Friday, 27 January 2017

Triskele Author Feature - JJ Marsh

Once in a while, we like to remind ourselves of why we’re an author collective. Five individuals in three countries bound by a love of writing. People often ask how it works, but rarely why.

Here is the third in our Author Feature series, on why we appreciate JJ Marsh.

Jill grew up in Wales, Africa and the Middle East, where her curiosity for culture took root and triggered an urge to write. After graduating in English Literature and Theatre Studies, she worked as an actor, teacher, writer, director, editor, journalist and cultural trainer all over Europe. Now based in Switzerland, Jill works as a language trainer, forms part of the Nuance Words project, co-edits The Woolf and reviews books for Bookmuse. She is also a regular columnist for Words with JAM magazine, and an expert on writing book blurbs. She lives with her husband and three dogs, and in an attic overlooking a cemetery, she writes.

One of my all-time favourite series' character is Jill's DI Beatrice Stubbs. In a recent interview with author, Jane Davis, Jill spoke about the central character of her 6-part European crime novel series, DI Beatrice Stubbs.

JD: Your main character is Beatrice Stubbs. Can you tell us a little about her?

JJ: Metaphor-mixer, serial survivor, bipolar sufferer and lover of good food, she takes her job seriously and believes in justice. Problems arise when justice and the law diverge. Beatrice has been in my head for years, and I finally found the right vehicle for her. She feels like an old friend.

Watch this short interview to find out more about the captivating Beatrice Stubbs.

So, what makes JJ Marsh such a valued member of Triskele Books?

Liza Perrat: First and foremost, I value Jill’s organizational skills for the Triskele collective. So that we stay on track and have continuous interesting output, Jill maps out a weekly Workplan, which I believe we’d be lost without. Secondly, I am in awe of her ideas about how to promote ourselves and our collective, her dynamism and enthusiasm about instigating those ideas, as well as supporting our author friends, both indie and trad published. Thirdly, Jill’s critiquing skills are invaluable. Her no-nonsense, no-holding-back comments help to bring all the Triskele books up to the highest possible standard. I’d like to make a special nod to her blurb-writing skills too. I was floundering with the description for my latest novel and Jill came up with the most succinct, engaging and highly suitable blurb! And finally, Jill has written five out of six of the most brilliant and engaging European crime series. My personal favourite is number five: Human Rites, although the books can be read in any order. All of us are eagerly awaiting the release of number six this spring, while at the same time sad to say goodbye to Beatrice Stubbs.

JD Smith: Jill's talents for organising our tribe are always reflected in her writing, which is concise, well-researched and brilliantly executed. She is a talented and astute critic, and one of the most tactful I know. 

Catriona Troth: To get any disparate group of creative folks to work together, you need at least one person with a talent for herding cats. Someone who can focus on the long game, and also keep track of the steps needed to get there. In Triskele, that person is JJ Marsh. She is the one who pulls our madcap ideas together into a coherent plan. She cracks the whip, though always with a twist of humour. And she holds us all to a high standard in everything we do.

As a writer, she brings to each of her books the rich flavours of the many corners of Europe where she has lived. (Quite literally, as her detective, DI Beatrice Stubbs, is a lover of food and drink.) My favourite, Tread Softly, had me itching to jump on the next flight to Northern Spain, to walk (and eat) in Beatrice’s wake. Her plots are intelligent - a thinking reader's crime stories that don't rely on violence for cheap thrills.

As an editor, Jill is your greatest champion - and your harshest critic if she suspects you are selling yourself short. When I brought out my novel, Ghost Town, I was on the point of choosing a cover that was simply wrong for the book. Jill was the one who insisted I think again – and thank goodness she did!

Gillian Hamer: There are lots of magical facets to Ms Marsh that complete a sparkling diamond. From a writing perspective, she has the imagination, intelligence, experience, wit and warmth to ooze talent and create brilliant characters and page-turning stories.

From a Triskele colleague perspective, Jill has the most amazingly creative brain, she sees opportunities and makes them work, and she is totally committed and determined to succeed and help others succeed too.

Add to that her honesty, integrity and unflinching support - you can see why she is our driving force and why we couldn't survive without her.

What readers are saying about JJ Marsh’s Beatrice Stubbs European crime series:

Cold Pressed
Editor’s Choice – The Bookseller

“This is J J Marsh’s fourth, snappily written crime mystery featuring the feisty but vulnerable Stubbs, a most appealing character. It’s all highly diverting, and an ideal read for those who like their crime with a lighter, less gruesome touch.” Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller

Tread Softly oozes atmosphere and JJ Marsh captures the sights, sounds and richness of Spain in all its glory. I literally salivated as I read the descriptions of food and wine. JJ Marsh is an extremely talented author and this is a wonderful novel.” Sheila Bugler, author of Hunting Shadows

“There are moments of farce and irony, there are scenes of friendship, tenderness and total exasperation - and underlying it all a story of corruption, brutality, manipulation and oppression with all the elements you'd expect to find in a good thriller, including a truly chilling villain. Highly recommended.” Lorna Fergusson, FictionFire.

“I loved JJ Marsh's debut novel Behind Closed Doors, but her second, Raw Material, is even better. While Beatrice is fully occupied with the London crime, Matthew, and Beatrice's neighbour, Adrian, decide to investigate in Wales and what starts out as a light-hearted caper turns into something horribly grim. The truth is more terrible than Matthew, Adrian, or even Beatrice, could ever have imagined and the final chapters are heart-stoppingly moving and exciting.” Chris Curran, author of Amazon Bestseller, Mindsight.

 “Some rather realistic – if not particularly laudable – human exchanges reveal honest personal struggles concerning life’s bigger questions; the abstruse clues resonate with the covert detective in me; and the suspense is enough to cause me to miss my stop.” Vince Rockston, author.

“Beatrice Stubbs is a fascinating character, and a welcome addition to crime literature, in a literary and thought-provoking novel (Behind Closed Doors). I heartily recommend this as an exciting and intelligent read for fans of crime fiction.” Sarah Richardson, of Judging Covers.

Behind Closed Doors crackles with human interest, intrigue and atmosphere. Beatrice and her team go all out to see justice is done. And author JJ Marsh does more than justice to the intelligent heroine who leads this exciting and absorbing chase.” Libris Reviews.

“Hooked from the start and couldn't put this down. Superb, accomplished and intelligent writing. Ingenious plotting paying as much attention to detail as the killer must. Beatrice and her team are well-drawn, all individuals, involving and credible.” Book Reviews Plus.

Connect with JJ Marsh online:  

Friday, 20 January 2017

Triskele Books’ New Release

 Come along on the latest Triskele Books’ journey to …

Another Time: 1970s.

Another Place: Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.

The Silent Kookaburra is Triskele Books’ author, Liza Perrat’s new novel, a psychological suspense story that marks a departure from her previous French historical fiction trilogy: The Bone Angel series.

But what's it about?

All eleven-year-old Tanya Randall wants is a happy family. But Mum does nothing besides housework, Dad’s always down the pub and Nanna Purvis moans at everyone except her dog. Then Shelley arrives –– the miracle baby who fuses the Randall family in love for their little gumnut blossom.

Tanya’s life gets even better when she meets an uncle she didn’t know she had. He tells her she’s beautiful and could be a model. Her family refuses to talk about him. But that’s okay, it’s their little secret.

Then one blistering summer day tragedy strikes, and the surrounding mystery and suspicion tear apart this fragile family web.

Embracing the social changes of 1970s Australia, against a backdrop of native fauna and flora, The Silent Kookaburra is a haunting exploration of the blessings, curses and tyranny of memory.

Wollongong beach

A few questions from Liza's colleagues about The Silent Kookaburra

Triskele Books: Why did you decide to change from writing historical fiction to psychological suspense crime?
LP: I had written three historical fiction novels (The Bone Angel trilogy) based i
n the same French village, and about the same family. I feared another one might just be “too much of the same thing”. I also felt I needed a complete change, to refresh my writing. I will most likely return to writing historical fiction though, one day, as I love that genre.

Triskele Books: Did your Australian background help in writing this story?

LP: It certainly did. I grew up in Wollongong in the 1970s. Having first-hand knowledge of the place, the flora and fauna, and the mentality of those times, really helped. Though when I called on friends to help with memories from that time, I realized each of us remembered different things, which was nice and nostalgic.

What readers are saying about The Silent Kookaburra ...

Compelling psychological drama that delves into the dark heart of family secrets. Chris Curran, author of Amazon bestseller, Mindsight.

A real page-turner with fabulously engaging characters and a gripping plot, the outcome of which I did not guess before the final revelation. Claire Whatley, reader.

An amazing domestic thriller with a gripping storyline, vivid dialogue, a palpable sense of place and time, and a compelling cast of characters that I can't get out of my head. Carol Cooper, Contemporary Women’s Fiction author.

I have to say this was one of the most compelling reads I have read. Carol Ravensdale, reader.

Liza Perrat brings her sureness of touch, vivid characterisation and ability to convey a strong sense of time and place to this story set in 1970s Australia. Vanessa Couchman, author of The House at Zaronza.

Aussie parrot

It’s a delight to watch an author grow into her talent. I admire Perrat’s historical fiction, but here she really comes into her own. In moving closer to the present and to her own Australian background, she produces a riveting tale of human frailty and deceit that kept me enthralled even as I dreaded what might happen next. C.P. Lesley, author of the Legends of the Five Directions series.

… nothing better than a good twist or two in a plot, but this was a first for me – one final hammer dropping on the very last page that made my jaw drop! Cindy Taylor, Book Blogger.

The mystery keeps you turning the pages; the description transports you to another place, another time; and the characters by turns amuse, infuriate, entertain and conjure a sense of poignancy and regret. Tricia Gilbey, writer and reader.

… as well-written psychological thrillers often do, it makes you question everything you think you know, culminating in a true twist of an ending that both shocks and makes you ask "Why didn't I figure this out sooner?" Courtney J. Hall, historical fiction, romance and contemporary author.

EXTRACT from The Silent Kookaburra…

Chapter 1


Knuckles blanch, distend as my hand curves around the yellowed newspaper pages and my gaze hooks onto the headlines.

HAPPY AUSTRALIA DAY. January 26th, 1973. 165-year anniversary of convict ships arriving in Sydney.

Happy? What a cruel joke for that summer. The bleakest, most grievous, of my life.

I can’t believe my grandmother kept such a reminder of the tragedy which flayed the core of our lives; of that harrowing time my cursed memory refuses to entirely banish.

Shaky hands disturb dust motes, billowing as I place the heat-brittled newspaper back into Nanna Purvis’s box.

I try not to look at the headline but my gaze keeps flickering back, bold letters more callous as I remember all I’d yearned for back then, at eleven years old, was the simplest of things: a happy family. How elusive that happiness had proved.

I won’t think about it anymore. I mustn’t, can’t! But as much as I wrench away my mind, it strains back to my childhood.

Of course fragments of those years have always been clear, though much of my past is an uncharted desert –– vast, arid, untamed.

Psychology studies taught me this is how the memory magician works: vivid recall of unimportant details while the consequential parts –– those protective breaches of conscious recollection –– are mined with filmy chasms.

I swipe the sweat from my brow, push the window further open.

Outside, the sun rising over the Pacific Ocean is still a pale glow but already it has baked the ground a crusty brown. Shelley’s gum tree is alive with cackling kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets shrieking and swinging like crazy acrobats, eucalyptus leaves twisted edge-on to avoid the withering rays.

But back in my childhood bedroom, behind Gumtree Cottage’s convict-built walls, the air is even hotter, and foetid with weeks of closure following my parents’ deaths.

Disheartened by the stack of cardboard boxes still to sift through, uneasy about what other memories their contents might unearth, I rest back on a jumble of moth-frayed cushions.

I close my eyes to try and escape the torment, but there is no reprieve. And, along with my grandmother’s newspaper clipping, I swear I hear, in the rise and dump of its swell, the sea pulling me back to that blistering summer of over forty years ago.

Where to buy The Silent Kookaburra ...

The Silent Kookaburra

Friday, 13 January 2017

Triskele Author Feature - Catriona Troth

Once in a while, we like to remind ourselves of why we're an author collective. Five individuals in three countries bound by a love of writing. People often ask how it works, but rarely why.

Here's the second in our Author Feature series, on why we appreciate Catriona Troth.

Author, editor and litfest organiser, Catriona excels as a connector of writers. She is the powerhouse behind our Indie Author Fairs and last year's Triskele LitFest. With her novella Gift of the Raven and her epic opus, Ghost Town, Catriona proves she can not only transport you to another time and place, but she makes you think.

What Amanda Hodgkinson says about Catriona

Catriona is the perfect kind of writer; the kind whose head is filled with vast libraries of stories, and for whom a deep love of words and form and a desire to communicate is a lifelong quest. The kind of writer who always has a great respect for her readers. That's just one of the reasons why her novels are so beautiful and absorbing. Catriona is the perfect kind of writer for other writers too, helping and supporting them, offering them her time, enthusiasm and her talents, all in the hope of bringing great books to new readers.

What makes Kat such a valued member of Triskele Books?

Liza Perrat: Catriona’s skill as a structural editor has been highly beneficial to the storylines of my own novels. Her drive for perfection, and her motivation to edit, edit and edit again, have brought her own books up to the highest narrative standard. And her skills as events’ organizer have been invaluable for all of our Triskele literary festivals. 

Jane Dixon Smith: Catriona's sympathies and understanding of the time and society in which her novel Ghost Town and novella Gift of the Raven are set is what gives them a special and honest feel, making them so compelling.

JJ Marsh: Triskele and the concept of an author collective arose from a conversation Kat and I had in 2009. Gilly, Liza and I made it a reality in 2011, and when Kat was ready to publish, it was only natural for her to join the team. She's an exceptional editor, a terrific networker whose aim is to help other writers, and most importantly, a brilliant writer. She tackles tough subjects in her work, remaining clear-eyed and unsentimental while delivering enormous emotional impact. Her books are impossible to forget.

Gillian Hamer: There's something about Kat in real life that comes across both in her writing as well as in her editorial work - and for me that is understanding. She has an eye for detail and a human empathy that are great talents to posses in both fields. I rely on her input in each of books, knowing she will see something others don't. And that's what makes her own writing so special too. She writes about things others do not see, it's a special talent in a writer and makes her style her own.

What They Say About Ghost Town

“There is a subtle blend of realism and pragmatism which allows the story to evolve in such a way that despite its subject matter, it never becomes distasteful or inflammatory. There is clever use of colourful street vocabulary which is dotted throughout the text; from South Asian Punjabi, through to Rasta slang, words which imply meaning without always needing to refer to the exemplary glossary. In Ghost Town, the whole vista of the 1980s is captured like a snapshot; a moment of time which embodies a culture one hopes is relegated to history books but which perhaps sadly lingers, alive in memory.” - Jaffa Reads Too

“The city comes alive almost as a character itself. Also the time - early 80s - is evoked so well it brought back vivid memories of songs, of movements, of clothes, of the political spectrum.
Ms Troth has a terrific ear for voices and accents; her characters come fully formed off the page by the sheer virtuosity of her ventriloquism.” - Barbara Scott-Emmett

“It's hard to liken GHOST TOWN to anything else out there, but there were certainly echoes of Alex Wheatle's EAST OF ACRE LANE. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to step out of their comfort zone and explore a little-talked-about pocket of British history.” - Polly Courtney

"Ghost Town is a fascinating exploration of the Coventry riots of 1981 and the events leading to them. Catriona Troth handles her material with a subtle touch and doesn’t flinch from showing the tensions and conflicts within communities and families as well as those outside. Ghost Town works as both a vivid record of a recent historical event and as a cracking good read." - Chris Curran

There’s a pleasurably subtle, gently restless, level-toned yet unsparing quality to many aspects of "Ghost Town", including these ones: the elusive nature of Maia, a reliable narratorial lens and yet a full individual with her own dramas too, whose open innocence manages to remain unsullied by seeing such ugliness and suffering around her; the novel’s smooth inclusion of quite a breadth of facts, terminology and historical detail (including several vivid trips out of Coventry, down to riot-torn Brixton); its successful ambitiousness in being at once a political story, a love story and a coming-of-age story." - Rohan Quine

"This book is challenging on several levels. Sometimes an uncomfortable read, it demonstrates the vital role of fiction in tackling serious issues, such as the threat that is perceived when the demographics of a city change rapidly, particularly at a time of high unemployment." - JE Davis

"Ms Troth has most admirably captured the atmosphere of urban decay, race riots, unemployment and the ever simmering violence of an era I well remember. The characters are well drawn and credible and the storyline most compelling." - Amazon reviewer

What They Say About Gift of the Raven

"The emotions entwined in this story are what really brings it to life. The author makes it very easy to see through the eyes of young Terry, and feel the pain and struggling he must endure. Mix this with the well-described Canadian cultures and history, and the novella becomes incredibly thought-provoking."

"I was enchanted by this novella about a boy searching for his roots and identity. The descriptions of landscapes are beautiful and the writing is lyrical and powerful. Reading this, I was reminded of Louise Erdrich's writing style and ability to create character and history within landscapes. An absolute pleasure to read. Moving and tender."

"A beautifully-written novella that explores the troubled childhood of Terry, and his journey to find his roots with the Haida Gwaii Indians of Canada. As well as Terry's heart-warming story, and the author's lyrical prose that brought these parts of Canada to life, I really enjoyed learning about a culture of which I previously knew nothing."

"This is a truly wonderful story and one which you won't forget in a hurry. It is skilfully written, the characters are full of depth and the scene beautifully set."

Here's Catriona talking about Triskele Books and how it works.

In addition to writing fiction, festival organisation, journalism and reviewing, Catriona is a well-respected editor.

Find out more or make contact here:

Twitter: @L1bCat

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Getting to know our Big 5 Winner ... Sophie Wellstood!

Winner of the Big 5 Comp - Sophie Wellstood
By Gillian Hamer.

Among the many hundreds of entries, long-list, short-list processes, there was in the end one winner, chosen by our head judge, crime writer Sheila Bugler. And that winner was Sophie Wellstood and the opening pages of her novel The Sky is a Blue Bowl.

Sophie will now spend 2017 working alongside the Triskele team to polish her novel to perfection and hopefully see it make its way out into the big wide world. We thought it would be nice to get to know Sophie a little, and introduce her to our followers right at the beginning of her journey.

So ... congratulations, Sophie, on winning our Big 5 competition! How did you feel when you heard the result?
Surprised, thrilled, and a little scared.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself away from writing?
I work in central London, teaching English to adults - a job I love. It's endlessly interesting and rewarding, and can be hugely creative. I also play piano and guitar with my Irish ceilidh-loving friends, go for very long walks in wild places, swim in ponds and spend a lot of time looking through a camera lens.

And a little about your writing?
Recurring themes seem to be wilderness, desire, alienation, abandonment, recovery, grief...all of which sound very grim on paper, but actually there's just as much humour I hope in my writing. Life really can be absurd, even in the midst of the most dreadful times. My unconventional upbringing gave me some of the darkest experiences possible, but also some of the very best, and I'm old enough now to be able to treat it a gift, rather than as a millstone.

I've long felt that my natural home is the short story and poetry, that novels were just too long and complicated and difficult (not that short stories or poetry are in any way 'easy'!). I still feel that to some extent. But after studying for two years at Birkbeck University with Jonathan Kemp, and then later with inspirational author and editor Debi Alper, I found that I could - and wanted to - push the boundaries of my comfort zones and go for it. Writing novels is still a ridiculously long and complicated and difficult process, but incredibly exciting.

The opening 10 pages of your novel connected with all of the shortlisting judges, and was the overall favourite of crime writer, Sheila Bugler, our head judge – what was your inspiration for the novel?
There was no one lightbulb moment as such, but after taking voluntary redundancy in 2010 from a role in Further Education, I thought I'd like to write a dark comedy based around the mysterious murder of an unpopular senior manager - kind of 'in the photocopy cupboard with a bottle of tippex' kind of thing. But that idea quickly proved to have no legs at all, and would likely be libellous anyway. So I began sketching out a very camp nod to the 60s and 70s girls own-style adventure stories I've always loved, and the seeds of The Sky... were sown. In fact, the matriarch of the novel, Edith, was originally named Enid as a direct nod and wink to Enid Blyton, and the seriousness (or lack of it) I then ascribed to the story.

However, as the imaginary world began to take shape - and all writers know this mad feeling - the characters began to shout and boss me around and would not be trivialised. The darkest and saddest of themes began to emerge, and I realised that yes, there is a lot of lightness and love and silliness to enjoy in the novel, but the monsters in the shadows have to be there.

What I was always very sure about, though, was that a same-sex love affair would be at the heart of the novel, and that I wanted to create people who would be as lovely and damaged and as conflicted as I could make them - whilst still being real and relateable enough to engage a reader. We will see! I may or may not have succeeded, but that's part of the whole crazy challenge of attempting to create an authentic, fictional world.

Why do you write?
Initially out of a pure love for reading - which I think if you experience as a child you're set for life - and just wanting to copy my favourite authors and poets. Then, through many solipsistic years, I produced reams of obsessive, angry, fractured woe-is-me stuff - but enough accidentally-nailed-it moments to realise that eventually words can say exactly the right thing in the exactly the right way. Now I hope I'm much more structured, more disciplined, more relaxed, and slightly less precious about it. Writing is what I love, and I hope I can produce reasonably professional and meaningful work, but the world won't stop spinning if I can't. The rejections hurt, though - I'm not that thick-skinned yet.

Which authors would you list as your inspiration?
How much space do you have?! Spike Milligan, Patti Smith, Maya Angelou, Tobias Wolff, Raymond Carver, Nancy Garden, Carol Noble, Debi Alper, Jonathan Kemp, Annie Proulx, David Sedaris, Denis Johnson, Alison Bechdel, Armistead Maupin, Alice Munro, Alice Walker, Sarah Dreher, Ellen Galford, Fiona Cooper, Keri Hulme, Ian McEwan, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Sylvia Plath, Jackie Kay, Julia Darling, Ali Smith, John Cheever, Carol Ann Duffy, Joanna Cannon, Carol Anshaw...and of course, Enid Blyton. 

What did you know about Triskele Books before the competition?
Actually very little, other than what I learned online via Words With Jam.

Why did you enter our Big 5 competition?
I enter many writing competitions - the discipline and focus is important for me, and provides a sense of structure and involvement with other writers and the industry. You know you're being read, even if more often than not the outcome is crushing disappointment! With the Big 5 competition, however, the prize was - and is - an exceptionally generous and exciting opportunity which I knew immediately I wanted very, very much. I've not come across any other competitions offering such a well thought-out and genuinely life-changing prize, and could not be happier to have won.

What do you hope to gain from the experience?
Hopefully the beginnings of a readership base, but prior to that, making the most of this unique opportunity to work closely with and learn from a team of people who are experts in their fields; to get professional advice and guidance and insight into all stages of the publishing process, especially the promotional and media-related side, which I find daunting and excruciating in equal measure.

In an ideal world, where would you like to see your writing career taking you?
I'm traditionalist enough to really want agent representation; to find the right person who gets what I'm on about and with whom I can set out my plans for at least the next two novels (the current, second one is plotted, half-written and will be finished mid 2017; the third is poking up little tendrils of ideas). I'd love to put out a collection of short stories and poetry, too - oh and all my children's stuff as well, and a couple of radio plays! But ultimately, I'd just like to find the right agent and have much more time to write.