Friday, 26 February 2016

Book Club: Patricia Sands, author of the Love in Provence series

 Review and interview by Liza Perrat


For this week’s Triskele Bookclub, I’d like to introduce Canadian author, Patricia Sands. Patricia writes women’s fiction novels set in Provence, France and her own love affair with this country certainly shines through in her vivid descriptions of the history, customs, food, wine and beautiful landscape.

I have greatly enjoyed the first two novels of Patricia’s Love in Provence series: The Promise of Provence, of which my review first appeared on Bookmuse, and the second, Promises to Keep.

LP: Patricia, I believe you spend a part of the year in France? Whereabouts, and when did this love of France start?

PS: I’ll answer your last question first. My love affair with France began fifty years ago (Yikes! I’m always shocked when I say that out loud!) and has continued to grow into a full-blown romance. I’ve been fortunate to visit most regions of the country throughout my life on vacation. Then, for the past twenty years, my husband and I have spent extended stays varying from one to five months. We often fly through Paris and stay there for a week before heading south to the Côte d’Azur. Nice and Antibes are where we settle most frequently and our side trips are based from there. Since I began writing novels set in France in 2011, much of our exploring revolves around research I’m doing. It’s all a labour of love.

LP: Can you tell us a bit about the Women's Travel Network?

PS: This is an offshoot of Worldwide Quest travel company. WTN is Toronto-based and provides excellent trips for small groups of women. In 2014 they invited me to work with them to develop a tour based on my novel, The Promise of Provence. We spend five days in Nice with daily visits to places like Eze, St. Paul de Vence, Grasse, and, of course, Antibes. Then we travel to Avignon, with a stop in Aix-en-Provence along the way. During our five day stay in Avignon, we also explore the countryside of Provence. The trip is planned in June while lavender is in bloom. It’s a fabulous holiday and I love going along to share the places I write about. My friend and fellow author, Susan Sommers, co-leads the tours with me. We did two in 2014 and another is planned for 2017.

LP: What triggered the idea to set your novels in France?

PS: After the success of my first novel, The Bridge Club, I knew that I wanted to continue writing stories about older women. Because of my love for the south of France, it only seemed logical to set The Promise of Provence in that location. We lived in Antibes for five months while I wrote the first draft and, to be honest, if we did not have such a lovely big family in Canada, we would live there forever! Never mind, I’ll be happy with visits and living there in my books. I had no idea that The Promise of Provence would turn into a series. I heard from so many readers who wanted more of Katherine’s story that it was a pleasure to continue. The final part of the trilogy, I Promise You This, will be released by Amazon in May and is available now on pre-order. Although there is romance in these stories, the novels are more about a dramatic mid-life change in the life of Katherine Price after her husband suddenly leaves her. Location is like another character in my writing and my readers say they feel like they are in France as they read. That pleases me!

LP: I believe you’ve moved from independent publishing now? Can you tell us a little about the Lake Union Publishing imprint (Women's Fiction) of Amazon Publishing, and why you think you were approached by them?

PS: I was happily working away as an indie author, thanks to the amazing collegiality of that community and the support we all offer each other. Out of the blue, in January 2015, I received an email from a Senior Acquisitions Editor with Amazon’s Lake Union imprint. They were interested in acquiring the rights to my Love in Provence series and signed me to a contract. I have to say I was very proud to receive that invitation. One of the things they mentioned was that they became aware of me through my presence on social media and also the number of high reviews for my books. So, to all writers who get annoyed with the demands of social media, I say keep at it!

LP: What made you decide to publish with Amazon, rather than continuing to independently publish?

PS: I honestly don’t think I would have signed with anyone but Amazon. The primary reason being that they never stop promoting your book, even after that first rush of sales. That’s often not the case with traditional publishing houses. However, I still have the rights to The Bridge Club independently and can continue to self-publish in the future if I choose. I fall into the “hybrid” category, which I think is the best of both worlds.

LP: Do you have any input in the publishing process? If so, what?

PS: The support Amazon has offered has been most impressive. My editor is always available to discuss anything. All of the support I’ve received through the process of developmental editing, copyediting, proofreading, marketing, has been professional, friendly and first-rate. I’m definitely a fan. I have felt very included in the entire process. Cover development, promotional wording are all worked on together.

LP: Are you happy with this decision and will you continue this form of publishing?

PS: I am very happy with my connection with Amazon and they have first right of refusal to my next work. However, I have no qualms about continuing with independently published work as well. I love being part of the writing community and making the international connections that are so easily developed these days online. It’s an exciting time to be a writer.

LP: Can you give us any hints about the next story in the Love in Provence series?

PS: The third novel, I Promise You This, actually begins in Toronto where our protagonist, Katherine, has had to urgently return. When she does get back to France, the story lingers in the Loire Valley for a change of scene and then back to the Côte d’Azur (oops … that may be a spoiler …), where more surprises await. I’m actually going to continue with another trilogy that continues the lives of these characters, so I’m excited about that. Readers have asked and I’m thrilled to comply.

LP: It’s been lovely chatting with you, Patricia, and we wish you much ongoing success with your writing and your travels.

Thank you for inviting me. I’m a big fan of the Triskele group and it has been my pleasure to chat with you, Liza.

Patricia Sands lives in Toronto, Canada, when she isn’t somewhere else. An admitted travel fanatic, she can pack a bag in a flash and be ready to go anywhere … particularly the south of France, for her annual visit.

As of January, 2015, along with being a proud indie author, Patricia is also delighted to be under contract with Lake Union Publishing for her Love In Provence series. This is the women’s fiction arm of Amazon Publishing.

With a focus on travel, women’s issues and ageing, her stories celebrate the feminine spirit and the power of friendship. Encouraging women of all ages to stare down the fear factor and embrace change, Patricia has heard from readers (men too!) ages 20 to 83.

Her award-winning debut novel The Bridge Club was published in 2010 and the audiobook, read by Patricia, will be available soon.

Her second novel, The Promise of Provence received a 2014 National Indie Excellence Finalist Award in Literary Fiction. An Amazon Hot New Release in April 2013, The Promise of Provence was also a USA Best Book 2013 Finalist ~ Women’s Fiction.

Thanks to reader requests, The Promise of Provence, set in the south of France, became the beginning of the Love In Provence series. Promises To Keep, Book 2 in the series, was published in 2014. The rights to the series were then acquired by Amazon’s Lake Union Publishing, who relaunched Books 1 and 2 in October, 2015 and will publish I Promise You This (Book 3) in May, 2016. This last book of the trilogy is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

In June 2014, Patricia led two 10-day tours of the French Riviera and the countryside of Provence. These trips were based on The Promise of Provence, with the Womens Travel Network. Let her know if you would like to go with her and a small group of women. It’s the perfect trip for women traveling on their own or with good friends. She is already counting the days to the next tour which is scheduled for June 2017.

Find out more at Patricia’s Facebook Author Page, Amazon Author Page, Goodreads or her blog where you will find links to her books, social media, and monthly newsletter. The latter, sent once a month, contains special giveaways as well as her photography and information about the south of France, her home away from home. She would love to hear from you!

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Male Romance Authors - Interview with Charlie Maclean

By JJ Marsh

This week we welcome Charlie Maclean, author of Unforgettable – a funny, thoughtful, touching contemporary romance with a premise similar to that of Sliding Doors. What if we could live two parallel paths resulting from the decision of a moment? see review here

Before talk to Charlie, let’s take a minute to look at the genre. Contemporary modern romance, with pastel-shaded covers featuring silhouettes in high-heels and glitter, is dominated by women. Both as readers and writers. Indeed, occasional foolish debates flare over whether or not men can even write romance.


Of course men can write romance, and women can write science-fiction and anyone can write in any genre. Your gender dictates what you can do with your body, not your mind.

Here are ten of my favourite contemporary modern romances written by men, just to prove my point. In chronological order of reading

High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby
What it really means when you make someone a tape

Scratch, by Danny Gillan
There's a love story at the heart of this, but it isn't the one you think

Man and Boy, by Tony Parsons
Coming-of-age, but it’s the adult who grows up

My Fat Brother, by Jim Keeble
Idleness won’t cut it when the Barron brothers meet love, tragedy and a penguin

Time for Bed, by David Baddiel
Observations on ego and obsession, with fabulous set-pieces and blistering lines

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simison
Love as disruption told by an exceptional voice

Things My Girlfriend and I Argue About, by Mil Millington
The daily joys of cross-cultural married life with wickedly funny characters

The Humans, by Matt Haig
People and dogs as observed by someone who doesn’t do relationships

Us, By David Nicholls
Like Simison, Nicholls creates a character love changes for the better

Unforgettable, by Charlie Maclean
Tones of Shakespeare, but tragedy or comedy?

Over to our guest this week – Charlie Maclean...

Charlie’s debut novel, Unforgettable, is a sexy, gritty tale of present-day star-crossed lovers. 
As a passionate storyteller he has also drafted TV and films scripts. 
He lives between London and Brighton (UK) and is currently working on his next book, also a love story, this time set in Brighton. 

Details at

Which work most influenced you when growing up?

Some early favourites were I Am David by Anne Holm and Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian.

Where do you write?

I have my laptop or notebook with me at all times. At home, my writing desk is a square card table with fold-out legs and a green felt surface.

Who or what had the biggest impact on your creative life?

Tough question! I’ve never had a writing mentor; my writing has developed from reading lots of books and feedback from editors.

How far are you influenced by other media, such as music, TV or fine art?

Film and TV are particular influences. I’d love to see Unforgettable dramatised.

Do you have a phrase that you most overuse?   

I always try to be original.

Which writers do you enjoy?

There are so many. I’m going to say two great favourites, Iris Murdoch and William Boyd.

Why do you write?

It’s something I’ve always done and always felt the desire to do. I love stories and trying to find some human truth through them.

What makes you laugh?

My dear friends.

Do you have a guilty reading pleasure?

Rereading my favourite books rather than ones from my to be read pile.

Which classic do you wish you’d written?

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

Which book impressed you most last year?

It didn’t come out last year but my favourite read was This Is How You Lose Her, the collection of short stories by Junot Díaz.

Would you share what you’re working on next?

My next novel – also a love story – this time set on the South Coast of England, in Brighton.

Wild card: What’s the best way of spending a Sunday morning?

A couple of hours of writing, a run, then breakfast with strong coffee before climbing back under the bed covers, ideally with someone special.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Triskele Tuesday #litfests

On Triskele Tuesdays, the team get online for an hour (19.30GMT) and discuss a current issue on the literature/publishing scene.

If you've not participated in one of our Twitchats before, simply search for #triskeletuesday and join in. All opinions welcome.

On Tuesday 9 February, the Triskele Twitchat tackled LitFests.

#triskeletuesday #litfests
We posed a few questions: why, how, who and what for?

The Human Library at Chorleywood LitFest

Which are the best 'little' litfests out there?

Twitter came back with a flurry of replies:


@L1bCat recommended Not the Oxford Lit Fest
Stokey LitFest

Crouch End
Wray Castle for children
@brixtonbard flagged up BareLit 

@JJMarsh1 mentioned non-UK Züriliest
CrimeFest in Bristol 
(where the bar is a crime scene in itself according to @sheilab10 and @ChrisLongmuir)

Should litfests pay their authors?
Or should writers be grateful for the 'exposure'?


And is festival programming broad enough?

 The consensus is that readers are ready for anything. The problem is programmers playing safe.

In summary, readers and writers are interested in variety. They attend litfests to find out more about the books and authors they love, and to meet other readers. Writers felt very strongly that if caterers and venue hire is paid for, why not offer remuneration to the main attraction? Sponsorship was mooted as one option. Another element not mentioned overtly but clear from the discussion was how much enjoyment writers get from meeting their readers and other writers.

Conclusion: there's life in the litfest yet.

Next #triskeletuesday twitchat will be on 23 Feb on the subject of #comfortreads

Friday, 5 February 2016

Book Club: Jackie Griffiths, author of Ox Herding

 by Barbara Scott Emmett

I reviewed Jackie Griffiths’ prize-winning novel, Ox Herding for Bookmuse a little while ago. I was very much impressed by the way the metaphysical subject matter was tackled. 
Through a modern woman’s spiritual search, the novel explores a classic Chinese treatise and shows its relevance to a contemporary search for truth and meaning.

 Here Jackie talks about writing Ox Herding and winning the Quagga Prize:

“Too many judges turn straight to the front matter to examine the name of the publisher, read the reviews, and take on board what others have said about the book – but they don’t seem to care as much about the content itself.”

This was the passionate complaint of a judge in a recent indie book awards competition, and he was saying it in relation to my philosophical novel, ‘Ox Herding: A Secular Pilgrimage,’ which recently won the 2015 Quagga Prize for Genre Fiction. It was my first book as a professional writer – a career I had wanted to have since I was very young.

‘Ox Herding’ was a novel that I simply had to get out and onto paper before I could write anything else. It’s a subject close to my heart and was something I needed to complete before turning my mind to other things. The book is a philosophical novel about a secular pilgrimage, a fateful journey of self-discovery in which the main character struggles to escape her belief systems and eventually combats and transcends the power of her own ego.

My interest in this field was sparked by a life-changing discussion I had with a friend of the family when I was just fourteen. The friend later sent me a copy of The Ten Ox Herding Pictures, a Chinese philosophical classic depicting this journey to enlightenment, and which sparked my life-long interest in human metaphysics.

According to the Ten Ox Herding Pictures, the ox (or bull), represents the ego and its total power and total dominance over our thoughts and behaviour. Herding the ox is a metaphor for recognising this problem, directly confronting it, and eventually ridding ourselves of its power enabling us to live in a kind of extended truce. In this state of permanent moratorium it is possible to find true freedom.

I knew exactly what I wanted to write; that there would be ten chapters, and right from the beginning I knew what each chapter should be about. The shape of the book was quite clear. Once I had the idea to express the Ten Ox Herding Pictures as a novel, it was simply a matter of putting fingers to keyboard, letting it all out, and getting it done.

Winning the Quagga Prize was a great surprise and delight, and it was especially poignant to hear the judge’s words about how much he valued the literary content. I hope that my book sends a powerful philosophical message to readers, but one that can be clearly understood by anyone. Some rather complicated philosophical theories are presented within a Carrollesque adventure story, and I included a decoding section at the end for readers to be sure of meanings. There are several recent philosophers who explore these complex subjects, the Indian thinker and educator Jiddu Krishnamurti being the most noteworthy, but it is sometimes very difficult to understand the thrust of all the ideas. I hope that my book, Ox Herding, succeeds in this endeavour and that readers can ascertain the philosophical meaning as well as enjoy the plot.



If you're in the US, grab one of the copies of Jackie's book as an Amazon Giveaway!