Welcome to my guest page. Here, every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation, over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, if they are not driving, with a friend about their work in progress, or latest book release. I’ll be talking to all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers.
Today I’m sitting here chatting with Cressida E Schofield.
Thank you for the invitation, Paula. I hope you’re keeping well.
You’re welcome. I’m fine thank you. Let’s order our drinks first. What would you like?
My favourite beverage is the cheesiest drink of all: a pina colada! I just can’t resist all that cream, coconut and pineapple.
Right, now we have our drinks I’ll start by asking you, what writing elements do you think is your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?
I’ve been told that humorous and realistic dialogue is a strength. Waffling and including too much character back story is probably a weakness, and I’ve been told to keep an eye on making sure I show and not tell. I’m always keen to learn about and improve my grammar and I must be more proactive when it comes to expanding my vocab. I do believe that writing is like so many other things in that the more you practice, the better you are.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
My latest project, Storm Cottage, is a contemporary adult fiction book set in my very favourite place, Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Yorkshire coast, and is a romantic tale of running away from a life that is no longer enriching, healing, living completely off the digital grid and finding a place in this world. It’s a bit of a love letter to Robin Hood’s Bay, which is my soul home, but at the same time it’s got a tricky plot so it’s giving me a few headaches. It was a fairly new idea when I started it, which is quite unusual for me as I do have a bit of a project waiting list. I’m about 60K words in, with a projected word count of 100K. It’ll be a big book!
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
LOL! Let me think… I write series fiction so, if I take into account all the books I’d like to complete in each series – and I’ve jotted some notes down for pretty much every instalment, even if it’s just the title – probably somewhere close to 30. That’s a bit scary, isn’t it? Although, to be fair, one of the series is for middle grade and is based in a school, with one book per term over seven years, so that’s not as scary as it might first seem. I just wish, wish, wish that I could find the time to write as quickly as my brain comes up with ideas!
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter?
I absolutely loathe and detest writing synopses, and blurbs, and one-line pitches, so the synopsis is the very last thing that I write, and even then it is under great duress and borne of necessity. Ghastly things, synopses are. If something isn’t 50K+ words, I’m hopeless. I even struggle with short stories. The only short story I’ve ever had any success with is the one featured in the Whitby Abbey: Pure Inspiration anthology, in which you also have one of your stories. And, of course, that’s how we met: at the book launch event at the Abbey itself. Such great memories!
Choosing only five of your favourite authors. Can you list them in order 1 begin the top of your list and say how have they influenced your writing?
1) Philippa Carr (also known as Jean Plaidy and Victoria Holt, of course), who wrote historical fiction and Gothic romances. I loved her feisty heroines and learned a lot about British and world history from her novels, which she cleverly wove into her characters’ lives. Her sense of pace and the way she built intrigue and tension is still excellent. She’s probably had the most influence on my writing purely because I have read, and reread, so many of her books over the years.
2) Jilly Cooper. Because I was horse mad, I read Riders when I was aged 15. Then, throughout most of my 20s and 30s, I loved Jilly Cooper’s books which, although usually the size of bricks with hundreds of characters and with several interwoven plots and subplots, are very easy to read, and that’s a skill regardless of whether the content appeals. I loved the way she described the countryside and cities, the changing seasons and her animal characters as well as the way she twisted famous quotes into laugh out loud puns. I struggle with her books a little now, as they aren’t always appropriate for our ever-changing times, but she was definitely a big influence on my early writing style, particularly when I’m writing animals, who are characters in their own right.
3) Number three isn’t an author but a genre: the humble pony book. I grew up devouring every pony book I could get my hands on, from the Pullein-Thompson sisters to Jill, Jinny, Georgia and Jackie, and then with everything even remotely connected to Black Beauty on top. As a writer of equine fiction, these books taught me so much not only about writing but also about riding and caring for horses. All of the pony books I read as a child were not only entertaining but also educational and informative, and that’s definitely something that the new generation of pony book authors, myself included, has inherited.
4) Joan Wilder. Now, Joan Wilder isn’t an actual real life author but the ‘bodice ripper’ romance novelist character played by Kathleen Turner in the Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile films from the 1980s. I just wanted to be Joan Wilder, who started out meek and helpless but ended up completely badass, all whilst being a bestselling author. I first wanted to be a writer when I was seven, but it was watching Joan Wilder on the silver screen in my teens that cemented that desire, so she definitely deserves a mention.
5) Joss Whedon. Hollywood screenwriter and director (Marvel’s Avengers Assemble) and creator of the icon that is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon writes incredibly realistic moving yet witty dialogue. One of his most famous quotes is ‘Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.’ His ability to undercut a deeply serious scene with something very funny is second to none, and makes the watcher or reader swing from one emotion to another. He really is the task master of dark humour.
And if that isn’t a mixed bookbag, I don’t know what is!
Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?
That I’ve had literary representation with a London-based agency since early 2017. All of my currently available books were self-published via Kindle Direct Publishing, so that’s all my readers really know. In the past four years I’ve written four middle grade (9-13 ish) pony adventure books but, as my agent is still trying to find a publisher for them, they’re just sitting on my Mac, waiting patiently… It’s frustrating, but that’s the route I chose to take. It also explains why I keep saying I’ve finished or started another book, but it never materialises online.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
Yes, and fail to meet it regularly. Haha! Ideally, I’d like to write at least two thousand words a day, but more often than not I’ll fall short one day then write double or over the next. I’m usually much more productive during the first and last 25% of my projected word count. It seems that I’m all new project enthusiasm and end of project determination. It’s the middle 50% that gives me gip.
How many hours in a day do you write?
I write for as long as it’s flowing, unless I absolutely have to stop because I need to be somewhere else. I like to have a full, clear day for writing. I don’t do well if I have to stop and start for any reason and I don’t do all that well with half days unless they’re from the afternoon onwards. If I know I have to go out later in the day I’ll find it hard to settle. Today, for example, I’ve dropped the car off at the garage first thing but I don’t know when it’ll be ready to collect. I’ll be restless all day until it’s sorted. However, if I get bogged down in a sticky patch I will walk away from my desk and do something else for half an hour or so – usually a few chores – in the hope that the break will reboot my brain. I can’t sit and stare at the screen – I’ve got too long a to-do list for that, so I try to make use of any available time one way or another.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Not really. I have a very distinctive name, so I might as well use it!
How do you select the names of your characters? & do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
I do tend to use family and friends’ names for characters – either first or surname – but also names that I particularly like in books and popular culture. For example, in my ‘pony book for grown ups’, Incapability Brown, I have two young girls called Carlotta, which I first came across in a Philippa Carr book, and Taryn, which I got from a Sweet Valley High book I’d read as a teenager and simply always liked. I *never* use the names of people who I’ve not got along with previously or who have hurt me in some way, not even for my villains. If I name a villain after you, I really do think very highly of you! As for knowing everything about my characters… If they’re a series character, I’ll know them quite well by the second book. I keep a ‘style sheet’ for all their facts and figures, such as their description and any other personal details. I certainly don’t know everything about my new characters. They’re always wayward and insist on doing their own thing!
Thank you for joining me, Cressida.
It’s been lovely. Is the driver still waiting for me?
Yes, of course but don’t rush your drink. He’s happy to wait.
If you would like to find out more about Cressida’s work check out the links above:
Amazon author page: http://ow.ly/NcwP30lHWEc
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