Tag Archives: Giveaway

The Wife – DVD giveaway!

The competition is now closed and the winners will contacted shortly. Thanks to everyone for entering!

This week (in fact today! 28 January), the DVD of The Wife is released in the UK amid quite a bit of Awards buzz, particularly for Glenn Close, who stars alongside Jonathan Pryce. I don’t see many films at the pictures these days but I did see this one – it is about books, after all – and so I am delighted to be able to offer two copies of the DVD as free giveaways, with many thanks to Organic PR.

One will be given away here – just leave a comment in the feedback box below, being sure to leave your email address, to be entered into the hat. The other will be given away on Twitter so look out for my tweet from @Wetdarkandwild. It’s a Region 2 DVD and so the competition is limited to the UK and the Continent.

Here’s a little of what the film is about.

Joan Castleman (Glenn Close) has spent forty years sacrificing her own talent, dreams and ambitions to support her charismatic husband Joe (Jonathan Pryce) and his stellar literary career. Ignoring infidelities and excuses made in the cause of his art, she has put up with his behaviour with undiminished grace and humour.

The foundations of their marriage have, however, been built upon a set of uneven compromises and Joan has reached a turning point. On the eve of Joe’s Nobel Prize for Literature, the crown jewel rewarding a spectacular body of work, Joan will confront the biggest sacrifice of her life and some long-buried secrets.

Based on the bestselling book by Meg Wolitzer, The Wife is a poignant, funny and emotional journey, a celebration of womanhood, self-discovery and liberation, featuring a stunning cast that also includes Max Irons, Annie Starke, Harry Lloyd, Elizabeth McGovern and Christian Slater.

I’ve not read the novel by Meg Wolitzer yet but I’m looking forward to very soon!

Night Without Stars by Peter F. Hamilton – Signed paperback giveaway!

Today sees the publication of the paperback of a new Peter F. Hamilton paperback – always a cause for celebration. Night Without Stars, which concludes the two-part Commonwealth series Chronicle of the Fallers, is out in paperback today and the publisher has kindly given me a signed copy of the book to give away.

If you’d like to enter, please either email me (forwinternights@gmail.com) or give me a tweet. This is open to anyone in the UK and the deadline is Monday 31 July.

To get you in the mood, here’s my review of this corking novel by an author whose books, with no doubt at all, would be my desert island picks.


Pan | 2016, Pb 2017 (27 July) | 784p | Review copy | Buy the book

Night Without Stars by Peter F HamiltonNight Without Stars concludes the two-part Commonwealth series Chronicle of the Fallers begun with The Abyss Beyond Dreams. Under no circumstances whatsoever would I recommend that you read one without the other. This review assumes that you’ve read – and most probably adored – The Abyss Beyond Dreams.

Thanks to Nigel Sheldon, the Commonwealth’s first great explorer (along with Ozzie) and a legend in his own interminable lifetime, Bienvenido has been expelled from the Void. But this was no peaceful event, the cost was great, and now the planet exists in a starless night, one of several planets in an isolated solar system. Each of these planets was expelled from the Void, each containing mysteries, secrets and outright horror, as one might expect from planets judged so troublesome that the Void could no longer tolerate their existence. Mother Laura Brandt had used Commonwealth technology to open up wormholes to these other planets, searching for possibilities of escape from this blackest night, but the failure was outstanding. And release from the Void had not meant an end to the Fallers – the Trees continue to orbit Bienvenido, releasing their parasitic eggs to the surface of the planet where they exist to replicate and consume their victims.

Bienvenido is not the planet it once was. It has become a police state, controlled by the PSR which despises the Commonwealth just as much as it hates the Fallers. The Elites, those who are born with the genetically modified improvements of the Commonwealth, are ostracised, treated as second-class citizens. But the PSR are in for a shock. The Elite have managed to infiltrate all levels of society but so too have the Fallers and now it is time for the greatest showdown of them all – the Faller Apocalypse will happen and mankind must unite if it is to have any chance to succeed. The stakes have never been so high. And when a small Commonwealth starship lands on the planet containing a tiny baby, its message of hope is undeniable – for some, that is, not for all.

My adoration of Peter F Hamilton’s novels has been well-recorded on this blog over the years and the original Commonwealth duology (not a fan of that word), Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained, hold a very special place in my heart, Pandora’s Star being my most favourite novel. You don’t need to have read these first, although if you do you’ll have the pleasure of meeting old friends (and beasts) once again, and you certainly don’t need to have read the Void trilogy either. These novels sort of independently co-exist in the same time frame as The Abyss Beyond Dreams and Night without Stars and don’t have a direct impact on their events. But these two novels together form a perfect addition to this most rich and generous of space opera universes, the Commonwealth. There are even shadows of the Night’s Dawn trilogy, which are so fantastic to spot.

Night Without Stars is a good length – about 800 pages (I read an ebook proof so length was hard to measure) – and it is so full of life that when I reached the end and thought back I could hardly believe how far this wonderful novel had carried me. There are such memorable characters, all trying to deal with the planet’s forced expulsion from the Void. When the novel begins, arguments and beliefs seem almost petty. When we reach the second half of the novel, nothing less than the survival of humanity on the planet is at stake. Laws and prejudices are far less relevant. But this is not an easy thing for some characters to accept.

This is a planet undergoing a most critical transformation. It desperately hurts. And when enemies have to work together it’s never going to be easy. But the darkness of this world and its brutal politics is offset by the charm of the scenes in which this baby is cared for. There is great humour and enormous empathy for the efforts of the surrogate father who had little choice about raising this infant but in doing so has found his destiny.

It is a joy to travel around Bienvenido, encountering its different communities, even its alien species. Although this is science fiction mostly (although not entirely) contained within one planet we’re not allowed to forget the strange universe in which Bienvenido now finds itself. Humans are not alone. And then there’s the Fallers of course – we see a little bit more of them in this novel, reminding me of the Night’s Dawn possessed.

Night without Stars is a tremendous novel. It is vast, ambitious and wondrous. Its main characters, male and female, are intriguing and constantly evolving. It has a complicated plot but the novel is so well-structured and it takes us in all sorts of fabulous directions. It completes and complements The Abyss Beyond Dreams perfectly. The Abyss took place within the Void and now we see life outside out it. Both are captivating and as a pair it is unmissable. I can only hope and hope that this is not the last time Peter F. Hamilton returns us to the Commonwealth. But, if it is, what a gift we have been given.

Other reviews
Pandora’s Star
Judas Unchained
Great North Road
The Reality Dysfunction (Night’s Dawn 1)
The Neutronium Alchemist (Night’s Dawn 2)
The Naked God (Night’s Dawn 3)
The Dreaming Void (Void Trilogy 1)
The Abyss Beyond Dreams (Chronicle of the Fallers 1)

The Real Wonder Woman – guest post by Emily Hauser, author of For the Winner

Last month, Transworld published For the Winner by Emily Hauser. This is a fabulous novel – an interpretation of the Jason and the Golden Fleece myth that focuses on the extraordinary and unusual story of Atalanta, a female Argonaut. I’m delighted to host a guest post by Emily on an irresistible subject – ‘The Real Wonder Woman’.

For the Winner by Emily HausnerThe Real Wonder Woman

I went to see Wonder Woman in the cinema a few weeks ago. I loved it. It was brilliant. But as I watched the astonishing feats of the Amazons – named after a mythical tribe of warrior women first mentioned in an ancient Greek epic over 2,500 years ago – I thought that the fantasy powers granted to them in the film paled into insignificance when compared to the achievements of the real Amazons, the real Wonder Women of the ancient world.

As a scholar of the ancient world and an author of historical fiction, it’s my job to bring those real, powerful ancient women back into the foreground.

One of these Wonder Women of antiquity was Atalanta, an extraordinary woman and a warrior who lived over three thousand years ago in ancient Greece, not far from modern-day Thessaloniki. She was a self-taught warrior, the fastest runner in the world, one of the best archers of her time, and the only woman, according to history, to accompany Jason and the Argonauts on the legendary voyage of the Golden Fleece. And it’s the story of this extraordinary warrior – a Wonder Woman before her time – that I set out to tell in the second novel of the Golden Apple trilogy, For the Winner (Transworld 2017).

Atalanta is in many ways a forerunner of the character of Diana in DC Comics’ Wonder Woman. She was a formidable fighter, one of the greatest heroes of her generation, and yet she struggled to gain recognition and credibility as a woman. She was abandoned by her father, who (in Atalanta’s case) cast her out on a mountain to die because he had wanted a son and heir. She was a devotee of the goddess Artemis – the Greek goddess of the hunt who later, in the Roman world, would be called Diana.

But what I love most about Atalanta is that, in contrast to today’s Wonder Woman, she is entirely human. She does not need to rely on superpowers or her birthright as the daughter of a god to vanquish her enemies. Her strength comes from her own determination, her own training, her own will to survive. She fights in battles alongside heroes like Hercules and Theseus. She earns her place on the voyage with Jason and the Argonauts and travels to the ends of the earth, disguised as a man – and when she is discovered and exiled in the wildnerness, she refuses to give up. When she returns to Greece and her father – having recognised her at last – wants to force her to marry, she will only do so on her own terms. She demands that the man she will wed should outrun her in a footrace – which she believes will be impossible, until she makes a fatal mistake… And as Atalanta is forced to make a choice during that final footrace that will change her life forever, we see not only her strength, but also her courage as she faces all the odds and… you’ll have to read For the Winner to find out what happens next!

Wonder Woman is, without a doubt, a brilliant and necessary demonstration of the power of a female lead who does not need a man to survive; a woman who can fight as well as – if not better than – a man.

But the ancient Greeks got there first.

For the Winner
For the Most Beautiful

For the Most Beautiful by Emily HauserGiveaway!
The giveaway has now closed and the winners have been contacted.

The publisher has kindly given me signed copies of For the Winner and its predecessor For the Most Beautiful to give away here and/or on Twitter. If you’d like to go into the hat, just let me know which you’d like in the comments below or retweet the post on Twitter, again saying which you’d like to go for. The deadline is this Friday (7 July) at 4pm (UK and Ireland entries only – sorry about that.).

Vita Brevis by Ruth Downie – review and giveaway

Vita Brevis | Ruth Downie | 2016 | Bloomsbury | 369p | Review copy | Buy the book

Vita Brevis by Ruth DownieMedical man Gaius Petreius Ruso has arrived in Rome, with his wife Tilla and their daughter Mara, on a promise. A vacancy is to be filled. Former tribune Accius has offered Ruso the medical practice – and home – of the doctor Kleitos, a huge step up from their temporary cockroach-infested lodgings in the city. But it’s soon clear that Kleitos hasn’t as much moved on as vanished without trace and Ruso’s growing unease with the situation isn’t helped by the discovery of a dead man’s stinking corpse curled up in a barrel on his new doorstep.

And then there’s Horatius Balbo, patron of Kleitos and now Ruso, who is convinced that someone is trying to poison him – only Kleitos’ mysterious medicinal concoctions stand between Balbo and a painful death. It’s unfortunate that Kleitos’ recipes should have disappeared along with their creator. Ruso is out of his depth and he’s sinking fast.

While Ruso’s running around trying to win some patients (and keep them alive), Tilli is trying to provide medical help for the neighbourhood’s women while creating a home but it isn’t going well, thanks to debt collectors who won’t leave them alone and the Christians chanting away in the flat upstairs. The crying baby doesn’t help things so Ruso tries to improve matters by buying a slave or two. That doesn’t go well either. It is as if the fates have conspired to inflict as much misery as possible on this family to drive them from Rome and back to Britannia.

Vita Brevis is the seventh Gaius Ruso novel and Ruth Downie is well into her stride. I’ve read most of this series (I still have some catching up to do) and I think that Vita Brevis stands very well alone, largely because Ruso and Tilla are starting afresh in a new environment. There are some reminders of their past – some characters seem impossible to shake off – but all is new and exciting! Rome is laid out before them, although they’re too busy for sightseeing, and Hadrian’s city feels like the place to be.

I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery behind Vita Brevis. It has such a good story. It’s also backed up by a penetrative look into some big Roman themes, especially slavery. By being centred in Rome, the novel gives off a strong sense of how immense the empire really is and so many of its distant inhabitants end up in Rome as its slaves. Christianity is another theme, although more lightly treated. We’re shown how Christianity might appeal to the poorer inhabitants of Rome while Ruso is also allowed to make his feelings on the subject clear. And then there’s medicine. Vita Brevis shows how haphazard Roman medicine might be, particularly when thoughts of murder lurk in the shadows.

It’s always a pleasure to spend time with Ruso and Tilla – and now baby Mara as well. These are such great characters and each is free-spirited. Nothing seems to go right for Ruso or Tilla – sometimes it feels as if it’s them versus the empire – but they’re not going to give up without a struggle.

Ruth Downie is a fine writer and she clearly knows her Roman history inside out. But she also inhabits it with people who feel real, their lives lightened by patches of wit and mirth, and places them within an engrossing and pleasingly complex mystery. These books are a joy to read and, I’d argue, Vita Brevis is among the best of the series. Long may it continue.


I am so pleased to post my review of Vita Brevis as part of the blog tour to celebrate its publication. Even better, there’s a competition! A copy of Vita Brevis is up for grabs – all you need to do is to leave a comment below, or email me (using the address on the right hand side of the page) or tweet to me. The competition is open to UK readers only and will close a week today (15 October).

For other stops on the tour, just click on the poster below. I’m in fine company, I think you’ll agree.


Other review
Semper Fidelis

Giveaway! Signed copies of The Black Stone by Nick Brown

This 26 February is an extraordinary day for book releases. I don’t think I’ve known a day like it. But one new paperback release stands out – The Black Stone by Nick Brown. This fabulous addition to Nick’s Agent of Rome series featured in my top ten historical fiction list for 2014 and I cannot sing its praises enough.

The author has very kindly offered me two signed paperbacks, hot off the presses, to offer as giveaways on For Winter Nights. If you’d like a signed copy (and you live in the UK or Ireland), please send an email to me at forwinternights@gmail.com by the end of next week (Friday 13 March) or tweet @Wetdarkandwild. And here is why you need to read this book.

The Black Stone by Nick BrownReview
It is AD 273 and ‘grain man’ or spy Cassius Quintius Corbulo is stationed in Bostra, the capital of the Roman province of Arabia, growing accustomed to his military rank while bemoaning the absence of his manservant, Simo. Simo might be a slave, and a Christian one at that, but Cassius has never been able to shrug off his affection for the man who can anticipate his every need. A visit to Simo’s father, though, has overrun and Cassius is losing his patience. His ex-gladiator bodyguard Indavara is still by his side but even he, a man of few words, is showing signs of trying to shake off his ties to Cassius. It’s almost just as well, then, when spymaster Abascantius turns up with a new, perilous mission for Cassius and Indavara.

The Black Stone, an object believed to conduit divine powers, has been stolen from Roman hands, which is unfortunate because emperor Aurelian is determined he needs it to sanctify his rule. Cassius is tasked with gathering a troop of Roman soldiers to go undercover as a merchant and his guards to trace the stone into the desert. The quest will begin in the city of Petra where, it is believed, an agent may have some clues for them (if the local gangs haven’t killed him first for his gambling debts). All the time, though, they hear stories of a new chief in the hills, supported by a tall blond giant and an old woman, who is gathering the local tribes to him. It doesn’t take an imperial agent to work out that Rome has a new enemy.

The Black Stone is the fourth in Nick Brown’s wonderful Agent of Rome series and this one is a little different to its predecessors. At almost 500 pages, it is by far the longest and this means that extra time is given to the action adventure element of the story and the increasingly involved relationships between Cassius, Indavara and, once he returns, Simo. For me, this is a particularly strong feature of the novel and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know more about Simo and – especially – Cassius and Indavara.

The action part of the novel is extremely exciting and well-plotted, which is what you’d expect from Nick Brown after three other excellent Roman adventures, but while I did enjoy the mystery and enigma of Ilaha and Gutha, I was enthralled by the developing drama between Cassius, Indavara and Simo. During the later stages of the novel, this grows to great heights and there were tears – a fair few of which were mine. Both Cassius and Indavara are very young men dealing with events completely out of the ordinary. Simo is the man who could keep them sane but, as his allegiance turns increasingly to Christ, Cassius has to deal with this and he doesn’t like it. All sorts of questions about slavery are raised here.

Honour and bravery also play their part as many of the characters, those with both large and small roles to play, are placed in positions where they have to question their loyalty to their leader, their families, their emperor or chief and their gods – as well as to their own memory. All of this contributes to a tale that is both exciting and poignant in places.

Religion as a theme gets considerable attention in The Black Stone, not just the Christianity of Simo but also the cultism of Ilaha and the more formal Roman religion of Cassius and his men. Indavara continues to be confused by other men’s relationships to their gods but here, in his own worship, another side of Cassius is glimpsed. These large themes are lightly placed into the novel and it raises the adventure into something very memorable. Its ending leaves the reader crying out for more and I have no doubt that this wonderful series will continue to grow from strength to strength.

Buy The Black Stone

Other reviews and features
Agent of Rome I: The Siege
Agent of Rome II: The Imperial Banner
Agent of Rome III: The Far Shore
An interview – The Far Shore

Good luck!

Giveaway! Winter Siege by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman

Winter Siege blogtourThis Thursday (12 February) sees the publication in paperback of Winter Siege, an action-packed and emotional novel set during the wintry heart of the 12th-century Anarchy between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda. The much-loved Ariana Franklin tragically died before she could complete Winter Siege. It was finished by Ariana’s daughter, Samantha Norman, who clearly understood her mother’s writing better than anyone – the finished result is seamless. For me, it also particularly stands out for its intriguing and captivating appearance by the extraordinary Empress Matilda.

I am delighted and honoured to kick off the blog tour marking the paperback release of Winter Siege with a giveaway! The lovely people at Transworld have kindly donated three copies of the book, each in need of a loving home (UK and Ireland only). If you’d like to enter the hat to win a copy, please email me at forwinternights@gmail.com or tweet at me @Wetdarkandwild. The giveaway will close at the end of next week (20 February).

To get you in the wintry, history mood, here is my review of Winter Siege by Ariana Franklin and Samantha Norman:

Winter Siege by Ariana FranklinReview
It is 1141 and England endures Anarchy – civil war between King Stephen and his cousin the Empress Matilda, the daughter of Henry I. As mercenary forces move through the countryside from castle to castle, swapping sides for money with no regrets, no-one suffers more than the poor. Em lives with her family in the Fens, a secluded area that rarely catches history’s interest. But on this particular day, luck runs out and there can be no escape for the young child with her flaming red hair. A small troop of soldiers and their companion, a monk with a sickly stench, leave the girl for dead, which, in effect she is. Unable to remember her name or what has happened to her, this brutalised child is found by Gwil, a mercenary with a conscience, who renames her Penda and raises her as a boy. His mission is to identify the mystery behind the scrap of parchment he found clasped in the child’s hand and to track down and kill the people responsible for this terrible act, conducted in the name of war.

Maud is another young woman in peril, a sixteen year old ward of King Stephen and chatelaine of Kenniford Castle in Oxfordshire. Forced to marry a man many years older, Maud has then to watch as her castle becomes embroiled in the Anarchy, besieged by lawless soldiers, switching sides, helpless, but strong and determined nonetheless to do the right thing by the people and villagers under her command.

Winter Siege follows the stories of Penda, Gwil and Maud through several years of war. We’re with Maud as she endures her marriage to Sir John while growing close to his young son William, and we follow Penda and Gwil as they make their way and living as entertainers, famous for their skills with the bow. All the time, Gwil keeps his eyes open for the monk, always afraid that Penda’s memories will return, while not realising that perhaps the monk is watching out for them. Fates bring the lives of all three together during the winter siege of the title and from that point on the reader is thrown head first into the fray of the Anarchy.

Winter Siege is the first novel by Ariana Franklin that I’ve read and so I had little idea of what to expect. What I found is a powerful and moving tale that focuses more on character than it does on events, despite the dramatic and horrendous circumstances in which our three heroes find themselves. This means that it’s the people who drive the novel forward and it’s the people who one remembers the most, at least this reader did. It’s easy to become quite heavily involved in the sincere and strong bond between Gwil and Penda, this young boy/girl who shoots a bow like a devil but is slowly coming to terms with the world around her. Maud, too, is an immensely likeable character and I must confess that she – and the Empress Matilda, who makes a remarkable cameo appearance – is my favourite of the novel. For me, the male figures (with the exception of the boy William) are less real – Gwil is relatively two dimensional while the monk and Maud’s unpleasant husband are more the stuff of cartoon villains. So while the battles rage on around the heads of our heroes, and at times it gets extremely close and perilous, it is the experiences and lives of the female figures that stand out and are really rather spellbinding.

The mystery of the parchment promises to play a significant part but I don’t think it did. It added little to the novel other than to provide Gwil with an impetus to continue his hunt. Similarly, the murder mystery element of the novel played second fiddle throughout to the relationships between the characters and their plight.

This is a wintry novel indeed. You can almost feel the chill on your skin as we read what was for me the most fascinating and compelling section of the book, the flight of the Empress through the harshest of conditions, an event in which Penda and Gwil are caught up. These chapters are superbly written and carry the momentum through to the castle siege.

Liberties are taken with history and here I’m perhaps let down a little by knowing this period of history particularly well. There are lines and events taken straight from the life of William Marshal while the story of the Empress is not exactly as history recalls.

The historical background to the period is given to us by an old abbot who, on his deathbed, recounts the story of the Anarchy to his scribe, a blushing youth who needs to dip his head – and other parts of his anatomy – in icy water almost every time the abbot mentions a young woman. While this is a well-tried and tested technique, it works here because the Abbot is an engaging figure and I rather enjoyed the infrequent chapters in which we returned to his sickbed. The mystery of the identity of the Abbot is the mystery of the novel that works.

Ariana Franklin tragically died before she could complete Winter Siege. The novel was finished by her daughter Samantha Norman. Samantha clearly knows her mother’s writing and style better than anyone and I certainly couldn’t see the join. It’s impossible to tell how differently the novel may have turned out if its original author had finished it but I think Ariana Franklin would be proud of what has been achieved. Winter Siege is an entertaining, thrilling and yet harrowing and moving account of a painful period in English history. There is sorrow and tragedy but there is also love and hope. I will remember Maud, Penda and the Empress for quite some time.

Buy the paperback on Amazon.

Good luck!

Blog Tour: Casting Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley and a Giveaway!

Amity & Sorry is an extraordinary debut novel by Peggy Riley.

Amity and Sorrow by peggy Riley‘It is a story about God, sex, and farming. It’s THE LOVELY BONES meets WITNESS: an unforgettable journey into the horrors a true believer can inflict upon his family, and what it is like to live when the end of the world doesn’t come. In the wake of a suspicious fire, Amaranth gathers her barely-teenage daughters, Amity and Sorrow, and flees from the cult her husband ran. After four days of driving, Amaranth crashes the car, leaving the family stranded at a gas station. Rescue comes in the unlikely form of a downtrodden farmer, a man who offers sanctuary when the women need it most. AMITY & SORROW is the story of these remarkable women, their lives before the night they fled, and their heartbreaking, hopeful future. For, while Amity blossoms in this new world, Sorrow will move heaven and earth trying to get back home. And, meanwhile, the outside world hasn’t forgotten about the fire on the compound.’

You can read my review here.

Amity Blog Tour posterI’m delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for Amity & Sorrow, which begins today. As a movie reviewer, I’m especially thrilled to be able to present a guest post by author Peggy Riley on ‘Casting Amity & Sorrow‘

There is also a Giveaway:

I have a signed Hardback of Amity & Sorrow to give away along with a #GodSexFarming badge, courtesy of Headline. All you have to do is email forwinternights@gmail.com and give your name and address. The winner will be randomly selected.

The good news is that the competition is international.

Guest Post: Casting Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley

Amity & Sorrow is my first novel, but I trained as a playwright. So, casting characters should be right up my street, though drawing specific descriptions of them in the writing is not. As a playwright, you don’t want to limit who can play a character. The more specific you are in terms of their looks or ability, the more you narrow the pool of actors who can play it. We don’t know what Hamlet looks like, so every actor feels he can play him. As a writer, I purposefully keep the descriptions of characters spare, so that readers can draw them in and flesh them out for themselves.

Peggy Riley

If I were to make a film of Amity & Sorrow, I do have a few pictures in my head of who fits the character’s images in my head. Apologies if they don’t match the ones in yours!


Amity is twelve years old in the novel and casting a twelve year old is near impossible. With a casting time machine, she would be the Shirley Temple of The Bluebird, without the baby voice. Googling child actresses leads you to old photos, baby girls all grown up. I haven’t seen ‘The Orphan’, but this photo, found while Googling, stood out for me. Something in her face reminds me of Amity, her willingness to let the girl behind her stand so close, her neck bare and trusting, but her eyes watchful, aware that all may not be as it seems.



Sorrow looks like an angel but has some very dark desires inside her. I love this picture of a very young Elle Fanning ripping apart a butterfly. I think Elle Fanning, beautiful as she is, could access the darkness of Sorrow perfectly. But she’ll probably grow up in another ten minutes.


Back in my time machine, Amaranth would be the Madeleine Stowe of ‘Closetland’ or ‘The Last of the Mohicans’, before she’d had any work done. Oh, actresses, what are you doing to your beautiful selves! But not now, no. Sorry, Madeleine.

She is the very hardest casting for me. No one springs to mind. I looked at Jodhi May, Madeleine’s younger sister in Mohicans. She can do no wrong in my book, but I think she’s too young. If a character is in their mid-40s, I think you have a responsibility not to cast “down”. And I’d like her to be older. So, I’m plumping for Winona Ryder.

I like how she looks at the camera now, forcing her eyes open, terribly uncomfortable, staring at it as an adversary. Maybe playing Amaranth would let her open up before us, like a flower, as Amaranth does.


Viggo Mortensen is a handsome man, as is Bradley. He seems, most films, to not know that he’s handsome, as if convinced that other men are pipping him to that post. I like his earthiness, his thin hair and his wrinkles, I like his lankiness. He has a real authenticity in films like ‘A History of Violence’ and ‘Hidalgo’.

Jeff Bridges


Jeff Bridges is growing old disgracefully and it is a joy to watch him on any screen. This picture looks exactly like Zachariah to me, a weathered man, slightly deranged, but in whose face you can see the handsome devil he was, a man so charming any woman would follow him into the woods to God. If he’s unavailable, why not Daniel Day Lewis? With a Jeff Bridges wig. And his Crucible teeth from his last outing with Wynona. Or let him play Amaranth.

To see more ideas, why not visit the Pinterest board for Tinder Press – Casting Couch? We put new people there, all the time.

Peggy Riley’s website

Buy the book (UK Amazon)

Amity badge

Snow Day! An interview with Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child, and win a signed copy!

Today, one of my very favourite books of recent years, Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, is released in paperback. A cause for celebration indeed and I’m hugely chuffed that For Winter Nights is involved in Snow Day. To mark the event I’m delighted to present an interview with author Eowyn Ivey and a competition to win a signed copy of The Snow Child. But, first, a reminder of what it’s all about…:

‘A middle-aged couple, Mabel and Jack, are about to endure their second Alaskan winter. Far from their families, they are trying to make a life for themselves farming land that for much of the time is either too frozen or too wet. With Jack labouring all day, Mabel is left in their cabin, remembering a lost child and contemplating whether to take a walk across the barely frozen nearby river. Yet, when the first snow falls, Jack and Mabel are enchanted and for the first time in a long, long while they play together and build with great care a snow girl, complete with red lips, red mittens and scarf and yellow hair. The next morning, the snow child is gone and, when they begin to catch sight of a young girl in the trees, watching them, Mabel becomes convinced that the child is a snow girl, brought to life, just like the snow child fairy tale in the Russian book that she treasures, even though she can’t read a word.’

‘Eowyn Ivey’s prose is truly bewitching and at times you may catch your breath, smile or cry a little. She has achieved the sophisticated air of simplicity and naturalness while going straight to the heart of her fully-rounded, breathing characters, yet still always making sure that the Alaskan environment is never more than a cabin wall from us, even when we read this novel wrapped up and snug in our homes. It is a marvellous achievement and Eowyn Ivey has a great talent which we must watch in the years to come. As for the snow child herself, there’s every chance that you’ll fall as much in love with her as Mabel and Jack.’

An Interview with Eowyn Ivey

FWN: The Snow Child is steeped in the tradition of fairytale, with a wonderful mix of myth, especially Russian, but it is also firmly grounded in the landscape and seasons of Alaska. How important is your environment in your drive to write?

Eowyn: Thank you! The Alaska wilderness is really the starting ground for me as a writer. I have never come up with an idea and thought, “Where should this take place?” Instead, I’ve sought out stories that enable me to explore this landscape.

Was the story of The Snow Child the result of a moment’s inspiration or had you been nurturing the idea for some time? If so, did the story develop as you wrote it or did you know when you began how it would finish?

It really was one of those rare, lightning-strike moments. I was at Fireside Books where I work when I came across a children’s picture book that told the Snegurochka fairy tale – an old man and woman build a girl out of snow and she comes to life. I had never heard of the story, and I knew right then that this was going to be my next novel. I spent some time researching the different versions, and endings, and I had them all before me as I wrote the novel. But it really wasn’t until I was nearly finished with the manuscript that I knew how my version would end.

Mabel, the wife and mother in The Snow Child, is one of the most memorable, powerful and poignant characters that I have read in fiction for a long, long time. Where did you find her? Where is she from?

I wanted Mabel to be new to Alaska, so I could see the landscape through those eyes. And the fairy tale dictated that she be childless and sorrowful because of it. But once I planted those little seeds, she grew into a person I had never met before. Somehow I discovered that she liked to draw, and that she wanted to roll up her sleeves and work hard in this new wilderness but was too timid to do it on her own. Creating characters is almost like getting to know real people – they surprise me and reveal new layers as I spend more time with them.

I admire all writers who manage to get the words on the page day after day, despite all the distractions. Do you write at set times of the day, strictly structuring your time, or do you just grab any moments you can?

I had a fairly strict schedule as I was writing The Snow Child – after dinner each night, I would retreat to a closet I had converted into an office. My husband would get the baby ready for bed, and I would write for an hour or two before I got too tired. Years before, I wrote on a morning schedule each day after my oldest daughter went off to school. I’ve had to steal the moments when schedules allow, but a predictable routine does help me.

The Snow Child by Eowyn IveyI can’t wait to see what you write next! Can you give us some clues? And how long will we have to wait?!

Thank you for asking! I am working on another novel, and it will share some similarities with The Snow Child – set in historical Alaska with some magical and mythological elements. It’s early on, but I’m having a lot of fun with it.

I read on your blog that the success of The Snow Child has enabled you to drill for water at your home, bringing water into your taps, something that many of us take for granted. Has the publication of your novel changed your life in other ways?

The important things – my family, my aspirations as a writer, my life in Alaska – are much the same. But being published has opened a whole new world of opportunities to both me and my family. We are getting to travel the world, and I have the chance to meet other writers and readers. And, as you say, we were able to drill our well this summer. After six years of hauling water, it is such a treat to turn on the faucet with no fear of running out!

The Snow Child is perfect reading for the long winter nights – which authors do you read while curled up by the fire?

A few of my favourite fireside reads are Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, Two Old Women by Velma Wallis and The Hobbit – there’s something about reading a magical adventure story that makes me feel content to be indoors and warm and safe. And I remember as a child reading A Wrinkle in Time during a particularly blustery, cold autumn. My book club just chose it for October, and I am so looking forward to curling up with it again.

Win a signed copy!

The competition is now closed – thank you for the entries and a winner will be announced shortly.

With so many thanks to Headline, I have a copy of The Snow Child, signed by Eowyn, to give away and find a good home.

All you have to do is email me at forwinternights@gmail.com before the end of Snow Day (today!) and tell me in which state The Snow Child is set and a copy could be yours. It’s as tricky as that! (The competition is just for UK entries.)

Winner announcement

I’m delighted to announce that the lucky winner is Barry Clayton – The Snow Child should be with you in a couple of weeks.

Links to keep!
Buy The Snow Child paperback
Eowyn’s website (and source for the photo of Eowyn
Eowyn’s blog: Letters from Alaska
My review of The Snow Child