You Don’t Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

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A dream come true! Couldn’t resist a ‘shelfie’ in Waterstones in Falkirk.

After writing hunners of thousands of words over the last ten years which made their way into short stories and three novels I FINALLY achieved my dream of having a book traditionally published. Along the way there were more rejections than boosts but I kept the faith and kept writing and I did it!

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With brilliant Falkirk launch host – writer Paul Cuddihy.

The climax of the ‘journey’ was to stand in front of my family and friends and read from Talk of the Toun at the packed launch events in Falkirk and Glasgow in association with Waterstones.

It was so exciting to get to this point but scary too as I didn’t want to disappoint the folk who’d encouraged and supported me along the way. This was a milestone in my life and not only did I want to enjoy it, I wanted it to be a success. I felt under pressure to live up to the hype I’d been drumming up for months. The nerves kicked in days before when it all started to feel surreal when I opened a copy of the Daily Record and the Herald and there was my book and my face in national newspapers. The madness continued with the blog tour meaning there was lots of online book banter and I still found it hard to get my head around the fact that I had readers, like a real writer!

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Glasgow launch host – talented writer Karen Campbell.

It’s a privilege to be published and an honour to think people want to spend their hard-earned cash and precious leisure time getting to know the characters I created.

It’s been a helluva ride and I’d like to take the chance to thank those who’ve helped me achieve my dream. Top of the list is my husband Donald, the love of my life, who has always believed in me and supported me every word of the way.

I am also lucky to count Karen Campbell and Anne Glennie as close friends and my unofficial mentors and they continue to be a great source of encouragement and inspiration.

 

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My MLitt classmates from Stirling University.

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Pals who took the cover theme to another level!

Credit too goes to my MLitt classmates and tutor Paula Morris, fellow Thunder Point writer Margot McCuaig, and far too many long-suffering pals to name here who acted as cheerleaders, minus the pom poms.

A special thank you must also go to Seonaid and Huw Francis at ThunderPoint who have worked hard to make Talk of the Toun a reality.

 

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Me with hubby and youngest son (unfortunately my eldest son had already left before the family photo shoot!).

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Sharing the moment with my proud mum and wee sister.

 

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My dog Jess loved Talk of the Toun – I hope if you read it you enjoy it too!

 

(Falkirk launch photos credited to Grandaddy Flash photography)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Around the World in 3 Days

3af9fde0I travelled east three times last week (by train not in a hot air balloon!) to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. The theme for this year’s programme was ‘Around the World’ to showcase some of the most interesting authors from across the planet.

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Peter and Karen in conversation with EIBF’s director Nick Barley.

The first event I attended had the title, ‘Can We Ever Escape From Ourselves?’ and featured Karen Campbell and Peter Stamm. This combo initially seemed an odd match but it soon became apparent that both authors shared a common theme in their latest novels. You can read my review of Karen’s book, Rise, here but to give you a wee taster it’s set in Argyllshire where several characters cross paths who are all on the run from past experiences that haunt them.download

Peter’s book, All Days Are Night, is set in Switzerland and is an exploration of how a high-profile woman struggles to make sense of her life after a horrific crash which results in requiring facial reconstruction. A person’s sense of identity and the search for inner peace was discussed by both writers and the thought-provoking events raised more questions than answers leaving the audience hanging on every word.

imagesI bobbed back to Edinburgh with hubby two days later to hear another engaging author delving into issues with an international flavour. This time it was the turn of acclaimed actress Meera Syal who spoke to a packed audience about her new novel, The House of Hidden Mothers in the ‘Dreams of Motherhood and Freedom‘ event.

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Lee Randall chaired Meera’s event.

I read the book recently and it was an eye-opener as I’d no idea that India was the cheapest place for ‘fertility tourism’ as poverty makes Indian women happy to bear children for infertile western couples who find the costs lower and the legislation less stringent. The contrast between the affluent main character in London (known as a Non Resident Indian) and the deprived surrogate mother in rural India was fascinating and promoted questions from the audience over the ethics of this ‘rent a womb’ business and feminist issues related to the changing role of women in different cultures.

My third trip east was to meet some of my fellow ThunderPoint authors. This was a great chance for me to build new friendships and to learn from the experience of those who’ve already trodden the publication path. It was exciting too to see their books on display in the festival’s book store and I hope that this time next year my novel will join theirs on the shelves. All three of the ThunderPoint writers have set their books in Scotland (although Margot’s characters also hop across the water to Rathlin Island in Ireland) so if you’re interested in quality Scottish fiction I’d highly recommend you check out the work of Margot McCuaig, Jackie McLean and Helen Forbes (who has the same name as my beloved gran – another born storyteller!).

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L to R – Me with Jackie McLean, Margot McCuaig, Helen Forbes

The Birds That Never Flew – Pure Dead Brilliant!

I’m chuffed to bits at the prospect of being published by ThunderPoint later in the year and it’s an honour to be in the company of one of their other writers, Margot McCuaig.

Margot with the great new cover featuring a metaphor from the novel.

Margot with the shiny new cover featuring a metaphor from the novel.

As well as being a novelist, the multi-talented Margot is highly successful at writing, producing and directing documentary films. She also freely shares her knowledge and skills with other women writers as a mentor in the fantastic WoMentoring Project. Before I signed my publishing contract, she graciously offered me advice and guidance and her thought provoking blog posts never fail to make me reflect on what it means to be a writer.

I couldn’t wait to read Margot’s novel, The Birds That Never Flew (TBTNF),  the contemporary Scottish dialect used throughout, the exploration of dark themes and the use of dry humour is the same style of writing I enjoy reading and writing. TBTNF was shortlisted for the Dundee International Book Prize in 2012 and longlisted for the Polari First Book Prize in 2014 and has been relaunched at Waterstones in Argyle Street,  at an event hosted by the bestselling Scottish writer Sara Sheridan.

Margot signing my copy of her book.

Margot signing my copy of her book.

It was great to hear Margot discuss her work and as a feminist, her desire to write about strong female characters. I was also interested in her use of Glasgwegian dialect which she feels, like me, is essential to make the dialogue sound authentic. The writer, Naomi  Fribsy wrote an excellent article on the issue of using regional and cultural accents in writing and I’d advise anyone interested to read this piece. (beware, Naomi recommends her favourite novels written in non-standard accents and this meant I added to my tbr pile again!)

Buddha Da by Anne Donovan is one of my favourite books and I can’t imagine it written in any other way and another book that I also rate highly is Push by Sapphire, a stunning credible voice.

When I was looking for a publisher, this was the response from one publisher, ironically based in Edinburgh.

“The Scottish dialect in your novel flows effortlessly and was appreciated and understood by the Scottish members of the team. But readers unfamiliar with Scottish dialect found the novel too demanding and challenging.
We suggest that you submit your novel to a publisher more focused on publishing Scottish novels.”

I LOVE books that make the characters sound real and don’t know how that would that be possible if the writer didn’t use their natural speech? Do you agree?

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