Many thanks to Val Penny for supplying author and book cover pictures and some wonderful shots of Edinburgh. Photos connected to The Writers’ Summer School, Swanwick, were taken by me, Allison Symes. Other images were created in Book Brush using Pixabay photos.
It is with great pleasure I welcome Scottish crime writer, Val Penny, back to Chandler’s Ford Today.
Naturally, she has been busy since we last spoke and is now on the Committee for The Writers’ Summer School, Swanwick as well.
Committee service is voluntary, but it can be rewarding. Most writers like to give back in some way. This is one way to do just that. The school couldn’t run without its volunteers.
So over to Val with the questions.
Welcome back, Val, to Chandler’s Ford Today.
Val, you were telling us in December about your move to SpellBound Books. How has that gone? What books are in the pipeline and when do you hope to see these come out?
Thank you for inviting me back, Allison. It is always good to talk with you about books and all things writing. My move to SpellBound Books has been most rewarding. The directors are approachable and nurturing and take a genuine interest in the authors in their stable. I have a new edition of Hunter’s Blood coming out with SpellBound in July and a new book, Hunter’s Christmas, is due out towards the end of the year.
We met at Swanwick. I was the lost “lamb” wondering where the Swanwick coach was when I emerged from Derby Railway Station blinking in the sunlight (yes, there was some!) back in 2016 only to be guided to the right place by you! I know this is a difficult question but what it is about Swanwick you love most? What made you decide to volunteer for the Committee? Could you also tell us something about the volunteer roles the School needs every August?
I remember that first meeting very well and mixing with people who are as interested in writing as I am gives me great pleasure. I love not having to explain my love of the written word. I was encouraged to volunteer for the committee of The Writers’ Summer School by other members of the committee and by other members past and present. I didn’t know how much work was involved, but I do like the feeling of giving back to the school.
The Writers’ Summer School couldn’t operate without delegates who volunteer to help. The committee are all volunteers. Only the treasurer and the Secretary receive small honoraria. There are also volunteers working throughout the year to improve and update the website.
During the week of the school, there are volunteers who help with every aspect of the school from giving courses to ensuring the social events take place. Many also assist by ensuring new delegates are included, while some help published authors sell their books to enthusiastic readers.
Others make sure slides and sound during lectures, speeches and workshops are in good order, yet more take photos to record the event while the committee continue to liaise with the management of the venue to ensure the smooth running of The Writers’ Summer School.
Each of the volunteers works for the wellbeing of the school and is valued and appreciated by the delegates and the members at the School.
You have also sponsored a competition with Spellbound Books for people to win a one book publishing contract with them and money off vouchers for Swanwick. How did this come about? What are you hoping comes from this? (Sadly, folks, if you were thinking this sounded great, and it does, the deadline ended at the end of February!).
I had the idea of giving back by providing the second and third prizes which offer discounts on the price of The Writers’ Summer School. However, it was not appropriate to offer a free place as there are other competitions which offer such prizes, and I did not want to offend existing sponsors by offering something too similar.
However, when I approached SpellBound Books about whether they would be willing to join me in the sponsorship and offer a publishing deal as the first prize, the directors, Nicola East and Sumaira Wilson readily agreed. Indeed, they plan to attend the school this year and deliver a short course about Digital Publishing and a workshop on Writing a Synopsis. They are also offering 1-1 interviews with those who want to discuss their writing careers with a publishing company.
You write more than one crime series, Val. Goodness knows how given we all only have 24 hours in a day but you do! Can you tell us about your Hunter Wilson (also known as the DI Hunter Wilson Crime Thrillers) novels? Also while The First Cut is the first in your Jane Renwick series, can you let us know how you hope that series will develop?
The Hunter Wilson novels are set in Edinburgh. Hunter is a detective inspector who leads his team to crack down on crime in Scotland’s capital city. I like Hunter because he is loyal, sensible and a good team player. He lives in Leith, on the East side of Edinburgh and plays darts with his local pub team. Hunter takes no nonsense and leads his team wisely and fairly. The next book, Hunter’s Blood, will be published by SpellBound Books next month.
One of the original members of Hunter’s team, detective sergeant Jane Renwick, is another dependable member of Police Scotland, she moved from Edinburgh to work with the major incident team based in Gartcosh near Glasgow, although she still lives in Edinburgh with her civil partner, detective constable Rachael Anderson. Jane had a difficult start in life and that is explored in the first book in the series, The First Cut, which was published by SpellBound Books in March. I am writing the second book in the series, A Fighting Chance, now.
Indeed, The First Cut has been sought by a TV scout with a view to being considered for a TV series. I wonder if your readers might help me by voting for the book? If they are, it would be marvellous. They could download the voting site, booksoffice.com/looking-for-the-next-killer-tv…/…
Please could everybody register as a reader on the site – otherwise it won’t give them their 5 free tickets to allow them to vote. I am most grateful to everyone who has already voted too.
If writing not one but two crime series isn’t enough, you also run writing classes in your part of the world? What do you think the value is of writing classes to writers, especially those new to the craft? What tips would you give to writers to get the most out of these?
As with The Writers’ Summer School, joining a writing class or a writers’ group is a great way to mix with others who enjoy the written word and want to improve the proficiency of their writing. The way to get the most of writing classes is not just to complete the tasks set during the class but also to work on the exercises and ‘polish’ your pieces so that your work continues to improve.
I believe you are planning a collection of short stories, Val. How have you found writing the short form compares with the novel? Which aspects do you prefer in the short form? When will your collection be out? (You are following in excellent footsteps here. Agatha Christie brought out short story collections. I love both her novels and the collections and anticipate keenly the same will be true for yours!).
I am writing my first collection of short stories at present. I am enjoying varying my writing with the new Jane Renwick novel. It keeps my brain active and hones my writing skills.
You have also written non-fiction, particularly Let’s Get Published. Do you plan to write more non-fiction in the future?
I would love to write more non-fiction books, but I just do not have time right now. That is something I look forward to working on further in the future.
I can’t write without a rough schedule (at least) of what I’m doing when, which is why it is so helpful to me to know my CFT posts are out on Friday. I can plan my writing week around that. Val, how do things work out for you here? Do you find a schedule works for you? (I try to build in “gaps” so if something unexpected happens, as it does from time to time, it doesn’t throw me out by too much).
I think a schedule and notes are essential. I have new posts appearing on my website each Wednesday and Saturday. I like to try to keep it interesting. I update my social media morning and evening and I schedule writing my books around my editing and writing class commitments. I live a busy life, but I wouldn’t want to change it.
Million dollar question, Val. Which matters most to you – character or plot? I’m firmly on the side of character because they can drive a plot but I appreciate other writers may have a wonderful plot worked out and then need the characters to “serve” it.
I agree with you. However good a plot is, it will go nowhere fast without the right characters to move it along.
What is your favourite way to market your books?
Gosh, I enjoy meeting my readers in real life to talk to them and hopefully sell a few books. However, far more books are sold by making potential readers aware of them over the internet.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with CFT?
One of the most interesting books I have been given is almost empty on every page! It is a book my daughter has given me and my husband to complete to tell our granddaughter about our lives. Even if you have never written a word before now, think about writing your memoirs. Your family, or other young people that you know will be fascinated by the way the world has changed around you. Writing is not always about selling books, but about recording what you see, hear and experience.
Many thanks, Val, for bringing us up to speed with what has been going on with you.
As I mentioned recently, the writing journey is not meant to be a static one. You do need to develop a reasonable amount of stamina given the writing life comes with downs as well as ups.
I must admit, given I love short stories, I’m looking forward to your collection coming out. Good luck with your writing, Val, and I look forward to chatting with you in person at the bar at Swanwick in August!
Where To Find Out More About Val Penny and Her Books
Val Penny has an Llb degree from the University of Edinburgh and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer but has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store.
Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories, nonfiction books, and novels. Her novels are published by SpellBound Books Ltd.
Val is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and their cat.
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