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  1. I'm talking to popular romantic novelist, Julie Stock, today about how her travels have inspired her work. Welcome, Julie. Can you tell you tell us a bit about where you live.

    Hi, Karen. I live in rural Bedfordshire in a small village in the heart of the countryside.  

    CNV00016

    Bedfordshire

    We’ve lived here for nearly thirty years and I enjoy the setting a lot but I also feel we’re in a good spot for easy access to London and the rest of the country as well. I grew up in a large town before going to university in London, and although it took me a while to adjust to the peace and quiet when we first moved here, I probably prefer small town life overall.

    It sounds an ideal place to live, Julie. Do you like to travel about much? What is your favourite means of travel?

    As much as I enjoy being at home, I absolutely love to travel as well. Travelling is one of my favourite things and I really like having a holiday to look forward to. I’m not sure I have a favourite means of travel though! For many years, we would drive to France in the summer but it would always be quite stressful getting to the ferry on time and then often hauling our way down or across France once we reached the other side of the channel. And yet flying can be equally miserable. This summer we’re going to Menorca for the first time and our flight leaves at 6.35am! However, the flight isn’t too long so we’ll be okay. If I had a private jet, now, that might become my favourite way to travel...

    Me too! What countries have you visited or lived in?

    Apart from the UK, I have only lived in France. I lived there during my degree for my year abroad and my husband-to-be came with me, which was a sort of a trial run for marriage!

    I have visited most countries in Western Europe, mainly France as I also have French family,but also because of my love of the French language and all things French. We’ve been to Spain several times, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, Czechia and Greece. We haven’t yet ventured very far east in Europe so we have all that yet to discover. We have also visited a few places in America, including Nashville, Memphis, Los Angeles and Boston but there are many places we’d still like to go back for. There are obviously whole continents missing from our travelling experience so we have a lot of places on our bucket list.

     DSCN0504

    Memphis

    What country/place has made the most impact on you? Why?

    We had a wonderful holiday in Crete a few years ago and at the end, none of us wanted to leave. It was strange really because when we arrived, our villa had no water and we were very impatient about things not being sorted out quickly enough. But we soon fell into the Greek way and found that we enjoyed the slower pace of life and the way that material luxuries didn’t seem to be that important.

     DSCN2096

    Crete

    Have you featured any of the countries/places you’ve visited in your novels?  Tell us a little about them?

    My tagline on my website is contemporary romance from around the world and it was my love of country music and Nashville, in particular, that got me started writing in the first place. So my first book, From Here to Nashville, was all about a singer/songwriter from Poole in Dorset who dreams of being a successful country music star all the way over in Nashville.

     dfw-js-fhtn-cover-small

    My second book, which I’ve just published, is called The Vineyard in Alsace and this one draws on my love of France, and Alsace especially. It also allowed me to use my knowledge of winemaking, gained from the time I spent working at a mail-order wine merchant some years ago.

     TheVineyardinAlsace

    How do you do your research? Do you use google or actually visit the place?

    I hadn’t actually been to Nashville when I wrote my first book so I did do a lot of research on the internet. Then I was able to follow that up with proper research because I visited Nashville just two months after I published my book and luckily, all my references were fine.

     DSCN0363                   Nashville 

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    Is there any country/place you would love to write about but haven’t visited yet?

    I’d love to visit Marrakech one day and I could imagine setting quite an interesting romance story there. I’ve always wanted to visit Chile since learning about their wines when I first worked in the wine trade, and again, I could imagine that would be a beautiful setting for a romance. In fact, this is all giving me lots of new ideas!

     

    DSCN1119

    Alsace

     

     

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     Alsace

    Have you started work on your next novel yet and if so, where will it be set?

    I have and it’s going to be set in Devon, which seems a bit less exotic than Nashville or Alsace but is every bit as interesting. One day, a few years ago, I was daydreaming looking at restaurants for sale on the internet and I came across this particular one which gave me the idea for this book. I’m now about a third of the way in and working hard to get to the end of my first draft.

    Meet Julie

    Julie-Stock

    A bit about Julie

    Julie Stock is an author of contemporary romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She indie published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in February 2015 and has just published her second novel, The Vineyard in Alsace. A follow-up novella to From Here to Nashville is also in progress, as well as the next novel.

    She blogs regularly on her website, 'My Writing Life.' You can also connect with her on Twitter and via her Facebook Author Page.

    She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and The Society of Authors.

    When she is not writing, she works part-time for a charity as a communications officer, and freelance as a web designer and supply teacher. She is married and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.

    Thanks so much for dropping by to talk to us, Julie.

    Many thanks for having me on your blog, Karen. It’s been lots of fun talking about my travels.

     

  2. I'm delighted to interview romance author Keren Hughes today. Welcome, Keren.

     

    Keren

    Keren lives in the UK and is an avid bookworm. She fondly remembers the days where she would lie in her bedroom away from distraction and get lost in the world of make believe. Her first real memory of reading something she fell in love with was The Hobbit. In her teenage years, she became addicted to Point Horror books like RL Stine's The Boyfriend, but she also enjoyed light Summer reads like What Katy Did and What Katy Did Next. 

    Over the years she has come to realise that she is a bit of an OCD freak about books. They have to be in perfect condition without the slightest bit of damage. 
    She has been a book reviewer for the last few years and a book hoarder for a LOT longer. You can NEVER have too many books! Her shelves are bulging and overflowing but she always wants "just one more book".

    Keren had her first book published by Limitless Publishing in November 2013. It's a YA Paranormal Romance novel called Stolen. Her second book was published with LP in May 2014. This time, an NA Contemporary Romance called Nothing Like The First Time. 
    She couldn't have been more surprised when NLTFT appeared on the Amazon Best Seller list. That was a dream come true. 

    Let's find out a bit Keren's latest book, My Best Friend's Fiancé, which will be released at the end of May.

     Book cover (2)

     

    Blurb

     The heart wants what it wants right? But what if it wants something it can never have?

    I’m in love, and it should feel amazing...except, it doesn’t. The problem is, the guy I’m in love with happens to be my best friend’s fiancé. 

    It’s wrong on so many levels. If there was any way I could stop my growing feelings toward the one man who’s completely off limits, I would…but I can’t.

    It’s insane, a disaster waiting to happen. The only thing that could make this entire situation worse is if the feeling was mutual—which it isn’t...is it?

     

     I asked Keren to tell us a bit more about herself

     How did you get started writing?

    I started out as a blogger in 2011. I’ve always been an avid reader, so it was the logical next step to start reviewing. After a while, people started telling me that I should write a book. I’d written 2 when I was a teenager and I let the idea knock around in my head for a bit before taking the bull by the horns and starting to write my YA Paranormal Romance, Stolen. That was published in November 2013 and I haven’t looked back since.

     

    Stolen

     

     

    What do you like writing most?

    NA Contemporary Romance is where I seem to have found my home.

    What piece of writing/work are you most proud of?

    My most recent book, My Best Friend’s Fiancé. I absolutely adore the characters and have been told by many people that it is my best book yet.

    Are you ever disappointed when you see your work published?

    No. I’m always very proud to see my name on a published book. It’s something I’ve wanted since I was very young, so it’s a dream I have made come true.

    What’s your favourite poem?

    Stop All The Clocks, Cut Off The Telephone by WH Auden.

    What do you like to do to relax?

    I have many adult colouring books including Beauty & The Beast, Harry Potter, Alice In Wonderland; they are great for relaxing. I also enjoy doing anything creative. I make and sell greetings cards. I make swag for my own books and for other authors to take to signings. I also like origami. Other than that, I love to watch a good film with my 10 year old son.

    I love those adult colouring books too, Keren!

    What do you like to read?

    A bit of everything. I love Erotica, NA Contemporary Romances, M/M romance, F/F romance… I love all genres really.

    What’s your top writing tip for new writers?

    Always follow your dreams. If you have an idea, the best thing is to let it flow. It’s what I did and I have 5 books published now because I didn’t stop pursuing my dream.

    Great advice!

     You can find out more about Keren here:

    Email: kerentshughes@gmail.com 

    Twitter: @Keren_Hughes

    Instagram: @Keren_Hughes_Author
    Author blog here: www.authorkerentshughes.wordpress.com

    Facebook Profile: www.facebook.com/keren.hughes.92 or 
    Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/kerentshughes

     Thanks for dropping by to talk to us, Keren!

     

     

  3. Travel Thursday is back and today I'm delighted to welcome fellow Accent author and journalist, Zoe Chamberlain.

    Welcome, Zoe. You've spent a lot of time in the U.S.A and travelled to several other countries, haven't you? Can you tell us a bit about it?

    Hi Karen, yes I have. When I was a teenager, I took off with just a suitcase full of dreams and went to live in California. 

    Hollywood Hills USA

    Hollywood Hills, USA

    I’m a big believer in fate. I had no idea I wanted to live in California but, by fluke stood at a bus stop one day, I heard about a student exchange programme. I never caught that bus. Instead I went and signed up on the spot, alone and with no idea what awaited me, other than a huge amount of excitement.

    Following an 18-hour flight, I arrived into a tiny airport in the suburbs of Los Angeles where I was told a fellow student would meet me. It poured with rain that evening and everyone I met that night was grateful to the English girl for bringing the rain. It was pretty much the only time it did rain though during my entire stay.

    My Cali lifestyle was amazing. Soon I was hitching a ride down to Tijuana in Mexico, driving the Pacific Coast Highway up to San Francisco and hanging out with Hollywood directors in Echo Park.

    Huntington Beach USA

    Huntington Beach, USA

    Within a blink of an eye my six semester in L.A was over and so I took to the road, and the skies, to spread my wings further across the States, taking in Hawaii, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Las Vegas and more.

    Santa Monica USA

    Santa Monica, USA

    I returned to England but my hunger for travel grew, resulting in backpacking jaunts around Australia, temple-exploring trips to Tokyo and cookery excursions to Malaysia, even Aurora-chasing expeditions across Norway and Finland.

    Kyoto templeKyoto Temple, Japan

    You've been to some wonderful places, Zoe. Have they inspired your writing?

    What I’ve learnt from my travels is that it is the individuals that make a place: the independent shops, the unique street food sellers and the community camaraderie of a kindred spirits.

    And so it is this that inspired me to write my book The Garden of Stars.

     

    GoS

     Available from Amazon

    What a lovely cover! Can you tell us a bit about the story? 

    It is about a mother and daughter, on the run from an abusive relationship, who find themselves in a tumble-down country cottage that’s bursting with character (and very much like my own). Vivian, the mum, discovers that the pretty little town that has provided her salvation is under threat from developers, who want to tear down the black and white buildings, drive out the butchers and bakers and replace it all with faceless riverside apartments and supermarkets.

    She comes up with a plan to save her beloved town and gets the whole community involved but there’s trouble along the way, namely a fire, a brawl and a witch hunt that looks set to unearth the terrible skeletons in her cupboard.

    It’s a book about why we should preserve individuality and make every little town a place where tourists love to come visit.

    And it's also about why it’s so very important for us all to broaden our horizons and share them with our children.

    Meet Zoe

     

    Zoe Chamberlain

     A bit about Zoe

    Zoe Chamberlain is a journalist, author, member of the Romantic Novelists Association and mum of two. She also runs a parenting Facebook group called Brummie Mummies

    Twitter: @1ZoeChamberlain

    Facebook: Zoe Chamberlain Journalist  /  Garden of Stars

    Amazon Author Page

    Linkedin

     Thank you Karen for inviting me onto your blog, it’s brought back some very happy memories.

    It's been a pleasure, Zoe.

  4. This week I'm interviewing someone who I've been trying to persuade to come on my blog for some time, the artist Nemki, who is actually my daugher Naomi King. 

     

     

    nam500

    Welcome to my blog, Naomi! Can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

    I’ve been drawing my whole life and was always torn between being an artist and a biologist. Having maths dyslexia (which is a thing), I couldn’t get high enough marks to go down the biology path, so studied graphic design and then illustration at university. Wanting to do something different than book illustration, I started making art on products such as bags, clothes and mugs. I made them in my studio alongside my other jobs, sold them at stalls and eventually started selling online on shops such as Etsy. I’ve almost completed a postgraduate course in art history and am now lucky enough to be a full-time artist and designer, which still shocks me.

     axolot mug                         Quokka notebook

    Axolotl mug                                                                           Quokka notebook

    What sort of illustrations do you like to draw?

     I’ve always preferred to draw animals because I love them and like to try and capture their personalities. I get bored when I draw anything else, so I’ve decided to just go with it now and stick to drawing animals rather than people, landscapes or anything else. I like to draw silly cartoons, which you see on Nemki, but I also love to draw realistically, which I’m going to focus on more in the near future.

    Cavalier King Charles Spaniel wall clcok

    Cavalier King Charles Spaniel wall clock

    What was the first illustration you had published/sold?

    When I was about 4 I had my first illustration published in the My Little Pony magazine. I still have a copy of it. I drew my favourite pony, Gypsy. It was my proudest moment.

    Oh yes, I remember that!

    Can you tell us what you like most about illustrating?

    I have one of those brains that thinks too much and is easily distracted. Illustration is quite meditative for me. I get very focused, and when I’m drawing with an audiobook or a TV show in the background it’s the most wonderful calm, happy feeling. I also love it when I finish creating something and people seem to like it, I need the validation.

    You've done so many illustrations, which one are you most proud of?

    I drew a tiger using just tiny dots of ink a couple of years ago. It didn’t sell very well as its not as commercial as some of my other things, but it was very ‘me’, it was in a realistic style and really intricate. It felt like an evolution of the hundreds of pencil sketches of animals I’d done as a kid. I’d never felt such happiness creating that, and now when I look at it I feel so pleased at the level of realism I was able to achieve. I want to explore more in this style in the future.

    tigertextured copy72

    It's a beautiful picture, I can see why you're proud of it. What designs are you working on at the moment?

    I’ve just finished a capybara design, which I’ve wanted to do for ages, and am racing through a little list I have.

    Capybarra phone case

            capybara phone/case or skin

    How can we get hold of your goods?

    You can buy on Etsy, Redbubble and Society6.

    https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/nemki

    https://www.redbubble.com/people/nemki?ref=account-nav-dropdown&asc=u

    https://society6.com/nemkishop

    What artist do you admire most?

    I think Picasso. I never would have said that until I went to see his museum in Barcelona last year and realised the journey he had been on. There was this one exercise he did where he was trying to find his style and recreated a famous old painting in about twenty new ways until he found one he was happy with. Before that moment I guess I thought it was meant to be easy and intuitive, finding your art style, but Picasso showed me the reality of the hard work and trial-and-error behind every successful artist.

    You're obviously very busy with your artwork. What do you like to do to relax?

    Yoga is the number one thing that helps me relax. It’s like magic. I have no idea how it works but it just does. I also like to go outside in nature on little hikes, travel, if its bad weather I basically just sit and eat. I love eating.

    Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?

    People always find it surprising that I love rats and snails so much, as I’m quite a girly girl. I absolutely adore them. As a kid I would collect snails and keep them as pets in little tanks in the garden, and read about what food they liked to eat in books so I could find it for them. I also used to keep grasshoppers, ladybirds and even spiders, and had a sort of insect hospital where I tried to rescue ones that looked like they needed some extra care. I got my first pet rat when I was 14 and instantly fell in love with how intelligent and playful they are. I love all animals but I guess I get drawn to the more misunderstood ones.

    Yes. I remember all the creepy-crawlies you kept! Especially the spider in the shoebox under the bed ....

    You've got quite a reputation as an artist now, with over 3,000 sales on Etsy alone. What’s your top tip for new illustrators?

    Find a niche. When people first start out sometimes they are told to show the scope of what they can do and to master lots of different subjects and styles, but the market is so big you’ll just get nowhere and look like you don’t know who you are yet. Practise until you find a subject and style you enjoy and just keep creating. Get yourself a niche and find the people who like your work, and focus on catering to them. It can get really stressful making money through art so don’t be scared to have another job alongside while you figure it out, I spent my twenties in cafes and shops while I tried to decide what direction I wanted to take in art because I wanted to get it right.

    Great tip! You certainly seem to have found your niche, your detailed illustrations are very popular both on the items you sell and as wallpaper. Let's take a look at a few more of your designs.

    odotters       odpigs 

     

    odmonkeys        odsloth

     You can contact Nemki here:

    Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/HelloNemki/

    Instagram @hellonemki

    Twitter @nemkistudio
     

    Thanks so much for dropping by and sharing your lovely work with us, Naomi.