Guest Blogger Babs Morton on How To Decide on Character.



What a character!

VLUU L310 W  / Samsung L310 W

I do love terriers, always have done it’s that combination of feistiness and fun that is so endearing. Jess, our current pooch, is a five year old Border terrier. An ace ratter and occasional dispatcher of moles and other vermin, she is also a perfect family pet. However she surprised us this weekend when one of our chickens, aptly named “Chicka”, was under the weather. Jess is rather fond of chickens, in a non-predatory way, specifically our chickens, though I do believe she considers them to be her chickens. Throughout the weekend she kept a vigil in the chicken run sitting quietly alongside Chicka. When necessary she accompanied her to the food bowl and back again to a shady spot. Now, I like to think that Jess sensed Chicka was less able to fend for herself and suppressed her natural instinct to kill anything furred or feathered. Then again, she might just have been making sure she was first in the lunch queue, should Chicka take a turn for the worse.

So where am I going with all this?

Well, when I’m writing I invest a great deal of time in my characters. I want them to be believable and generally throw in a few flaws and temptations for good measure. A hero can have a dark side and an anti-hero can surprise us with a good act. It’s what makes them interesting…and human. I also like to leave a few things open to debate, so the reader can decide for themselves.

So, back to Jess: A solicitous, canine poultry keeper with a heart of gold, or a cunning predator just waiting for an opportunity? What a character… hero or anti-hero? You decide.

B A Morton 2013

I think she’s a dear with a heart of gold that wouldn’t let an opportunity for an easy meal pass her by. 🙂 But what do you guys think? Opportunist, or good dog?

And how do you shape your characters?

Featured Author – Vickie Johnstone

Finally, after a reschedule, she is here! Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you *drumroll* the ‘mother’ of Kiwi, Vickie Johnstone.

vickie johnstone crop 2 lighter


As you can see she is a lady with a pleasant smile, but when you’ll read what she has to say you will discover she is also a wonderful writer.

Welcome Vickie and thank you for granting me the pleasure of featuring you and Kiwi, and of course the rest of your work. I know you love poetry too and … Oh, never mind me, this is about you. So let me start by telling the readers a bit about you before we get on with the interview.

What I know about Vickie. (not by my investigation or stalking discovered facts, she told me. Really, she did!)

Vickie lives in London, UK, and works as a freelance layout sub editor. Her first book, Kiwi in Cat City, was written in 2002, and she has scribbled stories and poetry all her life. Since the beginning of 2011, Vickie has written eleven books and is currently working on some new ideas. Her loves include cats, reading, films, travelling, rock music, Castle, The Walking Dead, tea, the sea, sleeping and Milky Bar.

Vickie has self-published the following books:

Kaleidoscope (poetry); Travelling Light (poetry); Life’s Rhythms (haiku); 3 Heads and a Tail (comedy romance); Kiwi in Cat City (magical cat series for middle grade readers); Kiwi and the Missing Magic; Kiwi and the Living Nightmare; Kiwi and the Serpent of the Isle; Kiwi in the Realm of Ra; Kiwi’s Christmas Tail; Day of the Living Pizza (comedy detective series for middle grade readers), Day of the Pesky Shadow and The Sea Inside. The Kiwi Series has illustrations by Nikki McBroom.

As you can read Vickie is an incredible prolific author and person in general, and she likes chocolate (even if it’s Milky Bar 🙂 )

Vickie, now that the peeps know you a little can you answer some questions I have for you? Careful! Don’t gulp down that delicious tea. There’s no rush, have another Milky Bar and then, when you’re ready for it, let’s get a move on with the interview. I’m so curious what you have to say.

Can you tell me how you celebrate finally getting that tricky chapter (or para) right?

I probably do a silent ‘yee-ha’ or a loud “yeee-eeeees”, followed by a grin and maybe a punch in the air! Anyone would think I’d just won a marathon! Sometimes though, you finish the very last line and it’s like wow, but then silence, and you close the laptop and you’re not sure what to do. But normally I’m like yee-ha and fancy a glass of something or some chocolate. Today I finished re-editing my newest book again and I just had a gigantic smile. It’s 10pm, so a little too late to celebrate. I’ll probably just watch an episode of Castle cos I just love it.

Okay, sounds like you know how to party. But how do you work around those moments when the muse has gone and done a runner on you?

I hate those times. In the past I never finished anything. I was crap at that. I started stories and never completed them. I wrote a lot of poetry though, probably cos I wrote it in ten minutes, so totally different thing. I lacked the determination and grit to see my projects through to the end. What kicked my butt was discovering Kindle self-publishing, so my writing suddenly had a point. That got me writing and finishing stuff – that became my muse – that there was a point to it, besides just scribbling. Likewise, I did NaNo 2011. It showed me that writer’s block doesn’t really exist – just tiredness, laziness, procrastination, and lack of inspiration or drive, or at least on my part. Laziness is my bad habit. So, that was another kick and a new muse. Then at the end of last year, I had a block for about six weeks. I didn’t realise at first, but then I started counting the days. It worried me, but then I realised I was just tired and needed a short break. I switched to writing a poem a day. It helped. I think when it happens and the muse goes, you just have to sit down and write anything. Just describe a picture, write a poem or anything. It really helps. Or do something else and try later in the day. Writing is a good habit.

Right, you have a winning formula there. 🙂 Something authors suffering from a block could try too.

Now, let’s first do a few of the yada yada questions before we move on to the fun. And by yada yada I do not mean boring, or in any other way stupid questions, but just the traditional ones. You know? The ones we secretly all want to know the answer to.

First, what is the title of the book you would like to talk about?

The Sea Inside, which I should be publishing this week. I just need to final read some bits again, work on the cover, and format it. It’s a fantasy novel about a sixteen-year-old girl who is in an accident. She is in a coma and wakes with serious injuries. An enigmatic old woman gives her a mysterious gift, which opens up an alternative world. In the book, she has to face her fears and find the strength in herself to succeed. Themes include coming-of-age, fantasy, romance and time.

It sounds like another great book. Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?

No, that was one of the few things I didn’t have a problem with. I think I might have even started with it. This book was tough. Most of my books are for children, but this one is for anyone from teenagers up, so it’s older and there’s more to it, and it was difficult. I started writing it in 2009, and I kept stopping. In 2009 I wrote the section up to when Jayne reaches the other world, and then I got stuck. I only really made a big dive back into it in 2011, and I did loads this year. Finally, I thought! So it’s a big accomplishment to me just because I kept getting stuck. I start writing without knowing where a book is going to go, and it didn’t quite jell with this one. I kept going blank!

If you would have to change the genre in order to be able to publish it, what would it be then? i.e. would you conform to the market?

The genre is fantasy. I guess there’s some coming-of-age stuff and romance in there too, but it’s mainly fantasy. I just write really and don’t think about the genre too much. One of my books, 3 Heads & a Tail, is hard to pigeonhole. It crosses genres. I thought it was a comedy romance and put it forward to a romance editor once, but she told me it isn’t mainstream enough. Apparently it’s a niche book with a narrow market. One of the characters is a dog, you see, and he has a big role in the book. That’s the problem, but to me he was the joy of the book. I loved writing him. He’s the hero and I love him. I couldn’t write the book any other way; hence I’ve no idea how to market it because of the fantasy dog element. I guess I didn’t conform there. I wrote it for NaNoWriMo 2011, so I blame the craziness on that!

3 Heads Kindle NEW MARCH COVER

Vickie! What nonsense about it being a niche market. If it’s a fantasy/romance with a dog starring that’s big time main stream. Think of all the Beethoven films, What’s that mean big red cat’s name, and the penguin movies, and Madagascar and … I could go on for hours, there’s so many stories starring animals who are the hero.

With that out of the way and to confuse you we’ll take the alternative route now.

What don’t you like about writing.

Marketing. End of. It’s the only thing I don’t like. I find it hard, but necessary, but I like helping other authors to market their books. It’s fun if it succeeds and you see them doing well.

What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?

Paid advertising has been the best thing so far. I paid for an advert with Kids’ Corner of Kindle Nation Daily in December, and I had a rocket-load of downloads for my children’s book, Kiwi in Cat City, which is normally ranking around 400,000-600,000! However, sales sank back down to normal after a week or so. But I sold a lot of ebooks and some paperbacks, so I was happy. A lot to me is probably not a lot to many writers though. I don’t see big sales, so to sell 20 is a big bundle!

What else? Okay, I blog on my blog, waffle, post poems and writing, get involved in blog hops and interview writers, and review books (though I’ve run out of reading time lately). I’m also in the Facebook writers’ groups a lot, but that’s more for chatting and support, and just promote in the promo areas/groups. I use twitter. I’m on a tweet team.

Lately I’ve been doing a two-week blog hop to push a $0.99 offer on Kiwi in Cat City, organised by Kim of Master Koda (big thanks there), and I’m seeing sales. It’s extraordinary. Everyone is helping one another on these and it’s working. I don’t know how long it will work for, but it’s amazing so far. There are many websites where you can list a book offer for free or just for $5 or $10, so I’ve done those. At the end of the two weeks, we’ll see what was most successful.

Do share the results with us, because most indies love to hear those kind of figures and especially what works and what not.

Tell me, when you’re on a roll, the muse is in the house and happily guiding your pen, what would seriously drive her/him away?

Ah, if something disturbed me or I felt sleepy. Tiredness equals bed. Hungry equals go get something. Or my cat is mewing for food or to go out, only to want to come back in again after four minutes – she does a lot of that. I think it’s because she hates my laptop. It takes up her space! The other thing is if I’ve been writing a lot and just get tired – the writing gets stale, so you’ve got to stop!

What does your muse look like and does he/she ever play tricks on you?

She changes. Sometimes she’s a black cat sparkling with a purple rush of magic, sometimes a ginger tom in a red waistcoat investigating something, sometimes a Labrador barking at a frisbee, sometimes a butterfly that inspires a poem; sometimes a zombie that looks like a pizza; and sometimes she’s a sixteen-year-old girl who dreams of the sea. It depends. And tomorrow it could be something else entirely.

Do you ever speak to your characters and do you get along all the time?

I like it when they jabber. It’s when they go quiet that I worry. I can’t imagine Glen the dog from 3 Heads & a Tail getting on with the cats in Cat City, but I figure that Whiskers the mouse might be able to give the zombies a run for their money.

Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?

There are grass milkshakes and mouse biscuits in Cat City, so, erm, that’s not a reflection from life, and neither are Glen’s doggy biscuits! But tea and coffee are mainstays in 3 Heads & a Tail. I’m a tea girl, as I’m a Brit, though I’ve weaned myself down to two or three cups a day now, in a bid to drink more water. Ah, and there’s lots of water in The Sea Inside. Ah, and pizza… you’ll find a lot of that in Day of the Living Pizza, but it’s walking and it’s out to get you!!! Mmm, I fancy pizza, but it has to be veggie. I had one with avocado on the other day and it was so nice, but I’m digressing, and now I’m hungry!

Would you be able to come up with a credible excuse why you haven’t written a whole day? Remember, I have to believe it!

The cat killed my laptop. Or Glen tried to eat it.

Hahaha, Really? The cat? I always knew cat were not to be trusted. 🙂

And finally why would you ever want to live life behind a keyboard slaving over a manuscript?

Because I love it! And I guess I’m crazy.

Okay now that we have the mandatory questions out of the way, shoot your mouth off. Tell me whatever you want the blab about. But please no cat’s, dogs, or children. Make me laugh, or cry, or even envious. Tell me something none has ever heard before from you. hehehe, love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂

I’ve been stumped on this question. I just can’t think. I’ve done so many embarrassing or clumsy things in my time, but they’re not going in. Some great things I did involved travelling. I went to Australia, Canada, Ireland and Alaska on my own, and every trip was awesome. It also got me out of my shyness a bit, though not entirely! I almost did a parachute jump twice in Australia, but it was cancelled due to strong winds, so I rescheduled. Then a little voice in my head told me it was fate and that I’d probably plunge to my death, so I cancelled it, and lost my deposit. Also flew in a little plane over Mount McKinley and tried to kick my vertigo by walking over the Capilano Bridge in Vancouver (70 metres above a river). It didn’t work. I stood in the middle saying “shit, shit, shit” as it swayed, until some nice gentlemen urged me across with “you can do it”. But I was rewarded with the sight of a red squirrel, which you never see in London!

Also, I got the greatest surprise today, so it’s a little brag. I entered the National Indie Excellence Book Awards 2013, and Kiwi and the Serpent of the Isle was a finalist in the children’s section. I was so thrilled that I felt sick. Then I was crying. Then I was jumping. I was so happy. First time I’ve got anywhere in a writing competition. Made me feel on top of the world.

cover kiwi isle

Vickie! That is amazing. 🙂 Congratulation! ‘m sure you’ll win. Please come back and tell us if you did win.

I guess that wraps it up. The only thing left for me to do is tell the folks where they can find you online.

Vickie has a Blog, she’s on Twitter with this handle @vickiejohnstone, then there’s the Kiwi Series website, her FB author pagethe FB Kiwi Series page, her FB poetry page, and finally her FB editing service page.

As you can see she’s out there but not spread too thin. Her books are available all over the world and to make it easier for you I’ll link to her author pages on several venues. There you can see all the books on one page and pick which one you’d like to buy and read.

Amazon US page:

Amazon UK page:

Smashwords page:

B&N page:


But as a little treat Vickie provided me with some additional info on her books. Enjoy these snippets and do let us know if you enjoyed both the interview and her books.

The Kiwi Series

kiwi 1 cover new with paw new quote

Adventures of a magical cat and friends (written for readers aged 9-14)

Have you ever wished your cat could talk or wondered where he/she goes when you are not around? Kiwi in Cat City is the first book in the Kiwi Series, of which there are six fun adventures so far. Kiwi seems like a typical moggie, content to nap in the sun, but she has a secret – she is a magical cat from a place called Cat City. With her two humans, James and Amy, Kiwi finds mysteries and adventures, dealing with catnappings, jewel thieves, giant mice, time travel, haunted houses, Father Christmas, pyramids and more. The fun stories contain positive messages about loyalty, friendship, honesty, bullying and the power of standing together. The books contain illustrations by Nikki McBroom.

Smarts & Dewdrop Mysteries

cover pizza

Set in Crazy Name Town (written for readers aged 10 up)

Day of the Living Pizza

Detective Smarts of Crazy Name Town has a problem. Doctor Boring and his receptionist have been bumped off, and the only clues at the scene are some olives, tomatoes and a sprinkle of oregano. With the townsfolk dropping like flies and strange figures stumbling down the streets mumbling “Pizza”, Officer Dewdrop has an unusual idea.

Day of the Pesky Shadow

There is a new mind boggler to solve – who is the mysterious dark figure nicking knickers off washing lines, scaring cinema-goers and causing folks’ legs to go wibbly wobbly? Smarts and Dewdrop are hot on the trail.

3 Heads & a Tail

3 Heads Kindle NEW MARCH COVER

A comic fantasy with some romance and a dog as the hero (for readers aged 16 up)

Written for NaNoWriMo 2011, this quirky comedy contains some romance, a touch of fantasy and a very opinionated dog. When nature lover Josie moves into a house with two pals, dreamer Ben and model man David, she sees it as a short stop and doesn’t bank on an attraction developing with one of them. Meanwhile, Ben’s dog, Glen, has the hots for Miss Posh, the beautiful golden Labrador in the park. When dog meets dog it’s puppy love, but a complication leads to Glen taking matters into his own paws. In this comedy of errors, romance and walkies, it’s anyone’s guess who is going to win the girl/dog and live happily ever after.


Kaleidoscope (119 poems), Life’s Rhythms (316 haiku) and Travelling Light (poetry – free on Amazon US)

The Sea Inside

Fantasy with romance and drama.

Sixteen-year-old Jayne wakes up in hospital after a terrible accident, which shatters the way she views herself and her life. While struggling to recover, she is visited by a mysterious woman who offers her a gift. To the girl’s astonishment, she finds herself in the mystical realm of Entyre, where life is quite different and power lies with the creatures of the deep. Jayne finds herself on a journey, which is both a physical and mental one. On her travels, she encounters many strange people and creatures. While some appear helpful, others can only bring peril.

But is it all real or just a product of her fertile imagination, brought on by her injuries and brain trauma? Faced with many possible paths in her life, which will she choose? The threads of time keep flowing and they will not stop. Jayne must decide what is real and who to trust, and regain her inner strength in order to discover herself and follow her true fate.