Friday, 2 November 2007

Coffee with Cally

Happy coffee morning. It’s my go at last! I know it's early (eighteen minutes past midnight to be precise) but some of you are really early risers so I thought I should start the coffee morning ultra early!

Help yourself to coffee from the cafetière, tea from the pot or one of the sachets of green/herbal tea. There’s no Earl Grey because I think it tastes like flowers and I won’t have it in my house, but please console yourself with the enormous pile of Bourbon biscuits and chocolate HobNobs over there. Or you can bring own drink to the coffee break. I won't be offended.

Some of the novel racers are published authors and the rest of us want to be, without exception I think. If you’re an unpublished author like me you’ll probably read author interviews and think, “Ooh, I want to be interviewed too. Me, me, interview me!”

No? Just me? Well tough because this Friday’s coffee morning I’m going to interview you all (published authors too). Because I’m a nice pretend-journo and not a nasty one I’m not going to ask about your traumatic childhood, your affair with the vicar or that horrible photo of you going to the corner shop in last season’s clothes and no make-up (or, for the boys, unshaved). Instead I’m going to ask you some writing-related questions.

So here we go (if you’re pushed for time you can give one word answers).

So, oh great author, what inspired you to write your book?

How long did it take to finish your book or, if you’re still writing, how long have you been writing it and when are you expecting/hoping to finish it?

If you could conjure up your ideal writing environment what would it look like/where would it be?

What’s the best bit of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given/read?

Although you’re a hugely accomplished author I imagine you’ve made some mistakes and learned some lessons whilst writing your book. What would you do differently with your next book?

If you could get anyone to write you an amazing quote/blurb on the front of your novel (e.g. “A novel of such astonishing wit and wisdom it makes me feel like an uneducated buffoon” Stephen Fry”) who would you choose and, if you feel like it, what would they say?

What would your advice to other aspiring writers be?

And finally…which novels are on your bedside table?

Thank you for your time. You're the best looking AND the most talented author/author-to-be I've ever met.

(I'll put my answers to my own questions in the comments later on... )

31 comments:

david mcmahon said...

No Earl Grey in my house either! I spent my tenage years at school in Darjeeling, so it's strictly ``normal'' tea for me!

It's great to hear you've just finished your novel. One day earlier, I emailed my second novel to Penguin and to my agent - so we're in synch!

Helen Shearer said...

Hello, since I missed out last week I wanted to make sure I got in early this week and I'm glad I did, this being my very first interview. I feel very important suddenly. Okay, let's get down to business.
What inspired the book? In a word, misery. I'm writing a comedy about working in the maid industry. There's a certain clarity that comes while your hopefully gloved hand scrubs the loo rims of the well-to-do. I realised that there might be a story there.
How long has it taken? Much longer than I care to admit. I've been mulling it over and writing bits and pieces for about five years but the serious writing has taken about a year. I will finish by Christmas, thanks to the kciks up the arse from Lane and The Finishers.
What is my ideal writing environment? I have a lovely little study in my apartment, with a large window and a great view. I have a dark wood desk, a gooseneck lamp and shelves full of books for inspiration. It has two doors which I can close off to avoid distractions. I also love to write in cafes. There's something about the hum of strangers milling about that I find inspiring.
Best bit or writing advice ever given or received? Stephen King, in his book On Writing, said that the only way to become a better writer is to read a lot and to write a lot. I really do think that it's that simple.
What will I do differently on the next book? I think I will try to write chronologically because trying to fit everything together in sequence at the end was hellish!
Advice to other writers? Apart from the read much/ write much rule, I would recommend that everyone take a shit job in the service industry. The world is full on crazy, interesting people and a great way to meet them and interact with them is to serve them. I worked at a major coffee chain for four years and I got hundreds of ideas for characters from the people who came in.
What books are on my bedside table right now? A Friend of the Family by Lisa Jewell and Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon. I'm reading comedies currently because that's what I'm writing at the moment.
Well, for a first interview, that was reasonably painless. Can't wait to hear what everyone else has to say.

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Great questions, Cally - and Bourbon biscuits too! Here goes:
What inspired me? Working as a humanist funeral celebrant and hearing/experiencing so many amazing stories. My writing is 100% fiction but is based on this.
How long did it take? Two years and five months - although there were periods of time within that where I couldn't work on my novel for various reasons, so I think, discounting those, probably less than two years.
Ideal writing environment: a pleasant room with air conditioning and a desk by a big window overlooking a beautiful Mediterranean beach. And next to a well-stocked, well-equipped kitchen. Well, you did say 'ideal'!
Best advice: Just Get On With It.
Mistakes/lessons: so many this blog would crash if I tried to enumerate them. Next time I'd start by looking at my 'to do' lists from drafts 2, 3 and 4, and try to write draft 1 so that some of those issues would be dealt with earlier in the process.
Quote: Thomas Lynch (poet, funeral director and author of non-fiction prose books 'The Undertaking' and 'Bodies In Motion And At Rest', both highly recommended) would say 'A thoughtful, sensitive and intelligent novel, focusing on bereavement, grief and recovery with great humanity and delightful touches of humour'. That would be so amazing I'd probably drop dead of amazement.
Advice to others: Just Get On With It.
Bedside table: Anne Tyler's most recent novel, Digging To America, and Harry Potter 5 for a re-read.

Leatherdykeuk said...

So, oh great author, what inspired you to write your book?
A prompt board on Live Journal called Musemuggers. I wrote about a poor man that travelled in time. Rubbish really, but he bacame Harold Wateman and his time machine became the demon Jasfoup.

How long did it take to finish your book or, if you’re still writing, how long have you been writing it and when are you expecting/hoping to finish it?
"An Ungodly Child" took a year or so, but then another two before I edited it and sent it out. I'm yet to get over my fear of rejection, so I have to force myself to toss them into the world.

If you could conjure up your ideal writing environment what would it look like/where would it be?
Pretty much what I have, though I'd prefer a room that wasn't full of people half the time.

What’s the best bit of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given/read?
Terry Pratchett: Write. Write every day.

Although you’re a hugely accomplished author I imagine you’ve made some mistakes and learned some lessons whilst writing your book. What would you do differently with your next book?
Work out the plot beforehand. Writing by the seat of your pants doesn't really work. Not for me, anyway.

If you could get anyone to write you an amazing quote/blurb on the front of your novel (e.g. “A novel of such astonishing wit and wisdom it makes me feel like an uneducated buffoon” Stephen Fry”) who would you choose and, if you feel like it, what would they say?
I'd love Neil Gaimen to say: "I wish I'd written this."

What would your advice to other aspiring writers be?
Write, join a writers group, write some more.

And finally…which novels are on your bedside table?
I don't read in bed but current reading pile is Pratchett's "Making Money", Robert Twigger's "Angry White Pyjamas", "Belle de Jour" and "Techniques of Jiu-Jitsu"

Rowan Coleman said...

Ooh Cally you spoil us with your chocolate biscuits!

I love this idea, its so fun to read everyone elses answers. Here are mine, they will be dull by comparision, I'm sure.

I've written quite a lot of books now, and the source of inspiration for each is both the same and different. I love people, I love their stories and it's the stories I read, hear or discover that inspire most of my writing. My last book completed THE ACCIDENTAL WIFE(not out til April) was inspired by my first teenage love that went somewhat awry when the boy ran away with my best friend. In this book the characters meet up again sixteen years later to discover if they are somehow living each other lives. Tag line 'How do you know when your life has taken the wrong turn?

It takes me about eight months to write a full length adult novel. I've done it much quicker than that with a fair wind behind me and also much longer when writing uphill.

My ideal writing environment is pretty much what I have now, only I'd make my office about twice the size, as often feel I'm writing in a doorway. Amazing country views out of my window though!

My biggest lesson learnt is do plot, but don't over plot - allow for spontaneity and creativity along the way.

Mmmmmm hard one. I admire a lot of writers, I'l be really happy if I got quote from any of them to put on my book, but on the whole its what the readers think at the end of the day that floats my boat.

My advice to apiring writers is much the same as the others, get on with it!!

I've just read the amazing Life Class by Pat Barker who is one of the writers I admire so very much, I am currently reading an excellent novel by one of the writers that comes to my class and also a book called The Murder Ballad by Jane Hill. Next, as I am a sucker for time travelling, romantic ghost stories, I'm looking forward to reading Daughters of Fire by Barbara Erskine. What can I say, I have a broad range of tastes, and I always believe reading should be entertainment first!

Looking forward to reading everyone's interview!
Rx

KayJay said...

Got my Tetleys, Marmite on toast and ready to roll...

What inspired me?
For my chick lit book it was my experience in the theatre world and how the dynamics of friendships change in such a cut-throat world.
For my kids' chapter book, it was the terrible injustice of being accused of something I didn't do when I was 5!

How long to finish?
My novel - still finishing and aiming to have the first draft complete by Christmas. It will have been about 5 years of very occasional scribblings and about 8 months of 'proper' writing.

Ideal place to write?
I have family in a very remote part of the Cheviot Hills in Northumberland. It couldn't be more perfect. Then again, I wrote a huge portion of my novel overlooking Boston Harbour and that was fabulously inspiring too!

Advice?
From so many - just keep writing. And read lots. And don't worry that the first draft is shite. Also, children's writer Elizabeth Hawkins told me that it's so important to have 'dreamtime' each day before sitting down to write - go for a walk, play Spider Solitaire, let the mind invent stuff unfettered and unpressurised! Then get it written.

Mistakes?
Don't get caught up in what other people think about the fact I'm an aspiring writer! Ok, it's not coal mining but it is a job of work and it is hard!

Blurb?
On my children's book:
'Gosh, what a cracking read!' (The late, great) Ruby Ferguson

Advice to others?
Yep, just do it.

Beside table?
Finally getting round to Philip Pullman. Some Eva Ibbotson and the latest Polly Williams.

That was fun. Now do you want to know about the affair with the vicar?

Jen said...

So, oh great author, what inspired you to write your book?

Well, it started off as an assignment for an OU creative writing course. I promised that, if I got a good mark, I'd carry on with it. I did and I am!

How long did it take to finish your book or, if you’re still writing, how long have you been writing it and when are you expecting/hoping to finish it?

It is taking far longer than I hoped but I am DETERMINED to have the first draft finished my Crimbly.

If you could conjure up your ideal writing environment what would it look like/where would it be?

I rather like my study, opening into the garden and looking out over fields. Calorie-free wine would be good though.

What’s the best bit of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given/read?

'The first draft is always shit' - Elmore Leonard.

Although you’re a hugely accomplished author I imagine you’ve made some mistakes and learned some lessons whilst writing your book. What would you do differently with your next book?

Get on with it and stop faffing about and thinking that I can't do it.

If you could get anyone to write you an amazing quote/blurb on the front of your novel (e.g. “A novel of such astonishing wit and wisdom it makes me feel like an uneducated buffoon” Stephen Fry”) who would you choose and, if you feel like it, what would they say?

"I bow to this writer's wit and ease of style' - Marion Keyes

What would your advice to other aspiring writers be?

Just get on with it. It truly is the only way.

And finally…which novels are on your bedside table?

23 Dream Street by Lisa Jewell at the mo. Plus a teetering pile of writing books/mags.

Thank you for your time. You're the best looking AND the most talented author/author-to-be I've ever met.

Shucks, why thank you. Slim too, yes?

Helen said...

So, oh great author, what inspired you to write your book?

Personal experience and finding out that others went through a far tougher time of it than I did, with often terrible consequences.


How long did it take to finish your book or, if you’re still writing, how long have you been writing it and when are you expecting/hoping to finish it?

My first three chapters took about a year to write as I kept going round and round and round with them. Then the rest came from January this year and I finished my first draft in July. The irony is that now I'm editing it into my second drfat those first three chapters that I spent so long on, are going to be chopped. Snip. Just like that!


If you could conjure up your ideal writing environment what would it look like/where would it be?

I would like a well stocked fridge, Costa coffee on tap and maybe a roaring log fire with some stunning views. And a comfy chair. After that I don't mind.

What’s the best bit of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given/read?

Give yourself permission to write rubbish - from our own JJ. It is printed out and stuck above my computer. Oh, and 'you can't edit a blank page - just get it down'.

Although you’re a hugely accomplished author I imagine you’ve made some mistakes and learned some lessons whilst writing your book. What would you do differently with your next book?
With the second book I'm writing at the moment I have a loose idea for a plot but I'm not going to be as stuctured as I was for Burnt Chocolate. It's an experiment, I'll see what happens.

If you could get anyone to write you an amazing quote/blurb on the front of your novel (e.g. “A novel of such astonishing wit and wisdom it makes me feel like an uneducated buffoon” Stephen Fry”) who would you choose and, if you feel like it, what would they say?
Emma Thompson "This would make a great film. I've bought the rights." ;) Or maybe 'an important novel that will give hope to millions of women'. (Of course it may not say that as I'm not too sure of the ending yet. If I kill the main character off it won't really be giving hope. But we'll see).

What would your advice to other aspiring writers be?
Just get the first draft down. Give yourself permission to write rubbish. Force yourself.

And finally…which novels are on your bedside table?

Vanish by Tess Geritson, English Grammar for Dummies and Stephen Fry's auto biog.

Cathy said...

So, oh great author, what inspired you to write your book?

My story idea has been germinating for a long time and it is a tale I need to tell.I wrote it as a short story on my Open University creative writing course, got my best mark and then started to think how I could transfer it to novel length.

How long did it take to finish your book or, if you’re still writing, how long have you been writing it and when are you expecting/hoping to finish it?

It is going very slowly I'm afraid, but as it is my first attempt at a novel, speed is not as important to me as getting the basics right this time. I hope to have it finished by the end of next year if home circumstances permit.

If you could conjure up your ideal writing environment what would it look like/where would it be?

I'm just about to create a proper writing environment in our spare bedroom. I'll keep you posted!

What’s the best bit of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given/read?

That it is OK to write a shitty first draft.

Although you’re a hugely accomplished author I imagine you’ve made some mistakes and learned some lessons whilst writing your book. What would you do differently with your next book?

I would try to just get on with it and write a quick, shitty first draft!

If you could get anyone to write you an amazing quote/blurb on the front of your novel (e.g. “A novel of such astonishing wit and wisdom it makes me feel like an uneducated buffoon” Stephen Fry”) who would you choose and, if you feel like it, what would they say?

It would have to be a quote from Jodi Picoult because I think the themes of my novel would appeal to her readers and she has so many of them.

What would your advice to other aspiring writers be?

Read as widely as possible and hook up with other writers for inspiration and support. Try a creative writing course to build your confidence at the start.

And finally…which novels are on your bedside table?

My bedside table actually has volumes of short stories to dip into, I have just bought thr collected stories of Angela Carter. I am currently reading an autobiography, Take Off Your Party Dress by Dina Rabinovitch ( who died this week) and some OU study texts, while trying to decide which of the novels in my TBR pile to read next.

Juliette M said...

*pours cup of green tea*

Thanks for the tea abd biscuits Cally. And the great questions! Let's see now...

- What inspired you to write your book?
I'm using the Faerie book, Quartet, for this interview as it's the one I've done the most on. It evolved from a set of characters played by myself and my friends at a LRP event, much like Margaret Weis's Dragonlance books did (allegedly). That and a bagful of Celtic mythology.

- How long did it take to finish your book or, if you’re still writing, how long have you been writing it and when are you expecting/hoping to finish it?
I've been writing it in one form or another since November 2000. However, it's changed massively and has only become Quartet over the past two years. I hope to have finished by next summer.

- If you could conjure up your ideal writing environment what would it look like/where would it be?
A large desk surrounded with research books and a big whiteboard/corkboard with post its and notecards, in a light, airy room with a CD player, a stack of inspirational music and a mini kettle. White teabags on stand by. Decent view from the window, preferably over somewhere green (unlikely at the moment.) Laptop or computer on the desk with a usb drive to remind me to back up.

- What’s the best bit of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given/read?
Terry Pratchett: "Write every day." Sadly I rarely do.

- Although you’re a hugely accomplished author I imagine you’ve made some mistakes and learned some lessons whilst writing your book. What would you do differently with your next book?
I'd never write in a non-linear style again (writing chapters as they came to me) which I originally did with Quartet. Half my work now is to make the finished chapters coherent and link together properly. Chapter plans are the way forward. I intend to have a post-it mission on all my books as soon as I get settled in the new house, and have everything properly planned.
I'd also try and concentrate on one project at a time, because I've always worked on multiple things but now that's starting to annoy me.

- If you could get anyone to write you an amazing quote/blurb on the front of your novel (e.g. “A novel of such astonishing wit and wisdom it makes me feel like an uneducated buffoon” Stephen Fry”) who would you choose and, if you feel like it, what would they say?
Oooh, tough one. Hmm. I think I'd have:
"If you read nothing else this year, read this. Then go see the film starring Paul Bettany. Then wait for her next one." - Jonathan Ross
or possibly:
"Her imagination puts mine to shame" - Neil Gaiman (severely unlikely but a girl can dream!)
or
"I bow to the new Queen of Fantasy and Magic" - J K Rowling
Ha ha.

- What would your advice to other aspiring writers be?
Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do it.

And finally…which novels are on your bedside table?
I dont have a bedside table, but on my bedroom floor you'll find THE CAT WHO ATE DANISH MODERN by Lilian Jackson Braun, GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, ODE TO A BANKER by Lindsey Davis, IN SEARCH OF ADAM by Caroline Smailes and LAST CHANCE SALOON by Marian Keyes.

Kate said...

What inspired me?
Well, when I first read a fantasy novel years and years ago my imagination just took off and I felt I HAD to make up my own story! The idea for my current book came from looking at some pretty cool cloud formations while driving to work.

How long you been writing?
I started 'thinking' about my latest novel last October, and I'm now on day two of writing it (nanowrimo!). I hope to have it completed by April 2008.

Ideal writing environment?
I guess anything goes. An undisturbed comfy place to park my arse!

Best advice given?
Plan your book first.
Give yourself time to think of the scene before you write it.
Show, dont tell.
Write, write, write.

What would I do differently?
Well, I'm not published yet, nor have I completely finished anything, so I will keep trying new things until I get there.

Someone to quote?
Hmmm... I would probably have any one of the fantasy greats write "Fucking hell this is a really fucking good book! This author is fucking awesome!" or something like that. Hehehe.

Advice to to other writers?
Stop writing. I dont like competition! (just kidding!)

Novels by my bedside?
I'm not reading anything at the moment, but a copy of Dr Who: Genesis of the Daleks is sitting idly by waiting for me to pick it up after Nanowrimo is through.

Thank you for your time. You're the best looking AND the most talented author/author-to-be I've ever met.
Why, thank you!

JJ said...

What inspired you to write your book? Life and trying to understand it.

How long have you been writing it and when are you expecting/hoping to finish it? I’ve started lots of novels over the years, but this one I started in January this year. November and December are looking like very busy article months, but I’m hoping the middle of December onwards will be positive on the book.

If you could conjure up your ideal writing environment what would it look like/where would it be? There wouldn’t any horizontal surfaces to lie on … and no fiction to pick up and read. Temperature is important too: not too hot and not too cold.

What’s the best bit of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given/read? ‘Just do it’ and ‘Apply bum glue’.

Although you’re a hugely accomplished author I imagine you’ve made some mistakes and learned some lessons whilst writing your book. What would you do differently with your next book? Oh dear, if only I knew the answer to that…

If you could get anyone to write you an amazing quote/blurb on the front of your novel (e.g. “A novel of such astonishing wit and wisdom it makes me feel like an uneducated buffoon” Stephen Fry”) who would you choose and, if you feel like it, what would they say? ‘Richard and Judy bookclub’? Mmm, I'm having a fight about genre with myself at the moment, so can't quite pin this down yet.

What would your advice to other aspiring writers be? Get writing.

And finally…which novels are on your bedside table? Just finished ‘Human Traces’ by Sebastian Faulks; lots of how to books; received for my birthday ‘The Colour Purple’ by Alice Walker, ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell and ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe.

Thank you for your time. No, thank you.

Kate.Kingsley said...

Hi, My first interview!! Excellent topic, Cally. Green tea for me, please!

Here we go:

Inspiration ~ I�m with Helen on the cack service job business ~ my protagonist is a waitress, as I (and almost everyone else I know!) once was. But the main inspiration for this book was exploring the theme: the relentless pursuit of celebrity status in current society.

How long: err, its been a good few months so far, but I plan to have the first draft finished by the end of January. If only I could �pause� life from time to time.

My ideal writing environment would be a lovely sunny quiet office with lots of trees out of the window, and children playing nearby, with a bit of traffic burbling away in the background too. In reality I�m either writing on my lap, surreptiously at my work P (i.e. now!) and hunched over the too low desk in the spare room which has no radiator ~ brrrrr!!

Best advice: read, write, repeat!

With my next book (assuming I finish this one!) ~ keep at it ~ losing momentum is potentially fatal.

Fantasy quote: � I wish I had written this truly amazing novel. It is breath-taking in every way� ~ Margaret Atwood.

And I�m afraid I can�t answer the last question, as my bedside table actually IS a pile of books ~ about 40 of them!

Kate

PS: have loved reading everyone else's so far! :-)

NoviceNovelist said...

I'm late so I hope there are still some biccies left - I've brought my own latte! This is a fun one Cally - thanks

what inspired you to write your book?

Life experiences and I didn't actually know I was writing a book until the story just kept growing..

How long did it take to finish your book or, if you’re still writing, how long have you been writing it and when are you expecting/hoping to finish it?

2 and a half years to date - just completing what I hope is the final draft and would like this done by xmas

If you could conjure up your ideal writing environment what would it look like/where would it be?

My study has a great view over the south downs but I do hanker for the bleakness of the scottish highlands and absolutley no-one (other than my lovely husband) to bother me - the fridge must ALWAYS contain chocalate and champagne

What’s the best bit of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given/read?

I was taught by nuns since the age of four so I like the tough love approach- just do it

Although you’re a hugely accomplished author I imagine you’ve made some mistakes and learned some lessons whilst writing your book. What would you do differently with your next book?

I am going to follow many of the practical aspects of the book 'Weekend Novelist' it gives you a structure - I wrote this off the cuff which I have enjoyed but I'm going to do some plotting next time

If you could get anyone to write you an amazing quote/blurb on the front of your novel (e.g. “A novel of such astonishing wit and wisdom it makes me feel like an uneducated buffoon” Stephen Fry”) who would you choose and, if you feel like it, what would they say?

I would like either Sophie Kinsella or Marian Keyes to say 'Since reading this debut novel I have decided to retrain as a librarian and never write another word - there would be no point' - ha ha

What would your advice to other aspiring writers be?

Stop aspiring and get on with it

And finally…which novels are on your bedside table?
The house at Riverton - Kate Morton
A crowded Marriage - catherine alliott
Latest Sue Grafton - Kinsey Malhone novel - can't remmber the L she's up to

Thanks Cally - that was a bit of fun!!!!

Graeme K Talboys said...

So, oh great author, what inspired you to write your book?

So as not to sound precocious, I’ll stick to one (oops). Wealden Hill was inspired by an overheard conversation, Harvey’s best bitter, and a warm summer night. The conversation took place in the pub where I was drinking. Two old men were reminiscing and I heard one tell the other that his grandfather had spent time with the fraeries (Sussex dialect for faeries). Something in the matter of fact way they discussed it, struck a chord within me.

As it was such a fine night I decided to walk home (rather than catch the train as I might normally have done). Although seven miles as the more-or-less direct Sussex back road, I took in a detour that doubled the journey. That took me to the top of Mount Caburn on a warm summer night with a near full moon.

During the walk, I turned that conversation over and over in my head. By the time I finally got home, I had a plot outlined, themes to explore, settings sorted out, and even one or two details. All this was scribbled into a notebook and a year later, I had my novel.

I’m not sure what part the beer made, although it probably contributed to creating a relaxed mind able to explore all the possibilities. I have no doubt that if the weather had been foul and I had gone straight home on the train, the story may never have been developed.


How long did it take to finish your book or, if you’re still writing, how long have you been writing it and when are you expecting/hoping to finish it?

The first hand-written draft took me a year. This was 1982/83, I didn’t even own a typewriter at that time. My old one had broken and could neither afford repairs or a new one. I did a number of redrafts and had a ‘finished’ piece by 1984. It finally got published in 2005.


If you could conjure up your ideal writing environment what would it look like/where would it be?

Pretty much what I have now but with permanent extra work space so I don’t have to move the keyboard or put up the card table if I want to do any hand written work. And more book shelves. You can never have enough of those.


What’s the best bit of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given/read?

Write. Read. Write some more. Read some more. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Keep reading.


Although you’re a hugely accomplished author I imagine you’ve made some mistakes and learned some lessons whilst writing your book. What would you do differently with your next book?

Not worry. About being original; about style; about content; about genre.


If you could get anyone to write you an amazing quote/blurb on the front of your novel (e.g. “A novel of such astonishing wit and wisdom it makes me feel like an uneducated buffoon” Stephen Fry”) who would you choose and, if you feel like it, what would they say?

Michael Moorcock (of the living) and Angela Carter (of the sadly no longer with us).


What would your advice to other aspiring writers be?

Write. Read. Write some more. Read some more. Keep writing. Submit. Keep submitting. Keep reading (and don’t stick to your favoured genre – read everything).


And finally…which novels are on your bedside table?

There isn’t the room as my pile has about a hundred books in it. I’m in a re-read phase at the moment as I see little to interest me that is new. So I’m working through Dickens, Woolf, Allingham, Carter, Ballard, Bayley – there’s a list on my blog of recently read titles that will gave a flavour of what is still there to be read. At the moment, I am reading Larklight by Philip Reeve, Wartime Britain by Juliet Gardiner, and Finite and Infinite Games by James P Carse.

Kate said...

Oh, if only all interviewers were so polite!

So, oh great author, what inspired you to write your book?
The one I’ve just finished is about mystery shopping and was inspired by meeting a secret shopper and thinking what fun it would be to inspect and report back on stores, hotels, restaurants: also, I am increasingly a grumpy old woman about bad customer service, so I thought it would be fun to have a moan about bad shops, and have fun describing brilliant ones. The research was fun…

How long did it take to finish your book or, if you’re still writing, how long have you been writing it and when are you expecting/hoping to finish it?
This one has taken since about April (so that’s seven months) although I was ‘brewing’ it for a while before that. It’s currently with my editor and agent so there’ll be some editing to be done, too.

If you could conjure up your ideal writing environment what would it look like/where would it be?
It’s close to what I’ve got at the moment, an airy office where I can make a mess and do my own thing. I would write more without wireless broadband, and with a view of the sea I think.

What’s the best bit of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given/read?
I feel I’m repeating what others have said, but read passionately.

Although you’re a hugely accomplished author I imagine you’ve made some mistakes and learned some lessons whilst writing your book. What would you do differently with your next book?
It’s my sixth book and I learn all the time. This has been quite tough, because I did some work on it, and then had to work on another project, and when I came back to The Secret Shopper’s Revenge it felt quite flat. So my lesson in future is to strike while the iron’s hot, and never to begin a book unless I have the time in my diary to finish it. I get bored very quickly.


If you could get anyone to write you an amazing quote/blurb on the front of your novel (e.g. “A novel of such astonishing wit and wisdom it makes me feel like an uneducated buffoon” Stephen Fry”) who would you choose and, if you feel like it, what would they say?
Well, I have been lucky enough to have lovely blurbs from Sophie Kinsella, Mike Gayle, Chris Manby, Katie Fforde, Jojo Moyes and Louise Voss so I reckon I have no right to more!


What would your advice to other aspiring writers be?
It’s brilliant fun! Do it! But generally I think it’s a bad idea to leave your job to write your first novel, puts way too much pressure on you. Best to do it in your spare time: if you can’t make the time, it’s probably not important enough to you.

And finally…which novels are on your bedside table?
I’m off fiction at the moment: I hate the idea I might be influenced by someone else's style. So on my bedside table is an old schoolbook I found with a summary of Shakespeare’s plots, for inspiration for my next novel. But when I am through editing will be reading Gods Behaving Badly and From Here to Paternity.

liz fenwick said...

Just popping in to say hi....can't stop today for an interview but I have loved reading the others. We are gearing up to move into the villa so a bit crazy here.

A. Writer said...

So, oh great author, what inspired you to write your book?

Life. Events that have happened to me made my friends laugh so I decided to write them up into my book.

How long did it take to finish your book or, if you’re still writing, how long have you been writing it and when are you expecting/hoping to finish it?

It took me about 2 years on and off to finish the first draft of my first book.

If you could conjure up your ideal writing environment what would it look like/where would it be?

I would live in the highlands of Scotland with a window in my office looking over the hills and lochs. Peace and quiet!

What’s the best bit of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given/read?

Don't put loads of pressure on yourself when writing the first draft.

Although you’re a hugely accomplished author I imagine you’ve made some mistakes and learned some lessons whilst writing your book. What would you do differently with your next book?

Use less personal events as inspiration.

If you could get anyone to write you an amazing quote/blurb on the front of your novel (e.g. “A novel of such astonishing wit and wisdom it makes me feel like an uneducated buffoon” Stephen Fry”) who would you choose and, if you feel like it, what would they say?

Any one of my favourite authors; Sophie Kinsella, Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell, Carole Matthews... And I could possible say what they'd say.

What would your advice to other aspiring writers be?

Don't give up. Writing is such a special thing.

And finally…which novels are on your bedside table?

At the moment it's 'I did a bad thing' by Linda Green.

P.S. I won't be around as much for a wee while. But I will be back!!!

sheepish said...

Hi everyone, wow what an interesting bunch we are. And what a lovely interviewer.So here are my answers.
Inspiration: I had always wanted to write but suddenly in October of last year the idea for my novel just hit me out of the blue and I knew that I had to write the story.
How long: Well I didn't really get going til I joined the Novel Racers early this year and I am still a fair way off finishing the first draft, I had hoped to be finished by the end of November but it's more likely to be sometime in Jan.
Ideal environment: at the moment I use the dining table but when we move I am going to make myself a study area overlooking the mountains. Or take myself off to the local bar for inspiration.
Best advice:Lower your standards and keep writing,and write your first draft with your heart, you rewrite with your head. I think I still worry to much about the quality of what I'm writing rather than getting the story on the page.
What would I do differently for my next book, I will try and plot a bit more,for this book I have just waited for inspiration to keep me moving forward and that can be a bit slow sometimes.
Fantasy quote: it was worth the wait by Iris Murdoch although that may be a bit tricky!!!
Bedside reading:have run out of new reads til the next trip to England so am re-reading lots of Graham Greene as he does everything so well.
Gosh must be time for a glass of wine now,after all it can be quite stressful being interviewed, still good practice for when the novel hits the Best seller lists!!!!!

Flowerpot said...

I don't like Earl Grey either! In answer to your questions: started writing this one a month or so ago, inspired by a chance remark of a friend while we were out walking my dog. I have a good writing environment at hme but do suffer a lot from back ache despite a good chair etc so I'd like anew back! Best advice - don't give up. Learn as you g along. Advice to others? The same. Go to courses, read, meet other writers. Novels on bedside tables: Kate Atkinson One Good Turn, We are all Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg and Ladder of Years, Anne Tyler.

Fiona said...

So, oh great author, what inspired you to write your book?

Money and fame

How long did it take to finish your book or, if you’re still writing, how long have you been writing it and when are you expecting/hoping to finish it?

Over three years. Two and half years messing around and six actually writing.

If you could conjure up your ideal writing environment what would it look like/where would it be?

It would look over the sea, have a real fire and a big old armchair.

What’s the best bit of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given/read?

Jen's mum: 'Stop fannying around.'

What would you do differently with your next book?

I'd write it from start to finish without re reading any of it.

If you could get anyone to write you an amazing quote/blurb on the front of your novel who would you choose and, if you feel like it, what would they say?

You. You'd say, 'I taught her all I know so she's brilliant.'

What would your advice to other aspiring writers be?

See Jen's mum - above.

And finally…which novels are on your bedside table?

In Search of Adam, Wannabe a Writer?, The Lovely Bones.

Thank you for your time. You're the best looking AND the most talented author/author-to-be I've ever met.

Thank you darling. Cheque's in the post.

Lane said...

Gosh what an erudite and distinguished bunch of writers! Thanks Cally for provoking such an insight. Although we're all basically the same - we're so .....different. Fab

Right.
So, oh great author, what inspired you to write your book?
An article in the local paper sowed the seed. I couldn't get it out of my head so weaving it into a story seemed the only thing to do.

How long did it take to finish your book or, if you’re still writing, how long have you been writing it and when are you expecting/hoping to finish it?
I've been writing it since January of this year. I'm expecting to finish by June.

If you could conjure up your ideal writing environment what would it look like/where would it be?
Well it certainly wouldn't be where I am at the moment. It would be somewhere balmy, within spitting distance of the sea and a cafe around the corner.

What’s the best bit of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given/read?
Same as most of my fellow Racers...permission to write first draft tat and try not to be self-conscious.

Although you’re a hugely accomplished author I imagine you’ve made some mistakes and learned some lessons whilst writing your book. What would you do differently with your next book?
Stop imagining that vast amounts of free writing time will magically come your way. Life is cluttered so get over it and write when you can.

If you could get anyone to write you an amazing quote/blurb on the front of your novel (e.g. “A novel of such astonishing wit and wisdom it makes me feel like an uneducated buffoon” Stephen Fry”) who would you choose and, if you feel like it, what would they say?
Maya Angelou - " This woman loves words and knows how to use them" *sigh*

What would your advice to other aspiring writers be?
Watch people. Listen to people. They are your story.

.And finally…which novels are on your bedside table?
Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini.
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox - Maggie O'Farrell
Sweetness in the Belly - Camilla Gibb

Thank you - I could get used to this:-)

hesitant scribe said...

I'm late but here :)

Your answers are all so interesting - I've really enjoyed everyone's interviews!

So...

Inspiration for this book: Living in Andalucia for two years, and the need/desire to get a PhD.

I started writing in January this year when I joined the Novel Racers (and have been appallingly slow). I hope to finish it asap, especially as I have my supervisor breathing down my neck for a long overdue first draft. Thinking that The Finishers might be inspiration here!

My writing environment: needs to be tidy although my family would translate that as immaculate. My house hasn't been immaculate since I had children but any distractive mess and I can't settle. I have an office full of books in the front of the house, and like others, would like it even more if people didn't just wander in and out all day!

Writing advice? Just get on with it! (My supervisor) and the other day, a gem from a writing lecturer colleague - "Tell the absolute truth in the first draft and then censor it later." (I'm writing a semi-autobiographical novel so this was wonderfully freeing.)

Mistakes? Oh God. Every day. All the time. I'm stumbling along. I've spent almost three quarters of the year telling the wrong story!

Lessons? - Again! Every day. Every stumble brings a revelation. Reading teaches beyond measure.

What would I do differently? Start at the beginning and not stop till the end. (But I won't - cos I appear to be incapable of this method!

Blurb writer - hmmm. Sandra Cisneros in half Spanish, half English, or Isabelle Allende. That would be such a gift. They are my PhD heroes.

Advice to other aspiring writer: Write. Read. Write. And listen to people when they talk about your work - listen to what they don't say - it's crucial.

Bedside table: Kate Atkinson's One Good Turn, Isabelle Allende's My Invented Country and Cuentas de Eva Luna. And tons more on my TBR pile, plus a scary number of academic texts, the present favourite being Linda Marcus' Auto/biographical Discourses: Theory, Criticism, Practice.

Ooh - the end! Thank you!

p.s. Might miss a couple of coffee breaks as got to have an op for gallstones - loverly!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Sorry I'm late this week.

All sorts of things inspired me to write my books. Usually, though, it was seeing something and wanting to change it to make it better.

My first book took 9 months until I thought I was finished, and another couple years until it was actually finished. The subsequent books have gone quicker because I was better able to know what I was doing.

My ideal writing environment? Somewhere without other people noise. You know the stuff - cars stereos blaring, dogs barking, people yelling. I don't mind a little background noise in my own house, but I don't want to hear anyone else's noise.

Best advice I've heard is: If you want to write, then just write. Sitting around talking about how much you want to write isn't going to get you anywhere.

All my books were written a little differently. I grow as I go. The more I write, the more I learn, and I apply it to the writing.

If I could get someone like Michael Crichton or Ken Follett to say he couldn't put my book down, that would thrill me to no end.

My advice to aspiring writers? Since I spent the morning looking up writing quotes, I'll borrow one I found from Neil Gaiman: "Write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can.
I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter."

I don't keep novels by my bed. Reading in bed is a habit I never acquired. Right now, I'm in the middle of Tapped Out by Natalie M. Roberts, though.

Thanks, Cally. Good coffee break, even if I was a day late.

CTaylor said...

Thanks for all your answers. They make for fascinating reading. Here are my answers, a bit tardy but never mind!

I was inspired to write by book because I realised that life can be short and sometimes you don't have all the time in the world to follow your dreams. Sometimes you just have to get off your arse and do it. So I did.

I started the book in March this year. It took 3 months and 3 weeks to write the first draft and it's taken me nearly as long to do the first edit! I imagine I'll finish the second draft some time in the new year (or even later if I carry on at my current snail's pace!)

I'd like to write my novel in a little cottage by the sea with a seaview from my window, a roaring fire beside me and a dog at my feet.

Best bit of writing advice? Just F**king do it! Also, Your First Draft is allowed to be crap. Also, know your characters.

What have I learnt? That plotting/outline IS important but to just go with it if your characters take you slightly off course. I don't think I'd do anything differently with the next book. Just make sure I've got a more solid plot outline rather than the slightly sketchy one I had with this book.

Blurb? For this book I'd like Lisa Jewell to say something nice.

Advice to other writers? Don't just talk about wanting to write a novel. Sit down and do it.

On my beside table? "In Search of Adam" by Caroline Smailes, "Spritz" by Neil J Hart, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" Maya Angelou and "Alias Grace" by Margaret Atwood.

Anonymous said...

Last season's clothes? I wouldn't dare have such giddy aspirations!

Patience-please said...

Ooooooh! I've just found you. I hope I'm allowed to evesdrop?

Reading these interviews has been delightfully enlightening and just the right dose of kick in the ass.

all the best-
Patience from Kentucky

Sarah*G* said...

Hang on hang on!! I got here finally. Still faffing with getting the new car so my time keeping has been a bit ousy recently! Sorry. Anyway, here now and here are my answers to Callys questions...

So, oh great author, what inspired you to write your book?
- My children. As I wanted to give them a bit of me. A bit of me that might help them understand me as they get older and I lose my marble.

How long did it take to finish your book or, if you’re still writing, how long have you been writing it and when are you expecting/hoping to finish it?
- Been writing seriously for about 3 months and am hoping to finish by December. If not January at latest. I just want to finish.

If you could conjure up your ideal writing environment what would it look like/where would it be?
- A cafe (like Starbucks or Costa Coffee) where I could sit with my laptop, ipod and watch people go about their day. Plus a continual supply of drinks and snacks.

What’s the best bit of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given/read?
- To just do it and not be afraid fo failure. (although that is something I still need to fully get over!)

Although you’re a hugely accomplished author I imagine you’ve made some mistakes and learned some lessons whilst writing your book. What would you do differently with your next book?
- Got to get passed this one yet! Ideally not still have to do my day job! Be able to just write at any point of day and not worry about needing to go into office an deal with morons that I work with!!

If you could get anyone to write you an amazing quote/blurb on the front of your novel (e.g. “A novel of such astonishing wit and wisdom it makes me feel like an uneducated buffoon” Stephen Fry”) who would you choose and, if you feel like it, what would they say?
- Anyone anywhere who likes to read and who liked it. Just to have someone impartial say they liked it would make my day!

What would your advice to other aspiring writers be?
- Don't put it off forever as you will only regret it and if you don't at least try then you will never know if it would have been great.

And finally…which novels are on your bedside table?
- None at moment. Just finished a reading fest and not due to start reading another one until New Year.

Leigh Russell said...

What inspired me? In a word, boredom. If you find that flippant, please take a look at my blog where I try to explain my journey 'From scribbler to author'. In a few months, I'll be able to amend that to 'From scribbler to published author!'

Speed? I think I'm pretty fast. All I need is an idea and I'm off. The writing seems to take care of itself. I completed my first 5 books (well, my only books so far) in the past 10 months - just over half a million words in all.

Environment - a computer, an idea to get me started, and time. Oh, and a nice cup of tea never goes amiss, if you're offering... and more time.

What would I do differently? I don't know yet. It's all too new to me to begin to think about that. I'm still having fun discovering what I can do.

Quotation - I write crime thrillers so someone of the stature of Ruth Rendell, Ian Rankin, Lynda La Plante. My style icons are Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro. But I'd be happy with anyone prepared to say something encouraging to calm my insecurity about my writing.

Advice - enjoy it. If you don't love writing, why bother to do it?

Book by my bed - sorry, it has to be a notepad and a pencil for those middle of the night flashes of brilliance (that never look quite so exciting in the cold light of day.)

UN PEU LOUFOQUE said...

Sorry missed this one as I was busy burying relatives, its ok they wee dead at teh time so please excuse my tardiness.

I have alwasy written and read but I htink the authors I find most inspring are Dickens for his characters adn plots and Saki for his dry humour.

How long did it take to finish your book About 6 months.

If you could conjure up your ideal writing environment what would it look like/where would it be?
Soemwhere warm wiht lots of light but no view far too distracting.

What’s the best bit of writing-related advice you’ve ever been given/read?
Get you finger out and get on with it.

Although you’re a hugely accomplished author I imagine you’ve made some mistakes and learned some lessons whilst writing your book. What would you do differently with your next book? Hmm don't think that is up to me as this one jsut happenned so I hope next one will do the same.

If you could get anyone to write you an amazing quote/blurb on the front of your novel who would you choose and, if you feel like it, what would they say? Oh poohbahs I wanted Stephen Fry!!!

What would your advice to other aspiring writers be? Stop faffing adn get onwiht it.

And finally…which novels are on your bedside table? None, I tend not to read other peoples work whilst I am writing.

And may I say hank you fo rneing such a charming interviewer so unlike the normal brash uneducted journos who interview these days!!

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