Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography

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.
Author of

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Festive Fiction - a Joint Blog

Novel-Point-Of-Viewers have had a great time thinking up their recommendations for your festive reads. Enjoy!

Victoria Cornwall writes

I have a confession to make. I have only read one book which features Christmas in it and it was so long ago I can't recall the title. I do remember enjoying it as it got me into the festive mood, so it is strange I have not read one since. So when I was asked for my recommendations I decided to cheat.

My publisher, Choc Lit, has released an amazing array of Christmas books this year so it seemed appropriate to bring them to the attention of the Novel Points of View readers. They are:

A Little Christmas Magic by Kirsty Ferry

House of Christmas Secrets by Lynda Stacey

What Happens at Christmas by Evonne Wareham

 A Little Christmas Faith by Kathryn Freeman

A Second Christmas Wish by Kathryn Freeman

Christmas at the Little Village School by Jane Lovering

I am sure there is something to meet your needs, as these books range from time-slip, through to suspense and heartwarming tales. All have a large dollop of romance and festive fun to get you in the mood for Christmas, which are the perfect ingredients for a festive read.

Rae Cowie’s thoughts

I’ve two suggestions (one full of the Christmas spirit, the other more for readers who feel a bit bah-humbug about anything too tinsely!).

Christmas at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan

It’s that time of year when only some festive, feel good fiction will do and Christmas at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan includes all the delicious ingredients needed for a warm and delightful Christmas romance.  We have Issy, the hardworking owner of the tinsel bedecked Cupcake Café in London. Then there’s Austin, the caring boyfriend, doing his best to get on in the world by accepting a job in snowy, lonely New York. Not forgetting Pearl, Caroline and Helena determined to make this Christmas one Issy will never forget.

Christmas at the Cupcake Café is a sequel to Colgan’s Meet Me at the Cupcake Café, however I read this as a standalone and had no problem in working out relationships between characters. This novel delivers exactly what you’d expect – and more. At the beginning of each chapter the reader is given the added bonus of a wonderful cupcake/traybake recipe. And Christmas and baking go hand in hand, right? I can’t wait to try making the Christmas Cherry Chocolate Biscuit Slice, which includes Maltesers and rum! Enjoy!

Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney

I’ll probably go straight on to Santa’s naughty list for recommending a second festive read, but I wanted to recommend one for those who aren’t so keen on all the bells and whistles that perhaps go with more traditional festive novels. Set during Arctic winters when it’s relentlessly cold and dark, at 600+ pages long, Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney is definitely one to read whilst snuggled under a cosy blanket, sipping hot chocolate (or something stronger)…

It’s a time slip novel, beginning in 1948 when we meet an elderly Flora Mackie, known by the press as the Snow Queen, returning to the Arctic, reminiscing about her time spent with fellow explorer Jakob de Beyn, offering us a hint of the mystery that unfolded years before.

We then cut to Dundee, where twelve year old Flora’s mother is dead and her father, a skipper of a commercial whaling vessel, decides to take his only child with him on his next Arctic hunt. It was fascinating to learn how the young, spirited Flora discovered how best to get along with the all male crew, how she coped with the tough realities of Arctic life, made friends with the indigenous Inuit children and fell in love with the landscape. It’s essentially a love story between two Victorian Arctic adventurers – no tinsel in sight!

Jennie Bohnet proposes something different

Trying to decide which book to recommend this year for a Christmas read was difficult to say the least - the market is flooded with Christmas titles. My choice in the end is not a Christmas book at all, nor a new one, but it is one of my favourite reads this year. It does have a religious setting which qualifies it in my mind to be included here for Christmas.

The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers

The history of the cathedral is woven around the story of Agnes Morel, the mysterious cleaning woman whose own history is unknown to the townsfolk. A traumatic story in parts, it’s also a story of how love and mercy can change things. I have to admit to knowing nothing about the ancient cathedral of Chartres before reading this book, now I long to visit and see for myself the mismatched spires and its strange labyrinth.

I think I might just curl up by the fire on Boxing Day and re-read it. Happy Christmas!

Christmas books from Linda Mitchelmore

I am always full of good intentions at Christmas to have a bit of ‘me’ time to sit in a chair by the fire and read a book from cover to cover in there amidst the mince pies and the turkey and the holly. But in truth I don’t really want it, not at Christmas. To me Christmas is all about family and I count my blessings that I have one. Books do feature in my Christmas life, though. Well, two of them do.

The first is Delia Smith’s Christmas for which I think she should have been made a Dame! There’s not a lot in there I haven’t made from it since 1994 when I was given the book for, well, Christmas as it happens. But if I had to choose just one thing to make it would be Delia’s Little Mincemeat Souffle Puddings which are just too divine for words.

Another book that I now know off by heart is Santa, a board book from Marks & Spencer which I bought for my grandson when he was two. He is ten years old now and pretends it is too babyish for him but when I read it to his younger sister he always comes to perch on the arm of my chair to look and listen, too – memories, and especially reading ones, are made of this.

Happy reading, everyone, whatever it is you choose to lose yourself in.

Jennifer Young's contribution

Bah! Humbug! Festive reads? Christmas crackers? What are you all on about? It's only the beginning of December. You’ll be wanting me to put on a Santa hat and sing Jingle Bells before I know it.

Okay, I’m not quite that bad. There’s a touch of snow on the ground just now, under a blue sky, so I suppose it all does look a bit Chrismassy. And actually I’d finished all my Christmas shopping, bar one or two bits, before the middle of November.

That said, I steadfastly refuse to recommend any festive reads, because my social media streams seem to have been flooded with them since the beginning of October. I’m a firm believer in the fact that you don’t have to wait until the end of the year to read a Christmas book, and nor should you be unable to read a summery book at Christmas.

Bearing that in mind I’m going to recommend two books, both by the same author, that astonished me this year. They’re both historicals but very different. One, The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is set in the late seventeenth century on the high seas, with a crew and their stowaways careering towards almost certain death as they fight their various demons. The second, Forgotten Places, is a chilling historical set in nineteenth century Tasmania, and contains the most astonishing twist in any book I’ve read this year.

Merry Christmas!

And finally from Gill Stewart

No bah humbug from me! I love Christmas. I know other people may disagree and think it is too commercialized etc etc but I still love it. Time for family, for close friends, for staying home and eating well – and reading lots.

I have 3 recommendations for my Christmas reads – one new and not very festive, one festive and from a few years back, and one festive and old. Enjoy!

NEW – La Belle Sauvage, Volume 1 of the ‘Book of Dust’ by Philip Pullman. Although essentially a YA fantasy read, this is a gorgeous book that I would recommend to anyone. And if it doesn’t have Christmas, it does have floods and visits to the far north – and daemons. I want my own daemon.

FESTIVE – A Proper Family Christmas by Jane Gordon-Cumming. A fun and funny read, farcical at times, but with lots of heart. My only complaint is that JGC hasn’t written another novel since this came out in 2008, although it is now available on Kindle.

OLD – Jo of the Chalet School by Elinor M Brent-Dyer. I’ve probably mentioned it before but this has truly been my go-to Christmas for the last, well, almost 50 years. Although the book covers a school year, it is the wonderful, inspiring Christmas holiday spent in snowy Innsbruck in the early twentieth century that is my favourite part. Again, it is a children’s/YA book, but one I would thoroughly recommend.

Saturday, 25 November 2017


A few weeks ago the Argyll Art Map weekend took place in this area, with various local artists and photographers opening their workshops to the public. It was a great opportunity to peak into places you may not normally be allowed, and to examine works of creativity outside your comfort zone.

I expected to enjoy, and did enjoy, the amazing pictures of local towns and beauty spots, of wildlife and boats – lots of boats. I was less keen on the picture of Jesus being stabbed by pens (really!), or the urinal turned into … something arty? But it certainly meant there were things to appeal to a wide range of tastes.

What intrigued me, as a writer, was the ways in which this experience of visual art both is and is not the same as writing. I can look at a still life or a scene, and take an emotion from it, but after that I want to move on to the story – what happened here? Why is it significant? Does it mean different things to different people? Not being an artist, and not having thought to ask any of the ones I visited, I don’t know if they also form stories about their work (Neil may be able to answer!). But I do know that their inspiration helps to inspire me, either to write or just to dream.

This picture at the head of this post is Winifred Nicholson’s ‘Gate To The Isles’. It’s one of my favourites, which I’ve had on my bedroom wall for many years. I’ve wondered and wondered who went through that gate last, and why, and what that means to the painter. Below is a painting done by my great-grandfather, which has intrigued me since I was a child. I wanted to walk along that road and find out where it led. Sometimes I even dreamt I was in the picture, finding out what happened next. Perhaps one day I’ll write my way to an answer! 

Are there any pictures that inspire you?

Saturday, 18 November 2017

WHERE IN THE WORLD Linda Mitchelmore

Okay then, here we go .... a question for you. How many times have you been told on writing courses or by those who have gone before you in the world of writing to 'write what you know'? When my cousin Barbara suggested - many moons ago now - that I write a novel I told her I couldn't possibly do that because I'd never been anywhere - a world traveller I am not, nor ever likely to be, although I have been on a plane and a ship! Barbara's response was 'Rot! Where did Jane Austen ever go?' And, of course, she was right. So, I gave what she had said some thought. I came to the conclusion that emotions, feelings, life experiences of all sorts are - for the most part - the same all over the world. Why then, couldn't I transport those feelings to somewhere exotic, or adventurous, or plain scary even though I hadn't been there? What is the internet for if not to explore other worlds from the seat of our chair? Until that moment my stories were very firmly set in places I know well - the beach, the moors, the inside of a cafe where friends/siblings/lovers talk through a problem over cappuccino and a pain au raisin. So why not have the same emotional crises, the same characters in, say, Venice? And why not set it during the annual carnival they have there? It's very easy to find a map of Venice, and I got super-lucky and found a video someone had made as they walked around. Lots of ideas, lots of fabulous images to look at and a serial set in Venice was born.
Where next? I love markets, especially French markets, but up until then my experiences of them had only ever been in Northern France. How different might the market in, say, Antibes be? What sort of fruits and vegetables might they have there in abundance? How could walking through a food market there help a couple save their marriage? Well, in my story it did as she held out a pear for him to take a bite from, then bit from it herself, and so it went on until only the core was left and they had pear juice dribbling down their chins, reaching out to touch and to wipe said juice from each other's chins. Say aaaah ....
I began to get a feel for this sort of travel. It was cheap for a start - no flights to pay for, no special clothes to be bought, no expensive meals out. I have a cousin in Canada who has been to visit me but I haven't - yet - made the journey to visit him. But that didn't stop me using the Rockies for a serial. My heroine was in two minds about her adventurous boyfriend - could she live with the heart-in-the-mouth life he liked to lead, kayaking and climbing, and long-distance walking in remote places? She takes a huge leap of faith and follows him and it is she who ends up saving the day in a remote spot.
This blogpost is just about a sense of place in our stories, and places we don't have personal experience of. But it could be extended to include experiences we haven't had ourselves as writers - divorce, childlessness, serious illness, a tragic bereavement. So what I'm trying to say is don't keep your wings clipped in your writing .... get out there and fly!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017


A shorter than usual blog from me I’m afraid and a question for you all at the end.

For anyone who isn’t aware, November for several years now - since 1999 to be precise - has been National Novel Writing Month - NaNoWritMo for short. The aim during this month is to write fifty thousand words which works out at needing to write under seventeen hundred a day. Not too many then. Not necessarily publishable words either - the editing etc comes later.

Now, I don’t know about my fellow NPOV bloggers but personally I’ve never joined in with this event. It is incredibly popular and I’m sure people do find all the camaraderie that goes with signing up for it amazingly helpful but I’ve learnt over the years, that, for me, events like this don’t work. I was the same at a couple of writing workshops I attended back in the day, asked to write on spec for five minutes I just got brain freeze. 

I can happily work to an editor’s deadline or even a self-imposed one. I can write two thousand words a day - more when I need to, but put me in with a group all trying to reach the same target and I just go off the whole idea and can’t do it! I’m still trying to work out why and I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s maybe linked to my aversion to team sports!  

So, do you sign up for events like NaNoWriMo and find them inspirational and good fun? Or, are you like me and run a mile from any internet organised involvement for your writing?

P.S. Good luck if you are attempting NaNoWriMo this month.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

NEOS what a week !!

The Black Mount, Glencoe
My last post I spoke about the upcoming week of North East Open Studios(NEOS). The usual nerves and self doubt reared there ugly heads prior to first weekend of the event. However, once the room was set up those nerves and doubt faded as I looked at the collections of work offered by myself and fellow exhibitors. Between the four of us we managed to fill the whole space.

The first weekend was fantastic as the number of people that came specifically to see my work was amazing. It was also a wonderful opportunity to meet some of the supportive people who take time to follow and comment on my Facebook page. By the end of the weekend I was hoarse with talking, although I wouldn't change that. Due to work commitments my time was limited, luckily Audrey was able to step into the breach.
Loch Assynt
The week flew past with a staggering amount of visitors which for a newbie NEOS member was simply fantastic, so much so that before the week was out we'd booked the location again (The White Horse Inn, Balmedie) for 2018. So now I know what is required I am already planning ahead for next year. Preparing prints and frames as I go rather than leaving it to the last minute.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Not a Love Story...

Would you? Image from Blind Date With a Book
 Blind Date With a Book 
My husband is not a man for a blind date, of any kind, but even he was tempted but the latest book marketing ploy. It’s a blind date with a book. 

I don’t know whose idea it was, but it’s a cracker. A book sitting on a supermarket shelf, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, tempting you with just five phrases. And he bought into it. ‘Shall I?’ he asked, turning the top one over in his hands and dropping it in the basket without waiting for the reply. 

Sold, in just seven words. Inheritance. Romanovs. Secret diary. Revolution. Love lost.

I won’t say the excitement was mounting as we drove home. That would be a little bit of an overstatement. But when we’d unpacked the shopping and he’d picked up his little treasure and untied the string, I was hovering at his shoulder to see what he’d brought home. 

If it had been a real blind date, it would have been an unmitigated disaster. He’d have hung on out of politeness and endured a terrible evening, leaving the restaurant vowing never to date again . He’s a reader of suspense and history. He loves Nordic noir and Robert Harris, historical detective stories set in Berlin and in the alternative history of Western Europe. What he got was touted itself as perfect for readers of Kate Morton when he’d have preferred something for readers of Philip Kerr. 

The book in question is Gill Paul’s The Secret Wife. Neither of us had heard of it before and it looks, in fairness, a very good book. It has rave reviews. But it isn’t the book for him, nor even for me. 

What went wrong? I think if you’re going to sell a book in a poke, you really have to get the description right — and the missing thing is the genre. Okay, you can say that ‘love lost’ suggests a romance, but does it? He didn’t think so and neither do I, and in fact I don’t know that the description really helps very much. 

The concept might work a little better if the genre is clear, and it might not matter if you’re someone who enjoys reading outside your comfort zone or whose comfort zone is admirably broad. But for me there’s no substitute for browsing before you buy. The Silent Wife is sitting on a side table in the living room, waiting for me to get fed up and read it so that the money wasn’t wasted. maybe I’ll enjoy it, maybe not. 

I'd try this kind of blind-dating myself, I think, and I'd recommend it to an adventurous reader. But I'd pay more attention to the five key phrases. 

Would you? 

Saturday, 14 October 2017


Writing can be a solitary business and so when offered the opportunity to meet like-minded souls at
the inaugural Society of Authors Scottish conference – #ScotsWrite17 – it was a ‘yes’ from me.

Each speaker – a selection of experienced authors, agents, publishers and more –generously offered precious nuggets of useful, encouraging advice which I've shared and hope you find inspiring and helpful too. 


Joanne's modern day fairy
tale, inspired by a visit to Skye
Joanne Harris – author of an impressive canon of fourteen novels and two cookery books including Chocolat (the bestselling novel turned into an Oscar –nominated movie) opened as a keynote speaker, reminding the audience that playing with words is the closest thing to magic a writer can do. Setting the tone for a magical conference weekend.


Jane Johnson making time for everyone at
her busy book signing
Jane Johnson – historical novelist (her latest release - Court of Lions is out now), children’s author and Fiction Publishing Director for Harper Collins, encouraged everyone to follow your passions in life. Explaining 
  • That writing is largely an engineering process. Work can always be taken apart and put together again.

  • Flexibility is crucial for a writer. An editor is there to make the writer think again and to explore their work.

  • That finding an agent, someone who will fight your corner, is important. Learn as much as you can about the industry and read, read, read…

Reading encourages us to dream bigger.
  • 90% of what happens to your book is luck – Does it land on the editor’s desk at the right time? Does it fit their list? Have they just signed someone who’s written something very similar?

I also attend Jane’s fantastic breakout session where she donned her editor’s hat sharing what an
Latest historical fiction by Jane Johnson
editor looks for in a submission.
Here’s some of what I learned -

  • Look to surprise your readers
  • Trust your imagination
  • Don’t tell the reader everything that’s going on – know there are things you’re not going to tell
  • Include unexpected imagery, which doesn’t get in the way of the story. She quoted from Stuart MacBride – describing a character’s hair looking as if they’d sellotaped a cairn terrier to their head. (Who doesn’t love a cairn terrier?)
  • Characters are what makes your work tick – create light and shade in characters
  • Editors are always looking for an excuse to say no – don’t give them that excuse. Make your manuscript as polished as it can be
  • Do research and be confident in your writing – keep the writing as authentic as possible
  • If you’re boring yourself, you’re probably boring the reader – do not submit that 20 pages
  • A reader loves to be educated (to learn something). Learn your craft and write as well as you possibly can 

Things to consider when pitching – 

  • What is at the heart of your book?
  • Write your pitch as simply as possible
  • What about your book do you love best?
  • Share the main characters’ motivation


The latest action packed teen
adventure from Charlie Higson
Charlie Higsonauthor and writer for radio and television delivered the Penguin Random House keynote on the subject of Diversification. Here are only a handful of his great suggestions.

  • Make use of Twitter – find him @monstroso – writing’s a lonely occupation and Twitter can be a fantastically helpful research tool. Throw a question out on Twitter and within minutes, someone will come back with suggestions
  • Make a Spotify playlist for each novel/ screenplay you’re working on. Listening can help unlock that special voodoo place, where the writing starts to flow
  • When stuck novel writing, try writing a section as a script, which is a good way of opening up other pathways in the brain
  • Spot the good idea amongst all the other ideas you might have. And hang onto that good idea, which sometimes can become lost in the process
  • Catchphrases can be useful for characters
  • Create vivid and interesting dialogue. It doesn’t have to be real but it does need to be sparkling
    Charlie Higson and me!
    and alive

My teenage sons, both avid fans of Charlie’s Young Bond series, couldn’t quite believe I’d had the good fortune of meeting their writing hero. Here's the proof!

Dotted between the keynote speakers was a fantastic selection of breakout sessions including this one:


Crime author - Denise Mina
 Denise Mina – multi-award winning crime novelist, comic book writer, playwright and regular contributor to TV and radio, on shared a frank and funny review of the ups and downs of
Winner of the 2017 McIlvanney Prize
for Scottish Crime book of the Year
writing for a variety of media. But whatever the form, she encouraged writers to:
  • Induce a sense of recklessness in your writing. Are you being too safe? Do you need to dig deeper?
  • Remember that just because it sells, doesn’t mean it’s good. Publishers pay for placements in WHSmith.
  • Chop up work into paragraphs and chapters to increase narrative pace
  • Give the reader work to do by leaving things out. That way the reader invests in the story.


Joanna Pennhugely successful podcaster (I’ve may have mentioned I'm a massive fan of The Creative Penn podcast on this blog before!) and indie writing guru shared an absolute ton of tips in the final keynote speech of the weekend.

My precious signed copies...
I’ve shared some of what I jotted here, but in all honesty Joanna offered so much that if what you read here whets your appetite, then I highly recommend all of the following - How toMake a Living From Your Writing, TheSuccessful Author Mindset, How toMarket A Book and more…

Here’s an extremely potted version of what she shared:

1) Are you an entrepreneur?
  • A book is a intellectual property asset
  • Made once, it can be sold over and over again – think E-book, Print book, audio

2) Focus on the Customer
  • It’s about the reader
  • What do they want?
  • Only 5% of top selling books include literary fiction
  • Which sub-categories are your competitors selling in?

3) Make the most of your intellectual property
  • Understand your contract
  • What rights have you sold? What can you still exploit?
  • Look at territory/language/format/length of time before rights revert back to the author

Joanna's key message was that if you wish to be a successful author then you need to write more books.
  • Try other genres – write both fiction and non-fiction
  • Write a branded series and get readers hooked (may be linked by character or theme)
  • Go short – write a novella (less than 40,000 words long)
  • Go long – with box sets (great value for the customer)
  • Re-invigorate your backlist by re-branding, re-titling, re-covering

Here's Joanna Penn and me with crime author and organiser
extraordinaire, Wendy H Jones
5) Attract an audience
  • Be yourself
  • Share what you are interested in

Finally Joanna shared a hand written note she keeps by her writing desk – have you made art today? A mantra I’ve been happy to steal!


In addition to the packed writing weekend, we were also treated to a gin tasting session, sponsored by Botanist gin, tried Tia Chia, enjoyed a formal dinner and ceilidh evening, caught up with old friends and made new ones along the way.

All in all, a fantastic conference for writers, conceived and generously pulled together by writers, led by Linda Strachan. Thanks to the team who so kindly gave of their time including, Wendy H. Jones, Merryn Glover, Caroline Dunford, Chris Longmuir, Philip Paris, with apologies to those I've missed.
Cheers! Happy Writing x

Sadly, I can’t cover everything that went on but to see more photographs or discover more fantastic quotes head to Twitter and the #ScotsWrite17 hashtag.

Happy writing!