Friday, 14 September 2012

Stella Whitelaw: No Darker Heaven

Give a great big hello to one of Britain's most prolific authors, Stella Whitelaw. Stella's writing career began at the tender age of *nine*. Stella had been suffering from a case of the measles and her father gave her a typewriter, figuring learning to use the typewriter would distract little Stella from her discomfort. Little did he know Stella would pick up the writing bug and clutch it close to her chest for the rest of her life.

In her adult life, Stella has, so far, penned more than *forty* works of fiction, which include the wonderful Jordan Lacey Mysteries, and the recently re-released No Darker Heaven.

In No Darker Heaven, Lyssa Pasten is a torn woman. Simply put, Lyssa loves two men: her new fiancé, Matthew Arnold, and Jethro Arnold, Matthew's father. Lyssa and Jeth try fighting against their attraction for each other for both Matthew's sake and for the sake of Lyssa's daughter, Bethany, who suffers from RAS (renal artery stenosis).

Lyssa dedicates some of her time to generating donations for RAS. One of the ways she earns donations is through parachute jumps, which features in the story. Upon starting this book, Lyssa is participating in her first jump. Stella has really poured so much feeling and imagery into this scene. Readers will feel Lyssa's heart pounding as her turn to jump draws near.

Hallow House is the backdrop for much of this story, the family home in Sussex, England. This is a very old and stately home, one filled with more than just antiques and family heirlooms, but also every emotion running through the telling of this story.

If things weren't tense enough between Lyssa's love for both Jeth and Matthew, and Bethany and her illness and Lyssa's charity work, then Jeth goes missing. It's then Lyssa must face one of her worst fears . . . having to make a choice between Jeth and Matthew. She'll have to follow her heart. But in which direction will it lead her?

No Darker Heaven is certainly filled with a myriad of emotions that will touch readers' hearts.

Stella took some time from her insanely busy schedule to chat about her life away from the computer --

Hi, Stella. Thanks for joining us today. Please tell us about your writing space.

I dream of a Jilly Cooper style study with wall to wall books, huge desk and French doors to the garden.  I work on a big dining room table which I only vacate at Christmas under protest.  There are books everywhere, growing in piles and paper of every kind, magazines, notes, manuscripts, reminders.  I have an obsession with paper and cannot resist pristine pads of clean paper.

But I do have a view of the garden and a mass of tall trees, alive with birds.  Rose quartz and rock crystal handy on the desk to hold in barren moments of despair.  Photos of future heros pinned on cork board and wall.  Several of a younger Harrison Ford and now Johnny Depp.  I always pin up photos of my characters and where they live.

Several cats around, wanting to be part of the action, usually asleep in filing trays on top of vital notes. I do not wake them.

Stella, you're a woman after my own heart. Harrison Ford and Johnny Depp? {sigh} So, what can you tell me about your daily writing routine?

My writing routine is summed up in three words:  Write Every Day. I don’t take time off unless absolutely necessary.  Emails first a.m, then writing from 10 a.m onwards until a vague lunch time.  Afternoons are spent on a mad shop, library, appointments, research.  Back to work about 5 p.m with a cup of tea and then it’s writing until I drop sometime about the Ten O’clock News.

As my daughter says constantly:  “Slow down, Mum, slow down.”

I have so much to do, I often wish that there were three of me.  But this would create three times the clutter, so perhaps not.

LOL Funny Stella, but I know what you mean. It does sound like a full plate, but you're the kind of woman who takes life by the lapels and shakes it around a bit. Do you have any other interests . . . besides running on life's treadmill, that is?

Yes, alcohol, chocolates, watching TV and playing with the cats.  No, seriously, my spare time is full of interest.  I sing with a local Operatic Society.  Our next show is “Chess” and I’m auditioning to be a Pit Singer, whatever that is.  I invigilate at a local school, A Levels and GCSE exams. 

I have given up being a Witness Service Volunteer at Croydon Crown Court after five years service.  Too harrowing.

And I read, read, read, early morning and late at night.  Somehow I still find time for a few good friends and occasional writers conference.

Did I say TV?  What is that?  Someone tell me, please.  Is it that box in the corner with a cat sitting on it?

Wow, Stella, you really ARE one busy lady! I'm exhausted just hearing about everything you get up to. I hope you take time out of your schedule for a holiday, but I suspect you're just as active when trying to relax ;-)

Thanks for stopping by for a chat and telling readers about your life away from your computer.

Readers, here's an excerpt for No Darker Heaven.

• • •

It was a case of throwing herself out of the plane or never making the jump at all. Lyssa sat with her back against the vibrating fuselage, frozen with fright, ashen-faced, staring. The plane smelled of fear. She had been mistaken about her reservoir of courage. There was little left after the last few years and this jump was going to pull at the corners.

As the plane began to roll forward across the tarmac, Lyssa pinned her thoughts firmly on Bethany and that morning's unexpected invitation. She would have to go for Bethany's sake. The child's sunny face came into mind, her dark hair flying as she ran across the playground to meet Lyssa. This will-o'-the-wisp, unfettered, sweet-smelling child of her body for whom she was going to change her whole life. Her pearl of pleasure.

"Bethany, I'm doing this for you," she breathed.

Lyssa knew it had to happen. She could not carry the burden of Bethany alone any longer. Matthew was kind and loving, the sort of man any woman would be glad to marry. And he loved her, which was surprising considering the kind of mad life she led rushing about to find locations, the stress of keeping her financial head above water, the protective blanket that Bethany needed constantly. Pity she didn't love him.

The plane turned at the end of the runway, ready for take off, and Lyssa felt her stomach heave. What if she said she felt sick? Changed her mind? Had to get off at any cost?

At any cost... that was a joke. Several thousand pounds were riding on her back at this very moment.

The training had been a challenge. She had enjoyed every moment, felt brave and everyone had said she had done well. The practice landings had gone smoothly and the procedure for leaving the aircraft was drilled into her head.

Sponsorship money had rolled in. Her colleagues at the television company were especially generous. She had been amazed as people pledged ten, twenty pounds.

"It's all for a good cause," they said. "And you've got guts, girl. I wouldn't do it for an Emmy Award."

Matthew was less enthusiastic. He had listened to her excited plans with caution. He had taken her hand across the restaurant table and squeezed it gently.

"You don't have to do this," he said. "There are other ways of raising money for RAS research."

"I haven't time," she said firmly. "I have to do it fast. Bethany hasn't the time to wait either. I'm doing it for her and you can't stop me. She always comes first."

"What about me? I shall be worried sick," he said carefully, his handsome face shadowed. "You might get hurt."

Lyssa removed her hand from his clasp and touched his dark hair. He wore it a little on the long side, brushing his collar, long dark lashes framing deep brown eyes. He was good-looking, his face unmarked by any stress. He worked as an accountant in his father's firm and the steps of promotion were marked out for him in concrete. He did not have to worry about the future.

"Don't be daft, Matthew. It's safer than crossing a road. I know what to do. I've been practising for weeks."

He sighed deeply. "I suppose nothing I say will stop you? I don't want my bride on crutches."

"Nothing will happen," said Lyssa, shaking her long reddish-tawny hair. She had been in too much of a hurry that evening to do more than brush it into a sleek tail, tied back with a chiffon scarf.

"Then I'll look after Bethany on Saturday, if that'll help. We'll go somewhere. The zoo."

"That would be wonderful. Thank you, darling. I know I can always rely on you."

Saturday saw her dressed in orange overalls, her kit inspected and passed. She joked with the others, gazed at the clear windswept expanse of wispy blue above her and did not feel connected to it. It was some other sky, some other person.

But now as the plane rumbled over the runway, gathering speed, all Lyssa's courage fled. She had left it somewhere on the ground, in her locker with all the clutter that belonged to Lyssa Pasten – single-parent, high-flying film locations manager for a television company, mother of five-year-old Bethany, who had RAS, fiancĂ©e of Matthew Arnold.

The aircraft lifted off into the air and all sensation stopped. The smoothness of the climb did nothing to settle her nerves. Nor did the noise. Everywhere inside the fuselage shook with the powerful thrust of the engines. Her stomach pitched.

"Can I change my mind?" she asked as if it was a joke, but the jumpmaster pretended not to hear her.

The doorway was open and Lyssa could see the patchwork of earth disappearing like a child's toys being cleared away. They went through a thin layer of swirling mist and cloud, then suddenly came out into the brilliant sunshine that had been there all the time. She went a shade of blind, gasped.

Would she feel as nervous on her wedding day? Not long now, only eight weeks, at St Margaret's, Westminster. A big society wedding. She hadn't even got her dress yet. And those weeks, at her frantic rate of living, was a mere flash of time. If she survived today, she thought.

One of the other jumpers gave her the thumbs up sign. She grinned back, nodded, nervously checking straps that had already been checked and rechecked.

She saw the jumpmaster coming towards her, swaying. Surely not that old-fashioned 'ladies first'? She could have done without it at this height.

He bent low and spoke against her ear. "Keep your head up and back arched. A clean exit. You'll be fine. See you in the clubhouse. First in the bar buys the drinks."

Lyssa tried to answer but her voice had deserted her. It was cowering somewhere in her boots. She couldn't remember a single thing that she was supposed to do.

He signalled to her to move to the open doorway. She stumbled forward, her boots leaden with weights. Outside the roaring gale deafened her, her overalls flattened against her body, the wings creaked like a ship at sea. Her goggles misted over then cleared. There was nothing outside. Absolutely nothing. It was space as vast as in a Star Wars film. He was saying something, but she couldn't hear.

"Go. Go! GO!"

• • •

Stella Whitelaw began writing seriously at the age of nine. She was ill with measles when her father gave her an Imperial Portable typewriter. Covered in spots, she sat up in bed and taught herself to type.

At sixteen, she became a cub reporter and worked her way up to Chief Reporter. She was the first woman Chief Reporter, the youngest, and the only one who was pregnant.

After producing a family, she became Secretary of the Parliamentary Press Gallery at the House of Commons. Secretary then meant the original meaning, Secretariat, the keeper of secrets. She was awarded an MBE in 2001 but is not sure why.

Like Trollope, she wrote books on the train and in the recesses. The Jordan Lacey PI series is her favourite and the cruise crime books. Her big romances, No Darker Heaven and Sweet Seduction, were a marathon adventure.

Stella has won a woman’s magazine national short story competition and the London Magazine’s Art of Writing competition judged by Sheridan Morley. The Elizabeth Goudge Cup was presented to her at Guildford University.

Homeless cats find their way to Stella’s lifelong hospitality and she has written eight books of cat stories for the 7 – 70 plus.

• • •

 Stella loves hearing from readers so be sure to drop her a line. You can find her online --

Stella's website -
Tirgearr Publishing -

And if you want to buy a copy of No Darker Heaven, be sure to visit Stella's page at Tirgearr Publishing with all her buy links. No Darker Heaven is available for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony, iTunes/iBooks, and all other readers --

--- }


  1. Having read about that parachute jump, I certainly want to read the whole book.
    Are you writing any more?

    1. hello Anon
      Lovely to hear from you. That parachute jump was scary but I didn't do it. But I did spend a whole afternoon talking to someone who did. That's called research. Yes, I am always writing; It's an obsession.
      Best wishes

  2. Sounds like a great story, Stella. I certainly intend to get a copy. Best of luck.

    1. Thank you, Charlene. Lovely to hear from you. This is a great site for our books.
      Best wishes

  3. That parachute jump. You must have done it to write so explicitely. Where
    was it? Which field?

    1. Which field? Do you mean which aerodrome? No, I haven't done it
      but lots of people do. I met a fireman once who had done a thousand jumps. Mad.

  4. If it were me, I'd never have made the jump. Gives me the chills just thinking about it. Good luck with the book, Stella.

  5. Nor would I. But this brave friend has and I was lucky enough to be able
    to put myself in her shoes (only fictionally)and feel what it might be like.
    But no thank you, I prefer my feet on the ground. I can't even stand lighthouses. And had to be rescued from half way up Big Ben. I just froze.