Tuesday, 28 January 2014


The first draft of the novel is done. It's been a hard slog - at times painful, at times enjoyable - but it's done. There's still a long way to go - there's lots of editing and redrafting to do - so I'm not celebrating just yet. Well, not properly. I have lots of work ahead including the three REs - research, restructuring and rewriting. As for research, I did some before but now I know what the story is I know what I need to get more information on; restructuring - lots of moving things about, putting characters into the past who are in the present, and so on; rewriting - adding words, taking words away (the delightful 'kill your darlings' time), improving or smoothing over what is already there (sanding away any words that snag). As has been said many times before by other writers - writing is editing. But when you're dealing with a novel-sized beast rather than a short story-sized one, it's a bit more daunting, mainly because there can be ramifications to your edits (as with the butterfly effect - the theorised flapping of the butterfly's wings leading to the possible formation of hurricanes). But before all of that a bit of distance, a bit of down time and then... back in for the second round.

Monday, 20 January 2014


Seeing as I haven't updated this blog in a while, here's a little round-up of what's been going on over the past couple of months. On 27th November I took part in a reading for Red Room at Blackburn Library along with Elizabeth Baines, Sarah Dobbs and Carys Davies. The event was a huge success with a warm and engaged audience of Bronte lovers and it was particularly nice to chat to people afterwards - including a couple of people who decided to challenge themselves and re-read Jane Eyre before coming along. Here are a few photos from the night:
Sarah Dobbs
Carys Davies

Elizabeth Baines

It was a really lovely event and so nice to have so many Bronte fans in the audience. Thanks to Derren Lee Poole Photography for the images from the night.

Then on 11th December I went along to Radio Lancashire to talk to Gilly on his afternoon show. He asked me questions about some of the stories in the collection and how it all came about. He also asked me which was my favourite story, which I managed to dodge (I don't have a favourite, of course - they're all great). I've been on Gilly's show before - a couple of years earlier to talk about my short story collection. I think I found it more daunting this time around because it's fairly easy to waffle on about your own writing but a bit more difficult when you're talking about the work of other writers.

The new year brought with it a little more Red Room with a signing at Waterstones York on Saturday (18th January). I was accompanied by contributors Elizabeth Baines and Bill Broady and enjoyed chatting to the two of them as well as those who bought and had copies signed. Elizabeth also kindly handed out leaflets to drum up support so I'm really grateful to her for doing that.

Other than that I'm just on with the novel and also writing a piece for the Thresholds short story website, where Red Room is currently the featured publication.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Great night at the Portico

I had a lovely evening last night at the Portico Library, Manchester, to help celebrate the publication of Red Room. Elizabeth Baines, Bill Broady, Vanessa Gebbie, Rowena Macdonald and Felicity Skelton were all there, to either read extracts or full stories, and a good crowd of people turned up to listen to them. I gave a quick introduction to the book and then introduced everyone and it was a real treat to hear the writers reading out their work... something which always fascinates me because stories often sound quite different when read aloud. Everyone did a sterling job and it was lovely to see copies of the book being snapped up afterwards.

Here are some photos from the night:

Bill Broady
Elizabeth Baines
Felicity Skelton

Rowena Macdonald

Vanessa Gebbie
Thanks to everyone who came along - writers and audience alike - and to the staff at the beautiful Portico Library for having us. If you'd like to get hold of a copy of the book, it's available from all the usual suspects as well as from the publisher, Unthank Books.

* Thanks also to the Word Factory, London, who invited Bill Broady along to read from the book at the end of October. I couldn't go along myself but I heard it was a great night.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Word Factory

I'm very excited that Red Room is going to get its first public airing tonight at the Word Factory salon in London. Bill Broady is going to be reading from his story 'Heathcliff versus Sherlock Holmes' and I'm sure it will go down a treat. It's a very funny story - one that I actually laughed out loud at the first time I read it - so I hope everyone enjoys it. If you're going along to the event, then copies of Red Room will be for sale and, as well as Bill, there will be some other contributors in the audience so get them to sign your copy. There are more Red Room events planned next month and a signing in January, but I'll give an update on those soon.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Hawthornden Fellowship

A Hawthornden Fellowship is something I've dreamt about for a while now - the chance to spend a solid month writing in Hawthornden Castle, near Edinburgh, in the company of other writers... well, who wouldn't fancy that? I'm therefore hugely thrilled to have won a fellowship for next year - lucky me. If you want to know more about Hawthornden, Vanessa Gebbie wrote a wonderful blog post about her time there (there's another post from Camille DeAngelis here - look at the beautiful wintry photo of the trees in the ravine). So you can see why I'm excited - a month writing, no/few distractions, meals provided (including lunch brought to your room)... can't wait. It will be a great opportunity for me to work hard on the novel and to get it looking something like a novel... that's what I hope anyway. I'm also really excited to find out who I'll be there with too. I'll write about my fellowship after I've been sometime early next year - many thanks to the admissions committee for choosing my application.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Nice news and some funding

I've had some very nice news with regard to Red Room but - and I hate doing this - I don't think I can say anything about it just yet. As soon as I can I'll let everyone know as I can't wait to mention it. As for my own writing - I'm currently working on my novel and am delighted to have been awarded some Arts Council funding for mentoring. This means that I'll be able to get some guidance and feedback from a novelist during the writing of the novel, and as I'm in new territory - novels being completely different beasts to short stories - I'm really happy to be helped in this way. Mentoring has begun and the novel is progressing at a slow pace, but it is progressing. I'm just looking forward to getting the first draft under my belt and then the real work will begin... the editing.

Friday, 2 August 2013

A little update

Things are progressing nicely with Red Room: New Short Stories Inspired by the Brontës - there seems to be a bit of interest in it so fingers crossed it will do well. A percentage of the profits will go to support the work of The Brontë Birthplace Trust in Thornton, Bradford, so the more copies we sell the more it helps them. Elizabeth Baines, whose story 'That Turbulent Stillness' features in the collection, has written a little bit about the book over on her blog. If you want to find out about the background to Elizabeth's story - and see what she thinks about some of the other stories in the collection - click here. We are currently also putting a few events in place so watch this space for more details on those... but make some room in your diary for October and November! (Don't forget, if you'd like to preorder a copy, you can do that here.)