Books

Why not add your comments & questions to a recent interview I did with Smashwords?

I recently gave an interview on Smashwords about how I became a writer, what my writing process is, and other things that might interest you. I’m copying & pasting it below and I invite all of you to comment & tell me which questions you would like to see me answer! If you like this interview, feel free to share on social media…

What is your writing process?
I usually start with research as I need facts to hang my ideas on. Then I begin writing.
During the first draft, if I don’t know something, I make a note and continue writing as it’s important to get that first draft down while the ideas are fresh.
Second drafts are for editing, revising and incorporating research. Then I send the manuscript off to my structural editor. I also use beta readers and my advanced reader group for ideas and suggestions.
Third drafts are for re-writing, before I send it to the copyeditor.
After that, (and a few more tweaks) it goes to the proofreader.
Then it’s time for marketing. I like to give myself plenty of time as its important to get the book launch right. I think six months is about right.

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?

 

I’ve been reading for years, ever since my mother taught me how to at the dining-room table, when I was 3 years old. But the first book I ever read that made me sit up and take notice was Tolstoy’s “War & Peace” which I read cover to cover when I was 16. I was enthralled by the novel but even more with his essay afterwards, in which he talks about the meaning of history.

How do you approach cover design?

After making the usual newbie mistake of trying to do it myself, I found a fabulous cover designer. However, I’m very hands-on as I’m picky about the way my book looks, so I will often spend quite a bit of time looking for the perfect image. The great thing about working with a talented person is that they think of things that would never occur to you!

What are your five favorite books, and why?
“The Land Beyond the Sea,” by Sharon Kay Penman
“The Masqueraders” by Georgette Heyer
“The Magpie Murders” by Anthony Horowitz
“The Death of Roger Ackroyd” by Agatha Christe
“The Runaway Jury” by John Grisham.

The reason why I love Masqueraders, Magpie Murders, Roger Ackroyd and Runaway Jury is because they are about main characters who are devilishly clever, and I love seeing how these very smart people solve difficult problems.
In the case of Land Beyond the Sea, I enjoyed reading about two men previously unknown to me (Baldwin IV of Jerusalem and Bailan d’Ibelin) who used their considerable gifts to help others.

What do you read for pleasure?

Historical novels (naturally) fantasy and mysteries

What is your e-reading device of choice?

I like my iPad mini. It’s just the right size to fit into my handbag and the screen is large enough for me to read. Also is beautifully engineered like all of Apple’s products.

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in England, in a family that didn’t have university degrees, yet they spent a great deal of time discussing the English language. And so I was taught to read at an early age, and I spent most of the first 21 years of my life with my nose in a book (when I wasn’t practicing my violin.)
When did you first start writing?
I didn’t find my voice until I was 43 years old. But my late start meant that I knew who I was and was much better equipped to stand by my artistic choices, than I was when I was younger, when I tended to defer far too much to others.
What’s the story behind your latest book?

The theme of “Farewell My Life” is about crumbling, dissolving and nothingness; about how comfortable lives can unravel much more quickly than most of us want to know. The theme of my book comes from my own experience of being a child from a broken home.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

In one sentence: because I want to keep ALL of my rights.

In the beginning (like everyone else) I wanted to acquire an agent and publish with one of the big publishing houses. I spent the entire year of 2010 taking my first novel “Thwarted Queen” around to 45 agents. I received 45 rejections.

One agent from a top New York agency even had the effrontery to ask for an exclusive and then kept me hanging for THREE MONTHS! When she finally deigned to get back to me, it was only to say that my novel “didn’t knock her socks off.” When I asked for more detail (was it the characters, the plot, the prose that she did’t like?) she replied that she couldn’t tell me. I told her that I objected to her behavior, to her dismissing my incredible hard work with her vague comment. I never wasted my time looking for an agent since that debacle.

It didn’t help that around that time I learned that another author (Anne Easter Smith) was going to publish her fourth novel about my protagonist Cecily Neville. Realizing that no agent was going to touch my novel with a barge pole, I went Indie. “Thwarted Queen” went on to sell 38,000 copies and recently won an IPPY Gold Medal for Audiobook, with Diana Croft as the narrator.

How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I am new to Smashwords so it is too early to say.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?

Discovery. I never know what my characters are going to do or how the story will end. Discovering this myself as I write is pure magic!

What do your fans mean to you?

My fans mean everything to me. The fact that someone would actually buy one of my novels, read it and make comments never ceases to amaze me. I am very grateful for their support.

What are you working on next?

Mockup for a possible cover design for a novel set in 1800 BCE…

I am working on a trio of novels that all relate to the folk tale “Twelve Dancing Princesses.” One of them has the working title “The Warrior.” I hope to come up with something more interesting once I’ve written it!

Who are your favorite authors?
Jane Austen (of course)
Tolstoy
Nabokov
Voltaire
Bertrand Russell
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My writing and my busy busy life as an Author-preneur.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?

I exercise. Monday is Pilates, Tuesday weightlifting & ballet, Wednesday walking or biking, Thursday Pilates & Ballet, Friday swimming and the weekend for relaxing. I wind down the day by knitting and watching the telly with my husband.

How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Historical Novel Society recommendations.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. It turned into my first novel “Thwarted Queen”!