Blog Tour: The Ancient Nine by Ian Smith


Release date: September 18, 2018

Publisher: St. Martin’s

Genre: Mystery/Thriller


Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fall 1988

Spenser Collins

An unlikely Harvard prospect, smart and athletic, strapped for cash, determined to succeed. Calls his mother—who raised him on her own in Chicago—every week.

Dalton Winthrop

A white-shoe legacy at Harvard, he’s just the most recent in a string of moneyed, privileged Winthrop men in Cambridge. He’s got the ease—and the deep knowledge—that come from belonging.

These two find enough common ground to become friends, cementing their bond when Spenser is “punched” to join the Delphic Club, one of the most exclusive of Harvard’s famous all-male final clubs. Founded in the nineteenth century, the Delphic has had titans of industry, Hollywood legends, heads of state, and power brokers among its members.

Dalton Winthrop knows firsthand that the Delphic doesn’t offer memberships to just anyone. His great-uncle is one of their oldest living members, and Dalton grew up on stories of the club’s rituals. But why is his uncle so cryptic about the Ancient Nine, a shadowy group of alums whose identities are unknown and whose power is absolute? They protect the Delphic’s darkest and oldest secrets—including what happened to a student who sneaked into the club’s stately brick mansion in 1927 and was never seen again.

Dalton steers Spenser into deeper and deeper recesses of the club, and beyond, to try to make sense of what they think they may be seeing. But with each scrap of information they get from an octogenarian Crimson graduate, a crumbling newspaper in the library’s archives, or one of Harvard’s most famous and heavily guarded historical books, a fresh complication trips them up. The more the friends investigate, the more questions they unearth, tangling the story of the club, the disappearance, and the Ancient Nine, until they realize their own lives are in danger.

I’m so excited to be one of the stops on the blog tour for The Ancient Nine today. I have a Q & A with the author and a sneak peek at the book, enjoy!



Halloween Night, 1927

The Delphic Mansion

Cambridge, Massachusetts

EMPTY ROPES CLATTERED against flagpoles, and street signs flapped

helplessly in the shadowy night. Two boys sneaked down a cobblestone path

crowded with heavy bushes and enormous signs that warned against trespassing.

They stood there for a moment, their bodies dwarfed by the gigantic

brick mansion

“That’s enough, let’s turn around,” Kelton Dunhill whispered. He had large competent hands and knots of compact muscles that bulged underneath his varsity letter sweater. He carried a long silver flashlight he had borrowed from the superintendent’s office of his residential house.

“I’m going all the way,” Erasmus Abbott said firmly. “I didn’t come this far to chicken out. Just a few more minutes and we’ll be inside.”

Dunhill looked up at the tall wrought-iron fence that had been reinforced with solid wood planks to obstruct any potential view into the rear courtyard. He was a tough, scrappy kid, a varsity wrestler who had been undefeated in almost three years of college competition. He was many things, but a quitter was not one of them. Very little intimidated Dunhill, the son of a banker and elementary school music teacher, but when he looked up at the mansion’s towering spires and turrets set against the ominous sky and the royal blue flag that snapped so loudly in the wind, something made him feel uneasy. At that very moment, if Erasmus Abbott had not been standing next to him, he would’ve turned on his heels and run like hell. The only thing that kept his feet planted was his greater fear of the humiliation he would face once the others got word that the scrawny Abbott had showed bigger nerve.

“If we get caught, we’ll be fried,” Dunhill said in his most persuasive voice, trying to sound rational rather than scared. “Technically speaking, we’re trespassing, and they can do anything they want to us since we’re on their property. I don’t need to remind you of what happened to A. C. Gordon.”

Erasmus Abbott took the milk crates they had been carrying and stacked them in a small pyramid against the fence, then slipped on his gloves and pulled his hat down until it settled just above his eyes. He was dressed all in black. Now completely disguised, he turned and faced Dunhill.

“There’s no proof Gordon ever made it this far,” Abbott contested. “And besides, I never believed the whole business about his disappearance anyway.” Abbott turned toward the platform of milk crates, then back at Dunhill, and said, “So what’s it going to be? I’m making history tonight with or without you. The answer is in there, and I’m not gonna stop till I find it.”

“Jesus Christ,” Dunhill mumbled under his breath before pulling down his own skullcap and stepping up to the fence. It all started out as a dare, but Abbott had taken it more seriously than anyone expected. This would certainly not be the first time a student had tried to break into the well-guarded Delphic mansion. There had been many attempts over the years, but according to legend, the farthest anyone had gotten was the external foyer. No one had ever penetrated the interior. What most worried Dunhill, however, was that few had lived to share their story.

“And what’s your plan once we get on the other side of the fence?” Dunhill said.

Abbott ran his hand over the small canvas bag strapped to his waist. “Everything we need is in here,” he said. “Once we get to the back door, I’ll have the lock open in well under a minute.”

Abbott had been practicing on diferent doors all over Quincy House in the middle of the night. His best-recorded time was twenty-nine seconds with a blindfold covering his eyes and a stopwatch hanging around his neck.

Abbott was not particularly athletic, but he scaled the crates easily and in one motion hoisted himself over the top of the fence and its row of pointed spears. Dunhill heard him land hard on the other side, then made a small sign of the cross over his heart, climbed onto the crates, and hurled himself over the fence. He landed on the firm slate tiles with a jolt.

They stood on the perimeter of a large courtyard dotted with elaborate marble sculptures and a fountain whose water sat motionless in a wide, striated basin. There were no lights to guide them, but moonlight cut through the heavy canopy of trees that towered overhead. A formidable, sturdy brick wall that was even taller than the fence they had just climbed surrounded them on two sides. Abbott had correctly chosen their entry point into the yard.

A gust of wind sent small piles of leaves flying sideways from one corner of the courtyard to the next. The mansion was eerily dark except for the dull flicker of a light in a small window just underneath the sloping angle of the tiled roof. The enormous building looked cold and menacing and unforgiving.

“She’s massive,” Abbott whispered. “I didn’t think she’d be this big. Must’ve cost them a king’s fortune to build it.”

“It’s not empty,” Dunhill said, pointing at the lighted window. “I still say this isn’t a good idea. We’ve already proved our point. Let’s get the hell out of here while we still can.”

Abbott pretended he hadn’t heard a word Dunhill said. He walked quietly across the courtyard toward a set of stairs that led to a large door with small panes and a brass doorknob that glistened under the moonlight’s glow. He cupped his face to the glass and looked inside. He turned and waved Dunhill over, but Dunhill remained motionless underneath the fence, still not believing they had actually gotten this far.

Abbott unzipped the canvas bag, pulled out a couple of tools, and quickly went to work on the lock. That’s when Dunhill glimpsed a shadow moving across the courtyard. He looked up toward the lighted window and saw something that he would never forget. It was the ugliest, scariest, blackest face he had ever laid eyes on. His heart tightened in his chest, and his lungs constricted. He tried to scream but couldn’t get the air to move in his throat. He turned to Erasmus to warn him, but it was too late. The door was open, and he was already inside.


Harvard College

Cambridge, Massachusetts

October 2, 1988

IT SHOULDN’T HAVE been enough to wake me, but I had just drifted off on the couch in the common room that separated my bedroom from my roommate’s. It was a short scratchy sound: a pebble or sand being dragged across the linoleum floor. I looked toward Percy’s bedroom. His door was closed and his light off. I sat up on the sofa, swiveling my head in the darkness to see what could’ve made the noise. Mice were not exactly uncommon sightings in these old Harvard houses, some of which had been built more than a century ago, so I was preparing myself for vermin out on a late-night scavenge. But when I turned on the lamp and looked down at the floor, what sat there took me completely by surprise.

Someone had slipped a small cream-colored envelope underneath the front door. There was no postage or return address, just my name and room number elaborately inscribed.

Spenser Collins

Lowell House L-11

I turned the envelope over, hoping to find some indication of who might have sent it, but what I discovered was even more puzzling.

Embossed on the flap were three torches—so dark blue, they were almost black—arranged in a perfect V shape.

I heard footsteps just outside the door, slow at first, but then they began to pick up speed. I pulled the door open, but the hallway was empty. Our room was on the first floor, so I grabbed my keys and ran a short distance down the hall, jumped a small flight of steps, then rammed my shoulder into the entryway door, forcing it open into the cool night. I immediately heard voices echoing across the courtyard, a cluster of three girls stumbling in high heels, dragging themselves in from a long night of drinking.

I scanned the shadows, but nothing else moved. I looked to my right and thought about running across the path that led to the west courtyard and out into the tiny streets of Cambridge. But my bare feet were practically frozen to the concrete, and the wind assaulted me like shards of ice cutting through my T-shirt. I retreated to the warmth of my room.

Percy’s bedroom door was still closed, which was not surprising. He wouldn’t wake up if an armored tank tore through the wall and opened fire.

I sat on the edge of the couch and examined the envelope again. Why would someone deliver it by hand in the middle of the night, then sneak away? None of it made any sense. I opened the book flap slowly, feeling almost guilty ripping what appeared to be expensive paper. The stationery was brittle, like rice paper, and the same three torches were prominently displayed in the letterhead.

The President and members of the Delphic Club

cordially invite you to a cocktail party on

Friday, October 14, 7 o’clock

Lily Field Mansion at 108 Brattle St. Cambridge.

Please call 876-0400 with regrets only.

I immediately picked up the phone and dialed Dalton Winthrop’s number. Fifth-generation Harvard and heir to the vast Winthrop and Lewington fortunes, he was one of the most finely pedigreed of all Harvard legacies, descending from a family that had been claiming Harvard since the 1600s, when the damn school got its charter from the Bay Colony. Dalton was a hopeless insomniac, so I knew he’d still be awake.

“What the hell are you doing up this time of the night?” Dalton said. “Some of us around here need our beauty sleep.” He sounded fully awake.

“What can you tell me about something called the Delphic Club?” I asked.

The phone rustled as he sat up.

“Did you just say ‘the Delphic’?” he said.

“Yeah, do you know anything about it?”

There was a slight pause before he said, “Why the hell are you asking about the Delphic at this ungodly hour?”

“They invited me to a cocktail party next Friday night. Someone just slipped the invitation under my door, then ran.”

“Are you fucking kidding me? The Delphic invited you to a cocktail party?”

“Unless there’s another Spenser Collins I don’t know about.”

“No offense, Spenser, but don’t get your hopes up,” he said. “This is probably some kind of prank someone’s pulling on you. The Delphic isn’t just a club, like any fraternity. It’s the most secretive of Harvard’s nine most exclusive clubs. They’re called final clubs. The Delphic goes all the way back to the 1800s and has some of the world’s most prominent men as members. An invitation to their cocktail party is like an invitation to kiss the papal ring.”

“So, what you’re really trying to say is that they would never give an invitation to a poor black kid from the South Side of Chicago.”

“Spenser, you know I don’t agree with that kinda shit, but that’s how these secret societies operate. They haven’t changed much over the last century and a half. Rich white men passing off the baton to the next generation, keeping their secrets shielded from the rest of the world. Yale has Skull and Bones, but here at Harvard we have the final clubs. It’s no exaggeration when I tell you that some of the country’s biggest secrets are buried in their old mansions.”

“If I don’t fit their image, then why did someone just slip this invite under my door?” I said.

“Because it’s not real,” Dalton said.

“What do you mean?”

“Guys joke like this all the time. This is the beginning of what’s called punch season, which means the clubs are secretly nominating sophomores to enter a series of election rounds. Whoever survives the cuts over the two months gets elected into the club. You’ve heard of the hazing they do in fraternities. Well, this is a little like that, but it’s a lot more formal with much bigger stakes.”

“What makes you so sure my invitation is fake when you haven’t even seen it?”

“Are you alone?”

“Percy’s here, but he’s out cold.”

“Pull out the invite and tell me if you see torches anywhere.”

I was sitting in the chair underneath the window, still eyeing the courtyard, hoping I might see who might’ve dropped off the envelope. The ambient light cracked the darkness of our common room. I held up the envelope.

“There are three torches on the back of the envelope,” I said.

“What about the stationery?”

“There too.”

“How many?”


“What color?”

“Dark blue.”

“Is the center torch lower or higher than the others?”


Dalton sighed loudly. “Now take the stationery, turn it over, and hold it up to a light,” he said. “Tell me if you see anything when you look at the torches.”

I followed Dalton’s instructions, carefully removing the shade from one of Percy’s expensive porcelain lamps that his grandmother had proudly given him from her winter house in Palm Beach. I held the invitation next to the naked bulb. “There’s a thin circle with the initials JPM inside,” I said. “But you can only see it under the light. When you move it away, the letters disappear.”

“Jesus fuckin’ Christ, Spense, it’s the real deal!” Dalton yelled as if he were coming through the phone. “The Delphic really has punched you this season. I can’t believe this is happening. Tell me the date of the party again.”

It was rare to hear this level of excitement in Dalton’s voice. Few things got him going, and they typically had to do with either women, food, or his father, whom he hated more than the Yankees.

“Next Friday at seven o’clock,” I said. “It’s at a place called Lily Field Mansion.”

“Lily Field, of course,” Dalton said. “It’s the biggest one up there on mansion row, and it’s owned by the Jacobs family, one of the richest in the country. Stanford Jacobs used to be the graduate president of the Delphic, so it makes sense that he’s hosting the opening cocktail party.”

Secret society, mansions, ultra-wealthy families, an invitation delivered under the cloak of darkness. It was all part of a foreign world that made little sense to me, the son of a single mother who answered phones at a small energy company.

“So, what the hell does all this mean?” I asked.

“That you’re coming over here tomorrow for dinner, so we can figure out some sort of strategy,” Dalton said. “This is all a long shot, but if things go well for you on Friday night, you might make it to the next round. I’m getting way ahead of myself—but one round at a time, and you might be the way we crack the Ancient Nine.”

“The Ancient Nine?” I asked. “Is that another name for the clubs?”

“No, two different things,” Dalton said. “The Ancient Nine are an ultrasecret society of nine members of the Delphic. A secret society within a secret society that not even the other Delphic members know much about. Most around here have never even heard of the Ancient Nine, but for those who have, some swear it exists, others think it’s nothing more than another Harvard legend.”

“What do you think?”

Dalton paused deliberately. “I’d bet everything I own that they exist. But no one can get them to break their code of silence. According to rumors, they are hiding not only one of Harvard’s most valued treasures but also century-old secrets that involve some of the world’s richest families.”

Copyright © 2018 by Ian K. Smith in The Ancient Nine and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Press.

Sounds intriguing, right?! Now for the Q & A.

Q & A with Dr. Ian K. Smith regarding THE ANCIENT NINE

1. To begin with your beginnings, how did you get into writing?

A: I have always wanted to write stories since I was in college and read John Grisham’s The Firm, long before it became the international sensation. I enjoyed how that book made me feel, heart racing, unable to focus on anything else but the book, literally reading pages while stopped at traffic lights. I wanted to be able to create the same kind of story that had a similar effect on someone else. I like stories. I like creating. I have loved books my entire life. I decided that while my principle area of academic study would be biology and eventually medicine, that I would always keep an open mind and ambition to write and publish. That writing itch I had harbored for so many years just never went away and I refused to ignore it. Despite what many of my colleagues thought while I was in medical school, I believed both medicine and creative writing could be pursued passionately in parallel.

2. You’ve written many bestselling books about health and nutrition. What made you decide to pivot and write a thriller now?

A: Thrillers and crime fiction have always been at the top of my list for entertainment. I like to write what engages me, so I decided to sit down and create a story in the fashion that I like to read them. I love suspense and plots lines that are fast-moving and constantly make you think. I like the feeling of not wanting to put a book down and getting excited for the next time I have a break in my schedule to pick up that book again to read the next chapter. I wrote my first novel, THE BLACKBIRD PAPERS back in 2004, a thriller based on the campus of Dartmouth College where I finished my first two years of medical school. I had such great feedback from readers across the country. I would be on tour for one of my health and wellness books and invariably, someone would come up to me in the airport or a bookstore and ask me when I was going to write another thriller, because they enjoyed THE BLACKBIRD PAPERS so much and wanted more. Every time this happened, my heart would jump, and I would profusely thank the person for reminding me of my other passion and my need to go back to it and create more stories to share. I’ve been wanting to publish another thriller for a long time, and this was the perfect time in my career to do so. Fans of my fiction had waited long enough.

3. This is a novel you “waited years to write.” What is it about this story that was just begging to be told?

A: This story has everything that I love to read. There’s mystery, murder, suspense, history, and a love story. I’ve been writing this book for more than 25 years. I started when I was a senior at Harvard. While I was a very young and unpolished writer back then, I knew that it was a story that was so compelling that it needed to be told, and I knew that one day I’d be able to finish the story and publish it. This is a fish-out-of-water story with a coming-of-age feel that I think will appeal to people across the spectrum. Everyone likes a story about an underdog, and THE ANCIENT NINE captures that feel and spirit. I learned during my research that no one had ever written extensively about the Harvard final clubs. There were remote mentions in magazine and newspaper articles, but never anything that really penetrated this rarefied world of power and privilege. I just felt like this was a story begging to be told.

4. What was your personal experience with “secret societies” like? How did you decide what details to include as elements of the story in The Ancient Nine?

A: I was everything you would expect a prospective member WOULD NOT be. I was the wrong color, no pedigree, blue-collar family, and completely unaware of the elite circles in which these members traveled and inhabited. When I started to understand the lineage of the members and graduate members, I couldn’t understand why they would invite me to join. I have always been sociable, easy-to-like kind of guy, but I didn’t fit the image of a member nor did I have the money or access to privilege that the majority of members had. I wanted to include the elements as I experienced them. I wanted readers to see this world like I did for the first time, unsuspecting, unexpecting, an undaunted. I met many great guys when I was a member and remain friends with many of them to this day. Being a member was like a dual existence on campus. I was a regular student like everyone else most of the time, then I was a member of this final club that was a world of its own, including a staff that served us in our mansion and dinners with wealthy, powerful alums who were leaders of their fields throughout the country. I sat down to tables to eat and share jokes with amazing men who were extremely successful and influential, and at the same time fun to talk to and share experiences. Being a member taught me a lot about life and discrepancies and how pivotal networking can be as one tries to advance in life.

5. The Delphic Club is a very important part of the story, just like the mysteries around it. How did you come up with the mystery? Did you know how it would be solved from the beginning or did you come up with it as you wrote?

A: When I first started writing THE ANCIENT NINE, I wasn’t completely sure how it would end. I had a good idea of some of the plot twists and most of the narrative, but I had not worked out the entire mystery. As I was researching the history of the clubs—something that was very difficult to do since there has been very little written about them through the years—I discovered some amazing occurrences and legends not just about the clubs, but of Harvard itself. These discoveries were like a small, unknotted thread that once I started pulling, the story unraveled before me and everything began falling into place. I spent a lot of time in libraries, in the stacks of Widener Library at Harvard and Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago, digging into the historical connections. It’s amazing how you can reach a point where a story can actually write itself, and you just become the vessel through which it’s told, trying your best to stay out of its way while you transcribe it as best as you can without losing its feel and meaning.

6. Have you received any negative feedback as a result of writing about your real-life experiences in these secretive organizations?

A: I don’t know what the feedback will be until more people have had a chance to read it. I have had some of my clubmates read it and others who are familiar with the clubs and they gave me really positive feedback. They found the book to be engaging and informative. They felt like I captured the essence of an experience that can only be felt by someone like myself who was foreign to this world. This book is not an expose or hit piece on the final clubs. This is a book that is based on real events, secrets that have been tightly guarded for hundreds of years. As the clubs are in serious and overdue conversations about opening their doors to a broader membership, some of this information will enter the public forum much easier and more fluidly than it has in the past. I would think that many current and graduate members of the clubs will find this entertaining, especially since they know very well the lay of the land on which the story is built.

7. How much does the main character in The Ancient Nine have in common with Ian Smith? How much of the story is autobiographical?

A: Spenser is based on me. His emotions, worries, thoughts, and experiences are based on mine. There are some creative changes I made such as where he was from and some of the family dynamics, but a lot of who he is and what he thinks is autobiographical. I’ve held on to this story for a long time as I wrestled with the best way to tell it and when it should be told. I was a tough, fearless kid who wanted to excel at everything and wanted to make my single mother and family proud. For those times, I was not the typical Harvard student—no trust fund or Ivy connection or renowned academic family pedigree—but I had what was most important for a student from any walk of life, the confidence that I could make it on Harvard’s storied campus. I was unafraid to try new things, mix it up, and learn as much as I could. I played sports intensely all my life, and I think that taught me a lot about the world, our many differences, the rigors and benefits of competition, and the importance of resiliency. I’ve never been one to be intimated by the chasm between what I have and what others have. Spenser sees and feels the world in exactly the same way as he remains proud of his humble beginnings and constantly works to do what is right.

8. In this novel you introduce a highly varied cast of characters, ranging from comical to mysterious, sporty

to academic. Who was your favorite character to write?

Which one would you most likely want to grab a beer with?

A: This isn’t an easy question as it’s like asking you to pick a favorite child. There are different things an author loves about the characters he or she creates, and there are different reasons why the characters appeal to the author. I will say, however, that it tends to be fun to write about characters who are very different from who you are, because it allows you to explore and imagine in a space that is not completely familiar. Writing Ashley Garrett was a lot of fun. I liked and admired her at lot. She’s from the other side of the tracks, brilliant, tough, witty, romantic, and unimpressed. If I had a daughter, I’d want her to be like Ashley. Dalton Winthrop was also a lot of fun to write, because he was rich—something that I was definitely not—and rebellious and so determined to cut his own way in life despite the overbearing expectations and interventions of his imperious father. I don’t drink alcohol, but several of the real people who the characters are based on I actually did sit down with over the poker table and a box of pizza. I think it would be great fun to sit down to dinner with the obscenely wealthy but uproariously gregarious graduate member Weld Bickerstaff class of ’53 who lived in New York City. You just wind him up and let him go.

9. The Ancient Nine delves deep into the history and underbelly of Harvard. What was your process for researching this story?

A: I spent many months researching Harvard’s history and some of the less known facts about John Harvard’s book collection he donated to the college and the infamous 1764 fire that destroyed almost all of it. Over the years of writing this book I would find new pieces of information and the web of history and mystery would grow even larger. Little is publicly known or discussed about these clubs, and lots of secrets and knowledge have gone to the grave with many of the graduate members. Harvard has one of the most expansive library systems in the world, and I spent countless hours in many of the libraries mentioned in the book, digging up old newspapers and magazines and examining rare books. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun at the same time to connect the dots and delve into the layers of such an important university and the secret societies that have long been a perpetual irritant to the school’s administration.

10. During your research, did you find out anything surprising that didn’t make it into the book?

A: I gathered piles of research and discoveries while working on this book, but alas, an author must decide what to include and what to discard. Those decisions were gut-wrenching at times, but for the sake of the reader not having to sit down to a 600-page tome, the cuts had to be done. One thing that surprised me that didn’t make it into the book was how conflicted many of the school’s former leadership really were with regards to the clubs. Many of them publicly spoke against the clubs and the need for them to either be disbanded or opened to a more diverse membership, but privately, these administrators and school trustees had been members of a club themselves and as graduates, still supported them financially in ways that their identities and participation wouldn’t be exposed.

11. Readers will know you from your work in health and nutrition. In stepping away from that world, and into the world thriller writing, what surprised or challenged you the most?

A: It has always been fun and rewarding to write books in the genre of health and nutrition. I have enjoyed immensely helping and empowering people. My books through the years have literally been life-changing for millions of people. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to produce that type of impactful work. Writing thrillers has been equally gratifying as it has allowed me to be more imaginative and tap deeper into my creative side. I believe that a person can tap similarly and effectively into the left (science, math) and right (creativity, arts) sides of the brain. Contrary to what some have suggested, I don’t believe it’s one or the other. One thing vastly different about writing thrillers is that the plots are not linear, and therefore requires a vigilant attention to detail and great effort to maintain continuity. There are all kinds of dead ends, interweaving threads, surprises, disappointments, and moments of excitement that you must work into the story, knowing that you need to entertain your reader and keep them engaged for hundreds of pages. Accomplishing this is no small feat, but the work it takes to achieve it is worth every grinding second of it once you do.

12. What’s next for you? Will you continue to write thrillers and do you have an idea for your next novel?

A: I will definitely continue to write more thrillers. I love reading this genre, and I love writing it. My creative mind has a natural proclivity for this type of storytelling. I’m currently working on a different series of crime fiction/mystery books based on a character named Ashe Cayne who’s an ex-Chicago police officer and now a private investigator. I have learned a lot from my friends in CPD who have shown me the ropes and explained procedure. Ashe is smart, sarcastic, handsome, tenacious, morally compelled to right wrongs, broken-hearted, and a golf addict trying to bring his scoring handicap into the single digits. I LOVE this character and Chicago as the setting. The expansive, energetic, segregated, volatile, notoriously corrupt Chicago becomes an important secondary character in the book. Ashe Cayne takes on only select cases, and people of all walks of life from all over the city come to him to get answers. The first book in the series is called FLIGHT OF THE BUTTERFLY, and it’s about the daughter of one of the city’s richest men who mysteriously goes missing on the night she’s supposed to sleep over her best friend’s house. Her aristocratic mother hires Ashe Cayne to find her missing daughter. But it’s a lot more complicated than a missing person case. I expect to publish this book in the fall of 2019.

Follow Dr. Ian on Instagram: @doctoriansmith

Twitter: @DrIanSmith

Facebook Page: The Ancient Nine

Q & A with Karin Slaughter, Pieces of Her @fictionpubteam @SlaughterKarin

I’m thrilled today to be the stop on the blog tour for the Queen of Crime aka one of my all time favorite authors aka Karin Slaughter!! If you missed my review of Pieces of Her you can find it here. I have a fantastic Q & A to share today, but first here’s some more information about the book.


Andrea Oliver is celebrating her birthday over lunch with her mother, Laura, when they fi nd themselves in the middle of a deadly shooting.  Terrified, Andy is frozen. But Laura – calm, cool and collected – jumps into action and stops the killer in his tracks. No one can understand how a quiet, middle-aged speech pathologist could possibly have the knowledge or ability to stop a shooter on the rampage.  The fall out and widespread media coverage quickly unravels the carefully curated life Laura has built for herself and her daughter. And Andy discovers that the person who she thought she knew best in the world is a total stranger. The bigger problem though is that someone wants them both dead. As two intersecting timelines – 1986 and the present – gradually converge, Pieces of Her begs the question: can you ever truly escape your past?

Q & A:

Where do you find inspiration for your books?

Most of the time I have no idea. I only know in one book, PRETTY GIRLS, I had a dream. I’d slipped a disc in my back. I’ve never smoked a cigarette or taken any kind of drugs—I don’t even drink—and I was taking a narcotic for my back, and it gave me these insane dreams. I woke up, and I wrote down what I had dreamt, and it was the opening for PRETTY GIRLS. Literally the first 100 pages. And I was already working on a different book, what eventually became THE GOOD DAUGHTER and I called my editor Kate Elton, and said I have an idea for this book and that’s the one I want to write instead. She said, “write the book you want to write. Just please do it quickly.” And that’s PRETTY GIRLS. But really I don’t know. Sometimes the first chapter comes to me in bits and pieces, and I have my little pad in the shower I write things down on. One of the Will Trent books, the entire opening is in my shower pad right now.

What kind of research do you do for a book, and how much do you research before you start writing?

I research all the sex myself. It depends on the book. For PIECES OF HER, there wasn’t a hell of a lot. And after doing this a long time, I have a lot of knowledge of things the police do, or how investigations work, or clues or things like that that are in my head just from working on previous novels. With the GOOD DAUGHTER, that opening—I talked to Georgian Bureau Investigation Agents who were at school shootings. I did a drill with all the agents at the GBI, where they took over an abandoned school and simulated a shooter. Each agent had to go through and find the bad guy. I was pretty conversant with that, but I wanted to talk about what an investigation would look like, because there’s always things that surprise me that people who are on the other side of law enforcement never think about, like the fact that—I talk about this in the GOOD DAUGHTER—everybody shows up. They could be ATF, they could be training canines for the DEA, they all show up. They’re all there to help. And no one says where’s the jurisdiction, where’s the money coming from, or whatever.  It’s just “tell us what to do” when a large scale tragedy happens. I love those kinds of details. With PIECES OF HER, I talk about how even if you’re in Witness Protection, you might still go to prison. And just from a practical standpoint, Andy’s driving. Andy’s figuring out the mileage. That was hard for me because I’m not good at that sort of thing. I’m the kind of person who’s told to get on a train—I was in Rotterdam, told to get on a train to Antwerp, and I ended up in Germany. So, I’m not very good with directions at all. I just had to knuckle down with all that, and think about how many days it would take and what it would feel like. Because I’ve been on trips like that, and I wanted to describe them in a way that made sense. I’ve done trips like that in Europe, and it’s not as big as America. Taking a detail, like you could put all of England in Michigan and it wouldn’t touch the sides, that kind of puts it in scale for people. But just the grueling hours and hours of being trapping in a car, and what that would look like on the interstate, I know intimately from long road trips. I wanted to capture that with Andy.

Do you have secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Yes. There are secrets. I have secrets that no one has ever found. I think maybe it plays into being the youngest of three, because I’d always have these secrets and then I’d drop truth bombs at the most inappropriate times. That was just my way of being the Erin Brockovich of my family.

What has been your hardest scene to write?

That was probably ending Grant Country. I was sobbing like a baby. It was really hard to write. It was really scary, because I thought, I could just write Grant County books until I’m 80, and have a nice living, and be comfortable, but that’s not what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a writer, and really challenge myself, and I wanted it to be about the work. I want each book to be as good as the last one, if not better. That’s always my goal, to top myself. That’s one of the reasons why I wrote PIECES OF HER, and it’s such a different novel. It was such a big leap for me creatively to write THE GOOD DAUGHTER, and I had a journalist in Holland say to me—he tossed the book on the table and said “How are you going to top this?”  I have known him for years, but I thought, “Are you kidding me?” And I decided, you top this by writing a completely different book, that’s fun, that full of important things, and you just keep doing what you’ve been doing. And I always think, for some people, well it’s not that hard to by a hardcover book, but for some people it’s a stretch. And I always remember, when I was a college student, and I would save up money for a hardcover from my favorite author, and it would end up being bad, and I would feel cheated. So I’m always aware of how much minimum wage is, and how many hours of a person’s life it takes to read a book. And I never want to be in a position where I’m not doing everything I can to make sure a person likes that book. I mean, I can’t guarantee they’ll love it, but I can guarantee I’ll work as hard as I can to write the best book I can, because that’s why I’m doing this.

Saturday Shoutout: Q & A with Mark Tilbury @MTilburyAuthor

Happy Saturday everyone, I hope you’re all having a wonderful start to your weekend. I have a Q & A to share today with Mark Tilbury, I recently read his latest release, The Key to Death’s Door and LOVED it! Here’s a little information about the book:


If you could discover the murderous truth of a past life and seek justice in this one, would you?

Teenager Lee Hunter doesn’t have a choice when he nearly drowns after spending the night at a derelict boathouse with his best friend, Charlie Finch. After leaving his body and meeting a mysterious light that lets him to go back to the past, Lee finds himself reliving the final days of another life. A life that ended tragically.

After recovering from his near death experience, Lee begins to realise that he is part of two lives linked by the despicable actions of one man.

Struggling against impossible odds, Lee and Charlie set out to bring this man to justice.

Will Lee be able to unlock the past and bring justice to the future?

The Key to Death’s Door is a story of sacrifice, friendship, loyalty and murder.

Q & A

1. What’s a typical writing day for you look like? Describe your perfect writing environment.

I tend to write in the afternoons. I’m pretty useless at doing anything in the morning except drinking coffee! I sit in a room with the curtains closed and music on to drown out any possible distractions. I target 2,000 words a day and try to keep going until I reach it. Not that it always happens that way – sometimes the muse decides to have a day off, and I just have to walk away and leave it alone.

2. How did you get started writing? Was it something that you’ve always loved?

I started with poems and adventure stories when I was about eight or nine. I was naturally quite good at English, and one particular teacher encouraged me to write. I loved creating my own worlds. It was my way of being in control in a world controlled by adults. Make them do what I wanted for a change!

3. Who are your favorite writers/inspirations?

Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Tom Sharpe. I’ve tried to take a little something from each of them and mould it into my own style. Koontz’s description, King’s natural way of talking to his audience and Tom Sharpe’s humour

4. Anything you can tell us about current projects?

My latest novel, The Key to Death’s Door is being published by Bloodhound Books on 16th April. Teenager Lee Hunter nearly drowns after spending the night at a derelict boathouse with his best friend, Charlie Finch. After leaving his body and meeting a mysterious light, Lee is sent back to relive the final days of another life. A life that ended tragically. As time passes, Lee begins to realise that he is part of two lives linked by the despicable actions of one man.

I’ve also just finished the first draft of a new novel which has a working title of The Hunter of Lost Souls. Without giving too much away, it’s about a woman who is attacked and left for dead after her assailant is disturbed by a man walking his dog. As she recovers, the headaches and nosebleeds begin, and she soon realises she has been left with an ability to see into the mind of her assailant.

5. Normally how do you develop plots/characters? Brief us on your process.

I nearly always start with a character. He/she speaks in my head. Something completely random. Peter King in The Liar’s Promise said, ‘What doesn’t kill you will make you wish it had.’ That was interesting enough for me to really take notice. Think about who would say such a thing? Where could they fit into a story? The stories themselves are usually random ‘what if?’ ideas. In the Liar’s Promise it was – what if a young child remembers a past life in which she’d been murdered, and the killer is still at large? Then it’s just a case of matching story to character and seeing where it leads.

6. Favorite character from one of your own novels?

Liam Truman from The Abattoir of Dreams. Gutsy, stood up for what he believed in, took no crap. Someone I really admired. He held onto hope for all he was worth, even when facing death. The only character in one of my books who made me cry when writing him.

7. Preferred method for readers to contact you?

Readers can e-mail me using this address or send me a message on my Facebook page

8. On average, how long does it take you to write a book?

Three months. I’ve written six so far, and each one has come in around that time, regardless of length.

10. Which one of your characters do you relate to the most?

Lee Hunter in The Key to Death’s Door. He’s more of a follower than a leader, but he’s never afraid to take part or test himself. Fortunately, I’ve never experienced any of the horrors Lee does in the book, but I imagine it’s how I might react if I did.

11. What’s the best compliment that you’ve received about your work?

I’ve been extremely lucky to have received a lot of compliments about my books, but for me it’s the ones who say they wouldn’t normally read this type of book, but they are really glad they did. It’s as if I’ve converted them, and that, for me, is so rewarding.

Huge thanks to Mark for joining me today!

Q & A with Vivien Brown author of Lily Alone @VivBrownAuthor


Release date: January 30, 2018

Publisher: Harper


Lily, who is almost three years old, wakes up alone at home with only her cuddly toy for company. She is afraid of the dark, can’t use the phone, and has been told never to open the door to strangers.

But why is Lily alone and isn’t there anyone who can help her? What about the lonely old woman in the flat downstairs who wonders at the cries from the floor above? Or the grandmother who no longer sees Lily since her parents split up?

All the while a young woman lies in a coma in hospital – no one knows her name or who she is, but in her silent dreams, a little girl is crying for her mummy…

And for Lily, time is running out…

Happy US publication day to Vivien Brown, her novel Lily Alone is out today and to celebrate I have an interview to share.

Q & A

What’s a typical writing day for you look like? Describe your perfect writing environment.

I gave up paid employment four years ago to concentrate on my writing, so I now have a choice about when to write instead of squeezing it all in late at night or at weekends. Ideally, I love to write in the afternoons, in a sunny garden with a cold drink and a bar of chocolate to hand, but London weather doesn’t offer many opportunities like that, so I use a bedroom turned into a study, overlooking the garden, with a small TV, all my books and writing stuff around me, and two goldfish for company.

How did you get started writing? Was it something that you’ve always loved?

I loved English lessons at school and started writing poems at about the age of 16. My first short story to appear in a UK women’s magazine while I was a stay-at-home mum of twins gave me such a thrill that I wrote more, and more, and have had around 140 published now under my former name of Vivien Hampshire. I have also had more than 250 articles published, largely about working and reading with kids. Novels crept up on me slowly. My first two were learning experiences, appearing as ebooks only under my old author name, but I now have a ‘real’ UK publishing contract as Vivien Brown and I’m being read in both ebook and paperback, so I couldn’t be happier!

Who are your favorite writers/inspirations?

I read a real mix of novels, about fifty a year – from romance and sagas to psychological thrillers, American and British, but almost always books written by women and with strong women as their main characters. Some of my favorites in recent years have been Clare Mackintosh, Milly Johnson, Jean Fullerton, Veronica Henry and Iona Grey.

Anything you can tell us about upcoming projects?

Launching Lily Alone to an American audience on 30 January is exciting but nerve-wracking, and I have been told the rights have been sold to a Turkish publisher too, so I am looking forward to seeing it in translation, even though I won’t understand a word! My next novel will be out in the UK later in 2018 and is currently at the editing stage. I haven’t even seen a cover for it yet, but it is called Five Unforgivable Things and will look at the five pivotal moments in a long marriage when mistakes were made and things just might have turned out differently if only…

Normally how do you develop plots/characters? Brief us on your process.

I write very much about the world I know. London-based contemporary relationship stories, with all the drama that arises when people meet, marry, have children, divorce or make life-changing decisions and mistakes. I worked in banking, and then with children under the age of five for a long time, so these regularly feature in my stories, as do lovable old ladies, based loosely on my own grandmother! A story for me starts with a character or an incident, and I rarely know exactly what is going to happen along the way until I actually write it.

Favorite character from one of your own novels?

I like most of my characters, but I do have a soft spot for Agnes, the elderly neighbour in Lily Alone, who is widowed and lonely, suffering from arthritis, living somewhere she really doesn’t want to be, but has a very good and loving heart. Of course, things will work out well for her by the end of the book. And her old cat Smudge, who plays an important part in the story. I love him too!

Preferred method for readers to contact you?

I use twitter, facebook, email, and have a blog (which I don’t add to very often), but any way is good for me. Hearing from readers is a lovely part of the job. Or write a review – always so much appreciated.

On average, how long does it take you to write a book?


Taking a year to think, plan, write and edit a book from idea to finished manuscript works for me. I’m sure it can be achieved more quickly, but I like to feel comfortable and unrushed, leaving me time to have a life away from writing too.

If writing wasn’t your career what would you be doing?

Probably still working with very young children. It was a dream job, introducing them and their families to the magic of books, reading stories and leading rhyme sessions to groups in libraries, organising picture book-related events, running training courses about reading to children, and giving away free books. I did it for 12 years, in an area of London where there were a lot of families from other countries and cultures, or with very little income, for whom reading had never been a large part of their lives. I only left because the urge to write was so strong.

What’s the best compliment that you’ve received about your work?

When someone I have never met reads my novel and leaves a review telling me it was gripping or nail-biting and they couldn’t put it down. That’s the sort of writing I set out to achieve and it’s lovely to know I have managed it. I just hope that American readers will enjoy the book as much as British ones have.

Huge thanks to Vivien for joining me today, you can catch her on social media at the following links. link: link:





Blog Tour: Disposal by David Evans @DavidEwriter

Goodreads|Amazon US|Amazon U.K.

Release date: January 16, 2018

Publisher: Orchard View Publications

Genre: Crime Fiction


August 1976 and it seems as though the long hot summer will never end. Early morning at Clacton on the north Essex coast, a light aircraft takes off from the airstrip but struggles for height and crashes into the sea. First on the scene, Sergeant Cyril Claydon pulls the pilot’s body from the wreckage. But something else catches his eye. A bulky package wrapped in black plastic is on the passenger seat. Returning to investigate, he makes a grim discovery – another body. And so begins a series of events that puts him and others in danger as he is drawn into the investigation, having to work alongside DI ‘Dick’ Barton, a man with totally alien attitudes. Can they work together?

I’m so pleased to be a stop on the blog tour for Disposal today! I have a fantastic interview with the author to share.

Q & A:

Q Why did you write a book?

I enjoyed reading and have always had creative thoughts. Years ago, I joined a Creative Writing Nightclass and, after a few terms of writing various exercises, I realised a couple of those were linked in some way. After that, it was a small step to see if I could write more on the same theme that would eventually form a book. And so the first draft of what became Trophies was born.

Q Do you write every day?

When I have an active project, I tend to write every day but sometimes, I take a break for a short while – recharge batteries and provide valuable thinking time.

Q Do you work to a plot or do you prefer to see where the idea takes you?

Initially, I need a plot – that is vital. For instance, for the last 3 projects, once I have the ideas, I will write around 10,000 words and pause. At that point, I am able to judge if it ‘has legs’. Then I’ll look to draft a loose synopsis. Once I have something I think will work, I carry on writing. Every now and then, I’ll go back to the synopsis and tweak it to line up with what has been written. I use the synopsis as a guide but don’t allow it to dictate rigidly if my characters or plot take me ‘off message’. That way creativity isn’t stifled. Also, when the first draft is complete, it is a matter of one last tweak to have a completed synopsis – one of the hardest tasks to perform when writing.

Q How long does it take you to write a book?

As I’ve written more, I’ve found that the time to write each book has shortened. The first draft of Trophies took me over 2 years, but that was coping with a full-time job. It has also gone through 8 further drafts. Torment took about 2 years on and off (again with a full-time job) but has required less re-drafts. Talisman was about 18 months in the drafting whilst Disposal took about 16 months. However, other writing matters had been prioritised during the writing of Disposal – like achieving a publication deal for the Wakefield Series. I also like to have 2 or 3 threads running through the books and that takes time and concentration to meld them together.

Q What’s the worst thing about writing a book?

Getting it out there, all the marketing and promotional work that has to be done. Like most writers, I’d rather just think about the next one and create.

Q What’s the best thing about writing a book?

When your characters take over. For instance, when I was writing Disposal, I had my two main characters, Cyril and Barton in the front seats of a car. As they drove, it was as if I was in the back seat listening to their conversation. When we set off, I didn’t have a clue what they were going to say, but they obviously did. That was so satisfying.

Q Why did you choose your particular genre?

Because crime fiction is what I enjoy reading. I think if you don’t enjoy what you’re writing that will become apparent in the finished work.

Q If you had to write in a different genre, which would you choose?

Possibly some non-fiction historical work might interest me.

Q Which book character do you wish you had written?

It would have to be John Rebus, the brilliant creation of Ian Rankin.

Q What do you think are the best and the worst things about social media?

The best would probably be the instantaneous feedback and contact it allows. The worst has to be the ability of it to run away with time – possibly our most precious commodity.

A few questions, just for fun:

Q If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?

That would be difficult. The danger with that would be coming across conversations others may be having about you which it might be best not to learn. A better option would be the ability to go back in time as an invisible person to soak up the experiences and atmosphere of earlier times.

Q If I joined you on your perfect day, what would we be doing?

It would be on a warm summer’s day, a visit to a preserved railway to experience the sights sounds and smells of what I consider to be the art in motion of a steam locomotive. The aromatic mix of steam and hot oil is something difficult to describe. We’d have lunch at a pub followed by taking a well-behaved dog for a walk and allow our thoughts to drift to the latest writing project. Finally, we’d spend the evening with friends, back in the pub to catch up on what everyone had been doing.

Q What’s your signature dish?

Chilli con carne or Paella, both of which I seem to have mastered pretty well (so people tell me).

Q If you could be anyone for the day, who would you be?

I’m quite comfortable in my own skin and with my own company. However, for the benefit of this question, I’d like to be a contestant on The Apprentice. I’m not bothered about the prospect of winning, I’d just enjoy being alongside some of the dopy people who take part. Finally, in the boardroom, after all the other sycophants have tugged their forelocks and referred to the man as ‘Lord Sugar’, I’d take great delight in telling him to take his job and shove it before walking out!

About the Author:

David Evans is a Scots-born writer who found his true love as well as his inspiration for his detective series, set primarily in Wakefield. Having written all his life, in 2012 he decided to go for it – successfully as the next year, in 2013, he was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger Award.

The Wakefield Series became an International Bestseller in June 2017 with success in Canada and Australia as well as the UK. But now, whilst the Wakefield Series awaits the next instalment, David Evans has written Disposal, the first in the Tendring Series, a completely new detective series set in north Essex in the 1970s.

David Evans on Social Media

Author Website:
Facebook Author Page:
Twitter: @DavidEwriter

Blog Tour: That They Might Lovely Be by David Matthews

Goodreads|Amazon US|Amazon UK

Release date: December 8, 2017

Publisher: Top Hat Books

Genre: Historical Fiction


No-one thought Bertie Simmonds could speak. So, when he is heard singing an Easter hymn, this is not so much the miracle some think as a bolt drawn back, releasing long-repressed emotions with potentially devastating consequences… A decade later, Bertie marries Anstace, a woman old enough to be his mother, and another layer of mystery starts to peel away. Beginning in a village in Kent and set between the two World Wars, That They Might Lovely Be stretches from the hell of Flanders, to the liberating beauty of the Breton coast, recounting a love affair which embraces the living and the dead.

I’m so pleased to be the stop on the blog tour for That They Might Lovely Be today! I have a wonderful Q & A with the author to share today.

Top 5 with David Matthews

Top 5 books

Riders in the Chariot by Patrick White – a brilliant reworking of the events surrounding the death of Christ, set in Australia, this novel reminds me that the Christian story can be played out time and again throughout history

Waterland by Graham Swift – a beautifully narrated ramble through the secrets of the past, tangled with evocative description of place

Middlemarch by George Eliot – a richly woven tale of middle England in the 19th century bringing a wonderful array of characters to life, all finely nuanced and caught up in the preoccupations of their circumstances

Wake by Anna Hope – one of the most moving books I have read recently; revolving around the internment of the

Unknown Soldier, this novel captures the devastation and courageous endurance which follows loss and grief. It is a beautifully written elegy.

Saturday by Ian McEwan – his best book, in my opinion: a tight portrayal of the anxieties and preoccupations haunting modern urban living.

Top 5 films

The Third Man – wonderfully atmospheric with the use of music and shadow and the most poignant end sequence of all.

Brief Encounter – a period film about emotional restraint set against the most searing music; sacrifice can be exquisite.

Ex Machina – a film for our times, where human emotion confronts the chilling independence of the machine; we are at the mercy of what we create.

Diva – a French film directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix which focuses on a young man’s obsession with beauty. The soundtrack is great.

Went the Day Well? – an Ealing Studio’s working of a story by Graham Greene. It is set in the heart of England during the Second World War and has stayed with me as an exploration of how ordinary, domesticity copes with overwhelming crisis.

Top 5 songs

Bailero – Joseph Canteloupe from ‘Songs of the Auvergne’

All By Myself – Eric Carmen

Back to Black – Amy Winehouse

Adelaide’s Lament – Frank Loesser form ‘Guys and Dolls’

Smoke gets in Your Eyes – Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach, sung by Dinah Washington

Top 5 holiday destinations

Any rural retreat in France – good food and wine, beautiful scenery and a culture which says the quality of life and simple pleasures are more important than material progress

Alnwick, Northumberland – a quintessential English town and you can’t ever get a more stimulating blend of countryside, wild coastline and amazing castles; it’s great in all weathers

Great Blasket, Dingle peninsula, Ireland – this is the most western point in Europe, it’s wild and the weather can be dreadful but there is atmosphere in abundance; every Englishman should learn Irish history from a native Irishman standing on these sea-tossed shores

Sicily – there is over two thousand years of history here with Ancient Greek and Norman remains. The coast is stunning and the interior far more lush than you’d expect. There is also a palpable sense of the mafia’s shadow with a thriving culture of tax-avoidance. And the holiday-maker will see obvious poverty and that is an important reminder of how the world is.

My garden, when everyone else in the family has gone away – having the chance to retreat into your own space is a luxury. I work on my garden so that it is a beautiful place to sit and also a place to potter if I want to empty my mind.

Top 5 tips for writing a debut novel

Plan the plot carefully in advance but do not be afraid to let it develop its own shape during the course of writing.

Imagine the characters as rounded people and never allow them to behave out of character. Instead, rework the mechanics of the plot if necessary.

Draft, re-draft and re-draft again, looking out for the patterns of meaning which you (or your sub-conscious) have laid down and highlight or suppress them as you think appropriate.

Direct speech should be used sparingly; it rarely helps drive the plot forward but should reveal depths of character and motivation.

The ‘Great Literary Equation’: (plot + character + setting) x language = themes. The values of these components may change from genre to genre but this reminds you that what you want to leave the reader with at the end of your book is a fresh perspective on the ideas that the novel explores.

Big thanks to David for joining me today!

Q & A with Pankaj Giri, Author of The Fragile Thread of Hope @_PankajGiri

Goodreads|Amazon US|Amazon UK

Release date: October 29, 2017

Genre: Contemporary Fiction


In the autumn of 2012, destiny wreaks havoc on two unsuspecting people–Soham and Fiona.


Although his devastating past involving his brother still haunted him, Soham had established a promising career for himself in Bangalore.


After a difficult childhood, Fiona’s fortunes had finally taken a turn for the better. She had married her beloved, and her life was as perfect as she had ever imagined it to be.


But when tragedy strikes them yet again, their fundamentally fragile lives threaten to fall apart.


Can Fiona and Soham overcome their grief?


Will the overwhelming pain destroy their lives?


Seasoned with the flavours of exotic Nepalese traditions and set in the picturesque Indian hill station, Gangtok, The Fragile Thread of Hope explores the themes of spirituality, faith, alcoholism, love, and guilt while navigating the complex maze of familial relationships.


Inspirational and heart-wrenchingly intimate, it urges you to wonder–does hope stand a chance in this travesty called life?

Happy Saturday everyone!! This book first caught my eye after I read Jules review and while unfortunately I do not have room in my schedule  to read this anytime soon, I was pleased to be able to interview the author! Enjoy.

Q & A:

1. What’s a typical writing day for you look like? Describe your perfect writing environment.


I write whenever I get time, at home or at the office, especially if I am in the process of writing a book. Else, I take a break and enjoy my life.


My perfect writing environment would be a silent room with my laptop, a cup of black tea, a box of chocolates, and a good internet connection. Contrary to traditional belief that internet distracts a writer, I need the internet to find perfect synonyms, check if a sentence is grammatically correct, and research facts necessary for my book.



2. How did you get started writing? Was it something that you’ve always loved?


Frankly speaking, I never even dreamt ofbecoming a writer. In fact, I didn’t even use to read (except for Harry Potter, which I read in my late teens). But after my father passed away four years back, some of my friends suggested me to start reading to divert my mind from the pain. I followed their suggestion, and slowly I fell in love with reading. I also began writing, starting with book reviews. Over the years, having read many books and developed my writing skills by writing several blog posts, I thought of trying my hand at writing a novel. A plot slowly developed in my mind, and soon I started writing. The rest is history.



3. Who are your favorite writers/inspirations?


My favorite writers are Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner is arguably my favorite book), Renita D’Silva (a UK-based, award-nominated, critically acclaimed writer of six bestselling books), Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (award-winning bestselling US-based writer), and J.K.Rowling (can never forget the magical experience which has become a part of my life).



4. Anything you can tell us about upcoming projects?


I have not thought about it yet as I am busy promoting The Fragile Thread of Hope. Once I settle down, I will reflect on my next book.



5. Normally how do you develop plots/characters? Brief us on your process.


More than two years ago, the plot of The Fragile Thread of Hope took birth in my mind. Probably the story was influenced by the books I was reading at that time–the complex brotherly love between Hassan and Amir in The Kite Runner and the beautiful love between Noah and Allie in The Notebook. Those themes stuck with me, so I felt like weaving a story based on love, loss, and family relationships. Gradually, the characters developed in my mind, and scenes began taking shape and haunting me. After a few weeks, the characters began putting pressure on me, as if prodding me to bring them to life on the canvas of my novel. Then, as I finally obliged, The Fragile Thread of Hope was born.


(The Notebook is one of my favorite books!!)

6. Preferred method for readers to contact you?


Readers can either contact me via mail ( or via social media.







7. On average, how long does it take you to write a book?


Generally, it takes me around a year to write a book, but editing takes a lot of time thereafter. Overall, I can produce a decently edited book in two years.



8. Which one of your characters do you relate to the most?


That has to be Soham. He is my alter ego. Not only do we share pains, but we share many characteristics as well. However, I made him a bit more mentally stronger than me because eventually, it’s the writer’s choice. 🙂



9. If writing wasn’t your career what would you be doing?


I used to work in the software industry in Bangalore, but after my father’s death, I had to relocate to Gangtok, my native place. Now, I work in a government job. But my passion lies in writing, and I devote a majority of my time on it.



10. What’s the best compliment that you’ve received about your work?


When Renita D’Silva–a marvellous writer and my literary idol–read my book and said that it is one of her favorite books. Whenever I remember that, I always get a very special feeling.

(Renita is a brilliant writer, what an amazing compliment!)

About the Author:

Pankaj Giri was born and brought up in Gangtok, Sikkim–a picturesque hill station in India. He began his writing career with a book review blog, and now, after several years of honing his writing skills, he has written a novel–The Fragile Thread of Hope, a literary inspirational fiction dealing with love, loss, and family relationships. He is currently working in the government sector in Sikkim. He likes to kill time by listening to progressive metal music and watching cricket.

Q & A with Rebecca Stonehill author of The Secret Life of Alfred Nightingale @bexstonehill

Goodreads|Amazon US|Amazon UK
Release date: October 29, 2017

Publisher: Sunbird Press

Genre: Historical Fiction 

A compelling page turner of a buried past resurfacing, set against a backdrop of the 1960’s youth culture and war torn Crete.

1967. Handsome but troubled, Jim is almost 18 and he lives and breathes girls, trad jazz, Eel Pie Island and his best friend, Charles. One night, he hears rumours of a community of young people living in caves in Matala, Crete. Determined to escape his odious, bully of a father and repressed mother, Jim hitchhikes through Europe down to Matala. At first, it’s the paradise he dreamt it would be. But as things start to go wrong and his very notion of self unravels, the last thing Jim expects is for this journey of hundreds of miles to set in motion a passage of healing which will lead him back to the person he hates most in the world: his father.

Taking in the counter-culture of the 1960’s, the clash of relationships between the WW2 generation and their children, the baby boomers, this is a novel about secrets from the past finally surfacing, the healing of trauma and the power of forgiveness.

A captivating story that will mesmerise fans of Lucinda Riley, Dinah Jefferies and Tracy Rees. 

Hi everyone, I’m so pleased to be the stop on the blog tour for The Secret Life of Alfred Nightingale today! I have a wonderful interview with the author to share today. 

Q & A:

1. What’s a typical writing day for you look like? Describe your perfect writing environment.


The mornings are always quite fraught with three children (and various animals!) to be fed before the school run, so nothing really starts on the writing front before 9am. Armed with a strong coffee, I sit on the verandah of our wooden cottage in a Nairobi suburb and write myself into the day. I love writing outside, surrounded by trees and birds. It feels like such a privilege.



2. How did you get started writing? Was it something that you’ve always loved?


I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. As a child, I was far fonder of books than of people and lived in imaginary worlds. I would fill notebooks with snippets of stories, poems and observations about people and places and could often be found in cupboards, under beds and up trees spying on people!


3. Who are your favorite writers/inspirations?


I read so much that I feel like I am discovering favorite authors all the time! But to name a few of them: Kazuo Ishiguro, Susan Fletcher, Vikram Seth, Henry James and Maya Angelou. As for inspiration, nature has always been my greatest teacher.


4. Anything you can tell us about upcoming projects?


I am soon to embark on a six-month journey around India with my husband and three children, travelling and home schooling – very exciting! The plan is to have a short break from novel writing during this period and focus on blogging about our experiences.



5. Normally how do you develop plots/characters? Brief us on your process.


I am not a very organised writer, I must confess. But I don’t think there’s a blueprint for how these things ought to develop. People often talk about two (very general) different types of writers, the ‘planners’ and the ‘pansters’ i.e. the fly by the seat of their pants type of people. Well, I am the latter! Stories almost always end up being wildly different from how I envisaged them in the early stages.


6. Favorite character from one of your own novels?


Iris from The Girl and the Sunbird. As a woman born in 1977, I have no idea what it would be like to not be able to chose to go to school or university or to have a say in one’s husband. Of course for women of a certain period (and, indeed, for many women still today) this was/is the reality, but I feel a deep empathy for Iris which I think allowed me to develop her character effectively. She is strong-willed, intelligent and compassionate, but she is also flawed, as I believe good characters should be.


7. Preferred method for readers to contact you?


I absolutely love to hear from readers. I can be contacted through my Rebecca Stonehill Books facebook page, through twitter @bexstonehill or via the contact form on my website


8. On average, how long does it take you to write a book?


This is a hard question to answer as they have all been very different! But, if I have few interruptions, I need about a year to research and write a decent first draft of a book.



9. If writing wasn’t your career what would you be doing?


I have always loved the idea of being a photographer. Being behind a camera and taking photos has been a great pleasure of mine for a long time. Perhaps one day I can combine this passion with my writing.




10. What’s the best compliment that you’ve received about your work?


I’m a bit of a softie at heart, so when people tell me they have been moved to tears by my work, I feel immensely gratified. When I write, I pour my heart and soul into the stories and have been known to be sitting at the screen myself sobbing! I purposely don’t choose easy topics to write about, and sometimes I find the novel’s development painful, yet necessary. So if I have helped another person to really feel something through my work, I have achieved what I set out to do.



About the Author:


Rebecca Stonehill is from London but has lived in Nairobi since 2013 where her husband’s job as Water and Sanitation Engineer took them with their three children. She has written three novels, The Secret Life of Alfred Nightingale, being the most recent and also set up Magic Pencil, an initiative to provide greater access to creative writing for young people.


Rebecca can be contacted through her website, on twitter @bexstonehill or via her facebook page Rebecca Stonehill Books.

You can also sign up for her newsletter here.

 As an added bonus I have a sneak peek at the book as well!



Opening section of the novel:




Chapter One

Twickenham, 1967


When I open my cupboard doors on Saturday morning, it’s immediately clear that all my trousers have disappeared.

​’Bloody hell Ma, not again,’ I mutter.

I rifle through t-shirts and underwear, pulling out pairs of folded and ironed socks and push splayed fingers through the shirts that hang neatly, accusingly, on their hangers. I blink into the dark of the wardrobe and catch sight of myself in the small mirror, running a hand through my hair. Dark woody brown and long around the ears, far longer than what my father considers respectable. Just yesterday he told me that if I didn’t get my hair cut, he’d pin me into a chair and cut it himself. Treating me, as always, like I’m seven, not bloody well seventeen.

I frown at the poster of The Who and give the wardrobe door a great kick. I can smell toast and bacon, crisp and sweet and my stomach flips, almost battering my resolve. But no, I clench my jaw, I know this trick, I know what this is all about.

Pulling on a pair of underpants and a vest and shirt over my head, I march downstairs where I find Ma at the stove in her pleated apron, breaking eggs into the frying pan, her hair in curlers. She always keeps her hair in curlers for Friday night and the whole of Saturday, the only day of the week she never leaves the house.

​Swivelling on her slippered feet, she smiles brightly.

  ‘Morning, Jimmy!’

‘Ma,’ I say firmly. ‘What have you done with all my trousers?’

She turns back to the stove, but I can see the slight tension in her shoulders.

‘Trousers, dear?’

‘Trousers, Ma,’ I say slowly. ‘Where are they?’

​She leans over to the windowsill and switches on the radio, the staid voice of a BBC reporter booming out.

​’…we can expect the temperature to reach a pleasant seventy degrees today, if not a little more. Perhaps summer has finally…’

I flip the dial off.

‘Ma!’ I say sharply. ‘Will you stop playing games and talk to me!’

​She turns to face me. I can make out a faint smudge of yesterday’s mascara under one eye and wisps of her dyed brown hair escaping from her curlers and I suddenly feel deeply irritated by her. 

‘What was it you wanted to talk about?’

‘You know very well what. It’s Saturday. I need to put some trousers on and go out, but you’ve hidden them again.’

‘They’re all in the wash, dear,’ she says blankly.

I throw my hands up in the air in exasperation as I turn from Ma and sink into a chair at the table.

‘Won’t you have some bacon?’

‘Why, Ma? Why are you trying to stop me going out again?’

 She purses her lips as she marches over to the sideboard and starts slicing through the loaf of bread with a knife, thick slices crumbling as she attacks it.

‘You know your father doesn’t like you going to that island.’

‘I forgot,’ I mutter, ‘Father doesn’t like it when I actually enjoy myself. Anyway, who says I’m going to the island?’

Ma turns, breadknife in hand and points it at me.

‘Well, aren’t you? Tell me you’re not, then.’

‘I’m eighteen, Ma, I’m an adult now.’


‘Practically eighteen. And it’s not what you think it is, it’s just a bit of music and dancing. All very…quiet really.’

She snorts as she finishes cutting the bread and thrusts it into the toaster.

‘Actually, I will have some of that bacon, it smells damn good.’

‘Language,’ Ma retorts, but her features soften as she fetches a plate and cutlery.

‘Honestly, Ma,’ I continue, ‘you should come with me some time, so you can see for yourself that it’s all very tame.’

​I have absolutely no intention of my mother coming to the island with me; I know very well that all her worst fears would be founded, but I’m also aware that my invitation may make my jaunts over there seem more innocent. Ma sighs deeply as she sits at the table opposite me and watches me eat.

‘Your father will be furious if he knows you’ve gone,’ she says wearily. 

‘I know,’ I reply. ‘God Ma, this bacon is amazing. The thing is…’ I pause as I chew. Ma gets up to butter the toast. ‘The thing is, that hiding my trousers isn’t going to stop me going. You know that really.’

‘But why? Why do you want to make your father so upset and angry?’

‘I don’t want to make him angry, I’m just living my life. I need to be my own person – ‘

‘When you leave school, then you can be your own person.’

‘You know that won’t make a blind bit of difference. You know that Father will still be on at me the whole time, to do this and be that and join the family business. I’m not the same as him; I’m not him. He’s completely forgotten what it’s like to be young – ’

‘Just do your A levels, love.’ Ma reaches over the table and pats my hand. ‘I’m sure your father will take the pressure off a little after that.’

‘Now that,’ I point my fork at her, ‘is a lie and we both know it.’

​I finish eating and walk to the back door where I pull on my boots.

‘You’re not going out like that – ‘

‘I told you, I have to.’

‘But – ‘

‘Super bacon Ma, thanks ever so much.’ I lean over, peck her on the cheek then snatch my sunglasses up from the table and with that, I slip out of the back door and break into a trot.


Huge thanks to Rebecca for joining me today!

Q & A with Joy Norstrom author of Out of Play @norstrom_joy

Release date: October 27, 2016

Publisher: Crooked Cat

Genre: Chick Lit


Gillian Campbell is out of patience. 

Her husband is choosing his hobby over her. And the hobby in question? Live Action Role-Play, or ‘larp’. Larp involves dressing up as a character (be it medieval knight, banshee or centaur) and participating in imaginary battles for entire weekends. 

Gillian is not impressed. She seeks professional advice and is surprised when her therapist encourages her to try larp. Who knows? It may make you smile. It may make you laugh. It may even improve your sex life. How terrible could it be?

The advice seems super sketch to Gillian, but she decides to don a costume and give it a go. If larp doesn’t work a marital miracle, Gillian will be able to walk away knowing she tried absolutely everything before giving up.

Will going on her own role-play adventure heal Gillian’s marriage, or will the game shed light on everything that is wrong? 

Hey everyone, I hope your weekend is off to a fantastic start! I have an interview with Joy Norstrom to share today.

Q & A

Hello Amy! Thank you for hosting me on your Saturday Shout Out. I’m celebrating the one year anniversary of my book baby, Out of Play, and it seems a great time to think about my writing journey. What questions do you have for me?


Q: What’s a typical writing day for you look like? Describe your perfect writing environment.


A: My typical writing day is a few stolen hours when the kids are in bed or in swim practice or watching a movie. I think that’s a similar reality for writers who are trying to balance day jobs and young families with their creative processes.


The big exception are Mondays—my favourite day of the week! I don’t work on Mondays, the kids are at school and so that leaves just me and my lap top…and twitter and facebook and insta. Lol, there are still a lot of distractions but at least it’s quiet. Silence is definitely my preferred writing state. I know. I don’t sound fun at all, do I?


I also enjoy a warm beverage or two when I write. Coffee with cream in the morning. Bengal Spice tea in the afternoon. I’m also inspired by nature and like to write by a window with a view.


Q: How did you get started writing? Was it something you’ve always loved?


A: I’ve always been a storyteller. That’s probably a nice way to say ‘chatty.’ I grew up in a house of readers and most of us happened to be oral storytellers too (picture a group of chatty readers and you’ve got it). I was on my second maternity leave and my mom suggested I should write a children’s book. I was very quick to dismiss the idea. I didn’t think it was possible to get published and I doubted whether anyone would be interested in what I might come up with. And yet the seed was planted. I wasn’t able to shake the idea and I spent most of my thirties working on my writing craft.


What I love about storytelling is seeing an emotional reaction and I think that happens when readers (or listeners) feel a connection with the main character. How great is it to know you’ve helped people to feel something powerful? My two favourite reactions are laughter or empathy. Don’t you agree that life is better when there’s humour and a connection to other people’s lived experience?


Q: If writing wasn’t your career what would you be doing?


A: Writing is somewhere on the spectrum between ‘hobby’ and ‘career’ for me. It requires more time, energy and skill than an average pastime, and yet it’s not quite an occupation either. I work part-time as a registered social worker in community development. I actually love my job because I am passionate about social inclusion and get to have an integral role in building a more just society. Storytelling is also a powerful tool for building empathy and understanding, and so I find splitting my time between these two roles is a great way to keep my creative and grounded.


Q: What’s the best compliment you’ve received about your work?


A: When I receive a review where the reader says they both laughed and cried, I know I was able to reach my goal of writing a story that matters.


Q: Who are your favorite writers/inspirations?


A: I’ve been deeply inspired by two Canadian authors:


Miriam Toews. Can anyone not recommend Miriam Toews? Her voice is beautiful. She writes a great mix of humour and heartbreak and I basically think she’s amazing. The Flying Troutmans is one of my favourite books. It’s one of those books you keep sneaking back into your room to read, because you’ve got to find out how it ends.


Susin Nielsen. If you haven’t heard of her you should look her up. She writes younger YA but doesn’t shy away from tough topics. My ten year old likes her books and so do I. That’s like a (mumble, thirty, mumble) year audience span so quite impressive that Susin can engage such a wide span in audiences. My favourite Susin Nielsen book is The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen but perhaps a better title for a younger reader would be Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mother.


Both of these authors successfully weave humour and tragedy into their stories. I find it inspiring because it’s what I want to do with my own writing.


Q. Anything you can tell us about upcoming projects?


A. My current project is about a single mom who lives in a small sawmill town. Her son doesn’t fit into the fairly rigid gender norms in their community. With little income (and few choices) she crosses paths with a group of older women who want her to teach them about dating in the twenty-first century.  


I’m currently interviewing parents with children who identify outside mainstream gender norms as a way to better understand my character. If you’re reading this and are interested in sharing your experience with me, I would love to hear from you.  


Q: Preferred method for readers to contact you?


A: It’s great to chat on social media and I can also be contacted via my website.






Q & A with Marsha Cornelius author of Up to No Good @marshcornelius

Release date: December 31, 2016

Genre: Cozy Mystery/Humor


Rachel likes to think she’s inquisitive. Her husband Brian says she’s a snoop. They’ve been married for 15 years, they work together in their home, and she’s approaching the dreaded 40th birthday. This humdrum combination has made their marriage a bit stale.

Maybe that’s why her nosy nature has escalated. She’s gotten it into her head that a house down the road might be used to make adult films. Her clues? The blinds are always drawn, and there are never any garbage cans at the curb. Obviously no one lives in the house. They just use it late at night for porn videos.

As she and Brian look into this mystery, they find that the adrenaline rush of getting caught works as an aphrodisiac as well.

But if her snooping keeps discovering unexpected dirt, it may be the last thing she ever does.

Happy Saturday everyone! I have an interview with Marsha Cornelius to share today, enjoy. 

What does a typical writing day for you look like? Describe your perfect writing environment.



Have you seen the cartoon called Family Circus, where the little boy is supposed to go out the front door to tell his dad it is time for dinner? But instead, the boy goes out the back door, chases the dog, climbs a tree, jumps in a pile of leaves, and plays tag with his sister before he finally delivers the message to his dad.

That’s my writing day.


I’ve often felt I need a seat belt on my desk chair to keep me from wandering around the house looking at dusty tabletops, or staring out at a garden choked with weeds. Let’s not get into the forays to the kitchen in search of snacks.

I used to write on a laptop that was not connected to the Internet so I wouldn’t get distracted by email, Facebook, or Twitter, but it died and I’m back on my PC.

I’ve gotten a bit more disciplined over the years, but there is still very little structure to my day.


My ideal writing conditions are silence and solitude. For instance, I cannot listen to music. What if I’m writing a touching love scene and Alanis Morrisette comes on with:

​Every time I scratch my nails

​Down someone else’s back I hope you feel it

Instrumentals are no good either. If I’m listening to Sojourner by Paul McCandless, I can’t very well write about some bloody massacre, now can I?


Solitude is a bit more challenging since my husband retired. He knows if he hears me typing, he can’t interrupt. But that doesn’t stop him from wandering into the room, standing in front of the picture window, and sighing from boredom.

And I have a very vocal cat. He’s a lot like a child that needs to tell you something the moment you get on the phone. Only the cat is usually complaining that there isn’t enough food in his dish, or it has gotten stale, or he dove into the bowl with such zeal that half the kibble spilled out onto his placemat. (And all cat owners know that a cat will NOT eat food off the floor.)


Tell us about the books you have written.


My book list is as random as my writing day because I write in different genres.


H10N1 – post-apocalyptic thriller about the aftermath of a deadly global pandemic. Two survivors must work together if they hope to find a safe haven.


The Ups and Downs of Being Dead – speculative fiction. A dying man chooses to have his body cryonically-preserved. Now he must ‘wait around’ as a ghost until science figures out how to bring him back.


Losing It All – women’s fiction/drama. A homeless man helps a woman and her two small children get off the streets.


Habits Kick Back – speculative fiction. It’s the future, and people take pills for everything: Concentration, memory enhancement, stress reduction, libido suppression, weight control. A college girl decides to stop taking them all and finds life much more difficult, but certainly more interesting.


A Tale of Moral Corruption – speculative fiction. A reversal of A Handmaid’s Tale. In this book, women run the world and men are in the subservient roles. The men even wear the portable wombs that are growing babies.


Up To No Good – cozy mystery/humor. A busybody suspects her neighbors are making porn videos in their home. She decides to investigate, with hilarious results.


Who is your favorite character from Up To No Good?

Definitely Rachel. Here’s a big surprise – she’s a lot like me.

I try to mind my own business, honest I do. But then I’m walking in the neighborhood and I see Al and Carol are digging up their driveway and I just have to go snoop to see what’s going on.

Folks around here know I’m a busybody, so whenever they want to know what’s happening, they ask me. (‘Hey, what’s Al doing to his driveway?’) And of course, if anyone has a juicy bit of gossip, they’re always sure to tell me. I’m like a walking neighborhood newsletter.



Where did you get the idea for Up To No Good?

There actually is a house a few miles from me that looks suspicious. The blinds are always closed. I never see anyone working in the yard, or a hose dragged out, or garbage cans at the curb. I never see a car in the driveway.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Maybe these people aren’t slobs like me. If they use the hose, they put it away. And they don’t have a garage full of junk so they can park their car inside.

I’m not buying it. For years, I’ve speculated that no one really lives in the house. They just use the house at night to make amateur porn videos.

I worked with a woman once who was ‘dating’ a guy. He bought her fancy lingerie and took her back to his house for sex. But while they were going at it, he would groan and make faces like he was posing for a camera. When she broke her leg at work and had to wear a cast, he dropped her like a hot potato.


On average, how long does it take you to write a book?

I write a book a year. I’m sure I could do it in less time if I had that seat belt. (Refer to the first question above)


What else do you do besides write books?

In the writerly vein, I have organized a monthly literary event called A Novel Idea. I invite six authors to a coffee shop in Canton, Georgia (near where I live.) It’s at night, so guests come to sip wine or coffee, and listen to the writers talk about their work and read a short excerpt. It’s a fun night out, and everyone gets to meet Atlanta’s local authors.


I also teach exercise classes to senior citizens in a fitness program called Silver Sneakers. I started attending classes after my first hip replacement about three years ago. Now I teach the hour-long sessions four times a week. It’s great to get paid for doing what my physical therapist told me to do.


How can people reach you?

Facebook –

Twitter –

Goodreads –

Website –


Up To No Good is available on Amazon.