Setting the Scene

When I plan a new book, first and foremost in my mind are my characters, and the dramas I’m about to put them through. I might have an idea of surroundings, but I don’t normally firm up the location until I’m literally about to start writing that first chapter. That’s not usually a problem as I tend to base many of my books in Liverpool where I live, so I ought to know it quite well.

I like setting scenes in areas of Liverpool that aren’t so well-known, but are familiar to me – or so I presume until I have to describe something in detail. There have been quite a few times when I’ve had to make an emergency dash so I can describe the colour of a particular set of railings, or the view from a particular entrance.

Sometimes I’ll use a little poetic licence and alter locations if there’s something about the setting that doesn’t quite work, and I also mix things up deliberately to avoid moving my characters into some poor unsuspecting person’s home. In The Missing Husband, you won’t find Beaumont Avenue in Liverpool, and you’d be hard pressed to find the short cut to West Allerton station.

There was one time when I almost came unstuck trying to find the right location for my novel. In Where I Found You, there’s a park that’s central to the plot as it’s where my main characters frequently meet. Before I’d even begun to write the story, I’d formed a very clear picture in my head of what it should look like – only to realise that of all the parks I knew in Liverpool, none were quite right. I extended the search using Google Earth but to no avail, the park didn’t exist anywhere except in my imagination, and that was why I created a whole new town called Sedgefield, which is nestled ‘somewhere,’ in the Cheshire countryside.

The Affair Out NowI returned to Sedgefield in my novella If I Should Go, and more recently in The Affair. When I was planning The Affair, I knew straight away that I didn’t want to use a real location, or more to the point, I didn’t want to use a real school. The story focuses on a pregnant school girl called Scarlett, and it’s her teacher who falls under suspicion. It felt wrong scandalising a school that actually existed. What would the pupils think, or the teachers for that matter? Despite the chaos I unleashed on the town this time around, I enjoyed my return visit to Sedgefield, and there’s always a chance I’ll go back there again some day.

When is an eBook better than the real thing?

A question that’s guaranteed to divide popular opinion (other than Brexit) is which is best – eBooks or paper versions? As a reader, I’d be more inclined to say that nothing beats the real thing. It’s the physical connection you get from an actual book that simply can’t be replaced virtually. I have quite a collection of books on my bookshelf that I’d hate to part with, books that have been signed by their authors or simply ones I plan to go back to one day because I enjoyed them so much. In my virtual library, there are undoubtedly books I’ve loved, and while I know they’ll always be there, I don’t get that same sense of satisfaction in ‘keeping’ them.

That being said, eBooks are SO convenient. If I want to read a book someone recommends, I can download it in seconds. I can take countless books away with me on holiday, and I can easily access a book on my phone when I’m unexpectedly stuck on a train or a bus, or when I’ve become tired of reading the posters in a waiting room.

Of course, you don’t run out of power when you’re reading a real book. And if you want to flick back to a favourite passage or check some fact or other, flicking through the pages is much easier than clicking through pages on screen.

Ah, but I forgot, you can add bookmarks and notes to eBooks, can’t you? And so the argument turns in my mind – and that’s before I’ve even considered the issue from an author’s point of view.

When I had my first book published, there was nothing in this world that could have replaced that feeling of walking into a bookshop and picking up my book from the shelf; feeling the crisp white pages and smelling the fresh ink that gave life to my words. I keep longing for the day when I’ll be sitting on a train and I catch someone with their nose in one of my books. It hasn’t happened yet, and probably never would if we all went digital; not unless I went around looking over people’s shoulders to see what they were reading on their tablet.

One advantage that eBooks do have is longevity. My first book Yesterday’s Sun was published in 2012, and while you’re unlikely to find it in a bookshop these days, it’s still available online for download, and hopefully will be for a very long time.

out-now-the-affairI suppose the conclusion I’m drawing to is that there’s room for both formats. I’m more than happy as a reader and a writer to have both options available, so back to the question I pose in the title of this blog: When is an eBook better than the real thing?

The answer is when my publisher decides to release the digital format of a novel before the official publication date, as is the case with The Affair. If you have any iTunes or Amazon vouchers burning a hole in your pocket from Christmas, and don’t want to wait until 12th January, it’s available for download now!

 

The Affair Blog Tour

To mark the eBook publication of The Affair, we have a lovely blog tour during November 2016. The first stop is on Monday 14th November, which just so happens to be my first official day as a full time writer so a great start to my new career!The Affair Blog Tour 2016

In amongst the stops will be interviews, reviews, giveaways and a few guest blogs too. I’ll signpost each of them on my Facebook Page, but here’s the full list:

Monday 14th November: 23 Review Street

Tuesday 15th November: Trish’s Blog

Wednesday 16th November: Female First

Thursday 17th November: Portobello Book Blog

Friday 18th November: Booky Ramblings of a Neurotic Mom

Monday 21st November: Rachale’s Reads

Tuesday 22nd November: Miss Bookworm Reviews

Wednesday 23rd November: The Book Geek Wears Pajamas

Thursday 24th November: Crooks on Books

Friday 25th November: Debra’s Book Café

Monday 28th November: I Read Novels

Tuesday 29th November: Novel Kicks

Wednesday 30th November: Handwritten Girl

I’d like to thank all the wonderful book bloggers above for hosting the blog tour, and for all their hard work in supporting me and so many other authors by promoting our books.

Amanda x

 

 

 

A Time for Change

It’s been a while since I updated my blog, but I thought now would be an appropriate time to let you all know what I’ve been up to. 2016 is turning out to be quite a year, not least because at long last I’ve taken the decision to become a full time writer.

For those who have followed my writing career, you’ll know that publishing books wasn’t something I ever planned on doing. My first ever job was in local government, in waste of all things, and I’ve remained in the sector for a staggering thirty one years. I would probably have spent many more years ‘in waste’, if I hadn’t had my head turned by a completely different kind of career.

Although I landed my first book deal in 2011, I didn’t let my early success go to my head. I took the safe option and kept the day job, so for the last five years I’ve had to squeeze my writing into every spare minute. I’ve worked through most weekends, birthdays, and even Christmas Days, although I’m not complaining, how can I when it’s something that I love doing? There are so many aspiring writers out there who are working hard to get their first book published, and I never take it for granted how lucky I am to have six books published already and my seventh due out in January 2017.

To top it all, I’ve recently signed another book deal for four more books, writing two a year, and so it was inevitable that something had to give – and it wasn’t going to be my writing. Walking away from the day job was a huge decision to take, but I’m looking forward to being able to write full time, and who knows, I might even try to remind myself what it’s like to take time off?

I couldn’t have got this far without my wonderful agent, editor and publisher, not to mention all those readers who have read my books. I’m especially grateful to those who might have recommended my novels to someone else, or took the time to leave a review or send a comment; you have no idea how much reassurance it gives me that I’ve taken the right decision.

Doing this means so much to me for reasons I can’t even begin to express, but I’m going to try.

I’ll be finishing work in mid-November, which is shortly before the tenth anniversary of losing my son. I remember so vividly those early days of utter devastation and hopelessness. After spending months at his bedside, watching on helplessly as my little boy was destroyed by cancer, I had to leave the hospital without him, while the memories of that time will live with me forever. Ten years ago, I honestly didn’t think I could survive that kind of pain, I didn’t think I wanted to. But I carried on for the sake of my daughter and when I turned to writing to deal my grief, I would never have believed that it would eventually develop into something that could actually bring joy into my life.

It was part of the legacy Nathan left behind, and I give him full credit for my writing career. My achievements have been a direct result of his life, his influence, and his inspiration. He continues to change my family’s life in ways I could never have imagined and my decision to give up work is only one example. What an amazing little boy I was so blessed to have in my life. 

Wish me luck!

A taster of things to come: The Goodbye Gift

It’s three months since the publication of The Child’s Secret and I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who bought a copy because it did amazingly well, reaching Number 14 in the UK Book Charts which is my highest position in the charts so far. I can’t tell you how thrilling it was but I’m already turning my attention to my next book which is due to be released on in August this year. I suppose that’s the good thing about writing two books a year, I don’t have to wait so long between publication days, even if it does mean twice the work!

The Goodbye Gift

Out 11th August 2016

My next book is called The Goodbye Gift and I can’t wait to share it with you all. It’s the first book I’ve written where I didn’t know the ending, or at least not until I was two thirds of the way through the first draft. It was at that point I had to make an impossible decision – which of my beloved characters was about to become an organ donor and save the life of a young woman called Lucy who is in desperate need of a heart transplant.

The fact that one of my characters would become an organ donor shouldn’t come as a surprise to the reader because Lucy is introduced in the very first chapter – just before we cut to the scene of an accident where the emergency services are trying to save the lives of multiple crash victims.

The story then switches to three women and focuses on their lives  in the months preceding the accident; three friends who have their own individual challenges and futures to plan. In that first draft, I didn’t want to know which character wasn’t going to make it because I needed to write each of their stories as if they were going to have all their tomorrows, and next weeks, and next years. I knew that if I decided too soon who wasn’t going to survive the accident, I would be tempted to tie up the loose ends of their life and I didn’t want to do that. Sometimes lives are left half-written and it can happen to any of us.

Now I know that sounds morose, and personally I’m happy to live life blissfully unaware of what might be around the corner, but there’s no harm in being prepared. Some loose ends can be tied up quite easily, one of them is registering as an organ donor. Click here if it’s something you haven’t got around to doing yet.

The Child’s Secret Blog Tour

The Child's Secret

To mark the publication of The Child’s Secret, I’ve been on a rather grand blog tour, which was great because I didn’t have to leave home! There were plenty of stops with interviews, reviews, and a few guest blogs too.

I’ve posted all the stops on my Facebook Page, but if you missed any, then here they all are in one place:

Laura’s Little Book Blog (Extract of The Child’s Secret)
Booky Ramblings of A Neurotic Mum (Q&A)
Bookaholic Holly (Guest Post – The Not So Secret Life of An Author)
This Chick Reads (Q&A)
Debra’s Book Café (Extract and Review)
Page to Stage Reviews (Guest Post – An Author’s Best Friend)
Boons Bookcase (Guest Post – Location, Location, Location)
Handwritten Girl (Guest Post – My Perfect Day)
Cosmochicklitan (Guest Post – Poetry Emotion)
Books with Wine and Chocolate (Extract)
Echoes in an Empty Room (Review)

I’d like to thank all the wonderful book bloggers above for hosting the blog tour, not to mention for all their hard work in supporting me and so many other authors by promoting our books.

Amanda x

 

 

 

The Wishing Tree

The Wishing Tree was the working title for my fifth novel The Child’s Secret which is due out in January 2016. It was the perfect name for the book at the time because it was the tree and not the child that I had the clearest image of first, which is hardly surprising given that the tree actually exists.

The Allerton Oak is the oldest tree in Calderstones Park and only a couple of miles from where I live. It’s thought to be a thousand years old and it certainly looks it. The massive trunk has been torn in two and its heavy boughs are held up with metal props, but whenever I stand in front of it, I don’t see it’s gaping wounds. I feel it’s energy and it wasn’t such a huge stretch of the imagination to believe that my favourite tree could have magical powers.

I visited the tree many times while writing The Child’s Secret and I photographed it all through the seasons. I’ve put those photos together to make a very rough and ready time lapse video which you can see here on YouTube.

You’ll have to read the book to see how a little girl called Jasmine came to believe in its magic powers too, but if you’re ever in Liverpool, don’t forget to visit the Wishing Tree and make a wish.

A Special Thank You

When my publisher suggested we have an official book launch for the release of my fourth book The Missing Husband, throwing a party sounded like a great excuse to have some fun. Even as I sipped a glass Prosecco in Liverpool One with the fabulous team at HarperCollins before heading over to Waterstones for the official event, I wasn’t expecting it to be more than a lovely opportunity to gather friends and family together to join in the celebrations. I never imagined I would get so emotional until I was standing in front of all those people who had supported me along the way. And when I say emotional, I mean we were all in tears.

Getting emotional!

Getting emotional!

There are only few occasions when you have a chance to bring together all the people who have been important in your life, but this was certainly one of them. It was a rare opportunity to say thank you to everyone and to let them know how important their support has been to me. The speech I was planning should have been simple enough to deliver because I’ve been doing quite a few author talks lately in the run up to publication day, and I was happy enough chatting about not only my new novel, my writing habits and my story development, but how I came to be a writer in the first place. I’ve visited libraries and explained to readers how I only had three years and ten months with my son but that little boy transformed my life. I’ve gone on to explain how Nathan’s death changed me, but it was his life that inspired me. I’m comfortable talking about my son and my grief, but standing in front of everyone that evening at the book launch, I didn’t need to do any of the usual explaining because they already knew. So many of those familiar faces looking at me with tears in their eyes had been part of that journey, from my amazing family and friends who supported me and my daughter through Nathan’s illness and beyond, to the new friends I’ve made along the way.

Kim Young and Martha Ashby

Kim Young and Martha Ashby

My publisher Kim Young and editor Martha Ashby said some lovely things about me in their introductions, so they have to share some of the blame in making me so emotional! But if there was one thing that got to me most of all, it was looking at my beautiful daughter in the crowd and (when I wasn’t getting all choked up) being able to tell her how proud I am of her and how much she means to me. I have been blessed with two amazing children and that’s why I enjoy writing books that centre around motherhood and family relationships. Being a mother is the most important role I’ve taken on in life and I’m still learning.

In spite of the tears, you’ll be pleased to know I did enjoy the evening although with so many people there it was impossible to spend as much time as I would have liked with everyone. Thank you (again) to everyone who came to the book launch and a special thanks to Kim, Martha and the rest of the team at HarperCollins for making publication day a day to remember.

A Time and Place

When I write a novel, I keep track of the timeline by putting specific dates to particular scenes, even if that information is never shared with the reader. Sometimes it helps because although the day or date isn’t mentioned, there might be some reference to past events and I need to know if that should be last week or months ago! Some of those dates stick in my mind.

This week has been very exciting, not least because I received a proof copy of my next book, The Missing Husband and this was the first time I had held a physical copy of my work – such a proud and terrifying moment. Surprisingly, however, it was the novel due out in January next year that has been occupying my mind in the last few days – or to be more precise, was on my mind on Thursday 23rd April 2015 which just happened to be World Book Night.

My fifth novel has a working title of The Wishing Tree and as I may have mentioned before, it’s based around the Allerton Oak which is a thousand year old tree in Calderstones Park, Liverpool. I’ve recently finished the latest draft, firming up the timeline and I knew that Thursday was the day that my two main characters would first meet. The park is close to home so of course I had to be there at the moment their paths cross. I can’t tell you how strange it was standing beneath the sprawling oak as that crucial scene played out in my mind. I’m almost disappointed that when I took this picture the lens failed to capture my characters too.

23rd April 2015

The Allerton Oak, Calderstones

I know there’s still a bit of a wait until that particular book is published and I wish I could tell you more about what is missing from this picture – suffice to say it should have revealed a broken man with a secret past and a vulnerable child who would become convinced by the tree’s magic powers.

Driven to Distraction

This week I’ve had my first sneaky peak at the cover design for my next novel and given that The Missing Husband won’t be published in the UK until July, the anticipation is driving me to distraction. But while the waiting goes on, I thought it might be a good time to tell you a little something about the book.

The Missing Husband is about a woman called Jo who is in her early thirties. On the face of it she has a successful career, is happily married and expecting her first child. The story begins one morning when her husband goes to work and she pretends to be asleep to avoid giving him a lift to the station. When he doesn’t come home, Jo faces the prospect of never finding out why he could disappear without trace. While the story explores what was behind her husband’s disappearance, the focus is on the impact it has on Jo’s life and in particular the effect on her mental health.

I’ve always tried to view mental health in the same was as physical health in that we have to work at keeping well. Body and mind can be affected by serious conditions and debilitating illness but sometimes we can simply be unfit, and that stores up problems for the future. We live in a society where we all know how to look after our bodies, even if we don’t always put that theory into practice. We know how our lifestyle choices affect our risks of developing cancer, diabetes and heart disease but what should we be doing to maintain our mental wellbeing? Isn’t that just as important?

Of course taking care of our mental health is easier said than done. None of us can control the things that happen to us and we can’t always control how we reaction to them, if at all. In Jo, I created a character who was generally happy and well, who might have had the odd idiosyncrasies but she is no different to you or I – in fact a lot of her existing rituals and obsessions came from things I know I do or other people have mentioned when I told them about the character I was writing.

What I hope readers will relate to is how this average woman could go from relatively good mental health to having severe anxiety to such a degree that it completely debilitates her. I didn’t want her to be the kind of person you immediately imagine would have a mental illness, but I think that’s the point, most people with mental illness aren’t those ‘stereotypes’ that make the headlines. They’re just like me and you, in fact they could be me or you which is a sobering thought.

There have been stress points in my life and times where my mental health has suffered and although I’ve been lucky enough to avoid mental illness, it could have been so much worse. I still don’t know why or how I managed to avoid becoming seriously ill. One factor which undoubtedly helped was my writing, whether through poetry, journals or complete works of fiction that allowed me to create worlds over which I did have full control. Losing weight and exercising helped too even though I wasn’t consciously thinking these were things that would improve my mental wellbeing at the time, only my physical health. I’ve since realised that these were the right things to do and there are plenty of resources out there to help anyone wanting to improve their mental health. A good start is described here on the NHS website.

I can’t wait to share my new novel with you and I hope to be able to share the cover design with you soon. In the meantime, I hope you all stay healthy in mind as well as body.

Is it worth mentioning now that reading is also proven to help improve mental wellbeing?

Reading is Good for You