Monthly Archives: September 2018

Author Inflences With Alex Shaw

I welcome Alex Shaw to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today as he shares his Author Influences with us.Alex is the author of the Aidan Snow SAS Thrillers and I will tell you more about the fisrt in the series later. Now, I will hand you over to Alex.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?

I read Star Wars graphic novels and then Action Man novels, but the main books I liked to read were non-fiction travel books. I’d learn about new countries and note down phrases in foreign languages.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?

I did like English but I think that as I found it a little easy I didn’t try my best. Although I was never the best at spelling.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?

I only really read crime fiction and espionage thrillers, and funnily enough this is what I write. I think it would be difficult to write in a genre you didn’t enjoy reading.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?

I’ve written one military vampire novel and a few horror short stories, so that would be an area that I may like to write in if I stop writing thrillers.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?

I was mainly inspired to write by the Gulf War SAS heroes turned writers – Andy McNab and Chris Ryan (Chris Ryan and I now have the same German publisher). I read their books and saw how they weaved their insider knowledge into commercial stories. When I moved to Kyiv I realised that I too had insider knowledge (of Ukraine) and decided to set my stories there.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?

Yes, quite a few. Steve Kavanagh, Lee Child, Stephen Leather, Jake Needham, Tom Wood, Mark Greaney, Jorn Lier Horst and Kati Hiekkapelto.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?

There’s not one particular book I wish I’d written, but Steve Cavanagh’s The Defence was a striking debut novel. I loved the character of Eddie Flynn being both lawyer and conman and having to use both skill sets to survive.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)

I have taken some real life events and incorporated them into my stories as I like things to seem believable, and of course political figures appear. Apart from this Aidan Snow shares my initials, height, hometown and we both use to live in the same flat in Kyiv, however I was not in the SAS. A couple of other characters are based on people I know, one I can’t elaborate on but the other is my long term friend and fellow former Kyiv expat Michael Jones, who appears as himself.

Alex’s Aidan Snow SAS Thrillers are out now. The first in the series is called Cold Blood and this is what it’s about:

Aidan Snow thought he could escape his past. But now it’s back, with a vengeance.

Ten years ago, SAS Trooper Aidan Snow was left fighting for his life after a mission went wrong and ever since he has been haunted by the image of the man with green eyes. The man who should have killed him.

Now, Snow is finally living a peaceful life in Ukraine… Until Taurus Pashinsk, the green-eyed man, returns.

As Snow’s past catches up with him he finds himself thrown back into the world of espionage with a vengeance.

About Alex Shaw

Alex Shaw spent the late 1990s in Kyiv, teaching and running his own business consultancy before being head-hunted for a division of Siemens. The next few years saw him doing business for the company across the former USSR, the Middle East, and Africa. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers organisation, the Crime Writers Association and the author of the Aidan Snow SAS thrillers. Alex, his wife and their two sons divide their time between homes in Kyiv – Ukraine, Doha – Qatar and Worthing, England. Alex can be followed on twitter: @alexshawhetman

Alex’s Aidan Snow series can be found in most good bookshops, some odd ones and here:

Thanks for taking part, Alex. I really enjoyed reading your answers.

‘What’s So Fascinating About The 1960s?’ by Sue Clark

Today I hand over Bloomin’ Brilliant Books to Sue Clark to talk about her debut novel Note To Boy and how the 1960s feature in it. Note To Boy is due to be published by Unbound and is currently going through crowdfunding. Sue explains more about that in her post.

What’s So Fascinating About The 1960s?

Why did I choose to focus on the 1960s in my comic fiction, Note to Boy? How could I not? The exuberance and colour of those times have passed into modern mythology – and I actually experienced them at first-hand.

In the late 1960s and early 70s, I was a young innocent living in London near Oxford Circus, working for a US film company, sharing an office with David Niven Jr’s PA, shopping in Carnaby Street, and going to parties where it was possible to bump into the latest James Bond actor. It wasn’t quite as glamorous as it might sound but, nevertheless, what writer could pass up such a rich source of material?

It was a time of great hope. Our generation, we naively told ourselves, was going to be different from the ones that had gone before. We weren’t boring and ‘square’. We were free-thinking, free-loving individuals. Peace and love were the order of the day. We’d wear our tie-dyed T-shirts, stick flowers in our hair and wait for the revolution. It didn’t come, of course. Instead we got the 1980s, and shoulder pads, legwarmers and awful perms.

Note to Boy looks at Swinging London through the eyes of Eloise Slaughter, a woman now in her seventies, who reminisces about her time as an outrageous fashion guru. Now, elderly and broke, she bitterly misses her time in the spotlight and vows revenge on those who conspired to cheat her out of it. She wants her celebrity life back.

Fate brings her Bradley McCreedy, a downtrodden teenager from the wrong part of town. Bullied by his brother, ignored by his mother, unknown to his father, he just wants a life.

The two couldn’t be more different but, after a rocky start, they strike up an unlikely friendship. Discovering they might have a common purpose, Bradley hatches a plan to help her escape her past, and build himself a future.

The genesis of the book lay in a short story I wrote about celebrity. What happens to people who achieve it? How do they cope if it suddenly vanishes? This morphed into the present full-length novel. And Eloise and Bradley were born.

Both characters epitomise people who are often overlooked and underestimated. Eloise is bad-tempered and friendless, but was once a sexy and successful ‘it girl’. Bradley is uneducated and inarticulate but possesses a cunning that could be made use of, if only people would see beyond the obvious.

Who are they based on? Eloise is a demanding, arrogant monster. So, of course she’s not based on anyone I know, although I have worked in radio, television and newspapers enough to know there are some monstrous egos out there. No, I’m not going to name names!

Likewise, as I’ve never been a browbeaten teenage boy, Bradley is pure invention, although I’m sure we can all empathise with the feeling of being young, frustrated and already written off.

When will you see Note to Boy in bookshops? That could depend on you. The book, you see, is being published by Unbound. Unbound books come about in a rather different way to most others, being crowdfunded directly by their readers.

As I write this, Note to Boy is 58% of the way to being fully funded. Readers can pledge for – that is, pre-order – e-books, special edition paperbacks, or go for one of the other rewards options. It’s all explained on the Unbound website.

Please feel free to browse Unbound’s many diverse and often unique titles. And if your mouse should land on the ‘pledge’ button of Note to Boy, I – and Eloise and Bradley – would be eternally grateful. Thank you.

NOTE TO BOY by Unbound author, Sue Clark, is crowdfunding now.

Get involved at

Watch the video at 

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Thank you so much for the great guest post, Sue. I wish you luck with the funding of Note To Boy and look forward to seeing it in the shops soon.

About Sue Clark

In a varied career Sue Clark has been a scriptwriter, journalist and PR copywriter. She’s worked for BBC radio and TV, local newspapers, and no end of corporates. Her TV and radio credits include: Alas Smith and Jones, Weekending, and The News Huddlines.

She’s interviewed John Humphreys and Ronnie Corbett and penned funny lines for Lenny Henry, June Whitfield, Tracy Ullman, Roy Hudd and David Jason, among others.

Although the comic fiction Note to Boy is billed as her debut novel, there are others lurking in desk drawers that may one day see the light. And there will be more to come!

She lives in an Oxfordshire market town much like the fictional setting of Midsomer Murders with her long-suffering husband. She has three children and one adorable grandchild. 

Author Influences with Ian Skewis

I’m thrilled to welcome Ian Skewis to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today for an Author Influences. I was lucky enough to see Ian at Newcastle Noir earlier this year and I got a copy of his novel  A Murder of Crows. Due to my massive TBR pile I haven’t managed to read it yet but it is on my list so watch this space! Anyhow, I will hand you over to Ian for a brilliant Author Influences.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?

The first book I remember reading and really enjoying was The Treasure Hunters by Enid Blyton, which my grandmother bought me. I loved the whole mystery of the story, and much of it was set outdoors in the country — and this echoed my childhood surroundings. Dinosaur books fascinated me too, and I loved the Doctor Who Target books series.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?

I was good at English, and in particular creative writing. I always had a fertile imagination — and still do! I was also good at art, but dreadful at anything remotely mathematical!

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?

I mainly write crime but came at it completely new, in that I had no preconceived ideas of how it should be written. I read a lot of crime now, in order to learn from the best. I used to read horror and science fiction when I was young. I still dabble in those genres too. Then, when I was an actor, I moved to literary fiction, and classical and modern stage plays — Shakespeare, Chekhov, Liz Lochhead etc. The genres I read depend on where I am in life. I’ve just finished reading Ian Rankin’s Rather Be the Devil, which is an example of my trying to learn from the best.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?

As mentioned, I also write horror and science fiction, and this is because of my childhood influences. I am still a big Doctor Who fan, and Quatermass And The Pit is probably my favourite fictional story ever. I would like to return to literary fiction though, and I’m hoping to publish some, probably next year. Watch this space, as they say!

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write, and if so who, what and why?

I’ve always written stories, and, to be honest, I was more influenced by music and film than by other authors. Sometimes I would hear a song or watch a film and then wonder what would happen if it went a different way. Alan Moore’s comic book series, Swamp Thing, was an early influence on my work. Other writers always inspire me though, simply because the act of writing is such a huge undertaking. No matter how famous or unknown a writer may be, their ability to get to the finish line with their work is always admirable, and I’m fascinated by how they got there and what inspired them to do so.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?

Ian McEwan for one, and Kate Atkinson for another. I had the pleasure of travelling to St Petersburg with Kate many years ago. However, I’ve been so caught up in crime writing that I’ve fallen behind with their latest works — they’re still sitting unopened on my bookshelves! My TBR list seems to grow bigger every day, so it’s increasingly difficult to keep up to speed with what everyone else is writing — but I try.

Which books have you read that have made you think ‘Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?

There are so many amazing works out there, but I am happy with what I write and hold no envy for other people’s work. If anything, it would be their ability and not the work itself that I would wish to emulate. The craft is what it’s all about for me. I write what I want to write and hope that it finds an audience. I loved Atonement by Ian McEwan though. And Life Of Pi too. They both centre on the healing process that fiction and storytelling can give, and they both do it in very surprising ways. Brighton Rock is another great piece of work, with both the novel and the film versions giving entirely different but equally amazing endings. The crime genre is such a good broad genre though, that you can tackle pretty much anything and still fit it into the category of crime writing. It was the main reason I chose to be an author instead of an actor — it gave me a much bigger palette to work with. However, it’s beginning to look as if I will be returning to some form of acting in the near future. Again, watch this space!

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/ people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)

My debut novel stemmed from a disturbing experience I had as a child, (see my website for more on this) but none of the details are present in the book, though the dark mood of that day is very much prevalent in the narrative and the environs of the story. As for my other works, it really depends on where I am and who I’m with. Some characters are based on real people, others are entirely fictional. Some are an amalgamation of several individuals, or a projection of myself. It’s a wonder I stay sane with all these ‘voices’ in my head!

Ian’s debut novel A Murder Of Crows is out now. Here is what it is about:

The most violent thunderstorm in living memory occurs above a sleepy village on the West Coast of Scotland. A young couple take shelter in the woods, never to be seen again…DCI Jack Russell is brought in to investigate. Nearing retirement, he agrees to undertake one last case, which he believes can be solved as a matter of routine. But what Jack discovers in the forest leads him to the conclusion that he is following in the footsteps of a psychopath who is just getting started. Jack is flung headlong into a race against time to prevent the evolution of a serial killer…

About Ian Skewis

Ian Skewis was born in Scotland in 1970.

He wrote articles for a local paper and had his first poems published at the age of 19. He trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and became an actor, appearing on film and television, and providing his voice for radio. He performed in numerous stage plays that toured internationally, including Like Thunder, which received a Fringe First Award in 2001. He is the author of several short stories, including Inkling, which was published in an anthology, The Speculative Book, in 2016. His debut novel, a psychological thriller entitled A Murder Of Crows, was published by Unbound in 2017. It went on to become a multiple No.1 Best Seller on Amazon. He is currently working on his second novel, as well as numerous other projects.

He lives and works in Glasgow.


Ian Skewis can be contacted via his website and you can receive exclusive news and previews of his latest works by subscribing to his forthcoming newsletter. The first issue comes on 31 October 2018 with a FREE short story:

He also hosts a Facebook page called The Crow’s Beak:

Follow Ian on Twitter:

Thank you for taking part, Ian. I really enjoyed reading your responses and look forward to reading A Murder Of Crows soon.

Review – Loner by Hildur Sif Thorarensen

The Blurb

Which is worse, trying to catch a cunning killer leaving decapitated women in the woods, or trying to tame an unconventional forensic psychiatrist that seems determined to go his own way?

The Oslo autumn is creeping in with its cold spells and Homicide Detective Julia Ryland is feeling pretty content with her team of three, but when the FBI behavioral analyst, Alexander Smith, is thrust upon her, the crisp autumn air doesn’t feel as refreshing anymore. A young Icelander is found dead, an arrow piercing his heart and the extensive list of his former lovers suggests that many long nights are ahead. The murdered lothario suddenly becomes the least of their problems as headless corpses start appearing in the woods, positioned in terrifying ways and on their bodies they find messages that don’t seem to have any meaning at all.

My Thoughts

I jumped at the chance to read and review Loner by Hildur Sif Thorarensen. I do enjoy a slice of Nordic Noir and Loner promised that with humour as well.

Loner is the first in Thorarensen’s Oslo Mysteries and it follows Detective Julia Ryland of the Oslo police department and her colleague, criminal psychiatrist, Alexander Smith. This first book starts with the body of a young Icelandic man being found and escalates when the bodies of young women start to be discovered.

The prologue is really nicely written with oodles of atmosphere and it totally draws you in. It perfectly sets up the first murder and the setting and had me keen to read more. The prologue demonstrates that Thorarensen has real potential as a writer.

From the prologue Loner became like no other crime novel I have read before. It is full of quirky characters who deviate from your usual crime book. They behave in ways that you don’t normally see in police procedurals and I can imagine that some readers may find this aggravating. With the exception of Julia Ryland, none of the characters seem to behave in a ‘typical’ way giving the sense that they don’t take the whole thing seriously and they do come across as infantile. The author has intentionally added the humour to Loner, and while I have enjoyed humorous crime novels in the past, the humour in this one wasn’t my cup of tea. My sense of humour tends to be more on the dark side and so this doesn’t mean that others will not enjoy it. I did, however, wonder at times if something had been lost in the translation. For me, the characterisation let it down a little as I struggled to take them seriously.

I really enjoyed the crimes – that sounds so wrong, but you know what I mean – and where it took the characters and the twists are well-plotted and surprising. I certainly didn’t predict where it was going. Loner is the first in a series and while part of the story was concluded there are other parts that are not, so don’t go into this book expecting it to be all tied up at the end.

The antagonist makes for an interesting character and the themes around him are ones I really liked. Thorarensen uses religion and psychology to give the added chill factor to Loner.

If you are after a change from your usual crime fiction novel and you like quirky give Loner a try. I have to say it didn’t blow me away and as stated I wonder if something was a little lost in the translation. It will be interesting to see how Thorarensen develops her writing and the characters in the next book in the series.

Loner was published on 30 May 2018 by Antonov Publishing. You can get a copy HERE.

Thank you to Hildur Sif Thorarensen for the copy in exhange for my review.

Blog Tour – After He Died by Michael J. Malone *Review*

It’s always exciting to read the latest book by Michael J. Malone and I am delighted to be part of the blog tour today for his latest novel After He Died.

My thanks go to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and Anne Cater at Random Things blog tours for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the tour.

The Blurb

When Paula Gadd’s husband of almost thirty years dies, just days away from the seventh anniversary of their son Christopher’s death, her world falls apart. Grieving and bereft, she is stunned when a young woman approaches her at the funeral service, and slips something into her pocket. A note suggesting that Paula’s husband was not all that he seemed…
When the two women eventually meet, a series of revelations challenges everything Paula thought she knew, and it becomes immediately clear that both women’s lives are in very real danger. Both a dark, twisty slice of domestic noir and taut, explosive psychological thriller, After He Died is also a chilling reminder that the people we trust the most can harbour the deadliest secrets…

My Thoughts

You know your partner inside out, right? And, of course, you trust them implicitly don’t you? Imagine your partner suddenly died and while trying to get through the funeral you are slipped a note by a person you don’t know who suggests that your partner wasn’t who you thought they were. This is what happens to Paula Gadd in Michael J. Malone’s latest book After He Died.

As Malone sets up the premise of the book, starting at the above-mentioned funeral of Thomas Gadd, you may be forgiven for thinking this is going to be your fairly average ‘how well do you know your partner’ domestic noir, but this is Michael J. Malone and of course there is going to be nothing standard about it. The emotion hits you straight in the face as Malone perfectly describes the grief Paula is feeling in the opening lines. Immediately you empathise with this woman you do not yet know. And from there you can’t help but want to read further.

One of the things that always sets Malone’s work apart is his skilled use of words. He is able to make his characters multi-faceted and rounded and Paula Gadd is no exception. She is not a particularly likeable character but you cannot help but feel for her. Malone’s ability to describe the full range of emotions Paula goes through from her grief to each horrifying discovery about her deceased husband and his family members is outstanding as he writes with sensitivity and feeling.

Again, Malone has managed to combine gripping thriller with character driven humanity. After He Died is as much a comment on social class and the issues that arise in each as it is a piece of domestic noir. In Cara Connolly he has created the antithesis to Paula and I warmed to her completely.

As each revelation and family secret is revealed, you can’t help but be completely hooked on After He Died and Malone has you having to read just one more page.

Another great read from Michael J. Malone, After He Died is completely different from his two previous books published by Orenda, and his talent lies in being able to produce something totally fresh and totally brilliant every time. If you want a domestic noir that is well-written, keeps you hooked and also makes you think and feel deeply check out After He Died.

About the Author

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up
in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary
magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland
and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize
from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes:
Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The
Bad Samaritan and Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a
number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines soon
followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also
worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

After He Died was published on ebook on 30 July 2018 and is published in paperback on 30 September 2018 by Orenda Books. You can get your copy HERE.


Author Influences with Marilyn Bennett

I am really pleased to be welcoming Marilyn Bennett, author of Granny with Benefits, Mummy with Benefits and soon-to-be published Reap, to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today to talk about her author influences.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
Judy Blume was my hands down favourite author as a child. She created characters that actually felt like real teens, who had problems and posed questions I could directly relate to.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I loved English at school, but I didn’t really recognise that I was good at it back then. I loved storytelling. I think it was definitely the biggest influence on my reading choices, which then developed outside of school.

It was actually when I started actively job-hunting after leaving school that I recognised I had some form of writing skill. I could write a mean job application! This became a key indicator over the years to come that I could spin a yarn!

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I like to read commercial fiction. I think my writing has mostly been impacted by film and television, which I love. There is a really direct focus on character and story in film and television that can cut to the chase of the narrative in a way you can’t in books.

The fantastic thing for me about writing novels has been the patience and attention to detail I am still trying to master when creating characters and stories, something that is a given on screen, but not in a book. It’s been a great discipline for me above and beyond writing. I am acquiring an eye and ear for the little details and thought processes that don’t translate on screen, but can make all the difference in a book.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
If I were to write a different genre it would be a dark thriller. Since writing my novels I have come to realise, quite unwilling mind you, that I’m a little bit twisted as a storyteller. It’s been unnerving and amusing in equal measure! I start off writing a quite straightforward romance and then it just veers off into slightly darker territory.

I’d love to write a straightforward romance, like a cat and a dog running a tea shop in a beautiful coastal town that fall in love. I know that’s got all the hallmarks of being a successful romance book, but without fail by the end of the book the dog would have his paw in the till and the cat would be having sexual assignations with the fox behind the post office. It’s just how my brain works!

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
I wasn’t influenced by another author’s work to start writing purely because my intention for all of my novels to date was to write them as scripts. It came as complete surprise to me when I decided that they worked better as novels. I knew nothing about writing novels.

This all started as a means to finding and doing something that meant I could be creative completely on my own terms. It’s been scary and lonely at times, but I’ve still loved every minute of it.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
This happens to me more with films, because falling in love with cinema in my teens unfortunately put books on the subs bench for a few decades, so Abbie I’m playing catch up!

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl as a child. I come from a working class family and we lived on a large estate in Hackney. The book at the time was a rags to riches tale that fulfilled my dreams of life with endless chocolate and no poverty.

I was in awe of Roald Dahl’s ability to combine his incredible vivid imagination with real empathetic characters.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Not yet, but I’m sure they will one day, so I will have to tread very carefully!

A huge thank you for taking part, Marilyn. I really enjoyed reading your answers and I found them really interesting as I think we sometimes forget – well, I do – that film and scriptwriting can be an aid to novel writing, if that makes sense?

About Marilyn Bennett

Marilyn is a Television Production Consultant and has worked in the broadcasting industry for 24 years.

Marilyn’s Books

Granny with Benefits and Mummy with Benefits are both out now. Here is what they are about:

Grace is thirty-nine and not remotely convinced that life begins at forty.

When her grandmother dies she volunteers to pick up her belongings from the sheltered accommodation. It is the last place she expects to have a chance encounter with the first man she has been instantly attracted to in a very long time, particularly as she is dressed almost head to toe in her grandmother’s clothing and accessories.

Grace’s granny alter ego elicits a conversation with the man about love, death and the universe, which she is convinced would not have happened otherwise. This inspires her to throw caution to the wind and turn what should have been a simple case of mistaken identity into a dating introduction opportunity for the real her. A decision which sets Grace on a rollercoaster adventure of lies, secrets and lust, making her thirty ninth year one she won’t forget, but might well regret…

Wishes do come true… so be careful what you wish for!

Life appears to have taken a rather positive turn for Grace. She is now working her socks off in a job she enjoys and has quite possibly met the man of her dreams. But there’s just one snag, she’s pregnant and the baby is definitely not his. In fact, she is not acutally sure who the father is.

So when she reluctantly has to dress up as her granny alter ego for one last time, it can only spell trouble. Grace is forced to confront her bad timing, bad luck and suitably questionable choices all head on.

Marilyn’s latest novel, Reap, is due to be published in spring 2019 (I can tell you it’s a cracker!).



Relic Chaser Adventure Giveaway Winner!!!!


So, a while ago the lovely Urcelia Teixeira ran a giveaway alongside her Author Influences post. The winner was to receive a signed set of Relic Chaser Adventure books and I am pleased to announce that the lucky winner is…

Julia Theulings!!!

Whoop, whoop! Congratulations, Julia. Urcelia will be in touch with you shortly to get your contact details. Well done and enjoy your prize.

Guest Post by Hawaa Ayoub – ‘The Personal in Fiction Writing’

I am delighted to be joined by Hawaa Ayoub today who has a moving guest post on The Personal in Fiction Writing. Hawaa’s novel When a Bulbul Sings is about forced child marriages and Hawaa hope to raise awareness of this issue. So, I wil hand you over to Hawaa.

The Personal in Fictional Writing by Hawaa Ayoub, author of When a Bulbul Sings

A while back, in 2007 while still living in Sana’a the capital of Yemen, I was approached numerous times by friends and colleagues whom suggested I should write a book about my experience of child marriage. Although they were well intentioned, for I was a strong character by then, my visceral feeling was that of embarrassment of not wanting my personal life known so publicly although everybody whom knew me already knew (would find out) how old I was when I married, especially when they couldn’t believe my children were not my siblings (safe to say that mistake won’t be made nowadays!). I wasn’t ashamed of my life, it wasn’t my fault being forced as a child to marry a man so why should I be ashamed? They said many British Asian and British African girls in the UK, some as young as twelve, would disappear from schools, probably taken to their country of ethnicity and married, they believed I should write a story about my experience as a child bride so as to make the world aware this happens.

Truth be told, at people’s shocked reaction at my reply of being fourteen, embarrassed I would be. I couldn’t control it, but it’s how I felt; for how do you and why should you explain how you were forced as a child when some memories are harsh, when all you want to do is leave the past behind and concentrate on the now? Yemenis and expatriates alike expressed the same surprise, outrage and empathy towards learning I had married so young and forced at that.

Forced and child marriage is not a clear-cut issue, there are many reasons why it still exists today which would need a number of posts to explain and delve into properly, but raising awareness about the issue of child marriage is important as is understanding why and how it happens, and its consequences and effects upon girls and women.

There are many other reasons why I write. To begin with, I enjoy writing. If I don’t put the words onto paper or screen, the ideas and thoughts crowd my head and occupy my mind until I’ve written them. Characters’ conversations and actions keep running on a loop and developing and nag me when I’m nowhere near pen and paper.

I write because I have stories to tell. Like many writers, there are autobiographical elements in my stories which can make writing about things too close to personal experience embarrassing, that I might be tempted not to include it; this can be tough.

I have a message to convey from an experience I had, to share through writing fiction. It’s about a personal issue which not only affected me but continues to affect millions of girls and women, worldwide. Telling stories about topics which affect us or affects people in other parts of the world can help towards raising awareness thus contribute in a little way towards ending matters such as child marriage, FGM and other forms of gender inequality. Especially if done with the aim of spreading knowledge, unbiased information; if it can be done in an entertaining read – even better!

Which is why I write about child marriage and gender inequality.

A huge thank you, Hawaa, for taking the time to write this guest post and for raising this important issue.

Hawaa’s debut novel When a Bulbul Sings is out now. Here is what it’s about:

Eve, a highly intelligent fourteen-year-old British girl, is lured to a mountainous Yemeni village remote from civilisation where she is forced to marry an adult. Her desire to return home and enter university fuels her escape attempts, but Uncle Suleiman’s addiction to qat and greed for money give him an equally matched desire to stop her from leaving. When Eve is taken by her parents to a remote mountainous Yemeni village, where life has remained the same since ancient times, she is forced to marry Adam and her life becomes a dystopian novel caught in a real-life limbo. Her constant attempts to escape the mountains are not only hindered by the treacherous terrain, but her Uncle Suleiman, who planned for her marriage since first setting eyes on her, keeps her captive to ensure his son sends him a monthly allowance. Eve’s captors want to subdue her strong personality, and individuality; Eve is put under pressure to be like all the girls, to be a woman not a girl. She struggles with the way of life, but also the mentality and culture. She fights for her freedom, but her captors’ constant criticism, chip at her spirit. Eve is set on returning to Britain to resume her education before she misses her chance at university, before her genius is wasted, but Uncle Suleiman’s addiction and greed give him an equally strong determination to prevent her from leaving. She witnesses forced marriages and child marriages as well as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). She lives amongst a beautiful people in an intriguing ancient culture, but the beauty of her surroundings jar with the ugliness of captivity where her freedom has been confiscated and she becomes Uncle Suleiman’s hostage. This is the story of Eve and her fight for freedom. It is a story about the inequality, injustice and violations of human rights millions of girls around the world face due to their gender when forced or entered into underage marriage as child brides.

When a Bulbul Sings can be purchased HERE.

Review – Overkill by Vanda Symon

This review originally went out on Craig Sisterson’s Crime Watch blog in June to coincide with the eBook publication. Today is the paperback publication of Overkill by Vanda Symon and I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to share my review of this bloomin’ brilliant book again.

The Blurb

When the body of a young mother is found washed up on the banks of the Mataura River, a small rural community is rocked by her tragic suicide. But all is not what it seems.
Sam Shephard, sole-charge police constable in Mataura, soon discovers the death was no suicide and has to face the realisation that there is a killer in town. To complicate the situation, the murdered woman was the wife of her former lover. When Sam finds herself on the list of suspects and suspended from duty, she must cast aside her personal feelings and take matters into her own hands.
To find the murderer … and clear her name.
A taut, atmospheric and page-turning thriller, Overkill marks the start of an unputdownable and unforgettable series from one of New Zealand’s finest crime writers.

My Thoughts

Before I rave about the contents of Vanda Symon’s Overkill I want to quickly mention the cover. I’m ashamed to admit that I often judge a book by its cover and Orenda are well known for their stunning book jackets. However, with Overkill they have really outdone themselves. I could look at it for hours it is just so stunning! I would happily have this on my wall. But I’m here to discuss the inside of the book, not the outside.

Without doubt Overkill will be on my final ‘books of the year’ list as it ticks so many crime fiction boxes and it is wonderfully written. Overkill is the first in Symon’s PC Sam Shephard series and I am already eagerly anticipating the next book. Set in a rural community in New Zealand, the town is shocked when a young mother is found dead. It quickly becomes apparent to Matuara’s only police constable, Sam, that this is not the suicide it originally appeared to be. Sam is soon suspended from her job when she is viewed as the prime suspect in the woman’s murder due to the victim being the wife of her former partner. Sam sets out to clear her name and find the killer on her own.

The beginning of Overkill literally  left me breathless. It is startling and I haven’t had the reaction that I had to the start of Overkill for a long time. Brutally beautiful, Symon gets right to the emotional core of absolute fear and the writing is uncomfortably outstanding. It’s clichéd to say, but I was immediately hooked.

Overkill continues to deliver on all fronts as the book progresses. Police Inspector Sam Shephard is a fantastic character and Symon has ensured that readers will want to meet her again in further books. While Overkill is a great example of crime fiction, the sense of humour displayed by Sam adds an additional appeal. Sam’s humour is sarcastic, dry and she is the kind of woman you want to go to the pub with. She is incredibly human and it was her honesty about her feelings along with her humour that really made me warm to her. I have no doubt that everyone who reads this book will love Sam. Symon’s characterisation is second to none.

The plot is perfectly paced with twists and turns that constantly keep you on the back foot. Prepare to be constantly second guessing and looking at everyone with suspicion. The small community setting aids this perfectly with a cast of characters who all potentially have something to hide. Secrets and lies abound as Sam tries to get to the bottom of the murder. Overkill is a real page turner with shocks and surprises throughout.

The sense of place is created well and the reader is completely transported to New Zealand. The setting shines through via Symon’s prose and it also ensures that the crime is unique in the reasons behind it, making it totally original.

With a twisty plot, a protagonist who shines and beautifully written observations of the cruellest things, Overkill is crime fiction at its best and this is an outstanding book. I predict that this  book is going to soar here in the UK and it deserves to. I adored this book and can’t wait for the next in the series. If you read and enjoy crime fiction, you will adore it too.

Published on eBook on 30 June 2018 and paperback on 6 September 2018, you can get a copy of Overkill HERE.