Clubhouse Chat Guest: Mandy James

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, I’m welcoming Mandy to the tearoom. Welcome. I’m sorry I could provide sunny weather. At least, you arrived safely having a driver bringing you here.

Thanks for inviting me to your tearoom. This lovely cup of tea is just what I needed on this dark and rainy afternoon. I love tea and rarely drink coffee. Might there be cake?

Of course, there’s cake. Now let’s start with when you first begun your writing journey, what drew you to your chosen genre?
​Reading, I think. I have always read lots of different genres since I was a kid, but through my teens and early twenties I tended to read adventures, suspense and thrillers. The Lord of the Rings made a big impact and I loved to escape reality into different and magical worlds created by Tolkien. My favourite suspense author is Dean Koontz and I wanted to write like him. My first novel, Severe Weather Warning was a suspense set in Monument Valley Arizona. It was published as Dancing in the Rain, but I now have the rights back, and so I think I’ll self-publish it at some point. Nowadays, I prefer to write uplifting stories with a bit of added magic.

Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? 
Always the first chapter. I often leave the synopsis until the end. I do have a set of rough notes and bullet point important things I must include. I have a list of characters, what their eye and hair color are – age etc. You’d be surprised how often I have to check back on them. If I didn’t have the list, names of lesser characters might change halfway through. Even with the list this has been known!

The Wonderful Mandy James

When reading your work through do you ever find that your daily mood swings are reflected in your writing?
Yes! If I’m grumpy, my character might be – or they could unexpectedly change direction. Sometimes if I’m particularly fed up, and let’s face it, we’re all affected to one degree or another with this hellish year, I just stop writing and do something else. Some writing days just don’t work.

What did you learn when writing your book? In writing it, how much research did you do?
I always do a certain amount of research. Often in suspense, I had to find out certain things about police procedure. Luckily, I have relatives in the police from whom I could ask advice. Very handy! One of my recent books – Nancy Cornish PI, involved researching a collapsed sea cave near where I live. If you write about real places, you must get details right. It’s very annoying for those who know about those areas to read books that get it wrong, I imagine. Plus the fact they would let me know about it – and quite rightly.

Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?

​I used to be a history teacher and when I wrote my time travel novels, I picked my favourite parts of history for my characters to visit in the book. It meant I could incorporate all the information I taught, and really bring it to life. I’m a very visual writer and see scenes in colour and great detail. 

Did you uncover things about yourself while writing your books?
I find sometimes that my character might do things that I’ve been meaning to try but never got around to it. Lottie, my main character in The Calico Cat walks around the South West Coast Path in Cornwall and meets lots of interesting people. I’d love to do that. I have walked bits of it, but not as far as she does. She walks from Newquay to Sennen Cove. What an adventure!

How many hours in a day do you write?
​Sometimes none – other times four or five hours. I don’t have a set regime. I might write three or four days in a row and then nothing for a few days. Or I might binge write every day for two weeks. I can only write when the muse takes me. I’m rubbish in the evenings too. Morning is best until around three in the afternoon.

How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
​Because these days I write stories set in Cornwall where I live, I normally like to choose Cornish names. They are easy as I just Goggle them. I have included names of friends and family too. Or sometimes, it’s just a name I like, picked from the air, or keyboard. The letters on the keyboard have been a way of choosing supporting characters especially. I hover my fingers across the keys and choose one beginning with H, for example. And no, I know very little about them when I start writing. They tend to take over after a very short time! No matter how much I argue with them, they tend to do whatever the hell they like!

How long on average does it take you to write a book?
​On average, I suppose it’s around four to six months. It can be longer, or shorter. A Stitch in Time was my fastest – six weeks! This has never been repeated. 
Thanks for the chat and the tea and cake, Paula. I really enjoyed it  

Thank you for joining me, Mandy. It’s been lovely. To find out more about Mandy and her writing check out her Amazon Author’s Page

If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.

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