Hi Thomas, thank you for joining me today. Your book is called Pimp in the Pulpit. Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired the story?
First please accept my gratitude for granting me the honour and privilege to be doing this interview with you. Secondly Pimp in the Pulpit is a book based on a dysfunctional family that has very limited spiritual and moral foundation. This book has some person experiences of my life along with other people I know and even quite a bit of fiction to give the story a little more flair.
What’s your typical writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals?
I don’t have any rituals. I just write whenever I’m feeling in the mood or inspiration instantly hits me. I write about life, family and friends some personal experiences of my own and even scenarios that may have happened in the past that I wish I had handled differently.
Can you tell me a little about your route to publication.
I’ve been trying for some time to get published with no success in the traditional sense. So I decided to go the self-publishing route and it was challenging at times and it even took me a while to get my confidence all the way up. But with this book I feel great and determine to officially make a name for myself in the publishing industry and hopefully all around the world.
Which authors do you admire and why?
I admire Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, Maya Angela and W E B Dubois. Because they are some of the unforgotten heroes in today’s and modern literature. People like them help paved the way for individuals such as myself and that is why I will always honour our unforgettable heroes.by
I am pleased to be welcoming Liv Constantine (the writing duo of Lynne and Valerie) to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for their latest novel, The Last Mrs Parrish.
What’s your typical writing day like and as a duo, how do you approach the writing process?
We are in touch everyday via email and FaceTime. We both write in the mornings and email that day’s work to each other. Late afternoon, we jump on FaceTime and give each other feedback on the pages we’ve each read. During these talks, we’ll also bring up any issues either of us is having with character or plot, and brainstorm solutions. Then we assign scenes for the next day. This goes on every day, usually even Saturdays, and occasional Sundays depending on our deadline.
What are the advantages of writing together and also, what are the challenges?
The advantages are numerous. Firstly, we get along great and enjoy each other’s company so we have a wonderful time coming up with the story, the characters, and twists and turns along the way. Our sessions are infused with a great deal of laughter and fun. When we get stuck writing a scene, a simple MORE HERE in the middle of a paragraph and an email to the other results in it coming back all filled in! It’s also great to be able to bounce ideas off your co-writer and to get input when you’re at a loss for where to go next. The biggest challenge is making sure our scenes mesh, both contextually and emotionally. A lesser challenge for us (fortunately) is the need to be open to hearing criticism and the other’s point of view.
The Last Mrs Parrish is your debut thriller. Can you tell me a little about it?
It’s a story of two women: one who has “everything”, the other who has “nothing”. The story was born of a conversation we were having concerning the phenomenon of the “trophy wife”. We began to imagine how this trope might be turned on its head, and the more we talked, the more intriguing the idea sounded. It was then that we decided to write the story of a woman who befriends a wealthy woman with the intent of stealing her life and giving it a big twist.
How do you approach the editing process? What are the challenges of this with the physical distance between you?
There’s no question that editing is the most time consuming and tedious process for us. This is often a four or five-hour exercise as we facetime, both of us with the document open on our computers, and go through the manuscript line by line. More than once!
What elements do you think make up a good thriller?
Suspense is critical– keeping the reader wanting answers to questions and turning those pages; but it’s vital that you play fair with the reader. Authenticity in character and action is a must. Nothing pulls the reader out of a story more quickly than a cheap plot device that doesn’t ring true, or when a character does something totally contrary to her nature. Pacing is also a key element in a good thriller.
What do you think is the most important – Plot or Character?
This is such a tough question and one that is debated over and over. The two are so intertwined that it’s almost impossible to choose, for without a good plot you have no story and without believable characters the story doesn’t matter. We begin with an overall plot, however, we let the characters drive the story. We’re always asking the question “Would she do this, say this, believe this.” And if the answer is no, then the plot has to change. If you think about the stories that move us, it’s usually the character that’s most memorable. Elizabeth Bennet, Scarlett O’Hara, Katniss Everdeen, Eliza Doolittle, Michael Corleone, Hannibal Lecter, Atticus Finch, James Bond, and Jay Gatsby are all examples of characters that live on. Does that mean that character is more important than plot? We go back and forth on this one.by
Hi Georgia. Thank you for joining me today to talk about your book, We Were The Lucky Ones. What was the writing experience like for you considering this book was based on family history? Did you feel a certain responsibility toward the story?
I felt a huge sense of responsibility! It was important to me to do everything I could to capture my family’s experience in a way that did them—along with the time period—justice. I tried not to leave any stone unturned in my research, and I thought long and hard once the research was complete about how best to bring the story to life. I was nervous, to be honest, to share the finished product with my relatives, as there was no audience whose feedback mattered more to me! Luckily, the family has been incredibly supportive, and has responded to the book with nothing but love and appreciation.
What is your writing process like – are you a planner and how do you approach the editing of your novel?
With a story of such broad scope (the Kurcs’ paths spanned seven years and five continents), I knew I’d need to take a methodical approach to my writing process. I began by dropping my research findings into a timeline, which I color-coded by relative so I could track who was where/when. From there I created an outline for the book, then chapter summaries, then finally began the process of putting the story to paper. I kept the manuscript close for years as I edited and polished before finally gathering up the courage to pass it along to a few close acquaintances, then to a freelance editor, and finally to an agent.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I love to write in the mornings, once my son is off to school. I also enjoy wearing headphones while I work. Even when I’m alone in my office I’ll slip on a pair, as I find the extra bit of quiet puts me in the proper headspace to write, and helps to drown out the annoying little voice in the back of my mind that likes to remind of the (non-writing) to-do’s I’ve chosen to ignore. If I’m in a writing rut, I’ll try working at a coffee shop, or on my sofa (if I have the house to myself), or in the library—often a change of scenery is just what I need to boost my creativity.
If you were only allowed to own three novels, which three would you pick and why?
That’s a tough one! If I had to pick, I suppose I’d choose City of Thieves by David Benioff—a fast-paced and brilliantly-told story of the author’s Holocaust-era family history that inspired me years ago to tackle my own book. I’d also pick Wonder, a Y/A novel (although I’d argue one equally suited for adults) about a young 5th grade boy with a facial deformity, struggling to fit in. And finally, at the risk of sounding self-centered, I suppose I’d pick my book, so I could share it someday with my children (and their kids, and so on). I’ve read We Were the Lucky Ones more times than I can count, but I find with each pass, my own everyday “problems” seem a whole lot less daunting, and I’m reminded of just how lucky I am to be here. I hope someday my children (and future generations) will take away a similar perspective and sense of gratitude.by
Hi Isabella, thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me about what your typical writing day is like?
Thank you for having me on your blog! My typical writing day consists of waking up to my children’s chatting and playing, getting them dressed, preparing breakfast and taking them to school. Then, when I get back home, I sit in my office and start writing. I am most productive in the morning, when I have a clear mind, and feel the most motivation. After my children come back from nursery and school, I have to find any moment I can to continue writing; after putting them to bed, when they are at activities, and any other moment I can find – which isn’t always easy.
What’s the best and most challenging thing about writing your first novel?
The best part of writing The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land, was when I felt like I had written a really good passage, and thought people would enjoy it. I once laughed at what I wrote, which is usually a good sign. They say that if you are bored writing then your reader will be bored. You have to keep the writing alive and fun if you want your reader to continue reading. If I can move someone to feel something when they read my novel, that is success to me.
The most challenging? The entire process is challenging! Writing the book, word after word, until you finish typing the last word. Then the editing. And more editing. Then sending it off to agents and publishers. Then, once it has been published, promoting your book and trying to get sales. It is like an intense obstacle course over years.
What’s your favourite word and why?
That’s difficult for me to answer! I don’t have a favourite, I like all words, whether simple or complicated. To me, each word has a purpose, a meaning and a place, so all of them are important in their own way.
What was your writing process like from your idea to final draft? Did you plan? How did you approach the first sentence?
When I first started writing my novel, The Beta Mum, the story line was completely different than this one and it also had a completely different title. I had a general idea of what subject I wanted to write about – the Alpha mums in a nursery setting in west London – but the plot changed completely after I started the Faber Academy novel writing course. There, I received a lot of input, both positive and negative, and I found a new story to tell. I also learned about writing an outline and now in the future, I will always work with a basic outline. We also learned about writing our first line and our last line and how to make them count. It was an invaluable experience and I learned so much.
What advice do you have to keep motivated?
Sit on that chair and write. Word after word. Even if it is ‘bad’ writing, it can be edited in the future, but it gets the creative juices flowing and helps you re-enter your world. The worst you can do is not write at all. Even if on some days you don’t feel like writing, you have to push yourself to write. And your first draft is meant to be bad! So don’t worry about writing ‘badly.’
Which three fictional characters would you want round for dinner and why?
Daimyo Toranaga and John Blackthorne from the novel Shogun. It was one of my favourite novels growing up and is an encyclopedia of knowledge about Japan. It is exotic and beautiful and so foreign, I would have loved to be a part of it. I tried to learn Japanese from that book! And one final character on a completely different note, Carrie Bradshaw (from the book Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell), because I think we would be good friends!by
I’m happy to be welcoming Emily Harvale to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her new Christmas themed novel, Christmas Secrets in Snowflake Cove.
Christmas is a time for family and friends, miracles and magic, falling snow and roaring fires, fun, laughter and festive feasts. In Snowflake Cove, it’s also a time for secrets to be revealed…
Evie Starr is hoping for more than a sprinkling of magic this Christmas. The family-run Snowflake Inn is virtually empty and the Starr’s financial future isn’t looking bright. But Evie’s gran, Jessie has a secret that might help.
Enigmatic, Zachary Thorn is every woman’s dream. He’s also ex-SAS, so his secrets are classified. The Christmas Special of his feel-good, TV show is set in Michaelmas Bay – until a phone call means he’s spending Christmas in nearby Snowflake Cove.
Evie’s best friend, Juniper thinks boyfriend Darren has a secret. Evie knows he does. And Evie’s niece, Raven is hiding feelings for Juniper’s brother – who has a secret crush of his own.
But the biggest secret in Snowflake Cove is the identity of Raven’s dad.
With snow falling thick and fast and secrets being revealed one after another, will everyone be snuggling up by the fire on Christmas Eve, or are some secrets best kept hidden…?
Hello Emily, it’s lovely to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Your book is called Christmas Secrets in Snowflake Cove. Can you tell me a bit about it and what inspired the story.
Hello Laura, it’s great to be here. Yes, my new book, Christmas Secrets in Snowflake Cove is about 34-year-old Evie Starr and her family. Evie is single and lives in the family-run, Snowflake Inn with her parents and her gran. The book is set during the week leading up to Christmas Day and Evie’s 15-year-old niece, Raven is also staying for the holidays. The Starrs are struggling financially and Evie is hoping to persuade TV show host, Zachary Thorn to give the inn a plug during his live, Christmas Special. His show is being filmed nearby, but what Evie doesn’t know is that her gran, Jessie has a secret and when Jessie makes a phone call, it changes everyone’s plans. There are also several others with secrets in the tiny village of Snowflake Cove and one of the biggest secrets is the identity of Raven’s dad. With snow blanketing the village and secrets being revealed, it’s not going to be the quiet, family Christmas the Starrs were expecting, but it’s going to be one that changes people’s lives. And Evie may just get what she was hoping for this Christmas.
As to what inspired the story, I’m not really sure. I write a Christmas book each year and when it came time to write, Evie appeared and told me her story.
Did you plan much before writing this novel? How much planning do you feel is needed?
I never plan my novels. Lots of people do, I know, but that simply doesn’t work for me. I firmly believe there is no right or wrong way to write a novel. I do what feels right for me. A character pops up with an idea and I sit and type it. By the end of the first draft I know my characters well, and I do make notes about them along the way. Then I write a second draft. Sometimes I ‘plan’ an event or the ending – but that doesn’t always work out as I expect.
What elements do you feel make up good characters?
Characters need to be believable. No one is perfect, so, like us, characters can have foibles. They should have a ‘strong voice’ – but that doesn’t mean they need to be strong. Sometimes the character with the biggest weakness is the most memorable. They need to be true to themselves. Doing something completely out of character should be as much of a shock to them, as it is to the reader.
When you came to edit, did you wait to have a full draft. How did you approach the editing (a chapter at a time?)
I always edit as I write. I’ll finish a few chapters then the following day I’ll read them through and edit them before continuing. I like doing that because it gets me back into the flow of the story. Once I’ve finished the first draft, half my edits are done. I then read it through. Leave it. Read it again and edit it however many times I need to before it goes off to my editor. Then together, we may do more. I edited this book in the same way I edit all my books.
Do you believe plot or character is more important when writing a novel?
I believe they are equally important – but it depends on the novel. Some stories are plot driven, some are character driven.
Are you working on anything at the moment that you can tell me about?
I’m working on book two in this Michaelmas Bay series. It introduces new characters but we still get to spend some time with Evie and her family. All of my books can be read as standalones even if they are part of a series.by
Jane Sanderson is the author of This Much is True which was released in June 2017.
After decades in a deeply unhappy marriage, Annie Doyle can barely bring herself to care that her husband Vince is finally about to die.
But as the family gathers to see out his final days, Vince utters a single word that will change everyone’s lives completely:
Who is Martha? And why is Annie so quick to dismiss the mention of her name?
As Annie’s long-held secrets start to emerge, the lives of everyone she holds dear will be changed forever…
Hello Jane, thank you so much for joining me today and congratulations on the release of your book, This Much is True. What was your typical writing day like when writing this book?
Ah, if only there was any such thing. Every day seems to be different, depending on what other demands there are on my time. I work at a desk in my bedroom at home, and am easily distracted by almost everything that happens around me: dogs barking downstairs, postman knocking at the door, phone ringing, washing to be done, drying to be folded, dogs to be walked, dinner to cook … do you get the picture?! I write between all those other activities – half an hour here, an hour there – until the book gets more than halfway finished, and then I always make a priority of it, find the discipline to turn a blind eye to other things, and forge ahead to the end. On the whole, I’m probably most productive either very early in the morning, or late in the evening.
Can you tell me a little about This Much is True and what inspired the novel?
It was actually inspired by walking my dogs, here where I live, in Herefordshire. But that really was just a starting point for a story about secrets, lies, and the redemptive powers of friendship. Annie Doyle is a deceptively complex woman, whose ordinary existence hides some extraordinary truths, and who can only deal with the miseries of her past by ignoring them. I wanted Annie’s fledgling friendship with Josie and Sandra to be a catalyst for change; through their example she begins to see another way of being. Of course, I also wanted to explore the idea of secrecy in friendships too – the lines we don’t cross, the things we never tell. Annie has more to hide than most of us, but I believe we all protect our secret selves, to one extent or another.
Do you have many pages of planning and research for this book or did you just see where it took you?
I have a notebook with random memos to myself about things I mustn’t forget, but that’s all. I research as I go, and I don’t really plan at all. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it works.
What’s the editing process like for you – how do you approach it?
It’s a fluid process, and I edit (that is, rewrite, correct, add material) as I write, rather than at the end. I don’t do drafts – my first draft tends to be my only draft, but it will have undergone an awful lot of tweaking as it took shape. Then, of course, the manuscript goes to the editor for their input, and the copyediting stage is equally crucial to weed out the continuity errors and grammatical blunders, but on the whole I try to be as efficient as possible during the actual writing of the story. It’s my journalist’s training, I reckon – it dinned into me the importance of producing ‘clean copy’.
What elements do you feel make a good novel?
Great characters and believable dialogue. If those elements are in place, I’m happy. Plot matters – of course it does – but sometimes a great novel can actually be about very little; if the reader cares about the characters, and can hear them when they speak, then that’s the basis of a truly good read, in my view.
Do you have any writing rituals – coffee, music, silence, a specific place you need to write?
Silence, generally, and I always write at a small desk at my bedroom window, which has a beautiful view of the Brecon Beacons in the distance, but I have to keep the shutters closed because the light bleaches out my screen! Coffee and tea are essential to my day, whether I’m writing or not.by
Copycat is the latest novel from author, Alex Lake and I am pleased to be welcoming her blog tour to Novel Kicks today.
Imitation is the most terrifying form of flattery…
Which Sarah Havenant is you?
When an old friend gets in touch, Sarah Havenant discovers that there are two Facebook profiles in her name. One is hers. The other, she has never seen.
But everything in it is accurate. Photos of her friends, her husband, her kids. Photos from the day before. Photos of her new kitchen. Photos taken inside her house.
And this is just the beginning. Because whoever has set up the second profile has been waiting for Sarah to find it. And now that she has, her life will no longer be her own…
Thank you for joining me today, Alex. Your book is called Copycat. Can you tell me a little about it and the inspiration behind it?
It’s about a woman, a doctor with three young kids, who discovers that there’s a Facebook account in her name. When she looks at it, she’s shocked – the most recent post is a photo , from the day before, of her kids on the beach. And there are others: photos of her out with her friends, of her on a date night with her husband, of her kids’ school plays. It is an entirely accurate representation of her life.
But she had nothing to do with it, and, as she will soon discover, it is just the beginning of her problems.
The inspiration came from some conversations I’d with friends about the way we treat our digital lives. Social media is very public, and yet we seem happy to put all kinds of information out there which would once have been considered private – birthdays, middle names, current location – that leaves us vulnerable to hackers and the like. But what if someone didn’t want to just steal your money or your identity – what if they wanted to destroy your entire life, and the information you left online was just the means they used to do it?
What’s your writing day like and do you have any writing rituals?
I write early in the morning, before my three young kids are up and about. When I sit down I know what I’m going to write – what the scene is and how it fits into the rest of the book, and so I can really use the time. I normally plan it the evening before (in the bath, or on a walk).
I only write for about an hour and a half each day, which is normally around 1500 words – after that I start to lose the flow and it becomes a struggle. Then for the rest of the day I do all the other things I have to get done.
What’s the best and most challenging thing about being a writer?
The best is getting the first copy of your book. Each book starts as a vague idea in your head, then gets turned into notes, then conversations with friends over a drink, then a draft, another draft and then one day a parcel comes and it’s your book. It’s just thrilling.
I think the most challenging thing is the constant worry that whatever you’re working on isn’t good enough. I always have that feeling – I’ll be halfway through a first draft, and I find myself thinking that what I’m working on is no good, that the characters are flat and boring, that the plot is full of holes, that I need to scrap it and come up with a better idea. And there’s no one you can talk to – the book’s not done, so they can’t read it – so all you can do it carry on, convinced you’re going to end up with a disaster on your hands….
What elements, in your opinion, make a good thriller?
I think there are three broad areas: characters, plot and The Villain.
The characters need certain characteristics – they need to feel real, so readers can identify with them and care about them, they need to be in genuine peril, and the solution needs to be in their grasp. They can’t just be waiting for the end to resolve itself. They need to be fighting and struggling and helping themselves.
As for the plot – the thrillers I enjoy the most are the ones I could imagine happening to me. It’s that sense that the structure of our lives is just one step away from falling apart, that, hidden behind the closed curtains of a nearby house unspeakable things are going on, and they might spill over into all of our lives…
And then there’s the villain. What makes a good villain would need an entire blog post of its own, but the villain too needs to be real.
And the more real they are, the more terrifying they become…by
I am very happy to be welcoming Jon Rance to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for his new novel, About Us.
Rosie Willis isn’t happy. Her once perfect marriage to husband, Pete, is falling apart, her mother is dying, and her three children are starting to feel like strangers.
At forty she feels like she’s stuck, but then she meets handsome widower, Mark Hornby, at the school gates and he makes her feel alive again. As she drifts further from Pete, she gets closer to Mark, but approaching Christmas she realises she needs to try to save her marriage and keep her family together.
Despite her feelings, she can’t have an affair. Unfortunately, Pete has news of his own that throws everything into doubt. Rosie must choose a new life.
There’s Pete, Mark, or going it alone. It isn’t easy when you’re forty, when you have three kids, when you feel past it, when your mother is dying, but life isn’t meant to be easy.
Hi Jon, thank you very much for joining me today. Congratulations on your new book, About Us. Can you tell me a little about it and how the idea originated?
Hello! It’s a pleasure to be here and yes, of course, I’d love to tell you all about my new novel, About Us. About Us, is the story of Rosie Willis and her husband, Pete. It’s the story of they meet, fall in love, get married, have children, and then how it all falls apart. It’s set over twenty years from university until their early forties. It’s a dramatic romantic comedy.
The idea evolved over time – as they tend to do. After my last novel, Dan And Nat Got Married, I knew I wanted to write something a big different and I had this idea for a novel. Originally it was going to be a story of a marriage from both sides, but then I decided to write the whole thing from Rosie’s perspective and that’s when it really took off.
What’s your writing routine like (where do you like to write, do you need silence etc.) How has your routine changed since writing your first book?
Well now I have both children in school full-time I actually have a routine! When I wrote, This Thirtysomething Life, I was a stay at home dad so writing was done around that. I squeezed it in when I could. Now I sit at my desk at around 8:30-9am and work in silence until about 1-2pm and just write. Sometimes I listen to music and sometimes I don’t. I drink tea, coffee, try and eat healthy snacks and always have a break for lunch!
How do you approach writing a novel? Planner or a Panster?
I was thinking about this the other day. I always thought of myself as a bad planner, but I realised that I do plan, but generally over long periods of time. I usually start the ideas process maybe a year before I start writing a novel. I jot down ideas, characters, plotlines etc. so usually by the time I start writing, I have a decent idea what I’m doing. I don’t write extensive notes, but I do have whole pages on characters, storylines etc.by
Hello Meg, it’s so lovely to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Your book is called The Wanderers (released yesterday and has, in my opinion one of the prettiest book covers.) Can you tell me about the novel and how the idea originated?
Thank you! (And I love that cover too.)
“The Wanderers” imagines that a private space company is four years away from sending the first crew of humans to Mars. Three astronauts have been selected, and as part of their training they are asked to undergo a seventeen-month simulation of the mission. The story is told from the point of view of the crewmembers, and also from some of the people they’ll be leaving behind: a wife, a daughter, and a son. We also hear from of one of the people tasked with observing and evaluating the astronauts. It’s a story about ambition, isolation, inner space, the problem of knowing what is “real” or even what “real” means, and the different kinds of personal simulations human beings find themselves in. (I hope it’s also a little bit funnier than my description!)
The idea for the book was inspired by a newspaper article I read concerning a simulated Mars mission: six volunteers spent 520 days in a module, being tested for the kind of psychological and physiological stresses a crew might experience in a long-duration space expedition. I thought it sounded like an incredibly cool setting for a novel.
What was your approach to the writing process with this novel – did you plan a lot, wait until you had a whole draft before editing?
I spent over a year researching before I wrote anything at all. The research continued for the length of writing: about four years. I don’t outline, but I spent months writing the first chapter and thinking through the general shape of the book. I revise CONSTANTLY.
Once you’d written your first novel, could you tell me a bit about the route you had to publication and how the process was different with this novel?
The first novel I wrote didn’t sell—just got very lovely rejection letters. So I put it away and tried again. The second book sold, and the editor who acquired it was interested in that first book, and told me to take it out and work on it a bit. I did, and it became my second published novel. (Lesson: you never know.) I don’t usually show anyone what I’m working on until it’s finished, so with “The Wanderers” my literary agent only knew that I was working on “something with astronauts in it.” It’s my first book to be published in the U.K, which is tremendously exciting for me.
Do you have any writing rituals – coffee before you start? No noise etc.
I avoid all rituals or rules involving writing other than Work Hard and Care About Everything.
Do you have any advice for anyone who might be suffering from writers block?
Well, I’m reluctant to give advice but I can say what I think it true. It’s this: writing isn’t about word count or how many hours a day you spend typing. (It’s also not about publishing.) Writing is a way of confronting the world. When I’m stuck, it’s because I’m not confronting the world, I’m confronting the “idea of being a writer.” That’s a closed-loop system. So, I go to museums, art galleries, concerts, plays, and read poetry and non-fiction. I stop being “person who is trying to write” and let myself be a reader, an audience member, a student. At a certain point, it becomes clear that being a writer MEANS being a reader, an audience member, a student. I get excited about what I’m observing, learning, confronting, and I want to talk about it, figure it out, and make something of my own.by
Hi Dani, thank you for joining me today. Congratulations on the release of This Love. To begin, could you describe what was your route to publication like?
If it was a journey, I would have to say it was one that took a scenic route, rather than the fast track. Like many unpublished authors, I was largely fumbling around in the dark, trying to get my first book noticed. I did send it out to literary agents, but sadly without success. Eventually I had to accept that, for whatever reason, this was not the right time for me or my book, and sadly relegated it to a memory stick in my desk drawer. Then four years later in 2013 my daughter offered to help me self-publish. Very soon, after a lifetime of thinking it was never going to happen, I was lucky enough to have both an agent and a publishing deal. But best of all, I finally had the opportunity to share a story that very nearly never got to be told at all.
Your new book is called This Love. What’s it about?
THIS LOVE is an emotional drama, but – as its title would suggest – at its core it’s very much a love story. It’s a book about falling in love with possibly the one person you should never become involved with, for a great many reasons. But it’s also a story about the heart ruling the head.
The main character is Sophie who, because of a past tragedy, has chosen to live a very contained and limited life, until a dramatic event occurs, and she meets Ben. After that the prison walls she had built around her come crashing down and the path to her future is rewritten. Although it’s about being rescued, THIS LOVE is also about finding the courage to rescue yourself. And, of course, it wouldn’t be one of my books if there weren’t some fairly major obstacles standing in the way as well.
What’s the best and hardest part of being a writer?
The best part of this job is doing something for a living that you would choose to do as a hobby anyway. I don’t think you can – or should – ever consider writing a book to earn a great deal of money, because that literary jackpot only happens to a very small select group of authors – which is probably why those jaw-dropping six figure deals make the headlines. Most of us are just happy to earn enough to cover the mortgage. I believe the only reason to do this job is because you have a passion for storytelling. And if you’re fortunate enough to find someone who wants to pay you for the privilege of doing something you love, then that is the most incredible bonus.
The hardest part of being a writer is probably the isolation and the potential loneliness. There’s no one around for the famous ‘water cooler chats’ anymore. Also there is a very slippery slope you could easily slither down: unwashed; not even brushed your hair; working all day in your pyjamas; not wearing a scrap of makeup. Funnily enough, however scruffy you look, the people in your book don’t seem to care a bit!
When writing This Love, what was your writing process like? Did you plan much? Do you tend to complete a first draft before editing?by
A big welcome today to Dinah Jefferies. Her new novel, Before The Rains was released by Viking in February (2017.)
1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband’s death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza’s only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she’s determined to make a name for herself.
But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince’s handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families – and society – think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what’s expected, or following their hearts. . .
Hello Dinah, thank you so much for joining me today. Your new novel, Before The Rains sounds great. Can you tell me about it and where the idea originated?
I read about and then visited a small palace where, in the past, the royal family had mortgaged the family jewels to pay for an irrigation project. That gave me the idea for the title and one of the themes of the book. I fell in love with Rajasthan and wanted the pages of Before The Rains to shimmer with spice and silk so that the beauty of India would shine through. It’s about an independent female character with an interesting job as a photo-journalist. But above all it’s a story of forbidden love, with an edge to it, and plenty of opposition from either side. I wanted the story to be life-enhancing, despite the mystery of what’s going in the dark recesses of the palace. And so I tried to bring to life the colour and immense luxury of a Rajasthan palace and contrast that with the raw emptiness of the desert that surrounds it. It’s a romantic story that offers something more.
What elements do you need in place prior to writing a novel? Do you need a comprehensive plan, do you edit as you go etc?
I usually prepare a fifteen-page synopsis and stick to it as much as I can as I write. Having said that, there will inevitably be changes, edits and shifts as I go along. Sometimes a new idea will come to me, sometimes I’ll need to take the story in a different direction, sometimes something doesn’t work, so I try to remain flexible throughout. I do loads of revisions and love the editing process once the first draft is done.
What writing rituals do you have?
I’m not really a ritual kind of a person, but I try to write in the mornings while my mind is still fresh. A cup of coffee is a must, as is a warm room. I have a lovely new garden room where I write now and that has made all the difference. I was in a cramped back bedroom before. I now have my den and I love it.
What’s your favourite word and why?
My favourite word at the moment is ‘cinnamon’ because it figures widely in the book I am currently writing. I also like the sound of the word and the smell of cinnamon, especially on a cake or pudding. Mmmm! Cinnamon buns and coffee. Now there’s a thought.
Best and hardest thing about being a writer?
The best thing is when you hold a finished book in your hand for the first time. I absolutely love that moment. It has usually taken a long process to reach that point and some of the hardest things happen on the way. The very worst thing is when a manuscript isn’t working as it should but you can’t figure out what’s wrong. Then it feels like you’re grappling with a wild beast intent on devouring you. That’s when your editor is fantastically useful.
Out of all your books, do you have a favourite passage/section?
I love the section on page 20 of The Tea Planter’s Wife when Gwen sees the tea plantation for the first time and describes the tea bushes as a tapestry of green velvet, where women tea pickers looked like tiny embroidered birds.by
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