Tuesday, 9 February 2016

My Life In Books ~ talking to author Jill Mansell

My Life in Books is an occasional feature on Random Things Through My Letterbox
I've invited authors to share with us a list of the books that are special to them, and have made a lasting impression on their life.

Jill Mansell
I am delighted to welcome Jill Mansell as my third guest author in the My Life In Books feature.
Jill is the author of twenty-seven novels, her first Fast Friends was published in 1991, her latest, You & Me Always was published at the end of January this year.

These are Jill's My Life In Books choices:

Little House in the Big Woods, and the rest of the series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  

As a child, I used to take these books out of the library on permanent rotation, I loved them so much. No one else was allowed to read them - they belonged to ME, ME, ME.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott  was another one I adored at that age, although I still wish Jo and Laurie could have been a couple.

Professor Friedrich Bhaer always sounded so dull and serious and ancient.

K M Peyton's Flambards series was an absolute joy, and I ALWAYS preferred bad-boy Mark to boringly nice Will.

I wish they'd show it on TV again, but the books are excellent too. 

I stopped reading as a boy-crazy teenager, then started again aged 21 when a major operation confined me to bed for weeks and sheer boredom sent me back to books. (Sorry, but it's true. I was young and oh so foolish!).

I read Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell, was completely enthralled by it, and my reading mojo came back with a vengeance. Hooray! 

OK, next came Jilly Cooper, my greatest love of all. As a teenager, my uncle used to visit infrequently and bring me the cut-out columns she wrote for the Sunday Times. I loved them, treasured them and kept them for years.

Then the books were published, the slender romances with comedy included. And finally came the fabulous fat blockbusters ... Riders, Rivals et al .... oh, what heaven! I can safely say I've read and reread every book Jilly has written and if it weren't for her I wouldn't be a writer today. 

(That was fiction, but can I also just say that if you haven't read it, do buy Jilly's The Common Years, about dog-walking in Putney. It's glorious and was my comfort read for years. I'd still love to know what happened to beautiful Rosie .... )

And now we come to my own writing years. Hands up who remembers Judith Krantz? Her fabulous books were so entertaining and my first publishers Transworld - who were her publishers too - called my writing style cosy-Krantz because my characters were a bit more down to earth and less glitzy than hers, but the 'feel' was similar.  

Of all her novels, I think Mistral's Daughter was my favourite. (But I could never have sex scenes in my books because my mum typed them up for me ....) 

I can't leave out David Niven, whose The Moon's A Balloon was so brilliantly entertaining.

OK, so he may have exaggerated some of the stories, but wasn't he amazing? Such a star. 

Another book that made a lasting impact was Helene Hanff's 84 Charing Cross Road, for the sheer joy of reading about someone who adored books, and who was a kind and generous person.

The film (starring Ann Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins) is fantastic, but the book is even better.  

Oh, and now we come to number ten, my final choice. This is haaaaard! There are so many incredible works to choose from, but I'm going to go for Wonder by RJ Palacio because it encapsulates everything I want from a book - it made me laugh and cry and realise that the world really can be a wonderful place.

If someone can read this and not completely love it .... well, I probably won't love them!  

Jill Mansell lives with her family in Bristol. She used to work in the field of Clinical Neurophysiology but now writes full time.
She watches far too much TV and would love to be one of those super-sporty types but basically can't be bothered.

Nor can she cook - having once attempted to bake a cake for the hospital's Christmas Fair, she was forced to watch while her co-workers played frisbee with it!

But, she's very good at Twitter!  Follow her @JillMansell
Visit her official Facebook page
Find out more about Jill and her books at her website www.jillmansell.co.uk


Monday, 8 February 2016

Killer Reads - Open Submissions ; How To Submit and #Giveaway

Killer Reads, the crime and thriller digital-first imprint at HarperCollins, has reopened their Killer Reads inbox this January 2016, for un-agented submissions.
Specifications for submissions for Open Submission at Killer Reads
Mission statement for Killer Reads 
"We are on the lookout for commercial crime and thrillers ranging from police procedurals, to psychological thrillers, to high-concept thrillers and beyond.
We are looking for fantastic writing that hooks us, making us want to turn the page and find out what happens next; and characters that stay with us long after we finish reading. We want to feel moved, compelled, shocked and intrigued. 
We want to give a voice to exciting, emerging talent in the genre that may otherwise go unheard.
If this sounds like you, we'd love to read your novel." 

Aspiring crime and thriller writers can send their manuscripts, along with a detailed synopsis and author biog to :  killerreads.submissions@harpercollins.co.uk 
Please check out the entry rules on the Killer Read webpage http://www.killerreads.com/open-submissions/

Editor Lucy Dauman, who will be acquiring authors for the Killer Reads list, shares her top tips for aspiring writers here

Killer Reads landed their first Sunday Times bestseller with After Anna by Alex Lake. Already a number one ebook bestseller, After Anna stormed into the physical chart in early December 2015.
Acquired by editor Kate Stephenson as a Killer Reads digital-first title in March 2015, After Anna is a chilling psychological thriller that deals with the kidnapping of a young girl, but in a unique way ~ After Anna asks the question; what if the real nightmare starts when the child is returned?   The ebook published on 31 July and has sold 75,000 copies to date. Given its success in ebook (both in terms of sales and the wealth of amazing reviews online), HarperFiction transitioned it to paperback. Following its first full week on sale has hit the paperback charts at number 8. 
Kate Stephenson says: 'It has been fantastic working with Alex on After Anna. The book has been an absolute gift to publish - and it shows what can be achieved with the digital-first model. Killer Reads is about identifying new talent, and being agile enough to respond quickly to market trends. Being part of HarperCollins means that we have the ability to transition swiftly to print when the demand is there.' 

I have five copies of one of the digital-first debut novels: For Reasons Unknown by Michael Wood ~ entry is simple; fill out the competition widget at the end of this post. UK entries only please.   Good luck!

Two murders. Twenty years. Now the killer is back for more.
A darkly compelling debut crime novel. The start of a brilliant series, perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Val McDermid, and James Oswald.
DCI Matilda Darke has returned to work after a nine-month absence. A shadow of her former self, she is tasked with re-opening a cold case; the terrifying brutal murders of Miranda and Stefan Harkness. The only witness was their eleven-year-old son, Jonathan, who was too deeply traumatised to speak a word.
Then a dead body is discovered, and the investigation leads back to Matilda's case. Suddenly the past and present converge, and it seems a killer may have come back for more ....  
 Michael Wood is a proofreader and former journalist in Sheffield. His first novel For Reasons Unknown was released in ebook format by Killer Reads in October 2015. It is the first in a series of crime fiction novels set in Sheffield featuring DCI Matilda Darke.

Killer Reads Giveaway ** For Reasons Unknown by Michael Wood **


Friday, 5 February 2016

The Ex by Alafair Burke

In this breakout standalone thriller, a lawyer agrees to help an old boyfriend who has been accused of murder - but begins to suspect the she is being manipulated.
Widower Jack Harris has resisted dating since the shooting of his wife by a fifteen-year-old boy three years ago. An early morning run along the Hudson River changes that when he spots a woman who echoes his past. Eager to help Jack find love again, his best friend posts a 'Missed Moment' item online. Days later, a woman responds ...
Olivia Randall is one of New York City's best criminal defence lawyers. When she gets the phone call informing her that her former fiance, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide there is no doubt in her mind that he is innocent.
For Olivia, representing Jack is a way to make up for past regrets, and the hurt she caused him, but as the evidence against him mounts, she is forced to confront her doubts. The man she knew could not have one this, but what if she never really knew him?

The Ex by Alafair Burke was published by Faber on 4 February 2016.

I don't read a lot of American police procedural books, it's not really a conscious decision that I've made, it's just something that has happened over the years. I was really interested to take a look at this stand-alone novel from Alafair Burke, especially as she was previously a Deputy District Attorney, so I was confident that the writing would be authentic.

Although The Ex is indeed a police procedural novel, with lots of court-room drama and plenty of clue-solving, it is also, as the title would suggest, a story that relies heavily on the past relationship of the the two main characters.

When Olivia Randall receives a phone call informing her that Jack Harris has been arrested for a triple murder, she is shocked. Olivia is a hugely successful defence lawyer in New York, Jack is a popular and well-respected author. Olivia and Jack have history, they dated years ago and Olivia broke his heart, in fact she shattered his heart. Olivia agrees to represent Jack, despite their history, in fact it's because of their history that she makes the decision. She's never got over her guilt about how she treated him, despite the fact that he went on to marry and have a child.

The case is complex and Jack's story seems as though it is something that he has dreamed up for one of the plots in his novels.  He was running in the park, she saw a young woman sitting in an evening gown, drinking from a bottle of champagne and reading a copy of his favourite novel. For the first time since his wife was shot dead, he's interested in another woman. Eventually, he tracks her down and they arrange to meet again. But she doesn't show, so Jack goes home, leaving behind the picnic basket that she had asked him to bring. In the same place, at the same time, three people are shot dead. One of the victims is the father of the boy who shot Jack's wife; a man who Jack and the other victim's relatives hold responsible for the tragedy. And people know how Jack feels. Is it a coincidence? Is Jack innocent?

Alafair Burke writes a good story, the plot twists and turns, the detail is convincing and there are plenty of surprises. However, I couldn't warm to either of the main characters at all. Olivia, despite her feelings of guilt towards Jack, is a bit of a cold fish who continues to make some quite odd decisions. Jack himself is quite annoying. I know that a reader doesn't have to like all of the characters in a book, and some of my favourite fictional people have been quite awful characters, but I do think that the reader is supposed to like Olivia and Jack, and I just didn't.

Despite my lack of concern for the characters, I was impressed by the writing. Alafair Burke clearly knows her stuff and the legal procedural stuff is gripping, and it's not a bad plot at all.

My thanks to Lauren from Faber who sent my copy for review.

Alafair Burke's books include the standalone thrillers Long Gone and If You Were Here - an Amazon Best Mystery Novel of 2013 - and her acclaimed series starring NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher, the most recent of which, Never Tell, was a Kindle bestseller.
A former Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair is now a Professor of Law at Hofstra Law School, where she teaches criminal law and procedure.

More information about Alafair Burke and her writing can be found on her website www.alafairburke.com
Follow her on Twitter @alafairburke
Find her Author page on Facebook


Thursday, 4 February 2016

My Life in Books ~ talking to author Rowan Coleman

My Life in Books is an occasional feature on  Random Things Through My Letterbox.
I've invited authors to share with us their list of books which are special to them, and have made a lasting impression on their life.

I'm delighted to welcome Rowan Coleman as my second guest author in the My Life in Books feature. 
Rowan is the author of some of my favourite books, including Dearest Rose (The Runaway Wife), The Memory Book and We Are All Made of Stars, all  of which are reviewed here on Random Things.

Rowan Coleman

"It's really really hard to think of just a few books that have been important to me on some level, because there have been so many, but I've given it my best shot.
Of course, as soon as I've finished this and it's posted I'll think of a hundred or more that could have featured, but as I sit here at my desk these are the five that have defined particular moments of my life."

Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery  I absolutely loved these books as a child, and Anne is the first example of a character that I strongly identified with. I wasn't a red head, much to my annoyance, but an odd-ball little girl, who was often at odds with the world and got herself into scrapes, even though with the best intentions, that was me. These books also remind me of a really happy reading time in my life, when every Friday after school I would find another Anne book waiting for me on my pillow, delivered by my Mum. They remind me of feeling safe, secure and happy. 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte   This is my favourite book for a number of reasons, but I think because every time I read it I see something new, and it continues to surprise me. I first read it as a child, and I was enthralled and horrified by young Jane's story, though a bit bored by the romance. Then later on I fell in love with Mr Rochester, and even later after that, I read it again and saw Jane's struggle against the world she was born into, her struggle to be an independent human in charge of her own destiny. And when I think that this novel is getting on for two hundred years old, it makes me realise what a truly revolutionary piece of writing it was. 

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby  This is a perfect contemporary novel. It balances everything you want, truth, humour, recognition, pathos, understanding, structure and great writing, to make a really brilliant story. I first read this, under the desk, when I was working as a bookseller in London, and I laughed and cried. I felt for and hated the main character, and lived through every page with him. When I finished it, I thought, if I ever write a book, I would want it to make my readers feel the way this book made me feel.

Sushi For Beginners by Marian Keyes   This was the first of Marian's books that I read, and it began a life-long love for her writing. This book is a masterclass in what matters to me in fiction. Characters that I absolutely believe in, with real, complicated stories, battling to stay true to themselves, with a sprinkling of romance and real heart and emotion. There is no one better than Marian at achieving this balance, and I adore reading her work. It's this novel that first inspired me to try and write myself. 

Howard's End by E M Forster   This is an important book to me, because it is the first book I read where I understood that a novel is about more than the story it tells, it can have a bigger message and important themes. I can clearly remember the light moment of revelation in class, at school aged about fifteen, and it's a moment that has stayed with me forever. To feel that you have discovered something more, something deeper within a novel, an almost coded message that is just for you, left for you by the writer is a thrilling feeling, and it's what I try to do with my books now. 

Rowan Coleman lives with her husband and five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. She juggles writing novels with raising her family which includes a very lively set of toddler twins whose main hobby is going in the opposite directions. When she gets the chance Rowan enjoys sleeping, sitting and loves watching films; she is also attempting to learn how to bake.

Rowan has written twelve novels, including The Accidental Mother, The Baby Group and Runaway Wife which won the Festival of Romance Best Romantic Read 2012, the RoNA Epic Romance Novel of 2013 and was shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year 2013 and is the book that inspired Rowan to release Woman Walks Into A Bar as an ebook (published 10 September 2013) with 100% of her royalties going to Refuge.

Her Sunday Times bestselling novel The Memory Book was a Richard and Judy Bookclub selection 2014, and LoveReading Novel of the Year, as voted for by readers.

Her latest novel We Are All Made of Stars is out now.

For lots more information about Rowan and her books, visit her website www.rowancoleman.co.uk

Check out her Author page on Facebook     Follow her on Twitter @rowancoleman 


Monday, 1 February 2016

Fractured by Clar Ni Chonghaile

Journalist Peter Maguire has been kidnapped in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. He does not know where he is or what is going to happen to him. He is filled with fear and, as the days go by, this dread of the unknown is hot through with remorse for the mistakes of his past.
Peter's mother Nina comes to Somalia to wait for her son's release. His plight forces her to relive another trauma - the fatal shooting in Liberia for Shaun Ridge, a young photographer she once loved, and Peter's real father.
Abdi, a Somalian teenager working with Peter's captors, strikes up a tenuous friendship with the prisoner based on a shared feeling of captivity. He decides to help Peter escape. Together they set off into the barren vastness of a land filled with danger.
These three people must journey into one of the world's most dangerous places, the human mind, to answer the question: are we every truly free? 

Fractured by Clar Ni Chonghaile is published by Legend Press on 1 February 2016.

Anyone who watches and listens to the world news will be familiar with the name of Somalia's capital city Mogadishu. I knew where it was, I knew that it was a dangerous place, and I knew that reporters tell us about deaths and terrorism on what seems to be an almost daily basis. I admit that I did not know the history of this troubled place, I struggle to understand the reasoning behind the political unrest in this country on the other side of the world.

Clar Ni Chonghaile has spent time in Somalia, and it is clear from her concise and at times, quite brual prose that she knows a great deal about this place. There is an underlying feeling of dread and terror within this story that does not go away, but is evened out by the humanity of the characters that populate the novel.

Peter Maguire is held captive in a dark cell. He knows that he may die at any time, and his feelings of helplessness are uppermost in the narration. Peter's mother Nina has arrived in this war-torn country, hoping against hope that her son will be returned whilst all the time, dealing with the painful memories that his situation evokes in her.

Abdi, the young boy who is tasked with guarding Peter struggles with his feelings. He has witnessed the horror of this mindless war at first hand, losing family members and struggling to cope with what is expected of him, yet what really doesn't come naturally to him.

Clar Ni Chonghaile is a superb writer who brings another dimension to the things that we see reported on the news. She has an empathy that shines through, an understanding that can only be gained from first-hand knowledge and a way with words that transfix and educate her readers.

A really admirable debut novel that throbs with realism, with violence and with horror.

My thanks to the publisher Legend Press who sent my copy for review as part of their Legend 100 Club.

Clar grew up in County Galway in Ireland, the eldest of seven children. She left Ireland aged nineteen to work as a graduate trainee journalist at Reuters in London.
Clar has worked as a journalist for over twenty years and has lived in Madrid, Paris, the Ivory Coast, Senegal and Kenya.
While in Nairobi, she freelanced for the Guardian and travelled to Somalia to cover the African Union's battle against Al-Shabaab and the plight of thousands of displaced people.
Clar returned to London  in summer 2014, where she lives with her husband and two daughters.
Fractured is her debut novel.

You can contact Clar on Twitter @clarnic 


Saturday, 30 January 2016

Viral by Helen Fitzgerald

So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety six people have seen me online. They include my mother, my father, my little sister, my grandmother, my grandfather, my boss, my sixth year Biology teacher and my boyfriend James.
When Leah Oliphant-Brotheridge and her adopted sister Su go on holiday together to Magaluf to celebrate their A-Levels, only Leah returns home. Her successful, swotty sister remains abroad, humiliated and afraid: there is an online video of her, drunkenly performing a sex act in a nightclub. And everyone has seen it.
Ruth Oliphant-Brotheridge, mother of the girls, successful court judge, is furious. How could this have happened? How can she bring justice to these men who took advantage of her dutiful, virginal daughter? What role has Leah played in all this? And can Ruth find Su and bring her back home when Su doesn't want to be found?

Viral by Helen Fitzgerald is published on 4 February 2016 by Faber and Faber.

So, Viral is the book with that opening line. The line that the publishers wanted the author to change. The line that will be the deciding factor when the big supermarkets look at it, and think about stocking it on their shelves. The line is a shocker, there is no doubt of that, but it's also an extremely good hook, it's also relevant, and it's also actually not that offensive at all. Compare it to the content of best-selling novels such as Fifty Shades, or to stuff that goes on in computer games, and it's actually quite tame.

But, the line is a conversation piece, and yes, I admit it is the reason why I wanted to read Viral. I wanted to know what the rest of the story was like; the writing, the plot, the characters ... I wanted to know more about it than just the first line. I'm really glad that Helen Fitzgerald stuck to her guns, and continued with that first line, because by God, the other lines in this story are excellent. This is a book that will send shivers down your spine, it's not frightening in the usual sense, but it's bloody scary when you realise that this really could happen to anyone.

Su and Leah, sisters, eighteen years old, just finished their A Levels, going to Magaluf to party. Su and Leah don't really get along. Su wants to love Leah, but Leah is determined to be the biggest bitch possible. Su was adopted as a baby, from North Korea, and Leah came along soon afterwards - the miracle baby; her parent's natural child, the one that they thought would never be born.

Su is bright, studious, wants to be a doctor. Leah is bubbly, popular, rebellious and determined to make Su's life a misery. However, the deal is that if Leah wants to go to Magaluf, then Su has to go too. Their mother Ruth has made that clear from the outset, Su will go, even though she really would prefer to stay at home, and Leah will put up with it.

By the end of the holiday, one of the girls is the star of an online video, watched by thousands, shared by thousands. No, not Leah, the party girl, but quiet, virginal Su. Suddenly she's known everywhere, but not for something to brag about, no the camera captured her sucking twelve cocks in Magaluf, in exchange for one sweet, sickly orange alcoholic drink. Su's life changes, forever.

The ease in which the video goes viral is crazy, it takes no time at all. The impact on Su and her family is absolutely massive, and whilst the video itself is the catalyst, the fallout has obviously been brewing for a long time.

Helen Fitzgerald gets under the skin of her characters and exposes their inner weaknesses so very well. Ruth, the girls mother is one hell of a creation, she's intelligent and well-respected but there is a hidden, dark side to her that is terrifying to observe. Her ruthlessness and determination is quite astounding and her responsive actions give so much away about this family and its dynamics.

Viral is a roller coaster of a ride. It's a portrait of a family, it's a documentary about the power of social media and it's blisteringly good. Revenge and tragedy, self-discovery, bravado and vulnerabilities, all of these and so much more.  I have huge respect for Helen Fitzgerald's writing.

My thanks to Sophie from Faber who sent my copy for review.

Helen Fitzgerald is the best selling author of Dead Lovely (2007) and nine other adult and young adult thrillers, including My Last Confession (2009), The Donor (2011) and most recently The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.

Helen has worked as a criminal justice social worker for over ten years.

She is one of thirteen children and grew up in Victoria, Australia.
She now lives in Glasgow with her husband and two children.

For more information about Helen Fitzgerald, check out her website helenfitzgerald.wordpress.com
Follow her on Twitter @FitzHelen


Thursday, 28 January 2016

My Life In Books ~ Joanna Cannon #GoatsAndSheep

My Life In Books is a new feature for 2016 on Random Things.  I'm inviting authors to share with us their list of books that are special to them, and have made a lasting impression on their life, for whatever reason

I'm am thrilled to welcome Joanna Cannon to Random Things today, she's my first My Life in Books guest author, and in fact, this feature was her idea, so huge thanks to Joanna.

Today is a very special day for Joanna as her debut novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is published by Borough Press on this very day. I've been shouting about #GoatsAndSheep for quite a while now, it's a wonderful story, brilliantly written, and I just know that Joanna is going to have so much success with it.  My full review is here on Random Things, here's a taster:

"The Trouble with Goats and Sheep is quite extraordinary. It is a very special novel that should be savoured. There are passages, sometimes just a line, that will make the reader stop and re-read, purely to delight in the way that the words are put together. This is an ambitious story, but also a beautiful story.
A triumph, a joy, a gift to the reader."

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep is published today (28 January 2016), in hardback by Borough Press.

So here goes, these are the books that make up Joanna Cannon's 'My Life in Books', in her words;

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis
A very predictable choice to begin with, but is there anyone who wasn't influenced by Narnia? As a child, I was fortunate enough to visit my local library at least once a week, and (along with my second title), this was one of the books I always borrowed. Every Tuesday. Without fail. My parents had very 1970s fitted bedroom furniture, and my father's wardrobe was long and L-shaped. I would often crawl to the very tail of the L, sit amongst the overcoats and the three-piece suits, and wait for Mr Tumnus to come and rescue me.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
As the only child of an only child, the idea of growing up with three sisters was extremely appealing, so Little Women was the other novel that I took out each week. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my local library. Without it, I would never have found the stories, and without the stories, many years later, I would never have found the words. It's very easy to underestimate the power of reading. Not only is it the best way for a child to understand an often confusing world, it also provides a refuge for those of us who didn't find it especially easy to make friends. Even now, most of my favourite people live within the pages of a novel.

Empty World by John Christopher
I have no idea where this book came from, but I read it several times as a child, It's a YA, apocalyptic story about the Calcutta Plague, which wipes out the entire population, leaving only a handful of teenage survivors. I often had wild, and worryingly lengthy, fantasies about what I would do if this ever happened in real life. These mainly involved toy shops, Angel Delight, and a world without schools. I'm not entirely sure I thought it through ....

Talking Heads by Alan Bennett
If there was one person who has influenced my writing, my reading (and therefore, by default, my life), it's Alan Bennett. I watched Talking Heads as a child, and it was the first time I really understood the power of words. When the characters spoke, I knew exactly who they were within the first few lines, and it felt as though someone had opened a door in my mind. I decided, even then, that if I could manage to harness just a little of that power, I would have achieved something worthwhile in my life.

Jaws by Peter Benchley
This book started what became a life-long fascination with, and the fear of, sharks. And I don't just mean a vague interest, I mean at least one evening a week, I find myself on YouTube, watching footage of Great Whites and being beautifully terrified. I have no idea what the attraction is, but I read somewhere that it's a primitive fear to be consumed whole by another creature. And the theme tune. Obviously. One bar of that theme tune and I am GONE.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks' brilliant collection of case histories is one of the many books that fuelled my love of psychiatry. I had always been interested in narrative (going back to the wonderful Alan Bennett), but I find a fractured narrative even more fascinating. However, having left school at fifteen, with one O-Level, I never thought for one second I would be able to pursue psychiatry as a career. However, one thing I have learned, is that there is always another door. I found that door in my thirties, when I went back to college, took some A-Levels, and won myself a place at medical school.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey by Rachel Joyce
Before I could specialise in psychiatry, I had to work through a series of medical and surgical rotations as a junior doctor. I think these were the most stressful times of my life. I saw things which will stay with me forever, and met people I will never forget. Many of the patients I cared for were palliative and, as someone who tends to absorb things very easily, the only way I could deal with it, was to find something positive in each day. The story of Queenie Hennessey is set in a hospice, and not only is Rachel Joyce's writing breathtakingly beautiful, she also manages to capture this positivity in her novel. Also, I have never cried so hard and for so long, over the ending of a story. It's just perfect.

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
When I first read The Shock of the Fall, I had no idea Nathan was a specialist mental health nurse. However, it wasn't long before I realised that whoever wrote this story had a very intimate knowledge of life on a mental health ward. If you've ever wondered what working in psychiatry is like, this is the book you need. It's brilliant and clever, and incredibly moving. It also won an award for changing views on mental health. I can't imagine anything more wonderful than that, can you?

The Girl Who Couldn't Read by John Harding
I adored this book. I was distraught when it finished (as I was with its equally marvellous predecessor, Florence and Giles), but that isn't why I've included it. The reason it's here, is because it was an "I don't usually read" novel. One of a growing number, I'm delighted to report. I think it's very easy to walk a safe corridor of reading; to stick with authors we know and genres we enjoy. This book was very kindly sent to me by Borough Press, and it sat on my shelf for a while - purely because "I don't usually read". It turned out to be one of the best stories and one of my most enjoyable books. Books, like life, should be free from "don't-usually", you never know where your don't-usually might take you.

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
I think all authors have a novel which inspired them to write. This is mine. The prose is so clean and fresh, and clever. I am truly in awe of Sarah Winman, she has an incredible talent, and when I read this novel, I knew I wanted to try to write my own. It's a little like watching Wimbledon, though. It makes you want to get out there and play tennis, but when you find yourself on a court, it's a lot bigger and scarier, and harder than you think. But I persevered. Working as a doctor and trying to write was very tough at times. It involved 3am alarm clocks and writing in my car in my lunchbreak, and acres and acres of self-doubt, but it was all worth it. When I found out Sarah had quoted on my book, I may have cried a bit. Actually, I cried a lot. Very loudly and unattractively, and filled with so much joy.

Borough Press discovered Joanna Cannon through the WoMentoring Project - a programme set up in 2014 by author Kerry Hudson to match mentors from the publishing industry with talented up and coming female writers.

Joanna Cannon is a psychiatric doctor, and her interest in people on the fringes of society and the borders of sanity has inspired her writing.

She lives in the Peak District and The Trouble With Goats and Sheep is her first novel.

For more information about Joanna Cannon, and her writing visit her website and blog, www.joannacannon.com

Follow her on Twitter @JoannaCannon #GoatsAndSheep