Whose dream is it anyway?

So I’m doing a course and as part of a workbook exercise, I had to answer this question:

What Dreams Have You Let Go Of?

The immediate answer that came to mind (though I seldom think of it) was this:

Becoming a mother

As I said, I rarely think of this. It’s not a part of my day, or my life, to be honest. I’ve known for a long time that this was not my path, so it’s been a non-issue. Even now, staring at those words through tears, I can’t say I would change anything. I’m happy to be child-free and couldn’t imagine my life with kids in it. If I’m honest it gives me palpitations!

BUT. But. I feel the absence of that experience I’ll never get to have. The experience of me being a mother. Of getting to meet a little person with all my mixed-up genes and inconvenient family traits, transmuted into something completely new and unique. The wonder of finding out who that little person will be and how I can support them and teach them, without fucking them up (too much). Cos that’s what parents do, I think. Their best, whilst knowing somewhere deep down that it will probably fall short. Most likely, that’s when you construct a bridge of hope that your child will somehow figure it out anyway. Find their own way despite your instinctive need to guide them even when they don’t want or need you anymore. Christ. I think I might have been a good mom, as they say. Good enough. I hope I would have been playful and receptive (but probably tired and stressed!) I’ll never know and it’s a big thing to not know.

The follow-up question was, what was your reason for letting go of the dream? That’s when I realised that I’d probably gone too deep! Maybe they were looking for an easier answer because I didn’t let go on purpose. I just ran out of time. But when I dig a little deeper, I realise that I did let go of something. I no longer believed it was possible to find the kind of partner I would want to have a family with. Beliefs are the engines for your dreams, but I didn’t know it then. And I never thought about going it alone (which is really unlike me because I have such an independent spirit!)

But now I look at the question again and realise I’ve glossed over the most important word… ‘Dream.’ It was never really my dream to have a child or to become a mother. It felt more like an inevitability! It’s just something that is taken for granted in our society, assumed. Of course, everyone wants to be a mother, right? So often we prioritise other people’s dreams above our own because that’s how life works a lot of the time. We never really get to ask ourselves the question until it’s too late. Is this what you really wanted? Maybe, maybe not. so perhaps it’s not a dream I have let go of, but a potentiality; a sliding doors version of my life that may or may not have been as happy and fulfilling as the one I’m living now. If we subconsciously choose our reality, then I have chosen to prioritise a different part of me and I’m going to honour that inner intuitiveness by letting go of the dreams that are not mine and embracing the ones that are. All in.

The Heirloom – a treasured inheritance

heirloom twitterBooks, I am learning, have a life of their own. Long after the story has left my pen, I watch it dip and rise on the tides. It amazes me – the power of a book to go on its own journey, as if the author is but a distant spot on the horizon.

Such has been the experience with my debut novel, The Heirloom (which is conveniently 99p at the moment on Kindle!) When I first published this timeslip story, I just couldn’t get any traction with it. I was a first-time, self-publishing author and no-one knew I even existed. I hadn’t a clue how to reach readers or where to promote my book.

Fast forward a few years and The Heirloom has now become my most popular selling title! I cannot tell you how happy it makes me, to know that people are not only discovering this story, but really enjoying it!

I spent waaaaay too long researching this novel, but judging from the reviews, it seems to have paid off. It all started when two completely different ideas collided. I love history and was interested in the Spanish Armada ships that crashed into Irish shores during one of the worst storms in history. Miraculously, a letter from one of the knights who survived, has outlived its author and gives a harrowing account of his time in Ireland. In Galway (where the book is set) there is still a monument to the 300 Spanish sailors who were massacred by the English on Fort Hill cemetery. Through the kindness of strangers, Captain Francisco de Cuéllar was given shelter and managed to return home to Spain (after many adventures!) Here is a trailer for a short film based on his time here, which is kind of amazing because I like to pretend this is a trailer for my book!

Armada 1588 : Shipwreck & Survival (Film Trailer – English) from Omedia on Vimeo.

But of course, that’s not the end of my story. Given my love for timeslip novels (it began with Kate Mosse, blame her!) I wanted to write the story in a format that brought the reader into the present day. I feel so strong that our past is the answer to all of the mysteries we face in our lives and I love exploring those links in fiction. So, when I discovered a book called Many Lives, Many Masters written by the American psychotherapist, Dr. Brian Weiss, I knew I’d found my key.  It tells how one of his patients began recalling past-life traumas and through the use of therapy and hypnosis, they resolved to cure her recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks.

Well, I’ve always had an over-active imagination and the idea of remembering past lives really intrigued me. I wonder where I lived, or who I was, in previous lives? Books like Cloud Atlas ignite my passion for this idea and the beauty of it is, no-one can really say for sure whether or not it’s possible… In more recent times, there have been increasing studies into inherited trauma and whether transgenerational inheritance can really affect a person’s biology. But that’s for another story.

For now, I’m just delighted to see my story about past and present lives colliding on the wild shores of the west coast of Ireland finally charting a steady course to a whole new readership. These reader reviews have made my heart soar and reminded me that stories can go on forever and heirlooms are made to be passed on.

“I loved this book! Following the history of Miguel and Annora was fascinating.”

“It almost seemed like two books in one, which is great for avid readers. Skillfully the author links the life stories of four well-developed characters across centuries.”

“Once I started this book I found it difficult to put down. I like the way it slips easily from modern Ireland to the time of the Spanish Armada.”

“A beautiful story of love, loss and courage . This beautiful story wraps history and a great love into one. Good read!”

“Anyone who likes a mystery that takes you to another country plus searching for family tree i could not put this down. 3 o’clock in the morning is not a good time to go to sleep!! loved it.”

First Draft – Fourth Novel – Feeling Good

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Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Hello my people! Wow, I’ve really abandoned this blog of late. I could blame, you know, the global pandemic and stuff, but the real reason is that I’ve been saving all my writing for my new book (which I am SUPERDOOPER excited about!!) It’s a slightly different genre, no history or magic, but lots of humour and uplifting themes around relationships and finding your place in the world. Sometimes I wonder if it even matters what genre you write, as most writers tend to return to the same themes, no matter what the plot. And my theme is always that of self-discovery, which I think we’ve all done a lot of over the past few months.

When this all started, I did what I usually tend to do in a crisis – ignore it! I figured it wouldn’t affect my lifestyle because I work from home anyway, so what would be the difference? I tuned out the news and escaped into my book. But after a few weeks, I just hit a wall. It became clear that I wasn’t immune to everything that was going on and it was expecting waaay too much of myself to remain unaffected by it. Anyway, I won’t dwell on it, it’s been weird for everyone, but luckily I had these wonderful characters and their story to return to. But – I don’t know if anyone’s told you this – writing is hard! There’s always that doubt in the back of your mind, “Will I finish this? Will it be good enough?” So, when I typed the words ‘The End’ this week, I felt all the feels! It was emotional, joyous, hopeful and kind of surreal. It was really when I printed it out (I find it easier to run through the second draft on paper) that it hit home – I’ve made another book! My fourth!! It’s something like a little miracle.

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I don’t know where this story will take me – that’s the joy/uncertainty of being a writer. You just never know. My last book has just hit the shelves in France this summer – I never dreamed in a million years that The Story Collector would be translated into French! La Collectionneuse d’Histoires And now I have a French publisher and a translator! It still hasn’t really sunk in. I had a good feeling about that book when I was writing it and I have a good feeling about this one too. It’s got something special – even though it was (like all books) a challenge to capture the ideas in my head on paper, it sort of flowed too. I just had to be present and let the serendipity happen.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing and I can’t wait to get editing and get this story out there!! I want you all to enjoy this story as much as I have enjoyed writing it – giggling at the funny scenes and tearing up at the emotional bits. It’s a journey. And now my brain wants to outline ideas for book five, because if there is one thing I’ve learned it’s that there will never be a better time to do things than right now. Plus, I feel kind of lonely without a work-in-progress, so when one cast of characters move out, another bunch move in! With more interesting stories to tell and challenges to face. I’m fortunate that I can create fictional worlds in order to better understand this one – giving myself and my readers somewhere to escape to. If we didn’t value storytelling before this, we certainly do now. The arts is what has kept us all going – distracting us, consoling us, entertaining us.  So if you’re thinking of writing a story – DO IT NOW! The world needs more stories.

Don’t forget, I have two FREE short stories that you can download now … Betwixt is consistantly in the Top 5 on Amazon and Girl in the Middle is a tongue-in-cheek look at loneliness in the modern world. And if you like those, please buy the other ones/leave a review! x

girl in the middle

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A quirky short story about a woman who discovers that not all heroes wear capes… some of them don’t even have a pulse. But they do have a name. Gerald.

I wrote a short story! girl in the middle And you can download it, for free, on whatever device you use.

Nook  ~ Kobo ~ Kindle ~ Apple

Now, don’t labour under the misapprehension that I wrote this during lockdown. No siree. All I’ve done during lockdown is watch Poldark (because… I’m really interested in 18th century mining?!), curse my sinuses and basically fall apart, in an orderly fashion.

Writing during this time has been like everything else during this time – a mixture of extremes. Either I’m feeling really creative and motivated or I can’t even muster up the enthusiasm to switch on my laptop. I wrote this story last year with the full intention of submitting it for a short story award, but being the success-driven, laser-focused, ambitious writer that I am, I didn’t get around to it 🙂 But I’m so glad I didn’t, because finding it now feels like perfect timing. A gift from past-me to present-me. When I read it again, I found myself laughing out loud and enjoying the quirky characters I created. So I thought, what’s the best way to get this out into the world? Self-publish of course!

Also, it’s been a long time since I’ve released anything and the stuff I’m currently working on is more contemporary and more comedy. That’s the thing with novels – there is sooooooooooooooo much time in between, where your readers probably think you’re dead or off spending your royalties in Mauritius. When really, you’re writing TWO new novels, submitting, waiting, writing, reading, editing, deleting and repeating until another year has gone by and you’ve nothing to show for it. So releasing a little story is a great way to remind people that you’re alive and still writing stories.

And people do love a free book! It’s a great way to discover a new author. Betwixt – my first short story – which is consistently in the Amazon Top 5, is flying off the virtual shelves at the moment. So it’s a win-win, I get to share a bite-size piece of creativity and readers get a free story.

So please share, read, download, whatever it is you crazy kids do and help me to get this story out there. At a very short and sweet 15 pages, girl in the middle is fun, free and uplifting – and we could all do with a bit of that right now.

 

Give Me Books!

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Image credit: Patricia Loya

For so many of us, books have always offered the perfect escape from reality – now more so than ever.

I couldn’t read at all at first – just couldn’t settle down to anything. I spent my days completely distracted and on edge. One morning I spent 10 minutes making porridge, until I realised I hadn’t even switched on the cooker.

Then I picked up an old favourite of mine, One Day by David Nicholls and suddenly I was in a different world, with Dex and Emma and before I knew it, I was snorting out loud, crying, nodding along sagely at how twenty years can change a person.

Anyway, to that end, I’ve made all of my books available to download from Amazon for just £0.99/€0.99/$0.99. Just check out my author page here  or try a preview below. Hope you are all hanging in there and finding calm where you can. x

Don’t @ Me

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Reading reviews can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster. The warm and fuzzy feeling when someone has connected with your characters; understood what you were trying to do and are happy they bought a ticket to your show. The shock and anger when someone dismisses your work, casually labels it ‘boring’ or the real killer, ‘light reading’. Some authors choose not to read their reviews, which is completely understandable. But for a lot of us, this is the only kind of feedback we get and so we cross our fingers, keep one eye closed and dive in, hoping for the best.

Over time, you come to realise that your book is no longer your private property. It belongs to anyone who hands over their hard-earned cash to buy it and their experience of reading it is unique to them and something you have no control over. This knowledge has given me a certain amount of detachment from reviews. As someone once said, reviews are for the readers and that is as it should be. But does that mean that authors don’t read their reviews?

I remember when I published my first book, The Heirloom. I hoped that people would buy it, read it and with any luck, enjoy it. It took roughly two years to research, write and rewrite. As a newly, self-published author, it took a very long time to get off the ground. If someone had told me back then that people would not only read it, but contact me to say how much they enjoyed it, well, I would have felt like my dreams were coming true.

That’s why I think the recent discussion on Twitter, sparked by an author who said it was ‘rude’ to tag them, is confusing a lot of people. On a basic level, writers write because they want to share a story with the world. Now, they might not care what the world thinks about their story (I’m thinking of Sally Rooney who said in an interview that she doesn’t read reviews or let them hold any sway for her) and that is their right. Writing a book does not automatically lock you into a contract where you have to be open to everyone’s’ opinion on it.

However, this is social media. It’s where you come to interact with people and if you’re an author (especially a well-known author), people are going to @ you. I see that Sally Rooney no longer has a Twitter account, which is really the only way to go if you don’t want to be involved in the conversation. I also noticed that Gail Honeyman, author of one of my favourite books, has also been inactive on her account since 2017. Now, I don’t know the reason for this (she’s probably writing another amazing book!) but prior to that, she responded to everyone who tagged her.

Which makes me wonder about the other part of the tweet – how we are limited ‘professionally’. Does this mean that publishers preclude authors from engaging with reviewers? Perhaps that’s a valid point – but I’ve never heard of this being the case and it certainly isn’t for me. In fact, the more interaction the merrier. But I think saying ‘thank you’ or liking a tweet is hardly going to create any conflict of interest. Or is the author referring to negative reviews and the unwritten rule that authors should not engage in online spats about their books (are you listening John Boyne?!) Maybe that is what she meant – it is so difficult to have a nuanced conversation on Twitter.

But speaking of negative reviews – I think it’s safe to assume that most authors do not want to be tagged on those! I saw Erin Morgenstern had to ask people to refrain from tagging her in conversations about how they didn’t really enjoy her new book. That’s just …. shit, really. I don’t know why anyone would want to call an author’s attention to their negative opinion of their book. Where is that conversation going to go? Is the author supposed to apologise? Give up writing?? Of course not. I like to use Goodreads to write my reviews, but I’m always cringing that an author might see the negative ones. Yes, it’s my honest opinion, but I’m not going to draw their attention to it by tagging them.

The fact is, everyone is entitled to make their own boundaries and I respect that. Judging from the comments, most people don’t expect a response from the author anyhow, but it’s nice when it happens. I tag other authors when I’m in love with their book – you can bet your butt I tagged Gail Honeyman with a link to a gushing review on my blog and she said something along the lines of Yay! thanks and we all went home happy. But I have tagged one or two authors who haven’t responded, for whatever reason, and that’s cool too. Maybe we should just agree that it’s not rude to tag and it’s not rude to not reply. Simples.

However, I don’t like the idea of self-appointed spokespeople making sweeping generalisations on behalf of all authors everywhere. We have all taken different paths to this place and some of us see it as a validation of sorts when someone has taken the time to say, hey, nice work.

Neil Gaiman added his tuppence worth, giving credence to the belief that authors do not want to read their reviews. Again, it came off a little patronising and, as happens on Twitter, we all have knee-jerk reactions. Later, he qualified his comment with the following:

This just goes to show what I believe to be the crux of the issue. Most of us would struggle to get reviewed in the mainstream media. Our aim is to be read by regular readers, not critics. So yeah, of course we want to hear from those people! The day I have a bad review in the Times and someone tags me in it, maybe then I’ll understand the annoyance these writers feel. But you know what? Maybe I won’t, because I’ve had to grow a very thick skin over the years – something all those articles written by publishers and agents tell us we need to do if we want to be authors!

It sometimes feels like all of this advice for writers is being sent in the wrong direction. I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman, but he does not speak for all of us. Just like he didn’t speak for me when he said eBook piracy was ‘an incredibly good thing’. Illegal downloads are having a seriously adverse affect on authors trying to establish a career in the digital age, affecting sales and creating an environment where readers no longer see the value in paying for books. You cannot assume that everyone in this industry is on a level playing field. We are a diverse ecosystem and one of the most integral parts of it are book reviewers/book bloggers. Elizabeth Bear’s tweet was especially dismissive of bloggers who read/review/promote book reviews and naturally tag the author as an FYI.

Whatever the intention was (and I’m learning that your intention can be very much misconstrued on Twitter) it has again highlighted the amount of unpaid work bloggers do with little or no credit. Another tweet (oh my God, I’m spending so much time on Twitter!! Help!) from a book blogger laid out how much time it takes and commitment to keep a blog going and how a simple high five from an author can make it feel worthwhile. It strikes me that in a multi-million euro industry, the people who do all the work get the least reward. Authors receive tiny royalties, have to do their own marketing and bloggers work for the price of a free book.

Anyway, I don’t want to end on a bum note. No-one is forcing us to be here, we do it because we love it, but as in life, it only takes some small courtesies to make it better for everyone. Try to not to illegally download books – I know we’re all on tight budgets, but please borrow from a library instead and if you can, leave a review. Show book bloggers some appreciation by liking their reviews – yes they love books anyway but I can’t imagine having to read loads of books I didn’t choose and then promoting them and promoting other bloggers, all for free! And do tag authors – most of us are not guaranteed newspaper reviews or even book deals. So it’s a lovely boost when someone takes the time to review your book (just don’t share the negative ones with us – no good can come from it!)

As Rebecca Solnit said, a book is a heart that only beats in the chest of another. We need each other.

Books I Loved in 2019

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Photo by Plush Design Studio on Pexels.com

Well, thank God that’s over. I am now over-weight and reluctant to do anything more taxing than switching channels on the TV. Thanks Christmas, thanks a lot!

But the sanctioned fun isn’t over yet folks, we have the New Year shenanigans to get through first! Although it is a bit exciting this year as we’re entering the 20’s. Still, not as edge-of-the-seat as 1999 when we were all worried about Y2K and the END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNEW IT.

Come what may, we will always have books and speaking of which, this is a little post to highlight the ones I’ve really enjoyed this year (which doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve been published in 2019 – it’s just that this was the year I finally got round to reading them). I know, it’s an edgy, original concept that no-one else has thought of yet, so I’m thinking this is the post that’s gonna go viral.

A quick glance at Goodreads reveals that I haven’t been a voracious reader this year – as per my previous post, it’s been a funny old 12 months. But what is clear is that my one and only five star rating went to …. (drumroll)

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I stumbled across this book quite by accident (which makes it even BETTER!) while scrolling through my library eBook app thingie (BorrowBox). Saw the lovely Carmel Harrington’s quote and thought, yeah, I’ll give this one a go. OMG. You know when you find your book soul mate? Yep, this is THE ONE. I gushed about it in a full, dedicated, book crush post here, but just to give you a quick snifter –

This book is one of those rare treats that can surprise and delight and stretch the boundaries of genre. It’s got EVERYTHING; a little bit of history, a generous helping of clever, wry humour and tons of humanity. The characters manage to avoid the usual tropes and all bring their own very unique personalities to this quirky tale of family, love and finding your path in life.

Next on the list is …

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Came across this book thanks to the Reece Witherspoon bookclub. Loved the ‘prickly’ main character immediately – very reminiscent of Eleanor Oliphant, so if you were a fan, this book is for you. I love stories that explore how being set in your ways is fine, but you can’t expect life to play by your rules. Life is chaos, basically, and trying to control things doesn’t always work. Funny, moving and clever, this book gets four stars from me.

Finally, one of my most recent reads (you didn’t think I could go a whole blog post without mention historical fiction, did you??) makes the list …

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Hello?? Cover envy – moi? It’s a beautiful book with a story that just reels you in and won’t let go. One of those books you can’t wait to get back to. Wonderfully written and depicted, a bit like Eternal Sunshine for The Spotless Mind but for historical fiction lovers! Lush, unnerving and romantic – this one gets four stars from me (the beginning is a little drawn out, so hang in there!)

So that’s it, I’m sure you will all be compiling your own lists and I can’t wait to read them so I can add to my list for 2020. That’s the only resolution worth trying to keep – oh, that and trying to write a book or two of my own! Best wishes to you all for the coming year, hope it will bring good things for us all 🙂

 

Twas The Mystery Before Christmas

 

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‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there…

How can so few words conjure up so much nostalgia and capture our imagination, year in, year out? This much-loved seasonal rhyme is the basis for so much of the folklore surrounding good old Santa Claus – what he looks like, his reindeer names and how he gets down the chimney! But what is especially intriguing is that it was first published anonymously in 1823 and ever since then, the authorship has been somewhat questionable.

Who would have the generosity of spirit to write such a magical poem and never claim the kudos?  Well, in 1837 the poem was attributed to the American poet, Clement Clarke Moore (they just don’t name ’em like that these days!) and in 1844 he included the poem in an anthology, claiming his authorship of the poem.  However, a professor of English in New York by the name of Donald Foster, challenged the authorship and believes that it was written by Henry Livingston Jr., a New York poet with Dutch and Scottish roots.

Having analysed the text, he was convinced that the phraseology and the optimistic approach was much more consistent with Livingston’s style than Moore’s.  But the real argument (in my opinion) is Livingston’s Dutch heritage.  The references to Saint Nicholas are very closely related to the Dutch ‘Sinteklaes’ tradition, with the reindeer names originally printed as ‘Dunder and Blixem’, Dutch for thunder and lightening.christmas-1876438_1920

Despite the fact that Livingston’s children also claimed that he had read them the poem before its publication, he never claimed authorship himself. Could it be the spirit of Christmas, to gift something so wonderful to the public without seeking recognition? There was even a mock trial held as recently as 2014 in New York, which reached the surprise verdict (hold on to your hats people) that Major Henry Livingston Jr is the true author of ‘Twas the night before Christmas’.  Read all about it here http://christmastrial.com/

Maybe it’s just the fact that I always root for the underdog, but for whatever reason, my money is on Livingston. Unless of course it is as Virginia Woolf once said – For most of history, anonymous was a woman. Maybe we’ll never know the true author, but either way, it is the most magical Christmas poem ever written and you can enjoy it in full here.

And if you’re looking for a book to lose yourself in over the holidays, why not get a copy of The Story Collector – there is no authorship controversy and I take full responsibility for the magic that inks every page!

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Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Betwixt – A gothic short story

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I love gothic novels. Everything from Edgar Allen Poe to Laura Purcell, Bram Stoker to Carlos Ruiz Zafon – I find the blend of dark romanticism, ominous characters, decaying grandeur, curses and the supernatural simply irresistible. My favourite novel as a teenager was Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Set on the desolate and uninviting moors, with its harsh climate provided the perfect backdrop for a gothic romance and reminded me so much of Ireland, that I felt strangely connected to it. I was also really drawn to the anti-heroes Heathcliff and Cathy – their willful nature, their intensity. But it’s the structure of the story and the supernatural elements that infuse it with a sense of mystery and fear.

I was less enamoured by my penchant for the macabre when staying at a friend’s cottage in the middle of the Irish countryside, miles from anywhere. It was the longest night of my life (I was supposed to stay there for a week. Plans changed!). Nestled (or buried – depending on how you want to look at it!) at the base of a hill , it was a traditional thatched cottage with dinky windows and a half door. The smell of turf almost knocked me over as we walked inside, but I tried to be cool with the gloom and the damp. And the fact that, despite it being the height of summer, inside was a million degrees cooler than outside.

That night however, I stopped being cool with everything when the noises started. Every creak made me jump. It didn’t help that the room was full of religious icons, leering over me. The distinct sound of a chair being scraped across the floor left me rigid in the bed. I had to risk my arm being snatched by who knew what to switch on the lamp. I gave up on sleep and sat in an armchair by the smokey fire until it was light enough to pack up and go back to civilisation. But not before my companion told me the history of the house, and how we were not the first to leave the place in a hurry.

This, dear reader, was the inspiration for my gothic short story, Betwixt which is currently a number one bestseller on Amazon! I wrote it in 2015, before The Story Collector, as a little side project, so it’s a thrill to see it doing so well and garnering such positive reviews. Like all indie authors, I struggle to get my work promoted and break into new readerships. So I have made this short story permanently free on all platforms (Kobo ~ Apple) so readers can get an introduction to my writing before buying all of my books!

Betwixt is the perfect quick read for this time of year – it’s atmospheric and haunting and inspired by a true story (eek!) So download your FREE copy now and if you enjoy it, I would love if you could share the love by passing it on to a friend and/or leaving a short review. They make a HUGE difference to how books are ranked on Amazon, which in turn can really impact on an author’s career. True story! You can have all the PR in the world, but it is readers who have the greatest influence. So thank you to everyone who has made this book number one and to those of you about to read it, let me know what you think!

Why Do Authors Diss Other Authors?

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Credit: Gerd Altman

You know what’s hot right now, other than global warming? Tearing down your peers in order to promote your new book! And it’s not new authors, desperate for any kind of media coverage they can get – these are well-established authors who all seem to be hopping on the latest controversy bandwagon. But why are they doing it? Does it result in more sales or is a just a ploy to get your name ‘out there’?

For a while there, it seemed like a queue of predominantly white male authors were awaiting their turn to declare that the novel (as they knew it) was dead. Will Self being the most vocal (who even is he??!). It was all a bit pathetic really – writers bemoaning the fact that their work was no longer relevant and choosing to denounce the younger generation for their lack of taste rather than accept that their books mightn’t be as good as they thought they were. Or that, like the rest of us mere mortals, their books have no  guarantee of a warm reception.

Irish author Colm Tóibín recently told a Guardian interviewer: “I can’t do thrillers and I can’t do spy novels.”  

Asked which books he felt were most overrated, he said: “I can’t do any genre-fiction books, really, none of them. I just get bored with the prose. I don’t find any rhythm in it. It’s blank, it’s nothing; it’s like watching TV.”

So clearly, Colm has read ALL THE BOOKS and they’re all boring. Thanks for that Colm, inspirational.

Poor old John Banville can only write ‘genre’ under a pseudonym, lest his good name and reputation be besmirched by popular fiction. It’s a form of snobbery, looking down one’s nose at other writers, and readers for that matter. Like the ‘real book’ brigade who scoff at eBooks and their readers. Like, get over yourself and the delusion that you are the sole arbiter of good taste. By dismissing things that people enjoy, you are dismissing them and what matters to them. And to me, this seems a very foolish thing to do.

The most recent author to diss an entire genre is Louise Doughty, when she told The Guardian (why is it always The Guardian?) “I can’t bear anything chicklitty or girly.”

Wow. Can’t bear it, eh? Any book in particular, or just every book written by a woman who has been classified under the broadest commercial fiction genre EVER? Now, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but such an established writer must be aware of how dismissive this sounds to her peers? How many years have female authors been fighting this exact kind of stigma associated with chick lit? It’s a marketing tag, that has unfortunately sidelined contemporary romcoms  written by women as vacuous, vapid and unimportant. The definition of chick lit is ‘a heroine-centred narrative‘, so far so brilliant, and luckily for us fans, promotes a whole plethora of styles, voices and subject matter. In fact, categorising novels by a single criterion is such a reductive exercise anyway, the dismissive tone used by this authors is at best, unhelpful.

I also think the media has a lot to answer for here. If an author is asked their opinion, they have every right to give it. It was the editor’s choice to pick that one quote from the interview and run it as click-bait on all social media platforms. And this seems to be the way of it now – the newspaper takes the most inflammatory line from an article, tweets it and watches the book world have a meltdown. And that my friends, is marketing.

But in case you were thinking literary authors were safe from all this criticism, think again. Sally Rooney has committed a cardinal sin – the worst thing you can do in literary fiction – she has sold a lot of books. It’s one thing garnering critical acclaim, but to be successful in the monetary sense can risk the loss of your member’s card to the ‘serious’ literary writers club. Will Self (him again!) ‘bravely’ took it upon himself to put her back in her place by labelling her writing as ‘lacking ambition’, lest she go getting any ideas that she might have earned her place among the literati. Fortunately we have men like him to save us from our own bad taste.

Irish author Catherine Ryan Howard has her finger on the pulse and her tongue firmly in her cheek with this latest tweet:

 

So is this the future for authors? A newspaper article in which they upset not only their fellow authors, but the millions of readers who enjoy their books?  And while everyone has the right to speak their mind, it is the contrivance to cause controversy that seems to be the PR drug of choice these days. To me, it just makes people look arrogant and insecure. I’ve always been taught that people who try to make you feel small are only doing it so they can feel big. Authors dismissing other genres must have some dire need to feel important, or to be seen as superior, i.e. someone whose work matters. But newsflash, we all matter and a bit of diplomacy goes a long way.

We are all creatures of habit and of course we tend to gravitate to certain styles of writing and subject matter. There is nothing wrong with that and there is nothing wrong with not liking a book. Art is subjective. But when does it stop being an opinion and start being derisory? Good critique is backed up by fact and reason (like books where the characters are under-developped, for example) but generalisations that have no real basis tell us nothing constructive. The truth is, there are crap writers and crap books everywhere. There are crap literary books, crap self-published books, crap traditionally published books, crap YA books, crap detective novels, crap books by men, crap books by women … but to give one broad sweep of criticism to any of these categories is just ignorant and lazy.

I have always found the writing community to be supportive and always remember the first time I read another saying that there is room enough for all of us. We don’t have to compete by putting one another down. Most readers, like myself, read across genres, so in the long run, it’s probably wiser to big up your fellow authors rather than risk alienating your audience. Your readership could well overlap. But just on a human level, as Michelle Obama once said, when they go low, we go high!