Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Talking About Myself (again) But This Time There's a Vibrator in the Story

On  Claire Sheldon's Site A STORY ABOUT A GIRL

(Read on to see how this is image is relevant in my life - other than as neck massager which, after falling off our patio a few days ago,  dong a back flip and landing on my head, I currently need!)

Q What inspired you to write the book?
A  Unfortunately I don’t experience ‘inspiration’ in the way many writers do. Mine is a more pragmatic approach. If I’ve witnessed, experienced or even heard about an incident, it can find its way into a plot in the most unexpected places. But the way a story pans out, is totally unpredictable, and only reveals itself to me AFTER I’ve started writing.  This is how it was with BURIED TREASURE. The scenario and building blocks of the story were derived from my own experience and elements I had ‘easy’ research access to - treasure, archaeology, a Cambridge College and conference planning.

* My great uncle unearthed a hoard of silver Roman table-ware on his Suffolk farm, known as the Mildenhall Treasure.

* My son - pictured here in the British Museum beside his great great uncle's discovery, is now an Early Medieval historian and desk-archaeologist. (He worked in the British Museum as project curator of the Viking Life and Legend exhibition in 2014, and since as curator of early medieval coins.)

* And I have been involved for more than a decade in the organisation of biannual conferences held at Queens’ College, Cambridge.

I reasoned that if I made my hero an academic archaeologist, and my heroine an events & conference planner, and the back drop for a proportion of the story a university college, it would be easy to flesh out the detail,  trusting that once set loose in the world I’d created, my imagination would do the rest.  What could go wrong?  In fact, it was probably the hardest book I’ve ever written.

Tell me something about yourself your readers might not know?
A There are loads of facts readers won’t know about me, but are they interesting enough to recount here?  The fact I used to be a commercial artist is something many people know.  It was the kind of job where I had to be able to turn my hand to drawing anything, from a motor bike to a baby. But I’ve not told many people that I once drew a woman holding a vibrator against her face. The product was ostensibly being marketed as if its purpose was to massage the cheek muscles! I no longer have the artwork nor ever knew if the idea (which would ultimately have been conveyed photographically)  ever made it into print. But I've found an image which gives an idea of the kind of ad it would have beae.

Q  If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece of advice would you give yourself ?
A   Not to take anything for granted and not to have unrealistic expectations. The world of publishing has changed a great deal since the digital revolution.  I started writing seriously back in the days when the only way to make your book available was to find a mainstream publisher.  Within about 4 months of finishing my first book, Just Before Dawn, I was lucky enough to interest a publisher, and the book hit the bookshelves the following year. But my visions of being a best-seller, of fame, of going on chat shows, and the money pouring in, were soon dashed.  Making a name for yourself is still as difficult. These days, although it is relatively easy to self-publish and put your book out in the marketplace, it is another matter entirely to raise its profile above the myriad others and to sell it.

Who would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?

A  To play Jane Smith I wouldn’t want a drop-dead gorgeous actor. This could be taken to mean that my ‘either/or’ choices are plain. They are not, of course, but both are more quirky than classically beautiful, and both have character and are very good actors, which is often more important than looks.  Carey Mulligan or Anna Maxwell Martin.

To play Theo Tyler, who is nearing forty, I need an actor who will look good with white hair.  I have found one actor who has played a white-haired character in Game of Thrones – Harry Lloyd.
My other suggestion, in case Harry is unavailable, is Tom Riley.

Q  If you weren't writing what would you be doing?
A  I would be doing art.  I went to art school and, as I’ve already said, my first career was as an  illustrator on advertising. I still do art, in the sense that I’ve produced an annual family Christmas card, since I was seventeen and have attended life drawing classes forever.  In recent years I have also been involved in book illustration.

Q  Why did you decide to self-publish?
A  I was mainstream published at the beginning of my writing career.  But after bringing out two of my books, my small independent publisher ceased trading having found it difficult to compete with the big boys in the industry.  I banged my head against brick walls for some years until the invention of the ebook, when I self-published my books TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY OR FALL.  Accent Press became interested and took me on, republishing them under their own brand. Having been a little disappointed with my sales figures, when I finished BURIED TREASURE, I decided to try my hand at self-publishing again.  So I am currently a hybrid!!!!

Q  What writing tools do use, and which one could you not live without?
A   I use the desk top computer in my study.  I can’t write seriously on anything else.

Q  What would you say to someone who wants to write?
 Don’t postpone starting to write until you “have the time” or because you think there’s some magic formula, and if you read all the ‘How To’ books or go to enough writing courses and workshops, then you’ll discover the trick. In my view the only way to get better at writing is to do it … NOW!
You may only be able to grab a few moments here or there, and I’d never tell anyone not to read books on the craft of writing, or deny that you can be inspired or pick up tips from courses and workshops, just don’t let these activities replace doing it

Which authors inspired you to write?
A  Many books captured my imagination when I was a young reader. But if I am really honest, the first book that inspired me to try to write romantic fiction was not Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre, or even one of Georgette Heyer’s sparkling Regency Romances (all of which I read and enjoyed at a ridiculously young age).

I must have been around 12 - a critical moment for girls, when hormones are on the rise – and I was actively looking for someone or something to feed the romantic impulse which was blossoming inside me.  I found a dusty old hard back on the book shelves at home - the book - The Knave of Diamonds - by Ethel M Dell, was dated 1913. It had probably originally belonged to my great grandmother.

Although she didn’t try to stop me, my mother did try to dissuade me from reading this book. Looking back, I don’t think it was the subject matter or the sexist attitudes that worried her so much as the critical disdain then prevalent about the quality of Ethel's writing.
Prolific and a huge bestseller, Ethel was, arguably, the first writer of romance, as we understand the term. Shy and reclusive, she had begun writing young and had many short stories published in magazines.  Her writing is characterised by its focus on love and longing, repressed passion, a lot of heavy breathing, unutterable emotions and pounding hearts. For the times they were considered very racy. The Knave of Hearts ticked all the boxes for me.

Q    What are your writing routines?
A     I don’t really have a writing routine.  This can be a problem because it’s too easy to do something else.  Once a book has caught fire, however, the routine I need to impose is on the rest of my life.  Writing is all I want to do.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


I am reposting my recent interview with Sylvdotnet-Authors Services  

Q  When and where were you born?
  I’ll tell you the where but not the when.  Orpington, in Kent.

Q   Where do you live now?
A   In Gloucestershire, in the Cotswold Hills. Not the posh and sedate part, beloved of Tory grandees, but in a village near the far more counter-culture and alternative town of  Stroud.


Q  What is your favourite colour?
A   It’s got be yellow, the colour of sunshine, daffodils and baby chicks. When PVC was all the rage, I had a yellow oilskin (a proper sea-going garment).

Aged seventeen on the ferry going to
Southern Ireland on our family holiday 

Q  You didn’t go to university.  Why not?
A   My performance at school was indifferent. The only subject I was good at was art. (I have belatedly come to the conclusion that I’m dyslexic.  I can tick nearly all the markers.) I left to go to art school at sixteen but dropped out after 2 years.

Croydon College of Art and Design 

Q  When did you first start writing?
A   Influenced by my older sister, I first decided to write a book when I was around ten, but the difficulty of dreaming-up a coherent story soon blighted the creative bud.  I resurrected the hobby in my young teenage years and carried on writing – beginning but never finishing – a number of ‘books’. I did it to please myself, never considering it a serious ambition.

Q  What were you doing when the idea ‘to take writing seriously’ occurred to you?
A   I was doing the ironing, while listening to the radio. I had a three-year-old son, and was unenthusiastic about the idea of trying to resume work as an illustrator in advertising.  What else could I do that would enable me to stay at home?  What else was I good at? A radio programme came on about Mills and Boon, and the light bulb went on.

Q  You say you are unable to write a category romance, what do you mean?
A   I fully intended to try to write this kind of book but found I couldn’t do it. Once started the plot instantly took a very non-M&B direction. I am not dissing the genre, but in giving myself permission, as it were, to try writing seriously, I was instantly gripped by the magic and potential.  I knew I HAD to complete the story that was unfolding before my eyes, whether or not it proved a commercial prospect.

The fact that I can only embark on writing a book if my heart is in it, is strange in a way; I had no problem whatsoever turning out whatever was asked of me when I worked in advertising, however risible or tacky the brief.  I was a commercial artist. It was what I did.  Perhaps the lesson I can draw from this is that I’m not, and never have been a REAL artist.

Q  Do you have strongly held beliefs
A   I am fairly fatalistic about life, but I am more political than religious. I have a code I live by which could broadly be described as Christian; summed up by ‘Do as you would be done by’ and ‘He’s not heavy he’s my brother’. But I don’t take my scepticism about the super-natural as far as Richard Dawkins.  His certainty about the materiality of life annoys me, as his position discounts many people’s mystical and paranormal experiences. My own experience and that of members of my family, leads me to the sense (I wouldn’t put it as strongly as belief) that there is more to life than meets the eye.

The astrologoical chart drawn up for me by my
 uncle at the time of a serious road accident
Q  Have you achieved what you wanted to achieve in life?
A   How long have you got? As a child my ambition was simply to be rich and famous.  As art was the career I seemed to be heading for, a famous artist was the goal. I then decided I wanted to go out with and ultimately marry a pop star.  Every girl at school would envy me. The riches were a given, the fame would come vicariously.

Around the same time, I rather liked the idea of being a famous fashion model.  I was forever pulling ‘the face’ in mirrors, and wishing other people would see what I could see. The fact I was short, stumpy and not a beauty, could all be overcome by dieting, a growth spurt and good lighting.

Eventually I got to a point in my life when I was content, but….
I’d decided to try my hand at writing seriously.  If only I could be published, life would be complete.  That happened so quickly that my ambition instantly changed to becoming a bestseller and going on chat shows.

The trouble with ambitions is that they are either completely unattainable (the cover of Vogue has been unsullied by a photograph of me), or if they are you don’t notice getting there and fix your sights on something further off in the distance.  I have reached a stage in my life when to become famous would be a huge and unwelcome disruption.  I certainly don’t crave riches or ‘things’; I am proud of re-using, up-cycling, and making-do and mending.  I have garments in my wardrobe that go back to my twenties!
Now, I just want people to read my books.  Sales (and even more importantly, good reviews) are the only proof I've not been wasting my time all these years.

Oh, I’ve just had a thought. A major movie deal would be nice!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


When I bring BURIED TREASURE out in paperback later this year I have every intention of designing a brand new cover.  In the meantime I have given my current cover a face lift and added some sparkle.

I hope you approve.