Blog Tour | Brake Failure #Q&A

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Ruby Mortimer-Smyth is an English debutante, destined for Ladies Day at Ascot and taking tea at The Savoy. She knows the etiquette for every occasion and her soufflés NEVER collapse.

She is in control of her life, tightly in control.  Until fate dumps her down in … Kansas.

Ruby believes that life is like a car; common-sense keeps it on the road, passion sends it into a ditch. What she doesn’t know is, she’s on a collision course with Sheriff Hank Gephart.  

Sheriff Hank Gephart can judge a person.  Miss Mortimer-Smyth might act like the Duchess of England but just under the surface there’s something bubbling, ready to explode.  She’s reckless, and she’s heading for brake failure.  And he’s not thinking about her car.

With the Millennium approaching, Ruby gets caught up in the Y2K hysteria.  She joins a group of Survivalists, who give her a gun and advise her to stockpile basic essentials, such as gasoline and water-purifying tablets.  So she bulk-buys Perrier, Gentleman’s Relish and macaroons.

Ruby, far from home, is making Unsuitable Friends and “finding herself” for the first time.  She falls in with a gang of Hells Angels and falls foul of the law.  At every turn, she comes up hard against Sheriff Hank Gephart, whose blue eyes seem to look deep into her soul.  She desperately wants him but knows she can never have him.

She’s angry at the emotions he arouses in her.  Pushed to her limit, she bursts from her emotional straightjacket.

As the clock strikes midnight of the new Millennium, she’s on a freight train with three million dollars, a bottle of Wild Turkey and a smoking gun.

What happened to Miss Prim-and-Proper?   And why did she shoot Mr Right?

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Last week I hosted a review for Alison Brodie’s book Brake Failure, but this week I have the pleasure of welcoming her to my blog for a little Q&A.

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Was there something specific that happened whilst you lived in Kansas that gave you the idea for this book or did using this setting occur after you already had the premise?

Yes, something specific did happen. On the front page of The Kansas City Star, January 2, 2000 was this article, I quote:   “A woman who was captured an hour into the new year in an Olathe bank … dozens of police officers and FBI agents surrounded the building.” Reading this, I had a seed of an idea for a story so I kept the newspaper. But it was years later when Ruby came into my head and suddenly the seed of the idea sprouted and grew.

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Whilst you lived there did you find yourself getting pulled into the Y2K madness in the same way that Ruby did, with the worrying and prepping?

The whole planet was worried about the Millennium bug. What would happen when the date switched to all those zeroes? Would all computers believe the date had gone back a hundred years and crash?

Hong Kong was stockpiling food. The US government was spending $150 billion dollars on preparing for melt-down. Generally, my friends in Kansas did not get hysterical; yes, they stockpiled food and gasoline but they were confident it would all be fixed within a few days. There were others, though, who were terrified. But there was a group of Survivalists who seemed to relish the thought of melt-down; they all seemed to believe it would happen one day, and they were prepared.

The TV news reports ranged from “prepare as you would for a six-day blizzard” to “run for the hills!” I didn’t know what to believe. I stockpiled food, etc, and filled the bath with water, as instructed by the Red Cross. As Y2K got nearer, I have to admit, I got really anxious. I followed New Year from New Zealand onwards, and when nothing happened to those countries, I breathed a sigh of relief.

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The relationship between Ruby and Clare is so intense and competitive, is that something you had first-hand experience of or did something else inspire it?

I was influenced by “Frasier”, the snobbish competition between Frasier and his brother, Niles. There was more of a hostile competitiveness between Ruby and Claire, though.   This was because they had to compete against each other for every scrap of affection from their mother.

this is so annoying

Are any of the crazy things that Ruby gets up to inspired by things that you have done or did they unfold whilst you were writing?

I have been arrested many times: speeding (Spain), hitching-hiking (Switzerland), jumping a light (France), busking/disturbance of the peace (London), hustling (Athens), etc, etc. Nothing major. I’ve never had a gun, never shot anyone, never robbed a bank – although I accidentally shoplifted a pen that was lying in the bottom of my shopping cart!

I just want to say that most things that happened in the book actually did happen, but I was never arrested. I was cautioned by the cops for 1) story-telling with a friend at a school that had an opt-out policy on Harry Potter 2) swimming in Shawnee Mission Lake outside the swim area 3) building a bonfire for bonfire night … just little things like that.

And I certainly didn’t decapitate Mr Frostie with a chainsaw!

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Who is your favourite character in the book and why?

My favorite is Rowdy (the stray dog). I just wanted to hug him cos he was ugly and nobody ever wanted him.

I loved Idabel (and she does exist) and mean Mr Schoettler (who also exists).

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You have mixed in some poetry and diary entries into your writing, what do you feel that brings to the book?

They break up the prose. The diary entries give a brief glimpse of Kansas life through Ruby’s eyes. The poetry shows how she gradually changes. She begins by writing about the “pretty” prairie and ends up writing a furious poem about cops (which was her way to vent her fury over Hank Gephart).

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Brake Failure is a very humorous book, is that something that comes quite naturally to you or do you find yourself tweaking things to make them that way after you’ve written it?

I write humour because I love reading humour. I suffer from depression and writing is the main way I am relieved of that depression. Writing humour eases it even more. Anyway, it’s not really me who writes my books; it’s my characters. It might sound high-falutin’, but it’s true. My characters come into my head fully formed and start doing what they do, and I just write it all down.

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You had a deal with Hodder & Stoughton and are now publishing more independently, how do the two experiences compare?

I wrote my first book without telling anyone. I enjoyed every second of it. I sent it to an agent and she got me a two-book deal with Hodder. Of course, Hodder wanted that second book asap – but I didn’t have an ideas for a story, I had no characters clamouring to be heard! I had nothing! Zilch. I forced myself to write but I was in panic mode, my brain fogged. I did eventually finish it – Sweet Talk – and it was published but it bombed.

The experience was terrifying and I gave up writing for a while, but then someone called Beth came into my head and I began to write The Double, which I published as an indie author.

As an indie author, I have no big publishing house hovering over me waiting for my next book. I feel freer, more relaxed and because of it, I enjoy writing again. The problem is, with all the promo and marketing I have to do, I have no time to write!

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Apart from advising not to approach an agent with only one book under your belt, is there any other advice that you would pass on to other first time authors?

Enjoy yourself! NEVER stare at a blank sheet of paper waiting for inspiration. A story will come to you when you least expect it, usually when you are doing something boring and repetitive, like walking or ironing.

When you have your characters in your head, jot down notes but don’t start writing. When you have enough notes and you know you can get from the beginning to the end, start writing – quickly – without looking back on what you have written, without revising. Just get it down! Then put it in a drawer for 2 months. When you take it out, you will be reading it as a stranger would and can see immediately what works and what doesn’t work.

Cut out unnecessary prose. Only use what moves the story forward. A tip: Take a chapter and pretend that it is the chapter you are going to send to an agent. Then do this for every chapter. This will make you polish to perfection.

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Have you already started writing your next book? Any clues as to what it might be about?

It’s entitled ZENKA. “When a Ukrainian pole-dancer is saved from prostitution by a bad-tempered London gangland boss, she determines to become his guardian angel – whether he likes it or not!”

ZENKA is releasing 1st September, 2017.

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Don’t forget to enter the giveaway to win…

a $25 Amazon gift card!


Alison Brodie is a Scot, with French Huguenot ancestors on her mother’s side. Alison was a photographic model for a wide range of products, such as Ducatti motorbikes and 7Up. She was also the vampire in the Schweppes commercial.

A disastrous modelling assignment in the Scottish Highlands gave Alison an idea for her first romance novel, Face to Face. It was taken up by Dinah Wiener, the first agent Alison sent it to. Three weeks later, Alison signed a two-book deal with Hodder & Stoughton. Subsequently, Face to Face was published in English, German and Dutch, it was also chosen as Good Housekeeping’s “Pick of the Paperbacks”.

Unfortunately, Alison then suffered from Second-Book Syndrome. The publisher’s deadline loomed but Alison couldn’t think of a story! She found the whole experience a nightmare; and this is why she cautions first-time authors not to sign a multi-book deal unless they are prepared!

Alison lived in Kansas for two years. She loved the people, their friendliness, the history and the BBQs! Now, she lives in Biarritz, France with her rescue mutt, Bayley.

You can connect with her through her Website, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.

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