Thanks so much for having me. When it’s time to write, that’s when I hunker down in front of the TV or get on Twitter or remember that I have a wife and kid. Basically, I procrastinate as long as possible until the muse possesses me and compels me to burn the midnight oil in the solitude of my den.
It’s not that I like to write in my den or any place of isolation for that matter. But when I’m in the zone, it’s best to leave me alone. I don’t have any writing rituals per se, but I need to create some, especially when the muse goes MIA.
Your novel is called Hands Up. What is it about?
Hands Up follows three characters from different worlds on are on collision course after a deadly police shooting spins their lives into chaos. Officer Ryan Quinn is on the fast track to detective until he shoots an unarmed black male. Now he embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to choose between conscience or silence.
Jade Wakefield is an emotionally damaged college student who lives in one of the city’s worst neighbourhoods. She sets out to find the truth and get revenge after learning that there’s more to her brother’s death than the official police account.
While mourning the death of his son, Kelly Randolph returns to his hometown broke and broken to seek forgiveness for abandoning his family 10 years earlier. But when he is thrust into the spotlight as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.
What’s your writing process like from idea to final draft?
It’s like a sausage factory on fire. It’s not pretty or safe. As Ernest Hemingway said, the first draft of anything is s***. My writing process aims to turn that s***, speck by speck, into gold.
What music would be on a playlist for Hands Up?by
Hi Laura. It’s lovely to welcome you to Novel Kicks today and happy book birthday for A Wedding in Cornwall. Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired it?
Thanks so much, and very excited to share with your readers today! The romance read A Wedding in Cornwall is the first novella in a series that focuses on an American event planner’s adventures working at a Cornish manor house in a remote village. It was heavily inspired by other Cornish-themed stories, including the television shows Poldark and Doc Martin.
What’s your writing process like, from idea to final draft and how has it evolved from your first novel?
My writing process is actually much the same as when I first started. I usually start with brainstorming some notes, and then create an outline. This can range from anything from a few lines to describe each scene to a more full-blown, descriptive document outlining what happens in the story. From there, it’s just a matter of getting it all on paper and then onto revisions and editing for the final draft.
Where do you like to write, do you prefer silence and do you write longhand? Need coffee?
I work with a laptop, but my work station is most often in my living room (usually with a cat or two on hand for company!). I often work to music or sometimes a favourite television program, although silence is okay too. No coffee, but occasionally a cup of hot chocolate in the winter time!
What elements need to be in place for beginning a novel?
For me, the basic events of the story need to be outlined, so I don’t get too off track, so to speak! And I need to have some basic notes on character background too, even though certain things about both plot or characters may change as the story goes on paper.
Do you think plot or character is more important?by
Hi Ann, thank you so much for joining me today. Your book is called Crossing Over. Can you tell me a bit about it and what inspired the story?
Thanks for having me! Crossing Over is the story of an unlikely friendship between an elderly woman living alone on the Kent coast and a traumatized Malawian migrant hiding in her barn. On the surface, the two characters have little in common and in some ways they can never fully understand one another, but through their interaction they gain new perspectives on their own experiences and uncover more similarities between their lives than you might expect.
For several years, I’d wanted to write about the little ships manned by civilians that were sent to rescue soldiers from the beaches in Dunkirk early in the second world war. I knew this would probably involve an elderly character who had been involved in the evacuation effort. Then, when reports started to surface of refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean and more recently the Channel in small boats, the parallels and contrasts between the two types of crossings seemed powerful.
In addition, I’m fascinated by representing altered mental states in narrative and how mental illness affects storytelling (something I explored with bipolar disorder in my first novel, Beside Myself). Many therapies are built on the theory that telling a story can help a person move past a traumatic event – so what are the implications for people who are unable to articulate what has happened to them coherently? It struck me that bringing together two characters whose storytelling is compromised – one through PTSD and the other through dementia – might provide an interesting way to explore this.
What challenges did you face in regards to the themes of the book?
I was representing the story from the point of view of two characters with markedly different life experiences to my own. It required sensitivity and a great deal of thought. Indeed, for a long time I would have doubted my entitlement as white British writer to try and tell the story of a Malawian character.
However, recent books such as The Good Immigrant and Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race challenged my thinking on this and made me see that it’s important for writers of all backgrounds to do what we can to increase representation and diversity in storytelling.
The key is to do your best to do it well – in fact that is always a writer’s job. In the case of Jonah and Edie, this involved a huge amount of research and time spent talking to people with direct knowledge of and insight into many of the things I was writing about.
I then had to filter all this research through my own imagination and sensibility to try to make sure that it lived in the story as human experience, rather than two-dimensional information.
What’s your typical writing day like? Is there somewhere specific you like to write?
I get up very early and start at 5am in my writing room looking out over the hills and the white cliffs. Those early hours when the house is quiet are golden. If I have all day and am not going out for meetings, I will work in two- or three-hour stints, with breaks for meals and probably a run in the middle of the day, until around 6pm.
What’s your favourite word and why?by
Your book is called Reader, I Married Me (I love this title.) Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired it?
I wrote this book after going through a bad break up – being cheated on, lied to and rejected by the person I trusted the most. But, you know what, looking back I realise it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Romantic love is wonderful and all, but realising that I didn’t need ‘another half’ to make me happy or ‘complete’ me was an awesome revelation to have. So much so that I decided to take vows of self-commitment and marry myself in Brighton! I know it sounds bonkers but the idea was to start conversations and ask the question ‘why shouldn’t self-love be AS important as romantic love?!’ After all, your relationship with yourself deserves as much attention as any other – and the more you deal with your own crap the less other people have to, right?
So, my new novel is loosely based on my own experience of sologamy because it turns out that loving yourself so publicly is not easy – in fact, it got me a lot of haters. Which kind of highlights the complex attitude our culture has to self-love in the first place! The title slightly adulterates the words of literary heroine Jane Eyre 🙂
What’s your favourite word and why?
Discombobulate. I love this word because it sounds amazing in your mouth and describes the rather marvellous state of being tumbled from your comfort zone. It kind of reminds me of how Winnie the Pooh thinks.
What’s your writing process like from idea to final draft?
Well, I’m still figuring that out actually. Writing the novel was such a great learning curve and I think the next book I write should be a lot more streamlined. Because there is a certain formula to plot and character development and I think if you can pin that down first then your writing becomes a lot less chaotic!
Where do you normally write and do you need coffee, silence, noise?by
Hi Des, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your book, Dead and Talking and what inspired it?
It’s lovely to be here. Thank you for the invite. The novel is about a man who is forced to atone for the “sins” of his family by a sort of ghost – think It’s a Wonderful Life’s Clarence! – And he can only do that by righting some historical wrongs. He’s given the gift of being able to peer into the last moments of dead people’s lives if he’s near their remains. Which sort of helps. He’s a natural sceptic and thinks he’s going a bit mad but picks up some fellow travellers who help him. It quickly becomes an ensemble piece. Although set today, the first case he has to solve is of a private shot for desertion in WW1. He soon finds it is linked to his own family history.
It’s dark in places but is also funny because he and his helpers are all so reluctant to believe any of it is happening. There are some Ealing Comedy moments too. Tone-wise, it’s in the same ballpark as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Though, as I say, the dark moments are pretty dark.
It was inspired by a few actual events from WW1. After I started plotting it, I also had to make a film about the role of soldiers from the Empire who fought for the British. I spent some time in Ypres, at the In Flanders Fields Museum and at some locations not open to tourists. It all sort of fitted together. Actually, doesn’t this show how research doesn’t just adorn the plot, it can become the plot?
What’s your typical writing day like? Is there somewhere specific you like to write?
I nearly always get up and go to a local coffee shop to get started for an hour or two on my laptop. I like to see the world go by before I hunker down behind the closed doors of my office. I write between 1-4 hours a day because I’m a filmmaker by trade and that takes up a lot of time. I wish I could spend more time writing.
How did your background in journalism help with writing your book?
Many ways. Not having a fear of the blank page helps a lot. Knowing how to plan, how to sub, how to edit. Knowing the importance of drafts and revisions. Welcoming constructive criticism and actually acting on it.
But it’s also in the people I’ve met. I’ve spent a lot of quality time with Normandy veterans and other soldiers. Also, my starting point has always been a journalistic one of trying to see both sides of an argument and so, though a natural sceptic myself, I’m able to suspend that disbelief while writing, simply by putting myself in the mind of someone who does believe. Sceptic or not, who doesn’t love the idea that there are ghosts?
What would your reaction be to a ghost? It would scare the hell out of me.
I’m a journalist. A sceptical journalist. But not a cynical one. I will never, ever believe there are ghosts until I see one myself though. I don’t care who else tells me. But if I did see one, I would use it as a basis to explore how I’d been wrong all this time. Sadly, I haven’t seen one – though I’ve seen quite a bit of death and spent a ridiculous amount of my life in cemeteries when I was younger. Always been a bit morbid.
I’d kill to see one. Even if I was afraid, I’d be delighted.
What’s your favourite word and why?by
Hello Mandy. Thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your new book, One Last Greek Summer and what inspired it?
One Last Greek Summer is a perfect summer read set on the Greek island of Corfu. It’s the story of newly divorced thirty-something Beth Martin and her friend, Heidi, having one last holiday before they both re-evaluate the next stage of their lives. Except Heidi has picked the destination they both first visited when they were 21, and there just might be a few familiar faces waiting for them…
How has your writing process changed since writing your first novel?
*laughs* Seriously, it hasn’t changed that much! The only thing that has changed slightly is I now write two books every year as opposed to one when I first started out. I still initially come up with main characters and setting, the very bare bones of an idea, and then I literally start to write. I am not a plan it all and stick Post It notes around the room kind of writer, I just haven’t got that in me. I think if I knew the beginning, middle and end of each story I’d get bored writing it.
Where do you like to write? Do you have any writing rituals?
I have two main places I write. I have an office at home and I also visit my husband’s office at Numeric Accounting in Salisbury three days a week to give me that true ‘getting up and going to work’ feeling. It’s amazing how productive you can be surrounded by a team of accountants… As for writing rituals, I don’t really have any of those, just keep the coffee coming! Oh, and we always go to the pub at lunchtimes on a Friday! That surely counts, doesn’t it?
How important is it to pick the right names for your characters?
This is SUPER important to me otherwise the characters don’t come alive or feel real to me. I remember one publisher (who shall remain nameless) at the very last moment, I think at the proofreading stage of things, wanted me to change the name and nationality of my hero. I was so shocked and I was absolutely not happy about it. I stuck to my guns and obviously I was right! It doesn’t usually take me long to come up with names but they do have to feel right for the characters.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently finishing writing Christmas! One Christmas Star comes out in e-book on 12 September and I am really excited about this book. It’s the story of schoolteacher, Emily and down-on-his-luck singer, Ray. It’s set in a festive London and involves a full-on school Christmas show – think Nativity meets A Star is Born – that’s how I pitched it to Aria Fiction.by
Hi Jenni, it’s great to be welcoming you back to Novel Kicks.
Thank you so much for having me back. I can’t believe my second book is out already. I had a real thrill ride with The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker. The book had so many amazing reviews and I was delighted to get an Amazon bestseller flag. Let’s hope The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadowsis as enthusiastically received.
Which fictional character would you like to spend the day with? What would you do?
This is such a hard question. In fact, I left answering it until the end because there are so many characters I could have chosen. I considered people from historical novels where I would get the opportunity to spend some time in an exciting period of history – perhaps with a Regency lady or a certain Victorian cotton mill owner *wink*. I thought about characters with special powers, like Harry Potter and various superheroes (flying through the air with Superman would be a blast). I considered the simple rural idyll that would be spending a day with Anne Shirley at Green Gables, or Miss Marple in her beloved St Mary Mead. Perhaps I could pamper myself and spend the day with someone wealthy or influential, perhaps party with Jay Gatsby, or Holly Golightly? So many fabulous characters, so many choices…
In the end (wait for it…) it’s a toss up between Mr Daydream (who could give my imagination a boost and therefore some fabulous material for my novels) and Mr Impossible (so I can do EVERYTHING and ANYTHING) from the fabulous Mr Men. These were the very first books I read by myself and they have a special place in my heart. I’m sure I could have some up with something more intellectual but I’m embracing my inner child. Besides, I’m curious to see how they mange to drink a cup of tea with those stumpy little arms (Mr Tickle being the obvious exception).
Which songs would be on a playlist for The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows?
This is quite an easy question because Theo, who works with Maisie at the auction house, has a particular penchant for the 1980s. Although he is an expert in modern design (i.e. post-war) that’s the decade that really interests him, and this is reflected in his music taste. He plays a lot of The Jam, The Police, The Clash (late Seventies/Eighties) so a soundtrack would have to include these bands. This contrasts with the flamboyant Johnny (Maisie’s boss) who has more classical tastes, so perhaps some Mozart and a sprinkling of Shostakovich (as it is mentioned in the book). And then, to keep the author happy, I’d have to throw in a few recent dance tracks – which is largely what I listen to when I write. So it would be quite an eclectic mix.
How did your writing process differ from your previous novel?
In many ways it was quite similar. I’m a pantser, not a plotter, so apart from the bare bones of the story and a definite idea of the ending, I do tend to launch myself in rather randomly, not even writing chronologically. However, for Maisie I had to produce a synopsis for the publisher before I began writing and this did help me focus my ideas a bit more. There was also a time pressure for Maisie, whereas Lucy was written before I had a publishing deal so I had longer to play about with it. However, deadlines are Good Things. They help you focus.
The only thing I really did differently was a mid-book plan. I always refer to my first draft as the Bowl of Dropped Spaghetti stage – because in my head that’s what it feels like. After that, I need to pick all the jumbled spaghetti up and sort it out. Writing Maisie was the first time I’d produced a coherent plan but it was only at this post first-draft stage. I put all the scenes I’d written on Post-it notes and then planned the book – a bit backwards but it worked. My clever techie son set me up with two screens and I simply pulled across sections in order onto a blank document. I am at the Bowl of Dropped Spaghetti stage with Book 3 now so shall employ this method again.
Which authors have inspired you?by
Hello Jon, welcome back to Novel Kicks. Congratulations on the new book Good Grief, which has been released today. What are you doing to celebrate?
Firstly, thank you so much for having me! It’s always a pleasure. I don’t know about other authors, but I don’t do much to celebrate new books because I’m usually too anxious and worried about getting reviews and what people will think of it. I usually just have a meal with my family and a couple of drinks, and then it’s back to stressing about it! That’s the life of an author – 95% stress 5% enjoyment!
Can you tell me a little of what Good Grief is all about?
Good Grief is my eighth novel and it’s about two very different people trying to get over losing their partners. Holly Moon is twenty-seven and a year before the start of the book her husband died suddenly of a heart attack. Holly thought she had it all and suddenly her life is nothing like she had planned. Phil Turner is sixty and he’s been married to Bev for nearly forty years. She’s all he’s ever known. When she dies of cancer, he doesn’t know what life is about anymore. Holly and Phil meet at Good Grief counselling group and strike up an unlikely friendship. Together they help each other move on and find a purpose in life again. Good Grief is a love letter to the healing power of friendship. It might sound a bit sad, and it is in places, but ultimately it’s a feel-good, uplifting story.
Which songs would be on a playlist for Good Grief?
Haha that’s great. I actually made one on Spotify! Queen play an important role in the book and so definitely some Queen. I’d go for Another One Bites The Dust and I Want To Break Free. There’s the Snow Patrol song, What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get? Love Will Tear Us Apart by Joy Division, Your Song by Elton John, Nothing Lasts Forever by Echo & The Bunnymen, Hey Jude by The Beatles and One Day by Kodaline. You can find the playlist on Spotify. It’s called Good Grief Playlist. Enjoy!
What’s your favourite word and why?
Ooo that’s a tough one. I think my all-time favourite word is bivouac. I’ve never actually used it in a book, but one day! The way it just sort of rolls off the tongue.
When you are beginning a new project, how much planning needs to be in place before you decide it’s enough to begin? Do you use software like Scrivener or a notebook?by
Welcome Back Lynne and Valerie. I am so happy to be chatting to you on publication day for The Last Time I Saw You. What are the challenges of co-writing a novel and how do you divide responsibilities from idea to final draft? How long does it take you to write a novel?
We love writing together and feel the advantages far outweigh the challenges, however there are definitely aspects of co-authoring that present more difficulty than writing solo. Because we live in different states, one of the biggest of these is scheduling. We speak every morning to determine the day’s “assignment” and then FaceTime at the end of the day to discuss the work for the day, and so we need to be strict and precise about the time for these appointments. That means looking at our calendars and determining times that mesh with our respective schedules.
With everyday life commitments , sometimes finding a mutually workable time can be frustrating, and could hamper the flow of work. Then there is the challenge of resolving a disagreement regarding plot line or character. Fortunately, this is a fairly rare occurrence, and when we have disagreed, we’ve been able thus far to listen to each other’s reasoning with respect and an open mind. Hence the solutions have always been arrived at without rancor or resentment. Lastly, the job of editing can be challenging because it’s something that must be done together, page by page, line by line. This part of the job can easily keep us on FaceTime for six to eight continual hours at a time. So…pretty minor challenges given how much we enjoy working together.
We talk through an idea for two months or so before we write the first sentence, and so we have a general idea of where we want to go and what the twist will be. We also develop our characters together. We don’t have a detailed outline of the story, preferring to let it unfold more organically––to let the characters dictate the action as it were. We work equally on all aspects of the book, so even though we have two protagonists, we both write for each of them. The process has now evolved to the point where Lynne might start a scene and then send it to Valerie to finish or vice versa. There are times when the beginning of a sentence is written by one of us and the end by the other. And of course we edit each other’s work as well.
The Last Mrs. Parrish took us a year from start to final edits, however, The Last Time I Saw You took eighteen months. The book in progress has taken us four months, and we are now in final edits.
What’s your favourite word and why?
Lynne – Gobemouche – it sounds just like what it is – extremely gullible. It’s a fun word to say and it reminds me of something my father would make up. He was a great kidder and loved to come up with crazy nicknames and words.
Valerie – mulligrubs. First of all because it sounds so delicious on the tongue and secondly because it so perfectly describes someone who is sullen and has the grumps.
Which song would each describe each of you?
Lynne – Break My Stride – Matthew Wilder
Val –Time of my Life – Bill Medley & Jennifer Warens
What elements do you feel need to be present to make a believable, good suspense novel?
Good character development, plausibility, tight pacing, and surprising but inevitable twists.
What book do you wished you’d written?
Val – Pride and Prejudice
Lynne – Murder on the Orient Expressby
Hello Nicholas. It’s great to welcome you to the blog today. Please tell me a little about your new book, Justice Gone and what inspired it?
Justice Gone was inspired by a true event, the fatal beating of a homeless man in a small Californian town. This was such an extreme case, and one which did not include any racial elements, that it exposed the utter abuse of authority in which an outraged public reaction was inevitable. The town was Fullerton, the man’s name was Kelly Thomas, and the year was 2011. Although the police officers were indicted by a grand jury, they were acquitted in their trial. So I asked myself a question: if someone felt that justice was denied the deceased, would they take it in their own hands? This became the seed for the story.
What elements do you feel need to be present in a thriller novel? What are the challenges?
Suspense, that is, the anticipation of what is going to come next, and this is usually accompanied by actions to some degree, although if you have enough skill, words alone can create this tension. Whichever way you accomplish this, the challenge is to persuade the reader to invest their interest in what is going on, and this includes sympathy for the protagonists.
This is the first part of a series featuring Dr Tessa Thorpe. What advice do you have for someone trying to develop a series and a strong character that will keep them coming back to read their story?
You need to become friends, or even love the character, knowing their faults as well as their admirable traits. In this way you know what they will say and can predict what they’ll do in any situation.
Actually Tessa first appeared in Journey Towards a Falling Sun, a story I wrote over 30 years ago, but eventually got published in 2014. It was a minor role, but one in which she was born, so to speak.
What’s your typical writing day like, where do you like to write and do you prefer silence?
I can write in the early mornings when I’m fresh, or in the evenings when I’m relaxed. usually the time between is non-productive. Silence is mandatory.
What’s your favourite word and why?
I don’t have a favourite word. I have a favourite colour, blue. Can I then say that “blue” is my favourite word?by
Hi Peter, thank you for joining me on Novel Kicks. When did you start writing?
I have been writing since I was seven years old – my original ambition was to be a scriptwriter. I find the world we live in very interesting and I enjoy observing human behaviour, and that’s really my approach. I’m constantly taking note of what’s happening around me as you never know where you might find inspiration for a character or piece of plot.
How did you get your big break?
My first ‘break’ was at age seventeen, when I won a national short story competition run by the BBC and got to read my story out on air. It was hugely exciting! However, my first professional writing job came along a few years later whilst I was living in Toronto and working on a children’s television series called Polka Dot Door. I was a gopher – it was my job to basically run errands. One day we were due to film an episode, but the writer hadn’t turned in the script. The producer asked if I could write one there and then, and I said ‘okay!’
How much research do you do for each novel?
My novels tend to be very research-driven. I first had the seed of an idea for Absolute Proof when I received a mysterious call from someone claiming to have proof of the existence of god – just like Ross does – thirty years ago. In the decades that followed I did a great deal of research, ranging from speaking to religious leaders about the consequences absolute proof would have for believers, to living as a monk for five days in the extraordinary monastic commune of Mount Athos. It’s been an extraordinary journey!
Who inspires you?
When I was 14, I read Graeme Greene’s Brighton Rock, and it totally changed my life. It’s the book that made me realise I wanted to be a writer, and also the reason that my Roy Grace series is based in Brighton. Greene has a way of describing characters, in just a few sentences, which makes you feel you know them inside out, and his sense of “place” is almost palpable. Brighton Rock is for me an almost perfect novel. It has one of the most gripping opening lines ever written too – ‘Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to kill him.’
What advice would you give to new and aspiring writers?
Reading extensively and intelligently is the most important thing – read books that have done well in the genre you want to write in and analyse what you like about the author’s style. Once you’ve started writing, make time to write every single day. Find a comfortable number of words to do each day and stick to that number. I am comfortable with 1,000 words. For some it might be 500, 200 or even 2,000 – as long as you are consistent, the number doesn’t matter.
And you must love your characters – or no one else will!
Hi Emily. Thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your novel, Bells and Bows on Mistletoe Row (I love this title) and what inspired it?
It’s lovely to be here. Thank you for inviting me.
I’m so pleased you love the title. The wonderful members of my Facebook group helped me choose it. There were three options and this was the most popular.
The idea of Bells and Bows came to me as I was staring at one of the churches I can see from my office. The bells were ringing because it was a Sunday morning. I love listening to church bells, so my mind was drifting as it so often does. Juliet Bell and Harrison Bow popped up in front of me and introduced themselves. I loved the fact that their names had a Christmas ring to them (excuse the pun) and because they both had siblings, Bells and Bows was born.
I firmly believe in love at first sight. I also believe a person can love another their whole life, even if they’re not actually together. I can tell you many true stories relating to both!
Anyway, because I adore Christmas, and because of their names, I decided to put all those things together and see where it went. Both main families in this book need to learn to discuss issues and to open up about their feelings.
They believe in ‘a stiff upper lip’ and tend not to talk to one another about anything meaningful. This Christmas, that’s all about to change.
One of the secondary characters is based on a dear friend of mine who is no longer with us, and he is the cause of a few misunderstandings in the novel.
From planning to edit, what’s your writing process like and how has it changed since the first book?
I don’t plan. I never have. I get an idea and I sit down and write whatever comes into my head, or whatever appears in front of me.
I often say that the story unfolds before my eyes and I simply type what I’m seeing. I write a very quick first draft and make notes about the characters, settings etc. along the way.
Then I leave it for a few days or so, do any research that’s necessary, and then write the second draft. I write as many drafts as it takes before I feel happy with the book. After that, it goes to my editor.
Any changes or suggestions she has, are discussed and if I need to rewrite anything, I do.
Which Christmas tradition is your favourite?
That’s a difficult question because I love them all. Preparing the Christmas cake and all having a stir of the mixture and making a wish is one I’ve loved all my life. Opening one present on Christmas Eve, is another.
Finding a Yule log, bringing it home and burning it is one I can’t do at the moment because I no longer have a real fire. I miss that.
I need to move home before next year. I want a real fire again. Buying about two hundred more Christmas cards than I’ll ever need – and then doing exactly the same every year. (I’ve got boxes and boxes of cards…but I’ve already bought more this year!) Hanging wreaths on the doors, front and back.
Putting up the Christmas decorations in November. Going to a carol concert. Christmas crackers. Making mulled wine and eggnog.
Not together in the same pot, obviously. Hohoho! Setting the Christmas pud alight. Baking mince pies. Playing Christmas songs from October onwards. Yes, honestly. Ask my friends. It drives them nuts.
Ooh nuts! Spending hours trying to crack a brazil nut open and nearly losing an eye, or breaking several ornaments in the process. That’s a tradition not to be missed! Sorry. You only wanted one thing, didn’t you?by
Hello Pernille, thank you so much for joining me on Novel Kicks today. Your book is called Him With The Beard. Can you tell me a little about it?
Hi Laura, I´m so glad you would have me!
In Him With The Beard, we follow a little family whose life is turned upside down when the daughter Mille stops believing in Santa. We read the story from the mother´s, Stella, perspective.
It’s a sweet Christmas story about family, Santa Claus and the big question whether it’s possible to find a way back to the joy of Christmas when you discover that Santa isn’t who you thought.
What is your writing process like from planning to editing?
I always begin with a vague idea, often a funny scene, and work with the idea in my head for some while, before I begin writing it down on paper. I love the process of getting all the small pieces in the puzzle to fit.
And then I begin writing, writing, writing and writing. I´m one of those unwise people that edit and write at the same time, but I just know when something doesn’t work, and I would rather change it when I know what I can do differently than forgetting it and try to change it later.
From then on it’s off to beta readers and the editor and I do changes based on what they find. I´m not perfect, so I love getting feedback that can help me get my story better across to readers.
Is there a certain place you like to write and are there certain things you need like coffee/tea/music/silence?
I´m pretty easy to please. I just need my computer to write 🙂
I always write late at night or very early in the morning when it’s quiet. I´m also pretty tired at this point so it’s like writing drunk which can be a good thing because then my inner critic has gone to bed. Ha!
What elements do you feel need to be present in a novel?
I really like when a book has humour and a twinkle in the eye because I feel like the book becomes your friend and you share all these inside jokes that no one else understands (Even if the author wrote them like that).
I often wonder what kind of relationship other readers have with my favourite books, and now also what my book will give people.
What’s your favourite word and why?
I love this question! And I don´t know!
I´m such kind of person that often stops up to repeat a word because it sounds funny or delicious in the way it leave my lips.
I´m a Dane so the word “Hygge” is a word I use at least ten times a day. At least!
English words I like is: Dazzle, giggle or the hilarious Flabbergasted. I feel like I have to do the flabbergasted face to say this word!
Is there a fictional character you’d like to meet? What would you both do?
I´m thinking I would have a lovely day with Lily from Pictures of Lily by Paige Toon. Just walking around in an Australian conservation park, and say hello to kangaroos, wombats and koalas (NO SPIDERS PLEASE) and then have lunch in the shade of a big eucalyptus tree. If I’m lucky I might even get the chance to say hello to Lily´s sexy husband Ben.
Hi Julie. Thank you so much for joining me today. Your new novel is called A Village Affair. Can you tell me about it and what inspired it?
Hi, and thank you so much for having me on your blog today. It’s much appreciated.
As writers, we’re always advised to write about what we know and “AVillage Affair”began its life under the guise of ‘Not in My backyard’ influenced, very much, by a real-life fight in my village where acres of fields and greenbelt land were in danger of having hundreds, if not thousands, of houses built upon them. As the main focus of the plot moved and centred upon the village school, the novel took on the handle “Little Acorns” and many of the school incidents are based on real happenings in the primary schools I have taught in over the years. Eventually Aria came up with the title “A Village Affair”which I love and which, I think, encompasses the different strands of the book.
What’s your writing process like (idea, research etc.) How do you approach editing?
At the start of a new idea/novel I sit at my desk with a brand-new exercise book. I like my novels to be very much character-based and so I come up with characters’ names, write what they look like and actually give them a family tree. This is important as I’m mainly writing about the characters in one town and one village and so I have to make sure they’re not too related to each other, especially if they’re going to end up together!! With “Holly Close Farm”,as nearly half of it is set during WW2, I did a huge amount of research about the WAAFs and Bomber Command. I really enjoyed this bit and it was quite hard work leaving the reading to actually write. I love editing. I must be the only writer who enjoys this bit. I love going back over what I’ve written, tweaking and adding and crossing out. In my early days as a writer I would write one chapter and then edit it to death the next day because I was so proud that I’d actually written another chapter. Now, with deadlines, I tend to just write and edit at the end. Editing means I’ve finished, which is always wonderful.
What’s your typical writing day like? Do you have a place to write? Cup of coffee? Write in silence?
I’m a lark: I’m much better writing at 6am than later in the day. I had the most beautiful writing room at one end of the house but my husband is now working from home and has commandeered it for his office. I’m in a cupboard – not literally, but it feels like it after the lovely office with views down the valley. I actually quite like my cupboard: it’s jampacked with books, piles of papers, computer and, usually, the dog. I write, plan for school if I’m teaching a couple of days and do some private tuition in there. It does tend to get a bit cosy. One day, I’ll have my office back!
I need silence, tons of coffee (morning) and Earl Grey tea (afternoon).
So, basically, if it’s a writing day, I’ll get up early, have a mug of hot water and lemon (my mum always did and I’ve done this for the past 30 years) answer emails, decide whether it’s a swim or a run, shower, have breakfast and read the paper about eleven and then really get stuck in. If I can write 2-3000 words a day I’m more than happy.
What’s the most challenging thing with writing a novel?
The start of any new novel. By the end of a novel I love my characters so much I can’t bear to leave them and start again. I feel very disloyal to my old friends and it takes a while to love the new ones.
How do you pick names for your characters?
Probably with names I wanted to call my own children but for which my husband didn’t share the same enthusiasm. So India, Clementine, Kit, Theadora and Fin were born! My daughter, Georgia, is really cross I didn’t stick to my guns and call her Theadora – shortened to Teddy – that Harriet names one of her twins.
In my “Work in Progress“(Book 7 and desperate for inspiration for an actual title) it’s been easy to come up with names because I have Patrick, the father – a bit of a lothario – who is a Cambridge educated Classics professor and gives all his four daughters names from Greek literature. I’ve ended up with Isolde, Pandora, Juno and Lexia.
What elements make up a good novel?
When I read, I want a thumping good story. I want to know what happens next. I want to want to go to bed read to know what’s going to happen. I do like humour in a novel. It doesn’t have to be overtly laugh out loud. I think Liane Moriarty and Kate Atkinson are both superb writers, not only at weaving good stories but at having the ability to include some quite subtle humour. I aspire to both these wonderful novelists!!by
Amelia Mandeville joins me today. Her debut novel, Every Colour of You is released tomorrow by Sphere. Hi Amelia, thank you so much for joining me today. Your book is called Every Colour of You. Can you tell me a bit about it and what inspired the story?
Hello, thanks so much for having me!
My book follows the journey of Tristan, who is struggling with his mental health, and Zoe, who is the most positive person you’ll meet. It’s all about their friendship as very different people. I think my own personal struggles with mental health made me write this story. I also think it’s important for boys to be able to know that they can cry, they are allowed to not be okay, and talk about it.
What is your writing process like from research and plot development to editing?
It’s different for each book. This one, I spent a little bit of time planning, writing down certain lines I really wanted Zoe or Tristan to say, their characteristics. Then when I had the ending set in stone, I started writing. The editing was thorough, we did a lot of drafts before it got to my final draft, and I felt it just got better and better. My book would not be how it is, without Abby and Manpreet who edited.
Do you have any rituals when writing – a certain place to write, coffee, music, silence?
Music. I always have to listen to music. I think of my most chapters to myself when I’m driving on my own, listening to a song. There’s something about music. It really just gets me in my zone. Specifically sad, emotional, music.
Which author/book has most influenced you?
I think I always found Veronica Roth so successful, writing at such a young age. And obviously JK Rowling. Despite all those rejections, but her true talent eventually was recognized. I tried to remind myself that whenever I got rejections (I got a lot). I’m not saying I will ever be on the level of JK Rowling, but if she gave up, we would never have Harry Potter.
What is the best part of writing and what did you find the most challenging?
The best part is creating characters that you feel so much emotion and love with, its lovely. The hard part is the self-criticism, and comparison. Also when you hitting a writing block. I really do doubt my writing abilities when I’m in that state of mind. But once you’re out it’s back into doing what you love again.
Are you working on a new book? Are you able to tell me a bit about it?
I am! I’m keeping it secret. But I’m 20 thousand words in, and it will focus on duel narratives again. But it’s a very different story, with a very different situation.by