Meet author and self help guru, Peter Jones

Me


Welcome, to my website, Peter, and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.

When and where did your passion for writing begin?

Pretty much as soon as I could string two words together I was ‘making books’. I would kneel on my grandmother’s living room carpet, fold several sheets of A4 paper in half, staple down the folded edge, then start writing a story and drawing the pictures to go with the story – and once finished my books would be passed around my family on a kind of a ‘read and return’ basis.

Which came first fiction or non-fiction?

Well, technically I guess it was fiction (back when I would visit my grandmother). By my twenties I was writing science fiction short stories (although none of them were ever submitted for publication). In my thirties my wife encouraged me to start writing a rom-com novel… but it was HOW TO DO EVERYTHING AND BE HAPPY – a self-help book – that first made it into print.

How did you become a ‘self-help’ guru?

Well therein lies a tale: I met my wife Kate in my mid-thirties. At the time I was a frumpy grumpy banking consultant. She was a NLP practitioner (a kind of hypno-therapist). She taught me so much about how our brains work, how we motivate ourselves, how to get more out of life… and then she died. Of a brain haemorrhage. Thirty nine years of age. And I was devastated. More than that I was crushed with guilt, because back then I wasn’t a particularly happy person. I had been a misery to live with! What’s more, Kate and I had managed to waste most of our three years together working. Oh, we had big plans about how we’d make enough money to move somewhere sunny… but it never happened. We ran out of time.

So I decided to do something about it. I set about fixing my life. I made lists, drew up plans, devised new habits… and it worked. Some of those ideas actually made me happier. One day a colleague said “you ought to write this stuff down – turn it into a book.” So I did. That ended up being HOW TO DO EVERYTHING AND BE HAPPY. Published by Harper Collins and Audible.

Still not sure about the term guru though! Michelle Ward (of Phoenix FM) gave me that label. But really I’m just a fix it man at heart.

You seem to love public speaking – has this always been the case?

I’m afraid so. I’m just a big show off! No, actually there’s more to it than that. My childhood love of storytelling morphed into a desire to become an actor. To me, writing and acting are the same thing. In fact, one of the joys of writing is that you get to play ALL the parts, even the women. But there’s something utterly amazing about being in front of an audience. I used to be part of a travelling theatre company, but now public speaking fills that need. My talks are quite ‘theatrical’.

You seem to be a very organised person is this essential to the way you approach each project?

I guess I am. I never used to be. In my teens, twenties, even thirties I lived in a perpetual state of barely-organised chaos. Kate was the organised one. Becoming organised was part of my get-happy strategy. A way of taking control of my chaotic, unhappy life.

But you’re right. It bled into everything I do. Becoming organised was how I finally managed to finish that novel that Kate started me writing; THE GOOD GUY’S GUIDE TO GETTING THE GIRL. There have been two more since then and I’m finishing up my fourth.

You are a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association – what does the organisation mean to you?

I love the RNA! I was a real sceptic at first. Couldn’t see how belonging to an organisation like that would be particularly useful. Surely it would be a lot of flouncey women writing about chiselled jawed heroes? But then my pal Bernadine Kennedy said “it’s quite good fun,” and If anyone knows about having a good time, it’s definitely Berni. And it turned out she was right! It is fun! But more than that it’s been enormously useful rubbing shoulders with all sorts of creative people, all of us trying to carve a living out of what we love.

What key advice would you share on writing or on life.

Write what you love. Do what makes you happy.

Each author has their own favoured way of working – would you share yours with us?

I try to write at least three days a week. I start at 7am and count the number of words I’ve written at the end of each hour. If it’s less than 200 I give myself a good talking to! By midday I’m usually done. In the afternoons I talk about writing or do post, answer emails, tackle the admin…

What has been the highlight of your writing career to date?

The day my agent told me that a producer in Hollywood had enquired about the film rights for THE TRUTH ABOUT THIS CHARMING MAN was pretty special! But actually there have been far more less dramatic, more humbling moments along the way. Recently a teacher’s assistant in Dubai emailed me to tell me that she’d enjoyed my ‘happy book’ and had been asked to do a presentation to the staff about it. Turns out my book is on a recommended reading list, in India. And her school adopts some of my happiness ideas for the children!

That is amazing, Peter. What project are you working on now?

My fourth novel is currently out with my first readers, so in the meantime I’m working on another self-help book. My fifth. I’m particularly excited about this one… though I can’t say much more at this point.

What is next for Peter? 

Who knows!? Hopefully more novels.

Although after some encouraging advice I might take a break to work on a film proposal for MY GIRLFRIEND’S PERFECT EX-BOYFRIEND. So long as I can continue to make a living putting a smile on the faces of my readers (or audience) I really don’t mind.

I wish you every continued success!

Find out more about Peter:-

 

An Interview with Juliet Greenwood

I first met Juliet when we were at Writing Magazine’s awards ceremony back in 2002. We were both winners embarking on our writing careers. A fellow member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Juliet had several works of fiction published under the pseudonym Heather Pardoe and is now a novelist under her own name.

Welcome Juliet!

In what way did ME lead you into a writing career?

It was a really bad viral infection that left me with ME for years. Before then, I’d been energetic and healthy, holding down a career, cycling, rushing up mountains, and working for hours in my garden. Being so ill for so long, and not knowing if I would ever get better, forced me to completely reconsider my life. That’s when I decided I would work part time in a far less stressful job, and just go for my lifelong dream of being a writer. I’d never had the courage to do it before, in case I failed. Having ME made me realise I’d nothing to lose, so it gave me the courage to try.

Have you always been a story-teller with a love of the written word?

Definitely! As a child I used to devour books and write my own wild adventures and the only subject I ever wanted to study was English. In my twenties, I lived in a garret (well an attic room) in London, bashing away on a typewriter, sending stories out and finding them flying right back again. Then I did the sensible thing and found a ‘proper’ job and did a bit of living (the best kind of research). But I never quite lost sight of the dream.

You had established your work under the lovely name of Heather Pardoe, why did you decide to revert to your true name for novels?

I’m very fond of ‘Heather Pardoe’, but I’d always known I was going to write under two names. Writing stories and serials for magazines was a really valuable learning curve. I loved doing them, and had great fun with the novellas I wrote for the ‘My Weekly Story Collection’. But my novels are very different. The kind of story you write is a pact with your readers, which is why many authors write under several names. My Juliet Greenwood books aren’t dark, but they deal with much darker themes (like my heroine racing through the battlefields of WW1 in a beaten up ambulance, on a desperate rescue mission), so I’m very happy writing under two names. I definitely see them as two aspects of me, so when I sit down as Heather, it feels different than when I sit down as Juliet. Although Heather is my middle name, so my two writing personas are not that far apart…

Which author’s work have inspired you the most and why?

There are so many! As a child, the novels of Rosemary Sutcliffe gave me a passion for historical fiction. I love Elisabeth Gaskell, George Elliot and the Bronte’s for their portrayal of strong, passionate women trying to make sense of the world around them on their own terms, and I can never get enough of the twists and turns of Dickens’ plots.

I love the description you gave in one interview of your ‘crog loft’. I have just converted my garden shed – it does not quite have the same ring to it. How structured is your writing day/process? Are you a plotter or do you let the ideas grow organically through the story?

WW1 Seed Cake smallMy crog loft is tiny, but it’s nice and cosy and womb-like (and has steep stairs that stop me from sneaking out into the garden when I hit a tricky bit!). When I’m writing serials, I have to plot everything out, as there is no chance of going back and changing things. When I’m writing my novels, I start with a general idea of the plot, but I know that’s going to change as soon as I start, and find the heroine needs a mother, or a brother or best friend, who turns out to be far too interesting to ignore! I generally know the beginning and the end, but once the first draft is done and the real work begins, anything can happen. That’s the exciting, and the scary bit, because I’m never sure if it’s going to work. I love tightening up the plot, and developing the twists and the turns to (hopefully) keeping the readers on the edge of their seats. ‘Eden’s Garden’ was a real challenge, moving between the modern heroine and Victorian times, and keeping the two stories weaving in and out of each other while not giving the twists (especially the one no one ever spots!) away. ‘We That are Left’ had some of its structure dictated by the historical events of WW1, even though the action is focused mainly on the experience of the women and civilians at home. The next book is also based around historical events, but with some family twists and turns too.

You are a member of the Novelistas whose members include amongst others Trisha Ashley and Valerie-Anne Baglietto. How did you become involved with the group?

I’ve been meeting with the Novelistas for years. We all live in very rural parts of Wales and the North West, and writing is a lonely life, so it’s great to be able to meet up and support each other.

How important do you think it is for an author to be a part of a supportive group/organisation?

I feel it’s very important to be part of a supportive group of fellow writers. It’s like any specialism you feel passionate about – you need fellow geeks, and those going through the same experience, otherwise you can bore the socks off family and friends (after all, I’d glaze over if a stockbroker discussed the minutiae with me every day, even if I had some interest in getting rich quick!).

What would you say a reader can expect from a Juliet Greenwood novel?

A big emotional story, set in a rambling old house in Cornwall or Snowdonia in Victorian or Edwardian times, with women firmly at the centre of the action, each making her own way towards self-fulfilment. There is a mystery to be solved, and danger to be overcome, and the path of true love definitely never runs smooth. There will be a garden in the background somewhere, and probably cake. For ‘We That are Left’ I researched authentic dishes from WW1 newspapers for my heroine to use, as she struggles to keep her family and the local village fed on limited resources, mainly anything she can grow in the kitchen garden on the family estate.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished another serial, this time set among the paddle steamers of Conwy in Victorian times. I’m also deep into my next novel, which is a still a secret, but I can reveal that both cake and bricks are involved. And possibly a suffragette or two?

What is next for Juliet?

I’m looking forward to finishing my next book – especially as I’ve already got ideas I’m passionate about for the next one, or even two. The kindle editions of ‘We That are Left’ and ‘Eden’s Garden’ both reached the top five in the kindle store. I never expected it to happen, but it was such an exciting experience, I’m just itching for the chance for it to happen again. Writing is always a rollercoaster ride. Just watch this space…

More from Juliet

Website: http://www.julietgreenwood.co.uk/
Blog: http://julietgreenwoodauthor.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliet.greenwood
Twitter: https://twitter.com/julietgreenwood

‘We That Are Left’, Honno Press, 2014

‘Eden’s Garden’, Honno Press, 2012

An Interview with Eileen Ramsay

Eileen RamsayThank you, Eileen, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be my guest this month.

You have had a fantastic breadth of life experiences from teaching the children of international politicians and celebrities in the USA to working in Migrant Education. What lasting impressions did this contrast leave you with?
One fact that has remained with me through all my years of teaching is that, no matter the social position of the parents, the wealth or lack of it, education or lack of it, ALL good parents want the best for their children. Another is that poor parents – and I’m not talking finance here – come from every strata of society. I have had extremely wealthy parents leave seriously ill children in hospital while they jetted off to join some celebrity at a ski resort and I have had really poor Mexican parents turn up at my door begging for “Trabajo ahora?” whenever there was a school outing that cost a little money. They didn’t want a hand-out, they wanted to work to earn the money.

What is it about Mexico that appealed to you so much?

I visited Mexico often and studied Spanish language and Mexican music there. I love its fascinating and sometimes sad history. It is incredibly beautiful. The people are proud and they are generous and full of humour and you have just given me ideas for articles!

Would you agree with the observation that despite having lived with the lifestyle of the very privileged, you always seem to have kept your focus on what is important in life – family and reality?

You’re right, I did enjoy some incredible experiences and my upbringing was certainly not among the privileged but one wonderful woman in Washington DC reinforced all my early lessons. I had just met the man who was to become my husband and I wanted to impress him – shallow person that I am – with my ‘new’ family. I was taking him to lunch – to be introduced – and we walked into the house to see the lady of the house on her hands and knees washing a floor.  It turned out that the resident ‘cleaning lady’ wasn’t feeling well and had been sent to bed.

‘But why are you washing the floor?’ I asked.

She looked up at me and laughed. ‘Dirt,’ she said, ‘is no respecter of persons.’

My husband, of course, fell in love with her on the spot.

Churchills AngelsWhen did you break away from teaching to develop a career in writing?

Teaching and writing marched together for years. I wrote stories for Sunday School magazines and I wrote reading materials for primary schools. I was able to use knowledge of Native Americans I had gained while living in the US to write something a little different – Bud and the Hunkpapas was a favourite. For a few years I wrote from 4am to 6am but resigned when our younger son went to university.

Are you a very disciplined writer in the way you organise your day?
Organise?  I can already hear the laughter of those who know me.
I am disciplined. If possible I write every day; some days I write all day and well into the evening – that’s research time too. I use a laptop that has no internet because I can’t resist an email pinging in. My husband is learning to cook – our sons and lovely daughters-in-law sent him on a course – and he does one meal a day and he helps with housework – does all the heavy things and brings me a cup of coffee in bed first thing – and so I have 30 mins of ‘fun’ reading.

How and when did your first breakthrough as a published writer occur?
I went to a writing conference at USC where the great Michael Shaara, Clive Cussler, and the editor Charles Block were speakers. A friend typed up part of a Scottish Regency novel I’d been writing – I had even fewer technical skills then – and Charles Block read it. He was waiting outside a lecture room for me on the last day, handed me the script and said, “I think this will go but have chapters one and two change places.”

I had introduced the heroine in chapter two and he advised that the heroine should always be right there in chapter one. We returned to live in Britain that summer; I managed to get an agent – long story and sent her the finished, rewritten manuscript. A few days later she called and said she’d attended a party the evening before and an American editor had asked her about the availability of Scottish Regencies.  She showed her the typescript and it was bought! I looked at it a few years ago and it was rather dire – wouldn’t be published today. I rewrote it, correcting errors, and published it on Amazon!

You were established as a saga writer and then made the bold and successful move to writing romances based around the world of opera and music. What inspired this departure?

I had written children’s books, Regencies, Sagas and serials and I wanted to write contemporaries. I went to an artist chum’s exhibition and found myself thinking – What if all these paintings were of one person? The idea stayed and grew like Topsy and I wrote a book about an artist who loved a tenor – my favourite voice!  It was read by several reputable editors and agents but no one wanted it but almost everyone made sensible points. (I occasionally bump into one or two at an RNA party and we chat perfectly happily!)

            At a book launch I found myself standing beside a lovely woman who asked me if I wrote books like those of the superb writer onstage. I said “no” and told her my friend’s publisher had just, that very day, rejected me.

            “I didn’t reject you,’ said the woman and gave me her card. “Send it to me and I’ll have a look.’

            I dithered for days and eventually rang my friend, telling her I felt badly about, even inadvertently, using her launch to contact a very senior editor. She looked at me and said. “Don’t be stupid; if anyone holds out a hand to you in this business, grab it.”

            I grabbed, sent it and received the manuscript back with a “NO” for which she gave her reason. She also told me I really needed a good agent and suggested three. Two had already rejected me but I had not heard of the third and so I had one more go.

            The agent accepted me as a client, and, with her guidance, I rewrote a few scenes. The agent, the brilliant Theresa Chris, sent the manuscript to auction. It went for an amazing amount of money and was then bought by several foreign publishers.

Wave Me GoodbyeLast year, ‘Wave me Goodbye’ was published under the name of Ruby Jackson, which I understand is the first of a series of novels ‘Churchill’s Angels’.  Please tell us something about this new project?
I suppose, like many writers, after five best-selling books, I fell out of favour. Theresa stayed with me, encouraging me, advising me.  A few years ago, she asked if I would like to revisit WW11 and after much thought, I said yes. I did not know, of course, that  an editor at Harper Collins had conceived the idea of publishing a series of books about the courageous women who did everything from catching rats to ferrying Spitfires; the women she calls Churchill’s Angels.  Using the pseudonym, Ruby Jackson, I have now written four books; two have been published so far.  It’s been an enormous privilege. I’ve met land girls, pilots, nurses, etcetera and been awed by every one of them. Their stories need no exaggeration – they were quite simply – superb.

You obviously love historical fiction and research your chosen topic thoroughly. What advice would you give to anyone who was considering writing a historical novel?
Advice would depend on which era and which country but obviously I’d say, find out as much as you possibly can about the person the time and the place. Read everything, especially newspapers of the time, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Archivists and librarians are great sources and remember there are archivists in famous department stores, in grand hotels and in universities.  They know what you don’t know you don’t know!

What is next for Eileen?

I have no idea; my head is spinning – that way, or that way but I did visit a conductor friend at the Royal Opera House earlier this year. He has been keeping me accurate about conducting and conductors for several years as I have an idea. He asked me about progress.

‘I’m afraid, for the past four years, the poor man has been standing on a rock looking out to sea.’

He shrugged. ‘Well, there are worse places for a conductor to stand.’

Now, wouldn’t you want to discover the worse places?!

More from Eileen

Website: eileenramsay.co.uk
Blog: Eileen’s Blog

An Interview with Freda Lightfoot

Freda L-close up 6My very special guest for Christmas is prolifically successful historical author, Freda Lightfoot, with an insight into her career and sharing with us how she now enjoys the best of two worlds.

You have served a very interesting writing apprenticeship in order to attain the success you now enjoy. Could you share some of the key moments with us?

My first published piece was called An Elizabethan Toothache, published by Today’s Guide in 1972. I followed this small success with pieces on how to pass various badges, how-to’s, crosswords, quizzes and puzzles, then short stories and a serial, all of which sold to Guide and Brownie magazines and annuals. Fiction was what I really wanted to write but amidst all the child rearing and running a book shop, time to write was hard to come by. It wasn’t until I sold the business and moved out into the country that I started writing articles and short stories for adult magazines. My first success with a novel was a historical romance for Mills & Boon called Madeiran Legacy. I went on to write four more before my plot lines were becoming far too complicated and I wanted to write about real women.

Polly Pride-webYour Lancashire routes have provided a strong background for your Sagas. Have you used some of your own family’s historical experiences within the fiction?

Indeed I have, many times. My grandmother was the spark for Big Flo in Polly Pride. She’d had a hard life but was a real stoic, as Lancashire women were in those days. And the idea for the story came from my Great Aunt Hannah, who did exactly as Polly did and sold or pawned her furniture in order to buy a piece of carpet from a ship in Liverpool. Then she cut it up and sold the squares on the market. But her husband didn’t object as Polly’s did. Family stories may be the inspiration, but the story is fiction.

I often advise new writers that in order to succeed you need to be determined and dedicated. You seem to have these attributes in abundance as you have owned a small holding and a bookshop as well as becoming a successful writer and now live in an olive grove in Spain. Do you have a strong work-ethic, which you apply to your writing routine? 

I dare say that is true, maybe I inherited it from my grandmother, and a long line of Lancashire and Yorkshire weavers. But then I love my work so it is no hardship to spend hours each day at the job. I put my heart and soul into my stories, which is absolutely essential. You must lose your inhibitions and be entirely sincere, but yes, it does take hard work and dedication. I’d say it demands the three p’s, which stand for practise, persistence, and passion for your craft.

Lady of PassionYour fictionalised biographies must need meticulous research, even more so than historical sagas. How long do you spend researching a new project? Roughly how long do you take to write a completed first draft? 

When I reach a certain stage with my work in progress, I start a little preliminary research on the next book, which gradually builds, taking several months altogether. All my books demand a good deal of research, for which I have a substantial library, plus interviews for my sagas. I’ve met some marvellous old folk who share their working lives and memories with me. The biographical historicals do take longer though, as you can’t make it up, and I like to be as accurate as possible. It’s rather like detective work trying to build the character and life of a real person. Fascinating.

Breaking into the eBook market was another bold move, which has certainly worked. Could you share any tips on how you made this a success? 

I entered the digital market back in 2010, which were pioneering days for ebooks but I taught myself how to do the necessary formatting and put them up by way of experiment to see what would happen. Nothing much did at first but when the UK came on board in December 2011 and Santa Claus delivered a load of Kindles, they really took off. The more books you publish, the more you sell. But they must be good, page-turning stories, well-written and not rushed, error-free and properly edited with good commercial covers.

You now live in Spain. How did this move come about? 

It all began back in 1997 when we bought a holiday home here, a little village house high in the mountains 20 kilometres from the coast. We fell in love with the village and found we were spending more and more time here, so finally bought a piece of land with an olive grove on it and built ourselves a house for our so-called retirement. Of course, writers don’t retire, but we love spending our winters here, and summers in the UK.

Will Spain feature more in your future novels?

I do have one or two ideas, so watch this space. It could happen.

You have the best of both worlds – Would you share a couple of things that you love most about your home country and your new one?

We do have the best of both worlds as here in Spain we can avoid the British winter. Almeria is the last designated desert in mainland Europe so in the daytime we can enjoy some sunshine and gardening, and as the nights grow cold we can light a fire and be cosy. The Spanish people are very friendly and we have a good life here with many friends of all nationalities. In the UK I love taking part in writer’s events, talks and conferences, visiting stately homes, and enjoying all things British.

Could you give a seasonal insight as to how Christmas in Spain varies to our traditional one in England?

l-ayuntamiento_valencia_navidad-reidrac-14_12_08-cc20.jpg

One of the joys of living in Spain is that there isn’t the same commercial fuss made. Feliz Navidad will be up there in twinkling lights, and pontsettias everywhere, the Nativity scene ‘Nacimiento’ can be seen in plazas as well as many Spanish homes and shop windows, but Christmas itself is fairly low key.

Christmas Eve, Nochebuena, is when the main Christmas meal is taken, often roast lamb or suckling pig, a feast that takes place quite late, as do all Spanish fiestas, starting around 10 p.m. and going on until the small hours. Some families will sing carols around the nativity scene which remains without the baby until the stroke of midnight. Others go to midnight Mass ‘La misa del Gallo’, Rooster Mass, named after the bird who announced the birth of Christ. Many people, of course, like the rest of us, just watch the Christmas programme’s on TV while enjoying the traditional Turrón (nougat), or mantecas (a range of butter-based biscuits) with cava.

The big celebration for the Spanish is Fiesta de Los Reyes, Three Kings Day on January 6th. What we would call Epiphany. Traditionally, this is when Spanish children get their presents, not on Christmas Day from Papa Noel, although these days some enjoy gifts on both days. By then we’re packing our Christmas decorations away, but the Spanish are still partying.

What is next for Freda?

I’m currently working on another saga, which I never talk about until it is done. After that I plan to write a sequel for Polly Pride, and also another biographical historical in my royal mistresses series about Sarah Lennox, who had the chance to marry George III, but blew it. I do like to have lots to look forward to.

More by Freda:

An interview with Gwen Kirkwood

Welcome, Gwen!

Your warm-hearted family sagas are based in rural Scotland. When and where did your love affair with Scotland’s beautiful country and history begin?

I have three Scottish grandparents so I had a yearning to see Scotland for myself. I came to Dumfriesshire to work as a milk officer, inspecting dairy farms. The work was not as I had expected but the people were very friendly and I loved the warmth of the red sandstone buildings and the beautiful landscapes with fresh green hills and glens and lots of trees. I have never wanted to leave, especially not after I met and married my husband, a Scottish dairy farmer.

Are any of your wonderful characters based on real people or are they all purely of your own creation?

My characters are all fictional but I think writers must be influenced by people they have met, even if it is only subconsciously. I had a wonderful mother-in-law so a few of my older characters may have some of her kindness and wisdom. We can read of bad characters every day in the newspapers. I have three adult children who keep me up to date with the opinions of their generation. My grandchildren are of varying ages and I often include children. Writers keep on learning and developing and so do the characters but I have never written about a real person.

You took a six year career break. When you returned to your writing did you feel as if your work had changed at all?

I don’t think my writing changed. I still wrote another series of four in a family saga following the generations. My books are shorter, 100,000 words or less now, but that is due to the policy of different publishers.

To date, what has been the most memorable or significant event within your writing career?

I had written four short romances but it was a tremendous boost to my confidence when an agent sold my first long saga to Headline in a very short time. A good editor can have a big influence and Jane Morpeth helped me a lot.

Secondly, I rarely enter competitions but after a long gap from writing it was a lovely surprise to win the Elizabeth Goudge trophy in 2000 when it was resurrected by the RNA for the millennium. It was judged by Richard Lee of the Historical Novel Society.

What top tip would you give new writers wanting to become published writers in today’s market place?

Persevere. Try to write a little every day, even if it is only a couple of sentences. Keep a notepad handy. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of your characters, or improve your plot, while you are travelling, ironing, peeling the vegetables. Thinking time is important too. Listen to the advice of agents and editors, not friends. If you do self-publish pay a reputable copy-editor to check your work first.

You have seen many changes within the publishing industry. What do you think of the new emphasis on social networking and Internet presence?

Honestly? I hate it – well some of the time! I want to be left in peace to write, BUT writing used to be an isolated occupation so I am pleased we now have opportunities for keeping in touch with other writers, getting and giving help, as well as marketing. Networking has become essential so I do my best, but it can take up a lot of time.

Your new book Darkest Before the Dawn has a very strong cover. Can you tell us something about this novel and what inspired you to write it?

This is the fifth in a series of 5 novels beginning with Dreams of Home at the end of World War II. Darkest Before the Dawn brings the series up to present day with the third generation of the Caraford family. Two of the characters are quite young with problems belonging to their generation so it could almost be a young adult novel, although I did not set out to make it that way. However, it also brings farming up to date with robots for milking cows, arguments between the generations about changes, as well as an unexpected and rather satisfying love affair for two of the older characters.

Darkest Before the Dawn

Joe Lennox becomes bitter and deranged and blames Billy Caraford when his son is killed in a car accident, but Billy has lost his best friend and is badly injured himself. Despite the misgivings of his parents he is still determined to be a farmer. He summons his courage to go to university but privately he regards himself as a cripple now. He is convinced no woman could love him or want to be his wife.

Kimberley is orphaned when her father dies. She moves to Scotland with her aunt but she is nervous about changing schools until Billy helps her find new friends. Both Kim and her aunt become involved in the affairs of the Caraford family and as Kim grows into a lovely young woman she finds the strength of character to confront problems and fight for the life and the love she craves.

What is next for Gwen Kirkwood?

I am going back to the 1800’s and this will be a single novel rather than a series. It has less emphasis on farming but is still set in Scotland. No title yet.

My thanks for taking the time to answer the questions in such an honest and open way. I shall look forward to reading Darkest Before the Dawn when it is available later this month!

More by Gwen:

An interview with Linda Mitchelmore

LINDA WRITING ROOMI am delighted to welcome prolific short story writer and successful Choc Lit author, Linda Mitchelmore.

When did you first realise that you wanted to be an author?  
I did things rather back to front. I didn’t consciously start out to be a writer. One Christmas – back in the day – there was a short story writing competition in Woman’s Own. On Christmas Day evening, my family were all glued to the TV – something I don’t get a huge lot of pleasure from as I am deaf. So I thought I’d have a go at the short story competition for something to do. To my utter amazement my short story was short-listed  and published. And I was paid for it. The old cash registers behind my eyes started to ring and I thought, hey, I could make money from all the ‘stuff’ that goes around in my mind…

Your stories have sold internationally. How many have you had published to date? 
I’ve lost count of the exact number of short stories I’ve had published but it is definitely 300+ now. I’ve also had a story broadcast on radio – the irony of that not lost on me.

Writing short stories and longer fiction involve two very different disciplines. What attracted you to short fiction initially, and how much of a challenge was it making the switch to longer fiction? 
Short fiction is just that – short. 750 word stories are quite popular with some magazine editors. I tend to write 1000 word or 2000 word stories as they’re the lengths that tend to fit into most magazine slots. When working on a short story I don’t have to think too much about viewpoints – I only ever write one character’s viewpoint into a short story. I don’t have to have sub-plots, and foreshadowing is something that – depending on the story – doesn’t raise its head much. So they are much quicker to write. When I first started writing I had two teenage children at home, a husband (still got him!) and a part-time job as well as ageing parents and parents-in-law to be doing things for. Short story writing was easier to fit in around all that. Writing longer fiction – 80,000 words or so – seemed a natural progression for me once I had more time to write it. The same premise of ‘person, problem and plot’, with a ‘beginning, middle and an end’, is the same for short stories and novels. The only difference is the time it takes to tell the story.

Your novel, the first of a trilogy, ‘To Turn Full Circle’ is set in your beautiful home county of Devon. Please tell us something about the inspiration behind it? 
The seeds of To Turn Full Circle were sown when I was helping my husband research some family history. We discovered that his great uncle, George, had fished out of Brixham. George had had two trawlers. One of them was lost to the sea in a storm (although with no loss of life) and George had a bad accident on board the other one which meant he had to come off the sea and lost his livelihood. He had to move his wife and daughter back in with his mother. I had a ‘What If’ moment! What if it wasn’t a man who had lost his home because of circumstances, but a young girl? And ‘What If’ the sea still controlled her struggle to survive? And so, To Turn Full Circle was born.
When you begin a new project does your initial idea start with a character, situation, place or theme or does it vary? 
For me a story always starts with an emotion or a feeling – something deep inside my main character. In To Turn Full Circle’s story it was Emma’s determination to survive which drives the story.

You have two more novels to write to complete this trilogy. What do you see as the next challenge for Linda Mitchelmore? 
Writing the next two books is keeping me busy at the moment. I do, however, have a contemporary novel under consideration – the heroine is older than Emma. The feeling driving this story – tentatively called Red is for Rubies – is regret. Most of us have them and in Red is for Rubies, my hero and heroine have lived – apart – with their own regrets for a long time. Will they get a chance to redeem themselves?

Also, I have now signed a contract with Choc Lit for a novella – Hope For Hannah. It will be an e-book initially and out in the close future.

My thanks for a very insightful interview, Linda.

More by Linda:

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