Author Newsletters & Author Crushes #Author #AmReading #BookWorm




It is not easy when you have an author crush. You read a book and after screaming ‘OMG that book did things to mewho wrote this?‘ suddenly you want to know everything about the author, you retweet all their tweets, you bravely fight their corner when someone in the office is criticising their latest book and you daydream about them one day replying to one of your many comments on their Facebook page.

Trying to control yourself when fangirling an author is difficult – if you are currently getting obsessed about a certain author….I feel your literary pain.

Author newsletters are becoming a big thing. You sign up to a author newsletter and they email you regularly with lots of exciting news.

After months of signing up to a LOT of author newsletters and going through a lot of author crushes (I read 4-5 books a week so I am fangirling over some author most weeks….its no wonder my emotions are all over the place!) I now believe a good newsletter can actually work wonders for your author crush.

If the author gets their newsletter right you – the reader – will get a real literary treat. If they get their newsletter wrong…well…that’s another blog post.

Here is what I think makes a good author newsletter.

Find out something new about your crush. 

A good author newsletter will give you some insight into the author’s life outside of their books, which you don’t get via social media. This is where you get to read about the author’s unusual hobby, their love of a weird pet, their cocktail of choice and their cheese preferences. I love this sort of detail as it helps turn the author into a real person and brings them to life. This helps you when you are sat daydreaming about them and asking yourself questions like “which cheese would they go for if we were sharing a cheeseboard?” and “do they look like they would enjoy a Raspberry Gin Rickey or two?”

Sound like you are having a coffee together.

A good author newsletter will have a friendly and conversational tone. It will read like you and your author are having coffee. This is great for your author crush as you get to imagine your author talking to you on a one on one basis. It really helps with that delicious daydream where you accidentally bump into your favourite author, who treats you to a coffee and asks you to become their BFF over a latte. Sigh!

Give you the follower something extra! 

An effective author’s newsletter should give you the reader something extra. These extra bits will make you feel special and wanted. Isn’t this what we all want when fangirling over someone?  I like the authors who run special competitions for their newsletter following, give us sneak previews of future books or offer a freebie.

For noting – competition prizes – why don’t authors do signed photos anymore?  Seriously these are great for true author fans!  We can stick them up on our desks, fridges and mantlepieces and gaze longingly at them. Also in the competitions why aren’t we being tested on our book knowledge?  A reader with an author crush will have read their author’s book countless times and will appreciate some tough questions to test them on obscure character detail.

Keep you updated on their writing progress. 

A good author’s newsletter will inform you about their literary progress and wet your literary appetite for any future books.

If they keep you well-informed about their progress on the next book, you won’t have to stalk them so much on social media or tweet things like #stillwaiting and #morethanonebookayearplease.

Show you how to connect with other reader fans. 

Something that will really help with your crush is if an author’s newsletter shows you how you can connect with other reader fans on social media. Reader fans like to interact with each other especially if the author has created a hot new character or if the author has killed a key character and we all need to vent some frustration.

Leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. 

After you finish reading an author’s newsletter you should feel like your love for that author has been replenished. I do like a nice signature and a ‘x ‘or two.

You should feel warm, fuzzy and able to move on with your life until….next month!


Here are some things I wish author’s included in their newsletters for fangirling readers like myself:

  • Have a ‘reader of the month’ section – can you imagine seeing your face on your favourite author’s newsletter? *squeal*
  • Run a competition where the prize is for the reader to be….written into their story as a minor character – seriously I would wet myself if one of my fav authors added a blonde, cheese eating, gin & tonic drinking minor character called ‘Lucy’ into their book. *Deep breaths*

Have an amazing day!

For noting: I find that when an author crush gets too much – lying down with a cold flannel on your forehead works wonders. Or you could listen to how Roxy and her family deal with their author crush in this week’s fictional podcast episode – The Book Signing. 

Photo: Stocksnap








The Writer’s Prayer #MondayBlogs #Writers #AmWriting


Every writer will, at some point in their literary journey, experience one of those dark days where their head is overcrowded with demons, their draft novel sucks and everyone on Twitter is tweeting about their amazing literary successes.

When this happens the true writer knows that quitting is not an option. Being creative is woven into a writer’s DNA. If you opened up the vein of a writer you would most probably see letters, words and semi colons floating about. Writing is not something a true writer can give up.

So when our literary world gets gloomy, when we have eaten all the chocolate we can lay our hands on, when we can cry no more, when all creative hope is lost – our only option left is to pray!

I like to think that there is a ‘Writer’s Prayer’ – something that will calm our emotional state and give us a few minutes of quiet reflection.

It doesn’t matter who you pray to or what you pray to. I believe that the simple act of closing your eyes and saying a Writer’s Prayer can bring you, the troubled writer, some much-needed creative peace.

Trust me on this – it actually works!

Here is my version of ‘The Writer’s Prayer’

Thank you for challenging my creative passion today.

This prayer helps me to remember that I am on a literary journey and on this journey there are going to be good days and bad days.

I know that I am not alone as there are other writers out there, who are also being challenged by their creative passion.

Please give me the strength to get through this tough creative time and to ignore the voices of my writing demons.

I must remember that today is not a refection of my creative worth.

This prayer acts as a reminder to me, even though I am suffering I am doing what I love – writing. There are some people in this world who never get to pursue their creative passion and this is why I should appreciate the bad times as well as the good times.

Thank you for blessing me with my half finished second draft of a novel. Yes it does feel like an ugly duckling, but if I give it time and focus it will one day turn into something beautiful.

Every piece of creative work that I am blessed with is teaching me something. Even though I can’t quite see it today  – my draft novel is trying to teach me something.

Thank you for making me see that I am still growing and developing as a writer.

I am hoping this prayer will bring some peace to my creative world.


For noting: this prayer has been road tested during a bad literary time over the weekend. I actually felt calmer.

What would be in your Writer’s Prayer?

I hope you all have a great day!

Photo: Stocksnaps

14 Reasons Why We Love Reading Historical Fiction #SundayBlogShare #HistoricalFiction


There is something magical about reading historical fiction. After interviewing historical fiction writer Evie Gaughan yesterday, I am taking a moment to celebrate historical fiction.

Here are the reasons why I think we love reading stories from this fabulous literary genre:

  1. It is a form of mental time travel.
  2. There is nothing more pleasurable than escaping our modern lives via bonnets, horse drawn carriages, corsets, breeches, knights in armour, sky high wigs and chaste kisses. 
  3. Historical fiction can make us appreciate our own era.
  4. It enriches us with knowledge.
  5. It gives us the opportunity to find out how historical events influenced and shaped people’s lives.
  6. The romances in historical fiction always take awhile to come to the boil but when that kiss finally happens we are beside ourselves with reader joy.
  7. It teaches us that human nature has essentially always been the same.
  8. We love the drama and passion that historical fiction brings to life.
  9. We get the opportunity to live in the skin of others who are up against different social constraints.
  10. We sometimes read it with a rough idea of what is going to happen but that doesn’t matter. This means we can focus our energies into enjoying the characters, settings and the dialogue.
  11. In historical fiction arguments between lovers are sorted out via a long stroll in the countryside and some lengthy handwritten letters. This is refreshing to read about as all our arguments with loved ones nowadays seem to be sorted out via text.
  12. We often find the costumes fascinating and I don’t know about you but I would jump at the chance to swap my shapeless jeans and over washed long sleeved t-shirt for an uncomfortable, but fancy, long swishing dress (with petticoats) that I have to hitch up in order to walk quickly.
  13. We are fascinated by the contrasting lives of the rich and the poor.
  14. Sometimes historical fiction makes us wonder whether we belong to a different age. 

Savour those historical fiction books in your TBR pile🙂

Have a fabulous day!


Photo: Stocksnaps

Author Interviews @evgaughan #Author #Writer #HistoricalFiction

Author Interviews-2

Welcome to my weekly Blog Series – Author Interviews.

This series is where I interview authors who inspire and motivate me. I get to ask them about their writing journey, understand the obstacles they faced with writing their books and glean some valuable insight into their writing life.

Today I am thrilled because an author, who I have been admiring for sometime, has agreed to an interview – Evie Gaughan.


I started reading her fab book The Heirloom’ and I knew (a few pages in) that I had to somehow persuade her to come on my blog.

So please give a warm welcome to Irish author and blogger Evie Gaughan!

Hey Evie!  Welcome to my blonde blog – please take a seat in my famous red chair..

Tell my readers about yourself and the book / books you have written.

Well, if you make me a cup of tea, I’ll tell you anything you like!  Which tells you a lot about who I am – I drop everything for tea and a chat, which isn’t very conducive to writing, as it requires a lot of willpower and self-discipline. Thankfully, I do have a very tenacious streak in me that always gets the job done. I’m basically a hare in a tortoise’s body! When I’m not writing, I paint. Canvases, not houses, although I have been known to dabble in emulsion when the mood strikes.

Evie – that is an amazing phrase – a hare in a tortoise’s body!  Brilliant!  I think I might be one of those too – sigh!  Please carry on..

As for books, I’ve always been a fan of reading and writing contemporary fiction, but in the last few years I’ve really been drawn to the ‘Dual Timeline’ genre. Books like Kate Morton’s ‘House At Riverton’ and Diane Setterfield’s ‘The Thirteenth Tale’ are both master-classes in how to blend two-time periods into one novel.

My debut novel, ‘The Heirloom’ is the story of a young woman who inherits a medal, which dates back to the time of the Spanish Armada. I was inspired by the fact that several Armada ships wrecked along the coast of Ireland and hundreds of Spanish sailors sought refuge with local Chieftains. It was a fascinating time in history, but rather than set the entire book in 1588, I told the story through the contemporary eyes of a young woman who is struggling with her own demons. ‘The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris’ is set in France and tells the story of a bakery with an unusual family secret. This novel is more contemporary, although there are historical aspects touching on World War II, and focuses on my penchant for the otherworldly (and pain au chocolat!).

I have just finished editing my third novel, which I am EXTREMELY excited about! It has been a year in the making and explores another subject that is close to my heart… but if I tell you what that is, I’ll have to kill you!  

However, I can say that it is another dual timeline story, set in the early 1900’s in Ireland and the present day. I don’t have a publication date as yet, but it will be available in early 2017.

Evie, I am loving your excitement for dual timeline stories. I must try writing one as you are clearly having some literary fun! 

When did you write your first book?

This is a bit of a trick question (or a trick answer!) I began writing my first novel back in 2002 in my little apartment in Montréal, Québec. I had lived in Canada for about five years and after 9/11, I started to get extremely homesick. My reading habits reflected this, and I began devouring books by Irish writers such as Maeve Binchy and Marian Keyes. I think I knew I was going to return to Ireland, even before I had made the decision, so I quite my job and decided I was going to be the next big thing in Irish fiction! I soon realised, however, that this writing lark wasn’t as easy as it looked. It was damn hard and I was woefully unprepared, so I gave up.

I wrote another novel after that and actually finished it, but it will never see the light of day. I have read that writers who are at the beginning of their career often tend to mimic the style of their favourite authors and that’s exactly what I did. Still, I learned so much from that novel, not least what it takes to see it through to the end. I never saw it as time wasted, because it turned out to be an apprenticeship of sorts, where I learned the craft of novel-writing.

In 2011, I came upon the idea for The Heirloom and the rest is, well, give me another cup and I’ll tell you about it ☺.

How long did it take to write your first book?

It took approximately two years to write, although about six months of that was spent researching the medieval portions of the story.

What was your motivation to write your first book?

Honestly, the motivation was to write something I could be proud of. After the first attempts, I knew I had to push myself to write something original and not settle for being a poor imitation of someone else. I wanted to make my own mark with my own voice. I put everything into it, so I’m very proud of it.

What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?

The biggest issue was getting to grips with writing historical fiction. It’s not something to be entered into lightly and it takes a lot of time and practice to hit the right tone.

Obviously, I had no idea what it was like to live in the middle ages, so I had to pluck research from a lot of different sources to create a feel for what it might have been like. I needed to know everything, from what people ate, where they lived and what they wore. But I also needed to find a voice that would make the historical sections of the book more believable. I had to enter a very different head space to write those scenes and even listened to lots of Enya and Loreena McKennit to get in the mood!

Music has always been so evocative for me and with every novel I create new playlists to create the atmosphere I’m looking for. It must have worked, because most reviews have mentioned how realistic the historical parts were.

Did you go through any bad writing patches during writing your book – what kept you going?

Always! There are always bad patches, with every book. That’s why so many people give up (apparently only 3% of people actually finish their novels!).

Self-doubt is the biggest culprit. There are days when you look at your writing and think, this is utter shite! I can’t do this! But, cheesy as it may sound, what keeps me going is the dream. I dreamed of being a writer for so long – not someone who dabbled and gave up – but a writer, with a decent body of work to her name. I don’t base my idea of success on worldwide recognition and obscene advances (although I wouldn’t kick them out of bed for eating crackers!) but rather on achieving my own goals, which are to write good books that people enjoy reading.

Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?

I have a rough outline of what shape the story will take, but beyond that, I’m not a very organised writer. I need space to work spontaneously and let the story unfold organically. That’s the unexpected magic of writing, when characters appear out of nowhere and new plot twists turn a dead-end into an interesting new path. For me, too much rigidity can stifle that sense of creative freedom. In other words, I don’t really know what I’m going to write and just hope that inspiration will strike!

What is the best thing about being a writer?

The best thing about being a writer is creating a world, filled with people who didn’t exist before you wrote them. As a reader, I love to escape into fictional worlds, but as a writer, I get to indulge in my own fantasies.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

The sedentary lifestyle! I often find my day is spent swapping one chair for another. In an effort to combat all of this sitting around, I started swimming… in the sea. However, at the risk of hypothermia, I have since confined myself to a heated swimming pool!

Have you ever considered quitting writing, and if so how have you worked through this?

Every time I finish a book! I don’t know if it’s the same for other writers, but by the time I type the words ‘The End’, the thought of doing it again seems almost sadistic! I move towards my art when I finish a book, because I can still express myself creatively but without words.

Nevertheless, after a few months of a writing holiday, I begin to feel heartsick for that indescribable high you only get from writing. An idea will form at the back of my mind and then other aspects begin to attract to it like magnets. It’s more than a coincidence; it’s a secret agreement between your subconscious and the muse, which you can only ignore for so long. And so, the process begins again!

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

I really don’t have one. The only time I kept some sort of timetable was when I did NaNoWriMo – the crazy challenge of writing 50,000 in 30 days. There’s something about it that appeals to my inner Hare and I’ve actually completed it twice. Frankly, it nearly killed me, but it did teach me how to not edit while writing and I think that has really helped to free me up as a writer. But normally, I try to give myself a weekly word count target rather than a daily one, so I have more flexibility. I’m also trying to write a bit more away from the screen. I was never a huge fan of writing long hand, but sometimes it helps to change things around. I don’t really thrive under routine!

Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?

Never do today what can be put off till tomorrow, that’s what I say! As you can see, there’s a bit of a pattern forming here. But I try to embrace it – I mean we all procrastinate at some point (writers more than anyone). I think we label any time where we are not being productive as ‘procrastinating’. But when you’re a writer, you really do need time to just do nothing and let the ideas sort themselves out in your head. We’re all under so much pressure to work harder and be more productive, which is so stressful. I try to trust in the fact that I’ll get there in the end. Mostly!

Which is more important – plot or characters and why?

I don’t think you can put one above the other. The story just won’t work if you don’t balance these two very important elements. I recently read a novel by a very successful author, which had lots of well-developed characters, but the plot didn’t really go anywhere. I lost all interest in the story and I wasn’t alone (the reviews on Goodreads bear this out.) Equally, you can have an interesting story, but if the reader isn’t invested in the characters, they won’t care what happens to them. The plot always comes to me first, so I really have to work at creating engaging characters the readers can connect with, while also driving the story forward.

What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?

  • Writing is the bones, editing is the flesh.
  • The first draft is essentially telling yourself the story. It’s okay if it’s messy.
  • The best way to promote your book is to write another one.

How do you manage social media as a writer?

Ah yes, social media. The great vortex! I think especially for self-published authors such as myself, it is an invaluable tool. I have connected with so many great people (such as yourself!) and found new opportunities to chat about writing with like-minded people. My blog is a fantastic platform to flex my writing muscle and again, to become a part of the online conversation. But sometimes it’s hard to know whether you’re spending time on social media or just wasting it. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like work, because it’s so entertaining, but then you meet a new contact and so on and so on. I probably ‘manage’ it about as well as the next person (i.e. I have no control over it!!). But when you’re writing, cleaning the oven can become a welcome distraction so what hope do you have against dancing cats?! I try to disconnect when I write and become a bit stricter with my usage.

Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?

Try to read as much as possible. Reading good books has really elevated my own expectations of my writing, which is so important. You are essentially working in a vacuum and the only one pushing you, is you! And remember, professional writers are just writers who never gave up, so keep pushing and never give up.

Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome?

Not exactly. If I’m struggling with a scene, I tend to skip ahead and write a scene that I know will come easier. I don’t normally tend to write out of sequence, but if I’m stuck, it’s a good trick to use because you’re still making progress.

Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?

If I do, it’s only a fleeting thought. I couldn’t possibly start fleshing out ideas for another book while writing; I’m not sure how people do that. I do have an idea for another book, but it’s just a little seed germinating away in the dark recesses of my mind! Ideas need time to form and I don’t like to rush that process. Rightly or wrongly, that’s how I’ve always worked.

What do you wear to write?

Hah!  Well I know what I’d like to wear.. a bright pink Selkbag! I write in my converted attic which, apart from a few weeks in the Summer, is freezing cold. I end up looking like one of Fagan’s street urchins with fingerless gloves wrapped around mugs of steaming hot tea.

So I found these online last year and thought they would make the perfect Christmas present (wink, wink).


It’s like a sleeping bag suit! Might get some funny looks when I answer the door, but I think it’ll be worth it ☺ You can read my blog about it here

If readers want to get in touch how do they contact you?

I’m either on Twitter @evgaughan or my blog If I’m not at either of those two locations, I’m dead!

Evie – wow! What an interview…and so many cups of tea🙂

I have taken so many things from our  chat today:

  • I love how you referred to the book, that will never see the light of day, as an ‘apprenticeship’ – I can really relate to this as I believe each book or story teaches you something new and as you say nothing in writing is ever a time waste. 
  • I loved how you spoke about your motivation. ‘The motivation was to write something I could be proud of and I knew I had to push myself to write something original and not settle for being a poor imitation of someone else. I wanted to make my own mark with my own voice. I put everything into it, so I’m very proud of it.’  I think this is why I am sweating and slaving away over my first novel. 
  • I can really relate to your comment about ‘letting a story unfold organically.’ Amen! 
  • Yes I agree social media is the ‘great vortex!’  
  • Great tip regarding reading! 
  • OMG – that sleeping bag suit looks amazing!  Although I do think my deodorant would let me down so mine would be a bit whiffy after a bit🙂


Thank you Evie! What a star!

BTW – Love your blog postHow being a writer can prepare you for old age!


Your book ‘The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris’ sounds right up my street! Love vintage French bakeries!

photo credit: <a href=”″>the chair in the attic</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;



The Benefits of Creating a Playlist For Your Draft Novel #Writers #WritersLife


Are you bored with your playlists?

Are you struggling to connect with your draft novel?

Why don’t you bring your draft novel to life with the help of a playlist?

This gem of a writing tip actually works and there are so many benefits.

I struggled to return to my draft novel after putting it aside for eight weeks. It took me weeks and weeks to re-connect with it. I thought the magic and euphoric feelings that I experienced with the first draft would come back in a flash – they didn’t!

After a few solitary walks in the rain, many hours of frantically messaging my writer friends and some desperate Google searches, I decided to try to recreate the atmosphere of writing my first draft. This involved sitting in the kitchen, with a slab of chocolate, a lot of strong coffee and listening to music.

When I think back to those joy filled days of writing my first draft there were some songs that I seemed to play regularly. So I made a note of them.

After doing this I thought about my characters and chose a new song for each of them. This is a really fun thing to do with your characters.

I ended up with 10 songs and I created my playlist! To condition myself I started playing it regularly. Within a few days I was getting a ‘goosebumps’ feeling every time I listened to it and soon I was at the kitchen table tapping away. Trust me on this – it really does help you connect with your draft!

Here are some other benefits:

  1. When you are not writing you can listen to your playlist in the car, on the bus or walking home from work. This really helps with thinking things through and solving issues.
  2. It can help spark your imagination. I have had so many ideas come to me whilst listening to my playlist.
  3. The songs you choose for your characters help with characterisation. It is like the music brings them to life.
  4. Switching on your draft novel playlist gets you into the writing zone in a flash.
  5. With a gruelling creative project like a writing a novel you need to create a happy place in your mind which you can go to when times get tough. Music helps you create this place.
  6. It can feel like you are making your own movie when selecting tracks for your draft novel playlist. This gets you a bit fired up about your draft.
  7. The playlist will keep you going even when you want to stop writing.
  8. It can bring on a writer dance or two..

The only downside is that in the future you will never be able to listen to your playlist songs again without thinking of your draft novel. So your draft novel better turn out to be a success!

Here are 3 songs from my playlist for ‘Instructions For Falling In Love Again’:

Please let me know which 3 songs would be on your draft novel playlist!

Have a great day!

PS: For my serialised chicklit podcast character Roxy Collins there is only ONE song on her playlist – The Weather Girls – ‘Its Raining Men’.  Yes!! Put that umbrella away Roxy!


Writers: How to Tame a Wild Character #MondayBlogs #Writer #AmWriting


I love wild and unruly characters. You know the ones who just want to have a good time, the ones who refuse to do what you want them to do, the ones who do not let you into their head or the characters who take us off on wild goose chases.

Of course it’s never the author’s fault that their imaginary friends are running riot….um…no…fault lies with the unruly characters! Yes!

Sometimes you do need to take control of your rebellious literary offspring.

Here is my guide on how to tame your wild character:

  1. For the really wild ones who like a good time – ask yourself whether you are living vicariously through your characters?  Are you getting carried away with living life through another’s eyes? It is a tough question to answer but worth a consideration. Some of my unruly characters like to enjoy themselves a bit too much (fake bakes, dating mysterious men and doing really bad karaoke) and sometimes I wonder there is a bit of me living out life through their eyes. Sigh!
  2. Admit that an unruly character is a sign that something isn’t working. Gasp! This is not easy especially for those of us who struggle with admitting we are wrong. Put aside your ego and ask yourself whether your mischievous character is trying to tell you that something is wrong with your plot or your ideas on characterisation.
  3. Switch POV. I like to take a scene with a character who refuses to do what I say and rewrite it with a different POV. This can throw up some really interesting results. It feels like a load of extra work but viewing them from a different perspective helps you understand them better, which in the long run might help you control them.
  4. Let them have their way for a scene or two. This is not easy, especially for those of us who are literary control freaks. Basically you tell your wild character to do whatever they want and you see where it leads you. It may help them get something out of their system or in my case you could end up spending a few days eye rolling at them.
  5. Undertake a character questionnaire. I hate to say this but when characters are unruly it does mean they are not developed enough. My favourite questionnaire is this one which has 156 questions. Nothing escapes this gem!
  6. Do they have enough conflict or pain in their fictional life or do they need more?  Are you really challenging them or is their behaviour a result of them having too much free time on their hands? Give them some more pain! This works a treat and brings the unruly ones into line. Dig out your notes on their backstory and see how you can crank up the conflict. That will teach em! Sigh!
  7. If they still won’t listen – rewrite them! I have had to take this sort of decisive action with one of my characters. She was given a lot of warnings and still refused to do what I asked.

If these 7 tips don’t work you can always try…sending them straight to bed with no TV or Twitter!

Have a great day!

Photo: Pixabay

The Writer’s Wine Break #SundayBlogShare #Writer #WritersLife


I am a big fan of the Writer’s Wine Break!

There are several stages:

  1. Writer Suffering. The Writer’s Break always follows a long period (a couple of hours, an hour or in some extreme cases – a good half hour) of writer suffering. The writer is in a form of literary hell; they despise their writing, Twitter has gone silent on them, their latest plot is sagging, they have a raging post-it note addiction, but can’t find their pack of post-it notes and they are starting to doubt whether they will ever become a future  bestselling author. Whilst they huff and puff in Writing World loved ones will be busy creeping off to bed as it is late. Loved ones would rather go to sleep than sit and watch their beloved writer have a creative breakdown over a lost packet of post-it notes and a half finished draft with a weak plot.
  2. Wine Search. Things will reach a low point as the writer will come to the conclusion that if they can’t find their post-it notes, to plot out their novel on the wall, they might as well quit writing altogether. After a few tears the writer will look up and experience the ‘wine lightbulb’ moment. Yes – wine could help alleviate this literary pain! The writer will start to imagine opening a lovely quality bottle of Shiraz and be able to almost taste it slipping down their throat. They know that wine could save them from this creative hell. Keen to hang onto their writing career the writer will leave their writing desk gasping “wine….I need wine..”  and hurry over to the wine rack.
  3. Wine Desperation. Things never go to plan in Writing World. The writer will reach the wine rack and their smile will disappear. The only bottle left will be a cheap and miserable looking bottle of wine. From the label alone the writer will start to fear the worst. It might as well come with the following description #paintstripper. Cue the writer’s wail “where’s the quality stuff gone?”  Writers have short memories – sigh!  In desperation the writer will grab the bottle, a glass and race back to Writing Corner.
  4. Writer’s Wine Break. After a few mouthfuls and some face pulling (over the bitter taste of the cheap plonk) the writer will start to feel like someone is sprinkling ‘magical literary fairy dust’ all over them. After reading some of their current draft they will let out a soft moan of literary pleasure – they have the makings of a literary masterpiece!  If only literary agents gave out their personal numbers for writers who, after a couple of glasses of wine, felt like doing a quick pitch late on a Friday night – sigh! The post-it notes will magically reappear and the writer will let out a joyful squeal. The writer will consume more wine and their raging addiction for doing something creative with post-it notes will return. In a flash they will be up out of their chair frantically scribbling, posting notes to the wall and at the same time taking swigs of wine. Soon their entire novel will be plotted out and the writer will have made some key changes. They will stand back, wipe the sweat away from their brow, pour another glass and whisper “wow….so beautiful…its a work of art!”  Fuelled by the cheap wine the writer will then start to write some ground breaking stuff. Oh my goodness glorious words will pepper the page and the writer will be making sounds like “Mmmmm” and “Oh yes…I sound just like Hilary Mantel!”  This is the magic of a Writer’s Wine Break – one minute you are a normal writer with some plot issues and the next (after a few glasses) you are sounding like Hilary Mantel! Sigh! 
  5. In the Cold Light of Day. The next morning the writer will make an appearance. With a cough, a groan, a scratch of their head and a “I must have eaten a bad crisp last night! the writer will shuffle downstairs and come face to face with their….wall of post-it notes and half a page of ‘amazing words’.  Things created on a Writer’s Wine Break may seem like they are ‘ground breaking’ at the time but in the cold light of day they can appear very different. Some of the post-it notes will be legible and some will be hard to read. The ones where the writer gave up on words and turned to drawing dodgy looking stick people (if you have never done this – you haven’t lived!) will bring on some sharp intakes of breath and a lot of head shaking. The writer will say things like “good grief what’s going in chapter 26…what are those stick people doing?” After a strong coffee and a couple of headache tablets the writer will return to Writing Corner and make a promise to….never buy cheap wine again!


Have a fabulous day folks!

Photo: Stocksnaps

Author Interviews @SueAuthor #Author #Writers #WeekendBlogShare

Author Interviews-2

Welcome to my weekly blog series – Author Interviews. 

Each week I get to interview an amazing author on what it was like for them to write their book and the challenges they overcame. I also get to glean some useful writing tips and find out what authors are wearing these days whilst they hammer out their books.

Today I am very excited as inspirational author Sue Hampton has agreed to come and sit in my red chair.

Tell my readers about yourself and the book / books you have written

I’m an ex-teacher, now an unusual professional author because I have 27 titles with 6 small publishers, for children, teenagers and adults and across genres. I’m also an Ambassador for Alopecia UK, having lost all my hair 35 years ago. My latest book, RAVELLED, is my first short story collection (for adults).

When did you write your first book?

The first title published was the historical adventure SPIRIT AND FIRE in 07 – “enthralling” said Michael Morpurgo – but the first story I wrote was THE WATERHOUSE GIRL, a children’s novel built around an eleven-year-old character with alopecia. I held it back, even after Michael Morpurgo called the manuscript “beautifully written” and once I’d found a publisher, because while I still wore wigs my baldness was a secret and the book would blow my cover. It was published once I decided to own my hair loss – and to share, when I’m booked by schools or adult groups, a message about diversity, identity and respect.

How long did it take to write your first book?

I wrote THE WATERHOUSE GIRL over an intense five weeks but then returned to it years later and edited, expanded and reworked it, bringing in a whale and more humour. This process took a few months.

What was your motivation to write your first book?

I’d wanted to be an author since the age of 6. As a primary teacher I needed powerful stories to read at Story Time, and well-written stories to illustrate techniques and everything words can do. Some of the books on the classroom shelves inspired me, like Morpurgo’s. Others fell short. I was approaching 50 when I decided to make it happen, and my subject, exploring through a fictional character my own experience of alopecia, was the obvious one for me. It was therapy but Daisy Waterhouse also changed my life – when I realised she was the person I wanted to be. It earned me the role of Ambassador for the charity and enabled me to support others but I never imagined that outcome.

What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?

I’ll answer that in a career-so-far context! I have learned to adapt my style again and again as I’ve explored different genres, and with one YA title, THINNER THAN WATER, I had to accept an editor’s stripping back and chopping of my default literary flow when writing (in close third person) about a streetwise urban teenager called Kim who is self-defined by toughness. This worked, because the other teenage protagonist is as different from Kim as she could be, so because Fizzy’s chapters have a fluid, dreamy musicality and spirituality in their tone and vocabulary the contrast is sharp and effective. Encouraged by this success (I’m not talking sales but in my own critical judgement) I decided that in my adult novel FLASHBACK AND PURPLE I would use four distinct voices, each with a register, style and perspective. That’s quite a challenge, but challenge motivates me. I’m not interested in series. There are so many kinds of story, which is why I’ve now written a collection of them (RAVELLED).

Did you go through any bad writing patches during writing your book – what kept you going?

I don’t get writer’s block. I occasionally lose heart but never for more than a day because my husband, Leslie Tate, is an author too and talking to him usually shifts things on. Together we appear (we get booked by writers’ groups, reading groups, libraries, U3As and run Berkhamsted Live) as #authorsinlove and we support and sustain each other. I don’t think I would have survived the brutality and injustices of the book world without him! He’s gifted and we believe in each other.

Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?

Generally I let my characters lead because whatever the audience or genre they are at the heart of every story. In the case of SHUTDOWN, a futuristic teenage novel, I knew what the big climax would be before I began but had to find my way there. Sometimes with children’s adventures/mysteries I have to stop around two-thirds of the way in and plot out the remainder to ensure that I hold on to each strand and don’t leave any of them hanging. When I write adult or YA fiction the process is usually freer, allowing the story to develop organically from character, with the exception of RAVELLED because short stories make certain demands that must be met rather fast.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

The joy of falling in love as a writer with characters I know more intimately than real people, and the intensity of the commitment to them and their story. And the joy when any reader experiences that same thrill, whether that reader is a child in a school (I’ve been to 600) a Facebook friend I’ve never met or an author I respect.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

The business. That means the whole idea that a book is a product, success is defined by sales, celebrities draw big advances for books they don’t write, and profile matters more than talent. All of that can leave authors like me without big publishers feeling needy and even on occasions humiliated, as during the Waterstone’s signing where a guy walked in, read the sign and said, loudly and sarcastically, “Oh, wow, Sue Hampton’s here.” Pause, different voice: “Who the hell’s she?” No fun for the author shrinking at the table. I also hate self-promoting.

Have you ever considered quitting writing, and if so how have you worked through this?

Yes, for the reasons above. I hoped that praise from Morpurgo, Beverley Knight and, in the case of RAVELLED, many respected and established authors, might earn me a contract with a big publisher and enable me to reach more readers. The disappointment when a big break crumbles can be tough. I suppose belief that I have something to offer as an author keeps me trying – and that desire to improve, to challenge myself.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

I used to run down the corridor early each morning as a teacher and work until 11:00 at night so I’ve had enough stress, thanks! No targets or regimes but I’m an early riser and may start writing before most people are at work. It varies. I take time out and as I also spend some days as an author in school leading writing workshops, aiming to inspire.

Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?

Well yes, checking Facebook and Twitter and book orders before I start writing but that’s part of the job really. I’m quite disciplined but the key thing is that once a book has started to roll there’s nothing I’d rather do than write it.

Which is more important – plot or characters and why?

Characters. I don’t read plot-led fiction so I rarely write it. I’m more interested in characters, their interior lives and dramas and their relationships. My children’s novels need plenty of action of but I begin with characters and they determine it.

What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?

  1. It’s tougher out there than any writer thinks it will be and luck is rare.
  2. There may be a difference between compromise in dealings with editors and surrendering identity or integrity – but there may not.
  3. Publishers all function differently, like species, but small ones may well be more respectful and less controlling than the big boys.

How do you manage social media as a writer?

Usually with half-hearted reluctance. I hate being bombarded by authors myself. I try to exercise judgement and restraint and I won’t pay to be marketed. However, I’ve just paid two lovely students who’ve set up their own company to make a promo film for RAVELLED because in it I can share my ideas about writing as well as extracts from the stories – and be bald and bold of course.

Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?

Write what you want or need to write but read widely and critically too. Be inspired by the greats and earn from them. In my case those are George Eliot, Tolstoy, Dickens and Virginia Woolf in particular but also, in contemporary writing, Carol Shields, Anne Tyler, Marilynne Robinson, Susan Fletcher, Barbara Kingsolver, Elizabeth Strout. The children’s writers I admire most are Morpurgo of course, Malorie Blackman, Alan Garner, Leon Garfield and Geraldine McCaughrean.

Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?

Yes. I have a notebook for when ideas come to me. Most do generate books.

What do you wear to write?

Big earrings, tops of many colours but nearly always red, leggings usually. I have author outfits which are smarter but equally vivid variations and may involve heels or dresses at times.

If readers want to get in touch how do they contact you?


Hey Sue – great interview! 

  • Wow that must have been amazing when Michael Morpurgo said your book was ‘enthralling’ and ‘beautifully written!’ 
  • I loved how you decided to ‘own your hair loss’ and share your experiences with others. So inspirational! 
  • Anyone who can write a book over an intense five week period is a super star in my eyes!
  • I can relate to falling in love with characters and I agree its one of the best things about being a writer. 
  • I love your writer fashion – big earrings and red leggings! 

Thank you🙂


If you are an author and would like to appear on my blog please get in touch. 

photo credit: <a href=”″>the chair in the attic</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;

How to Spot a Writer in a Supermarket #Writers #WritersLife


As a writer you might prefer to do your food shopping online. Buying food online is a great way to procrastinate as you get to feel like you are doing something important (food gatherer) and it takes you away from writing. Trust me when you are trying to avoid writing your novel it can take hours browsing through every single food item an online supermarket site has to offer.

However, there will be some occasions when you will be forced to venture out to a supermarket (Wi-Fi on the blink / forced human interaction).

I believe a writer can be spotted in a supermarket and this is definitely worthy of a blog post.

So, here is how to spot a writer in a supermarket:

  1. The writer will enter the supermarket looking puzzled (scratching head or chin). Their loved ones will have been complaining for days about the empty food cupboards and the writer will be keen to resolve this situation. However, the writer will be asking themselves what’s more important – “my first chapter sounding amazing or food in the house?”)
  2. They will be dressed in normal writer attire:
    • Pjs, or
    • Comfy clothes, or
    • A tweed jacket (the writer’s fabric of choice), with an elaborate ruffled shirt, a colourful scarf (to reflect their creativity levels) and finished off with a stylish beret. Sigh!
  3. The writer will be seen clutching a very long food shopping list (food supplies started to run low when the writer realised their first chapter needed more work. First chapters can mess with a writer’s head causing real life to grind to a halt).
  4. Seconds into their food shop the writer will get distracted by the book aisle. They will be seen muttering stuff under their breath and pushing their empty trolley towards the shelves of books. After a good half hour spent browsing through the books, making some remarks about the quality of some of the books on offer, shaking their head at some of the opening chapters, they will chuck a few books into their trolley (no true writer can leave a book aisle without making a purchase or two) and wander off into the food section.
  5. Writers will be the shoppers ‘circling’ (like vultures) the cheese and wine aisles. I can’t think why a writer would be so drawn to these supermarket aisles. After a good half hour spent circling the writer will chuck in a few blocks of cheese, plus a couple of bottles of wine. (The decision on whether they go for red or white wine will be dependent on how they feel about their latest draft. If they are feeling positive and upbeat about their work they will be opting for a light, refreshing, sparkling white wine. On the other hand if the thought of their draft makes them feel emotional and depressed they will plump for a heavy and mind numbing red).
  6. Once the important items have been put in the trolley; a couple of paperbacks, a nice Stilton and a full-bodied, robust bottle of Shiraz, the writer will take a look at the remaining food aisles and stifle a yawn.
  7. The writer will then be seen scooting up and down the other aisles, chucking in whatever comes to hand or catches their eye. Their loved ones will just have to make do with whatever is in their shopping bags. The writer will look like they are keen to get home at this point.
  8. The writer will make a quick dash up the chocolate aisle as their  secret ’emergency chocolate’ supplies will be running low. The writer will be seen chucking in a few ‘slabs’ for good measure and muttering stuff about the importance of sugar in the creative process.
  9. Before they head for the checkout the writer will get a strong urge to go to one last place – the coffee and tea aisle. That new idea they had about their draft, on the way to the supermarket, will need caffeine hot housing in the next few days so its vital tea and coffee stocks are replenished.
  10. In the queue for the checkout the writer will be seen staring into space and dreaming about going home to write (whilst sipping wine, nibbling on cheese and taking a nap when it all gets too much for them).

I LOVE being a writer!

The moral of this tale is….never send a writer out to a supermarket to do a big food shop.

I hope you all have a fabulous day!


Photo: Pixabay

How To Accept That Some People Will Never Understand Your Creative Life #MondayBlogs #writer


This is a tough one to accept and it has taken me a long time to get my head around this.

If you are a creative person there will be some people in your life who will never:

  • Understand why you spend hours creating stuff that is unlikely to go anywhere.
  • Share your creative enthusiasm for your creative projects.
  • Understand why you are cartwheeling around the garden after receiving one tiny bit of positive feedback.
  • Ask to read or listen to your work.
  • Get your weird and wonderful creative ways.
  • Be able to relate to the buzz you get inside when your creative work is being shared or liked.

These are the ones who say stuff like “I don’t understand why you do all that writing!” or “have you just spent your whole day writing…why….are you depressed?”

Just because they don’t get your creative life doesn’t mean they are bad or cruel. They just don’t understand.

No matter how many hours you spend trying to explain your creative tendencies or excitedly telling them about your latest project, they will still cast you that puzzled or horrified look.

It can sting a bit when you realise that not everyone is as goofy happy as you about your creative projects. 

The important thing to remember is that it’s actually ok for people to not understand your creative ways. If we were all the same life would be pretty dull.

Here are some things to consider when accepting that some people will never understand your creative life:

  • As a creative person you will always be a mystery to some people. This is actually a good thing and you should always strive to remain a mystery. Keeps people guessing about what you will do next. 
  • Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. You can’t force others to like what you are doing or have created.
  • Each one of us has different talents and skills to offer the world. As Walt Whitman said we are all here to ‘contribute a verse’.  Being creative (either through writing, blogging, podcasting etc) is your way of contributing a verse. These people are also contributing a verse in their own special way.
  • If you are a true creative person (i.e. not doing it for the money or future fame) then you will know that your creative side is a huge part of who you are as a person. It’s not something you can change or switch off and anyway why would you?
  • According to this article Neuroscience confirms that highly creative people think and act differently than the average person. Our brains are hardwired in a unique way! This means that some people are going to think we are from another planet.
  • We are addicted to the thrill of creating stuff and its a hard addiction to break. To the outsider our creative addiction can look pretty scary.
  • Being misunderstood comes with the territory of leading a creative life.
  • There is a place in the world for all of us.

The sooner you accept that not everyone in your life is going to understand your creative life the better!

So, stop wasting time on trying to make them understand why you spent the entire day rewriting your fourth chapter with only a couple of breaks for coffee and biscuits.

Move on and focus your energies on creating!

Have a fabulous day creative people! 

Thought I would finish with a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic.