Ginger Black will be awarding a $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
by Ginger Black
1.Woohoo! You are a published author. Describe a strong character trait you possess, good or bad, and how it helped you become a published author.
Julia Thum: Self Belief! Gaynor and I have discovered on our road to publication that it is not enough to be a good writer and story teller, you then need to create a digital footprint, find an agent or publisher, and that is all before your novel hits the shelves. After that you need to become marketing and social media experts, as well as an event planner to promote your book, while still finding time to write the next one and holding down a full-time job. All of this takes energy, drive and determination as it is extremely hard work, but beneath all of that you must have the self-belief to push yourself forward.
Gaynor Pengelly: Optimism and a strong work ethic are my two best character traits. I truly believe that if you give out a positive vibe and have a ‘can do’ attitude you can invite good luck into your life. Being an optimist means that you are more likely to take advantage of opportunities that come your way, and not get too bogged down when things go wrong. Talent and hard work are essential to writing success, but an ability to see the positives when the chips are down, gives you the resilience to accept rejection and never give up hope.
- Sometimes an author begins writing a story before they are aware of its genre. Did you choose your genre, or did it choose you?
Julia Thum: The genre chose us though it took us a long time to discover the “cozy mystery” label that is so popular worldwide. We always called our story, Riverside Lane, a ‘village mystery’ and set out from day one to write a gentle, uplifting, character driven tale that would intrigue and entertain.
Gaynor Pengelly: With so much trouble and strife in the world, Julia and I wanted to focus on the other side of the spectrum, and write about more affirmative things. The cozy mystery genre allows us to write about joy, resolution, kindness and virtue, as well as the dark undercurrent of a thrilling village mystery.
- The plot thickens, or does it? Which one are you, a pantser or a plotter?
Julia Thum: We are plotters! As a writing partnership, we must be super organised to keep a tight hold on where the story is going and to make sure that we don’t double up on one another’s work. We developed a system writing Riverside Lane which is already making the next novel easier, and it involves knowing exactly where the story is going before we write the very first word.
Gaynor Pengelly: Hee-hee. Julia says we are plotters but (whisper it) I am a secret ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ writer. My co-author is super organised, so our novels always have a robust framework, providing us with the comfort of knowing the beginning, middle and end of our story. The only trouble is our pesky characters tend to take on a life of their own, and before you know it – they’re heading off in all sorts of direction without permission! Our partnership works because we complement each other’s writing styles, Julia’s disciplined approach ensures our characters and storyline are credible, while my more haphazard method, gives us the freedom to explore unchartered territory.
- Fear 101: As writers, it is our duty to make our characters face their fears. Have you ever included one of your own fears in a storyline?
Julia Thum: I would not go so far as to call it fear but there are qualities our characters have with which I can relate. The lovely Bianca Fielding who is plagued by feelings she is not good enough for her husband and his world and every time she opens her mouth seems to put her foot in it and alienate herself more. Like Rosalind Braithwaite – I have often wished I could be more assertive like her friend Joy the politician’s wife but then Joy wishes she could be diplomatic and charming like Rosalind and I can relate to that too!
Gaynor Pengelly: There is a lot of fear in Riverside Lane, all of which I can relate to – loneliness, rejection, disappointment, ridicule, old age, death, money worries. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, we all struggle with the same needs and desires and we are all vulnerable to human emotions. I love that Julia and I have been able to explore this theme in our novel.
- Fear 102: Yes, deadlines are terrifying. Have you conquered the juggling act between writing and the rest of your life? What do you do when it feels like the balls are dropping all around you?
Julia Thum: This is one of the many advantages of a writing partnership! It seems that whenever I have too many balls in the air Gaynor steps in and catches a few for me and I hope I do that for her.
Gaynor Pengelly: Working as a journalist trained me to be at my best when there is a deadline. The worst thing for me is too much time, I overthink things and lose the rhythm of the story. However, combining writing novels with a full-time career and family life is not for the faint hearted. Having a writing partner with a great sense of humour, who sees the funny side in trying to juggle too many balls, is a great way of defusing stress.
- Switch positions with one of your main characters in a scene. What is the outcome, disaster or divine intervention?
Julia Thum: Our has-been game show host Frank Fielding leads a double life. I have often thought that to do so must be the most complicated and exhausting thing in the world. Liars must have such incredibly good memories and in today’s world of Find my Friend and such like, it must be almost impossible to deceive somebody who really wants to know where you are. I would be dreadful at it, probably trip at the first hurdle and definitely fall at the second!
Gaynor Pengelly: I’d be intrigued to become Kathy MacConnel, the sinister, man-eating house-keeper. I love her determination to achieve a better life by fair means or foul. A lot of novels these days focus on bleak, confrontational, dysfunctional bad guys. Kathy is none of these – and who doesn’t love a ‘baddie’ who comes up smelling of roses?
- Where is your favorite place to write? Add that one comfort food that you can’t do without?
Julia Thum: That’s easy – I like writing in the garden (even with a blanket and four coats on) and an endless supply of earl grey tea and very dark chocolate for me please!
Gaynor Pengelly: I agree, I like writing in Julia’s garden too, watching the Thames roll by.
I’m hopeless writing in my own home, there is always too much to do. After a while, I get distracted by cobwebs and dirty dishes from last night’s supper. Infuriatingly, my family don’t respect the fact that a great literary genius lives among them, and they follow me around the house with their list of demands. I’ve been known to climb a tree or work in the car to avoid them!
- Writing inspirations?
Julia Thum: I suppose it is cheesy to say Gaynor, my co-author. She has inspired me more than anybody else since I first shyly passed her one of my children’s stories. She has helped me to find and finesse my writing style during the production of Riverside Lane and for that I will always be grateful. More famous inspirations – the two books I really wish I had written are The Elegance of the Hedgehog and Bel Canto so on that basis Muriel Barbary and Anne Patchet.
Gaynor Pengelly: Writing is a lonely profession, so I feel blessed to share the journey with a supportive, like-minded co-author. For my greatest writing inspiration, I’m going to choose Roald Dahl, a childhood favourite whose stories still hold the power to enthrall me.
- You are introduced to your favorite author. Who is it, and what is that one burning question you must ask them?
Julia Thum: C. S Lewis and how on earth did you do it without a computer?
Gaynor Pengelly: Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights – how could you write so commandingly of passionate love when you were an unworldly spinster living in a gloomy parsonage?
- I’ve gone mad – why don’t you come with me? Some people just don’t understand us writers. Name a quirky, writer-thing you do that friends wish you didn’t.
Julia Thum: Great question and my family certainly do think I’m mad. I was a social media virgin before embarking on the journey to Riverside Lane and despite its necessity in the writer’s world I have a nagging conscience that time on social media is an indulgent waste of time SO to make myself feel better about it I do it all standing on one leg (the logic is I am doing a bit of exercise whilst browsing!)
Gaynor Pengelly: I spend my day working with words but for some reason I can’t speak them. Quite often, I open my mouth to make some fascinating point and it comes out as gobbledygook. When my son was little he used to say: ‘Oh good, mummy’s playing opposites’ as I absentmindedly instructed him to put his arms through his school trousers!
After arranging a house swap with a debonair antiques dealer, a darkly handsome American named Luca Tempesta arrives in a quaint English village. Tempesta, who claims to run a detective agency in Los Angeles, is supposedly on holiday – but the inhabitants of the village are unconvinced. Yet, as they attempt to solve the mystery of the stranger in their midst, it gradually transpires that there are more than enough secrets to go around in the village itself, harboured by the local MP and his uptight, ambitious wife; the has-been former game show host; the respectable couple with the jailbird son; the hometown journalist, striving for a scoop that will rescue her from debt; and so on. The place is revealed as a labyrinth of deception masquerading as a picture-postcard hamlet; tension begins to mount in between the dinner parties and evenings at the pub, and soon culminates in an unexpected death. Behind perfect privets and brightly painted front doors, the lives of Riverside Lane’s residents slowly unravel. Tempesta, guarding his secrets with a vengeance, is suddenly threatened with exposure by the elderly religious zealot Ivy Midwinter, whose own past involved keeping professional confidences. When she challenges him in church, she learns that Tempesta will stop at nothing to protect his privacy … Set against the exquisite backdrop of a gastronomic village by the Thames, Riverside Lane is a tautly paced page-turner that also gently satirises middle- class English manners: the upstanding denizens of the village watch and whisper behind a mask of English hauteur, whilst their own fragile lives come undone.
A dusky gauze veil lifted to reveal the soft pink light of dawn. The sun recast the Earth in a glorious patchwork of fields, and a cacophony of birdsong stirred the residents of Riverside Lane from their slumber. Cherry and magnolia trees formed a guard of honour over the lane, which lay tranquil, deserted and calm.
High above, skimming the rose-coloured clouds, a British Airways jet descended over the River Thames. Luca Tempesta checked his seatbelt and reached for his cigarettes, curling his fingers around them with the zeal of a junkie. He flipped the packet, prompting disapproving looks from a couple playing chess beside him, and thought about his meeting with the Russian academic. He had felt bound by reckless honour to visit his wife’s friend and mentor in Moscow, despite the risk. The man had deserved to know what happened to Natasha, but it gave Luca even more to hide.
The scent of freshly ground coffee permeated the cabin, reminding the American of his caffeine-addicted wife; he missed her clear, analytical mind and ability to rationalise situations. He thought of her final moments, and her terror as the net had closed in. She had paid the ultimate price for her loyalty. He stretched his legs into the aisle, seeking a comfortable position for his tall frame, and quashed a familiar feeling of dread that he knew served no purpose. It was imperative that he maintain a cool head; he could not afford the luxury of surrender. He turned his attention to a photo of Kingfisher House. Luca’s agency partner, Maria, had found the place through a movie-industry fixer who knew an Englishman in need of a roof over his head in California.
Ginger Black is a writing partnership between Gaynor Pengelly and Julia Thum.
Julia left Somerset for London at 16. She founded & ran her own consumer P R agency representing a range of international brands including Braun, Molton Brown, Clairol & Kleenex. After selling the business she trained as a psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders & hosted a phone-in show on Radio Luxembourg.
Julia writes bespoke literature & articles for private clients and visits secondary schools & prisons representing two national charities in providing emotional support to pupils & inmates. A keen kayaker and a passionate cook, she lives in Bray-on-Thames with her husband Nicolas and their four children.
Gaynor has worked as a national newspaper correspondent for more than twenty years, interviewing everyone from the great and the good to extraordinary people in ordinary lives. The rich variety of her subject matter and their circumstances has given her a rare insight into human nature and the challenges many people face.
Gaynor’s great loves include sitting in pavement cafes watching the world go by, National Trust and English Heritage and hiking across the windswept Yorkshire moors. She lives in Bray-on-Thames with her husband Jonathan and their son, Freddie James.