Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Rossettis, Ghosts and the Gothic ...

Today I’m chatting with fellow Choc Lit author, Kirsty Ferry, whose latest novel, The Girl in the Photograph, will be published in eBook format on 7th March along with the paperback of her second novel, The Girl in the Painting.

1.     Kirsty, I know you have a love of the Rossettis – in particular Dante – can you tell us what initially attracted you?

It was when I discovered the rather Gothic story of him exhuming his wife and muse, Lizzie Siddal, to rescue his book of poetry! He had buried the book with her, declaring that he couldn’t continue working without her to inspire him; but then when he needed to rebuild his career, he quite methodically retrieved the book. He just seemed an astounding character – they do say truth is stranger than fiction. 

I began to research Lizzie and Dante, and was completely wrapped up in their story. He was a real bad-boy; charming, talented, wild and very, very attractive. There is a quote about Anne Boleyn in a poem by Sir Thomas Wyatt which states she was, ‘wild for to hold, though I seem tame’ and I think that, in essence, was also Dante. I would have hated to be married to him, he had numerous affairs and was reckless and capricious, but he seemed to have this magnetism that drew women to him and kept them in his thrall. He achieves that even beyond the grave. I must confess, I often wonder why Lizzie stayed with him – but he must have had something that held her.

2.      Do you have a favourite book in the Gothic genre – and if so, what is it?

Easy. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. It’s an incredible book with so many different layers to it that I find something new every time I read it. The whole idea of the desolate moors and the unearthly passion between Cathy and Heathcliff takes my breath away. Cathy is in a very small part of the book, but the dynamics between her and Heathcliff are extremely powerful; and the speeches they make are some of the most beautiful in literature.

3.      Do you believe in ghosts?

I must confess that I do! I work in a haunted building and used to live in a haunted house; so yes. Absolutely. 

It was an Edwardian lady who haunted my house. The house was built in 1906, so whether she was an owner or one of my relatives, I don’t know. She would come into the room on a really cold breeze and stand by the bed. That was fine, but the day I heard her walking up the stairs was the day I told her I didn’t mind her wandering around, but I’d appreciate it if she didn’t make a noise. I had a two-year-old to consider, after all! She didn’t do it again, which was kind of her.

4.     Do you have a favourite ghost story – fiction … or … real?

Oh my goodness. I don’t know! I love hearing ghost stories, especially real life ones from colleagues or friends. I’m more inclined to believe them than the hyped up ones you read about or see on TV programmes. What commercial gain would, for example, one of  the cleaners at work gain by telling me she had seen a man disappearing up some stairs that were no longer there, or walking into an office and seeing a man sitting at a desk who then vanished?

I suppose one of the nicest stories I have experience of, is when my son told me he had been talking to my Grandma and she said I was a good mum. He was about four at the time and my Gran died when I was sixteen. I showed him a photo of her and he said that was the lady who had come to see him. We also have a picture of her sitting on a bench in my parents’ garden – taken about ten years after she’d died! I do believe she’s still around and it’s nice to feel her presence – even though she sometimes sits on the edge of my bed and I feel it dip although I can’t see her!

5.     How do you go about plotting your novels?

Plotting? What witchcraft is that? I don’t plot at all. I start with a concept and perhaps a vague idea of the start and the end, but it’s very fluid and usually ends up nothing like the initial idea. I love writing like that though. I would feel a plan was too constricting and I prefer to let my stories develop organically and for the characters to almost take over and tell me their stories.

6.     I know you have self-published several novels, do you think this is a good thing for unpublished writers to do? If so, why? (Sorry sneaky two questions for the price of one there!)

I’ll forgive you! The novels I have self-published are very niche novels. I did try to get two of them (The Memory of Snow and Refuge) traditionally published, but as they don’t really have a wide commercial appeal (They are both paranormal novels set in the north east of England. Snow is based on Hadrian’s Wall, and Refuge on Holy Island), it was impossible to get them placed although the feedback was all positive. I then went ahead and self-published them and found that most people actually really liked them, especially Snow. I managed to get Snow stocked in Vindolanda Museum on Hadrian’s Wall, and recently did an event with Groundworks about the witch I based the story on. It’s a funny old book – it has these resurges of interest and I remember how much I loved writing it every time that happens. It’s the only book of mine that I would never let anybody touch (it was lucky enough to win a competition to be proofread so it’s not entirely untouched, but it’s largely untouched!) It is the way it is and it’s staying that way! 

I also managed to get local magazines to review the books and generated interest that way, and have done some author talks springing from that interest. The biggest thing I had to do was manage the publicity – building a website and drawing peoples’ attention to the books, sort of thing. I tend to let those books do their own thing much of the time, and I have found that with my Choc Lit novels finding readership, people are flowing towards those niche books more now as well. I recently published another one, a very different Gothic book called Upon the Solstice, but wrote that under the pen-name of Cathryn Ramsay with the full support of Choc Lit. Solstice is so very different to my Choc Lit work that I didn’t want people buying it thinking they were going to get a nice Choc Lit story. It’s a very dark book and has lots of folklore and fae-ness in, but again was great fun to write. It must be doing something right, as it was number 15 in the Gothic charts on Amazon last time I checked.

As far as advising unpublished authors to self-publish, I would say be realistic. You are highly unlikely to make a fortune out of it and you have to make sure you understand that you will have to put a Marketing head on too. You’ll also have to be 100% sure the book is as good as you can make it – get it edited and proofread before it goes up there (and not just from a friend who will say it’s great. Rope in an honest friend, or get it done professionally if possible). You also need a professional looking cover – it’s a product and ‘you’ are the brand. Give people a reason to want to explore your work further, and not a reason to go ‘That screams self-published as the cover is cheap and nasty.’ Berni has designed all the covers for my novels – and to me that’s money well spent. You can self-publish for free, basically; but if you have a budget, I would strongly recommend a good cover and a professional edit to cover all your bases!

The Girl in the Photograph

What if the past was trying to teach you a lesson?

Staying alone in the shadow of an abandoned manor house in Yorkshire would be madness to some, but art enthusiast Lissy de Luca can’t wait. Lissy has her reasons for seeking isolation, and she wants to study the Staithes Group – an artists’ commune active at the turn of the twentieth century.
Lissy is fascinated by the imposing Sea Scarr Hall – but the deeper she delves, the stranger things get. A lonely figure patrols the cove at night, whilst a hidden painting leads to a chilling realisation. And then there’s the photograph of the girl; so beautiful she could be a mermaid … and so familiar.
As Lissy further immerses herself, she comes to an eerie conclusion: The occupants of Sea Scarr Hall are long gone, but they have a message for her – and they’re going to make sure she gets it. 


Kirsty is from the North East of England and won the English Heritage/Belsay Hall National Creative Writing competition in 2009 with the ghostly tale 'Enchantment'.

Her timeslip novel, Some Veil Did Fall, a paranormal romance set in Whitby, was published by Choc Lit in Autumn 2014. This was followed by another Choc Lit timeslip, The Girl in the Painting in February 2016, and The Girl in the Photograph in March 2017. 

The experience of signing, Some Veil Did Fall in a quirky bookshop in the midst of Goth Weekend in Whitby, dressed as a recently undead person, was one of the highlights of her writing career so far!

Kirsty’s day-job involves sharing a Georgian building with an eclectic collection of ghosts – which can sometimes prove rather interesting.

You can find out more about Kirsty and her work at www.rosethornpress.co.uk, catch her on her Facebook Author Page or follow her on Twitter @kirsty_ferry.

Thanks so much Kirsty, for chatting to us today. 

I love the real life ghost stories!

Friday, 25 November 2016

Those Reviews

Reviews can make or break a book, or a film, or a TV series – well actually they can break anything.  Anything that’s ‘out there’ in the public arena anyway.

     I remember doing a photo shoot  some years ago with Ben Elton (sorry to name drop), and he was devastated at some vitriolic reviews that had appeared in national newspapers the morning after his latest play’s opening night.

     ‘Why Berni?’ He asked. ‘Why do they hate me so much?’

The answer is they really don’t. Half of them had probably not even watched all of  the play. They got the tickets free, so they didn’t even pay either.  But Ben Elton’s a name, he’s famous, and some journalists clearly thought they’d look clever and cutting edge by criticising him. They didn’t.

     For some reason anyone who puts their work out in the public arena is considered fair game. It’s far worse these days of course, with social media. At least a newspaper ends up wrapped around fish and chips, but reviews on social media are around forever.

     I’ve lost count of the number of authors who have been devastated by nasty – and usually unfounded – reviews. The best advice is, ‘Don’t read them.’ Easy to say, but not so easy to do.  As writers we are advised not to respond either, which is also difficult, when our natural reaction is to defend our work.

     Constructive criticism is different of course, and although it can seem harsh sometimes, it can occasionally be helpful. We’re all guilty of being ‘too close’ to our books, so a fresh pair of eyes can often point out something not working, that we haven’t noticed. (This is also why we need our lovely painstaking editors)!

     As a book cover designer with many years experience, I’m used to people dismissing something I’ve spent a long time working on, with a, ‘I hate the  girl’s nose,’ or ‘I don’t like the sky.’  For more years than I care to count, I presented the cover design meetings at a large UK publishing house, and I’ve seen strong confident designers reduced to tears by crass comments when they’ve been working for weeks to come up with a ground-breaking design. Nobody cares how long they’ve worked on something, or how long they agonised over the approach, the colours, the images. Most designers I know are dedicated and incredibly hard working, so trashing their work is a bit like sticking a knife in them. It hurts. And it does feel personal.

     But back to book reviews.  As I said before, it’s always easy to criticise something that’s out there and wide open to criticism. A sitting duck. Anyone can criticise; it isn’t particularly clever. I write reviews for the Dracula Society, it’s easy. It takes so much more nouse to write and complete a book or short story, and even more nouse to actually submit it to a publisher or agent. Wrenching your ‘paper baby’ from the printer and letting another person read it, is incredibly hard.   Like any baby, your first instinct is to protect it!

     The book contains part of you, a little piece of your soul, and a lot of your personality. It is you. An editor friend of mine advised me when I was about to send my first novel around. ‘Deep breaths,’ she said. ‘Send it off and then pour yourself a glass of wine. And remember to breathe.’ (Oh yes, breathing …)

     I wonder whether the average person in the street has any idea just how long it takes to write a book. I suspect they couldn’t even hazard a guess. Although sometimes I wonder whether the nastier reviews are from frustrated, rejected writers. If so, I sympathise, because we’ve all been there and will no doubt be there again at some point. All I would say is, never give up. Keep writing. And reading. You will be published some day if you persevere.

     An author friend of mine was once given only one star because her book cover was (and I quote) ‘too pink.’ Oh for heaven’s sake.  There was no mention of the story. But the pink cover was me – I designed it  … so … my bad. Blame me, not the author. It wasn’t even a girly pink either, but an eye-stinging fluorescent pink! (I bet a lot of those reviewers wouldn’t even be able to spell fluorescent.)  

     One  person  said that clearly I had set out to write a ’50 Shades with vampires.’ Interesting. I’ve never read any of the 50 Shades series, never seen the film and have no desire to. None of my books contain S&M or bondage or non-consensual sex in any way shape or form – or costume. But I have to admit it’s a brilliant marketing ploy, and I thank the reviewer wholeheartedly for that. I doubt the marketing department would have thought of it. It could sell books!  The reviewer should get a job in advertising. It’s the kind of promotional quote any poster designer would leap on with shrieks of glee. Although I think the 50 Shades fans could  be a tad disappointed.

     Another reviewer was incensed because my heroine planned her wedding. Well to be fair, she didn’t plan the wedding, just her outfit. The hero planned everything else. The reviewer mentioned ‘kick-ass heroines’ and said they would never long for a wedding anyway – and then mentioned Buffy. I'm proud to say I'm one of the biggest Buffy fans ever. I’ve watched all seven series so many times, I know the scripts off by heart. I could probably go on Mastermind answering questions about Buffy. (Hmmm, OK ... well ... maybe not that good!) The highlight of my summer this year was meeting Juliet Landau (Dru in Buffy) – what a lovely person she is too.  Aside from the actual Buffy cast, Joss Whedon and Marti Noxon are my heroes, I adore them. 
My husband Bob, Juliet Landau and me.

     The most exciting design job I’ve been commissioned to date, was to design the inside pages of The Quotable Slayer, I had the best time. Many hours spent with CDs of the actors from the Buffyverse. (Bliss).
     But  Buffy is never too busy ‘kicking ass’ or being too  strong  a woman to fall in love or (perish the thought)  think about a wedding.  Cast your minds back to Series 1 when as a vulnerable sixteen-year-old she’s totally infatuated with Angel. In Series 2, she’s often in tears over Angel, and by the end of the series, she leaves town after . . . well no spoilers in case there’s someone somewhere who’s never seen the show. One hilarious episode in series 4 (Something Blue) has Buffy falling in love with Spike (well who wouldn’t?) and – oh horrors – she's planning a wedding!  She might have been under one of Willow’s spells, but you get my point. Relationships make characters seem more real somehow. We’re all vulnerable when we fall in love. That’s the main reason I made my characters’ love lives so intense. Will has been a powerful vampire for over three hundred years, so for him to suddenly be made vulnerable because of his love for Ellie would be terrifying for him.

     There’s a fabulous scene in Dracula, where the three vampire sisters accuse Dracula of never having loved. He replies he has loved and they are proof of it.  It’s a scene I never forgot from the very first time I read the book.

     Romance is everywhere whether you like it or not. Remember the last scene in True Blood? It shows the ‘kick-ass’ heroine Sookie Stackhouse, barefoot and pregnant – and surrounded by all her other children.  So romance and marriage caught up with her too in the end. And even Anita Blake (vampire hunter) is  now engaged – albeit to several different men at the same time! But let’s not forget, I do write for a romance publisher …

     Having said all of that I’m really very fortunate to have had some absolutely stonking good reviews, many of them five stars. These reviews are what it’s all about. These are the people we’re all writing for. I love to chat with my favourite book bloggers and reviewers on Twitter, because they so often make my day. To hear them speak about Will and Ellie as if they’re real people is always wonderful. Will and Ellie are real to me of course, and they shout – loudly – in order to be heard. (At odd times too, often in the middle of the night – but I suppose they are vampires so maybe it’s their lunchtime ?) Oh – and when The Bookseller magazine gave me a lovely review for Dance Until Dawn, I was over the moon.

     One of my fave bloggers asked when the third book will be out. ‘I’m over halfway through,’ I replied. But because she asked so nicely, I’m stopping this blog post now and going off to write some more …

‘A fun vampire tale with a nice take 
on being a 21st-century vampire.
Good fun.’

The Bookseller


 'Berni did it again ...
created another lush and sexy
vampire novel.
This sequel to
Dance Until Dawn
doesn't let you down ...' 
Laura P. 
(Amazon UK review)

Saturday, 18 June 2016


Here it is . . . the final approved cover for Revenge is Sweet. Complete with a new series title (which I love) thought up by the clever people at Choc Lit UK. Immortals of London. It's perfect. 

Originally the series was called, The London Vampire Chronicles. But there are a lot of vampire 'chronicles' out there, not least the very famous ones written by the amazing Anne Rice. Another problem would have been the fact that the third book in the series is about a werewolf! So 'immortals' is much better. 

Revenge is Sweet is available to pre-order on Amazon, and the eBook will be released across all digital platforms on the 12th July 2016. I'm very excited to be able to add to Will's and Ellie's story at last. I actually wrote this book not long after Fledgling – which morphed into Dance Until Dawn – so it's been a while getting to this point. For the romantics among you, there's a wedding. Ever wondered when and where a Master vampire might marry in London? Revenge is Sweet will share that knowledge with you. And what would the 'bride-to-be' wear? Well, you'll have to buy the book to find out!

Here's a teensey taster . . . I hope you like it.

Hell hath no fury like a vampire seeking revenge …

Life hasn’t been exactly normal for Ellie since she became a vampire. Although joining the legion of the undead was always going to take some getting used to, even if you are the partner of Will Austen, the Elder of London.

But when Daniel, a fifteen year old fledgling vampire, unexpectedly turns up at Ellie’s and Will’s Highgate home, things start getting very strange – and more than a little scary. 

Events take a devastating turn as a mystery troublemaker leaves behind a trail of carnage – and it soon becomes clear they will stop at nothing to get the Elder’s attention, even if it involves hurting the person he cherishes most .

When it comes to Ellie, Will Austen is the wrong vampire to mess with.

"I reached out to Elinor, but she turned from me and ran away like the wind. I knew Thomas could not be far away, as the kill of the girl had been a fresh one. My one thought was for Elinor’s safety and I immediately ran after her, the cold fingers of dread clutching my heart.

     When I emerged from the mausoleum, she had already disappeared from sight. Few can rival me for speed, but I think her anger spurred her on. Feeling more fear than I have ever experienced before in my long existence, I ran in the direction I knew she had taken.

     Suddenly I heard her scream out in pain, and doubled my speed. I would tear her assailant limb from limb if he had hurt her. I reached the place where she had been – just mere seconds before – but found no-one. The peaceful scene mocked me, as I looked frantically around. How could she have disappeared so quickly?"

From Revenge is Sweet ©Berni Stevens

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Happy Birthday Choc Lit!

Yesterday, 15 June 2016, was the seventh birthday of my lovely publisher, Choc Lit  - http://www.choc-lit.com/   The celebrations online included several short stories by some of the Choc Lit authors, all with a birthday theme and a touch of romance – and even one with a very famous ghost.  (Mine). Check it out: http://blog.choc-lit.co.uk/?p=6353 

There were competitions and prizes galore. And there's still time to get along to the blog and enter a competition or two . . . there are chocolatey prizes!

So keeping with the seventh birthday theme, I decided to write about seven of my favourite books.

The first book is easy . . . no prizes for guessing which book is first. Anyone who knows me will know instantly. It is, of course, Bram Stoker's Dracula. When I first read this book, I was captivated by the immortal vampire, whilst being pretty scared by him at the same time. I was only fourteen then, but I've read the book many times since, and like any well-written work, I find something different every time. Reading the book often over the years, I'm constantly amazed at the characterisation within the novel. Bearing in mind it was published in 1897 and written a fair few years before that,  a strong female character is pretty unusual. And yet, this is what we have in Wilhemina Murray – who marries the hero Jonathan, to become Mina Harker. She's intelligent and resourceful – hardly a run-of-the-mill Victorian heroine. 

The story is told from several different points of view and laid out in a series of journal extracts, letters and postcards. Another astonishing fact is that Stoker never travelled to Romania, and of course there was no internet or Google in those days, so all his research was done at the British Museum and various libraries. Several friends I know who have made the pilgrimage to the Carpathians, the Borga Pass and Castle Bran, have all told me that Stoker's descriptions are eerily accurate, which just shows how painstaking and thorough his research must have been.

The slow build of tension within the novel is second to none, as is the feeling of unease which permeates every page. This book is a work of art, and probably the reason nobody has – yet– produced an accurate film version. The closest in my opinion has to be the BBC's 1979 version, starring Louis Jourdan and Frank Finlay, it's by far the closest to the book I've ever seen. Someone asked me the other day who my definitive Dracula would be. That's a difficult question. My first cinematic Count was Christopher Lee whom I loved in the role (even if in latter years he refused to be associated with it). But I think if anyone is intending to make a film very close to the original book, the actor in the lead role should be an unknown. Just as long as he's tall, charismatic – and very scary.

The second choice is one of my favourite children's books. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner. The above cover is the old Puffin design, and the first copy I read. I know the premise is pretty similar to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings – wizards, goblins, dwarves and a race against evil – but Garner's deft storytelling is exquisite, and the story so exciting that I always find it impossible to put the book down once I've started reading. I love Selina Place and the Morthbrood, Cadellin the wizard and Angharad Goldenhand. Although instead of  Orcs we have Svarts, and instead of hobbits we have two children, Colin and Susan. 

Interestingly, this book is set around Alderley Edge in Cheshire, and based on local legend. We visited the area a few years ago on the way back from a friend's wedding, and I was thrilled to find an old inn called The Wizard, a 'Wizard's Walk' and even the well with a wizard carved in the rock which is mentioned in the book. We were told Alan Garner's grandfather did the carving! (See below).
If you look carefully you'll see the wizard :)

The third book in my choice is actually seven books, but I'll go with the first one to save time! It is, of course the Harry Potter books by the fabulous J K Rowling.

When a friend showed me The Guardian review of this book, I immediately rushed out and bought it. I knew my son (aged nine at the time) would adore it, but I didn't realise I would too! If only I'd been a bit quicker and had managed to buy a first edition. Because of the short print run (Bloomsbury didn't think it would sell many copies, and she was an unknown author)  a first edition now fetches around £8,000! 

I was working at Penguin when they turned down J K Rowling – which was a bit like EMI turning down The Beatles. They weren't alone, however, most of the big houses turned her down. Presenting a publisher with a seven book series was very brave, but luckily her tenacity paid off.  

I think J K has been almost single handedly responsible for getting children back into reading – and a lot of adults too. I've lost count of the number of times I've spotted commuting adults reading a Harry Potter book on the tube over the years. 

But I do get heartily sick of  people banging on about The Worst Witch and how Jill Murphy got there first. You can't copyright a school in a  story and you can't copyright a witch or a wizard. Jo created a whole wizarding world, she invented Muggles, Dementors, Quidditch and the evasive golden snitch. I've read all seven books over and over and I never tire of them. That's the sign of a good book. Plus my son was one of the extras in the first film – he played a little wizard. How cool is that?

Everyone loves Heathcliff - don't they? Poor wretch of a boy, badly treated and kept dangling on a string by the manipulative Cathy. How I hated her! Selfish vain woman. No wonder Heathcliff turned out badly! I always thought Oliver Reed (in his younger days) would have made a fabulous Heathcliff, but now I'm thinking . . . Aidan Turner . . .

But I digress – I love this book. The wind-swept moors, the eerie branches scratching at the window pane . . .  just wonderful. But that Cathy . . .

I read Le Fanu's Carmilla several years after I read Dracula for the first time, but it was actually published in 1872 thus beating Stoker by 25 years. Another uneasy Gothic read. A novella which seeps into your conscience and stays around long after you've finished it. Hammer of course, tapped into the lesbian angle with their film, The Vampire Lovers (1970) starring Ingrid Pitt.

This book, the first in the Anita Blake series, was first published a little before Joss Whedon's film of Buffy the Vampire Slayer came out. It's anyone's guess who came first with the idea of a petite attractive young woman as a vampire slayer. Yet Anita isn't a schoolgirl, she's an animator and a necromancer. Killing vampires is an additional job. She's a busy girl. She raises zombies for a living.
In her spare time she helps the police solve preternatural crime whilst keeping the attentions of the Vampire Master of the City well away from her if she can. He is the gorgeous Jean Claude, all seductive midnight blue eyes and a body made for sex. Anita keeps him at bay for several books, but succumbs in The Killing Dance after seeing her werewolf boyfriend eat an enemy.

I loved most of this series until it slithered into explicit porn, the work with the police stopped - probably because Anita was too busy having sex to help them solve anything, and the series (for me) lost its charm. A friend once said Anita's bedtime antics sounded like a preternatural Partridge in a Pear Tree, as in ' three vampires, two wereleopards, two werewolves, and a werelion . . .' all in bed together! Must have been a big bed is all I can say.

A Christmas Carol. Evocative, beautiful,  and scary - with a moral. What's not to love about this classic Christmas tale. Every Christmas I watch as many versions of the film I can find . . . although I have a sneaking regard for the Muppets' version! I love Alastair Sim's Scrooge in the 1951 film. His joyful dance at finding he hasn't missed Christmas and is still alive, makes me laugh every time. 'I feel quite giddy!' And the housekeeper's terrified screech as she throws her apron over her face is a hoot too.

So there you have it, and to quote Buffy, 'If I'd known I was going to talk so long I probably would have brought some water!'

Happy Birthday Choc Lit! You rock!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Revenge is Sweet

I'm thrilled to be able to report that the sequel to Dance Until Dawn is now in edits. I don't want to give too much away, but there will be a wedding. Not just any old wedding, of course, we're talking a sumptuous vampire wedding here.

I apologise to the lovely people who have been asking about the sequel; schedules change (a lot) with most publishers. I know how it works, having worked in-house for many years. Times change, fashions change – even in fiction. Vampires pop in and out of fashion. They never go completely away, but their popularity wanes sometimes, and then suddenly they're rediscovered and back in vogue again.

An interesting fact, is that Bram Stoker's Dracula has never been out of print since it was first published in 1897. It seems the charismatic and intrinsically evil Count is never out of fashion.


Back to Revenge is Sweet ... 

The story begins in Highgate, North London, as did Dance Until Dawn

A discovery on the streets complicates Will's existence even more than Ellie's arrival did two years ago.  A teenage boy vampire. 

As the Elder of London, it is Will’s job to ensure the rules are adhered to. Turning a child or young adult is strictly forbidden, but the young vampire’s appearance is clearly the least of Will’s problems. It means there are new players in town; uninvited renegade vampires – including at least one who has no qualms about turning under-age humans. When Will's own people are targeted, all hell breaks loose. There can be no doubt that enemies are in town,  vampires who will stop at nothing to wreck Will's closely guarded secret community, and ultimately threaten his relationship with Elinor. 

Then Elinor makes a heart-breaking discovery in an upstairs room of Will's house a discovery that makes her doubt the man she loves. 

I hope this little taster will keep you going for  a while. Once I have the go-ahead from my publisher, I'll put an installment up on this blog to whet your appetites! 


Monday, 23 March 2015

One Lovely Blog Hop

I've been invited by Sue Moorcroft to join in the LOVELY BLOG HOP. The blog hop is intended to let you in on a few of the lesser-known things about my life that have helped make me who I am. 

If I haven't lost you before the end, and I hope I haven’t, you'll find some links to other blogs and writers I like. These writers have all agreed to take part hopping and blogging and just being lovely! The dates of their Blog Hops will be posted later this week.

First Memory 
My first memory is of riding a fat little pony called Rosie, whilst holidaying on the Isle of Wight. I was about three-years-old, and that pony ride started a love of horses that never went away. I remember the feel of her warm coat against my bare legs and the creak of the saddle. My parents (apparently) had a lot of trouble getting me off Rosie. There were tears, and I hung on to the pommel, saying I wanted to stay on the pony.
(I still do that!)

It was my Great Aunt who first encouraged my love of books. She gave me a picture book of horses not long after the Isle of Wight trip. Every time we visited after that, she gave me a new book. (Black Beauty was a killer to read aged six!) When my Great Aunt died, she left me her Shakespeare collection, and a beautiful old edition of A Christmas Carol, (I think) dated around 1920-something. 

As an only child I was always either reading or drawing – and writing – of course! I devoured books at an alarming rate, and as I got older, moved from Monica Dickens and Enid Blyton to the classics, and then, at about twelve years old, I discovered Agatha Christie and James Herriot. (A strange mixture). When I was fourteen, I read Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the first time, and my ‘dark side’ was awakened – much to my mother’s consternation. Anything dark and Gothic attracted me from that day forward; Sheridan Le Fanu, Polidori, Byron, Shelley … and when Wuthering Heights appeared on my GCE list for English literature, I was ecstatic.

One of my most prized possessions is a 1928 edition of Dracula, with the original dust jacket, bought for me by my lovely husband. There are quite a few copies of this edition around, but not with the dust jacket intact.

My husband soon realised he’d never afford a first edition of Dracula, signed or otherwise. (Apparently Sharon Osbourne bought a signed first edition for Ozzie, which cost about £40,000!)


I remember always wanting to be chosen for librarian duties at school. I never was. It must have scarred me, because I still remember the disappointment. I desperately wanted the enamel badge saying ‘librarian.’ In latter years when Anthony Stewart Head played a librarian and watcher in Buffy, I often wondered whether that would have been more me! (‘As I whittle a stake, I’ll whistle a jaunty tune!’)*

I adore bookshops, and the older the better. I have always loved the antiquarian bookshops in Charing Cross Road, although a lot have fallen by the wayside in recent years.

I have two favourite bookshops, the first is in Lewes, East Sussex. It’s called, rather unimaginatively, The Fifteenth Century Bookshop. It’s a beautiful, half-timbered building on the Lewes high street, and is home to many collectors’ editions and first editions. In recent years when the town suffered from flooding, the basement was flooded several times and a lot of valuable books were lost.

My second favourite bookshop is in the beautiful town of Moab in Utah, USA. Moab is our spiritual home from home, we’ve been there every year for fifteen years and are already counting the weeks until we go again this year. We had to miss our annual trip last year, which makes this year’s trip even more exciting. The bookshop is called the Back of Beyond, which says it all. Moab is situated in between the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks in the Utah desert, with the mighty Colorado River running through it. The bookshop itself has many books written by pioneers, and early explorers – even some miners looking for gold – plus a healthy mixture of mass market paperbacks, calendars and diaries. My husband would live in there if he could! As a cover designer I just love looking at the covers and the many foils, varnishes and embossing finishes they use over there (all on one book cover usually!)

What’s Your Passion?
I have a lot of passions; family, horses, cats, reading, art … but I suppose I would have to go with dance as the most obsessive passion. I started learning dance at the age of six in a North London stage school. I did ballet, tap and - modern - as it was called then. I loved it. I loved the shows – I even loved taking the exams. My Aunt used to make all my costumes, sewing on the sequins by hand. She even made me a white tutu once.

When we moved down to Sussex, there was no equivalent dance or stage school near to where we lived, so I joined first the Polegate School of Dance, and then the Eastbourne School of Ballet, neither of which I enjoyed. By this time I was twelve, and horse-riding was taking over! One ballet teacher told me I couldn’t ride horses and do ballet. So I left. A couple of years later I joined The Sussex School of Dance, which was more jazz-based, and much more me.

I gave up dance altogether when I started art college. I was running out of time, what with college, studying for a degree, horse-riding, and going to rock concerts, plus I’d just met my future husband! When we graduated from college, we moved up to London, and it wasn’t very long before I discovered the Pineapple Dance Centre. For the uninitiated, Pineapple is in a converted pineapple warehouse in Covent Garden, and was started by Debbie Moore in 1979. The moment I walked through those hallowed portals in the early 1980s, it was love at first sight (and sound). From the choreographers shouting, ‘Five, six, seven, eight!’ to the different music pulsing from every studio on every floor. The whole place rocked.

From passion to obsession really. I became a member of Pineapple, and remained a member until 2012, doing back to back Street and Jazz classes, until I began suffering with serious hip problems. Unfortunately, I had to have a big op last year, but after a year of physio, recuperation and building up to local dance classes four times a week . . . I’m thinking I might just go back to Pineapple . . . !

Hmmm, well I hated senior school. We hadn’t long moved down from London, and the transition to a tiny (and very unfriendly) Sussex village was a tough one. The other children hated me. I spoke like a Londoner. I was an outsider. I was also painfully shy – yeah I know – hard to believe isn’t it?
It didn’t help that I had cousins in the same village – all of whom had been born there. School was difficult, and I left after an argument with my father who said, ‘No daughter of mine is ever going to dance college.’ Which was swiftly followed by, ‘and no daughter of mine will ever go to art college either.’
There really was nothing else I wanted to do. Art or dance.
The fact that two of my cousins had studied art (albeit fashion design) didn’t help either.

I got a job in an office and was the most miserable I have ever been in my life. Eventually, encouraged by friends and cousins, I worked every evening to get a portfolio of work together and went for a secret interview at the art college. I was given a place and the rest, as they say, is history.

I have always loved writing. I won several competitions when I was at school, and even won a national competition for senior essay when I was fourteen. I also used to write pony stories and illustrate them (very badly) – I still have some of them somewhere. But I am very much a newbie when it comes to writing novels. Fledgling was published in the US in 2011, and I will never forget the feeling when the email came through saying it had been accepted. I read it several times and still didn’t believe it.
Since then Dance Until Dawn has been published by wonderful Choc Lit, who have also published some of my short stories.

Having always worked within the publishing industry as a book cover designer, I’m only too aware how difficult it is to get a ‘publishing deal’ and it’s even harder to have a runaway bestseller. Most authors never achieve the latter.
I was actually working at Penguin when they turned down J.K. Rowling – which really is like EMI turning down the Beatles! Here’s hoping that editor now enjoys working for Burger King – ha ha – joking.

Seriously, I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world, to be both designing book covers and writing, whilst dancing up a storm in my ‘spare time!’

*Quote by Xander from School Hard, Season Two, Buffy the Vampire Slayer – 
with thanks and apologies to Joss Whedon.

The following lovely ‘Hoppers’ will be posting their own answers to the same questions within the next week or two. I’ll be posting the dates later this week,
together with the links to their blogs.

A L I S O N   M A Y
(Alison's post will be Monday, 30th March) 

D E B B I E   F L I N T

A N N E   L .  H A R V E Y   


J U L I A   I B B O T S O N 
(Julia's post will be Wednesday, 25th March)