NK Chats To….

Our Author Interviews and Guest Posts.

NK Chats To… Hilary Grossman

Hi Hilary. It’s so nice to welcome you to Novel Kicks today. Your latest novel, Mom Genes has just been released. Can you tell me a little about it? 

Hi Laura! Thank you so much for having me! I am so excited to “chat” with you. Mom Genes, which is my fifth novel, is currently available on all eBook platforms and has been published today (March 24th.)

It is the second book in my Forest River PTA series, but it’s a completely standalone story. Mom Genes is a heartwarming and hilarious book about a PTA mom, Claire Conroy, who is searching for a fresh start while struggling to survive suburban backstabbing and parental politics

 

What songs would be on a playlist for this novel? 

Oh my, this is a hard question, but a few songs come to mind.

The first would be Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” because Claire is faced with quite a few problematic situations in the book. First, she returns home from a trip to Italy gearing up to separate from her husband of thirteen years. Then the meddling mothers spread rumors about the “real reason” for her divorce.

The second would be “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge because Claire’s family plays such an essential role in this story, especially her hysterical grandmother, Gigi.

The last would be “Take Me Back To The Night We Met” by Lord Huron because thanks to a chance encounter, Claire reconnects with someone from her past.

 

Hilary’s writing space

What’s your writing process like, from idea, to first draft and then to final edit? 

I’m pretty impulsive, so as soon as an idea pops into my head, I start writing. I don’t plot out my books. I let the story take its twists and turns. I often to run to my laptop fresh out of the shower, dripping wet, because one of my characters “told me something funny.

After I finish the first draft, which is always pretty rough, I read it over and polish it, and add a lot to the story. Then I send it to my editor. She has a keen eye and incredible insights, and I pretty much end up writing the book over again.

 

What has your route to publication like and, in your opinion, what’s the most common mistake new writers make when looking to be published? 

My route to publication has been like a roller coaster. I self-published my first book, Dangled Carat. Then a few months later, I secured a publisher who then published my second novel, Plan Bea. Right before they were about to publish my third book, Plan Cee, they went out of business. As soon as I received my rights back, I self-published all of my books, and have been self-publishing ever since.

I think the most common mistakes new writers make when looking to be published, they don’t have a complete understanding of the industry and the process. There is so much to know. It is overwhelming. However, I have found the author community is the most generous group of people. Everyone is always so eager to help each other out and share their experiences and knowledge.

 

Which author has impacted you the most as a writer? 

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NK Chats To… Daisy Pearce

Thank you so much for joining me today, Daisy. Tell me a little about your novel, The Silence and what interested you most about the premise?

Hi! Thanks for having me. A lot of my ideas begin with an image and in the case of The Silence it was the image of a woman jumping into the sea with her toes pointed downward. I’d been reading a lot about gaslighting – a covert form of emotional manipulation – and how easily it could be used to isolate someone from their friends and family.

The two ideas came together almost at the same time. Stella (the central character) is a former child star and I liked the idea of her trying to untangle herself from her former fame.

 

What were the challenges of writing this novel?

Ha. All of them. All the challenges! Time, for one. I squeezed writing The Silence into every moment my daughter was asleep and then again when I forced myself to wake up early. It’s the commitment, I think. Financial, emotional, mental.

Sometimes the story was so suffocating I would happily have drop kicked my computer into the sun. Other than that, you know, it was a breeze!

 

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

A cup of tea. We live in a cold, cold house and so in the winter I started writing in bed with a hot water bottle so now that is where I write 99 percent of the time. I’m told it’s terrible for my sleep hygiene but I’m stuck in it now.

I work in a library, so I write in between the end of my work day and school pick-up and then again in the evenings. There’s a lot of opportunity for procrastination so I try to be really disciplined.

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

This is a great question and I’ve got two terrible answers for it. One, is Nanny Ogg’s cat Greebo from the Discworld novels but only – only – when he turns into a piratical man. The other is all the kids from the Losers club from the novel IT, the people I most identified with as an adolescent.

NK: My husband is a huge fan of The Discworld and I also think he would like to meet Greebo. 

 

In your opinion, what’s the most important thing to remember when developing characters?

Personally, I like to see flaws in a character. Jealousy, anger, bitterness. I need to see them as human and I need to care if they live or die. That’s what carries me through a book. I don’t neccessarily need to relate to them but I do need to know they’re not entirely whole. That helps, for me.

 

Which author has made the most impact on you as a writer?

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Book Review: The Flatshare by Beth O’ Leary

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

Tiffy and Leon share a flat and a bed. But they have never met.

When Tiffy finds herself in need of a flat, Leon’s ad seems too good to be true. When she moves in, she still hasn’t met Leon.

They begin a relationship through notes left in the flat but with ex boyfriends and demanding jobs, the rule book for flat sharing may not fully apply.

I found it fascinating that the two main characters don’t immediately meet. My husband and I went through a stage when we were on opposite shifts so didn’t see each other for a few days at a time but there was evidence of the other’s existence in the house. We would also leave notes too, mostly saying that the cats are lying and they have been fed but I related to Tiffy and Leon’s relationship because of this. The idea you can forge a relationship using post it notes is one of the things I found the most interesting about this book.

Tiffy is my hero. She’s not perfect. She doesn’t always do the right thing or make the right decisions but throughout, I loved her and hoped that, in the end, she would trust the people who loved her and most importantly, herself in making the best decisions for her and realising that she deserves more.

The supporting characters are terrific. Everyone needs friends like Gertie, Mo and Rachel. The one exception is Justin. He is up there in my hall of fame of villains and could give Uriah Heep a run for his money.

I personally loved the style of writing. There was a casualness to how it was set up that suited the characters. I would say that Tiffy is the extrovert but Leon is quieter and more cautious. This comes across well in the dialogue and style of writing.

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NK Chats To… Helen Taylor

Hello Helen, thank you for joining me today. Can you tell me about your book, Why Women Read Fiction and what inspired you to write it? 

I have always been fascinated by the fact that the main readers of novels and short stories are women.  Currently we buy (and also borrow) about 80% of all fiction.  Women are the vast majority of members of book clubs, attendees at literary festivals, visitors to libraries and bookshops, and organisers of days out to literary heritage sites like the Brontës’ Haworth Parsonage. Many years ago, I wrote a book about Gone With the Wind, and more recently a Daphne du Maurier Companion, and while researching both these, I was struck by how many women told me of their passion for both writers and their books, and how profoundly they had wrapped words, scenes, characters and settings into their hearts and their own life stories.

They had even called their daughters, dogs and cats after the protagonists (Scarlett, Rhett, Rebecca). So I set out to ask what it is about reading fiction that appeals to women – and I found it offers escape, a special space just for us (‘me-time’), and the opportunity to spread our wings intellectually and emotionally. It helps us through the night, and gives us insights into our relationships and families, as well as the world beyond. Jackie Kay suggests ‘our lives are mapped by books’.

 

Fiction is important to so many people (including me.) Which fictional novel has made the most impact on you and why?

At different stages of my life, particular books have resonated.  As a girl, I wanted to be like awkward, unconventional and ambitious Jo March in Little Women.  As a young student, George Eliot’s Middlemarch taught me about social and intellectual pretentiousness, and warned me never to marry an emotionally stunted man.

As a middle-aged and older woman, I’ve learned about worlds very different from my own through writers such as Ralph Ellison, Eudora Welty and Hilary Mantel. Toni Morrison’s Beloved about American slavery is the most devastating novel I’ve ever read, and Kate Chopin’s The Awakening is very dear to my heart because set in a special place of mine, Louisiana.

 

What were the challenges you faced when writing When Women Read Fiction?

I decided to send out questionnaires to women about their reading, and to interview women writers too.  The enthusiasm with which over 400 women responded to my questions and the wonderful material they provided me with, were very humbling, and I had to try to do justice to it all.  Women love to tell you about what reading fiction means to them – ‘a lifeline,’ ‘my best friend,’ ‘the love of my life’ – and all the ways they have found it helped them in sorrow, joy, sickness and health.

Women writers are very aware of their responsibility to, and friendly relationship with women readers, though they gave me angry accounts of being ‘Little Womaned’, as Hilary Mantel put it – reviewed, paid and valued less than male fiction writers.

 

What’s your writing day like and what do you need around you? For example, coffee, tea, music, silence?

Alas, I’m not an early riser, but when I get going (after many cups of good English Breakfast tea) I like to write to music – Joni Mitchell, Kate Rusby, Mozart, Leonard Cohen)- but when I REALLY get going and the writing is flowing, I work in silence.  Those are the most productive and precious times.

 

What’s the first thing you do when starting a new project? What comes next?

I am a slow burn writer. I was commissioned to write a BFI book about the film of Gone With the Wind and I finished it in three months, but usually it takes me years to shape an idea and produce a book.

I had the germ of an idea for Why Women Read Fiction thirty years ago, but I worked on it seriously for about five years. I think it’s a better book for taking so much time.

 

How do you approach the editing process?

Editing is my favourite process of all.  I find research and first drafts time-consuming and difficult, but I love to edit.

Years of teaching students have given me considerable experience here, and I love to spot my own repetitions, clichés, weak phrases and poor arguments – then brutally cut and reshape.  It’s the most creative process.

 

What’s your favourite word and why? 

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NK Chats To… Nicola K Smith

Hello Nicola, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about your debut novel, A Degree of Uncertainty and what inspired the story?

Thank you for inviting me to chat with Novel Kicks, Laura.

A Degree of Uncertainty explores how a Cornish community is being ripped apart by its growing university, with an influx of students upsetting the balance of things and challenging the way life has always been. Some residents — and business people — see it as progress and welcome the expansion. Others feel threatened by the change in dynamics.

Against this backdrop of small town politics, the story is very character driven, exploring love, friendship, loyalty and betrayal. The shifting community pits friends, neighbours and colleagues against each other and reopens old wounds…

 

Do you think character or plot is more important in a story?

I think that’s a little bit like asking which is more important, a bra or knickers… I agree that some books are weighted more in favour of one or the other, but for me, you need both. That doesn’t mean the plot has to be a rip-roaring rampage punctuated with multiple murders and endless twists, but the storyline needs to travel from A to B.

That said, I can really enjoy a book where a deeply plausible character goes on an emotional journey and, in essence, very little happens. But I don’t think the best plot in the world will stand up in the hands of characters in whom readers don’t believe or, worse, don’t care about.

 

What would be on a playlist for this novel?

One of the two key protagonists is Harry Manchester, a proud Cornishman and successful local businessman who vows to save his beloved community from being overrun by students and ruined by change. Harry is a keen music fan and ex-drummer and he often seeks solace in Queen music, letting the lyrics guide his mood and — in one instance — his actions. So it would have to be Queen’s Greatest Hits. (He also has an incident where his Bohemian Rhapsody ring tone goes off at an untimely moment, but that’s another story…)

 

What was the biggest challenge when writing your first book?

Starting a book is a challenge. I’d had the idea for a while and I began making notes and sketching out characters and plot, but actually writing those first words seemed like a terrifying leap!

I did a ‘Starting to write your novel’ course with the literary agency, Curtis Brown, which gave me the tools to plan and start the book. It also gave me a huge dose of confidence as I was chosen as ‘Most promising student’ on the course, and was rewarded with a one-to-one tutorial with one of the agents. That was a massive shove in the right direction, and the novel began…

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Where do you like to write? Do you prefer silence, do you need coffee?

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NK Chats To… Michelle Vernal

Hello Michelle, thank you so much for joining me today and inviting me on your blog tour. Can you tell me a little about your novel, When We Say Goodbye and what inspired the story?

Thank you so much for having me.

When we say Goodbye is a story about love, loss and learning to live and open yourself up to possibilities.

This book was inspired by two things. The first was the loss of someone close to me when I was the same age as Ellie. I’d also not long bought an old house which I was in the process of doing up and I believe it was that house and the responsibility I’d taken on in purchasing it that helped me through a difficult time.

There are scenes in the story that I experienced first-hand. Secondly, we here in Christchurch, New Zealand lived through a massive earthquake which had devastating ramifications for people and I couldn’t set a story here, in Christchurch without acknowledging what happened in our city.

 

Do you think character or plot is more important in a story?

I write character driven novels. I don’t know if this is more important it’s just my style of writing.

 

What would be on a playlist for this novel?

Oh, a playlist would definitely feature Coldplay and Ed Sheeran.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Where do you like to write? Do you prefer silence, do you need coffee?

I need coffee before I do anything! My typical writing day starts after I’ve dropped my boys at school. I think about doing some exercise before I begin (then usually don’t!) before making a coffee and getting comfy on the couch in our conservatory. It’s a lovely space as we are surrounded by greenery and I can hear the birds and not much else.

Our black, three-legged cat called Blue usually joins me and I write until lunchtime. When I say write I flick far too often onto social media as I have a Facebook page I love interacting on.

After lunch, I carry on until it’s time to get the boys. Once they’re home, I have another coffee and work on the marketing side of being an author and then stop for the day when it’s time to make dinner.

Of course, if I have a book releasing and I’m up against it, which always seems to happen no matter how on top of things I think I am, I get back on my laptop after dinner. Most nights though my husband and I go for a walk. It’s important to get out and do that after a day in front of the computer.

 

What is your planning process like?

My planning is pretty much non-existent. A book begins with a thread of an idea and then I just find a place to start. I also find that the hardest part. I’m a definite pantser and the book comes together as I write.

 

Do you tend to edit as you go or wait for a first draft?

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NK Chats To… Patricia Ann Bowen

Hello Patricia, thank you so much for joining me today and for inviting me onto your blog tour. Can you tell me a little about your novel, The Cure and what inspired the story?

I was at a meeting of Sisters in Crime in Atlanta when the leader asked the audience to write a quick book blurb and share it. I’d been doing a lot of volunteer work with senior citizens, and my dad had recently passed away with dementia, so the topic of Alzheimer’s was top of mind. I raised my hand with an idea, the audience applauded, and two long years later I published the book.

It’s women’s fiction, a tale of a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease who is visited by a man from the future with a cure. I call it a hopeful fantasy. He’s a doctor, head of a medical research team, and needs her to conduct a long-term study to prove the safety and efficacy of their drug, and the only way for him to do this quickly is to get patients in the past to take the drug and get the results to him. The plot thickens as their relationship gets complicated, as the study must be done under the legal and ethical radar, and as the doctor ignores his directive to change nothing during his trip to the past.

 

What’s your writing day like and what do you need around you, for example, silence, coffee?

I either write or revise almost every day. If I’m writing, I shoot for at least one thousand words. If I’m revising, at least a couple of hours. I’m a morning person, up at around four most days, and my mental state is best early in the day. So, I’m that weird neighbour you see out walking in the dark of the morning in the light of the moon for exercise, then come home for coffee and breakfast, two cats show  up on my desk, pictures of my muses surround me (Flannery O’Connor, Elena Ferrante, Pascal Garnier, Patricia Highsmith), my laptop has ready research available from google and Wikipedia, and I begin to write.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

Great question. After much thought, I’d have to say “care”. I want to care about the important things, things that will help me and others, inspire me to give back to all who’ve helped me and cared for me. It’s easy to say we like something, but do we care about it?

Do we care enough about something to do something about it…put some time in for it? We have so many challenges today, life is not simple anymore, and I think that caring becomes a differentiator, whether it’s a small thing like making a good cup of coffee or a big one like what can I personally do to make someone else’s life better today.

Like write a better story, take someone away from their troubles for a page at a time. Listen, we writers aren’t in this for the money, and I love hearing that a reader cared about my story, that it made them think, or laugh, or grin, or even that it put them to sleep after a long day.

 

How do you approach the editing process?

With sheer dread. I can’t say that writing is easy, but I find it a breeze compared to editing and revising. It’s difficult to tear your own work apart, to read it like a reader and not the author of all those words. As for my process, I make five passes: first to review the draft and mark it up for obvious changes; second to enhance the plot, subplot(s) and scenes… too much detail, not enough, right details; third, enhance the characters and their dialog; fourth, check spelling, grammar, for weak and passive words, check names and dates and places; fifth, polish it, show off, spice it up, add some clues, ramp up the pace. Then I send it out to four to six beta readers and attend to their advice, making changes, rereading, reediting. There are no short-cuts.

 

Do you think character or plot is more important?

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A Moment With… D.B. Carter

A big lovely welcome today to D.B. Carter. His book, The Wild Roses was released by Mirador at the end of 2019.

Three friendships torn apart by one chance meeting. By autumn 1984 Sharon and Pip are in their final years of school and on the verge of adulthood. Best friends for as long as they can remember, the two young women befriend their badly bullied schoolmate, Gavin.

Their futures are bright until a chance meeting leads to a path of corruption, anger and malicious betrayal. Sometimes, when we can’t rely on those we love, our only hope is in the kindness of strangers. All three teens are driven from their homes to follow very different paths. They face dark times of heartbreak and new temptations.

But there may be ways out and better futures, if they are willing to take risks. What will they choose, and will they ever see each other again?

The Wild Roses is a coming-of-age drama for all ages that speaks honestly of love, loss, jealousy, coercion and self-discovery.

 

D.B. Carter has joined me today to chat about writing contemporary drama and romance and the challenges he faces. Over to you.

 

With two published novels, The Cherries and The Wild Roses, I’m starting to accept I may use “author” to refer to myself. I’ve worked in many sectors, including art, computer sciences, and business, but I felt I had come home to the place where I was meant to be when I started writing. My parents were artists and a creative drive runs deep in my psyche, but it took nearly half a century for fulfil my lifelong desire to write the kind of drama-romances that I’ve enjoyed for so long.

I’ve always enjoyed listening to people’s true-life stories. They give so many fascinating details and perspectives on society that the history books will never tell. When I was a lad, I would go with my mum to visit my grandmother, whereupon I’d be presented with a comic (generally the Beano or Dandy) and sent to read in the corner of the room while they chatted about life or reminisced about the past; even then, I realised how many anecdotes they had to relate and how many of life’s pleasures are to be discovered in small details. Since then, I’ve stored away decades of chats and reminiscences and they help me remember the rich assortment of people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.

I hope I’ve carried these observations into my work as a writer. I’d never replicate anyone’s true story, but I draw inspiration from them. It seems to me we tell most about a character from how they react in a situation – the remarks they make or the tears they shed are testaments to their very souls. To me, the people who inhabit my books are real, and I often miss them when I finish writing.

I get so many kind messages from readers of my books, some of which touch me deeply. It’s a wonderful thing when someone says your writing has helped them in some way. I often cover difficult subjects, but I hope I do so in a compassionate and respectful manner, and I believe creating believable and relatable characters helps foster empathy.

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NK Chats To… Patrick Canning

Hi Patrick. Thank you so much for joining me on Novel Kicks today. Can you tell me a little about your novel, The Colonel and The Bee and what inspired the idea.

The Colonel and the Bee is a Victorian Age adventure novel about a young acrobat who meets a larger-than-life explorer and the journey they go on together. The idea for the book was as simple as people flying around in a hot air balloon, getting into adventures, and the characters and themes followed.

 

What’s your writing day like, where do you like to write and do you have any writing rituals?

I try to write every day (though admittedly little on Sundays). I write in coffee shops because there are too many distractions at home. I wouldn’t say I have any real rituals other than a cold brew or iced tea, and I’ll either listen to the ambience of the space or something instrumental in my headphones to really focus in.

 

Can you tell me a little about your writing process from idea to final edit?

I always have a long phase of gathering material for a particular idea, and once that becomes enough for an outline, make a fairly general outline. Whenever the schedule allows, the outline goes into a first draft (which usually takes a few weeks). Then it’s many rounds of rewriting, outside feedback, and whatever else is necessary to get the book out.

 

What music would feature on a playlist for this novel?

Any kind of whimsical classical music. The soundtrack for the movie The Brothers Bloom might work.

 

What is more important when writing a novel, character or plot?

I think it depends on the particular novel. Stories that are more firmly rooted in genre will probably have a more plot-dependent execution because there are certain reader expectations, but if something is a little more literary or unconventional, character might take the lead. The boring but true answer is that both are simultaneously the most important, and in some ways inseparable if done correctly.

 

How do you approach creating a character?

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NK Chats To… S.L Briden

Hello. Thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about From the Ashes, the first novel in your Shadows of a Phoenix series and how the idea originated?

Since a young age, I’ve always been fascinated with the Arthurian legend and, later on in life, the dark ages of the UK. My late husband shared this fascination with me and together we spent many years researching myths and legends across the UK.

From our research, we discovered that the roman era of the UK displayed strong possibilities that their gladiators who used two swords in their arena’s, could have extended this battle technique over to the UK. Thus, we drafted the series, ‘Shadows of a Phoenix.’

I’ve always loved reading and writing stories but over the years I’ve found that some fantasy stories, including historic ones, tell of the battles and feats of the heroes and heroines conquers but didn’t give a realistic feeling of how anyone would cope mentally to be a part of it, even if the characters are made up and can perform sorcery.

To believe you would be brave and just carry on with life as normal was completely absurd to me, the same as if the weight of a prophecy was placed on your shoulders which states that you are the one to bring peace, so that is where the idea came to me that there needed to be a story out there that showed the true effects these things could have upon someone and the mistakes they make along the way.

That a prophecy is nothing to be rejoiced about when you are the one prophesied.

 

What is your typical writing day like? Are you the kind of writer that needs endless amounts of coffee? Do you prefer silence? When and where do you like to write?

I mainly write in the evening at home but most of the time it’s not in silence. I write with my headphones on and listen to music to connect to me with different scenes that I’m writing.

I begin with a playlist that I add different scores to, to fit each scene, character or specific occurrence, be it just a single track or numerous ones for the same scene I am writing.

If whilst writing my draft I believe the track is suited to another scene, or it no longer inspires me, I simply move the track up, down or delete it.

I am always adding more tracks to each scene and deleting others whilst writing the novel which by the end of it gives me a musical outline of the story

 

Which fictional character would you like to meet and why?

Daenerys Targaryen. Putting aside that she’s turned into a mad queen toward the end of the Game of Thrones, she started as a scared young girl and turned into an amazing leader who sought to abolish slavery. Ok, and she can command dragons! lol

 

What’s your favourite word?

Muppet — I can be one myself at times lol

 

What are the challenges of writing a series of books?

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NK Chats To… Paul Nicholls

Hello Paul. It’s lovely to be welcoming you to Novel Kicks today. Can you tell me a bit about your book, The Magical Secret of the Crystal Kingdom and what inspired the story?

It’s a children’s portal fantasy novel along the same lines as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe which was one of my favourite books growing up. It’s about a group of children who find a collection of crystals buried in a cave in the woods.

They take the crystals back to the house that they are staying in and that night they are transported into another world made of crystals and inhabited by magical talking animals. The female protagonist Rose is transformed into a pink horse and is separated from all of the other children who also think that they are alone there and are also transformed into magical animals.

One by one the children start realise that this world is at war and has been for a long time and that it is down to them to save it. It is a story of love and hope and believing in yourself.

 

What were the challenges you faced when writing?

Keeping track of the characters! I always knew from the start that I wanted to create a world into which both the characters and the readers can escape into. By creating another world it was inevitable that the children were going to meet lots of characters along the way.

Also, for the purposes of relating a deeper meaning to certain aspects of the story I knew that I needed to have seven friends who go into the crystal kingdom together.

 

What’s your writing process like from first idea to final draft, where do you like to write and do you have any writing rituals?

I did initially start with an outline or more accurately a headline for each chapter but as I started to write I realised that the characters and the story took on a life of its own and that so much just happened spontaneously that was never in my original plan.

I write at my desk at home and normally just write on a Friday morning to get me going. However once I’ve really got going I tend to write at all different times.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

I think Enchanting is my favourite word it just sounds exciting and amazing and wonderful all at the same time.

 

Which book made the most impact on you as a child?

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NK Chats To… L.M Brown

Hello, L.M Brown, thank you so much for joining me today. What’s your typical writing day like?

It depends on what stage I am at. Before I start a project, whether it’s a novel or a short story, I plan it out. I think of the characters and their main story as well as the backstory.

This could take weeks or months with a novel, especially because I never start a novel now without reading at least 5 or 6 novels that I think might be similar.

With a story it could take an hour or so, and then I start writing. I like to get up before 6 when the house is quiet, and I work all the time I can. The re-write is my favorite part and its much easier to get up at 5 when I am there, because I have something to work with.

 

What’s the challenges of writing a collection of short stories? 

For a collection, there needs to be a common thread linking all the stories together, so not every story might fit the collection.

For Were We Awake, the publisher didn’t think one story fit. It was a story about alcoholism and family dynamics, but Marc believed it was too normal and boring for a collection with ghosts, clowns, exotic birds and murders. So, I wrote a different story, and he was right. The collection was better for it.

 

What’s your favorite word and why?

I laughed when I read this, such a hard question. I like the word ‘pernicious’, though I can’t say I have a favorite word.

 

How do you approach the planning process when writing a book made up of short stories? What advice do you have for someone who would like to put together a short story collection? 

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NK Chats To: Sasha Wagstaff

Hi Sasha, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me a little about Christmas in Chamonix and what inspired the novel?

Hi there! Thank you for putting these fabulous questions together for me. So, first things first – I absolutely loved writing Christmas in Chamonix. I have recently fallen in love with skiing (although I have really struggled with it – Lily’s fear of heights echoes my own!) and I have always adored Christmas. My parents have always been huge fans of Christmas and made it such a special time of year for myself and my brother, with lots of traditions and magical moments – which I now carry out with my own children.

So Chamonix was mostly inspired by my absolute love of Christmas. But it was also the opportunity to take readers into a beautifully Christmassy environment – with falling snow, gorgeous, festive decorations and the delicious food and drink involved. Add skiing into that – and I was in writing heaven! Skiing is such an exhilarating sport…it’s amazing if you master even a small part of it, let alone manage to ski down a steep mountain and not fall over!

 

How do you approach the planning of a novel and how has it evolved since your debut novel?

I approach the planning of a novel with military precision – and always have done. With lots of creativity thrown in, of course, but for me, it’s about being organised and disciplined. So I begin with the idea. I expand it with lots of notes (I use a different, A4 sized notebook with a lovely cover for each new novel) and begin writing character notes to flesh out my main players. I then write a synopsis which will be two pages or fifteen, depending on how much of the story flows out at that stage, but the main point is to get down the beginning, the middle and the end. After that, I write a full version of this, which is where I will structure scenes and make sure each section moves smoothly on to the next one. With some cliff hangers thrown in here and there. I find this process easier and more fun than I used to in the early days and it also makes writing the novel itself fairly straight forward as I have a strong structure as a guideline and I’m essentially then delving into the thoughts and feelings and emotions of my characters.

 

Do you think character or plot is more important?

Well, that’s a seriously good question! Ok. So even with a killer idea, if you don’t have the right personalities in place to play the story out, it’s going nowhere and it’s just a concept with no heart and soul. Equally, if you have fantastic lead players and strong secondary characters but no real idea of what the story is about or where it’s going, the reader won’t feel invested as there isn’t anything for them to connect with and relate to. For me, they are equally important. You need a killer idea and you need relatable characters your readers can fall in love with and care about.

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

My favourite word….I’m loving these questions! I love the word ‘serendipitous’. Which means ‘occurring or discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial way’. I just think it’s a really positive word and one which puts me in a strong headspace of believing that everything happens for a reason and that there is something to be grateful for everywhere you look.

 

Can you tell me about your typical writing day, where you like to write, do you need endless amounts of coffee and silence or do you prefer noise?

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NK Chats To… Emma Jackson

Hi Emma, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you tell me about your new novel, A Mistletoe Miracle?

Beth, my heroine, has returned to her childhood home – the Hotel Everdene – after a bad breakup. Her confidence is badly shaken & she’s struggling to know what to do next in life. When her mother is stranded in a blizzard, Beth is left in charge of the fully booked hotel, feeling completely out of her depth. But one thing Beth isn’t, is a quitter and, with a bit of help from Nick, a gorgeous guest, she does her best to make sure Christmas doesn’t end in catastrophe!

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you need coffee? Silence? Where do you like to work?

It varies through the week. On a Monday & Tuesday, when my 3yo is in nursery, I usually get back from the school & nursery run by 9.30. Then I run around tidying up the mess from breakfast, make a start in some housework & settle down to write at my desk at around 10.30-11.00. I have a fantastic pull down desk in my bedroom which my partner put in as a surprise for me when I was away at the RNA conference in July & I love it so much. I always have music playing, the house is so quiet without the kids in it, and I probably spend too much time creating special playlists for each project. The rest of the week when I have my 3yo home, writing takes place in the evenings on the sofa with my headphones on!

 

Emma’s writing space

What’s your route to publication been like?

It feels like it has been very long. I started writing my first novel over a decade ago & I did query it but in hindsight I had no clue what I was doing! Writing became sporadic over the last eight years as we started a family & I became a stay-at-home mum. Some people might think that gives you lots of time to write but I find it so hard to concentrate on writing with my kids around me.

Then I joined the RNA at the beginning of 2019 & really got serious about finishing my manuscript, sending it for the NWS critique & submitting it. Orion announced their new digital first imprint called Dash at the RNA Conference & I sent it along. Overall, I probably submitted A Mistletoe Miracle to twenty agents & publishers, and entered half a dozen competitions. So, lots of no’s but you only need one yes!

 

What would be on a playlist for this novel?

As I mentioned earlier I have an extensive playlist for this novel on Spotify (which I’m going to make available very soon). Also, Beth is a music tutor so music is very important to her & lots of songs feature in the story. Three Little Birds by Bob Marley, Come Away with Me by Norah Jones & Words Are Dead by Agnes Obel all play a significant part in her journey.

 

What’s your favourite word?

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A Moment With…. Lynne Shelby

We have entered the last week of National Novel Writing Month. As you get to the end and are contemplating the edits, author Lynne Shelby has some advice about that all important first sentence.

There are no hard and fast rules for writing that all-important first sentence of a novel, but I like to think of it as an invitation to a reader that will make them want to read on, a hint of what is too come without revealing too much.

An effective first sentence establishes an important aspect of the book. You could begin with a short statement of a fact that plunges the reader headlong into the story, or a line of dialogue that establishes the character of story’s narrator.

I think it’s best to avoid long, waffling description as this tends to put readers off, but a short, effective first sentence can set the style and mood of a novel, if it is comical, serious or even shocking!

What a writer is doing with a first sentence is showing the reader that something interesting is going on, encouraging them to take their first step into the world of the book.

Good luck to everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo.

 

About Lynne: 

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Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.

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