Is There a Writing Gene?

I’ve often wondered where I got my love of writing. My mother and my sister, my cousins and my aunts, none of them seem to have that particular passon. My mother and my sister read a lot, especially my sister. I remember when we were growing up, how hard it was to rouse her from a good story; she really did typify the saying, ‘lost in a book’. As far as I know, she’s still the same.

I loved reading too – and can still get lost in a good book – but I very quickly realised the stories I enjoyed reading had to be written by someone. Why not me? So, much as I loved reading, I loved writing my own stories even more, winning essay prizes at school and going on to write and publish short stories, and newspaper and magazine articles, before finally finding my true passion – writing novels, published on Amazon Kindle and as paperbacks.

One of my daughters has been helping me trace my family tree. Having not known my birth father until I traced him when I was nearly forty years old, I knew nothing of the paternal side of my family, and he didn’t share his family history with me before he died.

But now, suddenly, it all makes sense.

There were writers in my father’s family. His cousin was a published journalist who later edited an anthology of letters, published after her death. And her husband was a ‘bookman’ working in the book trade, owning a bookshop, publishing fiction and non-fiction. Their daughter has published books too, and is still writing and publishing.

What joy! If there is such a thing as a writing gene, I now know where mine came from. And, when I contacted my second cousin, Jessica Norrie, she generously shared her bountiful supply of family history, stories and anecdotes with me, and it seems the storytelling gene stretches back yet another generation because her grandmother, my Great-Aunt Ivy (after whom I was given my middle name) was an entertaining story-teller too.

Jessica Norrie, my second cousin, at a book signing for her debut novel,

The Infinity Pool

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Check it out. See if you think there are any similarities in our writing style.

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Getting the Most from your Writers’ Retreat

You’ve gathered a few writing buddies together and you’ve booked a cottage in the country, you’re all set to try your hand at creating a Writers’ Retreat. So, how are you going to get the maximum benefit from it while putting the minimum time into planning it? Because, let’s face it, we’re writers. We want to write. Not spend hours and hours organising ourselves to write.

So do have a meeting or a virtual meeting before you go, to decide the main things in advance.

My friends and I have tried different approaches and each time we have gone away for a week, we have structured it a little differently so perhaps the most helpful thing for me to do would be to tell you some of the things that work well, not necessarily the things we have done.

One of the things to remember is, although you are going to your retreat to write, you will also need to eat, so planning a rough menu beforehand is worth considering. Shopping for that menu can be done in advance if you have room in the car for the shopping. Failing that, perhaps locate the nearest supermarket to you cottage and, after you unload the car, you can go back out for a shopping trip. This is where the planning meeting is useful. You can decide things like:

Will you share the cooking, perhaps on a daily rota? Or will everyone fend for themselves?

Will you share the shopping or will one of you volunteer to bring the supplies to the cottage and everyone chip in with their share of the cost?

Your meals need not be elaborate affairs. As long as there are plenty of basic things like bread and cheese, plenty salad and fruit, wine and coffee, everyone is usually happy to see to themselves for breakfast and lunch, unless your group wish to plan who prepares these meals too. Good to know in advance who is going to be responsible for producing a simple evening meal. Do one or two of your group particularly enjoy cooking? Or should you make a rota for everyone to have a turn.

Simplicity is the key.

No-one wants to spend the best part of the day in the kitchen — unless cooking is their passion, of course. In which case, enjoy! It’s a creative retreat, after all, and cooking is another delightful creative outlet.

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Something else you might want to discuss beforehand is whether you want to use the retreat as a quiet place, conducive to writing, where you can each get on quietly with your WIP uninterrupted, or would you like to also have some structured writing time. If so, it would be good to plan who will lead that session and how. There are many useful books with suggestions for writing exercises, or you may have some old favourites of your own.

Starting the day with a little light physical exercise, like a short walk or such, followed by a timed writing exercise or two can be useful to wake up the body and the writing muscles. Similarly, it’s important to incorporate short breaks in the day to stretch out the muscles, get some fresh air and refresh yourselves.

After eating the evening meal, it can be pleasant to spend time relaxing together for a while, perhaps watching a film, playing music, or just sitting chatting over a glass of wine.

This might also be a time you would enjoy reading out some of your day’s writing to one another and getting some feedback.

Set goals.

At the planning stage, it is good to discuss together what each member of the party hopes to achieve. Whether some of you want to set yourselves a daily word count, or a weekly one, whether the aim is to edit a certain number of pages, poems or chapters, the best way to achieve the maximum benefit from your retreat is to set clear goals and encourage one another to work towards them.

Respect one another’s space.

Respect the silence.

Respect each other’s writing.

At the end of your week or weekend together, celebrate!

Discuss what worked and what didn’t, what helped and what hindered, and plan your next retreat.

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What about turning your annual vacation into a personal writer’s retreat?

If your friend or your spouse likes fishing, skiing, white water rafting and you don’t, why not book a log cabin where he or she can do their thing and you can write, sharing a meal together in the evening, a glass of wine by the fire or in the evening sun, sharing the stories of the day.

My husband and I do this from time to time, where he pursues his interests during the day while I enjoy some quiet writing time and we share the evenings together. It works.

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I would love to hear your suggestions.

What have you tried?

Have you enjoyed the luxury of a Writers’ Retreat?

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Many of my novels have been partly written on one of the writing retreats my writers’ group have enjoyed over the years. You can find them all on Amazon Kindle or here if you prefer a paperback edition.

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How to Plan a Writers’ Retreat

Ever thought about planning your very own Writers’ Retreat?

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I suspect most authors dream of a quiet cottage somewhere away from the day-to-day routine, somewhere to concentrate on getting that first draft finished, or that tricky edit done, a place conducive to writing with as few distractions as possible.

The ones you see advertised in writing magazines always look terrific, but are often expensive. Then there’s the uncomfortable feeling that you won’t know anyone. What if you have to share a room? What if there are people there that you just don’t gel with? What if not everyone is serious about getting on with writing and they see the week as an excuse to party?

So many reasons to never get around to indulging in the luxury of a writers’ retreat.

But what if you were the organiser? You, or your friends? Many of these doubts and worries would be alleviated. You could choose the location, the price, and the company. You could set the tone.

For the past few years, that is exactly what my writing friends and I have done.

So, how do we go about it?

Perhaps the first decision has to be who to go with. That was an easy one for us because we had already formed a small Writers’ Club, PenPals. We are friends who got to know one another through our love of writing, and, although there are some ten or so of us, nominally, there are three of us who meet regularly, so three of us who have gone away together the last few years. The first time, there were four of us, but we haven’t managed more than that at any one retreat. We have found three or four to work well, though I can imagine six or eight would still be manageable, if you found a large enough cottage.

The beauty of the smaller number is privacy.

When we went away in March, this year, the cottage was large enough that we could have a room each, great if someone snores! And great for being able to write without distraction.

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The second decision is where to go.

This is not difficult. There are always going to be a few deciding factors: price; availability, and suitability among the important ones.

Let’s deal with suitability first.

Suitability might include size. How many of you are committed to the venture? Are you willing to share two to a room? These factors will help determine the size of cottage you need.

Suitability might also include location. How far are you willing to travel? Is there an obvious halfway point between your various homes? Is there a pleasant area nearby, where there are holiday cottages for rent? Is the cottage somewhere suitably quiet? Renting one in a holiday park may not be conducive to quiet reflection and peaceful writing.

Next, you might consider price.

How much will your share of the rental, the petrol and the food be? How much are you each willing to pay? If you have a figure in mind, it might help you narrow down any options.

Obviously, the price will vary depending on the size of the cottage, but it will also vary depending on when you choose to go. Most holiday cottages are cheaper ‘off-season’ when the demand for them is lower.

Armed with information like that, you can then go on-line to look for your retreat.

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This last time, in March, we went a little further afield than usual, paid a little more than usual and had a bigger cottage. The main reason was because one of our members was writing a book set in that particular area and we wanted to support her in exploring it. We didn’t regret the decision to go there. It was a fabulous cottage in a stunning location, here in Scotland on a hill overlooking Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle.

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Okay! So let’s say you have chosen your company, your location, your price. You’ve booked your cottage and you’re ready to go.

What now?

How do you turn a few friends holidaying together in a cottage into a Writers’ Retreat?

In my next post, we will discuss what to do to get the maximum benefit from your inspirational break.

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Quintet of Radiance Award

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 What a lovely surprise to get such a great award. Thank you Michelle Stanley. A delightful lady who has just completed a very different A-Z — a story every day during the month of May, a different letter of the alphabet each day. Michelle’s theme was fairy stories. You should check out her A-Z on her blog

http://writer-way.blogspot.co.uk

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The Rules for the Quintet of Radiance Award:

1. Display the badge in a post. (Done)

2. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back – Thank you, Michelle.

3. Using the alphabet, describe yourself in a word or phase. (See below)

4. Nominate a few bloggers. (See further below)

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The A to Z about me:

Appreciative

Brave: Well, I can deal with the occasional spider, if it’s not too big.

Calm…and cuddly, according to my grandchildren.

Dependable

Eccentric…or certainly aiming to be.

Faithful

Generous…and gorgeous, according to my husband. (blush, blush!)

Happy

Imaginative…well, I’m a writer! What would you expect?

Jokey: I love teasing and enjoy a good, clean joke, though I’m useless at telling them.

Kind: I rescue puppies…or I would if I saw one needing rescued.

Laid-back: my days of getting anxious about things have passed.

Mother to five children, six pheasants and two doves 🙂

Noisy: I like to sing as I work.

Observant: I like to people-watch.

Passionate about SO many things.

Quirky: well, who would want to be ‘ordinary?’

Resiliant: I have had to be, having had a life-time of health problems.

Sincere and supportive…and rather on the small side!

Trustworthy: I can keep a secret and always keep a confidence.

Upbeat

Versatile: I can write on my iPad and my laptop.

Whimsical and rather silly, I suppose.

X-traordinarily well-blessed in my life.

Young at heart: in my heart, I’m only twenty-six. My birth certificate disagrees.

Zealous for Truth and Justice

So there you have it, my A to Z as I see myself. I wonder what my family and friends would say about this list. Perhaps we’d best not ask 🙂

~~~

Now for the nominations:

Michelle has already nominated some of the bloggers I would have, so I’d like to second her nomination of

Teagan Kearney at  http://writingmynovelnoworkingtitleyet.blogspot.co.uk

Chris Graham at thestoryreadingapeblog.com

and add

John Von Daler at http://johnvondaler.blogspot.dk

Dyane Ford at http://droppedpebbles.wordpress.com

Vashti Quiroz-Vega at http://vashtiqvega.wordpress.com

and

Amanda Staley at http://staleybooks.wordpress.com

~~~

 

 

If you like to Read, would you like to Help?

flying free cover 2290x1520mm

Just when I thought the hard part was over, I find it’s only just beginning.

Writing an 88,600 word novel was the easiest part of the process.

Then came the editing, a lot of hard, hard work.

For me, writing comes easily. I think in stories, with scenes and characters jostling to flow from imagination to writing. Editing takes much more concentration because, not only do I have to read through the story to see if it reads as it played out in my head, I have to make sure it is grammatically correct, with spelling and punctuation as they should be, and make sure I have shown you my story, not just told you. I have to ensure it has colour and sound, smell and taste, that it engages your senses as well as your mind.

All of that I love, even the proof editing. Now for the difficult part. How to market my novel. As satisfying as I found it to write and prepare, and I long to see it there on my bookshelf beside my other two novels, it would be nice to share it with a wider audience. And that is where you come in, dear reader, as Jane Austin would call you.

The novel is ready, the cover is ready, I think the blurb for the back cover is ready — and here’s where you can help.

I need an elevator pitch: the couple of sentences I could rattle out if someone said, ‘What’s your latest novel about?’ and I only had the length of an elevator ride to the next floor to pitch it. The purpose is not to tell you all about it, I hope the blurb will go a little way with that, the purpose of the elevator pitch is to whet your appetite.

So, here goes. I have prepared four pitches. Please, dear, sweet, kind reader, could you tell me which, if any, piques your interest? Which one would make you ask, as you step out of the elevator, ‘I’d like to know more.’

Number 1:

When Tom asks Jayne to marry him, he unwittingly opens her personal Pandora’s Box, and now she can’t seem to close the lid on it. Poignant and moving, punctuated by humour and insight, Flying Free is a powerful novel of love and loss, abuse and healing, honesty and hope.

Number 2:

Flying Free is a contemporary novel of love, loss, and loyalty. It takes the reader through a process of healing so powerful it offers hope for anyone caught in the trap of an abusive past.

Number 3:

Flying Free follows a woman on her quest to find healing from her abusive past in order to have a satisfying future. This contemporary novel is packed with insight and wisdom, humour and hope.

Number 4:

Flying Free is an atmospheric contemporary novel that tantalises the reader with glimpses of seaside and city, suggestions of classical music, and infusions of wisdom and insight. The central core round which these things revolve is hope and healing, love and loyalty.

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Now, if none of those grabs your attention, HELP!

I need suggestions.

Are there elements in some of them that I could put together to make one better pitch?

Or is it back to the drawing board?

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And now for the blurb, the text for the back of the book. It’s not much longer, but we’d maybe need to travel two floors in the elevator for this one.

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When Tom asks Jayne to marry him, he unwittingly opens her personal Pandora’s Box, and now she can’t seem to close the lid on it. It’s affecting her ability to commit to their relationship.

 When she finds someone to help her make sense of what’s happening to her, instead of slamming the lid shut on all that has been let loose from her past, he helps her open it wider and makes her face her fears in order to overcome them. 

As in the fable, there is one last thing left in Jayne’s Box: hope.

This novel traces a woman’s struggle to become the woman she wants to be in order to marry the man she loves.

 A contemporary novel about people who could be your neighbours, your friends, or even you.

~~~

What do you think?

I’d really value your opinion.

~~~

Flying Free is now available as paperback or kindle

where you will be able to see the new, improved version of the blurb 🙂

Making It Home by Christine Campbell

Here are some of the things other people are saying about my book,

Making it Home.

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First of all, Megan, of ReadingInTheSunshine

I want to talk about the cover first – I really like it! It’s a very simple cover, an everyday scene that you might regularly see on a journey home in the evening. But that is what makes it such a brilliant cover – it is familiar, it is comforting, and personally, it made me smile, thinking of all the journeys I’d done with a beautiful sky like that.

In Making It Home, we meet three women, who are all different but find a friendship in each other. They also find they have one thing in common: they want more from life. Can Kate, Phyllis and Naomi be happy with the life they have? Or can they find the courage to reach out for something more?

I really liked this book! One of the things I liked most about Making It Home is that Christine has created three women who could be our best friend, neighbour, aunt and so on. The characters aren’t perfect women with flawless make up and rich husbands, instead they are real, true-to life women that all of the ladies out there will be able to relate to, and that is what makes this story so compelling to read! Personally I love when an author writes about real women, about the struggles and problems that real women may face everyday, and creates realistic scenarios that could be exactly like what the readers could be going through. I am certain readers will be able to relate to Kate, Phyllis and Naomi in some way, whether it is their personalities, their individual situations or the friendship that these characters have with each other.

The characters were very well-drawn and written, I loved the friendship and the bond that the three women created with each other, ad I enjoyed reading and watching this friendship grow throughout the book. I was hooked to the characters individual stories and set of circumstances, I desperately wanted to know how they would progress and on many occasions I was cheering them on from my seat! I liked all three of the main characters but my favourite was Kate.

The novel unfolds at a great pace and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to read this. Making It Home is an absorbing and compelling story about three women, the friendship they strike up, the journey to discover meaning in their life, and knowing that support, love and friendship can be found when you least expect it!

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Such a lovely day today, in blustery, wet Scotland.
Usually, it is the view from my bedroom window that brightens my day. Today, a different ‘view’… A review!
Thank you, Megan, of ReadingInTheSunshine.

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Just checked my reviews on Amazon.com for the first time…hadn’t thought to do that before. Duh! The .uk ones come up automatically. Lovely surprise. Two great reviews:

5.0 out of 5 stars I Keep Thinking About This Book! 1 April 2013
By Lucinda Sutherland – Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
In this book we meet Kate, who has a fairly normal life, but it is slowly unwinding like an old clock and she is beginning to realize that it is time for a decision about what kind of life she truly wants. Phyllis, an older woman who befriends Kate, helps open Kate’s eyes to how much she has been sleep-walking through her life. They both recognize that Naomi needs their help but they can’t quite work out how to offer that help or what all it will entail.So far it could be any politically correct book on the “women’s literature” market – but this book rises above that. The characters deepen and when men come into the story they start out almost as caricatures and then find their own realism as the women in the book begin to see them as real people with real thoughts and ideas. The people in this book stay with the reader and seem to grow even after the book concludes. It is a gentle read that sinks into your mind and soul and gently helps you change your assumptions about others.I am really impressed with this author and with this novel. I recommend it to anyone who isn’t looking for a cookie-cutter story-line. “Making it Home” doesn’t come at you with a message or a sermon; it simply shares the lives of the people in it and lets you decide for yourself. This book gives me the same peaceful experience I found reading D.E. Stevenson’s work – but updated for modern times.
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating Novel! 18 Mar 2013
By Dr. Johnson C. Philip – Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Amazon Verified Purchase
This is a contemporary novel that is of a genre different from what I usually read. Thus I read it for a change and was pleased at the way the plot unfolds.It is the story of three women: Kate who had a home but whose heart was not in it, Phyllis who wanted something more than her home, and Naomi whose life was frozen by grief and fear. They meet each other by accident, become friends, and felt they should help each other. On the path of discovery that life is much more than what they think, the author develops the plot in a superbly captivating manner.I enjoyed reading this novel, and I am sure that you too will enjoy reading this novel, provided you are used to reading in this genre.

Well, there might be sunshine, but it sure doesn’t seem like spring!

It may be April, but it’s still pretty cold here in the East of Scotland. To be fair, the temperature has risen but the wind has too. It’s been galeforce this past couple of days. The garden chairs have lain down to it and are currently kicking their heels up in the corner by the hedge, I had the joy of listening to the watering can rattle round the garden in the wee small hours last night and my poor wee daffies are looking a bit bedraggled, having hardly had time to flutter their frocks before the wind whipped at their petticoats.

With wind chill factor in operation, it certainly doesn’t feel like spring.

There are still plenty of evenings when it would be worth lighting the fire and getting cosy. So why don’t you draw your chair in closer and join me by the fireside. My guest tonight is not a well-known writer, not a published author, hasn’t even tried on the celebrity coat. But he’s warming his toes at my virtual fire and, with true Scots parsimony, I’ve handed a stiff Scotch across cyber space to help loosen him up.

Stuart Turnbull’s main claim to fame is that he’s our son-in-law and has held that position now for some fourteen years or so, having married our older daughter, Elizabeth Ann—to give her her Sunday name. He’s taken to calling her Liz and I suppose I have to admit, grudgingly, the name suits her. She never was the sweet, old-fashioned girlie-girl I’d thought would follow her two older brothers; always the tomboy who literally followed them into whatever scrapes and escapades they led her. She found her own way into the marriage adventure with Stuart, though, and they have three children, Kurt, who’s twelve, Casselle, ten, and Anneliese, eight. They often do sit around our hearth, but tonight they’re all safely tucked up in their own house in Crieff, some 50 plus miles North-West, a bit far to feel the heat of our fire.

Nepotism apart, I invited Stuart to join us for a chat because he may not be famous, he may not be published, but he is a writer.

Stuart: A wanabee writer!

No, you write regularly. You share your writing in your blogs. I reckon that makes you a writer. A wanabee published writer maybe. But a writer, certainly.

I know you worked in financial services for some years, but now, since Liz’s health declined, you’ve become her carer and house-husband and you home educate Kurt. A full-time job along with all the cooking and looking after the family, so I’m glad you still find time for writing and I know you enjoy an occasional game of golf and an even more occasional run on your bike. It’s very picturesque up your way, beautiful for cycling, Crieff being in rural Perthshire.

Stuart: For golfers it’s close to Gleneagles where the 2014 Ryder Cup will be.  For film watchers, it’s Ewan McGregor’s home town. It’s a small country town of about 8,000 that is handily placed to commute to Edinburgh or Glasgow if you don’t mind the drive.  But a lot of the population are retirees who come for the beautiful scenery and plentiful golf courses. 

With my parents & a brother who is 4 years younger, I have lived up and down the United Kingdom, having attended schools in Scotland, England & Wales.  Although a good chunk of my youth was spent on a council estate in Telford, Shropshire, my happiest childhood memories are all from times where we were living in the country.  I guess I am a country boy at heart, just without any desire to be a farmer.

Must say, I’m a country girl myself. As you know, we live in a tiny village in West Lothian, just the Main Street with a garage, a pub and a corner shop and a Crescent round the back, where we live. Nice and quiet, lots of country noises to call the creative muse forth. So, you may never have wanted to be a farmer, but when did you realise you did want to be a writer?

Stuart: It started with poetry at some point in my early twenties and for many years it was only poetry I wrote, mostly free verse, but with some sonnets and the occasional haiku.  Eventually I found I wanted to expand what I was writing and moved on to some prose and then some (very) short stories.  For quite a while I wasn’t really writing anything due to working and having a young family, but the desire and ideas still floated around my head.  A change in work circumstances a couple of years ago freed up some time and I have been able to start writing again, but wanted to develop further and so I am currently doing an Open University Creative Writing course (A215) which has been helpful in looking at forms and layout and how to develop ideas, and I will probably do the Advanced course (A363) which will add writing scripts.   

I also have a project underway to write a 5-10k word story for each of the 50 states of the USA.  The stories will be individual, although characters may re-appear.  I am trying to capture flavours of places I have never been to, but hope to visit some day.  At present I have stories for Delaware, California & Alabama underway and in advanced development.  I also have the ideas I want to develop for Montana (my favourite state), Texas & New York State. 

I hope to have a designated website for this project up and running in the next few months, and would love for any US readers to forward me either ideas for their own state or, when the stories are available to offer any corrections or amendments to help create a more authentic US feel.

You seem very drawn to the wide open spaces of the United States and I’m sure you and the family will get the chance to go for a holiday or something sometime. Meanwhile, you seem to draw inspiration from researching each different state. When it comes to the creative process, what else inspires you?

Stuart: No set thing – it can be a word, a phrase, a dream, a view.  A recent poem was inspired by the numerous wind farms that are being built around us, while a short ‘detective’ story I wrote came from the phrase, ‘The Jawline of Julie-Anne Moore’.  I also have a suite of poems that are either literally based on dreams or have a loose dream like feel to them.

 Is there a food or a drink, a place or an hour that helps you feel ready to write?

Stuart: Not really, but if any wine producers read this I am more than willing to try writing in the evening with a glass of decent wine to hand and would be a willing guinea pig for new bottlings.

That being said, I have just built a little desk in my bedroom and it is nice to sit and write at that while Liz – whose health is poor, rests in bed.  I will write and listen to music, she will knit and listen to the radio and we companionably get on with our own activities.

What a good idea. Sounds cosy. Writing can be such a solitary occupation, even a bit antisocial sometimes. That’s a good way round that.

‘You Know Who’ and I have desk areas at right angles to one another, elbow close, which is probably too close, but I find I can’t write when he’s working at his computer. I do need the solitude. I like the idea of companionably working together, but, in practice, I can’t do it. When I’m ‘in flow’, if anyone comes into the room, the phone rings, the house goes on fire, I just hate to be interrupted. I love when the house is empty or asleep and I can just get all those words and ideas that swirl around in my head out onto paper or screen. I love it! Love it! Love it! What do you love about writing?

Stuart: Getting an idea out of my head, and having it read as good as I imagined it. I seem to work best when I am writing to a deadline.  Without the goad of failure prodding me, I am capable of sitting trawling the internet while ‘writing’ or even jotting down a line or two and then wandering off to do something else.  Even in writing this I am meant to be working on the last 1000 words I need for my next Open University assignment! It is always easier to not write than it is to write, and if I allow it the inertia builds and I lose the writing rhythm.

Know what you mean.

I hope you get your assignment done…or I’ll feel guilty luring you away to sit with me by my cyber-fire. It can be hard enough to get going sometimes, even when you know you’re going to love it once you do.

What do you consider to be the most challenging part of the creative process?

Stuart: Writer’s ‘block’ and procrastination. Coming up with ideas, writing them and then editing them. I hate proofreading my work as I generally only see what I meant to write and therefore miss silly errors (like punctuation).

So that would be all of it!  Yet still I find myself compelled to write.  I wonder if this comes from the love affair I have had with books and reading since I was four.  

Probably! Like you, Stuart, I home-educated one of my children, my younger daughter, Aimee. When she was about three years old, I remember thinking that it would work out okay if I taught her, not only to read, but to love reading. I knew if she enjoyed reading, she would enjoy learning. There wouldn’t be much she couldn’t teach herself from a good handbook or internet site. The better quality the books she read, the better quality her vocabulary and communication skills would be, and it certainly worked out that way.

Reading is so important for anyone, but especially important for any aspiring writer, isn’t it? Read any writers’ handbook: they all stress the absolute necessity for writers to read, read, read!

So, which authors do you like to read & why?

Stuart: Matthew Reilly – over the top goofball thrillers for guys who like things that explode, and a writer unafraid of killing off a key character. Iain M Banks & Alistair Reynolds – sublime sci-fi writing – to a standard in some of their books that I am tempted to never write again as I don’t believe I will ever reach the standard they have. Marian Keyes – far cleverer than you initially think and while some bits are laugh out loud funny others will make your heart sore.

I also re-read John Galsworthy’s The Forsythe Saga every couple of years.  The scene where Old Jolyon dies makes me cry every single time.

I am not a literary reader, of all the Booker listed and winning books since 1969 I have only read 3 books (Staying On, Schindler’s Ark & The Remains of the Day); however I do enjoy the 19th century Russian authors and 20th century existentialists. However I am more likely to be found reading popular and science fiction (Grisham, Banks, Reilly, Sansom, Keys etc). I also have a fascination with cold war espionage and have built decent library of my own with biographies and writings on the subject.

What do you hope to accomplish as a writer?

Stuart: To write something I am not ashamed to say I wrote

Where can we find more information on you and your writing?

Stuart: At present I have three neglected blogs. One for short stories and two for poetry

http://diamondsanddross.blogspot.co.uk/stories (pretty rough stuff as mostly early writing and need re-edited)

http://justwhistlingintheshadows.blogspot.co.uk/poetry

http://cdatd.blogspot.co.uk/poetry – all a series under the title Come Dream a Thousand Dreams’

COMING SOON ‘These United States’ (probably as a .com) where I will be laying out my US cycle of stories.

 Thanks for the examples of your work. I’ll pop them on your page under the ‘Fireside Chats’ heading on my menu. I’ve enjoyed our blether, Stuart. I hope you enjoyed your cyber-Scotch. I’ll let you back to your assignment. Stretch, yawn…and I’d better get this posted on my blog before the heat of the fire makes me too sleepy.