I feel pretty cheeky this week – I’ve actually done a sneaky copy of my own interview from my Smashwords profile! It’s not that I’m vain. (well not very) I just thought it offers a few insights into me and my writing. And hordes of people (2) have asked me a few questions along these lines. Also, if you are a writer, why not consider using Smashwords as an alternative to a certain other online book store, it’s always good to give people a choice. Smashwords distribute on my behalf to Barnes and Noble, where the print version of my books are also available as well as the ebook, and also to other destinations that give me a bit of a wider spread. The interview is Smashwords standard one – you can make them as long or as short as you like , and it adds a human touch to the sometimes rather impersonal online presence.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Publishing my books through Smashwords has enabled me to reach readers I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to contact – those who want to read books on the go, on any device or even at home on their own computers, and this platform has also enabled me to reach a wider audience through its distribution network. Print books are also available from Barnes and Noble through Smashwords.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
A sense of achievement, a feeling of ‘yes, I wrote that’ at the end, and a glorious feeling that still takes me by surprise – that I am doing something I really love! Hopefully some of that is communicated in my writing and gives pleasure to the reader too.
What do your fans mean to you? (Remember I wrote this when I was HOPING there might be fans…still hoping…)
Astonishment, mainly. I’m still at the beginning of my career and so I get a massive thrill out of hearing other people say how much they’ve enjoyed my books. And when I get a good review, I feel like I ought to call the reviewer up to personally thank them. I don’t think readers who leave a good review realize just what a blessing that is for a writer.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on the third book in the Posh Hits trilogy – to be called Check Mate – due out in June/July 2015. And also, I am working on some stand-alone novels, all at that difficult second draft stage, when you’re not quite sure how much to put in or to take out. On top of that, I’ve just finished the first draft of the first and second books of my cozy detective series set in 1960s Britain, with a new sleuth – private enquiry agent Miss Josephine Burkett. This first book should be out later in 2015, and will be called Miss Burkett Changes Her Mind.
Who are your favorite authors?
Is there enough room to list them all? In no particular order: Agatha Christie, Patricia Wentworth, Martha Grimes, Kathy Reichs, P G Wodehouse, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Arturo Perez-Reverte, Jasper Fforde, Tom Holt, Sophie Kinsella, M C Beaton, Gemma Halliday, Sibel Hodge, Judith Cranswick, Myra Duffy, Catherine Green, Umberto Eco, Dan Brown, Camilla Lackberg, Cath Staincliffe, Peter Robinson…. the list goes on and on and on and…I love to read!
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I’m not a morning person. And because I do proofreading and editing, usually for people living overseas, I often work into the wee hours, so I’m not exactly raring to go at eight in the morning. So I get up sedately, potter around, talk to my cats, drink some coffee, put out some food on the bird-table, and whilst I’m thinking about my book and what’s about to happen to my characters, I might do a crossword or a Sudoku puzzle. And then I get to work. When I’m really stuck into my writing, I don’t care how many hours I write, I just do it until I run out of energy or words.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
Reading! Or eating cookies and making notes about the next book. I love notebooks and pens, and have a lot of them, and I always want to write something – even if it’s just a list of chores or groceries. If I’m out and about, I sometimes write down things I’ve seen or conversations I’ve eavesdropped on. And there are always more and more ideas coming to me. Plus I’ve got to think of things to say on social media and my blog.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I usually read books by authors who are favourites of mine, or books that have been recommended, or written by people I know. If I meet someone new through social media, I try to support them and read their books if they are writing in a genre I know and like. I don’t think it’s fair to read something that you don’t normally like then give a bad review, so I stick to my particular preferred genres. I often read books based on recommendations.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes – in fact I recently found the actual book, and scanned it so I could put it on my blog. It was quite a scary ghost story (for me as a kid) called ‘Ghostes of Grandire’ and was about a child who met ghosts in her bedroom (spoiler alert!) and went with them to their own land via her bedroom closet. I showed it to my teacher and he gave me some wonderful praise and encouragement. I knew when I was 8 years old I wanted to be a writer, and it’s all I’ve ever wanted.
As an adult, I yearned to write books but always felt I wasn’t good enough in terms of my social background and education, and I was well into my thirties before I stopped worrying about what others might think and decided to ‘just do it’, as they say. I wish I had started so much sooner.
What is your writing process?
It seems to me each book I write has its own character, and that means I have to change my process as each new book demands. But I’m halfway between a pantser and a planner – I mull things over in my head for months, even years sometimes, before I feel ready to begin writing. then I write longhand, in my lovely notebooks, and I write the whole story without editing. Often I write a few chapters, then stop and make lists of characters, places etc necessary to the story, and I transfer the story a bit at a time onto my computer. When the first draft is finished, I put it to one side to ‘mature’ for a few months, sometimes a few years, then I go back, rewrite and rewrite until I feel it’s as good as it can be. Then I leave it again, and rewrite it again. It’s a long and tedious process in many ways, but that’s my way! I don’t do a set number of words every day – some days I write 5,000 words or more, some days I write 800. I very much use my instincts when I write, thinking about how I am feeling about the book, how I think it is going, whether it is working. If not – I rip it up and start again. You have to be ruthless sometimes and do the best work you can.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Not really. Even as a small child I was a voracious reader. And my mother used to read to me, especially The Wind In The Willows, or The House At Pooh Corner. I remember reading some Grimm’s Fairy Tales to the guy who came to fix our gas boiler when I was about six or seven! I loved Enid Blyton books, then graduated to Malcolm Savile’s Lone Pine Five and The Buckinghams, Mum and Dad were quite strict about the kind of books I was allowed to read and used to carefully censor potential purchases for bad language and rudeness! I loved adventure stories about kids doing grown up stuff like solving crimes, and I loved fairy tales – or fantasy as we’d probably call it today. As a pre-teen I also read a lot of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Lucy Montgomery. I also loved Nancy Drew stories – when I was about eleven I won a competition at school and my parents bought me a huge pile of Nancy Drew hardbacks as a special ‘prize’ in addition to the lovely certificate I had from school. When I got to around twelve or thirteen I started to read Agatha Christie novels and then Patricia Wentworth. Those are still my first love, along with Jane Austen.
How do you approach cover design?
I do my own – mainly because my budget is zero and the few covers I’ve paid for I haven’t really liked. I know what I want, but I don’t always know how to communicate that to designers. But a cover has got to be perfect, and I do quite a lot of research beforehand, checking what other books similar to mine look like. I want something that will stand out, but that is clear and easily understood as a thumbnail, and also something that seems to fit the content of the story,
Describe your desk
It’s tiny, and messy, with a little haven of tidiness in the middle – just about big enough for a laptop or a notebook. And it’s surrounded by piles of books, and papers, and notes, and manuscripts. I daren’t sneeze or move too fast in case everything comes tumbling down on my head – it’s a health and safety nightmare! And I’ve now got a big piece of white card on the wall that I use a bit like a whiteboard and pinboard combined.
So that’s me, folks, see it’s easy!