Read through my latest blog posts and feel free to comment on them if you like.



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It's the last weekend of the month and that means it's time to welcome Kirsten back to tell us the latest about how she is getting on with her writing.

Over to you, Kirsten!

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The end of March - and how very welcome it is! The French doors are open, there’s a lovely buttery sun and the garden is full of cherry blossom and fat, sticky buds. The daffodils are out, the tulips are poised and even our slightly lardy cats are positively skittish. Life is good.Kirsten's cats, looking not quite so skittish...


But your resident (and slightly lardy) aspiring author is restless.


Susanna’s blog is full of lovely writers who are busy making their dreams come true and I’m suddenly impatient - itching - to be one of them. During the winter, I was introspective, contemplative. Now I want to fling open the windows and get OUT THERE!! I don’t want to be the ‘aspiring’ one forever …


So, I’ve been busy.


Really busy.


I’ve entered the Bath Novel award. Because … why not? I have a nearly polished manuscript I’m really proud of. Of course, the chance of making the long list, let alone the shortlist, is pretty small, but you’ve got to be in it to win it, right? It could be me.


I’ve submitted my partial to a couple more agents. One (DHH Literary Agency) has invited unrepresented writers to pitch in person. DHH represents my friends Amanda and Claire who are fulsome in their praise so I’d love to have the opportunity. You have to apply in advance and the deadline is looming so, all you fellow aspiring writers, submit, submit, submit …!


I’ve nearly finished my edits. The last third of my book has been completely rejigged and rewritten and - I hope - the narrative arc is now much smoother. I‘m really pleased with it. Pretty soon I’ll send it to the RNA New Writer’s Scheme for a critique and, not long afterwards, I hope to send it to the six agents who have requested the full. I really hope they remember me!


Finally, I’ve started Book 2. Details to follow but, if I say ‘laundry’, some of you might guess the route I’ve taken ….


And, on that note, I will wish you all a very happy and bountiful spring and I look forward to catching up at the end of April.


Thank you again to Susanna for the opportunity of a regular slot on her lovely blog xx




Confessions Of A Debut Novelist.

Posted on 18th March, 2017

During the week of this blog, it will be March 22nd, three months to the day until The Deserter's Daughter is published, so I thought I'd share what has been happening since I signed with Allison & Busby and officially became a debut novelist.


It turns out that the most obvious feature of debut novelist status is getting novel number 2 written. My contract with A&B includes the rather scary deadline of July 1st. Six months to write a book! I've never written one in under a year before, let alone in six months, but there's nothing like a deadline to concentrate the mind. Between the day job and the writing, I'm working seven days a week. It's hard work but I'm managing. I have asked at the day job if I can drop a day a week, but so far it hasn't happened.


Quite early on in the debut novelist process - much sooner than I was expecting, actually - there was the excitement of seeing the Amazon page on which The Deserter's Daughter is available for pre-order, though my pleasure was tempered somewhat by the fact that Amazon listed the book by title only and my name as author was missing. But that disappointment was nothing compared to what happened next.


When the author's name appeared on the page... it wasn't my name.


That mistake was there for nearly a fortnight, during which time I asked for the mistake to be rectified, as did A&B and various wonderful writer friends, including Catherine Boardman of Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays and fellow debut novelist Maddie Please, who will be appearing on my blog in April; also Kirsten Hesketh, who will be here next week, Karen Coles, author of the edge-of-the-seat Mesmeris trilogy, Jane Ayres and Christina Banach, author of the wonderful YA novel Minty. I should also thank Chris Manby for her excellent suggestion as to what I should do with the Other Name.


Earlier this week, I had my author photo taken. Some people manage to look marvellous on a casual snap, but since this picture will go on the book jacket (yikes!), I decided to go to a professional photographer. As the photos were being taken, two stood out as the likeliest candidates and when I was sent the link to download the set, one was just right for the purpose. If you're in North Wales and you want to have your picture taken, I recommend North Shore Studios. Geoff and Jane are highly professional but at the same time friendly and relaxed. They also displayed extraordinary patience with an author who started off wanting one sort of picture and then changed her mind and went for a completely different look.


Also this week, the copy edits for The Deserter's Daughter arrived. Apparently, the copy editors commented to my editor at Allison & Busby on how rare it was to work on an MS that turned up so few queries. Excuse me one moment while I try to look modest. It was clear from the queries they did flag up, however, that they had investigated every detail in my book. For example, The Deserter's Daughter is set in a real place, Chorlton in Manchester, and includes some real roads and landmarks, as well as one or two I made up. The copy editors checked my spelling of all the real places and also queried my fictional places in case they were mistakes. My heroine's family lives in (fictional) Wilton Lane - was this an error? Did I really mean Wilton Road?


And just to round off the week in a happy way, the lovely pansies that saga writer Carol Rivers sent me when I signed with Allison & Busby have produced a second flush of blooms. Perfect!


Have a great week, everyone. Think of me on Wednesday - three months to go!    



This week I have the pleasure of welcoming Jessica Redland back to my blog. Jessica is the author of the Whitsborough Bay trilogy of contemporary romances, as well as a related novella, Raving About Rhys. Jessica lives on the beautiful North Yorkshire coast and when she isn't writing, she is busy being a mum and a Brown Owl.


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Jessica, welcome back to my blog. It is such a pleasure to talk to you again. Do you realise, it's been almost a year since the last time you were here?


A year? Where does time go? It’s a pleasure to be back on your lovely blog. Thank you so much for having me again.


I know there are big changes ahead for you in your writing life, but let's start with a quick look back. Tell us a little about how you got together with your publisher and how your wonderful Whitsborough Bay trilogy came into being.


Big changes indeed! More about those later. My dream, like many authors, was to get “the call” (or “the email” as is often the case) from a publisher, giving me the validation that someone in the business loved my writing enough to want to work with me on polishing it and releasing it into the reading world. I felt that my debut novel, Searching for Steven, was ready in late 2013 and started tentatively sending him out to publishers. I had some really positive feedback but no bites until September 2014 when, a bit like buses, two 3-book publishing deals came along at once. This presented me with quite a dilemma, but certainly a happy dilemma.


I’d actually accepted the first offer verbally a couple of weeks before the second came along, but I was starting to have doubts about whether it was really right for me. I’d had email conversations with the first publisher about cutting the length of each novel. They wanted the focus to be purely on the romance and for me to remove the strong secondary theme about friendships. Each book in the trilogy tells a different love story but the whole trilogy explores friendships and how these change over time and according to circumstance. The thought of leaving this out didn’t sit comfortably with me at all. It wasn’t the story I wanted to tell.


When the second publishing deal was presented to me, I decided to go with that as they loved the secondary theme and hardly wanted to change anything about the book. Plus they had plans to bring the trilogy out in paperback and eBook formats whereas the first publisher could only offer eBooks. And isn’t it every writer’s dream to actually hold a paperback that they’ve written?


Searching For Steven was released in June 2015 although I released a novella, Raving About Rhys, the month before. This was meant to be a short story as in introduction to the trilogy and my writing but it sprouted wings and became a bit longer!


The original plan had been one novel a year but I felt this was too long a break, particularly given that I was writing a trilogy (so readers would hopefully be keen to know what happened next) and part two was pretty much ready. My publisher agreed and launched Getting Over Gary in March 2016 and Dreaming About Daran in August 2016.



I know you have changed your views about being published. Can you share your thought processes with us?


Everyone has different writing dreams and different journeys. Mine was always to secure a publisher, get a paperback, and have that paperback appear on the shelves of a bookshop. I achieved that. Granted, the latter was only one branch of Waterstones and only because I plucked up the courage to go into the branch one day and ask them if they’d stock it, pushing on the “local author writes about local setting” angle. Thankfully I didn’t need to push much as they were keen to support a local writer and thought that my book covers were far superior to any others they’d stocked. Steven was stocked and sold out immediately. He was restocked and sold out again. Then my trilogy was stocked and sold out really quickly too, but I never pushed them to re-order this because I knew changes were afoot…



When Steven came out, it was all very exciting. My publisher was really enthusiastic and provided me with some promotional materials, organised a blog tour, and promoted it on social media. I always knew I’d have to do a lot of publicity myself too so I arranged for coverage in all the local newspapers, secured library talks, and organised for my books to be stocked in the library as well as the usual social media activity. However, when it came to Gary and Daran, my publisher didn’t even Tweet about them, which both surprised and disappointed me. I knew that the owner had taken on another job and I knew that a lot of smaller publishers were struggling. I wasn’t sure about the longevity of our relationship so I had an open and honest discussion about what the future might look like and about parting company. We came to an agreement on securing my rights back and just over two years after accepting my publishing deal, I started my indie journey.




I've seen your beautiful new covers. How did Steven and the others get a new lease of life?


I’m glad you like them. I’d never really been happy with the covers. I liked them but I didn’t love them so going indie was the perfect opportunity to have them redesigned in a completely different style. They’re bright, fun and summery and, best of all, my talented husband designed them so it didn’t cost me a penny! He created an imprint – Little Bear Books – which we publish under. I’m a huge fan of teddy bears and a keen arctophile (collector). I took a career break many years ago to open and manage a teddy bear shop. I wrote my first (quite rubbish) draft of Steven when I had the shop and I met my husband through being self-employed. He calls me ‘Little Bear’ so it all just fit perfectly.



What do you know now that you wish you'd known at the start of your writing life? What would you say to anyone worrying over whether to go down the self-publishing route?


To anyone who is embarking on their journey, I’d suggest that they really think about what they want from a publisher. What will this bring them that they can’t get for themselves? Is it the validation? Is it the expertise? Is it the promotion? Are you sure the publisher can provide more than you could do yourself?


My personal view (for my genre of books) is that, unless you’re with a very large publisher who has the budget, connections, and power to substantially promote your book and get it into retailers, it’s probably more financially viable to do it yourself. Yes, you’re going to have some expenses like cover design and editing, but your royalties will be greater and you can significantly increase this by having your work exclusively with Amazon and therefore available through the lending library. For me personally, I like to be in control and I find it liberating being able to track sales day by day if I want to, change my categories on Amazon, and publish when it suits me rather than to work to a strict schedule that, understandably, the publisher needs to have in place. At the moment, for example, I’m working on a novel that I may release in spring or summer. I don’t need to have a strict deadline, though, which keeps writing enjoyable instead of stressful.


Looking back, though, I don’t regret signing a publishing deal. It was a dream come true, it was a great experience, and I learned a lot about the writing journey I want to go on.


Shortly before I got my two publishing offers, I’d made the decision to go indie if the current lines of enquiry didn’t come to anything, so I think it was always inevitable that I would end up going that way. I’d already explored the pros and cons and was very much in the indie camp. With an offer – then two – on the table, I knew I had to explore what that might mean first as I could always go indie later. If I hadn’t explored where the publishing deal might take me, I’d have always wondered “what if?”



The big learning I’ve had from going from publisher to indie, though, is the lost momentum. I imagined my books continuing to do as well as they had when they were available first time around. How naïve was I? You see, when your books are first released, there’s an initial flurry of activity when friends, family and devoted readers buy the books. They move up the charts and they get noticed which hopefully generates other sales. The algorithms that Amazon work on kick in and the books get recommended based on purchase history. I certainly wasn’t setting the charts alight with my sales but I was ticking along. Starting afresh with the re-releases meant they dropped like a stone and sales ceased completely. Bit of a shock. Promotion has helped but they’re still not at the consistent level they were before. It’s a volume game, though, and I need something new on the market now.


So what now lies ahead for Jessica Redland?


I’m currently working on another novel called Bear With Me which is partly set in a teddy bear shop bearing (excuse the pun) that name (hmm, wonder where I got the inspiration for that from?) Like the trilogy, we’re in Whitsborough Bay but there’s a new cast of characters. There are cameos from some of the original cast, though. This is my vision going forwards: that future books will be set in Whitsborough Bay with links to other books although it won’t matter whether or not you’ve read the previous books. For example, Sarah from Searching for Steven has a minor part in Bear With Me. Those who’ve read the trilogy will welcome an old friend but those who haven’t will just think of her as the florist who has a shop over the road from Bear With Me.


I’ve part-written a follow-up to my novella, Raving About Rhys, but it has become bigger than the novella I intended it to be so I’ve parked it for the moment while I decide what to do with it.


I’ve started writing another novel and a Christmas novella so there’s certainly lots going on; just nothing finished yet!


Hopefully Bear With Me will be ready in late spring/early summer.

Many thanks, Jessica, for being here today and giving us an insight into your recent experiences. I'm sure everyone reading this will join me in wishing you the very best of luck with your writing. Exciting times ahead!


Thank you again. It’s been lovely to be back.


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Jessica's links:


Her Twitter page  

Her website and blog  

Amazon's Jessica Redland page  




This week I am delighted to welcome my friend Julie Stock back to my blog. I am particularly pleased and honoured because she has made time in her Publication Week to come here for a chat.


Julie is the a multi talented lady who works freelance as a writer, supply teacher and WordPress website designer and troubleshooter. Her latest novel, The Vineyard in Alsace, is published on March 6th.


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Julie, welcome back. It's a whole year since you were last here. Since then we met in real life at the RNA Conference last summer in Lancaster and spent ages nattering. Then in October, the two of us, plus Kate Field and Catherine Meadows, met up in Birmingham for lunch. One thing about writers - we'll travel long distances for friends and a good meal!


I have to open this interview with congratulations on the publication of your second novel, The Vineyard in Alsace, on March 6th. Tell us a bit about it.


Thanks, Sue. It’s been a very exciting and busy time pre-publication! The Vineyard in Alsace tells the story of Fran and Didier, who were in love with each other at university but split up when she left for a job in London and he stayed behind to train as a vineyard manager.


And you have another lovely cover. You have an eye for just the right cover illustration.



From Here To Nashville's cover is stylish and clever...




...and this new one is pretty and romantic.


I am so pleased with my cover. This time, I worked with Rachel Lawston who has done a fabulous job in conveying the messages I wanted the cover to get across. It obviously conveys that it’s a romance, as you’ve said, and the vine illustration clearly shows that it’s set on a vineyard. The last piece in the puzzle was to give a suggestion of the location, which comes from the church and from the stork, the traditional symbol of Alsace, which is hidden among the vines.


Sorry to interrupt, Julie - I have to stop you for a moment while I go and look for the stork. Found it!


Overall though, it’s the combination of the colours and the beautiful illustrations that really make it such a success. The feedback I’ve had has been amazing!



There's more to publication day than meets the eye, isn't there? I know 2016 was a difficult year for you, but you ended it by making decisions about your publishing life. Do you mind sharing the process you went through?


Well, this book went through the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme again and when I got it back in 2015, the feedback was very positive so I made a few changes and after a lot of thought, I decided to try submitting it to agents and publishers. I had some good feedback and I came very close to having it picked up by an agent but not quite close enough. So I decided to act on the feedback I’d received with the help of an editor. She acted like a mentor to me really and we worked together to do a structural edit on my book. I then met an agent and a publisher at the RNA Conference who had both read the newly edited first three chapters. One of them hated it and one of them loved it! Literally. What can I say?



It was at this point that I started to wonder whether I was doing the right thing if their reactions were so diverse. Anyway, once the whole book was ready, I sent it out to two more publishers. One of them rejected it and the other didn’t ever get back to me. That’s when I realised that I had spent the best part of a year chasing this and all to no avail. When I considered all the things I’d been told along the way, things like ‘it needs to be much more commercial for us to take it’, as well as the disappointing stories I was hearing from some friends about their experience with their publishers, I knew I had to really think about what I wanted from my writing career. That’s when I decided to self-publish again. Having done it before, I knew what would be involved and I knew I could do it. It’s not easy and I’m not saying that I wouldn’t like to get the same sort of sales my friends with publishing contracts are getting but I think indie publishing just suits me and my writing better.



Was there a single moment when it all fell into place?


That moment at the Conference was telling for me but the publisher liked it so much, I thought it was worth another round of submissions to see what would happen. To be honest though, when it was rejected again, in a way I felt relieved because I was already thinking about self-publishing and the freedom it would give me to do my own thing and to be in control. I knew then that if I was relieved, not disappointed, I ought to go with my instinct and continue with self-publishing.



And are you feeling settled now? Happy with the way ahead?


Yes, I feel very happy with my decision and I’m looking forward to what the future may bring with the publication of this second book. And now that I’ve decided to continue pursuing the indie route, it has given me confidence and motivation to get on with things.



I'm so pleased to know you feel like that. What lies ahead? The immediate future, I'm sure, includes lots of blogs, publicity and general celebration surrounding your new book.


The immediate future is really busy, as you say, which is fantastic, if a bit scary! I am desperately trying to get going with my first draft of my third book to send it off to the New Writers’ Scheme this year. Then I am determined to edit my sequel novella to my first book, From Here to Nashville.



To finish off, please tell us something about the story inside that attractive cover.



Here’s the blurb:



Is there really such a thing as a second chance at love?



Fran Schell has only just become engaged when she finds her fiance in bed with another woman. She knows this is the push she needs to break free from him and leave London. She applies for her dream job on a vineyard in Alsace in France, not far from her family home, determined to concentrate on her work.


Didier Le Roy can hardly believe it when he sees that the only person to apply for the job on his vineyard is the same woman he once loved but let go because of his stupid pride. Now estranged from his wife, he longs for a second chance

with Fran if only she will forgive him for not following her to London.


Working so closely together, Fran soon starts to fall in love with Didier all over again. Didier knows that it is now time for him to move on with his divorce if he and Fran are ever to have a future together. Can Fran and Didier make their second chance at love work despite all the obstacles in their way?



A romantic read set against the enticing backdrop of the vineyard harvest in France. 



Julie, it has been a pleasure having you here again for a good chat. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. You are always so honest about everything on your blog and in interviews and I'm sure that has helped other writers.


Best of luck with The Vineyard in Alsace. Now then, after all that talking, we deserve something to eat... or perhaps a little glass of something...



Thanks very much for having me on your lovely blog again, Susanna. Your continued support means so much and I hope we’ll be able to meet up again in real life very soon over food and wine!


Julie's links:


Her Twitter page 

Her website and blog  

Her Facebook page

Amazon's Julie Stock page       



Amazon page for The Vineyard in Alsace  


Amazon page for From Here to Nashville  


Well, it's the last weekend of the month again and time to welcome Kirsten back. Last month, her guest post received a wonderful response filled with good wishes for her son, who was going through a tough time, and I know Kirsten was thrilled and touched by the outpouring of warmth and concern her post generated. She's back again this week to share how things have gone in February.


Over to you, Kirsten.


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Gosh that month went quickly! And here was I thinking I had a couple more weeks for something exciting to happen …!


You’ll be pleased to hear things are on the up. I don’t think we’ve quite heard the sweet, silver song of the lark, (can you tell I’m married to a Scouser?!) but things are definitely much better. The teen has shown enormous courage and grace under pressure and is back in school. Who knows whether the storm has passed or whether we’re in the eye of it, but - either way - I’m so proud of my lovely boy.


But this is a writing blog and … I’m writing again!


In fact, writing last month’s blog post proved the catalyst to get me going again (thank you Susanna) and, since then, then I’ve not wanted to stop. I’ve recently started writing in coffee shops - does anyone else do that? I’m working through the dozen or so contenders in town and I love being surrounded by people, yet apart from them. The coffee and cake doesn’t hurt either….


Strictly speaking, I’m editing and it’s involving a pretty fundamental rewrite of the last few chapters. Before the critique by the wonderful Debi Alper, I thought my WIP was pretty good. Now I’m cringing that I sent it to agents! Whatever happens, at least I know it’s going to be much better now. After another critique through the RNA’s New Writer Scheme, I’ll be sending it back to the agents who wanted to see (and re-see) the full manuscript at the end of last year. I’m really excited. And scared!


So that’s a quick round up of my February writing life. Thank you for reading. How are you guys getting on?



Living Our Dream By The Sea

Posted on 18th February, 2017

Four years ago this week, we bought our dream house by the sea.


I had been watching the house online for months, but it was beyond our means. Then, when we were going up to Llandudno for a few days, I decided to go and view it so as to get it out of my system. What can I say? The previous day, it was full price; but that morning, when I went online to find the estate agent's number, the price had dropped a whopping 13,000 overnight and suddenly we could afford it.


It's no secret what happened next. We viewed the house on the Monday afternoon and arranged to go back the next morning. Before our Tuesday appointment, we had our "What the heck" conversation. Could we really just pack in our old lives and move up here? What about money? What about jobs? But what if we waited for another opportunity? What about the regrets associated with that? Then again, what about money? What about jobs? And that was when we had our "What the heck" moment. Never mind waiting for the "right" moment. Let's do it now.


We bought the house. We moved. Everything fell into place. Best thing we ever did.


I'm sure you'll understand why I want to share some photos with you. I hope you enjoy them.


Just a few more words before the photos start. There was a time not so long ago when I questioned whether I was being foolish trying to find a literary agent and get a book published. After all, who could possibly expect to have two dreams come true? But it has happened to me. I feel amazingly lucky.


This is the view from the cable car as it leaves Happy Valley behind. You can see the Little Orme in the distance on the far side of the bay.
Here, again from the cable car, you can see across the Great Orme and Llandudno to the Conwy Estuary.
If you go up the Great Orme on the tram, you get off halfway up and get onto a second tram to take you the rest of the way. Here is a tram leaving the halfway station, seen from the cable car.
St Tudno's Church on the Orme, seen from the cable car.
The sea mist can create dramatic effects. Here, on West Shore, only the lower slopes of the Great Orme are visible.
It's surprising how often we get utterly calm sea. Look at this picture - not a ripple!


By contrast, here are some photos from the day of the stormy high tide of January 13th this year - and yes, it was a Friday.




And to finish, let's return to a feeling of calm....



Puffin Island and Anglesey seen from the Great Orme.



This week I am delighted to welcome Elaina James to my blog. Elaina is a member of the RNA NWS. She was a childhood writer who in adulthood filled notebooks with poetry, song lyrics and ideas for stories... until one day she decided it was time to get started on actually writing a book. Here, she shares her personal writing rules.



In my day job I’m an accountant, a profession driven by rules. As a writer I cherish the freedom to be creative and spontaneous. The accountant in me however won’t allow my creativity to go unchecked. I have rules. Lots of rules. Disturbingly it wasn’t until I came to write this post that I realised quite how many. You’ll be relieved to know I’ve whittled down my list to the top five:



1 - Never rely on memory


Inspiration for a great new story, a compelling character or the perfect line of dialogue doesn’t always strike on demand as I sit poised in front of my keyboard. Instead my best ideas spring into my head at the most inconvenient moments, like when I’m just drifting off to sleep, all comfy and warm snuggled up in my bed. The temptation is to convince myself that I will remember it in the morning, and therefore don’t need to shuffle up the bed, fumble for a pen and notebook and scrawl in torch light to preserve these precious thoughts. The reality is my memory is useless. No matter how brilliant the idea is, or how well formed it seems at the time, once that moment has passed it will be forever lost. My main writing rule is therefore to always write down the ideas when they come to me. Of course at 2am in the middle of winter it’s not the easiest of rules to keep.



2 - Write what comes to you


Some writers plot in meticulous detail before they even begin to form their story. I am not one of those writers. Which is odd, because in every other aspect of my life I am a planner. When it comes to writing however, all I need is a character and a vague idea of destination before I pick up a pen. The trouble is I don’t just have one characters voice in my head, I have many, which means I’ll write the story for the character who shouts the loudest that day. When I get up in the morning I have no idea which story I will write, I just write. Unless of course I’m working to a deadline, at which point all those unruly voices have to learn a little patience. Even creativity has to adhere to prioritisation at times.



3 – Research


It doesn’t matter if its set in a far off historical location or on my doorstep in the present day, every story needs research. Whilst my first draft is usually written fairly quickly, my second draft is when I go back and fact check. I keep a folder of all the facts that I collect from internet searches and library visits, most of which won’t even end up in the novel but all help me to get a feel for the time or place I am writing about. I love researching locations, mainly because it’s a good excuse to go off exploring with my trusty camera in hand. The photos are great to look back on when trying to write a description later and saves me relying on my poor memory.



4 - Don’t set writing targets


I never set targets for how many words to write each day. It would just depress me. Some days I write very little, some days I write a lot. Is one better than the other? Not necessarily. It depends what I’ve written, rather than how much. As an accountant everything is measurable, as I writer, I love the freedom that nothing is.



5 - Accept procrastination…to a point


Usually I’m the kind of writer that will eagerly avoid mundane household chores and even turn down social events to sit at my desk and write because my characters are demanding attention. Sometimes however I can find any excuse to keep me from the keyboard, even mowing the lawn. Believe me, for someone who hates gardening that’s pretty drastic. I flit between feeling guilty for ignoring daily life and panicking that I’ve lost my love of writing. The trick I’ve learnt (or am learning) is to accept that both extremes are normal and neither is permanent.





Sharing My Wonderful News

Posted on 5th February, 2017

Well, here at last is the news I have been longing to share with you since before Christmas. I have been signed up by a publisher. The reason for my long silence is that, although it was all agreed back in December, the contract wasn't signed for a while, firstly because of Christmas and New Year and then because of someone's holiday. The contract was signed a couple of weeks ago - the week my friend Jen Gilroy's blog interview appaeared here, and that was, of course, followed by last weeks' highly successful guest post by another writing friend, Kirsten Dougal.


So here I am at last, somewhat after the event, sharing my wonderful news.


I am proud and delighted to tell you that I have joined Allison & Busby. My debut 1920s saga, The Deserter's Daughter, will be published this summer in hardback and e-book, with a paperback to follow.


Originally, my editor at Allison & Busby offered for The Deserter's Daughter, with first refusal on my next book; but having read the synopsis of that book, the offer was changed to make it a 2-book deal.


To the small handful of people who have known my news for some time - thank you for being thrilled for me. Your good wishes and excitement have helped to make this such a special time in my writing life. Many thanks to saga writer Carol Rivers for the trug of beautiful yellow pansies, which are still looking bonny and cheerful in our garden. They are my special "I've got a publisher" pansies!




This week I am delighted to welcome my friend Kirsten Hesketh back to my blog. Kirsten was here a few weeks ago when I interviewed her about her writing and her experiences submitting her book to agents.


This was a very popular blog interview and Kirsten will now be popping back at the end of each month, for the next six months, to tell us how her writing is progressing and generally keep us up to date.


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Dispatches from the Querying Trenches - January


I was going to make my first article for Susanna light and fluffy. I really was. Something expanding on the DM I sent to my writing chums the first week in January, the one that said, ‘tell me to stop faffing, get off my arse and do something!’ That flippant it’s-the-New-Year-and-I’ve-been-kidnapped-by-Twitter-and-my-word-count-is-going-nowhere’ sort of vibe. You know the sort.


Then something bad happened and I’ve really stopped writing.


Like really, really stopped writing.


I suppose it doesn’t really matter what the bad thing is. In this case, it’s teenage depression - real debilitating, black dog stuff – and it’s heart-breaking to see my child suffer in this way. I’m passionate about bringing mental health into the open, but this isn’t my story to tell so I hope you’ll understand if I leave it at that.


The point of this article is that the bad thing has killed my writing mojo stone-dead.

I can keep things going at home - even though things are a bit ragged around the edges. I can care for my child – my children - to the best of my abilities. I can still work, complete my tax return, fill in my VAT - although luckily I’m going through a quiet patch. I can - by and large - stick to my New Year diet; after all, a healthier me will be better able to cope. I can even passionately promote a mental health petition for a lovely lady who is now a friend; if we can push the numbers up past 10,000 maybe … surely … hopefully everything will be OK.


But I just can’t write. Sometimes I don’t think to, sometimes I don’t want to - it just seems irrelevant. But some of the time, I do want to but feel too guilty to start. If writing was my job, I’d just get on with. But it isn’t. And, surely, instead of crafting the perfect sentence for my WIP, I should be crafting the perfect sentence to cut through the fog and help my struggling child.


So that’s been January for me.


Zero on the writing front.


How does it work for you as an aspiring writer? When bad things happen to you and those you love, do you write more, less, the same or not at all?


Hoping for brighter and lighter days ahead for us all.


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Meet up with Kirsten on Twitter  



This week I am thrilled to bits to welcome my dear friend Jen Gilroy to my blog. I am so proud of Jen, whose debut romance novel, The Cottage at Firefly Lake, the first of the Firefly Lake trilogy, is going to be published on January 31st by Grand Central Publishing, Forever. 


When Jen appeared on my blog a few weeks ago, she talked about writing a book in incrememts of 250 words a day while looking after her family and working at the day job, and that mention of 250 words struck a chord with lots of other writers, who left comments here and on Twitter.


Today Jen is going to share more details of her writing life, including how it has changed now that she is about to be a published author.



Welcome, Jen! Thank you so much for visiting my blog today.


Thank you, Susanna. I’m happy to be here again. I enjoy your blog very much, and it’s been a big part of my writing journey.


Let's go back to the beginning. How did you start writing? Were you a child writer?


I’ve written for as long as I can remember. I have vivid memories of making up stories for my dolls and, once I learned my letters, it was natural to write some of those stories down. When I was seven or eight, I wrote my first poem and had one of those life-changing moments when I realised the power of words in expressing how I saw the world and my place in it.


Once I left school, however, ‘real’ life intervened. Although I kept journals and wrote fiction sporadically, I only started writing seriously towards publication in 2009. Life losses and some significant birthdays made me realise that time is finite, and I needed to have a proper go at making my dream of writing a book a reality.


You are Canadian but you lived in the UK for a long time and you were living in England while you wrote The Cottage at Firefly Lake. Did setting your novel on the other side of the Atlantic make you feel closer to home? Did you consider an English setting?


Although I’m Canadian by birth, I consider England my second home. However, when I started writing, and despite my fondness for digestive biscuits, cream teas and Victoria sponge cake, it soon became clear that I have a distinctly North American writing voice. When I tried to write English characters and settings, my prose was wooden and the dialogue forced.


To write from my heart, I needed to write about the people and places that had first influenced me—the small towns and rural landscapes that still characterise much of Canada and the United States. Although I wasn’t consciously aware of it at the time, now that I look back, setting my novel on this ‘side of the pond’ did indeed help me feel closer to ‘home.’ Perhaps not surprisingly, my author tagline is also ‘Romance to bring your heart home.’


Can you recall the very first idea from which the book emerged? A photo, something you read or saw, or a character popping into your head, perhaps? 


The heroine of The Cottage at Firefly Lake is Charlotte (Charlie) Gibbs, a globetrotting foreign correspondent. She popped into my head, named and almost fully formed, mid-Atlantic during a long-haul flight.


Journalism is one of my career paths not taken, and I’d been reading a newspaper article about the experiences of women foreign correspondents in the Middle East. Perhaps because I was also at a point of questioning my life’s path, or perhaps because it was the middle of the night, 35,000 feet up in the air, but I started to wonder ‘what if?’ From that point, Charlie’s character and story evolved.


The Cottage at Firefly Lake is the first of a trilogy. How did the trilogy develop? Was it always going to be three books or did your original idea just grow and grow? 


When I started writing The Cottage at Firefly Lake, it was a single, standalone book. As often happens, though, I became attached to both the setting and characters. In particular, the heroine’s sister became very real to me and (ever so politely!) demanded her own story.


And when I signed with my agent (Dawn Dowdle, Blue Ridge Literary Agency), she asked for a series proposal as that was what the publishers she intended to query were looking for. Hence, the Firefly Lake trilogy was born.


The book has been given such an attractive, atmospheric cover. Did you have any input into it?


I’m so glad you like the cover. My editor asked me for some general thoughts about cover design but apart from that, the cover was designed by Forever’s art director.


I often say the cover fairies have blessed me because the design captures the feel of my book perfectly. I’d like to sit in that chair with a book myself and, as my husband has pointed out, the cosy red throw is a particularly inspired touch since I’m always chilly!


When you visited my blog previously to share your personal writing rules, you described writing your novel in chunks of 250 words per day. How has your writing life changed since then?


When I’m writing a first draft, I still set word count targets, but now I’m a full-time author those targets are bigger, around 1,500 to 2,000 words a day. However, the biggest change in my writing life since becoming a contracted author has been learning how to juggle multiple books, at different stages, at the same time.


Pre-publication, I worked on one book a year for submission to the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme. In retrospect, and although I didn’t believe it then, it was a fairly leisured writing life.


Now, I’m preparing for the launch of The Cottage at Firefly Lake, will soon be working on edits to its sequel (Summer on Firefly Lake, July 2017) and am also finishing the draft of the third book in the trilogy (Back Home at Firefly Lake, March 2018).


In short, I’ve transitioned from ‘writer’ to ‘working author.’


Presumably you became a romance writer because you are a romance reader. Who are your favourite authors? Which non-romance styles do you like to read?


I’ve been an avid romance reader since senior school, and my all-time favourite romance novel and comfort read is L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle.


Contemporary romance and women’s fiction authors on my ‘must-read list’ include Kristan Higgins, Jill Shalvis, RaeAnne Thayne and Susan Wiggs.


I also enjoy reading historical fiction, cookbooks and stories set in Ireland. A recent favourite is Felicity Hayes-McCoy’s The House on an Irish Hillside.


As publication day approaches, how are you feeling?


Like a protective mum, I’m somewhat anxious about sending characters I’ve lived with in my head for so long out into the world.


However, when the crows of doubt circle, I draw on the support of family and friends and hold fast to the certainty that in both life and writing, I’m finally exactly where I need to be. I’m realising a long-held dream, and one that when I was knee-deep in rejections I sometimes doubted would ever come true.


Jen, thank you so much for being here today and answering my questions. 


It’s been my pleasure, Susanna. Wishing you and all your blog readers happy writing and much success in 2017 and beyond.




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Jen Gilroy’s links:


Website (and blog): 


Twitter: @JenGilroy1




You can pre-order The Cottage at Firefly Lake (mass market paperback or Kindle) on Amazon UK: Pre-order pbk or ebook