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Welcome to Margaret Skea

Where are you from and where do you live now? I was born in Ulster and grew up there at the height of the Troubles, but have lived in Scotland for the last thirty years. (Oops, giving away my age there.)

Please tell us a little about your writing – for example genre, title, etc. My debut novel  Turn of the Tide is historical fiction set in Scotland around the Tudor period, but I also write short stories and most of them are contemporary, though often set as distant from me in location as my novel is in time.

Where do you find inspiration? For the short stories inspiration is all around – a snippet of conversation overheard, a building, a news item, personal experience.

Do you have a favourite character? If so why? Kate Munro, the wife of my main character in TotT,  who was great fun to write.

I was speaking at a Book Group last Saturday (they’d just read TotT) and one of the folk asked me if I was Kate Munro?  And though I’d never thought of it before, if I am that would explain why I like her!

Do you have a character you dislike? If so why? Definitely William Cunninghame – the primary villain, and thoroughly obnoxious. (But also great fun to write!)

Are your characters based on real people? In TotT all the characters apart from the main character and his immediate family were real people, which makes it a challenge to write about them.

Have you ever used a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then killed them off? I wish…one of the problems of using real people is that they can’t be killed off until they actually died. Lots of readers have said they’d like to see me kill off William, but sadly I can’t at the moment.

Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? I love research and yes, I need lots of it, the only problem is it’s also a wonderful displacement activity, when I’m bogged down in the actual writing. My all-time favourite resource is a set of books called Domestic Annals of Scotland from the Reformation to the Revolution. That may sound boring but they aren’t. They are chock full of snippets of information that range from the trivial to the really important, all taken from records of the time – they are great for solving plot problems and for checking what was possible in an earlier time.

Is there a message conveyed within your writing?  Do you feel this is important in a book? There is, but I hope I carry it lightly. My book is all about the difficulties of living within conflict, the problems of diverse loyalties, the pressures it puts on families and relationships and so on. The dilemmas my main character faces are very similar to those faced by 1000s of people all around the world today.

Sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order? (Yes I know they all are important…) 1. Great characters. 2 equal Solid plot / Great world-building. Technical perfection is an impossible dream, hence it comes last, though I’m not sure if I’d really enjoy a book that was perfect, it might be  the Barbie doll of fiction.  I put character first because if readers aren’t made to care for your characters they won’t read on. The plot needs also to grab and keep attention and it’s really important that readers are transported into your world.

In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason? E Books and print.

Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I’m fortunate in that although I am published by a small press they did provide editorial input. I think the book is better as a result.

Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently to traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? I think they used to be and still are to some extent, but things are changing. There are poorly written traditionally published books and poorly written self published books, but perhaps because it s relatively easy to do now, there are more of the latter.

Do you read work by self-published authors? Yes, most definitely. I judge a book, not by its cover but by the opening extract available on Amazon.

I don’t care who has published it.

What are your opinions about authors commenting on reviews? How important are reviews? I’ve never commented on a review publicly, nor would I. If it’s good then I hope the writer will know that I’ll be pleased, and if it’s bad it’s best not to give it too much attention. People’s tastes differ and no-one can write to please the entire reading public.

AS for importance, I think they are really important in establishing a reader-base and finding new readers, but it’s very hard as a debut author to get lots of reviews. My book is in the final of the People’s Book Prize and there are over 100 comments on that site. If only some of the folk who posted those comments would review on Amazon it would make such a difference.

When buying a book do you read the reviews? I do, but as I said the extract is the most important thing for me.

What are your reviews on authors reviewing other authors? As a reader I think I should be able to review other books as anyone else can, the fact that I’m also a writer shouldn’t debar me from reviewing. But I certainly wouldn’t nor shouldn’t be able to trade’ reviews with another writer.

What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers?

Make sure you really want to do this – it isn’t an easy option.

Persevere – as the old saying goes – Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Edit and edit again (and again) ruthlessly, until it is as good as you can make it, and then put it out to the scrutiny of others.

What are your views on authors offering free books? I’m not sure about free, but promotions are a great idea – I wish I had the freedom to do this.

Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? Once, on the way home from the library carrying several hardback books, I thought I saw a friend ahead of me. I ran up and walloped her on the head with the books. When she turned round, reeling from the impact – you’ve guessed it – I didn’t know her at all!  Thankfully she took it in good part and she turned out to be a cousin of the person I had thought she was.

Book links, website/blog and author links:

Turn of the Tide is now available http://tiny.cc/kli0ow

Visit my webpage  http://margaretskea.com

Find me on FB http://www.facebook.com/TurnoftheTide.Novel

New:  Historical Short Story just out in the HNS anthology Beggar at The Gate http://tiny.cc/tkgj4w