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Sharing our love for authors, and the stories they are inspired to tell.

‘No Smoke Without Fire’
Claire S. Lewis
Blog Tour / Guest Post

 

Despite the challenging times with which we are faced, the lovely Vicky from Aria Fiction, together with the great team from NetGalley, have pulled out all the stops to make this extensive Blog Tour a success.

With Fiction Books stop on this comprehensive Blog Tour, being quite close to the opening date, I’m sure that there will be plenty of extracts, author guest posts and interviews which are still to be  shared, so why not visit a few of the upcoming tour participants and see what goodies are on offer … A full first half schedule of Blog Tour spots, is shown below!

Author Claire S. Lewis, has written this lovely personal post, to reflect the times in which we find ourselves.

So find yourself a nice quiet spot, curl up with a cup of something comforting, and step into Claire’s lockdown world 🙂

NO SMOKE WITHOUT FIRE

Cover image of the book 'No Smoke Without Fire' by author Claire S. LewisA chilling, tense and moving psychological suspense in the noir fiction style…

You Can’t Run Forever…

Celeste has been running from her traumatic past for seven years. But now her past has caught up with her.

For seven years, Celeste has battled her guilt and shame over the tragic events that led to her little brother’s death. Life is almost getting back to normal, with new friends, new dates, a new job training as a florist. But when her high-school boyfriend, Ben, comes back into her life just as she discovers that she has a stalker, she wonders if there’s more to her half-buried memories than she can recall.

Celeste is determined to expose the truth – but she’s about to find out that when you play with fire, you get burned…

CLAIRE S. LEWIS

Though born in Paris with French/Russian/Welsh mix parents, Claire grew up in England, where she studied Philosophy, French literature and international relations at Oxford and Cambridge universities, before starting her career in aviation law with a City law firm in London and later as an in- house lawyer at Virgin Atlantic Airways.

More recently, Claire has turned to writing psychological suspense, after taking courses at the Faber Academy in London.

She is an author with Aria, the digital-first imprint of the British independent publisher, Head of Zeus. and No Smoke Without Fire is the second of a three book deal, with the first book She’s Mine, having been published in spring 2019.

Claire now lives in the Surrey countryside, where she is currently in lockdown with her husband and family.

You can follow Claire on Twitter

Connect with Claire on Facebook

“I love writing fiction because of the freedom it gives to escape and get lost in other worlds. And I love psychological suspense because the psychological part is enthralling – imagining what’s going on inside other people’s heads – and the suspense part is so much fun to plot because it’s what compels us to keep reading – the ‘what if?’ and the ‘what next?’ that makes us want to turn the page! When not making up stories, I love reading those of others, watching films and visiting exotic locations ‘for the purpose of research’!”

BLOG TOUR / GUEST POST

“LAUNCHING IN LOCKDOWN” 

“REFLECTIONS ON MY EXPERIENCE OF READING, WRITING AND LAUNCHING A NOVEL IN A TIME OF PANDEMIC”

Thank you so much, Yvonne, for inviting me to guest post on Fiction Books.

No Smoke Without Fire launches on 7 May, a time when the UK and many other countries will still be under strict lockdown and social distancing restrictions. As it happens, that will be a double-launch date for me with the audiobook of my first novel, She’s Mine, also being released. In the extraordinarily sad and surreal times we are living through, I feel lucky to be writing for Aria, the digital-first imprint of the independent publisher, Head of Zeus, meaning that these virtual launches will be able to go ahead as normal without disruption or delay. Even in the midst of a pandemic, No Smoke Without Fire, along with all other Aria titles, will be released for sale on the usual digital platforms, and the virtual blog tour will kick off with daily contributions by brilliant reviewers like Fiction Books who are such wonderful champions of novels and stories, as they go out to readers in the real world. Even so, it feels strange, launching a new book at a time when it’s not possible to meet up for a celebratory drink and say a huge thank you to all the colleagues, friends and family who have given so much support along the way. The party will have to wait!

While we are apparently all reading more during lockdown and there has been a surge in the purchase of e-books, the closure of bookshops is, of course, having a huge impact on sales of  physical books, causing authors and publishers whose books are distributed mainly through bookshops untold financial headaches. Writing books can be a lonely and financially precarious business in this situation. Many writers share in the anxiety and feelings of social isolation caused by prolonged confinement and fear of damaging economic consequences. Yet writers (and their agents) are finding new ways of carrying on – virtual launches, zoom meetings and online book festivals have become the norm. One of the writers on my Faber group chat even commented that, ‘lockdown has thrown up new ways of being rejected by agents, on Zoom’!

I’ve seen comments in the press, about how lockdowns must be easy for writers to cope with, giving us all more time to read and write and enjoy our customary isolation when we are not able to go out or socialise. So, let’s bust a couple of these lockdown myths! As readers and writers, I’m sure you’ll agree that these are not solitary or anti-social pursuits. We book-lovers are social animals! We enjoy getting together in communities of like-minded people, brought together in online book groups, blogs and on social platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as in our local physical book clubs and writing groups. In lockdown we miss the buzz of book festivals and conferences and book signings.

On a personal level, I’ve had much less time to read and write than I would like. Having all the family gathered at home, my life in this pandemic is anything but isolated and domestic chores expand into time I would love to spend on word count for novel #3, or catching up on all the books in my TBR pile. I have one daughter who has had her ‘A’ levels cancelled and another who has had to return from her art college in Paris…we just celebrated her 21st birthday in lockdown which was both lovely and emotional – red velvet cake and fizz, a barbecue in the back garden with immediate family, charades, a Zoom gathering for grandparents and extended family, video messages from all her friends as far-flung as Paris, Ireland, the US, Dubai and Singapore – it will certainly be memorable if not quite what she had planned… My teenage son has only a couple of days a week at his special needs school and is a ‘super-spreader’ of mess and chaos in the home. And last but not least, my husband ranges over every room in the house with his high-volume business calls…Plenty of distractions (nice and not so nice) from reading and writing!

That said, I have found the time for some old familiar favourites that are strangely comforting to revisit such as – Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier) and Brideshead Revisited (Evelyn Waugh). Also 1984 (George Orwell), which is so relevant and disturbing as a lockdown read, given the astonishing and powerful parallels we now face between our pandemic world and Orwell’s dystopian universe, such as restrictions on personal movement and freedoms, the all-pervading presence of screens, the discouragement of social relationships, the fear of being taken away to shadowy state institutions, the shifting of alliances between the world superpowers and the constant speculation and misinformation and changes in the accepted versions of the truth (scientific and other) relating to this virus. Alongside these old literary friends, I’ve also enjoyed discovering the extraordinary Three Women (Lisa Toddeo) and I can’t wait to get started on Girl Woman Other (Bernadine Evaristo), which arrived in the post yesterday and is absolutely top of my ‘must-read’ lockdown list.

It’s wonderful to escape into the world of a book, to consider thought-provoking ideas and issues and get some distance from the latest depressing ‘facts’ – statistics for the tragic death and infection rates, or endless speculation about the value of ‘R’. There is so much conjecture and misinformation out there that the news sometimes seems to have become as fictional as reality. Sometimes we crave a social media detox. In lockdown, we also need a regular news detox, for our sanity. We need to get away from facts – which is why we are on the look-out for good stories. Getting lost in a story, or getting inside the head of a fictional character, or being transported in flights of imagination to far-off places and other worlds by reading or writing, is welcome escapism. As a recent Guardian newspaper editorial stated (April 19, 2020):

“There is one thing that readers of fiction have in common: the wish to be absorbed in a story that is not about themselves. It’s not hard to see why such flights of imagination attract those who are physically confined. Not only because they have the power to lift us out of our domestic settings and away from the panicked scrolling of news headlines, but also because they can interest us in the lives and character of other, made-up people.”

Now more than ever the world needs good stories – stories in isolation, stories in chaos, and stories to escape with and to bring us together, to take us to new places of light and dark where we can discover new worlds.

Cover Image Of The Book 'She's Mine' By Author Claire S. Lewis

While my novels fall into the genre of psychological suspense, I believe they could equally be tagged as #escapistfiction #bookclubreads, #holidayreads and #womensfiction. I hope that they offer escapism but are thought-provoking at the same time. I’m excited for the release of my debut novel, She’s Mine, as an audiobook, as I believe it’s the kind of escapist read (or listen) opening with the disappearance of a little girl on a beach, that could appeal in a time of lockdown – transporting the readers to beautiful settings as contrasting and far-flung as the scorching beaches of the Caribbean and the dreaming spires of Oxford. Literally imagine yourself in another world through the power of the imagination!

As for my recent writing, No Smoke Without Fire, explores the darker side of humanity, which sadly has resonance in this time of corona virus and lockdown. At the core of the plot there’s a family tragedy and a date rape that together propel the damaged protagonist, Celeste, on a journey that will not have a happy ending nor bring redemption to any of the characters. The novel touches on bleak themes of patriarchy and domestic abuse and coercive control and explores ideas of victim shaming and the ways in which false, repressed and recovered memories can alter perceptions of morality and the truth. So, there are undoubtedly dark elements to the novel. But I have tried to create a balance between noir and lighter moments. Death is ever-present, not least in the sense that Celeste’s online business venture ( Celestial Headstones.com ), involves delivering memorial flowers to headstones in graveyards. On the other hand, Celeste is a florist and the scenes in the florist shop, Seventh Heaven, provide opportunities for vivid colour and brightness which contrast with the mournful descriptions of cemeteries. Even on Celeste’s visits to graveyards, I have tried to give a contrast of shade and sunlight. Some of these take place at night, when ghostly shadows of the statues of black angels seem to trip her up. Others take place in glorious spring sunshine when her heart is lifted by the sights and sounds of nature bursting into bloom and teeming with new life. The relationships between the characters also provide a balance in the plot between noir and lighter moments – the opening scenes at a Cuban nightclub and scenes at Celeste’s flat where she enjoys flirtation and fun and light banter with her friends, contrasting with the darkness of oppressive and abusive encounters between Celeste and her father and teenage boyfriend in the flashback sections, for example, or the sinister scenes involving Celeste’s stalker.

Like many authors, I have found it difficult to focus and concentrate on writing knowing that so many people are facing personal hardship or heartache, or putting their lives on the line as key workers and medical staff. There is a feeling of impotence and sense of being involved in a frivolous endeavour at a time of crisis. As No Smoke Without Fire touches on issues of domestic abuse and coercive control, and knowing that the challenges of people struggling to survive these situations have been made greater in lockdown and perhaps overlooked during the medical emergency, I’m planning to make my own small contribution, by donating half of my 2020 royalties for No Smoke Without Fire to Covid 19 charities which support victims of domestic violence.

 

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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6 comments
  • This sounds good!

    I’ve just picked up Elton John’s Me to read after seeing it reviewed on Richard & Judy’s book club programme. I’d been meaning to pick it up, but their reviews gave me a bit of a kick to do so!

    • Hi Nikki,

      There are definitely some serious and challenging issues which are brought to the fore in this book, many of which are very relevant to the lockdown times in which we find ourselves. It will be interesting to see just how much of a social and mental health problem we will have to unpick when it is all over!

      The Elton John double LP ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’, was one of the first I ever bought, when I was earning money from my Saturday job. I have followed his career sporadically ever since and have been to a live concert he gave at my local Swindon Town FC ground about 20 years ago now – Lulu was his supporting act!

      However, I am not one for reading memoirs, so this probably isn’t a book I shall be adding to my list, although of course I hope that you enjoy it!

      Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the rest of the weekend 🙂

  • What an absolutely fascinating post, Yvonne, I thoroughly enjoyed Claire Lewis’s personal thoughts on all kinds of subjects and issues. And what a wonderful thing to donate half of her royalties to domestic violence charities in what must a horrendous time for victims to be ‘shut in’.

    • Hi Cath,

      I am never prescriptive when an author or publisher asks me what I would like their Guest Post to be about, as I really want to see how spontaneous each article can be, which makes putting the finished post together so much more interesting, both for me and hopefully for the reader!

      I have to admit that sometimes it is easier than others, but when I saw the sheer length of Claire’s copy, I did admit to a small moment of panic. However, as soon as began reading, I realised that I need not have worried, as the words and time simply flew by and it was like receiving an interesting letter from an old friend.

      This has to be one of my favourite Guest Posts ever and I can’t wait to read the book, although I think it might be rather emotionally challenging, given the spectrum of difficult issues it encompasses.

      Thanks for taking the time to visit and I hope that you are enjoying this spell of lovely weather – a bit too warm for me, although I guess I need to ‘whisper’ that bit 🙂

  • I always enjoy your guest author posts, Yvonne, and this one is all the more personal and poignant. It reminds me that I have Claire’s first book waiting in my Kindle. Perhaps now is the time to bump it up the TBR a bit! I’ve also added this one to my wishlist. Does the florist connection speak to you, Yvonne? 😉 (I seem to remember you had some training in that field)

    • Hi Kelly,

      You have a great memory! Yes, I did train as a florist when I left school, however I had to give it up when we were married, as Dave was in the R.A.F. and stationed some way away from where I lived. I do recall those days with some very fond memories, despite the appalling working conditions and very unsociable hours. I have often been tempted to try and resurrect the skills I learnt from one of the top florists of the day, however when I realised just how much things have moved on in the intervening 40 odd years, facing college retraining at my age, doesn’t really appeal!

      I have to admit that I still have ‘She’s Mine’ in my TBR pile, although I have to say that ‘No Smoke Without Fire’ sounds the more emotionally challenging of the two storylines. Before you get alarmed though – I definitely promise to read the books in chronological order, which I am trying to do more and more these days – see what an influence you are on me!

      I always look forward to receiving Guest Post copy, as I never know what an author is going to chat about. No problem with Claire in that department, as I couldn’t have asked for a more informative, interesting and deeply personal contribution 🙂

Written by Yvonne

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