The Coffee Pot Book Club Interviews

Here you can catch up with Mal Foster who was interviewed about his latest novel, 'Jude & Bliss', by a number of Bloggers during his 2021 Virtual Book Tour which was hosted by the Coffee Pot Book Club...

"When I published ‘Jude & Bliss’ at the end of 2020, the usual means of promoting my book were not possible due to the Corona Virus. During my search for an alternative method of getting the message out there, I discovered the Coffee Pot Book Club. They were able to host a virtual book blog tour across a platform of ten independent blog sites. Four of those sites interviewed me during the course of the process." 

Interview : B for Book Review

When and where do you prefer to write? 

Early in the morning, either, at home, or whilst on holiday, which is usually Gozo, Malta. 

Do you need peace and quiet when you are writing? 

Yes definitely. The creative juices come to a shuddering half if I’m distracted or disturbed when writing.

If you had the chance to co-write a book, whom would it be with?

The late Leonard Cohen, obviously that won’t happen, but it is something I had dreamt about previously. A rewrite of his famous novel ‘Beautiful Losers’ but in layman’s terms! 

Say someone asks if they can use your name in a book. Would you rather be the good guy or the bad one? 

I’d opt for being the bad guy. It would be an opportunity to see how the writer really perceives me through their subconscious. 

Who would you like/have liked to interview?

I was once asked to interview the musician Paul Weller of The Jam for a local newspaper, but it never came to fruition, I would though, like to interview the actress Eleanor Tomlinson from Poldark for purely selfish reasons. 

Where can I find you when you are reading? 

On a train, or plane.

Where can I find you when you are not writing/reading? 

In a pub, at a football match, or, on a long walk with my little dog, Stella.

What goes through your mind when you hold your new book in your hands for the first time? 

Usually, at first, a sense of personal pride and then a nagging fear that something might have escaped the proofreading stage. 

How do you come up with a title for your book? 

I usually have a working title then come up with the final title after completing the manuscript. As an example, my second novel. ‘Fly Back and Purify’, is a quote from one of the characters from the book, the paranormal journalist, Nathaniel Bream. 

How do you pick a cover for your book? 

I always base the cover idea on the main plotline. The cover of ‘Jude & Bliss’ I think, depicts this very well. A good cover designer will always ask the right questions to enable this to be achieved.

01 04 21

Interview : Zoe's Arts & Crafts Bookblog

The inspiration for ‘Jude & Bliss’ manifested itself as far back as 1994, at a time when I hadn’t even considered writing a novel. 

On a hot Sunday afternoon at the end of June that year, I attended the Strawberry Fayre, at Bisley Village Green with my then-wife, Jeannette, and our four-year-old son Chris. The Surrey Heath Museum had a display in a gazebo that contained marvels of local history.  

Among the artefacts, was a crudely bound court account of a young girl from nearby Bagshot who was systematically killed by her employer. The employer, a Mrs Camilla Nicholls, of Pitt Street, Kensingston, was ultimately tried for manslaughter and sentenced to seven years penal servitude. An extremely light sentence for her crime, in my opinion. The young girl who died was one Emily Jane Popejoy, (1880-1897). 

After a pleasant chat with the museum’s curator, I attained a copy of the court report for £5.00, which was quite extortionate in 1994. However, it never really told the full story from Emily’s perspective, nor that of her family but for some reason, it all had a profound effect on me, and I made sure I kept my purchase in a safe place for years to come.

It wasn’t until 2015 after I had finished my debut historical fiction novel, ‘The Asylum Soul’ that I considered turning Emily’s tragic tale into a novel. It took me a few more years to decide how to achieve my goal of actually getting down to business and writing the book. I knew my story had to be original and written as fiction. ‘Jude & Bliss’ is truly inspired by a real-life tragedy but importantly, it is not based on one.  

As part of my research, I visited Emily Popejoy’s grave in March 2020 whilst I was in the early stages of writing. The whole experience was rather poignant and felt quite spiritual. I then created Jude Rogers, a character similar to Emily and one I hope Emily herself, would have endeared to. 

As the writing progressed, I slightly amended the timelines and changed the locations albeit, keeping them quite local. There were a lot of gaps in Emily’s true story. This is where fiction came to the fore and played its part. I knew I had to make the whole story of Jude, my own, therefore the storyline is completely detached from the real-life account of Emily Popejoy’s life, and sadly, her ultimate demise.

11 03 21  

Interview : The Whispering Bookworm

What inspired you to start writing?

I started writing poetry just after I left school. In those days I used to visit a coffee lounge in Camberley, Surrey in the mid-1970s which was often frequented by academics who were back from university at Christmas or for the summer holidays. Although I had left school at an early age and before gaining any formal qualifications, I always felt comfortable in their company. Encouragement and fair critique were always on hand, and my writing, I think, really progressed from there. One of the guys suggested I should try writing a novel. Some forty years later, a bit belatedly, I did.  

What was the hardest part of writing the book?

The editing process for me is the most challenging part of writing a book. I think a writer can only read their own manuscript a limited number of times without the process becoming tedious. After it's been proofread, you need to reread it just in case the proof-reader has changed something out of context, and that can prove difficult, particularly if you spot that a late change is required, as it may affect other pieces of the manuscript and delay the route to publication. 

Does one of your characters hold a special please in your heart, is so, why?

In 'Jude & Bliss' Lord Justice Jonathan Stenhouse, is my personal stand out character. He's the presiding judge at the Old Bailey trial of the woman accused over Jude Roger's death. I just loved bringing him into the book with his little quips and observations.  

If your book was made into a movie, who are the celebrities, you would like to star in it?

Singer and (Dunkirk) actor, Harry Styles, as Harry, Jude's brother. Sir Michael Gambon (The Singing Detective) as Lord Justice Jonathan Stenhouse, Suranne Jones (Gentleman Jack) as Scarlett Moynihan, Jude’s employer and the evergreen Dame Julie Walters as Eileen Sudbury, Jude’s estranged mother.  

What do you hope readers will take away from your book? 

As with my previous books, hearing that readers have endeared themselves to the protagonist(s) and identified with the emotions he/she is going through. Obviously, I would like that to happen again with ‘Jude & Bliss’ and for people to long remember the storyline. I want my readers to feel they are part of the story and that they’re in the book somewhere, rubbing shoulders with the characters I’ve created. Positive feedback makes the whole writing process through to publication feel worthwhile and always gives me a sense of achievement. That said, it’s only really the strength and appeal of my characters that can make that possible.

04 03 21

Fun Facts Interview by Mary Anne Bernal

Tell me about Camberley?

I used to belong to an amateur musical society in Camberley, Surrey, called CAMUS. In 1983 I was invited to play the part of Lt Joseph Cable in their stage version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘South Pacific’, singing solo for the first time ever. ‘South Pacific’ was one of my late mother’s favourite films, so I gave her two tickets for the show, but didn’t tell her I was appearing. The look on her face when she saw me walk on stage was something else, and to this day, I still don’t know whether it was one of shock, horror, or just plain pride in her son who had obviously duped her.

Tell me about Gozo?

Gozo, Malta, I regard as my second home. My third novel, ‘An Invisible Nemesis, published in 2019, is predominately set on the islands. I made my first visit to Malta alone in October 1988. The second day I was there, I was walking down a street in the capital, Valletta when I heard a voice, I recognised behind me. It was Mr Wilkinson (or Rodney), a teacher I hadn’t seen since leaving school some fifteen years previously. He somehow recognised and remembered me and with his wife, we spent the rest of the week sharing stories, ‘what might have beens’ and drinks together. He said, “one day I might make it as a writer!”

Tell me about HRH Prince Charles?

In 1984 I joined the railways fulfilling a series of roles before taking early retirement in 2014 after 30 years. In November 1998, as a station manager, I was on Royal Train duties. It was my task to escort HRH Prince Charles on to the train at Hampton Court railway station. It had passed midnight and a little worse for wear, he had been celebrating his fiftieth birthday at Hampton Court Palace. The train had been prepared for a trip to Sheffield where the prince had an engagement the following day. The media were at the station in numbers, expecting the prince to be with Camilla, it was just after he had started seeing her in the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, just over a year before. Camilla wasn’t there, and the only thing the press photographers got, was an image of HRH Prince Charles and me walking along the station platform. It was quite amusing seeing myself labelled as his Royal Equerry in some of the national newspapers a couple of days later. 

Tell me about school and work?

It’s no secret that I had left school at just fifteen years old before taking any formal qualifications. My ambition was always to be a journalist but without the necessary qualifications that was never to be. Well, not until I had reached my late fifties anyway. In 2015 I was attending a local football match near where I live when I struck up a conversation with the new editor of the Woking News & Mail. She had seen some of my work on the local community website and was impressed with my style of writing. Within a week I joined the paper on a freelance basis. So, never, say never! 

& Marriage/Relationship?

I have a bit of a reputation for going to the pub. I’ve also been married three times, and by pure coincidence, I met all three of the ex-wives in pubs. (Two of them were barmaids). Towards the end of each marriage, all of them said, ‘Mal, you can never stay out of the pub.’ One good thing to come out of the recent Covid-19 restrictions is that I’ve been able to prove all of them wrong! 

18 02 21

 

Note: The above interviews appear courtesy of the individual blog sites. Some information has been slightly edited to allow for clarity.