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Well, you’ve got me this week as Tea and Talk at Sally Lunn’s is having a pit stop.  I plan to chat to two authors a month, so the next interview will be on Sunday 9th December.

When I was thinking about what I was going to say this weekend, I had to stop and think what am I going to talk about?  Well this week it’s Flu.  Yes, this week I have been overtaken by influenza, or as the doctor who gave me my annual shot on Thursday 15th November termed it, a mild dose of influenza, which apparently is one of the potential side effects.  I will say that the actual immunisation process was flawless. Complete the form, sign the disclaimer and roll up your sleeve.This was followed by something which resembled being pinched hard and then that was it. ‘No plaster for you’ I was told as the needle had not drawn blood – a textbook procedure, wonderful!  And to celebrate coming through this ordeal I was given a small circular sticker which had in its centre what I guess was supposed to be a caricature of the flu virus but in all honesty reminded me more of a rabid hedgehog!  Anyway I felt fine, no dull ache in the upper arm as is usual for me – wonderful!   By Sunday I was feeling pretty happy that all was going well and nothing had come back to bite me.  We met friends for lunch in our local pub and towards the end of the meal I found I had scratchy throat.  Too much girl chat obviously, I thought, so I simply followed normal guidelines for this sort of situation and upped my intake of red wine.  Unfortunately by Monday morning I felt as if someone had scraped a razor blade down there and round my tonsils.  Regular application of Lemsip did little to improve the situation and by Tuesday sneezing, runny nose and a temperature had added themselves to my list of medical woes.

By Wednesday I had developed a ’40 a day cough’ and decided feeling the way I did and looking out at the pouring rain outside there was no way I could go to work.  I phoned in, fully expecting that I’d be OK by Thursday.  In fact I couldn’t have been more wrong as  by then I had a blocked head and as a result of all the coughing (which regular doses of Benylin did not even seem to touch) my ribs felt like they had been used as a punch bag by David Haye.  Friday the temperature returned with a vengeance and I felt so lethargic that all I wanted to do was sleep.  I absolutely hated being like this but there was little I could do about it, the bug was firmly in control.  However as soon as I woke up on Saturday morning I knew I was over the worst.  The cough was still there, although not half as bad as it had been,  My ribs weren’t quite as sore and there was still the blocked head, but my energy levels were back and I felt I was beginning to take back control of me.  It’s been a gradual climb out of the flu pit since then and as I type I can say the old me is definitely on the mend.

If you could ever say there was an upside to this week, it’s that I can add four pounds to my ‘Lose Weight for Christmas Campaign’  (hooray!) due to the fact that the bug managed to annihilate my taste buds, meaning everything I ate tasted like cardboard!

Of course, my friendly flu virus has meant that I’ve done very little in the way of writing but in a way it’s been good to take a break and spend time thinking about what I’ve already written and where the plot is taking me.  I had, during the first part of the week when I still felt able, managed to get some work done but when I went back to it again properly yesterday my first reaction was to think  ‘Did I really write that??’ before deleting most of it.  So here we are a week later.  The cough and blocked head have become so fond of me they seem reluctant to depart yet, but the rest of me is OK,  so it’s back to work tomorrow to cover for my  job share who wanted Tuesday off and is doing my Thursday instead.  And Thursday? Well  I’m off to spend a day in the town where I was born but I’ll tell you  about that next week!

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Today I would like to welcome a Canadian author with Scottish roots – Melanie Robertson-King who has just published her first novel A Shadow in the Past.

JL: Well Melanie, you’ve done it!  You’re a published author and it’s great to welcome you here to Bath to have a chat over tea and cake in Sally Lunn’s .

MELANIE: Thanks for inviting me, especially to this wonderful, historic restaurant. You couldn’t have chosen a better place to talk to me about my debut novel.

JL: My first question is when did you decide you wanted to change from being a reader to a writer? And how did you get started?

MELANIE: Back when I was a teen (and we won’t say how long ago that was), during the summer I graduated from grade 8, I wrote what I thought would be a romance novel but there never seemed to be a place where I could write “the end” so it went on and on and on… Well, you get the picture. My next serious attempt at writing came in 1993 when I tried to capture the emotions of my first ever trip to Scotland (my father’s birthplace).

Things slowed down again until about 1999/2000 when soon after reading the first four novels in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, a girlfriend suggested I could write something like that and just as good. I wasn’t so sure about the last bit but writing a time travel set in Scotland, I was pretty sure I could do fairly easily so I wrote a rather loooong short story called Sarah’s Gift. I think the original clocked in at pages double-spaced and 16000+ words.

I’m not sure when I made that decision.  I’d put together a few short stories to display on my original website “Melanie’s Corner”. It was a mish-mash of writing, family history, and the like.  Then a co-worker discovered an ad for a creative writing course in, I believe it was, The Ottawa Citizen. I thought about it for awhile and eventually signed up. My first article, about William Quarrier and his Orphan Homes of Scotland, was published by The Scottish Banner back in December 2001. I didn’t even know it had been accepted until I thumbed through my copy when it came in and there it was  – a two page spread!

My instructor thought I could write a cracker of a novel, so I hauled out Sarah’s Gift, and created an outline keeping my original story but with lots more detail and situations to throw my poor heroine into.

JL: Did being a reader help you with the writing process?

MELANIE: Absolutely. As a reader, I had (and still do have) rather eclectic tastes. I’ve read everything from crime, horror, paranormal, mysteries, sci-fi, and romance (never was a huge fan of the Harlequins or over here Mills & Boon). When you read, you expand your vocabulary. You need to have a wide range of words to use in your writing – not just the basics like in the Dick and Jane children’s stories. The extent of your vocabulary also aids in developing “your” voice.

JL: Tell me how you made the connection with your publisher.

MELANIE: This is so cool. I’m glad you asked me. Sorry if I rambled a bit with my earlier answers. Anyway, I was checking out a few blogs that I drop in to visit periodically and there was an interesting post at Rosemary Gemmell’s Reading and Writing Blog about the MuseItUp Online Writers’ Conference. I clicked on the link and checked it out. Included amongst the other goodies on offer were a chance to pitch to editors and agents so I signed up to pitch to Vivian Zabel of 4RV Publishing on Oct 4th, 2011. I loved pitching this way. Doing it face to face can be intimidating by times. This was all done online in a chat room set up specifically for that purpose. I copied and pasted my pitch a few sentences at a time leaving a pause between each one. When all was said and done, I was asked to submit. I worked feverishly the next week perfecting my submission and on Thanksgiving Monday (Oct 11th), after I got home from work shortly after 3:00 p.m., I emailed it off. I really wasn’t expecting much – just being asked to submit was huge. I almost fell off my chair when about 8:00 that night, I received an email saying “We are offering you a contract.”

JL: You debut novel has been very well received with some excellent reviews.  Were you nervous when your launch date came?

MELANIE: Petrified! I’m more of an introvert (goes well with reading and writing) so getting out there terrified me. Especially at the Kansas Book Festival where I would be “selling” my book. Of course, too, I was afraid that people wouldn’t like my book but since then, I’ve had many wonderful reviews, a number of which were sent in e-mails to me from the folks who had bought A Shadow in the Past.

The following week in Brockville, I hosted a launch as part of the Wedgewood Author Series, where I got up in front of a room full of people, talked about my book, read a short excerpt and answered questions – the whole time being filmed for Brock News TV to go along with the interview I did prior to the launch.

JL: Tell us about the launch, I gather it was quite hard work.

MELANIE: Both were hard work but Kansas was harder. I flew in to Kansas City the day before the launch as did my editor. We met at the airport, rented a car and drove to Topeka where the launch was held. It was great to meet Carla in person since we had worked so well together throughout the editing process. We had to be at the venue to start setting up by 7:00 a.m. on launch day, which meant unpacking the publisher’s van and trundling carts and carts of books, racks, and other materials from the parking lot to the tent and the booth we’d been assigned. At the end of the day, we got to do that all over again.

My Brockville launch from a labour intensive standpoint wasn’t nearly as hard but it was intellectually difficult. How many books to bring? How many postcards and other promotional goodies? Make sure I had lots of pens for signing. Bring a cash box with a float… see what I mean? Oh yeah, and what do I wear? There were other questions that needed addressing, too, so it was a good thing I made a list and had my crew of willing volunteers (conscripted might be more like it)with me come launch day.

JL: And what are your plans for the future?  Tell us a little about your next project.

MELANIE: I have a couple of other ideas for books. I started writing one novel a few years ago (had the beginning and ending written) about a helicopter ditching in the North Sea. Soon after I got that much finished, if those things didn’t start happening! I had to leave that one. I wondered if writing that storyline might have been premonition.  It sure felt like it at the time.

My next project will be the sequel to A Shadow in the Past. Without creating any spoilers, I can say that the framework is already written (it used to be Part 2) so I have to flesh out some sections, take others out, and blend in things that happened in the first book. It might be easier to bin it and start from scratch. I have a couple of ideas for titles for the sequel, too. Shadows from the Past or Shadows from her Past.

JL: Thank you Melanie for a really interesting interview and good luck with the sequel!

A Shadow in the Past

When a contemporary teen is transported back through time to the Victorian era, she becomes A Shadow in the Past…

When nineteen year old Sarah Shand finds herself in Victorian Era Aberdeenshire, Scotland, she has no idea how she got there. Her last memory is of being at the stone circle on the family farm in the year 2010.

Despite having difficulty coming to terms with her situation, Sarah quickly learns she must keep her true identity a secret.

Still, she feels stifled by the Victorians’ confining social practices, including arranged marriages between wealthy and influential families, confronts them head on and suffers the consequences.

When Sarah realizes she has fallen in love with the handsome Laird of Weetshill, she faces an agonizing decision. Does she try to find her way back to 2010 or remain in the past with the man she loves?


Where to buy:

4RV Publishing:

Barnes & Noble:


Publisher: 4RV Publishing LLC
Author Website:
Author Blog: Celtic Connexions
Facebook Author Page:
Twitter Account: @RobertsoKing!/RobertsoKing

And if you are interested in reading more about Sally Lunn’s historic eating house and museum check out

Next week I’ll be back with my normal blog plus news of future guests on Tea and Talk at Sally Lunn’s

Posted in Writing

Tea and Talk at Sally Lunn’s

Welcome to this, my very first writers blog interview.   I decided, well, you’ve probably heard enough about me, so it was about time I started to shine the spotlight on some of my writing colleagues.  And what better place to chat than Sally Lunn’s, one of the oldest houses in Bath and a favourite place of mine for tea and cake or maybe even one of their famous Bath buns. To launch this new feature I’d like to welcome fellow author Lynda Renham.

JL: Lovely to meet you  Lynda and now we’re settled with our tea and a delicious selection of cakes, tell me a bit about yourself.

LR: I was born and bred in Essex. So I’m an Essex girl and proud of it although everyone I know tells me I don’t sound in the least like one. My days of living in Oxford and being married to a Surrey chap have knocked it out of me I think. I was previously a teacher.

JL: When did you first start writing?

LR: I have been writing since the age of 13 so I’ve been knocking out stories for many years. I gave up for about fifteen years during the time my first marriage broke down. After re-marrying I found my second husband to be very supportive of my writing and I continued
again. I’ve written several serious novels not yet published bar one titled ‘The Diary of Rector Byrnes’ which is available on Amazon.

JL: How did the idea for your first book come about?

LR: The idea for my first comedy novel ‘Wedding Cake to Turin’ actually came from a visit to Turin that my husband and I made. We also went there for a wedding and my
mother-in-law did escort a wedding cake. The whole novel came out of that. I decided I wanted to write humour as I’ve always lived my life using humour to get me through everything.

JL: Your publishing process, how did you make the decision on which route to take?

LR: I’m a strong advocate of self-publishing although I am now published by a small independent publisher ‘Raucous publishing’ I however, did self-publish ‘Wedding Cake to Turin’ I also learnt a lot from doing that and made many mistakes. I think self-publishing is great but it is hard to get noticed even then but it certainly helps. You also need to be very critical of your own work, more so than normal. It’s nice to have a publisher who does all the work for you. It’s nice to know the books are now available from Waterstones and WH Smith. But I would recommend self-publishing as a way forward. Many authors are looking at that as an alternative.

JS: So what kept the ball rolling and made you want to continue writing?

LR: I think I continue writing because I can’t not write. Ideas are always rushing through my head. It isn’t hard to keep the ball rolling in that respect.

jl: Did you find it easy to get that second book underway?

LR: Yes the second book ‘Croissants and Jam’ was very easy to get underway. I think it is my most popular too. Although I am hoping the new one will be better. It is similar to ‘Croissants and Jam’ and currently has a working title of ‘Pink Wellies and Flat Caps’ but that could, of course, change.

JS:What about new projects?  Are there any in the pipeline?

LR: Currently though I am having an extension on my home which is almost half a house. It also means the other half is an absolute mess. I am very much struggling with all this. We are practically living in our summer house at the bottom of the garden. I am working there also so things are awkward. I have become very stressed. My next project is the new book ‘Pink Wellies and Flat Caps’ I am pleased to say that I have so far written 58,000 words so I am doing it.

JL: I know you love photography.  Do you see writing and photography as creative kindred spirits?

LR: Photography is my second love and yes I do see it as a form of expression. In fact for me it is a more personal form of expression than writing. I try to express a lot of emotion in many of my photographs. I love capturing the moment. The moment is something special.

JL: What do you love doing when you aren’t writing?

LR When I’m not writing I spend a lot of time on the internet. I have a passion for Cambodia and sponsor a child there. I visit the country whenever possible and also the Orphanage where my little girl is. I have friends there and contacts. It is my second favourite place in the world. When not writing I also like to watch DVDs. I don’t own a TV so DVDs are my entertainment. I am also an avid reader. I love everything. I’m currently reading PG Wodehouse coupled with Salman Rushdie’s book ‘Joseph Anton’

JL:Thank you so much Lynda for coming along today, it was great to meet you.  To learn more about  Lynda, her books and her photography contact:

Web page link:


If you would like to join me for Tea and Talk at Sally Lunns just drop me an e-mail at

Joining me for Tea and Talk  next time will be a Canadian writer with Scottish roots – Melanie Robertson King, who has just released her debut novel A Shadow in the Past

And if you are interested in reading more about Sally Lunn’s historic eating house and museum check out