the a to z of me

A – The Archers. I once tweeted something during a particularly exciting episode and it ended up in The Guardian, alongside Stephen Fry (it was Nigel’s death, for those of you who like that sort of thing).

B – Bo’ness. I went to school in a little mining town on the Firth of Forth, not far from Edinburgh. When I was eleven, inspired by my utterly wonderful teacher Miss O’Donnell (“Hello class, I’m Catriona O’Donnell, and I come from Tennessee” – it was miraculous, to a class of small town children from Scotland) I wrote a story called Why Bo’ness Was Built on a Hill and it made the front page of the local paper. She was the first teacher to believe in my writing, and I would love to find her and say thank you.

C – Cats. We have two and a half. Bella is typically Bengal in nature and will help herself to food, even if it means tearing open the bag with her teeth. She never shuts up, and she likes to perch on the side of the bath whilst I’m in there. Ciara Nightly came to us as an adult. She likes to sleep all day and patrol the children’s bedrooms by night. Her brother Paddy moved in with us last year, stayed a few weeks, then decided he liked the house three doors down far better. When we meet in the street now we have a very British exchange, whereby he greets us with affection and a slight look of embarrassment.

D – Doctor Who. Huge, ridiculous, complete obsession. It started in childhood when I was utterly in love with Peter Davidson’s Doctor, a love which had begun with my raging crush on Tristan Farnon in All Creatures Great and Small. It carried on, nerdy, and then when the new series began with Christopher Eccleston as nine, I was in heaven.

E – Edith Wharton, one of my favourite authors. Her characterisation is so quietly beautiful, especially in Ethan Frome and Summer.

F – I swear. A lot. It’s being Scottish.

G – Ghosts. I’ve seen more than one.

H – Horses. I was born mad about horses – my mum has no idea where the obsession came from. Favourite pony stories are the Jinny of Finmory books by Patricia Leitch.

I – I can’t think of an I thing. Except igloos and iguanas. I don’t like ice cream.

J – I went through a huge Joni Mitchell phase as a late teenager. Just writing that has made me want to disappear off and find some on Spotify and have a listen.

K – I resisted buying a Kindle until very recently. Whilst I discovered they are amazing for holidays (I read almost 20 books on our child free trip to Turkey) I have found that I don’t recall the stories afterwards. There’s something about a proper book that can’t be replaced.

L – Libraries. They are so, so important. We have the fabulous Atkinson only five minutes from our house and it makes me so happy to see my children disappearing off with their library cards and coming home with their arms full of books.

M – Meditation. I’m almost finished my meditation teacher training and I love it. Even in the midst of all the chaos, I’m finding that there’s still a reserve of peace within me which is hugely comforting. I think I’m addicted.

N – Notes. Constantly scribbled on my hand, in biro. Not very sophisticated but it’s the only way I remember to do everything.

O – Online. It’s a bit addictive, the internet, for a nosey person like me. I spend an awful lot of time looking at stuff and not doing what I’m meant to do, which has led me to

P – Procrastination. Or rather anti-procrastination techniques. I find almost anything becomes enthralling when the alternative is writing. I love writing, but the actual getting-started process is really difficult for me. I end up cleaning the whole house, decluttering cupboards, and finding urgent shopping missions. Then I get started and find it really hard to stop. There’s a balance, somewhere. I hope I’ll find it eventually.

Q – Quite tricky to think of a thing that starts with Q, isn’t it? I can’t stand Queen. There you are.

R – Roller derby. I hadn’t skated for 25 years when I joined the Liverpool Roller Birds at the beginning of this year. It came back to me almost straight away and I loved it with a mad passion. Then I fell over (I wasn’t even skating, I just turned around and lost my footing) and badly broke my ankle. Now I am a massive supporter of my team, but I’m staying off skates for now…

S – Scotland. Home. My family come from Orkney, and from the Highlands. I went to school in quite a few places, but as soon as I arrive back in Inverness, I’m home.

T – Twitter. I love it for answers, advice, inspiration, gossip, news – everything, really. You can find me here, probably either grumbling about the children getting up too early, or ranting about politics whilst listening to Radio 4, or chatting whilst I lie in the bath.

U – Underwater. I am part-dolphin, I swear. I spend far too long in the bath, love swimming, and when I go on holiday I spend most of my time in the sea, floating on my back and watching the sky.

V – We live in a gorgeous, rambling, semi-detached Victorian house in a seaside town. I always dreamed of living in a Victorian house, and this one (complete with friendly little girl ghost) is perfect for our family.

W – Winter is my favourite season (in winter). Actually, I love them all. I love living in a country where we have defined seasons. Much as the sunshine of California would be nice, I’d miss the rain and the snow and the wind.

X – I am NOT a game player. We have an Xbox (see what I did there?) but I genuinely don’t have a gaming bone in me. Lucky, really, because the rest of the house seems to be obsessed with Minecraft and Skyrim.

Y – Yoga. I’m hypermobile. This means I can do lots of bendy yoga stuff without having worked hard at it, which is a bit cheaty. And I can touch my nose with my tongue (but they never asked us to do that in yoga class, mind you).

Z – Zoe. My sister, my best friend.

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…

jane green

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.”
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