Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Post by Maggie Craig, Author of Storm Tossed Moon (Storm Over Scotland Book 3)

6 December 2023

Special Guest Post by Maggie Craig, Author of Storm Tossed Moon (Storm Over Scotland Book 3)

Available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Edinburgh, January 1744: Scotland stands on the brink of armed and bloody conflict. Travelling secretly across Europe from Rome, Prince Charles Edward Stuart is determined to claim his birthright. His fervour is matched by homegrown Jacobites who long to see the House of Stuart restored to the British throne.

I write Scottish historical fiction and non-fiction and find the two genres complement each other very well. My Glasgow & Clydebank family sagas tell the imagined stories of families, friends and lovers living through the hard times of the first few decades of the 20th century.

There’s the turbulence and excitement of Red Clydeside when working people fought for fairer pay and better living and working conditions. There’s the unemployment which followed the Great Depression of 1929 and led to the cancellation of the building of the Queen Mary at John Brown’s shipyard in Clydebank. There’s the elation when work resumed and two years later when the great ocean liner was launched. I began writing the novels first and then realized I could make a non-fiction book out of it all: When the Clyde Ran Red: A Social History of Red Clydeside.

In non-fiction the facts are sacred. As a novelist, I believe I can add another layer by some (sparing) intelligent speculation on how people buffeted by dramatic events might have felt. In One Week in April: The Scottish Radical Rising of 1820, I wrote about the Greenock Massacre. A crowd gathered in the Clydeside town protesting about Radical prisoners being brought to Greenock Gaol. They shouted ‘Remember Manchester!’, referring back to the Peterloo Massacre of the previous year. 

It was noisy and rowdy and some people started throwing stones at the local militia. Panicking, they opened fire. Eight people were killed, including a boy of eight. Fifteen were seriously wounded. A contemporary observer wrote, ‘… by 11 o’clock the town was as quiet as ever I saw it.’ This led me to paint a brief picture of people ‘sitting by their firesides talking in low, shocked voices about the tragic events of the early evening.’ 

My editor thought that ‘too novelistic.’ I didn’t. I won. 

Back in 1997, I published my first book, Damn’ Rebel Bitches: The Women of the ’45. Last year Penguin Random House brought out a fully-sourced 25th anniversary edition.  DRB, as it is known in our house, had a working title of Not Flora Macdonald. 

I have nothing against that brave woman but I had started researching for a big, sweeping novel about the Jacobite Rising of 1745-46 and found lots of brave women playing their parts. They’re all in DRB. After ‘rave rejections’ from several publishers – I was a new author, the book was too long – the big, sweeping Jacobite novel was slid onto the back burner. 

I’ve recently self-published the third novel in a different but related Jacobite series, Storm Tossed Moon. Which makes me, so I’m told, a hybrid author, both traditionally published and self-published. I just think I’m a writer. 

I write in the mornings and start early, find my brain and imagination work best at that time of day. I’m not a great plotter. I prefer to start with one character meeting another on the page and waiting – or encouraging – the sparks to fly. Give them something to disagree about. Roll a few boulders into their path. This needn’t only be for romantic novels. We’ve all taken an instant liking or dislike to other people or had a rivalry with them. 

I often have some idea of the final scene but no idea how I’ll get there. It’s more fun that way. This approach apparently makes me a ‘discovery writer’. 

I’ll always be grateful to the Two Sheilas, as I know many other fellow Scottish authors are. Sheila Lewis and Sheila Aird ran a weekly writers’ workshop in Kilmardinny House in the Glasgow suburb of Bearsden back in the 1980s. One of the first exercises they set us was to write a scene in which two characters are having an argument. 

They added a piece of advice. Remember all five senses, not only what we and our characters see and hear but also touch, taste and smell. You probably won’t use all five in one scene but using them where appropriate will enrich your writing. 

I also learned a lot about writing by doing it. I see a lot of advice out there about different techniques, such as Save the Cat. I tried it recently for a WIP on which I’d got stuck. It has some interesting insights but for me the system required me to squeeze my writing into what I found to be a constricting framework. 

If STC and other techniques work for you, go for it. Otherwise, I’d say let your imagination flow. The log jam in my WIP cleared when I walked away from the manuscript and did other, non-writing things for a few days. Crochet worked well!

Like many of us brought up not to blow our own trumpets, I find marketing difficult. However, if you’ve written a book you’re proud of, you want to point readers towards it and this is most definitely not ‘shameless self-promotion.’  

In my experience, paid advertising eats money but BookBub promotions help increase visibility. Writing your own blog and accepting a kind invitation to write a guest blogpost also helps. As does joining writers’ organizations. Not only networking but a chance to meet and learn from others and to make writing pals. 

I’m currently working on book three of my Storm over Scotland series. It’ll take a while but once it’s done and dusted, I’m going to pull my other big, sweeping Jacobite novel forward from the back burner, revise it and send it out there to seek its fortune. 

Maggie Craig

# # #

About the Author

Passionate about Scotland and its history, Maggie Craig is the acclaimed writer of the ground-breaking Damn’ Rebel Bitches: The Women of the ’45. She is also the author of six family saga novels set in Glasgow & Clydebank, where she grew up. Find out more from Maggie's website and find her on Facebook, Twitter @CraigMaggie and Bluesky

1 comment:

Thank you for commenting