Sometimes writing can be a lonely business. The only people you meet are the characters inside your head, and the only exciting things that happen are the ones you dream up. You are not friends with these interesting people you’re writing about, and these momentous events aren’t happening to you – you are, in fact, spending the day totally alone in your pyjamas with just a mug of tea, your patient dog, and a packet of digestive biscuits for company. (Well, that’s me, anyway!) After a while of this you can find the ideas that once fizzed away have gone sluggish , and your characters refuse to burst into life on the page like they used to.
Joining a group of other writers is one of the best things I’ve ever done. My first book, The Silk Romance, was published by MuseItUp Publishing in Canada. Most of the authors at MIU live in North America, so getting to meet them wasn’t really an option*, although I have made very many friendships online. One Muse author, though, has since become a great friend in real life. Marie Laval is French but she has lived in Lancashire for 25 years – just across the Pennines from me. Marie is also a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and joining the RNA was another massive spur to my writing.
(*I have to mention that my American author friend from MIU, JQ Rose, is planning to visit me in Yorkshire in June, and Canadian MIU author Chuck Bowie is visiting me in September. I’m massively excited about meeting them after being online friends for years!)
Marie and I met up a few years back in the little town of Hebden Bridge, on the border between Yorkshire and Lancashire. Gradually, from being just the two of us meeting for lunch, more writers began to join us, and now there is quite a large group of us Yorkshire and Lancashire authors who meet ‘on the border’ every couple of months. We call ourselves Authors on the Edge :) It’s great to catch up with gossip, to find out what’s going on elsewhere in the writing world, and to share ups and downs.
There are some talented and creative authors in our group, with a wide range of skills between us, from graphic design to theatre. Last year I began to think how brilliant it would be if we all collaborated on an anthology. We all write romance – or at least, romantic stories – but in very different styles and sub-genres. When I put the question, I was really excited when everyone gave an enthusiastic, ‘Yes!’
With nine creative and professional writers around the table, ideas for a theme for our anthology started coming thick and fast. We decided each story had to be set in Hebden Bridge – a lovely old town and the perfect backdrop. But to really tie the stories together we needed more than just the setting. And so we narrowed it down. Each story would be set in the same shop, which we based on a wonderfully romantic building in Hebden Bridge. The Heart Gallery is right next door to where we meet.
And the shopkeeper in each story would be the same character – Miss Moonshine. We had to be sure we each described Miss Moonshine in the same way, and Marie Laval came up with the brilliant idea of us all basing her character and appearance on the fabulous Dame Vivienne Westwood – who also happens to have a northern accent. Perfect!
And so off we each went, back home to our solitary laptops and a lot of dreaming and thinking. Coming up with the stories was fun. Working with a creative group was inspiring – from Mary Jayne Baker’s gorgeous artwork for the cover, to Angela Wren’s talents as a theatre director which led to our lovely group photo.
We like to say our Miss Moonshine now has a life of her own. She has inspired us and brought us together as a group. Our anthology, Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings, is now on release, and we’ve been blown away by how Miss M has touched other readers.
Here’s the blurb, written by talented author Kate Field:
Sometimes what you need is right there waiting for you…
Miss Moonshine’s Wonderful Emporium has stood in the pretty Yorkshire town of Haven Bridge for as long as anyone can remember. With her ever-changing stock, Miss Moonshine has a rare gift for providing exactly what her customers need: a fire opal necklace that provides a glimpse of a different life; a novel whose phantom doodler casts a spell over the reader; a music box whose song links love affairs across the generations. One thing is for certain: after visiting Miss Moonshine’s quirky shop, life is never the same again…
Working with a group of other writers has been inspiring – and most of all, fun!
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Have you ever worked together creatively with a group? If so, how did you find it? Was it inspiring? What were the advantages and disadvantages?
And do you enjoy reading collections of short stories? If so, which would you recommend? If you have any comments at all, please let me know. I’d love to hear from you!