Author of mystery, mayhem & comedy in the Cotswolds
Author: Debbie Young
English author of warm, witty novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries, set in the Cotswolds. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors and for the children's reading charity, Read for Good. Public speaker for the Type 1 Diabetes charity JDRF.
In my column for the July issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News, I addressed an ancient form of rural trading: the use of your front cottage garden wall as an impromptu shop counter. It’s a common sight in the English countryside to see home-grown produce sold this way, especially in times of summer surplus,with payment made via an honesty box. Where I live in the Cotswolds, and I’m sure in other rural regions all around the UK, lockdown has triggered a new twist on garden-wall trading – the free distribution of unwanted household goods.
Social media posts saying “It’s on my front wall” have become commonplace during lockdown.
As we declutter our houses, the front wall has been the closest we can get to a charity shop drop-off. This method has the added bonus of feedback. I was gratified to hear from a local boy’s mother how thrilled he was at the progress of the mint plant he’d adopted from me.
The prospect of free gifts in someone else’s front garden lured me out for my first village stroll after twelve weeks of shielding. I returned home with abundant bounty:
the perfect pot in which to store my kitchen knives
a small vase just right for the pinks I’m currently cutting every day
a set of pressed glass dishes the colour of rosé wine that makes me smile every time I see them
and a planter just like the one I used to admire as a small child at infants’ school. (The less useful a memory, the better my recall.)
But the pleasure lies deeper than in the initial frisson of acquisition. What makes such trophies special is knowing the circumstances in which they have been given.
Antique dealers set great store by “provenance” – the record of an item’s ownership to show it’s genuine and honestly come by. The provenance of “off the wall” items is precious in a different way. Such things are being gifted, often to strangers, in a spirit of generosity fuelled by the extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves.
To me these items will always be souvenirs not of Covid-19 but of the kindness of neighbours and of their propensity to offer solace in a time of crisis.
I hope such exchanges continue long after lockdown is over. I for one intend to keep putting surplus items on my front garden wall, weather permitting. With the triffid-like growth of the mint in my garden, I should have plenty to go around.
Village Trading in Wendlebury Barrow
I haven’t yet used this idea in my village mystery series. In the fictitious village of Wendlebury Barrow, all shopping scenes take place either in Carol Barker’s village shop, where she stocks goods in alphabetical order to make them easier to find, and Hector’s House, the bookshop and tearoom where Sophie Sayers works. But I’m adding it to my ideas book for future use.
There must be a good mystery plot hinging on the mysterious appearance and disappearance of various goods on Sophie’s front wall!
If you’ve not yet encountered Sophie Sayers, you might like to know that the ebook of the first in her series, Best Murder in Show, is currently free to download from all ebook stores worldwide. The sixth book, Murder Your Darlings, was launched at the end of February, and I’m currently planning the plot for the seventh, Murder Lost and Found.
Order from your local bookshop by quoting ISBN 978-1-911223-13-9
I’m delighted to announce that today marks the launch of my latest novel, Stranger at St Bride’s. This is the second in my St Bride’s School series and the sequel to Secrets at St Bride’s (shortlisted for the Bookbrunch Selfies Award 2020 for the best independently published fiction in the UK).
To mark its launch, I thought it would be fun today to share the story behind this particular novel, which was inspired by my own experience of working at an English boarding school.
The Premise for Stranger at St Bride’s
As you’ll know if you’ve read the first in the series, Gemma Lamb has recently joined this eccentric boarding school for girls as an English teacher. It’s a residential post and she’s enjoying its beautiful setting. She is also making good friends among her secretive but kindly colleagues.
Then on the first day back after the autumn half-term holiday, an American stranger turns up claiming to be the rightful owner of the school’s magnificent country estate. At once Gemma fears losing not only her job and her home, but also her hopes for a relationship with charismatic PE teacher Joe Spryke.
Her fears are compounded when the headmistress, Hairnet, accepts the stranger’s claim due to his remarkable resemblance to the school’s late founder.
So it’s down to Gemma to fight his claim and save the school, with a little help from her friends:
– the put-upon Bursar, ousted from his cosy estate cottage by the stranger
– the enigmatic Max Security, always up for a bit of espionage
– irrepressible Mavis Brook, geography teacher, itching to fell a tree on top of the stranger’s white Rolls-Royce
– Judith Gosling, history teacher and genealogy expert, who knows more about Lord Bunting than she’s letting on
Fickle maths teacher Oriana Bliss is even prepared to marry the stranger to secure St Bride’s future, especially if it means she gets to drive his fancy car. That’s if inventive pranks by the girls – and the school cat – don’t drive him away first.
The reason the girls’ pranks feature in this story is Debbie Irving’s comment in her review of Secrets at St Bride’s:
My only complaint is that the pupils are far too well-behaved!
That was my cue to dream up some high-jinks that the girls use to try to drive away Earl Bunting, the unpleasant stranger. He’s a baddie that I hope, like St Bride’s staff and pupils, you will love to hate!
The Origins of the Stranger
The idea for this story has been simmering in my subconscious for many years, even before I dreamed up the concept of the St Bride’s series. It arose when I was working at Westonbirt School, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire, just a few miles from my home in the Cotswold countryside.
Like St Bride’s, and very many other private schools, Westonbirt is set in a former stately home. It was built by Robert Holford, one of the ten richest gentlemen in Victorian England. He also planted what’s now the National Arboretum at Westonbirt. once part of the grounds to the house. His legacy is of such historic importance that it has its own charity to preserve the fabric of his house and grounds: The Holfords of Westonbirt Trust.
When Robert Holford died in 1892, he left the estate to his son, Sir George Holford. When Sir George died without issue in 1926, for a time it was thought that the house would be demolished. Such wilful destruction may seem outrageous to 21st century Britain, when we do so much to protect and preserve the nation’s cultural heritage. But in those days, with the rise in inheritance tax and the increasing difficulty in making estates pay for their own running costs, it was not uncommon to see a beautiful old property torn down and sold off for scrap if the owner could no longer maintain it.
Fortunately, Westonbirt House was reprieved by a charitable trust engaged in founding new schools. The Martyrs’ Memorial Trust decided Westonbirt would be just right for a boarding school for the daughters of the gentry. it opened its doors in 1928, and has been going strong ever since.
I worked at the school for thirteen years, and one of my many roles was to give guided tours to visitors. Occasionally members of the public would turn up in reception without an appointment, hoping to have a chance to see behind the scenes, especially in the school holidays. During one summer vacation, I answered the door to a pleasant American couple who had a particular reason for wanting to look around: the gentleman’s name was Holford.
For a moment I had a horrible suspicion that he was a long-lost heir, come back to declare his ownership of the property, planning to oust the school and take it over as his family seat. Luckily my fears were groundless, and an informal tour and a photo opportunity were enough to satisfy him before he went on his way. Nonetheless, after that I always wondered what might happen if another Holford with a stronger claim turned up.
And that imaginative leap led to the opening chapter of Stranger at St Bride’s, which you can sample below.
“Miss Lamb, Miss Lamb, there’s a ghost outside the front door!”
At St Bride’s School for Girls, I never quite know what to expect when I open the staffroom door to deal with a girl’s enquiry, but Imogen’s announcement before the first lesson of the day was unprecedented.
“Foolish child,” muttered Mavis Brook, the geography teacher, from behind me, closing the exercise book she was marking. “I blame that Halloween nonsense for putting such silly ideas into her head. Most unhealthy.”
The terror on Imogen’s face made me loath to dismiss her claim as a prank, although that seemed more likely than seeing a real ghost. I tried to make light of the situation to calm her down.
“Anyone’s ghost in particular? Are you sure it’s not just one of your friends in a white sheet?”
Imogen shook her head vigorously.
“Oh no, miss, it’s a real ghost all right. You should see it. It’s far too tall to be any of my friends. And it’s a man.”
Imogen, aged 11, came up only as far as my shoulder, but there were some very tall girls in the top class of seventeen- to eighteen-year-olds. Might one of those try such a stunt?
“OK, Imogen, wait a moment and I’ll take a look out of the staffroom window to see whether it’s still there.”
I closed the door – school policy is to keep the staffroom private from the girls – and crossed to the big bay window that gave on to the forecourt. As I peered round to view the front porch, the doorbell rang again, and a tall, thin, dark-haired man with a wide clipped moustache stepped back to look around for signs of life.
Nearby on the window seat, Oriana Bliss, Head of Maths, looked up from a stationery catalogue she had been browsing through and followed my gaze.
“He looks like flesh and blood to me.”
“Well, you’re the expert,” said PE teacher Joe Spryke, unzipping his pink tracksuit top. Joe is a former competitive cyclist on the run from hostile journalists who unfairly blamed him for an international sports scandal. During term-time, Joe disguises himself as a woman to escape detection.
I narrowed my eyes to focus better on the stranger. I had to agree with Oriana.
“He looks familiar, but I don’t think he’s one of the girls’ fathers, is he?”
Oriana laid her catalogue down on the seat beside her.
“Not unless the Bursar’s signed up a new pupil during the half-term holiday. And speaking of the Bursar, where is he? Why isn’t he answering that pesky doorbell?”
In the absence of a budget that would stretch to a receptionist, answering the door falls to the Bursar, the only official man in the school besides Max Security (not his real name, of course – like Joe, he’s incognito). Max is like St Bride’s own Scarlet Pimpernel. You never knew where he might pop up next, and it is often in the place you least expect. The Bursar is far more visible, an overt equivalent to Max’s undercover agent – a kind of bouncer, perhaps. The Bouncing Bursar. I smiled. Perhaps he wasn’t so bad after all, now I’d got used to him.
The bell rang for the third time. Oriana glanced at the wall clock above the door, then at me. There were just a few minutes left before lessons began for the day. I took her hint.
“I suppose I can let him in myself.”
Imogen, still waiting outside the staffroom door, skipped alongside me as I strode down the corridor to the entrance hall.
“Oh miss, you are brave! Do you want me to get a gang of girls to rescue you in case it’s the dangerous kind of ghost?”
I tried not to hurt her dignity by laughing. She meant well.
“I’m sure I’ll be fine, thank you. I don’t think much harm can come to me answering the front door in broad daylight.”
“Ooh, yes, thank goodness it’s daylight. That means he can’t be a vampire. But I’ll hide nearby, just in case. If you need me, shout the code word. What should our code word be?”
After spending half-term with my parents, I hadn’t yet retuned to the girls’ mindset.
“How about ‘help’?”
“I don’t think you’re really trying, miss.”
When we reached the vast entrance hall that had so intimidated me on my arrival at the school back in September, Imogen took cover behind one of the broad marble pillars supporting the ornate painted ceiling. I marched across the tiled floor, heels clicking, and heaved open the front door.
“Good morning,” I said, blinking against the pale November sunshine. “How can I help you, sir?”
The stranger stepped forward, assuming I’d let him in. We did an awkward shuffle as I tried to stall him until I’d established his credentials. We’re very hot on child protection at St Bride’s, even with members of school staff. Max Security lives in Rose Lodge, one of the pair of cottages at the entrance to the main drive, and has security cameras all over the place. In the other cottage, Honeysuckle Lodge, lives the Bursar. Thus, even the two men at the heart of school life are in their leisure time kept at a distance from the main school building.
“Why, good morning to you, ma’am.” The stranger spoke with a leisurely US drawl. With his dark moustache, black suit, brocade waistcoat and string tie, he reminded me of Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. Scarlett O’Hara would have felt right at home at St Bride’s, with its ostentatious historic house and gardens, although our English weather couldn’t compete with the southern sunshine at Tara, her family plantation estate.
If the stranger was a belated trick or treater, his choice of costume was unusual. I kept my hand on the doorknob. I wasn’t going to let him in without good reason.
“Do you have an appointment, please?”
“Why, thank you, ma’am, I surely do.”
He gave a slight bow. Was he mocking me with his elaborate Southern charm?
“And with whom might your appointment be, sir?”
I’m not the kind of English teacher who is a stickler for “whom” in general conversation, but his formal speech was rubbing off on me.
“With Miss Caroline Harnett, your headmistress, if you please. I believe I am right on time.”
He patted the pocket in his waistcoat, from which hung a silver watch chain, fastened at the other end to a button. Holding the door open to allow him in, I pointed to the signing-in book on the table beside the sofa.
“If you would be so kind as to write your name in our visitors’ book, I’ll give you a security badge and tell Miss Harnett you’re here.”
The stranger bent his head in acknowledgement and produced from his inside jacket pocket an engraved gold fountain pen. He signed his name in copperplate of such a size that it spilled over the edges of the signature box, yet the loops were so tightly closed that I couldn’t make out what he’d written.
“Whom shall I say is here for her? I mean, who?”
He added an ornate swirl of self-importance beneath his signature, then gazed up at me in feigned surprise, as if he were a celebrity recognised wherever he went. He straightened up, capped his pen and returned it to its pocket.
“My name is Bunting. Earl Bunting. Thank you kindly.”
The gasp that issued from behind the pillar echoed my own surprise. Lord Bunting was the school’s Victorian founder. Over a hundred years before, when he’d apparently died without issue, he’d bequeathed his house and grounds to be turned into a boarding school for girls.
I was unsure how to address the stranger. My Lord? Your Excellency? Your Worship? The school library’s copy of Debrett’s Peerage would tell me. We had plenty of titled girls on the roll, but it was school policy not to use those titles in daily life, so I’d never needed to swot up on the etiquette before. For now, I took the easy option.
“Please take a seat, sir, and I’ll tell Miss Harnett you’re here.”
As I marched off to the Headmistress’s study, Imogen came pattering after me.
“Now do you believe me, miss? It’s the ghost of Lord Bunting, isn’t it? Didn’t you recognise him?”
The life-size oil painting of the school’s founder on the wall of the assembly hall had made him a familiar figure to us all.
Imogen skipped to overtake me, then turned back to face the way we’d come.
“I’m going to the hall now to see if the picture’s still there. Lord Bunting might have stepped down from it and turned real. That’s the sort of thing that happens at Halloween. I’ve seen it before.”
“Yes, in a play my grandma took me to see in the summer holidays. There were lots of songs in it and all the paintings came to life.”
“That’ll be Ruddigore,” came a voice behind us – Louisa Humber, the music teacher, was on her way to her classroom. “It’s an operetta, Imogen, not a play, by Gilbert and Sullivan.”
Imogen shrugged. “Anyhoo, my point is, there’s probably now a big empty hole in the painting where Lord Bunting used to be.”
Louisa flashed a conspiratorial smile at me.
“Let me know if your ghost bursts into song.”
She walked on.
“Off you go then, Imogen.” I hoped that when she found the painting intact she would feel reassured. “But be as quick as you can, or you’ll be late for your lesson.”
“Yes, Miss Lamb.”
Not wanting to be late for my lesson either, I hastened down the private corridor to the Headmistress’s secluded study and rapped on her door.
“Come in!” came her cheery greeting.
I went in to find Miss Harnett sitting at her desk, contentedly opening her half-term post. Through the bay window behind her lay a neat rose garden, pruned and orderly for the winter. McPhee, her black cat, lay on his side on the window seat, basking in a beam of autumn sunshine, legs stretched out for maximum exposure to the warmth. He’s a substantial cat. I mean she. Officially, McPhee is female, like all the teaching staff – one of Miss Harnett’s policies for the sake of child protection.
“Good morning, my dear. I trust you have had an enjoyable break?”
“Thank you, yes. I felt like one of the girls, going home to see my parents, but it was lovely.”
Unlike the girls, I hadn’t seen my parents for a few years, due to a disastrous relationship with my controlling ex, Steven, from whom I’d fled to this job and some vestige of security. At last I was starting to make up for lost time. I’d be returning to my parents for the Christmas holidays.
“What can I do for you this morning, my dear?”
The pleasure of being back in the Headmistress’s comforting company had almost made me forget the stranger.
“You have a visitor, Miss Harnett. He’s waiting in the entrance hall. He claims he has an appointment with you.”
She glanced at the large hardback diary that lay open on her desk. Her smile faded.
“Ah, yes, so he does. Please escort him to my study.”
She didn’t ask his name.
Setting her pile of post aside, she pulled her daybook towards her.
When I’d retraced my steps to the entrance hall, where I found the stranger gazing up at the ornate painted ceiling, I saw him with fresh eyes. His resemblance to the original Lord Bunting was inescapable.
I coughed to attract his attention.
“Miss Harnett will see you now.”
I raised a hand to indicate the direction of her study. His reverie interrupted, he stood up and straightened his silk tie.
When we passed the foot of the curving marble staircase that led to the residential part of the school, he patted the finial fondly. As he followed me down the oak-panelled corridor to the Headmistress’s study, he whistled in admiration.
“It’s quite a place we have here,” he said in a low voice, as much to himself as to me.
We? I wondered at his choice of pronoun but made no comment.
I knocked on Miss Harnett’s door, waited for permission to enter, then held it wide for him to go in.
The Headmistress rose from her desk and crossed the crimson Persian carpet to greet him. Instantly alert, McPhee leapt down from the window seat and followed at Miss Harnett’s heels, his tail bushy with hostility.
“Ah, Mr Bunting, I’ve been expecting you.”
Eyes wide, I withdrew and left them to it, just as the bell rang for the first lesson. I would have to wait until morning break to update my colleagues about this mysterious stranger.
Like to know what happens next?
Here’s how to order your copy of Stranger at St Bride’s
To order from your local bookshop, quote ISBN 978-1-911223-597
In an occasional series on my blog I share the reasons behind the dedications in my stories. Today I’m describing how Chudleigh Women’s Institute and Westonbirt School inspired the first in my new Tales from Wendlebury Barrow series, The Natter of Knitters.
Every book I write has a dedication to the person or people who played a key part in its conception. My mini-mystery The Natter of Knitters, 20% the length of one of my novels, has a three-way dedication:
To Irene Smith, Joy Bell and the Chudleigh WI.
What’s a WI?
First of all, I’d better explain what WI means, for the benefit of readers outside of the UK who aren’t familiar with this long-standing organisation. WI is short for Women’s Institute(motto: Inspiring Women). The Federation of Women’s Institutes coordinates the local groups that meet regularly all over the country. This is how they define themselves on their website:
Inspiring women – then and now
In 1915 we set out to give women a voice and to be a force for good in the community. Since then, our membership and our ambitions alike have grown tremendously. Today , we are the largest women’s organisation in the UK and we pride ourselves on being a trusted place for women of all generations to share experiences and learn from each other.
There is a thriving WI in my home village of Hawkesbury Upton in the Cotswolds, so why is my dedication to a group a hundred miles away in Chudleigh, Devon, a place I’ve visited only once?
A couple of years ago I was a guest speaker at Chudleigh Lit Fest, an ancient wool town in Devon. On my way to the festival marquee, passing by the local playpark, I noticed that its perimeter railings were festooned in colourful knitted scarves .
A sign on the railings explained the WI’s mission: to make scarves for the homeless while also raising awareness of their plight before visitors to the playpark and to the festival.
As a lifelong knitter, this arresting sight inspired me not only to pick up my needles and start a new knitting project, despite it being a hot summer’s day, but also to plot a story that centred around a village yarnbombing event.
The Westonbirt Connection
It took another knitting-related encounter two years later to germinate the seed of the story that was planted on my trip to Chudleigh. When I put a call out on social media seeking a charity that might welcome handknitted items, my former colleague Joy Bell, Head of Textiles Technology (amongst other things) at nearby Westonbirt School, drew my attention to her pupils’ project to knit blanket squares to be turned into blankets for an Indian orphanage they were sponsoring.
A few weeks later I called in to the school to drop off some squares I’d knitted for them. Manning reception was Irene Smith, who is also the school seamstress, running up impressive costumes for school plays. We started chatting about knitting, and her enthusiasm for real wool from Cotswold sheep, as well as from those of her native Scotland, added a further strand (ho ho) to my story. We were talking for so long that at the start of our conversation, girls in lacrosse kit passed by on their way to a PE lesson, and we were still going strong when they returned.
The Natter of Knitters
By the time I got home, the plot of The Natter of Knitters, about a village yarnbombing event that goes wrong, had fallen into place. The story features lots of familiar characters from my Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series (Carol, the shopkeeper, teaches Sophie to knit, much to Hector’s annoyance), as well as introducing some memorable new ones.
It’s a quick read, at around 20% of the length of one of my novels, and it’s available either as an ebook or as a tiny postcard-sized paperback. If you’d like to read it, you’ll find the buying links at the end of this post.
In the meantime, my passion for knitting continues, and I’m currently alternating between tiny knitted flowers for fun and to use up lots of oddments:
and a “lockdown blanket” for function, made in colours to match my favourite Harris Tweed cushion. (There’s a nice piece about the concept of a lockdown blanket here.)
Perhaps because I write in the first person and I live in a village in the Cotswolds, readers sometimes assume that my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries are partly autobiographical. One of my best friends, who has known me since we were 11, said to me after reading the first in the series, Best Murder in Show, “Sophie Sayers – she’s you, isn’t she?” Today I’d like to explain some of the similarities and differences between us.
First of all there is a disparity in our ages. I’m old enough to be Sophie’s mother, but I was only four years older than Sophie when I moved to the Cotswold cottage where I still live and work today.
Like Sophie, I had previously lived in towns and cities before moving to a village, but I moved here with my husband rather than as a single girl on the rebound from a failed relationship.
Sophie and I are both lucky enough to live in a Victorian Cotswold stone cottage with a pleasant established garden, but Sophie inherited hers. I had to buy mine, paying off my mortgage a few years ago. I envy Sophie her mortgage-free status from such a young age!
Strangely, when I write about Sophie’s cottage, I don’t picture my current home. That might seem the obvious choice, but it’s the wrong size and shape for my story. Mine is a three-bedroomed semi-detached cottage, whereas Sophie’s is a two-bedroomed terrace. (That’s a row house to American-English speaking readers.)
For the internal layout, I picture an amalgam of my maternal grandmother’s 1920s terraced house in Sidcup and my first house, a Victorian two-up, two-down workman’s villa in Tring, Hertfordshire. Both of those houses were brick-built, but Sophie’s is definitely made from the local honey-coloured Cotswold stone, like all the other old houses in her village.
Sophie and I both harboured writing ambitions since childhood. Like Sophie, when I decided the time was right to start taking my writing seriously, I took baby steps rather than plunging straight into writing novels. Having swapped my full-time job for a part-time one to give myself time to write, I committed, as Sophie does, to writing a monthly column in the village community magazine, in my case the Hawkesbury Parish News. This was to force myself into a regular writing habit and to nurture the discipline of writing to deadline and to length.
Unlike Sophie, I volunteered to write a second column for a magazine with a larger readership and circulation, the award-winning Tetbury Advertiser, which serves the nearby Cotswold market town.
For both publications, I write about seasonal or topical issues, and they’re generally humorous, ending with a smile even when addressing a serious issue such as Covid-19, but the editors give me free rein as to choice of topic.
Sophie, on the other hand, confines herself initially to writing for Wendlebury Barrow’s parish magazine, in which her column is called “Travels with my Aunt’s Garden“. The great aunt from whom she inherited her cottage was a travel writer and filled her cottage garden with plants that remind her of her favourite places around the world. Each month Sophie writes a seasonal piece about a plant currently thriving in her garden and its exotic origins.
There are many differences between us:
Sophie’s got light brown hair and blue eyes, my natural colour at Sophie’s age was dark brown, as are my eyes.
I’ve never worked in a bookshop or dated a bookseller, although I do love bookshops of all kinds.
Sophie is thriving in her job running the Hector’s House tearoom, whereas my only stint as a waitress was in a tea shop in York while I was at university. I was very bad at it and soon made my excuses and left.
Sophie’s parents live and work in Inverness; mine retired to Bristol after working in London, Frankfurt, Detroit and Los Angeles.
Sophie has taught at international schools, whereas I attended one as a pupil between the ages of 14 and 18.
Sophie is an only child, while I have a brother and sister.
Writers’ Retreat as a Turning Point
But there is one final similarity that unites us: we have both attended writers’ retreats on Greek islands. Mine was on Ithaca, run by author, designer, poet and musician Jessica Bell, an Australian living in Athens. Sophie’s is on a tiny fictitious island just off the end of Ithaca and is run by a specialist company based in London.
Sophie wins her place on her retreat as a competition prize, whereas I attended Jessica’s as a paid speaker.
Yet both Sophie and I returned from our retreats significantly changed.
For me, the retreat was the turning point that made me realise that I really could write novels. Previously I’d focused on short stories, nervous of tackling the larger canvas of full-length fiction. My eighth novel, Stranger at St Bride’s, is due to launch on 1st July.
Sophie enters her retreat questioning not only her ambition to write books, but also the future of her relationship with Hector.
How is Sophie changed by her retreat? You’ll have to read Murder Your Darlingsto find out!
While the coronavirus pandemic hampers foreign travel, writers’ retreats abroad can be only a fantasy. That’s a great shame, because writing is terrific therapy in a time of crisis, even if you write only for yourself.
But here’s news of a different kind of writers’ retreat that you can set up for yourself at home – the new Fictionfire – you may be interested in a different kind of this talk of retreats has got you hankering after taking such a trip yourself.
My friend Lorna Fergusson, an award-winning author, writing coach and editor, has set up this course online at a very reasonable price ($17 earlybird rate until 21st June, $37 after that). This gives you a lifetime access to the course materials.
Lorna also runs free online writing retreat sessions, and having enjoyed a couple of those during lockdown, I know that her course will be of a high standard (and yes, I have already snapped one up at the earlybird rate!) Click here for more information.