Tag Archives: publishing

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

 

7 things you need to know about proofreading

Today I welcome fellow author, David Powning, who is also an experienced copy-editor & proofreader, to guide us through what we need to know as writers about proofreading. Learn more at: www.inkwrapped.com and find out more about his novel The Ground Will Catch You go to: https://goo.gl/wtkdod (10% of the proceeds goes towards the struggle against breast cancer).

David1. Copy-editing and proofreading are not the same thing.
This foxes a lot of people, and understandably so, mainly because there is a certain overlap between the two disciplines. The aim of a copy-edit is to not only find errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation, but also to address issues around style, usage, consistency and repetition, among other things. In other words, it involves editing the text. 

A proofread, on the other hand, is the final read-through before publication. Its purpose is to look for errors and inconsistencies in spelling, grammar and punctuation that were missed by the copy-editor or have subsequently crept in when the author made amendments to the text. Your proofreader will also check layout, page numbering, chapter headings etc.  

The important thing to remember is that a proofread is the last read of the text to make sure everything is as ‘clean’ as possible. It is not an edit. 

2. It isn’t particularly cheap. And if it is, you should be hearing alarm bells.
The bad news is you will have to shell out a bit for a copy-edit, and for good reason: when done properly, it’s time-consuming. The copy-editor has to get inside your text, hunting out mistakes and discrepancies, and that includes keeping tabs on people’s details (the colour of their hair or eyes, for example) or what car they drive (if it’s a green Ford Fiesta on page 24, it can’t be a grey Ford Fiesta on page 238), as well as the timeline to make sure events are happening in the logical order. There’s a lot involved, and, as with everything in life, you get what you pay for. 
 

The good news, however, is that a proofread is cheaper. 

3. You can’t proofread your own work.
I know, it would be lovely if we were all able to proofread what we’ve written – and of course I’m not suggesting that you don’t continuously check your work – but it’s a fact that even the best writers have to hand over their efforts to a professional. The problem with proofing your own work is that you know what you’ve written, so, like it or not, there will be times when your brain fills in the words simply because it ‘knows’ what’s coming. And that’s where mistakes occur. You need a neutral person to look at it, because they don’t know what’s around the corner so to them everything will be fresh.

Also, logic dictates that if there are some words you always mis-spell or grammatical constructions you get wrong, how would you know the difference? You can’t spot what you don’t know. 

4. A good copy-editor/proofreader will respect the author’s wishes.
Sometimes as a copy-editor you come across stylistic curiosities that aren’t what you would call, erm, ‘traditional’. Grammatically wrong, even. If it’s a one-off, nine times out of ten you would automatically just correct it. However, if it’s something that crops up repeatedly, then you have to bring it to the author’s attention. And if they say it’s deliberate, then you have to respect that, even if it makes your red pen quiver every time you see it happen. It’s a delicate balancing act. Readers may well go, ‘Ah-ha, I’ve spotted a mistake there, and there, and there…’ but if your client is happy and views it merely as their own stylistic quirk, you must take that on board. It may go against a copy-editor’s natural instinct, but as with a magazine’s house style, sometimes there will be things you disagree with.

5. Proofreading is important.
I’ve often heard it said that readers are not fussy these days about coming across typos when reading a novel, but, you’ll be shocked to hear, I don’t think it’s acceptable. Of course, even with the best will in the world, the occasional error may slip through the net – and that’s true of all books – but to me anything more than that is the thin end of the wedge. If you start to think, ‘Oh, I’m not too bothered about a few spelling mistakes in my novel’, then what’s to stop you being bothered about half a dozen in the next one, and ten in the one cover-jan2016-dpowningafter that? 

Self-publishing has really taken off in the past few years, and I think indie authors have a duty to keep their standards as high as possible so that the public can buy with confidence, as when purchasing a novel from an established publisher/author. Is it okay for a CD to jump half a dozen times? Wouldn’t you return it if it did? Well, the same goes for books. Typos and grammatical errors stop the flow of words and momentarily take the reader out of the imagined world you have created, thereby undermining all your hard work. What’s okay about that?

6. Track Changes is a wonderful thing.
For those not in the know, Track Changes is a function in Microsoft Word that records each amendment a person (i.e. your copy-editor/proofreader) makes in the document. This means that when your novel is returned to you, you simply go through each change and either ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ it. I mention this only because chances are you’ll be sending your work to a copy-editor as a Word file, and I’d be very surprised if they didn’t use Track Changes. It’s simple to use and gives you complete control over the final product. Brilliant.

7. Proofreading is very satisfying.
I love copy-editing and proofreading, whether that’s for magazines or books. To me it’s a challenge to find things that aren’t quite right, and not because I want to feel clever. Every writer makes errors (my novel went through the wringer quite a few times until I was happy), so when you discover something amiss you know you are doing your bit to improve the work, and that’s a good feeling.  

Ultimately, when you’re working for an author, it’s a partnership. You’re both striving towards the same thing – high standards – and to help someone achieve that, after all the hours they’ve put in creating a story, really is very gratifying.

#Scarboroughmysteries – Halloween Treat!

art-of-breathing-coverI am very proud to announce that my three novels – The Art of the Imperfect (https://goo.gl/JrGat2); The Art of Survival (https://goo.gl/6RPzk5); The Art of Breathing (https://goo.gl/ZqJZjN) – are safely launched. Available in paperback and on kindle via Amazon or from good independent book stores such as Wardle & Jones in Scarborough (http://wardleandjones.co.uk/) and the Book Corner in Saltburn (http://www.bookcornershop.co.uk/).

The signing at WH Smith on Saturday went really well. Thank you to the manager, Russell White, and everyone who helped or came along. Twenty-two books sold and several people going away clutching cards with the book details on so they could download to their favoured kindle. It was great to meet readers and potential readers and just to chat about books.

I was very happy to re-meet Andy. He had seen by chance on Twitter my signing last year and had come down and bought the first two. He turned up again to buy the third, declaring he had art-of-the-imperfect-cover‘loved’ The Art of the Imperfect and The Art of Survival. He then, bless him, went home and tweeted the books he had bought that morning – mine and one by Lynda La Plante – including the authors’ handles. And, yes dear reader, I was retweeted and then followed by Lynda La Plante (or whoever deals with her twitter account). How chuffed am I? Thank you Andy.

Associated with the launch, I have been lucky enough to be interviewed on Radio Humberside: https://goo.gl/xAUWDg (scroll forward to 11.15am) and by Margarita Morris: https://goo.gl/AYxKHA.

And there are a few more events and interviews to come art-of-survival-coverbefore I can put my feet up – or rather get back to my writing, which I fear has been sadly neglected for the last several months.

Still, for the moment, I can bask in what I have achieved so far!

 

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

 

How to write a (crime) novel #9

In previous parts of this series of blogs I have looked at

  • Getting started.
  • Characterisation.
  • Plotting – setting clues in plain sight.
  • Structure.
  • Settings.
  • Finding the ‘shadow’ side as part of characterisation.
  • The crime genre as a vehicle for asking questions about our society.

Hopefully you have found something useful and of interest in each part. However, in the end, the only real way to write any type of novel is to write, read, write, read, write, get some decent feedback and write some more.

Unless we are lucky enough to have a literary agent or publisher interested in what we are writing, the hardest thing may be to stay motivated. For me, it’s about routine; being in love with the process and craft; and having supportive writing friends. Sometimes it hits me that, in all honesty, the only person who would care if I never wrote another word would be me – and that’s a difficult realisation to swallow. But I do care, because writing gives me such pleasure and at many levels keeps me sane.

If you have kept motivated and you have worked on your craft, it maybe that you now have 60,000 words you want to share with an audience through publication. There are currently two routes. The traditional, find a literary agent, or ‘indie’ publish. You will find much advice on ‘indie’ publishing on my blog. However, I have said little about the traditional route.

In the UK, for fiction, it is generally through a literary agent, as publishers won’t look at unsolicited manuscripts. On the other hand, some will have ‘open submissions’, so it’s worth looking out for them. In my opinion, as well as working hard, having some talent and shed-loads of luck, to go down the traditional route you also have to be very strategic.

When I started, thirty years ago, it was about researching the right lit agent for your genre. It’s art-of-breathing-covergone way beyond that. You have to be tuned into what’s going on in the literary word, building yourself an author platform, entering competitions, networking,… I have come to the recent conclusion that the only way to get a literary agent these days is to go on one of the very expensive courses they have begun to run.

I am indie publishing for the third time. The Art of Breathing, Scarborough Mysteries #3, has been written, copyedited, proofread and formatted for a local print run, for createspace and for Kindle. All the Scarborough Mysteries have swanky new covers. And I am now in the throes of organising a marketing campaign for the launch date of October 31st. Having paid a professional copyeditor, proofreader and designer for my covers, there is no way I will make any money back on sales. But I am happy to do this as I am very, very proud of my novel series.

Which would you choose: traditional or indie? And why? If traditional, do you have any tips to pass on?

 

 

 

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

 

 

And the adventure continues

pccloudThis Autumn I will be indie publishing my third novel, The Art of Breathing, as well as re-launching The Art of the Imperfect and The Art of Survival with new covers. The three form the beginning of a crime series set in Scarborough which (among other things) explores themes around mental wellbeing and surviving childhood trauma.

To be honest, this is not my favourite part of the process. The manuscript being sent off to the proofreader, I am in the middle of: formatting for createspace, kindle and a local print run; liaising with cover designer and printer; ‘organising’ (begging for) reviews, guest blog posts and events; and re-vamping my website. I’m not saying none of it is fun or enthralling, but a lot of it is a bit of a grind, especially the marketing side. Having now indie published two novels, I know effort does not equal outcome when it comes to promotion. There is a whole lot of luck and who you know involved. I am trying to be more targeted and canny about it this time around, even so it is tough to remain motivated.

I read recently an article about mental resilience. This suggested that people with a good balance of optimism and realism are more likely to be mentally resilient. It also said that mentally resilient people do not feel an entitlement. On the other hand, it seems to me that there is a strong societal script out there which goes something like: ‘If you try hard enough, you can achieve anything.’ It appears to me, this narrative is undermining of what are apparently factors in building mental resilience. In reality, the vast majority of us will be ‘also ran’s and, even if we work hard and throw our whole heart into a project, this does not entitle us to any particular result.

I have begun to volunteer a couple of hours a week at my local library and I was also asked by a friend to vote for her book on The Guardian’s ‘not the booker list’. Well done to Anna Chilvers Tainted Love for getting on there and look out for an interview with her on this blog on the 22nd of August. What I have come to realise (even more than I did before) is that there are an awful lot of books out there, a lot published by traditional publishers and a lot I haven’t heard of, despite being an avid reader. It is, perhaps, hardly surprising that my books have hardly made an impression.

Why should I want sales? It’s not about the selling/money as such, it is about reaching readers. And I love to talk about my writing with those who have read it… so if you have, please feel free to get in touch. The stories told in my three novels are very important to me, yes I want them ‘heard’ but I also hope they may help others have a greater understanding and/or feel more signposts‘normal’.

I have written three books I am proud of and by the October they will all have gorgeous covers. Celebrate that with me, but please don’t ever ask my about my sales.

How do you keep motivated? What is it about writing which makes it important for you to keep going?

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 interviews – Jaq Hazell

Jaq HazellI 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 I came to find a girlis 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?

https://jaqhazell.com/

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

Author interview: Louise Mangos

Louise MThis week, I am very happy to welcome writer Louise Mangos to my blog. Louise initially studied business communications in the UK, and later studied journalism at CU in Boulder Colorado in her mid-twenties. She took creative writing as an elective during that time, and eventually dropped journalism to continue satisfying her literary passion. Following a series of creative writing retreats and novel-writing workshops during the years since she’s had a family, the idea to pen a novel was born. STRANGERS ON A BRIDGE is Louise’s first novel, a psychological thriller, which was a finalist in the Exeter Novel Prize, and made the shortlist of the Flash 500 Opening Chapter Competition in 2015. She is currently editing her second novel, also a psychological thriller, entitled PALETTE OF LIES. Both novels are based in Switzerland. Her short story SUMMER OF ’76 was read out on BBC Three Counties Radio last autumn and went on to win second prize in the Erewash Writers Group Short Story Competition. She has twice won the weekly Ad Hoc Fiction competition, and her flash fiction has been published on various flash web platforms.

What are you currently working on?
Having amassed a burden of journals and letters sent home from my overseas travels many years ago, I’ve been encouraged by friends and family to write a memoir, recounting one of my more riveting adventures: A solo three-month mountain bike trip along the backbone of the Continental Divide in the US. After completing that journey over twenty years ago, I was invited to return to Switzerland to participate in one of the most challenging mountain competitions in the alpine world: The Patrouille des Glaciers. The memoir addresses the challenges faced as part of a close-knit team of three in the aforementioned race, on the back of the solo bike adventure the previous year.

I’m also plotting a third novel, a psychological thriller about a man who stalks a backpacking traveller around the world.

What has inspired your most recent writing?
I recently read Cheryl Strayed’s memoir “Wild” for a book group discussion. It’s a book I wouldn’t ordinarily have picked up, but Cheryl’s journey along the Pacific Coast Trail re-awakened memories of my own adventures in the Rocky Mountains. I was amazed how much interest has been generated by Cheryl’s book, making me realise there’s a greater audience for this kind of narrative non-fiction than I had initially thought.

And as for my fiction, the psychological thriller is a genre I love to read, so it’s easy for me to write. I have recently been dwelling on my wayward twenties, and am drawing my narrative from my sport and travel adventures.

How much do you think fiction intertwines with real life?
The answer to the last question pretty much answers this. Many published authors tell their budding protégés they should write about unfamiliar subjects, that they should address the challenge of researching and creating literature from a bed of zero knowledge to earn the ultimate accolade of their critiques. For a novelist starting out, I cannot imagine having written any of my narrative without drawing on some of my life experiences, down to characterisation, dialogues between friends and family, or simply basing the story where I live (which I must say is incredibly inspirational.) As someone who has yet to enjoy the advantages of being a published author, writing about what one knows is also the safest way to keep research costs to a minimum.

Could you give five tips on how to tackle a writing technique of your choice?
Dialogue. I’ve been told that my dialogue is one of the stronger points of my narrative. I recommend the following tips:
1. Always, always read your narrative out loud. When you get to the dialogue, try and adopt the voices and mannerisms of your characters. It will make the dialogue ‘real.’
2. If only two people are having a conversation, use as few dialogue tags as possible (he said, she said.) If there are multiple characters speaking, or you need to draw the reader’s attention back to who is speaking after several exchanges, one of the characters could address the other by name from time to time. ‘But Tommy, you promised you would fill the dishwasher.’ If you must use dialogue tags, keep words such as exclaimed, shouted, and screeched to a minimum, and avoid using adverbs with those tags (he pondered drily, she whispered hoarsely.
3. Avoid exclamations or greetings. Show reactions such as shock/sadness/surprise conservatively between sections of dialogue, without interrupting the flow.
4. Avoid dumping information in a long chunk of dialogue. It’s tempting to do this if you need to convey backstory at a certain moment, but this method should be kept to a minimum, ideally one piece of information at a time, if at all.
5. Try to keep conflict in every dialogue. If a conversation takes place where everyone agrees, then the conversation probably didn’t need to happen in the first place.

How would you describe your writing process?
In general I’m a ‘plotter’ rather than a ‘pantser.’ I think anyone who writes (and reads) crime fiction knows how important plot is in this genre. I find it very hard to leave a ragged sentence alone until the edit. I might only write a short section of a narrative before I’m compelled to go back and edit that last section at least once before moving on. I would love to have the discipline of a ‘pantser,’ to leave that section alone until I have written at least a chapter or even a whole book, and then go back and restructure the words I have dashed out. I find the editing process extremely satisfying, watching a sentence that started as a seed inside my head become something that I can re-read in wonder a few weeks later and say ‘Crikey, did I really write that? It sounds really rather good.’

What helps you to write/what gets in the way?
Sleep, domestic chores and social media all get in the way of my writing. I need complete silence, and often wake at 4 am so I can have the blissful calm of a dark house in which to write. Even the white noise of the fridge in the kitchen sometimes causes my concentration to slip. And the Internet… it’s a double-edged sword. I should simply turn off the Wi-fi for huge sections of the day, but I love having my Thesaurus open on my split screen, and researching the minutiae is so much easier with the aid of search engines. The call for friendly banter with my Facebook and Twitter friends, however, dominates when I’m lacking a moment of inspiration.

What kind of research do you do & how do you go about it?
As I mentioned earlier, if you write about what you know, most of your research is inside your head. But there are certain things a writer should make sure they get right in their narrative, and not everything on the Internet can be quoted verbatim. For a crime novelist, the most important research is probably police protocol and procedures in the country or region in which the story is based. I’m amazed at how open people are when I tell them I am researching for a book. A police chief, lawyer, or accountant who might ordinarily charge a small fortune for an hour of his/her time, is often more than happy to offer information for no more than the price of a coffee in the local café. For my second novel I visited the women’s prison where the story is based, and when I required follow-up clarification on some of the information I was given, the head warden was more than happy to answer questions. Of course, they all need to be assured Louise Mthat they will receive a signed copy of your book once it is published!

Can you talk about your chosen publishing route?
I’ve given myself until the end of the year to secure interest in from a traditional publishing house. However, the time frame is interminable. Once a book is finished and the manuscript has been assessed, most self-published authors can have their novel out in the market in as little as a couple of months. A first-time author choosing the traditional publishing route can expect to wait a couple of years before his or her book is seen on the shelves of the local bookstore. Patience is a must.

The question you wished I’d asked you: What compels me to write?
I’ve always had to write – childhood stories, poems, teenage diaries, journals of my adventures as a young adult, and latterly, novel-length fiction. It’s an underlying compulsion, almost an instinct. When I started writing longer works of fiction, I was hesitant, unsure whether people would like what I write. For the most part, I have received only useful critique for my first works, and have been able to adapt and learn from the feedback. Now I’m more confident, especially after the affirmation of being on a couple of shortlists. Once I immerse myself in a project, I sometimes forsake all other functions such as sleep and food, in order to get the words out. It helps that I’m a fast typist, but sometimes not fast enough for the ideas spilling out of my head.

How can readers find you and learn more about your writing?
I have an author website: www.louisemangos.com

and a public Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/LouiseMangos

or you can chat with me on Twitter: @LouiseMangos