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On Anna’s eighteenth birthday she defies her Mamma’s rules to visit Astroland, Florida’s biggest theme park, despite her mother’s ban on the place. When she arrives, though, Astroland seems familiar. On the same day, Anna receives a mysterious letter she receives and she starts to question her whole life.
In London, Rosie has grown up in the shadow of the missing sister she barely remembers. With the fifteenth anniversary of her sister’s disappearance looming, the media circus starts up again, and Rosie uncovers some information that threatens to tear her family apart. Will Rosie uncover the truth before her family implodes?
I enjoyed ‘My Name is Anna‘ from the outset, my attention was grabbed by the intriguing prologue and beautiful prose. Lizzy Barber manages to balance a compelling narrative with excellent attention to detail and exquisite descriptions.
Told from two points of view, ‘My Name is Anna‘ is an interesting study of self-discovery. By having eighteen year old Anna and Rosie, who is sixteen, Barber evokes a time every reader can understand: adolescence. Combining typical coming-of-age drama with a serious crime is an effective tactic, I thought this was particularly inventive.
The characters are well-drawn and, thanks to Barber’s descriptions, I could see them in my mind’s eye. Anna’s mamma, in particular, was brilliantly evoked.
‘My Name is Anna‘ is such an intelligently-written book. It covers all sorts of issues including religion, coercion and the repercussions of past mistakes. It’s fast-paced yet sensitive, with several layers.
‘My Name is Anna‘ is Lizzy Barber’s debut novel and is available to download now. The paperback is released in January 2019.
Today I’m delighted to have Bea Davenport on the blog today.
Bea Davenport is the pen-name of former newspaper and BBC journalist Barbara Henderson. She holds a Creative Writing PhD and is the author of five published novels: ‘In Too Deep‘ and ‘This Little Piggy‘ (Legend Press), ‘The Serpent House‘ (Curious Fox), ‘My Cousin Faustina‘ (ReadZone Books) and ‘The Misper‘ (The Conrad Press). She divides her time between Berwick upon Tweed and Leeds and she teaches journalism and creative writing.
Barbara has been an incredible supporter of mine for many years and I’m thrilled to have her on the blog to talk about everyone’s interest in witchcraft. My thanks to Barbara for taking the time to talk to us.
Everyone’s talking about witchcraft. Why are more young women suddenly being drawn to it, why is it all over Instagram, why does it feature in so many current autumn dramas on TV? A piece in The Observer asks these questions, and it comes shortly after Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour explored exactly the same subject.
It’s fascinating to see this sudden spike in interest. My children’s novels have all featured some elements of magic, be it time travel (The Serpent House, 2014) or shape-shifting (My Cousin Faustina, 2015). My latest teen/YA novel The Misper began as a story about a girl who goes missing, and it was going to be a realist novel set in Normal Town. But then two of the main characters started dabbling in magic and it was impossible to stop them (teenagers, you know – what’re you going to do?).
In the novel, Zoe tries witchcraft as a way of bringing control into her troubled life. Anna is led along, even though it scares her. At first it appears to be working – but then things go horribly wrong. I leave it up to the reader to decide whether the magic is real or all in the girls’ heads.
I have to confess to a bit of irritation at the suggestion in some of the coverage that this is a new phenomenon. Many are suggesting that the attraction to the witch as a feminist figure is the reason behind the recent lure of the occult, particularly for young women. That’s actually a change that came about as long ago as the 1970s, when writers (particularly in children’s fiction) started to reimagine the witch not as an evil, child-eating old hag of traditional fairytales, but as a figure of strength, wisdom and knowledge, a rule-breaker and a healer. These are the books I read as a child.
During those formative years, there were other inspiring resources for me to draw on (including the fabulous Bewitched series!). Now that my generation is grown up and writing drama and fiction, it’s perhaps not surprising that strong and interesting witch figures tend to feature. And now that young women can access like-minded people online, it’s hardly surprising that they’re forging communities out of these shared interests.
In The Misper, magic (or is it?) can’t help to bring back a missing teenage girl and so the novel is also about the effects on those who have to cope with a friend or family member who’s simply disappeared. So although there are some elements of magic (or not, depending on your interpretation!), the story is at heart about a real situation.
For me as a writer, it combined two of my interests: crime/mystery and magic. The intended teenage readership – a new one for me – meant I could go a little darker with the content than I would for a younger audience. It was an enormously satisfying book to write! I hope readers will enjoy it too.
‘The Misper‘ is available now.
Lots of people don’t realise that although you may see work by a certain author on the bookshelves in your favourite shop, many writers still hold down a day job in addition to penning their next novel. In this series, we talk to writers about how their current – or previous – day jobs have inspired and informed their writing.
Our next writer to be influenced by her day job is Linda Huber. My thanks to Linda for so willingly sharing her experiences with us. It’s so interesting to hear how everyone’s professional lives have prepared them for a life of writing.
I’ve had two significant day jobs in my life, and both have hugely influenced my writing. As a starry-eyed youngster in Glasgow, I began training to become a physiotherapist, which was the best job ever for many years. I worked in hospitals at first, gaining practical knowledge of wards and intensive care units, as well as departments like X-Ray and Outpatients, and I came across a vast and colourful collection of different healthcare professionals. A few years later, I moved to Switzerland, where I worked in clinics and schools for disabled babies and children. Little did I know back then that I’d become a published writer, and put large chunks of my work experience into firstly my psychological suspense novels, and now my feel-good novellas.
Medical ‘stuff’ so often comes up in crime fiction. A murder? Enter the police doctor. A mysterious illness? Call the GP. An attack? The characters find themselves in hospital. In two of my novels – Ward Zero and Death Wish – medical staff and conditions are directly involved in the plot, and I was able to put my hospital know-how to good use.
After over a decade of physiotherapy, I turned my attention to having babies, and took time out from the day job. It was during these years that I began writing seriously, magazine stories first, and then novels. Unfortunately, a back injury meant that physiotherapy was no longer an option when the time came to return to the working life. An English speaker in lovely Switzerland, I retrained as a language teacher – and realised how little I knew about the grammar of my native language. Speaking a language perfectly doesn’t help when you have to teach people about defining and non-defining relative clauses, or conditional structures. But when you do know all the grammar stuff that makes people’s eyes glaze over when you talk about it, it’s enormously helpful to your writing career. My proofreader complained once I didn’t leave her enough to correct. Mind you, I still make mistakes. There was once a stationary shop that should have been a stationery shop. A typo, of course…
Today, I teach one day a week, and the rest of the time is for writing. With my Lakeside Hotel novellas (written under my pen name Melinda Huber), I can use all my various work experiences. The main character Stacy is a reluctant nurse from England who ends up working in a Swiss spa, helping guests with minor illnesses and injuries, as well as coping with life in a foreign country and learning a new language. She faces the same frustration I once did at her lack of ability to communicate swiftly. In all, my books wouldn’t be what they are if I hadn’t had my day jobs. Even some of the drama I went through in my ‘third’ job – being a mother – comes in useful to Stacy, when head lice appear in the hotel!
Melinda Huber is the feel-good pen name of psychological suspense writer Linda Huber – she’s hiding in plain sight! You can find Linda on Facebook, Twitter (as Linda Huber and Melinda Huber) and on her website. Download ‘A Lake in Switzerland’ here.
Today I’m joined by Owen Mullen. I really want to tell you all about Owen’s achievements this year but I think I’d better let him do that, hadn’t I?!
Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
This one is easy… 2017 has been a standout year for me with a publishing deal, television appearance and a coveted Sunday Times Crime Club Star Pick for my latest novel And So It Began. But the highlight by far was having Games People Play long-listed for the McIlvanney Crime Book Of The Year… Here I am surrounded by the other long-listers at the award ceremony in Stirling Castle during the Bloody Scotland festival. Look closely – you will definitely recognise most of them.
And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Again, easy: my eldest grandson (9 years old), unknown to his parents, took one of my books to school to tell his class about his granddad. The teacher was so impressed with his presentation that she had him repeat it in front of the whole school at the Friday assembly. He was so proud of me and no matter what the future holds for my writing career – this will always be my most cherished memory.
Favourite book in 2017?
Every Dead Thing by John Connolly… It was the first book he had published but it showed all the promise of what was to come.
Favourite film in 2017?
Spotlight. Michael Keaton is fabulous in this biographical crime drama. The film follows the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team, as it investigates cases of widespread and systemic child sex abuse in the Boston area by numerous Roman Catholic priests. Disturbing and wonderful.
Favourite song of the year?
Marc Broussard – Cry To Me.
Any downsides for you in 2017?
The chaos that seems to have overtaken the political scene around the globe.
Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Absolutely… I’m a true Scot. I will also make a serious stab at keeping them. Top of the list will be to stay positive – because nothing else is worthwhile…
“If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two impostors just the same” – Rudyard Kipling
What are you hoping for from 2018?
To write my best book yet and to have the first book I wrote published.