Welcome to Alternative-Read.com
GUEST POST BY KERENA SWAN
A Lifelong Love Affair
Looking back, the second-biggest disappointment when I was five was being given Avon hand cream for Christmas. What’s wrong with hand cream? Well, nothing I suppose. It makes your hands smell nice. My disappointment didn’t centre on what it was but on was it wasn’t. I was a small girl on a mission and hand cream just wasn’t going to help me to accomplish it.
Even though I turned five in May the head teacher wouldn’t let me start school until September. My mum says it’s because she’d made a complaint about him and this was his revenge. Each morning I stood at the window and watched my two older brothers set off for school, envy and disappointment weighing heavily in my chest. I was desperate to learn to read. Picture books were all right but the mystery of words fascinated me.
How could all those random squiggles equate to my mum being able to say the same words each time she opened the book? Bedtimes were a joy, when Mum was feeling well enough, (she suffered six weeks of crippling pregnancy sickness) as she’d read us Norgy in Littleland by Freda Hurt. How I loved that magical book! I wanted to pick it up and make all those black patterns come alive inside my head.
My first day of school reached its peak of excitement when the teacher sat with me and taught me to read a few simple words. Other children were crying for their mums and I wanted to yell at them to ‘Be quiet! I’m learning to read here.’ The door to the secret garden had been opened and I could feast my eyes on all the colour, beauty and magic that lay within. Janet and John, Ant and Bee and of course Norgy were soon my best friends.
Once I was taught to read I was obsessed. I would creep onto the freezing landing at night (we had no central heating then) to read by the dim light until I could no longer feel my limbs or Dad caught me and sent me back to bed. I never dared turn my bedroom light on. That Christmas my brothers were given torches and I received the girlie hand cream. Torches! How wonderful. Why couldn’t I have a torch? I didn’t even have dry hands. With a torch I could snuggle up in bed and create a makeshift tent to read my books undetected.
The obsession with reading grew and all my pocket or birthday money went on books. I recall a week spent in Poole, Dorset where Mum and Dad gave us 50p a day to spend on ice-creams and sweets. As soon as I had those coins in my hand I went straight to the newsagents to decide between a strawberry mivi and Enid Blyton’s The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage. No contest. Toffee bon bons or The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat? A feline crime story held far more appeal.
Without a book on the go I am incomplete. When I finish a good novel I lose a companion and at the end of an exceptional book I feel bereft. If someone told me I would have to choose between losing a limb or never reading another book I’d tell them to make sure I had enough anaesthetic.
I have read a wide range of authors and most genres. I have travelled the world and travelled in time without going through the front door. The e-reader is my favourite invention. I can take numerous books on holiday without weighing my case down and can read at night without my husband telling me to turn the light off.
Losing the sight in my functioning eye from a detached retina three years ago was devastating but at least audio books were available to me. Discovering cancer within weeks of eye surgery was a trauma but I survived. With mortality staring me in the face I decided to fulfil long-held ambitions so signed up for a novel writing course with the Writing Magazine to produce my first book. I was a woman with a purpose.
Suddenly I felt like a teenager who’d finally been given the keys to the car. I was in the driving seat and could decide exactly where the story was going. The journey was exhilarating and it still is. How could I have missed this wonderful experience? I’ve written plenty over the years – policies and procedures, social work reports, training materials, content for my agency website – but not fiction. I never thought I’d find a pastime I liked more than reading but writing is now my passion. With the expert guidance of my tutor, Lesley Eames, I learned the craft and finished my first book then spent three months re-writing and editing it.
I gave myself a year to find either an agent or publisher. I had a couple of kind rejections saying my writing was strong but it wasn’t quite what they were looking for but a few weeks later Bloodhound Books requested the whole manuscript. Two days on I received an e-mail from their submissions team. I hardly dared open it and when I read the beginning I braced myself for disappointment. The first part talked about what they look for in a book and they’d noticed some editorial issues with my book and it wasn’t reaching its potential.
Oh dear, this sounded like the e-mail I had from the publisher who said it needed more threat in the earlier part of the book. Clearly a ‘No’ from Bloodhound but I read on. The next part of the letter said the book was extremely well written and because of my strong natural writing ability they wanted to offer me a contract.
Hang on. Did I misinterpret something? Did they actually want my book? Excitement was fizzing through my stomach as I re-read. It reached my chest then burst out in a yell of ‘Yay! I can’t believe it. They want my book!’ I bounced about on my office chair then peered at the screen again as everyone turned to stare at me. Muted congratulations drifted across the room. I turned to look at my husband who was looking at me with an ‘are you serious?’ expression.
After ditching a chapter or two and adding a few new ones, my debut novel ‘Dying to See You’ was full of threat and menace and was released in April 2018. My second novel ‘Scared to Breathe’ will be published by Bloodhound Books in June 2019 and I’m currently a third of the way through ‘Not my Sister.’
So what was the biggest disappointment when I was five? Being told my new sibling was yet another brother (sorry Craig!).
Scared to Breathe blurb
When Tasha witnesses a stabbing at the train station in Luton, she is compelled to give evidence in court that leads to Dean Rigby being convicted. But when Lewis, Dean’s brother, vows revenge, Tasha is afraid and no longer feels safe in her own home.
Tasha’s partner, Reuben, hopes to marry her and start a family soon. But Reuben is concerned about Tasha’s state of mind and urges her to see a doctor.
When Tasha is left a derelict country house by her birth father, she sees an opportunity to escape Luton and start a new life. After visiting Black Hollow Hall she sees it as the perfect opportunity to live a life without fear.
At first Tasha feels liberated from her troubles. The gardener, William, who is partially paralysed but employed to maintain the grounds of Black Hollow Hall, is welcoming.
But soon Tasha realises the Hall is not quite the idyll she imagined.
When she discovers that a woman jumped to her death there years ago following the murder of her husband, strange events begin to take place and Tasha fears for her safety.
Have the Rigby family found her?
Is someone trying to scare her into selling the house?
Or is she suffering from paranoia as Reuben suggests?
As Tasha’s sanity is put under pressure she begins to wonder if Black Hollow Hall going to be her salvation or her undoing…
Website: www.kerenaswan.co.uk Twitter: @kerenaswan Facebook: @kerenaswan
Kerena Swan trained as a Social Worker and worked for Social Services for over 25 years. For the past 14 years she has owned and managed an ‘outstanding’ rated care agency for children with disabilities. Following serious illnesses she decided to fulfil her long-held ambition of writing a book and getting it published. ‘Dying to See You’, published by Bloodhound Books, was her debut novel.
After many years of writing professionally in the course of her work, Kerena has discovered the exhilaration and deep joy of writing fiction and can be found at all hours in front of her computer. She has recently completed her second novel ‘Scared to Breathe’ which is being released on 3rd June 2019.
Kerena lives with her family in a small village in Bedfordshire, UK and her books are set in the surrounding areas.
Drawing on her extensive knowledge and experience of the problematic world of social work and social studies, Kerena adds a unique angle to the domestic noir and crime genre.
If you would like to hear more about new releases, read Kerena’s blogs and download a free short-story – the prequel to Dying to See You – then visit www.kerenaswan.com.uk and join her mailing list.