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Sunday, 11 March 2018

The Hippo Hangs Out . . . . with Anne Stormont

Today I’m delighted to be nattering to Anne Stormont, who also writes as Anne McAlpine, but more about that later, first I'd like to welcome Anne to The Hippo and to tell you a little bit about her.

Photo courtesy of Anne Stormont

Anne Stormont writes contemporary women's fiction. So far she has published two novels Change of Life and Displacement. She is currently working on a sequel to Displacement which will be out in 2018. She has also written a children's novel called The Silver Locket published under the name of Anne McAlpine.

Anne is a Scot and she has recently moved from the Isle of Skye to the Scottish Borders. She has travelled the world and has visited every continent except Antarctica – where, considering her penchant for penguins, she really must go. Anne was a primary school teacher for 36 years and is also a wife, mum and grandma.

She is a subversive old bat but maintains a kind heart.

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Anne is currently writing the sequel to Displacement and I believe it's called Settlement, so, by telling you about Displacement now, that gives you plenty of time to read it before the next book comes out later this year.


A story of love, courage and hope.

Divorce, the death of her soldier son and estrangement from her daughter, leave Hebridean crofter, Rachel Campbell, grief stricken, lonely and lost. 

Forced retirement due to a heart condition leaves former Edinburgh policeman Jack Baxter needing to take stock and find a new direction for his life.

When the two of them meet in dramatic circumstances on a wild winter’s night on the island of Skye, a mutually supportive friendship develops between them, despite their very different personalities.

But with Rachel due to be in the Middle East for several months and Jack already in a relationship, it seems unlikely they'll get the chance to take their relationship any further – much as they might want to.

Set against the contrasting and dramatic backdrops of the Scottish island of Skye and the contested country of Israel-Palestine, this book tells a story of love, home and heritage and what happens when these are threatened at a political and a personal level.

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Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I used the pseudonym Anne McAlpine when I did my children's novel The Silver Locket. I did it in order to keep my children's book quite separate from my adult novels for which I use my 'real' name. Sometimes it can be a bit of a pain having two author identities as it means two author websites, two Facebook author pages etc., but I have no regrets. I definitely believe it was the right thing to do. It means when I visit schools or festivals as Anne McAlpine I can be completely sure that all the associated stuff – publicity material, website posts and so on are all appropriate for my younger readers.

What advice would you give your younger self?
In terms of being a writer, I'd say: Take your writing seriously, don't put it off, make time for it, believe you can do it. It took a brush with mortality when I was diagnosed with cancer aged 41 to make me seize the moment. I did a deal with fate and said if I survive, I will stop procrastinating. I survived and twenty years later I have three novels published and my fourth is due out this year. 

Image found on chibird

I thought  that this would be an appropriate time to pop this little guy in – plus I heard that you have a soft spot for penguins! 😉

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing etc come from?
I think my love of books, storytelling and reading comes mainly from my Granny. She told me wonderful stories when I was little. She also bought me books such as Heidi, Little Women, and Peter Pan – all of which I adored. But being taken regularly to the local library by my mum and discovering Enid Blyton around the age of seven also meant I was developed the reading habit.

The source of my love of writing is harder to pinpoint. As a child I wrote stories and plays and enjoyed dramatising some of the books I read and then I'd force invite my sisters and friends to act out these 'plays'. I didn't do much writing in my twenties and thirties when I was busy bringing up my children and working full time. But since I began taking it more seriously, I can't imagine my life without it. It's a huge part of who and what I am. At any given moment, If I'm not actually writing, I'm either thinking about writing or doing something writing related. So where it comes from may be a bit vague but what I do know is: I LOVE WRITING.

What do you think is more important: characters or plot?
That's a tricky one. Both are obviously important. But as a writer, and as a reader, it's the characters who really matter to me. I'm interested in what motivates them, in how they react and interact with the plot and with each other.

If you could spend time with a character from your book who would it be and why? What would you get up to?
I'd choose both my main characters from Displacement. They're also the main people in the sequel I'm currently writing. I'd want to spend time with them separately.

I'd have a whisky with Jack. It would be an evening by the fire in his house on the Isle of Skye, and I'd ask him why he's been so hopeless at relationships in the past. It would be good to chat to him about his former career in the police force too. And I'd really want to tell him not to mess things up with Rachel. After our drink and chat we could go outside and he could share his knowledge of the night sky with me.

With Rachel, I'd accompany her as she checks the sheep on her Skye croft, and talk to her about her travels in the Middle East and what it has meant to her to reconnect with her heritage. I'd also want to know if she thinks she has a long term future with Jack.

Which literary character is most like you?
I maybe share some characteristics with Jo Marsh from Little Women. I'm one of five sisters (one more than Jo, I know) and, like Jo, I was the one who was always a bit different. I was the most bookish, the one who wanted to be a writer, and the most rebellious. But also like Jo, I hope I share her passion and her kind heart.

You get a brilliant idea/thought/phrase at an inappropriate moment (eg in the shower or driving) what do you do?
The most likely times for this to happen to me are during my early morning shower or when out for my daily 5K walk. If it happens in the shower, I just keep repeating/rehearsing the idea sometimes out loud until I am (minimally) decent and can go scribble on the nearest piece of paper. If it happens when I'm out walking, I use the voice recording app on my phone and try to look as if I'm normal and having a chat while I dictate my brilliant idea.

Describe yourself in five words.
Loyal, imaginative, hard-working, stubborn, subversive.

You can find out more about Anne, her books and connect with her using the links below:

Amazon UK
Amazon US

I'd like to thank Anne for taking the time to stop by and chat with me today. I've really enjoyed finding out more about you and your books.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Hippo Hangs Out . . . . with Val Portelli

I’m absolutely thrilled to welcome Val Portelli to The Hippo today. I regularly pop over to her Facebook page and read her posts and short stories. As always I’ll be sharing her links at the end of this post and I highly recommend that you head on over to her page and check it out for yourselves, but please do stay here and meet her first before you head off there.

Let’s start by introducing you all to this lovely lady.

Photo courtesy of Val Portelli

The author’s pen name Voinks began many years ago. It started as a joke when a friend bought a holiday home abroad, then gradually spread through the family, so it was an obvious choice when her first book was published.

Despite receiving her first rejection letter aged nine from some lovely people at a well-known Women’s magazine, she continued writing intermittently until a freak accident left her housebound and going stir crazy.

To save her sanity she completed and had published her first full length novel. This was followed by a second traditionally published book before deciding self-publishing was the way to go. In between writing her longest novel to date at over 100,000 words, she publishes weekly stories for her Facebook author page and web site.

She writes in various genres, although her short stories normally include her trademark twist of ‘Quirky.’ From having too many hours in the day, she is now actively seeking out a planet with forty-eight-hour days, to have time to fit in all the stories waiting to be told.

She is always delighted to receive reviews, as they help pay for food for the Unicorns she breeds in her spare time.

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Val’s latest book is called Spirit of Technology and it’s  currently got a 4.8 out of 5 rating over on Amazon so surely that means it’s worth a look. See what you think.


A message from a stranger. A modern day woman responds to an e-mail from an unknown contact. Against her better judgement she continues the correspondence with a man who tells her he was born in the 19th century. Despite feeling an initial attraction, her concerns grow when he reveals secret details of her personal life. Undecided whether it's a friend winding her up, and worried it could be a stalker, the truth is the last thing she expects.

I know it’s a very short blurb but it’s grabbed me!

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Welcome to The Hippo Val, pull up a chair and make yourself at home!

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
My books, blog and Facebook author page are under my pen name ‘Voinks.’ It had been a nickname for some years, and seemed a natural choice when my first book was published. I know some authors use pseudonyms when writing in different genres, but my original idea was to keep the very private ‘me’ distinct from the public ‘me.’ I’ve now realised that it’s not very memorable and am dithering over dropping it, although it has the advantage of being original.   

What other authors are you friends with and how do they help you become a better writer?
Great question. I’ve become online friends with many writers, and have met up with some. One in particular has become invaluable, helping me put together a book cover, (I might need to rephrase that as ‘ex-friend’ with all my recent demands on her time.)
I belong to several writer’s groups and it’s fascinating reading other writer’s work. It clarifies the areas I need to address in my own manuscripts, and there is always something new to learn from them. 

What’s your favourite under-appreciated writer/book?
There are several old books which have stayed in my memory over the years, including The Story of O, The Kappillan of Malta, and 20th Century short stories, amongst others, but readers will probably have never heard of some of my recent favourites. I have a small collection of signed copies from Indie authors who deserve greater recognition. It would take too long to list them but some self-published books are far superior to the hyped-up ‘must reads’ with extensive marketing budgets.   

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
This question made me smile. When I showed my late mother some of my earlier stories and asked her opinion, she thought for a moment then just replied ‘Quirky.’ I like to throw in an unexpected twist to keep readers interested.  

I’ve noticed this when I’ve read your stories and I think it’s one of the reasons I keep coming back to read more.

Do you often hear from your readers and what do they say?
It’s tremendously motivating to receive responses, both from regulars and strangers. One comment I particularly remember was from a reader living in Syria. She said how much she loved and anticipated the weekly stories on my author page, and sat down with her children on Friday evenings so they could read them together. I can’t imagine the devastation of their daily lives, but I must admit I reached for the tissues after reading that comment.  

I can see why that particular left a lasting impression on you Val, I can imagine you must have felt very humbled by that.

If you could spend time with a character from your book who would it be and why? What would you get up to?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Reno, the main male character in my first book ‘Changes’. He’s tall, dark and handsome, decent but a bit of a bad boy. What would we get up to? Mind your own business!
I’m so pleased you’ve mentioned your book, Changes, as I watched the book trailer before we started our chat and it certainly looks like a tale with a twist! Lovely readers you can watch it here.

Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?
I breed Unicorns in my spare time.

Describe yourself in five words.
Private, gregarious, serious, daft, inquisitive.  

You can find out more about Val, her books and connect with her using the links below:

I'd like to say a big thank you to Val for taking the time to hang out with me and chat today. It's been a pleasure to host you and I hope that you'll come back to The Hippo again one day. 😉