Saturday 12 March 2016

Alone: The Complete Trilogy review and author Q&A - Bob Summer

Alone: The Complete Trilogy is the bookworm equivalent to a DVD box-set, comprising of Alone But Not Lost, The Edge and Found. It's a tense, dark and disturbing psychological thriller following the lives of Sin, a reclusive, paranoid young woman and PC Sara Jones.

In Alone, we are introduced to Sin who lives in part of an asylum which she inherited from her abusive mother. She trusts no-one and lives with a constant fear of intruders and outside threats including her step-father who she finds out has just been released from prison. Her only contact with the outside world is via her handyman Hawk and an internet support group where she has recreated herself as "Judy"

Sin's story is uncomfortable reading at times but it's necessary to help you understand her mental state and paranoia. PC Sara Jones makes a few appearances in this novel as she is one of the police officers who visits Sin to follow up on a letter concerning her step-fathers release.

The Edge is book two and this time Sara is the main protagonist. As a police officer Sara believes that the law is to be obeyed and that no-one is above it, so when she suspects a male colleague of raping a teenage girl she begins questioning her own sanity. When someone close to Sin is found dead Sara once again finds herself having to contact Sin, but no-one knows where she is and as a result of Sara's investigation with her temporary colleague Alan, she has unwittingly put her son and his pregnant girlfriend in grave danger. Who can Sara trust and even if she can find Sin, will she be in any fit state to help her?

Found is the culmination of the trilogy. With her son Rhys and his girlfriend Anna still missing, Sara needs Sin's help now more than ever but she is still unsure who she can trust. Will Sara find Rhys and Anna before it's too late and will Sin finally find the freedom she so desperately craves.

This is a captivating trilogy full of unexpected twists with a cast of complex and flawed characters. It's a suspenseful story that moves at a brisk pace and will leave you second guessing yourself. Bob's writing style is accomplished and she does a fabulous job in ensuring that the story flows seamlessly while at the same time introducing more characters that become pivotal to the intricate plot. The Alone trilogy is brilliantly conceived and will draw you in from the first chapter.

I'm delighted that Bob Summer is joining me for a Q&A today.

Hello Bob and welcome to my blog. Thank you for taking the time to stop by today.
Thank you for having me.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Okay. I was born in Cardiff, grew up in Pembrokeshire, moved around a bit doing various jobs, moved back to Pembrokeshire and currently work for an oil inspection company while my imagination runs riot.

When did you first realise that you wanted to write a book?
I thought everybody wanted to write a book. Much in the same way everybody wants to find their ideal home or their soulmate. It feels odd that people don’t write. Even odder that they don’t read, it’s like finding somebody who hates puppies. They’re perfectly entitled to of course, but still I find it baffling.
That’s not to say I always wanted to be published. I wrote to keep myself out of mischief and my mind busy. I’m not good at doing nothing. I joined some online communities where we read and commented on each other’s stories, and it was great fun. The feedback became more and more positive until one day the wonderful Lindy Moone (of writer, editor and cover-creating fame) invited me to write a story for the antrollogy – a collection of stories called ‘For Whom the Bell Trolls’.  Available soon! All net profits will go to charity and it’s worth buying for the illustrations alone.
That invitation was a massive confidence boost and got me thinking that maybe I could find an audience of my own.

How did you choose your genre?
I didn’t, not really. While ‘Alone’ sits firmly inside psychological fiction, some of the feedback suggests it has a toe in literary as well as mystery, suspense, crime... maybe it is all those things. I didn’t have a genre in mind when I wrote it, like I say, I didn’t think about publishing—I simply wrote the story as it needed to be told.

How would you describe your novels to someone who has never read your work before?
This is such a tough question.  I’d like to think the stories are unique and the characters memorable; the books are sometimes light but often dark; occasionally violent but also a touch heart-warming… they are so many things. But I genuinely believe each reader approaches a book with a fresh eye and takes away fresh opinions. That, after all, is why books are so fabulous. A reader picks up a book and no matter how many times that story has been read before it becomes something unique. Incredible, isn’t it?
I’ve only told a select few non-writing people that the books are published, and that’s only because they’re people I didn’t want to keep secrets from. My husband for example, and no, he hasn’t read them—he doesn’t read fiction, yes I know he’s strange.
And I don’t want people to read my books in my voice, because the story wouldn’t work. And I only want people to read them through choice not obligation. That sounds precious, doesn’t it? I don’t mean to sound that way, but it’s like asking somebody, ‘Does my bum look big in this?’ or ‘Is my child clever?’ And if people know me, they’re going to be biased one way or the other, so everything gets murky and uncomfortable and well, no. I don’t talk about writing to people in my real life.

How do you come up with the titles for your books?
‘Alone But Not Lost’ was a last-minute shout. Right up until the final hour I knew it by a title which skirted too close to a song lyric. Only three words, but still, that title had to go. ‘The Edge’ and ‘Found’ were easier to select, because they fell into place very early in the first draft and stuck.

Can you describe how your novels take shape?
I understand that the literary term for my chosen approach to writing is ‘pantsing’.
My books tend to evolve. I write the story, I re-write, once, twice… a zillion times. And then I get a ‘better’ idea and so rewrite it again. The tales you hear about writers waking in the middle of the night to scribble fresh ideas on the pillow case are true.
I spend the majority of my time, if not all of my time, with my characters in mind. I might look like I’m cooking dinner or concentrating in work, but I’m not. I’m figuring out how I can get the gun back under the bed, or how many people I’m going to kill today. A writer’s mind is a wonderful place to be. We have great fun. I’m never bored.

What was the inspiration behind the trilogy?
I wanted to write about the dangers of isolation and loneliness, and how such conditions might affect a person’s ability to deal with difficult situations. We might think people make weird or foolish choices, but they’re making them within the constraints of their past experiences and knowledge. We rarely know what those limitations are unless we get their full story, secrets and all. ‘Alone’ is Sin’s story.

In Alone the protagonist Sin is a very dark character who suffers from paranoia, how easy is it to write a character of this nature?
I loved writing Sin’s scenes. Well-balanced and well-behaved characters are boring to write in comparison to the Sins. So the simple answer is, Sin was very easy and a lot of fun to write.

I enjoyed the way that Alone But Not Lost is Sin’s story, The Edge is Sara’s story and Found is a combination of the two. Was it always your intention to tell their stories in a trilogy or was it something that developed with the books?
Something that developed as I went along, because I thought the readers might need a break from being in Sin’s mind even if they wanted more of her story. She could be exhausting to read. Sara has her own problems to contend with which adds depth and broadens the story, and hopefully keeps tight hold of the readers’ interest. 

I see that you also wrote a book called Breaking East about a young girl called Atty James but it’s no longer available, Can you tell us more about that.
I loved writing Atty’s story. ‘Breaking East’ is a teen/YA book set in the not so distant future—very different from ‘Alone’. I took some well-meaning editorial advice and slotted a little romance in to add appeal before publishing, but some months later I re-read it and decided romance is not my thing. I’ve withdrawn it for now, but will put it back (minus the romantic bits) when the next two books in the trilogy are complete. I’ve got swanky new covers for them already, so they’re definitely coming.

Which do you enjoy more, writing novels or short stories?
The short stories are borne from perhaps a snippet in the news, or a line overheard in the checkout queue—sparks of a story which won’t fit in my current WIP but I don’t want to waste.
The characters in ‘Genie’ are similar to those in ‘Alone’ in that they are all characters under pressure, reacting in the only way they know how. Somebody suggested I should consider developing each story from the shorts collection into a novel. We’ll see. I’d like to write a few cheerful stories first. Whilst I stand by my belief that we’re all hiding bits of ourselves for fear of being thought odd, not all our oddities invite trouble. Lots are funny. So I might write a few of those next.

Is there a book that you’d like to have written?
Again, there are so many. If I HAD to choose one I’d opt for ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver, which is pure genius as far as I’m concerned. I’ve read it at least three times. And more recently I discovered Shirley Jackson and loved ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’. An incredible read—I wish I’d written that.

I believe that you’re currently working on a book about a man called Blue, are you able to tell us anything about it?
Blue is a fantastic character to write, I’m really enjoying myself. He’s a little bit weird and a little bit wonderful—as we all are.
His story is in three parts. The first is about Blue’s parents and how the family became locked onto this spiral of destruction and eventually trapped into a corner with no way out. The second is how Blue inherits and copes with this situation, which is no fault of his own, and the third is how he escapes and finds his own way in life. I’m still on the first draft and I’m hoping it’ll be ready for release in October, but it might be nearer the end of the year before it’s available. I make no promises—that’s one of the joys of working for myself.

Is there anything you’d like to say to the readers?
Thank you.
And please, if you enjoy a book please, pretty please, consider leaving a review. Not just for my book—all writers appreciate feedback.
I’m always happy to hear from readers via email or twitter. I’m learning how to ‘do’ Facebook now too. I came very late to social media—I know, tragic—but I’m beginning to love it a little more each day. Sort of.

Thanks again for having me here.

It's been a pleasure Bob, thank you for taking the time to stop by.

Alone: The Complete Trilogy is available to buy here and you can follow her on Twitter @BobSummer5
Also visit her website and check out two of her short stories by clicking on Bob's Shorts

With kind thanks to author Bob Summer for the review copy.


  1. Great Q & A.
    Very it !

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I'm so glad you enjoyed it :)

  2. I've read two of Bob's books, and both are brilliant. Thanks for a great interview

    1. I totally agree David, Bob has a real talent for story telling. Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment :)