Tag Archives: crooked cat books

Author Interview: Astrid Arditi

allard_eng_0012I’m delighted to introduce Astrid Arditi, fellow Crooked Cat author, whose first novel, A Cunning Plan, is out on Friday.  It sounds like a delightful and insightful read, for both men and women…

  1. What are the main ideas or themes in your book?

A Cunning Plan is a romantic suspense with a strong dose of humor. It’s about women, their insecurities, their own brand of crazy, and how unexpectedly strong they can be.

  1. What is the setting or context of the narrative? Why is it important?

Sloane lives in London. Her life is small, predictable, and she likes it that way. She’s a normal woman to whom incredible things happen.

  1. Tell us more about the main characters and their dilemmas.

Sloane Harper has been married most of her adult life. As such she feels she can’t manage life on her own. She’s shy and weak willed, a human doormat. When her husband, the main reason for her insecurities, leaves her for another woman, instead of embracing it for the blessing that it is, she feels compelled to get him back. She stalks his mistress, which puts her in the middle of an investigation she wants no part of and threatens to shatter life as she knows it.

Cunning Plan - High Resolution

  1. How do you go about writing a novel? Is it a simple or complex process?

I write a novel like I’d do a puzzle. First I start with the outline then I start filling in the blanks. I spend a few weeks writing random scenes from the book, snippets of conversation, interactions between my characters. When the story begins feeling real enough that it can surprise me, then I write in a more linear process.

  1. What advice do you have for less experienced writers?

Write for yourself first. Get excited about your story. If you see writing as a job it will make the whole process tedious. Keep it fun. Publishing does not make you a writer, writing does.

  1. What are you working on currently?

Book 2 of the Sloane Harper series.

  1. What would your perfect day be?

An island, the feeling of the sun on my skin, a nice breeze and a nap! With a toddler and a newborn at home, I am so tired these days!

  1. Name a book or a film that means a lot to you.

Life of an Unknown Man from Andrei Makine. Just beautiful.

  1. If you could leave a message to the world, what would it be?

You don’t need a reason to be happy. Just decide to see how lucky you are to be alive.


Cunning Plan - High ResolutionDetermined to put her family back together, Sloane Harper stalks her ex husband and his annoyingly stunning mistress, Kate. But she’s not the only one. Handsome IRS agent Ethan Cunning is surveying them too, but not for the same reasons. He is attempting to nail Kate’s playboy boss.

Ethan and Sloane decide to help each other, which sends Sloane’s wobbly life spinning out of control. She’ll have to face danger, humiliation, and scariest of all, the dating scene, to lure her daughters’ father home.

Losing control was the best thing to happen to Sloane… until it turned lethal.


allard_eng_0012Astrid Arditi was born from a French father and Swedish mother. She lived in Paris and Rome before moving to London with her husband and daughter back in 2013.

After dabbling in journalism, interning at Glamour magazine, and teaching kindergarten, Arditi returned to her first love: writing.

She now splits her time between raising her kids (a brand new baby boy just joined the family) and making up stories.

A Cunning Plan is Arditi’s first published work.


Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cunning-Plan-Astrid-Arditi-ebook/dp/B01D7H7O42/

Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/Cunning-Plan-Astrid-Arditi-ebook/dp/B01D7H7O42/

IBooks https://itunes.apple.com/fr/book/a-cunning-plan/id1102554468?mt=11

Nook http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-cunning-plan-astrid-arditi/1123657004?ean=2940152965568

Kobo https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/a-cunning-plan-5


I blog at www.astridarditi.com

Facebook Astrid Arditi author https://www.facebook.com/Astridarditiauthor

Twitter @astrid_arditi https://twitter.com/astrid_arditi


Emma Rose Millar – Five Guns Blazing

Sarah CI’m delighted to welcome the wonderful author Emma Rose Millar to my blog. Her second novel, Five Guns Blazing is out now from Crooked Cat Publishing. It’s a thrilling adventure that takes the reader from London to the Caribbean, exploring life as a slave and as a pirate. It’s a work of fiction that weaves some historical characters and situations into its action-packed narrative. Five Guns Blazing was topping kindle charts just from its pre-release sales, so don’t miss out on this treasure (luckily not buried). Click on the book cover to purchase it or the links below.

  1. Why did you decide to write Five Guns Blazing?

Hello, Jeff. Thanks for inviting me over. My first novel was extremely dark and for some time I’d wanted to write something more up-beat. I love historical fiction and I wanted to write an historical adventure, something that I could completely lose  myself in. Then one day I was at a barbeque and I had a chance conversation about an old Adam and the Ants song called Five Guns West, which contained the lyrics, Ladies can be captains and ladies can be chiefs, just like glorious Amazons, Anne Bonny, Mary Read. During that conversation I learned that Bonny and Read were both pirates. Not only were they pirates, some sources suggest they were lovers, and although John Rackham captained the ship, it was the women who were the most vicious members of the crew, wielding pistols and machetes, lighting fuses, cursing and swearing and ordering the men to kill their captives. Anne in particular was slippery as an eel and managed to escape execution on numerous occasions.

How does a woman become a pirate? I was intrigued. The more I read about the pair, the more fascinated I became.


  1. Tell us more about the main character and her dilemma.

Laetitia Beedham is a pauper from the backstreets of London, the bastard child of two thieves, who in 1710 is transported to Barbados along with her conniving mother, Molly. Laetitia is a vulnerable but surprisingly resilient character who survives two years in the workhouse, seventy gruelling days on the open sea and a punishing regime on a Caribbean sugar plantation. On her eighteenth birthday, Laetitia is sold to pirate captain John ‘Calico Jack’ Rackham but soon finds herself torn between her admiration for the captain and her feelings for his beautiful but treacherous wife, Anne Bonny. As the King’s men close in on the pirates, Anne hatches a devious plan, set to speed Laetitia straight to the noose.

  1. How did you go about researching the sections about slavery and pirates?

Before I even got to that point I immersed myself in eighteenth century literature. I wanted an authentic feel to the book and for the narrative voice to be credible. I then carried out extensive research on conditions in eighteenth century London and in British workhouses. My grandfather was orphaned at age three and spent his childhood in a poor law school, so I’d grown up hearing stories of that type of communal living with its own doctrines and rules. I also read a lot about conditions at sea, especially for transported convicts. Luckily a friend of mine did his degree in Naval History and had a wealth of eighteenth-century maritime articles ranging from the treatment of scurvy to the fight against piracy and conditions on-board slave ships. I soon realised that slavery and piracy were intertwined. It was at that point I enlisted the help of Jamaican born author Kevin Allen, who had spent many years researching his own genealogy and the slave trade.

  1. What are the pros and cons of the ‘co-authoring’ process?

Co-authoring is great; it opens up all kinds of possibilities for a novel when two people from different cultural backgrounds work together. Five Guns Blazing is a story of a white woman from England who finds herself working among black slaves in the Caribbean. The story demanded co-authorship and I truly believe that without Kevin, the manuscript would still be sitting somewhere on my laptop, never to be read again. However, the writing has to be seamless, so once Kevin had finished his part of the story, I had to then weave that into the narrative. We have very different writing styles so it took a lot of adapting. You also have to put equal effort into writing and marketing, and you have to trust each other one hundred percent, which I think we do, and to be able to give, (and take) constructive criticism.

  1. How do you go about writing a novel?

I usually start a novel as a set of bullet points which I use as a basis for a short story of about five to ten thousand words. Then everything seems to mushroom out from there with me adding imagery and dialogue and incorporating bits of my research. It’s probably not a very methodical way of doing things, but I do seem to live in chaos most of the time, and this is probably reflected in my writing style.


  1. What advice do you have for less experienced writers?

I wouldn’t class myself as being very experienced at all, but along the way I have learnt that even if you think your manuscript is finished and ready to submit, it probably isn’t. Finding a good editor is so important; they can make suggestions about character and plot, about weaker parts in the storyline and point out clunky phrases and grammatical errors along with many other things. Even after several drafts, I’m still seeing things that could be improved upon. Also, when the writing stops, the hard work really begins; marketing. There are millions of books on Amazon these days. It’s so difficult to make any book stand out.

  1. What are you currently working on?

I’m writing a novel called The Women Friends, which is based on a painting by Gustav Klimt of the same name. It’s set in Vienna between the wars; it too could do with a co-writer though. I also write children’s picture book texts for my five year old. I’d say children’s stories are my favourite things to write. I’ve completed a series called The Amazing Adventures of Nathan Molloy, which is based on the antics of a little boy who simply can’t stay out of trouble. I can’t think where I got the inspiration for that!

  1. What would your perfect day be?

I waited a very long time for my son to come along and now that I’ve got him really every day is perfect. But if I was going to have a day all to myself I would have a luxurious spa day followed by some Italian food and wine and then either some live comedy or live music – with more wine. I may have that day in about thirteen years’ time!

  1. Name a book or a film that means a lot to you.

I love Alice Walker’s The Color Purple – book and film. I saw the film when I was fifteen and I can’t even remember how many times I’ve read the book. The story has so many themes but Celie’s journey and the strong female relationships really resonate with me, even though the novel is set in a completely different time and place.


Five Guns Blazing is now available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Five-Guns-Blazing-Emma-Millar-ebook/dp/B014LPAQ76/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1441922863&sr=8-1&keywords=five+guns+blazing



Spotlight on Sue Barnard

I’m happy to welcome fellow Crooked Cat author, Sue Barnard, who is on my blog today to tell us about her brand new book, The Unkindest Cut of All, which mixes Shakespeare and amateur dramatics.  What’s not to like? She has kindly brought an extract to give us a taster, and purchase links are at the end. Now I’ll hand over to Sue…

Hello, and thank you for welcoming me to your corner of the blogosphere!

TUCOA front

The Unkindest Cut of All (released as an e-book on 9 June 2015) is my third novel for Crooked Cat Publishing.  It’s a murder mystery (with a touch of romance thrown in for good measure) set in a theatre.   The story takes place during an amateur dramatic society’s production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

To write this book I’ve drawn on my love of the theatre, my own experience of amateur dramatics, and my dim and distant memories of studying Julius Caesar at school for my English Literature O-Level.  (For those of you below a certain age: O-Levels are what we had way back in the Dark Ages before the days of GCSEs.)   I was extremely fortunate to have an excellent teacher who not only made the play really come alive, but who also managed to achieve the near-impossible task of making a group of stroppy teenage girls appreciate the finer points of Shakespearean tragedy.

The book’s title is based on one of the lines spoken by Mark Antony, in his crowd-turning speech after Caesar’s murder.  The actual quotation is “This was the most unkindest cut of all” (according to my English teacher, the double superlative is intended to add extra emphasis), but it was generally agreed that this was perhaps a little too fussy – especially for a book by a writer who is notorious for her insistence on correct grammar!

Here’s the blurb:

Beware the Ides of March… 

Brian Wilmer is God’s gift to amateur dramatics – and he knows it. So when the Castlemarsh Players take the ambitious decision to stage Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, there is only one man who can play the title role – even though Brian’s posturing ‘prima donna’ attitude has, over the years, won him few friends and many foes. 

Rehearsals progress apace, and the production draws ever closer. But when another member of the cast has to drop out due to illness, local journalist Sarah Carmichael (a stalwart of the Players’ backstage crew) suddenly finds herself called upon to step into the breach at the eleventh hour.

Not surprisingly, Sarah finds that Brian is in his egotistical element playing the mighty Caesar. The fact that the final performance of the play takes place on the infamous Ides of March – the day when, according to tradition, Caesar was fatally stabbed – only adds to the excitement.

But tragedy is waiting in the wings. And when it strikes, it falls to Sarah – with the help of Brian’s personable and fascinating nephew Martin Burns – to uncover the incredible truth about what really happened… 

TUCOA front

And here, to whet your appetite, is a (slightly adapted) brief extract:

“Drink, Sarah, dah-ling?”

Sarah hadn’t heard Brian approaching as she stood waiting to be served at the bar, and in view of what she’d heard about him the previous evening, she felt more than just a little uncomfortable in his presence. But for the sake of keeping things on an even keel, at least until the end of the run, she turned to face him and forced a smile.

“Thanks, Brian. That’s very kind of you. I’ll have pint of bitter, please.”

“OOOH, a lady who drinks pints?”

Not for the first time, Sarah had to suppress her irritation at having to explain it.

“Yes, I drink pints. I like beer, and there’s no point in my drinking halves. I get very thirsty and they don’t last.”

“Fair point, I suppose, fair lady! And I can’t say I blame you. I’ve worked up a pretty thirst myself. I think I might take a leaf out of your book. Now, you go and find us some seats, and I’ll be right back.”

He strode up to the bar and returned a couple of minutes later with two brimming pint pots.

“Cheers, sweetie!” Brian sat down opposite her, raised his glass and took a swig.

“Cheers. And thank you.” Sarah smiled and returned the gesture.

“That wasn’t a bad audience, for a Wednesday,” Brian went on. “I can’t believe we’re halfway through the run already. How time flies when you’re enjoying yourself!”

“Are you enjoying it?” Sarah asked as she took another sip of her drink. She knew before she asked that it was a pointless question, but all the same it made something to say.

“Am I enjoying it, dah-ling? Tell me, sweetie, is the Pope a Catholic?”

Sarah forced a smile.

“I knew it was a stupid question. Have you done any Shakespeare before?”

Brian’s face creased into a broad grin at the prospect of talking about his favourite subject – himself.

“Oh yes. I started very young, you know. Oddly enough, my first role was in this very play.”

“Really?” Sarah called on her own acting abilities and pretended to look interested. “What part did you play?”

“Lucius. It was a school play. Most of the other parts were played by sixth-formers, but they needed a younger boy to play the servant. It wasn’t a huge part, but it was the first of many. I was well and truly bitten by the acting bug by the end of it.”

“Oh yes? What came next?”

“The following year the school did A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I played Puck.”

“Then what?”

“After that, it was The Tempest. That time I played Caliban. Then the following year it was Hamlet, and I was Polonius.”

“Wasn’t he the one who was stabbed through the arras? I always thought that sounded slightly rude!”

Brian chuckled. “So you see, I’m no stranger to the Bard. But until now I’ve never managed to play the mighty Caesar.”

All those Shakespearean performances, Sarah thought. No wonder Brian was such a prima donna.

The Unkindest Cut of All is officially released on 9 June 2015, but is already available for pre-order, at the special early bird price of only 99p.  Order it now, and it will magically appear on your Kindle on launch day.  There will also be a launch event on Facebook on the day itself, with fun, frolics, quizzes and competitions.  Click here to add yourself to the guest list!

Sue 2014More about Sue:

Blog   Facebook   G+   Twitter

Book links:

The Ghostly Father

Nice Girls Don’t

The Unkindest Cut of All

What the Reviews are saying about IGBOLAND


Igboland cover5

“Poignant, yet uplifting, this novel opens the mind to ourselves and the world beyond.” Andrea Jamieson

“This fascinating story highlights the triumph of human spirit in the face of adversity. I really do recommend this as an extremely enjoyable read.” Mrs J Grankin

“an engrossing, tense and truthful novel, gracefully told.” Cynthia Harrison (A Woman’s Wisdom)

“I really enjoyed this book, it is one I will remember for a long time.” Lucinda E Clarke

“This is an accomplished novel.” R. Nicholson-Morton

“Beautifully written, well developed characters, educational but also rather sexy and vibrant.”  Alana (Perth)

Igboland cover6

Puchase IGBOLAND here:


Amazon UK

Amazon USA

Jeff’s website

Nik Morton: Protagonist in jeopardy

I’m pleased to welcome Nik Morton today with an insightful guest blog about character and point of view. He offers us an extract from his latest novel, The Tehran Text, to illustrate his point, too.

Nik is a very experienced author with twenty books to his name. He is also an editor, illustrator and Ex Royal Navy. His Tana Standish ‘Psychic Spy’ novels are published by Crooked Cat: so far we have The Prague Papers and The Tehran Text, with more to come. They are spy thrillers in the style of Ian Fleming and Len Deighton, but with an extra twist. You’ll be shaken and stirred.  Click on the links or book covers to purchase these exciting novels.

Prague Papers1 - Copy


Thanks for inviting me, Jeff. If I may, I’d like to talk about place and point of view in genre fiction.

NikThe mantra is to ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’ when writing. The reason being that by simply telling the reader, the reader isn’t involved, isn’t close to the characters.  If the reader views everything through a protagonist’s eyes – as in ‘show’ – then we tend to immerse ourselves more in the character.

Of course it isn’t always possible to show everything through a particular protagonist’s eyes – sometimes you have to resort to the omniscient point of view, much in the way that a film director will track in a scene until homing in on the character of interest. At that point, we become involved with the actor and less so the scene. This can apply in certain scene shifts in a novel, too.  Here’s an example from The Tehran Text (Crooked Cat Publishing) which is set in 1978:

Tehran Text


Special Psychiatric Hospital No.121, Kzyl-Orda in Kazakhstan was situated within the confines of the prison and a white brick wall surrounded it, topped with rows of barbed wire. Armed guards were perched in their watchtowers, their automatic weapons always loaded.

These hospitals were under the control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs – the MVD – rather than the Ministry of Health. The MVD’s responsibilities were wide-ranging – uncovering and investigating certain categories of crime, apprehending criminals, supervising the internal passport system, maintaining public order, combating public drunkenness, supervising parolees, managing prisons and labour camps, providing fire protection and controlling traffic.

Doctor Wolf Schneider wasn’t a psychiatrist working for the MVD but a reluctant patient, his seventeen square metre cell shared with five others. He looked older than sixty-four, partly due to the left side of his face being one great red weal from an electric burn sustained three years ago. His thyroidal eyes glared, the stare more pronounced due to thick-lensed spectacles held together with surgical tape.

Outside the cell and along the corridor was the toilet, a cesspit comprising four holes in the ground and two taps. After a few days in the place, he stopped noticing the constant pervading smell of faeces and urine. He had no idea how long he’d been here. Memory played tricks – drugs, beatings and perpetual light didn’t help, either. This was the third SPH he had been to, since they attempted to fix his body after the disaster at Dobranice.

Criticism of the system would often condemn you to such a prison. Or failure. This was the humane side of the Soviet. Think yourself lucky, Schneider told himself. In Stalin’s and the Führer’s day, it was the firing squad. Now, if you failed, you needed psychiatric help.

“Prisoner DBR-14!” shouted a guard outside and thudded a fist twice on the metal door. The sound reverberated in the cell and everyone gasped.

Schneider flinched, more used to feeling those fists against his puny flesh.

“Prisoner DBR-14!” the guard repeated. Keys jangled and turned in the lock.

That’s me, Schneider realised. “Yes, I am here!” he shouted, though it came out like a plaintive squeak. Idiots! Where else would I be?

As the door swung wide, the other patients edged away along the wall, vying with each other to melt into the two corners furthest from the entrance.

The Ukrainian was as big as an ox and with as much intelligence, thought Schneider. All the more reason to fear him; it was an effort to control his bladder at sight of the man. The unshaven orderly stood, piggy eyes darting from one patient to the other, seeming to relish the discomfort his very presence caused. “You have a visitor, Prisoner DBR-14!” he sneered.

He was about to say, “Me?” when he bit his tongue. Only speak if asked to.

Shoulders hunched, bald head gleaming in the constant illumination from the strip light above, Schneider hobbled forward. The replacement kneecaps on both his legs might have worked adequately in normal living conditions, but here they simply seized up and now every step was agony.

The orderly almost filled the cell’s doorway so Schneider had to squeeze past and received the full blast of the man’s bad breath and rancid body odour.

The door clanged shut behind him with a deafening clamour and then he was thrust to the left, along the corridor. “Get a move on, you don’t want to keep your visitor waiting!” snarled his guard, painfully thumping his palm into the small of Schneider’s back.

Keeping his head bowed, Schneider shambled forward, trying to ignore the repetitive impatient smack of the orderly’s wooden stick against his boot.

Visitors usually meant trouble. The inquiry board investigating the Dobranice incident had grilled him repeatedly in Chernyakhovsk in the Kaliningrad region; he’d lost three teeth that time. This brute behind him had claimed four more. Now when he spoke – which was rarely, just to hear his own voice most times – it was with a whistling sound.

His body shuddered as he was pushed into a familiar room – the interrogation chamber.

Seated at the solitary desk was a Lieutenant of the GRU – a woman with copper-coloured hair cut short in layers. Her grey-mottled combat fatigues seemed anaemic, quite dull in contrast to her reddish-brown complexion. Thin lips peeled from a cruel mouth and revealed yellow teeth. If that was a smile, he didn’t think he was going to enjoy this interview. Then again, he could rarely recall a pleasant one.

“Come, comrade doctor,” she said in a husky voice. “Please sit. We have much to talk about.”

Hesitantly, he shuffled to the empty wooden ladder-backed chair bolted to the floor.

“My name is Lidiya Aksakov,” she said.

He looked into almond-shaped eyes coloured a weathered nut brown. Eyes that held no warmth. In those heady far-off days of the Third Reich he’d known several Nazi women with eyes like that. Even he had steered clear of them. “I am Wolf Schneider,” he began then flinched as he heard a movement behind. He screwed up his eyes, expecting the blow from the orderly’s stick, but it never came. Out of the corner of his eye, he risked a look and noticed that the woman Aksakov had raised a peremptory hand.

“Prisoner DBR-14 may use his name while we talk,” she explained firmly.

Schneider released a sigh of relief as he heard the guard return to the door. He felt moisture pricking the corners of his eyes but managed to control himself. Then her next words seemed to increase the rate of his heartbeat and pulse and inflamed the ugly red weal; it began to throb.

“I want you to tell me all about Tana Standish,” she said.

* * *

Tehran ebookThe scene ends on an ominous note or two. Firstly, if we’ve read The Prague Papers, we’ll recognise Schneider from that episode in psychic spy Tana Standish’s life (1975); and secondly, we will be fearful for the British spy because we don’t know what Aksakov is up to, though knowing it can’t bode well for Tana.

Ideally, the reader will be intrigued by the presence of Aksakov and want to learn more (this is only the beginning of chapter 3, after all). Later, the relationship between Schneider and Aksakov will evolve, though an air of menace will never be far off.

And in the time-honoured way we scene shift to somewhere else, and another protagonist in jeopardy.

Tana books1 and 2

Amazon UK here

Amazon COM here



Amazon UK here

Amazon COM here

Prague Papers1 - Copy (2)

Review Comments for MYOPIA

Here is a new selection of recent comments reviewers have made about MYOPIA.

  • “one of the best books I have ever read … touching, amusing and poignant”.
  • “I recommend this book to anyone affected by bullying … or anyone who enjoys a can’t-put-it-down YA novel”.
  • “engaging and compelling”.
  • “a great book with a strong message”.
  • “I’d recommend this book to teachers and grown-ups who have to deal with the issue of bullying”.


Click here to buy MYOPIA on Amazon.