NK Chats To….

Our Author Interviews and Guest Posts.

NK Chats To: Elizabeth Crocket

Hi Elizabeth, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your book, Full of Grace and what inspired it? 

In Full of Grace, Angela keeps a roof over her head, albeit a leaking one, by writing romance novels. But Angela’s never really believed in the traditional happily ever after ending. So, she begins writing the story of Grace, who has recently been diagnosed with cancer shortly after finding out her husband Rick is having an affair. Again.

As she writes the story to dispel the myth of happily ever after, Angela begins a relationship with Mark, the contractor who comes to fix her leaking roof, and ironically, it looks like she may be on the way to her own happy ending. But Angela’s had a difficult past and has a cynical outlook, while Mark’s life has just gotten messy. Angela wonders if this is all going to work out.

Grace lies in bed at night, wondering if what Rick wants to give her, and what he is capable of giving her, are two different things. She asks Rick to move out temporarily, while they try to assess their marriage. She wonders how she can get such comfort and security from a man who cheated on her.

My inspiration for this book came when I was daydreaming one day, thinking it would be fun to write a book about two women with different story-lines, and two different personalities. I started to think of the character Angela, and what she would write about next. I decided she should write about a character who has cancer, as I could draw on my vast experience, having lost my parents to cancer, and having had cancer myself. I wanted a story-line about cancer to sound authentic, because I’ve read some that didn’t ring true to me. However, it isn’t all doom and gloom, there is some romance, fun and humour as well!

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Is there somewhere specific you like to write?  

When I’m working on a novel, or writing anything for that matter, I don’t have a typical writing day. I tend to live and breathe what I’m working on. I’ve been known to be sitting at my kitchen table at 3:00 in the morning, jotting down something I’ve thought of in the night.

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

My favourite word. Hmm. This is where I’m wondering if I should be honest and say that it probably isn’t printable. (grin) But, I’ll choose a more suitable response and say that it’s each of my grandchildren’s names. That would be six words, though, so I’ll say “grandchildren”. Or “grace”, a quality I so admire. I really love words, we could be here all day!

 

Which authors have inspired you? 

So many authors have inspired me. I jump between reading fiction, non-fiction and poetry. So, I’ll choose someone in those three categories that I’ve read this year. Elizabeth Berg, Michelle Obama, and Billy Collins. What a dinner party that would be!

 

What are you currently working on? 

I have two books that should be released in the next year or so. Soon I will start edits on my third women’s fiction, The Smell of Roses. I also have my first children’s picture book, Happy Haiku, coming out within a year or so. And I am always working on some type of Japanese short form poetry, which is a great interest and love of mine.

 

What song best describes 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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A Moment With… Lynne Shelby

A lovely huge welcome and hello to Lynne Shelby and the blog tour for her new novel, There She Goes. 

When aspiring actress Julie Farrell meets actor Zac Diaz, she is instantly attracted to him, but he shows no interest in her. Julie, who has yet to land her first professional acting role, can’t help wishing that her life was more like a musical, and that she could meet a handsome man who’d sweep her into his arms and tap-dance her along the street…

After early success on the stage, Zac has spent the last three years in Hollywood, but has failed to forge a film career. Now back in London, he is determined to re-establish himself as a theatre actor. Focused solely on his work, he has no time for distractions, and certainly no intention of getting entangled in a committed relationship…  

Auditioning for a new West End show, Julie and Zac act out a love scene, but will they ever share more than a stage kiss?

 

Lynne is chatting about her five favourite fictional characters today. Over to you. 

 

Reading a novel, I find that some characters simply leap off the page and hang around in my imagination long after I’ve read the last chapter of their story.  Not that they’d all be people you’d want to meet in real life, but here are five of my favourites:

 

Jane Eyre

In books, governesses are often prim and pitiful creatures but Jane Eyre, the heroine of Charlotte Bronte’s novel, is neither. Outwardly conventional, Jane is actually a rebel against the constraints society imposed on women of her time – her then-radical ideas about equality between the sexes, shocked many of the novel’s Victorian readers! The way Jane remains true to herself while overcoming hardship, and the fact she refuses to become the mistress of the man she loves, not because of her society’s morals, but because it would mean she would lose her own sense of her place in the world, make her one of the most memorable characters in English literature. I first read the book in school when I was a teenager, and have re-read it many times – I’m always delighted to renew my acquaintance with the subversive Jane.

 

Lou Clark

The charming heroine of JoJo Moyes ‘Me Before You,’ Lou describes herself as ‘an ordinary girl leading an ordinary life.’ She is actually a wonderfully quirky girl, cheerful and optimistic, who could do all sorts of things, but the small town where she’s always lived is stifling her potential. When she takes a job as a carer for quadriplegic Will Traynor, she shows that she is both kind and resourceful – someone you simply have to root for, and hope that her life will get better, the whole way through her story. I don’t want to say too much and give away the plot of the book, but Lou Clark is a character that makes you both laugh and cry.

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NK Chats To… Claire Wingfield

Hi Claire, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your book, Saving Francesca Maier and what inspired it?

Saving Francesca Maier takes place over a summer in Berlin, when a family arrive to visit old friends in the city, disturbing secrets that have long lain dormant.

Having grown up in the UK, my first job as a young graduate was in Berlin and the book was inspired by those two transformative years in my life, during which I felt an exhilarating – and at times terrifying – sense of freedom. It seemed natural to put those intense emotions into the character of Francesca, an adolescent girl on the cusp of change when she’s brought to her father’s home country for the first time.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Is there somewhere specific you like to write?

With two young children and a busy editorial business, my writing is often squeezed in at the edges of the day. I like to write before the rest of my family is awake but also find many of my ideas come when I’m not at my desk. Writing Saving Francesca Maier, quite a few plot ideas came to me whilst swimming and at least one of the scenes is inspired by a yoga pose!

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

Change.

In writing and in life I am always reminding myself to appreciate that people can make quite incredible transformations. It’s those transformations that can provide a lift and new momentum to a narrative and a sense of hope in life. Some of us are too often told that people can’t change and that’s when we get stuck in our place in life and our emotions. Reading novels can remind us that other paths are possible, and part of my writing has been inspired by the personal transformations of people I’ve known – especially those that come after many years of one way of being. There’s an important shift in mindset for one of the characters in Saving Francesca Maier which needed a catalyst but also required incredible bravery to stick to, once my character glimpsed that change was possible.

 

Which books have inspired you? 

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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: Elle Nash

Hi Elle, thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your book, Animals Eat Each Other and what inspired the story?

Hi Laura, thanks so much for having me. Animals Eat Each Other is a book about a girl who falls into a relationship with a couple, right after graduating high school. The couple, Matt and Frances, find themselves enamored with her, so much so that Frances even renames her: Lilith. Things become complicated when the three of them become dishonest with each other about their true feelings, and Lilith must explore these new boundaries in the wake of her own nihilism about herself and how she gives and receive love, raising questions about her own self-worth.

The biggest inspiration for the story was just how I felt at the age of nineteen. I felt lost, had been burned in love by a couple different people through high school up until that point, and became very jaded. I wanted to write the sort of book about not just love but also about bisexuality that I would have wanted to read as a young woman, without tokenizing the ‘sexual awakening’ aspect of the coming of age story we’re all so used to.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Is there somewhere specific you like to write?

My typical writing day is haphazard and on the fly. I am the mother of a young and vivacious toddler so I tend to write whenever I can get it in. In the morning before she wakes up, it’s 15 minutes here or there, during naps if I can, at night when everyone is asleep. I’ll even bring my laptop with me in my car if we’re running errands. If she naps before we get to our destination, I’ll sit in parking lots and type up notes and write then, too. I also write into my notes app on my phone a lot, and even dictate thoughts to myself to transcribe later. I feel a bit like I’m collaging most of the time.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

Very tough question. Probably the word “spell.” There’s a lot to it. I view the practice of writing as a form of magic— like manifesting, conjuring something from the ether. The very idea of “spelling” a word, like carving something down onto a piece of paper or an object (or the internet) is a form of making a spell, of manifesting. You can out people under a spell with your words, by transmitting the feeling of a thing through atmosphere and character and mood. It’s a pretty powerful thing to think about.

 

Which authors have inspired you?

So many! Elizabeth Ellen, author of Person/a; Juliet Escoria, whose book Juliet the Maniac was just released; Mary Gaitskill, who has a great number of short story collections. Tom Spanbauer and Chuck Palahniuk’s early work were very inspiring to me as a young aspiring writer, along with Octavia Butler, whose book “The Parable of the Sower” really changed my life.

 

What are you currently working on?

I just shoved aside a second novel manuscript for a bit so I could focus on some short stories. It’s been fun.

 

What songs would be in the playlist for this novel?

Oh, so many, but here is a shortened list:
“10 or a 2 Way” by Korn
“F*** the Pain Away” by Peaches
“Tourniquet” by Marilyn Manson
“I’m Not Okay (I Promise)” My Chemical Romance
“Screaming Infidelities” by Dashboard Confessional
“With Teeth” by NIN
“King of the Closet” by Blindside
“Blood Pig” by OTEP
“WOW” by Marilyn Manson

 

What is your writing process like from idea to final draft? How long does it take you to write a book?

My first book took three years to finish a first draft, and then another year to get it to a publishable, final draft. I had never written a novel before and I had zero planning put in it whatsoever. It just kind of started as a short story and I kept expanding and expanding until it was more of a novel. The current book I’ve been writing, I actually planned out a lot beforehand, and challenged myself to finish a first draft in twelve weeks, which I finished in eleven, then spent a couple of weeks revising. I’m currently letting it sit for a bit before I go back to do more revisions and see if there are other structural issues I need to take care of.

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A Moment With… Iain Maitland

Iain Maitland has joined me today with the blog tour for his latest novel, Mr Todd’s Reckoning.

Norman Bates is alive and well… He’s living just next door

Behind the normal door of a normal house, in a normal street, two men are slowly driving each other insane. One of them is a psychopath.

The father: Mr Todd is at his wits end. He’s been robbed of his job as a tax inspector and is now stuck at home… with him. Frustrated. Lonely. Angry. Really angry.

The son: Adrian has no job, no friends. He is at home all day, obsessively chopping vegetables and tap-tap-tapping on his computer. And he’s getting worse, disappearing for hours at a time, sneaking off to who-knows-where?

The unholy spirit: in the safety of suburbia, one man has developed a taste for killing. And he’ll kill again.

 

Iain is chatting today about getting into Mr Todd’s head for the novel. Over to you, Iain. 

Mr Todd’s Reckoning tells the story of two men, Mr Todd, the father, and Mr Todd, the son, living in a small, rundown bungalow during a long and endless summer heatwave. The younger Mr Todd is unemployed and has various mental health issues. The older Mr Todd has just lost his job and is angry and frustrated. Each man drives the other mad.

Getting inside Mr Todd’s head – both heads really, the father and the son – was easy to do. The two men were based, at least to begin with, on my eldest son, Michael, and me. I was writing from deep within myself.

Michael went to university, as so many teenagers do, away from home. He struggled with issues of low self-esteem and anxiety when he was there. Left unchecked, these turned eventually into depression and anorexia. He spent time in hospital and five months in The Priory. For a while, we thought we would lose him, either through anorexia or by taking his own life.

I understand now, to some degree, how someone with mental health issues thinks and acts. I read some of Michael’s diary entries from when he was in the Priory – they were the basis of a memoir we wrote together when he was getting better, Out Of The Madhouse (JKP Books). The younger Todd began as a fictionalised version of Michael, or someone much like him – someone with some of his issues anyway.

I’ve written in the national media, The Guardian etc, and in a memoir, Dear Michael, Love Dad (Hodder) about my childhood. My father brought his teenage mistress to live in the family home with him, my mother and me when I was six. Strange times, and they got much worse over the years. Lots of intense and negative feelings that I had in my childhood – being unwanted, feeling like an outsider, believing I was useless – were easy to dredge up when I wanted them.

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A Moment With… Effrosyni Moschoudi

Effrosyni Moschoudi is the author of The Raven Witch of Corfu series. 

She is joining me today to talk about how Corfu has inspired her writing. 

*****

My love affair with Corfu began when I was only a child. Ever since I was about five years old, my Corfiot grandparents used to have me over for long periods every summer, first in Corfu town, then in the village of Moraitika.

Moraitika is situated on the southeast coast of the island between Benitses and the port of Lefkimmi. Back in the 1980s, Moraitika was a bustling holiday spot. My family ran both a souvenir shop and a small business of room rentals at the time, which meant I had plenty of opportunities to mingle with tourists on a daily basis, Brits mostly.

My sister and I often spent three-month holidays in Moraitika as youngsters, where we helped our grandmother with the cleaning of the rented rooms. Yet, there was always time for plenty of swimming and sunbathing, as well as for having fun in the evenings with a host of cousins and friends. This time of my life remains the most precious I hold in my heart, and this is even more so the case now that my grandparents have passed away.

I have strong family roots in Moraitika. My great-grandfather, the teacher and priest of the village in the turn of the 20thcentury is buried beside the old church. Part of his home that’s still standing in its entirety near the church was originally used as the school of the village. Today, it has been split up into small apartments which stay closed for most of the year and only come to life for 1-2 weeks at a time when descendants of my great-grandfather (my cousins, aunts and uncles) arrive for a short holiday. Having inherited the part of the house that once belonged to my grandparents, it is a precious bond with that special part of my life that literally comes to life for a few days every summer when I stay there.

Beside Moraitika, and across the river of Messonghi, lies a small fishing village of the same name. Unlike Moraitika that kept getting more built up over time, Messonghi has changed very little since I’d first laid eyes on it in the 1970s.

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5 Modern Protagonists I’d Like To See

Del Ray; Film Tie In Edition, August 2015

Writers’ ability to create new characters never ceases to astound me. Indeed, for as much as we hear that Hollywood is “out of ideas,” the literary world seems to be full to bursting with them. In just the last few years some of the most noteworthy books I’ve read have concerned a girl on a semi-fantastical journey launched from her family’s Everglades gator-wrestling attraction (Swamplandia! by Karen Russell); a tale of President Lincoln’s son in a state of purgatory (Lincoln In The Bardo by George Saunders); and a spellbinding narrative in which trees are as much main characters as people (The Overstory by Richard Powers).

A great written story can be spun out of just about any sort of character, provided a writer has a good idea, a bit of talent, and a great deal of imagination. Even with the innumerable ideas that have been tried though, I still catch myself daydreaming now and then about the characters or stories I’d like to read (or perhaps write). Lately, I’ve been musing about some more modern ideas for protagonists that – to my knowledge – haven’t really been tried yet.

Here are a few I’ve come up with.

 

1. A Space Voyager’s Spouse

Space travel is nothing new in fiction. From realistic stories to full-fledged science fiction and everything in between, there have been all kinds of tales written about people venturing out into space. What we don’t see too much of though is writing about the people who might one day be left behind by those heading out on deep space explorations. For instance, imagine Mark Watney, the central character in The Martian, had had a wife on Earth. Wouldn’t her story be fascinating as well? A few years ago, when people were signing up for a highly publicized one-way ticket to Mars, there was actually a profile about one woman’s husband who was coming to grips with never seeing her again. I’d love to see this sort of character fleshed out more in a full-length, realistic, yet fictional account. It feels like an aspect of modern space exploration we don’t consider, yet one of the most deeply human components of it all.

 

 

Credit: Kate Mango Star

2. A DJ

Personally I’m not wildly into the DJ or electronic music scene. Nevertheless, we have works of fiction pertaining to most every genre of music that’s ever dominated our culture – save for modern DJs (to my knowledge, at least). This just seems to be leaving something of a gap, and I would imagine that the right author could spin a fascinating story out of a character like this. Most of these people are fairly young when they make it big, and from that point forward they travel the world playing shows and festivals, with crowds full of people responding to their every whim. It’s an interesting life whether or not you like the music.

 

3. A VR World Architect

Virtual reality has been a hot topic for years now, and it’s had a place in popular fiction for decades. There’s fairly little talk, however, about who might design and control VR worlds if and when they become more sophisticated. In fact, the closest example I could think of in fiction (never mind books specifically) is the vaguely comical “Architect” character in The Matrix films. I’d be curious to see an inventive author draw up such a character though – someone with a god-like ability to control, manipulate, and monitor a VR world catering to thousands or millions of users in the near future. It’s not exactly a comfortable idea, but it’s an interesting character outline that could make for a fun read.
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NK Chats To… Beth O’ Leary

Hi Beth, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your book, The Flatshare and what inspired it? 

Thank you so much for having me! The Flatshare is a story about two people who share a one-bed flat but don’t meet: one works nights, the other works regular hours. It was inspired by my own experiences of moving in with my boyfriend when he’d just started work as a junior doctor and was working lots of night shifts. We would go days on end without seeing one another – he’d get home from work just after I’d leave in the morning and vice versa, so we passed like ships in the night. It got me wondering what might happen if two strangers lived that way…

 

What’s your writing process like from idea to final draft? 

For me, the basic concept is often what comes into my head first: in this case, two people sharing a bed but not meeting. The main characters come next, growing out of that: so here, I asked, why might two people be willing to do that? What sorts of people would they be?

 

I generally do a rough plan after that point, which features some key moments I want to happen in the novel, but then I rarely look at that plan again once I get writing. For me, first drafts tend to snowball – I write very quickly, almost with the sense that I’m trying to keep up with the story, and then when I hit the end of the book I go back and do a lot of work from that point onwards. The first draft gets the raw, emotional stuff down, the clay of the story – the second draft is all about shaping that into something.

 

Do you have any writing rituals and somewhere special you like to write? 

Well, I wrote The Flatshare on my commute to and from work, so after a while that became my writing ritual – it took me ages to get used to writing full-time at a desk at home after that! I often listen to music while I write, and tend to create playlists for stories. These playlists are especially useful when I’m editing, because they get me back into the character’s heads even when I’m looking at the book more analytically.

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A Moment with… Tony Lee Moral

Welcome to Tony Lee Moral who is here to talk about his new novel, The Haunting of Alice May, released on 12th March. 

Alice May Parker moves with her family to the sleepy town of Pacific Grove after her Mom dies, but little does she know the strange and terrifying events to come.When she falls into the bay during a kayaking trip, she is rescued from drowning by the mysterious Henry Raphael.

Handsome, old-fashioned and cordial, he is unlike any other boy she has known before. Intelligent and romantic, he sees straight into her soul.

Soon Alice and Henry are swept up in a passionate and decidedly unorthodox romance until she finds out that Henry is not all what he seems.

 

Tony is here to talk about the inspiration and process behind The Haunting of Alice May.

In my new novel The Haunting of Alice May, I blend mystery, with suspense and the supernatural. The central character, Alice Parker, moves to Pacific Grove, California, with her father and little sister after her mother dies. Whilst kayaking in the bay, she paddles towards a mysterious island, but capsizes and is drowning when a young man, Henry Raphael, magically appears, delivering her safely to the beach. Against all rules, they begin seeing each other.

The novel is partly inspired by J.M. Barrie’s supernatural 1920 play Mary Rose, about a woman who disappears on a Scottish island and reappears many years later in a ghostly form, while all her loved ones and those around her have grown old. Barrie is best known for writing Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up in 1904, about a boy who has an overwhelming desire to remain young forever.

I first read Mary Rose when I was researching my books on Alfred Hitchcock, as it was the Master of Suspense’s favourite and he wanted to make it into a film. He thought about the challenges of creating Mary Rose as a ghost with neon lights, but unfortunately was never able to realize his passion project. So Henry, in my novel is a version of Mary Rose — someone who never grows old, doesn’t become an adult, is from a different era, and is tied to a mysterious island.

Taking this premise, I thought, wouldn’t it be fascinating and sad if the ghost never grew old, while those around him had died? When Henry falls in love with a human, the dilemma is that they are not only from two different times, but also from two different worlds. While Alice is a contemporary teenage girl with a romantic nostalgia for past literature, Henry’s values are from the turn of the 20th Century, and he is bound by a sense of old-fashioned duty.

When writing for it is important to distinguish between mystery and suspense. Many readers become confused by the two terms. Having written three books on Alfred Hitchcock, I learned that they are actually two very different processes. Mystery is an intellectual process like a riddle or a whodunit. The mystery of Henry, who saves Alice from drowning, is who is he really? Is he a ghost? Where does he come from? What secrets does this island hold on which he inhabits? These are all mysteries that run through the book.

Each of the main characters has their own personal mystery to unravel, whether it be Alice, Henry, Emily, or Heather. Mystery is a central part of being a teenager. Teens are faced with such questions as: What will happen to me when I grow up? Will I find a partner? Will I fulfil my ambitions? Will I do well at school? When Henry asks Alice, “What are you afraid of then?”, she doesn’t immediately answer. Yet inside, she knows she is afraid of many things: concerns for her family, their future, and growing up without a mother. For me, this is the crux of the novel. Part of the fear of growing older is not having fulfilled your life’s ambitions.

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NK Chats To: Eleanor Anstruther

Hello Eleanor, welcome to Novel Kicks. Can you tell me a little about your book, A Perfect Explanation and what inspired it?

A Perfect Explanation is based on the true story of Enid Campbell, granddaughter to the 8th Duke of Argyll, who sold her son to her sister for £500.

She was my grandmother, and the son she sold, my father. I’d always known the basic fact of this story, but no more than that. Thirteen years ago, I asked my father to tell me about his mother, and his response inspired the novel.

 

How much of a challenge was it to write a fictional story around historical events?

It was a huge challenge, not least because the characters in the book, who behave so badly and make such terrible mistakes, are my relations, and the urge to take sides was almost overwhelming. Added to that was the difficulty of first making sense of a complicated story, and then picking a narrative out of that complex weave of real life events.

A narrative must have a beginning and an end, whereas in reality, the scenes of our lives trail endlessly into one another. I had to choose where to start and stop, which of the many points of view to take, and essentially, what story to tell. Everybody wanted to have their say, but having spent a decade listening to them all, and writing many versions, I stood back and wrote the story as I wanted it told. It became as much my perfect explanation as it is theirs.

 

What is your typical writing day like? Do you write in silence? Have a specific place to write?

It depends where I am with a piece of work. I have a studio in the garden, and I’ll be up there every morning for two or three hours while working on a first draft. Often once I’m in the editing process, I’ll start at four or five in the morning, and work much longer days. It’s gruelling and relentless, but nothing else gets a book written.

I write in silence, although another vital part of my writing day is thinking about the work in the evening, my notepad beside me. I have playlists for everything I write, and listening to the music which goes with the novel I’m thinking about, often produces new ideas or solves that day’s problem.

I also do some sort of exercise most days, either running, walking or swimming. As with listening to playlists, I often solve problems when away from my desk, either out in the fresh air, or ploughing up and down a pool.

 

What’s your writing process like (from idea to final draft?)

Ideas come and niggle at me until I pick up my pen and write them down, and then it’s too late to do anything but think of how they might grow. It’s a trick really, of stories, to get themselves written. They pretend they’re just an itch, but as soon as you scratch them, they turn into a full blown illness that can only be cured by completion. So I write down ideas, and then at some point I take an idea up to my studio where the whole thing becomes more serious and I start to think about what it is and how it can be.

Salt, 15th March 2019

Julie Cohen gives the best advice for writing; it is simply to “finish the damn book” which is easier than it sounds. Knowing how tough first drafts are, when I’ve decided to take the plunge, I just hold my breath and get on with it until I have what Graham Linehan calls “the screaming skinless babe” that is a completed first draft.

After that it’s months and months of editing, reading it back aloud – this is crucial, by the way, to hearing flow, tone and rhythms – and leaving it to rest for weeks at a time too, so that I can go back to it with fresh eyes. When I feel I can do more, I’ll send it a trusted freelance editor I’ve been using for years, to get his take on it, and only after that, and more editing, does it go to my agent. I also usually run it past a couple of beta-readers, chosen specifically for that material.

Having now been through the process to completion, I know that it isn’t truly finished until I’m holding the printed book in my hands.

 

What inspired you to be a writer?

I come from a family of writers; it’s in my blood. I’ve always written and can’t imagine life without it. I did, however, take a long time to recognise it as a career. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I thought, why not do this as a profession?

 

Which author/book has influenced you the most?

That’s a very tough question – can I have two?! Henry James and George Eliot.

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NK Chats To: Roxie Cooper

Hi Roxie, it’s a pleasure to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Your book is called The Day We Met (released today. Yay.) What’s it about and what inspired it?

Hi, thanks for having me! The Day We Met is novel about meeting the right person at the wrong time and it asks the question; what happens if you meet your soulmate when you’re just about to marry someone else? Stephanie and Jamie are both happy with other people when they meet each other, but they can’t ignore the strong connection and chemistry between them. Unwilling to slip into a typical affair, they decide to meet on the same weekend every year, as friends. The novel spans a ten-year period and we see how the relationship affects them, their marriages, and careers.

I wanted to write a different kind of love story, one which reflected modern times and attitudes. I’ve always been intrigued by people’s varying opinions on physical and emotional infidelity; is one worse than the other? How do emotional affairs start and just how damaging are they? It’s a huge grey area which sparks monumental discussion and, as a former lawyer, they’re something I love exploring. But it was when I heard Paloma Faith’s Only Love Can Hurt Like This one day that the novel became fully alive in my mind. I knew this had to be an epic love story about two people who couldn’t be together but couldn’t be apart either. That was also the moment I decided that the novel would have to be set to music.

 

What’s your typical writing day like, where do you like to write, do you prefer silence and is there something you need to do/have before you begin writing (coffee for example?)

Sorry to be really awkward, but I have different routines for different stages of the writing process! When I’m writing the actual book, I adopt a fairly strict routine but it’s carried out in a nice environment. So, I’ll drop both my kids at school then dash to a coffee shop on my local high street. Both of my previous books were written there. I don’t stop until I’ve written at least 1000 words and I need my iPod on with people walking around. I like being in the middle of the hustle of it all and I stay there until it’s time to pick the kids up again. Once I move onto edits, however, everything changes. I lock myself in the house and have the TV on at a barely audible volume – I need a tiny amount of white noise. I have to drink coffee in the morning, switching to tea in the afternoon. I turn into a complete recluse in this period, I don’t see my friends for months. It’s very extreme but it works for me!

 

Which author or book has most influenced you?

I’ve read so many books by authors I’ve admired, but in terms of ones who have influenced my career, I’d have to say Adele Parks. I read her novel, Playing Away, in my 20s and thought it was such a standout, brave debut. I researched the author and discovered that she, too, was from Teesside – I couldn’t believe it! That was the moment I thought ‘Wow – if someone from Boro can become an author, there’s hope for any of us.’ It was around this time I started to have ideas about a novel of my own but hadn’t started writing it yet (that book turned out to be my debut The Law of Attraction), but each time I read another of Adele’s books, it cemented my ambition.

 

What made you first realise that you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always loved reading, but I was never one of those kids who wanted to write – or an adult, for that matter. The idea came to me after I became disillusioned with my former career as a criminal barrister. I come from a very working class background and would tell all my friends about the outrageously silly traditions and rituals I had to participate in at the Bar. Coming from Teesside, I’d tell the stories through a very unimpressed ‘Boro lens’ and they’d all say to me “You need to write a book about this!” I also got so fed up with people saying to me “You really don’t look like a barrister!” so in 2009 I started writing my debut novel The Law of Attraction – a book about a blonde, working class, intelligent, sassy girl from Teesside who is propelled into the posh world of barristers. I hadn’t even considered writing a book before I was 31 years old.

 

What’s your route to publication?

I did a lot of research before I submitted my debut novel to agents. My first novel was the only book I’d ever written and took me about 16 months to write. When I felt it was polished enough to allow an agent to read, I sent it off to three I had my eye on (which was terrifying!). Sarah Hornsley from The Bent Agency requested a full manuscript within 24 hours. I was a nervous wreck! Sarah called me and we had the most amazing chat. I knew then that she was the right agent for me. She made suggestions on how I could improve the manuscript (which I did) and six weeks later she offered representation. The next step was submitting the novel to publishers. I had offers from two publishing houses and The Law of Attraction was eventually published in June 2017 with the Harper Collins imprint, HQ Digital.

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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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NK Chats To… Susan Lewis

Hello Susan. Thank you for joining me today. What inspired One Minute Later?

It was meeting twenty-one-year-old Jim Lynskey who is waiting for a new heart.

 

How has your approach to the writing process changed since your first novel? 

I think it’s more or less the same. I explore ideas, let my gut instinct decide which is the right one to go with and then I devise the characters I think will be best to tell the story.

 

Is there a particular place you like to write? Do you need coffee to write? Music? 

I always write in my study at home – I can’t seem to do it anywhere else – I tend to drink tea more than coffee, and I work in silence apart from the comforting snores of my little dogs. I also have a lovely view of the countryside through the French windows which can be very nourishing.

 

Which three characters from fiction would you invite to dinner and why? 

I’d invite Thorfinn from King Hereafter because he could tell us the true story of Macbeth. Any hero from Georgette Heyer because they’re so dashing and romantic and probably Elizabeth Bennett because she’s so sharp and witty.

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Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.

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