Writer’s Showcase: Caron Allan

This week I’m cheating yet again, as I’m reblogging a post about me from Christy Oslund’s website https://colliedogpress.wordpress.com
Take a look if you’ve got ten minutes to kill, it’s full of fascinating insights into authors’ lives and work.
And thank you, Christy, for taking the time, and for the great conversations. I appreciate it.

Collie Dog Press

Genre: Mystery (Friendship Can Be Murder series), Romantic Historical Mystery (Dottie Manderson series).

Background: I wrote my first novel Ghosts! Ghosts! Ghosts! in 1970 and unfortunately it is now lost because my mum kept it in a drawer with my drawings, a knitted bookmark and a tea-cozy I made. I started reading adventures at age seven or eight and was reading Agatha Christie by age nine. [Eventually] I remember sitting on my bed in Aldershot, Hampshire, UK, and thinking, I want to write a new story, but what shall I write about? Then I thought, what is it I am afraid of?

Writing Highlight: I had to overcome [close] people telling me that a) I was no good as a writer, b) it was wicked thing to want to write fiction, and c) who did I think I was anyway, thinking I could be a writer? So…

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Paper Love

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This isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about the therapeutic 🙂 qualities of stationery. You might remember not so long ago I was quite excited about a new notebook. (That one’s full now btw!)

What is it about notebooks, pens, sticky-notes and highlighters that is so exciting? Don’t try and pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about–I know I’m not the only one. The stationery aisle in the supermarket is always my first call and I spend hours trawling through stationery stores in town, even when I don’t need anything.

Is it a throw-back to our school days, when at the beginning of autumn–for those of us in the northern hemisphere–we used to get all our new bits and pieces in readiness for the new school year? Remember how the first page of a new notebook always had to be perfect? Your neatest writing, no mistakes, or crossings out or red pen from the teacher? Or, leading on from that, is it a sense of starting over, a clean slate, albeit a paper one, neatly ruled and bound with a pretty cover? A sense of new possibilities?

Possibly we just love having all the tools we need to marshal our ideas onto the page, and feel that these items bring a sense of order and readiness to our endeavours. We feel prepared and able to achieve our goals.

It’s not that I’m materialistic, I don’t buy everything in sight. Sometimes I don’t need anything, so I just go window-shopping. Having fun.

I like to have a set of A5 80 to 100 page notebooks when I’m working on a new book. It helps me to locate the right ones if they’re all the same colour, the covers work as a kind of code for each project. And for the first draft of a novel, I need about five of those. I also like the ones with a card cover, so I can write on the front of the book the working title and the volume number of the notebook. To avoid rummaging on my messy desk for a scrap of paper with a vital note on it, I often print up notes from the Evernote app on my Kindle, or I print up lists of characters and I can staple these inside the front cover to refer to when writing. I still do most of my initial draft on paper before I move to the computer.

In some ways then, the lure of stationery is inexplicable but it is important to me. Paper seems so much more ‘alive’ than an electronic document. I couldn’t be without my notebooks and stickies.

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Post-publication exhaustion…and recovery

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I'm not one for scented candles and long soaks in the bath though...

Having just uploaded and set up my latest release on the various sites I use for self-publishing, I must admit to feeling a little wishy-washy. It took me until 4.30am, and I slept well but was plagued by anxiety dreams once I went to bed. In fact I almost fell out of bed dreaming I’d slipped on the kitchen step. I’d been feeling really quite ropey just lately, run down and tired, beyond tired, not sleeping and feeling mentally confused and ‘full’, like I couldn’t take in another K of information. I must admit there were several times over the last week when I thought I couldn’t do it, that I’d never make it. That was Sunday.

On Monday I felt as if I was in a daze. A bit limp and like yesterday’s leftover lettuce. It took me about two days to feel that sense of relief and accomplishment that means I did the best I could and completed the goal I set myself, and that I’m pleased with my achievement.

Since then I’ve done very little: some editing for a client, a bit of this, a bit of that, I’ve rewritten a short story. Some retail therapy. I’ve finished my puzzle book. I’ve started washing the curtains. I feel like I’m ready to begin the cycle again. I recognise the symptoms: a vague kind of restless fidgety feeling; a need to keep my notebook and pen by my side, even though I haven’t actually thought of anything to write. A desire to read some Goethe. In English, sorry, my German is too rusty to read it in the original as I once did. Iphigenia auf Tauris. I have a strong sense of something is approaching, something nebulous, something on the periphery. I can’t see it with my physical eyes, but I feel it drawing me. Tonight I have a desire to research poisons. I hear little snippets of dialogue coming to me as if voices in another part of the house, and I have an urge to look at country manors on the Internet for possible settings. I’m thinking of insanity and inheritance, of dastardly deeds and clues.

And all this can only mean one thing.

An idea is brewing…

The Long Road

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Writing a book is a process. And quite a lengthy one at that. Often we think that the difficult bit is getting the idea and setting it all down on the page. Or maybe we think the hard part is the effort of writing, day after day, week after week.

But in actual fact, writing a book is only the first half of the long process, the long road. Because after the writing comes the editing, the revising, the editing, the revising, followed by the editing and maybe some revising. Then there’s beta-reading. And leaving it to ‘mature’. Followed by some revising and possibly a bit more editing.

One day – one wonderful day – your ‘baby’ is published. And you feel like you can sit back and relax, heaving a sigh of relief as you do so.  Well, okay, maybe just for a few minutes.

Then it’s back to work. No, not on a new book! You’ve still got to promote and market this one! You need to engage readers, you need to tell the world about your book. Yes it is so, so exciting. But…

If you’re struggling in the middle of all this, if you’re wondering why it’s not fun any more, or why you feel anxious, overwhelmed, depressed, exhausted, emotional, or bewildered, and you feel that your ‘baby’ is not the cute little bundle of joy you were expecting… relax. It’s okay. You’re normal. We all feel like this sometimes.

Because, to repeat myself, it is a process.

It can be demoralising. You can end up feeling you hate your book and wondering why you didn’t stick with your day-job. In fact, I read ‘somewhere’ that if you don’t hate your book by the time it is published, you haven’t done enough work on it. I can honestly say that by the time my first book was ‘out there’ I hated the very sight of it.

But I did it. I published a book. And it was a draining, exhausting, wonderful, fulfilling, exciting process. The sense of achievement took a long time to filter through, but eventually I was able to regard my work with pride. And somehow, I managed to do it again. You will too. If I can do it, with all my ignorance, lack of skills, naivete and my lack of marketing savvy, then you most definitely can too.

So if you’re struggling. If you wonder where the magic went, and whether it’s worth all this hassle, and feel like giving up, stop worrying. You’re doing it right. This is what it’s like – this is the process. You’re doing it right. Just carry on.