Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those who are not a member won’t be 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 in the tearoom, we’re chatting with Alison on the launch of her book, Street Cat Blues. Before we talk about your books let’s order our refreshment.
Could I have have a cup of tea please.
Now we have our drinks let’s start by asking you when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I was always an avid reader from an early age but like many people, I discovered Agatha Christie at the age of about twelve and from then on I was hooked on crime fiction. I’m not a great fan of the blood and guts type though. I prefer books on the cosier side or psychological thrillers. I’m a great fan of the late Ruth Rendell who, I think, was terrific at character development. I later studied law and taught mostly criminal law which also influenced me enormously. Studying case law taught me an awful lot, both in terms of character and motives. I also studied and taught criminology which is a fascinating subject.
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 currently completing the third book of a trilogy. The first was Street Cat Blues (originally published by Crooked Cat Books). It received a good response so that motivated me to take the character further. The second book in the series is titled Country Cat Blues and the one I’m currently finishing is called Beach Cat Blues. I started writing Street Cat Blues years ago after my husband observed that our cat, Aubrey, always had a sort of purposeful look about him, as though he had a bit of admin to sort out. Or a crime to solve …
How many unfinished projects do you have on your computer?
Apart from Beach Cat Blues, I currently have two unfinished projects lurking on my laptop. The first is unfinished in the sense that, although the book itself is complete, it was written quite a while ago and needs a good edit and update. If I tell you that it was written pre social media and at a time when people smoked in public places that will give you some idea of how old it is. However, I still quite like the basic story and it’s definitely something that I will return to. The second unfinished project is about a third of the way through and I’m not sure yet whether I’m going to take that any further.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter or let the characters lead you?
I usually start by making some general notes and letting my thoughts take me where they will. So no, not a synopsis as such, although I’ve usually got an idea of what is going to happen and an outline of who the main characters are. However, just like real life, it doesn’t always turn out that way. Quite often characters seem to turn up out of nowhere. For example, in Country Cat Blues there’s a ghost called Maudie who just sort of started joining in!
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Street Cat Blues was inspired by a real cat, Aubrey. I guess that some of the human characters are also based on some of the people that I’ve actually known – usually the less nice ones!
Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?
Almost certainly! But let’s not go there … seriously, I collect British stamps. I don’t spend as much time on it as I’d like though. Somehow, it’s never quite the right time to get the albums out. I also like to do counted cross-stitch and tapestry while listening to audio books. I find that it clears my mind so that I’m able later to go back to writing ready for the next stage.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I try to write every day although I don’t always succeed. When the sun is shining I can always be tempted out into the garden with a glass of white wine. Over the last year I’ve started keeping a small diary, just pocket book size, in which I write how many words I’ve written that day and how many that week. That does seem to help me to remain focused. Of course, being given deadlines always helps too!
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
In theory, I aim to write 1,000 words a day. In fact, I rarely manage that. Having said that, I find that writing is like any form of exercise – the more you do, the more you can do. I’ve also realised that it doesn’t pay to agonise over every word. It’s much better to get the sense of the scene down and then you can always go back and edit it later.
How many hours in a day do you write?
Probably no more than about three and usually in the mornings. That doesn’t mean, though, that I don’t think about it at other times. I keep lots of scraps of paper on my desk so that when an idea or plot line occurs to me, even in the night, I can quickly jot it down. It doesn’t always make sense though – why on earth I got up and wrote down ‘don’t forget the teapot’ I have no idea!
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
I find selecting the names of characters the hardest thing because almost every name I think of reminds me of somebody that I know. Aubrey, the main protagonist of Street Cat Blues, was easy because he really existed.Actually, he was called Aubrey because my partner was reading John Aubrey’s Brief Lives at the time. I was just grateful that he wasn’t called Brief.
Aubrey was a rescue cat and the most affectionate animal I’ve ever known. He’d been at the rescue centre the longest, I think because he was a big male and lots of people wanted the kittens.
I always think that I know about my characters before I start writing them but every so often they start taking on a life of their own and surprise me. For example, in Country Cat Blues a character that was mentioned more or less in passing and only to illustrate another point, suddenly became a focal point of interest and, in a sense, changed the focus of the book.
Thank you so much for coming to chat with us, Alison. May I congratulate you on the launch of your book and wish you many sales too.
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.