Saturday 31 October 2020

The Hippo Hangs Out . . . . with T.A. Belshaw


I'm thrilled to be hanging out with T. A. Belshaw, aka Trevor, here on The Hippo today. Trevor's latest book, Unspoken, has recently been the focus of a blog tour where it received many fabulous reviews (you can read mine here)  so what better time to find out more about the man behind the words? Let's get things started with an introduction followed by a look at Unspoken.

Photo courtesy of Trevor Belshaw

T A Belshaw is from Derbyshire. He writes for children and adults. He is the author of Tracy's Hot Mail, Tracy's Celebrity Hot Mail and the noir, suspense novella, Out of Control. His new novel, the family saga, Unspoken, was released in July, 2020

His short stories have been published in various anthologies including 100 Stories for Haiti, 50 Stories for Pakistan, Another Haircut, Shambelurkling and Other Stories, Deck the Halls, 100 Stories for Queensland and The Cafe Lit anthology 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Trevor is also the author of 15 children's books written under the name of Trevor Forest.

His children's poem, Clicking Gran, was long listed for the Plough prize (children's section) in 2009 and his short poem, My Mistake, was rated Highly Commended in the Farringdon Poetry Competition.



A heart-warming, dramatic family saga. Unspoken is a tale of secrets, love, betrayal and revenge.

Unspoken means something that cannot be uttered aloud. Unspoken is the dark secret a woman must keep, for life.

Alice is fast approaching her one hundredth birthday and she is dying. Her strange, graphic dreams of ghostly figures trying to pull her into a tunnel of blinding light are becoming more and more vivid and terrifying. Alice knows she only has a short time left and is desperate to unburden herself of a dark secret, one she has lived with for eighty years.

Jessica, a journalist, is her great granddaughter and a mirror image of a young Alice. They share dreadful luck in the types of men that come into their lives.

Alice decides to share her terrible secret with Jessica and sends her to the attic to retrieve a set of handwritten notebooks detailing her young life during the late 1930s. Following the death of her invalid mother and her father’s decline into depression and alcoholism, she is forced, at 18 to take control of the farm. On her birthday, she meets Frank, a man with a drink problem and a violent temper.

When Frank’s abusive behaviour steps up a level. Alice seeks solace in the arms of her smooth, ‘gangster lawyer’ Godfrey, and when Frank discovers the couple together, he vows to get his revenge.

Unspoken. A tale that spans two eras and binds two women, born eighty years apart.

Welcome to The Hippo Trevor, it's great to have you here. Please pull up a chair and let's chat!

What book/books made you cry and why?
I’ve blubbered at a few movies but only two books, and they were both set in the war. Schindler’s Arc, (now Schindler’s List,) by Thomas Keneally, tells the true story of German armaments manufacturer, Oskar Schindler and the Jews he rescued from Auschwitz by giving them skilled labour status in his factory, even when they had few, or no skills. He even recruited children and told the Nazis, that their small hands were essential for polishing the inside of a mortar shell. The author’s vivid description about the clearing of the Warsaw Ghetto, forced me to put the book down and compose myself before being able to read on. It was as much his masterful description as the subject matter. The recounting the little girl named, Gittel, wearing a bright red coat as she walked alone through the carnage during the liquidation of the ghetto, haunts me to this day.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Death himself, narrates the story of Liesel, the daughter of a known Communist mother, sent to live with unlikely foster parents, Hans and Rosa Huberman on the outskirts of Munich. They hide a seriously ill Jew, Max, in their basement, while Liesel, who has only just learned to read, steals books from wherever she can find them. Once, following a Nazi, book burning ceremony.

Liesel’s relationship with Max is emotional enough, but when she alights from her cellar after a bombing raid to find her best friend, Rudy, lying dead in the rubble, my heart broke. It took me five attempts to read those few pages.

I'm a huge fan of both of these stunning books as well Trevor and, like you, they both made me cry and left a lasting impression on me. They are also both on my list of very select books that I will re-read. Great choices! 😉

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I actually have written under a pseudonym. I wrote fifteen children’s adventure stories for seven to eleven-year olds, under the name Trevor Forest. There are two series, Magic Molly, about a trainee witch with a wonky wand that she finds hard to control, and Stanley Stickle Hates Homework, a three book series about a boy who will do whatever it takes to get out of doing his schoolwork and who is stalked by Soppy Sonia, a girl who has convinced herself that she is Stanley’s girlfriend.

I also have a spare pseudonym, Francis Robertson, waiting in the wings if I ever decide to write for a YA audience. The name is a combination of the goal scorers in the European Cup that my team, Nottingham Forest, won twice.

Wow, that's quite an accomplishment! As it's Halloween, I thought it would be fitting to have a picture of Halloween Hattie from the Magic Molly Series 👻🎃

Do you often hear from your readers and what do they say?
Nowadays I only get to hear from readers via Facebook messages, or from Amazon/Goodreads reviews but when I was writing for children, prior to my wife’s death, I used to get letters from kids, parents and even teachers, all the time. My number one fan, Misty, who read everything I ever produced, now has a collection of Magic Molly original artwork, that my fabulous, illustrator, Marie, Fullerton drew for the series. One school in Hamilton, did a class project on what Stanley Stickle would do next to either get out of his homework or cast off the clinging, Soppy Sonia. The teacher sent me the hand-written ideas of thirty-two children in a folder. I still cherish them.

My favourite letter was from a grandmother who told me that my first Stanley Stickle book had transformed her reluctant-reader grandson into a book lover. His parents had really struggled to get him to read anything before Stanley arrived on the scene, but after reading the whole series, he progressed rapidly via David Walliams and Percy Jackson, and by the end of the year, reading had become his main pastime. He said, ‘Stanley Stickle made me laugh, so I wanted to read more about him.’

It doesn’t get any better than that for a writer.

Awww what lovely, heartwarming stories. 💓

If you could spend time with a character from your book who would it be and why? What would you get up to?
That’s an easy one. It would be my main character; Alice and I’d ask her to marry me. I fell in love with her whilst writing the book. I actually shed a few tears as I typed out the last paragraphs.

Image found on WDRfree
Who wouldn't fall in love with Alice, she was an amazing character!

What do you think is more important: characters or plot?
For me, characters. I always start with a basic idea, but I allow the characters to discover the plot as we go along. Unspoken was started with just the vague idea of a one-hundred-year-old woman with a dark past, who felt the need to unburden herself before she died. That’s all I had when I began to write. The other characters evolved as they were needed. Most of my storylines are developed, lying in bed, floating in the dimension that lies between sleep and wakefulness. When I’m writing I wake up in the morning with the next few chapters in my head. When I’m having a break from writing, this doesn’t happen at all. For the last five years, I’ve remembered nothing of my dream-state on waking, but, when I got the idea Unspoken, I woke up every morning with my mind full to bursting.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Saturday night 60s disco at my local. I do like a smooch. (Sadly, my Dad Dancing has been curtailed by Covid, but I’m hoping to return to my beer and boogie in the Spring.)

Gif found on Tenor
I think we've all got our fingers and toes crossed for better times ahead Trevor. I've heard a rumour that you've been practising your dancing so that you're ready to wow everyone next year! 😁

You can find out more about Trevor, his books and connect with him using the links below:

Amazon UK (T. A. Belshaw)
Amazon UK (Trevor Forest)
Amazon US (T. A. Belshaw)
Amazon US (Trevor Forest)

I'd like to say a big thank you to Trevor for taking the time to hang out with me today. It's been great getting to know you better. Here's hoping that you get lots more great reviews for Unspoken and I'm looking forward to your next book! 😉