Curzon & Harkstead are visiting!

Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead write as a team and they have two new books out for your delectation and delight. Eleanor is here today to answer intrusive questions and talk about their books! Welcome, Eleanor!

Your starter for one: Why are you doing this interview?

Eleanor Harkstead: I’m here today because we (writing team Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead) have not one but two new books out. The Captain and the Baker, our summery romcom set in Cornwall, and our Halloween novella How to Make the Perfect Man.

What started you writing?

The first story I wrote that wasn’t something I was told to write at school was about a skeleton who lived in a wardrobe, and his friends a witch and a vampire. I must’ve been about six!

Fast forward several years and I’d kept writing. My first published title was Poison Panic, a non-fiction book about Victorian poisoners. Catherine writes historical non-fiction for the same publisher, so that’s how we came to meet. We discovered a shared love of tea, chaps and fine tailoring, and that we have a similar sense of humour, and off we went! We’ve been writing together now for over three years.

Where do you write?

I tend to write at my desk at home, but if I’m out and about I write on my phone. I’ve written at the hairdresser’s waiting for the dye to take! Catherine and I write together online, which means we can be as mobile as we need to. Once we were both in different hotels, two hundred miles apart, finishing one novel and embarking on the next.

What do you like to read?

Over the past few months, I’ve been enjoying Vaseem Khan’s Baby Ganesh Detective Agency novels. They’ve got such a compelling sense of place, and he’s really good at creating a cast of very different characters to inhabit the world of his stories. And the mysteries keep me reading. Like most people, I haven’t travelled very far over the last few months, so I’ve enjoyed my vicarious travels to Khan’s Mumbai by book!

It might sound odd, but in some ways, his writing reminds me of the stories Catherine and I write – even down to the way he writes his animal characters with the same vividness as he does his humans.

Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?

Catherine and I are our own support group!

I’m in the Romantic Novelists’ Association too. I started to go to lunches with members of my local chapter several years ago. I was writing a romance, then was commissioned to write the book about poisoners, yet I was still welcomed by the group, which shows how lovely and enthusiastic RNA members are about writing. It was a proud moment when I went back to writing romance and was able to join!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like gardens and I enjoy visiting old towns and cities. My only visits in the past few months have been to Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and to Warwick! Warwick was great as my partner and I went to Lord Leycester’s Hospital, which dates back to the 1300s. We went to Hill Close Gardens, which was really lovely – there were even summer houses there which are listed buildings.

But then I expect you can appreciate the lure of historical places!

Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?

The Captain and the Baker came about when I visited Catherine and we were watching cookery programmes on the telly. Catherine already had in mind the idea of a mild-mannered baker, who would turn into gentle Cornishman Locryn. Watching a sweary chef losing his rag on the telly created the idea for his foil – Jake, who’s so very different to Locryn. And as everyone knows, opposites attract…

Writing the food scenes was great fun, even down to the giant wedding cake shaped like a boat. And I enjoyed penning Jake’s creative use of profanities! Creating the village of Porthavel was wonderful, showing readers the harbour, the village’s buildings, and the people who live there. Sometimes elements of novels you’re writing can feel so real, that once or twice I found myself wondering why I couldn’t find Porthavel on Google Maps!

To be honest, the thing I hate is when a story comes to an end, but it’s never long before we’re writing something else!

Read on to find out more about The Captain and the Baker and How to Make the Perfect Man!

The Captain and the Baker – out now

Buy the Captain & the Baker : Out in Ebook, KU, paperback

How to Make the Perfect Man came from a prompt for writing a Halloween story. I liked the idea of writing a “mad scientist” character after spending time among the real test-tubes of my Victorian non-fiction, and doing it in a light-hearted way. I had fun imagining what Aubrey’s laboratory would look like, and how a twenty-first century Frankenstein would create his man. I enjoyed writing my tweedy, geeky scientist opposite Catherine’s swish alchemist, Trismegistus (Tris for short), in his shimmering suits, and teasing out the mutual attraction that the old friends have. And peopling the Halloween ball they go to with all manner of vampires, werewolves and ghouls was really fun too.

When a hot-tempered TV chef and a mild-mannered baker meet on the rugged Cornish coast, they’ve got the perfect ingredients for a red-hot snack.

Sweary and stressed celebrity chef Jake Brantham is the captain of several floating restaurants. When he’s sent to the idyllic village of Porthavel to turn a pirate ship into the next gastronomic sensation, it’s the last place on earth he wants to be.

Locryn Trevorrow is the bakery king of Cornwall. From the humble pasty to a wedding cake fit for a mermaid queen, there’s nothing he doesn’t know about the art of baking. He lives in a cosy world of gingham and ganache, but at night he goes home to his smugglers’ cottage alone.

When he’s adopted by a lost kitten, Jake soon discovers that there’s more to Portavel than cream teas, lobster pots, and the annoyingly fastidious Locryn. As the village prepares for the wedding of its favourite young couple, Jake and Locryn find themselves as unlikely matchmakers for two locals who’d given up on love.

Torn between the call of Hollywood and the kisses of Locryn, will Jake choose a mansion in Beverly Hills or a cottage on the Cornish coast?

How to Make the Perfect Man – published 27 October, just in time for Halloween!

How to Make the Perfect Man : Ebook

Love isn’t science. It’s alchemy.

Needing a date for the hottest Hallowe’en party in town, scientist Aubrey Waldegrave sets to work creating his perfect man. Unfortunately, the Adonis who emerges from his laboratory is a free spirit who has no time for Aubrey’s brogues and tweeds.

Alchemist Trismegistus Nimlet can turn anything into gold, but when his apocathery’s alligator starts talking back and his werewolf allergy leaves him sneezing, it looks like Halloween might be a washout. Worse still, is Tris really about to lose the chap he secretly loves to a manmade surfer dude who’s more flash than Frankenstein?

With werewolves leaving fur in the ornamental fountains and a banshee making enough noise to wake the dead, Aubrey’s Halloween is going from bad to worse. All he wanted was to make his perfect man, but what if he was right there all along?

Find Catherine & Eleanor

interview: Charlie Cochrane

Today the lovely Charlie Cochrane is here to talk about her Cambridge Fellows, Jony and Orlando, her Lindenshaw mysteries and all sorts of other things, too!

So, Charlie, why are you ACTUALLY doing this interview? Apart from satisfying my nosiness!

Just for fun, of course, and because you’re someone I enjoy chatting to. Endearingly dotty, just like I am.

Having said that, I’m presently working on the next Cambridge Fellows mystery, so I thought it might be nice to give my sets of sleuths a bit of a mention. There’s Jonty and Orlando (the aforementioned Cambridge Fellows) whose romantic mystery adventures take place in the early 20th century. Despite the fact their first adventure came out in 2008, they always have new readers discovering them. If one of them drops me a message about that, it always makes my day!

Then I have the Lindenshaw series, which is contemporary and a sort of Midsomer Murders/gay romance crossover. Last, but not least, there’s my 1950s actor laddies who play Holmes and Watson both onscreen and off.

What started you writing?

I’ve always made up stories, either to amuse myself or my daughters. It seemed natural, once I had a bit of time to write, to start cutting my teeth on a wider audience. (Lordy, you sound like a vampire, Charlie.) Like many authors I know, I started by dabbling in fanfiction, which was a safe place in which to learn and hone the craft of writing.

I was specifically inspired to write the Cambridge Fellows stories by my love of Golden Age mysteries and the fact that there really needed to be some of them with gay characters. I couldn’t find any—well, no overt ones—so I had to create my own.

Where do you write?

Primarily in our study. While I can scribble things in a notepad almost anywhere, if it’s ‘proper’ drafting or editing, then I have to be either at the desk on the PC or working on my laptop in the dining room. When we were in lockdown I had to sometimes make do with my third option, which is at the breakfast bar in the kitchen, although that usually means covering over whatever jigsaw we have going! (Mad, crazy rock and roll life of the author…)

What do you like to read?

Loads of stuff. From WE Johns’ Biggles books, to non-fiction about the soldiers of World War One, through Golden Age mysteries, a smidge of gay historical romances and – when I can get hold of them – old ‘Victor Book for Boys’ annuals. I have binge read phases, where I work through everything I can get my hands on from a particular author. Patrick O’Brian and Jerome K Jerome are two examples of authors with whom I’ve gone on a reading bender.

I actually began reading before I started school by borrowing my big brother’s comics – The Victor, The Hornet, Superman and Batman DC comics. They were so full of action, with strongly drawn characters and plot lines. So much better than girls’ comics of the time. It’s no wonder I find it natural to write about men…

What are the three books you’d take to a desert island? Why would you choose them?

Mary Renault The Charioteer (original version). I reread this book every year and try to imagine what happened next to the three main characters, ending up with many variations on happy and not so happy endings. It’s a little gem of a story: Renault can say more in one word than many authors can in a page.

Michael Innes Death at the President’s Lodging. Again, a book I reread every year, it being a beautifully constructed mystery with several incredibly slashy scenes. There’s also something rather spooky about the book. It was written in the 1930’s, set in a fictional Oxbridge university, geographically half-way between Oxford and Cambridge. It’s location? Bletchley. Which is weird, given what would be happening there a handful of years later.

A book of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Plenty of food for slashy thought there and I guess I’d have plenty of time to study them on that island.

Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?

Yes I do and how does that work for me? It seems to involve a lot of raising of my volunteering arm! I’m a member of:

Romantic Novelists Association: which is mainly online at present but in normal times involves yer actual meetings. I’m the local chapter rep and have also been helping to assess pitches for their new online learning sessions.

Mystery People: this organisation was crucial in my involvement with The Deadly Dames and getting us started with the various gigs we’ve done at libraries, literary festivals and conferences. As you say, writing is a solo job and these days is mainly online, so getting out and doing these events, meeting other authors and readers, is a lifeline to normality.

International Thriller Writers: like the other groups, that’s involved a mixture of meetups and online activities. I regularly conduct interviews for their Magazine The Big Thrill with authors who have upcoming releases—through that I was introduced to the amazing Vaseem Khan Baby Ganesha books.

Oh, and I’m also on the organising committee for UK Meet…

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like watching sport (on telly or, in normal times, live). I especially enjoy rugby but cricket and golf are pretty cool, too. I like the theatre, concerts, walking and playing indoor bowls—and if there’s a bingo night at hubby’s golf club, I’m in like Flynn. I’m also an active member of my local church. (Like I said, wild lifestyle.)

In terms of new things, during lockdown I’ve learned a lot about applying for grants, for example from the National Lottery, although that’s with my charity board hat on. I appear to have lots of hats…

Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?

My most recent release was the fifth Lindenshaw Mystery, A Carriage of Misjustice. The first book in the series began life as a script idea for Midsomer Murders and—long story short—metamorphosed into a cosy English mystery with a gay couple (cop and teacher) at its heart.

In a similar way, elements from A Carriage of Misjustice started off as an abortive romance story, based around a player suffering a life-changing injury at a rugby training session. It didn’t work, so I cannibalised the setting, with a murder happening on the same evening the injury occurred. While the romance was a non-starter, the murder plot flew along. It also involved me doing the best ever bit of research, contacting a company to find out what the item they manufactured was made of and whether you could kill someone with it.

A Carriage of Misjustice

Murder doesn’t care if you’re a newlywed.

Detective Chief Inspector Robin Bright and Deputy Headteacher Adam Matthews have just tied the knot, and all they want to do is sink into blissful domesticity. Unfortunately, there’s no chance of that when a chilling murder at a rugby ground takes Robin miles away to help his old boss solve it.

The mystery seems impossible to crack. Everyone with a motive has an alibi, and those without alibis don’t have a motive. Robin’s determined that this won’t be the case he’s unable to unravel. Not when he’s got his old boss to impress and a new team to lick into shape.

Back at home, Adam joins a fundraising choir to keep himself occupied. Surely a case that’s so far away won’t draw him in this time? Fate has other ideas, though, and danger turns up—quite literally—on his doorstep. He’ll need Campbell the Newfoundland for both company and protection this time around. 

Find Charlie!

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interview: Lillian Francis

A big welcome to Lillian today, who has come to talk about the re-release of her fantastic story New Lease of Life!

1. Why are you doing this interview?

I have finally got my arse in gear and re-released my old DSP title, New Lease of Life. For those who are wondering it’s more or less the same, just in UK English and with a newly added epilogue. Of course if you already have the book from before I’ll be releasing the epilogue as a freebie chapter on Prolific Works, so no need to rush out and buy a new copy.

2. What started you writing?

I’d been writing on and off since my teens, and loved English at school (lit and language), but I never really finished anything that wasn’t connected to school work. I drifted away from it for a while, but then I watched Torchwood, discovered livejournal and a previously unknown group of people writing fanfic and the rest, as they say, is history. Two years of (mostly AU) fanfic and I was encouraged to write my own stuff by a published author/fanficcer. So that’s what I did.

3. Where do you write?

Mostly at the dining room table if I’m using the laptop. But if I’m writing old style I love being in a park or the garden.

4. What do you like to read?

I grew up on Enid Blyton, Tintin, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Willard Price.

Progressed to golden age mysteries, noir, and historical mysteries in my 20s and 30s, and I still enjoy picking those up today.

These days it’s mostly gay romance, but that covers a mass of sub genres. So I can still get my cosy mysteries or thrillers or noir private eyes, just with a gay relationship at its heart.

8.  Tell me a little bit about your most recent release?

New Lease of Life was originally published in 2015 by Dreamspinner Press. Due to their troubles I got the rights back last year. The idea I attribute to chap I would see on my drive into work every day. He had one of those hospital metal crutches but it never seemed to help him, in fact he always looked so uncomfortable. And I wondered what he his story was, and what his life had been like before whatever had happened that left him in his current predicament, and Pip was born.

I think it took about three months to write and I found the vintage fashion stuff really interesting. A lot of Pip’s clothing choices are things I would chose to wear if I had a different body shape and a lot more money!

What did I hate? Fighting DSP to keep every bloody English expression. It was exhausting.

New Lease of Life

Cover art by Paul Richmond

There’s a fine line between independence and isolation.

Phillip used to laugh a lot, back when his friends called him Pip. However the good deed that left him hospitalised not only marred his body, it stripped him of his good humour too. Ever since, he has pushed his friends away and shut out the world. Donating his vintage clothing to a charity shop should have been the final act in a year-long campaign to sever the links with the man Pip used to be, but the stranger on his doorstep awakens feelings in Pip that he hasn’t experienced since the incident that left him angry at the world and reliant on the cold metal of the hideous hospital-issue crutch.

Colby forces his way into Pip’s life, picking at the scab of his past. Colby isn’t interested in Pip’s money or his expensive address. He has only one goal: to make Pip smile again.

With every moment in Pip’s presence, Colby chips away at the walls Pip has built around himself. Pip knows it’s impossible to fight his attraction with Colby’s sunny disposition casting light into the darkness in his soul. 

: Buy : Goodreads : Bookbub :

About Lillian

Lillian Francis is a self-confessed geek who likes nothing more than settling down with a comic or a good book, except maybe writing. Given a notepad, pen, their Kindle, and an infinite supply of chocolate Hobnobs and they can lose themself for weeks. Romance was never their reading matter of choice, so it came as a great surprise to all concerned, including themself, to discover a romance was exactly what they’d written, and not the rollicking spy adventure or cosy murder mystery they always assumed they’d write.

Lillian Francis. Author of gay romance. Happy Endings guaranteed. Eventually.

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interview: Jess Faraday

Jess has subjected herself to my nosy questions today! Morning, Jess! Why have you put yourself at my mercy?

I’m promoting the wide release of my short story collection, Shadow of Justice on March 10. Shadow of Justice is the eight collected Simon Pearce stories, which had previously been available on KU only. Now they’re available in all formats and paperback, from all of your favorite e-tailers.

What started you writing?

My family has a philosophy that nothing is one hundred percent terrible if you can get a good story out of it. I remember so many evenings after dinner with my parents, brothers, cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents, where we took turns telling stories about funny things that had happened to us, getting up and acting out the stories with different voices and exaggerated movements, laughing until our sides hurt. It was only a matter of time before someone started writing things down. The science fiction author Julian May is a distant cousin, so she got there first. But I guess it’s my job, too.

My first story was a graphic novel about a lonely vampire who liked to pop through the bedroom windows of unsuspecting naked ladies. He was always sad because he would fall in love with them, but was a vampire, so, you know. I was about nine, and I think the naked part kind of startled my parents, but in my mind it was a tragic story of forbidden love more than anything else.

Where do you write?

I usually write at home, either at the standing desk in my office or at the kitchen counter. Sometimes, if it’s cold and dark and nasty in the morning, I will be very naughty and work in my jammies in bed well into midmorning. Sometimes I like to go to the National Museum to write. I was surprised once, last year, when the new Egyptian exhibit featured the mummies upon which I’d based one of the subplots in The Star-Crossed Lovers, Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep, who were interred together and believed to be one of the oldest gay couples in recorded history.

What do you like to read?

That really depends. Under normal circumstances, I love to read historical mysteries. I’m having a bit of a thing with some of the newer gothic romances right now, too. I’ve just burned through Amanda de Wees’s delightful Sybil Ingraham mysteries, and wish there were about 20 more. And I love monster mash-ups that are done half tongue in cheek. I’m currently reading Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula by Loren D. Estleman, and it’s very well done and quite entertaining. If I’m having a stressful time I enjoy a good, schlocky cozy mystery or a well-written romance — any sort of pairing. Love is love and all.

What are the three books you’d take to a desert island? Why would you choose them?

I HAVE TO CHOOSE?????

Writing is an intrinsically solo occupation. Do you belong to any groups or associations, either online or in the ‘real’ world? How does that work for you?

I belong to the Edinburgh Genre Writers, which meets fortnightly to crit members’ work. It’s quite a bit different from the American writing groups I’ve belonged to, where feedback was generally like “This is really, really great, but you might want to think about this little thing right here, but only if you want to, this is only my opinion, just saying.” My current group’s feedback is more like “Right. Here’s an itemized list of everything that’s wrong with this piece, your work in general, and that hideous tie you’re wearing. But don’t give up. We’ve seen worse, now let’s go to the pub.” It was a shock at first, but once I realized it was cultural, I learned to take up the valuable feedback and brush off the sting. We have a few more American members, now, and it’s always interesting to see the difference in how we present feedback, as opposed to our UK colleagues.

I’m also a member of the Crime Writers Association and International Thriller Writers, though I’m not particularly active with them. And I look forward, of course to UK Meet every two years.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? (What’s your favourite food? Do you have any pets? Do you like to exercise? Netflix? Juggling? Are you learning anything new?)

I run and do taekwondo. I’ve been doing both for a long time, but I started running seriously about a year and a half ago, when I decided to train for a half marathon. I really enjoy those long distances, now, and I try to get out five days a week, weather permitting, which is Scotland, it often is not. I also like to knit and crochet for charity.

Tell me a little bit about your most recent release. What gave you the idea for it? How long did it take to write? What did you enjoy about writing it? What did you hate?

A few years ago, I wrote a novella for Blind Eye Books, The Kissing Gate, which appears in the anthology Blades of Justice. The publisher asked if I wanted to write a short story to give away as a promotional teaser. The Kissing Gate was f/f, but since many of my other books are m/m, the publisher floated the idea of writing a story about Constable Simon Pearce, who appears briefly in The Kissing Gate, with the very briefest of hints about his own personal life. Somehow, during the discussion of the story, it spun itself into eight novelettes with a personal arc that runs throughout them.

What did I like and hate about writing it? Interestingly, the same things. The editor/publisher, Nicole Kimberling, is very hands-on, and would often suggest structural or thematic changes to the stories that sent me back to the drawing board, sometimes more than once per story. I hated that, but at the same time, her suggestions were often really interesting, and took the stories to some really cool places.I can imagine it would be a frustrating way to work for someone who is very precious about their words and their art, but I’m not. I live and work on both sides of the red pen, and I’m most interested in putting out a kick-ass story, so if someone has a suggestion that’s objectively better than what I’ve done, I don’t have any ego about taking that suggestion.

It took literally three times longer to complete the cycle than I’d planned for, but ultimately, I’m really proud of how it all turned out.

Book blurb and buy links!

Buy Shadow of Justice

Constable Simon Pearce doesn’t believe in love. It’s a dangerous proposition for many people in 19th century London, but for an ambitious copper climbing Scotland Yard’s greasy career ladder, it’s out of the question.

He doesn’t believe in monsters, either, though there seem to be a lot of them about. Whether it’s a ghost haunting a London churchyard where men seek men’s companionship, a phantom hound in Edinburgh that’s hell-bent on revenge, or a murdered businessman on a cross-country train who just won’t stay dead — the mysterious has a way of finding Pearce, whether he wants it to or not.

But are these happenings truly supernatural? Or is something worse — something thoroughly human — to blame?

Pearce has his theories — about crime, about monsters, and about love. But life has a way of testing even the most carefully considered ideas. And as he chases mysteries from one end of Britain to the other, he may just have to reconsider his ideas about all three.

Find Jess!

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Emily Carrington: Yew & Thorn

Emily is a long-time writer of m/m romance and is visiting today with an interview with Ashley from her upcoming release with Changeling Press, Heartwood 3: Yew and Thorn

Emily Carrington: Hi, Ashley.

A: Actually, it’s Ash, ma’am. That’s my nickname but I want everyone to know I’m using it instead of my legal name. At least until I have to switch back for something like getting a job.

EC: Okay, Ash. Tell me about your nickname.

A: Aidan accidentally gave it to me, but I liked it so much that I claimed it for my own. It seems to fit with my being nonbinary.

EC: Tell us about Aidan.

A: He and Mike are my foster parents. I’m thirteen and they’ve been taking care of me for about eight months now. It’s just turned January 1st here in Pennsylvania. Anyway, Mike and Aidan are great. They’re gay and Aidan knows almost everything about the LGBTQ community. [she giggles] Although he calls it QUILTBAG and hopes everyone will start using this more inclusive, if silly sounding term.

EC: What does it stand for?

A: Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual, Asexual, and Gay.

EC: Neat. It does sound a little funny though. Do you mind if I ask about your white cane?

A: Sure. I’m visually impaired. Not like Aidan, who’s totally blind and can’t see anything, but I don’t’ see much. No movement, few colors, and basically straight ahead of me. I can read 72 point font but that’s about six times bigger than everyone else reads, so I read braille instead.

EC: I’d like to go back to you mentioning that you’re nonbinary. How and when did you realize this?

A: Over the summer with Aidan and Mike. I didn’t feel like a girl or a guy-thing, and I don’t have discomfort with my body being a girl’s, but I like to wear gender neutral clothing. Like T-shirts and jeans that aren’t specifically cut for a girl. If I really start enjoying the new, UU, church Mike and Aidan and I are going to, I might ask to wear a suit or something. But for now, I like it that Aidan says they’ll take me as I am.

EC: Thank you for visiting with us, Ash. Is there anything you’d like to share that I haven’t asked?

A: You didn’t ask why I had to be thirteen before someone would even talk about adopting me.

EC: Mike and Aidan are planning to adopt you?

A: If they can get all the right permissions.

EC: Okay, I’m asking. Why?

A: Aidan says it’s because fate wanted me to be with them. Mike says it’s God. But I think it’s because I just didn’t fit with the other families. I was too scared with them to be myself. Now I can be, and Mike, Aidan, and their adopted daughter, Candice, love me just as I am.

Find Emily online

Website : Facebook : Find Books

Look for Heartwood, Volume One in March 2020 from Changeling Press: , and for Heartwood 3: Yew and Thorn in April 2020.

Today I’m at Valerie Ullmer’s blog, talking about Jones and her trip to England and her thoughts on wearing petticoats!