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5 British Female Indie Authors: Drama Wrapped In Mystery

Mandy Baldwin itcherNo publisher? No problem. Readers know that books aren’t all about bucks. In a business which demands cookie-cutter stories and safe options, British female indie authors Jenny Worstall, Tonia Parronchi, Maggie Pill, Michelle Abbott, Diana J. Febry and others are doing it for themselves and breaking the mould. ~ Mandy Baldwin

Once Upon A Time…

…storytellers were judged by the stories they told, not the strings they could pull. Then big corporations started to tell us what we must read. And now we have come full circle, and once again we can choose a book because we enjoy the writer’s work, not simply because it is all we have been offered.

The past years have seen a quiet revolution in publishing as writers have been able to self-publish high quality books freely, opening up a stream of new ideas to a reading public which is greedy for more. Own a Kindle, and for less than the price of a Daily Doom newspaper, you can escape to a world of mystery and drama.    

The tame stables of the big publishing houses –  safe bets, known names, ghost-written ‘autobiographies’ of passing celebs – might be earning the big money, but they aren’t doing what story-tellers should do: putting out new ideas which surprise and enchant.

Many indies have already rejected conventional publishing packages: the money for a new author isn’t good enough to buy their creative freedom.

These writers write because writing is what they live and breathe… and then simply put their stories out into the world.

***
Jenny Worstall

Image Source: Amazon

A musician, teacher and writer from London gossips with her friends and refers to it as research for her books.  

Worstall has self-published five volumes of short stories: ‘Lemon and Lace’, ‘Jubilee Violin’, ‘Infant Barbarian’, ‘Peacock and Dragon’, and ‘Miss Peach’s Dream’.  Her two-book ‘Sing with the Choir’ series – ‘Make a Joyful Noise’, and ‘The Funny Business of Life’ – is available as a ‘bundle’ on Kindle or in two separate parts.

Book Recommendation: ‘Make A Joyful Noise’ (2013)

This just has to be my personal favourite.

It is what Worstall modestly describes as a ‘romantic comedy’ – but it is so much more than that. Yes, the romance and the comedy are there, but there is a dramatic kick and a twist of mystery in there too. This is life, love and all the troubles attached, seen through the eyes of a born writer who may know that the world isn’t all sunshine and roses, but is determined not to take it too seriously.

As Christmas approaches, the pressure is on to make the production of Belshazzar’s Feast the best the choir have ever done. But there are hidden tensions and smouldering passions among the people thrown together by their love of music (a love which is often stronger than their ability to perform it).

The staggeringly naïve meets the definitely dastardly as the path of true love runs less than smoothly,  everyone must face the consequences of their actions… and it is all wittily observed by Jenny Worstall.

If you have ever visited an English village, let alone lived in one, you will know these characters  – and by the end of chapter one, they will be your friends for life.    

 
Worstall has an eye for the absurd but never stoops to sneering.

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Diana J Febry

Image Source: Amazon

Febry’s crime dramas and mysteries – and her characters – are strongly inspired by her home in the Cotswolds. Recurring themes are the secrets people keep and the lengths they will go to to keep them.

She has developed something of a following in the USA, due to her ‘discreet British style’ and the rural settings which are Febry’s speciality.

Her six novels – ‘The Skeletons of Birkbury’, ‘Bells on Her Toes’, ‘Point of No Return’, ‘To Each Their Own’, ‘Elephant in the Room’, and ‘Debts and Druids’ – all have gripping storylines, but lack the gore which crime-writers sometimes indulge in.

Book Recommendation: ‘Debts and Druids’ (2012)

A personal favourite for its slow burn effect. We are introduced to a tight-knit horse-loving community in which everyone has an angle, and something they would prefer remained secret. None of them are very likeable – all deserve their comeuppance.

The desperate situations of Bob, Tina, Sarah and Dick, all trying to preserve their inflated public images, are presented as semi-comic at the beginning, but about half way through the book, the chuckles dry up as you realise there is something deeper and darker going on – and someone is going to get hurt… or worse.

Febry has what I would call a brisk way of telling a story.  There is nothing flowery or unnecessary in this or any of her books. Characters are described almost dispassionately, but you feel you have met them, and they are very much alive.   

Although not all of them make it to the end of the novel…

 
Febry digs deep into the psyche to find the body under the patio.

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Karen Lowe

Image Source: Book Likes

Born in Wales, now living in Shropshire, Lowe’s first love is arts and crafts. She is inspired by the Shropshire Marches, and has also written a compilation of local folklore for children. She is known for accessible writing, with very tight-knit storylines and lovingly researched backgrounds.

Her books include: ‘Death in the Physic Garden’, ‘Death in the Winter Garden’, ‘Motif for Murder’, ‘A Patchwork of Poison’.

Book Recommendation: ‘Death in the Physic Garden’ (2005)

The appropriately-named Fern Green leaves London – and an abusive boyfriend – to set up a garden design business in remote South Shropshire.  Her new-found peace is shattered when she discovers the body of her first client in his physic garden.  

Deceptively ‘cosy’, the story is complex and gripping.  You are unlikely to guess the culprit, and even when you know, the motives bring yet another spate of revelations. Delicious mystery.

Another aspect is the technical knowledge and love of plants shown by the fictional Fern:  if you know anything about plants and gardens you will be able to smell the blossoms; if you didn’t know anything when you picked up the book, you will know plenty by the time you finish it. 

 
Lowe’s books evoke the sinister side of a sedate society.

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Melanie Clegg

Image Source: Amazon

Clegg describes herself as lapsed blue-haired Goth and a Versaille-obsessed Ripperologist – I’d describe her as a genius.  

She specialises in brilliantly researched fictional takes on historical characters – and as an indie myself, I should be jealous – instead, I’m awed. I can’t recommend her writing highly enough. It’s magical. Just read her. You won’t regret it.

Books so far: ‘From Whitechapel’, ‘Minette’, ‘Marie Antoinette’, ‘Secret Diary of a Princess’, ‘Before the Storm’, and ‘Blood Sisters’.  

Recommended Book: ‘Secret Diary of a Princess’ (2014)

Marie Antoinette’s early life, in her own words… via Melanie Clegg, of course.

OK, OK… we’ve all seen the films of the bored queen who was beheaded by the mob, and we’ve all heard about her (alleged) instructions to the starving Parisians about eating cake, etc.  

But how do you feel about a good-natured, not very bright fourteen-year-old who grew up in a happy family and was taken from them, never to see them again, to be mated – there’s no other word for it – with a podgy, impotent boy she had never met… all supervised by an old French king known to be a part-time paedophile?

In Melanie Clegg’s hands, the adolescent Marie Antoinette is an endearing, believable girl, kept in a gilded cage, with the entire future of the French nation resting on her shoulders.

Fact and fiction blended perfectly as only an obsessive can achieve. This is high drama, and the colours, sights, sounds and scandals of Versailles are described with such vividness, you’ll feel you were there.  

 
Clegg’s writing is what the world of historical fiction has been waiting for.

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Michelle Abbott

Image Source: Goodreads

In her own words, Abbott is: addicted to reading other people’s romances, faffs around online, drinks coffee and wine to excess, obsessively eats chocolate, and occasionally knits a row on a jumper she is planning to be buried in.

Despite these claims on her time, Abbott self-published an impressive four novels in 2014:  ‘Locked Together’, ‘In Chains’, ‘Just Stay’, and ‘Jem’.  Adult stuff, but not too adult… there is eroticism, but only where it comes naturally.  She doesn’t make a big issue out of it.

Raw style – fast-paced, dramatic, sometimes brutal storylines.  

Book Recommendation: ‘Locked Together’ (2014)

This would make more sense if you have read the first in the series – ‘In Chains’ – first, but it’s my favourite and if, like me, this just happens to be the first of Abbott’s books you hear about, you will find you soon understand the plot lines. (Even better, buy both books and help keep Michelle in chocolate.)

The first thing to recognise is that the books depict a dystopia in which slave ownership is normal. The second is that the main framework of the series is the relationship between a slave and a non-slave. The drama is built upon their attempts to defy a brutal society and family so that they can be together, and there is a chemistry between the pair which goes beyond the run of the mill ‘romance’.

After you have taken that on board, you can sit back and enjoy the ride, and as with all Abbott’s books, it’s a gritty, fast and bumpy one. 

 
Abbott specialises in underdog characters fighting their way to redemption.

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Reading in the Raw

These writers can’t afford to pay for hundreds of fake reviews,  so you can take it as read that their fan-base, like their talent, is real.

If you want a book which is hot off the press, not chilled on the production-line, why not snuggle up with a British indie and let your imagination run free?

Are you feeling inspired to read an author off the beaten track?

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