Tips for Writers

  • Read widely and while reading give some thought as to how the author has constructed the story. Ask yourself why it holds your attention.
  • Always start a story when the story actually begins - don't give a lot of details about the characters as that will slow the action up. You can work those in as you go along. And finish when the action ends. Don't explain or try to sum up.
  • Keep a notebook and jot down ideas that come to you or small incidents that occur. You never know when you might be able to use them. When you are ready to begin writing, make notes about your main characters: their ages, the colour of their hair and eyes, their height, their family members, any oddities or special interests they might have, where they live and go to school. By doing so you will gradually bring them to life in your head.
  • It is a help to plan your story out roughly before you begin though I never work mine out completely but I do always know where I am going and what my ending will be.
  • Try to think of an arresting title and get a good opening paragraph that will capture your readers' attention straightaway and make them want to read on. The important thing is to have them turn the first page.
  • Be critical of your own work. Read it through with an objective eye and be prepared to write more than one, or even two drafts.
  • And most importantly of all, keep writing! You will improve as you go along. I hate reading my early books - I always feel I could do so much better now!

Tips for Teachers

WORLD WAR II : Different aspects

Northern Ireland

The File on Fraulein Berg highlights prejudice and the effect of propaganda during World War II. Three girls, deciding that their new German teacher must be a spy, follow her around Belfast, spying on her, compiling a file about her, and making her life miserable. But there is something they do not know about the Fraulein, something important. 
Catnip Publishing

Eastern Europe

Tug of War tells the story of a Latvian refugee family fleeing from its homeland in the wake of the Russian invasion into their country in 1944. Astra and Hugo and their parents have to leave everything behind, their home, their possessions, their culture, and go out into the wilderness, like leaves blown by the wind, not knowing where they will end up or even if they will survive. (This novel is based on the experiences of my husband and his family. J.L.) 
Puffin Books


Northern Ireland

The Kevin and Sadie quintet, comprising The Twelfth Day of July , Across the Barricades , Into ExileA Proper Place and to Fortune charts the lives of Catholic Kevin and Protestant Sadie caught up in the Troubles in a deeply divided Belfast. Their families and friends are fiercely opposed to their relationship. Every time they meet they invite danger.

Should they give in to the deeply held prejudices of their separate communities and turn their backs on each other? Or should they continue to see each other even if it means alienating themselves from their families?

The Troubles were a form of Civil War, in which citizens of a country wage war against each other, so that the enemy is within, and does not come from without, as in the World Wars I and II. 
Puffin Books

The Russian Revolution 1917

Natasha's Will

It is 1917 and the Russian Revolution rages on the streets of St Petersburg. After her father has been murdered by the red Guard Natasha and her mother must flee for their lives. Their journey across war-torn Europe is desperate and dangerous but after years in exile Natasha finds a new home in Scotland. The McKinnon family care for her in her old age and she intends to leave her house to them but after her death no will can be found. The search, which involves a literary treasure hunt, reveals secrets, past, present and future. 
Puffin Books

The Spanish Civil War 1936 - 39

Tell the Moon to Come Out

Spain, 1939. The Spanish Civil War has just ended. Nick has come from Scotland to search for his missing father who went in 1936 to join the fight against General Franco's army.

Spain is a dangerous place for a boy without identity papers. Nick has been told to trust no one. But then, ill and desperate, he meets Isabel, the daughter of a sergeant in the dreaded Civil Guard. She offers him help, But can she trust him?

This novel shows the deep divisions caused by one of the bloodiest of civil wars, in which former friends and neighbours, and even brothers, fought on opposing sides. 
Puffin Books


World War II : The File on Fraulein Berg , Tug of War

Civil War : Kevin and Sadie quintet , Natasha's Will , Tell the Moon to Come Out

Life in London, 1900 : The Eleventh Orphan

Edinburgh, the Royal Mile, 1796 : The Sign of the Black Dagger


What to do about Holly

Holly is due to spend two weeks in Edinburgh with her dad. At the train station in Glasgow her mum looks for a 'nice lady' to keep an eye on her for the journey. She spots a writer called Nina Nightingale, who gave a talk at Holly's school that afternoon. Nina and Holly suddenly find themselves thrust together for the 45 minute journey. But when they arrive at the other end there is no sign of Holly's dad and her mum has gone on holiday. What is Holly to do? What is Nina to do about Holly? They are caught on the horns of a dilemma. Catnip Publishing

The Eleventh Orphan

London, 1900. It is a harsh life for an orphan girl living rough on the dangerous crime-ridden streets of Victorian London. Ma and Pa Bigsby, who run a pub called the Pig and Whistle, take in orphans, boys like 13 year-old Joe, whose parents came from Trinidad. They educate the children, give them a home and a new chance in life. One day, eleven year-old Elfie arrives, an orphan from birth. She has in her possession a bag containing different items left by her mother after her death. Each object proves to be a clue which will help Elfie, aided by Joe, to search for her lost father. 
Catnip Publishing


Tilly and the Wild Goats

When Tilly and her mother are threatened with eviction, Tilly and William set out to look for somewhere else for them to live. While they are in the village shop putting up a notice they hear that the wild goats that have lived in the glen for hundreds of years are going to be evicted too, to make way for a golf course. The villagers are up-in-arms at the thought so Tilly and William start a petition to try and save them.

While taking it round the village they find out that there are odd goings on in Sheridan House, where old Mr Sheridan lives. But he has not been seen in the village for years. Is he alive or dead? Tilly and William realise that Mr Sheridan's factor and housekeeper are up to something. Something menacing ... 
Orchard books

Tilly and the Badgers

Tilly brings an article to school about badger-baiting, a horrible sport where men set dogs onto badgers and make them fight to the death. Then a dead badger is found by the roadside nearby. The police are suspicious. It is feared that some people in the area might be involved in badger-baiting. But who can they be? Tilly and William resolve to keep their eyes and ears open when they are going about in case they can pick up any clues.


A new boy called Cecil, who has just come to their school, is living with his parents in a secluded house up a back road. They seem to want to keep themselves private, especially Cecil's dad, who is very secretive and does his best to avoid people. Tilly and William wonder why.
They decide to investigate ... 
Orchard Books