I am so delighted to welcome my friend and writing colleague, Scottish author Joan Fleming, to my blog today. Joan’s first novel, What the Future Holds, was released by Tirgearr Publishing a few weeks ago and it is already receiving lots of great reviews. I'm not surprised, since the writing, the setting of the Isle of Mull and the enjoyable story are all so appealing. Joan has kindly answered some questions I put to her, but first a little about the story.
A warm welcome to the blog, Joan – hope you’re managing to keep cool in this unaccustomed heat!
What the Future Holds
Anticipating a relaxing holiday in her idyllic holiday cottage on the Scottish island of Mull, 29 year-old Amy Wilson realises her plans will be ruined by a letter she finds when she arrives. It contains a proposal to build a holiday complex directly in front of her cottage.
The application is in the name of a member of the McFarlane family who are distant relatives of Amy. In their youth, Amy and Sandy McFarlane spent holidays on the island together as part of a larger group of young people.
Whilst she has no wish to enter into a conflict with Sandy, Amy nonetheless determines to fight the plan. This sets in motion a chain of events which changes her entire life, not only in Mull, but also in Glasgow where she works as an accountant and lives with her partner, Matt.
She is about to lose control of the steady pattern of her life, and has no idea what will replace it, what the future holds...
What the Future Holds is available in all e-formats through Tirgearr Publishing and on Amazon Kindle in the UK and US and all other countries.
Firstly, Rosemary, thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog.
It’s a pleasure, Joan!
I know you had a good career as a language teacher, Joan. Please tell us a little about how you became a writer.
Like many writers, I have always scribbled. When the time came to start work again after the early years staying home with my children, I had a decision to make. The education service was crying out for women to return to teaching in certain subjects, one being modern languages.
Around the same time I entered a serial story competition in The People’s Friend. I didn’t win, but I was asked to attend an interview with an editor in the Central Hotel in Glasgow, which I did. She suggested I make a few alterations – and they would publish the story.
My plan was to take the teaching job, and write in my free time! But the free time never materialized. I still scribbled, purely for my own enjoyment. But The People's Friend did publish a short story when I eventually began writing in earnest.
You also write short stories and articles, and now novels. Do you have a preference – and why?
Once I’m started on a novel, I like to carry on, but I sometimes break off, to do one of the exercises set by my writing group, Erskine Writers. If it’s a short story or an article, I get carried away by that. Then it can take me a while to relax into the novel again.
So the answer is: I like them all, but with the encouragement of publication, I’m on a novel roll at the moment.
And a very good roll it is!
Your debut novel is largely set on the lovely Isle of Mull which you describe beautifully. What made you set your story here?
I know and love the island. My father-in-law came from Mull, and we visited regularly as a family. I have a fascination for all the Scottish islands, but Mull is the one I know best.
I love islands!
Did you have to do much extra research for What the Future Holds?
Not really. My main challenge was the names of my characters. The story and the characters are entirely fictitious, and I didn’t want the names of any real people mentioned in the book. A friend who lives on Iona even lent me a book of Mull names!
I did look at maps to judge distances etc. Even so, my lovely editor at Tirgearr Publishing picked up a couple of factual mistakes for me.
What is the most difficult part about starting a new book?
Sitting in front of my computer screen and typing in the title. By that time, I’ve made the decision to write this one, rather than one of the others swirling around in my mind.
Sounds like a good way of doing it!
Do you have a favourite writing place?
It’s very traditional: in my tiny study. I prefer a desktop computer and a QWERTY keyboard and mouse. The small window faces east, but my view of the West Highland Way is on the west side, so I’m not distracted.
How do you promote your book and does it work?
I’m on Facebook and Twitter, I have a blog and a website, but these are all part of a learning curve for me at the moment. It’s hard to say if it works, as it’s only three weeks since my book was published.
Do you find time for other interests?
I enjoy walking, travelling, listening to all kinds of music. I also have a keen interest in the life and work of Robert Burns. And, of course, reading – but that’s the other side of the writing coin.
What are your current writing plans?
I’m in that decision-making period of where I go from here. It will be a novel – but which one? I’ve still to type the title.
Any tips for new writers?
Someone once said that the world takes you at your own evaluation of yourself. If you write, you’re a writer. Believe in yourself.
That’s great advice! Thanks for the interesting answers, Joan, and wishing you lots of success.
I was born and educated in Edinburgh. After graduating in Modern Languages at the University of Edinburgh, I became a teacher of French and German, mainly in schools in the West of Scotland. Since leaving teaching, I now have more time to devote to writing.
I’d been writing for pleasure for many years, and decided to join Erskine Writers, a supportive group which has members at all stages of their writing development – from published novelists to complete beginners. This group is affiliated to the Scottish Association of Writers. I am a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) and also of the Society of Authors.
I write short stories, children’s stories and articles, some of which have been published. I’ve written several longer pieces, including full-length novels, which I submitted to the New Writers’ Scheme of the RNA. In the light of advice I was given, I revised my manuscripts, and in December 2013, I was offered a contract by Tirgearr Publishing to e-publish one of my shorter novels, What the Future Holds, which appeared at the beginning of July 2014.