I’m a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France with a very big white dog, a Nikon D700 and a man. I taught English in Wales for many years and my claim to fame is that I was the first woman to be a secondary headteacher in Carmarthenshire. I’m mother or stepmother to five children so life has been pretty hectic.
I’ve published all kinds of books, both with conventional publishers and self-published. You’ll find everything under my name from prize-winning poetry and novels, military history, translated books on dog training, to a cookery book on goat cheese. My work with top dog-trainer Michel Hasbrouck has taken me deep into the world of dogs with problems, and inspired one of my novels. With Scottish parents, an English birthplace and French residence, I can usually support the winning team on most sporting occasions.
What inspires you to write?
I see stories are all around me and some demand to be written. ‘Someone to Look Up To’ was sparked off by the true story of an abandoned dog who kept his faith in humans despite years in an animal shelter; ‘Song at Dawn’ was born when I read in an American book about the troubadours ‘Rumour says that there was a female troubadour touring the south of France with a big white dog’. I could see this character – and her dog! – so I had to write the book. It’s as if there are parallel realities where my stories live and all I do is translate them into this world.
Tell us about your writing process.
I am working on my third 12th century novel in a series of five. I spend a year on the research, during which time the story stews in my head, including all the historical facts and people alongside my imaginary characters. I keep notes of any historical background I’m likely to use and return to those when I’m writing. Once I’ve started, I write for 3 hours or so in the morning and write about 1,000 words, depending on the content. I try to finish at a point that makes a good pause e.g. change of scene. It takes me a year to write a book and then the time to edit it, which is longer than is fashionable but I’m sure it would be a worse book if tried to write for longer each day. My subconscious works on the story and often I’m awake at night replaying scenes and dialogue, knowing when I’ve got something wrong.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I watch them and listen to them, particularly at 3am. Enid Blyton said she could shut her eyes and know what the Famous Five were doing – it’s a bit like that.
What advice would you give other writers?
Always stop writing knowing what will happen next and then you can get straight into it when you start again. I think this is how I avoid the infamous writer’s block. Get other eyes on your book before you publish; if you’re conventionally published and have a good Editor, fine. If not, get an Editor. However good you are as an Editor you see what you meant to be there in your own work, not necessarily what actually is there.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I’ve been published every-which-way but I write in many genres and never found ‘Editor Right’ who would publish everything I wrote, so it was natural for me to go the self-publishing route when e-books came on the scene. I still have a couple of books with conventional publishers but I love the freedom of self-publishing and no more rejection slips.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Publishing is changing so quickly that anything I write will be out of date before I’ve put the last full stop. I think the next generation of readers will take e-books for granted and print books will be the loss-leader shop window for the mass market e-books. This is how I work already. Publishers will be more like co-ordinated author services, such as editing and formatting, offering quality feedback for hire. One-book writers will get bored with publishing for no money and the rest of us will find a place in this new world.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
historical fiction, Young Adult, cookbook, dog training,military history, travel, autobiography, poetry
What formats are your books in?
eBook, Print, Both eBook and Print