NK Chats To….

Our Author Interviews and Guest Posts.

NK Chats To: Sasha Wagstaff

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Do you think character or plot is more important?

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

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

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

 

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

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NK Chats To… Emma Jackson

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

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

 

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

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

 

Emma’s writing space

What’s your route to publication been like?

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

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

 

What would be on a playlist for this novel?

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

 

What’s your favourite word?

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A Moment With…. Lynne Shelby

We have entered the last week of National Novel Writing Month. As you get to the end and are contemplating the edits, author Lynne Shelby has some advice about that all important first sentence.

There are no hard and fast rules for writing that all-important first sentence of a novel, but I like to think of it as an invitation to a reader that will make them want to read on, a hint of what is too come without revealing too much.

An effective first sentence establishes an important aspect of the book. You could begin with a short statement of a fact that plunges the reader headlong into the story, or a line of dialogue that establishes the character of story’s narrator.

I think it’s best to avoid long, waffling description as this tends to put readers off, but a short, effective first sentence can set the style and mood of a novel, if it is comical, serious or even shocking!

What a writer is doing with a first sentence is showing the reader that something interesting is going on, encouraging them to take their first step into the world of the book.

Good luck to everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo.

 

About Lynne: 

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NK Chats To… RE McLean

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Which songs would be on a playlist for this book?

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

 

Do you think character or plot is more important?

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

 

Which other authors have inspired/influenced you the most?

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NK Chats To… Laura Briggs

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

What is your idea of a perfect Christmas? 

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

 

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

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NK Chats To… Eliza J. Scott

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Do you think character or plot is more important?

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

 

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

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A Moment With… Steve Exeter

Welcome to author, Steve Exeter. 

With October being Black History Month, I am pleased to be welcoming Steve to Novel Kicks. He is here to talk about his book, Severus: The Black Caesar who was the first African Emperor.

 

About the book: 

Severus follows the amazing true story of a rebellious boy who grew up in an African province and became the first Black Caesar of the Roman Empire, the head of a dynasty that would lead Rome through bloody civil wars and rapidly changing times.

As a young man, Severus hates the Romans and conspires to humiliate them. What begins as a childish prank unfurls into a bloodbath that sends Severus careening into his future.

Through a tragic love affair, dangerously close battles and threats both internal and external, Severus accrues power — and enemies — in his unlikely rise to become the most powerful man in the ancient world.

 

Without further ado, chatting about his book and the fascinating history behind it, it’s over to you, Steve. Welcome. 

 

I was encouraged and excited to see that notable historian Patrick Vernon included the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus on his list of 100 Great Black Britons and that he ended up ranking as highly as 25 in the final list.

Severus died in York in 211 BC and was arguably the first black man to set foot on British soil, but he came not as a slave, but as Emperor. Behind this still little-known fact there is the incredible tale of someone who grew from rebellious youth to the most powerful man in the ancient world.

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A Moment With… Farrell Keeling

Happy Monday all. I’m happy to be welcoming Farrell Keeling to Novel Kicks today. His book, Nathaniel Grey and the Obsidian Crown is the second novel in the Phoenix saga.

 

It’s been over half a century since the Phoenix rose in the City of Light. Accused of grave crimes against the Obsidian Throne, Nathaniel Grey is cast out of Obsidia and forced to seek refuge with his peoples’ sworn enemies, the Lycans.

With the Szar and Necromancers plotting in the shadows, Nathaniel must mount a swift return to his homeland before war breaks out between the Regals and Lycans.

Whoever bears the Obsidian Crown, shall hold the fate of Horizon in their hands…

 

Chatting about his journey into self-publishing, it’s over to you, Farrell… 

 

When I first started writing, I never imagined that there would be anything as time-consuming and difficult as my chosen passion. Indeed, even when it came to the day of publishing – after months of editing and finding the right cover to slap over the manuscript – I remained blissfully unaware of what lay around the corner.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

How did I make the decision to go into self-publishing, you might ask? Well, to put it quite simply – through a complete lack of patience. Not to say that lacking patience can necessarily be a bad thing sometimes. Certainly not, when it comes to the seemingly unnavigable mire that is self-publishing.

Like many other aspiring authors, I finished summer with my first, brand spanking new novel, Thorne Grey and the City of Darkness, ready to send out into the world. I bought the latest edition of the ‘Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook’ and started compiling a list of the most relevant agents in my genre. For those determined to go through publishers, I would not discourage it, but I do feel personally that it can’t hurt to have someone experienced within the industry backing your submission.

I sent out a lot of emails – and I mean A LOT – quietly optimistic that I would at least get some feedback. It might not be the desired backing, but at least something that would help improve my manuscript. Around 40% never replied. Of those that did, the vast majority sent back short but polite refusals. However, I was fortunate enough to receive a couple of emails with positive, encouraging feedback.

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A Moment With… Nell Cook

I’m excited to be welcoming Nell Cook to Novel Kicks today to chat about her novel, A Georgie Up the Ganges. 

IT’S CRUNCH TIME AND JENNIFER BARNES MUST SEIZE THE DAY

She’s stumbling through the mid-life crisis from hell…and then she receives a diagnosis that puts her future in jeopardy.

She has two choices. Crumble or follow the call of her heart. She chooses life, and embarks on an adventure trip to India armed with pick-pocket-proof knickers and a shewee.

To add to her woes she must travel with a group of seven strangers.

Among her travelling companions are an upper-class toff with bossy tendencies, and a wisecracking, gorgeous Glaswegian who says he’s in it for the adventure.

During the journey from one end of the Ganges to the other, Jen experiences the magic of the biggest festival on earth; rides the river’s rapids; and glimpses the wilder side of Varanasi.

Wanting pity from no-one, she hides her illness, and during the journey learns she’s not the only one with secrets.

Will opposites attract? Does Jen have the strength to resist the temptation of forbidden fruits? What will she discover about herself and others and, can she master the shewee?

 

Talking about her start as a writer, without further ado, over to you, Nell. 

 

I’d like to welcome you with a quote from Ernest Hemingway.

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed”.

Sounds easy doesn’t it? Yes, I thought so too.

Well, now I know why so many people who start writing a book never actually finish it.

The seed was planted six years ago when I wrote a blog about my adventure trip to India. I knew with my series of anecdotes I had a powerful story begging to be told. “I’ll write that book one day” I kept telling myself, and for four years my anecdotes gathered dust on the hard drive of my laptop. Then something happened out of the blue which changed everything.

Two years ago I got the exciting opportunity to help make a pilot television show, which involved pitching the idea of my story as a comedy drama series to a panel of tv experts. Although the pilot wasn’t screened the production company loved my story, and that was the catalyst which compelled me to pick up where I left off.

I stopped telling myself “one day blah, blah, blah” and my mantra became “now is the time”.

So, the spare room in our home became my writing cave, I put aside my obsession with photography and stopped watching television (apart from Game of Thrones of course).

I’ve learned to create and flesh out characters, master dialogue and outline compelling plot and structure. I’ve tested my writing mettle with descriptive prose, subtext and point of view. Crafting beginnings and endings and discovering theme and premise, I’ve found my voice.

I knew of the obvious trials and tribulations before I embarked on my writing journey; finding the time; writer’s block; self-belief; getting published amongst others. But I hadn’t anticipated the challenge of waking up in the dead of night when my Muse decides to burst into activity. Believe me, when that happens you can say goodbye to sleep – you’re not the one in control.

 

DECISIONS, DECISIONS

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NK Chats To… Stephen Clark

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

Thanks so much for having me. When it’s time to write, that’s when I hunker down in front of the TV or get on Twitter or remember that I have a wife and kid. Basically, I procrastinate as long as possible until the muse possesses me and compels me to burn the midnight oil in the solitude of my den.

It’s not that I like to write in my den or any place of isolation for that matter. But when I’m in the zone, it’s best to leave me alone. I don’t have any writing rituals per se, but I need to create some, especially when the muse goes MIA.

 

Your novel is called Hands Up. What is it about?

Hands Up follows three characters from different worlds on are on collision course after a deadly police shooting spins their lives into chaos. Officer Ryan Quinn is on the fast track to detective until he shoots an unarmed black male. Now he embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to choose between conscience or silence.

Jade Wakefield is an emotionally damaged college student who lives in one of the city’s worst neighbourhoods. She sets out to find the truth and get revenge after learning that there’s more to her brother’s death than the official police account.

While mourning the death of his son, Kelly Randolph returns to his hometown broke and broken to seek forgiveness for abandoning his family 10 years earlier. But when he is thrust into the spotlight as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.

 

 

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

It’s like a sausage factory on fire. It’s not pretty or safe. As Ernest Hemingway said, the first draft of anything is s***. My writing process aims to turn that s***, speck by speck, into gold.

 

 

What music would be on a playlist for Hands Up?

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A Moment With… Barbara Wallace

A big welcome to Barbara Wallace who is here to share some fun facts about her novel, One Night in Provence, plus she’s sharing a deleted scene!

Without further ado, over to you, Barbara.

Hi! Thank you for letting me visit.

I’m going to share with you a little secret. As much as writers love telling stories, the actual process of writing a book can be a long and boring process. After all, you try and spend months with the same two people in your head. Therefore we sometimes – okay I sometimes – make up little inside jokes and references as a way of making the work fun.

What I’d thought I’d do today is share some of those behind the scenes facts. I’m also sharing some of the great historical facts I learned while doing research. Provence and Nantucket are both rich with history. Because Philippe is an historian, I was able to weave in a few facts, but just as many ended up discarded. (Until now.)

Lastly, I decided to share a deleted scene with you all as well. I thought it might be fun for you to see the kinds of things that editors suggest we cut.

So, without further ado, let me present, Ten Fun Facts About One Night in Provence (whether you wanted to know them or not.)

The Destination Brides series was originally named Bucket List Brides. We conceived the idea during a brainstorming session on Facebook Messenger. It began as an excuse for Donna Alward, Nina Singh and I to work together on a project. We asked Liz Fielding to join us because working with her was on our personal bucket lists.

Jenna Brown and her colleagues Shirley and Donna were named for my fellow romance authors Jenna Bayley Burke, Shirley Jump and Donna Alward.
In the book, Shirley is dating a man named Joe. In real life, Shirley will be marrying her fiancé Joe this fall.

Chateau de Beauchamp is based on a real five star French hotel: La Bastide de Gordes. Sadly, I haven’t been there. Never been to Provence either. I’ve spent exactly eight hours in France. Long enough to do a hop on/hop off tour of Paris.

Equally sad is the fact that those eight hours are more than I ever spent in Nantucket – despite living four hours away. By the way, The Whaler Inn in Nantucket – the Merchant auction takes place – is also based on a real hotel. The Ocean House Resort in Westerly, Rhode Island. That hotel was recently named one of the best in the country. Oh yeah, and Taylor Swift lives down the street.

The White Terror that Philippe refers to when he first meets Jenna was an uprising staged by the royalists following the French revolution. Members of the noble classes briefly fought back by conducting nighttime terror raids.

The Tour Magne in Nimes is real and you can climb the stairs. It was built by the Romans in 15 BC.

Philippe’s apartment is located in Arles. Vincent Van Gogh also lived in Arles. In fact, I imagined Philippe’s apartment overlooking the park near Van Gogh’s famous yellow house. While living in the Arles, Van Gogh decided to focus many of his paintings on a single theme: Sunflowers. Arles is also where Van Gogh severed his ear.

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NK Chats To… Laura Briggs

Hi Laura. It’s lovely to welcome you to Novel Kicks today and happy book birthday for A Wedding in Cornwall. Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired it?

Thanks so much, and very excited to share with your readers today! The romance read A Wedding in Cornwall is the first novella in a series that focuses on an American event planner’s adventures working at a Cornish manor house in a remote village. It was heavily inspired by other Cornish-themed stories, including the television shows Poldark and Doc Martin.

 

What’s your writing process like, from idea to final draft and how has it evolved from your first novel?

My writing process is actually much the same as when I first started. I usually start with brainstorming some notes, and then create an outline. This can range from anything from a few lines to describe each scene to a more full-blown, descriptive document outlining what happens in the story. From there, it’s just a matter of getting it all on paper and then onto revisions and editing for the final draft.

 

Where do you like to write, do you prefer silence and do you write longhand? Need coffee?

I work with a laptop, but my work station is most often in my living room (usually with a cat or two on hand for company!). I often work to music or sometimes a favourite television program, although silence is okay too. No coffee, but occasionally a cup of hot chocolate in the winter time!

 

What elements need to be in place for beginning a novel?

For me, the basic events of the story need to be outlined, so I don’t get too off track, so to speak! And I need to have some basic notes on character background too, even though certain things about both plot or characters may change as the story goes on paper.

 

Do you think plot or character is more important?

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NK Chats To… Ann Morgan

Photo credit: Steve Lennon

Hi Ann, thank you so much for joining me today. Your book is called Crossing Over. Can you tell me a bit about it and what inspired the story?

Thanks for having me! Crossing Over is the story of an unlikely friendship between an elderly woman living alone on the Kent coast and a traumatized Malawian migrant hiding in her barn. On the surface, the two characters have little in common and in some ways they can never fully understand one another, but through their interaction they gain new perspectives on their own experiences and uncover more similarities between their lives than you might expect.

For several years, I’d wanted to write about the little ships manned by civilians that were sent to rescue soldiers from the beaches in Dunkirk early in the second world war. I knew this would probably involve an elderly character who had been involved in the evacuation effort. Then, when reports started to surface of refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean and more recently the Channel in small boats, the parallels and contrasts between the two types of crossings seemed powerful.

In addition, I’m fascinated by representing altered mental states in narrative and how mental illness affects storytelling (something I explored with bipolar disorder in my first novel, Beside Myself). Many therapies are built on the theory that telling a story can help a person move past a traumatic event – so what are the implications for people who are unable to articulate what has happened to them coherently? It struck me that bringing together two characters whose storytelling is compromised – one through PTSD and the other through dementia – might provide an interesting way to explore this.

 

What challenges did you face in regards to the themes of the book?

I was representing the story from the point of view of two characters with markedly different life experiences to my own. It required sensitivity and a great deal of thought. Indeed, for a long time I would have doubted my entitlement as white British writer to try and tell the story of a Malawian character.

However, recent books such as The Good Immigrant and Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race challenged my thinking on this and made me see that it’s important for writers of all backgrounds to do what we can to increase representation and diversity in storytelling.

The key is to do your best to do it well – in fact that is always a writer’s job. In the case of Jonah and Edie, this involved a huge amount of research and time spent talking to people with direct knowledge of and insight into many of the things I was writing about.

I then had to filter all this research through my own imagination and sensibility to try to make sure that it lived in the story as human experience, rather than two-dimensional information.

 

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

I get up very early and start at 5am in my writing room looking out over the hills and the white cliffs. Those early hours when the house is quiet are golden. If I have all day and am not going out for meetings, I will work in two- or three-hour stints, with breaks for meals and probably a run in the middle of the day, until around 6pm.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

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NK Chats To… Holly Tierney-Bedford

Hi Holly, I am so pleased you’ve joined me today. Can you tell me a little about your book, I Will Follow Him?

My story is about Francie, a private detective hired to follow a groom-to-be and his groomsmen as they go on a cruise. It’s a romantic comedy about a singles’ cruise, so there are lots of laughs, surprises, and (naturally) love.

 

What have been the challenges of writing within the Oceanic Dreams book series?

No challenges! It’s been great!

 

Do you need to have read the other books to read yours?

No. Every book can be read as a standalone story.

 

What is your writing process like, from idea to first draft? (If you are happy to provide a photo as an example of any part of the process, then that would be fantastic.)

I just jump in and start writing. I’m a total pantser, meaning I fly by the seat of my pants. Every story has a “feeling” to it, a mood, of those particular characters, setting, etc. When I signed on to the Oceanic Dreams project, I loved the light, fun premise. Although I didn’t have a particular plot or character in my mind until I sat down to write and saw what showed up, the series had been on my mind, percolating, for months before I started and I’m sure that helped me.

 

Is character or plot more important?

Character. I’d read a book about a fascinating person cleaning their house. I would not want to read a book with a great plot but characters who are boring.

 

How important is it to pick character names and how do you pick yours?

Important. I often change my characters’ names (find and replace) several times before I get it right.

 

Which authors do you admire?

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NK Chats To… Sophie Tanner

Your book is called Reader, I Married Me (I love this title.) Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired it?

I wrote this book after going through a bad break up – being cheated on, lied to and rejected by the person I trusted the most. But, you know what, looking back I realise it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Romantic love is wonderful and all, but realising that I didn’t need ‘another half’ to make me happy or ‘complete’ me was an awesome revelation to have. So much so that I decided to take vows of self-commitment and marry myself in Brighton! I know it sounds bonkers but the idea was to start conversations and ask the question ‘why shouldn’t self-love be AS important as romantic love?!’ After all, your relationship with yourself deserves as much attention as any other – and the more you deal with your own crap the less other people have to, right?

So, my new novel is loosely based on my own experience of sologamy because it turns out that loving yourself so publicly is not easy – in fact, it got me a lot of haters. Which kind of highlights the complex attitude our culture has to self-love in the first place! The title slightly adulterates the words of literary heroine Jane Eyre 🙂

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

Discombobulate. I love this word because it sounds amazing in your mouth and describes the rather marvellous state of being tumbled from your comfort zone. It kind of reminds me of how Winnie the Pooh thinks.

 

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

Well, I’m still figuring that out actually. Writing the novel was such a great learning curve and I think the next book I write should be a lot more streamlined. Because there is a certain formula to plot and character development and I think if you can pin that down first then your writing becomes a lot less chaotic!

 

Where do you normally write and do you need coffee, silence, noise?

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

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