Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Reviews ~ The King's Greatest Enemy Series by Anna Belfrage


A bit of blurb..

Adam de Guirande owes his lord, Roger Mortimer, much more than loyalty. He owes Lord Roger for his life and all his worldly goods, he owes him for his beautiful wife – even if Kit is not quite the woman Lord Roger thinks she is. So when Lord Roger rises in rebellion against the king, Adam has no choice but to ride with him – no matter what the ultimate cost may be.

My thoughts about the book..

1321 was a momentous year, not just for the king, Edward II, but also for those families who were caught up in the deadly baronial revolt and political ramifications of the Despenser War. The barons, led by Roger Mortimer and Thomas of Lancaster realised that the country, led by a weak and indecisive king,  was on the brink of disaster, and that Hugh Despenser, the king's current favourite, wielded more power than was politically advisable. However insurgence, comes at a price and for Mortimer's man, Adam de Guirande, being involved in such a volatile rebellion places both himself and his family at great risk.

The story opens with an abduction and an arranged marriage between two people who would rather not enter into the bonds of matrimony. Not only is it a deception on a great scale, as the bride, Kit de Courcy, is not who she claims to be, but also the bridegroom has heard disturbing things about his intended bride’s reputation. All does not bode well for Adam de Guirande and his new wife, and when the country is swept into turmoil, Adam has no choice but to follow where his master, Roger Mortimer dictates. What Adam hadn’t bargained for was his burgeoning romantic feelings towards, Kit, his beautiful, and passionate, new wife.

What then follows is a well written story which combines authentic historical fact with a rollicking good adventure. The complicated and irrational history of the time is  well explained and the author does a good job of explaining the complicated political ramifications whilst at the same time allowing the romantic element, between Guy and Kit, to develop. The story is rather dark in places, which is entirely in keeping with the nature of the story, and the author does a credible job of bringing to life those characters who are less likeable, especially her depiction of Hugh Despenser who demonstrates, by his actions, just why he is known as the 14th century’s ‘worst Briton’

If you like well written medieval adventure which is action packed and authentic and which has more than a hint of passionate romance then I highly recommend In the Shadow of the Storm as a wonderful way to start a new historical series.


A bit of blurb..

Adam de Guirande has barely survived the aftermath of Roger Mortimer’s rebellion in 1321. When Mortimer manages to escape the Tower and flee to France, anyone who has ever served Mortimer becomes a potential traitor – at least in the eyes of King Edward II and his royal chancellor, Hugh Despenser. Adam must conduct a careful balancing act to keep himself and his family alive.

My thoughts about the book..

Those who have read book #1 in The King's Greatest Enemy series will be aware of what happened in that first book and of how the story ended, so I'm not going to repeat what has already has gone before except to say that if you haven't read book one , then stop here and make amends.

What I enjoyed about this second book was the way that the continuation of the story followed seamlessly so that there was no confusion of where you are in the events of the time. We meet up again, very quickly, with Adam and Kit and follow their developing involvement with Queen Isabella and the young Prince Edward. England remains in turmoil and following the rebellion, Roger Mortimer is now exiled in France, but if you know your medieval history you will be aware that Mortimer is not a man to stay away from danger and in continuing to plot and scheme, he once again involves Adam and Kit in this most deadly game of thrones.

In this second book, Adam and Kit are maybe, due to past events, a little wiser but they are no less passionately in love with each other and although their future is as ever uncertain, they conduct themselves with great fortitude. I think if anything this book is stronger than the first. Some of the characters are no less repugnant particularly Despenser, whose own particular brand of political skulduggery continues with vile precision, and his despicable involvement at Edward’s court forces the country into a very bleak place.

Revenge, retribution, political dishonesty and vengeance are all themes which run throughout the novel but there is also a very fine mix of loyalty, allegiance and love, which ultimately, for me, gave the book its heart and soul.

Book three is the series Under the Approaching Dark is due to be published in 2017. I can't wait !!

Best Read with ...platters of smoked herring and flagons of rich red wine...

About the Author

You can read an interview with the author by clicking here 

Find the author on her website by clicking here

Follow on Twitter@Anna_Belfrage

Find the books on Amazon 

My thanks to the author for sharing her books with me.


Tuesday, 25 October 2016

An interview with Paul Van Loon and Axel Scheffler....

To celebrate the release of The Horror Handbook, Alma Books caught up with the author, Paul van Loon, and the illustrator, Axel Scheffler.

A bit about Paul van Loon and Axel Scheffler

A highly successful children’s author from the Netherlands, Paul van Loon is best known in the English-speaking world for his Alfie the Werewolf series (published by Hodder in the UK). Originally an illustrator, Paul became a writer by accident when he could find no one to put into words a story he had thought of. He is never seen without his dark sunglasses, which has led to rumours that he is a vampire.

Axel Scheffler was born in Hamburg, Germany. He studied History of Art, before moving to the United Kingdom to study illustration at Bath Academy of Art in 1982. Since then he has worked as a freelance illustrator in London. He is best known for the children’s books he has illustrated through his partnership with author Julia Donaldson. Together they created The Gruffalo, which has sold over five million copies, in almost 50 countries throughout the world. He lives in London.

Paul van Loon

Q. How old were you when you first started writing?

I was 22 when I wrote my first story. I had made a drawing and I thought it needed a story. I didn’t have any writer friends at that time, so I wrote the story myself. And so I discovered that I really liked writing.

Q. What was the inspiration behind The Horror Handbook?

I had written several books about vampires, werewolves and other grisly characters and I thought that my readers would like to learn more about all this horror stuff...

Q. Out of every book for children you’ve ever written, which was your favourite and why?

Ooh, that’s a tough one! I've written eight books about a ‘horror bus’ (De Griezelbus). Together they sold over a million books and made me famous in Holland and I love them. The same goes for the books about Alfie the werewolf. I've written 17 books about Alfie. I've lived with him for 20 years now and he just won’t get out of my head. He just sits there and waits for a new story, so I guess he's my favourite character.

Q. If you were to recommend one of your children’s books for a child to read, which would it be?

Again, it‘s Alfie, I think. He’s a loveable little werewolf.

Q. What was your favourite book growing up as a child?

It was a book about a little gnome who lived in the woods and his name was Paulus (Paulus de Boskabouter). He had my name and I loved the stories about Paulus and his friends and foes, particularly the witch Eucalypta.

Q. What is your favourite book now?

I love ‘Where the wild things’ are from Maurice Sendak. I read this book when I was 18 years and it showed me the beauty of children’s books again.

Q. If you could give one piece of advice to a young writer, what would it be?

Read, read, read. Write, rewrite, rewrite!

Q. Do you have a special place where you write?

I have my own room full of books, guitars, film props from films that are made of my books, puppets and secret cupboards. It’s a bit like a museum. Somewhere in there is also my computer and an old desk. There I write my books, mostly at night, when the moon is full.

Q. If you could organise a dinner party to be attended by characters from books, which three guests would be at the top of your list?

Of course my little friend Alfie the werewolf and I would like to see Winnie the Pooh. And Dracula... I think that would be an interesting and a little dangerous combination.

Axel Scheffler

Q. How old were you when you first started illustrating?

I can't remember when I first drew something – as a small child. It depends what you mean by “illustrating”. But if you mean illustrating a text, it was a bit later than that… I’ve drawn since I was a child, and I’ve been illustrating professionally since 1986.

Q. What drew you to The Horror Handbook?

The Horror Handbook was published in Germany first – about twenty years ago. I thought the text had a nice humorous touch and I enjoyed illustrating it very much.

Q. Out of every book you’ve ever illustrated, which was your favourite and why?

I don’t have one favourite book. I like some more than others – usually the more quirky ones like Highway Rat, Stick Man or The Smartest Giant in Town.

Q. You’ve illustrated books in many languages – do you have a favourite language to work with?

I’ve only illustrated books in three languages – German, French and English; although, of course, some are translated into many languages afterwards. I don’t really read French very well, so that’s a bit more difficult. To illustrate a text it doesn't matter to me which language the text is in – as long as I have some understanding – however, I think English is a great language for picture book texts.

Q. What was your favourite book growing up as a child?

I think my favourite was about a little bear called "Petzi" – it was originally a Danish comic strip (but without speech bubbles). The cover is on my new website – Petzi is a bear with red dungarees with white dots and has many adventures with his friends which include a penguin and a pelican. This would’ve been my favourite when I was five or six.

Q. What is your favourite book now?

I don’t have one favourite book but many. Nowadays I tend to read less fiction, more non-fiction, in German as well as in English.

Q. If you could give one piece of advice to a young artist, what would it be?

If you mean an illustrator – I feel it's a little self evident but: draw lots, go to museums, be curious, look at lots of (good) illustrations.

Q. Do you have a special place where you draw?

I work from home, in a studio at the top of the house: there is chaos, and I wish there was order. Every now and then I tidy my desk, but three days later it looks the same again. It used to be even smaller – I bought a bigger one, but the mess just grows with the table surface. I have given up hope that it'll ever be tidy.

Q. Your most well-known project to date is The Gruffalo – were you inspired by anyone in particular when creating it?

I wasn’t inspired by anything – it’s not based on somebody I know! The Gruffalo is just a furry monster… he’s sort of how I imagine monsters, living in deep, dark woods, with a name like that.

Q. If you could organise a dinner party to be attended by characters from books, which three guests would be at the top of your list?

I’ve got no idea! I think I’d probably invite the three little pigs, so they can shelter from the Big Bad Wolf.

Alma Books are really excited to be publishing The Horror Handbook

Alma Books

and are running this fabulous monster story competition 

There's a fabulous chance to for children to write their own monster story, and for the five winners to have their story printed in a special book, signed by Axel Scheffler. If  you are interested, you can find more information on that by clicking here 

A bit about the book...

What happens to a vampire when he dies? How does somebody become a werewolf? How can you protect yourself from witches? All of these questions and more are answered in this book, which will finally give you all the information you ever wanted to know about ghosts, zombies, monsters and all kinds of creepy-crawly creatures that give us the heebie-jeebies.

Full of tips, anecdotes and trivia – and delightfully illustrated by Axel Scheffler – Paul van Loon’s The Horror Handbook is a fun and fascinating reference book for all fans of scary stories and things that go bump in the night.

Available from Alma Books and all good book stores

Huge thanks to William at Alma Books for the opportunity to feature this delightful book and to share not just the interview with this fascinating  author and illustrator, but also for the chance to feature some of the amazing drawings from The Horror Handbook.


Monday, 24 October 2016

The Author in my spotlight is...Penelope Jacobs

I am delighted to welcome the author 

Penelope is talking to me about her debut novel

Silverwood Books

Hi Penelope and a huge welcome to Jaffareadstoo..

Tell us a little about yourself and what got you started as an author?

When I started working in the City 20 years ago, my experiences as a woman in that environment were extraordinary. Extraordinary in the sense that women were given unprecedented opportunities to succeed, but we had to be tough. It was a very male-dominated industry and no place for wilting flowers. My book was inspired by the many amusing stories that my friends and I experienced from those days.

When I stopped working a few years ago, I decided to start writing. It was so much fun that I enrolled in a writing course and never looked back.

What comes first in a story– the idea or theme, the plot, place or characters?

The big picture theme comes first and the characters and place mould into that theme. Often they become so intertwined that the theme then moulds with the characters. Always, the plot changes subtly every time I sit down at my desk and I allow the characters to carry on the journey.

Will you explain to us a little more about the plot without giving too much away?

The plot is about a young woman making her way in the City. Against the odds, she becomes very successful, but her personal life grows increasingly erratic. She experiences the humiliation of a disastrous office affair and, compounded by the corrupting influence of money, her morale compass slips away. The book is about the conflicting powers of success and self-sabotage.

How do you plan your writing, are you a plotter, or a see where it goes kind of writer?

I always plan my story, but I never stick to the original plot. It’s part of the fun of writing.

What do you consider to be your strongest points as a writer?

I’ve enjoyed writing dialogue. Dialogue livens up the story but can also help the plot move forward. It is also a great way to develop different personalities.

How would you describe your book in 5 words?

Ambition, money, friendship, sex & self-harm.

And finally, if your life was a book, what would be the title ?

I have always been a foreigner, in every country I have lived. So I think a good title for my life is “Searching for roots.

A bit about the book


When Melanie Collins joins an investment bank as a young graduate, she quickly discovers that femininity is an invaluable asset. But it must not be abused. She witnesses other women falling victim to office affairs and is determined to be taken seriously. In an industry where abilities are rewarded handsomely, she rises rapidly through the ranks. But her increased profile attracts the attention of a senior colleague and she is ill equipped to handle his advances. Balancing a demanding job with a confusing personal life proves difficult and soon their relationship threatens to jeopardise her career. As events move beyond control, her glamorous world becomes tainted by betrayal and bitterness. Set against London's financial markets, 'Playing FTSE' explores the dynamic of ambition, friendship and love in the City. A woman can reach the top, but at what price?

You can find out more about the author on her website by clicking here

My thanks to Rebecca at FMcm for the opportunity to interview the author and also to Penelope for her insightful answers to my questions.


Sunday, 23 October 2016

Sunday WW1 Remembered ...

Little Known Fact

Did you know that women workers in the Munition Factories during WW1 
were known as Munitionettes or 'canary girls' 

From the start of WW1 the UK struggled to produce the amount of weapons and ammunition it needed to keep the troops supplied. In response to the Shell Crisis of 1915, the British government passed the Munitions of War Act in 1915, which started to regulate the munitions industry. The newly created Ministry for Munitions controlled wages and conditions of employment. Between 1915 and 1918 many British factories were taken over to produce munitions for the war effort and as the war progressed and more and more men were sent to the Western Front, women started to make up the shortfall in labour. By June 1917, roughly 80% of the weaponry and ammunition used by the British army during World War I was being made by women. Interestingly, women were paid on average less than half of what their male contemporaries had been paid.

Credit : IWM

The women, known as munitionettes, worked long days in physically demanding conditions but for many of them it was their first opportunity to do paid work outside of the home and a great camaraderie developed between the women workers. However, the work was not without great risk as prolonged exposure to hazardous chemicals, particularly TNT (trinitrotoluene) turned the women’s skin yellow, so much so that they became known as ‘canary girls’. Long term health risks also involved toxic liver failure, anaemia, spleen enlargement and fertility problems.

Another pervasive danger came from the risk of explosions. The explosives that the women worked with were dangerously flammable and flare-ups were an ever present danger. The Silvertown explosion in 1917 killed 73 people and injured over 400 and the 1918 explosion at the National Shell Filling Factory, Chilwell, killed over 130 workers.

The author Pat Barker wrote about Munition workers in her novel, Regeneration, which is book #1 in the Regeneration Trilogy.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Close to Home ~ Deborah Swift

As a book reviewer I have made contact with authors from all across the globe and feel immensely privileged to be able to share some amazing work. However, there is always something rather special when a book comes to my attention which has been written by an author in my part of the North of England. So with this in mind I have great pleasure in featuring some of those authors who are literally close to my home. Over the next few Saturdays, and hopefully beyond, I will be sharing the work of a very talented bunch of Northern authors and discovering just what being a Northerner means to them both in terms of inspiration and also in their writing

Today please welcome Lancashire author

Hi Deborah. A warm welcome to Jaffareadstoo..

Tell us a little about yourself and what got you started as an author?

I've always loved reading and used to haunt my local library and always came away with the maximum number of allowed books. I guess I always wanted to write. I used to write a lot of poetry, and still pen the occasional poem. My first novel was not published until after my daughter left home for University - because then I had more time to devote to writing, and a novel is an enormous task.
I wanted to write historical fiction because I love history and have always enjoyed costume dramas since working as a set and costume designer for theatre and TV. For a long time I was based in and around Manchester, and I used to enjoy choosing furnishing fabrics from Abakhan's to reproduce the heavy Elizabethan fabrics of the past for the stage, and the Asian shops of Manchester provided me with diaphonous sari fabrics which made for perfect Regency gowns. The North West is full of interesting history, and at one time, between theatre contracts, I had a part-time job in Oldham Museum. I enjoy looking at antiques, old houses and museums, and love doing archive work which is necessary if you write historical fiction.

Your novels are not always set in the North West but I wonder do the people and its landscape shape your stories in any way?

One of my novels; 'Past Encounters', written under pen name Davina Blake, is a novel set in Carnforth, Lancashire in 1945 and ten years later in 1955. This meant the period is on the border of slipping into memory and on the border of historical fiction as a genre. Because of this it meant I was able to interview people who had first hand memories of the times, although those people were often housebound or elderly.

My novel is set during the filming of Brief Encounter, the classic film, which features Carnforth railway station as one of its main locations. Quite a few people who worked in Carnforth in and around the station were drafted in as extras for the film, and it was these people I traced and interviewed in order to construct a fictional lead character who might have been an extra during the filming. I took some of my other research along, eg newspapers from 1945 and books about WWII with good photographs, and this gave a natural start to the conversation whilst we looked at the pictures together.

Sometimes it was a cue for their photo album to come out, and those were great insightful conversations. I drank vast quantities of tea and coffee and ate lots of biscuits and cake! The Heritage Centre at Carnforth Station was extremely helpful, and they still stock the finished book in their shop, and display a poster of it in the underpass between platforms. It was a pleasure to meet people who'd lived their wartime years close to my home.

My first novel, The Lady's Slipper, is set on the Cumbria/Lancashire borders and has scenes in Kendal Market, and a quite gruelling scene inside Lancaster Castle when it was the local hanging gaol. Lancaster has a great maritime history, so when I needed to know what a seventeenth century ship looked like, I was able to consult the Maritime Museum. I love setting my books locally, although not every book can be local. My most recent series is set in Hertfordshire, but I used my trusty northern readers to give it the once-over before it went for publication.

As a writer based in the North West, does this present any problems in terms of marketing and promoting your books and if so, how do you overcome them?

So much marketing and promotion is now done online, that it really makes no difference where you live. Email means communication is quick and effective wherever you are. There are some excellent local magazines in which I've done features, such as Lancashire Life, who have always been very good to me in terms of getting an article out to highlight a new book of local interest.

How supportive are local communities to your writing, and are there ever any opportunities for book shops, local reading groups, or libraries to be involved in promoting your work?

Local bookshops have been incredibly supportive, particularly with my locally-set books. Carnforth bookshop (which also has 10,000 second-hand books - heaven!) continues to stock Past Encounters, and the Cumbrian bookshops stock my other books. Also, the Cumbria and Lancashire Library Services have been fantastic at organising talks for me in libraries where I can discuss how I researched my books with readers. They also have many reading groups, and I've been to quite a few - from as far north as Workington, to as far south as Preston.

You have to have quite a thick skin, as inevitably, as well as the people who loved my book, there is always someone who hated it! Lancashire and Cumbria are huge areas, so my trusty red Fiat Panda has done a lot of miles over the last few years. But it is always a treat to talk to readers and hear their opinions face to face.

If you were pitching the North West as an ideal place to live, work and write – how would you sell it and what makes it so special?

The North West is a warm and friendly place to live and the backbone of the M6 means you can easily connect to other places. And it is beautiful - the lakes and mountains of the Lake District, and the coast around Morecambe Bay are all within a few miles drive.

Writing is a solitary business - how do you interact with other authors?

I am part of two networks of North West writers who meet on Facebook, The Pendle Literary Salon (!) and the Westmorland Writers. I also meet familiar faces from the North West at conferences such as the Romantic Novelists Association and the Historical Novel Society conference. But lots more informal networking goes on with writers at Booth's coffee shop in Kendal, or the 1652 Chocolate Shop where you can indulge yourself in chocolate treats as well as look around their chocolate museum.

And finally, if someone is new to your work, which book do you think they should start with?

If you like WWII women's fiction, start with Past Encounters. For a more 'period' read, start with The Lady's Slipper.


Thank you so much to Jo for hosting me.

You can find me on Twitter @swiftstory

Or sign up for my newsletter and a free book at

Huge thanks to Deborah for taking the time to share her thoughts about the North West and for answering my questions so thoughtfully

I hope that you have enjoyed reading today's Close to Home feature.

Coming next Saturday : Marie Laval


Friday, 21 October 2016

Blog Tour ~ The Devil's Feast by M J Carter

Jaffareadstoo is delighted to be hosting today's stop on The Devil's Feast Blog Tour

Here's a little bit about the book ...

Blake and Avery #3

Investigative team Blake and Avery find themselves entangled in a case involving political conflicts, personal vendettas, and England s first celebrity chef. 

London, 1842. Captain William Avery is persuaded to investigate a mysterious and horrible death at the Reform, London s newest and grandest gentleman s club a death the club is desperate to hush up. What he soon discovers is a web of rivalries and hatreds, both personal and political, simmering behind the club s handsome facade. At the center is its resident genius, Alexis Soyer, the Napoleon of food, a chef whose culinary brilliance is matched only by his talent for self-publicity. 

But Avery is distracted, for where is his mentor and partner in crime Jeremiah Blake? And what if this first death is only a dress rehearsal for something far more sinister?

I'm delighted that the author, M J Carter is sharing her thoughts about one of the book's characters..

Welcome to Jaffareadstoo, Miranda. 

Tell us about the genius of Alexis Soyer, and why he’s a brilliant book character

Apart from a few enthusiastic foodies, the Frenchman Alexis Soyer (1810-1858) is all but forgotten now. But in his day he was the most famous chef in Britain, and he lays claim to being the greatest chef of the 19th century.

But more than that, Soyer was a fabulously, gloriously modern and eccentric personality. When I encountered him in the course of research a couple of years ago, I realised at once that I had to put him in a book — he leapt so easily onto the page, he hardly needed any embroidering at all. And so he graces my new book, The Devil’s Feast, which is set in the extraordinary, cutting-edge kitchens of the Reform club, which he designed and opened in 1841, where he was head chef and where he first caught the attention of the press and the public.

Soyer was the first true celebrity chef. Everything we think of as new about the current kings of celebrity cheffing, Heston Blumenthal and Jamie Oliver, was done by Soyer in the 1840 s and early 50s. The papers called him ‘the Napoleon of food.’ Like Heston he loved cutting-edge culinary technology and cooking methods. He was the first to use and champion gas ovens, thermometers and accurate clocks; he invented dozens of clever kitchen gadgets, like the first heavy duty kitchen scissors. Like Heston he loved a crazy dish that looked like one thing and tasted of something quite different. He would serve up a plate of roast beef or lamb chops and mashed potatoes at the end of a meal, then reveal that it was pudding: sponge, cream, and meringues and peach cream made to look like gravy (I have to say this does sound mildly disgusting). Like Jamie Oliver he was a champion of seasonality and an educator and philanthropist, determined to improve the country’s diet and alleviate the sufferings of the poor. A genius logistician, he devised menus for London hospitals and workhouses, reinvented the soup kitchen and took it to Ireland during the famine; went to the Crimean war with Florence Nightingale, completely reorganizing the provisioning of British army and inventing a portable army stove which was still being used during the second Gulf War. And he wrote a series of bestselling cookbooks aimed squarely at middle class and working class cooks, in which he included the first written recipe for fish and chips, and homemade crisps.

Most if all, however, Soyer is a gift to a writer. Apart from being a brilliant, inventive chef, he was an irrepressible, joyous, sometimes ridiculous figure, manically energetic, crazily ambitious, enthusiastic about everything; appallingly sycophantic to the rich; a shameless self-publicist, dreadfully pretentious, and very big-hearted. He dressed in lavender-coloured velvet suits, wore at least two rings on every finger and never appeared in public without his hat set at a precarious angle on his head, which he called a la zoug zoug’, ‘I abhore a straight line’, he said. Everything that he does in The Devil’s Feast—well almost everything— he did in real life.

To find more about the author on her website click here
Find on Facebook click here 
Follow on Twitter click here

The Devil's Feast is published on the 27th October but is available to pre-order on Amazon UK by clicking here 

My thanks to Sara at Penguin Random House for the invitation to be part of this tour and to the author for her informative guest post.

Blog Tour runs 20th -30th October

Do please visit the other stops for more interesting content.


Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Author in my spotlight is ....Melissa Daley

I am delighted to welcome Melissa Daley to Jaffareadstoo

Today Melissa is talking to us about her latest novel Christmas at the Cat Cafe

20 October 2016

Hi Melissa, a very warm welcome to Jaffareadstoo. Tell us a little bit about yourself and the cats in your life?

I live in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, with my husband, two kids, two cats (Pip and Nancy) and our most recent addition, Paddy the puppy. Nancy has been something of a local celebrity since she was a kitten, due to her extreme friendliness and her tendency to follow strangers home, jump into their cars, or make herself comfortable in the local pubs. I set up a Facebook page for her (Nancy Harpenden-Cat) as way of keeping track of her whereabouts, and things snowballed from there. She now has around 2,000 Facebook followers and her own memoir (or ‘meowmoir’) was published in 2011, called Sex and the Kitty. 

Cats are so enigmatic. How do you get inside the mind of a cat and how easy is it to transfer this to a story?

I actually think cats are far more expressive than we sometimes give them credit for, it’s just that their facial expressions and body language are much subtler than, say, a dog’s. But of course their enigmatic qualities also allow us to project our own emotions onto them, which is why they lend themselves so well to being anthropomorphised in fiction. Having spent my entire life living with and observing cats, I find it surprisingly easy to imagine my way into the mind of a cat. The challenge when writing a story from a cat’s point of view is making sure my cat characters have enough emotional depth to resonate with (human) readers, whilst always remaining convincingly feline too.

Christmas at the Christmas Cafe follows the story of Molly who we met in Molly at the Cat Café. Tell me is Molly based on any of your cats?

Pip and Nancy were both excellent muses when I needed to describe something specific about cat behaviour, for instance the neat semi-circle cats form when they sleep, with their tail tucked around their paws. It was very useful to have two models so close to hand! But in terms of Molly’s emotional journey and the way she responds to the upheavals she faces, I would have to say there is probably more of me in her character, than my cats.



What do you enjoy most about writing?

The freedom to let my imagination run wild – there’s nothing else like it, in terms of unfettered creativity. I love the planning stage of the writing process, coming up with characters, working out the plot, trying to play the whole thing out in my mind and then getting it down on paper in a chapter plan. It’s when that’s done that the hard work really starts. The challenge is producing a book that does justice to the story I have in my head.

Do you have a special place to do your writing and do any of your cats like to interrupt the writing process?

I write at the computer in our front room, which serves as my study. Both Pip and Nancy have been known to wander in and drape themselves across my keyboard, or settle down for a lengthy wash on the print-out of my chapter plan. Sometimes it feels like they’re taunting me when they nap on top of my work – especially if I’m writing very early in the morning or late at night and am exhausted. It would be fair to say I have a certain amount of envy at their leisurely lifestyles, and their ability to take a nap whenever they fancy it.

Can we expect to see more of Molly’s adventures in future stories?

I guess that partly depends on whether readers want to read more! I’d love to let my imagination get to work on devising some fresh adventures for Molly and her kittens. Watch this space!

Melissa Daley

26889368 32319623

Both Molly and the Cat Cafe and Christmas at the Cat Cafe are published by Macmillan

Melissa Daley lives in Hertfordshire with her two cats, two children and one husband. One of her cats, Nancy, has a writing pedigree of her own and can be found on Facebook as Nancy Harpenden-Cat. Melissa was inspired by the Cotswolds town of Stow-on-the-Wold, which provides the backdrop for Melissa's novels.

Christmas at the Cat Cafe is published by Macmillan on the 20th October

Amazon UK

My thanks to Melissa for answering my questions so patiently and also to Jess at Macmillan for my copy of the book and her help in compiling this interview.