Blog Tour/Q&A: Summer on the Italian Lakes by Lucy Coleman

I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Summer on the Italian Lakes by Lucy Coleman, published by Aria on 5th February 2019.  Described as ‘a sun-drenched, heart-warming story from the bestselling author of Snowflakes Over Holly Cove’ , it sounds like the perfect way to escape the winter blues.

You can read my fabulous Q&A with Lucy below in which she talks about her character-led approach to writing, what puts a smile on her face at the end of the day and the inspiration for the book she’s working on next.

Check out the tour poster at the bottom of this post to see the other fabulous book bloggers taking part in the tour.  Look out for their reviews, book extracts and guest posts.

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book coverAbout the Book

Bestselling Brianna Middleton has won the hearts of millions of readers with her sweeping – and steamy – love stories. But the girl behind the typewriter is struggling… Not only does she have writer’s block, but she’s a world-famous romance author with zero romance in her own life.

So the opportunity to spend the summer teaching at a writer’s retreat in an idyllic villa on the shores of Lake Garda – owned by superstar author Arran Jamieson – could this be just the thing to fire up Brie’s writing – and romantic – mojo?

Brie’s sun-drenched Italian summer could be the beginning of this writer’s very own happy-ever-after..

Format: ebook (304 pp.)    Publisher: Aria
Published: 5th February 2019       Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

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Interview with Lucy Coleman, author of Summer on the Italian Lakes

Welcome to What Cathy Read Next, Lucy. Without giving too much away, can you tell us a bit about Summer on the Italian Lakes?

Thank you, Cathy – it’s wonderful to be here! Brie Middleton is a character who simply popped into my head one day and suddenly I found myself putting away my planned work in progress to write her story. She is a truly hopeless romantic at heart, but found she had a talent for writing hot and sexy stories with strong heroines.  As a best-selling author that’s what her fans expect from her, but when people meet her in person, they are very surprised. She’s a very introverted, sensitive person and after a brief involvement with an infamous rock star, she’s feeling crushed. Not only was she trolled by his fans for not being slim – or glamorous – enough, it sent her into recluse mode. What was she thinking? He wasn’t even her type but suddenly she felt the need for a little sparkle in her life. Well, that didn’t work.

Instigated by her agent, she finds herself flying off to Lake Garda to assist author, and academic, Aran Jamieson to run four, week-long writing retreats at Villa Monteverdi. In between she intends to pen that romantic, feel-good story that is welling up inside of her and which, she hopes, will restore her faith in the pursuit of true love.

But while the words grow on the page, what she feels for Aran is something straight out of one of her hot and sexy stories. And that’s not something for which she was prepared. Or the fact that she gets pulled in to inject a little romance into his latest writing project.

Your previous books have all been set in different locations: the Gower Coast in Wales (Snowflakes over Holly Cove), the Loire Valley in France (The French Adventure) and now, with Summer on the Italian Lakes, Italy. How important is location to your stories?

The story itself usually dictates the location. Rarely is it the other way around – except for (ironically) my current work in progress! But then, I’m rather fixated on that particular location…

Summer on the Italian Lakes takes place in a writing retreat in an idyllic villa on the shores of Lake Garda. Is this based on personal experience or a case of wishful thinking?

I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Italy, and Lake Garda in particular, numerous times over the years, but Villa Monteverdi is purely fictional. It is, I will admit, a composite of several villas in which I’ve stayed. However, because it’s at the heart of the story line it had to be a little unusual; a place that would be worth risking everything to hold onto. Italy is such a wonderful country and once visited, it stays in your heart, it truly does.

The main character in Summer on the Italian Lakes, Brie Middleton, writes ‘steamy’ love stories. Might you be tempted to follow her example?

The short answer is no. I don’t avoid writing about sex, and it certainly plays a part in this novel, but the ideas that drive my story lines focus on relationships and the pursuit of true love. That’s just the way my mind works.

As well as having a distinct lack of romance in her life, poor Brie is also suffering from ‘writer’s block’. Is ‘writer’s block’ something you’ve experienced and, if so, what are your techniques for overcoming it?

Another short answer – no. In fact it’s the very reverse. I have more ideas for stories than I have the time to write. And, as with this particular one, when Brie popped into my head I was forced to down tools because she was insistent I write her story first! I’m not a planner. I start with one character and usually a working title. I often feel I don’t write the stories at all, the characters do. That helps, as there’s never time to over-think something, or plan ahead –it just happens when I sit down at the keyboard.

Before becoming a published author, you were an interior designer. Does your interest in interior design manifest itself in your writing?

All my passions in life tend to influence my writing whether I want that to happen, or not. I guess the saying ‘write what you know’ is true because unwittingly that’s what happens. I believe the aesthetics of one’s surroundings is crucial to a feeling of general well-being. I like order, cleanliness, tidiness and a sense of tranquility. Given my background I do spend a lot of time designing the interior of the homes my husband and I have had over the years. Having moved a year ago, we are still in the process of finishing off a total make-over. However, it’s been a busy year for me and while my other half does the building side of things, I’m the decorator and I’ve had trouble keeping up! But it’s something I love doing when I’m not writing and I will be making time to get things sorted very soon.

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the writing process?

Simply putting my fingers on the keyboard and living in the world my characters create. It’s bliss because I write happy books, even if they tackle real-life issues. But it’s about optimism and not giving up on your dream. I always end the day with a smile on my face. Least favourite? Having to stop. In perfect world I would go to bed with my iPad and not reappear until I’d written ‘The End’. I did do that once – it took a month and to be honest I did very little else. Shower, eat, sleep (minimal) and write. But I have a husband and a family I love dearly and it was a one-off. But for continuity purposes it was bliss and I felt I was living the story, so I was in a happy place!

The author Diane Setterfield has said she is ‘a reader first, a writer second’. Is that a view you share?

I was an avid, obsessed reader for many years and it began from about the age of eight. I was always a scribbler but finding my soul mate at the age of eighteen and having a mortgage, then two children within a couple of years meant having two very diverse careers first. Writing was my dream for the time when life wasn’t so hectic and I could indulge myself – and give up the day job! Having waited (with growing impatience) for the opportunity to present itself, it’s tough to choose reading over writing now, I will freely admit. With so many ideas coming at me, I tend to slot in reading as a break before I begin a new story. Writing has become my reading – which sounds weird but it’s the truth.

Which authors do you admire and enjoy reading?

I have my old favourites (mostly classics) – books I read and re-read, although less and less these days given my workload. I’m a bit like that with films. I’ve watched Love Actually well in excess of fifty times, hazarding a guess. I also have a lot of contemporary author friends and I’m a sucker for a feel-good book. Last year I read novels by Darcie Boleyn, Faith Hogan, Christie Barlow, Jill Steeples, Debbie Johnson, Samantha Tonge… to name a few.

What are you working on next?

Well, this is the one story where the location came first. I fell in love with the Palace of Versailles many years ago through reading about the French Court and Louis XIV. So, while what I’m writing is a contemporary romance set in modern day, the location is in and around Versailles itself.  I know the gardens well after numerous visits but last June was the first time my husband and I had braved the massive queues to tour the inside of the palace itself. Well, we were in heaven! Walking around the rooms the turbulent emotions of the past are almost tangible and it was a little overwhelming. But we will be visiting again. And very soon.

Thank you so much, Cathy, for some very interesting questions…it’s been great fun!

lucy colemanAbout the Author

Lucy lives in the Forest of Dean in the UK with her lovely husband and Bengal cat, Ziggy. Her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Lucy won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award.

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Blog Tour/Q&A: Forget My Name by J. S. Monroe

Forget My Name Blog Tour

I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for Forget My Name by J. S. Monroe. It’s described as ‘a dazzling psychological thriller full of unexpected twists, topped by a savage climax’.  Thanks to Jade at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part in the tour.

I have an absolutely fascinating Q&A with the author in which, among other things, he reveals the secrets to keeping a reader reading, what he’s been reading recently and what he’s working on next.  (Fans of Find Me and Forget My Name, you really need to read the answer to that question!)

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Forget My Name jacket imageAbout the Book

How do you know who to trust……when you don’t even know who you are?

You are outside your front door.
There are strangers in your house.
Then you realise. You can’t remember your name.

She arrived at the train station after a difficult week at work. Her bag had been stolen, and with it, her identity. Her whole life was in there – passport, wallet, house key. When she tried to report the theft, she couldn’t remember her own name. All she knew was her own address.

Now she’s outside Tony and Laura’s front door. She says she lives in their home. They say they have never met her before.

One of them is lying.

Format: Hardcover, ebook (416 pp.)    Publisher: Head of Zeus
Published: 4th October 2018          Genre: Thriller, Suspense

Purchase Links*  ǀ  ǀ (supporting UK bookshops)
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Interview with J. S. Monroe, author of Forget My Name

Without giving too much away, can you tell us about your latest thriller, Forget My Name?

Forget My Name is an amnesia thriller. It opens with a young woman arriving off the train in a rural Wiltshire village. She is suffering from stress-induced – psychogenic – amnesia and can’t remember her own name. To make matters worse, she has lost her bag with all her ID in it – her phone, bank cards, driving licence etc. All she knows is that she has a connection with this village – she found a train ticket in her pocket – and thinks that she might live here. But when she knocks on the door of her ‘home’, a couple she’s never met before answer the door… I like to dig myself a nice big hole at the beginning of a thriller and see how I can get out of it.

For you, what are the key elements that make a thriller ‘thrilling’? (If that’s not asking you to give too much away!)

I try to imagine someone reading my book late at night and telling themselves: just one more chapter. My goal is to make sure that they keep saying that all night long. So each chapter should end with something that makes the reader want to keep reading. Pace is important, too, both at a micro and macro level – I mix up the length of sentences as well as the length of chapters. And with thrillers, it’s essential to keep the jeopardy dial on 11. But none of this will make for a good thriller unless you create characters that the reader will want to root for.

Are there particular scenes in Forget My Name you found especially challenging – or rewarding – to write?

Without giving too much away, there is a big scene on a canal in the middle of the book, involving a dangerous psychiatric patient and a police Armed Response Unit. My Wiltshire detective, DI Silas Hart, finds himself in the middle of it and I worked hard to get the scene right: a mixture of procedural accuracy, tension and emotion. The key to the scene comes a few chapters before when an important clue is given by switching the first person narrative to third person. I’m intrigued to know how many people will spot this…

When writing a book, what do you find the most difficult to perfect: the first chapter, the last chapter or some other part?

It used to be the first chapter but I’ve learnt not to sweat or lose too much sleep over it now. I get something down early and then refine it later. A big mistake when you are trying to write a novel is to spend hours – days, weeks, months! – on that first chapter, honing and honing it, only for an editor to come along later and say they’d prefer to start the book at chapter 2…

As well as psychological thrillers like Forget My Name and Find Me, you’ve written a number of spy novels (published under the name Jon Stock). You also wrote a novella set in Cornwall, To Snare A Spy, which has a 15 year-old protagonist.  Do you enjoy experimenting with different genres and, if so, where might you venture next?

I am planning to stick with my J .S .Monroe novels for the time being. I’ve just signed a contract with Head of Zeus to write two more of them and they’ll be a hybrid mix of psychological thriller and police procedural. I have only recently introduced police elements to my writing and I’m really enjoying it, but I don’t want to write an all-out police procedural thriller. I also think we are moving away from the pure psychological thriller. Readers are looking for something more and I think that a hybrid model fits the bill.

Having said all that, I haven’t ruled out writing more spy thrillers. Warner Bros. spent five years and a lot of money developing the film of Dead Spy Running, one of my spy thrillers. If that ever gets made, I’ll happily write some more of them.

To Snare A Spy was also great fun to write. I was asked to come up with a ‘cross-generational’ spy thriller by a friend who owns The Nare, a wonderful luxury hotel in Cornwall. (Being writer-in-residence was one of the best gigs I’ve ever had!) He wanted it set in and around the hotel, which is on the Roseland Peninsula. I’m very proud of the result. I also ate too many cream teas.

Forget My Name was published on 4th October.  Do you have any publication day rituals?

Launch dates are fairly nebulous things these days. 4th October was interesting as it was Super Thursday. Forget My Name was published with 750 other books. Some years I’ve had a launch party but this time I just had a dinner with some local friends and raised a glass to Jemma, the amnesic woman who arrives in a village not dissimilar to where I live…

You have a background in journalism.  What impact has that had on your writing? For example, do you find it easier to work to deadlines?

I think that’s very true – publishers seem to like hacks as we are used to hitting deadlines. We are also very familiar with the day-to-day discipline of writing. Once I’ve started a new book, I set myself a target of 1,000 words a day. I also do a lot of research, particularly in the realm of neuroscience, and I think my journalism background helps when I’m interviewing doctors and scientists.

Diane Setterfield, author of The Thirteenth Tale, has said she is ‘a reader first, a writer second’.  Is that a view you share?

I’m a reader when I’m not writing a book, but I find it more difficult to read widely once I’m underway on a thriller. During the research stage of a novel, I’ll catch up on other people’s thrillers – I’ve just read and really enjoyed Under The Ice by Rachael Blok – but I tend to read outside my genre when I’m writing, and only in small doses. Short, literary books such as The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride, for example. I’m enjoying that at the moment. I don’t want to be too influenced by fellow thriller authors while I’m actually writing!

What’s your favourite and least favourite part of the writing process?

The actual business of putting 1,000 words down on a page each day is a bit like running. I love it when it’s over! Some days it’s very hard work, and I wonder how and why I’ve ended up earning my living this way. At other times, when the words are flowing, I feel a life-affirming euphoria, but that’s very rare. I also enjoy the polishing process, after all the hard, coal-face work has been done. I used to work in an office and commute four hours every day. I know I’m extremely lucky to be working from home now, and doing something that I love.

What are you working on next?

My next thriller is a modern, high-tech take on an old trope: the doppelgänger. A woman wakes up one morning and is convinced that the man sleeping next to her is not her partner but an imposter… A truly terrifying form of infidelity.

JSMonroe_NewAbout the Author

J. S. Monroe read English at Cambridge, worked as a freelance journalist in London and was a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4. Monroe, the author of five other novels, was also a foreign correspondent in Delhi for the Daily Telegraph and was on its staff in London as Weekend editor. He lives in Wiltshire.

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