Author Interview

NK Chats To: Sasha Wagstaff

Hi Sasha, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about Christmas in Chamonix and what inspired the novel?

Hi there! Thank you for putting these fabulous questions together for me. So, first things first – I absolutely loved writing Christmas in Chamonix. I have recently fallen in love with skiing (although I have really struggled with it – Lily’s fear of heights echoes my own!) and I have always adored Christmas. My parents have always been huge fans of Christmas and made it such a special time of year for myself and my brother, with lots of traditions and magical moments – which I now carry out with my own children.

So Chamonix was mostly inspired by my absolute love of Christmas. But it was also the opportunity to take readers into a beautifully Christmassy environment – with falling snow, gorgeous, festive decorations and the delicious food and drink involved. Add skiing into that – and I was in writing heaven! Skiing is such an exhilarating sport…it’s amazing if you master even a small part of it, let alone manage to ski down a steep mountain and not fall over!

 

How do you approach the planning of a novel and how has it evolved since your debut novel?

I approach the planning of a novel with military precision – and always have done. With lots of creativity thrown in, of course, but for me, it’s about being organised and disciplined. So I begin with the idea. I expand it with lots of notes (I use a different, A4 sized notebook with a lovely cover for each new novel) and begin writing character notes to flesh out my main players. I then write a synopsis which will be two pages or fifteen, depending on how much of the story flows out at that stage, but the main point is to get down the beginning, the middle and the end. After that, I write a full version of this, which is where I will structure scenes and make sure each section moves smoothly on to the next one. With some cliff hangers thrown in here and there. I find this process easier and more fun than I used to in the early days and it also makes writing the novel itself fairly straight forward as I have a strong structure as a guideline and I’m essentially then delving into the thoughts and feelings and emotions of my characters.

 

Do you think character or plot is more important?

Well, that’s a seriously good question! Ok. So even with a killer idea, if you don’t have the right personalities in place to play the story out, it’s going nowhere and it’s just a concept with no heart and soul. Equally, if you have fantastic lead players and strong secondary characters but no real idea of what the story is about or where it’s going, the reader won’t feel invested as there isn’t anything for them to connect with and relate to. For me, they are equally important. You need a killer idea and you need relatable characters your readers can fall in love with and care about.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

My favourite word….I’m loving these questions! I love the word ‘serendipitous’. Which means ‘occurring or discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial way’. I just think it’s a really positive word and one which puts me in a strong headspace of believing that everything happens for a reason and that there is something to be grateful for everywhere you look.

 

Can you tell me about your typical writing day, where you like to write, do you need endless amounts of coffee and silence or do you prefer noise?

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NK Chats To… Emma Jackson

Hi Emma, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your new novel, A Mistletoe Miracle?

Beth, my heroine, has returned to her childhood home – the Hotel Everdene – after a bad breakup. Her confidence is badly shaken & she’s struggling to know what to do next in life. When her mother is stranded in a blizzard, Beth is left in charge of the fully booked hotel, feeling completely out of her depth. But one thing Beth isn’t, is a quitter and, with a bit of help from Nick, a gorgeous guest, she does her best to make sure Christmas doesn’t end in catastrophe!

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you need coffee? Silence? Where do you like to work?

It varies through the week. On a Monday & Tuesday, when my 3yo is in nursery, I usually get back from the school & nursery run by 9.30. Then I run around tidying up the mess from breakfast, make a start in some housework & settle down to write at my desk at around 10.30-11.00. I have a fantastic pull down desk in my bedroom which my partner put in as a surprise for me when I was away at the RNA conference in July & I love it so much. I always have music playing, the house is so quiet without the kids in it, and I probably spend too much time creating special playlists for each project. The rest of the week when I have my 3yo home, writing takes place in the evenings on the sofa with my headphones on!

 

Emma’s writing space

What’s your route to publication been like?

It feels like it has been very long. I started writing my first novel over a decade ago & I did query it but in hindsight I had no clue what I was doing! Writing became sporadic over the last eight years as we started a family & I became a stay-at-home mum. Some people might think that gives you lots of time to write but I find it so hard to concentrate on writing with my kids around me.

Then I joined the RNA at the beginning of 2019 & really got serious about finishing my manuscript, sending it for the NWS critique & submitting it. Orion announced their new digital first imprint called Dash at the RNA Conference & I sent it along. Overall, I probably submitted A Mistletoe Miracle to twenty agents & publishers, and entered half a dozen competitions. So, lots of no’s but you only need one yes!

 

What would be on a playlist for this novel?

As I mentioned earlier I have an extensive playlist for this novel on Spotify (which I’m going to make available very soon). Also, Beth is a music tutor so music is very important to her & lots of songs feature in the story. Three Little Birds by Bob Marley, Come Away with Me by Norah Jones & Words Are Dead by Agnes Obel all play a significant part in her journey.

 

What’s your favourite word?

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NK Chats To… RE McLean

Say a big hello to RE McLean and the blog tour for her novel, Murder in the Multiverse. Thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your book, Murder in the Multiverse and what inspired the story.

Thanks for having me here! Murder in the Multiverse is a geeky mystery, the kind of thing you’d enjoy if you like Jodi Taylor or Douglas Adams. It’s about Alex Strand, a physics postdoc who finds herself recruited to the top-secret Multiverse Investigations Unit. The MIU is based in the parking lot of San Francisco PD (in a Tardis-like VW campervan) and investigates crimes by visiting parallel worlds where the crime hasn’t happened – yet.

 

What’s the challenges of writing something like Murder in the Multiverse? Do you have an idea of where you want the series to go?

The main challenge is writing a book where the solution to the mystery always has some kind of link to quantum physics, while not being a quantum physicist myself. I’ve dealt with that by making the physics very silly – hard science this is not!

I have a ten-book outline for the series storyline. Each book will be focused on one specific crime, and take place in a new parallel universe. But the twin threads of Alex’s search for her mother across the multiverse and her growing relationship with Sarita, the mysterious materials scientist, will drive the series plot.

 

What’s your writing day like, where do you like to write and do you have any writing rituals?

I like to write in my local library, and I have a Spotify playlist to help me focus. And Schrödinger the quantum cat sits on my desk while I write!

 

If you could go and investigate anywhere, where would it be and why?

Definitely Silicon City, the parallel universe in Murder in the Multiverse. It’s got an augmented reality version of the internet and you can conjure up a plate of cookies just by thinking about it. And all the doors go swish-thunk, like in Star Trek.

 

Which songs would be on a playlist for this book?

Good question! I’ve been putting together a playlist for Alex and her team, which you can find on Spotify. Alex is into retro tech (and music) and can only get to sleep to the sound of the Cheeky Girls. Her partner, Sergeant Mike Long, prefers easy listening. Alex wants to pull her eardum out with a fish hook when he puts that on the radio.

 

Do you think character or plot is more important?

I normally start a book with a concept, then decide who’s going to have to live with the consequences of that concept, then write the plot around that. Normally the characters come first for me, but I think both character and plot are equally important (and interwoven).

 

Which other authors have inspired/influenced you the most?

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NK Chats To… Laura Briggs

Hello Laura and welcome to Novel Kicks. Can you tell me a bit about your book, Sea Holly and Mistletoe Kisses?

Hi Laura, and thanks so much for inviting me to share with your readers! Sea Holly and Mistletoe Kisses is a cosy Christmas read and the third book in my romance series known as ‘A Little Hotel in Cornwall’. It continues the adventures of Maisie Clark, an aspiring author who follows her writing dreams across the Pond to a quaint Cornish hotel by the sea. Readers can expect a festive, feel-good read, as Maisie and the rest of the staff at the Penmarrow prepare to host an ice sculpting competition at the historic hotel.

 

Are you able to tell me a little about what you’re currently working on?

Currently, I’m working on the edits for Book Four in the series, The Cornish Secret of Summer’s Promise. It features a daring heist, an unexpected secret, and a romantic crossroads that Maisie never expected!

 

When you begin a novel, what do you focus on first?

Hmmmm. I think it varies from project to project, but I tend to focus first on the central plotline or event that kicks off the story. Then the characters tend to develop alongside the twists and turns in the plot that help to bring the whole story together.

 

Which songs would be on a playlist for Sea Holly and Mistletoe Kisses?

Christmas songs! I have everything from classic to modern on my holiday music playlists, so it could feature anything from Bing Crosby to Mariah Carey songs.

 

What is your idea of a perfect Christmas? 

Oooh, that’s a tough one! I think something peaceful but festive and cozy that involves sharing the joy of the season with others would be a good place to start!

 

How do you approach the editing process and what is the biggest mistake that new writers make do you think?

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NK Chats To… Eliza J. Scott

Hello Eliza. I am so happy to be chatting to you today. I am excited to be heading back to Lytell Stangdale with A Christmas Kiss. What is this one about and how does it fit in with the others in the Life on the Moors series?

Hi there Laura, thank you for taking part in the Publication Day Blog Tour for A Christmas Kiss; I’m very happy to be chatting to you, too! So, this book sees us getting better acquainted with Zander Gillespie, who briefly featured in The Secret – Violet’s Story.

After a last-minute change of plans with his girlfriend, he finds himself – and his adorable black Labrador Alf – driving through a snow storm to his holiday cottage in a very wintry Lytell Stangdale. There, in an unusual set of circumstances, he meets Livvie.

Thanks to her boyfriend, she’s also had a last-minute change of plans and has come to Lytell Stangdale to lick her wounds. It soon becomes apparent that fate may have had a hand in their situation and they find themselves fighting a powerful mutual attraction.

Over the course of their story, we get to see all of the usual characters once again – Kitty, Molly, Vi, Jimby, Ollie and Camm feature heavily; a Life on the Moors book wouldn’t be complete without them! Hopefully, A Christmas Kiss should slot in rather well.

 

What is your writing process like from idea to the final draft, where do you like to write and do you have any writing rituals?

I have notebooks allocated to all of my different story ideas, it makes them easy for me to locate if an idea suddenly pops into my head. When it eventually comes to writing that story, I’ll grab the relevant notebook, sit at my laptop and start to plot it properly.

After that, I’ll then work on developing the characters – I go into quite a lot of detail for this so I get a really clear idea of each one of them in my head.

Once this is done, I launch into the actual writing of the story. I’ve learnt that I’m not the sort of writer who can just get anything down on a page for the first draft; I have to do as clean a first draft as possible, then go back and do a little editing the following day.

Once I’ve got that first draft done, I print it off and read through, making lots of notes along the way. I then edit the first draft and repeat the process of reading through and editing several times before I send it off to my editor.

Once it’s returned, I get stuck into her edits, check through them, amend them, get them proof read, then convert the document to a mobi and send it to my Kindle for another read through. Phew! It involves an awful lot of reading!

As far as writing rituals are concerned, I don’t have any as such, though I do need a regular supply of Yorkshire tea and plenty of ginger biscuits to nibble on!

 

How has your process evolved since your first novel? Is there anything you know now that you wished you’d known then?

I’d say I’ve become much more organised in my writing process since my first novel, which makes it much more enjoyable for me. Though, I wish I’d known that everyone has their own system that works for them, and that there isn’t a right or a wrong way; it’s okay not to just get words down if that process doesn’t work for you. Of course, if I’m pushed for time, I will just list ideas, conversations etc. so when I go back to my manuscript, I can flesh it all out and get it to make sense.

 

How important is planning when writing a series like this and what challenges did you face?

For me it was very important to plan, particularly for the first three books, as I had to ensure that time-lines matched. I’d say the challenges for making sure everyone’s age was right leading from one story to the next.

 

Do you think character or plot is more important?

For me, I think a story needs to have a good plot, otherwise there’ll be nothing to keep the reader interested. Though well-rounded characters are important, too; I feel they can help move the story along – does that make sense? I hope so!

 

Which fictional character (other than any of yours) would you like to spend Christmas with?

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NK Chats To… Stephen Clark

Hi Stephen, thank you for joining me. Can you tell me about your writing day, where you like to write and do you have any writing rituals?

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?

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NK Chats To… Laura Briggs

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?

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NK Chats To… Ann Morgan

Photo credit: Steve Lennon

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?

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NK Chats To… Sophie Tanner

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?

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NK Chats To… Des Burkinshaw

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?

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NK Chats To: Mandy Baggott

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.

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NK Chats to… Jenni Keer

Jenni Keer

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?

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NK Chats To… Jon Rance (Plus Book Review)

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?

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NK Chats To: Liv Constantine

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? 

ValPride and Prejudice

LynneMurder on the Orient Express

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NK Chats To: N. Lombardi Jr

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?

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