Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey



Pandora’s Prophecy – A Guest Post by Julie Ryan

Today I’m delighted to welcome to the blog the very talented Julie Ryan. I asked Julie to write a guest post in the wake of her latest book release, Pandora’s Prophecy. Read on for a sneaky peak at a reader/writer’s bookcase …


“I think my obsession with books began early. I remember lining my books up, on my bookcase that my grandfather made, in size order. Heaven forbid if either of my sisters tried to move them. As the eldest I was fortunate enough to have my own room. Perhaps if I’d been forced to share a room then I wouldn’t have become so obsessive about books. Even when I travelled around the world teaching, my books were with me; a reminder of home and a comfort in an unfamiliar land. At least that’s what I tell my husband!

Unfortunately, being dyslexic, he doesn’t share my passion for books. He did try to curb my enthusiasm by buying me my first Kindle in the hopes that it would stop me buying more books. I love my Kindle but I think the obsession has just spread as I now have hundreds of books on there too just waiting to be read. Even so, I can’t resist the scent and feel of a ‘real’ book so it hasn’t really solved the problem.

Things have now reached crisis point! I have five bookcases full of books with several hundred more still in boxes in the cellar. This was supposed to be a temporary move until we finished doing up the house. Ten years later and there isn’t much sign of me having my very own library. In fact, as I can’t access them easily I’ve probably got several duplicates, as I can’t resist a bargain!

A spot of reorganization was called for and having been invited to write a blog post, I thought I’d try and regroup my books beginning with my favourites set in Greece. I was going to be mega-organised and try to order them alphabetically but that looked too organized for me so… instead I’ve gone for a Greek bookshelf where I can easily locate books set on Greece or with a Greek theme. I must admit to being quite pleased with the result so the next step will be to do the same for all my books set in France, then in Italy and so on. It means that I can take a quick trip around Europe simply by looking at my bookshelf.

Unfortunately it hasn’t solved the problem of what to do with the thousands of other books that are not set in a particular country. Maybe it’s time for me to take a librarian’s course and then I can group them properly. Until then though it seems that my long-suffering husband is just going to have to put up with my books for a little bit longer or at least until I get my very own library.

I’m pleased to have passed something of my passion on to my son as he now has his own bookcase in his bedroom, which is beginning to overflow. I’m thinking it could be time for a house move! Please tell me I’m not alone in this, as I’d love to know how you categorise your books. Now, as long as I live to be around 300 I might just manage to read them all!”

You’re not alone in this, Julie 🙂 I categorize by author if fiction, and then topic for non-fiction, and I have three main bookcases, not including my daughter’s two bookcases! 

Julie's book

Julie’s new book, Pandora’s Prophecy, is the third in the Greek Island mystery series but can be read as a standalone, although some characters from the previous books do make an appearance. Lisa and Mark are going through a rough patch, Vicky is seventeen and has just discovered that the man she thought was her father really isn’t, Ruth is getting over her husband’s betrayal after nearly twenty-five years of marriage. On the surface they have nothing in common except that they are all staying in the same hotel on a Greek Island. As they each come into contact with the mysterious Pandora, their lives will change forever. Bodies begin to pile up as a serial killer is on the loose who might just be targeting the hotel. The Island’s Police Chief, Christos Pavlides, tries to solve the puzzle but he has problems of his own to resolve. It seems that the local celebrity author is the one who holds the key.

Julie RyanAbout Julie:

Julie Ryan was born and brought up in a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She graduated with a BA (hons) in French Language and Literature from Hull University. Since then she has lived and worked as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand. She now lives in rural Gloucestershire with her husband, son and two cats, a rescue cat and a dippy cat with half a tail.  She is so passionate about books that her collection is now threatening to outgrow her house, much to her husband’s annoyance, as she can’t bear to get rid of any! They have been attempting to renovate their home for the last ten years.

She is the author of three novels set in Greece, “Jenna’s Journey”, “Sophia’s Secret” and ‘Pandora’s Prophecy.” She considers Greece to be her spiritual home and visits as often as she can. This series was inspired by her desire to return to Crete although there is a strong pull to revisit the Cyclades too.

Purchase links

Jenna’s Journey –

Universal link –

Sophia’s Secret –

Universal link –

Pandora’s Prophecy –

Author links

Twitter – @julieryan18

Facebook –

Blog –

Epistolary Novels – Why I Love Them

I’ve just finished reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. I was drawn to this because it’s an epistolary novel – I know you know what that means, but just in case you don’t it’s a novel made up of fictional documents, such as letters, diary excerpts, emails, news clippings, that kind of thing. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea (my supervisor on the Masters hates them, which is why I’m not writing one myself for my dissertation). But I LOVE them. It got me thinking about my favourite epistolary novels, and what it is that I think works so well.


Dracula is probably one of the most famous epistolary novels, written in diary entries and letters and fictional newspaper articles. I read it years ago, and I loved the whole concept even before I understood that it was a technique used by lots of different writers. The other notable novel that springs to mind for me is Carol Shields’ A Celibate Season. An absolutely brilliant book, it was written in collaboration with author Blanche Howard, and is made up entirely of letters between a man and wife separated because of work commitments for ten months. This book is fantastic, and I would recommend it to anyone. Like most works of genius, it seems so simple, but there is such a craft involved in structuring these letters so that the reader feels the building pressure this couple are subjected to during their self-imposed separation. What’s very clever is that at no point do you feel the loss of direct narrative – for example, a weekend visit home which has been longed for on both sides is viewed by the reader only via the letters sent after the event. You’d think this would be frustrating, but it isn’t at all. It’s brilliant, and as a writer I want to understand how these two award-winning authors managed to achieve this feat.


Where’d You Go, Bernadette is also very good – Semple uses the range of documents in a clever way, and the story is engaging and full of twists and turns – but there are flaws, in my humble opinion. The voices of the various characters that come out of the different documents – emails, faxes, letters, instant messages, blog posts etc – aren’t nearly as differentiated as they perhaps should be. It’s not a problem that the author’s voice comes through loud and clear – Semple is a brilliantly funny writer – but as you’re reading you do notice the lack of difference in what should be really varied textual sources. The other problem occurs when the story changes to first person direct narrative – most of the last quarter of the book is written this way, in the voice of the daughter. It jars a little after such variety. Semple could have got around this by structuring the narrative as diary entries, which would have made it more in line with what came before. That aside, it’s a great read so do give it a try.

So, why do I love epistolary novels so much? I think it’s because of the extra layer of authenticity it gives. It’s the same reason I love any novel with a framing device – Anita Shreve’s Strange Fits of Passion is written as the account of a reporter visiting the daughter of a woman who was convicted of murdering her husband. She has compiled a feature on the young woman’s mother, and we are effectively reading that feature, including interviews and her research, along with the daughter. It works so well, really drawing you in to the story. Going back to the gothic novels, Frankenstein is also written this way, with the entire book being told as the account of a man writing to his sister and recounting to her Victor Frankenstein’s story.

A List!

I’m starting to compile a list of contemporary novels with epistolary elements – that is, at least a large proportion of the narrative written this way – and I’d like your help. If you’ve read a novel of letters, or diary entries, or using other textual devices, please pop a comment in the box below. I’m particularly interested in anything written after 1940, but earlier novels are fine too. Here is what I have on my list so far:

  • 84, Charing Cross Road: Helene Hanff
  • Attachments: Rainbow Rowell
  • Bridget Jones’s Diary: Helen Fielding
  • Carrie: Stephen King
  • A Celibate Season: Carol Shields and Blanche Howard
  • The Color Purple: Alice Walker
  • The Divorce Papers: Susan Rieger
  • The Documents in the Case: Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Ella Minnow Pea: Mark Dunn
  • The Guestbook: Holly Martin
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe: Fannie Flagg
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society: Mary Ann Shaffer
  • Love, Rosie (Where Rainbows End): Celia Ahern
  • My Most Excellent Year: Steve Kluger
  • The People in the Photo: Hélène Gestern
  • Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Paul Torday
  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4: Sue Townsend
  • We Need To Talk About Kevin: Lionel Shriver
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette: Maria Semple

Really looking forward to reading your comments on epistolary novels 🙂

Kings And Queens – A New Book from Terry Tyler

This weekend I downloaded a new book by ace indie author, Terry Tyler.


Here’s some info from her Amazon description:

“Terry Tyler’s seventh novel is a romantic drama spanning the years 1971 – 2007, with an unusual echo from history …

“KINGS AND QUEENS” tells of the life and loves of charismatic Harry Lanchester, which just happen to mirror the story of Henry VIII and his six wives. All the passion and suspense of the Tudor court, but set in modern times.

Harry’s realm is his South of England property developing company, Lanchester Estates, while his ‘wives’ are the twentieth century sisters of their historic counterparts: Anne Boleyn is reincarnated as the equally intriguing Annette Hever, and Henry VIII’s fifth wife with the risqué past, Catherine Howard, lives again in 1999 as Keira Howard, a former lap dancer.

The saga is narrated by each of the six women, in turn, interspersed with short chapters from the point of view of Harry’s lifelong friend, Will Brandon.

Don’t worry if you know nothing of this period in history – “Kings and Queens” can be enjoyed as a contemporary family drama, very much in the vein of Ms Tyler’s previous novels. Readers with an interest in the Tudors, though, will pick up on many similarities, references and metaphors, some quite amusing. For those non-Tudor fanatics who would like a brief look at the life of Henry VIII before reading, the author has included, in the Kindle book, a link to a mini-biography on her blog.

A sequel, following the lives of Harry’s three children, is already planned.”

Terry Tyler

Terry has been on the blog many times, and is a great supporter of self-publishing, and very influential on Twitter. I can’t wait to read the book, and I said to Terry that I think this title could be a really big success for her. I love the concept, and I love Terry’s writing, so I’m really keen to get started. Here is the link again if anyone else fancies having a read, or click on the cover above.

Terry Tyler – Doing What It Takes

An interview with Terry about free Kindle promos

Featured Author with Jane Davis

A couple of weeks ago I got a lovely email from author Jane Davis, asking if I’d like to be interviewed for her blog. Hell, yes! Jane is an outstandingly talented writer – she won the Daily Mail first novel award and has gone on to publish three further novels, all of which are now on my To Read list. But it seems Jane’s talents aren’t limited to writing great fiction – she’s also brilliant at interview questions! This was one of the best interviews I’ve ever done, and I hope you’ll take a couple of minutes to pop along to Jane’s blog and read it.

Thanks, Jane!


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