Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Missing Beat - with Author and Bookseller Bob Stone

Today, I am delighted to welcome Bob Stone, who doesn't only write books, he sells them. In his own shop, right at the heart of his local community. I sat him down with a couple of glasses of wine and this is what happened:

Cat: Welcome, Bob and congratulations on your new book, Missing Beat, which kept me reading into the wee, small hours.  This is being marketed as a Young Adult novel, but how would you categorise it?

Bob: Thank you very much. I’m very glad you enjoyed it. Young Adult is a funny category in many ways. I have only recently discovered it and have come across a great many amazing authors. The books can be as powerful and well-written as any adult fiction, but the only real difference is the age of the protagonist. I’ve called Missing Beat Young Adult because some of the content would not be suitable for younger readers, but I like to think that Young Adult is the starting point for the age of the target audience. There is no upper limit!
Cat: Well, I haven’t been a young adult for more years than I care to remember and I was hooked from page one. It’s a great adventure and I found the characters totally engaging. Go on, spill, was the difficult-to-love Emma Winrush based on anyone? Promise I won’t tell!

Bob: No-one specific. She’s a bit of a composite, but mainly she’s just drawn from imagination. She was great fun to write though, and I hope the readers like her a little more by the end.

Cat: I felt the two main characters – Joey Cale and Emma Winrush - as total opposites, sparked really well off each other. Was it your intention to make them so different, or did they simply evolve that way?

Bob:  A bit of both, really. I wanted to provide some balance to Joey’s rather more clean-cut personality, but I think the relationship between Joey and Emma changes both of them. Emma makes Joey braver and Joey allows Emma to show a softer side.

Cat: Do you have any interesting writing rituals – a writing room, candles, music that you play?

Bob: I wish I could say I had, but I’m afraid I don’t. I just write wherever and whenever I can. An author friend of mine has a writing hut in her garden, rather like Roald Dahl, and that would be very cool, but I have to be content with my living room at the moment. And coffee. Lots of coffee.

Cat: You’re not only a writer but you also own a bookshop – Write Blend. I happen to know that this is no ordinary book retailer, tell us about your vision for it and how Write Blend came into being.

 Bob: I’ve always wanted to run a bookshop/coffee shop. The two go really well together and when the opportunity arose I jumped at it. These days, though, it’s very hard to be successful if you limit yourself to selling books – there’s too much competition in the supermarkets and online. I see the shop more as an essential community resource. I also work with a number of independent authors, providing a venue for book signings and events, and also as an outlet for their wonderful books, which many other bookshops are sadly reluctant to do.

Cat: With all the work this must entail, when do you find time for writing?

Bob: As and when I can! There are quiet times in the shop when I can do a bit, although I do it feeling guilty that perhaps I should be doing something else. Sunday mornings are also a good time.

Cat: You were born, grew up and have lived almost your entire life in Waterloo - a suburb to the north of Liverpool - and you clearly feel inspired by it, as does another Liverpool writer – a certain Ramsey Campbell –who has used Waterloo as a setting (for example in The Seven Days of Cain). In your opinion, what is it about Waterloo that inspires writers?

 Bob: Ah yes, The Seven Days of Cain, which is set partly in South Road, where Write Blend is. I’ve also had Ramsey here a few times for talks and it’s really strange to be on first-name terms with an author I have long admired. Waterloo is a funny mix. It was once a thriving shopping area, but is less so now. There is also a lot of history – it takes its name from the Battle of Waterloo, there are strong Titanic connections, and I recently found out that there is a strong likelihood that Siegfried Sassoon may well have marched right past where my shop is now on the way to War. Being right on the coast helps and of course now we have Antony Gormley’s Another Place installation, with its one hundred Iron Men all staring out to sea. That has been the backdrop for a number of books and the Iron Men appear in Missing Beat too. 

 Cat: You also chose Pendle Hill as a significant location in the story. This resonated with me as I centred an entire novel there (The Pendle Curse). My lure was the Lancashire Witch Trials, what drew you to that particular spot?

Bob: I love that part of Lancashire. My wife and I honeymooned in Clitheroe and Pendle Hill dominates that area. I was looking for a location which was within reasonable walking distance of Liverpool and Pendle, with its mystical connotations was too good to resist.

 Cat: Which book first inspired you to write and what spurs you on now?

Bob: When I was I my teens and started binge-reading Agatha Christie and writing my own rather derivative whodunnits. I hadn’t really thought about writing for Young Adults until I read a brilliant book called More of Me by Kathryn Evans. That started me reading YA fiction and then I discovered how many superb books there are out there. The idea I had for Missing Beat just seemed to lend itself to the genre. Now I’m spurred on by the very positive reactions there have been to my book, and the support and encouragement of my publishers, Beaten Track Publishing.

Cat: Missing Beat is the first in a trilogy. Can you give us any hints as to what we can expect from Books Two and Three and will Joey and Emma be involved?

Bob: Now that would be telling! Anyone who has read Missing Beat will know that there are certain challenges involved in who will be in Book Two, which is likely to be called Beat Surrender, and who won’t. All I can say is that there are questions which remain unanswered by the end of Missing Beat and some will be answered in Book Two. Some, however, may not be answered until Book Three…

Cat: Now, let’s find out a bit more about Missing Beat

 Listen to your heart...'

When Joey Cale is almost knocked down by a car, he finds himself alone in a world which is familiar but also ominously different.

Can he overcome the odds and the threat of the terrifying Screamers to find his way home, or is he doomed to be lost forever amongst The Missing?

The first book in an exciting new trilogy.

Available from:

My review of Missing Beat

Imagine you are seventeen years old, you wake up to all the familiar sights, sounds and people you have known all your life. Today's the day you need to go and get your exam results. You tread the route you have taken to school hundreds of times in your life, see your best friend on the other side of the road. The lights are about to change and you can just make it if you hurry. You dash into the road just as a car jumps the lights. It brakes equal. You fall. Your heart stops. When you come to, you are still lying on the road. It's the rest of the world that has changed.

This is the story of Joey Cale - born with a hole in his heart, later repaired by surgery. The world he has now entered looks on the surface identical to the one he knows. It's the small details that are wrong. The newsagent has a different name. There's a different president in the White House. A new Dr Who is male, not female. And then there are the Screamers - and a girl called Emma Winrush.

This novel is being marketed as Young Adult. Well, this much older adult loved it so much she can't wait for the sequel (this is the first in a trilogy). It is a Sci-Fi adventure that will appeal to all ages and genders. The author racks up the tension, creates characters to care about, with all their flaws which make them truly human. Bob Stone may be a new name in fiction but with work of this quality, he is here to stay.

 About the author

Liverpool born Bob Stone is an author and bookshop owner. He has been writing for as long as he could hold a pen and some would say his handwriting has never improved. He is the author of two self-published children's books, A Bushy Tale and A Bushy Tale: The Brush Off. Missing Beat, the first in a trilogy for Young Adults, is his first full-length novel.

Bob still lives in Liverpool with his wife and cat and sees no reason to change any of that.
You can contact Bob at:

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Much Haunted Aberglasney

Many stories abound of haunted houses of all kinds – from ordinary terraced dwellings in unremarkable streets through to grand mansions and palaces. I have written about quite a few of them myself.

But, engaged as I currently am on writing a novel that includes a frighteningly haunted garden, I was interested to discover where such places exist in real life. It turns out there are many of them, all over the world.

So for today’s haunted voyage of discovery, let’s visit historic Aberglasney House and Gardens in Llangathen near Carmarthen in Wales.

The house itself is positioned at the grand end of the scale and the area it stands in has known some gruesome battles, including one particularly bloody conflict in 1257. Even the surrounding fields have names which hark back to their violent past – Ca Tranc (Field of Vengeance) and Cae’r Ochain (Groaning Field).

It is believed that a certain Bishop Rudd acquired the estate of Aberglasney in around 1600, during the final years of the reign of Elizabeth I. For the next 110 y ears, the house stayed in his family before being sold to the Dyer family in 1710, followed by another sale in 1798. This pattern continued until troops occupied it during World War II. Ten years after the war ended, the estate was split up and the house and home farm were bought by a local man called David Charles. Sadly he couldn’t maintain the building and the place was left to fall into decay and dereliction.
 Then, it was bought in 1995 and is being fully restored to its former glory by the Aberglasney Restoration Trust.

As far as the house’s ghosts are concerned, life appears to have gone on largely ignored by them. They had other agendas and there are reputed to be between 90 and 130 spectral beings.

In the 1630s, the first of a series of reports of ghostly happenings tells of a maid who saw five candles floating around, apparently of their own accord, in a newly plastered ‘blue room’. The next day, five maidservants were found dead in their beds. A stove left burning to dry the plaster had asphyxiated them while they slept.

To this day, this is one of the most active rooms in the house as far as ghostly sightings and experiences are concerned. Visitors have been touched, felt someone brushing past them and have generally been spooked by their time in that place. In the 1930s, a worker, clearing ivy from the window of that room almost fell off his ladder. He swore he saw five girls in old fashioned dress peering out at him. The house was empty and derelict at the time. Could it be that the ghosts of the five dead maidservants had made an appearance?

An East India Company surgeon, Thomas Phillips, who owned the house in 1803, has appeared to gardeners, servants and tradespeople over the years and has become more active recently when tour guides have heard his ghostly footsteps.

Another ghostly encounter has been with a young servant girl who stands in the corner of the basement, apparently cooking.

With ongoing restoration work, it seems the ghosts of Aberglasney have much to occupy them.

So, there is plenty to interest the ghost hunter inside the house, but what of outside? 

Aberglasney boasts some of the finest gardens in the country and a visit there in summer is well worth it. The Cloister Garden, Ninfarium, Asiatic Garden, Sunken Garden, Kitchen Garden, Bishop Rudd’s Garden and more are all planted with an abundance of beauty.

And then we come to Pigeon House Wood, at the rear of the building. It too is beautifully designed. Planted with deciduous trees, it offers a peaceful walk. But as visitors descend the earthen path, some have experienced an increasing sense of unease which intensifies until at the edge of the wood, it morphs into sudden fear and an icy coldness. So often was this reported that a reputable medium was consulted in 1999. She reported that a fugitive, on the run, had been chased through this wood and was shot, right at the point where those affected by the phenomenon had felt it most. Evidently meeting such a violent and sudden end released his emotions which were absorbed by the earth around him.

I have included some haunted gardens in my books so far – Linden Manor being one. It is a theme I am drawn to and, right now I am returning to it. Watch this space…

You can find out more about the glorious Aberglasney estate here