Author Heart-to-Heart 💗 with… Kelly Rimmer

Hello Reading Friends!

A little later than scheduled, but hey – life gets in the way sometimes, I’m thrilled to introduce Kelly Rimmer to an author Heart-to-Heart💗. Kelly is a top ten bestselling novelist in her home country, Australia, as well as being a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. I first fell in love with her contemporary fiction, and couldn’t resist when she switched genre, publishing The Things We Cannot Say, a historical set in wartime Poland, inspired by her grandparents’ experience. A sequel, The Warsaw Orphan, will be published here in the UK on 1st June, 2021. So, let’s get started…

Hello, and welcome to an author Heart-to-Heart💗, Kelly. Please tell readers a little about yourself

Hi! I’m mum to 9 and 11 year old humans, two extremely naughty dogs, two cats, two goats, and three chickens. I’m hoping to add 2 alpacas to that menagerie very soon! My main hobbies are reading and buying books, half of which I will never get around to reading, but I also really enjoy hiking in the bushland near my house. I’ve had a lot of really interesting jobs over my lifetime, many of them in IT, although I have been writing full-time now for four years. It was always my dream to be an author, and I have loved writing for as long as I can remember.

A selection of Kelly’s contemporary fiction…
As readers, we are very grateful you accomplished that dream! Your bestselling historical, The Things We Cannot Say is based on your family history. How much research was required? And did having a personal interest make it easier or harder to write?

I always say that this book was “the book of my heart”. Often it’s only a year or two between idea and publication, but in this case I wanted to write this story for a decade before I actually attempted it. I was anxious to try to tackle anything related to World War II — it is a huge responsibility to write about those stories in a way that honours the people who actually lived in that time.  For many of the years between idea and actually writing, I was researching on and off. When I finally decided that I would actually try to write the story, I spent three weeks in Poland completing the research, which was one of the best experiences of my life. Having a personal interest is nothing new to me —every one of my books has some kind of personal connection, at the very least because I’m personally curious enough about the subject to want to write about it, and these days I am often lucky enough to speak to people who have direct experience if the subject is one I’m not directly familiar with myself.

It is true that in this case the personal connection was particularly intense because I adored my grandparents and this story was inspired by all of the questions that I can never ask them about their lives before they came to Australia. There were eerie moments in the research, where I discovered that things I had planned in the book were somehow parallel to my grandparents story – for example, while I was in Poland I learned that my grandmother was sent away for forced labour at the age of 14, after her parents were told that they had to select one of their children to remain behind to work the farm and the others would need to go into labour camps. Until I tracked down a long-lost cousin, I had no idea that this was my grandmother’s experience, but I had already planned a similar situation in the story.

Gosh, we can only begin to imagine how moving your trip to Poland must have been… Let’s focus on your next release, The Warsaw Orphan, due to be published at the beginning of June here in the UK, which follows on from The Things We Cannot Say. Did you always plan to write a follow up? Or did you find the seed of inspiration during your research?

Much of the content of this new book was actually inspired by a subplot I had hoped to write in The Things We Cannot Say. I ultimately had to cut the subplot from that book because it was just too much for an already expansive story, and I actually forgot all about it for several years, until someone at a book club asked me if I could write a sequel. At first I told that woman that I simply couldn’t, because I had tied up all the loose ends in that first book, but then she asked me, “Well, what about Emilia? Couldn’t you just write her story?”. I thought about that subplot I’d discarded and decided…well, you know what, I can just write her story! The kernel of the idea that became The Warsaw Orphan was also inspired by that trip to Poland. My aunt came with me to translate (I don’t speak Polish unfortunately), and she loves to walk, so we walked the length and breadth of city over the period we were there. I had no idea at the time, but over those weeks I saw so many monuments and sites that would ultimately become key to the setting of The Warsaw Orphan. 

I’m unapologetically nosy about the authors who inspire authors, so, when reading for pleasure, which novelists do you enjoy?

I love to read across lots of different genres. If I hear about a new book by Charity Norman, Jodi Picoult, Sally Hepworth, Beth O’Leary, Kristin Harmel or Pam Jenoff, I’ll be counting down the days until its release! Recently I read a book called Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason and it was one of the best books I have ever read. 

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason… one of Kelly’s recommended reads
Thanks Kelly, for fantastic recommendations for readers to explore. Also, Charity Norman joined us last month for an author heart-to-heart💗. Finally, can you tell us a little about what’s next?

I’m currently working on the final draft of a book which is likely to be titled The German Wife. It follows two very different women, one in Germany and one in rural USA, through several decades of their lives.

Sounds fascinating. One for Heart-to-Heart💗 readers to look forward too. Thanks so much for making time to chat.

To discover more about Kelly and her writing, follow the links below, but in the meantime, stay safe and happy reading!

Kelly with Truths I Never Told You

The Warsaw Orphan is available for preorder in e-book NOW: An Amazon link to Kelly’s author page: www.amazon.co.uk/Kelly-Rimmer

And/or to support independent bookshops: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/kellyrimmer

Follow Kelly on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KellyRimmerAuthor

Follow Kelly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KelRimmerWrites

Follow Kelly on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kelrimmerwrites/

RAE’S READING ROUND-UP FOR… APRIL 2021

Hello reading friends!

Where did April go? Not much reading achieved this month as I was lucky enough to spend time with family, but still three excellent books to recommend.

Also, please drop by on the 17th May when I’ll be enjoying an author Heart-to-Heart with Australian author, Kelly Rimmer, when she reveals the real life events that inspired her historical fiction.

In the meantime, stay safe and happy reading!

AFTER THE FALL by CHARITY NORMAN

I’ve mentioned before that it was a friend who insisted I read Charity Norman, so I began with The Secrets of Strangers, which is fantastic, and knew I would read more. After the Fall opens with Martha McNamara and her family moving from England to New Zealand, where they long to embrace a healthy lifestyle and plan a fresh start. However, when five-year-old Finn falls from a balcony, we discover Martha is harbouring secrets and by weaving back and forth between the hospital and events leading to the accident, troubling truths are revealed.

There is lots about Norman’s writing style to enjoy, but I particularly liked the characterisation. Martha, Kit (Martha’s husband), Finn and Charlie (five-year-old twins) are all well rounded, but it was the dialogue between Martha and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Sacha, that particularly rang true. Set against remote sweeping vistas filled with mountains and sandy coves, the family explores, riding horses, but Norman also introduces us to the darker side of New Zealand life. One I hadn’t considered. Norman is a master of effortlessly intertwining the past and present, making this a deceptively easy read, but there is also plenty to consider, making it an excellent book club choice. For those interested in Maori traditions, the reader is treated to a sprinkling of folklore – just enough to make me want to learn more. After the Fall is a page-turning family drama, recommended for lovers of Diane Chamberlain, Kelly Rimmer and Jodi Picoult.

SHUGGIE BAIN by DOUGLAS STUART

The 1980s Glasgow that author, Douglas Stuart creates is a bleak one; a city of tenement schemes where men are out of work, women make do, and weans (children) roam the streets. The place we find young Hugh (Shuggie) Bain trying to make sense of the world, when the adults around him are kicking hard, desperate to stay afloat.

Shuggie adores his mum, Agnes, who in turn finds solace in cheap lager when her taxi-driver husband plays away during night shifts. As Agnes fantasises about a life beyond benefits and buying from a catalogue, young Shuggie fends off bullies who insist he’s ‘no right’.

Shuggie’s devotion to Agnes will break even the hardest of hearts, but the Glasgow humour that underpins scheme life lifts the tale, finding hope amongst the misery. Also, Stuart’s keen eye for the mannerisms of the women of the schemes, arms folded like car bumpers, make this a worthy Booker Prize winner. Shuggie Bain is about love, family, poverty, addiction, and dreams for something more – all beautifully, sensitivity drawn.

THE LITTLE PRINCE by ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY

The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry is a children’s classic I’ve heard recommended time and again and was delighted when it was suggested reading on a recent flash fiction course. First published in French in the 1940s, it’s known for its illustrations, also drawn by Saint-Exupéry, as much as it’s quirky hero – the little Prince. It’s a short book packed with wisdom, not only for children but for adults too… This is my secret. It’s very simple. Only the heart sees clearly. The eyes don’t see what’s important…

The Little Prince is a gentle allegory with a powerful message. One for lovers of The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy.

 

Author Heart-to-Heart 💗 with… Charity Norman

Hello Reading Friends!

I’m delighted to share the next in my series of author Heart-to-Hearts💗 that focus on women’s issue-led fiction. This month I’m thrilled to introduce New Zealand based author, Charity Norman. Charity has had not one but TWO of her novels selected as BBC Radio 2’s Book Club choices and her work is regularly described as brilliant book club fiction – exactly the kind of novels that Heart-to-Heart💗 readers love. So, let’s get started…

The Secrets of Strangers – fabulous book club fiction
Welcome to an author Heart-to-Heart💗, Charity and as we get comfy would you like to share a little about yourself?

Thank you so much for inviting me along!

A little bit about myself … well, I’m the youngest of seven children, born in Uganda where my parents were missionaries (it’s a long story), raised in North Yorkshire and inner-city Birmingham. My parents had an open door to whoever arrived at our house, day or night, so while growing up I met a lot of people in crisis.

I’m a distant cousin of Virginia Woolf, but my childhood passion was Richard Adams’ Watership Down. I have a signed copy; my brother queued in the rain to get it. I was also obsessed with the Brontë sisters, another Yorkshire vicarage family. I hated school, so reading was my lifeline. My childhood ambition was to be a novelist, but first I spent some years travelling and working overseas, followed by fifteen more practising as a criminal and family barrister in York and Newcastle chambers. I met my husband, a New Zealander, in the Sahara. We moved here to New Zealand when our three children were quite small, and that’s when I finally began to write books.

I have three eccentric cats and am lucky enough to sing with a cathedral choir. In spare moments I love walking by the river, reading with a cup of coffee or glass of wine, hanging out with my (now adult) children and fish-and-chips on the beach.

Watership Down – Charity’s favourite childhood book
Cats, walking, coffee, wine, family, fish and chips on the beach – we’re definitely going to get along.You write in my favourite genre, contemporary issue-driven family drama, and readers would love to hear more about your books and writing…

I find them difficult to categorise, so thank you for your help with that! They’re all quite different, exploring the chaos and colour of human life – from addiction to manslaughter to gender dysphoria, teenage parenthood to a doomsday cult. I’m fascinated by people’s stories, by what makes them tick. I draw on my background as a criminal and family barrister and mediator, and a volunteer telephone crisis listener, as well as more personal experiences. In the end, though, I’m just trying to tell a good story.

A selection of Charity’s novels…
It’s always fantastic to discover an author has a tempting backlist! But let’s focus on your latest release. What inspired you to write The Secrets of Strangers? And what do readers love about the story? 

The central action takes place in one day: a siege in a London café –the bystanders caught up in it, the police negotiator, the young gunman.

I used to live in Napier, a quiet seaside town. In 2009 a man called Jan Molenaar shot and – tragically – killed a police officer before barricading himself alone into his home. We own the house next door, and had chatted to Jan. Our place was taken over by armed defenders; later, we had to fix dozens of bullet holes in the walls and windows. For days, the town held its breath while negotiators tried to persuade Jan to give himself up. I remember the sound of the final shot, when he took his own life. I think he felt he had no other choice.

Years later I was in a café, telling this story to a friend, when it occurred to me that I didn’t know anything about the people around me. Any one of them might be at the end of their tether, might be about to do something catastrophic. That was when the idea came to me.

Although it’s often described as a thriller, the story is character-driven. Perhaps the most frequent comment is from readers who love Mutesi, a Rwandan nurse who escaped the genocide.

The New Woman & The Secrets of Strangers – both BBC Radio 2 Book Club Picks…
Mutesi is a fantastic character, but gosh, what a terrifying experience for your family!…The Secrets of Strangers was one of my favourite novels of last year but, when you find time to chill, which authors do you enjoy?

There are so many brilliant contemporary writers, but when the world seems upside-down I often go back to the classics. I keep audiobooks of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and others in my car; they’re my happy place, as is the world of P G Wodehouse. The 20th Century Irish writer Molly Keane is one of my heroines, especially her stunning novel Good Behaviour. Daphne Du Maurier is another: terrific storytelling, vivid but never self-conscious. I literally laugh myself to tears over Bill Bryson’s travel writing, and am always keen to read the next John Grisham. I read a wide range of non-fiction, for research or pleasure.

Some of Charity’s favourite classic reads…
Can you tell us a little about what’s next?

I’ve just sent a draft to my editor, so am waiting with bitten fingernails! In this story, a woman returns to her childhood home under the Ruahine mountains in New Zealand, to care for her father who has Alzheimer’s. As his mind melts, she begins to glimpse appalling secrets. Perhaps some truths are best left buried?

Please save your finger nails! It sounds like another book club hit and I’m sure Heart-to-Heart💗 readers are looking forward to taking a literary trip to New Zealand. Thanks so much for making time to chat.

To discover more about Charity and her writing just follow the links below, but in the meantime, stay safe and happy reading!

Charity Norman, author

The Secrets of Strangers is available in e-book, audiobook and paperback: An Amazon link to Charity’s author page: http://bit.ly/CNormanAuthorPage

And/or to support independent bookshops: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/charitynorman

Follow Charity on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CharityNormanAuthor

Follow Charity on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CharityNorman1

RAE’S READING ROUND-UP FOR… MARCH 2021

Hello reading friends!

It’s that’s time again, when I share a round-up of last month’s reading. As days brighten, I tend to pull away from dark, gothic reads and return to some of my favourite contemporary fiction writers – David Nicholls, Kate Hewitt and Catherine Miller. Whilst Kiley Reid’s debut was one that kept cropping up on my social media feeds, and a John Boyne novel always makes a brilliant book group choice.

Also, please drop by on the 19th April when I’ll be enjoying an author Heart-to-Heart with New Zealand based author, Charity Norman.

In the meantime, stay safe and happy reading!

SWEET SORROW by DAVID NICHOLLS

Where do I start with Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls, other than to say that if you have teenagers, know teenagers, have been a teenager, then this novel will speak to you. Or perhaps it is because I am currently separated from the young adults in my family, that I so enjoyed a reminder of how fabulously unpredictable life with teens can be! Back to Sweet Sorrow – which is a coming-of-age romance that is beautiful, funny, poignant, sad and a masterclass in how to write about the painful angst and joy of teenage life. Set in a small town in England in 1997, Charlie Lewis is sixteen, with a gang of male school friends who enjoy banter and illicit booze, but as his homelife begins to crumble, so Charlie’s exam chances take a parallel nose-dive and the long, hot summer after completing school stretches endlessly ahead of him.

Until an unexpected meeting with the enigmatic Fran Fisher, who lives on the other side of town, presents Charlie with possibilities previously unthinkable. The story revolves loosely around an am-dram production of Romeo and Juliet, focusing on Charlie’s gradual awakening to a life beyond the tight lines drawn by his school mates. In a recent interview, Nicholls revealed that the movie Gregory’s Girl was an influence when writing, and Sweet Sorrow has the same innocent, fumbling-for-adulthood feel. It’s both charming and utterly sad. Enjoy!

A HOPE FOR EMILY by KATE HEWITT

Kate Hewitt writes gut-tugging, heart-wrenching fiction and from the outset it was clear that A Hope for Emily was a page-turner I’d find hard to set down. Little Emily is only four years old but has sadly developed an undiagnosed degenerative illness that has left her in a coma. Her mum, Rachel devotes herself to Emily’s care, whilst dad, James makes every effort to be by Emily’s bedside when he can. But the strain of caring for a very poorly child is immense and when Emily’s condition deteriorates even further, James’s new wife, Eva is drawn further into the family circle.

A Hope for Emily explores the lengthens a mum will go to, in the belief she is doing what is best for her child.  One aspect I found refreshing, was the relationship that develops between Rachel and Eva. Too often in the press and fiction, women are pitched against each other, and in A Hope for Emily it felt true that Eva would recognise a mum pushed to the limits and wish to help. Be prepared for a sad but utterly beautiful emotional read.

I’m excited to share Catherine Miller’s, The Missing Piece because it might be her best novel yet – and I’ve loved them all! Keisha Grant is a PHD student who has suffered in some way that impacts on her daily life. The anxiety she feels is palpable, as she focuses on work and the rituals that make her feel safe. But when she meets Clive, an elderly gentleman who agrees to participate in one of her PHD projects, she meets a kindred spirit in need of help and knows she can’t turn aside. A story of friendship and rebuilding trust, one of the main themes of the novel is about Broken Heart Syndrome, which I knew nothing about. There is something refreshing about the way the story is told and both Keisha and Clive felt like living, breathing people we might come across in everyday life. Although the story is a poignant one, there are also elements of romance and mystery woven through, and the kindness shown by Keisha friends, George and Tess, is a reminder of what’s good in the world. An enlightening, uplifting read.

SUCH A FUN AGE by KILEY REID

It was the cover blurb that attracted me to Kiley Reid’s debut novel, Such a Fun Age. When white Alix Chamberlain finds herself in a tight spot, late on a Saturday evening, she calls her African American babysitter, Emira Tucker, to come help with her toddler daughter, Briar. But when Emira takes Briar to a local convenience store, the security guard suspects Emira of kidnap, a situation that rightly horrifies Alix, who sets out to make amends.

Such A Fun Age is written as a pacey page-turner and could be mistaken for a light, quick read, but probe deeper and the reader discovers it is really about class, race and privilege. Although the story is told from both Alix and Emira’s point of view, I was more interested in Emira’s world – her relationships with her boyfriend, her friends, little Briar; her struggles to pay rent; her worry that on her 25th birthday her name will be removed from her parents’ health insurance. And it was the voices of Emira, and Briar, who drew me in.

At times, I felt confused by Alix’s motives. I understood she wished to appear ‘woke’ and carried issues of guilt from her past, but I was still unsure why she became so obsessed with Emira, particularly when the Chamberlain’s lifestyle seemed hectic, juggling work and family time. Such a Fun Age is interesting as it focuses on ‘white saviourism’, but having spent the novel rooting for Emira, I couldn’t help but wish that she had learned to value herself more. Still, Such a Fun Age is a novel I will remember for its thought-provoking themes.

A LADDER TO THE SKY by JOHN BOYNE

It’s a while since I’ve read a slow-burning novel but A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne was my latest book group read and is a brilliant example of the genre. We discover from the cover blurb that young, handsome Maurice Swift is an author prepared to steal others’ stories to fuel his success. But just how far is he prepared to go for his art?- A fascinating topic for creatives to consider.

The literary world Boyne creates is fascinating, full of egos and back-stabbing. Very different from the supportive writing community I know and love! Initially, it was the European settings and Swift’s louche character that drew me in, but it was an incident midway through the novel that had me completely hooked.

Manipulative and totally lacking in empathy, Swift’s ambition knows no bounds, so that I found myself willing him to be outed and to receive the punishment he deserved. With themes of obsession and jealousy, this makes a fantastic book group read, with numerous moral issues that are ripe for discussion – who owns an individual’s story? When does someone’s story become fair game? Fiction versus fiction based on fact. How close to the truth should a novelist tread? When should a writer obtain permission to use someone’s story? A Ladder to the Sky considers the damage done when the search for inspiration trumps all.

Author Heart-to-Heart 💗 with… Catherine Miller

Hello Reading Friends!

I’m delighted to introduce the next in my series of author heart-to-hearts💗 that focus on women’s issue-led fiction. And we have something very apt today from Catherine Miller, as she explores Broken Heart Syndrome (a condition I knew nothing about) in The Missing Piece (read my 5 star review here). I am excited she has agreed to join us as, not only was another of Catherine’s novels, The Day That Changed Everything, recently nominated in the shorter romance novel category of the Romantic Novelists’ Association awards, but also Catherine’s journey to publication is an inspiring one. So let’s get started…

Nominated for the Romantic Novelists’ Association shorter Romance novel 2021
Welcome to an author heart-to-heart Catherine, and before we turn to your books and writing, would you mind sharing some of your journey to publication?

Thank you for having me, Rae! First, I’ll grab a cuppa as I’m also a mum to 7-year-old twins, so any moment for a sit down (especially over the last year) is a welcome one. I’ve always written, but even though my first novel attempts occurred in my teen years, as I’m dyslexic, I never felt I was capable enough. Instead, I trained as a physiotherapist, but ill-health (uveitis – an eye condition) brought that to an early end. As I couldn’t do the job I loved, I decided to follow the impossible dream of becoming a writer. Having the twins should have made that trickier, but I found it taught me to never waste ten minutes. I secured my first book deal when they were two and it’s been non-stop ever since.

I am genuinely in awe of all you have achieved, Catherine, whilst juggling being a mum too. We would love to hear more about your work…

My stories always tend to be idea-led so I’ll think of something and write a one-page synopsis. My agent and I will then discuss what I should write next. Most of my books are emotional women’s fiction, but I’ve also have two contemporary comedies published (The Gin Shack series). Currently I’m writing uplit emotion women’s fiction for Bookouture. It’s great having Hattie (my agent) to bounce my ideas off as she is good at pointing me in the right direction.

Uplifting contemporary comedies… with gin!
Fantastic news! We all need some uplifting reads at present… Let’s focus on your latest release. What inspired you to write The Missing Piece? And what do readers love about Keisha’s story?

The Missing Piece focusses on Broken Heart Syndrome. As I used to be a respiratory physiotherapist working in cardiology I was surprised to hear about a condition I’d not heard of and instantly thought there had to be a story in it. Without giving too much away, it ended up featuring my grandad’s allotment and I wrote it for my nan. It was a cathartic book to write, especially given the backdrop of the pandemic… sometimes we can’t fix hearts in real life, but we can in fiction so that’s what I set out to do. One of the latest review on Goodreads is from Christine Anson and it really summarises well what I hope to achieve with all my stories: I don’t know if I have ever read something so intricate and unique and I am a die hard reader. I love the story.

I know that as well as novel writing and being with the family, you also make time to support other authors by sharing reviews. Whose writing do you enjoy most?

I love reading and tend to switch genres from book to book. Some of my favourite books over the last year have been: Half A World Away by Mike Gayle, The Choice by Claire Wade, The Dead Wife by Sue Fortin, The Cottage of Curiosities by Celia Anderson, The Runes of Destiny by Christina Courtenay, The Corset by Laura Purcell and the Mel Craig series by Betty Rowland. I manage to get through a lot more books now I enjoy audiobooks. If I had the chance, I’d read books all the time.

A selection of Catherine’s lockdown reading…
Agree, audiobooks are a brilliant way of powering through a to-be-read pile. Although after reading your recommendations, mine has just grown!… Can you share a little about what you are writing next?

If you can’t cross the threshold, is it ever possible to find love?

I pitched my next book prior to lockdown last year. It’s about Fiona who has agoraphobia and what she does when life comes and finds her. It’s been quite strange to end up writing the book in similar circumstances to how Fiona lives as a result of lockdown. I know there’s method acting, but I think this is my first true dose of method writing! Despite having to home school alongside a good percentage of my deadline time, I’ve somehow managed to finish the book and it’s due out in June. It’s another heart-warming read trying to find hope in the toughest of times.

Thank you so much for having me, Rae.

It’s been a pleasure, Catherine. Thank you for joining us and I’m pleased to learn we don’t have too long to wait for your next release, which sounds like another fantastic heart-to-heart💗 book. Also, thank you to the reading friends who have joined us.

To discover more about Catherine and her writing just follow the links below, but in the meantime, stay safe and happy reading!

Catherine’s book launch of the award nominated The Day That Changed Everything

The Missing Piece is available is in e-book and paperback editions. Buy here: 

http://bit.ly/AmazonTheMissingPiece

To find out more about Catherine’s books and writing go to her website www.katylittlelady.com

Follow Catherine on Instagram: katylittlelady

Follow Catherine on Twitter: https://twitter.com/katylittlelady

Follow Catherine on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katylittlelady

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