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Monday, 14 November 2016

NBTM, EXCERPT, INTERVIEW, & #GIVEAWAY - Westmorland Alone (The County Guides #3) by Ian Sansom


Mystery & Detective



Welcome to Westmorland. Perhaps the most scenic county in England! Home of the poets! Land of the great artists! District of the Great lakes! And the scene of a mysterious crime…

Swanton Morley, the People's Professor, once again sets off in his Lagonda to continue his history of England, The County Guides.

Stranded in the market town of Appleby after a tragic rail crash, Morley, his daughter Miriam and his assistant, Stephen Sefton, find themselves drawn into a world of country fairs, gypsy lore and Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling. When a woman's body is discovered at an archaeological dig, for Morley there's only one possible question: could it be murder?

Join Morley, Miriam and Sefton as they journey along the Great North road and the Settle-Carlisle Line into the dark heart of 1930s England.

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It was the most violent collision. There was a moment’s shudder and then a kind of cracking before the great spasm of movement and noise began. I fell forward and struck my head on the luggage rack. I was momentarily stunned and knocked unconscious. When I came to I found we were all tilted together into a corner of the carriage – me, the mother and the baby. Our coach seemed to have tipped to the right, off the tracks, and become wedged against an embankment. What were once the sturdy walls of the carriage were now buckled and torn like the flimsiest material: the wood was splintered, the cloth of the carriage seats split, everything was broken. I remember I shook my head once, twice, three times: it was difficult to make sense of what had happened, the shock was so great. The first thing I recognised was that the mother and baby were both crying loudly – though thank goodness they appeared to be unharmed – and that the carriage was shuddering all around us, shaking and groaning as if it were wounded.

‘Are you OK?’ I said.

The woman continued crying. Her face was streaked with tears.

‘Are you OK?’ I repeated.

Again, she simply sobbed, the baby wailing with her.

‘We must remain calm,’ I said, as loudly and authoritatively as I could manage, above the sounds, trying to reassure both them and myself, willing them to be quiet.

‘Where’s Lucy?’ she said.

Where was Lucy?

I stood up, still rather disorientated and confused.

‘I don’t know—’ I began.

‘You have to get us out!’ said the woman, between sobs.

‘I have to find Lucy.’

‘OK,’ I said. I was still gathering my thoughts, trying to work out what to do.

‘GET US OUT!’ yelled the woman, suddenly frantic.

‘I have to find my daughter! You need to do something.’

I didn’t know what to do.

‘You need to do something!’ yelled the woman again.

‘Help us!’

The carriage continued to rock and sway all around us; clearly, we had to get out.

I looked around: the window was open to darkness and the tracks beneath us.

‘What’s under there?’ cried the woman. ‘Is Lucy under there? Lucy! Lucy!’ She did not wait for a response – she was hysterical. ‘Lucy! Lucy! Lucy!’

‘Look!’ I said. ‘You just have to let me check that everything is safe.’ I was worried that Lucy might be trapped beneath our carriage.

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Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a small, round bearded Englishman currently living and working in Ireland.

What do you do when you’re not writing?
When I’m not writing I am mostly daydreaming.

Do you have a day job as well?
Several, alas.

What was your favourite book as a child?
I was not a great reader as a child. I was a late developer. Until the age of 16 I read mostly comics: The Eagle, Victor.

When was that point in your life that you realized that being an author was no longer going to be just a dream but a career you were going to turn into reality?
I’m not sure I’d use the word ‘career’ to describe my life as a writer. I think a career implies a special training, formal education and a certain progress that doesn’t often apply to the working lives of writers - and certainly not to me. I think it was John Steinbeck who remarked in an interview that writing books makes horse racing seem like a solid, sensible business. There is no career.

What book do you wish you had written?
The Bible.


How did you choose the genre you write in?
I have no sense of having chosen a genre, or indeed of writing in a genre. When I’m writing I’m just writing. The writers I admire - Jonathan Swift, say, or Beckett - tended rather to burst the confines of distinction. They were ambidextrous, as it were.

Where do you get your ideas?
I used to get them mail order. I now order them online.
Are you a planner or a pantser?
I don’t know what a pantser is so I suppose I have to say I’m a planner, though I’m not. I admire planners.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
The Bible.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
It took me 10 years to get my first book published. 10 years is a long time. A lot can happen to a man in 10 years. I started writing seriously as a young man in my twenties. By the time my first book was published I was married with three children.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I would change everything.

Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
I have a very nice book of recipes.

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I have never made any attempt to market my work. Which is probably why no one has heard of me. If you have any suggestions for marketing avenues I would be very interested to know.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
The best advice anyone ever gave me was this: don’t staple manuscripts. And don’t waste time being miserable.
What has been the toughest criticism you’ve been given as an author?
I went to give a reading once and no one came. No one at all. That was certainly chastening. I’ve rather avoided giving readings ever since.

What has been the best compliment?
I can’t recall any actual compliments about my work. But regarding compliments in general I think a simple ‘Congratulations’ is usually sufficient.

What sort of writing environment do you create? I.e. music or not? Pen and paper or laptop/PC?
I try to avoid all haphazard writing materials and environments. But it never works. My writing environment is not something I create - it is something that happens.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Is there one subject you would never write about? What is it?
I have no intention of writing about the German Peasants' War (the Deutscher Bauernkrieg), the widespread popular revolt in the German-speaking areas of Central Europe from 1524 to 1525.
Do you read your reviews?
My books don’t tend to be reviewed so I’ve rarely had the opportunity.
What is your best marketing tip?
If you are going to market either go early in the morning or at the end of the day.

Quick Fire 

Light or dark chocolate
It depends if I am making a cake.
Favourite colour
I fear black is not a colour.
Dogs or cats
As long as they’re housetrained I really don’t mind.
Tea or coffee
One takes coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon.
Light side or dark side
Of the moon? Of life? Of an unevenly toasted slice of bread?
Morning, noon or night?
Can one really prefer a time of day?
Black and white or colour?
I have just been given a second-hand colour printer and it’s wonderful: I have spent the past week printing colour pictures of parrots. So, colour. Definitely colour for parrot pictures.
Drawings or paintings?
Each sufficient to the task thereof.
Dresses or skirts?
This is not something I feel I can comment on, never having worn either.
Books or movies?
Books are good to read. Films are good to watch.

Ian Sansom is the author of the Mobile Library Mystery Series. As of 2016, he has written three books in a series that will comprise a projected forty-four novels.

He is a frequent contributor to, and critic for, The Guardian  and the London Review of Books.
He studied at both Oxford and Cambridge, where he was a fellow of Emmanuel College. He is a professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick and teaches in its Writing Program.

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