Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you not aware the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit it 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 I’m talking to Deirdre. Welcome to the tearoom, and what would you like to drink?
Thanks for inviting me. It’s very cosy in here! I’d like a nice cup of tea, please, milk, no sugar.
What writing elements do you think are your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?
I like to think dialogue is my strongest point, because I find it easiest to write. What I find hardest about writing a novel is knowing when to reveal key parts of the plot to the reader. That’s structure, isn’t it? I can do it, but it would be nice if it came more easily!
Tell us a little about your latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
I’ve just started writing a new book under my own name. At the moment the title is The Storytellers, though that may change. I’ve had the theme in my mind for some time, which is the nature of time and memory, false memory in particular. I’ve also wanted to write about the abandoned Tube stations in London, so I have one of those as part of the setting.
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
None apart from the work-in-progress. My brain can’t cope with more than one at a time!
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter, or let the characters lead you?
Every time I write a book tend to do it a bit differently from the one before, probably in the hope of making life easier for myself, though it never works out that way! This time I did write a synopsis first, and I’m finding it useful as a kind of road map. I also wrote the opening paragraphs early on, and then I wrote some of the middle chapters because they were vivid in my mind, then the last chapter/epilogue because the words were there. So it’s a kind of patchwork job, really. I hope it works!
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?
Only five? This isn’t going to be easy!
1. Deborah Moggach: I’ve been reading her books forever, and they always made me want to write my own. Her stories have such truth, and her brand of subtle humour is enviable. Shameless namedropping alert! Once I started writing seriously, I was lucky enough to have lunch with Deborah as part of a writing prize (I came fourth, twice, in the Mail on Sunday Novel Competition). Deborah was so encouraging, and made me believe I could do this.
2. Louise Douglas: Lovely stories, great writing – I aspire to those heights… Louise gave me a wonderful endorsement for one of my books, for which I am ever grateful.
3. Kate Atkinson: Top flight writer and quality storyteller. Enough said.
4. Louise Candlish: A new discovery. She does suspense so well, and makes me appreciate the value of a good twist.
5. David Nicholls: Again, enviable writing style. He just gets on and tells the story, and I can learn from that.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
Sometimes, but I don’t always meet the target, and that’s okay.
How many hours in a day do you write?
Not many, is the answer to that! Having retired from the day job, I want time to do other things. But I do take this writing game seriously, and I try to write every day, even if it’s only a couple of hours. If I want to get a book finished I will step it up. The Pomodoro technique works well for me – that’s where you work in 25 minute bursts, take a break, then do another, and so on. I have the cute little tomato timer on my computer, which you can download from lots of different sites.
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I do. As well as the five books out under my own name, I’ve published eight shorter women’s fiction novels and one book of short stories under the pseudonym Zara Thorne. So in effect I have two different brands going, which can make things tricky when it comes to marketing!
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
Names are so important, aren’t they? Sometimes the names just come to me, don’t ask me how. Otherwise I might Google the popular names in the year my character was born. Another way is to look at the parents. If I know the character well, I will know their family background and what names their parents would have favoured. It’s no good giving a character an outlandish name just because you like it, when their mum and dad were conventional folk. A minor character in the book I’m writing now is called Georgette – Georgie for short – because her mother was a Heyer fan. Georgie herself doesn’t have an ounce of the romantic in her character, so I thought it would be fun to give her that name. I think about my characters a lot before I start writing, but I won’t know everything. That comes as the story unfolds and I get inside their heads.
What was your hardest scene to write?
I don’t remember all of them, but I’m going to say one towards the end of The Wife’s Revenge, where the main characters congregate at High Heaven, the cliff above the chalk-pit. There are revelations, confrontations, the threat of death – maybe an actual death, no spoilers here! The whole story comes to a head in this scene, which runs over two chapters, and I rewrote it many times to try and hike up the suspense.
Thank you so much for joining me, Deirdre. When you’re ready to go please let our driver Brutus know and he’ll run you home.
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.