Monthly Archives: March 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop

TFBT Cover

Scribes, Scrievers and Readers – I’ve been Tagged!II

No, I haven’t committed a criminal offence (yet) nor has my skin turned bright orange (yet). But I have been caught on a Writing Process Blog Hop … where writers chase about the web, tagging each other. I’m stepping in for Pauline Montagna whose blog you can visit here:

I’ve been tagged by C.P. Lesley, a historian and author of The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel—her 21st-century take on the classic Baroness Orczy novel, The Scarlet Pimpernel (1905)—and Legends of the Five Directions, a series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible. The Golden Lynx (Legends 1) is in print; The Winged Horse (Legends 2) will appear in June 2014. She is currently working on The Swan Princess (Legends 3).   Visit her blog at:

The talented scribes I’ve tagged are Louise Turner, Laura Rahme and Patrick Redmond. More about them later at the end of the blog. and now for the inquisition …

Question 1 What am I working on?

I’m in the throes of the second part of the John Knox trilogy, The Second Blast of the Trumpet, (working title until I  – or anyone- can think of a better one!).  Blog writer

Knox’s life reads more like an adventure thriller than a history and after being freed from the galleys, the fugitive (hmm, a possible title?) crisscrossed Europe fleeing persecution and seeking support to bring down the ‘monstrous regiment’ of Catholic female monarchs. Surprisingly perhaps, Knox was no bigoted misogynist – he genuinely loved women. In the sequel I explore his often turbulent relationships with the women in his life – his wife, mother-in-law and sundry camp followers.

Question 2 How does my work differ from others of its genre?

In the same way that ‘no one expects the Spanish Inquisition’, not many writers tackle the Scottish Reformation, and certainly not the bearded firebrand, John Knox. But my novel is no ‘Calvinist slog but a page-turner’ (Scottish Field) with liberal doses of ribald humour and wit to lighten a heavy topic. I suppose ‘biographical fiction best describes this genre based on real-life characters and events.

JK-1 Question 3  Why do I write what I do?

Two reasons. Because my nose bothers me and I like to keek through keyholes. And because I’m not very original. Brought up in Scotland on the site of battlefields and within sight of castles and abbeys I was haunted by tales and legends from the past, always curious to know what life was like for people then. Exploring the personal relationships and often hidden motivations of historical characters drive my interest. I admire writers who can conjure up stories out of thin air but I need something to hang meatier mine on. Writing historical fiction combines my academic’s love of research with a passion for storytelling and gives me the freedom to make daring leaps that the historian could not.

Question 4  How does my writing process work

I wish could write with the ease of the Scottish philosopher, David Hume, whose friend said,   ‘Why, mon, David read a vast deal before he set about a piece of his book; but his usual seat was the sofa, and he often wrote with his legs up; and it would have been unco’ fashious to have moved across the room when any little doubt occurred. But sadly I don’t, so after faffing about on Facebook, it’s head down to work.

Research is the corsetry on which I hang my story – essential to underpin the structure it should remain unobtrusive.  I stew in the period, extracting as much as possible about clothes, food, travel, books, language, to give an authentic flavour of the times. All the time I’m squirrelling away little nuts and nuggets of information to be dug up and planted in the novel, or look for gaps that need to be filled in.

imagesFirst Draft is a rough sketch of the whole novel. Every scene begins with a list of questions: who, what, where, when why, how. Who is involved? What do they want? How will they achieve their goal? Does the scene move the plot forward? (If not ditch it, or rework to use elsewhere) I visualise the scene as I work through it. What are they doing, saying? What are they wearing? How are they behaving, interacting? What are their motives? I then act out the scene playing all the parts. Reading aloud helps to hear the rhythm and flow of the story.

Editing With my editor’s shears in hand I cut and prune until the novel has a pleasing shape. Then I trim all the loose ends, neaten up sentences and paragraphs and sharpen up words and phrases. This can go on quite a few times until the deadline wrenches it from my hands. Even then Titivillus, the printer’s devil, slips in a few typos that drive me mad!

4cd45008b2f940118d78656675b97dcfThe sleekit wee WordPress devil (see right) is tormenting me by not letting me to post the link to the mini-documentary giving the historical background to my novel.  It can be viewed on YouTube, under the title: John Knox and the Birth of the Scottish Reformation or at

You can also hear me being interviewed by C. P. Lesley here:

So moving quickly on, it gives me great pleasure to tag my fellow scribes. First off is fellow Scots scriever, Louise Turner who also writes Scottish historical fiction

Born in Glasgow, Louise Turner spent her early years in the west of Scotland where she attended the University of Glasgow. After graduating with an MA in Archaeology, she went on to complete a PhD on the Bronze Age metalwork hoards of Essex and Kent. She has since enjoyed a varied career in archaeology and cultural resource management.


Her debut historical novel, Fire and Sword was published by Hadley Rille Books in September 2013 and is set in late 15th century Scotland, during the early years of James IV’s reign. Find out more on her web page:

From Scotland down to sunny Australia to tig Laura Rahme. Born and raised in Senegal before migrating to Australia at age ten, Laura is an Australian-French author living in Sydney. Multilingual and of multicultural heritage, Laura’s passion for absorbing cultures and their histories arose in her early years.  Her debut historical novel, The Ming Storytellers (2012), is set in 15th century China.

The Mascherari Original Gold_BlogSet in the same period in the Venice Republic, her second novel, The Mascherari (Aug 2014), is a historical mystery with supernatural themes.

Link up to her website:


And finally … Patrick Redmond is a London based author of psychological thrillers including The Wishing Game. Born in 1966, he was educated in England, The Channel Islands and Canada and worked as a Solicitor in the City of London for ten years before becoming a full time novelist. His latest novel The Replacement has just been published by Little Brown.unnamed

More information is available at his website:


Friends with Benefits (of the literary kind only!)

Helen MacKinven

photo Max and Jess lapping up the spring sunshine

Yesterday I walked my two dogs in the fields behind my house on a beautiful sunny spring day. And I felt lucky. This isn’t going to be a ‘count my blessings’ cheesy post but I do try to appreciate simple pleasures and I don’t take anything for granted, especially having a loving family and great friends in my life.

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Having a support network is really important to me (I’ve certainly tested those close to me over the years!) and it means a lot when folk are genuinely interested in my writing journey. When I finished my MLitt in 2012, I was cut loose from the demands of the course and could easily have let my writing ambitions drift without assignment and dissertation deadlines. After being part of a tight-knit group for a year, it would also be easy to feel isolated and worry…

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