Sunday, 28 August 2016

Q&A interview with Valerie Poore

Q&A Interview with author Valerie Poore

Author Page:

Hello Val thank you and I'm so pleased you agreed to be a guest on my blog. Please could you tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi Caryl, thank you so much for having me here! I'm honoured to be a guest on your blog, I really am. To answer your question as briefly as possible, I'm English born, but I moved to South Africa in 1981 and then to the Netherlands in 2001, so I haven't lived in England for 35 years. I've spent most of my working life writing for marketing and communications and now I teach writing skills. I write my books in my free time.

I really enjoyed reading your series of Narrowboats Adventures in Rotterdam, beginning with Watery Ways. So much so, that I've become addicted to narrowboat memoirs and read others too (and somehow managed to get myself added to a list of UK Canal Experts on Twitter! ) I've yet to read African Ways or  
How to Breed Sheep, Geese and English Eccentrics, so have those to look forward to. When did you realise that you enjoyed writing?

Oh That's a good question! I actually think I've always known it. I can remember loving writing essays at primary school and I even managed to win a couple of English composition prizes although I don't remember what I did to earn them. My parents were both very artistic and musical, but they didn't really rate writing as anything to be encouraged, so it never occurred to me to try and write seriously for myself until I was in my fortiesAll my jobs have involved writing for the companies I worked for, though, so I don't quite understand why it took me so long to work out that I could do it for myself, especially as I am an avid reader. When I was a child, if I got upset, I would threaten to leave home and take all the books with me. My family still tease me about that!

Oh that did make me laugh Val!

What attracted you to living on a narrowboat? And what aspect of that life do you enjoy the most?

Ah, Caryl, the big appeal was the idea that if I wanted to move, I could take my home with me. I'd moved so many times in my life up to the point when I saw and fell in love with barges, I realised that if I lived on one, I'd never have to 'move house' again. Well, that was the theory anyway. But I soon grew to just love the life and the best thing about it is the sense of peace you have when surrounded by gently lapping water - that and the simplicity and pared-down nature of life in a very restricted space. It's a life of few luxuries, but wonderful all the same.

I've learned via your books that there is such a lot of maintenance required to keep your boat afloat and also looking respectable enough to be moored in the Historic Harbour Oude Haven at Rotterdam. Is there a time during the year when you can have a break from this or is it pretty much ongoing throughout the year?

Oh yes, I do much less in the winter. I tend to do interior renovations when it's cold and just try and keep the exterior clean, but sometimes I have to touch things up outside, such as the mast and the teak entrance to the rear cabin. They suffer from the bad weather quite a lot. It's also a mission to keep things from going green in the damp. I generally don't succeed and have to spend a lot of time in the spring scrubbing it all off!

It must be nerve wracking to have your boat undergo one of the required inspections. How often do these take place? 

The insurance inspections have to be done every six years, but I mostly have them done after five. And yes, they are very, very nerve wracking. I've got one coming up next year now I come to think of it! But those aside, I have the Vereeniging out of the water at least every two years to have the bottom cleaned off and re-blacked. I look for any weak spots then and usually have a bit of welding done each time it's out.

What have you learned so far about the history of your boat Vereeneging (hope that name is correct?)

That's perfect spelling! Even I get it wrong's true! About the history, I'm very lucky that I know who had it built and what it was used for as the man I bought it from bought it himself from the original owners, a transport company owned by a family with the name of Mur. The Vereeniging was built in 1898 to carry goods along a fixed route from Loenen on the Vecht river (known as one of the prettiest towns in the Netherlands) to Amsterdam in one direction and to Utrecht in and beyond on the Oude Rijn river in the other direction. It was built with a specially narrow width of 3,2 metres(about 10') for a specific lock on the system, but sadly that has sort of shrunk over the years and I can't go through there anymore. Following the Vereeniging's old commercial route is a trip I'd love to do, so hopefully next year.

know that you've recently been away faring on your boat for some further adventures. Are these eventually going to be included in a new book or books? (If so, can't wait but no pressure!) 

Oh yes, we've had the must wonderful five weeks of faring this summer. I love the way you use 'faring' too. I think it's just the best word for what we do with our barges. And yes, I am writing a travelogue about it now, so I hope it will be ready by Christmas. I'm keeping everything crossed that I'll have the time to finish it once work gets going again, but I'm about half way through the first draft at the moment. I'll definitely keep you posted, Caryl.

Which books do you enjoy reading for pleasure and who are your favourite authors?

Oh good one! I read more or less everything except really gory crime fiction and erotica, but my absolute favourite reads are detective fiction and travel memoirs. I am a huge and long-time fan of Deborah Crombie's and Donna Leon's police mysteries, but more recently I've discovered and really enjoyed LM Krier's DI Darling books and also Christina James' DI Yates novels. I love Carol Hedges' Victorian murder mysteries too. They are wonderful. There are many other crime writers I like, but these have stood out because they've given me a really good puzzle to work out. On the memoirs side, I've read so many it's hard to keep track, but I love all Jo Carroll's travel memoirs.  She's an amazing person because she only started travelling, or rather backpacking, when she retired and she travels to incredible places like Nepal and Ecuador on her own. I can really recommend her books. Luckily for me, she goes off for six weeks every year and writes a book about her experiences afterwards. I don't know what I'll do if and when she stops! I wish I could mention all the other writers and memoirs I love as well, but your readers might get bored if I go on too long!

Do you have a special place to write on the boat?
No, funnily enough, I don't. I can write anywhere as long as I've got time. I often write in bed or in the train. It just depends on when I have the space to give to it. As long as I've got my laptop with me, I can write wherever I am.

If there was one place in the world that you'd choose, if you could, to go to just to write in peace, where would that be?

That's a really wonderful question, Caryl! One half of me instantly says Kwazulu Natal in South Africa, which is a country that still owns a part of my heart. However, there's a beautiful spot on the Canal de la Souchez which leads to Lens not far from Lille in northern France. We spent the night there in July and I would just love to go back there for some writing time. It is surrounded by the most beautiful trees and countryside; it feels incredibly peaceful and remote, but is really only a kilometre or so from the town of Harnes, so it's just perfect. That would be a lovely place to go and write. I'd take my home with me of course...

Thank you Val, that was really interesting. Thank you for visiting my blog today.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Q&A author interview: Denzil Meyrick

Q&A Author interview with Denzil Meyrick

Thanks for agreeing to be a guest here today Denzil. Please could you tell us a bit about yourself.

After studying politics, I joined the police, serving in Glasgow. After suffering injury, I entered the business world, eventually owning my own companies. My first novel was published in late 2012. I live with my wife on Loch Lomondside in Scotland, close to our family. My stepdaughter Rachel Kennedy is also a writer.

Your Crime Fiction novels are very popular now and I read somewhere that Nicola Sturgeon might be a fan of yours (allegedly) Can you confirm or deny this? 

I'm glad to say all four Daley novels are bestsellers both as books and ebooks. It's great to embrace new markets and technology, but nice to sell so well in bookshops too.
Nicola Sturgeon was kind enough to contact me and let me know that she's a 'huge Daley fan'. She has also tweeted her followers saying, 'If you haven't read Denzil Meyrick's DCI Daley novels, you should!' MasterChef's Gregg Wallace is another celeb fan.

Wow! So as another fan, I'm in excellent company!

I've only read the first one in the DCI Daley series Whisky from Small Glasses and I'm already hooked. When did you first discover that you could write?

I've been writing since I was young. I've worked as a freelance journalist and written advertising copy, but books were a different discipline. I had a spell of illness, during which time I wrote Whisky from Small Glasses.

Apart from editors and perhaps Beta readers, does anyone close to you, either a friend or family member, read through the first draft of your books and give their opinion?

My wife and stepdaughter both read my books before I pass them down the line. Rachel is also a writer, so it's good to have their opinions. Handy too, that my agent is a former editor and publisher with one of the big five publishing houses.

Have you ever been approached by a TV production team to have your books serialised on the small screen? All that scenery, would be a shame if they weren't. 

There is interest from film and tv companies. All very hush hush, but as I've learned in publishing, things move at a very slow pace sometimes. Fingers crossed, I'd love to see beautiful Kintyre, where the books are set, on screen.

As a former police officer, do any of your books contain any part of your own experience within the Force? 

It's a long time since I was a police officer, but I think it's advantageous in creating a realistic atmosphere. I think it's important to represent the way police officers talk and relate to each other as closely as possible.

What kind of books do you like to read and who are your favourite authors?

I don't read a lot of crime fiction now, but loved William McIllvanney and Ian Rankin. Writing crime all day, it's nice to relax with something else when I have downtime. With the books already separately published in North America, and about to be in Germany by HarperCollins, there isn't too much of that. I like sci-fi, biography and history. Love books by the late, great Iain Banks, Tom Holland, Max Hastings, etc. I've read everything from Proust to Patrick O'Brian. I have an eclectic taste in literature.

Do you have a special preferred place in your home that you use for writing.

I have to be alone when I write, so I hideaway in a room to get it done. I normally try and write between 1500-2000 words a day when I'm working on something.

If you could choose anywhere in the world that you could visit for a peaceful holiday to just spend writing, where would it be?

My ideal holiday would be the peaceful beauty of the Tuscan coast, or Kintyre, of course. If you get a chance to visit, please do. You'll love it!

I have visited the area and it is beautiful

Thank you, that was really interesting and thanks for visiting my blog today

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Book review - Whisky From Small Glasses: Denzil Meyrick

The following review will also be posted on Amazon US & UK and Goodreads

One of the #20booksofsummer on my Twitter challenge. 

 A suspenseful and atmospheric read and the first book in the DCI Daley Series.

I liked DCI Daley and his team, particularly DS Scott who achieves results in his own unique manner but has quite a chaotic personal life. DCI Daley's personal life is not without problems because his wife has a bit of a restless nature, to put it politely, with a history of cheating on her husband. Rather refreshing though not to have the main police character as a serial cheater or an alcoholic who is constantly at odds with superiors. The author is a former police officer and it shows with the accurate portrayal of police procedure.

The setting for the book is in the fictional town of Kinloch, which sounds like a beautiful, picturesque but isolated village on the West Coast of Scotland. The locals are quite insular, gossipy and know everyone and everyone's business it seems. I'm familiar with that part of Scotland having spent many holidays in the area and such were the beautifully written, vivid descriptions of the weather, flora and fauna that I was taken right back there and could even smell the ocean. Ahhhhh *sigh*

Where was I? Oh yes:

The body of a young girl is washed up on the shoreline. Many theories, gossip and a few red herrings emerge making it harder for DCI Daley's investigation team drafted in from Glasgow to investigate the crime. More crimes and tragedy strike the community leaving the team seriously under fire from 'above' to find the culprits. There are dangerous heart-stopping moments where you can guess what might happen, but of course are powerless to prevent What Might Happen Next!!!

I found the book hard to put down. Loved the dark humour prevalent within the investigative team's banter and I'm sure the characters will develop further in subsequent books. Have already downloaded the next one to read. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Book review - How to be Brave: Louise Beech

Review also posted in Amazon US & UK and Goodreads.

A beautiful and inspiring semi-autobiographical tale of the real life struggles faced by members of a family separated by time and three generations who somehow and utterly believably manage to cross through the divides of time to console each other during a time of great crisis in each of their lives.

Rose, a young girl aged nine, is suddenly struck with a life-threatening and life changing illness and finds it very difficult to cope with the changes in her life that will be necessary to maintain her survival. Her mother uses the diary, newspaper accounts and her own imagination to tell the story of her great grandfather's tale of survival at sea on a lifeboat during WW2 to make the vital medical procedures a bit easier to bear, stretching the story out into segments and telling it bit by bit.

I'm not usually a fan of novels that jump back and forth between two different time periods but this book was exceptional and time transistions were smooth and seamless and I was equally fascinated and captivated by both the present day narrative of survival and the one from the past.
This book is one that will stay with me in my memory. Really exceptional writing. 5*

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Guest Reviewer Julie Haigh reviews Mighty by Matt Crofton

Guest Reviewer Julie Haigh reviews Mighty by Matt Crofton

(*****Five Stars) One of the best books I've read in ages!, 10 Jun. 2016
By Julie Haigh
I received a free ecopy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wow, this was a great memoir! In 2010, the author was given just 48 hours to live. He made it through everything and wanted to say thanks and give others hope by setting himself a challenge: he took up paddle boarding and vowed to become the first person to paddle the length of the Mississippi River. The book has a quick and snappy start and takes no time at all before you’re hooked on reading it. This memoir is about triumphing over everything and seeing how precious life is when you've nearly lost it. He was just 36 when he nearly died.

The Mississippi is known as the Mighty-so that's the significance of the book title (I didn’t know that before reading this book.) He intends to travel ‘The Mighty’ and the end of his destination will be New Orleans. On a Stand Up Paddle Board. This will be an approximately 2,400 mile journey. At this time he's only been walking on his own for eight months after his ordeal. He had spent two months fighting for his life, it had been months before he could walk again. He found ill-health so hard to come to terms with. I was intrigued as to what 'the incident' might be-and the 'innocent mistake' which had put him in hospital. With regard to his proposed challenging trip, I was thinking: why is he doing this? He's not fully fit yet! This is just the sort of book to inspire and lift. He had come so close to losing his life. He wants to say thank you and 'pay it forward' as he says.

Achievements before for him include travelling the country on a motorcycle. He also lived on a sailboat in the Pacific Ocean. This is a memoir of inspiration, hope, travel and adventure. I was thinking that I'd like to hear what lead up to his illnesses and fight for life-the medical side. I was hoping this would be covered in the book-it was! This was a really interesting and different read for me. An amazing memoir.

I don't know anything about sailing/surfing/paddle boarding etc. but I LOVED this-it was so varied-we have the medical stuff, the travel, emotions, I learned lots of things-a wonderful read! So wise, brave, inspiring. Would his Old faithful paddleboard survive the trip? You're kept guessing a bit. It really is a very good book. I enjoyed reading about the people who invite him to eat with them, eat out with them, and give him food and supplies to help him on. There were many good Samaritans out there and it was amazing the generosity he was shown.

I thought this memoir sounded interesting when I read the blurb.....but I was blown away by it! It was amazing! He kept a journal, he was writing this book as he went on his trip. He writes with so much tenderness about meeting Suzie and spending time with her. Contrast this with tension, action, adventure and there's so much variety in here. One of the best books I've read in ages! Wonderful!