The Lighthouse (2019)

This was going to be the first of the reviews that I’m going to be putting out there, learning how to write about film (and writing words down in general). I’ve always been a huge film/TV fan and never really felt I was allowed to have an opinion, but you know what? I do and I’m going to be sharing it through regular posts on this blog.

The format of the review may change as I go along and gain more confidence and skill in writing but I thought if I don’t get one out now I never will.

You can always follow me over on Twitter as well for live watch throughs of TV series as and when I do them and various ramblings about whatever seems to take my fancy.


The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse

Shot in (almost) square format which gave an old-fashioned feel to the film, though the black and white was crisp and had none of the greyness associated with older films. The deep black tones of the film matched the deep tones of the constant fog horn setting a mood that got darker and darker as the film progressed.

“The light is mine”

The darkness is so oppressive that the counterpoint and beat of the lighthouse light felt alive, a heartbeat, a seductive creature in itself, maybe the real inhabitant of the island.

Both Patterson and Dafoe portray their characters brilliantly, this is emphasised with stunning direction and camera work, every frame is redolent with depth and meaning, with the solitude being carefully crafted and counterbalanced with foreboding and foreshadowing.

There is a definite Lovecraftian feel to the oppression, the sea, and madness. This tone then ups a gear a third of the way into the film changing from a pure portrait of solitude to something else as the wind changes.

Touching on a lot of different themes this is a great, though harrowing, watch with stunning performances from both actors and I’m sure it will improve from multiple watchings.

A well-crafted portrayal of a bleak existence and descent into alcohol-fuelled madness where myth and reality blend into one wind-swept and rain-lashed nightmare.

The Lighthouse | November 1, 2019 (United States) 7.4

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Mathew West – Q&A

Mathew West

Mathew West

Mathew West’s debut novel The House of Footsteps is a gothic mystery-thriller set in the 1920s in a foreboding house on the English-Scottish border, and was released in February 2022 by Harper North. Mathew lives in Edinburgh where he spends most of his time writing, listening to music, watching bad horror films and walking around graveyards.

Mathew can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mathewoneT

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

I’d been reading a lot of classic, gothic-tinged novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca, and honestly I just thought that it seemed like it would be fun to try to write something in a similar style. I liked the idea of combining all of that brooding, simmering melodrama with more modern reference points, like my love of horror movies. I was a bit obsessed Kate Bush and David Lynch at the time and I think that they seeped in as influences, too. I’d been trying to write for almost a year or so at that point, but nothing was really coming together until I started what would become The House of Footsteps.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

I think I’ve been very lucky, considering I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I still don’t! I sent my original draft to a bunch of agents and received some positive feedback although no interest. I actually rewrote my first three chapters at that point, to polish them up a bit and make them more impactful. It sounds daft, but it hadn’t really occurred to me how critical those first 15000 words are in getting readers hooked. After that I was lucky enough to find an agent who was passionate about the novel right away, and from there it’s felt like a relatively smooth (but long!) process.

How long did it take to write?

It took just over a year between me starting, and having a finished draft which I was happy to send out to agents.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

I tend to find music too distracting when I write. I prefer the quiet – just the sound of the world around me. Wind and rain against the window is perfect!

Music really inspires me, though. If I’m struggling to feel motivated to write then a brisk walk with Kate Bush or Tom Waits in my headphones never fails to put me into the right frame of mind.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

“Unsettling”, “creepy”, “brooding”, “mysterious”… All the things I had been aiming for, but you don’t really know if it’s worked until you hear it from real, impartial readers! I think that there’s some romance and even some humour in there too, though, and I hope that comes across for people.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

My sister-in-law told me that she’d had a nightmare after reading a draft of my second book before bed. That really pleased me.

The House of Footsteps

The House of Footsteps

What can you tell us about your next book?

It’s with my editor now so I’d better not say too much! It’s unconnected to The House of Footsteps, but it’s in a similar vein and if you like one then I’m sure you’ll enjoy the other. It has a slightly more exotic setting, both geographically and historically. The story goes in some directions that managed to really take me by surprise while I was writing it… And I’d better leave it at that!

Do you take notice of online reviews?

I try not to. That way madness lies. It’s difficult to avoid seeing star ratings from time to time, but I’m fairly certain that if I ever looked at a review directly then I’d explode into a shower of dust, like a vampire in sunlight.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

Definitely. I suppose that what I’m writing now falls broadly into the horror genre, because that’s what I get a kick out of. But I never set out to be a ‘horror author’, and I’d love to give something different a try.

What is your biggest motivator?

A desperate need to feel relevant.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

None, which is probably for the best! I love the cover of The House of Footsteps, though. It’s like the artist had crawled into my head and somehow drawn the cover I’d been imagining all along, without knowing it myself.

Were you a big reader as a child?

I wouldn’t say “big”, but as long as I can remember I’ve always had a book on the go. I’ve never been a particularly fast or voracious reader, but I can’t stand having nothing on hand to dip into.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

Living in Edinburgh I’m spoiled for choice! Blackwell’s is nearest to me, so that’s where I make most of my purchases. Toppings is lovely, as is The Edinburgh Bookshop out in Morningside. They’re all so friendly, even when I’m bothering them to sign copies of my book.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Only six and a half, which isn’t too bad. The half is The Mirror And The Light by Hilary Mantel, which I may or may not get around to finishing one of these days…

What is your current or latest read?

I’m currently reading The Manningtree Witches by A.K. Blakemore, which is wonderful. The history feels authentic, without getting in the way of the plot or characters.

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

I love scary things, even though I’m a bit of a coward and quite squeamish! I think I’m fascinated by the mechanics of what makes something scary – so often it’s the things which are only glimpsed or hinted at which are most frightening of all. And you have to feel invested in the characters and the mystery, otherwise the scares don’t really work. I love it when I’m writing and something unexpected pops onto the page that makes my own skin crawl. That’s when I know I’m onto something good.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

Lizzy Barber – Q&A

Lizzy Barber

Lizzy Barber

Lizzy Barber studied English at Corpus Christ College, Cambridge University. After ‘previous lives’ acting and working in film development, she is now the Head of Brand and Marketing for a restaurant group, working with her brother, a restaurateur.

Her debut novel, MY NAME IS ANNA, was the winner of the Daily Mail crime writing competition.

She is currently hard at work on her next thriller. Lizzy lives in London with her husband, George, food writer and strategy consultant.

Twitter: @ByLizzyBarber
Instagram: @ByLizzyBarber
TikTok: @ByLizzyBarber

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

I had been working on a literary fiction novel for a long time which was based on my grandmother’s life in Tel Aviv, Cairo and London, but I became increasingly stuck with it. This sounds a bit bizarre, but around the time there seemed to be a rash of news stories about women who had been kidnapped and escaped – Natasha Kampusch, Elizabeth Smart, Josef Fritzl – and of course there was the looming disappearance of Madeleine McCann. It made me wonder what it would be like if a child had been kidnapped at a very young age – so young that they had forgotten who they really were – and only began uncovering their true identity as a young adult. The idea became ‘My Name Is Anna.’

What came first the characters or the world?

Absolutely the characters. I have a background in theatre, and love getting under a character’s skin.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

I took quite an unusual route to publication! I had mentioned the idea for My Name Is Anna to my mum, and had began to write it when she mentioned that she’d seen a competition in the newspaper searching for the next crime writer. I’d sent short stories to competitions before and never won anything, but I took a chance, and a few months later I heard the news that I had won the Daily Mail / Penguin Random House First Novel Competition! The prize included publication of my novel by Penguin Random House and representation by my now agent, Luigi Bonomi. It was an absolute fluke and a bit of a dream come true.

How long did it take to write?

Having a publisher lit a fire under me – I’d only written about 25 thousand words when I won the competition – so I finished it in about 6 months. The next ones have been a fair bit slower…

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

I can’t write to music, weirdly, I find it too distracting. Conversely, I like to have chatter or general noise around me, and I’ve always worked in coffee shops, even when I was doing my degree. If I’m at home, I’ll listen to podcasts, or put something familiar on like The Gilmore Girls.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

I had some lovely reviews for My Name Is Anna, in particular the late Times reviewer, Marcel Berlins, who called it ‘splendid.’ I was very proud of that. I know some readers were disappointed with the epilogue though, which I made deliberately open-ended, and that’s something I’ve taken on board for future novels.

Out of Her Depth isn’t out until the 28th April but it’s brilliant to already see it getting a lot of enthusiasm from advanced readers, who seem to love the Tuscan setting and unlikeable characters.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

A 1 star Amazon review from ‘golfie’. Subject line: Never judge a book by its cover, that’s my motto. book was purchased by my husband.

What can you tell us about your next book?

Out of Her Depth is published on the 28th April. It’s the story of Rachel, an unassuming young woman who gets a Summer job in a luxurious pensione in the Florentine hills, and finds herself thrust into a world of privilege. The book touches on desire, lust and toxic friendships… and, of course, because it’s thriller, what happens when these things collide, and everything goes wrong…

Do you take notice of online reviews?

Absolutely. I’m a glutton for punishment.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

Like many other authors, I have a draw of unfinished manuscripts and would definitely like to flex my muscles elsewhere in the future, but at the moment I still feel I am learning and growing as a thriller writer.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I’ve dabbled in acting and film development, but for the past eleven years I’ve worked with my brother overseeing the Brand and Marketing for our restaurant group, The Hush Collection. I think what I realised when I made the move into writing is that what I really love doing is telling stories, and all of these roles have that in common.

Which author(s) inspire you?

Emily Bronte, Daphne du Maurier and Patricia Highsmith. More current names are Taylor Jenkins Reid, Emily St. John Mandel and Lisa Jewell.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I’m a completely itinerant reader – anything with an exciting plot and intriguing characters

What is your biggest motivator?

Hearing people have enjoyed my books

What will always distract you?

A-ny-thing. I am very easily distracted. Right now I am supposed to be finishing a structural edit, but this seemed way more fun

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

To be honest, I was quite surprised when I published My Name Is Anna that I had so little say. I think I had assumed, rather naively, that it would be a collaborative process, but as I have learned more about the publishing industry I have realised how much more there is to selling a book than an author’s preferences. Having said that, both my agent and I raised queries about the first cover proposal for Out of Her Depth, and I’m so glad we did because I’m very much in love with the revised, final result. I think it’s about picking your battles, and raising concerns if there’s a real reason to.

Were you a big reader as a child?

The biggest. When we’d go on holiday, half my suitcase would be taken up with books. I’m the youngest child in my family with a huge gap, but they’d always cart me along to restaurants because I’d just sit in the corner reading.

What were your favourite childhood books?

I loved Goosebumps, Christopher Pike and the Point Horror series (you could tell where that was going…). I was also a huge fan of Jacqueline Wilson, and I was ten I wrote my first ‘novel’ in the vein of her books. It was sixty pages with illustrations and I was incredibly proud of it.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

I think BookBar, near where I live in Islington, is an incredible business. They are so passionate about books and authors, and have really raised the bar for what a bookshop can be.

What books can you not resist buying?

Dystopian fiction – particularly ones with a feminist angle. I’m a sucker for a ‘not so distant future’

Do you have any rituals when writing?

…Apart from procrastinating? I work for the restaurants Monday – Wednesday and I write Thursdays and Fridays, so I have to be quite strict with myself. I like to go for a long run on Thursday mornings to clear my head and getting into ‘writing mode’ for the next couple of days, then I’ll shower and take my laptop down to the coffee shop (Redemption Roasters in Camden Passage – thank you for all the caffeine) for the rest of the day.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Too many to contemplate. I keep a list on my phone and I’m constantly updating it

What is your current or latest read?

I’m about to go on holiday, so I have a few on my list, starting with The Sanctuary by Charlotte Duckworth, which looks fab.

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

This is Gonna End in Tears, by Liza Klaussmann. I just loved her last two books.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

I’m just finishing off the edits for A Girl Like That, my next book, which is out in 2023. And then it’s on to the next one, which is very early days, but is going to touch upon modern day cults…

Any events in the near future?

Nothing finalised, but there should hopefully be some events for Out of Her Depth…watch this space.

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

I love unravelling a mystery. It doesn’t have to have a mind-blowing or shocking ‘twist,’ but I just enjoy getting to the bottom of something, the satisfaction of finally having uncovered a secret…


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

Ewan Laurie – Q&A

Ewan Laurie

Ewan Laurie

Ewan Lawrie is the author of Gibbous House, (January 2017) and No Good Deed, featuring the charming villain Alasdair Moffat, published by Unbound in January 2021. His Cerasus Poetry-published collection “Last Night I Met John Adcock” was shortlisted for the Poetry Book Prize 2020. He is an one of a small team of editors for the writers’ web-site, ABCTales.com.

Ewan can be contacted at:
Website: https://ewanlawrie.wordpress.com/
Twitter: @EwanL
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ewan.lawrie.9

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

I boarded at an old grammar school in Northumberland, in Alnwick, actually. I’ve loved the county ever since. I wrote a short scene set in Alnwick for an OU CW prompt, It wasn’t even an assignment.

What came first the characters or the world?

A tiny piece of the world. Then I decided to start a novel to get a character I only had in my head to Northumberland. All I had was the first line that the character, Alasdair Moffat, a distinctly villainous protagonist, opened with in Gibbous House.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

I was lucky. After about two years of unanswered e-mails and letters. Unbound took a punt on Gibbous House in late 2014.

How long did it take to write?

2 years.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

Not as such. But I did do an experiment whilst writing Moffat III (as yet unpublished). I worked out my top five artists for word count per minute of music and put the results on
Twitter! [https://twitter.com/EwanL/status/1455841297491808259]

Ewan's Books

Ewan’s Books

How many publishers turned you down?

Only two ever answered, so I always say just one.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

Mostly favourable. No book will please everyone, of course.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

Pete Langman’s review of Gibbous House, which contains the immortal phrase/praise:

“It is a yarn that rattles along like a hansom cab drawn along a cobbled road by a horse that can smell the glue factory.”

What can you tell us about your next book?

My next book is Moffat III, At the Back of the North wind or The Last of Moffat. It resolves some of the mystery of Moffat.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

All writers answer “no”, but writing is making things up, after all.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I have. You can find 3 collections of short stories and a noir fantasy mashup novella at Smashwords.com.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I spent 23 years in the Royal Air Force, 10 in the then West Berlin during The Cold War and then 13 years flying over the rather warmer conflicts that followed. Then I lived for 14 years in Spain occasionally teaching English to Hispanophones of various nationalities. The writing started then.

Which author(s) inspire you?

Dickens, Karen Maitland, Elmore Leonard. Jane Austen. Bulgakov.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I read absolutely everything.

What is your biggest motivator?

This will sound trite, but it is true: seeing how the story turns out.

What will always distract you?

Research. Especially if I’m using a reference book rather than the internet.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

Unbound were brilliant. The two books they produced were things of beauty.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Boarding school will do that. But I was able to read before starting primary school.

What were your favourite childhood books?

Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Pudd’nhead Wilson. Hmm… there’s a pattern here.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

Barter Books in Alnwick

What books can you not resist buying?

Usually something featured on the podcast Backlisted, if I don’t have it already.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

Two mugs of espresso.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Ten

What is your current or latest read?

Oddly enough, I’m reading “A Game of Thrones”, book 1 of G.R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire – and it’s much better than I thought it would be.

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

I’m looking forward to reading Suzie Wilde’s third part of her Bera Trilogy, “Landfall”.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

Placing Moffat III, if Unbound decide it’s not for them.

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It was the last novel I read before moving to Spain. A year later, I finished my OU degree in Language Studies and decided to spend the rest of the money awarded by the Air Force for further education on retirement on a Diploma in Creative Writing.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.