Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography






Saturday, 16 December 2017

WRITING BY CANDLELIGHT...

Authors who light candles to spark story ideas …



 

By the time this post goes live we’ll be well through Advent, a time for lighting candles and banishing darkness, when here in northern Scotland we draw closer to the shortest day of the year. My energy levels head south with the sunshine and so I like to use candles to brighten both my workspace and mood. Yankee Candle’s Red Apple Wreath is my personal festive favourite. And this got me thinking about candles, and specifically scented ones, and how authors use them to inspire their writing.

Oops!

JK Rowling

Only recently J K Rowling shared on Twitter that whilst writing a particular macabre scene for her Cormorant Strike detective novel series that a candle exploded, making it difficult for her adrenaline levels to return to normal.  Here’s a photograph of that particular Jo Loves ‘Christmas Trees’ pine-scented candle – post explosion. Joanne assured her followers that this was nothing to do with the quality of the candle but rather that she’d allowed it to burn to the bottom of the glass.
Sounds as though it was working it’s magic, transporting her to her happy writing place.



Cecelia Ahern's - The Gift

Cecelia Ahern

Another author who is a huge fan of Jo Malone candles is Irish, best selling novelist, Cecelia Ahern, who, whilst promoting the re-release of her festive novel The Gift, during a Harper Collins Facebook Live chat, shared that she is very disciplined when writing and always lights a candle, which is always from Jo Malone. Her particular favourite is Lime, Basil and Mandarin (a fantastic Christmas gift idea for that writer in your life!) Cecelia met Jo Malone for the first time earlier this year and had a real fan-girl moment, telling Jo how amazing she thought she was. Jo Malone then explained how candles and scent act as a trigger, which sets her in the zone and mood to create.  To hear Cecelia’s full Facebook Live chat listen here

Many novelists I admire light candles as part of their daily writing routine and three were kind enough to share why they find candles so inspiring.

Maggie Craig's - Gathering Storm

Maggie Craig

First up is acclaimed Scottish historical fiction writer, Maggie Craig, who said 'I enjoy lighting scented candles but use them more as a votive offering. I particularly like to have a candle lit by my computer on dreich (the Scottish word for dreary or bleak) days.' And we’ve plenty of those in Scotland. I hope Maggie has a large supply of candles at the ready! She continued, 'I like to include scent in my writing and at the beginning of my most recent novel, Gathering Storm, a tale of Jacobite intrigue and romance, refer to the smell of newly snuffed-out candles'. – Powerful writing, Maggie.

Phoebe Morgan
Phoebe Morgan's - The Doll House

Meanwhile, psychological thriller writer, Phoebe Morgan, who’s debut, The Doll House, was published earlier this year, said, 'I will almost always light a candle or two if I’m writing at home. There’s something about it that I find really calming – and when I get stuck on a plot problem I can stare at the flame a bit and allow myself to be mesmerised! It really helps my creativity – I’ve always loved the smell and look of nice candles so they’re definitely on my Christmas list this year!'




Amanda Prowse's - The Art of Hiding

Amanda Prowse


A beautiful candle lantern even takes pride of place on the cover of bestselling women’s fiction author, Amanda Prowse’s latest novel The Art of Hiding. Isn’t it gorgeous?

When I contacted Amanda asking what candles mean to her, this is what she said.

'I too write with a scented candle burning always – it makes me feel calm and centred and find the naked flame so thought provoking. Thank you for the lovely words about the cover. I wanted to convey the idea of new life and remembrance, but also the fact that the main protagonist, Nina, is living in poverty –and I figured that a candle in a jar was evocative of hardship in times gone by.'


Candles Inspired by Books and Writers

Lots of authors use candles to encourage their muse to come and play, but if you still need persuasion to treat yourself to some candle time, then why not check out this post over on the EBook Friendly website - 15 scented candles inspired by books and writers.

There you’ll find links to candles with such fabulous names as Second Star to the Right, inspired by JM Barrie’s Peter Pan; 221B Baker Street inspired by Sherlock Holmes; Gatsby’s Mansion, reminiscent of a night spent ocean-side; and The Shire, inspired by JRR Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, which smells of fresh grass, clover, pipe tobacco and bergamot. There are plenty more, making this a fun site definitely worth exploring.

Phoebe's fantastic debut thriller - perfect to read
by candlelight

How do you use candles?

For decoration, to relax, whilst reading, or like the authors who kindly offered us a peek into their writing rituals - to help you drift calmly to your happy creative place?

So why not light a candle and see where the mood takes you? If you’re an author, it may even inspire your next bestseller.

Happy Advent!


Rae
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Saturday, 9 December 2017

BEHIND THE SCENES OF A RADIO INTERVIEW by Victoria Cornwall


This week I was on the radio. I was invited to read something festive in the lead-up to Christmas and I was delighted to do it despite it being a departure from my previous guest slots. I had a great time. If you would like to listen to it, the "play on demand" link will be valid until 4th January, 2018. Please click HERE to listen and my guest slot starts at 1:38:00. It might get you in the mood for Christmas if you are not already!

I love listening to the radio. It has introduced me to new music, reminded me of old tunes and entertained me with debates on interesting topics. It keeps me up to date with the news and there is an established routine to each program which provides a strange comfort of its own. I guess, at its heart, it feels as if the presenter(s) are my friends and have just popped in for a chat, but with the advantage that I can get rid of them with the flick of the button if I want the visit to end.

Never, in my wildest dreams, did I think I would become a radio guest myself. However, the radio is a fantastic opportunity to spread the word about one's book and if a guest slot arises it is a too good an opportunity to refuse. To date I have been on the local radio four times (BBC Radio Cornwall and CoastFM), so although I am not as experienced as some authors, I am more experienced than others, so in this post I am going to share what I have learned, whilst also lifting the curtain on what happens behind the scenes.

Although radio shows may contact well known authors with a view to arranging for them to be on their show, generally, it is the author (or their publisher) who has to secure a slot. Local radio is more accepting to enquires from less well-known authors, but it is still important to present yourself in the right way to increase the chances of being accepted.


It is not about what you want from them, but rather what they need from you.

Radio has a role of providing entertainment and factual information. You, as their guest, are going to help them provide that and you need to convince the radio how you are going to do that. So what will help you to stand out from all the other authors who would like to promote their book on their show? What is your unique selling point? So before contacting your local radio station ask yourself some questions. How can I make my book an interesting topic for their show? Is it based locally? Are you from the area? Is it based or inspired by a particular setting? Is the plot on a subject that is relevant today or topical in the news? Is there a moral or inspirational story to your writing or your ability to write? Once you have decided how you are going to sell yourself and why they should choose you, then you can move onto the next step.


Not all shows are the same.

Get to know your local radio programs. Some presenters enjoy interviewing authors, others prefer a different format. Check out which ones will be more accepting to your request to be a guest and remember, word of mouth is particularly good for finding the right radio show to contact. Approaching the right show saves a lot of time and reduces the risk of rejection. Once you have decided, contact the show by email. Each local radio show will have a website page with an email address.

The presenter, or their PA, will reply and offer you an interview at the studio or by telephone. Interviews performed in the studio are clearer and less likely to be interrupted by rambling pets or children, however telephone interviews are less intimidating as you are in your own home. I was given the choice and chose to go into the studio.

Be prepared

The aim is to make the interview appear relaxed and part of a normal conversation, however it is always wise to be prepared. There is nothing worse than being asked about your book and your mind going blank. I have found taking one A4 size sheet of notes in with me very helpful. Having it on one page means there is no risk of the microphone picking up shuffling sounds as I turn my cue cards.

At the top I have 4 or 5 bullet points which state the information I want to get across in the interview. They are normally:-

1) My name
2) The Title of the book
3)  The format it is published in
4) Where they can buy it
5) Name of publisher

I once listened to an interview where the author and radio presenter forgot to mention the name of her book. It is easily done as conversation can get sidetracked, or the right question isn't asked so it is a case of slotting it in when you can.

These are the other things I have down:-

A) Short author bio (just in case my mind goes blank)
B) My novel summed up in one or two sentences (just in case they ask for a brief summary)
C) A longer description of the story (not giving anything away) I always put the main characters' names down too. It is surprising how easy it is to forget them, especially if you are in the midst of editing the second book and have just taken a break from writing the third, which is often the case when you are a writer.
D) Interesting/relevant information that might interest the listeners, such as the location where it is based etc.

The above information is best written briefly with key words to act as a trigger. It is not meant to be read as it will come across as if you are reading a script ... unless you are good at doing it,of course. On one occasion I made the mistake of laminating my notes, but during the interview I realised that the studio lights were shining down on it and obliterating my words. I ended up sitting rather awkwardly so I could see it. Did I really need the A4 notes? By then, probably not, but it helped my confidence and I was able to relax inwardly ... even if I didn't look like I was relaxed on the outside.

I write historical fiction so, if I have room, I add a few historical notes which might be of interest to the listener.


Promote the interview before and after the event

The reason you are doing the interview is for the exposure. Lengthen the window of exposure by promoting the interview before and afterwards. This takes courage as there is always the fear that it will be a disaster and you will want to bury it and never speak of it again. However writing is about taking risks and this is just another one of those risks.


Arrive in plenty of time

You are usually given a specific time slot. Arrive at the radio station in plenty of time. This will show professionalism and allows for car and traffic problems. You want this to be the first of many interviews in your writing career so this interview is as much about networking and firming up contacts as it is for the interview itself. You are more likely to be asked back by the radio station if you are reliable.

All my interviews were live so I did not meet the radio presenters until I sat down in front of them a minute or two before the interviews. This is not unusual as they are usually in the middle of presenting their program when you arrive. The staff of the radio station are usually very friendly as they are used to welcoming new guests on a daily basis. In my case I was shown to a lounge/office where I waited until I was called. It's a good opportunity to read through your notes and get your mind focused. Then the moment comes and someone shows you into the radio booth. This usually happens during the adverts or a song. You are told where to sit and the microphone is positioned in front of you. The presenter will say hello, a brief chat and then you are live! If your interview is recorded the format will be slightly different and your interview may be edited shorter.


An interview is like a tennis match ...

In my opinion, no matter what the first interview or question, it is always important to say hello to the presenter and thank them for having you on the show. It's professional, polite and sets the tone of the interview. It tells the listener that you are happy to be there and spend time with them and that makes everyone feel good.

To make a good interview both the presenter and guest have to play ball. You can be an amazing presenter, but if the guest provides only one-worded answers, or sounds miserable and defensive, it will result in an agonisingly long and painful interview to listen to. Answer the questions, but perhaps provide a little more than they asked. It helps the presenter to lead onto another question, move the conversation forward and provides a more relaxed interview. However you also have to be mindful of not talking too much. Nerves can make you do and say all sorts of things you had not planned for. Be aware you have not launched into a monologue that is not only boring the interviewer, but boring the listeners too. Also be aware you do not give away too much. Your child may not want you to disclose that they wet the bed last night. You chose to go on the radio, they did not and school friends can be cruel. Your words may have repercussions so tread carefully.


Things will go wrong

Accept the above and attempt to find a way out. You can prepare for the interview and try to guess the questions, but in the end you have no control over what is asked. All you can do is try your best. If the question confuses you, take a breath and clarify the question before answering. If you don't know the answer you have two options, simply say you don't know or you provide the little information you do know but then steer it onto the topic you know in more depth. Presenters are very skilled at bringing the best out of you. They know why you are there and they are happy for you to promote your book. They are also keen for the interview to go well, so they do not intentionally try to make the interview difficult and will often step in if they feel you are floundering.


All good things come to an end

The length of the slot can vary. I have done 10 minute slots and on one radio the slot turned into 30 minutes. It depends on the show and the presenter. Eventually it will come to an end and it is important to say goodbye and thank the presenter again for having you on the show. It leaves the listener and presenter with a good impression, and it is only fitting to thank them publicly (rather than just privately off air as you are hurried out of the room).

So if you get a chance to be on the radio, do try it. If things go well you will have a great time and experience a new form of media ... if it goes badly it will provide you with a humorous anecdote to share with friends over a glass of wine. So its a win win situation ... if you are brave enough to give it a try.
Author of



Saturday, 2 December 2017

Festive Fiction - a Joint Blog

Novel-Point-Of-Viewers have had a great time thinking up their recommendations for your festive reads. Enjoy!

Victoria Cornwall writes

I have a confession to make. I have only read one book which features Christmas in it and it was so long ago I can't recall the title. I do remember enjoying it as it got me into the festive mood, so it is strange I have not read one since. So when I was asked for my recommendations I decided to cheat.

My publisher, Choc Lit, has released an amazing array of Christmas books this year so it seemed appropriate to bring them to the attention of the Novel Points of View readers. They are:

A Little Christmas Magic by Kirsty Ferry

House of Christmas Secrets by Lynda Stacey

What Happens at Christmas by Evonne Wareham

 A Little Christmas Faith by Kathryn Freeman

A Second Christmas Wish by Kathryn Freeman

Christmas at the Little Village School by Jane Lovering

I am sure there is something to meet your needs, as these books range from time-slip, through to suspense and heartwarming tales. All have a large dollop of romance and festive fun to get you in the mood for Christmas, which are the perfect ingredients for a festive read.

Rae Cowie’s thoughts

I’ve two suggestions (one full of the Christmas spirit, the other more for readers who feel a bit bah-humbug about anything too tinsely!).

Christmas at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan

It’s that time of year when only some festive, feel good fiction will do and Christmas at the Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan includes all the delicious ingredients needed for a warm and delightful Christmas romance.  We have Issy, the hardworking owner of the tinsel bedecked Cupcake Café in London. Then there’s Austin, the caring boyfriend, doing his best to get on in the world by accepting a job in snowy, lonely New York. Not forgetting Pearl, Caroline and Helena determined to make this Christmas one Issy will never forget.

Christmas at the Cupcake Café is a sequel to Colgan’s Meet Me at the Cupcake Café, however I read this as a standalone and had no problem in working out relationships between characters. This novel delivers exactly what you’d expect – and more. At the beginning of each chapter the reader is given the added bonus of a wonderful cupcake/traybake recipe. And Christmas and baking go hand in hand, right? I can’t wait to try making the Christmas Cherry Chocolate Biscuit Slice, which includes Maltesers and rum! Enjoy!

Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney

I’ll probably go straight on to Santa’s naughty list for recommending a second festive read, but I wanted to recommend one for those who aren’t so keen on all the bells and whistles that perhaps go with more traditional festive novels. Set during Arctic winters when it’s relentlessly cold and dark, at 600+ pages long, Under a Pole Star by Stef Penney is definitely one to read whilst snuggled under a cosy blanket, sipping hot chocolate (or something stronger)…

It’s a time slip novel, beginning in 1948 when we meet an elderly Flora Mackie, known by the press as the Snow Queen, returning to the Arctic, reminiscing about her time spent with fellow explorer Jakob de Beyn, offering us a hint of the mystery that unfolded years before.

We then cut to Dundee, where twelve year old Flora’s mother is dead and her father, a skipper of a commercial whaling vessel, decides to take his only child with him on his next Arctic hunt. It was fascinating to learn how the young, spirited Flora discovered how best to get along with the all male crew, how she coped with the tough realities of Arctic life, made friends with the indigenous Inuit children and fell in love with the landscape. It’s essentially a love story between two Victorian Arctic adventurers – no tinsel in sight!

Jennie Bohnet proposes something different

Trying to decide which book to recommend this year for a Christmas read was difficult to say the least - the market is flooded with Christmas titles. My choice in the end is not a Christmas book at all, nor a new one, but it is one of my favourite reads this year. It does have a religious setting which qualifies it in my mind to be included here for Christmas.

The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers

The history of the cathedral is woven around the story of Agnes Morel, the mysterious cleaning woman whose own history is unknown to the townsfolk. A traumatic story in parts, it’s also a story of how love and mercy can change things. I have to admit to knowing nothing about the ancient cathedral of Chartres before reading this book, now I long to visit and see for myself the mismatched spires and its strange labyrinth.

I think I might just curl up by the fire on Boxing Day and re-read it. Happy Christmas!

Christmas books from Linda Mitchelmore

I am always full of good intentions at Christmas to have a bit of ‘me’ time to sit in a chair by the fire and read a book from cover to cover in there amidst the mince pies and the turkey and the holly. But in truth I don’t really want it, not at Christmas. To me Christmas is all about family and I count my blessings that I have one. Books do feature in my Christmas life, though. Well, two of them do.

The first is Delia Smith’s Christmas for which I think she should have been made a Dame! There’s not a lot in there I haven’t made from it since 1994 when I was given the book for, well, Christmas as it happens. But if I had to choose just one thing to make it would be Delia’s Little Mincemeat Souffle Puddings which are just too divine for words.

Another book that I now know off by heart is Santa, a board book from Marks & Spencer which I bought for my grandson when he was two. He is ten years old now and pretends it is too babyish for him but when I read it to his younger sister he always comes to perch on the arm of my chair to look and listen, too – memories, and especially reading ones, are made of this.

Happy reading, everyone, whatever it is you choose to lose yourself in.



Jennifer Young's contribution

Bah! Humbug! Festive reads? Christmas crackers? What are you all on about? It's only the beginning of December. You’ll be wanting me to put on a Santa hat and sing Jingle Bells before I know it.

Okay, I’m not quite that bad. There’s a touch of snow on the ground just now, under a blue sky, so I suppose it all does look a bit Chrismassy. And actually I’d finished all my Christmas shopping, bar one or two bits, before the middle of November.

That said, I steadfastly refuse to recommend any festive reads, because my social media streams seem to have been flooded with them since the beginning of October. I’m a firm believer in the fact that you don’t have to wait until the end of the year to read a Christmas book, and nor should you be unable to read a summery book at Christmas.

Bearing that in mind I’m going to recommend two books, both by the same author, that astonished me this year. They’re both historicals but very different. One, The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is set in the late seventeenth century on the high seas, with a crew and their stowaways careering towards almost certain death as they fight their various demons. The second, Forgotten Places, is a chilling historical set in nineteenth century Tasmania, and contains the most astonishing twist in any book I’ve read this year.

Merry Christmas!

And finally from Gill Stewart

No bah humbug from me! I love Christmas. I know other people may disagree and think it is too commercialized etc etc but I still love it. Time for family, for close friends, for staying home and eating well – and reading lots.

I have 3 recommendations for my Christmas reads – one new and not very festive, one festive and from a few years back, and one festive and old. Enjoy!

NEW – La Belle Sauvage, Volume 1 of the ‘Book of Dust’ by Philip Pullman. Although essentially a YA fantasy read, this is a gorgeous book that I would recommend to anyone. And if it doesn’t have Christmas, it does have floods and visits to the far north – and daemons. I want my own daemon.

FESTIVE – A Proper Family Christmas by Jane Gordon-Cumming. A fun and funny read, farcical at times, but with lots of heart. My only complaint is that JGC hasn’t written another novel since this came out in 2008, although it is now available on Kindle.

OLD – Jo of the Chalet School by Elinor M Brent-Dyer. I’ve probably mentioned it before but this has truly been my go-to Christmas for the last, well, almost 50 years. Although the book covers a school year, it is the wonderful, inspiring Christmas holiday spent in snowy Innsbruck in the early twentieth century that is my favourite part. Again, it is a children’s/YA book, but one I would thoroughly recommend.

Saturday, 25 November 2017

WRITING AND PAINTING – MOVING ON TO THE STORY? by Gill Stewart




A few weeks ago the Argyll Art Map weekend took place in this area, with various local artists and photographers opening their workshops to the public. It was a great opportunity to peak into places you may not normally be allowed, and to examine works of creativity outside your comfort zone.

I expected to enjoy, and did enjoy, the amazing pictures of local towns and beauty spots, of wildlife and boats – lots of boats. I was less keen on the picture of Jesus being stabbed by pens (really!), or the urinal turned into … something arty? But it certainly meant there were things to appeal to a wide range of tastes.

What intrigued me, as a writer, was the ways in which this experience of visual art both is and is not the same as writing. I can look at a still life or a scene, and take an emotion from it, but after that I want to move on to the story – what happened here? Why is it significant? Does it mean different things to different people? Not being an artist, and not having thought to ask any of the ones I visited, I don’t know if they also form stories about their work (Neil may be able to answer!). But I do know that their inspiration helps to inspire me, either to write or just to dream.

This picture at the head of this post is Winifred Nicholson’s ‘Gate To The Isles’. It’s one of my favourites, which I’ve had on my bedroom wall for many years. I’ve wondered and wondered who went through that gate last, and why, and what that means to the painter. Below is a painting done by my great-grandfather, which has intrigued me since I was a child. I wanted to walk along that road and find out where it led. Sometimes I even dreamt I was in the picture, finding out what happened next. Perhaps one day I’ll write my way to an answer! 


Are there any pictures that inspire you?