Just back from the Edinburgh International Book Festival and we all had an AMAZING time. Here’s what we got up to. 

First we checked into our lovely Hotel Tigerlily, just down the road from Charlotte Square, then a short hop down the road to the festival itself.

We loved the venue for the festival - Charlotte Square in Edinburgh, taken over by a melee of tents and walkways, full of bookshops, cafes, writers and readers and general chatty loveliness. The weather was sunshiny-showery but the rain didn’t matter as we just listened to the raindrops on the canvas well protected from the downpour.

We had a wander round the bookshop before checking in and Poppy made a beeline for a certain book she spotted on the Today at the Festival shelf:

We saw that my venue had been changed - to a bigger tent! (Perhaps more tickets had sold than was expected…who knows!)

Firstly, I had an appointment with photographer Chris Close, who has been producing a wonderful exhibition of pictures of the authors at the festival. Simon took some photos of me having my photo taken! Chris was very chatty and nice and put me at my ease. I’m not used to this sort of thing! And it all seems very odd, when I’ve been sitting alone in my study for all these years…

And here’s Chris’s final picture, up in the festival exhibition. Looks brilliant, Chris! Thank you.

Then we went into the Authors’ Yurt where I needed to check in. We were all welcomed and given our backstage passes:

Even Poppy’s cat Chester required identification…

The Yurt is like a green room for the participants and is very chilled out and relaxed, with nice things to drink and nibble on. We saw quite a few of the great and good around and about, including Simon Armitage, Menzies Campbell, John Mullan and Haruki Murakami. Soon after, my fellow event friend Debbie Taylor arrived - author of Herring Girl and editor of Mslexia - and our chair Julia Eccleshare, Guardian children’s fiction editor. We had a chat through our event and how we wanted to order things, and then my lovely editor Suzie Doore arrived. 

I was starting to feel pretty nervous, but with Simon, Poppy and Suzie to reassure me - and hearing that my mum and brother Robert had arrived at the venue - cheered me up and took my mind off things. Here’s Simon - my rock - proudly wearing his lanyard in the yurt:

Debbie and I were asked to do a photo call with some press photographers (where I stood very awkwardly, feeling extremely self-conscious - sorry to those photographers if I presented a rather stiff and terrified demeanour!) and then we were set up with microphones - thanks to my sound lady who lent me her little shoulder bag to pop my microphone in, as I didn’t have any pockets!

And here we are, our little family, chilling out in the wonderful Authors’ Yurt:

We walked over to the venue and I met Roland Gulliver, the deputy director of the festival and very busy and all-round very nice chap.

Now it was time to go in, and I had to swallow my nerves, especially when we went up on the stage and saw perhaps 40 people or so sitting before us. I was thrilled though to see so many people, as I wondered if (apart from Debbie’s many fans) if my contingent would basically be my family and my editor and that’s it! So it was wonderful to see all those nice people there and I thank all of you for coming!

Here we are, me, Debbie and Julia doing out stuff on stage at the Baillie Gifford Corner Theatre:

We both did some readings from our books and discussed child characters, voice and style. There was only time for one question from the audience, sadly, as I was really interested to hear what our audience wanted to know about. Our question was from a young lady who is a writer herself and asked a very interesting query about how to keep on track with a long manuscript when you keep getting waylaid by criticism and editing and other interruptions. Our consensus was to just keep writing and not over-edit as you go along, as you’re more likely to break the flow. Perhaps don’t even show it anyone before you’ve finished a first draft, as other voices can interfere with your own. Yet we agreed too that all writers are different and some will spend hours over one paragraph before moving onto the next, but that’s not how Debbie and I do it presently, and that suits us.

Afterwards, we were in the festival bookshop to meet some audience members and sign some books. 

It was so lovely to meet all of you lovely people who came to buy books - thank you so much - and to hear your interesting questions too.

So, the main event was done and I could relax a bit! I did enjoy it hugely in the end but I was pretty shaky beforehand and glad it was time for ice cream! Then my family and Suzie all went to a restaurant called Gusto just down the road. Here are Poppy and I outside it later on that evening:

But the festival wasn’t over for me yet, as I had kindly been asked by Roland Gulliver if I’d do another reading from THE VISITORS for an evening event in the Guardian Spiegel tent for Jura Unbound at 9pm. So, after saying a fond goodbye to my lovely mum and brother Rob (very sad to see them go and very grateful they came), we headed back over to the square, which was looking very sparkly and atmospheric in the darkness. 

I have to admit I was more nervous about this bit than any of it! I’ve never done a stand-up reading to a microphone on stage before, and the lights were very bright and I was all a bit wobbly and starstruck! I rather like this image Simon took below, with the hazy lights shining and the mysterious darkness beyond, as that just about sums up my state of mind as I stepped up there!

But I got through it and the audience were very polite and listened beautifully - thank you to everyone there. A delightful young lady called Eleni came up afterwards to get her book signed too, which was lovely.

And we were done! A wander round the bookshop, a cup of Earl Grey and a chocolate brownie later, and we were finally in bed for the night, ready for our day of sightseeing in the morning.

After a fabulous breakfast at Tigerlily we hit Edinburgh. The castle in the morning:

with amazing views of this beautiful city of Edinburgh:

and down the Royal Mile, with all its wonderful street performers on the way:

Next was a quick visit to the amazing Blackwell’s Bookshop on 3 floors in the heart of the city, where I’d been kindly asked to sign some stock by Ellie, who was also the one who told us to visit the Museum of Scotland (more on that later - thank Ellie, it was brilliant!) We were met by the lovely Ewa who looked after us and was very interesting to talk to. All the books had been lovingly prepared - thanks guys!

Then we found a lovely great pile of them on the festival display table:

And on to the brilliant Museum of Scotland in the afternoon, where we could have happily stayed all day, there was so much fascinating stuff to see:

A wonderful museum, highly recommended and FREE! Thanks to all the brilliant staff there. We had to rush off to get our train and though we were all shattered, we did not want to leave beautiful Edinburgh, particularly as there was still so much to see.

All photos by our resident expert photographer, my lovely fella AKA Simon.

So that was Edinburgh. Thanks to Simon and Poppy, my mum, my brother Robert and my editor Suzie for coming along. It was an honour to be invited, a privilege to appear with Debbie Taylor, Julia Eccleshare and my fellow participants in Jura Unbound. Thanks also to all the audience members and book buyers who came - it was wonderful to see you all there. And thank you so much to the Edinburgh International Book Festival for a wonderful experience and a weekend that all three of us will never forget.



Next up in my series of interviews with literary/creative folk is Rebecca Mascull. Rebecca’s debut novel , The Visitors, was released earlier this year about a deaf-blind girl and some spooky goings-on in Victorian England.

She’s appearing at this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival where she’s also…



To celebrate the paperback publication tomorrow of ‘Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase’, I’ve interviewed the lovely Louise Walters about the book.

[1] Tell us a little bit about ‘Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase’. 
It’s a story about two women, the centenarian Dorothea and her thirty-something grand-daughter, Roberta. Roberta discovers a letter from the war years that seems to contradict all that she understands about her grandmother’s past. There’s romance and a bookshop and secrets and loss and discoveries. 
[2] The book is a dual-time narrative, using parallel stories from the present day and the 1940s. Which story came first to you and how did you develop the two strands? 
The Dorothy/Dorothea story came first. That was all I had in the early years as I was thinking about the characters and their story. Then I decided I needed a modern day strand too, something to bounce around on if you like, to help develop the original ideas. At first Roberta wasn’t related to Dorothy. She just worked in the bookshop and discovered the letter. That didn’t really work and a critique told me something I already knew, really - there needed to be some form of connection between Dorothy and Roberta. So I turned them into grandmother and grand-daughter and things flowed better from there. I had to work hard on making Roberta’s story as interesting as Dorothy’s, and I’m not sure I quite achieved that. But that’s the risk of dual timelines, one is almost always more gripping than the other.
[3] What kind of research did you have to do to render the 1940s sections of the book? 
I read a few books, looked a few things up on the internet. I don’t go a bundle on research. I like to get my story straight in my mind, and have a first draft down, before I research. I don’t want any clangers in there, any silly and obvious historical inaccuracies,but at the same time, the story comes first for me. The thing I try to strive for is getting the language right in dialogue. There’s nothing more jarring than reading a modern day expression coming from the mouth of a character living years before the expression was coined. I try to avoid that.  
[4] Can you explain some of the editing process this novel went through from first to final draft? 
It went through twenty two drafts.They weren’t total re-writes. But once I’d got to the point where I’d made lots of changes, I felt it was time to call it a new draft. It evolved over several years. I had it critiqued in 2012 which resulted in some quite big changes, including making Dorothy and Roberta related, as mentioned. Then I was fortunate enough to be signed by my agent Hannah Ferguson, who also had some editorial ideas. Then of course I worked with my editor Suzie Doore at Hodder. There were four edits: structural, line, copy, and proof. There were changes throughout these edits. It was a great experience. 
[5] Can you tell us anything about your next book? 
I’ve written a third novel (I have a “bottom drawer” novel like most writers, I suspect!) and I’ve been working with my agent on that. It’s kind of a triple time-line this time, and it was confusing the hell out of me until I opened a spreadsheet! It’s about a forty-something woman trying to make sense of her past. That’s the essence of it. There’s revenge, love, atonement, friendship, redemption, a bit more revenge… classic themes that are so much fun to write. I hope it will be my second published novel. Fingers crossed!
Thanks to Louise for such interesting answers. Wishing you great success with your lovely novel.
See my review of this book below:


This dual-narrative novel follows present-day Roberta - who works in a bookshop and finds letters and cards inside the old books – and 1940s Dorothy who meets a Polish pilot during the Battle of Britain. Secrets from the past resurface chapter by chapter as the relationship between Roberta and Dorothy is gradually revealed. The lives of these two women and the conflict between their inner feelings and the outer world – and for both, a reluctance to fully engage with that outer world, looking in from outside, always on the edge of things – are beautifully rendered by the writer. Traditional aspects of women’s lives - such as childbirth, relationships with parents, marriage, adultery, cookery and laundry – are explored in a sensitive and careful way, all the while the central mystery unfolding and drawing the reader onwards. I particularly enjoyed the scenes between Dorothy and Jan, her Polish pilot, which achieved a kind of timeless quality which I did not want to end and was eager to return to. I’m trying to avoid giving away any plot spoilers, but suffice to say there is a central scene recollected by Dorothy – told in flawless stream of consciousness – which was devastating and harrowing to read, brilliantly done – you’ll know what I mean when you get there. The characters will live on long in the memory, and the scenes in Dorothy’s kitchen and in the fields surrounding her farm are etched in my mind. A lovely book, touching and very moving.



Since the paperback of THE VISITORS came out the other week, I’ve been tidying up my website with some new links to articles and reviews.

See the other pages on this site for all sorts of information on THE VISITORS and other aspects of writing and reading: 

  • CONTACT/LINKS is where you’ll find loads of online articles by me & interviews, as well as who to call if you want a review copy, author appearances etc.
  • THE VISITORS tells you about the ideas behind the book and there are links to plenty of the latest online reviews so you can see what other people thought of the book.
  • READING MATTERS and WRITING TIPS offer my thoughts on books and how to structure them.
  • IMAGES shows pictures of some of the elements that have influenced THE VISITORS.

Thanks for reading. :-)



THE VISITORS, Rebecca Mascull’s debut novel, is published today in paperback! Here is another exclusive extract from her beautiful book. We hope you enjoy it…

I dress with care. I insist I do my own hair but ensure it is carefully checked by Lottie. We walk down to the hop garden and find the…



Here is an exclusive extract from Rebecca Mascull’s brilliant debut novel, THE VISITORS:

I know two figures approach by the stirring of air and their tread. One is Father and the other follows: tiptoe-light, tentative. Father pats my tear-dried cheek. I grasp his hand, do not know the common way…



August 27th 6.30-7.30pm Waterstones Lincoln High Street - I’ll be there - will you?! All you need do is pop into the shop and reserve your ticket or telephone 01522 540011 to have a ticket put aside for you.

There’ll be a reading from THE VISITORS, author Q & A, paperback book sales and an opportunity to have your book signed by the author. 

So, come to the beautiful cathedral city of Lincoln, talk books a while and get the perfect summer read or gift for a friend. Hope to see you there.



We thought you might like to know a little bit more about the inspiration behind THE VISITORS. Here are Rebecca’s answers to some readers’ questions:

Where did the idea for the Visitors come from?

I’ve mentioned the deaf students I worked with and Helen Keller. Many of the other features of…



9th August 1 - 3pm I’ll be at Waterstones in Grimsby, signing copies of the newly released paperback of THE VISITORS. Come along and get your copy signed with a personal message. Perfect summer read or presents for friends and family.

Waterstones Grimsby:

Unit G - Baxtergate
Freshney Place
DN31 1QL

Telephone: 01472 353212 

Hope to see you there. :-)

Details of an evening author event at Lincoln Waterstones later in August coming up soon…




Rebecca Mascull will be speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival this summer!

Alongside fellow novelist Debbie Taylor, Rebecca be speaking about ‘The Ghosts in Our Heads’, from 3.30-4.30pm on Saturday 23rd August.

To read more about the event, and to book tickets, click here.