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Carol’s ‘Close Up’ with Crime Fiction Author Michael Fowler!

 Carol Bridgestock


Today, I have the great pleasure to welcome Michael Fowler a member of our ‘police family’, who like us on retirement from the Police Force grabbed ‘freedom’ with both hands. Nowadays Michael spends his time in his studio writing and painting. Come along with me and find out more about  this very talented man…

 Michael Fowler signing copies of his books!

Michaeal what inspired you to write a novel?

The enjoyment and experience from my previous work as a police officer is the inspiration behind my writing.  But also I am an avid fan of crime fiction and there have been many times when I have wondered if I could write a crime novel myself.

Who do you admire in the literary world? Who do you consider your mentor?

In 1995 I earned my first publishing contract when Wharnecliffe Publishing, of Barnsley, published an account of my childhood experiences of growing up in my home town of Mexborough. I there met Editor Alan Twiddle, who gave me some wonderful guidance and advice on how to develop my writing.  When I retired, and began writing my first crime novel, Alan took time out to read the first draft, and at no expense, pointed out where changes were required to develop the book to enable me to pitch to publishers.  He also gave me additional advice on how to continue with the crafting ofmy writing, and how to make my plots stronger and more exciting. His guidance has been invaluable and his kindness much appreciated.

Where do you work? Do you have a regular pattern or routine or other? … Hey up! Two questions at once that wouldn’t be allowed in an interview would it Michael? Sorry, call it excitement… :-)

I have a studio, a ten minute drive away from home, where I paint and write, and at home I have converted a bedroom into a study.  On almost a daily basis, I begin my day by walking the dog, in the fields at the back of my home, using the time to mull over the development of my painting or writing piece for that day.  I then work for between 4-5 hours, until mid-afternoon, when I walk the dog again, and reflect on what I have written or painted and go through a mental editing process. 

What are you working on now?

In terms of writing, I am half-way through book number four in the DS Hunter Kerr series.  In each of the former novels I have alluded to the fact that he became a cop, after his first love was murdered, and he realised that his only path to finding out who killed her was to become a detective.  Despite years of investigating he has never tracked down who murdered her. In this novel he finally uncovers her killer.

In this story I also introduce DS Scarlett Macey (a female detective with the Metropolitan Police), and I feel I have created such a strong, quirky character, that she deserves a series of her own.  I have therefore drafted out a plotline ready for her first outing in 2015.  (You have heard this here first)

Come on we’re ‘family’  … Good interview technique eh Michael? :-) Share something with us that nobody else knows about you?

To set the background to this tale I need to introduce some back-story.  The police force I joined in 1976 was totally different to the one of today. Especially, it wasn’t politically correct or sensitive, and on a constant basis someone was always pulling or trick, or ‘spoof’, as they were referred to, against an individual or a group. They were always harmless fun and without doubt they eased the pressures of the job.  In fact, some of the ‘spoofs’ that I witnessed were so hilarious that they would have easily graced the TV series ‘Candid Camera’.

In 1982, at the age of 22, I passed my police exams to qualify for the rank of Sergeant and Inspector.  At the time I was working in plain clothes and so to gain some experience, with a view to going before a promotion board, I returned back into uniform to ‘act up’ in the rank of Sergeant.  One day, whilst on afternoons, I went into work and found an A4 envelope in my ‘in’ tray.  Inside the envelope was a memo purporting to be from the Chief Constable, together with an armband which had on it two stripes.  The memo explained that these should be worn by those in the acting rank, especially when in the public eye. That day I had a planned meeting with fire-brigade officials and the local councillor.  I sat in that meeting for an hour-and-a-half, wearing a set of Boys Brigade Corporal Stripes, wondering why so many people kept looking in on the meeting.

Who would you like to share a cup of coffee and a natter with?

Billy Connolly – not just a funny guy, but also an interesting person, that I would to love to share some stories with.

Most police officers seem to find it hard to relax but everyone appears to have their own little routine. How did/do you relax?

Relaxation for me is in two stages.  The first stage is rigorous exercise. I generally wind down, either by a visit to the gym, pool, or by going for a run.  This is something I’ve always done since a teenager.  Stage two takes place in the evening time, either by watching TV, or going out for a meal with Liz, my wife, where we ‘catch up’ and reminisce. 

If you won the lottery what would you spend it on?

I’d buy a big house with pool, gym and cinema room, and make sure my two lads were set for life.  Then I’d treat family and close friends.

Are you a savoury or sweets guy?


What’s your earliest memory?

Sitting at the table with my Mum, drawing.

What has been your favourite year and why?

2006 – when I retired from the police.  Not because I hadn’t enjoyed that job, but I always wanted to be an artist and family circumstances meant that I couldn’t pursue that career.  It was my opportunity to do what I had always wanted to do. 

What was the last thing you cried at?

The week leading up to Christmas 2012 I watched ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (again) – I always shed a tear of joy every time I watch it.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given or best advice you’d give?

In terms of writing, an editor friend, Alan Twiddle, told me to read twelve different writers of the genre I was writing and follow carefully how each of them draft their prose.  I now read novels differently.  I always pass on this same advice to would-be-writers.

What’s your favourite film?

Favourite film – It’s a Wonderful Life.  It reinforces how fortunate we are to be given life, and how much we should embrace and cherish it, no matter what.

Who was the most famous person you have worked with and what were they really like?

David Curtis is one of Britain’s foremost artists.  I met him fifteen years ago at a painting venue and instantly hit it off with him.  Since then he has spent so much time passing on tips and guiding me on how to paint professionally.  He has introduced me to so many professional artists, and also encouraged and supported me when I have submitted work to the Mall Galleries ‘Royal’ exhibitions.  We remain good friends and paint together whenever we can.

Do you think doing the work you did has an impact on what you write and how you write it?

Without doubt the experiences I gained as a police officer, especially as a detective, have been a big influence on my story-telling as a crime-writer.

 Lovely to chat to you Michael. Good luck with the novels and Bob and I are looking forward to catching up with you when we next head north! I know Bob is particularly keen to share ‘war’ stories with you.

Here are links to Michael’s website and images of his published books by Caffeine Nights Publishers.


Other publications by Michael Fowler:-




Interview with Crime Author Bob Bridgestock – Could have been the only butcher with exploding pork pies?

Bob, my husband, my co-author, my best friend Bob Bridgestock. This interview is probably one of the most difficult that I have done. Why? Because I know him so well – well at least he can’t fib! ;-) I know what makes him tick; well you would after twenty years of marriage wouldn’t you? Loving him as I do I wanted to help Dylan readers get to know him too for in ‘getting to know’ Bob you will have the basis of our character DI Jack Dylan. One of the hardest things to do as a couple who write together, for me anyway, has been learning to tease out of Bob his deep seated emotions. Our readers are all aware, or I think they are now, that Dylan is loosely based on Bob and Jen on me – and I reiterate ‘loosely’!  Primarily this is so that we can give you the thoughts, feelings and sights from our experience of time within the police force and as husband and wife. Bob’s work meant that he dealt with man’s inhumanity to man daily from behind the ‘mask of the detective’ to get him to drop that mask has been very hard. ‘Let your feelings get in the way at a major incident scene and subsequently the investigation and you’re no good to the team,’ he says.

  Bob at the scene of a murder.

 Bob infront of the world media.

So when it came to writing the feelings of Dylan for our novels they had to be, sometimes unwillingly brought to the fore. We have laughed out loud, cried and reminisced about those who are no longer with us on our pathway to becoming authors and we continue to do so with every novel we write. Obviously Dylan and Jen’s story is not ‘our lives’, we add the drama, but the stories are written from the head and our hearts of ones who have been there and from Bob’s point of view seen it all.


Bob Bridgestock

Bob, you joined the police force when yow were 21yrs old but what were you doing before that?

I passed my 11+ and went to Grammar School, excelling only in running the mile and the half mile events and representing the school in the cross country though. I suffered badly all through primary school with severe migraines and as a youngster regularly passed out – much to the annoyance of my teachers. The Doctor’s explanation for this, at the time, was no treatment – I’d grow out of it! Fortunately I did. I left school at the age of 15, prior to taking any exams. The reason being I’d worked in a local butchers shop on a Saturday and was offered a five-year apprenticeship which at that time was not to be missed. I took up the offer and five years later became a fully qualified butcher. By this time I had started smoking and the running had stopped. The smoking however, didn’t stop until a lot later in life when I met Carol.

Back then you could buy one cigarette from the shop immediately outside the school gates. I wonder what profit they made on a packet of 20? They certainly sold a lot and no doubt fuelled my generations addiction.

 Bob as a youngster! His first involvement with the police was when his brother took detornators from a trainline. Admitting his crime to his Dad and giving one of them to Bob, telling him that it was a watch, the police came to get him out of school. Bob had thrown it away – he wasn’t that stupid to think it was a time piece even at the age of seven. This ended with a trip in a police car to find it and a clip around the ear from the police officer and his Dad – if only police officers still had that power today!

From a Butcher to  Policeman – quite a contrast. How did that happen then?

Yes it is, but having enjoyed the work and qualified as a butcher, the job didn’t give me the work satisfaction I was looking for. I was bored and skint. I guess a way forward would have been to start my own business, but loans at that time weren’t readily available, so I decided it was time for a change.

However, during my Butcher training came my second ‘run in’ with the police. One evening as I was travelling home on a bus from college, the bus stopped. An officer got on and pointed to me. ‘You, off,’ he demanded. The bus went on it’s way. Is that blood on that smock under your arm?’ asked the police officer. Bob nodded. ‘Yes, officer.’ he said. ‘Why? How’d it get there?’ ’Well the smock’s a butchers so I guess I thought that gave it away?’ said Bob. ‘Less of your cheek,’ said the officer giving him a clip around the ear. ‘Remember to put it in a plastic bag next time.’ Not only had he spent all the money Bob had on his bus fare but he had to walk the six miles home.  

I got a job at a local Dyeworks, tripling my wage overnight, but after sporting whatever colour we were using at the time as my hair colour for two years, I was more than ready to move on…

 A proud officer in uniform.

So the police service. The words on your long service certificate shows that you did thirty years of service retiring thereafter after having a distinguished and exemplary career during which you received numerous awards and commendation for outstanding work from high court judges to chief constables. What perhaps a lot of people don’t know is that you were also a hostage negotiator for terrorism, kidnap, extortion and suicide intervention. You were always busy but do you have any highs and lows in that job that you can tell us about that stand out for you during that time?

 Bob in his ‘Sweeney’ CID days.

I worked as a detective at every rank, learning my trade from the best. Ultimately I became ‘the’ man in charge of major investigations. A job I set my heart on when entering the Criminal Investigation Department.

The high and low I guess is that I am lucky to have survived the job. It’s not easy being a police officer in any era. I was fortunate.  I attended hospital on quite a few occasions after being attacked but thankfully I was not disabled or killed like some of my colleagues.

It makes me sad that my parents didn’t live beyond their sixtieth birthday to see how I turned out and the results I had in the major incidents I took charge of in the latter years of my service. In the last three years alone I took charge of twenty six murder enquiries, twenty four major incidents, which included drive by shootings, attempt murders, rapes etc. over fifty suspicious deaths and numerous sexual assaults. The only reason I know these figures is that the four Senior Investigating Officers, of which I was one of in the fourth largest police force in England, had to complete monthly returns for Headquarters to account for our working hours. The accounting was the last thing we all needed as the figures did show we were overworked, overwhelmed and the last thing we needed was further stress by having to account for our working hours. Personally the amount of work I was doing was brought home to me the day I was giving evidence in three different murder trials, on the same date, in the same Crown Court. Even the  high court judges remarked on it.

You’ve had an interesting and demanding career. Was writing something that you always intended to do when you retired?

I get asked that question all the time. If I’d kept notes throughout my career in readiness to start writing I’d never have got any work done. The answer to that question is a most definite no.  Even if I had, had the foresight I wouldn’t have had the time. When a job breaks you run with it and that means 24/7 and when its relatively quiet their is the paperwork, the knocking on doors for statements. The court cases. It was suggested that I write a factual novel about the murders I took charge of in the first instance, but that is something I would never consider. My thoughts and support has always been and always will be with the victim of crime and their families. The horrific nature of the incidents, are continuously brought to the fore by the media. I would never add to the family’s ongoing trauma, it’s them that serve a life sentence.

Having left the Police service and moved away from the area to avoid being roped back into the lifestyle on retirement, Carol and I set up home in the South of England, far from the maddening crowds and with no necessity to carry pagers and mobiles – bliss! It was four years later after renovating our home and getting to know our local community that the ‘writing bug’ started, after numerous people on hearing my life story said, ‘You should write a book.’

  ‘Write a book? You must be joking.’ That was a challenge that would be put in the ‘too difficult drawer’ for a long time in. However, in my life fate seems to lend a hand in things that are meant to be and to my disbelief in the weekly Isle of Wight Country Press an advert was published for the local college which read, ‘Write your first novel’.  I enrolled both of us on impulse. Getting me to write a book was something Carol had always wanted me to do, more of an autobiography for the grand children though because of my ’intresting’ life. I don’t think for one minute she or I thought we would become husband and wife authors of crime fiction. This was though the start of our writing career and where the very first draft of Deadly Focus was written – in long hand. We still have that copy in the cupboard today. How do you write together we’re often asked? We are a bit like the tortoise and the hare. I set off at pace and write the story from start to finish usually around 60, to 70,000. Carol then goes through it, trashing some parts, develops the characters and adds the scenes, the drama and emotion. We then sit down together and work through every sentence, until we are satisfied that every word is relevant and moves the story forward. Then and only then do we forward it to our publisher for the professional edit.

We write daily, seven days a week and promote our books through social media, talks about our police careers and our writing, where all proceeds go to the Earl Mountbatten Hospice, a charity very close to our hearts. Whilst writing I have a tendency not to read, especially crime novels, so I don’t become distracted or influenced by their storylines. I write from the heart and with personal experience introduced throughout the novel. Carol reads but only the classics – she too finds reading especially the same genre too distracting.

It was awesome to hear our first book in the DI Dylan series, ‘Deadly Focus’ in the audiobook format. The full version covered by Electric Breeze Audio read by Paul Ansdell is fantastic, if you haven’t heard it you can listen to two chapters free of charge by going to Caffeine Nights Publishers website

Share something with me which others may not know…

In a subjective exam, whilst studying to be a butcher one of the questions was, ‘How should gelatine be handled?’ I’m sure the examiner is still laughing at my answer today. I misread it to read; ‘How should gelignite be handled.’ I could have been the first butcher with exploding pork pies!!!

Who would you like to share a cuppa with and what would it be?

I am a caffeine addict, always have been and always will be. It kept me going through the long working hours. Even our publisher’s are called Caffeine Nights! It must have been fate!

It may sound cheesy but it has to be Carol. We spend all our time together and never get bored with each other’s company. She makes great coffee, although she prefers tea…

Good answer! ;-) Tell our readers how you relax?

We have two English Springer Spaniels, Belle and Vegas who is one of her five pups that we bred six year ago. Walking them twice a day, in all weathers across the fields that run out the back of our house or on the beach which is a stone’s throw away is a great way of relaxing for us both, and if we have to trip off the island Carol’s mum and dad, who live in our annexe look after them for us.

What would you spend  lottery win on?

Securing financial stability for all the family and then giving some to deserving charities of which there are many.

A big diamond doesn’t come into the equation then???? Favourite nibble/food?

Not really a nibble but bacon features at the top of my list of favourite foods. When I’m writing I chew away on Mr Men sweets and Haribo Gummy sweets or Midget Gems.

Do you listen to music or does your working evnvironment have to be silent?

It depends at what stage I’, at with the manuscript. As I start I like silence with limited interruptions, but as the chapters progress and the story flows at pace then I like the background music, the thinking at this stage for me is less intense. I guess I’m lucky in that respect as my part in each novel is running an ‘actual’ enquiry and the road you take with each Dylan book is how it really happens, with all my feelings and thoughts and what I would see and hear. As far as police procedure goes you can’t get it more accurate and I check out with my contacts all the up to date policies and computer systems. I have lived through numerous enquiries with their twists and turns, so I use that experience to tell our fictional stories.

What do you carry in your pocket?

A wallet and a handkerchief.

What are your pet hates?

People who have no respect for others – the takers in life.

People who drive whilst using the mobile phones.

I’m afraid I don’t suffer fools gladly!

What’s your earlist memory?

Having a Mohican haircut around the 1950’s at the local barbers. My Mum was a fan of Saturday night wrestling on TV and  one of her hero’s was Billy Two Rivers who dressed like a Mohican Indian and did a war dance before giving his opponent the karate chop!  

Best advice about writing you would give?

Finish what you start. It is a long and difficult road that many people start  but never finish.

What’s your favourite TV programme at the moment, favourite show and favourite book of all time?

Three questions in one, you wouldn’t be allowed that in an interview but the answer is ANYTHING written by Sally Wainwright! She is an absolute star for her tenacity in getting police procedure correct – which is very rare for todays script writers it appears judging on recent police procedurals that have recently been on the box! Which is one of the reasons we were honoured and ‘pleased as punch’ to be asked to work with her on a new police series for BBC 1 which will air summer 2014.  It’s called  HAPPY VALLEY –

Happy Valley

A 6×60 series written by Sally Wainwright (Last Tango In Halifax, Scott & Bailey) and made by Red Production Company.

Catherine Crowther is the sergeant on duty when flustered, nervous-looking accountant Colin Weatherill comes into her West Yorkshire police station to report a crime. He’s reticent about the details and Colin loses his nerve. The crime he was trying to report was Colin’s own brain-child, a plot to kidnap his boss’s daughter and keep enough of the ransom to put his kids through private school. And now local drug king-pin David Cowgill has put the plan into action, and Colin’s fantasy has become a grim and dangerous reality. The botched kidnapping of eccentric, angry Ann Gallagher and its fallout unfolds… Catherine is used to picking up the pieces of everyone else’s lives but the hunt for Ann Gallagher will get right under her skin. Catherine becomes convinced that only by finding Ann alive and bringing her captors to justice can she avenge the death of her daughter.

The executive producer for Red is Nicola Shindler and Matthew Read for the BBC.

Favourite show has got to be Les Miserables and my favourite book of all time is one I got presented to me as a child at Sunday school, Tom Sawyer.

Is there anything else you want to share with us?

Becoming published authors is a whole new career and we’ll never be able to thank Darren E Laws at Caffeine Nights Publishers enough for signing us up for the DI Dylan series, and the work and commitment he has continued to give us since. Thanks a bunch Darren!

Our readers will see more from Dylan and Jen in 2013 and ‘Deadly Focus’ is being translated into Korean and being published in South Korea in 2014, a deal that was brokered by our foreign writes Literary Agent Monika Luukkenon and Caffeine Nights Publishers.

And there is lots more going on behind the scenes for Carol and I. Book 4 ‘Snow Kills’ is out November this year on Amazon- although we are holding a gala night launch at Prego Cafe Bar & Restaurant on 3rd November for tickets and for those of you who can’t make it there Le Metro in Halifax are holding a Literary Lunch 7th November 2013.  We are just about to sign a contract with a Turkish publisher for all three of our books, that are already published in the UK again brokered by our foreign writes literary agent Monika Luukkenon, to be translated and published in Turkey. We are also working on another BAFTA nominated  police series Scott & Bailey that has just been announced! Also, the first of the Dylan series is about to be written as a script for TV… we live in hope of seeing Dylan on th telly. Keep watching this space and you won’t be disappointed I promise!

Before I go can I just say one thing?

You always have to have the last word don’t you…. ;-) Anyone who knows Bob knows this is true! :-)

DI Dylan followers are THE BEST! Thanks to everyone for your support!

Well, I can’t disagree with you there! Ha ha! I had the last word… ;-)

Bye for now!


Bob xxx

Read more about Bob Bridgestock and the ‘jobs’ he took charge of by googling Bob Bridgestock.

Our work can be found on Caffeine Nights Publishers website @

Our website can be found at and this is our blog where you can often see some of Bob’s rants or crime prevention advice.


Dec 16, 2012

Carol’s ‘Close Up’ with Darren E Laws – Author and Publisher who is Trained To Kill!

Carol Bridgestock


Today I’m very privileged to interview our very own Santa Claus … Let me explain.

Darren E Laws is not just a fantastic author in his own right and successful in public relations but he is also the CEO of Caffeine Nights Publishing. Three years ago Bob and I submitted our second novel in the Dylan series to his publishing house and let’s just say the rest is history. Caffeine Nights publish fiction for the Heart and the Head and any of their readers will know they do just that.  We feel honored to be amongst their stable of authors.

You will read very little about Darren E Laws on the web or anywhere else come to that. So come with me and let’s try to find out what makes this very private man tick…

Darren E Laws


Darren looks at me with a raised eyebrow and a quizzical smile on his lips.  I grin.  

Tell me about life your life before you started working. What did the young Darren E Laws get up to?

As a teenage I was trained to kill and have subsequently used that skill numerous times to good effect. :) It was training which stood me in good stead as a fiction author who dabbles on the darker side of life’s psyche. I was mad enough to join the Territorial Army and foolishly chose the Royal Marine Commandos. I learnt how to dismantle and reassemble a SLR (Self Loading Rifle) blindfolded. A strange skill but one which I could manage quite ably. I lasted about six months before sense took over and I decided that the world would be a safer place without my soldering skills. I remember a lot of running with backpacks, wading chest deep in frozen lakes on Salisbury Plain, eating horrendous dried food. I think my Chicken Supreme with Chocolate Custard is still remembered to this day. In my defence, it was pitch dark, we were soaking, had not eaten nor slept in 20 hours and were no too choosy.

Who gave you your inspiration to write your first novel? The person who gave me faith in myself is Natalie, my wife. Having someone who believes and supports you is a great motivator.

I believe you wanted to be a writer since you were a teenager, is that right? A couple of days before my first novel was published I was rooting about in our loft and came across a diary I don’t even remember writing. Inside it said that one day I would love to be a novelist. I always used to scribble and write stories so the seed was sown early I guess.

How has life experiences affected your writing? Life influences everything a writes puts down on paper in some way or another. If it doesn’t then there is something wrong. For me, growing up in London’s east end it meant using your imagination in so many ways. We were written off and forgotten by society and to escape and make something of your life you had to be autodidactic, adaptable, ambitious beyond academic, resolute or a criminal.

‘Turtle Island’, a crime thriller was your first published novel that was picked up by an American publisher. When will we see the second in the trilogy ‘Dark Country’ published? It’s been a long time coming due to my work with setting up and running Caffeine Nights. I have been writing it for over five years and its 97% there. I expect it to be out in 2013 though I haven’t set a date yet. I dread to think when the third book will be out, especially as there will be another leftfield novel in-between.

‘Tripping’, the second novel published is a surreal black comedy described as ‘chick noir’. What reactions expected or otherwise did you get when that was published – being so different from ‘Turtle Island’? I like confounding expectations, especially my own. I know people are intelligent enough to take a book for what it is and the world is big enough to find new readers in different genres.

How has your perception of publishers changed since being one yourself? Totally. Sadly many of the things which I thought were wrong with the industry were confirmed pretty quickly and continue to be reinforced on a daily basis. There are many great people out there working to move things forward but the industry is sown up by a cartel intent on keeping it an old boys club. Caffeine Nights is there to irritate the hell out of them every now and then.

Tell me a little about bit about your publishing company? Caffeine Nights is dedicated to becoming a platform and outlet for authors who have great books but been neglected by the industry. Our goal has never changed. We published fiction aimed at the heart and the head…

Why did you want to be a publisher? I ask myself that often in the wee hours when I can’t sleep or when I run into the same old class driven BS that permeates the business. However, the simple answer is to show the publishing world what it is missing.

How do you decide what titles to publish? It’s a simple criterion; do I like the books, do I like the authors, do I think we can work together? The novel has to grab me at some level. I have to engage with the characters and care about them. If that doesn’t happen it’s highly likely that it won’t make it onto our list. Even if it does that is not the end of the story (pardon the pun), there are at least 3 books that I would have loved to have published but I found for one reason or another I could not work with the author. I guess I can be difficult.

What do you look for in a good submission? I look for passion in the submission itself. Anyone who sends me an email saying ‘when are you open for submissions’ or ‘will you please look at my novel’ has little chance or inspiring me to read their work. I had one submission that simply said ‘spread the love’…I love the delete button on my computer.

Is the synopsis, letter or blub the real ‘breaker’ as our creative writing teachers tell us? The approach is as vital as the quality of the work. I have little time for people who waste my time. I want your passion, talent and commitment.

If you could work with any author in the world who would it be? There are a number of authors I would love to sign and work with in that sense, but writing is a solitary process for me so in terms of writing with anybody it just wouldn’t work. There is an artist I would love to work with in the sense of publishing, and that is Ben Drew, better known as Plan B. He is a great story teller and comes from my neck of the woods and I am sure that he has a great novel in him.

EBooks and digital publishing is the future but do you wonder if the industry is losing its roots in the high street or is there room for both? The industry is going through a revolution and will continue to be affected by the impact of digital for another 5 to 10 years. What will be left of the high street by then will be anyone’s guess. Bookshops may go the way of record shops. Many do little to help themselves, sadly.

Where do you see yourself/the publishing industry in five years time? Bookshops need to radically rethink their offering to survive and open up to change. They also need to embrace local talent and see the benefits of how the community of readers and writers can bring added value to their business. In five years time digital will be the established norm but paper books will still be with us. Publishers need to know who their readers are and use social media to talk directly with them. Where do I see myself and Caffeine Nights in five years? I may be close to completing my Georgina O’Neil trilogy and Caffeine Nights will go from strength to strength. It would be great to have a few bestsellers by then, some film and TV deals and be respected in the industry.

Darren Laws is a workaholic, I know, you give to your authors 110% of yourself and we in the Caffeine Nights stable are very lucky to have that personal touch and contact with you. How on earth do you manage your time to fit in the writing, publishing and your work as a public relations professional? I’ll sleep when I’m dead :-)

How much difference do you think a good cover makes? This is an interesting question as clearly many very successful self-published titles have covers which really suck but sell really well. For me, it is important to have something which relates to the story and looks great. I am very proud of the quality and standard of covers we consistently produce and have Wills to thank for being able to interpret my ramblings so darned well.

What about the title? A good title is as important and works in relation to a great cover. It’s the authors hook. The blurb is your elevator pitch, your sixty second sell.

What do you think makes a good book sell? I could be cynical and say heaps of money and a slick marketing plan which is true for the big six, but us wee minnows have to be prepared to play the long game and continue to build an audience over a period of time. This doesn’t interest the larger publishers. I would love to say great writing, but many great books are overlooked and many crap ones with huge marketing budgets become million sellers.

What makes you angry about the current publishing industry? Running into greed, apathy and unrealistic attitudes especially from book stores. Many book stores complain about their lot since the advent of digital and eBooks eroding their bottom line but still refuse to stock books, even on a sale or return basis, or host book signing events. This is the only industry where the supplier takes all the risks and still we are met with apathy on many occasions, and sadly independent book shops are the worst offenders. We had one store recently tell us that they could not host a book signing with one of our authors unless we could guarantee 80 sales. This attitude will see them go the way of the dinosaur pretty quickly. This was a local book store that should be encouraging (at no financial risk to themselves) local author events and promoting them to their community. It is a sad indictment on the industry today. Pretentiousness is another of my bug bears. There is a heck of a lot of it. People who strive to think they are above other people through class, position or social standing. I also have little time for people who act as though the world owes them a favour or have a complete sense of humour bypass. Give me talent, graft and sheer bloody minded determined ambition any day.

How important do you think social media is? Vital for all publishers but more so for small publishers. It’s great being able to engage with people who buy and read our books. We have much to learn from them and if we listen, we can be the sort of publisher they deserve.

What are the biggest problems facing publishers these days? There’s no real bogeyman lurking that we don’t know about; we all face different challenges. I think the majority of the industry has got to grips with digital and is quite savvy with its social media offering. For smaller publishers we can be at an advantage as we can react to change and adapt quicker. For instance our back catalogues are invariably much smaller, so converting to new formats or platforms is easier. Caffeine Nights biggest challenge is getting wider distribution into stores and it is something I will be working hard to rectify in 2013.

What do you consider your best accomplishment? Waking up.

It’s nearly 2013. If I could grant you one wish what would it be? I would ask for it to be given to my wife, Natalie.

Ten books you want to read/re read on your desert island before you’re rescued?

I could easily list all our books on Caffeine Nights and many of them should be there but it would be like picking your favourite child. So I have ignored this and returned to books which formed me as a reader. I have many books I have enjoyed reading and rarely if ever, returned to them so being stranded would give me a chance to re-visit old friends. I would love to have a list of many literary classics including Shakespeare, Hardy, Austen and their ilk but these are all books I thoroughly enjoyed. In no particular order.

  • The Rats – James Herbert. I read this when I was about 12 and it thrilled me. Primarily because some of the book was set in east London and it was a good, bloody horror. I subsequently read all of James Herbert’s books and met the man at a few book signings. I still have the books.
  • Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk. I read this before seeing the film and thought it was un-filmable and a great book.  A very funny and a biting satire on the consumer age and the fragility of man. David Fincher produced a fantastic visulisation of the book that is near pitch perfect. Palahniuk is tremendously funny and often stretches his readers by adopting challenging writing styles but he is always worth reading.
  • Heart of a Dog – Mikhail Bulgakov – Written in 1925, the language of the translation I read really sizzled and totally engrossed me in a very dark satire of communism. It’s not the sort of book I normally read but was recommended to me and I was blown away by it. I am sure much of the satire shot over my head but the story was truly fascinating.
  • Jaws – Peter Benchley – I read this after seeing Spielberg’s wonderful film which still stands up. The book I recall was quite different from the film adaptation and is sitting less than a foot away from me on a pile of books to re-read. Benchley died young and I think was haunted by the success of that bloody shark.
  • Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow – Peter Hoeg  – This novel introduced me to Scandinavian fiction. It’s a great read. Part detective fiction, part cultural observation and definitely Scandinavian. The pervading atmosphere conjured by Hoeg is something which many authors from the region seem to excel in. I love Smilla Jaspersen. She is a cold character who distances herself from life and is absorbed by her work as a scientist specializing in snow. Smilla is drawn into an investigation of the death of a young boy she befriends. The Boy’s mother is an alcoholic Inuit and his death leads Smilla to discovering a conspiracy by a large drilling company which has contaminated water with a lethal parasite. This also led to the death of the boy’s father. Hoeg is not afraid to let the reader try to work out what happened and it is a book which makes you think as you read it.
  • Casino Royale – Ian Fleming – I recently picked this up and read the first page and was immediately drawn in. Fleming paints with words and the book seemed as fresh and vibrant as the recent remake starring Daniel Craig. It’s on my list of books I want to read.
  •  The Man Who Smiled – Henning Mankell. More bleak Scandinavian fiction featuring Mankell’s lead detective Kurt Wallander. A man with more flaws than a high-rise apartment. I found this a slow paced burner but definitely worth sticking with. A little too bleak at times and I do wonder what even the smallest injection of humour might do to this sort of psychological thriller.
  • Dreamcatcher – Stephen King – A simply wonderful and barkingly mad book. I love King’s writing in this. Although King aficionados probably don’t rate this book, it kept me enthralled on a number of journeys to London about 10 years ago.
  • A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens – The ultimate ghost and redemption story. Although only a short story usually found bundled in a selection of Dickens short story collections, this story grabbed my attention as a boy and I try to read it every year at Christmas.  Dickens is another author that captures atmosphere and creates scenes while passing on social comment with biting comment on the times of the day.
  • American Psycho – Brett Easton Ellis – Definitely a book for the X-Factor generation. A savage satire written so skillfully to entice and engage you in the action of Ellis’s protagonist, Patrick Bateman. Ellis poses many questions about modern society that are still pertinent, even though this book was written over 20 years ago. The pace of the novel make it a real page turner and stomach churner, however it is a must read.

If should you want to read more Darren’s blog site is him having a rant about publishing:

 Thanks Darren. You’re a pleasure to work with and great to interview! Have a lovely Christmas and we’re looking forward to a very exciting year with Caffeine Nights Publishing.

Watch this space everyone for the new titles! :-)

Carol x



Carol’s ‘Close Up’ Today with Author Ruth Jacobs!

My ‘Close Up’ today is with Ruth Jacobs and I am very excited to tell you she has joined us in the stable of authors at Caffeine Nights Publishers! I’ve never met Ruth before so let’s find out more about her together shall we? :-)

 Ruth Jacobs 


 Hello Ruth, Lovely to meet you! Tell me how on earth do you manage to juggle working and writing?

And looking after my children too! I usually write in the evenings, which is the only time I can write as I work in the daytime. But it’s a good time of day for me as I am not a morning person, and usually wake up properly sometime in the evening, so it’s the best time for my writing, especially creativity. However, for editing, proofreading, and rewriting work, I try not to do it too late because accuracy is essential, so I don’t feel confident doing that if I’m tired.

What inspired you to write a novel in the first place?

I first began writing a novel when I was sixteen years old. Traumatic experiences inspired that novel, and the inspiration for my debut novel, Soul Destruction: Unforgivable, which is being published next year, has also been traumatic experiences.

Who do you admire in the literary world? Who do you consider your mentor?

I’ve read so many books, but because of a misspent youth involving drug addiction and overdoses, and also having posttraumatic stress disorder, I have a terrible memory. I know what I’ve read mainly because I’ve got the books on my bookshelf. There will also be more, but those books I’ve either given away or leant and they’ve been unreturned. I can remember being really taken by Martin Amis at one time and, at another time, Martina Cole but I can’t remember what any of their novels were about even though I might have read most or all of their work available at the time. However, although I don’t remember consciously, I do believe that what I have read has an impact on my writing, but that it’s at a subconscious level – kind of how when you can’t remember the words to a song, then when you hear the tune, suddenly, you can sing the words. So, they were stored in the memory but not immediately accessible.

Where do you work? Do you have a regular pattern or routine?

I tend to type on the sofa with my laptop on my lap. The only issue with that is that my rather large Lurcher thinks he’s a lapdog sometimes and gets between me and the laptop. That’s when I have to stretch over him to type. I don’t have a routine at all right now, but living with bipolar disorder means that whenever I am in mania, I am so much more productive in every area of my life, which includes my writing. Although it feels amazing at the time, after every high, there’s a terrible low. The lows are hard to live through.

What are you working on now?

I’m doing a final re-reading of my debut novel, Soul Destruction: Unforgivable, as the publishers, Caffeine Nights, will begin working on it mid-December. After that, I have the Soul Destruction Diary to continue, which is currently available to read on my blog: I also have the second book in the Soul Destruction series to complete.

Now we’ve got to know you a little better share something with us that nobody else knows about Ruth…

There is nothing about me that nobody knows already. Actually, something new is that I’m developing a regular desire for chocolate spread sandwiches. No one knows that yet. I’ve only just realised it myself.

Who would you like to share a cup of coffee and a natter with?

Immediately, my grandmothers and my favourite great auntie came into mind, but I’ll need to wait until I get to heaven, if there is one.

How do you relax?

I used to watch TV but for the last few months or longer, I’ve rarely had the TV on. One of my friends calls it “electric diazepam” and I think it can work like that sometimes, so I’ve turned it on more recently since she reminded me it had that effect.

If you won the lottery what would you spend it on?

I’d start a charity that operated a centre where women who want to exit prostitution can get holistic help that will enable them to gain a new life, a new job, provide trauma and other specialist therapies such as eye-movement therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder, treatment for getting clean off drugs and/or alcohol if addiction is an issue for them, legal help in getting their children back if they’ve lost them to the care system, assistance and support for housing issues, debt management advice and guidance, further education and training (or access to it), and more that I can’t think of right now and also on which I’d want to consult with experts in the field. I’d like the centre to be able to provide onsite, or at least provide access to, services for absolutely every need the women have. I’d also buy myself a new car, and pay off my mortgage, and take the family on holiday. I’d have to give some of the money to my sister but her share might come with a caveat that she only receives it if she works in my charity centre. She’s an English teacher, and a brilliant one, teaching foreign students many of whom are asylum seekers here in the UK. So I’d want her with me, but maybe that’s rather manipulative of me.

Are you a savoury or sweets girl?

Sweets every time.

Mmm…  just like me! :-)

What do you have in your handbag right now?

Thank goodness I am using a small bag currently as it might take more than a page if I was using one of my larger handbags. There’s tobacco, Rizla paper and cigarette filters because I’m a smoker of liquorice roll ups. Lots of scraps of paper and receipts. A few broken lighters that I must get round to binning. My keys – I always keep them in there, otherwise I leave them around the house and they’re lost due to my bad memory. Too many lip-glosses, and ladies’ things I’d rather not mention.

What’s your earliest memory? 

Sometime when I was still being fed by my mum and couldn’t yet talk. I think I was talking at about a year old, so I was very young. She was feeding me baby food and I knew she was putting the savoury food on the spoon then dipping it into the desert to hide the savoury food. I must have eaten it thinking it was the only way to get desert. She did it because apparently, I wouldn’t eat savoury food.

What has been your favourite year and why?

2002, which is the year my twin sons were born.

What’s your favourite smell?

Agent Provocateur perfume with the exception of nighttime during which I prefer lavender.

What was the last thing you laughed at?

I laughed at myself this afternoon as I was outside talking to my dog, and realised how much I talk to him.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

I was recently told something I hope will become a mantra to me: Some things belong in hell and it’s best to leave them there.

What’s your favourite film as a child and an adult?

As a very young child, my favourite film was Grease, then as a teenager it was The Wall. As an adult, it’s so hard to call as my memory has worsened over the years I find it hard to remember what films I’ve actually seen. In fact, I can watch a film and perhaps it won’t even be until near the end when I will suddenly remember that I’ve seen the film before and some of the scenes fall into place in my mind. I think in recent years, one film that has had a big impact on me is Hard Candy.

Who was the most famous person you have worked with and what were they really like?

Noel Edmonds who read out my letter on Swap Shop in the 1980s in which I had written about a huge hole running through a loaf of bread that was made by the brand with the logo  “Bread wi’ nowt taken out”. I wasn’t impressed as he said my surname wrong on TV and ruined my fifteen minutes (or seconds) of fame.

Beyond the Streets charity means a lot to you doesn’t it Ruth? I see you have donated all royalties from one of your books, tell me more.

In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl’ is available to download from Amazon and you’re right all royalties will be donated to Beyond the Streets, a charity helping women exit prostitution. The publication is 77p from Amazon UK here & 99c from Amazon US here. It is also available worldwide.

 Thank you so very much for talking to me today. I hope we will meet up real soon and get to know each other even better!

Good Luck with ‘Unforgivable’. We’ll all definately look out for it!

Ta ra for now!

Carol :-)


Carol’s ‘Close Up’ today with Sam Taylor – Creative Director of TinkerTaylor who are specialist in films, motion graphics, brand animation and so much more…



Today I’m very lucky to be ‘Close Up’ to Sam Taylor the very talented Creative Director of Tinker Taylor …

Sam is not just a pretty face, she went to Kent University where she gained BSc, Social Anthropology & Psychology.

She spent several years at the BBC (Pebble Mill) and working for various Independent production companies, including ENDEMOL, MAVERICK TELEVISION, HOTBED MEDIA, HANRAHAN MEDIA, VENTURA PRODUCTIONS first as a researcher then as a Producer/Director. Then went on to work as Producer on My Kinda Show followed by being Producer/Director of BBC House Invaders - the interior  make over show show with Linda Barker & Anna Ryder Richardson &  BBC Garden Invaders – garden make over show with Joe Swiff, Charlie Dimmock and Mark Evans. She says, ‘It was a barrel of laughs to produce and we made literally hundreds of of home owners very happy indeed!’

 Now she is the the Creative Director of Tinker Taylor  which continue’s to grow and expand as the market dictates. She admits she has ridiculously high professional standards, both on screen and off. But her aim is to keep inspiring, encouraging and motivating her clients onto bigger and better things. To be the very best at what she does – and to make sure everyone working at TT enjoys getting up on a Monday morning! Too ambitious?  ’I think not,’ she says with a smile. Tinker Taylor are specialists in films, motion graphics, brand animation, websites, iphone apps, photography, carrier pigeon… we communicate by whichever means necessary to get our clients message heard. ‘ And they’re good at it!’

What inspired you to establish TINKER TAYLOR Sam?

After a decade working in the broadcast television industry, including several years at the BBC, my husband and I felt the time was right to start a family. I always loved my work in television but with two small sons, five nights a week on the road was no longer a viable lifestyle, so I decided to start my own production company.

So in a nutshell, what does TINKER TAYLOR do?

We are film makers, website designers and motion graphics specialists. We create eye-catching content for any screen and ensure our clients stand out from the crowd. All with a friendly, professional attitude and a creative edge!

Where do you work?

We are based in beautiful Fazeley Studios, which is home to many creative and digital businesses in Birmingham’s arts quarter, Digbeth. This is where our pre- and post-production work takes place but otherwise we might be found on location anywhere around the UK, camera in hand…or rather, on tripod.

Tell me about some of your recent projects?

We’ve just completed a series of eight short films called ‘Policing the Olympics 2012’, which celebrate the role of British Police Officers in ensuring the smooth running of the ‘greatest show on earth’. London 2012 was such a momentous event for this country and TINKER TAYLOR wanted to demonstrate just how important the police were in making it all happen. These films give a unique insight into the Games – from the Torch Security Team to the officers patrolling the skies, the Thames and on the ground. It was a real privilege to meet so many people who have a genuine passion for their work.

You’re clearly very proud of the Olympics project – what would you say is the project you are most proud of since establishing TINKER TAYLOR?

Well I’m proud of everything we produce at TINKER TAYLOR but yes, the Olympics films are especially close to my heart. The police don’t always get a positive press but with this series we hoped to challenge those perceptions and you only have to listen to the tourists praising the British officers to see what a fantastic job they do and how vital they were to the whole Olympic experience.  

If I had to pick another project I’m particularly proud of, it’s been great to work with Claims Direct over the last couple of years. We produce all the video testimonies for their website and I’m delighted that our films have successfully enhanced the business of such a renowned company. Our MOD Police campaign film ‘In Defence of the Nation’ is another project that’s made a tangible difference for the client, demonstrating how vital the work of this small part of the British Police Service is to national security.

What’s the most challenging thing you’ve ever filmed?

That’s a hard question, as every project presents its own unique challenges. Logistically speaking, I’d have to say a project for Stanley Tools earlier this year was quite a challenge, as it involved dropping a spirit level out of a helicopter into a quarry! Finding the right location and equipment took a lot of research, but it was great fun.

A website we developed for the Police Dependants’ Trust was challenging in a different way, as we interviewed several people who had either lost loved ones or been severely injured in the line of duty. You have to balance professionalism with sensitivity, as in any job, but it was crucial to make sure these people were happy to talk to us and happy with the way in which they were represented on the website.

Who’s the most famous person you have worked with and what were they really like?

A highlight of 2012 was working with Sir Steve Redgrave, who was a guest speaker at the Police Federation of England and Wales Conference in May. TINKER TAYLOR helped to facilitate his appearance and he was such a charming, genuine man. We bonded over Radio 4! Another little claim to fame is that I produced Gregg Wallace’s first ever TV series, which was a 25 day trip round Italy sampling the cuisine. Gregg and I are still friends and he follows TINKER TAYLOR on Twitter.

So Steve Redgrave aside, who else would you like to share a cup of coffee and a natter with?

I’m more of a tea than a coffee girl, but I actually love chatting to anyone who has a story to tell and wants to bounce ideas around of how we can make that happen. People with a business to grow, an event to record, an issue to expose, a service to promote or a presentation to make, I’ll natter with them all…but business aside, a cuppa with Jenson Button would go down well!

So if any of our readers want to discuss promoting their business or filming an event you’d encourage them to get in touch?

Definitely! We’re a friendly bunch and always keen to explore new opportunities. Check out the TINKER TAYLOR website and drop me an email,

How do you relax in your spare time?

I’m an avid reader, enjoy running (slowly!), long walks along the coast and bike rides with my boys – the usual soul cleansing stuff!  I used to play rugby and am now a coach, love the Grand Prix and take far too much pleasure from drinking fine New Zealand wines.

Finally, what’s the best advice you’ve been given or best advice you’d give?

Be confident in what you do and always be nice to people! I think this quote also sums it up for me: ‘Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind’, courtesy of the great Dr Suess.

Thank you so much Sam for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk to me. If anyone wants to speak to Sam and thinks that Tinker Taylor can help them please contact Sam @ or through the website

Carol’s ‘Close Up’ today with Caffeine Nights Author Shelley Weiner!

I’m ‘close up’ today to the very lovely and amazingly talented Shelley Weiner, who is an acclaimed novelist and creative writing mentor. Her novels include A Sisters’ TaleThe Last HoneymoonThe JokerArnost, and – her latest – The Audacious Mendacity of Lily GreenHer short stories have appeared in various anthologies and on BBC Radio 4.

Shelley is an Advisory Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund and has taught fiction for institutions that include Birkbeck College, Anglia Ruskin University, the Open University, the British Council, and Durham University Summer School. She tutors for the Skyros Writers’ Lab, is a mentor on the Gold Dust Mentoring Scheme and a reader for The Literary Consultancy. She is presenting a workshop at this year’s Cheltenham Literary Festival and a Guardian Masterclass on The Art of Fiction. Website:

And today she has very kindly taken the time out of her busy schedule to talk to us. I’m very excited! :-)

 How on earth do you manage to juggle your work as a Mentor and Creative Writing Teacher and write yourself Shelley?

It’s more a case of dividing my time than juggling: I see the teaching/mentoring as a completely separate activity from my own writing and definitely don’t subscribe to that horrible old axiom: ‘Those who can, do, and those who can’t teach.’ Teaching – which involves communicating practical skills that I’ve had to master over many decades, as well as imparting a kind of permission to write – has always been as important to me and, in its way, as creative as producing my own fiction. At the same time, I have to be very careful not to let it eat into my time so much that there’s none left for writing. Like most writers I know, I tend to procrastinate horribly, and leap at any opportunity (cupboard tidying? Sweeping the patio? Any displacement activity at all – the more mundane the more appealing…) to avoid sitting at my desk and stringing words together. So having a kind of ‘day job’ like teaching, preparing workshops, reading the work of others, can be a justifiable excuse. So I have to be very strong-willed about setting aside regular chunks of time that are for writing, and nothing else.

What inspired you to write a novel in the first instance?

Having worked as a journalist for many years, I felt that I’d honed my writing skills to the extent that I was very fluent and could communicate clearly and coherently. There was something missing, however, and I had a sense that I wanted to say more than the structures of feature writing or news reporting allowed me. I went on an Arvon Foundation course to explore my options, and wrote a poem that made people cry. The idea that I could write something to touch people (rather than inform or amuse) was a revelation. The poem was about my father, who had been a Holocaust survivor, and communicating my loss and bewilderment seemed to point the way to stuff I’d never articulated before. That’s when I decided to write a novel, based on the experiences of my parents, who’d both been in concentration camps. As a rather awkward mix of fiction and autobiography, that first novel never found a publisher. It was an important learning experience though, and my next one, A Sisters’ Tale, was bought by the first publisher to see it.

Who do you admire in the literary world? Who do you consider your mentor?

That’s a hard one. ‘Admire’ is a complicated word. I admire any writer who shows quiet and dogged persistence, a determination to keep going, to say what’s important, ignoring as far as possible the literary flavour of the day. I admire the greats, those like Tolstoy and Chekhov and Shakespeare and Austin, who have bequeathed on us such treasure – and Americans such as Roth and Bellow who have written so profoundly about issues of displacement that so deeply concern me. As for a mentor: when I went on that significant Arvon course, my tutor Alice Thomas Ellis encouraged me. She allowed me to feel interesting, a huge bonus, and gave me the kind of permission to write that, ever since, I’ve been trying to offer other new writers. We went on to teach together and became great friends.

Where do you write? Do you have a regular pattern or routine?

I’m fortunate to have my own office. It’s small and quiet, crammed with books and photos of my family, and gives me a sense of serenity and (when I discipline myself to switch of that dratted email!) creativity. My pattern, as I’ve said, is dictated by how firm I am about dividing my time. When I started writing fiction and had to fit it in between a day job as a journalist and the demands of two young children etc, I wrote each morning from 4.30am. I don’t know how I managed – but I did. Now things are less hectic, yet I’m far less productive. Which is a lesson of sorts, I suppose.

What are you writing now?

My fifth novel, The Audacious Mendacity of Lily Green, has just been published, and I have several tentative projects on the go. Nothing that I feel is substantial enough to share – and, you know how it is, a half-conceived story can dissipate into nothingness if it’s spoken about.

Share something with me that nobody else knows about Shelley Weiner…. Piers Morgan eat your heart out! ;-)

Hmm. How I wish I had some dark secrets – or a few tantalising shades of grey (that I could turn into a lucrative piece of ‘fiction’). But alas  … on the other hand I do have a passion that’s very unliterary. It’s dancing flamenco, which I’ve been doing, or trying to do, for the past five years. It’s a wonderful, dramatic release from real life, and I so wish that I could lose myself into it without worrying about footwork, arm co-ordination, etc. One day …

Oh, wow that’s fantastic Shelley! Now I’m interested to know who you like to share a cup of coffee and a natter with?

My lovely girlfriends – and my daughter Nicole, my son Steve, and of course Jack (husband). Anyone who has interesting things to say and hears me out and makes me laugh!

How do you relax though? 

That’s a fraught question. I’m not good at relaxing. My days are busy, busy and my thoughts/anxieties keep me awake at night. I do yoga – but prefer ashtanga to the slower versions, which is good for the body but less so for the soul. My plan is to spend a day doing yoga nidra (which involves six hours of relaxation) but I’m getting really tense about organising it …

If you won the lottery what would you spend it on? 

A family holiday home – a beautiful spacious house to accommodate all of us, plus present and future grandchildren. Somewhere easy to reach, near the sea.

Are you a savoury or sweets girl?

I was about to say ‘savoury’, then remembered how much I crave fruit jellies, marshmallows and marzipan.

Yes, I know what you mean! Tell me what do you have in your handbag right now?

Alas, nothing of great interest. Purse, make-up essentials, a few broken pens, sweet wrappers (see above). Oh, and my phone – I’m addicted to my iPhone, which is another terrible distraction, but what can one do?

Yes, aren’t we all! Although I must say Bob will have nothing to do with our phone. He always professors that he can’t see the text – what an excuse! What’s your earliest memory Shelley?

I have a hazy recollection of taking my first steps – my hand being held as I placed one uncertain foot in front of the other along a very dirty pavement in the very slummy part of Port Elizabeth, where I was born.


What has been your favourite year and why?

The year I turned 40 (I won’t say when!) which, for me, was significant and felt full of potential. It was the year I started writing fiction, and it came pouring out of me: a novel in six weeks, then another – short stories – a radio play. I’ve never felt or been more creative.

That’s so inspirational for others Shelley. Just shows what you can achieve and at any time in your life. I guess it has to just be the right time for you. What’s your favourite smell?


I love Jamine too… What was the last thing you laughed and cried at?

I felt very emotional – ok, I cried – when I was writing my speech to welcome guests to my son’s forthcoming wedding. Our Burmese cat, Poppy, makes me laugh – sad but true.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given or best advice you’d give?

The best advice is embodied by my two favourite teaching by-words that apply as much to writing as to life. The first is tenacity, the second is curiosity. Remember and apply them both and there’s every chance that you’ll finish writing that novel and/or have a long, fulfilling and creative life.


What’s was your favourite book as a child & as an adult?

As a child I was obsessed with ballet and addicted to the ‘Wells’ stories by Lorna Hill. And Little Women et al. Anything, as long as it wasn’t scary (I was a nervy little thing). Now I love a good story that’s psychologically astute – Philip Roth’s Nemesis was the last novel that bowled me over.

Has your world changed since you became a published author and how?

There’s no doubt that writing novels and transmitting what I know to others has illuminated my world. It has brought me into contact with so many fascinating, generous and creative people. Being published (never mind fame or money) definitely adds validation to what one does but, as I always say to new writers, the determination to write is far more important (and likely to be more gratifying) than the ambition to be a published writer.

Is being a published author all that you thought it would be, or what’s been a surprise to you?

Following on from the above – the trouble with being published is that the goal-posts keep moving. Achieving publication calls for readers, reviews, acknowledgment, etc. It never ends. And I’ve seen, through the experiences of friends and colleagues, how fickle the world of publication can be (agents as well as publishers – not to mention readers). So the important thing is to be able to switch off from the outside world and keep hold of that original impulse. To write!

Thank you Shelley! It has been lovely talking to you today and just to let the readers know that you can buys Shelley’s latest book from Caffeine Nights book store or its eBook store. You can also buy from your local bookshop or online!



More about Shelley @

Here’s a link to a sample of  her latest novel ‘The Audacious Mendacity of Lily Green via Caffeine Nights Publishers website









What does it take to be an International Private Eye – ‘Close Up’ today with Phil & Yin Johnson who are JJAssociates



Carol Bridgestock

I’m so excited today to be talking to a real life International Private Eye Duo! Is there life really like Jame Bond? I know they travel light… Mmm… Why not drag up a chair, get a cuppa and come with me to find out?


We are Worldwide Investigators, Tracing Agents, Researchers & Process Servers. We now have via our Worldwide Investigator Memberships, Professional Colleagues numbering over 4,000 and in 95 Countries.
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Hello Phil and Yin, thank you very much for talking to me today. Oh, boy are we all in for a treat! So, let’s waste no time I want to know does it take to be real life International Private Investigators! Where are you both from originally and how on earth did you get into your line of business?

 We’re both Yorkshire born and bred. Actually we were born in St Luke’s hospital, but years apart! Yin laughs. 

 Oh, that’s so weird. Bob and I were born in Halifax General Hospital and years apart too… ;-)

 Phil was brought up by his mother and grandmother and went on to do part time work in a Bradford enquiry agent’s office at the age of 14 years, as the junior. He was mothered by the women in the office. We are actually still in touch with the ladies of the typing pool and meet up as frequently as possible. He started full time employment there when his schooling ended and the owner of the company insisted that he went to night school to learn short hand and typing as a condition of him working there. So there he was with a class of girls, a popular young man, until he came top of the class in the first test. 

Phil has had a varied career path that has included being an enquiry agent, security officer, sales and marketing for a blue chip company, and  a police officer before becoming self employed at  JJAssociates International.  He is well known in the circles as the British PI in the Hawaiian shirt and is often called ‘The Man Who Knows’.  Phil police career saw him serving  in West Yorkshire Police Force which is the fourth largest police force in England. He was based in Queens Road and Toller Lane, Bradford but left shortly after the Bradford City fire.  

Hey, ‘The Man who Knows’ … That sounds like a good title for a book … wait till I write that down…  

Yin is first generation born from Hong Kong Chinese origin. In fact her parents are still on honeymoon. They flew to the UK on a BOAC flight 2 days after marrying and have been in the UK ever since. They still live in Bradford which is where they call home. They brought their family up the traditional Chinese way and on the first day at school, Yin was only able to speak Cantonese and had to learn English whilst there as a minority, the only Chinese pupil of the school in the mid 1960′s. Sports played a huge part in Yin’s school life and she was a team member of every sport available and became a swimming instructor. She has had a few years involved with a wine bar/bistro in a Yorkshire village which is best known it’s for literary connections -  Haworth the home of the Bronte sisters.  

Tell me a little about yourself. 

Phil has collected various qualifications through the years including RSA typing, computing, sales and marketing, various workshops & educational projects including body language with the FBI. He continues to learn through investigation conferences and life!

Yin obtained GCE O levels and A levels, has a swimming instructors certificate, business management, including sales &marketing, computing and again continues to be educated through the conferences they attend which includes body language with the FBI agent, hand writing analysis and blood and murder crimes scenes with Dr. Henry Lee.

 Now I’m sure everyone is interested in your work at JJAssociates. What do you do and how did you get started? Ooops first rule of interviewing is one question at once! Okay Bob!  

 In 1986 right out of the blue – we’d just been married for a year, Phil received a telephone call from a PI (Private Investigator), who ran a successful agency. Unbeknown to us at the time this was the phone call that was going to change our lives forever. The old acquaintance was about to retire and wanted to know if Phil was interested in taking over the business, which would close down if not.It took just short of one year and endless meetings to convince Yin that this was the way to move forward and that being an Investigator would be a good decision.

You’ve been running the business for  along time and are internationally well known for your work. How have you managed that? 

Well, it’s over 25 years ago now. Yin learnt to type and organised the office and all the cases. The general day to day office work and allocation was run from an office in our home town. One of our solicitor clients assisted with training Yin with the rules and regulations and requirements.

Phil became one of the roving investigators travelling the length and breadth of the UK as required, living out of a suitcase and clocking up over 50,000 miles annually. 

The first year’s turnover was quadrupled and cases became more varied.

Yin broke into what was a ‘man’s world’ at that time and the former Police officers patch!  We have had over 40 individuals working on our behalf on numerous cases at one time.

We work in various fields, tracing and locating for solicitors and companies and we also specialise in insurance surveillance cases which break cases for them with the compensations claimants. Carrying a large video camera and SLR camera was made easy as Yin was the stereotypical ‘oriental abroad’.

Attention to detail has been an advantage. We did have a number of excellent surveillance operatives from military backgrounds and retired officers who also ‘cracked’ cases for us.

That is all over 12 years ago now and business has since changed dramatically for JJ Associates, technology is our new best friend.

Travelling the annual mileage was taking its toll on both of us and the privacy laws changed. Disclosure of video evidence ruling was transformed and we needed a different challenge…

A ski trip to USA was arranged and we started using the Yahoo groups online, so we place a message on the New England region of the USA explaining we would be there for a couple weeks and would like to meet some American Investigators. We got a few replies and met up with them and that was the start of our extensive travel over there. We are still in touch with Bob who came to meet us in Killington, Vermont all them years ago. We joined the state association immediately and are still members today. 

Cases for the UK and Europe became part of our every day work load and we now work and advise on cases worldwide and believe it or not we now introduce American investigators to each other.

We began attending as many American state association conferences as possible, networking hard to meet new contacts coast to coast. We stood out as a unique couple, easily recognisable in our Hawaiian shirts! 

The west coast of America was calling so we attended the annual California Liscensed Investigators conference in Reno, Nevada and have not looked back since. During that conference Yin’s sky jump from the Auckland Sky Tower was featured in the PI magazine and the readers had ‘met’ Yin before we arrived. Since that time We have been and are CALI’s International members and have been guest speaker at a number of their city and interim mid- term conferences.

For some time we wrote for PI Magazine in the International section as their International Editors. This involved Q&A section and forwarding interesting international cases from other PI’s world-wide

A lot of hard work and determination! You’ve recently been on Voice America. Congratulations! What a scoop. Any contacts you can share with your old friends? :-) Here is the link

The Voice of America interview was very interesting and fun to be involved with.

I bet! :-) Bob and I get asked on so many occasions how we work together – in many marriages it would be a short, narrow path to divorce. What makes working together work for you two?

 We work on different things and that seems to be the key – otherwise it’s WW3! 

Like Bob and I you seem to be interested in people that why we love doing book signings and talks, do you think that’s helped in your line of work?


 Your international business is going really well. Why do you think you are both accepted so well around the world?

 I guess just being ourselves and easy going helps.

 It all sounds very exciting. Is being a PI really like being James Bond?

 No, it means lots of computer time. :-)   

 You must both love travelling. Do either of you suffer from jet lag?

 Travelling is wonderful and exciting for us and we are lucky not to suffer much with jet lag. We just sleep lots and drink lots of water but a good trick is to set your watch to the destination time on departure and live that time zone immediately you take off. 

 What have you been doing lately?

 Our case load has been very varied and interesting this past year. We’ve attended lots of conferences and Phil went solo to San Antonio, Texas.

 I can’t eat many spices… It’s a real heel. If you’re travelling to exotic places do you need to be careful what you eat? 

Phil doesn’t like anything too spicy but the hotter the better for Yin! We always have a mystery dish in a new location. Sometimes we don’t understand the language so it is a total surprise. This way we have discovered many favourite dishes we would otherwise not have tried. On our travels we always visit the local markets. Yin is a foodie and Phil usually finds her by the spices and herbs or in the fruit and veg aisle. 

Staying in hotels all the time is not all it’s made out to be is it? I know that from when we tour. How do you cope living out of suitcases? 

Hotels are okay. But we are apartment people and have found some wonderful places to stay all over the world.

Phil doesn’t pack he’s still in training! But when we sold our house to prepare to leave England we had a rule we still live by, bring anything in and it has to be a replacement, not an addition – a necessity not a want. We had to get our possessions in a hand baggage size case when we left the UK. We had no other luggage just the two hand luggage bags and a laptop each. Our American friends we shocked when they picked us up from the airport and people worldwide cannot believe we travel light as we do.

 Oh, I admire you! We went on a two week book signing tour at the beginning of the year and ended up calling at our local garage as the car wouldn’t lock. It all turns out (for readers that have not read our tour blogs), that the boot was that full that the sensors wouldn’t lock the car electronically. I daren’t tell Bob you can live out of a hand luggage bag Yin he’ll want to take you two next time!

 Who would your ideal dinner guests be? 

Yin – A big group of people to cook for! 

How do you relax? 

We both like going to the movies, spending time with friends and Phil rides his bike. Yin likes cooking and being by the sea she also keeps fit and loves reading crime stories.

What’s your favourite tipple?

 Phil is a beer monster & he likes brandy.

Yin likes wine and Gin. 

What’s next for JJAssociates? I think you and JJAssociates might just turn up in a Dylan book one day don’t you? They might be identifiable with their Hawaiian shirts ;-)  

More travel, we are planning a visit to Asia in the near future. And being in a DI Dylan book, now that would be awesome! 

Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it – just so people can get in touch with you? 

P O BOX 157
BD21 2XA

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CELL PJ + 44 (0) 7767 221287

CELL YJ + 44 (0) 7786 515992

Now on Facebook…check out our page J J Associates International 

Twitter – @jjassociatesYin









Carol’s ‘Close Up’ with Author Harry Dunn!


My ‘Close Up’ today is with Caffeine Nights Publishing Author Harry Dunn.

Harry, I promise you all is just as lovely as his smile in his photograph suggests, and  he has a rapport that makes you feel instantly at home. So without further ado let’s find out more about him, before we ask him what makes Harry tick…


Harry Dunn

Harry was born into a journalistic family in Aberdeen. Educated at Robert Gordon’s College, he went on to work in newspapers in several UK locations within the Thomson Organisation.

In 1967 he joined the BBC’s Publications Division and was involved in their fast growing business of book publishing. When based in Leeds, he accompanied many celebrity authors on promotional tours throughout the North and this encouraged his love of reading during the many hours spent in hotels. His genre of choice was always crime and he carried a picture of the type of character he would one day have as a private investigator.

Thus was born the endearing character Jack Barclay and to quote Raymond Chandler:

‘In everything that is called art there is a quality of redemption…..but down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.’

Jack Barclay qualifies as a man who can walk these mean streets.

Harry has drawn on countless life experiences to help create a tense, fast paced and highly entertaining novel.

He is married with two grown up children and lives with his wife in Berkshire where he is a member of a thriving local writers group.

 Widely travelled, he is also a frequent visitor to London’s theatres and galleries and enjoys wandering around observing life in the Capital. This is balanced by visits to the sea where he loves to write. His golf handicap remains stubbornly in the high twenties.

Hello Harry!

Thank you so much for taking time out to talk to me and on the day of the release of your first crime novel ‘Smile of the Viper’. How exciting!

So let’s start with an easy question. How would you describe Harry Dunn to the readers?

Tall,slim,athletic build then I’d be a little more honest and say, actually I’m 5’8”, grey  hair but plenty of it, a good sense of humour and glass half full.

I told you didn’t I? This charismatic man has the knack of making you instantly smile…

What do you miss about your work organising book tours for leading celebrities?

When travelling with the cookery celebrities, we were always given the best available table in the restaurant. The really big household names were always a pleasure to be with. I was very fortunate. Mind you, having to film at North Shields Fish Market with Keith Floyd in the bleak mid winter at 6am after a ‘robust’ meal the previous evening/night, was a challenge.

Tell me about an amusing experience you had along the way? Shhh… Is it true they’re all divas?

I had a map of the UK on my office wall courtesy of a national hotel chain. I arranged to meet a VIP at one of their new hotels outside Liverpool. Unfortunately it hadn’t been built yet! The VIP (non cookery) was not amused. Difficult at the time but of course amusing now.

Why choose to write a crime novel, was it just a flippant comment from someone or was it always an ambition?

I had wanted to write a crime novel for many years. Being on the road so much, I devoured novels by Elmore Leonard, George Pelecanos, Ed McBain, Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, John Grisham and others. I actually started Smile of the Viper about five years ago but after writing a few thousand words, stuck it away in a drawer. I always had a picture of the lead character, Jack Barclay. Tough on the outside but an endearing personality.

Who do you admire in the literary world or who do you consider your mentor?

Reading Ernest Hemingway always gave me so much enjoyment.

Nearer home, my writing mentor is the published author, Judy Bryan. She has been wonderful to me. Taught me the craft of writing. She also edited and proof read my novel – many times. I will never be able to thank her enough for her unswerving encouragement, patience and friendship. 

Where do you write, do you have a regular pattern or routine?

I write in my little study, on a bench by the River at Henley on Thames and by the sea when I can.

I try to write 1500 words per day. I’m a bit of a night bird so my light is often the last to go out in our street.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

Never too late to rock and roll.

What are you writing now that ‘Smile of the Viper’ is finished, published and released? I love the cover by the way, can’t wait to read it and it’s actually out today.

Yes,  September 3rd.  The cover was conceived by Mark (Wills) Williams at Caffeine Nights. It is wonderful. I am so indebted to him for coming up with it. Very striking indeed.

I’m a third of the way into book two. Jack Barclay is on the trail of identity thieves and this time he visits (so far) Helsinki and Mumbai. Danger round every corner of course so Jack has to keep on his toes. Once I get into a story, I do find it addictive.

Share something with us that nobody else knows about Harry Dunn?

I think I’m the only member of my golf club to have had a hole in one and shattered the clubhouse window. (On different occasions.) I don’t play a lot!

What single thing would improve the quality of your life?

A waistline about 4 inches smaller than the one I seem to found myself with. I need to step up my ten year diet plan

How do you relax?

I’ve been known to have the odd glass of wine and a few beers. I love cooking with a glass of wine. This could be the reason my diet plan is creaking. I blame it all on the TV chefs.

Who would your ideal dinner/party guests be?

My wife and family. We have so much fun round the table. And Jack Barclay.

If you won the lottery what or who would you spend it on?

I usually forget to play but I would be very generous to those I love. I would also help fill the coffers of some favourite children’s charities.

Are you a savoury or sweets type of guy?

Oh my goodness. Both, I think. I cook a mean curry but am not averse to a little piece of dark chocolate. Supposed to be good for you.

What’s your earliest memory?

Sneaking out of the house when I was five and getting on a bus in Aberdeen to Auntie Mabel’s. She kept sweeties in a jar in the sideboard. Boy, did I get it when I arrived home.

What has been your favourite year and why?

1976 and 1978. My children were born.

What was the last thing you laughed or cried at?

My Mum died recently. A terrible shock which one is never prepared for. I cried that day with my twin brother Euan.

I’m so sorry for your loss Harry. Losing someone close is never easy no matter how prepared  for it we think we are. My dad’s sister died recently too, and like your mum it was expected but still came as a shock to us all when it actually happened.  

What’s the best advice you’ve been given or best advice you’d give?

Smile of the Viper was originally set in Los Angeles. A very successful published author asked me how well I knew the City. When I said I’d passed through once, Margaret Murphy said, change it to somewhere you know. LA became London.

I’m very new at writing so don’t feel to qualified to dispense advice. All I would say to anyone thinking of trying is – read as many books as you can, join a writing group, find a writing buddy you can trust and start writing. Oh, and finish!

What’s your favourite book?

Tom Wolfe’s ‘Bonfire of the Vanities.’ The brilliant and timeless novel of the eighties.

If your book were to be made into a film who would you like to play your protagonist or indeed any specific role?

Daniel Craig as Jack.

Hey, good choice Harry. How about a cameo role when it happens? :)

What would you like to be remembered for?

Just to be remembered would be fine.

Harry, I promise once seen you will never be forgotten! It has been so lovely conversing with you over the last few months and speaking to you today. Thank you so much for answering my questions. I want to wish you all the very best with ‘Smile of the Viper’ and all the best with its sequel too. I’m sure this is only the start of Harry Dunn as an Author. I’m off to get my copy right now!   

Thank you for inviting me to answer your questions Carol.

It’s been an absolute pleasure Harry and for anyone who wishes to buy ‘Smile of the Viper,’  like I said it’s out today!

Caffeine Nights Publishing has free postage and package on all their books @

And ‘Smile of the Viper’,  is also available on Amazon and all good book stores!

‘Smile Of The Viper’

London private investigator Jack Barclay is on the trail of financier Tom Stanton who has disappeared with £1million of clients’ money, leaving his desperate wife and children behind.Stanton’s Parisian mistress, Danielle, is also involved with the boss of a drug smuggling cartel and Stanton is seduced into laundering money for them. When £4million of drugs cash goes missing and Tom is the suspect, he and Danielle go on the run.The stakes are raised with the kidnapping of Stanton’s daughter, and Jack finds himself in a race to find Stanton before the mob do. As he hunts him down, he uncovers a nightmare world of torture, betrayal and murder, putting his own life in danger.Jack quickly realises those who enter the netherworld of the Russian mafia may not get out alive.





Jul 18, 2012

Carol’s ‘Close Up’ With Author Alison Taft


My ‘Close Up’ today is all girly as I get up close and personal with fellow author at Caffeine Nights Publishing – the lovely, very talented  Alison Taft!

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to spend some time with Alison at the Tonbridge Arts Festival.

Here  Alison is being interviewed by Darren Laws. You will soon be able to hear this footage on the Caffeine Nights website – Author’s Page Alison Taft.

Let me tell you Alison has taken to this like a ‘duck to water’ – you go girl!


Alison on the Caffeine Nights Panel at the Tonbridge Arts Festival



Born and raised in Burnley, Alison has dreamed of becoming a writer ever since reading Harriet the Spy by torchlight under the bedcovers, aged about eight.

After completing a degree in Social Policy, Alison lived in Crete and spent time in the Middle and Far East. In the mid-nineties she was a keen supporter of the free party network. She has worked in a variety of jobs but after being sacked once too often for gross insubordination, Alison decided to heed the words of one employer who described her as ‘unmanageable’, and became a full time writer.

Alison now lives in Leeds with her partner and two children. She spends her days arguing about whose turn it is to sort out the washing, and her evenings at the computer, sipping mint tea and plotting her revenge. Our Father (Who Art Out There, Somewhere) is Alison’s first novel. 

I admire you so much Alison. How on earth do you manage to juggle working, writing as well as being a wife and a mother of two small children?

It’s weird but during my twenties, I had no responsibilities and acres of time, and I never managed to write a book, even though I desperately wanted to. I wrote ‘Our Father, Who Art Out There…Somewhere’, when I had a two and a three year old. I used to put them to bed, and then scurry off to the attic to get the words down on paper. It kept me sane – some adult conversation – even if it was all between fictional characters.

My first child had to have an operation before he was twenty-four hours old. Meeting the consultant who saved my child’s life was a life-changing moment for me. I was so grateful for the fact that this lovely man had spent his twenties practising the skills that saved my son’s life. And I made a promise that I would try to repay that cosmic debt by practising my skills. So, whenever my baby slept, I wrote.

 My children are both at school now and I have more time, but sometimes I think the less time you have, the easier it is to write. If you don’t have time to judge what you write, or wonder whether it’s good enough, or whether anyone will ever publish it; or any of those other navel gazing distractions that come when you have too much time on your hands, you can just get the words down. Then the rest takes care of itself.


What inspired you to write a novel?

The story of my first novel was inspired by my own fruitless search for my birth father, a man I have never met. I tried to trace him in my thirties, but he refused any contact with me, and so rather than leave the search feeling empty handed, I wrote a fictional novel about a girl’s search for her father. It’s funny, because I went looking for a father, and ended up with a book. (And a book to me often feels like a child…)


Who do you admire in the literary world? Who do you consider your mentor?

I admire all writers, all artists. Anyone who sits in the quiet and takes notice. It’s easy to get distracted these days, and facing the blank page can be the scariest thing ever.

I have a few people I consider my mentors. One of them was the crime author Danuta Reah, who gave me encouragement early on in my career. Other Caffeine Nights authors have been really helpful in guiding me through the process of getting published (Nick Quantrill, Ian Ayris, RC Bridgestock). Another person I now consider a mentor, is Darren Laws, who’s the CEO of Caffeine Nights (and an author in his own right). He’s been a fantastic support and especially great at remaining calm in the face of my neurotic questions.


Yes, Darren is an inspiration and a mentor to all his authors. We are so lucky to have him as our publisher arn’t we?

Yes, we really are.

Where do you write? Do you have a regular pattern or routine?

I often write in The Leeds Library. It’s an amazing place.  A private library – you have to pay a small subscription to join for the year. It opened in 1768 and it’s like stepping back in time when you walk through the doors. It’s the best place to write. I try not to tell anyone about it because I don’t want the place to become overrun…

I aim to write everyday but I don’t ever manage this…


Yeah, me too. What are you writing now?

I’ve just finished the first draft of the sequel to Our Father. It’s called Shallow Be Thy Grave. I want to write twelve books in the series, each one based on a line from the Lord’s Prayer. It’s the Daughter’s Prayer.


Share something with me that nobody else knows about Alison Taft. :-)

Something that no one else knows? There’s so many embarrassing things I could tell you. Here’s one. When I was thirteen, I was horse mad so decided I wanted to be a mounted policewoman. I taped myself pretending to interview myself for the job. ‘So, tell me, Miss Taft, why do you want to be a mounted policewoman?’ ‘Well, I love horses..’ You get the kind of thing.

Then, fast-forward a couple of years: I used to go horse-riding every Saturday (which makes me sound posh, we weren’t.) I had this mad crush on the woman’s son. So I made a tape for him, of what I thought were really cool songs. On the reverse of the tape – guess what – yes, my interview. He brought his tape recorder out the next week and played it to the whole riding group. My cheeks still burn at the memory.

Love it! Who would you like to share a cup of coffee and have a natter with?

I’d like some older, wiser woman who can guide me through the ageing process. Someone like Louise Hay, or Germaine Greer. Or some prolific writer like Agatha Christie or Catherine Cookson who could advise me on how to keep being allowed to do what you love.


Come on so share the secret. How do you relax? What helps Alison throw her cares to the wind? 

I’m not sure I do anymore. I’d like to go on a writer’s retreat in the Greek Islands. I try and meditate although I find it difficult to make it into any kind of daily practice. I run a lot – does that count?

Yes, cause! If you won the lottery what would you spend it on?

Holidays with my children, a cottage in North Wales and a little boat with a tiny cabin.


Are you a savoury or sweets girl?

Savoury, every-time.


What do you have in your handbag right now?

My brother bought me my first ever handbag about a month ago. I don’t know what to put in it. What do women keep in their handbags? It’s one of those mysteries of the universe…


Oh, gosh you’ve never had a handbag – how do you cope? You’ll find it fills it’s self up without any help from you mark my word. What’s your earliest memory?

Playing farms in my bedroom and my mum walking in and feeling completely violated that she could burst in on my make-believe.


What has been your favourite year and why?

1994 was a corker.  I lived on my own for the first time ever and I felt grown up, I think for the first time. I spent a lot of my time partying and I was solvent for one of the only times of my life.

1997 was also amazing because I fell in love, knocked off my feet kind of love. And 2004 because my first child was born.


What’s your favourite smell?

Warm bread


What was the last thing you laughed or cried at?

I just cried today. When my daughter rang to tell me she’s got the nice teacher for next year and ‘not the grumpy one who always grins (she meant grimaces) at me when I pass her in the corridor.’


What’s the best advice you’ve been given or best advice you’d give?

The best advice I was given was decelerate coming into a bend and accelerate out. Great for all of life. The best advice I can give is to take yourself, your talents and your dreams seriously.


What’s your favourite book?

As a child – Danny The Champion of the World by Roald Dahl

As an adult – The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera


Has your world changed since you became a published author and if so how?

My world has changed, but mainly because my book being published coincided with my children starting school. I went from being this full time mum, who never got to finish a sentence, to suddenly having six hours of writing time per day and people (like you, Carol!) asking me what I think about things. It’s both beguiling and vaguely terrifying.

Ha ha! We love you Ali, that’s why we want to know more and I’m sure your readers will do too. Is being a published author all that you thought it would be, or what’s been the surprise to you?

Getting my copies of my novel for the first time, was one of the best moments of my life – definitely up there in my top five. I think the surprise has been that it’s not the end of the journey, it’s the beginning of a new one.


Absolutely, I think we all shed a tear when we open the box of  our published books … even Bob, but don’t tell him I told you! If you’re book was to be made into a film who would you like to play your protagonist or indeed any role?

Lily is so close to my heart, so real a person to me now, that I can’t imagine who’d play her.  Vicky McClure is my favourite actress, but she’s probably a bit too old. (Lily’s only nineteen in the first book). And Lily’s got dreadlocks. Mmm, difficult. I guess I’ll have to leave it in the hands of Shane Meadows (or other equally talented film director!)

It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you again Alison. Looking forward to meeting up again real soon when we are north in August. Good luck with the writing – I’m sure we are going to hear alot more from Alison Taft in the literary world, in the future. Costa Coffee in Leeds?

C x

Here is more about Alison’s first book and how you can purchase it.

Our Father Who Art Out There…Somewhere

What would you do if your own father refused to meet you?Growing up in Accrington with only an agoraphobic mother and Bert next door for company, Lily Appleyard spent her childhood hoping that one day her absent father would show up and whisk her off to a better life. He never did.Now nineteen and at college in Leeds, she stills harbours a fantasy he’ll show up one day. Maybe he’s busy saving the whale in the Antarctic, or searching for a cure for cancer in the Brazilian Rainforest.Her best friend Jo has much lower expectations of men. That’s because her father waited until she was fourteen before leaving with his teenage, pregnant girlfriend. 

When Lily’s mother dies and Lily finds her father alive and well but with no intention of ever meeting her, she has a decision to make. Should she forget about him? Or does she have a right to know her own father?  Doesn’t he owe her at least one meeting?

Jo’s had enough of talking about a revolution.  She thinks it’s time for action. Fuelled by vodka and a burning need for revenge, Lily realises she’s got nothing left to lose.

Paperback £ 8.99 – ISBN: 978-1-907565-06-9
eBook From £2.19 – ISBN: 978-1-907565-07-6


Carol’s Close Up with Author Ian Ayris



                                      Ian Ayris

Ian Ayris was born in Dagenham, Essex, in August 1969. Having spent most of his childhood more interested in kicking a tennis ball about the school playground with his mates than actually learning anything, he managed to leave the public education system in 1985 with but two O’ Levels and a handful of C.S.E.’s,

And a love of writing.

His academic achievements set him up nicely for the succession of low paid jobs he has maintained to this day. These jobs have included a three year stint as a delivery boy for an electrical company, five years putting nuts and bolts in boxes in a door factory, one day in a gin factory, and three months in a record shop, He has spent the last sixteen years, however, working with adults with learning difficulties, and in the meantime, has become a qualified counsellor.

Ian’s love of writing resurfaced late in his thirties, in the guise of short stories. He has since had almost thirty short stories published both in print and online, and is currently studying for a degree in English Literature.

Ian lives with his wife and three children in Romford, Essex, and is a lifelong Dagenham and Redbridge supporter.
Abide with Me is published March 19th 2012.

Ian’s novel Abide With Me has been described by many, as one of the most memorable books that they have read in a long time. When you meet Ian you are immediately struck that he is someone who is far too modest about his achievements and his ability. What you see is what you get with Ian. A lovely family orientated chap with a heart of gold and we were lucky enough to be at the Tonbridge Literary Festival with Ian this weekend and he also brought along his one of his sons who let me say now is a proper credit to him and his wife! Hi Charlie!


So come on Ian would you advise others  to take a writing course at college or University?

I’m actually taking an English Lit. Open University degree at the moment, the last module being Creative Writing. Next up – Advance Creative Writing.  The answer to the question, however, is probably ‘yes’ and ‘no’.  There is a lot that can be learnt on these sorts of courses about the structural elements of writing, especially story construction, character formation, and stuff like screenplays and radio scripts, and the like.  All very interesting.  But beyond all that, you need the spark – the imagination, the fearless capacity to write what is inside you. Not sure a course can teach you that.  For that, you need a teacher, and in this life, they come in many guises . . .

Because of your hectic lifestyle can you possibly have a routine for your writing – same place, same time?

Since ABIDE WITH ME was published, and the incredible response it has received, I’m trying hard to establish a writing routine.  AWM, you see, was written amdist absolute chaos. Lines written in my head at bus stops, in the school playground waiting for the kids, queing up atTescos, on the train. Or up through the night surviving on coffee and biscuits.

 My life is a bit simpler now, since the littl’un started school last August. I do a bit of cleaning, some shopping – Tescos every bloody day – and then I sit down at the computer for an hour or so. If I can keep off Amazon, and the social networking stuff long enough, I’ll try and knock out a thousand or so words a day.  But my way of writing is purely intuitive, so I sort of have to wait for the words to come. Hard to have a workable routine or wordcount when it comes like that. I’m trying, though :)

What’s your favourite nibble whilst you’re working? What keeps Ian Ayris ‘on the ball’?

Purple Yorkies, Double-Deckers, any sort of biscuity thing, really. If it’s got chocolate on top, so much the better.


Which character in your book did you like most and why?

Kenny is my favourite. He is my hero. In the book, he is the only character that stays true to himself, even though that sense of self is severely distorted by the limitations of his body and his mind. If I could see the world through the eyes of Kenny, just for a day, I’d be a very lucky chap.


Has becoming  published changed your life and is it all you expected it to be?
Getting published hasn’t so much changed my life, as changed my perception of myself. A lot of demons were slain in the writing of ABIDE WITH ME. Having it published – accepted outside of myself – squished them right into the ground. In that sense, my life has changed forever. Which is nice.


Do you admire or look up to anyone in particular?

I admire anyone who lives this life true to themselves, however that might manifest.


Pet Hates?

Exclamation marks and semi-colons. The punctuation of the devil.


How do you relax?

Being a househusband during the week, and working twenty two and a half hours in a residential home every weekend doesn’t allow for too much relaxation. Although my wife would say being a househusband during the week and working twenty two and a half hours in a residential home every weekend is more than enough relaxation for anyone. We beg to differ on the point, mostly. When I do get time to myself, however, walking, reading, and yoga are my main pleasures.


What do you consider your finest achievements?

Aside from having three wonderful children and a darling wife, I reckon stumbling through the last ten years as a househusband without the kids being taken into care is quite an achievement. Oh, and ABIDE WITH ME getting published. That’s great too ;)


What do you keep in your pockets?

It’s a tracksuit bottom day today – hence the answer is ‘holes’. Though I’ve an unsettling feeling I’ve a pound coin stuck in the lining somewhere towards my left foot. My front door keys went down inside the lining a couple of months back.  I had to do a yoga shoulderstand and wriggle me legs to get them out. We live in a terraced house, so this little performance was carried out in full view of the rest of the street.


My kids really are very proud of the things I can achieve. And so is my wife.


What words or phrases do you most overuse in speech or writing?

My biggest midemeanours are ‘and’, ‘all’, and ‘just’. My first drafts are littered with them. But they help me keep the writing flowing, even if they are commonly stripped out in the final draft.


What single thing would improve the quality of your life right now?

A Purple Yorkie and Double Decker combo.


What is the most important lessons life has taught you?

Fear nothing.


Greatest fear?

See above :)


Ideal dinner party guests?

Dmitri Shostakovich, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Sojourner Truth, William Blake. What a laugh that would be, eh :)


What are you writing now?

At the moment I am finishing writing my first Kindle  novella – ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF JASON DEAN. Hopefully, it should be out same time later this year, or early next.

And let me tell the readers I have seen a chapter – absolutely fantastic! What are your plans for the future?

My next assignment is to begin the sequel to ABIDE WITH ME, with a first draft hopefully completed in the new year, or thereabouts.


And just to have fun. That’s the main thing, eh :)

Thanks Ian. It has been lovely, as always, to have a chat with you. Good luck with everything and see you soon hopefully!

Ian’s contact details

Abide with Me

3rd May, 1975. Eight year old John watches his beloved West Ham win the cup, whilst at the same time, Kenny tumbles out the front door of the house opposite, blood all over his face.
Fourteen years later, both boys’ childhoods ripped apart in the broken streets of London’s East End, John and Kenny find themselves frontin up local gangster, Ronnie Swordfish.
John’s got a lifetime of hurt to put right – for him and for Kenny.
But with John layin on the ground half unconscious and Ronnie with a sword to Kenny’s head, whatever way you look at it, it don’t look good . . .
ABIDE WITH ME is the story of two boys forced to walk blind into the darkness of their shattered lives . . . and their struggle to emerge as men.