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On Location with Margaret Amatt

With its dramatic and diverse landscape, Scotland has always been a popular location when it comes to art and literature. We’re in for another travel treat this week as author Margaret Amatt tells us about the Scottish island which captured her imagination and provided the inspiration for her writing.

My book series, Scottish Island Escapes, is set on the glorious Hebridean Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland. This has been one of my favourite holiday destinations over the years and I’ve visited it in every season. Each visit has provided me with happy memories, gorgeous views and lots of inspiration!

It was twenty years ago, in 2001, I first travelled to the island, just for a weekend as I was gate-crashing my sister’s island-hopping trip. The two of us were young and carefree and booked a B&B for the night in a place called Fionnphort. As children we’d spent many a summer on another Scottish island, the Isle of Bute. Now, Bute is a fairly small island. You can drive around the whole thing in less than an hour. Mull is not! Mull is the fourth largest island in Britain and the roads are almost all single-track. It takes a looong time to get around. Neither my sister or I realised this and hadn’t bothered to read a map! It took us over an hour to reach the B&B from the ferry, more than double the time we’d imagined.

The shock of discovering just how big a place it was however vanished in the utterly jaw-dropping scenery. Around every twist on the road (and there are plenty of them!), was another view: a splendid mountain, a sparkling loch, a pretty woodland or the sea. And what a sea. All around Mull and its neighbouring Isle of Iona, the ocean is a glorious turquoise colour, sometimes resembling the Mediterranean more than Britain!

That was my first trip and I only touched on a small part of the island. I made a note to return and explore more. Since then, I’ve been back to the island almost every year and often more than once. I’ve travelled there in all weathers, including a memorable new year spent in the Island’s main town of Tobermory. Mull is a photographers’ paradise. There’s barely a place on the island that isn’t a beauty spot. Some trips, I’ve stopped the car every few seconds to snap pictures from the road of passing scenery I can’t bear to miss!

For many years, I was a closet writer and wrote only for myself. All my early work falls into that category and I wouldn’t want it to be anything else. What it meant however was that when I came to publishing my books, I had already written several works. During 2019 was when the dream started coming together for real. I had a story in my head that had been with me ever since my first trip to Mull. I’d only been a gate-crasher on that trip, and when my sister carried on her tour of the islands, I took public transport back home. That trip alone included a somewhat eventful bus trip, but that’s another story. Since then however, I’d wondered how someone from a totally different place would react to living on an island. I’m Scottish born and bred, so single-track roads and crazy weather don’t faze me too much. But what if someone from London, say, had to go to Mull, and even worse had to use public transport? What if they, like me, hadn’t investigated the size of the place, or didn’t realise buses could only get you so far. The more I visited mull the more potential for stories built in my imagination.

The original book I set on the island used the storyline I mentioned above, but as I wrote it, it evolved in my mind and I realised there was so much more than just one story here. I shook things up and decided to make a series of five books. The series called Scottish Island Escapes was born. There’s a book for every season plus a Christmas one due out this October. The original book became book four, An Autumn Hideaway. The lead character comes to Mull seeking her estranged mother but instead she meets a grumpy and enigmatic local who isn’t impressed with her lack of basic planning skills. As the story evolves, they form an unlikely bond, making it all the more difficult for her to leave when her time on the island is up. Let’s hope she finds her happy ending on the gorgeous Isle of Mull with rainbows around every corner.

I’m planning to continue the series next year and with so much inspiration to draw from, I’ll be spoiled for choice. Because it’s a place so special to me, I’ve written in a lot of real villages, beaches and features, but invented the names of houses, hotels, farms etc. This has made a lot of my readers want to visit Mull themselves! Even my editor thinks I should be on commission from the local tourist board – an interesting idea! If you’re inspired to read the series or are curious to find out more please follow this link:

www.margaretamatt.com/linktree

About Margaret Amatt

Margaret Amatt is a Scottish author based in Highland Perthshire. She lives with her husband and young son in a beautiful glen surrounded by woods, hills and wildlife, and close to the River Tay.

Margaret has four published books and more in the pipeline. She has also won a short story writing competition at Pitlochry Festival Theatre and had her winning piece performed live in the auditorium.

For more information please visit.

www.margaretamatt.com

or sign up for Margaret’s newsletter at:

https://www.margaretamatt.com/subscribe

Blurb for An Autumn Hideaway

She went looking for someone, but it wasn’t him.

After a string of disappointments for chirpy city girl Autumn Elworthy, discovering her notoriously unstable mother has run off again is the last straw. When Autumn learns her mother’s last known whereabouts was a remote Scottish Island, she makes the rash decision to go searching for her.

Taciturn islander Richard Linden has his reasons for choosing the remote Isle of Mull as home. He’s on a deadline and doesn’t need any complications or company. But everything changes after a chance encounter with Autumn.

Autumn chips away at Richard’s reserve until his carefully constructed walls start to crumble. But Autumn’s just a passing visitor and Richard has no plans to leave. Will they realise, before it’s too late, that what they’ve been searching for isn’t necessarily what’s missing?

Buying link https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B095289PRN/

Many thanks to Margaret for taking part and sharing her gorgeous pictures. Margaret definitely should be working for the island tourist board – although I’d just like to point out that Mr T and me still have nightmares about driving around those roads in Mull after our road trip to Scotland last year!

On Location with Fiona Leitch

We’re taking another excursion on the theme of literary inspiration this week. Author Fiona Leitch takes us behind the scenes in Paris for a guided tour of her latest novel.

As a reader, I love books with a strong sense of location. If I can imagine the scene – smell the coffee, or the roses blooming, feel the breeze, hear the thrum of traffic or the waves lapping against a white sand beach – then I’m much more likely to invest in the characters and their journey; it feels like I’m there with them. As a writer, my books’ locations mean I can have fun! What better excuse for a holiday than ‘research’?

 My latest book, Falling in Louvre, is set (obviously) in Paris. It’s the setting for many romance novels, of course, but I’ve tried to include a few of the less obvious parts of the city, including places I’ve visited myself.

The Louvre museum plays a major role, as my protagonists Sylvie and Philippe both work there. Its most famous inhabitant is the Mona Lisa, who’s actually far smaller in real life than you’d probably imagine. Less well known is the Carousel du Louvre, the underground shopping mall directly underneath the museum, where Philippe goes to buy something for Sylvie. The mall also offers another entrance into the museum, which is a good way to skip the ever-present massive queue of visitors outside by the famous pyramid. 

One of the places that Sylvie and Philippe end up on their adventures is the Manoir de Paris, a haunted house tourist attraction set in a magnificent former ceramics workshop built in the 1880s. It originally stood cheek-by-jowl with the Saint-Lazare leper colony and prison, so the area has a colourful if rather macabre history – just right for a haunted house…

This in turn leads Sylvie and Philippe to a location that is even more spooky – the Paris catacombs. There is a 1.5km loop of underground tunnels, the last resting place of several thousand Parisians from the 18th century (and earlier), which is open to tourists and is an undeniably fascinating (if rather claustrophobic and eerie) place to visit. But then there’s the REAL catacombs, an estimated 320km network of ossuaries, abandoned quarries, sewers and tunnels that runs the entire length and breadth of the city, including the ‘lake’ (actually a water tank designed by the opera house’s architect in 1862, to contain groundwater rather than try to pump it away) under the Palais Garnier, which influenced the Phantom of the Opera story. It’s been illegal since 1955 to go down there, but it doesn’t stop everyone – there’s a whole gang of ‘cataphiles’, urban explorers who spend their time seeking out hidden tunnels, not to mention the underground dining clubs, illegal raves and others with purposes nefarious or otherwise… I really enjoyed visiting the ‘official’ catacombs, but I would give anything to go to a party down there. What an atmosphere!

A more romantic atmosphere can be found on the famous Pont des Artes bridge, which crosses the Seine near the Louvre, where scores of lovers have shown their devotion by writing their names on padlocks and securing them to the bridge as a symbol of their undying adoration; their names together, for ever more. Or at least until the city council come along and cut them off, which they do every few years. The last time this happened almost 40 tonnes of padlocks were removed!

Sylvie lives in some style in the 6th arrondisement, a very expensive part of the city, while Philippe lives with his mum in a tiny top floor apartment in Montmartre. One of his favourite places nearby (where they have a rendezvous in the rain) is the Sacre Coeur. The cathedral sits above the city on its hilltop, and the view from there is probably the best in Paris – better, even, than the one from the Eiffel Tower, as it actually has the tower in it! Who can blame Philippe for spending sunny afternoons there, reading his book on the grass, before wandering down into the streets below for a coffee?

I adore Paris. It’s a beautiful city, and it definitely puts you in the mood for love. I hope Falling in Louvre will make you fall in love with it too!

Buy link: mybook.to/Louvre (available exclusively on Amazon)

About Fiona Leitch

Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and was a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. Her romantic cosy mystery series, The Nosey Parker Mysteries, is published by One More Chapter/HarperCollins, while her debut novel, ‘Dead in Venice’, was published by Audible as one of their Crime Grant finalists. After living in London, Hastings and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the volcanic sand beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Social Media Links:

https://www.twitter.com/@fkleitch

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/@leitchfiona

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fiona.leitch.1

Website: https://www.fionaleitch.com/

Amazon author page:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fiona-Leitch/e/B07HYZLQ57/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Many thanks to Fiona for taking part. Fiona’s books are great fun and I’m looking forward to reading about Sophie and Phillipes adventures in one of my favourite cities. I have very happy memories of Me and Mr T taking romantic walks along the banks of the Seine…

One Month On

After a few weeks with my feet up, I thought I ought to pen my own blog post this week. A Crisis at Clifftops has now been out in the big wide world for a whole month, and it seems a good time for an analysis/appraisal of how things have gone.

Success, no matter how small, should always be celebrated. I’m a complete technophobe but I managed to upload my book onto Amazon – woohoo! I’m shy and reserved, yet I’ve managed to convince people they’ll enjoy this book enough to want to download their own copy – go me! Seriously, I am totally chuffed at the response.

My book launch was low-key. I’m working on a very tight self-publishing budget, prioritising editing and cover design, to ensure I had a professional quality product. I knew I would have to publicise this book organically with no paid promotions, not even a blog tour. I knew sales would be limited, but if I’m honest they’ve exceeded my expectations.

A Crisis at Clifftops was never going to become an overnight Kindle bestseller, but we made it to the dizzy heights of being a HOT NEW RELEASE, and at one point it was sitting at NUMBER 3 in its golfing category, which gave me something to sing and dance about.  I apologise now to anyone who follows me on Facebook –  every time I post something I can hear a chorus of “there she goes again, banging on about her b****y book.” The thing about being self-published is that if I don’t bang on about my book, no-one else will.  I have to keep it visible.

We all know about Facebook algorithms which limit who sees what, and anything I post on Twitter always disappears into a void. I’m grateful for every re-tweet and share by friends who understand how hard it is for independent authors like me to reach a wider audience.

Goodness knows how many books have been published in the last month. A Crisis at Clifftops will soon disappear off the radar. It will settle somewhere low down in the Amazon charts.  I do get a little flutter of excitement every time I see it move up in its Amazon category. I know those BIG bestselling authors never have to check these things – Richard Osman would be in a constant flap, but for me, each flutter is special, even more so because I made it happen all by myself.

There was a time after the publication of my second book back in 2019 when I felt totally disenchanted and deflated with the whole publishing/writing thing. Seriously I could have happily never written another word again.  

However, this time round I knew exactly what I was capable of. I set myself different targets. In the last four weeks I’ve received some amazing reviews from readers and from within the writing community, together with messages and comments which have totally restored my confidence and made my heart sing! And yes, even more exciting, readers can cope with a heroine who plays sport for a living!

I know not everyone who buys the book is able, or will be willing, to leave a review. There’s a minimum spend requirement on Amazon, and to be honest I don’t review every Amazon purchase I make. It’s a crochet hook – it crochets. It’s already got 1000+ reviews it doesn’t need another one…

I dream of 1000+ reviews, but us writers are needy, fragile creatures.  I genuinely want to know if you’ve enjoyed what I’ve written. So if A Crisis at Clifftops has made you smile, provided a few hours of escape, let me know. (And don’t forget to tell your friends if you think they might like it too – there are loads of people out there who would benefit from having this book in their lives, if only they knew it existed…)

Meanwhile, The Puzzle of Pine Bay, Eliza Kane Investigates Book 2, is on its way. I originally intended to have everything ship-shape and ready to set sail later this year, but that’s not going to happen. Apart from the fact that the Christmas novel marketing deluge is already underway (yes I know, ridiculous right? I don’t even feel I’ve had my summer yet), my plot was far too complicated. I’d basically tied poor Eliza up in knots. It’s not exactly back to the drawing board, more an extensive unpicking (why do you think I bought that crochet hook?!) Seriously, Pine Bay will be out early in 2022.

Making the decision to self-publish was very much about taking control, not just of what I write, but about publishing under my own terms. I’m really pleased (and relieved) with how these first steps have gone. To everyone who has downloaded a copy of A Crisis at Clifftops, you’ve made me very happy. Thank you. And if you haven’t downloaded a copy yet, what’s your excuse?

On Location with Melanie Robertson-King

The miles are stacking up as we travel cross-country on our virtual travels, seeking out those inspirational book locations. This week Canadian author Melanie Robertson-King explains her unique and very personal reason for choosing Scotland as the setting for her debut novel.

I’ve noticed you’ve had some people choose Scotland as their location. Of course, that was my go-to as well, but I’m willing to wager my reason and connection to Scotland hasn’t been featured on your blog.

My father was born in the heart of Aberdeenshire between the towns of Insch (a Royal Borough no less) and Huntly in the parish of Kennethmont. He came to Canada as a British Home Child through the auspices of The Orphan Homes of Scotland after being raised there since his admission in 1917. I first visited both locations in 1993 and stayed at a farmhouse B&B in the Kennethmont area.

It was during this first visit that the seeds were sown, and ideas began to percolate. I changed the names of some of the towns/villages and the stately home to “protect the guilty.” LOL. Seriously, I knew the area well but giving people their privacy was the prudent thing to do. Insch became Duninsch – fitting since Dunnideer, and its hillfort overlooks the town. Kennethmont became Kendonald. Culsalmond became Williamsmuir, although it didn’t come into its own until the second book in the series. The farm’s name where my family lived in my novel and worked (actual name shall remain nameless) became Gordonsfield. And Wardhouse became Weetshill. The reason behind that is my father was born at Weets in Kennethmont parish, and some gazetteers referred to it as Weets, Wardhouse by Insch.

I deemed that other locations were far enough from the heart of the story that they could retain their identities (Huntly, Aberdeen City and Ladysbridge Asylum).

I’m not sure if it was the spooky ruins of Wardhouse mansion that started things, or maybe even the ghostly-looking trees on the road to the Picardy Stone. It was one of the two. There is a stone circle atop the hill at the farmhouse B&B, but I didn’t visit it on that first trip. But I did at least once before I started writing my debut novel and many times since.

I took this photo of Wardhouse mansion from the main road between Insch and Kennethmont in 2013. By this time, work on restoration had begun. At least removing the trees that were growing up inside this roofless hulk. I didn’t find out until years later that we could drive up there and wander around. You’ve got to love the Right to Roam. It wasn’t until September 2015, I got up close and personal with Wardhouse mansion, and I’m thrilled I did.

Isn’t it gorgeous? This photo graces the cover of the second book in the series. Not, only that but my grandfather was a tenant farmer for the Laird of Wardhouse. Pretty cool, eh?

The ghostly trees. Imagine seeing these on a moonlit night, the wind rasping through the leafy canopy. Send a shiver down your spine?

And let’s not forget the stone circle and the views from it. You can see Wardhouse mansion, the Ardmore distillery and of course, the farmhouse, barns and other outbuildings from it.

As a side note, I see faces in these stones. Once you see them, you can’t unsee them. 🙂

 With all this going for it, plus my familial link to the area, is it any wonder I chose Scotland as the setting for my debut novel?

About Melanie Robertson-King

Melanie Robertson-King has always been a fan of the written word. Growing up as an only child, her face was almost always buried in a book from the time she could read. Her father was one of the thousands of Home Children sent to Canada through the auspices of The Orphan Homes of Scotland, and she has been fortunate to be able to visit her father’s homeland many times and even met the Princess Royal (Princess Anne) at the orphanage where he was raised.

Follow Melanie at these links:

Website:  https://melanierobertson-king.com

Celtic Connexions Blog:  https://melanierobertson-king.com/wp02/

Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/MelanieRobertsonKingAuthor/

Twitter:  @RobertsoKing

A Shadow in the Past – Blurb

When a contemporary teen is transported back in time to the Victorian era, she becomes A Shadow in the Past…

Nineteen-year-old Sarah Shand finds herself in Victorian Era Aberdeenshire, Scotland and has no idea how she got there. Her last memory is of being at the stone circle on the family farm in the year 2010.

Despite having difficulty coming to terms with her situation, Sarah quickly learns she must keep her true identity a secret. Still, she feels stifled by the Victorians’ confining social practices, including arranged marriages between wealthy and influential families, and confronts them head only to suffer the consequences.

When Sarah realizes she has fallen in love with the handsome Laird of Weetshill, she faces an agonizing decision. Does she try to find her way back to 2010 or remain in the past with the man she loves?

https://books2read.com/shadowinpast

Many thanks to Melanie for taking part.

On Location with Lynne Shelby

Continuing our armchair travels, this week we’re heading off for some well-deserved sunshine with my special guest Lynne Shelby.

I never know what’s going to inspire me to write a book. Very often it’s an overheard conversation on a bus or train, or a photograph, but with my new novel, Love On Location, it was the location – a Greek island – that inspired me before I had any ideas about the characters or plot.

I was on holiday on the island of Kefalonia when I knew that I simply had to write a book set in beautiful Greece. The off-the-beaten-track place where I was staying consisted of just a few typically Greek sugar-cube-style villas, each with its own turquoise swimming pool. Right next to a small rocky beach, with nothing to see along the coast in either direction, and reached by a dirt road, it was like a picture postcard. There was even a wooden table at the top of the beach, under an awning of palm leaves, which became my writing room, and sitting there, looking out over the impossibly blue Aegean to the horizon where the sea merged into the sky in a haze of heat, the outline of the story that eventually became Love On Location, began to take shape. When my heroine, Laurel, a screenwriter, and my hero, Jason, join a film crew on location in Greece, they stay in a villa very much like the one I stayed in, and Laurel writes her film script at the same table shaded by palm leaves where I started jotting down ideas about her story. 

The other island that inspired the location of the book is Santorini, another incredibly beautiful place, famous for its views over a sea-filled caldera, the remnants of a volcano that erupted three thousand years ago and gave the island its crescent shape. The first time I visited was on a cruise, with just one day ashore, but I found the landscape of sheer cliffs plunging into the sea absolutely stunning. A few years later, on an island-hopping holiday, I visited Santorini again and had more time to explore. When I came to write Love On Location, I wanted Laurel and Jason to see the same picturesque villages of white houses with blue shutters at the windows and cobbled streets, and the views of the caldera that I’d found so breath-taking. The island is also famous for its gorgeous sunsets, and watching the huge orange globe of the sun sink into the sea from a cliff-top village, I couldn’t help but think how I might write this romantic scene into a book. Santorini also has some fascinating ancient ruins – the remains of the city of Akrotiri – and a visit there inspired me to make my hero, Jason, an archeologist who is just as passionate about his work as Laurel is about the movies.

When it came to writing the first draft and choosing the island that would be the setting for Love On Location, I couldn’t decide between Kefalonia and Santorini, as both had places that were ideal for certain scenes in the book, but neither had everything I needed. In the end, I merged the two islands into the fictional Kyros. Not that anyone needs the excuse of research to visit the Greece, but after I’d written the book, I took another trip to Santorini, to remind myself of small details about the Greek islands that I might have forgotten, and the sounds and scents that do so much to create a sense of place.

I hope that in Love On Location, although Kyros is fictional, I’ve managed to convey the real atmosphere of an idyllic Greek island.

About Love On Location

When Laurel Martin is hired to rewrite the script for a new timeslip movie, she expects the historical advisor hired by the studio to be an elderly academic who won’t interfere too much with her writing. But when she meets Professor Jason Harding, a young and unexpectedly handsome archaeologist who has his own ideas about the script, she realises the job isn’t going to be as simple as she first thought.

As their work takes them from arguing over historical details in a cramped London office to discovering the hidden beauties of a Greek island, Laurel and Jason’s relationship starts to echo the romance of their script.

Will movie magic lead to a real-life love story?

Buy Link

Amazon.co.uk: Lynne Shelby: Books, Biography, Blogs, Audiobooks, Kindle

Website: www.lynneshelby.com

Twitter: @LynneB1

Facebook: www.facebook.com/LynneShelbyWriter

Instagram: lynneshelbywriter

Author Biog

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction/romance. She was first published when her debut novel, ‘French Kissing’ won a national writing competition. She has done a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor’s chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time. When not writing or reading, Lynne enjoys visiting the theatre or exploring a foreign city, writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

Many thanks to Lynne for taking part and for giving us a taste of Greece. I think it would be hard NOT to be inspired by those wonderful views, and I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing I was there right now!

On Location with Natalie Normann

After all the excitement of my book launch (which was very successful, thank you for asking), I’m very happy to put my feet up this week. Continuing my series of literary travelblogs, I’m delighted to welcome Scandanavian author Natalie Normann who takes us on a journey to her native Norway.

Where I go to be inspired

When my dream to write in English suddenly appeared (it did), I panicked. I had a wonderful editor, a contract for two books and the brief was to write contemporary romance from Norway.

Honestly, there was really only place that would do. My hometown. I love my memories of growing up there, and wanted to see if I could capture that in a story.  Most of my writing career I had avoided it, thinking it would be to small, to local, to far away from everything.

I grew up in Haugesund, a small, but historically important, town on the west-coast. It was called ‘the most isolated town’ in the country, because it’s stuck between two long fjords and a mountain plateau. The easiest way to travel anywhere was by boat.

When I was a teenager, the only interesting thing in town was the library. I knew there was history, but there was no drama, no romance, nothing that caugth my interest. And that was despite the Viking history of the area …

Growing up, I thought Haugesund was all about fish and ships, then oil and oil platforms, cannery factories, herring oil factories (and the horribly smell that came from them). None of it caught my imagination. I didn’t like herring (still don’t), I couldn’t go to sea because I was a girl, and working in the oil industry was for people who liked maths and had a lot more practical abilities than I ever had.

So, shortly before I turned 18, I was off to Uni in Oslo. I was going to study literature, become a proper writer, and never write about my hometown. I achieved the first two, and failed splendidly with the third. My first book was set in Hamburg, the next books were all set in Oslo.

And then I started writing historical romance series, and discovered how interesting and fascinating the history of a small shipping town can be – when you start digging through the local history, getting to know the people who lived there, how they lived – I also discovered how important this little strip of land had been way back when the Vikings roamed the shore.

I’ve asked myself why I find writing about my town so fascinating. I haven’t lived there for many years, but I do think the place a person grows up, imprints on you. It becomes a part of your voice when you write. If you let it.

When I write, I try to use everything that I love about the landscape, but also the history and the people. I don’t write about actual people, but there’s inspiration there too.  Norway used to be a place of hardship, with poverty and nothing much to show for your efforts. It’s changed now, of course, but the culture is still there. And when I do research, I find inspiration in the people I meet from the past. Maybe writers are ghosthunters who don’t kill ghosts, but write about them instead.

Which is why Summer Island and Christmas Island are both set on a small island just outside of my hometown. I loved exploring memories of trips to islands, of the weather, the stunning landscape and all the quirky characters I know are there. Even in real life.

Also, I had so much fun in making Nordic less Noir. Yes, the winters are bleak and cold, but they are so much more than that. And the summers are glorious, even if the water is can be so, so cold.

 About Natalie 

Natalie Normann grew up in a small shipping town on the west-coast in Norway. She wanted to be a writer as soon as she realised that books were written by real people. Her debut novel was published in Norwegian in 1995. Since 2007 she has written Historical Romance in Norwegian and recently published her 66th book. Summer Island and Christmas Island are her first books in English. 

Links to social media and buy links: https://linktr.ee/NatalieNormann

Many thanks to Natalie for taking part and providing an insight into her writing. Norway has always been on my wish list of places to visit, fingers crossed I’ll be able to make it in the not too distant future!

I Made This!

We’re not travelling anywhere exotic this week, but staying put at my writing desk in Southampton. I am going to talk about a journey though, my writing journey, and why I decided to head down the self-publishing route for my latest novel, A Crisis at Clifftops, which launches next week.

It’s three years since the publication of my first book, and two and a half since the second. There are various reasons why it’s taken me so long to produce a third. I’m a slow writer, I’m not one of these dedicated 5000 words a day people, I’m an as and when, and sometimes life just has this habit of getting in the way.  I’m also a perpetual tweaker with a serious case of self-doubt, so even when I’ve got what looks like a finished product, I’ll edit, re-edit, reinstate paragraphs I took out six months ago, add in a new character, start a new project, force family and friends to read my work, incorporate their comments, and edit it all over again…

Then there’s the whole submitting to agents/publishers debacle, which for anyone who doesn’t know, takes ages. You send out a query letter and wait for a response. And wait. And wait. Not just days. Or weeks. Months.

I felt I had to give it go. Of the handful of replies to my queries, I received a couple of “encouraging” rejections. It’s wonderful to be told there ain’t nothing wrong with your writing, BUT also disappointing when compliments are inevitably followed by a BUT (and even more disappointing when one of the big BUT’s appeared to be because of my heroine’s occupation!)

Over the last twelve/eighteen months of lockdown I’ve had a lot of time to reflect and contemplate. I knew if I carried on submitting, my book might eventually get picked up, BUT there would have to be changes and compromises, and another long wait until publication day itself. I’ve seen authors on Twitter shouting about new books coming out in 2023 – I didn’t want to wait in the literary wilderness for another two years. Making a decision to self-publish was like stepping off a hamster wheel.

I know what the publishing world is like. Creating a main character who played golf was a risky strategy, BUT even so those rejections were demoralising. I write because I enjoy writing. It’s a creative outlet, it keeps my brain cells ticking over, it’s something to do in the winter when it’s cold and wet and I can’t go outside.  And for me, being creative also means creating something that doesn’t mimic every other book out there on the market.

I must admit I did have a wobbly moment and wonder whether I ought to play down Eliza’s sporting prowess in my book blurb in case it put readers off, but then I thought, what the heck! Self-publishing means taking control and having the freedom to write the books I want to write. My heroines don’t have to conform and bake cakes. NOT that there is anything wrong with heroines who bake cakes, I know the public love cake-baking heroines, in fact I’m one myself, I BAKE CAKES, in fact here’s one I made earlier, together with the book I made too…I’m just talking about giving readers choices and diversity!

The self-publishing process has been a learning curve. I haven’t been reckless. I did consult an editor, and splashed out on a wonderful cover designer. I’ve taken a professional approach and enjoyed the process – which is what it’s all about.  I know I don’t want to be hunched over my laptop 24 /7 days to meet deadlines. I don’t want to spend every hour or every day on social media promoting my books.  I also have to be realistic about what I can achieve.

I have fingers crossed for next week’s launch. I hope readers will love Eliza, Lillian and Charlie as much as I do, and will want to follow their adventures into the next book in the series. And if they don’t, tough. I’m writing it anyway.

Here’s the A Crisis at Clifftops blurb for those of you who haven’t yet checked it out!

When Lilian Hathaway is named as the chief suspect in a murder enquiry, her granddaughter Eliza drops everything to rush to her side. After a string of crushing defeats, professional golfer Eliza is facing a career crisis of her own. She seizes the opportunity to hide away with Lilian at Clifftops Hotel, the family’s home on the Isle of Wight, determined to defend her beloved nanna’s innocence.

But just how innocent is Lilian?

As the evidence starts to mount up, Eliza turns amateur sleuth in a race to uncover the truth. Family loyalty is stretched to the limits when she discovers a series of events in her grandmother’s past which could have far-reaching consequences, not just for Lilian but also for Clifftops, and Eliza’s own future.

Available exclusively on Amazon Kindle, A Crisis at Clifftops is a fun and original cosy mystery, set against the backdrop of an old-fashioned seaside resort and featuring a feisty heroine who quickly learns life outside the sporting arena doesn’t always follow the rules.

On Location with Marie Laval

This week we’re heading back up north with another Location, Location, Location feature. I’m delighted to welcome author Marie Laval to talk about the inspiration behind her latest novel.

Happy Dreams at Mermaid Cove is the third of my novels set in the Scottish Highlands… and it definitely won’t be the last. I have always felt a very special attraction for Scotland and its wild, romantic and magnificent landscapes. I have only been there twice but my dream would be to travel all around the Highlands, then stay in a cottage near the sea for a few weeks, perhaps even on the Isle of Skye where my story is set – although not in the Arrandale Peninsula, since I made it up!  

Getting the setting just right was essential for my story and I spent a long time reading about different Hebridean islands, including Muck and Rum. One of my favourite books was the fascinating A Drop in the Ocean by Polly Pullar and Lawrence MacEwen – the laird of Muck – about his family, his work and his life on Muck. In the end I had to choose an island big enough and with enough people living there to have a mobile library service and I decided on Skye. However, having never visited the area I didn’t want to get anything wrong, so I invented Arrandale and its Gaelic name of Fearann nan Aislingean Sonathe Land of Happy Dreams.

My inspiration for Happy Dreams at Mermaid Cove was the photo of a yellow mobile library on a deserted Scottish road that author friend Melinda Hammond posted on Facebook at the beginning of 2020. It captured my imagination so much that I started writing a story about it straight away. I knew a little about mobile libraries because a very long time ago, I actually worked in one in the Wigan area for a few weeks, and what fun it was. Of course Wigan and its surroundings are very flat, unlike Arrandale, and there were no Highland cows crossing the road or fierce storms battering the countryside… and no mermaids.

About Marie Laval

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie now lives in the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire. She writes both contemporary and historical romance. Her novels include best selling contemporary romantic suspense novels LITTLE PINK TAXI and ESCAPE TO THE LITTLE CHATEAU, which was shortlisted for the 2021 RNA Jackie Collins Romantic Suspense Awards, as well as A PARIS FAIRY TALE and BLUEBELL’S CHRISTMAS MAGIC. Her historical novel, ANGEL OF THE LOST TREASURE, was published in February 2021, and HAPPY DREAMS AT MERMAID COVE is her latest contemporary romance. Marie also contributes to the best selling Miss Moonshine’s Emporium anthologies together with eight author friends from Authors on the Edge.

Blurb

From the big city to a little yellow mobile library on the Isle of Skye … When Jenna Palmer agrees to the new position of mobile librarian on the tiny Arrandale peninsular of the Isle of Skye, she knows she’s signing up for difficult working conditions and mediocre wages. But Jenna needs to get away, and a little yellow mobile library called Buttercup could be her escape to happier dreams …
However, whilst Jenna can get to grips with foggy island roads, local mermaid legends and even big purple monsters, she never expected to have to contend with a boss as grumpy as Daniel McGregor, or a young book lover as enthusiastic as his niece, Katrina.
Arrandale might represent Jenna’s safe port in a storm, but could she and Buttercup also become a beacon of hope to Daniel, Katrina and the entire island community?

HAPPY DREAMS AT MERMAID COVE is available as an ebook on Amazon and Kobo.

Many thanks to Marie for taking part. The idea of working in a mobile library on a remote island is very appealing, although I definitely wouldn’t want to come too close to the Highland cattle!

Six Days, Four Friends & One Coastal Path

Not the title of the next Richard Curtis movie, but a post about our walk around the Isle of Wight. (Obviously I’d be more than happy to sell the film rights to Mr Curtis, although I suspect he’d want to change the leading characters from two middle-aged couples to four thirty-something singletons and a token American.)

According to the guide books, the The Isle of Wight coastal path can be completed in four days. We opted for six. We also booked overnight stays in B&Bs, rather than campsites, and a courier company to transport our bags. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, hiking for lightweights.

We were on holiday! We wanted to enjoy our walk around the Island, take in the scenery, soak up the ambiance of quaint rural villages, stop and smell the wild roses in the hedgerows and marvel at the stunning coastal vistas. We’d done our research and our training, we knew we could manage the ten or twelve miles required each day without too much effort. The friends we were going with had also done their training, at a slightly faster pace than us. But hey, once we’d got over that first sixteen miles of Day One at record speed, we agreed we were very happy to keep their back views in our eyeline, and let them forge on ahead.

Day One was always going to be the killer – Cowes to Yarmouth, an area of the island none of us were familiar with, off the tourist trail, remote and wild, and with a distinct lack of suitable pitstops.

The salty sea marshes around Newtown Creek take the coastal path along boardwalks and a meandering, but very pretty, detour inland, but with both pubs on the route shut, our planned long lazy lunch subsequently involved a mad dash to Shalfleet village shop five minutes before closing time to grab the last three packets of sandwiches and an impromptu picnic in the local graveyard. A valuable lesson learned on Day One – when you see an eating opportunity, take it.

Day Two, Yarmouth to Freshwater – cross-country no more than four miles, in fact it was doing that walk last year with our friends which sparked the whole idea of the round the island hike. The coastal path takes ten but you get to experience the tourist trap of Alum Bay, before enjoying the natural wonders of the Needles and Tennyson Down. Valuable lesson learned on Day Two – when you see an eating opportunity at a tacky tourist attraction, avoid it.

Day Three Freshwater to Chale, along the Island’s spectacular southern coast and in my opinion the highlight of the trip. Never mind the sunburn, the blisters, the fact that the path hangs precariously close to the edge of the cliff and in some places disappears altogether (seven acres of the island are lost into the sea every year according to the landlady of our gorgeous B&B in Freshwater). With the stunning view across the English Channel to our right, and rolling fields to our left, we hardly saw another soul all day, although we did spot a peregrine falcon.

Day Four, Chale to Shanklin, another delightful trek, but by now we realised we should have done more gradient training. This walk also took us to Ventnor, which is where most of A Crisis of Clifftops is set. Ventnor, eerily shrouded in midday mist, was pretty much as I remembered it from our visit a couple of years ago (big sigh of relief no major edits of location descriptions required when I got home!)

Day Five, Shanklin to Seaview, passed through the dubious delights of a rather rundown Sandown, not looking its best first thing in the morning (do any of us?) and onwards to Bembridge and beyond, the second longest leg of the trip.

Day Six was Seaview back to Cowes.   After Ryde much of the path is inland to avoid trespassing through the grounds of Osborne House, but the route twists along country lanes through quaint villages, until the outskirts of East Cowes when it becomes disappointingly urban.

All the way around the island the coastal path is well sign-posted, and areas of danger – and there are many – fenced off and diversions in place.  The courier service was excellent and our luggage was always picked up and delivered on time. Overnight accommodation was clean and comfortable, and we did spice things up a bit on occasions by tossing our room keys into a hat to see which couple won the ensuite with a bath…

You do always wonder when you holiday with other people, how you’re going to get on. Apart from providing inspiration for a whole new series of crime novels, Murder on the Mudflats, Bludgeoned on the Boardwalk, Calamity on the Cliff Path, when our friends did pause for breath, they were great fun. Seriously, we’re still talking!

I thought I knew the Isle of Wight pretty well, but walking the coastal path was a great way to see its diverse and contrasting flora, fauna and natural landscapes from a whole new perspective. Two weeks later the blisters have healed and we’re already already planning our next trek!

On Location with Sharon Booth

While I recover with my feet up after my epic hike around the Isle of Wight, I’m delighted to hand over this week’s post to author Sharon Booth. Continuing our locations theme, Sharon talks about a beautiful part of North Yorkshire which is very close to her heart.

The Whole of the Moon, my latest release, is the fourth and final book in the Kearton Bay series. Kearton Bay is a fictional village on the North Yorkshire coast, but it’s strongly inspired by the real-life village of Robin Hood’s Bay, just a few miles south of Whitby.

Robin Hood’s Bay was somewhere I discovered when I was fourteen and staying in a holiday cottage near Whitby with my parents and siblings. I was enchanted by this pretty village, with its twisty cobbled streets, narrow passageways, chocolate box cottages and gurgling beck.

The stone or whitewashed walls and red roofs of the buildings are a stunning sight to behold as you gaze down the steep hill which leads to the seafront. It’s a beautiful walk down to the beach — not so great when you’re struggling back up, though!

Robin Hood’s Bay has a long history of smuggling, and it’s rumoured that a bale of silk could get from the beach to the top of the hill without ever seeing daylight, thanks to the secret passages and tunnels beneath the houses. It was bound to stir my imagination.

In the third book in the series, Once Upon a Long Ago, I used those passages and tunnels as part of the story. It was set around the beautiful Elizabethan Kearton Hall, but I’ll admit that the real-life inspiration for that house comes from Burton Agnes Hall, which is actually near Driffield, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. It’s one of my favourite stately homes, and I visited it lots of times to get a good idea of the layout and figure out where the entrance to the secret passage would be.

Kearton Bay is one of several fictional towns and villages I’ve created in that part of North Yorkshire, which make up my book world. Places like the market town of Helmston (which is based on Helmsley), Moreton Cross, Bramblewick and Farthingdale are also mentioned in the books, and they’ve featured in other series, too. In Saving Mr Scrooge, one of my Moorland Heroes books, for example, the heroine lives in Moreton Cross and the hero in Farthingdale. Bramblewick spawned an entire series of its own.

I refer regularly to Whitby and York, as I feel that anchors my fictional settings in the real world, and makes it easier for readers to imagine where my characters live and what sort of landscape they work in.

The heroine of The Whole of the Moon, Rhiannon, lives in The Hare and Moon pub, which stands on the seafront of Kearton Bay. It’s an old, whitewashed inn, with a red roof and stunning views over the North Sea. In real life, there’s a pub which stands on the very same spot, though it’s not as old as The Hare and Moon, as it started life in 1828 as The New Inn. Today it’s called The Bay Hotel and marks the end point of Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay.

I love it when readers recognise Robin Hood’s Bay from the descriptions in my books. I don’t work for the tourist board, and I’m not on commission, I swear, but I would recommend a trip to this picturesque spot on the North Yorkshire coast. It’s absolutely beautiful and I love it — even more so now I picture it as the home of my characters. When I visit these days, I can’t help but look out for a glimpse of Rhiannon, Rose, Eliza or Lexi. We can but dream!

Author Bio

Sharon Booth writes uplifting fiction with a touch of magic. Happy endings are guaranteed for her main characters, though she likes to make them work for it.
Sharon is a member of the Society of Authors, the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and an Authorpreneur member of the Alliance of Independent Authors.
She loves Doctor Who, Cary Grant movies, hares, and horses – not necessarily in that order.
Sharon grew up in the East Riding of Yorkshire, and the Yorkshire coast and countryside feature strongly in her novels.

Her stories are set in pretty villages and quirky market towns, by the sea or in the countryside, and feature lots of humour, romance, and friendship. If you love gorgeous, kind heroes, and heroines who have far more important things on their minds than buying shoes, you’ll love her books.

For all Sharon’s latest news sign up to her newsletter. All subscribers get a free and exclusive novella, and there’s a chance to win a prize every month!

Sharon now has a readers’ group on Facebook where readers of her books are very welcome to chat to her and to each other.

You can visit her website for information, or find her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, as well as other social media sites. For all links visit:

https://linktr.ee/sharonboothwriter

You can buy The Whole of the Moon at https://getbook.at/kb4

Many thanks to Sharon for taking part. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit Robin’s Hoods Bay and Whitby for the first time a couple of years ago and it really is a spectacular part of the country. Sharon’s post has definitely whetted my appetite for a return visit.