Supporting my local library (aka crying in public)…

There’s nothing I love more than getting out and meeting readers so it was a real privilege to be invited to Corby Library for the launch of their Reading Ahead Challenge.

This is the first year Corby has taken part in this challenge although lots of other libraries in the country already take part. The scheme is designed to encourage more people to read. When you sign up you get a card where you keep track of your next six reads (or listen if you prefer audio books). There is a get together each month where you can talk books with like-minded people in your local community and at the end you get a certificate. Although today was the official launch you have between now and October to join in. I met some lovely people including some writers and their passion for books has inspired me to come home and do some work to my own manuscript.

Libraries have always been a huge part of my life. From my primary school who let me borrow far more than the one allocated book per week, to my village librarian who joked when I told her I had exhausted all of their stock that I should write my own book (I went home and started The Sister). I’ve many fond memories of visiting the big town library with my own mum, touching the books, taking ages to choose the ones I wanted, and then taking my own children to pick their bedtime stories.

I was overcome with emotion when today I saw The Sister on a library shelf for the very first time and was told how popular it is, along with The Gift. This has definitely been one of my highlights of being published and I found the thought of library users choosing my book to take home incredibly overwhelming. Luckily before I could shed too many tears at the enormity of it all the cake was brought out and I had to compose myself. After all it would have been rude not to have a slice (or three) wouldn’t it?

You can find out more about the Reading Ahead Challenge here.

My first foreign editions (aka we haven’t run out of peanut butter)

I was bleary-eyed when I answered the door to the postman this morning and took in a parcel. I couldn’t remember ordering anything, although admittedly I have been known to 1-click on Amazon and wipe it instantly from my mind. Half-asleep I opened the box and I think I must have screamed because the spaniel rushed out of the kitchen with her paws over her ears and my husband rushed in.

‘What’s wrong?’ he shouted, a panicked expression on his face as he looked for signs of injury/electrocution/flood. ‘This isn’t because we’ve run out of peanut butter is it?’ Luckily for him I was too excited to be offended that he thinks I am such a drama queen. In the box was books! My books! My first ever foreign editions and suddenly I was overcome with tears. A little over a year ago I’d almost lost hope of ever holding a paperback in English. The thought I might one day be published in other languages had genuinely never occurred to me.

This Polish edition is gorgeous, shiny and embossed. Crammed full of words I do not understand but I wrote those words and the realisation that around the world readers are getting to know Grace and Charlie is such a humbling feeling. There are many more foreign editions to come and I hope this sense of excitement, this sense of wonder, stays with me for each and every one. And just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better I also found a new jar of peanut butter in the back of the cupboard. Hurrah. Celebratory toast was eaten by all.

The Dead Good Reader Awards are open for voting. By voting you could also win £200 worth of books. If you loved The Sister, and have a few seconds, I would massively appreciate a nomination in the Debut Category. You can vote here. Thanks. Louise x

A year ago today I signed a book deal. So what’s it really been like?

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A year ago today I signed a book deal and the past 365 days have been a whirlwind of highs and lows; pride and anxiety; celebrations and tears. I tried to imagine so many times what it would be like to sign my name on the dotted line, how I might feel, what the process might be like. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Emotions tumbled as I read THAT email at 7 am offering me a contract for three psychological thrillers. Euphoria was nudged aside by fear, did I have more than one book in me? What if I let my publishers down? Was I too old for a career change? A long chat followed with my commissioning editor Lydia Vassar-Smith, and to this day I still remember how I felt as I signed my name. Euphoric. Sick. Grateful. Afraid. I had no idea what publishing entailed and I was about to find out on a digital publisher’s schedule, which are known for being tough.

The publication date for my debut The Sister was set for 7th July 2016, less than five months away. In my naivety I’d envisaged spending those five months picnicking in fields, drinking champagne, and perhaps working on book two in-between long lunches and cream teas.

The reality was my edits came back straight away. My beautiful prose on the crisp white background was covered in red lines and comment bubbles. I made the first of many panicked phone calls to Lydia ‘I thought you liked my story?’ I gasped out in horror, convinced she had read it again and changed her mind. She assured me this was normal in the first round of edits and I tried not to cry/hang up/laugh hysterically as she explained she would work with me on the structural edits before I would be passed to a copy editor where it would happen all over again. The process could take weeks and in the meantime how was book two shaping up? This was when I stared longingly out of the window, bid goodbye to the outside world and pretty much my family, and got stuck in to making my lifelong dream a reality. When I first spoke to Lydia in February I didn’t realise how important it was that we got on. The author/editor relationship is very close and it’s important we shared the same vision for the book and I trusted the changes she wanted to make implicitly.

The edits for The Sister, although they felt huge at the time, were actually very light (when I compared them to The Gift later) which I was thankful for as this is the stage the fabulous Marketing Manager for Bookouture, Kim Nash, came in. Social media was something I’d occasionally dabbled in, blogging was something I already loved. Kim set up magazine and blog interviews and arranged for me to appear on local radio. Twitter has been an amazing support, not only for my books but I’ve met so many lovely people, some of whom I’ve now met in real life, and with a writer’s world being so isolated the interaction has been a real lifeline some days.the-sister

Soon weeks had flown by. I’d seen and fallen instantly in love with the cover for The Sister, the editing and proofreading were finished, I got to hold my paperbacks in my hand, listen to the audio version and see my debut go onto Amazon for pre-order. There were days to go before my story went out into the world but throughout the edits, the marketing, I hadn’t had much of a chance to work on The Gift and that has been a huge learning curve for me. The amount of time in a contract between books isn’t always writing time. When an author delivers a book it is far from finished and after talking things through with my family we made the decision to cancel our summer holiday so I could write every day. I was so grateful for the chance I had, I wanted to do everything possible to make my follow-up book as good as it could possibly be and I am lucky I had the understanding and support of my family to do this.

During the next few weeks, The Sister went to No.1, was nominated for The Goodreads Best Debut of 2016 and despite being released more than halfway through the year became the 6th biggest selling book on Amazon last year, it’s still in the UK top 100. The Gift was published in December 2016 and also hit the No. 1 spot and has currently spent over 10 weeks in the UK top 10. Both books are on the USA Today Bestseller’s list.

 

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There is much to celebrate and be grateful for but throughout this journey there has also been the inevitable ups and down of life to factor in. A family illness, a bereavement, the bittersweet feeling of finally being published and the one person I wanted to share this with no longer being with us. The stress of financial instability as I wasn’t able to carry on working and hit my deadlines. But there is an underlying excitement for the future. I now have the support of an amazing agent, Rory Scarfe of Furniss Lawton, and I’m very much enjoying writing my third book. I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months bring. I’m living the life I’ve always dreamed of and although it’s exhausting at times, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Big thanks to the team at Bookouture for taking a chance on an unknown author. I am eternally grateful.bookouture-web-logo-3

 

You wrote a novel about WHAT??? (What on earth is Cellular Memory?)

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I first heard about cellular memory about fifteen years ago and was intrigued with the concept that the cells of the body could store memories, and if organs are transplanted, these memories could also be transplanted with them.

Although this isn’t scientifically proven, there are an increasing number of doctors and scientists supporting this theory and further research is being carried out.

Endlessly fascinated I’ve spent years researching this subject and reading up on real life cases where recipients have received donor organs, in particular hearts, and inherited some attributes of the donor whether it is a craving for the donor’s favourite food, or, in more extreme cases, speaking a different language after the surgery that the donor could speak, or suddenly being able to play an instrument the donor could play.

Could this really be happening? Is the heart just a pump or is it something more? It wasn’t that long ago the heart was thought to be the centre of all knowledge and wisdom. Is it more than we think?

I desperately wanted to write a novel around cellular memory but I was wary. It is a subject I felt that deserved sensitively handling. Where there is a transplant, there has to be a loss. A grieving family. A recipient who has perhaps been ill for a long period and the impact that has had on their family and friends. I considered all of these points four years ago when I wanted to start writing a novel and I decided I didn’t have the experience to approach a story that included organ donation with the sensitivity it deserved.

Instead I wrote The Sister, a psychological thriller based around a grieving girl and I found that despite the genre of the book I was able to write it with raw emotion and when readers read it and fed back how connected and empathetic they felt towards the characters, I decided to tentatively start to write Jenna’s story in The Gift.

Jenna is a 30-year-old woman who receives a new heart and begins to have disturbing thoughts and dreams. She becomes obsessed with her donor, Callie’s family, and she doesn’t believe Callie’s accident was as innocent as it was purported to be. Jenna is determined to uncover the truth behind Callie’s death, to bring her bewildered parents the closure they deserve, but as she begins to dig and discover the secrets surrounding Callie, she finds there is someone who wants to silence her, at any cost.

The Gift is fiction, and of course as an author I have taken artistic license with the subject of cellular memory and I’m sure readers will understand the need to do this but I hope I have handled the medical aspect and the loss with accuracy and respect.

My family and I have been on the donor transplant list for years. I know it’s not always something families discuss and I do hope The Gift can strike up conversations about donation and perhaps encourage someone who might not have previously thought about it to sign themselves up to the register. Signing up really could save lives.

What do you think about cellular memory? I’d love to know.

 

The kindle version of The Gift is currently part of an Amazon Flash Sale and you can buy it in the UK here for £0.99 or the US here for $1.24. It is also available as a paperback or audiobook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sky streaks purple, orange, red before settling on its usual self-conscious blue as if it could never be more than that. But we’re all more than we think. Than we feel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One week before publication – what’s left to do?

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It is exactly one week until the release of my second novel, The Gift. So what happens in those last few days before publication?

Before I released a book I thought this was the period authors sat with their feet up, drinking lots of wine, waiting with excitement for their books to hit the shelves. Oh how my thought processes have changed! While for me the excitement and the drinking lots of wine bit is very true, there is also an enormous amount to do. In a way this is where the hard work starts.

Being signed to a digital publisher is a little bit different to a traditional publisher. Digital publishers like to bring books out very quickly  and can still be getting a book ready days before publication, with last minutes edits and typesetting. Today, some re-records are happening to my audiobook which I shall listen to tomorrow, and my paperbacks have been uploaded to Amazon for pre-ordering which means the typeset file has been sent to the printers and I will soon be sent some copies so I can start to plan some signed giveaways.

With the UK publishing an estimated 184,000 books per year this is also the time for authors to try to make their book visible as it can be. Marketing can be relentless and exhausting  but through it I have met some of the nicest people around both online and off-line. When writers, readers, and book bloggers come together, united by their love of a good story, it is phenomenal to witness the support the reading/writing community gives each other, and I feel so very privileged to be a part of that.

The time period before publication it is often a nail biting time waiting for the first reviews to be posted online. No matter how much a writer or editor loves the book, there is no way of predicting how it will be received by readers. The reviews of The Gift have started to come through this week, up and I have felt humbled and very grateful for the fabulous reception it has received so far.

Next week for me, there will be radio interviews, an online launch, and generally much jumping up and down with joy in my house. This time last year I was putting together a submission package for my first novel, The Sister, and every day I feel so thankful that, at last, my dream of being published has come true.

You can pre-order The Gift from Amazon UK or Amazon US.

What people are saying about The Gift: 

My God! It’s a bloody corker! An exquisite writer…Louise has completely knocked it out of the park and brought us all another amazing thriller! Emma the Little Bookworm

Hells Bells! The Gift by Louise Jensen is an absolute cracker of a read it’s tense, gripping and thrilling. I literally devoured this book in one sitting, I love it when you read a book and the opening chapter grabs you by the throat …Louise Jensen has written a belter of a book that will keep even the most hardened psychological thriller lover glued to their kindle/book’ The Book Review Cafe

‘Louise Jensen has this great gift of being able to drag you directly into the story and carry you along kicking and screaming! Drop everything and curl up in a comfy chair because as soon as you start this book you won’t want to do anything else!’ Angelnet Reviews

I absolutely ADORE Louise Jensen’s writing … The Gift is full to the brim of twists and turns …superb!‘ Damp Pebbles

This book is a compulsive read – once you start it you’ll find it incredibly hard to put down again until you’ve finished it …I love the way that nearly every chapter ends on a mini cliff-hanger – it kept me turning the pages late into the night and eventually I decided I simply couldn’t go to bed until I knew the truth! ‘ Rather Too Fond of Books

Best Debut 2016 Semi-finalist!!

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I was absolutely delighted to wake up this morning and discover The Sister has made it through to the semifinals of the Goodreads Best Debut Award 2016.

Thank you so much to everyone who has supported and voted. Voting starts afresh with this round so if you have the time I would really appreciate another vote to try and get into the final. You can vote here.

I’m massively grateful for your support.

Louise X

Book Club Questions – The Sister

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I love those stories, the ones you can’t stop thinking about afterwards. Characters you wonder what happens to. Twists you analyse. I often seek out book club questions for novels I’ve really enjoyed so I thought I’d put some together for The Sister as I know some book clubs are reading it (and if you are thinking of reading it the paperback is half price this weekend only).

  1. Grace is a very complex character. How did you feel about her? Did you feel any compassion for her?
  1. Do you think the traumatic event Grace suffered in childhood contributed to her paranoia? Are some people more susceptible to carry guilt than others? Is Grace’s guilt understandable?
  1. Dan has a secret he is hiding from Grace. Is it ever justifiable in a relationship to keep something from someone you love ‘for their own good’? Do you think he should have been more honest?
  1. In part this is a story about friendship and the shifting dynamics between a group of girls as they grow up. Charlie found herself in an impossible situation. How might she have handled things differently while remaining loyal?
  1. This novel alternates between the past and the present. Did you find this structure worked and helped build up the tension?
  1. What did you assume about Anna throughout the book? How did this change by the end?
  1. Do you think Grace and Dan make a good couple or have they outgrown each other?
  1. The Sister is very much about lies. The lies we tell ourselves. The lies we tell other people. Do all people lie to some degree? Can you understand the characters reasons for doing so?
  1. Were you satisfied with the ending of the book? Did you guess?
  1. What do you think happens to the characters after the epilogue?