What’s Your Dream?

Elaine Roberts talks about what a difference a year makes.

Firstly, Francesca and I should apologise for being missing for so long, where has this year gone?

Due to a few family problems I have been in a reflective mood lately and it’s made me realise a few things, mainly how lucky I am. I thought I’d share a snippet of my world, without boring you with too much detail.

A few years ago my niece visited me and while we were talking she asked me, if I could do anything, what would it be? I told her I didn’t know. What was interesting was that, apparently, my sister had said the same thing. We came to the conclusion that we had never been asked about our own dreams and ambitions. It was from that conversation that I remembered, when I was in my early twenties, I used to write in the evening when my children had gone to bed. I had sent my work to Mills and Boon who sent me a delightful letter. It was a rejection, but it was encouraging. That was in the early eighties, I think, but then life took over.

In 2012, I joined a writing class and my dream was resurrected.

In April 2016, I had the opportunity to take redundancy from work and grabbed it with both hands, because I had a dream I wanted to follow.

In September 2016, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, which is a World War One family saga, hadn’t even been thought of. I was writing a Victorian novel.

At the end of November 2017, I signed my three-book contract with Aria.

My debut novel, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, was published in June 2018.

The second novel in the series, The Foyles Bookshop Girls At War, is published in January 2019.

I am currently writing the third novel, Christmas At The Foyles Bookshop, which is out in August 2019.

It’s all been very exciting. Since signing the contract, my life has been dogged with my own self-doubt and serious family illnesses. At times, I have wondered if I had time to write another novel, or even if I could. I have questioned myself, over and over again, but my laptop went everywhere with me in case I got ten minutes to lose myself, away from the stresses of my reality at that time.

I also wondered whether all writers go through the same emotional rollercoaster, and having spoken to a few authors, I believe the answer is yes.

Anything creative is subjective, so that is easily followed by self-doubt, because everyone has an opinion, and definitely won’t all agree with each other.

A magazine short story

It took me a long time to tell someone I was an author. I built it up in my head to be this great unveiling, and didn’t want to come across as something I’m not. Haha, it was such a let down when I finally got round to saying it out loud, because I got no response whatsoever. The second time I said it, the response was “I don’t read books”. How sad is that? I can’t imagine going through life without a book on the go. My biggest problem is not having enough time to read all the books I want to.

I love a good book, and to write a novel has been a dream of mine since I was young.

Thanks to my hard work, determination and a great support network around me, and to my readers I have achieved my goal. The biggest thanks must go to my niece for asking the question in the first place and my tutor for guiding and bullying me into writing short stories as well as the novel.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what life throws at you, don’t lose faith or hope that you will achieve your dream. It may not be your time now, but remember, it’s never too late.

Hay Days

Francesca Capaldi Burgess has just spent a couple of days at the Hay Festival.

x6385 smI was going to call this post ‘Make Hay while the sun shines’, but unfortunately the sun was mixed with a good deal of wind and rain. Nevertheless, I spent an enjoyable Wednesday and Friday at Hay Festival.

On Wednesday, I went with my good friend Catherine Burrows, who like me has had short stories published and is now writing novels. We sat in on an interview with Victoria Hislop, author of The Island, talking about the whys and wherefores of her latest novel, The Sunrise, set in the deserted town of Famagusta in Cyprus. We then did a tour of the festival itself, mostly under huge marquees, before taking the shuttle bus (£1 return) into the town, which is full of new and second hand book shops – well worth a visit. We enjoyed our day but decided that next time (yes, we want to go again!) we’d book more talks, of which there were many on offer.

x Catherine Book 2015-05-27 17.29.06

Catherine was thrilled to find her book in Richard Booth’s famous bookshop!

 

The Make and Take Tent

The Make and Take Tent

Onto Friday, and a very different day with my daughter-in-law and the three children. Apart from a full programme of entertainment, Hay has much to offer children in the shape of a ‘Mess’ Tent and a Make and Take Tent, where children can partake in various activities. Eleven-year-old Ben enjoyed attending a talk with Michael Morpurgo and a story telling session with Daniel Morden and Oliver Wilson-Dickson, while two-year-old Phynn was thrilled with the Peter Rabbit puppet show.

In the morning I attended a recording of the Radio 4 programme Front Row. The debate was ‘Do we publish too many books?’and covered, among other things, ebooks, diversity and how to engage young readers. You can listen to it here: Radio 4 Front Row debate at the Hay Festival

Samira Ahmed talks to Philip Jones editor of the trade journal The Bookseller, Crystal Mahey-Morgan Digital Sales and Marketing Director at Zed Books, Alexandra Pringle, the group editor in chief of Bloomsbury and Ali Sparks author of 41 books for children.

Samira Ahmed talks to Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller, Crystal Mahey-Morgan, Digital Sales and Marketing Director at Zed Books, Alexandra Pringle, group editor in chief of Bloomsbury and Ali Sparks, children’s author

Meg Rosoff on the Starlight Stage

Meg Rosoff on the Starlight Stage

In the afternoon I attended a talk by YA author Meg Rosoff, a favourite of mine. She talked about how she gets ideas and her own writing process. She reckoned a writer could either pull a story along, like dragging a tyre on a beach to the destination they wanted, or follow it to see where it went, which she felt was the ideal method. She likes to write in thin layers, so that draft after draft she adds a new layer. She never thinks about an audience when she’s writing (which writers are usually advised to do) but asks herself a question and attempts to answer it. Meg was highly entertaining as well as informative and I’d certainly like to hear her talk again if I got the opportunity.

My daughter-in-law’s father went to see Marc Morris, an historian who’s new book looks at King John and whether he was the king we think he was. I’d love to have attended that too but it clashed with Meg Rosoff. Typical!

Along with some awesome and diverse eating places, there was, of course, the huge book tent. Signings were held in here (I couldn’t hang around long enough for Meg  sadly), along with books already signed by attending authors.

The book tent, or marquee, more like.

The book tent, or marquee, more like.

All in all we enjoyed our trips out to Hay and agreed we’d definitely attend again next year.

 

Hay Montage

 

You can still see the huge programme on offer at Hay HERE

Hay Festival general website HERE. There are ‘Hay’ Festivals all over the world at different times of the year.

 

@FCapaldiBurgess

Nonna Blog: Diary of a reluctant grandmother

How Hard Can It Be?

Elaine Roberts begins the month with her own experiences of research.

Research is different things to different people. I know people who love a bit
of research and will do masses of it, just to buy a television or a mobile phone.
Some actually do it for a living and I take my hat off to them, because it’s not
a job I could do.

Personally, I have nightmares about it. As soon as it’s mentioned, I’m immediately transported back to school, sitting at the dining table, surrounded by masses of
book pics encyclopaedias. My memories of starting with one book, which gives away my age, and looking in the index for the page number where the information can be found. Excitement sets in because you’ve found the page, only to find it contains one line of the research item and advises looking under another category, in another book, for more information. So half an hour, and six books later, I would have several small amounts of information, which I never had a clue how to make into an essay.

Hence the reason I was always surrounded by books.

Recently, during a one to one with a publisher, at the Romantic Novelists Association Conference, I was asked if I would mind changing the setting for my novel. “Of course not,” I said, “thinking yeah, I can do that, how hard can it be, that shouldn’t take long” and in all fairness it probably didn’t. I’m not altogether sure how long an author would normally take over major changes to their novel.

Thank goodness for technology, the Internet and a supportive husband who likes research. Google Earth, a marvellous invention, allowed me to walk along streets in Australia, so I had a good idea of areas and the types of houses. I could see what shops the main character would walk past when she left the house. I was able to find out all sorts of information, including college courses, the weather conditions, plants, spiders, even Australian Christmas cards. All done on a click of a mouse and in a fraction of the time it would have taken me at school, oh to be young again. Actually, for the record, I have no desire to go back to being school age.

Research can also come from talking to people, whether by e-mail or face to face. It’s surprising how many people are happy to impart their knowledge, when they know you are writing a novel. Although it’s always best to check any facts and sources, so the novel doesn’t get discounted on a technicality.

I take my hat off to past authors; research must have been slow for them. Although, I suspect I picked up associated skills along the way, which have helped me as a writer. Patience and perseverance are two that immediately spring to mind, along with being able to tackle things in a logical manner and problem solve. I approach my writing in the same way as I do any other problem, how to get from A to D without going via F.

I believe I am lucky to have the ability to use modern technology to embrace
the research side of my writing. However, there is a small part of me that thinks the younger generation have missed out on my school days experience and only time will tell whether they have also missed out on gaining the associated skills that go with it.

IT’S NOT WHERE YOU START IT’S WHERE YOU FINISH!

Elaine Everest chats about promoting oneself and how it’s an important part of a writer’s life.

We’ve started writing our books but what comes next? We need to get our name ‘out there’ and we need readers to know about our books. We need sales and we need to earn a living from our writing. Sales mean we rise in the book rankings. The higher we go the more we are known. The more we are known the more books we sell.

The song, ‘It’s not where you start, It’s where you finish’, says we finish on top – but how do we get there?

I was a shy little thing when I first started writing. If I’d been told I would need to speak on radio and stand up in front of a room full of people and chat about writing I’d have given up then. Fortunately I didn’t and today I enjoy speaking about my books and meeting my readers.

My first venture into the world of books was when I was invited to submit some of my short stories to the Sexy Shorts charity anthologies. These popular books from the publisher, Accent Press, were well promoted and like others I had to play my part in talking about these lovely books and the worthwhile charities. I bit the bullet and I did it!

When my first book, Showing Your Dog, A Beginner’s Guide (How To Books Ltd), was published it was expected that the author played her part in promoting the book. I took a big gulp and dived in. The hardest part was standing up in a very large crowd of experienced dog show folk. I shouldn’t have worried as there was so much support from the show fraternity. To this day my book is used to help newcomers to join a fabulous sport.

Showing Your DogCanine CuisineA New Puppy in the Family

This is the first year I will not be doing book signings on trade stands at Crufts  as I’m competing with my Polish Lowland Sheepdog, Henry, and will be ring side cheering on fellow competitors as well as my friend, Rachel, who will be handling Henry – and a good job she does too. I will have books in my show bag – an author never stops being a sales person!

By the time my second dog book, Canine Cuisine, came along I was being called upon to speak on local and national radio when a dog topic cropped up in the news. I’ve learned that it’s best to just be myself and speak from the heart. When the third book, A New Puppy in the Family, was published I was writing a weekly column for a canine newspaper. Not only did I get to speak on behalf of fellow dog folk but my name (and my books) were ‘out there’ for readers to see – and buy. Every time I supplied a quote or spoke on radio I asked for my books to be mentioned. A veteran author once told me that we should never stop promoting ourselves or our books.

gracieswar

When my first novel, Gracie’s War (Pulse Romance), was published I felt confident to contact radio stations, newsapers and libraries and offer to talk about my latest project. I’d served my apprenticeship on those early charity anthologies.

My advice to any new writer would to be to get yourself out there and promote your work in any way you can. These days we have Twitter, Facebook, websites and blogs so even more chance of getting your face (and work) known. It’s all part of the job

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I wouldn’t say that I’m at ‘the top’ by a long chalk but by learning my craft and doing my best – and not being afraid – I like to think I’ve started that long  climb to the top!