Sunday, 19 February 2017

The Promise by Casey Kelleher - Blog Tour Review

Today on Life Of A Nerdish Mum I am extremely excited to be a part of the blog tour for The Promise by Casey Kelleher. I had Casey on my blog earlier this week answering my questions as part of Getting To Know... and now I am sharing my review of her amazing new book, The Promise. 

The Promise

Family ties can be deadly...


Two sisters. One murder. And an unbreakable bond.

Growing up in squalor with their drug-addicted prostitute mother, sisters Georgie and Marnie Parker have had to endure the very darkest side of life. 

When their mother is sentenced for brutally murdering a client, Georgie and Marnie’s already precarious lives are blown apart and they now share a terrible secret. Sent to a children’s home, the sisters hope this might finally be their safe haven after years of neglect. But they soon discover they’re in real danger.

Desperate to find a place of safety, Georgie and Marnie run for their lives, but end up in the hands of Delray Anderton. A violent London gangster and notorious pimp, Delray has big plans for beautiful teenager Georgie, seeing her as a chance to make some serious money.

Fiercely protective of each other, Georgie and Marnie must escape the clutches of a man who will do anything to keep the sisters for himself. And, they must keep the promise they made to each other – no one can ever know the truth. 

A gritty, shocking and gripping thriller that will engross fans of Kimberly Chambers, Martina Cole and Jessie Keane.

My Review

I'll start off by saying that I absolutely loved this book. I read The Promise in two sittings and I would have done it in one if I didn't have to be sensible and get some sleep in the middle. I did not want to put it down and I thought about it when I wasn't reading it, I was that drawn into the story. 

The characters in The Promise are extremely complex and you learn more about each of them the more you read. I found none of the characters are particularly likeable except Marnie and Davey, but you become invested in them enough to want to know what happens next to them and I don't really think that they are meant to be likeable. 

Josie, the mum of Georgie and Marnie is just pretty much a waste of space as a mum and a human being, but she does try her hardest when she's sober. As a mum myself I spent most of the book wanting to shake her and tell her to get a grip. How she produced someone as joyful as Marnie and as strong as Georgie I'll never know. Marnie is honestly a little ray of sunshine throughout the book. 

Delray is the absolute epitome of pimp scumbag, but you can see how he charms women into thinking he's a nice guy before he changes into the horror he actually is. He is so real, I could just picture him perfectly. 

The story is fast paced and covers some important topics. It depicts how awful life can be as a prostitute and it shows the horrendous affect sexual abuse can have on a child without going into any unnecessary detail, It also touches on child sex trafficking which right now is in the forefront of the news and it is definitely something that needs to be talked about more. 

There are a few moments in the book which completely took me off guard and one in particular that blew my mind, Though you're always waiting for a "reveal" in a crime novel, this one still came completely from left field for me.

Though The Promise is full of darkness and the horror of real life for some people, it was compulsive reading and I thought the writing was excellent. I am looking forward to more from Casey Kelleher in the future and if you haven't read one of her books yet, go make the time to do so. 

I gave The Promise 5 stars. 

About The Author

I was extremely lucky to have Casey take part in my Getting To Know... feature, so for even more information, please go take a look here

Born in Cuckfield, West Sussex, Casey Kelleher grew up as an avid reader and a huge fan of author Martina Cole. 

Whilst working as a beauty therapist and bringing up her three children together with her husband, Casey penned her debut novel Rotten to the Core. Its success meant that she could give up her day job and concentrate on writing full time. 

She has since published Rise and Fall, Heartless, Bad Blood, The Taken and her latest release, The Promise. 

To Connect With Casey Kelleher

Twitter: @caseykelleher

Links To Buy Your Own Copy Of The Promise


Don't Forget To Check Out The Rest Of The Blog Tour

Friday, 17 February 2017

Getting To Know...Nicola Slade

On Getting To Know... today I am welcoming author of the Harriet Quigley Mysteries and Charlotte Richmond Investigates series, Nicola Slade.

You originally wrote a romantic comedy when changing from children's book to adult books, but you now write two mystery series. What was it that drew you to this genre and prompted you to make the change?

My mother and grandmother were voracious readers so I was always surrounded by books.  I was brought up on mostly Victorian novels and the classic mysteries of the Golden Age: Margery Allingham, Patricia Wentworth, Dorothy L Sayers and to a lesser degree Agatha Christie. It’s the puzzle element that appeals to me in those classic mysteries – who did it, why and how – and working through the various suspects to find the murderer. I love that aspect as a reader and as a writer.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written so far?

My Victorian sleuth, Charlotte Richmond, is my favourite. I’m very fond of Harriet Quigley, my contemporary retired headmistress sleuth but she’s slightly scary after her years as a top headmistress and is comfortable in her own skin. Charlotte is much more vulnerable and has to contend with the problems of being a young widow in the 1850s as well as with the difficulties that arise in a murder case. She has a slightly shady background and comes from Australia, which makes her a curiosity in mid-Victorian England. I’m passionate about history and it’s certainly much easier to set a mystery before the days of forensic science, fingerprints and the internet!

Do you have a set routine or schedule that you like to follow when you're writing?

Not really, it’s more a case of ‘when the spirit moves me’. I do tend to write mid-morning to mid-afternoon, rather than the classic thing of dashing off a thousand words by breakfast time! Sometimes I’ll lose myself in the story though, and emerge dazed after a long writing session.

When you're not writing, what would we find you doing?

Chatting and meeting friends is what my family would say! And poking in charity shops and second hand bookshops because a friend and I were antiques dealers in a small way, some years ago, and the urge to check out the date stamp or maker’s mark never leaves you. I love going to castles and stately homes and I read a lot, as well as painting.

You are also an artist and do some wonderful paintings (I love your hares, in particular Hare Flight). Are you a natural artist or is something that you worked on to become?

Thank you! I have a ‘thing’ about painting hares! I did Art at O Level and could always draw, but it wasn’t till my children were older that I started going to art classes. When the teacher retired we set up our own art workshop and hold an exhibition every year. I’m strictly amateur but it’s fun to do and our group is now quite well-known locally. My latest mystery ‘The Art of Murder’ is about an art group, but not – I hasten to add – about the one I belong to!

Have you always known that you wanted to be an author?

I think I was about six when I understood that books came out of people’s heads and decided that’s what I wanted to do. I had some children’s short stories published in my early twenties, then put my creative energies into raising a family, after which I wrote stories for women’s magazines until my first novel, Scuba Dancing, was published.

Harriet Quigley is an older main character than in a lot of books, which is good to see. What was the reason behind choosing to write an older character?

It all stems from my first publisher, Transita Ltd, who published Scuba Dancing. They featured older heroines – from forty-five and upwards and Harriet arose from that idea. The classic lady sleuth tends to be ‘of a certain age’, Miss Marple and Miss Silver, for example, and if you think about it, an older woman is likely to have more time to observe and investigate than if she’s holding down a full-time job. My Victorian heroine, Charlotte, has time on her hands because she’s a lady, but she does have other restrictions – it’s not easy to run away if you’re wearing a crinoline!

You enjoy travelling and have lived in some lovely places, do you have a favourite place that you have visited?

We had a few days in Fiji that were magical – coral islands, palm trees and so on, I’d love to go back one day. Our son and his family live in Sydney and we did a trip to Tasmania which was fabulous; besides seeing the family, Australia has the added bonus of letting me do research for my Australian heroine!

Do you have a favourite author?

I love the novels of Charlotte Yonge, a Victorian best-seller, and I’m particularly fond of her novel ‘The Pillars of the House’. I also love Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels and recently, I’ve discovered Jodi Taylor’s The Chronicles of St Mary’s books and can’t wait to read the next.

What can we look forward to from you in the future?

My previous publisher ceased trading a year ago so I’ve been wondering which direction I should take. I’m currently revising a contemporary novel which has historical echoes, a kind of time-slip novel, and I’m about to send it to my agent. Besides that, I’m two-thirds of the way into a cosy mystery set in 1918 which is great fun to write, though whether a publisher would like it remains to be seen. There’s always self-publishing which is something I might explore in the future.

Thank you so much to Nicola for taking the time to answer all my questions, it's been wonderful having her on my blog today.

To Connect With Nicola Slade

Twitter - @nicolasladeuk

The Art Of Murder

A weekend art course at an upmarket B&B near Winchester’s historic cathedral is bound to be relaxing and fun… 

But not when man-crazy Linzi Bray, Chairman of the local art group, is in charge and the house is full of people who loathe her. 

Accidents start to happen – in a ruined castle, in a fast-flowing river, in a peaceful garden. 

There’s a stalker – or is there? 

And there are far too many dead insects, as well as a vandalised Porsche and a pond full of blood. 

It’s not the first time former headmistress, Harriet Quigley, and her cousin, the Reverend Sam Hathaway, have been embroiled in a mystery, but this time they’re baffled at the “spiteful game” that seems to be being played. 

And then somebody else dies and the games all stop. 

Act of Murder is perfect for avid crime mystery fans – with festering secrets, potential motives and the opportunity for sweet – or spiteful – revenge. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Getting To Know... Casey Kelleher

I'm excited today to welcome Casey Kelleher to Getting To Know... Casey is the author of Crime Fiction and her next book, The Promise is being published this coming Friday, 17th of February 2017.

Your books are all crime fiction, what is it that draws you to this genre?

I remember reading my first Martina Cole novel - The Ladykiller when I was about sixteen and after my usual reads of authors such as Danielle Steel and Virginia Andrews, Martina's book was an eye opener, to say the least. I loved reading about the criminal underworld, the darkness and the grit. I was hooked after that. 

Your books are all stand alone novels, did you make a conscious decision to do this rather than a series or was it a more organic process?

I think it's always been a conscious decision for me to do stand alone's. I start with a story that I'll already have a vague beginning and an ending for. I do like to leave a little bit to the reader's imagination at the end of the novel, so there's always the feeling that the characters still have a bit more of a journey to go on. As if we only were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of that character's story. 
I am considering doing a series in the future, though. I've got a really exciting idea that I've been thinking about that I might be able to put into play next year. So a series is certainly a possibility in the future. 

Do you have a favourite character that you have written so far?

I loved writing Harry Woods in BAD BLOOD. In my mind's eye, I always pictured Ray Winstone as Harry's character. A hard man with a wicked sense of humour and a sense of loyalty to his family that holds no bounds. 
I also loved writing about Lena Cona in THE TAKEN. Her journey was a harrowing one, and she faced so many heartbreaking situations, but she was so spurred on by her love for her daughter that she just never gave up. I loved her for that. 

When you're writing, do you have a set routine or schedule that you like to follow?

I try to do the bulk of my writing when I'm at home alone during the day. My husband and teenage sons can be a bit distracting otherwise. I love doing writing sprints. It really helps with the word count up. If I can do two thousand words a day, then I'm very happy with that. 

Do you have a favourite thing about being an author?

I think everything about being an author is great. 
I'm a complete bookworm, and now I'm doing a job that I love. I get to hear about all the new books coming out, I have lots of authors as friends, I go to the crime festivals, it's all great. Though if I have to pick my most favourite bit about being an author I'd say it's when I first receive a proof copy of my finished book. All that work that has been inside my head for so long, is finally real, in the form of a book. There's nothing quite like it. 

You are a fully qualified Holistic Therapist, can you tell me more about that and why you decided to make the switch to writing?

I worked in the beauty industry for almost ten years and loved it. I really enjoyed working in some fantastic spa's and salons and I made a lot of really good friends too. 
I guess my change in career was mainly down to my Grandad. He inspired me. 
He was in his 90's when he bought himself a laptop, with the intention of teaching himself how to use it so that he could write his own life story. Sadly, he'd only managed to write a few chapters before he passed away. It got me thinking about what I’d like to do whilst I still can, and whether we all do all really have a book in us. I set myself the challenge of seeing if I could write a book, and a year later 'Rotten to the Core' was complete.
I didn't think it would take off the way it did, but suddenly there just wasn't enough hours in the day for me to work my day job and write books too. So something had to give. 
It was a huge risk leaving my day job, but one that paid off thankfully.  

When you're not writing, what would we find you doing?

Spending time with my husband and kids, shopping, watching The Real Housewives, going out with my friends.

You're a big reader and always have been. Do you remember the first book or book series that you absolutely fell in love with?

The first book I ever fell in love with was The Little Matchgirl by Hans Christian Andersen. I was only five years old, and I remember asking my mum to read it to me over and over again. Tragic, but also magical. I also loved Nancy Drew, and the Sweet Valley High books. 

Do you have a favourite author? 

The queen of crime herself, Martina Cole. 
I also loved Gillian Flynn's 'Gone Girl' and Emma Donoghue's 'Room'.

What can we look forward to next from you?

THE PROMISE is my next book, which is due for publication on 17th February 2017. We've just done the cover reveal and the response has been amazing. It went straight into the bestseller's chart at number 31 so I'm really excited about that one. I'm also working on my 7th book as we speak... it's all very exciting, but you'll have to watch this space to hear more on that one. 

Thank you so much to Casey for taking the time to answer my questions in the run up to publication day! To pre order your copy of The Promise click here! Also keep your eye out soon for my review of The Promise as part of the blog tour! 

To Connect With Casey Kelleher

Twitter - @caseykelleher

The Promise 

Family ties can be deadly...


Two sisters. One murder. And an unbreakable bond.

Growing up in squalor with their drug-addicted prostitute mother, sisters Georgie and Marnie Parker have had to endure the very darkest side of life. 

When their mother is sentenced for brutally murdering a client, Georgie and Marnie’s already precarious lives are blown apart and they now share a terrible secret. Sent to a children’s home, the sisters hope this might finally be their safe haven after years of neglect. But they soon discover they’re in real danger.

Desperate to find a place of safety, Georgie and Marnie run for their lives, but end up in the hands of Delray Anderton. A violent London gangster and notorious pimp, Delray has big plans for beautiful teenager Georgie, seeing her as a chance to make some serious money.

Fiercely protective of each other, Georgie and Marnie must escape the clutches of a man who will do anything to keep the sisters for himself. And, they must keep the promise they made to each other – no one can ever know the truth. 

A gritty, shocking and gripping thriller that will engross fans of Kimberly Chambers, Martina Cole and Jessie Keane.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Getting To Know... Barbra Leslie

Today on Life Of A Nerdish Mum I am happy to welcome author Barbra Leslie to Getting To Know... Barbra is the author of the Cracked trilogy.

When you are writing, do you have a set routine or schedule that you like to follow?

Well, when I’m a roll, I tend to pretty much write 24/7, with breaks for sleep (not enough) and some slapped-together meals.  Of course, work and other commitments – life, in other words – gets in the way, so unfortunately I don’t get nearly enough time and freedom to do that!  So I pretty much grab time when I can – usually early morning rather than late at night.  I am cursed with not having a regular body clock – my circadian rhythms have always been a bit screwy – so I refer to ‘early morning’ when I mean, when I first get out of bed, whatever time that is.

Ideally, however, I like to live in the world of what I’m writing, for concentrated periods of time.  I pace, I talk to myself, I bake bread, but I like to stay in the book, in my head.

I have a quote by Doris Lessing printed in a huge font, on a bulletin board in my room: “Whatever you’re meant to do, do it.  The conditions are always impossible.”  When I’m a bit overwhelmed by the juggling act that my life tends to be, I find that a good bucking-up mantra.  If I waited until everything was in place and ideal to write, I’d never get anything done!

When you're not writing what would we find you doing?

I have a day job in the criminal justice system, which I love.  And fortunately it’s more part-time than full-time, and fairly flexible.  Plus, I do some other freelance work to pay the bills.  

Otherwise?  I read, a ridiculous amount.  I have friends over for dinner every couple of weeks, and experiment on them with my crazy kitchen suppers – I just make stuff up from what I have lying around in the fridge and cupboards.  I live in hard-core downtown Toronto, and I walk everywhere I go; it clears my head and helps keep me (somewhat!) sane.

Oh, and Netflix.  I don’t know what I did before Netflix came along!

Do you have a favourite character that you have written so far?

The obvious answer is Danny Cleary, the protagonist of Cracked, Rehab Run, and the final book in the series, which I’m working on now.  Danny is in my bloodstream; while she and I are almost nothing alike, I know her so well it’s like hanging out with a friend – albeit a violent, unpredictable friend!  But I also really loved writing Lawrence, Danny’s brother.  

Do you have a favourite thing about being an author?

I love writing dialogue.  I’ve been a film nerd since I can remember, and I can hear the voices of the characters as I’m writing them.  

But it’s so amazing to me, when someone sends me a note or lets me know that they liked something I’ve written.  The fact that strangers out there enjoy and appreciate what I’ve cooked up in my wee brain is a source of such joy and surprise to me!  I love getting notes from readers.

The covers of both Cracked and Rehab Run are very distinctive, did you have a lot of input into how they looked?

Good question!  And the answer is pretty much, no.  When the crack team (whoops!  See what I did there?) at Titan asked me if I had anything specific in mind for the cover of Cracked, I believe I just told them to go for it.  I know my strengths and weaknesses, and while I’m hugely interested in design, I know that it’s not my forte.  So when they send me the cover for the first book, I loved it so much I believe I actually sort of semi-screamed with joy.

You have been very honest about dealing with addiction in your past, how important was it for you to portray addiction as realistically as you can in your books?

The only part of either book that is autobiographical is Danny’s addiction to crack cocaine, particularly at the beginning of Cracked.  I didn’t want to write a book about addiction, but it was important to me that the drug use and the nuts and bolts of how it feels to be an active addict – to this drug, at any rate – was realistic.  That being said, that was my own personal and subjective experience.  For other drugs and other addicts, things can be very different.

As you've led such an interesting life, have you considered writing a biography?

Before I started working on Cracked, I began a memoir.  I wrote a chapter or two at my agent’s behest, but it wasn’t flowing.  While I chose to be open about my own past addiction when Cracked was released, it’s very difficult for me to imagine writing about myself in that way.  I love reading memoirs, though, and who knows?  Never say never.  It may happen.

Do you have a favourite author?

No!  I have so many that choosing one would be like someone choosing their favourite child.  Top of my head, stream-of-consciousness (and based on what I’ve been reading lately), I would say that Megan Abbott can write about the inner lives of women and girls better than anyone since Alice Munro, Ben H. Winters’ work is poignant, sad and brilliant, Dennis Lehane can do noir like nobody else, and I wish I could read Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy again for the first time.  I also really love with Karin Slaughter has done with her mysteries, and Nicola Griffith, Octavia Butler and James Lee Burke have been huge influences on me.

If you could give younger you any advice about your writing journey, what would it be?

Write.  Don’t give up.  Don’t let life get in the way too much.  Don’t let the negative, self-doubting voices take over.  Just do what you were meant to do.

Plus – and this is advice I need to take now, as I still haven’t – get help with the non-writing aspects of the writing life.  Social media isn’t my forte, and I have a sadly neglected blog I need to give some attention to.

Rehab Run (Cracked #2) has only recently been published, but what can we look forward to next from you?

The third and final book in the Cracked series will be released in November of 2017.  I’m still playing with titles, but let’s just say it’s going to be a doozy!
After that, I’ve had a mystery/science fiction kind of thing I’ve been thinking about for yonks.  And I might turn my head to another screenplay.

Thank you so much to Barbra for taking the time to answer my questions, as always I'm oncredibly grateful.

To Connect With Barbra Leslie

Twitter - @barbrajleslie


After her stormy marriage ends, Danny Cleary jumps down the rabbit hole into a world of crack cocaine – delivered to her door by a polite but slightly deranged dealer. But when Danny’s twin sister Ginger is murdered, Danny and her rock musician brother fly to California to find their nephews – and the people who killed their sister. Fighting her addiction, nosy cops and crazy drug dealers, she kicks ass and takes names, embracing her inner vigilante in a quest to avenge her sister and save her family.

Cracked is a darkly comic roller-coaster ride to redemption as Danny struggles with bad guys and her own demons to find out who killed her twin.

Don't Look Behind You by Mel Sherratt - Blog Tour Review

Today I am super excited to be part of the blog tour for Don't Look Behind You by Mel Sherratt! 

Don't Look Behind You 

She got into bed but sleep didn’t come easily. Every creak in the house made her alert. She was waiting for him to come and get her. 

The small city of Stockleigh is in shock as three women are brutally attacked within days of each other. Are they random acts of violence or is there a link between the victims? For Detective Eden Berrisford, it’s her most chilling case yet. 

The investigation leads Eden to cross paths with Carla, a woman trying to rebuild her life after her marriage to a cruel and abusive man ended in unimaginable tragedy. Her husband Ryan was imprisoned for his crimes but, now he’s out and coming for her. 

As Eden starts to close in on the attacker, she also puts herself in grave danger. Can she stop him before he strikes again? And can Carla, terrified for her life, save herself - before the past wreaks a terrible revenge? 

My Review

This book had me on tenterhooks pretty much the entire way through and I spent a lot of time looking behind me, even in my own home! 

Don't Look Behind You covers some very important and sensitive topics in domestic violence and rape. I feel like they are covered very sympathetically without sugar coating anything. Mel Sherratt doesn't shy away from showing the horror and the aftermath for both the victim and the authorities that deal with them. 

I really enjoyed the character of Eden Berrisford and I loved her relationship both with her family and her work colleagues. She's definitely a tough cookie with a soft side and she was quite easy to relate to. Carla is also a pretty interesting character  and you really feel her pain after everything she has gone through and her fear is contagious as you learn more about her past and then all the things that start happening in the present. 

I thought the mixture of a main story running through the book with a couple of different smaller stories worked and they were balanced really well so they all had a relevant amount of time and you weren't left wondering and waiting for too long. 

Don't Look Behind You is the second book in the series, you can read it as a stand alone though there are some references to what happened in the first book. I have read this book first and it hasn't taken away my excitement to go back and read the first book and find out everything that happened there. 

I really thoroughly enjoyed Don't Look behind You and I definitely looking forward to more books in the Eden Berrisford series, 

I gave this book 5 stars.

To Connect With Mel Sherratt

To Get Your Own Copy Of Don't Look Behind You 

About The Author 

Mel Sherratt writes gritty crime dramas, psychological suspense and fiction with a punch – or grit-lit, as she calls it. Shortlisted for the CWA (Crime Writer’s Association) Dagger in the Library Award 2014, she finds inspiration from authors such as Martina Cole, Lynda la Plante and Elizabeth Haynes. Since 2012, all nine of her crime novels have been bestsellers. Four of her books are published by Amazon Publishing’s crime and thriller imprint, Thomas & Mercer and she has a new series out with Bookouture.
Mel lives in Stoke-on-Trent, with her husband and terrier, Dexter, named after the TV serial killer, and makes liberal use of her hometown as a backdrop for some of her books.

Don't Forget To Check Out The Rest Of The Tour

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Baby Auction by Peter Taylor-Gooby - Review

I am on a mission to catch up on my reviews and I read The Baby Auction by Peter Taylor-Gooby all the way back at the beginning of December so it's definitely about time that I get my thoughts about it on my blog.

The Baby Auction

Auctioning babies makes sense, at least that’s what Market World thinks. After all the baby goes to someone who can give them a good start in life, and the parents get a return for their pain and trouble. 
For Ed and Matt, the Baby Auction sums up everything that’s wrong with a society based on profit. Then one day Matt rescues a drowning child and they face the question: can love and compassion overcome the harsh laws of Market World?

My Review

I didn't know what to expect when I picked up The Baby Auction as the title is quite shocking. It definitely fits the tone and dystopian feel of the story though and it is even scarier than it sounds when you realise just how easily the world could head in the same direction. 

I think the world building is done extremely well and it was very easy to picture the Market World and the Broken Lands as they are depicted by the authority in power. The Market World is run under the One Law and this promotes Property, Equality, Dignity and Trade. It's very reminiscent of a modern day 1984 and has a lot of the same themes which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

The characters are all really fleshed out and represent both ends of the kaleidoscope as Matt and Ed are both from the lowest levels of society, while Dain and Anna are the up and coming and rich top level. I thought the relationship between Matt and Ed felt a little forced to me, but they got together under circumstances that you just can't imagine, so it's not my place to judge what people in that situation should feel.  Dain and Anna's relationship however I found incredibly sweet and I was routing for them so hard throughout the story. It did help that I completely and utterly fell in love with Dain! He slowly broke down my barriers as I got to know him and by the end I loved his character. 

The story itself is very strong and I loved the politics and revolutionary talk throughout, showing that if people can come together then they can succeed against all odds. 

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed The Baby Auction and I look forward to reading more by Peter Taylor-Gooby. 

I gave this book 4 stars. 

About The Author 

I was lucky enough to have Peter Taylor-Gooby on my Getting To Know... feature if you want to read more about him check here!

My novels deal with how people live their lives in a diverse globalised capitalist world. In 'Ardent Justice', Ade struggles against the corruption of the City of London, where high finance and street homelessness flourish cheek by jowl. In ‘The Baby Auction’ Ed and Matt struggle to lead a passionate, humane and generous life in a world dominated by the market.
In my day job I'm an academic. My research shows how market capitalism generates inequalities between haves and have-nots and promotes a corrosive individualism that stunts our capacity for empathy, charity and love.
I enjoy hill-walking, riding my bike, holidays and looking after my grand-daughter (not in that order). I became interested in social policy issues after working on adventure playgrounds, teaching, claiming benefits and working in a social security office in Newcastle. I’ve worked in the UK, most European countries, Canada, the US, China, Korea and Japan, Australia and South Africa.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Getting To Know... Peta Rainford

Peta and Archie (Photo Credit: Kelly Murdoch)

Today on Getting To Know... I am happy to welcome children's author and illustrator Peta Rainford. 

You write children's books, what is it that draws you to this genre?

I suspect like a lot of authors who write for children, I started when my own daughter was small, because I wanted to write for her and, to some extent, about her. I relate to kids, particularly their humour (that’s a sensible way of saying I like daft jokes) and I feel very comfortable writing in this genre. I find I have plenty to say!

When you're writing do you have a set routine or schedule that you like to follow?

I wish! Like most writers, I have to fit my writing around the Rest of Life, including other book-related activities such as marketing and school visits. I tend to sit down on a Monday and plan my week on a sheet of A4 (I am incurably low-tech!). Although my scheduling is pretty chaotic, I do try to have some writing and/or illustration time every weekday, depending what phase of a book I’m on – if I’m lucky it’s a whole day, but it may be just an hour. And I don’t always manage it.

Do you have a favourite character that you have created so far?

I suppose it has to be Fizzy in Hairy Fairy. The fairy who is very much her own little person, who ‘doesn’t think like others think, prefers blue wings to standard pink’, bears a more than passing resemblance to my own daughter (though I wouldn’t dare admit that to her face!)

To be honest, my other three books aren’t so character-driven. The leading characters are more cyphers for the plot – though I do have a sneaking regard for the evil cat Blot in the two Isabella books and I am quite fond of the exuberant Billy Bonkers in Jamie and the Joke Factory.

Do you remember your favourite book as a child?

I don’t really remember one favourite book. I loved the Paddington stories which my Dad used to read to me, because they were funny and we laughed at them together. I liked a bit of drama too: I can remember loving Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden and When Marnie Was There by Joan G Robinson.

When you're not writing and illustrating what would we find you doing?

Apart from family stuff? I have been a school governor for nearly four years which is a fascinating (unpaid) job that takes up much more of my time than I ever imagined when I took it on. Otherwise, you might find me on the tennis court, or on the beach, walking my hairy Jack Russell Terrier (and muse), Archie.

As you both illustrate and write your stories, which comes first when you're creating a new character, the image or the writing?

Although each of my books has evolved slightly differently, I generally concentrate on the words first. That said, I never work on the words in isolation; I am always planning the illustrations as I write, in my head, if not always on paper. This was particularly important when I was writing Isabelle Rotten Speller as I was creating a world and people made out of letters, so I had to have a pretty good idea how that would look in order to be able to describe it.

The words and pictures feed off each other. Quite often I will be illustrating a section of text and the way the picture develops will prompt me to go back and rewrite the words.

In Isabella there are things that only adults will pick up on - the Alice In Wonderland theme for example - is this a conscious decision to include things for parents?

Yes and no. Going back to your first question, another of the inspirations for me to write my own children’s books were the books I was reading with my daughter. Some of them were inspirational in their own right (step forward Lauren Child, Judith Kerr, Oliver Jeffers, Julia Donaldson and Axel Sheffler), but others were just SO BORING! I do think it is important that if you are writing books for adults and children to share, there should be something in there for those doing the reading, as well as those being read to.

I want my stories to have lots of layers – hidden jokes and narratives – in the words and the pictures. But I don’t put some bits in for adults and some bits in for kids. They are just extra details and ideas for anyone to find.

The Alice In Wonderland theme just evolved naturally as part of the story: I knew I wanted to reintroduce the character of the cat Blot, who had featured in Isabella Rotten Speller, and I had the idea of having glimpses of him appearing in the pictures long before he was mentioned in the text. It occurred to me he would be a bit like the Cheshire Cat and the Alice In Wonderland theme grew from there.

Funnily enough, as soon as my eight-year-old saw the picture of the White Rabbit, she said it was like Alice In Wonderland – she hasn’t read the book, but she has seen the Disney film!

If you could give younger you any advice about your writing journey, what would it be?

Probably: ‘Just get on with it’. Though, actually, I don’t think I could have started writing children’s books much sooner than I did. I think I needed to be a parent.

Do you have a favourite author?

I don’t think I do. I like lots of different books and lots of different authors. If you narrowed the question down to my favourite author of children’s picture books though, I would probably come back to Julia Donaldson. I love the cleverness of her best books and the precision of her rhyme.

What can we look forward to from you next?

Well, I’m currently working on a longer chapter book for children, probably between the ages of 8 and 12. This one’s much more about the words – around 30,000 of them, compared with my usual 800 – although it will have some black and white illustrations. I hope to finish the first draft of that in the next month or so and then, while I’m tidying that up, I plan to start on my next rhyming picture book. So 2017 is shaping up to be pretty busy!

Thank you so much for inviting me to take part in your Getting To Know… feature. I really liked your questions. As an author, I think it’s really useful to be asked why you do what you do; I think it helps develop the writing process – and you’re sometime surprised by your own answers!

Thank you so much to Peta for joining me today and answering my questions.

To Connect With Peta Rainford

Twitter - @PetaRainford

Check out my review of Isabella here

Isabella's Adventures In Numberland

Isabella is back for her second adventure! In this colourful, rhyming picture book, the accident-prone little witch falls through a hole in the ground and lands in Numberland – a place where nothing quite adds up (because all the numbers have disappeared!) 
She makes new friends, encounters an old enemy and, though the odds are against her, finally saves the day. YOU CAN COUNT ON ISABELLA!

Readers of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland will see some parallels between Isabella’s Adventures in Numberland and that wonderful, crazy children’s classic.

Fans of Isabella’s first adventure, Isabella, Rotten Speller, published by Peta Rainford in 2014, will also love Isabella’s Adventures in Numberland. Peta Rainford has created a book that buzzes with vibrant, amusing pictures and interesting, funny, rhyming words. 

This book will encourage young children to think about the importance of numbers and how numbers are used in our everyday lives, while at the same time being very, very silly! 

A useful tool for parents and teachers and a fun story for early readers and younger children who enjoy being read to.

(Photo Credit: Kelly Murdoch)