Saturday, 9 February 2019

Guest Author Angela Wren of the UK.

Like Mysterys? I do too!

So this week, we are pleased to have Angela Wren as our guest. She has kindly agreed to a 4Q Interview and is sharing a brief extract from Montbel.

Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre. I’ve been writing, in a serious way, since 2010. My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio. The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

4Q: We met on Susan Toy’s recommendation page and as a result I have ordered the first novel in your Detective Jacques Forêt series, Messandrierre. I was intrigued by the subject matter and look forward to reading it. Tell us about your detective.

AW: Thank you and I hope you enjoy the story. Jacques is a really great guy. He began his police career in the Judiciaire (the equivalent of Scotland Yard in London) in Paris and quickly became an Inspecteur Principal (in the British police that would be the rank of Detective Inspector). But, while working on a particular case he was injured, and it took him some time to recover from the wound. It also caused him to re-assess his life and his priorities. After talking to his boss, he secured a post in the rural gendarmerie, moved to the Cévennes in south-central France and that's the location for Messandrierre.

Jacques is intelligent, he loves puzzles, and he is steely and determined. He always gets the baddies, and he does that through honest hard work and carefully following the evidence. He can be a bit of a maverick, though, if feels he needs to be and that it will deliver the desired result.

He has his flaws, too, as we all do. You'll never find him taking a lift as he always uses the stairs. He also has a grudging acceptance of computers and technology, but he recognises the usefulness of such aids. He's always very fair and honest in his dealings with the villagers in Messandrierre, and can be relied upon when one of the local farmers needs a helping hand… and the rest; I'll let you find out for yourself, Allan.

*** Since the interview was prepared by Angela and myself, I did receive Messandrierre and read it. A terrific story. 

4Q: I compliment you on your cover choices. Please tell us about their development.

Photo by Angela Wren
AW: Thanks, I absolutely love them too. My publisher, Crooked Cat, did the artwork. We had an exchange of emails about the look and feel of the covers. I was very keen that we tried to capture the loneliness and silence of that part of France. It is an upland area, and the actual village that I use as my model for my fictional village of Messandrierre sits at around a 1000m above sea-level. The landscape is pear-green in spring and jewelled by clumps of genêt; it gets parched by the scorching summer sun, the acres of trees become a rich tapestry of red, gold and brown in autumn and in winter, if the wind is from the east, the snow can come early and stay late.

Because of the geography, the towns and villages are small and sparse. The city of Mende, despite being the préfecture for the département of Lozère, only has a population of around 13,000. By comparison, Leeds in Yorkshire, is a town of equal importance and has a population of 780,000. In the books, I try to convey that smallness along with the impact of the geography on the ordinary people who live there. So, my characters have to endure the changeable, and sometimes challenging, weather. And, it was an overnight change in the weather that sparked the initial idea for the whole series of books. On September 27th, 2007 I woke up to snow and a stunningly beautiful landscape covered in a glistening white blanket. Shortly afterwards, my thoughts turned to murder and how easy it would be to hide one's misdeeds with snow.

All of this was also conveyed to my publisher through our e-discussions, and I sent them some photos too so that they could get a real feel for the area. About four months later I opened an email and saw the cover of Messandrierre for the first time, and I was bowled over with delight. I even cried… but just a bit.

4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.

AW: I suppose one of my most enduring memories is of being taken to Foyles bookstore on Charing Cross Road in London by my Dad. I was about 4, and I was told that I could choose a book for myself. I remember being completely over-awed by the acres and acres of shelves and books. I did eventually make a selection, and that little rag book went with me everywhere for some considerable time afterwards. It was so frequently read that my Mum used to put it in the washing machine and iron it for me! Sadly, I no longer have it so, if I didn't read it to destruction, then the washing machine must have done the job instead. However, that visit to Foyles, set me on the path of becoming a collector and my house is full of shelves which in turn are full of books and I can happily spend hour after hour in bookstores.

4Q: Tells us about your favorite authors and inspirations.

AW: Wow! That's a really big question and who do I choose? I guess I have to start with the brothers Grimm, Perrault and Anderson. I loved fairy tales as a child, and I still do. I even write them occasionally. Shakespeare has to be on my list too. I've been reading, learning and reciting him since I was six years old. At one point I even decided I was going to be Shakespeare when I grew up! I'm still working on that one. At about 12/13, I discovered Agatha Christie, and then I read everything she had written including her short stories. I still re-read her books from time to time. Dickens, Wilkie Collins, D H Lawrence, Thomas Hardy, Nathaniel Hawthorne and of course, Austin and the Brontes. More modern writers that I love are Minette Walters, James Patterson, Peter James, John Grisham. Oh, I almost forgot, I'm an absolute Robert Louis Stevenson groupie.

An excerpt from, Montbel, my third Jacques Forêt mystery.

la lettre

families fracture, Monsieur Forêt. No one desires it or intends it, but it happens. A harsh, unforgiving word begets a rash and revengeful action, and a sliver of ice takes hold in a dark corner of the hearts of those at odds with each other. And there it wedges itself, the frost gradually deepening and destroying. One of us has to stop the cold, as this impasse can continue no longer. I have to put things right with my son, Monsieur…

june 3rd, 2011

For those interested in knowing more about Angela and her writing, please follow these links.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Website :
Blog :
Facebook : Angela Wren
Goodreads : Angela Wren

Contact an author : Angela Wren

Thank you Angela for being our guest this week. I look forward to more of your stories. Happy Writing!

Thank you, Allan, and I hope regular readers enjoy the post.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Returning Guest Author Bretton Loney of Halifax, NS.

Any Hockey Fans out there?

Bretton was our guest several weeks ago when we talked about his novel The Last Hockey Player and he shared the first two chapters of this intriguing story. As a very kind gesture, he sent me a copy of the novel as a gift. When I received it, I meant to glance at it and get back to it later but became immediately captivated by the story. Not at all what I expected. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I’m happy to say he has agreed to a 4Q Interview.

Please go HERE to read Loney’s bio and the excerpt from his last visit. 

4Q: Please tell us how this went from a short story to a novel and what inspired the short story.

BL: As odd as it sounds, the seeds of this dystopian novel of survival in a bleak, wintery Nova Scotia came to me in 2007, in the midst of a sunny winter vacation in Cuba with my wife and friends. I awoke from a dream about playing hockey on a cold pond some time in a bleak future. I quickly scribbled down a few lines and it became the basis of a short story called Hockey Night in the Canadas which has appeared in two Canadian literary magazines over the years – subTerrain in British Columbia and Between the Lines: A Journal of Hockey Literature, out of Saskatchewan.

People told me that there was a full novel in that short story, including my very wise wife, Karen Shewbridge. After half a dozen years, I too began to see the possibilities. Three years later, after a great deal of help and support from my wife and children, my writer’s circle and my editor, I had a published novel.

In the end I think the combination of imbibing a few too many Bucaneros beer in Cuba as well as good friends and great music inspired the original story idea.

4Q: Would it be safe to suggest you are a hockey fan?

BL: I am a fan and played until, at age 50, I had to hang my skates up due to a bad knee. I come from a hockey family. My father played hockey and so did my two brothers. My youngest brother, Troy, played for about a decade in the NHL and won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Mario Lemieux days. These days I am at the rink watching my grandson play, which is a blast.

4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote with us.

BL: I remember walking home on Saturday

mornings from Tiny Mite hockey practice. We had a cold rink and my feet would be frozen and start to thaw out as I walked home with all my hockey gear on and my Dad’s old canvas duffel bag swung over my shoulder.
The roads were so slippery I could practically skate along them in my rubber boots and the sun overhead was so bright that its rays bouncing off the snow banks pierced my eyes. My feet hurt and my eyes were sore, but I went back to practice, again and again, every Saturday. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. 

4Q: What can we expect in the future from Bretton Loney, the author?

BL: Something totally different. My first book Rebel With A Cause: The Doc Nikaido Story was a traditional biography of a very untraditional doctor in my home town in southern Alberta. Dr. Nikaido’s life was forever changed by the resettlement of Japanese-Canadians during World War Two.

My second book, The Last Hockey Player, was a dystopian novel. My next book will be a novel too. The only thing it will have in common with this book is that it will be set in Nova Scotia. Hopefully, in three to five years time my idea will have grown into a full novel. 

For you readers that missed Bretton’s first visit and the link above, please go HERE to read the first two chapters of The Last Hockey Player.

Thank you once more Bretton for being our guest. All the best with your writing.

Thank you also dear readers for visiting. Take a minute or two and leave a comment below.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Guest Author Hazel Manuel of Paris and the Loire Valley of France.

A quote from Hazel’s website:

I write books that explore living life in a way that doesn't make me want to scream."

We are so excited to have this talented writer as our guest this week. Hazel has agreed to a 4Q Interview and is sharing an excerpt from her novel - Undressing Stone.

Hazel Manuel is a UK born novelist whose writing follows a career in education, first as a teacher/lecturer and after as a business leader within the education sector. Having fallen in love with a French man she met in India, Hazel now lives and writes in Paris. Hazel’s route into writing was an unusual one, which draws on her time as CEO and MD of two successful education companies. Having moved from the corporate world into full-time writing, Hazel enjoys exploring those deeper aspects of what it means to be living and striving in our modern world. Through themes of uncertainty, loss, obsession, power, change and fear, and of questioning life and the self, the reader travels with her characters through an archetypical inner journey that is fundamentally satisfying because it could equally be their own. Since becoming a full-time writer, Hazel’s books have received international attention. She travels often, giving talks and running workshops at literary festivals and writing retreats. Hazel has been Writer in Residence for Your Writeful Place in France and the UK and at the Sivananda Ashram in Southern India where she was commissioned to write a book about Ashram life. She runs a writer’s group for aspiring novelists in Paris and one for prisoners at Styal Women’s prison in the UK.

4Q: Undressing Stone sounds like an intriguing story. Can you tell us about it and what inspired it.

HM: I loved writing Undressing Stone. It is an often quoted cliché that when we are old we will regret what we didn’t do more than what we did. I wanted to explore the idea of completely reimagining your life. The main character, Sian is asked by her therapist ‘if you were able, how would you redesign your life?’ I wanted to take a women who people would generally describe as ‘ordinary’ on a journey of transformation – both in terms of her life situation and psychologically – and to see where that would lead her.

Secondly, I wanted to examine the idea that despite the fact that we are taught that work is paramount in terms of our success, that for many people it can be difficult to find fulfillment in the usual 9 – 5 grind. I wanted to explore the notion that what we do to earn money is not necessarily the most fulfilling or defining part of our lives.

And thirdly, I wanted to write an ode to introverts. I believe that the ways in which we measure success are inherently geared towards more extrovert qualities – being ‘go-getting,’ forceful, flamboyant are often synonyms for being ambitious, confident and assertive. Undressing Stone challenges this idea and explores some of the ways that introverts often struggle in a world that ignores or devalues the ways in which they express themselves and engage with the world. 

4Q: Our writing is like our children and asking you to pick your favorite is difficult, but backed into a corner, which novel was the most fun to write and why?

HM: A difficult question indeed! I believe that our first novel is like our first love – it will always hold a special place in the writer’s heart. Kanyakumari is very special for me for so many reasons. It opened the way for me to make a life as a writer. It is set in India which is a country that has called me back time and time again. And it explores themes which remain interesting to me – not least of which, what is ‘home?’

The Geranium Woman was hugely satisfying to write. It explores female leadership, and whether or not business can be a force for good. Both of great interest to me, and so pertinent themes in today’s world. Plus it was fun writing a woman with two lovers  

And of course, a writer should always love their most current book. I felt such a sense of loss when I finished writing Undressing Stone. I felt so at home in Sian’s world. And I loved writing the gothic-mystery element of the story.

4Q: Please share a childhood anecdote or memory with our readers.

HM: I was eight years old when I first became aware of a dream. It wasn’t an actual dream, but rather an image or an idea. A sense of story began to form in my imagination. I don’t know where it came from – perhaps from fairy-tales or from myths and legends. Or maybe it was just an eight-year-old’s expression of the mysteries inherent in growing up. In any case, the story began with a quest - a dark path winding off into some undefined future with something deeply profound – transformational even - at its end. Perhaps the quest was about becoming the adult I’d eventually be; finding wholeness, or finding home. I don’t know. I called it ‘The Search for the Big Orange Poetry Flower.’ I knew that I had to look for this flower and that my search would end in India. I like to think that this strange dream is why I set my first novel there – that Kanyakumari - the first book I wrote – was the flower that lay at the end of my quest. 

4Q: Please tell us about your writing habits. What works best for you?

HM: I always say that the job of a writer involves four things – writing, reading, thinking and marketing. I’m lucky enough to be able to write full-time. I don’t write every day but I do one or more of these four activities every weekday. I’ve always been a daydreamer and If I didn’t take the time to dream, to engage with ideas and themes, to explore, then I wouldn’t have stories to write. I see reading as integral to the job of a writer. To learn about what works and what doesn’t, to be inspired, to be surprised, to learn and grow as a writer. And of course marketing is important because I want people to read my stories, so I spend time networking, developing my social media platform, engaging with my readers.

When I write it is in long blocks of time – full days and often weeks at a time. I start with a theme that I want to explore and the story develops from there. I don’t usually know the ending of my books when I start writing them and this keeps me excited by the story. Often I like to immerse myself in one character – if I am writing a multi-viewpoint book I spend weeks – sometimes more - in just one point of view so that I can fully realize that particular character. And I spend a lot of time editing – I really enjoy that part of the process. 

An Excerpt from Undressing Stone

Prologue - Saint Vey, Rural France

Never let the internet make a decision for you.’ I can’t remember now what Arwel had been talking about, but not wanting to do his bidding, that’s exactly what I did. I, Sian Evans, a fifty-something divorcee moved from Cardiff to Saint Vay - a four-house hamlet tucked away in a forgotten corner of ancient France, perfect for farmers, old people and escapees. I went because the internet told me to. And I loved the fact that Arwel was furious
Good grief Sian, how can you possibly move there?!’ He had been adamant that living alone in rural France I’d immediately overdose or be eaten by French savages. At least there was no chance of the first occurrence, since I’d stopped taking my medication a month before and had no plans to resume. I didn’t tell Arwel that of course. My dear ex-husband, for reasons he would insist are motivated by my own good, would have been unimpressed. My shrink might have been less troubled - after all it’s partly his fault I went.

Where is home?’ That was the title of the on-line quiz that sent me here eleven months, three weeks and two days ago. The answer apparently, was France. “You’re chic and sophisticated,” the quiz proclaimed once I’d answered questions such

as which scene inspires me most (a picture of wine and cheese on a checked table-cloth) and which celebrity I’d date (I didn’t recognise any of them). “You can be introverted, but you enjoy good food and fine wine. You understand that life is short but you know how to savour it.” I wasn’t sure about the chic and sophisticated part, so Paris was out. Rural France it was.

Home. A small word but so cavernous. Home just now is my little cottage, the garden and the field behind. I’m sitting on an old wooden bench sipping a glass of wine as I typically do at sunset, the scent of wet leaves and wood-smoke suffusing the usual tirade of buzzings, twitterings and rustlings. The meadow as ever is a restless sea of live things: Crickets, gendarmes, chaffinches, pigeons, a little cat grey with a bent leg. Two big hares lope past occasionally cocking their long ears at the slightest sound, but I haven’t seen them tonight. And there are bats, small ones that fly out of the shadows at the turn of the day. All this life makes it impossible to be alone. I don’t feel restless though. It’s as though I’m at the still centre of it all. Or something like that.

The sun is setting. That isn’t a metaphor, it actually is setting. It’s that time of the evening when the trees turn black and spikey and the world takes on that melancholic sort of air, like it regrets the futility of the day’s exertions and wants to wallow in self-pity for a while. I like this time of day. Especially here. Strange to think it’s always sunset somewhere. When I first arrived, I used to try to work out when the sun would set in Wales. And in India. I don’t do that anymore. One sunset is all we can have at a time and it makes no sense to go chasing someone else’s. Mine, this evening is rather a dull affair, cold and not very colourful at all. ‘A glorious sunset,’ people say. Since I arrived I’ve been hoping for one worthy of the term, the kind that people who write and sometimes those who don’t, try to be poetic about by using too many adjectives. In any case, my sun has probably sunk behind the horizon now, it’s hard to tell because it’s cloudy. Again, not a metaphor although, being post-menopausal I can see how some might say I protest too much on that front.

Eleven months is more than long enough to acquire habits. I’ve acquired plenty since I arrived. And they’re not a French re-packaging of those I had in Cardiff. Back then, the first thing I’d do each morning was to dredge the night. Depending on how busy I’d been, this could take some time. Dreams, wakefulness, fears, worries, all the night time dwellers of an overactive mind would be excavated and picked over. I’d consider my discoveries, wary, mistrustful – whatever we try to suppress will come out in our dreams. I don’t do that anymore. I don’t need to. These days, either on waking, or on the now rare occasion that sleep has eluded me, on hearing the dawn chorus - the countryside is so noisy - I note my mind’s nocturnal output, and simply acknowledge it.

Photo by Robert Shortall
This morning, I woke with the birds, having left the shutters of my little cottage open. I lay in bed listening to amorous pigeons and twittery little things that were probably martins of some sort, competing with enthusiastic chaffinches whose elaborate warbling ends with the proclamation ‘it’s reeeeeal!’ Truth birds. I stretched languidly enjoying the warmth of my duvet in the early morning chill, and thought about coffee. It’s then that it occurred to me. I don’t think I dreamt it, not that I remember anyhow. It wasn’t a flash of inspiration either. Some residue from the shifting images of my recent sojourn in my head - or wherever we go when we sleep - something made me realize: I was finally naked under my clothes.

To discover more about Hazel and her novels, please follow these links.

Thank you Hazel for being our guest this week. All the best with your writing.

HM: Thank you so much for featuring me and my work, your questions were so interesting – I loved thinking about them and how to answer.

A special thank you to my visitors and readers. Please leave a comment, don't be shy. Click on the comment link below.