Interview: Author Karen Heenan

  A few months ago I had the pleasure of reading Karen Heenan's new novel, A Wider World , and reviewing it for Discovering Diamonds. &q...

Monday, 3 May 2021

Interview: Author Karen Heenan

 A few months ago I had the pleasure of reading Karen Heenan's new novel, A Wider World, and reviewing it for Discovering Diamonds.

"Memories are all he has… Now they could save his life. Returning to England after almost five years in exile, Robin Lewis is arrested and charged with heresy by the dying Queen Mary. As he is escorted to the Tower of London, Robin spins a tale for his captor, revisiting his life under three Tudor monarchs and wondering how he will be judged—not just by the queen, but by the God he stopped serving long ago. When every moment counts, will his stories last long enough for him to be saved by Mary's heir, the young Queen Elizabeth?"

Today, I'm delighted to welcome Karen to the blog, to talk a little more about this wonderful book.

AW: Congratulations on the release of A Wider World. Having read Songbird (Karen's debut novel), I knew of Robin as a character. Did you know when you were writing Songbird that Robin would have his own book?

KH: I had no idea that Robin would have his own book. Actually, I thought Songbird was a standalone book, and had a completely different project in mind once it was published. I didn’t find Robin particularly likeable in Songbird, even when he improved (somewhat), and so between that and thinking I was done with Tudor England, it really surprised me one day when a little voice in my head said, “They said I would not end well.” I immediately said, “Who said? And did you?” and off we went. That’s still the first sentence of A Wider World, because Robin insisted that it stay. 

AW: Robin weaves a Scheherazade-type tale, giving us two timelines throughout the book. How did this idea come about? Were you ever planning on telling the story chronologically? 

KH: I always knew I wanted him to tell the tale to stall his captor, but I hadn’t actually planned on using the structure of alternating chapters. I was going to divide the book into sections and have an introductory “present” chapter at the head of each, but that just didn’t work, and I realized that Robin’s present-day journey is as important as the stories he’s telling to Will Hawkins, his captor.

In the beginning, I didn’t want to make it too obvious, but as I researched books available in the period I was writing about (Robin being a collector of books made for some fun research), I learned that while 1001 Nights / Scheherazade wasn’t known in Europe at that point, there is documentation of at least a partial collection in Syrian from the late 1400s. Since Robin spent some of his exile in Venice, I gave him a friend in Piero Grimano, a merchant who’d traveled the region and brought home a copy which he translated into Italian for his own amusement. Robin is intrigued and borrows it to translate into English, and the idea is fresh in his mind when he’s arrested and faces a swift journey toward execution. 

It’s not 100% possible, but it’s 110% plausible.

AW: I love this attention to detail! What comes across for me in your books is the realistic feel for time and place. You've mentioned researching 1001 Nights; what are your methods of research and have you been able to travel to any of the locations mentioned in A Wider World?

KH: This period of history has fascinated me since I was little and my mother and I watched the BBC’s Six Wives of Henry VIII on TV. Fifty years later, it still has its hooks in me. I’ve read – a lot – and researched more, but if it comes through as realistic, I think it’s because I’ve absorbed so much that I try to write as if the reader knows the same information. My first drafts generally have far too many facts, especially since I don’t always write in order and so I don’t know when, or even if, I’m going to introduce a particular person or event.

I love to travel, and I’ve been to quite a few places that I’ve mentioned in A Wider World – England, several times, but Hampton Court in particular. I wish Greenwich Palace still existed, since it was an even more important location in Songbird. Robin’s travels were enjoyable for me, because I’ve been to Bruges (and loved it, and sat and ate mussels by a canal just like he did) and Venice is one of my favorite places on earth. My husband and I traveled there a few years ago, and Bianca’s house is actually on the same small canal as our AirBnB was. The hole-in-the-wall tavern that Robin and Seb visit also exists. It’s called Cantina do Mori, and it opened for business in the 1460s. 

AW: I had no idea when I was reading that part of the book that they were sitting in a tavern that can still be visited today! What I do know is that there will be a Book Three. Are you able to tell readers anything about it?

KH: Book three is called Lady, in Waiting. The comma is a crucial part of the title. It features a character named Margaery Preston, who was introduced near the end of A Wider World. This is my workaround because I never wanted to write a series, to take a character who interests me in one book and let them have their own story in the next. I’ve already written the blurb for Lady, because it helps me believe that the book exists and I’ll actually finish it.

"She serves the queen. Her husband serves the court. 

How can they be so far apart?

Margaery Preston is newly married to a man she barely knows. Proposing to Robin Lewis may have been impulsive, but she wants their marriage to work - she just doesn't know how to be married, and it seems her husband hasn't a clue, either.

Treated like a child by everyone from her husband to the queen, lost in the unfamiliar world of the Elizabethan court, Margaery will have to learn quickly or lose any chance at the life she wants.

Can a marriage for all the wrong reasons make it to happily ever after?"

AW: I'm really looking forward to this one - Margaery has already revealed herself to be an interesting and well-rounded character. Was it always inevitable, as far as you are concerned, that you would become a writer of Tudor fiction? 

KH: I always wanted to become a writer, but I got a job straight out of high school and was more concerned, for many years, with paying the bills and keeping my head above water. I still wrote, almost constantly. It was a form of therapy because I hated office work as much as I was good at it. I thought off and on about publication, but the whole getting-an-agent process just seemed like a nightmarish yet impersonal way to be rejected over and over. 

I did try, eventually, and I was rejected, over and over. Mostly by agents who thought the book was good, but that the Tudors were overdone, and that no one wanted to read another book about Henry VIII. (I didn’t bother to respond that the book wasn’t about Henry, because it was obvious that their mind was made up). 

Songbird’s publication came about because I participated in a pitch contest on Twitter, and got interest from two agents and a small publisher. The first agent still hasn’t gotten back to me. The second wanted me to rewrite the book with a more Philippa Gregory tone, and I said no. Nothing against Philippa Gregory, her books, or her readers, that’s just not the story I was telling and it’s not my voice. The publisher liked the story as it was, with normal edits, and it’s a fairly collaborative process since there’s no agent/intermediary.

I started writing Songbird before self-publishing was a thing, and before I knew any self-published authors. Overall my experience with my publisher has been positive, and I’ve learned a lot, but I’m a bit of a control freak (they’re nice, they just say I’m “hands on”) and I’m looking forward to publishing my next book on my own. 

It’s called My Sister’s Child, and it’s the book I started writing when Robin chimed in, and it’s set in Pennsylvania in the 1930s. I’ll get to explore my own city, and there are tons of resources and historical societies close at hand to completely change up my research experience.

But that’s not to say that I’m done with the Tudors, or they’re done with me. There’s always this quiet conversation going on in the back of my head, behind a heavy wooden door. If one of them finds the key, I’m done for. 

AW: Karen, it's been as much of a pleasure talking to you as it is to read your books. Thanks for such interesting answers; I love the image of those characters searching for that key!

Connect with Karen:

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Review: Henry VII and the Tudor Pretenders: Simnel, Warbeck, and Warwick

 I was privileged to be sent an advance review copy of Nathen Amin's new book, Henry VII and the Tudor Pretenders: Simnel, Warbeck, and Warwick.

This book will be published in hardback on 15 April 2021 and is available for pre-order from Amberley Books and Amazon

When I say privileged, the first thing to point out is that this is a sumptuous hardback edition with what I think is a gorgeous cover.

The second thing to point out is that this is an exceptional exploration of the characters who in one way or another were pretenders to the the throne and who plagued Henry VII for a number of years.

I studied this period at school for my History 'A' Level when I was 16 and 17, and that's quite a long time ago. So it was wonderful to get reacquainted with Simnel, Warbeck and Warwick, although it turns out that I had both forgotten and never learned quite a lot about these men.

The author tells a riveting story, and his writing style is light and accessible. He sets the book out in a logical and helpful way, introducing each character as they join the narrative, so that we receive the background information we require and then the story moves forward again.

I knew, as it transpires, only the bare bones of each case and this book provides the richest detail. I had not really appreciated just how long, for example, Perkin Warbeck was a thorn in Henry VII's side. I also thought it was 'fact' that Henry's wife had recognised Warbeck as her brother Richard when it seems that actually there is no evidence that the two ever met.

Effective use is made of primary sources throughout, and the author never presumes to press his beliefs on the reader, instead presenting the evidence and allowing us to make up our minds about the pretenders' true identities although, it has to be said, the case for Simnel and Warbeck lying about who they were seems overwhelmingly convincing. But wherever the author gives us his opinion he backs it up with documentary evidence. 

Mr Amin has a flair for writing about historical characters in such a way that we feel connected to their lives. He speculates on how they might have felt at various points, but he is not sentimental and he is clear to state, where pertinent, when we have no evidence of their reactions to particular events or circumstances.

My impression is of a solid work of history, thoroughly researched and well presented, lifted by intelligent 'asides' and shrewd reasoning.

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Paris in Ruins by MK Tod: Review and Interview

 I recently had the pleasure of reading a pre-publication copy of Paris in Ruins by MK Tod, which was published yesterday (March 30th, 2021) and can we take a moment to admire this fabulous cover?! 

Set in 1870, it records the experiences of two young women during the siege of Paris, when French forces were pinned down by the Prussion enemy. "Raised for a life of privilege, Camille and Mariele have much in common, but it takes the horrors of war to bring them together to fight for the people and city they love. War has a way of teaching lessons – if they can only survive to learn."

I found it an immensely gripping read. The story focuses on the two young women but both come from large families and their mothers, fathers and brothers are all also caught up in the fighting in various ways and the fate of all hangs precariously in the balance.

Camille is quite headstrong, with a tendency to ignore convention, take risks, not toe the line. Mariele is less so, at first in awe of, and perhaps a little envious of Camille. But neither is stereo-typically 'feisty' and both are hugely aware of their place in society, and their duty, despite railing against it at times. 

The horrors of war, the effects of the violence not only on the soldiers but on the civilians, are graphically and unsparingly described. The author has an economy of words which gives us the bare detail, and somehow makes it more visual. However for me the main interest lies in the development of the young women and their burgeoning awareness not only of what war can do to people's lives, but of their own place in the world. Did it take war to make them realise that marriage and children are sometimes not enough, or was it the age in which they were living? There is a stark contrast between their privileged existence and the plight of the poor of Paris. The women who live in the poorer quarters agitate for change and a powerful message comes through that women from all corners of society want, nay demand, more rights.

Woven into this driving narrative are the individual stories, the breaching of the divide between rich and poor, and the brave people who acted seemingly out of character (the actress who turns her theatre into a hospital, for example) and the social niceties which had to be ignored, to the acceptance of some and to the horror of others: moments when young ladies cannot be chaperoned, and the day that Mariele brings two poor children back to her family's grand house demonstrate that this was an age where the older generation in particular were at first scandalised and then had to grow to accept the changes all around them, changes that would endure beyond the war.

The pacing of the book is fast; rarely a page goes by without the plot moving forward, and this completely chimes with the subject matter. These were eventful, frightening times and this is expertly conveyed. A great read which I heartily recommend. It also introduced me to a period of French history about which I knew very little, so I asked Mary (MK) for a few more details.

AW: Welcome, Mary, to the blog, and congratulations on Paris in Ruins. May I begin by asking what drew you to this particular period of Parisian history? I suppose we are all more familiar with the earlier periods of revolution and war, and I did wonder whether the appeal for you was the burgeoning of the women's rights movement?

MKT: Thanks, Annie. I wish I could say that I was driven by the women’s rights movement, being a feminist myself. However, the real reason has to do with another novel I wrote—Lies Told In Silence—and the interest expressed by readers to learn more about Mariele, a woman who featured in that novel as Helene’s grandmother. So I did the math and figured out that Mariele would have been about 20 in 1870, and voila, the Franco-Prussian war.

AW: I know that Sarah Bernhardt was a real person but I had no idea of her tireless work during the siege. Were any of the other characters - apart from the generals and political leaders - based on real people?

MKT: Several of the people involved in the Commune are real: Auguste Blanqui, Emile Keratry, Paule Minck. But the only other real person that I turned into a character is Louise Michel, leader of the Montmartre Women’s Vigilance Committee, and a woman that Camille spies on. Louise Michel was a feminist, a writer, and an anarchist. She was also one of the founders of the Society for the Rights of Women (La Société du Droit des Femmes). Louise believed passionately that women should have autonomy and equality and she actually fought as a soldier during the Paris Commune.

AW: How difficult was it for you to research? I understand that much of the history can be learned from source material but your detailed descriptions of the streets and buildings in Paris suggest to me that you've visited in person? If so, was it relatively easy to find the buildings mentioned in the novel?

MKT: Paris In Ruins benefited from the discovery of several first-person accounts of the siege and commune that were written in English. It also benefited from a three-week visit my husband and I made to Paris where I took so many photos, visited all of the places mentioned in the novel, and took in several museums that featured 19th century Paris. We had a marvellous time absorbing that unique atmosphere that Paris has to offer.

AW: Finally I must thank you for the opportunity to read Paris in Ruins and ask where your writing will be taking you next?

MKT: You are so welcome! I have two novels in different stages at the moment. One is set in early twentieth century Hong Kong and is on submission with several publishing houses. The other is a contemporary novel—a first for me—about identical twins one of whom disappears to expose a crime while the other takes over her life.

Many thanks for inviting me on you blog today, Annie. It’s a true pleasure to talk about my writing. 

AW: You're welcome, thanks for chatting today. Readers can find Paris in Ruins:

"Paris 1870. Raised for a life of parties and servants, Camille and Mariele have much in common, but it takes the horrors of war to bring them together to fight for the city they love. War has a way of teaching lessons – if only they can survive to learn them."

And you can find MK Tod on Facebook, Twitter, and on her Blog

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Authors who help Authors: Mary Anne Yarde & The Coffee Pot Book Club

This week in the mini-series about supportive authors, I'm delighted to welcome Mary Anne Yarde, founder of the Coffee Pot Book Club:

AW: Welcome Mary Anne! Firstly may I ask what inspired you to set up the Coffee Pot Book Club and how does it work?

MAY: The Coffee Pot Book Club (formally Myths, Legends, Books, and Coffee Pots) was founded in 2015. I wanted to create a platform that would help Historical Fiction, Historical Romance and Historical Fantasy authors promote their books and find that sometimes elusive audience. The Coffee Pot Book Club soon became the place for readers to meet new authors (both traditionally published and independently) and discover their fabulous books.

I became a professional editorial reviewer in 2016, and by 2017 I became an influencer for the Historical Fiction genre. Since then, The Coffee Pot Book Club has grown from strength to strength. With a dedicated team, The Coffee Pot Book Club helps their clients get their books in front of the right audience. We offer everything from Editorial Reviews to Instagram Weekends, Tweet Blasts to Blog Tours. We also bring our clients exclusive deals from other book marketing companies such as BooksGoSocial, Readers’ Favorite and MockupShots. All of our promotions are affordable and there is something for every budget. 

AW: Sounds like a comprehensive service! Can you explain a little more about blog tours - how do they work and how do they help authors? 

MAY: With the age of the internet and modern technology, the way books are marketed is changing. Unlike conventional book tours, a blog tour is a virtual tour on a number of relevant blogs. Virtual tours are a fabulous way to get your book in front of the audience you want to target.

We are slightly different from other tour companies because we will promote each tour stop through our own social media networks - Twitter, #Bookstagram (Instagram), Facebook, LinkedIn and Goodreads. The focus of all our tour is for our clients to gain exposure and to help build a fan base.

AW: Of course, you are also a writer of an acclaimed series of books. Can you tell us a little about them, and do you have anything in the pipeline? 

MAY: The Du Lac Chronicles are a series of books based on the generation after King Arthur, following the lives of Lancelot Du Lac’s sons. What was originally meant as a trilogy is currently sitting at five books and the story is not yet complete. I have always been fascinated with this era of history and started writing the series many years ago, with several stories that never saw the light of day. The Du Lac Chronicles was finally published in 2016 and the books continued from there, with characters that hadn’t been in the original plans making their ways into the story and creating integral roles for themselves.

I am currently taking a break from writing, due to the popularity of The Coffee Pot Book Club and the time demands that it puts upon me. Therefore, unfortunately, I do not have any plans to publish this year, for book six has barely begun, and the story deserves not to be rushed.

AW: Thanks so much for talking to me today!

You can find out more about The Coffee Pot Book Club Blog Tour Packages here:

If you have any questions about any of our tour packages, drop us a line:

The Coffee Pot Book Club is always on the lookout for hosts to join our Blog Tour Team. If you would like to become a host, then please drop us a link:

The Du Lac Chronicles Buy Links

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:


Mary Anne Yarde is a multi award -winning author of the international bestselling Series—The Du Lac Chronicles. Born in Bath, England, Mary Anne Yarde grew up in the southwest of England, surrounded and influenced by centuries of history and mythology. Glastonbury—the fabled Isle of Avalon—was a mere fifteen-minute drive from her home, and tales of King Arthur and his knights were part of her childhood.


The Coffee Pot Book Club Website:

The Coffee Pot Book Club Blog:





Monday, 1 February 2021

12 Authors, 12 stories, 1 theme: Betrayal!

Have you downloaded your copy of our free anthology yet? If not, let me see if I can tempt you...


Spanning eras from post-Roman Britain to the present day, the stories bring to life both legendary moments of deceit as well as imagined episodes of treachery.

Readers will encounter princes, soldiers, noblewomen, knights, highwaymen, pirates, and ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. All of these characters have something in common, though: betrayal. Collectively, these stories illustrate the truth that whatever its source—family, foe, lover, comrade—betrayal has devastating consequences.

Here are the blurbs for each story:

Death at the Feet of Venus—by Derek Birks

Spring 455. Having made a mortal enemy of Vortigern, the High King of Britannia former Roman Dux, Ambrosius Aurelianus retreats to a ruined Roman burgus near Vindocladia in south-west Britannia. A diverse company of refugees joins him there, including not only some of the local Durotriges people, but also a handful of renegade Saxons. Though Ambrosius is keen to make alliances with other leaders in the region, some see him as a Roman interloper who might be a dangerous rival. Ambrosius must negotiate, but whom can he trust—even among his own people?

Love to Hatred Turn’d—by Annie Whitehead

AD940. Alyeva and Dunstan have grown up together. Dunstan’s calling to serve God and king means he must leave their childhood home, but his path is not easy and she wants to protect him. Dunstan’s ambitious brother will do whatever it takes to further his own career, something that Alyeva learns to her cost. There are powerful factions at court, and murderous plots afoot. Alyeva is entangled in them and she must try to break free and, more importantly, attempt to prevent a killing that will have far-ranging repercussions. In the court of the Anglo-Saxon kings, danger lurks around every corner and the skill is in learning whom to trust...

[Those who've read Alvar the Kingmaker will be familiar with some of these characters]

A Knight’s Tale—by Charlene Newcomb

April 1185. Stephan l’Aigle is eighteen years old, the third son of a Yorkshire baron with no hopes of inheriting land or titles, probably a good thing as he has no interest in women, nor any desire to marry or produce heirs. He finds pleasure in the arms of other men, and believes men like himself cannot love. Against Lord Richard’s enemies, Stephan will hone his sword arm, and learn about comradeship, duty, and honor. Will his relationship with one of Richard’s knights crack his hard-hearted armor?

All Those Tangled Webs—by Anna Belfrage

It is 1330. England has a young king—but the power resides firmly with his regents, Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer. Not everyone is happy with this. In fact, most of the kingdom’s peers resent Mortimer. None more so than Edmund of Kent, half-brother to the deposed and supposedly deceased Edward II. When rumours reach Edmund that Edward II is not dead but instead held captive, Edmund decides to act. Reinstating Edward II will end Mortimer’s rule—and hopefully make Edmund his brother’s righthand man. Assuming, of course, that the rumours are true…

Family or Fealty—by Mercedes Rochelle

July 1403. Thomas Percy, the most able but least flamboyant member of the family, finds himself drawn into the crucial events surrounding the fall of Richard II and the turbulent reign of Henry IV. A man of principle, he is tormented by calamitous choices he must make—regardless of the consequences to himself. How does a man justify the betrayal of his sovereign in order to spare himself from fighting his kin?

Heart of a Falcon—by Amy Maroney

Rhodes, Greece. 1457. The King of Cyprus invites young Frenchwoman Estelle to join his court. At her parents’ urging, she overcomes resistance to the idea and begins to imagine a glamorous new life. But when the true nature of her journey across the sea is revealed, Estelle realizes she has been the victim of a great deception—and must summon all her courage to survive.

Road to the Tower—by Elizabeth St.John

England, 1483. When Lady Elysabeth Scrope receives an urgent summons to escort her godson Prince Edward to London, she makes an impulsive decision that will change England forever. The sudden death of the king has thrown alliances into turmoil, and the safety of the twelve-year-old heir is at stake. Protecting the young prince from the ambitious Woodvilles is one thing. Defying Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and her half-sister, Margaret Beaufort, is quite another. As Elysabeth and the prince near London and their ultimate destination, the Tower, she begins to question the wisdom of her decision…and her family’s hidden motives.

House Arrest—by Judith Arnopp

April 1484. Placed under house arrest after conspiring against King Richard III, Margaret Beaufort contemplates her path to treason and the likelihood of betrayal in the future.

Drake — Tudor Corsair—by Tony Riches

May 1577. Devon adventurer Francis Drake has made his fortune stealing silver and gold from the Spanish in the West Indies, and is summoned to meet Queen Elizabeth in secret. He becomes an admiral, and sets out on a high-risk venture to follow Ferdinand Magellan’s route to the Southern Sea. One of his captains, Thomas Doughty, challenges Drake’s authority to command the mission, yet what should be the price of Doughty’s disloyalty?

Honour of Thieves—by Cryssa Bazos

An ill-gotten treasure, an old betrayal and an impenetrable castle. Can James Hart, a Royalist highwayman, break into Warwick Castle and prevent a nemesis from destroying a friend?

A Not So Bonny Betrayal—by Helen Hollick

Pirate Calico Jack Rackham and his lover, Anne Bonny, are familiar names to many, but, beyond the romanticised version of their time at sea, published by the anonymous author, Captain Johnson, not much is known about them. What if there was more to their tale than we realise? What if their lives were intertwined with a fictional pirate hero—Jesamiah Acorne, Captain of the Sea Witch? And what if the capture, and subsequent hanging, of Calico Jack, was not merely because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time?

The Idealist—by Alison Morton

Imagine a tiny state surviving through sixteen centuries from the dusk of the Roman Empire… Roma Nova.

In this alternative historical fiction tale, Statia Mitela, patrician and idealist in the 1840s, follows her heart and her principles, but naïvely lays herself open to ruthless opportunists, blind to the peril threatening her beloved Roma Nova. In the 21st century her many times great-granddaughter, Carina Mitela, must pick up the pieces or her family will face permanent and total ruin.

A dark secret in Roma Nova’s past which comes to haunt its present. But who is the betrayer and who the betrayed?

Have I whetted your appetites? You can get your FREE copy of Betrayal HERE

And if you'd like to find out more about the authors, scroll back up and click on their names and you'll be transported to their dedicated websites. 

Friday, 8 January 2021

Authors who help Authors: Pauline Barclay and Chill with a Book

The last post in this mini-series about supportive authors discussed reviews for historical fiction but of course, not all fiction fits into that category. This week I'm delighted to welcome as my guest Pauline Barclay, the instigator and owner of Chill Awards and a prolific author in her own right.

AW: Welcome to the blog Pauline!

PB: Hello Annie, a HUGE thank you for inviting me to your wonderful Blog and asking me talk about my other baby, Chill Awards for independent authors. I hope I don’t get too carried away... 😊

AW: I'm sure you won't! Enthusiasm is always catching so please feel free to tell us all about what you do. Firstly can I ask, what inspired you to set up Chill with a Book Awards and how does it work?

PB: Chill Awards is for independent authors and is designed to shine a spotlight on amazing books from indie authors. I have always tried to find ways to help others and especially independent authors. After a great deal of thinking, checking various sites and noting that many awards for authors excluded independent authors, I set up Chill Awards in September 2016. Chill Awards is a Readers’ Award. Each book in the Award Programme is read by an equal number of readers. Each reader answers five questions and rates each question between 1 – 5 (5 being a resounding, yes). Depending on the final total, from the evaluations, a book, if awarded, will receive either a Readers’ Award or a Premier Readers’ Award. Comments from readers are encouraged. All comments as passed onto the author, but I must stress, that all readers are only known by me. Readers are anonymous to authors and to each other.

Anyone wishing to submit a book should go to Chill Awards’ site and fill in the form with the details of their book and name / pen name. 

AW: Why do you think that independent reviews are so important for Indie Authors especially?

PB: Independent authors are responsible for everything about the publication of their book from editing, book cover design to marketing. They are on their own to bring their book to the widest audience possible, so recognition from readers is an endorsement of their hard work. Awards and reviews offer an author another tool to promote further their book that is competing with many thousands.

AW: It is so good to know that such avenues are open for authors. I happen to know that Chill with a Book isn't the only way you help authors though. Can you tell us a little about some of the other features/series on your blog? 

PB: If I can, I like to help authors in anyway I can. I help people with proof reading, help with writing and many other aspects if I can. Inviting wonderful people to my Blog is also something I love doing. To make it interesting, I try to come up with different ideas for authors to participate. The latest feature on my Blog is, Coincidences. (AW: I'm thrilled that my own Coincidence story will be featured in this series!) I have asked guests to write a short story on a coincidence in their life. This feature has been amazingly received and there are all fantastic stories, one or two will have the hairs on the back of your neck rising!  

AW: I can't wait to read those! Meanwhile, what about your own writing? Can you tell people a little about your own books; anything new in the pipeline for 2021?

PB: I have seven books published and whilst the stories are emotional, they will always leave the reader with a feel good feeling. Two of my books were inspired by true events; Magnolia House, my debut novel and The Wendy House. I met the people behind these stories and whilst my books are fiction, the idea for each book came from the people, who, by telling their tale, made me cry and brought out the writing in me to share their story.

As for something new, I have written over 35,000 words on a new book, but for now I’ve had to put it to one side. I have started a novella, but we will see. The nightmare of our lives does not always bring out the best creativity in me at times, but I plan to keep working on getting these two stories finished… one day!

Once again, Annie, thank you for allowing me to chatter about one or two of my passions!

AW: Thank you so much for talking to me today Pauline and for all the work you do to support other authors.

Readers can connect with Pauline:



Instagram: @paulinebarclay


Chill Awards:

And you can learn more about one of her characters on a post we did a while ago, about fictional characters and their occupations


Sunday, 3 January 2021

Authors who help Authors: Helen Hollick & Discovering Diamonds

Welcome to the first in a short series turning the spotlight on authors who help other authors.

There are many ways that writers can support each other and offering reviews is one of them.

Discovering Diamonds (#DDRevs) was the brainchild of Helen Hollick, a prolific and successful author in her own right, who set up Discovering Diamonds a few years ago to provide a platform for reviews of historical novels.

To kick off the series, I chatted to Helen and asked her to explain what it's all about.

AW: Welcome to the blog Helen. Can I start by asking what inspired you to set up Discovering Diamonds and how does it work?

HH: I had been the Managing Editor for Indie Reviews for the Historical Novel Association for over five years, but in 2016 I felt it time to establish something a little more independent that had a major focus on indie and self-published authors, rather than traditional mainstream. Most of my previous review team came with me – a super group of people made up of dedicated readers, authors and editors –  and so Discovering Diamonds came into being on January 1st 2017.

I had no intention of getting involved with any finances, nor with receiving or posting out physical copies of novels – technology has advanced enough with e-editions to eliminate costly sending of actual books. Plus, the majority of readers prefer a Kindle (or similar device) where reviewing is concerned, so I request mobi (preferably) or  correctly formatted PDF ARC files. (These only go out to selected reviewers and are deleted after being read.)

Our aim is to promote good books worth reading regardless of whether it is written by an indie author or someone established with a well-known publishing company. I do not even ask for, or include, a publisher’s details as a good book is a good book no matter who published it or how! We publish three reviews a week, and these are all four or five-star standard.  

AW: To have one's book declared a Diamond is a badge of honour, I know, but why do you think independent reviews are so important for Indie Authors especially?

HH: Even after all this time, indie and self-published novels are still (erroneously!) regarded as ‘vanity’ and of little worth. Indie writers are, all too often, not taken seriously as authors – alas literary snobbishness is still rife. With better technology, ease of access to professional editors, cover designers and formatters etc there is no reason why a good writer cannot produce a good book. The disadvantage is that most indie writers have a small budget and no access to nation- or even world-wide marketing. No book, no matter how superb it is, will sell if no one knows about it. 

Social Media platforms are an indie author’s shop window, but even then word of mouth about good books worth reading is essential. This is where honest, constructive, reviews come into play.

Yes, at Discovering Diamonds we will say if we felt a book was a brilliant story, but could do with another edit, or that there were a few too many typos. We also like to encourage new authors – maybe this first novel could do with some more polishing but the author has potential, so watch this space for Book Two! 

I post a link on Twitter and Facebook to each review, and where I can, copy the entire review on and Goodreads. (Alas I can no longer do so on .com as well.)

AW: It's a great and generous way to help authors feel that they're not alone out there in the Indie publishing world. I happen to know however that reviews aren't the only way #DDRevs helps authors. Can you tell us a little about some of the other features of the site?)

HH: Every December I like to take a break from posting reviews, so I invite authors to submit a short story. The first year the theme was to be ‘diamonds’ (for obvious reasons) but then I hit on the idea of stories connected to a song... why is Daniel leaving on a plane? Who is dreaming of a white Christmas? Who is making a telephone call to say ‘Hello?’ These stories were not to be about the song, but inspired by it. An added twist was that the reader would read the story and guess which song inspired it... the authors involved have grown quite adept at hiding the clues!

I also have Guest Spots on Sundays, featuring authors and their books, a cover and book selection of the month (and then of the year) – and anything else I can think of to help promote authors.

AW: What about your own writing? Can you tell people a little about your own books (I believe you've branched off in a new and exciting direction very recently and the picture to the left is a bit of a clue...) 

HH: I have been a published author since 1994, with a few historical novels under my belt and a nautical adventure series – the Sea Witch Voyages (Voyage six is in progress, although slowly) I’ve written nonfiction about pirates and smugglers, and have now diversified into the realm of the ‘cosy mystery’. 

A Mirror Murder is the first in the Jan Christopher Mystery series. It is set in the 1970s and based around my thirteen years of experience working in a London suburb public library ... believe me, I have a lot of anecdotes, although I confess, not one single murder – that bit is entirely made up! Jan is my library assistant protagonist, her uncle and guardian is DCI Toby Christopher ... and the action starts when he introduces Jan to his new young Detective Constable, Laurie Walker... I hope readers enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!

AW: I'm delighted to say that I've read an advance review copy of A Mirror Murder and it's an excellent book!

For anyone wishing to connect with Helen or buy her books, here are all her links:

A Mirror Murder 


Amazon Author Page (Universal Link) 

Newsletter Subscription: 

Twitter: @HelenHollick

Discovering Diamonds Historical Fiction Review Blog (submissions welcome) :

All that it remains for me to do is to thank Helen, not only for being a guest on my blog today but also for her novels, which have given me hours of reading pleasure, and her tireless work in helping other authors. I take my hat off to her, whereas, as this photo shows, she likes to keep hers on!