Heart felt with author Teri Terry

Liz Nicholls


Teri, whose psychological thriller The Patient will be published by Bookouture on 13th February, tells us about her local life & loves

Teri is no stranger to writing, having previously published 14 young adult novels. She was inspired to write The Patient after following the tragic news of the parents of a young boy who went to court to stop his life support being withdrawn.

This and other previous cases got her thinking about what life and death mean, both medically and legally, and how it might differ from how most lay people would view this…

“When I was a law student I was fascinated at the difference between ethics and a lay person’s gut reaction of what is right or wrong,” she says. “An action could be considered ethical even if many would consider it wrong; conversely, it could be unethical even if most might think it was right.”

Teri, who has worked as a scientist, a lawyer and an optician; managed her own business, worked for a charity and in schools and libraries, has been writing full-time for a dozen years, mostly thrillers for teens, starting with the Slated trilogy. She was born in France, going to school in Canada, and living in Australia before settling in south Bucks which has been home for almost 20 years and where she lives now with her husband and six-year-old cockapoo Scooby. “Bucks is very much home,” adds Teri. “We got engaged at the top of Coombe Hill… Then I slipped over in the mud. Scooby is much loved and full of life and mischief. Having her made such a huge difference to our lives during lockdown. Tommy the trainer is one of her very favourite people, now located at Pegasus Unique Pets in Whitchurch [pegasuspets.store].

“I love that we have easy access to canal and countryside walks here, but are still being able to get to London in under an hour: the best of both worlds! I love Black Goo in Tring and Thame is a favourite haunt. Also, The Bell in Aston Clinton and Rumseys in Wendover for getting together with other writers, eating chocolatey treats and having a good natter. I’m also very pleased there is a new independent bookshop in Tring, Our Bookshop.”

The Patient is a psychological thriller about a heart transplant recipient who becomes obsessed with her donor. You can order or pre-order before that date on Amazon.

Star Q&A: Kate Mosse

Liz Nicholls


Best-selling author Kate Mosse OBE shares her thoughts ahead of her Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries tour at a theatre near you

Q. Hello Kate! How are you?

“Very well, thank you for asking! I’ve just become a grandmother, so loving everything about that.”

Q. It’s wonderful that you’re shining a light on previously overlooked trailblazing women. Can you tell us a little about any of your favourites?

“There are so many amazing women – from every corner of the world, in every period of history – but I love the extraordinary footballer, Lily Parr, who scored more than 1,000 goals in her professional career in the early 1900s, and also the legendary 18th century pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Reid, who were fierce and uncompromising – my next novel, The Ghost Ship, is partly inspired by their story.”

Q. What was your favourite book as a child?

“So many, but certainly The Golden Hamster, a beautiful story for young children about being true to who you are (a hamster, not a rat or a cat or a mouse). My beloved, and much missed Dad, used to read it to me at bedtime, and I still have that 1960s edition. I also loved The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder for their sense of freedom, the amazing descriptions of the American mid-west in the 1880s and 1890s, and the feisty, principled heroine of the books herself.”

Q. And how about now – who is your favourite author?

“I try to avoid ever answering this question – too many of my friends are writers – but, going back in time, certainly Emily Bronte, Adrienne Rich, Rider Haggard and Agatha Christie would be at the top of the list.”

“It’s quite a challenge starting a new career as a performer at the age of 61!”

Q. Do you enjoy touring?

“I’m excited and nervous – what if nobody comes or my voice gives out – and it’s quite a challenge starting a new career as a performer at the age of 61! On the other hand, you have to keep having new challenges and pushing yourself. I’m not ready to hang up my boots and sitting dozing by the fire quite yet. I’m really looking forward to meeting audiences and hearing all the amazing women from history they would like to celebrate. The tour is about starting a conversation, having a great night out in the theatre, and putting some incredible women back in to the history books.”

Q. How well do you know the parts of the South East where you’re on tour?

“Very well. I grew up, and live now, in Chichester, so one of our days out was always to Guildford. My aunt and uncle lived in Woking, and my son-in-law comes from a beautiful village in the Surrey Hills. So, it’s home from home. Also, the Guildford Book Festival is one of my favourite festivals. I was lucky enough to go to university in Oxford, so I had three years of getting to know not only the city itself, but also the amazing countryside around about. The joy of being on tour is not only meeting audiences from all over the country, but also getting to know new parts of our beautiful country. Every day before the evening show, I’ll be out exploring.”

Q. What is your first memory of music?

“My fabulous Ma had an LP of Nancy Sinatra’s Swinging Safari, and I adored it and dancing along with her. In those days, you had to drop the stylus on to the record, listen, and then start again…”

Q. Who would be your dream dinner party guests?

“So many of the women I’ll be celebrating in my show – so, as well as those I’ve already talked about, the great British composer Ethel Smyth; the extraordinary 13th century Mongolian wrester princess, Khutulan – who was the inspiration for Puccini’s opera Turandot; Pauli Murray, one of the ‘freedom riders’ along with Rosa Parks who changed the racist ‘Jim Crow’ laws in America in the 1940s and 1950s; Josephine Cochrane who, in 1893, invented the dishwasher (yes, really!) Eunice Newton Foote, who discovered global warming but saw her discovery attributed to the men who came after her; and perhaps Beatrix Potter, to talk about her amazing work in conservation as much as her writing for children.  Oh, and of course, my own great-grandmother, Lily Watson, who is at the heart of the Warrior Queens tour, who I would have loved to have known.” 

Q. How much do you love life in West Sussex and why?

“I’m a Chi (Chichester) girl, born and bred, and it’s where all my family live.  So, my whole life – apart from a few years away at university, then working in London – has been spent in and around Chichester and Fishbourne.  There is something for everyone – amazing woods and beaches, incredible art galleries and an internationally-renowned theatre, the canal and Roman Palace, history and folklore, music and community. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.” 

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your first impressions of Carcassonne and how you fell in love with it, changing the course of your life?

“We first bought a tiny house in the shadow of the medieval city walls of Carcassonne back in 1989 and, from the moment I first saw the extraordinary ‘crown of stone’ sitting on the hill above the river Aude, 52 towers and turrets, two rings of defensive walls, everything stepped in history, I fell in love.   I didn’t intend to write about Carcassonne but, little by little as I read history about Languedoc and learnt about the people who had lived there in the 13th century, the ‘whispering in the landscape started’ … that’s to say, I started to hear the voices of characters and the outline of a story.  Those whisperings became my novel, Labyrinth, and since then, almost all of my fiction has been a kind of love letter to this beautiful corner of southwest France.”

Q. What advice would you have for any woman out there who has always dreamt of writing a book? “Do it! A little writing every day, just so you start to get your muscles used to the process, that’s how a novel or biography takes shape. Don’t worry about how good it is, or quite where it’s going, just get some words down. Soon you’ll have a sentence, then a paragraph then, before you know it, a chapter. Once you have a rough draft, then you have something you can start to edit into the novel you’ve always wanted to write.” 

Q. If you could make one wish for the world, what would it be? “That we all share the same planet. So, more kindness, more remembering how to listen and respect one another’s point of view – even if it’s not the same as our own – more attention to saving the planet, and a return to public service not self-interest built on values of decency, honesty and equality.  I’m still an idealist and believe that we can all work together, we can leave the world in a better state than we found it.  And most of the women I’m celebrating in Warrior Queens did precisely that.” 

Young at heart

Liz Nicholls


Ruth Young’s new children’s book is called The Turkey Shed Gang. She tells us about her love for teaching, as well as why Cranleigh is the best place in the world

Ruth loves walking in the Surrey Hills which surround Cranleigh. She often goes up nearby Pitch Hill to see the far-reaching views over the beautiful countryside down towards the sea. “It’s very rural and yet just an hour from Londo,” she says, “which makes it a great place to live. And you can be down at the coast in under an hour.”

Ruth is a teacher and taught in local schools until she retired. Now she teaches children at home who may need help with their learning. She is a teaching of reading specialist and particularly loves teaching children with dyslexia. She says: “Learning to read is the most important skill to learn. It opens up the ability to access all the curriculum. That’s why if a child needs specific help they must get it. She loves helping these children and seeing their excitement when they achieve their goals. There’s nothing better!”

Ruth has spoken on BBC Surrey three times about teaching and learning and written articles in a national parenting magazine.

The Turkey Shed Gang is a story about Joe, his Granny Sal and a parrot called Mr Percival. They go on the run to escape the police… It’s for children aged 7 and up who can read independently or anyone who may need a little extra help. She hopes it encourages children to keep turning the pages. The children she’s heard from who have read it have said it does just that!

The Turkey Shed Gang

It’s available on Amazon or from Ruth’s website ruthyoung.co.uk

Where’s Brian’s Bottom? asks Abingdon illustrator

Liz Nicholls


Local illustrator Rob Jones always wanted to create a children’s book and, in Where’s Brian’s Bottom? the dream has unfolded!

“I’ve always loved dogs, especially sausage dogs,” says Rob, who lives in Abingdon, “but sadly I’ve never owned one. I’m hoping one day I’ll have one called Brian!”

Where’s Brian’s Bottom? is Rob’s new board book for toddlers that unfolds to two metres long. Young readers are encouraged to help Brian find his bottom in the house and learn about different animals and the sounds they make.

“I didn’t used to draw dogs that often,” adds Rob, “until I illustrated The Funny Life of Pets by James Campbell. I find I draw them all the time now. Anytime I sign a card or book, there will usually be a doodle of a dog.”

Rob studied illustration at the University of Gloucestershire and it was during this time that he discovered a love for making books, toys and puppets. He has made many puppets for the Story Museum’s Christmas production in Oxford. His first book, Bernard, won the People’s Book Prize in 2014. “I owe a lot to the Story Museum,” says Rob. “They were really supportive of me when my first book Bernard was released.

I once took part in an exhibition there called “the illustrator zoo” where visitors could watch me work on book ideas. I’ve made puppets for four of their shows, the first being Winter Mouse, which was made using a sleeve from an old jumper. I’m looking forward to taking my son there once it reopens.

“My advice to any budding illustrators out there is not to give up! There have been many times over the last 10 years when I’ve been close, but something has always happened to keep me going. I am also very lucky, as my family, friends and colleagues are all so supportive of me.”

Where’s Brian’s Bottom? £6.99, ISBN 9781843654667

Tell us your local news here

Guildford inspires Alice In Wonderland stories

Liz Nicholls


Take a journey through the looking glass and discover a new story based on the Alice in Wonderland tales just released by a Guildford author.

Alice Ventures Beyond Wonderland written by Robin G Smith introduces a host of new creatures to an audience of children and adults alike.

Guildford has been associated with Alice in Wonderland since author, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, completed the sequel, Through the Looking Glass.

Robin has written children’s books as well as adult science-fiction and factual titles, for 20 years, but it wasn’t until lockdown he turned his skills to reimagining the world that Carroll created. Alice Ventures Beyond Wonderland introduces a new audience to a world of intriguing creatures through strange encounters yet also touches on difficult issues that we are all too familiar with today, such as bullying and identity.

Robin says: “I have always loved the two Alice in Wonderland books and wanted to see if it was possible to write something similar. I had been collecting ideas for years and lockdown gave me the opportunity to concentrate on completing the project. I’m delighted with the response I’ve already had from adults and children alike, who seem to enjoy its blend of subtle humour and contemporary issues.”

He is already planning the sequel to Alice Ventures Beyond Wonderland. Alice Ventures Beyond Wonderland is illustrated by Helena Chessher and available to buy now in hardback, paperback, and e-book from Amazon or www.treefirecreative.com

For a preview, visit www.alicebeyondwonderland.com

Let us know your local story, submit an article

Star Q&A: David Walliams

Round & About


Author & dad David Walliams, 49, talks about life & the arts ahead of the adaptation of his novel Billionaire Boy as a Covid-safe Car Park Party

Q. We’re excited about this show – are you on a mission to save Easter for families? “It’s the most brilliant thing, seeing a book you’ve written come to life. You feel like a magician because what was in your head is somehow now all real. I think people are craving entertainment, especially live, because although the TV has still been on, you haven’t been able to be part of an audience, so this is a great and safe way to enjoy a show.”

Q. Are you passionate about the arts during these difficult times? “Well, it is important. I have friends who are actors, directors, designers and so on who have been all out of work. They are all raring to go. I feel like the audience wants it too. It’s hard to put a value on the arts… they enhance your life, but you can’t put a figure on it. When you read something or see something though, it moves you. It changes the way you think, how you feel about the world and about life. We have always had a very very vibrant arts culture here and it’s something we really need to protect.”

Q. Billionaire Boy tells the story of Joe & his friendship with Bob. Do you think connection is especially important for children now? “It’s very important they can keep in touch with their friends at the moment. Luckily, technology exists, though not everyone has access to it, but at least with phones and computers you can see people and speak to them. Just checking in with people making sure they are okay is crucial at the moment, because a lot of people are struggling.”

Q. How would Joe’s toilet paper baron dad have reacted to last year’s stockpiling? “He would’ve been one of the few that benefited… him and Jeff Bezos! That whole thing was extraordinary wasn’t it? I almost forgot about it. Jack would’ve liked it. His BumFresh toilet paper was actually a good invention, dry on one side and wet on the other.”

Q. In 2016, you played Mrs Trafe the dinner lady in the TV version…. can audiences look forward to seeing you on stage? “I haven’t been asked to perform, but I want to come and see it and if I do, I’ll come on the stage and say hello.”

Q. Have you been busy over the last year? “Fortunately writing is something you can do in your own at home. Last year I brought out four books, two or three of which were written during lockdown and I’m writing my new one. So in that department I feel very lucky indeed.”

Q. If we gave you £1billion to spend today, what would you buy? “There’s one thing that Joe Spud has in the book which is a water slide going down from his bedroom to a swimming pool. He just gets out of bed and goes straight down a water slide. That is something I don’t have and it really pains me. So I’d get that water slide because water slides are so much fun. I love them!”

Billionaire Boy tours the UK, including Windsor Racecourse on 11th April & Newbury on 12th April. Book at carparkparty.com

Good things

Round & About


Acclaimed author Vesna Main, who lives in Putney, tells us about her new novel Good Day? and the ideas that helped it come to fruition

One January more than a decade ago, Woman’s Hour broadcast an interview with a woman whose husband had been visiting prostitutes for many years. The programme had an online discussion board and many other women poured out similar traumatic stories.

Most of them were in happy, sexually fulfilling relationships. More often than not, their partners were professionally successful, gregarious. There were many conflicting views – some hated the prostitutes seeing them as rivals but also believed as ‘sisters’ they should support them.

That discussion made me question many of my views. I used to think men who visited prostitutes were mostly single and that prostitution was no different from any other industry, with workers freely offering a service in exchange for remuneration. Reading academic research and interviews with prostitutes, it became clear to me that selling one’s body is very different from selling one’s skills and that most of the sex workers were forced to do so usually through social or personal circumstances.

From the material I gathered, a story emerged of two characters, Richard and Anna, a middle aged, middle-class, educated, articulate couple. Richard had been seeing prostitutes for many years and when he was discovered, Anna’s world fell apart. Her past felt false knowing he had had a secret life. Her dignity as a woman was undermined: her husband had chosen others over her. If she confided in a friend, she feared being judged as a woman who denied sex to her partner. She was at a loss at to what to do.

I wrote two versions of the novel, both in a more or less classic realist style, the style that I associate with the great novels of the 19th-century. I abandoned both versions.

After various false starts, I had the idea of writing a novel within a novel. In Good Day?, the main character is a woman writer and every day, as her husband, the reader, returns from work, they discuss her progress.

The story of Richard and Anna is the novel she is working on. In this way, the text had two equally important view points and the dialogue structure suited the questioning nature of the exchanges between the reader and the writer which, as the story progresses, become increasingly confrontational, with the two regularly siding with Richard or Anna, according to their gender role.
We asked Vesna about where she lives and how it inspires her…

Q. Do you have any favourite local places to write, or simply relax? “I tend to write at home. Putney is great for walks and walks are good for thinking. Anywhere I go, the world of the text I am working on is with me and any ideas that pop into my head, I jot down in a pocket notebook. I particularly love the path up or down the Thames near Wandsworth Park. The walled garden at the Bishop’s Palace, just across Putney bridge, is another favourite spot.”

Q. Do you already know what your next book is going to be about? “I wrote a novel last summer and it is in my drawer, left to ‘mature’ before I send it out. Its protagonist is a woman of 92, a former piano teacher. The story takes place over one day as she looks back on her life. Without disclosing what happens, let me just say that my main impulse in writing it was to create a woman at an advanced age who is still very much a sexual being, longing for love and physical affection. It is a positive, affirmative story.”

Q. Do you feel as though you live with the characters while you’re writing them? “In some ways, it is inevitable. I am not a writer who works out the story in advance. I start with an idea, or an image, and the characters and their lives emerge, or not, gradually as they gain confidence in me and tell me what they are about. I have to be patient and leave them time to come back to me. While waiting, I might write a short story or a novella. At the moment, I have two projects I have just started, or rather false started. But that’s how it works with me. I have to keep trying, beginning and abandoning the first 10,000 words until the story emerges. One of the two novels I am working on emerged from a sentence one of my grown-up daughters said, a casual, inconsequential remark that sparked my imagination. The other grew from something I saw through the window of my study, which faces a large block of flats with balconies. One warm day, a man took his laptop onto his balcony and proceeded to work there. At some point we seemed to look at each other, or at least, that’s what it appeared to me. I don’t think he saw me because my side of the house was in the shade but that’s irrelevant. A vague trajectory of a story emerged, very blurred, rather like an image that appears on photographic paper bathing in a tray of film developer.

Q. Do you have any favourite book shops locally that you enjoy visiting?
“The second-hand bookshop by Putney Bridge is excellent and the owner is very knowledgeable.”

Q. How friendly do you feel the Putney community is?
“The best thing about Putney residents is their diversity, in terms of age, class and ethnicity. The area is also home to many Europeans and, as a Francophile, I love hearing French and take every opportunity to speak it.”

Good Day?

is out now