Saturday, 20 October 2018

THE BUSINESS OF WRITING


These days we all know if we want to make a career out of our writing or, whisper it, even to make some money, we have to treat it like running a small business. We also have to put ourselves out there on social media - something I personally fail at dismally most of the time, much too far out of my comfort zone. We also know, especially if we’re traditionally published, a lot of things are out of our control and down to our publisher and those dratted things on Amazon etc known as algorithms.

Having run several small catering businesses in the past I know how hard managing a business can be. But running a writing business isn’t like running any other business. Even though I spent a lot of time working in the kitchen when catering, I had helpers and I’d meet the customers. I had social interaction within the course of my working day. Writers invariably work alone for hours at a time in front of a screen these days getting the words down without a lot of input from other people.  The real business of writing starts after the book is finished.

These days it’s all about networking and making useful contacts with fellow authors, bloggers and readers, doing guest posts, having an up-to-date website - the list goes on, for both independent and traditionally published authors. 

Reading the blog of friend and fellow RNA member, Alison Morton this week, I realised just how much effort and time has gone into her success as an independent author publishing her award winning bestselling Roma Nova thrillers. She makes my current paltry efforts on Twitter and Facebook look . . . well even paltrier to be honest.





Alison lists everything she still has to do or organise after the book is written - and it’s a huge amount of work: commissioning a cover design, editing and proofreading, formatting. Granted if you’re published traditionally the publisher takes responsibility for a lot of these but these days they do expect authors to do a lot more marketing than back in the day. I found Alison’s pre-launch routine as a part of her marketing campaign particularly interesting:

‘While you’re waiting for copy-edits or structural edits or beta readers and at least 4-6 weeks before publication date, you spend days at the email coalface contacting all the friends, fellow authors, bloggers and reviewers you know to ask for their help launching your treasure. You will have set up a spreadsheet, of course, to track it all to include name, email, website, what you agree on after a little negotiation (guest post, review, Q&A), date agreed, date drafted and date sent.’

Now I do try to do most of those things but I have to admit the phrase that scared me half to death was the one containing the word ‘spreadsheet’. I do of course keep records but it has never occurred to me to use a spreadsheet.  I’ve always thought of spreadsheets as being the preserve of accountants and the like. In fact I confess I didn’t know and honestly couldn’t see how it would work for keeping the kind of records writers need to keep. So I took myself off to Youtube and watched a couple of videos hoping to learn and be inspired. All I can say is that my brain froze. Can I just say I am in awe of anybody that can create, update and understand a spreadsheet. As for me I shall just have to keep to my tried and trusted method of pen and diary - and a simple back up document on the computer.

I’d love to know how everyone else keeps track of all their social media and marketing skills.

Here’s the link for Alison’s very informative blog - its well worth a read: https://alisonmortonauthor.com/blog/





Saturday, 13 October 2018

On drought, inspiration, and life imitating art...


What do 1976, 1984 and 2018 have in common? Along with a few other occasions, these are years when the Haweswater reservoir in Cumbria has dried out so much that the ruins of a village are exposed.

Haweswater in drought, 2018. Image copyright Jennifer Young

Mardale Green was demolished in the 1930s to make way for the reservoir, which is the main source of water for Manchester. A dam was built, and the small lake that had graced the valley expanded. A whole community was lost – farms, homes, roads, a church and a pub.

The villagers were compensated, but all had to move out after the dam was built , to see their homes destroyed and then lost beneath the water. Even the dead were moved – graves in the churchyard were exhumed and reburied elsewhere.

When the reservoir dries out, the remains of walls are revealed, the outlines of cottages, dry stone walls marking old field boundaries, rusty iron gates. There’s even an intact stone bridge, that crossed the stream that ran through the valley, revealed when the water drops low enough.

I’m a long-time lover of the Lake District, and visited Haweswater in the spring of 2016, when the reservoir was full and the valley at its most beautiful. There was snow on the mountain tops and the previous year’s brown bracken on the slopes. Downstream of the dam the fields were lush and green, filled with the season’s new lambs.

Hiking up the Old Corpse Road above Haweswater, the inspiration for my novel The Drowned Village


We parked in the car park at the top end of the reservoir. There’s a faded information board there about the history of the valley, and as I was reading it my friend said to me, ‘Hey, Kath, you could write a novel about this!’

For the rest of the day that was all I could think about, and by the time we came down from the mountains I had the beginnings of a story idea in my head. What if, my novelist’s brain suggested, a secret was hidden in the village, lost when the valley was flooded, only to resurface in a drought year? Something important, something that would resolve an ancient mystery...

That idea eventually became my novel The Drowned Village, which was published by HarperCollins in September 2018. I seem to have predicted the summer’s drought – my friends are all now asking me for next week’s lottery numbers.




It’s not the only time life has imitated art, or at least, imitated the plot of my books. In my first book, The Emerald Comb, an ancient skeleton is revealed when a tree blows down in a storm. A year or so after publication, a friend sent me a link to an article about how a thousand-year old skeleton was revealed when a tree fell down in County Sligo, Ireland.

Hmm, what will come true next, I wonder? Let’s see, what’s in my next book...



Friday, 5 October 2018

Can You Write a Modern Woman?


I’m going to break with tradition today and share a blog post that Heather Webb wrote on WritersUnboxed.com. I read this post once, twice, and a third time. The writing is stellar – not surprising. Heather is a master. She handles this potentially incendiary issue with grace and insight. I’ve provided a link to WritersUnboxed at the end of the post, along with more info about Heather and her amazing books.

Happy writing, friends. May the muse be with you.


Can You Write a Modern Woman?
By: Heather Webb
Posted on WriterUnboxed.com on September, 27, 2018
Reposted with Permission




This is one of those topics that’s sticky and tricky and I have to admit, I had my qualms about posting it. In the end, it seemed too important a topic NOT to post. Important in today’s climate and mostly, important to those of us who want to be the best fiction writers we can be. (I also thank Therese Walsh, who quietly nudged me to be brave.)

 Recently, I worked on three different client manuscripts written by male writers. One of the writers in particular, showed very skillful writing. It was gripping, well-paced, and had interesting metaphors. In fact, I was happily reading along with few comments until about page eight when something happened in the narrative that made me realize—oh, crap, THIS CHARACTER IS A FEMALE. I scratched my head, trying to figure out what was missing. The character was a little rougher around the edges, an anti-princess if you will, which was great. I love a rough-and-tumble female character with a side of badass, so this wasn’t the problem. I started reading from the beginning again, looking for clues. How had I missed this?

And then it hit me, on my second read. This protagonist, in fact, all three protags from the client books I mention above, were missing the same thing. A fundamental piece of being a woman was absent.

The protagonists lacked both body and spatial awareness.

What does that even mean, spatial awareness? Being proud/ashamed of your body and/or your physical skills is certainly a part of spatial awareness, but it extends far beyond this. It’s something that is deeply programmed in our psyches, as women. A message that grows louder as we gain experiences, most of them negative, but some good, too.

And then there’s our relationship to men, and how it relates to this awareness.

It doesn’t matter the male’s size, shape, or ethnicity, his clothing or social status. A male’s age might matter some, but that’s about it. When confronted with men they do not know and in an exposed situation, most, if not all, women feel like a rabbit hopping through a field littered with foxes and coyotes and hawks and eagles. The predators may look different, but they ALL want to chase that rabbit. Rabbits are food for many species after all. Some rabbits are wily and escape, some are just plain fast and get away, and some have strong hind legs and kick the crap out of the predator to fend them off. None of these things change the simple fact that women are still rabbits. They are the prey.

Maybe this is a silly analogy. Certainly, there are wonderful people and horrible people out there, weak and strong, regardless of their sexual orientation, and great and weak writers regardless of their gender. There are also many wonderful men. This is not a male-bashing post, not at all. That’s not my point. Neither is my point that it’s always the men whose female characters lack this body and spatial awareness in their stories—though it’s much more common, and I’ve got a stack of edited manuscripts to prove it.

My point is about craft.

Do your characters reflect this body and spatial awareness? We writers need to take note of these concepts to create the most believable, effective, unforgettable characters we can, so let’s look at some tips to help with this.

Body Awareness

Women compare themselves to each other, in large part because of growing up in a world that bombards us with ugly messages, but it’s also part of our hard wiring to compete for a male in order to procreate and further the species. (Not to go all anthro on you, but anthropology helps us understand these impulses. Also, check out The Female Brain and conversely The Male Brain by neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine.) These factors can create an inferiority—or superiority–complex but it can also explain why there is so much emphasis on how women look. This develops into an acute awareness of the way others regard their bodies, and how that changes over time. Women internalize these messages and it becomes a part of the way we, in turn, view ourselves. This could be quite negative or positive.

A female character will notice how she feels. I’m not referring to straight-forward emotions that result from some event in the character’s life. I’m referring to hormonal surges and changes in both mood and physique due to these hormones. They’re cyclical in a woman’s body so it makes sense that we would have constant awareness of these things. Examples of physical changes include aches and the way her body changes after having children—and not just their hips and thighs. Perhaps now she has developed migraines or weird allergies or skin issues post-pregnancy or post-menopause. These sorts of things. We are always on the look out for something shifting and changing inside of us, and how that will affect us on the outside as well.

Spatial Awareness

Females are very aware of who is walking in front of them, behind them, beside them. They take note of the distance between them and any male nearby. If they have a choice, they will often move to the side of the street next to another female or select a seat on a bus/train/plane/theater next to other women. It’s safety in numbers and in distance, you see. These are things we think about every single day.

Even in my quaint, wooded little town, I keep my front door locked when my husband isn’t home, and I don’t answer the door when a male I don’t know rings the bell. When the lawn guys are around the neighborhood, I’m keenly aware of where they are and how close they are to the house. If I’m out at night or walking through a parking garage, I tend to find someone to walk with at a distance, or I have my phone at the ready and literally dart to my destination, walking as fast as I can without appearing like a total spazz.

Women are always at risk. We are extremely aware of who and what is around us and the minute we stop paying attention could not only be dangerous, it could be LIFE-THREATENING.

I can’t emphasize this enough. Your female protagonist, therefore, will not walk through a dark parking lot without listening for footsteps or looking over her shoulder, or at least taking stock of the environment around her. If your female protagonist gets into a car with a strange man, or goes home with a strange man from a bar, etc, be careful how you depict her motivations. She must be very naïve or drunk or have a death wish because of pain in her past that has heavily damaged her self-worth to do such a thing. Or maybe she’s a cop or an assassin and knows she can take down anyone. There has to be a strong motivation that is valid, because we’re not buying it. Most women know they must watch their backs at all times.

Disclaimer Note:  I need to add in an important note here. Gender is an incredibly nuanced social and biological construct, and as society grapples with accepting all kinds of people (at last!), some of these “expectations” or “normalities” are shifting. Sure, men can feel like prey as well, in particular if they have been a victim of assault or trauma, but for men it isn’t a constant, and it’s less likely, whereas it never changes for women. Not ever.

Regardless of what gender our protagonist is, it’s our job as novelists to burrow deeply into our characters’ minds and hearts. A large part of this involves their view of the world and how they move through it, and not just as a reaction to what has happened to them in the past, but through their programming as males, females, transgender, or gender neutral. This a complex issue, but an important one to analyze and apply.

Time to talk. You may have a different opinion on writing authentic women. You may have seen other shortcomings, and have your own observations. I’d like to hear all of that, but please let’s take extra care to be respectful about how our opinions are conveyed. There are no villains here, only observations from this field called Life. Over to you.



Heather Webb is the international bestselling author of historical novels, including her latest Last Christmas in Paris, The Phantom’s Apprentice, and the upcoming Meet Me in Monaco set to the backdrop of Grace Kelly’s wedding which releases in summer 2019. Her works have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly and more, as well as received national starred reviews. In 2015, Rodin’s Lover was selected as a Goodreads Top Pick, and in 2017, Last Christmas in Paris became a Globe & Mail bestseller and also won the 2018 Women’s Fiction Writers Association STAR Award. When not writing, you may find Heather collecting cookbooks or looking for excuses to travel. She lives in New England with her family and one feisty rabbit.

Website: www.HeatherWebb.net
Twitter: @msheatherwebb
FB: https://www.facebook.com/msheatherwebb/ (Heather Webb, Author)
Instagram: @msheatherwebb
Link to Writerunboxed.com: https://writerunboxed.com








Saturday, 29 September 2018

DORIC - FAE NORTHEAST SCOTLAND TO HOLLYWOOD

Last week I received the exciting news that my short story, The Whole Hog, is to be published in Northwords Now – the literary magazine of the north. I’m a writer - I’ve had a short story accepted – what makes that so special? Well the reason I’m thrilled is because it’s the first short story I’ve written in Doric.

WHAT IS DORIC?

But what is Doric? Unless you live in Scotland then it’s unlikely you will be familiar with the term. In the past, even the majority of Scots paid little attention to its existence. Yet earlier this month Doric shook off its status as a local dialect and was officially recognised as Scotland’s third language, to be acknowledged alongside English and Gaelic.

WHERE IS IT SPOKEN?

Cullen Viaducts, courtesy of
Neil Donald Photography
Doric is the native tongue (or mither tongue) of northeast Scotland, being spoken from just north of Dundee to around Elgin in Morayshire. In the 2011 census, 120,000 people – half the population of Aberdeenshire – identified as Scots/Doric speakers, compared with only 57,000 Scots who use Gaelic.

Doric is a fabulously expressive language. It is the language I speak at home with my parents and in-laws but, as a school child, found it was banished to the playground, strictly forbidden in the classroom. For my parents’ generation, communicating in Doric in front of a teacher led to them receiving several whacks of the belt.

For years the use of Doric has been on the decline and, as young people moved away from the northeast to study or find employment, was probably even considered a dying language.

A dear friend of mine, and Professor of Sociolinguistics at Glasgow University, Jennifer Smith, has made studying the changes in the use of Doric throughout the generations, a major part of her life’s work. My relatives and friends, from the area, have spent hours with her research team – happy to help.

But the good news is that in recent years the decline in the understanding of Doric has slowed. 

WHY THE RESURGENCE IN INTEREST IN DORIC?

There are a number of reasons for the resurgence in interest in a language that can be tricky for non-speakers to understand. One of the main contributing factors is that now it’s compulsory for Doric to
Joyce Falconer starring in Morna Young's Doric
play Aye, Elvis
be taught in both Primary and Secondary schools across both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire.

Aberdeen University recently launched a series of Doric night classes, as well as Doric writing workshops. In March of this year, it hosted a performance of Handel’s Messiah sung in Doric.

This summer, MornaYoung, a young playwright from the northeast, took Doric to the International Edinburgh Festival with her critically acclaimed play Aye,Elvis, starring River City actress, Joyce Falconer.

Dr ShaneStrachan, recipient of the prestigious Robert Louis Stevenson Fellowship, has written his debut novel, Quines at Sea (Girls at Sea), partly in Doric.  It is currently with leading literary agent Jenny Brown, being considered by publishers.

Speaking, writing and reading in Doric is no longer confined to northeast Scotland.

THE HOLLYWOOD EFFECT

Doric embraced by Hollywood
in the Pixar movie, Brave
In fact in 2012, the delights of listening to Doric were brought to a worldwide audience by Grey’s Anatomy actor, Kevin McKidd when he voiced the Young MacGuffin in the Pixar movie Brave. Pixar suggested that McKidd use nonsense Scots words, but instead he opted to use Doric, the language of his hometown that he learnt from his grandfather. Pixar loved it. Hear from McKidd himself on this You Tube clip... listen now.

LEARN TO SPEAK DORIC

So why not give it a go? It’s a wonderfully rich language, written, for the most part, phonetically. As a simple starting point, the letters WH are often replaced with the letter F. 
So…
What become Fit
Where becomes Far
Why becomes Fit wy
When becomes Fan
Here are some of my favourite Doric words …

FAVOURITE DORIC WORDS

Footer – to mess about , waste time   ‘Fit are you footerin aboot at'

Pellan – a fence   ‘He climt the pellan’
Bosie – a warm cuddle  ‘Gis a bosie’
Skelp – a slap  ‘He’s gan to git a skelp’
Splooter – to spill  ‘Fit a splooter yer makin’
Red up – a mess   ‘Fit a red up!’

WANT TO LEARN MORE…

I hope I’ve piqued your interest in the Doric language. To learn more, a fun place to start is the Doric Dictionary online.

NORTHWORDS NOW

And if you’d like to read my FREE short story, The Whole Hog, written using the pseudonym Isobel
Northwords Now -
available as a newspaper, Kindle version and online
Rutland – partly written in Doric so it is still accessible to non-Doric speakers – then it will be available in the autumn edition of Northwords Now online very soon. (I’ll update the link when it is posted).

I hope you’ve enjoyed this sma introduction to Doric.
Dinna bide awa! (Come back soon!)

Rae x
I'd love if you'd leave a message or get in touch on Twitter @Rae_Cowie

Friday, 21 September 2018

WRITING OUT OF SEASON by Victoria Cornwall

I've lost count how many times I've written a scene describing the season in some way. Often, my fictional timeline is in a different season to the one I'm experiencing in reality. I've written about the burnt amber leaves of autumn while wearing shorts, a t-shirt and with the pungent smell of suntan lotion on my skin. I've written about the blustering gales of winter as I munch on an Easter egg. I've written about the fresh new shoots of spring  ... well you get the picture.
Last year I began writing my first Christmas novella. I was in the middle of a novel at the time, but I was advised that if I was going to write a Christmas themed story it would be a good idea to set the other novel aside as it would be easier to write about Christmas around the Christmas period.
I seriously considered the advice given to me, as although I can easily imagine a winter season in the summer, there is something magical about Christmas that is not so easy to capture when the celebration has come and gone.

I know that many of my friends have successfully written a Christmas story outside the festive season. They've told me that they have used decorations, mince pies and Christmas music to recapture the mood as they write. This sounded like a great idea and probably works well, but I wasn't so sure if it would work for me and this is why ...
  1. Christmas is very special to me and I wanted it to remain that way, neatly tucked away between November and January ... a warm, cosy, spiritual oasis filled with generosity, family and a well known biblical story. Did I want to recreate it in March and April? I'd rather be munching on a chocolate Easter egg by then.
  2. By the time Christmas is over I've had my fill and quite relieved to pack the decorations away and give the house a good clean (a task which is so much harder with a wilting fir tree wearing tinsel). The house clean signals that the hard work (and stress) of the big day is finally over. Did I want to be reminded about it during the summer? I didn't think so.

So I set my current novel aside and began to write my first Christmas novella around Christmas time last year.

Did my plan work? Was it easier to write a Christmas themed story around Christmas time?
I loved writing A Daughter's Christmas Wish during the build-up to Christmas. It felt special and not like work at all. I hope I managed to capture the build-up and magic of Christmas, but perhaps only someone who is an expert on Christmas will know the answer to that. What do you think, Father Christmas?

Did I keep Christmas neatly tucked away between November and January?
Not quite. I finished the book in February/March. During the late summer and early autumn I was working with my publisher to prepare it for publication, which inevitably requires immersing myself into the build up to Christmas outside of the festive period.

Although my mind has been pre-occupied with Christmas far longer than I had anticipated (6 to 7 months in all), I've loved every minute of it. Maybe immersing myself in the festive spirit of goodwill outside the Christmas period is not so bad after all!

Now, I think its time to put my feet up. I have a little respite ... until, of course, the real countdown to Christmas begins!

A Daughter's Christmas Wish will be released on 20th November as an ebook and audiobook.
It will be available to pre-order soon!



To find out more about Victoria Cornwall's books click HERE





Saturday, 8 September 2018

Dancing With the Devil: the Misery of the First Draft


This was probably not the low point, but it's typical...
I’m writing a book. 

I’m always writing a book. In fact, I’m always writing several books, each one at a different stage. One or more are ideas in my head; one is at the planning stage; one is first draft; one at an advanced second/third draft; one requires a final polish; and one is with my agent (I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of saying that). 

When I’m talking about the process, I always tell people how much I love every single stage of it, and that’s mostly true — but there is one part of the process that I hate beyond words, and that is the middle part of the first draft. No matter how well I plot, or in his much detail, there always comes a point where I don’t know what to write but I daren’t stop, because if I do I’ll never start again. It’s like dancing with the Devil.

I think this is why the concept of word racing works so well. You set your target and I, being target-driven, always get there. Every November I “enter” National Novel Writing Month (NANoWriMo) and every November I “win”, usually completing 50k words within a week. 

Yet somehow I can’t do this at any other time. I’ve written about the boggy middle of my books elsewhere — that middle third where the plot doesn’t fit together the way I thought it would and the characters go off and do their own thing, so that the second half of the book bears no resemblance to the first. 

Writing that middle third is hard. The opening is easy, with the setup and the back story, introducing the characters and finding a hook. The final third is great, too, as the pace picks up and lives are on the line. (I write crime.) But the middle third is grim. It’s a hand-to-hand fight, a battle with every syllable, every word, every sentence, and it’s a battle that you can’t give up.

In the middle third I hate what I’ve written. The writing is poor, very rushed. Chunks of what I’ve already written are no longer relevant and that the later parts of the plot have nothing to do with it. New characters appear and I know nothing about them, but in order to keep the plot going I write them anyway and they are superficial, inconsistent and not credible. Plot twists emerge from nowhere. They refer to incidents that have taken place in the early part of the plot that are missing from the early part of the draft. A character’s backstory suddenly changes because the plot doesn’t work if they spent last year abroad. That sort of thing.

I’ve been through that fight this week, and it was miserable. When I finally got through it, I looked back and realised that it’s dreadful, full of square brackets in which I shout at myself to GO BACK AND ADD A BIT EARLIER or even THIS DOES NOT WORK! But the first draft is always dreadful. And, crucially, with a lot of work it’s always fixable. 

Did I ever tell you how much I love editing?



Jennifer Young

Saturday, 1 September 2018

VICTORIA CORNWALL AND THE DAUGHTER OF RIVER VALLEY

Hello and welcome to another in our get to know our team and their writing series. Today it’s the turn of historical romance writer, Victoria Cornwall and her latest release, The Daughter of River Valley. Victoria’s debut novel, The Thief’s Daughter, was published in 2017 by Choc Lit, introducing readers to her Cornish Tales series, as well as being selected as a finalist for the prestigious Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award. Whilst penning novels, Victoria also loves connecting with readers online and has a heart-warming short story published in this month’s Your Cat magazine. (Which gave me the purrfect excuse to buy one!)

But before we discover more about Victoria and her writing, here’s a taste of what to look forward to in The Daughter of River Valley

Can you trust a man with no name?
Cornwall, 1861
Beth Jago appears to have the idyllic life, she has a trade to earn a living and a cottage of her own in Cornwall’s beautiful River Valley. Yet appearances can be deceptive …
Beth has a secret. Since inheriting her isolated cottage she’s been receiving threats, so when she finds a man in her home she acts on her instincts. One frying pan to the head and she has robbed the handsome stranger of his memory and almost killed him.
Fearful he may die, she reluctantly nurses the intruder back to health. Yet can she trust the man with no name who has entered her life, or is he as dangerous as his nightmares suggest?

Author - Victoria Cornwall
Hello Victoria, and thanks for agreeing to take the hot-seat today. Let's get started... 

1. Beth Jago is a character many aspire to be like – capable and resilient – and yet, following the death of her beloved grandfather, she has also been left fragile, taking comfort from the familiar landscape and seclusion of River Valley. What drew you to explore Beth’s attachment to place, rather than say a family member?

I think it is a primal need in all of us to feel safe and secure and have a place we can call our home. People also have the natural desire to protect what they hold dear. Beth, the character, only had this need met and the desire to protect it, when she arrived at River Valley.  I used this theme as I felt readers would relate to these very natural, primal feelings and connect with Beth and the emotional journey she takes.

2. Without giving too much away, one of my favourite scenes in the book is
Rocky Valley, Cornwall
when Beth and Joss explore River Valley together for the first time and a magical natural spectacle appears. I noticed in the author’s notes that River Valley is based on Cornwall’s Rocky Valley. Is this scene imagined? Or is there an area of Rocky Valley where this takes place? (Readers will have to read The Daughter of River Valley to discover what this is!)


Rocky Valley is a beautiful valley. There are narrow earthy tracks, a tree where visitors hang tokens and ribbons, water which were once thought to have healing powers, a waterfall ... and of course a river. There are also stone carvings, which I did not put into the novel. However the natural spectacle that I think you are talking about is not related to Rocky Valley. It was inspired by Chipman Valley, which can be found on the coastal walk between Bude to Crackington Haven. Locally it is known as Butterfly Valley.


3. It was fascinating how dress, whether it was Beth’s Sunday best or the correct amount of a lady’s cleavage showing, enabled characters to identify where others belonged in the Cornish social hierarchy. What research did you have to do to establish how seamstresses worked at the time?

I have started a small collection of research books relating to life in the Victorian era. The internet is also a great help, although the information is not always accurate and needs to be cross-referenced to check the details. Beth's profession was inspired by a very old sewing machine in the family, however fashion through the ages is my secret passion and once you know what you are looking for, you can date a dress to within a few years as fashions changed as quickly as it does now.


4. The historical period, feisty characters and romantic setting will very much appeal to lovers of Poldark. How much has Winston Graham’s novels inspired your own writing? And why do you think writers and readers love to return to Cornwall, both literally and in a literary context, again and again?

First of Winston Graham's
series
I am a great fan of Graham's writing. It is poetic at times, yet realistic to the era and keeps you turning the pages. I would say he is a massive influence on my writing style. I have read his Poldark novels many times and tend to compare everything I read to his writing style. It is partly why I began writing in the first place. I write about Cornwall because I am Cornish and I live here. It is a place and community I know well, so it was a simple choice for me. Many people have been to Cornwall or aspire to visit the county. Reading a book is about escaping the present and what better place to escape to then Cornwall? Writers recognise this market and cater to it by setting their novels in Cornwall.


5. There is an interesting strand of Cornwall’s military history sprinkled throughout the novel. What drew you to include this part of Cornwall’s past?

I am very interested in our war history. So many men and women died in
the name of our country so I feel it would be wrong to forget our past. I honour them in my own way, by visiting museums, watching documentaries or films. I was visiting the Cornwall's Regimental Museum, in Bodmin, to learn about the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry and was surprised to learn that soldiers from the southwest took part in a very famous battle related to the Victoria Cross, which is the highest award a soldier can earn. This inspired part of the plot and was my way of honouring those soldiers who took part and all they had to suffer.


6. The questions I can never resist – which authors do you enjoy reading? Which books might we find on your bedside table?

For beautiful, plot turning pages, it would have to be the first seven books of the Winston Graham's Poldark series. 
For fascinating historical detail in fiction it would have to be Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor
For pure sensual poetry in fiction, The Various Flavours of Coffee by Anthony Capella


7. The Daughter of River Valley is book number three in the Cornish Tales series, although it can also be read as a stand-alone. So what’s next? 

There is a full-length novel waiting in the wings, which will be published by Choc Lit and is part of the Cornish Tales series. I hope that will be released next year. I loved writing it and hope my readers will love reading it.

In the meantime, I am delighted to say that I have a Christmas novella coming out in November. A soldier returns from the Great War to fulfil a promise to a fellow soldier, which is to bring Christmas to the fiancé he will never see again. As it's the 100th year anniversary of Armistice this year, it is my tribute to those who fought and suffered for our freedom during WW1.


Sounds a wonderful tribute, Victoria and a great Christmas read too. And in the meantime, readers can enjoy The Daughter of River Valley or catch Victoria's short fiction in September's Your Cat magazine.


Happy reading,


 Rae x