Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Book Week Scotland

Book Week Scotland is an annual celebration of books and reading which takes place every November - it started yesterday and runs until Sunday 29th. The Scottish Book Trust has plenty of details on their website, if you live in Scotland and want to see what's happening in your area.

All kinds of venues are being used, from schools and community centres to libraries, and I believe there was a big event at Stirling Castle last night with Neil Oliver and Diana Gabaldon!

I was honoured and delighted to be invited to speak at Inverclyde South West Library on Wednesday afternoon from 2-3pm. I've met the lovely librarians and they are kindly providing refreshments. Really looking forward to it and now I just have to hope a few people turn up (apart from my dearest supportive friend)!

Will let you know how it goes.


Friday, 20 November 2015

Inside Lady Godiva's Bower by Eliza Redgold

It’s a great pleasure to welcome author, academic and unashamed romantic Eliza Redgold to the Reading and Writing blog today. I love the sound of Eliza’s new novel, Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva, which was released by St Martin’s Press during 2015 and it definitely will be going on my TBR list. Enjoy this article from Eliza about a medieval lady’s bower, but first a little about the novel with a quote from its pages.

NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva

We know her name. We know of her naked ride. We don't know her true story.

We all know the legend of Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covered only by her long, flowing hair. So the story goes, she begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay. Lord Leofric demanded a forfeit: that Godiva ride naked on horseback through the town. There are various endings to Godiva's ride, that all the people of Coventry closed their doors and refused to look upon their liege lady (except for 'peeping Tom') and that her husband, in remorse, lifted the tax.

Naked is an original version of Godiva's tale with a twist that may be closer to the truth: by the end of his life Leofric had fallen deeply in love with Lady Godiva. A tale of legendary courage and extraordinary passion, Naked brings an epic story new voice.
Dwarfing the bower with his size the Earl of Mercia came inside. His blue stare cast over the wood paneled room, at the stars painted on the clay ceiling, the gold-glinting tapestries on the walls, the bed puffed with feathers and linen, its oak frame carved with vines and day’s eyes, and came to rest on me.
The communication unspoken. The hall would be full of warriors, at rest for the night.
His words were for my ears only.
“You may leave us,” I said to Aine.
Her cheeks puffed. “My lady...”
“You may leave us.”
With a huff of disapproval she edged out the door.
Never had I been unattended with a man in the bower before. Not even Edmund. Yet I wasn’t afraid.

Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva is available from Amazon US and UK 

Inside Lady Godiva’s Bower

In the Middle Ages a lady’s bower was her inner sanctum. Step inside…

During the 11th century, at the time when NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva is set, the men, including the lord, slept in the main hall around the fire. Trestle tables would be pushed aside and bedding rolled out. But the lady of the hall had a separate dwelling - her bower.

The word ‘bower’ is wonderfully evocative. It refers to a leafy shelter, an arbour, but its earlier meaning ‘bur’ or ‘boure’ referred to a small room. It is linked to the word ‘neighbour.’ At one time, the words ‘bower’ and ‘hower’ (hour) were spelt the same.

Bowers have a romantic history. They are connected with the greenwoods - the traditional home of lovers. In England, woodland merry-making and love rituals were part of many feasts and festivals, particularly during the month of May. On May Day, many bowers were built with leafy branches to house a pair of lovers for a magical night together. A May Day marriage made in a bower could even have legal status – in common law it could last for a year, until May Day came around again.

Bowers are still part of courtship rituals in the natural world. I became a bit obsessed with bowers when I wrote a short romance called Hide and Seek set in an Australian bird sanctuary. Bower birds create the most extravagant nests – some up to a metre high. They build their homes with sticks and twigs, like other birds do, but they build them at ground level, not tree level. They find some prime real estate, and then they get to work. They decorate. That’s what makes them so extraordinary. Each kind of bowerbird favours different objects such as shells, leaves, flowers, feathers, stones and berries. What’s interesting about bowerbirds is that the male of the species builds the bower to impress the female.

In NAKED, Godiva’s bower sets many a crucial scene. It’s her place to think and dream, as well as a revealing space for her relationships. In her bower, Godiva holds her own.

I loved the idea of a sacred, private space for a woman, where others could only come at invitation. I’d like a bower – wouldn’t you?

I certainly would, Eliza! Thanks so much for providing such a fascinating article and all the best with your novels.

Follow Eliza Redgold  on
Twitter: @ElizaRedgold
or subscribe to her newsletter at www.elizaredgold.com     

ELIZA REDGOLD is an author, academic and unashamed romantic. She writes historical fiction (St Martin’s Press) and romance (Harlequin).

NAKED: A Novel of Lady Godiva was released internationally by St Martin’s Press New York in 2015. Her ‘Romance your Senses’ series of contemporary romances are published by Harlequin. They include Black Diamonds, Hide and Seek and Wild Flower. Eliza is also contracted to Harlequin Historical for two upcoming Victorian historical romances. Look out for Enticing Benedict Cole in November 2015.

Eliza Redgold is based upon the old, Gaelic meaning of her name, Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd. English folklore has it that if you help a fairy, you will be rewarded with red gold. She has presented academic papers on women and romance and is a contributor to the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Romance Fiction. She was born in Irvine, Scotland on Marymass Day and currently lives in Australia.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Man's Inhumanity to Man

With the terrible events in Paris at the weekend, I decided to stay away from social media for most of the time as I didn't want to take part in discussions, or change my profile picture, or have to read various opinions on the subject, and posting anything else seemed too trite and unnecessary. 

It was enough to see and hear what had happened via the news and to quietly grieve for the victims and their families, as I do with every tragedy and atrocity that takes place by accident or design. I don't mind talking about things in person with friends or family but the Internet is too anonymous and too open to misunderstanding. However, I'm sure some people find comfort in online discussion or debate - I just won't join in.

So the only thing I'm going to quote on here is the verse from Robert Burns famous Dirge: 'Man Was Made to Mourn':

"Many and sharp the num'rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves,
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav'n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, -
Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Autumn Colour and Poetry

We enjoyed a couple of nights away in Fife last weekend and although it ate into one of my busiest weeks, it was really good to relax and let someone else do the cooking. The hotel had a lovely leisure pool so we also went swimming for the first time in ages, something I’ve missed in recent years as I was always such a water baby.

The nearest big park, Pittencrieff at Dunfermline, is a favourite of mine and autumn is such a beautiful time to visit. Fortunately, the rain briefly came and went and we had time to admire the colourful trees and feed nuts to the wild squirrels. At the end of the short break, we visited the pretty little village of Culross on the way home where the old Palace added its own splash of colour.

On Wednesday evening, I was delivering the results of my adjudication of a short story competition to a writing group in a nearby town. It’s always a privilege to read other writers’ work and to be asked to write a written critique for everyone. But it’s also a tough job, as my opinions might differ from another judge. However, I do enjoy offering little pointers wherever I can and all of the entries were a pleasure to read. Thankfully, the story I chose as winner was always at the top of the pile.

I was pleased to hear that one of my previously published poems, Coffee at the Café, was included on the Poetry Scotland Keep Poems Alive website (you have to scroll down). It’s a lovely idea to give published poems another airing and this is one of the few I’ve written in Scots (but not too broad!).

This afternoon and evening (Tuesday), it’s our writing group Annual Dinner and Awards at a local country club. I’m looking forward to it, although I have to give back the amazing carved poetry award which I won last year. The winner each year has to put a copy of their poem inside the carved book as a record of the winning words – a lovely idea as I enjoyed reading all the previous winning poems!

I've just heard that the interview with Victoria and me is now on the RNA blog today - Keeping it in the Family. Thanks to Elaine Everest who asked the questions!


Thursday, 5 November 2015

Author Spotlight: Margaret Montgomery

It’s a pleasure to welcome Scottish author Margaret Montgomery to the Reading and Writing blog today. I loved Margaret’s début novel, Beauty Tips for Girls, and the way in which we get to know three very different females and the problems they face. I particularly loved the characterisation of teenager, Katy. Margaret has kindly taken the time to answer my questions, but first a little about the story.

       Paperback                                                                        Kindle       
Beauty Tips for Girls

What happens when bad advice is given at the worst possible time?

Katy is an impressionable teenager obsessed with Misty magazine and its beauty tips. With her once-glamorous mother, Corinne, spiralling into self-destruction, she turns to Misty for advice, with disastrous but often hilarious consequences. Only Katy’s teacher, Jane, has the insight to put her pupil back on track, but she has a story of her own to tell. Can these three very different women each find their own voice in a society obsessed with perfection?

"A true gem. Don't be fooled: although immensely readable and full of wry humour, Beauty Tips For Girls' unflinching observation cuts to the bone." -- Kirsty Logan

Beauty Tips for Girls is available in print and e-book from: Amazon; Cargo; Amazon Kindle

Welcome to my blog, Margaret, and thanks for answering the following questions.

Have you always written fiction? What did you find most difficult about starting a novel?

Yes – I can remember feeling really excited when we were given a story or poem to write at school. It was something I enjoyed doing anyway so it didn’t feel like ‘work’ the way other things at school sometimes did.

Starting the novel wasn’t hard but keeping going when I had a lot on at work, or in my personal life, was difficult at times.

I love the structure of Beauty Tips for Girls. Why did you decide to write from the point of view of a 14 year old girl, her mother and her teacher? Did the story idea or the characters come first?

I wanted to tell the story of how a girl’s character is formed – the influences she has to deal with, and sometimes fight against, to find her own voice. The point of view of the girl (Katy) emerges through the voices of others – magazines and adverts she reads, her teacher and her mother. It is quite far into the novel before Katy actually has a voice of her own, and that is deliberate. The overall story is, I hope, about character – I don’t really remember characters or story coming first.

It’s a while since even my daughter was a teenager and I was slightly appalled by some of the ‘advice’ given in the teen magazine. Is this a real reflection of the kind of thing written these days or did you create a purely fictional magazine?

Girls’ magazines changed quite a lot in the early naughties, when the main part of the novel takes place. Some of them moved from providing fairly innocent advice about boyfriends and how to apply eye make-up to much more explicit topics. The cult of celebrity has become a lot more prevalent in the past twenty years as well and there are a host of magazines with celebrities on the front offering comment about their weight loss, or gain, their fashion faux pas and the like. ‘Misty’ (the fictional) magazine Katy reads is a blend of both these types of magazines. It’s an exaggeration perhaps and a bit satirical but representative of the kind of thing girls can sometimes be absorbing.

The mother is a complex character sensitively written – did you have to do a lot of research about her problems?

Most of the research was done by talking to people who’d been in a similar situation and by reading up on her problem or similar ones. Some of her back story as a mother was more difficult. I don’t give too much of the story away but I did do some research on this as well.

One of the book’s strengths is the addition of the teacher, yet she too has her own hang-ups. Was this character easier or more difficult to portray?

Jane’s difficulties really stem from her life not having gone the way she would have liked. She is grappling with this as the novel opens but does find her way to peace and a more content existence. I guess I wanted to show something of the modern relationship experience – the expectations versus the reality, as it is sometimes, and the circuitous  journey people can take to love in an age when relationships are often very ‘disposable’ for both men and women. If there was a challenge with this character it was trying to portray someone with quite an austere persona who is actually very vulnerable. 

Did you want the novel to convey a strong message, or two, or to reflect life as it is for some? 

I wanted it to reflect life as it is – for some. People are flawed and make mistakes but if they want to, and the circumstances are right, they learn and grow from these. If there is a message it’s about the pressures women are under to be and look a certain way and the effects this can have. I was interested to read recently that some teenage girls have created an app to lodge happy memories in … a sort of on-line ‘journal’ they keep and read themselves as a refuge from social media and all the insecurities created by being ‘unfriended’ or having fewer ‘likes’ than someone else. Katy’s story takes place before the boom in the internet so it’s just texts and some catty comments in the classroom that she has to deal with (as well as the bewildering ‘messages’ from magazines and so forth). But I think the app and the fact that teenage girls have felt the need to create it does show that the pressures girls find themselves under are still very real and to be taken seriously.

Did it take you long to find a publisher and how did/does it feel to be a published novelist?

I found an agent fairly quickly but the publisher took longer. I’m really pleased with the publisher I am with (Cargo) as I like their list and they’ve been great to work with. They recently merged with another Scottish publisher (Freight) and the two companies complement each other really well. Being published is a lot busier than I thought it would be. I suppose I’ve always thought writing was a quiet thing that ended when a story or poem did and began again – quietly – when you started another.

Is it difficult to fit your own writing around your day job?

Yes, in a word. But a day job is necessary and I enjoy what I do (working as a tutor).

What’s next as regards your writing?

I’m working on another novel.

Any tips for new writers?

I don’t feel qualified to give tips but the best advice I’ve been given is just to keep going. If writing’s what you love to do, you’ll probably do it anyway. Feedback is important but I do agree with someone who told me it’s also important to make some judgements of your own. If you incorporated every bit of feedback you ever got into a given piece of writing it would stop being yours. A bit like Katy in the book, it’s important to find, and believe in, your own voice.

Excellent advice, Margaret – thank you!

Margaret Montgomery grew up in Ayrshire and lives in Edinburgh. In addition to an undergraduate degree, she holds a professional qualification in Journalism and M Litt in Creative Writing from the University of St Andrews  She began her working life as a magazine journalist. She has since worked for a number of newspapers, including The Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday.

Throughout most of her working life, Margaret has combined journalism with teaching, and has taught English and Media-related subjects in Scotland and abroad. She currently combines writing with one-to-one tuition for undergraduates and postgraduates. She also teaches short writing courses for the University of Edinburgh's Open Studies department.

Margaret's first novel, Beauty Tips For Girls, was published by Cargo Publishing in 2015.

Follow Margaret on twitter: @MargaMontgomery 

Monday, 26 October 2015

The Power of Social Media

From Pixabay
Love it or detest it as the ultimate time waster, social media is here to stay and only continues to grow as far as I can see! Every time I think I'm fairly up to date in trying something new, lo and behold people start talking about another new platform that's about to take off. 

I finally got around to trying Instagram, which is photo led and quick (as the name suggests), although it doesn't work so well if, like me, you don't have the Internet on your actual phone. I have to email photos to my mini iPad before using the app to share photos which rather defeats the 'instant' idea. Now, I keep hearing about a video app called Periscope, but don't ask me much about it - yet.

However, I've been a big fan of Facebook for a while now, particularly as an easy way of keeping in touch with so many lovely writers from around the world, a few non-writing friends and a few family members. But today I've been overwhelmed by the number of birthday greetings from all these 'friends' on FB - and many of them are very much online friends and I've met many of them in real life too.

It struck me again what a wonderful platform it is for anyone who is lives alone or with few friends and family around them for whatever reason. If they have built up a good online relationship with people who share their interests, then all the virtual chat and cheerful birthday wishes (or any other kind) might go a long way to preventing loneliness. I'm lucky in having lots of friends and family within reasonable distance but husband was hugely impressed (and a little envious) at the sheer number of FB messages I've been receiving today!

Twitter is another platform I enjoy, albeit in a different way. Its 140 characters limit necessarily restricts the message but you can still chat back and forth with people if you wish. It's great for being concise too and a bit of a challenge at times. Some writers have a little chat session going on a Wednesday evening with @patsycollins but I always forget to join in. Another way it's proving excellent is on a Tuesday when lots of RNA members retweet each other's promotional tweet that day with the hashtag #TuesNews @RNAtweets. At least none of us feels embarrassed at all the promotion for that day as we're helping each other to be seen.

What do you think about such platforms? Anyone still refusing to join social media?


Thursday, 22 October 2015

Author Inspiration: Patsy Collins

It’s a real pleasure to welcome Patsy Collins to the Reading and Writing blog today as we’ve been blogging friends for some years now. Patsy’s own blog is great for keeping us up to date with free competitions and she has now taken over the excellent womagwriter blog. But Patsy is also a well published short story writer and the author of several novels and she has kindly agreed to share a little about the inspiration behind her latest novel, Firestarter. First here’s the basic story.


Alice has a fantasy. It starts with being rescued by a hunky fireman, involves the kiss of life and ends in him not needing his uniform. At the New Forest Show, Alice is offered an innocent version of her dream. Reluctantly she turns down fireman Hamish's invitation.

Despite Alice's blameless behaviour, boyfriend Tony's obsessive jealousy kicks in. Hamish wants to take Tony's place, but a hoaxer ensures Alice already sees far too much of Hampshire Fire Service. The threat of an explosive sprout surprise, her mum's baking, sister Kate's mind boggling pep talks and the peculiar behaviour of Alice's boss Miles provide distractions.

Is Alice really in danger? What is Kate up to? Can Hamish possibly be as perfect as he seems? It takes Alice masses of wonderful food, disgusting wine, smelly mud, red footed crows and steamy Welsh passion, but she finds the answers. And rethinks her fantasy.

Firestarter is available from Amazon in your own country.

Welcome, Patsy – it’s great to see you here and thanks for writing a guest post.

Thank you, Rosemary for inviting me to talk about the inspiration behind Firestarter.

Inspiration Behind the Story

As is often the case with my stories, I don't know exactly what prompted it. Maybe I just have fit, hunky firemen lurking in my subconscious? *concentrates* Nope, can't see any more.

I do know I enjoy reading crime stories and that what we read feeds our imaginations. My previous novels each included crime elements and I was keen to write more in that vein. That explains the hoax calls to Hampshire Fire Service. Obviously such calls don't make themselves. Once I added a few suspects and worked out the motivation for the guilty character, I had half the plot.

From the start I planned my lead character to have... let's be tactful and say a 'strong interest' in firemen. To be fair, Alice hardly ever drools in the presence of the emergency services, despite her sister's claims. Alice recognises her fantasy for what it is and, although tempted, doesn't throw herself at fireman Hamish.

Alice and Kate's relationship was inspired by mine with my brother. We tease each other. We've got each other in trouble and fallen out, but we know the other is there for us if we need them. Kate was a real help when writing Firestarter. She stirred things up, gave Alice someone to confide in and added humour. Even though we have to create them first, I believe our characters can inspire us. As we get to know them we see their limits and possibilities.

Both the main antagonists in the story would, I felt, work hard to get what they wanted. One has clear boundaries which he'd only cross under great duress. The other doesn't. Pushing one towards the edge and allowing the other to wander freely across it and watching what happened provided plenty of material.

My husband, Gary, and I have been together fifteen years but I remember how I felt, in the months beforehand when he thought we were just friends, and in the early stages of our relationship. He wore a uniform in those days and there were good reasons for us to take things slowly. That inspired the early stages of the romance in Firestarter. (We're both maintaining a strict 'no comment' policy with regards to the activities at the end of chapter 15.)

Gary also provided inspiration for the settings. We have a campervan which is our mobile office. When possible, I write stories where they're set. Gary's work means we spend a lot of time between Calshot and Southampton, the New Forest, at Portsmouth Harbour and on the Welsh coast. It seemed sensible to set the action in these places.

Both Southampton and Portsmouth are good for girly shopping trips and eating out, which suits Alice. The locations are also excellent habitats for birds and other wildlife. Spending hours in the van writing gave me plenty of opportunity to observe them. (For those who don't know, writing involves a lot of staring out the window.) The more birds I saw, the more interested in them I became. The same is true of Alice, although in her case knowing Hamish volunteered at a wildlife sanctuary between shifts with the fire brigade was the inspiration for her first taking a look.

I'm now hoping I've inspired you to read Firestarter.

You’ve definitely hooked me, Patsy! Thank you.

Patsy Collins is a novelist and short story writer. Hundreds of her stories have been published by magazines such as Woman's Weekly, Take a Break's Fiction Feast, My Weekly and The Weekly News as well as in Australia, Ireland, South Africa and Sweden.

Firestarter, a romantic comedy, is her fourth published novel. It was written on location in Hampshire and the south coast of Wales.

You can connect with Patsy on her website; blog; womagwriter

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Writing Talks and Libraries

I’ve been very remiss updating the blog again this week, after Victoria’s very successful, fabulous launch, and I haven’t even written that much but I’ve enjoyed the break from a busy time last week. I’ll let her write about the launch in her own time and on her own blog or elsewhere, but it couldn’t have gone better! Glad I managed to get a photo with my daughter.

As well as the launch, I was speaking at a writing group one evening on markets and marketing so had to prepare for that – which I absolutely enjoy. The group has lots of keen new members and it was great to share information with them in the hope of encouraging them to send out their work when ready. Now, I’m adjudicating their short story competition over the next few weeks so that will keep me out of mischief.

I also had a visit to the librarian in a nearby town as they’ve asked me to be involved in Book Week Scotland in late November – delighted to get the opportunity. And that opportunity seemingly partly came about because of a very kind gentleman recommending me to them. I had met him and his wife at another speaking engagement and he told the librarian about me! It also helps that The Highland Lass has a local setting so it should be of interest to readers. Just shows, we never know how one thing can lead to another!

I was amazed at the particular branch library where I’ll be speaking and only wish I lived nearer to one like that. Amazing space with several rooms and lots of computer facilities for learning and research, and they have a great variety of groups using the building. It must be of huge benefit to the local community out in that part of town. Interestingly, they now have fewer reference books in all the libraries because of the Internet. Must admit I still love consulting all the reference books I have at home after years of study, although it’s good to supplement them with online information.

I can share one of piece of good news – Tirgearr Publishing has accepted the third novella in my Aphrodite and Adonis series! The Aphrodite Assignment is a little longer than the other two and will hopefully round up the series nicely for now. I’ll share the other little bits of writing news in a later post, once I have details. Hope everyone is enjoying the lovely autumn sunshine while it lasts.


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Début Author: Victoria Gemmell

I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone how very proud and delighted I am to welcome my daughter Victoria to the Reading and Writing blog today! I’ve watched her creative talent grow since she was about five or six and rejoiced when she developed her love for reading and writing to the stage where she began submitting short fiction and being published. But this has been her dream – to hold her own novel in her hands and her dad and I are celebrating with her! I couldn’t resist interviewing her but first a bit about Follow Me. It’s a cracking story, and I can’t wait to read it properly at last.

Follow Me

What is the deadly allure of the Barn?

17-year-old Kat Sullivan has been devastated by the loss of her twin sister, Abby, the most recent of five teenagers to have died in the town of Eddison, all within a year. No-one seems able to explain the circumstances surrounding her death.

As Kat struggles to move on, she is introduced to an underground hangout – the Barn – by Abby’s friends. There, she meets the enigmatic Rob and his friend Michael, art students who have re-created pop artist Andy Warhol’s infamous Factory, where creative types can construct art and socialise.

Drawn into Rob’s social scene, and seduced by the attention of this attractive stranger, Kat relishes the freedom and escape offered by the Barn’s non-conformity and creativity.
But the Barn holds a strange influence over those who frequent it, and soon Kat begins to realise how little she knew about her sister’s life.

Kat needs answers. She also needs to stay alive.

Follow Me is available in print from Amazon, Foyles, and to order from Waterstones and other bookshops. It is being launched by her publisher, Strident, at Waterstones, Argyle Street, Glasgow at 6.30pm on Friday 9th October. The e-book will follow in a few weeks.

Thanks for taking time to answer these questions, Victoria!

When did you start writing and why?

I started writing stories when I was in Primary School. I always loved reading and the idea of constructing my own stories appealed to me. It also helped that my Mum (you!) wrote, so it was something which always seemed a natural thing to do. I like the feeling of getting lost in a creative ‘flow’, which I think occurs when you write, draw, paint, play music... I can’t imagine ever not writing. It feels like a part of who I am!

How do you fit your writing around your full time day job?

It’s a challenge! I used to complain time was a factor, but then I realised it’s not always about time, it’s about head space and being able to switch from a work brain, to a ‘creative brain’. Once I’m completely lost in a story, which happened pretty much from the start with Follow Me, it becomes a lot easier. I had a good routine of writing Follow Me in evenings after work, and at weekends, but I’m not always so disciplined! I find a novel can live in my head for a while, and lines and scenes will appear at random moments throughout my day - I make good use of the notes section on my phone, so I don’t forget any ideas that appear throughout the day (or when I’m just about to go to sleep at night).

Have you always written novel length fiction?

No, I also like writing short stories and flash fiction. I also went through a phase during my University days writing quite angsty poetry (I wrote a slightly better poem a couple of years ago). I think writing shorter pieces helped to improve my writing, as it encouraged me to be a bit more experimental with my style. Sometimes an idea will come to me quickly and I don’t always want to explore it in a novel length piece – it can be satisfying to explore an idea in as little as 500 words.

What attracted you to YA fiction and do you enjoy reading it?

When the story of Follow Me started to form in my head I knew it was going to be a story about teenagers so it fitted into the YA genre, but ultimately I wrote a story which I wanted to read. I love reading YA as I think a lot of these books tend to be driven by character and plot and the authors aren’t afraid to explore emotional and current contemporary issues. I think it’s more recognised now that even if a book is labelled Young Adult, a lot of the time that readership extends way beyond teens, which I hope will be the case with Follow Me.

Definitely – I love this type of fiction!

There are a lot of Pop culture references as well as poetry – is this something that particularly interests you?

During my undergraduate degree in Communication and Mass Media one of my favourite modules was Popular Culture. I developed a fascination with Andy Warhol, one of the leading Pop Artists and I continued to read about his art, and life, long after I graduated, all of which influenced the idea to feature an underground hangout in Follow Me, called the Barn, modelled on Warhol’s infamous ‘Factory’ studio. Warhol was very perceptive about the direction society was heading in, with his art mirroring society’s increasing obsession with fame, celebrities, and ‘the surface image’. These are themes I touch upon in my story.

I always enjoyed analysing poems during Higher and Sixth Year Studies English (though focused on more contemporary poets during that time), and grew up surrounded by book cases containing a wide variety of poetry. I liked the idea of incorporating some quotes from poems into the story. Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn (quoted in Follow Me), is a brilliant poem, and I like the layers of meaning you can get from it.

Why did you make your story about twins?

When the plot was developing in my head, my main protagonist, Kat, came to me first, and I knew she was going to be struggling with the unexplained death (an apparent suicide) of someone very close to her. I thought it would be interesting to explore the relationship of twins and the guilt Kat would feel knowing she had distanced herself from Abby, wanting to forge her own identity. It also allowed a couple of instances of mistaken identity and confusing emotions between her and Rob (who knew Abby first).

Also Andy Warhol was a big fan of repeating images over and over in his work, to reflect sameness and the loss of originality. I think my subconscious was at work a lot of the time during the creation of this story!

Is music important to you and do you listen while writing?

Yes, I rarely write without music on in the background. It really helps me to get into the ‘mood’ of a story and I find some songs are a really good emotional soundtrack to help me get into a certain state of mind. I love the band The Silversun Pickups and a lot of their songs became the ‘soundtrack’ for Follow Me.

How did you feel when this first YA novel was accepted?

Amazing! My publisher sent me an email one night telling me he had finished reading Follow Me and wondered if I could meet with him the next day. Due to personal and work commitments I had to wait a very long two days before I could have the meeting, and I still didn’t let myself believe it was good news as I’d had so many ‘nearly there’ moments with this book. So when I heard the words, ‘I loved your book and want to publish it,’ it was a brilliant moment. I really appreciated the fact my publisher told me face to face and talked me through a lot of things during the meeting. It made it all the more exciting!

Are you writing another?

Yes. I’m not going to say much, but it’s another YA mystery.

Any tips for new writers?

Read lots – you really learn your craft from paying attention to good writers. Write lots –experiment with different genres, styles and lengths. Join a writing group and attend festivals/events, to get feedback on your work and to speak to other writers. If you believe in your story, there’s a good chance someone else out there will too (and if you’re lucky they’ll appear in the form of a publisher).

Good advice! Thanks a lot for sharing your interesting answers and have a great time at your launch!

Follow Victoria:

Instagram: victoriagemmellauthor

Victoria Gemmell lives in Renfrewshire and her debut Young Adult novel Follow Me is due for release this week by Strident Publishing Ltd. Whilst studying an undergraduate degree in Communication and Mass Media, Victoria developed a fascination with pop culture and Andy Warhol, which has influenced a lot of the ideas in Follow Me. She works with teenagers on a daily basis as a careers adviser and loves films, music, art and chocolate.

Victoria has had shorter works published in journals such as the WordswithJAM anthology An Earthless Melting Pot, The Grind Journal, The Puffin Review, FlashFlood, Word Bohemia and The Bohemyth Literary Journal, writing under the name Vikki. 

Friday, 2 October 2015

Signs of Autumn

It's definitely into my favourite season now, although we've had glorious sunshine here for the past few days, once the thick morning fog cleared. I can't believe how long it is since I updated the blog - still too many days gadding out and about and enjoying coffees, lunches and a particularly enjoyable clothes shopping trip with my friend. There was as much chatting, drinking and eating as there was trying on clothes and the day passed so quickly we ended up driving home in the rush hour traffic!

I've been enjoying the typical signs of autumn in the hedgerows and at the coast with rose hips and brambles and I don't mind the darker nights when the TV has been so good at last. Between the lovely BBC productions of An Inspector Calls, The Go Between and Cider with Rosie, we've been quite spoiled. I also enjoy Downton Abbey and have been watching the new Scandi crime drama, Beck, on BBC 4 on Saturday evenings, as well as the creepy ITV drama, Midwinter of the Spirit (love that title), and Doctor Foster on BBC. You can tell I love drama!

On the writing front, I've been featured on two different blogs with two different books yesterday and today - quite coincidentally as yesterday's should have been last week. The first is on Thursday Throng with Summer of the Eagles and today I'm on Cynthia Woolf's blog, where I'm talking about the background to The Highland Lass.

Next week, I'm speaking at a local writing group so need to finish preparing that, and I'm looking forward to interviewing daughter Victoria before the launch of Follow Me!

Enjoy your weekend,