Blog Tour/Q&A: Killer of Kings by Matthew Harffy


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I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour to celebrate the publication in paperback of Killer of Kings by Matthew Harffy, the fourth in ‘The Bernicia Chronicles’ series set in 7th century Anglo-Saxon Britain.  And I’m thrilled to welcome Matthew to What Cathy Read Next today to talk about the book, its inspiration and his approach to writing.

Storm of Steel, the latest book in ‘The Bernicia Chronicles’ series will be published on 9th May 2019 and is available for pre-order now from Amazon UK (link provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme).  Look out for my review as part of the blog tour.

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Book cover (2)About the Book

Beobrand has land, men and riches. He should be content. And yet he cannot find peace until his enemies are food for the ravens. But before Beobrand can embark on his bloodfeud, King Oswald orders him southward, to escort holy men bearing sacred relics.

When Penda of Mercia marches a warhost into the southern kingdoms, Beobrand and his men are thrown into the midst of the conflict. Beobrand soon finds himself fighting for his life and his honour.

In the chaos that grips the south, dark secrets are exposed, bringing into question much that Beobrand had believed true. Can he unearth the answers and exact the vengeance he craves? Or will the blood-price prove too high, even for a warrior of his battle-fame and skill?

Format: Paperback (400 pp.)    Publisher: Aria
Published:  2nd May 2019  Genre: Historical Fiction

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Interview: Matthew Harffy, author of Killer of Kings (Bernicia Chronicles #4)

Welcome to What Cathy Read Next, Matthew. Without giving too much away for readers who have not yet discovered the series, can you tell us a bit about Killer of Kings?

The protagonist of The Bernicia Chronicles is Beobrand, a young man who, by the time we reach Killer of Kings, has become a renowned warrior and leader of men. This novel begins with him accompanying some monks south from Northumbria to East Anglia. Of course, trouble is never far away from Beobrand, and when he arrives in the south, war is already brewing and he finds himself quickly embroiled in a savage battle for survival.

Killer of Kings is the fourth book in ‘The Bernicia Chronicles’ series. What are the challenges of writing a series compared to a standalone novel?

I suppose the biggest challenges are to have a story arc and characters that make the series fit together as a long story, whilst ensuring that each book is satisfying as a standalone novel in its own right.


How did growing up in Northumberland provide inspiration for your novels?

I only lived in Northumberland for a few years as a child, but the area had a profound effect on me. It is such a wild land, with reminders of the past all around, from the Roman remains of Hadrian’s Wall, to the medieval ruins of castles, such as Dunstanburgh. It is hard not to imagine our forebears walking the same rugged coastline and those windswept hills 1,400 years ago at the time my books are set.

How has Beobrand, the hero of your books, developed as a character over the series?

He starts the first book, The Serpent Sword, as a rather naïve young man. He is rapidly thrown into the struggles and battles between the warlords of the different kingdoms of Albion. Over the course of the books he becomes a powerful man, with land and a war band. He is still impetuous and is quick to anger, but by Killer of Kings he is also wiser and begins to understand the deadly games the kings of the land play with the lives of their subjects.

How do you think you would have coped living in 7th Century Britain?

I don’t think I would have survived for long. Certainly not in the violent times I portray in ‘The Bernicia Chronicles’.

How do you approach the research for your books? Do you enjoy the process of research?

I read all I can on the year or two I am writing about to find interesting historical events that I can use as the tent poles for the narrative of each novel. Then, after I’ve planned the plot of the story, I leave the detailed research for the first round of edits. Each time I reach a point in the story that has something I’m not sure of, I highlight it and return to it when I have completed the first draft.  I wouldn’t go as far as to say I enjoy the process of research, but I do love finding snippets of information that fit perfectly into the story I have envisaged. Sometimes something comes along that elevates the story and just fits perfectly. I enjoy that.

Do you have a special place to write or any writing rituals?

I write in any place I can. Wherever I can sit with my laptop for an hour is a place I can write. The only thing I do is put on headphones and play classical music or nature sounds to help me concentrate.

What is your favourite and least favourite part of the writing process?

My favourite part of the process is finishing a novel! My least favourite is waiting for the first reviews!

Which other writers do you admire?

I admire more writers than I can list here, but authors I’ve discovered in recent years that have really impressed me are Toby Clements, Justin Hill and Robert Lautner.

Thank you, Matthew, for those fascinating answers. I don’t think you need to worry too much on the reviews front given reader response to previous books in the series! 

Harffy_MatthewAbout the Author

Matthew grew up in Northumberland where the rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline had a huge impact on him. He now lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

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The Bernicia Chronicles

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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