The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley is a Finalist!

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What a week of excitement!  Four separate days of announcements recognizing The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley:

  1. The CHATELAINE Awards for Romantic Fiction 2015 First Place Category Winner in Historical Romance
  2. The CHAUCER Awards for Historical Fiction 2015 Finalist
  3. The IBPA BENJAMIN FRANKLIN Book Awards – one of three finalists in Fiction Romance (already a silver winner)
  4. Foreword Reviews’ 2015 INDIEFAB BOOK OF THE YEAR Award finalist

I am still trying to get my head around it all.  Certainly, the best moments in life are those that are unexpected.  I am immensely grateful.

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Below is the Press Release from Light Messages Publishing regarding the Indiefab Awards

NC Small Press Celebrates Book Award Finalists

Three titles from Light Messages Publishing have been named Foreword Reviews‘ 18th annual INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards Finalists: The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley by Susan Örnbratt, Relentless Savage by Dave Edlund, and A Theory of Expanded Love by Caitlin Hicks. 

Each year, Foreword Reviews shines a light on a select group of indie publishers, university presses, and self-published authors whose work stands out from the crowd. Over the next three months, a panel of more than 100 volunteer librarians and booksellers will determine the winners in 63 categories based on their experience with readers and patrons.

The three books chosen from Light Messages were lead titles for 2015. The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley and A Theory of Expanded Love received resounding praise from reviewers and readers alike. They were each recognized as Top 50 Reads of 2015. Shortly after its release, Relentless Savage topped the charts on iBooks for Best New Mysteries and & Thrillers. The announcement comes just weeks ahead of the release of Edlund’s third Peter Savage novel, Deadly Savage, which Kirkus Reviews has praised for its “crackling action, brisk pace, timely topic…”

“As a small press in today’s climate, we feel like we have to work twice as hard to secure strong authors and meaningful books and ten times as hard to get their works into the hands of readers. Having a voice as influential as Foreword Reviews recognize three of our titles for their excellence and their contributions to the literary community means the world to us,” says Elizabeth Turnbull, Light Messages Senior Editor. “As the fictional Gillian Pugsley would say, we’re so tickled you could push us over with a guinea pig’s whiskers!”

Foreword Reviews will celebrate the winners during a program at the American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco on Friday, June 26 at 6 p.m. at the Pop Top Stage in the exhibit hall. Everyone is welcome. The Editor’s Choice Prize for Fiction, Nonfiction, and Foreword Reviews’ 2014 INDIEFAB Publisher of the Year Award will also be announced during the presentation.

About Light Messages

Light Messages Publishing, founded in 1998, is a family-run, general trade publisher located in Durham, North Carolina. We pride ourselves in bringing to light meaningful books by emerging and award-winning authors. For more information about Light Messages Publishing and its services, please visit our website.

About Foreword

Foreword Magazine, Inc is a media company featuring a Folio-award-winning quarterly print magazine, Foreword Reviews, and a website devoted to independently published books. In the magazine, they feature reviews of the best 170 new titles from independent publishers, university presses, and noteworthy self-published authors. Their website features daily updates: reviews along with in-depth coverage and analysis of independent publishing from a team of more than 100 reviewers, journalists, and bloggers. The print magazine is available at most Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million newsstands or by subscription. You can also connect with them on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Pinterest. They are headquartered in Traverse City, Michigan, USA.

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Embracing a New Year as a Writer & On Again-off Again Expat

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Typically, a new year brings new resolutions to mind, good intentions but often with little follow-through. The way I approached the New Year, was to reflect on how 2015 unfolded. It was an exciting year of change with a recent move back to Sweden and my debut novel being released in the spring. There is always a honeymoon stage with any change I suspect, and certainly in my case this has proven true. No matter how many moves I make over the years, and there have been a few having lived in six countries, one might think I’d be used to it—the curiosity, the thrill of meeting new people, seeing places you never knew existed or maybe reacquainting yourself with old ties, friends, family. Perhaps the ironic joy in any change is not being used to it whatsoever and maybe that’s why we crave it. Why ironic? Because of the uphill battle to get there.

For the first time, I discovered how moving back to Sweden was very much like the process of releasing my first novel. All the legwork had to be done; applying to schools for my children, selling the house in the U.S., returning to our house in Sweden and finalizing everything with our tenants, banks, taxes, moving company, purchasing new cars, selling the old ones, reconnecting with my school, colleagues, friends and family. All of this while I was in the middle of the publication process with my publisher in the U.S.

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It wasn’t chaotic in any way, mind you, busy, but not chaotic. Each task was handled with care. In the case of my book, several months of editing back and forth with my editor then the production of the book and releasing the ARC (advanced reading/review copy) was thrilling, a tremendous amount of work, but thrilling.

So 2016 arrived. My book was released and we have settled into Swedish life once again. But have we? Or rather have I? Asking myself what worked and what did not, what has been challenging and rewarding and what has not, is important if I am to make 2016 a success, both personally and professionally.

It reminds me of the film, Finding Nemo, when the fish finally escape the dental office in a plastic bag filled with water. After the bag plunges into the sea then bobs on its surface, one fish says, “Now what?”

That’s me in a nutshell. The kids are settled into their schools, the house has been arranged, my husband is busy with work life and back in his familiar, the familiar ring of his own culture and language. Despite the familiarity I have with Sweden, having lived here for many years before our three-year stay in the U.S., it is not really my culture or my language. There is an empty crevice somewhere in all the pandemonium that I sometimes think only people who have lived abroad can understand. No matter how full your life is, it is always there.

My book having been released into the world garners a similar feeling. The hard work, the excitement, the recognition, but now I’m Finding Nemo, “Now what?” It’s been a fantastic learning experience without any doubt, but what worked and what didn’t? That is what I’ve needed to address.

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First and foremost, living in a foreign country that is not English has proven to be tremendously challenging as a debut author. Unless you are well known in the English market, it is very difficult to get exposure in Scandinavia. I had to learn this the hard way by spending countless hours writing emails, making phone calls, meeting bookshop owners and distributors, all in the hope of introducing my English book to a Scandinavian audience. In the process, my writing suffered because I dedicated too much energy and too much time to running up a very slippery slope, one with no end in sight. When I could have spent precious time writing, I spent it marketing. Of course, the latter is important but a book on the horizon is essential. Had I been in an English speaking country, I am as certain as I can be, that I would have garnered different results.

In any case, it was an important lesson learned. I had to ask myself what I wanted most. It was an easy answer. I wanted to write. As a result, I have chosen to arrange my day differently this year. Writing must be my top priority. Emails and social media come only after I’ve written my word quota for the day. As a writer, I need to wake up with my story filling all those wonderful crevices of my imagination. The moment I open an email or check to see how my book might be fairing on Amazon or Goodreads, my story loses a part of me. That’s something I am no longer willing to jeopardize. My story deserves my full attention. So if I have posted fewer blog posts lately, that is precisely the reason.

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Instead, I am spending time wisely, getting to know my new characters and developing a plot that keeps surprising me. I am new to social media and I am still learning how to write—how to write well, how to write creatively, how to write intelligently and with heart. I hope I never stop learning. I am reading more. I’m reading novels by authors who inspire me, like Kate Morton and Susan Meissner. I want to sink into a story and fall in love with the writing, and one day, I hope someone will feel that same way about something I’ve written.

If my reviews are any indication, I know my novel The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley has touched some readers in a way that I will always treasure. I am grateful for that. I am grateful for these changes in my life. Travel with my family remains a priority to me and I will likely jump at the opportunity to move house and home once again, somewhere sunny where my writing can flourish. 2016 is about setting goals, one of which is to complete my current writing project. Having made a plan for that to happen is key. It’s well under way and it feels great.

A new year brings new challenges to everyone. Embrace change in your life, make a plan and follow it through—writers are no exception, expats are no exception. As tough as it might be, it’s all a grand adventure. Is it not?

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A Simple Christmas Gesture

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So the Christmas rush has begun—a frenzy of buying, crowds and wrapping. I stood in a shop yesterday watching three men (very clearly fathers), standing in front of a rack of children’s bit and bobs. A haze grew around them as they stared blankly, automatons with “I don’t want to be here” written all over them. I had to leave. I couldn’t watch their pain for another moment.

As I drove away from the crowded parking lot, it made me think of what I yearn for every year during the holiday season—to have a simple, relaxing holiday with the people I love most in this world. Those thoughts rolled into the things that truly bring happiness to my life. Of course, family soars highest of all, way above the Earth’s atmosphere, making me dizzy at times with love and worry and joy and all those things that mothers and wives experience.

Just under that invisible shield circling our world is another layer. Yesterday that layer unfolded itself in all the kind, everyday gestures that people have done for me and I for them. Waving another driver into the queue made me giddy with happiness. For that tiny moment, I was beaming over such a simple gesture, but one that people appreciate. I know I do, when someone does the same for me. And it’s so easy, isn’t it? Easy just to be kind.

Yesterday, I woke up to a lovely message from a fellow writer, Caitlin Hicks, author of A Theory of Expanded Love, letting me know that my book, The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley, along with hers, was included in Judith Collins’ 50 Must Read Books of 2015. She wasn’t obligated to inform me, but that gesture made me smile and grateful to be part of a community, the writing community.

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When I see the tsunami of books flooding the market every day, it is easy to get overwhelmed, realizing you are just one of thousands of writers out there trying to find an audience. It is a ruthless industry but one with creative people at its core. Writers have this incredible innate desire, I believe, to be supportive of other writers. It might be a kind word, advice or actively participating in the development of another writer. We understand how grueling the process of writing is and how hard it is to be recognized for our efforts. So, when a kind hand reaches out to us, we take it. During the holiday season, when everyone is tripping over their To-Do lists, it means that much more when people are kind, and authors are no exception.

cover_frontI haven’t even met in person, Cecilia Lindblad, author of Och Sedan Aldrig Mer, here in Sweden, but through our husbands we connected and exchanged books. I received a lovely message from her recently offering her support within the Swedish market. It is remarkable to me when someone reaches out in such a way, giving what he/she can to help another person. Likewise, my constant supporter, Lille-Mor Arnäs, author of the children’s fantasy book series, Fyrklövern, is cheering me on, offering advice and inspiring words. She is an inspiration.

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There is a lovely sincerity that I feel from her and others in my community of writers. How can I not appreciate them during the holidays? They, along with my non-writer friends, give me that extra push when doubt floods me. Every writer suffers from doubt from time to time. It’s part of the package. In any case, when you find yourself in the shops this holiday or fighting your way through the crowds, pull back and remind yourself what is real, what is important. Is it important to fill every nook and cranny under the Christmas tree? Do something instead. Something kind. Something real. Something lovely.

Smile at a stranger. Let someone into the queue ahead of you. If you liked someone’s book, let him/her know. Nothing needs to be fluffy. A simple gesture of kindness might just make someone feel giddy. And oh, isn’t that a wonderful feeling?

Merry Christmas

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A Book on A Shelf and Travel – a great combo!

For the past two weeks, my family and I have been visiting the United States in a combined effort to see friends, have some fun and do a little marketing of my book, The Particular Appeal of Gillian Puglsey. Our visit to North Carolina was wonderful, despite the humidity. From southern cookouts to chauffeuring the kids back and forth to friends to a very successful road trip with my publisher, Light Messages, I couldn’t have been happier. Meeting with Baker & Taylor (one of the world’s largest distributors) was a joy. They loved my book so much that they plan to spread the word with a review in their newsletter to over 1000 booksellers. This is big for me and I couldn’t be more grateful. FullSizeRender Trip 8

I was also able to fulfill a dream when I saw my book on a Barnes and Noble store shelf for the first time – and not just any store, but the store that I frequented every week during my three years living in North Carolina, dreaming that one day, my book would be there gleaming with pride. IMG_7237 Trip 7That was the first of four Barnes and Noble shops in North Carolina to take in my book for their shelves. I am immensely grateful and excited.

Then off to California we flew. We have been working our way up the coast, visiting with old friends and stopping by every Barnes and Noble in the area. I must say that each and every manager I have met, has treated me with such respect and kindness. They have not only been more than happy to try my book on their shelves, but they have appeared chuffed to meet one of their B&N on-line authors – making me feel very welcome indeed!

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Four days left of our vacation as we work our way up to San Francisco. We spent yesterday watching dozens of elephant seals lounging on a beach. We admired the crashing waves outside 17 Mile Drive. We have been surfing on this trip (well, I have watched my kids and husband surfing) in Encinitas. We’ve taken a fabulous tour of Warner Brothers Studios. We’ve visited the Hollywood sign, done the Beverly Hills thing, met two TV celebrities and have followed the stunning coastline up to Monterey. It has been a whirlwind trip and I look forward to riding a cable car in San Francisco and visiting a few Barnes and Noble shops there. IMG_7658 Trip 4  IMG_7609 Trip 3

News on this trip of two dear friends hurting and struggling – reality hits hard. It makes me extremely grateful for a happy and healthy family, for this amazing opportunity to travel and for this weather, which fills me with energy. All of it can be taken away in a snap. So for today, I will love life that little bit more!

Below is a list of Barnes and Noble Stores where you can currently find The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley: (Please Note – if you go to my home page, you will find links to several of the on-line booksellers carrying my book)

California

1) La Jolla – Bookstar (owned by B&N)

2) Calabasas

3) Marina Del Rey

4) San Luis Obispo

5) Santa Monica

6) San Bruno

7) Corte Madera (north of Sasaulito)

8) El Cerrito

9) Emeryville

10) San Mateo

11) Redwood City

12) Santa Clara

13) San Jose (Eastridge Mall)

14) San Jose (Almaden Plaza)

North Carolina

1) Southpoint Mall – Durham

2) Brier Creek

3) Cary

4) Crabtree Valley Mall – Raleigh

Book Launch – a Rock Star Night

Succulent would describe this past week. Juicy with a hundred to do’s on my To Do List before my first ever book launch. I had been planning for several weeks, trying out new recipes, making sure all the invitations were sent, organizing the music and running slideshow, preparing a gift box prize filled with bits and bobs from my book, picking up glasses, ironing table cloths and a legion of other tasks in between.

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Come Thursday morning, all was ready for the gallery. As we were setting up, an older gentleman wandered into the gallery wondering what all the fuss was about. Friendly and curious, I told him about my book. He looked at the English title, not having a clue if he understood it at all, though he smiled and looked fondly at me. That was enough to make me feel proud.

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Guests began to arrive at the launch when in walked a little old lady. I greeted her, “Välkommen,” I said. She wiggled past me as though trying to go unnoticed. An hour later, I saw her with a glass of wine, and an hour after that, I watched curiously as she weaved through the crowd headed toward the wine table. Apparently, she enjoyed immensely the hors d’oeuvres. Not a soul knew who she was and she clearly wasn’t the least bit interested in meeting the author. I’m not sure why, but I got such a kick out of it. She made me smile.

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Meanwhile, the gallery had filled to the brim with family and friends – a turnout, I didn’t fully expect. Everyone was happy and relaxed, mingling with people they’d just met and others who laughed at jokes they’d probably heard a hundred times. The 1930’s-40’s slideshow was getting noticed and probably drummed up a few conversations. Certainly the trivia quiz created a buzz. Nibblies were getting devoured and wine settled nicely into many a hand. Flowers and gifts floated in to the point I could start my own flower shop. It was lovely.

Swedes love speeches, so we had a few. I suppose they were really introductions more than anything, but they made me smile – again. I thought I would be nervous to speak in front of this big crowd, but I wasn’t. It felt right and good and relaxed. Here I was, celebrating my first published novel with so many of the people I care about. They came to show their support and that meant the world to me.

DSC_0480There was plenty of bookselling and signing. It was surreal to me that there should be a queue to have MY signature. I felt honoured and humbled at the same time. There was even a French university student who popped in off the street. He watched the speeches, chatted with guests, bought a copy and stood in line happily to get my signature and seemed chuffed to bits to meet me. ME! I felt like a rock star. Again, I smiled.

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It was a magical night, one I will remember always. If this launch were just a fleeting moment, one never to repeat itself, I would know that I have amazing people in my life who help me rise to the occasion. I am beyond excited for people near and far to read my book. Fleeting moment or not, I hope it’s the first of many to come. Thank you for making it a fantastic launch.

The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley – Welcomed into the world at Galleri Scandinavia, Göteborg, Sweden, May 7, 2015.

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Trivia Quiz from the Launch 

Yes, it was challenging but not impossible. Congratulations Lisa Jarnskog – highest score

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NOTE: Answers are at bottom of this blog post.

1) In which sea is the Isle of Man situated?

__ North Sea

__ Caspian Sea

__ Black Sea

__ Irish Sea

2) Where is Tobermory located in Canada?

__ Quebec

__ Ontario

__ Nova Scotia

__ Newfoundland

3) What nation never introduced rationing during WWII?

__ France

__ New Zealand

__ Italy

__ Canada

4) What is the name of the small island situated off the southwest tip of the Isle of Man?

__ Anglesey

__ St. Patrick’s Isle

__ The Calf of Man

__ Jersey

5) What is the Tobermory community known as?

__ The fresh water scuba diving capital of the world

__ The Scottish Copycat

__ The Manitoulin connection

__ The big wash basin

6) What article of clothing does not fit the 1930’s?

__ above the knee skirt

__ ostrich feather cape

__ wide brimmed hat

__ silk full length gown

7) What is the emblem of the Isle of Man?

__ The Manx cat

__ The Three Legs of Man

__ The Manx Kipper

__ The Laxey wheel

8) Which distress signals did the wireless station in Tobermory, Canada pick up in the first half of the 20th century?

__ The Empress of Ireland (Collision – 1,012 deaths)

__ The Titanic (Iceberg – 1,503 deaths)

__ The Kiang Ya (WWII mine – 2,750 deaths)

__ The Kiche Maru (Foundered – 1,000 deaths)

9) When did Canada enter WWII?

__ Same day as Britain

__ 1 year after Britain

__ 6 months after Britain

__ 7 days after Britain

10) Which item was not rationed in Britain during WWII?

__ Tea

__ Soap

__ Coal

__ Carrots

11) Which film was NOT made in the 1930’s?

__ The Wizard of Oz

__ Gone with the Wind

__ Casablanca

__ King Kong

Quiz reference: http://www.funtrivia.com/playquiz/quiz29619521e8e70.html

Answers: 1) Irish Sea, 2) Ontario, 3) Italy, 4) The Calf of Man, 5) The fresh water scuba diving capital of the world, 6) Above the knee skirt, 7) The Three Legs of Man, 8) The Titanic, 9) 7 days after Britain, 10) Carrots, 11) Casablanca

A Book Selling Mission in Paris

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In recent years, I’ve found myself browsing the large chain bookshops more often than not. I’ve found myself scrolling down the list of today’s bestsellers on the internet. I even read my first Swedish novel on an iPad. I suppose convenience has played a part in my search, tousled by the busy life of today. Yet, somehow the charm, the wonderment of the search seemed to have escaped me just a little, until a lovely reminder this past week in Paris.

I had my list of English bookshops in hand and a grand purpose behind it – to promote my debut novel. The first shop was all boarded up, closed to the outside world – for good it seemed. It was the second shop, with a man stacking reams of books, lugging them from crates on the sidewalk and into the shop that intrigued me. I approached with uncertainty, muscling up the courage to introduce myself. He replied as he crouched down to lift more books, with not a single glance my way. I couldn’t have felt more intrusive. He insisted that I speak my mind while he finished up. In and out of the threshold he stepped as I meagerly said my piece.

Once all books were nestled in the corner, he sat down behind the counter, piled high with secondhand books from Dickens to Jamie Oliver. I glanced down the narrow aisle flanked by aged books that seemed to tower through the ceiling above. My eyes traveled back to the shop owner when I quickly learned that I had his full attention. So full that he perused my list. Then with the care of a mentor, he congratulated me on getting published then one by one proceeded to give advice on each shop in the vicinity. He knew them well having owned his little corner of the market for umpteen years. Not an easy task to keep an English bookshop’s heart pumping in the centre of Paris, especially one called San Francisco Book Company.

It was his final comment to me that made me laugh, though it was weighed down by the reality of all artists; grueling, tedious work we love with often little to no recognition. “It’s a tough business. Thank God you’re not a painter. Writers feel sorry for the painters. And the painters feel sorry for the poets. I’m a poet and I run a secondhand book shop.”

I took his advice and re-arranged my list. Before I knew it, I found myself stepping into a shop that oozed the charm of his, with an added “je ne sais quoi”. Who am I kidding? I know exactly “what” that “quoi” was; the creaky floors, the attempted bustle of people squeezing past each other to reach for that one special book, but the towering shelves with ladders forced the bustle to calm down. I could almost hear the rushing hearts from the tourist frenzy across the bridge at Notre Dame, suddenly slow when the tinkle of the bell sounded on the shop’s door. As I walked along the aisle, people buried in this book and that, I rounded a corner that held crevices where book lovers could get lost. Though the hall was a tight squeeze, it felt friendly as it led to a narrow staircase wrapped in stone walls.

Unlike its browsing customers and those coming up for air every so often, I was on a mission – to promote Gillian Pugsley. Although I had to fight my way through a shop that could have easily swallowed me for good, in the end, I was able to say my piece. Now, Mademoiselle Pugsley needs to work her magic even in a country that’s not her own. Shakespeare and Company, as English as it is in the heart of the Latin Quarter as well as the other shops I visited, will be that much richer if they dance a little jig with Gilly. Fingers crossed.

Reviews, Stats, Books, Oh My!

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I was roaming the aisles of Akademibokhandeln the other day, a large chain bookshop here in Sweden and came across a narrow section of English books. At eye level, staring nearly right through me was the blockbuster hit “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn. Suddenly, everything in the shop disappeared and I was alone with this beast I couldn’t take my eyes off. Flynn’s incredible talent snagged me from the first sentence. When I feared the manager might approach me to buy or leave, something that would never happen in Sweden, I decided to investigate the author a little further once I got home. Her personal story is wonderful, not really unlike mine in ways. Okay, she’s actually sold a book, or two, or three – million, but who’s counting? The world is, that’s who.

When I washed away the curtain of success that is surrounding Gillian Flynn, what was left was the skeleton, the bones of her personal story—a story that began with trial and error—a story that began with writing. Not just writing one or two books but several, some of which faded into oblivion but far from nothingness. Every time she put pen to paper, or in today’s world, fingers to keyboard, she paved her training ground, another layer each time. She honed her skills just that little bit more. All of it, without knowing I’m sure, was in preparation for her debut novel, “Sharp Objects”.

She wrote what was familiar in the beginning, but it wasn’t until she had a sleepover with Dennis Lehane’s “Mystic River”, that everything fell into place. How is that different from me? I asked myself. The answer was simple. It’s no different at all. When the time was right, “Mystic River” came looking for Gillian Flynn. When the time was right, my grandmother’s poems came looking for me. And so it began, my great journey into a world of new characters for me, a world that still leaves me breathless every now and again when I read and re-read what my pen swirled on the page. Forget about keyboards, they sound too mechanical for the gorgeous process of writing fiction. Shhh, the world doesn’t need to know just how mechanical, laborious and utterly grueling writing can really be.

I thought about Flynn’s exposure, something absolutely key in this industry. I know of her staggering sales just weeks after releasing her debut, but I have no idea how many she reached before the release. I have nothing to compare to. I have only my website. Yes, there’s a huge difference between a mass market book like hers and one written for a particular niche, my baby, my historical women’s fiction. But what I can say is that since I launched this website last month, it has been viewed in twenty-three countries, the flags representing those places above, with nearly four thousand views. Maybe that is nothing in this industry but it is anything but nothing to me. It is staggering to me, staggering to know that people from other countries have viewed my site. It is humbling in this world of mass market this and mass market that to think that my book can squeeze in there somewhere.

Recently, some advance praise came from fellow authors in the United States for Gillian Pugsley, authors who are fighting for their work just as much as the next author. I am honoured that they not only took the time to read my advance reading copy, but that they have endorsed it with such finesse and conviction. Readers will find their comments on my site’s homepage.

My grandmother’s poems didn’t just fall into my lap, they were given to me to share in a way that would make her proud, and I think that I have achieved that with this book.

“The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley” is far from “Gone Girl”, but the skeleton, those bones that rattle underneath the pages of even the top bestsellers is there. What’s more, I am proud to say that I have layered those bones with the meat of an exquisite love story. I hope you will agree.