August 1, 2015

I spent the week before last at Lumb Bank in Yorkshire on an Arvon course. It’s a beautiful setting and I met a talented group of writers there. We wrote, we ate, we laughed! It was great fun and well worth the investment of time and money.

It’s unusual for published writers to go on writing courses as student rather than tutor but I’ve spent much of the last year not writing and I knew I needed to listen, spend some concentrated time with writers and be reminded of what makes up a writing life: the passions, the pitfalls, the procrastination!

I don't think I heard anything that was a complete revelation (not because the tutors weren’t superb – which they were – but because I’ve been on a lot of writing courses) but what I have been reminded of is this:

Stop trying to be perfect. A first draft is exactly that – a first draft – so don’t get it right just get it written.

Make the reader laugh, make the reader cry, make the reader wait.

Use prompts as a springboard into the writing – e.g. postcards of places or people that help kick start your imagination.

If all this sounds blindingly obvious to you then … yeah, right… but I had forgotten.

So… I’ve spent the last two weeks in Scotland writing my fifth novel. I always enter a novel with no clear idea as to how it needs to be written: my first novel was written out of sequence, in the main character’s past and the present, and then when I’d completed about forty scenes the story took shape; my third novel was the only one I wrote sequentially; my fourth I could only write if the main character spoke directly to her dead brother, it simply wouldn’t work for me any other way.

My fifth novel is coming together like a patchwork quilt - characters and plot coming at me from different angles. In four weeks time, I expect to have about thirty scenes, many of them under-realised, some of them over-worked. I’ll feel overwhelmed because I can’t hold all the scenes in my head at one time and I’ll sense a completed first draft but only in the way that you smell onions on the wind a hundred yards from a hot dog stand.

I’ll work with it. There will be hair-pulling moments and I’ll have to walk around the village talking to myself - but then – lo and behold – I will have a first draft.

I’ll send it to my agent and editor – forget about it for a couple of weeks – and when it comes back to me with their comments I’ll return to it with renewed insight and work towards a final draft.

And round about mid-November when the novel is complete, I’ll feel ecstatic, relieved and just a little bit sad that it’s time to say goodbye to the characters.

Novel number Six? … It’s an idea I’ve been composting for a wee while… mustn't think about it too much yet.


March 23, 2013

I wouldn't win any prizes for keeping my website updated. I think it was one of my new year resolutions - enough said!

Several people have written to ask me when my fourth novel is coming out. I'm pleased to say I have been offered another contract with Hodder, initially for ebook, with the possibility of print copies to follow. Although I wrote Tell Me No Secrets without a contract, the promise of publication - and money! - on the horizon is an incentive and the book is taking shape. My main character is called Isla McTeer and she lives outside Edinburgh. The novel opens with her twin brother's body being pulled out of the Clyde so she has a lot to go through over the course of the story, not least trying to find out how he died. I'm planning for her to become a series character and have ideas for future stories.

At the same time, I'm writing a screenplay. I don't have a contract for this but I'm thoroughly enjoying the process. I'm doing a course run by Jenny Lecoat, an experienced screenwriter and teacher. I can't recommend her lessons highly enough. For anyone who's interested, the course is run through New Writing South

September 29, 2012

For those interested in writing a novel, I'll be running a workshop at the Forest Row Festival at the end of September. We also have Elizabeth Haynes talking about writing and Garen Ewing running two graphic novel workshops for children. See link for a list of all the events. It's always a great fun weekend - even when it rains!

February 28, 2012

I don't have a contract for my fourth novel yet. I'm hoping to get one but who knows? The publishing world is changing. This article by Anthony Horowitz about sums it up. It made me smile - I can relate to a lot of it! But bottom line, my editor and agent are intelligent and skilled professionals who push me to do better. Often when I'm in the throes of a plot it's hard to tell what aspects of the plot work and what ones don't. That's where my editor comes in to - in the nicest possible way! -point out the plot holes and make me dig elsewhere and, most importantly, to dig a little deeper.

February 25, 2012

I have recently signed contracts for Tell Me No Secrets and Do Me No Harm to be published in Russian. Welcome news and I'm looking forward to hearing from Russian readers.

Where the Truth Lies is published in Germany on the 1st of March. This is the coverGerman cover for WTTL. Not quite Brighton Pier(!) but I think it does capture the tone of the novel. And, as often happens with translations, the english title doesn't work so the publisher has changed it to For My Child's Life

And talking of covers, my third novel Do Me No Harm was scheduled to hit the shelves in March and July 2012 but because of issues with the cover, the release dates have been put back to June 7th for the hardback and September 13th for the paperback. (I think the ebook will come out at the same time as the hardback.) 

Do Me No Harm is set in Edinburgh. The protagonist, who's called Olivia, is a GP going through a divorce and the story opens with her son in A & E after his drink was spiked. This novel was comparatively straightforward to write and I'm hoping people will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. 

September 21, 2011

Couple of events coming up. I love to meet readers so please come along if you can. The first one is on the 27th of September in Worthing. The event is held by Waterstones in Worthing and the venue is the Lime Cafe. We begin at 7. (A fun evening, by all accounts. Lovely food and drink available for purchase and there's a book quiz to break the ice. Then I'll be chatting about writing and answering questions.)

The second event is part of the yearly Forest Row Festival. It's on the 1st of October at 4.30. Follow this link for more details -

July 19, 2011

So far the winners of the competition below have been Emily, Fiona and Susie - see my Facebook page for details. Still time to enter...

I'm book signing in Waterstones East Grinstead this Saturday between 12 and 2 - friendly faces welcome! Please come and introduce yourself if you're in the vicinity. And between 10 and 12 I'll be popping in to the radio studios at 107 Meridianfm or online at to chat about writing.

June 24, 2011

It's always a good moment when there's a knock at the door and the postman delivers copies of my novels, and yesterday, a box of paperback copies of Where the Truth Lies arrived. The pb copy of WTTL will be released on July 21st but if you don't want to wait, then I'm giving five of them away - one each week. To be in with a chance, just answer the following questions -

1. Where is Tell Me No Secrets set?

2. What are the names of Grace's daughters?

3. Which Shakespeare play is mentioned in the first chapter?

Email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with your answers.

May 23, 2011

I've now finished my third novel - Do Me No Harm. It will be published in 2012. It's set in Scotland and the protagonist is called Olivia. The book opens with her in the A&E department of Edinburgh Royal Infirmary. Her son's drink has been spiked and the story revolves around who has done this and why.  

I'm close to starting my fourth novel - getting to grips with the research and finding my way into the main character's head. I'm not sure about plot yet but know that if I get the main character's thoughts and motivations right then her story will evolve - probably with a few blind alleys and plot problems along the way! This one doesn't have a title yet and will be set in London.

And in the meantime, Where the Truth Lies is coming out in paperback on July 21. Details to follow about events I'm doing linked to the publication. (If you'd like to pre-order it, Amazon has it at a very good price. There's a link on the Books page.)

Tell Me No Secrets has been translated into five languages: German, Italian, French, Norwegian and Dutch. 


This photograph was taken by a friend recently when he was traveling on a train in Norway and spotted this novel lying on a seat. Tell Me No Secrets, translated into Norwegian - called Taus Som Graven. It's always been one of my dreams to come across someone reading my book on a train. This is the next best thing!


This is the French cover. Very atmospheric. It's interesting to see how the different countries interpret the story. This will be out in France in June 2010.

The German edition, published in April 2010, has a Scottish castle on the cover - Eilean Donan, I think(?) ... or similar. It is situated on the west coast, close to the Kyle of Localsh. I remember my brother and sister and I running around the grounds, a welcome chance to stretch our legs. It was a family tradition for us to travel to the west coast for our summer holidays.

This is the Dutch cover. It's very evocative of the story, I think. Although the little girl in the photo is too young to be Rose, I love the forest green and the dark around the edges, similar to the story which has tragedy as a frame but light at the centre. Or, at least, that's what I think! I've had some great feedback from readers and I know some have found the story so haunting that they've had trouble sleeping at night. Whereas others have found it enjoyable and thought provoking. Thank you to all of you who have been in touch.