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.
Welcome to the Clubhouse Tearoom, Alice.
Thanks so much for having me here, Paula. Lovely to enjoy a cup of Earl Grey with you!
I’m so pleased you could join us. May I start by asking you, when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I really have two favourite genres when I’m reading, romantic or chicklit comedies, and crime fiction. At first glance they seem quite different, but both promise neat endings – either a happy ever after or a criminal brought to justice, both of which I find satisfying. My first book was a romantic comedy but I just couldn’t get into the sequel. Then I finally realised that I needed to write crime fiction and here we are now.
What writing elements do you think is your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?
I enjoy creating characters and trying to make them consistent within their own constraints. It’s like running a theatre group – and sometimes the actors don’t want to obey their director.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
I’m just finishing writing my favourite book ever, The Invitation. It’s a traditional locked room mystery (a limited number of suspects in a confined space) but with a modern twist. Writers have been drawn to this device since Edgar Allan Poe wrote probably the first locked room mystery in 1841 (the wonderfully titled Murders in the Rue Morgue) and I’d always wanted to have a go. Suddenly during lockdown, while we were all feeling constrained, wary and fearful, I decided to take the plunge. I really think it’s my best yet.
Do you write a synopsis first, or write the first chapter or just let the characters lead you?
I’ve just written a synopsis for my next book. It’s not my favourite way to work as I feel it locks things down before the characters have really been able to take shape and help form the story – but publishers like to know what they are getting!
When reading your work through do you ever find that your daily mood swings are reflected in your writing?
One of the joys of writing for me is losing myself and my own moods and escaping into the world of the book. Having said that, there are certain themes running through my books which certainly reflect things I am going through at the time. Writing is cheaper than therapy. I recently learned that Tutankhamun used to have the faces of his enemies drawn onto the soles of his shoes, so he could walk all over them. Killing people in books is a little bit like that!
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
I always set myself a word count of 1000 words a day. That’s because Graham Greene used to do 500 a day (even breaking off in the middle of a sentence) and this way I can console myself that I’m writing twice as much as one of the literary greats. Obviously I’m not writing the same stuff though, lol.
How many hours in a day do you write?
I set aside every morning, seven days a week, and will write for longer if necessary. I also edit books for other novelists and like to do that in the afternoons.
How do you select the names of your characters and do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
There’s a wonderful alchemy when coming up with names. Sometimes I just try and empty my mind and see what pops up. Other times I look around the room and try and garner a bit of inspiration that way. It’s amazing all my characters aren’t named after biscuits.
What was your hardest scene to write?
I think I’ll be controversial on this one and say that if a scene is really difficult to write, maybe it’s not the right scene. That’s not to say I don’t labour over certain scenes in my books, particularly if I’m trying to reveal just enough to give the readers a clue without revealing all. It’s like an Edwardian lady showing just the right amount of ankle.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
A first draft will take about three to four months, then there are rewrites, edits… it depends which publisher I am writing the book for, but the journey from mind to shelf can sometimes take years, and sometimes only five or six months. It’s always wonderful seeing the finished product. That makes it all worthwhile.
Thank you for such an interesting chat, Alice.
If you would like to find out more about Alice’s books click here
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