Where She Will Shine by Sylvia Anderson

Today I’m featuring Fiona Maclean who writes under the pen name of Sylvia Anderson. Her first novel, Where She Will Shine, was self-published in April. Here’s the blurb:

Where She Will Shine is a contemporary literary work of fiction which concerns the life of a student, Mary MacDonald, in 1960s Scotland. It is a vibrant tale full of contrasts, colour and excitement. When Mary leaves the croft for the “big city” of Glasgow she meets individuals who will change her life forever. Her life is lonely and raw at the start until she meets David Cochrane, who has a life hidden from his mother, but Mary falls in love with him – her first “real love”. 

In the late sixties, the Beatles were in full swing and dance halls were popular as meeting places for young people. It was the generation of full employment and the post war “baby boomers” had a satisfying life. The characters in the book, however, battle with issues which were as topical then as they are now – coming of age, student life, parenthood, rape and homosexuality.

Fiona has written a lovely post about her inspiration for writing Where She Will Shine and, also, her characters. So, without further ado, I’ll hand over to Fiona.

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“My inspiration for my work, Where She Will Shine, came from a visit to a First World War Monument in Perth, Scotland.  The brave war heroes remembered, sacrificed their lives so that the youth of today could shine and make the world a better place.

I enjoyed my student years, for it was a world that my parents had not had the chance to experience.  I’m a ‘Baby Boomer’ and echoes of the war years were still around whilst I grew up – poor housing; austerity; rationing.  I wrote the novel for folk in a similar position, who cherished the chance to ‘shine’ and for others to see inside the emotional head of a first-year student in 1968.

Life could be tough for my eighteen-year-old protagonist, Mary, but it is never as hard as the life of Alice, the waif she befriends in Glasgow and whom she helps to move on and make her life a success.

Mary was an only child – when I think about it, my best friend when I was growing up was an only child and I did envy her having her parents all to herself – I was one of five.  She had a totally different life to mine with extremely caring parents who catered to her every need – be it the beautiful food she ate; her immaculate school uniforms and shoes (mine were hand me downs) or lovely skating dresses (we met at the local ice rink).

I have met poor teenagers like Alice in my work as an Occupational Therapist and always felt pity.  Despite Alice’s brave and gauche front, she longs to be looked after by ‘proper’ parents like Ruaridh and Mhairi.  In the end, this happens to her and she has a good life after a deprived and unsupported beginning.

I have never lived on the west coast of Scotland but have had many holidays there.  It is my favourite place in the whole of Scotland.  Breathtakingly beautiful white beaches and mountains covered with beautiful flowers, make it a place to relax and enjoy nature.  Mary belonged to such a place and it gave her, ‘an ache in her heart’ when she thought of it.  One can imagine the change in her lifestyle when she arrived in Glasgow in 1968 into a student world of riot; the end of the Vietnam War; an intolerance of everything ‘old’ and conmen and women (Jimmy and Yvonne) on every street corner. 

Where She Will Shine is my first novel. I enjoyed writing it and was greatly motivated by ‘The Writing Classes,’ which I joined when I moved to Kuala Lumpur in 2014.  My tutor, Anne Hamilton, was particularly inspiring.  This was a great experience for the other writers commented on everything one wrote and I looked forward to every Monday, for a new exercise.  Kuala Lumpur is a city of very poor and very rich, like most cities in Asia.  I communicated largely with other ex-patriot wives who had gone out there with their partners to support them.  In the sunshine, every day we would walk and talk in the KLCC Park under the Petronas Towers.  It was a magical time and amongst the ex-pat women (forty-four of them), I had understanding, tolerant friends.  I miss them!”

Many thanks for that, Fiona. It’s always delightful to hear about the success of new writers, especially fellow alumni of writingclasses. I’m looking forward to reading Where She Will Shine!

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Where She Will Shine is available as an ebook from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Where-Will-Shine-Sylvia-Anderson-ebook/dp/B06Y98WTQ4

 

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Interview with Marianne Wheelaghan, bestselling author and director of writingclasses.co.uk

Today I’m welcoming Marianne Wheelaghan to the blog. Marianne is the author of The Blue Suitcase and The Scottish Lady Detective series, which includes Food of Ghosts and The Shoeshine Killer. She’s also the director of the excellent writing school, writingclasses.co.uk, which I attended and whose alumni and teachers continue to be an incredible support to me.

Welcome, Marianne!

Marianne

Firstly, could you tell us a bit about your writing and books?

I write both crime and historic fiction and am interested in exploring themes to do with “home” and “place” as well as “identity’ in my writing.

Food of Ghosts and The Shoeshine Killer are my first two crime novels in the bestselling Scottish Lady Detective series and are inspired by the time I spent living in the Pacific.

My first non-crime novel is the bestselling The Blue Suitcase. It is inspired by letters and diaries I discovered after my mother’s death and tells the true life story of a Christian girl growing up in Silesia in Nazi Germany.

How did you begin writing?

I have six sisters and two brothers. Growing up with so many siblings meant it was sometimes a bit difficult to get heard. My way of standing out was to tell stories. I suppose I must have been reasonably good at it because telling stories quickly became “my thing”.  It was only as an adult I started to write certain stories down and quickly realised there was nothing I’d rather do. I enrolled on a Master’s degree in Creative Writing with Lancaster University to help hone my skills. This changed my life. Not only did I develop my writing skills, but I gained the confidence I needed to take my writing seriously.

The Blue Suitcase

Marianne’s debut novel

Your debut novel, The Blue Suitcase, was loosely based on your mother’s experience of living in Silesia at the time that Hitler came to power. Could you talk a little about how the idea for the novel came about?

Shortly after my mother’s death I was helping my father sort out her personal things. We discovered a scuffed, blue suitcase full of her letters, diary extracts, photos, old postcards and faded documents, written in German, my mother’s first language.

My father wanted me to translate the documents – I’d studied German so it was not as mad as it sounds. I was appalled at the idea, my mother had been a very private person. I thought it a terrible intrusion of her privacy to read her private stuff. But Dad wouldn’t give up. You see, my mother was from Germany but she never talked about her family life before coming to Scotland after the end of WW2. In fact, you could say my mother’s early life was a mystery – we weren’t even sure where she was from in Germany. Dad believed knowing what was written in the letters and documents would bring her closer to him. I resisted doing what he asked, until we discovered this photo of Mum’s family.

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Mum is the smiling girl at the front of the photo, next to the older man – I recognised her immediately. The other people in the photo are her family – who knew I had so many aunts and uncles? However, it was not seeing all the family that made me change my mind, it was, rather, seeing the picture of Hitler on the wall behind them: if you look carefully, you can see it above my grandfather’s head. I was totally shocked at the sight of it. My mum was a good, kind, thoughtful person and although I didn’t know her family, I couldn’t believe they were not also good people. So why was there a picture of Hitler, a war criminal, on their living room wall?

Around this time I was also very aware of a book that had been around since 1996 called Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen.  In it, he argues that the vast majority of ordinary Germans were “willing executioners” in the Holocaust. The book was scathed by historians, and in the words of Holocaust historian Raul Hilberg, “it is totally wrong about everything and worthless”. However, seeing this photo of Hitler on my grandparent’s wall made me wonder if, after all, there could be some truth in Goldhagen’s theory. I decided to translate the documents to see if I could discover the truth once and for all.

The more I read about Mum’s life, the more shocked I was by what I discovered. When I finally finished translating everything I was both astounded and horrified and felt compelled to share my findings. Like thousands and thousands of ordinary Germans, my mother was not one of Hitler’s willing executioners, far from it. Like thousands and thousands of other ordinary Germans, she was a victim of Hitler’s terrible regime. As if that wasn’t enough, after the end of WW2, in peace time, my mother’s family, along with millions of other Silesian Germans, were forcibly expelled from their home. I knew what I had to do. It was time to set the record straight and the idea for The Blue Suitcase was born.

Food of Ghosts

Book 1 of the Scottish Lady Detective series

Your Scottish Lady Detective Series is set in the Pacific Islands, specifically Kiribati and Fiji. Why did you choose to set the novels in this region?

When I was growing up we didn’t have a lot of money. This meant we never went on holiday like others did and treats were for birthdays and Christmas only. But one thing we had all year round were books, hundreds of them, bought by my mum and dad from second-hand shops and jumble sales. They included, amongst many others, almost all of Agatha Christie’s 66 novels, RL Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Stacpole’s The Blue Lagoon. These books fuelled my imagination and shaped my dreams. When I wasn’t reading, I was travelling around the world in my head, voyaging to faraway, unspoiled places, populated by gentle, innocent people.

Then, one day I was lucky enough to get a job in some of the lesser developed countries in the Pacific, namely Papua New Guinea, Kiribati and later Fiji. I was going to live my dream. The reality, however, was very different from what I expected. Yes, there was unspoiled beauty and traditional culture and kind people, but there was also a dark side to life there. My paradisiacal countries were wonderfully different, but also wonderfully not so different.

It struck me that travelling was not so much about going to new places, as seeing our surroundings with a fresh perspective, and seeing it all: the good and the bad and the ugly. As Marcel Proust once said: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in looking with new eyes.”  As a writer, I wanted to share this lightbulb moment with others and I did what writers do, I wrote a book, or two. Why a crime novel? I believe a good crime novel can tell us as much about the darker side of society as any literary novel. Plus, I have many fond memories of reading an Agatha Christie or Margery Allingham into the wee hours, riveted until I found out who had done it. I wanted to recreate that feeling of suspense in my readers. So Detective Sergeant Louisa Townsend, AKA The Scottish Lady Detective, was born. Maybe not surprisingly, DS Townsend is a kind of modern day Miss Marple: a tad more gritty than cosy, she doesn’t suffer fools gladly but can also be kind, who is shrewd and intelligent but who can also make mistakes and even behave downright silly sometimes, and who has a dark side of her very own.

The Shoeshine Killer

Book 2 of the Scottish Lady Detective series

What challenges did you encounter when writing your novels and how did you overcome these?

In the Scottish Lady Detective novels, one of the biggest challenges is to bring totally alien peoples and places to life for the reader, and in doing so make the unfamiliar, familiar. I hope to achieve this by using very specific sensory details in the writing, so the reader really sees the magnolia trees, hears the traffic, tastes the overripe mangoes, smells the earthy market smells, and feels the giant drops of warm rain on their skin.

The biggest challenge when writing The Blue Suitcase was distancing myself emotionally from writing about my mother. I struggled with this until I had an epiphany: I would create a fictional family, very much like the true family but not exactly the same. This worked. Much of what happened to my fictional family happened to my real family, but some stuff didn’t, although it could have. Certainly, everything that happened in the novel is based on true historic fact: if didn’t happen to my family, it happened to someone else’s family.

Could you tell readers about writingclasses.co.uk? How did the school come about?

I decided to set up writingclasses for two reasons: I love writing and wanted to share my passion for it with others. I also believe to teach a skill is an honourable way to earn a living and in the words of Hanif Kureishi “I felt if I knew something, I should pass it on.”  

How are classes taught?

Today, with massive online open learning courses (MOOCs) becoming a part of everyday life, it is difficult to understand how in 2002 online courses of any kind, but especially short courses, were unusual.  As a lover of online learning, I was determined that writingclasses should offer short online creative writing courses, the kind of courses that I would have loved to have attended when I began writing. In my opinion online learning offers a flexibility that face-to-face classes simply cannot. Students can join in at a time that suits them, there is no being early or late and no need to find childminders/babysitters. For those of us juggling work and family life, learning online gives us access to courses that would have otherwise been denied us.

One of my favourite elements of the courses was that tutors read and commented on all assignments (quite often in other courses I’ve taken, tutors leave the critiquing primarily to students and, while peer review is always helpful, it’s the expert guidance of a more experienced writer which is most sought after). Why did you decide on this model?

 As all beginner writers know, one of the hardest things to find is an experienced writer who will read your work and give you honest, constructive feedback. This is why attending a course can be so helpful. However, when I was a beginner writer taking short courses, a tutor might give feedback on one piece of writing, possibly two, but never three. In my opinion this is simply not enough. We writers learn by our mistakes. It follows that the more we write, the more mistakes we can potentially make and the greater the opportunity we have to develop our writing skills, always assuming we have an expert at hand to help us recognise what the mistakes are. This is why on all writingclasses courses students are encouraged to write something new every week, why  “making mistakes” is obligatory, and why our experienced tutor-writers give helpful constructive feedback on every piece of creative writing the student submits during the course.

Several of your students have gone on to become published writers, myself included. Could you talk a bit about your students and why you think it is that so many have been successful in their writing?

A little bit of encouragement and feedback can go a long way but, ultimately, the students who succeed are, very much like yourself, the ones who do not give up.  Determination and staying power are often as important as ability and creativity.

And, finally, are you working on anything at the moment?

I am writing two books – the follow on from The Blue Suitcase and a third Scottish Lady Detective novel set in Edinburgh.  I’m not sure if it is a good idea to write two books at the same time. Time will tell ;-).   

Thanks so much for coming by to talk with us about your writing and teaching!

Readers can learn more about Marianne and her writing by visiting her website: http://www.mariannewheelaghan.co.uk/

Check out the courses on offer at her writing school: http://www.writingclasses.co.uk/courses.html  (Tip: The next semester starts on the 3rd October so do sign up early to guarantee your place– they’re great value!)

Follow her on Twitter: @MWheelaghan and @solovewriting

Buy her books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Marianne-Wheelaghan/e/B004AQKRXA/

https://www.amazon.com/Marianne-Wheelaghan/e/B004AQKRXA/

 

 

 

Interview with Marie Campbell about her debut novel Baby

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I’m delighted to be welcoming the talented author Marie Campbell to the blog today to talk about her debut novel, Baby, which was released by The Conrad Press on 13 July 2016. In addition to being a writer, Marie is also a trained proofreader and a fellow alumni of writingclasses.co.uk. As readers may recall, I recently reviewed Marie’s novel for Lothian Life. If you’ve not yet read my review you can do so here: http://www.lothianlife.co.uk/2016/08/baby/ 

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photo taken by Karen McGowran Photography

Welcome, Marie!

Firstly, could you please tell readers about Baby?

Thanks so much for having me, Kendra. My book, Baby, is a psychological thriller, based in Edinburgh, where I live. In it, Michael Stanton, goes to work one day and doesn’t come back. Everyone thinks his pregnant girlfriend, Jill, should accept that he has left her. But she just won’t believe that Michael would walk away from her and their unborn child. Increasingly desperate and alone, she is determined to find him.

What Jill doesn’t know is that Michael’s beautiful ex, Anna, wants him back, and won’t take no for an answer. And it isn’t just him she wants…

Where did the idea for the novel come from?

I like to explore the dark side of human nature, and look at the lengths seemingly-ordinary people will go to get what they want. Although this is my first book, I have also written many short stories, and in the main, they tend to have a dark side. I like to think ‘What would happen if…’. In the case of Baby, I thought about what would happen if someone believed they had an absolute right to something, and what they were willing to do to achieve that. I wanted to include strong, believable characters, and also to explore the flaws that exist within them.

The premise of the story is quite frightening. Being a mother yourself, did you find any of the scenes difficult to write?

To some extent, yes, but I find that I do tend to write about things that scare me, perhaps as a way of confronting them. Being a mother is a massive part of who I am, and I hope that I was able to convey the genuine, deep emotion that comes from that.

The novel is written in such a way that I couldn’t help but turn the page every time I got to the end of a chapter–I literally read the novel in two sittings, which is unusual for me. Was this purposeful on your part and, if so, how did you achieve this?

That’s amazing to hear – thanks so much. That’s what I hoped for and I’m really pleased that you think I’ve been able to achieve it. I think telling the story from the alternative viewpoints of Michael and Jill helped to maintain the momentum – hopefully readers want to read on because they want to find out what is in store next for each of them. They are both experiencing very different, but often equally traumatic, things at the same time.

Michael is still attracted to Anna, though he tries his best to hide it. There are many points in the novel where I found myself wondering why he didn’t try harder to escape. At times it almost felt like Michael didn’t mind having been abducted—as though he were suffering from some form of Stockholm syndrome. Why did you decide to write the story in this way?

Although Michael is utterly committed to Jill, he does, as you say, still find Anna attractive. I wanted to get across the fact that he is entranced by her, and that, throughout his captivity, he becomes dependant on her, almost to the point where he is so confused that he thinks maybe he doesn’t want to leave. I added the sexual elements to intensify his confusion and desire. Anna is a complicated, dangerous, but strong character, and I wanted her to be in control of the situation and to maintain her belief that what she was doing was the absolute right thing for all of them.

Could you talk us through the writing of the novel?

Five years ago, after having a baby, taking a career break from the Civil Service and moving house, I wondered what I could do to fill up all of the free time (!) I had. Writing was something I have always had a passion for, and I had dabbled with short stories, diaries and journals for years. So I decided to embark on an online writing course, as you mentioned above, with writingclasses.co.uk. Another course followed, by which time I had quite a portfolio of short stories. I started entering competitions and was even successful in a few of them. But what I really wanted to do was write a novel. Something that maybe someone would actually want to buy and read. A novel-writing course followed. As you know yourself, this was serious stuff – posting large chunks of previously private work and awaiting the critique of fellow students and tutors.

I loved doing the course though, and by the end of it I had the makings of a book – only around 40,000 words, but it was a start. My tutor from the course became a very good friend, and she supported and encouraged me to complete what I’d started.

By March 2014, I had a version of my book that I was happy with. And then all I had to do was find an agent. And then a publisher.

How did the novel come to be published?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, the first step was finding an agent – I knew that traditional publishing didn’t lend itself to unsolicited manuscripts from unknown authors. I armed myself with a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and began working my way through the list of agents. Some wanted an email, some wanted a letter. Some wanted a 100-word synopsis; others 300 words. Three chapters or fifty pages – I gave them what they asked for and waited for a reply. And some of them did respond. But it took six long months before James Essinger of Canterbury Literary Agency agreed to represent me. And then we began the process of tweaking, deleting and adding new chapters.

When it was finally as good as we both thought it could be (and very different from that rough first draft), James started the submission process. Some publishers responded, offering feedback and comments but saying they weren’t taking new authors. Others asked for more, and said they wanted to read it again, but it took a very long time, and many changes and amendments, before The Conrad Press, a publishing company based in Canterbury, Kent, took on my book.

What advice would you give to a new writer who is just starting out?

I’m no expert, but I would say just go ahead and write. Writing every day, or as much as possible anyway, is key to honing your craft. There have been many periods of time in my life when, for various reasons, I haven’t written, but I know now that practice is hugely important. I also remember my English teacher telling me not to ‘hide my light under a bushel’ when I wasn’t keen to read out my work in class. It’s taken me many years to heed this advice and be less secretive about what I do.

Doing courses has also been a massive help for me. And joining online forums and groups, where readers, writers and bloggers can connect and talk about all things books. Joining a local writing group is another great idea. Oh, and never leave the house without a notebook and pen (hard back A5 and blue rollerball for me, or, on the rare occasions I forget, a Minions notepad and broken crayon from the depths of my handbag…). You never know when inspiration might strike.

Do you plan to write any more novels?

It’s my intention to always write novels, from now on. I’ve started work on my second, another psychological thriller, this time exploring revenge.

Finally, how can readers keep in touch?

In lots of ways. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed doing is setting up a newsletter, which lots of people have signed up for. Receiving replies to these has been a great way of connecting with readers, and I’ve taken on board one of the suggestions I received via this route, in that my next book will be set in the North East of England, where I was born and lived before moving to Edinburgh eight years ago. If anyone is interested in signing up for the newsletter, they can do so here. Baby also has a Facebook page, Baby – Marie Campbell, and you can also find me on Twitter  @mariecampbell72. I also have a website Marie Campbell – Writer.

Thank you for the interview and a big congratulations on the publication of Baby!

Thanks for having me Kendra, it was an absolute pleasure.

Readers can obtain Baby from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Baby-Marie-Campbell-ebook/dp/B01IEB920K

Baby can also be purchased directly from The Conrad Press website: http://theconradpress.com/our-books/

The print copy is also now available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Baby-Marie-Campbell/dp/1783019646/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1470301480&sr=1-3&keywords=baby+marie+campbell

 

 

Interview with Claire Morley, the author of Tindog Tacloban

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Today we have Claire Morley here with us to discuss her novel, Tindog Tacloban. Welcome, Claire!

The inspiration for the novel / Typhoon Yolanda

Your novel is called Tindog Tacloban. What does this mean and why did you choose this as your title?

Hi Kendra, firstly thank you very much for this opportunity to speak about Tindog Tacloban.

The meaning of the title is Rise Up Tacloban and when I was volunteering in the city of Tacloban after the devastation wreaked by typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) there were banners all over the place with those words on. I wanted to use it in the title as a testament to the amazing spirit of the Filipino people, who had suffered so much, but were rebuilding their lives.

What is the story about?

The story is centred around three main characters. A father, Izel, who desperately tries to save his children from the wrath of Yolanda, his eldest daughter, 11 year old Lika Faye, who gets ripped from his arms in the flood water and is unwittingly recruited into the world of Webcam Child Sex Tourism and Helen a volunteer in Tacloban who is trying to come to terms with her own tragedy.

One of the themes I picked up on was the fragility of family life and the importance of children to a community (both in Tacloban but also with Helen in England when she loses Charlie and her entire life seems to fall apart). This added a fascinating layer to the story as it showed that, despite our thinking otherwise, Westerners are just as vulnerable as those who live in poorer countries, if for different reasons. This was a very democratising and brave element to add into the story. If you had to describe the theme of your novel, what would that be?

How interesting, I hadn’t thought of that as a theme, but it is a very pertinent point. There are two themes to Tindog Tacloban really, firstly the effect of a natural disaster, not only on the day it happens, but also the recovery afterwards and secondly raising awareness of a previously little known form of sex trafficking, that of Webcam Child Sex Tourism, which is rife in the Philippines.

I understand that you were a volunteer in the Philippines following the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda. What was that like and how did this experience feed into your novel?

It was an incredible experience. I remember flying to Tacloban and looking out of the plane window as we came in to land and seeing everything flattened. It was always the coconut trees which struck me the most, if they hadn’t been uprooted, their fronds had been stripped from them and they looked so sorry for themselves. And then on the journey from the airport to the volunteer house, we drove through the tented cities, where thousands of people were residing after losing their homes, their belongings and often family members. It was very emotional for me and I wanted to try and illustrate the plight of these people and what they had gone through.

Claire at Sagkahan School Tacloban small

Claire at Sagkahan School, Tacloban

I was very much drawn into the world of the Sombilon family as they struggled to survive Typhoon Yolanda and its devastating effects. Your writing really seemed to capture the experiences of the Filipino people and the terrible effects the typhoon had on their lives, from the immediate lack of food and water to the longer term psychological effects of poverty, the loss of family members and the general uncertainty such an event brings. How did you manage to achieve this?

I was very lucky soon after I had arrived in Tacloban to be introduced to a man called Fred Jaca, who had been a radio presenter before the typhoon. He kindly took me to meet survivors (and acted as interpreter when necessary) who I was able to interview and it was their experiences which I wove into the book to give, hopefully, a sense of reality of what it had been like for them during the typhoon and trying to survive afterwards.

What would you like readers to come away with, after reading your book?

Hopefully the understanding that it’s not only the day of a natural disaster that people are suffering, struggling to survive, but it is a long slow process to rebuild and of course, awareness of Webcam Child Sex Tourism, which I hadn’t heard of until I volunteered in the Philippines. And maybe to inspire people to volunteer, it is an amazing experience.

I understand that all profits from the sale of the novel will go to benefit organisations helping in disaster hit areas. What else can readers do to help?

There is an online petition to pressure governments to adopt proactive investigation policies in order to protect children against webcam child sex tourism which people can sign at: http://www.terredeshommes.org/webcam-child-sex-tourism/

IDV, the organisation I volunteered with, works with communities worldwide which have been affected by or are vulnerable to disaster. They help survivors to achieve sustainable recovery and build more resilient communities both before and after disaster. People can find out more on their website: http://www.idvolunteers.org/

Raul and his feeding programme, featured in the book were inspired by the Mobile Soup Kitchen for Kids (MSKK) set up by Reynold De Vera. MSKK is saving and changing lives, one soup bowl at a time. People can support and join them as they provide much needed help, nutrition and sustenance, to the children of Tacloban, Leyte, and many other areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda Their Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1556492901241816/?fref=ts

The writing of the novel / the author

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The famous creative writing instructor, Robert McKee, said “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” What is your opinion of his statement?

After my time volunteering I wanted to write a book and my initial thought was non-fiction. My partner suggested that more people would be inclined to read a novel. I believe you are more likely to appeal to a greater audience through telling a story and if it is done well, it can inspire, provoke thought and encourage action from its readers.

What do you feel you gained through the writing of Tindog Tacloban?

Writing Tindog Tacloban has given me the opportunity to raise awareness of some subjects I feel very strongly about and provide further funding for the organisations I worked with. However, personally, it has given me a chance in a way to thank those people who gave me their time and sometimes heart-breaking survival stories.

Could you talk us through the evolution of Tindog Tacloban? How did you go about publishing the novel?

To be honest, like all authors, I was hoping to get the interest of an agent and have Tindog Tacloban on the bookshelves and be jetting around the world attending book signings! However, the reality is that it is such a competitive world out there and unless you have an ‘in’ with an agent or publisher, it is almost impossible to get a publishing deal. So after countless rejections or non-replies from agents, I decided it was time to try and self or indie publish. I decided if I was going to do it, I might as well go it properly, so I spent time and money on some courses about self-publishing and social media marketing – my background is marketing, but I wasn’t so up-to-date on social media, so thought it best to learn. And once I felt I have enough information, I did it all myself.

I understand that you are a graduate of writingclasses.co.uk. Do you feel that taking a course assisted you in writing your novel? And which came first, the class or the idea for the novel?

Taking the course with writingclasses.co.uk was a huge help with writing Tindog Tacloban. I had already started the book when I came across the course, but I felt with no novel writing experience, I would benefit from the guidance of my tutor and fellow course students. Not only did I benefit from the course, but my tutor, Anne Hamilton, thought my book showed promise and agreed to work with me as my mentor and editor once the course was finished and her input has been invaluable. Not only from the technical aspect, but she was always there with encouragement when I felt the book wasn’t good enough.

Are there any future novels in the works?

I have the seed of an idea, but to be honest, since taking on the publishing of Tindog Tacloban I have been so busy, I haven’t yet had time to put pen to paper. Having spent so much time learning how to publish and market an ebook, I felt I could put all that knowledge to good use and have set up a business to provide a service to help other authors and am currently working on a case study to show how people can benefit.

Thank you for the interview and a big congratulations on the publication of Tindog Tacloban!

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Kendra’s review of Tindog Tacloban:

Izel realised their only hope was to try and stay afloat in the foul water swirling beneath him. He could feel the debris twisting and turning in the sea water as it eddied around his legs. Adrenaline kicked in and his only thought was how to save his family.

‘Grab my neck,’ he screamed to Lika Faye, hoping she could hear the words before they were swallowed by the howling winds.

Tindog Tacloban is a gripping debut novel about the effects of Typhoon Yolanda on one family, especially their daughter.

When Typhoon Yolanda hits land in Tacloban, the Sombilon family are ill-prepared. As the wind grows stronger, Izel Sombilon, the head of a household of seven which includes his parents, his wife and their three children, realises they must reach higher ground, and quickly. But when the black water crashes through their home, he loses sight of eleven year old Lika Faye and five year old Ellijah. Are they gone from him forever, or might they have somehow survived?

As they search amongst the remains of Tacloban, a neighbour tells him she thinks she may have seen Lika Faye, though she isn’t certain. Will a chance sighting be enough to sustain Izel’s search for her? His wife, Adelaida, would rather they put the disaster behind them so they can gather enough strength to rebuild. After losing their home and being without food or water, they need all they can muster just to keep going.

Meanwhile, back in England, Helen Gable decides to volunteer with World Disaster Response in the Philippines. When her group of volunteers meet Izel at a local school where he is helping to provide hot meals to children, they decide to take him on as a driver. They need help and Izel needs work. Helen learns that Izel’s daughter, Lika Faye, is still missing. Still recovering from the loss of her own son, Charlie, some months before, Helen can’t help but feel an affinity with Izel. But is Lika Faye still alive, and if she is, will they be able to help find her amongst so many missing and dead?

Tindog Tacloban is a powerful story which resonates far beyond its pages. It should be read and understood as much for its hopeful message of survival in the face of adversity as for what you will learn about the conditions of life in disaster zones and human trafficking. Morley crafts her story with skill and care, and her lifelike characters bounce off the pages in their need to be heard. This is an unforgettable story which will stay with me for a very long time.

Readers can obtain Tindog Tacloban from http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B014JGI0H0

You can follow Claire Morley on Twitter at: @clairemorley15

Catch up with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clairemorleyauthor

Learn more about her publishing business, My ePublish Book, which works with authors wanting to indie publish. As it is a time consuming process, they provide support to publish and market a book to get the best results for their clients. http://www.myepublishbook.com/

Writing jobs

Okay, so I know by now that if you’re in this ‘business’ of creative writing, it is highly unlikely to be for monetary reasons. Basically, if you’re not in it for the love of writing, you may as well not be in it at all. But, that’s not to say there aren’t opportunities to be had—jobwise—from writing, however contradictory that may sound. And as my Creative Writing MLitt at Glasgow University will finish in August, I just might look for some of these.

For example, I know that some people go on to teach creative writing in the community. This is how I came back to writing, through online community writing classes at writingclasses.co.uk. The personal, one-on-one attention gave me the confidence and skills I needed to keep going. This is something I’ve always valued, and which I believe is very important for a writer’s development. Many writers are introverts and so it may be difficult to take that first step towards sharing your work with others. Having people whom you trust read your work can be a tremendous help.

At the same time, it’s a huge responsibility. What if a writer you’re trying to help blames you for their work not being what they’d like it to be? What if you accidentally damage a new writer’s very fragile ego? I know how important that first round of comments can be, I’ve kept every comment I’ve received from teachers in a special folder on my computer.

Others may be lucky enough to land a job teaching creative writing at a university. In this case, it’s likely that your students will be more experienced, if not in creative writing then at least in an academic setting. That is not to say that they don’t also have fragile egos. In my MLitt programme at Glasgow University we held in depth discussions on all aspects of a piece of writing. It felt incredibly intimidating at first, especially if it was your writing which was up for discussion, but having so many people read and respond to your work could also be mind-bogglingly amazing. And it certainly left a lot for the writer to take away and work with.

I also know writers who have gone on to start their own business as a proof-reader/copyeditor and/or mentor to new writers. I can imagine this would be an enjoyable way to use your skills, especially as it’s likely that this could be done from home, in the comfort of your own living room, and you could pick and choose your clients. However, the downside (I suppose) would be having to advertise and seek out clients, as well as having to balance the independent business side of things. Although, perhaps, if you’re an independent author this is something you’re already used to. And being able to fit in a bit of proofing on the side could temporarily boost your income if done alongside other paid work.

Finally, there are those lucky enough to land a job at a publishing house, magazine or perhaps as a literary agent. These writers are lucky indeed as (one would assume) these jobs come with a regular salary, paid time off and a certain prestige in the literary world. Of course, I know that some of these jobs require a degree in publishing (as opposed to a Creative Writing degree). Lucky for me the MLitt at Glasgow University covers both the publishing side as well as creative writing.

As part of the Editorial and Publishing side of the course we had guest speakers from publishing houses, literary magazines and agents, all of whom were open to questions and very honest about what their careers involved.

However, many writers balance their non-writing day jobs alongside their writing. I understand the benefits of this as it allows time away from the writing world, which lets you return to your writing fresh, and also allows for more security perhaps than a writing related job might offer.

So, what will I do after I finish my Creative Writing MLitt? The short answer is to keep writing, keep blogging and continue trying to keep up with the literary world. However, I’ll also keep my eyes and ears open to any creative writing related jobs that may become available and put myself forward for them as and when they do. I’ll also look for any teaching opportunities that may become available, even if they are on a voluntary basis to start with. In short I will scout out any opportunities which may be lurking and try anything I can in an attempt to find a niche in a writing related field, because I love writing and would love to work in a related field. 🙂

Have I missed any writing related jobs? If so, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

Do you work in a writing related field? If so, what are the benefits of your role? Does teaching writing give you more of an eye when it comes to your own writing? If you work as a mentor do you find the balance you strike between helping other writers and your own work to be beneficial to you creatively? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks so much for reading! If you enjoyed this post you might be interested in following me. If so, just click on the ‘Follow this blog’ button on the upper right side of the screen.

Until next time!

Writing achievements and support

Today I received something very special in the post–my own copy of The Single Feather by R.F. Hunt!

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This is certain to be a terrific, thought-provoking read. Ruth and I both took novel writing classes at writingclasses.co.uk. It was there we got to know each other, albeit virtually, and to encourage each other with our writing. It was also there that we became friends with Katrina Hart, author of soon to be published fantasy ebook, Finding Destiny, which you can read about here: http://www.pilrigpress.co.uk/books.html .

When we became friends, starting a virtual writers’ circle of sorts, we were all beginners, now three years later, we are all published or soon to be published novelists. This is due in large part to determination, persevering at our writing and editing even when it felt like it was time to give up. Speaking for myself, it was writing friendships such as I have with Ruth and Katie which helped me through the difficult times, when writing felt impossible, as though I would never get anywhere with it. Writing is hard and it’s difficult to maintain self-belief in your project through hundreds of pages, which makes having the support of other writers who will support you with your ‘crazy ideas’ all the more important.

So…hip, hip hooray and three cheers for Ruth!

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I can’t wait to read The Single Feather!

Speaking of writerly support, I would be remiss to not mention how grateful I am for the support of Marianne Wheelaghan, whose writing classes assisted me tremendously on my writing journey. Her new murder mystery novel, Killer Shoeshine, is coming out soon with Pilrig Press, Here’s a photo of her previous novels, The Blue Suitcase (historical fiction) and Food of Ghosts (the first of the DS Louisa Townsend series), both are available from Pilrig Press and both are excellent reads: http://www.pilrigpress.co.uk/books.html

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Also, Anne Hamilton assisted Ruth, Katie and I greatly both as a teacher as well as in the preparation of our manuscripts and with much needed mentoring in my case. She is the author of the intelligent, humorous and thought provoking travel book, A Blonde Bengali Wife, about her journeys in Bangladesh, which you can buy here (all profits go to the charity Bhola’s Children): http://www.ll-publications.com/nonfiction.html Here’s a photo of it’s lovely cover:

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So a big thank you to all the wonderful, inspiring and helpful writers in my life! I can’t wait to read all of your books when they come out!

Are you a writer, and if so, have you found having the support and encouragement of friends or a writers group valuable to your own writing practice? Looking back on your own writing journey, what are the milestones which stand out to you and how do you think you managed to arrive at each? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below.