Category Archives: Interviews

Celtic Connexions welcomes Gilli Allan

Celtic Connexions is thrilled to welcome author, Gilli Allan, fresh from her interview at Radio Stafford. No need to worry about hyperventilating here, Gilli. This is a really laid back, relaxed place but in case you do, I am prepared.

So we won’t beat around the bush any longer, we’ll get straight to the fire from the frying pan… well sort of. We’ll at least put Gilli on the hot seat.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and what initially sparked you to write.

I suspect I’ve always been a writer.  Long before I was capable of committing more than a few laborious sentences to the page, I routinely developed long and complex stories in my head, peopled typically with fairies, princes and princesses and the sons and daughters of red-Indian chieftains.  And at primary school, instead of the usual playground games, I forced my friends to enact these dramas.

The idea that I could write down the story I wanted to read did not occur to me until I was ten or thereabouts. Inspired by Georgette Heyer, my fifteen year old sister had begun to write her own Regency Romance.  I copied my big sister.  Set in the olden days, my plot revolved around a party of ladies visiting a lighthouse.  They were trapped there by bad weather.  During the storm, my young hero – the 16 year old son of the lighthouse keeper – fell on the rocks. Confined to a couch by his not too serious injuries, he was nursed by my young heroine. My sister finished her novel, but my imagination and energy failed after only three or four illustrated pages of a small format notebook. But the writing seed had been planted and I continued with the hobby through my teenage.

The ‘love on a lighthouse’ story was a one-off.  Although I did enjoy those Regency romances so beloved of my sister, my own writing settled into a more contemporary style, and dwelt in a darker, seedier world – a world I had no experience of.  I was a lazy and innocent middle-class teenager.  Doubtless I was compensating, through my romantic fantasies, for my lack of a real love life.  I had to rely entirely upon my imagination and, unsurprisingly, never finished anything. I’m sure I bored my friends witless by insisting on reading passages out to them in the break times of the girl’s grammar school I attended.  An experience which wasn’t enhanced for them by the fact I couldn’t get through more than a few sentences without giggling and getting embarrassed by the rude bits (and by rude I mean nothing more risqué than kissing. I was nothing like the bold, sassy teenagers of today!).

I never took seriously the idea of writing as a profession. After all, writers were clever, educated people.  I was neither.  I wasn’t a star pupil at school. I wasn’t even particularly outstanding in English. My parents were both artists.  They never discouraged my writing, but it was ignored. Their interest in my notebooks was not engaged by my literary pubescent outpourings, but by the doodles and illustrations which lavishly embellished them.  It was clear where they thought my talents lay.  I left school at 16 with just enough exam passes to get me into art-college.  In my early adult life I stopped writing.

My career was in advertising where I worked as an illustrator.  When I stopped work to look after my young son, I started writing again.

2. Torn and Life Class aren’t your first two novels. Can you tell us a bit about your earlier works?

The ‘love on a lighthouse’ story was a one-off.  Though I loved to read those Regency romances that had inspired my sister, my own writing swiftly settled into a more contemporary style, and dwelt in a darker, seamier world than the writing of Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer inhabited.

When I started to write again, after having my son, Tom, it was with the serious intention of finishing the book and getting it published.  The book was a contemporary love story, but although it followed many of the tropes of the category romance (I originally intended it for Mills & Boon), it was unconventional.

My heroine was a young woman whose very first love affair had ended in pregnancy, threatening her budding career.  The story opens when she is in hospital and going through a miscarriage. The romance is between her and the OB & GYN consultant!  When I first had the idea it made me laugh.  I thought: ‘If I can carry this off, I can do anything’. Just Before Dawn was the first novel I ever finished. Given my subsequent experience, I am now astounded it was almost immediately taken on by a publisher, the then new Love Stories.

At the time characterized as the “thinking woman’s Mills & Boon”, Love Stories was a one woman band.  Anne Dewe was looking for un-clichéd stories about women and relationships; stories with a love-theme but which need not be conventionally romantic.  My book fitted the bill.  Just Before Dawn went through its fair share of editing before publication.

Now, feeling full of confidence, I let my hair down and wrote the novel of my heart.  Desires & Dreams, also published by Love Stories, revisited the darker world of my teenage imagination. It was still a love story, but it totally subverted the ‘romance’ stereotypes.

The heroine feels suffocated and bored in her relationship.  She feels there is something missing. She fantasizes about having an affair with an old boyfriend.  On her way to meet him for a lunch-date in London, she’s accosted by a street artist.  He flatters and romances her while drawing her portrait and, already subconsciously primed to go off the rails, she becomes enthralled.  But the face he shows to ‘punters’ is very different to the real man. Poor, bad-tempered and obsessive, she couldn’t have made a worse choice.  But their fatal meeting changes both their lives.  This book is not an HEA!

Both my books were published in hardback, using my own artwork for the cover designs.  Sadly, a few years after publishing Desires & Dreams, Love Stories folded. It was unable to get the promotion, marketing and distribution to gain success for itself or its authors. This was a time when publishing was going through a lot of changes, and moving from a gentlemanly profession to big business.  What became important was not bringing on a new writer who was exploring a slightly off-beat and unproved area of romantic fiction, but publishing the latest slam-dunk best seller, or a new writer who could be described as ‘the next Joanna Trollope’ or whoever. My reflections on my lack of success can perhaps be discounted as special pleading, and the truth is – no one liked what I was writing!  Whatever the real reason, I’ve been unable to find a new mainstream publisher for any new work, from that that day to this.  Thank heaven for digital Indie publishing.

3. Have the rights on your first two novels reverted back to you? If so, would you consider e-publishing them?

Yes they have, many years ago.  In fact, after the rights reverted, the books were taken on by a then new, POD publisher who republished them in paperback, again with my own art work for the covers.  Sadly I believed what I was told about marketing and distribution. And didn’t understand the amount of work I needed to do to get the books noticed and sold.  Also, I think they’d even then passed their sell-by, and were becoming very out of date. They were written in the 1980s before mobile phones and the internet, let alone the twin towers, and the banking collapse.  I feel I would need to do an awful lot of work on them if I was going to reset them in the modern world.  Or I could leave them as they are, and market them as historicals!

4. You’re a member of the Romantic Novelists Association. Can you tell us what that means to you?

More than anything the RNA provides support and a network of friends who understand what it is to be a writer. Before I joined I knew no other writers.  My first two novels were published with no help or guidance from anyone, other than my publisher.  I lived then in Coulsdon, a town in Surrey within striking distance of London. It was only after my husband took a job in Cheltenham, and we moved to Gloucestershire, that I first found out about the Romantic Novelists Association.  I joined immediately and I’m very glad I did.  Apart from anything else, it provides an important component of my social life.

I have never been able to profit from the RNA’s wonderful New Writers Scheme because I was already a published author when I joined.  And I have to admit, it has been a slightly galling experience to meet so many unpublished writers in those early days, people like Katie Fforde (who lives just 2 or 3 miles away from me as the crow flies) and to watch them find publishers, sign contracts and go from nowhere to bestsellers, while I languished – the years steadily piling up since my flash-in-the-pan ‘success’.

5. In addition to the RNA, are you a member of any other writing groups/platforms?

I contribute to several on-line discussion platforms:  ROMNA, the on-line newsgroup of the RNA, British Romance Fiction and Post Chick Lit, and I’m a member of the collection of Indie writers, Famous Five plus. The last two are Facebook sites.  I also post regularly on several other groups.  I don’t belong to a real-life writing group.  Maybe I should but there’s not enough time in the world.

6. Can you tell us about Torn? And Life Class?


You can escape your old life, but can you ever escape yourself?

ISBN =9781458003409

Jessica Avery is a woman in her early thirties with a three year old son, Rory.  She has made a series of wrong choices in her life – job, men and life-style.  Her job came to a disastrous conclusion.  The men in her life have let her down and her life-style involved too many pills, parties and promiscuity. But she believes that by quitting her old relationship and moving from London to the country, she has escaped all that.  Her choice now is to live a steady, responsible life in a tranquil new environment, putting her son’s needs and her role as mother as her number one priority.

But she finds country life less serene and bucolic than she expected. Her ex-partner tracks her down and assaults her as she leaves a local pub.  Luckily, a witness to the encounter steps in and helps to defuse the situation, but she is left badly shaken.  As an in-comer – and even worse, an ex-investment banker – Jessica is not made very welcome by the local mothers.  Then there is the management of the rural landscape – the interests of commerce versus the preservation of the environment – which begins to engage her interest and concern. She wonders if leaving London was the right move.

The narrative is played out against the low-key background story of a proposed by-pass to the local town. Initially Jessica favours a new road until she realizes the route it might take, tearing through the landscape she’s come to love.  She is torn between the pragmatic and the romantic decision. The friends Jess makes represent the differing positions. There is Danny Bowman, the counter-culture shepherd; his employer, James Warwick, affluent widowed farmer and father to three year old daughter, Sasha; Gilda Warwick, James’s match-making mother; and Sheila, the feminist nursery school owner.

The title – ‘Torn’ – can also be understood as referring to the personal choices which confront Jessica.  Despite vowing she wants no emotional entanglements in her life, she is attracted to two very different men.  She finds, to her cost, that in the face of temptation it is not so easy to throw off old habits and responses.  She is a woman who claims she has never been in love. Eventually she is prompted to re-evaluate this stance and to admit to herself, that beyond an undeniable physical attraction, she has indeed fallen in love, but with which one – the suitable man or the unsuitable boy?


About art, life, love and learning lessons

(chosen as book of the week 1/7/12 on Radio Stafford FM’s Sunday afternoon book programme).

The narrative follows four members of the class, who meet once a week to draw the human figure. All have failed to achieve what they thought they wanted in life. They come to realize that it’s not just the naked model they need to study and understand. Their stories are very different, but they all have secrets they hide from the world and from themselves. By uncovering and coming to terms with the past, maybe they can move on to an unimagined future.

Dory says she works in the sex trade, the clean-up end. She deals with the damage sex can cause. Her job has given her a jaundiced view of men, an attitude confirmed by the disintegration of her own relationships. The time seems right to pursue what she really wants in life, if she can work out what that is. She moves back from London to the country town where she grew up and where her sister still lives, yet she remains undecided whether to make it a permanent move. She’s always been clear eyed realist – love doesn’t figure in her view of the future – and yet she finds herself chasing a dream.

Stefan is a single-minded loner, whose only and overriding ambition is to make a living from his sculpture. So how the hell did he find himself facing a class of adults who want their old teacher back? If he can sell the big old house he’s inherited, he’ll be able to finance himself and concentrate on his work, and maybe give up the part-time teaching job. Love is an emotion he long ago closed off  ̶  it only leads to regret and shame  ̶  but it creeps up on him from more than one direction. Is it time to admit that letting others into his life is not defeat?

Fran – Dory’s older sister – is a wife and a stay-at-home mother without enough to keep her occupied. Her husband’s early retirement plans throws her into a panic. She sees her life closing down and narrowing into staid middle-age. On a collision course with her mid-life crisis, Fran craves the romance and excitement of her youth. An on-line flirtation with an old boyfriend becomes scarily obsessive, putting everything she really loves at risk.

Dominic is a damaged child. He has lived his life knowing all about sex but nothing about love. If he can only find his mother perhaps he can make sense of his past. But perhaps it is a doomed quest and it’s time to look to the future? If he can grow up enough to accept the help and love that’s on offer here and now, he has the chance to transform his life.

7. Which have your found the most difficult – the actual writing/editing of your novels, or the marketing and promotion?

A hard question to answer. I am not one of those writers who are bubbling geysers of plots and new ideas. In fact I’ve described starting a new book as like carving a block of granite with a teaspoon.  I begin with my characters and their back stories, and the scenario in which they come together. I might have a few elements in my mind about the story, but other than those few building blocks it’s always very nebulous and ill-defined.  It’s a type of approach aptly described ‘as into the mist’. (I apologize for mixing my granite and my mist metaphors!) In fact, when I was writing TORN I truthfully had NO idea how I was going to resolve it until I was within a couple of chapters of the end.  It was good.  I feel it made it fresh.  If I didn’t know, then the reader didn’t know either.

It’s the characters who tell you what’s going to happen.  And it’s wonderful and a bit magical when you suddenly get that ‘Of course!’ moment, and everything slots into place.  That’s what makes writing worthwhile – when the story catches fire and races off with you.  You’re left running behind, trying to catch up and get it all down. That’s when you need to be disciplined about the other things in life, like getting dressed, and doing the shopping, the washing and the ironing.

So then there’s the promo and marketing. I’m afraid I’m one of those typically English self-effacing types and find all that sort of thing terribly difficult.  In some ways it’s easier these days, in that you don’t have to telephone people and persuade them you’re the best thing since sliced bread. You can email.  And being digitally published it makes sense to use as many on-line opportunities that I can identify.  But I still don’t take advantage of every opportunity or ‘put myself out there’ as much as I could (or should?) For one thing, it all takes so much time.  I’m not a natural typist, I don’t think in perfect grammatical sentences, and the right words don’t necessarily come to me immediately. So, even just writing emails, I have to edit and correct far more than some people.

8. What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

To become a published writer you need to be resilient, tenacious, obstinate, persistent and obsessive. You even need to have a degree of selfishness. In other you have to be bloody-minded.  Think of the ‘wobbly man’  ̶   one of those figures with a heavy rounded base. Though they do fall over if punched, they don’t stay down. They swing around and bob back up again.

And if you truly believe you’ve got what it takes, don’t just talk about it, do it!  There are always reasons to put it off.  But don’t wait until you have the time, until the children are off your hands, until you’ve gone part-time or you’ve retired.  If you procrastinate now, you may never begin, let alone finish.  If you really have a book (or books) in you, you will find a way!

Thanks so much for dropping by today, Gilli. It’s been a blast! And you didn’t need your hyperventilating bag.

You can follow Gilli online at the following links:

Writer Cramped. Gilli Allan’s Blog
On Facebook Gilli Allan
On Twitter @gilliallan
And over at Famous Five Plus

Lovehappyending Feature Author, Richard Holmes, launches his first book in the Fragments of Divinity series

LAHE logo
“The first book in the Fragments Of Divinity series. An innovative publication of blog style articles that deal with potentially complicated spiritual subjects in an easy to read and understand way. based mainly on the author’s own actual experiences, these delightful articles will provide both inspiration and insight to the reader, and will also answer many of those nagging questions that you thought you would never receive answers to. A truly inspirational read.”



About the Author
Richard was born in London in 1955 and has lived a very topsy turvey life that hit rock bottom as we entered the new millennium.

I always felt like a bit of a misfit, not really belonging anywhere. This is illustrated by the fact that I left school at 15 with no qualifications and would have been asked to leave had I not done so voluntarily. By the time I was 17 I’d had 24 jobs and was just not able to settle anywhere.”

Out of frustration and boredom Richard joined the army in 1976, but this did not work out either and he left at the end of 1979. After a three month interim period Richard went off to Germany to work and remained abroad for six years. It was during his time in the army and in Germany that he succumbed excessively to the temptations of alcohol.

I had taken certain drugs at a younger age but my body had not responded well to this punishment. Because of this I had no trouble giving up the drugs but alcohol represented a different proposition, and for many years I sought solace in this substance which inevitably led to depression”.

Richard returned to the UK in 1986 and by the mid 1990’s found himself in a pretty sorry state. Things came to a head during the latter part of 2000 when Richard’s life seemed to sink down to an all-time low.

Finally, out of the darkness there came a light and in 2001 I found my spiritual pathway giving me a purpose in life“.

These days Richard lives in Tetbury, Gloucestershire and has been working as a medium for over ten years. He runs workshops in various spiritual topics, gives private consultations for guidance along life’s pathway and also tutors on a one-to-one basis in meditation and spiritual awareness. He is a Reiki healer, psychic surgeon, spiritually inspired artist and gives profound interpretations of dreams.

You can find Richard here:

Facebook: Author Richard Holmes
Twitter: @atmicsplendour

And his books here:

Janice Horton celebrates her First Blogiversary

Celtic Connexions welcomes Scottish author, Janice Horton, as she celebrates her First Blogiversary

Take it away Janice!

Today and over this whole weekend, I’m celebrating my First Blogiversary over at and I’ve so much to celebrate!

Who would have thought that in the course of just one year, I could have made so many new friends and been given so many exciting opportunities. Who knew that social networking isn’t just about making virtual connections but making real friends? It was how Melanie and I first ‘met’- on my launch day blog event – so we are celebrating our year of friendship and success together too!

This time last year I was just about to launch my first ebook ‘Bagpipes & Bullshot’ and was apprehensive about starting a Blog and joining Twitter. I had no idea what was in store for me and to be fair I had very few expectations. I certainly didn’t expect my whole world to be turned upside down!

A year ago, I didn’t have a clue that both the ebooks I would launch from my new blog would go on to be Amazon Bestsellers. I didn’t expect that from a single timeous tweet on Twitter I would be invited to write an article for ‘Friday Magazine’ the most popular English magazine in the United Arab Emirates. I certainly didn’t imagine that through my tentative first posts and tweets I had caught the eye of Linn B. Halton, the founder of and that I was about to be invited to join her in an elite and innovative website project – not as not just an author – but an associate editor.

Who would have thought it all possible?

So do help me to celebrate my blogging year by popping over to my blog and joining in the fun. There are yummy treats on offer as well as my latest ebook, which is on Amazon today and over the weekend completely free of charge. Yes, my five star rated novel about a media stalked and disillusioned celebrity chef entitled ‘Reaching for the Stars’ is FREE. It’s my blogiversary gift to you! So please download ‘Reaching for the Stars’ – and if you already have it on your Kindle – why not recommend it to a friend? Leave a comment on my blog today or retweet one of my tweets @JaniceHorton to be in the draw for the yummy gifts!

Janice’s Blogiversary Blog:

The Link to or for your FREE copy of ‘Reaching for the Stars’

Find Janice Horton’s books on and

Janice’s Facebook Page:

Follow on Twitter: @JaniceHorton

And on:

My Road to Publication

It’s been long and filled with many setbacks along the way. But if it had been a smooth ride from the beginning, it wouldn’t have been as rewarding.

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King told of having to replace the nail he hung his rejection letters on with a spike. Well I, too, feel that way, although I prefer to think of it as having enough of them to wallpaper a room.

I joined a writers group but this first one wasn’t what giving me what I needed so left them when my membership expired. About the same time a small group was forming in my hometown so I joined them. This was much better for me. During this time, I heard about the Ottawa Romance Writers Association and went to two of their meetings/workshops as a guest and attended their 2008 conference. That was an educational experience! So I joined Romance Writers of America and this chapter and have seen my writing improve tenfold if not more.

Along the way, I discovered Brian Henry, aka Quick Brown Fox and began attending his workshops… Mississauga, Kingston, Brampton, Sudbury… I’ve learned so much from Brian that I can’t begin to put it all in one small blog post.

My novel's cover created by Aidana WillowRaven
Then last fall, I heard about an online Writers Conference and signed up to pitch to an editor. Well the rest is history. My road to publication is nearing the end. I have a contract, a talented cover artist, fantastic editor, and a great company to be associated with – 4RV Publishing LLC.

Passionate about books?

A new summer experience…

presents …. a Summer Audience

of Readers and Authors at Sir William Romney’s School,

Tetbury, Gloucestershire in the UK


Passionate about books? Interested in new authors, writing in general, and gaining an insight into what a writer’s world is all about from that very first idea through to the final novel? This fun day out is hosted by loveahappyending, an interactive Reader/Author website.

 Keynote speaker: celebrated author Jeannie Johnson

A Summer Audience is a relaxed and friendly event aimed at READERS and those who think they might like to begin writing. Fun, informative and a chance to chat with a passionate, talented and enthusiastic group!

Throughout the day there will be:

*        Interesting talks & readings by authors you may have already read and some exciting newcomers

*        How to get published … find out about the various options open to writers

*        Learn a little more about the project—and how to become an Associate Reader

*        A chance to attend a fun workshop on the day to learn about the writing process

*        Cast your vote for the Author competition – one lucky voter will win a stack of books

*        Look at the displays and examples of some new Authors’ work; buy signed copies

*        Branding and self-publicity — take part in a discussion and let our Authors know what YOU think

Saturday 16 June 2012


Light lunch included

 coffee at 9.30am

             £20 per ticket if purchased before 1.3.2012  (£25 after that date)

To purchase tickets online:-

Alternatively to reserve tickets and pay by cheque Email:

 or phone: (UK)  07906377571; (Int) +44 7906377571

2012 – an exciting year unfolds

2012 has begun with a bang for me! Actually, the bang started back in October 2011 when I was offered and accepted contract with 4RV Publishing for my novel, A Shadow in the Past.

Each year the Ottawa Romance Writers’ Association, of which I’m a member, awards members for their writing accomplishments. Two years ago, I won their Genesis and Phoenix awards that recognized the fact that I submitted a partial (Genesis) and a complete manuscript (Phoenix) but was rejected. But since there are many who never even get that far, I think I did all right. This year, I’m eligible for the Jo Beverly First Book Award because I was offered and accepted a contract in 2011. My award will be presented at our Valentines Brunch next month.

This past Saturday morning, along with another member of my local writing group, Writers’ Ink, I recorded a show for our local cable TV company’s Readers’ Corner program which will be aired in the near future. It was primarily on our group, but I was able to talk about my novel, although not in as much detail as I would have liked.

The work on my novel’s cover is underway. My cover artist is the talented Aidana WillowRaven. After visiting her website and seeing her brilliant work, I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve for my novel.

This morning, I woke to find out I’d been assigned my lead editor, Carla Ralston! According to my publisher, Carla is excellent. I’m looking forward to working with her.

Since January 1st, things have moved at an unbelievably fast pace and will continue to do so until my book is out. Oh what excitement lies ahead!

I’ve got loads of things planned for the big event. A launch here in town at The Wedgewood Retirement Resort, a blog tour, readings and signings at assorted venues throughout Eastern Ontario, along with another interview for Readers’ Corner and possibly (fingers crossed) for another program called The Authors.

I’ll be posting more here as my adventure unfolds as well as putting updates on my website so keep checking in. Feel free to leave comments here and/or sign my website’s guestbook. I’d love to hear from you!

The Star Child Blog Tour with Stephanie Keyes

I’m thrilled here at Celtic Connexions to host debut YA Fantasy novelist, Stephanie Keyes, on her blog tour for her launch of The Star Child.

So, over to you Steph. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Sure Melanie! Let me start off by saying thank you for hosting me on your blog! It’s very exciting to be here. So, let’s see, I am a Corporate Learning and Development employee by day and a wife and mother at night. My husband and I just celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary and we have two little boys, one 4 1/2 and one 2 months. We also have a little cock-a-poo who thinks she rules the house. Actually, I think she does, who am I kidding?

Did you always feel compelled to write? Yes, I’ve always been writing. I wrote my first novel at 14, which was a dedication to Olympic Figure Skating Gold Medalist Brian Boitano, that detailed a fictional romance between the pair of us. Did I know how to live or what? Needless to say we never got together. However, I moved on to different topics and have spent the time ever since writing – short stories mostly.  When my father was diagnosed with Cancer in 2007, I found that I really needed an outlet for all of my emotions. That was when I started the Star Child. It wasn’t even a book in my mind for a while, I just called it “The Project”. However, a book it was.

Who were your favourite authors growing up? My favorite book was “Gone With the Wind”, which I remember reading about fifteen times in the seventh grade. I loved Margaret Mitchell. Aside from that I think I read every book in the Nancy Drew and Anne of Green Gables series. I also read classical fiction, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and Victor Hugo. It really didn’t matter what was put in front of me, I would read it.

What authors do you prefer to read now? Well, because I am writing for a YA audience, I’ve been reading alot of that genre to keep in touch with what that audience is reading. Some of the authors that I’ve really enjoyed are J.K. Rowling, O.R. Melling, Cate Tiernan, Melissa de La Cruz, Carrie Jones, and PC and Kristin Cast.

Do you think they influenced your writing in any way? Absolutely. JK Rowling really intrigues me because she takes figures in history and mythology and gives them a real place in her stories. You think that they’re fictional when you read the books but then you find that they actually existed and they’ve just been placed in a context to suit the story. You’ll see that influence in The Star Child. Although it’s fiction and weaves in quite a bit of Celtic folklore and mythology, I’ve included many figures in the storyline and simply placed them in another context.

Cover design by Cathy Helms, Avalon Graphics

What made you decide on the YA fantasy genre? What really got me hooked on Fantasy is the idea that there could be an entirely different world co-existing with our own. Any story that blends reality and fantasy is interesting to me. The thought of something magical happening in between the day to day activities, for example, Kellen attending his graduation and stepping through a portal into another place, that’s something I would love to have happen to me. Imagine going to pick up milk and you find there’s a gateway to another universe in the dairy section below the sour cream.

I understand the idea for The Star Child came to you in the shower. Can you elaborate? Definitely. I was getting into the shower in the smallest bathroom in the world (smiles) when I looked out the window and saw a single star. Two words popped into my head: star & child. I got into the shower and started to think about a young woman who lights the stars every night. I didn’t know her name and I hadn’t even made a connection to Celtic mythology yet. However, I knew there would be a girl. Calienta and her immediate family, with the exception of Lugh, her father, are all fictional – they don’t even appear in legend.

In addition to your blog tour, what other methods of self-promotion have you employed? I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In. but I also have my own blog on Blogger, Stephanie Keyes and my website Stephanie Keyes. This month, the trailer for The Star Child came out on You Tube. I am also a featured author on and there will be a promotion there. Finally, I’ll be targeting local bookstores and book clubs.

Where can we buy The Star Child?  The Star Child is available in paperback and ebook format on Amazon, Barnes and Noble Nook, and Smashwords.

Thank you, Stephanie, for dropping by Celtic Connexions today. You are very welcome! I appreciate the invitation and good luck on the release of your own novel next summer!

Stephanie says she got the idea for The Star Child in the shower. What’s the strangest place you’ve been when a brilliant idea struck you? Use the comments section below and you could win a Starbucks gift card! Then use it to buy your coffee to accompany your read of The Star Child! Only comments posted on December 15th are eligible.


Author Harry Leslie Smith takes his readers to street level in his memoirs about the great depression the second world war and life during troubled times

Today, Celtic Connexions welcomes Harry Leslie Smith, author of 1923: A Memoir, Hamburg 1947, and The Barley Hole Chronicles.

Those who have read your first book, 1923: A Memoir, will know your background. For the benefit of those who haven’t can you tell us a bit about yourself?
First of all I’d like to thank you for interviewing me on your blog. I was born in Barnsley, Yorkshire in 1923 to a family who was making a rapid descent into poverty and hunger. Our plunge to the bottom was assisted by bad luck and the global depression which washed away a great many people poor, middle class and even the wealthy in the 1930’s. So my youth was not fortuitous. When the Second World War came, I was glad to get out of my surroundings which I think was par for the course with a great many young men of my generation. I enlisted with the RAF and was a wireless operator. I had what you use to be called a “good war.” I didn’t experience many horrors until after the Germans surrendered and I was part of the occupation forces in Hamburg, Germany. It was there I met my wife and eventually we moved back to Britain. After some years living in Halifax, Yorkshire, we eventually emigrated to Canada where I worked in the Oriental Carpet trade.

What was your motivation behind writing your memoirs?
I think I have had several motivations behind writing my memoirs. The first was to purge myself of unpleasant memories of my childhood and honestly explore my relationship with my parents and my past. I also wanted to leave a testament to my children, my grand children which would give them a greater sense of who I am as a man and where their history begins. There was also the need to preserve the social history of those times. Many have written about the great depression, the war and our post war existence in Europe but few have done it from street level. I wanted to write memoirs which capture the journey of an everyday man through some of the most tumultuous times in the 20th century.

Prior to your self-publishing journey, had you done any writing… articles, short stories etc?
Yes, I actually did some writing in the RAF and was published in some magazines for poetry and prose. I also did a lot of writing for trade magazines in the oriental carpet business.

Your books are available in e-book, paperback and hardcover. What made you decide to publish in all three formats?
I wanted to make sure that I covered every base for potential readers. I hope one day that my books will also be available as audio books.

If I’m not mistaken the Barley Hole Chronicles are 1923: A Memoir and Hamburg 1947 under one cover. Why did you decide to do that when they are both available as standalones?
Although 1923 and Hamburg 1947 are standalones, they form a story arc of my life and I thought that it might be beneficial for the reader to have both titles under one cover. It is also more economical for the reader if they buy Barley Hole Chronicles rather than each book. They save around 50% on both the traditional book price and the same goes for the e-book.

You launched The Barley Hole Chronicles and Hamburg 1947 on Black Friday. Do you feel it was a success?
At 88, launching two books at once is a success whatever the outcome. The books are doing well and it is only because of my many friends and readers that assist in getting the word out. There is so much selection now for readers that it takes a lot of effort to be heard over the clamour of each new book being released. I am pleased with the outcome and feel that my works will survive longer than me and my story will not die upon my departure.

Are you working on any more projects? If so, can you tell us about them?
Yes, I am working on the third installment of my memoirs The Empress of Australia which will complete my memoir trilogy. It should be out in late 2012. I am also working on a book about the descendants of Benjamin Smith my great grandfather who was born in 1812. It will be about how far the generations have separated and grown in 200 years.

If you live in the UK, you can buy Harry’s books from these links:
1923: A Memoir Kindle edition for £0.86, Paperback for £14.38 and Hardcover for £20.94.

Hamburg 1947: A Place for the Heart to Kip Kindle edition for £1.43 Paperback for £8.98 and Hardcover for £18.95

The Barley Hole Chronicles is currently available in Kindle format only for £0.86.

For North American residents, you can buy the Kindle editions of Harry’s books from
1923: A Memoir for $0.99, Hamburg 1947: A Place for the Heart to Kip for $1.99, and The Barley Hole Chronicles for $0.99.

US residents can order paperback and hardcover formats from at these links.
1923: A Memoir Paperback for $14.95 and Hardcover for $24.28.
Hamburg 1947: A Place for the Heart to Kip Paperback for $12.92 and Hardcover for $21.24 and The Barley Hole Chronicles Paperback edition for $18.95.

Canadian residents can purchase paperback and hardcover formats from at these links.
1923: A Memoir Paperback for $15.70 and Hardcover for $19.71.
Hamburg 1947: A Place for the Heart to Kip Paperback for $18.53 and Hardcover for $28.85.
At this time, The Barley Hole Chronicles isn’t listed on

Harry’s links…
Loveahappyending author page:
Twitter: @1923Memoir

About the Author Harry makes his home in Toronto but also spends time in Great Britain and Portugal. He’s the father to 3 children and 2 grandchildren. When he’s not writing, he enjoys spending time with my family and friends, brisk walks, travel, good conversation, watching first rate movies, a glass of sherry and reading.


Shaz’s Stars interviews associate reader Dorothy Bush

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Shaz’s Stars – Welcome to the regular feature on ‘The Buzz’ of Shaz’s Stars!

Using sun sign astrology I will be interviewing Associate Readers to see how the traits of their sun sign affect their reading habits.

I hope you enjoy getting to know our new Associate Readers as much as I’ve enjoyed interviewing them.

Twitter @shazjera:

In the hot seat today I would like to welcome: Dorothy Bush

Q. Aquarians are one of the most loyal signs of the zodiac. Does this trait extend to the authors you choose to read? Do you read all the novels a favourite author has written?

This trait most definitely transfers to my reading style. When I find an author whose writing I enjoy I read everything they have, and I usually buy what they have and keep collections. I watch for their new work and look for their past work. Sometimes this means perusing used book stores to find back copies, but then that too is an enjoyable past-time for you never know what other treasure you might find. And now we have Amazon and E-Bay.

Q. Sometimes Aquarians need to retire from the world and become temporary loners. Reading suits this trait! When you feel the need to take time out of the world, is reading something you would choose to do to aid in recharging your batteries?

You hit the nail on the head with this observation Shaz! I cycle through periods of socializing and withdrawal. I socialize to the point that I become desperate for some alone time and then work to simplify my life and hibernate. I read though, all the time. It recharges my batteries; it relaxes me; it completes me. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t have a book on the go.

Q. Being fiercely independent and refusing to follow the crowd, Aquarians walk to the beat of their own drums. Do you ever read a novel because it is popular (even if it is not something you wouldn’t normally read) or do you choose to read whatever suits you at the time?

I have read novels because they are popular but usually because a friend has read it and wants to discuss it; not particularly because of the rave reviews. I probably shouldn’t admit to this, but I haven’t read one of the Harry Potter novels, nor have I watched the movies. They are on my ‘to read’ list but not a priority. I do, however, constantly look for new authors. There are thousands of great writers out there who just have not had the luck to be published traditionally, and when a debut novel comes out I’m usually quick to grab it.

Q. Aquarians are known for not making friends easily due to their own personal high ideals. Does this trait affect how you interact with the blogging/social networking community?

Yes, I was kind of afraid this was a trait. I get annoyed with frippery, foolishness, shallow people and ideas and this lack of tolerance shows in my friends list. It’s short. I find most people would rather ignore negative things that go on and just get through their days…I want to speak up if things aren’t right, I want to correct things. I like to have fun though and enjoy sharing bits of that on my blog and on Facebook. I guess it’s kind of one-sided, though, I post and maybe someone else reads it.

Q. Although intellectual, those born under the sun sign of Aquarius are known to lack tact and diplomacy (they don’t see why they should hide the truth). If you have read something that didn’t work for you, are you able to use tact and diplomacy when writing your book reviews?

Ah, yes, I’ve shocked many a person with my honesty and lack of tact. I’ve learned though over the years, to be more diplomatic, and if I truly can’t be diplomatic I don’t write a review. I have never given a bad review; I would never intentionally hurt someone by being negative about their work. A crushing review can totally kill a writer’s motivation.

Q. Aquarians dislike emotion and intimacy. Does this extend to the genres you choose to read?

You are good, Shaz. I didn’t know this was a trait. I just thought I had! My favourite genres are crime, mystery, thrillers and any of the cross-overs. I don’t mind a little romance or sex thrown into the mix, that’s part of life after all, but I tend to read those portions more for the technical composition than for the vicarious thrill. I like histories and westerns (if they are realistic); I like things that challenge what we know, like espionage and paranormal. Romance, strictly romance novels, fall rather short for me.

Q. It is said that Aquarians like living within their means despite the many temptations that are all around them. Do you see purchasing a book as a luxury? Do you use a library? Do you have any criteria for purchasing books?

Yes, Aquarians are a frugal lot. I KNOW purchasing books is a luxury and I do it anyway for authors I follow. I carry my list around and constantly look for books for my collections, but I’ll also purchase spontaneously because of the back-cover. I have found some fabulous writers that way. I am grateful I have the means to do that on occasion. I also use libraries, download novels in the public domain like the Gutenberg Project, borrow and trade. I’m quite shameless in my quest for more books.

Thank you very much for the interview Shaz. You are quite intuitive and it’s been a pleasure speaking with you.

Dorothy Bush lives in Eastern Ontario, Canada and works in the field of literacy and basic skills. An avid reader she also writes short stories, freelance articles and aspires to be a novelist. A member of a writing group in her home area, she looks after the newsletter and online presence which can be found here:

She is also a member of the Harlequin Readers Panel and has recently discovered www.loveahappyending where she is an Associate Reader. You can follow her own adventures in life by clicking through to:-

Facebook page Bikerhen:!/Bikerhen
Twitter A/C @Bikerhen:

Shaz’s Stars interviews author Janice Horton

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Shaz’s Stars interviews Janice Horton

Shaz’s Stars – Welcome to the regular feature on ‘The Buzz’ of Shaz’s Stars!

Using sun sign astrology I will be interviewing Authors to see how the traits of their sun sign affect their craft.

Authors will share with us how they’ve used positive characteristics as well as advice on how they’ve overcome negative ones.

I hope you enjoy getting to know our new Authors as much as I’ve enjoyed interviewing them.


Twitter @shazjera:


In the hot seat today I would like to welcome: JANICE HORTON

Hello Janice, thank you for letting us have a peek behind the scenes.  Your sun sign is PISCES.

Q. The 9 -5 life does not suit a Pisces due to a dislike of discipline and confinement so your chosen career suits you well. When did you decide to become a writer and did you have anyone to support you?

I didn’t actually decide to be a writer – I was born with a vivid imagination and so it sort of chose me. I’m very aware of my Piscean trait to swim about freely and I’d dearly love to be able to write all day every day in a place of my choosing. Unfortunately, my reward from writing hasn’t yet made me sufficiently financially independent, so like lots of other writers today with responsibilities, I’ve had to struggle with the discipline of turning up to my ‘day jobs’ which I like to think of in terms of being valuable research for my next book.

 Q. Pisceans are said to like music. Do you have any playing in the background while you write? What inspires you?

I love music and have eclectic tastes depending on my mood, although, I don’t like any sound around me when I’m writing. If I need to ‘switch off’ and clear my head I lie down, close my eyes, and listen to relaxing music on my iPod. A quick look at my playlist and I can tell you lately it’s been Jack Johnson, Sade, and even Pavarotti. When I feel like I need to loosen up, I put Santana on my sound system really loud and I dance. My favourite track to dance to is Santana’s ‘Smooth’. I can really lose myself in that one!

Q. Apart from Pisces being a water sign linked to creativity, Pisceans are also well known for being impractical and dreamy. How does this translate for you into having to be organised to meet a deadline?

I am certainly dreamy but I can keep a deadline. Problems arise when I have too many deadlines. I must have a practical streak in me somewhere because I constantly have to prioritise tasks to keep on top of things.

(Ed’s note: Janice probably has an Earth Ascendant or Moon sign, keep watching for further interviews using Ascendant/Moon signs)

Q. Personal experiences make great reads when written into a story. Pisceans do not like to reveal their private lives. Does it make you feel uncomfortable expressing anything that has affected you personally in your novels?

I express personal feelings in my writing all of the time by tapping into my own life experiences. Doing so gives me empathy with my characters and can influence how they might behave in certain circumstances – but I have never written about personal experiences. My storylines are fictional and for me that’s the fun of writing – I can make it all up!

Q. Pisceans are kind and compassionate and respond with sensitivity. Do any of your characters display these traits?

I like to think I am kind and sensitive but you know, when I need to be, I can also be quite tough. I believe the two fish symbol for Pisces also represents a two sided nature. In my novel, Bagpipes & Bullshot, the two main characters, Orley and Innes, both possess sensitivity and strength. It’s important to show vulnerability in a character as well as gusto, as it not only brings them to life on the page, it also makes for a satisfying story.

Q. Pisces is a spiritual sign – does it feel as if ideas sometimes come from no-where, as if they’ve dropped out of the ether?

I love it when that happens. It happens to most writers I know regardless of their astrological sign – some call it their ‘muse’ – I call it my ‘mojo’. Some days it is nowhere to be seen and the writing is a struggle. Then it will turn up unannounced and the story seems to write itself. It’s like magic!

Q. A negative trait for a Piscean is a strong dislike of being criticised. How do you feel about constructive criticism?

A personal criticism would hurt me deeply. I would ‘dwell’ on being upset and then I would feel angry and dismissive – as a way of protecting myself. However, constructive criticism is entirely different. I actively welcome it and feel lucky to receive it, especially if it comes from someone I trust and admire. I am fortunate to have a highly respected author as a writing mentor. She is always there to support me if I need her and offers valuable constructive advice when I feel unsure or negative about my writing.

Q. When Pisces find the right situations, they are completely engaged in what they are doing to the exclusion of all else. This translates into a workaholic! How do you deal with this trait? Do you set yourself a schedule for your writing?

I have three children, a husband, a home, lots of lovely friends, several part time jobs, and I like to get involved with lots of different writing projects – and there is no schedule – only priorities. It goes without saying that my writing is usually relegated to the bottom of the list but every now and again I make sure to give it priority. Luckily, my loved ones understand how important it is to me and that writing makes me happy.

Q. Pisces love style, luxury and pleasure. Do you include these in your settings?

Oh yes, I love to live well – and I like my characters to live well too – but I usually make them earn it! I suppose it comes from the belief that luxury and pleasure is all the sweeter if it is well deserved.

Q. When Pisces feel rejected they really do become low. In the publishing world, rejection is a well-known part of that life. How do you cope with rejection? Do you have any strategies to share with other authors?

Well, I’m a slippery fish when it comes to rejection, as somehow I’ve managed to avoid it. My first novel was published in paperback by the first publisher I sent it to from the Writer’s Handbook. Unusual, I know. Unfortunately, I’d just finished writing my second book when the publisher went out of business. So, having become eligible to join the Romantic Novelist’s Association, I sent the second manuscript to an Agent I met at a conference, who immediately asked for the full novel. The Agent read it and got back to me to say she was ‘tempted to take things further’ except that she didn’t normally handle the sort of dark humour I had written (Bagpipes & Bullshot) and so wouldn’t really know where to place it. As I both trusted and respected this Agent, I accepted that it might be a difficult novel to place and decided to have a go at publishing it myself, and that is how I have somehow managed to get to this stage of my writing career without ever having had a rejection. Unusual, I know!

 Bagpipes & BullshotAbout the Author: Janice Horton lives in Scotland and writes entertaining and humorous contemporary women’s fiction novels which are, for the most part, inspired by the romantic beauty of the heather-filled glens around her country cottage. When she’s not writing novels she writes lifestyle articles and has had work published in national magazines and regional newspapers. She’s also been involved in BBC Scotland’s ‘Write Here Write Now’ project.

Find out more about Janice at:-

Author Page:

Author’s Blog:
Author’s Website:

Twitter Account @JaniceHorton: