Where does this week’s featured author want to go for our interview? Hawaiii? Bahamas? No. She wants to be transported from wintry cold London to a wintry cold mountain retreat. Oh sure, we’re surrounded by snow-capped mountains and the sky is blue and the sun is bearing down…but it’s still winter.
I suppose the only thing that save this is we each have a glass of merlot.
On with the interview…(seriously, someplace warmer next time.)
- Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city? I’d be horribly egotistical if I truly believed I was the most fascinating person in London (where I live), but I do like to think I add something to this world I live in, with a touch of wit, a mega-watt smile (unless I’m struggling with a plotline) and an ability to write stories which people can lose themselves in and which might touch them in some way.
- Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
I qualified as an attorney straight out of college, which for some reason is something I never tell anyone about. I think it’s because I feel very un-attorney-ish and never actually worked as a lawyer. Not even for one day. I gave it all up because it felt wrong.
- What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as rock star?
I loved writing since I can remember (even essays at school) and my ‘day job’ is as a freelance journalist for national newspapers in the UK. I just always loved creating stories and whilst being a rock star might have been fun, I don’t think the audience would have thought much of my singing voice!
- Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?
I’d love to have dinner with Jane Austen (am I allowed to talk about someone who’s no longer with us?!) because she’s my all-time favorite author who was way ahead of her time. Her stories were so modern and sharp and poignant in their romance and I’d love to pick her brains and see how the heck she managed to pull it off. It might be fun if E.L James was at the table too (what would Jane have made of Christian Grey?) and maybe Douglas Kennedy and Sebastian Faulks too, for a male perspective.
- If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?
My books are easy-to-read page turners which are so feel-good and consuming that you’ll forget to be annoyed about the irritating four-hour layover. And on top of being all those things, A Call to Heaven will have you thinking about what you’re reading too. It’s a ‘what if’ book. What if this really could be our reality? If we really could connect with our lost loved ones in Heaven. Imagine that!
- Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.
I’m a very organic writer and tend to go with the flow. If I’m consumed by a story then it can spill out very quickly. For example the first draft of A Call to Heaven was written in six weeks and I loved every second of that time. Of course, that was very much a first draft and then I got a professional Editor on board and made several rounds of changes to make the plot tighter and more compelling. My characters are all a product of my imagination, but sometimes I might research certain things they do. The heroine’s main love interest in A Call to Heaven is a doctor called Daniel and there are several scenes told from Daniel’s point of view set in his hospital. I’ve a friend who’s a doctor and I picked his brains to make sure that Daniel (who’s a heart surgeon) comes across as a credible doctor.
- “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”
I think organization is the key to writing a book, as well as tenacity. So many people might start writing a novel, but very few of them actually finish it because it’s not that easy to do. But if you keep at it, have a loose plotline in your head and set aside a couple of hours a day, then bit by bit it can (if you want it to) get done.
- I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?
My philosophy is that you only live once, so you might as well try to enjoy it.
- Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?
My eleven-year-old daughter picked up a proof paperback copy of A Call to Heaven (despite not being old enough to read it – yikes!) and couldn’t get her nose out of it. She was completely transfixed and read it cover to cover in 24 hours and then said: “You’ve got to start writing a sequel now. I need more!”
Whilst the book is written as a standalone, a sequel is feasible and I’ve been thinking about it ever since my daughter made her demand.
10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
A Call to Heaven
Genre: contemporary romance with a paranormal twist
Publisher: J.K Publishing
Date of Publication: January 27, 2017
ISBN-13: 978-1540490049 /
Number of pages: 260 paperback /
320 kindle book
Word Count: 68k
Cover Artist: Ivan Cakic
“Everybody’s loved, everybody’s lost.
Grief strips you raw and makes you feel as if you’re sleepwalking through life, like the pain will never go away.
I’m Amy Tristan. I’m no different than anyone else. I’ve loved, I’ve lost and it sucks. I’ve got a five-year old son and an abusive husband. My mother died six months ago and I miss her like crazy.
I’m the biggest skeptic when it comes to other-worldly stuff, so when I’m told that I can pick up the phone and call my mum in Heaven, I should disbelieve it, right? Wrong. I pick up that phone, because there’s nothing I want more than to hear her voice trickle into the receiver.
And you know what? It works. I get to speak to my mother. It’s a miracle. If only it could stay this way, with those calls just for me, but someone up on high wants me to choose three other people to make a call to Heaven too. Who should I pick? How can I trust them to keep the phone secret? Making the choice is agonizing – if I get it wrong, my calls will stop. I wish I hadn’t told Daniel anything. He’s this hot doctor that I’ve come to know. But doctors are scientists, and scientists are bigger skeptics than even me. He didn’t believe in the phone. He thought I should be admitted to a sanatorium. Telling him was either the best decision of my life, or the worst. I’ll let you decide…”
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/6qQLxZbVs50
Everyone’s looking at me. I’ve got the yellow telephone in my hands and I’m not sure what to do with it. I take a seat at the end of the table and lay the phone down in front of me. Beth is to my left, Ben is to my right. Daniel is opposite me. I look from one to the other and feel color flood my cheeks. My gaze finishes on Daniel and stays there for a beat. He nods, his eyes encouraging me. I return the nod, take a deep breath and count down from three to one in my head.
“I’ve got to tell you all something.” My voice comes out as a thin squeak, but actually I’m surprised I manage to articulate at all. I’m hot, so hot. I lift the hair off the back of my neck, flapping it around to try to cool my sticky, clammy skin. I can’t breathe, I need air. I unlock the patio doors, flinging them wide open. The inside of my mouth feels rough as sandpaper. I’m desperate for a tall glass of water packed with ice-cubes but, when I turn to see six eyes staring at me, I dare not leave to fetch one. I feel like an exhibit in a museum and in some ways I wish I were. I could hide behind a Perspex box next to the yellow telephone with panel blurb doing the explaining for me. I could be part of a new exhibition entitled ‘Incredible Discoveries’. I would share the same hall as the dinosaurs and anything else which took aeons for people to believe existed. I draw a deep breath and continue.
“You’re probably going to think I’m mad, but I’m going to tell you anyway.”
A breeze blows through the open patio doors.
“What I wanted to tell you is this.” My voice is soft as a whisper. I sense all their bodies leaning closer towards mine, straining to hear. “I’ve recently started talking to my mother.”
There, I’ve said it.
I feel a great sense of relief, both that I’ve said it and that I no longer have to keep this to myself. Beth relaxes in her chair with a sigh, leans across and takes my hand, patting it. She’s got wavy brown hair and a kind, open face. She tilts her head sympathetically.
“Oh honey, you must have tried out that clairvoyant you mentioned. Please tell us all about it.”
I should have seen that one coming.
“No, you don’t get it.” I lift up the yellow phone, as if to demonstrate how to use such a contraption. In one hand I take the receiver, in the other the plug. “I don’t speak to her through a medium. I speak to her on this telephone. I plug it into a socket in my bathroom and I’m allowed to call heaven.”
There, I’ve said it now.
Not a muscle.
Their mouths all open, Daniel’s is the widest. I don’t think any of them even realize they’re doing it. As feared, they are looking at me like I’m certifiably insane.
“I can see you all think I’m mad.” I actually manage to pull a small smile. Now that I’ve started, I feel much calmer. “And, if I were in your position, I would think I’m crazy too. But one night my mother came to me in a dream and told me I could use this phone to call her in heaven and, bizarre though it must sound, it turns out she was right. That’s why I stopped coming to Grief Support Group every week. I wasn’t grieving so much because my mother had come back into my life.”
The three pairs of eyes grow wider and wider, as if I’m slowly sprouting four serpent heads. I replace the receiver back into its cradle and drop the plug, holding out my hands in submission.
“You can believe me or not. It doesn’t matter. But the reason I’ve gathered you all here is because I’ve been asked to choose three other people to call to heaven.”
I sound like a fairy godmother or the good witch in the Wizard of Oz. I do not sound normal. I pause. The effect is dramatic although it’s not intended to be.
“And I’ve picked you guys.”
I look at them one by one.
“Beth, I know how much it might mean to you to be able to speak to your daughter and know that she is safe.”
Beth nods. Her gaze turns glassy.
“Ben, I’d do anything to be able to give you a chance to speak to your brother again.”
Ben nods, his mouth still formed in a perfect ‘O’.
Daniel is the hardest one for me to look at. He’s not nodding anymore and his eyes are no longer urging me to continue. Instead he’s shaking his head, a slow, subtle movement, but I catch it all the same. His full lips have now formed a thin line. He’s the only one who looks like he still thinks I’m certifiably insane. Hell, he’s a doctor; perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Part of me wonders whether I should abort this whole escapade and pretend it was all a joke. I’d do anything to not have Daniel stare at me in this way. He looks ready to call the local sanatorium and send them round with a straitjacket. But I can’t abort and I must continue. What happens next is up to him.
“And Daniel, I thought that maybe you might like to speak to Katie.”
He opens his mouth as if he’s about to say something, but clamps it shut again without speaking. Nobody else says anything either. They all shift in their seats, pretending to take sips of coffee and look around the room. Perhaps they’re checking out the photos on the mantelpiece above the fireplace, trying to work out if I look like a madwoman in any of them. I pick up the knife. Now I probably do look mad or, at the very least, dangerous.
“Right, who’s for some more pie?”
About the Author:
Jo lives in London with her husband, three children and Jerald the cat. In addition to being a novelist she works as a TV and print journalist (Sunday Times, The Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Express.) If she could change one thing about her life it would be to introduce the thirty hour day, because twenty-four hours just isn’t long enough to squeeze it all in! Many a late night has been spent with a glass of red wine (preferably French) at her desk trying to keep her eyes open long enough to write these stories which keep demanding to be written. If only her cat didn’t constantly jump onto the keyboard as she writes, this book might have been finished months earlier. She loves yoga, skiing, travelling and English custard – though not necessarily in that order.