Carina Author Week: Interview with Maxine Morrey

Welcome to Carina Author week
a week full of Reviews, Guest Posts, Author Interviews and Giveaways, all about published authors by Carina UK. I'm delighted to welcome last guest, Maxine, Morrey, author of Winter's Fairytale and The Christmas Project.

Hello Maxi, I’m delighted to have you on my blog today featuring the Carina Author week with a Q&A and talking about your upcoming novel The Christmas Project.

It’s a pleasure to be here, Isabell. Thanks so much for having me!

Hi Maxi, a warm welcome to Dreaming with Open Eyes! Thank you for participating in this interview, would you like to start by introducing yourself…?

Of course! I’m Maxi, I live on the south coast of England and when I’m not writing and/or doing something connected with writing, you can find me reading, walking, listening to podcasts and desperately trying to catch up with the housework.

How was your publishing route with Carina?

I got my initial contract with Carina (soon to be HQ Stories) when I won their 2015 ‘Write Christmas’ competition. I only found out about the competition quite late and sent in the submission with literally just a few minutes to spare before the midnight deadline. When my (now) editor called me to tell me I’d won, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was actually in hospital for the day and I was so excited that my blood pressure shot up! The nurses got worried and so I had to tell them what was going on so that they would actually let me home!

The Christmas Project is the second book you publish with Carina. What can you tell us about it?

This book, like ‘Winter’s Fairytale’ is also set in London. The heroine, Kate Stone, has a successful career as a Professional Organiser. With just weeks to go before Christmas, she takes on her best friend’s brother as a – very reluctant – client. Kate prefers everything – including her life – to be tidy. But the gorgeous Michael O’ Farrell isn’t like any man she’s ever met before, and it’s not long before things start to get messy…

How long did it take to write?

The main bulk was probably about two months if you put it together solidly, with quite long days, but I’d been working on the plan of it for a little while before that.

If you could write yourself into a romance book, what would be the title? Where's it taking place and who's your love interest?

Hmm, that’s a good one! Although I love my heels and dresses, I’m quite a tomboy when it comes to interests so I think it would have to be a bit of an adventure romance, something in the style of Indiana Jones. I also love that period too so that would suit me! I’m not too great with titles, I have to admit. I usually leave that to the publisher – but perhaps something life ‘A Love of Adventure’ (told you I wasn’t good at titles!). As to where it’s taking place? Somewhere exotic, obviously. I’ve a passion for India so perhaps somewhere like that, up in the hills of the Himalayas maybe. As for the adventurer hero – tall, broad, gorgeous in a masculine way – more Hugh Jackman than Eddie Redmayne. And, finally, he’d have a great sense of humour – that’s non negotiable!

What book character do you love so much, you wish you had written him or her yourself?

I’m a big fan of Janet Evanovich’s ‘Stephanie Plum’ series and have a bit of a crush on Stephanie’s long suffering, on again/off again cop boyfriend, Joe Morelli. I love the way she writes him so I’d probably have to say him. I do have a soft spot for Jane Eyre too – I love that she was considered a nobody but wouldn’t let anyone treat her as such, no matter their station in life. Writing a female character that strong, in that period, was incredibly unusual, and really quite brave. It remains one of my favourite books.

Did you always want to be a writer?

Yes. I’ve been scribbling away since I was little, but I never really believed in myself enough to keep going all the time, as I should have done. Being ‘a writer’ wasn’t something I saw ordinary people like me doing. I wish now that I had had that belief – but you can’t change the past so I just try and make sure I keep hold of it now – which isn’t always easy! But you do have to try.

 What has been the most surprising thing you've learned during your publishing process?

I think one of the most pleasant surprises has been just how much support there is out there from other writers. I’d been part of Twitter for a while, and enjoying it, but with the competition win, there came a whole new level of contact and interaction. Writing can be quite solitary, especially if you don’t really know anyone in the ‘real world’ that does it, so finding others who understand exactly what you do, what your highs and lows are, and supporting each other through all of those has been amazing.

What do you feel are your biggest achievements?

When I won the competition, I’d actually only written the first three chapters of the novel. The publishers wanted the whole thing ready in a month’s time. I was determined not to miss that deadline. It was, admittedly, a pretty crazy month with not a whole lot of housework being done but I’m proud that I got there, and didn’t let the publisher, or myself, down.

Lastly, what is next for you? Are you writing on something at the moment? Can we expect another book that you will publish with Carina?

I think, like most writers, I’m always working on ‘something’ – whether it’s on paper or just ideas rattling about in one’s brain. But to be honest, it’s been a year that’s held some challenges, so for the moment, I’m just concentrating on the final processes for ‘The Christmas Project’ and taking each day as it comes.


Maxine has wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember and wrote her first (very short) book for school when she was ten. Coming in first, she won a handful of book tokens - perfect for a bookworm!

As years went by, she continued to write, but 'normal' work often got in the way. She had written articles on a variety of subjects, aswell as a book on Brighton for a Local History publisher. However, novels are what she loves writing the most. After self publishing her first novel when a contract fell through, thanks to the recession, she continued to look for opportunities.

In August 2015, she won Harper Collins/Carina UK's 'Write Christmas' competition with her romantic comedy, 'Winter's Fairytale'.

Maxine lives on the south coast of England, and when not wrangling with words, can be found tackling her To Be Read pile, sewing, listening to podcasts, and walking.


More information about this book: Amazon UK / Amazon US

More information about this book: Amazon UK / Amazon US


Here is your chance to win Fiona Collins latest release Winter's Fairytale.

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Carina Author Week: Never Give Up by Darcie Boleyn

Welcome to Carina Author week a week full of Reviews, Guest Posts, Author Interviews and Giveaways, all about published authors by Carina UK. I'm delighted to welcome my sixth guest, Darcie Boleyn, author of Wish Upon a Christmas Chake and Something Old, Something New.

Never Give Up!

The thrill of being a published author is one that I appreciate every day. I’ve been very lucky to work with some fabulous editors, to have gorgeous covers and to be part of the extremely exciting and supportive community of publishers, authors, readers and bloggers.

My road to publication wasn’t an easy one by any means, and I learnt a lot along the way. But rejections of my early attempts at romance novels—including one from a major publisher, when I submitted my first attempt at a medical romance—along with a few revise and resubmits, helped me develop a better understanding of what worked and what didn’t.

I’ve always written, and as a child I used to enter writing competitions. This continued when I went to university but then, as life became busier, writing took a back seat. I nursed the dream to be published for years when my children were young, but I spent a lot of time procrastinating, which meant that once the rejection of my medical romance came, I didn’t try again for quite some time.

A few years ago, my husband encouraged me to really try again. He supported me throughout the ups and downs, and I will always be grateful to him for having such faith in me. I stumbled a few times along the way but he kept telling me I could do it, and the fact that he believed in me kept me going. When I received the email from Carina telling me that they wanted to publish Wish Upon a Christmas Cake, I was thrilled. All the hard work had paid off!

My own experiences mean that I would encourage aspiring authors to keep trying. The success of the ebook industry means that there are more opportunities to become a published author than ever.

I am in awe of other authors and of how they create such wonderful worlds within their novels. Even though I’ve been through the creative process myself, it still amazes me when I read a line that takes my breath away or when a plotline brings tears to my eyes. I am an avid reader, although working and writing mean that I don’t have as much time for reading these days, but when I get the chance to immerse myself in a book, it’s divine.

Sometimes, looking back, I wonder why I didn’t start writing in earnest sooner. But a flick through my photo albums provides the answer to that. I was working, striving to earn a living and build a home, then before I knew it, I had two beautiful children to care for. They took my time and energy and some days I could barely brush my hair, let alone create stories. So for me, the time wasn’t right then. But it is now. (I know many talented authors who have young children yet still write, and my hat goes off to them! How they manage to do it, I do not know.)

So if you’re harbouring a dream to write, then go ahead and do it. Put aside some time (and your fears) and make a start. Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, it doesn’t matter. If the time is right for you, then make the time to write. And if you want this; never give up!

Good luck!


Darcie Boleyn has a huge heart and is a real softy. She never fails to cry at books and movies, whether the ending is happy or not. Darcie is in possession of an overactive imagination that often keeps her awake at night. Her childhood dream was to become a Jedi but she hasn’t yet found suitable transport to take her to a galaxy far, far away.

She also has reservations about how she’d look in a gold bikini, as she rather enjoys red wine, cheese and loves anything with ginger or cherries in it – especially chocolate. Darcie fell in love in New York, got married in the snow, rescues uncoordinated greyhounds and can usually be found reading or typing away on her laptop.

A heartwarming, giggle-inducing romance from Darcie Boleyn, just in time for the wedding season!

Will you marry me…again?

When Annie Thomas agrees to give her ex away at his wedding to his boyfriend, she thinks she’ll be fine. With her three children at her side, she can handle anything. Then she finds out her gorgeous first ex-husband Evan Llewellyn is flying in from his glamorous life in New York to attend as well!

An unexpected pregnancy ended their relationship and as she stumbles through the ups and downs of life as a working single mum – helping everyone else find a happy ending along the way – Annie refuses to believe their old and incredibly hot spark can still exist.

It’s only when she and Evan are forced to face up to the past together that they’ll discover if they can have their own happily-ever-after too!

Excerpt 1

I wanted to wear my baggy old joggers but Cassie wouldn’t allow it. She had a slightly larger pair of Lycra running pants and a sports bra and she made me change into them. They almost fit, although I have serious side-boob coming out of the bra’s armpits. Cassie’s only concession was letting me put my t-shirt back on over the bra, so at least half of me is covered up, although I’m really not happy with the way that these trousers cling to my bum and thighs; it’s like wearing a full-body corset and I’m almost afraid to move in case I burst a seam.

However, Cassie forces me out the door and we walk briskly to the local park where Vlad is meeting us. My stomach churns in a mess of fear and apprehension. What if Vlad isn’t happy that Cassie has brought along her neighbour? What if I’m so unfit that I have some sort of attack during the workout that renders me helpless? My children need me. How would they manage if I wasn’t there to care for them and to earn a living? What if I’m as bad at this as I was at PE during my own school days?
Then another thought overpowers the others: Why am I so worried about a stupid workout session? It might actually be fun.

‘Come on, Annie!’ Cassie scolds, taking hold of my arm and leading me through the gates into the pre-spring confines of the park. I notice that the warning sign about letting dogs off their leads hangs at an angle on the fence, so the black silhouette dog looks like it’s doing a circus trick by balancing on its nose. I snigger. No letting your dog do circus tricks in the park or you face a possible fine of up to one thousand pounds. I can’t imagine Dragon managing to get up on his big squishy nose unless he overexerted himself sniffing the ground after Fairy Princess had done a wee.

‘Is that him?’ I ask, swallowing hard against the lump that lodges in my throat when I spy a giant Adonis up ahead. He’s so gorgeous that I swear the sun is actually breaking through the clouds above his head and filtering down upon him to make him glow like some kind of spirit. But this man is no apparition; he is clearly, undeniably, evidently, one hundred percent flesh and bone. So much hard male flesh and muscle. Cassie follows my pointing finger and nods.

‘Oh yes, that is Vlad.’ She quickly pulls a compact out of her cleavage and applies some lipstick. How on earth did she fit the mirror and lipstick in there? She notices me staring in confusion and winks. ‘It’s the implants, honey. They cradle anything, even a big, hard…’ My cheeks flame as she winks again. For a moment, as we approach Vlad, I ponder the sex act she referred to and wonder if it’s possible. Apart from a few high school fumbles, there was only ever Dex and our very tame and infrequent sex life – which confused me at the time but was understandable when he finally came out – and before him, Evan. Sex with Dex was quick and quiet but sex with Evan was so…

I can’t think about it right now. I shouldn’t think about it. Ever. Vlad is huge and as we stand before him I have to force my mouth shut. I mean, gaping like an idiot would not go down well. At all. But, just, wow! I take him in from his cropped honey blond hair to his strong square jaw, his tree trunk thick neck to his shoulders the width of a Chevy bonnet, then down his muscular arms which bulge out from a tight black t-shirt. I only stop staring because someone is saying my name. I blink. And again.

‘Annie!’ It’s Cassie. ‘Uh… yeah?’ I lick my lips and drag my attention away from Vlad to meet my friend’s curious gaze.‘I just introduced you to Vlad. Say hello.’ She gestures at him and as I turn to look at him again and meet his twinkling eyes, my cheeks fill with heat. He holds out a hand the size of a spade and I shake it. His grip is vice-like and I realise that he could snap me like a twig. He reminds me of a Viking as he stands before me, all raw masculinity, bulging biceps and energy. It occurs to me that it’s been a long time since I’ve ogled a man and I quite like it. Standing before him I feel womanly, I feel good, I feel… alive.

Excerpt 2

I jump awake, dragged from a dream about being in the jungle. Strangely, Lady Macbeth was there, talking about when the owl shrieks and the crickets cry… Crickets? I hold my breath and will my heart to slow down as I listen.

But I am not mistaken; my house is filled with the song of crickets. It’s as if I am abroad and they’re chirruping away. But I am not on a Greek island in a cafĂ© eating date and walnut scones filled with honey and yogurt; a pleasant image inspired by a recent novel. I am, in fact, in England, inside my own home, clad in my fleecy pyjamas and it is February. So why, then, can I hear crickets?
I sit up and rub my eyes. My neck is stiff from sleeping on the sofa and I am cold. I need to go to bed and snuggle beneath the duvet. I pick up my phone and check the time. Three-thirty a.m. I head out to the hall and nearly fall over Dragon who is sleeping across the hallway guarding the stairs like some ancient mythical creature guarding its gold. Fairy Princess is not far away, snoring her head off in a very un-princess-like way. They clearly don’t need to go out, so I step carefully over them and tiptoe up the stairs. The house is immersed in darkness and I usually like this time when I can listen to everyone I love breathing in unison under one roof. But tonight, there is another noise and it is incongruous in my Sutton semi.

The crickets! The central heating must have encouraged their journey to maturity and some of the larger ones are chirping. Upstairs, I pop my head into each child’s room to check on them. Anabelle and Janis are sleeping in their beds, but when I enter Henry’s room, he is sleeping on his knees in front of the vivarium. How can children do that? Fall asleep in some strange sort of yoga position. The lights inside it are off but I can make out the small dark shape of the baby dragon underneath the fibre-glass cave. I gently scoop Henry up and shuffle him into his cabin bed – not easy when he is getting so big and I have to lift him up four steps too – then pull the covers over him. As I turn away and head for the door, something crunches under my foot. And again as I take another step. There is a slimy wetness beneath the crunch. I pause as my sleep fuddled mind tries to conjure an explanation.

Henry probably sneaked a grape up here too and that somehow got mixed up with the Lego and that’s what’s now sticking to the ball of my foot and oozing between my toes. It must be Lego that Henry has left out again, even though we’ve had the discussion about putting it away once he’s finished playing with it. The dogs don’t brave the stairs very often, but if they do and they decide to consume some of his plastic building blocks or his intergalactic pirate ship, then there will be an expensive trip to the vet and Henry will lose what is now being hailed as a better investment than stocks and shares. I will certainly have to speak to him about tidying up properly tomorrow.

But as I take another step, the chirruping gets louder and something scuttles across my naked foot and up my shin. I shake my leg vigorously and hear a plop as something hits the wall. It’s like a horror movie where everyone except for the actress can see that at any moment she’s going to have her leg ripped off by a giant killer scorpion. My heart thuds as I realise with mounting dread what must have happened. This is no giant scorpion and this is not a movie. I told Henry ten times before he went to bed to ensure that he put the lid on the cricket tub properly but now…

I thrust my fist into my mouth and bite down to stifle my scream. I want to get my feet off the floor so I take it in turns to lift one then the other. Which is your favourite foot? Which one would you keep if you had to choose? It’s like some bizarre Sophie’s choice.

Excerpt 3

When I’ve washed the dishes and left them to dry on the draining board, I pour another mug of coffee and head upstairs. I haven’t heard any movement up there yet and as it’s not even nine, I doubt I’ll hear anything for a while.

I reach the top step and pick up a sock that is wedged between the spindles of the banister then throw it into the wash basket on the landing. ‘She shoots! She scores!’ I whisper then make a cheering noise in the side of my mouth. Henry loves it when I do that, or he did when he was about four. In fact, he used to ask me to do it again and again.

Just as I’m passing Janis’ room, I hear a funny noise and it stops me in my tracks. I am seized by a wave of panic, worried that she’s somehow choking on her tongue or even her vomit if she’s that stressed, but then she whimpers softly and I smile. She’s dreaming. My sweet baby girl. But another noise makes me start. It’s a low, deep moan. Oh my god! That wasn’t Janis! There’s someone else in there!

I carefully lower my mug to the floor and roll up my sleeves. Images of my daughter being assaulted by a prowler flash into my mind. I am overwhelmed by maternal rage. How dare anyone hurt my child! How dare anyone break into my home! I slam the door open and scream like a banshee as I rush towards the bed. I grab the intruder by his naked shoulders and pull him off my daughter then hammer blows all over him with my balled-up fists.

‘Who are you? What are you doing? How did you get in here! Run, Janis, run!’ The man beneath me covers his face with his arms and cries out that he’s a friend, that he’s sorry, and a variety of other excuses that I can’t make out because he’s trying to shield himself from my pummelling. I give him a good hard kick in the bum for good measure. ‘Mum!’ Janis tugs at my arm whilst trying to avoid accidentally getting clocked. ‘Mum, please! Get off him. He’s my…’

More information about Darcie's books: Amazon UK / Amazon US


Here is your chance to win an ebook copy Darcie's latest release Something Old, Something New.

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Carina Author Week: Interview with Lynsey James

Welcome to Carina Author week a week full of Reviews, Guest Posts, Author Interviews and Giveaways, all about published authors by Carina UK. I'm delighted to welcome my fifth guest, Lynsey James, author of Just The Way You Are, The Broken Hearts Book Club, The Sunflower Cottage Breakfast Club and The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime (out November 10th).

Hello Lynsey, I’m delighted to have you on my blog today featuring the Carina Author week with a Q&A.

How was your publishing route with Carina?

My publishing route with Carina was pretty crazy! I sent them my book Just the Way You Are (which was called Dear Ava back then) and actually forgot I sent it! Then, one night in December 2014, I happened to check my emails and there was one from my editor at Carina, offering me a two book deal! The rest as they say is history.

You have four wonderful books called, Just The Way You Are, The Broken Hearts Book Club, The Sunflower Cottage Breakfast Club and soon The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime, in the pipeline since you signed a deal with Carina. How did it feel to publish your books and what has your experience since then been?

Publishing my books has been a totally surreal experience. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I’d get to share my stories with so many people. I still get nervous every night before launch day and wonder if people will like what I’ve written. I don’t think that nervous feeling ever leaves really. It’s been amazing putting my stories out for people to hopefully enjoy and to hear that someone’s loved my book is the best feeling ever.

When you begin writing, did you ever think you’d get to where you are now?

Not at all. When I was sixteen, I was told by a careers adviser that writing wasn’t a good option and that I should choose something else. I did try various other career options but I kept coming back to writing because I love it so much. When I started writing, I never thought for a second that I’d be as lucky as I have been. It’s been an awesome experience.

What can you tell us about your latest book release, The Sunflower Cottage Breakfast Club?

It’s a continuation of the Luna Bay series, which started with The Broken Hearts Book Club. It follows Emily, an uptight professional from Glasgow, who comes to Luna Bay to oversee the sale of the local B&B, Sunflower Cottage. She also has a secret reason for coming to the village too: she wants to find out more about her biological father. That’s if hunky but moody Noah doesn’t get in the way first!

How long have you been writing? And what was the first thing you can remember writing?

I’ve been writing since I was about three, I think. I can’t remember what the first thing I ever wrote was, but I do remember writing out scripts for Friends and acting them out in front of my family!

Describe a typical day for you.

I get up, see my dog, have breakfast, watch some trashy TV and then the writing begins. If I’m not distracted by social media first, obviously! I spend way more time on that than I probably should.

Do you write to a schedule, eg every day or three times a week, set times, or do you write as and when the mood strikes?

I try and do a little bit every day. Some days are better than others though; I could do 5,000 words one day then have no clue what to do the next. As long as I do at least some words every day, I’m happy. I don’t work to set times, but I do find I work best at night. I’m a night owl at heart.

Sometimes writing a book seems like a massive mountain to climb … and that’s before considering editing, publishing and promoting! Do you have any advice for those of us just starting out?

Just keep writing is probably the best advice I could offer. And don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it because you can. Dreams do come true and if you keep working hard and persevering, you’ll get there.

You use social media (facebook, twitter etc) to engage with your audience, do you think it helps sales and do you find it fun or a chore?

I’m not sure how much social media presence affects sales, but I find it fun engaging with readers and chatting to my friends. I think if an author is on social media and comes across as likeable, it can increase people’s chances of picking up their book and vice versa. It’s definitely not a chore: if someone takes the time to message me or tweet me, I’ll always reply.

Lastly, what is next for you? Are you writing on something at the moment? Can we expect another book that you will publish with Carina?

I’m writing the third and final book in the Luna Bay series at the moment. It’s called The Silver Bells Christmas Pantomime and it’ll be out near the end of the year.


Lynsey James was born in Fife in 1991 and has been telling people how to spell her name ever since. She's an incurable bookworm who loves nothing more than getting lost in a good story with memorable characters. She started writing when she was really young and credits her lovely Grandad- and possibly a bump on the head from a Mr Frosty machine- with her love of telling stories. She used to write her own episodes of Friends and act them out in front of her family (in fact she's sure she put Ross and Rachel together first!)

A careers adviser at school once told Lynsey writing wasn’t a “good option” and for a few years, she believed her. She tried a little bit of everything, including make-up artistry, teaching and doing admin for a chocolate fountain company. The free chocolate was brilliant. When Lynsey left my job a couple of years ago, she started writing full-time while she looked for another one. As soon as she started working on her story, Lynsey fell in love and decided to finally pursue her dream. She haven’t looked back since.

When Lynsey's not writing, eating cake or drinking tea, she's daydreaming about the day Dylan O’Brien FINALLY realises they're meant to be together. It’ll happen one day…

More information about Sams's books: Amazon UK / Amazon US


Here is your chance to win an ebook copy of  Lynsey's latest release The Sunflower Cottage Breakfast Club.

Carina Author Week: The Moment a Location Captures my Heart by Karen Aldous

Welcome to Carina Author week a week full of Reviews, Guest Posts, Author Interviews and Giveaways, all about published authors by Carina UK. I'm delighted to welcome my fourth guest, Karen Aldous, author of The Vineyard, The Riviera, The Chateau and One Moment at Sunrise.

The Moment a Location Captures my Heart 

With every novel I write, the location is integral to the story just as much as the characters and the plot. In fact, a beautiful setting is also integral to me as a writer; one lung breaths travel while the other exhales words, so let me share with you the moments of inspiration I’ve received from some of the exotic locations in my novels so far.

Being a romantic, and a reader, I wish more than anything for my readers to escape. One of my favourite and inspirational books is The Island by Victoria Hislop. I bought it at the airport on my way to Crete and I would go as far to describe reading it as my Eureka moment. This novel made me realise the type of novel I wanted to write. The ingredients were a perfect combo; it’s set in the stunning Greek island of Spinalonga, the story has elements of history entwined, a former leper colony, plus, its choc-full of family drama and romance. I loved it, and I managed to take a boat trip to the island of Spinalonga whilst reading it. I knew afterwards exactly what and why I wanted to write. Yes, of course I want readers to engage in the characters and their lives, but I want readers to feel they are drifting off to the sunshine and travelling too. For me its Europe, France, Italy and Greece, switzerland etc., and I suppose it stems precisely from the toe-curling pleasures such beauty evokes in me.

A classic example is Provence. This was the setting for The Vineyard and The Riviera. On my first visit to Provence, many years ago, I stayed in Aix-en-Provence. Hubby and I had hired a car and as it was late in the season, it was a fantastic opportunity to drive out on the quiet roads and explore the numerous villages of the Luberon. And wow, as I stood in Bonnieux overlooking rolling hills with the sun bursting over burnt orange rooftops my character Lizzie arrived to let me know this was where she wanted to be. I, however thought she was rather young to be out here alone, so it was on another trip, to Cannes, at a beautiful apartment I stayed at overlooking a busy colourful market, that I found her home and business; a beauty salon. She had a buzzing cosmopolitan environment with glamourous rich playboys and yet, she still yearned to be among the vineyards of Provence. It made a beautiful contrast for the story and thus, provided me with the motivation for my first story.

With The Chateau, the character and setting arrived quite differently – from a dream! I saw a ragged-looking female struggling to breath in the water and trying to keep her grasp on a rope. The only clue to where she was, was a medieval stone arch and a iron-barred door which I guessed was an entrance to a dungeon. As I tried to make sense of it all the following day, I immediately thought of the Chateau de Chillon on Lake Leman (Geneva) in Switzerland. I had often driven passed it on ski trips, and nearby Montreux had been beckoning and so it was to be. When I researched the castle, I discovered much about its history and the witches it held as prisoners, and thus my main character Gina, who along with the man she meets in Montreux, Ollie, set out on a quest to discover more, and to free the spirit of Agnes-Francesia. The beautiful setting by the lake and mountains on the Swiss Riviera was perfect, capturing the story and my heart.

And so to One Moment at Sunrise, my latest novel. I know this will also sound bizarre, but as soon as I stepped into the villa in the Languedoc, my character Evie was there. She wasn’t happy though and as I questioned her, I began to get a picture of who she was and her tormentor; the reason she was sad. It wasn’t until the following week when I cycled along the Canal-du-Midi that I was struck by the setting. The canal and its landscape provided such inspiration and I just knew I would have to relocate her villa beside the canal. Then cycling out to the villages, the plot developed, but it was cycling to the town of Bezier which then added another dimension. Seeing the statue of Pierre-Paul Riquet, the builder of the canal was exciting and as I researched the canal’s history, I discovered that mountain peasant women had been key to building the canal and Riquet’s success. Their story had to be included too. Both my heart and mind captivated, both lungs doing their job.

I can’t imagine any other career as fulfilling as writing and travelling.


Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine!

Karen gets much of her inspiration from her travels and if she had to choose, France, Greece, Switzerland, Italy and Lake Tahoe in US would be her favourites. However, wherever she goes, she discovers a new character emerges in 'Karen's World'. She likes to write about strong independent women who can direct their own lives - but struggle to control them! And, of course there's always a gorgeous hunk or two!


More information about Karen's books: Amazon UK / Amazon US


Here is your chance to win an ebook copy Karens's latest release One Moment at Sunrise.

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Carina Author Week: Interview with Samantha Tonge

Welcome to Carina Author week a week full of Reviews, Guest Posts, Author Interviews and Giveaways, all about published authors by Carina UK. I'm delighted to welcome my third guest, Samantha Tonge, author of Doubting Abbey, From Paris With Love, Mistletoe Mansion, Game Of Scones, My Big Fat Christmas Wedding, How to Get Hitched in Ten Days and Breakfast under a Cornish Sun.

Hello Samantha, I’m delighted to have you on my blog today featuring the Carina Author week with a Q&A.

Thank you so much for having me, Isabell!

How was your publishing route with Carina?

My agent subbed to several publishers and we were lucky enough to land two offers. I decided on Carina because of the Harlequin reputation and their covers are just so beautiful – and I am so glad I made that decision!

You have incredible seven books called Doubting Abbey, From Paris With Love, Mistletoe Mansion, Game Of Scones, My Big Fat Christmas Wedding, How to Get Hitched in Ten Days and Breakfast under a Cornish Sun, in the pipeline since you signed a deal with Carina. How did it feel to publish your books and what has your experience since then been?

I feel blessed to have had so many books published in just under three years – although it has been hard work! I have learnt a lot about editing, marketing and promotion and it has been a wonderful process to watch the germ of an idea evolve into a full-fledged story and then to see the product with a fantastic cover sitting on a Kindle or bookshelf.

Do you think there's any way you could ever run out of ideas for books?

No! I always have too many ideas. People inspire me. Media inspires me. Places inspire me. I wish I could dictate my manuscripts like Barbara Cartland used to, then all of my ideas might actually see the light of day!

Once you had the idea how did you go about turning it into a reality?

Deciding on a title is really important first of all. Then the main character’s first name. Next, I loosely determine the plot. Finally I do all of the research. For Doubting Abbey I learnt a lot about stately homes. For Game of Scones I read about the Greek way of life. For my new Cornish book I looked into some of the emotional challenges my characters face. Then I start writing with a vague structure but the flexibility to just see where it goes.

What made you want to start writing?

Reading voraciously as a child. I adored Enid Blyton and used to read her books in the bath. Beano comics as well. Christmas was so exciting - the first thing I would do in the morning would be to open my Beano and Beezer annuals and lock myself in my bedroom to read them.

Do you write lots of drafts? What is your editing process?

I write the first draft. Then I do a rewrite – often restructuring it as I have a really annoying habit of dropping a load of backstory into the opening chapters. Then I will do another read-through before sending it to my agent to read. After that the editor wields their knife! 

If reading and writing were banned, what would you do instead?

Cooking. Travelling. And I have recently discovered adult colouring! But most importantly I would just spend more time with my family. 

What is your ideal holiday?

Ooh, hard one. I went to Japan a couple of years ago and thought that could never be beaten. Then a few months ago I visited Rome. Wow. Stunning. The history, the food, the weather… I can’t wait to go back. Although I do love Cornwall, where my new book is based- the tidal scenery, the amazing pasties and fish n’chips, the Cornish accent… so much to love.

Any advice for anyone out there thinking of writing a book?

Don’t expect your first effort to get you that deal (this was a learning curve for me!) – yet realise that NO work is ever wasted, because you learn so much from each project you take on, even if it never gets published. Oh, and get yourself a close network of writerly friends. They will sympathise with your rejections and help party when you finally find success – which you will if you just keep on trying.


Samantha lives in Cheshire with her lovely family and a cat that thinks it's a dog. Along with writing, her days are spent cycling, willing cakes to rise and avoiding housework. A love of fiction developed as a child, when she was known for reading Enid Blyton books in the bath. 

A desire to write bubbled away in the background whilst she pursued other careers, including a fun stint working at Disneyland Paris. Formally trained as a linguist, Samantha now likes nothing more than holing herself up in the spare room, in front of the keyboard. She has sold over 80 stories to women's magazines. 

Her bestselling debut novel, "Doubting Abbey", from CarinaUK HarperCollins, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award in 2014. Game of Scones won the 2015 Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category.


More information about Sams's books: Amazon UK / Amazon US


Here is your chance to win an ebook copy or a paperback of  Sam's latest release Breakfast under a Cornish Sun.

Carina Author Week: My Favourite Things About Being a Writer by Rebecca Pugh

Welcome to Carina Author week
a week full of Reviews, Guest Posts, Author Interviews and Giveaways, all about published authors by Carina UK. I'm delighted to welcome my second guest, Rebecca Pugh, author of Return to Bluebell Hill,  A Home In Sunset Bay and Down on Daffodil Lane.

My Favourite Things About Being a Writer

Today, I’m delighted to be here on the fabulous Isabell’s blog to talk about my favourite things about being a writer. Thank you so much for the invitation, Isabell. It’s a pleasure to be here as I’m such a massive fan of your gorgeous blog.

My number one love when it comes to writing is the fact that the world is my oyster. I can choose to set my character’s story absolutely anywhere. The choice is also mine as to whether my characters will stay there, or instead travel to other places, which is very exciting indeed. I’m also in control of what happens to my characters throughout the progression of their story. Will they fall in love? Will they fall out of love? Will they make new friends, get a new job or make some monumental mistakes? Who knows? The list of possibilities is endless, and that’s something I adore about writing. The freedom you have has no limits, so you really are free to go wild! Sometimes, if I’m ever stuck in a rut, it helps to remember this, and my imagination becomes fired up all over again.

Writing has also put me in touch with a number of wonderful authors who have so much advice and wisdom to share. As you already know, I’m a passionate reader as well as writer, and it’s still completely surreal when an author of one of my many, much-adored novels follows me back on Twitter or even stops to chat with me! I’m not too proud to say that it still sends me a little fan-girly at times because I never thought in a million years that that would ever happen. The writing/book community is a very special one and I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s full of so many fantastic people who are equally as passionate about books and writing, and it’s such a brilliant community to be a part of. Addictive, too! I can never quite get enough of bookish talk and sometimes I have to force myself to put my phone down and get on with the day. I’m a bit of a social-media addict these days! I’m dealing with it. Honestly!

Another thing I utterly adore is when the time rolls around for announcements. Whether that be announcing the title of my forthcoming novel or revealing a brand new cover, I thrive off it and absolutely LOVE sharing this excitement with readers. If you follow me on Twitter, then you’ll know that I’m the excitable type, and so when these things happen, I lose my cool completely. I can’t help it though! The same goes for other authors’ announcements and cover reveals. There is something magical about getting involved with it all, and then following the excitement that leads up to publication day. For me, personally, being sent my cover is always a special moment, although I’m sure this is the same for plenty of other authors out there too. I see my name on the cover and still find it hard to believe that it’s really happening, that that name is mine! It sounds silly but it’s the truth. Do these things ever sink in? It hasn’t happened yet!

Typing those two words ‘the end’ always feels like a massive achievement too. After all of the worrying and self-doubt and endless nights of edits and re-writing, reaching the end of your story is completely amazing. Not because it’s over and you’ve finished all of the work that needed to be done (although that does come as a relief!), but because your character’s time in the spotlight is done. Will you think oddly of me if I tell you that I always feel rather sad when I reach this point too? It’s impossible not to become attached to your characters. After all, you go through a hell of a lot with them during your time writing their story, don’t you? When it comes to saying goodbye, I always sit there and wonder for a while what they’ll get up to now that I’m leaving them to their own devices. I know, it sounds bizarre, but I suppose it’s all part of having a writer’s brain!


Rebecca Pugh grew up in the green county of Shropshire. Not an immediate reader, it took her a while to find her way towards the wonderful fictional words hidden between the pages of books. Ever since, she’s fallen under the spell of countless authors and the tales they've weaved. Her favourite authors include Jill Mansell, Cathy Bramley, Sarah Morgan and Holly Martin, to name but a few. She loves nothing more than tapping away at the keyboard, taking her characters from imagination to page and, when that isn’t the case, she adores curling up with a good book.

Rebecca is a fan of fairy tale romances that sweep you off your feet, dashing heroes and strong, lovable heroines. She can’t make up her mind whether she prefers a countryside escape, or a love story set in bustling New York. Either way, she’s more than happy to disappear into both.

When it comes to her own writing, Rebecca aims to whisk readers away to desirable locations, where they can meet characters who, she hopes, will begin to feel like friends. With a dash of romance here, and a shake-up of things there, she loves dreaming up stories and watching them come to life.

More information about Rebecca's books: Amazon UK / Amazon US


Here is your chance to win Rebecca Pughs latest release Down on Daffodil Lane.

Carina Author Week: Interview with Fiona Collins


Welcome to Carina Author week
a week full of Reviews, Guest Posts, Author Interviews and Giveaways, all about published authors by Carina UK. I'm delighted to welcome my first guest, Fiona Collins, author of A Year of Being Single and Cloudy with a Chance of Love.

How was your publishing route with Carina?

Thank you for having me on your blog, Isabell! Well, it was all quite a whirlwind, really. I sent the manuscript for A Year of Being Single to Carina one Monday morning, and got a call from them on the Friday offering me a two book deal. I was shocked but ecstatic (this is an understatement!). Then came the hard work - writing and editing and re-writing and editing, but it has been hugely enjoyable and I’m so grateful to Carina for believing in me.

You have two wonderful books called, A Year of Being Single and Cloudy with a Chance of Love in the pipeline since you signed a deal with Carina. How did it feel to publish your books and what has your experience since then been?

Publishing my books felt as you might imagine: fantastic, thrilling, beyond exciting and also quite scary – you don’t know how a book is going to be received until it’s Out There. I have LOVED the whole experience and hope to do it again and again!

What can you tell us about your books?

I want to write books that are funny and true to women’s lives. I hope that readers will laugh and not be able to put the book down. I dream of seeing dozens of people on sun loungers round a pool on holiday, all reading one of my books! I like to write the kind of books I would love to read myself.

Did you always want to be a writer?

No, it’s not something I ever dreamed of, but I always loved writing, whether it be essays at school and university or, later on, writing scripts for TV. I only decided to give novel writing a go after I read Marian Keyes’ The Other Side of the Story and wondered, did I have a book in me..?

Is writing your main source of income, I read lots of articles saying writers make no money! Can you survive on book writing alone? If not, what else do you do?

Yes, it is. I have another job, though, the very important and nerve-wracking job of successfully bringing up three children…writing often pales into insignificance against that gargantuan task!

What inspires you?

Oh, so many things. Women’s lives, TV, films, other writers and other fantastic books. I’m easily inspired!

Do you have a special place where you go to write?

Not particularly; I can write anywhere, if I have to. I did some editing on A Year of Being Single in the corner of a hotel room in Florida whilst my children and husband slept, before a day of Disneying. I even did some on the plane home, which made me feel all writer-ly and mysterious! At home, if I want to get serious and write a lot in one go, I head to the study. It’s nice and quiet and dark in there and far from the fridge!

What is the best thing about writing?

Freedom, fun, making things up and inventing gorgeous men that I can do what I like with!

Are you a reader yourself? What are you reading at the moment?

I certainly am; I get through at least one book a week. I’m currently reading Nick Spalding’s Bricking It, and I tend to flick between chick lit, psychological thrillers and women’s fiction. I’m a big fan of Amanda Prowse and am looking forward to reading her new novel.

Lastly, what is next for you? Are you writing on something at the moment? Can we expect another book that you will publish with Carina?

I’m currently having fun writing a third book for Carina, called Four Bridesmaids and a White Wedding, which is out next April!


Fiona Collins lives in the Essex countryside with her husband, three children and the noisiest cat in England, but also finds time for a loving relationship with a Kindle.

She likes to write feisty, funny novels about slightly (ahem) more mature heroines. She writes furiously at her kitchen table whilst the children are at school. She often startles the postman by coming to the door wearing a hideous cardigan and shortbread crumbs.

Fiona studied Film & Literature at Warwick University and has had many former careers including TV presenting in Hong Kong; talking about roadworks on the M25 on the radio; and being a film and television extra. She has kissed Gerard Butler and once had her hand delightfully close to George Clooney’s bum.

When not writing, Fiona enjoys watching old movies and embarrassing her children, especially when they have friends over. She dreams of hiring a cleaner and someone to pick pants off the floor.


More information about this book: Amazon UK / Amazon US

More information about this book: Amazon UK / Amazon US


Here is your chance to win Fiona Collins latest release Cloudy with a chance of Love 

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