Now the chaos of Yule and the New Year is over, we are delighted to share our first Monday Merry Meet of 2023. Today Jane Lovering, author of 25 books has popped in for a chat about her books, writing and of course magic. We all fell in love with her The Forgotten House on the Moor, a romance with a ghost hunting twist last year and can’t wait to read her new release, There’s No Place Like Home.
Grab yourself a cuppa and join us to discover more about this author.
Monday Merry Meet: Jane Lovering
Willow: Welcome Jane, we’re so excited to have you here. I hope you’re not allergic to cats. Vincent, our lumbering Maine Coon, has taken to sleeping on the sofa in the staffroom. Amber will move him out of the way so you can sit down.
Jane: I love Whitby! It’s not that far from where I live, so I can call it research, wandering down the little old streets and popping into the wonderful crooked little shops in the Old Town. Oh, and I’m not at all allergic to cats – in fact I’ve had them all my life. I don’t have one now because Current Dog is a Patterdale Terrier and the only response to hearing that someone owns a Patterdale is ‘oh dear, I am sorry.’ She’s a fiend. Vincent can sit on my lap if he likes.
Willow: Be prepared to be squashed by him then. He loves attention. What would you like to drink? We have Yorkshire tea, herbal tea, coffee or something stronger. Since Christmas we have some homemade sloe gin left or wine.
Jane: I can’t drink alcohol at all, so I’ll have a big mug of Yorkshire Tea, please. Very strong, no sugar, hardly any milk. I have the tea palate of a jobbing builder. Oh, and if you’ve got any biscuits…
Amber: One mug of builder’s tea coming up and we always have biscuits.
Rosa: I’ve just finished your new book, There’sNo Place like Home. It is set on the Yorkshire moors and, like your other books, has a wonderful sense of place. Do you spend a lot of time in potential locations to capture their atmosphere? Where is your favourite spot?
Jane: Most of my books are set around where I live, or within a few minutes’ walk/drive. I spend a LOT of time walking and running locally (see under ‘Patterdale terrier owner’) and it all serves to help me absorb atmosphere and scenery. Although when I’m running, I’m mostly sweating and swearing, to be honest. I don’t really have a favourite place, I love all the moors and fields and becks and dales and woods around me. It depends on my mood. Sometimes the exposed bleakness of the moors is best, and sometimes I just want some rustling woodland with leaves, and squirrels to chase. Er, for the dog, not me.
Willow: Your new protagonist, Izzy, joins a reality show to track down big cats wild in the British countryside. What was your inspiration for this idea?
Jane: A friend is fascinated by Bigfoot and watches a lot of those ‘Hunting Bigfoot’ programmes. He suggested that I wrote about a British Bigfoot hunt, but I’m just a wee bit more sceptical than he is. However, I know people who’ve seen what they have sworn are big cats out in the countryside, and I thought that finding one of these might make a good story. Then I needed to work out the how and the why – and came up with a reality TV show. They always seem to feature people doing ridiculous things that nobody would ever want to do in the normal course of events, and people will seemingly do anything for money…
Rosa: Among other things, this novel tackles homelessness. Was it something you planned to cover to raise awareness of the situation people find themselves in, or did it develop while writing about Izzy?
Jane: My characters tend to come to me fully formed, so I already knew that Izzy was homeless. The only thing I had to work out was how it came about, and come up with a way that was plausible – a way which would make many readers think ‘that could have been me’.
Amber: You’ve written 25 books. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?
Jane: D’you know, I don’t think I would? I’ve been very very lucky, and I’ve met such wonderful people and made such good friends along the way, that I don’t think I’d have anything any different – other than maybe have it happen twenty years earlier!
Willow: We always love hearing about author’s day. Do you have a strict your writing routine?
Jane: Well, it’s not ‘strict’ because I don’t believe in beating myself up over it, but I tend to wake up, make a big mug of tea and then go back to bed with the dog and my laptop. I try to write 1000 words a day, and then I’m up and out for a run with the dog and then off to work (I don’t start work until 3pm before you think I’m one of these ‘early risers’ whom I swear are a myth).
Amber: I dabble in writing. Do you have any advice for novice writers?
Jane: Read read read. Not just in the genre you want to write, but anything and everything. Biographies, ‘How To’ books, novels, poetry – every word you read informs the writer you become. Oh, and don’t ask for feedback on your writing from family, or anyone who might die at your hand if they criticise you. Find a beta reader or writing partner who is not emotionally invested in you – they are the only people who will be honest. Joining a writers’ group can be helpful, but it depends on the group – avoid any with loud, dominant characters who are only there to read their work and be told how wonderful they are.
Willow: Great advice and an ideal excuse to visit bookshops guilt free. Whitby has a delightful one. The Enchanted Emporium sells several candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?
Jane: I live alone in a tiny little cottage (well, I’ve got the dog…) so I’m fine for peace and tranquillity, I sleep very well (because it’s so quiet), and I believe in making my own luck and security. I think it would have to be focus and concentration because I can be – how shall we put it politely? – a wee bit scatty and disorganised.
Willow: One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit. Where would it take you?
Jane: I’m not sure. I think my life is pretty perfect at the moment, actually! Possibly it would remind me of Christmases, spent with all my children around me, eating food, playing games and laughing. If it could blank out the hours of cooking, the arguing, the mess and the washing up, that would be nice too.
Amber: Ghosts and paranormal activity plague The Enchanted Emporium. Have had had any spooky experiences – did it influence your writing The Forgotten House on the Moor and other books?
Jane: A few minor happenings that I couldn’t explain – this is a very old cottage and I’ve had the usual amount of strange window and door openings, knockings and clonks. Over the years, I’ve seen things which might have been supernatural, and I have a belief that we don’t understand everything about the world beyond us. That sense of mystery, of enquiry and the ‘maybe’ runs through a lot of my books.
Willow: Your cottage sounds delightful. Unlike your character, Holly Grey in Hubble Bubble, we don’t dabble with magic, it’s in our blood. Bearing that in mind, if we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours what would it be and what would you do with it?
Jane: I would like to be able to see the world through the eyes of animals. To experience what they do and understand how they see us. I think it might help me to understand why they seem to be such irrational creatures – I’d love to sit up trees with squirrels and stomp along with badgers and skitter about with the ponies!
Willow: I think I’d have to join you with that superpower, experiencing Whitby through the eyes of Vincent or some of the wild birds would be eye opening. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?
Jane: You’ve probably got them all! But I’m reading a book at the moment called ‘Mythology of the British Isles’ by Geoffrey Ashe, about the history of folklore in Britain and the origin of myths, which is fascinating.
Willow: That’s one we don’t have but it sounds like it’s a need.
Rosa: I have a Box of Romance books I share with friends and customers. What would you add to it?
Jane: That’s too hard! That’s like asking me to choose my favourite child! I have so many friends who write amazing romances, that I couldn’t possibly select just a few, it wouldn’t be fair.
Willow: It can be a cruel question. And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?
Jane: My next book is with my editor and awaiting edits, but I’m actually currently writing a book set on Orkney, about a witch’s cottage, the person who inherits it and what happens when she does. It might be right up your street!
Willow: It truly does and we can’t wait to read it. I hope the writing goes well and you’ll have to pop back and tell us all about it.
Isabel, Izzy to her friends, has got nothing left to lose when she makes the bravest decision of her life.
A month living under canvas on the Yorkshire Moors with five strangers wouldn’t normally be her idea of a good time, even if there is prize money to be won at the end of it, but she’s all out of options.
Joining her in this wild goose chase, being filmed for a TV show, are farmer Seb, whose marriage is creaking but who is desperate not to lose his family. Sheltered Ruth who needs an opportunity to show she can make her own decisions. Glamorous socialite Kanga, who has been living a lie. American Junior who has his own secret that has led him there. And last but not least, mysterious and brooding Mac, who Izzy can’t help but be drawn to.
As the fickleness of nature tests them all to their limits, this disparate group come together to face the challenge. But when Izzy finally tells them the truth that has brought her out on the Moors, will that be the end of their adventure, or the beginning of her future? Because what Izzy really needs is a place to call home, and someone to share it with could be even better…
Jane Lovering is the author of 25 novels and novellas, which she calls ‘dark psychological romance, with jokes’. She lives in North Yorkshire, where many of her books are set, in a creaky old cottage with an obsessive Patterdale Terrier and a lot of cobwebs. She has won four Romantic Novel of the Year awards, likes biscuits and running (cause and effect) and Tony Robinson. Jane is actually a very nice person, despite her tendency to snarl ‘what do you want?’ out of open windows whilst holding back a growling dog with one hand. Honestly.
Rosa here. Now Halloween is over, I love indulging in festive books so I was excited to find a copy of Kiley Dunbar’s Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop in my Box of Romance. I adored the prequel to this, The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday so was happy to revisit Clove Lore.
Book Review: Christmas at the Borrow a Bookshop by Kiley Dunbar
‘Tis the season for finding love… and the perfect book
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 its 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?
Rosa’s Thoughts from the Emporium
Kiley Dunbar is an author I know I can turn to for a comfort read with quirky characters to love and a location I can immerse myself in. This book was no exception. Clove Lore and the bookshop welcomed me back like a hug and it was a joy to catch up with old favourite characters like Minty, Jude and Eliot, and of course, Aldous the dog.
The bookshop and its café is a perfect location for a Christmas story as it oozes cosiness and warmth especially when the characters sink into chairs in front of the fire surrounded by books. With the village decorated with Christmas decorations it made me feel festive even in September.
Magnus and Alex provided a fresh story and when their pasts were revealed, I was cheering them both on hoping they would both get the happy ending they deserved. Unlike many romances, Magnus and Alex get on so it was lovely to see the friendship flourish but then it meant the heartache cuts deeper when trials come their way.
The flood highlighted the devasting wide ranging effects disasters like this have but also showed the strength communities and people have when pushed to the brink.
With bookshops, the Christmas tradition of jólabókaflóð, a strong community and romance in the air, this novel is perfect for a heart-warming festive read on a cold evening with a hot chocolate or favourite drink.
It can be read as a standalone, but like all novels set in a village location, reading the first novel will give added depth to the reading experience as you have a connection with the secondary characters too.
Kiley Dunbar writes heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places, with One Winter’s Night being shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel Award 2021.
Kiley’s five novels include: The Borrow a Bookshop Holiday (May 2021), One Winter’s Night (September 2020), Summer at the Highland Coral Beach (2020), Christmas at Frozen Falls (2019) and One Summer’s Night (2019).
While there maybe a strict no Christmas rule in The Enchanted Emporium until 1st December, it doesn’t extend into the courtyard outside. Sitting next to the enchanted lending library, Rosa’s Box of Romance has been decorated with fairy lights and tinsel to reflect the books inside. It’s full of this year’s festive treats for visitors to borrow or exchange including Christmas at the Village Sewing Shop by Helen Rolfe thanks to Random Things Tours.
Rosa is excited to share her honest and unbiased review as part of the blog tour.
Book Review: Christmas at the Village Sewing Shop by Helen Rolfe
Title: Christmas at the Village Sewing Shop
Author: Helen Rolfe
Genre: Romance, Festive
Release Date: 22nd October 2022
Can three sisters stitch their family back together?
Loretta has run the little sewing shop in Butterbury for years, while bringing up her three headstrong daughters. Her own grandmother taught her how to quilt, and Loretta always found time to sit with Daisy, Ginny and Fern, pulling together scraps of material – and their hopes and dreams – into a beautiful whole.
But this Christmas the family is coming apart at the seams: Fern feels like she’s failing at motherhood and marriage; Ginny’s passion for her job as a midwife is fading, Daisy is keeping two very different secrets – and most of all, Loretta seems to be hiding something from her daughters…
As they come together to create a beautiful new festive quilt, memories are stirred, the bonds between sisters healed, and new friendships woven. But when Loretta reveals the real reason she’s gathered them all back to the sewing shop, can the sisters mend the quilt, and their family, in time for Christmas?
Full of kindness, community and festive magic, this is a treat to curl up with this Christmas! Perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley, Jenny Colgan and Ali McNamara
Thoughts from the Emporium
The title and blurb drew Rosa in thanks, in part to the recent chat in the shop about the special meaning quilts after the history of Willow’s beloved childhood patchwork quilt was revealed in Old Jax’s Quilt. It promised to be as cosy and warming as the quilt the sisters were making and it didn’t disappoint. Christmas at the Village Sewing Shop was a delightful and heart-warming start to Rosa’s festive reading.
The Sewing Box is an ideal setting for a festive read and made a refreshing read from the usual bakery or café. The family business was built on love and community which showed in the colourful and detailed descriptions of the shop and the sisters’ current and past sewing projects. Reading about how memories were held in each patch encouraged Rosa to pick up a needle and begin some festive projects of her own to create heirlooms and traditions for her small family including her own version of an advent calendar. For readers who have a creative side, this novel is an inspiring Christmas treat.
The village and wintery landscape also extended the feeling of escapism away from the family home and the sense of community and care was just what was needed in these troubling times.
Told in all the sisters and their mum, Loretta’s, point of view it gave an insight into each life, motivation and reason for drifting apart which made Rosa invested in a happy ending. They’re all relatable characters especially Fern with her desire for perfection and Loretta for a close knit family again. It tugged at the heart. While there is a thread of romance through this book, the focus is on the bond sisters can have, idyllic locations, friendship and a tight knit community where healing and love can flourish.
It’s ideal for the dark evenings, snuggled under a duvet with hot chocolate or festive tea.
Helen Rolfe writes contemporary women’s fiction and enjoys weaving stories about family, friendship, secrets, and community. Characters often face challenges and must fight to overcome them, but above all, Helen’s stories always have a happy ending
Today we’re excited to chat to Alys West, author of the witchy series the Spellworker Chronicles. We hope you enjoy hearing about Samhain, her books and spells.
Monday Merry Meet: Alys West
Willow:Hi Alys, come in it’s blustery out there. It’s as if you brought your Storm witch with you. We’ve heard the waves hit the harbour walls all day. Usually we’re too far away.
Amber:On the plus side the courtyard has gathered so many autumnal leaves, I can make a wreath. Can I get you a drink? We have our own blends of tea, Yorkshire tea, as no one can beat that for a proper cuppa, coffee or something different?
Alys: I’ll have a cup of green tea with jasmine if you’ve got it. Thanks for inviting me to visit your wonderful shop. I love Whitby. It’s one of my favourite places. I always feel history really strongly here and there’s so many stories to tell about Whitby. I set my steampunk romance, The Dirigible King’s Daughter here and I’m sure I’ll come back to it in future books.
Willow:We’d love to read those. You write novels surrounding witchcraft and the occult. What drew you to that genre?
Alys: Ooh, thanks for the tea. That looks lovely. I’ve always read a lot of fantasy and I’m a big fan of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Merlin. I’m also deeply fascinated my folklore. When I started writing Beltane I wanted the magic to be organic, to come from the earth and the folklore of Glastonbury. I think all of the witches in my books are essentially hedge witches. Their power is mainly instinctive and comes from hedgerows and gardens rather than reading magical books.
Willow: We know all about instinctive magic and it often gets Amber into trouble.
Amber: Willow prefers tried and tested magic from books.
Willow: Not always.I love your atmospheric settings. Beltane was set in Glastonbury and Storm Witch is located in West Orkney. How important are locations for you and what comes first, the location, character or plot?
Alys: Location is hugely important to me. I’m very influenced by the spirit of a place. With my writing, I start with the place and the story grows from it. Beltane grew out of the landscape around Glastonbury. Storm Witch was inspired by a folk tale about a girl called Janet Sinclair who lived on the island of Westray in Orkney in the seventeenth century who was believed to be able to call up storms.
Amber:I found the Storm Witch highly relatable and their emotions cause havoc with their powers. How easy was it to write those scenes?
Alys: I’m pleased to hear you related to the Storm Witch. It was pretty cathartic to write those scenes. It was a bit of a release to allow those emotions out. As a person I feel things deeply but do my best to hide it so I was probably working through some of my own anger by allowing the Storm Witch to let rip!
Willow:As you can see with our pumpkins and window display, we are looking forward to Halloween. Is Samhain something you usually celebrate?
Alys: Yes, Samhain is a really important time of the year for me. I love autumn. In the Celtic tradition, Samhain is the start of the new year. It’s the time when our energies turn inwards as the days grow shorter. I’ve got much more comfortable with the idea of retreating and recharging in the winter and Samhain is the start of that period.
There’s a Samhain tradition which I like to follow; you eat an apple and each seed symbolises something you’d like to grow or develop during the winter months. Traditionally you would then eat the seeds but I like to see that as optional!
So I won’t be out Trick or Treating but I’ll be celebrating the turn of the seasons at home with candles and the leaves and seeds I’ve gathered on my walks.
Willow:It’s a beautiful way to celebrate it and we must give you one of our Samhain candles before you go. Every writer seems to tread different paths to publication. What has your journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?
Alys: My journey has been a bit twisty-turny but I feel I’ve ended up in the right place. Initially I tried to get a traditional publishing deal and had an agent for a while. However that didn’t work out so I indie published Beltane. It’s been hard work but I wouldn’t have changed it. It’s allowed me the freedom and time to write the stories I wanted to tell. I’ve also met some absolutely brilliant people along the way who have supported my writing and helped me keep going. If I was to change anything, I think I’d have gone indie straightaway. Indie publishing is right for me and my books. I could have saved myself a lot of rejection letters if I’d embraced it sooner!
Willow:Spells and magic can be very ritualistic. Do you have writing rituals are strict writing regime?
Alys: I always sit in the same green Ikea chair. We moved house a few months ago and the writing chair was not available for a few weeks and it really threw me. Other chairs are available in our house but none of them felt right. I also need tea when I sit down to start writing. That’s usually a pot of green tea but I move onto peppermint later in the day. I like to write first thing in the morning but don’t think that means I’m up at six every morning. I like my sleep so for me first thing in the morning is about 9.30am!
Amber:I secretly write. Do you have any advice for new writers?
Alys: There’s masses of advice out there for new writers and it can be overwhelming. When I was younger I absorbed the maxim that you must write every day. I have a long-term health condition which means that’s simply not practical for me and I spent a lot of years feeling that because of that I would never be a writer. I’m older and wiser now and have learnt what works for me.
In my opinion, many writing books are about what works for that writer. Some of that may work for you but other bits won’t. The most important thing you can do is keep writing and as you do that, you’ll find out what approach works for you.
Having said all of that, I do recommend reading books on story structure. These are generally written for script writers but apply equally to fiction writers. My favourite is ‘Into the Woods’ by John Yorke. It’s definitely worth picking up a copy of that, Amber.
Amber:I’ll seek it out. Thank you. If we used magic to bring one of your characters to life so you could share a coffee with them, who would you choose?
Alys: Gosh, that’s a tough one because I love them all. I’m going to go with Winston because he’s got that bad boy charm going on but underneath he’s a bit of a softy. In the next book in ‘The Spellworker Chronicles’ we’re going to find out a bit more about Winston’s past. Over coffee I could ask him a few searching questions but I know him too well to think he’d open up and give me a straight answer. Most likely I’ll get a lot of jokey deflection. Seeing behind that as one of the challenges of writing his character.
Willow:Talking of magic, we sell a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?
Alys: I’m a bit of a people pleaser so the ability to say no would be useful. If you can make that the ability to say no without guilt then that would be even better.
Amber:Releasing the guilt is important and already accounted for in the spell. The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity all year round. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?
Alys: I’m originally from York which is absolutely packed with ghosts. There are stories of ghosts in most of the pubs, the theatre and various historic buildings. I’ve never experienced anything paranormal even though I’ve worked in a few buildings which are known to have ghosts. The most I’ve experienced is a strong sense of negative emotions in certain places. I do believe buildings can absorb the feelings of the people who inhabit them and I think I pick up on that sometimes.
Willow:If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours what would it be and what would you do with it?
Alys: Right now, I could do with a superpower that allowed me to travel instantly to where I need to be. My Mum is currently in hospital. It’s an hour’s drive each way to visit her. I’d like to be able to teleport straight to the ward to see her rather than spending ages stuck in traffic and then pop to my parent’s house to have a cuppa with my Dad.
Amber:We hope she feels better soon and teleporting would be ideal. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?
Alys: ‘Spirited’ by Julie Cohen. I’ve only just finished it and I absolutely loved it. Julie’s a fabulous writer and she packs such a lot into a book. ‘Spirited’ is about Victorian spiritualism but it’s also about sexuality, female power and colonialism. The characters became so real to me that I’ve kept thinking about them and wanting to know what happened to them after the novel ended.
Willow:We loved that book. Great choice. Our assistant Rosa couldn’t be here today because of childcare issues but she has a box full of romances for people to borrow. What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?
Alys: Oh gosh, it’s so hard to choose! I’m going to go with ‘Thornyhold’ by Mary Stewart. I loved Mary Stewart’s books when I was younger and read them all again when I decided to start writing myself. This is my favourite. It’s a wonderful story of romance and magic which a big dollop of mysticism.
Amber: I’ve heard good things about her. And finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?
Alys: I’m working on ‘Stone Magic’ which is the third book in ‘The Spellworker Chronicles’. It’s taken a while for this one to reveal itself (turns out living through a Pandemic is not good for my creative process) but I’m really excited about it now. It’s going to pick up the story from the end of Storm Witch and follow the investigation into the deaths of The Order. After ‘Stone Magic’, there’ll be a fourth and final book in the series which has the working title of ‘The Winter Tree’. I’m not making any promises as to when they’ll be ready as I don’t write very fast and life has a habit of getting in the way but I will get there.
Thank you so much for inviting me to visit The Enchanted Emporium. It’s been lovely to sit in your wonderful shop and chat to you both. Thanks as well for the tea, very much appreciated!
Struggling artist, Zoe arrives in Glastonbury seeking inspiration. The small Somerset town is steeped in myth and legend and Zoe’s sure it’ll be the perfect place to work on a book about King Arthur. But behind the shops selling witchcraft supplies and crystals real magic is being practised. When Zoe meets Finn her life changes forever. Not only is he a druid connected to the ancient energies of the earth but she dreamed about him long before they met. Finn’s life is in terrible danger and Zoe’s dreams start to reveal more of the plot against him. After dreaming of a deadly battle at a stone circle on Dartmoor, Zoe starts to wonder if the dark magic around her is playing tricks of its own or if she really can see the future. Will she learn to trust Finn, and herself, in time to stand any hope of surviving the powerful magic that will be unleashed at Beltane? Or is it already too late? This gripping story of magic, romance and the supernatural will entrance fans of Deborah Harkness and Phil Rickman and keep you spellbound until the very last page.
Alys West writes contemporary fantasy and steampunk. Her first novel, Beltane was inspired by the folklore of Glastonbury. Her second novel, The Dirigible King’s Daughter is a steampunk romance set in Whitby. Storm Witch is her third novel and is set in the beautiful Orkney islands which she fell in love with back in 2010 and has used every excuse to return to since (including setting a novel there!) She is fascinated by folklore and folk tales which are a big influence on the stories she tells.
Alys has a MA in Creative Writing from York St John University and teaches creative writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York. She’s also a book whisperer (like a book doctor but more holistic) and mentor to aspiring writers.
When she’s not writing you can find her at folk gigs, doing yoga and attempting to crochet. She occasionally blogs at www.alyswest.com, intermittently tweets at @alyswestyork and spends rather too much time on Facebook where you can find her at Alys West Writer. She is also on Instagram at @alyswestwriter. To keep up with Alys’s news you can join her Facebook readers’ group ‘Druids, Spellworkers and Dirigibles’.
Hello October! It’s officially spooky season and time to celebrate by meeting with another author who has written about witches, Jessica Thorne. Her book The Water Witch is out now and we can’t wait to chat about it.
Monday Merry Meet: Jessica Thorne
Willow: Jessica, please come in. Pop your umbrella in the stand. It’s fitting that we’re about to chat about your book, The Water Witch and the heavens haven’t stopped raining all day. But the plants love it and it makes people linger for longer in the shop and see more things they like.
Did you find us ok? When they’re too many customers the Emporium gets fed up and starts playing games. It hides the entry to the snicket.
You should dry off soon, the fire is lit and —
Amber: I’ve cast a drying spell, so everyone’s clothes should dry quickly
Willow: Except for Lady Denver’s cashmere coat, which you singed. I apologise for the smell, Jessica, if burning is still in the air.
Amber: How was I supposed to know that spell wasn’t to be used on goats. Your ancestors need to add disclaimers at the bottom of their spells. What can I get you to drink? We have all blends of tea, from Yorkshire to herbal tisanes, coffee, hot chocolate or something stronger?
Jessica: Yorkshire tea is perfect, thank you. The stronger the better. I am Irish, you know.
Willow:The Water Witch is set in Brittany, and we’ve seen some of your videos and photos linked to the location. What made you set it there rather than somewhere more local like, let’s say Robin Hood’s Bay?
Jessica: I have always loved Brittany and spent a lot of my holidays in the region. I love the myths, the legends, the people and everything about it. And we’re fellow Celts, as the Bretons are so fond of saying.
Willow: It is a beautiful place. Your novel is based on a curse, a lost city and love. What came first, the plot or your characters?
Jessica: In this case I think the legend and the setting came first. I just knew I wanted to write about the lost city of Ys. Ari was the first character and everything came out of that combination. But in this case the setting itself is very much a character. I love stories of ancient curses and that sort of twisty way they have of working out or being thwarted.
Amber: We love them too. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?
Jessica: I’ve been published since 2007 and under a number of names. I’ve written YA and adult, I’ve been published by a Big Five Publisher and smaller traditional ones, by eFirst, and I’ve self published. I think the main thing is to find the right place for a book which isn’t always where you would expect. There may be one or two things I would do differently but on the whole it has brought me where I am now and I am very happy with that.
Willow: That’s good to know. I have set rituals to start my working day. Do you have a certain writing routine?
Jessica: Not really. When my children were very small I worked full time, so I learned early on to get the writing done whenever and wherever I could, whether that was in the morning, or late at night or in the car waiting for the outside school. I can write anywhere, although I admit I find it very suspicious if its too quiet. I tend to play loud music these days.
Amber: Many of our customers are secret writers. Do you have any advice for those starting out?
Jessica: Tell the story you want to tell, the thing that interests you most. Don’t try to follow trends. It may take a while but you will find a home for that story eventually. Everything in publishing moves in cycles so if you love a genre or subgenre it will probably come around sooner than you think.
Amber: The Enchanted Emporium sells several candles in The Wishing Spell range which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?
Jessica picks up the Little Red Hen candle which inspires those around you to help without asking
Jessica: Definitely this one! Please!
Willow: One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit? Where would it take you?
Jessica: Not very far back at all – while researching The Water Witch my husband and I went on a research trip to the locations in the point, in particular the Pointe de Castelmeur. I can’t describe how magical that place is. We had it all to ourselves and sat there for ages, just enjoying the wind and the waves below. There is a particular noise in local legends which is meant to be the gates of Ys shattering and while we were there, I swear, we heard it. Absolutely magical.
Amber: Ghosts and paranormal activity plague the Enchanted Emporium? Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?
Jessica: I once worked in a haunted library, does that count? I love all things ghostly, and yes, it always influences my writing. I believe there are paranormal things all around us and one day we will understand them well enough to drop the “para” bit.
Willow: A haunted library could give a lot of inspiration. If we could blend a potion to give you a special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?
Jessica: I’d talk to the dead. (but only for 24 hours, right?)
Amber: Yes, talking to them for longer is overrated. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?
Jessica: King of Morning, Queen of Day by Ian McDonald – one of the greatest books about Irish Fae I’ve ever read. Dark and scary, generational trauma, and true love.
Willow: What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?
Jessica: Playing for Love by Jeevani Charika – a rom com about secret gamers. And handbags.
Willow: Great choices. Finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?
Jessica: Actually it IS top secret. But after that I’m hoping to get back to writing some epic fantasy romance.
Willow: We can’t wait to see what it is. Thanks for visiting and good luck with your writing.
Jessica Thorne writes romance and fantasy from the heart which often strays into weird and wonderful liminal places. She works in a specialized library of rare & occasionally crazy books.
She writes adult fantasy women’s fiction, which wanders from Space Opera to time travel to epic fantasy, including The Water Witch, The Bookbinder’s Daughter, The Lost Girls of Foxfield Hall, The Queen’s Wing, Mageborn and Nightborn. The Stone’s Heart was nominated for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Fantasy novel of the year in 2020.
The man smiles at the water witch as he opens the city gates and unleashes the wild sea. All will be destroyed. With her last breath the water witch curses him, her lover who has betrayed her and her people. ‘The sea will take all your menfolk. Until the day you save my city, I curse you and yours to drown’.
Present day, France. Archaeologist Ariadne Walker has always loved Brittany’s steep cliffs, crashing waves and endless shifting skies. But she’s left devastated when her fiancé Simon drowns on a dig searching underwater for the lost city of Ys. Local legend says it was destroyed centuries ago: and that the water witch, once the princess of Ys, still drowns the men of this region in revenge…
Escaping the old myths and stories, grieving Ariadne is walking on the heather-strewn cliffs on a stormy night when she’s approached by a mysterious masked figure. As he removes the mask Ariadne’s heart almost stops beating. She sees a glimpse of Simon’s face before he disappears, laughing, into the waves below.
Only Rafael – a local whose family have lived here for centuries – has answers. He says the water witch has doomed Simon’s soul to become her servant, forever wandering the rugged shoreline. She will soon claim Rafael too. The only way to save them both is to find the lost city, where the secret to breaking the curse is hidden…
Thrown into a magical underwater world of lost treasures, ancient promises, and dangerous betrayals, will Ariadne find a way to finally break the curse? Or will the water witch demand another sacrifice?
An absolutely addictive romantic fantasy read filled with passion and mystery, that will sweep you away to the wild coast of northern France. Inspired by real myths and legends from this magical place, The Water Witch is perfect for fans of Luanne G. Smith, River of Shadows and Jennifer L. Armentrout.
We’re thrilled to be on the blog tour for Ashley Poston’s The Dead Romantics later on this week where we will be reviewing this haunting romcom which promises to be an ideal read for Halloween season.
But beforehand we’d love to share the novel’s first chapter to whet your appetite. So what is The Dead Romantic about? Here’s the blurb.
Florence Day is a ghost-writer with one big problem. She’s supposed to be penning swoon-worthy novels for a famous romance author but, after a bad break-up, Florence no longer believes in love. And when her strict (but undeniably hot) new editor, Benji Andor, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye.
Although when tragedy strikes and Florence has to head home, the last thing she expects to see is a ghost at her front door. Not just any ghost, however, but the stern form of her still very hot – yet now unquestionably dead – new editor.
As sparks start to fly between them, Florence tells herself she can’t be falling for a ghost – even an infuriatingly sexy one.
But can Benji help Florence to realise love isn’t dead, after all?
Are you ready to read more?
The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston
EVERY GOOD STORY has a few secrets.
At least, that’s what I’ve been told. Sometimes they’re secrets about love, secrets about family, secrets about murder—some so inconsequential they barely feel like secrets at all, but monumental to the per son keeping them. Every person has a secret. Every secret has a story.
And in my head, every story has a happy ending.
If I were the heroine in a story, I would tell you that I had three secrets.
One, I hadn’t washed my hair in four days. Two, my family owned a funeral home.
And three, I was the ghostwriter of mega bestselling, critically acclaimed romance novelist Ann Nichols.
And I was sorely late for a meeting.
“Hold the door!” I shouted, bypassing the security personnel at the front desk, and sprinting toward the elevators.
“Miss!” the befuddled security guard shouted after me. “You have to check in! You can’t just—”
“Florence Day! Falcon House Publishers! Call up to Erin and she’ll approve me!” I tossed over my shoulder, and slid into one of the elevators, cactus in tow.
As the doors closed, a graying man in a sharp business suit eyed the plant in question.
“A gift to butter up my new editor,” I told him, because I wasn’t someone who just carried around small succulents wherever she went. “God knows it’s not for me. I kill everything I touch, including three cactuses—cacti?—already.”
The man coughed into his hand and angled himself away from me. The woman on the other side said, as if to console me, “That’s lovely, dear.”
Which meant that this was a terrible gift. I mean, I figured it was, but I had been stranded for too long on the platform waiting for the B train, having a small panic attack with my brother on the phone, when a little old lady with rollers in her hair tottered by selling cacti for like a dollar a pop and I bought things when I was nervous. Mainly books but—I guess now I bought houseplants, too. The guy in the business suit got off on the twentieth floor, and the woman who held the elevator left on the twenty seventh. I took a peek into their worlds before the doors closed again, immaculate white carpet or buffed wooden floors and glass cases where old books sat idly. There were quite a few publishers in the building, both online and in print, and there was even a newspaper on one of the floors. I could’ve been in the elevator with the editor
for Nora Roberts for all I knew.
Whenever I came to visit the offices, I was always hyperaware of how people took one look at me—in my squeaky flats and darned hose and too big plaid overcoat—and came to the conclusion that I was not tall enough to ride this ride.
Which . . . fair. I stood at around five foot two, and everything I wore was bought for comfort and not style. Rose, my roommate, always joked that I was an eighty year old in a twenty eight year old body.
Sometimes I felt it.
Nothing said Netflix and chill quite like an orthopedic pillow and a wineglass of Ensure.
When the elevator doors opened onto the thirty seventh floor, I was alone, grasping my cactus like a life vest at sea. The offices of Falcon House Publishers were pristine and white, with two fluorescent bookshelves on either side of the entryway, touting all of the bestsellers and literary masterpieces they’d published over their seventy five year history.
At least half of the left wall was covered in books by Ann Nichols—The Sea‑Dweller’s Daughter, The Forest of Dreams, The For‑ ever House, ones my mom sighed over when I was a teenager writing my smutty Lestat fanfic. Next to them were Ann’s newer books, The Probability of Love, A Rake’s Guide to Getting the Girl (I was most proud of that title), and The Kiss at the Midnight Matinee. The glass reflected my face in the book covers, a pale white and sleep deprived young woman with dirty blond hair pulled up in a messy bun and dark circles under tired brown eyes, in a colorful scarf and an oversized beige sweater that made me look like I was the guest speaker at the Yarn of the Month Club and not one of the most distinguished publishing houses in the world.
Technically, I wasn’t the guest here. Ann Nichols was, and I was what everyone guessed was her lowly assistant.
And I had a meeting to get to.
I stood in the lobby awkwardly, the cactus pressed to my chest, as the darkhaired receptionist, Erin, held up a finger and finished her call. Something about salad for lunch. When she finally hung
up, she looked up from her screen and recognized me. “Florence!” she greeted with a bright smile. “Nice to see you up and about! How’s Rose? That party last night was brutal.”
I tried not to wince, thinking about Rose and I stumbling in at 3:00 a.m. “It sure was something.”
“Is she still alive?”
“Rose has survived worse.”
Erin laughed. Then she glanced around the lobby, as if looking for someone else. “Is Mrs. Nichols not going to make it today?”
“Oh no, she’s still up in Maine, doing her . . . Maine thing.” Erin shook her head. “Gotta wonder what it’s like, you know?
Being the Ann Nicholses and Stephen Kings of the world.” “Must be nice,” I agreed. Ann Nichols hadn’t left her small
little island in Maine in . . . five years? As long as I’d been ghost writing for her, anyway.
I tugged down the multicolored scarf wrapped around my mouth and neck. While it wasn’t winter anymore, New York al ways had one last kick of cold before spring, and that had to be today, and I was beginning to nervously sweat under my coat.
“Someday,” Erin added, “you’re going to tell me how you be came the assistant for the Ann Nichols.”
I laughed. “I’ve told you before—a Craigslist ad.” “I don’t believe that.”
I shrugged. “C’est la vie.”
Erin was a few years younger than me, her Columbia University publishing certificate proudly displayed on her desk. Rose had met her a while back on a dating app, and they’d hooked up a few times, though now from what I heard they were strictly friends.
The phone began to ring on her desk. Erin said quickly, “Any way, you can go ahead—still remember the way, yeah?”
“Perf. Good luck!” she added, and answered the call in her best customer service voice. “Good morning! You’ve reached Falcon House Publishers, this is Erin speaking . . .”
And I was left to my own devices.
I knew where to go, because I’d visited the old editor enough times to be able to walk the halls blindfolded. Tabitha Margraves had retired recently, at the absolute worst time, and with every step closer to the office, I held tighter on to the poor cactus.
Tabitha knew I ghostwrote for Ann. She and Ann’s agent were the only ones who did—well, besides Rose, but Rose didn’t count. Had Tabitha passed that nugget of secrecy to my new editor? God, I hoped so. Otherwise this was going to be an awkward first meeting. The hallway was lined with frosted glass walls that were sup posed to be used for privacy, but they provided extraordinarily little of that. I heard editors and marketing and PR shadows talking in hushed tones about acquisitions, marketing plans, contractual obligations, tours . . . reallocating money from one book’s budget to another. The things in publishing that no one ever really talked about. Publishing was all very romantic until you found yourself in publishing. Then it was just another kind of corporate hell.
I passed a few assistant editors sitting in their square cubicles, manuscripts piled almost to the top of their half walls, looking frazzled as they ate carrots and hummus for lunch. The salads Erin ordered must not have included them, not that editorial assistants made enough to afford eating out every day. The offices were set up in a hierarchy of sorts, and the farther you went, the higher the salary. At the end of the hall, I almost didn’t recognize the office. Gone were the floral wreath hanging on the door for good luck and the stickers plastered to the frosted glass privacy wall that read Try Not, Do! and Romance Isn’t Dead!
For a second, I thought I’d made a wrong turn, until I recognized the intern in her small cubicle, stuffing ARCs—Advance Reader Copies, basically rough drafts of a book in paperback form—into envelopes with a harried sort of frenzy that bordered on tears.
My new editor didn’t waste any time peeling off those decals and tossing the good luck wreath in the trash. I didn’t know if that was a good sign—or bad.
Toward the end of her tenure at Falcon House, Tabitha Mar graves and I butted heads more often than not. “Romance believes in happy endings. Tell Ann that,” she would say, tongue in cheek, because, for all intents and purposes, I was Ann.
“Well Ann doesn’t anymore,” I would quip back, and by the time she turned in her resignation and retired down to Florida, I’m sure we were both plotting each other’s demise. She still believed in love—somehow, impossibly.
And I could see right through the lie.
Love was putting up with someone for fifty years so you’d have someone to bury you when you died. I would know; my family was in the business of death.
Tabitha called me crass when I told her that. I said I was realistic.
There was a difference.
I sat down in one of the two chairs outside of the office, the cactus in my lap, to wait and scroll through my Instagram feed. My younger sister had posted a photo of her and my hometown mayor—a golden retriever—and I felt a pang of homesickness. For the weather, the funeral parlor, my mom’s amazing fried chicken. I wondered what she was cooking tonight for dinner.
Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t hear the office door open until a distinctly male voice said, “Sorry for the wait, please come in.”
I bolted to my feet in surprise. Did I have the wrong office? I checked the cubicles—the brownhaired workaholic intern cramming ARCs into envelopes to the left, the HR director sobbing into his salad on the right—no, this was definitely the right office.
The man cleared his throat, impatiently waiting.
I hugged the cactus so tight to my chest, I could feel the pot beginning to creak with the pressure, and stepped into his office.
The man in question sat in the leather chair that for thirty five years (longer than he’d been alive, I figured) Tabitha Margraves had inhabited. The desk, once cluttered with porcelain knickknacks and pictures of her dog, was clean and tidy, everything stacked in its proper place. The desk reflected the man behind it almost perfectly: too polished, in a crisp white button down shirt that strained at his broad shoulders, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows to reveal rather intimidatingly sexy forearms. His black hair was swept back out of his long face and somehow accentuated his equally long nose, black square glasses perched on it, and there were very faint freckles speck led across his face: one by his right nostril, two on his cheek, one just above his thick right eyebrow. A constellation of them. For a second, I wanted to take a Sharpie and connect them to see what myth they held. The next second, I quickly came to the realization that—
He was hot. And I’d seen him before. At publishing functions with Rose or my exboyfriend. I couldn’t place the name, but I’d definitely run into him more than once. I held my breath, wonder ing if he recognized me—did he?
For a second, I thought so, because his eyes widened—just a fraction, just enough for me to suspect he knew something—before it vanished.
He cleared his throat.
“You must be Ann Nichols’s assistant,” he greeted without missing a beat. He stood and came around the desk to offer his hand. He was . . . enormous. So tall I felt like I’d suddenly been transported into a retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk” where he was a very hunky beanstalk that I really, really wanted to climb—
No. No, Florence. Bad girl, I scolded myself. You do not want to climb him like a tree, because he’s your new editor and therefore very, incredibly, stupendously unclimbable.
“Florence Day,” I said as I accepted his hand. His almost completely enveloped mine in a strong handshake.
“Benji Andor, but you can call me Ben,” he introduced.
“Florence,” I repeated, shocked that I could mutter anything above a squeak.
The edges of his mouth quirked up. “So you said.”
I quickly pulled my hand away, mortified. “Oh god. Right— sorry.” I sat down a little too hard in the uncomfortable IKEA chair, cactus planted firmly on my knees. My cheeks were on fire, and if I could feel them, I knew that he could see I was blushing.
He sat down again and adjusted a pen on his desk. “It’s a plea sure to meet you. Sorry for the wait, the subways were hell this morning. Erin keeps telling me not to take the B train and yet I am a fool who does every single time.”
“Or a masochist,” I added before I could stop myself. He barked a laugh. “Maybe both.”
I bit the inside of my cheek to hide a smile. He had a great laugh—the kind that was deep and throaty, like a rumble.
Oh no, this was not going as planned at all.
He liked me, and he wasn’t going to like me in about five minutes. I didn’t even like myself for what I was here to do—why did I think a cactus as a gift would make this easier?
He scooted his chair in and straightened a pen to be horizontal with his keyboard. Everything was neat like that in this office, and I got the very distinct feeling that he was the kind of person who, if he found a book misplaced at a bookstore, would return it to the shelf where it belonged.
Everything had its place.
He was a bullet journal guy, and I was a sticky note kind of girl. That might’ve been a good thing, actually. He seemed very no nonsense, and no nonsense people were rarely romantic, and so I wouldn’t get a pitying look when I, eventually, tell him that I no longer believed in romance novels and he would nod solemnly, knowing exactly what I meant. And I would rather have that than Tabitha Margraves looking at me with those sad, dark eyes and asking,
“Why don’t you believe in love anymore, Florence?”
Because when you put your hand in the fire too many times, you learn that you only get burned.
My new editor shifted in his seat. “I’m sorry to hear that Mrs. Nichols couldn’t make it today. I would’ve loved to meet her,” he began, wrenching me from my thoughts.
I shifted in my seat. “Oh, Tabitha didn’t tell you? She never leaves Maine. I think she lives on an island or something. It sounds nice—I wouldn’t ever want to leave, either. I hear Maine’s pretty.” “It is! I grew up there,” he replied. “Saw many a moose. They’re huge.”
Are you sure you aren’t half moose yourself? my traitorous brain said, and I winced because that was very wrong and very bad. “I guess they prepared you for the rats in New York.”
He laughed again, this time surprising himself, and he had a glorious white smile, too. It reached is eyes, turning brown to a melting ocher. “Nothing could prepare me for those. Have you seen the ones down in Union Square? I swear one had a jockey on him.”
“Oh, you didn’t know? There’s some great rat races down at the Eighteenth Street Station.”
“Do you go often?”
“Absolutely, there’s even a squeakeasy.” “Wow, you’re a real micestro of puns.”
I snorted a laugh and looked away—anywhere other than at him. Because I liked his charm, and I definitely didn’t want to, and I hated disappointing people, and—
He cleared his throat and said, “Well, Miss Day, I think we need to talk about Ann’s upcoming novel . . .”
I gripped the cactus in my lap tighter. My eyes jumped from barren wall to barren wall. There was nothing in the office to look at. It used to be full of things—fake flowers and photos and book covers on the walls—but now the only thing on the walls was a framed master’s degree in fiction—
“Does it have to be a romance?” I blurted.
Surprised, he cocked his head. “This . . . is a romance imprint.” “I—I know, but like—you know how Nicholas Sparks writes depressing books and John Green writes melodramatic sicklit, do you think I—I mean Mrs. Nichols—could do something in that vein instead?”
He was quiet for a moment. “You mean a tragedy.”
“Oh, no. It’d still be a love story! Obviously. But a love story where things don’t end up—‘happily ever after’—perfect.”
“We’re in the business of happily ever afters,” he said slowly, picking his words.
“And it’s a lie, isn’t it?” He pursed his lips.
“Romance is dead, and this—all of this—feels like a con.” I found myself saying it before my brain approved, and as soon as I realized I’d voiced it aloud, I winced. “I didn’t mean—that isn’t Ann’s stance, that’s just what I think—”
“Are you her assistant or her editor?”
The words were like a slap in the face. I quickly snapped my gaze back to him, and went very still. His eyes had lost their warm ocher, the laugh lines having sunk back into a smooth, emotionless mask. I gripped the cactus tighter. It had suddenly become my buddy in war. So he didn’t know that I was Ann’s ghostwriter. Tabitha didn’t tell him, or she forgot to—slipped her mind, whoops! And I needed to tell him.
He was my editor, after all.
But a bitter, embarrassed part of me didn’t want to. I didn’t want him to see how much of my life I didn’t have together be cause, as Ann’s ghostwriter, shouldn’t I? Have it together?
Shouldn’t I be better than this?
When I was growing up, my mother read Ann Nichols’s books, and because of that, I did, too. When I was twelve, I would sneak into the romance section in the library and quietly read The Forest of Dreams between the stacks. I knew her catalog back and forth like a wellplayed discography of my favorite band.
And then I became her pen.
While Ann’s name was on the cover, I wrote The Probability of Love and ARake’sGuidetoGettingtheGirland TheKissattheMid‑ night Matinee. For the last five years, Ann Nichols had sent me a check to write the book in question, and then I did, and the words in those books—my words—had been praised from the NewYork Times Book Review to Vogue. Those books sat on shelves beside Nora Roberts and Nicholas Sparks and Julia Quinn, and they were mine.
I wrote for one of romance’s greats—a job anyone would die to have—and I . . . I was failing.
Perhaps I’d already failed. I’d just asked for my last trump card—to write a book that was anything, everything, but a happily ever after—and he said no.
“Mr. Andor,” I began, my voice cracking, “the truth is—” “Ann needs to deliver the manuscript by the deadline,” he interrupted in a cold, no nonsense voice. The warmth it held a few min utes before was gone. I felt myself getting smaller by the moment, shrinking into the hard IKEA chair.
“That’s tomorrow,” I said softly. “Yes, tomorrow.”
“And if—if she can’t?”
He pressed his lips into a thin line. He had a sort of wide mouth that dipped in the middle, expressing things that the rest of his face was too guarded to. “How much time does she need?”
A year. Ten years. An eternity.
“Um—a—a month?” I asked hopefully. His dark brows shot up. “Absolutely not.” “These things take time!”
“I understand that,” he replied, and I flinched. He took off his blackrimmed glasses to look at me. “May I be frank with you?”
No, absolutely not. “Yes . . . ?” I ventured.
“Because Ann’s already asked for three deadline extensions, even if we get it tomorrow, we’d have to push it quickly through copyedits and pass pages—and that’s only if we get it tomorrow— to keep to our schedule. This is Ann’s big fall book. A romance, mind you, with a happily ever after. That’s her brand. That’s what we signed for. We already have promotions lined up. We might even have a fullpage spread in the New York Times. We’re doing a lot for this book, so when I prodded Ann’s agent to speak with her, she connected me with you, her assistant.”
I knew that part. Molly Stein, Ann’s agent, wasn’t very happy to get a call about the book in question. She thought everything had been going smoothly. I hadn’t the heart to tell her otherwise. Molly had been pretty handsoff with my ghostwriting gig, mostly because the books were part of a fourbook deal, this being the last one, and she trusted that I wouldn’t mess up.
Yet here I was.
I didn’t want to even think about how Molly would break the news to Ann. I didn’t want to think about how disappointed Ann would be. I’d met the woman once and I was deathly afraid of fail ing her. I didn’t want to do that.
I looked up to her. And the feeling of failing someone you looked up to . . . it sucked as a kid, and it sucked as an adult.
Benji went on. “Whatever is keeping Mrs. Nichols from finish ing her manuscript has become a problem not only for me, but for marketing and production, and if we want to stay on schedule, we need that manuscript.”
“I—I know, but . . .”
“And if she can’t deliver,” he added, “then we’ll have to get the legal department involved, I’m afraid.”
The legal department. That meant a breach of contract. That meant I would have messed up so big that there would be no com ing back from it. I would’ve failed not just Ann, but her publisher and her readers—everyone.
I’d already failed like that once.
The office began to get smaller, or I was having a panic attack, and I really hoped it was the former. My breath came in short bursts. It was hard to breathe.
“Miss Florence? Are you okay? You seem a little pale,” he observed, but his voice sounded a football field away. “Do you need some water?”
I shoved my panic into a small box in the back of my head, where everything else went. All of the bad things. The things I didn’t want to deal with. The things I couldn’t deal with. The box was useful. I shut everything in. Locked it tight. I pressed on a smile. “Oh, no. I’m fine. It’s a lot to take in. And—and you’re right. Of course you’re right.”
He seemed doubtful. “Tomorrow, then?” “Yeah,” I croaked.
“Good. Please tell Mrs. Nichols that I send my regards, and I’m very happy to be working with her. And I’m sorry—is that a cactus? I just noticed.”
I looked down at the succulent, all but forgotten in my lap as my panic banged on the box in my head, lock rattling, to get free. I—I thought I hated this man, and if I stayed in this office any longer, I was going to either throw this cactus at him or cry.
I jerked to my feet and put the succulent on the edge of the desk. “It’s a gift.”
Then I gathered my satchel and turned on my heels and left Falcon House Publishers without another word. I held myself to gether until I stumbled out of the revolving door of the building and into the brisk April day, and let myself crumble.
I took a deep breath—and screamed an obscenity into the per fectly blue afternoon sky, startling a flock of pigeons from the side of the building.
I needed a drink.
No, I needed a book. A murderthriller. Hannibal. Lizzie Borden—anything would do.
Maybe I needed both. No, definitely both.
We want to read more. Follow us and catch up with our review soon.
Yesterday the Emporium, like many places was shut so everyone could pay our respects to our Queen Elizabeth II. This means our Monday Merry Meet met on Tuesday instead and we’re delighted to catch to Elisabeth Hobbes, author of historical romances and thrillers.
Monday Merry Meet: Elisabeth Hobbes
Willow: Hi Elisabeth, come in. The sea breeze is more than a bluster today with the waves crashing against the harbour wall. Make yourself at home and warm up. Amber is at college, so it’s me and Rosa today. What can we get you to drink? Yorkshire tea, many other teas or herbal tisanes, coffee, or maybe something stronger.
Elisabeth: I’m always partial to a good mug of Yorkshire Tea, please. Since moving away from York where I grew up, it doesn’t taste the same, but I buy it anyway to remind me of home. I like an occasional herbal tea in the afternoon, either lemon and ginger or fennel.
Rosa: Mr Harper brought in some posh red wine as a thanks for a throat elixir, which meant he could do the speeches at his daughter’s wedding without coughing. I can open that.
The red wine or the throat elixir? I teach 5-year-olds for 3 days a week so I could definitely do with something to save my voice!
Rosa: Looking at the wine, both would work for that. Your book Daughter of Sea looks beautiful, and we were drawn to it with the mention of Barbara Erskine and Christina Courtenay, who are some of our favourite time slip authors. Christina visited us recently. Have you always written this genre?
I’ve always written stories set in the past, but Daughter of the Sea is my first with a fantastical/folklore element. I love to read them though. I’m a huge fan of stories where the uncanny overlaps or spills into our world. I began it as an entry to the Romantic Novelists Association Elizabeth Goudge contest called ‘The Foster Child’ and I won, so I knew I had to expand and complete it. At the moment I’m alternating books set in France during the second World War with fantasy/folklore historical romances.
Willow: Daughter of the Sea is based on the selkie legends. What was it about them that inspired you to write this story? Did you do much research?
There’s something fascinating about the idea of people who can move between worlds, but I knew I wanted to steer clear of merpeople. Because the prompt for the story was ‘the child from the sea’ I knew it had to start with Effie finding the baby floating in a basket. Discovering her wrapped in fur pushed me in the direction of selkies. The idea of a dark haired, handsome stranger appearing wrapped in furs was an image that stuck with me too, especially when I decided Lachlan, the baby’s father, looked like Richard Armitage in my head with a lovely Scottish accent.
I found quite a few selkie legends, most of which follow the pattern of a selkie either having their sealskin taken or giving it up willingly, and living in human form. As part of Daughter of the Sea I wrote a couple of my own ‘old tales’ which Lachlan tells to Effie and the children. I hope readers will think they sound convincingly authentic.
Rosa: What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?
I started off writing medieval romances for Mills & Boon and was very happy doing that, expanding after a few books into the 15th century and Victorian era. When Charlotte from One More Chapter expressed interest in Daughter of The Sea she asked me to write a Second World War story first. It was a leap into the unknown but I’m so glad I took it. I don’t think I would change anything because I’ve been lucky to work with fantastic editorial teams at both Mills & Boon and One More Chapter and I’ve made some firm friends. The only thing I’d do is fit more hours in the day or become faster at typing. I don’t suppose you have any potions to help, do you?
Willow: We keep trying to make those potions but they’re temperamental and have unfortunate side effects. I’d probably be sued if I sold them. I know when I’m working, I have set rituals I need to do to be productive, do you have a particular writing routine?
I start my writing days with a cup of tea (in bed rather than rushing round getting dressed to leave for school) then take my two dogs out for a walk. It’s a good way to clear my head and try get into a writing frame of mind. Then it’s a case of a shower, a second cup of tea and trying to get my head down to work. I dictate into a voice to text app as I drive to school so I always have notes to try untangle.
Willow: Several customers want to write after reading some books from the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf. Do you Advice for new writers?
I am dreadful for getting tangled up in research. I can lose hours online trying to find the particular name for a type of dagger, or the right sort of cloth, or the length of a journey. One trick I find helps to not get bogged down is to write something like ‘crzclothname’ and move on. If I forget to go back then the spellcheck picks it up and reminds me.
Rosa: That’s a great tip. 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?
Financial security would make all the difference in the world. I’m extremely fortunate to be able to write on two days a week and teach on three. I adore being in the classroom with the children, but I’d love to be able to cut down another day and write for three (or tidy the house, my husband might say).
Willow: One candle invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day when lit? Where would it take you?
It would take me to Serre Chevalier in the French Alps for a week of skiing with sunshine but lots of snow. There’s nothing better for my wellbeing than a blue sky over snow covered mountains (and the promise of a hot chocolate at the bottom of the slope).
Willow: The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity. Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?
I never have, which is very disappointing considering I come from supposedly the most haunted city in the world! I’m autistic and atheist, so am more likely to look for a logical explanation even if a ghost sat next to me. It helped me write Effie, who is also very practically minded (and slightly scathing of her grandmother’s remedies) until she’s confronted with absolute proof of the supernatural/uncanny in the form of Lachlan and Morna.
Rosa: In your biography, you mention you lived in Yorkshire but moved to Cheshire after your car broke down. How did that happen?
My husband and I had moved back from Greece, where we had been teaching English. We were both working at summer schools in different part of the country and only had one weekend where we could get together to house hunt. We based ourselves at his aunt’s house in a small mill town and planned to drive into Manchester to find somewhere, but ended up having to look round the town on foot when the car wouldn’t start.
Rosa: If the witches could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?
Super speed so I could really blitz my house. With 2 teenagers, a husband and 2 dogs, the house it always messy and hasn’t had a proper top-to-bottom clean for far too long.
Willow: We could all do with that spell. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?
I absolutely love Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s a children’s book, but I think you’re never too old for a good one. I read it as a teenager and I love the Studio Ghibli animated version too. It’s about Sophie who gets put under a curse to turn her into an old woman. She takes a job as housekeeper for the wizard Howl in his castle which moves round the countryside on legs. The story is about how together they break the curses on them both.
Rosa: What would you add to my box of Romance?
Without hesitation, Persuasion by Jane Austen (don’t ask me about the recent adaptation). It’s such a beautiful story of second chances and finding inner confidence to go after what you believe in. The letter from Captain Wentworth sends shivers down my spine. Lyme Regis isn’t as nice as Whitby of course!
Willow: Whitby is a special place. What are you working on currently? If you can say or is it top secret?
I’m working on a book set in the French Alps during World War Two, but I’m waiting for my editor to get back to me about the one I’ve recently set her. That’s another with fantasy elements about a young boy who meets a dryad in a sycamore tree, forgets her, then meets her again as a young man. I hope she likes it because I loved writing it.
Rosa: Fingers crossed she will so we can read it. Thanks for dropping by it was lovely to meet you
Willow: And here’s some throat elixir for your teaching days.
Elisabeth began writing in secret, but when she came third in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest in 2013, she was offered a two-book contract, and consequently had to admit why the house was such a tip. Elisabeth has published historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon and One More Chapter, spanning the Middle Ages to the Second World War.
Elisabeth teaches Reception but she’d rather be writing full time because unlike four-year-olds, her characters generally do what she tells them. When she isn’t writing, she spends most of her spare time reading and is a pro at cooking one-handed while holding a book.
She was born and raised in York but now lives in Cheshire because her car broke down there in 1999 and she never left.
On a windswept British coastline, the tide deposits an unexpected gift…
It was the cry that she first noticed, the plaintive wail that called to her over the crash of winter waves. Wrapped only in a sealskin, the baby girl looks up at Effie and instantly captures her heart. She meant only to temporarily foster the young orphan, but when news reaches Effie that her husband has been lost at sea, and months pass without anyone claiming the infant, she embraces her new family—her son, Jack, and her adopted daughter, Morna.
Effie has always been an outcast in her village, the only granddaughter of a woman people whisper is a witch, so she’s used to a solitary existence. But when Midsummer arrives, so, too, does a man claiming to be Morna’s father. There’s no denying Lachlan is the girl’s kin, and so, Effie is surprised when he asks her to continue looking after his daughter, mysteriously refusing to explain why. She agrees, but when he returns six months hence, she pushes him for answers. And Lachlan tells a story she never anticipated… one of selkies, legend, and the power of the sea…
Today, we’re thrilled to host debut writer Kat Chant. Her novel God of Summer is released next week, 12th September and is available to pre-order at a discounted price for buyers on Amazon! Scroll down for the link
Monday Merry Meet: Kat Chant
Hi Kat, welcome to the Enchanted Emporium. Come through to the back. Did you find us okay? We’ve had problems with a disgruntled customer, so the shop is on the defensive. It keeps hiding itself when people walk by. Not handy when we have a business to run.
What would you like to drink? We’ve a full selection of teas from Yorkshire tea, Earl Grey to matcha. Many herbal tisanes. Coffee, or something stronger?
I’m an herbal tisane fan, so any chance of a Pukka tea? Otherwise, anything with cinnamon or cardamom because I’m into spicy!
Willow: We may have some Pukka tea kicking about but if you like spicy, why not try some of our own blend, Autumnal Cosy Chai? The black tea is blended with ginger, cloves, cardamom and cinnamon and hits the spot on these cooler evenings. It’s one of our top sellers as we head into Halloween. I’ll get you some.
Amber: Don’t be fooled by the word cosy, that tea has a kick but people like it. Your debut is out next week. How are you feeling?
<Laughs nervously> Excited. Also faintly nauseated. I mean, people I don’t know are going to read this book. People I know will usually say something polite or nice….
Willow: I’m sure you’ll be fine and other readers will see the magic. We’ve all read the blurb and not only does the hero on the cover look swoonsome, and the premise of a Celtic god coming to the modern world is intriguing. What was your inspiration?
My husband claims he’s my inspiration and he’s… not wrong? After all, he was a tour guide at Newgrange, the home of said Celtic god, which gave me a lot of insider knowledge. But the inspiration was really the question: the Irish god of love was supposed to live there. If he’s still around, why would he show himself now?
Willow: We’ll be reading the book to find out why. The novel involves a banshee attack which is an uncommon mythical creature to write about. What attracted you to them? Did you do extensive research for this novel?
Banshees are that rare mythical creature people in Ireland still admit to, um, hearing. (Seeing, not so much.) I love that there’s still a thread of mysticism there that hasn’t died, and I’ve tried to respect that in my story. The locals have a pretty good idea of who my Celtic god is, but they keep their distance—just like in earlier days, you’d mind what you said about the Good People whether you believed in them or not, because it wasn’t worth the bad luck if you were wrong.
This takes me to a related story… When Newgrange—the 5,200-year-old temple/tomb where my story is set—was excavated in the 1960s, the locals insisted light used to shine inside the hill and illuminate the trispiral (the design on my hero’s chest). The archaeologists dismissed this until they checked the midwinter alignment and went, hang on… So, Professor O’Kelly, who led the dig, sat in the chamber and waited, and lo and behold, the sunlight comes in through its very own VIP entrance as a beam of light that penetrates the utter darkness until it’s bright enough inside to see the stunned faces of those around you.
That last part was my own reaction because my boyfriend at the time gave me his place one midwinter solstice and I had the privilege of witnessing this truly magical event myself. This is the part where I say: reader, I married him.
Does that also answer the question on research? Sort of? I might have also spent about twenty years absorbing Irish culture while investigating every piece mythology to do with the Tuatha Dé Danann I could find, while also nicking all my husband’s archaeology books.
Amber: That’s a lot of research and you must have enough info to write many books.
Willow: And archaeologists should have learnt by now to trust what the locals say. They often know more than they are given credit for. You’re a bookworm as well as a writer. Do you have a favourite place to read and does this differ from your writing space?
Since libraries have always been my safe space, naturally I’ve created one of my own. My office is a teeny tiny room that is wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling filled with Billy bookcases. I’ve tried to create a reading nook by my window but it’s not very comfy. Hmm, I really need one of those hanging egg chairs, stuffed with cushions to properly nestle in.
Willow: That sounds a bookworm’s dream apart from the uncomfy chair. I’ve often considered a hanging chair myself, though Vincent may not like it or if it was a cane one, he’d shred it to pieces. Cats and weaved furniture never mix well.
Several customers tell us their life stories and some of them would make wild, fantastical novels. Do you have any advice for new writers?
Writing is like parenthood. Everyone is ready to give advice about how to do it ‘properly’, but you have to find what works for you.
Willow: Good advice. 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?
It’s tempting to take the Focus candle because I can be scatty, but you know what? I want (good) Luck, because while I do believe persistence pays off, it’s the lucky breaks that lift you to the next level.
Willow: Listening to authors that pop in it does seem serendipity places a role in some cases though it can’t happen if you’ve not written the book in the first place. It requires a particular sort of dedication and mindset.
Amber: That Willow doesn’t have despite liking the idea of writing. The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity? Have had had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing.
<Nods in sympathy> Oh yes, my husband and I (don’t I sound like the queen?) used to live in a 300-year-old farmhouse. Before we took it on, a lot of the guides used to stay the summer there and move on. At least one said she wouldn’t stay because of the resident ghost. He dwelt on the third step from the bottom of the staircase—so he could observe the main room vet who went upstairs. After a couple of years living there, I lost my temper with him being all judgy and told him if he didn’t like us living there, he could move on. That seemed to settle him for a bit. I think ghosts like to be acknowledged.
I put him into an early draft of God of Summer, but he didn’t stick. Hopefully, he’ll find a place in another story, another day.
Willow: Ghosts do like to be acknowledged though some are awkward. We have a cold patch on the stairs we believe is a ghost, but no amount of cajoling makes it appear. It just freezes your bones as you walk past.
Willow: What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?
Easy – Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s chock full of witches, sacred gardens, curses and foretelling, but everything comes with a twist. I adore it.
Amber: We need that book. It’s on my TBR list now it sounds ideal, and I can’t believe I’ve not heard of it. What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?
Another easy one— The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. This is a proper Rom Com with enemies-to-lovers and every word flows.
Willow: Another good choice. What are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?
I’ll tell you so I have to do it: I’m writing a prequel novella to God of Summer, currently titled Heart of Darkness.
Willow: We’ll be cheering you on to finish it and you’ll have to come back when it’s being released. Thank you for visiting and here is some tea to take with you and a focus spell candle – we need to know more about Angus.
About Kat Chant
Kat Chant is an award-winning writer. A bookworm who grew into a history buff, she exchanged beaches for castles move from Australia to the UK. There, she fell in love with a lad from Ireland…and fell in love with his country, too.
She and her family live in the heart of Ireland, surrounded by fields in forty shades of green.
God of Summer
Back in the Bronze Age, Angus McCraggan sacrificed his life to break the Celtic curse laid on his kind. He failed. Millennia later, he returns to modern Ireland to find his people have become feral, vengeful shadows. With his hollow hill now packed with tourists, he uses his power to keep his past hidden.
Until an American calls him out.
Since a banshee attacked her as a teen, Erin De Santos has been tormented by dreams of a boy she’s never met. Armed with a new identity, she returns to the Emerald Isle determined to face her nightmare. But her discovery turns fatal.
When the banshee strikes again, Angus surrenders his heart—and his hope of freeing his people—to save her. With his life now hers and his curse descending, Erin must make a terrible choice: kill her saviour or share his doom.
Hiya Rosa here. It’s time for one of the treats from my Box of Romances. I love living in Whitby, I truly do but despite the beach, winding cobbled roads and unique shops, it’s not a holiday. Now school holidays are coming to an end and I’ve still need to find Alejo school shoes, I need a break.
As a single mum, living back at home with my lovely but overbearing mother there isn’t a chance to relax and just be. Books are my escape, my five minutes of escapism while in the bath or before I go to sleep. This book Retreat to the Spanish Sun by Jo Thomas leapt out at me from the box. A retreat is what I long to do.
Book Review: Retreat to the Spanish Sun by Jo Thomas
Title: Retreat to the Spanish Sun
Author: Jo Thomas
Release Date: 23rd June 2022
Will a summer escape be the answer she’s looking for?
Eliza has a full house! When her three children grew up and moved out, she downsized to a smaller property… but now they’re all back. Every room in the house is taken and Eliza finds herself sharing her bed with her eldest daughter and her daughter’s pug. Combined with the online course she’s trying to finish, plus her job to fit in, there just isn’t the peace and quiet that Eliza needs.
So when an ad pops up on her laptop saying ‘house-sitters wanted’, Eliza can’t resist the chance to escape. She ends up moving to a rural finca in southern Spain, looking after the owner’s Iberico pigs, learning about secret gastronomic societies… and finding a new zest for life and love along the way. From the bestselling author of Escape to the French Farmhouse comes a deliciously feel-good new story…
This refreshing novel was just what I needed, an escape to Spain with laughter, adventure and gastronomic delights.
The retreat Eliza went to was a delight and descriptions were immersive. With the addition of the fun and warm The Spanish Conversation group I felt connected to the place and story.
I’ve never considered pigs as something adorable once they have grown past the cute piglet stage but Banderas changed this. His personality shone and I fell in love with him as much as Eliza did. With the descriptions of food my taste buds tingled and I longed to drink wine and eat the tapas mentioned. This is always a good sign of a good book but usually only happens in Christmas novels so it was a pleasant surprise to fancy salad.
The plot requires you to suspend reality in places but like all good romcoms, it makes you feel that while you’re in their world, anything goes and everything makes sense.
It could easily be adapted to a summer feel good movie and hits all the points for a good, uplifting read.
Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Radio 2’s The Steve Wright Show. Jo’s debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller and won both the RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the Festival of Romance Best eBook Award. Her recent book Escape to the French Farmhouse was a #1 bestselling eBook and in every one of her novels Jo loves to explore new countries and discover the food produced there, both of which she thoroughly enjoys researching. Jo lives in Pembrokeshire with her husband and three children, where cooking and gathering around the kitchen table are a hugely important and fun part of their family life
It’s a new week and to help shift the Monday blues, we’re excited to host our first author visit at The Enchanted Emporium. Yes, it’s the Monday Merry Meet, and our visitor today is romance author, Sharon Booth.
Sharon has published twenty-three books, and is one of Rosa’s favourite romance authors — she’ll be here shortly I’m sure, when she has recovered from a fan girl moment – and is followed by Willow and Amber, thanks to her witchlit series based in the Yorkshire town of Castle Clair. With witch sisters and their familiars in a town where magic brews, they were hooked. With the upcoming release of her novel, it’s the perfect opportunity for a chat.
Monday Merry Meet: Author Sharon Booth
Amber:Hi Sharon. Willow will be with you shortly. She’s just finishing brewing the novel dream time draught in the back. It’s a potion created by me but it has to be dealt with carefully, otherwise fumes will put you to sleep in minutes. It makes you dream about the latest book you’ve read. Ideal for romance readers who want to escape reality for a while and linger in communities where everyone pulls together, or explore lush landscapes. I mean, who wouldn’t want to linger in Castle Clair and visit the museum? It doesn’t work so well for those who enjoy psychological thrillers. I’ve had complaints about that one.
Do you want a drink? We have tea, coffee or something stronger. One of our customers brought us some homemade raspberry gin, Willow has hidden in her workroom.
Sharon: Thanks so much for inviting me to The Enchanted Emporium, Amber. All the times I’ve visited Whitby and I never knew it was here! How fabulous. I don’t suppose you have any raspberry lemonade? I’ve developed a bit of a passion for it lately. If not, coffee will be fine, thank you.
Amber:Sit down and don’t worry if you feel any cold patches on your back as we talk, it’s just Mrs Marley, our ghost. She adores romantic novels and will just be being nosy. It’s the ghost on the stairs you have to worry about.
Willow:Amber, stop scaring our guests.
Hi Sharon, glad you could make it and you have a drink. It’s lovely to catch up with you as we all adore your books. They are all set in Yorkshire, a place we all love. Was this a conscious decision?
Sharon: Hi, Willow. No, it wasn’t. In fact, initially, There Must Be an Angel, which was my first novel, was set in Glastonbury! But as the writing developed, I realised the voices I was hearing in my head all had Yorkshire accents, and since I’ve lived in East Yorkshire all my life (apart from those years we were in North Humberside which we don’t like to talk about as it’s still too traumatic) it made sense to set my books in a county I knew and loved.
Willow: Both Amber and I love Castle Clair and would love to visit. How did you go about your world building to make it a vivid place for readers?
Sharon: If I’m being really honest, I didn’t have to do a lot of world building to create Castle Clair. It was already there. It just needed a bit of tweaking! Castle Clair is based on the North Yorkshire market town of Knaresborough, quite near Harrogate, and it’s one of my favourite places. It really does have everything: ruined castle, cliffside shrine, legend of the prophetess, the beautiful river, the riverside walk, the market place, the museum in the castle grounds… There’s even an old chemist’s shop which was the inspiration for The Broom Closet. In real life it’s now a gift/sweet shop, and there really are steps in the shop leading up to The Lavender Tea Rooms, which I changed to The Rosemary Tea Rooms. All I had to do was create the legend of the St Clairs. Everything else was in place.
Willow:Tell us a bit about your new book.
Sharon:Will of the Witch is the fourth in The Witches of Castle Clair series. I only ever intended there to be three books, but they proved to be surprisingly popular, and I got lots of messages pleading for more. Since I loved writing them, I thought, why not? So in Will of the Witch you’ll meet three new St Clair sisters: Keely, Harley, and Romy. They never knew their Castle Clair cousins existed, and it’s a bit of a shock to them when they receive a mysterious invitation to Cornwall and discover Sirius, Star, Celeste, and Sky have all been invited too. There will be two more Castle Clair books after this one, so still lots to look forward to.
Willow:We can’t wait to read. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?
Sharon: I’m a bit different to most of my writer friends, in that I started writing with indie publishing in mind. Finding a traditional publisher was never really on my radar. I was lucky enough to get scooped up by blogging group The Write Romantics and realised pretty quickly that most of them were looking for deals. I was too embarrassed to admit I wasn’t! Yes, I really was that person back then. So I subbed to about six publishers and got one request for the full manuscript, but by then my Write Romantic friend, Jo Bartlett, had decided to set up her own publishing company, Fabrian Books, and asked me to be her first signed author. I was delighted to accept, and Jo sent my book off to be edited and proofread, and I got to choose my cover, which was exciting. But Jo had a change of heart about running a publishing company, and after she and I, and another author, had a chat, we decided Fabrian Books should become an author collective instead. We would all indie publish our books under the Fabrian Books imprint. After a few years, I set up my own imprint, Green Ginger Publishing, and now I’m happily indie all the way. I’ve had two pocket novels, five large print books, and two audiobooks published by other publishers, but mostly it’s just me. What would I change? I’d stop dithering, thinking I really should be traditionally published to achieve anything, and realise that it’s perfectly possible to make a living and find fulfilment forging your own creative path.
Willow:Wise words. What is your writing routine?
Sharon: I’m kind of an all or nothing person. I’m either up early, writing furiously for hours, then sorting admin and marketing etc before finally finishing work at 7pm. Or I’m pretty much faffing around doing bits here and there and achieving nothing. I’ve stopped beating myself up about it. I know they say you should write every day, but the truth is I don’t. I still get the work done, so I’ve stopped worrying that I’m “doing it wrong”.
Willow:We have several customers who wish to write. Do you have any advice for them?
Sharon: My only real advice for writers is not to worry about most of the advice you’ll be given. There are so many “rules”, and you’ll get told frequently that “this is the way you should do it”. You have to find your own way. We’re all different. Eventually you’ll figure out the best way for you.
Rosa:What are you working on currently? Can you say, or is it top secret?
Sharon: Right now I’m working on a Christmas book. I know! We’ve had a record-breaking heatwave, and I’m sitting here with an electric fan on full blast, trying to muster some festive feeling. It’s actually the 26th book I’ll have written but will be the 25th book to be published. It’s the first in my new Tuppenny Bridge series, set in a Yorkshire Dales market town. It’s also a follow-on from my How the Other Half Lives series and will give a couple of characters some closure at last — something that so many readers have requested — although it can be read as a standalone.
Rosa:25 books published, I need to catch up with some I’ve missed.
Willow: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?
Sharon: Ooh, that’s tricky. I think Luck. So much in life is down to luck, isn’t it? You can work your socks off, but if you don’t get lucky, it won’t make a jot of difference. Mind you, I’ll be honest and say I could do with all of those except the “help without asking” one. My kids have all left home, and my husband is an absolute star. I couldn’t do any of this without him.
Amber: One candle, when lit, invokes memories of your perfect holiday or day? Where would it take you?
Sharon: Oh, another tricky one! Maybe a holiday I had when I was little. We always had big family holidays in Primrose Valley near Filey on the North Yorkshire coast. There was me, my brother and sister, my mum and dad, grandparents, auntie, great aunts and uncles, half cousins… we were in caravans and bungalows, and we’d go to the beach together every day, visit the pub at night (peanuts and cola for us kids in a separate room, naturally) and walk along the sands to Filey for fish and chips. I remember going winkle picking on Filey Brigg with my nanna, great-aunt and sister. So many of those people are no longer with us, even my dad, so yes, I’d definitely like to invoke all those memories again.
Amber:The Enchanted Emporium is plagued by ghosts and paranormal activity. Have you had any spooky experiences – has it influenced your writing?
Sharon: When I was little, I had a friend called David. He was a little boy, about my age, and he wore a blue dressing gown, and every evening he’d sit on the bottom stair waiting for me, and I’d float down to meet him. I can’t remember anything else about him, but I saw him so many times and told my parents about him. My mum still remembers me talking about him. I haven’t had any other really spooky experiences, but I do have the weirdest dreams. They’re fascinating, like mini movies, and some of them may feature in a future book.
Willow:Amber knows all about lucid dreams. If we could blend a potion to give you a superpower or special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?
Sharon: Wow, you really do ask tricky questions! You know, thinking about it, I’d like absolute confidence and self-belief for 24 hours, because I’d love to know how different that would make me, and if I could achieve more with that superpower. What must it feel like to be absolutely sure of yourself and your abilities? Yes, I’d love that potion.
Willow:What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?
Sharon: There are sooo many books I could add. I absolutely adored Threadneedle by Cari Thomas, Deborah Harkness’s Discovery of Witches, Alys West’s Beltane and Storm Witch. I love The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper, and I also love The Whitby Witches series by Robin Jarvis. Can I really only add one book? You know what, I think I’ll go for The Whitby Witches by Robin Jarvis, because it’s the beginning of a cracking series. It’s supposed to be for children, but I read it in my early forties and loved it. And it’s set in Whitby, so very appropriate for your bookshelf.
Willow:Good choices. What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?
Sharon: Hmm. So many to choose from. I’d go for Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it, so it’s clearly made a big impact on me. I love the character of Jane. She sets herself to high standards and lives by them, and even when society looks down on her, she holds her head high and knows her own worth. She’s wonderful.
Rosa:Jane Eyre is one of the best. Do you have a favourite place to write and read?
Sharon: I mostly write in my little writing office. It’s a small bedroom that’s completely mine, with a desk and chair, sideboard, and bookcase. There are magical canvas pictures up on one wall, along with Dr Who stuff, inspirational quotes, and gorgeous cards that my friends have sent me over the years. I find it really difficult to write anywhere else, although I can do other jobs like marketing and editing anywhere, funnily enough. I can’t seem to read for long in bed, as I always fall asleep, so I prefer to read on the sofa in the living room, with my dog snoozing on the rug in front of me.
Willow: That sounds perfect. Thanks so much for dropping by and good luck with your new book, Will of the Witch out 26th July.
Sharon: I’ve really enjoyed my trip to the Enchanted Emporium, and to glorious Whitby. I hope one day I’ll find my way here again. Thank you for inviting me, and kindest regards to Mrs Marley and the other ghosts for not spooking me!
Sharon Booth writes about the lighter side of life, love, magic, and mystery. Her characters may be flawed, but whether they’re casting a spell, solving a mystery, or dealing with the ups and downs of family life or romance, they do it with kindness and humour.
Sharon is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and an Authorpreneur member of the Alliance of Independent Authors. She has been a KDP All-Star Author on several occasions.
She likes reading, researching her family tree, and watching Doctor Who, and Cary Grant movies. She loves horses and hares and enjoys nothing more than strolling around harbours and old buildings. Take her to a castle, an abbey, or a stately home and she’ll be happy for hours. She admits to being shamefully prone to crushes on fictional heroes.
Her stories of love, community, family, and friendship are set in pretty villages and quirky market towns, by the sea or in the countryside, and a happy ending is guaranteed. If you love heroes and heroines who do the best they can no matter what sort of challenges they face, beautiful locations, and warm, feelgood stories, you’ll love Sharon’s books.