It’s a great pleasure to welcome Scottish-based writing colleague and OBE recipient extraordinaire, Christine Richard, to my blog today. In addition to writing freelance articles for Lothian Life and publishing her first novel, Whitewalls, Christine is involved in so many activities I don’t know how she fits in any writing! But she has kindly taken time to answer the following questions. First a little about Christine’s first novel, Whitewalls, which is filled with a cast of interesting characters, situations, and a beautiful setting.
A Scottish family saga set in the present day, Whitewalls is the name of the Douglas home on the banks of the River Tweed in southern Scotland. It is the haven to which four generations of the Douglas family return on a regular basis. On the surface, their lives seem idyllic - beautiful homes, happy families, genuine warmth and stability in a fast changing world. Then real life intrudes into this ‘Scottish Eden’, and Rosie, the matriarch of the family, finds her ordered and lovely world turned upside down through the ensuing intrigue, triumphs and defeats.
Whitewalls is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US
A warm welcome, Christine!
Tell us a little about how you started writing
I began scribbling stories when I was very young. I was an early reader and by the time I was six had gone through the children's section of my local library. An enlightened librarian guided me through the next stage of 'suitable' books. Also, I inherited a step family of three little boys then had a daughter and was always making up stories for them.
You also write articles – do you prefer fiction or non-fiction and why?
I enjoy writing fiction and non-fiction. I find one tends to complement the other. Thus far, I have written far more non-fiction than fiction because for many years I have been involved in producing written materials for students as well as political speeches!
Did you have to do a lot of research for your novel?
No, because I wrote about a world I knew, so the research was already in my head. In fact the whole book was in my head and the characters, including horses, dogs, cats and people took over and I was simply the teller of their stories.
How did you promote your book and did it work?
I told my extensive network of contacts, had book signings in private houses and at book clubs and advertised locally as well as on the internet. Also, I had cards printed with a picture of the front book cover on one side - designed and painted by my daughter, Fiona who is a part-time artist, and on the other side details of where and how to buy copies of the book. This has worked very well and people have tended to keep the cards because the picture of 'Whitewalls', the house, is very attractive.
What is the most difficult part about starting a new novel?
I am writing a sequel to Whitewalls and decided to write it so those who had read the first book would find out what happened next and those who hadn’t could read Autumn at Whitewalls as a stand-alone book. The most difficult part, which I think applies to many writers, is to get started, dispense with displacement activities and write the first paragraph. Then, I believe, you are on your way. I never read over what I have just written and always stop just at the point where something new is going to happen next.
Do you have a favourite writing place?
I mostly write straight on to my computer in my 'creative space' which is a euphemism for an untidy study. In addition to this, I take notebooks around with me and if it is sunny I may sit on my balcony and sketch out a new scenario to transfer to the main work. Also I visit a lovely writers' retreat in the North East of Scotland which literally 'enfolds' me and where I get some of my best ideas. So there I sit in a glassed in room overlooking the sea and inspiration comes in with the tide.
Do you think eBooks are the future? Or do you prefer print?
I believe there is a place for both. Many people still like to feel a printed book in their hands, if reading in bed at night to let it slip painlessly to the floor as they nod off, or to curl up in a comfortable place and read. However, in this almost totally wired world of ours, both for publishing, ideally through an internet publisher who will do all the requisite background work for you and by making your book available to download on to kindle and other devices. Traditional publishers are finding it very hard to grasp this and as a consequence, new writers are finding it almost impossible to be taken on by a mainstream publisher, or even an agent.
Do you find time for hobbies and other interests?
Yes, I have lots of other interests. A long-term interest has been horses in many forms, whether riding them myself or having shares in racehorses with my late husband. There's nothing quite like the thrill of leading in your horse after a win. Also, I am interested in art, both traditional and contemporary, and I am a Director of The Friends of the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh. I do life drawing and sketching mostly for my own interest, although I have exhibited twice at public exhibitions. Recently, I stepped down from the Board of the Edinburgh International Festival after serving for six years. I belong to two voluntary groups advising the Scottish Government, The Goodison Group in Scotland and Scotland's Futures. My family is scattered and I try to keep up with all of them and take great pleasure in that. Currently, I belong to a group trying to encourage organisations to appoint more women to their Boards - both public and private sectors. (I’m exhausted reading that!)
What are your current writing plans?
I want to finish writing Autumn at Whitewalls, get it published and marketed then follow up some interest already shown to make a television series from the books. After that, I may try something a little darker. I was a JP for five years and served on the Bench which gave me some insight into the kinds of activity some people engaged in which is, shall we say, not acceptable.
Any tips for new writers?
Yes, don't listen to people who tell you how difficult it is to get agents, publishers, readers and so on. Ignore your own doubts and get writing. It may be good writing, it may be awful but unless you do it you will never know!
Thanks for those great answers, Christine!
In 1992, Christine was made an OBE. She is a member of the Board of The Friends of the Royal Scottish Academy and was elected to the Board of The Edinburgh International Festival. Christine was a member of the Steering Group on the Governance development of members of Boards of Management for Scotland's College, also serving as a Board member of Edinburgh's Telford College. She has just completed six years as a member of the Board of Edinburgh International Festival and currently is a member of the Board of Friends of the Royal Scottish Academy.
Christine’s business experience has covered the fields of theatre, economic development, science, coal mining, education and training. She is a trained and experienced personal relationships counsellor and a business and personal mentor and undertakes a variety of business Consultancy. Twelve years ago Christine co-founded West Lothian Women in Business, which she chaired for two years. She has been an adviser to Government in various areas of policy, including health, local government and education. Currently Christine is a member of a group, Scotland's Futures, which submits policy papers to the Scottish Government.
Christine is also a writer and is regularly asked to speak at lunches and dinners. Her contemporary Scottish novel, Whitewalls, was published by New Generation Publishing. Currently she is writing the sequel Autumn at Whitewalls. She writes regular articles for online magazine, Lothian Life, and is involved in the development of a new life-style magazine, Edinburgh Life and Lothians, and is now Arts Editor of the magazine.
Her leisure interests include her family, literature, art, music, theatre, food and wine and horse racing. She is a member of a racing syndicate based in Perthshire.