Monthly Archives: July 2017

In Conversation with – Kiki Archer, Clare Ashton and Jade Winters. LFEST 2017

Jade, Kiki and ClareAt the Romance Writers session at LFest last weekend Clare Ashton read from her award winning latest novel, Poppy Jenkins, Jade Winters, author of an amazing 17 books, read from her recent release, Lost in You, and Kiki Archer amused us all with an excerpt from her no1 best seller a fairytale of possibilities. Afterwards I got the chance to interview them, a challenging bunch who need a firm hand.

If you don’t know these writers – well Claire comes across as quite “proper” but has a wicked sense of humour and her books, which range from rather dark and challenging to light-hearted romance and hysterical slap stick, have a high number of references to bottoms and breasts. As she points out, the Brits aren’t quite as proper as people assume.

Jade Winters is painfully shy in front of a crowd. This was her first reading and she claims it will be her last, although she clearly isn’t quite as shy when dragged out by Kiki and there were off the record tales of disco divas and definitely brazen fan girl behaviours.

And Kiki Archer… what’s to say? Great writer of chick lit for lesbians, funny, sarcastic and highly amusing, Kiki is a great entertainer. “Always on Archer” knows just where the camera is and her model good looks certainly don’t hurt her PR.

I started off asking them their past involvement in LFest. Kiki and Claire have both been on readings, panels and even run a workshop in previous years, as well as being part of the LFest Polari event a few years ago. Jade has been before but this was her first reading. She commented that if it wasn’t for Kiki she wouldn’t know about LFest, she hadnt picked up on it, only Kiki’s involvement really got her interested in coming along.

Kiki and Clare both have 2 children and I asked about them staying to see more of the festival. Clare said her two were exhausted with the end of school year activities so she had left them at home but Kiki said she would be bringing hers over to LFest on the Sunday as there seemed to be so much going on they would enjoy like the face painting and circus skills.

They all enjoyed their panel although “enjoyed” is a word Jade probably wouldn’t use about any public appearance. They thought the audience was great, really interactive and welcoming. There were lots of questions and audience participation which they loved. I think all three were shocked just how many of the audience had read their books and the level of knowledge they showed about these authors’ works. It certainly came across that all three were delighted with the reception they got from the LFest crowd.

It became clear during the Q&A that several of the audience were writers and wanted to learn from these authors. I asked whether they thought writers workshops would fit into the LFest format and they thought there would definitely be takers. Clare and Kiki did a workshop style panel a few years ago and got a good turnout.

All three authors agreed that LFest was really important for promoting British lesbian writers. Since regional events such as the York Lesbian Arts Festival (YLAF) folded, the only national events have been LFest and the BSB festival in Nottingham. This year we have the inaugural DIVA awards in November, but unlike in the US, we have very few regional and local events that authors can attend in the UK, and very few places for readers to meet their favourite authors. The demise of the small independent bookshops has also caused a decline in readings, which makes it so much harder for authors to reach out. They all agree that LFest was a brilliant opportunity to interact and in their experience the ‘literary’ segment of the festival is just getting stronger each year with more authors and more sessions.

Moving on to their own writing I asked them what they were working on; in my experience authors are ALWAYS working on something. Surprisingly Kiki has taken the summer off and Clare’s daughter starts full time school this autumn so she is also spending the summer with the kids although she did admit to jotting down story ideas. Jade didn’t disappoint though, she is working on her 18th novel “Starting Over Again” which will be out August 2017.

I asked Jade how she had managed to write 17 books in 7 years to which she replied – “I’m a full time writer” and when we all raised her eyebrows she grinned at the other two and added “No kids”. Kiki says she will literally start the day she drops the kids back at school in September, back to her 9.30-2.30pm routine. Claire is contemplating how to ensure she has less references to breasts and bottoms in her next work, when she goes back in the autumn it will be as a full-time writer.

We ended with some “Have you ever…” questions:

Have you ever written poetry?
Jade – “Yes”
Claire – “ummm not since I was about six”
Kiki – “Yes, even had it published although I don’t advertise that. To be fair they were songs but hey, I was asked or a poem and sent them in. So yes you can buy my songs.. I’ll send you the link. “

At which point we agreed they should form a new girl group – based on Kiki’s promo video Jade has the beat, Kiki has the rap and Clare has the ‘flick’. In reality Clare would be at the back, probably behind the drums with a screen in front of her. Jade wouldn’t have a mic but would be making some moves. Kiki would be front and centre, right in the spotlight.

Have you ever regretted publishing something?
Claire – “No, not yet, I’m sure I will at some point”
Jade – nods in agreement
Kiki – “No, you can’t regret anything – that’s one of the things about being an independent self-published author, every book is this huge journey and a huge amount of learning.”

Have you ever had a crush on another author?
Clare giggles
Jade sidles up to Kiki
Kiki  -“These two obviously – I mean really Clare Ashton and Jade Winters!” She carries on, “Well there was that boozy pizza night with Melissa Brayden…”
Clare – “Oh my, I was under the table and you two were singing show tunes!”

Have you ever had a fan/stalker?
Clare – “No I get these really lovely fans who write me lovely emails saying how much they like my books”
Kiki – “No.. not really, but I have got this weird thing that happened with a foot fetish about my feet. I sat one year at LFest and was flicking my foot, somebody recorded it and it became a gif. It’s still out there somewhere – I’ll send you the link.”

On that note it seemed like a good idea to wrap it up. The LFest press officer had been watching and was highly amused, seems like the perfect place to stop. Kiki says they will be back next year, twisting Jade’s arm quietly off camera.

a fairytale of possibilities a fairytale of possibilities – Kiki Archer
Paperback: 267 pages
First published 2017
Publisher: K.A Books (June 13, 2017)
To buy from Amazon click HERE
Poppy Jenkins - Clare Ashton
Poppy Jenkins – Clare Ashton
Paperback: 378 pages
First published 2016
Publisher: Breezy Tree Press (June 19, 2016)
To buy from Amazon click HERE
Lost in You - Jade Winters Lost in You – Jade Winters
Paperback: 292 pages
First published 2017
Publisher: Wicked Winters Books (March 24, 2017)
To buy from Amazon click HERE



In Conversation with – Anna Larner. LFEST 2017

Anna Larner LFest 2017I met with the lovely Anna Larner just after her debut appearance at LFest last weekend.  I started by asking how come she hadn’t been to LFest before given she’s based in Leicester and she explained that she had heard about it as friends began to come along, but hadn’t really been aware of what it was all about except that it was very supportive of artists and writers. Then her partner wrote to Cindy Edwards, Founder of LFest and Festival Director, to ask if there was a way for Anna to be involved as her debut novel came out this year. LFest invited her to join the panel this morning, where she read a poem called “On Reflection” and two excepts from her published works.

Anna was adamant this might be her first LFest but definitely wont be her last. She feels that this is an important forum for UK writers and expressed how vital it is for authors to connect with their readers. She was delighted that over 60 women turned out for the session at 10am on a Saturday morning. They were certainly a lively crowd and she had them wincing in recognition of the pain of falling for straight girls, laughing at the ‘unwelcome’ over-friendliness of a new neighbour in “Hooper Street” and oohing at the hot sex scene from “Highland Fling”.

The panel was very mixed with an erotic crime author, a romance writer, a historical pirate excerpt and a very funny scene in a lesbian sauna by a stand-up comic come author. There was a lot of laughter and humour on the stage from all the author readings, as Anna said “If you can’t celebrate lesbianism at LFest when can you?” She went on “As a writer it is so lovely to meet readers and when somebody says “Oh I really enjoyed that” it means so much; it really encourages you.”

It was fairly raunchy up there this morning and it always amazes me how many authors are extremely introverted yet write these hot sex scenes, and then chose to read them out loud. Anna laughed “It’s a lonely old business sitting at your desk writing away, but we really are a bit naughty us romance writers, we definitely have a twinkle in the eye and an over active imagination.”

Anna said it means the world to have somewhere like LFest to be herself, that she feels more relaxed, less strained, less “strange” here than anywhere else. “One of the pleasures of writing is knowing your readers might be sitting in their bedrooms, hidden away, seeing themselves in the book and connecting with the characters. LFest gives us that sense of inclusivity, where your own identity is given back to you.” We went on to talk about how little space there is left for lesbian authors with the lack of lesbian centres and bookshops now and Anna was very clear, “LFest is our place, where we make our memories as a community, and I can say – “I was there is 2017”, and that will be one of the highlights for me.”

Next year Anna’s publisher, Bold Strokes Books, is holding their annual writers retreat in the UK in the week before the BSB Nottingham festival at the beginning of May and many of the big name authors like Radclyffe, Carsen Taite, VK Powell and D Jackson Leigh are coming. Anna is particularly excited to meet her editor Ruth Sternglantz. “Bold Strokes really makes you want to be a better writer, they want you to improve with every book and I cant wait to meet them all.”

I asked Anna if she was here for the whole weekend, she hadn’t planned to stay but thought she might well come back tomorrow as there was so much to see and do. She was definitely going to the Romance Writers session later with Kiki Archer, Clare Ashton and Jade Winters and wants to go to the Poetry Slam. She feels that hearing poetry is so important, every word fitted exactly into it’s place and so wonderful to hear the poet read their own words. She said “I love the performance, the vibrancy and live energy you get from a reading, definitely the arts is my thing. I am looking forward to “The Tempest” tonight as well.”

Moving on to Anna’s writing, her debut novel “Highland Fling” came out in April and is going really well, she’s been getting great feedback from readers and is really proud of the story as it connects with a diversity of sexualities and ages, a bridge between old and young and the different social and political experiences.

Her short story “Hooper Street” was published as part of a BSB Anthology called “Girls Next Door” in June. She found writing “Hooper Street” to be great fun because of writing in the first person, being the narrator with a limited number of words.

Her new novel “Love’s Portrait” is due out 2018. She is loving learning the process of writing and is delighted readers like her work, she really cares for her characters and wants her readers to engage with them as well.

Anna ended by saying “I was genuinely excited to be at LFest and get the opportunity to take part in the event, do a reading, meet readers, and to be interviewed, it was great, Thank You.”

Highland Fling Highland Fling
Anna Larner
Paperback: 240 pages
First published 2017
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (April 18, 2017)
ASIN: B06XP7W7RQTo buy from Amazon click HERE
Girls Next Door: Lesbian Romance Girls Next Door: Lesbian Romance
Edited by Sandy Lowe and Stacia Seaman
Paperback: 228 pages
First published 2017
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (June 20, 2017)
ASIN: B071J1WNHHTo buy from Amazon click HERE


Rainey with a Chance of Hale – RE Bradshaw

Rainey with a Chance of Hale – RE BradshawWhen her former FBI partner calls Rainey Bell gets pulled into another old case, one where she made a promise she has failed to keep. She told a distraught mother she would find her missing daughter, a promise she should never have made and a pledge that has played on her mind ever since. When Rainey is asked to talk to the man she thinks knows the answer she puts her FBI/BAU hat on once again to solve a ‘cold case’ from her past.

The Rainey Bell series is one of the best out there, constantly new, fresh and imaginative, with shocking tales of human depravity set against the ongoing cuteness of Rainey and Katie’s growing family. After stopping her young daughter becoming a soccer thug Rainey goes to Butner Federal Correctional Complex with Danny to talk to a deranged inbred suspected serial killer, and Rainey knows which is harder – controlling her precocious 5 year old.

RE Bradshaw bioConsistently well written RE Bradshaw’s books are always extremely well edited and produced, perfect examples of how good independent publishing can be when done properly. The stories are engrossing, drawing the reader into Rainey and Katies’ lives, and the twisted and brutal minds of the killers the BAU deal with. Like many avid fans this one got consumed in one sitting. RE Bradshaw pulls you right in and shuts the door behind you.

While each book is very much part of the series they all stand alone, and this is certainly readable without the back history of the other books, but why would you deprive yourself of the pleasure? Unfailingly good stories, wonderful strong women, top notch crime thrillers and a backdrop of a charming ongoing romance. Simply the best in class.

Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 201 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: R.E. Bradshaw Books (July 10, 2017)
  • ASIN: B073VXL8FH
To buy from – click here.
To buy from – click here.

An Outsider Inside – RJ Samuel

An Outsider Inside - RJ SamuelR J Samuel’s latest novel “An Outsider Inside” is a polychromatic phantasmagoria – a constantly moving kaleidoscope of colour and character in which very few of the myriad players stand still long enough to be observed.

The overarching themes of identity, love, trust and belonging weave together as we move backwards and forwards between the life of an Indian couple coming to terms with their arranged marriage in small-town Ireland and the current incarnation of the various players with whom their lives have become intertwined. Overlaid on all of that is the complex undertone of prejudice… patriarchal, racial, homophobic, biphobic; external and obvious or internalised and just as damaging.

R J Samuel is an excellent storyteller and accomplished writer who somehow manages to lead the reader from A to B with side tours to P, X and J, while simultaneously challenging us to reconsider our own prejudices. This isn’t a difficult read in the sense of being unpleasant in any way, but the very complexity of the characters’ lives, combined with issues such as domestic abuse, arranged marriage, gender identity and mental health, make it a challenging read in that it challenges us to reconsider our own prejudice.

Like all really good literature this book will make you think. It will entertain, inform and enlighten the majority of us who have never experienced the life of a foreigner with a different skin colour in an extremely white and parochial community, or the concept of total sacrifice for the family, and while many of us have suffered homophobia, few have grown up in a society where the whole culture believes it is an abomination. The personal choices facing many of these characters will strike a chord; we are drawn in, caught up and immersed in their lives, and can’t help but want to save them, sort them out, and see them live the “happy ever after” they deserve.

RJ Samuel BiogEach of R J’s books shows her development as a master craftswoman. The prose is delightful, the characters complex, the plot twisted into knots and the settings are beautifully described. Add onto all that a deep and meaningful observation of humanity and a clever portrayal of the impact of multiple prejudices and our very personal reactions to them and you have an excellent and thought provoking novel.

This is one book I will find the time to reread, it will take at least 2 visits to really see the subtle interplay of personalities and fully appreciate the complex personal journeys that RJ has woven into this colourful tale.

Did you know? If you purchase any of the books reviewed on the LRR from our Amazon shop or Amazon page links we receive a couple of cents per book which will help us support the Lesbian Reading Room GCLS Scholarship Fund.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • First published 2017
  • Publisher: Amazon  (July 5, 2017)
  • ASIN: B07379TC9V
To buy from – click here.
To buy from – click here.