Claudia is the author of A Very Accidental Love Story, Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow and Personally, I Blame My Fairy Godmother. Her latest book, Me and You has just been released. Claudia stopped by Novel Kicks for a chat, as part of her blog tour. We talked about her typical writing day, who’d she have over for dinner and what makes her laugh.
Can you tell us about your new book, Me & You.
I’d be delighted to! ME AND YOU, centres around a heroine called Angie, who’s arranged to meet up with her best friend Kitty at a swanky health spa…only Kitty stands her up. No answer to her mobile or house phone, absolutely nothing. Which is so not like her. So Angie of course, does what any concerned pal would do, spirals off into a complete tailspin of panic. Calls just about every mutual friend they have, who all say, ‘but we thought Kitty was with you!’ Turns out though that no one has seen her in days, so Angie calls Kitty’s boyfriend Simon and between them they start searching, but yet again nothing. Just dead ends everywhere they turn. Course, pretty soon their initial concern morphs into full-blown panic. So in desperation, Angie and Simon go to the police and pretty soon, a nationwide search follows. But bubbling under it all is a whole other development; Simon and Angie’s
ever-growing closeness. They say two people who suffer a mutual bereavement will bond so strongly you can’t imagine, and coping with the trauma of a much-loved missing person is every bit as painful. Yet the closer they grow, the more Kitty is like a constant shadow lying between them. Almost like a latter-day Rebecca. Next part of the story is the same day retold all over again, except this time entirely from Kitty’s point of view. And we learn the whole reason why she disappeared when she had to and most importantly of all, the real reason why she can never divulge the truth to her former boyfriend and best friend. Two people she still misses so much it hurts. By now, Kitty is living and working in Capetown, with a whole new name, identity, life. But the pull of home, even after all these years is still overwhelming. So when dramatic events suddenly propel Kitty back to her old life and when she finally has to face up to her past and loved ones she’d no choice but to walk away from…then what next? And no, I’m not telling you any more!
What’s your typical writing day like?
Every author is different, but I try to try to keep the writing day as close to a nine to five job as possible. Easier said than done though…trouble is, when I’m writing from home, there can just be so many other distractions. Even as I’m typing this, I’m looking at a big mound of ironing, just winking at me to be done. I constantly have to remind myself that when I’m writing I’m working, just as if I was based in an office or business setting, so I try my best not to take calls, answer emails from pals or surf the net. Believe me though, this took a long, long time to get used to! Soon enough though, my family and friends slowly copped on not to call during the day. So I suppose here’s a little tip to would be authors who may be reading this; just ignore the door, put the phone on silent, don’t go online and you’ll be amazed at how much you’ll get done. Really. My mother is by a mile the worst ‘time bandit’ offender, but then she thinks I spend all day every day daydreaming out the window and that books appear on shelves by magic! Having said all that though, being a full-time author really is the single best job in the world. I’m incredibly lucky and still pinching myself that I can do it full-time now. Imagine a job where you can haul yourself out of bed and bed ‘in work’ five minutes later? What’s not to love?
Do you plan and when do you edit?
Yes, I do plan and I think every author does, really. I always think that starting off a novel without a plan is like getting into a car without knowing where you’re going…you’ll just end up driving round in circles. For starters, I do a skeleton outline of any new story before I’d even sit down to write a line. It makes life so much easier later on, on the days when I find I’m a bit stuck. It takes me quite a long time to get to really know my characters, so I’d begin by writing out a rough biography for everyone of them, to try to make them as three dimensional as possible, it helps me hugely. A reader will quickly lose interest if they just don’t like the hero or heroine. You really have to try to layer them carefully so that they really jump off the page! Remember at the start of a new book, you’re asking a reader to go on a 400 page journey with your characters, and particularly your leading lady, so it’s vital to get character right early on. Woody Allen once said, ‘there’s nothing to writing, all you have to do is sit down at a computer and open a vein.’ And believe me we all have plenty of days where I know just what he meant! But equally you get great days, where the words are just flying and where without even noticing it, it’s five hours after you first sat down and you completely forgot to even eat. Writing is without doubt, the single best job in the whole entire world and I’m so lucky and privileged to be doing it. Even on the days when nothing’s coming and I’m half ready to fling my computer up against a wall, I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Which one of your characters is your favourite?
Unfair!! That’s like asking a mother which one of her children is her favourite. But I have to say I did love writing Kitty in ME AND YOU. She’s wild, abandoned, and spontaneous, one of those characters who just live for the present and don’t care about what tomorrow will bring. She has the irresistibly bright aura about her though and it one of those naturally charismatic people that everyone adores. The sort of woman that you look at and say, ‘wish I could be a bit more like her.’ Life would be a lot more interesting if there were more Kitty’s roaming the Earth, I can tell you.
Which character from fiction would you like to meet?
I’m a massive Jane Austen fan (and so thrilled she’s going to be on the new ten quid note!) so I’d have to go with Mr. Darcy. With Bridget Jones running a close second. We could have a nice few gin and tonics and a good laugh. And can I give special mention to Jay Gatsby? Think of all the parties…
What three things would you take to a desert island?
Definitely sunblock. And Eight Hour cream, you know the Elizabeth Arden one-stop-shop of all creams. And a well-stocked Kindle! (cheating a bit, I know. Sorry.)
What makes you laugh?
So so much. I’m a natural giggler and laugh all the time. But to sum it up, Peter Kay makes me guffaw as does Mrs. Brown’s Boys. And of course being Irish I have to say Fr. Ted. I grew up in a house where with brothers who could quote Monty Python ad infinitum.
Who are your ideal dinner guests?
Dead or living? If I’m allowed invite people who’s passed away too, then Oscar Wilde and Peter Ustinov please. Think of the stories they’d tell! Oh and Princess Diana too, so I could make sure she ate up her carbs and stopped being so skinny.
What’s been your best writing moment so far?
Every single day, if that’s not too cheesy. Seriously though, every day I sit down at my computer to tell stories and think, ‘I get paid to do this!’ When I was a child, I used to get into trouble for telling so many stories (all lies mostly, made up in my head,) and now it’s how I earn my living.
Five tips for writers?
First tip, Persevere, persevere, persevere! And write every single day, as every day that you do is a day that your work is improving, trust me.
Second tip? Be brave too; remember it’s highly unlikely that a publisher is going to knock on your front door and ask if you’ve any manuscripts lying around they could publish. Nothing will happen unless you take the first step and get your work out there.
Third tip, an agent is your best friend though, and I’d advice anyone starting out to secure and agent first and the rest will follow.
Fourth tip, I know it’s tough working a full time job and writing on the side, but it can be done. So many authors (myself included,) stared out doing completely different jobs and wrote in their spare time. If you have a story to tell, no matter how busy your life is, you’ll find the time. Even if it means the dreaded early morning alarm going off every morning, you’ll find a way. so many would be authors say to me, ‘I’d love to do it…if I had more time.’ And I always say, you’ll never have more time, this is it. This is all we get. It’s up to us to make the time. Somehow.
My last and final tip is to enjoy. Love every precious minute you get to spend with your characters, because if you do, then your reader will too.
Huge thanks to all at Novel Kicks for asking me to take part in this…you do such amazing work and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. Hope you all enjoy ME AND YOU!
For more information on Claudia and her books, visit her website.
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