Thursday, 31 October 2019

New Release Spotlight with Author Q&A: The House That Alice Built by Chris Penhall

The House That Alice Built by Chris Penhall

Home is where the heart is …
Alice Dorothy Matthews is sensible. Whilst her best friend Kathy is living it up in Portugal and her insufferable ex Adam is travelling the world, Alice is working hard to pay for the beloved London house she has put her heart and soul into renovating.
But then a postcard from Buenos Aires turns Alice’s life upside down. One very unsensible decision later and she is in Cascais, Portugal, and so begins her lesson in ‘going with the flow’; a lesson that sees her cat-sitting, paddle boarding, dancing on top of bars and rediscovering her artistic talents.
But perhaps the most important part of the lesson for Alice is that you don’t always need a house to be at home.

Thank you for inviting me on your blog to talk about my debut novel, The House That Alice Built.
Why did you choose Portugal as the setting for The House That Alice Built?
I lived in Cascais near Lisbon in the mid-1990’s when my daughters were very small, and it made a huge impression on me. I loved the lifestyle, its beauty, the vibrancy, the food (of course) and the whole experience of living somewhere different to what I was used to. When I was there I knew it would only be for three years, so it made it all very intense – I remember imprinting a lot of it in my memory so I could call it up in my minds eye whenever I wanted, not knowing then I would use all of that to write a novel set there one day.
If there is a song that sums up Alice and the book, what would it be?
I listen to music all of the time, and there are references to quite a few songs in the book itself. However, if there is one song that would sum up how Alice feels right at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the novel, its Breakout by Swing out Sister. Released in 1986, it’s a really upbeat, positive song and somewhere in the lyrics it says its time to make a break. It is, indeed, Alice.
What is your writing routine?
I wrote The House That Alice Built over about 8 years, so I was able to pick it up and put it down whenever I wanted. I didn’t have a deadline, but I’m now working on book 2, and I am much more disciplined, as I have to be! I freelance, so if I’m working, I will make sure I do a certain number of words every day before or after work. If I have writing day, then I power on – some days are better than others!
If you get stuck with a particular part of the book when you are writing, how do you get going again?
Actually, I’ve just got a bit stuck with something, so I’m taking my mind off it for a while and doing this. Sometimes I’ll go out for a walk, nip out for a coffee, or resort to the old favourite – hoovering. I find once I’ve stopped thinking I’ve got stuck, I relax and start again.
When did you start to write fiction?
I wrote stories when I was a child but didn’t really start to write fiction until I lived in Portugal. My daughters were at school and nursery, and I finally had a bit of time and space in my imagination to do it. I wrote sporadically after that, and started The House That Alice Built about 8 years ago. I have worked on it off and on over that time, until I finally finished the second version of it in the middle of 2018.
How does writing make you feel?
I find I escape and relax when I’m writing – I go into my own little world for a while and nothing else matters. That could be for a few hours, or 15 minutes, depending on the day. Sometimes I get a bit stressed when I’m stuck with something, and I occasionally get frustrated. But I love creating worlds and finding characters so even when I find it’s difficult, I still get a lot out of it.
What’s in store for you next?
I wrote The House That Alice Built as a stand-alone novel, but I’m still interested in what Alice does next, so I’m working on the sequel. It’s still set in Portugal, and there’ll be some familiar characters, a few new ones, challenges, fun, and some ups and downs along the way to happiness.

Chris Penhall is a freelance writer and radio producer.
Her book, The House That Alice Built, won the Choc-Lit Search for a Star Competition 2019.
Born in South Wales, she has also lived near London and in Portugal, which is where The House That Alice Built is set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it! She is now working on her second.
A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook, and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea.
Chris has two grown up daughters and lives in the Essex countryside.
Chris is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association.

New Release Spotlight: Star in the Shadows by Helen Buckley

Star in the Shadows by Helen Buckley

The world thinks that pop superstar Kiara Anderson has it all, but she spends her nights drinking away memories of her childhood and life as a teen runaway.
The Jacobs family are desperate to see the girl next door again and discover why she ran away, especially their son Shane, who blames himself for her disappearance.
When Kiara’s manager forces her into a reveal-all TV interview she knows the family she loved more than her own will finally discover the truth.
Can she overcome her demons or will the shadows of the past rob her of fame, fortune, and a chance to finally fall in love?

In this extract the main character, Kiara, is in the apartment she shares with the rest of the girls in the girlband, before they’ve become famous. Kiara has fled from their performance that evening and her manager, Marco, comes to find her.
Marco found her in the apartment later that night, face down on the table, her hands clutching a mugful of vodka, tears pooling on the cheap wooden table. Her corset was still cutting into her breathing, her head dizzy.
Right Kiara, I need an explanation.” Marco sat next to her and tapped her on the shoulder. “You’re not sick and I’m not stupid. Something’s up.”
She raised her head slightly from the table. “I’m not feeling well Marco.”
He pulled her head back by her hair. “Ow!” she yelled, sitting up and glaring at him. She wiped a hand across her cheeks, smearing black trails of mascara across her blusher.
Marco frowned at her and threw her a Kleenex. “You’re a mess. Wipe your face.”
He sniffed at her mug and raised an eyebrow. “No wonder you feel ill. What is this?”
She wiped her cheeks with the Kleenex and looked at him incredulously. “Vodka.”
Cheap shit.” Marco shook his head. “Where’s the bottle?”
She tottered to the cupboard and reached behind several cereal boxes to where she kept her stash in a paper bag and plonked it down unceremoniously on the table. Marco grabbed a mug and poured himself some, wrinkling his nose as he sipped.
So, what happened?” He leaned back in his chair and folded his hands over his torso.
Kiara shrugged. “I saw someone in the club that I knew, and it kinda freaked me out.”
Marco raised an eyebrow. “Ex-boyfriend?”
Kiara laughed at the thought, given she had never dated anyone. “Nope, just someone I used to know. It brought back too many memories, and I, I couldn’t handle it.”
Hmmm.” Marco sipped his vodka, grimacing. “I don’t know how you can drink this neat.”
They sat in silence and Marco leaned forward, placing his mug on the table.
She looked at him, eyes bleary from tears and alcohol. “Are you going to fire me from the group?” she asked.
He pressed his lips together. “I won’t but I need you to be honest with me.”
About what?” she asked.
About everything. You’ve barely told us anything about who you are or where you come from. You drink yourself to sleep every night, you have terrible nightmares.” He held up a hand as she tried to interrupt. “Did you think we wouldn’t notice? You share a room with two other women!”
Listen,” he said, rubbing his temples and lowering his voice. “I advocated for you to be in this group. Anna didn’t want you, but ever since I saw you singing at that hotel bar I’ve believed in you. I need you to trust me and tell me everything so I can help you and protect you.”
From what?”
I think Femme Fatale could be really big. But if that happens, then the press will start to ask questions, people will want to know about who you are and where you come from. You’ll need help to handle that, but I can’t help you if you don’t tell me.”
She looked at him quietly.
Didn’t you ever think that this would happen? That at some point that voice of yours might get you noticed?” he asked her, surprised.
She looked down at the table and traced a finger round a spill, her sharp red nails gleaming, blood-like.
I guess I never really thought it was a possibility,” she muttered.
Well, it is,” Marco smiled at her. “And as my most talented singer, I demand you tell me everything.”
How long have you got?” she replied.

Helen has spent over thirteen years working and volunteering for charities in the UK and abroad, including four years in Honduras. She currently works as a charity communications manager and lives in Bedfordshire with her husband and son.

 – Twitter – HelenCBuckley/ Insta – helencatherinebuckley / website:

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