Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography

Saturday, 20 January 2018


'By three methods we may learn wisdom:
First, by noble reflection, which is the noblest;
Second, by imitation, which is the easiest;
and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.'


Every year we become a little wiser. The quote above, by Confucius, sums up succinctly how we acquire this wisdom. How much easier life would be if we had that wisdom at the very beginning of our adult life or our careers. This got me thinking. What words of wisdom would I tell my younger self?

This week, my fellow Novel Points of View contributors and I share the life lesson we would like our younger self to know at the start of our writing careers.

Although it is possible to be an overnight success as a writer, this is not the normal path for most authors. Becoming a published author can take years. Once you are published it can take many more years (and books) to become a successful, established author with a firm fan-base. If I understood the long journey ahead of me at the beginning, I would have viewed each part of the process as a step forward towards my goal and not allow the setbacks to sap my confidence. I would tell the younger Victoria -

You are not alone, the majority of authors have travelled the same long journey and those who experience overnight success with their first novel are very lucky, but not the norm.


Jennifer Bohnet
Things I would tell my younger self about writing? There are two quotes I recommend you print out and keep within view every time you sit down to write.

The first is from J.K.Rowling (if only she’d been around when I first started out!)

‘Perseverance is absolutely essential, not just to produce all those words,
but to survive rejection and criticism’.

Rejection is a nine letter word that hurts far more than any old four letter word when it is hurled in your direction. It knocks any self-esteem you may happen to have managed to acquire right out of the picture. Rejection happens more than anyone expects and is very hard to deal with in the beginning. You have to deal with it and move on.

The other quote is from a sign I have on my office wall:

‘You never fail until you stop trying’. That says it all really - both for writing and life.’

And while you’re Trying and not Failing remember the following and have a good life:


I have learnt so much on my writing journey and still have plenty to master, but the tip I wish I could pass on to my younger self would save me months of both time and heartache. It would be to

give up on perfectionism and simply get the first draft written.

To keep striving forwards, rather than refining and editing paragraphs and scenes that may not even make the final cut. To understand, and accept, that there will be time to revise and edit, once I know my characters better and have worked out where my story is going and what it’s really about.

I love collecting quotes that remind to push on. Here are a few of my favourites…

I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself I’m shovelling sand into a box so that later I can build castles
Shannon Hale

Don’t think about making art, just get it done
Andy Warhol

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt
Sylvia Plath

Now back to creating that first draft…


I wish I’d known, way back then when my dad was alive and I began to get short stories published, that I’d go on to be a novelist. My dad was ever my staunchest ally – my mother used to say: ‘The higher you ride, the further you fall’ if ever I went to her with news of a success of some sort. But dad was different. People would say to him, ‘You must be so proud of Linda’ whenever I passed an exam or won a prize but he always said, ‘No, not proud, I’m not a proud man. But I am very, very pleased for her.’ And so he was.

Before he died he read all the short stories I’d had published in national magazines to date (although no surprises that my mother never did) and when I said I wondered if I could write a novel one day he uttered his other oft-used phrase – ‘You can do it, kid.’

Well, Dad, I did but too late for you to pick up my book with my name on it and with my dedication to you for all your support. So, the crux of the tale is that if we even begin to think we might do things then we must. If only I could wind back time ....

If I knew then what I know now…what kind of theme is that for a blog post? It’s more the title for a 100,000 word memoir. And, let’s face it — I’m still learning, so my ninety-year old self will probably still have plenty of advice for me, if I could only hear it. 

There are so many areas that I could look at, so many things I would have done differently. But because this is a writing blog, it’s probably wisest to confine myself to writing. And although again I could subdivide this into a number of different topics, I think I’m again going to narrow it down to one. 

Writing is a craft. I didn't realise that when I was younger. I knew I could string words together and create characters who did interesting things, and I thought that was enough. It isn’t. There are conventions (not rules) in writing and they’re there because they work, either absolutely or in terms of expectations of your readers at any given point in time or any particular genre. If you don’t satisfy them, then you fall short. 

So what I would have said to my younger self is this.

Talent is only a part of it. You can’t write without it, but it isn't enough. Writing is hard, hard work — but it’s worth it.


Life is a journey, with many forks, twists, up and downs. Each step will teach us something about ourselves and the world around us. We can pass on the lessons we learn and seek out the experience of others, but ultimately it is a journey we have to navigate ourselves ... as no one can do it for us.

What would you like to tell your younger self?

Sunday, 14 January 2018

New Year Get Away

Glen Affric
After last years New Year trip to the North West Coast I was not best pleased when Audrey told me she had booked us up again for New Year in Clachtoll. I love exploring that area but the weather was awful the previous year  and I did not have much hope.

A week or so prior to Christmas we had a heavy snowfall and although it slowly melted away from the North East corner it continued to fall across on the West Coast.
I set off early in the morning so that I could stop off and take detours in the daylight hours. One of the detours took me to Glen Affric which is deemed as one of the most beautiful places in Scotland. Glen Affric did not disappoint, the  Caledonian Forest covered in snow was like a scene from Narnia. I have visited this area on two previous occasions however the weather had always been against me but today it was perfect.

I spent more hours than necessary travelling to Clachtoll as the lighting was superb, I simple couldn't resist stopping to snap the views.

Assynt Trees

Although the snow was confined to the higher ground the snow capped hills were breath taking. A rare occurrence  of virtually no wind meant for mirror like lochs. It was paradise and hardly another person in sight.

On the morning of the 31st December I set off to capture an image that I had previously seen posted by a photographer local to Lochinver. I had researched the area and the route to  get there, so off I set. Although there was snow on the hills the temperature was sitting above freezing and the roads were clear or so I thought. As I crested a hill I realised that road was covered in a sheet of ice, I had no option but continue. However I soon realised that I had to abandon the trip and turn the car around. Whilst doing so I ended up sliding on the ice, straddling the single track road teetering on the verge either slipping into a deep burn to the rear or heading nose first into a loch !
Fortunately there were two good Samaritans who managed to help me out of my predicament, it did however shake me up and meant that for the rest of the day I struggled to take a photo.

After a festive New Years Eve spent in the company of friends and a longer lie than anticipated on the 1st I eventually ventured out on the road again. I did however make sure that I stayed on the main roads.
 I spent a few hours dodging sleet showers trying to capture Split Rock. Despite the showers the lighting again was stunning with the sun lighting up the hills beautifully. Audrey had taken a photo a number of years ago that I was aiming to emulate however I still cannot fathom how she manged to capture what she did or where she was positioned. I am however happy with my shot.
Split Rock

Sunday, 7 January 2018

It's a New Year - 2018

Welcome to the first Novel Points of View blog for 2018. The seven of us wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year with lots of books in your life, whether you are a writer or a reader.

I did briefly think about writing a post about New Year resolutions but the only one I’ve made this year is to live in the moment and cherish every day. Then I thought maybe some of you have the luxury of having been given book tokens for Christmas and have yet to spend them. Because I am unable to get to writerly events like conferences or workshops, or even to a local writing group, I buy lots of writing related books. Inevitably one or two stand out as being superior to the rest and the one I treated myself to before Christmas is definitely my book of 2017.

From the blurb of ‘Into The Woods’: ‘Much more than a 'how to write' book, Into the Woods is an exploration of this fundamental structure underneath all narrative forms, from film and television to theatre and novel-writing. With astonishing detail and wisdom, John Yorke explains to us a phenomenon that, whether it is as a simple fable, or a big-budget 3D blockbuster, most of us experience almost every day of our lives.’

 Anyone who writes knows that stories have a basic shape:  beginning-middle-end. Screenwriters know story structure inside out and learning how they approach the written word is something that has definitely made me think about my approach to writing. John Yorke’s book opened my mind to things that had never before occurred to me. My current work in process is my thirteenth book (a number I still can’t quite believe) but In a very short time ‘Into The Woods’ has become my ‘bible’ I’ve learnt so much from it.
If you are serious about your writing I urge you - spend that book token (or even cash!) on this book.

Saturday, 16 December 2017


Authors who light candles to spark story ideas …


By the time this post goes live we’ll be well through Advent, a time for lighting candles and banishing darkness, when here in northern Scotland we draw closer to the shortest day of the year. My energy levels head south with the sunshine and so I like to use candles to brighten both my workspace and mood. Yankee Candle’s Red Apple Wreath is my personal festive favourite. And this got me thinking about candles, and specifically scented ones, and how authors use them to inspire their writing.


JK Rowling

Only recently J K Rowling shared on Twitter that whilst writing a particular macabre scene for her Cormorant Strike detective novel series that a candle exploded, making it difficult for her adrenaline levels to return to normal.  Here’s a photograph of that particular Jo Loves ‘Christmas Trees’ pine-scented candle – post explosion. Joanne assured her followers that this was nothing to do with the quality of the candle but rather that she’d allowed it to burn to the bottom of the glass.
Sounds as though it was working it’s magic, transporting her to her happy writing place.

Cecelia Ahern's - The Gift

Cecelia Ahern

Another author who is a huge fan of Jo Malone candles is Irish, best selling novelist, Cecelia Ahern, who, whilst promoting the re-release of her festive novel The Gift, during a Harper Collins Facebook Live chat, shared that she is very disciplined when writing and always lights a candle, which is always from Jo Malone. Her particular favourite is Lime, Basil and Mandarin (a fantastic Christmas gift idea for that writer in your life!) Cecelia met Jo Malone for the first time earlier this year and had a real fan-girl moment, telling Jo how amazing she thought she was. Jo Malone then explained how candles and scent act as a trigger, which sets her in the zone and mood to create.  To hear Cecelia’s full Facebook Live chat listen here

Many novelists I admire light candles as part of their daily writing routine and three were kind enough to share why they find candles so inspiring.

Maggie Craig's - Gathering Storm

Maggie Craig

First up is acclaimed Scottish historical fiction writer, Maggie Craig, who said 'I enjoy lighting scented candles but use them more as a votive offering. I particularly like to have a candle lit by my computer on dreich (the Scottish word for dreary or bleak) days.' And we’ve plenty of those in Scotland. I hope Maggie has a large supply of candles at the ready! She continued, 'I like to include scent in my writing and at the beginning of my most recent novel, Gathering Storm, a tale of Jacobite intrigue and romance, refer to the smell of newly snuffed-out candles'. – Powerful writing, Maggie.

Phoebe Morgan
Phoebe Morgan's - The Doll House

Meanwhile, psychological thriller writer, Phoebe Morgan, who’s debut, The Doll House, was published earlier this year, said, 'I will almost always light a candle or two if I’m writing at home. There’s something about it that I find really calming – and when I get stuck on a plot problem I can stare at the flame a bit and allow myself to be mesmerised! It really helps my creativity – I’ve always loved the smell and look of nice candles so they’re definitely on my Christmas list this year!'

Amanda Prowse's - The Art of Hiding

Amanda Prowse

A beautiful candle lantern even takes pride of place on the cover of bestselling women’s fiction author, Amanda Prowse’s latest novel The Art of Hiding. Isn’t it gorgeous?

When I contacted Amanda asking what candles mean to her, this is what she said.

'I too write with a scented candle burning always – it makes me feel calm and centred and find the naked flame so thought provoking. Thank you for the lovely words about the cover. I wanted to convey the idea of new life and remembrance, but also the fact that the main protagonist, Nina, is living in poverty –and I figured that a candle in a jar was evocative of hardship in times gone by.'

Candles Inspired by Books and Writers

Lots of authors use candles to encourage their muse to come and play, but if you still need persuasion to treat yourself to some candle time, then why not check out this post over on the EBook Friendly website - 15 scented candles inspired by books and writers.

There you’ll find links to candles with such fabulous names as Second Star to the Right, inspired by JM Barrie’s Peter Pan; 221B Baker Street inspired by Sherlock Holmes; Gatsby’s Mansion, reminiscent of a night spent ocean-side; and The Shire, inspired by JRR Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, which smells of fresh grass, clover, pipe tobacco and bergamot. There are plenty more, making this a fun site definitely worth exploring.

Phoebe's fantastic debut thriller - perfect to read
by candlelight

How do you use candles?

For decoration, to relax, whilst reading, or like the authors who kindly offered us a peek into their writing rituals - to help you drift calmly to your happy creative place?

So why not light a candle and see where the mood takes you? If you’re an author, it may even inspire your next bestseller.

Happy Advent!


Saturday, 9 December 2017


This week I was on the radio. I was invited to read something festive in the lead-up to Christmas and I was delighted to do it despite it being a departure from my previous guest slots. I had a great time. If you would like to listen to it, the "play on demand" link will be valid until 4th January, 2018. Please click HERE to listen and my guest slot starts at 1:38:00. It might get you in the mood for Christmas if you are not already!

I love listening to the radio. It has introduced me to new music, reminded me of old tunes and entertained me with debates on interesting topics. It keeps me up to date with the news and there is an established routine to each program which provides a strange comfort of its own. I guess, at its heart, it feels as if the presenter(s) are my friends and have just popped in for a chat, but with the advantage that I can get rid of them with the flick of the button if I want the visit to end.

Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think I would become a radio guest myself. However, the radio is a fantastic opportunity to spread the word about one's book and if a guest slot arises it is a too good an opportunity to refuse. To date I have been on the local radio four times (BBC Radio Cornwall and CoastFM), so although I am not as experienced as some authors, I am more experienced than others, so in this post I am going to share what I have learned, whilst also lifting the curtain on what happens behind the scenes.

Although radio shows may contact well known authors with a view to arranging for them to be on their show, generally, it is the author (or their publisher) who has to secure a slot. Local radio is more accepting to enquires from less well-known authors, but it is still important to present yourself in the right way to increase the chances of being accepted.

It is not about what you want from them, but rather what they need from you.

Radio has a role of providing entertainment and factual information. You, as their guest, are going to help them provide that and you need to convince the radio how you are going to do that. So what will help you to stand out from all the other authors who would like to promote their book on their show? What is your unique selling point? So before contacting your local radio station ask yourself some questions. How can I make my book an interesting topic for their show? Is it based locally? Are you from the area? Is it based or inspired by a particular setting? Is the plot on a subject that is relevant today or topical in the news? Is there a moral or inspirational story to your writing or your ability to write? Once you have decided how you are going to sell yourself and why they should choose you, then you can move onto the next step.

Not all shows are the same.

Get to know your local radio programs. Some presenters enjoy interviewing authors, others prefer a different format. Check out which ones will be more accepting to your request to be a guest and remember, word of mouth is particularly good for finding the right radio show to contact. Approaching the right show saves a lot of time and reduces the risk of rejection. Once you have decided, contact the show by email. Each local radio show will have a website page with an email address.

The presenter, or their PA, will reply and offer you an interview at the studio or by telephone. Interviews performed in the studio are clearer and less likely to be interrupted by rambling pets or children, however telephone interviews are less intimidating as you are in your own home. I was given the choice and chose to go into the studio.

Be prepared

The aim is to make the interview appear relaxed and part of a normal conversation, however it is always wise to be prepared. There is nothing worse than being asked about your book and your mind going blank. I have found taking one A4 size sheet of notes in with me very helpful. Having it on one page means there is no risk of the microphone picking up shuffling sounds as I turn my cue cards.

At the top I have 4 or 5 bullet points which state the information I want to get across in the interview. They are normally:-

1) My name
2) The Title of the book
3)  The format it is published in
4) Where they can buy it
5) Name of publisher

I once listened to an interview where the author and radio presenter forgot to mention the name of her book. It is easily done as conversation can get sidetracked, or the right question isn't asked so it is a case of slotting it in when you can.

These are the other things I have down:-

A) Short author bio (just in case my mind goes blank)
B) My novel summed up in one or two sentences (just in case they ask for a brief summary)
C) A longer description of the story (not giving anything away) I always put the main characters' names down too. It is surprising how easy it is to forget them, especially if you are in the midst of editing the second book and have just taken a break from writing the third, which is often the case when you are a writer.
D) Interesting/relevant information that might interest the listeners, such as the location where it is based etc.

The above information is best written briefly with key words to act as a trigger. It is not meant to be read as it will come across as if you are reading a script ... unless you are good at doing it,of course. On one occasion I made the mistake of laminating my notes, but during the interview I realised that the studio lights were shining down on it and obliterating my words. I ended up sitting rather awkwardly so I could see it. Did I really need the A4 notes? By then, probably not, but it helped my confidence and I was able to relax inwardly ... even if I didn't look like I was relaxed on the outside.

I write historical fiction so, if I have room, I add a few historical notes which might be of interest to the listener.

Promote the interview before and after the event

The reason you are doing the interview is for the exposure. Lengthen the window of exposure by promoting the interview before and afterwards. This takes courage as there is always the fear that it will be a disaster and you will want to bury it and never speak of it again. However writing is about taking risks and this is just another one of those risks.

Arrive in plenty of time

You are usually given a specific time slot. Arrive at the radio station in plenty of time. This will show professionalism and allows for car and traffic problems. You want this to be the first of many interviews in your writing career so this interview is as much about networking and firming up contacts as it is for the interview itself. You are more likely to be asked back by the radio station if you are reliable.

All my interviews were live so I did not meet the radio presenters until I sat down in front of them a minute or two before the interviews. This is not unusual as they are usually in the middle of presenting their program when you arrive. The staff of the radio station are usually very friendly as they are used to welcoming new guests on a daily basis. In my case I was shown to a lounge/office where I waited until I was called. It's a good opportunity to read through your notes and get your mind focused. Then the moment comes and someone shows you into the radio booth. This usually happens during the adverts or a song. You are told where to sit and the microphone is positioned in front of you. The presenter will say hello, a brief chat and then you are live! If your interview is recorded the format will be slightly different and your interview may be edited shorter.

An interview is like a tennis match ...

In my opinion, no matter what the first interview or question, it is always important to say hello to the presenter and thank them for having you on the show. It's professional, polite and sets the tone of the interview. It tells the listener that you are happy to be there and spend time with them and that makes everyone feel good.

To make a good interview both the presenter and guest have to play ball. You can be an amazing presenter, but if the guest provides only one-worded answers, or sounds miserable and defensive, it will result in an agonisingly long and painful interview to listen to. Answer the questions, but perhaps provide a little more than they asked. It helps the presenter to lead onto another question, move the conversation forward and provides a more relaxed interview. However you also have to be mindful of not talking too much. Nerves can make you do and say all sorts of things you had not planned for. Be aware you have not launched into a monologue that is not only boring the interviewer, but boring the listeners too. Also be aware you do not give away too much. Your child may not want you to disclose that they wet the bed last night. You chose to go on the radio, they did not and school friends can be cruel. Your words may have repercussions so tread carefully.

Things will go wrong

Accept the above and attempt to find a way out. You can prepare for the interview and try to guess the questions, but in the end you have no control over what is asked. All you can do is try your best. If the question confuses you, take a breath and clarify the question before answering. If you don't know the answer you have two options, simply say you don't know or you provide the little information you do know but then steer it onto the topic you know in more depth. Presenters are very skilled at bringing the best out of you. They know why you are there and they are happy for you to promote your book. They are also keen for the interview to go well, so they do not intentionally try to make the interview difficult and will often step in if they feel you are floundering.

All good things come to an end

The length of the slot can vary. I have done 10 minute slots and on one radio the slot turned into 30 minutes. It depends on the show and the presenter. Eventually it will come to an end and it is important to say goodbye and thank the presenter again for having you on the show. It leaves the listener and presenter with a good impression, and it is only fitting to thank them publicly (rather than just privately off air as you are hurried out of the room).

So if you get a chance to be on the radio, do try it. If things go well you will have a great time and experience a new form of media ... if it goes badly it will provide you with a humorous anecdote to share with friends over a glass of wine. So its a win win situation ... if you are brave enough to give it a try.
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