Triple Bagger is the intricately woven story of one man’s experience in a company that takes him everywhere but leads him nowhere. Why did you want to write a novel that took a close look at the corporate world?
After twenty years of corporate career, I felt exactly how you describe: nowhere despite having had everything and been everywhere. It felt devastating, like I had lived inside a me that wasn’t me, and as such wasn’t worth very much to me at all. And I felt a powerful compulsion to write up about that life that had past, above all to try to make some sense of it, of why I had ended up going through with it, hoping perhaps that it would help me see a way forward.
With this novel you are able to once again capture everyday life and put an interesting twist on it. What is your writing process like?
This was in essence the first novel I wrote, fresh from abandoning the corporate world, although it was not the first I published, and I can confess that the writing process was chaos. There were certain difficult large themes I knew I had to treat in the book because they were at the core of what had deeply upset me for years and ultimately broken me. Firstly, I carried out ample research around these themes to convince myself these were rightful themes and that I wasn’t just being mad and imagining that they were. I needed to convince myself that my account was not to be a one sided rant, but that other people had and would care about the backbone behaviours I would discuss. This was the first phase. Yet after setting the grand map, I constantly battled with whether I should punish, absolve or laugh at the twenty years of past life I had drawn in front of me. So there was the tone to think of… Next, there was the problem of feeling in the detail without making it too dry, too boring or too close to the truth… I definitely didn’t want to take myself too seriously!
I felt that the story had a lot to say about the loss of oneself within the complexities of ladder-climbing and the desire to succeed. What were the morals you were trying to capture while writing your story?
There were a few. Firstly, to beware that in corporate elites we are often chosen not for the strength underlying our ambition but for its vulnerability, in that it inculcates a fear in us of not succeeding which can make us more pliable. Secondly, to resist corporate life when it looks to uniform us, shape us around a common fiction spelling our superiority and fuelling a fantasy around our limitless ability. To fight becoming dependent, to fight growing a fear of anything outside what they have taught us. Thirdly, to question the relentless drive and the virtuosity of endurance preached in corporate life. And finally, to never let work turn us into a robots. Whatever we do, never to let our emotions be turned off.
What is the next story that you are writing and when will it be available?
Caro M, is a short novel exploring the hurricane-like devastation unwavering love is capable of. In it: a woman, alone but for her dog, shares memories with her old tesoro; a wife trusts her sweetheart psychiatrist blindly through her divorce; and a young girl lands a fairy tale wedding soon to turn into a nightmare her cousin yearns to fix. I guarantee you it’s immersive, witty, tender… It will be available October 2017.
A book about identity and… management consultancy! ‘Epic, a wonderfully interesting reading experience, ‘ DeAndra Lupu @unbounders. Meet Vittal. He is a self-and-dad-made man carrying his family’s expectations on his shoulders. He has landed a vocation to work for the most renowned, most secretive, highest-priced, most entrusted, most detested organisation of all times. Vittal should be happy, or maybe frightened, after he is told that he will work with people with an unusual quality of character and, with time, he will become those people. When he meets Peter who reeks of success like a true world shaper, Vittal clings to the saving idea that he wants to become him. But as he climbs through stages at Enterprise over the next decade, life loses its meaning and he grows into a swinging smudge of mortality that advances and retreats with his employer’s tides. He is lonely, surrounded by emotionless, manipulative schemers, under a haunting fear that someone somewhere may be happy and it will never be him. And by the time Lucy arrives to discombobulate this sorry state of affairs, Vittal has become like the others, numbed, out to reach something he does not understand anymore. Lucy won’t be able to save him nor him her from Peter, from Enterprise. He won’t be able to save Peter or Enterprise either. And five years later, Vittal thinks that writing his story for Nuria can rescue him. It might, but not in the way he had thought! Triple Bagger is a story about being enslaved in a world of emotional unavailability and whether vanity, fear and control could be a shortcut to happiness; a tale of shredded life in three acts: Desire, Discipleship and Demise. It treats themes around collective faith and individual identity, stability and disintegration, the sane, the insane and who decides. Parallel to the main narrative there are reflective letters between Vittal and his editor Nuria discussing why we write, to leave a trace, out of revenge, or for redemption. There are as well as visual short passages of hotel encounters between two unknown lovers. The novel is ultimately about whether one person can make the difference when they live up to being that person.
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Sentinels of the Night is an action packed novel based on a tracker Cat Morgan. Dubbed the “witchy woman” by others, Cat Morgan is a mysterious and alluring character that is helped by forces beyond her understanding when finding murder victims. A chance encounter with a body in a dumpster leaves her meeting a handsome and rugged police officer, Kevin Hunter. Kevin is wary of her flimsy excuses for how she finds her victims and pushes aside his attractions in order to get her out of town. But life has other plans as Cat is drawn into a killer mystery where she finds herself a potential target for a crazed murderer. Will Cat and Kevin be able to work together to catch a killer or will Cat be another victim?
Sentinels of the Night, written by Anita Dickason, is a fast-paced mystery novel that involves the FBI, rituals and killers that make your skin crawl. Mysterious owls, fragmented dreams and sexy police officers join together to form a murderous jigsaw puzzle.
The new tracking team Cat joins is a group of fast thinking, switched on agents who each have their own unique attributes that they bring to the table. Their abilities reminded me a little of “Criminal Minds” and I loved seeing how their inexplicable skills join together to fight crime. They work hard and Scott, the boss, respects their unique perspectives and theories on the killer. Cat fits right in with the team however some begin to suspect how she comes up with pieces of evidence that become crucial to the case.
The story flicks between the perspective of Cat, Kevin and the killer, giving us an insight into how the killer thinks and acts. This only serves to build tension throughout the story and helps create the creepy and sadistic image of a murderer. The switch between characters also provides a small relief when the story line begins to ramp up in the eyes of a killer as he begins to hunt for his next victim. Anita Dickason’s description of the killer is one that will play on your mind for some time!
Anita Dickason is able to mix together a plot that is sexy with a dash of action, supernatural and mystery. I found the combination made the novel easy to read and hard to put down! I thoroughly enjoyed the tension that builds between Cat and Kevin and was eager to learn how their interactions would proceed further than a professional working relationship. The dynamics between the two mean that they often think on a similar wave length, which helps when Cat is trying to slide in clues that she has discovered through alternative means.
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a whodunnit style novel with a dash of romance and mystery! Sentinels of the Night is the perfect novel that will be sure to tick all of the boxes for any fan of crime.
Pages: 296 | ASIN: B06XK9PS3B
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Beth Nielson doesn’t need any more drama in her life. Her hectic job at the Willis Mortgage Company has become unstable, leaving her with a shaky future. What’s more, she’s dealing with a violent ex-boyfriend who is stalking her, and now a serial killer is on the loose in her city—and the monster is killing women who look just like her.
Meanwhile, her brother Russ has dedicated his life to building a time travel machine; he’s now completed it and is ready for experimentation. Beth hates the contraption and wants no part of it; she fears that possible paradoxes may tear their lives apart. Russ promises his sister that while traveling through time, he will not intermingle with the inhabitants of the past or the future, nor will he change history. Unfortunately, when Beth’s stalker threatens her, she flees by the only method available – the time machine. It sends Beth to a farm in the year 1860. With a broken-down machine, only time will tell if she can survive this challenging life while she waits and hopes that her brother will find her.
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East of Mecca is beautifully written and addresses a subject that is rarely discussed. Why did you want to write about Middle Eastern culture?
I lived in Saudi Arabia for a year when my husband accepted a job with Aramco Oil Company. We lived on a company compound called Ras Tanura, located on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Within the compound were beautiful, white, sandy beaches, and flat, desert terrain filled with exotic, thorny scrubs. The sun rose every morning over the sea and set each evening over the desert. Both events were in stunning Technicolor!
Throughout my year in Saudi, I was exposed to camels, Bedouin markets, delicious food, beautiful art, jewelry, and architecture, and haunting Middle Eastern music. I even learned to belly dance!
Although we lived on the company compound, I quickly discovered the male-dominated, fundamentalist Islamic Kingdom’s rules for ex-patriot women were not so different than those for Saudi women…loose, modest clothing, driving or riding bicycles off the compound is forbidden, as is leaving the compound unless accompanied by your husband or in Aramco approved transportation.
My first day in Saudi, I was fingerprinted, photographed holding a placard with my husband’s ID number, and my passport was confiscated by Aramco. It would only be relinquished to my husband after he had applied for an exit-visa and it had been approved. I had my first panic attack when I realized I couldn’t just get a cab to the airport, board a plane, and go home.
In one day, I lost both my identity and my freedom.
As an American Clinical Psychologist not affiliated with Aramco, I had other women from the compound (American, European, Saudi and other Arab women) literally knocking on my door for counseling. I practiced secretly and illicitly (without a work-permit) the entire year I was in Saudi.
Off the compound, restrictions against women were much more apparent. Ruled by sharia law, Saudi women are required to be covered head-to-toe in black long-sleeved, ankle length cloaks called abayas, hijabs (headscarves), and face-masks called niqabs. All these were then covered with veils that render women completely invisible. Religious police called matawain patrol the streets of villages and cities arbitrarily deciding whether or not a woman (Saudi or Western) is properly dressed and properly behaved. Unless restaurants have screened off “family” sections, women are not allowed inside.
It was in Saudi, through my work with other women, where I learned firsthand about oppression and some of the other appalling conditions Saudi women face, including being under complete control of their husbands, fathers, or other males in their family, lack of personal autonomy, being forbidden to drive, honor violence, arranged marriage, child marriages…all in addition to the rigid clothing restrictions…being totally cloaked in black, even in sweltering weather.
The Middle East is a complex culture, rich in contrasts. And yet, little is written about the treatment of women in Saudi. Inspired by my own experiences and those of the women I worked with, writing East of Mecca became my passion project. I wanted to convey the exotic and the beautiful, while respectfully educating Western readers on the appalling conditions of women living under sharia law. I wanted to take readers beneath the veils that make Saudi women “invisible” and give them faces. I wanted to give a voice to those women forbidden to speak for themselves. My greatest hope is that education can lead to advocacy and action toward change.
Sarah is a fascinating character and a strong woman in her own right. What were the driving ideals behind the character’s development throughout the story?
Sarah is, first of all, devoted to her husband and children. And, with a social work background and aspirations to be a Clinical Psychologist, Sarah is a caregiver by profession and by nature. However, like most Americans, she is naïve to the experiences of others in totally different cultures. Initially, she views life in Saudi Arabia as a wise financial investment and a grand adventure. Throughout the story, with all she personally experiences and witnesses happening to other women in Saudi, especially through her relationship with Yasmeen, Sarah becomes an advocate for human rights on a much more personal level.
I truly enjoyed Yasmeen’s character and thought she brought depth and nuance to an intriguing culture. What was the inspiration for the relationship Sarah and Yasmeen have?
While it’s easy to have sympathy for people in other cultures, or those who are different from us, empathy is achieved by the ability to understand and share the feelings of another…from their perspective. To actually feel what they are feeling. My goal in creating Yasmeen’s character was to have my readers truly know her as a person, not just a face hidden behind a veil. I want them to experience her personality and empathetically relate to her joys and her struggles. The deep friendship Sarah and Yasmeen share, shows how they…and women everywhere…are the same, no matter how different their cultures might be.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on my second novel. Orchard Road is about a Clinical Psychologist, with a very dark past, who is triggered into violence by one of her patients. The time and setting is both current day Chicago, and Singapore in the 1970’s. Since I’m still in the midst of writing, I don’t know when it’ll be published, but I’m hoping it will be available within the next two years.
This moving and unforgettable novel, East of Mecca, tells a timely, harrowing, and heartbreaking story of love and betrayal, the transcendent power of sisterhood, and the ultimate price of oppression. Driven by financial desperation, Sarah and Max Hayes are seduced by promises of a glamorous expatriate lifestyle in Saudi Arabia. Sarah surrenders her career when Max accepts a prestigious job with Ocmara Oil Company and they relocate their family to the shores of the Persian Gulf. Locked inside the heavily-guarded Ocmara compound, Sarah becomes invisible within the male-dominated, fundamentalist, Islamic Kingdom, which is governed by sharia law. Gradually, she is drawn into a clandestine, illicit friendship with Yasmeen, a Muslim Saudi woman. Together they find freedom beneath the veils and behind the walls of the Saudi women’s quarters—until inconceivable events force Sarah to make life-or-death decisions. Told with riveting authenticity and exquisite detail, East of Mecca explores gender apartheid through the abuse of absolute power with an elegant balance of cultural nuance and moral inquiry. Long after you have turned the last page, you will be haunted by the vivid characters and powerful scenes illuminating this tour de force.
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This award winning moving and unforgettable novel, East of Mecca, tells a timely, harrowing, and heartbreaking story of love and betrayal, the transcendent power of sisterhood, and the ultimate price of oppression. Driven by financial desperation, Sarah and Max Hayes are seduced by promises of a glamorous expatriate lifestyle in Saudi Arabia. Sarah surrenders her career when Max accepts a prestigious job with Ocmara Oil Company and they relocate their family to the shores of the Persian Gulf. Locked inside the heavily-guarded Ocmara compound, Sarah becomes invisible within the male-dominated, fundamentalist, Islamic Kingdom, which is governed by sharia law. Gradually, she is drawn into a clandestine, illicit friendship with Yasmeen, a Muslim Saudi woman. Together they find freedom beneath the veils and behind the walls of the Saudi women’s quarters—until inconceivable events force Sarah to make life-or-death decisions. Told with riveting authenticity and exquisite detail, East of Mecca explores gender apartheid through the abuse of absolute power with an elegant balance of cultural nuance and moral inquiry. Long after you have turned the last page, you will be haunted by the vivid characters and powerful scenes illuminating this tour de force. Winner of 2015 Silver Nautilus Book Award and also received an IndieReader recommended 5-star review.
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Dear Emma, written by Kwen Griffeth, is a touching novel that revolves around the life of a family in the hospital waiting for a crucial moment that will equate to life or death. Their story is discovered by a caring man, Roger, who is the chaplain at the Price Hospital.
Lost in his own thoughts about his own personal life, Roger stumbles across Ben Talbet, an architect about to become a grandfather. But instead of it being a joyous occasion, Ben is convinced that he is about to lose everything he cares about- all because of a mysterious letter found on a hospital bedside table. What could this letter say that has Ben convinced he is about to lose it all?
Dear Emma is a heartfelt novel based on the significance of letters written to a woman by the name of Emma. The beginning of the novel walks you through the hospital in the eyes of a chaplain. It is here you meet nurses, doctors, patients and families all experiencing the ins and outs of hospital life. One family, in particular, has several lives on the line, and this is where you meet Ben- a loving father about to become a grandfather.
The story ventures into the past where we learn about Ben and Emma and what lead them to this important moment of their lives. Their past tragedies and losses will be shared and you will find yourself feeling a connection to the characters and their story. As the story progresses, the doubt and questions that are posed by Roger, all assist in creating a strong belief and understanding of things we may not understand.
There is a religious sentiment throughout the story and you feel as though you are involved in a special moment with Ben as he shares a personal story between the Father in Heaven and the chaplain. This interaction provoked thought between life after death and how our lives change after we lose a loved one. Dear Emma respectfully shows how love can be everlasting, and how a love between a mother and daughter is an irreplaceable bond.
The descriptive language used throughout the novel easily paints a picture of the hospital setting, with images such as the chapel, cafeteria and maternity ward easily envisioned. Kwen Griffeth’s language, however, does not take away from the importance of the story and instead compliments the plot line and the characters as they progress through the story. This novel tugged at the heart strings and will feel the reader’s heart with warmth and love. The storyline is always fast paced, and even though it isn’t a typical action novel, it kept me on my toes, eager to learn what happens to the family and the letters.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a beautiful, feel good story with a little twist at the end! Dear Emma is a journey of love, life and grief and how love surpasses time, death and life.
Pages: 115 | ASIN: B00770I2HO
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East of Mecca,by Sheila Flaherty, details the journey of Sarah Hayes from a wife and mother of two to a woman forever changed by her time spent in Saudi Arabia. Set in the 1980s, Sarah’s story begins when her husband Max, a highly-motivated but fairly unstable man, accepts a job with Ocmara, a lucrative oil company, and moves his family overseas. Sarah and her two young children soon experience oppression, fear, and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness as residents of Al Hassa. Sarah’s life in the Middle East spirals out of control as she fights to keep her family together and save the life of a woman she never expected to adore.
Though I have fought hard to avoid the cliche, I have to say East of Mecca is a book I could not put down. From the moment Max tells Sarah of his job offer and their impending move, Sarah’s experiences flowed awkwardly with all the grace of a line of shaky but properly placed dominoes. I found myself holding my breath and waiting for the next collapse of Sarah’s world. At every turn, I expected her world to crash around her and ached alongside her while she slowly realized that her passport was not her own, nor were most of her choices–least of all her ability to work or make decisions.
Flaherty paints a bleak picture of life in Saudi Arabia while at the same time giving credit to its purity and breathtaking beauty. She manages to build a type of fear in the reader that I have yet to experience in any other book. Sarah, a strong woman in her own right, is the ideal character for the setting and events Flaherty creates. As I watched her virtually unbreakable spirit tested page after page, I was able to visualize with frightening ease the true depth of suffering and shocking brutality endured by women within the culture. Watching Sarah feel herself falter and face her own vulnerabilities drove home the plight of the other wives of Ocmara’s employees and the Saudi women. The author reveals heart-wrenching details of abuse and a sense of control by males that seems to spread like a virus to those who linger long enough within the country’s borders.
Sarah’s gradual meeting and ensuing friendship with Yasmeen is stretched throughout the storyline and keeps the reader yearning for just one more tidbit–one more clue. Flaherty manages to provide an element of mystery with Sarah’s sightings of Yasmeen, aloof and lonely on the beach, and then masterfully weaves it into a tale of two friends sharing a common bond of love and tragedy.
I am wholeheartedly rating East of Mecca a 5 out 5. Within its pages lies a tale all too true and far too common. There is an education of sorts to be had from absorbing oneself in Sarah’s utter desperation and final rebellion. The first person account is a must-read for women everywhere and a reread for myself. Flaherty’s Sarah and Yasmeen represent two ends of a spectrum, two cultures, yet they are one.
Pages: 300 | ASIN: B00FMY2CWI
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Wheeler is a suspenseful romance novel that follows a strong female cyclist battling both physical and emotional challenges. What was your inspiration for this thrilling novel?
I have been been a fan of cycling for some years now but over the last five years I’ve been hugely influenced by the women’s peloton. Their grace under pressure, heart and incredible talent is an inspiration. My ultimate goal for the hard copy of Wheeler is for the proceeds of each book sold to be donated to the Homestretch Foundation, founded by Kathryn Bertine, a former pro cyclist. She saw a need for women cyclists who wanted to compete but financially, had no way to train and earn a living. Homestretch provides the housing, equipment, training and nutrition for elite riders to have a chance to compete at the pro level.
Loren and Graham connection develops into a complex relationship through the novel. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
Relationships among creative types can begin intensely, with all the Shakespeare quotes and French terms of endearment, only to burn out in a few short months. Loren and Graham are both isolated and lonely, even though they are surrounded by friends and family. They each have personal issues to overcome and are willing support each other through their trials in order to make the relationship work, just like real people.
Wheeler starts in the middle of Loren’s cycling competition. What is your experience with the sport and why was this a good setup for your novel?
Being a cyclist myself, understand most of what they go through: the training, the discipline, sacrificing yourself for your teammates. I know the intense physical discomfort (i.e. pain) of taking your body to the limit and beyond.
There’s a parallel between being a pro athlete and an actor – long hours of training, constant travel, the media spotlight, but also the close relationships that can develop between teammates (co-stars). It takes the right mix of personalities to make it work or the film (or team) won’t succeed. I thought this would be an interesting, and realistic, pairing. They would need to understand how important their careers are, but also know that it could all end with one bad review, or the squeal of a car tire.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently wrapping up the first draft of the as unnamed follow up and I hope to have it to my editor by Autumn, 2017.
To become an elite cyclist in Europe, Loren Mackenzie has overcome much in her life, but no one would know it. Her tragic past is hidden inside tarnished armor and her fear of it being uncovered has kept her out of the spotlight.
Known as the Ice Queen of the peloton, Loren rarely shows emotion in the heat of competition; she leads her team with quiet strength and determination. But when a chance meeting quickly develops into a whirlwind romance, the ice surrounding her heart begins to melt.
All is not rainbows and unicorns, though. The relationship with an A-list celebrity brings with it the microscope of tabloid-media attention but also exposes the jealousy and obsession of another, threatening to unravel Loren’s tightly wound life.
Can Loren open her heart to the love she has held at a distance, or will her fear and shame ultimately defeat her?
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Room 11 is a genre-crossing novel with elements of a suspense, thriller, and medical drama as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I must admit that Room 11 came to life in a strange way. The wife’s chapters, a mixture of yearning dreams and angry nightmare-like rants, were written separately, in an attempt to record the disparate strong emotions I felt during the few days just after I miscarried my third child, but which I had to put away at the time as I was attending a family wedding. On their own, though, these chapters were not enough for a novel, and they were almost impossible to fit in any larger narrative because they felt so mad and enraged. This is when, watching one of my favourite movies ‘Talk to Her’ (by Almodovar), I thought of putting the wife in a coma. I had also recently finished reading ‘A Kind of Intimacy’ (Jenn Ashworth), which gave me further ideas for the nurse, a character coming from a very different place to the wife, tender deep inside, but who would allow me to explore a parallel take on obsession and delusion growing in a pained soul.
Room 11 gives two women’s accounts of the same events via their own dreamlike states; a comatose woman and an increasingly stalker-ish nurse. Why did you choose to tell the story through a dreamlike filter?
I think of my characters as icebergs, living only ten percent of what they dream underwater, which to them feels more real than their everyday lives. My nurse may not get up to much in my novel, neither my wife; but their inner worlds hope to reveal humanity at its most extraordinary.
The characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
Most readers abhor the wife, but she was definitely my favourite character because of all her viciousness and flaws, and the easiest to write for. I liked the nurse too but found her much more demanding to get right, as if she was flitting between my fingers resisting to be nailed down.
Room 11 is a fantastic suspense novel. Was there anything that happened organically in the story while you were writing? Did it surprise you?
All along I knew how the wife had ended up in a coma and that she would reveal that by then end of the book. But what would the nurse do? I wanted the wife killed … I wanted to pretend that her cynicism could be silenced and her man could have a new start alongside the other woman. But in the end… I just couldn’t. I wonder why…
After an accident leaves a woman in a coma, her husband sits on a hospital chair day-in day-out singing to her. Nobody can pull him away from her as she threads through the dreams that could save her. Meanwhile, a delusional nurse grows her admiration for him into obsessive desire.
‘I am fascinated by the way mari delves so deeply into the personality of the nurse, showing how she gradually comes to believe the man in Room 11 is in love with her, seeing all sort of small indications that may or may not be real,’ A Woman’s Write.
ROOM 11 is a dual narrative by strong, cynical, broken heroines (the nurse and the wife) winding passionately through hope, anger, delusion, obsession, guilt, sacrifice, resignation and eventually forgiveness, to help them re-emerge from their separate tragedies.
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The Literary Titan Book Awards are awarded to books that have astounded and amazed us with unique writing styles, vivid worlds, complex characters, and original ideas. These books deserve extraordinary praise and we are proud to acknowledge the hard work, dedication, and imagination of these talented authors.
Gold Award Winners
Silver Book Award
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