Monday 11 March 2013

A chat with Philip Whiteland author of Crutches for Ducks

Crutches for Ducks by Philip Whiteland
Philip Whiteland is a university lecturer and writer, and author of Steady Past Your Granny's and Crutches for Ducks.

What inspired you to write Steady Past Your Granny's and Crutches for Ducks?
I’m not sure that I was exactly inspired as such.  What started it all off was when our local Ottakar’s (as it was then) ran a competition for articles about Burton’s past.  All of the articles were to appear in a book and there would be a prize for the best article.  I wrote “The Wreck” for this.  It didn’t win but it did engender some interest, and I went on to have further articles published in Times Gone By, a local nostalgia quarterly magazine (now defunct).  When the Daily Mail ran an offer to Print Your Own Book in 2005, I gathered all of my articles to date together, wrote a few new ones, and had 20 copies of Steady Past Your Granny’s printed.  This prompted me to publish a print edition of my own, which did ok, and this eventually led to the Kindle edition which has done far better than I could ever have expected.  Crutches for Ducks is the next collection of everything I’ve written in the meantime, and there’ll be a new collection out soon called A Kick at the Pantry Door.

Can you give us an example of the nostalgic observations in your books?
I like to think that it’s not just nostalgia, which can get pretty wearing, but a combination of nostalgia and comedy that I’ve termed ‘nostagedy’ because ‘comalgia’ sounds like an unfortunate medical condition.  I’ve written about ballroom dancing at school (to be avoided), my trials and tribulations with woodworking classes, getting drunk as an adolescent and disgracing myself at Christmas and large, it’s about recalling embarrassing incidents from the past and reliving them in the hope that others will nod and think “Yes, I remember that feeling”.  It seems to work Winking smile

What reactions do you get from readers about your collections and their own memories and nostalgia?
You would have to look at the very kind reviews I’ve received.  For example, I’ve had “The author shares his memories,but in doing so,magically draws you into his tales.” and “wonderful trip back to a happy time. very funny and honest. i clearly remember the slot meters and tellies. i also recall how cosy i was with my dad's overcoat on my bed in the winter and frost on the inside of windows each morning. we were healthy, hardy, loved and very happy.” amongst many others.  I’m just pleased that my stories ring a bell with people.  It’s quite comforting to know that it isn’t just me!

Could you tell us something about your first full-length work?
Ah, you’re referring here to my one foray into humorous fiction, ‘Jambalaya’.  The story behind this is that I wrote it in 1999/2000 (which seems like a lifetime ago now), after I was made redundant from a job I’d held for 20 years.  As it was my first ever experience of being ‘between jobs’ in my working life, I decided to take the opportunity to ‘write that book I’ve always been meaning to write’ – by the way, I do not advise anyone to do this, get your next job first!  Anyway, ‘Jambalaya’ is the result.  I would probably write it in a somewhat different style if I was to revisit it now, but I still think it has some worth and some pretty funny scenes.  I had put it away in a drawer and forgotten about it, but I put an extract on my blog just out of curiosity and it was very well received, so I decided to give it a chance as a Kindle edition.  Unfortunately, it got pretty well savaged by a reviewer within a few days of publication, and has never recovered since.  I’m not sure what its future is, but we’ll see.

Do you have a favourite literary character?
There are many, but I guess my current favourite would be Commander Sam Vimes from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.  He’s very human, moral (in his own terms) and devoted to his wife and young son.

Is there a book by another author that you wish you had written?
Again, anything by Terry Pratchett.  I’ve been reading some of his short stories across his whole career, and it’s depressing to note that he was a far better writer at 17 than I am now!

What is the first book you remember reading?
Probably something by Enid Blyton.  I was addicted to her Famous Five and Secret Seven stories.  The ones that I remember being engrossed in at Junior School were the Sherlock Holmes stories.

What are you currently reading?
Oddly enough, the Complete Sherlock Holmes stories!  Wonderfully written and you can see where all the CSI etc stuff first started.

If you could only take one book with you on a desert island, which would it be?
The P..P..Penguin Patrick Campbell.  It reduced me to tears of laughter the first time I read it, and still does now.

Who would be at your dream dinner party (living or dead)?
Oh gosh!  It would be quite a crowd.  Starting with the writers, I would like Terry Pratchett, of course, Alan Coren and his daughter Victoria, Keith Waterhouse, Groucho Marx and Spike Milligan.  Also both Ronnies and Morecambe and Wise and, from the current crop of comedians, Miranda Hart, Milton Jones and Tim Vine.  I’m sure there are loads I’ve not thought of, but that would be quite a fun crowd, I think.

Visit Philip's blog.
Philip's Amazon page.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

About me

J Carmen Smith

I was brought up in the Liverpool suburbs, the youngest child in a working class family. I went to grammar school but left at the age of fifteen to start work as a typist in a Law Stationer's Office in the city centre. At the time, I promised my English teacher that one day I would take my English Language and Literature 'O' levels. I eventually kept my promise, gaining 'O' and 'A' levels while my three children were young, then a BA (Hons) in English and History when they had all flown the nest. At the age of fifty nine I graduated from The University of Liverpool with an MA in Victorian Literature.

I am now a grandmother and a group leader at my local U3A's Creative Writing and Reading groups.

Chasing Shadows is my first full-length work.

You can contact me at jcarmensmith(at) (change the (at) to @)

Here is an interview I recently did for my publisher's website:

Where do you write?
I have a small bureau in the corner of my dining room whose pigeon-holes are overflowing with scraps of paper, old diaries, half-filled notebooks etc. I’m always meaning to spend an afternoon sorting things out, but never get round to it!  The bureau is next to the window so I can look out onto the garden.

What do you find particularly interesting about the period of history your books are set in?
I find the period from the late Victorian era through to the 1950s/60s interesting because of the sense of personal connection. My grandparents were born in the late 1870s, my parents in the early 1900s and I was born just before the outbreak of World War II, so there’s that unbroken thread of oral family history.

Do you have a favourite literary character?
That’s a difficult question to answer. I’m a great fan of Dickens and love many of his characters, Florence Dombey and Little Dorrit for example, but if pressed for my very favourite, it would have to be David Copperfield – in Dickens’s own words, “I have in my heart a favourite child. And his name is DAVID COPPERFIELD.”

Is there a book by an another author that you wish you had written?
I wish I’d written Joanne Harris’s Gentlemen and Players. This was a recent book choice for my U3A reading group and we all agreed that the way the sheer evil of the main character is so casually revealed, and the twist at the end so unexpected that it was a perfect choice for discussion.

What is the first book you remember reading?
I remember walking to my local library – a mile away – with my friend, Pat, when we were both very young and we always brought home Worzel Gummidge stories.

What are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished John Lanchester’s Capital. The story is woven around the inhabitants of a London street who all receive postcards with the chilling message, ‘We want what you have’. I enjoyed the diverse cast of characters, the city financier who is expecting his annual million pound bonus; the illegal immigrant working as a traffic warden; the young African who has come to London to follow his dream of playing Premiership football; the old lady still living in the family home where she was born; the Muslim shopkeeper whose younger brother is arrested on suspected terrorism charges – it’s all there!

Which book have you always meant to get round to reading, but still not read?
Well, War and Peace was at the top of that list until a couple of years ago. I’ve now read it twice and can thoroughly recommend it. Having seen the stage musical of Les Miserables – a number of times – and the film, I would like to attempt the book to see how true the modern storyline is to Victor Hugo’s original.

If you could only take one book with you on a desert island, which would it be?
At almost one thousand pages long, it would have to be David Copperfield – and how ever many times I had to re-read it, it would probably still make me weep!

Which is the best book you have received as a gift?
Another difficult question! Even when I’ve received books as gifts, they’re usually ones I’ve specifically asked for, so they’ve all been welcomed and loved. However, Trezza Azzopardi’s The Hiding Place, was a very important gift. Trezza was a guest speaker at the first creative writing course I attended in 2000; she was just starting out on her writing career and when we spoke about my dream to write what eventually became Chasing Shadows, she gave me a copy of her first book and inscribed it with a wonderful message of encouragement that strengthened my resolve.

Who would be at your dream dinner party (living or dead)?
Charles Dickens, of course; his contemporary and friend, Wilkie Collins, whose books I also love; the Brontë sisters; Thomas Hardy – with some present-day writers for good measure, Kate Morton, because I love books with secrets, Tracy Chevalier because her stories take me, convincingly, to different countries and different centuries; and I would love to eavesdrop on Joanne Harris chatting to Charlotte Brontë after a couple of glasses of wine!

Author photo by Professional Business Photography By Geoff Beattie

A chat with Jan Moran author of Scent of Triumph

Jan Moran, author of Scent of Triumph
Jan Moran is a writer, entrepreneur, and beauty expert. She is the author of two novels, Scent of Triumph and Hostile Beauty. Her nonfiction books include the Fabulous Fragrances series.

Why did you want to become a writer?
As a child, I was an avid reader. Writers were my rock stars! Books were my passport to exotic locales and fascinating characters.

What are some of your favorite locales, objects, or activities that a reader might find in your books?
I often include my favorite locales. Paris, New York, Grasse, London, Hong Kong, and California are among my favorite places that I like to write about, and perfumery and fashion are twin passions. I’m also a strong advocate of the entrepreneurial path, especially for women.

Who are your favorite authors and books?
A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford was an early inspiration. Also love Shanghai Girls by Lisa See and The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory. And who can forget Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, or War and Peace - the best Russian soap opera ever!

Is there a message you want readers to take from your books?
Hope, triumph over adversity, appreciation of other cultures, belief in your own abilities.

What inspires your writing?
Travel always inspires me - I love to explore new cities, countries and cultures that I can share with readers. Strong female protagonists and entrepreneurs who forge their own paths to success are also a source of inspiration. Finally, I like to learn something fascinating along the way, about history, unusual careers, or interesting people.

Where did the idea come from for your books?
Most of my ideas stem from my personal experience, although my books are not autobiographical per se. But in both Scent of Triumph and Hostile Beauty you will learn about places I’ve lived and traveled (such as Paris, Beverly Hills, New York), the work I’ve done in perfume and beauty, period fashions, history, and more. I don’t like to drop designer names or labels simply for the sake of doing so, but I will when it’s germane to characterization, setting, or historical reference. I also like to include details about what it’s like to create a product, run a business, and obtain funding – key aspects of any entrepreneur’s experience. My characters are quite entrepreneurial, and I suppose that stems from my own experience as well.

Tell us about Scent of Triumph in one sentence.
Scent of Triumph is one woman’s journey, a journey filled with courage and creativity, with love
and loss, and at the heart of it all, a relentless will to survive, to triumph on her own terms.

Why is it a must read?
Scent of Triumph is a character-driven story set against a tumultuous time of history - World War II. The  protagonist, Danielle Bretancourt, is the kind of modern young woman that you really want to know, and, despite her mistakes, that you can root for. She’s a hard worker, cherishes her family, and longs for a partner. She’s wonderfully creative and has a sense of innate sense of style - even I envy her for that!

Scent of Triumph by Jan Moran

What was the inspiration behind Scent of Triumph?
Scent of Triumph was initially inspired by my love of perfumery, but the main character quickly took charge and began building a business, despite her many setbacks. I was inspired by female entrepreneurs from the early part of the twentieth century, such as Elizabeth Arden, Coco Chanel, Madame Gres, Nina Ricci, Estee Lauder, Eleanor Roosevelt, and many others in the beauty and fashion industries. Family is also vitally important in this story; Danielle’s love and devotion to her children is really the root of her ambition, as it is with many female entrepreneurs who wish to create a better life for themselves and their children. She is an ordinary woman, who achieves extraordinary things. Like any one of us can.

Is Scent of Triumph only for female readers?
Not at all! If you visit Amazon or Goodreads, you’ll see reviews from many of my male fans. Scent of Triumph resonates with both genders. Entrepreneurial struggles, family, love, and World War II are topics that both men and women can relate to.
Scent of Triumph on Amazon UK