I get my ideas from studying art history and my need to know where lost art is, and a personal frustration to discover its secrets, now lost, that inspired the artist to write a story with paint.
Veronica Knox – 28 September 2014 Continue reading
I get my ideas from studying art history and my need to know where lost art is, and a personal frustration to discover its secrets, now lost, that inspired the artist to write a story with paint.
Veronica Knox – 28 September 2014 Continue reading →
I formulated the idea in January 2013 after a trip to Jamaica. There, I stayed at a small resort next to where author Ian Fleming of James Bond fame once owned a property. A place where such a prolific writer lived and wrote obviously inspired me.
Eden Baylee – 25 September, 2014 Continue reading →
It’s great when I review a book I would never have normally chosen – and discover a whole new genre to add to my portfolio.
Tony Riches – 23 September 2014 Continue reading →
It’s long story, but the Amber Room is considered to be the eighth wonder of the world and has been missing since the Nazis hid it in 1944. It’s one of the most valuable missing treasures out there and looking for it has come at a high price.
Gil Cope – 21 September 2014 Continue reading →
I initially was struck by an idea of a room where everything you could possibly need existed in a can somewhere: so you’d have cans of pencils, cans of paper, cans of fillet steak, anything. This quickly became the contents of some kind of incredible fallout shelter, combined with an image of a young boy showing his sisters how nuclear fusion worked by slamming two peach halves together and making a mess.
Jake Carter-Thomas – 18 September 2014 Continue reading →
It’s a cliché, but I tend to say, “I write for me and edit for others.” And while this is true —because I must want to read the story I’m writing—lately I’m thinking more about the wonderful person who might honour my characters by diving within their story and sharing their lives.
David Burton – 14 September 2014
Lizzy Anderson is given a cold for her first birthday, and discovers she always sneezes in sevens. Her mum worries about her, her dad loses interest, and Lizzy learns to entertain and look after herself. Over the years (one chapter for each), we trace Lizzy’s childhood, teenage years and then adulthood, first as a single woman, then a wife, a mother and beyond. As the years pass we enjoy all her heart-warming highs and suffer all her heart-breaking lows as she navigates through what becomes one woman’s life, sparked by one key moment:
Lizzy felt something flutter over her right hand, which was still clamped over her face in case she sneezed an eighth time, although that had never happened. It felt like a handkerchief. She had been told not to accept anything from strangers, but this man (or boy, as now she’d stopped sneezing she thought he sounded young) appeared friendly, and was being helpful, and what else could she do with her sticky palm or runny face?
“Thank you,” she said, turning away to begin cleaning her face, delighted to realise she was still in the shadows, and he probably couldn’t see how messy she was. “I’m Lizzy,” she said. “Short for Elizabeth.”
“More like Esneezybeth,” he said, his cheeky chuckle making him sound even younger. “I’m Fred,” he said. “Short for Freddie.”
What is the book about?
Seven Sneezes is a lifelong romance, and tells Lizzy Anderson’s story, beginning when she is given a cold for her first birthday and discovers she always sneezes in sevens. Over time, we travel with her, one chapter per year, through childhood and teenage troubles, jobs and friends, romance, the love of her life, a family and children, grandchildren, heartache and happiness – all the crazy, sad and magical moments that make up one woman’s life.
When did you start writing the book?
13 July 2012. The timeline idea –to focus on one year of a life per chapter– has often surfaced as a possible structure for the stories I’ve told, but it never felt right, never seemed to fit, until Lizzy introduced herself. Her specific story had bounced around my head for a few weeks, with ideas, plot points and conversations vying for my attention. One day in town I had a two hour window between appointments, so found a quiet spot in the local library, jotted down the numbers 1-xx in my notebook, and started filling in her timeline. By the time I left (late) for that second appointment most of the story curve progressions were plotted.
How long did it take you to write it?
I completed the first draft on 05 August 2012, so just 23 days. I wasn’t working at the time, and had few commitments, so was able to fully immerse myself in Lizzy’s life. I think this helped with the story flow and style, as her story would often burst from me in almost cinematic moments. Most days it was all I could do to keep up with the images, dialogue and plot progressions being shared with me from somewhere, as if being offered through me, rather than me creating anything.
Where did you get the idea from?
The dedication is: “for mum ~ this book isn’t your story, but is inspired by your love and strength.” And it is just that. My mother is a wonderful person, so loving and generous, yet she has suffered more than her share of heartache and loss, and I wanted to create someone who came even a little close to possessing and sharing her possibilities. There are some similarities between Lizzy’s life and my mum’s, but Lizzy is not her. The rest –the twists and turns of story—came moment by moment, as they almost always do, one thing sparking another until you find you have a story to share.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
The story flowed easily, and Lizzy led me everywhere the story was supposed to go, so I had no particular problem finding the words, no writer’s block or major plot issues. However, I did struggle to write a few of the more heartbreaking scenes, and would occasionally have to stop mid-scene because I couldn’t see what I was doing. These scenes still caught me out during re-writes and editing, and even during the last read-through before committing the documents for self-publishing, where I obviously knew exactly what was going to happen, I still couldn’t control myself, especially so with the final chapter. I might need a moment now… Also, the editing was particularly tricky, but only because I’m a fan of original drafts, warts and all, as it feels more honest, more muse-based and closer to the story I should be telling. That said, I do understand the need for a strong edit, and think I found a happy medium between edited and muse-happy.
What came easily?
The whole thing. It was the easiest book I’ve ever written, from that initial life-in-yearly-chapters idea I carried around for a dozen years or more, through the specific moments that kept bombarding my brain pre-planning, through that structural session in the library, to having the free time to spend however many hours on it each day I wanted. Even the re-writes and edits weren’t that difficult or stressful because the structure was in place. I started another book two summers before, with very little structure, just an idea, really, about his unhappy middle-aged man who wanted to correct his life through his fiction, and ended up writing over 400,000 words before I finally found the 275,000 I wanted. Editing that was a nightmare, especially compared to Seven Sneezes.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
All my characters are 100% fictional. Nobody anywhere in any of my stories is based AT ALL on a real life person, living, dead or otherwise. Honest. Okay, are we alone now? I’m joking, of course, but I think every writer borrows a little here and there, and a little more there and here, until you find the character you’ve been seeking. For example, in Seven Sneezes, Lizzy has parents, and my mum had parents. And Lizzy got married and had kids, as did my mum. But those are merely starting points, springboards, if you will, and I would say almost all characters become who they are rather than remaining where they may have begun life. So, no – the brothers in the novel are NOT my brothers, and the lesbian lover…
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
I used to write mostly horror and thriller stories, novels, screenplays, shorts, etc, when I was much darker-minded. And while I rarely read horror stories now, and the days between me picking up one thriller and then the next are slowly increasing, I still rate Stephen King as my biggest influence. His ability to drag you (often kicking and screaming) right into the heart of the story and care for his characters’ lives is amazing, and I still rate the first two-thirds or so of almost all his novels as some of the best storytelling I’ve read, even if I’m less inclined to “enjoy” the crazy climaxes.
Danielle Steel is another I respect, despite some mockery from others I’ve known, but she knows what she’s doing, and does it well, pulling you into the heart of the story and her characters. I sometimes see Seven Sneezes as me writing “in Danielle Steel mode.” Both authors are occasionally prone to the passive voice, which I know is a no-no, but even that they make work.
Plot-wise, you can’t go wrong with a good crime story or thriller, and Michael Connelly remains one of my favourites. Also, dialogue has always been a key component of my writing, and I feel I have an ear for it, and it’s mostly for this reason that I’ve always enjoyed the dialogue in Elmore Leonard novels. So yeah, these help keep me focused on character, plot, dialogue and the desire to keep pulling the reader along with me on my wordy journey.
Do you have a target reader?
It’s a cliché, but I tend to say, “I write for me and edit for others.” And while this is true —because I must want to read the story I’m writing—lately I’m thinking more about the wonderful person who might honour my characters by diving within their story and sharing their lives. That said, I actively don’t like to think about it too much (that’s not just laziness) because then I could twist characters, settings or dialogue etc more toward what I think that theoretical reader might want to read, and I think if you dive too far into those waters you could drown trying to find your way out again. I read something a few weeks ago where an author had broken down his target audience to scary specifics. For me. In one way I suppose it might help to know your most likely reader is 45, female, an office worker with two kids, separated but not divorced, about to trade down her car because she can no longer afford it, and living in a one-bed apartment because the kids rarely visit… but if I had that in mind I would possibly keep tweaking things until they felt like they better fit her, and by doing that I could be alienating a gazillion other readers who might otherwise have been interested? Perhaps it’s a good thing, I don’t know, but like the over-editing, I’m not comfortable going there just yet.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
First and foremost, I’m a procrastinator. Even if I’ve written a lot the day before and LOVED it, I still struggle to sit down and type the first word. Once that word is down, I’m fine, but I find a gazillion things to do to keep me away from it. It’s crazy. Especially because once I start I struggle to stop. I can write for hours each day if I have the time, and can keep writing day after day if I’m feeling the flow, just like with Seven Sneezes. That said, I do try and take a break every hour, just a couple of minutes, to check on the cat, go to the loo or simply glance out the window, because my eyes can start to hurt, and the older I get the more I find my hands can begin hurting. I guess my process –if I truly have one—is to write out what I can when I’m feeling it surging through me, probably because I know how lazy I can be if I give myself the opportunity.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
I’ve tried a myriad of approaches, partly to keep things fresh for me, but also to see if one way works better than others; however, I think different approaches suit different books. For Seven Sneezes, I methodically planned Lizzy’s life, step by step, year by year, trauma or delight by trauma or delight, mostly because I knew I wanted the chapter-by-year approach, and having the structure helped with that, in that I knew I had 70-however-many points I wanted to touch, and each one had to be done before the next step made sense. But then with my novel Tell Me Something True, about that middle-aged man who wants to correct his “wrong” life through his fiction writing, although I was aware of the three key moments from his past that he feels affected his life the most, I wasn’t sure where they would lead him, or how he would get there. The book runs to 275,000 words, and yet I must have written another third or so that led me in wrong directions I had to reject, but without them I might not have found Ed’s more natural path.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
I type fairly fast, but still try and edit as I go. Sometimes it frustrates as I want to keep writing the new bit, but know that the bit I just wrote isn’t right, and feel a strong urge to correct it before continuing, so I’m often surrounded by quickly scribbled notes that I use to correct at the end of the chapter or hour or day, etc. Aside from this in-moment editing, I don’t tend to re-read one day’s writing before beginning the next, or therefore edit in that way, as I like to dance in the freshness of the tale, and if I let myself be dragged back too much too often I wonder if I might lose my original muse-led fire. This actually happened earlier this year. I reached a major turning point in the novel I was writing, and couldn’t decide which way to go, so chose to re-read what I already had. What I found was a tale that wasn’t told from the viewpoint that better suited the story, and because of that I couldn’t continue, and am left with just over 50,000 words of a novel I may never complete, although many of the ideas and more than half of the moments will resurface in the re-telling from that other viewpoint, as and when I get around to it.
Did you hire a professional editor?
This is where I’m going to give the wrong answer, because all writers should hire an editor. Even a semi-professional, if a professional isn’t within budget. And I should know better, as I recently began a semi-professional editing service –ECONOMY EDITS—for indie writers who perhaps can’t afford the professional fees. I tell myself I’m okay because I edit, but those other eyes are a must, really, and should be utilized if at all possible.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
Yes. As for what, it varies. Lately I mostly listen to chillout music because it’s interesting enough to keep my focus away from other everyday local distractions, but not SO distracting that it pulls me away out of my story. But I think this is more a mental crutch than an actual physical aid; something I tell myself to get in the mood and the moment, as there have been innumerable times when I’ve stopped typing after being fully immersed in the words only to discover that the music had stopped. If I’m writing something fast-paced I may opt for trance music; and one time when writing a novel about an aging, lonely hippy who was struggling to connect with loved ones and life, I listened solely to Neil Young CDs on my headphones (because I wrote that one from 12-3am each night).
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I have in the past, but haven’t for… wow… must be a dozen years or more. I’ve not been submitting much anywhere for the past five years or so, and only recently started subbing again, and then only rarely. I did submit my novel Seven Sneezes to a publisher and they accepted it, sent me a contract and everything, but then withdrew the offer, citing that a sudden influx of work for their current clients would leave them with no time for me. These days I mostly self-publish, but am currently spending more time editing for others than writing for self.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
I hadn’t been submitting anything anywhere, but then got involved in some groups on Google+ and chanced upon a few good writers who were self-publishing as indie writers. I read a few and thought they were good, and figured if others were self-publishing to that quality then there was no reason not to myself. So I did. I made a few mistakes with covers and formatting, and still haven’t found a successful (or even decent) marketing plan/strategy, but I do like the control. Part of this could be laziness, but I like to believe a larger part is that I’m a fan of the disjointed muse, and there is a far wider span of voices telling interesting but probably unpublishable (by the big 5) type stories. And I like to feel a part of that crowd – an independent voice joined with others. I like parts of the idea of a traditionally publishing deal, but am happy doing what I’m doing.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
So far I have done all my covers myself. I did have a friend I found online create a photograph for Seven Sneezes, but, despite liking it, I still haven’t updated the file to include it as I still love the currently one. I also asked a couple of arty friends to try and draw me something for my Wonky Monky series, but as of writing this I haven’t heard back. Also, another kind and arty online friend volunteered herself and her friends to design a new cover for my novel Tell Me Something True. She’s currently reading it (it is 700 pages), and enjoying it, and had some quality ideas. We shall see if anything comes from any of these helpful directions. But no, as of today, all my available covers have been done by me.
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
Winging it. Every now and then I come up with an idea, or read something in a blog or Google+ post that sounds interesting, and I try that. But, so far, no strict policy as such, although this is something I plan to sit down and think about in a more structured, focused kind of way, as I do believe it is important. Given how little promotion I’ve put behind my fiction over the last six years or so, I have to say I’m happy with my semi-focus these days, and commend my desire to improve on this, certain that I will one day. The thing is – different things work for different writers at different times, so maybe this is what will end up working for me, whatever “this” is?
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Write. Read. Write some more. Read some more. You see where this is going, right? Heh. And read outside of your comfort zone, too. And read about writers and how they write (like Stephen King’s On Writing). Everything helps. Join communities like Google+ and share with like-minded souls. And the same with Facebook and Twitter. Anything that helps you feel like you can, and encourages you to. But yeah – WRITE. And READ. Write ‘n Read. As for the specifics of the Indie life, the same things apply – but focus it on indie writing and reading, guides and blogs. Check out what appears to be selling, what covers work and why. Pay attention to categories and where/how you market yourself. Develop a series, if possible. And smile. Enjoy.
Where did you grow up?
In England, in a county called Bedfordshire, and born in a town called Luton. I’ve spent a few years living in Derbyshire, and some time travelling, including a month in Spain, but around 75% of my life has been lived within 150 miles of my birthplace. Wow. I hadn’t registered that as an active thought before. Is that normal? I grew up with my mum and an older and younger brother. There was much love, laughter and pets, and I wouldn’t swap it or them for anything.
Where do you live now?
I’m still in Bedfordshire, albeit in a cheap but cheerful situation, for the most part.
What would you like readers to know about you?
Probably almost anything they are interested in knowing. I’m not a big one for keeping secrets, at least not about myself, although I try not to expose too much about my family, as they get sucked in almost against their will, and that seems unfair. So if anyone has a question please feel free to post them on my blog just1more.wordpress.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
What are you working on now?
This interview. J I know – you’ve heard that before, right? Sorry. I’m currently flipping between my editing and writing caps, as I’m working with two lovely ladies at the moment on their books. With my own writing I am: almost always participating in 3words, a 100 word daily writing prompt, but am also currently editing a collection of 3words based short stories for a collection; about to start final-editing a novel I’ll here call TSOCC so you’ll know what I was talking about when it appears later; making notes for the third Wonky Monky story; and beginning to sift through ideas for my next stand alone novel, tentatively titled FB.
End of Interview:
One day I asked him if I was making a mistake trying to tell a story that was so far from my experience. He said, “You know what? Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve never met a zombie.”
Claire Ashby – 11 September 2014 Continue reading →
I write every day. Stephen King’s book on writing is my favorite. He says it is like any job, just get up and do it.
Clifton K. Meador, MD – 7 September 2014 Continue reading →
The new editor said he thought it was a potential masterpiece but he wasn’t going to publish it because it was too controversial. I was disappointed and angry, but after talking to some other writers, self publishing seemed like a good way to go.
Martin Preib – 9 September 2014 Continue reading →
Reading for me is really just an escape from my own life. Being able to lose myself in a good novel for a few hours really helps me get through my days.
Bee – 2 September 2014 Continue reading →