Café Cala welcomes Kirsty Wenn

Hi Kirsty, Welcome to Café Cala.

Kirsty Wenn

Thank you so much for having me, Maggie!

It’s great to have you visit Café Cala. I’ve been making some chocolate brownies this morning. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?

Chocolate brownies – my favourite! I’ll take coffee with mine please.

1 Where did you get the idea for Harriet Greer Grows Up?

I’ve actually known the title of my book for nearly ten years. The story itself, however, has been a bit of a fluid concept throughout that time. The main characters and the story’s bones were all there. I knew that something was going to cause Harriet to make changes in her life and ‘grow up’. I just couldn’t decide on what that would be. It was like the final puzzle piece that just wouldn’t fall into place for me.
In 2010, I received a psychic reading from a friend of mine. Among other things, she told me that we have spirit guides, who try to help steer us in the right direction. I guess you could say the reading happened at a time of my life when I’d started to question my own purpose, and as someone who has always felt the ‘urge’ to write a book, I couldn’t help wondering if perhaps my own spirit guide had been trying to get that message through to me all along!
That’s when Harriet’s story really started to come alive and resonate with me on a very personal level. I could just imagine Harriet’s (my) very frustrated spirit guide wanting to shout out, jump up and down in protest and fix Harriet’s (my) aimless life! You’d probably be correct in deducing that Harriet’s emotional journey somewhat mirrored my own during the process of writing the book, although I’d like to add that all other aspects of the novel are fictional.

2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

I find the writing process extremely rewarding. I love it when, after a bit of a warm up, my characters come to life and take over the scene. My fingers have to fly across the keyboard just to keep up with them, and sometimes they take me in a completely unexpected direction. That doesn’t make me sound schizophrenic, does it? Haha.
Post publication, it is very rewarding when someone tells you that they have enjoyed your book! One reader from the UK described it as a real stress buster, and it was a fantastic feeling for me to know that I had been able to entertain her and lighten her load for the length of time it took her to read my book. After all, that is the goal of my writing; to entertain.

3 How did you start writing?

I wrote my first real story in grade 4. The teacher showed to the whole class for two reasons. The first reason was that it was a very creative story (yay!). The second reason was because of the lack of punctuation (oops!). In my defence, I had just changed schools and there was a rather significant gap in where I had left off in grade 3 at one school to where I picked up again in grade 4 at my new school.
Anyway, I guess you could say I was hooked on writing from that moment on. Over the years I have dabbled with short stories, romance novels and finally found my feet with my preferred genre, chick lit novels.

4 What would you say has helped you most?

Put simply, having a support group!

5 What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently writing the sequel to Harriet Greer Grows Up. The title is still a work in progress.

6 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Write the type of book that you love to read.
Write the story that really resonates with you on an emotional level. I believe that’s where the magic is. That’s when the story really comes alive for the writer as well as the reader.
And don’t give up!

7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?

My favourite authors (and a sample from my bookshelves) are Marian Keyes, Cecelia Ahern, Helen Fielding, Catherine Alliott, Dianne Blacklock, Jennifer Weiner, Maggie Alderson, Louise Bagshawe, Monica McInerney, Lisa Lutz, Jodi Picoult and Carmen Reid (there are more, but I’ve got to stop somewhere!)


“Get ready for your crash course in growing up and P.S. don’t forget your helmet. Oh, and Harriet, when you get home, start a BLOG about your journey. You need to commit to something for once in your life.”

Harriet’s world is shaken up when she meets her spirit guide, Heather, in the mirror. Even if you believe you have a spirit guide, you don’t expect to come face to face with her in the mirror on a Saturday evening. It’s pretty surprising, right?

But Harriet quickly discovers that it’s not a social visit. Heather’s here to tell her that she’s flunking out of the school of life. And when faced with her report card, can she honestly disagree? She’s 29 years old, has two low paying part time jobs (and a bank balance to prove it), a nearly broken down car and an ex-boyfriend who never quite exits her life. Harriet has taken the easy option at every turn and has the D+ to show for it.

Well, apparently Heather has had enough. Too long she’s had to watch over Harriet frittering her life away. Now she’s stepping in to take over the class and she wastes no time setting Harriet’s first assignment; a BLOG.

Join Harriet as she struggles to keep up with Heather’s heavy course load. Her work life, her personal life, her secret ambition; nothing’s off limits as Heather tweaks Harriet’s life back to where it should be.

Harriet Greer Grows Up is available to buy in kindle ebook and paperback editions from Amazon

You can find Kirsty at and

Café Cala welcomes Linda Gillard

Hi Linda, Welcome to Café Cala.

Linda Gillard

It’s great to have you visit Café Cala. I loved Stargazing and can’t wait to read Cauldstane. I’ve been making my granny’s shortbread recipe this morning. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?

I’ll have coffee with my shortbread please!

1 Where did you get the idea for Cauldstane?

I first got the idea when I visited Cawdor Castle, near Inverness. It’s privately owned, but open to the public and it’s still inhabited. I started thinking about what it must be like to live in a castle and of course, I wondered if it was haunted. Once I’d had the idea of writing about a family struggling to hold on to their ancestral home, I visited a lot of other castles as research. (I live in the Highlands, so I was well placed to do that.)
But CAULDSTANE is also a book born of life-threatening illness. It’s a rattling yarn, but it’s also my artistic response to the experience of breast cancer in 2012. I went from diagnosis to mastectomy in less than 3 weeks. I had a very bad time with chemotherapy which, as I write, has left me semi-disabled. Cancer was the biggest thing in my life for almost a year, then fear (of more chemo, worse disability and death) became the biggest thing in my life – until I started writing CAULDSTANE. Working on a new novel gave me a sense of my old self and the nature of the story gave me a channel for examining and expressing my fears.
I went public about my cancer on my Facebook author page and many people suggested I should write about my experience, but my attitude was, it was bad enough living it – why would I want to write about it? Nevertheless my experience was so physically and emotionally traumatic, I felt I had to find a way to assimilate it and conquer it. So I decided to write a novel about my experience, but not describing it.
But you don’t need to know any of this to enjoy CAULDSTANE, which is a cross between a supernatural thriller and a modern fairy tale. Cauldstane is a decaying 16th century castle in the Highlands where the MacNab family live and it’s a money pit. It’s been the home of the asset-rich, cash-poor MacNabs for generations, but in the 21st century they’re finding it hard to hold on. The family is divided as to whether they should sell up or try to use the castle and estate as the basis of a business.
Cauldstane is blessed with quirky architecture, red kites and a riverside location, but there’s also an ancient MacNab curse and a malevolent ghost who poisons lives and relationships and wants to drive the family out. But the real damage is caused by fear – fear of what might happen and, as one of the characters says, “If you live in fear, you fear to live”. Fear is a kind of wasting disease that affects each of the MacNabs in different ways. (No prizes for guessing that the ghost is how I personified cancer.)

2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

Without a doubt, getting in touch with readers has been the greatest pleasure and reward. I was first published in 2005, but I’m still thrilled to bits when a reader gets in touch or takes the trouble to post a thoughtful review. Over the years I’ve responded to and often corresponded with readers, some of whom have become friends.
I love my job and I would write even if no one wanted to read my stories, but the enthusiasm of my readers has given me a massive confidence boost. It seems little short of miraculous to me that such personal and quirky novels should speak to so many different people.

3 How did you start writing?

I was an over-worked teacher in a very tough school and I cracked up in my 40s. While I was recuperating from a breakdown, I started writing fiction for my own entertainment. I joined an online writing group and members suggested I should try to get an agent for my first novel.
I found an agent who loved my work, but I found my own publisher when I was lucky enough to meet an editor at a writing conference who was looking for manuscripts featuring older women. The romantic heroine of my first novel, EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY was 47, so I told her about the book. She asked to read it and then she decided she wanted to publish it. I was just in the right place at the right time!

4 What would you say has helped you most?

As a writer? Analytical reading. I was a critical reader long before I was a writer and I think it’s important to make time for reading if you’re a writer. I don’t think it matters what you read – you can learn a lot from bad writing! Watching movies has also helped me understand how stories are constructed.
Another thing that’s helped me is a determination to say what I want to say, in the way I want to say it. That led to parting company with my publisher because I wouldn’t re-write HOUSE OF SILENCE as a romance, but by writing just for myself, I avoid being unduly influenced by commercial factors – sales figures, Amazon rankings and reviews, the latest trends in publishing. I just tell the story I want to tell and hope readers will like it. It’s nice if they do, but it’s not the end of the world if they don’t. I consider A LIFETIME BURNING to be my best book, but it’s my least popular. That doesn’t really bother me. I started writing it, my second novel, without any expectation of it ever being published.
Fundamentally, I write for myself and I think that might have contributed to my success. I’ve developed an individual “voice”, I believe passionately in what I do and in the quality of my “product”.

5 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Write for writing’s sake. Don’t expect publication or financial reward – you are very unlikely to get either. Writing is its own reward anyway. When you feel angry about your unsolicited manuscript being rejected, remember: nobody asked you to submit it!
If you’re thinking of going indie, write the best book you possibly can and make sure it’s properly edited. Ideally, wait until you have several books ready to e-publish. It’s hard to make an impact with just one.
I would also recommend that any would-be indie author joins the international professional body, The Alliance of Independent Authors. They offer advice and support. Their closed Facebook group is a mine of information, generously shared.

6 Which authors do you enjoy reading?

In alphabetical order: Margery Allingham, the Brontës, Agatha Christie, Dickens, Daphne du Maurier, Dorothy Dunnett, Penelope Fitzgerald, Margaret Forster, Georgette Heyer, Elizabeth Jane Howard, Susan Howatch, Patrick O’ Brian, Mary Renault, Dorothy L Sayers, Shakespeare, Mary Stewart, Dorothy Whipple, P G Wodehouse.



Synopsis of CAULDSTANE
When ghostwriter Jenny Ryan is summoned to the Scottish Highlands by Sholto MacNab – retired adventurer and Laird of Cauldstane Castle – she’s prepared for travellers’ tales, but not the MacNabs’ violent and tragic history.
Lust, betrayal and murder have blighted family fortunes for generations, together with an ancient curse. As the MacNabs confide their sins and their secrets, Jenny learns why Cauldstane’s uncertain future divides father and sons.
But someone resents Jenny’s presence. Someone thinks she’s getting too close to Alec MacNab – swordsmith, widower and heir to Cauldstane. Someone who will stop at nothing until Jenny has been driven away. Or driven mad.
“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Especially a dead woman.
Excerpt from Chapter 6:
One day Sholto and I were sitting on a bench in the walled garden, sheltered from a cool autumnal breeze. He preferred to be outdoors whenever possible and liked to walk while talking, but he often needed to resort to one of the many strategically-placed benches in the grounds. The tools of my trade were just a small dictaphone and a notebook in which I would record questions that occurred to me while Sholto talked, so we could work anywhere. Today he’d chosen a favourite spot on a south-facing wall and as we rested, I could feel the warmth radiating from the stones behind me. I was enjoying the play of sunlight on the last of the roses and the fluttering dance of Painted Ladies on a white buddleia when Sholto said, ‘Our family’s cursed, of course.’ He saw my look of astonishment and treated me to one of his roguish smiles. ‘All good Scots families are.’
‘Oh, yes. There’s a MacNab curse. Hundreds of years old. As old as the castle. Older possibly.’
‘Do people believe in it?’
‘It’s quite hard not to.’
‘Our women keep dying.’