In The Chair 74: Isobel Costello

Welcome, Isabel Costello.

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How would you describe your writing style in only three words?

Isabel: Taut. Sensual. Evocative.

If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?

Isabel: Without hesitation, Alexandra, first person narrator of my debut novel Paris Mon Amour. As an intelligent 40-year-old woman she is acting totally out of character when she embarks on an affair with the much younger son of her husband’s best friend. Whilst it’s human fallibility and vulnerability that interest me and drive me to write, in many ways Alexandra becomes stronger as she pursues her desires, both physical and emotional. So many women don’t, and I found myself empathising with her to a surprising degree. She’s not a cuddly character but she has a sense of humour; this and her honesty make me think she’d be great at the kind of frank conversation I like. I could be my own complicated self around her.

11102784_844407928976852_7866671121152746412_nIf you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which one would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?

Isabel: Since my book centres on a clandestine relationship, watching from the sidelines isn’t really an option! In any case, it would be a revelation to spend a week (but no longer) as Alexandra’s 23-year-old lover, Jean-Luc. I’m happy being a woman but masculinity and the male perspective fascinate me – since we’re talking hypothetically I would love to experience sex as a man, for example (however weird that sounds). The main reason is the way Jean-Luc thinks about the ‘big questions’ and acts on his instincts rather than conforming to social expectations – I admire that. His passionate and unpredictable nature would guarantee an eventful week but it’s also quite a scary prospect!

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Dead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

Isabel: Firstly, although I’m a keen cook and enjoy entertaining, I find if you have the right combination of guests, nobody actually notices the food. Conversation would be unlikely to dry up with Flaubert, Baudelaire and Simone de Beauvoir at the table, contemporary wit and brilliance courtesy of A M Homes, Jeffrey Eugenides, Lisa McInerney and Grégoire Delacourt. Late night gatecrashers: Byron and Kevin Barry.

If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why?

Isabel: Not currently on my career plan, but being comfortable with sex scenes I might stand a chance at erotica.

What do you dislike the most about being an author?

Isabel: The fact that so much is beyond your control.  It bothers me – and not just for myself – that the fate of books is so dependent on money, timing and dumb luck.

Favourite word?  Isabel: Yes

Isabel Costello was in the chair, author of: Paris Mon Amour

Web: Paris Mon Amour  Summer Reads 2016

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In The Chair 70: Helen Mackinven

Welcome, Helen Mackinven.

11102784_844407928976852_7866671121152746412_nHow would you describe your writing style in only three words?

Helen: Realistic. Insightful. Scottish.

If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?

Helen: I’d be Kirsty who is Julia’s best pal in Buy Buy Baby. Her feminist views are closest to mine so I would be able to play Kirsty’s part very easily. She challenges Julia about her obsession to have a baby and asks, ‘Is Project Baby the latest must-have accessory you need to complete an outfit?’ Kirsty finds it ridiculous that Julia feels her life is lacking because she isn’t a mum. I’m very fortunate to be the mother of two sons and wouldn’t want it any other way but I would like to believe I wouldn’t feel any less of a woman if for some reason I hadn’t been able to have a child.

If you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which one would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?

HMK's picHelen: In Buy Buy Baby, my book follows the bittersweet quest of two very different women united by the same desire – they desperately want a baby. But only if they are willing to pay the price, on every level…
Carol talks to her dog, has an expensive eBay habit and relies on wine to forget she’s no longer a mum following the death of her young son.
Cheeky besom Julia is career-driven and appears to have it all. But after disastrous attempts at internet dating, she feels there is a baby-shaped hole in her life.
In steps Dan, a total charmer with a solution to their problems and challenges them both to assess what price tag they would you put on a baby.
I’d be Dan in my book because even although I wrote the story, I don’t know what Dan’s motivations were for ‘helping’ them. I’d love to know if he’s a good guy deep-down or a master manipulator who uses and abuses their trust in him for his own financial gain.

Dead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

e9bc1c7d85b2d8f9f3c487bc67d6c12b-1Helen: As a writer of Scottish contemporary fiction I feel it’s important for me to read within my own genre and I admire writers such as Janice Galloway, Jackie Kay, Anne Donovan, Kerry Hudson, Christopher Brookmyre, Damian Barr, Isla Dewar, Karen Campbell and Margot McCuaig (I’m fortunate to count both Karen and Margot as my real life friends) but I’d also make room at the table for a couple of my favourite Irish writers like Roddy Doyle, Patrick McCabe and Maggie O’Farrell. I’m a ‘can’t cook, won’t cook’ type but thankfully my hubby loves cooking and makes amazing meals so I’d ask him to serve one of his signature dishes like his tasty wild mushroom risotto. He also does a gorgeous creamy cauliflower soup and a very sweet banoffee pie that would make my leader at Weight Watchers weep.

If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why?

Helen: Children’s fiction. I dabbled with notes and ideas when my sons were nippers and fancied the idea of writing stories for them. I had a character called Cheeky the monkey who got up to all sorts of adventures with his jungle pals. But I never took it further than that which is maybe just as well as I often use sweary words in my writing so I’m safer sticking with adult fiction rather than creating a foul-mouthed monkey.

What do you dislike the most about being an author?

Helen: Spending hours hunched over a laptop which does nothing for my back and also I end up with a sore wrist if I type too much. Also, as I’m not able to touch type, so for me to ‘write’ a manuscript of 80K+ words takes much longer than it would if I had mastered the skill of hundreds of words a minute.

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Favourite word? Helen: I love Scottish words and phrases but if I had to pick only one I’d probably choose ‘wee’ as my favourite, maybe because I’m only 5 foot tall.

Helen Mackinven was in the chair, author of: Buy Buy Baby and Talk of the Toun. Web:  http://amzn.to/28ZeKNX

In The Chair 60: Terry Tyler

Merry Christmas, Terry Tyler!

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How would you describe your Christmas in only three words? 

Terry: Unusually low key.  Not sure if low-key is hyphenated, which would make that only two words … okay, we’ll go for Ignored Where Possible!

If you could have a relationship with a literary festive character who would it be and why?

bad-santa-23Terry: Hmm, I suppose Father Christmas for presents, but all that ho-ho-ho stuff would get on my nerves.  And the girth size might put me off once he got naked, not to mention the elves peeking through the log cabin window.  On the other hand, the sleigh ride over the rooftops would be fun.  Or I could go for Scrooge.  He’d be a rubbish boyfriend for the rest of the year (during which I’d choose a Christmas chick lit hero instead!), but at least he wouldn’t expect a Christmas present or Christmas dinner, and would let me write on Christmas afternoon, right? 

The_three_Magi_(Balthasar,_Caspar,_Melchior)If you had to exist for a week in a Christmas story … which one would it be?

Terry: The nativity one.  I’ve always fancied long journeys o’er mountain and desert, so I wouldn’t mind being one of the Three Kings.  You get to wear fab velvet cloaks and crowns, too.  I’d be the myrrh or the gold guy, because I’ve got some Frankincense stuff for my oil burners and the smell makes me feel sick.

Dead or alive literary Christmas lunch: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

16623547979_b83742ac7d_mTerry: I’d invite Father Christmas, any of his elves who know how to party, and the aforementioned Three Kings.  The shepherds could come too, as long as they took a shower first.  I have a picture in my head of a Tudor style banquet with a whole bunch of courses and lots of jewelled goblets of wine.  Oh – and I’d invite all the folk of Narnia who were allowed Christmas once The White Witch’s power diminished.  I could have a jolly time with the nymphs and Mr and Mrs Beaver, etc, and (before I’ve had too much wine) flirt with the Magi (I think Caspar looks the hottest), and any of the more rock star looking centaurs.

If you had to write a Christmas themed story in your current genre, what would the title be? 

funny_christmas_cards076_1024x1024Terry: I already have.  It’s called Christmas Pudding.  I wrote it in 1995, and it’s a full length (probably about 65K words) novel that all takes place on Christmas Day.  Five characters (plus one child), whose lives turn upside down because of the events of the day.  It’s a dark humour type domestic drama.  I started trying to re-write it for publication earlier this year, but as I wrote it twenty years ago it needs so much updating that it’s like writing something from scratch – I’ll get to it one day!

What do you dislike the most about Christmas?

Terry: The way in which it has become nothing more than a celebration of the retail trade.  Enough said.  Shop assistants wearing antlers at the Morrisons checkout. Oh, and Christmas cake.  Horrible stuff.  And dates.  I don’t do dates.

Favourite Festive Word?  Terry: Epiphany

Terry&Julia-cleaned< My sister, Julia, and me on Christmas Eve, 1989 (you can just see the Christmas decoration at the top of the picture).  I am supposed to be David Lee Roth, and she is Steven Tyler.  I like to think we were playing charades, but we were probably just being silly>  

Terry Tyler was in the Christmas chair: Author of several works of fiction from romantic suspense to contemporary family-saga with a historical twist. 

Web: http://ow.ly/TO7DU

In The Chair 56: Kelly Florentina

Merry Christmas, Kelly Florentia!

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How would you describe your Christmas in only three words? 

Kelly: Sparkles. Friendship. Expensive.

If you could have a relationship with a literary festive character who would it be and why?

Kelly: It would have to be The Ghost of Christmas Past as I like to learn from the errors of my ways and evolve. But also, I’d like to be reminded of the things I did correctly so that I can mirror them in the future or pass them onto anyone who may need my help.  I’m a firm believer in personal growth (at any age and any stage of life).

If you had to exist for a week in a Christmas story … which one would it be?

Kelly: A Christmas Carol. I’m fascinated by time travel and would love to be teleported to the 19th century. It would be amazing to see how people coped without all the modern facilities we have at hand. I’m sure that I would appreciate our ancestors a lot more if I could experience what they went through and how they coped.

Profiteroles-560-x-730_51ef83e544c0c792cd004e7fdf2d1420 Dead or alive literary Christmas lunch: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

Kelly: Oscar Wilde. I’d serve him a traditional Christmas lunch, I think, with all the trimmings. I’d introduce him to Elderflower Bellinis and we’d scoff profiteroles in front of the T.V. while watching Strictly Christmas Special. After a game of Scrabble, I’d pick his brains for writing tips. I hope he’ll teach me how to write clever, witty meaningful prose which will result in my first best seller!

If you had to write a Christmas themed story in your current genre, what would the title be?  Kelly: Mr and Mrs Christmas.
……be careful what you wish for.

Kelly_ChistmasWhat do you dislike the most about Christmas?

Kelly: Buying presents. Don’t get me wrong, I do love buying people gifts. I love the whole experience of thinking about what they’d like, their tastes etc., but I always go over my budget, then I worry that they won’t like it! I’m relieved on Christmas morning when I’m given the thumbs up (I usually am).  Not sure if this is relevant but I also don’t like the fact that people send eCards instead of paper ones (or don’t send them at all!). I know it’s expensive (stamps) and time consuming (writing 30 cards is thirsty work), and, of course, it is their prerogative, but I love Christmas cards. For me, they’re a part of the decs (I’m minimalistic). Christmas is a time for love and friendship. I love sifting through my pile (I always buy charity ones) and choosing a fitting card for each person. And I love that warm, glowy feeling I get as I think of the recipient while I scribble away in their card. I equally adore getting cards. It’s as if I’m receiving a little bit of fairy dust through the letterbox. Magical.

MistletoeFavourite Festive Word?  

Kelly: MISTLETOE (kissing is scrumptious).

Kelly Florentia was in the Christmas chair. Author of: To Tell A Tale or Two & The Magic Touch. Published by Accent Press.

Web:http://www.kellyflorentia.co.uk

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In The Chair 45: Christoph Fisher

Welcome, Christoph Fischer.

How would you describe your writing style in only three words? 

Christoph: Compassionate. Character driven. Involved.

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If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?

Christoph: Robert Sheridan from CONDITIONED a principled, caring and intelligent man who is kind-hearted, idealistic and enlightened; an individualist who becomes attractive at second sight but then all the more disarming.

If you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which one would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?

Christoph: So many of my books are set in war times, so I would chose CONDITIONED – It is set at a wedding with a colourful circle of friends who all more or less try to help each other.  I’d mingle happily with the characters but would also enjoy watching them sort things out their way.

922159_10151345337037132_1303709604_oDead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

Christoph: Henry Miller, Charles Bukowsky, Virginia Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, Arthur Miller and E.M Forster are the first names that sprang to my mind. They were all passionate writers and I would love to find out what they were like as people. As for food: I’d start with tomato and mozzarella salad, make vegetarian and chicken Thai curry and finish with chocolate mousse. Whiskeys and cigars are probably a must with these guys.
(I chose dead writers since I haven’t given up all hope that I might meet the live ones in my time.)

If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why?

Christoph: I’d love to write a good comedy. Laughter is so good for us and yet we don’t do it enough. I’m working on a humorous detective story but I’m worried that I have already written in too many different genres (historical fiction, contemporary family dramas and thrillers) to establish a solid enough ‘brand’

What do you dislike the most about being an author?

Christoph: Telling people that my books are great. I wish readers could find that out on their own. I want them to be pleasantly surprised when they open my books rather than having to hold them at gun point just so that they buy my books.

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Favourite word?

Christoph: Cwtch

Christoph Fischer was in the chair: Author of Conditions, The Gamblers, In Search of a Revolution, The Healer, Time to Let Go, The Three Nations Trilogy, Sebastian, The Black Eagle Inn. 

Web: http://www.christophfischerbooks.com/

Authors: Fancy pulling out a chair? Send your answers to the same set of questions with a profile pic and one web link to jan@janruth.com

In The Chair 42: Anne Stormont

Welcome, Anne Stormont.

How would you describe your writing style in only three words? 

Anne: Contemporary. Character-driven. Romantic. (In my writing for children – Contemporary, timeshift-historical, magical).

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If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?

Anne: I’m taking it that by ‘relationship’ you mean one of a romantic nature – with, you know, all the touchy, feely, sexy goings-on included. So, it would be a relationship with Jack from ‘Displacement’ that I’d choose. I find him fascinating – he’s had an interesting life, he’s made mistakes, he’s hurt people, but he’s also a loving father and grandfather, and he’s still got ‘it’. I think I was actually a bit in love with him while I was writing the book.

If you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which one would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?

Anne: I’d like to be in all three and definitely on the sidelines. I’d like to be in ‘The Silver Locket’ (my children’s book written by my alter-ego, Anne McAlpine) just so I could see Bonnie Prince Charlie close up and see if he was as handsome as they say he was. I’d like to be a friend of Rosie’s in Change of Life just to offer her support as she faces up to all the challenges that lie ahead of her. And I’d like to go with Rachel from Displacement on her journey from the Isle of Skye to the Middle East and prepare her for how life-changing such a journey can be.

Dead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

DSC_3676Anne: This was a difficult choice. There are so many authors and poets that I admire and would love to spend time with, but my house doesn’t have a banqueting hall. So I decided to pick seven as this is the number I could seat around my dining-room table and still have a space for me. And I also decided to pick (at least some) that might be less well-known. I’d have Anne Lamott who writes so well about the craft of writing in ‘Bird by Bird’; Robert Macfarlane whose non-fiction writing – reflecting on life as he walks in the natural world – I love. Macfarlane’s book, ‘The Old Ways’, being just one example; Ursula Muskus who wrote such a wonderful memoir, ‘The Long Bridge’, about her time in the Russian gulags; Raja Shehadeh whose book ‘The Palestinian Diaries’ I read during my most recent visit to Israel-Palestine. I’d also invite Carol Shields the wonderful Canadian novelist who died far too young and whose book ‘Unless’ is, for me, the nearest thing to the perfect novel. As a nod to all the authors I loved when I was growing up I’d like to invite Robert Louis Stevenson. I still have my grandmother’s childhood copy of his ‘A Child’s Garden of Verses’ and can still recite some of the poems, and of course I loved his ‘Treasure Island’ and ‘Kidnapped’. And finally, I’d have to have the bard, Robert Burns. He’d be such a great before and after dinner speaker. The menu would have to be a Burns supper – so a hearty soup, followed by haggis, neeps and tatties and cranachan for dessert. And a good malt whisky, such as Skye’s own Talisker, to wash it all down. And we’d finish with a bit of a ceilidh of course.

If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why?

Anne: Crime fiction – I enjoy reading this genre and would love to be able to write like Ian Rankin or Val McDermid. Writing in this genre would be out of my comfort zone, but I like a challenge.

What do you dislike the most about being an author?

Anne: I find the marketing and publicity thing tough – it doesn’t come naturally to me.

Favourite word?

Anne: Discombobulated – it describes my state of mind most of the time.

Anne Stormont was in the chair, author of: Displacement, Change of Life, The Silver Locket.

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web: http://putitinwriting.me/

In The Chair 41: Marie Laval

Welcome, Marie Laval.

How would you describe your writing style in only three words? 

Marie: Romantic. Evocative. Suspenseful.

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If you could have a relationship with one of your fictional characters who would it be and why?

Marie: Tricky question! I love all my heroes. They all have a strong sense of duty and they are all haunted by some terrible event from their past, but I have a particular weakness for Hugo Saintclair, the hero of ANGEL HEART, because he was my very first…

If you had to exist for a week in one of your books … which one would it be? Would you be a central character or simply watch the story unfold from the sidelines?

Marie: I would slip into THE LION’S EMBRACE, and I would simply have to be Harriet Montague, my heroine, to experience first-hand the beauty and magic of North African landscapes.

Dead or alive literary dinner party: who would you invite, and what would you serve?

MarieLaval (2)Marie: It would be a Franco-British affair, and all my guests would have to be recalled from the ‘Otherworld’. For the French side, I would invite comedian Raymond Devos, poet Jacques Prévert, and writers Colette and Isabelle Ebehardt. For the English side, I would ask Wilkie Collins, Oscar Wilde and Emily Brontë. I would serve one very large dish of chicken couscous so that I don’t have to get up all the time and miss out on the wonderful conversation.  For pudding we would have exotic fruit salad and French pâtisseries.

If you had to write in a different genre which would it be and why?

Marie: I love writing romances, both contemporary and historical, but if I had the talent for it I would be a poet or a song-writer. In a few words, they can conjure feelings and images that stay with you forever.

What do you dislike the most about being an author?

Marie: The realisation later on in my story that my plot isn’t working or that I have forgotten something very important. That stems from my inability to plan ahead and is entirely my fault. When I start a new story I resolve to plan and plot more, but then I get carried away and it never happens.

Favourite word?

Marie: I love North-African words my mother, who was born and brought up in Algeria, used all the time. My all-time favourite has to be ‘scoumoune’. Basically it means ‘bad luck’, something to be very much feared and that you can attract or catch like a disease!

Marie Laval was in the chair, author of: A Spell in Provence, The Lion’s Embrace & Angel Heart.

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Web: http://marielaval.blogspot.co.uk/