Gosh, it's been a long time since I wrote anything on this blog.
But at last I do have news!
Today was a chilly one in March, but inside the Devon and Exeter Institution it was warm and cosy as Cathie Hartigan, Sophie Duffy and I welcomed the shortlisted entrants for the 2017 Exeter Novel Prize, and also our brilliant final judge, the London literary agent Broo Doherty.
The six shortlisted novels were chosen from an overall entry of almost 300, so to have a novel in the final six means it's definitely a winner. Today, four of our shortlisted entrants were able to come to the awards event. Left to right: Lucy Flannery (runner-up, Wedding Stakes), Louise Farr (runner-up, Thaw), Broo Doherty (final judge), Sarah Hegarty (runner-up, The Leopard's Daughter), and E J Pepper (winner, Mr Whitaker). The two other runners-up, John Kennedy (The Trauma Pool) and Louella Bryant (Cowboy Code), were unable to make it, but I'm sure they were with us in spirit. Everyone in the shortlist received a trophy and a cash prize.
Our poor winner is looking rather stunned, but we can assure you she was delighted to have won. Here she is with her trophy, looking very happy indeed!
The Exeter Novel Prize is organised by Exeter-based company CreativeWritingMatters, whose director Cathie Hartigan leads a team of three, the other members being Sophie Duffy and I. Although the awards for 2017 have been made, we're now gearing up to reading for our annual short story competition and also for the launch of the Exeter Novel Prize 2018. You can find out more about CreativeWritingMatters and all our previous and current competitions here: www.creativewritingmatters.co.uk.
Left to right: Cathie, Margaret, Broo Doherty and Sophie.
The Exeter Novel Prize is a Devon-based initiative, with the first prize of £500 being generously sponsored by our local writing group, Exeter Writers. More information about Exeter Writers can be found here: http://www.exeterwriters.org.uk/
As I've mentioned above, our awards event today was held at the Devon and Exeter Institution: http://devonandexeterinstitution.org/, a historic private library in Exeter's Cathedral Close. The DEI holds regular events which are open to the public and anyone wishing to join the DEI as a member is welcome to apply.
Hello writers - have you been busy over the Christmas period, reading and writing? Or have you been slaving over the traditional, iconic hot stoves, changing sheets, washing towels, ferrying children to play dates and other dates, and having hardly a moment to think, let alone write?
The Exeter Novel Prize 2017 closes on 1 January 2018, so there is still time to enter. The first prize of £500 is generously sponsored by Exeter Writers, a long-established, city-based group, and there are lots of runner-up prizes and trophies as well.
Previous winners include now-published novelists Clare Harvey (Simon and Schuster) and Su Bristow (Orenda), and many of the shortlisted and longlisted entrants are now commercially published, too.
As a novelist, I spend quite a lot of time in the company of imaginary people. So, once in a while, it's good to get out in the real world and meet some real people.
Yesterday was a lovely event at which I met readers and other writers from various locations all over Devon, made some new friends and hopefully found a few new fans, too.
This is a photograph of yesterday's event at the Devon and Exeter Institution, a historic library on the Cathedral Green in Exeter. Its magnificent Georgian roof lantern recently been restored to its former glory and now sheds a mellow light on everyone in the library below. The DEI is well worth a visit. It's a privately owned building but there are many events (like yesterday's) which are open to the public and they're held all year round.
It's autumn, the evenings are getting dark and cold, so what better opportunity could there be to write (or at least to start) that novel that's been buzzing round your head like a mad bee?
The Exeter Novel Prize is an international award which has paved the way to commercial publication for many of its winners and shortlisters and longlisters. Our first and second overall winners - Su Bristow and Clare Harvey - are now doing really well and we are sure they both have long and distinguished literary careers ahead of them.
There are plenty of cash prizes, including the first prize of £500 generously sponsored by Exeter Writers.
So - how about it? You have a few months in which to write, polish and submit those first 10,000 words!
Hello, Daniel! I'm so pleased we could meet up today. What a splendid photograph of you, looking very bookish and authorly!
But now please put your books down, help yourself to cookies and make yourself comfortable, then we can have a good natter.
Hi Margaret, thank you so much for inviting me. I am super chuffed to be here.
I loved your book The Secret Diary of a Naughty Cat. As a cat slave myself, I could identify with the naughty cat and also with the cat’s own slaves. I hope you won’t mind answering a few questions for me?
You can ask whatever you would like!
Okay! So - what inspired you to write your book?
I’ve always wanted to write and have tried my hand at writing different things. I made the mistake of looking at publisher callouts/submission calls and trying to write something to fit what they wanted. But I learned that it is always best to write for yourself first. I want to write Fantasy and Paranormal Romance at some point, but I have had a few ideas for children’s books swirling around my head for ages. Plus I have two naughty cats of my own who have given me plenty of inspiration over the years.
Please tell us a little about The Secret Diary of a Naughty Cat?
The Secret Diary of a Naughty Cat is literally about a naughty cat. The idea came from watching my cats do some very naughty things and I wondered if there was a thought process behind it. Haha. Were they just daft or being calculating? This is the first book of a planned series and it focuses on some of the naughty things Naughty Cat thinks up and acts out on her poor unsuspecting humans.
It’s a fun little book that has had a couple of lovely reviews so far, and I will be writing further books.
How long did it take you to write the book?
In all honesty, not really that long. As a starting book it is only a short one, and I had so much fun writing it so the actual writing of it happened quite quickly and smoothly. I did plenty of planning beforehand to work out what I was going to write about and what further books could entail. I have tried just writing without plans before but I have a short attention span and can end up writing myself down the wrong road and off a cliff. So a little bit of planning and note-making helps me keep on track. Well, sometimes.
Your Naughty Cat clearly despises dogs! Any chance of you writing a companion volume to the cat’s diary and letting a dog put its own point of view?
That certainly is something I have thought about for sure, it’s a known fact that cats look down on dogs as lesser creatures. Haha. I do have plans for a number of ‘Diary’ inspired books, as well as more animal based stories.
I have two cats myself so will be introducing a second cat in a later book of the ‘Naughty Cat’ series for sure. I still have plenty of inspiration from my two little trouble makers.
How do you plan a typical writing day – that’s if you ever have such a thing? Do you ever have days off from writing on which you don’t write anything at all and don’t even think about your work-in-progress? How do you fit writing into your life?
I don’t really have a typical writing day in the official sense, I have more of an accidental routine. I either head to my desk in the morning with the intention to write, but I then have a faff about on social media, checking emails etc. I give myself plenty of chances to wake up as I am not a morning person at all.
I have found recently it is best for me to plan a little bit just to keep me on track and keep focused. I have to write down any idea I get that looks shiny and exciting, otherwise I forget the one I am currently meant to be writing.
At the moment, because I’m excited about writing this series and publishing my first book, it seems to be taking up the majority of my thoughts. In quite an obsessive manner. I’m quite lucky in that I currently work in Waterstones in Liverpool which is only part time which works out really well. It gives me plenty of time to write when not working, and I’m lucky that I love my job in a fabulous bookstore.
Who are your favourite/inspirational writers?
When I was growing up I loved Enid Blyton, in particular The Magic Faraway Tree series, and Naughty Amelia Jane. For Fantasy books I love V.E. Schwab and Sarah J Maas. For Paranormal Romance I am obsessed with J.R. Ward.
Please give me some contact details so readers can get in touch with you?
You can find me onTtwitter and Instagram with the username @danielriding
On Facebook my official page is Daniel Riding Writer
Hello, Morton! Welcome to my blog, congratulations on the publication of your debut novel, and thank you for stopping by for a chat.
How did you come to be taken on by the award-winning independent publisher Choc Lit?
I entered Choc Lit’s Search for a Star competition in 2016 with my novel The Girl on the Beach and unbelievably I won! The win was made even more special because I’ve had a Choc Lit ribbon (it was wrapped around a book I won in a giveaway) hanging above my desk for many years and love the books they publish. It’s a dream come true to be published by them. My book came out on 24 January 2017.
Tell me about your novel?
The Girl on the Beach is a contemporary romantic suspense novel set in a fictional seaside town.
The initial spark of inspiration for the story came from a school art competition run by a friend who owns an art gallery. When I later saw a news headline (I won’t tell you the subject, because it would be a huge spoiler), the two seemed to merge in my mind and the theme for the novel was born.
I quickly decided on my heroine, Ellie Golden, who is an artist with a troubled past and a teenage son, who she is raising on her own. The hero, Harry Dixon, is a bit of a mystery and provides the question which the book seeks to answer – Who is Harry Dixon? We meet Harry when he takes over as headmaster at Ellie’s son’s school.
The book was great fun to write. I wanted my heroine to be a survivor, sparky with a ‘have a go’ attitude.
Future ambitions writing-wise?
I have been asked to write a series of books based in my fictional seaside town of Borteenand featuring some of my readers' favourite characters from The Girl on the Beach. I also have some aspirations to write historical novels. I have three in draft set in WW1, the English Civil War and 1066.
I would love to see my books as paperbacks and maybe audiobooks. As with all authors, it would be lovely to have one of my stories made into a film one day.
Five favourite novels –
Starting Over by Sue Moorcroft
Star Gazing by Linda Gillard
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Wintercombe by Pamela Belle
Five favourite holiday destinations –
Grasmere, Lake District
Woolacombe, North Devon
Llandanawg, North Wales
Five other favourite things -
Researching family trees
More about The Girl on the Beach by Morton S. Gray
Who is Harry Dixon?
When Ellie Golden meets Harry Dixon, she can’t help but feel she recognises him from somewhere. But when she finally realises who he is, she can’t believe it – because the man she met on the beach all those years before wasn’t called Harry Dixon. And, what’s more, that man is dead.
For a woman trying to outrun her troubled past and protect her son, Harry’s presence is deeply unsettling – and even more disconcerting than coming face to face with a dead man, is the fact that Harry seems to have no recollection of ever having met Ellie before. At least that’s what he says …
But perhaps Harry isn’t the person Ellie should be worried about. Because there’s a far more dangerous figure from the past lurking just outside of the new life she has built for herself, biding his time, just waiting to strike.
Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K.
She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen. As with many authors, life got in the way of writing for many years until she won a short story competition in 2006 and the spark was well and truly reignited.
She studied creative writing with the Open College of the Arts and joined the Romantic Novelists’ New Writers’ Scheme in 2012.
After being shortlisted in several first chapter competitions, she won the Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition in 2016 with her contemporary romantic suspense novel The Girl on the Beach.
Previous 'incarnations' were in committee services, staff development and training. Morton has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina Acupressure Massage and Energy Field Therapy.
She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.
The Exeter Story Prize has fast become one of the major short story competitions in the UK, attracting entries from all over the world and offering great cash prizes as well as trophies to the winners.
The prize incorporates the Trisha Ashley Award for a humorous story, so as the Big Read of the 2017 entries begins we're hoping to have our ribs tickled by a good few of the entries.
Past winners of our competition prizes include Su Bristow, Simon Kettlewell, Richard Buxton and Clare Harvey, whose fabulous novels you can find on Amazon and elsewhere. We know we're going to discover lots of fresh new talent this month and next. So we're very excited!
Did you ever make a mistake? A really big, disastrous mistake, followed by a whole series of disastrous mistakes? Lily Denham did.
I'm delighted to tell you that my lovely publisher Choc Lit has produced an ebook version of my latest novel Girl in Red Velvet, in which after many setbacks and challenges Lily finally gets to live the life she knew was right for her all along. Or so she hopes! She won't know for certain until the very last page.
Lily might be emotionally confused but she is also ambitious and smart and she becomes a successful businesswoman, which goes some way towards compensating for consistently messing up her private life.
Lily is the granddaughter of Rose Courtenay, the heroine of The Silver Locket, the first novel in my series about the Denham family. Just like Rose, Lily finds she is perfectly capable of making a whole series of wrong decisions and bad choices before she ends up in the place she wants and deserves to be.
As for the men in her life - there are two of them, Harry Gale and Max Farley, who look very similar but who are completely different in character. Harry is studious, hard-working, ambitious, generous and kind. Max is adventurous, unpredictable and a little bit dangerous, too. So when Lily realises she is falling for both of them, she also realises she's in trouble.
I so much enjoyed writing this novel, which is partly a tribute to one of my favourite classic authors, Emily Brontë. It could be described as Wuthering Heights fan fiction, but I've tried to give everyone their own special kind of happy-ever-after rather than send them to early graves. This was quite a challenge, but - Lily discovers - a challenge can also fun, can't it?
Do you have a novel ready to pitch to a publisher? Do you love reading? Do you like to meet authors face to face? Choc Lit, a multi-award-winning publisher of commercial fiction in a wide range of genres with a fan base consisting mainly (but by no means exclusively) of women is going on tour this year, visiting many UK libraries and hoping to meet lots of readers and writers.
The first stop on the tour is Exeter Central Library of 8th April, where editors and authors (including Linda Mitchelmore, Victoria Cornwall, Evonne Wareham and I) will be talking about our work and inviting questions from the audience.
It should be a fun event with plenty of opportunities for audience participation. There will be prizes and presents and of course chocolate to take home.