Interview | A.L. Cooper | Author of Twisted Knickers

I wrote a blog post about Twisted Knickers a few weeks ago and am delighted today to post an interview with its author A.L. Cooper. Many thanks for answering my interview questions A.L. and good luck with your future publications.

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Why did you write Twisted Knickers?

I wrote Twisted Knickers a few years ago, when I took a year off from my teaching job. My children were young and both at school and I’d always wanted to write a book. I’d heard a funny story about a lady who made a living on sex chat lines and I thought it would make a really original, fun character. Once I started writing I lost myself in that little fantasy world and was hooked.

What kind of reader would enjoy Twisted Knickers?

When I wrote it, I really had my girlfriends in mind, so anyone like them should enjoy my story. They are a diverse bunch but all fun, intelligent, open minded ladies who have great strength and independence. They range from what I call ‘glossy’ ladies, to bookish types, to new age hippy chicks.

How did you develop your characters?

I love people and so many of my friends and family are desperate to know if any of the characters in the story are based on them. I would say that I pull out aspects of real life in everything I write. Certainly the less desirable characters have qualities I see more in the people I don’t hang out with.  Possibly, I pick out characteristics of my own too – the good bits as well as those I like less about myself.

Why did you decide to publish Twisted Knickers yourself?

When I wrote it, there was no such thing as free self-pub or Amazon. I tried a few agents but, whilst I did get some positive and encouraging feedback, it was no go for what they called the ‘mass market.’ I suspect that this had to do with the risque nature of the story and I still get this message now, despite the success of Fifty Shades.

There is still a call for authors to fit into a cast-in-stone genre heading in that big filing cabinet up there in the lofty heights of the publishing world. Even though many people are set in their ways in terms of reading tastes, I believe this is changing because of the exploding market of digital books.

Now I have mixed feelings about the idea of getting a publishing deal. My ego says ‘yes’ but my pocket doesn’t want to share with agents, publishers, marketers and big multi-stores.


Are you working on any new writing at the moment?

Yes – I am currently working on a sequel to Twisted Knickers which I hope, perhaps rather ambitiously, to launch before Christmas.
In addition to this I have started a guide for parents to help their children succeed in Primary School, as well as a short book about the benefits of being a dog owner.
My biggest project is on hold at the moment – it is a touching young adult story with plenty of food for thought.  I’m scared of it because I want this one to be absolutely beautiful.

Link to Twisted Knickers bookpage on Amazon U.K

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Review | In Loco Parentis | Nigel Bird

I downloaded In Loco Parentis as a freebie a few weeks ago because having worked in education for many years the title caught my eye.

The main character in this novel is Joe Campion, a thirty something young teacher, who has been given a class of five year olds for the new school year. The school is somewhere in North London and the pupils have a mix of social backgrounds. The school still has a smoking room which sets the novel a good few years ago and the smoking room is used by about half the staff. The teachers are a mixed bunch and there is a strongly authentic feel to the way in which Joe relates to them.

What an enigma this young man is: and I say young man because a great deal of the time he seems to be much younger than his 30+ years. He is a caring and popular teacher but his personal life is a mess and as the novel progresses it just gets worse.

Although there are plot elements which are somewhat implausible, the writing is so good that you are completely taken in by the story. The writing style is spare and there are no extraneous details: just enough to move the plot on. Dialogue is realistic, crisp and effective in moving the plot on as well; and it certainly does move on. I couldn't put this book down and nearly burned the dinner because I kept on reading it while I was cooking.

At the end of the book there is a note from the author about his own experience in schools and I was pleased to read this because at times his insights into the thoughts and actions of a primary school teacher are very real. In fact I read one section out loud to my husband and said something like, "This writer must have been a teacher once, you wouldn't know how that feels otherwise."

Joe's relationships with several people are explored in the novel: his step-sister, colleagues, parents of children in the school and his friends. His friend Wolf is an amazing study in nihilism and the drug-fuelled lifestyle that he shares with Joe for much of the novel is at times an assault on the senses. Some of the scenes are very dark and the contrast between Joe's school life and his home life is stark. The two main female characters are Emma and his stepsister Jenny. Both are interesting characters and the development of Joe's relationship with each is at the core of the novel. There are some intriguing scenes where Joe visits his therapist with hints at a scarred childhood but it is rather left to the reader to fill in the gaps.

In many ways this is a depressing novel but at times it made me laugh aloud especially some of the scenes when Joe and Emma are together. Overall I really enjoyed reading In Loco Parentis and liked the author's writing style very much.

Review | The 24 Hour Jazz Café | Jamie Sinclair

I came across The 24 Hour Jazz Café on an Amazon "Meet Our Authors" thread when I was doing a free promotion for Julia's Room.

The 24 Hour Jazz Café was free at the same time so I downloaded it and its been in my Waiting To Be Read Folder ever since.

The 24 Hour Jazz Café is categorised on Amazon as crime / thriller / mystery but I think it should also be in political fiction because one of the best aspects of the book is its exploration of small town civic corruption. Don't know if any of this story is true but it certainly reads as though it is. It's interesting in the way it looks at some big issues related to power and control on a parochial scale.

Having said that, it's a very well written crime / thriller / mystery with a clear and direct style of writing that grabs your attention right from the start. It's difficult to write about crime thrillers without giving anything away but this one really works.

The plot is completely plausible including the depraved excesses of the local big-wigs. It moves along at a good pace with lots of action but also periodic moments of reflection which gives you time to catch up and keep up with the fast moving developments of the plot. There are lots of details in the scenes: local people and places, jazz music, police procedures, the seamier side of life which keep the novel interesting right the way through to the end.

The characterisation is excellent. You feel as though you are getting to know these people and you become completely drawn into their lives. The relationship between the main protagonists Mitch, Rupert and the love of their lives, the deceased Emily, is poignant and well explored.  There is a rich cast of supporting characters: for some you feel sympathy and others are downright awful - greedy, selfish, depraved and with a shocking contempt for other people and their local community.

The ending of the novel is cleverly written and works really well. Definitely a 5 star book and well worth reading. I was so impressed by this writing that I immediately downloaded another title by Jamie Sinclair (Playground Cool only £0.77p) and am looking forward to reading it in due course.

Review | Trial #1322 | Ryan Butcher

I had to take some medication recently for labyrinthitis (an imbalance in the inner ear caused by an infection) and the product details in the pills packet said that they were also prescribed for schizophrenia. I pondered for quite awhile as to how the pharmaceutical company had developed the drug for one condition and found it would deal with the other. I really hope that wherever it was trialled bore no resemblance to Trial #1322!

Trial #1322 is a medical / psychological thriller set in a hospital where drug trials take place. Three friends, Laura, Natalie and Jason, have signed up for several days participation in a drugs trial in return for a large amount of cash.

I've seen the odd television show about drugs trials both fact and fiction and wondered about the motivation of the human guinea-pigs involved in the trials. Well in Trial #1322 their motivation is quite simple and straightforward: cash. The three friends are all twenty-somethings who are short of cash for various reasons and highly motivated to tap into the £2500 on offer for taking part in the trials. This novel really raises the question, how far are you prepared to go for money? And the answer here is, a very long way indeed.

I don't want to give the plot away but the three unpleasant, selfish, central characters in this novel have few moral scruples as far as money is concerned. As the trials progress they find themselves in an increasingly disturbing situation. Be warned there is strong language and scenes of a sexual and violent nature in this novel.

The writing style in Trial #1322 is immediate and colloquial and the reader jumps around inside the heads of Laura, Natalie and Jason which could be confusing but the author manages to stay in control. Consequently the plot moves along with good pace and a strong forward drive. As the plot unfolds you get to know the characters very well and although each has some very unappealing traits you find yourself developing some sympathy for them too. The supporting characters are well imagined; at least I hope some of them are imaginary because otherwise I shall be sleeping less comfortably at night.

The novel ends with a conundrum for the reader in relation to the effects of the medication being trialled and where the hallucinations end and reality begins. There is a really neat little sting in the tail as well. An enjoyable first novel from Ryan Butcher and I shall be keeping a look out for what comes next.

Three Shorts

Fifty Shades of Red Riding Hood by R.R Hood

I got this as a freebie at the weekend as it went shooting up the Free Bestsellers Top 100. It's a short story of just 6500 words so a quick and easy read. There have been innumerable spoofs of Fifty Shades of Grey most of which I have ignored but this one caught my eye as it seemed the daftest of the lot. It purports to be a parody and in places it was very funny and takes the sex fantasy aspects of the original to ridiculous but occasionally hilarious lengths. The book ends with a serious message however which I was glad to see placed there.

Penthouse Man by Kea Noli

This is more of a novella than a short story. The book has a plot of family and business intrigue, duplicity, jealousy and greed. Two sisters disagree over the future direction of their lingerie business and they're both in love with the same man. The plot moves along quickly although you don't get a great deal of insight into what makes the protagonists tick. This is because the novella is predominantly written in dialogue. Therefore you get the pace and reality of the situation but not much depth. At times the dialogue is so real that it feels as though you are in the room when two or more of the characters are arguing with each other. This book could almost be a stage play or TV drama and I think it would work well as either. You have to work quite hard when you're reading this novella to fill in some of the details and not everyone will like reading so much dialogue. I like reading play scripts so I enjoyed reading this book.

London, The Doggy and Me by Rosen Trevithick

This is a short story of about 15000 words and is a quick and easy, light-hearted read. Steph is an aspiring actress who needs to stay in London to go to an audition and being short of cash is glad to have free board and lodgings in return for dog-sitting at the home of her mother's friend. All seems to be going well until the unfortunate demise of the dog and what happens next is both ridiculous and hilarious. Very well written with a laugh on almost every page, London, The Doggy and Me is great fun and a thoroughly enjoyable read.