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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

BLOG TOUR & REVIEW: The Revelation Room by Mark Tilbury @MTilburyAuthor @Bloodhoundbook

Excited to be the final Blog Tour Stop for The Revelation Room by Mark Tilbury!  I LOVE psychological thrillers and this is the first in a new series.

Continue scrolling down for the Book Description, Author Bio and my review.  Happy reading!

Book Description:

Ben Whittle’s father, a private investigator, has been taken captive by a cult whilst investigating the case of a missing girl. When Ben receives a desperate call from his father asking for help he is drawn into a dark underground world.

As Ben retraces the last known steps of the missing girl he discovers his only option left is to join the cult and rescue his father from the inside.

The leader of the cult, Edward Ebb, is a psychopathic egocentric who uses his position to control his small group of followers in The Sons and Daughters of Salvation. When he initiates Ben into the group it soon becomes apparent how sick and twisted Ebb is.

Ben must find his father and the missing girl, but the odds are stacked against him and time is running out.

Can Ben rescue his father and the girl and escape with his life?
And what is the gruesome secret concealed in the Revelation Room?

The Revelation Room is the first in a new series of psychological mystery thrillers.

My Review:

We open with Geoff staring into the muzzle of a gun, stuck in a tree with his camera and refusing to admit while he's really up there.  "Shoot him," we hear a man say and his somewhat dimwitted sidekick does just that.  He falls out of the tree and then is dragged to The Revelation Room where they have determined he is The Imposter and they must drive the devil out of him.  He finds one window of opportunity and calls his son, Ben, on his watch phone and barely has time to tell him he needs help when the phone dies.  Now it's up to Ben to find his way into this cult and bring his father back.  Trekking off with his friend, Maddie, he does the one thing he can think of to make this happen - go undercover and join the cult.  But the initiation process turns out to be more than he ever expected or deserved.

Cult life has always been a fascinating culture to read about.  Hive mentality, extreme religion, one crazy leader who has somehow mesmerized everyone around him that his word is God.... preying on those who have had a hard life and convincing them they have been saved.  It's a treacherous, unhealthy and vile arrangement that is all too common in the world.  The author does a fantastic job of showing the crazy that goes on within the compound of The Sons and Daughters of Salvation.  Ebb is the sadomasochistic leader who keeps his members to a small, manageable number - proving to them the hold the Devil can take on people in the outside world by using holy water (acid)... along with a variety of other dastardly deeds. Amongst the delusional and sadistic scenes, the author brings about some black humor to keep a good balance.  "Mark my words, half the evil in the world is spread by Burger King and McDonald's."  You know, not sure I completely disagree with you here, Mr. Tilbury!

This is a fast and entertaining read if, like me, you like to read about the cult life and the mindset behind the scenes.  While this one escalates quickly, it's done in a humorous, yet crazy, way that makes it less gruesome, more entertaining and you end up empathizing with some of the crazies.  Get on in here - if this book is any indication of how this series will go, you're going to want to start NOW.

Author Bio:


Mark lives in a small village in the lovely county of Cumbria, although his books are set in Oxfordshire where he was born and raised.

After serving in the Royal Navy and raising his two daughters after being widowed, Mark finally took the plunge and self-published two books on Amazon, The Revelation Room and The Eyes of the Accused.

He's always had a keen interest in writing, and is extremely proud to have his third novel, The Abattoir of Dreams, published, and The Revelation Room and The Eyes of the Accused re-launched, by Bloodhound Books.

When he's not writing, Mark can be found trying and failing to master blues guitar,
and taking walks around the beautiful county of Cumbria.

Amazon  | Facebook  |  Website  |  Twitter | Goodreads

Get your copy on Amazon!

Friday, May 26, 2017

#CJSReads Review: The Good Widow by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke @LizandLisa @LittleABooks

The Good Widow by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Lake Union Publishing
Releases 6/1/17

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Bestselling authors Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke make their suspense debut in this twisty, emotional thriller.

Elementary school teacher Jacqueline “Jacks” Morales’s marriage was far from perfect, but even in its ups and downs it was predictable, familiar. Or at least she thought it was…until two police officers showed up at her door with devastating news. Her husband of eight years, the one who should have been on a business trip to Kansas, had suffered a fatal car accident in Hawaii. And he wasn’t alone.

For Jacks, laying her husband to rest was hard. But it was even harder to think that his final moments belonged to another woman—one who had left behind her own grieving and bewildered fiancé. Nick, just as blindsided by the affair, wants answers. So he suggests that he and Jacks search for the truth together, retracing the doomed lovers’ last days in paradise.

Now, following the twisting path of that fateful road, Jacks is learning that nothing is ever as it seems. Not her marriage. Not her husband. And most certainly not his death…

My Review:

Jacks understands that not all marriages are perfect, but she never expected to get news that her husband's business trip was actually a trip to Maui with his mistress and that they both died in a car crash while there. Nor did she expect Nick to show up in her life, the fiancé of said mistress, and suggest they retrace their unfaithful partners' steps in Hawaii. During this trip, Jacks realizes that nothing is ever what it appears to be on the surface. And she, of all people, should know that secrets can be quite the burden. But what if this trip provides answers that she didn't want? Is ignorance bliss, will questions beget more questions or will she find out more than she bargained for?

This book starts out with a bang! A couple in a jeep, a woman with a secret, a whisper leading to a derailment.... oof - I NEED TO KNOW. Flashing back and forth between Jacks and Dylan's (the mistress) life, we see all of their relationships unfold. Certain parts may seem a bit implausible, but really, who cares? Take the book for what it is - suspenseful, intriguing, full of culture from James's Costa Rican background to the setting in Maui, Hawaii. Liz and Lisa keep you turning page after page. They show how certain relationships can fall apart, marriages and affairs alike, and how human emotions run a large range - whether it be through siblings, lovers or spouses. How far would you go to try and save your marriage - would you allow your partner to break you down bit by bit.. is that really love or just an obsession? This is a fast, easy and entertaining read. For the authors' first venture into this genre, color me impressed and give me more! Keep your eyes on these ladies - they're just getting started!

Huge thanks to the lovely, hilarious and beautiful authors and to Lake Union Publishing for this arc in exchange for my honest review.  ★★★★

Jessica's Thoughts:

I've always wondered how it's possible to have books written seamlessly when it's multiple authors, and this team of Lisa and Liz is amazing! I'm definitely not through with these ladies. The Good Widow is a great thriller about Jacqueline "Jacks" Morales and her discovery that her seemingly normal and boring marriage, wasn't at all as it appeared.

Jacks is an elementary school teacher, and her marriage was far from perfect, but even with it's ups and downs she could always count on it to be predictable. That is until two police officers showed up at her front door with bad news. Her husband of eight years, the one who should have been on a business trip to Kansas, had suffered a fatal car accident in Hawaii. And he wasn’t alone.

We bounce back and forth from Jacks' perspective and Dylan's (the other woman) as Jacks and Dylan's fiance, Nick, try to piece together what happened the day of the fatal car crash. She's slowly starting to realize that nothing is ever as it seems - not her marriage, not her husband, and definitely not his death.

This was a page turner from start to finish! I really enjoyed the writing style that these ladies have. They did a great job showing how relationships progress - whether it's through growth or falling apart. The landscapes of Hawaii were amazing throughout the novel! It was a very quick and entertaining read. If you want a great summer thriller, then I'd highly recommend this!

I give this 4/5 stars!

Sam's Thoughts:

The Good Widow, a novel written by the writing duo of Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke, was one of my most anticipated releases for June.  I had heard several of my blogging friends (notably Amy from Novel Gossip and Chelsea from The Suspense Is Thrilling Me) singing its praises.   Well, those ladies had it correct.  This read is the perfect one for a summer at the beach or to binge read in your PJs.  From the first pages, I was completely hooked.

The novel opens an unnamed couple driving off into the sunset.  Flash forward, we meet elementary teacher, Jacks, getting the news every wife fears.  Her husband, James, is dead.  He died in a car crash in Maui.  The problem is, James was supposed to be in Kansas on business.  As Jacks receives more information surrounding his death, she is absolutely shocked. He was in Maui with a woman.  A woman he was having an affair with.  As Jacks learns her marriage is not as it appeared, she finds herself connecting with a man, Nick, who knocks on her door and is, ironically, the fiancé of the James’ lover, Dylan.  The pair decides to head to Maui and find answers but the ones she finds, may not be the ones she is ready for….

I am a complete sucker for any sort of domestic thriller.  This one had me ticking all my boxes Likeable protagonist?  Check!  Scandal?  Check!  Secrets and betrayal?  Check!  Fenton and Steinke do a superb job at hooking the reader and dragging them slowly and meticulously throughout the plot.    I loved the way they chose to narrate the tale by giving both women’s (Jacks and Dylan) perspectives both before and after.  I kept asking myself throughout, “Before what??!!  After what??!!  The crash?  Something else??!!”  Each chapter helps to set the stage for the affair, the state of Jack’s and James’ marriage and the eventual events leading up to the fatal crash.   I loved that this one had me guessing and constantly predicting what I felt was going to happen.  In the end, I was correct, but Fenton and Steinke did an amazing job at making me second-guess myself continuously!

This book would be perfect for fans of the domestic thriller genre that like something a little lighter:  think, The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle or It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell.   I also feel like Mary Kubica fans will love this novel! I gave it 5/5 stars.  

Review: Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman

Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Ecco Books

The Danes is a band made up of four musicians fronted by Philip Tonka, piano player. They are approached by the military to embark on a mission to Africa to track a sound that renders weapons useless and causes horrendous physical reactions such as hallucinations, inability to speak and vomiting. But hey, $100,000 for 2 weeks work? Who care about the potential side effects and the unknown! This story follows Philip's story in his search for the source and alternates chapters to him in a hospital, waking up from a six month coma to find he's broken Ellen is his nurse and finds a connection to Philip and suspects the hospital may not be exactly what it should be. How far will she compromise herself to try and save him?

Josh Malerman is the kind of sensory psychological horror. He used the "loss of sight" in Bird Box and this time uses sound/music/hearing for this one. He has a very distinct writing style and pulls you into the story, building his world leaving you wondering what is going on for most of the book waiting til the tail end to give you answers (ish). While I did love the premise to this story and was fascinated by what this sound could be and what they would find if they found it, the ending was a bit abrupt.... we get answers in this one but, and it's probably a personal preference, but I wasn't thrilled with where this one fell. If you've read this book, PLEASE come chat with me! There was a lot I did like in the story line - references to the flatfish, the creepy feeling (though not as creepy as Bird Box) of the unknown, music, etc. While I "complained" about the arbitrary ending of the Bird Box and needing answers, this time I got them and I wish I hadn't... Ahhhh.. win some, lose some. SO much more I'd like to say but I'd enter spoiler territory and well I keep hearing "I wouldn't do that if I were you." ... so I refuse to touch that key. ;)

View all my reviews

Bombshell Books are BACK! @bombshellpub @bloodhoundbook

Bombshell Books are back!

After launching with the hilarious The Queen of Blogging, Bombshell Books are back with two new authors and three fabulous novels.

Therese Loreskar returns with her sequel to The Queen of Blogging - The Queen of New Beginnings

Therese Loreskar started her career in 2010 self-publishing her first novel, which quickly became a critically acclaimed best-seller.

In 2014 she was signed by a Swedish publishing house before being signed by Bombshell in the summer of 2016.  Her novel, The Queen of Blogging, received overwhelming feedback and the book was referred to as a modern Bridget Jones.

Therese has since had four bestselling children's books.

Her never-ending energy for writing and entertaining people is her biggest trait.

Therese lives in the countryside on the west coast of Sweden.  She has a big and busy household with her husband, two children, deaf cat, five hamsters and a grandmother.

When she is not busy writing stories she enjoys nature, people, history, redecorating the house without permission and all other kinds of creativity.

The Queen of New Beginnings will be published on August 10th of this year.

Guardian book prize shortlisted author, Suzie Tullett, signs with Bombshell Books

Suzie Tullett is an author of contemporary humorous fiction and romantic comedy.  She has a Masters Degree in Television & Radio Scriptwriting and worked as a scriptwriter before becoming a full-time novelist.  Her motto is to 'live, laugh, love' and when she's not busy creating her own literary masterpieces, she usually has her head in someone else's.

Suzie lives in a tiny hamlet in the middle of the French countryside, along with her husband and two Greek rescue dogs.  You can find Suzie on Twitter:  @SuzieTullett or you can visit her website:

Her heart-warming romantic comedy, The Trouble with Words, will be published on July 29th this year.

Debut author, Callie Langridge, joins Bombshell Books

Caroline was born and brought up in Berkshire.  After a brief teenage spell in the depths of Lancashire, she moved back to London.

Having left school at 16, she studied drama before embarking on a career in marketing.  This saw her work in music marketing in the heady days of Britpop in the late '90s.  She unleashed her creativity in the design of window displays and marketing campaigns for the leading music retailer.  More recently she has followed her passion for social history and currently works in marketing for a national historical institution, promoting projects and running events.

On hitting her thirtieth birthday, she decided finally to take her A levels and gained A's in English Literature and Language, and Film Studies - not bad when working full time - and this spurred her on to take the first of many creative writing courses.  A few years later and she has had a number of short stories published and plays performed at theaters and venues across London.

Caroline lives in London with her long-term partner and ever-growing collection of antique curiosities.

Her beautifully written and heart-wrenching debut novel, A Time to Change, will be published on September 24th this year.

Bombshell Books is an imprint of Bloodhound Books.  Bombshell publishes brilliant women's fiction and is on the look out for new authors.  We want stories that will make you laugh, cry and fall in love.  For more information visit our website -

#CJSReads REVIEW: Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson @JoGustawsson ‏@orendabooks

Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson
Orenda Books

Nordic Crime paralleling present day suspense with a historical Nazi concentration camp story line.  The author weaves a tale of incredible intrigue and manages to surprise you at every turn.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

In Falkenberg, Sweden, the mutilated body of talented young jewelry designer Linnea Blix is found in a snow-swept marina. In Hampstead Heath, London, the body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea's. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea's friend, French true-crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.

My Review:

I've been so blessed with having such great reads lately! Block 46 is definitely at the top of my list. I've been seeing this book everywhere and for very good reason.

We follow two separate timelines - one in the year 2014 where Emily, a cop, along with Alexis, a true crime writer, are trying to catch a serial killer whom they find has victims in both Sweden and London. Then we revert to the year 1944, at a concentration camp where we follow Erich Ebner's storyline. I found this timeline to be more interesting as the author really does a fantastic job of putting you into the horrors of Nazi, Germany and inside the head of one of the captive. I wondered for the first part of the book how these storylines were going to come together as they seemed like two completely separate stories for a while. When the author finally does start meshing the storylines, I was all A-HA! Now I see it! There it is - I've got this figured out. Nope. BAM! I took a few minutes to pick my jaw up off the floor and reassemble my face.

The writing is fantastic - she pulls everything together so intelligently. She tackles the dark subjects in a way that feels necessary and not forced. Taking each puzzle piece, dropping them into place and creating a masterpiece. I will say that after 2 books in a row dealing with crimes against children, I hope to stay away from that subject matter for a while, no matter how beautifully written.

5/5 stars all day long.

View all my reviews

Jessica's Thoughts:

Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson is a knock out debut for this series. You've got a little bit of everything. Nordic noir, French noir, historical fiction, AND there's a serial killer? My interest is piqued already! 

In Sweden, the mutilated body of a young jewelry designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a marina. Meanwhile, in London, the body of a young boy is also discovered with similar wounds. Do we have a serial killer on the loose? Then we bounce back to 1944, in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp during the Holocaust, and follow Erich Hebner. 

Emily Roy, a profiler from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, is working with Scotland Yard. She joins up with Linnea's friend, Alexis Castells, and they try to solve the puzzling case together before the killer strikes again. How are these murders connected and how are they connected to the horrific events that occurred in Block 46 back in Buchenwald?

Gustawsson did an amazing job blending together all of these elements. It can be hard adding in the historical fiction piece, but she did it seamlessly. Anything that has to do with the Holocaust is always bone chilling, and this is no exception. Another thing I was very happy about, was that it didn't feel like I was reading a translation, so Maxim Jakubowski did a phenomenal job.

If you want a chilling, page turning thriller, with a touch of history, then this is the next book for you!

5/5 stars!

Sam's Thoughts:

Well, I am going to cut to the chase people.  Block 46, by Johana Gustawsson, absolutely blew me away.  This book will end up being one of my favourite reads of the year.  Hands down.  No questions. 

This book wears so many hats; it truly is a book for everyone.   Fans of historical fiction will love its general premise rooted in the Second World War and the Holocaust.  Suspense and mystery fans will devour its ominous tone, it’s red herrings and intricate, meticulously weaved storyline. Thriller fans will be impressed with the pace, the jaw-dropping plot twist, and the creepy nature of the serial killer character.   

In this story, multiple things are happening right from the first pages.  In 2014, in Sweden, a body of a woman is discovered and investigators begin to hunt down the perpetrator.    Not far, in England, the bodies of young boys are being discovered in shallow graves, the work of another serial killer.   Emily Roy, an RCMP (yeah Canada!) and a profiler on loan to the Scotland Yard begins working alongside true crime writer Alexis Castells to investigate these cases.  Meanwhile, the novel flashes back and forth to 1944 to Buchenwald Concentration Camp where Enrich Ebner is suffering in the midst of the Holocaust.  

Continuously throughout my reading, I was torn.  Normally something stands out for me in a book.  There is a narration I am biased towards, a character I prefer or someone’s story I wish to hear more of.  This novel left me with none of those feelings.  Each story I wanted to absorb fully.  Each narration I devoured and each character brought something so deliciously dark and disturbing to the text.  As far as I am concerned, Gustawsson is a literary genius.  

I do not want to say any more for fear of spoiling any of this plot, but I will say one thing: if you are going to read one novel this year.  Make it Block 46.   I am still reeling. 

5/5 stars.  Can I rate a book a 6? 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review & Author Q&A: Chains of Gaia by James Fahy @venture_press @j_r_fahy_tweets

Chains of Gaia by James Fahy
The Changeling Series
Venture Press
Release Date:  June 12, 2017

Let me tell you something, followers.... I am a lucky, lucky, LUCKY girl.  During my travels earlier this month, I had the pleasure of spending a day with one Mr. James Fahy... (or Shay as his close friends call him, and I'm now one of those so you know.. 😉)  In all seriousness, if you don't already follow him on social media and know that he's a one-of-a-kind, witty, engaging and over all nice guy then I am here to tell you that he is all of the above and then some.  He's also an extremely talented writer, fantastic cook, family man and lover of animals.  Keep in mind, however, if you fall down around him, he'll just leave you on the floor and pretend not to know you.... hey, none of us are perfect right? 😼   

I had the honor to receive an ARC of the third book in The Changeling Series and it is FANTASTIC!  Please tell me you've read the first two in the series and are utterly jealous that I got my hands on a copy of this.... no? Then you really must remedy that!  Continue below to see the synopsis, my review and a trailer for Chains of Gaia... then venture further for the longest and funniest Q&A with Shay (thanks again for actually answering the bazillion of them I presented)...  Trust me, it's worth the read!  (Did you guys know he leaves all the vowels until last and fills them in later? 😲)  And then keeeeeeeeep on going to see the other books in this series AND in the Phoebe Harkness series (also awesome reads). 

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read the following - now go out and buy all the books! 📚

Synopsis from Amazon:

If you go down to the woods today…

Something dark and dangerous stirs deep in the Netherworlde. A violent, primal power, awoken from its slumber by the Shards of the Arcania.
A scourge lies on the great Everhart forest, a rampaging beast laying waste to the woods, and to the towns and villages that border it, bringing destruction.
It leaves none alive, and Robin Fellows, heir of Erlking and the world’s last Changeling, may be the only one who can stop it.
Pressed into service, Robin and his friends must navigate the deep and twisting secrets of the legendary woods, fighting to save the Netherworlde’s inhabitants from the ever-growing menace, while racing against dark enemies also searching for the source of the monster’s power – the Shard of Earth
Troubled by a rising darkness from within, and a tendency for his magic to go haywire, before Robin can wander from the path and begin to unravel the truth beneath the trees, he must first find a way to come to terms with who – and what – he is.
Unexpected and unwelcome guests at Erlking, and uncertain guides in the wilderness, unsure what secrets are being hidden, even by his closest friends, Robin must decide who he can trust – in a world where it seems no one, friend or foe, is exactly as they appear.

My Review:

Where do I even begin?!  How do I review this without spoiling anything for you future readers? 

Ever have that feeling of going back to some place familiar and comfortable - like being tucked into your childhood bed? Well here I am, back in Erkling, with Henry, Hestia, Woad, Aunt Irene, Inky... I'm HOME.. and ready for another adventure to the Netherworlde.    

This time they must retrieve the Shard of Earth and in the process have to deal with centaurs, a minotaur, dryads and new parts of the Netherworlde (just to name a few). New characters are introduced - Ffoulkes has to be the most annoying and narcissistic character I've seen in a while (but damn I love him) - and surprises are peeking around every corner.  Once again, we see the author's sense of humor come into play with various references freckled throughout the book and through the friendships and relationships between the characters.  Woad's always been one of everyone's favorites and his simplistic, yet wise, view of the world is always refreshing (as is Inky's loyalty to him).  I've always liked Aunt Irene but she vaulted up my list for a variety of reasons.  We see Robin still struggling with his role as the Scion and controlling his power, yet maturing and becoming more confident by the minute.  I always find it fun and endearing to watch characters grow book by book in a series and the author does this without fail.

Fahy brings adventure, humor, emotion and action which keeps the pages turning.  I literally kept swiping left hoping more pages would appear at the end, but sadly they did not.  Swipe, swipe, swipe...nothing. I suppose I will have to just wait for the next installment... until then I'll live my life by picking things up one at a time, socks and underpants.  And hey, you guys, as you get to reading this book, send me a hex message so we can discuss.

Chains of Gaia Trailer:

Mr. James Fahy:


"James is traditionally published,  represented by The Ampersand Literary Agency in Oxford and both the Changeling and Harkness books have been published by Venture Press, the digital imprint of London publishers Endeavour Press. Although he is very active on social media with promotions and competitions, and enjoys supporting indie authors and their work wherever possible.

He lives in the North of England amongst moors and wind turbines, with his extremely patient family, an excitable Akita and a very old cat.

When not writing or playing on social media, he cooks a lot, and occasionally sleeps." (This blurb taken straight from his website: - go check him out!)
You can also find him on his various social media platforms:
Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

Author Q&A:

The big-ass bumper interview

What is the most difficult part of your writing process? Your writing Kryptonite?

For me I think it’s getting started, as in actually writing things down. (which might sound odd coming from a writer, but there’s usually a lot that leads up to that point where you actually sit down at the laptop, take a deep breath and type ‘once upon a time…’)
Story ideas tend to germinate in my head, usually formed around a random image or two which pops in unannounced, and I can take a couple of weeks rolling them around my head, trying to feel the shape of the story. I’ll develop characters, discuss backstory with myself, even act out whole scenes of dialogue in my head while I’m doing the dishes or some other menial task. All this comes long before putting pen to paper. I usually have the story pretty much ‘done’ in my head before I force myself to sit down and stare at every writer’s kryptonite, the blank, expectant page.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I leave all the vowels until last, then go back and add them all in. (no, obviously this is a lie.) I’m not sure if it counts as a habit, maybe more of a ritual, but I get quite intimidated starting something new, and I never really feel ‘comfortable’ until I’ve got at least fifty pages down. After that I’m in my stride and fine, but those first few days, I will usually ‘hide’ the word count so I can’t see how little I’ve written so far and get disheartened! 

What is your least favorite part of the writing / publishing process? Favorite part?

Least is editing. Hands down. I frickin’ hate editing. And by that I don’t mean the drafting and checking that I’m not being repetitive or over-explanatory. That’s obviously an important part of polishing a rough draft into a finalised story and I quite like that. I mean when I realise I’ve overwritten, and know that I have to cut ‘X’ amount of words from somewhere, so end up painfully going through page by page cutting tiny words here and there like I’m pruning some annoying book bonsai.
My favourite part is definitely that moment just after release date, when I get my gratis hard copies from the publishers. It’s the first time you’ve held that book in your hands, in all its finished form, and to a writer, there’s nothing quite like it. We call them ‘book babies’ for obvious reasons, but there is a genuine, almost parental pride and satisfaction of holding it and thinking. ‘I made this, and it’s out in the world now’.

 Is there one particular subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

Personally, I would struggle to write anything that involved children being harmed. I’ve read some excellent books, either horrors or thrillers, where children are abducted by maniacs, or where the author very skilfully raises questions of domestic violence or abuse, but it’s something that I find so horrifying that I’d be terribly worried I wouldn’t be able to do it justice, or that it would be too harrowing to write about.

Children in fantastical peril, now that’s another thing. In my Changeling series I know I put my young heroes through a lot of trials, but that’s because kids are much tougher and resilient than we give them credit for. All the best children’s literature or YA literature shows us this. Look at Narnia, those kids go through the wringer!
Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

Oh undoubtedly both. And I’ve never met a writer who didn’t have both a massive ego, and massive self-doubt too. We’re all basket-cases that way I think. Some days we think every word we write is solid gold, and the next day we think that we should just apologise for existing because we can’t seem to please even ourselves.
There is some ego in writing. I think all writers are performers, we all want the world to pay attention to what we have to say, but unlike actors, saying ‘look at me!’ we’re like shy extroverts, saying ‘look at my characters, not me’. You can get away with a lot talking through other people’s mouths. I think in a lot of ways, writing is more ego-driven than acting. Actors only play one part in a story. Writers? We voice every single character, design the sets, direct the action and create the world. It’s like a genteel god-complex!
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I was a weak and rather shy child, not good at sports or strong or good looking, so a natural target in the hell-hole that was school. I learned pretty early on that a well-placed sarcastic or witty comment could end a fight or win an argument more than fists could. I think being quick-tongued probably saved my skin a lot in school. 

How many unpublished/half-finished books do you have?

Oh tons. Absolutely tons of half-finished / half drafted stories. It doesn’t mean that they’ll stay that way though. I tend to come back to things over and over. Some stories can bounce around your head for years, or pop up in different forms and incarnations, before they find their real voice. at the moment, beside the two series I have established, I have one stand-alone novel, another more steampunk series and another fantasy series all either drafted, noted or half-baked. Their time will come when I get some spare time!

What else can we expect from you outside of The Changeling and Phoebe Harkness series?

My next project is a trilogy, with quite an eastern feel to it, (think Tibet/Japan) monks and magic, airships and parallel worlds. The whole story is written in note form, and I already have characters fleshed, it’s just finding the time to dedicate to it right now.
Other than that, I have a one volume horror/ghost tale I want to bring to you, which will touch on several generations of hauntings and is based very much in the real world, and the world of art and design, and also a series of linked short stories loosely based on classic fairy-tales, which will hopefully all tie together.

There’s plenty on the way from me outside of the series you might already know. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon I’m afraid.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

It depends what I’m writing, really. for the Changeling Series, I did (and do) a fair bit of research into some of the more obscure gods and goddesses from Greek Myth, and also a fair bit of digging up information on crystals and precious stones. I use quite an amount of Latin in the books, and it’s important to me that it’s correct, as if readers come across my characters using the ‘high tongue’ of the Netherworlde and want to go away and look it up, I like to think it rewards them with a bit more information, or adds another layer to the narrative.
With the Harkness books, there’s a tremendous amount of research involved, simply because I’ve chosen to set that world in a real city. Oxford is so rich in history, architecture and everything else, that it’s a joy to research, and an absolute goldmine. I deliberately made Phoebe into a bit of an architecture and history nerd so I could use her to smatter the books with tidbits of trivia and knowledge here and there. I’ve had some lovely feedback from readers saying ‘I never knew that about…’ which is always gratifying. Phoebe is also a scientist. I’m clearly not, but it’s important to me not to use ‘movie science’ so a lot of research goes into making sure that the biology, genetics and physics she discusses is correct.
This makes for some odd browser history when I’m researching the ebola virus, or exactly how bodies decay. But I’ve had reviews from readers who are scientists themselves saying my math and theory check out, so phew!

What's the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

It’s not that hard really. I have had people say that Phoebe is so well written, or that it’s hard to believe a man could get inside a woman’s head convincingly. But really people are all very similar inside the mind. I don’t ever try to write phoebe as ‘a girl’ I just write her as a protagonist, her gender is fairly secondary. I think it helps that I’ve been surrounded by strong and competently kick-ass women my whole life, so I have good role models for phoebe. The ‘steamier’ scenes can be quite funny to write, but I think as an author, you have to be able to get inside someone else’s perspective. I’m fairly sure Thomas Harris isn’t a cannibal, but he wrote a damn good Hannibal Lecter, and as far as I know, J K Rowling has never been a teenage boy.

If you could cast the characters of any of your books for a movie, who would play your characters?

Ooooh. I have my favourites of course, although they might not tally with other peoples. Characters in books are so subjective. For the Changeling series, I would adore having Bill Nighy as my Mr Strife in a perfect world, and Marion Coutard as Calypso. Hestia would need to be Penelope Winton or I would throw myself on the floor and have a tantrum.
For the Phoebe series, my first choice for Phoebe would be Emily Blunt, with Kristin Scott Thomas as Cloves. Everyone else is up for grabs. I would have died of joy if David Bowie could have played Gio in book one though!
If you didn't like writing books, what would you do for a living?

Ideally, you mean? If I couldn’t be a writer for some reason, I’d love to direct. I studied film and media, and it’s something I’d enjoy branching out into at some point in a distant future. I think directing is something that writers do on the page quite naturally. It would be interesting to try it for real in a movie medium. 

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

Probably a sloth. I’m incredibly lazy and slow to get going!  

What literary character is most like you?

That’s a difficult one! I’m not sure really, that’s probably a question other people could answer about me more than I could answer myself. I’d be tempted to say Dorian Grey, just because I’m probably quite vain and give the impression of being a charming enough chap, when in reality I have a portrait in the attic showing my soul as a shrivelled and debauched horror of a thing!

What authors have inspired you?

Lots. I studied literature at University, so obviously some of the classics like Lewis and Tolkien are major influences for me. Modern writers I adore are Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman. Both have such a bottomless well of imagination, and a way of making the mundane and everyday seem and feel fantastical, and the fantastical seem and feel plausible. You get the impression from both that they never quite grew up or lost that sense of wonder and fascination with the world and all the magic and mystery it contains. That’s something very appealing to me that I strive to live up to. Both authors strive to show beauty, but they don’t shy from the dark. I try to do the same.

Obviously you love all your characters, but if you could choose a favorite character from The Changeling Series and the Phoebe Harkness series that you write, who would they be?

It is a bit like asking a parent to choose their favourite child, yes. From Changeling I would say Hestia. She’s not a very major character, but I like that I get to show her character not through her words, but her actions, and when I feel like I get it just right, it’s incredibly satisfying. I like that she isn’t likable, but some of my favourite moments and scenes are where we glimpse beneath her surface and you get an idea of the soul of Erlking.

In Phoebe I can’t help but love Cloves. She’s such fun to write. I honestly don’t know where she comes from half the time, and she says and does things that I only wish I could. In a kind of parallel with Hestia I suppose, she’s not really a likable character, she’s abrasive and rude, but I just love her, and she has her moments. There’s a little Cruella De’vil in there, a little Anna Wintour, and if I’m honest, quite a bit of me.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Yes! Especially in the Changeling series. There are plenty of red herrings, and lots of misdirection, and I make sure there are ‘Easter eggs’ peppered throughout that either hint at things to come, or that won’t seem relevant until several books later. I love the idea that once the series is finished, people might, on a second read-through of volume one, spot one or two things in Isle of Winds and say ‘bloody hell! That was staring me in the face!’

One thing I always planned to explore with Changeling was the notion of characters not necessarily being who you think they are, or not ending up where you might assume. I think in book one you think ‘these are the good guys; these are the bad guys’. In book two, some of the good guys are not that good, and some of the bad guys are…complicated. By book three, hopefully, you’re starting to wonder who on earth is standing where on the game board. I love character progression, and of course I know, even if no-one else does, who ends up where by the end of the series. Hopefully some of it will be surprising and keep you guys guessing.

Have you edited out anything from either series that you wish you had kept?

I edited quite a lot out of Changeling volume one, simply for length, as it was the first in the series, but many of the scenes I cut, I managed to work back into book two in a different form.

The scene in Drowned Tomb where Jackalope takes Robin and co to the town of Worrywort, and they barely escape being found out by Strigoi and his peacekeepers, was originally a scene in book one, shortly after they left the oracles temple, but before they met Hawthorn. In the original version, it was Woad who went into the village for supplies, not Jackalope.

I wanted to introduce Strigoi and the peacekeepers in book one, as he’s such an important character in the series, but there simply wasn’t room. I was happy to insert him back into book two instead.

One scene which was cut entirely from book one involved Robin and Henry discovering the lake at Erlking, and having a creepy run in with a grimmgull and a Skriker in the bushes, disaster only averted by the arrival of Mr Drover. It was a good, creepy scene, but in the end I scrapped it. they don’t now discover the lake until book two.

What's your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Day of the Minotaur, by Burnett-Swann. No-one’s ever heard of it, but it’s beautifully written, filled with mythology in a way you wouldn’t expect it to be, and tells a coming of age story of Thea and her brother Icarus in such a beautifully written way. In a way, I’m glad it’s not more popular, as I’m quite possessive of it, and I like to think that it’s ‘mine’. I read it as a hormonal young teen, and considering it deals with the transition into adulthood, it resonated quite powerfully. It’s the most prized paperback on my shelves.

If you could paint a picture of any scenery you've seen before, what would you paint?

I saw a fair few amazing sunrises when I cruised down the Nile. Egypt is a beautiful country. I’d love to paint it. the light there is astounding. I’d love to go back and visit again one day. Some of my favourite memories from my time there were cruising between the towns, when you are out in the wild, with nothing around you but the Nile and wilderness, sliding by peacefully. It’s a different pace of life, and the people are so hospitable. I fell in love with the country.

If you could witness any event past, present or future, what would it be?

Oh there are far too many! I’d like to see the pyramid’s built! I’d like to wander around the library of Alexandria before it was destroyed. I’d like to see Vesuvius explode, or Augustus become emperor. I’d like to be there when the first pilgrim boat touched down on America, or be a guest of the Emperor of China in the forbidden city. Be at the Pole looking at the borealis with Scott, watch the Sistine chapel be painted or experience the street parties at the end of the second world war in London. I adore history, and there is so much I would love to explore if I could time travel. It would always be the past for me though. There isn’t a future to play in until we make it. (which in itself is an exciting thought)

If you could be any fictional character, who would you choose?

I would quite happily be Bilbo Baggins. It’s quite difficult choosing a fictional character, as they invariably get placed in discomfort or peril, but for the chance to roam Middle-earth, and to go on an excellent adventure, as well as having Bag-end to live in, I’d risk it. a friend of mine has a theory that, if heaven exists, it’s different for all of us, and it’s your perfect place.

If that’s true, then when I die, I am sure to wake up in the shire, living in Hobbiton with a well-stocked pantry and a sleepy, bee-filled garden. I’m a simple creature.

Which celebrity do people say you resemble?  (Lately I've been getting Jennifer Lawrence - not hating ;))

I have no idea. I’m not very good with celebrities. I used to get ‘Russell Brand’ quite a lot when I had long hair. I think I have the same laugh as Jimmy Carr, but I’m not sure I really look like anyone but me. I used to look a bit like Victor from Tim Burtons ‘The Corpse Bride’ when I was clean-shaven. Stop motion animation is not a bad thing to be compared to.

What would you name the autobiography of your life?

Hmmm. Probably ‘not to be taken seriously’ I’m not a fan of auto-biogs. I find it irritating when people (especially in the music industry) release them when they’re about 25. Wait until you’re 90, and you have a decent life story to tell!

What songs are included on the soundtrack to your life?

Bowie, of course. ‘Heroes’ is my anthem. Play it when I’m dead. Repeatedly. Classical, Williams’ The Lark Ascending is a favourite of mine. I’m a big fan of the Cure ‘Close to me’ is a beautiful song, and ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ by Crowded House for some reason makes my heart hurt something fierce. There would have to be some Placebo in there somewhere. ‘Every you, every me’ is a song that vibrates in me on a molecular level. Placebo is the soundtrack of my teenage years, and I think whatever music we loved in those years is always the music that defines us. We could be 80 and hear that music and it just drags your soul back through time immediately to who you were and how you felt at that tumultuous and powerful time of your life.

What did you do growing up that got you into trouble?

I’m certainly not telling you that. But plenty. Luckily I was (and am) a sly and clever sod, and I very rarely got myself in a jam I wasn’t able to get myself out of. I have spent the night at a police station before now, and thanks to co-conspirators, I got away. I also may (this is all speculative of course) have set someone on fire before now, and poisoned someone – not to death – with mercury.

I was young, I didn’t like to be crossed. I like to think I’ve mellowed with age.

What's the best/worst gift you've ever given/received?

The best gifts I ever received were both homemade. One was from a seven-year-old and was a drawing of a family, to cheer me up. The other was a handmade clock with gargoyles on it made from clay that my other half created, based on a book series I was working on at the time. A tremendous amount of thought and love went into both.
The worst gift? Is there such a thing? I guess maybe I got a gift card or two in my time, but I quite like those. I’m incredibly easy to please! Someone did once send me oversized and very frilly underwear through the post, which was horrible, but they were a penfriend of many years, and it was supposed to be horrible, so in its way, it was epic.

What do you miss most about being a kid?

Feeling safe. Utterly safe, and knowing someone is always there to make sure everything is okay. You never get that feeling back as an adult, and if you have kids, by the gods it is your duty to make them feel that safety for as long as you can.

What is something you learned in the last week?

I learned this week that some of my friends are better friends than I thought they were, and that I’m bloody lucky to have them. (and these are friends I’ve never physically met) I’ve learned the importance of a decent support network of good, honest humans. There are about six or seven of you in my instafam. My Coven, my Tea-pals, my Anime-buds. You know who you are: you never bullcrap me, you tell me when I’m being an arse, and you keep me sane.

What's one piece of advice you have received that has always resonated with you?

In life, or in writing?

In writing, I’ve always liked: ‘first drafts don’t have to be good…they just have to be written’

In life, I love the saying that ‘other people’s opinions of you are none of your business’
Basically, you can’t affect what people think of you, nor should you care. Don’t devote your time to trying to please others, or to be what others think you should be. Don’t court approval. Follow your own path and your tribe will come to you. You will never make the whole world love you, or your work, and you shouldn’t want to try. Just be honest. It’s something that I’ve found comes easier as you get older, but there’s something wonderfully freeing about not caring or worrying about what other people think.