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2021 New Year messages from our authors
In the words of Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times and the worst of times.” 2020 was the year that will go down in history as perhaps the biggest global crisis of our lifetime, a year many people will want to forget. Yet 2020 was also a year of positivity, when we all began to fully appreciate our incredible NHS, a wonderful sense of community developed and some truly amazing and heroic characters emerged to inspire us.
On a personal level, 2020 was the year I saw my debut novel ‘Twenty Years a Stranger’ published. In July, as the country began to emerge from the first lockdown, I held in my hands a copy of the book I had written and the pride I felt at seeing my story in print was one of the happiest moments of my life. 2020 was the year I began to call myself an author.
It is often said that ‘everyone has a book in them’ and I am sure that is true, but getting it out of them is easier said than done! I always harboured a dream of writing a novel one day, but I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams where my inspiration would come from. A simple email with the subject: ‘The wife, the mothers, the other women and the bits on the side’ unleashed a devastating chain of events and a shocking Pandora’s Box of secrets that would change the course of my life forever. I knew very quickly that this was a story I wanted to tell the world, a story that needed to be told, but it was almost four years before I finally felt strong enough to write it. Mark Twain famously said: “The truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense.” My task in writing my story was to tell it so that people could somehow understand what happened to me and also to make sense of it for myself, because in all honesty I struggled to imagine the mind that could ever have made up such a plot!
With the help of book coach and mentor Ken Scott, I finally sat down and wrote my novel, based closely on my own true story, in around six months. Then came all the feelings of self-doubt and self-loathing, because I was after all laying myself bare on those pages, opening myself up to potential criticism or maybe even ridicule… After a period of soul searching I finally took the leap of faith and I could not be more delighted with the way ‘Twenty Years a Stranger’ has been received, with almost 200 fantastic reviews on Amazon and Goodreads to date. In December there was a 7 day Blog Tour and I was extremely proud to see several of the bloggers praising the way my book highlighted the issues of coercive control and gaslighting, the invisible face of domestic abuse. Blogger Debjani Ghosh wrote: “The book shines a light on a pertinent yet often overlooked topic: gaslighting. It shows the untold damage done by psychopaths on the lives of unsuspecting people and the way in which so-called white collar criminals are able to take advantage of loopholes in the legal system.”
Promoting the book this year has been challenging, but not impossible. I have been interviewed on Talk Radio Europe and Times Radio, I have done several Zoom chats with book clubs around the country, who did me the honour of choosing to read my book and I will also be a guest speaker at the SHINE21 event organised by the Network She Foundation, which aims to inspire, motivate and empower women.
2021 is the year I hope to be able to organise book signings and other events, which will allow me to meet some of the people who have already read my book, as well as promote it to a wider audience. I have almost finished the second book in the Stranger Series, ‘Ghost of a Stranger’ and hope to have news of its release very soon. I am grateful to each and every one of you who has encouraged and supported me on my path to becoming an author. Thanks to you, the future is bright!
As you will know by now Two Cops and a Robber was written from the heart. To this day, I continue to witness tales of corruption, incompetence and unfairness regarding the management within my old Police Force, which still strikes a chord of deep seated disgust within me, but not to the point that it comes anywhere near destroying me, as it once did.
More recently the Covid 19 pandemic has raised very similar feelings and parallel institutionalised behaviour.
Incompetent MP’s. One rule for one. Management decisions based on non-published evidence. Press propaganda and facts and figures suddenly amended that actually were not “facts and figures.” Social media posts turning hostile when someone offers a different experience and that person frozen out or ridiculed.
I experienced all of this in the Police Service.
When all is said and done, we cannot change what is.
We all know what Covid is and what it is capable of, but no amount of arguing or stress can change the road we are taken on by forces bigger than us. But that does not stop each and every one of us having a voice and the courage to speak out for what you believe in without being unnecessarily shouted down, ridiculed or excluded.
I had the evidence to prove senior management wrong in their self-preserving “honest” accounts relating to me and my situation but it made no difference. I was pleading to a panel cut from the same cloth, looking out for their ‘own.’ I fought that battle to the bitter end until there was nowhere else for me to go. I would never change that.
I could have spent the rest of my life bitter but I made a choice not to be. I remained true to myself and I never backed down. They could have physically put every knife in my back simultaneously and twisted each one slowly, I still would have kept going.
I redirected that hurt and anger to get better, stronger and build something a million times greater than the Police could have ever given me.
A life. A positive outlook. And the lessons.
I look at people differently now. I respect and understand choices they make which may not agree with me, but which I understand resonate totally with them. My responses to quango organisations are more of a non-surprised smile and a head shake, reminding me that there always are and always will be people in Organisations, Governments and Councils who have their own agenda and no morals.
But they are not worthy of my time, stress levels or my wasting time on things I cannot control.
What I can control are my feelings, choices and responses.
2020 I will only remember for the positives. And one close to my heart has been the success of Two Cops and a Robber. Amazing reviews and feedback for what was my first book.
This year there is the chance of it moving closer to Tv and with this latest lockdown its sister book will hopefully be completed in draft.
My publisher has asked me to write about my goals and thoughts for 2021. In 500 words. Not a chance, as you can see.
But seriously. It does not matter how bad things are, how bleak they seem.
Change your mind-set. Stay true to you. Look for the tiny positives, they will be there. Move forward with goals that stretch you and never lose the faith in achieving them. Because there will always be people or things that will try to derail you.
But as you are asking Fortis ; Book 2. Hollywood.
I wrote a novel and it’s not that hard. Don’t believe me? Well, I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there and I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel…oh, wait, side-tracked. The writers curse.
Writers seem to have a lot of curses. The main secret to success is figuring out which ones you have and how to sidestep them. I can’t tell you that. That is as personal and individual to you as your fingerprints. I can tell you about my curses and how I sidestepped them – maybe that will help you get started.
I have an unfair advantage. I have been a writer all my life. Short stories and funny anecdotes written in school grew to articles and blog pieces that paid the rent for quite a few years. You want 500 words on glass splashbacks – boom. Need your website sprucing up – I’m your gal. I had multiple clients whom I wrote thousands upon thousands of words for on a regular basis… And I hated it.
I could call myself a writer, but I wanted to call myself an author. The fact that I could never keep hold of my enthusiasm for a story long enough to write more than a few thousand words really frustrated me. So I turned all my blog/article writing research skills into finding out why. I researched for about a year, took everything I learnt and wrote a self-help book on how to write a book which I self-published on amazon and briefly felt the thrill of being an author. However, it wasn’t quite what I wanted and it still took me another two years to follow any of my own advice and write a fiction novel.
There is something else you should know about me. I have suffered with depression since I was around 11 years old. There are reasons and I will happily discuss them but not in this blog. It comes in devastating waves. I have gone years without it and years with it. When a wave hits it takes all my energy, will and enthusiasm away with it and I am sometimes struggling for months to get back on my feet.
So, how did I actually get around to writing my first fiction novel? Two things. Firstly I got a job in a restaurant and I stopped writing for other people. Completely. I was using all my energy writing things that sapped my soul dry and so I stopped.
Secondly, I didn’t give my writing value. I made it something as normal as brushing my teeth. I didn’t set aside a special time for it. I shoehorned writing into my every day, scribbling away in the car waiting for the school gates to open, in the seating area while my kids did gymnastics, in the café whilst I sipped my tea. I gave it no special standing, no importance, no weight so that generally when a wave hit it didn’t take the writing with it.
Stephen King says there are two types of writers – planners (who plan out every detail before putting pen to paper) and pantsers (who have absolutely no idea where a story is going until they have written it). I am most definitely the latter. I tried being a planner and got so thoroughly bored of the story before I even began writing that they never got birthed.
That is the other thing – writing can be boring. Yes.
There are times when your pen is flying across the page or your fingers are a blur on the keyboard, your soul is on fire and you have never felt more alive. But, the majority of the time getting what is in your head onto paper in any meaningful way is just plain dull and monotonous. Knowing this is normal is incredibly helpful to getting you past the urge to quit.
Being a planner or a panster is not set in stone. You can swap and change and even be a bit of both. There is no right or wrong way. Whatever works for you, works! I created my characters as an amalgamation of people I know. This helped me remember them. I then just wrote whatever “scene” was playing on my mind. I didn’t read anything back until the end. I didn’t edit. I didn’t plan. I had a rough idea on a general direction on where I wanted to go but I let the story get there naturally. It took just over a year to finish writing and I wove my childhood into it. The people I know. The people I miss. The experiences I had that shaped me. Which sounds odd for a supernatural thriller. You want to know which bits are real and which are fiction?
Maybe next time…
I can't speak highly enough of Ken, from submitting a few scraps of notes and a couple of press articles, he took me through the entire writing process, right through to securing me a publishing contract. I look forward to working with him on my second book.
Scotty was my rock. I never thought I would even have the courage to tell my story let alone write it and yet he encouraged and supported me every step of the way. And as he promised from the beginning, here I am... a published author. Who would have thought it?