I hope you’re all finding these ‘Path to Publication’ post inspiring, I certainly am. It’s so interesting to hear the publication journeys other authors have taken and the pitfalls they’ve encountered along the way. Today’s guest is Gwen Kirkwood who writes Scottish historical romance. Welcome, Gwen, can you tell us how you became a published author?
My first novel was published a long time ago in the 1980’s. I was incredibly ill-informed about the writing world then. I had never heard of the RNA. There were no mobile phones. Very few people had home computers. The only writers’ group in my area was for men, and only for “superior” poetry. This area is now known as Dumfries and Galloway and there are numerous writing groups in various small towns, as well as the Wigtown book Festival.
Like my mother and granny I have been an avid reader all my life. I can’t imagine anyone would want to write stories if they do not enjoy reading. When I married and had a young family life was busy, especially when we moved to a different farm with changes to make inside and out. I needed lighter reading – Lucilla Andrews, Lucy Walker, Mary Burchill and I became a regular reader of Woman’s Weekly. When the magazine organised a competition asking readers to write the first chapter of a novel and a synopsis I decided to have a go. The three judges were from Woman and Home, Women’s Hour and Woman’s Weekly. I didn’t win but Lynda O’Byrne, fiction editor of Woman’s Weekly, wrote to say she had liked my entry and she thought I should finish the novel. She even suggested a publisher – Robert Hale. I know now how lucky I was. Few busy editors would take time to give someone valuable encouragement. (If Lynda O’ Byrne is still around I would love to be able to thank her and tell her I have just written my thirtieth novel).
I was not a typist so I wrote everything long hand, with many scribbles and changes. I discovered the Writers and Artist’s Year book in the library and learned how to present a manuscript. I snatched any spare minutes and typed laboriously on a wee portable typewriter and eventually submitted to Robert Hale. They wrote back and said it was too long. I assumed that was a kindly rejection. I knew nothing of their Rainbow Romance Novels with a maximum length of 45,000 words so I put it in a cupboard and got on with life. A while later I received a letter from Hale asking if the shortened MS was available yet. I made a frantic effort to shorten it and then retype it all with the help of Mr Tippex. It was a hard slog.
Lonely is the Valley – my first novel set in Wales and Scotland was published, plus a contract for two more. I wrote as Lynn Granger but I have changed all my books to my own name now they are available as e-books.
I was writing my fourth Rainbow Romance when we bought an Amstrad computer for the farm accounts and correspondence. I thought the Word Processor (a program called Superwriter) was magic. I began to write sagas extending from 45,000 to100,000 words.
I had an Amstrad too, Gwen! And for years I wrote my stories on a small, portable typewriter using lots of Tippex. How times have changed. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your super publication story with us.
Most of my novels are set in the countryside and have authentic details of history, farm life and the changes which have taken place through the years, so it will be no surprise to hear I am from a long line of farmers. I was born in Yorkshire, attended a small Church school then grammar school. I enjoyed school and a wide variety of subjects but when it came time to make a life choice I opted for agricultural college, disappointing my mother and going against the advice of my teachers, who felt I was wasting my education and ability. I have no regrets, but I wish my mother and a well-respected headmaster could have lived to see some of my books published. They would also realise how much education most progressive farmers need these days.
I had no plans to become a writer but I have never lacked imagination and I always enjoyed telling stories to myself in bed while waiting for sleep to claim me. I confess I still do this. I came across an old exercise book with a half-finished story of an adventure on the lines of Enid Blyton, one of the early authors I enjoyed, so I suppose I had a subconscious desire to write even then. Also while at college I won an essay competition arranged by a national feeding stuffs manufacturer. It was on breeding better dairy cows!
I had three Scottish grandparents and after college, and a spell at the Ministry of Agriculture Experimental farm in Nottingham, I eventually moved to Scotland, putting the lectures in microbiology to good use as a dairy inspector for the County Council health department, this being the time of school milk and before pasteurisation became compulsory. I cannot claim the work was fascinating but I met my husband, a dairy farmer and a keen breeder and judge of Clydesdale horses. So I have spent most of my adult life farming in Scotland. We have three children and six grandchildren.
You can contact Gwen online here:
Here are some of Gwen’s books
You can purchase them here:
Remember to check in next Saturday to find out how Jake Cross became a published author.