Tag Archives: non-fiction

Getting to Know You: Mac Logan

Earlier this year, when reading at Noir at the Bar in Edinburgh, I was introduced to a certain Mr Mac Logan who was also there to read from his novel ‘Angels Cut‘. He’s on the blog today to talk writing with us.

My thanks to Mac for taking the time to chat to us – I look forward to welcoming him at Noir at the Bar Newcastle sometime!

Vic x


Tell us about your books.
In addition to my poetry, I’m writing two fiction series and business non-fiction:

  • The Angels Share series: Angels’ CutDark ArtDevils Due and more to come, see my website for more info on upcoming releases. 

My inspiration comes from personal experience of corruption and greed in both the public and private sectors. Sad to say, this has impacted on my life. However, vengeance in the real world is not acceptable and I wouldn’t wish to harm anyone for real.

In spite of past experience, crime fiction provides a means of pursuing nasty people with satisfying and inventive robustness. My thrillers offer a sense of recourse against the corrupt people and cadres who screw us, steal our money and, what’s more, they provide an insight into what might well be going on.

  •  The Reborn Tree series: I’m currently writing Protector and there are more in the series to come.

My inspiration comes from the time of the five good emperors of Rome. This work is a history-based fantasy.

In the north of Britain the tribes of what is now Scotland (and Irish their cousins) stood against Roman expansionism. The Pictish/Celts faced a massive challenge to their survival as a culture protecting a way of life and their spiritual values and beliefs. Imagine lethal confrontations with the materialistic greed of Rome as well as unexpected friends… and enemies. 

  • Business Non-fiction: I am working on a series of simple explanatory books on topics around the human aspects of work. There are two titles so far on Time and Mentoring (co-written a specialist from St Andrews University). 

Where do you get your ideas from?
Experience, reading and emotional connections. When I watch grown people weep in anguish over cruel circumstances, or hear dishonesty splatter from the mouths of politicians, I am affected. Similarly, when I play with my grandchildren and we laugh, do exciting things and make a noise, I am affected. Such feelings energise me. 

I believe powerful emotions – good and bad – generate ideas. These in turn stimulate my muse and, via the predispositions of my personality, create a tangible output. 

Do you have a favourite story / character / scene you’ve written?
The adventure in Dark Art, where Eilidh, is coming to terms with the harsh, deadly world in which she finds herself springs to mind. She starts off dependent yet, like a child, she develops skills and insights essential to her survival. She builds relationships and earns respect on her journey. There is humour and the inevitable mistakes and risks she must navigate to survive. 

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given and who it was from?
Write every day. It’s pretty common advice, but practise is key. To that I’d add get it read. My editor is a solid, constructive and fearless critic. She tells me good things and bad with clarity.

What can readers expect from your books?
Pace. Action. Violence. Realism. Humanity. Love. Flaws. Hatred. Greed. People worth caring for. Evil villains that’ll make skin your crawl.


Have you got any advice for aspiring writers?
Write. Be yourself. Take criticism on the chin and, soon as you can, learn from it. However: remember that not all criticism is correct.

What do you like and dislike about writing?
I can’t think of much I dislike except my own procrastination. I love writing and sharing my work. I enjoy readings.
I’ve done a couple of “shows” where I’ve had an audience there to meet me alone, and talk, read from my books and poetry and generally have fun. It’s nourishing.
A biggie is when my granddaughter climbs on my knee and says “Grandpa, tell me a story with your heart.” Making stories up, on request, for young children is an unique compliment.


Are you writing anything at the moment?
Devils Due (Angels’ Share series) is underway and the pressure is mounting for me to finish it. My editor is booked for Protector (Reborn Tree series). She’s expecting it for the end of this month, OMG.

What’s your favourite writing-related moment?
A business man I know bought 25 copies of Angels’ Cut as Christmas presents. He loves my writing. When he asked me to sign them it felt fantastic.

*Yellow Room Blog Tour* Getting to Know Shelan Rodger.

I’m delighted to be the final stop in Shelan Rodger’s book tour for her wonderful book Yellow Room‘.

Today, we get the opportunity to get to know the author of this extraordinary novel. I’d like to thank her for taking the time to share her thoughts with us – and for writing this thought-provoking story. 

Tell us about ‘Yellow Room‘, Shelan. What inspired the novel?
The notion of personal identity intrigues me – the extent to which our sense of who we are is bound up with the culture and place we grow up in, the way we use a job or a cause or a relationship to create meaning and definition, the extent to which a single event can shape the person we turn into.

In Yellow Room, Chala’s sense of self is moulded by something that happened when she was only four – and the drama takes place when the goalposts of her reality begin to change. Although we think of twists so readily as the realm of fiction, we all face twists at times in our lives. We meet someone out of the blue and fall in love, we lose a loved one suddenly, we have a life-changing accident or illness, a buried secret breaks out into the open… These ‘twists’ can be exciting or they can be appalling, but they always cause some kind of evolution in our being – and this is the kind of thing I wanted to explore in the novel.

And secrets! Sometimes I think of life as a bank of sedimentary rock: layer upon layer of new experience compressed into a formation that looks solid from the outside yet crumbles quite easily; and secrets are like layers of sand within this rock, covering and compressing what lies below. I believe we all live with secrets of one kind or another, even if these are about truths we have repressed from ourselves… and perhaps that is why secrets hold such a peculiar fascination. In Yellow Room, the secret sands of different lives interact in ways that not even the characters involved can always see.

Where do you get your ideas from?
I don’t know how the light-bulb ever actually comes on – for me it tends to manifest in the form of an idea, which then turns into a character – but I am certainly aware of the earth it has grown in: the rather nomadic, multi-cultural mish-mash of my own life!

I was born in Nigeria, grew up in aboriginal Australia, then England, and have spent most of my adult life between Argentina, Kenya and Spain. I’m sure this has created a kind of questioning within my make-up that explains the fascination I talked about just now with personal identity and what this really means.

I think there is also a strong sense of place in my novels and that is certainly grounded in personal experience. Twin Truths, my first novel, is set in Argentina in the nineties, where I lived for nine years. Yellow Room is set in Kenya, where I was living on a flower farm in Naivasha, one of the hot spots that was hit by the post-election violence ten years ago which killed over a thousand people and turned half a million overnight into refugees within their own country. Chala’s personal drama takes place against the backdrop of these real events, and Kenya plays an active role in the story of who she becomes.

Do you have a favourite story / character / scene you’ve written?
Mmm… a difficult question to answer. Writing a novel is a bit like having a relationship; you get to know and live with the main characters inside your head.

My relationship with Chala was conflicting at times; sometimes I just wanted to shake her, but mostly I love her honesty with herself. The twin sisters of my first novel, Twin Truths, are still close to my heart. As for scenes, I love writing scenes that I know are pivotal – those intensely emotional and significant moments that can make or break a novel.

I also love endings – both as a reader and a writer. I think endings are hugely challenging for a writer: how to create a sense of emotional closure that is satisfying but not trite, how to keep the door open for the novel and the future of its characters to linger in the mind of the reader, in a way that is somehow thought-provoking without being manipulative. Yellow Room has two endings in a way: the last page for Chala, and the epilogue, which is told from the viewpoint of another character, and I really felt the last lines when I was writing these.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given and who it was from?
My father’s words: ‘Just get it out and suspend judgement until later.’ My father was a poet and a non-fiction writer and these were his words of advice when I was writing my first novel. I’ve never forgotten them. Let it out, get it out. And then, only then, let the jury in and edit and rewrite as much as you need to, but first just pour it all onto the page.

What can readers expect from ‘Yellow Room’?
If I have achieved what I aspired to, the book is compelling and thought-provoking. A drama that explores the power of secrets, the shifting sands of our sense of personal identity, the grey areas that flow between the boundaries of relationships. A poignant insight into the reality of poverty in Kenya and the events that took over a thousand lives ten years ago. Kenya has its own secrets, which are still unfolding today.

Have you got any advice for aspiring writers?
I think I would simply share my father’s words again. They had a profoundly liberating effect on me and I believe creativity is an act of liberation. The attempt to connect with the reader is at its heart, I believe, something deeply intuitive not learnt. Trust your intuition first, question it later.

What do you like and dislike about writing?
It doesn’t happen all the time of course, but what I love most are those special moments when you lose track of time and it becomes almost a form of meditation, with words seeming to flow through you rather than from you. There is something earthy and connected and grounding in that feeling. To be honest there is nothing I really dislike about writing because the different phases, for example editing, are all part of the process of creation. The thing I am most wary of, as you can see from some of my answers, is the monkey that sits in judgement on your shoulder if you let it, sneering and undermining your confidence!

Are you writing anything at the moment?
Yes, I am working on my third novel, which is another psychological twisty tale, also set in Kenya (but this time on a flying safari). It’s inspired by something that happened two weeks before my father died: he found a novel he’d forgotten he’d written, read it, changed the last line and gave it to me. I never saw him again. In the book, a box of writing by the father she never knew falls into the hands of a drama therapist called Elisa and takes her to Kenya, where a twist presents the one person from her past she never wanted to meet again.

What’s your favourite writing-related moment?
I was driving along a pot-holed road in Kenya to my parents’ house for lunch. The lake filled my view to the horizon as it always did; pelicans and flamingos dipped below me to the water’s edge. But that day the lake looked different. The news I’d just received made everything feel different. Someone – a person who was to become very important and dear to me – wanted to be my agent. Suddenly, the possibility of being what I wanted to be was real, stretching like the lake below me to the horizon. That is the moment I think I would single out, a moment full of hope and beauty, a moment – ironically – intimately connected with my own personal sense of identity.

Review: ‘Yellow Room’
by Shelan Rodger.

What I’m about to say may come as a surprise. ‘Yellow Room‘ is currently a hot contender for my book of 2017. 

Having lived the majority of her life in the shadow of a tragic childhood accident, Chala is shaken by the death of her stepfather who steadfastly supported her throughout. In the midst of this emotional turmoil, Chala decides to volunteer at an orphanage in Kenya. Despite providing Chala with the opportunity to re-evaluate her life, the country remains on the brink of violence and horror. 

Shelan Rodger has deftly created a truly compelling novel featuring complex yet empathetic characters. The author really understands the nuances and complexities of human behaviour and her insights are weaved skillfully into her characters, bringing them to life. 

Yellow Room’ contains everything I could possibly want from a novel: evocative descriptions, well-written characters and an exploration of how power shifts in both personal and political relationships.

Despite being a story that delves deeper than most, ‘Yellow Room‘ is incredibly readable. I honestly did not want to put this book down. Part of me wanted to stay with the characters in this book forever. 

From the opening page, I was hooked by ‘Yellow Room‘ and I suspect that the story will stay with me for a very long time. 

Vic x 

Review of 2015: Gill Hoffs

Today we have the lovely Gill Hoffs on the blog. Nutella fiend Gill has appeared on BBC’s ‘Coast’ and is a hard-working writer. 

Thanks, Gill, for choosing to review 2015 on this blog!

Vic x

Gill Hoffs with Tayleur book on Lambay - harbour2015 was a great year for you. Do you have a favourite memory professionally?

Joining forces with my non-fiction agent, Jennie, and then soon after signing a contract with Pen & Sword for my second shipwreck book, “The Cowardice of Captain Stinson: The Lost Story of the William & Mary, and How 200 Victorians came back from the Dead” was marvellous.  I can’t wait to hold my comp copies in my hands then cuddle them, take them to dinner, toast them with a pink milkshake, and cuddle them some more…

And how about a favourite moment from 2015 generally?

Appearing on the legendary BBC programme “Coast” in July was beyond brilliant, and doing the publicity to promote it was a real kick too.  I was kind of used to doing radio interviews and having email conversations with journalists from the launch of my first shipwreck book, The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the ‘Victorian Titanic (Pen & Sword, 2014, 2015) last year, although admittedly it’s always a thrill to do.  But appearing on North West Tonight was a new level of amazing.  I was so excited I put my t-shirt on inside out and didn’t realise until I spilled water down my chest as I walked to The Sofa.  I was frantically rubbing the dark spots away until I sat down and then I simply didn’t care because I was just so pleased to be there.

Sinking of RMS Tayleur - Gill Hoffs

Favourite book in 2015? 

As per my heavy hints, my husband gave me Vixen by Rosie Garland for Christmas.  I knew Rosie a little online through the extremely talented and kindly Jennifer Garside of Wyte Phantom Corsetry & Clothing, who helped with research for my ‘Victorian Titanic’ book, and had been hugely impressed by Rosie’s memorable debut The Palace of Curiosities.  The cover for her second book was gorgeous and the contents met the promise of an engaging and unusual read.  I can’t wait to see her next book.

Favourite film of 2015?

I saw very few films in the cinema this year, all with my little boy, and Ant-Man was definitely my favourite.  When I was a kid, the superpower I always hoped for was the ability to shrink at will to a couple of inches tall (then painlessly return to my original size).  I just wanted to wander about the garden, hide, and make friends with toads and beetles, but even so Paul Rudd in his fancy suit was basically living my dream.

Favourite song of the year?

I’ve been in a bit of a bubble for most of 2015 – research does that to me – but when I was writing my second shipwreck book there were two 2015 songs I tended to have on, for different parts of the manuscript.  Downtown by Macklemore and BBHM by Rihanna make me think of spreading out my notes on the kitchen table, and typing away until my fingers (and bum) numbed and my hands ached.  The Macklemore track is so bouncy and bright it captured the hopeful sunshiney bits of the story of a shipwreck in the Bahamas, whereas the gritty power of Rihanna’s anger – and THAT video – tapped into my own rage and frustration at the mishandling of the wreck and the deaths of so many on board.  I don’t know if either of them would count as an actual favourite song from 2015 but they’re probably as close as I’ll get.

Any downsides for you in 2015?

Not in terms of writing, though admittedly there were some dead-ends in my research which I found deeply frustrating.  I hope that, as with my ‘Victorian Titanic’ book, once this one’s out readers will get in touch with further information which can perhaps be included in a second edition at some point.  Apart from that, my husband, a scientist who doesn’t mind me hogging the duvet and therefore merits a halo, was sadly made redundant.  It led to me taking on another job, this time as a care assistant in a residential home for women with dementia, but I enjoy the work and I’m grateful for it – paid positions are so precarious these days.

Are you making resolutions for 2016?

Not really – I plan to work my arse off and celebrate everything I possibly can but that’s standard.  Why miss an opportunity to be happy?  It makes no sense to me.

What are you hoping for from 2016?

Smiles and success.  I’m looking forward to giving talks on shipwrecks and writing, and launching my new book “The Cowardice of Captain Stinson” (Pen & Sword, 2016).  I’m also hoping to meet the *right* fiction agent and secure a publishing deal for at least one of my novels.  My non-fiction work is represented by the lovely and extremely able Jennifer Goloboy of the Red Sofa Literary Agency and I’d like to find the same kind of support and opportunities with my fiction.  I wouldn’t turn down movie adaptations or some kind of perpetually refilling Nutella jar either.

You can contact Gill on Twitter @GillHoffs or by email  gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk;

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/The-Sinking-of-RMS-Tayleur-Kindle/p/9694

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wild-collection-Gill-Hoffs-ebook/dp/B00DQ1A8UC