I’m very pleased to be welcoming author, Alison May to Novel Kicks today. Hello Alison. Thank you for joining me.. For people who are new to your books, can you tell me a little about your novels and writing style?
I write romantic comedies. When I’m being flippant I say I write books about twenty and thirty-somethings getting drunk and making bad life choices. When I’m not being flippant I try to make it sound more serious and important than that, but really it’s mainly drinking and bad decisions.
What is your typical writing day like?
Morning: Get up. Wonder about putting proper clothes on. Eat toast in pyjamas. Accidentally get sucked into watching episodes of The Gilmore Girls I’ve seen about eighteen times before. Get cross with self and actually turn laptop on. Answer email and look at social media (which is totally definitely work and not procrastinating at all). Realise it’s lunchtime and resolve to definitely do better in the afternoon.
Afternoon: Much like the morning, but hopefully ending up with a phase of frantic writing of words which will almost certainly turn out to be terrible.
Where do you normally like to write? Do you normally like to write in silence or surrounded by noise?
I mostly write at home in my tiny purple office, but I try to mix things up, so I’ll turn music on and off over the course of the day, or I’ll move with my laptop and write in bed or on the dining table for a bit. I do that because I’m a huge procrastinator, and I find that changing the environment can trick my brain out of faffing and get it to refocus on whatever it’s supposed to be doing. For the same reason I sometimes drag myself to the local library (The Hive in Worcester – it’s very big and very gold). I usually go to the library if I’ve got one big task that I’m procrastinating at home, and set myself a rule about when I’m allowed to leave the library eg. ‘You can’t go home until you’ve drafted that short story’ or ‘You can’t go home until you’ve finished reading that draft.’
What is your process like in regard to planning, daily word count and editing?
It’s different for every book to be honest. For my first novel I just wrote 2000 words a day with no planning at all until I had a first draft. It was an awful first draft, but it had the right number of words at least. Now it varies – I plan more than I used to, but I invariably abandon the plan as soon as I start writing. I sometimes find notes I made at the start of a book and I can barely recognise which book they were supposed to relate to.
How long does it typically take you to write a book?
Probably 6-8 months, plus another month or so for my publisher’s edits for a full length novel. 3-4 months for a novella. It varies an awful lot though, and I’m really bad at estimating how long it will take me to finish a book.
I’m actually much happier editing than writing. I know a lot of writers who love the freedom of writing a first draft but I basically hate it – it’s like pulling teeth for me. I just know that 80%of what I’m writing is probably dreadful, and I find that kind of depressing. Editing is much more fun because at that point I feel like I’m making things better which is much more rewarding.
Which fictional world would you like to visit and why? If you could meet one fictional character whilst you were there, who would it be and why?
Discworld. Sam Vimes (and if I can have a cheeky second choice Granny Weatherwax). Because Discworld is awesome. Terry Pratchett was one of my favourite authors of all time. I sat on a bench outside TK Maxx and had a little cry the day he died.
Are you working on anything at the moment that you can tell us about?
I’m working on a couple of things at the moment. I’ve just finished my first non-romance novel, and I’m also having a go at a TV script about a paranormal investigator and a ghost and a psychic guinea pig. It’s sort of Bridget Jones meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which will probably never be produced but it’s keeping me entertained. I’m also working a collaborative novel with another writer which is another new experience. I think it’s really good to keep trying different things in any creative career – it’s how you develop and get better as a writer.
I’ve also got an idea developing in the back of my mind for my next romance novel, which is about bereavement and moving on from lost love, so that will probably be my next project.
What is your favourite book and why?
What? Just one? Seriously? One book? The House at Pooh Corner or possibly Anybody Out There? or Rachel’s Holiday or This Charming Man by Marian Keyes. Or basically anything by Terry Pratchett. Or The Blind Assassin. There are too many good books! I won’t pick and you can’t make me.
What advice do you have for new writers?
Just write the sodding book. Which sounds facetious, but really isn’t. You can read about writing. You can join writers’ groups. You can chat to other writers at events and on social media. You can set up your website and your author page and your twitter feed. All of that is potentially good and sensible and it all counts for nothing if you don’t actually apply bum to seat and fingers to keyboard and write.
Obviously I would also advise new writers to come on one of the very awesome writing courses that I run (www.alison-may.co.uk/for-writers/workshops-and-courses/). They’re really terribly good you know, and include much insight and wisdom along the lines of ‘Just write the sodding book.’
Alison was born and raised in North Yorkshire, but now lives in Worcester with one husband, no kids and no pets. There were goldfish once. That ended badly.
She’s a qualified teacher specialising in adult education, a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors, and an experienced creative writing tutor.
She writes contemporary romantic comedy novels, including the Christmas Kiss series, Sweet Nothing and Midsummer Dreams. She won the RNA’s Elizabeth Goudge Trophy in 2012, and has been shortlisted in the RoNAs and the Love Stories Awards. Her latest achievement is being part of the shortlist for the RoNA Rose Award 2016 for Cora’s Christmas Kiss.
Alison’s latest book is called Midsummer Dreams…
Four people. Four messy lives. One party that changes everything …
Emily is obsessed with ending her father’s new relationship – but is blind to the fact that her own is far from perfect.
Dominic has spent so long making other people happy that he’s hardly noticed he’s not happy himself.
Helen has loved the same man, unrequitedly, for ten years. Now she may have to face up to the fact that he will never be hers.
Alex has always played the field. But when he finally meets a girl he wants to commit to, she is just out of his reach.
At a midsummer wedding party, the bonds that tie the four friends together begin to unravel and show them that, sometimes, the sensible choice is not always the right one.