Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Author Interview & Giveaway: A Call to Heaven by Jo Kessel

A Call to Heaven
Jo Kessel

Genre: contemporary romance
with a paranormal twist

Publisher: J.K Publishing

Date of Publication: January 27, 2017

ISBN-13: 978-1540490049 /
ISBN-10: 1540490041

Number of pages: 260 paperback /
320 kindle book

Word Count: 68k

Cover Artist: Ivan Cakic

Book Description:

"Everybody’s loved, everybody’s lost.

Grief strips you raw and makes you feel as if you’re sleepwalking through life, like the pain will never go away.

I’m Amy Tristan. I’m no different than anyone else. I’ve loved, I’ve lost and it sucks. I’ve got a five-year old son and an abusive husband. My mother died six months ago and I miss her like crazy.

I’m the biggest skeptic when it comes to other-worldly stuff, so when I’m told that I can pick up the phone and call my mum in Heaven, I should disbelieve it, right? Wrong. I pick up that phone, because there’s nothing I want more than to hear her voice trickle into the receiver.

And you know what? It works. I get to speak to my mother. It’s a miracle. If only it could stay this way, with those calls just for me, but someone up on high wants me to choose three other people to make a call to Heaven too. Who should I pick? How can I trust them to keep the phone secret? Making the choice is agonizing - if I get it wrong, my calls will stop. I wish I hadn’t told Daniel anything. He’s this hot doctor that I’ve come to know. But doctors are scientists, and scientists are bigger skeptics than even me. He didn’t believe in the phone. He thought I should be admitted to a sanatorium. Telling him was either the best decision of my life, or the worst. I’ll let you decide…"


Everyone’s looking at me. I’ve got the yellow telephone in my hands and I’m not sure what to do with it. I take a seat at the end of the table and lay the phone down in front of me. Beth is to my left, Ben is to my right. Daniel is opposite me. I look from one to the other and feel color flood my cheeks. My gaze finishes on Daniel and stays there for a beat. He nods, his eyes encouraging me. I return the nod, take a deep breath and count down from three to one in my head.

I’ve got to tell you all something.” My voice comes out as a thin squeak, but actually I’m surprised I manage to articulate at all. I’m hot, so hot. I lift the hair off the back of my neck, flapping it around to try to cool my sticky, clammy skin. I can’t breathe, I need air. I unlock the patio doors, flinging them wide open. The inside of my mouth feels rough as sandpaper. I’m desperate for a tall glass of water packed with ice-cubes but, when I turn to see six eyes staring at me, I dare not leave to fetch one. I feel like an exhibit in a museum and in some ways I wish I were. I could hide behind a Perspex box next to the yellow telephone with panel blurb doing the explaining for me. I could be part of a new exhibition entitled ‘Incredible Discoveries’. I would share the same hall as the dinosaurs and anything else which took aeons for people to believe existed. I draw a deep breath and continue.

You’re probably going to think I’m mad, but I’m going to tell you anyway.”

A breeze blows through the open patio doors.

What I wanted to tell you is this.” My voice is soft as a whisper. I sense all their bodies leaning closer towards mine, straining to hear. “I’ve recently started talking to my mother.”

There, I’ve said it.

I feel a great sense of relief, both that I’ve said it and that I no longer have to keep this to myself. Beth relaxes in her chair with a sigh, leans across and takes my hand, patting it. She’s got wavy brown hair and a kind, open face. She tilts her head sympathetically.

Oh honey, you must have tried out that clairvoyant you mentioned. Please tell us all about it.”

I should have seen that one coming.

No, you don’t get it.” I lift up the yellow phone, as if to demonstrate how to use such a contraption. In one hand I take the receiver, in the other the plug. “I don’t speak to her through a medium. I speak to her on this telephone. I plug it into a socket in my bathroom and I’m allowed to call heaven.”

There, I’ve said it now.

Nobody moves.

Not a muscle.

Their mouths all open, Daniel’s is the widest. I don’t think any of them even realize they’re doing it. As feared, they are looking at me like I’m certifiably insane.

I can see you all think I’m mad.” I actually manage to pull a small smile. Now that I’ve started, I feel much calmer. “And, if I were in your position, I would think I’m crazy too. But one night my mother came to me in a dream and told me I could use this phone to call her in heaven and, bizarre though it must sound, it turns out she was right. That’s why I stopped coming to Grief Support Group every week. I wasn’t grieving so much because my mother had come back into my life.”

The three pairs of eyes grow wider and wider, as if I’m slowly sprouting four serpent heads. I replace the receiver back into its cradle and drop the plug, holding out my hands in submission.
You can believe me or not. It doesn’t matter. But the reason I’ve gathered you all here is because I’ve been asked to choose three other people to call to heaven.”

I sound like a fairy godmother or the good witch in the Wizard of Oz. I do not sound normal. I pause. The effect is dramatic although it’s not intended to be.

And I’ve picked you guys.”

I look at them one by one.
Beth, I know how much it might mean to you to be able to speak to your daughter and know that she is safe.”

Beth nods. Her gaze turns glassy.

Ben, I’d do anything to be able to give you a chance to speak to your brother again.”

Ben nods, his mouth still formed in a perfect ‘O’.

Daniel is the hardest one for me to look at. He’s not nodding anymore and his eyes are no longer urging me to continue. Instead he’s shaking his head, a slow, subtle movement, but I catch it all the same. His full lips have now formed a thin line. He’s the only one who looks like he still thinks I’m certifiably insane. Hell, he’s a doctor; perhaps that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Part of me wonders whether I should abort this whole escapade and pretend it was all a joke. I’d do anything to not have Daniel stare at me in this way. He looks ready to call the local sanatorium and send them round with a straitjacket. But I can’t abort and I must continue. What happens next is up to him.

And Daniel, I thought that maybe you might like to speak to Katie.”

He opens his mouth as if he’s about to say something, but clamps it shut again without speaking. Nobody else says anything either. They all shift in their seats, pretending to take sips of coffee and look around the room. Perhaps they’re checking out the photos on the mantelpiece above the fireplace, trying to work out if I look like a madwoman in any of them. I pick up the knife. Now I probably do look mad or, at the very least, dangerous.
Right, who’s for some more pie?”

About the Author:

Jo lives in London with her husband, three children and Jerald the cat. In addition to being a novelist she works as a TV and print journalist (Sunday Times, The Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Express.) If she could change one thing about her life it would be to introduce the thirty hour day, because twenty-four hours just isn’t long enough to squeeze it all in! Many a late night has been spent with a glass of red wine (preferably French) at her desk trying to keep her eyes open long enough to write these stories which keep demanding to be written. If only her cat didn’t constantly jump onto the keyboard as she writes, this book might have been finished months earlier. She loves yoga, skiing, travelling and English custard - though not necessarily in that order.



Do you plan everything or just let the story flow?
 I’m a fairly organic writer, although I definitely have a ‘big picture’ plan for the whole book. On a daily chapter by chapter basis, however, I have a loose sense of where I want the plot to take me, but then I let the characters take over as I start to write.

Do your characters ever want to take over the story?
 I think that sometimes it’s ESSENTIAL for your characters to take over the story. It’s THEIR story after all and if the characters have been written well enough then (in my opinion) they take on a life of their own as you write the book. Sometimes I might have had an idea for a plotline, but it doesn’t end up fitting with how my characters have developed and I’m forced to throw my plan out the window. I like it when that happens though. It makes my characters feel more real.

What is your favourite food? 
Ice-cream: cookies and cream or strawberry cheesecake flavor.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?
 Oh gawd, I don’t think I’m either. I hate getting out of bed in the morning and I like to go to sleep early - which makes me a right royal party pooper!

Where do you dream of travelling to and why? 
I’m extremely lucky to be a travel writer as well as a novelist and I get to travel to some really interesting places for national newspapers in the UK. I’ve just come back from a cruise to southern India which was fascinating.

Do distant places feature in your books? 
Ha, half of this book is set in Heaven – very far away! And another of my books (Weak at the Knees) is set in France, in a French ski resort. The setting for that book has been particularly popular. I think readers love a book where they can immerse themselves in a different culture with foreign scenery, cuisine and language. It can make a story much sexier.

Do you listen to music while writing? 
No, I find music distracting and prefer silence. However, with a houseful of kids, silence is something that’s very hard to come by. One of my daughters is a budding rock chick. She plays the guitar, drums and sings. My house is constantly filled with the sounds of live music.

Could you tell us a bit about your latest release? 
A Call to Heaven is my fourth novel and it’s also the one I’m most proud of. It’s my most original idea by far and the storyline is particularly close to my heart. I lost my mother very suddenly six years ago and this book is all about being able to connect with our lost loved ones in Heaven via a very special yellow telephone.

What have you learned about writing and publishing since you first started? 
I’ve learned a lot about editing, editing and editing yet some more until a book is as perfect as I can make it. I’m a perfectionist and nothing less will do. I’ve also learned that the publishing world is a fickle one. Conventional publishing houses are rarely willing to take risks nowadays and are constantly trying to predict what will be the next ‘big thing’. But in reality the publishing houses don’t decide, it’s readers who do. Which is why there are tons of self-published books out there which were turned down by traditional publishers, but which have sold way better than the average conventionally published book, however unlikely a prospect they might have seemed at the time.

Is there anything you would do differently? 
What I’m hoping that I’ll do more differently with A Call to Heaven is to relax more after the book comes out, rather than get tense and worried about whether it will do well or not. I love this book and believe in it big time and just have to let fate take charge in spreading the word by ‘word of mouth’, which is the most powerful tool.

Who, or what, if anything has influenced your writing? 
Well, A Call to Heaven was specifically influenced by my mother who died very unexpectedly six years ago. A couple of years ago she came to me in a dream and in that dream she gave me the title (A Call to Heaven) as well as its premise and then she kept repeating over and over: “You must remember this when you wake up.” Well, I did remember it, because it was a FANTASTIC idea and I couldn’t wait to start writing it. I just wish my mother was here to be able to read it.

Anything you would say to those just starting out in the craft? 
Write for yourself and because you enjoy it. Even if your story touches just one person and makes a difference, it will have been worth it. Never write just because you’re hoping to make megabucks from it. If that happens, then great, but it shouldn’t be the reason you set out to pen a novel.

What are three words that describe you? 
Fun-loving (is that two words?!), tenacious and adventurous.

What's your favourite book or who is your favourite writer? 
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I LOVE Jane Austen and have read all of her books. 


Signed paperback Call to Heaven

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for featuring my new release A Call to Heaven on your blog today. I wonder which three words your readers would pick to describe themselves?!