Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside … but perhaps when it’s a bit warmer!


Over the past couple of years, I’ve undertaken a few library talks and even visited a local writers’ group to speak, but I had an opportunity to participate in something a little different yesterday …

Agenda BlackboardA friend tagged me in a post on Facebook. A café in Scarborough was going to be hosting a Writers’ Day where they were looking for local writers and poets to talk about their work, their journey, and/or read from their work. And this wasn’t just an “ordinary” café. The Seastrand is based on a corner on the seafront with amazing views. But it’s not just the views that are amazing. The café itself is pretty amazing because it’s actually built at the base of a disused cliff lift! The cliff lifts can still be seen further up the cliff and the tracks run into the café, as do the metal steps. The kiosk is what I’m assuming was the ticket station. Very quirky!

Empty RoomThere were once five cliff lifts in Scarborough connecting the town or cliff top to the sea front but there are only two in use now. The Seastrand is based at the foot of the St Nicholas Cliff Lift. It opened in 1929 but sadly ceased trading in February 2007 when the council couldn’t afford to spend the amount needed to bring it up to new health and safety standards. Their loss was The Seastrand’s gain. Tess and Stuart have been running the café for 2 years and have expanded the space to include a roof terrace with stunning views. Sadly, the very, very cold wind meant we couldn’t use the terrace yesterday but the writers had a cosy setting inside.

Table Set Up CloseMy worst fear for any talk is whether anyone will turn up. I knew I was guaranteed an audience when I spoke at Scarborough Writers’ Circle because having guest speakers is part of their session plan, but I’ve always had a modicum of nerves when a library talk has approached in case of no takers. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with an audience each time. Phew!

Jessica with Steven BearFor my event at The Seastrand yesterday, Write Romantic, Sharon, kindly came along to support me. So did another Scarborough-based writing friend, Sarah, and her partner. Which is just as well because nobody else did! Poor Tess did her best to coax in some passing trade, only there really wasn’t much passing trade. I think the grey day and the bitter winds had put paid to that. Eventually she talked two women into popping in. They said they only had ten minutes to spare, sensibly buying themselves an escape route. I was therefore extremely flattered when they stayed right until the end and said that they’d found it very interesting. Who knows? Maybe one or both of them may download one of my books, borrow one from the library, or spread the word to their friends.

View to CastleIt’s disappointing that there weren’t more and I have to confess that, for a brief moment, I nearly cried. Then I pulled myself together and reminded myself that it’s just one of those things and it was nothing personal. It helped when Sarah said that J K Rowling had nobody turn up for her first few book signings. I also managed to convince myself that the slot I’d gone for wasn’t the best. I’d picked 1pm because my daughter goes to drama between 12-2pm so this meant I could do the drop off, do my talk, and be finished to pick her up. This also meant that I was speaking bang on lunchtime. I suspect that part of the reason there was no passing trade is that people were on the seafront munching their fish and chips!

Jessica Outside LandscapeDespite the limited audience, I still really enjoyed myself. Tess couldn’t have done more to make me feel welcome and it was a really lovely and unusual setting. I know this is the start of what they hope will be more involvement in creative activities, and perhaps I might speak at a future one to a crowded room instead. I’ll definitely go back on a warmer day, though, to have a drink and a cake on that roof terrace, soaking up the sun and enjoying the views.

My next talk is in a couple of weeks’ time at my local library. Here’s hoping for a slightly bigger audience!

Hope you’re all having a fabulous bank holiday weekend.

Jessica xx

Dealing with Rejection by Alys

I got two rejections last week.  One of the upsides of having an agent is that those emails don’t come directly to me anymore.  But one of the downsides is that my agent seems to store them up and I tend to hear about two at a time which is a real double whammy.  I also get more feedback these days as the editors give at least a line or two about the book, giving a couple of positives before they get to the reason why they turned it down.

Doubt Kills More Dreams

I thought the feedback would be a good thing, give me an idea of what I need to work on in my writing.  But they’re so contradictory that I don’t know what to take from them.  One of this week’s rejections said they didn’t like Maeve, the antagonist, whereas an editor who turned me down before Christmas said Maeve was a great character.  It’s making me realise how hugely subjective the whole thing is.  What one editor loves, another says doesn’t work for them.  And what should I take from the comment that ‘they didn’t sufficiently connect with the heroine’?  Is that in my writing or is it just a personal reaction? I can think of dozens of books where I didn’t love the heroine but I still enjoyed the book.  Do editors need to feel a deep personal connection with all the characters to take a book on?

I’m getting better with rejections though.  These two made me mutter and moan for about half an hour whereas when I first started submitting rejections could knock me back for days.  Of course, it helps if there’s a few positives in there as well.  One of these said that Beltane was ‘crisply written’ which took some of the sting out of it.

I asked the other Write Romantics if they’d had any really positive rejections.  Jessica got a reply from an agent that said:

‘There’s an awful lot I like about it.  However I am afraid in the current tough market I do have to be completely bowled over by something to take it on….I’m sorry that it’s been a near miss for me.”


Jo received this lovely rejection from a publisher:

‘As we are finding the market so competitive at the moment, we will unfortunately have to pass on the book, but personally I think you have great potential and would encourage you to keep going as you have qualities we have previously seen in other newbie authors who have made it big.’ 

Both Jessica and Jo said that these emails kept them going through the dark days of other less tactful rejections.

And we’ve had some of those.  Helen R received:

‘Sorry but this market has collapsed and I don’t think we could find a publisher for this.’

Fortunately she can laugh about it now (particularly as Crooked Cat are publishing her novel next month) but it must have hurt at the time.  My worst one was from a very well-known agent who gave me the standard two line rejection and then tried to sell me her book on understanding the publishing industry.

photo (5)

I know rejections are part of the process and if I talk to non-writers about it they always quote J K Rowling.  Everyone forgets how many times she was rejected (apparently it was twelve which doesn’t seem that many to me anymore!) but it’s become urban myth that she was knocked back a lot.  Margaret Mitchell got 38 rejections before she found a publisher for Gone with the Wind and Beatrix Potter was rejected so many times she decided to self-publish The Tale of Peter Rabbit and look how well that worked out!  Louise M Alcott was told not to give up teaching and it took Agatha Christie 5 years to land a publishing deal.

So if you’re feeling down about a rejections try to remember that you’re in really great company.  Pretty much every writer I can think of, other than PD James and Georgette Heyer, have been turned down.  Which just goes to show that editors are as prone to mistakes as the rest of us.  Except perhaps the editor who told Dan Brown’s agent ‘it’s so badly written’; he might just have had a point!

If you’ve had any particularly unhelpful or really positive rejections then we’d love to hear about them.  You can leave us a comment by clicking where it says ‘Leave a comment’ or ‘comments’ in teeny, tiny type below.

Wednesday Wondering – A Time & A Place by Helen Rolfe

Palm Beach, the jewel of Sydney’s Northern Beaches, has to be one of my favourite places. I’ve driven up there on a child-free day with a book and it’s a dream to be somewhere so special. We went up there as a family recently too. We plonked ourselves on the sand a little way back from the water and the kids dodged waves, built sandcastles and we all soaked up the feeling of a gorgeous day. Another family next to us had children of around the same age (seven and nine) and I was surprised to see that rather than running around or splashing in the water, both were sat with iPads and iPods. We didn’t take much notice of them until the daughter was shouted at for getting sand in the iPad and then they all packed up and went home.

I am guilty of “checking in” on Facebook when I’m at Palm Beach which is fun because you can check in at “Summer Bay” as it’s the location where Home And Away is filmed. However, I do think that there is a time and a place for technology.  

We have so many tools at our disposal nowadays. Through the wonders of technology, The Write Romantics formed: The RNA forum introduced us all to one another, a website was produced, this blog is worked on every week, and we keep in touch via email, Facebook and Twitter. Funnily enough we’ve never all been together in person, but it feels as though we have.

Technology has also given us apps and these days it seems that everything seems to have an “app” whether it’s to check the daily temperature, produce a shopping list for the supermarket, read the news or even order a new book. But what are our favourite apps or technologies?

I’m not a game person but I can’t imagine not having certain apps at my disposal. Living so far away from family is difficult so my favourite app would have to be FaceTime. My parents and I used to struggle with Skype: there was a time delay when we spoke, and generally we wouldn’t bother that often given that the kids didn’t really want to sit still either. My Dad bought himself an iPad because it is so instant for the internet. I asked him one day to do FaceTime and he said that he would have to read up on it first and then we could try. Anyway, I told him to get the iPad and switch it on, which he did. I told him to click on the FaceTime app and then I did the same. Instant, we were connected! Now I get to see my Mum and Dad much more often. It’s not the same as being there with them, being able to give them a hug, but it’s the next best thing. I took them on a guided tour when we bought our new house, the kids have played musical instruments for them and my parents have watched the kids playing outside or in the pool. The world has become a much smaller place for us with the help of this app.

My other favourite app would have to be the map function on my iPhone. I was a latecomer to the world of iPhones and when we first moved to Sydney I was a total tourist every time I went into the city, trying desperately to discreetly unfold my map and find my way around. But the map function makes this so much easier. When Katie Fforde visited Sydney and Dymocks bookshop to talk about her books, she agreed to meet up with me – I hadn’t met another RNA person before and the opportunity to meet up with the lovely Katie was too good to miss – with my maps I managed to find her hotel and we went down to The Rocks for sinful iced chocolates. The map function also helped me to find the train station again so that I could get home!

I’m sure that there are many writing apps out there too but I have always been deterred from investigating them, feeling that I should be writing instead. Last week I download the “cafetivity lite” app. Many of us find that we can’t work in total silence and the idea behind it is that it provides “background noise” that lets our brains tick over, mimicking the sounds of the coffee shop. There are writers out there who have found the café vibe works for them –  J.K Rowling included – and personally I do find the background noise less irritating than listening to leaf blowers or banging coming from a house across the road that is in the middle of being renovated. But each to their own.

The Write Romantics have shared with you their favourite apps or favourite technologies below and we would love to hear about yours, especially if you have any amazing, can’t-do-without writing-related apps!

Helen R 🙂

Jackie says…

I use quite a few Apps but they are mostly full programmes with a useful App. I wouldn’t be without Dropbox now as I sync my laptop, iPad and iMac with my stories. Still don’t trust it 100% so occasionally I’ll put a copy of my ‘story’ on the desktop as well. Kindle App, Notes and Pages get used all the time and of course where would I be without Facebook. eBay is my weird way of relaxing – or time wasting, as I can look at things I don’t need or want for ages. Currently looking up guitars as have started strumming again after about fifteen years! Learning a lot about guitars, but haven’t taken the plunge and bought one yet so still playing a cronky old Yamaha Jumbo which is far too big for me.

Rachael says…

Apps are still quite new to me and on my recent trip to London I had fun using apps aimed at making getting around London easier. Some worked well, like which tube to take, how long it would be and how much it would cost. Another wasn’t so successful and I ended up just jumping in a taxi!

I have also just started using apps on a daily basis. Life on the farm revolves around the weather, so downloading a weather app seemed a good starting point. The only problem is my husband now keeps asking what the weather is going to do next!

I haven’t yet discovered any writing apps, although a quick look on my phone suggests they do exist. If you know of a good one, do share it with us.

Lynne says…

I would love to have an iphone with apps on it! But my low budget phone would go into serious meltdown if asked to do anything that fancy. I saw it on Sarah Moore Vintage’s page that she had this app. She won The Great Interior Design Challenge and is excellent at anything arty. Anyway she used it online and showed the results on her facebook page and it was gorgeous!! I paint in watercolour now and again and it always has a mind of its own, you never quite know where the water will end up, but the app, called waterlogue, was just super! Google it and see for yourself!

Deirdre says…

I don’t do Apps as I don’t have the necessary gadgets;  I just don’t feel the need.  I use my nice little phone for calls, texts and telling the time, and that’s it.  For photos I use my camera (it is a digital one, not a Box Brownie!).   I do sometimes look at people’s all-singing-all-dancing phones and pads and whatnots and think they look like fun, but then I remember how clumsy my fingers have become and how I have to find my specs even to answer a call and I remember why I’m better off sticking to what I’ve got.  For now…

I’m easily pleased, technology-wise. The little everyday miracles my computer comes up with give me a rush of excitement that most people will have got over long ago.  For example, in Word, Find and Replace is just the best thing.  I’m one of those old-school trained typists who puts two spaces after every full-stop, and privately, I still think it looks smarter in a printed document.  But these extra spaces don’t work with e-readers, and publishing houses as well as Kindle Direct now demand one space only. At first I thought I was going to have to go through my whole ms and change them one by one, but of course you don’t.  All you do is put two spaces in the Find box, one space in the Replace box, press a button and it takes care of the lot in seconds!  Like I said, I’m easily pleased.  Excel spreadsheets still amaze me, too.  Those dinky little bits of programming that perform tricks with columns of figures, marvellous!

Another bit of software I’m potty about is Family Treemaker.  Since I got this I’ve been slowly gathering all my bits of research together and making up my trees which I can then view in umpteen different forms.  That makes me feel really clever, like I’ve done it all myself.  But the bit that really sends my pulse racing is the way it’s linked to Ancestry.com so that each time you add a new person to your tree, a tiny green leaf appears which leads you straight to the publicly held records on that person.  I’m sure there are plenty of people who find it more satisfying to traipse to the records office and trawl through the tomes but I’m not one of them. The little green leaf does it for me, every time!

Alex says…

My only problem with this week’s Wednesday Wondering is narrowing it down to only two apps. I have to admit to being addicted to my iPhone. I claim that I need it with me all the time for my work but the truth of the matter is that I’m far more likely to be checking Facebook than my work emails.  I use Facebook and Twitter on my phone all the time to keep up with the other Write Romantics and to run our Twitter account.  Although those are the apps I probably use most they aren’t my favourites.  My absolute favourite is the BBC Radio iPlayer app which I use to catch up with my favourite radio programmes.  As well as listening to the Radio 2 Folk Show or BBC Scotland’s Travelling Folk (usually while I’m doing the ironing) I’ve found lots of fabulous dramas and comedies which I wouldn’t have come across otherwise. Last week I listened to Her Majesty’s Secret Service with the very gorgeous Toby Stephens as Bond and it was brilliant. 

My second favourite apps are the instant messaging ones which allow me to keep in touch with friends and family.  I’ve got 3 of these that I use with various friends although I think Facebook Messenger is the best of them. Finally, I’d like an honourable mention for the dictionary and thesaurus app which is really helpful.  It will even pronounce the word for you in case you’re in any doubt about how to say it. You definitely don’t get that with a book!

Julie says…

My simple (and rather boring) answer is that I don’t have one. I have an iPhone but the only thing I really wanted it for was to be able to keep up with Facebook and my emails on the move as I travel quite a bit with work. I have an iPad too but more by accident. Mark wanted one so we got one a couple of years back but then we actually won one in a competition so that’s become mine but I hardly use it. If I’m honest, all I use it for is commenting on Facebook when watching the Eurovision Song Contest as it’s easier to write on than my iPhone. So you could argue that Facebook is my favourite App. I’m just not one of these people who has an interest in techology. I hate computer games, I don’t really like shopping and I don’t ever feel the urge to know the temperature and time in Uzbekistan!

Jo says…

Try as I might I cannot get on with touch screen technology and therefore, although we have two iPads, numerous iPods and a Blackberry Playbook in the house I am what you might call app-phobic! I use to laugh at my mum, back in the day, for not being able to work the video recorder and later to send a text message. I have taught students from 14 to 80+ a range of subjects, from pre-entry literacy to degree studies, but teaching my mum to send a text still feels like one of my biggest achievements!

Well call it karma, if you like, but my kids now laugh at me and my attempts to use the iPad. I touch it and it load screens and things that I don’t want, whilst I shout at the tablet to take me back where I want to go. Then I tap something I actually want and the darn thing doesn’t move! I think it’s like that episode of the Simpsons, where Homer tries to dial out on his phone and gets an automated announcement saying “Sorry, but your fingers are too fat to dial this number”. Either way it’s a no-no for me and almost as bad as my experiences with voice recognition technology… but that’s a story for another day!

J Keller Ford on the Art of Make Believe

JKellerFord-web-301Our guest today is J.Keller Ford (aka Jenny).  With a father in the army, Reader’s Choice award winner Jenny, spent much of her childhood travelling the world and wandering the halls of some of Germany’s most extraordinary castles hoping to find the dragons, knights and magic that haunted her imagination. Though she never found them, she continues to keep their legends alive.  Her story, The Amulet of Ormisez, is available as part of the MAKE BELIEVE anthology. Jenny also had a YA short story, Dragon Flight, released December 2013 as part of the ONE MORE DAY anthology  When not at her keyboard breathing new life into fantasy worlds, Jenny spends time collecting seashells, bowling, swimming, riding roller coasters and reading.  She works as a paralegal by day and lives on the west coast of Florida with her family, three dogs, and a pretentious orange cat who must have been a dragon in his previous life.   With a fascinating bio like that, of course we have loads that we want to ask Jenny…

Why did you choose to write young adult and new adult fiction?

In a nutshell, I don’t want to grow up. When I was young, so many people told me, ‘Enjoy your youth.  It’ll be gone before you know it and you can’t get it back.”  Like a typical teen, I snarked at those words.  Now that I’m a grown-up, I don’t want to be.  I wish I could go back and change things. I wish I’d been a bit more daring, maybe prettier, stronger, more adventurous.  In writing YA and New Adult fiction, I can do all the things I couldn’t or wouldn’t do as a teen. I can re-live my youth vicariously through my characters.  Every day holds endless possibilities for my young characters.  Love is new and fresh.  Heartache is raw. Dreams aren’t wasted.  It’s fun to see my characters do what I always dreamed of doing if I hadn’t been in such a hurry to grow up.

What gave you the idea for In the Shadow of the Dragon King?

Oh wow, there are so many factors that came into play, but I suppose it boils down to my brave, knightly dad, and a soldier who wanted a little bit of fairy dust to save the world.

My dad was in the Army, and on the rare occasions he tucked me into bed, he would tell me stories of how he battled dragons and protected us (his family) and his lands from bad magicians and evil-doers. I knew better.  I watched the news, but my dad’s version was so much better, and thus my love for fantasy began. Between the ages of 6 and 8, my dad was stationed in Germany. My mom, knowing of my dad’s stories, made sure she took my brother and me to as many castles as she could, thus solidifying my love for fantasy.  Sadly, my father died a few years later, slain by a figurative ‘dragon’, and a very sad story began to churn in my mind.  It wasn’t until after the end of the first Gulf War in 1995 that the story resurfaced and started taking shape. I saw an interview with a soldier who said he wished he had magic and fairy dust because he’d sprinkle it everywhere to make the world a better place to live. I saw these brave men not as soldiers but as chivalrous knights battling evil for the sake of humanity, and if they had a choice, they’d prefer a little magic, rather than lives, to save the world.  Over the course of several years, I toyed with plots, characters, and ideas, finished my first draft, and then let it sit for a very long time.  I picked it up about 3 years ago, dusted it off and allowed it to breathe.  Soon it will be ready to present to the world, thanks to my dad and an unsung hero who wished for a little magic and fairy dust to save the world.

perf5.250x8.000.inddWhat advice would you give to aspiring writers looking for publication?

First thing:  never, ever, ever give up.  I don’t care how many rejections you get, how difficult the process may seem. Never throw away your dream of being published.

Second, as time passes, more and more paths to publication are opening up.  I’m of the old school.  I like the traditional publishing route.  I like being vetted before my work gets out in the world.  On the other hand, I have some lovely writer friends who have been very, very successful in self-publishing, hitting best-seller charts on Amazon all the time. There are so many avenues to travel and so many doors to open that make it easier now than ever before to be published.  I do recommend, however, if you choose to self-publish, please produce your work to professional quality.  Yes it costs money, but if your book is worth publishing, it’s worth publishing correctly.  Get a professional editor.  Make sure your book looks like a mainstream book.

I think it’s also important to be present in some fashion of social media.  You don’t have to be on all of them, but you should have at least one prominent presence. You need to make sure people out there know you.  Be yourself. Be someone that others want to interact with. Help others promote their work whenever you can.  Once you have a following and have established yourself as someone trustworthy and helpful, they’ll do everything they can to promote your work when the time comes.  Always be thankful.  Always be respectful.

Do you have any advice for UK based writers looking for a publisher in the US?  Are there any things we should think about or avoid in our writing?

First, check tax laws.  Self-published U.K. Author, Karen Inglis, wrote an extensive blog post on taxes, ITIN and EIN numbers and paying U.K. Tax on book Royalties.  You can find that article here and I recommend everyone from the U.K. to take a look at her very informative blog on the matter.

I would also pay attention to local colloquialisms.  Some words or phrases may be viewed differently in the U.S. than in the U.K.  I’m aware of a few words that mean nothing here, yet are frowned upon or mean something completely different in the U.K.  Of course, if a book is set in Britain, some words and phrases might add flavor and color. Just make sure they don’t make the book confusing or distracting.

As to covers, U.S. publishers usually do not consult with the author.  American publishers will usually write their own blurbs for the back of the book. They may also change your title to suit the market.

It may be worth your while to get an agent to sell your rights to a U.S. publisher who will ‘translate’ and sell your books.  Always ask any publisher or service to give you full details of their plans for your book, especially how they intend to use the rights. Never give world rights as standard.  Works published in the U.S. are subject to U.S. copyright laws, not those of the country of origin.  Always be aware that if an agent sells your book in the U.S., they are entitled to all subsequent income on that book in the US even if you part ways with the agent somewhere down the line.  Always do your research and try to stay abreast of the latest international publishing laws. It’s a lot to take in.  A lot to do.

Who are your favourite writers?

OMGosh, I have so many.  There are the classics:  Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Jane Austen, George Orwell, Jack London, John Steinbeck, and the list goes on.  More recent favorite authors would include J.K. Rowling, Kristin Cashore, Tahereh Mafi, Veronica Rossi, Kiera Cass, Cassandra Clare, Jocelyn Adams and Julie Reece.

perf5.250x8.000.inddWe see from your blog that you love visiting castles and we wondered which was your favourite?

Neuschwanstein, by far.  The first time I saw it, I forgot how to breathe.  It was more grand and opulent than anything I could imagine.  It was (and remains) the epitome of everything I ever imagined a fairy tale castle to be.  Not only that, the “Mad” King Ludwig only lived in this magnificent palace for 172 days before his body was found, along with the body of his doctor, floating in a nearby lake.  While his death was ruled a suicide, the demise of this romantic and popular German king remains a mystery to this day.  There is so much history in this castle and is a must-see place of beauty and serenity.  It is a reminder that no dream is too big. Anything can be accomplished if we set our minds to them.

Thanks so much for joining us on the blog today Jenny, it has been an absolute pleasure to have you and we hope you will come back again and see us really soon.

Find out more about Jenny and her stories at the links below:





Follow Jenny on Twitter at @jkellerford


Desperately Seeking Inspiration …

A couple of weeks ago, I went on holiday to the Lake District. This is a place I love and have visited on many occasions but this was my first visit to Hill Top Farm in Near Sawrey, the first property Beatrix Potter purchased in the Lakes.

I think anyone who has heard of Beatrix Potter would be interested in (and enjoy) visiting this lovely house and garden but, as a writer, I found it particularly fascinating. Beatrix, getting over the untimely death of her fiancé, found inspiration in the house, gardens and surrounding areas, setting many of her subsequent books there. The Tale of Tom Kitten is set in the house and garden, The Tale of Ginger and Pickles is based in the village and The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck featured a duck that strayed from Hill Top to pick just three examples.

Wandering around the property, knowledgeable guides were on hand with copies of various books where visitors could match the illustrations to exact pieces of furniture and rooms in the house. My six-year-old daughter loved doing this. And so did I!

At Beatrix’s wishes, Hill Top’s rooms and furnishings “should be kept in their present condition” so that visitors could see where inspiration had come from and I really could see it. Her desk was laid out with letters and books and I must confess to having serious writing-desk envy (lots of drawers and cubby holes!) and could really picture the talented writer and artist at work. I could also see why she’d be inspired living in such a lovely farm in such a pretty part of the world.

Here’s a picture of me standing in the doorway of Hill Top. Please forgive the pasty legs!!!!


All of this got me thinking about inspiration. Two weeks ago Deidre blogged about locations for books and asked whether we like fictional or real settings. Last week, Alex took this a step further and blogged in more detail about the two locations (Glastonbury and Orkney) that have inspired her novels. I’d like to look at inspiration in general. Where does it come from? Does a location inspire a story? Does a story inspire a set of characters? Does an idea for a character inspire the plot? I guess it can happen in many ways.

For me, personally, the inspiration for my first novel didn’t come from a person or a place. It came from something that happened to me. I’d always wanted to write but had no idea what the story would be. When this particular thing happened, I thought, “What a great idea for a story” and once that thought popped into my head, it wouldn’t go away. Suddenly I had my protagonist too because she’s predominantly based on me although how she reacts to “the thing” in my novel isn’t necessarily how I reacted to it because her reaction makes a far more interesting story. The plot unfolded by me constantly asking myself, “What if…?” and “Why…?” which led to new characters, settings and experiences.

Location-wise, my book is set in a fictional North Yorkshire seaside town although it’s based very much on a combination of Scarborough (where I live) and Whitby just up the coast from us. These two settings in turn inspired certain events in the book as there is so much stunning scenery in this area that it would be impossible not to be inspired by it. Scarborough has a castle so I have used that. Both locations have lighthouse piers and I have used that concept but created my own version in my mind for a couple of key events.

To conclude this piece, I thought I’d do a bit of a research on where some very famous writers got their inspiration from. I started with one of the most obvious – JK Rowling – but ploughing through several pages of Google just revealed that she got the idea for Harry Potter in 1990 while staring out of a train window on a journey from London to Manchester (or was it Manchester to London?) I read another article saying that she spent the train journey imagining what Hogwarts would be like and that, by the time she got off, she had most of the characters. But this doesn’t really tell me where the initial idea came from. Was she thinking about writing a book set at a boarding school and trying to challenge herself to do something slightly different resulting in lots of “what if…” questions before arriving at Hogwarts? Was she thinking about writing a book for children and had had a conversation with someone about witches and wizards which set her creativity juices flowing? I don’t know. I don’t imagine for one minute that she stared out the window at some fields and suddenly this whole world was created. There must have been some sort of trigger. Mustn’t there?

I found a slightly more satisfying response when I decided to look up Enid Blyton, one of the Write Romantics’ favourites. It would appear that, since childhood, she’d always made up stories and that they flooded into her mind at night a little like mixed-up dreams. In her autobiography, The Story of my Life (1052) she described the process of a story-unfolding like viewing “a private cinema screen inside my head… and what I see, I write down.” I found a fascinating link all about Enid Blyton (see below) but I still don’t know exactly where the inspiration came from. What made her imagine a group of four children and a dog having adventures, or a tree that reached the clouds and had different lands arriving at the top, or a man with big ears and a little boy with a bell on his head? Some of these are slightly shall we say unusual things to just pop into the head or onto a cinema screen or whatever if was that Enid Blyton experienced so surely, again, there was some sort of trigger. For more info, check out: http://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/enid-the-writer.php

I checked out a few more writers but it was a similar story i.e. no specific pinpointed moment. And then it struck me that perhaps that’s just how it is with most writers; the ideas just appear with no specific sources. Perhaps that’s what being a writer and being creative is all about? Perhaps I’m unusual in being able to pinpoint the exact moment in time that my idea for Searching for Steven materialized because, not that I come to think about it, I can’t pinpoint where the idea for the sequel came from. It wasn’t from personal experience, that’s for sure. I think just popped into my head … while looking out of a train window … as if on a private cinema screen (or did I read that somewhere else?!)

Over to you. If you’re a writer, where has your inspiration come from? Something you’ve experienced? Something you’ve read? Something you’ve overheard? Or did it just materialize? I’d love to hear more. And if you’re a reader, what do you think might inspire you to write?

Thanks for reading.

Julie xx

The Wednesday Wondering – The One That Got Away!

Welcome to our 2nd posting of The Wednesday Wondering. Can we just start by saying thank you so much to everyone who joined in and commented on or responded to our 1st posting last week.

This week’s question was also posed by Write Romantic Julie:

What is the one published book that you wish you’d written and why (doesn’t matter if it’s a change of genre for you)? 

Ooh, tricky! What will the Write Romantics go for? Will it be their favourite childhood book? Will it be the one that banked millions? Will it be something that inspired them to become a writer? Or simply a story so delicious that they wished they’d thought of it. Let’s find out. I promised Alex I wouldn’t always post them in alphabetical order so she has the constant pressure of being 1st so here are our responses in a completely random order…


When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman (Headline Review, 2011): It’s the story of childhood and growing up in the 60’s and 70s, following the narrator, Elly, through to her adult years.  It has the feel of a memoir about it and the relationships she draws between her unconventional family and her friends ring so true that I found myself constantly saying ‘Yes!’ as I read it.  It’s funny and sad and quirky and I so wish I had created this cast of oh-so-real characters.  As a debut novel it’s inspirational as well as an engrossing read.

Going to be fairly obvious and say Harry Potter. Not just because it would allow me to bathe in Champagne, sleep on a bed made from the down of long extinct dodo birds and turn up to the RNA conference in a chaffeur driven Bentley convertible, with George Clooney at the wheel, but also because my kids might actually rate me as cool!
I’d love to be able to write a big fantasy book. The kind set in another world full of heroes, villains, magic and monsters.  However, as I struggle to write about anywhere that I haven’t actually been to, I don’t think my brain is capable of creating an entire fantasy  universe. It feels hugely presumptuous to say this seeing as George R. R. Martin is such a brilliant writer but I would have loved to have written ‘A Game of Thrones’.
Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol. It is one of my favourite novels. I love the way it takes you into the life of Ebezeezer Scrooge, we get to see all of his life, what it has been, and how only he has the power to change his own future. It is all about second chances. We also see the lives of those he deals with on a daily basis, and how he affects their lives, by the decisions that he makes. An amazing story, that I would have loved to pen.
All of them!
I’m going to really cheat here because I have three but for very different reasons and one of them is a huge cheat because it’s actually a series. 1. The Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton but, if I had to pick one, it would be Second Form at Malory Towers. I was bought the 1st one as a birthday present from a neighbour and begged my mum to buy me the rest as I was gripped. I loved the ‘nasty girl’ and how the relationships developed between the protagonist and her boarding school friends. 2. Flowers In The Attic by Virginia Andrews which is my favourite book. It made me cry and I could not stop reading it. It’s the first page-turner I ever read and the only book I’ve read more than once (think I’ve read it about 6 times). 3. Bridget Jones’ Diary. It put ‘chick lit’ on the map and opened it up to a whole new reading set. I remember laughing out loud so often and relating (like most women) to so many aspects of it. Well done, Helen Fielding; amazing work!
So, you’ve heard what some of The Write Romantics have to say. What would your answer be. We can’t wait to hear from you!