Joan Livingstone – Author Interview

Every so often, I like to do an “Author’s Interview”, and today, it’s the turn of my fellow-Crooked-Cat-Author, Joan Livingstone. Her novel, Chasing the Case, is out next Friday (May 18th.)


1       What makes a good story?   When the reader forgets they are reading one.

2       How have YOU become a better writer?    When I was a journalist, I had to listen to the way people spoke and acted. That helps me create realistic dialogue and characters. Also I read a lot of what other authors write.

3       What inspires you?   Small towns and the people who live in them.

4       What does your family think of your writing?   My spouse, kids, and mother are big supporters.

5       What was the most surprising things you learned about yourself in creating your books?    That writing has become a permanent part of my daily life.

6       If you could have written any book, what would it have been and why?    Frankly, it’s too hard to choose just one.

7       How much research do you do?    Very little.

8       How do you relax?    Spending time with the people who are close to me, reading, taking hikes, gardening. Actually I find writing relaxing.

9       Do you have any writing quirks?    No life is pretty normal in that regard.

10     Why write in your genre?    I had never written a mystery, so I wanted to try writing one. I surprised myself how much I enjoyed it. But then again, I’ve watched and read a ton of mysteries.

11     How is your writing different now from when you started writing?    I don’t use the word ‘that’ as much. I learned to expand and write a bit longer. When I was a journalist, the tendency was to get to the point and write short.

12     What do people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that they don’t?    Not sure of an answer here. I have found people are very interested in mysteries.

13     Your 3 favourite authors?    Only three? Annie Proulx, Sherman Alexie, Russell Banks

14     In what ways do you ’service’ or ‘support’ your books?    I am learning as much as I can about social media promotion and how I can use it as a tool.

15     What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?    They are par for the business. You’ve got to have a thick skin. I have the hide of a rhino from being a reporter and an editor.

16     What makes your book(s) stand out from the crowd?    I believe my characters are interesting, well developed, and a lot of fun. Besides the main character, Isabel Long, there is her Watson — her 92-year-old mother — and such characters as the Old Farts (the men who gossip in the back of the town’s general store), plus the owner and customers who frequent the local watering hole where she works part-time.

17     Tell us something about your road to being published.    I’ve learned the hard truth there is writing and then there is the business of writing. I stopped counting rejections from agents and publishing houses a long time ago. I’ve had two agents and fired them both. I tried self-publishing and felt I needed more help. So I am very pleased to have hooked up with Crooked Cat Books.

18     Plotter or Pantser.    Without sounding too nutty, I would say for me writing is a bit telepathic. I sit and the words come to me. Sometimes it happens when I am ready to fall asleep. Then there is the rewriting. I liken that to taking up a good daydream and making it better.

19     Your main character. What makes him or her so special?    Isabel Long is a long-time journalist turned amateur P.I. after a bad year — she lost her husband and her job as a newspaper’s editor. She’s smart, sassy and relentless. Okay, I will admit there is a lot of me in her.

20     What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?   None yet, so fire away.

Thank you, Joan – and a reminder to you all – her latest Crime novel, Chasing the Case, is out next Friday!  Here is the book linker code:  This will give you your local Amazon link WHEREVER you are.

Chasing the Case cover

There’s more info about Joan on her Crooked Cats page:

and on her own webpage:

She can also be found


and on Twitter at: @JoanLivingston

Letters from Elsewhere: Hunter

An' de walls came tumblin' down

Letters from Elsewhere

Welcome readers and welcome to my guest today. He’s called DI Hunter Wilson and that sounds to me a fitting name for a detective. Hunter has come all the way from Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and he’s told me how much he loves his city and is devoted to solving its crimes. I’ll always remember visiting Edinburgh many years ago and being shown a group of shiny, new, stationary police cars by a tour guide who told us that showed there was no crime in Edinburgh!

Hunter has brought a letter to his daughter, Alison, who lives in Shetland. In it Hunter tells Alison about the death of his friend and his determination to get revenge for this evil act.

Dear Alison,

I hope you are well and that your job is going well. I hope you will manage to visit me in August so that we can go to…

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How I created a town in Italy

All Due’s books are great! Can’t wait for this.

Sue Moorcroft blog

image Arte Umbria

As it’s now only one week until One Summer in Italy is published I thought I’d write about the location.

I love to create settings for my novels, whether it’s a little English village or a town in another country. One Summer in Italy is set in Umbria, a verdant region of Italy, and there I built in my imagination a town called Montelibertà.

Photo 06-07-2013 14 24 14 (1) Orvieto; looking towards the amazing cathedral, ‘Il Duomo’.

Where did Montelibertà come from? For the last several years I’ve been lucky enough to run writing courses or retreats for Arte Umbria. The venue is an old stone hunting lodge and it looks out over the rolling Apennines. Their terrace is one of my favourite places and I used it as the basis for Montelibertà, beginning with the view, which my hero, Levi Gunn, is in town to capture in watercolours.

File 02-08-2017, 08 57 24


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A Blog and Page Update.

I’ve been having some admin problems with my laptop (due for replacement) an, separately, with Facebook.

In the meantime, my friend (and fellow Crooked Cat author), Nicola Slade, has had her latest book out!

I have started doing the odd Author Interview – and posting them around a bit. I have also tried to find a change from the eternal “interview questions” After all, a good interview will show us all something of the “inner writer”.


So here is Nicola’s interview. Her book, The House at Ladywell, a mystery romance, was out recently.

What makes a good story? A world you totally believe in and have to shake yourself when you finish it and remember it’s not real!

How have YOU become a better writer? Practice and not giving up

What inspires you? Something inside that’s burning to be heard

What does your family think of your writing? They’re completely supportive and my younger daughter is my first reader. She sees everything and is a great part of the whole production

What was the most surprising things you learned about yourself in creating your books? That you can mine depths inside yourself that you never imagined to be there. And that there would always be comedy in my books, even in the murders.

If you could have written any book, what would it have been and why? Persuasion – the perfect romantic novel

How much research do you do? My books are full of history, even the contemporary ones, so it’s online browsing, a lot of reading, and visits to castles, museums, stately homes, etc

How do you relax? Read in the bath or in bed. (Actually, reading anywhere!)

Do you have any writing quirks? (and if so what?) I write straight to screen on my desk top. I do have dozens of scrappy bits of paper with scribbled notes but I usually have a rough idea of what will happen, and bung it up on screen to see if it works.

Why write in your genre?  I write romantic comedy, historical/contemporary romantic novels, contemporary cosy mystery and historical cosy mystery: the common themes are the ones I love to read myself. History, romance, comedy and mystery.

How is your writing different now from when you started writing? Much more confident – and better, I hope, after paying attention to rejections, words of advice from editors, and reviews.

What do people THINK they know about your subject/genre, that they don’t? They think romantic novelists write Barbara Cartland romances and wear pink hats; they assume crime novelists have peculiar brains to concentrate on killing people (mind you, that might be true!) and they assume that for either genre, authors make millions every time they have a book published.

Your 3 favourite authors? Charlotte M. Yonge, Terry Pratchett, and Patricia Wentworth

In what ways do you ’service’ or ‘support’ your books? I do talks to libraries and social groups (call me!). I’m a member of a panel of crime writers based on the south coast; we’re the Deadly Dames(!) and we’ve appeared at festivals and conferences, as well as libraries and other groups. I have a slightly haphazard blog and I am on Facebook and Twitter. I follow other writers and support them too.

What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews? Delighted with good reviews, spit a few tacks at bad but don’t dwell on them.

What makes your book(s) stand out from the crowd? The House at Ladywell literally stands out because of its fabulous cover design! Otherwise, it’s an unusual blend of mystery, romance, a delicate hint of ghosts and magic and lots of historical echoes. And a hero who has made some reviewers wish he was real!

Tell us something about your road to being published. It’s a long one! I had some stories published on the children’s page of The People’s Friend when I was about 23; a book for children about ten years later was accepted by a publisher but scuppered when they changed direction and dropped children’s books; short stories in The Brownie Magazine (I was a Brown Owl at the time), followed by short stories for women’s magazines, notably My Weekly. Eventually Transita Ltd published Scuba Dancing, a – although it’s my first published book it was actually the seventh full-length novel I’d written. Sigh…

Plotter or Pantser. Bit of both but I don’t do a detailed plan. In my mysteries I generally know at the start: Whodunnit, What it was they dun, Why they dun it, Who they dun it too – and I write the last chapter early one. It’s just the yawning gap in the middle that needs to be filled in…

Your main character. What makes him or her so special? Freya has, as the cliché goes, ‘a journey’ and some of the discoveries she makes are pretty unusual. She’s getting over a shattering period in her life and is timidly but bravely taking a step into the unknown. Not so much waiting for the Prince to awaken Sleeping Beauty, more that Beauty is already hacking her way through the brambles when the Prince appears!

What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?

Well, the obvious question is: Nicola, will you sign this contract to televise your delightful novel, The House at Ladywell. I’m waiting, but Julian Fellowes hasn’t called yet.

Thanks, Nicola! Some great responses. Charlotte M Yonge is an odd choice today – and, surprise, surprise, I have an odd family connection. A Chaplet of Pearls was dedicated to (if I remember correctly) my Gt Gt Grandmother. Funny old world!

Persuasion is also one of my absolutre favourites. Certainly my favourite Jane Austen.



My friend Val Penny, and her new crime novel, Hunter’s Chase

author pic 2

Reasons to Write a Crime Novel

People like crime, at least in novels! Often, I meet dentists and bank managers with clever plot ideas, or nurses who read every crime novel they can lay their hands on. If I visit a writing group, there are always members keenly producing new murderous plots. Lawyers and convicts show equal enthusiasm for this genre. For those who want to write a crime novel, there are several reasons to want to do so. Here are a few of them.

Emotional Release

Often, those who write crime novels find an emotional release in their craft. Crime novelists deal with the dark things that people usually push to the side of their minds in order to get on with every day life. The cathartic attraction of writing can be decisive.

Some crime authors tell of poor sleep patterns, punctured by night-mares that are repaired when they start to write. Others, panic, constantly scanning doorways for signs of danger. The stiffening fear that afflicts them resolves when they are busy writing crime.

The Story-Telling Urge

The sources for crime novels are many and varied. Ideas can spring from the news and current affairs; memories from the past and historical events or things that puzzle or fascinate the writer. Once an author begins to exercise their creative muscles, they often find that they run into stories demanding to be told. The stories demand to be told and will not stop coming.

For Companionship

It is often said that writers can be difficult people: gloomy, competitive and quarrelsome. However, for the most part, I have found crime writers to be an inclusive and convivial bunch. They are certainly hard-working. The pressure of producing a book a year is intense, yet they never seem to turn their backs on fun. If you have a chance to go to a crime-writers’ convention, do take it. They are exhausting, exhilarating and irresistible.

An Outlet for Aggression

Most crime-writers will tell you that they are good company because they channel all their belligerent thoughts into their stories, so in real life, the authors are meek and mild. It is not always true, but I can confirm the a crime novel is an excellent place to park your rage! The prospect of giving vent to righteous anger in a safe form can be a particularly pleasing device. When characters require to act in a violent way or commit violence the reader is willing to witness this on the page but they would shy from it in real life. Crime writers can let rip on the page in a way they avoid doing in the real world.

The Thrill of Research

I can personally confirm that the research you do for crime novels and for academic purposes are equally satisfying. It is also extremely diverse. It may involve visiting prisons, refuges, police stations or drug dens. Police are often very willing to be of assistance to crime writers, even if it is just to avoid being irritated when otherwise the writers would get police procedures wrong. This information is most useful and helpful. Indeed, when you are writing a novel, no information or experience is wasted!


Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballet dancer or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her first crime novel, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ set in Edinburgh, Scotland will be published by Crooked Cat Books on 02.02.2018. She is now writing the sequel, ‘Hunter’s Revenge’.

She can be found at

Friends of Hunter’s Chase –

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe.

 DI Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city and he needs to find the source but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course. Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman’s life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taut crime thriller.

Heart of Stone by John Jackson @crookedcatbooks @jjackson42 #HistoricFiction #Ireland #1730s #KindleUnlimited

Another cracking review! 🙂


35919036Buy it from Amazon UK

Buy it from Amazon US


Dublin, 1730
When young and beautiful Mary Molesworth is forced to marry Robert Rochford, widowed heir to the earldom of Belfield, she finds that her idea of love is not returned. Jealous, cruel and manipulative, Robert ignores her after she has provided him with a male heir, preferring to spend his nights with his mistress. Power-hungry, Robert builds up a reputation that sees him reach for the highest positions in Ireland.

Caught in an unhappy marriage, Mary begins to grow closer to Robert’s younger brother, Arthur. Acknowledging their love for each other, they will risk everything to be together. But Robert’s revenge threatens their lives and tears them apart.
Will Mary and Arthur find a way to escape Robert’s clutches?
Based on real events, Heart of Stone is a tale of power, jealousy, imprisonment, and love, set in…

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Getting Your Ducks in a Row

My recent FaceBook travails have kept me unbelievably busy. I didn’t lose too much data, but I did lose all “connections” like Friends and Likes.

They ARE all coming back bit by bit, but one of the problems is that previous friends don’t realise that we aren’t now. They think we are still friends so ignore the friend request. Eventually, word gets around, though. It is only time, and nobody died.

As part of the process I am tying up my Friday #ff list and checking that if someone is Following me on Twitter, then we are Friends on Facebook. It just means working through all the addresses on the #ff list and seeing if we are already friends – or WERE Friends on Facebook. I’m also Liking friends authors pages as I come across them.

Some people – particularly Book Bloggers – use Twitter only for their Blogging. Others use different names for their Twitter & Facebook accounts.

As an Author, I would strongly advise all of us to put ALL our Social Media links on their opening page if possible. Also for their Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts. Call it “joined up thinking” and establishing your Brand.

The biggest pain is the time it all takes. Facebook do not like you making too many Friend requests at once – even if you were Friends before. They don’t like you Liking too many pages at the same time, either. Suddenly you will find yourself Blocked from posting or liking, and they will NEVER tell you how long this will last, or exactly why, OR what exactly their rules are! They do NOT make it easy.

The silliest was a couple of days ago when Facebook invited me to wish my friends with a birthday “Happy Birthday”. I’m sure you have all seen these invites before.

So I am going through the 6 or so Friends whose birthday it was, and then Facebook turns round and tells me I am posting too quickly! I find myself Blocked for another day.

Perhaps they should call it Anti-Social Media?