A big welcome today to Dinah Jefferies. Her new novel, Before The Rains was released by Viking in February (2017.)
1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband’s death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza’s only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she’s determined to make a name for herself.
But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince’s handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families – and society – think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what’s expected, or following their hearts. . .
Hello Dinah, thank you so much for joining me today. Your new novel, Before The Rains sounds great. Can you tell me about it and where the idea originated?
I read about and then visited a small palace where, in the past, the royal family had mortgaged the family jewels to pay for an irrigation project. That gave me the idea for the title and one of the themes of the book. I fell in love with Rajasthan and wanted the pages of Before The Rains to shimmer with spice and silk so that the beauty of India would shine through. It’s about an independent female character with an interesting job as a photo-journalist. But above all it’s a story of forbidden love, with an edge to it, and plenty of opposition from either side. I wanted the story to be life-enhancing, despite the mystery of what’s going in the dark recesses of the palace. And so I tried to bring to life the colour and immense luxury of a Rajasthan palace and contrast that with the raw emptiness of the desert that surrounds it. It’s a romantic story that offers something more.
What elements do you need in place prior to writing a novel? Do you need a comprehensive plan, do you edit as you go etc?
I usually prepare a fifteen-page synopsis and stick to it as much as I can as I write. Having said that, there will inevitably be changes, edits and shifts as I go along. Sometimes a new idea will come to me, sometimes I’ll need to take the story in a different direction, sometimes something doesn’t work, so I try to remain flexible throughout. I do loads of revisions and love the editing process once the first draft is done.
What writing rituals do you have?
I’m not really a ritual kind of a person, but I try to write in the mornings while my mind is still fresh. A cup of coffee is a must, as is a warm room. I have a lovely new garden room where I write now and that has made all the difference. I was in a cramped back bedroom before. I now have my den and I love it.
What’s your favourite word and why?
My favourite word at the moment is ‘cinnamon’ because it figures widely in the book I am currently writing. I also like the sound of the word and the smell of cinnamon, especially on a cake or pudding. Mmmm! Cinnamon buns and coffee. Now there’s a thought.
Best and hardest thing about being a writer?
The best thing is when you hold a finished book in your hand for the first time. I absolutely love that moment. It has usually taken a long process to reach that point and some of the hardest things happen on the way. The very worst thing is when a manuscript isn’t working as it should but you can’t figure out what’s wrong. Then it feels like you’re grappling with a wild beast intent on devouring you. That’s when your editor is fantastically useful.
Out of all your books, do you have a favourite passage/section?
I love the section on page 20 of The Tea Planter’s Wife when Gwen sees the tea plantation for the first time and describes the tea bushes as a tapestry of green velvet, where women tea pickers looked like tiny embroidered birds.by
Greetings fellow writers.
It’s a quick catch up from me this week. As I get ready to begin to write my novel, I have been thinking a lot about what starting my book will actually mean to me.
Many people announce that they would like to write a book. It is said that everyone theoretically has a book in them.
However, despite what the overwhelming feeling of standing in front of books in a book shop will tell you, it is only a small percentage of the people who say they want to write a book, who then go on to get the courage and the motivation to get their bum in a seat and apply pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard (whatever your preference is.)
So, even beginning a book is a huge achievement.
Read advice then forge your own routine. Each person’s process will be unique to them.
Read, jot down ideas and practise your craft. Confidence is bred from experience and that can only mean one thing. You need to write.
Friday 3rd March 2017: A world without….
Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt. The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.
Today’s prompt is about imagining a world without.
There are many things that we, as humans feel that we can’t be without. Make a list of the things in your own life that you feel fit this category.
Then pick one and use it as inspiration for a story. Your character has just woken up and found themselves without this object. It’s an object that becomes important to their survival. What happens?
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.
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.by
Welcome to the Novel Kicks Online Book Club.
I love books and I love chatting about them even more. Every month, I pick a new book for discussion. I will post a question to kick things off in the comments box below. A good thing about this book club is that everyone is welcome to take part. It’s open to all. You can read the book at any point in the month or if you’ve already read it, tell us what you think.
The best part… it’s all from the comfort of your armchair/sofa/bed/comfy place.
This month, it is All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all.by
A big welcome today to Beth Underdown and the blog tour for her novel, The Witchfinder’s Sister which is due to be released by Viking tomorrow (2nd March 2017.)
‘The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…’
1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.
But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.
To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?
Based on the true story of the man known as the Witchfinder General, this exquisitely rendered novel transports you to a time and place almost unimaginable, where survival might mean betraying those closest to you, and danger lurks outside every door.
Alice has just lost her husband. With little option available to her and nowhere else to go, she has to return to the home of her brother, Matthew Hopkins, ‘the Witchfinder General.’
Many rumours are circulating about Matthew’s conduct. Alice doesn’t want to believe her brother is capable of these things. The longer she is around her brother, the harder it is to avoid the feeling that the rumours are true.
It was easy to sympathise with Alice. She is governed by her circumstances and isn’t really respected by the men around her. Most of all, her brother.by
The end of February is here and so it is time to announce the winner of this month’s Win a Blind Date With a Book competition.
It is very easy to judge a book by its cover. I know I do it. Our competition is one with a twist. It’s your chance to win a blind date with a book.
I didn’t reveal what the title was of this month’s book was nor did I reveal the cover. All I did reveal is that this book was about a boy and a girl, looking to the future and trying to escape the past. Learning how to let go and live.
Congratulations to Christina from Surrey who has won this month. I hope you enjoy your literary blind date.
March’s competition will be coming soon.
Literature is full of many great characters; heroes and heroines that I’ve loved. What I find though, when these books and characters are written about, it is the main characters that get most of the attention. There are so many supporting characters that are not talked about half as much as they should be.
With so many to choose from, I had a hard time trying to decide which ‘sidekicks’ were my favourites. This list could change tomorrow but for now, these are my favourite supporting characters in literature.
Jane Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennett is the type of girl that you want for a friend. She is kind and fiercely loyal and knows her mind. I believe though that Jane is sometimes over looked for the more popular Lizzie (do not take this for Lizzie hate. I love her.)
Jane is the quiet Bennett sister. She’s seen as the bestest bet in terms of making a good marriage and is seen as beautiful but I feel there is so much more to her than beauty and prospects. Unlike Lizzie, Jane sees the good in everyone and in every situation and is always keen to seek out the positive.
We all know Harry Potter. I adore this series of books. These are the books I go to when I am having a bad time and want something comforting. We all know of the main character of course. Harry Potter is one of the most recognisable fictional heroes but I want to take a moment to admire Ron Weasley. Hermione is also a great character but I think Ron is my favourite.
It must be hard to be in the shadow of his friend and yet he rises above and is always there for Harry with his loyalty and humour. Harry would be nothing without his friends. Ron can be hilarious but he can do the serious thing. Plus, I want to visit the Burrow. It sounds so amazing.
Speaking of loyal friends, I couldn’t have a list like this and not mention Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings.
If you need a friend, Sam is the one you want to have. Frodo fell at the last moment and it was Sam who helped him get the ring to where it needed to be in order to destroy it. Sam is why they succeeded in my opinion. Had he not carried Frodo that last bit up the hill, then it would have all been for nothing. Sam doesn’t want much in life. He wants love and the people around him. He never had an adventurous side like Frodo and yet he followed him.
Tuesday 28th February 2017: Off on a Tangent.
For our writing exercise today, I thought we could go back to generating ideas.
Find an A4 piece of paper and draw a box in the middle of the page.
Pick up the book that is closest to you. Open it and write down the first word you see in the box you’ve just drawn.
Use that word as a starting point. What does that word make you think of. Write an arrow out from the box and write it down. Does the first word inspire anything else? Use each word you write down as inspiration for the next.
Friday 24th February 2017: Fictional Best Friend
Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt. The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.
Today’s prompt involves a fictional best friend.
Out of all the fictional characters you like (or don’t like,) which one would you like to hang out with for the day?
What sort of things would you get up to? Where would you go?
Build a short story around these ideas. Begin with the sentence, ‘we left at 9am.’
I am super pleased and excited to be welcoming Rachel Abbott back to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for her fabulous new novel, The Sixth Window.
Eighteen months after Natalie Gray loses her husband Bernie in a horrific hit and run accident, she finds love with his best friend, Ed Cooper, and moves into his home with her teenage daughter Scarlett. But she begins to suspect Ed has a dark side –and even darker intentions.
Natalie has to get her troubled child to a safer place, but when Scarlett starts to hear voices coming from the empty apartment next door it seems she has unwittingly moved them into the heart of danger.
DCI Tom Douglas is also chasing the truth. As his investigation into the suicide of a teenage girl draws him ever closer to Natalie and Scarlett, will he be too late to protect them from the threat they face, or from the truths that will tear their lives apart?
For this blog tour we have something special and a little bit different. Rachel and I have co-written a little micro thriller. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Greetings one and all. How has everyone’s week gone? It’s hard to keep the smiles going when there is so much negativity going on in the news and bad weather going around isn’t it?
I just wanted a catch up this week. It’s been a little bit of a quiet one. I’ve managed a little work toward the novel and hope to start writing on 1st March.
As we race toward the end of February, I am looking back on this month and finding that it went by in a bit of a blur.
My weeks tend to be like that if I am with the day job especially when I am working more night than day shifts. Night shifts are a curious thing. It makes you feel as though you have permanent jetlag (I call night shift me, ‘zombie Laura,) but there is something lovely about being awake in the early hours. It’s always so quiet.
When work does get in the way (or other commitments,) it’s easy for me to fall out of any routine I have begun to build up.
I will have my days off, start to develop routines and habits and then the work days will come and the motivation will waver. I am not sure why this happens. It’s not all the time but it’s frustrating all the same. Tiredness is such a productivity killer.by
Christie Chapman is a single mum who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son, Finn. It’s not an easy life but Christie finds comfort in her love of crafting, and spends her spare time working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed cards to personalised gifts, Christie’s flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it’s not long before opportunity comes knocking.
Christie can see a future full of hope and possibility for her and Finn – and if the handsome Max is to be believed, one full of love too. It’s all there for the taking. And then, all of sudden, her world is turned upside down.
Christie knows that something has to give, but can she really give up her dreams and the chance of real love? Will Christie find her happy ending in . . . Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses.
Knowing this story is based on a real-life person (Christie Chapman – look her up and also read her review on Amazon.co.uk) added a slice of intrigue to my reading. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t pretend to know any of Christie’s actual story, but if it was as heart-rending and inspiring as PH&SK portrays, then all hats should be doffed to the lady and her son.
Our main characters are Christie and her son Finn and it’s through Christie’s eyes that we see her struggle to support her son, whilst bringing him up as a single parent, not made any easier by the constant worry caused by Finn’s mysterious headaches, which never go away and keep him off school. Her parents are a wonderful source of support and when Christie finds herself jetting off to the USA for a crafting course by an up and coming US-based company, this is thanks to her mother.by
A lovely big massive welcome to S.D Robertson and the blog tour for his new novel, If Ever I Fall which was released by Avon on 9th February 2017.
Dan’s life has fallen apart at the seams. He’s lost his house, his job is on the line, and now he’s going to lose his family too. All he’s ever wanted is to keep them together, but is everything beyond repair?
Maria is drowning in grief. She spends her days writing letters that will never be answered. Nights are spent trying to hold terrible memories at bay, to escape the pain that threatens to engulf her.
Jack wakes up confused and alone. He doesn’t know who he is, how he got there, or why he finds himself on a deserted clifftop, but will piecing together the past leave him a broken man?
In the face of real tragedy, can these three people find a way to reconcile their past with a new future? And is love enough to carry them through?
Stuart and Avon have kindly given me an extract from the novel to share with you today. I have also reviewed the book below. Enjoy.
Morning, Jack. You’re up bright and early.’
Miles is unloading a large bag of beans into the built-in coffee machine above the oven. I smile at him, say good morning and accept his offer of breakfast. But behind the facade I’m cracking up. How did I get here? I’ve no memory of waking, getting dressed and coming downstairs. And what happened yesterday? Or the day before? My memory’s all messed up: confused by shadows of half-remembered dreams.
The last thing I remember for sure is being in the car with Miles in the village and that weird incident in the hardware shop. Was it real or a dream?
I should tell Miles what’s going on. He is a doctor after all. But I’m not sure I trust him. I’m not convinced he’s ever taken me to the hospital. He says I’ve been there, but I’ve no memory of it.
There’s something off about all of this. What if he’s drugging me? Mind-altering substances could explain a lot. Maybe even what I saw – or thought I saw – in the shop. How has this not occurred to me before?
I wait until he’s finished with the coffee machine and then, as he looks at me, hold my hand to my stomach and wince.
‘Problem?’ he asks.
‘Stomach cramps. Think I’d better get to the toilet.’
‘Oh dear. Hope it’s not the crab we had last night.’
Crab? I’ve no memory of that. Shutting the kitchen door behind me, I head to the foot of the stairs. I wait there for a moment, to make sure he’s not coming after me. Then I slip out of the front door.
It’s cold outside this morning, another biting wind blowing in off the sea. Again, I don’t have my jacket with me, but there’s no time to find it now. I have to get out of here. As far away as possible. And it has to be now.by
Writers & Artists and William Ryan have joined together to present a ten-week course called ‘From First Draft to Final Draft.’
Through this course, essential elements of the writing craft and how you can apply it to your own manuscript will be discussed. It also includes exercises that will directly involve your novel-in-progress.
The course consists of evening sessions which take place on Wednesdays for ten weeks (this excludes two reading weeks.) The sessions run from 6pm until 8.30pm.
Held at Bloomsbury in Bedford Square in London, it runs from 15th march 2017 until 31st May 2017 and it is £1250.00.
The course features feedback on your novel’s premise and sample chapters by William and a literary agent, practical sessions based around your own writing, three critiques and twenty-five hours of advice from a combination of authors and publishing professionals. You will also get a copy of The Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook which is essential for any writer.
For a more detailed course breakdown, details of who will be speaking and details of how to book (including how you could potentially pay in instalments,) visit: https://www.writersandartists.co.ukby