Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I was born in Durham City in England in 1962. After moving to the Scottish Borders in 1998, I rekindled my love of art, becoming an artist, tutor and illustrator, before going on to study with the Open University as a mature student. Moving to a rural area was the best thing I could ever have done to stimulate my latent creativity and study again. With the OU, I gained a first class honours degree in the Humanities, with Literature and Art History, before going on to do a diploma in creative writing . I have written one novel so far, with two others in progress, and I’m doing a collaborative life writing project with a writer friend. My passions, which drive my writing, are an interest in human nature and psychology as well as a love of nature, and I spend my time writing, blogging, painting, gardening and volunteering in social care. Something I believe in which drives me in my midlife phase is this – ‘Discover the world of you, and with all your heart, be faithful to it’.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My debut novel is entitled On Turtle Beach. I often used to wonder how my sister and I would get on if we went on holiday together, just the two of us, and I asked other women how they felt about this situation too. Most seemed to flinch at the idea, coming from the premise that they and their sister were too different, were like chalk and cheese and would probably bicker or come to blows. I thought it would be great to explore this. Holidaying in Dalyan, Turkey, gave me my setting for the story, and the themes came in from there. I thoroughly enjoyed writing the novel and actually miss the two sister protagonists very much!
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I like to have an organised desk, and dust around the papers too much, which is probably symbolic of the fact that a writing session has to feel new and fresh both physically and mentally. But there is something else in the space too. There is a touch of the theatrical, which happened unconsciously for the most part. I have a folded fan, black with roses on it, which I got for it’s exotic feel, and because I’d always wanted to own a fan. And on the wall is a gold-painted cast of a Venetian character wearing a tricorn hat, reminiscent of eighteenth century carnival and masquerade. So I suppose these help get me in the ‘zone’ for writing!
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Over time, I can easily say that Stephen King has been a huge inspiration, for his character development and structural shaping and suspense, even though I write womens fiction rather than horror or fantasy. His attention to detail is outstanding and he knows human nature so well – reading him frees me up in my own writing, which is quite an accolade to him I think.
I also love Margaret Atwood for her female characters and unique writing voice, as well as Ian McEwan for his psychological intensity. Zoe Heller’s ‘Notes on a Scandal’ is a true favourite of mine for the tone of the first person narrator and I dip into Emile Zola for social commentary and the sheer indulgence of his description. It was studying the nineteenth century novel with the OU which really stirred the first faint embers of wanting to be a writer.
What are you working on now?
Two more novels. One is set in the retail world of the 90s about a dark embittered woman with a past that returns to haunt her, while she struggles to keep her antagonist at work at bay. The other is a general fiction story about midlife crisis, with alternating points of view throughout, which I relish doing. I also am working on a collaborative life writing project with a writer friend where we share our lives and observations with one another.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
Oh this is so hard, because I’m still learning. I do love doing my blog, where I post once a week, while advertising my book at the same time. I have a facebook author page and a twitter author page…as for anything else, I’m still experimenting and gathering advice from writers facebook groups. I use KDP select for the 5 days of promoting one’s book as free to buy, and book promotion sites like this are now on my radar – thank you Awesomegang!
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Yes…please don’t let all the information out there daunt you…there really is so much to sift through, but just start with the basics and above anything else, don’t let promotion and worrying about sales get in the way of your enjoying writing. Enjoying writing has to be the bottom line.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
A quote from Gandhi has to be the best of what I’ve assimilated, and it applies so much to the creative life, to keep you going, when questions like ‘What’s the point? arise:
“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
What are you reading now?
Thoreau’s ‘Walden and on the Duty of Civil Disobedience’ – because I’ve never read Thoreau before and I love reading about earlier takes on natural history and social organisation. After that I’ll probably re-read a Stephen King novel, because I need my regular ‘dip in the pool’ of King.
What’s next for you as a writer?
Just to keep going, keep motivated, try different forms such as life writing, and keep imagining. I do have a burning desire kindling inside me to write a midlife crisis memoir, but don’t know if I’m ready to ‘bare all’ so to speak. When I do feel ready, it will be for tailored for creative people, as my transition was indivisable from the living the creative life with all its challenges, frustrations and conflicts as well as joys and tribulations.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ for escapism and comfort
Eckhart Tolle’s ‘A New Earth’ for acceptance and spirtual nourishment
Emile Zola’s ‘Germinal’, for his great writing and so I’d feel better off than in a mine!
Eckhart Tolle’s ‘The Power Of Now’, to maintain a constructive attitude to my stranded situation