Each week we’ll be asking some of our favourite authors to share their summer essentials – from holiday routines to travel bucket lists. Next up, we have Sheila O’Flanagan, David Nicholls and Beth O’Leary revealing what they normally get up to on their summer holidays…
I do a lounging beach holiday every two years and the rest of the time I prefer city breaks. My favourite beach is in Antigua, in the Carribbean and my favourite city (after Dublin of course) is Madrid.
I’m usually on the beach, furiously wishing I was in a city. It’s really not the best environment for me – after you’re tired of swimming, what are you meant to DO? It’s too bright to read, too hot to sleep. I’d much rather be dodging traffic and peering at a map.
I’m much more of a lounger, myself. Every summer, my family go to stay in the same house in France for a week, and we pretty much do nothing but catch up, read and eat (a LOT). It’s a chance to reboot and reconnect with my siblings, who I love to pieces but don’t get to see as often as I’d like. I can’t wait.
The sun has finally come out, and that can mean only one thing… the Bookends Beach Party is back!
Each week we’ll be asking some of our favourite authors to share their summer essentials – from holiday routines to travel bucket lists. First up, we have Sheila O’Flanagan, Ruth Hogan and Rosanna Ley sharing their must-reads for summer 2019…
I am most looking forward to reading The Salt Path by Raynor Winn which fortunately has also been nominated by my Book Group for July. It is autobiographical and about two people who have not only been made homeless but also received some other devastating news. They decide to walk the South West Coast Path (630 miles) while they decide what to do. I am fortunate enough to live beside this coastal path in West Dorset and I walk part of it most days (a very small part usually). The story sounds emotional and fascinating and I can’t wait to get started…
The first feminist I ever
met was my dad. I didn’t realise he was a feminist. I didn’t even know what the
word meant. I was, after all, one of three daughters and I simply assumed that
everyone had the same attitude towards girls as he had towards us: that we
could be whatever we wanted to be and that we should strive to be the best at
whatever that was. My dad encouraged us in our passions and never indicated for
a moment that my childhood dream of being an astronaut wasn’t at all likely
because, back then, only men were astronauts. Instead, he took me to Dunsink
Observatory so that we could look at the stars together.
My mother was – and still
is – a feminist too. She was one of the only women in our housing estate to
work outside the home in a time when very few women considered it an option.
When my father died, heart-breakingly young, from cancer, it was her job that
supported the family financially, and my aunts who offered practical support.
I have never known a time
when the women in our family didn’t speak up for themselves, or make plans of
their own, or support each other, or earn their own money. But there was no set
model of how any of us should live our lives. I had aunts who were married with
children, aunts who were married with no children and aunts who remained
single. I had aunts who worked outside the home and aunts who didn’t. I loved
all of them and I looked up to all of them. Nobody ever suggested that any one
had made better choices than the other. And while there was a background assumption
that the more likely choice for me and my sisters was getting married and maybe
having a family, there was also an assumption that we would have a job and
strive to do well in it. Whatever decisions we made about our lives, they were
all equally valid.
Yet the word feminist was
never used. All the women in my family were just living with their choices.
I know I was reared by
feminists because I was reared by women who wanted to make their own decisions
and live their best lives. Sometimes those decisions were poor ones. Sometimes
things didn’t turn out exactly as they’d planned. But at least their mistakes,
like mine, were theirs to make.
I write about women who
make mistakes because I believe that the greatest power we have is to get
something wrong, take ownership of it and learn from it. It’s an impossibility
to get things right every time. We take decisions with the best of intentions,
but sometimes we have to accept that it hasn’t worked out.
An exhausting number of
people seem to think that they have a right to criticise women’s choices, good
or bad, without ever having stepped into their lives or knowing what has
influenced them. The criticism is in the little things – the clothes we wear,
the colour of our lipstick, the style of our hair; and the bigger things – our
relationships, our mothering skills, our career decisions. Women are criticised
every single day for not getting things right and, sadly, social media has only
served to increase the number of times someone can be told that their skirt is
too short or their bum is too big or that it’s their own fault they were
In my latest book, Her
Husband’s Mistake, Roxy has to face a pivotal moment in her life and her
marriage. Her husband acknowledges that he’s made one specific mistake. But
Roxy, like all women, wonders if she herself is the catalyst for his behaviour;
she questions the decisions she’s made in the past and worries about the ones
she has to make in the future. As so many women do, she blames herself for the
actions of others. It takes time before she realises that she is the one person
in charge of her own life.
It’s very important to me
that Roxy has the opportunity to get things wrong as well as get things right.
And it’s equally important that she has to work out what wants in the future,
and that none of it is clear, or easy. It’s also important that she knows which
mistakes to own.
Understanding the mistakes
of the past and facing up to our own decisions are an important part of living
our best lives in the future. Women are afforded less opportunities to do this
because we are held to account so often by people who don’t know us or the
circumstances of our lives.
But, like Roxy, we just have to give ourselves permission to be wrong as well as right. And to realise that we can learn from both.
Here at Team Bookends, we are offering you the chance to read an exclusive preview of the first chapter of the new book by No. 1 bestselling author, Sheila O’Flanagan! Her Husband’s Mistake is about marriage, tough decisions and true happiness.
Roxy’s marriage has always been rock solid.
After twenty years, and with two carefree kids, she and Dave are still the perfect couple.
Until the day she comes home unexpectedly, and finds Dave in bed with their attractive, single neighbour.
Suddenly Roxy isn’t sure about anything – her past, the business she’s taken over from her dad, or what her family’s future might be. She’s spent so long caring about everyone else that she’s forgotten what she actually wants. But something has changed. And Roxy has a decision to make.
Whether it’s with Dave, or without him, it’s time for Roxy to start living for herself…
It’s always nice to hear what puts us in that all important Christmassy mood when it comes to this time of the year. Whether it’s the smell of mince pies and mulled wine, rummaging in the attic for Christmas decorations or writing endless amounts of Christmas cards. We asked authors Annabelle Thorpe and Sheila O’Flanagan what puts them in the festive spirit,
Christmas Carols and Nativity Plays. When I see four-year-old angels adjusting their wings and small shepherds and wise men struggling with their home-made robes as they make their way to the manger, I’m reminded of the goodness and innocence of children, and I’m filled with hope for the future. On Christmas Day my playlist is always the beautiful music of traditional carols which bring me back to my own childhood and simpler times.
Dean Martin. ‘Let it Snow’ and ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’ are part of my Christmas soundtrack through December (along with Last Christmas by Wham!, obviously). One of my favourite memories from recent Christmases is my older sister and I, singing enthusiastically to Deano’s Greatest Hits after a long Christmas lunch, to my nieces and nephew’s horror. Wine may have been taken.
Twiglets. And Matchmakers. Glace fruits. And all the other classic Seventies Christmas treats that defined my childhood Christmases. The joy of finding one last After Eight in among all the empty sachets? Necking a liqueur chocolate when the grown-ups weren’t looking? Classic joys. Having said that, I had a 1970’s-themed New Year party a few years ago and someone bought cheese balls. They were grim.
Carols. I’m not religious but there’s nothing more Christmassy then belting out ‘Oh Little Town of Bethlehem’ before a glass of mulled and a mince pie. I usually go with some journo friends to the carol service at St Bride’s on Fleet Street, known as the ‘Journalist’s Church’. And I always have the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on on Christmas Eve. My Mum listened to it every year, and it always makes me think of her.
If you liked this why not read some more of our Christmas content,
Would you like to have the chance to tell us more about why you love Sheila’s novels? Are you a die-hard women’s fiction fan, who can provide interesting perspectives on the genre?
Headline are going to be hosting a focus group in collaboration with external partners Relish Research. They would like to invite Sheila O’Flanagan and women’s fiction readers for an informal discussion about their reading habits and love of Sheila’s writing in particular.
The two-hour session will be held on the morning of Friday 6th May at the Hachette offices in Blackfriars, London, leaving participants free to spend the afternoon in London however they wish. Headline will cover any travel expenses (Standard Class tickets or equivalent) and, as a thank you for taking part, we’ll send you home with a £50 John Lewis voucher.
If you’d like to apply for a chance to join us, please send an email no later than 22nd April 2016 to Katrina.email@example.com with a contact number and a suitable time to call you, as the company would like to ask you a few preliminary questions to get the most out of the session. We’ll also be able to tell you a little more about the research project.
The focus group will have no more than eight participants so, if you’re interested in taking part, do please get in touch as soon as possible. Please note that if a high volume of applicants are received , Headline may only be able to respond to those selected to join the research group.
Good luck to all that apply and we can’t wait to see what this project brings to the next book!
All comments from the session will be anonymised
Your contact details will not be passed on to any third party and will be deleted after Headline have finished the research
Relish Research are bound by The Market Research Society Code of Conduct. You can verify their membership by calling free-phone 0500 39 69 99
THE CRYSTAL RUN is my first novel for children and it will be published in May this year. I honestly wasn’t thinking about writing for children when the idea for the novel came to me but as the plot developed it seemed that the novel would work better with younger people as they main protagonists.
The initial setting of Sanctuary came to me when I visited the Alhambra palace in Granada, Spain. As I walked around the different courtyards and passageways, I kept seeing a mental image of a young woman dressed in white with a ribbon in her hair. I’ve no idea where this image came from but the more I thought about her and wondered who she was, the more I saw her as someone who appeared quiet and gentle but who was part of something really important. The Alhambra is very tranquil even though it was built as a fortress as well as a palace and I thought of it as a sanctuary against the outside world.
With this idea of sanctuary and the image of the girl still firmly lodged in my head, the idea of THE CRYSTAL RUN began to form. The action takes place on a different world to ours, and one where two countries are at war with each other. The girl from my imagination, Kaia, is part of a group of young people who have to travel through enemy territory to place powerful crystals in different locations. These crystals help to maintain the Shield that protects her country from the enemy.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Joe Hunter is being chased by school bullies who want to take his earphones. As he tries to escape he passes through a portal which unexpectedly transports him to Kaia’s world. After a somewhat worrying time where he’s suspected of being a terrorist, he goes with her on her Run to place the crystals.
The reason I wrote Joe and Kaia in their early teens was that the book is primarily an adventure story and I didn’t want more adult themes and issues getting in the way of the action. Although there is a lot of adventure in the book it also deals with questions about whether to believe everything you’re told, learning who your friends are, and who you can trust.
It was really only when I’d finished writing it that I realised it would be a children’s book. Until then I simply wrote the story as it unfolded to me, following Kaia and Joe’s journey together. I loved adventure stories when I was a child and I hope that I’ve managed to make THE CRYSTAL RUN the sort of book where you keep wanting to know what happened next. And as I think all children should read whatever books they like, it’s not aimed at boys or girls. Hopefully any child will be able to identify with Joe and Kaia and will care about what happens to them.
I also hope that my adult readers will enjoy reading these books to their children or other kids they might know. As it’s coming up to Mother’s Day, Bookends are running a competition to win a copy of THE CRYSTAL RUN along with a paperback copy of MY MOTHER’S SECRET, which is out in Ireland and published next week in the UK. Hopefully, the children you give the former to, will be occupied enough so you can have some time to enjoy the latter this Mother’s Day!
For some of us summer heralds an opportunity to finally sit back and get gloriously lost in the backlog you’ve racked up on your e-reader, but for others, it’s all you can do to snatch ten minutes to yourself between blowing up the kids’ inflatable crocodile and applying a sixth layer of sun-cream. The Bookends team are strong believers that even the the tiniest of respites is a golden opportunity for a great read, so we’ve put together a list of some short but oh-so-sweet stories from some of our favourite authors.
LARGER THAN LIFE – Jodi Picoult
A gripping and beautifully written novella that introduces Alice, the unforgettable character at the centre of Jodi Picoult’s new novel LEAVING TIME. Alice is a researcher studying memory in elephants, and is fascinated by the bonds between mother and calf. Living on a game reserve in Botswana, Alice is able to view the animals in their natural habitat, as long as she obeys one important rule: she must only observe and never interfere. Then she finds an orphaned young elephant in the bush and cannot bear to leave the helpless baby behind, risking her career to care for the calf.
You get five for the price of one in this hilarious series from Nicola Doherty, featuring four friends, and five fabulous locations. Poppy is bound for Paris. Could this be her chance to end her epic dry spell? Lily is en route to her cousin’s wedding in LA, where she’s willing to break a few rules to land her dream role. Maggie can’t wait for her romantic ski holiday in Meribel – until it goes seriously off-piste. Rachel packs for a glamorous Roman holiday, but a blast from the past is about to sabotage la dolce vita. The girls get together and fly to Manhattan. But someone’s been hiding a big secret in the Big Apple…
These are old stories, but not as you know them. Set not in the forests of Europe or fantasy worlds, but on the battlefields of World War II and the wilderness of downtown Montreal.
With her blazing imagination, irreverent humour and arresting prose, Heather O’Neill twists original children’s stories and fairytales anew: more magical for their realism, more profound for their darkness; captivating, witty and wicked.
When it comes to falling in love and finding the elusive ‘one’, Adele Parks, with her trademark, up-front, tell-it-as-it-is style, gets right to the heart of the dilemmas real women – and men – face in their lives. FINDING THE ONE is the first of four deliciously insightful e-short story collections about the changing face of love – and sometimes finding it in the most unexpected of places.
Yes, that’s right, we’ve included a second entry from Jodi Picoult. What can we say? The woman’s a genius. Even as a child, Serenity Jones knew she possessed unusual psychic gifts. Now, decades later, she’s an acclaimed medium and host of her own widely viewed TV show, where she delivers messages to the living from loved ones who have died. Lately, though, her efforts to boost ratings and garner fame have compromised her clairvoyant instincts. When Serenity books a young war widow to appear as a guest, the episode quickly unravels, stirring up a troubling controversy. And as she tries to undo the damage – to both her reputation and her show – Serenity finds that pride comes at a high price.
SHEILA O’FLANAGAN INVITES YOU IN – Sheila O’Flanagan
We’re finishing off with something different, though if it’s short stories you’re looking for, Sheila does those too – check out DESTINATIONS and CONNECTIONS. This delightful ebook invites us in for a glimpse of the bestselling author’s world, including pieces on ‘A Writer’s Life’, a Q&A with Sheila and the first chapter of MY MOTHER’S SECRET. Not a novel — more a really good gossip!
Today, Headline publishes this gorgeous sampler of first chapters from some of the brightest and most talented women’s fiction authors around. So if you’ve been dithering over what to read next, here’s an opportunity to dip your toe in before you buy!
We asked one of our editors Sherise Hobbs to tell us more about this brand new collection of first chapters, available now to download for free:
“I love the chance to dip into the latest novels from my favourite authors. And SUMMER WITH FRIENDS is a delicious treat of a read.
The collection sweeps you away to glorious Cornwall, sun-kissed Italy and the beautiful Rocky Mountains with chapters from Emylia Hall, Jo Thomas and Jill Shalvis. It invites you to discover captivating secrets shared by Sheila O’Flanagan, Harriet Evans and Emma Hannigan. Adele Parks and Tasmina Perry offer a tantalising glimpse into the mysteries of the past, and Jill Mansell and Kathryn Hughes take you on an unforgettable journey of the heart. Stella Newman and Louise Lee inject an irresistible dose of fun and romance. In fact, this whole collection will leave you with a smile on your face and the warmth of summer in your heart — whatever the weather!”