A Life in the Day of a Writer: Author Anne Stormont describes a typical writing day #writing #author #reading

My desk area – otherwise known as post-it note city

New Feature

Yes, today it’s a post all about me – or rather it’s all about my working day as a writer. It’s the first in a new series of guest posts that I’m hoping to host here. The idea being that every month or so a different writer will share what their writing life looks like by sharing a typical day at the desk – and away from it.

And I thought why not launch the feature with my own summary of daily life as an author. So here goes …

A day in my writing life

Writing for me is a job. Yes, it’s a job I love, but it’s still a job. Therefore in order to get paid, I have to turn up. I’m fortunate nowadays to have retired from my other job as a primary school teacher, so writing is my only work.

Planned & Scheduled

However, that’s a bit of a double-edged sword discipline wise. Yes, I have lots of time in which to write but that fact only increases the chance of procrastination. So as my own boss, I have to be strict. I have to have a schedule and I have to stick to it. And this is where my previous life as a teacher comes in handy. Teaching requires lots of planning and scheduling – it’s something I’m comfortable with and actually quite good at. So I have the long-term plan, the weekly plan and the daily plan. And I mainly stick to them – my boss is strict – but she’s not entirely unreasonable 😊

Morning

My day typical begins reasonably early – around 7.30 or so and my first activity of the day is usually going for a walk. I don’t let bad weather stop me and I walk for an hour or so. I view the walk as the daily equivalent of walking to and from my workplace and I find that starting the day with exercise helps me focus once I am at work.

Once back from my walk, I head for the desk – and just the simple act of going into my den and sitting at my computer helps get me in the zone. I’ll write for an hour or so – maybe two – usually adding words to my novel-in-progress and aiming to achieve the word count target I’ll have set for the session. If I’m just beginning something new, this time can also be used for planning and maybe some research. Or if the book is at the editing stage, then this will be rewriting time.

Afternoon

After lunch I’ll write for another hour – again with a number of words to aim for – and once that’s achieved my brain has usually had quite enough of being creative.

So for the remainder of the afternoon I do the other necessary tasks that come with being an author. It might be writing a post for this blog, it might be writing something for my Facebook author page, it could be preparing for an author event – or it could be doing any of the other many managing and marketing jobs that go with the territory.

Down time

I take evenings and weekends off – but if I’m in the mood I will do some unscheduled work during those times. This is most likely to happen if I have a deadline looming or if I’m simply at the stage in a novel where the words are flowing and I can’t wait to crack on with it. But time out is important too and it’s often when I’m relaxing, walking, gardening – or doing nothing in particular – that ideas come to me or solutions to plotting problems present themselves.

A good life

And there you have it. It ain’t glamorous, it’s largely solitary and it’s often frustrating or just plain hard. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my days spent as a writer, I love my writing life and I don’t intend to retire any time soon.

Taking Stock: Where next for the blog and my writing #amwriting #writing #books

What next?

The gratuitous photo above is of one of the flower beds in my garden – with lovely new wooden garden chairs behind. The picture has little to do with the post really, except being a writer, I also like a gratuitous metaphor. So just as my garden needs weeding and new planting from time to time so too does my blog. And writing a new book requires tending to lots of seedling ideas.

Therefore as this post is about taking stock, tidying up and letting new ideas take root, I defend my use of both the picture and the metaphors πŸ™‚

Blog plansΒ 

It’s almost a year since I set up and hosted the two-month-long Virtual Book Festival here on the blog. Little did I know, when I had the idea to go virtual, that in 2020 book festivals – like so many other events – would all be going online and that this would become the norm – due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a lot of work to organise but it was also great fun to do.

I’m not planning to do another festival this year, but I have been thinking about where next for the blog. Put it in Writing started out ten years ago as just a blog, but it has now evolved and is the front page of my author website.Β  And while the website pages are all about my books and my author business, my blog has always included much more than that. It was always my intention to share not only aspects of my own writing life, but also to post about books and reading in a wider sense and to offer interview posts to fellow authors. And that remains my intention.

So, to free up a bit of time and space I intend to do fewer book reviews – but I’ll keep my Books of the Month feature – which is more recommendations rather than reviews.

And while I’ll continue to offer some interview posts to other writers, I’m also going to add in a new feature which I hope readers of the blog will enjoy. This new type of post will be one where I invite an author to share their typical writing day – thereby giving an insight into how they work and what they do. It will be by invitation only and will be called A Life in the Day of …

New Writing Plans

And with the publication in May of Fulfilment, the final novel in my three part Rachel & Jack: Skye series, it’s time to explore the possibilities for my next book. I’m not short of ideas – I have a notebook full of ideas – but all these seedlings need thinning out – and only a few will make it to the plot – see what I did there? πŸ™‚ Okay, I’ll stop with the metaphors now.

But seriously, I’m sort of spoiled for choice. Perhaps I’ll go for a series again – but this time set the books in southern Scotland and have each book focus on a different romantically entwined couple within that locality/community. Or maybe I’ll do a standalone – or two – instead of, or as well as, a series? And will I do another children’s novel – a sequel to The Silver Locket perhaps with the same three children as lead characters – and have them embark on another time-travelling adventure? These are exciting dilemmas to have and although I already miss Rachel and Jack it really is time to leave them in peace to get on with their lives without my meddling. Mind you a Christmas short story set a year after Fulfilment is sort of beckoning …

Back to the Creative Department

So after a lot of time spent on the online launch of Fulfilment, it’s time to spend less time in the marketing department and to focus on making something fresh and new – both here on the blog and with the crafting of a new novel. And I do appreciate how fortunate I am that the work I do can continue – lockdown or not.

Continue to stay safe everyone.

PS

As a postscript to this post – a question:

Like many people I’ve found I’m reading more during lockdown but that’s not the case for everyone – have you been reading more – or less – during this difficult time? If you have been reading, please do share your favourite lockdown read – and why you enjoyed it – in the comments below.

It’s a wrap. New book is out and book video is on a screen near you. #books #reading #writing #romanticfiction

So that’s it. The paperback and ebook versions of my latest novel Fulfilment have now launched. Details can be found in my previous post here. It’s been a crazily busy week or so online with all the launch events and publicity and I’ve been so heartened by all the lovely positive comments and support from the online community of writers, readers and of course friends and family. Thank you all.

And I also need to say a huge thank you to Donna Gowland for making the book trailer video to publicise my series of novels set on the Scottish island of Skye – of which Fulfilment is the third and final part. Isn’t it gorgeous?

And now it’s on to something new. I’ve got lots of ideas for the next novel and am looking forward to exploring/developing some of them. I’m thinking maybe a series of contemporary romances set in in the Scottish Borders – with each book about a different couple – but all set in the same community so readers can keep in touch with characters from previous books as the series develops. Can’t wait to get started on inventing a village/town and setting up a cast of characters …

I’d be interested to have your feedback on whether you like reading a series or do you prefer standalone novels? And what do you think of the video?

 

Writing and Reading news: It’s been quite a week #writing #reading #books

It has been quite a week in my writing life and with another big day coming up later this week on Friday, the excitement continues. Yes, it’s the crazy busy time around the launch of the new book.

But as well as being very busy with all things writing and publishing related, I’ve also been reading by way of relaxing.

So I thought I’d do a round up of all things bookish in today’s post.

Fulfilment – book 3 in the Rachel & Jack Skye Series launches

First of all thank you to everyone of you who has shared the news of the publication of Fulfilment via your social media channels, websites and by word of mouth. It all helps so much – especially at this time of no real life book launches.

And of course, thank you too, to everyone who has either bought the paperback or pre-ordered the ebook (here) which will be delivered to Kindles this Friday on the 15th May. I so appreciate it.

And, I have to say, it was quite an emotional moment to hold my proof copy of the book in my hands and then to put it on the shelf with its two preceding novels in the series.

Special offers on the first 2 books in the series

Book 1 in the series Displacement is free for your Kindle at the moment – but this is the last day so if you haven’t read any of the series so far – and you fancy doing so – now would be a good time to get started. Get it hereΒ 

Book 2 in the series Settlement is on a countdown deal at the moment in the US and will available to buy for $0.99 until Friday 15th May. And in the UK it will be available at a similarly reduced price from 12th May until the 19th. Get it here

So if you haven’t read them, what are you waiting for? 😊

I don’t just write books. I read them too

But as I said, I’ve been spending some time reading too. And so I thought I’d share my three favourite recent reads with you. All are – surprise, surprise – contemporary romances.

The New Guy by Kathryn Freeman

New Year, New Guy by Angela Britnell

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

All are first class, engaging, and heartwarming reads and are available as paperbacks and as ebooks and are definitely worth checking out.

So, as always, over to you – what have you read and enjoyed recently? And if you’re a writer what are you currently working on?

And remember, if you have read and enjoyed a book please do consider posting a review on Amazon. It doesn’t need to be long and involved – just a couple of e=sentences will do – but it really does help an author get some sales traction.

New Book Announcement: Fulfilment is now available #books #reading #romanticfiction #contemporaryromance

Yes, it’s arrived. My new book, Fulfilment is out and is available now as a paperback here – and for – pre-order on Kindle here – for delivery to your device on May 15th.

From the Back Cover

What’s it about? Well, it’s a contemporary second chance romance. It’s the third and final book in my series set on the Scottish island of Skye and brings the story of Jack and Rachel to a conclusion. Here’s what it says on the back cover:

The path of true love rarely runs smoothly…

When former Edinburgh police detective Jack Baxter met local author and crofter Rachel Campbell on the Scottish island of Skye, they fell in love. It was a second chance at happiness for both of them.

They both had emotional baggage. Jack helped Rachel cope with unimaginable grief after the death in combat of her soldier son, and Rachel was there for Jack after a criminal with a grudge almost ended his life. There were many bumps along the road but they believed they’d worked through and settled their differences.

However, Jack is struggling. Still suffering from post-traumatic stress, haunted by his past, and taunted by the demons of self-doubt, he feels Rachel deserves better.

Meanwhile, Rachel is busy preparing for the launch of her latest book – a book in honour of her son and aimed at promoting peace. So at first she fails to notice just how troubled Jack is.

Can Jack overcome his demons?

Can Rachel convince Jack he deserves to be loved?

Can they finally resolve their differences and fulfil their dreams together?

If you like mature, emotional and thought-provoking contemporary romance in a dramatic setting, then this is a book for you.

Needless to say I’m delighted to see Fulfilment going out into the world. As I said above, it’s the third and final part of Rachel and Jack’s story and although it can be read as a standalone novel, I do hope that readers will read Displacement (book 1) and Settlement (book 2) first.

 

Buy Links for Fulfilment

The book can be pre-ordered from Amazon here

The paperback is available here

 

Time To Write. But Struggling To Get On With It: Using writing prompts to get started #writing #amwriting #writingprompts #WordPress

Getting Started Can Prove Difficult

Whether you’re a professional author, someone who writes as a hobby, or are a complete novice, the hardest part of getting words down on the page is often, simply, getting started – even in normal times.

But, in the challenging times we’re currently living through, no matter how much you want to continue writing, or to give it a try for the first time, it may be proving even more difficult to get in the zone – regardless of the time you may have at your disposal.

Writing like any other art or craft is part aptitude, part acquired skill, but for the most part perseverance. It can be frustrating, challenging and exhilarating.

Yes, it begins with inspiration and by that I don’t mean anything particularly grand. It can be a tiny seed – a passing thought, a memory, a question that pops into your head uninvited but it can be enough to eventually lead to a finished, polished and ready to share piece of work. Or having explored it you might decide it’s not worth pursuing. But either way you’re going to have to take the idea and have a go at writing something.

But sometimes inspiration doesn’t arrive. You know you want to write something but you don’t know what. And this is equally the case for experienced and rookie writers. And sometimes, even when you do have an idea you’d like to run (or continue) with, that old enemy procrastination prevents you getting to your notebook or laptop and getting on with it.

And this is where writing prompts can prove very useful. A writing prompt is that little seed that will get you started but you don’t have to come up with an idea yourself. It’s also not prescriptive in terms of style or content, it’s just a gentle, non-threatening nudge.

Following a writing prompt might lead to a few lines, a paragraph, or a page of words. The result might turn out to be a poem, a bit of factual writing or a fictional story. It might be something you want to develop further, it might not – but it will get you in the writing zone.

Using a prompt acts as a warm-up for your writing brain. It can set you up for getting back to the work-in-progress or it can inspire and encourage you to try something new. Nobody but you is going to see it. You can write freely. And it doesn’t have to lead to anything other than writing for its own sake.

So all you need now are some examples – some actual writing prompts – and it so happens I have some to share with you. And they’re courtesy of the amazing creative folks over at WordPress.

Writing Prompts on WordPress

Throughout the month of April WordPress has been offering a daily one-word creative prompt and you can see them by clicking here. There are also helpful notes and hints as to how you might go about writing your response to the prompt.

Examples include:

  • Hands
  • Pairs
  • Open
  • Song
  • Distance

So what are you waiting for? Established writer or complete beginner – go on give it a go. Write on the back of an envelope, in a beautiful notebook, or on your computer. Keep the results to yourself, develop them into something more, or put them up on your new or established writing blog – it’s up to you. But just do it.

What helps you to stop procrastinating – not only if you’re a writer – but in life in general? What helps you get into the required zone and get on with whatever it is you need to be doing? Are you finding it harder to concentrate during lockdown – or has it proved to be a gift of extra time for you to do the things you enjoy – while at home?

 

 

 

Staying Safe & Well: Gardening, Writing & Isolationships #health #lockdown #gardening #writing

It’s day 28 of Covid-19 lockdown here in the UK. For me, it’s a case of so far, so good. Yes, it’s taken a bit of getting used to this new normal and I’m finding one day at a time to be the best approach. But I’m grateful that I live in a beautiful part of Scotland, that I can take a daily walk on uncrowded paths and trails, and that me and my loved ones remain healthy. I’m also grateful to be able to continue working.

Β All round wellbeing

It’s not only trying to remain physically healthy that’s important during this time of isolation, it’s also vital to look after our mental and emotional wellbeing too. In my previous post, I mentioned how much of a comfort reading is proving to be at this time and I shared some recommended reads. But reading’s not all that’s keeping me going.

Photo by Charles πŸ‡΅πŸ‡­ on Unsplash

Staying connected

As for many folk, the existence of the internet is proving to be a boon at this time too. I’ve been able to see and interact with my children and grandchildren at family meetings on zoom, keep in daily touch with my four sisters in our WhatsApp group, and email, text and have video calls with friends. And being able to socialise like this – even if our relationships are more isolationships for now – helps so much.

HappinessΒ in horticulture

I’m also grateful to have a garden and I’ve recently been spending time digging, planting and weeding. Working in the garden, sun shining and birds singing at full throttle all around me, is such a therapeutic activity at any time, but at the moment it’s especially enjoyable. It’s been good to see how well our newly established garden is faring after its first year. Most of last year’s planting is thriving and our new trees are looking especially grand. At the weekend I dug over and weeded the beds, I cut out the dead wood and old foliage from the shrubs and I got seeds planted – some in pots and trays and some in containers and beds. I also planted some new rockery flowers and came up with a list and a plan for some further new planting.

Seeds for a new book

And, as I was working in the garden, I was able to think about my writing. Of course, I’m getting excited about the new book and I’m currently busy with getting all the final launch details in place, but I’m also starting to think about future projects and getting started on my next book. I’ve got lots of ideas – all recorded in my ideas notebook. Most will probably never see the light of day, but there are a few which I want to explore. The ideas are mainly characters who’ve come to me with snippets of backstory and I intend to ask them a bit more about themselves before deciding if they’re novel worthy.

So as I gardened with actual seeds, knowing some would come to nothing and others would be discarded in the thinning out process, and as I pulled out and disposed of actual weeds and deadwood – there was a similar process going on in my writer’s brain. There were metaphorical seeds – some which might grow and flourish – and grow into something splendid – and some that wouldn’t get to germinate or would be discarded at a later date. And there were some unsightly metaphorical weeds there too.

Yes, you can take the girl out of writing but you can never take writing etc, etc. 😊 The writing brain is running continuously in the background, no matter what I’m doing – and I have to say that at the moment I’m especially glad of having an escape route into an imaginary Covid-free world.

What’s keeping you well?

I hope you’re all safe and well and finding your own ways of coping mentally, physically and emotionally at this difficult time. What’s working for you?

 

So Where Were We? The new normal as the brain fog clears #Covid #writing #coping

A Weirdly Different World

When I said in my previous post that I’d be taking a couple of weeks away from the blog in order to press on with preparing my latest book for publication I certainly didn’t foresee how things would have changed for all of us by the time I got back here.

But before going any further I just want to say welcome to this safe and germ free online space. Thank you for dropping in and reading my ramblings. I hope you’re managing to stay well and to cope with all the ramifications of the Covid-19 virus wherever you are in the world and whatever your personal circumstances.

The C-word and me

I’m fortunate in that, as a writer, I work from home – at least as far as the creative side of things goes. But because of the virus protection measures I’ve obviously had to suspend any author talks, workshops and live book launches, but at least I have this online space – and other social media sites – where I can continue to interact with my readers and fellow writers.

However, I must admit that I’ve been finding it impossible to focus on work for the last two or three weeks. Getting my head around the all the cancelled events – professional and personal – and the full implications of social-distancing has been hard. That along with my concern for my own wellbeing, and that of others, has used up all my mental and emotional energy. I suspect it’s been the same for many of us.

But the brain fog is gradually clearing and I think/hope I’m getting to used to the new normal. I’m trying to remain positive. And I keep reminding myself I’ve a lot to be grateful for.

Gratitude

I’m grateful that I can keep myself safe – I have a home with a garden, I live in a quiet village with uncrowded streets and paths to walk on, I have enough money and food and I don’t live alone. I’m grateful to all our wonderful NHS (UK health service) staff – including my own sister who is a nurse at one of Scotland’s biggest hospitals – to the shopworkers, delivery drivers, bin collectors, teachers, train and bus drivers and to anyone else who is working to ensure vital services can still operate.

But, yes, I admit I still get anxious and afraid at times, and I don’t think I’ll be learning a new language or undertaking any other ambitious project to see me through – However, I do now have a plan.

The Plan

It’s an outline plan – and, most importantly, it’s flexible according to my mood. So, I plan to continue my writing work, but it’s going to have to fit around purely therapeutic activities.

The therapeutic activities that work for me are the things I’ve always done to aid my wellbeing, but for now they’re going to be my main focus. So my days will include a daily walk, doing some yoga – our local yoga teacher is doing her classes online for the duration – listening to music and of course reading. And in the absence of outings and a ‘real world’ social life, the more I’m keeping in touch with family and friends via video calls, WhatsApp groups and good old-fashioned phone calls.

As for writing, my focus will be on getting my delayed new book out and so I aim to see Fulfilment published later this month. I also plan to crack on with a new book – a new book that will be Covid-free. Yes, the imaginary world is a nicer place – a place of refuge – and I get to be in charge πŸ™‚

The New Book

Fulfilment is the third and final part of my Rachel and Jack Skye series. During this month I’ll post the cover and a preview of the story. And if you haven’t read the first two in the series, there will also be special offer price reductions on Displacement and Settlement coming up – so watch this space.

Don’t Miss Out

And to be sure of getting news of the launch of the new book or the special offers, do sign up to follow this blog by email.

Blog Casualty

I know! I know! There was no Book of the Month post here for March. Apologies. Excuses – see all of the above. I’m suspending this feature for now. But I will do a reading related post very soon – which will include recommended reads from March and beyond.

Stay Safe

Thanks for dropping in and thanks for your interest and stay safe and well, everyone. But before you go, do leave comments below. How are you coping during this difficult time? What are your recommended tactics and strategies? What books would you recommend to get us through?

And remember, this too will pass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing a novel is the easy part: After you write ‘The End’ the hard work really begins #writing #amwriting #editing #books

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

In three recent posts I’ve written about where I get the ideas for the characters and plots in my novels, HERE, how I come up with and (to a certain extent) invent and adapt settings, HERE, and topics that I’ve had to research, HERE

If I get all that right I can then – she says modestly – come up with a pretty good 80 thousand word story. Job done.

Except it’s not. Oh no, writing that first draft is the easy part. And when I write ‘THE END’ it’s really only the end of the beginning – or the beginning of the end perhaps??

Whatever! There’s a lot that still needs to be done to get the story ready for readers.

Check and take note

First off, I have to go back to the beginning and read over the whole manuscript. And, all the time I’m reading, I’m also checking. I’m checking for errors – errors such as factual mistakes, inconsistencies in the plot, poor wording, sloppy phrasing, irrelevancies, boring bits, punctuation missing or wrongly applied, grammar crimes … and that’s not a comprehensive list.

Rewrite, rewrite and rewrite

Then, based on my notes from the above read through, I redraft and rewrite the manuscript. I’ll do this as many times as it takes for me to be satisfied that all is now well.

Off to the Editor

Once I’m sure it’s perfect, I send my story to my editor, confident he’ll find absolutely nothing wrong. I never learn! Of course he finds plenty. He’s an amazingly clever and astute alchemist of prose and much as I’d love to disagree with his constructive suggestions and recommendations as to what needs to be changed, I find myself going, ‘you know what, he’s right.’

Rewrite some more

So, after the editorial feedback is received, it’s time to rewrite some more and make even more changes to what is now draft number 526 (okay, slight exaggeration there).

But even after that I’m still not done. Oh no.

An irresistible backcover blurb

While all the editing is going on, I have to come up with the back cover blurb which will make the book irresistible to prospective readers who pick it off the shelf in their local bookshop, or who’re browsing that big online site that sells stuff. And, as if that wasn’t hard enough, I also have to produce a six (or so) word strapline for the front cover. This must be just as convincing as the back cover text that my novel is an unputdownable must-read. Writing both these reader-capture items is SO hard. I’d rather write another whole novel than condense my current one down to a paragraph – or worse still half a dozen words.

A beguiling cover

And while I’m agonising over the cover words, I’m also in discussion with the cover designer trying to come up with an awesome, attention-grabbing cover image. For someone as artistically challenged as I am this isn’t easy. But luckily as with my editor, I’m also very fortunate to have a fantastically talented and easy to work with designer.

After all the final edits are applied and the cover text and cover images are nailed and agreed upon, you’d think that would be it, wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong.

Proofread and check again

While I’m agonising over and finalising the cover, my proof-reader, aka the husband, is reading the ‘final’ manuscript to check for any errors not spotted by me or the editor, such as a missing apostrophe, a misspelling or anything that seems unclear or just plain wrong. And you know what, he’s incredibly good at his job and will always spot something that has previously gone undetected.

All set up

Then, at last, the now pristine manuscript is ready to be formatted for both print and e-book versions of the novel. And, you guessed it, after that’s done it has to be checked over yet again – just in case anything has gone awry during the conversion process.

Okay, you still with me? If so, well done. If not, waken up at the back there!

Early readers

Yes, I’m almost there now. All that remains, after all of the above is complete, is to ask, beg, plead with members of my early-reading team to read at least part, if not all of my soon-to-be-published masterpiece and to let me know what they think, or better still to write a review, or maybe even a cover quote.

And publish!

Then, finally, publication date can be confirmed.

And, at last, I really can write THE END.

All that remains after this point is the launch and marketing plan. But that’s a post for another day. In fact I’m going to be spending most of March preparing for the publication of Fulfilment –Β  doing the final edits and checks and making that launch and marketing plan – and so I’ll be taking a short break from the blog.

Back soon.

Fiction isn’t all made up: researching the facts and knowing how to use them #writing #amwriting #fiction #books

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

Research is vital – even when making stuff up

In my post a couple of weeks ago I shared where I get my ideas for my novels from and how my characters and their stories come to me. Then last week I wrote about how tricky it can be to come up with a fictional location even when the book is contemporary and set in the real world. In today’s post I’m sharing some of the research I’ve had to when writing my novels.

Not all down to imagination

Yes, fiction is, by definition, made up. The characters aren’t real people, the story is invented, and the settings maybe don’t actually exist. But writing a made-up story isn’t solely imaginative.

In order to flesh out the characters – their lives and the places they live – lots of credible details have to be included. Details such as jobs, workplaces, hobbies, lifestyles, health issues and politics – to name only a few. And that’s where research is essential.

Life experience isn’t enough

As an author, I can, of course, draw on my own life experience and fictionalise events etc. But this can only get me so far. It would all get rather dull rather quickly if everything was just a variation on the theme of me. Β So I have to research all sorts of stuff to give my novels credibility and interest.

Below are just some of the areas I’ve had to explore. And some of it probably makes for an ‘interesting’ internet research history …

Things I needed to research

For my first novel Change of Life, although I shared the profession of primary school teacher with Rosie and had, like her, had a cancer diagnosis, I knew nothing about the profession of her husband Tom. So I had to a fair bit of research on the work of a heart surgeon. Other areas I had to investigate for that first story included adoption, drug addiction and the life of a photo-journalist.

When I wrote my (to date) only children’s novel The Silver Locket, I had, amongst other things, to check up on the historical details of the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

But the amount of research requiring to be done ramped up significantly when I was writing my Skye series.

For Displacement, although, like my main characters, I lived in crofting township on the Scottish island of Skye, I wasn’t working on a croft (in case you don’t know, a croft is a small subsistence farm common in parts of the Scottish Highlands and Islands). So I had to research various types of animal husbandry and how crofting works. I also had to research the organisation and ways of working of Police Scotland, the job of a children’s book illustrator, possible complications of pregnancy and the current political situation in the Middle East.

When I was writing Settlement, the second book in the series, I had to look into organised crime, gunshot wounds and how to treat them, as well as the likelihood of surviving a bullet in the chest. The finer points of producing watercolour and oil paintings was another area I had to investigate. And I also had to update my knowledge of both Police Scotland and the work of those on all sides who are working for peace and justice in Israel-Palestine.

Then for my latest book, Fulfilment – the third and final part of the Skye series, to be published next month – there was yet more research to be done. This time it included the use of polytunnels to grow fruit and vegetables, the use of quad bikes on hill farms, the adaptation of quad bikes to hand controls only, how to photograph the night sky, advanced sheep care, PTSD – its nature and treatment, the health implications for those who use a prosthetic leg following amputation, and the work of various social enterprises and charities.

And, as I say, the above list of topics contains just some of the stuff I’ve had to research in the course of my writing.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

But all this investigation of a wide range of topics doesn’t make me an expert in any of them. I hope I’ve done enough to add to the interest, credibility and level of entertainment that I hope my books contain. However, I can’t perform heart surgery, provide mental health therapy, deliver a lamb or treat a sick sheep. Neither can I paint beautiful pictures or photograph the Milky Way. I don’t need to do any of those things, I just have to know enough to convince my readers that my characters can do them.

The perils of research for an author

The downside of doing lots of research as an author is the temptation to justify the time spent doing it by including way too much of it in the story. So it’s a bit of a balancing act when deciding what to include and what to leave out. I know I have to be ruthless and only include what enhances the story or risk boring my readers with a load of irrelevant detail.

Disclaimer

I apologise now if I’ve made any factual errors in spite of my research and constant fact-checking. Any mistakes are most definitely mine and not those of the real experts I asked – or indeed of Mr Google. So don’t treat any of my novels as manuals 😊

I don’t profess to be an expert in everything included in my novels. But I do hope my research has been good enough. Thank you to everyone who has personally and patiently shared their true expertise with me. Respect to you all. I hope I’ve used my research appropriately and understood and interpreted correctly.

But, most of all, I do believe that the time I’ve devoted to my research has been well spent – and that my stories are better for it.