Monday Merry Meet: Kiley Dunbar

After an unscheduled break from the Monday Merry Meets*, we’re excited to chat with author, Kiley Dunbar. Her books include the delightful Borrow a Bookshop Holiday which made us all want to forget about selling lotions, potions and tea and want to become booksellers instead.

*everyone succumbed to a terrible cold that stole our voices and then the boiler broke. With the Enchanted Emporium’s reputation of hauntings, it took a while to find someone willing to come and fix it.

Monday Merry Meet: Kiley Dunbar

Willow: Welcome Kiley, come through to the back. Can we get you something warming to drink? We have a selection of tea, including our own Festive spice blend, which is Christmas in a cup, coffee or hot chocolate?

Amber: Or something stronger. I can warm up some mulled wine. You may need it. Percy, our Victorian resident ghost, has discovered ‘O’Christmas Tree’ on Spotify and as much as we try, we can’t switch it off. It’s been on a continual loop all day.

Kiley: It’s so nice to meet you all. You too Percy, nice tunes! I’d love a brew please. Festive Spice sounds braw.

A cup of tea surrounded by festive foliage
Image by Nina from Pixabay

Willow: They sang it around the piano upstairs at Christmas, apparently. It’s making him happy. Do you have any special traditions you always do at Christmas, Kiley?

Kiley: I love that! Cuz that’s what Christmas traditions are, aren’t they; recreating happy memories of long ago? I am a Christmas obsessive and love everything about the season. I put my tree in the window, all sparkly, in mid-November this year because I needed a dose of winter cheer. I love re-reading A Christmas Carol every year, and I always cut my Christmas cake early so I can eat it with my breakfast cuppa all through December. And I love travelling at Christmas, so I’ll book a snowy getaway very close to the big day itself! This year’s no different. I’m meeting my best friend in Edinburgh for a wee potter around the Christmas markets.

Willow: That sounds amazing. We reread a Christmas Carol too and have many different editions on the enchanted bookshelf.

Amber: I’d love to decorate mid-November too, but Willow is a grinch and makes us wait until December.

Rosa: Your current release revisits one of my favourite places, The Borrow A Bookshop in Clove Lore, Devon. What made you set a Christmas story there? How important is location for you?

Clove Lore is based (loosely) on Clovelly in Devon, which is a beautiful, magical place. It means a lot to me because that’s where my fella took me the week we met, so I associate it with those early feelings of falling stupidly in love. And it is picturesque, let me tell you. The perfect spot for a romance series. Even if I do send the residents of Clove Lore a massive Christmas flood in this book!

Open book with page bent into a heart in candlelight
Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

Rosa: I love romance novels especially at Christmas. They provide an ideal escape from the mayhem. How important do you think a happy ever after ending is in fiction?

I think the reason we love romances with happy ever after endings is the same reason we love Christmas. Both offer us a sense that things can be better, that humanity isn’t spoiled and awful after all, and that with a big enough dose of love, community and kindness, we can all be happy.

We are hopeful creatures, deep down, and ultimately we long to be happy. Romance novels give us that positive feeling that anything’s possible.

Willow: It is your 7th novel. What has your publication journey been like? Is being a writer how you expected it to be?

I know! Seven books! It still amazes me. In 2018, I was facing redundancy, turning forty and terrified. I knew I had a shot at changing my life and writing the books I’ve always wanted to (but felt I never could), so I started typing! I’m still so grateful to Hera Books for picking me up when I was down. Writing for a living is such a lot of work, two books a year usually, and little time for rest, but I love it. It’s all I want to do for the rest of my life.

Willow: We have many would-be writers popping in. Do you have any advice for them?

Yes, just do it. Write whenever you feel able. Get the words down. Make writer friends and share your writing. Get feedback (but only from people whose opinion you actually want!) and don’t give up. Don’t censor yourself, either. Write your story for your future fans, not for those around you. And just enjoy it. It’s supposed to be fun. If it isn’t, are you writing the book you actually want to?

Willow: The Enchanted Emporium sells a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

Kiley: I would love A Good Night’s Sleep candle, please. Often I’m up late into the night worrying about what the future holds. I’m a parent carer and when I try to picture what life will be like for my little family when I’m not around to do the caring, I crumble. So any magic you have for me in that regard, I’ll gladly welcome it!

Willow: One candle we sell invokes memories of your perfect day when lit. Where would it take you?

Kiley: It would take me back to Lapland in Christmas 2019 when I was writing Christmas at Frozen Falls (also set in Finnish Lapland). We were so happy there; it was snowy, black sky heaven! Ah, take me back!

Rosa: It sounds magical. Lapland is on mine and my son, Alejo’s dream places to visit.

Finland at night with the green northern lights
Image by Sturrax from Pixabay

Willow: The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

Kiley: Spooky experiences or hauntings? Not so much, but I do often feel like my life is following in a particular groove already set out for me, if that makes sense. Like when I met my partner, I recognised him, like I was waiting for him. I had the same feeling with my babies, too. The feeling strongly steers me away from things I don’t think are right for me. It’s always there and I trust it. All of my books are about characters learning to trust that inner voice too, steering them away from paths where they’ve taken a wrong turning.

Willow: Listening to our inner selves is very important.

Rosa: If Willow or Amber could blend you a potion to give you a special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

Kiley: I’d like a calm potion! Do you have such a thing? Let my mind rest easy for twenty-four hours. I know that’s not a big special ability, but I think I’d be a brighter, bolder person after a while away from worry!

Willow: That’s a potion which could be brewed. Leave it with us. It’d be useful during the next few weeks. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

Kiley: There’s a book I swear by when writing about the ritual year. It’s called Stations of The Sun by Ronald Hutton. I use it all the time for finding details about old customs and beliefs linked to nature and its cycles. It inspired the Harvest Home ceilidh in my Summer at the Highland Coral Beach, for example. I just know you would love it!

Amber: Never mind the enchanted bookshelf. I need a copy of this.

Rosa: What would you add to my Box of Romance?

Kiley: It’s a book I am sure you already have – The Book Boyfriend by Jeanna Louise Skinner. It’s super romantic, has wonderful diversity of representation around realistic bodies and mental health, and it’s set in a magical book shop! What’s not to adore about that?

Amber: I’ve heard great things about that book and we’re chatting to her soon hopefully. Great choice.

Willow: And lastly, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

Kiley: In spring 2023 I’m bringing you Something New at the Borrow a Bookshop, and I can tell you I’ve just signed a new three book contract with Canelo Hera for you two more Borrow a Bookshop stories as well as a very Christmassy standalone set in an extremely charming Cotswold village where one woman is trying to save her Christmas gingerbread grotto. That’s about all I can say about that, other than I can’t wait to share them all with you!

Willow, Amber and Rosa: We look forward to reading them. Thanks so much for visiting. Have a lovely Christmas.

Kiley: Thanks so much for having me. And Percy, I’ve loved having you DJ’ing ‘O’Christmas Tree’! It’ll be stuck in my head all month long. I hope you have a beautiful festive season at the Emporium, stay warm and cosy, all of you.

Author Biography:

Photo of Kiley Dunbar. Shoulder length dark hair with fringe. Smiling and leaning on on hand, she's wearing a thick cosy purple, pink and cream checked knitted jumper.
Kiley Dunbar

Kiley is Scottish and lives in England with her husband, two kids and Amos the Bedlington Terrier. She writes around her work at a University in the North of England where she lectures in English Literature and creative writing.

Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop

Blurb:

With just two weeks until Christmas, everything in Clove Lore should be perfect. But the latest holidaymaker to the Borrow a Bookshop is feeling far from festive…

Icelandic ex-bookseller Magnús Sturluson might be surrounded by love stories in the Bookshop, but he’s nursing a sadness that not even fiction can fix.

When Alexandra Robinson finds herself stranded in Clove Lore, she finds a safe place to hide from heartbreak. After all, all that’s waiting for her at home is a cheater boyfriend and the memories of her parents. As Alex finds herself embraced by the quirky village community, she finds her tough exterior thawing – and as she grows closer to Magnús, she finds an equally soft heart under his gruff shell.

It seems that Clove Lore is working it’s magic once again – until a great flood on Christmas Eve brings devastation in its wake. It’s up to Magnús and Alex to batten down the hatches and help bring the village back together again, while also introducing the locals to the Icelandic tradition of the jólabókaflóð – Yule book flood – where families and friends gather on Christmas Eve to exchange books and read together.

But can Magnús and Alex truly rescue the ruins of the village, and salvage their Christmas spirit? Or is there another complication lurking even closer than they thought?

@kileydunbarauthor on Insta

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Monday Merry Meet: Heidi Swain

Happy Samhain! The witches’ favourite time of year. It’s also the only day they wear the iconic witch’s pointy hat. While Willow dons a black hat that shimmers purple in the Emporium’s lights, Amber’s is a more subdued affair. Made of brown felt, it is battered, twisted and entwined with autumnal leaves and toadstools.

Both are ready for trick or treaters that maybe brave enough to wander down Black Cat Alley for some of sweets including Willow’s homemade enchanted lollies. Lucky for them, she refused Amber’s suggestion to hex a few to keep things interesting.

The emporium’s shop window is a blaze with flickering pumpkins, shrouded with cultivated cobwebs, the ghosts are enjoying the possibility they maybe seen. Vincent, the large ginger Maine Coon and ghostly Black Cat are on guard waiting for their special guest, Heidi Swain.

This Sunday Times bestselling author is one of Rosa’s favourite writers so she is sipping yet another chamomile tea to calm her nerves so she can speak. She has also muted her mobile as Alejo is unimpressed his Trick or Treating has been delayed so she can have fangirl moment.

Monday Merry Meet: Heidi Swain

Willow: Welcome Heidi. Please come in from the cold though its not much warmer in here. Our heating is struggling to compete with the extra ghosts that have appeared since Mrs Marley discovered you were visiting. She’s a huge fan of your audiobooks which I usually play for her while I’m at work. Unlike Percy, she has never mastered the art of telekinesis so page turning is a chore. She loves Wynbridge and Nightingale Square.  

Thank you for the welcome and thank you to Mrs Marley. I’m delighted to discover you are a fan of Wynbridge and Nightingale Square. I’m sure both Wynthorpe Hall and Prosperous Place have their own ghosts, but they are yet to make themselves known to me.

Rosa: I love them too. There are several of your books in my Box of Romance and they’re my go to comfort reads. What can we get you to drink? There are many blends of tea including Yorkshire, coffee, hot chocolate or Amber has concocted a special warm Halloween punch? It’s her take on mulled cider. I tried some and it warms you up a treat.

Thank you, Rosa. I would love some of that seasonal punch. It sounds like the perfect tipple for this chilly day.

Willow: Amber is staying on trick or treat duty while we chat. With the many ghost stories the emporium has attached to it and the reputation of us witches draws in some kids. Not as many as I’d have expected though. I think they preferred it when it was a derelict building and played the part as the haunted house to visit as a dare well. Is Samhain something you usually celebrate?

It certainly is. I follow the Wheel of the Year and along with dressing the hearth and enjoying a pumpkin feast, I consider Samhain the start of my magical new year. It is when I make plans and set exciting intentions for the months ahead.

Rosa: Christmas isn’t Christmas without one of your books. What is your latest about?

That’s very kind, thank you! A Christmas Celebration takes us back to Wynbridge and more specifically Wynthorpe Hall, for the festive season. With a few folk temporarily away from the hall, the arrival of Paige (goddaughter to Catherine and Angus), couldn’t be better timed. Unbeknown to everyone else, she’s carrying a secret, but finding herself quickly drawn into helping at the hall and in the town, there’s initially little time to dwell on it.

In the run to Christmas, Paige also makes two new friends, both carrying their fair share of secrets and of course, catches up with Molly, her witchy friend who lives in the Wynthorpe woods.

The emphasis is very much on community spirit and coming together, both for Christmas and beyond.

Willow: It is your 15th novel.  What has your publication journey been like? Is being a writer how you expected it to be?

I keep counting the books on the shelf in my writing room. I’m amazed there are fifteen there already!

My debut, The Cherry Tree Café was picked up after submitting to the Books and the City #OneDay open submission opportunity. That was back in 2014 and the e-book was published almost a year to the day in 2015. Since then, I’ve been writing two books a year for Simon and Schuster, secured a fabulous agent, become a Sunday Times bestseller and been shortlisted twice for an RNA award.

Being a writer has far exceeded my expectations and I’m both grateful and proud that I found the courage to make it happen. When I started out, I used to write from 5 to 6 in the morning before my kids got up, then in my car during my lunch break and again in the evenings. I had a few books published before I made the leap to write full-time but it was worth every chilly, dark start I made along the way. Nothing beats the sight of my books lined up on a supermarket or bookshop shelf. I love the writing life!

Willow: We have many would-be writers popping in for copious amounts of tea or confidence candles, do you have any advice for them?

That’s wonderful! I wish them every success. One of the best pieces of advice I can give is, don’t wait for what you imagine to be the perfect opportunity to start writing. You’ll never have more time – no matter how hard you try to manifest it – you have to look at your schedule and work out where you can squeeze in a few minutes, cast a circle of protection around them and use them! You’ll be amazed how quickly the word count grows once you’ve made the commitment.

Also, be proactive in seeking out opportunities to be published. Once I’d decided I was going to be a published author, rather than thinking I wanted to be a published author, great things happened but I still had to make them happen. Take control and responsibility for your writing journey.

Willow: Mrs Marley would also like to ask a question, if you could choose one character to have tea with, who would it be?

I would love to have tea with Molly, who lives in the Wynthorpe woods. The atmosphere in her little cottage is so warm, welcoming and incense infused, it would perfect. That said, I’m not sure what sort of tea Molly would brew!

Three tarot cards lying next to a crystal. " of wands, a man holding a staff looking into the distance, king of pentacles a king sitting on his throne holding a coin and one of cups - a golden chalice being held up by a large hand.
Image by JOAN A BROWN from Pixabay

Rosa: We love Molly. I’m sure she’d fit in well here. She lives in the woods of Wynthorpe Hall and reads the tarot cards for people. Have you ever had yours read and did it come true?

I’m so pleased you love Molly too. She’s someone readers have really warmed too. She’s cast us all under her spell. I read my own cards and yes, they’re pretty accurate. A while ago I started working with a different deck and we didn’t bond at all, so I’ve gone back to my original cards and I’m much happier. There was an instant energy shift.

Willow: Some cards are like that. The Enchanted Emporium sell a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

I would choose either financial security or confidence, but between the two, financial security would come out on top.

Willow: One candle we sell invokes memories of your perfect day when lit. Where would it take you?

This is a tricky one! I’ve been blessed with so many perfect days, such as the day my editor said the words ‘we’d like to offer you a two-book deal’! That was phenomenal!

However, I’m going to pick the day my daughter and I travelled to London to see Kpop group, SF9 perform in Hammersmith. The concert in the evening was fabulous, but the entire day ran so smoothly – even traffic lights changing as we approached so we could cross roads without waiting and finding each other straight away in the city even though we’d travelled from opposite ends of the country. There was definitely magic in the air that day!

A pumpkin with two small resin ghosts.
Image by Alexa from Pixabay

Willow: Even when it’s not Halloween, The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?

I have lived in both National Trust and National Trust for Scotland properties and there were plenty of bumps in the night there! Ghostly goings on haven’t influenced my writing, but I often include a solstice celebration. The one on the beach in Underneath the Christmas Tree was a joy to write.

Rosa: You must have so many tales to tell living in those properties. Normally, we’d ask about what potion you’d have the witches blend for you but in your books, there is a wishing tree in the grounds of Wynthorpe Hall. What would you attach to the tree and what wish would you ask to be granted?

I adore the Wishing Tree! I think it would have to be a notebook and I would ask for endless inspiration. There’s no sign of the well running dry, but it would be a comfort to have a back up.

Willow: What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

I know it’s a little early in the year, but every December 1st I read A Christmas Carol and I have quite a few beautiful copies of it now, so I’ll add that timeless tale if I may.

Rosa: You can never have too many copies of A Christmas Carol. There are many stunning editions. What would you add to my Box of Romance?

Not surprisingly, I have a few favourite romance authors, so I had a tricky time picking just one book to add! Trisha Ashley has an entire shelf to herself on my bookcase, more than one actually if you include the hardbacks, so I’m going to add Twelve Days of Christmas. Another festive title, but one I often visit whatever the calendar says.

Willow: And lastly what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

I’ve recently submitted the first draft of the summer 2023 release which publishes next April. It’s called The Book-Lovers’ Retreat and is a standalone read which I am absolutely loving working on. It is set in the Lake District, which is somewhere I have wonderful memories of visiting, and is already available to order.

Here’s the blurb – The Book-Lovers’ Retreat, set in the Lake District, tells the story of three friends who spend the whole summer in a hideaway cottage, the real-life setting of their favourite book. As the summer develops, so will their friendship, they will find love in all its forms and, as a result, their lives will change course forever…

So exciting! I’m also making plans for Christmas 2023 as I need to start writing that book very soon!

Rosa: That book sounds amazing, it’ll be on our pre-order list. Thank you for visiting and good luck with your writing. Happy Samhain!

Heidi Swain Author Biography

Photo of Heidi Swain. White woman in glasses and smiling. Short cropped hair and red dangly earrings

Although passionate about writing from an early age, Heidi Swain gained a degree in literature and flirted briefly with a newspaper career before she plucked up the courage to join a creative writing class and take her literary ambitions seriously.

A lover of vintage paraphernalia and the odd bottle of fizz, she now writes feel good fiction with heart for Simon and Schuster. Her debut novel, The Cherry Tree Café was published in July 2015 and she became a Sunday Times Bestseller in 2017. Heidi writes two books a year – a summer and winter title.

She is represented by Amanda Preston and lives in the east of England with a mischievous cat called Storm.

Links

Website: http://www.heidiswain.co.uk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Heidi_Swain

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WriterHeidiJoSwain?ref=hl

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heidi-Swain/e/B00YNN3LDI?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1620727029&sr=8-1

Publisher: https://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/

                  http://booksandthecity.co.uk/

Book cover for A Christmas Wish by Heidi Swain. Purple with her name in gold and title in white. The bottom shows a winter scene, snow covered fir trees and a mansion

A Christmas Celebration by Heidi Swain

Blurb:


When Paige turns up unannounced at Wynthorpe Hall, she discovers the place she knew when she was growing up has changed beyond all recognition. She’s only planning to stay for a short time, but is quickly pulled into local life.
 
One night while driving home after delivering library books and shopping to residents she stumbles across an isolated cottage and meets Albert, its elderly and rather grumpy owner. She quickly realises there’s more to Albert than meets the eye and the same can be said for the other man she can’t seem to help running into, handsome but brooding Brodie.
 
All three of them have a secret and a desire to hide away from the world, but with Christmas on the horizon, is that really the best way to celebrate the season?