Featured debut author: Joanna Cannon

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep book

We gave away 50 copies of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, a witty and intriguing debut novel set in the heatwave of 1976. For the budding authors among you, Joanna Cannon also shares her top writing tips.

This giveaway is sponsored by HarperCollins

About the book

England, 1976

Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. The neighbours blame the disappearance on the heatwave, but ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly aren't so sure. As the summer shimmers endlessly on, the girls decide to take matters into their own hands. And as the cul-de-sac starts giving up its secrets, the amateur detectives find much more than they imagined. As they try to make sense of it all, a web of deception begins to unravel.

Praise for The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

“Part whodunnit, part coming of age, this is a gripping debut about the secrets behind every door” – Rachel Joyce

“A very special book” – Nathan Filer

“I didn't want the book to end” – Carys Bray

About the author

Joanna Cannon

Joanna Cannon graduated from Leicester Medical School and worked as a hospital doctor, before specialising in psychiatry. She lives in the Peak District with her family and her dog.

Joanna Cannon's top tips for aspiring authors

1. Make writing a habit

We often push anything creative to the bottom of the 'to do' list, whether it's writing, painting, or playing an instrument. We feel all our other jobs have to be done first. Creative expression is so important for mental health, so give your writing the same importance as looking after your physical health. Make sure it has its own place in your schedule.

2. Read your work out

It's a real eye-opener (or ear opener), to hear your words spoken. Awkward conversations and rambling descriptions are spotted so much more easily when they’re said out loud!

3. Try to explain the plot to someone else

Even the friendliest of listeners will point out stumbling blocks. 'Yes, but why doesn't he just…' or 'what was that character called again?' Something which seems perfectly logical inside your mind, or your laptop, can seem deeply illogical to someone else. Explaining the story is a great way to riddle out the problems.

4. Change the place you write

It's amazing the difference it can make, just having another view, or another wall to stare at! I always write and edit in different places, because it means approaching the story in an alternative way.

5. If you're stuck, do something else

As noble as it is to stare at a blank Word document for three hours, it's often more productive to leave it for a while and return later. The more frustrated you get, the less likely you are to write well.

6. Read

Another great place to shake off 'writer's block' is in someone else's book. There is nothing more uplifting than another writer's beautiful prose.

7. Read #2

Read widely, in all genres. Every genre has something to offer. Historical fiction is wonderful for learning about the landscape of a story. Crime fiction is brilliant for plotting, and you won't find better examples of dialogue than in women's fiction.

8. Try a different font

When you're editing – especially line editing – switch your manuscript to a different font. It's amazing how mistakes shout from the page when they're in Calibri and not Times New Roman.

9. Enjoy the frustration

When you want to throw your laptop out of a window. When you hate the story with every fibre of your being. When you want to give up and write something else. Enjoy these moments. It means you care. It means you have something you desperately want to say (and say it well), which for a writer, is the most important thing of all.

10. Ignore people's tips

Oh the irony, but truly, ignore what everyone else is doing if it doesn't work for you. Writing is so personal, and everyone finds their own path. The most important thing is to remember why you started writing in the first place – and just enjoy it.

Book giveaway

We gave away 50 copies of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

We ask all winners to share their thoughts about the book on the discussion thread. Anyone who has read The Trouble with Goats and Sheep can post on the thread. Everyone who posts their feedback by 23 February will be entered into a draw to win a £100 Love2Shop voucher.