Category Archives: Author Interviews

Author Interview: Maggie James

This week I am delighted to invite fellow writer, Maggie James to my blog. Living in Bristol, she writes psychological suspense novels. Her first book, His Kidnapper’s Shoes, was completed in 2011 and self-published in 2013. It has now been republished under a contract with Lake Union. Maggie’s next three books, Sister, Psychopath, Guilty Innocence and The Second Captive followed, along with a free novella, Blackwater Lake. She has also written a non-fiction book aimed at would-be authors, called Write Your Novel! From Getting Started to First Draft. She recently signed a two-book deal with Bloodhound Books for Guilty Innocence and The Second Captive. They will be republished later in 2017. 

Her latest novel is After She’s Gone, published by Lake Union on March 16, 2017 (http://smarturl.it/aftershesgone).

Before turning her hand to writing, Maggie worked mainly as an accountant, with a diversion into practising as a nutritional therapist. Diet and health remain high on her list of interests, along with travel. Accountancy does not, but then it never did. The urge to pack a bag and go off travelling is always lurking in the background. When not writing, going to the gym, practising yoga or travelling, Maggie can be found seeking new four-legged friends to pet; animals are a lifelong love.

What are you currently working on?
I have two writing projects on the go at present. One is plotting my sixth novel, title as yet unknown, which will examine the theme of betrayal. I got the idea from a TV documentary centred on con artists and the suffering they wreak on their victims. The concept is still in the early stages, but I’m keen to start writing. The other book I’m working on is a revised version of my second novel, Sister Psychopath.

What has inspired your most recent novel/writing?
My latest novel is After She’s Gone, released on March 16, 2017. I’d been drawn to the theme of arson for a while, as well as examining how a family copes with murder. Somehow the two ideas became interwoven and ended up as After She’s Gone. In the book, the dead body of a teenage girl is found in a burning building, and as her grief-stricken relatives struggle with the fallout, the fires move ever closer to their home. Who is setting them, and why are they targeting the Goldens?

How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
Very much so in some cases, as I’ve found out. After I finished the first draft of His Kidnapper’s Shoes, a case came to light in America of a young child who was snatched as a baby and brought up by her abductor. A similar situation, also in the USA, emerged recently. My book wasn’t inspired by such events – I got the idea after a casual conversation – but the similarity was spooky. Sister, Psychopath was also inspired by a real-life murder. As for Blackwater Lake, I suspect that somewhere buried deep in someone’s compulsive hoarding may indeed be the solution to a crime, as happens in my novella.

Many novels have intertwined fiction with real life, of course. Take Robert Bloch’s novel, Psycho, based on the killer Ed Gein. Or Lionel Shiver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin, inspired by the 1999 Colombine shootings. Real life can provide fertile materials for novelists, and that won’t stop anytime soon.

Could you give five tips on how to tackle either characterisation or plotting or dialogue or descriptive passages?
I think I’ll go with dialogue on this one. Here are my five tips:

  1. This one gets mentioned a lot by authors and editors, but it’s important: don’t overuse speech tags. For the most part it should be clear who’s speaking, so you don’t need to add ‘he said/she said’ to every sentence. It’s unnecessary and clogs the flow of the discourse. Less is more.
  2. For dialogue that does require a speech tag, keep it simple. ‘Said’ is often the most effective one. You don’t need verbs like ‘averred’, ‘theorised’, ‘opined’, etc. The brain tends to skip over short, familiar words like ‘said’, whereas ‘expostulated’ will cause it to do a double take. You don’t want to write something that will jar the reader’s attention away from your story.
  3. Make it sound natural, but without all the ‘ums’, ‘ers’, ‘likes’ and ‘you-knows’ that clog most people’s speech. Contractions such as don’t, shouldn’t, won’t are good, though, because we all use them.
  4. Dialect is a difficult one to get right. Don’t attempt to convey regional speech by changing the spelling of words, as it irritates many readers. It’s best to use speech patterns and colloquialisms instead.
  5. Read your dialogue aloud. What better way to discover if your written conversations sound authentic? Or try text to speech software.

 How would you describe your writing process?
I’m a planner by nature; I couldn’t write a novel without a road map to get my story to where it needs to go. I use the Snowflake method of plotting, whereby I take an idea, and expand it until it’s a fully-fledged outline, complete with character notes, timeline, etc.  For writing software, I use Scrivener, and I love it; it’s excellent and worth every penny of the paltry purchase price. It’s customisable, flexible, and enables me to keep everything I need – research, notes, etc. – all in one place. Then it compiles my document into a formatted e-book in a couple of clicks. Magic!

After I’ve done the basic plotting, it takes me about two months to write the first draft. The next part, editing and revising, takes me much longer. I can spend forever tweaking my narrative, so when I can’t stand the sight of it any longer, I know it’s time to release it to the world.

What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
As I’ve mentioned, I couldn’t write without a structured outline. I could just about make do without Scrivener – after all, my first novel was written using Microsoft Word – but I wouldn’t want to. I need silence to write as well, although white noise such as traffic is fine. Definitely no music, though. As for what gets in the way, sometimes my motivation isn’t as high as I’d like, and I procrastinate. If I’ve had a great writing session one day, completing lots of words, I often need to take it easy the day after. It’s all about balance, I guess.

What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
It depends on what the novel requires. I’m not keen on doing lots of research, as I’d rather be writing, but at the same time I don’t want inaccuracies in my books. For police procedural matters, I use Michael O’Byrne’s The Crime Writer’s Guide to Police Practice and Procedure, along with picking the brains of a couple of friends who are retired police officers.

Google is my friend when it comes to research. Like many novelists, I often joke that the police would have a field day should they ever inspect my browsing history. I’ve used Google to check out topics such as identity theft, computer hacking, body decomposition rates, etc.

I also often visit the locations involved in my books. They’re all based in my home city of Bristol, so I can easily check whatever I need. For example, The Second Captive involved a very pleasant afternoon wandering round Siston, taking notes and photographs.

If you are indie published, why did you choose this route? What are your five tips for would-be indie authors? What are the pros & cons to indie publishing?
I’m a hybrid author, meaning that some of my books are with publishing houses and others are self-published. I’d recommend anyone to try self-publishing, even if they hanker after a traditional contract. More and more publishers are keeping an eye on who’s doing well in the self-published world and signing them up. It’s happened to me, as well as to other author friends.

My five tips for indie authors? Here they are:

  1. Don’t skimp on editing. Hire the best you can afford, and listen carefully to his/her suggestions. My editor, Gillian Holmes, has been invaluable in helping me polish my books. Please don’t be like some authors who think correct spelling, punctuation and grammar don’t matter. Self-publishing equates to low standards in the minds of many readers, and it’s a perception with some basis in truth, given a few of the books I’ve read.
  2. Get the best cover you can afford. I often see real howlers on Amazon that look as though I’ve created them; they’re that bad! (There are websites devoted to poking fun at these gems, but I digress.) People do judge books by their covers, and a sloppy one with amateurish fonts might well sink your novel.
  3. Build your author platform as you write your book, so that it’s ready for when you launch. I didn’t, and regretted it later. Set up a website and start cultivating readers, book bloggers and other writers on social media as soon as possible.
  4. Develop a thick skin if you intend to read your reviews. Many authors choose not to; the Internet can be a brutal place and some readers can be unnecessarily vicious.
  5. Learn as much as you can about book marketing. Check out successful authors on social media and find out how they operate. A good start is Joanna Penn’s blog The Creative Penn. It’s packed with advice for indie authors, and Joanna’s written several useful books about marketing.

Pros of self-publishing? In my view this option holds most of the cards. You can set the pace for your writing career, writing as little or as much as you want, and pocketing 70% royalties from Amazon. You’ll need to work hard on your marketing, and put in a lot of hours, but big rewards are possible. A con of self-publishing can be the lack of support and the feeling that you’re going it alone, although that can be mitigated by forming strong support networks with other writers.

If you are traditionally published, could you say something of your journey and your experience?
Until last year, I was entirely self-published, and happy to be so. Having been offered a traditional contract a while back, and rejecting it, I was clear I wanted to remain self-published. My reasons? Higher royalties along with total control over every step of the publication process. That was until I got a phone call one afternoon.

I found myself talking with an acquisitions editor from Lake Union, one of Amazon’s publishing imprints. She enthused over His Kidnapper’s Shoes, and we chatted, with her saying she’d like to explore ways to work with me. More phone calls and emails followed, the end result being the offer of a publishing contract for His Kidnapper’s Shoes and my latest novel, After She’s Gone. Lake Union, being a digital publisher, can offer a far more attractive deal than the traditional publishing firms, and after a lot of thought I accepted, thus becoming a hybrid author.

Since then, I’ve signed a two-book deal with Bloodhound Books, who will re-release my novels Guilty Innocence and The Second Captive later this year. At this stage I’m unsure what will happen with future books, but I suspect I may retain my hybrid status. It seems to offer the best of both worlds.

The question you wished I’d asked you.
I think I’ll go with, ‘Have you always wanted to be a novelist?’ I chose that question thanks to my delight at being able to write fulltime, as it’s the culmination of a lifelong ambition. As a child, I devoured books (nothing has changed!) and never doubted I’d become a novelist when I grew up. Instead, when I reached adulthood, I went into accountancy, where I stayed for the next twenty-eight years. The urge to write never left me, even though I did nothing about it. In my forties, I started penning some short pieces, which were well received online, but I found the idea of a novel daunting. Then I ran into issues at work, which I used as a wake-up call. I booked flights to Asia, Australia and South America and travelled for a year, with the aim of writing the first draft of a novel while away. And that’s what happened, with me finishing His Kidnapper’s Shoes while enjoying the splendours of Bolivia.

How can readers find you and learn more about your writing?
My website and blog can be found at http://www.maggiejamesfiction.com. You can find links to all my books, including my non-fiction offering, Write Your Novel! From Getting Started to First Draft. You can also download my free novella, Blackwater Lake. I blog weekly on all matters book-related, including reviews, discussion topics and author interviews. You can also sign up for my newsletter and receive free books.

Here are my social media links:
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/MJamesFiction/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mjamesfiction

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/maggie-james/64/381/727

Google+ : https://plus.google.com/101511690389687930651

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/828751.Maggie_James

Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/maggiejamesfict/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Maggie-James/e/B00BS9LVMI

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/maggie-james

 

 

Author Interview: Clare O’Dea

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Clare O’Dea

I am thrilled to welcome this week to my blog Clare O’Dea.

She is an Irish author, journalist and translator living and working in Switzerland. Her first book, The Naked Swiss: A Nation Behind 10 Myths (Bergli Books, 2016), is a non-fiction examination of the most prevalent clichés about her adopted country.

Originally from Dublin, Clare has lived in Switzerland for the past thirteen years, ten of which she spent working for the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. Clare also writes fiction, long and short. She has translated non-fiction books from French and German into English, most recently the biography of a Swiss banker.

What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a children’s novel for the upper middle grade age group (10-12). It is an adventure story featuring a brother and sister who are on the run in a country controlled by a sinister, all-powerful company. I started writing this book three years ago, but had to set it aside several times when other more pressing writing projects took precedence. I have been sharing chapters from the book with my writing critique group here in Switzerland since last summer, and getting very helpful feedback. Next, I’d like to hear from the target audience, so I am preparing to send the manuscript to several children in the right age group along with a questionnaire.  After that I will be ready to submit to agents.

Could you give five tips on how to tackle plotting?
These tips are not meant to be binding. They are just things that worked for me.

Don’t start writing until you are convinced you have an idea that is big and strong enough to carry you and the story to the finish line. The main idea, or concept, should be something that is both unique and universal, something that captures the imagination and emotions.

The plot should also be describable. If you cannot describe the story neatly, there may be something at fault. Time spent distilling the story in advance will pay off.

Subplots are good and necessary but there’s no need to go overboard. If the reader loses sight of the main storyline, it’s time for some trimming.

Always ask yourself why you are including a particular scene. It can’t just be because you like it. What does it contribute to building character or advancing the story?

After your first draft, write down a simple scene-by-scene breakdown of the novel, if you haven’t done so already. You can break it down into columns that are relevant for your story, for example character(s), action, setting. This is a useful exercise to get an overview, and to identify possible lulls or repetition.

How would you describe your writing process?
With novel writing, once I start something, I usually plunge straight into a flow phase. Because of work and family commitments, I have to squeeze writing into small pockets of time, and may have interruptions and delays. After mulling over the story in advance, I sketch out a simple one-page outline of the plot. I write in chronological order starting at the beginning. From then on, the story has a momentum of its own. In the gaps between writing, the ideas build up so that when I sit down, scenes unfold and characters appear almost of their own accord. I usually write one chapter per sitting. The second, third and subsequent drafts take longer to complete. On my first novel (unpublished), I had to discard an awful lot of material in the rewriting phase. The second novel (children’s) has been a much more economical writing experience.

If you are traditionally published, could you say something of your journey and your experience?
The submission and publication process for my first published book, The Naked Swiss, wasnakedswiss_cover surprisingly pain-free. I left my job covering news for the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation in 2015 because I felt I had come as far as I could as a part-time working mother. When I went freelance, one of the things on my to-do list was to submit a non-fiction proposal to a publishing company in Basel that specialised in English-language books about Switzerland. I had ten years of reporting to draw on, as well my personal experience of living in the country. The editor answered within days and asked to meet me to discuss the project. It took a few months of back and forth to rework the concept and write more sample chapters before he was ready to offer me a contract. I wrote the book in six months (part-time) up to May 2016 and it was published in October 2016.

Fiction took a back seat during this time but I have an event coming up this month in Geneva that could be promising – a meet-the-agent/publisher weekend organised by the Geneva Writers’ Group. I will have a one-to-one session with a publisher, and get professional feedback on my first novel.  As you can gather, I still have my sights set on the traditional publishing route, although I don’t rule out self-publishing in the future.

Do you find it difficult to switch between writing fiction and non-fiction?
I find it manageable because I am so used to it at this stage. With my job as a journalist, it has never been a case of one or the other. After many years of false-starts, I finally began writing fiction in earnest five years ago, and it has made my life more interesting, as well as helping me cope with the isolation of being an immigrant. With writing, I am never alone and never bored. I have made wonderful like-minded friends, and the joy that I experience creating my own worlds, in short and long-form fiction, has become an essential part of my life.

How can readers find you and learn more about your writing?
The about page on my writing blog is a good place to start. For a sample of my writing, check out my short story, The Favour, which was shortlisted in the Hennessy New Irish Writing competition last year.

I have an author page on Facebook, concentrating on The Naked Swiss for the moment, and you can follow me on Twitter @clareodeaz or connect on Goodreads.

Author Interview: Ann Cleeves

Ann Cleeves, writer, on August 19, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. For more information about using this image contact Micha Theiner: T: +44 (0) 7525 627 491 E: micha@michatheiner.com http:///www.michatheiner.com

Ann Cleeves, writer, on August 19, 2015 in London, United Kingdom.
For more information about using this image contact Micha Theiner:
T: +44 (0) 7525 627 491
E: micha@michatheiner.com
http:///www.michatheiner.com

I am enormously excited to welcome the renown crime writer, Ann Cleeves, to my blog. More so, because I will also soon have the opportunity to hear her speak in my home town Scarborough, North Yorkshire. She is coming here on the 10th February 2017. For more details: http://www.booksbythebeach.co.uk/2017festival/cleeves/ or ring 01723 370 541 for tickets.

Ann Cleeves is an award-winning crime writer, best known for the VERA and SHETLAND series, both of which have been adapted for television.  She has been published for thirty years and Cold Earth is her most recent novel (https://goo.gl/b8eYW1).  She has been translated into nearly 30 languages and has sold 2.5 million books in the UK alone. 

What are you currently working on?
I’m working on the edits of the new Vera book, The Seagull, which will be published next September.  At the same time, I’m thinking about starting a new book set in Shetland.

What has inspired your most recent novel/writing?
The Seagull is set in Whitley Bay, on the coast close to Newcastle.  It was triggered by a conversation with a former shipyard worker in a pub close to my home.  He was talking about working the shipyard night shift and some of the things that went on there.  Those activities don’t make their way into the book, but the conversation helped me to develop one of the characters.

 How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
A lot of my fiction is inspired by overheard conversations.  I can’t imagine how I’d come up with cold-earthideas if I didn’t use public transport.  But then imagination takes over and the work is completely fictitious.

Could you give five tips on how to tackle either characterisation or plotting or dialogue or descriptive passages?
This is very difficult, because I never analyse my work but I’ll give it a go.

  • Creating a character is a bit like acting.  You have to get inside the person’s skin and see the world through their eyes.
  • It’s the small detail that brings a character or a scene to life – a pair of shoes, a loved object.  See the person in your head before you start writing, then be very specific.
  • Don’t forget to use all the senses in description. Smell is particularly powerful in evoking memory.
  • Plot in a way that suits you.  Not every writer works in the same way.
  • Read lots.  That’s how you’ll know what works as a good narrative for you.

 How would you describe your writing process?
Organic!  I never plot in advance.  I write like a reader – when I begin a book I have no idea about the story or any of the characters.  I have to continue writing to find out what’s going to happen. 

What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
I write best in the early morning.  Long train journeys help the ideas flow and so do long walks.  Social media gets in the way.  I love twitter – it’s like a strange overheard conversation – but it is very distracting.

 What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
I have good friends who are very useful – Prof James Grieves is a forensic pathologist who appears as himself in the Shetland books, Prof Lorna Dawson is a forensic soil scientist who has been the expert witness in many high-profile cases, and Helen Pepper is a former senior Crime Scene Manager.  They’re very helpful!

the-moth-catcher-pb-jacketCould you say something about your route to publishing?
I was very lucky and my first book was an unsolicited manuscript picked from the slush pile.  Then it took twenty years of being published before I had any commercial success.

 How can readers find you and learn more about your writing?
I have a website: www.anncleeves.com and I’m on twitter @anncleeves

 

Author interview: Margarita Morris

margarita-m-in-green-400Today I am thrilled to welcome Margarita Morris to my blog, not least because she sets novels in my home town, Scarborough, and (from her writing) appears to be entranced by the place as much as I am.

Margarita Morris is an indie author. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and two sons. When she’s not writing, she enjoys swimming, yoga and singing with a local chamber choir. To date she has published four novels. Oranges for Christmas is a Cold War historical thriller about a family separated by the Berlin Wall. Set in 1961, it tells the story of Sabine in East Berlin and her brother, Dieter, in West Berlin and Sabine’s attempts to escape the East German secret police. The Sleeping Angel is a Young Adult mystery/thriller set in 1870, 1970 and the present day. Set in and around Highgate Cemetery it intertwines a Victorian mystery, a vampire hunt and a murder. Scarborough Fair and its sequel, Scarborough Ball, are mystery/thrillers set in the seaside town of Scarborough, England. Scarborough Fair combines a Victorian mystery with a modern day crime story. Scarborough Ball continues the modern day story but moves the historical story on a generation to the 1920s, the age of cinema, flappers and wild parties.

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Click to order: Scarborough Ball

What are you currently working on?
This year, 2016, has seen the publication of Scarborough Fair and the completion of Scarborough Ball which is up for pre-order and will be released on 16 December 2016. It’s taken me around 20 months to write and publish both books. I’m not entirely sure what my next project will be. I have a few ideas lined up which is a good position to be in. I intend to take a little time to play around with those ideas and see what takes root.

What has inspired your most recent novel/writing?
I like books that have a strong sense of place, for example Berlin, Highgate Cemetery and Scarborough. Scarborough is the quintessential Victorian, British seaside town and as a family we’ve had many wonderful holidays there. You can stand on the beach in Scarborough and see the medieval castle on the headland, the Victorian hotels and spa buildings, the old 1920’s Art Deco cinema and the modern amusement arcades all at once. It was this sense of layers of history in one place that inspired me to set a dual-time story in Scarborough.

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Click to order: Scarborough Fair

How would you describe your writing process?
I do a lot of rewriting. It takes me a few months to hit 60,000 words, at which point the story is essentially in place. I take quite a few wrong turns along the way and quickly build up an outtakes file. Once the plot is sorted, I then add in more layers and bring the scenes to life which substantially increases the word count. My husband is my first reader and he always provides constructive feedback. After he’s read it, I do a major rewrite and another edit and polish. Then it goes to the proof readers for final checking.

What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
So far all my books have been set in places that I’ve visited. I went to Berlin (including East Berlin) in 1987 before the Berlin Wall came down so I have first-hand experience of Communist East Germany, although fortunately I wasn’t interrogated by the Stasi. I took my family to Berlin in 2013 and we visited the Berlin Wall Memorial site at Bernauer Strasse, the former Stasi headquarters and the former remand prison.

For The Sleeping Angel I booked myself on a tour of Highgate Cemetery and also spent time just wandering around the streets of Highgate and Hampstead Heath, soaking up the atmosphere. As for Scarborough, we’ve had lots of holidays there.

But most of my research comes from reading books. For Oranges for Christmas I did a lot of research into the building of the wall, life in communist countries and the methods people used to try and escape from East Berlin. Whilst writing The Sleeping Angel I learned about spiritualism, Victorian burial practices, the work of Christina Rossetti at Highgate Penitentiary and the events surrounding the so-called Highgate Vampire in 1970. Scarborough Fair saw me exploring the world of Victorian lunatic asylums and for Scarborough Ball I learned about early cinema and popular dance tunes of the period.

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Click to order: Oranges for Christmas

Maps often play an important part in my research. For Oranges for Christmas I invested in a huge fold-out map of Berlin and marked the outline of the wall in highlighter pen. Otherwise Google Maps works just fine.

If you are indie published, why did you choose this route? What are your five tips for would-be indie authors? What are the pros & cons to indie publishing?
I chose indie publishing because I was frustrated with the slow process of submitting to agents and then not hearing from them for ages. I actually wrote The Sleeping Angel before Oranges for Christmas and a couple of agents were interested in it, but it got no further. So I put it in a drawer and moved on to Oranges for Christmas. It was whilst writing Oranges for Christmas that I started to hear about indie publishing and by the time I had finished the novel, I decided I wouldn’t bother submitting it to agents. I’d lost faith in them and was keen to try this new route.

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to indie publishing, but that’s something I enjoy.

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Click to order: The Sleeping Angel

The pros and cons of indie publishing are two sides of the same coin. Yes, you have to do a lot of work yourself, but on the other hand it puts you firmly in control of your own creative process. Here are five key tips:

  • Make the effort to learn about the industry. There are some excellent resources out there. One of the best is The Creative Penn website and podcast by Joanna Penn. Another excellent podcast is The Self Publishing Formula with Mark Dawson and James Blatch. I listen to podcasts whilst I’m doing the ironing or cooking.
  • Make sure your work is edited and proof read. You don’t want to look like an amateur.
  • Get a professional cover. I tried designing my own first covers for Oranges for Christmas and The Sleeping Angel. They weren’t terrible (I hope) but they certainly weren’t brilliant. Since then I’ve had all my covers professionally designed and I love them.
  • Connect with other indie authors through your website (WordPress is recommended) and social media.
  • Be prepared to pay for marketing and advertising. You can get a big sales boost if you advertise a sale on a site like Bookbub or EReaderNewsToday. Unfortunately Bookbub is very difficult to get on, but I keep trying.

How can readers find you and learn more about your writing?

My author website is margaritamorris.com. Here you can find out about all my books and read my blog.

I also run the good writer where I blog about grammar tips, self publishing and creative writing.

You can find me on social media:

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Goodreads

Instagram

 

Book links:

Oranges for Christmas

The Sleeping Angel

Scarborough Fair

Scarborough Ball

 

 

Author Interview: Ruth F Hunt

the-single-featherToday I am thrilled to welcome Ruth F Hunt to my blog. She is author of the novel The Single Feather (http://www.tinyurl.com/ziaz82m) which has a protagonist who just happens to have disabilities. It asks searching questions about our attitude to disability. She is columnist with The Morning Star, freelance features writer and creative writing workshop facilitator. She is also a perennial student and is finishing off a degree in Creative Writing from The Open University as well as studying for the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCRJ) Diploma. She is an associate member of The Society of Authors and a member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

What are you currently working on?
My intention was to take a brief sabbatical from novel-writing while I finished off my studies, but suppressing ‘the writing monster’ hasn’t been easy at all, and at times I’ve had to let it come out. It isn’t a sequel to The Single Feather, but it does have a social justice element to it, and features characters that are on the margins of life. With Brexit, Trump, the migrant crisis and so on, I think it has become more important for writers and artists to show we have more in common with each other than not.

 What has inspired your most recent novel/writing?
As someone who has both used and worked in the provision of Local Authority (and NHS) services, I’m very much inspired by social issues. I don’t preach politics, but I do examine what is happening in the world and look for ways stories could deepen our understanding of those who may be left behind or disregarded. The Single Feather was told from the point of view of a young woman with paraplegia, who along with others was facing hardening attitudes towards disability, encouraged by sections of the press. It featured characters with disabilities, and some over the age of 60-65. I’ve been delighted with the reviews that show readers have connected with the storyline and have come away with a deeper understanding of what it is like to be disabled. 

Can you give 5 tips about tackling characterisation?
Well rounded, interesting and believable characters should be the aim for any fiction writer.

1) Don’t just look at your character’s life now, but look at what triggers, events, and personal history made them who they are. If they are abrupt and cold, why is this case? If they are needy, find out why. What motivates them in life? What kind of life have they lived up to now? Do they feel fulfilled, or is something missing?

2) Try to spend plenty of time on your minor characters, so they don’t just seem like cardboard cut-outs.

3) If you are a white, straight, able-bodied male or female writer – think about diversity. I’m not talking tokenism here, but instead reflecting the diverse nature of any population. Be careful not to fall into stereotypes.

4) Once you’ve developed your well rounded character, you should already be ‘hearing’ what they ‘sound’ like, so make sure your dialogue fits the character, in terms of age, class, background, education, where they were born, where they live now, and so on.

5) When describing the physical features of your character leave some aspects for the reader to imagine. You should be giving pointers and clues, which help a reader form an image in their mind. 

How would you describe your writing process?
I can spend months and months getting an idea right in my mind. I then do a lot of notes including character profiles and chapter plans, so that when I’m writing my first draft I have a plan. That’s not to say I don’t change anything. During my next drafts, I chip away, like a sculptor with clay, writing and rewriting, until the story emerges. 

A first draft can take two years, so my poor family get sick to death about hearing about the book, to the extent that when I open my mouth ready to talk about the latest development, I’m interrupted and the subject of the conversation gets changed. I don’t think I could ever write without knowing what is going to happen or how the book is going to end – though this method does sound exhilarating. 

What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
I live in a terraced house next to a family who have four children under the age of 10. Even with my noise cancelling headphones I can sometimes hear children screaming. So, I tend to write early in the morning and late at night, when it is much quieter. 

I suffer with a lot of pain, and find writing at my desk for a prolonged period of time, harder and harder each year. I now use a Freewrite, which I carry around with me. It is lighter and easier to use than a laptop, and ideal for when I can’t sit at my desk. 

Why I chose the Independent Route for The Single Feather and some tips for would-be indie authors
The Single Feather was published by the small independent press, Pilrig Press. I was delighted to accept their offer, especially when I knew of other writers who had published with them and was impressed by the quality of book production and care they took with their authors. They have published the likes of comedian/author, Bill Dare and Scottish writer, Marianne Wheelaghan amongst other talented authors. If you are approaching independent presses there are a few things you need to look out for. 

1) The first thing I would do is to type the name of the publisher in the Amazon search engine, and look at what and who they are publishing. Do you recognize any names? How many reviews are the authors getting?

2) You want a publisher who will be able to devote time and energy to your book, so beware of publishers who have three or more books out each month. Yes, it shows they are popular, but does that mean your book won’t get the attention it deserves?

3) If you are paying money to have your book published, then please do your research. Some vanity publishers, who operate under a multitude of names, and disguise themselves as independent, hybrid and traditional book publishers can charge excessive amounts for a relatively poor service. Look for forum discussions; see what other authors are saying.

4) There are pros to working with indie presses. The time it takes for your book to get to the market is often much shorter than going down the traditional route and you may also find indie publishers who are more willing and able to take on risks. However, make sure they are prepared to spend the time and resources to ensure, for example, that your book is carefully edited and well produced.

5) The down-side is that there is less money to devote to marketing so the onus falls onto the author to generate interest. However, more and more traditional authors have to do the same, as cuts bite and budgets tighten. 

Find out more about Ruth F Hunt:
Her website is http://www.rhunt4.com
The Single Feather book trailer is http://youtu.be/Ysu3QKPDjU0
You can find her on Twitter as @RFHunt1
The s shortened  link to buy The Single Feather on Amazon is. http://www.tinyurl.com/ziaz82m
The link to buy The Single Feather from the publisher is: http://www.pilrigpress.co.uk/books.html#feather

 

Author Interview: Helen Cadbury

helen-cadbury2016Today it is my great pleasure to welcome crime writer, Helen Cadbury to my blog.

Helen Cadbury is a crime fiction author, poet and playwright whose debut novel, To Catch a Rabbit, won the Northern Crime Competition and was subsequently chosen as one of the Yorkshire Post’s top novels, since the millennium, that best reflect Yorkshire. Her second novel is Bones in the Nest. Both books have been optioned for TV by Red Planet Pictures. Before writing fiction Helen was an actor and teacher, including spending five years teaching in prisons.

What are you currently working on?
I’m working on the third book in the Sean Denton series.

What has inspired your most recent novel/writing?
Two unrelated things inspired the current book, one was a visit to the hairdresser and the other a visit to a greyhound track. The fun part of building the plot of this book has been working out how the two worlds intersect.

How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
My books are very much set in the real world. I’ve written about contemporary social issues such as migration and people trafficking (To Catch a Rabbit), the rise of far right groups in South Yorkshire communities and racism in the police (Bones in the Nest) but always in the context of stories about people: families, lovers, work-mates. The difference between fictional crime and real crime is that the latter is messy, sad, and doesn’t always end the way we want it to. The joy of fictional crime is that we can see justice done and we can have a happy ending, if we want it.

Five tips for writers?
Here are my 5 tips on character (because I think plot, dialogue and description all follow, if you can get character right).

  1. Let characters come to you. There will be someone hovering in your imagination; perhaps you see them in a certain place or doing a certain job. Do some free writing in their point of 2catch-a-rabbit-coverview to help you to get to know them at first.
  2. Make some decisions (bearing in mind that you can change your mind a hundred times before the final edit). Name them, give them an age, a profession, a family – or no family, because they all died in a motorway crash – hair colour, eye colour (although you may only ever need to mention those features once, or not at all.) List what they love, what they want, what they fear, what they believe in. List ten things that their colleagues would say about them, or their sister would say about them. This is your information, to keep in mind when writing. It’s the iceberg below the water, of which the reader may only see the tip.
  3. Repeat step 2 for all key characters, even minor ones. Keep this character information somewhere safe but accessible. It will be the bible against which you test whether any character is consistent, while you are creating your story and especially when you are editing and re-drafting.
  4. Minor characters can often be bigger, more described, than the major ones. With major characters we get to know them by what they DO (this is crucial) – so you don’t need loads of description, in fact it slows the reader down. However, if you want the reader to remember the girl in the stilettos and green hair who staggered out of the night club just after the murder, then,… You see what I mean?
  5. Again, what the characters do gives you plot. What they say gives you dialogue. Keep their actions and language true to the person you are creating. If you are a writer, the chances are you already do this, but remember to watch and listen. Notice how people speak, on the bus, on the train, in pubs. Notice how people interact with others.

How would you describe your writing process?
I would describe my writing process as slow! Although I can actually write quite quickly and it’s not unusual to manage 2000 words in a couple of hours, the problem is the rest of my life, and its habit of intervening and interrupting the process. Long gaps are a disaster because it’s hard to pick up the thread, not just of the story, but more crucially the tone and style of the book.

What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
It helps to have plenty of time. Not just the writing time, but thinking time and planning time. I don’t work well if I’m trying to squeeze it into an hour before I rush off to do something else. My perfect day, and I sometimes manage this, would be to start work after breakfast, with wifi turned off, and write for 45 minutes. Then I break for a coffee and go back for another 45 minutes, which often stretches into an hour or more, because then I’m in the zone.  Then I have lunch, do all that bitty admin stuff that takes up a different part of the brain, or freelance work that needs doing. Perhaps go for a walk and then relax in the evening. I’ve had breast cancer treatment over the last year, so my energy levels are not great. Before that, I would have had a late afternoon writing slot too, on a clear day, but now I recognise that’s not feasible. Mornings are definitely the best time for me.

bones-in-the-nest-coverThings that get in the way: health issues; being surrounded by reminders that I should occasionally clean the house; my young adult children living at home, who are great company, so I get drawn out of my writing room and into the kitchen to chat with them; meeting friends for coffee; agreeing to do too much freelance work;  Facebook, Facebook, Facebook.

What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
I tend to do research when I need to, rather than in advance. For example I’ve just written a scene in a hospital from memory (nothing is wasted). I will check with a friend who is a nurse if I’ve got the language right. I research forensic science when I can, by going to talks, reading or Googling technology and terminology. I don’t want to overload my narrative with research, it can make it a very boring read, but a sprinkling of the right terminology and things happening in a believable order is reassuring to the reader. For my first book, To Catch a Rabbit, I found a PCSO, who was the mum of a friend-of-a-friend, who kindly read an early draft, which was very helpful. While I was writing Bones in the Nest, I met a response officer who gave me great tips, especially about the state of the squad cars, which went straight into the opening chapters. Before I was published, I didn’t know any police officers, now I seem to know several, so there is always someone to ask about procedure.

If you are traditionally published, could you say something of your journey and your experience?
My debut, To Catch a Rabbit, was originally published by Moth Publishing, as one of four winning novels in the inaugural Northern Crime Competition. It was later bought up by Allison and Busby, who re-issued it with a new cover in January 2015, and followed it with the second in the series, Bones in the Nest, in July 2015. I didn’t have an agent at first, having had about 12 rejections before the competition, but after it, I was helped by New Writing North, who took the competition winners to a ‘meet the agent’ event in London.  My agents, MBA Literary Agents, also represent playwrights and TV writers, which is very useful to me. They were able to sell my TV rights and also represent me when I got a Youth Theatre commission.

The question you wished I’d asked you.
Is it worth it? That might sound strange, but if the goal is to be published, it’s worth thinking about ‘what next?’ It doesn’t suddenly change your life. You still have to put the bins out, the money isn’t great, and the dilemma of how to pay the bills when you’d rather be writing doesn’t disappear overnight. I’ve got to know a lot of other crime writers, (and it is a wonderful community), but they all, regardless of their level of commercial success, have doubts and fears about whether the next book will be good enough, whether they wouldn’t have been happier sticking with the day job. But yes, I think it is worth it; the self-doubt just goes with the territory, but if you’re a writer, you write.

How can readers find you and learn more about your writing?

Come over to my website http://www.helencadbury.com/ or my Facebook Author page https://www.facebook.com/helencadburyauthor

I can also be found on Twitter @helencadbury

To Catch a Rabbit: https://goo.gl/Qlm4a4

Bones in The Nest: https://goo.gl/OHa8SH

And if you want to know more about some other UK crime writers, some of us hang out here:
http://www.britcrime.com/
http://facebook.com/britcrime

 

Author Interview: Anna Chilvers

Anna ChilversToday I am delighted to welcome Anna Chilvers for interview on my blog. Her second novel, Tainted Love (Bluemoose, 2016) has just been long-listed for The Guardian’s Not-the-Booker-Prize.

Her first novel, Falling Through Clouds (Bluemoose) was published in 2010. In 2012 she was writer in residence for the Watershed Landscape project and published a collection of short stories, Legging It (Pennine Prospects, 2012). In 2013 her play, The Room, was performed at the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival. Anna also writes and performs poetry. She teaches writing for WEA and independently.

I first met Ann when she gave a talk about completing a long distance walk from St Abbs to Ely, following the story of a seventh century woman, St Ethelreda (http://eastcoaststory2015.blogspot.co.uk/). This was in preparation for writing a novel (see below). She talked to me about not being able to fully encompass the ‘story’ of the walk except by turning it into fiction. She said: ‘It is by turning memories into fiction that we can make them easier to handle, to pass on, by capturing, perhaps, the essence rather than the full experience.’

‘It is time which does the sorting and sifting for us and helps us to select which details are significant,’ she continued. ‘If we want to move into fiction, or write a poem, basing our work on our experience, it is that essence, those ‘quick’ details, which will make our work alive, and also make it our own.’

What are you currently working on?
I am working on a novel with a working title of East Coast Story, which combines the story of Anglo-Saxon princess, St Etheldreda, with that of Jen, a girl in the present day. Etheldreda escaped from her husband, the king of Northumbria by travelling from St. Abbs in Scotland to Ely in Cambridgeshire, a journey of 500 miles. In 2015 I received a grant from the Arts Council to walk this journey in Etheldreda’s footsteps. I now has copious notes, bits of writing and photographs and my current task is to shape this into a novel.

What has inspired your most recent novel?
I have just published my second novel, Tainted Love. It has a playlist printed at the end of the book. One of the characters, Mr Lion, is a northern soul DJ and these are songs he plays at clubs in the north of England. They are also the songs that inspired the plot of my novel. Song lyrics are great for story lines. They tell us stories – My baby done left me –  he’s a cheatin’ no good man – but they also carry the emotions of that story, distilled into a cry of sadness or joy – I’m gonna sing the blues or  I’m on top of the world.

I made a cd of Northern Soul and Motown songs and listened to it whilst I was washing up or cutting vegetables. I thought about my characters, heard their voices coming out of the speakers. Sometimes they made me cry.  Or maybe that was the onions. I wondered what had happened to them to make them feel that way and stories formed around them. But then while I chopped coriander and cleaned saucepan, the characters began to talk to each other. Across the songs they formed connections. Their stories touched and twined and became something else. I realised what I had was a novel.

That was a long tine ago now and Tainted Love has been through many drafts and revisions. As I wrote, and rewrote, more songs found their way onto the playlist, and the original list of fifteen or twenty expanded to the thirty-eight which are now listed in the book. At one point the song titles were used as chapter headings, but the novel began to stand up on its own – it no longer needed their support.

How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
Fiction is inspired by real life, but generally has more of a pattern, more obvious cause and effect. Real life events and experience provide a bank of material to draw from. It is the job of the fiction writer to form stories from this that satisfy the expectations of the reader. Real life isn’t always so accommodating.

Could you give five tips on how to tackle either characterisation or plotting or dialogue or descriptive passages?
Get to know your characters inside and backwards. Know what they have in their pockets, in their fridge. Know what happened to them at ten, at twenty, if they like cats. Even if none of this gets into your story.

Plot your story as you would an adventure. Have a final destination in mind, but be flexible, open to calls from unexpected directions.

It has been said that description is ‘the stuff you skip’. Don’t allow your reader to do that. Make sure description is necessary to your story and intertwined with action and dialogue.

Don’t write dialogue that is ‘on the nose’. Think about the difference between what is said and what is meant.

If you’re stuck, do something physical like walking, running, swimming. Don’t think about the writing problem. You will often find that your subconscious sorts it out for you whilst you’re busy doing something else.

How would you describe your writing process?
Lots of time pondering and thinking, allowing ideas to mature on their own in the recesses of my brain. Intense periods of writing activity, when I might get up at five in the morning to write every day for a few weeks.  Exhilaration and self-doubt in equal measure. Leaving a first draft to stew for a good while before coming back with a serious editing head. Listening to the advice of trusted readers. Not being precious.

What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
Deadlines are great for getting work done, and best when someone else imposes them. All of the rest of life gets in the way. It’s always easy to prioritise other things and other people’s needs.

What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
I like to visit places I’m writing about if possible. Though sometimes it’s the other way round and I write about places I have visited. Recently I got a readers’ pass for the British Library and spent a couple of days there doing research, which was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I loved it there and would happily move in.

What are your thoughts on your publishing route?
In my experience independent publishers have more time to spend with their authors, working Tainted Loveon editing and presentation. They are also more willing to take risks. Bluemoose are brilliant at marketing and promotion as well, and do everything they can to push the books once they are out in the world.  The relationship I have with my publishers is a personal one. I haven’t had the experience of being published by a mainstream publisher, but guess that in terms of the company an individual writer would be a much smaller cog. I am very happy with my publisher.

How can readers find you and learn more about your writing?

http://www.annachilvers.co.uk/

Tainted Love is available from Bluemoose: https://bluemoosebooks.com/books/tainted-love

 

 

Author Interview: Anne Goodwin

AG at jesmond

Anne Goodwin at her launch, Jesmond 2015

It is a year since author, Anne Goodwin, published her debut novel, Sugar and Snails. An intriguing novel which explores the sense of being different and feeling not quite right in one’s skin. I am delighted to welcome her as today’s interviewee and to catch her during her anniversary tour.

Anne Goodwin loves fiction for the freedom to contradict herself. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was published in July 2015 by Inspired Quill and longlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, is scheduled for May 2017. Anne is also a book blogger, author of over 60 published short stories and was recently awarded First Prize in the Writers’ Bureau short story competition.

What are you currently working on?
I’m working on the edits of Underneath and trying to get to grips with the second draft of what I hope to be my third novel, Closure, about lives wasted through psychiatric incarceration.

What has inspired your most recent novel?
Sugar and Snails emerged from a strange interaction between my response to a newspaper report about a distinguished academic who died of anorexia without anyone in her immediate circle being aware of her difficulties; questions about gender fluidity and my attempts to reconcile myself to my own traumatic adolescence. Underneath stems from my academic and personal interest in attachment, and particularly the terror of being totally dependent on someone who is unreliable. Closure builds on my interest in family secrets and on my first job as a qualified clinical psychologist as part of a team tasked with resettling long term psychiatric patients to the community.

How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
I live so much in the fictional world, I’m not sure I can separate them! It’s something I continually puzzle about, but I think a lot of my fiction starts with my own experience of the world as I see it. Yet, both for my own privacy and because, as a reader, I prefer a gap between author and narrator, I don’t want that link to show. If your writing has deep emotional resonance, which is something I aim for, it’s highly likely to connect with themes that interest, energise and disturb you in “real life”. But I’d like that to occur on the level of metaphor, rather than in the nuts and bolts of the writing.

Any tips to aspiring writers?
After a blog post questioning the creative writing industry, I’m loath to advise others on how to write. However, Sugar and Snails has taught me a few things about writing about diversity and on crafting the awkward character which I’m happy to pass on (via the links).

Another thing I’ve learnt, and am still learning, is that when there’s a choice – be it regarding character, plot or use of language – go for the simpler option. The best piece of advice I got regarding my novel, Sugar and Snails, was to cut two of the three point of view voices. As a book blogger, I read too many debuts that would have been better had the author had been less ambitious. It’s very hard as a novice writer, as we are trying to distinguish ourselves and impress, but I’m increasingly discovering that less is more in this business.

How would you describe your writing process?
I like to play with the ideas in my head for as long as I can, be that hours, days or months, before committing anything to page or screen. The benefits of playing with the ideas seem to outweigh the risks of losing a good idea. I start to write when my thoughts are overwhelming and I have sufficient space to channel them, uninterrupted, onto the screen. I’m not a planner, and I like to take my time. However, last winter, partly inspired by National Novel Writing Month, I surprised myself by producing a fast first draft. It hasn’t altered my overall approach, but it was a bit of a revelation that I could keep going at an average of a thousand words a day.

In terms of the mechanics, I’m proud that my mother taught me to type the quick brown fox runs over the lazy dog way, using all fingers and thumbs of both hands. But too many dissertations left me with repetitive strain injury, so now I type by voice. The manufacturers claim their voice recognition software is faster than typing but, until they produce a version perfectly attuned to my Cumbrian vowels, I have to disagree.

What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
I have the usual love-hate relationship with social media, especially Twitter, through which I’ve gained the support of lots of lovely fellow-writers, as well as a few book sales, but it does eat time. Bad weather that keeps me indoors is helpful – although I can go a bit stir crazy if I don’t get out for a walk.

What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
I’m a lazy researcher, and tend to write about topics I already know something about, just checking facts and details on the internet. Also, my husband is the kind of person who knows all those obscure facts that come up in pub quizzes, so I often ask him. I’ve also recently taken to asking Twitter for answers to factual questions; you get a great sense of the supportive community when someone comes back with exactly what you need to know.

AGfull cover (2)Please say something about your publishing journey.
I’m published by a small press, Inspired Quill, which has worked well for me. I have a post on Writers and Artists website advising others considering that route to learn about self-publishing; not to be afraid to ask questions of the publisher; negotiate a contract; and be realistic about the limitations of what the publisher can do.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve done to promote your work?
An interview for Bay TV Liverpool, which has recently been broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAnBqfEIGmc&feature=youtu.be. It was the first time I’d ever been filmed for TV, yet only ten days later I was involved in some filming for an event in the Peak District where I volunteer.

How can readers find you and learn more about your writing?

My next event is at The Bakewell Bookshop, Derbyshire, on 6 August 2016.

Catch up on my website: annethology blog Annecdotal or on Twitter @Annecdotist.

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14157781.Anne_Goodwin

In honour of its first birthday, Sugar and Snails is available in Kindle format at only £0.99 / $0.99 until 31 July 2016.

Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Sugar-Snails-Anne-Goodwin/dp/1908600470/

Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sugar-Snails-Anne-Goodwin/dp/1908600470/

Author Interview: Kate M Colby – comes with free gift attached.

Kate C photo Oct15In honour of American Independence Day, I am thrilled to welcome writer Kate M. Colby to my blog. I have made some of my journey to being an ‘indie’ publisher alongside Kate and I have found her knowledgeable and inspiring, as well as a skilled writer. Her advice and encouragement has always been spot on. It’s great then, that, as an added bonus, her 100 Fantasy Writing Prompts (Fiction Ideas Vol. 4) is FREE today, download it here: http://hyperurl.co/adq1ul

Kate M. Colby is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. Her first series, Desertera, consists of steampunk fantasy novels with themes of socio-economic disparity, self-empowerment, romance, and revenge. Kate’s writing contains everything she loves about fiction imaginative new worlds (the more apocalyptic the better), plots that get your heart racing, and themes that make you think. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Creative Writing, and Sociology from Baker University, which she uses to marry her love of the written word with her passion for the human experience.

When she is not writing or working, Kate enjoys playing video games, antiquing, and wine tasting. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children.

What are you currently working on?
Currently, I am working on two projects. The first is the sequel to my debut novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, to be published in early September. The second project on my docket is a series of nonfiction booklets, written for aspiring writers. Each booklet contains 100 creative writing prompts and each one focuses on a different genre of fiction. There will be 10 in total, to make a collection of 1,000 genre fiction writing prompts. Thus far, I have seven of the 10 volumes complete.

What has inspired your most recent novel/writing?
My first novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter, focuses on the theme of revenge. In it, my protagonist showed she would do anything for “justice,” and never questioned the righteousness of her path. In the sequel, I’ll be diving deeper into the nuances of justice. When my new protagonist takes on the role of avenger, she seeks true justice, not merely her own definition of the term, and she constantly questions the righteousness of her actions. I think readers will enjoy the contrast in how these two women approach similar problems.

My nonfiction project is inspired by my desire to give something back to the writing community. As I move forward in my career as an independent author, I hope to leave a trail of virtual breadcrumbs behind, so that others who share my goals have a resource to follow. Right now, what I can give back is inspiration and motivation, in the form of creative writing prompts. Down the road, I hope to provide more information about the publishing process, marketing, and creating and running a successful business.

How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
I think how much fiction intertwines with real life depends on the imagination and empathetic The Cogsmith's Daughter - Ebook Smallability of the reader. For example, The Cogsmith’s Daughter takes place in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland. Some readers will look at that and think, “Wow, this has nothing to do with reality. It’s so crazy!” Whereas others will look beyond the surface level and see that the themes explored and the experiences of the characters are parallel to those we in “reality” undergo every day. For me, personally, I see fiction as completely intertwined with real life. Fiction is a reflection of reality, a way of revealing truths, even ugly ones, in an artistic form that makes them easier to swallow and accept.

Could you give five tips on how to tackle either characterisation or plotting or dialogue or descriptive passages?
I’ll give you one for each!
Characterization: Make a point of giving your character a flaw. Perfect characters are boring and unrealistic. One of my protagonist’s flaws is that she can get tunnel vision when striving for a goal and miss things that others see as obvious.

Plotting: Start with your three big points: beginning, middle, and end. Where is your character starting? What is the end goal? And what is one thing that must happen for her to reach her goal? Once you have those figured out, fill in the gaps.

Dialogue: Learn to convey each of your character’s unique voices. Some ways to do this are: varying sentence length (some people are more long-winded than others), varying vocabulary levels, and using curse words judiciously.

Descriptive passages: Study poetry. Seriously. I give my poetry classes full credit for my descriptive fiction writing. It’ll teach you how to incorporate sound into your writing and how to make your thoughts flow into each other organically. My readers will probably notice that I do a lot of flowing where others would inject an “and.”

My best tip: End your chapters on a high note. This can be a cliffhanger, witty line of dialogue, or dramatic realization. Either way, it will keep your readers turning the page. Many of my readers have said that they couldn’t put my book down. That isn’t a coincidence – it’s a design.

How would you describe your writing process?
I’m not sure that I really have a “writing process,” but I can tell you how a writing session typically goes. Basically, all I do is schedule a time for myself to write each day. Most days, I have to adjust the time because life gets in the way. Leading up to a writing session, I mentally plan out what needs to happen in the scene. Then, when I sit down at the computer, I write until I reach my goal, whether it be a set word count or the end of a chapter. I try my hardest to just let the words flow and not self-edit. If I think of something I should change later, I make a note in the sidebar and keep going. I also like to write in silence to minimize distractions.

What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
There are two things that help me write. First, I feel obligation very strongly. If I set a deadline for myself, I can usually guilt myself into meeting it. Second, my husband is really supportive, and he’s also great at being my drill sergeant when I need it.

What gets in the way of writing? Is everything an answer? Procrastination, exhaustion at the end of a 12 hour work day, our Netflix account. One thing I’m learning is that the world is REALLY good at sabotaging your writing, and you’ve got to fiercely protect your writing time.

What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
Honestly, I really dislike doing research. It’s one of the many reasons why I write science fiction and fantasy – if I make up my own world, I don’t have to research it! However, there are a few things that I have to research, mostly related to the steampunk gadgets in my world and the steamship. For these, I read articles on the internet and browse through books at the library until I find what I need. Personally, I’m much more interested in “aesthetic” research to help my descriptive powers, and this I do almost entirely on Pinterest.

Why did you choose the ‘indie’ route? What are your five tips for would-be indie authors? What are the pros & cons to indie publishing?
Oh, boy. These are big questions. I’ve written on all of these at length, so anyone who is interested in more information can check out my website. I’ll try to keep it brief here. I chose to be independently published for several reasons. One, I believe readers are the only valid gatekeepers and determiners of a book’s worth. Two, I believe the royalties paid by publishing companies are unfairly low. Three, I want full creative control of my work.

The pros of indie publishing line up with my reasons for doing it. The cons are: you have to invest your own money upfront, you have to market yourself in the ocean of Amazon and the internet, and you will still face stigma from the larger publishing industry and others you encounter on your journey.

My tips for indie authors:
At first, think of publishing as a hobby. I don’t mean that you shouldn’t take your writing seriously. I mean, you’re going to be sinking a decent amount of money into a passion project that may never pay you back. And that’s what a hobby is. You buy a fishing pole or a room full of scrapbooking equipment, and it only pays you back with enjoyment and pride. That’s what the beginning of your career will be like.

Do everything right the first time. Shell out the money for professional editing and cover design. Make connections, formulate a marketing plan. First impressions are everything, and some readers (and other authors) will write you off from the beginning if you look like an amateur or someone seeking a quick buck.

That being said, don’t be afraid to upgrade later. Sometimes, you’ve got to cut corners just to get your book out. If that’s the case, don’t be scared to go back and rewrite, hire an editor, or change the cover. The biggest benefit of indie publishing is that you are never locked into anything. You can always grow and adapt as time goes on. You are free to be better without restrictions.

Make connections. Do this by blogging, participating in forums, or joining online communities. Get a solid group of indie author friends around you and help each other. Everyone says the indie community is so much more helpful and supportive than the traditional publishing world, and it’s true. But it won’t stay true unless we all hold to that spirit.

Be proud. If you decide to indie publish, don’t feed into the stigma. When someone asks you who your publisher is (and they will, even if they cannot name a single publisher themselves), be confident. Say, “I started my own company and am handling the book production process myself.” It’s a huge accomplishment and you should feel happy to share about it. If you’re ashamed to admit you’re indie published, you’ve chosen the wrong publishing path.

When did you start calling yourself a writer? An author?
For the longest time, I called myself an aspiring writer. For a while, this was accurate, as I did more whining about writing than actual writing. I didn’t begin calling myself a writer until I started my blog and fully dedicated myself to writing my first novel. I didn’t use the term author until I had completed (not published, just finished) my first novel. And even today, a little nagging voice in the back of my mind says I’m a fraud – even though I know I’m not.

This is what irritates me about writers (myself included): so many of us are afraid to call ourselves writers! Listen up, people: language is free. You can call yourself whatever you want. If you feel a passion to write, if you express yourself best through language, if you maintain a blog or a journal or scribble poetry on grocery receipts, you are a writer. No one’s going to write “PHONY!” all over your corner of the internet. Embrace the label and get on with your creative life!

Where can people find you & your books?

Website – http://katemcolby.com

Amazon (all countries) – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0996782508?keywords=the%20cogsmith%27s%20daughter&qid=1454458705&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1

Barnes and Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-cogsmiths-daughter-kate-m-colby/1122713259?ean=2940152250190

Kobo – https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-cogsmith-s-daughter-desertera-1

iBooks – https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/cogsmiths-daughter-desertera/id1043808485?mt=11

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/580266

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26499463-the-cogsmith-s-daughter

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AuthorKateMColby
Twitter – https://twitter.com/KateMColby
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/KateMColby
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/KateMColby
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/katemcolby
Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/in/katemcolby
Google+ – https://plus.google.com/+KateMColby
YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/user/katemcolby

Author Interview: Margret Geraghty

Five Minute booksFor me The Novelist’s Guide by Margret Geraghty remains one of the best guides for those embarking on any kind of story writing, but particularly novel writing. How excited was I, then, when I discovered Geraghty on Twitter and that she agreed to be interviewed for my blog! Read and enjoy… especially her writing tips.

Margret Geraghty had her first piece of fiction published in a newspaper when she was 16. It was a blatant piece of plagiarism involving a scene from a film she’d seen at her local cinema. However, that early success encouraged her and she later had many stories and articles published in magazines. On the strength of those, and her work as a tutor, the editor of Writers News/Writing Mag asked her to write a monthly column. That led to her first commission for a full-length book, The Novelist’s Guide. This was followed by two other books, The Five-Minute Writer and More Five-Minute Writing, both of them inspired by her passion for analysing fiction and her time spent studying for a degree in psychology. Margret also has a master’s degree in Film Studies from the University of Southampton.

What are you currently working on?
My garden and house decorating.

What has inspired your most recent novel/writing?
First, people – their quirks, their fears and attitudes to life. In my writing classes, my students’ thirst for fresh ideas led me to develop exercises to help them achieve their writing goals. Second, fiction itself. I’m fascinated by the psychological questions it raises. For example, why do we read fiction? Why do we find the same or similar patterns in fiction as in the days of Aristotle? Both psychology and fiction are dedicated to exploring the human mind and I like to look for links between the two.

How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
I think the two interact. One of my favourite cognitive psychologists, Keith Oatley, describes fiction as the mind’s ‘flight simulator’ and I’d agree with that.

Five writing tips?
You can find lots of tips in my books, but I’ll give you one for each:
Characterisation – Remember that people are your source material. Learn to watch and listen.
Plotting – A plot is not just a sequence of events. Rather, it is a sequence of cause and effect, like a row of dominoes.
Dialogue – Watch films. In real life, talk is free. In films, it costs money. Scriptwriters have to make sure that every word pays its way. We can learn from that.
Descriptive passages – Remember that description is not story. Weave description into your narrative and make it specific. Follow Chekhov: ‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.’

How would you describe your writing process?
It depends. When I was writing a lot of academic stuff, I’d have a plan. But cold starts can work well for any imaginative work. I discovered this by chance when I had deadlines for articles. I’d have an idea and just start writing. Invariably, the first paragraph was rubbish but it worked to stimulate thought. That’s the premise behind my Five-Minute books.

What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
I like peace and quiet. Music or background conversation distracts me.

What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
When writing anything to do with psychology, research is essential and I love doing it. If I read something interesting, I’ll always try and go back to primary sources. Academia taught me to do that and it’s good practice. When it comes to fiction, I once wrote to a motoring mag asking if a particular sports car had a roof that closed automatically when it rained (that was before the Internet and click-of-the-button information.) They didn’t reply so I winged it. The story sold and no one complained.

How can readers find you and learn more about your writing?
I’m quite reclusive but I am on Twitter @margretgeraghty. Both my Five-Minute books are still in print and readily available from Waterstones, Foyles and Amazon.