Anne Bonny #BlogTour #Extract Crushed by @kate_hamer #NewRelease #LiteraryFiction #Thriller @FaberBooks

cover
Crushed by Kate Hamer

Synopsis ~

Phoebe stands on Pulteney Bridge, tights gashed from toe to thigh. The shock of mangled metal and blood-stained walls flashes through her mind as she tries to cover her face so she won’t be recognised. It wouldn’t do to be spotted looking like this. She’s missing a shoe. She feels sick.

Phoebe thought murder and murder happened. Thoughts are just thoughts, they said. Now she knows they were wrong.

At home, Phoebe arranges the scissors and knives so they point toward her mother’s room. She is exhausted, making sure there’s no trace of herself – not a single hair, not even her scent – left anywhere in the house. She must not let her thoughts unravel, because if they do, there’s no telling who might be caught in the crossfire, and Phoebe will have to live with the consequences.

Extract ~

Phoebe

It was a book full of hate. The words must have been scratched underground at the dawn of time. They should’ve stayed there and never come to the surface. It set it all off again.
I’ve had to come to the only place that can calm me down. The corner of Pulteney Bridge. The only thing is, I’ve lost a shoe so people keep looking. My tights have an open gash from toe to thigh, flashing bright white flesh. I try to cover my face with my hair so I won’t be recognised. Things get reported back. I don’t know where my bag has gone – perhaps I dropped it on the way and didn’t notice.
I’d been calm as the sea before that book. It may as well have come crawling towards me on its elbows, dragging its black and bursting body behind. I should have heeded the inkling I had straight away that it was a bomb about to explode.
I lean against the cool stone of the bridge and look over the water to the weir. Usually it soothes me, but not today. In this water are hidden many ancient things. Sometimes one pops out – a coin, a tin mask, a figure of a bull, a crown, a pin. People are always surprised. Why should they be? The river is at the end of a vast drain sluicing straight down from the Roman bathhouse.
The sun glints off the water. The ancient buildings look more friendly in this light. It turns their darkness the colour of honey. The trees are full of early summer and shake their leaves in the breeze. Yet despite the bright surroundings I cannot be contained this time and I have to lean further over the wall, sickness cramping my stomach.
I’d tried to explain to Grace.
‘It’s just a book,’ she said. ‘It’s just a dusty old copy with half the pages falling out because they won’t pay for new ones. What are you on about?’
Her soft blue eyes travelled from side to side as she looked behind me. Her hair is cropped close to her head. The sight of it always makes me feel tender because I know she cuts it herself. It’s so short you can see the shape of her pretty little skull. I wanted to get her attention back. I cupped my hand over my mouth and whispered to her, quoting from the text.
‘I’ve been eating on the “insane root” again. Not now. Not today. A couple of weeks ago.’
Her eyes snapped back on my face and she nodded and gave a little laugh. ‘I’m partial to a few substances myself.’ Then she frowned. ‘You want to be careful, though, you know. Stuff like that can be dangerous.’
I turned away from her. I was bored of tellings-off. I felt light and free. Nothing bad was going to happen. It was just the warm day that had made me feel there could be a bomb, and Mr Jonasson being so close. All the pieces of me that had flown out came back and began fitting themselves together safely with hardly any gaps left in between.
That’s where it should’ve stopped.
But, no. I had to take it further, didn’t I? I had to go on testing myself, trying things out.
I’ve been told once, thoughts are just that by a woman with a face that looked like a little pussy-cat. The more I stared at her the more she seemed to resemble one.
Usually my tests are of the mundane kind. If I think There will be a red car when I turn this corner, perhaps there will be one. What if I wish for blackberry ice cream on the menu and there it is? If I want that plate to fall, it might and shatter on the stone floor. If, if, if, if. The results so far have been inconclusive.
Not this time.
It must’ve been the darkness of the story that made me do it. It was to show myself it couldn’t happen, that the light and airy feeling was how things were going to be from now on. One last little time, I thought. TRY IT OUT.
Was it five or ten minutes later we heard the commotion? Perhaps I was the only one that went towards it. I slipped out and ran down the road until I saw. There was mangled
metal. Blood ran down the walls.
I froze a good few moments before I ran again.
I reach for the front door key that I wear on a heavy chain around my neck. It’s more precious to me than any piece of jewellery could ever be. Hard won. I clasp it now like a rosary. There’s probably keys down there in the water too, along with the other old Roman stuff washed down from the baths. I can almost see it all, bubbling up to the top. Statues and pendants and nails surfacing at once in a thick and filthy mass, and I feel sick again and have to lean right over the wall. A car behind me beeps, once, loudly. They thought I was about to fall, or jump. Maybe I was. I need to move, but maybe I don’t have a choice.

Orla

Well, that was sickening.
I feel shaken to the pit of my stomach as I walk away. They haven’t got enough tents to cover it all up because the blood goes right along the wall on Walcot Street. They were trying to do it in the chaos and then they made everyone drive or walk away and closed the road as quick as they could. Horrific. Stuff like this just doesn’t happen in a place like Bath. I didn’t mean to look but it’s hard not to. It was mesmerising. It’s unbelievable how much blood people have in them. The red was in a stripe coming out from the back of the plastic they’ve rigged up. I could see how it had got cemented in between the blackened old stones and I wondered how they were ever going to get it out. They’ll have to scrape right into the gaps and use hoses so there’ll be a wash of pink water swirling across the road.
Behind the yellow tape there’s people trundling around in white plastic suits now. They look so out of place against all that dirty ancient stone, it’s like flickering beings have been beamed in from the future. My heart feels like it’s never going to slow down to its usual pace. I want to cry so badly. I’m only trying to hold on until I get home. I concentrate hard on looking at the normal little things I see every day to keep me going until I can wail in my bedroom. There’s a shop of mirrors full of glitter. There’s the giant carved head looming over the undertaker’s door – Bath is full of odd things like that, carvings and statues and old buildings. When I was little I always used to whisper ‘Hello’ to the head as I passed because he looked like he was asking, ‘Is it your turn yet? Will you be next?’ And I thought starting a conversation might please him so he’d decide not to choose me. He seems to be staring extra hard and pointedly today. It must be because of what just happened. ‘Hello,’ I whisper in a trembling voice. ‘Not me right now. I’m not ready.’
By the time I get to the fruit shop with bright green plastic grass in the window, my breathing has stopped hurting so much.
How many times and in different lights and times of day have I seen all these ordinary things? Hundreds. Thousands. I try to make them take the place of what I’ve just seen.
That’s when I see Phoebe’s bag dumped in the shop doorway. The sickness returns. What’s happened to her? What’s happened to her? I pick the bag up and stand, rubbing the striped canvas between my fingers, wondering what to do. It seems strangely violent, this familiar bag being here that I’ve seen a million times, swinging on Phoebe’s shoulder, the hard outline of books showing through the fabric. It’s not exactly her dumped body but something makes me think of it. I hug it close, shaking now. God, she frightens me sometimes. It terrifies me the way she carries on. My heart lurches: what if it’s her that’s been killed on Walcot Street? What if it was her blood I saw? I close my eyes and sway, the idea being so shockingly awful. No, it can’t be. I won’t allow myself to think that. I’ll never make it back.
I hurry on, the taste of home so strong now it’s almost on my tongue. I can’t wait to collapse inside and feel safe, to phone Phoebe and make sure she’s all right. But up ahead are Belinda and her crew, and they’re walking so slowly I’ll have no choice but to pass them – it’ll look too odd if I slow down to their pace behind.
As I catch up with them their tense bright faces tighten towards me.
‘Orla, did you see it?’ Samantha’s eyes are starry with the sight of the blood. The ribbon of it in the sun is still glittering her eyes.
‘Yes. Horrible.’
We all nod even though I can see it’s put a spring in all their steps. They’ll go home and dissect it together, crouching on one of their beds with their arms around their knees and big, pointy-cornered smiles on their faces they can’t wipe off they’re so excited.
It’s such a beautiful day. The sky is a perfect blue. I have an intense longing to be off this dusty pavement with these girls clucking and mauling over the horror like they’re actually sticking their fingers into it and dabbling there. I think of our garden just down the road. It’s my favourite place in the world. Walled in on three sides and with an apple tree in the middle. In the summer, green vines crawl up the brickwork and the scent of the passion flowers passes over me. Mum and Dad aren’t really that into it so I can poke about in there to my heart’s content. Even when it’s cold I’ll sit out on the bench wrapped in a blanket. In the winter the plants have their own bare beauty with all their bones and pods showing like they’ve been turned inside out. I need to be there now.
‘Got to go.’ A wave of awkwardness washes over me. What’s wrong with me? I can’t even make a quick getaway without breaking into a terrible sweat.
‘Hey,’ Belinda calls after me. ‘What was it Grace was saying today?’
I shrug like I don’t know but I heard perfectly well. I was sitting right next to her. Someone had just read a piece out from the supplementary notes. It was Simon, I think.
‘The role of the witch is to demonstrate the female, intuitive, otherworldly power of the mind.’
And while we were all pondering it, supposedly thinking about discussion points, Grace came up with one of her own.
She said, ‘Did somebody actually write this shit?’
It wasn’t even under her breath. In a way it was kind of thrilling, like breaking the law must be.
Everyone heard but nothing happened about it. It never does. She gets away with anything because of her circumstances. Grace might be only sixteen, while Phoebe and me are seventeen, but Grace always seems by far the oldest – as if she’s twice our age and she’s been married and had three kids already.
Finally I see our house and the face of it seems like the sweetest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on. As I’m trying to get the key into the lock, the door opens and I collapse inside into Mum’s arms.
‘Did you see?’ she asks. ‘Carol from church just called and told me what’s happened. She’s stuck in the traffic.’
I nod and I can feel my mouth turning down so sharp at the corners it actually hurts.
‘Oh Orla.’ She hugs me tight. ‘My darling, darling girl. I was hoping you hadn’t. I was hoping you’d never have to witness something like that.’

KH
Kate Hamer
Website
Twitter

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
banner

Anne Bonny #BookReview The Long Shadow by Celia Fremlin #Mystery #Thriller @FaberBooks “Silence, solitude and peace were at last to be hers”

cover
The Long Shadow by Celia Fremlin
Review Copy
Synopsis:

Jolted from sleep by the ringing of the telephone, Imogen stumbles through the dark, empty house to answer it. At first, she can’t quite understand the man on the other end of the line. Surely he can’t honestly be accusing her of killing her husband, Ivor, who died in a car crash barely two months ago.

As the nights draw in, Imogen finds her home filling up with unexpected Christmas guests, who may be looking for more than simple festive cheer. Has someone been rifling through Ivor’s papers? Who left the half-drunk whiskey bottle beside his favourite chair? And why won’t that man stop phoning, insisting he can prove Imogen’s guilt?

My Review:

The Long Shadow has an unusual writing style and it was then that I discovered it is being re-published by Faber Books. The writing has a traditional style and the novel is based around an intriguing mystery. Who is targeting a lonely widow? And why?

Imogen is recently widowed and it attempting to get her life back on track. Her friend Myrtle is encouraging her to get out of her house, but Imogen is reluctant. She feels as though being a ‘widow’ is becoming her identity. Her step-children Robin and Dot and nosey neighbour Edith, fuss Imogen much to her dislike.

“Silence, solitude and peace were at last to be hers”

When Imogen reflects upon her relationship with husband Ivor, it is then that we learn that there is more to Ivor than meets the eye. Then the telephone calls begin…

The calls accuse Imogen of being responsible for her husband’s deaths. Is Imogen a lonely old widow or a cold blooded killer?
Christmas mystery with a twist 4*

***Don’t miss the other bloggers on the blog tour***
banner

Anne Bonny #BookReview The Dark Inside by @Rod_WR 5* #CrimeFiction #HistoricalFiction #AmericanNoir In this town. No one is innocent #CharlieYates @FaberBooks

cover
The Dark Inside by Rod Reynolds
My own copy
Synopsis:

1946, Texarkana: a town on the border of Texas and Arkansas. Disgraced New York reporter Charlie Yates has been sent to cover the story of a spate of brutal murders – young couples who’ve been slaughtered at a local date spot. Charlie finds himself drawn into the case by the beautiful and fiery Lizzie, sister to one of the victims, Alice – the only person to have survived the attacks and seen the killer up close.

But Charlie has his own demons to fight, and as he starts to dig into the murders he discovers that the people of Texarkana have secrets that they want kept hidden at all costs. Before long, Charlie discovers that powerful forces might be protecting the killer, and as he investigates further his pursuit of the truth could cost him more than his job…

Loosely based on true events, The Dark Inside is a compelling and pacy thriller that heralds a new voice in the genre. It will appeal to fans of RJ Ellory, Tom Franklin, Daniel Woodrell and True Detective.

My Review:

I am a HUGE historical fiction fan and I love American noir. That being said, this series was recommended to me by Liz Barnsley over at Liz Loves Books. I was stuck with a lost book mojo and spotted her review and praise for this series. Initially I was most drawn to the synopsis/plot in book #3. But I decided with the rate in which I read books and their only being 3 released so far, it would be best to start at the beginning. Which I am glad I did, as I now feel that I would have missed out on key pieces of the characterisation.

‘I arrived in town four days after the latest killing’ – Charlie

Our protagonist is a failing husband/reporter Charlie Yates. He doesn’t want this assignment and almost from the moment he arrives in town, it appears the town doesn’t want him either!

He is a veteran crime reporter of 15yrs experience but is currently being exiled due to internal issues at the paper. Someone wants him out the way, all the damn way to Texarkana. Something that doesn’t sit easy with Charlie, at all.

The first couple attacked in this series of brutal slayings are young couple Alice Anderson (17yrs) and Dwight Breems. Alice survives her injuries, but Dwights are fatal.
The second attack killed both Patty Sumer (17yrs) and war hero Edward Logan. Who is targeting these young couples? And why?

‘Someone knew what was happening – and why’

Jimmy Robinson is Charlies contact in Texarkana. He warns Charlie that the locals are devastated by the recent murders and that the local Sheriff’s are far from friendly.
Sheriff Bailey is holding several men at the local jail and it appears to be, just to appease the locals from worry.
There is no real link between these murders and the men being held.
Not forgetting this is an era in American history, where just your skin colour can be enough for suspicion.

Charlie seems to be the only person with the train of thought that the killer maybe an unhinged GI. A thought he knows he must keep to himself, with no credible link.
He attempts to speak to the surviving victim Alice at Pine Street hospital. But she is uncooperative. She accuses the local police of bullying and berating her.
She is distressed with virtually no memory of the attack.

Then the police release a statement allegedly from Alice stating that the killer is a black male. Charlie knows what this will mean for the local black population and becomes desperate to find the real culprit.

After another attack the local chamber of commerce offers a $20K reward, for capture of the killer. Now, every black man in Texarkana has a bounty on his head!
That doesn’t sit too well with Charlie either. The Charlie receives cryptic notes…….
‘Red River is the key. Pull the thread and it all unravels. Watch yourself’

When Alice goes missing, Charlie must work with her sister Lizzie to identify the killer. Lizzie insists that Alice was adamant in an admission to her, that the killer was a white male. But that the police refuse to listen to her.
The bond between Charlie and Lizzie grows, as the plot picks up its pace.
This is the perfect post-ww2 American noir 5*

RR
Rod Reynolds
Twitter

#Review Nine Lessons by @nicolaupsonbook @FaberBooks #HistoricalFiction #NewRelease

cover
Nine Lessons by Nicola Upson
Synopsis:
Josephine Tey is in Cambridge, a town gripped by fear and suspicion as a serial rapist stalks the streets, and in the shadow of King’s College Chapel, Detective Chief Inspector Archie Penrose faces some of the most horrific and audacious murders of his career.
The seventh novel in Nicola Upson’s highly praised series featuring Josephine Tey takes the reader on a journey from 1930s Cambridge to the bleak and desolate Suffolk coast – a journey which will ultimately leave Archie’s and Josephine’s lives changed forever.

My review:

This novel is the 7th in the series and to be fair to readers of my review. I should state, I am new to the series. That being said it didn’t impact my enjoyment of this novel.
The novel is set in 1930s Cambridge and gives a great insight into the era. I loved how the novel had an old fashioned feel to it. Very Agatha Christie, in its writing style.

The perfect murder mystery case!

The novel opens at the scene of a savage murder. Church organist, Stephen Laxborough is the victim of this violent and unfathomable murder. Detctive Chief Inspector Archie Penorse is summoned to the scene. He begins to gather details and evidence, but the case unnerves him as it is seemingly without motive.

Also in Cambridge for a while is writer/playwright Josephine Tey. She is a lifelong friend of Archie and I was desperate to learn more about their friendship. Josephine is quite the unique character, a woman born way before her time. She is gritty, determined and I really warmed to her. Josephine becomes concerned with a serial rapist in the locality.
A case she is hell-bent on solving……….

The murder case intensifies when Archie discovers a link to a bunch of students from Kings College. He also uncovers more victims, all of which had received threatening notes prior to their death. One clear link is a picture of a building call the priory.
But what is the motive? Is it mere jealousy, of this bunch of academics? Or is it something much more sinister?

“What is this I have done?” – Note

The private lives and secrets of Archie’s and Josephine’s is explored and it is brilliantly done. I found them multi-layered characters, which made them very admirable. When somebody Josephine knows becomes a victim of the rapist. She is angered and wants justice for the victim. When you think of the era, of the 1930s. it is not one that can be recalled, as of progressive in terms of women’s rights. Rape victims were often blamed and shamed and made to feel as though they had contributed towards their own rape!
But this is a case, Josephine will not rest until she solves…..

“The scars on the bodies of these girls will heal. The scars on the mind never will”

Archie’s case becomes tougher with the discovery of more and more victims. Can he solve the case in time to save others on the list? The ending comes with shocking twists in the tale and I think the author has done a brilliant job. The depiction of the era, the twists and the central characters are all brilliantly written.
Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction! 5*

NU
Nicola Upson
Author Bio:
Nicola Upson was born in Suffolk and read English at Downing College, Cambridge. She has worked in theatre and as a freelance journalist, and is the author of two non-fiction works and the recipient of an Escalator Award from the Arts Council England.
Her debut novel, An Expert in Murder, was the first in a series of crime novels whose main character is Josephine Tey – one of the leading authors of Britain’s Golden Age of crime writing.
She lives with her partner in Cambridge and spends much of her time in Cornwall, which was the setting for her second novel, Angel with Two Faces. Two for Sorrow is the third book in the Josephine Tey series, followed by Fear in the Sunlight.

Authors links:
Via Faber: https://www.faber.co.uk/author/nicola-upson/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/984417.Nicola_Upson
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NicolaUpsonAuthor/
Twitter: @nicolaupsonbook

#Review and Q&A #SugarMoney by @blablafishcakes JaneHarris @FaberBooks 5*

*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*

SUGAR MONEY jacket
Sugar Money by Jane Harris
Synopsis:

Martinique, 1765, and brothers Emile and Lucien are charged by their French master, Father Cleophas, with a mission. They must return to Grenada, the island they once called home, and smuggle back the 42 slaves claimed by English invaders at the hospital plantation in Fort Royal. While Lucien, barely in his teens, sees the trip as a great adventure, the older and worldlier Emile has no illusions about the dangers they will face. But with no choice other than to obey Cleophas – and sensing the possibility, however remote, of finding his first love Celeste – he sets out with his brother on this ‘reckless venture’.

With great characters, a superb narrative set up, and language that is witty, bawdy and thrillingly alive, Sugar Money is a novel to treasure.

My review:

“Cane is sugar, sugar is money” Emile

This novel is almost like three separate novels in one! It is a sensational story of a brave adventure. Yet there are obviously added dark elements, due to the slavery theme. It is also a story of the bonds of brotherhood and love. It really will pull at your heart strings and you will root for brothers Lucien and Emile, with love and hope on every page!

Firstly, to start my review, I should say this is a beautiful book cover. The maps on the inside of the cover, give it the piracy and adventure feel. I am really glad I own a physical copy! I should also mention that this novel is based around a true story.

The novel opens in St Pierre, Martinique, Western Antilles. In December 1765, the location and era is fully explored throughout the novel. The novel is told from the narrative of slave Lucien. He is summoned to the morgue by his master Father Cleophas. His master is content with hacking at the innards, of a dead field hands corpse. His older brother Emile is present and they are both unsure as to why. Lucien being the younger brother at just approximately 15 years old and Emile being approximately 30 years old. Their story of their ancestry and brotherhood, makes for quite the dark tale.

Father Clophas gives them a long winded explanation of how he wants them to return to Grenada and bring back 42 slaves. He informs them how badly the English treat the slaves and that they are, his rightful property. They will be joined by a Spanish skipper named Captain Bianco, who is a deaf mute. The master is clever in how he lures the men into the mission. As he suggests that Emile will be reunited with lost love Celeste and that they may grow into old age together upon returning. There is some squabbling amongst the brothers and we learn Emile doesn’t wish for Lucien to sail. Father Cleophas is adamant that they must work together as Emile is more cunning, but Lucien speaks the necessary English for the journey.
Never the less they sail on the morrow…………

“Listen, Lucien. This is no adventure, nor a child game. Sometimes, I wonder if you still have the sense you came born with” Emile

Throughout the sailing, between Lucien’s thoughts and the brother’s conversation. We learn of life with the Fathers and monks. We also learn the dark secret of their parentage, which is shocking. Lucien is wary of the risk they will take on their vessel ‘The Daisy’. Emile formalises the plan, they must speak to the slaves at night, under the cover of darkness. He is well aware of what will become of them, if they fail this mission. Whilst Lucien dreams of killing the skipper and sailing to Africa. Neither man is quite prepared for what they will experience on this journey.

“No real harm could come to us while we were together” Lucien

“I knew that nobody could break the bond of blood – good and bad- between us” Lucien

The memories and conversations between the men about Celeste, are fascinating. We learn she means quite a lot to both men. Having raised Lucien and being Emile’s sole love interest. I could not what to find out what had become of her in the seven years apart. The journey, is insightful into the character development and I really liked both Lucien and Emile immensely.

When they arrive at the island, they are reunited with some close friends and family. However, they also learn the fate of some and it does not make for easy reading. They learn of the punishments inflicted upon the slave. They are methodical, barbaric and designed to break the will of the slave. The pass a man naked, bones visible he is so starved. The man has a vacant expression, he is shackled with his ear nailed to the hut and has an ointment on to attract flies to bite him. You could imagine the sheer despair of the mind, at being forced to endure such a torturous punishment.

This novel by no means, down plays slavery. The degradation, brutality and dehumanisation is fully explored. Exactly in my opinion, as it should be. Any novel that is written about slavery has a duty for it to be as an accurate portrayal as possible. I would say I found this similar in one sense to the violence portrayed in The Book Of Night Women by Marlon James. Another author, not afraid to depict slavery honestly. There is a part where you will learn the story of Marital Medicine. It is possibly one of the darkest things I have ever read. I was completely taken aback, with the levels of depravity slavery had.

The men are reunited with friends including Angelique, Leotine, Therese, Lejeune and finally Celeste. But when their eyes meet Celeste they are left shocked to their core……… They are warned of a dangerous drunken overseer named Addison Bell.
A man so insanely violent, he is feared by all…..

“English been working us to death” – Angelquie

“He could…. It could get us all killed” – Celeste

The brothers get world out amongst the slave and begin to build a plan of the escape. This is no easy adventure and capture could be fatal. The novel continues at fast pace and you are left on the edge of your seat. I was genuinely trying to read as fast as I could. So that I could learn what will become of all the slaves including Lucien and Emile. It builds and builds, to an exceptionally emotional ending. I was left reeling and tearful at the same time. There is a note from the editor and an afterword by the author, which serve to add more depth to the characters, long after the novel is finished!
A fantastic historical adventure story, that details the colonial history and pulls at the heart and soul.
5*

“What I saw can never be unseen, never forgotten. All my life, over and over again, that same scene repeating in my mind” – Lucien

Q&A:

Q) Due to the author’s note and details at the end of the novel, I am aware of the inspiration for the novel. But for the readers, can you enlighten them on the true story and how you came across it?

A) I first came across the true story in a history book about the island of Grenada in the Caribbean. The events were described in just a few paragraphs. Basically, a group of French monks in Martinique hired a man (described only as ‘a mulatto slave’ in the original sources) and ordered him to ‘recover’ some slaves from Grenada where the monks had, until recently, managed a hospital and plantation. Although the British had since seized control of Grenada and the hospital estate, the monks maintained that the enslaved people there still belonged to them.

In essence, they ordered this poor man to steal the slaves from under the noses of the enemy. I was shocked that such a thing could have happened and fascinated by the courage of this man – the ‘mulatto’ – at the centre of the story. He became the character of Emile in Sugar Money.

Q) Can you tell us about yourself and your writing career?

A)I didn’t start writing until I was about 30 years old and by then I’d had a number of careers, as a singer and performer, in administration and management, and so on. At one point, I set off to work my way around the world but only got as far as Portugal and that’s where I began to write short stories, while I was waiting to begin work as a teacher at a language school. Very quickly, I knew that fiction-writing was what I wanted to do, so I gave up my teaching job and returned to Britain to try and get the stories published. Fortunately for me, various Scottish literary magazines and anthologies accepted my first efforts.

For several years thereafter, I continued working in various menial jobs while publishing stories here and there. I also undertook a Creative Writing MA and a PhD, and then worked for film companies as a script reader and editor.

After a short detour into writing for the screen, I returned to prose. One of my abandoned stories grew in length and finally became The Observations, my first novel. Thereafter, I wrote Gillespie and I, and it was while writing this second novel that I came across the historical event that would eventually become Sugar Money.

Q) Lucien and Emile have considerable depth as characters, their parentage, relationships with Celeste etc. How do the personalities form? Is it as you write? Do you plan them out?

A)Thank you for your kind words about character! I do try to put a lot into my character work. In the research stage, I write character notes and biographies, family trees and so on, in order to get a general idea of what the characters are like. I often take elements from my own character and from people I know or have met. Developing the voice of the narrator also helps me get to know the protagonist.

In this case, the sibling rivalry between Lucien and Emile was important in defining their personalities, as was how they, as individuals, relate to Emile’s first love, Celeste. This triangular relationship is at the heart of the novel, and my aim was to use these more intimate character motivations to add depth and warmth to the ‘bigger picture’ and the weightier themes of slavery, freedom, justice, escape and so on.

Q) The novel has very graphic portrayals of the brutality and violence of slavery. Which I personally, think is important to cover in a novel with a slavery theme. In particular, the story of Martial Medicine, is exceptionally brutal. Is this difficult to write? and did you have to research into slavery punishments?

A) I did carry out extensive research into all aspects of slavery, particularly as it operated in the Caribbean. Everything in the novel, in terms of punishment, is taken from original sources. For instance, what I call “Martial Medicine” is adapted from something known as “Derby’s Dose” as described in the diaries of Thomas Thistlewood, an overseer and slave-owner in Jamaica, who was breathtakingly frank about his horrific treatment of enslaved people. Without giving too much away, I did find parts of the story difficult to write and – at times, in the process – I became quite depressed.

Q) The ending left me broken, yet there are so many themes of love and hope within the story. Which makes it tough to review. I have done my best to get across to blog readers the various themes etc. How would you describe the novel?

A) I think fellow novelist Amanda Craig summed it up well when she said that Sugar Money is ‘a tale of slavery and freedom, innocence and experience, love and despair.’ That’s what I wanted it to be from the start, and I really hope that I’ve gone some way towards achieving that.

Q) I get the sense this novel would have been a huge project and dominated a large amount of your time. How do you celebrate upon a novel’s completion?

A) This might sound daft, but I don’t celebrate completion until, perhaps, the launch of a book, because there never seems a moment when it’s actually finished. Even once you write “The End” you know there will be endless revisions to be done before submitting to your agent and publisher, then further revisions, then proofing, and finding the right cover, responding to publicity requests and so on. Also, I’m a bit superstitious about celebrating anything too early. However, no doubt, I will be raising a glass of something on the night of publication!

Q) Finally, do you have another project lined up and can we have any snippets of information?

A) I do have a couple of ideas but I’ve been so busy with moving home and various other chores that I haven’t had time to really pin down what exactly I’m going to do next. Every time I finish a book, I always say I’m not going to write another historical novel – but let’s see!

*Huge thanks for being part of a Q&A on my blog and I wish you every success with the release of your novel.

 JH:Many thanks for inviting me to respond and thanks so much for your interesting questions!

1608-1 (2)
Jane Harris
Authors links:
My website is at www.janeharris.com
My Twitter name is @blablafishcakes
My Facebook Author Page is at: https://www.facebook.com/Author-Jane-Harris-140719536001399/