Nowadays, authors must have the superpowers to make themselves heard in a world where over two million books are published each year. Superauthors write beautiful books and know how to strut their stuff on the social media catwalk, but the modern author doesn’t have to go it alone.
Superauthors lock themselves away to write, but they connect with likeminded people, via social media, and tweet about their writing journey. They tweet and post on Facebook about: funny events, sad events, offer quotations from writers who inspire them and images of world surrounding them. After long periods of tapping at the keyboard, my role models also find time to read and review books. Coffee and cake consumed, this unique author goes an extra mile to share to support others when they are having a little wobble. They will also retweet other authors’ cover reveals, publication days etc. It is a wonderful supportive community of authors, and I have the greatest of respect for these dedicated, talented people.
Social media means the writer is no longer alone on their writing journey, and they have a green room where they can vent frustrations about editing, writing and editing. However, once the book is finished, it is time to plan the walk on the social media catwalk to promote the book. Firstly, the author must dress up the book in as many advertisement guises as possible then send it out on the social media catwalk. Walking the social media catwalk also involves: stopping for an interview, turning to provide an extract. stumbling on mean review, bowing gracefully when they receive a positive accolade and re-tweeting like mad. The parade down the media catwalk looks like fun, but don’t be fooled, each step has been carefully planned. Superauthors engage support from their community before they face the spotlight, and take the time to visit Facebook pages, interact and comment in the way a friend may drop in occasionally. They re-tweet and share references about their work of others.
As a tribute to these hardworking role models, I have developed virtual rooms for authors to promote their work throughout the year. I have observed that the promotion activity cannot be limited to one short period of time, and authors can’t go it alone. My Handbag Gallery, Chat Room, Bag a Bargain, Extract, News and reviews and are gifts to these wonderful team players. It enables me to shout about their works of art in a gallery, plus it provides them with tweets and posts to celebrate. And I get to collect more role models and friends, while also interacting with inspirational people.
Cheers to my role models and friends – you know who you are! Thanks for popping up on Twitter and Facebook and my blogs. Many thanks for writing about me in your blogs. Your handbags are so last season and may need updating as you write more books. Thanks for the happy handbags and beautiful books!
Any new friends are welcome to visit my website and drop in on the authors in the Handbag Gallery and Chat Room. There is an abundance of learned role models, with great books, fabulous handbags and a wealth of advice. I am looking forward to launching more pages for authors and readers.
Feel free to send me a photo of your book in your handbag and you can join my community of superauthors.
Over Christmas, I received a letter marked with a lion’s head stamp. The letter had been signed ‘Word Sorceress’. Author, Sue Bentley sent a mysterious letter to Reader Recommends. She had also enclosed photos of: a lion, a wardrobe, three children and a winter scene. This children’s author lives in a dark, fantasy forest, and often wears very glamorous Dr Marten boots. I was suspicious that the door to Sue’s writing room looks like the wardrobe leading to Narnia. Intrigued, I wanted to visit Sue’s writing world to find out more.
I passed my handbag to Sue, and she placed a classic tale inside. Snowfall concealed my handbag, but I followed the footprints into Sue’s magical world. On my adventure into Narnia, I hoped to discover how she came to write children’s books and young adult fantasy fiction.
You will need to tread ‘on the edge of darkness’ as you read Sue’s words.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe captivated me from the moment I read it, aged about ten. Always winter but never Christmas, talking animals, a wicked witch, a fight against good and evil, a Lion personifying all things brave and true. Wow! You can write about things other than the everyday? It doesn’t have to be a school setting or a pony club drama? This was pure magic and it spoke directly to me. In that moment I became an author – if only in my mind.
Years later I began writing books for adults, collecting a drawer full of publishers’ rejections slips. It took longer to learn how to write quality fiction that I expected. Meanwhile my agent thought I’d be good at writing for children. This didn’t prove an easier option, as I’d foolishly imagined, but I stuck at it. She was proved right. My books for younger children have been translated into over 20 languages and continue to sell worldwide. Not surprisingly they often feature magical animals and fairies.
My enduring love of snow and winter also stems from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. The shapes of trees sketched against a snow-clouded sky. The fresh linen smell of icy air. Wonderful. I enjoy reading books set in winter as well as writing them, while looking out of my workroom window onto a bleak landscape.
I’ve just finished reading The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper – set during snow-bound mid-winter and teeming with English Folkore. There was a readathon on Twitter, over this mid-winter and up to Twelfth Night. Reading the book in like-minded company was a wonderful and totally magical event, which has prompted lots of ideas for future novels.
After around 70 titles for children, I’m again writing for adults. In We Other, my recent fantasy novel, one of the most important events takes place in snowbound mid-winter. We Other could be described as an adult fairy tale. It’s darker and more complex than anything I’ve ever written, with many twists and turns. It’s territory I’m enjoying. I plan to stay there for a while! If it snows tonight, all the better…
More about Sue…
I would like to introduce you to an author who is supportive, full of fun and has a magical presence. Author, Sue Bentley, adds sparkle and magic to children’s books and young fantasy, with her unique perspective. Using her wand, she explores another world and adds glittering enchantment.
Indeed, she has sprinkled her enchanting magical vision on over 70 children’s stories. But she does venture into the darkness with her young adult fiction. We Other was her first venture into young adult fiction.
Sue Bentley is fascinated by English Folklore, the extraordinary in the everyday and the darkness that hovers at the edges of the light.
Recently, Sue has been missing, as she has been penning her second novel for young adults. The title of her second novel is Second Skin. Apparently, Aledra, the main character, belongs to a conquering race of shape-shifters, who are hated by the native people. The new novel is very different to We Other, but it is sure to charm the readers.
The collaboration on this blog post commenced when Sue agreed to add a book into my Reader Recommends gallery. I have invited all readers to share the book which inspired their reading journey. Readers can send me a photo of the inspirational book, in their handbag, with twenty words.
Louis Armstrong says it best – ‘the bright blessed day and the dark sacred night’ You can’t have one without the other.
I always enjoyed ‘real’ fairy tales – not the sanitised Disney versions. For example, in some versions of Cinderella – the ugly sisters snip off their toes to be able to cram their feet into the glass slipper.
I was that kid in a class of pink tutus who was dressed as a vampire bat. I never wanted high-heeled dancing shoes, I wanted sturdy boots to go tramping around forests looking for the shapes of goblins in the trees.
As for characters – Goody, Goody is all very well, but it can get boring. We all love the ‘bad’ characters who do doubtful things – they’re much more fun to write about.
The ritual of making tea always punctuates the flow of my day. I meander to the kitchen between words. Making the tea helps my thoughts to flood out. Builder’s tea is my preference, but a friend challenged me to try something more refined. Thus, we went to Bath in search of tea and Jane Austen.
Bath Market has a wonderful array of teas. The selections are stored in jars like a sweetshop, but woe betide you if you venture to pick up the jars. The assistant will guide you through the tea sniffing journey.
I noted the different textures of the tea leaves: some leaves are larger and crisp while others are smaller and smoother. It was all rather overwhelming to learn selecting tea can be an art form.
I was forced to make my selection on the scent rather than the taste. I pontificated for some time. It had to be Lapsang Souchong, because I liked the sound of the words. It is a black tea, and the aroma of the tea leaves is beautifully smoky. The assistant said, ‘It is packed full of antioxidants and supports well-being.’ The tea sounded like a medicine delivered by a therapist. Apparently, ‘ this tea strengthens the immune system, prevents cardiovascular diseases and fights inflammation.’ Moreover, the Lapsan Souchong can assist with a hangover. What more could one ask for?
My selection was carefully wrapped in a parcel, labelled and presented to me. I couldn’t wait to try the tea at home. Initially, the tea was smoky with a hint of disinfectant. However, as the tea reached room temperature, the taste was pleasantly smoky and quite soothing. As I drank the tea, I decided to write this blog post.
According to Lin Yutang, ‘There’s something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.’ And this seemed to work for me after the taste of the disinfectant had subsided.
I did meet with Jane Austen on another trip to Bath. On this occasion, I heard whispers as I strolled past the Royal Bath Crescent. A woman’s voice confided:
‘But indeed, I would rather have nothing but tea.’ Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Perhaps, the esteemed Miss Austen visited one of the grand houses to take tea with the lady of the house. However, I suspect tea making was also a glorious, thought-provoking ritual for Jane Austen.
Let me know what you think of speciality teas. Do you prefer a robust builder’s tea or a speciality tea? Is coffee the only fuel for your words?
Broadstairs was the fifth seaside town we had visited on a glorious, Arctic summer’s day. Nostalgia fatigue was attacking my senses beside the seaside, and I didn’t have any ‘Great Expectations’.
A sickly scent of palm oil signalled the end of lunchtime. Ignoring the proud white villas, I noticed the litter on the beach. I snubbed another ‘Old Curiosity Shop’ presenting the British souvenirs from China. Branded eateries and coffee houses were shoehorned into the old buildings, and the walls seemed to be bulging with despair.
I couldn’t find any inspiration. The stark, white house in front of me was as blank as my mind. A tourist, wearing shorts and flipflops, pushed past me. An optimistic tourist was buying a sunhat. My husband was pointing to another plaque above a door. I considered retrieving my thermal gear from the car.
The plaque was attached to the indistinct Royal Albion Hotel. The sooty coloured plaque indicated that Dickens had lived there and written part of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ during his time there. Now, I marvelled at the view that would have inspired him. The Royal Albion Hotel had sheltered ‘Our Mutual Friend’. Turning to my phone, I googled information about Dickens in Broadstairs. My twenty first century phone found a gateway into the mind of the nineteenth century Dickens who spoke to me of:
‘prowling about the rooms, sitting down, getting up, stirring the fire, looking out of the window, teasing my hair, sitting to write, writing nothing, writing something and tearing it up.’
Dickens teased those ‘Hard Times’ faced by authors into the long sentence, each thought slamming into another comma, then another comma and another. What the Dickens? If the master suffered writer’s block then it must be fine.
On returning home, I ‘lit the fire’,’ teased my hair’ and began to write. The ink bottle remained unopened as I tapped on the keyboard. I pressed delete, delete, delete and rejoiced that there will be some ‘Hard Times’ before the story flows. Indeed, Dickens knew that:
Hungry for more inspiration from Dickens. I searched for the places he had stayed in I found out that Dickens had also stayed in Folkestone. Dickens stayed at Albion Villas, Folkestone and wrote part of ‘Little Dorrit’ in the house. He also used to frequent The British Lion.
What the Dickens? We used to live on The Leas, in Folkestone, and I had never known about the connection. My travels revealed that:
‘Happiness is a gift and the trick is not to expect it, but to delight when it comes.’
Having parked the car, in Tourrettes sur Loup, I grabbed my multi-coloured handbag and huge sunglasses. Carol Drinkwater had spotted the frantic tourist trying to manoeuvre the oversized BMW, and waved at me from the other side of the road. She was dressed in jeans and a T shirt. Her handbag was a chic bright mauve sporting a Giorgio Armani label.
Strolling along the cobbled streets, I admired how the weather and time had sculptured each building in the medieval village, perched on the hilltop. We realised the streets would have looked identical post World War Two; one of the eras presented in The Lost Girl. Our conversation moved to Carol’s novel, The Lost Girl.
Jessie: I am looking forward to reading The Lost Girl, but I am saving it for the winter months, back in Wales. Can you capture the essence of the novel in a few sentences?
Carol: The Lost Girlis a heart-rending story of loss and enduring love. November 2015: Kurtiz, an English woman in her forties, is searching for her missing teenage daughter who she believes is living in Paris. In a café on the right bank Kurtiz falls into conversation with an eighty-year-old actress, Marguerite, who, when the terrorist attacks of that weekend begin, takes Kurtiz under her wing and together, through shared stories of their past, they find what they are both looking for.
Jessie: I can’t wait to immerse myself in the narrative. Can you tempt me with a few sentences?
We stopped outside of a terracotta house where every stone seemed to have been artfully placed. Carol retrieved the novel from her designer bag.
Carol: This tiny section is set very close to where we are now, just outside Grasse. It is the young Marguerite with a young man at her side, an ex-British soldier. He is about to buy the plot of land where they were lazing in the grass, and about to ask her to marry him.
‘… The afternoon was silent save for the humming insects. She heard a cart’s wheels turning in the distance, the bray of a donkey, but there was no one in sight, just the two of them and the perfumes emanating from the hills around them. …’
As Carol read aloud, she attracted an appreciative audience. The audience applauded, and we decided to seek sanctuary in a café. Carol bowed her head graciously then smiled at the group of people.
Jessie: You paint the scene beautifully with your words. Tell me, how do find inspiration for the language choices? Does it take you a long time to shape the choices?
Carol: I work through the text of my books over and over. I need to feel the language and sometimes after having made a ‘clever’ choice I go back to a simpler edition. As I grow older and have been at my desk for more and more years, I find the direct approach is better. Clean simple text usually paints the best pictures.
We found a bistro in the main square. An elderly, French lady, resplendent in her finery, was about to leave and presented her table to us. Her theatrical manner was reminiscent of Marguerite Courtney, in the Lost Girl: such a contrast to the elegant, kind and unassuming Carol Drinkwater. I ordered a mineral water and Carol ordered a citron pressé.
Jessie: The spontaneous positive response of your appreciative audience, earlier, speaks tomes about the quality of your work. How has your book been received by the reviewers?
Placing her glass on the table, Carol then searched on her phone for a link to The Lost Girl, on Amazon.
Carol: OK. Here are some reviews:
‘wonderful story, beautifully told, and with a great ending!!!’ -Reader review on Amazon
‘Mesmerising, haunting and extraordinarily relevant. The Lost Girl is one of Lovereading’s novels of the year.’- Lovereading
‘A brilliantly told story set against that dreadful night. The characters are superbly written . . . I couldn’t put it down.’ – NetGalley Reviewer
Jessie: As the reviewers indicate, the characters in your novels are always so real and engaging – it is obvious that you become attached to them. How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?
Carol: I missed both of the two principal female characters. I felt as though they had both become my close friends and I longed to spend more time with them. I still talk to them, one of them in particular.
Jessie: I’m intrigued and wonder if that means another book.
Carol: I am writing a new novel now. Also set in France and also moving between two time frames.
Jessie: I am delighted to hear about a new project. Let’s get back to The Lost Girl. Who would you like to read The Lost Girl and why?
Pausing for thought, Carol laughed aloud before speaking.
Carol: The brilliant lovely producer who sees The Lost Girl as a film and makes it happen.
Jessie: You write scenically and draw the audience into the tension. And in The Lost Girl, you have captured a bleak event, through your imagination forever – it is a story that must be told.
Carol: Yes, I agree, it is a story that needs to be told though I also appreciate that for some the events are too new. Having witnessed the real thing, I needed to recount those events giving them flesh and blood…
Jessie: The Lost Girl is safely stored in my handbag. Why should I keep your book in my handbag?
Carol: Because it is a story with a miracle at its heart and, from time to time, we all need one of those. Through the bleakest of days, though we may not be aware of it, hope and redemption are always present. The light always returns. The sun always rises.
Jessie: Beautiful, inspirational message. You are so blessed with your ability to craft words: your books will be a legacy to generations of readers. What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?
Carol: It has nothing to do with The Lost Girl. It is for the novel I am writing now. Here goes:
‘N B and R B were lovers for fifty years.’
Jessie: You have intrigued me yet again. There are so many delicious possibilities in this sentence. You have told many stories, work so hard and have success that many aspiring writers can dream of. What is the biggest challenge for an author?
Carol: To keep going, to write every day, to keep the faith during the slow and arid patches, to believe in oneself. (I wish I could follow my own advice sometimes!)
Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?
Carol: Turn up at your desk every morning. No one else is going to write your book for you.
Jessie: It must also be a challenge to combine your writing with the work on your olive farm. Having devoured your wonderful memoirs from the Olive Farm series, I am curious if your olive crops have survived the terrible drought.
Carol: Olives are not too susceptible to drought because it is a drought resistant tree. Our biggest challenge is to remain organic, and so far we are winning that battle.
Jessie: Your memoirs indicate you have survived tough times. What have your learnt along the way?
Carol: I have found that life can be heart-breaking. I have known emotional rejection and loneliness. Through the journey of so many ups and downs, I have come to realise that kindness and laughter are two of the richest gifts I can share and enjoy.
Carol Drinkwater is one of my all time favourite authors, and I suggest you check out her work – you won’t be disappointed. I am currently reading The Lost Girl and will blog my review in the future. My reviews of some of Carol’s other novels can be found at: Books in Handbag
About Carol Drinkwater:
Carol is an award-winning actress and Sunday Times bestselling writer. She was probably most famous for her role of Helen Herriot in the fantastically popular TV series, All Creatures Great and Small. She lives on an olive farm in the south of France with her husband, Michel, and several dogs.
In March, I discovered my husband had published my manuscript on Amazon. Clutching the lilac handbag, I went into a bit of a panic. The delete button on my laptop did not remove the book from Amazon. There was no chocolate in the house, so I ignored him by reading a book. Little did I know, he’d presented me with a ticket to begin a creative writing journey via social media.
While waiting to board the creative train, I watched YouTube footage about how to engage in social media. I wish I had known about Neetsmarketing rather than shouting at the lovely people who were trying to explain. Fortunately, there was light at the end of the tunnel, Sue Moorcroft was the first person to accept my friend request on Twitter. Her response to my book review and ideas to promote ‘Just for the Holidays’ lit the creative spark, and she helped me to understand Twitter. The sound of the whistle jolted the pistons in my imagination.
Once I had boarded the creative train, some wonderful people waved me off. The first review request came from Angela Petch. Her reaction to my review of ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’ fuelled the creative enthusiasm and the train started to increase pace. She also agreed to join me in a whacky race to meet up with Sue Moorcroft’s character, in France. Angela introduced me to Patricia Feinberg Stoner and Rosemary Noble. Rosemary ‘Ranter’s Wharf’ made me rant on behalf of my ancestors. Patricia’s book is funniest book I have ever read about becoming an accidental expat, in France. It was a great day when Patricia sent me her ‘Rude Book of Limericks’, and I realised she had quoted me on her front cover.
I crashed into the inspirational Diane Need, in the Midlands, when my creative ideas were heading in all directions. Diane’s heart-warming, fun novel was a great read on the journey. Jan Ellis asked me to review one of her books and sent me a book parcel, and this was the ticket to my new collection of books. Jan is currently writing a blog post about the contents of her handbag, and I know it will be amusing.
On my creative journey abroad, I stopped off to meet Patricia Furstenberg. She took me on a magical journey back to my childhood through her children’s books. She is also my Twitter guru and is Queen of the Hashtags. At her stop, Patricia introduced me to Jennifer from ‘Jennieration’. Jen is a ‘fearless thinker’ who delights in language, culture and creativity. Jen’s daughter, Ella, is the youngest author in my Handbag Gallery, and she wrote a wonderfully creative guest post.
While speeding along the tracks of creativity, I met Carol Cooper. And I was thrilled when she came up with the idea of interviewing the interviewer. She looked inside my handbag and made me reflect on my journey. Angela Petch also asked me questions about the editing journey. At this point, I reached a bit of a crossroads, I had neglected my writing. The blogging train had been gaining speed and getting out of control. I decided to get off at the next stop and visit my book again.
Locked in my study, in ‘Editingland’, I couldn’t resist interacting with Wendy Clarke. I stopped over at ‘Silent Night’ to present an extract, and found Wendy incredibly supportive. She featured me in her blog, and wrote a generous blog post about how to use software to market a book. What a wonderful stopover! I would never have found out about this if I had not boarded the creative train via social media.
Finally, I realised the creative train isn’t out of control. Sometimes, one shouldn’t worry too much about the final destination, but one does need to interact with others on the journey. ‘You Can’t Go It Alone’ so I recently asked Angela for support. Angela will talk to me about my editing next year. My interactions with Adrienne Vaughan and Jan Brigden also gave me a lovely boost on my journey. Caz Greenham, the children’s author, has convinced me that Eric Seagull exists. I now live inside the creative world with authors. It was lots of laughs with the hilarious Lisa Mary London. However, it was frightening inside the Dutch woods and the world of Imogen Matthews’s characters. She is mailing a guest post to Books in Handbag about how she stumbled on a forgotten World War Two. I will be travelling back in time to the seventeenth century with Anna Belfrage.
Having established my seat on the creative journey, my role as blogger has gained pace in 2017. Thanks to the response of the writing and reading community, I have had a wonderful year. My role as an ‘accidental’ blogger and supporter of writers has pushed me towards an exciting, unknown destination. Each day, I open photos of handbags and develop more interactions with wonderful authors.Next year, I will launch an initiative for readers with Anne Williams. I hope that many others will hop aboard the new initiative to celebrate reading.
While writing about my journey, Judith Barrow has just tweeted that she has ‘enjoyed being part of the journey’. The people I have met on my journey have made the whole adventure worthwhile, as I get to peer through the window at their writing world. Sue Bentley’s friendly comments always make me smile as I head towards my unknown destination.
A big thank you to everyone for supporting my blog – your enthusiasm has fuelled my creativity and put me on track. Have a wonderful Christmas! Best wishes for 2018! Hope you will join me for more adventures in 2018.
For me, this has been the creative year of the handbag and new friendships! How can you sum up your year? The Year of …