Name – Liv Thomas
Age – I am ageless 😉
Where are you from – Southampton
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
My education was quite basic. I was never especially academic at school – I managed some secretarial qualifications, and then went to night school and gained an ‘O’ level in English Language. I met my OH at a Manchester United match. Spent a happy but hectic few years with five children, who have now all flown the nest – the only child we have at home now is our Westie, Sophie! I work for the NHS, at a local gynae. hospital.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Writing has taken a bit of a back seat for a couple of years – family issues have taken priority, with new babies and my mum not in the best of health. There are a couple of WIPs, so hope that RL will be a bit kinder. There is both a prequel and a sequel planned to Beneath an Irish Sky. Plus plans for a psychological thriller.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve written for as long as I can remember. I remember when I was 9 or 10, writing ‘The Lake of Adventure’. My own characters, but the idea totally stolen from Enid Blyton!
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t know that I’ve ever considered myself a writer – I still feel very much like a wannabe. I do have to remind myself that I’m entitled to call myself a writer/author.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Apart from the desire to be a published writer which was always the dream, the plot for Beneath an Irish Sky just popped into my head. To this day I’m not sure where it came from – I really didn’t know much about Travellers, and I’d never really had much interest in them either. The plot progressed – and changed direction in some ways – when I started writing with my co-writer, Val Olteanu. We might owe our success to J R R Tolkien as we met on a Lord of the Rings message-board!
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I just write as though I’m reading – if that makes sense. Sometimes, especially if I’m a bit stuck, I look at what I’ve written as though I’m reading it as a reader, someone who doesn’t know what’s coming next. Very often that’s actually true 😊 but it’s a surprisingly helpful ploy. Both Beneath an Irish Sky and An Irish Promise are written in deep third, with numerous view points, but I also enjoy writing in the first person. If I get bogged down, I often just write in script/dialogue to maintain the momentum, then go back and flesh it out.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Beneath an Irish Sky was originally just called ‘Luke’, but Choc Lit wanted something with at least a hint of Ireland in it. We toyed with a few ideas, then heard the lyrics from an Irish folk song, called The Foggy Dew, which featured the line ‘neath an Irish Sky. An Irish Promise was originally called Winter Promises, but again we were asked to come up with something Irish (not to mention relocating the whole story to Ireland instead of England!). We then came up with the idea of introducing the Claddagh into the story, and we had our new title.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Maybe that people should be kinder to each other! Beneath an Irish Sky deals with bigotry and class divide. An Irish Promise is about school bullying and how it affects both the bullied and the bullies in later years.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
From my own point of view, both stories are completely fictitious, and so are the characters, though both bigotry and bullying are all too realistic.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
By a mentor, do you mean a personal one, or just a writer who has influenced me? I don’t really have the former, but I think Maeve Binchy and Patricia Scanlan influenced me as a writer. The book that influenced me the most though, is probably Lord of the Rings. It was years ago that I read it, and I can remember not reading another book for at least a year after it, because I decided that nothing could possibly compare. Reading it was such a joy – I was bereft when it ended!
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Where to start? My Kindle is overflowing with books both from writers I’ve admired for a long time and numerous new writers. Although I write in the ‘Contemporary’ genre, dealing with romance and family, my likes are pretty diverse – Dean Koontz, Terry Pratchett, and I have particularly enjoyed the ‘Fever’ series, by Karen Moning (they feature an alpha male hero to humble Christian Grey). I recently read a book by a debut author, Jonathan Kaye, which was a thriller set in Dublin – probably the best book I’ve read this year, so I’ll be looking out for more by him. I like books that keep me thinking about the characters even when I’m not reading.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My work colleagues have all been really supportive, and even organised a book launch for An Irish Promise.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
In my dreams, but I have to be realistic and keep my feet on the ground. It’s a hard media to crack.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
There are a few small points that I’ve become aware of, but on the whole, no.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Since I could read really. I would lose myself in Enid Blyton stories and make up my own – very similar to hers. I was a very young plagiarist. 😊
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes – real life getting in the way of it!
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I have been to Ireland several times, but not specifically for research, although that’s obviously come into it. Google is a Godsend.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The fantastic Berni Stevens, who is also a very talented author as well, and has written two vampire related novels for Choc Lit.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Finding the time really. I honestly can’t think of anything that was a specific problem with either book. There were times of course, when my co-writer and I didn’t agree, and arm wrestling with someone on another continent isn’t the easiest thing. 😊
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
That writing is a good way of escaping the trials of reality? 😊 Also, that even the unachievable can sometimes be achieved – I never thought I would be a published author, because you constantly hear about the thousands of writers who only ever get rejection letters.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead.
Funny you should say that – I have two Pinterest boards for that very thing. 😊 https://uk.pinterest.com/livvie20/an-irish-promise-the-movie/ https://uk.pinterest.com/livvie20/beneath-an-irish-sky-the-movie-visuals-for-the-cha/
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Write what you would like to read; create characters you have a passion for – that will come across in your writing. Also, use social media, not just to promote yourself but to meet and communicate with other writers on a more personal level.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for all the encouragement, and the great reviews. And tell your friends. 😊
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Lies by T. M. Logan – it’s an easy enough read but quite gripping. I’ve just recently ventured into the psychological thriller genre. The last book I read was a fantastic debut from Jonathan Kaye, called After the Affair.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I don’t know if it was the first, but The Castle of Adventure by Enid Blyton is one I have very fond memories of as it introduced me to that whole series.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Long Lost Families makes me cry. So does cruelty. I laugh at Father Ted, and at the things small children say and do.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
This is one of those questions where I’ll still be finding answers for the next few weeks and wishing I’d put them!
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
‘She never did master real life but imagination was spot on’.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Reading 😊 I enjoy quizzes but most of my time is either spent with my family, or writing.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Grimm, Once Upon a Time, Stranger Things, Father Ted, Vicar of Dibley, Corrie, anything on Ireland, Outnumbered, Casualty, Call the Midwife…shall I just pass you a copy of the TV Times? 😊 Believe it or not, I’m not always glued to the tv – I record most things, to watch at leisure.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Toast and roast! (Not together). Chocolate of course; favourite colour is blue; music – Bryan Adams, Westlife, Bruno Mars, Luke Kelly, Paddy Reilly, The Dubliners.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done
When I was a child I wanted to be an actress – don’t we all – but as I got older, I realised that I am something of a shrinking violet, so abandoned that idea. I’d like to have worked with animals.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
http://livbet.webs.com/ It’s a bit neglected, but hopefully that will change! The spirit is very willing… There is also a FB author page https://www.facebook.com/isabella.connor.hartswood.hill/
Extract From Beneath an Irish Sky
“Jack Stewart?” A policeman scanned the waiting area.
“I’m Garda Michael Flynn.” A handshake, as if Jack mattered. Christ, when did he become so cynical? But he knew the answer to that one. It was when she left him.
“Sorry for your loss.”
That platitude again. As if these people had any idea what he and Annie had shared. Had lost. Of what he’d suffered because of her.
“If you’ll come this way. We’ll try to make it as quick as possible.”
Quick. Like her death. Alive one minute, driving her car, thinking of work or shopping or whatever she did these days, and then…gone. Wiped from the roll of the living. It was as much as he knew. As much as the police in Manchester knew. When they’d shown up in his office yesterday and told him there’d been an accident, he’d panicked and thought of his son, Matt, in Amsterdam on a stag night. That policewoman, oozing compassion, hadn’t realized Jack had dropped down in his chair with relief, not grief. He’d refused to go to Dublin at first, until he realized it was an opportunity to finally learn the truth. It wasn’t until later the shock of having Annie reintroduced into his life hit him.
They stopped outside a steel door where a sign announced ‘Mortuary’ in stark black letters. Flynn turned to him. “The sergeant told me you and Mrs Stewart were separated. When did you last see her?”
Sod this. Weren’t things bad enough without Jack having to announce his failure as a husband to everyone he met? “I last saw her over twenty years ago,” he said, quietly enough, yet the words seemed to echo down the long empty corridor.
Flynn raised an eyebrow. “So there’s a chance you might not recognize her?”
Jack thought about that. Annie would have changed. No longer the young girl he’d married. Forty now. Maybe a few wrinkles, some grey hair. That could be a blessing. Like looking at a stranger. “I’ll know her,” he said, with more certainty than he felt. “Let’s get it over with.”
The fluorescent strip lighting in the viewing room was harsh, its relentless blue-white glare attacking every corner. A clock registered almost mid-day. The body lay in the centre of the room, covered with a sheet. The hairs on the back of Jack’s neck prickled, although he’d seen a dead body before. Just once. An asthma attack had taken his first wife when she was only twenty-five. Jack had cradled Caroline in his arms as if he could will some of his own warmth back into her. Weeping openly, his tears had soaked her face and hair, the grief like a knife in his gut. And now his second wife had left him behind, although she’d actually discarded him years before.
“Ready?” asked Flynn.
Jack nodded. Ready as he’d ever be. The sheet was folded back, and he was looking at a heart-shaped face, wounds prominent on skin the colour of chalk. Dark silky hair, maybe the only part of her alive now. He’d read once about people opening a coffin and finding the corpse’s hair still growing. She’d be in a coffin soon. In the dark earth. He wanted to throw up. God, please – not here.
Flynn was at his elbow. “Is it…?”
Jack swallowed hard, attempted to make his voice normal. “It’s her.”
“I’ll give you a moment.”
The door closed, and Jack was alone with Annie. At least, Annie’s shell. He didn’t touch her. She’d feel like ice, not warm the way he remembered her. Was she watching him? Her spirit floating around, looking down, wondering why he was there. No chance now to find out why she’d left him. The dead don’t talk.
“Why?” His voice surprised him. Thinking out loud. “Why, Annie?”
The lights hummed, the second-hand on the clock moved. Nothing else. No revelation, no gift of closure. Nothing for him here. Jack pulled the sheet back over the face still as familiar to him as his own, and walked away.
* * *
In the next room, Flynn had prepared tea. Jack gulped it down, feeling the hot, sweet liquid revive him a bit. Almost done now, then back to Baronsmere and normality.
“Just sign here. It says you’ve formally identified the body.”
Jack scribbled his name, not even bothering to read the form.
“Do you need the name of an undertaker?” Flynn asked.
“We have a list of local undertakers.”
“Why would I need that?”
“Well…for the funeral. We’re releasing the body to you.”
“I can’t take care of that! I only came here to identify her. I’ve got to get back to Manchester.”
“The body can’t stay here, Mr Stewart.” Flynn spoke slowly, as if explaining something to a child.
“But what am I supposed to do with it?”
“Well, the undertakers can move it to a funeral home. There’s one near the hospital – McBride’s – which would be practical. They’ll help you arrange the burial.”
Arrangements. Paperwork. Phone calls. Red tape. This was ridiculous. And why was a location near the hospital ‘practical’?
“She has other family,” Jack protested. “What about them?”
Flynn consulted his paperwork but shook his head. “The car was registered to Joseph Kiernan, but no-one seems to know where he is. He and his brother work away a lot apparently.”
Useless bastards they were, anyway. Vicious no-hopers, who never forgave Annie for marrying an outsider. “And there’s no-one else?” Jack asked, not really wanting the answer.
“Her father died some months ago, according to neighbours. Your son might be able to tell you where other relatives are.”
How the hell would Matt know that? Just how incompetent were these Gardai goons? “What are you talking about? My son hasn’t seen Annie since he was four.”
Flynn flicked back through his paperwork. “Your son, Luke, was in the car with your wife when the accident happened. He’s in St Aidan’s hospital.”
Jack shouldn’t have been surprised, but it still rankled that Annie had found happiness with someone else – started a family, even used the name they’d planned for their own son. His hand curled into a fist in his lap. “No-one told me she had a son,” he said, his voice hard. “So why haven’t you contacted the father, her…partner? He should be taking care of all this.” The Traveller. The one she’d shacked up with after leaving him and returning to her own people.
“There is no partner, as far as we’re aware,” Flynn told him. “The birth certificate identifies him as Luke Stewart, although he appears to be using the name Kiernan now, and you’re named as his father. I’m sorry, I thought the Manchester police explained this to you.”
“How old is he?” Jack asked.
The walls of the room seemed to close in. Not enough air. Jack closed his eyes. Shit, a son he never knew about! Not possible. Why would Annie do that? It was monstrous. Cruel. If she weren’t already dead, he’d probably have killed her
Extract From An Irish Promise:
Rachel finished unpacking her clothes and sat down on the
single divan. It was a pretty room, decorated in white muslin
sprigged with roses. Simple and pure, like a child’s room.
The house was silent. Molly was asleep in the converted
bedroom next to the kitchen – the stairs were getting too much
for her – so Rachel had the upper level all to herself. Such
privacy was an unexpected bonus. She’d spend most of her
time here concealing her real identity, so it would be a relief to
have some place where she could let down her guard.
Rachel went to the window and pulled up the blinds,
staring out at the inky blackness of the night sky. She was
exhausted, but sleep wouldn’t come in this unfamiliar house
in this all-too-familiar village. She tried phoning her cousin.
The call went straight to voicemail. Sophia was either having
an early night or was otherwise engaged. Perhaps it wasn’t too
late for Rachel to change her mind and go home. It was all so
risky. She’d almost slipped up this evening with that Italian
reference. And this was a village with only a few thousand
people. All it took was for one person to recognise her, or to
start making connections if she said the wrong thing …
Determined to strengthen her sense of purpose, Rachel
moved over to sit at the small, white dressing table. From her
bag, she pulled out the battered purple diary with the faded
image of a boy band on the front. She flicked the pages to an
entry near the beginning and let the teenage scrawl draw her
back into the past …
Mam said I looked good for the New Year’s Eve party.
Well, she actually said ‘cute’, which I guess is okay. I
couldn’t believe Mel had invited ME to her New Year’s
Eve fancy dress party. Everyone wanted to go. Being
invited meant you were someone. You belonged. Mel lives
in this huge house just outside the village. Her parents
are very rich. She was the one who told me to come as
Minnie Mouse, and she’d be a Disney character too, and
people would see we were friends. And I forced Mam to
rent me a costume, using up money she didn’t have. I
lied to her when I got home. Said it had all been great, so
she’s gone to bed a bit happier, thinking everything’s fine.
I didn’t tell her I sat on a bench in the cemetery, freezing,
until after midnight. How could I tell her how terrible it
really was? Me turning up at the party as Minnie Mouse
when NO ONE else was wearing fancy dress. I wanted
to DIE!!! Some of the kids looked embarrassed for me,
AIP_416.indd 9 23/09/2014 09:41:27
but not Mel or Jay. They were laughing and Mel said I
must have misunderstood. That it was easy enough to
do when you’re foreign. When you’re a wop is what she
actually said. I hate that insult. People used to call Papa
that all the time. I’ve told everyone at school it’s just my
name that’s Italian – I’ve never even been to Italy, and
my mam’s from Ireland! But I was born in England,
and I talk different to them, so I guess I’m labelled as
a foreigner. Maybe it’s the price I have to pay for being
new. It was just an unkind joke. I’ve got no bruises. Not
visible ones anyway. They’ll get bored with me if I don’t
Rachel closed the diary. If she read any more she’d not be able
to sleep. Already she could feel anger welling up inside her.
So much for the optimism in that diary entry. The bullying
had just got worse – much worse. More than any child should
have to bear. And all the bullies got away with it. Protected by
their parents from any kind of punishment.
Rachel pulled out the creased school photograph from
the back of the diary, and looked at the pupils of Kilbrook
Community School as they were at age thirteen, all their
names neatly printed underneath the picture. Taking a red pen,
Rachel circled Mel’s head. She was in the middle of the front
row – the best position, of course. She looked like a model
student – hair perfectly styled, smart uniform, a serene smile
on her face. Unlike ‘the wop’, who was hiding in the back row. Jay
Cole had pushed her into some mud on the way to school
so her clothes were dirty. She’d been given hell for that when
she got home.
Rachel circled Jay’s head next in red ink. Not
surprisingly, he’d married Mel – the bullies sticking together.
She’d seen a photo of them together on Mel’s Facebook
account. There was a photo of Daniel too – they were
obviously still friends, which didn’t go in his favour. His face
hadn’t really altered since the school photo, apart from not
wearing glasses as a child. Had he changed since becoming
a priest? Rachel pushed that unhelpful thought aside, and
circled Daniel’s head.
Finally, she circled the head of the fourth bully, Jody
James – or Spook as he was known, because he was born on
Halloween, and from what Rachel could remember, certainly
had the devil in him. He was proving elusive. Neither he nor
his family had shown up on Kilbrook’s Register of Electors.
And she couldn’t ask around about him too much in case she
set off alarm bells. Hopefully, he’d show for the upcoming
Kilbrook Community School reunion.
Of course, none of the bullies would be expecting Rachel
to turn up, telling everybody exactly what happened fourteen
years ago. Well, they were going to get the surprise of their
lives. Karma was about to come calling.