Author profile – Michelle Heatley

IMG_20140913_113514Today I’m delighted to welcome Michelle Heatley to my blog whose book Fish Soup has recently been published by Sunpenny Publishing. Michelle’s a lovely person and a great support to other authors so I was delighted to find her own book has come out and I’m sure it will do very well for her!
Tell me a little bit about yourself as a person?

Thank you Chris for inviting me today, I have followed your blog ever since your novel Song of the Sea God was first published. Tell you a little about myself? Well I am a Taurean which describes my personality, a bit of a bull in a china shop stepping in where others fear to tread – I wouldn’t have become an author otherwise.
I was born and raised in the Midlands in a town called Kenilworth which is only a short hop from Stratford upon Avon and I like to think some of the Bard’s creativity rubbed off on me. I now live in South Devon near to the sea and as you found with Song of the Sea God the sea is a constant source of inspiration.
I live with Himself and a lovely, but not very bright, Border Terrier called Molly, and when not writing love to go out on our boat and explore the stunning Devon coastline.

Tell me about your journey as a writer – how you started and how you have developed?

I could say I have always written novels, but that would be a little economical with the truth. When young I wrote poetry, as a teen I cut my teeth writing horror stories and then work and children absorbed my time. I used to write very boring corporate reports and then when the children flew the nest I took a leap and joined a creative writing class at Warwick University and was hooked.
I discovered that I loved learning the craft of writing, taking Open University courses and obtaining a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing. When Stratford Literary Festival awarded me a prize for a short story called Fish Soup Day. There was no looking back I expanded the short story and it grew into the novel Fish Soup.

How would you describe your work – it‘s themes and the important things about it?

My work is eclectic. I write short stories for the woman’s magazine market and have had some degree of success, particularly in Australia. Writing for this market needs thought and persistence, two very important skills for a writer. My novels are a different matter, Fish Soup is a contemporary novel and my current work-in-progress is historical set in WW1. I write what interests me and undertaking research, be it for a short story or full novel I adore getting under the skin of my characters, knowing their story is based in fact.

Tell me about your current book – what is it about and what makes it a great read?

FishSoup_FrontFULLMy current novel Fish Soup as I have already said is a contemporary novel. It follows the journey of two sisters who travel to an Island to learn how to make Cecelia’s famous Fish Soup. The novel follows their journey.
A bit of the book blurb explains: In the magical and esoteric atmosphere of the Greek Islands, sisters Isa and Chloe fetch up on the shores of a very special haven, each searching for more than just the pungently fragrant recipe of a heady Mediterranean fish soup. They come for the weekend, bringing their baggage with them: both kinds.
Cecelia, their mentor, helps the girls wend their way through not only learning to make the soup, but also through a cobweb of emotional healing. Unexpectedly she discovers that the compliment is returned.
The Three women are each entwined in their own Greek drama, with tragedy and comedy in equal measure, as they tread the paths to their own romantic understandings, fulfilment, and closure – with a bit of hectic adventure thrown in along the way.
Fish Soup is written in the first person, with each character having their own voice. This gives it an immediacy that draws the reader in. Each chapter is an ingredient of the soup and so has its own identity; Chilli – hot and spicy; Onions – for tears; Tomatoes – for love.

I know you have been waiting a long time to get your book published, tell me about your journey to publication and does the long wait make having your book out all the sweeter?

It has been a long wait, but my editor needed to get what was a very green debut novel into shape. Jo Holloway has worked marvels and I couldn’t have got the novel out without her and Sunpenny Publishing behind me. There were the inevitable edits and some changes, as happens with all novels.
Does waiting make it sweeter? Most certainly. I have built up quite a good social media following and many of my Facebook and Twitter friends have been waiting for publication day, so it has been fun promoting and sharing my author events with everyone.
Also, as you will know, to hold your fist novel is a joy. I stroked, smelled, the book as soon as it arrived – I still stroke it from time to time.

Where can I buy a copy of your book?

Your can buy Fish Soup from all good online book sellers, Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, The Book Depository, Barnes & Noble. In due course it will be out as an e-book and of course you can order it from your local independent book shop.

Here is a link to Fish Soup on Amazon:

Where can we find out more about you?

Facebook – Michelle J Heatley – Author
Twitter @fishsoupwriting
Web http://


If it’s difficult to read, put it down – Nick Hornby says it’s ok


Nick Hornby. Pic: Joe Mabel

So Nick Hornby says if we find a highbrow book tough going and are not enjoying it then we should stop reading it – now, what do we make of that? It’s an interesting one isn’t it? And liable to divide opinion I’d have thought.

Reading shouldn’t be a chore he says, you shouldn’t do it out of a sense of duty. It should be like watching TV – something that you want to do.

You can read a piece which explains in more detail his point of view and puts it in context here.

My view is that it’s an easy, populist thing for him to say, and that it also fits nicely with the books he has for sale as they are fairly easy reading. Though in saying that I don’t intend to denigrate his work which I’ve always found very worthwhile and entertaining.

A cynic might hear the subtext of what he’s saying as: ‘Don’t bother with all this highbrow nonsense, read one of mine instead.’

And it’s a tempting offer isn’t it, not to have to read anything which challenges us? But when I think back over the books I’ve read I realise that sometimes, the ones I found most challenging gave me the most back in the end. They revealed more to me about what it is to be human and they stayed with me longer after I had put them back on the shelf. If I’d listened to Nick and his quick fix I’d never have finished reading them.

And what else in life should we stop doing because it’s too tough? Generally speaking it’s not fantastic life advice. It reminds me of Homer Simpson saying to Bart:

“Son, if something’s hard to do then it’s not worth doing.”

Great advice Homer and Nick!

Swerving fiction because it’s difficult to read also tends to stop us reading anything which is not contemporary. Because even popular commercial fiction written in another age sounds unusual to modern ears and it’s a struggle to adapt until you get used to it. Get in your literary time machine and travel back even one hundred years and you will find this to be true. But travel further back and you find, for example, Shakespeare’s popular crowd-pleasing comedies, which no doubt were crystal clear when he wrote them, but which now present the reader or listener with a challenge to give up on.

I think it was Philip Larkin who pointed out that people love contemporary poets much more than even far greater poets from a bygone age because they speak to them in the language they use in their daily lives.

So we’ve ruled out all of literary history – but even confining ourselves to present day fiction we might find some of it a bit of a chore. Unusual words to wrestle with, concepts we might find take us out of our comfort zone. Some of us might even find Nick Horby’s work too much to handle. So why bother with it? Let’s just watch TV instead, it’s a lot less challenging after all.

Nick Hornby says he wants everybody to be reading something that they love, it‘s an honourable ambition. But doesn’t that require some effort on the part of the reader? Some level of commitment? The fact is that reading challenging work can be an effort – but it has its rewards too and, in my view, it’s a bit of hard work which repays the reader many times over.

What do you think? Share your views in the comments below.

Song of the Sea GodIf you get a moment to take a look at the (ahem) award-winning Song of the Sea God.

You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.