First Draft – Fourth Novel – Feeling Good

floral ceramic cup and saucer above open book
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on

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.

La collectionneuse d'histoires

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

The Perfect Book

Making art isn’t an exact science.  So much is down to happenstance and luck, and I always admire authors who attribute their success to a strange marriage of dull slog and serendipity.

I recently read what was, in my eyes, a near perfect novel, but during a conversation with another reader, she pointed out some parts of the story that just didn’t ring true; things that, for her, made the rest of the story difficult to believe.  I was surprised, because I had noticed those minor loop-holes too, but chose to ignore them for the sake of the story.  The story just worked better if I chose to believe the author rather than question her.  Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies is a cliche for a reason!  I suppose we all read books differently, but for me, I am saying yes to an unspoken contract as soon as I open the cover: tell me a good story and I will believe.

Even though the reader had a completely valid point, it niggled at me.  As a fiction writer, there are many times when you ask your reader to suspend their belief, in order to make the story work.  But, are readers willing to do this?  It goes without saying we have to ground our stories in reality and make our characters believable, but don’t we also have a bit of artistic license?  As readers, are we expecting a perfection that doesn’t exist?

Just to be clear, I’m talking about minor infractions here, not great big bloody plot holes that push the entire story beyond credibility.  Such questions are valid, but in this case, it caused merely a moment’s wondering.  FYI, the novel was Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and the issue was her supposed ignorance of most modern cultural references.  I also questioned if this was possible, but chose to believe that it was.  Either way, this is a story.  It’s not meant to be real.  The writer is trying to create an atmosphere, not a documentary.  You’ve got to allow for some artistic license when it comes to the business of show, or else, what are we all doing here?  Do writers really set out to write the perfect book, or is the pursuit of creating something greater than we can ever deliver, the art in itself?  Critics might expect perfection, but we, as storytellers are more focused on telling a good story.

And what is art for anyway?  Why do writers want to express themselves through stories and why do readers love hearing them?  I think Matthew Arnold, Professor of Poetry at Oxford (Culture and Anarchy) expressed it perfectly when he said that all great artists possess ‘the noble aspiration to leave the world better and happier than we found it‘.  I love this quote, because I think everyone who picks up a pen/brush/instrument wants to make something good, something true.  We want to add our voice to the collective narrative, our unique take on life, our desires, our hopes and our fears.  It might not be perfect, but it’s ours and no-one else can tell our story in quite the same way.  If a book speaks to you, makes you think and makes you feel, then that is the perfect book.  For you.  Regardless of what the critics say.


A New Year’s Wish

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Susannah Conway’s 2016 Workbook


New Year’s Resolutions always seem to focus on what you should give up in the coming twelve months.  But I think it’s far more worth while to make a list of the things you want to do more of in 2016.

It is a natural time to take stock of the year gone by – acknowledging the challenges and personal triumphs of the last 12 months.  But it is also the perfect time to create your intentions for the year ahead.  I am a big fan of Susannah Conway’s creative workbook, which is free to download here at ‘Unravelling the year ahead’. If you are a fan of journaling (which I am – although I must admit I’ve been a little rusty lately) you will already understand the power of the written word when it comes to defining your goals, hopes and aspirations.

Susannah’s insightful workbook is all about creativity and mindfulness – perfect for writers who need the space to dream and the motivation to follow through.  There are lots of interesting questions and exercises that really get your creative juices flowing, as well as bringing awareness to any areas where you might be feeling a bit stuck.  It’s a wonderful way to indulge your innermost thoughts on paper; to write and to dream.  And who knows, maybe some of those dreams will come true!

For myself, I have a few simple commitments I want to make.  First on my list – I want to read more.  There are so many books and so little time to read them, so my resolution is to make the time and squeeze more novels in.  Second, I want to paint more.  Painting is my other passion in life and I hope to exhibit some new pieces in 2016.  Third – I want to take time to stop and smell the roses.  Life can sometimes feel like hurtling towards an ever-shifting finish line, so I’m going to take more time to appreciate what’s around me and all the gifts I have received in my life.

Wishing you all a very happy & creative 2016 🙂


Everything Is Possible


The New Year brings another glorious 12 months full of exciting new possibilities, but rather than making resolutions, which  have become little more than a novelty in my opinion, I am creating my intentions for 2015.  It is also the perfect time to take stock of the year gone by – acknowledging the challenges and personal triumphs of the last 12 months.  If you are a fan of journaling (which I am – although I must admit I’ve been a little rusty lately) you will already understand the power of the written word.  Writing your thoughts and more importantly, dreams, on paper can have a transformative effect – literally turning your dreams into a reality.

Two years ago, I found a great worksheet by Susannah Conway that really sparked my creative mind to plan the year ahead and the good news is, she has created another one for 2015.  ‘Unravelling The Year Ahead’ is an insightful worksheet (available to download here) that’s all about creativity and mindfulness – perfect for writers who need the space to dream and the motivation to follow through.  It’s a wonderful way to indulge your innermost thoughts on paper, to write, to dream.  And who knows, maybe some of those dreams will come true!

Wishing you all a very happy & creative 2015 🙂

Advice To Writers

So I was just checking out one of my favourite author’s website – Kate Mosse – as she has a new novel coming out (today, I think) called Citadel.  I’ve always been a fan of her stories, not least because they are set in Carcassone, a medieval city where I spent one magical night as an Erasmus student, watching the amazing fireworks over the castle walls for ‘La Bastille’, or Bastille Day as we call it.  It is an area so rich in history and culture, and reading Mosses’ books takes me right back there.

Anyway, I found a fantastic resource on her website for authors – a 52 week writing guide, written by herself and her husband, who run creative writing classes in Sussex (as you do). It’s full of tips and advice, examples and insights into the writing process and the perfect companion for writers seeking inspiration.  

And the best part?  It’s free!  I know many authors have published ‘how-to’ books on writing, but how many have put their experience and expertise up on the old interwebby thing free of charge?  Out of the goodness of their hearts and a passion to give back to the creative community??  Well, I’m not sure, I’ll have to Google it.  But in the meantime, I’ll be delving into Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth of secrets (see what I did there?) on her website here.