2020, Author Love, Cover Reveal, Uncategorized

Cover Reveal: The Secret Seaside Escape By Heidi Swain.

Now this lady was one of my favourites long before I had even read a single word from one of her books. As soon as I did though it’s safe to say I am well and truly hooked.

Although I must admit a number of her books have left me feeling somewhat hungry ready to devour the nearest bakery, but her stories and her characters have let me escape the many trials and tribulations of life.

Without further ado I give you The Secret Seaside Escape. I cannot wait for this as I’m a sucker for the seaside and as this is released in April it will be before any impending trips this year.

The cover is so vibrant yet homely I always feel at ease with sand between my toes. If that doesn’t appeal to your senses here’s the blurb…

Following a shocking revelation within her family, Tess Tyler is looking to escape her hectic city life – and where better to hide than Wynmouth, the seaside town she visited as a child, with its sandy beaches, stunning rock pools and welcoming community. But little does she realise, Wynmouth isn’t quite the haven she remembers it to be, and her real life is still threatening to catch up with her . . .

Also returning to Wynmouth is Joe. Having fled over a decade ago after an accident that changed his life forever, he’s back and is determined to face his demons. But, like Tess, Joe realises that the town is nothing like he remembers and quickly his arrival brings old tensions to the surface.

As the pair begin to familiarise themselves with the town they once knew, they each realise that the secrets they carry are becoming harder to conceal – but will revealing them bring the answers they’re looking for? Will Tess and her new friends finally get the second chance they’ve been hoping Wynmouth will give them?

What are your thoughts?

If that’s wet your appetite you can order it via The Secret Seaside Escape

2019, A thought? A question, Author Love, Uncategorized

How are you spending the lull between Christmas and New Year?

As we enter this lull between Christmas and New Year it’s really got me thinking.

In this weird time space where those of us working are constantly not sure on what day it is let alone the time…I’m guessing that’s the same for you lucky ones with a long break enjoy it.

My reading hasn’t been as great as I would like and I’ve decided in this lull I would like to finish reading a few of my half started book before the New Year kicks in. I must be one of very few bookworms to not receive a single book for Christmas, my closest friends and family would say I don’t need anymore until I’ve finished the mountains that I have and in some ways they are right.

Today I did pre-order the next Mhari McFarlane which will be my first read of 2020 I should then be good and try and get through some of my ever toppling TBR pile.

In amongst spending time with two of my nieces and my nephew where I read a few of their books played mousetrap and generally had cuddles I also got back to Call Me Maybe a book that had intrigued me from the get go. One that I had instantly pre-ordered and one that is most definitely so me. It’s about a British girl called Cassie and it features a long forgotten fictional boyband. Also to anyone who knows me also extremely me, I’ve loved this book but blog tours and life have got in the way and now I’m fully focusing my spare time on this beauty.

In this kind of reflective mode of 2019 I can’t help but highlight truly loving my buddy reading with Catriona we have many plans for 2020 and I’m hoping we can get in loads more books in the new year.

So here is to a positive and productive 2020 with lots and lots of books.

2019, christmas, Review, Uncategorized

Book Review: A Million Dreams By Dani Atkins

Blurb: Beth Brandon always dreamed of owning a florist, but today the bouquets of peonies and bright spring flowers are failing to calm her nerves. Because today, Beth has a life-changing decision to share with her husband. 

Izzy Vaughan thought she and her husband would stay together forever, but sometime last year, their love began to fade. They both find such joy in their young son Noah – but is he enough to keep them together? 

Eight years ago, something happened to these two women. Something that is about to bring them together in a way no-one thought possible…

Review: Wow!!! I didn’t want to start my review with just a simple word but wow this book was full of such raw emotion. I do have a few of Dani’s books but this is the first I’ve devoured and it sure as hell won’t be the last. If you have any recommendations send them my way.

A Million Dreams… is a story of two ladies Beth and Izzy who are strangers yet intertwined by an extreme circumstance, I feel like throughout reading this there were a number of gasps and ohs from me when I could see the drama unfolding. I’m not a mother myself but I can wholeheartedly sympathise with both ladies. The situation they found themselves in was beyond heartbreaking and I imagine this could happen in real life although you wouldn’t wish this on your worst enemy.

I truly loved both Izzy and Beth deep down they are both strong independent women whose love for being a mother outweighs everything else in their lives. I was rooting for them both and found myself torn at multiple pages. Life really is a rollercoaster and seeing them both overcome so much had me tearful with a smile on my face.

Dani Atkins is quite simply a genius at weaving a heartbreaking tale, that keeps you guessing until the last page. I saw a few things coming but it was written well with lots of intrigue and hope. The way she writes about grief was spot on – I truly miss my grandparents to this day and both Liam and Beth really made me think. Dani has shown the true aspects of grief and the different stages of moving on.

Everything about this book gave me all the feels and reignited my hope in love and second chances…

2019, Self Care Sunday, Uncategorized

Self Care Sunday

Well it sure has been a while since I wrote one of these posts. Last Sunday I threw myself into work having said goodbye to my favourite Boyz on the Friday and having celebrated Halloween early on the Saturday by Sunday I was ready to work and not think about anything that might make me emotional.

I haven’t listened to anything remotely Boyzone since that Friday. Since starting in the cinema on the 1st October I’ve been well and truly loving life. Throwing myself into work being a team player and working lots of extra hours today I’m feeling kinda sleepy so it’s a coffee day, I came home and had a Baileys hot chocolate this morning I’ve been half catching up on the soaps alongside some family time coffee and Heidi Swain’s latest The Christmas Wish List which got me thinking of when we wrote lists to promote the novel.

I then explained what the lists were about to my 7 year-old niece and she’s started writing hers.

So far we have advent calendar chocolate, making gingerbread men and a good ole family roast. When my 4 year-old niece next comes over I will be getting her to do the same. It’s the start of November and this is my third Christmas book this year each of them have given me all the feels although this morning in my tired state I swear I could smell mulled wine in just reading it. My sister in law yesterday mentioned a plum & Cinnamon gin and that sounds like Christmas in a nutshell.

I’ve loved making a little time for me this morning- I’m honestly loving my job I do need to balance my sleep pattern ended up having the Baileys hot chocolate with an episode of 13 Reasons at the stupidest time this morning and I may have placed an order with Superdrug that I’m now on my way to collect before I get the bus into work. So very soon I will be back with Hattie and Dolly.

This is me trying to not look like a Halloween ghoul. If you love what you’re doing it will never be a chore.

How is your Sunday fairing? Tell me your plans are we reading, watching TV or films.

I also have one of these to enjoy later when on my break they are simply divine. Any of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know I love an Irish coffee or two.

2019, Blog Tour, Uncategorized

Blog Tour: The Christmas Wish List By Heidi Swain

Today I am overjoyed to be on the blog tour for The Christmas Wish List.

It’s always a pleasure to be invited onto a Simon & Schuster blog tour, not only are they a pleasure to work with their authors are also amazing and Heidi is one of my absolute favourites.

Having just last month started a new job I’ve been somewhat juggling my reading alongside saying goodbye to my favourite Boyz I seem to have had everything come at once.

So today I should be sharing my review, instead I will be sharing my thoughts so far and telling you about Heidi’s latest festive offering.

Blurb: After being let go from her job in a swanky hotel just weeks before Christmas, Hattie is feeling lost. Even more so when her high-flying boyfriend announces he’s landed his dream job in Abu Dhabi and asks her to move with him. Luckily, Hattie’s long-time friend Dolly is on hand to help and invites Hattie to spend one last holiday in the small, festive town of Wynbridge, determined to give her a Christmas to remember . . .

Upon Hattie’s arrival, holiday preparations are in full swing. But for Hattie, whose Christmas cheer has long since run out, it’ll take more than mince pies and mistletoe to open her heart to the season once more. Relishing the task of reigniting Hattie’s Christmas spirit, Dolly suggests they create a wish list of all the things the season can offer, and with the helpful hands of Wynbridge’s resident handyman, Beamish, Hattie finds her frosty exterior is starting to thaw.

As Wynbridge prepares for its most spectacular Christmas yet, will Hattie leave snowy England behind for life in a sunnier clime, or will she in fact realise that her heart’s desire lies much closer to home?

My thoughts so far….I’m loving Hattie and Dolly’s relationship. It instantly made me miss my Nan. We had such a close relationship and right up to the end I was going round for tea and to watch films. I’m questionable about Johnathan but there have been so many little things that have made me smile.

I will be reviewing this properly as soon as. Make sure you check out the rest of the tour I would like to take the time to thank Simon & Schuster again for my gorgeous package which I forgot to take a picture of and I’m now at work…

2019, Blog Tour, Uncategorized

Blog Tour: Q&A with Dean Burnett

Today I’m lucky enough to have two fantastic blog tour posts and this is a Q&A with Dean Burnett, the book Psycho-logical was very aptly released on World Mental Health Day.

1. What was your inspiration for writing Psycho-logical?

I’ve been writing about mental health matters for many years now, and people seem to really like when I do, and find it useful. I’ve long wanted to put all my knowledge down in a book, I figured that’d be even more helpful, Audible offered the opportunity to do so, so I took it

2. What do you hope readers get from it? And who are you aiming this audiobook at?

I’m hoping to ‘ground’ mental health matters in more tangible ways. By explaining the mechanisms and actual workings of the brain in things like depression etc, I can hopefully reduce stigma and further understanding. It’s aimed at literally anyone who struggles with, knows anyone who struggles with, or is just interested in, mental health issues.

3. I think it’s a subject we should speak about more and it’s something that needs to be done in a controlled manner. Would you agree?

Indeed. While I think it’s important that people can share their experiences, I feel it can often lead to things getting out of hand, and discussions can lose sight of the actual facts, as we see them

4. What’s your average writing day?

It’s mostly spent in my garden, where I have a dedicated writing cabin. It’s basically me, sat in a wooden box, typing for many hours a day, occasionally disrupted by my cat fighting other neighbourhood cats on the roof 

5. Did writing this audiobook take it out of you emotionally as well as physically?

Perhaps a bit, but this effect was mitigated by the fact that it’s all stuff I’ve been writing and teaching about for years. Hearing the contributions from my friends who shared their mental health experiences was often very moving though. 

6. Where would you like mental health to be in 5 years time? Do you think as a society we would have moved on into a way of helping rather than of taboo?

I wouldn’t be able to say exactly where mental health will be, but the progress has been good and I’m hoping it will continue. It’s more widely accepted and acknowledged now, compared to how it was, but i’d like to increase understanding and acceptance of the mechanisms and science, rather than a focus on inspirational memes or well-meant but largely meaningless platitudes

7. Who are your biggest inspirations in terms of writing and why?

I don’t really have specific inspirations or role models, I’ve always been sceptical about the idea of modelling your life and goals on someone else’s. I think, if I had to pick though, it was Spike Milligan who had the biggest impact, especially his war diaries. The mix of brilliant humour and deep tragedy and introspective analysis showed me that it was possible to do such a thing.

8. Did you write this from personal experience, and if so can you explain?

All the stuff I write is things I’ve learned, but I don’t have mental health problems of my own thus far. However, my background, growing up in a pub in a remote economically-depressed community, as well as being a resident of Bridgend and the suicide spate in the late 2000s, these all informed my compassionate approach and constant desire to improve mental health understanding.

9. What is your advice for anyone suffering?

It’s tricky. There’s so much advice out there, and a lot of it is contradictory or well-meant but ineffective. I guess I’d just want to point out that your issues and your suffering is genuine, and anyone dismissing it has no right to do so. It’s your mind, only you can say what goes on in it

10. What do you hope to Psycho-logical achieves?

I’m hoping it can reduce fear and uncertainty, and hopefully stigma, around mental health. If just one person feels better about their issues or situation, that would be enough.

Thank you Dean for joining me today…if you would like to know more about the book here is the blurb.

Countless charities and awareness campaigns work tirelessly to show people that mental health problems are common and serious issues. But when it comes to mental health matters, one question that’s rarely asked is…why?   

Why are conditions like depression and anxiety so common?

Why is our mental health so vulnerable to the stresses and events of modern life?

Why do so many mental health problems have pronounced physical symptoms?

Why, if mental health problems are so commonplace, does anyone need to be made ‘aware’ of them in the first place?

And why is there still so much confusion and stigma about mental health matters?   

 

 

2019, Off Topic, personal, Uncategorized

10 years on…

Ten years ago tomorrow my life changed…some of you may sigh and call me dramatic but life really did change the minute we found out Stephen Gately had died.

I still to this day feel fortunate to have been at Emma’s I can’t imagine how I would have felt if I was alone. It’s funny as we had seen Ronan on a TV show about the Carpenters and then I stayed at Emma’s, we’d had a nice meal out with her family and gone to sleep like any other time.

To then be woken at 3am to Emma’s sister giving us the earth shattering news. Neither of us wanted to believe it, imagining it to be a sick joke. We’d both turned our phones off but when we powered them up we both had hundreds of messages from mutual friends, my family and school friends that neither of us had spoken to in years.

In speaking to loved ones and on Emma putting the TV on our fears case true.

Early that year we’d made comments on not understanding it when Michael Jackson died but when Steo passed it hit us like a train. I’d been a massive Boyzone fan since I was small and all I’d wanted was to meet them. I had met all of them bar Mikey during their solo time but when they reunited in 2007 I was given that chance to go all round the country seeing them and making friends.

That child I was would never have believed how lucky I was….Boyzone will always be a five piece and they will always mean the world to me. They let me escape when I needed to and their music always lifts my mood. Steo lives on in the music and he’s never forgotten.

This is still one of my most treasured photos

Grief is a funny thing that effects us all. I’ve changed so much since 2009 but that raw emotion is still there. It’s not always tears but it’s definitely there.

2019, Author Love, Author Q&A, Blogtober, Uncategorized

Q&A with Daisy Tate…

So I promised there would be two posts to honour yesterday’s Twitter poll. www.Twitter.com/HayleyTOfficial

I’m delighted to welcome Daisy Tate to Hayley Reviews today. I loved and truly adored part one of the Happy Glampers and once I’ve organised my reading and my new working patterns I will be getting stuck into part two.

You can read my thoughts on the Happy Glampers Here

1.I read the Happy Glampers not knowing it was only part one and I loved it. Where did you get the inspiration for it?

The idea to write about Glampers was my editor’s idea. She wanted a four part series to release first online (available now) and then as an entire book (available in Spring 2020). I wrote a few synopses exploring different groups of friends/families who were either glamping or running a glamping business. Together we wove what is hopefully a magic mix of friends who glamp together (and stay together, obvs!).

2. As I say I didn’t realise it was only part one? What can we expect from the four friends, I cannot wait to read the rest.

I’m so happy you enjoyed it. The rest of the book takes quite a wild ride. The entire book takes place over the course of a year. Without giving too much away, each of the characters will take quite a wild ride that will make them take a hard look at their lives but with lots of laughs (and cake!) along the way. There will be camping in Wales, a trip to Scotland and possibly a trip down memory lane in Bristol!

3. This is your debut right? What else can we expect from you?

This is my debut. I was offered a two book contract so you’ll definitely see those and, fingers crossed, if you all enjoy the books, there will be more. One of my MANY fantasies is to write a book that becomes a film and/or a television series I started out wanting to be an actor and never lost the passion for TV and film. I then went on to become a news cameraman before I met my fella and we moved to the farm, so fingers crossed, I’ll get something up on the silver screen one day!

4. What’s your daily writing day like?

I get up pretty early. After a dog walk (if I haven’t convinced The Hubby to do it) and making a rather strong mug of coffee (about the size of my head), I head to the keyboard. Some days it’s a struggle ignore all of that exciting social media action out there, so it’s definitely an exercise in control. I tend to write until about midday when farm duties take over and from there on out it’s cows, chickens, bees and, of course, dog walks.

5. What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading THREE books at the moment (for some reason, I can never do just one!). I’m reading Everything I Know About Love by the soul baring Dolly Alderton, The Break by the fabulous Marian Keyes and My Not So Fabulous Life by the wonderful Sophie Kinsella.

6. What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on a book called A Bicycle Built for Sue – I’m in the throes of writing my second book called A Bicycle Built for Sue which is a standalone novel (no need to wait for all of the parts this time!). I’ve just returned from riding my bicycle on the coast to coast Hadrian’s Wall ride as research…so that’s your teaser.

7. What’s your earliest memory of books?

Ohhhh….I would say going to the library. My sister, brother and I read like hungry wolves attack, umm….a bucket of KFC. We would bring ‘the box’ and were allowed six books and half an hour to choose whatever we wanted. My mum also used to read the Little House on the Prarie series to us again and again and again and I LOVED it every single time.

8. How do you create your characters??

I tend to need an image of them to really nail who they are. When I am writing them I really like being inside their emotional centre, so if I have a picture of who I’m writing in my head (or, in this case, I pinned them up on the corkboard opposite my desk), it really helps.

9. When did you realise you wanted to become a writer?

I was a bit slow off the mark on this one! Everyone seemed to know but me. I was obsessed with becoming an actor and then when it came time to hit the real world, it turned out I hated auditioning. Ooops. Then, when I worked in news, I wrote every day. I also wrote little plays we took up to Edinburgh and I loved writing comedy sketches and comedy news pieces. It wasn’t until a friend dared me to try and write a Mills & Boon that I finally sat down and wrote an entire book. And after that? Well…here we are!

10. What is your ultimate goal?

I’d love to write a book that scoops up the reader’s heart, takes it on a tumultuous journey of laughter, emotional peaks and troughs and then at the last breath-taing minute, brings you back to earth with a nice cosy landing. And, of course, have it made into a major motion picture starring, say, Emma Stone and…oh…fill in whoever floats your boat! (This week I’m all about Tom Hardy because he loves dogs as much as I do.) I would also like to have about a hundred Bernese Mountain Dogs. And more cows. And make honeycomb crunch that isn’t chewy to squish into homemade chocolate ice cream sandwiches.

Thank you once again Daisy and I cannot wait to finish the Glampers series. I am definitely a fan.

If you’re an author or blogger and would love to take part in one of my Q&A’s do get in touch…

2019, Author Love, Blogtober, christmas, Uncategorized

Book Review: Coming Home To Glendale Hall By Victoria Walters

Blurb: Beth Williams hasn’t been home for ten years. When she fell pregnant at just sixteen, knowing that her family would never approve, she ran away from the imposing Scottish estate that had been her home, building a new life for herself and her daughter hundreds of miles away.

But when her father begs her to return home to see her gravely ill grandmother, Beth is apprehensive at the thought of seeing her family again. With her daughter Isabelle, now a feisty ten-year-old, in tow, she plans to cut her visit as short as she can whilst fulfilling her duty.

Beth has worked hard to leave her past behind her, living in London with Isabelle and working hard to be the best single mother she can be. Returning to the Glendale Hall estate means facing her strict and unaffectionate mother, formidable grandmother, as well her teenage boyfriend, Drew, who broke her heart and doesn’t know that he has a daughter.

But Beth is about to discover that everyone has their own version of the past, and the true story she thought she knew for the last ten years might well be a very different one to the truth. Will Beth be able to find it in her heart to forgive her mother and grandmother (and herself) for what happened ten years ago? Or will she end up running away all over again?

Your home isn’t a place, it’s the people you share it with.

Review: Wow!!! Where do I start? I don’t usually read Christmas books at the end of September beginning of October but I had been waiting for this one and had pre ordered. So I couldn’t wait for too long and was it worth the wait, you bet it was. I always say I will re-read books but it very rarely happens as there are always so many on offer, but I feel like if I proper needed a Christmas boost this would be the book to give me that.

Firstly Victoria Walters writes a compelling read that will have you truly mesmerised from the very first page. I remember reading that blurb of this and being intrigued that intrigue, want and pure joy carried on throughout.

From the beginning I adored Beth and I loved everything about her, her story was hard and at some points truly heartbreaking but as a sixteen year old girl she made a decision that would ultimately change her life.

I have to mention Izzy – what a great kid I love how gutsy and determined she is although she thinks of others before herself – meaning her mum doesn’t always know what’s on the ten year olds mind. What I loved about her the most was how into books she was and the fact she wasn’t scared to say how she felt – there were a few occasions when she just blurts out what many of the adults wouldn’t or couldn’t.

This story gives you love, loss, regret, forgiveness and the art of family.

Deep down we all have a family, granted each of ours is different and depending on your communication it really does depend on how close you are. I love how Victoria has written a story about a family unit with a whole host of issues but who deep down love each other deeply. They may not have always shown it and their lack of communication and love was paramount at times but when push came to shove they pulled through as family for themselves and the sake of Glendale.

The element of loss really hit home to me, transporting me back to that time when I first experienced losing a loved one and how hard it is. There was another segment of loss in realising when someone has truly left this world another feeling I’ve experienced and I believe that this was done so well and with grace.

I also love the elements of friendships reconnecting. Heather and Beth had obviously been thick as thieves as kids but had lost touch when Beth fled. It was heartwarming to see their friendship come back together seamlessly.

Victoria awakened the romantic in me, I was left truly gushing at this book and there were times when I became increasingly frustrated with Beth and Drew and there was an addition that annoyed me from the off. But I feel I called what happened – long before it transpired on the page. What kept me smiling was the pure romance of a first love that never dulled. A sparkle that was always there no matter the time apart. Leaving me feeling elated and longing for that kind of love.

There were so many fantastic elements to this book that really made me think of the true aspects of Christmas it’s so much more than the presents. It’s about spending time with those you love and truly appreciating that time. As each and everyone of us will leave this world at some point. It’s made me think of my Christmas traditions and now my nieces and nephew are growing it changes the real value of Christmas for me. As long as they enjoy the magic I’m perfectly happy to sit back with a book and a festive drink. Although in London we rarely get the magical white Christmas but I cannot wait to devour It’s a Wonderful Life again it took me forever to watch with my mum and I couldn’t imagine a year without it now.

2019, A thought? A question, Author Q&A, Uncategorized

Q&A with Cressida McLaughlin

Today I am pleased to share an interview with Cressida McLaughlin and I’m so sorry it’s come so late in the day…I’ve been a tad busy with an awful MRI and it’s my best friends birthday…

So without further ado.

1 The Cornish Cream Tea Bus was my first of your reads although I also have the canal book cafe on my kindle. What was your inspiration for the Cornish Cream Tea Bus???

I have been visiting Cornwall for about four years, after seeing it on the recent BBC adaptation of Poldark, and have completely fallen in love with it. The landscape is so beautiful and dramatic, and it’s so romantic, too, that as soon as I went I knew I wanted to set a book there. It also has some delicious, traditional food – fresh fish, pasties and, of course, the Cornish Cream Tea. I loved the idea of there being a slightly forgotten village, of a determined heroine coming in and trying to rescue it while also trying to get over her own heartbreak. I wanted her to face lots of challenges, some opposition, and I wanted there to be mouth-watering food.

I loved everything about it the setting was atmospheric and pretty something and the characters well they truly touched my heart?

I am so pleased you loved the characters! I really do too – I love all my characters, but I particularly loved creating Porthgolow and all its unique inhabitants: the contrast between Myrtle, who has lived there for decades, and Daniel, with his modern hotel sitting up on the cliff, Jonah with all his knowledge and, of course, Charlie. I loved breathing life into them, and I’m so glad you were touched by them, and thought the setting was atmospheric – that’s exactly the impression I wanted to make.

2. What’s been your best highlight of being a published author?

There are so many – it really is a dream come true! Hearing from readers who have loved my books, who have been touched by them in some way, or just been completely engrossed in the story is amazing, because it means I’ve done my job. I write them to entertain people, and so hearing that it’s worked is the best feeling. Also, the moment you get to hold your paperback for the first time is always thrilling and emotional – and it never gets any less exciting. Holding my first paperback of The Cornish Cream Tea Bus felt as special as holding A Christmas Tail.

3. What’s your average writing day like? Paint us a picture…

My brain is much better in the morning than it is in the afternoon, so I like to start early. I usually get up around 6.30 and then go for a walk round our closest park, meeting all the dogs. We don’t have any pets at the moment, but it’s lovely to meet all the local pooches. Then, when I’m back home, I’ll take a cup of tea up to my office, turn on all my fairy lights and – usually after responding to emails and engaging in some other forms of procrastination – I’ll start writing.

I aim to write at least 3,000 words a day. That’s about one of my chapters, and sometimes I’ll just scrape it, sometimes I’ll write double that, and sometimes I’ll manage 0 good words and get very annoyed with myself! I usually write until about 1.30, then have lunch, and then, depending on how well I’ve done in the morning, I’ll either carry on or I’ll use the afternoon to catch up with blogs, doing any Q&As (like this!) or reading. I’m fuelled by lots of coffee during the morning, and occasionally chocolate! 🙂

4. Where do you get your inspiration?

Inspiration comes from so many different places – an actual location, like some of the places we’ve visited in Cornwall, a snippet of conversation I’ve overheard in a coffee shop, a question that appears randomly into my head – for example: what would it be like to own a café on a narrowboat? – or something very specific.

I remember exactly when the idea for The House of Birds and Butterflies popped into my head. We were visiting Minsmere, which is a wonderful nature reserve in Suffolk run by the RSPB, and it has this very long, windy driveway through the woods, to get to the car park. Nestled in the trees was this beautiful little cottage, so quaint and so remote, but with all these cars going to and from the nature reserve, and hikers walking past it with their binoculars and waterproofs, and I just thought – what would it be like to live in that cottage? How would you feel if you’d just moved there, and realised it wasn’t as quiet as you thought it was going to be? Suddenly I had the whole premise of The House of Birds and Butterflies – Abby working in the reserve, trying to improve its fortunes, and Jack, just moved into the adjacent cottage, grumpy and hurting, looking for some peace and quiet and finding none.

That’s just one example, but it was such a specific moment, and it’s so brilliant when you get flashes of inspiration like that!

5. How do your characters come together? Characters are a huge thing for me….and I loved those you created in the Cornish Cream Tea Bus.

They always come together quite slowly. I start with my heroine, what her predicament is, and what kind of person she is. For example, Charlie is very determined, she’s positive and she won’t let things get her down. She is generous and ambitious, but she also jumps quickly to conclusions, and sometimes her temper gets the better of her.

Once I’ve got my heroine, I have a huge amount of fun creating my hero. I have to think they’re really hot, or I won’t write the tension between them and my heroine convincingly. They have to have things in common with her, but also beliefs or circumstances that mean they will clash in some way, so they won’t immediately fall into each other’s arms. The will-they-won’t-they is very important in my books, one of my favourite things to write – and also to read.

Supporting characters are also great fun to write – family members, friends and the locals in whichever community I’m creating. Those tend to appear as I write, when I need my heroine to face obstacles and also find allies. I start with quite a sketchy idea and as the story develops, all my characters flesh out – quite often very differently to how I first imagine them – so by the time I write ‘The end’ I feel like I know them all pretty well.

6. What’s your earliest memory of books?

My house was always full of books when I was growing up, and I think my first memory was sitting on my bed, my dad showing me a pop-up picture book of The Wind in the Willows. There was a page with a row of bare trees, darkness behind them, and when you pulled the tab, horrible weasels popped out from behind the trees. It always used to terrify me, but at the same time I wanted my dad to go back to that page and pull that tab over and over again. Maybe that’s why I love reading scary books now!

7. When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?

Not until my mid twenties. I have always loved reading books, and I did English Literature at University and wrote lots of essays about books I’d read, but never really had ambitions to write them myself. Then I read a few women’s fiction books, most notably Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella and A Hopeless Romantic by Harriet Evans, and I LOVED them! I loved the way they made me feel – they were so funny and emotional, they made me laugh and cry, and they were beautifully, swooningly romantic. After that, I decided that I wanted to write books like that – that I wanted to control the stories, and create characters that readers loved and heroes they swooned over, and I wanted to make people laugh and cry. Once I’d got it into my head, that was all I wanted to do.

8. What advice would you give to wannabe writers and bloggers?

Read lots of books, and try and read different genres, because you can learn a lot about writing by reading books – what you think works and what doesn’t; the tricks writers use to make you laugh or cry or hide behind a pillow.

I would also say that to be a successful writer, or a book blogger, you need to be passionate about it. Write a story that you feel strongly about, don’t do it because you think it’s going to be a great way of making money. One piece of advice I heard, which I thought was brilliant, was: write the book that you want to read. That way, your heart will be invested in it, and you’ll work hard to make it work. Don’t write a book because you think there’s a current trend or it’s the kind of thing that’s selling. If you don’t care about the story, it’s unlikely that your readers will.

I would also say the same about blogging. I used to blog for the book website Novelicious before I got my book deal, and I loved it – reviewing books, sending Q&As to authors and publicists, typing up the ‘My Book Deal Moment’ feature, always hoping that one day I would have my own. All the book bloggers I’ve come across seem super dedicated – they all love books, and love blogging about them, and I think that’s the main thing you need.

9. What are you working on now??? Can you tell us anything?

I’m working on a book called The Cornish Cream Tea Summer. From the title, you can probably guess that it’s going to involve some familiar characters – but there will also be some new ones!

The heroine, Charlie’s cousin Delilah, comes to Porthgolow after something goes seriously wrong in her life back in London. She’s heard about Charlie’s idyllic existence in the Cornish village and she thinks it’s the perfect place to run to, but she might get more than she bargained for once she gets acquainted with The Cornish Cream Tea Bus, and all that Porthgolow has to offer.

As I write this I’ve only got two more chapters left of the first draft, and even though it’s in a very rough and ready state at the moment, I am so excited about it! I hope you love Delilah and her story as much as I do.

10. What are you reading right now? Have your reading habits changed since being a writer.

I certainly read more since I’ve become a full time writer, because, now I don’t have a standard nine to five job and don’t have to fit my writing into evenings and weekends, I have more time to read.

I’ve always been an avid reader, and I’ve always read quite widely – I love crime and thrillers and ghost stories, as well as romance and women’s fiction – and that hasn’t changed. And I love that I sometimes get sent proofs of books to read, as it means I can discover lots of new authors. It does mean that my TBR Pile is never-ending, but I’ve come to accept that as a (very positive) occupational hazard.

At the moment I’m reading Kiss Heaven Goodbye, by Tasmina Perry. She’s a brilliant author who writes glamorous thrillers, often centred around wealthy people who have secrets to hide. They’re fast paced, full of drama and romance and twists, and are proper escapism. I’m going on holiday next week and I’ve got Mhairi McFarlane’s new book, If I Never Met You, to read, and I am SO excited about that. One of the best things about being a writer is that I can count reading as part of my job. I really am living the dream.

Cressida McLaughlin

Instagram: @cressmclaughlin

Facebook: @cressidamclaughlinauthor

Twitter: @cressmclaughlin

Website: cressidamclaughlin.com

Thank you Cressida for joining me today and I cannot wait to go back To Cornwall for Delilah’s story….