The Seven Deadly Sins of Writers

Just seven? Seriously, this wasn’t a difficult post to write. I can think of many ways authors make life difficult for themselves. But they are complex creatures… yes, I can see their partners or family – or editors! – nodding vigorously in agreement. All of these are based on my own experience, and I’ve worked hard to cross some off my list. How many do you tick? Perhaps you’d like to comment below anonymously!

Before we start, this is how the dictionary defines a sin:
“An act regarded as a serious or regrettable fault, offence, or omission.”

One… the biggest ego in the world – which can so quickly swing to being the smallest. Whilst starting a first draft, I have what I call “X Factor Moments”. That is, flashes of thinking the book I am writing is so brilliant that any film director would be mad not to turn it into a movie. Then, usually, a third of the way through a manuscript, the total opposite happens and I suffer a massive crisis of confidence. It’s an exhausting rollercoaster and a regrettable fault, indeed, because it can shred a writer’s nerves.

Two… using writing as an excuse to justify overindulging in substances. Coffee, wine, chocolate, cake – be it a bad review or fantastic book launch, we’ll tell ourselves our poison of choice is the only way to commiserate or celebrate. This inevitably leads to writer’s bottom and is a huge offence against our health. Last year I took myself in hand and got cycling. I still enjoy my coffee and cake but try to aim for moderation.

Three… Comparison. With other authors – which, inevitably, leads to jealousy. I blogged about this here and can heartily recommend this post if you ever suffer  pangs of wishing you were J K Rowling. Remember, your own success could be just around the corner. Comparing yourself is fruitless as there is a lot more to an author’s career than just the quality of their work. Luck plays a part and it is pointless wasting energy fretting over something that you can never consciously acquire. Instead focus on learning, improving and becoming the best version of yourself.

Four… Use their job as a threat. I do this quite a lot. “Be nice (read that as ‘do a good job’), or I’ll write you, as a villain, into my next book.” I say it with a sweet smile and little tinkling laugh, but believe me, I mean every word. This phrase has come in handy with all sorts of people, including an optician, tiler and a gynaecologist!

Five… Selfies. I now take these regularly to promote my work. And yes, I admit the sin of vanity – I do sometimes use Instagram filters. Like the one below. It’s a coaster about coffee because my upcoming May release, The New Beginnings Coffee Club, features this marvellous drink a lot. Last week I visited my editor and we were talking about photographers who ask clients which is their “best” side. Most of us wouldn’t know but *shamed face* I do now. Although I can never remember which it is!

Six... An obsession with social media. Hands up. At all hours I feel compelled to check my notifications on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I tell my family – and worse, myself – that this is purely for work. That funny gif of Brad Pitt? *Ahem*, um yes, it might inspire a character. And don’t get me started about checking the Amazon ranking of a newly released novel!

Seven… The blame game when things go wrong. The fact is, the publishing industry – the charts, readers, reviews – it’s all such a random, fickle, unpredictable business. Yes, sometimes causes can be pin-pointed, but prolonged negative thinking, resentments, bitterness – they are highly destructive and ultimately futile. If it’s impossible to focus on the positives – or they just aren’t there – then alter your situation, even if that means changing agent or publisher. I find meditation and mindfulness help. Plus a recent interest in Buddhism. Rubbish happens and will probably happen again. Usually it isn’t personal. For your own sake, try to move forwards.

Coffee Club Chat!

Yesterday I was thrilled to visit my publisher, HQDigital, at the News Building on London Bridge where HarperCollins is based. They had run a competition for bloggers to meet me for coffee and chat about my upcoming release, The New Beginnings Coffee Club. It was especially enjoyable for me to take part in a physical event to celebrate this novel’s release, as so much of my writing life is spent online. So I really appreciated the Coffee Club squad (as I now call them – bloggers and editors alike!) giving up their time.

Talking of coffee, that’s the first thing I thought of when I arrived at Stockport station to make the two hour train journey to Euston. And lesson learnt from my last, nauseous journey to London, I sat forward-facing and didn’t read too much! The weather was gorgeous and in no time at all, I found myself in one of the HarperCollins board rooms, lapping up the beautiful views of the capital’s skyline  – and more of the black stuff.

How wonderful to meet well-respected bloggers Rachel Gilbey (left) and Sharon Wilden. Their reputation precedes them and, along with my editor Victoria and editorial assistant Hannah, we spent three hours chatting, gossiping and belly-laughing about the publishing business, books and my new novel. On hand was an array of tiffin and biscuits, coffee and sparkling water, and we talked about industry trends and our favourite authors.The time whizzed by and it was really fascinating to hear the bloggers’ views on reading, writing and the industry – my editor and I fired off many questions! And I enjoyed explaining about the characters and themes in my  new book which is very close to my heart.

Also, I was super excited to see the fantastic book trailer for my new novel! My editor offered to show it to me before Rachel and Sharon arrived, but I managed to hold off for the premiere!

 

All in all it was such an exciting day. Thanks to Rachel and Sharon for their time and jokes! And remember, ladies, what happens at The News Building stays there!!

Seven Signs you’re a Coffee Addict!

My name’s Sam and I’m… a coffee addict. Got the T-shirt, literally! No two ways about it. The black stuff equates to my writing fuel… well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! And putting together this blog post wasn’t difficult, as all of these signs apply to me. How about you?

One…Your favourite barista knows exactly what you drink, you go in there so often. For me, it’s either a small, black Americano or a medium one with an extra shot of hot water. Or, occasionally a small hot chocolate. My local barista always seems to be able to read my mood and guess!

Two… You’ll make a detour to go to your favourite coffee shop. Often, when I need a couple of items from the supermarket, instead of walking to the nearest ten minutes away, I’ll march a whole half-an-hour into town just so that I can get my coffee shop fix!

Three… You rate places by the standard of their coffee. Museums, garden centres, airports, department stores… Their actual purpose as a building is secondary to your caffeine needs!

Four… You have a top table in your head of your favourite cafes for certain hot drinks. My current one – for hot chocolate? Marks & Spencer first, followed closely by Le Depart cafe in St Michel, Paris (I visited last week!), then Waitrose and finally Starbucks.

Five… You suffer the classic coffee-addict’s weekend migraine. Supping your Americanos or Lattes from seven am each day, when you are up and out to work, you body starts to suffer from withdrawal when you have a lie-in on a Saturday and deny it that first early caffeine hit.

Six… Even if you are staying in the coffee shop, you order your drink in a take-away cup because it stays hotter for longer and delays that sad moment when your caffeine is all gone.

Seven… You don’t one hundred per cent trust anyone who doesn’t drink coffee. Tea? That’s a bit namby pamby 🙂

And, just for me,  I think I ought to add on eight… You write a novel about your favourite drink! The New Beginnings Coffee Club is set in a lovely village cafe, run by a rather gorgeous, enigmatic barista called Noah.

It’s a must-read for caffeine fans!

 

 

 

 

Padlocked in Paris!

Last week I enjoyed a lovely trip to Paris. I worked there ooh, thirty years ago, and soon remembered how to navigate my way around the underground and ask for the most important thing, in French – a cafe and gateau! In fact, my romantic memories of the place inspired my 2014 novel From Paris with Love. And not much had changed. The underground still smelt musty! The Sacre Coeur still stole my heart. It was perfect April weather, with blue skies and lots of pink blossom. We enjoyed Tunisian tagines in St Michel, the bustle of the shoppers in the Champs Elysees and husband and I got a little carried away, kissing under the Eiffel Tower 🙂

However, there was one thing that was unexpected and different – padlocks, bearing sweethearts names, EVERYWHERE. Apparently they used to be fixed largely on one of the Parisian bridges, the Pont des Arts, but by 2015 there were almost one million. Structurally, the bridge was beginning to suffer with the weight, so the authorities cut them off.

However, undeterred, tourists now fix them in other places – for example in a statue’s hand…

Or on a pavement chain…

I really enjoyed reading the different messages engraved on the variety of coloured locks – although to others they could be seen as environmentally destructive or as eyesores. And whilst I appreciated them, would I follow this tradition myself? Apparently this symbolic gesture has been made for centuries across the world and padlocks can be seen in many capitals now. But what if you break up badly with your partner or spouse? Would you really want a permanent symbol of that relationship existing or even standing proud? Personally, no! Certainly not if it was in my locality. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was out of sight, in another continent.

Still, it inspired me, as a romance writer. My heart warms at the thought of  besotted couples wanting to express their love in such a public manner.

To me they simply add to the beauty of possibly the most charming city in the world.

 

Love in a cup – Writers and Coffee

T.S. Eliot once said “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,” and I certainly feel like that about my writing career (although unlike Eliot, I see this as a positive thing!) This rich, chestnut-coloured liquid (I take mine straight) has fuelled bursts of inspiration and helped settled my nerves after a rejection. And it always accompanies a baked treat if there is cause for celebration. Like nothing else (okay, apart from my husband and kids) coffee has been a steadying influence along the rollercoaster journey of becoming a published author. It’s a big part of my writing life and inspired my next novel  out in May, The New Beginnings Coffee Club. Hands up, I’ve conducted something of a love affair with this drink, for many years now. As have many writers. Legend has it that Lee Child drinks 30 cups of the black stuff, every day!

So is it the caffeine that attracts me? No – purists brace yourselves, but I only drink decaff. Yet decaffeinated coffee has come a long way in the last five years, with restaurants and cafes going the extra mile and installing machines that will produce it, instead of offering only instant. I don’t get that chemical hit. So what’s the attraction? For me its the flavour, its richness, the warmth.  I always drink coffee with a biscuit or cake. So no doubt my hit is from that sugar. Nothing keeps me at my desk like an large Americano and slice of cake like the banana loaf below. Just the smoky, roasted aroma makes me feel settled and ready to put finger to keyboard. Perhaps this was why playwright John van Druten said “I think if I were a woman I’d wear coffee as a perfume.

Having said that, we’ve all, at some point, drunk a bad cup – yet still finish it,  even draining the dregs. And I think author Edward Abbey summed up how I feel, when he said “Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.” It’s as if my authorly brain sends out messages to consume, regardless of flavour, because it knows that beautiful liquid is a necessary creative tool!

At least five times a week I go into a coffee shop ( and I did work out the maths of how much that means I am spending in a year, and needed a lie-down afterwards!) This breaks the routine of my stay-at-home author job. Sometimes I meet friends, writerly or not. Often though, I just go on my own and spend the time planning out the next chapter of a book. A change of surroundings can be hugely inspiring. And, as explained in the picture below, going out for a coffee means so much more than just going into a shop.

Novelist Gertrude Stein certainly agreed that there is something special about the experience of drinking coffee:
Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup.”

I loved writing The New Beginnings Coffee Club, which is about a cafe, in a small village, that has a real community feel. Jenny Masters’ charmed existence comes crashing down around her ears. Can a little bit of caffeine really help her become the woman life always intended her to be?

This book features my most favourite character ever and if you love feel-good stories – and coffee – it’s up for preorder here.

 

 

Top five reactions when people discover I’M AN AUTHOR.

Recently I’ve made a lot of new friends (in-the-flesh, for a change, and not just online!) and the way they react, on discovering my profession, usually falls into one of five categories, some of which  make me a bit wary of wearing my “I’m a writer” T-shirt.

1  They become starry-eyed. In awe. I blame JK Rowling for this 🙂 People imagine red carpet events and sales in the millions. They start inserting complex words into their conversation (that I don’t understand) and talk of the high-falutin’ literary works they read, as if intimidated. So I thank them, but if pressed further, make it clear I’m nothing special. I’m not curing cancer nor have I discovered a new planet. I’m simply lucky enough to be getting paid for an activity I adore.

2  Almost without exception, they declare that they have always thought of writing a novel. This irritates some authors, but not me – as I’ve said above, I’m not exceptional. If I can do it, why not anyone else? I’m a grafter – had to keep my nose to the grindstone during my four years at university, unlike some friends who could socialise as much as they pleased and just cram at the last minute. It’s been the same with writing – I wrote novel after novel at home, for eight years filled with tears and rejection, before landing my publishing deal. So when people react like this I say go for it! You might surprise yourself. Or, you  might discover it is a lot harder than you imagined.

me writer tshirt

3  Quite often, when people discover my genre – romantic comedy – their awe turns to disdain. And I annoy myself by going on the defensive. I laud Mills & Boon authors who earn more than your average writer could dream of. I explain what a diverse, popular genre it is. I did this recently and received the sneery reply “I’m sure it is”. I imagine, in some circles, actors find this if they tell people they perform in a soap and not on the Shakespearean stage. I’m working on not letting these people press my buttons. Huge skill is required in making prose sound chatty and light. The same prejudice is sometimes shown towards children’s authors. I just have to accept that his is just one small downside to a career I thoroughly enjoy.

4  People say what a difficult job it must be – don’t I ever run out of ideas? I explain my belief that the brain, like any muscle, performs better the more you use it. Before you know it, you automatically take on board inspiration. I used to particularly find this when selling short stories. At the beginning I struggled to write even one. But before my novel deal, I sold 50 in one year. My brain just seemed to adapt to searching out suitable material. What’s more, there are a lot more challenging jobs out there, like nursing or serving burgers and fries all day. So yes, you do require determination and stamina but your passion makes it an easy career to follow.

5  The final reaction – it must be the only job in the world where people feel they have a perfect right to ask how much you earn! Not that this bothers me too much. In fact (just between us) I take a certain pleasure in telling them that most writers never earn enough for it to be their only source of income, and watching their jaws drop! Again, I blame JK Rowling (sorry!) for their misconception that being an author automatically means riches beyond your heart’s desire. If you are lucky, with a decent back catalogue out there, then yes, one day you might earn enough to support a mortgage and family. But don’t count on it. It’s not a profession you enter to become a millionaire.

New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

Happy New Year everyone! I wish you a healthy and content 2017. I don’t make new resolutions, these days – not in terms of giving up chocolate or promising to be in the gym every morning by seven. However I have lived through many years of making resolutions about my writing. Here are the top five I consider to be useful and realistic – and I’m sure some of you have tried and tested effective ones, and it would be great if you shared them here!

New year res for writers

Firstly – be true to yourself. Don’t try to mimic other writers because you will never be a better version of them – just as no one can be a better version of yourself. Love Lucy Diamond? Great – read her books and try to analyse how she pulls readers into her stories and makes her lead characters so likeable. But don’t aim to reproduce her style. You have your own voice which – in my experience – will eventually emerge. It may be a long journey to find it, driven by writing manuscript after manuscript, but when you finally have that lightbulb moment and feel the words in your head are translating to the page exactly as they should, it’s a precious thing that – ultimately – will make you stand out as different, on the slushpile.

Secondly – learn to appreciate constructive criticism. This one can be hard! If you are an aspiring writer and someone more experienced has given you negative feedback, try to step away from your personal hurt and clinically look at the comments. And the same applies to a published author who has just received a bad review. If it is personal and insulting then it doesn’t deserve your attention – but if it’s polite and makes potentially fair comments, then consider analysing the negatives and maybe take them on board. I’ve found some unfavourable reviews quite useful in the past as they have given me an insight into where I  might be going wrong, in terms of creating relatable characters and plots that keep readers wanting to read on, right to the end. And if the negative feedback is from your editor, during revisions, just remember – she/he believes in you and is simply investing their time in trying to make your book even better than they already believe it is.

Thirdly – Read, read and read more. I failed dismally at this is 2016. But some of the books I did find time to enjoy really helped me to be more adventurous with my own writing. It is easy to get stuck in a rut with your own style if you don’t get a taste of how other authors are pushing boundaries and hitting the pleasure-spot for readers. I try not to let my writing style stagnate.

Fourthly – don’t forget why you started writing. Presumably – like me – it was due to a love of words and crafting sentences together. If it was for fame and fortune (*hollow laugh*!) you won’t survive the path it takes to get published. But if writing is a dream that comes from the heart, then when you get rejected or published and have to deal with deadlines, promotional work, bad reviews etc, just remind yourself that you are doing what you love and leaving behind a legacy of your creativity.

Finally, aspiring authors – don’t do what I did in the early days, and make the resolution “to get published this year”. It doesn’t quite work like that! Instead resolve to achieve something more attainable like “this  year I will submit my work to twenty agents” or  “this year I will see if I can get one full manuscript request”. Don’t set yourself too high expectations as you will feel you’ve failed, even if, in the bigger picture, you haven’t. Savour small victories, like a positive rejection letter. The road to publication takes many small steps, not one giant leap.

Best of luck and above all else, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. It’s a crazy business, this publishing malarkey, and dealing with it can be a challenge for us sensitive writing souls.

Gag that Green-eyed Monster!

Okay. Hands up. Which of you has NEVER  felt envious of another author? Very few I suspect. And there is no shame in that. A healthy sense of competition is a good thing, in my view. As long as you keep some perspective.

I like to think my authorly friends know me well enough to realise that I am always genuinely chuffed when they do well – as I feel they are when a book of mine climbs the charts. But I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t think, now and again, ooh, how wonderful to sell your film rights or go to that amazing party – wish that had been me, as well as you…

And it’s hard when you’re an aspiring writer, to see pals get that deal when you are still struggling with rejection. And if you finally get published and then your book doesn’t fly to the top of the Kindle store like your bestie’s, you can question your own talent.

green eyed monster

But all of this is pointless. There are so many factors to do with how successful a book is, aside from the actual writing. Some publishers give their books higher prices than others and this can seriously affect their rank. Others may not design as eye-catching covers or do much behind the scenes to help market the story. And then every book needs a degree of luck to catch the reading public’s eye and no amount of talent will help you snare that.

Recently I read an interesting article about how Olympians are trained. I mean, it must be hard for any runner competing against the unbeatable Usain Bolt, for example. How do they keep the green-eyed monster under control and  not let it affect their own sense of worth – and, ultimately, their performance? The answer? Olympians are trained to focus soley on their OWN personal bests. Didn’t win a medal? No matter, if they ran a race and beat their previous record, these athletes and their coaches consider they’ve done incredibly well.

So, my advice – that I try to follow! – is simply to aim to write my next book even better. To research more effective ways to market and promote my work. To continue to expand my social media platforms. To avoid getting stuck in a rut creatively. To concentrate fully on my own career. I am super-pleased with the current success of my new novel, Breakfast under a Cornish Sun. I feel my writing has moved up another step and that – so far! – is reflected in some lush reviews and that means everything to me. Okay, so I may not have millions in the bank, like EL James – but who’s to say that might never happen, as long as I continue NOT to fret  that Idris Elba isn’t begging to play one of my two gorgeous heroes in a movie of my book?!

We may never be the next Stephanie Meyer or land red carpet events galore, but if we can look back in a few years and see how our readerships have grown and our writing has developed, I reckon that makes us winners after all.

Five Top Traits for Heroes

I’ve been thinking lately about what is the difference between a romance, which I write, and Women’s Fiction. One is that far more attention is given to the hero in my genre. I’m a romantic at heart and as a teenager and young woman I would often lie in bed at night, plotting out stories starring me and my current actor crush. Some of these were quite complex and would last over several nights- oh yes, the list was long… Starsky, the Bionic Man – even Boy George! This was before I knew I’d be an author. Of course now those dark hours are spent plotting my next novel. And the driving force behind my story is often centred on the hero.

heroes

So what does a hero need to make my heart flutter and pulse rate? In my new release, Breakfast under a Cornish Sun, there are two heroes to whet your appetite and I’ll use them to demonstrate my five top favourite traits. And I’m not talking about physical appearance as women are very varied in what turns them on. Take Lucas in my new book – he is the perfect Poldark lookalike, with his raven curls and swarthy complexion and is an instant joy to Kate Golightly, who headed to Cornwall in search of this fictional hero. Whereas Tremain, on the other hand, is stockier with super short fair hair.

No, personality transcends looks every time when it comes to longstanding sexiness. And Lucas with his dangerous dark looks and couldn’t-give-a-damn attitude demonstrates the first trait I find irresistible. It’s not very PC to say, but I love a streak of arrogance, because this shows confidence. There is nothing more sexy than a man who is self-assured and unprepared to change just to please others.

Secondly, however, I need a degree of vulnerability that explains this cocksure behaviour, otherwise that utter confidence tips into becomes unattractive. Take Tremain, the other gorgeous man Kate Golightly meets when she visits Cornwall. He is surly. Unsociable. A man of few words. Appears rude sometimes. Yet when he does speak his statements seem loaded with emotion and hint at a tragic past only a special woman could get him to share. This vulnerability makes the hero a challenge – can the protagonist persuade him to open up? Because opening up makes a hero seem even braver.

Breakfast quote superhero clark kent

Thirdly, oh yes, I need heaps of passion and both Lucas and Tremain have fire in their eyes. Because passion hints at a sense of recklessness which, in good measure, means the difference between an average and breathless kiss. Passion means danger. Pleasure. Spontaneity. All the ingredients for a memorable encounter that will get readers turning the page.

Fourthly and equally important to passion is compassion. I need a hero who cares for other living things than himself. And in Breakfast under a Cornish Sun this is one quality that will help Kate decide if her future is with either of these two Cornish hotties. I won’t give too much else away, other than to say her chosen one takes a while to work out.

Finally – urgh, this is hard. Which trait to select?! There are so many other qualities I seek in my perfect fictional man. Tenderness. Strength. Humour. Sincerity… in fact I think that answers my question. Complexity. Complexity is everything when creating the perfect hero. Us women and readers like a challenge, right? So we want a hero who is going to take a whole book to work out. And both brooding Lucas and troubled Tremain have deep-seated reasons for their demeanour and behaviour. This makes them realistic and relatable and – I hope – hotter than ever.

Where To Find Inspiration

As an author, I am often asked where I get my inspiration from. People not connected to the writing world are amazed that us pen-pushers don’t run out of ideas. But – it may seem obvious to say it –  there is inspiration to be found all around us, if we keep our eyes and hearts open. Here are some of the places that have provided stories for me.

The Zeitgeist – I am fascinated by what grabs the public’s imagination. With my new summer novel, Breakfast under a Cornish Sun, it was the TV series Poldark. Women across the world seemed enamoured with this programme, especially the lead character. And this got me thinking, what would it feel like to meet your fictional hero in real life? Kate Golightly finds out, in my story, when she heads off to the coast to find her very own mining hero! Likewise, the public’s obsession with Downton inspired my debut novel, Doubting Abbey.

Whereas the inspiration for my Christmas bestseller Mistletoe Mansion was the public’s obsession with celebrities and the gossip magazines featuring them. The main character, Kimmy, lands a house-sitting job in a posh area and becomes friend with a famous person – and discovers that the celebrity life-style isn’t all it’s cracked up to be after all…

Locations – places you have fallen in love with, over the years. For me, obviously rugged, brooding Cornwall. Plus Paris (as in my novel From Paris with Love). I worked there as a young woman and never forgot its romantic, bohemian feel. My honeymoon was on a Greek island. The cheery village feel and stunning sunsets inspired the setting for my award-winning 2015 novel Game of Scones. My novella, How to Get Hitched in Ten Days was set in a fifties diner after I’d eaten in one which blew me away with its fab American memorabilia, and reminded me of the film Grease. So think back over your life and places that have meant something to you. Draw on that passion. The setting doesn’t need to be exotic, just somewhere you can get excited about as a background to your characters’ stories.

Cornwall sea

The Tabloids/Magazines/Reality shows. Well, they do say life is stranger than fiction! If an article makes you gasp enough to tell your family or friends about it, then that is probably something worth writing down. I founds these forms especially useful when I used to write short stories for women’s magazines. And they don’t need to be the sensational stories – perhaps the heartwarming ones  instead, like communities pulling together to overcome adversity.

People. Keep your eyes and ears open. Tap into conversations you hear in a shop or pub. Speak to people on the till or in a queue. I’m a very chatty person and can’t help but strike up conversations. It is fascinating what people will tell you. I know many of the workers at my local supermarket – the one that plays darts, another who goes camping, the lady whose son has a Masters degree in astronomy, the man who works on local radio… I listen to the ups and downs they go through. I’ve also spoken to fellow customers who are on a health-kick or lonely ones who are widowed… Everyone has a story and are often keen to share it if just prompted by a friendly word or smile.

Moments of emotion – whether that is something sad, moving, hopeful, happy or funny. We all experience these on a day to day basis. Draw on the incidents that really make you feel something and stay in your mind. They could provide material for a plot or character. Keep a record of them in your notebook. Like in the short story I wrote about someone who accidentally poured hollandaise sauce over a pudding, instead of custard – that was based on me and my laidback husband still polished off his dessert! How that had made us laugh. Or the time we got burgled whilst we’d gone on holiday. We’d left the house in a terrible mess. The neighbours thought the criminals were responsible and we didn’t confess it was us. Oops! Cue a few feelings of shame!

spotted dick

Also, don’t be afraid to tap into your own mood when writing. Don’t hold back. I was in a very happy, sunny, shiny place when writing Game of Scones and I think that probably showed. Whereas this year has brought challenges and I think that is reflected in the heartache a couple of characters deal with in Breakfast under a Cornish Sun. So be your own inspiration, because that will mean the writing has real meaning, is heartfelt and true.