Monday, 22 December 2014

Tis the Season

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s Christmas Day on Thursday. Eeeeek! You’ve finished? Done? Everything? Amazing and I’m very impressed. I, on the other hand, have a list that is still as long as my arm – and I have pretty long arms. Well, I hope they’re pretty.

So I’d just like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and, if it’s been a tough year, I hope the next is good for you and, if it's been good, I wish you an even better one.

Please come and visit again in 2015 – yes, I can’t believe it either – when my first guest of the year, on 5th January, will be the lovely Cathy Mansell

2015 is the year of the goat so go on, go at it
(sorry, couldn't resist)


If you would like to be my guest, please contact me on


Monday, 15 December 2014

Strictly Star of the Future?

My guest today is Wendy Clarke. Wendy is a full time writer of women's fiction. Her work regularly appears in national women's magazines such as The People's Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman's Weekly. She has also written serials and a number of non-fiction magazine articles.

Wendy lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food!

Room in Your Heart is Wendy's first collection of short stories.

I set out to find out more.

I am aware you haven’t always been a writer. What did you do before and why did you choose to change careers?

I’d like to say I was one of those writers who was born with a pen in their hand but it wouldn’t be true. I always loved English Language at school but thought that studying it at university sounded a lot like hard work so did psychology instead. After that, I drifted into teaching. When my children were born I was a stay at home mother for a while before working as education officer at The Sussex Wildlife Trust. I eventually returned to teaching – this time as English teacher in a private primary school. When the school sadly closed in 2011, due to the recession, I decided to do an online creative writing course while thinking about my future. I loved it, despite having not written any fiction for over thirty years - and the rest, as they say, is history!

Your prolific output, and indeed your success, as a short story writer is well known. How do you maintain such a level?

I’m lucky in that writing is my only ‘job’ so that helps. Having said that, I still only write part-time - fitting it in around other things such as my choir, walking the dog and seeing my grandchildren. I try to write at least one story week and am very lucky to have a very good relationship with The People’s Friend who publish a lot of them.

It was a real pleasure to meet you at the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s (RNA) Winter Party a few weeks ago. Does this mean you’ll be turning your hand to novel writing?

I’m trying – honestly! I have three chapters of a novel written but I’m aware I’ve been saying that for rather a long time now. I just seem to keep writing more short stories and serials... I just can’t help myself! The plan is to try to get onto the RNA New Writers’ Scheme in January and that, hopefully, will spur me on.

Can you tell us about your working day?

That’s a little difficult as each day is different. What I’ll do is tell you what I did today. Firstly (while still in bed) I checked Facebook and Twitter and posted/tweeted new items and left comments etc. Then I looked at my blog to see if there were any comments I needed to reply to. After that, I got up and went Christmas shopping. Once home, I walked the dog then wrote 1000 words of a short story before stopping for lunch. In the afternoon, I wrote another 1000 words then, around five, I went back to checking social media again. This was a productive day but they’re not all like that.

Where is your favourite place to write – and why?

I am a writing nomad! I usually start off in the living room as it’s south facing and the move around the house as the mood takes me. In the summer I like writing in the conservatory but it’s a bit cold now that it’s winter.

You’ve recently had an anthology published of some of your short stories, Room in Your Heart. How did you choose which to include?

I decided that I wanted Room in Your Heart to be a collection of romance stories and thought I’d use ones previously published in The People’s Friend. I read them all and then chose my favourite stories for the start, end and middle of the collection. The rest were selected to mix light stories with more emotional ones, male and female viewpoints, first and third person and past and present tense. Hopefully, the finished collection is a well-balanced one.

If you could choose anyone to invite to a dinner party, who would your guests be?

My friends would laugh if they saw this question and say ‘nobody’ as they know I don’t like dinner parties but if I had to then I’d say Strictly star Kevin from Grimsby – so that he could dance with me between courses! David Nicholls – so he could tell me how he writes such wonderfully funny books and Dame Judi Dench – just because she seems so lovely (well, she was when I met her in a garden centre!)

And while you’re not busy writing and entertaining, what do you do to relax?

Oh, that’s easy... I dance! I’ve been dancing modern jive for around twenty years and salsa for over ten. Five years ago, my husband and I took up ballroom and Latin and try to dance twice a week – there’s nothing like dancing for forgetting everyday problems. I also belong to a choir and a very friendly, informal badminton club and I mustn’t forget walking my dog Bonnie, that’s when I do my thinking.

What’s next for Wendy Clarke?

More of the same probably. I like writing short stories too much to give them up but if I can write a novel alongside them then it would be the icing on the cake.

Thank you very much for having me on your blog Natalie; it was lovely of you to ask me.

It’s been a pleasure, Wendy.


Monday, 8 December 2014

It's a Wonderful Life

It’s the 8th December and Christmas is rushing towards us at an alarming rate. I’ve already lost count of the number of feel good seasonal films I’ve watched on the television and what I once found sentimentally cloying I now unashamedly weep at. Mind you, even in the past I cried every time I saw ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ – a feel good production that has stood the test of time, as has ‘Miracle on 34th Street’. There are many others, both recent and not so. ‘The Holiday’ in 2006 and ‘Love Actually’ unbelievably released as long ago as 2003. Do you have a favourite?

This sort of reminded me a bit of Kate Winslet's house in 'The Holiday'

The past two weeks have been about as hectic as the previous two – just in a different way. I was concerned about my first ever guest post here on the blog but I couldn’t really go wrong with Elaine Everest could I. A really good evening at The Write Place Creative Writing School in Dartford on Wednesday, Elaine again, was followed on Saturday by the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) London and South East Chapter Christmas Party. I defy anyone not to enjoy themselves at one of these events and it was lovely to ‘catch up’ with people. The warmth inside more than made up for travelling around in the freezing cold weather. Jean Fullerton was given a wonderful send off by Juliet Archer and Linda Chamberlain - no, she's not leaving, just relinquishing the reins after six years. 

One of the things I’ve found quite difficult since publication of Safe Harbour has been to find a balance between over exposing myself (don’t be naughty) and promoting sufficiently to attract attention. If you are a writer reading this blog, what do YOU do in these circumstances? And yes, of course, now that I’ve mentioned it I have to put the link here. There’s still in time to get it before Christmas. Now is THAT being too pushy. I wish I knew.

Next Monday, on 15th December, I hope you can join me again when my guest will be the lovely Wendy Clarke.

In the meantime, please do let me have your comments on any of the above.

If you would like to appear as a guest on my blog please email me on

Monday, 1 December 2014

Chatting with Elaine Everest

I am thrilled to welcome Elaine Everest today as my first guest. She has had a particularly busy couple of years – not that she was idle prior to that. I had several questions for her:

You haven’t always been a fiction writer. What did you do before and how did you make the transition?

My first sales were with short stories although I was also writing content for our breed club magazine. As the editor of a twice yearly publication that was posted around the world, I had to source articles about Old English Sheepdogs and their owners. Writers who have experienced this kind of work know that sometimes it is easier to write it yourself! Working on articles gave me the confidence to start to pitch ideas to magazines and newspapers and gradually my main income came from journalism with short fiction an added extra. In my spare time I worked on ideas for novels. Romcom, crime, historicals, I’ve tried them all!

In the Spring of 2013 you graduated from the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) with your delightful book, Gracie’s War. What came next?

I was thrilled to be accepted onto the New Writers’ Scheme although by that time I had three non-fiction books published.  Graduation and being part of the Joan Hessayon award was an added bonus. I met my agent, Caroline Sheldon, after we discussed saga writing when she was a guest on the RNA blog. She read Gracie’s War and asked if I was seeking representation. Of course I was!

So now you have an agent. How did things progress from there?

Since the early part of 2014 I’ve been working on another historical saga. This is set in WW2 in Kent. The research into the area at that time and getting to know my new characters and their families has been absorbing. At the end of September Caroline sent out the first part of the novel and only a couple of weeks later the lovely people at Pan Macmillan showed interest.

Many congratulations on securing a contract with Pan-Macmillan. Is there a map laid out for your future?

Thank you. My future will consist of a lot more writing! My first book is expected to be published at the end of 2015 with the second the following year. The books should be on sale in supermarkets which I find exciting as I often stop to look at the paperbacks written by my friends and wonder if mine will ever sit alongside them. I will be meeting my editor at Pan Macmillan soon and look forward to planning my future along with Caroline’s guidance. I’m still pinching myself!

What do you enjoy most about writing novels?
I enjoy recreating settings for my novels that come from an area I know well and where my family has lived for centuries. I like to create a believable life for my characters that take them through an interesting period in the history of England. All the settings in my stories were once real places and that takes a little more research. The area where Gracie, and Sarah from my next book lived with her nan, were once vibrant areas of Kent. Many living there now would not know of the past as the village and town have been absorbed into the Greater London area. Back in the time of WW2 the area was so different and it is this that I like to recreate in my writing.

How do relax when not working?
Dogs! Since 1972 I’ve owned, exhibited, judged and bred dogs. Apart from one crossbreed I’ve had Old English Sheepdogs and Polish Lowland Sheepdogs in my life. 99% of the time they have been pets but the other one percent has seen us at large and small shows around the country competing with the Paddipaws gang. At present we have just the one dog, Henry. Henry was imported from France and is a chocolate coloured Polish Lowland Sheepdog, the very first one of his breeding in this country. He has done well in the show ring and 2015 sees us stepping up the number of shows we attend as he heads towards competing to be a champion – fingers crossed. Saying that he is a joy to live with regardless of how he does in the ring. He will also be used at stud in the next year so there are lots of little Henry’s on the horizon which is making me broody for another puppy…
The dog world has also been important to my writing as I’ve written three non- fiction books for dog owners as well as making a living a journalist specialising in the canine world which has led to broadcasting on radio and my books appearing on television.

If you were a guest on Desert Island Discs what would be your chosen book?
Goodness that is a hard question! Could I take my Kindle? No? Hmm… In that case I’ll take the latest Ben Elton novel, Time and Time Again. I became a fan of Ben’s writing after reading his novel set in WW1 The First Casualty was so beautifully written and he did not stint on the horrors of what the soldiers endured whilst fighting for their country. In Time and Time Again he revisits WW1 but with a twist as it’s a time slip novel.

Elaine has sold over sixty short stories as well as many articles for national newspapers and magazines. She specialised in writing about the canine world (with three non-fiction dog books) but will write about anything if paid enough! In the past year Elaine has concentrated on her novel writing, graduating from the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme with her WW2 saga, Gracie’s War (Myrmidon Books), in 2012. She is a qualified tutor and runs The Write Place creative writing school in Dartford, Kent.
Elaine is represented by the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency and has just signed a two book contract with Pan Macmillan.

The Write Place:
Twitter: @elaineeverest
Facebook: Elaine Everest

Thank you for welcoming me to your blog, Natalie.

It’s been a pleasure, Elaine. 

If you would like to appear as a guest on my blog please email me on