Monday, August 13, 2007

Great Big Blog Party 58 - Caerleon Special with Zoe Sharp

OK so - the Great Big Blog Party Caerleon Special.

How can I sum up Caerleon in a short space and few words. I have 3 Caerleon Specials but I also have 3 Guest Bloggers - all connected with Caerleon Writers' Holiday this year, so there's a lot to fit in.

I could tell you how Writers' Holiday was set up in 1986 by Anne Hobbs and it's run by writers, for writers - and receives no financial assistance from any source whatsoever. And I could tell you how the emphasis is on that word Holiday - but you can read about that on the Writers' Holiday web site just as you can read about next year's courses and the writers who are going to teach them. (several of whom heave recently appeared at this blog party.)

But I do have a quick way to describe this jewel of Writers' holidays - and that's the one that I wrote in a copy of Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride that I gave to Anne on my last night there this year.

Caerleon is the Writers' Holiday with Heart. And it's that heart that makes it special.

The BM and I discovered Caerleon some ten years ago - or a bit less. In 1997 he had just published Writing and Publishing Poetry with How To Books and many of the 'How To' authors were invited down to Caerleon to run courses. When Gerry rang up to discuss things, the BM casually said, 'I don't suppose you want a romance writer as a speaker as well?' The answer was a resounding yes - and a warmly welcoming, 'please both come' - and from then on we were hooked.

For one thing it was like going back to our student days when we met at university in Aberystwyth - we both came away with a love of Wales and now we had an excuse to go back every year. But our student flats weren't like the neat study-bedrooms with their en-suite showerfacilities at Caerleon. And we didn't have tea and coffee provided in the kitchens at the end of each floor. Those showers are in curious little bathroom cubicles - washbasin, shower and toilet all in one - and one thing you always have to remember at Caerleon is that you have to shut the door when using the shower -otherwise you set off the fire alarms! No - don't ask - I don't understand it either - but someone always does forget and ends up wet and embarrassed when the fire alarm sounds.

And someone always leaves their key in their room when the door slams shut behind them. This year it was me - the first time in all those years I've forgotten to take my key with me. But there was a lovely hunky security man just happy to come to my rescue - and the important thing is that things like that don't matter. The warmth of the welcome and the easy way of dealing with everything means that problems just evaporate. If there is anything you need help for then there is always someone in the bookroom - Anne, Gerry or their son Richard or sometimes my dear friend the other Kathy - night or day - and they will always help. From the moment that you walk into the bookroom in the mail college building to colect your key and the programme of the week's events, you are treated like a friend, a new friend if it's your first time - or an old friend if, like so many of the 'regulars' you are coming back for the second, fifth or even tenth time.

The bookroom. Ah yes. The bookroom is a vital hub of the Caerleon holiday. Here the visiting authhors can display books for sale, or talk about them, or sign them if you want to buy copies. Here the speakers all gather after 'Main' talks or between courses to chat with everyone and enjoy a drink. It's in the bookroom that I've met so many authors that I admire - Iris Gower and the wonderful Elizabeth Elgin, sadly missed since her death in 2005. Jill Mansell, Jane Jackson, Marina Oliver, Jane Wenham-Jones . . .

(In this photo you can see Iris , Lynne Hackles (who you might have seen on Deal or No Deal with Mr Noel Edmonds) with her back to the camera, Jane W-H in green and agent Teresa Chris after Jane's talk.)

. . .and it was in the bookroom this year that I met thriller writer Zoe Sharp who is today's special guest blogger.

It was Zoe's first visit to Caerleon and as you can see from this photograph her her - where else but in the bookroom - that 'new girl' feeling didn't last long. It doesn't usually. Zoe was there to teach the Crime Writing course in the second half of the week. (Each course lasts through 5 sessions in the mornings Mon-Weds or Weds- Fri). In the programme I spotted the fact that she was born in Nottingham and as I was born just down the road , in Newark, that gave us a point in common. We soon found we shared a sense of humour and lots more besides . As soon as Zoe knew that I was planning this special ste of blogs she was only too happy to sign a copy of her book for me to use as a prize - and to sign her latest - Second Shot for the Offspring which made him very happy indeed. And when he's finished reading his book, I'm going to grab it off him - having met Zoe I know it's going to be a great read - and after all, when I read a quote like- 'Zoë Sharp grabs hold of the reader's throat in the first sentence of the Charlie Fox debut thriller and never lets go " it just makes me want to read her book right now.

As well as being a crime writer , Zoe has the sort of job that makes my novelist's senses tingle and my fingers itch to jot down notes - she's a freelance photo-journalist, and makes a living writing and photographing mainly for the motoring press. That makes it sound so safe and civilised - it's when you hear Zoe's stories of hanging off motorbikes, coming really close to the ground, at great speed - just to get the best possible shot that you realise this is not staid, studio photography. I'm already thinking hard about a leather-clad, motor bike riding, photographer heroine! Just imagine what some macho Alpha Greek - or even a Sheikh would make of that!

So when she found out about the Great Big Blog Party and she asked if she could come along as a guest of course I said yes. I was thrilled to be able to introduce you to her and to her books - and to include her in this special section on Caerleon and the friends I've made there.

Oh yes - and I have to make one thing perfectly clear! When Zoe says that I have "a fine ladylike way with a pint glass of white wine" - I would like to point out that the wine was in a pint glass because all the others in the speakers' bar had been used - by other speakers - Zoe included! And it had just a normal glassful of wine in there - not actually a pint of the stuff! Honest - you know me!

Anyway, here's today's Guest Blogger - Zoe Sharp

Wow - fifty books! I’m lost for words, which - for a writer - is not a particularly good state of affairs, is it? But, honestly - fifty books. Many congratulations, Kate! You really don’t look old enough ...

I admit I’ve come late to this party. Although I was aware of her work, I only met Kate and her delightful husband, Steve, for the first time when we were both speakers at the Writers’ Holiday, Caerleon, at the beginning of August. (Did you get that Swiss Army knife you wanted for your birthday, Steve? I know I never go anywhere without mine.)

It was my first ever Caerleon and Kate was one of the people who made me feel most welcome, one of the ones who helped make it all such fun. She has a wicked sense of humour that really appealed to me, and no sign of the ego, which - let’s face it - she’d be more justified in having at this point in her highly successful career. (I mean, fifty books. Jeez!) Just a down-to-earth attitude and a fine ladylike way with a pint glass of white wine. Long may she continue to dazzle us.

Kate was generous enough to want to give away a copy of my crime thriller, First Drop, as part of the celebrations, which makes me feel very honoured. First Drop features my series heroine, Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Fox, an ex-Special Forces soldier working on her first assignment as a bodyguard for the agency run by her ex-lover, Sean Meyer. Charlie’s in Florida for what should have been little more than a working holiday, until it all goes horribly wrong ...


First Drop is set largely in Daytona Beach, Florida, over the Spring Break weekend at the end of March. A specific time and place that were the inspiration for the book. Where in the world would be your special location, and when?


A copy of Zoe's First Drop - signed by her in the famous bookroom at Caerleon!

Zoë Sharp is the author of a paltry six novels (Her words - not mine! - Kate) in the Charlie Fox crime thriller series, the latest of which, Second Shot, is published by Allison & Busby in the UK, and St Martin’s Minotaur in the US, in Aug/Sept 2007.

PS - to readers in America - Zoe is about to set off on a tour of the US next month to promote Second Shot and she'll be kicking off things with a joint event with Lee Child at Partners and Crimes bookstore in Greenwich Village, New York, on September 6th. The full dates and itinerary will be posted on her website soon so you might be able to see in her person soon. (If you do maybe you could tell her you 'met' her here first!)


Dena said...

booHi Zoe,
I'm the first to post which never happens! By the time I'm done writing this someone else just might beat me though,lol.
I love your name by the way.
For a specific place I would pick Venice Italy in the 1800s or 1900s it would be very romantic and authentic.Modern location I would pick New York on Sept. 6th to meet you and Lee,and see all the sites.

Dena said...

Well don't know where that boo came from!

jenna said...

My choice would have to be Cornwall during the 1900's. This is when I envision the natural beauty of the setting and Daphne Du Maurier's novels influenced by this perfect and ideal location. It is romantic and alluring. Modern times would dfinitely be a beachside town which I am fond of in Maine.

joelle said...

When I think of a place that has the perfect ingredients it has to be Lake Como, specifically Bellagio. What a gorgeous setting and unique backdrop. An island with the scenic views of the mountainside. The period would be during the 1920's before life had changed.

annie said...

The majesty and awe inspiring Rocky mountains in Alberta are what I would consider unforgettable. Having had the opportunity to travel within these amazing sights was wonderful. During the 1970's it was reasonable and not overrun by a multitude of tourists from all over the globe.

Unknown said...

I think my place would be the Highlands of Scotland. Because I think it would be a beautiful and romantic place for a book setting. I would love to go to Scotland and do reserch for a book if I was an author.

Anne McAllister said...

Mardi Gras, New Orleans. Can't miss with that!

Your book sounds fantastic, Zoe!

Unknown said...

Hi Zoe!
The place would be Nashville and the time would be February/March when the country radio seminar happens there. Thousands of over excited radio people and loads of country music people. Perfect place for a murder mystery I always thought.

pearl said...

Niagara Falls has a special and intriguing attraction. Especially so during the Spring and Summer. The aura of this place holds me in its spell and it is irresistible. At the turn of the century it wold have been the ultimate locale.

sharon said...

The Amalfi Coast of Italy makes a big impression on me. Especially so the area of Cinque Terre and Positano. What a location and views. Romantic, gorgeous and unsurpassed vistas. If this were the 1950's it would be ideal.

robynl said...

In May in Victoria, B.C., Canada with thousands of flowers in bloom(Buchart Gardens) and the Pacific Ocean; specifically also China Beach and Tofino.

Anonymous said...

Wow, there are some great times and places mentioned so far. I must admit, I love New York City. It has what I call a twenty-minute window when the light's gone just far enough for the neon to show, but it's not yet completely dark. I'm not a big city person, but I could live in New York.

On the other hand, I spent a lot of time sailing as a child round the Cornish coast - I learned to scuba dive off the Lizard when I was seven - and in Scotland. I know a lot of people who've travelled to some very exotic places and come back saying, 'It's a bit like Scotland ...'

I've never been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but I love the architecture of the South and I'm hoping to go back there soon. (And thank you for the comments on the book, Anne!) And it's one of my ambitions to do the rail journey over the Rockies. Mind you, it's also one of my ambitions to go tornado-chasing in Oklahoma ...

I see Italy gets quite a few mentions. I've only been to the less salubrious parts of Rome and Milan, so I've probably missed out on the best bits, but Lake Como looks beautiful. I've always loved water, so anywhere that's close to it is just wonderful. And Niagra Falls is pretty awe-inspiring at any time of the year. We did the Maid In The Mist trip last time we were there.

I find people's choice of time very interesting, whether during the country radio seminar in Nashville or Venice in the 1800s - or even NYC next month! As a writer I always try and look for the downside to any time period, and a lot of that depends on your character's position and viewpoint. Being a successful man in the 1800s would give you a very comfortable existence - a lowly scullery maid, not quite so cushy!

Anyway, they all sound great - only trouble is, how do you choose a winner?


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