Who’s That Girl is the brilliant novel from Mhairi Mcfarlane. I’m so incredibly excited and honoured to be welcoming her to Novel Kicks today. I’ve reviewed Who’s That Girl below but first, I have a chat with Mhairi about her book, her writing process, who from the fictional world she’d like to hang out with and writing advice I am going to print out and pin to my desk.
Hi Mhairi, it’s lovely to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Could you tell me a little about your novel, Who’s That Girl?
Lovely to be here! Who’s That Girl? is about Edie Thompson, 36, who is caught kissing the groom on his wedding day. She has her reasons, but no one wants to hear them, and it causes a scandal that sees her carefully managed life in advertising in London fall apart. She she has to go home to Nottingham and face her demons, and her grumpy younger hippy sister, Meg. She gets a temporary assignment ghost writing a celebrity biography and meets a hot new actor, Elliot Owen. Together they help each other tackle fame and infamy.
What’s your writing process like? Are you much of a planner or edit as you go?
I am such an ex journalist in this respect: I edit like fury as I go along, I don’t know how else to be: it has to feel more or less right or I can’t move forward. It’s a good thing in it that I tend to be quite clear in my tone and intent from the start, and I don’t have – my editor gives side eye here – HUGE rewrites later, but it doesn’t make me all that speedy, either. I have to bully myself to move on and not torture myself over it being exactly where I want it and polished to a high shine. Which no first draft ever is, really.
If you mean plot planning, I work to a rough A to Z outline but there’s a fair amount of free styling along the way.
Do you have any writing rituals for example writing in silence, chain drinking coffee?
Oh I hammer through great pails of black coffee definitely. No rituals, I’m not one of those ordered Kon Mari-ish writers with five fresh pens and a 9am on the dot start at a sun lit desk and all that. I can’t cope with music when I write, way too distracting, but oddly I can cope with the bang and clatter of a coffee shop, so if I get cabin fever, I take my laptop to Caffe Nero. Then of course I sit down next to five shrieking students and I start scowling as if they’ve brought their lattes into my library.by
Today, I am welcoming Amanda Brooke and the blog tour for her latest novel, The Affair which was released by Harper on 10th November in electronic form with the paperback release due for 12th January.
A shocking story about a fifteen-year-old girl and the man who took advantage of her
“You might as well know from the start, I’m not going to tell on him and I don’t care how much trouble I get in. It’s not like it could get any worse than it already is.
I can’t. Don’t ask me why, I just can’t.”
When Nina finds out that her fifteen-year-old daughter, Scarlett, is pregnant, her world falls apart. Because Scarlet won’t tell anyone who the father is. And Nina is scared that the answer will destroy everything.
As the suspects mount – from Scarlett’s teacher to Nina’s new husband of less than a year – Nina searches for the truth: no matter what the cost.
Hello Amanda. Thank you so much for joining me on Novel Kicks today. Your new book is called The Affair. Can you tell me a little about it and how the idea originated?
Thank you for inviting me on to Novel Kicks, it’s lovely to be here again! The Affair begins with the news that fifteen year old Scarlett is pregnant to a married man. She won’t say who it is, but the two likely candidates are her stepfather and her teacher. The story is told from the point of view of the men’s wives; Scarlett’s mum, Nina and teacher’s wife, Vikki. I also introduce Scarlett’s voice as a narrator, and she describes the early days of her relationship and how she feels when the accusations start to fly. I’m not sure how much I can say about how the idea originated without giving too much away. I had a scene in my head of a schoolgirl watching from the periphery while other people’s lives fell apart. She wasn’t meant to be the focal point of the book, other than perhaps a final reveal, but after long chats with my editor, the premise of the story morphed into something quite different, and it was both a pleasure and a challenge to write.
Can you describe what your typical writing day is like? Any rituals like needing tea or writing in silence?
You’ve asked that question at a very exciting time, because I gave up work this month to write full-time. I’ve spent thirty-one years in local government and for the last five I’ve been juggling two careers, fitting in my writing around the day job. I can tell you what I plan to do, which is to concentrate on my writing in the morning, which allows me to spend the rest of the day thinking about what I’ve written and where I need to take the story next. I’m conscious that working from home will be quite sedentary, so I’ve had my treadmill adapted, with a small desk that fits on top of the handlebars. My first hour of writing will be spent walking and typing so I can wake up my body and brain at the same time. As I’ve said, that’s only the plan so you might need to ask me again in a year’s time to see if I’ve kept to it.
How do you approach writing your novels? Are you much of a planner and need to know your characters well and plot inside out? Do you edit as you go?
When I have an idea for a story, I like to mull it over in my head for a while before I commit to paper. The starting point is a two page synopsis, which doesn’t necessarily cover sub-plots or minor characters but should be enough to capture the essence of the story. My next task is to cut up the synopsis into about twelve sections, which in theory will be the chapters and, if nothing else, it gives me some reassurance that I have enough of a story for a full length manuscript. When I’m ready to start writing, I tend to have a very clear idea of the opening and final scenes, but the rest of the book remains relatively fluid. I enjoy getting to know my characters and they’re the ones who fuel my imagination as I go along, creating situations and conflict I never could have imagined from the start. In terms of editing, I see that first draft almost as a test run, it’s only during the subsequent rewrites that I really get to know the story.by
Guy Mankowski wrote his first novel, The Intimates when he was 21. His other novels include the fantastic Letters From Yelena and How I Left The National Grid. His new novel, An Honest Deceit was released by Urbane Publications on 20th October.
When Ben and Juliette’s young daughter dies in a tragic accident on a school trip, they begin searching for answers. But will they ever know the truth? What was the role of the teacher on the trip – and are the rumours about his past true? As Ben and Juliette search for the truth and the pressure rises, their own secrets and motivations are revealed…. An Honest Deceit is an intelligent and gripping contemporary psychological thriller that questions not just the motives of others, but the real reasons for discovering the truth.
Hi Guy, welcome back to Novel Kicks. Can you tell me a bit about your new novel, An Honest Deceit? What inspired you to write it?
Hi Laura, thanks for having me. An Honest Deceit is inspired in the main by an anger at the way our institutions often treat individuals who ask them uncomfortable questions. There are hundreds of people in this country who are sitting pretty in extremely well-paid jobs that they’ve only kept hold of because they’ve used the power institutions offer them to manipulate the truth. They use this power to hurt others and look after themselves. This book looks at the impact of that through the plot of a man investigating how his daughter was killed on a school trip.
What’s your typical writing day like? How has your writing approach changed since writing your first novel?
For my first novel, The Intimates, I edited the manuscript about three times. For my second novel, about eight times. For my third about 35 times and I couldn’t begin to count how many times I edited An Honest Deceit. Every word has been changed at least once so is it even the same novel? If someone looked at a draft I had of a novel called ‘Marine’, in 2011, I think they would barely recognise that it would become ‘An Honest Deceit.’ So my typical writing day has changed in that it is much more about editing and rarely about just writing.
What are the challenges of writing a psychological thriller?
It’s hard to know how deep you should go into a characters psyche because you don’t want to lose the narrative too much. The way I ended up handling it was to go very deep into their darkest thoughts and feelings and then in later drafts ensure that there were questions the reader had at every point to keep them going. It is hard to resolving everything, within your made-up world, so it doesn’t all seem too pat.by
Emma Bennet is the author of I Need A Hero, His Secret Daughter and Snowed in for her Wedding. Emma joins me today to chat about writing, planning her novels and her dinner party guests.
Hi Emma, thank you for joining me. Do you have a favourite word?
I have several: pudding, serendipity and natty stand out as particularly wonderful to say. Actually, I managed to get ‘natty’ into my latest manuscript, a great moment!
How much planning do you do before beginning a book? What elements need to be in place?
I use an A4 notebook and write a basic outline over a page. I then expand on this over about three pages, and write short character profiles for my hero and heroine. I add to and refer to these sheets regularly! Once these are in place, I’m off!
Which novel would you like to live in for a day and why?
I think it’s got to be ‘Pride and Prejudice’: I’d love to chat with Lizzy, advise her mum on her nerves and dance with Mr Darcy!
Out of all the books you’ve read, which three have stayed with you?
It tends to be children’s books which stay with me the most. I absolutely love being able to share my favourites with my children. The top three would probably be Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood, Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes and Catherine Cookson’s Nancy Nutall and the Mongrel (which never fails to make me cry!).by
I’d like to welcome Eleanor Brown and her blog tour for her new book, The Light of Paris which was released yesterday (14th July) by The Borough Press. Hi Eleanor. Thank you so much for joining me. How do you approach the writing process? Do you do much planning and do you edit as you go etc?
I’m a non-planner by nature but I’ve trained myself to do at least some. With The Weird Sisters I just clanged around discovering the story as I went, but with The Light of Paris I worked quite hard to plan things out ahead of time. Consequently, it took me years to write The Weird Sisters, but once I had The Light of Paris figured out, I wrote the first draft in under two months.
I always say to my writing students that you’re going to do the organizational work sometime – whether it’s at the beginning, in the middle when you get stuck, or at the end is up to you, but you can’t avoid it altogether. I recommend a bare minimum of planning at the beginning, even if you consider yourself a free spirit – it saves a lot of pain and dead ends.
There is zero editing as I write! I just hurl it all on the page and tell myself I can make it pretty later. I hate drafting so much I just want it over with. Besides, what’s the point of making something pretty if I am just going to have to cut it later?
Can you tell me a little about your typical writing day and do you have any writing rituals (coffee before you begin, writing in silence etc.)
For a long time I thought if I could just figure out the perfect habit, I’d have this writing thing conquered. Now I understand that there is no perfect schedule – only what you can get done.
You have to write when you can, and that may change from year to year or week to week or day to day. I used to write in the mornings and took care of business in the afternoon. But lately it’s made more sense to do business in the morning and write in the afternoon. If I kept desperately trying to fit the way things are into my old schedule, I’d be frantic. Occasionally I just have to step back and say, “This isn’t working right now. What can I do differently?”
I believe writing rituals are dangerous. What if there’s a day you can only write while you wait for your kid to get out of soccer practice? If you’ve trained yourself to need your favourite pen and the perfect blend of tea, you’re out of luck. I just write when I can, where I can, as much as I can.by
Seré Prince Halverson is the author of All The Winters After which was released by Landmark Source on 16th February . I am pleased to be welcoming her to Novel Kicks today. Hello Seré, thank you so much for joining us. Which moment in history would you like to return to and witness?
It would be pretty cool to bounce around with Neil Armstrong on the moon.
What’s your typical writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals?
I’m usually up early. I make strong coffee with frothy almond milk. I write in my journal to clear my mind and warm up, then eventually I’m writing the novel and move to the computer. When I get stuck, I go back to the notebook and scratch around or take a walk or read. Or I have a snack. Snacks help.
What is your favourite word and why?
Ostranenie. And before you think I have a grand vocabulary, I’ll admit that recently a list of fantastic words popped into my inbox, and this was one of my favorites. I liked them all, but you asked for one so I won’t be too obnoxious and throw them all around. It means: encouraging people to see common things as strange, wild, or unfamiliar; defamiliarizing what is known in order to know it differently or more deeply. Isn’t that a great word? Check out the whole list: http://www.stumbleupon.com.
Out of all the books you’ve read, which three have impacted you most?
I could answer this question differently on any given day. Too many. So I’ll tell you the first books that had a big impact on me.
When I was nine years old, I read three very different books that changed the way I viewed the world: The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne of Green Gables, and Island of the Blue Dolphins. It’s strange, even today, I can see their influence on The House of Frozen Dreams—hiding, isolation, love of place and family, and longing for home.
Oh, and I should mention Charlotte’s Web. I still carry spiders out of the house instead of squashing them.by
I’m happy to be welcoming author Lynne North back to Novel Kicks today to talk about her latest book, Be Careful What You Wish For.
About Be Careful What You Wish For:
Finn is a bored young leprechaun. He lives with his mum and dad in a small village named Duntappin, and goes to the local school there. He spends most of his free time with his best friend Dallan, but craves some excitement in his life. Unfortunately, Finn missed out on being blessed by the Good Luck Fairy and soon gets far more than he bargained for. He finds himself a long way from home in the hands of a travelling circus where he is little more than a ‘freak’ to amuse the customers.
Hi Lynne, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your latest book, Be Careful What You Wish For and now the idea originated?
‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ is a children’s humorous fantasy tale about Finn, a young leprechaun. It was published by Crimson Cloak Publishing on St Patrick’s Day, 2016.
So, it’s a happy story about a lucky chap with a liking for green clothes? Well no, not exactly. Finn is far from lucky. His parents missed his blessing with the Good Luck Fairy, the reasons why will be revealed in the book. Anyway, if there is bad luck to be had, Finn finds it. Despite knowing he isn’t the luckiest leprechaun in the village, he still craves adventure and excitement. Something he believes to be in short supply in the peaceful village where he lives with his parents. Somehow though, when Finn’s big chance of adventure does come along, he soon discovers that all adventures are not necessarily as much fun as he expected…
Anyone who has read my books before, like ‘Caution: Witch in Progress’, will know that I like to turn the expected on its head. I’m not entirely sure where my first thoughts of Finn began, but there he was winding his way through my head. All leprechauns are lucky, I thought, but what if this one isn’t? The ideas began to flow quickly. I also delved into Irish myth and folklore for some great characters. You might not have heard of a lot of them, but even if you do know about them, you won’t recognise my versions. I can guarantee that no character in this book will be quite what you expect!
How do you approach the process? Do you look at characters or plot first? Do you edit as you go?
I like to find my characters first. Or they find me, and insist on being written about. As I said, Finn wheedled his way into my thoughts until I just had to write about him. I tend to write in longhand in the first instance. In that way I can fling my ideas down in any scribbled format I choose. Once a chapter is completed in this way, it then meets my computer and becomes more legible and professionally written. So yes, I edit as I go along, though of course once the book is complete it undergoes one, or more, final serious and structured edits and proofreads. It’s a long process, but what matters is my satisfaction (and my publisher’s of course!) with the final product.by
This semester has been so busy that I haven’t had many typical writing days. But when things are a bit calmer, my writing day starts with trying to wake up quite early (around 6am), drink an alarming amount of coffee, going into my office, and reading for a bit–maybe 30 minutes–before sitting down to work. I often read things that evoke the same sort of mood that I’m going for. (For example, I’m writing something fairly dark at the moment, and one of the things that I often read a few pages of in the morning is Roberto Bolano’s 2666.) Then I generally start off by reworking the page or so that I wrote the day before, and then I start (slowly, slowly) writing that day’s work–maybe a couple of pages. I try not to check my email or the internet until I break for lunch. Then I usually have freelance projects and other work to get to in the afternoon, and then I usually go for a run or do some other exercise in the late afternoon. (That’s what helps me keep sane and focused after being in my head all day.)
Can you tell us a bit about your book, The Word Exchange?
In a nutshell, The Word Exchange is set a few years in the future (but really, like, two). It imagines the possibility that we’ve become so integrated (including biologically) with the electronic devices that help to support and augment our realities that a virus is able to spread from a machine to human beings. The potentially fatal illness that it transmits affects people’s language and speech, garbling their words and making it impossible for them to communicate with one another. (It’s colloquially known as “word flu.”)
It’s an interesting and scary premise. How did the idea originate?
I think that it probably came from my own love affair with/dependence on/wariness about technology. I grew up at a time when we were really making this big cultural shift from print to digital technology. My friends and I used to send lots of letters to one another, and I kept a physical diary. And now it’s surprising if we can even find time to email each other. I think I became very aware of the ways in which my life really had become totally augmented and interrupted by devices and digital tools, and I wanted to think a bit more deeply about what that might be doing to my ability to connect with other people and with my own thoughts.by
I am pleased to be welcoming Kathleen Irene Paterka and the blog tour for her new book, Secrets of The Royal Wedding Chapel which has recently been published by Booktrope. Hi Kathleen, thank you very much for joining me today.
Thanks for inviting me to be a part of your blog today, Laura! As much as we authors tend to be private people, living isolated lives as we indulge in the creation of our imaginary worlds, we actually do enjoy connecting with real people!
Can you talk us through your writing process? For example, any rituals before you begin? Are you much of a planner? Edit as you go?
I’m a very slow, methodical writer. And since I’m an early riser, I prefer to work in the early morning. Normally I’m at my computer no later than 6 am. I have a little timer on my desk, and I set it for two hours. For me, writing is like falling into a lovely dream, and I tend to forget about time, space, real life, or anything other than what’s happening in the magical make-believe world appearing on my computer screen. It’s as if I’m watching a movie clip in my mind, and typing as fast as I can to get it all down before it disappears. The next morning, when I sit down at the computer, I normally begin by editing a few paragraphs from the previous day’s work. That helps me fall right back into the tempo of the novel.
Your latest book is called Secrets of the Royal Wedding Chapel. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Who doesn’t love weddings and all things royal? My day job is as resident staff writer at a beautiful castle located in Northern Michigan. The Castle hosts numerous weddings throughout the year, and I have plenty of opportunities for ‘behind the scene’ peeks at brides on their special day. When I decided to write a book about weddings, I couldn’t think of a better setting than Las Vegas. My husband and I renewed our 20th wedding vows at a wedding chapel in Vegas, plus our daughter and her family live in Las Vegas. Secrets of the Royal Wedding Chapel combines my passion for royalty and romance with my love of weddings and Las Vegas. The result: The Royal Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, where dreams come true… and are just as easily destroyed.
Here’s the blurb:by
I am so pleased to be welcoming Carole Matthews back to Novel Kicks. Her new novel, The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas is published today by Sphere. Hi Carole, Can you tell us a little about your latest book, The Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas? What is it about and what themes are explored?
This is a follow-up to two of my most popular books, The Chocolate Lovers’ Club and The Chocolate Lovers’ Diet. It features the same ladies, Lucy, Chantal, Nadia and Autumn – all brought together through their love of chocolate, they share the trials and tribulations of their relationships. But, if you’re new to my books, then it’s not necessary to have read the first two. The theme is generally about the enduring power of friendship. It’s a lot of fun and I love to write about these ladies. To combine the joys of chocolate and Christmas was a dream!
What elements make up a good novel do you think?
You have to have great characters that your readers fall in love with. If you’re not rooting for them then it really doesn’t matter how clever your plot might be or how fancy your setting.
Which fictional world would you like to visit? What would you do?
I’d love to be in A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin. I’d like to be one of the good guys and I’d try very hard to keep my head on my shoulders, which could potentially be quite difficult!by
After my novel Strange Nervous Laughter was published in South Africa and the US, people were constantly asking me how to write a book and – perhaps even more than the actual writing how to find the motivation to finish. I wanted to create a platform for this.
What are you hoping people will get out of Now Novel?
A supportive, motivating space that helps them improve their writing and follow through on their novel writing dream. The end goal? A finished first draft.
There are various packages available for people wanting to use Now Novel. Can you tell us a little about what each package offers? Is there a minimum term you’d need to sign up for?
Basic access to the website (including our critiques system for giving and receiving writing feedback and our writing groups) is free. We have three paid options. The first, ‘The DIY Writer’, is our plan for writers who don’t want personalized help. It includes the Now Novel Story Builder, our online tool and step by step process for working out a blueprint for your story. If you need extra motivation, our middle tier plan, The Aspiring Novelist, includes having a mentor whom you can correspond with via email for extra help and motivation. Our top tier plan, The Experienced Writer, is ideal for writers who are serious about getting their novels written. It includes biweekly Skype calls with your mentor and editing of 3000 words of your writing per month by professional editors.
You can pay for any of the three plans month on month, if you prefer, or you can pay for a six or twelve month package that provides a substantial discount on the usual monthly rate. There’s also a 30 day money back guarantee on all our plans.
I let ideas come freely for a long while, and then I start planning. Once I have a detailed plan down, I start writing, but from that point on I still follow the creative process as I write. Sometimes that leads to a deviation that doesn’t work, and I cut the whole lot and go back to the plan. Sometimes the deviation turns out to be great, and I go with it and amend the plan accordingly.
My day job as an editor can be quite a hindrance to writing – I automatically slip into editing mode, and that pulls me out of being in the pure creative flow. My solution is to try very hard to resist the urge to edit as I write. So I write the first draft quickly, letting the words flow out. And then, some weeks later, I begin to edit. And edit. And edit.
Is there a fictional character you’d like to meet?
Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. It seems to me he could do with a friend – and some relationship advice.
Who’d you like to invite to a fantasy dinner party?
Oliver Queen (the Arrow), James Corden (presenter), Dawn French (comedian), Ed Sheeran (singer), Bear Grylls (adventurer), Kathy Reichs (author), Stephen Fry (actor), Beaker (Muppet). Oh, and we’d better have someone to cook, or we’ll be eating cheese on toast – Gordon Ramsey will add a bit more colour (and volume) to proceedings.
Five pieces of advice for new writers?
1. Explore. Go places, meet people, challenge your assumptions. Thoreau says it best: ‘How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.’
2. Read. The single best way to improve your writing is to learn by osmosis, to read and read and read. Not just in your favourite genre; all kinds of books by all kinds of writers. Literary, mass market – even the bad ones have plenty to teach you.
3. Believe. If you don’t have faith in yourself, why should anyone else? You’ve nothing to lose by believing you can write, and everything to gain.
4. Enjoy. Always remember why you want to write – for the sheer love of it. Don’t get bogged down in the business of writing. Love every minute.
5. Keep writing. In his bestselling book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell lays down the 10,000-Hour Rule: to succeed at anything, you need to practise your craft for 10,000 hours. That’s a lot of writing!
The Sisters are Lucinda, Jessica, Beatrice and Emma LeSoeur. In the 1990’s Lucinda, Jessica and Beatrice were Euterpe; Britain’s biggest girl band until Lucinda meets a successful music producer, Paul Morgan, and decides to leave to seek solo success in America. Lucinda’s announcement is a shock not only to her fans but also to her sisters; especially Jessica who takes Lucinda’s departure the hardest. Twenty years later, the sisters are living very different lives. Jessica owns a successful PR agency; Beatrice is a lawyer and Emma, the youngest works for Jessica. After living in New York Lucinda is divorced with two children and is forced to return back to London as she’s facing financial ruin. When she returns home, she doesn’t get the happy reunion that she was hoping for.
The idea for ‘The Sisters’ originated after watching one too many episodes of ‘The Real Housewives…’ There was one particular episode when I realised that one of the characters was actually broke. Even though on the outside she had the designer bags, shoes and drove an expensive car she was actually a bit skint and I based the character of Lucinda on her.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I need some sort of background noise. I’ve tried but I can’t work in complete silence. The sound of my fingers tapping away on my laptop for hours on end would drive me mad, so I’ve always got the radio on listening to BBC London 94.9 or have iTunes on shuffle mode.
Which fictional character would you like to swap places with and why?
I wouldn’t want to actually live her life, because to be honest it’s a bit depressing but I would swap places with Miss. Havisham from Great Expectations. Miss.Havisham is one of my favourite fictional characters and I would swap places just so I could get her out of that old, mouldy wedding dress, throw the rotting cake in the bin and enjoy her wealth and her life. The woman needs to get some sunshine on her face.by
Sarah Winman is the author of the brilliant When God Was A Rabbit. Her latest novel, A Year of Marvellous Ways was released by Tinder Press at the beginning of the summer and I am very pleased to be welcoming her to Novel Kicks today. Hi Sarah, thank you so much for joining us. Can you tell us a little about your latest novel, A Year of Marvellous Ways.
A Year of Marvellous Ways is set in 1947, in Cornwall. At the start of the book, old Marvellous is in her 90th year and coming to the end of her life. She has one last thing to do before she dies, but she doesn’t know what it is yet, because the message came to her in a dream, and the dream said, Wait, for it’s coming. So she waits, sitting on the bank of her creek.
When a young soldier, Drake, broken by war, washes up in her creek, Marvellous realises that she has been waiting for him. And the last thing she has to do is to re-ignite the flame of hope in this young man’s heart. And she does this by telling him the story of her life. The book is about the redemptive power of storytelling.
Do you cast your characters and if so, did you have someone specific in mind for Marvellous and Drake?
Marvellous would have to be the wonderful Judi Dench – playing older, of course. She would be terrific and heartbreaking in the role. In fact, I can totally see her doing it right now! I would cast an unknown alongside her, though.
Do you have any writing rituals (writing in silence, writing longhand, a cup of tea etc.)
I do write in silence – never any music playing as that can influence me emotionally. I write on a laptop at home, breaking for copious amounts of tea! When I go out I always carry a notebook and therefore write in longhand. I wrote a lot of Marvellous in bed, strangely enough, as cocooned as possible, with a candle burning.
Who is your favourite fictional character and what’s the one thing you would ask him/her if you were to ever meet?
I would ask Owen Meany to tell me a secret.
Are you much of a planner and are you the type of writer that edits as you go?
No, I edit as I go. But, most importantly, I always start knowing the ending, knowing where I need to get to. I will not start without an ending.
Do you have a favourite word?
For this book, it would probably be ‘nonsense’.by
Hi Ben. Thank you for joining us. Can you tell us a little about your book, The Spring of Kasper Meier and how the idea originated?
The Spring of Kasper Meier is a novel about a black-market trader, Kasper Meier, who is just about surviving in the ruins of post-war Berlin. He is blackmailed by a young rubble woman, Eva Hirsch, and the novel follows the twists and turns of that blackmail, but also the uncomfortable friendship that develops from it.
The idea came from two places mainly. I’d already had the idea of a Kasper-like character for a Chandler-esque novel some years earlier that didn’t quite work out. Then I moved to Berlin about 6 years ago, and while living there became very inspired by the city and its history. The two things came together and I had the idea of this first scene with Kasper and Eva. It all grew from there.
If you could travel anywhere in history, where would you go and why?
I suppose Ancient Rome in its heyday. I never quite got over going to the Forum when I was a kid; the everyday life of the city seemed so tangible.
Are you a planner and do you edit as you go?
I do plan, but I do have to write to make sense of where the novel is going. This means that I write a lot that gets not used. I will often write myself into a cul-de-sac plot-wise, discover what’s wrong and then have to go back 50 pages and start again. I would love to be able to plan it all in an Excel sheet and then write it all out in one go, but that just doesn’t seem to work for me.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I have a day job, so I don’t really have the luxury to have rituals. I just squeeze in the writing around it in any way I can.by