I often get asked by my readers where I get the ideas for my books from. And the answer is my novels are inspired by lots of things. It can be people, places or events that get me thinking and then imagining what if … Or it can be a completely made up something or someone that just pops into my head and I decide that that little seed is worth exploring. And before I know it I have the elements of a full length story planned out and the writing begins.
However, the inspiration process doesn’t end there. As I write and get to know my characters, other ideas come along that need exploring too. Thinking about this recently, I was quite surprised to realise that in all my books so far a main character’s life has been impacted by a common factor. It wasn’t a conscious decision to make this be the case, it just fitted with the storyline. And I’m glad it did as it did indeed prove to be inspirational.
Three Amazing Charities
The common factor is the work of several charitable organisations and there are three in particular that helped me develop my stories.
The first one is the Veterans Foundation. The work of this organisation informed and inspired aspects of army veteran, Steven’s, story in Baby Steps namely his job and recovery from his injuries.
Our journey began by sharing the stories of our Armed Forces family on social media and this quickly escalated into a large, trusted community of friends and supporters. In just a few years we’ve engaged and interacted with millions of you, celebrating our Armed Forces and bringing hope of a better life to those in need of care and assistance.
Our supporters, you, are the heartbeat of the Veterans’ Foundation and through your kind donations, fundraising events and by playing our popular Veterans’ Lottery, challenges are being faced, overcome, and lives are changing for the better.
The second one is Venture Trust. The work of this charity helped inspire and inform the project that Jack, the hero in the Skye series of novels – Displacement, Settlement and Fulfilment – set up to help others like himself whose mental health benefitted from outdoor based therapy.
Established in 1982, Venture Trust delivers intensive personal development for people, at any stage in their life, struggling with issues such as involvement in the criminal justice system in Scotland, long term unemployment, recovery from addiction, homelessness or risk of homelessness, isolation, and a history of trauma or harm.
By building trust and ensuring that people feel safe they can explore their complex experiences through personal development and therapy in their community and the Scottish outdoors.
The outdoors offers inherent challenge for individuals to reflect on beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. With time and space away from influences at home, individuals can unlock skills and learn new, more positive, ways of approaching situations.
And the third one Is Macmillan Cancer Support. This is a charity I have personal experience of and I’ll be forever grateful for the support they provided to me. But apart from that this charity was a source of information to me when I was writing my first book Change of Life and the main female character got her own cancer diagnosis.
If you or someone you care about has been diagnosed with cancer, we’re here to help. Find out how we support you and get information about different cancer types.
Please, if you’re interested, do visit any of the above charities’ websites to learn more. They are all UK/Scotland based – but if you’re not in the UK, perhaps there are similar ones where you live? Of course all three of the organisations I’ve mentioned are dependent on financial donations to continue their wonderful work and I support all three of them – whether that’s by making donations, following and sharing their work on social media, or by giving them a shout out here on the blog.
What about you?
And now, as always, it’s over to you. Are there any charities you support or have helped you deal with life’s challenges? Please do share in the comments below. Or, If you’re a writer, do you have ‘go to’ sources of inspiration/information for your novels – charities or otherwise?
I like September. Here in the northern hemisphere it marks the start of autumn and autumn is most definitely my favourite time of year. I always enjoying going for a walk but autumn walks are the best. I love the autumn colours of the leaves, the soft light, the cooler air. And who can resist tramping through those piles of falling leaves as if you were five years old again?
I also find that a new month and a new season help me to focus on my writing plans as I tend to sketch out my aims and targets on a monthly and quarterly basis. It’s also a good time to reflect on what I achieved in my previous planning period(s).
The looking back part has been particularly rewarding at this point as I achieved two things at the writing desk that I’m proud of.
Newsletter all set up
The first of those was getting my author newsletter set up – something that was a lot of hard work, a steep learning curve and something I’d wanted to do for a long time. So, isn’t this blog enough? I hear you ask. Why have a newsletter? Good questions. Responses below.
Well, firstly, no, the blog isn’t enough – much as I love it. It’s enough as far as fulfilling my aims in setting up. Those aims being to write about my recent reading and writing experiences and to share my reflections on those and occasionally other matters too. I see the blog as a sort of collection of magazine type articles and a chronicle of my life as a reader and writer.
Secondly, an author newsletter is a different thing. It is more specific and it is more tightly focussed. The audience consists of the readers of my books. The content is based on my books – the ones already published, the one I’m currently working on, and my future writing plans. Recipients of the newsletter get a free book on signing up, as well as ongoing occasional special offers, giveaways, sneak peeks into my work-in-progress. It’s a chance for me to get to know the readers of my contemporary romances and for them to get to know a bit more about me.
The newsletter is already proving to be a rewarding thing to do. It’s so good to have this direct link with my loyal audience and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.
If you haven’t signed up to get my monthly letter in your inbox and you’d like to, just click HEREand yes, you will be rewarded for doing so with a free book – a collection of some of my short romantic stories.
The second thing I’m proud of achieving recently is of course the publication of my latest romance novel, Baby Steps. It was my most successful launch to date, sales have been good and the feedback I’ve received has been great. Yeah! You can read what it’s about HEREand you can buy itHERE
You can also read a guest post I did on the wonderful Portybelle’s book blog HERE about how this latest novel took me surprise and wasn’t at all what I planned to write.
New book, new series, lots of planning
I’m now busy writing the next book. As it’s the first in a completely new series set in the Scottish Borders, there’s been a lot of planning to do. I’ve had to map out a fictional farm, village and town. I’ve had to think about who will be the main characters in subsequent books in the series and there’s also been a fair bit of research to do as well.
But with that all done, I can now crack on with Happiness Cottage and to tell the story of Lori and Aidan.
As usual I’ve done a lot of reading in the last month – mostly romances and mostly very good reads. So as always it was difficult to choose one as book of the month. But I did it. No surprises that it was a romance novel. It was a perfect summer read.
Summer at Seaspray Cottage by Angela Britnell
What would you do if you inherited a Cornish cottage by the sea? If you’re Thea Armitage, sell it as soon as possible. Whilst there’s no denying that Seaspray Cottage has its charm, it just holds too many bad memories for Thea to consider keeping it – although at least spending the summer preparing it for sale gives her a distraction from troubles back home in Tennessee. What Thea didn’t count on was her worst Cornish memory moving in right next door. Local bad boy Harry Venton played no small part in Thea’s decision never to return to Cornwall twenty years before – and now he’s her neighbour! Could things get any worse? Except Harry isn’t the boy he was, and as Thea comes to realise that her opinion of him was built on lies and misunderstandings, perhaps things will start looking up for her summer at Seaspray Cottage …
In a world that can sometimes seem rather bleak thank goodness for the escape provided by books. Happy reading everyone!
Your comments are welcome below. Feel free to share your own reading and writing reflections and to share this post.
Yes, publication day is here and I’m so happy to announce that Baby Steps is out today.
You can get it online as a paperback or as an ebook HERE.
I really hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’d also love it if you could leave a short review HERE
Keep on reading to find out more about Baby Steps and to read Chapter One.
WHAT’S THE STORY ABOUT?
Estranged from her mother, cheated on by her ex and grieving the loss of her brother, emotionally distraught Sophie Campbell decides she needs to focus on her career as a researcher for a TV and radio broadcaster. What she doesn’t need is a man in her life. And as for marriage and children – definitely not.
Honourably discharged from the British army following life-changing injuries sustained while serving in Afghanistan, Steven Jackson is rehabilitated and embracing life to the full. Working as the manager of a support centre for military veterans brings him a great sense of pride and achievement. But he wants more. He wants to meet the love of his life, and to one day be a husband and father.
When Sophie and Steven meet through work, there’s an undeniable chemistry between the two thirty-somethings. But will Steven’s open, caring and patient ways be enough to break down Sophie’s barriers and allow a relationship to develop between them?
Set in the Scottish city of Glasgow, Baby Steps is a contemporary romance which tells a story of love against the odds.
Baby Steps is a spin-off novel from Anne Stormont’s Skye Series of novels. Sophie is the daughter of Rachel one of the main characters in that series and features as a character in the supporting cast, as does Steven. However, Baby Steps can be read as a standalone.
Sophie Campbell groaned when the alarm on her phone beeped. It was a Monday morning in early October and she felt like she’d only just fallen asleep. It had been another bad night, lying awake, tossing and turning, desperate for the morning to come but dreading it too.
After a few minutes of listening to the rain pattering on the bedroom window of her Glasgow flat, she forced herself out of bed. At least work would provide a much-needed distraction. She grimaced at her reflection in the mirror as she made her way to the bathroom. Her hair was a tangled mess and her pale face and strained expression made her look older than her thirty-three years.
Once in the shower she let her tears fall. The pressure of her grief had been relentless – with her every day for the past year – but its intensity had been easing slightly. Recently she’d had days and even weeks when she didn’t cry. But now, with the first anniversary of her brother, Finlay’s, death having just passed, it was back and it was full-on.
As she dried her hair and got dressed she wondered again what had possessed her to take on this latest assignment when her boss, George Brodie, the head of documentary research at BBC Scotland, had offered it to her at short notice on Friday morning. It wasn’t even as if it was in her normal subject areas. She mainly worked on the research for nature and science based programmes. And although she did have a bit of experience on social and cultural ones, she felt she was far from an expert in those fields.
She couldn’t help smiling when she recalled how George’s pitch had gone. He was at his persuasive best.
Usually when she was summoned to his office, the conversation was brief and to the point. The summoning itself had been normal with George suddenly appearing at her workstation and simply saying, “My office.” The offer of coffee and a pastry when she arrived was the first sign that George was going all in.
“Just a coffee, please,” Sophie replied, intrigued as to why George was making such an effort.
“Just over ten years now, isn’t it?” George said after he’d served up their coffees and they were sitting facing each other across his desk. “Since you joined us here in Research.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“You’ve done well, worked hard, learned a lot and displayed a lot of skill. You’re a real asset to the unit.”
“Thank you. That’s––”
“You keen to move on, get promotion?”
“Well, yes, yes I think I am,” Sophie said now even more curious. “If the right post were to—”
“Senior researcher job at BBC’s Natural History Unit in Bristol, could be coming up in six months or so. Someone like you with your Natural Science degree and all your experience in helping put together outdoor and nature programmes as well as your wider general experience, you’d be ideal. Happy to recommend you for it if you’re interested.”
Of course she was interested. And George knew it, but all he said was, “No need to respond just now. You can think about it. Let me know.”
“Right,” Sophie said, certain this wasn’t the real reason she was there, but she was interested, nevertheless.
“Good. Now the reason I needed to see you today is I want you to leave what you’re working on at the moment and take over another more urgent project.”
Sophie was in the middle of researching a feature on the growing popularity of allotments in Scotland’s cities for a long-running gardening series. She didn’t want to abandon it and besides that she had a deadline to meet.
But before she could respond, George added, “Don’t worry about the allotment project. It’s well on its way. And your trainee co-worker is proving more than competent, largely thanks to your excellent training and support, so she can take over.” George smiled knowingly at her.
Oh, he was good at getting what he wanted, she’d give him that. Flattery, the possibility of promotion, she knew she was being manipulated but she was also intrigued as to what exactly he was asking of her. So Sophie smiled back at him, in what she hoped was also a knowing way, letting him know she knew what he was up to.
George gave an almost imperceptible nod before going on to say, “So, this favour I need,” he leaned his forearms on the desk, clasped his hands and leant towards her, “we recently commissioned a documentary television series. It’s going to be broadcast UK wide. Obviously all the preliminary research work at a general level has been done. But now, of course, it’s down to specifics.” George paused to take a sip of his coffee.
“Of course,” Sophie said, wishing he’d just get on with it.
“Each programme will tell the stories of injured British military veterans making the return to civilian life. The first programme in the series is to be about a Glasgow-based veterans charity called Revive and some of the people who use its services.
“Unfortunately your colleague, Liz Maitland, who was originally tasked with series research has been signed off on sick leave. She should hopefully be back to work on the subsequent episodes but we need someone to step in immediately to do the research for this first one.”
“Right,” said Sophie. “And that someone––”
“That someone needs to be you,” said George. “You have the experience, efficiency and sensitivity to do this. It’ll look good on your CV.”
“Okay,” Sophie said. But she wasn’t sure it was okay.
Her boss then went on to show some uncharacteristic empathy when he said, “I acknowledge that the military subject matter could be tough for you. I haven’t forgotten that your brother died on active service in Afghanistan, so although I would like you to accept the work, I won’t think any less of you if you decline.”
“I … I appreciate that,” Sophie said before swallowing hard and then clearing her throat. She hadn’t expected that. Blunt, insensitive George was definitely easier to handle than this kinder version.
Though, she didn’t have to wait for the former version to reappear as he got to his feet, indicating the meeting was over. “Take an hour to think it over,” he said, “and then let me know what you decide.”
In the end, Sophie didn’t need the hour. She was nothing if not professional. This was work. It was nothing to do with her personal life. Besides, as George had said, it would be a good one for her CV especially as the intention was to base and transmit the series across the whole of the UK.
She was also tempted by the Bristol job and so she asked to be informed of any developments on that front. Maybe a fresh start in a new city hundreds of miles away was just what she needed – both professionally and personally.
Her boss, of course, had been delighted to hand over the military veteran’s programme brief to her, along with the research carried out so far, and she spent the rest of Friday and much of the weekend getting up to speed. As she did so, she admitted to herself that it hadn’t been an entirely head over heart decision to take on this particular job. It had occurred to her that it might make her feel a bit closer to Finlay.
But on that Monday morning as she applied her makeup, she felt a niggle of doubt as to whether that would really be a good thing.
She couldn’t face breakfast and settled for a glass of water instead. After she’d rinsed out the glass she glanced around the open plan kitchen and living room. At least with Rick no longer living there the flat was tidy, though there was still a load of his stuff in the spare bedroom. She should really give him a deadline for collecting it all, tell him she’d bin the lot if he didn’t.
She’d kicked him out a couple of months earlier, having come home early from work and found him in their bed with a woman she not only knew, but had up until then liked. She’d been shocked, hurt and furious when she found out exactly what her lying, cheating boyfriend had been up to. The boyfriend who she’d financially supported when he couldn’t make a proper living as a musician, who’d lived with her rent free for two years, who’d said he loved her. The boyfriend who it turned out couldn’t cope with her being distracted by grief. The boyfriend who, as he put it, ‘needed to distract and comfort himself’ because ‘she’d been so wrapped up in herself over the last year and had nothing left to give him’. The boyfriend who’d been having a months-long affair with Lisa, the talented and pretty singer from his band.
It still hurt but at least she could now concede she was definitely better off without him.
In fact, she reminded herself, as she slipped on her jacket, she was better off without any man. After the way things had ended with Rick, someone she’d truly believed she’d loved and who she had thought loved her, she was unwilling to entrust her damaged heart to anyone else ever again.
She was obviously a hopeless judge of character. Indeed, she’d recently decided the whole love, marriage and having children thing wasn’t for her. These things would only leave her vulnerable to yet more heartbreak and she was so done with all of that. She only had to look at her parents to know this was the right choice for her. No, from now on, she’d be keeping any sexual interactions casual and for fun only.
After all, she also reminded herself, in every other way her life was as good as it could be. She had her flat, a job she loved and good and loyal female friends – friends who she knew would always be on her side.
She took in a deep breath, rolled her shoulders and straightened her back. She was independent and she was strong. She’d proved she could take what life threw at her – including her useless ex, her estrangement from her mother, and even the loss of her darling brother. She was proud that she was still standing in spite of it all.
‘I’ve got this,’ she said to herself as she walked out the door.
With the rain having stopped and the sky clearing, Sophie would have preferred to walk from her flat in Glasgow’s Kelvinside area to the city’s Hyndland district where the Revive charity had its premises. But she would need to go into the office after her interview with the charity’s manager so she took the car for what was only a five-minute drive.
Hyndland was a pleasant, mainly residential area of the city, but even so, for reasons of cost if nothing else, she’d been expecting a charitable organisation like Revive to be housed in a utilitarian concrete box perhaps surrounded by other similar buildings and a gravel car park. But the single-storey, stone-built structure with its pitched and slated roof was much more attractive than that – and the grass and flower beds which surrounded it, along with the tree-lined perimeter, said parkland rather than business park.
As Sophie left her car in the small car park at the side of the building and walked up to the entrance, she realised that her earlier reservations had gone and she was keen to find out more. This was what she did and no matter how tricky the subject matter, this was work. It wasn’t personal and it wasn’t about her.
She was about to press the buzzer at the front entrance when the door opened and she was confronted by one extremely good-looking guy. He looked like he was in his early thirties, around the same age as she was, and he was the epitome of tall, fair and handsome and oh my what a lovely smile he had. “Miss Campbell, I presume,” he said extending his hand.
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