I was born and brought up in Dundee, Scotland, which has a huge literary tradition. In fact, the first lending library in Scotland was established in 1680 and you can still visit the library to this day. Books, reading and libraries were a part of my life from an early age and I first joined the library at the age of three. An early reader, I read voraciously, and cut my reading teeth on all the Enid Blyton Books, especially the Famous Five and Secret Seven. I also read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys; I am sure you can see a pattern forming here. By the age of 10, I was on to adult books and read my way through all the classics and started on Agatha Christy books. P.G. Wodehouse was also a favourite. All of these shaped not only my life, but my future life as a writer. I wrote stories from an early age, writing fan fiction as a child, long before fan fiction was a thing.
Setting ambitions for a literary career aside, I joined the Royal Navy as a nurse and subsequently, the Army as a nursing officer. I left with the rank of Major, a rank I hold to this day. My last job in the military was as Head of Pre-Registration Nurse Training and I moved into Academia on leaving the services. Throughout my life, wherever I was posted in the world, I wrote down my experiences and kept a record of what I was doing. Writing is as natural to me as breathing and I cannot remember a time without it.
Your writing journey:
I started my writing journey with an idea and a challenge to do NaNoWriMo, as I explained above. At this point, I didn’t even know if I would get, or even want to get, the book published. I just knew that I had to write the book, mainly to see if I could do it. To backtrack just a little, I already had experience writing for Academic journals and textbooks, from my time as an academic, but this was my first foray into writing a full length novel. I knew that writing Novels was a totally different experience. Whilst I did not have much time to prepare for NaNoWriMo, I did spend that time voraciously reading books on writing. Two which I can highly recommend are Solutions for Writers by Sol Stein and Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody.
I am a pantster when it comes to writing. I do have a rough idea of where the book is going but I let the characters shape the story. This has worked for me but other writers may prefer to plot the book out. I find if I plot too much my writing becomes more stilted and less enjoyable. The book I wrote during this time was Killer’s Countdown, my first Detective Inspector Shona McKenzie Mystery. Once I had written the first draft, I wrote and rewrote it and then had it professionally edited. I did send it out to some publishers who rejected it. One publisher was interested but said it would be a couple of years before it would be released. I therefore decided to Independently publish it. I did this professionally, hiring both editors and a cover designer. However, from the minute I wrote the first word I was promoting the book, talking about how the writing was going, what the characters were doing etc. I was building up a buzz and an author platform. This is key to success as no one can buy your book if they do not know about it.
I brought out the next books in the series, extremely quickly, so had four books published in less than two years. Each book sold extremely well both as paperback and as eBooks. However, I was using social media marketing, doing in person author events, speaking engagements and anything else I could think of to get the word out about my books. Writing and publishing books should, in fact must, go alongside writing and publishing. I also entered awards and Killer’s Crew won the Books Go Social Book of the Year, an exciting time for an author. It was also confirmation that I was following the right path.
The books were so successful, hitting number one in several Amazon categories and in the top 1000 overall in Amazon, that I was approached by a publisher who asked if I would be interested in writing young adult mysteries. I pitched an idea to them and signed a three book contract and the Fergus and Flora Mysteries were born. The first one, The Dagger’s Curse, was a finalist in the Woman Alive Magazine Book of the Year. I was now writing for adults and children, so diversifying my portfolio helped enormously. I followed this up by independently publishing the first in a new series, Cass Claymore Investigates, a humorous mystery. The first book, Antiques and Alibis, has been widely applauded, with readers saying it is a Scottish Stephanie Plum. As this was the vibe I was going for, I was glad that readers picked up on it and were enjoying it as much as the Plum series.
When I was asked to diversify further by writing a children’s picture book, I welcomed the challenge. I approached several publishers and signed a contract with Sarah Grace Publishing, an imprint of Malcolm Down Publishing for Bertie the Buffalo. This has been so successful that there is now a colouring book and a soft toy to go alongside the book and I have signed a contract for a second book in the series.
Diversification and being a hybrid (both traditionally and independently published) author has worked for me. I find people buy all my books as they can give them as gifts. I now have 17 books out, plus several more where I have short stories published in anthologies. I will have more out in the next 6 months. I believe my willingness to pivot and make changes has led to my success. Also, networking and communication with both other writers and, most importantly readers. Being an author and selling books is about relationship and building those relationships is key.
Anything else you feel like sharing:
In addition to being a published author I am also a writing and marketing coach, President of the Scottish Association of Writers, and host The Writing and Marketing Show podcast. I want to support other writers through their journey, and have written two books for writers, Motivation Matters and Marketing Matters. One of the key tenets of my journey is to support others where possible, helping to get her word out about them and their books. We are not in competition, readers will buy the books they like from authors they like. Readers will always be willing to read more books, so help each other out.
My key takeaways from this are: be nice, treat others well, write more books, act professionally and market like a ninja.
You can find out more about me and my books via the links below:
First in Series:
Killer’s Countdown: https://books2read.com/u/3LpR2w
Antiques and Alibis: https://books2read.com/u/4EMNyM
The Dagger’s Curse: https://books2read.com/u/4Xa5Ne
Bertie the Buffalo: http://mybook.to/BertieBuffalo
Marketing Matters: https://books2read.com/u/49MOPW
Motivation Matters: https://books2read.com/u/mBQ6Qp