Two years ago, I walked out of my life. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. In midlife, many women are settled with plans in place for their later years but I wanted change and couldn’t continue to live in an environment that no longer felt right, working at a job that was wrong for me.
So often we hear, ‘You only have one life, make the most of it, live each day as if it’s your last.’ But how many of us do that?
For years, I’d taken care of my mum, who passed away suffering from dementia. I’d raised my family, looked after other people and worked very hard. I’ve had a great life and there have been some amazing highs but life was no longer sitting comfortably with me and a voice in my head said, ‘Change it, before it’s too late.’ Making drastic changes involves big decisions and selling my house and walking away from the working world that I was a part of and my friendship circle, was tough.
But taking that leap of faith was the best thing I ever did.
I’d always had a dream. I wanted to be an author, to write stories and sell books. But I never thought I was good enough.
Now as my body clock was ticking, my literary one was too, so in the first few months of my new life, I sat in the Caribbean sunshine, glued myself to a laptop and wrote, The Best Boomerville Hotel, then found a wonderful publisher who believed in me and suddenly my writing took on a more serious note. Boomerville is all about embracing the middle and later years. In my research for the book, I discovered that in the UK, one in three people over the age of 50 live on their own, a statistic that would never have stood in my parent’s generation. Things are changing, we live longer and are fitter and healthier in our later years and I’d love mid-lifers to look positively at getting older and embrace new challenges. As the government introduces social activities on prescription, to combat loneliness for isolated people, opportunities are out there to do something different and stimulate learning and new experiences, unexpected friendships and possibly love.
In the writing world, I admired authors like Mary Wesley who had her first adult novel published at the age of 71 and Frank McCourt who wrote Angela’s Ashes at 66. Many writers flourish as they get older, by which time they’ve mastered their craft. I chose to write on a full-time basis and it was the best decision I’ve made in years.
Whatever your age, whatever you might do, a fresh challenge can feel like a rebirth, so don’t be afraid of coming out of your comfort zone, be afraid of staying in it. It’s never too late to being a new career.
I often write about Cumbria after falling in love with the county many years ago. For me, the Lake District is a creative’s dream.
My novels often feature a fictional hotel and the latest, The Best Boomerville Hotel is no exception as guests’ flock to the area and book in, to experience the beauty and splendour of the landscape.
For several years, I ran a pub, then a hotel, in the Eden Valley and was captivated by the warmth of the locals who were so supportive to a newcomer. Walking along the shadowy ridges of the fells in my spare time restored my spirits after a hard day at work and spurred my creative juices, for even then I knew that I wanted to write stories based in this special place.
More recently I was touched by the floods that devastated parts of the country. In particular, the town of Appleby which had once been my home and the floods feature in The Best Boomerville Hotel.
I write feel-good novels to uplift and inspire and with the magic of the mountains and sparkling waters of the lakes, I owe a great deal to my muse.
Are you ready for Autumn? The darker evenings and chillier days are perfect for snuggling down and relaxing with a good book.
Promo – This month my novel, Coffee Tea The Caribbean & Me is on offer for 99p/99c as a download on Amazon. This book was Thomson Holidays top read in their inflight magazine, so if you fancy a virtual change of scene and a fun filled, page-turning read, head off to beautiful Barbados with Jo and Hattie and be prepared to hang on tight!
Autumn – I havebeen busy and I am writing the follow up to The Best Boomerville Hotel. Huge thanks to all you wonderful readers who have left such glowing reviews for Boomerville, all of which encourage me to write on.
Audible – I have only just started listening to books on audible. Where have I been – I love it! I can listen to books whilst driving, walking, cooking and so on. I’m currently listening to Kate Atkinson’s novel, Transcription, and am thoroughly enjoying it. I can’t wait to hear Boomerville come to life as an audible book!
Boomerville Bertie is thinking ahead to Christmas and with a competition coming in November, look out for your chance to win this cute little bear. He’ll make a great stocking filler.
Soup – With autumn days, I always think of warming comfort food and here’s my recipe for pumpkin soup with parmesan croutons:
In a large saucepan, gently sauté onions in olive oil until soft, add garlic and ginger and cook for a further couple of minutes. Add cumin powder
Add the pumpkin to the pan, stir into the onion mix and cook for 5 minutes. Pour stock over squash mix and bring to the boil. Cook for 10 – 15 mins until squash is soft. Remove from heat and blitz with a stick blender until smooth. Return to heat and add cream, stir gently until nearly boiling.
Serve in warm bowls with chopped coriander sprinkled on top
You can buy or make croutons – if making cut bread into cubes, place on oven tray (greased with olive oil) sprinkle olive oil over and finely grated parmesan. Roast in oven for 5 – 10 mins till golden brown, turning croutons once.
Happy reading, hope you enjoy perfect autumn days.
I’ve long been a fan of Sandra Danby’s writing and with the publication of her new book, Connectedness, it was a good opportunity to have a chat with the author herself…
Tell me a little about Sandra Danby the person and why you write. I write because I can’t not write. It’s what I love doing… telling a story, finding the right way to tell it, inventing things, shaping it. Any day away from my desk feels like a lost day. I have loved reading from my Janet and John days through Enid Blyton to Mary Stewart, then an English degree followed by +35 years as a journalist. When I had the chance to write fiction seriously I found it difficult to unshackle myself from my journalism training, to loosen up and let my imagination go rather than worry about researching facts and getting everything right. I’m getting there now.
I love the cover of your new book, Connectedness, can you explain why you chose this?
It is lovely, isn’t it? I’m so pleased with my ‘Identity Detective’ series covers, they were designed for me by Jessica Bell who asked incisive questions about characters, imagery, themes, symbols and excerpts before starting work. The tree represents our connections to known and unknown branches of our family, and it is the recurring image of all my book covers. The nodding woman was Jessica’s idea and it is a wonderful way of showing Connectedness is the story of one woman at two different stages of her life; as a twenty-something art student, and as successful artist in her fifties. As mature adults, we are all the sum of our previous life experiences and Justine Tree, the artist in Connectedness, certainly is.
The title came early in the writing process, one day I was playing with words to do with family, relations, , identity, the sense of belonging, connections, and ‘Connectedness’ came into my mind clearly and strongly. The step of making it into the name of Justine’s new art collection came much later when I was re-drafting.
This is the second book in the Identity Detective series. Can you explain what the series is all about?
Rose Haldane reunites the people lost through adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases. The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. In the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Connectedness is the story of a birth mother and her longing to see her baby again. Sweet Joy, the third novel that I’m writing now, will tell the story of a baby abandoned during The Blitz. Each novel is a mystery about adoption reunion, family secrets and romance, lost and found.
It is a clever author who links their books in a series this way. Is the subject matter personal to you? Do you identify with the lead character Rose Haldane or is she like anyone you know?
I’m asked this a lot! I write adoption mysteries but I’m not myself adopted. I was however over-imaginative as a child, the youngest of three with quite a gap before I came along. So I used to imagine exotic parents who were foreign, royal, adventurers, the usual childhood fantasies. As I grew older this developed into a fascination of how we become who we are; is it blood and genes, or upbringing and experience? A mixture of the two? And if you were a cuckoo in the family but not told about it, would you sense it? Rose is a journalist because I was one and I knew her world but though she started off as a mixture of myself and my fellow journalists, she evolved into her own person.
What’s next in the series?
Sweet Joy tells the story of Theresa, an elderly lady who feels she has one last chance to answer the questions of her birth. On the night of November 29, 1940, Twickenham endured a horrendous night of bombing in The Blitz. In the rubble of a bombed house, an ARP warden finds a baby untouched by the devastation. She is healthy and obviously cared for, but she is alone and no adults are found near her and no one claims her.
The locations in Connectedness are beautifully described. Do you have a strong knowledge of Filey (Yorkshire), Málaga (Spain) and London and if so, what are your connections and why did you want to write about these locations?
Yes I know each of the locations intimately and hope it shows in my writing. I grew up on the East Yorkshire coast and, though I merged several locations into one and invented Justine’s cliff top home Seaside Cottage, the place is very dear to me. I have lived in and around London since I was eighteen when I travelled south to university while Spain has been my home for the last ten years. We live inland from Málaga in the beautiful countryside around Ronda and are frequent visitors to the city for its art, its food and the beaches. I used many of my experiences as a newcomer in a foreign country to enrich Justine’s arrival in Málaga as a foreign student at art college. Her struggles with ordering coffee, buying bread and attempts to make herself understood are things that happened to me.
You cover the art world in depth in Connectedness – did this involve a great deal of research?
A fair amount of research and reading but I can’t say it was hard work. I have always loved art but never studied it so I had a very superficial understanding. I gradually built up my knowledge by reading, watching documentaries and visiting exhibitions, by not limiting myself to artists I was familiar with but consciously exploring periods and styles new to me. The Málaga location also provided the connection to Pablo Picasso who was born in the city. He was a childhood inspiration for Justine as she, like the young Picasso, drew the birds she saw around her every day as a child, mostly seabirds and pigeons.
You have received some fabulous reviews for Connectedness – will we be seeing more in this series and when?
Thank you! I am a slow writer so it will be three years or so before we see Sweet Joy. I often wish I could write quicker but I have health issues that make it difficult for me to spend long periods at the computer. So I tend to break up my days, combining writing one novel at the computer and then later in the day taking a break away from my desk while researching the next. So I am currently researching book four in the ‘Identity Detective’ series, currently title-less, which will be set again in Yorkshire.
What’s your favourite and why:
Book. Pride and Prejudice
Tipple Does tea count? I’m tee-total now as alcohol stopped agreeing with me.
Outfit I’m a jeans and t-shirt girl, a scarf around my neck and New Balance trainers on my feet.
Film All the President’s Men. The film that made me aspire to be a journalist. My second choice is another Redford film, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. What a fantastic script by William Goldman.
TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALSO HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING
Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.
Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?
This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain.
A family mystery for fans of Maggie O’Farrell, Lucinda Riley, Tracy Rees and Rachel Hore.
Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted.
It was always my dream to write a book but one that I never imagined would come true.
Educated at an all girl’s grammar, I hated school. The teachers terrified me and it was a very unhappy time. The only classes I enjoyed were English and cookery. My working life took a different direction from the one my parents planned and instead of going into the family business I started work in a hotel, where life in the hospitality industry fascinated me. I loved the environment, being around food and creativity was inspiring; it was a revolving door with new faces each day. Another dream was formed – to own my own hotel.
Fast forward many years.
I got my beautiful hotel. A country house in the Lake District. In fact, I got many things including a wonderful time in the hospitality industry working with some of the best chefs in the business. Food was my life. But there was still that nagging dream to publish a book but the unanswered question was – could I write? A story had been in my head for years, based around an hotel. One day, I had an epiphany. Write and keep writing until I had a manuscript. I stole hours from a manic schedule and wrote Coffee Tea the Gypsy & MeIt a year. But my elation soon evaporated as it became impossible to find a publisher and the rejection slips piled high. In desperation I learnt how to self-publish and astonishingly the book went to number three in women’s fiction on Amazon. Five books on, my new book, The Best Boomerville Hotel is published my lovely Ruby Fiction and I am writing the next.
I never thought that my recipe writing years would turn to writing romance and that my dream would come true. But they did.
Sergeant Harry Knowles liked to think of himself as a chameleon when it came to policing his patch. A man who blended in with his surroundings. This had its good points and served him well as a shadowy observer of situations, swooping in when least expected to utter the phrase he liked the most, ‘You’re nicked!’ Not that he had much opportunity to use the words, for very little happened when Harry was on duty and this he put down to good law enforcement by himself and fellow officers.
Some would say that Westmarland was a sleepy place, where not much happened, other than chasing visitors for speeding fines or litter-dropping on the pristine streets of the tourist towns and villages of the county. Others, like Harry, who’d recently been promoted, found a crime around every corner and made it their duty to report and investigate each lost kitten and the many stolen bikes.
But that morning, the station at Marland was a quiet as a tomb.
Harry paced around the reception area and straightened posters on a notice board then wandered over to the main desk to tidy scattered pens and miscellaneous memos. He glanced over to the corner of the room where Constable Derek Jones sat with his feet perched on a stool, sipping from a large mug of tea. The local paper was spread out before him and he studied the crossword. The constable was in shirt-sleeves, the buttons of his uniform shirt straining over a paunch. Podgy fingers reached for a biscuit from a half-consumed pack and he dunked absentmindedly as he contemplated clues.
‘Pinging call as they search for food around Bassenthwaite,’ the constable called out. ‘Eight letters, third letter, Z.’
‘Buzzards,’ Harry replied and stared out of the window.
It had been a glorious day and now in late afternoon, the streets of Marland were filled with holiday-makers who’d descended for the Easter break. Families bustled about before the shops closed, stocking up on burgers for their Sunday barbeques and local fudge as a take-home treat. Harry sighed as he watched the world go by. He was bored and longed for some action, something to set the streets alight and prove his worth in his new position. Anything to liven up his day.
Suddenly, the front door was flung open and a woman bustled into the station. Hot and harassed, she swept up to the front desk and drummed her fingers on the counter. ‘Anyone home?’ Hattie called out.
Derek whipped his feet off the stool and ambled to his feet, ‘What can we do for you, Madam?’ he said as he straightened his tie and wiped crumbs from his mouth.
‘You can make me a brew and shove those biscuits over here,’ Hattie said. ‘Is Harry the Helmet at home?’
‘Hello Hattie,’ Harry called out, wishing that Hattie wouldn’t be so familiar. ‘What can we do for you on this lovely sunny day.’
‘I want to have a word,’ she glanced at Derek. ‘Haven’t you got something to do? Crime won’t crack itself, Constable.’
‘Step into my office,’ Harry said, ‘two teas, when you’ve a moment, Derek.’ He guided Hattie along a dingy corridor and into a small room, where he pulled out a chair and sat Hattie down beside a rickety table. Pulling a chair up for himself, Harry rubbed his hands together, perhaps Hattie had something interesting for him to get his teeth into?
‘So, you’re back.’ Harry said.
‘State the bleedin’ obvious,’ Hattie replied, ‘hardly needs a copper to suss that out.’
Harry looked at Hattie. She was still attractive and vivacious with lovely ginger curls. Her ample chest bounced as she babbled.
Derek appeared with tea and biscuits, laid out on a china plate. As the door closed behind him, Hattie began.
‘My house has been trashed and I want you to find the good-for-nothings who did it.’
Harry whipped out a notebook and licked the end of a pencil. ‘I thought you’d rented it out?’
‘It’s a civil matter then.’ He closed his notebook.
‘Aye, it probably is and my own fault for not putting it with an agent but what I am concerned about is a puppy.’
‘A puppy?’ Harry asked.
‘Half-starved and as good as dead when me and Alf found it in my old shed.’
‘Animal cruelty, a job for the RSPCA.’
‘No, Harry, it’s a job for you.’ Hattie was adamant. ‘The vet says the puppy will live if properly looked after. He’s got it on a drip and anti-biotics and is hopeful it will recover. We found it just in time but I want whoever is responsible for murdering an animal and trashing my house, to be prosecuted. Criminal damage, animal cruelty, whatever you can throw at them. I’ll give you what details I have of the tenants.’
‘They’ll all be false,’ Harry said, doubtful that the tenants would ever be traced. ‘Very well, but before you start, tell me what you are up to now, where are you going to live?’
‘I’m going back to Boomerville,’ Hattie said. ‘Jo seems to think the place can’t run without me and I’ll find a bed there while my place is being put back together.’
‘Boomerville busy, is it?’ Harry sat back and stretched his legs.
‘Booming I hear, you should pay us a call sometime, come and teach the old ’uns a bit of road safety or how to stay safe at home,’ Hattie grinned, ‘I can set up a course.’
‘I’d like that.’ Harry returned the smile, he’d jump at the chance of a few hours at Boomerville, anything to break the monotony here. There was always a pot of tea and a warm welcome, if Hattie was in the mood. ‘Jo keeping well?’ he asked.
‘She’s grand and will be glad to have me back.’ Hattie stood. ‘I’ll be on my way. I need to find a new home for the puppy but I’ve no doubt Jo will have room for another, she’s daft when it comes to dogs.’
‘She’ll have it running about the place in no time,’ Harry replied as he followed Hattie through the station where Derek, now occupied, was busy cracking crime. ‘Don’t forget to have a word about me running a course there.’
‘Aye, I will. You know where to find me,’ Hattie nodded to both. ‘I’ll be back at Boomerville.’
Mid-life crisis? I’m all for writing about mid-lifers embracing life and having fun and have enjoyed some interesting conversations recently on a couple of radio shows that I was asked to appear on. The general opinion seemed to come across is that the baby boomer generation is privileged and possibly the most affluent sector of our society. I don’t think that is necessarily the case. Here’s my take on that theory:
Baby boomers are people born during the post WWII baby boom and their current ages are 50-72. I’m a baby boomer and we are supposed to be the wealthiest, most active and physically fit generation in history, all currently reaping the benefits of a good lifestyle that peak levels of income bring. Baby boomers are said to be the luckiest generation having benefitted from free education, a buoyant job market and inherited property windfalls amongst other advantages.
But are they all so lucky? Alcohol studies state that baby boomers, who grew up with more liberal attitudes to alcohol, are ruining their health with heavy home drinking and with the current financial uncertainties and pension crisis, many boomers fear for their future and find themselves working way beyond their estimated pension age. Western culture suggests that we become invisible to the younger generation as we get older. I was also surprised to learn that one in three people over the age of 50 now live on their own in the UK.
Middle agers are susceptible, especially women who feel they are no longer attractive nor have the confidence of their youth. When researching for The Best Boomerville Hotel, I discovered how some women (and men) at this time of life have been financially conned. My findings were shocking, for example, many readers will remember the sad case of Helen Field, a celebrated author, who was murdered by her fiancé for his financial gain.
None of this represents the picture that many baby boomers expected to paint in their middle years and beyond.
For me, growing older has never been more fun. I believe that we are able to be the best that we can at every stage of our life and that ageing means being comfortable in your own skin. Coming out of your comfort zone is daunting. Doing it at this time of life is doubly hard but I have found that stepping out of your day to day and testing new waters generates the energy to recharge your creative batteries.
With this in mind, I wanted to write a novel that is uplifting for older and younger readers alike and to show that life can be wonderful as you age. Fictionally, if my characters can dodge the conmen, the daunting media hype and face the ageing process with enthusiasm, they can embrace it. I hope that the personalities in my new novel The Best Boomerville Hotel reflect these thoughts and that the courses and sometimes crazy experiences that I put them through will encourage readers to embrace their own life, at whatever age. Personally, I think baby boomers can most certainly boom!
The blurb also tells me that this book and accompanying cookery series is an, “Entertaining journey of an Englishman struggling with the ups and downs of living in rural Italy.”
I was hesitant to read something with a title that suggests a gloomy outcome but having spent time in the area of Italy so lovingly described, I was curious and decided to plough on. I am so pleased that I did.
Stephen Phelps gave up a successful career in television, to make a TV cookery series in Tuscany, a region of Italy that he had come to love. His partner, Tam, can’t cook but inspired by neighbour Lia, a great cook, he is persuaded to embark on a six-part series. The book that followed and the series, A Recipe For Disaster outlines their many encounters with the real Italy – a world away from the picture-book ideal of summer holidays in Tuscany. I was keen to throw some questions to Stephen and learn about his experience…
Stephen, welcome to my blog. I adored your book but the title of your book seems an ominous premonition of things to come, did you chose the title before or after filming and writing and why?
I chose the title after making the series and just before completing the book. It was originally to be called MY BIG ITALIAN IDEA, and I think you can still find traces of that in the text. It starts for instance with the notion that our neighbour Lia was trying to sell us on a “Big Idea.”
Other than the 30-degree heat in August what was the most difficult thing you experienced during filming?
That’s easy, the lack of a fully-trained and properly equipped support crew. As exemplified by the problems we faced when we came to record the sound during filming in the tight confines of the kitchen. Here’s a clip from the book about that particular problem:
Now here’s something else you can’t get in a small country town in Italy at a moment’s notice – a boom. Professional sound recordists use a specially designed telescopic arm that allows them to get their microphone into the best possible position without getting in the shot. Sometimes they can be twelve or fifteen feet away and still get a microphone close enough to pick up a whisper. And somehow, by magic, they seem to know just exactly how close they can get without their fluffy grey windsock peeking into shot. … We didn’t have a windsock (of course), nor did we have a “specially designed telescopic arm”. So we had to improvise. Fifteen minutes later we were ready. The arc lights were switched on and I swung my “boom” into position. The microphone was now attached to the end of a broom handle with a red and white striped towel wrapped around it to act as a windsock. This was the Dunkirk spirit in action.
What is Tam’s favourite recipe and why?
Her favourite recipe from the series is the Simple Onion Soup, because a) it’s the one she could really cook on her own, and b) it’s Simple! But there’s one dish that I cook occasionally that she absolutely loves – chicken breasts wrapped in pancetta, drizzled with balsamic vinegar (the real, expensive, stuff) and honey, then baked in the oven for 20 minutes. Always guarantees me a compliment about my cooking.
I tried the Simple Onion Soup recipe and it is absolutely delicious! But moving on, would you recommend self-financing to other would-be film-makers?
Not unless they can’t avoid it. The pros are many. You are your own boss, and you can decide exactly what you want to do. If you get money from a broadcaster they will Inevitably be very prescriptive about how they want the series made. There’s more good news in that you hang on to all the rights to the show. But the bad news is that you have to find the way to get it out into the marketplace and then you have to do all the marketing yourself. Having said that, there are mechanisms like Quiver Digital now available for getting self-financed programme out there. Make no mistake though, filming the series is the easy bit!
Was it difficult to stick to budget and why?
In truth we had no actual budget. We just started, paying for things as and when they came up. Then, as it became apparent that we were actually going to get the material for a proper series, we began to encounter real outside costs like the editing of the series. And that’s when we had to be very sure that we were going to get something saleable at the end of it – otherwise it would have been money down the drain.
Have you any advice to would-be, self-financing film-makers?
Don’t do it! Unless and until you cannot find a proper outlet for the kind of work you really want to do. And be very sure that you have a clear marketing strategy in place before you start on this road.
What was the best bit about making a cookery series other than tasting the delicious recipes?
Travelling around and meeting the local farmers, the people who make the cheese and salami and so on.
What is the reaction of your friends and neighbours in Le Marche by this project?
Very positive. So far. After the recent earthquakes the region needs a boost to its tourism prospects and I think they see this as very helpful in that respect. Most of the neighbours don’t speak any English though – so I could be saying anything about them. But they trust me, thank goodness!
Will you make more episodes and if so, what would the content be?
Yes, but only if this series really takes off and delivers some financial return. We shot this first series in high summer, and we always had a vague plan to do a series for each of the four seasons. The seasons here are markedly different, and so is the food that gets eaten. Chestnuts are really plentiful and delicious right now for instance.
Do you think online viewing with content by independents is here to stay and a good way to market a series? Please explain your thoughts.
I would like to think so. But whether it will be in the form of “conventional” series like COOKUCINA or through much shorter clips of the sort that populate YouTube is another question. We did think for a while of producing a series of Cookucina shorts for YouTube – but maybe that is for another day. The real issue is where does the money come from. Traditional TV costs a great deal of money to make (often upwards of $50,000 an hour). It’s by no means clear what future, online, financial model will generate the funds to support those kind of production values. It’s what we have tried to do with Cookucina, but so far we are well out of pocket. The good news, though, is that it can stay on sale for ever, and with the right promotion maybe its time will come!
Your writing is very eloquent and makes great reading. (Thank you for that, Caroline!) Did you do an MA in creative writing to assist in script writing or have you found it has helped in other areas?
I thought I was going to make a living as a TV dramatist, but in fact I have written a lot of radio drama for the BBC, but no TV. I have three full-length screenplays waiting to be discovered, and I do have to say that the scriptwriting training taught me a lot about how to structure when I sat down to write my first book.
What’s next for Stephen Phelps?
No idea! I am a great one for just picking up the next thing that comes along and running with it. Having said that, I have just started on a rather difficult novel (my first). I’d like to think I have a good novel in me – but then don’t we all?
Thanks for joining me on my blog and good luck with your venture.
I try not to get upset by a bad review but I had a real stinker recently and it hurt.
The book in question hasn’t had a review below four stars and most are five, but along comes a one star, which the reviewer says she gave grudgingly and her review is vile. The book clearly didn’t float her boat and looking at her other reviews I can see it wasn’t her usual genre and I wondered why she bothered to read the book at all, let alone leave such a vitriolic opinion on a very public space.
Recently I read a poor review of a book and was so incensed by the arrogant attitude of the reviewer that I immediately bought the book – a sort of two-finger cyber salute. I then went on to enjoy the book immensely. Reading matter is subjective and what suits one doesn’t always suit another.
We are influenced by reviews, whether when buying books, goods or services and have an absolute right to report on poor quality workmanship but shouldn’t reviews, be useful to other people? Positive reviews almost never get challenged but a negative review instantly draws the reader to the reviewer’s poor opinion.
Reviews are incredibly helpful, good and bad. My debut book was self-published and I made grammatical mistakes which were soon screamed out through reviews and never again did a manuscript or piece of work go online unless it was polished to perfection. Reviews stay online forever, you can’t press delete.
I love reviewers, readers and bloggers who review – what author doesn’t? These lovely people read your work and then take the time and trouble to pen their thoughts and opinions and publish online. There is nothing more heartening than being told that someone has genuinely enjoyed your work – months, maybe years of hard slog disappear in a moment of sheer joy, knowing that your story enhanced someone’s life if only for a short while.
I asked a popular reviewer for their tips on reviewing and the comment was, “Be respectful, keep it real and write your review well.”
A negative comment, taken in the right spirit can be very helpful but I do wonder what is behind the mind of a person who slates a book with pure hate.