**FINALIST** Page Turner Awards 2023
I’m excited to announce that WHEEL OF FORTUNE is a **finalist** in the Page Turner Awards 2023 for best historical novel! Or am I the finalist? https://bit.ly/3rU6Ei0 Whichever it is, I am grateful to all those lovely readers who have voted for Isobel and me. Let’s face it, poor Isobel needs all the help she can get if she is to make it to Book 2 in THE TARNISHED CROWN series…
If historical fiction is your thing, and you’re looking for an immersive story of intense love, loyalty and treachery during the 15th century Wars of the Roses, you can find Isobel and WHEEL OF FORTUNE as a paperback and ebook at Amazon. https://amzn.to/45cx8JJ
If You Want To Understand People, Study Hens
In terms of life ambitions, I have had a few. I wanted a smallholding since my early teenage years. This desire developed after my burning interest in medieval history, but before I became involved in specialist education and long before I began to write. In terms of outcomes, the smallholding lagged way behind and only became possible once we moved to somewhere with a big enough garden. Even then, my attempts to husband the land have been somewhat thwarted by the horrendous soil we have here. But chickens – yes, chickens – have headed the list of to-dos and, ten days ago, 8 feathered ladies arrived to take up residence in their new home.
I put my interest down to my DNA inherited from generations of farmers. Working the land and being close to all that is green and growing, mooing, and crowing, must somehow have become embedded in my psyche because my birthday wish-list as a fourteen year old included a book on self-sufficiency by John Seymour. I have it still, looking a bit tatty around the edges, but no less loved.
Which brings me back to chickens – or to Matilda, to be precise – the dippiest hen I have ever met. Matilda is one of two Chamois Laced Padovanas and 6 other hens from https://www.pipinchicksilkies.com/live-poultry-shop/and I’ll no doubt be writing more about her in the future. She is joined by her sister – Myrtle, two Lemon Laced Padovanas (who have yet to be named), two big Gold Laced Wyandotte girls – Big Sue and Little Sue – and the two pencilled Wyandotte bantams – the youngest of the bunch. Small the bantams might be, but they have fearsome personalities.
What do hens have to do with writing, you might ask? Everything and nothing. For one thing, they make a marvellous foil to sitting and writing, and for another, time spent in their company inspires a surprising number of ideas for character traits. The question is, do I really want a chilly Felice Langton or a moany Joan in my flock? Thankfully, none of my ladies appear to be that way inclined, even if Big Sue does get a bit picky now and again. The upshot is: if you want to understand people, study hens.
CF Dunn is an award-winning novelist of history, mystery and suspense.
She is currently writing The Tarnished Crown series, the first of which, Wheel of Fortune, is described by novelist, Elizabeth Chadwick as ‘The best Wars of the Roses novel I have ever read.’.
Now living in the South West of England, her love of history is equalled only by her delight in the natural world and the unruly sea by which she lives with her family and assorted animals in suitably rambling historic surroundings.
New Book Release: The Wounds of Time by S.L. Russell
Hooray! Hurrah! The 21st March, 2022 sees the eagerly awaited launch of author S.L.Russell’s latest contemporary novel The Wounds of Time and, for me, this is her best novel to date.
Set in the fictional town of Brant, and maintaining the link with characters in each of the two preceding Brant novels – The Healing Knife and The Thorn of Truth – The Wounds of Time can be read as part of the series or as a stand-alone book.
The protagonist in this case is Janet, a strong-minded, independent woman of middling years, who has clawed her way out of a challenging childhood to become the highly respected Senior Clerk of Chambers. Top of her game and queen of her small realm, at first glance Janet is a prickly character and not someone that ticks the usual protagonist boxes. She can be abrasive, standoffish, even a touch arrogant. She doesn’t suffer fools and is quite likely to tell them as much. But beneath the hard shell is a woman with whom many readers can identify and therein lies just one aspect of S.L. Russell’s skill as a writer. The author deftly conjures a complex, believable character who faces difficult circumstances but does not neatly overcome them. Instead, Janet does what we all do: reacts imperfectly to changing circumstances, makes wrong decisions (albeit with good intentions), and alienates those closest to her as she builds a shield wall to protect herself and others. Simply put, Janet is a recognisable, multi-coloured individual, not bleached of her imperfections for the sake of narrative, but someone we grow to know and care about as we make the journey with her.
And while S.L. Russell’s books have a benign disposition (there is nothing offensive in terms of language or content) they are neither cosy nor sentimental. Each deals with life situations with a clear-sighted reality as down to earth and compassionate as the author herself. Sue Russell is the champion of real and The Wounds of Time is likely to provoke a degree of gentle self-reflection.
Tightly plotted and with a building tension, The Wounds of Time is written in a concise style with an exquisite use of language, leaving a lingering impression – a resonance akin to eating a fine, dark chocolate – delighting the senses and satisfying in its depth.
The Wounds of Time is available to order: https://amzn.to/3JqoJIk
Books in the Brant series:
Author interview with S.C. Skillman: Paranormal Warwickshire
I am delighted to have as my guest, writer and novelist S.C. Skillman, whose latest book Paranormal Warwickshire looks certain to raise curiosity and a few tingles. This is not just one for those living in Warwickshire, but for anybody interested in the historical culture and lore which surrounds these tales. This is a fascinating book, S.C. Skillman, tell me more.
Paranormal Warwickshire (https://www.amberley-books.com/coming-soon/paranormal-warwickshire.html involves real incidents. How do you find the balance between reporting fact and delivering an interesting and entertaining read?
The key to this is to find the most engaging information with a high level of human interest, and to present it in a light, accessible style. I blended historical details of each location – whether grand or everyday – with the strange stories and curious anecdotes that present day visitors, custodians and staff have told about them. For some of my chapters I listened to those willing to share stories, and in my book I present their words in direct speech, alongside the historical details, only bringing in information which I think will answer questions in the mind of the reader.
- Why do you think that people continue to be fascinated by tales of ghosts and ghouls?
I believe this is the same appeal of “who knows what’s lurking behind… or under… or beyond…?” that can apply in so many areas of life, and in several media and literary genres. It’s an essential element in the gothic horror genre and is closely allied to psychology and the unknown of our own minds. A key feature of the gothic genre is the idea of so-called “madness”, and the interplay of paranormal events and unusual states of mind. Ghost stories are often linked to places and overlap with folklore.
Some of the greatest of novels include elements of the paranormal to heighten the sense of tragedy, fate or destiny, or to raise the emotional stakes. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre for instance and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and of course Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Even George Eliot, renowned for her critical independent thought, ventured into this territory with her 1859 novella The Lifted Veil. This concerns itself with such subjects as extra sensory perception, gifts of precognition and the supernatural.
- How did you find and develop the idea for Paranormal Warwickshire?
I began by frequently visiting several places in Warwickshire, feeling their spiritual resonance, and discovering new things about them each time I visited. I wrote blog posts about them in my series Places of Inspiration. Then a writer friend suggested I put them in a book. She suggested I confine myself to Warwickshire and include photos. I decided to call it Spirit of Warwickshire. When I read out a chapter in my local writing group, a member of that group said she wanted more history.
So I researched further and included more history in my chapters. Then I approached a few history publishers with the book. Amberley were interested and said they wanted it for their paranormal series. I thought, ‘OK. I can do that. I’ve always loved ghost stories, and all the places I’ve written about do have several such stories attached to them.’
- Is there any particular incident in Paranormal Warwickshire that stands out for you and why?
I think it’s an incident in the library at Stoneleigh Abbey, Kenilworth. I have been on a number of history tours there; and also on the Jane Austen tour. The Abbey is strongly associated with Jane Austen, who visited it in 1806 with her mother and sister when her mother’s cousin the Revd. Thomas Leigh of Adlestrop inherited the estate. On each occasion I have found the library to be my favourite room. I love its proportions, its ambience, the inviting shelves packed with books, the lovely furniture (including an original Thomas Chippendale chair). The room is strongly associated with Chandos Leigh, 1st Baron Leigh of the 2nd creation, who was a poet and friend of Lord Byron. I feel a sense of empathy with him because he poured out a lot of intense, worthy poetry which was well received at the time, but he has never been regarded as a great poet and his poetry was ignored after his death. He was eclipsed by his own friend Lord Byron.
Chandos spent a lot of time in the library. The history guide describes many strange occurrences in this room; one of the events relates to the handle on the door which is now blocked up on the other side. The handle moves up and down violently at times, as if someone on the other side is keen to get in. The history guide told a very amusing story of how it interrupted one of his first tours, when he was speaking to a party of twenty visitors.
He reports that it was so loud, he said, ‘Stop!’ And it stopped. He then said to the manager, ‘somebody’s trying to get through that door, and you need to have a word with them, as it really put me off my tour.’ The manager replied, ‘that’s impossible.’ The guide said, ‘I know it’s impossible, the grandfather clock’s standing in front of it, so they can’t come in.’ He said, ‘no, no, no: the other side of that door’s a wall, the handle is only on your side. It really needs to be moved because it’s stiff.’
- As a novelist, you write across genres. What made you choose these areas?
I have written a psychological thriller, a paranormal thriller, and non-fiction. My two new novels (one completed, one WIP) are gothic magical realist novels. My first two completed novels, written years ago, and unpublished, were comic novels. I love trying different genres. I believe that genre chooses you rather than the other way round.
It’s all about the books you most love to read. When I think of my top all-time favourites (mostly classic) – Dostoyevsky: Crime and Punishment; Emile Zola: Therese Raquin. Wilkie Collins: The Woman in White. Oscar Wilde: The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Daphne du Maurier: Rebecca. Iris Murdoch: The Bell. Barbara Erskine: Midnight is a Lonely Place. Susan Howatch: The St Benet’s Trilogy. Phil Rickman: The Merrily Watkins series, a theme emerges: psychological, paranormal, gothic, spiritual. These are the things I love. The strange byways of human nature… this all feeds into psychology and the paranormal, mystery and the unexplained.
- How do you believe that your experiences have influenced you as a writer?
My experiences with numerous groups of people throughout my life have influenced me in the writing of all my fiction, including my first two unpublished works, and my two published novels, Mystical Circles and A Passionate Spirit. One of the things I love exploring in fiction is dangerous group dynamics in an enclosed setting. I have poured into these two novels a lot of my personal experience in many settings; not only a variety of spiritual groups, but also numerous everyday settings like offices, parties, and family gatherings, along with retreats, conferences and courses I’ve attended. Everywhere there is raw material in the form of people and their interacting personalities.
I have long loved observing people, and then writing down their words and behaviour in my own journals. Also, I am inspired by books, films, TV drama, art and psychology. This can be seen from my non-fiction book Perilous Path: a writer’s journey which is an encouraging, motivational book full of short chapters about the writer’s life, and how inspiration can come from great writers, artists, psychologists and the Bible. The book also serves as a friendly how-to guide to writing fiction.
- What writing projects do you have lined up?
I plan to write, and have started researching, another non-fiction book called Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire which is about folklore and strange events. I have completed a gothic magical realist novel called Director’s Cut and am halfway through the sequel Standing Ovation. The first novel is set in south London where I was born and brought up, and the second novel is set in Stratford-upon-Avon, close to where I live now.
I hope you will enjoy reading the stories as much as I enjoyed researching them!
S.C. Skillman, very many thanks for your intriguing insights and for taking the time to introduce us to Paranormal Warwickshire, which will be published on 15th November 2020 and can be bought through the links, below.
Social Media Links:
Website and blog: https://scskillman.com/
Amazon Author Profile: http://bitly.ws/9SK9
Proof Is In The Reading: proofreading the new novel
I’ve spent the last few weeks holed up and proofreading. This is the last stage of preparing a novel for publication. It went through structural and copy edits and then to a professional proofreader and to me. This is my last opportunity to spot errors and make minor amendments. There are always some no matter how thoroughly I’ve editied it before. Sure enough I spotted an inadvertent name blip, winced at the number of times I used ‘winced’, and noted armorial colours that mysteriously changed. That’s what proofreading is all about and I am thankful for the absolute professionalism of the team handling the production of my book.
Proofs for Wheel of Fortune are back with the editor. It’s now time for a thorough purge of my study before resuming editing the second book, Degrees of Affinity. How does so much detritus build up when I’m not looking?
To be fair this mountain was largely the result of boxes being deposited in my room. Accumulated over thirty years, this ‘stuff’ had to be sifted and sorted, trashed and filed one box at a time.
I’ve completed that task. Now I have a lifetime of books to go through, organise and get onto the shelves. First off are the numerous books on a variety of historical topics associated with research for The Tarnished Crown trilogy. Next come those collected in childhood – well-thumbed and with annotations and observations scrawled in a childish hand. The history books from university are another load. The comments have matured, become somewhat pithy at times, and reflect a more searching mind. The stacks that have accumlated since are well-read but pristine. Notes are now made on slips of paper and secured within the pages. Many have been gifts from my family, always on the hunt for presents for Christmas and birthday. It is a time for reflection as I come across old favourites, and a time of preperation before I continue with the second book.