It's a Wonderful Life…

…isn't it…?

Interviewing Dan Clews July 1, 2012

Once again, lovely readers, I have a fantastic blog guest for you! I interviewed Dan Clews to give you all an insight into the artist before he performs at the New to This Solar System event next Friday.  Dan is donating his time and his musical talent to help raise funds for Breast Cancer Care at the Sevenoaks Music Festival event. For anyone that wants to see Dan (or any of my other New to This Solar System guests) in action; I’ve been told there are still tickets available.

Dan tells me that his day job, fortunately, largely revolves around: playing music, teaching music and recording music. He also mentions that he sells the odd Christmas tree [I, for one, will be asking him more about this on the night]. Dan has always been surrounded by music as his father is also a musician and he tells me it was a natural progression for him to follow that path too. When I ask if he has any other creative outlets, Dan tells me that he has a huge interest in music videos.

Q. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Dan! So, tell us, who are your musical inspirations?

A. Paul Simon, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan did I mention Paul Simon?

Q. What is your mission as an artist?

A. To play music that makes people feel like they’re not alone.

Q. Have you had any set backs in getting where you wanted to be?

A. Always, it’s not for the faint hearted, but I love what I do.

Q. Is there anyone in particular that inspires you or gives you great advice to get where you want to be?

A. My wife and my son – always.

Q.  Are there any especially memorable gigs you have played?

A. I’ve done Local & Live in Tunbridge Wells and I also played on the Arctic Circle once.

Q. Have you played at any particularly outstanding venues?

A. Definitely: playing at the Hammersmith Apollo and the Shepherd’s Bush Empire were real highligh

ts for me.

Q. I’m sure my readers would love to know about someone amazing you have performed with?

A. I recently played a duet with Tim Minchin in front on 5,500 people! That was pretty amazing!

Q. Do you have any future developments my readers might like to know about?

A. Well, there’s the Secret Garden Party on the 21st of July, Local and Live 2012 on the 25th of August, Over The Moon Festival on the 16th of September. Plus, as of recently, people can also find me on iTunes!!

Q. How did you end up involved in New to This Solar System and fundraising for Breast Cancer Care?

A. I believe Cancer is personal to everyone: I don’t know any adult that’s not been affected by it in some way. I met Steph at one of my gigs and we got chatting about her events. I’ve lived in Sevenoaks most of my life

Thanks, again, Dan for taking the time to answer my questions: I’m sure my readers are now all looking forward to seeing you in action at New to This Solar System on the 6thJuly – and so am I!

 

Craig Hallam on the Perils of Becoming An Author – Part 2 June 13, 2012

Filed under: Books,Writing — leatierney @ 6:37 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Thanks to all of you who took the time to read Craig’s guest post last week: I’m sure you weren’t disappointed! Here you can find the rest of what Craig has to say about his journey to becoming an author with Inspired Quill:

At some point in this process, somewhere around the start of Haven, I had the funkiest cheese-induced nightmare of my life to date. It rattled me. I woke in the dark feeling utterly weird and a little sick, and immediately grabbed for a pen and paper. Sat in the dark, using the screen of my mobile phone as a light, I doodled, scribbled, put lots of question marks and eventually stopped to look at what I’d done. An image of an ancient sewer system, a group of deformed misfits walked the dark passageways, slurry and stench all around them, and the biggest of the group was carrying something. A machine. Something like a sarcophagus made of brass, filled with a strange blue fluid that gave off its own light, and there was a girl inside.

            That dream had such a profound effect that I toyed with it for quite some time. Who were they? Why were they in the sewer? And who was the girl trapped in the strange contraption? It became a bit of a favourite obsession, trying to figure out how those characters could have ever got into such an odd situation. And, over the years, that cheese-dream became Greaveburn.

            When I started to write Greaveburn, maybe four years ago, I still had a lot to learn. Hell, I still do. But there was something in that idea that I couldn’t put down. It was a nagging, gnawing, incredibly annoying idea that kept haunting me. Writing that novel has been the longest exorcism performed in human history. But, eventually, it was done. I took creative writing courses, finished my degree in Nursing, started another in English, fell in and out of love a couple of times, ate, slept, played too many video games and read even more books, and throughout all that, Greaveburn was a constant presence.

At some point, I broke out into short stories, got my first few publications and nearly passed out from excitement. Someone somewhere was liking what I was doing. That was a novel (excuse the pun) concept that I’d never considered. What if people actually enjoyed reading my junk? My new goal seemed clear. Now, it wasn’t just to write. It had evolved but was still blindingly simple:

Get a book on a shelf.

            That is, any shelf, any shop, even my own study. But book and shelf had to happen. And I thought I knew exactly how to do that. Finish Greaveburn. Make it awesome.  Get it published.

            Oh so simple, and oh so hard.

But five drafts later, Greaveburn was done. Finished. And the pile of paper sat on my desk, looking back at me.

“Well? Now what do we do?” It seemed to ask.

Well, I had no idea. And so I went back to my reference books. I made lists. I used Post-its and white boards and dry wipe markers. And eventually I had a plan. Greaveburn was hitting the road. I took the first few chapters, packed them some sandwiches into a hanky on a stick and booted it out the door, telling it not to come back without an acceptance in its pocket.

It came back.

A lot.

The rejection slips seemed to come through the letter box in flurries. I had to stand a shovel by the door just so I could get by. Over the course of a year or so, Greaveburn hit more desks than was decent and bounced back from an equal number. I was getting exasperated and downtrodden. To soothe myself, I put together my short stories into a collection and made them work the streets in the form of Not Before Bed. That passed the time and the feedback helped to stop myself from checking the light fittings for tensile strength. But in the end, there seemed no hope. As with anyone in these kind of life-changing dilemmas, I went to Twitter and pleaded for help from all the lovely people there. And, blow me! I got a message from a publisher by the name of Inspired Quill who were open for submissions. I’m surprised the paper didn’t combust with the speed I packed those three chapters into an envelope and sent them off. Something felt just a little different about this one. I told myself that this would be the last time I sent Greaveburn out. The very last. I had other projects to work on, ones that might fare better in the publishing world. I would concentrate on them and chalk Greaveburn up to experience.

That is, until the damned thing came back with a lovely little letter saying that Inspired Quill wanted to read the rest. All of it. This was the furthest I’d ever got. My faith in humanity was reaffirmed. And, luck of all luck, IQ liked it. Someone had read my novel and thought it was pretty damn good, thankyaverymuch.

Not even my excessive verbosity can describe the sounds I made that day. They were bestial, there was elated cursing, and all in a Yorkshire accent. Not pretty, my friends, not pretty at all. But I’d done it.

Contracts signed.

Muchos thanks to whatever Gods were on duty that day.

Queue sitting back in my smoking jacket and swirling sherry while making egotistical fnar fnar noises.

That was November last year, fourteen years after I first put pen to paper, four years after I started writing in any earnest. A long, hard, uphill slog. And it’s been bloody fantastic; the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

But that’s all irrelevant. A warm up. A starter for ten.

Now the work really starts. Greaveburn (my own book! A-woo-hoo!) hits the shelves in August. I get to meet people who’ve read it, talk about it, swirl my sherry and pretend I know what I’m talking about when people ask me what it’s about. I get to meet Steampunks at conventions, strangers at signings, beg people to buy it…and try to ignore bad reviews. Getting to the top of that uphill slog, I realise that I can’t hoist the flag just yet. It seems this is just a hump in the foothills, and there’s a whole mountain range beyond that with my name on it.

Shoulder that backpack, tighten the bootlaces, adjust my bobble-hat.

There’s climbing to be done.

If you would like to keep abreast of Craig’s progress with Greaveburn or just want to see his amazing Steam Punk costume for the book launch you can find him in these places:

Join the Facebook fan page – http://www.facebook.com/CraigHallamAuthor

Follow him on Twitter – @craighallam84

Subscribe to his blog – http://craighallam.wordpress.com/

 

Craig Hallam on the perils of becoming an author June 9, 2012

Filed under: Writing — leatierney @ 6:41 pm
Tags: , , , ,

As many of you may already be aware I have recently managed to bag myself a marketing internship with Inspired Quill publishers. I should insert drum roll here as I announce, very proudly, that I am the marketing intern assigned to Craig Hallam. What excites me so much about working with Craig? Firstly there’s the author himself and secondly there’s novel he’s launching at the end of the summer. Whilst Craig and I haven’t yet met in person there’s a good deal one can learn about a person from their writing (as you would figure when working with writers). His enthusiasm for his book launch and his excitement about having someone to share it with is infectious and he has offered me up a good many of his own ideas on what might be a different way to promote his book. Craig will be appearing at the Steam Punk Convention in September – in full steam punk attire. So, what’s so exciting about his book? Well, until I was introduced to Craig I knew nothing of the steam punk aesthetic as it applies to literature and have found myself very excited about the possibilities for creative promotion and for gaining a diverse audience. The novel Greaveburn is due to be Craig’s first ever published novel. Now I will stand aside and allow Craig to tell you himself about how he got to this stage *ENTER CRAIG*

I’m not sure when it started, or if it’s been there all along. I certainly can’t remember a time when my goal in life wasn’t to write. I certainly started putting pen to paper at an early age, even going so far as to start writing my first novel when I was fourteen. If you’re interested, it was about a jester called Malcolm and his talking funny-stick, saving a seaside town from impending doom at the hands of a Kraken. There was something to do with a giant tuning fork on the cliff tops that he had to ring in order to lull the leviathan to sleep again. That little project got to about four pages long before I gave up.

            But it was a start, if not a good one.

            I’ve always been an avid reader, and far more interested in the worlds that could be created rather than the one I was living in. My geography teacher once noted to my mother at parents’ evening that I wasn’t particularly interested in how a volcano might be formed, but more what it would be like to actually be there. That about sums up my formal education in a nutshell.

            Suffice to say, I always loved the creative writing aspects of English as a subject, and wasn’t really bothered about the literary commentary. My teachers must have hated me. My creative writing homework was always a couple of thousand words over the limit, for example. I remember having an argument with my GCSE teacher about whether I meant ‘permeated’ of ‘perforated’ in a piece of work. It was the latter. But we argued for about fifteen minutes before she demanded I change it. Now I think about it, that was probably my first interaction with an editor. Kooky.

            But the writing took a back seat. I grew up (only a little bit) and realised that there was no money to be made in writing for a sixteen year old, and my friends all had jobs and hence had fun. I had to get one of those pesky things, too. Long story short, I got a job as a Nursing Assistant which led me into studying Nursing at University. But even throughout that, the writing bug still nibbled at my brain. And somewhere in that course of studying Biology and Sociology and any other Ologies they threw at us, I started writing my first novel. Really this time.

            That book became known as Beyond Tor, and was the greatest learning experience in my life. My first lesson…that I was crap. The book was terrible. It still skulks on my hard drive, but it’ll never see the light of day. However, by the end of that novel, not only had I proven to myself that I could write a novel, but the ending was noticeably better than the start. That meant I could get better, too. And so there came a sequel, Haven. And that was a lot better, albeit still a fair bit of a work in progress. By this point, I was determined to write something good. And so I ingested books about writing. After three or four, I realised that they all said pretty much the same thing and went back to the first one. Until I read Stephen King’s On Writing, which I won’t bash on about, but was a great eye opener. Not only did it chronicle the progress of one of my favourite authors but, as it turns out, he was pretty rubbish when started out, too. He even thought his first book was terrible and threw it away (That was Carrie, by the way). While Beyond Tor was no Carrie, I was given a little hope.

Thanks so much for reading. You can read more of Craig’s journey here next week. Please do feel free to post any questions for the author in the comments box below 🙂

http://craighallam.wordpress.com/

 

 

Discovering the author: Susan Lewis April 29, 2012

Filed under: Writing — leatierney @ 9:01 am
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Q. So, how did you get started in writing?

A. My Dad was passionate about both reading and writing. My Dad was writing and trying to get published while I was growing up. I was working at Thames Television on The Bill as a production assistant. I went and enquired as to what I would need to do to be able to become a producer and the answer I received was “you need to write”. It wasn’t instant success as my first book was never published. I wrote a children’s book that went horribly wrong when it came to being published but was a fantastic learning experience: it was all part of the process of becoming a writer. Sometimes I feel that my best writing almost happens in spite of me rather than because of me. Eventually an agent asked if I would like to meet: so I went and bought myself a hat. I met the agent and then – I took my hat off – and started to write. I usually start with an idea of what the story is going to be and see where it takes me: I like the characters to tell me where they would like to go. I realise I speak about them as if they have their own life which comes across a bit odd.

Q. So what does Susan Lewis like to read?

A. Jodi Picoult, Susan Harwich. I’ll happily purchase a book by what I’ve read in the blurb. My thoughts about the kindle is that you don’t get that same experience: you can’t see a cover or who the author is so I have been known to read something and not know who it is I’ve been reading!  I’ve taken inspiration from the Poisonwood Bible and Sweet Francais. The latter was actually the inspiration for my novel The French Affair.

Q. So how did your family react to your memoirs?

A.  Well, the two main characters – my Mum and Dad- had already passed by then but my brother has chosen not read it at all. I think he would really feel the loss at the end of Just One More Day.

Q. In the second of your memoirs you have written from the male perspective – how hard was this for you?

A. I was fortunate that I got to know my Dad for a lot longer. As Dad wrote so much, an awful lot of what is in the book he really wrote himself: I just adapted it to fit into my writing. Dad did his best to keep us all together at a time when men would have fielded children out to aunts and grandparents. Writing from his perspective made me relive everything that I had put my dad through after Mum died: He really didn’t know what to do with such a hellish teenage girl. In fact, when I asked Steph to read it I actually said “I hope you still like me after reading it”. I am now a supporter of Winston’s Wish as they help support in times of child bereavement: who knows how things would have turned out if they had been around when I lost Mum.


When a member of the audience introduces themselves as a member of Sevenoaks writing group Susan very affably offers to “come along to your writers group sometime, for a chat, if you would like?” She then goes on to display how down to earth she is by saying that as she had gotten older she doesn’t hold ideas and details in her head like she used to. She tells us how she ran a competition on Face book for the winner to get their name used as a character’s name in one of her texts. Susan tells us how she had completely forgotten about this until the winner contacted her: there had been a vital component of the novel missing until this woman got in touch and then her character led the novel along. Susan explains how writing, for her, is much like being a sort of medium as she is taken over by the characters. When Susan wrote in her mother’s “voice” she felt as though her mother had taken hold of her fingers and had written those parts herself.

Steph then gave Susan a much earned break by announcing the start of the raffle and auction. There were some truly outstanding prizes on offer including a Jimmy Choo handbag donated by the author herself, a Chamilia bracelet with a B.C.C charm, a basket of goodies from Maisy K, A photo shoot with Catherine Hill Photography, a set of GHD straighteners and a voucher for a cut and blow dry with Matthew Cross, a one hour full body massage in the comfort of the winner’s own home, a mini car donated by Mini, a Pink Pandora Bracelet and an Amber Necklace. Overall this event raised approximately £3000 for Breast Cancer Care: a hugely successful event – congratulations to all involved!

Susan’s 28th novel No Child of Mine will be released on July 5th.

 

In Conversation with Susan Lewis in aid of Breast Cancer Care April 27, 2012

Apologies for the delayed post loyal readers, I know I promised I would post my coverage of this event on Sunday but I was whisked away for a lovely short break (more on this later).

On Friday 20th April I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the above mentioned event. As many of you know, my sense of direction leaves somewhat to be desired so I was not relishing trying to find the venue hosting this event. Luckily for me, one of the contributors to the fundraising raffle was kind enough to suggest we car share and go along together: unluckily for her the beautiful arrangement she had prepared for the auction [see here for examples of her work: [http://www.vintagefloraldesign.co.uk ] did not survive the emergency braking she had to do when a kamikaze cat leapt in front of her car up the narrow country lane which I live. The cat survived though so – technically – she’s a hero; well done Gwenda at the Vintage Floral Design Company.

Entering the car park of Tonbridge School several minutes later than planned we were both rather in awe of the grandeur of the venue: Tonbridge School is distinctly unlike any school I’ve ever been to – excellent choice of venue Steph and congratulations to you for being able to secure it for your event. Following the sign posts (a school with sign posts in the grounds?!) we found the E.M Forster theatre and the huge crowd that had gathered to learn a little bit more about the author Susan Lewis and to help raise funds for Breast Cancer Care. Trays and trays of canapés and gorgeous pink ribbon cupcakes were laid out for guests to enjoy; along with glasses of champagne. Waiting in the reception I had a good look round at all the other guests; male, female, young and old were all gathered and then I spotted the author herself. I was immediately struck by how glamorous Susan looked and how down to earth her demeanour was.

Guests were all then guided to the auditorium for the evening’s presentation, question and answer session; and the much anticipated raffle and auction.  The evening kicked off with a brief overview of the need for charities such as Breast Cancer Care. The aim of this organisation is to get the best possible support and information for anyone affected by cancer. It was also strongly emphasised that this charity is not just for women: two out of every twenty people diagnosed with Breast Cancer are, in fact, men.  An acknowledgement of thanks was given to:

Tonbridge School for kindly hosting the event

http://www.tonbridge-school.co.uk/hire/

Random House publishers:

www.randomhouse.com/

PR Louise Page for introducing Steph and Susan to one another and for always being a support to Steph in planning such events:

lcampbell@randomhouse.co.uk

Amanda Watters at the Goody Bag Company for providing the goody bags for guests:

http://www.goodybag.org.uk/

Choccywoccydooadah for providing a masterpiece of a cake for auction:

www.choccywoccydoodah.com/

Catherine Glazebrook for being a photographer with a smile and for auctioning her services:

http://www.catherinehillphotography.co.uk/

Louise Hudson for providing the cupcakes – even though she was called by accident

The Pink Power Ladies for being a team and for being true friends at the same time

Lynn, Lisa and Chloe at Breast Cancer Care for not being driven absolutely mad by constant calls about event planning.

The evening progressed smoothly into the “In Conversation with” and to help you all get to know the author a bit better I have tried to transcribe as much of the Q&A as possible for you: as this is fairly lengthy it will be included in a second post. It’s great to get to know the author behind the books and a really enjoyable evening was had by all.

 

In Conversation About April 16, 2012

Filed under: Being unfit — leatierney @ 6:27 pm
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Steph Harrison is a Sevenoaks, Kent, resident whose mission in life is to organise events that raise awareness of and funds for, Breast Cancer Care. Steph very kindly agreed to meet with me and answer a few questions relating to her up and coming event “In Conversation With” and book signing event with Sunday Times bestselling author Susan Lewis in aid of Breast Cancer Care. Susan is the writer of twenty seven novels and two volumes of the memoir: Just One More Day and One Day At A Time. Steph has also very kindly brought along a lovely goody bag for me (I LOVE presents!).

Here is a little bit of my conversation with the organiser of “In Conversation With”.

Q: I already know a little bit about your motivation in fundraising for Breast Cancer Care but I think it’s important for my readers to understand the background behind this if you wouldn’t mind?

A: No, not at all. My reason behind supporting Breast Cancer Care is that the charity were such a support to me when I was diagnosed [Steph is back fighting fit now, thankfully] and I found that there was no other organisation like them in terms of the provision of information and support after diagnosis. I truly felt that they cared for me and they were always at the other end of a phone when I needed them. My first event that I organised was my way of thanking them and giving back after their support; after that I just felt that their message was one that needed to be delivered. I’ve found that Breast Cancer Care is as focused as I am on the importance of early detection and self checking [Steph shows me that my goody bag also contains a copy of Breast Cancer Care’s Health Booklet].

Q:  May I ask what your fundraising hopes are for this event?

A: Absolutely, our fundraising objective for this event is over £3000. So far we’ve raised around £2000 with this event just with the ticket sales: there are still more tickets on offer and we’re hoping to raise the rest of the funds on the night through the auction and raffle.

Q: It sounds like you have an achievable aim, so how are Breast Cancer Care supporting you in this event?

A: As always Breast Cancer Care will be there in the background: they will send representatives to support us on the night, provide us with literature for the goody bags and they’re always on the other end of the phone if I need fundraising inspiration [something I know Steph is virtually never short of]. I may not have cancer anymore but they are still there for me. I genuinely feel that the team at Breast Cancer Care have become true friends for life!

Q: So, tell us, how exactly did you end up in collaboration with bestselling author Susan Lewis?

A: Well, following some of my previous events, Susan’s PR officer sent me a copy of Just One More Day: the perfect introduction to Susan’s writing. I was so moved by her portrayal of a family torn apart by cancer that I had to write to her and tell her how it had affected me. We then started up a correspondence and realised how fantastic it would be if we could organise and event together. This is my first event working with Susan as we organised one last year but I was taken ill so had to postpone so I am really excited about this one.

Q: It all sounds very exciting, how easy has it been to organise an event on this scale: it’s not exactly low profile?

A: [Laughs] Do you know, I’ve actually found this one pretty easy to organise. I’m lucky enough to now have a supporting team behind me: Ann, Karen, Vanessa and Erica – The Pink Power Girls have been fantastic. We’re currently one team member short as one of the ladies is undergoing chemotherapy: she’s desperate to be there on the night supporting us though. That’s what makes organising these events so amazing: these people are such an inspiration! They’ve all got their own personal battles to fight and yet they all want to do what they can towards these events. To be honest, the biggest obstacle we’ve had has been finding a suitable venue to hold the event. Thanks to the previous events I’ve organised I’ve made some pretty good relationships with some really generous businesses: the food and prizes for the night have all been donated. The only things left on my to do list are to pick up the cake and the glasses and setting up Friday evening; otherwise we’ve got everything covered!

Q: So what can attendees expect on the night?

A: Well, the guests will all receive a goody bag on arrival at the champagne and canapés reception. The evening will then kick off with the “In Conversation With” which will lead into a question and answer session, then there is due to be a performance by the fantastic Amy Coulshaw, the raffle and auction and then Susan will start the book signing. Plus they get to see me: all that for £20, what a bargain!

Q: [Laughs] well of course! So, tell me, what will you be doing once this event is over: a bit of rest and relaxation?

A: Probably collapsing! No, I’m kidding, although it does take a lot out of me; the events give me such a buzz. It usually takes a few days to recuperate afterwards. Although I’ve not allowed myself so much time to rest after this one as I’m driving up to Liverpool the next day to see the Royal Deluxe.

Q: I think I would be more inclined to rest for a few days myself. Dare I ask if you have more upcoming events in the pipeline?

A: As always! Yes we have the Breast Cancer Care Benefit Concert being held at Sevenoaks School on the 6th July. There are currently four acts due to be performing including: The Find, Sarah Lillie, Amy Coulshaw and one act tbc. All of the acts are all fresh, new and (as yet) unsigned: very talented people looking to get a break. The concert will also be a part of the Sevenoaks festival. Around June/August time we will be holding the annual Strawberry Tea. This is a Breast Cancer Care initiative which involves getting cakes, tea and lovely ladies together to raise funds and awareness.

I am very much looking forward to attending the event next Friday 20th April at Tonbridge School and hope to see many of you there! For those of you that really want to be there but are unable to attend this time I will be posting an update of how the night went next Sunday. For those of you interested in attending please leave a comment in the box below and I will provide more details.

If you are interested in finding out more about Susan Lewis go to: www.susanlewis.com

If you are interested in finding out more about Susan’s publishers go to: www.rbooks.co.uk

If you want more information on Breast Cancer Care go to: www.breastcancercare.org.uk or call the free Helpline on 08088006000

To support Steph in her fundraising endeavours please go to: www.justgiving.com/stephanie-harrison6Image