Rich Hall Comedian – Interview – Writing & what you should NEVER do with a good idea

Rich Hall is one of my favourite comedians. Alongside stand-up he’s a firm fixture on TV panels shows, especially QI. In 2000 he won the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe in the guise of his country singing ex-con uncle Otis Lee Crenshaw.  This week I was lucky enough to see him live where he combined comedy and music in a show that was so funny my stomach muscles still ache from laughing.  During the first half he talked in his trademark drawl, taking an interest in the audience, randomly asking people where they were from, how long they’d been married and what they did for a living.  The second half kicked off with Rich singing a song based around an audience member’s life. I was utterly in awe of how quickly he’d pulled the song together over the interval and my writer mind instantly questioned, how had he done it? As time marched on he sang song after song using new information about different people and I knew these hadn’t been pre-written. How did he, seemingly easily, come up with ideas.

At the end of the show I asked if I could ask Rich directly and blog about his process. Thankfully he said yes.

Rich, I’m in awe of the way you put songs together so effortlessly tonight.

Thanks it’s not always as effortless as it appears.

I thought you’d used the interval to write the first song you sang in the second half but then you carried on singing about audience members. You must make them up on the spot?

Not entirely. The interval helps, trust me. In the interval I’ve got a bit of information to work with. I don’t know what I’m gonna do with it but at least I know. I knew that guy drove a mini metro and I could think about it.  I guess it’s a little like you planning books?

I tend to wing it!

Hehe I wing it too but even then I’m thinking ahead wondering what could come next. Sometimes shows are shorter without an interval and then the pressure’s really on but some writer’s work better under pressure. You one of those?

God no! I don’t like too much pressure but I’m beginning to think I’m better with a deadline of some sort. I don’t have one at the moment.

 Yeah sometimes it stems creativity having to produce something. It sucks the life out of it. But sometimes you need that kick up the arse.

A couple of the songs you sang tonight I’d heard before. How do you approach song writing?

Often I work on the structure first and then I sit and teach the band – here’s what I want you to play – then we’ve got a good feel for it and I fill in the words. It comes easier with experience. Writing is writing whatever it is. Practice definitely helps.

 How long have you been writing?

Thirty five years now. I studied journalism at college and then went to work for the Seattle newspaper writing columns. I hated it. I’d always wanted to be a comedian. One day I just decided to go for it.

It’s not only jokes and songs you write is it?

No there’s plays, books and documentaries. All sorts.

Do you write on the road? Are you structured with your approach?

If inspiration hits I’ll write. I split my time between the UK and my ranch in Montana and I tend to do a lot of writing there.

Do you have any rituals?

I wish I did. I wish it was like a tap that I could do something and it would come. Sometimes I get really stuck, don’t you?

I do but I tend to only work on one project at a time so I have to work through it somehow. What do you do?

 I walk away. Writing’s pretty much the same, jokes, stories, whatever and sometimes you have to walk away from it.

If you could give one piece of advice to new writers, what would it be?

When you get an idea you know in your gut if it’s a good one and if it is don’t beat it into the ground. If it doesn’t flow and you force yourself to keep working on it you lose confidence in the idea and it becomes old. You’re a writer, Louise. You know what I’m talking about?

Absolutely. I’ve had to put the manuscript for my latest novel, The Date, away so many times because it wasn’t coming and I knew it was too good an idea to let go.

Yeah that’s the thing. You give something space and it could be good.  If you’re sick of thinking about it let it go for a while. That’s what I learned. I was very frustrated when I started out because I thought I had to sit and work on something until it was finished.  Sometimes you’ve got to mix it up. What gets you through the hump?

A mixture of pure panic, cheese and too much wine.

Hehe, I might try that!

It’s been lovely talking to you Rich. Thanks so much for your time.

It’s been a pleasure.

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A day in the life of author…Tracey Scott-Townsend

Hmm writing in a ‘shed’ with no wi-fi distractions may be the key to being more productive. Tracey, do share more about your day.

 

For a good deal of my writing life (which began full-time in 2010) my office has been a shed in the garden. As it happens I’m currently packing up my shed in preparation for a house move so I’m having to work in the house. I find this distracting, due to my two captivating rescue dogs wanting my attention so much of the time. I also have other intrusive business going on at the moment, mostly stemming from the house sale.

At our new home in Hull I’ve created a cosy ‘shed’ by dividing an alcove off from the main part of the spare room. I hope I feel secure and isolated (in a good way) in there in the same way as I do going out to a dedicated space in the garden.

But let’s imagine for now that I`m still working in my shed – it’d be a shame not to show you around. My mini-palace is no ordinary garden shed. I have electricity and a wood stove and rugs hanging in there. I have photos of my kids on the bookshelves and one or two of my old paintings on the walls, too. Research notes and reference photos are also pinned up under the window, along with a calendar on which I mark the daily progress of my writing. In winter I have the stove burning merrily with the copper kettle coming to the boil on its flat top.

My day begins with a catch up on social media before I exit my bed. The first task downstairs will be to provide `strokey time` for the dogs, who act like they haven’t seen me for a year. Then I need to give Luna her Turmeric paste, followed by her YuMove tablets and her anti-inflammatory medicine. She’s less than 2 years old but she has severe hip dysplasia. I`ll probably need to wipe down the kitchen after my 18-year-old daughter has blasted through it. She’s my youngest of four and about to leave home as her brothers have already done, so I’m much more indulgent with her than I was with the others! I try to leave any other housework tasks until outside of work hours but sometimes it’s difficult to ignore them.

I always describe the feeling of closing the shed door behind me and sitting at my desk as like childhood visits to church. Okay, I’m not saying my shed is holy or anything but the atmosphere inside is to me kind of spiritual…

If I’m working on a new novel – which I am at the moment, only my progress has been interrupted by all this house moving business – I set myself a word-count target of 2,000 – 3,000 per day. I divide the target into more-or-less equal portions so that I know what I need to achieve in each session and I must reach the targets before I allow myself to take a break. (Even if I’m writing absolute drivel. Absolute drivel can be improved later.) I can also work out roughly how long it’ll take me to complete the first draft of a novel by sticking to the daily target. My novels are usually around 80,000 words long. Not that I won’t end up getting rid of at least one-third of it during the second draft but at least it’s a reason to keep going at the outset. Spending two years working as a secondary school teacher really helped me with targeting and time-management.

During my breaks I return to the house, check on the dogs and generally move around a bit. Quite possibly I’ll be forced to pick up a snowstorm of stuffing from the latest cushion or soft toy disembowelment! I have a cup of tea and/or my lunch. On a sunny day I leave the back door open so the dogs can come and go in and out the house all day. I might have my shed door open while I’m working as well. I often prepare the evening meal early in the day, during one of my breaks. Back in the shed for another thousand-word session I feel refreshed, as though I’m beginning a new working day. If it’s going to get dark early I might take the dogs for their walk during my afternoon break, but at the moment while it’s light until nine I tend to take them out after work. A daily walk (two in the winter when it’s no fun for my husband to take them out in the pitch-dark early morning) is essential to me both physically and mentally. I’m lucky in that I live near a riverbank, a large, wooded park and a hilly common so I have plenty of opportunity to commune with nature. I’ll need to walk further to commune once I’ve moved permanently into our house in Hull. My walk talks a minimum of half an hour.

An advantage of working in the shed is the lack of Broadband because if I’m really good and leave my phone in the house I get a lot more writing done.

My husband comes home about six and that’s also my official work-finishing time. If I’m tantalisingly close to my target but not quite there I take a little extra time in my shed. He’ll most likely offer to take the dogs out for me if I haven’t done it yet – but that’s not really as good a thing as it sounds as I won’t then get the exercise I so badly need… but sometimes you can’t fit in everything! I much prefer working in my shed to being in the house because once I’ve typed the daily word-count I close the laptop and zip it into its bag. Then I lock the shed door after me and return to other business. Having the shed makes writing so much more like actually going out to work. I’m never distracted by housework in my shed.

I tend to spend the whole time that I’m preparing, cooking and serving the evening meal talking about my characters and their fictional world while Phil listens patiently. Or possibly he’s not listening at all. When I was writing my first novel, The Last Time We Saw Marion, I used to read a chapter to him every night in bed. I soon realised he was falling asleep a few pages in. Pity I didn’t try that on my children when they were little!

After dinner I like to make sure I’m up to date with email correspondence and then have another catch-up on social media. I like to watch a drama programme in the evening so if there’s nothing on TV I select something from catch-up or Netflix. I’ve recently watched complete series’ of Raised by Wolves, based on the childhood of Caitlin Moran, Peaky Blinders, which I was introduced to by my son and I’m now working my way through Orange is the New Black.

 

 

Thanks so much Tracey for sharing your day. We have the same taste in TV! You can find Tracey’s blog here and buy her books on Amazon here. 

A day in the life of…debut author Nicola Cassidy & COVER REVEAL

This is such an exciting time for Nicola Cassidy. I remember the huge excitement blended with nerves as I prepared to release my debut. One of the things I was hugely looking forward to was seeing my first cover and I know Nicola felt the same – look how gorgeous her cover is! She’s understandably thrilled.

 

So, Nicola. It’s such a busy time for you. Please tell us about a typical day.

I’m not sure when my day begins. Is it at 7.30am when the eldest appears, hovering at the bedside, pawing at my head or arm, requesting ‘juice’ at intermittent pitch levels until I waken and acknowledge her and tell her to shush or she’ll waken the baby? Or is it at the 3am feed? For the six-month-old? She comes into the bed, snuffling and mooching, ready for milk, animalistic and hungry – my favourite form of her – her at her most basic, needing me the most.

The 3am feed, could be 4am or another one at 5.30am. There are no long stretches of sleep. I’m not even programmed to take them, should they, in a night of miracles, appear. I’ve never been a good sleeper. Everything wakes me. Mostly worries – stresses that loom in the dark, rendering me wide eyed and tired, tossing and turning, willing sleep to cover the gaping problem that stretches across my mind. Always worse, in the dark, in the pre-dawn.

Writing, is probably, a form of therapy. I could always write. It was just there. It was picked up quickly, by my teachers, by my parents – who encouraged it. I had pen pals, I had letters and stories printed, I was a mini journalist before I even knew a journalist was.

It took a time to craft it in such a way that it fit into my life. Properly. Space made. Time given. Using those lofty words about myself – writer. And now, author.

My days are dictated by the structure of our small village, creative lives. My husband is a musician and producer and works late hours. I need to let him sleep, in the mornings, which means getting up with the children, no matter how many times I’ve been up in the night. Currently I’m on maternity leave, so I feel obliged to be with the children, all of my time.

Soon, I’ll return to work, three days a week at an electrical engineering consultancy, and I fear the tiredness that can be covered with cups of tea among the squalor at home, will descend into exhaustion at work. But I’m energised by people. I like the routine. I like having to be presentable, engaging, and my work as a marketing manager, teaches me many skills that I put to use in my promotional work as an author and in my hobby, as a lifestyle and parenting blogger at http://www.LadyNicci.com

I hope returning to work will put a routine on the chaos that is being a stay at home Mum. I might find it easier to write. I work better when my time is limited and structured. I am strict – if I have an hour to write, I will take it, regardless of what else needs to be done.

I have learned to write anywhere. It used to be only at my desk, which I installed in our spare room and set up in an Ikea inspired brochure quality weekend. Now I prefer my bed, beside the sleeping baby, cosy and settled, tapping away on my purple laptop, a gift from my husband who has always believed in my writing. In me. In my success.

On the days at home, there are thousands of jobs to be done. I don’t make a good housewife. I would love to live in a showhouse, but I seem to be missing the part that can make that happen. I envy homes I go into where everything is in place, organised, candlelit. I’m learning though. I’ve started using a launderette and soon, we’re hoping to hire a cleaner. I need to give the time to writing – to understand that my time will be better spent, producing words and editing than scrubbing the floors or the bathroom again.

On my days with the children, we might visit a playground, or family, or meet with friends, or go to town, shopping. Carting two small children around is no easy feat. Some days it takes two hours to load us all into the car, fed, washed and dressed. But I always feel better getting out. They get bored at home.

In the evenings I cook a family meal. I thank Slimming World for teaching my how to cook. I’m trying to be strict, to rediscover the figure I once had. But two babies in three years and a penchant for wine, crisps and all things chocolate usually lay waste to my skinny plans.

I’m thinking about the book launch. About the photos. About how I want to look my best. I plan on having a big party – an event to mark my dreams coming true. We had a huge white wedding, but I was overwhelmed – I couldn’t enjoy the day. This is my second chance. At celebrating. At marking what is a significant time in my life. I’ve wanted to publish a book since I was a child.

Late evening, if we manage to get the baby settled, we will watch a programme we are currently following. We like gripping TV dramas, House of Cards, Mr Robot, Game of Thrones – anything with a good script. I will watch fantasy, but I don’t read it. I like literary fiction, particularly if it’s set in the past. It inspires me – I hope to one day achieve such a level in my writing.

On the nights when my husband is working, I will take my laptop out again. I’ve had to stop writing at night, because of exhaustion; I don’t have the energy to be coherent. But I might blog or do some marketing, or email friends or do some online shopping. I rarely watch TV on my own. I see it as a waste of time. Time is precious. Free time, time that is yours to do what you wish, is so rare.

When my book was picked up and I knew that I would be working with a professional editor, I thought that I would be facing into a type of deconstruction – my words pulled apart, everything examined, changes imposed. But it hasn’t been like that at all. The whole thing has been an enhancement, facts checked, issues resolved, a massage of the manuscript, to be turned out, sharper; something I can stand over, proud.

Every night, since I signed with my agent in 2016, I visualised myself signing a book contract, just before I went to sleep. It was my version of counting sheep. I knew it would happen. I just wasn’t sure when, or how.

Now, I am unsure what to visualise. Sometimes it is the launch. Other times it’s a ranking on Amazon. But rankings don’t have quite the same visual effect as being offered a book deal. Nothing really can compare to that.

And then the baby is awake again. It’s 3am and the cycle of my day begins again. Children, home, work and writing. It is my life. A very lucky, lucky, life.

I’m in awe of anyone who even manages to get dressed with a new baby in the house, let alone write books! Thanks so much for sharing, Nicola and best of luck with your debut. 

Nicola Cassidy is a writer and blogger from Co. Louth, Ireland. Her debut historical fiction novel December Girl releases on Thursday 26 October 2017, published by Bombshell Books. She is married to Ronan and is Mum to August (3) and Bonnies (mere months). Find her on her website or follow her on Twitter or on her blog

A day in the life of… author & writing school founder Chantelle Atkins

 

Today I welcome Chantelle Atkins to my blog who as well as writing books runs a writing school. It’s heartwarming to share Chantelle’s passion for life – she really is living her dreams. Over to you, Chantelle.

Like many writers, I can’t rely on my writing income to pay the bills, but I am fortunate, because my other jobs are just as much fun as writing. I’m a self-employed dog walker and pet sitter, and I also run my own writing based business; Chasing Driftwood Writing Group, which provides creative writing clubs and workshops to adults and children in my local area of Christchurch, Dorset. If you include writing, I technically run three self-employed businesses, and although I don’t think any of them will ever make me rich, I do feel immensely lucky to be doing so many things I enjoy and am passionate about. My dreams when I was a child were to work with animals and be a writer, so to be as busy as I am right now, feels like a dream come true. However, with four children to juggle aged between 3 and 14, I do struggle at times to get it all right! I’d like to tell you about a typical day in my life, which is today, Monday.

Morning. I’m up at 6.45 which is a bit of a lay in, as it’s the summer holidays so there is no school run. I’m actually up before the children, so enjoy breakfast and a cup of tea in peace! I feed my dogs and let the chickens and ducks out, and then I have to grab my 3-year-old son and get him dressed as we have some pet sitting duties to see to. Leaving the other kids asleep, we leave the house at 7.45 to drive down the lane to feed a neighbours guinea pigs. From there we drive further down the lane to pick up a dog for dog walking. After that, we also feed her and the resident cat and drive back home. My almost 15-year-old is up by now so she looks after my son while I take our own dogs out for a walk. There is just enough time for a coffee before my mum turns up to look after everyone, while me and my eldest child go to my writing club at a local hall. I normally do kids workshops every school holiday, but this time I am trying something new with a weekly, pay as you go writing club. So far, we have covered comic books, and using local maps to inspire stories! The next few weeks will also involve FanFiction and poetry and song! I absolutely love working with young people like this. I used to be a childminder, so starting Chasing Driftwood was an amazing way to combine working with kids with my passion for writing. An hour later, we are back home, but I only have time to let my daughter out of the car, while I drive off to another dog walking job.

Afternoon. After a gorgeous walk down by the river, I’m back home for lunch and a well deserved cup of tea with my mum and the kids, and my sister who has dropped by with her bunch. We haven’t seen each other much lately, so enjoy a really good catch up and gossip! They leave around 4pm, and I drag three of the kids out for a walk with our dogs down to the little river at the end of our lane. Bliss. At the moment, I am preparing for the release of my 6th novel (YA dystopian adventure called The Tree Of Rebels) whilst also putting the final touches to another novel. However, every time I leave my house and explore my local area of Hurn, I have another story in my mind. I have a four book YA post-apocalyptic story planned and I am just bursting with it. I can’t write it yet, but it’s just getting louder and louder, and every time I walk around this area, I come up with scenes and bits of dialogue. I am forever tapping into my phone as I walk!

Evening. I don’t usually get to do any real writing until my youngest is in bed. If I am lucky I might get the chance to look at my emails throughout the day, but that will be it. Once he is asleep though, the evening is mine, and I grab it hungrily. Writing is in my head all day, so much so that I am often extremely distracted and prone to making silly mistakes, like turning up on the wrong day for something. I’ve always been like this. My mum used to say I lived in my own world, and my nick-name was ‘cloth-ears’ because I rarely paid attention to anything anyone said to me. Now, I find it a struggle sometimes, to keep the house running and the animals sorted and the kids happy, find a way to earn money AND fit my writing in. I manage to do it all, just! The evening is lovely because I make a nice cup of tea, sit up in my room and let rip. At the moment, I am editing what will hopefully be the last draft of a novel called Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature. I am doing bits and bobs to prepare for the release of The Tree Of Rebels, and I am always planning my weekly blog posts. As a self-published author, I am doing everything myself, so need to dedicate a certain amount of time to building my author platform and networking with people. I have to say, I love every moment of it all! Currently, I am also going through the process of turning Chasing Driftwood Writing Group into a Community Interest Company, so that I can better access funding for all the writing based ideas I have! There is always planning in process for my workshops, which I run for kids and adults at various times, and my clubs. I am strict about actual writing though. Although it is editing right now, I commit myself to four chapters a night, no matter what. I do two chapters before I even look at emails or social media, then have a bit of a break to do other things, and then do the next two chapters. Being strict like this is the only way I get things done. I can’t wait to get these next two books out! They’ve taken two years of working on them simultaneously to get them right. After that, I will go back to another YA novel I have at third draft stage, and once that one is done, it will be time for the four book series I mentioned.

I love everything I do, and although there are a lot of ups and downs and uncertainties, I can’t see myself ever doing anything else. I have a lot of plans for the future, and just hope I can hold it all together well enough to succeed!

 

I’m exhausted just reading all that! Thanks so much for sharing, Chantelle.

Chantelle’s latest release, The Tree Rebels will be published on 11th August, you can find it here

Chantelle Atkins was born and raised in Dorset, England and still resides there now with her husband, four children and multiple pets. She is addicted to both reading and music, and is on a mission to become as self-sufficient as possible. She writes for both the young adult and adult genres. Her fiction is described as gritty, edgy and compelling. Her debut Young Adult novel The Mess Of Me deals with eating disorders, self-harm, fractured families and first love. Her second novel, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side follows the musical journey of a young boy attempting to escape his brutal home life. She is also the author of This Is Nowhere, This Is The Day and has recently released a collection of short stories related to her novels called Bird People and Other Stories. Chantelle has had mulitiple articles about writing published by Author’s Publish magazine, and is also a reviewer with Underground Book Reviews. Her next novel, a YA dystopian is due for release August 2017.

Website/blog  Facebook  Twitter

B.A. Paris – The Breakdown Launch Lunch at The Ivy Club, London

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I had the pleasure of first meeting the lovely B.A. Paris at an author event last year. At that time I had just released my debut, The Sister, while hers, Behind Closed Doors had been out for several months. We bonded over our shared experience, our genuine bewilderment of both finally being published later in life and having No.1 Bestsellers and have championed each other throughout the process of writing our second tricky novels. She was thrilled for me when I published The Gift before Christmas and it shot to No. 1 and I was delighted to be able to join her at The Ivy Club yesterday to toast the launch of her second novel, The Breakdown, which is already soaring up the charts. fullsizerender-5It was lovely to catch up with old friends and make some new ones, over one of the most delicious meals I have ever eaten. But first lets talk about the book.

img_9388The Breakdown is good. Not good in a ‘my friend is the author so I’m obliged to say that’ good, but ‘I started it last night, couldn’t put it down and have just finished it,’ good. From the opening chapter I was gripped by the story of Cass, a woman who is driving home late one night and passes a car that has broken down. There’s a raging storm, isolated countryside and I could feel Cass’s anxiety as she tries to decide whether she should stop and help, worried she could be putting herself at risk. Eventually she decides to drive on, a decision that ultimately haunts her throughout the rest of the book as the driver of the broken down car is found murdered and Cass has a creeping sense of unease throughout the story that she might be next on the killer’s list. The tension builds and builds throughout the story and anyone who loved Behind Closed Doors (and with over a million sales there’s rather a lot of people who did!) should love this story too.

img_9378The launch lunch itself was intimate, in a private room at The Ivy Club. I ate mixed beetroots with whipped goat’s curd, mixed seeds and moscatel dressing, followed by macaroni cheese and I finished with a cheeseboard. We drank champagne and red and white wine and chatted about books and writing. Being an author can be such a solitary existence sometimes, I really do treasure the time I get to spend with other writers.img_9380

The Breakdown is the WH Smith Book of the Week which I know B.A. Paris was very excited to discover, her ambition has always been to be able to visit a W H Smith’s store and see a copy of her book. The demand is so high W H Smith’s do keep selling out! As well as in all good bookstores you can also buy The Breakdown on Amazon UK here or Amazon US here and follow B. A. Paris on Twitter here.

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Does writing books get easier? Author to author chat with Claire Seeber

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Writing The Sister was such fun. There was no pressure, no deadlines, no expectations. Signing a three-book deal is something I am still super-excited about and very grateful for, but the prospect of writing two more books to a deadline is a little daunting.

It was with great relief I settled down for a chat with Claire Seeber. Claire is currently editing her sixth (sixth!) thriller and having just devoured her latest novel, The Stepmother, in one sitting, I couldn’t wait to bombard her with questions.

Claire, six books! I can’t imagine. That must be an amazing feeling?

It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing it long enough to have written six books! I’m just very grateful anyone still wants to read them!

I’ve found it quite emotional leaving behind the characters in The Sister to begin something fresh. How did you find writing a second book in comparison to your first?

Er..my 2nd book BAD FRIENDS was actually the book I started writing first! I was working full-time as a TV director when I had the idea, inspired by a programme I was making at the time (the book is about a TV producer who gets stalked by someone possibly very close to home). I wrote a few chapters and then left it on the shelf. When I got my first deal with Avon/ HC a few years later, I needed a 2nd book synopsis to prove I’d got more ideas up my sleeve, and BAD FRIENDS was it. Having said that, I remember being taken out to the River Café by my first editor (those were the days! Now it’s a Nandos!) and she asked me what I wanted to write about next, and I said ‘infidelity’. Simple as that, but I think that must have been for my 3rd book NEVER TELL. My books are meant to be in part about things that ‘matter’ as well as being hopefully a bit thrilling.

You certainly achieved that blend with The Stepmother. I’m feeling a lot of pressure to produce something that will be as well received as The Sister has been. How hard was it for you to write a second novel.

I think I was lucky that it wasn’t more difficult to find an idea – I certainly know the ‘2nd book syndrome’ can be horrible, and I was definitely worried that I wouldn’t deliver a book my editor liked as much as my first. Luckily she did – but it didn’t do as well as my first, ironically – though then my 3rd, NEVER TELL, did really well thank goodness.

That’s good and now book 6! I keep looking at the paperback of The Sister which sits on my bookcase and I can’t imagine how thrilling it will be to see another cover on with my name on it. Thankfully the idea for book two came to me as I was wrapping up book one but I’ve no idea what will come after this. Do you have ideas for future stories squirrelled away or do you take it one book at a time?

I always have lots of ideas scribbled down – I’ve learnt that if I don’t write something down IMMEDIATELY, I will forget! If I have a cracking idea at midnight as I’m dozing off, and convince myself I’ll remember in the morning – well I won’t!!! Many an idea’s been lost that way. When it comes to a new book, I sift through things in my head and my notes, and see what feels most important to me at the time, most current etc. Usually I will have a discussion with my editor about what I am writing next, and what she thinks is the best plan too – and that will push me in one direction or another. We don’t always agree, it has to be said! So more ideas, yes! Not sure if they’re any good but I’ve got them!

I have scribbled notes but when I come back to them I can barely decipher my writing! So reviews…. Although the reviews I have been sent for The Sister have all been very kind I’m trying to finish a decent draft of my second novel before I dive into Goodreads and find out what everyone really thinks. I’m not expecting everyone to love it, of course, but I’d rather have the second book written before I read anything that will potentially knock my confidence as a new writer. Did you write your second book before or after you published your first and do you think that makes a difference?

I wrote it after I’d written the first book LULLABY. As I’ve said, I’d had the idea beforehand for BAD FRIENDS, but I think I scrapped those early chapters and started over. I was on a tight deadline with Avon, and I remember it as a pretty stressful time; we’d just moved house into a complete wreck and I had two little boys under three at the time. It was pretty tough to find the time to write it!

Wow – when my boys were that age it was a challenge to even get dressed sometimes! Your reviews are brilliant. Do you feel the pressure to keep up the same standard or are you more relaxed about writing now?

Ah bless you! I could find you some bad reviews! There’s always someone out there who will say something bad; but I have learnt to take it on the chin, though that’s been a relatively long process.   It’s too soul-destroying to take it all personally; we have to realise that the internet breeds critics and everyone thinks they’re entitled to their opinion, (which they are, of course, but there are polite ways of criticising aren’t there?!). I’ve also learnt that people have very different reactions to the same book and that’s normal.

A thicker skin is something I’m going to have to work on I think. I feel quite protective of my characters. With The Sister I wrote Grace’s story as it flowed. I never once thought about genre or marketing. I never intended it to be anything other than what it was. Now, I’m aware I have signed a deal to produce two more psychological thrillers. Do you find genre is something you are very conscious of as you write?

Well, I suppose I’d made a conscious decision with LULLABY that I was writing a certain type of book and I knew that ‘crime’ in general was the biggest seller of the time (I needed to make some money, I had a very feckless now-ex husband & a baby I was desperate to stay at home with). Remember though, this was back in 2004 when the ‘domestic noir’ of today didn’t exist. When I was first looking for an agent in 2005, having written LULLABY, I found they were unsure what bracket I fitted into: it wasn’t straight crime as they knew it. It seems really odd now to remember meetings at Harper Collins HQ where they were unsure what readership to market, and had pie-charts and things about demographics! Then Gone Girl came along and the market EXPLODED!! But that was after my first 4 books had been published!

 In answer to your question, I knew I wanted to write what I called psychological thrillers (of course they’re called that generally nowadays), and those were stories with strong female protagonists, who had to deal with some frightening scenario in their ordinary lives, and usually had some kind of relationship issues/ romance thrown in too. So it wasn’t a genre I had particularly chosen, more a type of book I wanted to write, because I liked reading it. The closest contemporary books to what I was writing were Nicci French, when I started out. My ‘genre’ in my mind was a combination of lots of things – dangerous, scary, but a bit comic too, with a hint of romance often (though not always) – and about why people do bad things to each other.

That’s something that has always fascinated me too. I’m not very good at planning, I don’t even know what I’m having for lunch. Working to a deadline I think I need to be more organised. Do you outline your plots?

Yes and no. It’s a good idea to, I think, if you are on a deadline, because it can be easy to go all over the shop if you don’t. I did with my first, because I’d never written a whole long book before, and it meant I knew what was coming next. I did with THE STEPMOTHER, my new book, because I was under a lot of time pressure. In between, not always!

Planning is something I want to explore. I feel it has been a massive jump, writing for fun in my bedroom to writing to a deadline. How do you feel the writing process has changed for you from your first book to your sixth.

It’s definitely not so much fun, to be honest, once it’s a ‘job’ – as you’ve found out! Though the paradox is that you know someone wants it at least! My first book was very much escapism: I used to disappear into the world and it was a break from washing dishes and changing nappies.   I still do disappear into it, to an extent, but with a different mindset eg knowledge of deadlines/ realities of knowing I’m not the next best-selling Agatha Christie etc!

I think Agatha Christie is definitely in a league of her own! There’s plenty of books around on how to create a good thriller. Is there a formula?

I always write the best book I can; I want to write to a certain standard and to keep the pages turning for the reader, that’s the key to thriller writing, in my mind.   Not too ludicrous a plot, and page-turning! With characters the reader can believe in, if not necessarily like.

 Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me Claire.

You can find out more about Claire’s (6!!) books here.

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A day in the life of……author Steven Kedie

Writing full time is a luxury many of us dream about and although I fitted writing The Sister around a family and working part-time I’m always in awe of those who hold down a full-time job too.

Today, Steven Kedie, author of Suburb, shares with us how he juggles a career and two children under five  with the burning desire to write.

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Like many people just starting out in this game called Writing, I am not full time. I have a job, a 9-5, that pays the mortgage and nursery fees. Most of my writing is done in short bursts: 500 words before work, editing at lunchtime, plot problems thought through and sorted out on runs I do after the kids are in bed. Every once in a while I get a full day where writing can be the priority, where my focus can be absolute. It’s one of those days I’d like to tell you about.

Wednesday

 I wake up tired. As always. Two kids under five will do that to you. It’s not just the kids today though. Yes, it’s not six o’clock yet and the youngest is crying, so that’s not helping. But they are not the full reason. There’s last week’s family holiday to Centre Parcs that none of us seem to have recovered from, the Stag Do in Leeds on Saturday night – that definitely hasn’t helped, the unexpected (unwelcome), hour long, night feed on Monday. But the main reason it took me ages to get to sleep last night was The Reader feedback.

Every writer has their Reader. That one you go to first with new work and say, What do you think? The one you know will be critical, insightful, brutal. The reader who helps makes you a better writer. Mine is my wife. Last night I gave her a draft of Ben, a short story I’ve been working on. I went out in Manchester to watch an open mic night and she stayed in and read my work. When I got home, feedback was waiting. Not your usual style, too much detail about things that don’t matter, boring. She’d only read four pages. There were some positive bits, but writer brains don’t tend to focus on the positive do they? So, instead of sleeping, I spent some time lay in bed running through every little bit of Ben’s opening.

Which brings me to this morning. I’ve got a full day of writing/ editing planned in. And, following last night’s conversation, more work to do than I thought. So as I get our two boys ready for nursery: encouraging breakfast down them, making sure swimming stuff is ready, putting shoes on, my mind is on Ben. How to fix it, what to change? And somewhere in all the early morning chaos, something clicks.

            What if… I say to my wife.

            Could work better, she says.

And the day ahead becomes less daunting. There’s a plan. Something to work towards.

I drop my wife at the tram station, the kids at nursery. Then home. Kettle on, empty the dishwasher. I eat breakfast in front of the computer. My draft is in front of me, my red pen ready. And I work. Cutting, moving sections, drawing lines through massive chunks of work I thought were important. The feedback from last night has convinced me it’s not. How right she was. I see it all with clear eyes on this read through. Something begins to take shape in these early hours of the working day. Ben no longer seems boring. The early drama of the story has been pushed further towards the start. Two characters’ stories were sitting in different chapters. They now sit side by side in the opening section. I’ve been at it for an hour and a half and I have progress.

Our cleaner arrives (I know, how middle class). I don’t like being in the house when she works. It’s awkward for both of us. So I print off the morning’s work and drive to my favourite local café. There’s something cliché about writing in a coffee shop but, as I don’t get these opportunities for full days of writing very often, I embrace it. The place is very quiet, which is unusual as normally there are kids (including mine) running madly round it. It’s an art café, aimed at families, so it’s to be expected but today it’s nice to enjoy their coffee (which is excellent) and read in peace. I study my work and then begin editing the rest of the story again. I’m more brutal now, killing those darlings with a swift flick of my red pen. Boring sticks in my mind so anything I think hints at that goes.

I go home for lunch. The house is empty and clean. I set up at the dining table again and eat as I work. I know if I stop to watch something on Netflix for half an hour I’m going to lose half an afternoon watching Californication for the third time and feel annoyed at myself later. I work until three: editing, editing, editing. I get up to change the CD every 45 minutes or so but other than that I stare at my words and try to improve them.

At three I put my running kit on and go running down the canal. No music, just the low engine noises of canal barges and the odd tram passing on the other side to soundtrack me. It’s nice, again a luxury, as ordinarily at this time I’m at my normal desk, doing my normal job.

Back at it after showering and hydrating, I work against the clock. Nursery pick up time approaches and I want to finish an edit of the whole story before I go. My leaving time gets put back by ten minutes three times.

And then it’s done. Another round of editing over. Ben and his world are saved, printed, ready for The Reader to cast her eye over and give more feedback. Feedback which again I know will improve it. Feedback I think you have to learn to take.

The whole family returns and the house fills with noise. The table that was my work station becomes a place to eat again, with the boys filling up with a post nursery snack to see them through until bedtime. Toy aeroplanes sit where the computer was, a child’s guitar rests where my notebook has been all day. There’s no sign to point to any of the work I’ve spent the day doing apart from a neat pile of A4 paper, waiting to be read, the top sheet reading: Ben. A Carl Stone Story. Steven Kedie.

 

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Wednesday was fuelled by tea and one massive Latte. It was soundtracked by The Shadow Puppets, Bruce Springsteen and Brian Fallon.

Ben, is the second story from the world of Carl Stone. The first story, Carl Stone’s Girl, is available on Amazon, along with my other work, including my novel: Suburb.

Thanks for reading.  Steven

20501882Thanks so much Steven for sharing. You can find out more and buy Steven’s books here.