Friday 29 March 2013


My guest tonight is a bestselling and award-winning author of romantic fiction.

Mandy has been writing romantic stories since her school days. Her first book Excess All Areas was published in 2008. Breaking the Ice followed and shortly after that, the romantic comedy Knowing Me Knowing You. Her fourth novel Strings Attached was released in November 2011 and novel Taking Charge was published by US fiction publisher Sapphire Star Publishing in May 2012. Mandy is also a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and a supporting author for the Festival of Romance.
Mandy lives in Wiltshire, UK, with her husband, Mr Big, her two daughters and two cats, Kravitz and Springsteen. I believe there may be a guitar or two in there somewhere!

Mandy, firstly many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. We exchange comments on Facebook and I met you in Waterstones in Southampton last year when I bought a signed copy of Strings Attached for my wife. She read it almost at a single sitting! How did you start writing and have you always wanted to write romantic fiction?

I started writing at an early age always preferring English over any other subject at school. At senior school I started writing an on-going soap style novel involving my friends and the celebrities of the time (Italia 1990 England football squad, New Kids on the Block etc.). Then when I left school my writing took a bit of a back seat while real boys took over!
For me it’s always been romance.  I’m a sucker for it!

Me too in real life! You're so lucky to be able to do what you love. I have to ask, what is the significance of Milo? The name appears in all your books, though it’s a different character every time.

Everyone loves Milo! I get asked about him so much he’s going to become more famous than me!
MartinHandfordWally&Friends.PNGHe started out as a barman mentioned in one line of my very first novel, Excess All Areas. Then when I was writing my second book, I needed a name for an incidental character and I was having trouble coming up with something. Then I thought, ‘well why don’t I just call him Milo too’ and it was then I decided to make Milo a feature of my books and stop myself having to come up with different names for small parts in every novel. He’s become a bit like Where’s Wally – people love it when they find him!

That solves one mystery! How do you approach writing a new book from the point of view of storyline and characters?

It sounds funny talking about a new book because I have the blurbs for the next five novels already part-written so they don’t actually feel new for me anymore.
I get ideas for novels coming to me all the time and the first thing I have to do is write the first attempt at a back cover. I can’t settle back into my current WIP until I’ve done that or the idea is whizzing around in my mind demanding attention and that’s off-putting!
Lately I’ve been getting my hero first, then the initial plot idea and my heroine next. I have this one idea that I cannot wait to write and it’s got a fantastic title (even if I do say so myself) so I might have to bump that book up the queue!

Sounds like a Booker Prize in the offing to me! How do you come up with such great plots for your books? Does personal and past experience play a part, or do you just have a great imagination?

Gibson Les Paul 60s Tribute Vintage Sunburst (2013) I think experience does play an enormous part in writing. I know that being that much older and having experienced more of life I can bring another dimension to my writing perhaps it was lacking in my twenties.
Saying that, I haven’t had an affair with a rock star or actually played ice hockey or entered into a relationship game show but…Mr Big does play guitar and I’ve been to lots of rock concerts - I do love watching ice hockey - and I have been on television a good few times now! So I think experience, coupled with a vivid imagination, is the perfect combination!

And there was me thinking all those great stories of yours were written from first-hand experience! Have you considered writing a sequel to one of your books, or even a series?

I have written a sequel now. In fact I wrote the sequel to my first novel, Excess All Areas in 2006. It’s called Public Property and I released it myself as a little Christmas treat in December 2012. Had I not written it shortly after the first book I’m not sure it would ever have been written. I put so much into a book I often don’t leave anything for a sequel! I also love creating new characters and situations in new books.
I have a little idea for a series set in a small American town called Jackson Creek. It’s kind of Dallas meets The Gilmore Girls! So, that’s there waiting for my attention at some point!

Good luck with developing that as a series. Tell me, who, as a writer, has influenced you most, Mandy?

I hate this question! I don’t think any one author has influenced me with their writing. I read so many different authors and I’m always blown away by the mix of styles. I’m quite unorthodox so I haven’t done anything in my writing life the traditional way. One person I always mention as an influence, is a lovely friend of mine called Talli Roland. Not only is she a great writer but she’s a determined, focused, natural communicator who has got where she is through hard work as well as talent. I admire people with that ethic. It doesn’t matter what lucky breaks you get, it’s hard work that pays off in the end.

You're not the first person to mention Talli as a great influence and friend. Perhaps you could arrange for me to interview her? Your new book called Security is due out very soon. What’s it about?

Oooo yes it’s coming very soon! 4 April! Security is my first crack at romantic suspense! It’s the story of pop star Autumn Raine and her newly-appointed bodyguard, Nathan Regan. Autumn has been threatened with kidnap and her mother (who happens to be the British Foreign Secretary) has employed ex-Special Forces soldier Nathan to look after her. At first they detest each other! Autumn’s living a privileged life and Nathan’s from Hull. It doesn’t get any more different than that! But as they get to know each other their feelings start to change. Of course this relationship isn’t made any easier with terrorists popping up, gun fights and paparazzi. What will happen?! You’ll have to buy a copy to find out LOL!

Wow, it sounds as though it has everything, plus the big finale, which you're going to keep a big secret! You must be very disciplined to write something as complex as that. Do you have a set routine as a writer and a special place where you work?

Routine! What’s that?! I do have a bit of a vague routine I suppose. I try and do most of my admin in the morning. I answer emails, set up Twitter for the day, check up on my Loveahappyending Lifestyle and Sapphire Star Publishing writing buddiesTagline and schedule any promotional posts they need for the day. Then about 11.00am I might do my first bit of writing. I say ‘might’ because I usually have some blog posts/interviews to write over the course of a week so no two days are exactly the same. I’m lucky if I get two hours of solid writing in before the school run. But I am quite adaptable. If I think I haven’t written enough I’ll walk around the house with a notepad and write in any spare second I get. I have been known to be making dinner with one hand stirring the pan and writing with the other.
I mainly write at a laptop at my desk in my bedroom. I keep telling Mr Big he needs to build me a luxurious writing room in the garden!

Sue Cook, who I interviewed a couple of weeks ago has one. Lucky lady! Tell me, Mandy, what is the most important piece of advice you could give a budding writer?

Keep writing! Enjoy it! If you want publication decide which path is right for you but don’t be afraid to mix and match. Indie and traditional both have their merits.
But most of all don’t get disheartened if things don’t go right at the first attempt. I’ve had so many rejections and doors shut in my face! Although it hurts, it feels so much sweeter when you’ve come out the other side!

One last question, Mandy. If you could achieve one important goal within the next 5 years, what would it be?

I do have goals! Lots of them! Do I have to pick one? I would love one of my novels to get into the Amazon Top 100. Is that naff? Yes, it’s naff! I’d love one of my novels to be made into a movie and me to be casting the hero and leading rehearsals *winks*

I think it's a geat ambition and you deserve to make it, Mandy. It’s been a great pleasure talking to you, and congratulations on publishing such a consistently excellent and readable catalogue of books. I’m sure my wife will be one of the first to buy Security and that’ll be a weekend gone!

Mandy’s books are available on all internet retail sites and can be linked to from her website at

Mandy’s website is
Mandy’s new book Security is due out on 4th April 2013 

Wednesday 27 March 2013


For the second time in my series of guest interviews we’re going to Devon, one of the most beautiful parts of the country and where I had my first job. It’s good to be back in such lovely surrounding with my guest tonight!

Tina published her first collection of short stories called Eclectic Dreams, most of which have been sold to women's magazines.  
She is currently writing a thriller called Born to Love Me.
On top of that, she’s writing short stories and articles, helps to run a writing groups and doing the odd bit of proof reading and editing for a small company. Then there's her crafting, running on her treadmill, cooking, reading, walking, eating chocolate, drinking wine and playing on her Wii or DSi.
Blimey, no wonder she’s often still up at 1.00am!

Tina, firstly many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. It’s great to talk to another person from Devon. I had my first job there and often went riding on Dartmoor. I’ve always felt it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the country. Have you lived there all your life?


Well I was born in Plymouth and lived there on and off until my mid thirties when I moved away. But we’ve been back in Devon for the last four years and it’ll always be home to me.

The moors can be very desolate, or they can be a place to lose yourself in and be by yourself. Do you have a favourite spot near you where you like to be alone?

Yes, Burrator Reservoir. There’s a part about halfway around that you can walk up through the rough moor, then climb an outcrop of rocks – a tor - and sit on top of them looking out over the reservoir, moorland and forest. It’s my favourite place.

Dartmoor is famous for many things, but probably for two especially, the Hound of the Baskervilles and for its ponies. Are you a horse lover?

Oh my word yes. I learned to ride in my twenties, and rode across Dartmoor every week. There’s nothing quite like galloping across the moor on a clear day, at one with nature and beast, fantastic!

I totally agree! I believe you worked with the homeless and as a counsellor to young people in your area. How did you become involved?
I wanted something to do whilst I was bringing up my daughter, and saw an advert for people to train as counsellors for a new proposed youth centre in Plymouth.  I was accepted onto the training scheme, completed the course and helped set up the centre, which is still going over twenty years later. I left once it had been set up because we moved out of the area, but I then got a job working with homeless people in a day centre.

Good for you. Looking at what you’ve done and what you do now you certainly have a busy life. Tell me, Tina, at what point did you start to write and what was the first work you finished?
I started making up stories from a very young age, and when I was at senior school, my school reports were terrible because I spent most of the time gazing out of the window daydreaming. The stories I made up were so much more interesting than our lessons, but I didn’t write them down at that point.  Then, when I had my daughter, I wrote children’s stories on an electric typewriter and read them to her at bedtime. I sadly don’t have them anymore they were lost in various house moves. I can still remember some of them though. But I really started off as a short story and article writer and sold stories and articles to various publications in the UK and overseas, as well as through Alfiedog, Ether Books and A Quick Read. I also had my own regular column of anecdotal articles on the website Age-net before I started writing novels.   

Product DetailsEclectic Dreams is a collection of your short stories. I haven’t read them yet I’m afraid, but did you write them over a number of years, or as an intended collection for a book with a common theme?

They are stories written over a few years and sold to various magazines, and then put into the collection. Many of them came about through dreams, hence the title of the book.

You started one writer group and help to run another. How did you get involved with them?
I had the idea to start a writing group locally, for people who wanted to write and be paid for it, so I got local shops to put up posters and the local paper did an ad for me. Several people responded and it grew from there.  However I left when it was fully functioning because there was so much else I wanted to do.
The other group is on Facebook, and came about because other FB writing groups were a tad too serious. I wanted a group that was fun to be in with a more relaxed atmosphere, so started up Really Relaxed Writers. It’s a great group with lovely members and I'm still very much involved with it.

I know you’re working on a book about your time in the funeral profession, which you’re calling Lifting the Lid. Is it a fiction novel using your experiences, or a docu-book?
Funeral : White coffin and several sympathy floral arrangement on a grave sideIt’s going to be a factual book, which will start off by dispelling the myths and fears people have, and will be an account of my time spent working in the business. I’m writing it under a pseudonym because it will be very honest, and will talk about sensitive issues and the tactics some companies use to gain business.

You’re also working on a thriller called Born to Love Me. Can you tell me about it without giving away too much of the plot?
Born to Love Me is about cloning, but with a surprise dark twist. It shows how love can sometimes be so strong it destroys people. It’s quite sinister at times and doesn’t have a happy ending. I can’t give too much away, but it’s a real shocker.
. I think my previous jobs have taught me a great deal about people and their emotions, and I’m able to draw on that and use it to make my characters very real.

When you write do you have your book plotted out chapter by chapter, or are you like me and let the words flow, allowing your characters determine their own destinies?
Oh I definitely let the characters write themselves. I have a basic outline and usually have all my characters in place – I can actually picture them as real people - but what happens to them just comes as I write. Sometimes I’m surprised at the way things turn out.

Many writers have to have a perfect environment, with the right cup of tea, or coffee and everything in its place before they can start. How about you? Do you have a writing ritual?
I wish I did! I wish I could be disciplined and write every day, but I don’t work like that. One day I might sit at the laptop at 8am and still be going at 7pm, having not stopped to eat or anything, but then I could go for three weeks and not write another word.
The only thing I need to write is peace and quiet, and I’m quite lucky because we live in the country with fields beside and behind us, so I get that peace.

What books do you read and who has influenced you most? Please don’t say Shakespeare! Though I’d guess at Thomas Hardy and R D Blackmore from your Devon background.

I read various books and don’t stick to a particular genre. I like character driven stories by authors such as Debbie Macomber and Erica James, but I also like Thrillers by Simon Kernick and Alex Kava. I love M C Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series, they are so witty and comical. Yes I do like Thomas Hardy; Far From the Madding Crowd is probably my favourite. Our English teacher took us to watch it at the cinema and I’ve loved his works ever since.  It’s hard to choose just one author as an influence, but if I had to really say just one, it would have to be Enid Blyton. I know people scoff at her nowadays, but she got me – and a lot of other children of the time – reading, and because of her, I wanted to create stories too. I guess I’m still a big kid at heart!

What is the most important piece of advice you could give a budding writer?

Be versatile. Don’t just stick to one thing, write as much as you can. The more you can write, the better you’ll become. Try short stories, letters and articles on a variety of subjects.

One last question, Tina. If you could achieve one important goal within the next 5 years, what would it be?
To finish all my novels, and see at least one of them in a bookshop. That would make me a very happy lady J

Tina, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, and good luck on getting your next books finished and published!

Tina’s collection of short stories Eclectic Dreams is also on Amazon at

Friday 22 March 2013



Sarah's new book "Father of Lies" is out today as an eBook on Amazon and will be available as a paperback shortly. It's the horror story she's always wanted to tell! Get it at....   or the equivalent .com site in the States.

Join her at the Facebook launch NOW at

My guest tonight is a freelance writer and has written more than 140 short stories for women's magazines such as Woman's weekly, while her first serial is due out in March - a murder mystery. Sarah has also written a  comedy novel called Expected  and a collection of horror stories and really wants to concentrate more on psychological thriller novels.
Originally from Sheffield, where she studied nursing, as did my daughter (though not at the same time!), Sarah now lives and works in Sheffield again.

Sarah, firstly many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. I know you’re from Sheffield, where all the best nurses come from, or so my daughter tells me, but did you start writing up there, or after you moved down to Dorset?

Well my nursing days were back in the dark ages. I qualified in 1984. After that I worked as a drug rep for nearly 20 years. I never had time to do any writing but always wanted to. When my husband was transferred  to the south coast for his job, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to start a new chapter in life. That was 8 years ago now and I’ve been writing ever since.  However, I really am a Northern girl and most of my stories and ideas emanate from my upbringing.

That certainly comes through. Many of your works seem to have a medical, or mental health theme. How much did your background influence you and indeed help?
A huge amount. I guess you could say it’s my USP. During my time as a drug rep I specialised in mental health – working in hospitals mostly – and when you spend as much time as I have in psychiatric units, and you realise that many of the staff are as bonkers as the patients, the well of ideas never dries up. Human nature is fascinating. Couple this with what you learn about psychiatric conditions and how really, none of us are precisely normal, and you have an endless source of material. I would also say that dispelling myths about mental illness and exposing the way the most vulnerable people in society are often treated, is something of a mission. Mental illness is very frightening and it can happen to any one of us at any time.

That's very true, Sarah. Whether it’s a short story, or novel how do you approach writing a new story from the point of view of plot and characters?

This is interesting. Mostly a short story will come to me with a beginning and an end, i.e. I will have the idea as if from nowhere, but it will likely be sparked by a memory or something someone said, or from a line in a book or film. This idea will then be jotted down and maybe used there and then, or saved until later. Once I start to work on an idea then I visualise the characters, how they look, the situation, how they speak…and do a rough draft so that the outline is down. Then I type it up, edit, print out, edit again, sleep on it, edit again. I ask myself what I am trying to say – why do I want to tell this story? What is the message? Then I go back and inject more humour, more thrills, clues or surprises – whatever is needed to increase reader enjoyment, because reader enjoyment is the primary aim. I do not write to please myself. I write to tell stories and to entertain.   

140 stories is an incredible number. How do you come up with such great plots? Does personal and past experience play a part every time, or do you just have a great imagination?

Memories and experiences play a major part. I seem to have travelled a particularly rocky road, and I’m one of those people who never forgets - not a single nuance, expression, slight or bizarre incident. Add to this the ability to kind of get into people’s heads. I can imagine being them – whether male or female, good or bad. I often think I should have been an actress – except I prefer to be in the shadows – lurking!

Persoally, I can't imagine you in the shadows, Sarah. You’ve now written a novel called Expected? It’s a comedy, that I know, but what’s it about?

I love ‘Expected’  Why do I love it? Well because my heroine, Sam Sweet, is a hapless, funny working class girl who has the worst luck in the world. There is no safety net – aka Bridget Jones with her parents in the country – she’s from a tough sink estate, and so when she gets into a massive personal, financial and career-driven mess, she really is in trouble. However, there is a ticket to get out of trouble if she plays by the rules – rules that most women would give their eye teeth for. All she has to do is have a baby with her fiancĂ© – the revolting, slimy surgeon, Simon. Do what is expected, you could say! But boy did she pick the wrong bloke! Simon may be a surgeon but he is also a game-playing psychopath. And now Sam’s grandchild-obsessed mother has booked the wedding.
 With her career injecting facial fillers in jeopardy, and her best friend turning into a sexually jealous fiend, Sam tries to persuade herself to marry Simon and give him what he wants. All her problems would be solved. However, not only does she loathe slimy Simon, she is terrified of giving birth. Still, it seems the only way. But then she falls in love. Wham! With the new director of the failing company – sexy American, Joel Madison - who holds her heart and her job in the palm of his hand. And then drops her. Of course he does. Cue a last ditch/nightmare attempt at salvaging her relationship with Simon.
This is about survival for ordinary girls who have to make tough choices, not always based on what they want, but what they have to do. Breaking point follows for Sam. So can she find her voice in time to get out of this mess? I hope, by this point, we’re all rooting for her….  Oh, and yes – it’s a happy ending!

That's a relief! You also have a collection of horror stories due out soon? Tell me more!

Yes. Very excited. ‘3am and Wide Awake’ is a collection of 25 horrors, thrillers and on-the-edge stories. Most have previously been published, but about a quarter of them are new. The collection will be out on in the next couple of months, I hope.
After reading, ‘3am and Wide Awake’ my best friend didn’t sleep for 3 nights, and the funny thing is – since writing this story I have done a lot of research into demonology for my next book, and most of what I wrote really does happen. I guess that makes it scarier! Several of the stories are based on mental illness and many on the supernatural. Not all of them are horror-filled, though – some, such as ‘Different Colours’ or ‘Rough Love’ are about the darker, tougher side of life, and will hopefully give the reader a spectrum of subjects from which to choose. ‘3am,’ ‘Retribution’ and ‘Out of The Woods’ though – yes, very scary! 

Hide behind the sofa stuff! Do you intend concentrating on book writing in the future, or will you mix it with your short story writing?

Both. I currently have a 3 part murder-mystery serial in Woman’s Weekly, and several short stories to come in their Fiction Specials. I’ve worked very hard to ensure good relationships with many of the editors and really enjoy seeing my stories in print. So I don’t want to lose that.  However, my ambition has always been to be a novelist and now that 'Expected' is being published soon by Crooked Cat Books, I've actually achieved that, but I do now intend to concentrate on supernatural and psychological thrillers. I think that’s where I’m heading!

Sounds like it. So who, as a writer, has influenced you most, Sarah?

It started with Thomas Hardy in school. But there are so many I love, right across the spectrum – Susan Hill, Patricia Cornwell, Stephen King, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Minette Walters, Sarah Waters, James Herbert, Ian McEwen. If I had to say who had influenced me the most I’d say Stephen King because he is such a raconteur! It’s that ability to grip and hold the reader, that fascinating story on a dark night… age old talent we never tire of.

Do you have a set routine as a writer and a special place where you work?

Be Quiet!I get ideas while out walking or deeply engrossed in a book or film. Or out watching and listening to people. For the long-hand drafts I sit downstairs in the ‘snug’ – a small room lined with bookcases where I have a comfy sofa. Typing up is always done on my laptop in the study. I have to have total quiet. I cannot work if my husband is home banging and crashing around.  


What is the most important piece of advice you could give a budding writer?

Take critiques. Forget your ego – chuck it right out! Be ruthless and objective and take all the advice you can get.

One last question, Sarah. If you could achieve one important goal within the next 5 years, what would it be?

To have a psychological thriller published - and selling well because people enjoy it!

Sarah, it’s been a pleasure talking to you, and congratulations on publishing such a consistently excellent and readable catalogue of stories. 

Sarah’s book-form short stories are available from her Amazon author page on

Sarah’s website as well as her blog is at