Anne Bonny Q&A with Leila Aboulela #Author of Elsewhere, Home #Literary #ShortStories #NewRelease @SaqiBooks

Elsewhere, Home by Leila Aboulela

Intimate stories of longing and exile by one of our finest contemporary writers.

A lonely housewife fascinated with a famous writer learns to find her own voice in Abu Dhabi; a bus route passing the Christmas lights along Oxford Street is a stark reminder for a female passenger of her brother’s tragic death on the eve of his wedding; and a Scottish man working in a kebab shop and his girlfriend try desperately to reconcile Islam’s place in their fragile relationship.

From the heat of Khartoum at the height of summer to the wintery streets of London, from the concrete high rises in the Gulf to the blustery coast in Aberdeen, this elegant and moving collection vividly evokes the overlapping worlds of Africa, Britain and the Middle East. Beautifully observed and written with empathy, Leila Aboulela’s stories deftly capture the search for home in our fast-changing world.


Q: When you first began to write, where did you think writing would take you?

A: At first, writing was a hobby. I wanted to make good use of my free time (which wasn’t much as I had two young children and a part-time job as a Statistics lecturer), make friends, have an outlet for my thoughts and feelings. Ambition and taking writing seriously developed later. I did have a clear intention, though, when I first started to write. I wanted to cure my homesickness and I wanted to put Islam in English literature. To some extent I achieved these goals almost immediately with my first novel The Translator. Being a writer enabled me to have a new life in Britain, to become someone I could not have been had I stayed in Sudan (not because one can’t be a woman writer in Sudan but because for me personally the writing was triggered by the move from Sudan to Britain). And I was happy that the reading public in Britain and elsewhere were open to the faith content in my work.

Q: Where do you do most of your writing? Can you describe to me the space where you are happiest working?

A: I am not fussy about space as long as I am alone, it’s quiet and no one is looking over my shoulders! I would never be able to write fiction in a café, for example. The room I am writing in now is my study. I keep the blinds down and the lights on. This probably sounds awful, but it makes me feel sealed in. I’ve written in rooms with views before, but I don’t particularly miss them. The sun would sometimes hurt my eyes and I’m inside the text anyway and not seeing anything else!

Q: What were the things you missed most about Sudan when you first moved to Aberdeen?

A: Everything – the visuals, the people, my sense of belonging. At the same time, I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what I was missing! The writing was a way of answering this question.

Q: Have those things changed over time?

A: Over time, the homesickness did recede, but it would flare up like flu from time to time. Over the past ten years, I’ve visited Sudan more and more. It has changed so much that it’s not the same place that I miss anymore. I miss the Sudan I grew up in but that’s nostalgia for childhood and yearning for the past- it’s not the same as homesickness.

Q: What does ‘home’ mean to you?

A: Home is where I feel a total sense of belonging, where I don’t have to explain or justify my presence, where I am taken for granted but not devalued, a place where I have agency, where I am not frightened to speak out, or feel wary of being misunderstood. A place of safety and nourishment. Home could be a physical space- the Aberdeen Central Library, a cousin’s house in Khartoum, Mecca during the Pilgrimage. Or it is being surrounded by my family anywhere in the world, even in an anonymous hotel room. The intellectual space I occupy with readers, writers and publishers, inside the pages of fiction, is also a kind of home.

Q: You have won and been listed for many, many prizes over the years, including the Scottish Book Awards, the Caine Prize for African Writing, The Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Orange Prize. What does it mean to you to have your work recognized in this way?

A: It means a great deal. Especially when I was starting out, this kind of prize recognition did feel like a stamp of approval. I think prizes are great for writers and for drawing attention to a particular work. On the other hand, they can create a competitive, superficial culture of winners and losers- regardless of content. I have recently started to place more emphasis on the response of academics to my writing. Most of the learned, nuanced readings of my work is taking place within scholarly articles. I am happy that my work is taught in universities and that students are using it as subject matter for their PhDs.

Q: As well as your short stories, your novels The Translator, Minaret, Lyrics Alley and The Kindness of Enemies are loved by readers far and wide. Do you approach writing short stories and novels in the same way? If not, what are the differences?

A: Novels are long journeys. It is not only the number of words, but the years spent in writing them. Embarking on a novel is a commitment. I have to ask myself, ‘Will I be able to sustain fascination is this particular topic and in these particular characters for several years?’’ Short stories, on the other hand, don’t require this kind of long-term commitment. I can dip into the world of a short story and be out again within a relatively short period of time. This enables me to take risks and to follow instincts. Some of the stories in Elsewhere, Home such as The Aromatherapist’s Husband or Farida’s Eyes are detours, taking me away from my regular themes and yet they were fun to write. A story like Pages of Fruit, which is the longest in the collection and covers several decades and countries, felt like a novel when I was writing it, especially as it was very emotional for me and I could have kept going with the theme- but the narrow focus on the two main characters made it more suitable for the short story form. I must admit that writing thirteen separate short stories is much more difficult than writing one novel. In total, there is more work packed in a story collection, more skill than in one single novel.

Leila Aboulela


Anne Bonny #Extract and Q&A with @Littlehavenfarm Shaun Baines #Author of #Woodcutter #CrimeFiction #NewRelease #Newcastle @ThistleBooks #AuthorTalks #QandA

Woodcutter by Shaun Baines

Some family trees are meant to fall.

On the run from his criminal family, Daniel Dayton returns home to Newcastle Upon Tyne when his abandoned daughter is attacked.

But his family have problems of their own. Targeted by a brutal mercenary, their empire is destined to be destroyed should Daniel refuse to help.

Betrayed by his parents. Despised by his brother. In love with his sister-in-law. Home has become a dangerous place to be.

Daniel wants his daughter safe. And he wants his revenge, but in the shadowy streets of Newcastle, things are never what they seem.


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

A) When I completed my degree in English Literature, I found myself in the real world with no idea what I wanted to do. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to be a writer, but that’s not a proper job, is it? So, I drifted from office to office before starting my own gardening business in the middle of a recession. But I was successful and got me thinking about what else I could achieve.
Woodcutter was the answer. It’s the story of Daniel Dayton, who is on the run from his criminal family. He returns to Newcastle when his daughter is harmed by an unknown assailant and Daniel wants revenge.
Daniel’s family have their problems, too. They are targeted by a criminal mastermind who is determined to destroy their empire. Daniel’s father wants to use his son as a weapon. His brother wants him dead and his mother has an agenda of her own. Everyone becomes a suspect in the hunt for the person who hurt Daniel’s daughter.

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

A) The initial idea came from a move from Newcastle to rural Scotland. I wondered what the neighbours thought of two Geordie’s moving in next door. Some sort of dark imaginings stirred and I decided they probably thought we were criminals on the run. That was the starting point for Woodcutter.
I was going to self-publish, but in a moment of rare confidence, I began submitting to agents. I was lucky enough to be picked up by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie agency. He had faith in my writing and me as an author. I’m pleased to say, he was right because I’m now published with good reviews flooding in.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) I’m obsessed with John Connolly. Not quite Annie Wilkes Misery-style, but close enough for it to be disturbing. His Charlie Parker series never disappoints and The Book of Lost Things was sensational. He rarely puts a foot wrong and I would happily read his shopping list. John, I’m your No. 1 fan.
I think we’re in a golden age of writing with so many excellent authors to choose from. I can also recommend Mark Billingham, Chris Carter, GX Todd and Stephen King himself, of course. One of the most arresting books I’ve read recently was Sarah Pinborough’s The Death House. You’d be right to finish the book with a round of applause.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) My first author crush was on James Herbert, an English horror writer. I was eleven at the time and too young to borrow them from the library. My solution was to stay there, hiding behind bookshelves while I devoured his books. I read most of James Herbert standing up.
As it happens, the librarian was right. I was too young and impressionable to read Herbert. One of his famous books is called Rats and the reason why I have a lifelong phobia of rodents.

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

A) My favourite moments keep on coming. Signing with an agent. Getting a publishing deal. Seeing the cover for the first time. Reading through the positive reviews. I’m incredibly lucky to be in this position. It makes all the previous struggles worthwhile.

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

A) My wife has been a relentless supporter of mine. From helping me out of literary cul-de-sacs to doing the dishes so I have more time to write. Woodcutter wouldn’t exist without her. I have a small team of beta-readers who, with editorial support of my agent, keep me on the straight and narrow. Or rather, steer me down darker and more twisted avenues. I also have to say thank you to the readers who give me a reason to keep going.
They say writing is a lonely profession, but I’ve found the opposite. Like you, Abby, there are huge swathes of people out there ready to support writers. I salute you all.

*Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career.

Author profile 1
Shaun Baines


Charles Bronson woke with a start. He was five foot five, thick set with wavy blonde hair. Like his namesake, he sported a handlebar moustache, but it wasn’t so he looked more like the movie star or that lunatic in prison. It was to detract from the nervous tick in his cheek coming alive from the moment he rose to the moment he fell asleep.
He rubbed his eyes and gulped. “Are you still up there?”
The room was a bedsit in an abandoned block of flats known as the Devil’s Playground, home to junkies and rat faced dealers. The tatty furniture was pushed against the walls, clearing a space for a tin bath filled with slurry. He’d obtained it from a farmer in Crawcrook who was paid enough not to ask questions. Above it was a naked man called Enoch, suspended by his ankles to a beam in the ceiling. His arms were either side of the bath, braced against the floor. Enoch’s skin was slick with sweat as he struggled to stop his head dipping into the slurry.
Bronson checked his watch. “That’s almost two hours. Sorry I nodded off, but if you’re not going to talk, then there’s nothing for me to do, is there?”
“I don’t know anything,” Enoch said, squeezing the words through gritted teeth.
“I wish I could believe that. You know, I’ve drowned two people in that tub so far and they all keep telling me the same thing. They don’t know anything.”
Bronson approached, smoothing out his moustache. His nostrils had become accustomed to the smell of the slurry, but he was annoyed about his clothes. This kind of stink couldn’t be washed out and he’d binned two suits already. He lived on a budget and the organisation he worked for weren’t the type of people to dish out clothing allowance.
“Enoch, I’m going home for a shower. Don’t worry. I’ll come back, but I live a fair distance away and I love long showers. Do you think you can hang around for me?”
He smiled at his own joke, though he’d used it before.
“Please, Bronson. Let me down. I don’t know anything,” Enoch said.
Who had scared these people so badly they would rather drown in cow shit than spill the beans? This was going to go wrong again, Bronson thought. His boss wanted answers, but no-one was talking. He’d be left with another dead body to dispose of and an awkward conversation to be had with his superiors.


Q&A with @AydinGuner66 #Author of The Devil In I #Thriller #GoodVsEvil #Indie

The Devil In I
The Devil In I by Aydin Guner

Damon West is a twenty-eight-year old living in New York City. His life appears to be perfect. He has a loving girlfriend, good friends, lots of money and a job on Wall Street, everything a young man could ask for.

However, Damon has a secret. Damon is the Devil. For centuries, Damon has roamed the Earth enjoying everything the human world has to offer. Sex, entertainment, travel and new discoveries. Damon’s life appears to be perfect but takes an unexpected turn when he meets a co-worker, Latasha.

Damon is suddenly submerged in a spiraling obsession with Latasha he can’t control. She plays him for the fool. For all his charms, Damon is unable to deal with those emotions. Is it love? Whilst Damon’s world starts to spiral out of control, we start to question who Latasha really is. Is she who she appears to be? Was this all part of a higher plan? Has she been conspiring with the suspicious new boss, Jason Godfrey?

In The Devil In I, Damon faces the ultimate battle to hold on to everything he has: his job, his reputation, his girlfriend, and his life. This is a fast paced, sexy, violent modern day thriller. It is the ultimate story of Good vs Evil. Based in New York City, The Devil In I is not for the faint of heart.


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

A) Hi Anne, I live in the North West of England and come from a big family with 3 sisters! Growing up, being the only boy, I was isolated a lot and developed an over active imagination. I always used to read and watch movies and loved story telling, even at a young age. Over the years, I’ve done freelance articles and reviews for websites, but started writing my novel The Devil In I. It took 4 years to write because it was incredibly challenging to get into the mind-set of the lead character.

The story is about a young Wall Street worker called Damon West who is secretly the Devil. He walks on Earth as a charming, witty, intelligent man and no one suspects he is the Devil, in fact, he appears as something completely the opposite. Which was key to the thesis of the story, the Devil is the ultimate deceptor.

Damon’s life starts to fall apart when he meets a co-worker, he is infatuated with her but is unsure why. As the story unfolds, the wheels start coming off the track for Damon and the story develops into a whirlwind murder, sex and deception filled web, with multiple twists and surprises.

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

A) I think writing the first novel is challenging, because it’s all new, but it’s also the easiest. There is no expectation. I’m currently working on the second novel and some of the things I’m exploring early on is, “What do I want this book to achieve?” and “What is the overarching message to this story”?

It’s important to be passionate about those two questions. Writing a book is a long road and if you’re not 100% into the story you’re telling, it will show.

I’ve been spending a lot of time researching the topics in the book, so I can write about them and discuss and explore those themes. Research is very important.

Patience is key to writing, once you have your story, there’s several ways you can get it published. You can self publish on sites like Amazon, or you can reach out to publishers yourself with a press pack or you can scout out a literary agent to represent you. There’s several avenues, several ways to skin a cat, so to speak.

Q) What are your favourite authors and recommended reads?

A) Brett Easton Ellis is one of my favourite authors and also Stephen King.

Q) What were your childhood/teenage favourite reads?

A) As a kid, I loved Roald Dahl. Got all of his books. I also loved the Goosebumps series! They were so entertaining. Very cool reads.

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

A) It’s a very strange journey, because when you first release the book there’s fear, the fear that no one will like your book. Which is probably something every writer feels. Then when the reviews come in, it’s a really humbling feeling to read the reviews and how people have connected with it.

I’d say my favourite part of being an author is discussing the characters with people who have read it. It’s like we’re bringing them to life. I love hearing other peoples perspective on the characters and analysing why they did and said certain things. I also love it when people I know ask if a character is based on a real person. The whole point of the lead character is to blur the lines between reality and fiction and if that can happen to someone whilst they’re reading this, then that’s a great thing.

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

A) Good question, I didn’t have a mentor as such, but a good friend of mine, Amy, was is also writing her first novel and we used to talk about ideas and techniques and see how we were getting on. Having that writing buddy was really helpful. Someone you can discuss things with.

Aydin Guner
Authors Links:

*Thank you for taking part in the Q&A on my blog, I wish you every success with your writing career*

**The Devil And I, is also available Free to kindle unlimited members**

Derbyshire Noir #2: Q&A with the very talented Sarah Ward. Author of In Bitter Chill and A Deadly Thaw

As stated in Derbyshire noir blog post #1, I am a huge fan of Derbyshire as a setting. Sarah Ward’s novels are set in the fictional town of Brampton in the very beautiful and very real Peak District. I am a huge fan of Sarah’s writing style, the mix of era’s and time frames, keeps the reader constantly guessing. As much as I am an avid reader, I am unable to guess the endings and at the end of A deadly Thaw I was practically shaking the kindle in my hand, ssshhhhh-ing the kids and just stuck my hand in my husbands face, rather than say “I’m near the end, leave me alone!” So yes, they are very very intense reading!
I had so many questions and Sarah was kind enough to agree to a Q&A on my very new blog.


Q) When I review books, I have my own little system for rating books. 5* genius, is a term I use for those absolutely amazing books where every page is great! I don’t get to use it as often as I’d like but such as life. A Deadly Thaw was absolutely brilliant. The writing was so clever & I couldn’t figure out where the story was going to end up. The mini cliff hangers featured throughout the novel meant I couldn’t put it down at all. What is your process of writing? How do you keep up with all the twists & turns?

A) This is an interesting question for me at the moment as I’m writing the (as yet untitled) book four in my Bampton series. With each book, at the start I tend to panic about how I managed to do it the previous time but, as I get going, the process comes back to me.

In terms of plotting, I spend my first draft getting the story down. It can often mean quite a short first draft (around 60k words) but I’m used to this now. Then, for the second draft I fill in details – mainly setting and character- and I also look at how my chapter’s end and think, ‘will my readers want to keep going’.

I belong to a book club and one of the members told me that she prefers not to read books where you’re deliberately encouraged to keep reading so she hates cliff hanger endings on chapters. So I’m trying to pull in the reader a lot more subtly.


Q) Derbyshire is the setting for your novels. As someone who went to secondary school in Derby & college in Buxton, I think it works brilliantly. I think the scenery & various locations make a perfect location. What made you chose Derbyshire for the setting? Is your next book set in Derbyshire?

A) I live in the middle of the Peak District and there’s so much here to inspire. That said, I’ve created the fictional town of Bampton that is very vivid in my head and I just try to incorporate elements of Derbyshire into it. For example, like real-life Bakewell, it has a strong tourist industry and lots of nice shops. Like Cromford it has a canal and remnants of the industrial revolution heritage.

The hills and landscape are real though as is the awful weather!

Q) As someone who is signed up to your newsletter, I often get a snapshot of what you are reading. What have been your 5* genius reads? Or favourites of 2016, 2017 so far?

A) Great question. I enjoyed Ali Land’s ‘Good Me Bad Me’ possibly because it was something I wouldn’t normally read. I also enjoyed Icelandic writer, Arnaldur Indridason’s latest book, ‘The Shadow District’. It’s the start of a new series for him and excellent.

I’m quite harsh with my marking. I’ve come off Goodreads and tend to score books in my head. Very few make 5 stars. Thanks for including mine in yours!


Q) Have any of your favourite authors influenced your writing/reading?

A) I think we’re subtly influenced by everyone we read. In terms of crime fiction, I was a huge P D James fan and I loved her descriptive prose so I suspect she is an influence on my writing. I love the tension and slight strangeness of Ruth Rendell’s world too. Other than that, I guess it’s obvious but I’ve loved Agatha Christie and read and reread her all the time.

Q) Aside from writing, what are your favourite things about being a published author?

A) Without doubt, doing events and meeting people. I love going to libraries and bookshops and meeting readers and not only talking about my own books but those of others too. It’s by far, apart from writing, the best thing about being published.

I also like interacting online with people I’ve not met in real life (like yourself) especially as I live in my own little world up here in Derbyshire.

Q) The crime fiction genre now, more than ever has seen a huge rise in female writers. In turn seeing some female writers doing phenomenally well in terms of book sales, awards & recognition for their work. I think this is brilliant & inspiring. How does it impact the genre from both internally as a writer and externally as a reader?

A) I don’t think this is a new phenomena. The great writers from the Golden Age of crime fiction (Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham, Dorothy Sayers) were all women. Crime fiction is a genre that we own and unlike other jobs I’ve done, I’ve never felt disadvantaged because I’m a woman.

I do, however, meet male readers who say they don’t read novels by women and so there is still a way to go. I tend to track my own reading to see if I’m covering both genders but this is for personal reasons. I’m interested in monitoring the trends in my own reading.


In bitter chill coverdeadly thaw cover

In Bitter Chill & A Deadly Thaw are both available via Amazon and Kindle:

In Bitter Chill- Synopsis:
Bampton, Derbyshire, January 1978. Two girls go missing: Rachel Jones returns, Sophie Jenkins is never found. Thirty years later: Sophie Jenkins’s mother commits suicide.

Rachel Jones has tried to put the past behind her and move on with her life. But news of the suicide re-opens old wounds and Rachel realises that the only way she can have a future is to finally discover what really happened all those years ago.

This is a story about loss and family secrets, and how often the very darkest secrets are those that are closest to you.*Just£3.79 on Kindle UK- 5*

A Deadly Thaw – Synopsis:
‘Gives the Scandi authors a run for their money.’ Yrsa Sigur�ard�ttir
Every secret has consequences.
Autumn 2004
In Bampton, Derbyshire, Lena Fisher is arrested for suffocating her husband, Andrew.
Spring 2016
A year after Lena’s release from prison, Andrew is found dead in a disused mortuary.

Who was the man Lena killed twelve years ago, and who committed the second murder? When Lena disappears, her sister, Kat, sets out to follow a trail of clues delivered by a mysterious teenage boy. Kat must uncover the truth – before there’s another death . . .

A Deadly Thaw confirms Sarah Ward’s place as one of the most exciting new crime writers. *Just £4.74 on Kindle Uk- 5* Genus

Contact/Follow Sarah at:
Twitter: @sarahward1
Facebook Page:

*Huge Thanks to Sarah for agreeing to do a Q&A on my Blog, can’t wait for the next book! I wish you much success with your future writing.

Q&A with Kerensa Jennings, author of Seas Of Snow

I have really enjoyed running Q&A’s on my blog. They are a brilliant idea to get to know the writer behind the book and meet interesting authors. Let me introduce you to Kerensa Jennings, debut author of Seas Of Snow and a woman of many talents!

seas of snow cover

Seas Of Snow By Kerensa Jennings

Q) For the readers, could you give us summary of yourself & Seas Of Snow?

A) I’ve been writing stories and poems ever since I was a little girl. Although it’s taken me a long time to get around to writing a book, I’m lucky enough to have had a long career in the media as a TV producer, writing television programmes. Most of the time viewers would have had no idea who I was, but my words have informed, educated and entertained millions over the years. I produced, directed, wrote for and worked with some of the most amazing people including Nelson Mandela, Sir David Frost (I was Programme Editor of Breakfast with Frost) and Rory Bremner.

I moved away from programme making to strategy and became the BBC’s Head of Strategic Delivery where I designed and delivered strategies for the Corporation, including a significant digital strategy. I now run The Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award.

I’ve always used literature, and poetry in particular, for solace and escape. I happen to think literature is probably the best self-help on the planet! You can fly into other worlds and find ways through writing to make sense of life.

SEAS of SNOW draws together some of my passions and fascinations. While I was at university, I studied the psychoanalysis of fairy tales and got very interested in archetypes and the way characters and stories of good and evil are portrayed. While leading the BBC News coverage of the Soham investigation, I had the opportunity to see first-hand a lot of evidence about the mind and motives of a psychopath. So in SEAS of SNOW, the protagonist Gracie uses poetry and playtime to escape the traumas and abuses of her life; the antagonist, her Uncle Joe, is a very bad man, a psychopath; and there is a subtext of fairy tale underlying the page-turning scenario which hopefully makes you want to read while half covering your eyes.

Q) What was the inspiration behind Seas Of Snow? What was the journey from idea through to publication?

A) The inspiration was originally sparked by a need for catharsis. I found the experience of learning about what the school caretaker Ian Huntley did to those two beautiful little girls profoundly affecting. I went on to train in psychology and take my learning further after qualifying as a professional Executive Coach. I wanted to explore whether evil is born or made, the question at the heart of SEAS of SNOW.

I had the idea of setting the story in the 1950s because of a photograph. In the early nineties, I was living in Paris as part of my studies. I bought a beautiful book called ‘Mémoires d’Enfance’ (Childhood Memories). The front cover was a photograph by the American artist W Eugene Smith, and depicted a gorgeous tableau… a little boy and girl, holding hands, chubbily walking into a wooded glade. There is a halo of light around the children, and an air of foreboding in the dark, sinister woods. The photograph is black and white, and you see the children from behind. The little girl is wearing a sweet smock dress, and the boy, slightly taller and older, is clearly taking responsibility for his charge. When I began formulating my story, suddenly this picture re-appeared in my head, and I knew what those children were called. Gracie and Billy suddenly arrived, fully formed as my characters, and from then on there was no choice but to set the story in the 1950s.

I wrote the book in all my holidays between 2009 and 2013; then did the final polishing of the submitted manuscript in 2014.

Getting published was a fairly long journey. I was fortunate enough that the digital disruptor Unbound fell in love with the book in 2015 and wanted to help me see my vision be published. I honestly cannot thank them enough. Most literary agents want work that can neatly fit into a category, or something with commercial potential. My book does not sit squarely in any category in particular – it’s a thriller in the sense it’s a real page turner; it’s got lots of psychological elements so could be described as a psychological thriller; the story centres around evil and crime – so you could say it’s crime fiction; but then it’s written in an unashamedly literary way – so some people might describe it as literary fiction.

What is brilliant about Unbound is that they support authors writing the work they want to write. We ran a crowdfunding campaign in 2015, and I was told that in their five-year history, mine was the second fastest fiction book to reach its target. Click to watch the promo video if you like. Then last year (2016), I worked on the development edit with the amazing Scott Pack who asked intelligent, sensitive questions, and encouraged me to enhance what I had with extra bits of back-story here and there; additional explanations from time to time; and some truly brilliant suggestions that were always given with care and tact. Because his style was to ask questions and explore my thinking, it gave me the chance to analyse whether I had given the reader enough information. In many cases, I decided that I needed to do a bit more. So I did.

After the development edit, there was a copy edit which tested detail and robustness of fact, timelines and so on; then the structural edit ensuring everything was in the right place and put together properly; followed by a formatting edit and a few rounds of proof reading. It was completely exhausting! I despatched the final manuscript off in December and the first editions started rolling off the presses in January 2017.

Q) The character of Gracie is written exceptionally well and I found she reminded me of my daughter at that young age. She is the true depiction of innocence. What was your inspiration behind her character?

A) Thank you! What a lovely compliment. Gracie is, in my mind, the little girl in the photograph. When she arrived in my head, she was a wise, clever little girl. Serious, calm, but imaginative. A child who could take flights into the imagination and be older than her years in her thinking. Some of her attributes come from my own experiences. I kept diaries and wrote poetry from a very young age. I had a funny experience when at one point someone at the publisher who was helping me with the book queried whether a little girl that young would be interested enough to jot down the prices of things and make small notes about things going on in the news. I had to prove that this can, and indeed, does happen, and shared some extracts from my own diary written at roughly the same age!

I knew I wanted Gracie to love poetry and to use literature to help make sense of the world. Through her, I am attempting to help people who are not so familiar with reading poetry learn some of the tricks and tips you can use to help make sense of it; and also attempting to share my own love of literature to try to inspire others with passion for both the beauty and the solace it can provide. Her unbridled joy at reading is infectious, I hope, as is her delight in trying to put her own poems together.

You are right I wanted her to be the true depiction of innocence. My thesis at Oxford was titled ‘Persecution and Revenge of the Innocents’. I started getting interested in good and evil as themes at school when I studied William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. So I very deliberately wanted to bring to life a character who would be a truly good person; to act as the most profound counterpoint to the darkness in the soul of the antagonist. Although some of that sounds a bit theoretical, it’s a good old fashioned good versus evil story. A bit David and Goliath.

The hardest bit about bringing Gracie to life was ensuring her dialogue matched her age and her character. She is five years old when we first meet her in the book, and as she grows older I needed to ensure her vocabulary developed and her thinking matured. I really enjoyed ‘getting to know’ Gracie as I was writing her. I think we all secretly want a friend like Gracie.

Q) I found the novel to be very thought-provoking in subject matter. I stated in my review that it would be perfect for book groups, as the content is ideal for debate/discussion. Also taking the era into consideration, it shows the changes in society. Would you like to see it used in book groups? Are there available Q&A’s for this?

A) I would absolutely love SEAS of SNOW to be used in book groups; and yes there are topics, themes and Q+A available for anyone who wants them. Example topics include the nature of maternal love; loyalty; trust; betrayal; abuse; domestic violence; whether evil is born or made; the use of poetry in the book; childhood friendship and psychological motives.

This year I am devoting all my annual leave and spare time to work on supporting the book’s publication so I am happy to arrange post-read skype calls, webinars, and personal visits to book clubs if I can make the logistics work. I would also be thrilled to take Q+A from readers and am organising all of these through my Facebook page @KerensaJenningsAuthor and my website: Please also follow me on Twitter @zinca !


Q) I found the novel deeply moving, with an ending that really packs a punch. What have the responses been so far?

A) Thank you so much – that’s so lovely to hear.

I really loved your review and was so thrilled you so brilliantly appreciated its central themes and characters. I was amazed and honoured to get a quote from Rowan Pelling, who writes for The Telegraph and the Daily Mail (she was the former editor of The Erotic Review) who said this:

‘Intense and haunting, this perfectly pitched debut novel hooks the reader from the first page and refuses to let go.’

BooksMonthly said it was ‘absolutely wonderful’, and commented ‘the reveal at the end is nothing short of brilliant.’ Amazon currently (as of 19th March 2017) has 21 reviews, all of which are FIVE STAR! Example quotes include ‘an astonishing book’; ‘phenomenal’; and ‘simply brilliant’. I have to admit I am slightly blown away and cannot stop smiling.

I worked hard on the ending because I get so frustrated as a reader when I have invested time, energy and love in a story and it either peters out, has an unsatisfactory or implausible ending, or makes you wish you hadn’t bothered. Example of brilliant endings in my opinion include We Need To Talk About Kevin, The Uninvited, Immortality, Before I Go To Sleep and Gone Girl. I wanted people to read my book and be pleased they did. I also wanted to affect people emotionally, so they could feel a bit what I felt when I was covering the case. I don’t know if it is the wrong thing to say about your own book, but it still makes me cry.

Q) What is next, is there a book #2 planned? Will you write within the same genre?

A) Yes, SEAS of SNOW is the first of three psychological thrillers inspired by my work in the field as a TV journalist. I am part way through the second one and have planned the third.

I also continue to write poetry and do poetry commissions for special occasions. Anyone can get in touch and ask.

For anyone who wants to get updates, or contact me, you can sign up to my SEAS of SNOW newsletter at, write via the website, and of course follow @zinca on Twitter. My Intagram is seasofsnow.

*Huge thanks to Kerensa for being part of a Q&A on my blog. I wish you every success with your debut novel and future writing career.