Thursday, 30 November 2017

Will MacMillan Jones

Today we're meeting a favourite of the previous Book Fairs: Will MacMillan Jones. He will be present at the book fair in teh Shire Hall, Carmarthen Street, between 10:30 am and 4pm and will be reading stories at the Peppercorn Kitchenware Shop at 12:30.
Here is our Interview with Will:

Welcome back Will, Please tell us about the books you’ll be bringing to the Book Fair. 

I’ll have up to eighteen titles with me, spanning a range of genres. First up: my comic fantasy collection, The Banned Underground.  Next the Horror/paranormal series, then some collections of short stories and poetry – these will form the basis of my hour set in The Angel Inn on 20 April as part of the Festival, some childrens’ fantasy books and finally – if it is finished in time – my first Scifi adventure.

Which genres do they belong to?

The Banned Underground is a comic fantasy collection of stand alone stories, based on the adventures of a dwarf Rock N Roll band and their friends and enemies in a world that is almost our own – well, mainly because it is our own world really. The music just spreads, you know? Full of puns, gags, one liners and even a few subtle jokes; one of which made  Jasper Fforde laugh a couple of years ago! Suitable for anyone with a sense of humour (not supplied with book) and a delight in the joy of living.
The Mister Jones Mysteries are an unfolding tale of horror. The unfortunate Mister Jones has been pulled from his comfortable life by horrors raised by his family’s dabbling with the occult. In a series of adventures he slowly learns more about his family’s dark history – and himself. Described by  reviewers as tightly written’; ‘oozing a constant stream of dread’;  ‘a classic horror style reminiscent of de Maupassant and Denis Wheatley’. Perfect reading by a fireside, while a storm rages outside…
The poetry and short story collections come from two backgrounds. The poetry:  I’m a third of The Tin Plate Poets collective from the Gwendraeth Valley. I specialise, I suppose, in the darker themes in my poetry for what poet is not touched by the darkness? I’ve won some awards with my Flash Fiction (that’s stories of less than 1000 words) and these collections contain those and other tales with a twist.
As I grew up loving childrens’ fantasy stories, especially about dragons, I just had to write some and the first two will be with me at the book fair.

What are the characters and plots like? 

I love characters, all sorts of characters and much of my work is character driven rather than plot driven. In the fantasy stories I like the interplay between the not wholly evil baddies and the not entirely squeaky-clean goodies; and that recognising their own faults can make the characters both uncomfortable with themselves and uncomfortably comfortable with each other. Oh, and there’s an on-off romance between two dragons. What’s not to like?
In the Mister Jones Mysteries I have a very introverted, quite formal main character who suppresses his emotions and usually feels entirely inadequate to cope with the situations he falls into. Rather like most of us, most of the time, I suspect. I enjoy mistreating him to try and provoke a response! In these stories, the plots and the underlying story arc in the collection – which can be read in any order up to now – are central to Mister Jones main task – to understand himself by solving a series of problems. That each problem is potentially fatal to him and to those around him just adds some spice.

Tell us about your newest book.

Space Scout of The Free Union, which should be available by the Festival, is a new departure for me. Scifi. I was invited by a publisher to write a piece for an anthology about the First Contact between humans and another species. When I was a teenager I was a huge fan of Scifi (yes, I’m a geek to the core!) and I wanted to write a piece in the style I recalled from the 1970’s – quite retro, I admit. A simple, uncomplicated adventure, with a touch of humour and a twist in the tale at the end. Anyway, I found that I enjoyed writing the piece so much that I forgot to stop, and suddenly found that I had written an entire short novel around that setting. One editor called it ‘Clint Eastwood in Space’ and I hope that she was trying to be complimentary!

Which of your books are you’re most proud of, and why?

The Showing, the first of the Mister Jones Mysteries, was an important work for me. First because it was a departure from writing jokes, and secondly because the inspiration and setting are in fact real. My grandfather’s house was either haunted or possessed, and this was a way of writing my childhood terror of the house. There’s a lot of fact mixed into the fiction there – and the book fought me every word. The manuscript had to be continuously saved in three different places as it kept being corrupted or vanishing; finishing it was cathartic. And it has been very well received.
The Satnav of Doom from The Banned Underground is probably (with The Vampire Mechanic a close second) my favourite book – it certainly has my favourite gag; but Working Title touches on things close to my heart. I’m fervently anti racist, and the difficulties and prejudice experienced by those just a bit different to ourselves is the underlying subject.

What is the best thing that has been said about your books?

I’ll cheat with three:  conversations at  book fairs last year and the year before; ‘Thank you so much for showing my daughter that there is a world of books she will enjoy beyond Tracey Beaker as she gets older.’  Followed by ‘I read that one and had to sleep with the light on for three nights.’ Or possibly ‘I bought one of those books here last year. Can I have a copy of everything else you’ve written?’  All are true. Honest. Trust me, I’m a fantasy writer.

Why did you decide to come to the Llandeilo Book Fair?

I’m a local author, I live just a few miles away. My youngest daughter, now at University, went to school here. How could I keep away?

Do you have a special connection to Wales? 

Oh yes. I wasn’t lucky enough to be born here – that was one of my distant ancestors, who (according to family legend, there’s no proof!)  fled after being found stealing sheep… But I’ve spent most of my life walking in the Welsh hills, valleys and mountains, except for the years I spent jumping off them loosely attached to a hang glider. The Celtic legends and folklore are part of my DNA. I couldn’t wait for a chance to move here, and will never leave.

What is your personal background? 

When I tell people that I’m an International Taxation Consultant they all laugh. It’s very wounding, because it is true – and one reason why the evil wizards in The Banned Underground operate under the cover of being Chartered Accountants. Beside that, I’m a storyteller and performance poet and as I said earlier, one of the three Tin Plate Poets… I started writing my first novel when I was twenty four. I still have it somewhere, together with all the rejection slips. Which, I may say, it richly deserved.

Who are your favourite authors? 

Oh, so very, very many. It can vary according to mood. Today’s five, and in no particular order: Richard Bach, for Illusions and Jonathon Livingston Seagull.  Lindsey Davis for the Falco series of books, bringing Ancient Rome – another passion of mine- to life. JRR Tolkien. ‘Nuff said. Roger Zelazny, one of the greatest speculative fiction writers ever – his novel Lord of Light has always been a major influence on me for the quality of prose and width of imagination. Graham Greene. Again, the prose in The Quiet American is a joy; and his stories are just astonishing.

Perhaps visit my websites:
Twitter:  @macmillanjones

Amazon :

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Introducing the authors of the Llandeilo Christmas Book Fair: Interview with Graham Watkins

You can meet Carmarthenshire author Graham Watkins with his splendid books on Saturday Dec 9th in the Shire Hall, Llandeilo. Here is an Interview with him:

What do you love most about the writing process? 

One of the things about writing I particularly enjoy is doing the research. It's an excuse to have some fun. For example, before writing my historical novel A White Man's War, which is about the siege of Mafeking during the Boer War, I took my wife and myself off to South Africa. My wife and I negotiated a deal. She agreed to accompany me exploring the battlefields of the Zulu and Boer Wars in return for a visit to Kruger Game Reserve to see the big five, a tasting tour of the Southern Cape vineyards, a trip up Table Mountain, Oh! and a day shopping in Cape Town. It was a good arrangement. I got plenty of material for the book and we both had a great time.

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

That's a difficult question. It's tempting to answer Dale Carnegie's 'How to Win Friends and Influence People.' I first read his book when I began my business career in the 1970s and it helped me a lot. More recently I discovered two books by David Howarth 'Waterloo' and 'Trafalgar.' Howarth is a superb writer and a great narrator.

Are your characters based on real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

Creating key characters is one of the first thing I do when planning a book. I write out a profile. Name, age, sex, physical appearance, mannerisms, hates and passions and so on. Some, like Nye Vaughn in The Iron Masters, are a composite of different real historical people, others pure invention. Writing historical fiction also enables me to include real people. Again, in The Iron Masters there are cameo appearances by Admiral Lord Nelson, Thomas Telford and others.

Have you always wanted to be an author?

I came to writing late in life, when I retired in 2003. My first book Exit Strategy was a business self help tome written to explain how to sell a company; an experience I had just gone through. These days I write mainly for my own enjoyment rather than the money and I still regard myself as a journeyman, an apprentice wordsmith, learning the craft. I don't think we ever stop learning.

What do you think makes a good story?

What makes a good story? A strong beginning, characters that readers can believe in, a problem and a solution reached after overcoming a series of obstacles. I detest ending where everything is left in the air and the reader abandoned like a ghost ship swinging on its moorings.

What genre do you consider your books? Have you considered writing in another genre?

Yes I have. I write in a variety of genres including historical fiction, nonfiction and short stories. More recently I've started writing thrillers. My first attempt was The Sicilian Defence a novel about a young American heiress lured to Sicily to be defrauded. Right now, I'm working on a novel with the working title Protocol 5 set in Britain involving murder, adoption, terrorism and corrupt politicians.

Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?

An impoverished Italian Count, an American beauty, mafia money lenders, treachery and Sicilian guile all are in The Sicilian Defence; a story of good intentions and evil plans where the past and the present collide.

What was the inspiration behind The Sicilian Defence?

In the same way that a trip to South Africa inspired A White Man's War, it was a holiday in Sicily which gave me the idea of The Sicilian Defence. The title of the book is a chess strategy but the idea for the plot came from reading about a real American woman lured to Italy and swindled out of her fortune by a fake count. Touring the island; seeing the squalid slums of Palermo, the breathtaking beauty of Mount Etna, the sad mass of African refugees at Catania and the romance of Taormina was a story in itself. The rest, as they say, is history.

How long did it take you to write The Iron Masters?

My historical novel The Iron Masters is the biggest project I've undertaken so far. It's a fifty year family saga set in the cannon foundries of the South Wales during the Napoleonic Wars. Researching the history, crafting the plot, writing and editing took two years.

Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reins of the story?

That's a good question and the answer is yes. While reading a draft of The Iron Masters to my wife she observed that villain's wife was a bit dull. As a result I did some rewriting and the character, Delyth was her name, sprang to life. Murder, adultery and much more. She was great fun and totally unexpected. In fact I had trouble keeping up with her antics.

If you could spend time with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

It certainly would not be Delyth. She's the sort of woman who entrances, seduces, uses and devours. I think I would spend time with Themba Jabulani from A White Man's War. He's a Baralong warrior at Mafeking, armed by Baden Powell - that name might ring a bell. Themba's back story about what really happened during those 217 days when the town was besieged would be fascinating. Themba is, of course, my creation but to meet and talk with a man like him from that time would great.

Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

I'm told I like the sound of my own voice which must be true because I'm sometimes invited to give talks to different audiences. How good I am is debatable and I confess I once put a listener to sleep at a black tie Rotary event where I was the after dinner speaker. The poor chap almost fell off his chair. It might have been what I was saying but I suspect his wine consumption was the real culprit.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I'm a butterfly and flit from one idea to another. It's a bad habit and I have to concentrate so I don't lose track of what I'm writing.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

We have an old farmhouse high in the Brecon Beacons with six acres which I call as our green gymnasium. There is always something that needs doing. Aside from looking after the house and garden, I like walking and have a wood turning lathe in the barn.

What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you? Not particularly to do with your writing.

Newly married, my wife and I went camping to Coniston. We pitched our tent in a nice grassy spot beside a pretty little stream and walked into the village for a couple of drinks.  It was late when we came back to the campsite and had started to rain. The rain got heavier; stair rods would be a good description. We woke in the early hours in total darkness and soaking wet. The stream had burst its banks and overflowed. Our airbed had submerged under six inches of water and the tent had collapsed around us. Everything - shoes, clothes, torch was underwater. We spent the rest of the night shivering in the car. It didn't seem funny at the time.

Give us a random fact about yourself.

After leaving school I trained to be a marine engineer.

Links to find Graham:
Buying Links:
The Iron Masters;
A White Man’s
Exit Strategy:

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Introducing the authors of the Llandeilo Christmas Book Fair Dec 9th: Judith Arnopp

Judith will be presenting her books at the Christmas Book Fair in the Shire Hall. Here is an interview to introduce you to her amazing work:

Tell us a little about yourself as writer and as person.

I am very lucky to live on the Welsh coast where I enjoy walking on the beach and cliff path, gardening with my husband and working in my study with the stunning sea view. I have four grown-up birth children, three step children whom I regard as my own, two grandsons (so far) and three step grandchildren. I love my family, Wales and the environment, all of which has a positive impact on my career as a historical novelist.

Why did you choose to write historical fiction?

I was interested in history long before I became an author. A class project in (drops her voice to a whisper) 1970s was about the way history has maligned Richard the Third so I was on to that topic well  before they dug him up and the hysteria began. When I was little I wrote stories and read them to my dolls, when I was a teenager I poured my angst onto paper and when I was a young mother I wrote stories with my children as protagonists. So I think I was born to write, there is nothing else I would consider doing; it is an instinct and if I haven’t written for a week or so I become very grumpy.
After I graduated writing seemed the natural choice. I don’t think it was a decision but more of a progression. I began my first (and never to be published) novel at university. When I finished it the sense of achievement was immense; I was astounded that I had actually done it. At the time I didn’t realise the hard work was only just beginning. I have just completed my tenth historical novel and, although I doubt I will ever be a household name, I am doing very nicely, with a steadily growing fan base. My email box is always full of messages from readers saying how much they enjoyed the last and asking for the next.
When I write it isn’t a matter of dates or records although I do try to get them right. I am interested in perspective, how it felt to be in a certain situation in a particular political climate. There are many books about Anne Boleyn but when I wrote The Kiss of the Concubine I climbed inside Anne’s head and wrote from her perspective, exploring possible reasons behind some of her actions. I am very careful to be as accurate as possible and look at things from all angles. My readers seem to like that aspect of my work – I don’t just recount events but try to explain why they happened.

What in particular fascinates you about the era(s) you write about?

Tudor history has always fascinated me but when I began writing I mistakenly believed the Tudor era had been done to death so I concentrated on Anglo-Saxon and Medieval period. The early books, Peaceweaver, The Forest Dwellers and The Song of Heledd did quite well and set the foundations of my fan base but I constantly asked to write a novel set in Tudor England, so I did. The Winchester Goose: at the court of Henry VIII is the story of a prostitute working in Southwark during Henry VIII’s marriages to Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. This one shot up the charts very quickly, becoming Amazon best seller for some time, so I decided to stay in the  Tudor period and see where it would take me. I am very glad I did.

Tell us about the concept behind your books. How did you get the idea?

Everyone is searching for the truth in history. Was Richard the third a murderer of innocents or a nice guy? Was Anne Boleyn guilty or framed? What turned Henry VIII from the prince of chivalry into a megalomaniac? We will never know the answers but it is fun to speculate and of course the first question that needs to be answered is: What is truth anyway? As far as I am concerned, there is no truth. That is why I never become involved in hot-headed on-line debates; truth is variable and dependent upon the witness. Every event, every recorded instance has another story behind it, another perspective, or another possible explanation. Researching the past is like being in a tall building with a hundred windows, each showing a different aspect of the invents, or an alternative route I can take. I wrote a blog some time ago about this that you can read here.

What makes you laugh?

I am very fortunate to have a very witty and amusing husband. We’ve been together for thirty-six years yet he still makes me laugh out loud every day. After so long together he knows exactly how to tickle my sense of humour and as a result our day is peppered with constant banter. It is something I am extremely grateful for because if you can laugh, life can never become too bad.

What are you working on now? 

I have just finished The King’s Mother the last book in a trilogy called The Beaufort Chronicles. The novels follow the life of Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII. She was married at an extraordinarily young age to Edmund Tudor, the Earl of Pembroke, and spent the first years of her marriage in South Wales. The Beaufort Bride takes place at fabulous Welsh locations like Caldicot Castle, Lamphey Palace, Carmarthen and of course, Pembroke where Henry was born. I always make sure I visit the locations prior to writing so I can get a feel of the place and perhaps a glimpse of how my characters might have lived there.
Book Two, The Beaufort Woman, takes place in the reign of King Edward IV when Margaret needed all her wits to survive at the Yorkist court. Married to Henry Stafford, a younger son of the Duke of Buckingham, she comes to terms with the new regime and forms a tentative friendship with Queen Elizabeth Woodville. But after the king’s sudden death and Richard of Gloucester’s acquisition of the throne, Margaret and Elizabeth work together to bring the new king down and replace him with their children, Henry Tudor and Elizabeth of York.
The third and final book in the trilogy is The King’s Mother in which Margaret, having achieved her goal, takes her place as one of the chief advisors to the king. She soon discovers that life at the top is not the bed of roses she had imagined.

Blurb for The Beaufort Bride

As King Henry VI slips into insanity and the realm of England teeters on the brink of civil war, a young girl is married to the mad king’s brother. Edmund Tudor, Earl of Richmond, takes his child bride into Wales where she discovers a land of strife and strangers.
At Caldicot Castle and Lamphey Palace Margaret must put aside childhood, acquire the dignity of a Countess and, despite her tender years, produce Richmond with a son and heir.
While Edmund battles to restore the king’s peace Margaret quietly supports his quest; but it is a quest that ultimately results in his untimely death.
As the friction between York and Lancaster intensifies 14-year-old Margaret, now widowed, turns for protection to her brother-in-law, Jasper Tudor.  At his stronghold in Pembroke, two months after her husband’s death, Margaret gives birth to a son whom she names Henry, after her cousin the king.
Margaret is small of stature but her tiny frame conceals a fierce and loyal heart and a determination that will not falter until her son’s destiny as the king of England is secured.
The Beaufort Bride traces Margaret’s early years from her nursery days at Bletsoe Castle to the birth of her only son in 1457 at Pembroke Castle.

Blurb for The Beaufort Woman

As the struggle between York and Lancaster continues, Margaret Beaufort fights for admittance to the court of the victorious Edward IV of York and his unpopular queen, Elizabeth Woodville.
The old king and his heir are dead, leaving only Margaret’s son, the exiled Henry Tudor, with a tenuous claim to the throne. The royal nursery is full, with two small princes securing York’s continuing rule.
But Edward and Elizabeth’s magnificent court hides a dark secret, a deception that threatens the security of the English throne … and all who lust after it.
In 1483, with the untimely death of the King, Margaret finds herself at the heart of chain of events that threaten the supremacy of York, and will change England forever.

The Beaufort Woman: One woman’s selfless struggle for the rights of her son.

Blurb for The King’s Mother

With the English crown finally in his possession, Henry Tudor’s endeavours to restore order to the realm are hindered by continuing unrest. While the king is plagued with uprisings and pretenders to his throne, Margaret in her capacity as The King’s Mother oversees the running of his court.
The warring houses of York and Lancaster are united, the years of civil strife are at an end but, as the royal nursery fills with children, the threats to Henry’s throne persist and Margaret’s expectation of perfect harmony begins to disintegrate.
As quickly as Henry dispatches those whose move against him, new conflicts arise and, dogged by deceit and the harrowing shadow of death, Margaret realises that her time for peace has not yet come.
Intrigue, treason and distrust blights the new Tudor dynasty, challenging Margaret’s strength of character and her steadfast faith in God

The King’s Mother is the third and final book in The Beaufort Chronicles, tracing the life of Margaret Beaufort.

What would your friends say are your best and your oddest quality?

Lots of people think I am odd but I prefer to see it as ‘individual’. Years ago, when I first turned vegetarian, we were a bit of a rarity, and I think that is when the label ‘odd’ was first applied to me. It stuck even more when I started banging on about climate change and the anti-hunting ban, and protested about animal testing etc. etc. etc.
In a posh town north of London, I was the strange woman with goats and chickens in her back garden. I was the odd woman who put a lead on her goats and took them for walks to the park. Strangely, once I moved to West Wales I became less eccentric but whether that is to do with the Welsh being less judgemental or as ‘odd’ as me I wouldn’t like to stay.
Despite all that though most people say I am kind and genuine. I will help people if they ask me but I am very shy and often hesitate to offer for fear of rejection. I tend to hang on to the people who understand me, people who don’t like me, don’t matter.

Did anyone influence you / encourage you to become a writer?

I went to university as a mature student and had grave misgivings that I’d not be up to the challenge. After twenty years of being a mother my confidence was at a low ebb. Surprisingly I did very well. My tutors always remarked that my essays were well written, even when they were ill-conceived. My history tutors, Professors William Marx and Janet Burton, persuaded me history was the way to go. My creative writing tutor, playwright Dic Edwards was also encouraging, urging me to write ‘something long.’ When I produced my first novel he urged me to try to get it published but I didn’t; I knew it wasn’t good enough but his enthusiasm encouraged me to sit straight down and write another. My first decent novel, Peaceweaver, was published in 2009. I can never give enough thanks to Lampeter University and the people who taught me there and opened my mind and got me thinking again. They changed my life.

Who are your favourite authors?

There are so many. Hilary Mantel is my current favourite; I love the way she breaks rules, is not afraid to speak out or deal with public adversity. Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies are a superb journey into the Tudor court; I can never even hope to emulate her. Many people disliked her portrayal of Anne Boleyn and it was very different to my own but she was showing us Anne through Cromwell’s eyes, and she did it magnificently.
I love the classics of course; Shakespeare and Chaucer and Dickens for their characters and drama. For easy reading I tend to stick to historical but the genre is very mixed, some of it is dreadful, some fabulous; you have to seek out the good authors and quietly ignore the not so good. I never write bad reviews. One of my favourite modern day historical authors is M. M. Bennetts who sadly passed way a short time ago. Her books Of Honest Fame and May 1812 are outstanding. I also loved Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White. For me, the thing that makes a good book is the journey to another time. If an author can make me forget I live in the 21st century and introduce me to solid, three dimensional historical characters and make me care about their lives, then they can count me as a fan.

What is your advice to new writers?

Write. Being an author is about getting words on a page and crafting them into art. Don’t waste time on social media, don’t worry about writing like other people. Join a class, polish your skills and write, write, write. If you don’t you aren’t a writer just a wannabe.

Bio: Judith Arnopp is the author of historical fiction set in the  Tudor period. Her novels include The Winchester Goose: at the court of Henry VIII: The Kiss of the Concubine: a story of Anne Boleyn; Intractable Heart: the story of Katheryn Parr: A Song of Sixpence: the story of Elizabeth or York and Perkin Warbeck and her latest project The Beaufort Chronicles which traces the life of Margaret Beaufort in three volumes The Beaufort Bride, The Beaufort Woman and The King’s Mother. Book One and two are available now and Book three is due for publication in December 2017.

For more information about Judith’s work click on the links below.

And Twitter: @juditharnopp

Monday, 27 November 2017

Interview with author Angela Fish (Re-blog from

Interview With Author, Angela Fish, who'll be reading from her work at the Llandeilo Christmas BookFair on Dec 09th. 2:15pm at Eve's Toy Shop

Source of interview:

Interview With Author, Angela Fish
Today, I’m delighted to be chatting to author, Angela Fish. Her debut children’s book, 'Ben and the Spider Gate' will be published on Thursday, 24th September.

Angela, welcome. Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about how you got started as a writer.
Hello Jan. Thank you for inviting me to share your page today.

I was born in Cardiff and grew up in a village called Tongwynlais. My mother read to me a lot when I was little and I was reading simple text myself by the time I was four. I’ve never lost my love of reading and can be quite greedy with it! I remember writing simple poems and stories, and even plays, from the age of seven. Later on, most of my creative energy went into English essays and it wasn’t until I started an Humanities degree that I had any formal creative writing experience. I focused mainly on poetry at that time and my dissertation was a collection of poems with commentary. After that I did an M.Phil (Literature) but that was a research project, rather than my own writing. I went on some residential writing courses, mostly for poetry, and published some in journals. I was also placed second in a magazine short story competition, but then I started lecturing at my local university and work, and academic writing, took over. It wasn’t until I took early retirement and joined a writing group that I started writing again with any real purpose. Since then I’ve had a highly commended and a second place in Writer’s Forum magazine poetry competitions, written five books for children (one published, one in production and one needing final editing), begun two more, and have two adult novels partly written. It’s been quite a productive time but I don’t think that I would have done half (if any) of it without the support and encouragement of the writing group, and then the writing circle that I’ve been involved with.

Writing for children is in such contrast to your previous work. Can you tell us what inspired you to write this first novel for children?
As I mentioned, I was part of a writing group and we were experimenting with different genres – stretching ourselves really, as it’s easy to become stuck in the same groove. We agreed to try writing for children and I completed two shorter (picture) books –one non-fiction and one fiction. Then we used story cubes (dice) as prompts for character and plot for the first chapter of a longer piece of work. The two images that came up were an open padlock and a triangle shape, but with wiggly lines rather than straight ones. Most of the group interpreted the shape as a pyramid or a tent but it immediately reminded me of a doodle that I’ve been drawing on the corners of pages since I was a teenager. It’s a partial cobweb with a spider dangling from it.

 Once that thought had come into my head, I couldn’t shift it and so the basis of the story line developed. The padlock gave rise to the spider’s name (Lox) but also to the idea of his role as gate-keeper to the spider kingdom. The plot uses the traditional motif of a quest, but with a twist. I completed the first chapter and as I had such positive feedback from the group, I decided to finish it. Considering that I spent the last ten years of my working life in the intergenerational field, it’s not surprising that the main character, Ben, and his grandmother have such a close relationship, but this evolved as I was writing the book – it wasn’t a specific intention when I began.

When you embarked on ‘Ben and the Spider Gate’, did you envisage that there would be more books in the series?
When I was about three quarters of the way through the first draft of ‘Ben and the Spider Gate’I knew that there was a lot more that I could, and wanted, to do with the characters and situations, but the general advice for the book length (aimed at the 5-8 age group) is to have about 10,000 words. That’s when I decided to have a short series, of three, that would follow Ben and Lox’s adventures over one year. By the time I finished the first, I already knew the basic story outline for the second one, ‘Ben and the Spider Prince’ (due April 2016) but I wasn’t sure about the third. ‘Ben and the Spider Lake’ (due Nov 2016) developed from a series of unrelated incidents – Welsh Water digging up the road in front of our house, a programme about hidden lakes, and another about mass migration!

I wanted each story to stand alone, so I’ve allowed Ben to recap some of the previous adventures, either by remembering or by talking to his gran or his best friend, Jess, so that the relationship between Lox and Ben is explained. However, I’ve tried to be careful not to repeat too much as it can irritate the reader if they’ve read the previous book(s), spoil it if they haven’t, and it also runs away with the word count!

So that means we'll follow the same characters in each of the books. I think young readers like that, don't they?
Yes. Ben, Jess, Gran, Scoot the dog, and Lox figure in varying degrees in each book. It’s the characters who contribute to the magical elements that vary, as well as some of the locations.

Perhaps, you’d like to tell us how you went about finding the right publisher for your book.
My first search was for publishers who were accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Then I looked for some more detailed information about each company and at their terms of submission. The main thing that influenced me to submit to the Book Guild was that they asked for the whole manuscript right away and they guaranteed to respond more quickly than many others, which they did.

I love the black and white illustrations in the book. How much ‘say’ did you have in the choice of these?
Almost complete control. I was asked to describe how I saw the main characters and anything else that was important to the story. I was told that I could suggest which scenes I wanted illustrated. I knew that there would be ten illustrations so I made a list but said that there were only four that I absolutely wanted put in. After that I gave the illustrator, Michael Avery, licence to choose what he considered the best scenes, but he only changed one of my suggestions. He sent me some character sketches initially and they were mostly brilliant, but I didn’t like the way that Lox had been portrayed, so Michael changed that. When I saw all the completed illustrations, there were two that I was unhappy with but they were altered without any fuss.

I believe you’ve taken your books into schools to gauge the response from the children. Would you like to tell us about some of those visits?
Yes, two schools have acted as ‘test’ readers for me and the responses have been very encouraging. One of the schools invited me in for World Book Day last March and the other invited me in to talk the pupils about the writing/publishing process. I was bombarded with questions and amazed at their acuity. I recently visited a school that had no prior knowledge of the book and was delighted at their attention and interest. Some of them were really surprised that books often start off with a piece of paper and a pencil. The self-editing process also confused some, as they thought that once something was ‘finished’, that was it. (Often applied to classwork/homework, I was told!) I’m hoping to make many more school visits, as children really are the best judges.

What is the biggest compliment a child could pay you after reading ‘Ben and the Spider Gate’?

To ask when the next one will be ready! This has already happened with some of my test readers in the two schools and also with Maria Grachvogel’s son. Maria is a London-based fashion designer and gave me an ‘attributable quote’ for the publishers:
“A heart-warming and magical tale which will really capture your child’s imagination. My son really enjoyed the book and very much identified with Ben and Lox. Each evening he wanted to hear the next instalment and was very captured by the story.” 

That's lovely to hear, Angela. You must have been delighted with that. On a general note, how much planning do you do when you embark on a new story?
I don’t make really specific plans but I generally have the story outline, and sometimes quite a bit of detail, in my head before I even put pen to paper. I like to talk to my characters and even role-play their parts. I do plan things like time sequences, for example, as I have to make sure that I don’t make mistakes or create something that isn’t believable. I’ve also had to bear in mind that two of my main characters are seven years old so there are many places they wouldn’t be able to go, or things they couldn’t do, at that age. Although there’s a magical element to the stories, they do have a basic everyday setting, so I have ensure that it is realistic.

Do you have a typical writing day?
No, not really. I find it difficult to set and stick to a specific time for writing every day. Sometimes I prefer to read and I think that helps as it can clear my mind. Then, when I do sit down to write I can achieve a lot more, and more quickly, than if I tried to make myself write for a set time each day. Once I am really into the story, I can write for anything up to eight or ten hours in a day.

What are you currently working on?
I have another book for children, Molly and the Magic Mirror’ (8-11 age group) mapped out and the introductory section written but I need to decide if I’m going to have it as one book or a series. I’ve written the first of a collection of short stories about ‘The Adventures of Brian, the Happy Banana’ I also have two adult novels partially written and I’d really like to complete them – even if it’s just for my own satisfaction.

You must be very excited about the launch of ‘Ben and the Spider Gate’. How will you be celebrating?
Yes, it’s a lovely feeling to see something that started as a doodle end up as a published book. It’s a strange feeling seeing my name on the cover.  As I received my copies a little while ago, we had a family celebration then. By the time the next book is out, in April next year, I should know if ‘Ben and the Spider Gate’ has been well received. If it has, then I think a more formal launch party for Ben 2 might be in order!     

Thank you so much, Angela, for taking time to chat to me. I wish you good luck with the new book. 
Thank you for taking an interest. Good luck with your own writing, too.

‘Ben and the Spider Gate’ is published by Book Guild Publishing and can be bought direct via its website.

Or, links to the book on Amazon for pre-order:

Angela may be contacted via:

Introducing the authors and speakers of the Llandeilo Christmas Book Fair Dec 9th: Illustration Workshop with William Scott Artus

On the day of the book fair Scott will be around the Shire Hall to promote Anne Signol's book "Norris and Gertie Gobstopper on the Gwili Railway", which he illustrated. But...
he'll also hold a talk and illustration workshop at The Flying Goose at 1:45.

William Scott Artus 
- publishing and commercial illustrator talks about his career…

William will be holding a illustration talk and draw session at the Flying Goose. Bring your children and learn how to draw cartoons the quick way. He will also talk about how you can break into to this lucrative career and the highs and lows of being a book illustrator.

Scott is a writer and illustrator working and living in Bonllwyn, Carmarthenshire. Scott splits his time between illustrating for Anne Signol and doing his own projects as well as running the Gwili Steam Railways events. Scott is trying to keep the heritage of the railway alive using events and fundraising activities such as the book. All the funds raised will be used towards a new heritage railway shed at Abergwili and new track laying on the railway. The book is sold in the shop and will be available for sale at the book fair and on the Santa’s Magical Steam trains. The new Halloween books that Scott has written will be available at the Carmarthen and Ammanford library book fairs and on the railway at half term. Signed book prizes are awarded for best costume on Halloween.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Introducing the authors and speakers of the Llandeilo Christmas Book Fair Dec 9th: "Norris and Gertie Gobstopper on the Gwili Railway" by Anne Signol

This years' Llandeilo Christmas Book Fair will be a Mini Lit Fest with several readings and events accompanying the book fair part. Anne Signol will be in the Shire Hall signing her books but at noon you can find her in Deb's Wool Shop reading from her book. 


Norris travels to Carmarthen after a successful trip to Llandudno, to appear in the Victorian Extravaganza. This is the story of Norris the Pantomime Horse, Gertie Gobstopper the Pantomime Dame and their adventures travelling through Wales and on the Gwili Railway.

About the author

Anne Signol started the Sigfield Follies, a song and dance troupe, featuring an actual Norris the Norse character, in order to raise money for local children’s charities. The interest generated in Norris through these shows inspired Anne Signol to write about his adventures and assemble them into a show entitled Norris on Broadway.

William Scott Artus 

Scott is a writer and illustrator working and living in Bonllwyn, Carmarthenshire. Scott splits his time between illustrating for Anne Signol and doing his own projects as well as running the Gwili Steam Railways events. Scott is trying to keep the heritage of the railway alive using events and fundraising activities such as the book. All the funds raised will be used towards a new heritage railway shed at Abergwili and new track laying on the railway. The book is sold in the shop and will be available for sale at the book fair and on the Santa’s Magical Steam trains. The new Halloween books that Scott has written will be available at the Carmarthen and Ammanford library book fairs and on the railway at half term. Signed book prizes are awarded for best costume on Halloween.
On the day of the book fair Scott will hold an illustration workshop at The Flying Goose at 1:45.

William Scott Artus 

- publishing and commercial illustrator talks about his career…

William will be holding a illustration talk and draw session at the Flying Goose. Bring your children and learn how to draw cartoons the quick way. He will also talk about how you can break into to this lucrative career and the highs and lows of being a book illustrator.