I am thrilled to host Jaq Hazell on my blog today. Her novel, I came to Find a Girl, is a disturbing and gripping psychologically-minded story which I can highly recommend. Jaq writes crime fiction and contemporary short stories, as well as children’s fiction and YA. She has been shortlisted for the Jane Austen Short Story Award and the Virginia Prize for Fiction, and she has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London. Born near Portsmouth, on the south coast of England, her first full-time job was at Buckingham Palace. She has also worked as a humorous greetings cards designer and a journalist. She lives in London.
What are you currently working on?
I’m at the thinking stage of a new project. I know what it’s about and that it’s a romantic thriller set in London and Mumbai, but I’m yet to work out where it starts.
What has inspired your most recent novel?
I Came to Find a Girl is a psychological thriller that was inspired by a desire to look at the dark side of what it’s like to be a young, single woman in an urban environment – the other side of Sex & the City/Bridget Jones’s Diary, if you like – and the reality that there is a downside to sexual freedom and that we have to look out for ourselves.
How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
There is always an element of real life in everything I write. Sometimes it will be a small observation, something I’ve noticed while out walking or something I’ve overheard, while at other times it may be more fundamental. Three out of twenty-one stories in my collection London Tsunami are autobiographical. As far as I Came to Find a Girl is concerned, I have used the rundown house I lived in whilst I was a student in Nottingham, my experience of club culture and combined that with a ‘what if scenario’ that had fictionalised everything.
Five Tips on Plotting
- Remember that your protagonist must want something.
- Treat your first-draft as if you are laying out all the crucial elements necessary to build your story. At this point, do not expect them to be in the right dramatic order.
- There’s a good chance that your beginning will not claim its rightful place until you have completed your first-draft.
- If you are stuck and you don’t know what happens next, take time out to think. Perhaps you haven’t made enough decisions about your characters and their circumstances. The answer is always within you, the writer.
- Expect to undertake numerous rewrites. Leave the script alone for as long as you can so that when you read it afresh it is as if someone else wrote it. At this stage any holes in the plot should become apparent. Don’t worry, you can make it work.
How would you describe your writing process?
Routine is key, and during the crucial first-draft stage I work six days out of seven as a two-day weekend break is too long – you lose the momentum and it takes too long to regain the flow. I walk my dog, write (with a brief break for lunch) until my kids return, and then I take the dog out again. It sounds dull, but a quiet life is good for writing and productivity.
What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
When it comes to writing, the best thing you can do is sit at your desk (or wherever) on a regular basis and write for a few hours a day. Life gets in the way for everyone: ignore your other half, the kids, the housework, social media (for a few hours a day anyway), and the words will come.
What kind of research do you do and how do you go about it?
I research as I go along but not in an in-depth way. I find it’s best to get the story down and check the facts later. Too much research is a dangerous thing as there is a temptation to put in more information than necessary and that can slow the narrative. Research for me is mainly via the internet and I also like to visit all the locations I write about.
Why did you choose indie publishing? Top tips and pros and cons.
I Came to Find a Girl has been independently published. Murder sells, and there are murders in this novel, but the crime that is at its core is date rape. It is not described and there is no graphic or gratuitous detail, but this is a subject that publishers are wary of, while I think it is important to address difficult issues in fiction.
Five Tips for Indie Authors
- Make sure that your final edit is the best it can be. You will be judged against traditionally published books with no allowances made.
- Hire an editor. You cannot edit yourself, you will miss errors however careful you are.
- Get a professional book cover designed. Again, you are competing with all publishers.
- Plan your promotional strategy. Contact book bloggers at least three months in advance so that they can include your novel in their busy schedules.
- Don’t tell anyone you are self-published.
Pros and cons to indie publishing
Indie publishing is a challenge and it’s exciting. You have full control over your work and how it is presented. However, you have to do everything yourself, there are costs involved, and it’s time consuming, leaving you with less time to write new novels.
The question you wished I’d asked you?
Do you think Amazon should give equal opportunities to indie authors, allowing them to choose numerous categories for their novels as traditional publishers are able to do?
How can readers find out more about your and your work?
I Came to Find a Girl on Amazon: https://goo.gl/1YZIy4
London Tsunami & Other Stories on Amazon: https://goo.gl/7L04eI
JaqHazell on Facebook & @jaqhazell on Twitter