Author Q&A: Victoria Walters

Today on Becca's Books, I'm absolutley delighted to be welcoming author of The Second Love of my Life, Victoria Walters, to the blog for a Q&A!
First of all, could you introduce yourself to readers? Tell us a little bit about you and the books that you write.
My name is Victoria Walters and I released my debut novel The Second Love Of My Life in April this year. I live in Surrey and work as a bookseller and post too many pictures of my cat Harry online! *waves to you all*

In which genre/genres do you write?
In publishing terms it is commercial womens fiction, which is just a fancy way of saying I write books about women.

Tell us about your most recent book, and where can we find it?
The Second Love Of My Life is about a woman called Rose who becomes a widow aged just twenty-four. The story is about how she is struggling to move on from her grief and then one summer a newcomer arrives in her small Cornish town … it’s a story of love and loss and hopefully is life-affirming too. You can buy it now online from Amazon, Waterstones, Kobo etc and in Waterstones, Tesco and WH Smith stores too.

Are there any particular themes which you try to incorporate within your books?
I think that what I like to read comes through naturally, sunconsciously even, in my own writing – love stories, inspiring stories, emotional stories.

How do you hope to make readers feel while reading your books?
I like to take readers on a journey with me – I want them to root for the main character and to make them feel the things she’s feeling. The Second Love Of My Life has made people cry they have told me and I love that the story gave them such a strong reaction.

If you had to choose three words to describe your most recent book, what would they be?
Emotional, life-affirming and hopeful.

When it comes to creating your characters, are they completely fictional or do you gather ideas from the people you know in real life?
Hmm I feel as if they are completely fictional but it’s hard not to let your own experiences creep in so you might have to ask my family and friends haha!

How do you choose the settings of your books?
Conrwall just seemed to fit my novel perfectly – I needed a lovely place that my main character wouldn’t ever want to leave. The story I’m writing now is set in the New Forest – a place I love myself and again seemed to fit the story.

Have you visited any of the areas which you’ve written about?
I have but I tend to create a fictional town within that area. I’d love to be able to visit Talting, the town in The Second Love Of My Life but sadly it just exists in my imagination!

Who are some of your favourite authors?
An impossible question as I love so many but my favourite author is Jane Austen and always will be I think!

Do you like to plan strategically, or do you let the characters lead the way?
I’m not a big planner, I love to write my first draft quite freely so the characters tend to lead the way although this can be tough when you hit the middle and aren’t sure what’s going to happen next!

If you could sit down and have lunch with any author, who would you choose and why?
I think right now I would choose JK Rowling – I would love to be able to talk all things writing with her.

Is there a particular part of the writing process which you enjoy more than others?
I’ve always tended to prefer writing the first draft as I love to just let the words flow, and editing has always been more difficult for me to master.

When it comes to the cover of a book, how important do you feel they are?
Very! I think we all judge a book first by its cover and the market is so crowded that a great cover can make your book stand out.

How do you keep track of your writing progress? Do you use daily word goals? Do you aim to get a set number of chapters written?
I try not to set myself deadlines or goals as I try to keep it fun and I hate making it feel like homework but that’s just me! I’ve written anything from 1,000 to 10,000 words in a day, just depends on my mood.

Tell us the top three books you’ve read so far in 2016.
The Muse by Jessie Burton, My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout and Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

When did your love of writing first begin to blossom?
I have always written stories – I think being an only child made me love books and rely on imagination. I think reading Twilight was the moment I started to write more seriously and want to be published – I was so hooked by that book and I wanted to write something that someone would love as much as I loved reading that book.

How did you celebrate your most recent publication day?
I had a launch party in the bookshop I work in and it was such a lovely night, and very emotional too!

What are your thoughts on the book-blogging community?
I am so grateful to anyone who takes the time to read my book and write a review! Bloggers have been so supportive of my novel, it’s been so lovely to see.

Which, if any, other genre would you like to try and write in?
I started out writing YA so I would still love to publish a YA story. Hopefully one day!

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far in your writing career?
Getting my book deal! It was such a long journey to get published and I’m so grateful my book is out in the world!

Are you working on anything at the moment? If so, tell us a little bit about it.
I am working on my next book, and hopefully I can tell you guys about it very soon!

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
It’s not personal advice but my favourite quote is by Walt Disney – if you can dream it, you can do it. It helped me keep going on my writing journey.

What do you class as a successful writing day?
I think the best day is when you write ‘the end’! Every writing day is about getting yourself closer to that so if I get closer, it’s a successful day.

Writing in an apartment in New York City or writing in a cottage in the English countryside?
Ooh I would love both – I think we should go with New York as my hayfever would be terrible in a country cottage haha!

Writing with a cup of tea or writing with a cup of coffee?
Tea – I think I’m the only writer who hates coffee.

Writing with a sandwich or writing with a cupcake?
I am a big fan of cupcakes.

Writing with music or writing in silence?
I have to write with music.

Writing outside in the sunshine or writing inside as the snow falls?
Inside when the snow falls.

And lastly, if someone told you that they wanted to be a writer, what would you tell them?
If it’s your dream then keep going and don’t give up!

- About the Author -
Victoria Walters has always loved creating stories. Her first book was handwritten when she was sixteen years old, and was closely modelled on the Sweet Valley High series. Victoria studied sociology at Warwick University and has since worked for a business publisher and as a Waterstones bookseller. She lives in Surrey with her cat Harry (named after Harry Potter, not Harry Styles).

Her debut novel THE SECOND LOVE OF MY LIFE will be published by Headline in 2016.

DANCING IN THE FIRE, her New Adult romance, was the winner of a short story competition run by Simon and Schuster and is available as an eBook exclusive now.

You can find Victoria Walters on Twitter | victoria-writes.com


Book Review: Follow You Home by Mark Edwards

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Title - Follow You Home
Author - Mark Edwards
Publication Date - June 30th 2015
Publisher - Thomas and Mercer
Format - Kindle Edition
Pages - 402

Blurb
It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, a final adventure before settling down. But after a perfect start, an encounter with a young couple on a night train forces Daniel and Laura to cut their dream trip short and flee home.

Back in London, Daniel and Laura vow never to talk about what happened that night. But as they try to fit into their old lives again, they realise they are in terrible danger - and that their nightmare is just beginning...

Review
I'd had Follow You Home by Mark Edwards on my forever-growing to-read pile for quite some time before I managed to get round to purchasing and reading. There'd been numerous times that found me browsing the Kindle store, only to stumble upon it again, and become intrigued by the cover, title and blurb. It genuinely got to a point where I couldn't wait any longer. As it so happened, a gap between review reads cropped up, so I of course dived into this one with much enthusiasm. There's something utterly delicious about finally beginning a book you've been dying to read for months, and that feeling overwhelmed me as I began this twisting tale.

UK Giveaway: The Sunshine and Biscotti Club by Jenny Oliver

Hurrah for the weekend!

I hope you've all got something lovely lined up? If not, then how about a little Friday giveaway to add a sprinkle of sparkle? That's right! I've been lucky enough to receive not one but two beautiful paperback copies of Jenny Oliver's brand new book The Sunshine and Biscotti Club, and I'm giving one of you lucky book folk the chance to win one of these copies!

Cover Reveal: Breakfast at Poldark's by Samantha Tonge

Today on Becca's Books, I'm utterly delighted to be sharing with you the fabulous cover of Samantha Tonge's upcoming release Breakfast at Poldark's. Honestly book folk, this is a beauty and I just know that you're going to agree with me! It's eye-catching, completely evocative and whisks you right away to the dreamy setting of Cornwall in which this story is set. Feast your eyes on the dreamy cover of Samantha Tonge's Breakfast at Poldark's.

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Arrives July 28th 2016 (eBook) August 25th 2016 (paperback)

Author Q&A: Carrie Elks

Today on Becca's Books, I'm delighted to be welcoming author Carrie Elks to the blog for a Q&A.
First of all, could you introduce yourself to readers? Tell us a little bit about you and the books that you write.
Hello! My name is Carrie Elks and I write romance stories. I love strong, flawed heroes and heroines who don’t take any rubbish! My stories are often either based in or feature my favourite city, London, as well as some more exotic locations including New York, France and Italy.

Blog Tour: Extract from The Postcard by Fern Britton

Today on Becca's Books, I'm delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Fern Britton's new novel The Postcard. On my stop, I'll be sharing an extract from Chapter One of the novel, and I really hope you enjoy it!
1
Penny Leighton didn’t feel right. She hadn’t been feeling right for a long time now. She couldn’t remember how long it had been since she had felt right.
She was lying in her big marital bed. The Cornish winter sun had not yet risen and she could see the dark sky through a crack in her exuberant poppy curtains. She’d thought them so cheerful when she’d bought them. She looked at them now and closed her eyes.
She had to get up. She had an important call to take at eleven o’clock. She opened her eyes and squinted at her phone. Ten to seven.

Blog Tour: Book Review & Giveaway - Something Old, Something New by Darcie Boleyn

Today on Becca's Books, I'm absolutely delighted to be sharing my review of Darcie Boleyn's Something Old, Something New as part of the blog tour, hosted by Jenny from Neverland Blog Tours. This is the first book I've had the pleasure of reading by Darcie Boleyn and I really couldn't wait to get started once it had arrived on my Kindle. I adore the cover and the blurb made the book sound right up my street! I was thrilled to secure myself a place on the blog tour so, without further ado, here's my review of Something Old, Something New by Darcie Boleyn.

Cover Reveal: The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane by Ellen Berry

This evening on Becca's Books, I'm delighted to be teaming up with those wonderful Avon folk to reveal to you the gorgeous cover of Ellen Berry's The Bookshop on Rosemary Lane. Set in the Yorkshire village of Burley Bridge and focusing on food, family and friends, this book sounds right up my street, and I don't know about you, but any book that has the word 'bookshop' in it winds its way onto my to-read pile pretty damn quickly. Plus, the cover of this one is just delightful! Don't believe me? Take a look for yourselves!

Book Review: After the Lie by Kerry Fisher

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Title - After the Lie
Author - Kerry Fisher
Publication Date - April 29th 2016
Publisher - Bookouture
Format - Kindle Edition (Provided by publisher via NetGalley)
Pages - 316

- Blurb -
Sometimes a lie can split your life in two. There is "before", and there is "after". Try as you might - you can never go back.

When Lydia was a teenager, she made a decision that ruined her family's life. They've spent the last thirty years living with the consequences and doing their best to pretend it never happened.

Lydia's husband, the gorgeous and reliable Mark, and her two teenage children know nothing about that summer back in 1982. And that's the way Lydia wants it to stay. The opportunity to come clean is long gone and now it's not the lie that matters, it's the betrayal of hiding the truth for so long.

When someone from the past turns up as a parent at the school gates, Lydia feels the life she has worked so hard to build slipping through her fingers. The more desperate she becomes to safeguard her family, the more erratic her behaviour becomes. But when the happiness of her own teenage son, Jamie, hangs in the balance, Lydia is forced to make some impossible decisions. Can she protect him and still keep her own secret - and if she doesn't, will her marriage and family survive?

Blog Tour: Review & Q&A - Play Dead by Angela Marsons

Today on Becca's Books, I'm ridiculously excited to be sharing with you my Q&A with the brilliant Angela Marsons, plus my review of Play Dead for the incredible blog tour that has recently begun. Not only am I a MASSIVE fan of Marsons' bestselling Kim Stone series, but I'm pretty sure that it was this author who lit the fire in me for gritty and compelling crime thrillers. I'd never been much of a reader in this genre until I read the first book in this series, and now? Well, I just can't seem to get enough and have awaited each of the books with baited breath. I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to read Play Dead ahead of its publication date and lucky, too, to have been invited to take part in the blog tour.

Available on Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US
Arrives May 20th 2016 (eBook)
Blurb
The dead don't tell secrets... unless you listen.

The girl's smashed-in face stared unseeing up to the blue sky, soil spilling out of her mouth. A hundred flies hovered above the bloodied mess.

Westerley research facility is not for the faint-hearted. A 'body farm' investigating human decomposition, its inhabitants are corpses in various states of decay. But when Detective Kim Stone and her team discover the fresh body of a young woman, it seems a killer has discovered the perfect cover to bury their crime.

Then a second girl is attacked and left for dead, her body drugged and mouth filled with soil. It's clear to Stone and the team that a serial killer is at work - but just how many bodies will they uncover? And who is next?

As local reporter, Tracy Frost, disappears, the stakes are raised. The past seems to hold the key to the killer's secrets - but can Kim uncover the truth before a twisted, damaged mind claims another victim?

- Q&A with Angela Marsons -
Hi Angela, it's absolutely wonderful to have you here with me on Becca's Books today. I have a ton of questions I'm dying to ask you, but before we get onto those, I'd like to congratulate you on the release of your fourth book in the top-notch Kim Stone series Play Dead. 

First of all, following on from my congratulations, how are you feeling about the fact that your fourth book has just been released?

Thank you so much for inviting me. I can honestly say that I am delightfully overwhelmed. The last 18 months have been an absolute whirlwind. I didn't think this level of excitement was achievable without damaging some kind of major body organ.

How did you spend Play Dead's publication day? Did you do anything special to mark the occasion?

I spend each publication day the same way. I make no arrangements and spend the entire day on social media responding to tweets, blogs, reviews and comments. It's the one day I can get away with just chatting and not feeling guilty for doing no work.

In Play Dead, the fourth book in the fantastic Kim Stone series, the mystery Kim is faced with is based around a body farm. Tell us, how did this idea come to you? Have you ever visited a body farm in real life?

I haven't visited one and I'm not sure how well my stomach would cope with it but I am very interested in what can be learned from the body after death especially in the pursuit of aiding crime. I read many books and articles on actual body farms located in America.

There's a truly twisted and evil character to meet within this story. With each book, do you try to make your villain more shocking than the previous, or is it a case of having each of them be unique and terrible in their own way?

I definitely try and make each villain as unique as possible and for me that means exploring in depth their motivation for the crimes they are committing. I have to understand why they are doing what they are so that I can write it with conviction.

I have a feeling that when it comes to research, you end up searching for some pretty gruesome things. In your opinion, what's the worst thing you've had to look up?

I absolutely do some very strange searching and I am convinced my Google history is on some kind of MI5 watch list. I think the worst thing I've had to look up is true stories of childhood abuse. Reading real life accounts was incredibly harrowing but it just made me want to treat the subject with the utmost respect. 

In terms of the epic character that is Kim Stone (and because I'm such a hopeless romantic so apologies for this question), will she ever open up her heart to any romance?

I do take Kim's personal development one book at a time. I don't plan how much she will grow with each journey. I just reflect what feels right in my heart. It is a very slow process and I'm not sure she will ever be ready for romance.

As Kim's series has progressed, we've slowly watched her past be revealed bit by bit. I think she's such a solid character and love how she's still rather mysterious, even now. Was there a reason you chose to give Kim such a tragic past?

Her current voice began twittering in my head many years ago and it seemed to form into a complete identity pretty quickly. Her past was slower to appear but it was necessary to give her a history that explained how closed off and remote she is today.

Angela, how many more books in the Kim Stone series have readers got to look forward to? I really hope Kim's story isn't close to being over yet!

I am currently contracted to write a total of 8 Kim Stone books but I've always said that while people want to read them I'll keep writing them - as long as my publisher lets me, of course.

Would you say that marriage and children could be a part of Kim's future? Or is it completely out of the question?

To be honest it is out of the question while I am writing about her. One of my favourite characters of all time was Jane Rizolli from the Tess Gerritsen books. Her character was initially quite curt and a bit maverick but eventually the author developed her along a route that caused me to lose interest. A settled down Kim doesn't match the voice in my head.

Would you say that there are any similarities between yourself and Kim Stone?

In some ways we do share a directness. In a previous life I managed a team of 70+ security officers and that is not a job for the faint hearted. But I do like to think I have better social skills than my character has.

If you had to pick only 3 words to use to describe Play Dead, which words would they be?

Macabre. Chilling. Twisted.

Let's say Play Dead was put onto the big screen. Which song would you pick for the opening credits?

Anything by Delerium. I love haunting tunes with unusual vocals.

When it comes to your writing, do you set yourself daily word goals? Is there a target you aim to reach by the end of the day or week?

Oh, I wish I was that organized.  Once I start a new project I probably try for 1000 words a day for a week or two until it bites.  Once the idea has taken on a life of its own I just go for it and write as many words as I can before my hand collapses in a heap on the desk.

In Play Dead, reporter Tracy Frost, really steps forward and we learn more about her as a character. What did you hope to show the reader about Kim by including Tracy and giving her a more forward role?

I wanted to show that Kim is open to changing her opinion on someone.  Her attitude to Tracy at the beginning of the book appears set in Stone but I wanted to show Tracy’s motivation for the kind of person she is and for Kim to change her mind and realise she isn’t always right.

Was there a particular scene you enjoyed writing within Play Dead?

Oh yes.  It involves Kim, Bryant, Woody and a fist exercise!!

In regards to your incredible success so far with your fantastic series, what has been the most memorable moment for you?

OMG – there have been so many.  I think that an absolute highlight for me was when my fabulous publisher told me we had sold 1 million books.  It was a number I couldn’t comprehend.  Or it could have been when Silent Scream reached the #1 position on Amazon or…… okay I’d probably better stop now.

As we understand, you are now able to write full-time which has always been a dream of yours. How does it differ from fitting in your writing around a day job?

I still pinch myself every single day and appreciate how truly lucky I am because my job doesn’t feel like work.  I would still be doing this if I was working full time.  I adore the freedom of being able to choose what time of day or night I want to write and am no longer governed by my shift rota.  If I want to stay up until 3am because I have to finish a chapter I can.  If I want to get up at 4am because I can’t stop thinking about a plot line I can do it without then falling asleep at my job.

We know you have tons of support from fans, loved ones and friends and it’s such a beautiful thing to see. Do you think you would feel as confident if you didn’t have such support?

Not at all.  My partner Julie has been there every step of the way and has been my cheerleader for 30 years.  Every rejection was met with a response of ‘their loss’.  She would never allow me to give up, even during the darkest days she would find a way for me to maintain my love of words and making a story.

From the first draft to completion, how long did it take you to finish writing Play Dead?

In my head I have a loose schedule for each book of 3 months to write the first draft. Two months to complete the second draft and then a final month to do third draft and polish.

If you had to pick one, which of the books in the Kim Stone series so far is your favourite? Or is that impossible decision to make?

Oooh, I really gave this question a great deal of thought and hoped that I could answer it but I honestly can’t.  I love each book for a different reason but they all include something which either fascinates or intrigues me.

Are you working on the next book already? I’m already highly anticipating it! (No pressure, of course!)

I am most definitely working on book 5 right now.  I felt it was time to bring back the character of Alexandra Thorne as I felt there was much more to explore between her and Kim Stone.

And lastly, if someone was to say to you that they wanted to be a writer, how would you reply?


I would reply to just do it as long as its because of your love of words.  No other motivation will carry you through the rejection and comments that you receive along the way.  Only a deep passion for making a story will prepare you for how personal a book becomes during the journey.

Angela, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to answer my questions. I am so looking forward to see what is in store next for your readers, and will be keeping my eyes peeled for any news! It’s been a pleasure having you here with me today, and I wish you every success with the chilling Play Dead.

Thank you for asking me over.  It has been a pleasure to spend time here at your fabulous blog.  

Review -
I always get a little (okay, a big) thrill when I know that we're nearing the arrival date of Angela Marsons' next book in the Kim Stone series. My mind runs away with itself as it begins to imagine the numerous possibilities of what lies in store for Kim Stone in her next adventure. The options, of course, have no boundaries and Angela Marsons, without fail, delivers a twisted, evil but nevertheless addictive case for her readers to unravel. Being back with Kim Stone and the incredible team felt a bit like stepping into a room full of old, much-loved friends and I really couldn't wait for this story to begin.

Play Dead follows Kim Stone as she stumbles across a dead body, found at Westerley Research Facility. Westerley is a body farm used to study the decomposition of human remains in a number of different ways, some gruesome and some just some plain strange. What follows on from the discovery of this first body is a shocking and compelling case needing to be solved before the killer takes another victim down. Along the way, Kim is faced with challenges that not only put her abilities up to the test but also her own assumptions of those around her who she thinks she knows.

Before the reader is reunited with Kim Stone and her team in the Black Country, the author provides the reader with a prologue that really gets your imagination, and intrigue, going. Marsons takes us back to 1996 and as the unidentified person behind the first person narration gets going, it immediately becomes clear that something strange and chilling is taking place. I believe this was the perfect way to begin Play Dead, summoning up all sorts of questions in my mind and it had me wondering (getting ahead of myself, as per) how this nameless person would later find themselves mixed up in Kim Stone's world. It set up the tone for the rest of the novel fantastically, ensuring there was a hint of something evil, something stale in the air as the story progressed. Goosebumps prickled my skin and I couldn't wait to see how this person and Kim Stone's worlds would collide.

There's a cleverness about Marsons' writing. It's as sharp as a blade and has me constantly kept on my toes. The author knows exactly how much to hand to the reader at exactly the right time, never giving too much nor too less away. Right the way through Play Dead, I found myself lapping up every single word Marsons gave. There's always just enough description of setting but it's the dialogue that always captures my attention and makes me feel as if I'm right there in the room with Kim and the rest of the team, or beside Kim as she steps into unknown territory. It's thrilling, and the way Marsons has me involved within the book itself is phenomenal.

When the case began to take those twists and turns, and different characters stepped back and forth from the limelight, my suspicions began to mount up which is something else I just love about the Kim Stone series. The best thing about this, though, is that I never know for sure whether I'm right or wrong. Without fail, I always end up being wrong and Marsons delivers the truth in a delicious way that has me shaking my head in wonder. With so many things to consider, characters and their actions, it's a complete guessing game of a book that I really can't bear to put down once I begin. With the snippets from the nameless person's past mingling with Kim Stone in the present day, I found myself waiting with baited breath for the moment when it would all click into place. When it did, I couldn't believe it. It was shocking and powerful, but made complete sense to me.

As always, Angela Marsons has crafted a spectacularly gripping and chilling novel in Play Dead. We see Kim face challenges she didn't expect, characters who really aren't all that they seem, and a twisted, sick serial killer who doesn't seem to want to stop in their game of who's next. It's all down to Kim to finally catch up with the killer and put a stop to the rally of revenge and justice. This was compelling and addictive, and an absolutely brilliant fourth novel in the bestselling Kim Stone series. If you enjoy tense, taut and spine-tingling crime thrillers, you cannot go wrong with a Kim Stone book. I do believe it's impossible.

Becca's Books is awarding Play Dead by Angela Marsons with five of my bookish stars. The cases Kim Stone is faced with seem to get more and more chilling as each book comes out, and I do believe I'm going to be a firm Kim Stone fan for as long as Angela writes these fantastic books. I'd like to thank Angela Marsons and her publisher Bookouture for providing me with a review copy of Play Dead in exchange for a fair and honest review, and for inviting me to be part of the blog tour.
- About the Author -
Angela Marsons is the author of Amazon #1 Bestseller SILENT SCREAM.

She lives in the Black Country with her partner, their bouncy Labrador and a swearing parrot.

She first discovered her love of writing at Junior School when actual lessons came second to watching other people and quietly making up her own stories about them. Her report card invariably read "Angela would do well if she minded her own business as well as she minds other people's".

After years of writing relationship based stories (My Name Is and The Middle Child) Angela turned to Crime, fictionally speaking of course, and developed a character that refused to go away.

She is signed to Bookouture.com for a total of 8 books. The second and third books in the Kim Stone series, EVIL GAMES and LOST GIRLS are also now available.

You can find Angela Marsons on Facebook | Twitter | angelamarsons-books.com

Be sure to keep up with the rest of the #PlayDead blog tour!






  






Author Q&A: Helen Phifer

Today on Becca's Books, I'm thrilled to be welcoming the fantastic Helen Phifer to the blog for an author Q&A.

First of all, could you introduce yourself to readers? Tell us a little bit about you and the books that you write.
Hello, thank you so much for inviting me Becca, it’s lovely to be here chatting to you. I write thrillers about police woman Annie Graham and her ability to see ghosts and attract every serial killer in the country.

In which genre/genres do you write?
I sit quite comfortably in the contemporary horror, detective genres.

Tell us about your most recent book, and where can we find it?
My latest book is The  Girls in the Woods which is available as an ebook at the moment and available on Amazon and most digital retailers.

Are there any particular themes which you try to incorporate within your books?
I love writing spooky stories, so I like to incorporate something scary alongside the crime aspect of the story which complement each other.

How do you hope to make readers feel while reading your books?
I want them to feel so drawn into the stories that they can’t put it down and have to keep reading. I also want them to be scared enough that they think about going to the toilet on their own in the middle of the night. I always know I’ve enjoyed a book when I have to wake my husband up to come to the toilet with me.

If you had to choose three words to describe your most recent book, what would they be?
Scary, Exciting, Unusual.

When it comes to creating your characters, are they completely fictional or do you gather ideas from the people you know in real life?
They are ninety percent fictional although I do pinch bits of people I know to make them special.

How do you choose the settings of your books?
I always wanted to read a series of books set in an area I was familiar with so I decided to set the Annie Graham series in my home town of Barrow-in-Furness and use the beautiful Lake District which is right on my doorstep as a backdrop.

Have you visited any of the areas which you’ve written about?
All the time, I’m lucky enough that I can drive to some of my favourite places in the Lake District within thirty minutes and I do. There’s nothing like sitting outside a coffee shop in Bowness or Windermere plotting my next book.

Who are some of your favourite authors?
Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Graham Masterton, Angela Marsons, Caroline Mitchell, Mark Billingham, John Connolly, Val McDermid. The list is endless.

Do you like to plan strategically, or do you let the characters lead the way?
I do plan, I like to sit down and plot what I think the story is about. However once I start to actually write there’s no telling what’s going to happen because the characters do start to take over.

If you could sit down and have lunch with any author, who would you choose and why?
It would have to be the mighty, one and only Stephen King. I need to thank him for scaring the crap out of me in my teenage years and for inspiring me to become a writer. I would love to find out if he still follows the charts and whether he minds that I’ve knocked him off  his number one spot in the contemporary horror chart quite a few times.

Is there a particular part of the writing process which you enjoy more than others?
The plotting and the first draft. I love it when I get a new idea and know that this is going to make a great book, I also love the freedom of writing a first draft. There’s so much joy in writing a story just for yourself, the hard work comes when you have to start editing.

When it comes to the cover of a book, how important do you feel they are?
Hugely important, for me I like them to tell me about the story I’m about to read. Although you should never judge a book by its cover it does help if it stands out.

How do you keep track of your writing progress? Do you use daily word goals? Do you aim to get a set number of chapters written?
To keep a track of my progress I use my huge whiteboards and post it notes. I’m the post it note queen, I can’t really use daily word count goals or set a number of chapters because I lead such a mad, hectic life. I work shifts and have too many kids. So what I do is write as much as I can, whenever I can. I don’t believe in putting yourself under pressure, unless there’s a looming deadline.

Tell us the top three books you’ve read so far in 2016.
I’m afraid to say I have a huge list on my Kindle of books to read, but the only ones I’ve read so far this year are The Silent Twin by Caroline Mitchell and The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryzanda which I loved. I’m so busy writing my own books at the moment I can’t wait to take a couple of week off to catch up with my reading.

When did your love of writing first begin to blossom?
I think as soon as I could read, I would sit down and make little paper booklets with my stories in. However it really took off after I finished reading a book, I can’t even remember who wrote it and I thought to myself ‘I could do that’ so I did.

How did you celebrate your most recent publication day?
I’m embarrassed to say I was working so I didn’t really have chance to do much. I have a new book coming out in September so I’m going to take the day off and drink champagne like I’ve been promising myself.

What are your thoughts on the book-blogging community?
They are amazing, I think we owe them so much because there is nothing like a recommendation from someone who has read your book and recommended it to others. So a huge thank you to you all from me.

Which, if any, other genre would you like to try and write in?
Dark Crime Fiction.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far in your writing career? 
I think seeing my books pushing Stephen King off his number one spot will always be my favourite. That and seeing the paperback of The Ghost House on the shelf in WH Smiths for the very first time will always stay in my heart.

Are you working on anything at the moment? If so, tell us a little bit about it.
I’m currently working on a brand new straight crime series which is very exciting.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
To never, ever give up. It doesn’t matter whether you are published or unpublished you are a writer and you should be very proud of that. The only difference between them is  a published writer is an unpublished who never gave up.

What do you class as a successful writing day?
Getting to my office as early as possible where I can stick the kettle on, stare at my whiteboards and then get cracking without being disturbed for a couple of hours.

Writing in an apartment in New York City or writing in a cottage in the English countryside?     
An apartment in New York City with a view of the Rockerfeller Centre and the Empire State Building would be just perfect.

Writing with a cup of tea or writing with a cup of coffee?
It has to be coffee, every single time.

Writing with a sandwich or writing with a cupcake?
A cupcake to go with my coffee, but I’m forever trying to diet so it’s usually a cereal bar.

Writing with music or writing in silence?
Music, I try and do a playlist for each book.

Writing outside in the sunshine or writing inside as the snow falls?
Inside with the snow falling and the fire burning.

And lastly, if someone told you that they wanted to be a writer, what would you tell them?
To write what you love and to never give up no matter how disheartening it all might seem at times, because when you type the end on a piece of work there is no better feeling.

About the Author
Helen lives in a small town called Barrow-in-Furness with her husband and five children and has done since she was born. It gets some bad press, but really is a lovely place to live. Surrounded by coastline and not far from the beautiful Lake District. She has always loved writing and reading, she loves reading books which make the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Unable to find enough scary stories to read she decided to write her own. 

Her debut novel 'The Ghost House' was published by Carina UK in October 2013 and went on to become a best seller along with the rest of the Annie Graham series. The Secrets of the Shadows, The Forgotten Cottage, The Lake House and book five which is soon to be released The Girls in the Woods.

You can find Helen Phifer on Facebook | Twitter | helenphifer.com