Toddler snuggling grandma and a plaid wearing superhero. Read on and find out more…
If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes? What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?
I’m an ex-primary teacher who, for many years, had no intention of writing anything beyond the teaching materials I needed to prepare for my job. A colleague, back in 1999, encouraged me to volunteer my services to write a pack of historically based non-fiction teaching materials for use in classrooms in my area of north-east Scotland. In 2005, I again volunteered my services to write a full length book charting the history of the school where I was teaching – the village having had a school since the early 1500s. This was again non-fiction but 350 copies of the ‘School History’ were sold – all profits going into school funds. I have to be honest and declare that I thought it might be nice to gain some profit from my writing – if I ever did any more! That same year, 2005, I delved into fiction for the first time. I was teaching a Roman/ Celt project to my Primary School class of 12 year olds and their end-of-term short stories were so good I decided to write a longer adventure myself. I’ve an archived writing folder, on separate hard drive storage, with samples of early work so there’s a little incriminating evidence to be found.
All super heroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.
Oh, I guess that might be ‘Facebook lurker’.
Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?
Lots of my fellow author friends. Help, advice, shoulder to lean on, cheerleader…and in some cases the motive to get on and ‘do’.
Where do you get your superpowers from?
That’s a million dollar question that I have no answer for.
Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?
In the dining room near the oriel window, there’s a big old office desk overlooking the garden. The desk always has a lot of mess on it… as well as a laptop; separate monitor screen; remote keyboard; printer; desk lamp and audio speakers.
What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you insure they are used only for good?
I pop into blogs; read newspaper articles and prompts I receive from Facebook friends. The ‘Writing Wranglers and Warriors Blog’, which I post on twice a month, is a fantastic source for writing tips. Our contributors cover varying fiction genres, which is brilliant for getting different perspectives. I’m an inveterate researcher who can be easily sidetracked, but it can be so much fun to discover new historical developments. I’m doggedly meticulous about using historical facts in my writing: a constant checker.
Granted, you probably don’t’ get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?
I live in north east Scotland so the ubiquitous rain-cloak would be a voluminous one, very floaty and accommodating for snuggling toddlers under – my official grandma childminding duties taking up a huge chunk of my week when I can’t do any writing. The plaid weave would be thick and cosy and would have a corded drawstring hood – something like my Celtic Fervour characters might have worn in Northern Britannia AD 84, or in my recently published time –travel novel that’s set in Scotland in AD 210.
What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced with in your writing?
That’s a great question. Crossing sub-genres has been the most problematic for marketing purposes. My Celtic Fervour Series of historical romantic adventures are difficult to pigeonhole. I strive for as accurate a portrayal of the time period as possible but my main characters are members of a fictitious Celtic Clan – not kings, queens, or people of historical note (though these notables are mentioned in passing). I’ve written about my characters’ daily life at a time of great disruption when the Ancient Roman legions have infiltrated their territory – so battles, death, military strategy, politics and romance all feature. It’s not historical fiction, and not historical romance either because there’s not an HEA ending to every book, but there is a lot of adventure! As a break from the Ancient World historical setting, I’ve also written three contemporary mystery novels which need a different sort of marketing. My love of history in general isn’t neglected, because two of those contemporary novels have mysteries which are ancestry based. The family tree structures which I created for these were an absolute joy to develop. My marketing strategies will be slightly different for my most recently published time travel novel since I need to focus highly on a local market for The Taexali Game, as well as an internet global one. The different sub- genres of fiction have needed me to employ slightly different writing techniques- the challenge being to maintain the correct style throughout each full length novel.
What was the supervillian that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?
My own confidence! To date, I’ve had six novels published for an adult/ general readership. My latest published novel is for the Middle Grade/ YA age group. The Taexali Game is a time travel historical adventure set in my home area of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with potential for a local market in schools, public libraries and local selling outlets. I made the decision to self publish this series and quite frankly have been quite awed by the process, even though I was told publishing on Createspace and Amazon is simple. However, dogged determination wins the day…and every dog can learn a new trick!
What important lessons have you learned along the way?
That work can be improved on a number of times before it goes out to an editor and after that – take the editor’s advice about further improvements. Keep editing till the work is as perfect as can be.
What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?
Being a Finalist in The People’s Book Prize 2014 was so thrilling! I attended the Grand Awards Dinner at Stationer’s Hall, Central London (Guildhall of The Worshipful Company of Stationers’ and Newspaper Makers). Topaz Eyes, a mystery thriller with a plot based around a complex ancestral tree structure (which provided a lovely cast of dodgy characters), wasn’t the ultimate winner but it was wonderful to be a Finalist for the Fiction category. In early 2014, I was also elated to learn that my publishers – Crooked Cat Publishing – also entered After Whorl: Bran Reborn, Book 2 of my Celtic Fervour Series, for The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2014. Competition for this £25,000 prize is incredibly fierce so to be in the list of books read during the early stages was a very great honour.
If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change?
I’m writing what comes naturally to me, so I’m not sure I would change the basic content of my novels. Learning the necessary marketing techniques isn’t easy and is an area that’s always ripe for change.
What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.
Stick with it. Even if factors get in the way of writing progress things can, and probably will, change for the better. That ‘don’t give up’ is a very useful phrase. Keep your archived files and throw nothing major away –of course with changes in technology accessing old data can be a problem.
Tell us about you new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.
I’ve just published two very different novels.
A new ebook edition of Monogamy Twist, a light-hearted romantic contemporary mystery, was published by Crooked Cat Publishing on 27th March 2015. The weird Dickensian plot for this ‘strange bequest’ story may seem familiar, but the setting is contemporary Yorkshire, England. I hope that Charles Dickens would approve of my humorous story which was conceived as I was watching a BBC Dickens series on TV, in late 2010, whilst doing my own family research. Ancestry plays a large part in the mystery of Monogamy Twist.
My most recent published work in early April 2015 is The Taexali Game, Book One of my Rubidium Time Travel Series. This novel is set in Aberdeenshire, AD 210, a time when the Roman Emperor Severus and his nasty son Caracalla, infiltrate the area with legions numbering some thirty thousand men. My time travel trio have a task list to fulfil that includes helping the ‘baddies’ and the ‘goodies’ – the problem is that there are Celts who are just as nasty as the Romans! This is in fact the one started in 2005 which has been lifted and laid down many times. Although it’s taken till now to publish it, I’ve dedicated this first book of the series to my former pupils who wrote amazing short adventure stories at the end of the project.
What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?
I’m currently writing Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series set between AD 84 and AD 95. I’ve started Book 2 of my Rubidium Time Travel historicals – a Victorian adventure. I’m also part way into a family saga that’s set mainly in Scotland and northern England, beginning in 1850. Current research dots between Roman Britain and the Victorian era.
Thank you for inviting me today. It’s a pleasure to visit you.
You can find Nancy at: