Wednesday 24 November 2021

Welcoming Writer Karen Taylor

 I'm very pleased to welcome Karen  on to my blog today and we're going to chat about writing in general and her new book in particular.

What do you write? Why this in particular? 


I write crime fiction – novels and short stories. I’ve been writing fiction with a criminal bent for some time. In fact, a fellow writer suggested I watched Breaking Bad a while back because he recognised similarities in my approach. I had written several short stories about ordinary people driven to crime by desperate events. I then got wind of the UEA (Crime Fiction) Creative Writing MA and it seemed a perfect fit.


What got you started on writing in the first place?


I was an imaginative child – always making up stories and acting them out. When I went to school, I was good    at  English, and this encouraged me throughout my school and adult career. I became a journalist at 24 and have written for a living ever since.


Do you have a particular routine? 


I prefer to write in the mornings. When I am working on a book, I like to write for three hours and then go on to other things.



     Do you have a dedicated working space?


In London, I work at the kitchen table. In Cornwall, where I share a place with my sister, I either work at a table that overlooks the sea or in a private room on the top floor of the Morrab Library. The Literature Room has a view of the sea over the Morrab Tropical Gardens and is a favourite with members. The shelves are stacked high with the works of famous writers.


   When did you decide you could call yourself a writer? Do you do that in fact?


I have slowly moved from the title journalist to writer, as my works of fiction take on more weight. I do little journalism now. I am still hesitant to call myself an author, even though I have a published work

   How supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you're doing?

My family and friends are totally supportive of me. They realise that writing is what I do best and that it has been my lifetime ambition to have a novel published.

   What are you most proud of in your writing?

Producing entertaining, well-written and original pieces of work. In common with all writers and people in general I like to get praise! It is always appreciated.

    How do you get on with editing and research?

I am happy to edit my work. As a journalist, I edited other people’s work and also had to revise my own when producing copy for clients. I am not precious about edits and gladly take on other people’s feedback and corrections. However, I must agree to significant changes. Sometimes I don’t and I will present my case. For example, in my new book my publisher suggested my detective play the mouth organ and not the fiddle. I mulled this over and got back to him with a no. It just wasn’t right for the character. However, he had pointed out that the fiddle I gave him – a Stradivarius -- was far too rare and expensive, and so we settled at a reasonably priced Stentor.

 I research things as and when I need to as I progress through a book. I know some people do meticulous research before starting out – but that’s not my style. I like to dive straight in and check facts as I go along.


   Do you have any goals for the future?


I have achieved my ultimate goal of having a book published. Now I would like to write a second in the series and, possibly, release a prequel (the book I wrote for my MA and what was originally the first in the series).


Which writers have inspired you?


So many writers have inspired me – from P.L.Travers in my early years to many French writers in my teens – Colette, Honoré de Balzac, Guy de Maupassant, Simone de Beauvoir and Françoise Sagan, to Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, Ruth Rendall/Barbara Vine, Iris Murdoch and Anita Brookner,  as well as Kazuo Ishiguro, Stephen King, Ian McEwan, Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn and Lianne Moriarty. The list is endless and I’m still adding to it.


       And now lets speak specifically our new book so tell me all about it. 



Fairest Creatures is a thriller based in Penzance, Cornwall. It is part police procedural, part psychological thriller and both a whodunnit and a whydunnit.

The action revolves around a serial killer’s obsession with the preservation of beauty, which sees him return to stalk the streets of Penzance in the summer of 2019. It’s 23 years since his first victims went missing, setting DI Brandon Hammett on the hunt for the Sleeping Beauty Killer.


The book has three POVs – one being the killer’s captive ‘creature’. The book begins with this beautiful woman being held captive in an unknown location. Although not physically injured, she is manacled to a chair in a darkened dining room. Her captor is polite but menacing. Her female companions silent spectators. Much of the book explores the relationship between the killer and his captive and her attempts to escape. Meanwhile, DI Brandon Hammett and his team track down the killer.


 Tell us about your research for this book.


Art is a major theme in the book, but something I had a good knowledge of. As a result, this part of the book    needed little research. Mummification and the preservation of bodies involved a fair amount, though. The preservation fluid of choice tends to be formaldehyde, but I also discovered a new technique currently being developed called plastination. I read up on and watched an interesting video on the process, but only used the knowledge gained in one short sentence. I learnt, in my creative writing studies, that research helps you create credibility, but you don’t have to spell it all out.


 I also had to research several locations other than Cornwall. In addition, I investigated the     effects of early years trauma.


What inspired you to write this?

I  had already written the first DI Brandon Hammett book for my MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction). This had more commonplace crime themes. I wanted to write something totally different, but also in the crime genre and with some of the same characters. I sought to write a book that would explore modern day obsessions, like the preservation of beauty and the cult of celebrity and also trauma. Early and later year trauma that can trigger terrible consequences.

   What's next?


I have a rough framework for my next book in the series. In common with the other two, the book will feature some  of the same characters and will be current day – this one will be post-pandemic 2022. I may well introduce a more dystopian feel to it, as humankind crawls out of the Covid wreckage and looks to new ‘Gods’ for purpose and salvation.  


   How can we get a copy of the book?


The book is available on Amazon in digital and print, as well as in print at major booksellers, including Waterstones, Blackwells and Foyles, as well as independent booksellers, like The Edge of the World Bookshop in Penzance and at my publishers, Leamington Books.


   Do you have any events planned?


The book was launched at the Morrab Library in October and at Waterstones Kingston upon Thames in November.  There is a blog tour planned for January.

Thank you Karen.  it's been a pleasure having you on my blog. 


Find out more about Karen  and her work here: 


Fairest Creatures eBook : Taylor, Karen: Kindle Store

 Fairest Creatures by Karen Taylor | Waterstones

 Home - Leamington Books

 Karen Taylor (@karen_taylor7) / Twitter

 Karen Taylor (@karenlesleytaylor66) • Instagram photos and videos

 Karen Taylor | Facebook


Friday 19 November 2021

Why I appreciate the Society of Authors


Blogging, Text, Writing, Author, Discussion, Talking


I joined the Society of Authors in 2001. I’d been writing semi-seriously since 1988 and very seriously since 1998. The very week I graduated from my MA in Writing for Children (Winchester) I sent ten ideas to a new educational publisher, thinking they might ask me to develop a couple of them.  They actually accepted all ten and that was my ticket to becoming a member of the Society of Authors. I had my first publishing contract. It was a milestone. The Society was a strong gatekeeper and I had a pass in.

How I’ve benefited

My first trade book was published in 2003.  And that was also the first time I used the Society’s contract vetting service. My contract had looked fine to me but they pointed out such things as it didn’t say my name would be on the spine of the book and it didn’t indicate how long they were taking the rights for. I was able to get back to the publisher and they happily agreed to a few changes.

 In addition:

·         I’ve been able to join some very informative specialist groups – educational writers, children’s writers and academic writers.

·         I’ve attended some excellent sessions in London, Manchester an in other places in the north where I now live.

·         I’ve joined regional and town groups - Society of Authors North and Society of Authors Manchester.  I was formerly part of a central south group.

·         There is a fantastic amount of information on the web site.

·         I’m able to list all of my works on the web site and advertise myself as a creative practitioner.

·         There are some good deals on public liability insurance, indemnity insurance and now health insurance. I get my public liability insurance through another organisation and I’m too rickety to benefit from health insurance - too many pre-existing conditions but I do use the public indemnity insurance.  

·         Lots of discounts in bookshops and magazine subscriptions, accommodation, at the moment Specsavers

·         Most importantly the society acts as our trade union and the work they do in looking after our rights and livelihoods is tremendous.

·         We receive a print publication and frequent emails (from the main group and the sub-groups) that keeps us informed about the world of publishing and writing.   

A special relationship ALCS / Society of Authors

The ALCS collects some foreign Public Lending Right fees and fees from broadcasting and photo copying our work. Each year what I earn from that more than covers my SoA membership fee. The ALCS is also a very informative organisation. Your SoA fee covers ALCS membership. You should register all of your books with both ALCS and the Society of Authors – and of course with PublicLending Right UK and Ireland.

Special work during the pandemic

The Society of Authors has put on several on-line sessions, most of them free of charge though we are invited to donate to the Authors’ Contingency Fund. Also books associated with every talk hare available from the on-line shop and a percentage here also goes to the Authors’ Contingency Fund.

Last night was the AGM. It was hit by a technical issue for the first ten minutes or so but that was soon sorted out and it all worked very well indeed.  We even went into break out rooms at the end and I was involved in a lively discussion about whether we should include the pandemic in our writing.    

If you’re a writer you should join. There are now also student and emerging writer memberships for those who are not yet published.                  

Thursday 18 November 2021

An interview with Jim Bates

 Today on my blog I welcome Jim Bates. Jim is a frequent contributor to CafeLit 

We have recently published  his collections Resilience  and Short Stuff.  I count Jim as one of my good writing friends. 

So, Jim, what do you write? Why this in particular? 

I usually write literary fiction. I’m drawn to stories having to do with real life situations and how my characters choose to deal with those situations. That being said, I also enjoy writing poetry, haiku, drabbles, flash fiction, SF, fantasy and even horror. I guess what I’m saying is that I love to write!

What got you started on writing in the first place?

While helping to care for my aged mother in 2011, I realized that my goal of being a writer had been put on the back-burner for many years. Shortly thereafter I made the decision to start writing. It was one of the most memorable decisions of my life because I suddenly felt free and alive. I was off and running, and I’ve written nearly every day since then.

Do you have a particular routine? 

My routine is to rise early and be at my desk writing by 6:30 am. I’m retired to I can usually get two hours of writing in before other commitments take over. I love to garden so during the spring, summer and fall lots of time is taken up outdoors (which I enjoy to no end.) But I love winter because I can get a lot of writing done, maybe up to four hours a day.

Do you have a dedicated working space?

I have a small bedroom on the second floor where I do my writing. It faces east so I can see the sun rise. It’s really bright and cheery. However, when I’m working away, I’m hardly ever aware of the weather or even what’s going on around me. I’m pretty focused on the story or poem or whatever. I use a laptop so I can take it with me to work remotely if I have the chance.

When did you decide you could call yourself a writer? Do you do that in fact?

Gill, when you published my first book “Resilience” I finally was able to call myself a writer. I actually had business cards printed up with my website and email address on them. I referred to myself as Jim Bates – Author on those cards. It felt good. Still does! However, I needed to see the book in print before I felt I could do that. At the moment I held “Resilience” in my hands for the first time, I felt my dream of becoming a writer had finally come true. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart for giving me that opportunity.

Our pleasure, Jim. How supportive are your friends and family? Do they understand what you're doing?

My family and friends are very supportive, especially my brother Tom whose lovely photo is on the cover of “Resilience”. My parents are both deceased but “Resilience” was dedicated to my mom, and my collection of short stories “Periodic Stories Volume Two” is dedicated to my dad. I think they both would have gotten a kick out of seeing me as a published author. I want to also give a shout out to the Facebook community of writers that I have met over the last three or four years. Their support has been invaluable. I dedicated “Short Stuff” my collection of flash fiction and drabbles to them.

What are you most proud of in your writing?

I am most proud of my stories. I told a friend recently that I don’t write to be published. I write to tell a good, heartfelt, emotional story. If I read what I have written and it makes me smile or makes me sad or connects with me emotionally in some way then I know I’ve done a good job. At least for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love to send my work out to see if others like it well enough to publish it or, at least, read it. It’s always a thrill to find people who like my work.  

How do you get on with editing and research?

Although I am occasionally asked to edit other writers work, editing my own work is always a challenge. Why? Because I am forever changing words, or sentences or what have you when I’m going through my own work. And I love to do that. But in order to be able to finally complete a story, I have to give myself a time frame to work under or I’d never be done! I should mention that I use editing software to catch typos and for grammar and that seems to help.

Do you have any goals for the future?

The short answer is yes, I want to keep writing for the rest of my life! LOL!! But, seriously, having made the commitment to start writing in 2011, I feel I am just now coming into my own, i.e. Finding my “voice” and coming up with fresh ideas. In the short term, I have writing projects mapped out for at least two years. I’d like to have more collections published. I’d like to do a collection of poetry. I’d like to write at least a couple more novels. I have a lot of ideas. I just need the time to get them all down. Oh, yeah. And a lot of coffee!!

Which writers have inspired you?

Henry David Thoreau for the brilliance of his mind and his ability to express himself. Mark Twain for his ability to tell a great story. And many contemporary authors like James Lee Burke, Anne Tyler, Tana French, Elizabeth Strout, William Kent Krueger and CJ Box and Paul Doiron all of whom not only telling great stories but bring to life their characters in amazing ways.


Now specifically about some of the work you’ve published with us. You write quite a lot for CafeLit. How did you find out about us and what inspired you to write the stories here?

As mentioned earlier, I started writing in 2011. That commitment ended up being a poem a day for four years. In 2015, I took an online class on short story writing and the final assignment was to write a 500-word story, something I’d never attempted before. The stories were arbitrarily sent out to the other students. My story was given to Kathy Sharp and I had hers. It was a chance meeting that changed my life for the better in ways I can’t begin to describe. Kathy and I began a correspondence. She became my mentor. She not only encouraged me to keep writing, but to start a blog and publish my stories on it. I did. She also gave me these words of advice: “Write from your heart, and write what you want to write. Publish your stories on your blog. In that way you will always be able to see the fruits of your labor.” And I started to doing that. In early 2018 both Kathy and Gail Aldwin encouraged me to send a story to CafeLit. I sent in “Remembrance Day”. When you selected it for publication in March, 2018, Gill, I was over the moon. Thank you so much!! It gave me confidence to continue on. I’ve sent stories to CafeLit every month since then. You have been the best supporter of my writing I could ever hope for. I’m eternally grateful to you for making my dream of becoming a writer come true.


What about Resilience? How did you come to write those stories?  Do they have an over-arcing theme?  

When I was given the opportunity to have a collection published by Bridge House Publishing, I went through my stories and listed my favorites. I came up with around sixty stories. I chose thirty-one of what I considered the best for “Resilience”. The theme of people being resilient is common to many of my stories. I am a firm believer in the power of the human spirit, i.e. The ability to make the most of a bad situation (something I learned from my mother.) So many of my stories deal with that. Also, just about every one of them had been published on CafeLit, so it was fun to revisit them.


Short Stuff, perhaps as the title suggests, is a collection of flash fiction. What is your relationship with flash fiction? 

In 2018, when my stories started appearing in CafeLit, I started looking at what other people were writing. In the beginning, in 2015, most of my stories were 10K – 15K words long. So, when I found out about drabbles and flash fiction, I was really intrigued. I began writing in that shorter format as a test to myself and found that I like it. I liked the brevity. I liked the challenge of telling a compelling story in a few words. It was a great learning experience. I sent a number of them out and had a fair degree of success. And I kept writing them. So, when the opportunity arose through Chapeltown Books to have a collection published, I jumped on it. I hope others have enjoyed those short pieces as much as I did writing them!


And so, what’s next? Are there any other works about to come out?

Right now, I am editing Volume Three of a collection of stories based on the periodic table of element. Volume One and Volume Two have been published through Impspired and so will Volume Three. However, in this collection, I’ve made the stories standalone yet blended them together through recurring characters into a 48K novel. I’m liking how it’s turning out. I will send the manuscript in no later than November 30 of this year. Also, I have a novel in the finals for the Open Contract Challenge through Dark Myth Publication. I’m fired up about it. It’s a fun story entitled “The Alien of Orchard Lake”. The winner should be announced by the end of November. Also, I have a collection of short stories that I will be submitting to Grant Hudson of Clarendon House on January 1, 2022. And I have a collection of horror related stories coming out in 2022 through Terror House Publications. I also have a novel entitled “A Ton of Light” that I’ve roughed out that I’d like to get started on. So…I’m staying busy!!

Thank you for this opportunity to be on your blog, Gill. Again, your support of not only me, but the writing community as a whole is amazing. Thank you so much.


Find Jim's books here:



Something Better

 Periodic Stories 

Periodic Stories 

Short Stuff