Nikola Scott: From Editor to Author

Nikola Scott: From Editor to Author

Nikola Scott, author of My Mother’s Shadow and Summer of Secrets, talks about her journey from working as an editor to becoming author.

I always assumed that becoming a writer after being a fiction editor for many years was the most natural thing in the world. The same industry, the same understanding of how a book is constructed, similar tools which, with a bit of tweaking, could surely be made to work just fine on the other side of the fence. In reality, however, for me at least, making that switch came with an unexpectedly steep learning curve.

Yes, both use the same toolbox, the same shared knowledge of plot and structure, voice and characters. But there are many additional skills that set them apart, which all need to be learned from the bottom up, the way you’d have to acquire any new craft. But one of the most crucial things I had to figure out for myself was the difference in perspective.

Editing a manuscript gives you a birds-eye view of a story. You circle above it, see it in its entirety. Far away from the foaming whirl of ideas down in the creative fray, you’re able to analyse how the cogs and wheels fit together, you can pinpoint what is working and what isn’t. And because that story isn’t a part of your soul, isn’t you, you’re able to take it apart and see exactly how it should be stitched back together.

As a writer, stuck down in the heat of things, you rarely get a birds-eye view and things are definitely not calm. Most days, it’s all you can do to keep track of moving pieces, wrestle them into shape and hope for the best. That story and you are intrinsically interwoven, you’re your own fiercest critic and most loyal advocate (sometimes both at the same time, an impossible and fairly exhausting combination!), emotions are generally running high and there’s little room for stepping back from it all to take stock.

During the first year of writing My Mother’s Shadow, my editor-me and my writer-me were locked in perpetual combat. At every turn, I wanted to be soaring above, analysing, organising and reshuffling narrative pieces, when I was really meant to be down below, creating those pieces in the first place. It took me a while to fully embrace the messiness, the chaos and the unpredictable twists and turns of creative free-fall and to recognise all the small, gold-dust-moments that make writing so special. A character that makes you cry, right there at your desk. A knot in the plot that suddenly, after days of picking at it, unravels so that everything falls into place. That pure, unadulterated exhilaration when a scene finally bursts into being and feels right, without analysis, without birds-eye view, without cogs or wheels or anything else at all. Those moments are magic.

Two books in, my editor-me and writer-me have made their peace with each other. And these days, every time I get to hand over my manuscript to my own wonderful editor, I simply feel very lucky to be able to sit back and watch someone else soaring above the moving pieces of my story.

Nikola’s latest book, Summer of Secrets, is out in eBook and paperback now!

A riveting and heart-breaking novel about dark secrets and dangerous romances…

August 1939

At peaceful Summerhill, orphaned Maddy hides from the world and the rumours of war. Then her adored sister Georgina returns from a long trip with a new friend, the handsome Victor. Maddy fears that Victor is not all he seems, but she has no idea just what kind of danger has come into their lives…

Today

Chloe is newly pregnant. This should be a joyful time, but she is fearful for the future, despite her husband’s devotion. When chance takes her to Summerhill, she’s drawn into the mystery of what happened there decades before. And the past reaches out to touch her in ways that could change everything…

Exclusive extract from Georgia Toffolo’s Always Smiling: A letter to my fourteen-year-old self

Exclusive extract from Georgia Toffolo’s Always Smiling: A letter to my fourteen-year-old self

From Made in Chelsea to I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, Georgia ‘Toff’ Toffolo has lived the last few years on a very public stage. We’re really excited today to share an exclusive extract from her book, Always Smiling, where she shares a letter to her 14 year-old-self.

Dear Georgia,

Your teens are confusing, and, at the moment, you’re trying to figure out who you are, where you belong, and what’s important to you. The very first thing I want to tell you is that you’ve got this. You don’t know what lies ahead of you, but you don’t need to worry about anything. Right now, you’re as confident as you’ll ever be. Celebrate it! You’re full of energy, and you’ll embrace every adventure that comes your way. Never lose that spirit, because that’s more important than any exam or bit of wisdom.

Your enthusiasm is your greatest asset. However, exams and grades are important, and sometimes people make you feel as though it isn’t cool to care. You’re smart, you like school and you want to do well. This isn’t anything to be ashamed of. On the contrary, you should be proud of the fact that you’re a bit of a nerd. In the future, you’ll realize that there’s never any reason to hide your intelligence. Working hard leads to great things. Ignore anyone who makes you feel as though you shouldn’t be pleased with your grades, or that it isn’t OK to try hard. They’re not on the same path as you. One day, young girls will be looking up to you, and you’ll want them to embrace the opportunities they have at school. Try your best to do the same.

However, while your teachers can’t fault your work, they do have some problems with your uniform – or, rather, your interpretation of the uniform. Please brush your hair. I know that this is the look right now, and everyone looks as though so many birds are nesting on their head that David Attenborough might turn up with a camera crew – but you’ll look back and wonder why you basically let your hair turn into dreadlocks. Think about your poor biology teacher, who keeps sending you out of the classroom with a comb. Don’t just slowly walk back to your boarding house, and then come back with the same hair. It’s an insult to his intelligence and yours. Also, don’t laugh, but, in about five years, you’ll be obsessed with blow-dries and hot rollers. Keep your hair in good condition and you’ll be glad you did.

While we’re here, can you please be a bit more chill with the bronzer? I know that everyone loves caking their face in shimmery powder, but you’ll look back at old photos and wonder why you always look as though you have poo on your face. Right now, you have beautiful skin – one day, you’ll feel much more self-conscious about it, and you’ll wish that you showed it off when you could!

Dealing with your skin is going to be tough, and, although you can’t imagine it now, it will make you feel insecure and self-conscious as you enter the adult world. However, when you open up about your skincare struggles, you’ll inspire thousands of women who face similar problems, and this will make you feel amazing. Also, never, ever let anyone make you feel bad about wanting to put concealer on from the second that you wake up. This is your inalienable right!

There’s nothing wrong with caring about your appearance. As a junior cadet, you will constantly be called out for not having the right uniform, wearing too much make-up and, once again, not brushing your hair or tying it back. Your poor platoon will constantly be doing extra push-ups as a punishment, because of your endless uniform infringements.

Here are a few hacks that you’ll wish you’d known a bit earlier on. If you rub some Vaseline on your boots, they’ll look as though you’ve been polishing them for hours and hours. Ironing a crease in your combat trousers takes ages, but if you’ve forgotten to sort out your laundry, you can quickly make a fake crease with a pair of hair straighteners. Most importantly, your eccentric style will be rewarded when you’re given the Combat Barbie award at the end of the course! That’s quite an accolade! Of course, Combat Barbie will eventually become Jungle Barbie, and everything you’ve learned as a cadet will be incredibly useful to you when you’re dealing with snakes and food rationing.

Being a cadet is difficult, but you’re learning about endurance and discovering that you might be little, but you can be incredibly tough when you put your mind to it. The experience will also show you that you need to stay true to yourself. In some situations, you’ll feel as though you don’t fit in straight away, but it’s your differences that are your strengths, not doing the same thing as everyone else. Right now, you’re making friends who will be in your life for a long time, as well as discovering what you’re like as a friend, and what you need from your friends.

Most of your best mates are boys, and you feel a bit selfconscious about this. When you look around, it seems as though every other girl at school has lots of really close girlfriends, and you feel sad and excluded. Don’t worry. All that matters is the way that your friends make you feel, and you’ve not failed because most of your best friends are boys. When you’re a bit older, you’ll have the most brilliant gang of guys in your life, and you’ll be closer to them than anyone you’ve ever met. Being friends with boys means that you can escape some of the bitchiness and competitiveness that you’ve noticed from some of the other girls. However, don’t discount female friends. Puberty is difficult for everyone, and you’ll meet some brilliant women in the future, when you’ve all come out the other side.

You’re still getting over some really awful bullying. A couple of years ago, you dealt with one of the toughest, most painful experiences imaginable, when that group of girls was so cruel, so frequently, that you ended up moving schools. You’ll never really understand what made them do that, or why they chose you as a target. However, in the future, you’ll realize that bullies are never happy. Hurt people hurt people, and those girls must have been desperately insecure and in a lot of pain to make you feel the way they did. Being friends with boys makes you feel safe – you’ve never seen them pick on people this way. However, you’re about to make a friend who will change your life.

There will be times when you think that boys are exciting, mysterious creatures that know the secrets of the universe. You’ll get over this pretty quickly. I have two words for you – Tom Ricketts.

Right now, he’s the fittest guy in the whole school. Sometimes, you and your friends are late for lessons because you spot him somewhere and need to stop for a good gaze. Tom Ricketts seems like a distant sex god. But, in five years, you’ll be snogging him in a club in Oxford! I did this for you, teenage Toff, because I knew how excited you’d be, if you could only know what’s going to happen! Now, Tom isn’t this cool, remote film-star hottie. He’s a mate. He’s also still pretty good looking!

While we’re here, we need to talk about FOMO. At the moment, you’re so desperate to be in the middle of everything that it’s interfering with your sleep. You’ll stay up all night and power through until the next day before you’ll miss a single second of anything, whether it’s school, gossip or fun. This is going to get worse before it gets better. If you think you’re glued to your phone now, in a few years’ time, it will be surgically attached to your hand.

Instagram and WhatsApp don’t rule your life yet, but beware! I know it sounds insane, but you’ll be able to see pictures of every single party that happens each weekend, including the ones you can’t go to. Try to make peace with the fact that you’re a human being who needs at least eight hours of sleep a night, and who can only physically be in one place at a time. Some nights, you’ll need to stay in. That’s OK. It’s better to go out a few times and really enjoy it, than to go out constantly and have a so-so time.  There will always be another party to go to, and you’ll enjoy it more if you’re occasionally in bed by eleven.

Over the next few years, politics will start to play a bigger part in your life. Being informed and opinionated really matters to you, and you’re going to start becoming really passionate about current affairs and understanding what is happening in the wider world. This is going to be a life-long love affair. Embrace it! Get as geeky as you dare! Learn as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to go to events and ask loads of questions. However, do remember that, occasionally, what you say may come back to bite you on the bottom, and, even when you’re joking, some people will take your comments very seriously. You may, at some point, regret calling a senior politician a ‘sex god’ and then having to apologize to his wife. However, if you can laugh this off, you can deal with anything!

Even though you sometimes feel anxious and insecure, right now you’re almost fearless. Also, you’re really good at living in the moment. You’re discovering how to have fun, surrounding yourself with the people who make you happy, and working out

what your values are. Most importantly, you’re learning how to stay true to them and be your authentic self. You’re quietly confident, and you have a natural energy and positivity that draws people to you. Right now, your life is fairly easy; in the future, it might become slightly more difficult. There’s nothing to be scared of. That’s all part of growing up. But, as you learn to take care of yourself and start to become more independent, you might find yourself becoming more cautious, and increasingly aware of your own vulnerabilities. That’s totally natural, but I want you to promise that you’ll never forget about the girl you are right now: the girl who says ‘yes’, who rushes into rooms beaming; the girl who always sees the upside and realizes that the more challenging the opportunity seems, the more exciting it could become.

You’re going to be presented with more opportunities than you ever thought possible. You’ll see the world, be on T.V., get sent free clothes and meet your heroes. People will recognize you in Waitrose, while you’re buying loo roll. This is going to be every bit as weird and amazing as it sounds. Be proud and excited!

Seize every chance you have, and enjoy the ride. But, also, don’t be afraid to step back from it every so often. Try to be with your family and friends, and the people who truly know you, not just the ones who think they do. You’re going to become a role model for many women. Think about what’s important to you right now.

While lots of people will want to copy you because they like your clothes or your lifestyle, remember that those are all fun extras – and that the most important thing is always to be kind. It’s cool to be kind, and you must remember to be kind to yourself, too.

Finally, promise me that you’ll enjoy everything. You’re going to make mistakes. You’re always going to look back at your life and occasionally wish you hadn’t bought that dress, or that you’d gone to a different party, or didn’t kiss that boy. You can only regret what you don’t do, and if you never get it wrong, you won’t learn anything. You’re going to have so much fun. Enjoy every second.

Lots of love,

You

Don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Always Smiling, out on the 6th September! 

Our September 99p eBooks!

Our September 99p eBooks!

With Autumn just around the corner (we’re ready for some cosy knitwear here at Team Bookends) it’s time to load up your eReader with some excellent reads just in time for those rainy weekends!

The Island, Victoria Hislop

The acclaimed million-copy number one bestseller and winner of Richard & Judy’s Summer Read 2006 from Victoria Hislop is a dramatic tale of four generations, rent by war, illicit love, violence and leprosy, from the thirties, through the war, to the present day.

On the brink of a life-changing decision, Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother’s past. But Sofia has never spoken of it. All she admits to is growing up in a small Cretan village before moving to London. When Alexis decides to visit Crete, however, Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend, and promises that through her she will learn more.

Arriving in Plaka, Alexis is astonished to see that it lies a stone’s throw from the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga – Greece’s former leper colony. Then she finds Fotini, and at last hears the story that Sofia has buried all her life: the tale of her great-grandmother Eleni and her daughters and a family rent by tragedy, war and passion. She discovers how intimately she is connected with the island, and how secrecy holds them all in its powerful grip…

Larchfield, Polly Clarke

When Dora moves to the small Scottish town with her new husband, she doesn’t realise how lonely it will be at home alone with a baby; or how cold her neighbours will be. Desperate for connection, she finds a message in a bottle on the beach, with a phone number. She calls.

Back in 1930, Wystan H. Auden, yet to become a great poet, takes up a job teaching boys at Larchfield school in Scotland. Haunted by his illegal homosexual desires, he longs for someone who understands him. On the beach, he flings a message in a bottle into the sea.

What happens next is a breathtaking connection that rejoices in the power of imagination.

Jane Austen at Home: A Biography by Lucy Worsley

‘This is my kind of history: carefully researched but so vivid that you are convinced Lucy Worsley was actually there at the party – or the parsonage.’ Antonia Fraser

On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, historian Lucy Worsley leads us into the rooms from which our best-loved novelist quietly changed the world.

This new telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a painful struggle. Jane famously lived a ‘life without incident’, but with new research and insights Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster in fact had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.

The Butterfly Summer, Harriet Evans

From Harriet Evans, the author of Richard and Judy Summer Book Club pick The Wildflowers and Sunday Times bestseller A Place For UsThe Butterfly Summer is the IDEAL book to curl up with as the nights draw in. Nina Parr’s mother has lied to her for most of her life. But when Nina inherits Keepsake, a long-forgotten house in Cornwall, she pieces together a sad truth that reaches back to the outbreak of war in the 1930s. A must-read for fans of Kate Morton and Santa Montefiore.

What magic is this?

You follow the hidden creek towards a long-forgotten house.

They call it Keepsake, a place full of wonder . . . and danger. Locked inside the crumbling elegance of its walls lies the story of the Butterfly Summer, a story you’ve been waiting all your life to hear.

This house is Nina Parr’s birthright. It holds the truth about her family – and a chance to put everything right at last.

The Rival by Charlotte Duckworth

An addictive psychological suspense about ambition, female rivalry, and how far you’d go to get what you want.

NOW

Helena is a career woman with no job and a mother without a baby. She blames Ashley for destroying her life. But is what happened really Ashley’s fault?

THEN

When Helena hires Ashley to work for her, she’s startled but impressed by her fierce ambition. They form a dream team and Helena is proud – maybe this is the protégée she’s always wanted to have. But soon Helena realizes that nothing will stand in the way of Ashley’s drive to get to the top. And when Helena becomes pregnant, everything she has worked so hard for is suddenly threatened, with devastating consequences…

Letters To My Daughters, Emma Hannigan

Some books are guaranteed to break your heart – and put it back together again. Letters to my Daughters is one of those wonderful books. From the inspirational, beloved Emma Hannigan. Letters to my Daughters is the spellbinding story about the complicated bonds between women – daughters, mothers, sisters – and how love and happiness comes in many guises.

Throughout their lives, the three Brady sisters have always been closer to their nanny May than to their own mother, Martha a busy midwife. May always thought of them as her daughters so when she dies suddenly, the sisters are left devastated — especially when they learn that letters intended for them from May with final words of advice and love have gone missing.

But what words of advice could the sisters need?

Beatrice, owner of exclusive wedding boutiques, is busy and fulfilled. Rose has a beautiful daughter, a luxurious home and a thriving interiors company. And Jeannie, married to a wealthy plastic surgeon in L.A., wants for nothing.

Except that each of the sisters carries a secret …

As they gather for the reading of May’s will in Dublin, they must face some life-changing decisions. Will they ever learn the words of advice May had for them and discover who took the letters?

Escape to the Paris Cheese Shop by Victoria Brownlee

Who needs love when you can eat cheese?

Heartbroken and on the cusp of turning 30, Ella decides to pack her bags and move to Paris, somewhere she had visited when she was a different, more adventurous person.

It’s on the streets of beautiful, romantic Paris that she finds her heart’s true desire: cheese. And with the help of Serge, the owner of the local fromagerie, she sets herself a challenge: eat a different kind of cheese every day for the next year.

But it’s not plain sailing, and with the turn of the seasons, Ella finds that there are many distractions to be had in the love capital of the world, mainly in the form of a very sexy Frenchman called Gaston…

A heart-warming and joyful romance, for fans of Jenny Colgan, Lucy Diamond and Sophie Kinsella

Eat. Live. Go – Fresh Food Fast by Donal Skehan

The quick and easy cookbook from Irish TV star and Saturday Kitchen host Donal Skehan.

EAT.LIVE.GO – Fresh Food Fast is a collection of quick and easy recipes for busy and energetic lifestyles. Donal’s healthy approach to eating provides big flavour, the optimum nutrition the body needs, plus delicious treats.

Donal offers up brilliant recipes to cook at home, from everyday eating with family and friends, to restorative meals to nurture and nourish, including dishes from Donal’s travels in Europe and South East Asia. EAT.LIVE.GO – Fresh Food Fast is a cookbook for anyone who loves good food and eating well.

Be quick, these eBooks are only 99p until the end of September!

Younger by Pamela Redmond Satran

Younger by Pamela Redmond Satran

She’s old enough to be his mother

But she’s having too much fun to care…

Alice has always looked young for her age, even with her greying hair and her housewife style. But now that her husband’s gone and her daughter is grown, Alice is in desperate need of a new life. So she lets her best friend Maggie transform her into a woman who looks really young.

But the white lies escalate, and soon Alice finds herself with a gorgeous 20-something boyfriend and the dream job she’d briefly had before becoming a full-time mom. For the first time since she was actually twenty-nine, or possibly ever, Alice feels that life is ripe with possibility. But has Alice told one lie too many?

Challenging the adage that the truth will set you free, Younger is a hilarious and insightful story that proves that you’re only as young as you feel. Now a hit TV series from the creator of Sex and the City.

Summer of Secrets by Nikola Scott

Summer of Secrets by Nikola Scott

The heart-breaking and unforgettable new novel from Nikola Scott about two women born decades apart caught up in dark secrets. Perfect for readers of Dinah Jefferies and Kate Morton.

August 1939

At peaceful Summerhill, orphaned Maddy hides from the world and the rumours of war. Then her adored sister Georgina returns from a long trip with a new friend, the handsome Victor. Maddy fears that Victor is not all he seems, but she has no idea just what kind of danger has come into their lives…

Today

Chloe is newly pregnant. This should be a joyful time, but she is fearful for the future, despite her husband’s devotion. When chance takes her to Summerhill, she’s drawn into the mystery of what happened there decades before. And the past reaches out to touch her in ways that could change everything…

The Scarlet Nightingale by Alan Titchmarsh

The Scarlet Nightingale by Alan Titchmarsh

Set in wartime London and occupied France, this is a thrilling story of love, danger and sacrifice from bestselling novelist Alan Titchmarsh.

It is the late 1930s when seventeen-year-old Rosamund Hanbury leaves behind the endless summers of her coastal Devonshire home for the fast pace of high society London.

Under the expert guidance of her formidable aunt, the country mouse learns how to act like a lady, hosting dinner parties and rubbing shoulders with Britain’s most influential. And when the enigmatic Harry Napier sweeps her off her feet at London’s famous Café de Paris she could almost forget that Britain has declared war.

But the Phoney War ends. Harry is posted, London reels from the first bombings of the Blitz and Rosamund suffers a devastating personal loss that leaves her all the more determined to do her bit for the war effort.

Joining the Special Forces she is sent to work alongside the Resistance on a top secret mission in France.

It is here that her courage and loyalty are truly put to the test. And where she learns that no one is what they seem: at home or abroad …

A Question of Trust by Penny Vincenzi

A Question of Trust by Penny Vincenzi

‘There are few things better in life than … the latest novel by Penny Vincenzi’ Daily Express

1950s London. Tom Knelston is charismatic, working class and driven by ambition, ideals and passion. He is a man  to watch.  His wife Alice shares his vision. It seems they are the perfect match.

Then out of the blue, Tom meets beautiful and unhappily married Diana Southcott, a fashion model.  An exciting but dangerous affair is inevitable and potentially damaging to their careers. And when a child becomes ill, Tom is forced to make decisions about his principles, his reputation, his marriage, and most of all, his love for his child.

The Two Houses by Fran Cooper

The Two Houses by Fran Cooper

The Two Houses sit grey and brooding beneath a pale sky.

They cling to the hillside, cowering from the wind, because always, before everything up here, there is the wind. In the not-quite-light of a November afternoon, this whole strange world is beaten by it; the spindly trees, the long sedge grasses, even the houses themselves seem to bend under its assault.

The Two Houses were not always two. But if it is human to build – even up here, in this blasted northern hinterland – it is human to break, too.

After an acclaimed career in ceramics making things and breaking things, it is now Jay herself who has cracked. Recovering from a breakdown, she and her husband Simon move to the desolate edges of the Yorkshire moors, where they find and fall in love with the Two Houses: a crumbling Victorian property whose central rooms were supposedly so haunted that a previous owner had them cut out from the building entirely.

But on uprooting their city life and moving to the sheltered grey village of Hestle, Jay and Simon discover it’s not only the Two Houses that seems to be haunted by an obscure past. It becomes increasingly clear that the villagers don’t want them there at all – and when building work to make the two houses whole again starts, a discovery is made that will unearth decades-old secrets . . .

The Rival by Charlotte Duckworth

The Rival by Charlotte Duckworth

An addictive psychological suspense about ambition, female rivalry, and how far you’d go to get what you want.

NOW

Helena is a career woman with no job and a mother without a baby. She blames Ashley for destroying her life. But is what happened really Ashley’s fault?

THEN

When Helena hires Ashley to work for her, she’s startled but impressed by her fierce ambition. They form a dream team and Helena is proud – maybe this is the protégée she’s always wanted to have. But soon Helena realizes that nothing will stand in the way of Ashley’s drive to get to the top. And when Helena becomes pregnant, everything she has worked so hard for is suddenly threatened, with devastating consequences…

The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper

The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper

Fans of Jojo Moyes, Cecilia Ahern and Marian Keyes will love The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper, a laugh-out-loud, funny and heartbreaking novel of love, loss and what it means to be a family.

If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.

If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.

But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.