Interview with author Anouska Knight-Since You've Been Gone
Please welcome debut author Anouska Knight who is on the blog today chatting about her just released in the US novel Since You've Been Gone and spilling some personal beans as well. You who know me know I LOVE to introduce new just out of the gate authors and I'm so happy to introduce you to this interesting, lovely lady. Plus it doesn't hurt that she writes for my favorite publisher. Anouska (I just love that name) take it away!
Publication date: 7/29/2014
How do you learn to love again?
In one tragic moment, Holly Jefferson's life as she knew it changed forever. Now—to the external world, at least—she's finally getting back on her feet, running her bakery, Cake. But inside, she's still going through the motions befitting a twenty-seven-year-old widow.
Read an Excerpt:
It was supposed to be a day off. He'd promised me he wouldn't be gone long. He just needed to check that the lads were behaving themselves, staying safe; he didn't want to be writing up any more incidents of severed anythings for a while, and that meant keeping on top of them. I'd promised to make his favourite—lemon-and-basil linguine—and he'd promised to be home on time, before it had chance to spoil.
It didn't look appetizing now anyway. I looked down at the cool congealed mess of pasta I'd been pushing around the plate in front of me and tried not to feel abandoned. I automatically set my knife and fork neatly on top, handles parallel in the four o'clock position as was appropriate for a meal finished, and wondered again why the hell I bothered.
Table manners were one of those ironies, superfluous to those who for the most part ate with company who really didn't care whether elbows were on the table or not.
My mother, Pattie, had drilled them into us when we were kids, and would be less than impressed to see her little girl roughing it out over the breakfast bar instead of using any one of the twelve redundant dining chairs. Catching wind of how often I ate over the sink would be enough to trigger her mouth to twitch.
The tick of disapproval—I'd seen that a few times.
We all knew that my mother had endured a life of discomfiture, not quite able to keep up with her friends on my father's average income. She loved him, we knew that, too—how could she not?—but my mother hadn't resisted overcompensating by raising Martha and me as though we were enrolled in some sort of finishing school, prepping us for the best chances of bagging ourselves a lawyer or doctor—anyone, in fact, with means. She thought little girls should be ladylike, grow up to find husbands who could provide them with a good standard of living, therefore guaranteeing their happy ever after.
But I know all about those.
With my sister, Mum's strategy had largely stuck, although Martha had been deft enough to find a lawyer with a big heart. But when I'd first seen Charlie, loading logs onto his boss's truck, sun-kissed forearms flexing from underneath his forest-issue jacket, and absolutely no concept of how attractive he was, I knew right then who my table manners were for.
Mum had warned me that Charlie was rough around the edges; unrefined, she'd said, with too much charm for his own good. That twenty-five was too young to get married—to a forester at least—and that it would all end in tears.
She'd been right. Charlie had a lot to be sorry for these days.
I watched as flecks of basil cemented themselves to the plate in front of me.
I needed to call my parents.
I hadn't spoken to them for nearly three weeks and I was supposed to keep them updated on the size of Martha's ankles. Being twenty-seven didn't afford me much respite from my mother's rightness, but thankfully the three-hour flight between the UK and their retirement home on Minorca did.
The stool wobbled from under me as I slid from it and rounded the breakfast bar, plonking my things into the left of two adjacent Belfast sinks. We'd gone for his-and-hers, Mr Jefferson and I. Largely because I couldn't stand it when Charlie barged into the kitchen with an armful of muddy veg, and partly—quietly—because there was an element of charm having two sinks sat side by side in front of the best view in the house. Those are the kinds of uncharacteristic decisions you make when you're love-drunk. That blissful time before the tears arrived.
I looked for more washing up on the worktops while water thrashed into the sink over the handful of items I'd deposited there. It was six forty-five.
Where is he? I wondered, squirting a generous dose of washing liquid into the steaming bowl. I'd called dinner already.
There was still no sign of him outside as I plunged my hands into the hot suds. The skin between my fingers was starting to get a little sore. I could invest in a pair of Marigolds but my hands were washed so many times at the cake shop it seemed pointless to bother with gloves at home.
Martha said I'm the only person she knows who actively opts to use the sink over the dishwasher. Martha's the only person I know who actively opts to teeter precariously on heels at eight months pregnant, indifferent to the fact her ankles are now as wide as her knees. She's tried to convince me of the benefits of heels—elongation of the leg, posture, femininity in general—just as I've tried explaining to her that unless we're having guests for dinner it would take me a week to fill the dishwasher. Besides, this view across the valley is more than worthy of the occasional chapped hand.
When we'd first bought our half of the farmhouse from Mrs Hedley next door, we widened this window for just that reason. A stunning view through the side face of the cottage, out across the gentle fall of our lawns to the blue-black waters of the reservoir.
You can see every colour nature has to offer through that window, helped no end by Charlie's weakness for planting the foreground with every bulb, shrub and tree he could get away with. When we'd started renovating the cottage he'd concentrated on planting the grounds, so that while the two of us battled it out over room colours, the gardens would all the while be growing.
Eventually, I had to start hiding his wallet during the garden centre's opening hours. It lives in my dresser now with other important, useless things.
I realised now, I'd nagged him too much.
I snatched my hand free as scalding water I hadn't anticipated stung at the back of it, then resumed my surveillance through the glass. The lawns needed cutting. Long grass growing tall against legs of rusting garden furniture.
Where is he? I asked myself again.
I had a straight view down onto half of the reservoir, the rest obscured by the small copse of trees and bushes Charlie had lobbed the tops from after our last big row. Chainsaws were an unusual way to relieve tension, but it had worked for him and the trees were already nearly back to the same height. If I had to bet on it, I'd say my wayward company was over there somewhere.
He couldn't be far but he'd obviously found something far more interesting than my chicken and pasta. Maybe he was sore at me; I'd shouted at him this morning. It was the second time he'd left me to eat alone this week, but I wasn't going to let my meal go cold while I stood on the doorstep hollering like a fishwife. If he wanted to eat his later, fine, but if he kept this up he'd be eating out of tins.
I'd been less than three minutes at the sink and the dishes were done. Martha would never be convinced, but we'd always been different. The picture sat on the sink windowsill testified to that.
My hair had been longer when the photo was taken, but the panic attacks had been easier to manage once I'd hacked off my loose straggly curls. Long hair was an avoidable hindrance when struggling for breath in bed at night.
Further down the kitchen the air was warmer where the earlier light had streamed into the room; Charlie had created a sun-trap here between the two cream bookcases he'd built perpendicular to the window seat. This was where he chose to eat breakfast every morning, with the sun on his back and the dog somewhere near his feet.
Charlie's mum had said that the one-hundred-and-eighty-degree views from the kitchen across all of the gardens would come in very handy when her grandchildren started to arrive. Particularly if they were anywhere near as naughty as their father. Naughty children weren't the problem here.
The side doors clicked open and I stepped out into the garden. "Dave? Dave? Last call, big guy." A handful of birds skittered from the tops of the trees Charlie had attacked. He was coming. I could see him now, galumphing his way up the hill.
He was one ugly creature. A blundering spectacle of pale brown fur as he ran up the embankment towards me, his whole face flying in every direction as the black of his dewlap momentarily defied gravity.
He reached my feet and lolloped back onto his haunches, tail thumping against the ground.
"Hi, Dave." Dave huffed a response. "You're late for dinner." I scowled.
He didn't seem repentant as I followed him into the house.
I kicked my boots off in the hall to the sounds of him inhaling the chicken I'd left for him, making it halfway up the stairs before the phone rang below me.
I knew it would be Martha, calling to check which roast she should make for us Sunday. I didn't want to stay for lunch, but so far I hadn't worked out what my excuse was going to be.
The phone rang on, pricking my conscience. It might not be lunch. It could be the baby. My hand made a play for the handset when the answerphone cut in.
"Hi, you've reached the Jeffersons' money pit. We can't get to the phone right now—I'll be hanging from a stepladder somewhere, and Holly will be out begging our friends to come help us. Leave a message."
"Hol? It's me. I was just wondering if you'd like lamb on Sunday? Or chicken? I think we have chicken, too. If you prefer? Why aren't you home yet? Call me when you get home. Okay, love you. 'Bye."
Dave joined me at the foot of the stairs. "Now you want to keep me company? Stand me up for dinner but happy to watch me take a shower?" Dave didn't answer.
The bare timber treads were hard underfoot as I made my way back upstairs, but there were benefits of having no carpets or wallpaper yet, like not having to worry when two hundred pounds of mastiff shadowed you around the house.
Dave made himself comfortable on the bathroom tiles while I hopped under the steaming jets of the shower. Clouds of icing-sugar dust had left their usual residue all over me. Sugar seemed to cling to skin as it did to teeth.
I'd forgotten to buy a new toothbrush today. Mine had become steadily more and more feathered next to its neighbour over at the sink, which I'd told my sister was a spare. I could buy one before work in the morning, or I could bring mine back from Martha's after the weekend. If I remembered. I'd been so tired lately. I'd be sleepwalking again by November.
Dave was snoozing peacefully when I stepped from the steam. The air was cool on my damp shoulders when I crossed the landing to my bedroom. I quickly dried off and wriggled into my favourite baseball tee and sweats. It was too early to go to bed yet—just looking at it reminded me of the trouble I was having in that department, if trouble was the right word for it. It came in waves, I'd realised, and while I could do without the tiredness I was desperate to enjoy another visit from him tonight. I didn't want to jinx anything so I'd stick with the formula that had seemed to work lately and slip into bed around ten.
Killing time had become a compulsion. Minutes, weeks now years. I could find something to do for a couple of hours, the meagre pile of ironing that had been sat on my dresser would do. I fished out a few hangers from the wardrobe and began squeezing more clothes in there. A second wardrobe was one of the things we'd never got around to. I straightened up the garments I'd disrupted and scanned the perfect uniformity of Charlie's side of the hanging rail. How did dust even get into wardrobes? Was it some sort of domestic phenomenon? I pulled a few items out for closer inspection. Charlie's summer jacket, Charlie's winter coat, Charlie's shirt, Charlie's shirt, Charlie's shirt. I blew the unloved items in my arms free of their dustings, trying not to let the resentment bubble up in me so close to bedtime. But it was always there, lurking just under the surface, waiting for its chance of escape.
Yes, Charlie Jefferson. You have a lot to be sorry for. chapter 2
Tdidn't want it to stop. It was perfect. The perfect choreography of his need pulsing with my own, grinding in against my hungering body. I'd missed this. I'd missed this so much. Somewhere in the distance, I knew we were against the clock, but it was a warning I pushed away. We were here now and that's all that mattered. He'd come.
Everything I had, every thirsty nerve ending desperate for his touch, I could feel him with, taste him with, but it wasn't enough. I needed more, more of this delicious euphoria. Goose bumps raged over me every time his breath chilled the thin film of sweat on my skin, the sweet earthy scent of him swelling around me with every delectable thrust, the saltiness of his neck inviting me to taste him again—I wanted to drink it all down, to gorge myself with everything of him I was being allowed.
Charlie found his rhythm and locked in on me. I let him. The slick covering of sweat we had each bestowed upon the other the only relief in what would otherwise be a crushing frenzy of need. I didn't care. I wanted it to reign over me like an insatiable creature, to devour me, to gorge itself on us both and force us harder into one another until the lines between our writhing bodies were no more.
I used the hard press of the wall behind me to defy him, to remain unyielding to all that strength as he forced himself into me, again and again. I managed to pull my head away from him, away from all that reward my senses so wanted, so that I could better see the face that had changed my world.
I couldn't hold myself away for long. My hands were already reaching up to slide desperate fingers through the short ruffle of his hair, to grab what I could and take hold of all that dark splendor before pulling his head far enough away to reveal those arresting blue eyes.
He was so beautiful, a perfect combination of light and dark, in all things. From his character to his features, he was the best of both extremes. His pale eyes were staggering against the near-black chestnut of his hair and depending on his mood could hold all the warmth of a Bahamian lagoon or the foreboding of a frozen lake.
He looked back to me now, those eyes the colour of ice water as they burned voraciously at me. He made my breath catch in my throat as though it wasn't supposed to be there—not looking at me but into me, to the promise of the gratification I would give him. I knew from those eyes that only dark thoughts were governing Charlie now, and it excited me.
The first wave of warmth began to build in me, deep and low. It chased all threads of cohesiveness away and I broke eye contact, searching the air around him for any sign of the next moment my pleasure would find me out again. He responded to the shift in my breathlessness as though he could smell the change creeping its way through me.
Another roll, building and building below warm between my legs, spreading outwards through that part of me and up through my core, towards my breasts, to my neck, where Charlie's hands chased it. It was coming to claim me. The thought of it overpowering me, sweeping me away on a torrent of pleasure, was enough to send me spiralling into its grasp. I struggled to keep rhythm with him now. The choreography was gone as we neared the final act that would see us both explode into our sweet trembling crescendo. I wanted to share it with him, for him to see in my eyes what he did to me, but Charlie was in his own fight, his broad shoulders tense around me as he thundered fiercely through me harder and faster and—
I lost my hold on his hair and felt my body being yanked away from him, away into my ocean of pleasure. I wanted to drown in all that sensation, again and again and again, but not without him. He has to come, too! Desperately I raked my fingers along the centre of his back, down the tanned musculature he'd unintentionally honed through years of working in the forest, and finally, I succumbed to all that he'd offered me.
The last thing, the only thing, I heard besides the frantic labouring of our lungs, was my name on his lips.
Anouska, Hi! So nice
to e-meet you and welcome to The Reading Frenzy.
Hey! Thanks for having me, great to e-meet you
Tell all my readers a
little about Since You’ve Been Gone.
Since You’ve Been Gone follows Holly who,
despite going through the day-to-day motions of working in her bakery and
deflecting her sister Martha’s relentless attempts to take care of her, is
quietly struggling to come to terms with the bottomless void left in her life
by the death of her husband Charlie.
The story picks up with Holly in a kind of
emotional lockdown. Outside of the home she and Charlie were still renovating
together as newlyweds, Holly only really has her work to get out of bed for
each day. She spends her time running her business Cake designing and making
beautiful cakes for other people’s happily-ever-afters.
It’s not easy, but it’s still an escape of
sorts, right up until one cake order in particular throws her on a collision
course with a man seemingly the polar opposite of her beloved Charlie. Holly
finds herself being drawn out of her comfort zone by this guy, and challenged
to look at love and life in a new light.
Anouska, you won Racy
Reads. Tell us what exactly this is all about.
Well, Racy Reads was the big one, the golden
ticket, the competition that changed everything!
Over here in Blighty we have ITV Lorraine which
is the main morning TV show millions of us Brits tune into between getting the
kids breakfast and collapsing on the sofa for a cup of tea once we’ve dropped
them at school for the day.
I wasn’t actually watching Lorraine on the day
I caught the competition details, funnily enough. My husband had left the TV on
after leaving for work and I was literally just reaching to switch it off and
get on with the soul-destroying task of finding a part-time job when the
concept of the Racy Reads competition caught my attention… thank goodness!
The premise was straightforward, submit 1000k
words of a novel with a racy undertone for a chance of not only working with an
editorial team at romance giants Harlequin (and having the novel published by
them that summer!!!) but a first class trip to LA to have lunch with the Black
Panthress of racy novels herself – Jackie bloomin’ Collins!
Needless to say, I got busy on my laptop pretty
sharpish after that. There were only a few days left until the closing date so
I sat down that day and fired off a thousand words of a story I hadn’t even
imagined yet. You know, just writing that is still enough to break me out in a
goofy grin, it was just so unbelievable to win! I can’t even describe it.
Anyway! Once I’d submitted my entry I enjoyed a
few very surreal stints on national television making it from the final six to
the final three, which was all very exciting! And then Jackie herself along
with another great UK author, Victoria Fox, judged the thousands of entries the
It was incredible when the winner’s name was
pulled out of Lorraine’s golden envelope on live TV Valentine’s Day 2013, and the
name I heard was mine!
Anouska, I love your
name, and Congrats on your debut novel.
Tell us how you launched your writing career.
Why thanks! It’s pretty bonkers seeing that
name on bookshelves when I take the kids shopping, I can tell you!
I think I have been exceptionally fortunate,
because my writing career has essentially been launched for me. Don’t get me
wrong, a lot of sweat and tears went into writing Since You’ve Been Gone,
particularly as I only had a matter of months to have it all ready for summer
publication and… I hadn’t ever written a proper novel before! But after winning
Racy Reads I had an amazing editor in Donna Hillyer, and behind her was a
powerhouse of a publishing team all rooting for me to do the best I could,
providing support wherever I needed it.
And then there was the actual book launch
itself… It was a fabulous day, held in Lichfield, the cathedral town where I
was born surrounded by lots of family and friends and, two other favourite
things of mine, books and cake!
It was a good job there were so many books and
cakes on hand, actually. It was all a bit emotional and I had to bury my face
in them a few times. (Had something in my eye)
I read about your
book launch back in 2013 in the UK where the novel originally released for
UK branch Mills & Boon.
Tell my readers where you were, what you were doing and your reaction to “the call” that said you were to be
a published author.
There were a few calls I had to get my head around.
There was ‘the call’ that said I’d initially made it through to the final six
and was invited to be interviewed on film by the panel of judges down in London!
That was the message I picked up on my answer machine and was convinced was my
sister-in-law having me on. Even at the time, I knew that didn’t make much sense
because it was highly unlikely I’d have mentioned the competition to anyone but
Jim, my hubby. (You know, because people don’t really win competitions like this,
There was also the call that came a couple of
weeks later after I’d been to London for the interview with the judges, telling
me that I’d been put through to the final three. Up until then, I was just
happy to have had a confidence boost, a reason to go home again and give
writing some serious thought without feeling as if I was kidding myself. But when
I received that call, things started getting serious. A one in three chance at becoming
something I never really thought I’d have a shot at, well it was a very big
deal to me.
But… the actual mind-boggling, you’re–going-to-be-a-published-author
moment came when Lorraine Kelly pulled my name out of that golden envelope. I
was standing on my little spot on the TV studio floor between Helen and
Georgina, the other two finalists, trying not to have a nervous meltdown on
live breakfast television. Not exactly your average morning!
And that was when everything changed.
It was all a bit of a blur in the minutes that
followed. I was called over to sit with Lorraine and Victoria Fox and try to
get something coherent out of my mouth to the watching nation. It wasn’t easy,
I only just about managed to not cry! (Might’ve been the shock that helped
Of course, the dry eyes didn’t last long. Once
the cameras had stopped rolling and I saw Jim at the back of the studio looking
suspiciously glassy-eyed, it was a no holds barred blub-fest after that.
The publishing team were there too, with
bouquets and gifts and an abundance of general merriment. My phone was going
bonkers with all the messages from my friends and family who’d been watching, plus
I still had the joy of travelling home to our two little boys and telling them
that Mummy had won. Boom!
Without doubt, that was one of the best days of
So now that you have
your debut under your belt, what are you working on now?
I’m actually working on my THIRD novel at the
moment! Since You’ve Been Gone was released over here last summer and I’ve just
enjoyed reliving all of the excitement of publication with the release of my
second offering ‘A Part Of Me’ which came out in the UK just a few weeks ago!
A Part of Me picks up with Amy Alwood finally
nearing the end of her journey to adopt a child. She’s finely crafted and
controlled as much as she can to ensure that she and her partner James have the
best chance of realizing their dream. Then, out of the blue, life blows up in
her face and she’s suddenly fighting to hold it all together and hang on to her
chance at motherhood.
Throw in a charismatic troublesome client with
a frustratingly laid back attitude and completely different approach to life
and Amy has to battle it out between what her head tells her is practical and
what her heart tells her feels right.
What most surprised
you about the whole bringing your book to market process?
The hurdles! I’ve met a lot of authors over the
last eighteen months of this new life of mine and I’ve heard lots of different
accounts about rejection letters, difficulties securing representation by
agents, even decades spent writing novel after novel before their break came.
Even then, with a fantastic agent, a supportive publisher and a brilliant book,
it’s not necessarily going to be plain sailing.
A lot of work goes in to getting your novel out
there, in the right arenas so that the story you wanted to tell has a chance of
being heard. Thankfully, Since You’ve Been Gone did really well in the UK, but
there’s just no way that its success all boils down to one author on an
adrenaline rush, desperate to write an emotive novel! (Determined as I was)
As much as I’d like to take all of the credit,
I can’t. It takes a lot of effort behind the scenes to support a book making
its maiden voyage into the world and I’m extremely grateful for having had that
A rather lovely surprise though, has been the
eagerness of some very lovely readers to get in touch with me through social
media and tell me that they found something they identified with in my books.
That people take the time out of their lives to do that really is quite
Anouska, on the back
cover of the US version of the novel it says you are married to your childhood
sweetheart and have two young sons.
How is your family handling your fame?
My boys, Radley Bo and Loch, are pretty unfazed
by it all, the little monkeys. They were only eight and six when I won so the
most impressive thing for them was the giant cheque I was presented with to
signify my advance on the book deal! They even took it to school.
Jim though, well we have a really jokey daft
kind of relationship and there’s been a lot of teasing around the house about
him having my autograph and me wangling a ‘post-nup’ to keep his grubby mitts
off my super yacht. But joking aside, Jim has been integral to the whole
experience. From that Valentine’s Day when I won and saw how proud he was of me,
to all of the hours he’s put in around the house after working all day so that
I can plough on with my writing, everything that has come from this wonderful
journey is ours to share, because Jim’s always been my best friend and biggest
Are you writing full
I’m supposed to be! Although I’ve had to slow
down lately because I have another very special release due out August 6th…
Baby Knight, the third and final installment of the offspring trilogy! Just to
keep the chaos levels nice and high in our house.
But yes! Other than waddling around out of
breath on hideously swollen ankles, I am indeed a fully-fledged, full time
writer. And it’s an amazing feeling.
Where and when you do
I write all the time, around the school run,
the midwife appointments, the kids’ trombone concerts and sports clubs, family
meals. But I only really get ‘in the zone’ once the boys are in bed, Jim’s
watching something sport-orientated in the lounge and I’ve sloped off to my
bedroom to sit on my bed and put in a run of serious hours in the peace and
quiet of the night. I do enjoy moving around the house for a change of scene
through the week, but the majority of my writing takes place in my bedroom,
after dark, when the rest of the world slows down a little.
Anouska thanks so
much for taking the time to answer these questions. Good luck with the US
release. Is there a US visit in your future?
Thanks again for having me! It’s been so great
to have a chat with you.
I’d be ecstatic to get back over to the US, I
fell in love with the place and would love to show at least some of it to my
little boys. To see my book in an American store would be the icing on the