Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Bob Van Laerhoven Interview


                                                              



A fulltime Belgian/Flemish author, Laerhoven published 39 books in Holland and Belgium. Some of his literary work is published in French, English, German, Slovenian, Italian, Polish, and Russian. Four time finalist of the Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Mystery Novel of the Year with the novels “Djinn”, “The Finger of God”, “Return to Hiroshima”, and “The Firehand Files”. Winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for “Baudelaire's Revenge,” which also won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category "mystery/suspense".
In 2018, Crime Wave Press published “Return to Hiroshima”, after “Baudelaire’s Revenge” his second novel in English translation.
His collection of short stories “Dangerous Obsessions,” first published by The Anaphora Literary Press in the USA in 2015, was hailed as "best short story collection of 2015" by the San Diego Book Review. The collection is translated in Italian, (Brazilian) Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. “Retour à Hiroshima”, the French translation of “Return to Hiroshima,” is recently finished. 
In 2018, The Anaphora Literary Press published “Heart Fever”, a second collection of short stories. “Heart Fever”, written in English by the author, is a finalist in the Silver Falchion 2018 Award in the category “short stories collections”. Laerhoven is the only non-American finalist of the Awards.  The English book site Murder, Mayhem & More chose “Return to Hiroshima” as one of the ten best international crime books of 2018.



1995, Japan struggles with a severe economic crisis. Fate brings a number of people together in Hiroshima in a confrontation with dramatic consequences. 
Xavier Douterloigne, the son of a Belgian diplomat, returns to the city, where he spent his youth, to come to terms with the death of his sister. Inspector Takeda finds a deformed baby lying dead at the foot of the Peace Monument, a reminder of Hiroshima's war history. 
A Yakuza-lord, rumored to be the incarnation of the Japanese demon Rokurobei, mercilessly defends his criminal empire against his daughter Mitsuko, whom he considers insane.
And the punk author Reizo, obsessed by the ultra-nationalistic ideals of his literary idol Mishima, recoils at nothing to write the novel that will "overturn Japan's foundations"....
Hiroshima’s indelible war-past simmers in the background of this ultra-noir novel. Clandestine experiments conducted by Japanese Secret Service Unit 731 during WWII become unveiled and leave a sinister stain on the reputation of the imperial family and the Japanese society as a whole.
 Welcome to the blog, Bob
 Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself?
In the past six years, since my work was translated and published in English, I began to realize that, in spite of mass and social media, people often don’t know very much about habits, ways of thinking, cultural preferences, et cetera, abroad. I’m a Belgian Flemish writer and, in interviews, I noticed that many of my interviewers, especially Americans, but also Australian, Canadian, and Indian book bloggers, thought that Belgium is a French-speaking country. In reality, Belgium is a country with two separate regions: in the northern part Flanders one speaks Flemish (Dutch), in the southern part Wallonia one speaks Walloon (French).Some of my interviewers didn’t even know that Belgium existed and thought it was another word for Brussels (Belgium’s capital).  
Such realizations lead to modesty: if we know so little about each other, we must be very careful with our prejudices and opinions in general. For instance, lately, I hear so many preconceptions about fugitives, and I think that this is a dangerous trend. When we are impressionable, it’s easy for populists to narrow our minds and to create an enemy image of “the other.”  And now, to (finally) answer your question: I’m a Flemish author trying to get his literary oeuvre “out there,”which isn’t so easy when you belong to a small language community of about 5 million people.  It can be done: look at the Norwegian writers, for instance. But I talked to one of them lately and he was very enthusiastic about the Norwegian government subsidizing translations and promoting Norwegian authors abroad, which is much less the case in Flanders. 
Nevertheless, I’m not complaining: with two novels and two short story collections published in English, and parts of my oeuvre translated in French, Spanish, Swedish, Polish, (Brazilian)Portuguese, Russian, and Italian, I’m faring quite well, thank you.
     

 Are there any poets or writers who influence you? How so?

When I started writing, I  wanted to become a poet, but, after a while, I had to admit that my poetic talent just wasn’t good enough and that I was a much better novelist. But I couldn’t give up my love for poetry completely, so in some of my novels,poets play an important role. Let me just give you three examples. In my novel “Baudelaire’s Revenge” (published in English in 2014) the famous French “doomed poet” Charles Baudelaire is the main character, although he has been dead for three years when the novel starts (1870). In “Dossier Feuerhand” (The Firehand Files, 2017, not yet translated) it’s the Flemish Dada-poet Paul van Ostaijen who carries the weight of the plot, and in Alejandro’s Leugen (Alejandro’s Lie, 2016,  first draft of the English translation is finished), one of the most important roles is for the Chilean poet and singer-songwriterVictor Jara.    Those three, plus an endless row of literary novelists, have been my guiding lights, and when I reach to their knees, I’m very happy. I don’t write thrillers, I write cross-over novels between literature and the suspense novel, so the result is something different, something readers often don’t expect. Critics sometimes remark that my novels aren’t very commercial because they are complex, but I think that many reviewers underestimate the modern reader. Let’s say that I try not to...

 Let's talk about your novel! What is it about?

Over here, in Flanders, “Return to Hiroshima” was called the “most complex Flemish literary suspense novel ever”.So, it’s not easy to describe in a few words what the novel is about. Inevitably, when you write a novel with the iconic name “Hiroshima” in the title, the story will touch the unimaginable destruction that the atom bomb “Little Boy” caused in 1945. But “Return to Hiroshima” is also about the Japanese society in the nineties, trapped in a severe economic crisis, the foreshadowing of the worldwide recession and bank crisis that hit the western world in 2008.The story deals with a wild, tense, and dangerous father-and-daughter relationship, with organized crime in Japan, the psychological roots of the warrior code “bushido,”and the widespread longing of the Japanese people to evolve one day toward a “super race.”  It’s about a lot more, but I think you can already see by now that it is a true kaleidoscopic novel, branching out into a lot of topics, but also trying to present a truly noir and suspenseful story.

 Who do you think would like your story and what kind of readership are you aiming for?

You know, only once in my life, during a period of great turbulence, I have written books with an audience in my mind and aiming for a clearly defined readership.  I was divorced for the second time, but this time my ex-wife and I had children in their teens, and I wanted to be there for them not only as a loving father but also as a provider.So, I wrote a series of thrillers with Flemish/South-African half-blood commissioner Peter Declerqwho teams up with the Brussels inspector Samantha – Sammy – Duchène. Peter and Sammy conduct international investigations in South-Africa, Burma, Algeria, Congo, and Israel. I published the series in the nineties when the interest in cosmopolitan thrillers influenced by literature was in its peak in Belgium and Holland. The five books sold well, and afterward, I returned to my “normal” way of writing: patiently waiting until  I was “abducted” by a theme, a setting, characters, and began to write without knowing what the result would be, for whom the novel was destined, or who would like my story. And I will keep this profound non-commercial way of writing, deeply influenced by the Muse that grabs me, until I die.

 What is the message you are trying to get across in your book?

I am fascinated by the darkness that lurks in our souls. How is it possible that mankind can inflict such horrors on itself? My whole oeuvre is an attempt to understand the Human Condition, but I must admit that, after more than 40 books, I am still baffled by the contradictory impulses that govern us. How is it possible, for instance, that in the 21st Century we keep on being ruled by clan-feelings and blood ties, while we should understand that humanity must learn to think and act globally or we will perish? Why do we choose leaders who can’t muster the intelligence, the courage, and the empathy to work for the good of all of us? Why are we so power-driven and short-sighted that we are busy destroying the world we live on?  My novels are meant to be parables, dealing with the profound,mysterious workings of our minds and our feelings.
  
 What is your writing process like?

That’s an easy one...Although, maybe not, it’s easy for me but hard to explain.
 A first sentence is “given” to me, and I start writing without knowing what the outcome will be. During the first draft, my only obsession is: go on, go on. I don’t re-read what I’ve written the day before. I plow on, very well knowing that there are messy parts and loose ends in the first draft, but before I start editing I want the whole story to be “complete.”I work as a sculptor: first, he has the rough stone which he transforms into the silhouette of the form he wants to give it, and when he has that overall image, he starts chiseling the details of his work of art. 
So, when the first draft is complete, only then I start the editing process, which consists of re-writing, re-writing, re-writing. A whole lot of work, but my mind is at ease then: I know that I have my story and that I only must polish it up and make it beautiful.

How did you go about getting published? 

That’s also easy.  Or, eh, again maybe not. When my first manuscript was ready, I sent it to a few publishers. Two of them were interested. I chose between those two, and from then on, the only thing I ever did was sending manuscripts to Publishing Houses, asking to be published. They usually did. Two of my manuscripts were failures and were never accepted although I rewrote them many times. In the end,I realized that they’d taught me even more than the manuscripts that were accepted and then polished up by an editor of the Publishing House.

What plans do you have for the future of your writing? 

I’ll be 66 within a few months and I’m feeling that my passion for writing is slowly diminishing. Oh yes, it’s still there, but the inner fire that made me publish more than 40 books doesn’t possess the same power as in the past. That has to do with age, but also with the fact that being an author nowadays is not what it was 40 years ago when my work was first published. To this old writer that I’ve become, everything seems nowadays a bit superficial. The pace of publishing has grown, the stress of having a strong social network also. Reputations come and go so quickly in modern society, and superlatives are being sprinkled around far too carelessly.  
Because I led a somewhat unusual life for an author – I was a traveling author in conflict zones between 1990 and 2003 – I sometimes feel the urge to write my autobiography, but I don’t know if I still got enough “oomph” in me to do it. For the moment, I’m trying to promote my translated books – I have been translated in nine languages now – and since I’m not very apt or quick in self-promoting my work, it takes a lot of my time, which I don’t like, but it is like it is. Meanwhile, I’m trying to pick my memory and to collect as much material as I can to write that last book eventually. In my autobiography I would like to analyze the years that have gone past, the lovers that have gone down lover’s lane, friends and foes who came and went, and myself, changing over the years, searching for inner peace, and everlasting love.

Many thanks for joining us Bob - what an eventful life you must have led!

Social media:

Author social media links:

websites
www.bobvanlaerhoven.be (NL/FR/EN) 
www.bobvanlaerhoven.com (Russian website for Месть Бодлера, the Russian edition of Baudelaire’s Revenge)
Book Links: Amazon.com/uk/au/ca/in
Barnes and Noble:


Monday, 18 February 2019

Dreaming of Tuscany



The glamour of Hollywood. The magic of the Tuscan countryside. One big decision...

Beatrice Kingdom (Bee to her friends) wakes up in hospital in Tuscany. After an accident on a film set leaves her burned and scarred, she feels her whole life has been turned upside down.

Bee is offered the chance of recuperating in a stunning Tuscan villa in the company of a world-famous film star, the irascible Mimi Robertson. Here amid the vines and olive groves, Bee quickly finds there’s more to the place than meets the eye, not least a certain Luca (and Romeo the dog).

As she comes to terms with her injuries and her new life takes shape, Bee will have to travel a road of self-discovery… and make a huge decision.

A joyous, funny and moving tale, Dreaming of Tuscany is a triumph, perfect for fans of Holly Martin, Tilly Tennant, and Jenny Oliver.

T.A.   Williams 

Firstly, my name isn't T A. It's Trevor. I write under the androgynous name T A Williams because 65% of books are read by women. In my first book, "Dirty Minds" one of the (female) characters suggests the imbalance is due to the fact that men spend too much time getting drunk and watching football. I couldn't possibly comment. Ask my wife...
I've written all sorts: thrillers, historical novels, short stories and now I'm enjoying myself hugely writing humour and romance. Romantic comedies are what we all need from time to time. Life isn’t always very fair. It isn’t always a lot of fun, but when it is, we need to embrace it. If my books can put a smile on your face and maybe give your heartstrings a tug, then I know I’ve done my job.
I‘ve lived all over Europe, but now I live in a little village in sleepy Devon, tucked away in south west England. I love the place. That’s why you’ll find leafy lanes and thatched cottages in most of my books. Oh, yes, and a black Labrador. 
I've been writing since I was 14 and that is half a century ago. However, underneath this bald, wrinkly exterior, there beats the heart of a youngster. My wife is convinced I will never grow up. I hope she's right.

My Review

There is something about this author's books that draw you into a particular place. I loved reading about Tuscany - you could feel the Mediterranean heat hit you as you turn the page ( and I'm not just talking about the climate). Because the reader becomes so engrossed with the characters, it makes it an easy book to read and I really didn't want to put it down. Luscious descriptions of the Tuscan countryside mingled with delicious aromas of Italian delicacies and this is a winner. It's the next best thing to going on holiday.






Magnolia House


Magnolia House

Rowan Forrester has it all – the happy marriage, the adorable dog, the good friends, the promising business and even the dream home after she and her husband Tom win a stunning but slightly dilapidated Georgian townhouse in London at auction. But in the blink of an eye, Rowan’s picture-perfect life comes crashing down around her and she is faced with the prospect of having to start again. To make ends meet she begins a search for housemates, and in doing so opens the door to new friends and new beginnings. But could she be opening the door to new heartbreak too?
Purchase Link - smarturl.it/fttfc2

Author Bio –


Angela Barton was born in London and grew up in Nottingham. She is married with three grown up children and adorable four-year-old twin granddaughters. Angela is passionate about writing both contemporary and historical fiction and loves time spent researching facts for her novels. Having signed publishing contracts for three of her completed novels with Choc Lit’s new imprint, Ruby Fiction, Angela is excited to be working alongside such a lovely team.
Angela and her husband, Paul, recently moved to France and planted a lavender field. She’s looking forward to spending more time writing in the beautiful Charente countryside working from her new writing room, a beautiful shepherd hut. Angela is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Nottingham Writers’ Studio.


Social Media Links – Website: https://www.angelabarton.net
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/angela.barton3
Twitter: https://twitter.com/angebarton
Arlette’s Story: amzn.to/2lAyIlb Magnolia House: smarturl.it/fttfc2



My Review

I loved the author's last book, Arlette's Story, but this one is very different and I enjoyed it just as much. By building up Rowan's perfect life, it is even more shocking to the reader as little by little, everything around her collapses. I'm not sure if this is a romance - it certainly has a heart-moving romance at its core but then the tone shifts and it becomes quite sinister in places. What matters though is that it's a darned good read! The suspense is tingling and the romance all warm and fluffy yet somehow the two complement each other. Cleverly written, yet easy to read, it is my kind of book.


Thursday, 7 February 2019

What happens in France

                                                                               

Book Blurb: She stood and took her place in front of the camera... It was now or never”
Bryony Mastershas been looking for her long-lost sister, Hannah, for years, but when their father has a stroke her search takes on new urgency. So when primetime game show, What Happens in France, puts a call-out for new contestants, Bryony spots the ultimate public platform to find her reality TV-obsessed sister, and finally reunite their family.
With the help of handsome teammate Lewis, it’s not long before she’s on a private jet heading for the stunning beauty of rural France. With a social media star dog, a high maintenance quiz host and a cast of truly unique characters, Bryony and Lewis have their work cut out for them to stay on the show and in the public eye.
Yet as the audience grows and the grand prize beckons they find that the search that brought them together may just fulfil more than one heart’s wish… 
This heartwarming romantic comedy of friendship, family and laugh-out-loud adventures is perfect for fans of Kirsty Greenwood, Colleen Coleman and Marian Keyes.

Links to Book:
Author Bio: 

As a child Carol Wyer was always moving, and relied on humour to fit in at new schools. A funny short story won her popularity, planting the seed of becoming a writer. Her career spans dry cleaning, running a language teaching company, and boxercise coaching. Now writing full-time, Carol has several books published and journalism in many magazines.
Carol won The People’s Book Prize Award for non-fiction (2015), and can sometimes be found performing her stand-up comedy routine Laugh While You Still Have Teeth.

Twitter: @carolewyer


My Review

An absolutely delightful story that is laugh-out-loud funny in places; there were a couple of times when I ended up snorting my coffee! With some fabulous characters and the backdrop of France, this is a perfect pick-me-up if you need a good laugh. Like all good rom-coms though it is tempered by the bittersweet element of Bryony desperately trying to find her sister who walked out thirty years ago and with her father having had a stroke time is running out. I loved all the characters but I think the beret-wearing pug, Biggie Smalls, is worth a mention in his own right.