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 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 my guest in the clubhouse tearoom is Debbie Viggiano. Welcome.
Hello, Paula! Thank you so much for the invitation to your homely tearoom for a lovely chat about one of our favourite subjects… writing! I’ll pass on the cake (watching the waistline) but won’t say no to a large Americano, please. That said, the caffeine will play havoc with my hot flushes. I’m in my autumn and, just like the leaf fall, my hormones are on the floor!
It’s lovely to have you here. I have been following you writing career for many years now. Now our refreshments have arrived let’s start by asking you when you first began your writing journey, what drew you to your chosen genre?
I desperately tried to write something ‘literary’ with beautiful prose that left a reader clutching their heart and claiming they were in some way changed on a soul level, but unfortunately my characters had other ideas. They did madcap things, caused mayhem, behaved irresponsibly, and told appalling jokes that left me – never mind the reader – gasping. In the end I just went with it and the result was Stockings and Cellulite, the first of several romantic comedies, and it was this story that attracted the attention of the fabulous digital publisher Bookouture.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
Ah, well now! Having written all those romantic comedies, I had a HUGE urge to bust out of the genre. Looking at the charts, psychological thrillers are always ‘right up there’. The idea of writing one too excited me. Four years ago, while holidaying on the sun-drenched island of Kolocep, I settled down on the sand with notebook and pen and, in longhand, spent the entirety of the holiday scribbling 35,000 words. I nearly lost the whole lot when a sudden deluge of rain had everyone charging off the beach for shelter and I failed to realise the notebook had fallen from my grasp. A tourist later handed it to me and said, ‘I’ve seen you frantically writing day after day. Is this notebook important?’ The pages were sodden. If I’d attempted peeling one back, it would have disintegrated like papier-mâché. I smiled and thanked her and said, ‘Yes, it is important to me.’ As the book had found its way back to me, I took it as a sign to continue. However, I didn’t have an opportunity to finish that particular story until the beginning of this year. In the interim I was offered a contract to write three more romantic comedies. Now I don’t know if it was due to the ‘C word’, or lockdown, or the general hysteria and fear of those early months, but 2020 has been a dark time for the entire world. Maybe it was that tense energy that had me reaching for that abandoned notebook. The pages had long dried out, indeed the whole notebook had ‘exploded’ to three times its original size in the process! I re-read it and knew the time was now right to finish what had been started four years earlier. The Watchful Neighbour is my debut psychological thriller and will be published on 7th December 2020.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter?
Always a synopsis. This is because I always get ideas at the most inopportune moments and then have to write them down before the idea slides out of the memory never to be heard of again! So, whether tapping out a note on my phone and then emailing it to myself, or scribbling on the back of a shopping list, the idea is firmly logged in black and white! Once that happens, the brain switches on and at the earliest moment I’ll sit down at my computer and bash out a potted summary of an entire novel.
When reading your work through, do you ever find that your daily mood swings are reflected in your writing?
No, not really. The great thing about a cast of characters is that they have their own mood swings to draw me out of any mood swings I might be experiencing, ha ha!
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Only one. But that’s a secret!
What did you learn when writing your latest book?
Hmm, I certainly learnt something about myself when writing The Watchful Neighbour and that was how GRAPHIC the imagination can be when it comes to a scene that is hovering on the threshold of murder! My fingers were flying over the keys as my heart galloped in time to the victim’s, and my body was recoiling at mental imagery while my inner voice squealed ewwwwwww! I did turn to the internet a few times for research. If my computer had keeled over and gone to PC World’s repair team, they might have reported me to the police. My browsing history included Where can I find Novichok and How to kill your husband and get away with it!
Is there anything about you that your readers might be surprised to find out?
Um… let me think. Yes! My Amazon bio says that I used to be a legal secretary, and that is absolutely true. But I also took time out in my late twenties to start up my own wedding photography business.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
Well, as an ex-legal secretary, I’m very disciplined! So, just like all those years ago when I used to commute to London, I make sure that my writing is always in a Monday to Friday pattern and mimics efficiency. That said, I walk my dog in the morning, and whilst that sounds like time out, I’m actually mulling over the latest plot, considering so-and-so doing such-and-such and whether it might add a delicious twisty bit, or a humorous moment, or even a red herring. Once home, it’s into the study and at my desk until 5 o’clock.
How do you select the names of your characters, and do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
Characters are like real people in the sense that you must get to know them. I outline them right at the start, but they can often surprise me with a secret side to their personality. As for their names, I enjoy coming up with something that seems to resonate with their personality. However, there is no guarantee that a name won’t change. For example, the main character in my last novel for Bookouture was called Ella, but Marketing wanted alliteration and word play in the title they’d come up with. So Ella became Lucy, and the book was published as Lucy’s Last Straw.
How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?
My target is to write one chapter a day and have a first working draft anywhere between twelve and sixteen weeks. As I like to write two books a year it means strict adherence to my mottoimo in sedem, which basically means bum on the seat!
Thank you so much for joining us, Debbie, it’s been a real pleasure. When you’re ready Brutus our lovely driver will run you home.
If you would like to find out more about Debbie’s writing and books please check out her links below.
Twitter: @DebbieViggiano https://twitter.com/DebbieViggiano
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops.