My writing process #mywritingprocess

My writing process~  #mywritingprocess

Janet O’Kane invited me to share my writing process as a part of the current blog tour that’s doing the rounds. It consists of four questions. I am tagging Suzie Grogan to carry the baton after me but do feel free to do the questions yourself. Add the hashtag #MyWritingProcess and see what is already out there on Twitter.

What am I working on?

Apart from waiting for surgery, I’m working slowly on a number of projects. I’m very close to getting my next novel Square Peg out on Kindle. For those who loved Away With The Fairies, this novel features Isobel Trelawny and her husband Mickey, but some years in the past when Mickey was at training college. The main character of Square Peg is Chloe, whose temperament and character is probably summed up by the title of the novel. The initial blurb is as follows:

Chloe is a square peg in an increasingly uncomfortable round hole. Brought up by her wildly unconventional grandmother, she’s a true free spirit and has never learned to pull her punches. She’s just married trainee Church of England clergyman Clifford, and is living at the theological college and trying to figure out what’s going on around her. She’s had very little connection with formal religion, and has a talent for stepping on all sorts of emotional land-mines with the wives of the other ordinands. That would probably be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that her grandmother has inconsiderately died, and left her a house full of exotic souvenirs of her days as a travelling doctor, instructions to track down her father and sister, and what everyone else regards as a really bad attitude. She’s also lost her job, her temper, but not the will to live.

Chloe’s life begins to unravel in ways she could never have imagined as she tries to understand her own background by setting out to find out what became of her sister and father. But trying to integrate her uncompromising approach to life brings her into escalating conflict with the other women of the college, leaving her isolated and friendless. In Clifford’s final year of training, Chloe meets the arty, anarchic Isobel and together they concoct a plan whereby the irrepressible Isobel becomes the mole amid the college wives and they start to undermine and sabotage the status quo with a series of practical jokes and psychological warfare that has terrible consequences for Chloe when things go horribly wrong.”

I’m working also on getting The Bet into paperback finally. The manuscript is being slowly readied for print. I’m really looking forward to having this one in my hands.

Writing wise, I am limping along with two projects. One is a novel that is running under the working title of Belle Dame, and which I don’t want to say more about yet. I’m around one third to one quarter done, and I’m very pleased with how it’s going. The other project is a little harder to explain. About three years ago I started a serial on this blog called “Lost” and I posted ten installments before stopping. Each episode had been written in a form of trance, and I decided to continue with this. Because the right mental state is quite hard to get into, the process has been slow, though I’m actually very proud of and intrigued by what has been emerging. Working title of Tabula Rasa, this novel is a journey into the hinterlands of soul and beyond and is quite unlike anything I’ve ever produced. I’m about 20k words into this and have no real idea of how long it will be.

I’m also ready to publish a longer short story, of around 18k words, called The Hedgeway, which is something I may save for the autumn and especially Halloween.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, as I’m not entirely sure of what my genre(s) is/are, I’m not sure how to answer that. Away With The Fairies and Strangers and Pilgrims are both listed at metaphysical fiction, which to me implies that the story has its roots firmly in the spiritual/psycho-spiritual realms. The Wild Hunt touches on that but is also heavily touched by mythology and folklore. Moth’s Kiss is very much about karma and consequences. The Bet is also hard to place, falling somewhere between literary fiction and psychological fiction.

Why do I write what I do?

I write the stories that come to me, starting with seed pearls that can be a single word, a dream, a scent, a feeling or sometimes a combination of factors that coalesce into a complex mix of narrative and characters that live and breathe in my mind. I am hopeless at following rules and guidelines and my few attempts to write to certain formula have been flat, dead and rapidly binned.

How does my writing process work?

It’s changed. At one time I would be consumed by a story and I’d write pretty much non-stop until it was done. The Bet was written in only 17 days, for example. Since my illness, the processes by which a story emerges have become blocked by memory problems and concentration issues, and it’s much harder work to get from Once upon a time to The End. But I have a general rule that when I do sit down to write, I write for a minimum time and word count, so I aim to produce a thousand words at a sitting. I sometimes set my kitchen timer for an hour, so I stay put for that hour, to ensure I have a chance to get to the thousand mark.

When I do sit down to write, I make sure my study door is shut, to ensure that cats or humans won’t be able to interrupt me. I start by lighting a stick of good incense; it’s been observed that incense smoke raises the levels of serotonin in the brain. Then I light a tea light under the oil burner, and put on essential oils that get me in the mood or which are somehow part of the narrative I am working on. I do put music on, but I find it hard to find music that doesn’t distract me by making me listen to the words. So most is instrumental. I also like using the various pink,white and brown noise generators available for free on the internet. There’s one site that you can set the noise to oscillate. Combined with a site that has rain sounds, the noise coming from my speakers ends up sounding like waves on a shingle beach. It’s often enough to put me into the semi-trance state I need to be in to allow words to flow through me from my unconscious. You see, I believe that my own creativity is not in my direct conscious control and I have to be able to step out of my own way to be able to write. That’s why my illness has been devastating, because it’s made the connections between conscious and unconscious harder to bridge, as well as affecting my ability to carry the memory of what I have already written in a story.

I also believe that the stories I write have an element within that comes from beyond me. Whether it’s from a collective unconscious or from a kind of divine inspiration, I feel sure that what I am writing is not pure fiction, that is carries with it a form of truth that at core all good stories must carry. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve started to call “Forever Fiction”, that is to say stories that people come back to time and again, and which are rediscovered and treasures by new readers and even new generations. My greatest wish is that I may write such works. If this sounds pompous or narcissistic or frankly “up myself” I apologise. I have always felt I was born to write. Along with the tens of thousands of other writers who believe themselves to be talented or gifted, I offer my work as a gift to the world and to my own soul.

Interview with Isobel Trelawny ~ Star of Away With The Fairies

Interview with Isobel..


As a writer, I meet some extraordinary people in the course of my work and I get to write their stories for them. Of all the people who have appeared in my books, Isobel Trelawny, whom you may know from Away With The Fairies, has appeared in more tales than anyone else. She’s played best supporting actress in several but she’s the star of Away With The Fairies and today she’s agreed to sit down with me and have a bit of a chat. We’ve got the coffee, but instead of Isobel’s favourite biscuits, (chocolate Hob-Nobs), I’ve only been able to find some ginger snaps.


Viv: I hope the biscuits aren’t too much of a let down.

Isobel (laughing; she does this quite a bit). That’s OK, I’m cool with ginger biccies.

Viv: I’m glad to hear that! Anyway, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.

Isobel: It’s a pleasure. Gets me a bit of space in my day, to be honest.

Viv: I gather that can be quite a problem, yes?

Isobel: Well, I know your family is grown up now, but I’m sure you remember how much hard work small children are. Miranda, my oldest, is alarmingly bright and I have to be up to the mark all the time. Luke’s much more laid-back about life. And simply finding the mental space to day dream rather than doing things all the time is really hard. I’m often so knackered by the time the kids are in bed, I really don’t have the energy to paint, or even think.

Viv: You weren’t sure you’d be able to have kids, as I recall?

Isobel: True, which makes me feel guilty about whinging about them when I do. I had a series of miscarriages when Mickey and I first got married. There wasn’t an explanation; there was nothing wrong, as far as the quacks could see. I just kept losing them early on. Then some years later, I woke up one morning not only knowing I was pregnant but also being fairly sure this one would go to term.

Viv: Your parents died when you were pregnant with Luke. How did that affect you?

Isobel (laughing again) You know damn well how it affected me! OK, well, I was shocked and then I was angry. I’d not had a good relationship with them, to be honest. I felt (and I had good evidence about this) that they neither of them approved of me and my life choices very much. I was just at the point in my life when I felt it might be possible for them to start approving of me when they killed themselves. I don’t think anyone really knows how they truly feel about their parents till they’re gone. I certainly didn’t. I didn’t know how ill they both had been. I’d kept them at arms’ length for years, avoiding anything that might bring out any emotional reaction. And when they were gone, suddenly, like that, I couldn’t process it. I was heavily pregnant and people kept telling me to relax and not get upset and so on. Oh and “Think of the baby!” So it was a while later before I could start to even think about it all. By then, you see, people assume you’ve done your grieving and you’re tickety-boo. But I wasn’t. Far from it. I was pretty much at breaking point and yet, I simply didn’t know it. It was killing that deer with the car that was the tipping point that meant I couldn’t go on pretending any longer.

Viv: I know. Since the events of Away With The Fairies, you’ve had some more tough things to deal with, so it does seem a long, and ongoing process.

Isobel: I think what’s gone on since then has been long overdue. I’ve got a streak of wildness that I thought I had under control but it seems not. I’ve always soared from extremes to extremes but never quite as devastatingly as this. 

Viv: Now, your husband Mickey is a clergyman. Looking at you, you seem a long way from any clergy wife of popular but horribly dated sterotypes.  (Isobel has henna’d hair, wears ripped and paint smeared jeans, and a rather wonderful amber necklace that matches her eyes. She talks very fast and with a lot of hand gestures; she’s a comfortable person to be around but she’s not prim and certainly not proper) How much impact does his job have on you?

Isobel: Too much, sometimes. The doorbell and the phone never stop bloody ringing. Oh don’t get me wrong, generally, the vast majority of folks aren’t a problem, but once in a while, I get people making a big deal of the fact that I don’t do anything in church. I don’t get involved in groups or lead anything. The fact that I turn up at all is a miracle some times. My best friend Chloe is a very rare sight in any church, and her husband and Mickey trained together.

Viv: I’ve met Chloe too. Given what she went through at college, I’m not surprised.

Isobel: I feel mildly guilty at times about that. The events of her final year at the vicar factory which ended with her breaking her leg every which way but Sunday were partly down to me. My wild, rebellious streak got out of hand and poor Chloe was the one who got hurt badly. I don’t think she’s ever blamed me, but I do sometimes blame myself.

Viv: I’m sorry to hear it. I know the story and I think whatever you and Chloe had done, it would have ended badly. Possibly worse.  Now, you were able to buy a small place in the country where you could paint. I’m having trouble with my writing and I’d love to spend some time at your cottage. Is it really so spooky as you said?

Isobel: It can be scary, which might be me understating it rather a lot. But it rather depends what baggage you go with. My friend Antony spent some time there a while ago. But apart from stopping his mobile phone working, nothing happened that time. More recently, he stayed, and some deep issues he’d not been able to deal with began to surface. It’s one of those places that has a foot in both realms. In the ordinary, everyday world, it’s a slightly run down, rather picturesque hideaway. But it’s also a place that stands on the edge of the other world, the world of beings that we seldom interact with, and that can be tough to deal with.

Viv: You’re talking about the fairies now? 

Isobel: (grinning now) I suppose I am!

Viv: You’re a pretty pragmatic sort of person from what I know of you, and you’re not at all one of these New Age believe-anything women. So, far as I can see, you’re not the most likely candidate for getting caught up with the whole concept of fairies. Can you tell me what they’re like?

Isobel: I can tell you what they’re not. They’re not anything like what you see in modern depictions of fairies. There’s no glitter or pretty-pretty faces. None of the sparkly magic and so on you see in both kids’ books and the New Age ones you referred to. They’re…..well, primeval is the only word I can think of. Earthy. They’re not what you think and they’re not what you expect. I’m not even convinced I understand them myself. 

Viv: OK, and that brings me to a hard question. How does any of what you experienced in the cottage square with your faith?

Isobel: That IS a hard question. I’m not sure how to answer it. Churchianity tries to give nice neat answers to life’s tough questions and it gets cross and burns people at the stake for refusing to accept those neat answers as all that there is. I don’t believe we can know all the answers, but that we have to keep asking the questions anyway, even after we think we know the answers. Certain branches of Churchianity would tell me that my parents are burning in hell for committing suicide, that by that one act after two good, caring lives they damned themselves forever. And yet, I came to see that their deaths were possibly the most noble things they’d ever done.

Viv: Churchianity? I like that term!

Isobel: So do I. The thing is, God is not bound by human rules and that sadly is what many churches have sought to do: bind God by their rules. That’s like trying to cage the air, and make it obey your rules. Anyway, enough God-talk.

(She’s looking a bit uncomfortable about this, so I think it’s time to move the conversation to something else.)

Viv: OK, so tell me about your painting, your art?

Isobel: That’s tough. Hmm. Let me think. OK, I don’t have your way with words, but I think I paint my stories. You write yours, but I have to paint them. I paint the things I see and I feel inside my head, and I try to use that to tell the greater narrative of life. I can only paint a tiny section of it and hope that it adds to the greater picture somewhere.

Viv: I certainly feel you succeed with it, as much as any of us can. Anyway, can you sum up for us your experiences?

Isobel: You do go for asking the tough questions! I’ll try. Hmmm. Perhaps it’s best to say that there are more things that we don’t know that that we do, and to be open-minded about the world and not get bogged down with dogmatic answers to life’s big questions. Oh and love your family with all your strength. That’s something too easy to forget, that the love you share with family and friends is not an automatic right that’ll be there forever. People die and they don’t always give you any warning of it. So tell those you love that you love them. I never got a chance to tell my mum and dad I loved them until they were gone. Don’t make my mistake.

Viv: Thank you very much indeed, Isobel. I’d like to wish you luck with your continued exploration of the world through your art.

Isobel: It’s a pleasure. Now, do you think we can sneak off for a glass of wine somewhere? I’m parched!

Viv: Sure, but you’re buying!


Amazon US


Amazon UK


Lulu paperback (will be on both Amazon sites in time)

(The events with Chloe will be appearing in a new book this year, titled, Square Peg. From the title I suspect you can guess that one of the themes is not fitting in and being uncomfortable about it. I’ll let you know when it’s ready. Many of the characters in my books appear or connect with other characters in other books, so you can often meet new people and familiar ones in surprising places.)