Tag Archives: writer

Getting to Know You: Tana Collins

tana-flyer

It’s my pleasure today to welcome Tana Collins on the penultimate stop of her blog tour. I met Tana at the first Edinburgh Noir at the Bar and I’m thrilled that she’s appearing at the Newcastle NatB tonight. 

Tana’s novel ‘Robbing the Dead‘ was released by Bloodhound Books earlier this month and is available to buy now. 

Thanks to Tana for taking the time to answer my questions. If you’re near the Town Wall tonight, pop in – it’s free entry – and promises to be a criminally good night. 

Vic x

Tana

Welcome to the blog, Tana. Tell us about your debut novel.
Robbing the Dead‘ is the first novel in the Inspector Jim Carruthers series set in the picturesque East Neuk of Fife.

robbing-the-dead

What inspired it?
Although it’s a work of fiction the inspiration for the novel comes from a true event that occurred in the early 1970s. I don’t want to say too much and give away any spoilers but it’s a tragic event that impacted on many people’s lives and still to this day continues to do so. I felt that whilst most of us have heard about the event very few know some of the details that make this story so human. I felt there was still a story to be told. 

Where do you get your ideas from?
Like most writers I have an inquisitive nature and am fascinated by people. I observe, listen and ask lots of questions. I decided my main cop, Inspector Jim Carruthers, should live in Anstruther in Fife. Early on into writing ‘Robbing the Dead‘ my partner and I went there for a long weekend so I could do some research. We walked in to the Dreel Tavern which I had reckoned might be Carruthers’ watering hole. I decided I needed to engage with the locals so I went up to the bar on my own with my drink and slapped a notebook and pen down. Within minutes a local had sidled up and asked me in a suspicious voice what I was doing. He had decided I was a tax inspector! That could end up a story in itself! I told him I was a writer and that the Dreel was going to be my main character’s favourite pub. I then asked him rather cheekily what he had to hide thinking I was a tax inspector! Within minutes half a dozen folk had come over telling me their stories of Anstruther, including the story of the resident pub ghost!

Do you have a favourite story / character / scene you’ve written?
My main character is a male police inspector, DCI Jim Carruthers. One of my female friends indignantly asked me why my inspector wasn’t a woman. I replied that I wanted Carruthers to be a man. He was always going to be a man and he’s still my favourite character, although DS Andrea Fletcher, as his assistant, is definitely starting to come in to her own. Interestingly, now I’ve written three books, I’ve noticed that more of my personality has gone in to Jim Carruthers but more of my life experiences in to Andrea Fletcher.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given and who it was from?The best piece of advice came from crime writer Peter Robinson. He was talking about writer’s block. He said that often writer’s block occurs because you are in the head of the wrong character in that particular scene. This piece of advice has served me well.

What can readers expect from your books?
Fast paced action and plenty of it! ‘Robbing the Dead‘ has been described as an ‘edge of your seat’ crime thriller. All three books start with a murder, if not in the first scene, definitely very early on and the death count just continues to rise. I like to write interesting stories often based on historical or contemporary events with political overtones. But I also like to have strong and believable characters that my readers will be able to engage with!

Have you got any advice for aspiring writers?
Don’t give up! I can’t tell you how close ‘Robbing the Dead‘ came to ending up in the knicker drawer. And the truth of it is that early on it just wasn’t good enough to be published. It had two massive rewrites and I’m delighted I persevered. Ten years later with three books under my belt I started to approach publishing companies and landed a three book deal with Bloodhound Books. It was officially published on 14th February and I have been thrilled by the reviews! Read everything you can get your hands on in your genre. Hang out with other writers. Critique each other’s work. Go to book festivals. Last bit of advice would be get yourself a good editor before approaching publishers.

How do you feel about appearing at Noir at the Bar?
This will be my second Noir at the Bar event and I’m very excited. Like most writers I love to talk about my book and I love to meet readers and other writers. I feel honoured to be invited to speak and share a excerpt from my debut novel. I’m also looking forward to hearing other writers, new and well established, speak.

 img_1837

What do you like and dislike about writing?
There is nothing that makes me happier than being given a blank piece of paper at the start of writing a novel. I love crafting a story and developing the characters. I also enjoy the research. I don’t do much drafting as I like to watch the novel evolve organically which can be dangerous. The worst? The crippling bouts of self- doubt during the writing process! 

Are you writing anything at the moment?
I’m just about to start an edit on the second novel, ‘Care to Die’, which is being published on 25th April 2017. The third novel, ‘Mark of the Devil’, is currently with my first reader. I’m contemplating a fourth book in the series so there’s a few ideas swirling around in my head.

What’s your favourite writing-related moment?
I think it has to be meeting my all time hero, Peter Robinson, on a writing course given by him in Tallinn. It was thrilling receiving tuition from someone who was also writing his latest Inspector Banks story which needed to be set in a European city! When ‘Watching the Dark‘ was finally published we found out that, as his students, we were all named in the acknowledgements! A wonderful moment.

Review of 2016: Ever Dundas

That very well-connected Shelley Day not only introduced us to Catherine Simpson t’other day, but she’s also encouraged the fab Ever Dundas to be a part of our 2016 review.

Thanks for being a part of it, Ever! 

Vic x

ever-and-jenny-signing-freight-contract

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
It has to be my agent calling me to say Freight Books had put in an offer for my novel ‘Goblin‘. Weirdly, the first person I told about it was Terry Gilliam. I’d received the call just as I was rushing out to see him unveil the Don Quixote quote for Edinburgh City of Literature’s Words on the Street. By the time I got there it was all over, but I knew he was heading back to London so I impulsively jumped on his train and possibly maybe babbled at the poor man. It just felt like a strange kind of serendipity, as his film ‘Tideland‘ was an influence on ‘Goblin‘ and it felt amazing to be able to tell him that. ‘Time Bandits‘ also played a part in my love of storytelling when I was a kid.

I was also thrilled when it was confirmed that my husband would be designing the cover for ‘Goblin‘ (which will be revealed in the new year).

terry-ever

And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
A holiday to Oxford and London with my husband. In Oxford we visited locations where the film ‘Accident‘ was filmed. I’m a big Dirk Bogarde fan, so walking in his footsteps felt amazing and a little melancholy.

Another highlight was visiting Kensal Green Cemetery in London. Part of my novel is set in WWII London when my protagonist, Goblin, is a kid. She spends a lot of time in Kensal Green Cemetery and I’d researched it online – reading about it, looking at photographs and maps. I was worried it would disappoint, but it was perfect. I actually got goosebumps – I could clearly see Goblin and her dog Devil running round the cemetery.

Making it down to Oxford and London felt like a real achievement too. I have fibromyalgia (chronic pain and exhaustion) and my world had shrunk because of it. I was quite anxious about travelling, but I implemented some coping strategies (pacing, using a wheelchair off and on) I learned on a Pain Course and it worked. It was a struggle, but it was manageable. It’s still not easy for me to get around, but my world has opened up again.

ever-in-kensal-green-cemetery

Favourite book in 2016?
I re-read ‘Annihilation‘ by Jeff VanderMeer for book group and loved it all over again – it’s unnerving, disturbing and beautiful. Definitely one I’ll keep returning to.

If ‘Annihilation‘ is one of the best novels I’ve read, ‘The Lonely City‘ by Olivia Laing is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve had the pleasure to immerse myself in; a brilliant incisive book that faces the taboo of loneliness head-on.

I was going to mention Naomi Alderman’s novel ‘The Power‘, but I’ve written about that elsewhere, so instead I’ll highlight my favourite short story of 2016 – Ted Chiang’s ‘Story of Your Life‘ (the Denis Villenueve film ‘Arrival‘ was based on it). I stumbled across this truly stunning, well-crafted story in a sci-fi omnibus. It’s a fascinating slow-burner that’s both a cerebral and an emotional journey and it blew me away.

Favourite film in 2016?
Without a doubt, it has to be ‘High Rise‘. I’m a JG Ballard fan and this felt like the perfect adaptation of his novel. Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley really brought the novel to life, injecting it with wry humour. The acting was all superb (if I was to cast my fantasy movie version of ‘Goblin‘ it would include most of the cast from ‘High Rise‘) and the design was delicious. It’s a very relevant film, and Portishead’s melancholy SOS sums up how many people feel about 2016.

I also adore Karyn Kusama’s ‘The Invitation‘, which seriously creeped me out. The less you know about it the better – just get your hands on it.

Favourite song of the year?
I’ve had Sia’s ‘Elastic Heart‘ on repeat. The video with Maddie Ziegler and Shia LaBeouf is very powerful.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
The world is on fire.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
Use social media differently. I find it sucks up too much of my headspace – I need more time to think.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
My first novel, ‘Goblin‘, comes out in 2017 and I’m hoping it will do well enough for me to continue in my career as a writer.

I hope I can help put out the 2016 fire in any small way I can. I will raise awareness of disability and chronic illness and how broken and needlessly punitive the benefits system is. I will work to eradicate speciesism and I will be a voice that celebrates difference, multiplicity and complexity. As Joanna Bourke said, here’s to “being more than human.”

Review of 2016: Matt Wesolowski

Over the past twelve months, my path has crossed with Matt Wesolowski’s on a few occasions. Matt is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and he leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops for young people in association with New Writing North. 

Matt’s debut novella ‘The Black Land‘, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013 by Blood Bound Books and he’s had lots of stories published in anthologies and magazines. Wesolowski was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at ‘Bloody Scotland’; Crime Writing Festival 2015, his subsequent debut crime novel ‘Six Stories‘ is available through Orenda Books.

Thanks for reviewing your year for us, Matt!

Vic x

Matt

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
It has to be in May when I got the confirmation that my novel ‘Six Stories‘ was to be published by Orenda. Being published on a scale like this has been my dream ever since I can remember and even now, it still doesn’t quite feel real. I remember my legs turning to jelly…they still do if i think about it too much!

Six Stories

My favourite moment generally was seeing my son starting to learn to read. Watching him and helping him recognise words is such a privilege – he’s only five and has got a way to go but I can see the doors to a wonderful world gradually opening before him, a world that has given me such pleasure. I’m reading him Jo Nesbo’s ‘Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder‘ books at the minute. He can try Nesbo’s crime stuff when he’s a bit older!

Favourite book in 2016?
I’m in no way biased toward Orenda but they released a stunning book this year called ‘The Bird Tribunal‘ by Norwegian author Agnes Ravatn – the work is simply stunning; it reminded me of Tarjei Vesaas in its rustic poetry. I also was deeply impressed and influenced by Benjamin Myers’ ‘Turning Blue‘ – a really desolate rural thriller as well as ‘The Girls‘ by Emma Cline which is beautifully written and hold you in a vice grip until the end.

Favourite song of the year?
I listen to so much music when I’m writing, a mixture of ambience and atmospheric black metal so in that sense, individual songs often don’t stick out.

I did get into Chelsea Wolfe a lot this year –  she’s a sort of doom-folk singer. ‘Simple Death‘ off her Abyss album is just wonderfully melancholic and bleak…are you noticing a theme in these answers yet?

Favourite film in 2016?
The Witch‘ was hands down my favourite film this year. It’s set in the 17th century with this banished family of Christians trying to tame the wilds of an unforgiving forest and hindered by their own puritanical fear of the unknown. I adored the way the dialogue was lifted from genuine witch trials and of course the character of Black Philip – a goat – stole the show. It was a difficult and tense watch, genuinely unsettling.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
I feel really strongly about animal rights, especially factory farming; it’s not common knowledge that ‘mega-dairies’ are operating in this country in 2016 – huge industrial complexes which allow the cows zero outdoor grazing. For such beautiful animals to be treated this way is just diabolical.

With so much scientific advancement from our species, it makes me sad that we still think it acceptable to treat other sentient creatures as products. For example, it baffles me when a company like McDonald’s brag about having free range eggs yet the chickens they farm for meat are still kept in inhumane and unspeakable conditions.  When someone gets on the bus with a bucket of KFC, the smell makes me want to vomit.

Under a Conservative government, for whom killing animals for fun is a pastime, it won’t be long until the pox that is fox hunting will return to our lands.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I don’t ever make resolutions at new year; I’m my own harshest critic all year round…that part of my brain nags me to be a better father and a more productive writer today!

What are you hoping for from 2017?
I really hope to see more reading in 2017…I’d love to see more people enjoying books rather than social media. There’s this wonderful tradition in Iceland called Jólabókaflóðið which roughly translates as ‘Christmas book flood’ and people give each other books on Christmas eve and spend the evening reading. It’d be wonderful if we could spread that tradition worldwide.

Review of 2016: Catherine Simpson

Friend of the blog, Shelley Day recommended the lovely Catherine Simpson to review her 2016. It’s always fun to find new authors and, from what I’ve been told, Catherine is definitely one to watch! You can find Catherine on Twitter and at her website.

Thanks for being involved in the 2016 review, Catherine – hope to host you again soon! 

Vic x

Catherine Simpson

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
My novel Truestory came out late 2015 with Sandstone Press so the first half of 2016 was largely spent promoting it and there were some great moments, including appearing at Aye Write in Glasgow, having my own event at the National Library of Scotland and sharing an event at Edinburgh Central Library with my daughter, Nina, for Autism Awareness Week (Nina is autistic and it was raising her that inspired my novel).

This year I also mentored two young writers for the Scottish Book Trust’s fantastic ‘What’s Your Story’ project and I was honoured to work with Artlink Edinburgh to write about the experiences of autistic people for the Midlothian autism strategy.

Central Library event

These are all happy professional memories but probably the most surreal memory was in February arriving at Hawthornden Castle in Midlothian for a writing fellowship and standing in my tiny castle bedroom overlooking the old keep, which was glittering with frost, knowing I was to share this amazing place with five strangers for a month.

Aye Write

And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
This year my husband and I pulled off a long-standing plan – to get our younger daughter settled at university and then move back into Edinburgh city centre from out of town. It went like clockwork. Lara moved to Glasgow to begin her degree in Education on the Monday and we moved to a flat right in the heart of the city on the Thursday.

Favourite book in 2016?
I’ve been getting more and more interested in poetry this year and have been rather pre-occupied with the subject of death so I have particularly appreciated Undying, by Michel Faber and The Drift by Hannah Lavery. 

the-drift

Favourite film in 2016?
I tend to watch films years after they come out – I recently watched Capote (2005) about the selfish, obsessive Truman Capote and how he came to write In Cold Blood. I also saw Little Voice (1998, for goodness sake!) about a young girl obsessed with 1950s/60s singers – a character that my daughter pointed out was autistic.

Favourite song of the year?
Not new either but Wanted on Voyage by George Ezra was stuck in my car CD for the first six months of the year.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
The never-ending terrorist attacks have been shocking.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I love nothing more than to set a goal or two at this time of year.

During 2016 I completed the first draft of what I hope will be my next book – a memoir about the suicide of my sister. In 2017 I plan to rework it into a final version.

I will also write a series of smaller pieces inspired by Dunbar to perform at Coastword Festival.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
I am looking forward to seeing my novel Truestory translated into Danish and published in Denmark.

I am Creative Writing Fellow for Tyne & Esk Writers until March 2017 – and I look forward to supporting the very talented and dedicated writers in the groups.

I am also delighted to be a Writer in Residence at Coastword Festival – a small but perfectly formed festival of music and word – to be held in Dunbar in May 2017. I hope for a sunny weekend shared with lots of super-talented artists of all kinds.

Review of 2016: Angela Readman

I’ve been so spoiled this December and the advent treats continue: today award-winning writer Angela Readman is here to review her year.

As always, it’s a pleasure to host Angela. Thanks for being involved, Angela!

Vic x

Angela Readman

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
The beginning of the year was wonderful professionally. I won The Mslexia Short Story Prize, and on the same day I found out my short story collection ‘Don’t Try This at Home (And other Stories)’ had been shortlisted in The Edgehill Prize. I didn’t win, but it was an honour to get so far. It’s a lot more than I imagined. I also won the Fish Short Memoir Competition which was something new for me, I’ve never tried memoir before. I sent it out as an experiment to see if just writing about me was OK.

This was also the year I published poetry again, my collection ‘The Book of Tides’ came out with Nine Arches in November. It has been so long since my last one it meant more to me than I can say.

7e84913ff0-the-book-of-tides-cover-web

And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
I really want to have one, but I’m struggling. 2016 seems like the year the world got meaner I don’t want to think it’s just the way we are as a species, so I suppose my favourite thing has been little articles about kindness that pop us sometimes. Someone walking into a school and paying all the unpaid balances on school meals, pay it forward, communities coming together to support people, groups that yarn bomb places to try and make someone smile- that sort of stuff. It’s small, but it gives me hope for us.

Favourite book in 2016?
I don’t get a lot of books during the year, I have to wait until Christmas, but I loved Shelley Day’s novel ‘The Confession of Stella Moon‘. Alice Oswald’s ‘Falling Awake‘ was a poetry collection that impressed me. Every year I try to read some books I’ve never got around to before. I was blown away by Shirley Jackson and read Carson Mccullers for the the first time this year. ‘The Ballad of the Sad Cafe‘ is something I know I’ll be reading every year or so for the rest of my life.

Favourite film in 2016?
I loved ‘Dark Horse‘. It’s a documentary about a bunch of ordinary people who come together to buy a racehorse. I loved seeing people live out a dream, however unlikely it is. I also loved ‘The Lobster‘, so strange, sad and unsettling. It’s such a powerful story of conformity and its costs.

Favourite song of the year?
I was stunned by Lorde’s cover of ‘Life on Mars‘. She did it her own way,  it was a remarkable, respectful and fitting tribute.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
Politics, hatred, a lack of tolerance and failure to accept other people seems to be wherever I turn. It feels like this is on the increase, it’s been a sad and worrying year. On a career level, I’m in a curious place of working hard, but so much of it seems to be dealing with admin. It’s one of the things no one tells you I think, that once you’re published there can be less chance to write sometimes. It’s just part of the job, it’s part of life these days I suppose. I haven’t found a way to do it without working longer hours.  I dream of retreats and walks by the sea while I work at weekends to catch up with mail.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I start each year hoping to keep writing. I also like to form a reading resolution, sometimes it will be read a poem a day, sometimes it’s read a short story a day, or make an effort to read more work by small presses, it depends. I haven’t decided exactly yet, but there’s always a book resolution. Last year’s was to finally read Roald Dahl’s short stories.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
I really hope people are going to like my poetry collection. I hope to keep my publisher happy. I hope we can all be kinder. I hope we can be happier. I hope to be better.

Review of 2016: Nicole Helfrich

Another writer I’ve had the pleasure of working with this year is Nicole Helfrich. I copy-edited her novel ‘Descent to Hell‘ then had the pleasure of her company at Noir at the Bar Harrogate. Nicole is a wonderful woman with a wicked sense of humour and I’m really happy to host her review of 2016.
Thanks for being involved, Nic! 
Vic x
Nicole Helfrich
Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
Well, my literary baby ‘Descent to Hell‘ found a publisher and was born November 28th, so that was a landmark I had not expected to happen this year and it was all the more awesome for me that the book is available worldwide.

decent-to-hell
And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
After being a fan of John Carpenter for three decades I went to see him live in concert at a very small venue in Switzerland during the NIFFF festival with two very good friends and that was a magical event I will never forget.

Favourite film in 2016?
Doctor Strange‘ which will probably soon be exchanged for ‘Rogue One’.

Favourite song of the year?
24K Magic by Bruno Mars.
Any downsides for you in 2016?
Spending one week in hospital and having another reconstructive surgery on my nose but worse than the pain was the ghastly food – they tried to break me with that slop.
Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I gave up making resolutions decades ago…
What are you hoping for from 2017?
I’d be disappointed with anything less than world domination 😉

Review of 2016: Shelley Day

My very good friend Shelley Day has had a rather special 2016 and she’s taken the time to share her memories with us. Thanks Shelley – here’s to many more wonderful years!

Vic x 

book-launch

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
Well that’s easy peasy; my debut novel ‘The Confession of Stella Moon‘ was published in July, launched on 7th at Waterstones in Edinburgh and then on 14th in Newcastle. I was dead nervous no-one would come, really worried. I’d made the mistake of googling stuff about book launches and came  across an alarming number (mostly in USA) when hardly anyone – in some cases, no-one! – had shown up. In the event, though, tons of people came, including mates from far away I hadn’t seen in donkey’s years, and loads of books were sold and signed and we went on after to the pub round the corner and the celebrations continued …so yeah, that’s my favourite 2016 professional memory! For someone who’s always had a hankering to write a novel, it was a dream come true!

stella-moon

And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
I’ve had so many good moments – ALL Stella-related this year. I haven’t done much other than Stella! So, many good things, it’s hard to pick … I was lucky enough to get a Spotlight slot at Bloody Scotland. In itself, bloody brilliant. But with Val McDermid? Yep. That Val McDermid. And didn’t I nearly fall off the stage when she interrupted to say she’d read my book, and was recommending it, ‘it’s full of dark suspense…’ … AND as if that wasn’t enough to set up a whole life-time of WOOPING … Didn’t Ali Smith – yes, that Ali Smith – didn’t she come up to me at her event in Topping’s, St Andrews in November and say, ‘I loved your book.’ Yep. That happened. I said ‘OMG, have you read it?’ and she said, ‘Absolutely. And I loved it.’  So who needs dreams when these things happen in real life? Eh?

bloody-scotland

Favourite book in 2016?
Favourite book this year has to be Ali Smith’s ‘Autumn.’ It’s very hard to pick ‘cause I’ve got mates who’ve done some really brilliant books this year – Graeme Macrae Burnet’s ‘His Bloody Project‘, for example, that was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Martin MacInnes’s unusual and compelling ‘Infinite Ground‘, a remarkable debut. I’ve loved those. And Mary Paulson-Ellis’s ‘The Other Mrs Walker‘. To name but three. But I’ve plumped for Ali Smith. She read from the MS at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in August – she had only that week submitted it to the publisher – and the whole place, hundreds of people: enthralled. I love all Ali Smith’s work and this one is as stunning as the rest. It’s also very poignant. Timely. Contempraneous she calls it.

I don’t know, autumn, the whole idea of it seems especially significant this year, maybe because I’m 63 now, well into my own Autumn; maybe because of Brexit and the disastrous election in America; maybe because we’ve lost so many good people in 2016 – Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen. Ali Smith talks about the seasons and the cycles of everything, and the new sap rising, and the old making way for the new … I love her optimism and the joyousness of her words and her celebrations of the inclusiveness and diversity of the Scottish traditions. But, I dunno, I feel fear at the moment, I feel us on the cusp of even more difficult times. I do hope the new that comes out of the present turmoils of the world will be something good … There are so many divisions, so many exclusions, so many gross inequalities, so many vested interests; so much healing to be done.

Favourite film in 2016?
I, Daniel Blake.’ Has to be. As Ken Loach says, “if you’re not angry, what kind of person are you?” And Newcastle’s in my bones.

 Favourite song of the year?
I have an old favourite that I need to fish out from time to time and I’ve fished it out a lot this year because, although as you have seen I have had some very good moments this year, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. Having a novel published is a strange thing, and I’ve had to do quite a bit to keep on top of it all, and to remind myself that it’s ok, and I’m ok … So, my song of the year is Ben Harper’s ‘Fight Outta You,’ given to me by my son years ago when I was going through a hard time. It’s a good song. It’s encouraging. Play it if you get discouraged about anything.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
Oh yes. There are always obstacles, aren’t there? As I said, getting my debut novel published is a dream, but it brings what are now commonly referred to as challenges – getting your book out there, trying to get it noticed, worrying in case it just sinks without trace … Oh yes. All that goes through a new author’s head. I don’t think I’m alone. Even authors with the mega-machines of big publishing houses behind them are secretly worrying what if ..
You feel so alone, blundering in the dark, not knowing what or why or when … That’s something every debut author goes through, it’s very difficult, and it’s fingers crossed you come through it and out the other end relatively unscathed. There’s a continual struggle against invisibility … and self-promotion is often so alien to a solitary writer’s nature, it can feel really terrible!
The irony, of course, is that while you’re worrying your socks off, your book’s out there getting lots of praise and great reviews and you’re getting invited to do gigs and be on panels … Then the major challenge is to marry all that up with the terrible alone-ness that you feel inside. If you’re a new author reading this, you’ll know what I mean. Don’t dwell on it. You’ll survive. You’ll live to tell the tale.

But yes, getting support from wherever and whoever you can is absolutely essential. One way to gather support is to get yourself out there. I’ve been lucky. I was already an experienced public speaker, so didn’t have the anxiety of that like some people do. And the likes of Waterstones, Edinburgh and Wordery (online) and Edinburgh City of Literature, and Scottish Book Trust, and New Writing North, they’ve been right behind me and having that kind of support makes a massive difference. And yes, slots at book festivals are very difficult to get, you apply and mostly you don’t even get an answer. But hey, some of them do reply, and some do offer you a slot, and a few of them welcome you with open arms and are really glad to have you. It’s hard not to be daunted – cowed even – by silences and rejections. But you learn to ride those waves and keep looking ahead.

You hesitate to talk about these difficult things in public, in case people think you ungrateful, and you’re s’posed to talk things up and talk yourself up … But, seriously, I’d be misrepresenting my experience as a debut author if I told you it was fab fab fab all the way.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I always make resolutions and I never keep them, any of them, they’ve always all bitten the dust by the 2nd January. But yeah, I’ll make them again, like I always do, I’ll have a shot at being virtuous. Then I’ll revert to my usual cranky self.

What are you hoping for from 2017?
I want to get on with my writing. I’ve given Stella the best I can for 6 months, and now I’m moving on. I’m writing a sequel, aiming to finish the first draft by the end of March, before I start on the Read Regional Events with New Writing North in April. I’m hugely looking forward to those because I love libraries and I love meeting readers! I’ve just done some for Book Week Scotland, and they’re great, people who love your book and who are so interested to find out more about it and about you. I’m looking forward to my favourite book festivals … Newcastle Noir in April, that’s always brilliant. And Bloody Scotland, and Wigtown and Berwick and Portobello. I had slots at all those this year and, well, just WOW – a whole new world opened out for me and I loved every minute. I’ve a collection of short sories coming out – A Policy of Constant Improvement – in 2017, so I’ll be doing some promotional work for that. And I’m hoping to land some funding for a travel residency in Norway for the long light summer …

Can I just take this opportunity to thank everyone who’s supported me and Stella in so many ways throughout the year; you are too many to name individually, but if you see this post, know that you made a real difference!

And thank you Victoria for inviting me onto your blog! I always love working with you!