So You Want To Be A Writer…


I sometimes wonder what kind of advice would have helped me five years ago, before publishing my first book.  Or if I would have heeded any of it.  With that in mind, here’s a little checklist for anyone starting out on their writing journey…

  1. Get a good chair.

    I have done my best to ignore this advice over the years and on the plus side, I now have personal experience of the adage ‘buy cheap, buy twice.’  You will be spending quite a lot of time in your chair, so try to invest a decent amount in it.  Having said that (cue adage number two) ‘sitting is the new smoking’.  So the current wisdom is to have a standing desk, or better yet, switch between the two.  Just try not to sit in the same spot for hours on end wasting time on social media  writing your book.

  2. It won’t happen overnight.

    We’d all like it to happen overnight, but chances are, it won’t.  Even if it looks like authors are coming from out of nowhere with huge success, just Google them.  You’ll see it’s probably their third book, or their first book after years of rejections and unpublished books.  The same goes for writing income.  It can take years to start seeing any kind of decent return on your books and it definitely takes more than one book to build a ‘brand’.  Remember, people are buying into you, the writer, as much as they are your book.  You’ve got to show them that you’re going to stick around, that this is your thing.  I know it’s frustrating when you see other people signing deals, but be patient, your time will come.  Really.

  3. Rejection is the stone on which you will sharpen your skills.

    Rejection tells you, in no uncertain terms, you have more work to do.  It doesn’t mean you’re not good enough, but it might mean you’re not good enough yet.  Boy am I glad my first book got rejected.  There was a lot of good things in that novel, but in terms of my skills as a writer, it was unquestionably beginners level.  I learned so much from writing it and I learned even more from all of the rejections it garnered.  Rejection tells you whether or not you really want to become a writer, if you really have the commitment it takes to get better at it.  For a while, I thought I didn’t.  But the urge wouldn’t leave until I started a second novel (The Heirloom).  And when that didn’t get published, I published it myself.  It’s now in the top 20 bestseller list on Amazon US.

  4. Keep your eyes peeled.

    Everybody can list off the big publishing houses, but for new authors, it behooves you to become acquainted with the smaller publishers, the indies and digital imprints.  They are the ones who are better placed to take chances on new authors.  Off the top of my head, I can think of several writers who are getting deals right now with publishers like Bloodhound Books, Bookouture, Black and White, Orenda and of course my own publisher, Urbane.  It’s an exciting time in publishing with new platforms popping up all the time, like the crowdfunding publisher Unbound.  Keep in touch with the writing community online so you’ll be ready for opportunities when they come along.  Sometimes it’s all about luck, being in the right place at the right time (with the right book!).

  5. Write what you love.

    It can take a year or more to write a novel, so it may as well be a subject you are passionate about.   The research alone makes this worthwhile – I can’t imagine spending months reading up on a subject I’m not that interested in.  You will be sharing your life with this story for quite some time, so make it about something you LOVE!  Find your own voice and be authentic – you don’t need to imitate what’s already out there, create something new and original.

  6. There is more than one road to getting published.

    For some it’s self-publishing, for some it’s finding an agent, for others a traditional publisher.  There are authors who credit their creative writing groups and MA’s for their success, still more who claim that writing courses merely delay the inevitable – actually writing the book.  Everyone is different – I’m more of a lone wolf and that’s what suits me.  We’re all susceptible to looking at what everyone else is doing and wondering if what we’re doing is right, but I don’t think there is a right or a wrong, just different choices.  Find what works for you.  Just keep writing, don’t compromise and remember, if you don’t tell this story, no-one else will.

So here I am, 2018 with my third novel due for release in June.  Even typing those words is a bit surreal.  I had no clue what I was getting into all those years ago and maybe it was just as well.  Like most journeys in life, I think you need a healthy amount of blind faith starting out.  And a stubborn refusal to give up.  So that’s what I would tell my past self – keep being stubborn and don’t give up.  And don’t buy that crap chair.


The Story Collector

Available to pre-order on Amazon

2018 – New Year, New Book

From manuscript to book in 3 short years!

It’s almost 2018 and you know what that means?  The Year of The Story Collector!!  No other books will be published this year, well, none that matter anyway 😉  And what’s more, I have my date (which oddly makes me feel like I’m getting married).  The Story Collector will be available to read on…

14th June 2018

And I honestly can’t wait to share this book with the world.  It’s been quite a while since my last novel – The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris – which I published in 2014.  I feel so fortunate, because that story has taken on a life of its own and is still being discovered by new readers on both sides of the Atlantic.

So I am a little nervous, as it’s been a while since I’ve released anything new.  But that just goes to show you how long it takes to get a book written and published.  The idea for the book came when I was researching something else entirely – as is often the case.  I began reading and researching The Story Collector in spring 2015 and wrote the first few chapters during the summer.    I took a step back and knew I wanted to take it in a different direction, so I began anew with Nanowrimo in November 2015.  You know you mean business when you take on Nano!  That left me with 60,000 words and a first draft I could work with.  I spent all of 2016 rewriting, editing, refining and sending it to some trusted eyes for second and third and fourth opinions.  I began submitting in November of that year and got the deal I hoped for with Urbane Publications in March 2017.

They actually contacted me on Saint Patrick’s Day, with that email every author waits and hopes for, ‘We want to publish your book’.  I will never forget how that felt.  Cue lots of hugging myself with delight, manic giggling and staring off into space with a bottle of wine in one hand and an empty glass in the other.  When I first began writing almost 15 years ago, this was the dream.  I’ve received my fair share of rejection letters and the silent rejections that never arrive.  My dreams have changed over the years and I’ve been so lucky to be a writer during this digital revolution that has given me lots of opportunities to get my writing out there.  So after self-publishing two novels myself, collaborating with Urbane on my third book is even sweeter.

So, what can I tell you about my new book?  Well, I don’t want to give anything away just yet, but anyone who reads my books will know that I deal in escapism and memorable characters.  I want to take you away to a place that will open your eyes, your heart and your mind.  And of course it wouldn’t be me if there wasn’t a connection to the past and something a little magical.

To everyone who has been so supportive of my writing, whether you’ve read my book, left a review, hosted me on your blog for interviews or guest posts, shared links, liked posts, followed my blog, read my articles, sent me a message saying you enjoyed my book, shared tips or advice, or just had the craic and hung out with me on Twitter (where I live!)

Thank you!

You’ve encouraged me, inspired me and I’m so glad to be a part of this great community.   That’s all for now, but don’t worry, I’ll be keeping you up to date with any developments.  All that remains for me to say is Happy New Year to you all and don’t forget to mark the 14th June on your calendar!


It Takes A Village To Write A Book


We’ve all heard the saying, it takes a village to raise a child, implying that parents alone cannot possibly provide everything a child needs to mature into adulthood.  But what does this have to do with books?

I’ve been reading quite a few ‘bestsellers’ recently and they all have one thing in common: the acknowledgements section.  There are a plethora of names in there, from editors to beta readers, agents to proofreaders, sales & marketing departments to cover designers.  A small village of people (as opposed to the ‘Village People’) are involved at various steps along the way to get the author’s manuscript from first draft to first print.  Author Nina George describes these professionals as the team of people who ‘deliver your book safely into the world’, like literary birthing partners, puffing their cheeks and announcing your book’s arrival to the world!

So what are we to take from this?  That writers are complete morons who couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery?  Or perhaps that successful, bestselling writers have the brains and the humility to say, ‘Maybe I can’t do everything myself.’  Now, as a self-published author, you may assume that I have done everything myself and to be honest, you’d be mostly right.  But as I’m working on novel number three (have I said that enough times yet?  No?  I will – trust me!) I’m learning that it does in fact take a village to write a book.  As a writer, I am fiercely protective of my manuscript.  I don’t like to show it to anyone until it’s absolutely necessary (picture readers prying the book from my COLD. DEAD. HANDS!).  But the fact is, once you’ve written a book and put it out there, it’s no longer yours.  It belongs to the reader now and so it only makes sense to write your story with the reader in mind.  I don’t just want people to read the story – I want them to feel it and be moved by it.  But in order to get to that stage, I have to stop wincing at the idea of trusting other professionals with my work.

We’ve all read books that promise so much in the blurb, but fail to deliver on the page.  An intriguing premise gets lost in a befuddled maze of stunted characters and confusing plot lines.  Sometimes, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees when you’re writing.  Your novel is an idea that has taken shape in your imagination as a beautifully formed thing, but somewhere in the process of getting it down onto the page, the message can get lost and the story can lose its clarity.  Writers can be headstrong and determined (or is that just me?), convinced that if they look at the words long enough, they’ll start to see them with fresh eyes.  But just like it takes a man who is secure in his masculinity to wear a sarong (am I right Becks?), it takes a secure writer to handle edits and critiques without flouncing off in a huff.  And now that I’m on novel number one, two, ah yes, three! I feel like I have so much more confidence to take other peoples’ ideas on board without crumbling at the first sign of ‘kill your darlings’.  I’ve just completed my first read through with my trusty alpha reader and I’ve already introduced a new character, cut an entire chapter that wasn’t working and given some weaker scenes a good re-tuning so that they sing in the same key as the rest of the novel.

However, it’s important to know the difference between constructive criticism and the other kind that makes you feel miserable and sore.  Having completed Julia Cameron’s inspiring ‘The Artist’s Way‘ workbook, I discovered that constructive criticism makes you think ‘Aha!  Now I know how to make my book even better.’  It doesn’t leave you feeling despondent and questioning your worth as a writer.  Editors and beta readers are a fantastic tool to help you gain perspective and that all-important objectivity you need in order to see your manuscript as a finished product.  It’s not about changing your work to please the reader, but rather using their feedback as questions that could produce interesting answers and perhaps a story with more depth.

I still don’t know if I’m going to submit this one to publishers or continue on my own self-publishing journey (both of my novels are still in Amazon UK’s Top 100, so I must be doing something right!)  The advantage of traditional publishing is that publishing houses have all of these professionals in-house.  However, an entire industry of freelancers has grown around self publishing and even on a small budget, you can hire editors, proofreaders and designers at competitive rates.  As an Indie author, I am still the grand master of ceremonies.  Nothing will get done if I don’t do it.  However there comes a time when you have to acknowledge that producing a good book takes so much more than writing.  It drives me nuts when I hear people saying that self-publishing is easy and just a matter of hitting the upload button.  Serious authors want to produce a book that can stand head and shoulders with its contemporaries and we work even harder to achieve that.   Writing is a solitary process, but producing a good book requires back-up from people who support your work, believe in your writing and want to see your book become the best it can be.

And remember, no man does it all by himself, I said young man, put your pride on the shelf 🙂

So get your Village People on and press play, you know you want to!

The Cinderella Complex


The Cinderella Complex is defined as an unconscious desire to be taken care of by others.  And let’s face it, we all have times in our lives when we feel like that, which is perfectly okay.  But pinning all of your hopes on being rescued by someone or something outside of yourself won’t really get you very far in life (unless you are in fact Cinderella).  For the rest of us though, we have to become our own champion and make our own dreams come true.  The following article, in which I compare waiting for Mr. Right in our personal lives to waiting for Mr. Write in our professional writing career, features on Books By Women.


The Cinderella Complex – Waiting For Mr. Write

March 6, 2016 | By | Reply


Go on, admit it. We’ve all day-dreamed about being the writing world’s equivalent to Kate Moss and being spotted in an airport (although, I’m not sure how likely it is that an author would be spotted in an airport).  But let’s face it, unlike Kate Moss, most of us have to work at being discovered and believing anything else is, well, a fairy tale.

The Cinderella Complex, a term first coined by Colette Dowling in her ground-breaking book of the same name, describes women’s hidden fear of independence. However, I don’t agree that this is purely a ‘woman’s issue’. Men are equally guilty of hoping someone else will swoop in and give them their happy ending.  (Ahem.) For years however, it was women who were encouraged to place all of their hopes and dreams on the arrival of Mr. Right, who would magically make all said dreams come true.

Read the full article on Books By Women here.





Getting published and other drugs

Thanks to Vanessa O’Loughlin and all the people at Writers Web TV, we had another free online workshop today all about getting published. Starting with top agent Carole Blake (author of ‘From Pitch to Publication‘), this workshop gave a fantastic insight into the publishing industry.

I love the informal nature of these workshops – the way the host Vanessa kept reminding us viewers at home to put on the kettle and have a cup of tea! It made me feel like all these publishing guru’s were visiting me in my kitchen, giving me lots of savvy insights into what agents and publishers are looking for, covering everything from hook lines, cover letters, bio’s and what should be included in a synopsis.

The workshop really opened my eyes to the journey a manuscript must take before getting anywhere near the shelves of a book shop, and the role of an agent.  If you are lucky enough to find an agent, their job is to sell your book to a commissioning editor in a publishing house, who then must sell it to their own sales team and finally sell it to the distributors (and lots more in between).  To be honest, it gave me a new respect for the scale of the industry, but it also left me quite daunted by the processes involved.  Which led me to ask the question: Would you prefer a traditional publishing deal with a publisher, or would you prefer to cut out the middle man and self-publish with Amazon or Smashwords?  Or as Paul Feldstein mentioned, the most recent player in the market, Nook Press (who knew?).  Which just goes to show, the digital possibilities for self-published authors are always changing and improving.

It’s an interesting question because I think traditionally, everyone would have preferred a book deal for the validation it brings, the sales and marketing support and the possibility of being signed up for further books.  Having gone down the self-published route myself, I would give my right arm for someone to come in and take over the marketing of my debut novel ‘The Cross Of Santiago’.  It is extremely challenging to take off your author’s hat and suddenly become a promotional machine.

However, there is a lot to be said for bringing my book directly to the reader without having to go through the traditional publishing process.  Which begs the question, are there self-published writers out there who would prefer to remain masters of their own destiny and shun traditional publishing deals?  Are the royalties better?  Do you have more control?  Is it harder to build up a loyal fan base?  Or, as Julia Churchill pointed out, could the future be in becoming a ‘hybrid author’?  An interesting term for authors who self-publish some of their works digitally and choose agents to represent them for works they wish to have traditionally published.  Hazel Gaynor made the transition from self-published to traditionally published author, so it is clear the landscape is changing.

I would love to hear any of your comments on this subject, so much so that I’m starting a poll to see which is the more popular route for authors (old and new).

Must – keep – writing!

Hello all,

Today is the one week anniversary of my NaNoWriMo adventure and I’m delighted to report that it’s actually going quite well (I’m whispering that last bit, as I don’t want to jinx it!)  Novel number two is really taking shape and I have to say I’m loving it.  It’s strange because, when you finish a novel, it’s almost hard to say goodbye to the characters because you’ve spent so much time getting to know them and living in their world.  However, NaNoWriMo has given me the perfect opportunity to move forward with my new novel and to meet a whole host of new characters.  And just between you, me and the world wide web, it’s set in France with some historical elements and a great jazz soundtrack!  That’s all I’m giving away for the moment.

In the meantime, I am organising a blog tour extravaganza for the week of December 9th, so stay tuned for more details on that.  There will definitely be giveaways and offers and lots of interviews, blog posts and other bits n’ bobs to look forward to.  Also, for anyone interested in writing and having their novel published, there is a fantastic online workshop for FREE run by Writers Web TV and you can watch it tomorrow here.

That’s all for now folks and to all my fellow NaNo’s, keep writing!!