Q&A and #Extract with @HodgsonCristina #Author of #ALittleOfChantelleRose @crookedcatbooks

C.Rose cover art
A Little Of Chantelle Rose by Cristina Hodgson
Synopsis:

At the age of twenty-four, Chantelle Rose has all a city girl can expect: a tiny bed-sit in South London, a lousy poorly-paid job, a tyrannical boss, and quite a few exes added to an ever-growing list.

Desperate for change, she becomes an extra in a seedy crime film. When that leads to the opportunity of a lifetime – a role to play with a million dollars to win and seemingly nothing to lose – she accepts without thinking twice. After all, what could possibly go wrong? In any event, she´ll earn enough to buy her dream home, set up her own business and never worry about money again.

And what about love? Two men have won her heart: Robbie – sultry, silent, mysterious; and Lionel – Hollywood heart-throb, charm, wealth, adventure.

But who can she trust? Who is bent on scaring her away, and why?

There seems to be more at stake than just her heart. Will a million dollars be worth it?

Q&A:

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?

A) My debut novel, which was released just recently, was actually written thirteen years ago. After graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in PE and Sports Science, I travelled and worked in various jobs. One of which was as an extra in a British produced gangster film which was filmed in Nerja, Spain. It goes without saying that my sport mechanics and kinetic energy knowledge wasn’t put to maximum potential in this part-time job. But it was certainly a fun and unique experience, but most importantly it gave me an idea.

            A year later I sat down and within three months I had written my 90 K novel. A little of Chantelle Rose was born. The novel tells an urban fairy tale. It’s about a young London girl who through a series of hilarious, if bizarre, circumstances is propelled to Hollywood glamour, lovers, confusion, menace and a truly startling conclusion. Its twists and turns will grip the reader – and make them laugh, too! At least that’s what I hope!!

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

A) Like I’ve said, the idea came to me after being an extra on a British produced gangster film and I actually found the writing of the story easy. I finished writing the whole novel within three months. The road to publication was about to begin and it was going to be a long and almost impossible journey.

            Thirteen years ago, the publishing industry was still largely virgin to e-books. It was all print and the Big Four book publishing houses only accepted manuscripts through agents. And agents only accepted printed copies of the first three chapters that had to be sent with a query letter and a S.A.E. I was living in Spain and the postal cost to send my work to the UK was quite expensive. I carefully went through a list of agents accepting fiction in my genre, contemporary women’s romantic comedy and selected just a handful to send my work to. I remember excitedly posting off my work in the innocent belief that I’d get accepted straight away.

            What I didn’t know is that most agents and publishers can receive up to 40 + query letters per day. Now, I’ve never been a whiz at arithmetic, but this is pretty basic maths: 40 x 5 (let’s make it a 5 day working week) = 200 manuscripts per week. Your basic agent’s staff will be working a 40 hour week. That’s 5 query letters to get through per hour . Dedicating an average of 12 minutes (not counting “wee” stops) per letter, (opening/ reading and deciding course of action). It takes me longer just trying to decide which shoes to wear in the mornings! So it’s quite a feat to get through all those submissions on a daily basis! And of course all the agents that I had so painstakingly selected, rejected me. I was disheartened to say the least and gave up, pushing from my mind all thoughts of getting my work published.

            The years went by and the manuscript sat in a corner collecting dust. Until a couple of years ago, when my dad, who’d read the original manuscript and loved it (as only dad’s can of course) encouraged me try and get it published again. I now found myself in a full time job, with two young children to look after, never mind the house work / cooking and trying to keep up some sort of social life etc. etc. and it took me over a year to re-edit and up-date it.

            This time I sent it straight to several small independent publishers who accepted non solicited and non agented work. With the emergence of e-books, the book market and the publication process had changed and developed. The up-front cost to produce an e-book is minimum and most paper back books are printed on demand. This in turn has led to the the growth of smaller Independent publishers more willing to give authors that golden chance.

So after months of e-mail torture and nail-biting web searching, I received the e-mail of my dreams; that my work has been accepted for publication! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is without a doubt one of the most magical and incredible moments that any author will feel in the road to publication.

            It has taken me longer to find a publisher than it did for me to actually write my book! And I still sometimes sit in awe, and wonder if I have, in fact, dreamt the whole thing up!

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) This is a tricky one. I think I’ll have to go with, and in no particular order.

  1. The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S Lewis. (Novels like this one made me into a reader at a young age, and from the reader the writer was born).
  2. Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen (I write romance, say no more…)
  3. The White Queen. Philippa Gregory (This novel, as all Philippa Gregory’s historical novels actually makes learning about the Tudor and pre-Tudor period easy and fun. If I’d read them at school, I’m sure I’d have got an A in history).
  4. Gone with the Wind. Margaret Mitchell. (With one of the most famous closing lines…)

 Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) As a young child I would have to say my favourite author was Enid Blyton, I read all her Famous Five books. She opened a magical world to me and passion for reading that has accompanied my whole life.

As a teenager I remember reading all the books in the Dollanganger series by V.C.Andrews, starting with “Flowers in the attic” and ending with “Garden of Shadows.” They were all quite disturbing to be honest, not something I would re-read now.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

A) There have been many special moments. Receiving positive reviews about my work always make my day. That I can bring a smile or even make people laugh out loud with my work is pretty special for me.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) My family, without a doubt they are my pillar. My parents and brother have always supported everything I’ve done and are the ones that are always encouraging me to pursue my dreams. My husband and children are always there backing me too. They are my team and without them I doubt I would be where I am today.

AUTHOR PIC
Cristina Hodgson
WHERE TO FIND CRISTINA HODGSON ONLINE:
Website: Website
Twitter: @HodgsonCristina
Facebook: Facebook profile
email: hello@cristinahodgson.com

Author Bio:

Cristina Hodgson, mother of two, born in Wimbledon, London, currently lives in southern Spain. Cristina had a long career in sport, reaching national and international level and still actively participates in Triathlon races and enjoys outdoor activities. In her spare time she also enjoys reading and writing. She won a sports scholarship to Boston College. After a period in Boston, she returned to the UK and graduated from Loughborough University with a degree in PE and Sports Science.
A Little of Chantelle Rose is her debut novel. Amazingly, it has nothing to do with running!

#Extract:

My elation over the cottage vanished in a flash as I read and re-read the note. It was just seven words long, but each made me shiver. Cut-out newspaper letters had been strung together to form the message:

HOLLYWOOD BITCH, YOU ARE NOT WANTED HERE.

My legs wobbled slightly as I glanced around me, wondering if the sender was watching me from the dense woods. Despite my thumping heart, I had to pretend I was calm. Despite tears of fright welling up inside, I had to pretend that I wasn’t on the verge of breaking down and crying. Pulling myself together, I opened the car door, which I’d left unlocked, and before I got in I held my right arm high and stuck-up my middle finger, swinging it around in a clear gesture of FUCK YOU. I hoped that if the crazed stalker was still lurking around, he or she would get a clear view of my cool, unimpressed and bravo attitude.

Boy, was I scared. I whammed the door of my Mini shut so forcefully that the whole vehicle vibrated. I punched down the lock on the door and mumbled over and over as I fumbled for the car keys.

“Please, please, please God, let the car start first time…

Then it dawned on me, with a wave of pure and utter dread, that I’d left the car keys on the windowsill in the master bedroom on the first floor as I’d tried, unsuccessfully, to open the window.

I peered through the car window at the surrounding woods. I really didn’t fancy going back into the house, or even getting out of the car. I’d a good chance of getting attacked by the lunatic who’d followed me out here.

Where was my showy spunk now? So much for sticking my finger up in the air in a bravado pretence that I didn’t care.

I took several deep breaths and braced myself. This is when I see what I’m made of! With that I swung the car door open and pelted up the driveway towards the house, practically hurdled the gate and took the doorsteps in one flying leap. My hands shook uncontrollably as I let myself into what I now began to think of as a dark and sinister house. I shot across the living room like a bullet and took the stairs two at a time. I swerved into the master bedroom and drew a deep sigh of relief on seeing my car keys glinting in the sunlight. I pounced on them and as I was about to turn to leave I heard a distinct noise from down below. At least I thought I did, but my heart was pounding so hard that I could hardly hear anything except the thump-thump, thump-thump as blood pulsed through my veins.

Then I heard a voice.

“Chantelle? Where are you?”

 

 

***

 

 

 

Just as I reprimanded myself for being so spiteful, her long legs that positively went on forever appeared as she descended the stairs.

“You have a really cute house,” she cooed as soon as she saw me. That left me momentarily stunned. I’d just about learned to deal with her cattiness, so her unexpected courtesy threw me somewhat.

In all truth I thought we made quite a convincing Tom and Jerry team – me being Jerry, of course. This new Tom in her, consequently, left me wary as hell.

Vivien pulled up a chair by the kitchen table and sat down directly opposite me. For a moment we just stared at each other in awkward silence. Accustomed as we were to out-and-out slanging matches, getting a civilised conversation going was quite a challenge. I sat silent, thinking that I’d let her start the ball rolling, and depending on what she said I would decide whether to throttle her or not.

What I didn’t expect was for her to turn her baby-blue eyes on me. I noticed they were brimming with unshed tears, and though she attempted to keep them at bay, it was with little success. Her chin started wobbling and her cheeks glowed from rosy pink to deep crimson. Soon the wobbling of her chin spread and her shoulders commenced to tremble.

I sat there petrified. She was obviously on the verge of some sort of spasm attack. I hadn’t a clue where she kept her medication, or if she had any to start with. A Valium would come in handy. I couldn’t dial 999 either, as my mobile battery, which had a life span of three hours or less, needed to be charged. My charger was in the van, and the van had been taken by Tammy to load with kitchen devices.

And, shit, I’d forgotten to phone Lionel.

My mind was in a whirl, and now I was getting as jumpy and apprehensive as she was. If I didn’t soothe myself pronto, I would be in grave danger of going to pieces. And Vivien, in her disarray, was going to be no help to me.

I took a deep breath to try and control myself as I continued to witness Vivien’s chronic decline. Her bright crimson cheeks had started to go blotchy and her whole body had started to judder. She’d closed her eyes momentarily. I don’t want to be bitchy, but she looked truly bloodcurdling, like she was possessed or something. She looked like the girl out of The Exorcist – the original version – the one I’ve always had nightmares about.

So there was Vivien, my living nightmare, and I waited in hushed trepidation for her head to turn through 360º.

Vivien suddenly opened her eyes, and it was like opening a sluice gate. Tears just flooded out in non-stop waves. She was leaning against the table and even this started to vibrate alongside her quivering body. I didn’t know what to say to attempt to lessen her anguish. I’m always so tongue-tied in these circumstances. Eventually, in desperation, I blundered ahead and said, rather ineptly, “Is there anything wrong?”

At the rate she was going, she would surpass the previous day’s rain! On hearing my words Vivien started to shake her head vigorously from side to side.

Is that a NO? I was puzzled, because I would have said that there was something very seriously wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

Q&A with @deb_lawrenson #Author of #300DaysOfSun

cover
300 Days Of Sun by Deborah Lawrenson
Synopsis:

Travelling to Faro, Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career. Faro is an enchanting town, and the seaside views are enhanced by the company of Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But behind the crumbling facades of Moorish buildings, Joanna soon realizes, Faro has a seedy underbelly, its economy compromised by corruption and wartime spoils. And Nathan has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child’s kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline over two decades ago.

Joanna’s subsequent search leads her to Ian Rylands, an English expat who cryptically insists she will find answers in The Alliance, a novel written by American Esta Hartford. The book recounts an American couple’s experience in Portugal during World War II, and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. Only Rylands insists the book isn’t fiction, and as Joanna reads deeper into it, she begins to suspect that Esta Hartford’s story and Nathan Emberlin’s may indeed converge in Faro—where the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.

Q&A:

Q) For the readers, can you talk us through your background and the synopsis of your new novel?

 A) I had a bookish but chaotic childhood, though my parents would be horrified to see it described as such. They were in the diplomatic service, and my sister and I went with them on every move across the world, from Europe to the Far East. I went to ten different schools, and ended up begging to be allowed back to England to boarding school at sixteen, so I could do my A-levels. After university, I worked as a journalist because it was a way of writing and telling stories for a living. I never told anyone I wanted to be a novelist until I got my first book deal in 1993.

As it happens, crossing borders and starting again is a powerful theme in 300 Days of Sun.

On the southern coast of Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career. At language school in Faro, she meets Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But nothing is quite what it seems. Behind the atmospheric Moorish buildings, Faro has a seedy underbelly, and Nathan admits he has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child’s kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline over two decades ago.

Joanna’s search leads her to The Alliance, a novel that recounts an American couple’s experience in Portugal during World War II and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. At first it seems unlikely this book could have any bearing on the present, but soon she and Nathan find the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.

Q) Can you talk us through the journey from idea to writing to publication?

 A) I went to Faro with my daughter, who is a keen linguist and had booked herself on a Portuguese language course lasting two weeks. She was only seventeen at the time and I didn’t think I could let her go on her own. While she went to class every morning, I wandered around Faro with my notebook and camera, wondering if I could make it a setting for a novel. In the afternoons, we went exploring: to the beaches on the ferries, the islands across the sea marshes and the narrow streets of Faro’s old town.

Once I had the idea for a story, I spoke about to my literary agents, and to my editors in New York and London – this would be my eighth novel, so they knew I could deliver. A deal was done in August 2014 with HarperCollins in New York, and I was away – or rather, I thought I was. I had no idea of the challenges that lay ahead when I accepted a first draft deadline of Feb 1, 2015.

At the end of September, just as I was getting into my stride, my beloved mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. From then, I wrote on doggedly between hospital visits, and then caring for her at home until she died in mid-December. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I delivered the book on time. Four months later, just as I completed the first set of edits, my father died.

The novel was published in April 2016 in the USA. Last October, it was selected for National Reading Group Month Great Group Reads in America. That was a lovely boost. It has also been published in translation in Portugal, where readers and reviewers really seem to have enjoyed the view of their country through foreign eyes, and found it authentic and life-affirming. I never did get a UK deal for this novel, but I had considerably more to be upset about at the time. It was published as an independent e-book, with the US print copies available here.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

 A) I really hate this question because it’s so hard to answer! I read constantly and always find much to admire.

Carol Shields was a very fine writer. Her novels are intelligent and engaging, even when the subject matter is quiet. Mary Swann is my favourite: a story of a Canadian housewife who wrote poetry but is murdered by her husband before she is published. It’s a literary quest, on one level, as four diverse people who knew her, or know her work, try to unravel the secrets of her writing life.

Armistead Maupin. I just adore the Tales of the City series with its great, exuberant cast of lovable characters. Maupin writes pin-sharp prose that can capture an ambiance or a foible in a finely-tuned phrase. The fog rolling in across the San Francisco Bay presses itself against a window “like a fat lady in ermine”.

Penelope Lively and her elegant dissections of time and memory and history. Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford. In French, Marcel Pagnol and Jean Giono, the great chroniclers of Provence. Daphne du Maurier for her dazzling storytelling. Lawrence Durrell for his dazzling prose.

Contemporary writers: Maggie O’Farrell, Deborah Levy, Julian Barnes, William Boyd.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

 A) I was unashamedly an Enid Blyton fan. How I loved those page-turner mystery and school and adventure stories! Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals was the funniest book I’d ever read. F Scott Fitzgerald and George Orwell were the writing heroes of my teenage years.

Q) What has been your favourite moment of being a published author?

 A) After the excitement of a transatlantic bidding war for the rights to The Lantern, my modern gothic set in Provence, I went to New York to attend Books Expo America, and sign early copies. I researched the subway route and made a note of taxi numbers just in case I got stuck – it never occurred to me that HarperCollins would send a shiny black limo to collect me from my hotel! I really felt I’d made it as we bowled down Fifth Avenue.

Q) Who has been your source of support/encouragement, throughout the writing process?

A) My constants in recent years have been my fantastic agents, Stephanie Cabot in New York, and Araminta Whitley in London. They both combine encouragement with pragmatism and tough love for a manuscript, which is absolutely invaluable. Jennifer Barth, my editor at HarperCollins in New York has been the most amazing person to work with: rigorous and determined that any book should be the best it can be. You can’t ask for any more than that. My husband Rob is a trusted, critical early reader, as was my much-missed mother, Joy.

DL
Deborah Lawrenson
Author links:
You can find out more about the book on my website here: http://www.deborah-lawrenson.co.uk
I have a blog with lots of background photos to all my recent novels at http://deborah-lawrenson.blogspot.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DeborahLawrensonAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/deb_lawrenson
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/deborah.lawrenson/
Goodreads page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/591375.Deborah_Lawrenson
Amazon link: http://mybook.to/300days

*Huge thanks to the author for agreeing to be part of a Q&A on my blog 🙂