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.
Hi Paula! Thank you so much for the chance to take part in the clubroom chat! The most important thing is – my drink of choice! I think a good strong cup of Yorkshire Tea will do nicely, thanks.
Welcome to the tearoom, Jane. Do take a seat. I thought over by the window, with the view across the lake.
Oh yes very nice, thank you.
Now that our refreshment have arrived, let’s start by asking you when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
Love is such a pervasive emotion, and it can make people behave in so many different ways and I love exploring what makes people tick. (You aren’t allowed to take them apart to find out, apparently).
What writing elements do you think is your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?
My most praised element tends to be my writing of character. Reviews often mention that the people feel ‘real’ and behave as real people do, so I’d guess that’s what I’m best at. I’m not great at writing fear though. Or action scenes. But, as I write romance, there’s not always a lot of call for action scenes. I don’t write graphic sex, so I get out of it that way.
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 writing under contract, so there isn’t usually a lot of time for mulling over ideas! But, in my case, that’s a good thing. I have a tendency to ‘overmull’, when really I’d be better just cracking on and writing the damn thing, rather than spending months trailing gloomily around fields wondering about motivations. Most stuff tends to work itself out in the writing anyway.The current WIP is about two people competing for the same job, whilst having very different approaches to it. It’s funnier than it sounds. Pass the biscuits, all this talk about writing is making me hungry.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter, or let the characters lead you?
I just launch myself in and get writing. I am notoriously bad at planning, so I start with a vague outline idea, some characters and, of course, as I write romance I know what the ending is going to be. Then I just sort of sit down and let the characters do their thing. I am of the opinion that my subconscious is a lot more intelligent than I am, so I let it do the work while I sit back and drink tea.
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
No! My customers (I work in the local Co Op) are convinced I am writing about them, but I don’t need to, I’ve got a head full of people waiting for their turn on the page. I think, if I tried to write about real people, I’d find it harder to get them to do what I need them to do for the story. I’d be forever thinking “so-and-so would NEVER do/say that!” All the people I write must, therefore, be aspects of my own personality, which is a bit of a scary thought.
What did you learn when writing your book? In writing it, how much research did you do?
I’m quite bad at research. The only book I really had to do research for was Living in the Past, which was a timeslip, set partly on an archaeological dig site and partly in the Bronze Age. I watched a lot of Time Team episodes for that one, and read Francis Pryor’s books, particularly Home. But I think research can often become a means to an end, and it’s only too easy to lose oneself in it. You can tell yourself ‘it’s all research’ and put off the actual writing. Sometimes you just have to throw yourself at a book and only research actual points as they arise! Mostly, I just make stuff up and nobody has caught me at it yet.
(Me too, Jane. I write fiction so I assume that gives you a certain amount of rope to hang yourself with by using your imagination to making things up. 😀)
Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?
About me, or writing? Probably not much about me, I can never shut up and everyone’s got my entire life story within seconds of meeting me. About writing – it’s harder work than everyone thinks, and not all authors are millionaires. That usually surprises people. They say ‘why do you work in the Co Op when you’ve got twenty books published?’ My only answer is that the bills need paying…
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I work best first thing in the morning. Oh, who am I kidding, I don’t wake up until nine. Okay, I work best when I first wake up. So I wake up, go downstairs and make a cup of tea, and then sit in my bed, with my insane terrier tucked somewhere under the covers, and write. I try to do at least 1000 words a day, sometimes I write for longer, it depends on how much I need the loo and whether it’s raining or not. Then I get up and go running with the dog, usually we put in four or five miles. Then home, shower, change and eat something, and off to the day job! It all sounds very worthy and healthy, but I put off going out as long as I can (see above, re raining).
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
I have what I describe as a ‘haunted head’. Lots of characters pacing up and down and waiting for their turn on the page. My brain is something like a cross between a waiting room and a counselling service. Once I let them loose, they all seem to come with their own stories and lives, I have no idea how it works. Sometimes they surprise me, they will be doing something throughout the story and I don’t know why but I just go with it, then suddenly one of them will turn around and reveal something and I think ‘Oh! That’s why you’ve been doing that really annoying thing all the way through!’. I wish I knew how I do it. I teach workshops on Characterisation, and it’s quite hard to keep ‘I dunno, they just talk and I write down what they say’ going for an hour, whilst looking knowledgeable. Names, oddly, are the hardest part, but I use the names of friends and my children’s friends, depending on the ages, usually. I’m starting to run out, I may need more friends. Or more children.
How long on average does it take you to write a book ?
Depends how close to deadline I am, how many distractions I can come up with and how well the characters are behaving. I’ve written a couple of books in less than six weeks, others have taken a year – although a lot of that year was probably spent wafting about or trailing gloomily around fields (see above). Knowing you don’t get paid until the book is out in print does concentrate the mind, and having a deadline concentrates it even more.
Now, are you sitting on the Hobnobs? I’m sure they were here a moment ago…
Shall I order another plate, Jane?😀
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Member’s Books don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops too.