End of Series 1: Recap


Steve Borley

This short episode brings the first series of Writing Perspectives to an end.

I talk a little bit about each of the ten episodes in the series and think about what I’ve learned from talking to each of my ten insightful and interesting guests.

Thinking particularly about the advice they would each give to aspiring writers: no surprise that ‘write’ is at the top of that list. But a close second, I think, is ‘read’; we have to keep exposing ourselves to writing of all types. Things we enjoy; things that are popular and, perhaps, things we wouldn’t always read.

It is also interesting to reflect on what different people think about publishing and self-publishing. Getting these different perspectives tells me there is probably no right or wrong; it is a personal call for each writer. But I do think we’ve moved on from self-publishing being simply vanity publishing and, somehow, an admission of defeat. In fact, self-publishing can be a powerful signal to publishers that your work can gain a readership.

I have found hearing writers talk about how they approach their work, what it means to them and how they gain readers or an audience inspiring. Hearing their enthusiasm and their satisfaction in creating work they are rightly proud of gives me encouragement to keep on writing.

So that’s what I’ll be doing between series. Refocusing on the stories I want to tell and spending time with the characters I want other people to care about too.

Writing Perspectives will be back in 2018 with a new series of ten episodes.

I hope you enjoy this recap and have enjoyed the first series.


Episode 10: Philip Wark


Philip Wark: in a library, naturally.

In episode 10 I talk to Philip Wark. Philip spent his career managing, running and championing public libraries.

We discuss how writers and their local libraries can successfully work together; what Philip has seen work in his years of running and organising writers’ groups, author talks and much more.

Philip also tells us about what a modern library service is really all about. Spoiler: not just lending books.

He tells us about the roles of writer-in-residence and bibliotherapist. Philip also explains how libraries try and reach out and engage people of all ages across their local communities.

Philip is an enthusiast; hearing him talk about libraries makes it impossible not to want to head straight out to your nearest branch and hug a librarian. He told me about a great deal of activity I didn’t know was going on – and his key message to writers is to go and get to know your local library staff. They really can help introduce you to a local readers and help you develop your profile in your own community.

You can find Philip on Twitter and you can find out about his latest passion, the Midlothian Science Festival too.

You can also find out more about Midlothian Libraries and City of Edinburgh Libraries. If you are in the UK, have look at bookmarkyouribrary which can help you find the libraries nearest to you.

I was also intrigued by the role of the bibliotherapist and wanted to find out more. Good ol’ Wikipedia has an entry (of course) and I found this article from the New Yorker. See what you think.

I hope you enjoy this episode.


Episode 9: Sam Pilger


Sam Pilger

In this episode I get a very different perspective as I talk to sports writer Sam Pilger.

Sam has spent over twenty years writing magazine features, mainly on football (soccer) and cricket. In that time he has interviewed many of the most famous names – from Bobby Charlton to Lebron James; from Sachin Tendulkar to Sir Alex Ferguson and many, many more.

Sam tells us about how he approaches these interviews, the reality of the interviewing busy celebrities and what he feels the interviewer owes the interviewee.

He has also been commissioned to write a number of acclaimed books and – so has great experience working with commissioning editors and collaborating with other writers.

Sam has also worked as a ghostwriter. We talk especially about his experience writing a Diary of a Season with England and Manchester United brothers Gary and Phil Neville. It is fascinating to listen to Sam explain how the relationship between a ghost and the famous names works and how the final book take shape.

It is great to spend half an hour in Sam’s company. He is a writer who approaches his work in a decidedly professional manner; aspiring writers of all types can learn from his clear-eyed approach to what he is doing and why he is doing it. He talks honestly about the challenges of establishing yourself as a writer and gives us all plenty to think about.

You can find out more about Sam’s work from Amazon  or follow him on Twitter.

I hope you enjoy this episode


Episode 8: Neal Sillars


Neal Sillars

Welcome to episode 8, where I talk to writer Neal Sillars.

Neal is the author of five books that, on the face of it, seem very different. His work includes a thriller (Revolutionary Tax), a novel infused with Celtic folklore (A Conspiracy of Ravens), an historical novel set over a thousand years of Spanish history (The Blood of Don Juan de Vargas) and a hard-hitting homage to his native Scotland (If you fly with the crows).

Neal explains there are, in fact, thematic similarities to them all that reflect some of the bigger questions that are important to him. We discuss how that came about: whether this was a conscious decision before writing or if these preoccupations emerge through the writing process.

Neal talks about drawing influences from his favourite work in Scots, Spanish, Galician and Portuguese – and we discuss Neal’s use of Scots language in If you fly with the crows. We look at the challenges that presented but also the very important reasons why it was the right decision for him to make.

He tells us about his approach to planning and research, and we discuss the notion of starting a story. We talk about the very important decision all writers have to make about exactly when to bring their readers or audience into their story.

Neal also talks about the challenge of writing around a busy day-to-day life: how does he do it?

If is fascinating to spend half an hour with Neal. What he has to say about both the authenticity of voices in a work and where a story starts are big questions that every aspiring writer should think about. Hearing about his experience as a writer is interesting, instructive and inspiring.

You can find his work on Amazon and also find him on Facebook.

I hope you enjoy this episode – please leave me a comment or, better still a (five star) review on iTunes.


Bonus Episode: Andrew Okey Reads from ‘The Alternative’


In episode 5 we heard from first-time novelist Andrew Okey.

He told us about his experience of writing The Alternative and his adventures in trying to get it published.

I’m delighted to say that Andrew has recorded a short reading from The Alternative, especially for Writing Perspectives.

I hope you enjoy it.

Please leave me a comment below, let me know what you think.


Episode 7: Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen


Welcome to the seventh episode of Writing Perspectives. I talk to writer and journalist Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen.

Arnar can be considered to be the ‘go to guy’ for everything to do with popular music in Iceland.

He worked for over ten years for the Morgunblaðið daily newspaper in Reykjavik – where he reviewed countless gigs and interviewed local and international musical stars. In 2012 an anthology of his columns was published as Tonlist er…..Tonlist (Music is…..Music).

He’s also the co-author of other books on popular music including Iceland’s Manager: All the Tricks in the Book, about Iceland’s equivalent of Simon Cowell, and of The 100 Greatest Icelandic Albums of All Time.

Arnar is currently working on his latest commission, entitled Icelandic Pop; the definitive account of the history of popular music in Iceland.

This is alongside finishing his PhD at the Reid School of Music at Edinburgh University – on the social dynamics of Icelandic musicians. He is also the programme director of Media and Communication at the University of Iceland.

Talking to Arnar about his approach to reviewing and criticism was really interesting: both as an insight into that process as a writer but also from the perspective of someone producing work to be reviewed. Discussing the responsibility of the critic to the artist was illuminating – as was hearing about Arnar’s experience working to a commission, working with editors and working with publishers.

Arnar shares his approach to planning and structure, and we also talk about his PhD. The notion of the boundary between amateur and professional is something that applies to aspiring writers as much as to musicians.

Spending half an hour with such a deep-thinking enthusiast – with such specialist knowledge in his field – was fun and inspiring. There’s plenty here for all aspiring writers to get their teeth into.

If you want to know more about Arnar, visit his website or Facebook page.

His academic profile is also available – as is more information about his Reykjavik music walking tours.

I’m sure you will enjoy this episode – please leave me a comment, either here or as a review on iTunes.


Episode 6: Zu Dominiak


In this episode I talk to illustrator and comixator Zu Dominiak.

Zu is a talented artist who creates comic strips; she tells stories using words and pictures. We talk about how the interplay between images and narrative influences her work.

She talks us through her planning process and we discuss the challenge of ‘killing your darlings’ when this can involve carefully crafted images as well as words.

Zu is a collaborator, so we talk about the realities of working with other people on a creative enterprise. We discuss the challenges, of course, but also look at the benefits to the writer (and artist) of collaboration and how that helps you develop your own work.

And we also talk about the power of networking. Zu tells us how much she has gained from her friends at the Edinburgh League of Comics.

Like all writers and artists, Zu needs to find an audience-readership for her work. So we talk about the genuine pleasure of selling work one-to-one, the fun of meeting people who enjoy what you do and the excitement of her work going to San Diego ComicCon

I gained a lot from talking to Zu and I think she has loads of insights that are valuable to any aspiring writer – even one like me that can barely draw stick men.

Zu’s work is intelligent, funny, dark and serious all at the same time – I’d strongly recommend a visit to her website and  that you follow her weekly strip Monty & Zuzu’s WTF on Twitter or Instagram.

It is well worth keeping your eye on Monty & Zuzu as Zu tells me this will be kickstarting again very soon.

She has also made a load of her sketches and developmental work available here – so you can see her planning notes for real.

And here is her course at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, part of Dundee University.

I hope you enjoy this episode. Please leave a comment below or a review on iTunes.



Episode 5: Andrew Okey


In this episode I talk to first-time novelist Andrew Okey.

We discuss what spurred him on to take time out to concentrate on writing and about his approach to writing the manuscript for his novel, The Alternative.

We cover Andrew’s approach to planning his work, in particular the challenge he had with The Alternative in managing three different narrative strands.

We go on to talk about what steps he’s been taking to get his novel published – and his take on self-publishing.

Andrew is a fascinating guest. In the last couple of years he has done many of the things aspiring writers dream of doing: taking a sabbatical from the day job to write, completing a full novel and getting on the merry-go-round of publishers and literary agents.

Talking to him about these very fresh experiences gave me a real insight into the joys and challenges of taking the leap to becoming a writer.

I’ve had the great privilege of reading The Alternative. It’s really good. So keep your eye on this site as, coming soon, will be exclusive access to an extract from Andrew’s first novel.

I hope you enjoy this episode – please leave a comment or post a review on iTunes.



Episode 4: Mel Woodend



Welcome to episode 4 where I talk to writer and poet Mel Woodend.

Mel’s poetry is heavily influenced by her love of nature and the outdoors. We explore the relationship between her work the inspiration she gains from the world around her in the English Midlands.

Mel is a self-published poet so we explore the work she’s had to do to gain an audience and readership for her work; in particular we talk about the things she’s done to launch her latest collection – Natural Colours – and what she learned from putting herself out there as a poet.

We also discuss Mel’s experience as someone who has committed herself to being a full time writer. We talk about her expectations of what the life of professional writer would be like and how that has compared to the reality.

And we talk about the hidden pleasures and challenges of making writing your main purpose every day.

Mel is someone who has taken the leap from aspiring writer to full time writer. I learned a lot as she shared her thoughts on what the job of a writer entails over and above simply writing.

You can find out more about Mel and her poetry from her website and you can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Mel also has an Amazon author page here.

I hope you enjoy this episode – please leave me a comment here or put a review on iTunes.


Episode 3: John McKinstry


In episode 3 I talk to John McKinstry.

John is a writer of non-fiction and also published his first novel, Life and Other Contact Sports, in 2016.

We talk about what he learned in writing his business self-help books – about what he calls the “bad stuff” like redundancy, bullying and dealing with anger – and how that that helped him when he set out to write fiction.

John tells us about his approach to planning and how that compares when writing fiction and non-fiction.

John’s novel is set in the world of ice hockey, so we look at the challenges of writing about sport; about making the action come alive and the reaction of passionate sports fans to fictional depictions of their sport.

We also talk about how John has got his books out there and available for readers. He’s taken both the self-publishing route and has worked with a publisher too, so he has a good insight into the benefits and challenges of each approach.

John is very good company and one of life’s enthusiasts; with so much experience he is definitely someone aspiring writers can learn from.

If you want to find out more about John, you can access John’s Amazon author page here

I hope you enjoy this episode. If so: please leave a comment below or – even better – a review on iTunes.

These are the things that make a podcaster happy and it tells me I’m creating episodes you want to hear.

Happy listening – and happy writing.


Episode 2: Lucy McCarraher


LucyMcCarraher avatar

In this episode I have the great pleasure of speaking to Lucy McCarraher.

Lucy has a huge amount of experience in writing and publishing, starting her first publishing company whilst at university. She has been a book and magazine editor, a print journalist, a TV journalist, a writers’ agent, an editor for Methuen and has developed, written and edited TV and video series.

In 2011, Lucy co-founded Rethink Press with her business partner Joe Gregory. As Managing Editor, Lucy works with entrepreneurs and business leaders and helps get them into print. She also coaches and mentors writers and had a postgraduate diploma in teaching creative writing and literacy.

She is the author of ten books including (with Joe Gregory)  How to Write Your Book Without The Fuss and How to Write Fiction Without The Fuss. Lucy has also written three novels, Her first  – Blood and Water – was followed by Kindred Spirits and Mr Mikey’s Ladies.

Lucy has great experience and insight as both a publisher and a writer; with both fiction and non-fiction. We talk about the publisher versus self-publishing debate, how her experience as publisher influences her writing and how writers and publishers can best work together.

You can find out more about Rethink Press here and find Lucy’s Amazon author page here.

I hope you enjoy listening to Lucy as much as I enjoyed talking to her . Please let me know in the comments below or via Twitter and Facebook.

** NB: I sound a little bit watery in this recording as my audio equipment supplier gave me a mic that didn’t work so I had to use my basic laptop mic – but Lucy is so interesting and insightful it would have been a crime not to share this with you. So please bear with me: it’s a one-off in terms of sound quality **

Thanks for listening.


Episode 1: Martin Cathcart Froden


MCF picture


In this episode I have the privilege of speaking to Martin Cathcart Froden.

Martin is a novelist and poet.  Originally from Sweden, he has lived in Canada, Israel, Argentina, almost Finland and London. He’s worked as a drummer, avocado picker, magazine editor and prison teacher.

In 2015 he won the Dundee International Book Prize with Devil take the
Hindmost (now published by Freight Books), and his story The Underwater Cathedral won the 2013 BBC Opening Lines competition and has been broadcast on Radio 4.

He is currently Poet in Residence at the National Trust Scotland and is in the middle of a doctorate in Creative Writing / Criminology / Architecture in Glasgow, where he lives with his wife and three young children.

Martin and I discuss his experiences as a first time novelist and of working with a publisher. We also talk about his approach to working with others when leading creative writing sessions and the role of the writer in taking creative writing out into the community.

Martin also tells me about his experiences as poet in residence and how he approaches his role.

You can find out more about Martin from his homepage where you can also hear The Underwater Cathedral.

You can also follow him on Twitter and can find Devil Take the Hindmost here.

I hope you enjoy this episode. Please let me know in the comments or via Twitter and Facebook.