The one where I sign a book deal

When I was eleven I wrote a pony book.

I wrote it in lined jotters, then typed it up, double spaced and splodged with Tippex, and sent it to Pan books, who published all my favourite pony stories. I got a very kind rejection back, asking me to keep on writing.

Life got in the way for a while, but in 2010 I started writing a story about a girl who moved to a Scottish island, and I filled it with dogs and horses and hot chocolate and wine in the bath and all the things I liked.

And this time, Caroline Hogg at Pan Macmillan liked it, so yesterday I went with my lovely agent Amanda Preston and signed a deal to write three more books. Sealed with a Kiss will be in the shops in May 2014, with a Christmas e-novella sequel to follow, and then another two full length books to come.

(yippee!)

Tintagel Old Post Office

We visited Tintagel a couple of times whilst we were in Cornwall. The first time has passed into family legend as ‘the day Mummy made us eat outside to admire Tintagel Castle and it was so windy that Archie’s chips blew off his plate’.

Cliffs, wild wind and small children aren’t a great combination if you’re hopeless with heights (which I am). Anyway, it’s been added to the collection of family tales, alongside other gems like ‘the time we went on the London Eye and Mummy was so terrified she had to cling, weeping, to the chair in the middle of the viewing pod whilst the children patted her in a soothing manner’.

We visited Tintagel Old Post Office because I like taking my grumpy teenager and three rampageous boys into small, delicate spaces full of incredibly precious antiques and hissing “DON’T TOUCH” and “Get OFF” in an increasingly frantic manner.

If you can look at these photographs and admire their beauty, that would be nice. Try not to imagine the stress I was under at the time, and we can all pretend that it was a relaxing visit to a house which was quite utterly beautiful.

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tintagel old post office

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a chat with bestselling author Jane Green

To kick off my brand new blog I’ve got something rather lovely for you all…

An interview with none other than the astoundingly successful and very lovely Jane Green. She has a blended family of six children, just like me – but she’s a New York Times bestselling author with an astounding back catalogue of fantastically funny, clever, touching novels and I’m not (yet!). As the summer holidays begin and I try and work out how to finish book 2, which is currently sitting crossly on my MacBook waiting for some attention, I grabbed some time to comparing notes with Jane on writing through the chaos of family life. Her new deal with Pan Mac is fab news for Jane Green fans – two books a year! – but it’s a pretty big commitment, time wise. Jane lets us in on how she does it below…

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Me: You’ve just signed with Pan Mac in a deal which will see two books a year from you – great news for us as readers, but an awe-inspiring workload for you. Will you have to change your regular work-in-the-morning routine, or are you able to carry on being around in mom-mode at the end of the school day?

Jane: I’m definitely able to carry on being mom from around 2pm onwards, but I do write differently now. I used to write in two-week spurts, then have a couple of weeks off which often…stretched. Now I write every day, rain or shine, and I also go off to a self-imposed writing retreat a couple of times a year. I stay at little inns, or at a friends house in New Hampshire, and spend five days immersing myself completely in my writing. I am thinking of buying a little cabin somewhere next year that I can rent out in the summer, and use the rest of the year as my own retreat.

Me: As a fellow mother of four, stepmother of two in a blended family, I find it really hard sometimes to get myself back into the real world if I’m writing. Do you find it hard to make the switch out of your writing head, particularly if you’re wrestling with a difficult chapter, or have you learned to switch focus?

Jane: I have become the queen of compartmentalizing. Once I shut the computer, it’s done, although the characters and storylines creep back when I’m driving, or lying in bed at night.

Me: You’re friends with Martha Stewart, who is a real favourite of lots of my blog readers – I love her drive and her sense of humour. She has a very specific approach to Twitter – a few minutes a day, no getting caught up in replies – which I would dearly love to emulate but I am a raging procrastinator. How do you balance your online time, as a fellow blogger? When you’re out of writing mode, do you stay offline?

Jane: Sadly my addiction to the web is the worst kind of addiction for a writer. I was hugely caught up in twitter and facebook, but do less and less these days. I try and update a few times a week, but there are limits to what I am physically able to do: write two books a year, go on book tour, be a wife, mother, run a household, and live enough of a life in order to have something to write about!

Me: You don’t get much time to switch off in a family of eight. What’s your sanity-saving relaxation? I tend to hide in the bath with a large glass of wine.

Jane: I hide in bed with a book, or take the dog to the beach, or run to a friends house for a big cup of tea!

Me: And finally… have you ever considered doing a JK Rowling and writing something entirely different under a pseudonym?

Jane: Yes, but I’d be terrified no-one would buy it – publishing is becoming harder and harder, and the market, particularly with self-publishing, is flooded. How a new writer gets attention these days is beyond me – I would be absolutely terrified!

Thanks to Jane for taking the time – in the summer holidays, with children rampaging – to have a quick chat. There’ll be more five minute author chats coming up soon – if you have any you’d like me to interview, or if you’d like to be features, give me a shout!


“Emma Lee Potter: “Reminded me a bit of Jilly Cooper’s brilliant first novel, Emily… and in my book you can’t get higher praise than that.”
Sealed with a Kiss is “the perfect summer read” for your Kindle – available now! Buy here from Amazon UK or buy here from Amazon.com. Join over 130,000 readers!

30 Things I Do Instead of Writing

1. Wash the breakfast dishes and realise the kitchen windows are dirty
2. Clean kitchen windows
3. Check Twitter. Tweet about plans to spend all day writing furiously
4. Take photograph of desk which looks lovely and writerly
5. Write blog post about said desk for author blog because author blog is very important
6. Check Facebook
7. Read other writers’ blogs about not writing
8. Open Scrivener and reward self with check of Twitter
9. Notice plants are dying. Water plants
10. Realise it’s lunchtime. Make lunch and declare it’s lunchtime and feel justified in doing nothing
11. Just quickly listen to the Archers, because it’s only fifteen minutes long
12. Pick up long-abandoned crochet blanket project and realise NOW is the time
13. Start clearing out email inbox of doom which has been ignored for months
14. Just make another cup of coffee first
15. Check Twitter. Discuss not writing with other writers
16. Read newspaper online (that’s research, you know)
17. Check Amazon chart placing of current book
18. Check Amazon stats to see how many copies have been sold
19. Download The Best Ever Secret Guide To Being a Really Productive Writer
20. Realise you don’t have the software to read it
21. Sign up and install new software
22. Make more coffee
23. Quickly check Facebook, just because it’s important to have your author platform vibrant and active
24. And er Twitter, just in case something has happened. It’s RESEARCH
25. Turn off notifications on laptop to avoid being distracted by Facebook and Twitter
26. Go onto Facebook to announce I’ve discovered how to do the above
27. Talk several other procrastinating writer friends through same
28. Realise it’s 45 minutes until school run time
29. Start writing, get hit with GIANT FLASH OF INSPIRATION
30. Leave, muttering darkly about not having time to write, for school run

how to make sloe gin

It’s autumn, and I’m thinking about sloe gin and sparkly lights and candles and crochet blankets. For those of you wanting to know how to make sloe gin, here’s a recipe.

Having left it until later this year, the sloes are softer, darker, and they’ve lost their bloom. I’ve always picked them in September, and plonked them in the freezer overnight, because the traditional sloe gin recipe states that you shouldn’t pick them until after the first frost. However, I think the first frost must’ve been earlier than it is nowadays, because the sloes have undergone a transformation and their bitter, dusty taste has been replaced with that of a very tart plum. It’ll be interesting to see how that affects the sloe gin.

The first thing you need to make sloe gin is – you guessed it – sloes. They grow on the blackthorn bush, and look like tiny little plums, blue-black with a slight whitish bloom. The blackthorn has quite sharp thorns, so be prepared when you’re picking to come home a bit sore. You might also come across a bush with bigger, slightly less tart fruit – these are bullaces. These won’t give quite the same almondy taste to the gin, but they’ll work as a substitute.

Back in August I was featured in Woman & Home magazine talking about picking sloes, and how the annual ritual of making sloe gin marked the beginning of autumn, my favourite season. Yesterday afternoon we got soaking wet, had a lovely time, came home and curled
up in the sitting room with hot chocolate and watched a film.

Sloe Gin Recipe:

Go and have a look in the hedgerows and you’re sure to find some sloes. Don’t forget a bag. If you’re like me, you’ll forget, and have to take them home in a dog poo bag.
This will earn you strange looks from passing walkers.

how to make sloe gin

All you need for home made sloe gin is a jar, a bottle of gin, a pound (450g) of sloes and 100g of sugar.
Sterilise the jar by washing it in hot soapy water and then rinsing with lots of boiling water.
Plonk the washed sloes in the jar, and add the sugar and gin.
Put it in a dark place, and give it a swirl once a week from now ’til Christmas
Strain it into a bottle, and drink.
It’s that simple.
This year I’ve experimented by using vanilla sugar (caster sugar I keep in a jar with vanilla pods) and I’ve added a vanilla pod to the sloe gin mixture, too.
This may be delicious.
It may be disgusting.
Reports to follow in December.

how to make sloe gin

This is my entry to lovely English Mum’s Great Big Autumn Bakeoff.
It’s not baking, but I’m hoping that a recipe for sloe gin means she’ll let me off!

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The final result: this is the 2010 vintage, sloe gin made with vanilla. Two years on its absolutely delicious: warm and mellow and just what you need on a winter evening. Happy sloe-picking!

Author Interview: Julia Williams

Julia Williams is one of eight children and a mother of four. She also ran the London Marathon a few years ago, so we have quite a bit in common. However, Julia is a published author of several books, which is where we part company (sadly!).

Her latest novel The Bridesmaid Pact came out this month and I caught up with her to find out how she manages to fit in writing, motherhood, blogging and falling in love with her romantic heroes.

continue reading…