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Thursday, 13 July 2017

Author Q & A with Estelle Maher

Is our life dictated by us, fate or divine intervention? On her way home from the office, thirty-year-old Grace Hammond stumbles across a tramp named Crowley who is found dead in her village the following day. Crowley soon returns to Grace looking for her help so he can cross over.  He just needs to complete a task that will have a positive effect on her life. Unfortunately, neither knows where to start! Help comes in the form of her landlord, her elderly neighbour, her gay best friend, a good looking American and Frank Sinatra! Can Grace help Crowley be with his family? Can she get her own life back on track?

Title: Grace and the Ghost
Author: Estelle Maher
Published By: Createspace
Publication Date: 24th March
Links: UK: Amazon   US: Amazon 

Author Q & A

Hi Estelle and welcome to Sincerely Book Angels blog.

What was the inspiration behind this novel?
Grace and the Ghost is about a young woman who is haunted by a man who she briefly met when he was alive. His name is Crowley and he has been given the task of picking someone and doing something that will have a positive effect on their life. He cannot move on until the task is complete. I was inspired to write the novel as I’ve always been deeply interested in the spiritual side of life and death. I've had numerous experiences throughout life which have always made me believe there is more to life than being born and dying. Whist our physical vessel may die, I’ve always questioned what happens to the energy inside - the energy that makes us the person that we are. That has to go somewhere, right?

Did you always want to be a writer?
I've always dreamed of being able to dedicate a lot of time to writing. Remote cottages and windswept beaches always featured heavily in my dreams. I like to think I'm moody like Hemingway but my friends pin me more as a Barbara Cartland! I have actually been writing on and off since I was a teenager - scribbling on flock wallpaper covered exercise books etc. In my thirties I had a go at writing a novel but babies, life and more excuses came my way. I then started a little holiday blog a few years back and more recently another regular blog which meant for the first time I was actually getting feedback on my writing. It was all really positive and encouraged me greatly. Then, one day, I sat back in my chair at work and thought 'there has to be more to my life than this'. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't unhappy I was just unfulfilled. I then drove home one night and Crowley, the ghost, popped into my head and he wouldn't go away. He was always tipsy and nagging me to write his story!

What other jobs have you had?
All kinds of office work but mainly in insurance. My first Saturday job was in a chocolate shop and I sometimes wish I was still there. I also ran my own childminding business when my children were small. They were fun years and I was super thin from all the running around!

How did it feel when your first novel was published?
When I finished writing Grace and the Ghost, I closed my laptop and cried. I couldn't stop and still really don't understand why I cried so hard. I called my husband and sobbed to him when I realised I couldn't calm myself down after nearly an hour. Being published and having a physical book is surreal. To see it sitting on my son’s bedside table every time I go in his bedroom to scoop up his dirty washing is very strange!

Can you please tell us a little about your publishing story.
I tried to go through the traditional route and was offered a publishing contract but the terms didn't feel right for me. I was getting a bit disheartened until a friend said, 'why do you need someone else to tell you if you're book is good enough for people to read?'. He was right of course and so that’s when I decided to self-publish. At first it all felt rather intimidating but then through a friend I was introduced to my editor, Sue Miller of Team Author UK. Without her I'd still be muttering about ISBN numbers and acceptable fonts! I could not have done anything without her. She introduced me to a network of people who could help me in every sense. Cover designers, web designers, book shop owners etc. You need all these people to help you. I could never have done it on my own!

Have you ever had writer's block? If so how did you overcome it?
I never felt like giving up when I was writing Grace and the Ghost nor did I get writer’s block - the book literally fell on the pages. My original manuscript was so huge I think someone has shredded it and sold it to Ikea for mattress stuffing!

What motivates you to keep writing?
I know it sounds strange but my characters motivate me. If I don't write for a while I can hear them nagging in my head. It’s a bit like when you put pause on the Sky box and it starts to annoy you after a while.

Where is your favourite place to write?
We have a small den in our house which is the room we had fun decorating. Nothing matches and anything goes. The settees are big, old and squashy. Lovely for settling into a days writing.

Do your characters moods ever affect your mood and vice versa?
Without a doubt. I had to kill a character off in Grace & The Ghost and I became depressed for a couple of days. I could see my family all looking at me rather shiftily around the dinner table all wondering what was wrong with me. They were relieved when I said that I had to kill a lovely character off and that made me more upset as they didn’t understand. Looking back, it's quite amusing but it just shows you how much you get involved with the people in your book.

What three pieces of advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
1) Thinking about the end goal was too big for my little brain to process, so I took a stepping stone approach. I think this is really important as a writer. Let your idea develop and write what comes from your gut more than your head. 

2) Once it's written, go back and read again. 

3) Give it to a couple of really honest friends for feedback. Surround yourself with positive people as well. I had a few people along the way who thought my dream was impossible. The only thing that limits us is ourselves so don't let other people help you along that negative path.

Which authors inspire you?
With the exception of Terry Pratchett, I read books very different to mine. I love glamour books with bitches, money and powerful men. I grew up watching Dallas and Dynasty so still need my eighties fix now and again from Barbara Taylor Bradford and Jackie Collins. Most of the time though I tend to read biographies, especially old Hollywood stars.

What are you reading at the moment?
My friend who is also a fellow author has written a great series of books called the Mineran Series. I'm reading the first one and it's fast paced. It's very different from what I normally read but it's good to get out of your comfort zone sometimes.

If your book was made into a film what song would you choose for the opening credits?
Ghosts That We Knew by Mumford & Sons.

Who would you choose to play your favourite character in the film of your book?
My favourite character is Kate Mortimer. She's a cantankerous old American with a quip for everything. Mostly barbed in her delivery but everyone loves her. Dead or alive it would have to be Bette Davis but if they have to be alive I'd be very happy with Shirley MacLaine.

What is your next book about?
I'm currently writing a second book, called Angel's Rebellion. Two characters from Grace & The Ghost are in the second book. It's not a sequel as such, you don't have to read Grace to understand Angel's. 

My next book Angel's Rebellion is based in Heaven. Crowley, from my first book, has been promoted and is trying to find his feet in his new role as a spiritual guide. But a group of angels are not happy at their 'unappreciated interventions' so plan to reveal the truth to all on Earth. Crowley and his friends are trying to limit the damage to faith and human beliefs on Earth. It sounds heavy but hopefully the reader will laugh as much as they did with Grace & The Ghost.

And now think about the books you've read and just give the first one that comes into your head for our quickfire 'Which book round.'

Which book has made you:

Laugh out loud?
Adrian Mole – all of them, Sue Townsend

Cry your heart out?
PS I Love You,Cecila Aherne

Want to read it again?
Twopence to Cross the Mersey, Helen Forrester

Think more?
The Soul's Code, James Hillman

Wish it would be made into a film?
The Discworld books, Terry Pratchett

Small Island, Andrea Levy

Bless The Child, Cathy Cash Spellman

Thanks so much for joining us Estelle and good luck with the book.

Book Angel x

About the Author

Estelle Maher was born in the heart of Liverpool, England. After spending her teens in rural Dorset, she returned to the North of England and now resides in Wirral with her husband, 2 children and 2 dogs.

Her career has been varied, working in shipping, insurance and finance. But in her spare time, she’s quite at home with a paint brush upcycling furniture. She also writes a blog in her spare time, The Secret Diary of A Middle Aged Woman, a humorous snapshot of random thoughts.

Estelle has been writing on and off for a number of years and writing the blog was her first step in writing for an audience that was wider than her and her husband.

However, throughout her life, Estelle has experienced lots of ‘inexplicable moments’ which inspired her first debut novel, Grace & The Ghost.

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