BLOG TOUR – Defender by G. X. Todd – Five places that will feature in the Voices series

Hello again! Today I’m back from my mini hiatus (hopefully ending soon) to bring you a post featuring a book I read recently and really enjoyed, Defender by G. X. Todd. I’ll be posting a full review as soon as I can because it was the only book that managed to break my reading slump so look out for that in the near future. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this guest post and a huge thanks to the author and the publisher for including me in this blog tour! 

Road Trippin’ – Five places in the USA will feature in the Voices series

Vicksburg, Tennessee

This location plays a huge role in book 1, Defender. It’s the end destination for Lacey. It’s the place where her sister and niece live, the last two surviving members of her family. I’m awful with dates so won’t remember the exact year I visited Vicksburg (I’m guessing 2009), but I remember being enchanted with it. I could describe it here, but I do a fairly good job of it in the book, so I’ll tell you a quick story instead.

A friend and I had been travelling around this part of America as part of coach tour. We were the two youngest people on that bus but a good twenty years. After so much travelling, sat on our butts, I ended up with a singular soreness in my tailbone. It became so painful, in fact, I ended up having to buy a travel cushion to pad my butt whenever I was sitting. I suffered through a fair bit of mocking (one fellow passenger even nicked my ass cushion at one point as a joke. Oh, the hilarity). The night we stayed in Vicksburg, I was exhausted, having spent most of the day in pain, and crashed as soon we got into the hotel room with an ice-pack resting on my rear-end. My friend left me and went off investigating. She ended up watching the world’s best sunset over the Mississippi River and all I got was a wet ass from a leaky ice-bag. Despite all that, I love you anyway, Vicksburg. Here’s a picture of me there under a gnarly oak tree.


Emerson Inn by the Sea in Rockport, Massachusetts

I refer to this inn as the Norwood Cove Inn in book 2 of the Voices series, which I believe is the name the Emerson used way back in the day. As with a lot of fiction, I use the Emerson as a template and then take artistic licence from there. I even pick it up and move it south to fit the story’s purposes. Us writers are naughty like that. Rockport is the furthest north I’ve been up the East coast of America. It was 2011 and the very first trip we decided to rent a car and drive ourselves around, and then I promptly got food poisoning on the flight over and was ill for the duration of the holiday. I’m painting a picture that I’m always ill or afflicted with ass injuries, aren’t I? I promise I’m not. Our plan had been to drive up to Maine and see Stephen King’s home. My stomach wouldn’t allow us. Here’s a picture of a decidedly foggy view of the Atlantic from the back porch of the Emerson Inn.

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Estes Park, Colorado

We drove through Estes Park in 2013 on our way to…somewhere. I have an awful memory for location as well as dates, which probably means I shouldn’t have offered to write this blog post. Oh well. We drove through Estes Park and it was beautiful. A huge lake spread out in its valley, and winding canyon roads with sheer wall rock-faces on one side and fast-moving streams on the other on our climb out—I loved that drive. I’d have loved it even more if I’d realised it was the area The Shining was set and where the hotel the Overlook is based on was located. Alas, I didn’t.  I guess it just means I’ll have to go back there again someday. Here is the tree in Estes Park Library which inspired the tree in the Children’s library in Defender.

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Cody, Wyoming

This is one of those places that’s always stuck in my mind. I’m not even sure why, it was just a lonesomely wide and long main road with a Walgreens on. I loved how the Stars and Stripes flag and its flagpole had been randomly jammed into the sidewalk, as if that was a perfectly normal place for it to be. Look out for reference to it in Book 3. Cody was also our gateway into Yellowstone Park, which I think is my favourite place in the whole of the States.
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Chimney Rock, North Carolina

Will I manage to fit Chimney Rock into the series? Yes, I will! It was hidden away in a deep valley surrounded by mountains and trees and we stayed in the best rustic cabin-styled hotel I’ve ever been in. There was something extremely isolating about the place, despite it being a tourist attraction (we visited outside of tourist season so missed all the crowds). I think it was due to the weather. Rain, rolling fog—it wasn’t long before hurricane Joaquin hit the east coast back in September 2015. Chimney Rock is also home to the waterfalls that featured in The Last of the Mohicans. The huge funnel-like rock formation that overlooks the valley is what gives the town its name and it normally affords a stunning view of Lake Lure below (the very lake where that scene from Dirty Dancing was filmed) but when I climbed up the 3,234,523 steps to reach the summit it was swathed in fog. THANKS, HURRICANE JOAQUIN. Here’s a picture of me doing what I do best: pretending to read in a rustic cabin.
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Thanks for reading! 🙂


GUEST POST/BLOG TOUR – ‘Why Crime?’ by Colette McBeth

Today’s post is a guest post written by Colette McBeth, author of The Life I Left Behind which you’ll find out more about below. Colette McBeth has kindly written a piece on why she writes crime centred novels. I hope you enjoy! 🙂

I tell people I didn’t set out to write crime, not even psychological thrillers. I say I just wanted to write the book that had been in my head for fifteen years. But looking back it’s hardly surprising my novel came out dark and twisted. I grew up on a diet of Nancy Drew, graduated to Iain Banks’ Complicity and the Wasp Factory in my teens. By my twenties I didn’t have to read thrillers, I was reporting on real life crime stories that were often stranger than fiction.

Now that I’ve fully embraced the genre, I’ve had a chance to think about why I write psychological thrillers.

1. I don’t believe anyone is all good or all bad. There’s a bit of darkness inside all of us. I’m interested in the situations that make people cross the line. I also think most of are closer to that line than we realise. When I try to explain this I’m fond of using this quote from the film Chinatown;

‘… most people never have to face the fact that at the right time and the right place, they are capable of anything.’

That pretty much sums it up.

2. I want to make readers question their thinking and subvert their expectations. Most of us are too quick to judge. A good psychological thriller encourages us to make those judgements only to undermine them.

3. Plot. You have to have a lot of it in a crime novel. It’s the engine of the story, and along with characterisation it’s the reason we keep turning the pages. As a writer, plot keeps me awake at night and makes me cry with frustration during the day, but when it clicks, it really is a beautiful moment.

4. Thrillers are honest. When characters are thrown into extreme situations the façade is stripped back. They do what they have to do to survive. Mostly, they’re people damaged by circumstances but they are also the most interesting characters to write about. Sometimes they say the things we might think (but never utter), they might act the way we would if there were no consequences. They are our bad alter egos.

5. Having spent a lot of my twenties reporting on crime stories, I became fascinated by the ‘normal’ lives many defendants led. How does a serial killer hide himself? Why did his wife/girlfriend/brother not realise who he really was? We all like to think we’d just know instinctively if someone was a bad one, but I’m not so sure. In psychological thrillers we see that those people are walking amongst us every day. They might even be living in our home.

life i left behind

She’s dead but she’s the only one who knows what really happened;
What your friends have said.
What the police missed.
Who attacked you.
So if you want the truth who else are you going to turn to?

Find out more – Goodreads | Book Depository | Author’s Website

Thanks so much to Colette McBeth and Headline for this post! I hope you enjoyed reading and I’ll have a review up of The Life I Left Behind soon. Be sure to check out the other stops in the blog tour. 🙂 


Guest Post By K. V. Flynn – Author of ‘On The Move’

Hello! I have something a bit different for today’s post. I’m happy to say that author K. V. Flynn is guest posting about ‘Diverse Books’ today. I’m a huge fan of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and I asked him to write about diversity within fiction. His exciting new book ‘On The Move’ is out now (my review will be up soon!) and I’ll link more below if you’re interested in checking it out but for now…Enjoy! 🙂

Thanks, Hollie, for inviting me to guest blog here today. Your site is looking great and sparking some lively topics. I hear you’d like me to share some thoughts on diversity in fiction. Excellent. Maybe because of the multi-cultural cast of teenagers in my new book On the Move? Or maybe because… it’s an interesting subject to talk about!

So here’s the thing. I actually think that diversity in all contemporary media is pretty important on a lot of levels. It’s good storytelling. It’s representative of the world we live in. It’s aspirational so it sets great example and inspiration for young readers figuring out the many roles and realities they can grow into. And, as was reported in the recent Columbia University Latino Media Gap study that I helped with, “as stories often carry more weight in the public’s mind than other forms of communication, the absence and stereotypical nature of existing stories also promotes a lack of empathy and, at times, outright violence against” unrepresented or under-represented races, cultures, and non-majority components of our community. So we’ve gotta check that with what we write and how we read.

Gauging from the discourse here at Read.Rant.Review, your readers are passionate about this, too. But unfortunately—and this may surprise you, but I’ve looked at and worked on many studies that bear this out—diverse representations are not actually considered a pressing public “good,” where the American consumer is concerned. It is hard to translate our commitment to seeing multi-cultural characters and images into concrete social change, and difficult to activate a passion for diverse YA fiction into actual diverse YA fiction. Yes, yes, our parents and teachers like us to read all about everybody. And we have awards and stuff around positive images from GLAAD to NAACP to ALMAs and beyond. All awesome.

But you still get amazing strong actresses like Anne Athaway and Jessica Chastain in big movies like Interstellar “saddled playing brilliant women who are nonetheless ruled by their, you know, lady feelings, before ultimately capitulating to the men around them” (The Wrap review). You still find that, according to USC and GLAAD, the 100 most watched television shows and highest-grossing films last year underrepresented nonwhite characters in speaking roles, with the percentage of Latinos being particularly out of step with the real world. You have YA fiction dystopias from Hunger Games to Divergent to, well, name one, that are weirdly mostly all Caucasian. And we get a whole GamerGate scene around someone advocating with intelligence for less misogyny in video games while the haters tell us to keep feminism out of MMOGs.

The better news is that the hip leaders on the YA fiction landscape get the fact that diversity is a smart investment. The tricky thing, though, is that this idea isn’t yet widely shared. (Yeah, even deep in the 21st century… as America swiftly becomes minority majority in many states… go figure.) Some of this is actually about the money guys, as most creators and distributors of fiction intersect with companies or power structures that disseminate or recognize their stories. Unfortunately, even with all the lipservice paid within publishing houses and motion picture/tv studios to multi-cultural stories, to hiring more women and minorities, to making media on all platforms look more like the audiences who consume it, “diversity is not yet a true institutional value. In the words of one executive: ‘Diversity has never been an intrinsic part of the institutional fabric. Diversity is like a Christmas ornament that you bring out and after it’s over, you put it away’ (Interview, Washington, D.C. television executive). Or as one diversity officer bluntly put it, ‘Diversity officers are managers of discontent and get paid well to do it’ (Interview, Hollywood guild representative)” (Latino Media Gap, Columbia Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race).

The reason we still have a problem with diversity in fiction—whether YA novels or movies or tv, webseries or games—is different on the level of readers and critics and buyers/consumers than on that of the artists who generate fiction content. We both have a powerful role to play. You can buy or not buy stuff, analyze and critique with your readers and cohort while voicing your support for stories that get it right, plus you can always boycott advertisers who support cultural devaluations or misrepresentations because that’s been connected on occasion to incremental change. All of these strategies have been shown to have varying levels of success in impacting diversity in future work.

Writers, on the other hand, have the power to create juicy, complex characters and representative worlds. Unfortunately, writers also often stand as the frontline resistance to change. In the Columbia University study, we discovered that, “In media, poor representation of minorities is directly attributed to the homogeneity of writers and decision makers. As network diversity executives have told us, ‘ask a writer to add diverse people to the script and the white writer will flip out and say “the character is everything, I can’t change him.” When the writer says, “I don’t feel it,” the showrunner generally sides with him. At best, you will get a diverse sidekick character or “fruit salad: background where the characters do not make significant contributions to the story.’” This happens in publishing and editorial rooms, too.

My personal approach to creating the On the Move trilogy, though, was different. I write about teen skateboarders in a Southern California beach community and summer camp. It’s a naturally diverse environment. Middle school friends of the narrator include a Native American kid and his older cousin, a Mexican-American boy and his family, and a Black skater who they meet at camp. The narrative levers don’t involve familiar stereotypes like, as critic Debbie Reese describes it, the Native character being “the sidekick who will be the first to die.”

Of course not! As she goes on to say about Obbie, “He’s the real deal. That is, a Native kid who is grounded in his identity as a Native kid. It is a natural part of who he is–which is, one of several boys who hang out together. They are skateboarders.” The same can be said of the other diverse teens in the book, such as Latino eighth grader Mateo: his story has nothing to do with familiar issues like immigration or the border; he just plays drums, goes to school, skates, and has a kick-ass sister who’s a strong surfer and makes chocolate-chip pancakes. I wanted the young women friends and relations of the central boys in this book to be bright, strong, and resourceful, too.

Now, I hear around Read.Write.Review from blogger Saundra Mittchell and others that there is some probing as to YA being a niche “women’s art” and a “novelty creation only for girls.” She suggests that, to raise young men well, we should get them to read more feminine-centric YA fiction, and work against a boy reader’s notion that “it’s a hardship for men to have to relate to anything that doesn’t specifically cater to them.”

I think this is a sticky tactic when it comes to supporting diversity in YA fiction: books absolutely open horizons, but it’s great to crack the door with stories and arenas that super interest a reader… I chose to write for teen boys because there’s a bit of a paucity of excellent series in the tradition of “girls” YA fiction that focus on 12-15-year-old males. And I certainly believe, as Columbia’s Prof. Negron-Muntaner said on the Huffington Post, that there actually is a “growing and profound disconnect between the characters you see on screens and TV, and who is sitting next to you on the bus, teaching your children how to read or coming to your rescue in case of a fire.” So, for me, artistic activism comes from reflecting the multi-cultural world we live in, in an entertaining way. And I think that we will build boys’ “attraction to literacy” by giving them books about scenes they happen to love just as much as girls enjoy other stories.

I find that it is fun to write about real teens and the world they live in, so that’s a plus for authors including this in their work. I think diverse fiction makes for the best stories, too. It’s these books that are going to really connect with MG and YA readers ultimately because they’re honest, complex,amusing, engaging. I believe that they will endure, and have impact on those readers who immerse themselves in multi-cultural worlds. And I agree with the most progressive thought leaders in diverse fiction: given YA audiences today, this is also solid business.

Thanks for having me. And I hope you’ll have your readers check out On the Move by K.V. Flynn on Amazon, B&N, Smashword—wherever they love finding books—in eBook or paperback!

On The Move

On The Move by K. V. Flynn (@OnTheMoveBooks)
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Smashwords
Callum Vicente and his middle school skateboard buddies are spending the best summer together ever, grinding and doing tricks all day at their SoCal skate camp, PEAK. But when a major war breaks out, they’re stranded, and use their wits and resources, along with a secret network of skate parks and message boards, to travel miles to the north and reach their families in the Safe Camps—skating all the way! This clean-read and boy-centric skating adventure features a diverse cast of friends as they skate their way through California and Oregon.