Tag Archives: children

**Burnout Blog Tour** Author Interview.

Today, my friend Claire MacLeary is on the blog to talk about her new novel, ‘Burnout‘ which is the sequel to Cross Purpose, the McIlvanney Prize-longlisted debut that brought crime to Aberdeen.

My thanks to Claire, Gordon from Grab This Book and Contraband for including me in the blog tour for ‘Burnout‘. 

Vic x

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“My husband is trying to kill me.” A new client gets straight to the point, and this line of enquiry is a whole new ball game for Maggie Laird, who is desperately trying to rebuild her late husband’s detective agency and clear his name. Her partner, “Big” Wilma, sees the case as a non-starter, but Maggie is drawn in.

With her client’s life on the line, Maggie must get to the ugly truth that lies behind Aberdeen’s closed doors. But who knows what really goes on between husbands and wives? And will the agency’s reputation – and Maggie and Wilma’s friendship – remain intact?

***

Claire MacLeary

Claire, before we chat about ‘Burnout‘ can I ask you to introduce yourself for readers who have missed your previous visits to the blog?
After reading English at university, I had a long and varied career, first in newspaper and television advertising, then in HR. When my children were born, I set up in business, developing a chain of shops and rental properties. It was only after my kids were grown that I returned to writing, attending Creative Writing evening classes and later studying for a MLitt at Dundee.

Can you give us an indication as to what we can look forward to in Burnout?
The novel’s main theme is ‘white collar’ domestic abuse, a subject which, until recently, has attracted little coverage. Newspaper headlines have tended to concentrate on physical assaults, whereas controlling behaviour can take many and subtle forms, as recent legislation has acknowledged.

Burnout follows two women, both subject to abuse – in one instance sexual, in the other psychological – but readers can expect broadly the same cast of characters and the same balance of grit and humour.

With Burnout readers get an insight into how different couples in the story manage difficult relationships. Do you think this a crime novel that will cast light onto the secrets that couples keep?
I think Burnout is less about managing relationships and more a commentary on how attitudes have changed over generations. The ease of accessing contraception, the relaxation of divorce laws, the growth of the internet, have all contributed towards changing people’s attitudes to sex and marriage. In Burnout I’ve tried to highlight the chasm between two women of different generations, both in how they react to abuse and how they achieve very different outcomes.

Has the media focus on coercive control and sexual abuse in the home fed into the writing of Burnout or was the story always waiting to be told?
I started writing Burnout before the launch of Cross Purpose in February last year and delivered it to my publisher, Saraband, in August. The characters had been in my head way before that so, yes, it was a story that needed to be told. That it chimes with the Time’s Up and #Me Too movements against sexual harassment can only be positive in publicising ‘white collar’ abuse and changing attitudes to any form of abuse.

Both Burnout and Cross Purpose have harrowing and hard-hitting themes, however, there is humour running through both books too. Was that a difficult balance to achieve when you were writing?
I don’t think it’s a conscious thing. As I write, my characters take on a life of their own. Sometimes they take me places I didn’t intend to go. Too often I wake in the middle of the night with dialogue running through my head. However, I have had to consciously restrain Wilma’s wilder excesses, since she – like Maggie – will develop through the series and I don’t want her to come across simply as a figure of fun.

Away from the books, how do you spend your downtime?
What downtime? Seriously, if I’m not reading or writing, I love to travel. Over the past few years, in addition to a number of European cities, I’ve visited Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, New Zealand, Cuba, Jordan and Bhutan. My favourite holiday destination is India, where the colour and vibrancy of life never fails to stimulate.

Review: ‘Are We Nearly There Yet?’ by Ben Hatch

Ever fancied upping sticks and travelling around the UK with your family while researching attractions for a travel book? I bet many of you have but one man who really did is Ben Hatch.

Ben and his wife Dinah were approaching forty with little work and money drying up and so decided, after a deal with an American publishing house, to pack their two kids into their Vauxhall Astra to travel the country hunting out child-friendly attractions as well as fun for the adults. Perhaps this was a naive idea considering they were taking two year-old Charlie and three year-old Phoebe.

As a twenty-something non-parent, I wondered how I would react to ‘Are We Nearly There Yet?’. Would it make me never want to procreate? I haven’t had a UK holiday since I was seven and I wondered what this book would have to offer me. After reading this book, there are plenty of places I’d like to visit and it definitely reinforced to me the joys (and tribulations) of parenting.

It is important to note that ‘Are We Nearly There Yet?’ is not their guidebook. That said, it does mention plenty of UK attractions. That’s more to give you an idea of the setting for the dramas that occur.

‘Are We Nearly There Yet’ catalogues a five-month trip that is heart-warming and funny. There’s drama as well as comedy and I frequently found myself laughing aloud at Hatch’s anecdotes. The book also chronicles Hatch’s father’s final few months of life – and Hatch’s feelings about this. There were plenty of tears as well as laughs. This book is a lovely tribute to his father, Sir David Hatch.

Whilst reading this book, I felt inspired to do something similar which is something I would never usually consider.

Even though Hatch doesn’t sugar-coat the realities of travelling with two small children, he does paint the picture of a happy family who, most of the time, adore each other. The kids are full of character and Ben and Dinah’s relationship is a wonderful inspiration. She’s scared of turtles, he’s a hypochondriac – what could go wrong? This book is a no-holds-barred account of parenthood, marriage and travelling.

It is one of the best books I have read in ages.

Vic x