Saturday, 17 March 2018

#Saturday Shorts – with #Sue Barnard

It's #Saturday Shorts time! 

Today, we get a brief glimpse of Sue Barnard, a fellow Crooked Cat author. We've now been virtual friends for about five years, but I'm delighted to say I've also met Sue in person. Always willing to share her knowledge, Sue is also a brilliant writer, editor and general helper in all things writerly!

Good morning, Sue, and welcome again to my blog. Slip onto that comfy chair and let's get some updates on you and your writing...

Describe yourself in a couple of sentences

I’m a British novelist, poet and editor, and the mother of two grown-up sons. I live in Cheshire with my extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.

When is your best time to write?
Afternoons.  Mornings are usually spent catching up on other tasks, and by evening my brain has gone on strike.  But I always keep a pen and paper handy, just in case I get a light-bulb moment when I’m away from my computer.

 Nancy says: That sounds so organised! (* wink, wink- and what every author ought to do! But do I remember?)

Which social media platforms do you find most comfortable to use?
Facebook and (to a lesser extent) Instagram.  I’m gradually getting better with Twitter, but I still find it a struggle.  Some writers swear by it, but I usually end up swearing at it.
Sue Barnard

Nancy: I've not yet joined Instagram but don't count out any social media options. Twitter and I don't get anything at all! 

Please tell us what your latest book is about and its genre.
Heathcliff (due out later in 2018) is a Wuthering Heights spin-off novella which speculates what might have happened to literature’s favourite anti-hero during the three years when he disappears from the original story.  I’ve no idea what genre it falls into (if any!). 

Nancy: That definitely sounds like one I'll love reading. 

Did anything in particular influence you to write it?
It all began with a chance remark from a former school friend:

“Sue, I love the way you’ve based your book on what we did at school.  What are you going to do next?”

We were chatting just after the release of my third novel, The Unkindest Cut of All, which features a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.  This was the play we’d studied for English Literature O-Level (as it then was, back in the dark ages before GCSEs).  The novel set for the same exam was Wuthering Heights.

“Well,” I chuckled, “there’s always Heathcliff…”

At the time, it was just a passing joke between two friends who recalled crying on each other’s shoulders as we’d struggled to make sense of the vagaries of the plot, tried (and mostly failed) to decipher Joseph’s incomprehensible dialect, and attempted to understand the book’s complicated inter-personal relationships.  The latter was not made any easier by the characters’ confusing similarity of names.  Emily Brontë had clearly never read the rule-book about this.  Three of the characters have names beginning with the same initial, one of them has a first name which is the same as the surname of another, and two others have the same name entirely!

But somehow, the idea just wouldn’t go away.  I recalled how our teacher explained how “… by having the story narrated by Nelly Dean, Emily Brontë avoids having to tell us exactly what happened to Heathcliff during those missing three years…”

So – what might have happened to him?  Could I try to get into his mind, and write a story which attempts to answer that question?

 Nancy: That's a fabulous reason. 

Did it require any specialised research?
Yes, very much so.  The whole thing proved to be quite a challenge, as the dates in Wuthering Heights are very precise.  Heathcliff disappears from 1780 to 1783.  My first idea was that he could have spent his missing years as a pirate (which would certainly be in keeping with his character!), but I quickly discovered when I started my research that the golden age of piracy was several decades too early.  Then I wondered if perhaps he could have made his fortune in the American or Australian goldrush, but the goldrush years were not until the mid-1800s.  Eventually I did find something which fitted with the correct dates, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what that was!

 Nancy: That's such a tease but I will! 

Who is your main character?
Heathcliff.  Yes, that is THE Heathcliff.

What’s your Heathcliff's greatest weakness?
An inability to forgive those who have hurt him.

What’s your Heathcliff’s greatest strength/s?
I think he has an amazing capacity for love.  It is tragic that this is never fulfilled.

You're an editor for other authors, but do you enjoy editing your own work?

What’s your favourite occupation? (apart from writing!)
I love reading.  As a book editor I’m never short of stuff to read!

Do you have a favourite place to ‘hide’ out from life?
I love the Isle of Anglesey, and go there as often as time permits.  In fact my fourth novel (Never on Saturday) is set partly on the island.

Favourite food and drink?
Where do I start?  It would be much easier and quicker to list what I don’t like!  But if I have to nominate just one of each, then the food would have to be fish, and the drink would be beer.  And it must be a pint.  Halves are for wimps.

Nancy: Spoken like a beer aficionado! I'm drinking an occasional beer since my son-in-law set up Fierce Beer Co with a fellow beer enthusiast. They're too busy creating it to be drinking themselves but I'm enjoying their brilliant combinations of Craft beers.  

Links for Sue's work 
I don’t have a link for Heathcliff yet.  Other books can be found on my Amazon page (see below).

Contact Sue here: 

Blog   Facebook   G+   Twitter   Instagram   Amazon  Goodreads  

Thank you for popping in today, Sue. I'm definitely looking forward to reading Heathcliff. Best wishes for all of your writing projects.


Friday, 16 March 2018

# Someone to #Lean on- #Dougie MacLean

Friday means it's time to give those supporting secondary characters a bit of the limelight!

Today, I'm joined by my lovely Crooked Cat author friend, Yvonne Marjot, who has chosen a really brilliant character from her wonderful novel Walking on Wild Air. Dougie MacLean is a character to easily pin your heart on, but I'll let Yvonne tell you more about him. 

(You can also find more about Yvonne's previous visits to this blog by using the 'Search' facility on the right sidebar to access my review and posts where Yvonne Marjot has been my guest.) 

Welcome again, Yvonne! It's lovely to be reacquainted with Dougie...

Glencoe by Angus Stewart (see below)
There is Magic in the Heart of the Wind…
Today I’d like to talk about Dougie MacLean, supporting man from Walking on Wild Air, my paranormal romance set on a mysterious and beautiful island in the Scottish Hebrides.
It’s hard for me to think about Dougie as a supporting character, he’s so real and vibrant in his own right. I have a strong picture in my mind of what he looks like – Gerard Butler crossed with Douglas Henshall, with a touch of the young Peter Capaldi. But more than anything, he is based on my own partner, who died before he had a chance to read the final, published book. Mark always supported my writing, and believed in me long before I had the courage to start sending my books out into the world. Walking on Wild Air is dedicated to him: like Dougie MacLean he inhabits his own island hilltop, wild as the wind and free from all pain.
At the beginning of Walking on Wild Air Sushila Mackenzie, part Scottish and part Sri Lankan, lands on the island – her childhood home – looking for the right place to scatter her father’s ashes. She’s lonely, hurting, and very defensive. That last thing she’s looking for is a man.
But when she gets lost on the hill, as the mist comes down, a local shepherd and his dog come to her rescue and she falls under Dougie’s spell. Scotland’s misty hills are full of legends and strange tales, and Dougie has walked straight out of one and into her life, turning everything she thought she knew upside-down.
He’s a charming rogue, a dependable friend, an attractive older man, with a surprisingly naïve and open outlook on life. Sometimes he seems like a creature out of legend, a man of the distant past – and at others as modern and enlightened as Sushila herself. He might be just what she needs to heal her wounded spirit. But the discovery of who – and what – he is could break her, heart and soul.
At the summit of a bare hill, on a quiet island in the bleak west of the world, a storm was brewing. Lightning flickered and dark clouds glowered over the hilltop, their rain-heavy bases lit from within by sullen flashes.
Courtesy of Yvonne Marjot
A bolt split the sky and the rain sheeted down, half hiding the ground with its jumbled boulders and sparse coating of grasses. For a moment the scene flickered, like a jerky film noir, and then a figure could be seen on the hilltop, curled up in the foetal position, unmoving.
Thunder cracked overhead and the man raised his head, hauling his body wearily after it. He climbed to his feet and pressed them against the ground, as if testing its ability to hold him. On one buttock there was a red mark, where a rock had pressed into his side, but as he stood in the rain the mark bruised and faded, leaving no trace.
He squared his shoulders against the deluge as the clouds roiled overhead. A great shaft of lightning hit the hilltop precisely at his position, limning his figure for an instant in a halo of blue and white. He looked down at his fists, unclenched them and regarded his hands as if seeing them for the first time. He put his head back, staring upward as the rain poured over his face, drew in a deep, shuddering breath, and howled a cry of pure anguish.

Yvonne Marjot

Yvonne Marjot lives on an island off the west coast of Scotland. She has been writing stories and poems for as long as she can remember, and once won a crate of port in a poetry competition. You can follow her work at
or by following 

To Buy Yvonne's novel CLICK 

Thank you for bringing Dougie today, Yvonne. It makes me want to go back and re read Walking On Wild Air, which I do doubt will sometime in the future! As always, my very best wishes with it and with current and future writing.


Monday, 12 March 2018

#10 #Monday Meanders with Joan Livingston

Good Morning Monday!

It's time for some more #meandering, this time to Massachusetts, USA. Today, I welcome a new Crooked Cat Books author friend, Joan Livingston, who has kindly popped in to tell us about places she loves to stroll around-physically and in her writing!

Although I have been to some small towns in the US, I've never been to the area that Joan's mentioning today.

Joan Livingstone
Please get comfy, Joan, and tell us about your kind of meandering...

Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts
I am a big fan of small towns, I mean really small towns of 2,000 people or fewer, the smaller the better. Yes, I’ve lived in cities, but I want to be in a place where I can easily know who lives there with me — for better or worse.

I tend to read books set in small towns. I write about them as well. Actually, most of my novels are set in a fictional hilltown called Conwell, including my mysteries series featuring Isabel Long. The first mystery, Chasing the Case, will launch May 18 to be followed by Redneck’s Revenge in the fall. Currently, I am working on the third, Checking the Traps.

There is no such town called Conwell in Western Massachusetts although I will admit the name has significance to the town of Worthington, where my family and I lived for over two decades. Russell H. Conwell, who was born there, founded Temple University in Philadelphia. He was a whole lot of things like a minister, orator (his most famous speech is called Acres of Diamonds), philanthropist, and more. The elementary school my kids attended was named for him.
Corners Grocery, Worthington MA  -Wikimedia Commons 

But Conwell is not Worthington although there are similarities. Both have one general store, one church, one school, one stoplight, and one bar. Forests cover most of the town, and it’s a bit of a hilly commute to a city. There’s a constant stream of newcomers seeking the good life in the country. And, as I’ve written, people can be nosy and helpful. Yes, there are feuds. And lots of dirt roads that get muddy in the spring.

As I like to say, I take what I know and have my way with it.

I feel I can get easily drop a mystery in Conwell and the other fictional hilltowns I’ve created for my series. I’ve got to give Isabel Long something to do after she got canned by the newspaper where she was the managing editor. So she decides to solve a 28-year-old mystery of a woman disappearing in her town. Did anything like that ever happen? Nah.

It’s been easy to create such a town as a setting for my novels. I became immersed in the hilltowns when I reported on them for many years for the local daily newspaper. I remained interested after that ended. The hilltowns, its people and landscape were still a part of me when we moved 2,400 miles away to Northern New Mexico. After 11 years, we’ve returned to another town in Massachusetts. Didn’t I say I like small towns?

Nancy says: I love mysteries so I really think I'll be enjoying yours soon! 

My mystery, Chasing the Case, published by Crooked Cat Books, is set for a May 18 launch.

Readers can pre-order the Kindle version here:
Amazon US
Amazon UK).

The paperback version should be out soon.

My website:

Thank you, Nancy, for this opportunity to be a guest on your blog.

You're very welcome, Joan. Come back soon. Best wishes with you launch and happy writing!