Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member 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 tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.
Today’s guest is Angela Wren. Welcome to the clubhouse tearoom, Angela. I apologies of all the cloak and dagger stuff with your taxi, but the location of the clubhouse is closely guarded. I hope Brutus didn’t frighten you too much.
Well, Paula I certainly needed my wine after that. So I won’t be taking the taxi home?
No, we always give our guest a door to door service in a tinted window Bentley. Right, now you’ve recovered from the shock, let’s start by asking you when you first began your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
Accident, really. When I decided that I was going to take up creative writing, I began with short stories. One was picked up by a magazine in Ireland and I was paid €40 for it. That spurred me on to consider bigger things, so I joined the Romantic Novelists New Writers Scheme and began writing romance. But I just kept on trying to put puzzles in the story. At a crime writing workshop I realized that I needed to make a decision. The story I was then working on would have been romantic suspense, but I knew I had to refocus it and so my first crime novel, Messandrierre, was born.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter or let the characters lead you?
No. I always start with my victim. I build the victim’s character and that enables me to understand where he or she fits in with the criminal and how they both fit in with the existing characters, especially my investigator, Jacques Forêt, and his little team who help him. Once I’ve got my crime and my plan, I then create my first draft. When I’m writing I write through my characters.
Choosing only five of your favourite authors and can you list them in order 1 begin the top of your list and say how have they influenced your writing?
Only 5??? Wow that’s tough!
OK, so Agatha Christie has to be at the top of my list. I discovered her when I was about 12 and read everything she wrote. I suppose you could say I cut my reading teeth on her books!
Second has to be Arthur Conan Doyle. I have always loved his stories, the detail in them and the incredibly careful and complex plotting.
Third would be Wilkie Collins. He is perhaps the father of crime novels and another one for complex plots. When my dad introduced Collins to me as a 14 year old, I devoured every book he wrote too.
Fourth would be Nathaniel Hawthorne, an American writer who has an incredible capacity for painting pictures with words. Not exactly a crime writer, but he very gently keeps you guessing.
Fifth would be Thomas Hardy. I know a lot of people think his work is dreary, but I love his stories. He very carefully and minutely explores human feelings, emotions and motivations leaving us with such fabulous novels as Two on a Tower, Desperate Remedies, A Pair of Blue Eyes, The Well Beloved and, of course his short stories, Wessex Tales.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
No. That’s too confining. In addition, I’ve worked on stage since I was 6 years old, so I create the characters for my stories in the same as I create the character I’m playing for stage. I build them from the toes upwards. I work out their physical appearance and then add in their strengths and weaknesses, preferences, motivation etc. I keep on asking myself questions about the character until I feel that I have a complete picture of who they are, and therefore how they might react in any given situation.
Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?
Hmmm! How about, I played Mr. Twit in a production of Roald Dahl’s The Twits. I had a knitted beard that reached my waist and a matching wig. I spoke in the lowest register of my voice with a west-country accent. Because the Twits were such horrible characters, I and the actress who played Mrs. Twit, suggested that after each performance we go into the audience and hand out sweets to the children. After one matinee performance when I spoke to a little boy in row B in my normal voice – but still in full costume and make-up – his eyes widened like saucers and he accused me of being a girl!
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
No, I don’t. I think that would be counter-productive for me. I plan my stories so I know more or less what the scenes are and I tend to set myself a goal of one or more scenes for each writing session. As I work in a theatre I’m not able to write full-time, so my writing sessions are fitted in around everything else that I do.
How many hours in a day do you write?
That depends on what I’m doing that day. If I have a whole day to myself then I can write for up to 8 or 9 hours quite easily. If I’m required at the theatre I might only have an hour or a little longer in which to write and that may be shortened by interruptions and any other tasks that I’m required to do whilst I’m there.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Yes, I did, but when I got the contract for the first book, it was one of the questions that my publisher asked me about. Their feeling was that I should write under the name I used for all my theatrical work. When I thought about it, it just made sense.
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
As my books are set in France, I often have to do some research to get the character’s names right. I spend a lot of time in France too and I love history, so I’m frequently in museums and galleries and places of historic interest. If I see a name that I like the look of and that I think will fit a particular character then I make a note of it. I also use the internet to check the authenticity of names too.
As for knowing my characters before I start writing – yes I know a great deal about them, but that doesn’t stop them surprising me occasionally!
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
It takes as long as it takes, really. My first book, Messandrierre was written, piecemeal over 4 years. The second book took about 18 months, the third took a year and the fourth, which was the most difficult to write took a bit longer. Some of the scenes in book were incredibly difficult to write and I found that there were times when I just had to walk away from the keyboard. When I’m writing I see the action happening in my head as though I’m directly involved. Book 4 was quite an emotional roller-coaster.
Thank you so much for joining me here today. Our driver is ready to take you home as soon as you are ready to leave, but please stay and finish your wine first, Angela.
If you would like to know more about Angela’s writing and books check out her links:
It you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.