Today’s guest post is brought to you by a talented author of who I am, a big fan. Elsie writes feel good romance stories set in Scotland. I have read two of her books, ‘The Back Up Plan’ and ‘Love on the Rocks’. Her third book titled ‘A Hogmanay Kiss’ is on my kindle waiting to be read, and I very much look forward to delving into the sequel to ‘The Back Up Plan’ to catch up with the characters, and find out where they are now.
Elsie is an active, supportive, and kind member of the writing community, and one of the many members, I am proud to call my friend. I asked Elsie what it is she likes about writing romance, and she was more than happy to share her thoughts with us.
First of all, let me start by saying a heartfelt thank you to the lovely Hayley for giving me the chance to write a guest post for her blog. Hayley was one of the first people I met when I joined the Writing Community on Twitter, and we hit it off straight away. From her easy-going Aussie charm, to the fact that her Dad and I both grew up in the same Glasgow suburb, I knew instantly that I’d found an online buddy. I’ve been so appreciative of Hayley’s support ever since.
A little about me – I’m a self-published romance author living in the Highlands of Scotland. My first novel, ‘The Back Up Plan’, was released in December 2019; a contemporary romance set between Glasgow and the North West Highlands.
I’ve scribbled down stories ever since I was a child, and had always wanted to write a book. Whilst on maternity leave with my daughter, I set myself the target of actually finishing a manuscript – even if it was awful. I just wanted to finish something. I’d read an interview with one of my favourite chick-lit authors, Katie Fforde, in which she gave some advice to aspiring authors. Her words were to ‘write what you know’, at least to begin with. So, that’s what I did. I came up with my feisty yet insecure, flame-haired heroine, Marsaili (perhaps ever so slightly modelled on myself) and set the story in the Pantheon Theatre, a fictionalised version of the theatre in Glasgow where I had worked in my early twenties. I had some amazing experiences there - falling in love, having my heart broken, and getting far too drunk on free red wine! The storyline itself is entirely a work of fiction, but I found it helped having some real-life anchors to weave the story around.
I was amazed when I did actually finish the first draft – after lots of stops and starts – and from there I stumbled across the world of self-publishing. I was so taken with the idea of being ‘master of my own destiny’, that I decided not to query my manuscript at all. Self-publishing seemed like a great way to get my writing out into the world without going through months and possibly years of rejections, plus I would get feedback directly from the people who mattered most – the readers. It’s a decision I’m so glad I made, as it’s led me to meet the most wonderful people and become part of an online community I never even knew existed.
I absolutely love writing romance. It’s one of my favourite genres to read, so I suppose it was a natural progression that that is what I would want to write. It’s a genre that I think is sometimes looked down upon as just frivolous escapism, but to me it is so much more. After all, isn’t falling in love one of the most incredible, life altering experiences anyone can go through? I also enjoy exploring the ins and outs of relationships – both new and longstanding – and whilst I love a good ‘Happily Ever After’, I try to balance this with an element of realism. I want my characters to feel genuine, and flawed, and imperfect, and for the challenges they go through to be relatable to readers. The more serious issues I’ve touched on range from infidelity and alcohol dependency, to relationship breakdowns, illness and baby loss. Ordinary lives are, I believe, extraordinary, and there’s a wealth of experiences – happy, sad, and everything in between - to be explored in the minutiae of normal, day-to-day life.
After publishing my first novel, I completed my second during the first Covid Lockdown, and published it in August 2020. ‘Love, on the Rocks’ was inspired by my many childhood holidays on the beautiful islands scattered along Scotland’s craggy, desolate West coast. Inniscreag – the fictional setting of the story – is an amalgamation of all of these, and brings together lots of my fondest memories, from the honesty box in the tiny shop on Ulva, to helping clear the sheep from a field in Mull so the local prop plane could land. The Scottish islands are so magical and romantic, and it was very easy to imagine a love story taking place there, between two people cut off from the rest of the world.
My most recent work is a festive novella, called ‘A Hogmanay Kiss’. This was published in December 2020, and is a mini-sequel to ‘The Back Up Plan’. I wrote it very quickly – from initial plotting to publication in about six weeks – which was in itself a huge challenge! It was also interesting to revisit familiar characters and imagine where their lives might have taken them since the end of the last book. I must admit, however, that I did feel a bit of added pressure! I knew lots of people had fallen in love with Marsaili and Will (especially Will) and I was very conscious of not wanting to let them down or disappoint anyone.
For now, I’m trying to work on my third full length novel – ‘The Laird and I’ - another standalone story with a brand new setting and cast of characters. I am aiming to publish this in Spring/Summer of this year, however between another Covid Lockdown in the UK, my teaching day job, and home schooling my own children, my progress has been thwarted slightly! Hopefully, with the roll out of the vaccines, life might return to some semblance of normality and I’ll get back on track soon.
I’ll sign off for now, with one last big thank you to Hayley for featuring me, and to all of you for reading. If you’d like to find out more about me and my future projects you can visit my website at www.elsiemcarthur.com. I am also active on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Wherever you are in the world, I wish you all the very best for a happy, healthy, and – I hope – normal, 2021.
Thank you to Elsie for sharing her thoughts with us. If you love a good romance, do yourself a favour, and check out Elsie's books. I promise you wont be disappointed.