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.

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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 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

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

 

 

 

A Token of My Appreciation

Dear Reader,

In the run up to the publication of my latest novel, it occurred to me that while I spend endless hours writing for you, I’ve never actually written to you. So I apologise now because this letter is way overdue.

I’ve been wondering for a while if you realise how important you are to me; you, the reader who invests your time and money into reading one of my books.  I say one book but if you then went on to read more of my work, then (wow!), thank you so, so much! Believe me, that’s just about the biggest complement you can give an author, to pick up another book and take another chance.  I hope I haven’t let you down.

Thank you for helping me get Where I Found You published.

Thank you for helping me get Where I Found You published.

It’s hard to imagine you reading the words I’ve spent hours agonising over, adding to the text, cutting scenes, tweaking the personalities of my characters and what motivates them and generally squeezing every ounce of emotion out of the story and the author. Do you laugh when I want you to laugh or, more likely with one of my books, do you cry when I want you to cry?  Are you sorry when the story comes to an end and for that matter, is the ending you think the story deserved?

It’s those kind of questions that are spinning around in my head when publication day arrives and my novel is released into the world. The problem is that I don’t get to see the effect my writing has on you, I’m not an actor on stage who can hear your gasps or peals of laughter.  What I rely on is the reviews from the amazing army of book bloggers out there and from individual readers who also leave reviews or post comments on my website or Facebook page, not to mention the occasional tweet.  I wonder if you realise how precious that kind of feedback is to me.  Did you know the comments you leave can make my day or, if it’s bad, make my heart sink?

Of course if you asked my publisher, then the most important feedback would be the sales figures which in turn drive the rankings and I can’t lie to you, that’s important to me too.  And it’s not just your direct contribution to those figures that I appreciate. Let’s not forget the new readers you’ve sent my way through your blogs, reviews and the personal recommendations to your friends. Even if they borrowed your copy, there’s always the chance they then went on to buy my next novel.  It all mounts up and it all contributes to my continued existence on the bookseller’s shelves.

It’s a harsh world out there in the publishing industry and I thank you all for your amazing support in getting me this far. I hope it’s the beginning of a long and beautiful relationship but even if my publishing adventure were to end and my stories were left languishing on my computer then perhaps that was meant to be. But for now, thank you for making my dream of becoming a published author a reality.  Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

With much love,

Amanda Brooke

Digital vs Paper – An Author’s Perspective

This week sees the publication of my second novella, ‘If I Should Go,’ which will be quickly followed by my next novel, ‘Where I Found You,’ out on 5th June 2014. There are some obvious differences between the two; the covers for one and the small detail of the novella being a mere 27k words compared to a hefty 111k in the novel. But there is for me a far more notable difference, namely, If I Should Go will only published as an ebook whereas Where I Found You will have both a physical and digital presence.

If I Should Go

Published 8th May 2014

And as the author, I have a very different emotional connection to each of them. The writing process may be very similar; write, rewrite, edit (repeat as necessary) but once I had completed the novella, I didn’t get that sense of crossing a finish line, not even when the cover design was finalised. There was no specific moment where I could sit back, relax and congratulate myself for all the hard work I’d put into its creation and in spite of the fact that If I Should Go is a story I’ve enjoyed writing and can’t wait to share, there’s still a disconnect with my e-book. It’s a little like seeing the baby scan and not being able to hold the baby.

Where I Found You was another matter entirely. The initial stages of writing were the same, albeit much longer and at times more agonising but unlike the novella it would take a physical form as I discovered last week when a padded envelope dropped on my doormat. I ripped it open excitedly to touch my beloved novel for the very first time. It was real, it was tangible and it was so much worth the effort. What’s more, it’s there now sitting pretty on my bookshelf where I can admire it from afar or pick it up and yes, I will admit to this, smell it.

Where I Found You

Published 5th June 2014

I am of course talking from an emotional rather than commercial point of view. I love the fact that my books are available digitally for as long as people want to read them but I would hate to see a day where the need for paper copies is completely dispensed with and thankfully there’s still a firm body of support for traditional printing to protect us from that possibility for some time yet…but maybe not forever.

Digital versus paper is a subject that divides friends, families and generations and the subject cropped up at a book club I attended at Mersey Travel in Liverpool last week. There were strong advocates who extolled the virtues of Kindles and the like. They’re easily transportable and even more so now that many of us use Smartphones for our literary fixes.  They’re great for downloading samples or taking on holiday, you can adjust the font so you don’t have to reach for your reading glasses and for the avid reader, you don’t have to worry about shelf space.

The traditional booklover’s response was at times far more emotive but there were practical considerations too. A traditional book doesn’t lose battery power and you can flick to a favourite passage on the page far easier than you can on a screen. The cover design lodges in your memory when it sits there on your bedside table and the book becomes an intimate friend with whom you can while away the hours.

It was clear from the discussion that a reader’s relationship with a paper novel was akin to a love affair as opposed to a more casual, functional relationship with an ebook. At least we were all agreed on one thing; books in any form are a great way to escape into a world made from equal measures of the author’s and the reader’s imaginations.

A Cosy Chat

I was lucky enough to be invited to a book club this week at the Cosy Bean Coffee Shop in Garston, Liverpool and I had such a great time!  It was lovely chatting to everyone about Another Way to Fall and even though there were, as I suspected, lots of tough questions, it really got me thinking about my book and particularly my heroine Emma.  I think everyone loved her as much as I do.

Amanda Brooke and Cosy Bean Book Club

Book Club

The evening went by so fast and really had me thinking about what I’d written.  It had been so difficult to willingly create a character who had cancer and then go on to dare to write as if I could know what it was really like – even with my own personal experiences.  Thankfully I’ve had lots of positive, dare I say, amazing responses and reviews and I’m so glad that even though I may have made quite a few people cry, the overwhelming response to Another Way to Fall is that Emma’s story was inspirational rather than heartrending.

One of the most interesting questions posed at the book club was about the Shopkeeper.  Who was he??  I had to admit that when I wrote that particular character it was my deliberate intention not to explain who he was or what he might represent in Emma’s mind.  Was he a religious or spiritual representation or did he embody something far more physical, another character in the book or perhaps the power at her fingertips?  For me, he provided a way in which Emma could redress the balance in her life.  She had suffered enough, sacrificed enough, she deserved to get to ‘the good bit,’ and what the Shopkeeper could offer was a life that was fair.  But that’s just my view and I love that every reader will see him slightly differently – and the best answer by far on the night was that the Shopkeeper was really Emma’s laptop.  Genius!

I’d like to say a big thank you to Nicola Gill who runs the Cosy Bean and organised the event which raised an amazing £220 for Cancer Research UK.  Thank you to all the book club members who made me so welcome and I hope to be invited back again one day soon!

PS. I still haven’t worked out what the appropriate response is when someone says how much I made them cry… thank you just doesn’t seem quite right!?