NK Chats To….

Our Author Interviews and Guest Posts.

A Moment With: Bella Osborne

Avon, April 2018

Avon, April 2018

A big lovely hug and a warm hello to Bella Osborne who is back on Novel Kicks today with the blog tour for her latest instalment of the Ottercombe Bay series, Raising the Bar.

Escape to the Devon coast, with Part Three of a brand-new four-part serial from the author of Willow Cottage.

Daisy Wickens has returned to Ottercombe Bay, the picturesque Devon town where her mother died when she was a girl. She plans to leave as soon as her great uncle’s funeral is over, but Great Uncle Reg had other ideas. He’s left Daisy a significant inheritance – an old building in a state of disrepair, which could offer exciting possibilities, but to get it she must stay in Ottercombe Bay for twelve whole months.

With the help of a cast of quirky locals, a few gin cocktails and a black pug with plenty of attitude, Daisy might just turn this into something special. But can she ever hope to be happy among the ghosts of her past?

 

Bella is chatting today about using Pinterest for research when starting a novel. Over to you, Bella. 

Thanks for having me on the blog today. I’m a project manager by profession so I’m a big planner when it comes to pretty much everything I do, so it’s no surprise that I plan my writing. I love the planning stage when a new idea pops up and characters start to form in my mind. I spend quite a long time with them working out who they are, their life history, what their drivers are and what makes them tick. While I’m in the early stages (before I get out the post it notes) I set up a board on Pinterest and start pinning things on it. Not everything will stay but as a visual person it really helps to see pictures of things to help bring them to life.

While I was planning Ottercombe Bay I set up a board on Pinterest, here’s the link – https://www.pinterest.co.uk/bellaosborne9/ottercombe-bay/

I like to picture my main characters and Marlon Teixeira is a model that captures the look of Max perfectly. I struggled more with Daisy. There are a few pictures of Shakira because her hair is similar to Daisy’s but otherwise she’s quite different to Shakira. I am a Rufus Sewell fan so it was no surprise that an image of him popped up when I conjured up the character of Pasco, Max’s dad. But it was very much the rough around the edges, lovable rogue look that Rufus does rather than the neat and well turned out version. I love looking at the pictures of Marlon and Rufus next to each other – I can definitely see a similarity or perhaps I see the Max and Pasco connection that I want to be there?

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NK Chats To… A.K. Mills

a.k. millsYour book is called The Snow White Effect. Can you tell me about it and what inspired the story?

My sister was diagnosed with leiomyosarcoma in 2013 after having a laparoscopic hysterectomy. We learned shortly after her diagnosis that her cancer had been made worse by the tool used in her procedure. As a writer, I wanted to help tell her story to prevent it from happening to more women. It’s a love story wrapped in a medical drama. Being told through four different vantage points allows the reader to see the story from more than one angle.

 

What elements do you think make a good novel?

Twists. In every story I write, I try to have at least one twist the reader didn’t see coming.

 

Can you talk me through your writing process from idea to editing to pitch.

All of my writing starts with one main idea. I have a basic idea of where I would like to see the story go, but I never hold myself to any one path. Instead, I allow for the characters to develop and tell their stories through me. I am blessed to have a supportive family. My mom and sister always read the first version of my manuscript and offer their brutally honest opinions. From there, I make changes and edits. At that point I usually walk away from it for about to weeks. After a couple of weeks, I come back to it and re-read it. If I’m happy with it, I’ll send it to my editor. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a great editor who challenges my writing and thought process at every level. The editing process with her takes about two months, after which I know my book is ready. The pitching process is my least favorite because I don’t like to talk about myself. But I believe in my writing, which helps me pitch my stories.

 

What is your typical writing day like? Do you have any rituals like lots of coffee or writing in silence?

Tea and music. I love tea. I am a big tea drinker. So when I start writing, I always have a steaming fresh cup next to my computer. I’d like to say I have a writing ritual, but with young children I write when I can. Most of my writing is done at night when everyone is asleep. I tend to become an insomniac when I am in the middle of a story. Music is also important for me because it helps me feel the mood I am writing. By the time my manuscript is complete, I have a playlist to go along with it.

 

What is your favourite word and why?

Hope. Life is full of lows and high. Hope bridges the gap between the two. It gets us through the lows so we can attain the highs.

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Clink Street Spring Reads 2018: Lee Cockburn and Creating a Sinister Villain

Lee Cockburn PhotoClink Street Spring Reads 2018 has arrived at Novel Kicks and I am pleased to be welcoming the author of Devil’s Demise, Lee Cockburn to the blog. Lee, how do you create a sinister villain? 

In everyone’s mind, there are ideas of what a villain should be, so it is a very individual thing, each to their own, as to what would make a realistic and frightening bad guy so to speak, they come in all shapes and sizes, many blending in unnoticed in society, living along side us.

My villain in Devil’s Demise is truly evil, filled with hate and anger with a genuine belief that these feelings truly lie at the feet of the women he now hates, which of course is absolutely not the case, and his failings and attitudes in life are his own doing and no-one else can be blamed.

What makes a villain sinister and frightening, is what he or she is capable of, the fear they install in others, the victim’s inability to defend themselves against them, or to get escape from them and all of these factors put together, set the scene for a terrifying situation, the one of desperation and helplessness, and true fear of the baddie!.

Eyes are very important, soulless eyes, eyes that show no emotion, no hint of remorse or willingness to listen or understanding the pleas of their victims, evil emotions fixed on their prey and totally focussed on what they intend on doing, leaving no chance for a change of heart, no human caring emotions, no conscience or remorse, just a broken mind, filled with hate and intent.

Throughout the novel I play on the readers fear too, they put themselves in the situation of futility, helplessness, and terror , one of sheer desperation and in their minds they too become truly frightened of the monster, the shape or vision they have created by themselves of villain’s appearance and genuinely fear this person.

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NK Chats To… Catherine Ferguson

CatherineHi Catherine, it’s lovely to welcome you and the blog tour for your new book Love Among The Treetops to Novel Kicks today. What is your typical day as a writer?

I work best in the early mornings, so I like to reach for my laptop (and lots of tea) almost as soon as I wake up. On a good day, I’ll write five hundred words before breakfast, and to make it easier to face that blank page every day, I like to make rough notes on the next part of my story the night before. I usually write between 500 – 1500 words a day and I aim to finish by ‘lunch-time’, which can be anything from midday to mid-afternoon! By then, I find all the emotion of living the story with my characters has taken a bit of a toll on my energy levels. (I’m always amazed by how exhausting it can be, writing on emotional subjects – particularly when your main character has hit rock bottom. You feel all the see-saw emotions she’s going through and it’s almost as if you’ve been through it yourself.)

 

What inspired Love Among the Treetops?

I live near a place called Alnwick Garden in Northumberland. It’s incredibly magical and they have a beautiful restaurant in a fairytale tree house. I wanted an unusual setting for my café in this book, and I suddenly thought what a romantic setting a tree house would be!

 

How do you pick your names in a novel?

For my heroine, I like to choose a name that really appeals to me – and if it can be that little bit different (therefore memorable), then so much the better. Sometimes the name just slots into my head when I’m dreaming up the character. It just seems to fit. And that’s what happened when I was imagining my main character in Love Among the Treetops. The name ‘Twilight’ came to me and it was perfect!

 

Is plot or character more important?

With me, what tends to happen is I have a basic idea at the start of what’s going to happen in my book and a rough idea of my main character’s personality. So at that point they’re equally important. But then I think character takes over and to some extent dictates the way the story progresses. Once I’m immersed in seeing things through the eyes of my heroine, surprising plot twists seem to happen. That’s why I never start out with a plot that’s set in stone because it always changes – I have to obey my main character!

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Claudia Carroll: Starting to Write a New Novel…

Claudia Our Little Secret JacketThe blog tour train is here. Today, Claudia Carroll joins me to talk about her process when writing a new book. Her latest novel, Our Little Secret was released by Avon on 8th February. 

Over to you, Claudia.

Before starting any new book, I’d write out a pitch for it first, just a page or so, nice and short. Then I send it to my agent and editor and see what they think. If I get the thumbs up from them, one of my little tips is to write it out as a short story first, nothing that’ll ever see the light of day, it’s just an exercise for me really, to see if the story idea has legs. Sometimes, I’ll start the short story and the fizz will run out of it, in which case I know that it’s back to the drawing board for me. But if the short story leaves me feeling there’s so much more I want to write, but don’t have room for, then I know I’m onto something.

When it comes to plot, I’m a planner and I think every author is, really. I always think that starting off a novel without a plan is like getting into a car without knowing where you’re going…you’ll just end up driving round in circles.

Once my editor, agent and I have agreed on a pitch, then I do a skeleton outline of any new story before I’d even sit down to write a line. It makes life so much easier later on, on the days when I find I’m a bit stuck. It takes me quite a long time to get to really know my characters, so I’d begin by writing out a rough biography for everyone of them, to try to make them as three dimensional as possible, it helps me hugely.

A reader will quickly lose interest if they just don’t like the hero or heroine. You really have to try to layer them carefully so that they really jump off the page. Remember at the start of a new book, you’re asking a reader to go on a 400 page journey with your characters, and particularly your leading lady, so it’s vital to get character right early on.

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NK Chats to… Jean McNeil

Jean McNeilWelcome to Jean McNeil and the blog tour for her novel, Fire on the Mountain which was released on 15th February by Legend Press.

Hello Jean. Thank you so much for joining me on Novel Kicks today. Your latest book is called Fire on the Mountain. Can you tell me a bit about it and what inspired the story? 

Hi Laura, thanks very much for your interest in the novel and for your questions.

Fire on the Mountain is a contained and intense story about masculinity and desire. It focuses on three men: Pieter Lisson, a celebrated writer in an unnamed post-colonial country who has never quite found the fame and acceptance he might have experienced had he been a more ‘serious’, political writer; his son, Riaan, who lives in the desertified north of the country, and Nick, a British (although he has grown up all over the world) NGO worker, who comes to stay with Pieter and his wife for a few days and ends up staying for four months. He and Riaan develop a wary friendship, then a much closer mutuality, and finally their relationship is transformed into something neither of them every would have expected.

The inspiration for the story is the landscapes of southern Africa, in particular Cape Town, where I lived on and off for years, and Namaqualand, the Kalahari and the Namib deserts. Another inspiration was the years I spent gaining professional safari guide qualifications. This wasn’t a completely masculine environment, but the sort of masculine consciousness I encountered in men in southern Africa fascinated me. Strength and an awareness of vulnerability are both needed to survive in the bush. You have to be intuitive and attuned to other creatures. It’s a way of life that creates a different kind of man than I had encountered elsewhere. I wanted to try to capture that in the novel.

 

If you could drop into the life of any fictional character which one would it be and why? 

My characters are me and I am them, so I do live their lives. Like Pieter I am a writer, and like Riaan I know the African bush. Like Nick I’ve worked in NGOs and international development. I consider that I live all their lives, simultaneously.

 

What’s your writing process like – from planning to edit. 

I write quite quickly, meaning I can write a novel within a couple of months if I really put my mind to it, as well as working. But then I tend to rewrite very extensively, doing at least 12 drafts, adding and subtracting and crucially getting the structure right. Because I’m a fast and intuitive writer I rely on sane, intelligent people called editors to help smooth out contradictions and fill gaps. I wish I could be more methodical, punctilious, perfectionist, but I’m just not. Thank god for good editors…

 

Do you have an writing rituals or routines? 

No, I can write anywhere and at any time. I do like to be able to see the sky as I’m writing. My flat in London has a good view so I can stare at seagulls and the Shard.

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

Aha, tough one. There are so many choices… Orphic, probably, as in musical, but also a tinge of the quality of underworld, or submerged – from Orpheus. Closely followed by heliotrope.

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NK Chats To… Rhiannon Navin

DB69C4AA-BCAB-4E13-BB7F-527E04EC847DOnly Child is the debut novel from Rhiannon Navin (released by Mantle on 8th February,) and I am so pleased to welcome her blog tour to Novel Kicks today. Rhiannon, your novel sounds like such a powerful read. Can you tell me about Only Child and what inspired it?

ONLY CHILD is the story of six-year old Zach, told from his perspective, who lives through the terrifying trauma of a shooting at his school. During his rampage, the gunman takes nineteen lives and Zach’s formerly tight-knit community is left shattered. While the adults in Zach’s life, especially his parents, deal with their grief in all-consuming ways, Zach is mostly left to his own devices to confront the after effects of the trauma he’s had to endure and his feelings of grief and fear. I found the inspiration for ONLY CHILD in a personal experience that occurred in my life a couple of years ago, when my twins were five years old. They had just started Kindergarten when they had to participate in their first “lockdown drill” at school. Lockdown drills are a common practice here in the U.S. where, unfortunately, mass shootings happen on an almost daily basis. Children as young as five years old, or even younger, have to practice how to take cover in the event that a shooter might come to their school and try to kill them. On the day of my twins’ first drill I found my little Garrett hiding underneath our dining room table. He said he was “hiding from the bad guy,” and he was petrified. That really hit me incredibly hard and led me to want to explore what living through an actual horrifying event like a school shooting and its aftermath would look and feel like through the eyes of a child.

 

Can you describe your writing process from idea, planning, writing and editing.

ONLY CHILD was my first writing experience, so I really made up my writing “process” as I went along. The idea for the story came to me in a flash and I scribbled down the first few scenes rather furiously in one of my children’s school notebooks. A few chapters in I realized that I should probably take a step back and plan out my story a little; get to know my characters and picture where they might be headed. I read a few books on writing (Stephen King, Anne Lamott!) and a few more technical books on outlining a novel and I went to work creating a loose game plan for the book. I found that, at times, the game plan helped me navigate my way through the story and other times, the story itself took me down a totally unexpected path. I was incredibly fortunate to find a fantastic writing coach who helped guide me throughout the entire journey of writing my first, second, third…I don’t quite remember how many drafts exactly. I wrote ONLY CHILD in about a year, give or take, and when my writing coach and I thought I was in a good place with it, she also helped guide me through the querying process.

 

Do you have any writing rituals – coffee? Writing in silence?

No real rituals, but I try to set myself up in a situation that (theoretically) eliminates any excuses to get up for at least a couple of hours. That begins with having walked the dog, checked and responded to all urgent emails, having gone to the bathroom, and prepared a cup of tea (to be sipped slowly in order to not repeat the previous step too soon.) It also includes placing my phone clearly out of my reach—that’s one of the toughies. It’s incredible, the kind of pull your phone has on you, especially on the days when your mind wanders and you’re looking for an excuse to do anything BUT write. I need to know that I have a long, interruption-free window ahead of me; otherwise I can’t relax enough to dive in.

 

What are the most challenging things about being a writer?

When I first started writing ONLY CHILD, I wrote without any expectations. I didn’t expect anyone to necessarily even read it, let alone to find an agent, or a publisher. It was a wonderful first writing experience for me because I had found this story that grabbed me and pulled me in, and I only focused on that. If anything was challenging for me at the time, it was allowing myself to take the time to write the story, and to justify putting writing ahead of other things in my life—the laundry, the dirty dishes in the sink. Now, the most challenging thing about being a writer is the question: “How is book number two coming?”

 

A7B0B4A2-6CB6-4A39-9B9E-A62B383F50CDWhich authors do you admire and why?

Wow—there are so many authors I admire. I don’t even know where to begin. Anne Lamott pops into my head immediately. I just love how authentic she is and unapologetic about how messy and unglamorous and hard writing is. And she is absolutely hilarious. I love any writer who can make me laugh out loud. Amor Towles falls into that same category. I’m currently reading “A Gentleman in Moscow” (yes, I know I’m very late to the party) and this story makes me laugh all the time. His writing is absolutely beautiful, every word is placed just so. I admire J.K. Rowling so very much. Her personal story of overcoming adversity is very inspiring and I’m in awe of how she’s managed to turn a whole generation—and many more generations to come—of children into lovers of books. And adults, too! I’ve seen it happen first-hand with my older son. He read the whole series when he was quite young, in first grade, and he’s been hooked on books ever since. J.K. Rowling literally helped my son discover his love for reading.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

If I really have to choose one (!) favourite word, it will have to be “Wanderlust.” Which is a German word that doesn’t really have an English equivalent or literal translation. It means “a strong desire to travel;” and I do love to travel more than anything. But beyond just the literal sense of feeling the urge to travel, I like to use the word “Wanderlust” to describe the desire, or the bravery, to step outside of your comfort zone, to explore and try out new things, to expand your horizon. So, I hope to always have “Wanderlust,” in all aspects of my life. My second favourite word is champagne.

 

Are you working on anything at the moment? Are you able to tell me a little about it?

Yes, I am and I’m beginning to feel it pulling me in the way ONLY CHILD did at the beginning. But I’m going to wait a while longer to talk about it if that’s OK.

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NK Chats To… Daniela Tully

Daniela-Tully-webDaniela Tully’s debut novel, Hotel on Shadow Lake was released by Legend Press on 1st February. It’s lovely to welcome you and the blog tour to Novel Kicks today, Daniela. What’s your book about and what inspired the story?

Thank you for having me! Let me start with what inspired the story: my grandmother had a twin brother, a German fighter plane pilot, who died during WWII. As he felt his death nearing, he wrote a farewell letter to my grandmother and their mother, at the end of 1944. That letter, however, was held up in the East, when the Berlin Wall was erected, and only reached my grandmother in 1990, after the Wall had come down. The letter in my novel contains much more than a “simple” good bye (the reader doesn’t learn the content until the end). In my novel, the recipient disappears without a trace after receiving the letter. Twenty-seven years later, a landslide in upstate New York uncovers her remains. Her granddaughter back in Germany thought she had come to terms with the disappearance of her grandmother, who was her surrogate mother, her best friend, and a storyteller of spellbinding, mystical fairy tales. But when her grandmother’s body is found in a country her grandmother had no connections with, the granddaughter begins to question everything. Who was this woman? What made her leave Germany? What were her ties to the captivating yet chilling Montgomery Hotel, located near the site of her death? As Maya seeks answers in the States, she finds herself sidetracked by her own assumed identity—and how much it enchants the charming heir of the Montgomery dynasty. She soon discovers that the best way to the truth about her grandmother might be through surrendering herself to the majestic Montgomery Hotel, the strange family that owns it, and the spirits that live on in the dark surrounding wilderness…

In the plot strand set in the past, the reader travels with Maya’s grandmother, Martha Wiesberg (Martha was also my grandmother’s Christian name) to a Germany on the cusp of World War II. And later in the novel we return there again, but for reasons that I cannot disclose here, as they are not only connected to the twist in my story, but also deliver some of the reasons why Martha Wiesberg disappeared in 1990 – and why she had to die. It also sheds light on a historical aspect of the Second World War that hasn’t received too much attention yet, but one I find a fascinating angle.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals? 

I often made attempts to write from home, but they have never been as fruitful as those times when I leave the house to write. I write best on the move (road trips, planes, trains) and second best in a public setting like a coffee shop.

 

HoSL_high res coverWhat planning did you do prior to beginning the novel? Do you have any planning tips to share? 

I don’t know the entire plot before I start writing. With Hotel on Shadow Lake, I knew the first scene and the final one, but not every plot point in between. And my writing process got hung up on that at first. My husband, who is a screenwriter himself, suggested to me to just start writing those scenes I already had in my head, a wise piece of advice, because from then on the flow became natural; the characters, as clichéd as this might sound, did start talking to me at some point, telling me what to do.

 

Did you prefer to have a complete first draft before editing and how do you think is the best way to approach the editing process?

Yes, I do prefer to have a complete draft before digging into changes. As this is my debut novel, I was probably more protective of my words than other more seasoned writers, so at first I was always on the defensive, instead of embracing those changes that improved the pacing.

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A Moment With: John R. Bell

John BellA big welcome to John R. Bell who is here to talk about his book, The Circumstantial Enemy. Over to you, John.

The Circumstance behind The Circumstantial Enemy.

The Circumstantial Enemy is an energetic journey to freedom through minefields of hatred, betrayal, lust and revenge. It’s a story about the strength of the human spirit, and the power of friendship, love and forgiveness.

The novel was released in October 2017. There is a twist to the title; The Circumstantial Enemy was written by a circumstantial author. Why do I categorize myself as such? For starters, I’d never felt a burning desire to write a book. But that all changed with one potent statement from my daughter. Seventeen years ago she said, “If you don’t write it, Grandad’s story will be lost forever.” I’ll never forget the yearning in her eyes. Though in good health, Grandad was 80 years old at the time and he wasn’t about to be the first human being to live forever. The family had heard his tales over and over again – trials and tribulations of a young Croatian pilot coerced onto the wrong side of WWII.

My daughter wasn’t requesting a book; a stapled record of the events would suffice. I reasoned that I was not a writer; the defense was feeble, partly because I had the time to write. My career as a CEO of a large company had ended and I’d embarked on consulting work that required a heap of travel and plenty of lonely nights in hotels. I also had to admit that preserving Grandad’s captivating story for his decedents was incredibly compelling. So began my journey as an author.

Thrilled by the opportunity, Grandad agreed to a host of interviews. I was no longer a passive listener. I treated our exchanges as might a journalist – probing for details and questioning events that seemed overstated. The most interesting revelation was his frankness. He soon forgot the recorder was on, revealing more than ever before – some of it both shocking and disturbing. Between the sessions I checked his facts to validate timelines and ensure life in POW camps on US soil were as described. Simultaneously, I read relevant non-fiction books to better understand time, place and prisoner predicament.

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NK Chats To…Thomas Leslie McRae

untitledHi Thomas, thank you for joining me today. Your book is called Pimp in the Pulpit. Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired the story?

First please accept my gratitude for granting me the honour and privilege to be doing this interview with you. Secondly Pimp in the Pulpit is a book based on a dysfunctional family that has very limited spiritual and moral foundation. This book has some person experiences of my life along with other people I know and even quite a bit of fiction to give the story a little more flair.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals?

I don’t have any rituals. I just write whenever I’m feeling in the mood or inspiration instantly hits me. I write about life, family and friends some personal experiences of my own and even scenarios that may have happened in the past that I wish I had handled differently.

 

Can you tell me a little about your route to publication.

I’ve been trying for some time to get published with no success in the traditional sense. So I decided to go the self-publishing route and it was challenging at times and it even took me a while to get my confidence all the way up. But with this book I feel great and determine to officially make a name for myself in the publishing industry and hopefully all around the world.

 

Which authors do you admire and why?

I admire Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes, Maya Angela and W E B Dubois. Because they are some of the unforgotten heroes in today’s and modern literature. People like them help paved the way for individuals such as myself and that is why I will always honour our unforgettable heroes.

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NK Chats To: Charles Harris

charles harrisI’d like to welcome Charles Harris to the blog today. Hello Charles. Thank you so much for joining me today. Your first fiction novel is called The Breaking of Liam Glass. Tell me a bit about it and what inspired the idea?

Hi Laura, thank you for having me.

The Breaking of Liam Glass is a crime-satire – not so much a Whodunnit as a What-They-Did-After-It! It follows the twenty-four hours after a teenage footballer, Liam Glass, is stabbed and in hospital in a coma, and the piranhas – the journalists, politicians and police – who all want to use him to build their careers.

The idea came from both seeing the rise in knife crime in our cities that seems unstoppable and also looking at the way newspapers play such a crucial part in our lives, and yet are almost unaccountable. Even the good ones. And to some extent they all can be good at times. It’s easy nowadays to attack the tabloids, but they have mounted important campaigns in the past and it would be a poorer world without them.

In Liam Glass, the central character, Jason Crowthorne, is a young wannabe journalistic piranha who first discovers Liam Glass’ case and realizes this could be his ticket to tabloid heaven. Yet at the same time he is honestly shocked at seeing kids being stabbed and wants to do something that will stop it.

As the story develops, Jason is torn between his better instincts and promoting his own career. In the process, he gets sucked into a dark yet comic spiral of lies and deceit, each step trying to escape the consequences of the one before. And soon discovers that there are bigger and nastier piranhas than him in the sea.

 

What do you think makes a good main character? Which elements are most important?

There’s no formula – I wish there were, it would make my life a lot easier. It’s like finding a partner – you can specify all the traits you want on Tinder but ultimately it comes down to a certain magic: you just want to spend more time with this person.

Some characters in the novel just arrived, fully formed, and were a joy to write: a nice but dim gym instructor; a local politician who is desperate to get re-elected but has no idea of her own; a put-upon detective constable who makes a single bad mistake and is urgently looking for someone to pin it on.

Whereas Jason hid himself from me and had to be slowly teased out.

Having said that, there are some rough guidelines – you want characters who are full of energy and contradictions, facing big dilemmas yet capable of taking action.

Jason finally revealed himself to be a great person to spend time with, which is a good thing as I lived with him for many years.

His heart is in the right place and yet he keeps doing the wrong things. You fear for him and yet in some ways you long for his comeuppance. In all, he turned out to be a wonderful comic hero to write.

 

What is your writing process like? Are you much of a planner? Edit as you go?

In theory, I try to plan, but not too much, and then not edit until I have a full draft. But each book tells you what it needs. It’s like sailing single-handed across the Atlantic – you start off with the best of intentions and by the end you’re clinging onto a spar, soaked to the skin and searching the horizon for dry land.

 

Are you working on anything at the moment that you can tell us about?

I’ve just sent my editor a zillionth draft of a more serious psychological crime story.

 

Which three books could you not live without and why?

More like three hundred, but currently my top three would be Scoop, Catch 22 and Bonfire of the Vanities.

• Scoop for Evelyn Waugh’s brilliant depiction of the values and contradictions of the newspaper business;
• Catch 22 because every line that Joseph Heller writes both makes you laugh and pins some human hypocrisy like a butterfly on a pin;
• and Bonfire for Tom Wolfe’s ageless and constantly funny depiction of the hubris that led to the social and economic car crash we’re living through today.

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NK Chats To… Georgia Hunter

Georgia HunterHi Georgia. Thank you for joining me today to talk about your book, We Were The Lucky Ones. What was the writing experience like for you considering this book was based on family history? Did you feel a certain responsibility toward the story? 

I felt a huge sense of responsibility! It was important to me to do everything I could to capture my family’s experience in a way that did them—along with the time period—justice. I tried not to leave any stone unturned in my research, and I thought long and hard once the research was complete about how best to bring the story to life. I was nervous, to be honest, to share the finished product with my relatives, as there was no audience whose feedback mattered more to me! Luckily, the family has been incredibly supportive, and has responded to the book with nothing but love and appreciation.

 

What is your writing process like – are you a planner and how do you approach the editing of your novel? 

With a story of such broad scope (the Kurcs’ paths spanned seven years and five continents), I knew I’d need to take a methodical approach to my writing process. I began by dropping my research findings into a timeline, which I color-coded by relative so I could track who was where/when. From there I created an outline for the book, then chapter summaries, then finally began the process of putting the story to paper. I kept the manuscript close for years as I edited and polished before finally gathering up the courage to pass it along to a few close acquaintances, then to a freelance editor, and finally to an agent.

 

Do you have any writing rituals? 

I love to write in the mornings, once my son is off to school. I also enjoy wearing headphones while I work. Even when I’m alone in my office I’ll slip on a pair, as I find the extra bit of quiet puts me in the proper headspace to write, and helps to drown out the annoying little voice in the back of my mind that likes to remind of the (non-writing) to-do’s I’ve chosen to ignore. If I’m in a writing rut, I’ll try working at a coffee shop, or on my sofa (if I have the house to myself), or in the library—often a change of scenery is just what I need to boost my creativity.

 

If you were only allowed to own three novels, which three would you pick and why? 

That’s a tough one! If I had to pick, I suppose I’d choose City of Thieves by David Benioff—a fast-paced and brilliantly-told story of the author’s Holocaust-era family history that inspired me years ago to tackle my own book. I’d also pick Wonder, a Y/A novel (although I’d argue one equally suited for adults) about a young 5th grade boy with a facial deformity, struggling to fit in. And finally, at the risk of sounding self-centered, I suppose I’d pick my book, so I could share it someday with my children (and their kids, and so on). I’ve read We Were the Lucky Ones more times than I can count, but I find with each pass, my own everyday “problems” seem a whole lot less daunting, and I’m reminded of just how lucky I am to be here. I hope someday my children (and future generations) will take away a similar perspective and sense of gratitude.

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12 Days of Clink Street Christmas: Daisy Mae_224’s Traditional Christmas

eBook Daisy Mae - 9.6.17 - v6My next stop on the 12 days of Clink Street Christmas has arrived. Author Daisy Mae_224, the author of Dating Daisy shares her traditional Christmas. Over to you, Daisy Mae_224… 

I’ve decided honesty is the best policy. If you are reading a Christmas blog, you probably expect to read how much I love Christmas. How I can’t wait for it to come round – again. How I love the preparations and the traditions etc… Well – you may just be disappointed.

I really dislike Christmas! And I am not Mrs Scrooge either!

– So now, I’ll try and explain why –

For starters, I’m not religious. I do actually like that part of Christmas however, as that is about story-telling, kindness, and involves the Nativity, children, and singing beautiful Christmas carols. It is rather magical to light candles in a church and sing Hark the Herald at the top of your voice on a cold winter’s evening.

It’s the commercial side of things which are so abhorrent. Somehow we are all caught in a trap of “finding something someone might like.” Also, even those little stocking fillers cost a fortune. And the vast majority, beautifully packaged they may be, will just end up in land fill sites. Having cleared out and downsized from my 6 bedroom house a few years ago, I am in fear of clutter. Never again will I be doing all that!

Let me say up front it’s not so much the cost. I’m a generous person and I love giving things to people and spreading a little happiness. It’s just that when the world is full of starving, poverty-stricken people, how can we the rich of the Western world, be quite so greedy. It makes me feel so uncomfortable. I don’t like opening my presents as I feel so guilty about that. I sit with a pile next to me and watch everyone else open theirs, and I just don’t want to do it.

The sad fact now is that as I am divorced and my parents have died, I can’t think of Christmas as the family occasion it used to be. I miss my parents, especially at Christmas. My children divide themselves up for a day each between myself and Voldemort. There is always a big row about which day is for who, and I dread it.

Then there’s the food. It isn’t a great Christmas to be sweating in the kitchen over an enormous and gastronomically fashionable Christmas dinner. How often have I downed a few gin and tonics one by one, stuck in the kitchen, while everyone else is laughing in the lounge. Because it’s supposed to be such an amazing dinner, it’s very stressful. Mostly they can’t all decide on one meal, so I’m trying to cook a turkey, a ham and a salmon for example, all at the same time. It just doesn’t work! And I’ve never been very good at gravy!

I have to say I like to plan the day so we don’t just “sit around looking at the tea cups!” Last year, soon after the children arrived on Christmas Eve, we went out for lunch at a New Forest pub, following a dog walk on Canada Common. When we got home, we all jumped in Edward’s amazingly hot, clean, sparklingly fresh, hot tub with a few mugs of tea.

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NK Chats To: Isabella Davidson

beta mumHi Isabella, thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me about what your typical writing day is like? 

Thank you for having me on your blog! My typical writing day consists of waking up to my children’s chatting and playing, getting them dressed, preparing breakfast and taking them to school. Then, when I get back home, I sit in my office and start writing. I am most productive in the morning, when I have a clear mind, and feel the most motivation. After my children come back from nursery and school, I have to find any moment I can to continue writing; after putting them to bed, when they are at activities, and any other moment I can find – which isn’t always easy.

 

What’s the best and most challenging thing about writing your first novel? 

The best part of writing The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land, was when I felt like I had written a really good passage, and thought people would enjoy it. I once laughed at what I wrote, which is usually a good sign. They say that if you are bored writing then your reader will be bored. You have to keep the writing alive and fun if you want your reader to continue reading. If I can move someone to feel something when they read my novel, that is success to me.

The most challenging? The entire process is challenging! Writing the book, word after word, until you finish typing the last word. Then the editing. And more editing. Then sending it off to agents and publishers. Then, once it has been published, promoting your book and trying to get sales. It is like an intense obstacle course over years.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

That’s difficult for me to answer! I don’t have a favourite, I like all words, whether simple or complicated. To me, each word has a purpose, a meaning and a place, so all of them are important in their own way.

 

What was your writing process like from your idea to final draft? Did you plan? How did you approach the first sentence? 

When I first started writing my novel, The Beta Mum, the story line was completely different than this one and it also had a completely different title. I had a general idea of what subject I wanted to write about – the Alpha mums in a nursery setting in west London – but the plot changed completely after I started the Faber Academy novel writing course. There, I received a lot of input, both positive and negative, and I found a new story to tell. I also learned about writing an outline and now in the future, I will always work with a basic outline. We also learned about writing our first line and our last line and how to make them count. It was an invaluable experience and I learned so much.

 

What advice do you have to keep motivated? 

Sit on that chair and write. Word after word. Even if it is ‘bad’ writing, it can be edited in the future, but it gets the creative juices flowing and helps you re-enter your world. The worst you can do is not write at all. Even if on some days you don’t feel like writing, you have to push yourself to write. And your first draft is meant to be bad! So don’t worry about writing ‘badly.’

 

Which three fictional characters would you want round for dinner and why?

Daimyo Toranaga and John Blackthorne from the novel Shogun. It was one of my favourite novels growing up and is an encyclopedia of knowledge about Japan. It is exotic and beautiful and so foreign, I would have loved to be a part of it. I tried to learn Japanese from that book! And one final character on a completely different note, Carrie Bradshaw (from the book Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell), because I think we would be good friends!

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NK Chats To: Mira Tudor

Mira TudorMira Tudor, the author of Poets, Artists, Lovers is joining me today to chat about her book, her writing process and the advice she has for new writers.

PAL is a fast-paced yet poignant character-driven novel riding waves of romanticism, drama, and wit in a manner reminiscent in parts of David Nicholls’s books (One Day)—and set in the exciting world of several vibrant Romanian artists and musicians.

Henriette, an accomplished sculptor, seems to find more joy in her feminist-inspired work and her piano playing than in the people who care about her. Ela, a piano teacher turned book reviewer, hopes to discover the key to happiness and a more meaningful life through studying the workings of the mind and crafting poems about emotions she trusts will lead her to a better place. Joining them in beauty and blindness is Pamfil, a violinist who dabbles as a singer and lives mostly for the moment and his monthly parties. As they follow their passions, they find themselves on treacherous journeys to love and happiness, and are slow to figure out how to best tackle their predicaments. Fortunately, their lovers and friends are there to help . . . but then a newcomer complicates things.

 

Hi Mira. It’s great to have you on Novel Kicks today. 

Thank you, Laura! It’s great to be on your blog with you.

 

Your novel is called Poets, Artists, Lovers. Can you tell me about it and what inspired it? 

I’d been trying to write a novel for years, but it just wouldn’t come together. I was working too much from memories and simply couldn’t find the novel’s raison d’être. And then after putting it aside for a while, I realized in a matter of days that I had the whole story of Poets, Artists, Lovers. I couldn’t write it fast enough.

It’s a nostalgic piece, in a sense, harking back to a time when I was friends with a group of artists who used to hold parties every now and then at their office over the weekend. These parties have inspired Pamfil’s in the novel, but my characters are all imaginary. They grew out of real-life observations, of course, but I surprised myself how much they grew out of my own writing process as well. I say that because when I started writing I already had all the characters pinned down.

 

What’s your typical writing day like and do you have any writing rituals before and whilst you write? 

I write an average of five or six hours a day (seven days a week), which includes research. I don’t have any rituals apart from drinking all sorts of coffee and tea, but I do need to take walks in order to get some distance from my writing and figure out various things that need to be changed, taken out, or added.

 

If you could spend time with your characters for a day, what would you do? 

I can’t decide. I would like to go to San Francisco and Lake Tahoe; but also hiking through Ireland or driving along the Rhine Valley in Germany; visiting small towns and vineyards in France or Spain; exploring Paris or London; the list goes on.

 

Which fictional character are you most like? 

I’m not much like any of these characters. Only the poetry is deeply mine.

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