NK Chats To….

Our Author Interviews and Guest Posts.

Author Interview: Dani Atkins Talks About Her New Book, This Love

Dani Atkins author picHi 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 Like many unpublished authors, I was largely fumbling around in the dark, trying to get my first book noticed.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.

 

this love coverWhat’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?

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A Moment With: Liz Fenwick’s Advice on Staying Motivated

returning tideAward winning author Liz Fenwick’s latest novel, The Returning Tide is released today by Orion.

Two sisters and one betrayal that will carry across generations . . .

In wartime Cornwall, 1943, a story between two sisters begins – the story of Adele and Amelia, and the heart-breaking betrayal that will divide them forever. Decades later, the effects of one reckless act still echo – but how long will it be until their past returns?

A big, lovely welcome to Liz who joins me today with her advice on staying motivated when writing. Over to you, Liz…

The beginning of writing a novel is a wonderful thing. I am in love. The book in my head is perfect in every way from flawless sentences, twists galore and characters to die for…it’s all there unsullied by actually putting a single word on the page.

This love affair normally lasts for about 20,000 or maybe to 40,000 words if I’m lucky…then the doubts creep in. What was I thinking? It’s awful. These thoughts I refer to as the crows of doubt and they really begin to circle. This is when I turn to research and writing craft books. I’m always scared that I won’t find the inspiration to complete the story but digging into research fills my head with more ideas. Writing craft books make me look at things from a different angle.

Both of these exercises are essential to finding the will and the inspiration to keep going until I type the end.

I also remind myself that the first draft of the book is for me…for me alone. It’s fine that it is so far from perfect, from the book in my head. I tell myself that once the first draft is done I can fix it but I can’t fix an empty page.

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Blog Tour: Julia Chapman Discusses What’s in a Name?

jacket imageHuge hellos today to Julia Chapman and the blog tour for her new novel, Date with Death which is part of the Dales Detective Series, released by Pan on 9th March. Here’s a bit about it….

Murder’s no cup of tea.

Samson O’Brien has been dismissed from the police force, and returns to his hometown of Bruncliffe in the Yorkshire Dales to set up the Dales Detective Agency while he fights to clear his name. However, the people of Bruncliffe aren’t that welcoming to a man they see as trouble.

Delilah Metcalfe, meanwhile, is struggling to keep her business, the Dales Dating Agency, afloat – as well as trying to control her wayward Weimaraner dog, Tolpuddle. Then when Samson gets his first case, investigating the supposed suicide of a local man, things take an unexpected turn, and soon he discovers a trail of deaths that lead back to the door of Delilah’s agency.

With suspicion hanging over someone they both care for, the two feuding neighbours soon realize that they need to work together to solve the mystery of the dating deaths. But working together is easier said than done . . .

 

To celebrate the release of her new novel, Julia asks, what’s in a name.

My novels are full of characters. But when you are creating a brand new person, where do you start? Usually, the physical characteristics come first for me. On the odd occasion, a character has emerged on the page complete with name from the very beginning. But that’s unusual.

On the whole, I create the people who populate my books from scratch. But sometimes the traits I give them come from real life. For example, I have a gorgeous Weimaraner called Tolpuddle in my new Dales Detective Series, a large grey dog who has a habit of leaning against people. I took that detail from a New Zealand Huntaway I once knew who was just like that. He would come up and lean into you, his weight heavy on your leg. But it wasn’t threatening. It was reassuring. As though he was letting you know he was there – in case you were in trouble.

I stole that characteristic and gave it to Tolpuddle. The rest of him is pure fiction. Especially his penchant for beer!

But perhaps the most essential part of any character, for me, is the name. It can tell you as much as any detailed physical description. More sometimes! We all know a Susie is different to a Susan. A Bill is going to be possibly less formal than a William. We can even deduce a person’s age simply from what they are called. Edith and Lucy – both live in Bruncliffe, the setting for the Dales Detective Series. Want to take a bet which one lives in Fellside Court retirement complex and which one runs the local cafe?

(Having said that, I do have a character called Titch who is massive. But then, if a bit of name inversion was good enough for Little John in Robin Hood then I’m happy to follow suit!)

How to choose this fundamental aspect of the people who will populate my books, then? By the time I reach the stage of assigning a label, the personality is usually fully formed. So I need the name to be right – it has to fit the person emerging from under my words like a glove. Consequently, it can take me a lot longer to christen my characters than to create them.

Take the landlord of the Fleece in Bruncliffe, the setting for the Dales Detective Series. He’s morose. A misanthropist.

He’s a reluctant host and suffers his customers only because they make him money.

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A Moment With: Caroline Lea Chats About Writing & Editing Her Novel, When The Sky Fell Apart

Caroline Lea

Caroline Lea

Massive happy hellos to Caroline Lea and her stunning debut novel, When The Sky Fell Apart which has just been released by Text Publishing.

Jersey, June 1940: it starts with the burning man on the beach just after the bombs land, obliterating the last shred of hope that Hitler will avert his attention from the Channel Islands. Within weeks, 12,000 German troops land on the Jersey beaches, heralding a new era of occupation.

For 10-year-old Claudine, it means a re-education under German rule, and as she befriends one of the soldiers, she inadvertently opens the gateway to a more sinister influence in her home with devastating consequences.

For Maurice, a local fisherman, it means protecting his wife at all costs. He has heard the whispers from France of what the occupiers do to invalids like Marthe and he is determined to keep them away from her – even if it means endangering his own life.

Edith, the island’s unofficial homeopath, is a Jerriais through to her bones. She sees her duty as caring for those who need her in their darkest time, but even she can’t save everyone, no matter how hard she tries.

And as for English doctor Tim Carter – on the arrival of the brutal Commandant, he becomes the subject of a terrifying regime that causes the Jersey locals to brand him a traitor, unaware of the torment he suffers in an effort to save them.

When The Sky Fell Apart

 

It’s over to Caroline where she is chatting about her writing process and the magic of editing. I’ve also reviewed the book too.

I’ve always written, but it took having children to compel me to finish my first novel. Perhaps it was the escapism writing offered, or the fact that motherhood has shown me both that I am a huge control freak, and that parenting is hard (why didn’t someone warn me that my kids would have opinions, or that they might prefer fistfuls of sugar to steamed broccoli?). The result was WHEN THE SKY FELL APART, which was written in six months during my children’s nap-times. Children provided me with a useful time constraint—I always respond well to a deadline—and writing provided me with characters I could control, so that it mattered less when my children drew on their faces with sharpie marker pens.

There were many surprises along the road to publication, not least of which was the amount of criticism writers must be willing to accept. The key is to acknowledge it, struggle back up, dust yourself off and continue to write, ignoring the monkey on your shoulder, babbling that you’re a failure. Writers are masters of self-sabotage. It’s easy to sit in front of a blank screen, paralysed by the idea that, whatever you write, it won’t be good enough. At the other end of the spectrum is the eviscerating experience of writing something ‘good’, only to feel utterly shattered by critical feedback from an agent or editor. All this emotional battery can leave hopeful writers feeling like the end product might not justify the years of tears and crushed egos, but I think that the problem is often that we expect to be ‘good’ too soon: we don’t allow ourselves to write badly.

Bear with me. I’m not suggesting that you send out your first draft of poorly shaped plot, with under-developed characters (I tried this with the first draft of my second novel: the response from my wonderful and longsuffering agent was polite but brutal). But I am saying that good work often starts with ‘bad’ writing, and with forgiving yourself for writing badly, and then being ready to endlessly reshape, rework, edit and redraft. This is where the magic happens.  Imagine that you’re a sculptor.  The first, roughly hewn block of wood will look be underwhelming. You’ll spend hundreds of hours sawing, chiseling, sanding and varnishing it before you have anything worthy of display. On the other hand, there may be things that remain in your novel through all twenty redrafts: WHEN THE SKY FELL APART starts with a burning man on a beach, and the first sentence, which was the impetus for the whole novel, has never changed: When he was on fire, the man smelt bitter.

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Blog Tour: Author Interview with Mhairi Macfarlane

140917_MHAIRI_MCFARLANE24385aWho’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.

 

who's that girl pbWhat’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.

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A Moment With Talli Roland: My Writing Process

Talli_Roland-1Starting a new novel is always so exciting. Everything feels shiny and fresh, and you just know it will be the best book you’ve ever written.

I love that moment, before the inevitable self-doubt sets in. I don’t have any particular rituals when I sit down to write a new book, but I always sketch out the obstacles my characters will face and how I want them to change and grow by the end of the book.

I also think about their backgrounds and their internal conflicts, either as a result of their history or character traits. I often don’t have a picture of my protagonist in my mind, but I do need to ‘know’ them: their fears, their likes and dislikes, and what they want out of life.

I’ve tried both exhaustive planning and ‘pantsing’, and I usually fall somewhere in the middle.

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Phillipa Ashley Shares Her Favourite Christmas Scenes

Phillipa AshleyI am delighted to be welcoming Phillipa Ashley back to Novel Kicks today. Phillipa’s latest book is very much festive themed and is called Christmas at The Cornish Café. It’s the second novel in the Cornish Café series and was released by Maze.

Christmas will be slightly less turbulent than summer, won’t it? Demi certainly hopes so.

She and Cal are keeping their fledgling relationship under wraps for now. But then Kit Bannen, a hunky, blond – and somewhat mysterious – writer arrives at Kilhallon Resort, and not everyone is charmed. Cal is sure that Kit is hiding something. But is he the only one guarding a secret?

Demi is busy baking festive treats for the newly opened Demelza’s cafe, but when Cal’s ex Isla arrives to shoot scenes Christmas at the Cornish Cafefor her new drama, Demi can’t help but worry that things aren’t quite over between them. Kit flirts with both women, fuelling Cal’s suspicions that Kit has hidden motives for staying on at Kilhallon. Then Cal has to go to London, leaving Demi and Kit to decorate the cafe for Christmas . . . all by themselves.

A storm is brewing in more ways than one. As surprises unfold and truths are uncovered, can Demi and Cal finally open up to each other about their feelings?

 

As it is nearly Christmas, Phillipa has shared some of her favourite Christmas scenes. Over to you, Phillipa…

Believe it or not, after 16 books and over a decade of writing, Christmas at the Cornish Café is my first ‘Christmas’ novel. Even though my debut novel, Decent Exposure, was made into the Lifetime movie, 12 Men of Christmas, it was never written as a Christmas book.

It was important to me that Christmas at the Cornish Café truly reflected the challenges my characters and the community might face in a small Cornish fishing village – and how people might pull together to help each other against all the odds. I hope you enjoy reading it. Now, here are some of my favourite scenes from seasonal books, films and TV.

 

The Carrs’ Christmas Box – What Katy Did at School

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Blog Tour: Amanda Brooke Talks About Her New Novel, The Affair

amanda-brooke-credit-mark-mcnulty-use2011Today, 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.

 

the-affair-pbHow 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.

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Playing FTSE Author, Penelope Jacobs Talks About Balancing Work and Family

penelopejacobsPlaying FTSE by Penelope Jacobs was released by Ipso Books in digital format yesterday (24th November)

When Melanie Collins joins an investment bank as a young graduate, she quickly discovers that femininity is an invaluable asset. But it must not be abused.

She witnesses other women falling victim to office affairs and is determined to be taken seriously. In an industry where abilities are rewarded handsomely, she rises rapidly through the ranks. But her increased profile attracts the attention of a senior colleague and she is ill-equipped to handle his advances.

Balancing a demanding job with a confusing personal life proves difficult and soon their relationship threatens to jeopardise her career. As events move beyond control, her glamorous world becomes tainted by betrayal and bitterness.

One of the themes in the book explores the issues the main character Melanie has with balancing her personal life with her professional one.

The author of Playing FTSE, Penelope Jacobs is joining me today to talk about her thoughts on balancing work and family and why we can’t have it all. Over to you, Penelope.

Achieving a work-life balance is not always possible and certainly requires sacrifices.
Marriage and, more specifically, babies seem to be the tipping point, when life can sometimes spiral out of control. As noted by the National Health Interview Survey, 30-44 year olds report the largest “work-lifestyle imbalance”. During this period, many high-powered career women have simply piled far too much onto their plates. On top of a highly pressurised job, they suddenly have to cope with the demands of small children, a husband and running a household. Not to mention find a little time for themselves.

The Mental Health Foundation states that “the pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture in the UK is perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population.” In addition, “many more women report unhappiness than men (42% of women compared with 29% of men), which is probably a consequence of competing life roles and more pressure to ‘juggle’.”

Why are we accepting this burden from society? In my opinion, it is not possible to “have it all” and at the same time seamlessly achieve a wonderful work-life balance.
Every woman I know has made some type of sacrifice which, by definition, means they do not have it all. At one extreme, some high-powered women consciously choose not to have children and, at the other, an enormous number leave their brilliant careers permanently to raise a family. In both cases, the costs are high.

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Blog Tour: Lesley Downer Talks About Writing Her Novel, The Shogun’s Queen

Lesley in Japan with a maiko (trainee geisha)

Me in Japan with a maiko (trainee geisha)

A big welcome today to Lesley Downer and the blog tour for her latest novel, The Shogun’s Queen which was released by Bantam Press on 3rd November.

Japan, and the year is 1853. Growing up among the samurai of the Satsuma Clan, in Japan’s deep south, the fiery, beautiful and headstrong Okatsu has – like all the clan’s women – been encouraged to be bold, taught to wield the halberd, and to ride a horse.
But when she is just seventeen, four black ships appear. Bristling with cannon and manned by strangers who to the Japanese eyes are barbarians, their appearance threatens Japan’s very existence. And turns Okatsu’s world upside down.

Today, on the last day of the tour, Lesley has joined me to talk about writing The Shogun’s Queen. Over to you, Lesley…

shoguns-queenHello, Laura. Thank you for allowing me to post on your blog today! I greatly appreciate it.

I’ve had a love affair with Japan all my life, and when I decided to move from non-fiction to fiction ten years ago, it was obvious that was where my stories would be set. I’m also mad about research. I love any excuse to go to Japan and I also love scouring old books written by Victorian travellers who were there in the nineteenth century. If I could live my life again it would be in old Japan, the Japan of the great woodblock print artists Hokusai and Hiroshige – and a reasonable second best is reading about it and being there in my mind and taking my readers there as I write about it.

Somehow – I forget how – I came across the Women’s Palace, a sort of harem where three thousand women lived and only one man, the shogun (the military ruler of Japan), could enter. To me the most surprising thing was that I’d spent so long in Japan and read so much about it yet in all those years hadn’t come across the Women’s Palace before. I decided to set my first novel there and so The Last Concubine was born. There was literally nothing in English about the palace. I had to struggle through a book written in Victorian-era Japanese with the help of a Japanese friend. My story took place at the very end of the era of the shoguns and my heroine fled the palace early on in the book.

I went on to write two more novels following on in time after the events of The Last Concubine.
Somewhere along the way I heard of Atsu’s heart-rending story and couldn’t get it out of my mind. It haunted me. Telling her story would mean going back to the Women’s Palace and I’d been feeling for a long time that I hadn’t finished with it – or rather it hadn’t finished with me.

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Author Interview: Guy Mankowski Talks About His New Novel, An Honest Deceit

guy-mankowskiGuy 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.

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Blog Tour: The Million Dollar Blog by Natasha Courtenay-Smith

natasha-courtney smith million-dollar-blogI am delighted to be a part of the blog tour for The Million Dollar Blog which is a new how to practical guide for people who want to build a successful blog and is written  by Natasha Courtenay-Smith.

About The Million Dollar Blog: In a world where everyone wants to blog and blog posts are ubiquitous, how do you stand out? How do you blog your way from nobody to somebody?

How do you make money blogging, how do you start your own blogging business, and how do you, as a business owner, use content to build your brand and drive your success?

Through a combination of practical advice and interviews with some of the world’s most famous and successful bloggers, vloggers and content strategists, including Seth Godin, Lily Pebbles, Grant Cardone and Madeleine Shaw and dozens more, entrepreneur and digital strategist Natasha Courtenay Smith shows you how to build a blog that will increase your profile, create new opportunities, earn money and change your life.

blog-tourFor this blog tour, I’ve been invited to talk about my journey into blogging. I have to admit, when I first started, the idea of blogging terrified me. In some ways it still does.

I began Novel Kicks back in August 2009. I can’t quite believe I have been blogging for that long. It originally began as a forum for myself and fellow writers to talk about writing and to post work.

That is still the fundamental principle of my site but it’s also evolved into a place that has all my favourite things. I love writing stories, I love escaping into books. Everything I post on Novel Kicks is something that I am very interested in. This blog is very personal to me and above all, even after seven years I am still enjoying building it up. This is a lot of my passions in one place.

When interviewing authors, I try and keep the questions fun but I also want to ask them how they approach the writing and editing process. As a new writer, these are pieces of advice I find most helpful and I hope other people do too.

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A Moment With Laura Briggs: Self Publishing Vs. Traditional Publishing

author-picI’m happy to be welcoming a fellow Laura to Novel Kicks today. Author, Laura Briggs talks about Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing and the pros and cons of each. Over to you, Laura.

First of all, thanks to Laura for inviting me to appear on Novel Kicks with a post on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing. I’ve learned a little about both in recent years and hope my experiences may prove useful to some of you reading this.

Let me start by saying that my publisher, Pelican Book Group, is nothing less than excellent. I love working with them and plan to submit more manuscripts to their company in the future. I also love self-publishing and am grateful to have the opportunity for both.

Now—let’s get to some pros and cons on publishing!

 

The Pros of Traditional Publishing:

•Professional Editing: This is an obvious one, but I can’t stress it enough. Freelance editors cost a few hundred on average, so yes, professional editing gives traditional publishing an edge.

•Professional Cover Design: Another obvious one, I know, but important. Not everyone has the software, or the know-how to make a good cover, even with so many high quality images available via sites like Dreamstime. The cover often serves as your book’s first impression, so it needs to be good.

•Professional Marketing: Let’s face it—marketing is tough. And hugely competitive. Book review bloggers are swamped with requests and even buying ad space from a popular service like Bookbub is difficult to achieve. Some publishing companies have better methods of getting your book out there. Some don’t. It depends on the publisher, and of course, even authors with a traditional publisher must still do some of their own marketing.

•It Has More Options Than Before: There are many small and up-and-coming publishers who will take unagented submissions from writers these days. There are even divisions of bigger publishing houses, like HarperCollins, I believe, that welcome unagented submissions. They may not pay author advances like big companies do, but some are quite generous on the royalties.

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Author Interview: Vicki Wakefield Talks About Her Novel, Inbetween Days

VikkiWakefieldI’m pleased to be welcoming Vicki Wakefield to Novel Kicks today. Vicki is the author of the YA novel, Inbetween Days which was released by Text Publishing on 26th August.

Jacklin Bates has life figured out – dropped out of school, moved in with her runaway sister, in love with an older boy. But why does she have a sinking feeling that she still needs her mum? Perhaps because she’s stuck in Mobius – a dying town with the macabre suicide forest its only attraction – stuck working in the roadhouse and babysitting her boss’s demented father.

Vicki, thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me about your typical writing day?

There are no typical days. I write when I feel like it, or when a deadline forces me knuckle down. It’s not that I don’t love writing, it’s just that I focus best when my slate is clean. I tend to deal with family, housework, bills, pets and life first, and then I breathe out. I can be epically productive or utterly paralysed. There’s no middle ground.

 

Do you have any writing rituals (coffee, silence?)

I’m terribly provincial. I can’t do cities, hotel rooms, libraries or cafes (I wish I could, but I either get distracted or lonely). I like to be outside; I like my dog under my feet. I prefer to write at night when everyone else is asleep, and I need tea, wine, chocolate or biscuits (not necessarily at the same time, but I’ve been known to go on a bender). I keep only one working file, so any changes are lost forever (I’m told this is the equivalent of base-jumping, but to me it’s a superstition, like wearing your lucky stinky socks for every game).

 

Do you edit as you go and plan much prior to beginning a book?

I’m always thinking about a new book long before I finish working on my current one, so the planning can take place years before I write a single word. I keep notebooks filled with random ideas and drawings to help me get to know the world and the characters, and I’ll usually have my opening paragraph perfected before I open a new document (the blank page scares me). Planning in advance helps me to decide whether a story has legs, and drawing helps me to refine my characters before I begin. That said, I’m not a plotter. I trust that the story will take me where it needs to go. I do edit as I write the first draft (against most advice on writing first drafts). It’s my way of feeling out the story. My ideas change so often and so unexpectedly that I worry the novel would be unfixable if I ignored my instincts and tried to write through.

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Blog Tour: If I Only Had A Duke by Lenora Bell – Author Interview and Book Review

41I5v96odWL._UX250_I’m very happy to be welcoming Lenora Bell to Novel Kicks today and her blog tour for the latest novel in the Disgraceful Duke series, If I Only Had a Duke which is due to be released by Piatkus on 30th August 2016.

After four failed seasons and a disastrous jilting, Lady Dorothea Beaumont has had more than enough of her family’s scheming. She won’t domesticate a duke, entangle an earl or vie for a viscount. She will quietly exit to her aunt’s Irish estate for a life of blissful freedom. Until an arrogant, sinfully handsome duke singles her out for a waltz, making Thea the most popular belle of the season.

Well, the duke ruined her plans and now he’ll just have to fix them.

Dalton, Duke of Osborne, is far too heartless for debutantes or marriage – he uses dalliances to distract from his real purpose: finding the man who destroyed his family. When his search leads to Ireland, the last thing he needs is the determined, achingly innocent Thea, who arrives in the dead of night demanding he escort her to her aunt. His foolish agreement may prove his undoing. The road to the Emerald Isle is fraught with unforeseen dangers, but the greatest peril of all might just be discovering that he has a heart . . . and he’s losing it to Thea.

I’ve reviewed the book below but first, I’ve had a chat with Lenora. Hi Lenora, thank you so much for joining me today. First, can you tell me a little about your typical writing day and how many words you aim to write on a daily basis.

Hi Laura! Thanks for having me here at Novel Kicks! I see you have a cat named Buddy. Every writer should have a cat, don’t you think? They’re such good companions for long writing sessions. They just curl up and sleep to the sound of your clicking fingers on the keyboard as if it were rain pattering on a tin roof. (Yes, Lenora, I totally agree!)

Writing for me is both agony and ecstasy. There is a certain amount of slogging through the trenches that needs to happen before the words on the page learn to fly. A typical writing day for me means churning out extremely rough stream-of-consciousness pages and then spending three times as many hours trying to wrestle those rough pages into something fit to be seen by other eyes. I may have ten rough pages and only produce one edited page *sigh*. But when things go right there truly is no better feeling.

 

Do you have any writing rituals (plenty of coffee, writing in silence etc?)

Coffee, of course! Absolutely necessary for those late night writing binges. I find what helps me the most to focus on the emotional heart of scenes is to do some yoga and light a candle before I write, and then stop every hour or so and take a quick yoga break. It helps me focus as well as helps stretch all those cramped writing muscles.

 

Your new book, If I Only Had a Duke is the second in the Disgraceful Duke series. Can you tell me about it?

I’m so excited about this book! It’s the second in the Disgraceful Dukes series and is loosely inspired by the Wizard of Oz. If you read it with that in mind you’ll find subtle references throughout the novel. This is the story of Lady Dorothea Beaumont, who’s had more than enough of her family’s scheming and just wants to escape from London and live a quiet life as a spinster, and Dalton, Duke of Osborne, who uses public spectacle to distract from his true purpose—finding the man who destroyed his family.

 

How did you approach writing this novel in terms of planning and research?

I worked closely with my fabulous editor at Avon Books, Amanda Bergeron, on planning and plotting. Sometimes my plots tend to wander and she always reined me in and redirected me to the heart of the story. As for research, I read books and watched videos on everything from Regency-era traveling coaches, ships, and gaming hells to etiquette and recipes for trifle. It was tons of fun!

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