Saturday, 29 September 2012

Have I Got News For You

Yesterday has been an exciting day.  

The online party for the paperback launch of Playing On Cotton Clouds has been great fun. I asked my guests to bring their records with them and - with the aid of Youtube - we played some fabulous music from the 80s/90s/00s, the three decades that are the backdrop of the book. We had anything from Duran Duran to The Smiths, from Dire Straits to A-ha, from Peter Gabriel to Oasis, from House Dance to Italo-disco to Hard Rock to Madchester. It was a riot!

Thanks to all those who sent messages and posted links and spent time having a good laugh with me. 

To top the day, it was officially announced that my next book, A SUMMER OF LOVE, a love story set in a small village in Cornwall, will be published by Crooked Cat Publishing in January 2013.
I couldn't wait to tell everyone!

Mike Bernard, "Mousehole Harbour"
So, to keep the celebrations going, I'm going to play some more of my favourites today. 

What would you choose?

Friday, 28 September 2012

Vinyl and Paperbacks

About four years ago I bought my first mp3 player. I couldn’t quite stretch to an iPod, so I opted for a Creative Zen, which I still own and happily use.

It was extraordinary being able to collect 2-3,000 tracks and carry them all with me at all times, on the bus, in the car, on holiday. I could make my playlists, skip, mix, listen at random, select an album or a specific artist. I plugged it into the stereo, set it on shuffle and let it run for a couple of hours without the need of changing disks.

I really have a lot of fun with my Zen.

Last month a musician friend of mine sent me a copy of his band’s brand new EP. It was a special moment unwrapping it from the cellophane, extracting the vinyl (in a funky yellow colour), placing it on my turntable and listening to it in all his beautiful, crackling glory.

While I was at it, I decided to give a spin to some of the records in my collection and was transported back to times gone when I would run home with my latest purchase from the small independent record shop round the corner, impatient to see, hear and feel the multi-sensory music experience that was an LP.

As much as I love technology and the convenience of downloads and mp3s, there will always be a special place in my heart for the good old vinyl.

I love the way it looks and sounds, the dedication that goes into playing a record – dust it, place it on the record player, lower the needle on the right spot, get to the end of one side, turn it around, start again.

If mp3s are music on the go, vinyl is for taking your time and savouring the work and thought that has gone into it. It’s the fine dining of music versus the fast food chain that it’s a download, with all the attention to details – the cover art, the inner sleeve, the printed lyrics – served with the main dish.

Nothing beats vinyl.

Three months ago I finally got my birthday present, which had been on my list for some time: a Kindle Touch.

I was won over immediately. Again, the practicality of being able to carry all the books I love and/or want to read at once was a major positive, as well as the solution it offered to one of the biggest problem facing passionate readers: storage and space, or rather, lack of.

To that add the convenience of being able to acquire a book any time and from anywhere, and the Kindle really comes into its own.

And you have all the handy features that allow you to highlight and bookmark passages, look up a word, change the font size, write your own notes, copy a playlist of music to listen to while you read, without moving from your chair.

What a fabulous gadget!

Yesterday I received in the post a copy of my book “Playing On Cotton Clouds”, which is released in paperback today and available to buy from Amazon.

The novel had been published by Crooked Cat Publishing in ebook format back in April and I was very proud of all the great reviews and comments readers left on Amazon, Goodreads, my Facebook page. It was the realization of a long time coming dream.

But yesterday I was holding my book in my hands. Not a digital book on Kindle, but an actual, real paperback. It had a shiny, colourful cover, a front and a back. It had pages I could turn and on them were printed the words that had taken nearly half a year for me to write. It had a smell and a feel and occupied physical space.

Specifically, it was placed on a shelf side by side with some of my favourite books and authors: Helen Fielding, Lisa Jewell, David Nicholls… Michela O’Brien!

It was simply a little miracle.


I will still download mp3s and ebooks, I will still love my Zen and my Kindle and how they have made my life simple.

But I will still buy beautiful records and books, always cherish my favourites and how they have made my life colourful.

 Yours Truly proudly holding her book!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

“Sitting down to write is like trying to coax a little child” – Rose McClelland chats to me about her writing regime

It’s great to have with me Rose McClelland, today, not only because she’s a great writer and a fellow Crooked Cat author, whose chic-lit novels “The Break-Up Test” and “How To Look Like You” have gained many fans and praises, but also because she is a friend and a lovely person all round.

Hi Rose and thank you for dropping by.

Thanks for having me!

Can you tell us a little about yourself, how you started your writing adventure and arrived at Crooked Cat?

Six years ago, I read ‘The Artists Way’ by Julia Cameron. It’s a book about unblocking your creativity. I felt very excited by it. I studied it with interest and did all the suggested tasks. I then managed to sit down, start writing a novel and keep going until I wrote ‘The End’.  A year later I had written my first novel. I’m now halfway through my fourth. 

I found Crooked Cat via luck and perseverance. Every writer will experience knock-backs. The trick is to pick yourself up and keep going. I told myself it had to happen sooner or later.

Both your novels, The Break-Up Test and How To Look Like You follow a departure from more traditional chic-lit, as they don’t just focus on one leading protagonist, but on different characters, both male and female. What made you choose this more choral approach?

That was accidental I think. I had a male friend who confided his love life dilemmas to me and I began to understand the workings of a male mind. So Jamie’s voice just became as loud as the female characters. It was fun to play around with. It helped me examine the theme from different angles.

Where do you find inspiration for your stories?

I start off with a theme first of all. It’s usually a topic that I want to learn more about. Something I want to investigate. Something I want to find different viewpoints on. It has to be a good gritty topic that I can get my hands on and play around with for a year.

Once I have a theme in place, I’ll start to think about characters. I might look at extremes – for example, a really shy character versus a really confident one. I’ll start to think about what they look like, what their background is.

What’s your writing “regime”, if you have one?

I set aside a few hours on a certain day that I can write. I tell myself that there is no pressure – I can just play about with ideas. I put the kettle on and make coffee.  I’ll pretend that I’m in the audience watching the characters. I just record what’s happening. I tell myself that it doesn’t need to be funny or clever or brilliant – I’m only playing around with ideas at this stage.  I coax myself like a little child really. But with the absence of pressure, I seem to write better.  

I know you worked in the theatre world and once wrote a short play which made the stage. Would you like to try your hands at writing scripts again? Are there other genres you’d like to explore in future?

I prefer writing novels.  This is because I can describe place and character more fully. I can also jump around from scene to scene. And of course the story can be much longer – there is more scope for twists and turns and the story weaving in many directions.  I feel a bit more limited with script writing. However there is a major buzz with script writing in that it’s a joy to see an actor perform your words on stage.

The Break-Up Test is released in paperback today and How To You Look Like You will follow on the 5th October. How do you feel about digital and paperback formats? Have you got a favourite?

I am a kindle convert. I received one for Christmas last year and though it took me a while to get the hang of it, I now love it. I love being able to download free samples. I love that my kindle slots into my handbag and is easy to carry around. I love that I can have a variety of books at my disposal in one small space. However, it was a real joy to receive the paperback version of ‘The Break-Up Test’ in the post. I kept flicking through it and seeing my words jump out at me. It made my dream seem very real – I have actually written a book!

You are an avid reader too and a reviewer for Judging Covers. What do you enjoy reading and which are your favourite authors?

Well I don’t mean to sound obvious but I love reading chick-lit! I’m not great with horrors or crime because I’m such a scaredy-cat. I get too involved in the story and the horror scenes give me nightmares. I recently read a psychological thriller because my sister recommended it to me. It was indeed a very well written book, but I had to sleep with the light on for a few nights!

I prefer light hearted stories that leave me feeling happy and inspired.  I could rhyme off a list of favourite authors such as Paige Toon, Lisa Jewell, Marian Keyes and Mike Gayle. However I am always open to discovering new writers.

Writing, reading… what else do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Well, as you know, we had a fabulous time at the recent Stone Roses gig! And I have enjoyed all the chat about them and finding out more about the band. I have watched loads of YouTube videos on them, listened to their music, even read a book on them! I’m hooked!

Apart from that, I love watching films and reading stories.

I enjoy walking. I like putting the ear-phones in and going for a good long walk – It’s a great way to raise the serotonin.

I love sitting in coffee shops watching the world go by; writing or reading.

I like sitting at home writing. I have a lovely view of the water and it’s very inspiring and peaceful.

I love shopping. Clothes and music and jewellery – especially in charity shops – you can’t beat a good bargain!

I love meeting up with friends and having a good chat/ laugh/ giggle over food/ coffee/ nibbles.

And I like dancing! I don’t get out clubbing as much as I used to but I do love a good dance!

Thank you for chatting to me, Rose, and all the best for the paperback releases. 

 Thank you for having me! 

Find Rose on her Blog  and on Twitter

The Break-Up Test
available in paperback from today

How To Look Like You
available in paperback from 5th October

Rose and I, 
on our way to see The Stone Roses

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Don’t judge a book by its star rating

Like other authors, I have been enraged by the scandal of the fake reviews appearing on Amazon, something that we all suspected was happening, but perhaps not to the extent and viciousness it was revealed in recent news.

It is really disheartening for honest authors – which I still like to think are the most part! – to know that their deservedly earned 5* reviews may be considered fake by the public, and for a reader that has spent some time to write a review of a book they liked that her efforts may be judged pointless.

All this got me thinking.

Have reviews become the criteria upon which the public chooses a book? Are we really sold by 5* ratings and put off by negative reviews?

I can’t say reviews and ratings play a great part in my choices of books.
In the good old days before Amazon and the internet, when I used to browse bookshops, I saw the cover, I read the blurb, scanned the first few pages and then decided whether the book was interesting enough to purchase and read, without knowing what other readers thought of it.
Knowing and liking an author’s previous work was also a pull.
Friends’ recommendations might play a part when it comes to making my mind up, depending on their own taste and reading habits.
Today I buy most of my books online and I might take a look at the reviews, but ultimately I follow the same procedure before buying and reading a book.
All that considered, are we authors placing too much emphasis on readers’ reviews, to the point that some feel the need of assuming fake identities to rave about their own book – or worse to belittle books of other authors?
Reviews can be helpful to spread the word among readers that a book is worth reading, but on the whole, it seems that they are not the first port of call when it comes to choosing a book. Books with plenty of 5* reviews don’t always sell any better than those without.
Perhaps we shouldn’t lose sight of what ultimately makes a book a success story: an interesting voice, a page-turning plot and great characters.
And a well written blurb.