Archive for the ‘#literaryfiction’ Tag

Interview with Stevie Turner   4 comments

Stevie Turner is a long-time friend from the Open Book Blog Hop and I finally got her to interview with me. Welcome to the blog, Stevie. Tell us something about yourself:

StevieTurner AuthorPicI’m a British author, married with 2 sons and 4 grandchildren, and live in the East of England. I worked for many years as a medical secretary in a busy NHS hospital, but took early retirement in 2014 due to side-effects from thyroid cancer treatment (I’m in remission now).  I’ve only been writing seriously since 2013, and since then I’ve written 8 novels, 4 novellas, and 18 short stories.  I’ve also just finished my memoir ‘Waiting in the Wings’, which will be published on November 30th.



Wow. That’s a lot of production in a short time. At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Since the age of 11 when I won an inter-schools’ writing competition.  I’d always enjoyed writing stories even before the win, but once I received my certificate there was no stopping me!  When a London literacy agency debated for a week in 2014 about whether to sign up my debut novel, I couldn’t sleep for the excitement of it.  However, the consensus of opinion was that it needed rewriting, and so that’s what I’m doing now.



What is your favourite genre…to read…to write?

Stevie HouseI love writing family relationship dramas, humorous books and also suspense stories.  However, I prefer to read autobiographies or biographies.



What is something you cannot live without?

Due to having only one working vocal cord, I cannot live without a bottle of water by my side, as my voice will dry up altogether if I don’t sip water at regular intervals.



Do you write from an outline or are you a discovery writer? Why?


I never write from an outline.  My stories sometimes end up quite differently to how I originally thought.  It’s great to make it all up as I go along, because then even I don’t know how it’s going to end!


I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaskan cabin for a month.  It’s summer, so you don’t have to worry about freezing to death.  I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray.  What do you do while you’re there, and what do you bring with you?


Steve SakeOkay, so if the cabin is remote, then there’ll be no Internet.  In that case I’ll bring a portable CD player, loads of batteries and a pile of rock, blues and reggae CD’s.  I can then play the music as loud as I like and dance around the cabin without anybody laughing at me.  I’ll also take my Kindle and a few autobiographies to read.  At the moment I’m reading Phil Collins’ ‘I’m Not Dead Yet’ and Davina McCall’s ‘Lessons I’ve Learned’.  I’ll also bring my walking shoes for some rambling about outside.


If someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?

I’d say a lot of my work is based on the intricacies of family relationships, which is written from past experiences or knowledge I’ve gained over the years from talking to others.  I’m always fascinated by human behaviour and why people do what they do, and how their childhoods shape the adult they become.


Talk about your books individually:


Stevie RepentAll my books can be found on my Amazon author page:


I think maybe there’s too many to name, so I’ll just concentrate on the main ones:

Repent at Leisure is a women’s fiction family drama/suspense novel that has been nominated for one of the Read Freely’s 50 Best Indie Books of 2016.  All votes will be gratefully received!



A House Without Windows is a suspense/thriller which has gained 401 ratings on Goodreads, and has won a Readers’ Favorite Gold Award in 2015 and a New Apple Book Award in 2014.



The Daughter-in-law Syndrome is another family relationship drama which made the Stevie LifeNew Apple Book Awards official selection list in 2015. Daughters-in-law sometimes get the short straw, especially if they have to compete with their husband’s sisters, as Arla Deane found out.



For the Sake of a Child is my most popular novella, focusing on a housekeeper’s discovery of a paedophile network going on in the offices she cleans, and the effect that this discovery has on her family.



Life: 18 Short Stories About Significant Life Events is free to anybody who signs up to my mailing list.  It has won a Readers’ Favorite 5 star seal this year.



No Sex Please, I’m Menopausal!  and The Pilates Class are humorous novels.  I have quite a dry sense of humour, and so…




Stevie WaitingA Rather Unusual Romance is not only a romance, but is also partly based on a situation I have lived through myself, though not the romance bit!



Waiting in the Wings  is my new memoir, detailing the perils of ageing and also focusing on how my mother and I have grown together in the past few years as I have taken on the role of her part-time carer.




What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?


The same as one chap did when he read one of my novels ‘The Donor’. He said that he now wanted to read every single book I’d ever written!


That is a great compliment. What influenced your decision to self-publish?


The difficulty that authors who are not celebrities face in acquiring a literary agent.  However, I will eventually be sending my debut novel back to the London agency when I have re-written it.


What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishing?


The control you have over your work as regards pricing and alterations.


Conversely, what do you think self-published authors might be missing out on?

The clout of a literary agent to champion your work and put it forward for competitions and awards.


Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditionally published?


Sure, if they’re very computer literate or want to spend, spend, spend on editors and cover artists etc. Some of my books are published through, an Independent publisher, who does a much better job than I could ever do.  Eventually I hope all of them will be published through Creativia, as although I can do all the proofreading okay, I probably fall a bit short on the layout.


Do you have a special place where you write?


Yes, at my computer in my front room.  My husband works from home upstairs in his office, and I work downstairs.  We meet up for tea and lunch breaks!


When you’re not writing, what do you do?


I’ll be reading or out walking around the Suffolk countryside where I live.  In the summer you’ll find me at a music festival or two (or three).


You can reach Stevie at the following locations:

Links to social media:




Amazon Author Page (worldwide):  












WordPress Blog:










Why PTSD?   Leave a comment

An alpha reader, after reading What If … Wasn’t, asked me “Why PTSD?” He’s read the two books of Transformation Project, where Shane also suffers from many of the same issues that Peter exhibits. So why do I keep going back to that topic?

IImage result for image of quote on pain and trauma changing ust might have something to do with growing up in a military town where a lot of the adults I knew suffered from the psychic wounds of war. My dad didn’t talk about it much, but as a Merchant Mariner in World War 2, he was once part of a convoy of ships going through mined waters. One of the ships blew up. Dad had screaming nightmares for the rest of his life. Based on what he shouted, I guess there were men on fire in the water. How could that not affect his daughter?

I worked as both a court transcriptionist and a psychiatric transcription in my career. I’ve been privy to some of the descriptions I share in the books … though I fictionalized them. Those sort of intimate peeks into the thoughts of others have an effect even on the strongest mind, so in sharing them in fictionalized form, I hope to purge their power over me.

Image result for image of quotes about pain and traumaAs a writer, it is a great way to explain why a character is who he or she is now. By bringing that trauma into the current setting through a PTSD flashback, I give the pain immediacy for the reader. Conflict drives drama. That conflict can be between characters, but I find that some of the best conflict is within a character.

Peter will indulge his trauma more than Shane does because Peter can. Shane is living in a post-apocalyptic world. He doesn’t have time to be in pain. And, thus, I show two different ways of dealing with the trauma. You get to decide which character does it more successfully.

Image result for image of quotes about pain and traumaA part of 12-Step lore is the idea of accepting the things you cannot change, changing the things you can and exercising the wisdom to know the difference. I won’t tell you how my characters work their way to their ultimate victory over their issues or acceptance of them … that would give it away … but this last quote should tell you something about my view of the issue.

Why Literary Fiction?   Leave a comment

I’ve circled back to the story that became What If … Wasn’t several times, never quite sure where it was headed … until I finished Objects in View and really needed a break from my two series. They are ongoing. There will be more books. Fount of Dreams is about 1/3 written. A Threatening Fragility is about the same. But this book needs to be published.

This coincided with a local author friend who writes romance asking me to alpha read her latest, which includes the typical felon who didn’t commit the crime, but gets accused for more crimes because well, he’s a felon, and he wins the girl, is found innocent and lives happily ever after.

It’s probably not wise to ask a non-romance reader to read your romance novel, but I have a really low tolerance for the white-washing of reality. I circled back to What If … Wasn’t because I couldn’t find a single reality-based  prison reentry fiction on Amazon. There have got to be some, but I couldn’t find them.

Things changed in the rewrite. Conditions have changed in the real world since I first began working on this story. I adjusted some of the story to make it contemporary. And, as always, I wrote long in my work-in-progress that I didn’t think I’d ever publish, so I had to remove some material to focus on what was important.

Although Peter is a product of my imagination, his experiences are loosely based on stories people have shared with me or that I was privy to as a psychiatric transcriptionist. I have carefully parsed those stories so that nobody can say I used their story, but all of the experiences are based on real stories.

As I alluded in the earlier post on prison re-entry, this is a HUGE subject in our country right now. I don’t write propaganda. I’m a novelist, not a pundit. But I hope people will learn from my book and come to empathize with people like Peter who made a mistake and is just trying to find his way in the world afterward.

I’ve published four books so far, all in the speculative fiction arena, so this may seem like a stretch for me, but in reality, I started out as a literary fiction writer who dabbled in speculative fiction. So, in a way, you could consider this to be a return to my roots.

Interview with Clare Pedrick   Leave a comment

Today’s interview is with Clare Pedrick. Welcome to the blog, Clare. Tell us something about yourself.

clarepedrick-authorpicThank you Lela. My name is Clare Pedrick and I’m a journalist, and I am originally from England. But then, one rainy November day in the town of Brighton where I worked as a young reporter, I saw an advertisement in a newspaper for a house in Umbria. Actually, it was a rambling old ruin, though incredibly beautiful, at least in my eyes. So I got on a plane and three days later I bought the place. What followed was my adventure to restore the old house on the hill, some of the extraordinary people I met there and who helped me along the way, and a love story, which was to change my life forever. Chickens Eat Pasta tells the story of this journey, with all the culture clashes, colourful characters, joys and frustrations, love and heartache that I experienced along the way.


At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

To be honest, I’ve always been a writer, since I’ve been a journalist all my life. But of course that’s a very different type of writing, as I was to find out to my cost when I first started writing my book. My journalist’s nose told me it was a good story, and I knew I had to write it. Then a literary agent I met in New York – I was working there at the time for a features agency having reluctantly left my Umbrian idyll for a while – persuaded me to get started.

clarepedrick-lake-piediluco“The only thing that’s missing is the love interest,” she said. “It would be so much better if it had one.”

I was single at the time, and licking my wounds after a very painful break-up with a long-term boyfriend in England, so, as I told the agent, there was absolutely no chance of any love interest in my Italian tale. That was just a few months before I met a handsome young man from Naples, in the very village where I had bought my house, so fairly soon, my agent’s wish was granted, and although I don’t want to spoil the story, it was certainly a love story with plenty of ups and downs.

Getting back to the writing part, I didn’t find it particularly difficult, because as a journalist I’m used to working with words. But what I had never considered was that journalists are trained to get a story out as quickly as possible, without too many frills. It took me quite a while to shift from my  breathless reporter’s style to a more measured, descriptive pace, which was critical in creating mood, setting the scene and accompanying the story itself as it moved forward. I got there in the end, but I have to confess that it took me no fewer than five drafts before Chickens Eat Pasta was finally ready for publication.



clarepedrick-winterI’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you?

Oh thank you! I think I will thoroughly enjoy the break. I love anything to do with the outdoors, and camping is my idea of heaven. I’ve never slept in a log cabin (I so hope it’s a log one?), but I have always wanted to. We often go camping with the horses here in the Umbrian hills – books aside, the other great passion in my life is horses and I organise riding holidays for foreign guests here, which are a lot of fun. I think I’d be pretty good at fishing, though I wouldn’t enjoy killing the poor things, and of course organising a cool place in the stream or lake to stash the beers that I am sure you are going to leave me. If not, I will definitely be bringing some of my own. I think I’ll take a hammock (I have one here), which I find a wonderful place for relaxing and reading. Also a very good camera, to take some great shots of the beautiful landscapes and hopefully some wildlife. As for books, it had better be something meaty if I’m going to be there for a month. So I will certainly take some Charles Dickens, especially The Pickwick Papers, which never ceases to make me smile, then Ulysses by James Joyce and Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, whose romance and tragedy would carry me far away when life in the cabin got too lonely. I’m actually going through a bit of a Russian phase right now, so I would probably put Simon Sebag Montefiore’s Stalin in my bag too. That’s sitting in my pile of books to read, but it’s more than 700 pages, so it’s hard to find the time in my normal routine.


Talk about your book individually.

clarepedrick-housebeginningChickens Eat Pasta is really my story, though it’s written more as a novel than an autobiography. It’s the tale of how one day, completely out of the blue, I made the rather strange decision to buy this old wreck of a house in what was then a very little known and quite remote part of Italy. And although I was totally bewitched by the house – or what was left of it because it had hardly any roof, no electricity and gaping holes where most of the floor should have been – it wasn’t an easy experience at all, and some of the situations I encountered were really very raw and challenging. But I was incredibly lucky, and met some wonderful people who took me under their wing and helped me. So the book is also about these unexpected friendships, and some of the very colourful characters who I met along the way. And it’s about a way of life in rural Umbria that was, and to some extent still is, light-years from anything most English or American people have ever seen. And of course, it’s also a love story, with a man I met there, and all that it led to…



What do you want readers to think or feel after reading your book?

clarepedrick-roofI would like them to care about the characters in the book – and that doesn’t just mean me, by the way, as there are a number of other characters who more or less creep onto the stage and almost steal the show. For me, that’s one of the litmus tests for any book I read. If I care about the people who I come to know in the pages, whether they are good, bad, funny or tragic, then I am far more likely to keep on reading and to remember the book afterwards. I would also like readers to imagine that they are there in this spectacularly beautiful, though quite remote and at times forbidding, corner of rural Italy. And I would be very happy indeed if anyone felt inspired by my story to try changing a part of their lives that they no longer found satisfying, or do something life-changing on the spur of the moment, as I did. Judging from some of the comments and reviews I’ve had so far, I think I’ve managed to achieve most of these goals for quite a few readers, and I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful that feels.



What influenced your decision to self-publish?

I had quite a few small, independent publishers in the UK who said they were interested in the book. But the whole process dragged on and on, and I think the traditional publishing industry has become very tame, and really only interested in surefire commercial successes. Of course there are trends too, and I was told more than once that I’d missed the moment after books such as A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun. That’s my fault for not getting my act together earlier, but I had a busy career and a young family.

Actually, Chickens Eat Pasta is very different from the Under the Tuscan Sun kind of book. That’s partly because I was so very young when I started on this adventure – just 26. And it’s partly because it’s more of a warts-and-all account of my move to another country, not a syrupy tale of unblemished happiness. I had some extraordinarily happy times, and met some truly wonderful people, many of whom have become lifelong friends. But there were also some quite dark moments and situations, especially for a young woman on her own, in the middle of nowhere. And the sun doesn’t always shine in that part of Italy. In fact, in the winter, it can be really quite bleak and extremely cold, though always unfailingly beautiful.

Going back to your question about publishing – at the end of the day, I got to the point where I just wanted to get the book out there. It was my agent who recommended going down the self-publishing path. At first, I was slightly reluctant, as I associated it with vanity publishing. How wrong can you be! Things are changing in the publishing industry and I am very happy indeed that I made that decision.


What do you find to be the greatest advantage of self-publishing?

clarepedrick-housenowSelf-publishing, of course gives you tremendous freedom, and also a far greater degree of control. If you think a passage or a character in your book should stay the way it is, there is no question of it having to be changed, because you are in charge. The same goes for the cover, and for how it is marketed, although of course that is rather a double-edged sword. I think the truly liberating thing is that the shame has gone out of self-publishing. Everyone is doing it, and some highly successful authors now start out that way. So that is really good news for the creative writing sector per se, and especially for authors, many of whom have terrific products to offer but were being stifled because they didn’t tick the right box or fit into the publishing trend of that particular moment.


Conversely, what do you think self-published authors might be missing out on?

As anyone who has self-published is painfully aware, the downside is that you are left very much on your own when it comes to selling the fruits of all your hard work. When they write ‘The End’ on the last page of their book, I don’t think many authors immediately reflect on the very hard slog that awaits them to get the book known, and therefore bought by the general public. This problem is definitely compounded by the fact that most writers, like many creative people, are not given to trumpeting about their own achievements or making canny commercial decisions. Fortunately, there is an incredibly supportive community of book bloggers and other social media outlets, which is developing in tandem with the self-publishing industry itself. Tapping this rich source is probably an indie author’s best option these days, but it’s a steep learning curve, and extremely time consuming, as I myself have discovered.


Who designed your book cover/s?

This is rather a lovely story in its own right, and I am happy to say that I have received a great deal of compliments for the cover. It is taken from a watercolour done by a very dear childhood friend of mine. Her name is Colleen MacMahon and when we were at school together – in those days she was Colleen Harbottle – she and I would spend hours scribbling stanzas of epic poems in our jotters and passing them to and fro between each other, mainly during Maths lessons, as I recall. She left to go to drama school and we lost touch for ages as our lives went separate ways. But then about five or six years ago, we suddenly got back in touch and met up again. And it was as if all those intervening years had simply never happened. In the meantime, Colleen had become a very accomplished artist, as well as a writer herself, and she painted this watercolour when she came to stay at my house in Umbria. So when I finally got my book finished and ready for publication, there was no question of what I would use for the cover. The painting itself is on my bedroom wall in my house and it makes me happy every time I look at it



Do you believe that self-published authors can produce books as high-quality as the traditional published? If so, how do you think we should go about that?

Yes I do, absolutely, at least if you are talking about the production side of things, as opposed to the content. I have no patience with poorly presented written work of any kind, and I don’t see why self-published books have to be full of typos, or have hideous covers. I went to great lengths to ensure that my own manuscript was perfect, and with spellchecking and editing tools, there is really no excuse any more. I also went to quite a lot of trouble to find a publisher who would produce a professional product, by which I mean quality paper and an attractive typeface, a good binding – so it doesn’t all fall apart after a few days – and of course a well designed and produced book cover. It may mean paying a little more, but I am convinced it’s worth it. And I see that quite a few indie publishing companies are now getting very choosy about what they will and won’t take on, as they don’t want their reputation soured by shoddy products.


Where can readers find you and your books?



Facebook book page

Twitter: @ClarePedrick

Blog (about the story behind the book):



Why Christians Should Read Secular Novels   Leave a comment

Some of my Christian friends object to the little bits of secular reality I tuck into my books. They struggle with the concept that I am a writer who is a Christian who does not necessarily write Christian books. Maybe that’s because I started writing before I became a Christian or perhaps it has something to do with my reading habits.

We Are Water: A Novel (P.S.) by [Lamb, Wally]This summer I read Wally Lamb’s We Are Water which deals with a lesbian wedding, childhood sexual abuse, alcoholism, violence, pornography, and murder as well as love, loyalty, healing, and beauty. It also includes a confused evangelical Christian described as the black sheep of the family, which is why I picked up the book in the first place. I sort of fulfill that role in my own very secular family. It was a hard book to read because I disagreed with a lot of it, but I chose to read it because I don’t flinch from intellectual difficulty.

We Are Water was well-written, with interesting and multifaceted characters. I was especially intrigued by the portrayal of the evangelical trying to find his place in a modern, irreligious, liberal family and by the portrayal of his mother—a lapsed but still believing Catholic—who fell in love with another woman. I’ll admit that I was not convinced of this woman’s love for her lesbian partner or for her husband. That might have been the point Lamb was making. By the end of the book, I empathized with the characters, even the evil one among them. I didn’t condone their actions or accept their motivations, but I understood the influences behind them.

In spending time with these fictional people, Lamb succeeded in humanizing individuals who might otherwise have remained a “type” – the lesbian artist, the sexual predator, the liberal social activist, or the evangelical from Texas. By engendering empathy and understanding with each of them, this novel succeeded in reminding me of the humanity I share with everyone else. We are all broken in some way, but we also possess beauty as God’s creation.

There are all sorts of reasons to read good novels. Good novels teach us historical events through a narrative frame, they create art out of language, they identify social woes that need attention. More importantly, they teach us empathy by inviting us to see the world from the perspective of someone who may live a life quite different from our own, while revealing that we are nevertheless connected by our humanity.

Writers have long argued that teaching empathy is one crucial reason for keeping literary fiction among the books taught to school children. According to the Scientific American, when students read non-fiction or popular fiction, their ability to empathize did not change while literary fiction prompted considerable changes in the students’ ability to understand another person’s feelings and perspective. They hypothesize about the results:

Popular fiction tends to portray situations that are otherworldly and follow a formula to take readers on a roller-coaster ride of emotions and exciting experiences. Although the settings and situations are grand, the characters are internally consistent and predictable, which tends to affirm the reader’s expectations of others… Although literary fiction tends to be more realistic than popular fiction, the characters disrupt reader expectations, undermining prejudices and stereotypes. They support and teach us values about social behavior, such as the importance of understanding those who are different from ourselves.

Christians might be tempted to shy away from the “secular” topics handled in novels like We Are Water. There are a lot of other books sitting on that same table at Barnes & Noble that we might avoid because they do not promote a typically Christian perspective. Which is exactly the reason Christians should consider reading more of these sorts of books. Engaging with the characters inside these pages—the characters who come alive to our hearts—is one way we might learn to agape-love people who do not share the same convictions about faith and life as we do, but more, it helps us to understand real life people who have non-Christian perspectives.

Additionally, the very best novels also ask “the big questions” about the nature of reality and what it means to be human. Some Christians fear that encountering entire narratives that challenge our view of the world as under God’s care might shake our faith, but we can only fully embrace the truth of God’s care for us if we understand and wrestle with the reasons others have rejected that truth.

The bleak atheist worldview provided by Camus in The Plague challenges any trite answers we might want to offer on suffering. The searing portrait of pain and loss that makes up much of the southern and African-American literary canon challenges the role the church has played in passively supporting the evils of slavery and segregation. The narrative of assisted suicide in Me Before You helps us to see why this seems like a reasonable way out of what is deemed intolerable circumstances when one does not experience a personal relationship with the Savior.

It’s hard to know which contemporary novels will rise to the top of the literary landscape. Who will become the Steinbecks, Fitzgeralds, Whartons and Cathers of our generation?Our grandchildren will have to answer that question. Whoever they choose, many of these writers are not Christians, and yet these are the perspectives that can teach us about the culture we live in and how we as Christians can engage our culture through a lens of God’s love.

Regardless of the worldview they profess, good novels disrupt our comfortable assumptions about reality. The presuppositions of the authors may not be truth based, but ultimately, all truth is God’s truth, so it behooves us to know the partial truths of non-believers, even if that “truth” seems focused on God’s apparent absence. In coming to understand our culture better, we allow God more opportunity to love our non-believing neighbors through us.

Posted November 2, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in writing wednesday

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