What REALLY happens at an author Christmas party… #HQmasParty

Authors are often solitary creatures, introverted. Much of our days spent alone with only a laptop (and in my case a cat) for company.

B A Paris & Louise Jensen

Every so often there’s a chance to get out, a literary festival, a bookish event, a party. Today, was my publisher’s author Christmas bash and it felt odd to be discarding my pyjamas in favour of real, actual, normal clothes (if you can call tinsel, Rudolph earrings and a present fascinator normal clothes.)

Darren O’Sullivan

Alice Feeney, Louise Jensen

An author party isn’t just an excuse for drinking (okay it is a bit). It’s a chance to catch up with old friends and make some new. To connect. To realise that however alone we can sometimes feel, we all have the same fears, not matter what stage of writing we are at; that we’ll run out of ideas; that our current book won’t be as well received as out last. We all have the same love/hate relationship with our current WIP.

Louise Mangos & Roz Watkins

After a civilised start to the evening, with a gorgeous meal in the London Bridge Hotel, we headed over to the News Building, which houses Harper Collins. On the 17th floor we were met by caterers with glasses of prosecco and canapés and gazing out across the stunning river views I felt a million miles from home.

Lisa Hall, Louise Jensen, Darren O’Sullivan

The writing community is super supportive and one I’m very grateful to be part of. Tomorrow even though I’ll be back in my editing cave, back in my pyjamas, I’ll know I’m not alone.

Louise Jensen & Darren O’Sullivan

Vicky Newham & B A Paris

Louise Jensen & Roz Watkins

Darren O’Sullivan, Lisa Hall, Louise Jensen, Alice Feeney, Mel McGrath, Louise Mangos

Phaedra Patrick & Lisa Hall

B A Paris, Phaedra Patrick, Louise Jensen, Diane Jeffrey, Sally Gardner

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Giveaway! Signed copies of The Date!

Firstly, a huge thank you for all the support for my latest psychological thriller centered around Face Blindness, The Date. Since its summer release I’m thrilled that it very quickly sold in excess of 100,000 copies, was nominated for The Guardian’s ‘Not the Booker Prize’ and to now learn that it is in the top 10 biggest selling books on Apple’s iBook store this year is phenomenal, particularly since it wasn’t released until halfway through the year.

The mass market paperback doesn’t hit the shops until next Spring, but as it’s Christmas I thought I’d give away a couple of signed and dedicated copies, along with postcards and bookmarks. If you already have the ebook or have listened to the audiobook, this could make a perfect gift for a friend.

To enter please comment below with either your best or worst date. Competition will run until Tuesday 11th.

Good luck!

Louise X

Here’s the blurb: –

One night can change everything.

‘I know it as soon as I wake up and open my eyes… Something is wrong.’

Her Saturday night started normally. Recently separated from her husband, Ali has been persuaded by her friends to go on a date with a new man. She is ready, she is nervous, she is excited. She is about to take a step into her new future. By Sunday morning, Ali’s life is unrecognisable. She wakes, and she knows that something is wrong. She is home, she is alone, she is hurt and she has no memory of what happened to her.

Worse still, when she looks in the mirror, Ali doesn’t recognise the face staring back at her

You can also find The Date on your local Amazon here.

The Journey #FlashFiction

Photo prompt – Dawn Miller

Him

‘I need to find out who I am,’ she can’t meet my eye.

I want to tell her I know who she is; the love of my life. I want to tell her I’ve spent weeks organising a flash mob to dance her perfect proposal, but I don’t. I watch her leave.

I have my dignity, even if I don’t have her.

Her

I tell him I’m leaving and my heart actually breaks. But he’s been avoiding me. My friends have seen him out with a bunch of girls. I walk away.

I have my dignity, even if I don’t have him.

‘The Journey’ was written for Friday Fictioneers. A weekly 100 word story challenge prompted by the fabulous Rochelle. Do read the other entries and/or post your own story.

Coping with chronic pain – that lonely 3am

Image courtesy of @jontyson

There’s nothing quite as lonely as 3am. The house is quiet; my family asleep. At times like these it’s easy to feel alone. My pelvis is fire, my back screaming in agony each time I shift my position. But I have my blog, words. I can let my pain travel through my fingertips and onto the page. Whether I post this or not, it will be therapeutic to write.

I thought I’d got a handle on my health the past couple years. Along with treatments from a fabulous hospital, I’ve overhauled my diet, take light exercise where I can, meditate daily. My pain had decreased, mobility improved. Lately though there’s been a sense of slipping backwards while trying desperately to cling on to the good days, not let the bad days take over.

Tonight is the worst I have been for a long time. It hurts to move. It hurts to stay still. It’s been an odd day, much to celebrate. My super agent has sold my book rights to Korea, a brand new territory for me – my twenty-fourth. The Date is in Apple’s top 10 biggest selling books for 2018. I put both things on Facebook and instantly received a direct message. ‘You’re having such a good day! You’re living my dream.’

From the outside looking in, my life does seem perfect, except it isn’t. No-ones is.

My evening has been spent upstairs because we don’t have a downstairs toilet and I can’t face going up and down the stairs.

Worries fill my mind – How can I do my Christmas shopping if I can’t get out? Am I going to have to change my weekend plans as it will be uncomfortable to travel? Will I miss my first author Christmas party with my new publisher on Monday? Gradually these thoughts, as thoughts do, become darker. Sharper. Swelling, along with the panic inside me. Am I going to end up in a wheelchair again?

My mind is in overdrive; anxiety over the future overshadowing my present where, relatively speaking I am okay. I am safe.

I am loved.

I reach for my gratitude journal and this is what eventually calms me. Replacing the negatives with positives and really, I have so much to be grateful for, from the strangers who support me online to the dog who snoozes on my bedroom floor who is always overjoyed to see me when he wakes, regardless of my mood.

My list grows and my pain doesn’t feel quite so all consuming anymore. I know soon I shall be able to sleep.

I have a roof over my head, a warm bed. A family who love me. I know I’m one of the lucky ones.

And tomorrow? Tomorrow things will be different because they alway are. The only thing you can rely on is change and I find this comforting because I am certain that just as things can get worse, eventually they will also get better.

This too, shall pass.

Creating characters AKA you don’t need to know where the postman lost his virginity

I never set out to write a book. I’ve shared before that I started writing to lift my mood after a change in health left me with a disability and chronic pain which led to clinical depression.

It was easy to fall in love with Grace and Charlie, the characters I thought I would try and write a story about. It was easy to find a hook – Charlie’s last words to Grace “I did something terrible, please forgive me.” It was easy to write page after page. It was when it reached a point where it was no longer a short story, and I thought ‘The Sister’ could possibly be a book, that it suddenly felt very, very hard.

I had no idea how to write a novel.

Anxiety was my default setting and I let it consume me. How could I ever think I could write a book? I had no education beyond a handful of GCSE’s. No training. No degree. No idea what I was doing.

Frantically I turned to Google – how do you write a novel – relaxing when I saw the number of hits that appeared. There were people who knew and they were willing to share. It was all going to be okay once I learned the magic formula – or was it?

I didn’t question who the writers were imparting their knowledge, whether they’d published, sold, whether I’d read and enjoyed their stories. I just took it for granted that everyone knew absolutely more than me. I knew nothing. I would do whatever they told me, and I did.

One of the first blogs I read said you could never write a convincing story unless you knew your characters inside out. That made sense to me. I already felt Grace and Charlie were fully formed, real to me but as I read on I knew that they couldn’t be.

Did I know their shoe size? Umm no.

The first flavour ice cream they ever tried? Can’t say I did.

Their best holiday? No idea.

Lucky for me the writer in question had designed a ten page character sheet questionnaire she was giving away free if I signed up to her newsletter. And I did.

I printed out the sheets and filled them in for Every Single Character because ‘there are no minor players in novels.’

For two weeks I did nothing except get to know my characters.  I even knew where the postman (who is only in one scene delivering a letter) lost his virginity.

When I returned to my manuscript it felt different. What had felt natural before now felt a little like wading through treacle. The direction the plot was naturally taking didn’t fit the personalities I was trying to foist upon my characters. They weren’t acting like the people on my character sheets. I began to question whether I was too inexperienced to write. Whether I needed to do a course.

Later, over a glass of wine with my husband he wondered whether knowing where a fictional postman had fictional sex was really that important to the story.

It wasn’t.

I’ve never filled in a character sheet since. That’s not to say they don’t have a value, all authors ultimately find their own way of working, but I prefer to let them evolve naturally, jotting down things like eye colour etc. as I go to ensure continuity.

That said, before I get too far into a novel I do like to know the character’s internal flaw. The thing that stops he/she getting what she wants. The thing that will have readers rooting for them and cheering during that all important change that happens along the character arc.

For my second book, The Gift, I knew that Jenna my main character didn’t know where her place in the world was anymore after a heart transplant at a relatively young age left her feeling set apart from her friends and boyfriend and that was all I needed to know to begin writing. For a satisfying ending, Jenna needed to find her place whether she reached her external goal of tracking down the donor’s family or not.

Incidentally, Jenna gets several deliveries of mail throughout the story. Her postman probably has sex but I’ve no idea who with, or even of his name.

And what’s more – I don’t care.

Mental Health – A graduate’s journey through school & uni with chronic anxiety (& why writing helps)

 

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Today, I’m excited to be chatting with Chloe from Chloe Chats. Chloe’s a recent graduate who has had a really tough time with chronic anxiety.  I’m interested learning how she navigated the education system and why writing has helped her therapeutically.

 

Hi Chloe, having first met you the day you were born I’m feeling pretty old right now to see how grown up you are but delighted to welcome you onto my blog.

Hi Louise! The time does seem to just fly by – sometimes I can’t believe I’ve already graduated from university.

Firstly, let’s touch upon your anxiety – did anything specifically trigger it?

I’m someone that has had bad anxiety all my life, I can’t even explain why I feel anxious.

I can relate to that. I felt that way before I discovered mindfulness. Now, I’m a huge advocate of mental health and find it both shocking and saddening that according to the NASUWT teaching union, 96% of teachers state they have come into contact with pupils experiencing mental health issues. Did you find your teachers were understanding?

When I was at school I never told anyone about my anxiety, none of my friends or teachers knew about it. I always kept it to myself.

That must have felt like a huge burden?

Yes. I used to feel more anxious because I was worried that people didn’t understand why I wouldn’t talk so much, or why I wouldn’t join in with all the activities. The only reason I didn’t tell anyone was because at the time I didn’t understand it myself, I thought I was ‘weird’ and everyone else was normal. I used to hate myself for not being able to be like everyone else, I would be so annoyed that I couldn’t just join in with a conversation just because I was too anxious.

So at that time you didn’t have any coping techniques in place?

No. I just tried to get through the day. Even though it was only a few years ago there was hardly any information on it, no one really spoke about it like they do now.

Did you have any support?

I was lucky that in secondary school I had a good group of friends that I felt comfortable with, although things went downhill for me when I reached sixth form. I pretty much lost my main group of friends, we all split up and ended up in different form classes and from there I slowly stopped talking to them and if I did meet them at lunch I would just sit there in silence – I can’t even tell you what happened, my anxiety got the better of me.

That must have felt really lonely. The added pressure of GCSE’s and A ’Levels can’t have helped. How did you find that period?

I ended up doing a lot of the exams by myself in a room instead of the main hall with everyone else. I managed to speak to my tutor at the time and I told her how I just couldn’t cope with sitting in the big hall with everyone and so they organised me to take my exams elsewhere. This was super helpful.

Getting through your exams must have been a relief but also brought the pressure of what next?

Yes. When school was coming to an end I panicked a little because I didn’t really know what to do! I ended up going to university where I decided to do a Media and Creative Writing course. Seeing as I enjoyed my Media AS Level so much and I loved to write I thought that was a great option.

That sounds like a positive step?

I thought so but after a week of being at uni I packed up and left – my anxiety was uncontrollable. I struggled to leave my uni room and go into the kitchen to make food because I couldn’t bring myself to bump into my flat mates. I spoke to my mum and she said to do what is best for me, she did try and get me to stay longer because a week is definitely not long enough to get a feel for it. I went home but I didn’t want to feel so defeated. I called up the uni 3 weeks later and asked if I could come back, and thankfully they said yes!! So off I went back to university again – back to my same room and this time around I stuck it out and I’m so glad I did, my flatmates were lovely, I made some great friends and met my boyfriend!

That was such a courageous decision.  Did you feel more in control when you returned?

I did. The friends I made was the biggest thing that helped me. My anxiety seemed to get better but after I left uni it escalated again –and for the first time I had to put my life on hold. My panic attacks grew worse – I had them more often, my heart palpitations were non-stop, I cried a lot, I made myself physically ill because of how run-down I felt. It was at this point that I got stuck in this never-ending loop, I couldn’t see an end to it. I spent loads of time in bed and would barely eat anything, the thought of eating made me feel sick. I went to the doctors, my family looked after me, but I still couldn’t get out of this cycle. I ended up crying in the middle of a restaurant and it was so embarrassing and at that point I just said to myself this has got to stop – I need help. I reached out to my friend who I met at uni – it was handy as she is in the mental health industry. With her help I got to the stage that I felt a little better and I decided that I wanted to help others.

Which brings us to your blog. Why do you find it so beneficial?

Writing is a great coping method for me, it gives me a purpose, it keeps me busy and what I write about has helped others – I get messages from people, comments on my blog posts, and so many tweets from people saying how reading the blog posts has made them feel positive or inspired. I found it also helps to know that you’re not alone.

I honestly don’t know whether I’d have completed my first novel without the support of the WordPress community, let alone published four. Has blogging about something specific given you a sense of connection?

Definitely. I have connected with so many bloggers and it’s been fantastic to make new ‘online’ friends and to be able to talk about these issues with others.

I read your post on ‘How to boost happiness.’

That’s a great example. As I started to write what helps me feel happy it made me realise how much there actually is!

I do a similar exercise in my mindfulness classes. It’s a brave thing sharing personal posts. When I started blogging about my novel writing journey I can remember feeling absolutely terrified and so vulnerable that I was putting myself out there. How did it feel for you and has it got easier?

When I decided to publish my journey of anxiety on my blog I was terrified. I wrote it up in March, but I didn’t publish it till April because the thought of everyone knowing was a scary thought. My parents and boyfriend knew about it and one close friend but that was it. I remember I published it on a Sunday and my boyfriend was there with me and the support was overwhelming – I received so many messages from loved ones, I ended up crying a little. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and it was a positive step for me. The next thing that I was anxious about was going to work the next day because I knew a lot of colleagues had read it from Facebook likes and messages. I thought I’d walk through the door and everyone would just stare at me. However, I walked in and nothing was different, everyone spoke to me like they normally would. One of my colleagues actually came and sat by me and said ‘I just wanted to say, you’re blog post was amazing and well done for sharing it.’ I had a few others message me on our chat system we had who started to tell me that they have experienced similar things – it was great that it got people talking!  

It is! Finally, Chloe, as someone who has also suffered from anxiety I know how beneficial I have found writing, both journaling and blogging, but I also know how completely overwhelming it can feel to begin. What are your top 5 tips.

  • You don’t have to share what you write on a blog or even with anyone else. It could be that you write it up for yourself – it’s such a relief when you get out all your thoughts onto paper (or a computer) that’s been taking up all that space in your mind.
  • If you find that you’re going to bed with worries on your mind I find a great thing to do is to have a notebook by the side of your bed and write down everything that is troubling you. Sometimes writing them out can just lift that weight off your shoulders. I like to write down what is worrying me and then write some solutions next to them. This can help you have a better night’s sleep.
  • If you have a blog yourself, you can always leave posts as drafts until it feels like the right time share it. Sometimes I will have something on my mind that is worrying me and so I will write a blog post on it because it helps to ease my mind but also think that it’ll be a great post for others who might have the same worry. The reason why I would leave them as drafts for a while is because sometimes I just need to get things out of my mind and so I will just type up everything that is running through my mind – sometimes I just go on and on and it doesn’t make much sense!
  • What I have learnt from being a part the blogging community is that there is no pressure when it comes to publishing blog posts. The important thing I’ve learnt about is that you don’t need to look at your stats every day, you might have days where you don’t get as much engagement as you would like but that’s normal. There’s only so much promoting you can do, don’t burn yourself out. I have come across other bloggers where they’ve had weeks off because they’re not in the right headspace and if you find that you’re just writing posts after post just to get views then you should probably stop and think about why you started your blog to begin with.
  • The good thing about blog posts is that you can write about whatever you like, you don’t have to worry so much if readers are going to like it, of course you want your readers to enjoy it but don’t just write about something because you think that it’s popular and will get you a load of views. They’ll be people out there that won’t like your posts so much and they’ll be others that love it and relate to it. You can’t please everyone, but I feel the most important thing is that you enjoy writing it.

Chloe, It’s been such a pleasure chatting to you and thank you for being so open an honest. I’m sure many people will resonate with this post. I look forward to following your blogging journey on Chloe Chats. Good luck.

Thank you!

You can find Chloe’s blog here. Her Facebook page here. And Twitter here.

‘The Wait’ – Flash Fiction – 100 words

 

Photo courtesy of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

It was there, lurking in the gloom. Vague and amorphous and impossible to capture.

But that didn’t stop me trying.

I skulked and stalked and waited. Endlessly waited.

It was 3am on a cold winter’s night when I finally grasped it with both hands. The freezing air bit the tips of my nose, my cheeks but I didn’t care.

Triumph warmed me.

It was mine.

Slowly it began to uncover itself to me and I fell in love. Polishing it until it shone.

My idea.

I’d pinned it down. At last my scattered thoughts a solid something.

A book.

This week I’m celebrating a new 3-book deal with Harper Collin’s imprint, HQ. You can read my blog about that here and The Bookseller announcement here, along with the blurb for my 5thpsychological thriller, The Family.

‘The Wait’ was written for Friday Fictioneers, a weekly 100 word photo prompt challenge hosted by the fabulous Rochelle. Hop over to Rochelle’s blog here and read the other entries or join in!