Celia: Hello Mandy, and a very warm welcome to the Romaniac sofa. Put your feet up and help yourself to cake – it’s cherry, chocolate fudge or Madeira cake today. Tea? Coffee?
Mandy: Oh how lovely! Um … could I have a little of each and tea please?
Celia: Certainly – watch the crumbs, they get everywhere. Right, we’re settled. To start the ball rolling, tell us three vital things about your latest book, Somewhere Beyond the Sea.
Mandy: It is a romantic suspense, it is set in Cornwall and it involves a dark secret.
C: I’m really enjoying the Cornish scenery in SBTS – how important is the setting in your stories? Is there anywhere you would never consider writing about?
M: The setting is very important. I don’t enjoy books that don’t really describe the setting or skimp over it because I like to feel like I am ‘in’ the story. Therefore I spend time setting the scene in all my books. Cornwall in my opinion is the most beautiful county in the UK and just happens to be where I now live. I am originally from Sheffield and then moved to Bristol around twenty years ago. In August of last year I eventually realised my life-long dream of moving to Cornwall and it is sheer heaven.
I would never consider writing about somewhere really horrible – like a torture chamber or a seaside public toilet on an August bank holiday for example. Yuck. Not put you off your cake have I?
C: Nothing and nobody has ever managed to do that, sadly. Although the image of the toilet is going to be hard to shift. Tell us about your other new release, Dancing in the Rain – March has been a very big month so far!
M: This is the first adult novel I ever completed back in 2005. It was then called Severe Weather Warning and needed a serious edit or three! Luckily the lovely folk at Choc Lit could see the potential in the story and after revision it became Dancing in the Rain. It is another romantic suspense with a paranormal aspect and tells the story of Jacob Weston, a young man who feels he’s never really belonged. Dreams and visions take him from his home in England to Monument Valley Arizona, where a meeting with a Navajo guide reveals Jacob’s true destiny. This is so scary that Jacob begins to wish he’d never found out the truth.
C: How did your writing career take off in the first place?
M: I have always written since I was a child. I would rely on poems and stories to help me through the teenage angst years. Then whenever I could find time when I was working, I would write short stories for my own pleasure, and I wrote a children’s novel, but never believed I could actually be a writer so didn’t take it seriously. Eventually I decided to write an adult novel. I was greatly inspired by the novels of Dean Koontz and therefore tried to write suspense/mystery. The result was Dancing in the Rain in its early state.
Oh by the way, this cherry cake is to die for, such juicy cherries. More tea? Thanks. Right, where was I … Ah yes, I sent it off to agents and quite rightly it was turned down as it was pants. I have learned much since then. I still wrote short stories and other novels and one lovely day in 2010 I had my first short story published in an anthology. The anthology, Gentle Footprints was published to raise money and awareness for the charity, Born Free. And that summer I was lucky enough to share a stage at the Hay Festival with Virginia McKenna when I read out an extract to over a thousand people. That was amazing!
Now, which shall I have next, the fudge or chocolate? Decisions, decisions … and why are you rolling your eyes Celia? Am I rambling on too much? No? Well if you’re sure. So anyway, things kind of took off after that. I then had an ebook, Righteous Exposure, published with Crooked Cat publishing in 2012, and then my first paperback, A Stitch in Time came out last year. I now have Cross Stitch which is the sequel due out at the end of the year! Still have to pinch myself sometimes when I think how quickly it all happened. It was a long time coming though, when you add up all the years I was trying to get published.
C: You’re kidding, Mandy – anyone who loves cake as much as I do can ramble as much as they like. Favourite authors? Early influences?
M: I think I have answered the first bit. Besides Koontz, I love Stephen King, Harlan Coben and Tess Gerritsen to name but a few. I love Charles Dickens too. And early influences, I guess I read lots of Enid Blyton and later, Tolkien. My favourite books were The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.
C: Where do you prefer to write and for how long, ideally, each day?
M: I write in the back bedroom overlooking the fields. On a clear day you can just see the blue strip of the Atlantic Ocean on the horizon. Ideally I would like to write for a good five hours or so, but real life gets in the way. I normally manage about two or three, but that depends on deadlines and edits. If I am under pressure I can write all day.
C: When you’re on holiday, do you have a complete break from all things writerly?
M: Yes and no. I don’t write, but I am always thinking and will jot down ideas so I don’t forget when I get back. I guess writers never really switch off. I was walking along the dunes with my husband a few weeks ago and said that it would be a great place to bury a body. He didn’t seem perturbed. Not sure if that’s a good thing!
C: Hmmm – brave man, that husband … What advice would you give to someone just setting off on the writing path?
M: Never give up and never forget your dreams. If you do, you are sunk. Getting published is tough and you have to become tough to get there. Rejection hurts but if you let it get to you, you’ll never attain your goals.
C: Okay – here are some quick-fire questions to finish off with: Champagne or red wine?
M: Champagne of course.
C: Fresh fruit or sticky pudding?
C: A woman after my own heart on both counts, as ever. Spring, summer, autumn or winter?
M: Spring and summer. I know that’s two but I can’t decide. And is there more tea?
C: No – not until you’ve finished. Zingy power shower or deep bubbly bath?
C: Lively parties or intimate dinners for two?
M: Um … I like both. Okay, no need to sigh like that, Celia. Intimate dinners I guess.
C: I know what you’re saying – it’s very hard to choose! Short stories or epic novels?
M: Both … I mean novels.
C: Moors or mountains?
M: Sea. Okay, moors.
C: Glad we pinned you down to some definite answers, Mandy :) Thanks for visiting Romaniac HQ, and good luck with the sequel to A Stitch in Time – looking forward to it no end. Oh, and please take the rest of this cake home with you – it’s a long way back to the seaside and I don’t want you to have an energy crisis. Bye for now.
M: You trying to say I’m greedy? Whatever gave you that impression? Thanks, Celia it has been great fun!
C: And here’s the blurb for the fantastic Somewhere Beyond The Sea. (Now I just need to get that tune out of my head … hope you all enjoy the book as much as I am currently doing. That doesn’t sound like very good grammar but you know what I’m saying.)
Doctor Tristan Ainsworth has returned with his family to the idyllic Cornish village close to where he grew up. The past has taught him some hard lessons, but he’ll do anything to make his wife happy – so what’s making her so withdrawn?
Karen Ainsworth daren’t reveal her true feelings, but knows her husband has put up with her moods for too long. A chance to use her extraordinary singing voice may set her free, so why shouldn’t she take it? Surely her past can’t hurt her now?
As a tide of blackmail and betrayal is unleashed to threaten the foundations of their marriage, Karen and Tristan face a difficult question. Is their love strong enough to face the truth when the truth might cost them everything?