The Fabrian Books’ Blog

Thank you, 2019… and our 2020 vision!

We’ve had an amazing year in 2019 at Fabrian Books, being joined by a couple of new authors, having another bumper crop of best-sellers and lots of other highlights in our writing careers that some of us would love to tell you about, along with our hopes for 2020… so here goes!


Jen Sumner

2019 has been quite the ride for Jen Sumner – a new writing team alter-ego for Jennie and Steve Dunn. We’ve written and released four books throughout this year, all Feel-Good Romances which comprise the first four entries in the well-received and-reviewed Luxmore Park series. Part 5 is already being written, with a prequel now in the works too. Fans are already asking for more, describing the characters as “old friends”, and Luxmore Park as somewhere they wish they could visit in real life. We are already developing ideas for future series too. Many more adventures to come! In the meantime, you can enjoy Annie and Seb’s stories here for only 99p per book! Merry Christmas.


Merryn Allingham

My highlight of 2019 has been the success of books I wrote nearly five years ago! Strange but true. When recently the publisher brought out another six thousand copies of each title in the Daisy’s War trilogy, they sold within months, and the kindle editions rose in the charts. In an era of fast fiction (as well as fast fashion), that was comforting. And a confidence boost, as I’m embarking on a new series,The Tremayne Mysteries – this time comprising five novels. I’m not sure if that’s bold or insane! Each book in the series will focus on a different crime in a different location, but the three main characters are a constant and their developing relationship will be as important as the crime. The first in the series is already out — The Venice Atonement on, and Kobo.


Linda Huber (aka Melinda Huber)

My 2019 has two main highlights. The first, in March, was the publication of Stolen Sister, my eighth psychological suspense novel. This one’s set in my old home town, Glasgow, so I really enjoyed writing it. Then in summer came the fifth and final novella in my Melinda Huber ‘…in Switzerland’ series, Wedding Bells in Switzerland, set just metres from my home on the banks of lovely Lake Constance. As you can guess by the title, there’s a wedding involved – but it doesn’t quite go to plan… You can find out more here.

Apart from these two big events, the most important items in my writing diary are always the meet-ups I have with my little group of writers here in Switzerland. Alison Baillie and Louise Mangos are crime writers; Cass Grafton writes romance, I wouldn’t miss these for the world – we brainstorm ideas, encourage each other, cry on each other’s shoulders (nobody ‘gets’ it like another writer) and celebrate our successes with a glass or two of prosecco. And my biggest wish for 2020 is to do something similar with the other Fabrian books writers – cheers, all!


Deirdre Palmer (aka Zara Thorne)

My highlight of 2019 has to be the publication of The Wife’s Revenge by Darkstroke (an imprint of Crooked Cat), written under my real name, Deirdre Palmer. This was my first foray into the psychological thriller genre, and exciting to write, though challenging. It’s available in ebook and paperback form, here. My plans for 2020 are modest, but again, challenging, as I’m planning a new psychological thriller. I’ve also begun a new ‘Zara Thorne’ book, a romance called When I First Saw You, which will be published early in the new year. If there’s time, I’d like to write a new Christmas book for next year, too.


Laura Wilkinson (aka Cheri Davies)

The end of another year – another decade! If I’m honest, 2019 has been a tough year for me, but I’m not going to dwell. The highlights… finishing another ‘Laura’ novel and finishing a Cheri novel – The Manhattan Effect, the sequel to The Prosecco Effect, part two of Felicity and Orlando’s story in which our gorgeous, troubled duo head to the Big Apple (the clue’s in the title! It’s not just a drink 😊). Designer Jules is currently working on a revamped cover for The Prosecco Effect after which she’ll be beavering away on the next cover. I can’t wait to show it to you. Similarly, I’m looking forward to publishing The Manhattan Effect under the Fabrian banner early in 2020 (I do like the look of that number). As for my hopes for the coming year… I hope to find more readers for Cheri’s books and find a home for my Laura novel. I hope to read even more fabulous books than I did in 2019 and from the looks of what my fellow Fabrian authors and others are up to that won’t be difficult! I hope to continue being grateful for my relative good fortune, and to make the most of each day – the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! You can check out The Prosecco Effect for yourself here.


Sharon Booth

I’ve been looking back over the year and thinking that I really hadn’t achieved much at all in 2019. In fact, I’ve been giving myself quite a hard time over it! So I decided to double check to see what I’d actually done, and I got a pleasant surprise. I clearly haven’t been faffing about as much as I thought!

I’ve released my first two audios books with WF Howes, as well as combining the first and second books in the Skimmerdale series as a collection, releasing my second Witches of Castle Clair book, adding new novels to the Bramblewick and Home for Christmas series, and achieving several best seller flags. 2019 has also seen the release of the first four Bramblewick books as paperbacks, with some of them also coming out with my large print publisher, Ulverscroft. To complete 2019, the final Bramblewick novel, Christmas at Cuckoo Nest Cottage will be published in mid-December.

I think I’m going to stop beating myself up about not doing enough this year! But, before I get too complacent, I have to think ahead to 2020, and there’s a lot to do there! I have more collections to publish, more paperbacks, and at some point, I’d like to produce more audio books. Next year, for me, will be about finishing off my ongoing projects. The spring will bring the final Witches book, for instance. I’ve loved working on all my series, but I have so many new ideas jostling for their turn that I do feel it’s time to move on. 2021 will find me in my new settings which, trust me, are just as beautiful and filled with as many delightful characters as Kearton Bay, Skimmerdale and all the other places we’ve visited together. There’s a lot of work to do before I can leave my old friends behind, though, and that includes writing at least five books next year. Is it achievable? Ask me again this time next year!

You can find all my books here, sign up for my newsletter or check out my website.


Jo Bartlett

This year has been amazing, but it seems to have flashed by in the blink of an eye. I’ve released books 13, 14, 15 and 16 and I’ve been lucky enough to receive best seller flags for all four. I was also thrilled to make the overall Kindle top 100 this year, and win three Amazon All Star awards for being a Top 100 most read author. Somehow those pinch myself moments still don’t seem real! The biggest highlight of 2019, though, has been the feedback I’ve received from some of my readers. Being told that I’ve made someone’s holiday extra special because they loved escaping into one of my books so much, or that it’s helped get them through a difficult time, of illness or bereavement, by providing an escape to a feel-good story, really makes it all worthwhile. My hopes for 2020 (like Laura, I love the look of that date!) are for more of the same and hopefully to achieve something new with a second writing identity… I’ll keep you posted on that one, but in the meantime I hope you have an amazing Christmas and that all your dreams for 2020 come true too.


Alys West

During 2019 I have been hard at work completing my third novel, STORM WITCH (the second book in the Spellworker Chronicles) which will be published in March/April 2020. The book is set in Orkney and picks up the story six weeks after the end of BELTANE. The first chapter of STORM WITCH is available to read here.

I have also been busy teaching creative writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of York. If you’re in Yorkshire then you may want to check out the courses I’m teaching in 2020 which are on self-publishing, writing suspense and preparing to submit your manuscript. You can find out more here.

In 2020 I’m looking forward to working with more writers to develop their work through my book whispering and mentoring services. I’ll also be starting work on a new historical fantasy novel set in Whitby.


Jackie Ladbury

I never really feel in control of the stories I write as I’m more of a muddler than a planner, almost surprising myself when I actually finish writing a book, so am quite proud that in 2019 I had two books published: The Potters Daughter and Happy Christmas Eve by Ruby Fiction. I recently started writing another historical almost as a vague idea I was toying with, but before I knew it I had thirty thousand words down. Another 60,000 and it will be finished (gulp!) I still want to write contemporary romances too, and am a very tentative 10,000 words into A Sorrento Summer (working title) which is on the back-burner at the moment. Christmas Kisses on Hollywell Hill took almost two years to write, on and off and I’m especially proud of it, as I wasn’t even sure if it was any good until people started telling me that it was their favourite book of the season – I still adore the cover too. So, hope you all have a Happy Christmas and if you’re going to read one Christmas book this year make it Christmas Kisses on Hollywell Hil Emoji You can find out more about me and my books on my website.


Pat Posner

My writing highlight of 2019 has been setting up a new Facebook group for all those people, including my loyal and lovely readers, who remember the prefab era with such fondness. It’s been great sharing photographs and memories, and being transported back to a time when life seemed so much simpler. If you fancy joining in with the fun, you can find the page here. In 2020, I’ll be releasing a new set of stories from the popular Broome Park Prefab Village series and, in the meantime, if you fancy a Christmas visit to Broome Park, you can find a wealth of feel-good stories in Christmas Roses.


Helen Phifer

2019 has been a very busy year with so much going on that I can hardly believe we’re nearly at the end! There have been a few writing related highlights for me this year. The first was striking out and doing something totally different, in setting up a book club, which takes place at my local Costa. Anyone who follows me on social media, or knows me in real life, will be aware that I’m a bit of a Costa coffee addict! I set up the group to encourage me to read more widely across different genres, as I think there’s so much to learn from all of them. It’s a been a great way of doing that and, of course, meeting lots of lovely like-minded new friends. My other highlight was the release of my new series with Bookouture. The series follows the personal and professional life of pathologist, Beth Adams, and the first book ‘The Girl in the Grave’ has been really well received by readers and reviewers alike. So I was excited to release book 2 The Girls in the Lake this week and I can’t wait to hear what readers think! In 2020, I’ll be working on a new writing contract and the details of that will be announced soon. I also hope to go back to my first love of writing horror, but I just need to find some more hours in the day first Emoji


We hope you’ve enjoyed reading  our highlights of 2019 and our plans for 2020. The Fabrian Books’ team would like to wish all our readers the very merriest of Christmas seasons and a wonderful New Year!



Seaside cottages, disobedient dogs and the magic of muse

A Cornish Summer's Kiss ebook cover jpgI don’t post on the Fabrian Books’ blog as often as I probably should, but every once in a while I have more to say than can be confined to a tweet or series of hashtags on Instagram. Today is one of those occasions. I am (very quietly) celebrating the launch of book fourteen, which might extend to an extra squeeze of syrup on my pancakes tonight… or it might not!

After thirteen previous occurrences, book release day is just another day. So I took the dogs out for a walk as I always do. Whilst I was out, I thought I would take a photograph of a house on the beach close to me, which reminds me of the book cover for A Cornish Summer’s Kiss. You might question whether there are really any thatchedimage5 cottages that overlook the sea, with white cliffs in the distance, but I can promise you there are. It might not be cut off from the rest of the world at high tide, like Myrtle Cottage in A Cornish Summer’s Kiss is, but I think it’s lovely all the same.

I almost ended up acting out the first scene from the new novel, just to get the photos today. When Lexie heads down to Port Kara to work out a way forward after the death of her husband in a surfing accident, she finds herself stranded on an impassable cliff path after her wayward Labrador, Albie, takes an unexpected leap of faith. I often find myself in slightly precarious situations with my dogs because, let’s just say, they’re not exactly trained the Barbara Woodhouse way – for anyone else who’s old enough to remember who that is! Their default position is to run off and pretend to be as deaf as posts when someone or something more interesting than me comes along; that could be anything from a rabbit, to another dog, or even dancing leaves swept up on the breeze. This means, if I’m going to let them off the lead, then it’s usually somewhere off the main path, where we hopefully won’t bump into other dog walkers with their far more obedient canines.

The dogs in the background today and the selfie face I always pull when I’m desperately trying to look thinner!

I was in the Llyn Peninsula in Wales when I actually got stuck on the wrong side of a gap in the cliffs, getting myself into serious trouble, just like Lexie, trying to rescue my own Labrador, Lola. Sadly I wasn’t saved by a rugged lifeboat crewman, as Lexie is in A Cornish Summer’s Kiss, but I have to say I’ve never been as grateful for my husband’s ability to keep far calmer than me, than I was that particular day. On that same Welsh beach I spotted a row of old fisherman’s cottages, that were cut off by high tide, and it was the combination of these two things that inspired me to write the first chapter of what became A Cornish Summer’s Kiss.

My plan when taking the photos today was just to post the pictures and the front cover, side by side, but it got me thinking about why I write about seaside settings more often than not. I was born a couple of minutes from the sea and only once ever lived more than a few miles away from the coast. I lasted twelve months in Warwickshire, but the lure of the sea soon drew me back home to Kent. I’ve now written seven books set on the Kent coast, three in Cornwall (a favourite UK holiday destination), two in the Scottish Highlands and one in the Kent countryside.  I suppose it’s in the blood and living so close to the sea, even now, I can’t help but imagine my protagonists living their lives with the smell of sea salt in the air too.

It also occurred to me, when I was scaling the banks of the slope today, that dogs feature image3in almost all of my stories as well. Like the sea, they’ve been in my life from day one, and I couldn’t imagine my house without at least one dog thumping its tail on the mat to welcome us home. Walking the dogs always helps me get the next phase of the story straight in my head, so it’s no surprise that they should frequently appear as integral characters in my stories. These days, with teenagers in the house – one of whom has turned mood swings into a semi-professional occupation – escaping with the dogs is even more of a draw.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn A Cornish Summer’s Kiss I write about the big skies and endless horizons that you just don’t find elsewhere. Walking the dogs today, and taking some photos to mark release day, reminded me just how lucky I am to be surrounded by so much inspiration. It looks like I’ll be writing about seaside locations, and the dogs that love them every bit as much as their human companions, for some time to come!

A Cornish Summer’s Kiss is available on and With a big thank you to all at Fabrian books and my lovely friend, Toni Jones, for helping the book over the finish line.

Jo Bartlett

Finding Granddad

IMG_5133One of the greatest sadnesses of my adult life is that my dad never got to meet my children. He would have adored them too. My daughter has his acerbic wit and perfect timing with one liners, and he’d have loved cheering on my son’s prowess on the rugby pitch.

What makes it worse is that my husband also lost his father before the children were born, although they are blessed to have two wonderful grandmothers. I had to accept from the beginning that they were going to miss out on having a grandfather in their lives and that seemed such a shame. Only my maternal grandfather was still alive when I was born, but I remember clearly what is what like to spend time with him. He lived near the seaside and had boxes of shells in his shed, which felt like a treasure trove back then. He was such a kind man with a twinkly smile and he used to tease us by calling us the flippin’ kids, but it was all done with affection. He mastered the art of banter long before it was given a name.

As it turns out, my children didn’t miss out at all, because a granddad came into theirSS100638 lives unexpectedly. He might not be biologically related to them, but Peter has given them everything I’d imagined a granddad would, and more.  When we first met him, his lovely wife Maureen had just cut his hair. Unfortunately, she forgot to put the guard on the clippers and Peter was left with a reverse Mohican, but he just made a joke about it. I knew from that moment we were going to be friends, but I had no idea how much more he would become.

image1 (1)Peter has played endless games with my children, and even in his seventies was still a whizz at Just Dance on the Wii, he helped rebuild the derelict house we bought, accompanied us on trips to see Santa, told the funniest stories and sat through excruciating singing in school concerts.

I often write love stories and, when the protagonists meet, their lives usually change forever. It isn’t just romantic love that can be life changing, though, and sometimes a person can drop into your life who just fits right in, as if they were made to be there.  Peter has been one of those people for my family and so I knew exactly who I wanted to dedicate my latest book, Finding Dad, to.

They say you can choose your friends and not your family, but I don’t think that’s true. Peter and Maureen are the family we chose, whether they like it or not. So if you’re lucky enough to spend this Christmas with a father or grandfather figure, whether they share your DNA or not, make sure you give them an extra hug.  And if you happen to meet a man with a reverse Mohican, it might just be your lucky day.

Jo Bartlett

Finding Dad – When Freya Halliwell sets out to find her biological father, she has no idea what else she’s about to discover.

A Lake in Switzerland

The first time I saw Lake Constance was when I spent a long weekend there with a girlfriend and her parents, way back in the eighties, shortly after I came to Switzerland. We arrived at the hotel, went up to our second-floor bedrooms, and – wow. There it was, a huge expanse of blue, stretching from Austria on the right, all the way along the Swiss bank in front and to the left, with Germany just visible on the opposite side.

Little did I know back then that one day I’d be living on the banks of this lake, and even less did I imagine I’d ever be a published writer. Now, X years and nine books later, I finally have a novel set here.

The view I saw that first time is the one admired by Stacy and Emily at the start of A Lake in Switzerland. Like me, they were gobsmacked, and like me, they visited many of the local tourist attractions during their time at the Lakeside Hotel. It’s a very picturesque area, though maybe not as well-known as the Matterhorn, for instance, or Lake Lucerne, or the mountains of the Bernese Oberland.

And that’s part of its charm. We have tourists here, but not in swarms. There’s space, and peace along the lakeside even in summer. Stacy and Emily have a hard time sightseeing at first, due to Emily’s injury, but with a little help they manage a cable car trip, a visit to the truly spectacular Rhine Falls, and of course, a boat trip on the lake. And all the time I was writing, I was sitting at my desk by the window, blue water flickering through trees along the lake bank in front of me, remembering my own visits to these places.

How lucky am I that I can re-visit so easily?


If you’d like to know more about life in N.E. Switzerland, have a look at my blog – regular posts about books, writing, and of course, lovely Switzerland!

Or follow me on Twitter: @LindaHuber19 and @MelHuberCH

And you can read about Stacy and Emily’s adventures in A Lake in Switzerland here:

#PublicationDay for Zara Thorne!

We’re delighted to wish Zara Thorne a very happy publication day, with her latest novel, Christmas at Spindlewood.

Laura Engleby loves Christmas; it’s her favourite time of year. Her daughter, Holly, is due home from university; Spindlewood, their draughty but beautiful old house with its quirky turret, awaits its dressing up for the festive season; Cynthia, the Christmas tree fairy, is a vision in pink, and preparations are well in hand for Laura’s Christmas Eve party, a tradition started in her late husband James’s time, to which most of the residents of Charnley Acre are invited, and those who aren’t turn up anyway.
When Clayton Masters, owner of Green and Fragrant Garden Services, finds himself with nowhere to sell his Christmas trees, Laura doesn’t hesitate to let him use her garden. Christmas trees at Spindlewood – what could be more perfect? It’s easy to overlook the fact that it’s Spencer Jennings, the man Laura might just spend the rest of her life with, who is preventing Clayton from using his usual tree sales plot in the centre of the village. After all, it’s just business. Isn’t it?
Storm clouds gather above Spindlewood, threatening Laura’s festive mood when she discovers that Clayton and Spencer are bitter enemies. She has no idea why, and nobody is saying, least of all the two men involved. Spencer’s behaviour towards Clayton is as far from the spirit of the season as it could be, and Laura starts to wonder how well she really knows him. Clayton, on the other hand, behaves impeccably. What is more, it seems he will do anything for Laura.
When she realises that Clayton hates Christmas, Laura is shocked. How can anyone hate Christmas? But a much deeper shock is in store when she discovers the reason.
Laura is on a rescue mission – but what has Clayton’s tragic story got to do with her, and why does his happiness matter so much to her?

Christmas at Spindlewood is available to buy now here, and it’s just 99p. A real Christmas bargain.

Christmas with Fabrian Books

It’s may only be the first day of October today, but at Fabrian Books we’re totally in the Christmas zone! Over the coming weeks, we have a selection of fabulous festive fiction for you to enjoy.






You can look forward to cosy village romances, dramas in New York, love, laughter, chocolate, and lots of snow! We also have a fabulous new collection of short stories that take us right through the year, and are a real nostalgic treat.



With authors Jo Bartlett, Sharon Booth, Zara Thorne and Pat Posner all releasing one or more new books, your reading pleasure is guaranteed. We will reveal more covers and publication dates on our Facebook page here, and on Twitter, so if you’re not already following us on social media, you should do it now.





The Christmas countdown is on!

A Summer of New Releases and New Authors!

It’s been a busy few weeks at Fabrian Books.

We’re delighted to say that two new authors have joined us. Welcome to Fabrian Books, Zara Thorne and Pat Posner. Both are experienced writers with a pretty impressive body of work behind them. You can read all about Zara here, and about Pat here. Zara’s debut with Fabrian Books is already available (more about that in a moment) and Pat’s first release will be out in the near future. We’ll bring you the news as soon as we confirm dates.

Recent weeks have seen the release of three new publications in our “Fabrian Books’ Feel-Good” selection. These books are what we call our heart-warming collection. We have some wonderful stories which, in many cases, were previously published in magazines or as pocket novels. They are what they say – feel good stories, which will leave you feeling all warm and cosy inside. We guarantee a happy ending!

In mid July, Zara’s first Fabrian release, Escape to Sunrise Cottage, was released. This was followed in early August by Jo Bartlett’s second in the Channel View Farm series, Second Chances at Channel View Farm. With Give Me Your Answer Do achieving bestseller status on Amazon (as have all Jo’s Fabrian publications!) it was gratifying to see that SCACVF promptly followed suit. Congratulations, Jo!




At the weekend, on August 12th, Sharon Booth’s second Feel-Good book was published. New Doctor at Chestnut House, set in the village of Bramblewick on the North Yorkshire Moors, is the first in a new series based in and around a country doctor’s practice.  It was lovely to see Sharon’s and Zara’s books close together on the Medical Fiction Hot New Releases chart on Amazon recently.

We have some terrific new stories lined up for you in the future. Pat Posner’s debut will follow soon, and then we are gearing up for Christmas. We have some wonderful books on their way, so keep a look out for them. You can find all Fabrian books by clicking on this link. Happy reading!

Beltane – New Cover Reveal

Alex Beltane ebook coverI’m delighted to announce that my supernatural fantasy romance, Beltane, has a gorgeous new cover.  The cover features a rather good looking Green Man.  I’m rather taken by his lovely eyes and how it’s clear that under those leaves there’s a really interesting and (let’s be honest) downright sexy guy.

Now if you’ve not read Beltane then you might be thinking, what’s with the Green Man.  I’m afraid to answer that question would need a spoiler alert so I’ll just say that the Green Man is a very key character in the book.

My original title for Beltane was The Green Man but after one too many person said, “Sounds like a pub” I decided Beltane was a better option. It’s taken me a while to find my perfect Green Man for the cover and, since I published the book, readers have very kindly sent me Green Men that they’ve found on their travels.  I’ve now got pictures of Green Men from all over the UK so I thought I’d share a few with you.  There’s stone ones, wood ones, knitted ones and even ones on biscuits!

IMG_0703Green Men have been around for many centuries but that name wasn’t used until 1939 when Lady Raglan coined it in an article about ‘The Green Man in Church Architecture’ which was published in the Folklore Journal.  Before that they were known as foliate heads being essentially heads surrounded by foliage.

Green Men are surprisingly ancient.  There are Roman examples of the Green Man and carvings from Mesopotamian in present-day Iraq.  Surprisingly, as he’s (probably) associated with fertility and nature, he’s found in many mediaeval churches where you’ll find him carved in wood or stone.  He had a bit of a revival in the nineteenth century when he was a favourite of the Gothic revivalist and arts and crafts movement.  Since then he’s been interpreted by artists, had a festival named after him and a lot of albums (I’ve just discovered, and I have to say it seems somewhat unlikely to me, that Mark Owen of Take That’s 1996 solo album was called ‘The Green Man’) and given his name to a Morris side (which my Morris dancing friend tells me is the technical name for a group of Morris dancers).

Green Man biscuits

The Green Man is sometimes confused with Jack in the Green (the trickster character of English May Day parades), Green George (who it turns out is a leaf covered young man in mummer’s plays), John Barleycorn (a character in a folk song which personifies the life cycle of barley) and Robin Hood (yes, the robbed from the rich to give to the poor Nottinghamshire outlaw).  But he predates all of them.

Interestingly, with all those images of him there’s no clear understanding of what he represents. The experts aren’t one hundred percent sure which means there’s lots of different theories.  Some believe he’s a symbol of death and rebirth, others that he’s a symbol of fertility and others that he’s a symbol of life and nature.   For me, it’s the last one that rings true and that’s why he’s important in Beltane.

Knitted green manI hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my Green Man photo gallery.  They’re all remarkably handsome in different ways.  If you’ve got a photo of a Green Man or if you see one on your travels then I’d love to see it.  You can add a comment below, tweet me at @Alyswestyork, post on my Facebook page @alyswestwrites or visit my website at

If you’d like to know more about Beltane click here

Revisiting Mr Rochester ~ Why I Returned to the Ultimate Hero

Today sees the publication of my sixth book, Resisting Mr Rochester. I expect that the title will give you some indication that it’s loosely – very loosely – based on Jane Eyre. The question you may be asking yourself is why? Why name your hero Mr Rochester? Why not call him Mr Smith? Or Mr Jones? Or Mr Culpepper-Blanchard-Entwistle, for that matter?

Because I like alliteration. 😊 Seriously, it’s a good question, and one I asked myself many times over the course of writing it. I was terrified. I remember meeting up with my fellow Fabrian author, Alex, (aka Alys West) and telling her how scared I was. I was paralysed with fear. “It’s because Jane Eyre means so much to you,” she told me gently. She wasn’t wrong. It felt like such a responsibility – not to mention a cheek. When I told my husband the title of my book, he gasped and said, “Are you allowed to do that?” Well, yes, I was allowed. The question was, dare I?

I’ve made no secret of the fact that Jane Eyre is my all-time favourite book. It was down to that novel that I even started writing in the first place, and I paid tribute to it in my debut novel, There Must Be an Angel. The first line of that book was “Reader, I married him”. You can read how Jane Eyre brought me to that point here.

I’ve read various novels based – with varying degrees – on Jane Eyre. I even studied possibly the most famous of them, The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, as part of my degree in literature. This is a well-written and beautiful novel, in its own right, telling the story from Antoinetta (Bertha) Rochester’s point of view. The mad woman in the attic finally gets a voice. It doesn’t, however, do Mr Rochester many favours.

Ah, Mr Rochester. He divides opinion, no doubt about it. Some see him as a cruel, brutal gaoler – keeping his mentally ill wife locked up in an attic, lying and cheating, mocking Jane and breaking her heart. I never saw him like that. I saw a man who found himself in an impossible situation. Rather than put his wife in an asylum – and many mentally ill people at that time ended up in those horrific institutions – he accepted his responsibility for her and kept her safe under his roof. For a modern audience, locking an ill woman up in an attic may not seem kind, but in those days it was a far, far more compassionate solution than having her placed in an asylum.

Yes, Mr Rochester played away, but with a wife unlikely ever to return to him, is that so unforgivable? He wasn’t able to divorce her. He was a lonely man, looking for everything a man of his age would naturally want. Should he have been honest with Jane? Probably. But knowing Jane, the way he clearly did, he realised she would have no part of any illicit relationship. His deception may not have been right, but it was understandable. Did he torment Jane? I think he wanted to provoke her. Mr Rochester is a passionate man, given to explosions of temper and outpourings of love. He wears his heart on his sleeve. Jane, by contrast, appears to him to be controlled and cool. She knows better than to expect love from her “betters”. She has never experienced real love, and she is compelled by her upbringing and position in life to behave in a certain manner. Mr Rochester wants to see the real woman beneath the proper exterior. He wants her to be jealous. He wants her to tell him she feels love and passion for him. If he tries to make her jealous by flirting with Blanche, if he tries to provoke a reaction by pretending he’s sending her away, who can really blame him? They were different times and different attitudes prevailed.

Mr Rochester was always my favourite Brontë hero. Forget Heathcliff. He was far too cruel and warped for my taste. And the truth is, I always thought that, one day, I would write my own version of Edward Rochester. My own version of Jane Eyre. Not, I hasten to add, that I think for one minute that anyone could write anything as wonderful as the original novel by Charlotte Brontë. If I wrote serious literature, I would have avoided going anywhere near this story. Because I write light-hearted romantic comedies, I felt I could do something with the characters, and give a flavour of the original, while creating my own story and developing my own version of this giant of literature.

I suppose, the plain fact is, I couldn’t resist Mr Rochester.

Times have changed. Mr Rochester had to be a new man. I made him very aware of feminism, and I made quite sure that he never did anything as strange as dressing up as a gypsy fortune teller(!) However, he does have a secret, and he is a married man who falls in love with someone else…

So, don’t buy this book expecting a retelling of Jane Eyre.  This is a contemporary romance with modern characters and a lot of humour. But the flavour, I hope, is there, and there are some similarities between the two stories—as my heroine, Cara, becomes uncomfortably aware.

I loved writing Resisting Mr Rochester, and I really hope you enjoy reading it.  I was quite sad to leave my hero behind. Then again, if ever I’m missing him, I can go into a garden and smell the roses, or sit on a swing and daydream. You’ll see…

You can buy Resisting Mr Rochester here.

Are You Ready for More Eighties? #NewBook @MyEighties

The phrase “Creativity Breeds Creativity” is often bandied about. However, shortly after starting the interviews with songwriters and musicians for my latest book ‘More Eighties’, I began to realise the truth behind the statement. My aim in writing the book was to explore how the Eighties worked as a backdrop for artists, and examine how the decade that encouraged individuality, and saw huge technological, political and social change, impacted on their creativity. Their recollections were humorous, touching, entertaining and thought-provoking, but more than that, they were inspirational.

Listening to Fairground Attraction’s Eddi Reader, a woman with one of the most beautiful voices I have heard live, describe the terror she felt when performing proved to me that self-doubt does not discriminate by talent. Her telling of the hilarious incident which led her to actively challenge any negative thoughts will not only have you crying with laughter, but make you consider how your own thought processes affect your actions. Her journey from Glasgow’s tenements to top of the charts is one which highlights how artistry cannot be ignored, even when the artist may be their own worst critic.

‘More Eighties’ features interviews with those at the forefront of popular culture during the era, and includes a range of contributors as diverse as the decade itself. The electro sound synonymous with the decade is discussed with synth pioneers Martyn Ware (Human League and Heaven 17) and Dave Ball (Soft Cell), along with the changes that have taken place over the last forty years in music and in wider society. Issues including multiculturalism and racism form part of the conversation with Dave Wakeling (The Beat), Pauline Black (The Selecter) and Junior Giscombe, while Rusty Egan (Visage) discusses the manifestation of creativity in the UK’s nightclubs in the form of both music and fashion. I was also fortunate enough to talk to Suzi Quatro, Ian Donaldson (H2O), Nathan Moore (Brother Beyond), Karel Fialka, Jona Lewie, and The Lotus Eaters’ Peter Coyle about their memories and insights.

Dave Wakeling and Peter Coyle were incredibly generous in sharing their creative processes with me, sending me some of their unfinished material to listen to, followed by the completed tracks. Not only was it a privilege to be entrusted with those early pieces of music and to have my opinion valued, but it helped me further understand what we had spoken about in our interviews and, I hope, better relay those discussions in my writing. As I said, creativity breeds creativity. Being involved in those songs from the early stages and seeing them develop into the wonderful final recordings was really a ‘lightbulb moment’ for me. I realised that even those artists I had listened to since I was 12 experienced the same frustrations, doubts and eventual pleasure I do when writing. The key was harnessing creative flow when it came. That realisation freed up my writing immensely, and I even found myself writing poetry again, something I had not done so prolifically for about 25 years.

You may well now understand why ‘More Eighties’ is, for me, the best book I have published. It achieved everything I had set out to do, in examining how the decade facilitated a huge surge of creativity, but it also allowed me to rediscover the joy of submitting to my own creative driving force. It is something I shall endeavour to hold onto in future when facing some of the more onerous aspects of writing, such as transcribing interviews (despite what some may think, I actually can’t bear to hear the sound of my own voice!). I hope when readers have finished the book, they will have also found inspiration, as well as nostalgia and entertainment, in its pages.

You can buy More Eighties here.