Welcome to Just Write, a blog for newbies and fun bloggers, writers and photographers, where you do not have to be Patrick Problogger to have a great blog.
Anne and I met online through our WordPress blogs recently, and I liked her right away, and I know you will too. She has three published books under her writing belt: Change of Life in which “one of the main characters has breast cancer and other significant disruptions in her life. The book does deal with what it’s like to have to cope with enormous upheaval and change and how you come out the other side.” Displacement is about a romantic friendship, which crosses the miles from Scotland to Israel. The Silver Locket, written under the pen name of Anne McAlpine, features three best friends who get caught in a time portal that escorts them to the 18th century.
Like I am, Anne is a retired teacher who loves to travel, walk, and do yoga. Unlike me, she is from Scotland and has grandkids, with whom she enjoys spending time. So I’m a tiny bit jealous – ok lots jealous – on both accounts. Anne has blogged since 2010 and has a writing style I enjoy. Join with me as we find out more Anne Stormont.
Anne, what is the ONE thing that you do, that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your successes, so far?
In terms of writing success, that would be the decision to ‘just do it’, to show up at the desk no matter what, inspired or not, and write.
It was in 2000 that I decided to get on with it after years of procrastinating. Up until then, I’d told myself that one day I’d write a book, one day when I wasn’t too busy working, raising a family, running a home. I’d been diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1998 and that was the wake-up call that ‘one day’ might never happen. So I did a deal with fate and promised ‘if I get through this I will write that book’. I survived and kept my side of the deal and got down to it. So far I’ve published two novels for adults and one for children.
When I was still teaching, my writing had to be done in the evenings, the school holidays and at weekends. Then two years ago I took early retirement in order to have more time to write. I treat it as my job. I have an office diary and plan my time at the desk and stick to it. So in short, I’d say my success is down to determination, perseverance, and hard work.
Having cancer is certainly a wake-up call! It seems that having a mission or big goal gave you hope. You triumphed! I also admire you for writing while you were still teaching. That takes a lot of dedication and saying no to other things in life. Writing is a profession that demands to be taken seriously, and it is so easy to put it on the back burner when other obligations crop up.
What is one opportunity that you attribute to blogging or publishing your work in addition to selling books?
I think that would be the opportunity to engage with the writing world.
Both blogging and publishing my novels have allowed me to engage with other writers and with readers too – both online and in the real world. The one thing I particularly value about blogging is the sense of community there is with other bloggers. I’ve learned a lot, and not only about writing, by doing my blog, but even more so by reading other people’s blogs. Writing can be a lonely job but blogging has allowed me to build a support network of fellow writers. I’ve made several friends both virtual and real through blogging.
I’m so glad we’ve met, Anne. It is amazing to me to have friends from Scotland to Australia who think so much like I do, and connect with me on almost an “I feel like I’ve know you all my life,” level.
What concerns or obstacles have you overcome in your writing career?
The biggest concern was getting published. I approached several agents and publishers with my first book. I got lots of nice, polite rejections. Several of them said the book was good, but they wouldn’t know where to fit it genre-wise, so it would be hard to sell. In the end, I went down the independent publisher route. I was fortunate that self-publishing was just beginning to take off and to become respectable. I subsequently did the same for my second novel and for my children’s book.
I’ve no regrets about self-publishing but there are obstacles for authors who choose to do so. The biggest one is, having published, you need to market your book and reach prospective readers. Although the same is true to a large extent for traditionally published authors, at least they’re not doing it completely on their own.
Another obstacle is that my (adult) books don’t slot neatly into a category. They’re a bit literary, a bit romantic, a bit adventure/challenge. I suppose the closest description would be ‘contemporary women’s fiction that portrays mature women facing life-changing situations’. However, gaining visibility is where the blog has proved so useful. I don’t use it directly to sell books, although that’s why I started it, but it’s a connection, a place where existing and prospective readers can get to know Anne, the author. They can find out what inspires me, what I’m currently working on and the books I like reading.
I should also say that joining The Alliance of Independent Authors (http://allianceindependentauthors.org/ ) was a tremendous help in overcoming obstacles. Their advice about finding editors, proofreaders, cover designers and all the many possible pitfalls to be aware of when self or indie publishing has been invaluable. They have a world-wide membership and I can’t recommend them highly enough.
I’m going to check that group out, Anne. I know that even having a publisher does not solve the problem of having to market your books yourself.
What challenges are you facing now, if any?
The main writing challenge is to finish my next (adult) novel. It’s the sequel to Displacement and it’s penciled in for an end of year release. And then I need to get on with the next Scottish history adventure for the three time-travelling children who featured in The Silver Locket. This time, it won’t be Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites that they’re helping. I’m thinking maybe it will be Robert the Bruce for their next mission.
It’s embarrassing to me that I do not know Scottish history, so I checked Robert the Bruce, King of Scots March 25, 1306 to June 7, 1329. Time travel is a great way for kids to learn history.
Tell me about when you realized that you were a professional writer.
I suppose it should have been maybe getting my first review, or royalty payment, but it wasn’t until much later. It was when I was invited to appear at the Isle of Skye book festival last autumn and got to talk to readers face to face about my books. And it was when The Silver Locket was described as Outlander for kids, that’s when it hit me. It was a surreal feeling.
Jack Canfield, the author of the Chicken Soup books, said the same thing insisting that one of the most important benefits of writing comes afterwards. He had speaking engagements, press coverage and sales of other items, which made such a difference for him over the years.
You said something in your email to me about writing your children’s books under a different name. Why was that?
The reason I wrote the children’s book under a pen name was to keep my two identities separate. The audience for the children’s book is obviously very different from the one for the adult books. I wanted to be sure children looking at my author website saw only stuff that was aimed at them, or if they went into a library or bookshop that they were directed to the right place if looking for ‘The Silver Locket’. So I chose my maiden name of McAlpine and was able to set up a separate author website in that name. Having two identities has its advantages and disadvantages, but on the whole, it works for me. And it was great to resurrect Anne McAlpine after thirty-plus years of marriage
I’m sure there are many authors who have thought about using a pen name for various reasons including differentiating between genres. It is kind of exciting to have another identity.
What one person or resource helped you the most as a new blogger?
The best resource was WordPress itself. That’s the blogging platform I use. They’re a great organisation. Bloggers can easily access all the help they need, either via email to a real human being, or by signing up to their free online courses. And although there are paid for add-ons, you can produce an impressive looking blog for free.
I’m sure WordPress would love to hear you say that. They have created a very usable platform even for those who never thought they would have a professional blog.
If your blog or career ended today, what would be the legacy that you left behind?
My books aren’t classics, so I don’t imagine they’ll be being read in a hundred years time. If my career ended, because I’d gone to the big library in the sky, then I hope that at least my family and friends would keep a copy of one of my books on their shelves. And I hope they’d see them as a good way to remember me by. In a wider sense, if my career ended for whatever reason, I’d hope the legacy would be for others to see what I did with my writing and believe they too could follow their dreams and ‘just do it’ before it’s too late.
I would not be so quick to say that your books are not classics. We are not the judge of whether or not our books become classics. It takes a generation of readers to determine what the classics will be. You may never even realize the value of your books.
Anne, I want to say again what a pleasure it has been to interview you. I know our readers will both enjoy getting to know you a little better. For my readers, you can connect directly with Anne on her blog, Put it in Writing. Check out her books, too. Clicking on the titles at the beginning of the interview will allow you to order them on Amazon.
Thank you, Marsha, for inviting me to be your guest on the blog.
Thank you, Anne. Have a wonderful week!
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Thanks again for joining us here at Just Write for a cup of coffee and a great interview with our guest blogger, Anne Stormont. Don’t forget to give her blog a peek! 🙂 To be a guest on Just Write or read other interviews, click here.