Saturday, 19 December 2015

Sarah Hilary: The Shadow-side of Writing

copyright Linda Nylind, photographer

Sarah Hilary admits she thinks of dark things. ‘I do have a dark mind…’ she’s quoted as saying, ‘a friend of mine pushed me into crime writing, saying…‘your mind is in a dark place already, you should make some money from it’.’
I love dark minds. I have one myself, especially when I’m asleep. My dreams are a deep recess full of images and actions useful to a writer.  I dream of torture, of lost babies, of running at night from beasts, of hiding from men with guns. One morning I woke to discover I’d scribbled something at three am, before falling back to sleep. The words ran down the page like oozing blood – death and mayhem all night long.
So Sarah Hilary’s first novel, Someone Else’s Skin – a brilliantly apt title, by the way – was right up my dark alley, absolutely my cup of hemlock. Everything about the story leads to darkness. The symbols are disturbing; a woman blinded by an acid attack, a hand severed by a scimitar, a victim chained, waiting for torture. The themes explore hate, violence, misogyny, and sadism. Her characters are women fighting for some peace – some justice from men who have attacked them – but they all have inner demons to contend with. Even Hilary’s fiercely intelligent investigator, DI, Marnie Rome, has memories of a violent family event, and losses she’s trying to forget while she’s doing her dark, dark, job. Her partner, DS Noah Jake, is black and gay, which isn’t a problem to anyone except dyed-in-the-wool homophobe, DS Carling. However this is not a formulaic police procedural. KTW readers will know how I love my crime novels (read and written!) to be about why crime is committed, and what affect that has on victims, investigators, bystanders and even the perpetrators.
On the WH Smith Blog, Hilary says: ‘Marnie Rome walked fully formed into a story I was writing two years ago. She was undercover, in biker boots and a black wig, but she was unquestionably Marnie. I recognised her at once. Later, I came to realise how many secrets she was hiding.’
According to C G Jung everyone has a ‘shadow aspect’. This is a repressed area of the unconscious reflecting the side of us we don’t see in our conscious selves. He wrote: The less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is I don’t know Sarah Hilary well, but she looks a lovely cheery person in her photos – slightly quixotic, in fact, rather ethereal. If, like, me, she’s fundamentally a sunshiney person, it stands to reason your shadow aspect is going to be a cold sweat of despair and agony. 
Jung believed that we should endeavour to be aware of our shadow aspect, so that we grow into balanced people, and I have a theory that writers have a way of gaining that balance, even without knowing it. They draw out their shadow aspect in their writing. That might explain why nice people end up writing about the worse sides of human nature. Ann Cleeves, a crime novelist and judge of the 2015 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, which Hilary won with Someone Else’s Skin, said… ‘she has this dreadful sense of horror, but it is done delicately and subtly. It always stops just as your imagination takes over.’
Rome and Jake want to interview a resident of a women’s shelter in Finchley, Ayana Mirza. They want her to testify against her own brothers, who have driven her to the shelter with violent intimidation.  But as the detectives arrive they witness a stabbing. A husband has sneaked in, bringing flowers for his wife, and now lies bleeding on the floor. In that moment, the book gains its delightful complexity, because Rome and Jake thought they had one, cut-and-dried crime to investigate, and now they also have a mystery. Was the knife inside the flowers? Has Hope Proctor just saved her own life, or did she always plan to attack the husband she’s been hiding from? The answers to those questions are dark and twisted, and the story will spiral out of the detective’s control before they’re answered. As Simone, another woman who has sought refuge remembers in the book…‘He thought he'd broken her in a thousand pieces, but sometimes... when you are broken... You mend hard.’
No Other Darkness is available from Amazon
Domestic violence has often been lumped under ‘misery memoirs’ and it’s refreshing to see someone take the subject and create both a complex, crime novel and serious examination of the problem, without descending into cliché. Hilary writes with understatement. She doesn’t shout out her messages, but when she wants to describe violence, she does it with such power…Mum's bread knife, its steel teeth full of tattered red skin…Despite its subtlety, Someone Else’s Skin has its terrifying moments, the sort you have to hide behind the sofa to read. I read this book on Kindle, and right now it's only 99p on Kindle if you click here.
Since its publication in 2014, Hilary has published the second Marnie Rome novel, No Other Darkness, and I believe she’s ready to publish the third. I can’t wait to read them – I have my sofa all prepared to hide behind as I do so.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Beneath the Tor is out in paperback

Sabbie Dare is a shaman and therapist who works with the otherworld to fight off the dark side of this world…
On Midsummer night on the Glastonbury Tor, Alys Hollingberry suddenly dies. Sabbie Dare is in shock over the news, and when Alys's shamanic guru confesses that she may have unwittingly taken drugs during his ritual, Sabbie's shock turns into horror.
After receiving sinister, anonymous emails about Alys, her grieving husband Brice approaches Sabbie for help. She turns to the spirit world for guidance but receives only conflicting and enigmatic answers. She tries seeking help from her boyfriend, Detective Inspector Rey Buckley, but he is embroiled in problems of his own. As she starts to piece together the truth about Alys's death, a deranged killer is planning a final killing, and both are closer to Sabbie than she knows.
I'm already in love with Midnight Ink's choice of cover for this book, the classy, monotone photograph of Glastonbury Tor is enigmatic, and yet tells you immediately what's inside. And I'm delighted with the reviews I'm already getting, from professional writers, avid readers and the book magazines:
Ronald Hutton and Nina Milton
 at Foyles Bookshop
RONALD HUTTON, AUTHOR OF THE TRIUMPH OF THE MOON, SHAMANS, AND PAGAN BRITAIN"[Milton] has become a mistress of plot-weaving, and above all, she pulls off the trick of setting the totally fantastic amid the totally everyday and making the two fit together with pace and excitement.”—

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
RivettingThis third mystery of the series hits the ground running. I read the book straight through with only some sleep in between. It's not necessary to have read the first two to read this one. Wonderful mix of modern grit and ancient magic.

Publisher's Weekly
At the start of British author Milton’s unsettling third Shaman mystery (after 2014’s Unraveled Visions), a group of 10 people, all “keen to explore shamanism,” climb to the top of Glastonbury Tor to celebrate Midsummer Eve. When Alys Hollingberry, who has been dancing nonstop, suddenly collapses, Sabbie Dare phones emergency services. Another participant says it’s too late (“I saw her spirit go”). On the day of the inquest, Alys’s grieving husband, Brice, receives a strange email (“The Tor needs no sacrifice. The utter waste of blessed life signals doomsday”). It’s signed Morgan le Fay. Since Brice doesn’t want the police involved, he asks Sabbie’s help in identifying Morgan le Fay and figuring out this person’s connection to Alys. Meanwhile, a priest alleges that Alys took drugs during the celebration on the tor that may have led to her death. Milton puts an intriguing New Age spin on the traditional English mystery. 

Sorry, UK readers, you will have to wait an entire month to read my book, if you want to gloriously hold the paperback in your hands that is. But you can pre-order the book from Amazon now.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Coping With Rejection

Nina Milton is guesting at the Open College of the Arts blogsite again, this week, with a blog about coping with rejection. Lots of intersting comments coming through on this subject, which is close to every writer's heart.

I can clearly remember my first rejection. It was as if someone had released a little valve on me. The sort of little valve that beach balls have so you can blow them up. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to write again...

Go to 

to read the entire article. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Naxalites: fictions about the Indian uprising

Talk about buses, coming along in pairs. 

Two books, published recently, both examined the Maoist uprising in India. Now, I didn’t even know that there had been a Maoist uprising in India, so two novels in close succession felt like more than coincidence. But it's probably no more than a good example of Jung's collective consciousness at work. 

In both books, a young man is drawn into a radical far-left movement called Naxalism, its name derived from Naxalbari, a tiny village to the north of Calcutta where impoverished peasants rose up against the police and landlords in 1967, sparking off dreams of a nationwide insurgency that would replicate Mao’s earlier revolution in China.

I read Jhumpa Lahiri’s Lowland first, and this was my introduction the the Naxalites, a movement I’d never heard of  before. I love learning new things from the fiction I read, however, at the end of the book, I still didn’t know anything about the uprising. That story is skirted and what is examined instead is disappearance, the not knowing. 

Subhash’s younger brother, Udayan, has gone without trace, and he’s missed by all the people who care for very much for him in a multitude of different ways  Lahiri explores these lives – lives lived with a blankness where a person should be. What Lahari is saying, it seems to me, is that disappearance is more poignant than death, for there is no closure when someone vanishes off the face of the earth. Udayan's family are trapped in the unkowning. How differently would have been their lives if that disappearance hadn’t happened? How different are their lives  because of that mysterious gap appearing in the centre of the family.

As I was reading Lowlands, I fell in love, once again, with Lahari’s  erratic, dancing prose and the power of her characters, who feel and believe and with such passion and depth. But her short stories are more lucid than this longer book. The writer is far better at getting under the skin of characters 
 like this, exploring their dreams, fears, failures and secrets,  than she is describing settings or actions. Rather than demonstrating any overarching narrative drive, Lahari’s Indian family seem to live in the clouds, if not in the Cloud. But at the end of the book, I could truly say I'd loved it, because the ending is exqusiite. It both explains the beginning and takes us in a circle back to it. It’s because of this one little device, which I had to wait  432 pages for, that Lowlands stays with me,

In direct contrast, The Lives of Others, by Neel Mukherjee does not try to 
skirt around the issue of the Naxal 
uprising. We learn how punishing was the regime the idealistic students set for themselves, in their attempts to emulate Chinese Communism, and we also see in graphic detail the way the police and state dealt with their beliefs. 

The structure Muckherjee has chosen takes us alternately from the Ghosh Family (and their long-standing business empire) and their teenage son, Supratik. The family - or at least Supratik's mother - is struggling, as in Lowland, to come to terms with the disappearance. Their lives, in contrast to the starving peasants Supratik is now starving alongside, are rich and charmed, to the point they simply cannot imagine any other life. As with Lowlands, we watch several generations, this time mostly in flashback back from the starting point of 1967, to learn how much the family members truly hate each other. 

While Lowlands had a problem with getting to grips with setting, this book seems to not bother with properly introducing characters. Constantly I got lost and frequently I was grateful for both the glossary and the Ghosh family tree, printed at the front of the book.

I found the chapters focused on Supratik grueling but easy to read. It was the Ghosh chapter I found troublesome. I seemed to constantly be waiting for characters and their situations to be introduced and explained, while trying to figure out what was happening and what had happened to this unpleasant family. I almost gave up several times, as I wondered where this book was going. But when the writer gets to grips with a scene, he's wonderfully colourful and imaginative.

The Lives of Others seemed to be telling and showing me far less than I thought I'd need to understand the story, yet, when when I’d finished it, and pondered upon it, I realized that somehow I’d gained a complete picture and could see the romance and direction of its narrative perfectly. 
If you like to discover new information while reading fiction, or love books that tackle large issues, you'd probably enjoy either of these. Lowland was short-listed last year: The Lives of Others won the prize the year after. Why not read both and decide for yourself if the Booker judges made the right choices.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Paper Cuts by Nicci Rae

…If you divide a still image into a series of small coloured dots, the human brain will reassemble the dots into a picture that makes sense. This is the principle on which television is based… Nicci Rae, Paper Cuts

This week, I'm featuring the work of fellow crime author Nicci Rey. She's a full time writer and editor and she also co-presents a weekly show on Radio Harrow.

She's published three novels: LEAVE ME COLD, MAD BESS WOOD and her most recent work, PAPER CUTS. Like me, she's currently working on a fourth novel, with the working title BADGERS & JAM. 

Tiffany Wilson is the nation's TV darling, host of Talking with Tiffany, favourite viewing on  morning television, but Tiffany wants so much more – she wants to be thought of as a serious journalist, and she's just finished a documentary, Our World. This is a hard-hitting piece of broadcasting, which has followed the journey of Ayo and Masika Akiloye as they are brought from Moucha Island off the coast of Africa to the UK. The couple have been filmed for six months, shown discovering all the Western World has to offer. 

Now, Tiffany is dreaming of being crowned TV queen and winning BAFTA glory for her work. She brings the Akiloyes into the studio before they are shipped back  to Africa, at the end of this experiment, and interviews them on her morning show for a final time. 

Tiffany's dreams twists into nightmares as the Akiloyes drop the bombshell, live on air, that they plan to flaunt the  the law  and stay in England.

Very quickly, the Nation's Sweetheart has become Enemy Of The State.

 Events begin to spiral out of control as as the country - and the press - support the Akiloyes, vilifying Tiffany and the TV company for using the Akiloyes as an experiment in the name of entertainment and, as Tiffany fights to restore her reputation she discovers that there's more at stake than her ratings…

PAPER CUTS comes out this week in paperback and is already available for download from Amazon. It's a fast and furious read perfect for crime-fiction lovers who like their books short, sweet and spicy. If you're hea

ding on a long plane journey, this would be a compulsive companion. I loved the way Rae opens up the interior of news journalism and criss-crosses the world as she unfolds her story. 

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Winter Poems by Nina Milton


They are matchless,
My trees in winter. 
While I watch telly and eat carbs, 
Put the fire on, the heating up, 
They stand naked to the battle;
Steady for storm, ready for gale. 

Winter trees communicate in semaphore
Black flags against the half-day’s light.
They are gallows for bats,
Rigging for gulls,
Blue cages for robins 
Steeples for stormcocks.

In the cold sun, 
The oaks glow emerald with moss;
The planes strike piebald patterns;
Birch trunks shimmer like a high moon. 
I pull on gloves, hat, scarves,
Brave the cold to watch 
As they wait secure, 
Dreaming sap dreams,
Expectant for spring.


                                                                                   Scrag End,
                                                                                   Hag wending
                                                                                   Her cackling flight
                                                                                   Over the mushroom yews.
                                                                                   The Samhuin night holds her,
                                                                                    Unfolds her soaring cloak
                                                                                    As she rides her birch broom high.


Storm Eye
Borne higher 
Than Circling wind,
A vortex for a throne.
Below, as we run for cover
She shrieks a laugh and spins
Stridng the tides.

Boughs creak
Clouds flapping
Seas flooding, seeing blood.
She shakes the earth 
Till fire spews.
Life’s elemental horrors are hers
As she beats out the storm

Misshapen crone, 
Winter harpy - time for home,
Let late winter snows gentle 
Lambs and snowdrops into life,
I implore, beseech you, hag,
It’s Bridget’s time, so pack your bag.

(the Cailliach is a Scottish Goddess, whose legend states she epitomizes hard winter)


The train flies; 
Rails roar in terror of looming night
Miles shudder on
Into a dimmed future.
Sky is ashen with a splash of paint,
Tree, pole, nudging horse in silhouette against it.

The colour drains; 
Green frowns into grey, 
Brown slides towards black,
Your eyes get dim
In this darkening world, dotted  
With small square stars of windows.

Willows as fluffed as candyfloss;
Oaks flash past like lollipops, poplars are batons 
Directing the chugging wheels.
Settling cows hunch in the loaming.
Look away – don’t guess the shapeless things out there.

When you look back, day’s death is fulfilled
And all that can be seen is the sound of the train.


Photograph of Stanton Drew
 by the late Carni Tipton
Suppose the dolmen that squats high on the track
Are three petrified shepherds who never sleep – 
Moonbeam white, resting as they watch their sheep
Leaning to rest each on the other’s back?

While down in the valley, three circles lie,
Earth-rooted like old men’s molars, they stare
Past the earth’s harried timekeeping to where 
Stars wheel backwards and the moon’s phases fly

To the beat of these sandstone hearts. One ring
Lies fallow, resting in the weedy grass, 
The grandest circle is spaced wide and fast
The third stays tight, upright; I hear it sing.

It breaths the pulse notes of a well-tuned harp
It holds the secrets of a trusted chart.


My feet stand deep by your heel in the gloom
Of your towering wilds.
Storm wave, Wailing Wall,
They named you Black Hill,
The back end of Brecon’s
Mountain range where, disconsolate, you loom.

Ceridwen loves to feel the dusk enslave,
Wrap wild anguish round
A heart. Black Mountain must
Belong to her,
Stirring an iron-cast pot
Inside a hollow crag, some dark-eyed cave

Murky shadows move me; what you are, Ker –  

Goddess, hag, or just a tale 
From old-folk years? No answer.
Only the wind, steep with dread
Flap of umbrella bat, bleak caw of crow,
As they soar into the desolate air.

From the break of dawn to moon-slivered night,
Herbs lie in curling steam.
Cauldron-sour on the tongue,
Perilous to steal, it will devour,
Turn you mad or
Offer transformation into light.

I turn upon my heel, can’t hold my place.
The barren cliffside sucks
At hope, drags away cheer.
My shoulders shudder 
At the goddess glowering in her crag
And want to weep at your heartbreaking face.

Winter Poems by Nina Milton

Monday, 2 November 2015

Lila by Marilynne Robinson

There are books that draw the emotion out of you. Historical romances that leave you in a heap of tears. Thrillers that sheer your nails down to the quick. These are good books – I hope my Shaman Mysteries can cause such reactions in people.

Connected  by Kasey McMahon 
fabricates a networked goddess 
out of Ethernet cables.
But there are also books – rarities – that draw emotion into you. Such books often leave you feeling as you never have before and words cannot aways express such emotions, but feel like the bundles of cables inside telecommunication boxes. Not only are these books rare, they are usually destined to become classics.

I’ve come to reading Marilynne Robinson a little late in the day. She has already been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Orange Prize and was long-listed for the Booker with Lila, her fourth book, which I’ve just finished.  By the end of this intense ride into her work, I realized it might have enjoyed it even more if I’d started at the beginning.

Robinson’s last three books has become a trilogy set in the fifties, focused on the Iowan town of Gilead, where John Ames, the preacher, has lived all his life. The first book is a posthumous letter from the elderly John Ames to his young son. The second book is an account of Ames’ friend and godson. We meet all these characters in book three, Lila, which tells the story of Lila, Ames’ wife. 

Lila, perhaps in her thirties, blows into town when Ames is 67 and widowed. She has spent her entire life so far on the road and has no idea even who her father is. There’s a knife hidden down her garter which has its own gruesome story, and she’s living in a little den by the river, where she’s hidden the few pounds in her possession. Ames becomes alive in Lila’s presence and marries her
“I felt as though I recognised you somehow,” he tells Lila. “It was a remarkable experience. It was.” She says: “But you don’t really know nothing about me.” 

 Marilynne Robinson 
Photo: Ulf Andersen
Looking into the photo of Marilynn Robinson, I can see in her face how it is possible that she can write with such a heightened intensity, with the elegance of a poet and the understanding of a philosopher. She has a regal look, which feels both humble and full of humour. That face promises great writing, of depth and breadth, and Lila answers that promise, filling me, as I’ve said, with feelings I could not express in words. Something like longing, perhaps. Something like death and birth. As a Christian, Robinson is a sophisticated thinker. Although this is the story of a fallen woman saved by a minister of the church, there is nothing pious about it. Instead, it is open and subtle and passionate. I can’t guess what the writer meant Lila to be ‘about’, but to me it looks at how we exist in the world for just such a short time, and how our spirits respond to that. 

Anatole Broyard wrote of Robinson in The New York Times: “It’s as if, in writing…she broke through the ordinary human condition with all its dissatisfactions, and achieved a kind of transfiguration.”

Lila is not a book with a complex plot, although its structure is elaborately folded into Lila's past, which Ames does not know about, and the present, which builds a surprising amount of tension out of Lila’s restlessness, now pregnant with her husband’s child. All her life she has survived by keeping society at bay, and still considers running away. “I don’t trust nobody,” Lila says, and Ames replies: “No wonder you’re tired.”

I have been missing something from my life, and that thing is reading Marilynne Robinson. I’m so glad I spotted her on the long list for the Man Booker. How Lila failed to make the transfer to the short list is a puzzle  – the Guardian described it as ‘the biggest surprise’. But I doubt Robinson is unduly worried. For a start, she’s recently been presented with a National Humanities Medal by Barack Obama. For another, she doesn’t look the sort.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Beneath the Tor: A Shaman Mystery

 Thank you, Publisher's Weekly, for the great review of my new book!
Nina Milton. Midnight Ink (, $14.99 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-0-7387-4382-0
At the start of British author Milton’s unsettling third Shaman mystery (after 2014’s Unraveled Visions), a group of 10 people, all “keen to explore shamanism,” climb to the top of Glastonbury Tor to celebrate Midsummer Eve. When Alys Hollingberry, who has been dancing nonstop, suddenly collapses, Sabbie Dare phones emergency services. Another participant says it’s too late (“I saw her spirit go”). On the day of the inquest, Alys’s grieving husband, Brice, receives a strange email (“The Tor needs no sacrifice. The utter waste of blessed life signals doomsday”). It’s signed Morgan le Fay. Since Brice doesn’t want the police involved, he asks Sabbie’s help in identifying Morgan le Fay and figuring out this person’s connection to Alys. Meanwhile, a priest alleges that Alys took drugs during the celebration on the tor that may have led to her death.
 Milton puts an intriguing New Age spin on the traditional English mystery. 
Beneath the Tor is out in December if you live in the US; if you live in the UK you will have to wait until January 2016. But you can order your copy from Amazon now at the pre-order price.
And if you'd like to hear me read from all three of the trilogy, be at The Cellar Bar next Friday the 30th October at 8pm for Cellar Bards

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Diana Cambridge…Secrets of a Writer in Residence

What to wear? 
That shouldn’t be my first concern. But as I pack for my week as Writer In Residence to Sherborne Literary festival – that’s from Wednesday 14 to Sunday 18 October – it’s what I’m thinking. 

Diana Cambridge
The answer? Black! With yellow as an alternative.
Comfortable shoes are a must. So I put my heels in my bag and wear flats up the hill to the Digby Hall in Sherborne. I used to do this as a teenager, as I couldn’t totter to a pub but could nip into the Ladies before anyone saw me and change shoes there.

Princess Michael is one of the speakers at this prestige Litfest: also Victoria Hislop. I plan to squeeze into both of these – one of the lovely elements of WIR is that you can get into events free. The other fantastic bonus is choosing anything you like from their gorgeous café. Last year I’d eaten three hand made chocolate eclairs by 11.a.m most days. The café  - yes, they do wine - is run by Sue Adams, sister of the late author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

My drop-in writing clinic is open each day. You can email work ahead- up to 2000 words – for a critique and make a booking if you want. The festival charge £5 for the one-to-one clinic consultations. It’s money well spent! Several of my previous clinic students have been published. Already I’m working my way through ten pieces of work already submitted. Topics range from spy thrillers to sci-fi to playscripts to nature writing and more.

 I try to avoid dealing with poetry, as I can never think of anything to say about it.

I’m always in awe of the gifted beginners, the talented writers who have never had any training, yet are intuitive about skilful management of words. Also the many writers who complete a whole work without any promise of publication; just relying on their own faith in their work and their market research.  This is one of the signals that mark out the real writer, I think – the discipline to keep going. To finish.

Many good writers succeed on the words side, but haven’t quite worked out the plot or the structure of their material. It’s structure which counts. Your words can be perectly fluent, your descriptive abilities exemplary – but if you haven’t a story, you’re clobbered.

Also basic “holes” in plots can trip you up. Like a daily newspaper journalist, you have to check every fact, ensure that situations are credible. I find that writers often don’t care for this bit. Some fall down on targeting their reader. Writing a novel that has no reader or niche is a bit like creating a product – let’s say edible bow ties at £50 - for a market that doesn’t exist. Maybe that’s not the best example.

My first task as WIR is to set up my room. Most Litfests are run by volunteers, and the more you can do to help them, the better. This includes setting up chairs, clearing space, putting up your posters, meeting and greeting. Although the clinic is billed at 15 minutes per person, most chats go on much longer – if there’s no one waiting I’m happy to do that.

I may have seen students work ahead – or they may really drop in, with ideas. Often what I do is confidence boosting. It’s so easy to lose heart when you’re a writer! Plus, it’s a lonely job and family aren’t often sincere about their interest. 

Dianna with Sue Adams
 sister of the late Doug ( Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Go to  sherborne literary society for more details
I prepare handouts, booklists and critiques ahead ready for the students. I think it’s essential to have something “to take away” – if they’ve been nice enough to come to see me, I want to give them as much as I can in return.

The atmosphere at Sherborne is energetic (Director is the amazing Judith Spelman) and the talks inspiring. Most events are booked solid: the stage, IT and acoustics are very well organized, which isn’t always the case at some Litfests. 

Some of my drop-ins are returning students, many have achieved some success and need advice on the next step – or they may have hit a roadblock. Winning a big award and then not winning anything for ages can be hard, even lead to depression. It’s a bit like going from MD to office junior. All I can say is to keep trying – if you’ve been successful once, you will be again. That question “What am I doing wrong?” haunts all one-time winners whose success is followed by a long period of rejection. The answer is – you’re not doing anything wrong! “They” are!

Why do we always think it’s us?

I work right through the day and never turn anyone down – if I can’t fit them in instantly, I’ll make a slot for them later. It would be so depressing to drop in at a writing clinic and find there’s no room for you. The advice I give tends to be practical: I can’t bear writing advice that’s too precious. For example, the question: what IS a short story? followed by an hour of heavy academic theory. I sat through one of these once, longing for a Haribo.  

In the evening I may go to Litfest events, and do some work for the next day – I now have an Android. I absolutely love being invited out for a drink. And it’s wonderful not to have to put out the bin bags. Though I often forget anyway.

It's not to late to visit the Sherborne Literary festival
Wednesday 14 to Sunday 18 October.
And there's still time to mail Diana for an appointment.