Monday 6 May 2019

BLOG TOUR: In Two Minds By Alis Hawkins - The Teifi Valley Coroner #2


The time has finally come. I've been so impatient for this Blog Tour and cannot wait to share my thoughts on In Two Minds, the second instalment in The Teifi Valley Coroner Series By Alis Hawkins published by The Dome Press. A HUGE THANK YOU to the publisher for kindly sending me a copy.

 I recently reviewed None So Blind, the first book in the series and had nothing but praise for the author. You can read my review here. Also, None So Blind and In Two Minds can be read as stand-alone novels but I had a better reading experience being familiar with the characters, the setting and what happened in the first book. 

The Blurb

Harry Probert-Lloyd, a young barrister forced home from London by encroaching blindness, has begun work as the acting coroner of Teifi Valley with solicitor's clerk John Davies as his assistant.

When a faceless body is found on an isolated beach, Harry must lead the inquest. But his dogged pursuit of the truth begins to ruffle feathers. Especially when he decided to work alongside a local doctor with a dubious reputation and experimental theories considered radical and dangerous. Refusing to accept easy answers might not only jeopardise Harry's chance to be elected coroner permanently but could, it seems to implicate his own family in a crime.

My Thoughts

Another BRILLIANT story! 

As I mentioned earlier, In Two Minds picks up from None So Blind. Just a quick summary, Harry Probert-Lloyd was forced to return home from London due to his encroaching blindness. After successfully solving the case of the mysterious death of Margaret Jones, he is asked to take a job as acting Coroner as the current Coroner is ill and dying.

The story starts off with a naked and faceless corpse turning up on an isolated Cardiganshire beach. Harry Probert-Lloyd is asked to hold an inquest to establish the cause of death and identity. Harry's father opposes his decision of taking up the job as acting Coroner and appointing John Davies as his assistant once again. Harry, as stubborn as he is, ignores his father's opposition. As he begins his investigations, it becomes clear that he will receive no help from the constabulary but Harry is determined and not ready to accept that this man died of natural causes. He appoints Dr. Benton Reckitt as medical witness. But the doctor is not what you would call entirely respectable. Harry then finds out that his own family is somehow implicated in this mysterious death. The story then takes a whole new turn!!! 

I thoroughly enjoyed In Two Minds. It is a richly imagined and extremely well-plotted book. I literally couldn't put it down and read it in one sitting. In Two Minds is unpredictable, unique, engrossing and a real page-turner not to mention the shocking plot twists! I cannot recommend The Teifi Valley Coroner Series enough and I'm hoping for Book 3 to come out soon. 

My Rating: No doubt about that,  5 / 5 STARS  🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

In my opinion, to be 100% honest, this book or should I say series does not deserve less than 5 / 5 STARS.  

I strongly urge you to pick up these books. Grab your copies here:

None So Blind

In Two Minds

I was also lucky enough to be able to do a Q&A with Alis Hawkins.

Thank you so much, Alis, for agreeing to do this Q&A.

Here we go...

S: What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?  

A: I guess that question depends on what you mean by writing! If you mean ‘a writing life’ then, for me and the other 95% of professional writers who don’t make their entire living from writing, then it’s having to juggle the demands of paying the bills and keeping the kids in trainers and school trips with finding enough time to write.   

If you mean actually doing the writing then, for me, it’s knowing where to start a book. Finding the right point to start telling the story is hard. Give too much background information before anything really happens and you’ll lose people before you start; jump in without explaining enough of the situation for people to grasp what’s going on and they’ll be confused and give up on your book before they’ve really started. And, of course, in deciding where to start, you’ve also got to decide who’s going to tell the story – which of your character/s are you going to focus on as viewpoint characters? Exactly whose story is it?  

S: What kind of research do you do and how long do you spend researching before beginning to write? 

A: Because I write historical fiction, the answers here are ‘in depth’ and ‘a long time’! Before I wrote None So Blind, I knew next to nothing about nineteenth-century west Wales, and not a huge amount more about the nineteenth century in general. So I did a year’s solid research before starting (bearing in mind that I also have a part-time day job). 
Once I’d done that basic research, the amount I have to do for each book (book 3 in the Teifi Valley Coroner series is already finished in draft) has dropped, obviously. Now, I’ll probably do about 3 months’ research before I start, but there is always stuff to be done as you go along. Because I don’t plan my books in any great detail before I start, I don’t know what I need to know before I start writing. 
So, as far as In Two Minds was concerned, I didn’t know that Dr. Benton Reckitt was going to become a major character or that the practice of autopsy would become a big issue in the book. So I had to take some time out, after he’d appeared, to do some reading about mid-century post mortem examinations and the contemporary thinking on the relationship between the brain and human behaviour. People talk glibly about ‘the Victorian period’ as if nothing much changed and people thought, felt and acted the same throughout. But Victoria reigned for 63 years and the world changed as much between 1837 and 1901 as it did between 1937 and 2001. In other words, a lot. People’s attitudes changed a lot between 1851 (when the book is set) and the 1890s when Sherlock Holmes was doing his stuff. 

Making sure I know what I need to know about my particular bit of the Victorian era keeps me on my toes! 

S: If you could choose a book character to be for a day, who would it be and why? 

A: That’s actually a really easy question to answer. I’d love to be Harry Probert-Lloyd – my own central character – because then I’d know exactly what he can and can’t see. He has a juvenile form of macular degeneration called Stargardt’s disease and I’m constantly trying to block out the central part of my vision so that I can work out what he’d be able to see! It would be great to actually know. 

S: How many hours a day do you write? 

A: I make sure I’m at my desk at least between 9am and 1pm. Four hours doesn’t sound much but it’s quite hard to pretend to be somebody else and to maintain all the details of a fictional world in your head for longer than that with any success – at least for me.   

S: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?  

A: I don’t know whether it’s a quirk or not but I can’t write standing up. Because sitting for long periods isn’t good for you, I have a standing desk and I tend to do all my non-writing work at that – emails, social media etc. But, when I’m writing my novels, I have to be sitting down.  

S: Finally, what advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?  

A: There are two bits of advice I’d give. Firstly read voraciously in the genre you want to write in because only that way will you work out how the kind of book you want to write is supposed to work. And that means reading books written now, not the classics. You’re not going to learn how to write a good contemporary crime novel by reading Agatha Christie. Sorry. 
Secondly, just sit in front of your laptop or notepad every day that you humanly can (not every day that you feel like doing it) and just put words on screen/paper. As the Nike ad says, Just Do It. You can’t learn to make a chair by imagining yourself doing it, or by contemplating the perfection of the imagined chair, you have to start by cutting and shaping the wood and learning to joint. And your first chair will be awful because you’re still learning. And your second chair won’t be much better because, guess what, you’re still learning. But, gradually, you’ll get better and, in the end, you’ll make a chair somebody (who’s not your Mum/spouse/child) will want to pay you good money for. Same with writing. You only get better by doing it. Go to classes or take a course by all means – that might well speed the process – but Just Do It and don’t expect to be good from the word go. We’re all brilliant in our heads!
Then, choose somebody you trust to tell you the truth and ask them to read the final product. This may have to be a critical service as not all of us have friends who understand enough about how books work to know whether we’ve written something worthwhile or not. Don’t send a book to an agent unless somebody you trust has seen it and you’ve re-written it after listening to their advice.
Finally. Don’t give up. If you believe in your work, keep submitting and submitting it to agents until you find one who will take you on. And, meanwhile, work on your next book! 

Thanks for having me on the blog, Shania – it’s been a real pleasure answering your questions! 

🌠 Check out the reviews posted by these lovely bloggers for the blog tour! 🌠

 ★ Hope you enjoyed this blog post and please let me know if you do pick up these books. I would love to chat more about them! ★

1 comment :

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