Claire McGowan on Putting Real-Life Events into Fiction

Today I’m excited to be part of the blog tour of Claire McGowan’s new novel, The Dead Ground. To celebrate the release of the second book in the Paula Maguire series, Claire stopped by the blog to talk about putting real-life events into fiction. I hope you enjoy it!

Putting Real-Life Events into Fiction

As crime writers, we have to take the worst events that ever happen to people – murder, bereavement, torture, pain – and make them into a story. That story has to be entertaining or people won’t read it, no matter how much we also want to make a point or debate social and moral issues. Sometimes, as a writer, you find yourself wondering if there are any boundaries, things you should not write about, either because you don’t have direct experience of them, or because they’re too close to real life.

I write a series of crime novels set in Northern Ireland, where I grew up, in a town that’s very similar to my own small hometown on the border. My main character, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, is about the same age as me, and like me, left Ireland for university, only to return. So there are obvious parallels already. I was so concerned about reflecting real life that I changed the name of the place to a fictional town, which is roughly, but not exactly, in the same place.

I often have the experience of writing about an extreme, unusual, or brutal event in Irish history, and then finding out the same thing really happened, or even worse. I’ve covered the Magdalene Laundries, child abuse, the IRA Disappeared, foetal abduction, cults and faith healing, the Church selling babies for adoption, and more. All of these things have really happened. At times I’ve thought I’d made something up, only to discover afterwards that, unbeknownst to me, it was real.

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The Army of the Lost: Excerpt & Giveaway

Good morning everyone! As part of the official blog tour, I have an excerpt for you from Lily Herne’s new novel, The Army of the Lost. Make sure to read right to the end to find out how you can win the entire series. :) Enjoy!


 ‘Where are you taking me?’

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked the driver this question. I’m not expecting an answer, which is just as well, as I don’t get one. He stares straight ahead, barely seems to be breathing. He’s as bald as an egg, his scalp pitted with old lesions. His right ear is nothing but a hole framed by shiny scar tissue.

He swings the golf cart into another tunnel that stinks of human waste and mould. This one is as dark as the last, and as we hum along, the headlights bob over faded graffiti sprayed on the brick walls. I catch the words: ‘i luv u zombimama’ and ‘danger gevaar oh shit’. Most of the tunnels are ancient, their curved brick walls stained and mossy; others look as if they’ve been recently constructed, their sides bolstered with wooden and metal struts. Every so often, One Ear’s forced to manoeuvre the cart around small rockfalls and piles of crumbled brick. Part of me hopes the ceiling will fall in on us; at least then I won’t have to face whatever they’ve got planned for me.

A blip of condensation drops onto my scalp and dribbles down my cheek. There’s no way I can wipe it off: I’m trussed up like a goat, my wrists bound behind my back with cable ties that bite into my skin, my ankles similarly shackled. I’ve barely slept since the crash, and it would be so easy just to give up, let them do whatever they’ve got planned for me without putting up any resistance. The tendrils lurking in my veins have done their job and the wound in my thigh is healing, but the rest of me throbs as if I’m one big bruise – a dull pain that’s radiating from deep within my chest. Besides, even if I did have the energy to lash out at One Ear, there’s a pistol holstered at his hip. I may heal unnaturally fast and Hester may have taught me to handle myself in a fight, but I’m not a superhero. I’m not bulletproof.

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Showcase Sunday #76

Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here.

Hello everyone! How are you? I’m still a bit tired after another hectic (but pretty damn good) Saturday. I think I mentioned it last week but Milena and I went to see Miranda Hart at the O2 yesterday, which was SO much fun. I love Miranda and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen all the episodes of her show at least 15 times, so seeing her live for the first time and in front of such a huge audience was amazing. Did anyone else see the show?


Showcase Sunday #76
Anybody Out There? | One Day | Revolutionary Road | Arms Wide Open | Just What Kind of Mother Are You?
Amity & Sorrow | The Facts of Life and Death

Book-wise, I had a pretty busy week. I popped into one of our local charity shops again and found One Day by David Nicholls and an almost brand new copy of Marian Keyes’s Anybody Out There? for 50p. Being a huge Marian fan, I have all of her books already, but I had to leave them at my parents’ house when I moved out. And since I can’t resist a bargain and I prefer these Penguin editions anyway (the other copy I have is the US hardback edition, I think) I had to have it.

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Precious Thing Blog Tour: Colette McBeth on Her Second Novel

Precious Thing blog tour

Good morning everyone! Today author and former BBC news correspondent Colette McBeth is joining us here at Books, Biscuits and Tea to talk about her second novel, The Life I Left Behind. I’ve never actually featured a video interview on the blog before so I do hope you enjoy it. (And make sure to watch the end of the video to see how Colette created her plot jigsaw – is it just me or it’s a brilliant idea?)

And without further ado, please welcome Colette McBeth.


Colette McBeth

Colette McBeth was a BBC TV News Correspondent for ten years. She lives in West London with her husband and three young children. She attended the Faber Academy Novel Writing Course in 2011. Her debut novel, Precious Thing, was published in 2013. You can find Colette on Twitter and Facebook.


Precious Thing: 10 April, 2014 (Headline)
Paperback, 384 pages
Goodreads | Pre-order

Precious Thing by Colette McBeth

Remember the person you sat next to on your first day at school? Still your best friend? Or disappeared from your life for good?

Some friendships fizzle out. Rachel and Clara promised theirs would last for ever.

They met when Rachel was the new girl in class and Clara was the friend everyone wanted. Now in their late twenties Rachel has everything while Clara’s life is spiralling further out of control. Then Clara vanishes.

Imagine discovering something about your oldest friend that forces you to question everything you’ve shared together. The truth is always there. But only if you choose to see it.

The Life I Left Behind: 1 January, 2015 (Headline)
Paperback, 352 pages
Goodreads | Pre-order

The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth

Everyone tells her she’s a survivor. No-one knows she’s dead inside.

Five years ago Melody Pieterson was attacked and left for dead.

She coped by burying the person she was, locking away her memories and creating a new life for herself. Her attacker is behind bars. In four weeks’ time she will get married. She’s almost normal.

Everyone tells her she’s a survivor. No one knows she’s dead inside.

Then the body of another woman is found, close to where Melody was discovered. Like her she has blond hair and green eyes. Like Melody, police find a gold bird cage necklace at the scene. And Melody realises her attacker has been out there all along…

Showcase Sunday #75

Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here.

Hello everyone! How was your week? Mine was pretty hectic and next week’s going to be even busier (not that I’m complaining). I’m going to an author event at Drink, Shop & Do on Tuesday and invited a couple of blogger friends to join me: Leah from Uncorked Thoughts, Ula from Blog of Erised and Faye from A Daydreamer’s Thoughts. Faye and I know each other already but I haven’t met Leah and Ula in the flesh before. I’ve “known” all three of them pretty much ever since I started blogging so I CAN’T. WAIT. :D On Saturday I’m off to the O2 to see Miranda Hart’s live show with Milena from The Damsel in Disgrace and going out for dinner with another friend of mine. I’ve no idea how I’m going to squeeze some reading in but… oh well. What are your plans for next week?


Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff
Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff - signed

Only one book this week but considering how much time I’ll have in the next couple of weeks and how many unread books I have, it’s probably good news. Many thanks to Isabel for the signed review copy of Ghostwritten!

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Review: Wedding Night – Sophie Kinsella

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella
Publication date: 23 April 2013
Publisher: Dial Press
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780812993844
Length: 446 pages
Genre: Chick lit
Age group: Adult
Source: Won
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 3 Stars

Lottie just knows that her boyfriend is going to propose, but then his big question involves a trip abroad—not a trip down the aisle. Completely crushed, Lottie reconnects with an old flame, and they decide to take drastic action. No dates, no moving in together, they’ll just get married… right now. Her sister, Fliss, thinks Lottie is making a terrible mistake, and will do anything to stop her. But Lottie is determined to say “I do,” for better, or for worse.

I adore Sophie Kinsella. She’s one of those very few people whose work I’ve loved since my early teens and whose books go to the very top of my reading list the minute they are published. I’ve read every single one of her novels and, with the exception of one, I loved every one of them. She has a great sense of humour which is there in all of her books, and her characters always manage to grow on me. Needless to say, my expectations for this book were very high. But I didn’t love it. In fact, I was a little bit disappointed.

As I just mentioned, one of the reasons why I love her books so much is the fact that they’re unbelievably funny. And not just ‘make you smile’ funny, but ‘laugh-out-loud and silently choke to death on public transport while trying not to snort with laughter’ funny. Her main characters always remind me a little bit of Bridget Jones. Sometimes they’re a bit clumsy, in some ways we can all relate to them – and they’re all hilarious. Some of her stories are a bit far-fetched but that’s part of the package and it never really bothered me before.

But what I realised after reading one of her previous books, Remember Me? (the other one I didn’t really like) is that far-fetched stories like these can easily turn into ones that are over-the-top. I think – for me, at least – there’s a very fine line between the two and Wedding Night happened to fall into the latter category. It’s similar to how I feel about movies. You know comedies that are absolutely hilarious and make you literally cry with laughter? And then there are the ones that start out brilliantly but after a while the plot becomes a bit… forced and instead of being hilarious, the characters’ clumsiness and/or general behaviour just becomes unrealistic and off-putting? I’m pretty sure I’m not explaining this very well but that’s how I felt about this book. There’s only so much far-fetched plot you can take before you realise that a) it’s not even funny anymore and b) the reason why everything is so unrealistic and exaggerated is to make the book funnier but it’s not working.

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Showcase Sunday #74

Inspired by Pop Culture Junkie and the Story Siren, the aim of Showcase Sunday is to highlight our newest books or book related swag and to see what everyone else received for review, borrowed from libraries, bought in bookshops and downloaded onto eReaders each week. For more information about how this feature works and how to join in, click here.

Hello everyone! How are you all? Are you having a nice weekend? I’m having a lazy day for a change. I went into town yesterday and ended up going shopping (I fell in love with a cute little dress) but today is all about reading. I might have to go and buy some snacks but other than that, I’m staying in bed with my book and my cup of tea, thank you. :D


Showcase Sunday #74Sleepyhead | Looking for Alaska

Both of this week’s books are charity shop finds: I went to Stratford-upon-Avon with a friend last weekend and we went into one of the local charity shops on Sunday, where I found a copy of Mark Billingham’s Sleepyhead. It was only £1.45 and I’ve been meaning to check out his books for a while, so I couldn’t leave it there.

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