I’m delighted to be joined by Vanessa Robertson today, sharing #TenThings about starting off as a writer as part of the blogtour for her debut novel Death Will Find Me. I heard Vanessa read from this book at Noir at the Bar in November and it sounds very intriguing. You can sign up to read the first three chapters of the book on BookFunnel
Ten things I know about beginning a career as a writer
1: Although it’s taken me some time to get started, I was always going to be a writer. When I was nine or ten I was given a typewriter. It was a portable Remington – I still remember the exact shade of blue and the precise click of the keys – and I wrote stories, even using carbon paper to make duplicated for some unknown reasons. I even sent some fairy stories to Ladybird and got a lovely rejection letter. And I wrote some other undoubtedly dreadful stuff – I recall an early ‘80s-set follow-on to KM Peyton’s Flambards series, the sort of thing that would be called fan-fiction now. I’d still like to write that one day; I should ask Kathleen for permission one day maybe.
2: I didn’t write more than 30k or so of fiction between the ages of 14 (I realised at school that it wasn’t the done thing to express a desire to be a writer) and 40 when I realised that I was perfectly entitled to do this if I wanted to, that there wasn’t a test you needed to pass. Having owned a bookshop for a few years and read some fantastic books (and some dreadful ones) I was pretty well-informed as what made a good novel and what I was aiming for.
3: I’m a storyteller and there’s nothing wrong with that. Go back thousands of years and we’re all sitting round a campfire. I’m the one keeping everyone entertained with tales of sabre-toothed tigers and distant lands I’ve heard about. For a while I felt I couldn’t write because I had nothing profound to say. I admire my friends who write hugely literary novels but I’m happy to tell a story that entertains people. If I can squeeze in something more profound that’s a bonus.
4: Coming out as a writer was terrifying. I took part in Bloody Scotland’s Pitch Perfect event for unpublished writers and that was the first time I’d stood in front of an audience and talked about my work. I was a winner and it gave me the confidence to take my writing seriously, to finish the book and begin the incredibly slow process of getting published.
5: No writer is an island. The support of family and friends is invaluable. And of other writers who know the fear that grips you when you put your work out in public. If you want to write, join a writing group – mine is brilliant. My most insightful critics and my staunchest supporters. We cheer each other’s successes and keep each other going with its tough. Some of us are look for our first break, some are bestsellers, some have decided to go it alone but my goodness, that group have kept me going at times, just putting one word after another.
6: This too shall pass. It’s a Persian proverb that my primary headmaster told me when I was an unhappy nine year-old and I’ve held onto those words ever since. As a writer, it’s even more true. Sometimes you’re flying, sometimes you can’t see a way forward, but none of those states is permanent so don’t be too complacent or too downcast.
7: Linked to that, tell people how much you appreciate them while you have the chance. Tell writers, film-makers, musicians, photographers when you love their work, whoever they are, because everyone needs that encouragement sometimes. And thank people for their advice – I always meant to write and tell Mr Spiller how much he’d helped and influenced me but I never did. Then one day it was too late and I’ll always regret not writing that letter.
8. Ideas grow from ideas. Don’t wait until you have whole novel planned out before you start writing. Even if you only have a vision of a single scene, write it. See where it goes, what characters spring from it, where the story takes you. And the more you write the more ideas will come because you’re more open to them, even though they may be completely different to what you first started writing.
9. Understand the business. Because if you want to be published – whether by a traditional publisher or going it alone – it is a business. In some ways I think being an independent author is the hardest route because you have to balance the business and the admin side with the creative aspect. For me, it’s the best way – I’ve been in the booktrade long enough that I feel comfortable with organising designers and printers, and working out metadata and marketing plans. And if I screw up, it’s down to me. Remember, to agents and publishers you are only worth something if you contribute to their profits. And you are a lot more than a product to sell.
10. However scary and daunting it sometimes feels, being a writer is great fun. I get to spend all day with my imaginary friends and call it work. I get to spend an afternoon with a cuppa and a good book and call it work. I get to go to festivals and events like Noir at the Bar and call it work. And sometimes I have other people tell me how much they like my work and that’s brilliant.
Thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour. Death Will Find Me is available now as an ebook or paperback. You can order a copy online here: Death Will Find Me
From the back of the book
Meet Tessa Kilpatrick; heiress and war-time covert operations agent.
Finding her husband – the feckless James – with another woman at a 1920s country house party, she demands a divorce. But when his body is discovered in a lonely stone bothy the next morning, Inspector Hamish Rasmussen sees Tessa as his only suspect.
Back in Edinburgh, links to another murder convince Rasmussen of her innocence. He enlists her help and together they set off on a pursuit that will bring Tessa once again face to face with the brutality of war as well as revealing to her the lengths that desperate people will go to in order to protect those they love.
Will Tessa be able to prevent a final murder or will she become the killer’s latest victim?
This book will be perfect for anyone who’s enjoyed the work of Catriona McPherson, Sara Sheridan and Jessica Fellowes.
About the author
I grew up in the Midlands where my main interests were horses and drama. Being a writer was a dream from childhood but I gave up on the idea of writing when I was a teenager, not long after I abandoned other childhood ambitions of being a trapeze artiste or a spy. After acquiring a couple of degrees and trying various ‘proper jobs’, I realised that I am fundamentally unsuited to office politics, bad coffee, and wearing tights.
My husband and I founded The Edinburgh Bookshop, winner of many awards. Bookselling is a wonderful profession and a good bookshop is a source of pure joy to me. I love independent bookshops and the amazing job they do in championing reading, supporting authors, and building communities. But, after a few years, it was time for a change and we sold the bookshop to make way for other projects.
I took the opportunity to start writing again and was a winner at Bloody Scotland’s Pitch Perfect event for unpublished authors in 2015. It was a fantastic opportunity and getting such positive feedback about my ideas gave me the push I needed to take my writing seriously.
I live in Edinburgh with my husband, our teenage son and an unfeasibly large Leonberger dog. I can usually be found walking on windy Scottish beaches, browsing in bookshops, or tapping away on my laptop in one of the scores of cafes near my home.
Don’t miss the rest of the tour