I’m saying a big hello today to Audrey Davis. Her debut novel, A Clean Sweep has just recently been released via eBook.
Love comes around when you least expect it. Fifty-something widow Emily isn’t expecting romance. Nor is she expecting a hunky twenty-something chimney sweep on her doorstep.
Daughter Tabitha knows something isn’t quite right with her relationship, while her boss – Abba-loving Meryl – thinks she’s found the real deal. Are they both right, or pursuing Mr Wrong?
Emily’s sister, Celeste, has the perfect marriage … or does she? Can a fitness tracker lead her down the path to happiness or heartbreak?
Susan is single, overweight and resigned to a life of loneliness. There was the one who got away but you don’t get another try, do you?
Sharing her route to publication, it’s over to you, Audrey.
It’s been five weeks since my first novel – A Clean Sweep – was published on Amazon but I am still giddy with excitement. I am an author! An actual, people-are-buying-my book author (or otter, as my lovely Dutch friend pronounces it). OK, I’m a very long way from topping the best seller list but that’s probably because I’m clueless about the marketing side. More of that in a little while …
My writing journey began several decades ago – yes, I am old – when I trained as a journalist and worked for many years in provincial newspapers and various magazines. My relationship with my now-husband Bill took me to Singapore, Australia and the south of England before we moved to Switzerland in 2002. Along the way we raised two boys, now all grown up and living in the UK, but we remained in the land of cheese and chocolate. Any dreams of writing were put aside as I focused on never-ending house renovations which still challenge my French-speaking abilities but at least I provide entertainment for the local workers.
It was in February 2016 that I signed up for a Start Writing Fiction course run by Future Learn, an offshoot of Open University. Within a few weeks I was totally hooked, exchanging ideas and reviews with fellow students from all over the world. It was one short exercise that gave me the idea for a longer story which then grew … and grew. With no firm plot in mind I found characters popping into my head, along with vague notions of what might happen to them. Five thousand words became twenty thousand and on it went. I ran sample chapters by friends who were effusive in their praise (probably because they are very nice and polite people.)by
Hello Meg, it’s so lovely to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Your book is called The Wanderers (released yesterday and has, in my opinion one of the prettiest book covers.) Can you tell me about the novel and how the idea originated?
Thank you! (And I love that cover too.)
“The Wanderers” imagines that a private space company is four years away from sending the first crew of humans to Mars. Three astronauts have been selected, and as part of their training they are asked to undergo a seventeen-month simulation of the mission. The story is told from the point of view of the crewmembers, and also from some of the people they’ll be leaving behind: a wife, a daughter, and a son. We also hear from of one of the people tasked with observing and evaluating the astronauts. It’s a story about ambition, isolation, inner space, the problem of knowing what is “real” or even what “real” means, and the different kinds of personal simulations human beings find themselves in. (I hope it’s also a little bit funnier than my description!)
The idea for the book was inspired by a newspaper article I read concerning a simulated Mars mission: six volunteers spent 520 days in a module, being tested for the kind of psychological and physiological stresses a crew might experience in a long-duration space expedition. I thought it sounded like an incredibly cool setting for a novel.
What was your approach to the writing process with this novel – did you plan a lot, wait until you had a whole draft before editing?
I spent over a year researching before I wrote anything at all. The research continued for the length of writing: about four years. I don’t outline, but I spent months writing the first chapter and thinking through the general shape of the book. I revise CONSTANTLY.
Once you’d written your first novel, could you tell me a bit about the route you had to publication and how the process was different with this novel?
The first novel I wrote didn’t sell—just got very lovely rejection letters. So I put it away and tried again. The second book sold, and the editor who acquired it was interested in that first book, and told me to take it out and work on it a bit. I did, and it became my second published novel. (Lesson: you never know.) I don’t usually show anyone what I’m working on until it’s finished, so with “The Wanderers” my literary agent only knew that I was working on “something with astronauts in it.” It’s my first book to be published in the U.K, which is tremendously exciting for me.
Do you have any writing rituals – coffee before you start? No noise etc.
I avoid all rituals or rules involving writing other than Work Hard and Care About Everything.
Do you have any advice for anyone who might be suffering from writers block?
Well, I’m reluctant to give advice but I can say what I think it true. It’s this: writing isn’t about word count or how many hours a day you spend typing. (It’s also not about publishing.) Writing is a way of confronting the world. When I’m stuck, it’s because I’m not confronting the world, I’m confronting the “idea of being a writer.” That’s a closed-loop system. So, I go to museums, art galleries, concerts, plays, and read poetry and non-fiction. I stop being “person who is trying to write” and let myself be a reader, an audience member, a student. At a certain point, it becomes clear that being a writer MEANS being a reader, an audience member, a student. I get excited about what I’m observing, learning, confronting, and I want to talk about it, figure it out, and make something of my own.by
Big lovely hellos to Bella Osborne who is back on Novel Kicks with her blog tour for the third instalment of her Willow Cottage series. It’s called A Spring Affair and was released by Avon on 23rd March 2017.
Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a warm, caring and safe place for little Leo.
When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric! A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage
Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose…
Willow Cottage is part of a serialized novel told in four parts, following the journey of Beth and her new life in the Cotswolds. The full book will be out next this August, but for now, enjoy Willow Cottage seasonally.
With her top five spring inspired movies, it’s over to you Bella.
Hi Novel Kicks, Thank you for having me on your blog today.
Part 3 of Willow Cottage is set in springtime so that got me thinking about films that are set in the spring and there really aren’t many that spring to mind (apologies – no pun intended).
When it comes to seasonally focused films winter and Christmas seem to have the monopoly. However, after dusting off my DVDs I came up with a list of five films I love that even if they aren’t specifically set in spring they certainly make me think of that time of year.
Ferris Buellers Day Off (1986)
This is of course a modern classic – charming and hilarious. It’s what we all hoped we would do with an unplanned day off school. Ferris has some good advice for us all – ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’ Ferris Bueller
Saving Grace (2000)
I love this film. It stars Brenda Blethyn as recently widowed Grace who suddenly discovers that her husband was on the brink of financial ruin and she is about to lose her home. Fear not, this is most definitely a comedy and a very sweet one at that as Grace puts her green fingered skills to great use with some interesting plants!
10 Things I hate About You (1999)
Heath Ledger at his most gorgeous but watching him always leaves a tinge of sadness. A modern day version of Taming of the Shrew based in an American High School – what’s not to love?
You’ve Got Mail (1998)
My favourite Nora Ephron film staring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and based around the cutest bookshop in New York. Romantic comedies don’t get much better than this!by
Award 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.by
Huge 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.by
Starting 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.by
Today, I am welcoming Amanda Brooke and the blog tour for her latest novel, The Affair which was released by Harper on 10th November in electronic form with the paperback release due for 12th January.
A shocking story about a fifteen-year-old girl and the man who took advantage of her
“You might as well know from the start, I’m not going to tell on him and I don’t care how much trouble I get in. It’s not like it could get any worse than it already is.
I can’t. Don’t ask me why, I just can’t.”
When Nina finds out that her fifteen-year-old daughter, Scarlett, is pregnant, her world falls apart. Because Scarlet won’t tell anyone who the father is. And Nina is scared that the answer will destroy everything.
As the suspects mount – from Scarlett’s teacher to Nina’s new husband of less than a year – Nina searches for the truth: no matter what the cost.
Hello Amanda. Thank you so much for joining me on Novel Kicks today. Your new book is called The Affair. Can you tell me a little about it and how the idea originated?
Thank you for inviting me on to Novel Kicks, it’s lovely to be here again! The Affair begins with the news that fifteen year old Scarlett is pregnant to a married man. She won’t say who it is, but the two likely candidates are her stepfather and her teacher. The story is told from the point of view of the men’s wives; Scarlett’s mum, Nina and teacher’s wife, Vikki. I also introduce Scarlett’s voice as a narrator, and she describes the early days of her relationship and how she feels when the accusations start to fly. I’m not sure how much I can say about how the idea originated without giving too much away. I had a scene in my head of a schoolgirl watching from the periphery while other people’s lives fell apart. She wasn’t meant to be the focal point of the book, other than perhaps a final reveal, but after long chats with my editor, the premise of the story morphed into something quite different, and it was both a pleasure and a challenge to write.
Can you describe what your typical writing day is like? Any rituals like needing tea or writing in silence?
You’ve asked that question at a very exciting time, because I gave up work this month to write full-time. I’ve spent thirty-one years in local government and for the last five I’ve been juggling two careers, fitting in my writing around the day job. I can tell you what I plan to do, which is to concentrate on my writing in the morning, which allows me to spend the rest of the day thinking about what I’ve written and where I need to take the story next. I’m conscious that working from home will be quite sedentary, so I’ve had my treadmill adapted, with a small desk that fits on top of the handlebars. My first hour of writing will be spent walking and typing so I can wake up my body and brain at the same time. As I’ve said, that’s only the plan so you might need to ask me again in a year’s time to see if I’ve kept to it.
How do you approach writing your novels? Are you much of a planner and need to know your characters well and plot inside out? Do you edit as you go?
When I have an idea for a story, I like to mull it over in my head for a while before I commit to paper. The starting point is a two page synopsis, which doesn’t necessarily cover sub-plots or minor characters but should be enough to capture the essence of the story. My next task is to cut up the synopsis into about twelve sections, which in theory will be the chapters and, if nothing else, it gives me some reassurance that I have enough of a story for a full length manuscript. When I’m ready to start writing, I tend to have a very clear idea of the opening and final scenes, but the rest of the book remains relatively fluid. I enjoy getting to know my characters and they’re the ones who fuel my imagination as I go along, creating situations and conflict I never could have imagined from the start. In terms of editing, I see that first draft almost as a test run, it’s only during the subsequent rewrites that I really get to know the story.by
Playing 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.
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…
Hello, 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.
Guy Mankowski wrote his first novel, The Intimates when he was 21. His other novels include the fantastic Letters From Yelena and How I Left The National Grid. His new novel, An Honest Deceit was released by Urbane Publications on 20th October.
When Ben and Juliette’s young daughter dies in a tragic accident on a school trip, they begin searching for answers. But will they ever know the truth? What was the role of the teacher on the trip – and are the rumours about his past true? As Ben and Juliette search for the truth and the pressure rises, their own secrets and motivations are revealed…. An Honest Deceit is an intelligent and gripping contemporary psychological thriller that questions not just the motives of others, but the real reasons for discovering the truth.
Hi Guy, welcome back to Novel Kicks. Can you tell me a bit about your new novel, An Honest Deceit? What inspired you to write it?
Hi Laura, thanks for having me. An Honest Deceit is inspired in the main by an anger at the way our institutions often treat individuals who ask them uncomfortable questions. There are hundreds of people in this country who are sitting pretty in extremely well-paid jobs that they’ve only kept hold of because they’ve used the power institutions offer them to manipulate the truth. They use this power to hurt others and look after themselves. This book looks at the impact of that through the plot of a man investigating how his daughter was killed on a school trip.
What’s your typical writing day like? How has your writing approach changed since writing your first novel?
For my first novel, The Intimates, I edited the manuscript about three times. For my second novel, about eight times. For my third about 35 times and I couldn’t begin to count how many times I edited An Honest Deceit. Every word has been changed at least once so is it even the same novel? If someone looked at a draft I had of a novel called ‘Marine’, in 2011, I think they would barely recognise that it would become ‘An Honest Deceit.’ So my typical writing day has changed in that it is much more about editing and rarely about just writing.
What are the challenges of writing a psychological thriller?
It’s hard to know how deep you should go into a characters psyche because you don’t want to lose the narrative too much. The way I ended up handling it was to go very deep into their darkest thoughts and feelings and then in later drafts ensure that there were questions the reader had at every point to keep them going. It is hard to resolving everything, within your made-up world, so it doesn’t all seem too pat.by
I’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.by
I’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.by
Emma Bennet is the author of I Need A Hero, His Secret Daughter and Snowed in for her Wedding. Emma joins me today to chat about writing, planning her novels and her dinner party guests.
Hi Emma, thank you for joining me. Do you have a favourite word?
I have several: pudding, serendipity and natty stand out as particularly wonderful to say. Actually, I managed to get ‘natty’ into my latest manuscript, a great moment!
How much planning do you do before beginning a book? What elements need to be in place?
I use an A4 notebook and write a basic outline over a page. I then expand on this over about three pages, and write short character profiles for my hero and heroine. I add to and refer to these sheets regularly! Once these are in place, I’m off!
Which novel would you like to live in for a day and why?
I think it’s got to be ‘Pride and Prejudice’: I’d love to chat with Lizzy, advise her mum on her nerves and dance with Mr Darcy!
Out of all the books you’ve read, which three have stayed with you?
It tends to be children’s books which stay with me the most. I absolutely love being able to share my favourites with my children. The top three would probably be Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood, Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes and Catherine Cookson’s Nancy Nutall and the Mongrel (which never fails to make me cry!).by
I’m pleased to be welcoming author Lesley Thomson to Novel Kicks today. Hi Lesley. Could you tell me a little about your typical writing day?
Hi Laura, great to be here.
My day starts at 6.45am when I walk the dog. In summer this is a lovely part of the day, with the sun shining on the ruins of the Priory behind our house and the grass lush and green. I know the other walkers who are out at that time and feel lucky to have such interesting conversations before breakfast. In the winter in the wet and dark, togged in waterproofs from head to foot with a torch strapped to my forehead, it’s more of an expedition.
I start work at 8.30 and break for coffee at 11am. I work until 1pm. If it’s a first draft then – after lunch and a longer walk with my dog – I do research. This is reading books and articles and taking notes. Perhaps setting up interviews. If I’m further on in the novel, I’ll continue redrafting until about 5pm.
Can you tell me a little about your book, The House with no Rooms and how the idea originated?
The House with no Rooms is a murder story set in Kew Gardens in the hot summer of 1976 and in 2014. Jack and Stella follow a series of clues to uncover a terrible secret that is forty year old.
I visited the Marianne North gallery in Kew Gardens. A 19th Century botanical artist, North painted plants and flowers on her solo expeditions around the world. There are 833 numbered pictures hanging in what looks like a house. My character Jack sees numbers as signs that dictate his actions and hold clues he must decipher. The story features the Palm House, the Queen’s Beasts and the Herbarium that stores thousands of dried specimens collected over two centuries. They are called ‘dead materials’. Add to this that the botanist’s chief tool of trade is the scalpel and I realised that the Botanical Gardens was the perfect place to set a scary crime novel.
Do you have any writing rituals (needing coffee before you begin? Writing in silence etc.)
Yes, as I mentioned earlier, I have coffee at 11am. I drink out of a particular mug that I only use for work. I take the dog for walks at about the same time every day. While I work, I play Radio 3 although I like silence too. All this is less about superstition, I have found that a combination of ritual and routine gets me get into story and keeps me writing.
If you were only allowed to own three books, which three would you pick?
These would keep me going. I would need nothing else,
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
Excellent Women by Barbara Pym
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.
Is there a fictional character you’d like to meet and why?
There are two. As an adult, I’d like an introduction to Sergeant Cuff in The Moonstone. He has a quiet ego, he knows he’s good at his work, but is prepared to be wrong. But of course he isn’t. He’s professional, honest, unflurried and gives people careful attention. He has a great sense of priority. What matters most to him is to grow roses. I’d love to have tea with him in the garden in Dorking that he moved to after he retired. I’m sure I’d come away wiser.
As a child, I wanted to meet Lucy in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. She is passionate, honest and brave. Actually I’d still like to meet her.
What advice do you have for someone who is thinking of or in the processes of writing a book?
A writer is privileged to live in more than one world, their fictional world and the ‘real’ one. Sometimes I find the former more real. Two bits of advice, if you’re writing a novel, keep going until the end. Then you’ve got something to work with. If you’re contemplating writing, stop contemplating and start! Never wait for the muse to strike because it tends to strike when words are already on the page, not when the page is blank. And as I said earlier, you might see if it helps you to establish a routine. Above all, keep going.
How do you approach the writing process? Do you plan much, edit as you go?
I have the idea and write a synopsis. Then I plan out the novel chapter by chapter. I consider what research will be needed. This might be interviewing experts in their field. For The House With No Rooms I talked to botanists, a botanical illustrator and the ex Met Detective Superintendent and District line driver who have helped me with the Detective’s Daughter series. I walk the places in my novels. The House with no Rooms demanded lots of visits to Kew Gardens, poor me… I start the research after I’m half way through a draft when I know what questions to ask.
I write a first draft, ploughing on without editing even if I’m not happy with it. Then I do another draft, editing, refining and rearranging scenes to ensure they work. By the time the novel is published I have completed at least six drafts.
What’s your favourite word and why?
Contentment. It is suggests satisfaction with one’s life and in the moment. I imagine I would feel contentment sipping tea in Sergeant Cuff’s country garden with the scent of roses on the summer air.
More about Lesley:
Lesley Thomson grew up in London. Her first crime novel A Kind of Vanishing won The People’s Book Prize in 2010. The Detective’s Daughter is a number one bestseller and Sainsbury’s ebook for 2014. Ghost Girl, the second in the The Detective’s Daughter series (2014) went to number one in Sainsbury’s e-chart and is another bestseller. The Detective’s Secret was published in 2015. The Runaway, an eBook short about Stella Darnell (the detective’s daughter) came out in July 2015 and the fourth in the series, The House with No Rooms in 2016.
For more information about Lesley, visit http://lesleythomson.co.uk
I am pleased to be welcoming Liz Nugent to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her new book, Lying in Wait.
‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’
Lydia Fitzsimons lives in the perfect house with her adoring husband and beloved son. There is just one thing Lydia yearns for to make her perfect life complete, though the last thing she expects is that pursuing it will lead to murder. However, needs must – because nothing can stop this mother from getting what she wants …
I’ve reviewed the book below but first, Liz chats to us about her approach to writing psychological thrillers. Over to you, Liz….
I have always been interested in the psychology of killers. What makes them tick, how they deal with the horror of what they have done. Two books which were hugely influential were John Banville’s The Book of Evidence and Sebastian Faulks’ Engleby. Both were first person narratives about deeply flawed men.
I used to work on a TV soap opera and one day in a story meeting, we were discussing a character who had just killed somebody and I insisted that he must be extremely distressed and I said ‘You know the way when you dream you’ve murdered somebody and you wake up in the horrors?’ Everyone just stared at me and that was when I realised that I was the only one who had those nightmares. I kill people in my sleep!
In real life, I am a pacifist and actively avoid confrontation, so I’m not sure from where this murderous side of my psyche comes, but I hope it has given me an edge when writing from the point of view of murderers!by