It’s that exciting, anxiety inducing time when I’m beginning a new book. This is ALWAYS where I panic, feel I can NEVER write another novel again and procrastinate wherever I can. So, to keep me on track I’d love it if you would join me on my journey this time via my new series, ‘A Writer’s Life’.
Subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss monthly (ish) updates on my progress as well as insights into a writer’s life, what I’m reading, the challenges I’m facing and any special offers running on my books. (This month, for 99p, UK readers can download ‘my latest release, ‘The Stolen Sisters‘ and ‘The Gift‘ via these Amazon links).
If you sign up to my mailing list here you will also receive two free short stories as well being able to enter exclusive giveaways.
If there’s any part of the writing/publishing process you’re particularly interested in, do drop a comment below and I’ll make sure I cover it as best I can.
Today I’m delighted to welcome Callie Hill onto my blog. I had the pleasure of mentoring Callie through the Womentoring Project and she’s a super talented writer as well as a lovely person. I’m so proud of everything she has achieved since, degrees are such hard work, and now she’s published her first short story collection. I’ll hand over to Callie to share how and why she writes.
Like many readers, books and stories feel like a magical world I can escape to. No matter what kind of story, I’m always intrigued as to the initial spark that inspired the writer, and how that spark ignited into the words on the page. This is what gave me the idea for how I’ve structured my collection of linked short stories, The Story Collector. Although each story can be read individually, the collection follows a writer, Colin, as he goes about his everyday life, collecting snapshots of inspiration for his stories. The characters are all people that Colin is connected to in some way, and minor characters from one story become the central character in another.
But I didn’t start out with this intention. My collection began as a way to bring together everything I’d written. I’ve recently completed a BA (Hons) in English Literature with the Open University, and as part of my degree I completed two creative writing modules. I’ve also been a student with the Writers’ Bureau, so between the various courses I’d written a fair number of stories. The first draft of the collection also included stories by my husband, Paul, who writes under the pseudonym of James Kirby. He’s a chartered engineer with limited company status, and has been furloughed on minimum wage since March 2020 and as I work for him, so have I. We’re in the group of people that have slipped under the net, with furlough payments being a very small fraction of his ordinary income; but what should have been a tough time for us has turned out to be one of the best times of our lives. We might be living off love and fresh air at the moment, but we’ve also had the time to chillax and write. Our youngest son is a writer too, so it’s quite the little Bloomsbury headquarters in our house at the moment. But Paul’s writing style is quite different to mine and when the original collection came back from the beta readers (who were totally amazing) we decided to publish our stories separately.
As I worked on the revised collection, I started to notice links between characters and places. I guess most writers include an element of what they know, and this is even more true for new writers. For most of my life I’ve either been at home with the kids as a full-time mum (we have four children), or worked in an office, and I think that comes through in my characterisation. Most of the stories are uplifting tales of kindness, friendship, and the maternal bond between a mother and child; but some of the stories have a menacing element. I’ve been a book blogger for about four years now, and devour psychological thrillers like there’s no tomorrow. A couple of years ago I was really lucky to have been mentored by the wonderful psychological thriller writer, Louise Jensen, under the Womentoring Scheme; and more recently my tutor at the Writers’ Bureau was the fantastic crime writer, Sheila Bugler – so this has no doubt influenced the darker side of my stories!
I also wanted to develop the character of Colin from the short story titled ‘Literature, Latte, and Love’. As a creative writing student, I was encouraged to keep a writing journal to jot down any snapshots of inspiration. My own notebook is a purple Moleskine that my youngest son bought me. As well as being an object of extreme beauty (swoons #stationerylove) this notebook is of great sentimental value. As I flicked through, looking for ideas on how to develop the character of Colin, I realised it was the journal itself that was providing the inspiration. I’d already used some of the ideas in the journal for my stories; and in some cases, I’d taken completely separate jottings and combined them to create a single story. However, I realised that every single snapshot of an idea that I’d written down was connected, because they were all ideas that had been filtered through myself – and if that was true for my own writing journal, then it could be for Colin too.
I think social media has made a lot of people realise what a small world we live in. People we know from one area of our lives often have a connection to another person we know. I started to research chains of acquaintance and how we are only an average of six people away from the next person. The Russian dolls on the cover of The Story Collector are metaphorical. The correct name for these dolls is ‘Matryoshka’andcomes from the Latin word, ‘mater’ – which means mother in English. They represent fertility, family, and maternity – which runs as a theme throughout my stories. Their linking structure is also representative of the collection as a whole. The dolls look like one thing from the outside, but when you take them apart there are lots of individual parts inside. The Story Collector is a bit like this in reverse; although each story can be read as a stand-alone, when read in sequence they all come together to give a combined novel-like feel and show how we are all linked through chains of acquaintance.
As well as being an entertaining set of stories, I really hope The Story Collector will inspire other new writers to find ideas as they go about their everyday life. Although my own ideas for each of the stories came from totally different places to Colin’s (the Story Collector café was inspired by the bookshelf in my local pub – no spoilers intended), writing Colin’s story has made me think about creating ideas for future stories. And my writing journal will definitely be accompanying me as I enter the next phase of my writing career, where I will be working on a domestic thriller as part of an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Bristol.
Download a copy of The Story Collector between 1st-7th September for just 99p from Amazon. It can also be ordered from any bookshop (Find here at Waterstones.) It is available in hardback, paperback, and e-book.
You can also read The Story Collector via Kindle Unlimited.
The table set for twelve. Silver napkins. Crackers glittering gold. Fairy lights twinkle from the tree in the corner.
I bubble Processco into glasses before straightening the place cards, each name written in cursive script.
With my phone I snap a selfie, chin tilted, eyes wide, mouth pouting. Santa hat balanced cutely upon my glossy hair.
Can’t wait for you guys to arrive!!! #YouKnowWhoYouAre
Immediately the ‘likes’ start rolling in but today I don’t care.
There’s nobody coming.
I weep as I pack everything away.
850k followers and I’m alone.
This time of year can bring immense joy but it can also be the cause of unimaginable sadness. Let’s all look out for each other. Check on your friends, your neighbours, your family. Pick up the phone instead of commenting on a post. Social media can be distorted. Misleading. Above everything, Christmas should be a time for caring. Kindness is contagious, be a carrier.
‘A Social Media Christmas’ was written for Friday Fictioneers. A weekly challenge to write a 100-word piece of flash fiction, inspired by a photo prompt. Hosted by the fabulous Rochell Wisoff-Fields, you can read the other entries and/or join in yourself here.
It was there, lurking in the gloom. Vague and amorphous and impossible to capture.
But that didn’t stop me trying.
I skulked and stalked and waited. Endlessly waited.
It was 3am on a cold winter’s night when I finally grasped it with both hands. The freezing air bit the tips of my nose, my cheeks but I didn’t care.
Triumph warmed me.
It was mine.
Slowly it began to uncover itself to me and I fell in love. Polishing it until it shone.
I’d pinned it down. At last my scattered thoughts a solid something.
This week I’m celebrating a new 3-book deal with Harper Collin’s imprint, HQ. You can read my blog about that here and The Bookseller announcement here, along with the blurb for my 5thpsychological thriller, The Family.
‘The Wait’ was written for Friday Fictioneers, a weekly 100 word photo prompt challenge hosted by the fabulous Rochelle. Hop over to Rochelle’s blog here and read the other entries or join in!
There’s a crack in the curtains just wide enough to watch you standing in the shadow of time at the bus stop; rucksack on shoulder, school tie skewwhiff. You’re cradling your heart in both hands, waiting for it to start beating.
Usually he doesn’t notice you.
But today there’s the gaze that lingers too long, the smile that’s too bright.
Take your heart and run away before it gets broken.
Instead you take his hand.
Now I’ll have to tell you the story of his dad and I.
The real story of you.
Be the one who destroys you.
‘Forbidden ‘was written for Friday Fictioneers. A weekly flash fiction challenge inspired by a photo prompt. Please do check out the other entries over on host Rochelle’s blog and join in!
Sleep evades me. The longing for you is fierce and painful. I tell myself you’re no good for me, that I’m better off without you but there’s a void deep inside me that can’t be filled.
Again, I check the time. Not quite midnight. The night stretches before me long and slow. There’s a sinking, dawning realisation that I just can’t live without you.
I slip my feet into slippers, pad downstairs and there you are.
On the table.
Chocolate frosting glistening. Sponge light and soft.
Grabbing a knife and a plate I take you back to bed.
The diet can start next week.
The prompt made me smile, something you need, and very apt for me this week for those who have read about my 14 day sugar free challenge which you can read about here.
I’m absolutely delighted that my newly published 4th psychological thriller, The Date, has already hit No.1 on Apple’s iBookstore as well as the Amazon top 20 in both the UK & US. For the next dew days only it’s on special offer across all digital platforms for £0.99/$0.99. You can find it on your local amazon here.
The Longing was written for Friday Fictioneers. A weekly 100 word photo challenge inspired by a prompt. Read the other entries and/or join in over at host Rochelle’s blog here.
Beautiful women with Hollywood smiles thrust autograph books towards him but it’s me he wants. Mum said I was too fat. Too ugly. That nobody would ever love me but she was wrong.
He does. Tenderly he urged me to board without him, to ‘protect’ me from the throngs of fans.
‘Anything to declare?’ I am asked as I shift his guitar case from one hand to another.
Dogs scratching at the case.
‘You’d better come with me, Miss.”
‘It’s not mine.’ I protest but as he walks past me without a second glance I realise, neither is he.
It’s been a busy few weeks. My fourth psychological thriller, The Date, was published a few days ago and has already hit the UK top 40 and the US top 20. Thanks to all who supported. Publication day was spent in London where I was fundraising for Parkinson’s Disease, a charity close to my heart.
The Date is centred around Prosopagnosia/Face Blindness & for my YouTube channel I interviewed Hannah Read who has the most severe reported case in the UK to ask her what it’s really like when everyone looks like a stranger. You can watch that here and find The Date on Amazon here.
Friday Fictioneers is a weekly 100 word photo challenge inspired by a photo prompt. Hop on over to host Rochelle’s blog to read the other entries or join in!