In a well timed run-on from my last post about social media allowing users their 15 minutes of fame, here is mine. You can follow this linkto read a feature in my local paper, the Renfrewshire Gazette, where I talk about my YA mystery Promise Me and why I enjoy writing for teenagers.
Last month I was also delighted to be tagged in a great review for Promise Me. I’ve put an image of this below but it is worth visitng Rachel Sargeant’s site for other great thriller reviews here. Rachel’s thrillers are now on my TBR pile!
The past week I had a nice break from work, visiting St Andrews, Anstruther and Crail. The sun kept shining most of the time which was a bonus. Highlights were browsing in Topping and Company Books, having a wander round Crail Pottery and sampling the infamous Anstruther fish and chips (some photos below).
Now it’s back to reality and I’m trying to get words down for a new book I’m working on. Scenes keep popping in to my head, which is great, but none of them are in any logistical order, so I am wondering if I should deviate from my usual linear book writing process and just see where it all takes me!
At the moment I’m currently watching Inventing Anna on Netflix. This drama series is inspired by the New York investigative article by Jessica Pressler, (read here), which explores the story of Anna Delvey (Sorokin), a young woman who fooled Manhatten’s elite into believing she was a German heiress socialite, and managed to scam hotels, banks and various people along the way. I remember when the story broke a couple of years ago I was desperate to read the book My Friend Anna, (written by one of Anna’s ‘friends’ who found herself caught up in one particular hotel scam), to find out more about this brazen con-woman.
Reading about, and now watching, Anna’s exploits reminds me how compelling real-life stories can be. And how it can be difficult to determine what is fact and fiction when others try to re-tell, or present, a story. At the start of every episode of Inventing Anna is a quote along the lines of, “This whole story is completely true, except for all the parts that are totally made up.” If this series had been presented as a documentary I can’t help thinking that quote could still apply, as we would always be viewing Anna’s story through the lens of someone else’s perceptions and edits. And if Anna releases her own story how will anyone be able to trust what is actual truth, considering the fake persona she presented to the world, and the multiple lies she spun?
The three Young Adult books I have written are all inspired by real-life stories in the news. Headlines often catch my eye, but then my imagination takes over and I then create a story of pure fiction. The above image contains real headlines that I remembered reading. The numerous reports of the unexplained Bridgend suicides stayed with me for years .There were twenty-six known suicides in the town between 2007-2008, and most of those who lost their life were young adults. I remembered opening newspapers at the time, wondering what on earth was going on in that town.
In my book Follow Me my 17-year-old protagonist, Kat, begins a desperate search for answers and explanations, after her twin, Abby, is the sixth in their small Scottish town to die by apparent suicide.
A big theme of my new YA book, Promise Me, is the way in which press coverage and social media has the power to portray a certain narrative during high profile, emotional murder cases. One of the inspirations of the story was my memory of the sensationalist press coverage of convicted Scottish teen Luke Mitchell from many years ago. From 2003-2005 there was lots of press coverage around his case. Demonising language and character assassination was often used in reporters’ narratives (see above headline: ‘Devils Spawn’).
The headline ‘Boyfriend, 15, charged (with murder of schoolgirl Jodi Jones)’, was published in the Edinburgh Evening News, (2004) before said boyfriend (Luke) even went to trial. Everyone in their small-knit town knew he was ‘the boyfriend’.
The paper took things a stop further and named him. The Press and Journal, Aberdeen, also ran a similar story. They faced contempt charges but were cleared of breaching the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act, that states “no newspaper report of any proceeding in court should identify anyone under the age of 16.” (In Scotland this is now 18). They were cleared of charges because judges ruled that the story was not a report of court proceedings. This is just one troubling example of how a fifteen-year-old boy, (and throughout his trial when he was sixteen), dominated headlines. Numerous false ‘facts’ were published about the case, and tabloids delighted in running sensationalist reports about Mitchell’s apparent obsession with knives, drug-taking, lack of discipline in a single parent household, even linking his music tastes to the murder.
I have read a lot about the case and it made me realise how easy it could be for a small community to spread rumours relying heavily on hearsay and perceptions of a local outcast boy’s ‘reputation’, and how this could influence local prosecution investigations, and a jury. Conversations I’ve had with legal people where I questioned how anyone could truly be impartial in such a high profile case said a judge would have ensured jurors had no local connections to the case. The trial took place in Edinburgh, less than half an hour away from where the murder took place. I was reading newspaper stories an hour away from where it all unfolded and still felt emotional reactions to the reports, even if I didn’t personally know anyone.
When I first started to write Promise Me, a friend told me to watch documentaries about The West Memphis Three, teenage boys convicted of murdering young local boys in Texas. They were later freed after the initial documentary Paradise Lost caught the attention of high profile musicians and celebrities who joined the fight to prove their innocence. (Interestingly the documentary makers through trying to disprove what they perceived as a false narrative about the accused, then nearly created their own false ‘villain’, due to the way they presented another local in interviews throughout Paradise Lost!)
In court proceedings much had been made of the West Memphis ‘ringleader’, Echols’ interest in heavy metal music, preference for black clothing and interest in Wicca and the occult, and his unstable home life. Like the Mitchell case, no concrete evidence linked the boys to the murders.
My book Promise Me is a work of fiction, set in an affluent fictionalised Scottish village, and not about the Mitchell or Memphis case, but I hope it makes people think about how damaging media and indeed, court narratives can be, and the damaging perceptions that communities can sometimes have of young people who don’t quite ‘fit’.
I’ll leave you with a short overview and extract from Promise Me: (available to buy here)
Sixteen-year-old Christian Henderson is convicted of murdering pretty local girl, Louisa, at a Halloween party, with online forums spinning stories of what happened that night. When teenager Darcy moves to their wealthy local village she befriends the inner social circle at school and strikes up a friendship with Christian through letters, determined to uncover unanswered questions around the conviction.
But when threats begin, Darcy realises someone might be prepared to do anything to hide thetruth.
Tomorrow I am having an online celebration for the launch of my new YA mystery Promise Me. Anyone can join the facebook page to take part in giveaways and watch some videos/find out more about the book!
Follow the link here: to the page … and this link takes you to the platforms where you can purchase Promise Me
One of the most exciting things on the lead up to the release of a book, (I think anyway), is getting to see your cover come to life. I am delighted today to ‘unveil’ the front cover of my new Young Adult mystery Promise Me which will be released at the end of the month.
I think my talented designer friend Rebecca Johnstone, (check out her Dainty Dora website here), has done an amazing job of putting together a dramatic and eye-catching design. I gave Rebecca a rough outline of what I wanted, then Rebecca worked her creative magic to pull it all together. It was a fun, collaborative process and it has been lovely to commission a friend to work on such an important part of my book.
~ Here is a teaser blurb for Promise Me~
When threats begin, Darcy realises someone might be prepared to do anything to hide the truth…
Following the separation of her parents, seventeen-year-old Darcy moves with her mum to a wealthy Scottish village which hit the headlines when a local girl was stabbed at a Halloween party two years previously.
Darcy always wondered about Christian Henderson’s conviction of murder, fascinated by this attractive misfit and his story.
Much of Christian’s trial took place online, before he even reached the courtroom, with witch-hunt style podcasts and online forums spinning stories of what happened the night of the party.
Darcy befriends the inner social circle at school and strikes up a friendship with Christian through letters, determined to uncover unanswered questions around the conviction.
If the past year and a half has taught me, (and you, I’m sure), anything, it’s that life is unpredictable and short, and all the clichés that go along with that line of thinking.
If the past few years have taught me anything, it’s that the publishing industry is even more unpredictable and slow, and often constraining. Constraining in that you’re left to depend very much on someone else setting your timelines, and there’s a lot of waiting around wanting to know what’s happening, often ghosting, and that then gives you a lot of time to then wonder about your writing, and if it’s any good, and if you will ever see your next book in print. After taking my second book back from my publisher by mutual agreement it threw me out into the world of submissions again, you see. For the non-writers reading this basically think about any time you have tried online dating. It’s not all bad of course. In the end online dating was actually a success for me, and I have been traditionally published before, but… you know…you have to go through a bit of pain to get to the place you want to be.
For me, it felt like I’ve been standing still the past few years when it comes to my writing, even although ‘behind the scenes’ I have very much been getting words down on paper (or onto my screen). Too much of my thoughts were occupied with but when will these words be out there in the world again, will they ever be out there in the world again...everyone is going to think I’m a failure, and I forgot to enjoy the process and I fell out of love a bit with creating.
So then I started to ask myself what do I actually want from my writing? and I talked A LOT to people close to me who I feel very lucky to have in my life as they keep me sane , and I asked a good friend and colleague of mine (thanks Hilary) to give me a career coaching interview so I could dig a bit deeper into that question, (what do I want from my writing), and most importantly set myself some actions that would help me move forward.
I realised I am sometimes so immersed in the world of writers, on social media predominantly, especially the past few years, I subconsciously absorb what I think is the right or coveted direction to travel in terms of a writing career. And I put a lot of pressure on myself and I don’t actually focus enough on allowing myself to just actually ENJOY writing…to go back to that raw feeling of excitement that I get from joining words together that are actually forming into a story, and to enjoy seeing where it is going to take me.
After my first book launch friends bought me cards and bookmarks and there was a common phrase appearing on these: ‘ Create Your Own Story.’
So that’s what I am now doing; I am taking control of my own story, and this was a really long winded way of saying I have a book coming out next month and that I am going full Indie with this, self-publishing (but actually I have a team- my Mum has been amazing with the technical side, final edits, and I have a fab cover artist, Rebecca, and professional platforms which will deal with distribution).
It feels good. Promise Me, my next Young Adult mystery is finally going to make its way out into the world. And I hope some readers find it, as really that’s all I want. Readers, and a sense that I am connecting with people.
I will be doing a cover reveal very soon for Promise Me, posting my book trailer, and probably posting far too much about it in general, so I apologise in advance for that.
I’m finishing this post with a link to wise words from Ethan Hawke (a crush of mine back in his Reality Bites days, and who knew he has a lot of soul too…). This is titled: ‘Give yourself permission to be creative‘The underlying message is basically stop worrying about the quality of your creative work and what other people will think of it, as the ‘world is an ‘extremely unreliable critic.’ And it is very important ‘to play the fool.’
I also recently read ‘Bird by Bird’ by Anne Lamott (every writer should read this) and I loved the line, ‘Be afraid of wasting…time obsessing about how you look and how people see you.’ And ‘Write towards vulnerability.’
Putting my work out there myself does make me feel vulnerable, but I’m ready to play the fool!
I’ve had a wee bit of a #famousforfifteenminutes type of a weekend. I was really excited to see Follow Me mentioned in the Books of The Year section in the Sunday Herald Life magazine, chosen by Scottish Crime Writer, Alex Gray as one of her favourite reads of 2015. My publisher, Strident, has the write-up on their website, which you can read here .
I was also apparently featured on the cover of a Renfrewshire free paper on Friday, called Paisley People, but I have yet to get my hands on a copy of this to see the article!
I’m also delighted that my author profile is now live, (after a wee bit of a delay), on the Scottish Book Trust Live Literature Author Database. You can see that here This means that schools and community organisations who are registered for Live Literature Funding in Scotland can book me to do a workshop/talk, with support from SBT. Here’s more information about this great scheme here
Last Friday evening was the launch night for my YA mystery, Follow Me, at Waterstones, Argyle Street in Glasgow, with my publisher Strident Publishing Ltd. What a night! I really couldn’t have asked for a better launch – I took along my mini coca-cola bottles, with Marilyn Monroe badges, encouraging everyone to be ‘famous for fifteen minutes’ by joining in posting about the launch on social media, with the hashtag #followmetothebarn (I had lots of fun looking through the tweets the next day). I also had my cupcakes with edible book cover toppers from the brilliant eatmyface.co.uk. My publisher, Keith, at Strident, was kind enough to supply wine and other soft drinks and my parents also brought along other savory nibbles.
My publisher, Keith, did a Q&A with me and I read out short extracts from my novel in-between. He knows Follow Me nearly as well as I do now, so his questions were very intuitive and it made it feel like a friendly conversation. I was overwhelmed by the amount of support from friends and family and it was brilliant looking out into the audience at such an encouraging and happy crowd! I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t feel nervous at all, which kept me calm when reading, and meant I enjoyed every minute of the night.
I had my first taster of signing books at the end, and it felt surreal, but amazing, to be sitting in Waterstones surrounded by my own books, with people wanting to buy a signed copy!
A strange co-incidence of the evening was when I met two women on the stairs, who were looking down at the set-out chairs, wondering what was going on. I invited them to come along, and later, after postings on social media, I realised one of them was part of a book group who had communicated with me via Instagram a couple of weeks ago. Neither of us had realised on the night! She was kind enough to write a little post about my launch here
Afterwards I went for drinks to Drury Bar and Kitchen and they played a perfect selection of rock and alternative old-school tunes. It was lovely to be able to share such a special night with so many friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen for years. Even my old Primary Head Teacher turned up, which really made my night!! She was always so encouraging of my reading and writing in my last couple of years at primary school.
I’ve put up slideshow of photos on the right hand side bar of my homepage – see if you can spot yourself! Big thanks to Derek Mooney who took loads of photos on the night and to Lorna McLaren, Peter Morrison and my Mum, Rosemary, and other friends who posted photos on social media.
Thanks again to everyone who came along and made it such a brilliant night. It’s one I’m never going to forget.
You can order Follow Me now on Amazon here or order into your local Waterstones here
The cover design for Follow Me went through some last minute, quite dramatic, changes the other week and I am delighted to be able to reveal the final finished version above. The artwork/photography is by artist Ida Henrich, and I am really happy with how it turned out. It makes everything feel very real seeing my name on a book cover!
I was lucky to be consulted about my cover (I wonder how many authors are?). My publisher, Strident, even asked me to write a short brief of any ideas I had before work began. I had always visualised woodland being central to the image as Eddison Woods is a central feature in my story (and leads to the Barn). I love the green light in this too.
The release date is 30 September, so not long to go now. As my counter states on my home page – 21 DAYS TO GO!
My launch event still to confirmed – will post details as soon as I know…
Just a short post to alert you to the fact that I am featured on Margaret Montgomery’s fantastic blog, Notes from the Blunder Ground, today. You can read the post here
Margaret’s debut novel, Beauty Tips for Girls, was released in March, published by Cargo, and is a brilliant book. (you can read my review of that here).
You’ll maybe notice from the image on Margaret’s feature that the cover for Follow Me has gone through some last minute changes… I’m still waiting on the absolute final version, but it will look pretty close to that one and I love it!