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Publishing Two Books at the Same Time – in a Pandemic! by Shirley Benton

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Locked out of Heaven

By Shirley Benton

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I’ve been asked a few times this year what it felt like to release two books at the same time. The only honest answer to that question is that it felt like the timing wasn’t quite right. My thriller, Where Is My Mind?, published by Poolbeg Press, was released in February 2020, two weeks before the schools closed in Ireland and we were asked as a nation to work from home where possible due to the pandemic. My women’s fiction book, Locked Out of Heaven (also published by Poolbeg Press), was released in April 2020, two weeks after the nation’s stay at home (‘lockdown’) order. On a personal level, I started a new job in March, had an MSc to finish by June and was minding my children at home during the working day. On a global level, with a pandemic sandwiched between the release of my two books, it felt inappropriate to be talking about myself and my work. “Wait it out,” I said to myself. “When we get the pandemic under control, you can talk about your books.” However, as we all need to think a little more long-term now in relation to the pandemic, it’s probably time for me to – well, talk about my books…

Where Is My Mind? is a psychological thriller that poses the question ‘What do you do when nobody believes you?’. After a day out with friends, the main character, Katie, wakes up injured and sick in a deserted, crumbling cottage, tied up and seemingly left for dead, with no recollection of what’s happened to her or who brought her there. Following a painstaking escape process, she returns home to report the abduction – but when a date rape drug is found in her system in hospital, everyone around her believes her experience to be a hallucination and her injuries to be related to alcohol abuse. Convinced that the abduction did actually happen but unable to remember any details, Katie embarks on a mission to find out just what happened to her on that fateful day.

Locked Out of Heaven tells the story of a boomeranger. Not so long ago, Holly Richards had the life she’d always dreamed of after growing up in crime-riddled Blackbeg – the successful husband, the children, the mansion by the sea in the most sought-after area of town. Now, she’s a boomeranger – an adult living back at home with her parents. Smarting from the betrayal of her husband, Terry, and with four children to support on no income, Holly throws herself into participating in a TV show called Diary of a Boomeranger, which catalogues the life of three grown-ups who returned to the family nest when times got tough. But as she desperately seeks financial opportunities from her public profile, she is also forced to confront Blackbeg family ghosts that were never laid to rest – and the man she almost chose instead of Terry.

The books are ostensibly very different. Yet, now that I can reflect on the books with the perspective that comes with a bit of distance, there are similar underlying themes. Family relationships is explored in detail in both; Locked Out of Heaven explores how multi-layered the undercurrents of family relationships can be, and Katie’s family’s reaction to her abduction is a crucial thread of Where Is My Mind? Both books explore the terror of feeling that avenues have been closed off in life, and that options for moving on are somewhere between limited and non-existent, but also how determination and the human spirit rises to the fore in even the most adverse of circumstances. The books also explore how not everyone is as they seem, and that some people are hard on others in life – but that it’s important to look at the reason why a hard personality is as they are. Holly’s mother in Locked Out of Heaven, in particular, is a character that scares even me, but her backstory has made her who she is. Not all characters in the books are ones that people will love, which is somewhat of a departure from my first two books, Looking for Leon and Can We Start Again?, but the stories and the characters dictated that and not me.

Would I do the old ‘Releasing two books in the lockdown part of a pandemic’ thing again? Well, like everyone else, I’ve found the last eight months to be a strange time. This year has been a blur; I daresay it’s a universal blur and not one that’s unique to me. So much has happened that I can barely remember the books coming out, which isn’t ideal. However, in another way, I’m hardly likely to forget the circumstances of the release of the books and the bigger picture that’s taking place. For now, I’m going to spend Lockdown 2.0 writing my next book, and hopefully enjoying the escape to another world while firmly rooted at the dining table in my home.

(c) Shirley Benton

About Where Is My Mind?

Join Katie Turner as she embarks on a mission to find out just what happened to her after an alcohol-fuelled day out with friends went wrong – a day that forces Katie to ask herself what to do when no one believes you . . .

Katie Turner’s heart is thumping against her ribcage so hard that it feels like it’ll rip through her skin and land in her hands. Is she really going mad?

She’s convinced she was abducted, but when the hospital finds Rohypnol in her system, everyone tries to convince her that it was a hallucination. Are they all right and she’s wrong? Then there was the stranger at the bar . . . And what about the sinister letter sent to her office – is it related? Not to mention the state of her clothes, her face, her back . . .

Something isn’t adding up and everyone is bringing it back to her past, to her state of mind. Why won’t even the police investigate further? How can she get people to believe her when even her own family think she’s just hallucinating? But she just knows something happened! It’s real.

Fearing for her life, she needs to do something concrete to help save herself. Panic is taking over – she can feel it coming down the tracks, hurtling itself at her at full speed. Someone did this to her. And it could be anyone . . .

Order your copy online here.

About Locked Out of Heaven 

“Of all the sets of parents in the world, why was I landed with you?” I stomped out of the house, only just stopping short of yelling at them that I didn’t ask to be born. I was thirty-six. How was this my life?

Not so long ago, Holly Richards had the life she’d always dreamed of growing up in crime-riddled Crackleham – the successful husband, the children, the mansion by the sea in the most sought-after area of town. Now, she’s a boomeranger – an adult living back at home with her parents, and a penniless one to boot.

Smarting from her husband Terry’s betrayal and with four children to support on no income, Holly throws herself into participating in a TV show called Diary of a Boomeranger, which catalogues the life of three grown-ups who returned to the family nest when times got tough. But as she desperately seeks financial opportunities from her public profile, she is also forced to confront Crackleham family ghosts that were never laid to rest – and the man she almost chose instead of Terry.

As tensions escalate in the Richards’ household and Holly’s financial situation grows even more precarious, Holly is desperate to start a new life – but is she doomed to remain forever right back where she started?

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Shirley Benton is an Irish author. Four of her books have been published by Poolbeg Press: ‘Looking for Leon’, ‘Can We Start Again?’ ‘Where Is My Mind?’ and ‘Locked Out of Heaven’. She lives in County Meath, Ireland.

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