Tuesday, 16 September 2014

A very versatile writer, a feature on Claire Voet.

I would like to continue my feature on the best writers that  I have come across in recent times, those that can easily hold my attention through the quality of their writing. I have already talked about Chuck Lovatt, from Canada, a brilliant writer of historical fiction. Now I would like to showcase another very good writer, Claire Voet.

I came across Claire's WHITTINGTON MANOR  while just browsing through what was available at Amazon one day. I had collected a few e-books on my kindle and kept trying to get into reading more than just a few pages of each, before becoming frustrated with the bad flow and messy style of so many 'authors'. I put the word author in inverted commas as in the modern world of 'anyone can write a book' it seems that just about anyone can, and publish it. It can be a bit of a trek wading through the mediocre stuff to find the good or the very good.

 Whilst I would not want to knock anyone for trying, as every piece of written work can have it's merits in it's own way, when one comes across writing of much more depth and higher quality the reading experience becomes so much more enjoyable.

WHITTINGTON MANOR  is a lovely story, set during the second world war, around the area of Portchester on the northern edge of Portsmouth Harbour. I enjoyed this book very much indeed and, having finished it, I managed to contact the author via social media to enquire whether she had a follow up planned. She did indeed have one in the pipeline, so to speak, but was having a few issues with her publishers at that time. She pointed me in the direction of two other books that she had written.

 I purchased and read THE OTHER DADDY and THE GHOST of BLUEBELL COTTAGE in the space of a couple of weeks. They are both very different to the wartime tale, and both are very well written. I was most impressed with her ability to cover a completely different genre, rather than be happy to stick with just one. Both DADDY and BLUEBELL have quite a bit of the paranormal in them, as well as a love story in the latter. I won't give too much away here, but I'll include my reviews of the books. As you will see, I was and am most impressed by Ms Voet's work

5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly written with a great plot., 29 Jun 2014

This review is from: The Other Daddy - A World Away 
Having read some of this author's previous work, and enjoyed it, I was looking forward very much to this one. She did not disappoint me. It was a very different kind of read, but extremely good. I think she must have thought long and hard about the plot, because it really is very good indeed. There are several different strands to the story, and the author cleverly slips between the various plot lines, as well as different time zones, but it all seems to follow very nicely. Slipping from different tenses can be awkward to follow, but the author has knitted everything together very well because the story fits together perfectly. The plot builds, the characters form, and the reader - I found - was drawn in and kept there. The further I got into the story, the more interesting and intriguing it became. As I neared the conclusion of the story I was still struggling to guess the final outcome. When it came it was a surprise, but not a shock. This is not all that easy to achieve as a writer, so very well done Claire Voet. There are many complex characters in the story, some very likeable, others maybe not quite so, but all totally plausible. An excellent book, very well written. I notice that at least one other reviewer thought this book would be well suited to being dramatised for television, I agree. It would make a superb mystery, full of suspense and things not quite explained but somehow believable. I look forward with relish to that happening, and also to reading more from this highly talented author

It seems, possibly, that I may have been correct, but I'll let Claire tell you more of that a bit later. So, most impressed as I was with THE OTHER DADDY, I went straight into THE GHOST of BLUEBELL COTTAGE. This was another triumph, an excellent story and quite possibly my favourite from her so far.


5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, enthralling. 19 July 2014

I have read other work by this author and enjoyed all of it, but this is my favourite book from her so far. (I do hope there is more to come!). Writing about ghosts and all things paranormal is not, I think, all that easy. Many people have many different views on whether we might, or might not, have an after-life, or even a past life. I am, like most I reckon, very open-minded about the subject. Who really knows what happens when we shuffle away from this mortal coil? and who really knows whether we actually used to be someone else? Who knows when dreams are just that, dreams? Do we dream something that is going to come true, was once true, or merely just a jumbled mix of thoughts? The author tackled this, I thought, very well. It was all very plausible, and I could see many people having similar experiences to report on that the main characters in the story had. The story itself I found to be most enthralling, with the characters well formed as the story got going, and with the plot thickening nicely. The parts of the story where the reader is taken back a few hundred years worked very well indeed, I thought. I was gripped as the plot took several twists and turns, none of which I will reveal, but suffice to say I enjoyed this charming story very much indeed, and would not hesitate to recommend it. Well done Ms. Voet!

There you are then, my reviews of those two excellent books. I'll talk a little more about WHITTINGTON MANOR shortly, as I managed to get a little chat with Claire about her writing, her inspirations and influences.  Here it is.

Me:      Hi Claire, thank you very much for this, I know you are very busy with your writing, as
            well as family, and the 'day job'.
Claire: It's my pleasure Alec, I can see that you like my writing so it's never a chore for a writer to
            talk about their own work with someone who really likes it.
Me:     And that I do, yes. So tell me, you have been a published author for around four years now. 
            But have you actually been writing for a lot longer than that? Was it something that you
            enjoyed doing as a child?
Claire: Well yes, I did very much enjoy writing stories and essays when I was at school, but I didn't
             really have ambitions to be a writer as such. It was when I was teaching in Spain that I
             became inspired to write. I was teaching English as a foreign language and it was actually
             the students that kept telling me that I should write a book. I used to make up little stories
             for them, print them off, get the students to read them, then ask them questions about the
             story. They really enjoyed doing this and it was they that encouraged me to think about
             writing a book.
Me:      That didn't happen straightaway though?
Claire: Oh crikey no, it wasn't until I finally gave up the teaching job that I had the time to write.
            That was when I wrote Whittington Manor, four years ago.
Me:      I enjoyed that very much. The way it finished had me hoping that a follow up might be on
            the way, to see what became of Joe and Sarah. Did you have a lot of call for that?
Claire: Actually, yes. Quite a lot of people got in touch with me to ask about just that. So I  had to
            oblige. It was released only recently, I'm quite pleased with it. I recently found myself a new
            editor who is pretty good, so that helped me to get it all in order.
Me:     That must help a lot. I've seen quite a few books that were in desperate need of editing. Many
            good stories, but ruined by poor grammar, or bad flow. Tell me how and why you came to
            write about Whittington Manor then, is it based on fact, as I know this was your hometown?
Claire: Well I was born in Gosport, which is just across from Portsmouth on one side of the harbour
            and Portchester on the other. I spent seventeen years there until we moved to Spain. I still
            have affection for the area, so it seemed like a good place to base my first book around.
            The whole area did get  a fearful pounding from German bombers during the early years of
            the war, being right down on the south coast. I researched a good bit about the local history  
            of  the area.
Me:     I enjoyed the references, in the early stages of the story, before war started, to Portsmouth's
           football team. I remember myself as a child hearing my grandad talk about the great side
           'Pompey' had just before and just after the war. I am always very pleased to see little bits
           like that in a story, as for me it always helps to set the scene and give me a real feel for the
           area in which the story is set.
Claire: Thank you. The bits about the main hospital in Portsmouth are all pretty accurate I think.
            When including references, or complete story lines, to actual places they must be as factually
            correct as you can get them I think. The characters, though, are fictional.
Me:     Very strong characters I thought. So you went from there to writing the paranormal stuff?
Claire: Yes, I enjoy very much the challenge of writing about the unexplained. Bluebell Cottage 
             seems to be very popular with readers but I actually preferred the other one, The Other
             Daddy. Bluebell obviously struck a chord with several people.
Me:      Well I enjoyed it very much, it was such an intriguing tale, particularly with the stepping
             back in time to what had happened there a few hundred years ago, and with restless spirits
             still hanging around being restless. Do you find that writing about the unexplained gives
             you a lot of scope?
Claire: Well it can  expand one's powers of imagination a lot I think, and lead you off on all sorts of
             paths. So that's a yes I'd say!
Me:      I'd agree. So then you moved onto The Other Daddy. Tell me about this one.
Claire: Okay well this one was a big challenge, but I love it. There are, as you will have seen, two
             main strands to the story. A remote Scottish island in 2003, then eight years later in
             Cambridge, England. Two girls mysteriously disappeared on the island, then clues as to
             what might have happened to them began to surface a few years later and several hundred
             miles away from where they had last been seen.
Me:      Without giving too much away, then, I thought that worked extremely well. Initially I had
             to really concentrate to get everything straight in my mind as the plot thickened, until all of
             the little pieces fell nicely into place.
Claire: Thank you.
Me:      The way the various different story lines built in the book made me think it would be perfect
             material to be dramatised for film or television. If done very well I could imagine it being a
             gripping thing to watch. Are there any plans that way?
Claire: Actually, yes. I have long wanted to try my hand at writing screenplays. My first book,
            Whittington Manor had won a third place prize in a competition a year or so ago and I had
            an approach to maybe think about adapting that one for television. That hasn't happened, as
            yet, but I am very much hoping that it will with The Other Daddy. I have now completed the
            screenplay for it, now I'm trying very hard to get a production company to take it on.
Me:      Any interest so far?
Claire: Yes, quite a bit, and several actors are looking at it. I'm very hopeful.
Me:      Exciting times ahead then! Just to get back to the first book for a bit, I gather that the follow
             up is now published?
Claire:  Yes it is, Whittington Manor Two - The Poppy Sunset.

I'll leave my chat with Claire Voet there for a minute or two, as I have now read The Poppy Sunset
and very good it is too. So here are my reviews of both the first Whittington Manor and the excellent sequel.

5.0 out of 5 stars A lovely story of heartbreak and love through adversity., 9 May 2014

This review is from: Whittington Manor (Kindle Edition)
It was something of a chance meeting in semi rural pre-war England, on a quiet hill in a sleepy village, between two people from vastly different backgrounds that leads to an enduring, though unlikely, story of true and pure love. A young woman of class and privilege, and a young man of simple farming stock. That these two young people should fall for each other, totally and beautifully, and discover a love between them that lasts through the sickening horrors of war is a wonderful thing. The young fellow, along with millions of the same ilk, were hauled off to fight and as we all know only too well, most never returned. Many heart breaking things happened to the lovelorn young woman while her man was away in France. As with millions of others during these ghastly times of war, she suffered loss, and more loss, and the inevitable clinging on to anything that might possibly offer hope, and a chance of happiness, however brief or fragile that chance might be. But through it all her love survives. She does indeed find her true happiness at last, just when she thought she had lost everything. A lovely heart warming tale of how, sometimes, love can survive even the biggest battering that life can throw at anybody. A few minor grammatical errors which, for me, did not detract at all from this wonderful book. I eagerly await reading the follow up, as well as more of the work of this clearly talented author.

           A gripping and enthralling story., 24 Aug 2014

This book is another triumph for this talented and versatile writer. I have been continually impressed by Ms Voet's books, with her ability to form a solid base for the story she wants to tell. She introduces us to the main characters, lets the reader get to know them gradually, while thickening the plot of the story. This story is a follow up to Whittington Manor, as the title would suggest, so I would recommend that the earlier one is read first. However, even without doing so this is a marvellous story in it's own right. The war is over, the country is slowly being rebuilt, as are the lives of so many who had their world ripped apart by six years of the most terrible carnage our planet has ever known. There was, quite obviously, much hope and optimism in those early years of rebuilding, though not everybody had the same goals, as this story covers very well. As Joe and Sarah pick up the pieces of their lives, with a baby on the way and Joe beginning a new career, everything appears to be going quite well for them. But things do not go quite to plan as an unexpected, and ultimately unwelcome, visitor to Whittington Manor threatens to ruin everything for them. A gripping tale follows. I will not give any of the plot away, but suffice to say what follows covers many of the traits, faults and, happily, the good points of human behaviour. Greed, jealousy, deceit, love; strap yourself in for a roller-coaster ride of emotions. An excellent book that I heartily recommend.

My reviews of Whittington Manor and the sequel. As you can tell, I really enjoyed both books. So, back to Claire.

Me:    Getting back to your reasons and inspirations for writing the story, Claire, it really does
           seem that having a good local knowledge of an area helps enormously to write an authentic
           story about that area.
Claire: Absolutely, yes. Though I don't think it's essential, as long as the author does their
            research thoroughly.
Me:     Of course, Bluebell Cottage was set in Corfe Castle, in Dorset. Was that a lot of fun
           researching for that one?
Claire: Oh yes. Research can be quite hard, and you can spend a long time doing it. But it really is
            so vital if the book you write is going to be good and taken seriously.
Me:     I guess you love to read as well? Do you have much time for that now, with so many other
           things to do?
Claire: Yes I do love to read but, with having children who I love dearly, as well as my writing,
            not to mention the 'day job', I get very little time for reading. I used to read a lot more
            though, and reading the work of other authors, particularly the very good ones, helps a lot
            in structuring your own writing I find.
Me:     I'd agree entirely with that. Do you find that you continually learn new things about your
           chosen craft then?
Claire: Oh yes, all the time. When I started writing I chatted a fair bit with other authors, picking
            up little hints and tips all the time. I think we should never, ever stop learning, or trying
            to at least.
Me:     Quite true. So does Claire Voet the writer get much time for other things?
Claire: Not really. I would like to write every day, but I don't manage that always. I do love
            spending time with my family and in particular my beautiful children. They keep me very
            busy too!
Me:     Would you like to be spending your time as a full time writer?
Claire: Oh yes, I'd love to be able to, once a writer always a writer I reckon!
Me:     Well I wish you all the luck going in getting your screenplay accepted for production, as
            well as your books continuing to sell. Good luck particularly with the new one, The Poppy
            Sunset. Thank you very much for the little chat!
Claire: My pleasure. Thank you.

So that's Claire Voet, a very good writer with great versatility.


and some links to buy The Poppy Sunset



                  Alec Hawkes    16.09.14


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