time I’ve committed to a story idea, I know the main character’s dilemma and the themes. Often, snatches of key scenes play out in my head like a film. By the time I begin writing the book in earnest, I know where I can draw on my own experience and where I have gaps. That’s key to finding out what work is needed before the drafting begins.

Next I turn to travel guides and photo books for setting details, non-fiction books for topics and speak to friends who can deepen my knowledge. For example, my research pile for Hidden Colours included books on circus history and maps of Berlin. Sometimes I watch movies that are knwn to have elements of my new project. The internet opens up a wormhole of unfiltered information, causing hours to disappear with the click of my trackpad.

I love meandering research, how stories are shaped by a chain reaction to materials I come across, and how ideas morph into something new. Even so, fiction writers aren’t historians. My aim is to write believable and authentic stories. At some point you have to jump into the story and not look back.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I leave my pantsing for poetry. That is a freer form for me: more emotion than logic. For a novel, just letting my words rain down on paper without knowing where I’m going would be too kamikaze.

I like to figure out my characters and their desires, as well as the themes of the novel early in the process. Then I spend a few days thinking about what scenes might suit the story. I organise these in a way that would suit a novel’s arc. The beginning and end points often stay the same, but the middle often changes once I get under the skin of my characters. Then the story takes on a shape of its own.

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
I’d choose Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere or James Cameron’s Avatar. I write literary fiction, sometimes with elements of magical realism, but I also read fantasy, and who would choose to live in the real world when you could live in a fantastical one?

When Avatar first came out, I read news stories about how some fans became depressed at the thought that they would never be as entwined with nature as the Na’vi on Pandora.

Neverwhere is equally brilliant. I live in London and it made me see the city in a new light, reinventing well known landmarks, imbuing old streets and forgotten corners with magic.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
I love female characters who are central to the story. Ones who may sometimes be confused or misguided, but are essentially brave and kind like Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale (Atwood has just announced a sequel. Hooray!), Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird or Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter.

Publisher: Evolved Publishing
Publication Date: December 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 315
Genre: Literary
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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The Lilith Gene

M. Cassol

Vesna, a Serbian PhD student in Art History living in Tuscany, is a master rock climber. The only thing she can’t get a grip on is her love life. Beset by terrifying panic attacks that strike every time she allows herself to be intimate with another woman, she strives to avoid the so-called mermaids in her life. Olga is a widened-eye nurse trainee in Sarajevo. It’s 1912 and Olga is all too keen to document her life and the world changing around her in her diaries. Olga’s passion for nursing is only rivalled by her love for her anguished boyfriend Gav. The arrival of the obscure Patient J.D. 347 at the hospital is about to change everything for Olga. Everything will change for Vesna too, when she meets the compelling art restorer Rafaella Guaritore. Rafaella holds the key to Vesna’s research into influential women painters of the Renaissance and the metaphorical Lilith Gene that all the rebellious ladies in art are believed to share. Will Rafaella hold the key to solving Vesna’s mysterious recurring dreams and find the root of all her anxiety? Or is the answer to Vesna’s problems hidden in Olga’s diaries?


What is your favourite thing about writing books?
The learning curve that is researching for the plot. In “The Lilith Gene” I spent hours reading about history, art, science and the more I read, the more it changed the plot. It was almost like the story had it’s own way of conducting the development and the book turned out to be nothing like what I had in mind at the beginning, transforming into something far better that I thought I could produce.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
If I say that characters are like children, I will sound too cliche, but indeed all of them are special. In “The Lilith Gene” if I had to choose one, it would be Perzie. I don’t want to spoilt the plot too much, but she was based on a true magnificent woman and everyone should read about her. Her name is Milunka Savić and she was a Serbian war hero and an extraordinary lady.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?

When I have the privilege of having a day all to myself to write, I am stuck in a constant loop of “is it too late for coffee/too early for wine?”

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
When I am thinking, I tend to to be very fidgety with my fingers and my cuticles end up paying the price.

How do you research your books?
Internet. Human kind’s greatest achievement. But also tend to talk a lot with people that have been through situations that are featured in the book. For “The Lilith Gene” I had long chats with people that suffer from anxiety (so I could describe the real feeling of a panic attack) and also people that have tried ayahuasca, the hallucinogenic plant called the Vine of Spirits, so what I’ve written could be as accurate as possible.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I am both really. With all the good intentions I had a straight forward plot in mind, but clearly the women that live in my head and are telling their stories trough me have other ideas and I end up in a complete different place.

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
Without a shadow of a doubt, Themyscira, Wonder Woman’s Amazon island. Not only it’s the lesbian paradise, I really would not mind looking a Gal Gador all day long.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?

I would definitely apply for the position of Uma Thurman’s side quick in Kill Bill. I can already see both of us, the Bride (AKA Black Mamba) and I, with matching outfits (although I would prefer a all red outfit and trainers instead of the yellow one) samurai swords, pursing the ultimate vengeance.

I would also need a strong killer name, being Brazilian would probably be something like “Amazonian Sucuri”.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: November 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 232
Genre: Thriller
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Rage Has a Hold on Sammy

Angela Wiggins

Rage Has A Hold On Sammy is the story of an eight year old boy named, Sammy. He and his father are very close, even though his parents are divorced. Then one day, his grandmother calls; Sammy’s dad passed away. After the initial shock, Sammy’s behavior changes into a defiant, disrespectful child. How can he get over this terrible feeling that has a tight hold on him? Children that experience the loss of a parent have a difficult time? Some of those children become angry and hostile like Sammy. This book will help children in the same situation realize their not alone.


Rage Has a Hold on Sammy is a strong, moving book which could help a lot of children suffering with grief. In the story, Sammy is told by his mother that his father has passed away. Being close to his father, Sammy does not deal with his death very well. He ends up feeling angry, and betrayed, thus no longer caring about how his behaviour is affecting others. Throughout the story, it is easy to connect with Sammy and the people around him and in such a short book, Angela Wiggins did a wonderful job of bringing the story to life and really getting across how important it is to understand and recognise our feelings instead of letting them manifest and brew underneath the surface.

Along with an easy-to-follow story, the book is also full of very well depicted images of what is happening and how Sammy is feeling throughout. It would be the perfect book for children who are dealing with grief but also for those who may know someone who is acting like Sammy and cannot understand it. It’s a wonderful book for bringing empathy into children’s lives for sure. My only complaint, and it is very minor, is simply that I had hoped it would be a little bit longer and look a little bit more about how Sammy goes on to deal with his new emotions. Instead, I’ll simply have to hope there will be a sequel!

Publisher: Angela Wiggins Publishing
Publication Date: September 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 36
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Childrens
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Brexit XXL

Vincent Pluchet

Plunge into post-Brexit Britain and follow Prime Minister Tracy Meller in the biggest struggle she has ever faced, as the country is hit by a huge crisis and her opponents leave her no respite. Meet ordinary people caught up in the storm. Visit Chequers and historical places where the action takes place.
London, 2022 Tracy Meller, the UK’s Conservative Prime Minister, is facing an unprecedented crisis.
Having halted the endless negotiations to leave the European Union four years earlier, Prime Minister Meller chose the most uncompromising of all possible exits, a “Brexit XXL” with serious consequences. The economy is at a standstill, the financial markets are panicking. The opposition Labour Party launches an attack on the Prime Minister with a promise of a return to the European Union. The country’s morale is at rock bottom: everyone is afraid for their jobs and losing faith in the future. As for Scotland, its thoughts are increasingly turning back to independence. Prime Minister Meller herself is beginning to doubt the wisdom of her decision…
Will the UK survive this historic crisis? Brexit XXL is a work of fiction about the most risky Brexit scenario, based on a detailed analysis of British political culture. Both realistic and instructive, the plot of the novel has a particular resonance today, encouraging reflection on the sovereignty of nations and the future of the European project..


What is your favourite thing about writing books?
I marvel at the specific way in which books allow us to share emotions, knowledge and ideas, with people all around the world. It’s great to exchange ideas and get feedback.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
Mrs Meller, the main protagonist, is my favourite character because though she is in a position of power, as Prime Minister, she is also very human. She has many weaknesses which her opponents use to attack her – she hesitates, she is sensitive. And she means well: she does what she thinks is best for her country, not just what is best for her politically. But is being a principled and nice person enough to be a good Prime Minister? She will experience many failures during her term of office. Would her less considerate, more opportunist opponents do better than her in the event? Mrs Meller raises the question of the balance between personality and power.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Tea with a spot of milk. Very British and not French at all!

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
My bad habit is that I sometimes stop writing for weeks! If I don’t have enough inspiration, I stop. But I know a regular writing discipline would be more efficient.

How do you research your books?
I do a lot of research. I read books and I trawl the internet. For “Brexit XXL”, I closely followed the news and publications on the topic, but I also did research about the places where the events of the book happen – like Chequers and the Black Country. And I like to share my findings.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Definitely a pantser. When I started the book, I had no idea where it would take me. But for my next book, I’ll try to be a plotter! It saves a lot of headaches!

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
I like to be in the real world – sitting or travelling, and watching people and events. Once I sat in the main square in La Paz, Bolivia. It’s a small square, no bigger than the squares in many small towns. Around it are the Presidential palace, the Congress and the Cathedral. Everything was very peaceful, with pigeons and passers-by the only activity. But more than 150 revolutions and coups have taken place in that square. Talk about reality being more eventful than fiction!

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?

Definitely Guy Wick. He is a tough cookie, he has strong opinions and is not well behaved. But he is very cultured and is passionate about his beliefs. It would be good to be his friend and get to know him better.

Publisher: UK Book Publishing
Publication Date: August 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 212
Genre: Political Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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A Gift From Woolworths

Elaine Everest

Will the war be over by Christmas?
As the war moves into 1945 the lives of the women of Woolworths continue. When store manager, Betty Billington, announces she is expecting Douglas’s baby her future life is about to change more than she expects.
Freda has fallen in love with the handsome Scottish engineer but will it end happily?
Maisie loves being a mother and also caring for her two nieces although she still has her own dreams. When her brother appears on the scene he brings unexpected danger to the family.
Meanwhile Sarah dreams of her husband’s return and a cottage with roses around the door but Woolworths beckons.
Will our girls sail into times of peace, or will they experience more heartache and sorrow? With a wedding on the horizon, surely only happiness lies ahead – or does it?
A Gift from Woolworths is the next installment in Elaine Everest’s much-loved Woolworths series.


What is your favourite thing about writing books?
I love to escape to a time long ago and be able to write stories set in a time my parents spoke of and a town that has long gone because of over zealous developers. Doing this job means I get to read many books for research and also stay home in my pyjamas to work!

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
This is such a difficult question as I have grown to know and love my characters over the past five books I’ve been fortunate to invent some fascinating characters that I would love to meet in real life. I would have to say that in A Gift From Woolworths my favourite characters was Freda. I’ve out her through the mill in most of my books and she would so love to have a nice boyfriend and settle down like her friends. Perhaps the time has come…

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?

There is always a mug of coffee by my computer and I’ll drink it even when it has gone cold. I’m currently trying out the flavoured coffees from Kenco. I’m also trying to be health conscious and drink more water. Twinings have developed flavoured cold infusion bags to pop into water bottles. I have a selection of them to ensure I drink my two litres per day.

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?

Far too many! Creeping off to Facebook to speak with fellow authors who have also escaped their work. Cake is another sin but I’m trying to be good and save it for celebrating successes with my novel-writing students at The Write Place. We bring cakes to class when someone has been placed in a writing competition or sold a short story, or signed a book contract. We eat many cakes, as they are quite a clever bunch!

How do you research your books?
First I think bout the storyline then I need to fit it around the social history of that time as well as local and national history – Woolworths also had it’s own history timeline. I then read through my research books to remind myself of that period in time. I’ll watch films made during the war years and I chat with anyone who has memories of Woolworths. I do feel that saga authors have to absorb the era they cover and then check facts. I really do enjoy my research and would gladly do that all day long if I didn’t have a book to write. Only yesterday I attended a workshop at my local archive centre that covers where my books are set. We started to talk about World War One and before I given much thought to my publisher’s plans for my books I had come up with a wonderful story line just by telling someone that my grandmother worked in munitions from WW1 To 1920. I really enjoy planning novels.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a professional historical novelist so I do have to plan each book. More so because my agent needs to show my publisher so they can agree for me to write the book. This will be a one-page outline. However, after that I will start to expand the one page into chapters and scenes and add historical detail etc. When I start to write each scene and just have a couple of lines to expand into thousands of works I become a pantser and allow my creative mind to take over.

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
A lovey question! I would love to go back to the 1940s and live in the house in Erith where my character, Sarah, lived with her nan, Ruby. That was my house from 1972 – 1993 and I would love to see the house before people started to knock down walls to ‘modernise’ the Victorian bay fronted house. When we lived there after I married at the tender age of eighteen, back when I lived at number thirteen I would always say how I’d like to have experienced the war year in that house. It survive part from a few knocks and bruises so if I didn’t venture out for six years I’d be okay.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Can I have two? I would very much like to have been a friend of Dennis Wheatley’s character, the Duke de Richleau and be able to fight the dark forces in the 1930s onwards. My other friend would be Ruby Caselton, from my Woolworths books. An older grandmother character she would have been generous with her advice and cuddles and been able to solve any problem I took to her.

Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication Date: November 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
Genre: Historical Saga
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Bertie the Buffalo

Wendy Jones

Bertie the Buffalo is based on a true story of when a Water Buffalo escaped from a Buffalo Park in Fife, near Dundee, Scotland. A rhyming book about the adventures Bertie got up to and how he safely returned home, demonstrating how important each of us is no matter how insignificant we feel. Bertie felt that no one noticed him. But he didn’t need to think that as we are all special. We are all a part of one big family.


This is such a sweet and lovely little picture book that I would definitely recommend! It tells the story of Bertie, the smallest Buffalo in the farm he lives. He’s the fastest – except for Emu and he loves playing Hide and Seek. Though he fears deep inside that as he is so small, he won’t be missed. Thus when the opportunity to explore arrives, he follows a little blue butterfly out into the world. It’s a fun adventure as he meets new creatures and new places. But then he begins to feel sad and miss home quite a lot.

It’s written in a rhyming verse with easy words for those who are just learning to read along with a lovely story. It is also a good book to talk to young children about running away from home – although there aren’t many consequences for Bertie but then he is a buffalo! The book also celebrates differences within a family which is really lovely too. On top of all of that, the illustrations are wonderful and easy on the eye with light pastel colours used throughout.

Overall, I found this book to be very enjoyable and absolutely adorable. I am certain that it will be loved by lots of children as they follow Bertie on his adventures both inside and outside of his home. I would definitely be happy to read more books with the main character of Bertie at the centre!


About the Author
Award Winning Author Wendy H. Jones lives in Scotland, and her police procedural series featuring Detective Inspector Shona McKenzie, is set in the beautiful city of Dundee, Scotland. Wendy has led a varied and adventurous life. Her love for adventure led to her joining the Royal Navy to undertake nurse training. After six years in the Navy she joined the Army where she served as an Officer for a further 17 years. This took her all over the world including Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. Much of her spare time is now spent travelling around the UK, and lands much further afield. As well as nursing Wendy also worked for many years in Academia. This led to publication in academic textbooks and journals. Killer’s Countdown is her first novel and the first book in the Shona McKenzie Mystery series. Killer’s Crew won the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2107. There are now six books in this series with Killer’s Crypt being released in August, 2017. The Dagger’s Curse is the first book in The Fergus and Flora Mysteries for Young Adults. This book is currently shortlisted for the Woman Alive Magazine Readers Choice Award Book of the Year. She is also a highly successful marketer and she shares her methods in the book, Power Packed Book Marketing.

Publisher: Sarah Grace Publishing
Publication Date: November 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Children
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Forsaken Genesis

M. J. Marinescu

The world has changed in more ways than one. Most humans live in the safety of the hive cities, massive industrial complexes walled off to the outside world. Yet, the dangers of the wilds are no longer limited to the outskirts. Rumours abound of strange things in the night. Sightings of subhumans and citizens being abducted, whisked off by men in vans or worse. The Department of Control keeps a close eye on the citizens of Avalon but who are they protecting?
Melissa thought the world outside the facility would be safe. Free from the pain and the incessant tests of the men in white coats but what she finds is a world unknown. Fleeting memories call to her like a siren song pleading for her to remember. Can she figure out her strange dreams and the shadowed figure who hounds her in her sleep? She must discover who she is and come to terms with the truth that may have been kept from her for good reason if she hopes to survive in this strange new world.


What is your favourite thing about writing books?
I love creating deep characters and worlds and sharing them with people. Being able to share my imagination with other people is the best feeling in the world.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
That’s a hard one because all of my characters have a special place in my heart. If I had to pick only one… I have to go with my MC Melissa. I think she represents all of us at times. She has doubts and fears and often doesn’t know herself, but she digs her heels in and soldiers on.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
I am not a morning person, so my good friend caffeine is always by my side. Coffee, tea or energy drink (Rockstar Supersours all the way!)

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
I can sometimes get distracted by social media while working. I try to keep distractions to a minimum, but I’m also trying to improve my online presence, so it’s a fine line.

How do you research your books?
I draw from old folklore and mythology for much of my inspiration. For the world of Forsaken Genesis, I have taken from and mixed together much cultural lore on “monsters” and legends. Everything from the Agarthan Webway (aka Yggdrasil) to ghouls, vampires, ouroboros etc.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m a bit of both. My main method is pantsing but I do have a clear goal in mind when I write. For example when I started Forsaken Genesis I knew where I wanted the story to start and where it would end. Once I have those two points in mind I fill in any other important things that I need to happen and then start writing. This lets me keep track of all the character arcs and important plot details but keep the story flexible enough that if a character jumps out at me or does something I didn’t expect at first to go with the flow instead of saying “NO!” and just following through a strict guideline.

To maybe shed some light on this in relation to the book (don’t worry no spoilers) pertains to two characters. Aoife, and Eldridge. Both had somewhat small parts in my original outline idea but as I started to write the characters demanded more attention and I was able to change the story and I think it’s better for it.

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
Well not that I’m biased or anything but I would love to live in the world my book takes place in. Magic, monsters, androids and high-tech gizmo’s what’s not to love. If I had to choose a different world from another author I would pick the world from Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series. It is a frighteningly beautiful world where three realms are connected (much like my own world) and it is filled with magic and political conflicts.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Dracula hands down. I just imagine he would throw the best parties. I’ve had a love of old gothic architecture since I was young and who better than Dracula to show you around all the old castles and landscapes of Europe.

Publisher: Tellwell Talent
Publication Date: October 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 266
Genre: Cyberpunk Fantasy
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Olga’s Egg

Sophie Law

When Fabergé specialist Assia Wynfield learns of the discovery of a long-lost Fabergé egg made for the Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, daughter of the last Tsar of Russia, she appears to be the only person with misgivings. On travelling to St. Petersburg to see the egg, Assia moves among Russia’s new rich but finds herself pulled back into a family past she would rather forget. With news that a friend is missing, Assia starts to dig deeper. But does she really want the answers to the questions she is asking? Set in today’s glamorous world of Russian art with glimpses into the lives of the last Romanovs as their empire crumbled in the wake of the Russian Revolution, Olga’s Egg is an enthralling tale of love, family secrets and the artistic treasures that conceal them.


Why did you decide to write a book about the Fabergé eggs?
In 2014, a long-lost Fabergé egg was discovered in America. It had been bought by a scrap metal dealer who had tried to sell the egg for scrap but had been turned down no less than seven times. One night he started Googling Fabergé eggs and began to realise what he had sitting on his kitchen counter. He has since sold the egg for a sum believed to be around £20 million. I was so inspired by this story and by the fact that there are still seven missing Imperial Fabergé eggs that I started to write immediately.

How did you research this book?
I researched the history of the Fabergé eggs very carefully. The story of what happened to them after the Russian Revolution is completely fascinating and reads like a potted history of the 20th century. I also read a lot about the last Tsar and his family – I have been passionate about the Romanovs for as long as I can remember.

What was your favourite thing about writing this book?
I adored writing about the creations of Fabergé – translating the visual beauty of the items onto the page was something that gave me great pleasure.

Where in the world do you wish you could live?
In a turreted, towered castle in Scotland. I spent a lot of my childhood in Galloway with my grandmother and I adore the purple hills and lumpy gorse-filled fields with the coast beyond.

What is your favourite book at the moment?
It has to be The Siege by Helen Dunmore which I re-read again recently, having adored it the first time. I was so saddened to learn of her death last year. She is the most poetic of writers and her books live on in my head long after I have finished them. I think that it the best tribute to her – to keep her books alive in our hearts even though she is no longer with us.

How often do you write?
Whenever my daughter is at nursery. Having a child has made me incredibly good at managing my time. Like anything which is a precious commodity, you learn how to use it best. I tend to fire-up my computer before dropping off my daughter so that it is ready for me to get going when I come back to the house.

What do you do when you don’t write?
I work as a Russian art specialist at Bonhams Auctioneers, valuing Russian art and researching it for our Russian Art auctions.

Do you have any other writing projects on at the moment? (If you’re allowed to say!)
I would like to write more about Fabergé’s creations and their history following the Russian Revolution. I am very interested in the lives of the Russian upper-classes and how they fled the Revolution and coped with life without money and privilege. It must have been incredibly difficult starting over again.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: October 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 314
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Off-Island

Marlene Hauser

Krista Bourne has always been surrounded by the strength, love and wealth of her family and their homes in New York City and Martha’s Vineyard. She has never had to think for herself. Living with boyfriend Michael and her elderly grandfather, she can also summon up the comforting ghosts of her beloved father and grandmother. In vivid dreams she flies with her pilot father, and when awake remembers idyllic childhood holidays spent with her bohemian grandmother.
When Krista impulsively walks out on her career as a professional dancer, it is the beginning of a new chapter in her life. She feels unsettled and excited by the sense of imminent change around her.
This feeling turns to panic, then fear when she realises that she is pregnant and is uncertain whether or not she wants to keep the baby, bringing her and Michael to a crossroads in their relationship. Adamant that she alone must deal with the situation, Krista rejects all offers of support from him, isolating her at a time when she most needs help.
Krista’s journey and emotional upheaval take her back to her summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, where she is surprised to find out that she does not know her family history quite as well as she imagined.


What is your favourite thing about writing books?
Hands down, it is the fun I have participating in the story as it unfolds—never what I original expected. I love meeting the characters, one by one, who originate as an idea and go on to become 3D. I enjoy working with editors that spin a character or a plot line in an entirely different direction, forcing me to reweave the tale. I love the surprise, the adventure.

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
Very tough question, but in the final analysis, in Off-Island—I would have to say Krista because she comes of age through the unexpectedly difficult and emotionally painful experience of abortion. I do equally enjoy her grandmother Ilsa.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Tea, tea & more tea. English breakfast with lemon slices, jasmine green with lemon slices, hojika, kukicha, rooibos, earl grey, white… The list is endless. Gunpowder.

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
I write first thing in the morning, before anything else, in PJs, crossed-legged on my bed with my laptop propped up on a pedestal of pillows with both my Jack Russell (Leche) and Bengal (Presto) curled up beside me.

How do you research your books?
Research comes from first hand experiences, the life experience of close friends and acquaintances, reading extensively on a subject that intrigues me, watching documentaries and of course the ever ready Google. I also ask more knowledgeable readers than myself to review my work and make suggestions.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I usually have an idea, rough outline—loose beginning, middle & end—Act I, II & III, and then I get going and the story does its own thing. Afterwards, with an editor stirring the pot, mystery abounds and all outlines go out the window. So a bit of both, plotter and pantser.

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
Does New Zealand count? Just kidding. Beautiful country. I tend to live in the fictional world that I am creating at any one moment, the book I am working on at the time. I like to revisit places where I’ve actually lived and loved.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
I would befriend some of Shakespeare’s romantic/tragic women, particularly Juliet and Ophelia. I would say “No. Stop, don’t do it.” And then they would go on to triumph and live amazing lives.

Publisher: Troubador Publishing
Publication Date: September 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages:
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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Jackson Saves an Owl

Darren Garwood and Carl Osborne

Jackson Superhero might not be a real name, but it is a story about a real boy, and as the name suggests, Jackson is far from ordinary. By day, a rare disease limits his ability to move freely, but at night he is far from grounded. When the sleeping hours come around, and weightlessness takes over, Jackson takes to the skies. He knows what it means to need the support of others, which is why when he hears a call for help, he is quickly there to lend a hand.


Darren Questions (author)

What is your favourite thing about writing books?
These stories are so personal to me and my son, but I want these stories to be bigger than us, and so when I hear from readers, and parents talking about how Jackson Saves an Owl is the new favourite book in their house, that is amazing. So my favourite part about writing really is the joy it can bring to readers.

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
I have plenty of bad habits, but I do try to keep them away from the writing.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? (I guess this means do you plan or just let the story flow out)
I usually have a rough idea of a story and I play with the plot in my head for quite a while, but then when I feel like I have the plot in place I just let the story flow off the cuff

Aside from your own, what is your favourite children’s book and why?
Peace at last – Jill Murphy as its Jackson’s favourite. He laughs at the ending

With your own book, what has been your proudest book moment so far?
Well this all started with Jackson and with me wanting to help him dream. He loves being read to and he loves books. He knew the Jackson Saves an Owl Story as I had been telling it to him for ages, but getting the real hardcopy in my hand felt really big and it was amazing to read the actual book to him. I do still read him his other favourites, of course, but I love reaching for the Jackson Saves an Owl book for him, and he loves it too.

Jackson Superhero is obviously written for your own little boy who is terminally ill, in what ways is he like a real superhero?
When Jackson was diagnosed he was given a life expectancy of two years and he is now four, so he is defying all the odds on a daily basis. But more than that, he is caring, he loves the nature and the earth. But he really loves a cuddle, and what superhero don’t like a cuddle?

Who or what will Jackson Superhero save next?
He saves a desert island and the local animal residents from pollution

If Jackson was to team up with any other superhero who would it be and why?
It would have to be banana man, as Jackson loves bananas

Carl Questions (illustrator)

What’s the best thing about illustrating a superhero?
The best thing about illustrating a superhero is that I can turn any kid into whoever he wants to be. With Jackson there was no limit to the powers he can have.

Aside from a cape, what is the thing every superhero needs in his costume?
Every superhero needs an identity and a signature piece that separates him from the rest. In Jackson’s case, it’s the ‘J’ on his chest.

How did you go about choosing the costumes colour schemes?
The costume colours came from Jackson’s favourite PJs, and the socks are based on his favourite teddy, a puppet called Melvin.

You open the story with an illustration of Jackson in his bean bag, which due to his illness is pretty much as he is in real life. What was behind that decision?
Well, I have known Darren for years and I know Jackson and I just didn’t feel I could ignore the reality, to be honest. It sounds stupid when I say it, but I don’t think there’s always enough reality in children’s books. Many, many kids grow up in tough lives and books are a way to help with that. They are a way to say, you are not alone. Look at this little boy or girl and look how well they do. Roald Dhal did it well, not reality, or course, but more than once he killed off the parents on the first page.

How was it illustrating a real boy, did Jackson’s family have a lot of feedback?
There was a little bit of pressure, to be honest, but I presented Darren and his wife with a few different versions of how Jackson Superhero could look, and they took bits from this one and that one. But they helped with all kinds of things that I didn’t know about, choosing colours based on Jackson’s favourite teddy bear, also his hair. I needed some pointers on his hair style.

Publisher: Untold Books
Publication Date: September 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages:
Genre: Picture Book
Age: Childrens
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy
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