AWW Feature: Q&A with Cathryn Hein, author of Rocking Horse Hill

Cathryn Hein - Author Photo - web quality

I am thrilled to welcome Cathryn Hein back to Book’d Out today to celebrate the release of her fourth rural romance novel, Rocking Horse Hill. Cathryn’s first three novels, Promises, Heart of the Valley and Heartland were finalists in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 Australian Romance Readers Awards. In September she will release The French Prize, her first romantic adventure story.

Cathryn Hein was born in South Australia’s rural south-east. With three generations of jockeys in the family it was little wonder she grew up horse mad, finally obtaining her first horse at age 10. So began years of pony club, eventing, dressage and showjumping until university beckoned.
Armed with a shiny Bachelor of Applied Science (Agriculture) from Roseworthy College she moved to Melbourne and later Newcastle, working in the agricultural and turf seeds industry. Her partner’s posting to France took Cathryn overseas for three years in Provence where she finally gave in to her life-long desire to write. Her short fiction has been recognised in numerous contests, and published in Woman’s Day.
Cathryn currently lives at the base of the Blue Mountains in Sydney’s far west with her partner of many years, Jim. When she’s not writing, she plays golf (ineptly), cooks (well), and in football season barracks (rowdily) for her beloved Sydney Swans AFL team.

About Rocking Horse Hill

RHH cover - resizedWho do you trust when a stranger threatens to tear your family apart?
Ever since she was a little girl, Emily Wallace-Jones has loved Rocking Horse Hill. The beautiful family property is steeped in history. Everything important in Em’s life has happened there. And even though Em’s brother Digby has inherited the property, he has promised Em it will be her home for as long as she wishes.
When Digby falls in love with sweet Felicity Townsend, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Em worries about the future. But she is determined not to treat Felicity with the same teenage snobbery that tore apart her relationship with her first love, Josh Sinclair. A man who has now sauntered sexily back into Em’s life and given her a chance for redemption.
But as Felicity settles in, the once tightly knitted Wallace-Jones family begins to fray. Suspicions are raised, Josh voices his distrust, and even Em’s closest friends question where Felicity’s motives lie. Conflicted but determined to make up for the damage caused by her past prejudices, Em sides with her brother and his fiancée until a near tragedy sets in motion a chain of events that will change the family forever.

 My review of this delightful rural romance will appear later today, in the meantime please read on to learn more about Rocking Horse Hill and Cathryn Hein.

Q&A

 

Q: What five words would you choose to describe Rocking Horse Hill?
Cathryn: Dramatic, sexy, atmospheric, emotional, donkeyed!

Q:What was the first element of inspiration for the story of Rocking Horse Hill?

Cathryn: I was going to say Mt Schank, an extinct volcano south of my home town of Mount Gambier in South Australia. But the truth is I was riding my exercise bike and thinking about a newspaper article I’d read the day before, about women who fall in love with long-term jail inmates. One thing led to another and next minute I was off the bike and scribbling down notes. The story is nothing about that, by the way. That just triggered it all off!

Q: What is your favourite scene in the novel?

Cathryn: I can’t tell you! It’s such a pivotal scene that I can’t even give a hint because it will spoil the story. What I can reveal is that I wrote it fast and breathlessly.
But I do have another that I can talk about. There’s a scene at Camrick, the magnificent Wallace-Jones town mansion, where Em walks Josh to his car. As she swings past to leave, he reaches out and grabs her hand. What she says in response changes things between them. It’s lovely. Makes me sigh just thinking about it.
This is the lead up…
The wind had died down, leaving a night lit by Camrick’s warm glow. The gravel of the drive crunched underfoot, punctuating their lack of talk.
He leaned against the back of his ute and crossed his arms. ‘Nice evening.’
‘Yes.’
‘Do you mind that I came?’
‘No, not at all.’
‘Then you’re glad?’
She squinted at the sky. ‘Digby would have appreciated it.’
‘I didn’t ask about Dig, Em. I asked about you.’

Q: What is on all those post it notes?

Cathryn

Cathryn: Ooh, all sorts of things! Anything from writing reminders, character notes and the like – they tend to hang off the whiteboards on my left…

Post it notes - left

While on the right, under the window sill, I keep promo ideas and website, computery type things.

Post it notes - right

As you can see, I’m a bit of a post-it lover. They’re just so handy!

Q: I know you are a bit of a foodie, as evidenced by your regular blog feature Friday Feast, what recipe would you pair with Rocking Horse Hill?

Cathryn: Moelleux au chocolat! Or chocolate fondant. Em serves it to Josh the first night he comes for dinner. Besides being delicious, it’s a perfect metaphor for the way they feel about one another: set on the outside but gooey on the inside!
I’ll be sharing the recipe on Friday Feast this week, so keep your eyes out for that one.

Q: What are you working on now, or what can we expect next?

Cathryn: Right now I’m working on the second draft of The Falls, my 2015 rural romance. The heroine of that one is Teagan, one of Em’s, from Rocking Horse Hill, best friends. As for my next release, that’s a romantic adventure called The French Prize. It’s out in September and I can’t wait. I’m so excited about this book! There’s a romantic legend, an ancient sword, a sexy French hero, a clever and gutsy Australian heroine, and a cruel and dangerous enemy. It’s an adventure-filled page-turner.

Q: Can you please share three of your favourite novels by Australian women writers?

This is really hard because I’ve read some truly incredible books by Australian women, across all sorts of genres. It pains me to have to choose because I want to include them all, and because what comes to mind as a favourite right now might be surpassed by another tomorrow. It depends on my mood!
But here goes…
The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough. Her Masters of Rome series is incredible. I’ve read The First Man in Rome maybe 6 times and it’s a monster-sized book. Only packing tape keeps my copy held together now. I’m just fascinated by the era.
The Rain Queen by Katherine Scholes. Oh, this book! Romantic and sweeping and an amazing story. I read The Hunter’s Wife before I read this and thought that nothing could top that, but The Rain Queen did. I’m a sucker for African stories though. It’s another big fat book too. I’m reading Scholes’s latest, The Perfect Wife, at the moment.
The Shifting Fog by Kate Morton. Or anything else by her. She writes so beautifully! The stories are completely compelling with their mystery and atmosphere. They have that wonderful Gothic feel that I adore. I’ve loved all her books. The opening of The Distant Hours? Magical!

Q: What is your preference?
Coffee/Tea or other?
Both! I have a cup of Irish Breakfast tea first thing then swap to rather strong lattes for the rest of the morning. Although I usually only have a couple a day. On the odd occasion I have a post lunch or evening coffee it’s straight espresso.
Beach/Pool or River?
Pool. You don’t usually find sharks in them.
Slacks/Jeans or Leggings?
Jeans.
Butterfly/Tiger or Giraffe?
Giraffe, because I’m height challenged!
Swings/Slide or Roundabout?
Swings. Wheee! That swooping feeling? It reminds me of teenage love. One glance, one word, one breath taken in the same room as your crush and it felt as though your entire innards were about to sweep out of your body and take flight. Completely agonising, of course.

Rocking Horse Hill is available to purchase from

 

Penguin  I boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I Amazon US

  via Booko

 

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Special Announcement: The Penguin Random House National Bloggers Forum 2014

rha_bloggers2014_badge1

I am thrilled to finally share a secret I’ve been keeping for weeks!

The inaugural Penguin Random House National Book Bloggers Forum 2014!

Penguin Random House Australia is pleased to announce the inaugural National Book Bloggers Forum – a first-of-its-kind conference being held specifically for book bloggers in Sydney on Tuesday May 20. The free, one-day forum has been developed to foster a closer working relationship with the growing book blogging community.

The conference, coinciding with the opening day of the Sydney Writers Festival, will feature surprise guest authors, insights from publishers and sessions on blog promotion, as well as an open forum in the afternoon for bloggers to discuss whatever they see fit. This conference is a fantastic opportunity for bloggers to hear from publishing insiders as well as learn some best-practice tips on blogging. Winner of the 2013 Best Australian Blog Competition and Random House Australia author Sneh Roy is just one of the day’s guest speakers. The full program for the forum will be announced in coming weeks.

RHA_Bloggers2014_Pod1
I’ll be there and I hope you will join me. It promises to be a fabulous opportunity for all Australian book bloggers.

I’ll be sharing more information as it becomes available and you can find more details at  http://www.randomhouse.com.au/bloggers-forum/

Bloggers not able to attend the conference can keep up with the conversation on Twitter by using the #NBBF14 hashtag or following @RandomHouseAU.

Review: Through the Cracks by Honey Brown

 

Title: Through the Cracks

Author: Honey Brown

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin April 2014

Status: Read from April 21 to 22, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“Within the space of one week Adam grew strong enough to stop him. Somewhere in those seven days a tipping point had been reached….
‘Don’t touch me.’
‘What did you say to me?’
Adam straightened his elbow and shoved his father in the chest.”

After enduring years of confinement and abuse at the hands of his father, Joe, Adam finally pushes back, but having secured his freedom he has no idea what to do with it…until Billy finds him. Placing his trust in the streetwise teen, Adam tentatively ventures beyond his suburban prison for the first time in years, but no matter the direction the pair take to escape, their past refuses to let them go.

Through The Cracks is an intense and provocative read, though not quite the thriller, I have come to expect from Honey Brown. Delving into the darkest recesses of society, Brown explores the fates of two very different young boys and their struggle to survive, and move on from, a shared history of abuse, exploitation and neglect.

Though ultimately a story of hope, Through the Cracks is not an easy read. Written with brutal realism, the themes are disturbing, and certain details, though never gratuitous, can be confronting. Most readers will find themselves heart sore and indignant as Adam and Billy evoke sympathy and admiration, their tormentors engender disgust, and those that fail the boys provoke outrage and guilt, while raising questions about society’s failure to protect its most vulnerable members.

Through the Cracks is a powerfully affecting tale but I think the publisher does a huge disservice to the book by linking Nathan Fisher’s and Adam’s identities in the blurb. It blunts the revelations that come as the story unfolds, and while still an absorbing read, I found there were very few surprises, and little suspense.

Through the Cracks is available to purchase from

Penguin I boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I Amazon US

  via Booko

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

The Its Monday! What Are You Reading meme is hosted at Book Journey.

Life…

The Good News: Thank you for the many lovely birthday wishes I received last week, they truly brightened my day.

The Bad News: The tradition continues however, making this the 41st year without receiving a single book (or book voucher etc) as a birthday gift! What I did get was a block of  Crunch chocolate and a television remote control (don’t ask!)

The Good News: The children have two weeks of school holidays

The Bad News: I’m exhausted trying to keep them entertained.

 The Good News: We’ve spent the four day Easter holidays at home, overdosing on chocolate and hot cross buns.

The Bad News: Hubby will go back to work tomorrow

The Good News: This weekend we celebrate ANZAC Day and so he will be able to enjoy another long weekend.

The Bad News: I’m nervously preparing for the presentation I am giving this Thursday night to a local women’s network group about books and blogging.

The Good News: I’m hoping to be able to share the details of a special bookish event with you sometime this week, I’m so excited about it and can’t wait to make the announcement!

What I Read Last Week

From The Feet Up by Tanya Saad

The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

The Accident by CL Taylor

Guidebook To Murder by Lyn Cahoon

The Forever Song by Julia Kagawa

The Man Who Couldn’t Stop by David Adam

 

New Posts

(click the titles to read my reviews)

Review: The Tea Chest by Josephine Moon ★★★1/2

Review: From The Feet Up by Tanya Saad

Review: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon ★★★

Guest Post: Writing What You Fear by CL Taylor

Review: The Accident by CL Taylor ★★★

Review: Guidebook To Murder  by Lyn Cahoon★★1/2

Review: The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa ★★★★

Stuff on Sundays:  Bookshelf Bounty

What I Am Reading Today

For centuries, the Furies have lived among us. Long ago they were called witches and massacred by the thousands. But they’re human just like us, except for a rare genetic mutation that they’ve hidden from the rest of the world for hundreds of years. Now, a chance encounter with a beautiful woman named Ariel has led John Rogers into the middle of a secret war among the Furies. Ariel needs John’s help in the battle between a rebellious faction of the clan and their elders. The grand prize in this war is a chance to remake the human race. Mark Alpert’s The Furies weaves cutting-edge science into an ingenious thriller, showing how a simple genetic twist could have inspired tales of witchcraft and sorcery, and how the paranormal could indeed be possible.


 What I Plan To Read This Week

(click the covers to view at Goodreads)

 

Four-year-old Nathan Fisher disappears from the bank of a rocky creek. Did he drown or was he taken? The search for the missing boy grips the nation. A decade later, young teen Adam Vander has grown tall enough, strong enough, to escape his abusive father. Emerging from behind the locked door of their rambling suburban home, Adam steps into a world he knows little of.  In the days that follow, with the charismatic and streetwise Billy as his guide, Adam begins to experience all that he’s missed out on. And he begins to understand that he has survived something extraordinary. As the bond between the boys grows, questions begin to surface. Who is Adam really? Why was he kept so hidden? Was it just luck that Billy found him, or an unsettling kind of fate?  Unearthing the shocking truth of Adam’s identity will change the lives of many and put at risk a cast of flawed, desperate people. It’s a treacherous climb from the darkness. For one boy to make it, the other might have to fall through the cracks.

 Ever since she was a little girl, Emily Wallace-Jones has loved Rocking Horse Hill. The beautiful family property is steeped in history. Everything important in Em’s life has happened there. And even though Em’s brother Digby has inherited the property, he has promised Em it will be her home for as long as she wishes. When Digby falls in love with sweet Felicity Townsend, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Em worries about the future. But she is determined not to treat Felicity with the same teenage snobbery that tore apart her relationship with her first love, Josh Sinclair. A man who has now sauntered sexily back into Em’s life and given her a chance for redemption. But as Felicity settles in, the once tightly knit Wallace-Jones family begins to fray. Suspicions are raised, Josh voices his distrust, and even Em’s closest friends question where Felicity’s motives lie. Conflicted but determined to make up for the damage caused by her past prejudices, Em sides with her brother and his fiancée until a near tragedy sets in motion a chain of events that will change the family forever.

Dan’s got a new job. But he’s moved out of town in order to start a family and had to start commuting into the city every day, leaving his young wife Beth and newborn daughter at home. After 14 months of the trains either making him late for work or late getting home, he’s had enough. Tracking down the email address of the train company’s director, he starts to write him letters. Emails that take as long to write as the delay to his journey has been. If his time’s been wasted, why shouldn’t he waste the director’s? And so begins a hilarious and extraordinary correspondence. When the director begins to write back, Dan finds himself with a dysfunctional father/confessor to talk to — one who he never imagined would care. In truth, he probably doesn’t. But Dan finds solace in opening up to a stranger about the dramas of his day job at a scandal-hit newspaper, the challenges of his night job as the father of a baby who isn’t sleeping, and about life as it is played out in the confines of Coach C, while world events pass by its odd mix of inhabitants.

Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heat wave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman called Jenny Bonnet is shot dead. The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny’s murderer to justice – if he doesn’t track her down first. The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women and damaged children. It’s the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts. In thrilling, cinematic style, FROG MUSIC digs up a long-forgotten, never-solved crime. Full of songs that migrated across the world, Emma Donoghue’s lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among lowlifes captures the pulse of a boom town like no other.

Physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs five days at Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of the doctors and nurses who struggled to preserve life amidst chaos. After Katrina destroyed the generators that make twenty-first century medicine possible, to be a patient at Memorial meant you were wholly at the mercy of caregivers forced to make a cascade of decisions about whose lives could be preserved and who would most likely die in the face of serious illness and limited medical care. The result was an almost unthinkable tragedy: several health professionals deliberately injected severely ill patients with drugs to hasten their deaths.  In an engrossing narrative that exposes the human drama that fuels medicine and the unchartered territory of end-of-life care, Fink brings the reader into a hospital fighting for its life and into a conversation about just how ill-prepared we are as Americans for the impact of large-scale disasters on the most vulnerable among us.

While you are here…

Winner of  Beached by Ros Baxter : Carla P

 

Vote for Book’d Out in the Best Australian Blog Awards. Click the image below and look for Book’d Out (listed alphabetically). I’d appreciate your support!

Thanks for stopping by, I’ll try to be along to visit you shortly!

Stuff on Sundays: Bookshelf Bounty

It’s that time of the month or near enough,  so here is what I have added to my shelves recently.

Click on the cover images to view at Goodreads

For Review (print)

 





For Review (ebook)


 

Bought or otherwise acquired (giveaways, gifts etc)

Review: The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa

 

Title: The Forever Song { Blood of Eden #3}

Author: Julie Kagawa

Published: Harlequin April 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from April 17 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Forever Song brings Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden trilogy to a dramatic close, forcing Allie, Kanin and their allies into a final confrontation with the psychotic vampire, Sarren, in a battle to save both humans and vampires from extinction.

Beginning where The Eternity Cure finishes, Allie, her sire, Kanin, and sire-brother, Jackal, are on their way to Eden to confront Sarren. Always a step behind, the band are delayed by the sick surprises Sarren leaves in his wake – massacred human villages, a tunnel full of Rabids and a former ally now an enemy, intent on killing them all.

Like its predecessors, The Forever Song is gritty and blood soaked, flooded with emotional angst and spiked with snarky humour. The story is fast paced despite its 400+ pages with Allie and her cohorts racing to stop Sarren from unleashing the fatal virus into the world.

Some characters may surprise you, others not so much. Allie still can’t decide is she is more human or monster, Kanin is as enigmatic as ever and Jackal has a barbed quip for every occasion.

I’m reluctant to write too much, wary of inadvertently spoiling the story for those yet to read this finale. I thought The Forever Song was an exciting and entertaining conclusion to the Blood Eden trilogy, which should satisfy Kagawa’s fans.

The Forever Song is available to purchase from

HarlequinUS I AmazonUS I BookDepository

Australian Edition

Due May 1st

 

 

 

 

Review: Guidebook To Murder by Lyn Cahoon

 

Title: Guidebook To Murder {A Tourist Trap Mystery #1}

Author: Lynn Cahoon

Published: Kensington Books April 2014

Status: Read from April 16 to 17, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Set in the small coastal town of South Cove, California, Guidebook To Murder begins with the death of an elderly woman befriended by local bookstore/cafe owner, Jill Gardner. Detective Greg King, is of the opinion that Miss Emily’s passing was due to natural causes but Jill is suspicious and insists on an autopsy which reveals Miss Emily was murdered. Convinced that the sleazy developer that had been putting pressure on Miss Emily to sell her home could be responsible, when Jill discovers she has inherited Miss Emily’s house, she risks becoming his next victim.

The story of Guidebook To Murder is surprisingly busy despite only a single murder taking place. Jill finds herself juggling extensive home repairs in order to meet a council order with attempting to solve the murder of Miss Emily, locate some missing art and defend her reputation from Miss Emily’s scheming relatives, all while receiving regular death threats. And if that wasn’t enough, Jill is also trying to reign in her meddlesome, if well-meaning, aunt, search for her missing best friend, and fight her attraction to the handsome, but off-limits, Detective King. Though Cahoon manages to tie everything up neatly in the end, the story feels a little overcrowded and despite the plethora of suspects and motives, the plot of Guidebook to Murder is still fairly predictable.

I liked Jill well enough, once a city lawyer, Jill moved to South Cove on a whim after her divorce, investing her life savings into “Coffee, Books, and More”. We are told by Cahoon that Jill is a bit of pushover but I don’t really see evidence of that, she has no problem standing up to the developer, the council or even the detective when he writes off Miss Emily’s death as natural causes.
We don’t learn too much about the other characters, Amy, Jill’s best friend, is missing for much of the book, and her Aunt Jackie is busy running the store while the villains are little more than stereotypes. I never quite worked out the Mayor’s role in the story, nor why the developer was so desperate for Miss Emily’s land.

I did take issue with few small details within the story too, for example, probate usually takes two to three months (and generally longer) to complete, whereas Jill had control of her inheritance in days.

Guidebook To Murder is the first novel in Lynn Cahoon’s, ‘A Tourist Trap Mystery’ series. I found it to be a quick, and easy read but not a particularly exciting one.

 

Guidebook To Murder is available to purchase from

Kensington Books

All Romance, amazonkindle, Apple, BooksOnBoard, Blio, Diesel, Google, Kobo, Nook

 

Review: The Accident by C.L. Taylor

The Accident

 

Title: The Accident

Author: C.L. Taylor

Published: HarperCollins Avon UK April 2014

Status: Read from April 15 to 16, 2014 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

The Accident is a fast paced psychological thriller from debut author, C.L. Taylor.

Desperate to understand why her comatose 15 year old daughter would deliberately step into the path of a bus, Susan Jackson begins a frenzied hunt for clues amongst the secrets her daughter kept from her. As Susan slowly begins to piece together information from Charlotte’s diary, phone and friends, shocking evidence of betrayal and blackmail begins to emerge, along with ugly secrets from Susan’s own past.

The author nurtures an uneasy atmosphere from the first few pages of The Accident, building mistrust and dread as the story unfolds. Surrounded by secrets and lies, Susan doesn’t know where to turn or how to make sense of the information she learns but is certain she can find the truth, even if everyone else believes she is simply chasing ghosts.

Taylor quickly establishes Susan an an unreliable narrator, Susan is deeply distressed and confused as you would expect of a mother whose child is lying in a coma but it soon becomes obvious that she is also unusually neurotic, and paranoid. While the present day, first person narrative communicates Susan’s growing nervousness and fear, it’s Susan’s journal excerpts from 22 years earlier that helps to explain why she is so anxious.

A well crafted thriller, The Accident is fast paced and tense, culminating in a dramatic conclusion. A strong debut, I’d recommend it particularly to those who enjoyed Kimberly McCreight’s novel, Reconstructing Amelia.

 

CLICK HERE to read Writing What you Fear by C.L. Taylor posted earlier today on Book’d Out

 

The Accident is available to purchase from

HarperCollinsUK I AmazonUK I TheBookDepository

As Before I Wake

Sourcebooks I AmazonUS

 

 

Guest Post: Writing What You Fear by C.L. Taylor

CL Taylor

I am happy to welcome author C.L. Taylor to Book’d Out today.

CL Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son. Born in Worcester, she studied for a degree in Psychology at the University of Northumbria, Newcastle then moved to London to work in medical publishing. After two years she moved to Brighton where she worked as a graphic designer, web developer and instructional designer over the course of 13 years. She currently works as a Distance Learning Design and Development manager for a London university.

Cally started writing fiction in 2005 and her short stories have won several awards and been published by a variety of literary and women’s magazines. Her psychological thriller The Accident debuts this month in the UK, published  by Avon HarperCollins, and will be released by Sourcebooks in the US in June 2014 (with the title ‘Before I Wake’).

The AccidentTo the outside world Susan Jackson has it all – a loving family, a successful politician husband and a beautiful home – but when Charlotte, her fifteen year old daughter,  deliberately steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma Sue questions whether any of it was real.

Desperate to find out what caused Charlotte’s suicide attempt, she is horrified by an entry in her diary – ‘Keeping this secret is killing me’.  As Sue spins in desperate circles, she risks everything to discover the truth and finds herself immersed in a shady world she didn’t know existed. The deeper she delves the darker the world becomes and the more danger she puts herself in.

Can Sue wake up from the nightmares that haunt her and save her daughter, or will ‘the secret’ destroy them both?

Writing What You Fear by C.L. Taylor

They say that authors should write what they know but I think that psychological thrillers should write what they fear. When I came up with the idea for ‘The Accident’ I tapped into three of my very darkest fears:
•    Going mad
•    Being stalked by an ex-boyfriend
•    Something terrible happening to my child

Going mad
It might seem strange that someone with a psychology degree would fear going mad but that’s exactly how I felt when, aged 21, I started having panic attacks. I don’t know for sure what sparked them – possibly it was because I stressed about my final year exams at University or maybe there was a deeper underlying reason – but they became so bad that I’d have to leave cinemas because I’d feel like I couldn’t breathe, or I’d lie awake at night counting my breaths – certain that if I stopped something terrible would happen.
Nearly sixteen years later, and long after I’d stopped having panic attacks I began to fear going mad again. I’d just had my first child and I was so severely sleep deprived that I started hallucinating when I’d take my son for a walk in his pram. I clearly the remember the day I saw the pavement tip and shift and I had to cling onto the pram handle for fear I was about to be tipped into the busy road and into the path of oncoming traffic.
When I began writing ‘The Accident’ during my maternity leave I poured my fear of going mad into the main character, Susan who is still suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, twenty years after she left her abusive ex-boyfriend.

Being stalked by an ex-boyfriend
Unlike Susan I was never physically or sexually abused by an ex-boyfriend but I was in an emotionally abusive relationship for four years in my early thirties. I didn’t realise I was in that kind of relationship for a long time – you never do – and when I finally left him he started stalking me online and in real life. I was bombarded with emails, text messages and phone calls. He’d turn up at my flat at random times in the day and stand at the door in the pouring rain, his finger pressed to the buzzer while I’d sit on the sofa, too scared to move in case he saw me. The stalking became so bad I had to move out and live with my sister and I had to ask my dad to ring him and threaten to report him to the police. Fortunately the stalking stopped but the fear that you ex might suddenly show up in your life again never really leaves you. I poured that fear into Susan.

Something terrible happening to my child
When I gave birth to my son back in 2011 I had the same fears as any other mother – SIDS, choking, falls, illness – but there was a tiny part of me that worried what my ex-boyfriend would do if he ever met my child. I knew, rationally, that nothing would happen – that he lived in a city many miles away, he hadn’t been in touch for years and he wasn’t physically abusive, but that didn’t stop my sleep deprived mind from worrying. I poured those worries into the character of Susan. When her teenaged daughter steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma Susan goes through Charlotte’s diary and discovers an entry that says ‘keeping this secret is killing me’. Susan hasn’t seen her ex-boyfriend James for twenty years but when strange parcels start appearing at her house she becomes convinced that he’s somehow to blame. But Susan has had ‘episodes’ like this before, where she’d imagined James was after her, but it was all in her head. That’s what her doctor and husband told her anyway. Is James responsible for Charlotte’s ‘accident’ or is someone closer to home to blame?

You can read my review of The Accident by clicking HERE

The Accident is available to purchase from

HarperCollinsUK I AmazonUK I TheBookDepository

 Before I Wake

Sourcebooks I AmazonUS

Review: The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon

 

 

Title: The Word Exchange

Author: Alena Graedon

Published: Hachette Au April 2014

Status: Read from April 13 to 15, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“The end of words would mean the end of memory and thought. In other words, our past and future.”

In Alena Graedon’s alternate history literary thriller, The Word Exchange, the printed word has all but disappeared in less than four short years. Set in New York in 2016,Just weeks before the publication of the third and final printed North American Dictionary of the English Language(NADEL), its curator, Doug disappears leaving behind a cryptic message for his daughter, Anana. Concerned and confused, Anana, with the support of a colleague, Bart, begins to search for her father, and stumbles upon a shocking conspiracy that threatens to destroy the very foundation of civilisation – language.

The population in The Word Exchange depends on ‘super’smart personal devices, known as Memes, for almost every want and need and to perpetuate that reliance, the company, Synchronic, responsible for the devices has recognised and exploited the profitability in owning not only the means of communication, (ie the Memes) but also language itself through the Word Exchange. Synchronic does this by essentially forcing the development of a new language, but one without any rules or context, thus forcing users to consult (and pay) the Exchange in order to communicate. Only a handful of people, including Anana’s father, Doug, object, and predict disaster but it is too late when meme users begin to develop ‘Word Flu’, essentially aphasia (the loss and the comprehension and formulation of language) that leads to more serious individual and societal complications.

The Word Exchange is, in part, a cautionary tale about society’s increasing reliance on digital communication and information, and its possible impact on language when paired with corporate greed. If you are appalled when the Oxford Dictionary updates with words like ‘vacay’ and ‘phablet’ and insist on spelling every word in full when you send a text message, The Word Exchange will leave you feeling horrified, yet vindicated.

I think The Word Exchange is both an ambitious, complex, and clever novel and a frustrating, vexatious, and pretentious read. The concept, while not unique, is intriguing and creative but for me the execution was largely alienating. The pace is almost glacial til halfway through and littered with incomplete info dumps, Anana is a weak and annoying heroine who uses disruptive footnotes in her ‘journal’, and the prose is wildly overwritten, even allowing for intentional irony.
But for all that there are moments of brilliance in the narrative, like when, for example, we begin to understand and relate to Graedon’s premise as Bart’s aphasia progresses and made up words proliferate, stripping his journal writing of context and meaning.

I am, in all honesty, torn. The Word Exchange is simultaneously too much, and not enough, an intelligent story but somehow lacking in common sense. If you are curious, I do think it is worth the attempt, but I wouldn’t judge anyone who gives up on it.

The Word Exchange is available to purchase from

Hachette I boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AU I Amazon US I BookDepository

  via Booko

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