Coming Soon…

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Image Taken from my PROMISE ME Pinterest Mood Board – this isn’t the book cover!

 

Hello! I’ve been quiet on here of late because I wanted to wait until I could share proper news of the release of my second Young Adult mystery/thriller Promise Me. I finished my first draft of Promise Me ages ago, then went back over my manuscript to do edits and more edits, before submitting a (fairly) polished version to my publisher, Strident Publishing Ltd. Then I had more edits to work on. Then I had to wait for a release date. I’m very excited to now reveal that Promise Me will be released early September.

With this book I had a bit of ‘second album’ syndrome and at one sticky point at the middle I had a crisis of confidence wondering if I would ever finish it. Until you’re published when you write a book you have an element of ‘no one is ever going to read this anyway’ which buffers the self-consciousness a bit, but with the second one I put more pressure on myself and that element of fear and self doubt was more prevalent. Truly, I think the secret of writing is to just forget your audience, don’t think about people reading your words, don’t even think about the words and just write.

The good thing with this book was the characters always ultimately pulled me back in to the story – they didn’t always do what I wanted them to do, and one popped up with a much bigger starring role than he was supposed to have, but I also think that should happen when you write! If the characters take over a bit then you have to let them. Once I made it past that sticky middle part the last few chapters started to tumble through my head, dialogue and ‘scenes’ often waking me at 6am on a Sunday morning. I would frantically type snippets in the notes section of my phone to draft properly later (I’m not a natural early riser and often my partner would be lodged against my shoulder fast asleep).

The title of this book has changed about three times since I first started writing it. My publisher and I finally settled on Promise Me, not because it’s a follow on from Follow Me (it’s not), but because it suits elements of the story. One aspect of the meaning won’t be clear until you finish the book – so I guess when it comes out you’ll just need to read it!

The image at the top of my post isn’t the book cover, (that’s not ready yet), but a montage of some images taken from my ‘Promise Me mood board’ on Pinterest. Every time I start writing a book I start to put together a mood board as I’m a very visual person and I like to build on atmosphere and setting by ‘picturing’ elements of the story and characters as I write it. I keep my boards private until I’m ready to share them. It’s also handy to share these images with my cover artist.

I’m delighted that Ida Henrich, (who designed the wonderful cover for Follow Me), will be my cover artist again for Promise Me. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with!

I’ll write more about the inspiration behind Promise Me in later posts, but for now here’s a little blurb to tell you more about the story!

Victim of a miscarriage of justice? Or Liar? 

Following the separation of her parents, seventeen year old Darcy Thomas moves to a wealthy Scottish village which hit the headlines when a local girl was stabbed at a Halloween party two years previously.

Darcy has always wondered about Christian Henderson’s conviction of murder, fascinated by this attractive misfit and his story. She has wondered enough to keep files. Lots of them. Enough to worry her mother.

Much of Christian’s ‘trial’ took place online, before he even reached the courtroom, with witch-hunt style podcasts and forums spinning stories of what happened the night of the party, with the finger of blame pointed at the weird ‘loner’ boy, Christian.

As Darcy throws herself into trying to right the perceived wrong – even writing to Christian while he is in the young offenders’ unit – who can she believe? As their friendship grows, so does Darcy’s determination. Why do the teenagers in the village seem so reluctant to talk about that night? When Darcy starts to receive threats she realises that someone is determined to keep secrets hidden, and might be prepared to do anything to silence the truth.

 

 

 

World Book Day

This Thursday is World Book Day which is a celebration of books. Authors are often asked to get involved in events to share their love of reading and writing. This year I’m going to be visiting Crossreach school where I’ll be talking to the pupils about storytelling and how anyone can build a story using their imagination.

A couple of days after this I’m going to be doing a book signing at WHSmith in Glasgow. This is a poster they currently have hanging in their window, (put together by my talented artist friend Rebecca Johnstone aka Dainty Dora  )

If you’re anywhere near Glasgow pop in and say hello. I will answer any questions budding writers and enthusiastic readers may have!

Victoria Gemmell Glasgow poster

Nearer the end of the month I’m going to the Scottish Association of Writers conference. I love going here as it’s a weekend of workshops, catching up with writer friends and eating LOTS of great food in a great hotel! This year I’ve also taken a couple of days off work, (my day job), when I return so that I can immerse myself in writing for that little bit longer.

My days ‘off’ will be spent working on book 3. I’m enjoying writing this one and want to try and get my first draft finished over the next few months. (Then there will be lots of edits of course!). People often ask me how long it takes to write a book. Too long, I usually want to say, because really if I could, I would love to sit and write 5,000 words every day but I rarely have the brain energy to do this after a busy day at work. I’ll often do light edits and set myself up for a good session when I have a bigger chunk of uninterrupted time. If I set aside a day for writing I have learned to be very disciplined about it and treat it like a proper work day, but really it’s more fun than a work day. There’s nothing more blissful than switching off from the ‘real world’ for a few days and switching on some music and getting lost in the worlds I create. (I’m currently listening to Chvrches, who are a Glasgow band. I saw them live for the first time the other weekend and it was a brilliant gig!!).

I’m hoping to also share proper news of book 2 VERY SOON. Bye for now.

 

Follow Me on ebook

Happy 2019! This weekend I was delighted to see the ebook version of Follow Me has been released by my publisher, Strident. You can download it by clicking here The fabulous cover, designed by the talented Ida Henrich, looks very vibrant on Kindle Fire!

It has been a few years since the launch of the paperback. I know a lot of people who read this blog already have their signed paperback copy (thank you!) but for new readers I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you a bit more about Follow Me and the inspiration behind it,  by re-posting extracts from a couple of blogs I featured on around launch time.

First, here’s the all important blurb:

What is the deadly allure of The Barn? 17-year-old Kat Sullivan has been devastated by the recent death of her twin sister, Abby, the fifth apparent teenage suicide victim in a year in the town of Eddison. Kat begins a desperate search for an explanation and soon realises how little she knew about her sister’s life. Through Abby’s friends Kat is introduced to an underground hangout called the Barn. Here, Kat meets the enigmatic Rob and his friend, Michael, art students who have re-created the infamous pop artist Andy Warhol’s ‘Factory’; a place where creative types can construct art and socialise. Kat gets drawn into Rob’s social scene, initially enjoying the freedom and escape that comes with the Barn’s creativity and nonconformity. She is seduced by the attention of this very attractive stranger, but soon begins to realise that Rob holds a strange influence over the young people – particularly the females – while Michael has a fascination with famous actors and icons who committed suicide or died young. Can Kat trust them to help her find the answers she needs, or will they lead her deeper into a world from which she won’t be able to escape?

You can view read the following interviews in full at Rosemary’s Reading and Writing blog here and Author Interviews here

Fiona: (Author interviews) What inspired you to write your first book?

A couple of things sparked off the ideas for Follow Me. After reading a lot about the Pop Artist Andy Warhol, and his infamous artist studio, The Factory, I began to think how appealing an underground creative hangout might be for teenagers in a town where not a lot is happening – this fed into the creation of The Barn within my book. Newspaper stories from years ago had stayed in my head, about a large number of teenage suicides in a small town and the writer in me kept thinking, What if something more sinister was happening there and no one bothered to figure it out? That’s what sparked off the idea for the mystery element in my book; my protagonist, Kat, is trying to figure out what has really happened to her twin, Abby, refusing to believe she would take her own life.

Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I don’t want to spell out all the messages as I think it will be more fun for readers to figure it all out… It explores a few themes: society’s fascination with celebrities, the sense of isolation and loneliness you can feel as a teenager, the allure of wanting to be part of something new and different.

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN THE WOODS?

Rosemary: (Reading and Writing) What attracted you to YA fiction and do you enjoy reading it?

When the story of Follow Me started to form in my head I knew it was going to be a story about teenagers so it fitted into the YA genre, but ultimately I wrote a story which I wanted to read. I love reading YA as I think a lot of these books tend to be driven by character and plot and the authors aren’t afraid to explore emotional and current contemporary issues. I think it’s more recognised now that even if a book is labelled Young Adult, a lot of the time that readership extends way beyond teens, which I hope will be the case with Follow Me.

* I can now say that Follow Me has been loved by both teens and adults. At a recent event a librarian said she felt it’s very much a cross-over which appeals to both age groups

There are a lot of Pop culture references as well as poetry – is this something that particularly interests you?

During my undergraduate degree in Communication and Mass Media one of my favourite modules was Popular Culture. I developed a fascination with Andy Warhol, one of the leading Pop Artists. Warhol was very perceptive about the direction society was heading in, with his art mirroring society’s increasing obsession with fame, celebrities, and ‘the surface image’. These are themes I touch upon in my story.

I always enjoyed analysing poems during Higher and Sixth Year Studies English (though focused on more contemporary poets during that time), and grew up surrounded by book cases containing a wide variety of poetry. I liked the idea of incorporating some quotes from poems into the story. Keats’ Ode on a Grecian Urn (quoted in Follow Me), is a brilliant poem, and I like the layers of meaning you can get from it.

Why did you make your story about twins?

When the plot was developing in my head, my main protagonist, Kat, came to me first, and I knew she was going to be struggling with the unexplained death (an apparent suicide) of someone very close to her. I thought it would be interesting to explore the relationship of twins and the guilt Kat would feel knowing she had distanced herself from Abby, wanting to forge her own identity. It also allowed a couple of instances of mistaken identity and confusing emotions between her and Rob (who knew Abby first).

Also Andy Warhol was a big fan of repeating images over and over in his work, to reflect sameness and the loss of originality. I think my subconscious was at work a lot of the time during the creation of this story!

This brilliant piece of art was put together by my talented friend Rebecca Johnstone

Below is an extract from a post I wrote titled ‘Who is Andy Warhol?’ (you can see the full post in my archives here). This gives a bit of a background to the pop culture references and Andy Warhol influences in the story.

Warhol’s Factory studio was a magnet for celebrities and misfits – the artist’s workplace transformed into a social meeting place, attracting not only those in the art world, but film stars and other music icons.  

As the plot for Follow Me began to form in my head I thought about how attractive and appealing an underground hang-out might be for a group of bored teenagers stuck in a small town where not a lot is happening – especially if out-of-town attractive art students were the creators. The Barn within my book offers an escape and holds an allure for the young people, but there is a darker side to the hangout, creating the mystery element of my story.

What always struck me was how perceptive Warhol was about the direction society in which was heading, in relation to our obsession with fame and ‘the surface image’. He was credited with the infamous line, that,In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.’ With the over-saturation of reality TV and the oversharing of our daily lives – through personal photos and video clips on social media channels – it appears that today everyone is indeed having their fifteen minutes of fame. Society’s obsession with image and fascination with celebrities, (a fascination which appears to deepen when they die young, at the height off their fame), sparked off other themes within my novel.

Warhol became more than just his art – everyone wanted to know him and be with him. He actively encouraged and embraced this fame and recognition, and also constructed an ‘image’ of himself to portray to the world (donning a wig and sunglasses).

Through my studies I became more fascinated with the story behind his art work, and to me he became both an Icon and product of the postmodern world -Warhol himself is the art.

Follow Me is also available in paperback and can be bought from Waterstones, independent bookstores, Amazon and of course you can read it for free from your local library (if they don’t have a copy order it in!)

For those of you who keep asking when my next YA book is coming out. It is finished. I will post news when I can. Meantime I am focusing on book 3, another dark YA which I am VERY EXCITED ABOUT.

Exposure

Well, November passed in a bit of a blur. I had a couple of really fun events this year during Book Week Scotland. I visited the lovely Strathearn Community campus where I talked about some of my favourite rebels in fiction, the power fiction has to give you a voice, and where I get my inspiration from. The following day I was at West College Scotland, Clydebank campus, talking to students (and some staff!), about the power of books and how a love of reading fired my imagination and inspired me to write. It was great getting to meet enthusiastic readers and talk to them about some of my favourite things: reading, writing, rebels and creativity. These are a couple of photos below from the events:

As well as attending interesting events I was working on more edits of my second YA book, (which is due for release early next year), as well as writing more of my third YA. I’m quite excited about both of these books!

The past few weeks I have been busy working on a different kind of writing project. I’m delighted that my collection of contemporary short stories, many of which have been previously published in literary journals or been placed in competitions, is now available on kindle. You can buy ‘Exposure’ here.

Working on this collection reminded me how much fun I have interchanging between longer novels, and short stories, (sometimes very short stories in flash fiction form). My short stories have more adult themes, and with my flash fiction in particular I enjoy experimenting with more lyrical styles of writing. Working with a shorter form can be just as challenging as novel length as you really need to make every word count.

I asked my talented designer friend, Rebecca Johnstone, aka Dainty Dora (see her website here), to design my cover and I couldn’t be happier with the beautiful result! See below. I have to also thank my Mum for supporting with the edits and technical side of production! (see my writer Mum’s website here).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if that wasn’t exciting enough I’m going to be attending a massive Book Fair in Dundee on Saturday with over 30 other authors. I’ll be selling copies and signing copies of my YA mystery, Follow Me, and will also be running a story-building creative writing session for any visitors who want to use their imagination to delve into new worlds! If you’re in the Dundee area come along.

 

 

 

 

7 Books

There’s a challenge going around social media just now to post the covers of 7 books you love, with no explanations or reviews, over the course of a week. I was tagged last week by two friends on Twitter and it got me to thinking about the sheer number of books I have loved over the years, but also the ones that have had the biggest impact on me , or influenced my writing.

So I decided to break the rules, (because really who likes to be restricted by rules?), and post a montage of 7 books which were significant to me in some way, together in the one day. This blog post is going to give you an explanation as to why I chose them. I’ve listed them in the order that I read them.

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy (and all the books that followed) – I was probably about seven or eight when my primary school teacher chose this as a book to read to the class; one chapter at the end of every day. I hope that primary teachers still have the time to do this as some of my best memories at school was having this quiet time at the end of a lesson, where we got whisked away to magical worlds. Any book I loved I then of course went home to re-read myself. I still have this book on my shelf, (the purple cover version as above), and I opened it today to see my name neatly written in the top corner (my handwriting was much neater when I was younger!). This book really sparked my imagination – I loved the idea of being a witch in an Academy of Witches and the concept of casting spells and magic still fascinates me to this day. One of my favourite scenes is when hapless Mildred turns the horrible Ethel in to a pig. Something else I love about this book is the fact that it was illustrated by the author. The illustrations helped to bring this story alive. Lots of books during my childhood deserve a mention, (all of Roald Dahls’s for instance), but the fact I held on to this one made it top the list

The Nancy Drew FilesMurder on Ice by Carolyn Keene – I probably started reading The Nancy Drew Files, (a spin-off series of the originals), when I was about nine or ten. I remember stocking up on these during visits to my local library. Nancy Drew always found herself at the centre of mystery and danger. Her life always seemed so exciting and grown-up, and I remember enjoying the fact she was a headstrong character. A massive influence clearly on my present writing where I love placing teenagers at the centre of mysteries that they are determined to solve, no matter what danger they may encounter along the way.

Point Horror – Funhouse by Diane Hoh –  I was about ten or eleven when I first started to read the Point Horror books. Funhouse is just one of many stories within this series that I devoured. Around this time I couldn’t get enough American teen fiction (think Sweet Valley High and the Babysitters Club). What I loved about Point Horror was the darkness and mystery, and again this has clearly influenced my writing. This particular book is set at an amusement park on The Boardwalk in California and it starts with the Devil’s Elbow roller coaster going off its track, which the protagonist soon discovers was no accident. If I picked this up in a bookshop today I would definitely still want to read it!

Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes – This was a short novel that we studied in third year English, when I was about fourteen. The story always stayed with me due to its emotional impact, and again shows the importance of teachers taking the time to introduce powerful fiction into the classroom. It’s about an experiment in human intelligence, where Charlie Gordon, (who has an IQ of 68), is turned into a genius. He is the first human subject to take part in the experiment. Algernon is a mouse who underwent the experimental brain surgery, and the book follows both of their progress. What I loved about this was the narrative technique used – the story is told through Charlie’s progress reports which capture his naivety then superior intelligence in an emotional and thought-provoking way. It taught me the power of simplistic story-telling and how writers through their own experimentation can create characters which stay with you for a lifetime

White Oleander by Janet Fitch – In my early twenties my Mum gave me Janet Fitch’s, ‘White Oleander’ to read, and, captivated by her lyrical writing style, I made a promise to myself that one day I would become as good a writer as her. The protagonist Astrid and her manipulative mother are drawn so well, with real depth to Astrid’s journey of self-discovery. It spurred me on to keep writing and to keep learning. Every brilliantly written book I read makes me want to better my craft, but something about the timing of this book made me realise it was time to get serious and send my work out into the world

On the Road by Jack Kerouac – Again I read this in my early twenties. I didn’t choose this one because it’s a particular favourite book of mine, (I don’t always fully engage with Kerouac’s erratic writing style), but it was a time where I was reading a lot of fiction and getting excited when I discovered new styles and stories. Kerouac taught me one important rule: don’t be afraid to break the rules. At this point something freed up in my writing – I stopped over thinking my work, and just wrote. And that’s when I truly started to find that elusive ‘voice’ you sometimes hear author’s talk about. The one which takes your writing to a new level, and keeps pulling you on through the doubts

Lastly I had to mention Douglas Coupland as I devoured his books in my twenties. I chose Girlfriend in a Coma as it was the first of his books I read. I love his observational style, and the comments he makes about society in subtle ways through his characters and plot. Often people ask me who my favourite author is and I struggle, because I like to read vast and wide, and I tend to have favourite books, not authors. But at one point during my twenties I would have a confident answer to that question: DC And I got to meet him one year at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Total fan girl moment.

I spent today taking part in the Kids’ Lit Quiz, at the High School of Glasgow, on the author team with Kirkland Ciconne, Annemarie Allan and Alex Nye. The Kids’ Lit quiz is an annual literature quiz where teams of students (ranging from the age of 10-13) from all across the world, answer literary questions. Quiz master, Wayne, comes up with some pretty hard questions. I took part in this quiz a couple of years back and what struck me again today was how amazing the kids are at answering the questions! They really know their literature and that is brilliant to see. They must be avid readers to know the answers to the very wide-ranging questions.

The author team! With Kirkland Ciconne, Annemarie Allen and Alex Nye

I was asked a question a few weeks ago if I think kids still enjoy reading these days, with so much focus on computer games and other digital activities. All I know is that I have been lucky enough to visit many schools where kids (of all ages), still show a lot of passion and enthusiasm for books. They might not shout about it, choosing instead to read quietly in a corner.

Writing this post reminded me how big a part books have always played in my life and the power that words can have to transport you and your imagination into worlds you could only ever dream of.

Events, Books & Writing

Hello! I’m sitting typing this listening to the wind and rain outside, happy to be indoors drinking Early Grey Tea. I had a last burst of sunshine in Italy last month, and since returning home I think Scotland has dramatically descended into Autumn (Winter…) Cue dark mornings, dark nights, and potentially a lot of atmosphere for writing dark fiction.

A couple of very EXCITING THINGS are on the horizon book-wise for me, which I will talk about more in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, I am happily working away on my third teen thriller/mystery, and I have signed up to do two events during Book Week Scotland in November. The first event will be at Strathearn Community Campus, on Wednesday 21st November at 7pm. I will be talking to the audience about REBELS in fiction, as well as discussing the power words and imagination have to give young people a voice. The librarian put together a fabulous poster for my event; see below. This is a FREE event but tickets should be booked in advance through Strathearn Community Library, or the Eventbrite page here 

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On Thursday 22nd November at 2pm I will be visiting West College Scotland, Clydebank Campus, to talk to students during their Literacy Week, about the inspiration behind my ideas, what literacy means to me, and how I became a writer. I’m really looking forward to both events! I’m also going to be taking part in a big Book Fair in Dundee at the start of December. I will post more about that nearer the time.

Over the past month or two I have spent some time travelling through to Edinburgh, meeting up with writer friends at the Book Festival, before heading to the wonderful Teen Title Party at Edinburgh Central library, at the end of August. It’s always a pleasure to be in the company of Kirkland Ciccone, who delighted the audience at the Teen Title party by flinging free copies of his wonderful new YA book, Glowglass, into the crowd. Here’s some pics from the party below. (And a shameless #shelfie pic of me posing by my books in the Edinburgh Book Festival bookshop).

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Yesterday I took a jaunt to the Portobello Book Festival, where I listened to my writer Mum, Rosemary Gemmell (link to her website here), talking about the art of writing short stories. My Mum was joined by other writers, Elle Turner and Jane Tulloch, and chaired by Lynsey May. I really enjoyed the walk along the beach front at Portobello before the event.

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It was really interesting to hear their different approaches to writing, and the benefits of writing shorter fiction. I agreed with much of what they said; that writing shorter fiction allows you to experiment creatively, with different styles and themes. I love writing short stories, as well as longer fiction. Flash fiction in particular is a great way to learn the importance of making every word count and definitely encourages me to push myself creatively.  Even although I write teen novels, my short stories are much more contemporary adult themes, and I enjoy switching between the two.

I think one of the most fun parts of being a writer is getting to meet other writers and listen to them talk about their work, and the feeling that we are all a part of one big community.

 

 

Chasing Magic

 

At the end of June I spent a fabulous weekend at the quirky Rosely Country House Hotel on a Chasing Time writing retreat. The theme for this particular retreat was ‘Stop the Clock’, with the emphasis on taking ‘time out’ to write.

As soon as I arrived at this gothic mansion, which dates back to the 1800s, I could feel my imagination wake up. Writers Dawn, Elizabeth and Sandra were wonderful hosts throughout the retreat, delivering stimulating and creative workshops. Between workshops we were able to wander around the grounds of the hotel, and used the gardens as inspiration for one of our ‘writing sprints’. I loved that our hosts set up a little ‘library’ in the massive conservatory, with a table filled with books about writing and creativity, that we were all able to dip in and out of throughout our stay. I started to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’ and it was perfect timing for me as a lot of the sentiments in this tied in with my last blog post about taking time out to daydream and ‘create’, as well as acknowledging the fear and doubts that can creep in when you try to write.

The beautiful conservatory

I loved meeting the other writers on the retreat – we were all at different stages of our writing careers, with different focuses and styles, but at the heart of every conversation was a passion and enthusiasm for words and creating stories. There’s nothing better than being able to switch off from the ‘real world’ for a while and talk about writing and books.

On my first morning at the retreat I woke up very early, with scenes from my new book tumbling through my mind. I used the free writing time on the Saturday afternoon to map out the first eight chapters (a kind of meticulous planning that I never do!), as well as writing extensive notes about characters. Since returning home I have made a good start on this book and I am so glad I took the time out on this weekend to kick-start the creation.

There was a real sense of calm and quiet in the house. There’s something about old buildings which I find peaceful, perhaps because there is none of the ‘buzz’ of modern appliances. It’s rumored that there are a few ghosts hanging about Rosely. I am almost certain these ghosts were writers,  joining in the fun on the retreat by weaving some creative magic into my dreams.

For any writer out there who is craving a little time away from their busy life, I can’t recommend this sanctuary enough. You can check out the Chasing Time schedule at their website here

I will sign off with a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’:  ‘A creative life is an amplified life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner – continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you – is a fine art, in and of itself.’