Q&A with Henningham Family Press

Henningham Family Press is a microbrewery for books.
Our ingenioous handmade editions can be found in the V&A, Tate, National Galleries Scotland, National Poetry Library and Stanford University.
Our Performance Publishing shows compress the creation of printed matter into hectic live events.
Now our Fiction brings to you authors who are reinventing the conventions of Modern writing.


Today I welcome David from Henningham Family Press who kindly answered my questions on his innovative press and the form of the book. I recently reviewed their most recent publication, The Blackbird, noting that as well as being a fine story, the book itself is a work of art.


Can you tell me a little about Henningham Family Press and why it was set up?

Ping and myself have been working together since 2006, making fine art prints, Artists’ Books and Performances. Our work is collected by places like V&A, Tate, Stanford University, National Galleries Scotland, as well as by regular people. We started our fiction list in 2018; we wanted to see if we could get the same pages on the shelves of High Street bookshops that we were placing with national collections.

How do you select the titles you wish to acquire?

The books we hunt for have the same playful, intellectual spirit as the work we’ve been making since 2006. We look for formal invention, like Mr. Beethoven by Paul Griffiths, or books like The Blackbird by Claire Allen or Now Legwarmers by Pascal O’Loughlin, which take the conventions of the novel in new directions. Vivid imagery or process-based writing is good for us, as we can develop them as Artists’ Books. We aren’t ideal for the debut novelist; we can accomplish so much in our studio that the newbie tends to be overwhelmed by the possibilities. So we most often work with people who have already cut their teeth in another discipline, such as the poet Chris McCabe, or Griffiths’ music criticism and librettos.

What about the form of the book – what do your buyers want?

We make a paperback and a handmade deluxe edition of every novel, using the same offset litho printed pages for both. All the covers, paperback and deluxe, are handmade in our studio, most often on our foil debossing press. The paperbacks are bound by TJ International. We insert handmade additions and hand-bind the deluxe editions in the studio — we make them up as we go along.

The Blackbird is no exception. Both editions are illustrated in black and yellow. One of Claire Allen’s characters, Robert, was a civic sculptor in his prime. As a Sculpture MA (Slade), this was something I understood very well. I did drawings from life as he would have done for his public artwork Hide And Seek. We took children to the park to play the game. When they were discovered, they had to remain still for as long as the countdown had taken, and my drawing was executed within that time. 30, 10, 5, even 1 second. This way the pose was natural. I also did charcoal sketches of a Blackbird that took up residence in our back garden. We’ve never had one before, so — thank you Mr Blackbird.

We were approached by G.F Smith papers, to see what we could do with their new Urban range. The paper is, I believe, literally concrete. It has a varnished concrete texture, which goes with the Brutalism of the Blackbird estate in the novel very well. And a slight glitter, like paving stones have. We like to choose papers that have a thing-character like that. Mr. Beethoven had recycled coffee cup lining (Extract), a nod to the composer’s love of coffee houses. As pulp-dyed papers they don’t crack or scuff and feel nicer than laminate. We pay close attention to typesetting too. The Blackbird pays homage to William Golding,
author of The Spire. We chose two classic Faber fonts to support Claire Allen’s equally accomplished voice: Minion and Albertus, plus Futura as a nod to the Brutalist architecture of the Blackbird estate. The chapter titles sort of represent 2014, and the body text 1941. Ancient and Modern.

These days readers are used to a nice white gap between the text and the page numbers and headers, but in the olden days that would have required a sackful of lead and they always abutted. To evoke the ‘40s, but avoid distraction, we printed the page numbers and headers right next to the body text, but in yellow so that it would sit back. Black with a dash of yellow makes each page a little blackbird too! The strictly limited deluxe version will have a cloth spine (half-bound) and a unique hand-drawn fold-out insert. We will make about 20 of these. They tend to sell-out before we even make them.

What is the most rewarding aspect of independent publishing, and the most challenging?

Being able to invent in collaboration with an author and have nobody put their oar in and sink it. Books are often engineered for the middle of the road, but that’s a dangerous place to be!

Promotion is the most challenging. It is back to front. You have to announce a book and show everyone the cover seven months before you make the book. It would be better to be able to say what you have when you have it and reveal the process as you go. That is where we are heading, I think. Once we are established enough, I think we will have enough people following our books to be able to reveal information in a logical order.

How do you connect with booksellers and readers?

A condition we imposed on ourselves before starting the fiction list in 2018 was getting the agents we needed to sell books. Inpress Books voted us in unanimously, and their sales reps are amazing — their support and training peerless. Arts Council England have also supported us with funding and training to reach readers. We also had a great partnership with Gemma Seltzer, who was at Kickstarter back then, and now with John Mitchinson at Unbound; these were to run direct-to-reader presales. We do a lot of Social Media, but basically we let the experts do the selling so we can concentrate on doing impossible things with books.


You may visit the Henningham Family Press website here.

This post is a stop on The Blackbird Blog Tour 2020. Do check out the other varied and interesting stops on the tour, detailed above.

May I urge you to buy the book? Click here.



Book Review: The Blackbird

Liverpool Cathedral was built over the course of the 20th century. As may be expected for such an impressive structure, it took many decades to complete. Progress stalled during both World Wars due to shortages of manpower and materials. The cathedral now ranks as the fifth-largest in the world. Built on St James’s Mount, the shape of the site required that the nave be oriented north to south rather than, as is traditional, west to east. Some believed this would bring bad luck.

The principle characters in The Blackbird certainly suffer their share of misfortune. Across alternating chapters, the story has two main timelines. It opens in 1941 with an accident on a building site where a much reduced team of masons are constructing the tall, central tower of a cathedral. As a result of the incident, a young man is grievously injured. Will Jenner, the on-site manager, blames himself for being persuaded to set the men to work.

Will is married to Mary and they have an eight year old daughter, Hope. The family moved to the city, away from family in rural Derbyshire, when offered the prestigious job opportunity. Will expects his wife to share with him every detail of how she spends her days. When she takes an interest in the hospitalised worker, Will grows suspicious of her motives. He requires that she be quietly obedient, becoming angry if she acts in any other way.

The growing cathedral, and Will’s behaviour, cast a shadow over his family. This is exacerbated by regular, night time aerial bombing raids. Homes have been razed and many killed. People must continue to function despite fear and sleep deprivation.

Moving to 2014, a young mother, Louise, has recently moved into a new flat with her toddler son, Jake. It is a fresh start and one she is content with. Jake’s father, Benny, broke her heart when he left them. Now she is in a relationship with an old friend, Carl, although still relishes her independence. When Benny shows up on her doorstep expecting to be taken back, Louise rejects him. Angered by her reaction, Benny refuses to leave them be.

There is a linking character across the two timelines – Hope – who in 2014 is struggling to care for her elderly husband; Robert has dementia and his behaviour is deteriorating. Through Hope’s thoughts and recollections the reader gains a different perspective on the events her father had to deal with through the war years and beyond.

Undercurrents of male violence percolate along with the limitations in agency women suffer due to their circumstances. The veracity of memory and perceived impact on subsequent decisions is explored and queried. Characters’ choices not to share their reasoning and personal justifications with those around them have damaging consequences. Jealousy and blame pervade.

It took a few chapters before the quality of the writing gripped me. What at first appeared an unremarkable if smoothly told tale established pleasing depth. The plot, whilst engaging, became secondary to my interest in character development. The impact of experience and situation are used to particularly impressive effect.

The structure is well balanced between detail and flow. This was a story I was eager to get back to each time I had to break away. Layered and nuanced yet never heavy, a good read that I am happy to recommend.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Henningham Family Press.

This review is a stop on The Blackbird Blog Tour 2020. Do check out the other fine posts, detailed above.


Giveaway time!

The publisher has kindly offered to send a copy of this book to one lucky reader who enters my Twitter giveaway. Follow me here and RT the relevant tweet (from around 8am today) to be in with a chance to win (UK only, ends 5pm BST 31/7/2020).

Random Musings: On why I am withdrawing from blog tours

Have you noticed that blog tours are becoming ever more ubiquitous? Of course I get why they are a thing. While the organiser will be paid, most book bloggers review for free. By tying them into a blog tour the publisher can rely on a book being promoted across social media at a time of their choosing. Review copies sent out do not get lost amidst the ever growing piles of books to be read by reviewers. From the publisher’s point of view harnessing book bloggers, who already have an audience interested in finding their next good read, makes perfect sense.

Recently however I have cut back on my commitment to tours. Much as I remain eager to work with publishers on promoting good books, I have encountered issues that have, at times, been stressful. In this post I share some of my experiences and attempt to explain my reasons for choosing to limit my involvement in blog tours, for the time being at least.

The initial contact from a publisher’s designated organiser is an invitation to take part. Due to busy schedules these invitations are typically sent out many weeks in advance, often before the book is available to read even as an ARC. Decisions must be made based on a brief synopsis designed to sell the book.

If I agree to participate I will sometimes request author content for my stop on the tour. I will email my interview questions or ideas for a guest post within a few days of accepting the invitation, to allow time for responses to be put together. Very occasionally I agree to host content that I will receive blind. This has only been an issue for me when what was provided turned out not to be original, making me feel I may as well have hosted a link to wherever it first appeared – this is not what I want on my blog.

A good blog tour organiser will ensure a copy of the book is sent out well in advance – several weeks before the tour starts. As I require a hard copy, problems with print runs can delay this. So long as I am kept updated I will always do my best to accommodate. I have never yet missed my stop on a blog tour but am obviously happier when not reading under pressure.

As books also get lost in the post, more often than seems reasonable but this is a thing, I will chase if I don’t receive my review copy, a situation that is frustrating for everyone involved. Were I not committed to a tour non-delivery of a promised book would be an irritation but not a concern.

As the tour date approaches I look to the organiser to email a digital copy (.jpg) of the book cover, author photo and blog tour flyer. Ideally the latter will include the hashtag they wish to use. It takes time and effort to prepare any blog post and this increases if covers and author pictures must be searched for on the web where image quality and usage can be problematic.

I generally have my blog posts prepared and scheduled at least a week in advance. Receipt of any author content is required to allow for this. If I am listed on a tour flyer and have nothing to post it reflects badly on my blog. I have had to chase for content many times but have only been entirely let down once.

I have numerous examples of reviews, interviews and guest posts on my blog and assume the organiser is happy with my format and writing style or they would not have invited me to participate. I will always post honestly – integrity matters to me. I wouldn’t have accepted the book had I not expected to enjoy reading it. Nevertheless, some books disappoint and I will not pretend otherwise.

While the blog tour is running I will try to share other participant’s posts. I never share a post I have not read and lose interest if there is too much repetition across the tour. How much I share also depends on the time I have available to seek out and read. For the long blog tours – some last for weeks – I will likely only manage to share a fraction of the stops.

There have been tours where my participating post, even when positive, has been ignored by author, publisher and organiser. My fellow book bloggers are always generous in sharing content but I expect some interest from those who benefit more directly.

Some have suggested that negative reviews have no place on a blog tour and bloggers should withdraw rather than post anything but praise. Late withdrawal strikes me as reneging on an agreement. Such action would also dilute the worth of the tour. Why would a reader click on multiple posts about a book that are known to have been filtered in this way?

Whilst my enthusiasm for tours has been subdued recently the main reason I have cut back on participation is the limit it places on my flexibility to choose the books I read. By filling my schedule with agreed dates I commit myself to particular titles, most of which I have not yet received at the point of commitment.

For publishers reading this post it is worth remembering that, whether or not I am taking part in a tour for a book, if I am sent a review copy I will do my best to read it in a timely manner and then share whatever publicity it receives from multiple sources. Once I have posted my own review I will share other’s thoughts on the title, whatever they may be. I blog about books to make readers aware that they exist, to share the book love.

Do other bloggers enjoy taking part in blog tours? I love talking about books but, for now, desire greater freedom to read titles of my choosing, in an order that suits me. I am, after all, more likely to react positively to a book if it is the one I feel like reading at a given time.

Guest Post: Sarah Jasmon

Sarah Jasmon Author Photo

Published earlier this month by Black Swan (a Transworld imprint), ‘The Summer of Secrets’ is author Sarah Jasmon’s debut. I was fortunate enough to be sent a copy by the Curtis Brown Book Group (you may read my review by clicking here) and was then invited to discuss the book at an on line meetup. Sarah took the time to answer a lot of questions!

As I said in my review, I do not quite understand why Helen’s life was impacted to such a degree by the events revealed. I am therefore delighted that, in this guest post, Sarah focuses on the relationships between her characters. Do you remember the summer you were sixteen? I know I do.

Please welcome to neverimitate, Sarah Jasmon.


The Summer of Secrets is mostly about friendship, about the intensity of those early proto-love affairs, when you find a soulmate who, for a season, becomes your constant companion. Think of films like Me Without You, or almost any story about high school. (In trying to narrow the choice down, I came across this excellent article by Rowan Pelling: The darker side of female friendship – Telegraph.) Such friendships tend to fizzle out in the end, with one or both participants moving on to different relationships and wider interests. In film and fiction, and occasionally in real life, they move into darker territory.

Helen and Victoria are not equal partners in their friendship. Helen has been unhappy at school, and is facing a summer with little interaction outside of her home environment. She is wary of Victoria even as she is dazzled by her, constantly on the lookout for snubs and dismissal. The younger sibling, Pippa, is safe in comparison, an uncomplicated child with a sweet nature. Victoria is tough, world-weary and single-minded. She is happy to take up with Helen whilst no-one else is available, but she’s not a friend to rely upon. She is exciting, though, her plans always hovering on the outer edge of acceptable.

It’s this imbalance that stops the friendship from becoming dangerously intense. Victoria is careless and occasionally cruel, but not malicious. Someone asked me the other day if I thought that, had the summer not ended in the way it did, would Victoria and Helen stayed in touch? And I think they wouldn’t. Victoria would have left, shedding Helen without much regret. Helen would have taken time to recover, but would have ended up a stronger person, with wider horizons. Except that fiction is never that straightforward.

The book is also about absent parents, and the effect that can have on events. I’ve always liked how children’s fiction allows for total freedom. The Famous Five are forever left to their own devices whilst parents go abroad, or find themselves too busy with important work to take any notice of what the children are doing. Arthur Ransome makes sure that the Swallows and the Amazons are without supervision, Just William goes out in the morning and evades the adults with chaotic consequences. I wanted to capture some of this release.

In any other summer of her life, Helen would have been unable to follow Victoria in the way she does. Her mother’s absence and her father’s self-absorbed depression are not her normal experience, unlike the Dover family with their long-lost father and the fragile mother who is always at least one remove from reality. But at the end of the summer, when everything has fallen apart, it’s Helen who is left with no emotional safety net. Her mother, having been absent, is now permanently excluded from her confidence. There is no return to normal, no resolution.

Another question that’s often asked is how can Helen have forgotten what happened so completely? I’m not going to answer that: being vague is the author’s prerogative after all! What I will say is that I think trauma and a guilty sense of half-recognised responsibility, coupled with shock and sudden change in circumstance, can lead to suppression. Helen has no-one to talk to, no fresh air or perspective to make the unthinkable into a manageable thought. She turns in on herself instead, and packs everything away. When we meet her as an adult, the person she was that summer is encased in a hard shell and hidden deep inside.

Meeting Victoria again forces her to chip away at that protected centre. I know what I think happens afterwards, but you’ll have to decide for yourself. Let me know.

Summer of Secrets Front Cover

This post is the final stop on The Summer of Secrets Blog Tour. Do check out the other posts, detailed below.


If you would like to know more about this author, her website may be found here: Sarah Jasmon – All the best writers live on boats.

Guest Post: Writing Our Fears



Sarah Hilary portrait and collects of her grandparents and mother that were taken in a Japanese POW camp. Mementos - a heart shaped pendant and a crucifix carved from the canopy of a plane and a book.  Photo by Linda Nylind. 31/1/2014.


Today I am happy to be hosting a guest post by Sarah Hilary, author of

  • the superbly disturbing Someone Else’s Skin which recently won the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year award;
  • No Other Darkness which was published in paperback last week and which I enjoyed even more than her debut.

If you enjoy quality crime fiction then you want to read these books. In the mean time, enjoy this post. 

Writing Our Fears by Sarah Hilary

‘Write what you know’ always struck me as bunkum. ‘Write what you want to know’ was my maxim for many years, but now I have a new one that sums it up much better (for me, at least).

‘Write what you fear’ is my new mantra.

No Other Darkness was a scary book to write and is, I hope, a scary book to read because so much of its story spoke to the under-the-bed monsters in my head. Here, then, is a rundown of my fears as manifested in Marnie Rome book two.

Going underground

So, bunkers. While I’m not quite claustrophobic, I can think of several places I’d rather spend time than in an underground bunker. I could feel its bruising damp as I started to write and that’s what I need—to be where I’m writing. I could smell the green-black rot, and feel the raw cement walls squeezing me. My palms were sweating the whole time I was writing the scenes towards the end of the book when Marnie’s trapped underground.

Angry teenagers

I’m scared of them. I’m scared for them. Marnie’s bogeyman is an angry teenage boy, but it’s more complicated than that because she herself was an angry teenager—something that haunts her throughout the series.

Creepy dolls

Anyone who’s seen the Penguin US cover of No Other Darkness will be with me on this one. I used to collect dolls as a girl. My ‘Mama’ doll went in the bath with me so many times she ended up saying, ‘Murder’. True story.

Lost children 

I’m a mother. I cried when I wrote the opening chapter of No Other Darkness. Like Marnie, it mattered to me that I was with the lost boys every step of the way. When Marnie sits in silence with them in the bunker—that was a seminal scene in terms of her character.

Losing yourself

‘There is no other darkness than this: what’s inside us. Where we hide; what we hide.’ The character who speaks this line in No Other Darkness scares me because of who she is and what she’s done. Her despair scares me, and her loss. Her fear scares me. The idea of losing yourself so completely that you’re no longer in control of your thoughts or actions—terrifies me.


So, there you have it. A handy list of the buttons to press to send me over the edge. But if you think this is frightening, you should see where book three is taking me. It’s not called Tastes Like Fear for nothing.


This post is part of the No Other Darkness blog tour. Check out the other stops on the tour, detailed below.

No Other Darkness pb.indd        Blog Tour


If you are on Twitter and live in the UK then, for today only, you can enter to win a copy of No Other Darkness. Check out my feed for details: Jackie Law (@followthehens) | Twitter.

We carry not only our past but also our future in the present


Today I am delighted to be hosting a guest post from one of my favourite authors. I was impressed by Shelan Rodger‘s debut novel, Twin Truths, so was excited to be sent an early review copy of her second, Yellow Room, earlier this year.

Yellow Room blew me away. Check out my thoughts on it by clicking here.

The book was launched at a fabulous party in London last month and we can now enjoy the blog tour of which this post is a part. Below Shelan reflects on the notion that time is not linear and that, at some level, we carry knowledge of the future inside of us. I hope that you find her thoughts on the subject as interesting as I did.

Please welcome to neverimitate, Shelan Rodger.


From the moment we are born, we start cramming our suitcase with our past. Yet, as I get older, I grow more and more convinced that time is not linear and that, at some level, we also carry knowledge of the future with us.

I will spend the rest of my life with an image of fear in my partner’s eyes, which at the time seemed extreme, but which has been born out since by the trauma of brain surgery. It was as if his body already knew.

When I dipped into my own books to prepare this blog post, I came across two passages about the notion of flash-forwards:

From Yellow Room:

‘The smell of human skin hit her the moment she entered the airport building (…) The flashback from ten years before was so acute it made her want to cry (…) at least we’re spared flash-forwards, thought Chala – imagine a world in which a certain smell or tune conjured up with the same intensity an experience yet to be lived. (…) Ignorance of the future is what makes us strong, she thought; hope is only possible because of it.’

From Twin Truths:

‘Imagine if flash-forwards to the future existed, how many events would seem unbelievable, laughable even, or just plain intolerable. I imagine life as a pile of bones without the flesh of time to join the different bones together and fatten the relationship between them…’

Yes, I am glad I cannot see into the future. And yet it is as if the cells of our flesh intuit at some level what is going to happen. We may only become aware of this in hindsight, may only see the signs looking back, but they are there, in our bodies, working slowly on preparing us for our futures. There is something of this notion behind one of the last lines of Yellow Room:

‘On the horizon of her being, her observer sat, quietly nonchalant and waiting for her future.’

Can you relate to this? Can you look back now and realize that somehow, somewhere, at some level, you ‘already knew’? When you look back and turn your life into a story, can you remember something that was said – by you or someone else – which now seems prophetic, which makes sense now with what has happened since? Is there a moment you felt something strange, a twinge of something you didn’t understand at the time, but which has come back quietly to haunt you since?

Both my novels explore the impact of the past in different ways, the way our pasts shape our sense of who we are, the scars we carry with us into the future. And yet these scars, which we so readily associate with the past, are perhaps also scars for what is still to come…


This post is part of the Yellow Room Blog Tour. Do check out the other stops, detailed below.


Book Review: Into the Fire


Into the Fire, by Manda Scott, retells the story of Joan of Arc from an original and compelling perspective. Two stories are told in parallel, one contemporary and one set in the time of The Maid’s most famous battles in the fifteenth century. Using this device the author is able to show how and why legends are created and, perhaps of even more interest, why they are protected so fiercely by those who benefit from them. As ever with half truths that morph into ‘accepted fact’, religion, politics and business interests play key roles.

The opening chapter is set in present day Orléans where Capitaine Ines Picault has been called to investigate the fourth in a series of arson attacks which have blighted the city over the previous three weeks. This conflagration represents an escalation in hostilities as the burning building contains the remains of a body.

A cursory study of the charred corpse indicates that the unknown male was dead before the fire started. A memory card is later found lodged in the victim’s oesophagus suggesting that the assault was not unexpected and that he had information which he wished to pass on. As the police struggle to recover the encrypted digital data, and to assemble the victim’s last known movements, the arsonists strike again. This time CCTV footage is captured which had previously been so carefully avoided. Picault suspects a false trail.

Interspersed with the chapters which progress this contemporary tale are those which detail the rise and exploits of Jehanne d’Arc, nicknamed The Maid of Orléans. Although her story is familiar and has been appropriated by many; from the suffragettes through LGBT Christians, the Traditionalist Youth Network in the USA (her virginity is a big selling point here) to opposing French political parties; this is a fictionalised, personal account by a fighter sent by the enemy English to destroy her. The author has studied letters and transcripts from the time to provide accuracy but, for me, the most interesting facts were these:

  • In 2003, a Ukranian orthopaedic surgeon found within the tomb of a fifteenth century French king, the bones of a woman whom he said had died in her late 50s or early 60s and had been trained to ride a war horse from a very early age: a woman knight. He said, ‘This is Marguerite de Valois. And this was Joan of Arc.’ The French closed the tomb and threw him out of France.
  • During the trial of Joan of Arc, which lasted for many months, nobody asked how a nineteen year old peasant girl gained her strategic and tactical skills, how she learned to ride, to wield weapons, to couch a lance. That any girl should be capable of such skills was unthinkable at the time. Those in power preferred to promote her much vaunted purity and to claim that she was a gift from God. It is this story which has been perpetuated.

As the parallel tales unfold the similarities between rulers, nearly 600 years apart, become clear. The public can be swayed by a pretty story which strokes existing prejudices. They appear to find it easier to support perceived beauty, purity and righteousness than to challenge societal structures with which they are comfortable. Then as now those in power will ensure, by whatever means necessary, that inconvenient truths are ridiculed or censored.

The author is a fine storyteller and her writing flows beautifully, maintaining interest and building tension towards the meshing of the two endings. As Jehanne d’Arc faces the deadly wrath of her enemies, Ines Picault discovers that she has been played in a callous and potentially fatal game. As with any good thriller there are twists and turns aplenty.

I enjoyed reading this book. The suggestion of a modern day conspiracy to protect a myth convenient to church and state is all too believable. Taught history is only ever as accurate as the scribes of the day allow.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Bantam Press.

I will be giving away a signed copy of this book to one lucky reader. For details check out my tweets: Jackie Law (@followthehens) | Twitter.

This review is part of a blog tour. Below are the details of all those taking part, do please go and check them out.


David Churchill on the Viking Heritage of the Normans

david churchill photo

Today I am delighted to be hosting Day 5 of ‘The Leopards of Normandy: Devil’ Blog Tour.

Please welcome to neverimitate the author, David Churchill, as he tells us more about William the Conqueror’s ancestors, the Vikings.


Most schoolboys who know about the Vikings think they’re great. With the longships with the dragon prows; the horned helmets (even if they didn’t actually wear them); the gods of Asgard like Odin, Loki and, of course, Thor, what’s not to like? Me, I was also proud of them because my granny Ebba Roll was the daughter of a Norwegian shipbroker. So as far as my eight year-old self was concerned, I had Viking blood in me too and I thought that was great.

Granted, I am not exactly the Viking type. I don’t drink gallons of mead from horn goblets. I’ve never raped or pillaged in my life.  True, I do have some experience as an oarsman, but that was gained rowing in a college eight down the peaceful waters of the river Cam, not braving the Atlantic ocean all the way to Greenland and America, nor rowing down the Dnieper to the Black Sea and Constantinople beyond. The Vikings were warriors, invaders, explorers, traders, nation builders and among the many things they became, they were Normans.

The story of the founding of Normandy in 911 by the man variously known as Hrolf, Rollo, Robert or Rou is a classic piece of Viking swagger. After decades of rootless wandering and fighting, much of it in northwest France and up and down the valley of the River Seine, Rollo was finally defeated by a Frankish arm outside Chartres. One hates to indulge in cheap national stereotypes, but the French promptly surrendered – or as good as – to the man they had just beaten. King Charles the Simple conducted a bizarre negotiation on an island in the River Epte in which Charles offered Rollo first Brittany (too rocky, Rollo said) and then Flanders (too damp) before granting him the lands between the Epte and the sea, which would become a duchy known as Normandy, after the Norsemen who had founded it.

It is, I think, impossible to understand the Normans without appreciating their Viking blood and their Viking attitudes. But even Rollo, as with so much in this story, is shrouded in mystery. No one knows exactly who he was or where he came from. Among the more plausible candidates, however is Hrolf Rognvaldson, whose father was a Norwegian earl. He was known as Ganger Hrolf, or ‘Walker Rolf’ because he was so big that no horse could carry him … Or as I have chosen to translate it, Rollo the Strider, because a man that cool needs a name to match.



I reviewed this action packed work of historical fiction here.

Don’t forget to check out the other great blogs taking part in this tour. Click here for links.

Mark Mills Top 5 Dogs in Film


I am so pleased to be taking part today in the Waiting for Doggo Blog Tour. I love Doggo. He is described in his book as an ugly looking dog but it is his personality that shines through, his wonderfully insouciant dogginess.

His book is actually about his reluctant owner, Dan, who is left with Doggo when Clara, Dan’s girlfriend, leaves them. Doggo is the star of the book though and they should absolutely make a film about him.

For this post the author of ‘Waiting for Doggo’, Mark Mills, was asked to name his top five dogs in films. This is the list that he provided.

Top 5 Dogs In Film

1. Uggie from ‘The Artist’ (2011)

Uggie the Jack Russell stole the show and won a Palm Dog Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance.

2. Hooch from ‘Turner and Hooch’ (1989)

Detective Turner (played by Tom Hanks) finds himself lumbered with a giant, slobbery Dogue de Bordeaux, when it becomes clear that Hooch is the witness to a murder.

3. Rin Tin Tin

Star of twenty-seven Hollywood films and a long-running TV series, ‘Rinty’ the intrepid German Shepherd is an American legend.

4. Marley from ‘Marley and Me’ (2008)

Marley, a delinquent Labrador, wreaks havoc in the lives of two journalists.

5. Red Dog from, er, ‘Red Dog’ (2011)

Adapted from the novel by Louis de Bernières but based on a true story, Red Dog is a nomadic Australian Kelpie who insinuates his way into the hearts of an Outback community.


So there you have it, five dogs that could give Doggo a run for his money, if he could be bothered to leave the sofa, the sofa that he is not supposed to go on.

‘Waiting for Doggo’ is published by Headline and is available to buy now. Go on, you know you want to.


You can follow Mark on Twitter (@MarkMillsAuthor)

and you can also follow Doggo (@WAITINGFORDOGGO).



Author Interview: Stephen Lloyd Jones

Steve Jones photo

A couple of weeks ago I was delighted to be invited to take part in a Blog Tour being organised by Headline Publishing for one of their new books, ‘The String Diaries’, by Stephen Lloyd Jones. I recently reviewed and very much enjoyed this book so was happy to take part. I decided that I would like my contribution to be an interview with the author to add to the series that I have been running. ‘The String Diaries’ is Stephen’s debut novel so this seemed to fit with my wish to interview a variety of writers at different stages in their careers.

As with many authors, Stephen also has a day job. I am somewhat in awe of someone who can produce such a tightly written, fast paced, engrossing and complex tale in the midst of a life filled with family and other work commitments. As well as ‘The String Diaries’, Stephen has found the time to write a sequel, due to be published later this year.

Without further ado then, let us find out more about the man behind the book.

Please welcome to neverimitate, Stephen Lloyd Jones.

Where do you typically write?

I’m currently writing this in a coffee shop, next to a large latte. I like to work in different places but I do the bulk of my writing on the sofa at home, the laptop propped on a cushion. With the exception of rodeo riding, it’s probably the worst way of treating your spine possible. I urgently need to buy a desk, but at the moment there’s nowhere to put it.

Tell us about your writing process.

It usually starts with a single image – a snapshot of a scene. That percolates for a couple of months until I begin to sense the story and the characters around it. I don’t need to have everything worked out before I start, but I do like a rough sense of where I’m going. Once the actual writing begins I can motor along fairly comfortably, averaging a few thousand words a day.

Tell us about your publishing experience.

I used to walk past the offices of Headline Publishing on the way to work and fantasise about being called there to a meeting one day. When my agent phoned and told me I had a deal with them, it was a surreal moment. Shocking and thrilling. I was standing outside a pub with the guys from work, a few hundred yards from the Headline building. It felt like my life had just jumped out of the tracks.

In what ways do you promote your work?

With any opportunity I try to decide whether it’s going to be more beneficial than spending the time writing. There are so many ways and so much time you can devote to it, that if you’re not careful you’ll find you’ve stopped producing any actual work. I’ve worked in media all my adult life and although it’s oft quoted it’s true nonetheless: the most powerful advertising is word of mouth. It’s human nature to share positive experiences. What matters most is creating the best experiences you can with the talent you have.

What are some of your current projects?

I’ve just delivered the sequel to ‘The String Diaries’ to Headline. It’s called ‘Written In The Blood’, and is out on 6th November. Now that’s done, I’m starting work on my third novel. It’s an idea I’ve had for a while, and I’m incredibly excited about it.

Where can my readers find you?

My website is  www.StephenLloydJones.com.

I’m on twitter as Stephen Lloyd Jones (@sljonesauthor).

‘The String Diaries’ can be purchased from the publisher, Amazon, and all good book retailers.


Stephen Jones was born in 1973 and grew up in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire. He studied at Royal Holloway College, University of London and is the director of a major London media agency. He lives in Surrey with his wife, three young sons and far too many books.

‘The String Diaries’ is his first novel and Headline are delighted to announce that Stephen’s next novel, ‘Written in the Blood’, will be published in hardback on 6th November this year.



The String Diaries PB  Blog Tour Poster