Sarah Manvel – Q&A

Sarah Manvel

Sarah Manvel

Sarah Manvel is author of YOU RUIN IT WHEN YOU TALK (Open Pen, 2020). She is also the Rotten Tomatoes-approved chief critic for Critic’s Notebook as well as a film, book and art critic for sites including Minor Literatures, Filmotomy, Bookmunch, Curator Magazine and Kamera. She lives in London, and on the internet as @typewritersarah on Twitter and @cairdiul on Instagram.

Tell me what inspired you to write your debut novel?

After my divorce I decided to share my baby steps back into dating with my friends on Facebook. I was feeling pretty isolated and thought that amusing updates about the frogs I would kiss on the way to meeting my gender-irrelevant Charming One would help me feel closer to them. Instead of that working out, the bad dates and irritating encounters piled up, which meant more posts for my friends. They kept telling me my stories were so hilarious I should write a book. I scoffed, as I had neither plot nor happy ending. But then a few things happened that made me realise I could pull YOU RUIN IT WHEN YOU TALK together, and so I did. It was very cool of my friends to recognise my genius first. They still paid retail price for it, though. What else are friends for?

What came first: the characters or the world?

The world, which is the dating scene in London from 2013-2020 as experienced by a thirty-something bisexual foreign female immigrant. The characters are all inspired by people discovered in my adventures therein.

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

Not especially. I had the idea for the book in my head and when I discovered Open Pen was doing another call for novelette pitches, I got in touch. The publisher asked to see my manuscript, so I sent that over, and he emailed back a few hours later saying he wanted to publish it. I am aware it’s usually a little more complicated than that. It was very cool of the team at Open Pen to recognise my genius so quickly.

How many publishers turned you down?

None. YOU RUIN IT WHEN YOU TALK is a novelette and not many publishers work with them. I feel very lucky that Open Pen and I were genius enough to find each other.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

Publishing in a pandemic means that it feels like I’ve had very little reaction. I’ve only been able to participate in three in-person events since it came out, and those went well, at least to my face. Everyone has been very nice to my face, probably because they are so intimidated by my beauty. What they are saying behind my equally beautiful back I have no idea, although I did see a tweet by someone who said that on more than one occasion while reading YOU RUIN IT WHEN THEY TALK they had to physically stifle a scream.

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

A young man approached me at one of those in-person events and told me he brought a copy of YOU RUIN IT WHEN YOU TALK as an icebreaker for the young woman he was on a first date with. I was horrified, but what do I know, because it worked like a charm and they have been together for around a year now. My offer to stand godmother to any children they might have is perhaps putting the cart before the horse, but I mean it sincerely. At the very least I think their babies should be named after me.

What can you tell us about your next book?

I have two finished full-length novels desperately seeking agents and/or publishers. One is called SAINT JUDE’S PARADE and is about the ridiculous adventures in a circus share house in Belfast at the time of the Good Friday Agreement. The other is called MORALE, WELFARE AND RECREATION and is about an American military brat in 1991 who runs away after her family makes her an unwilling participant in their own personal war. I just need someone to take a chance on them! I am delightfully modest about my own abilities! You won’t regret it much!

Do you take notice of online reviews?

As someone who writes online reviews for a career, I think everyone should pay attention to them. As an author clamouring for attention on the world’s overflowing shelves, I have had so few of them of course I do. Luckily so far almost all of them have been correct, too.

You Ruin It When You Talk

You Ruin It When You Talk

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I have had a fifteen-year career as a film critic and sometimes review books and art as well as my fiction writing, some of which is hysterically funny and some of which is incredibly depressing. I think writing across genres keeps you sharp and I don’t understand why more people don’t.

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

I began my career as a recruitment advertising copywriter in the days when you still found a job by circling ads in the newspapers. I was not treated right by my male colleagues – my entire team, including my managers, had a group bet about who would sleep with me first, and when I complained I was told I needed to get a sense of humour – so when I lost that career, I wasn’t too sorry. I have since pivoted into a much better career, but it’s one I keep strictly separate to my writing. That secrecy makes that sound like it’s exciting. My friends, you have no idea. Either I work in an office, or from home. Sometimes there’s a mess in the kitchen no one cleans up. It’s much worse when that happens at home.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I have a serious second-hand book habit and I like to think I read a little bit of everything. Because I buy almost everything used I also tend to be ten years behind the curve. But my reading life and my writing life are like Jennifer Lopez’s eyebrows: sisters, not twins.

What is your biggest motivator?

Revenge.

What will always distract you?

Hot sex with someone I fancy. It has been in annoyingly short supply lately.

Were you a big reader as a child?

My mother is a librarian. I didn’t have much of a choice in that!

What were your favourite childhood books?

The possibilities for being ridiculously pretentious here are endless. So I am going to modestly confess that it is the novel I wrote the summer I was thirteen, about two kids with a pet dragon who fight crime. Rimbaud can kiss my arse. Exactly one dot-matrix copy of it still exists, which I cannot bring myself to re-read, in case that’s when my genius peaked. I should probably treat it like that Wu-Tang album and auction it off. Any millionaires who want to jump the queue, get in touch.

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

The Oxfam in Greenwich market, London; Skoob in the Brunswick Centre, central London (if anyone feels like buying me one of those flats get in touch); San Francisco Books, Paris; Atomic Books, Baltimore; Orca Books, Olympia, Washington; Dog Eared Books, San Francisco. The bookshops in which I have seen YOU RUIN IT WHEN YOU TALK with my own eyes are pretty special to me, too.

What books can you not resist buying?

Considering the very real risk I have of dying like Leonard Bast, I don’t think I should give any examples.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

First I shed my clothes and take a milk bath by the light of the silver moon. Then I summon a baby goat into the milk bath and slit its throat with the bejewelled dagger I won in battle after several years of training with the nuns at the kung-fu monastery in the mountains. As the baby goat makes an incredible mess I recite the sacred chant (currently “Wet Ass Pussy”) that awakens the nine muses. The muses descend from Mount Olympus and draw me into a frenzied dance, which is very tough to do when you’re ten women crowded into the bathroom, but we manage it; the nudity helps. I then make them clean up the blood and guts in fear of the landlord while I get dressed and sit in front of my laptop. Fortunately by now the muses have a sense of humour about it. The local goats not so much.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Almost two thousand. I’m very cool.

What is your current or latest read?

Apart of the ones I am reading to review, I am currently in the middle of A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor (a memoir of how he walked from Holland to Istanbul in the 1930s, which makes me feel more like an idiot hayseed with every page; I obviously love it) and Ice and Fire by Andrea Dworkin, which is one of the lighter junkie novels I’ve read. Next up I am trying to choose between Milorad Pavić, Angela Carter, Mikhail Bulgakov or Julia Quinn.

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

For reading, too many to name, but probably the Julia Quinns. For writing, I have a couple ideas starting to take shape. If you’re an agent I would love to go into details.

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

Hot sex with someone I fancy, hopefully.

Any events in the near future?

Please get in touch about events in the near future! I am very funny, intimidatingly beautiful and pay my own train fare!

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

The dates during which I had no idea whether it was more appropriate to laugh or cry.


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Lisa Fantino – Q&A

Lisa Fantino

Lisa Fantino

“By way of introduction for everyone in the ethers. I have literally been writing since I could hold a crayon, so a degree in literature and communications followed by a masters in journalism was a natural progression. I was truly fortunate to be a reporter, anchor and producer in New York City, the toughest media market in the world. By the way, ask any New York City journalist what their book is about and they’ll tell you. That’s because if you write, you write and you can’t think of doing anything else.”

Contact details for Lisa are:
Website: authorlisafantino.com/
Facebook: @AmalfiBlue
Twitter: @AmalfiBlueBook
Instagram: @realauthorlisafantino

What came first the characters or the world?

They sort of arrived together. My first book was “Amafli Blue – Lost & Found in the South of Italy,” a memoir of life, love and lessons learned while living in Naples. Yet, I had always been a diehard mystery lover, from film noir to reading crime novels. Years ago I read Dick Francis, Mary Higgins Clark and Sue Grafton and now I enjoy Anne Perry, James Patterson and John Hart.

So, when I became a lawyer , rather than reporting on crime I was representing police officers in various capacities and for various matters. Thus, the birth of a strong, sassy, native New Yorker, female detective was born in Detective Maggie Flynn.

How hard was it to get your first book published?

Not hard at all. After decades of rejection letters from agents and publishers, some of whom would taunt you, continually asking for a chapter, then another chapter, then another chapter. I literally said, “screw this – there has to be a better way.” I was so impressed when David Bowie left his record label behind and released on his own label more than twenty years ago. That is now doable for authors. Fortunately, I had a corporate vehicle in place in my own production company, so we immediately released and distributed through Amazon, Barnes and Nobel and Ingram.

How long did it take to write The Costa Affair?

This is a true pandemic story. I started outlining at the start of the pandemic and finished the final manuscript just three months ago. It kept me from listening to the news and going bonkers.

Do you have a writing playlist?

Not really. I need to be silent in my own thoughts as my characters speak to me and they do speak to me. There’s a lot of noise going on while I silently create.

I have conversations and find myself editing as I type dialogue, deleting it, then correcting it because I know the character wouldn’t say something that way.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

Mixed. There are lots of fans who loved Amalfi Blue and want to hear more. Unfortunately, that was written about a specific experience and at the end of the book, I tell the reader the rest of my life will not be an open book.

But mixed reviews are to be expected. I have a thick skin. I was a New York City street reporter and now a hardened litigator. It doesn’t get tougher than that.

We all love honest reviews. Now, do I care about a review full of hate and frustration which is full of misspellings and poor grammar…..to be honest, no!

What can you tell us about your next book?

Detective Maggie Flynn has a lot more fight in her. After all, she has only been a Detective for three years. I’m guessing there are a lot more killers she needs to nab.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

At this point, unlikely. The advice authors always receive is write what you know. I have been exposed to two very different worlds – rock ‘n’ roll and crime. Maybe one day I’ll write a book on the death of rock ‘n’ roll!

The Costa Affair

The Costa Affair

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

I’ve designed all four of my book covers, including use of some of my original photos. I love the creative process. It’s just really hard to re-learn photo editing each time I need to design a new cover because the programs always update and create new tricks for you to tackle.

 

 

Were you a big reader as a child?

Extremely, thanks to my parents. My Dad started me on Nancy Drew mysteries. He would buy me a new book for my collection which seemed like every week, in addition to our trips to the library. While my Mom created stories on the spot and also let us order an unlimited amount of books at the Scholastic Book Fair at our school. Her only criteria was that we had to read every book we ordered.

Do you have a favourite bookshop?

No but that’s because I have a few favourite libraries. They are wonderful places full of treasures and digital connections…..and the best part, it’s free.

What books can you not resist buying?

I had to stop buying books about the same time I stopped buying CDs and DVDs. I had a record collection of 3,000+ albums and countless books. I should’ve opened my own indie shop. Instead, I sold off the lot on Ebay and gained about 50 square feet of open space. Now the light shines!

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

None. Since I’ve gone digital I only download or borrow one title at a time. That being said, there are about 12-15 books which are in my permanent Kindle collection and another half dozen or so which are older titles on my shelf and which are now out of print.

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

Always planning the next Detective Flynn Mystery.

Any events in the near future?

This is the first release where I am working with a book tour promoter. I’m eager to get started, so check back with me again in about two months.


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.

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Anne Coates – Q&A

Anne Coates

Anne Coates

Anne is a freelance journalist who has written a series of crime thrillers starring Hannah Weybridge plus a lot of non-fiction books, she can be found at:

Twitter @Anne_Coates1
Facebook: AnneCoatesAuthor
Website: annecoatesauthor.com

Tell me what inspired you to write your novel?

Stage Call is my lockdown novel. After Perdition’s Child (number four in my Hannah Weybridge series) was published, I decided to write a standalone psychological thriller but I found concentration difficult so put it aside. Almost immediately I had an image – and an idea – for another Hannah Weybridge. For me a book begins with an image. This time it was a stage in a theatre (one of my favourite places to be and which was closed during lockdown). I’d always wanted to write about actors and theatres so this was the perfect way in for me.

What came first the characters or the world?

This is definitely a fifty-fifty. I created a world for Hannah Weybridge set in the 1990s and many of those characters continue within the series with more or less prominent roles. Each investigation widens Hannah’s social and work circles but there are also lots of interweaving themes and relationships. When I write a Hannah Weybridge it’s like being back with old friends.

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

My first book was a commissioned non-fiction title so that was easy. At the time I was also writing short stories and tales with a twist but my first attempts to get Dancers in the Wind published failed miserably. Each agent/publisher wanted something different. Many years later I rewrote Dancers and relatively quickly found a home for it at Urbane Publications who saw the potential for a trilogy that then expanded to a series. After they ceased trading, I was delighted that Red Dog Press wanted to republish the first four books leading up to the publication of my latest: Stage Call.

How long did it take to write?

About nine months. I think I sent Stage Call to Red Dog Press in May 2021.

What kind of reactions have you had to your series?

Lots of amazing reviews and comments for which I am truly grateful. I am amazed when I chat to readers who seem to know Hannah better than I do or love minor characters. It made me laugh when one friend told me he’d read my book and “it was good. Surprisingly so.” I don’t think he realised what a backhanded compliment that was. Another comment I get is that I look too nice to write about such awful situations/events. Never judge and author by her smile!

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

I had a text from a friend who’s just finished Songs of Innocents and was so affected he wondered if I was free for a coffee to discuss it.

What can you tell us about your next book?

I am writing the sixth Hannah Weybridge in which someone dies is found dying in a church… As a friend mentioned “Churches are rather dangerous places for your characters!” Hannah joins the church choir to find out more… but it’s early days yet.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

I read them. I use Google Alerts so often see them even if I’m not tagged. When Dancers in the Wind was published I was devastated to see a one star review. The reader hated the book, especially “the baby” which she wanted “to throw against a wall”! Shocking but said more about her than the book and I noticed the review soon disappeared.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I have written seven non-fiction books and I write short stories, some of which appear in two collections (published by Lume) and some flash fiction. I’d love to try my hand at speculative fiction and maybe a YA book.

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

I have always worked with words as an editor and a journalist for publishers, newspapers, magazines and in-house publications. Some years ago I founded a parenting website, Parenting Without Tears, where I could post my articles and I still keep this going.

Which genres do you read yourself?

I try to read as widely as possible but I’m not really interested in westerns or erotica. I review books for The Arbuturian, which means lots of new authors – for me. I think “genre” can be so misleading, detrimental and rather snobbish as we have recently seen in the debate about romance novels not be included in newspaper reviews. A good book, which demonstrates a mastery of language, skilful characterisation and plotting will always get my vote whatever the genre. Plus many so called genre books could easily be described as literary.

What is your biggest motivator?

Getting the story out of my head (and dreams) and seeing the finished results. Love holding my new hardback editions.

What will always distract you?

My cats – I have three who think my main role in life is to be a cushion. Far too much time on social media and switching on the news and not turning it off when I should be writing. A good book.

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

For the Urbane editions I had a choice of perhaps four or five and there was always a good reason to reject some and go with one. Red Dog have have picked a distinct style for the covers which I love. My only input was to have upper and lower case rather than all caps for the titles.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Absolutely. My mother taught me to read and, although we didn’t have a lot of books at home, we visited the library every week. My mother was a voracious reader and I followed her example of losing myself in a book. I read everything I could lay my hands on.

What were your favourite childhood books?

Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven series were huge favourites; Anne of Green Gables, The Chalet series, What Katy Did, Sherlock Holmes. My introduction to Dickens was Great Expectations in my first term at secondary school where I was blessed with English teachers who inspired me to read widely.

Stage Call

Stage Call

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

Chener Books in East Dulwich is very special to me. They stocked my third (non-fiction) book, Your Only Child, and kept it in full view! For one of my daughter’s birthdays, I left a wish list of books there, which friends bought for her. It was a great success and lots of other parents used it. When the original owner died, poet Miranda Peake, who had worked there part-time, bought the shop. Pre-pandemic she ran some great author events – including a reading and signing session for Perdition’s Child just before lockdown. Love popping in for some book chat.

What books can you not resist buying?

Often I buy on impulse – usually when wandering around Chener Books – if a cover or title intrigues me, or I know the author either in real life or social media.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Too many. I have several piles dotted around the house. There are the books for review on The Arbuturian and for Parenting Without Tears, which are children’s and YA as well as non-fiction for adults; books for research and then the books I buy – but sadly they always take the back seat.

What is your current or latest read?

Just finished Off Target by Eve Smith (Orenda Press), which I loved. Speculative fiction set in an all too possible near future with intriguing insight into genetic engineering and where it could lead, explored through family dynamics and emotions. The moral dilemmas challenge the reader to examine what they would do under the circumstances. It might not be as black and white as you think.

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

I still have my psychological thriller on the back burner… I have ideas for a new series plus I have started a new Hannah Weybridge and another project, which is rather different and top secret.

Any events in the near future?

The last in person event I did was to moderate a panel of children’s authors for Morecombe & Vice, a brilliant festival. I haven’t booked into anything imminently but I’ve been enjoying online events and many are looking towards hybrid events, which means more inclusivity and accessibility.

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

Crime has always fascinated me from Wilkie Collins and Emile Zola to present day authors. Writing crime – especially non-contemporary – gives me the chance to expose injustices and corruption… and, in fiction at least, there’s an opportunity to right wrongs.


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.