Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. For those of you who are not a member of the clubhouse won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit the clubhouse is via membership or an invite to the clubhouse tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation I’ve had with a guest over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, 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 welcome Karla Forbes to Clubhouse Tearoom to chat about her writing.
Thank you for inviting me, Paula.
Now we have our refreshments, please let me start by asking you when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
At the age of 11 or 12, I saved up my pocket money to buy paperbacks. I started out with the Saint series and quickly progressed to James Bond thus my love of thrillers was born. Fast forward a few years and I decided to have a go at writing a Sitcom. I dashed off my masterpiece, sent it to the BBC and was rejected before I’d even got around to fantasising who the actors might be. I concluded that for the BBC to accept me, I’d need some writing success behind me so I wrote my first novel. It was a comedy thriller, which, full of naive hope, I submitted to Hodder. It landed on the desk of a Submissions Editor, the lovely Betty Schwartz, who once again rejected it but with a friendly letter telling me that I wrote really well. I still have that letter as a keepsake and Betty and I have been good friends ever since although I never did get my sitcom accepted and it’s still sitting in a drawer somewhere, unread and unloved.
What writing elements do you think is your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?
I enjoy all elements of writing but I particularly enjoy dialogue. An agent once told me that narration slows a book down and dialogue speeds it up. Thrillers need to move along at a fast pace so you can’t have your characters standing around enjoying quiet moments as they admire the scenery.
On the downside, I need to get a grip with the problem of swapping points of view. It’s disheartening when you write a passage which you think works really well only to have your editor go through it with a big red pen because you have accidentally swapped the point of view.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
Fallout is the first in the series of Nick Sullivan thrillers and is due to be published by Darkstroke on the 6th October. At the book begins, Nick is a man who seems to have everything: the huge salary, the yacht, the sports car and the beautiful wife. By the end of the first chapter however, he has been accused of a murder he didn’t commit and has gone on the run as he attempts to prove his innocence. But why is almost every law enforcement agency in the country searching for him? What information does he have that they desperately need and will they find him before it’s too late? My current book (still pondering a title) is book number nine in the Nick Sullivan series and concerns a case of industrial espionage that turns out to be far more sinister that it first seems.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? Do you plan your story or let the characters lead you.
I start off with nothing more than a basic outline and begin writing with very little idea of where it’s going to lead. I actually write better this way because the plot goes off in new, unexpected directions and gives me the freedom to be spontaneous. I still don’t know how my current thriller is going to end and I’m 40% of the way through it.
When reading your work through do you ever find that your daily mood swings are reflected in your writing?
Definitely. I like to introduce an occasional snippet of humour in my books to break up the tension but when life is going well, the humorous element grows. When I’m feeling down or life is kicking me in the teeth, my writing gets darker and my characters pay the price.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
I can’t say that I know too many murderers or terrorists (or at least I hope I don’t) so the answer is probably no, none of my characters have been inspired by real people. However, we all have the capacity for good or evil, altruism or greed and empathy or hard hardheartedness. I take what I observe in people around me and enhance it for the purposes of the plot.
What did you learn when writing your book? In writing it, how much research did you do?
I lead a pretty mundane life so I have very little first-hand knowledge of murder and terrorism. But that’s what authors have imagination for – that and our best friend Google. My search history includes plutonium, dirty bombs and simple ways to blow up places such as the Channel Tunnel. In Sniper (book three in the Nick Sullivan series) the antagonist tries to blow up Grange mouth which is the biggest oil refinery in Europe. I discovered that, in theory, it could be surprisingly easy. I hope I’m wrong. (Note to MI5. I’m writing a book, okay? I’m not actually a terrorist)
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
I find that selecting names is quite tricky. I used to read telephone directories (remember them?) for inspiration but nowadays I find myself scanning any list of names such as the credits at the end of a television programme. I’m so bad at this that when editing my books, I have occasionally discovered that I’ve used the same name twice. I have only one rule with names and that is to keep them short for any characters who are going to figure throughout the book, hence Nick, a nice uncomplicated name that’s quick and easy to write.
Many writers say that their characters take on a life of their own and this has certainly been the case with mine. It’s almost as though they are calling the shots and writing their own stories. It can seem a bit weird but who am I to argue with them?
What was your hardest scene to write?
Two scenes come to mind for very different reasons. In Sniper (book three in the Nick Sullivan series) one of the main characters miscarried after being attacked. I found this emotionally difficult to write. From a technical point of view, one of the hardest scenes I have written was in Fallout where representatives from all the major law enforcement agencies are coordinating their efforts, over the phone, to catch the terrorists. It was quite a challenge to have constant dialogue coming from several different, disembodied speakers without confusing the reader about what was happening.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
An average time is around 5-6 months to write a first draft but then several more weeks for proof reading and editing. However, I was 20,000 words into my current book when I hit an enormous wall and just stopped half way through a sentence. It remained untouched for over a year until the boredom of lockdown forced me to take another look at my manuscript. After a quick re-read to remind me of the plot, I began writing again and haven’t looked back.
To find out more about Karla Forbes, please check out her Amazon Author’s Page
Thank you for joining me, Karla.
It you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books, don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.