More from Mary Craw

Looking for self-empowerment? Take control...
By Mairi Craw

You may be surprised to discover that writing Beyond the Hedge was the easy bit. If youve already read the article I wrote for Soothingminds last November then youll know how my life was changed by overhearing a couple of snatched sentences from a daytime TV programme.

I feel I ought to say that writing my first novel was agony and that I had to lock myself away from all distractions and create the perfect sanctuary where I forced myself to produce a certain number of words every single day as real authors do... What a terrifying prospect. The fear engendered by a sombre situation like that would have assuredly killed the muse. There was only one rule and it remains firmly in place.

The rule is there are no rules. How empowering is that and what a rare treat in a world riddled with unnecessary bureaucracy and codes of behaviour. The words flowed out of me from the first sentence to the very last and the book as published, with a few minor adjustments, is exactly as it was written. I work on a laptop and love to write with my family and many animals around me; if the TVs on or a favourite CDs playing in the background, then so much the better. What others might see as distractions are sources of inspiration for me.

I have always believed passionately in my books right to be read and see our relationship as a partnership. The quest for a publisher is invariably daunting and dispiriting for the debut novelist; there are so many deserving writers and simply not enough deals to go round in an already overcrowded literary world . However, I felt Beyond the Hedge was good enough to succeed; David Rintouls wonderful, unabridged reading had already been pencilled in for a world-premiere broadcast on the book lovers digital radio station Oneword, so what more proof did I need?

The broadcast on Oneword was dependent on there being a published novel available for listeners to buy, so when my agent suggested I might consider going with one of the excellent new print-on-demand companies, I knew instinctively it was the right thing to do. With AuthorHouse, UK, I was once more in charge of my books destiny.

Within three months, I took delivery of my first novel and beautiful she is, too, not least of all because of Johnny Milnes exquisite illustrations which fit my words like a perfectly-tailored suit. The knowledge that the first edition is the writers cut enhances the sense of self-empowerment. I feel extraordinarily proud of my achievement, particularly as Beyond the Hedge has my own cover design, something I very much doubt would have happened with a mainstream publisher who would have had their own design team.

Success is not necessarily dependent on having the might of a major publishing house behind you, although it undoubtedly helps. The route of whats known in the trade as the slow burn is not for the faint-hearted, but goals achieved along the way are all the sweeter. I realised the part the Internet would play in publicising my book, so we designed a website in-house to showcase my work from the outset.

We constantly update the site to keep it fresh, fun and informative; is a virtual bookshop and one in which there is only one novel, mine! How many first-time writers have that luxury? Directing traffic to the site is a constant challenge but, as the weeks pass, the website stats show more and more potential readers are finding me, some of whom have come across Beyond the Hedge on this very site. At this stage, Id like to pause and thank Soothingminds Frances Watkins for backing my debut novel from the very beginning.

Ive learned a phenomenal amount since my book launch at the end of 2005, and if my experiences and unorthodox approach encourage others to break the stereotypical mould to achieve their dreams, whatever those might be, then Im proud to have played even a tiny part in inspiring them to take hold of the reins of their lives.

Find out more about Mairi and her book Beyond the Hedge including all the wonderful characters at

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