Wednesday 25 May 2016

A chat with Sally Quilford

Today, I'm welcoming Sally Quilford to my blog, an amazingly prolific writer - the author of over 60 published short stories, and 15 pocket novels - who was one of my early blog contacts. And now she's launching her book The Secret of Lakeham Abbey. Phew - I think I need to lie down!

1)    Hi Sally. We met when you set up a blog challenge, 80k in 80 days. Can you remember what you wrote for that challenge, and what happened to it?

Do you know, I honestly can’t remember?  Now you’ve got me thinking. I think I wrote a pocket novel, but I can’t remember which one. It was a fun challenge, with lots of energy from those involved. It’s now become 100k in 100 days and it’s still very popular, even though we don’t always all manage to do it now. I hate to say it but sometime I write more between the challenges than during them…

2)    You've written short stories, 30k and 40k novellas, and now a novel - what's your favourite length to write?

Most of the novellas I write for My Weekly Pocket Novels are 50k now, so I’m used to that length. The Secret of Lakeham Abbey is actually a bit longer, at 55k. So not quite full novel length. Obviously 30k is great as it can be done fairly quickly. I’ve written 30k novellas in a week before now! But 50k allows for a bit more character development and plot. I do want to build up to full-length 80k novels. I have written one; a saga called The Steps of the Priory. But I’ve struggled to write that much. I’ve become so used to writing the shorter form.

That’s not a bad thing as there are so many publishers out there now, particularly ebook first publishers like Crooked Cat, who like shorter novels, because that’s what readers like. Shorter novels are ideal for e-reader devices and for our busier society.

3)    What was your inspiration to start writing and submitting?

My inspiration to start writing was just that I’d always wanted to have a go, but without ever really trying. Then, when I was 30 I went back to school to do a literature GCSE, and it opened the floodgates for me. I started writing then and haven’t looked back. It was so therapeutic, and lovely to be able to put all the dreams in my head down in writing.

I started submitting because there is no greater validation than having an editor say ‘Yes, I like that and I want to pay you money to publish it.’ Even now I get a thrill when I have work accepted. And even now I have a sick feeling in my stomach every time I submit something, fearing it won’t be good enough. That keeps me on my toes, and keeps me trying to improve my writing.

4)    Because I've got kids, people always ask me if I write children’s stories (I don't). You've got grandchildren, do you get the same question? And, you know... do you?

I do get asked that, along with questions like ‘Do you want to be the next JK Rowling?’ which is silly as there’s only one JK Rowling and she’s magnificent. I don’t write children’s stories, even though Percy Sullivan, the main character in The Secret of Lakeham Abbey, is a child. My granddaughter, Gracie, is always asking me to write a story about her and some unicorns, and I hate to admit to her that I just don’t have the right skills for writing a children’s story. All the children’s authors I know are just in tune with children and know just what makes them tick. I adore my grandchildren, but I’m not sure I know enough about the other children around them to write a convincing story that speaks to their age group. But I should do it for her, shouldn’t I? Just because she asked me…

The Secret of Lakeham Abbey Blurb


When Percy Sullivan’s family take over Lakeham Abbey for the summer, it was a chance to get away from battered post-war London and be cossetted by the capable and pretty housekeeper, Anne Pargeter.

They soon learn that the Abbey conceals a dark secret; one that someone was willing to kill to hide. When Anne is convicted of murder and sentenced to execution, Percy is determined to do all he can to save his friend from the gallows.

He encourages everyone to tell their side of the story. This leads to some startling revelations, including a shocking secret that Percy’s mother tried to hide from him.

Will it be enough to save Anne’s life?

Check out Sally's blog for more info

Buy The Secret of Lakeham Abbey: Amazon UK // Amazon US // Smashwords  


  1. Hi Annalisa and Sally - what a lovely post ... I feel you've been firm friends for a long time ... and writing all those novellas - well done. Definitely you must write for Gracie - perhaps a Christmas present ... but do write for her - it'll encourage her too ... but in the meantime - congratulations to you both and good luck for the future ... Annalisa you've had great success this year ...

    Cheers Hilary

  2. Some of us just aren't geared to write for kids and that's all right.
    I don't write really long stories either but mostly because I'm such a slow writer.

  3. Percy sounds like an interesting character to get to know. I'll be rooting for him. Congratulations on The Secret of Lakeham Abbey, Sally. I'll be sure to read it. I love a good mystery. Thank you for such an intriguing interview! Have a lovely week, both.

  4. Excellent interview. I like that Sally has found what she's good at and sticks with it for now - novellas and short stories. I admire her obvious hard work ethic and writing enthusiasm. Good luck all around. Very fun!

  5. Length... It's amazing how there's a niche for everyone. I think often people start out trying to write a novel when they'd be so much happier with short stories or flash fiction, and the reverse is true. Good thing this is such a diverse world, eh?

  6. Lovely post, thanks both. I am in awe of writing to that length! I set a goal of cutting my 110k word novel to 100k, added 25k even though I was already in round 732 of editing and finally got it back down to 115k where it stuck! Best of luck with the next publication, Sally. Love that cover.

  7. Thanks to everyone for your lovely comments (and sorry for being late with this thanks - yesterday was a bit hectic!). Thank you, Annalisa for inviting me. xxx

  8. Thanks for visiting, guys :-) Length seems to be a hot topic!

  9. I never get asked if I write kid's books, but I do get asked if I'll ever write stories about my kids. I tell them I must wait until they all reach maturity so social services doesn't come knocking on my door. (And seriously, when they are old enough to give their permission for invading their privacy.) Or maybe never.
    Best of luck, Sally! I love the cover.

  10. Sorry, I've finally got around to reading this. It's been open on my desktop all day. Fab interview. I don't think I have it in me to write for children either, Sally. I think sometimes you have to write to your strengths, and yours is definitely writing novellas. I've read a couple of your pocket novels and have loved them.


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