I’m really delighted today to be launching the paperback blog tour for What Doesn’t Kill You by Laura E James. I read this fantastic book when it was first released for kindle: Choc Lit promised it would be compelling, emotional, and hard-hitting, not your typical romance story, and they really did mean it. I’m thrilled it’s now available in paperback – published today – so that everyone can read and enjoy it as much as I did. My original review follows so everyone can catch up (and, of course, add it to their reading lists), but first I’m delighted to welcome Laura E James to Being Anne…
Thank you so much, Anne, for joining in with this week’s celebrations, and I feel every privileged and honoured that you are kicking off the virtual book tour. Today is the day my third Choc Lit novel, What Doesn’t Kill You, is published in paperback!
The novel has been available in its digital form for just over a year and I’m absolutely delighted with the reviews it’s received. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has bought read and reviewed WDKY – it is truly appreciated. Your review, Anne, literally took my breath away. I’m so pleased you enjoyed the story of Griff, Evie and Tess.
Today, I thought I’d chat about how Griff and Evie first met.
As part of the festive season, Choc Lit authors take part in a round robin (imagine the game Consequences on a larger scale … perhaps Tag Storytelling), or submit Christmas-themed short stories to be put on the Choc Lit blog or be sent out to the publisher’s subscribers as a Treat.
Towards the end of 2013, having sent my second novel, Follow Me Follow You, to Choc Lit, I’d started working on book three, What Doesn’t Kill You. I was in the early stages of planning and character development and yet to decide how the hero, Griff, and the heroine, Evie, met. When I was asked to write a Christmas short, it seemed the perfect opportunity to create the backstory. I already knew Griff worked as a coastguard and Evie was a natural born carer, so I needed a scenario where the two would come together at an event appropriate to their saving and giving personalities.
Every Christmas Day in my hometown, there is a sponsored swim across the harbour. It’s a well-supported and well-organised event and a tradition I hope will last for many years. I remember going with my parents as spectators a long time ago on a bright and crisp morning. I was in awe of the people prepared to jump into the icy water and swim from one side of the harbour to the other, to raise funds for their chosen charity. Among the fancy dress and gathered at the starting point there was a group of nuns, a giant penguin and an assortment of Santas. The crowd counted down from five and the swimmers jumped into the water. A friend recently told me he took part one year and spent the entire day feeling cold. I can imagine. I applaud those who tackle the Christmas Day harbour swim. They’re not doing it for the glory – it’s not a race – they’re doing it because they care.
It occurred to me the harbour swim would be the perfect event to attend for a man like Griff and a woman like Evie. A short story titled, Angel, was the result and was sent out as a Choc Lit Treat. When writing the novel, I kept Griff and Evie’s first meeting as true as possible to the original short story. Here’s a snippet early on in WDKY, when Evie remembers the first time she saw Griff Hendry.
They’d met in their thirties, on Christmas Day. It was three years ago, at the harbour swim. She was dressed as an angel. He was virtually naked. He’d rushed to save her then.
‘You’ll lose your halo,’ he’d said as they stood ready to jump into the water.
‘I lost that a long time ago,’ she’d replied as he feathered his fingers along the edges of her wings.
‘It’s freezing in there. You don’t have to do this.’
‘I do. My daughter’s the other side of the harbour. She’s waited for what to her must be an eternity.’
Evie laughed. ‘She’s twelve, it’s ten o’clock on Christmas morning, and I’ve raised her from the dead, insisting she be here. Besides, I’ve promised my sponsorship money to the hospice. I volunteer there.’
Griff inched back, appearing to assess Evie. ‘You’re swimming for the hospice?’ He paused as if debating whether or not to add more to his statement, then continued anyway. ‘So am I. They helped my mum a few years ago. It’s a fantastic cause. And it’s great that you work there. A true angel.’
Evie felt the heat of embarrassment rise through her core to her face. ‘It’s nothing. I like to help. And I get back far more than I could ever give.’
‘Sounds like you’re definitely diving in, then.’ He shook his head and sighed. ‘There’s absolutely nothing I can do to save you from taking the plunge?’
His cheeky grin and his confident pose made Evie laugh. ‘I was beyond saving the second I saw your Santa Speedos,’ she said.
This Christmas just gone my husband and I took a trip to the harbour side to cheer on the gallant and inspiring swimmers.
Perhaps there was a Griff and Evie there that day…there were certainly plenty of real heroes and heroines.
Wishing you and your readers a magnificent 2017 and thank you for inviting me to Being Anne.
Thank you Laura – I loved that post! Let’s take another look at my review…
When you see “Choc Lit” you might expect romance, always a good story, great writing, and a delicious hero. The hero of this one is Griff – separated from his wife Evie for reasons he doesn’t understand, loving and caring, dedicated to helping people, damaged by the death of a childhood friend. He’s also estranged from his father Logan – cared for by Evie – for reasons we don’t understand at first, but that soon become clear. And this is a story that really has a bit of everything – death, suicide, secrets, guilt, abusive relationships, the value of life and so much more. Heavy, you think? Maybe just a little, but so wonderfully handled – some parts aren’t easy to read, but the whole story is ultimately uplifting, with hope and love present throughout.
Griff and Evie are such well drawn and likeable characters – you ache for them to talk properly, to resolve their problems, to get back together – and teenager daughter Tess is simply wonderful, with all the emotional baggage she carries. The fact that the story is told by switching from viewpoint to viewpoint is a masterstroke – you slowly get to understand everyone’s issues, and where the obstacles to their happiness lie. The book really does give you a full emotional work-out. One of the key scenes mid-book had me in tears and setting the book aside – but I soon picked it up again, because I’d invested so much in the characters that I really wanted to know how everything worked out for them all.
This was excellent writing – I always knew Laura’s writing was a little darker than many of her fellow Choc Lit writers, but this was way darker than I ever expected. Laura handles extreme emotion as well as any author I know, and I suspect the strength of her writing might surprise people – the dialogue is incredibly real, the relationships wonderfully described in all their complexity, the pain of her characters something you feel. These are real people sharing very real problems, and the book has an immense emotional impact – it may surprise many Choc Lit readers, but I’d urge people to try it. I absolutely loved it.
Best of luck with the paperback tour Laura! You will be sure to catch the other stops everyone, won’t you?
Laura E James writes romance without the soft edges, focusing on gritty, sometimes dark, modern day issues: having found her happy ending, she says it seems right that she gives her characters the same chance. As a graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, a member of her local writing group, Off The Cuff, and one eighth of The Romaniacs, Laura spends as much time as life allows playing with words, and asking, ‘What if?’