Welcome to my weekly series – Author Interviews.
These blog posts are where I interview interesting authors to find out about their writing process and glean some useful info about a writer’s life.
This week I am very excited as author Isabelle Andover has agreed to sit in my chair. She currently lives in Paris so I am hoping she will bring some Parisian flair to my blog.
Hey Isabelle, welcome! Tell my readers about yourself and the book / books you have written?
Originally from England, I live with my tabby cat Oscar in Paris, where I spend far too much time drinking French wine, eating French cheese and moaning about French bureaucracy.
My debut novel, Cocktails at Le Carmen, tells the story of twenty-something Brit Chloe, who moves to Paris following an unexpected job transfer to the French capital.
Like many British expats before her, Chloe soon discovers that Paris can delight one day and frustrate the next.
It’s a story about leaving behind your life as you know it and finding your feet, and a whole lot more, in an unfamiliar yet exciting city.
When did you write your first book?
I started writing Cocktails at Le Carmen in 2013, posting it on community writing platform Wattpad, where it got a lot of positive feedback and eventually hit over a million reads. I love that fact that readers are really supportive of your work; being told that your book is funny or well-written, or makes people want to visit Paris is so lovely to hear.
While I was writing and posting on Wattpad, quite a few readers left comments that made me develop the plot in a certain way or reminded me to tie up a loose end – it was really helpful to see the story through the eyes of readers in this way.
I read somewhere that Cecelia Ahern wrote one of her books in two weeks, so I imagined doing something similar when I had some time off work– I had visions of myself effortlessly tapping out 7,000 fabulously witty words a day while snacking on sunflower seeds rather than chocolate biscuits. The reality, however, was quite different. But I got there in the end. All in all, Cocktails at Le Carmen took about a year and a half to write.
What was your motivation to write your first book?
I’ve always loved reading, and I used to write stories when I was younger, so I suppose writing a book was a natural progression. I absolutely adore chick lit, and every time I read a book I loved, I thought about writing my own novel. But it wasn’t until I moved to Paris and had been living there for about three years that I started to write Cocktails at Le Carmen. While it’s fiction, it does contain parts inspired by real life events and experiences, and I hope this makes it feel authentic.
Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?
A total pantser. Usually I have an idea of the beginning, the end, and a few key plot points. While this may not be the quickest way to write a book, I’m usually too impatient to plot things out in detail, and just want to start writing. Inevitably, I hit a wall at around the 30,000 word mark, and I start to wonder where the story is going, if it’s even any good, and what is the point of it all, anyway? Usually when this happens I move on to another project. Or go out and get drunk. Returning to a work-in-progress after a bit of a break is something I’d really recommend as it gives you a fresh perspective on things and can help you see the merits of what you’ve written more clearly. Although equally, any problems with structure, plot etc will also become glaringly obvious, too.
I write using Scrivener, so if ever I feel like I don’t know what to write next, I create a mobi file of my work so far, send it to my Kindle and read it through, editing as I go by using that nifty little ‘make a note’ feature. I find this really helps to tighten things up, identify any plot holes and helps me to figure out where the story needs to go next.
What is the best thing about being a writer?
Being able to say you’ve had a book published.
What is the worst thing about being a writer?
People asking when book two is coming out
Have you ever considered quitting writing, and if so how have you worked through this?
I’m a journalist by trade, so quitting writing would be a huge change for me!
I’m always thinking about the book I’m working on – I actually spend more time thinking about writing it than actually writing it. For me, the biggest challenge is actually sitting down and getting those words onto the page. I have a friend who constantly pesters me for new chapters, so acquiescing to her demands really helps to keep the momentum going and the words flowing.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
When I first started writing, I’d spend the week getting all excited about having the whole weekend to write. Then the weekend would come, and by the time I’d cleaned my flat, been to the supermarket, cooked dinner, gone out with friends, had a lie in, had an afternoon nap etc, Monday would roll around and not a single word had been written.
So now, I get up early and write most mornings before work. It’s when I’m at my most productive, but it does mean that I have to keep to a bedtime schedule more suited to an old lady than someone who just turned thirty.
I’ve also started going to a co-working space in Paris’ Latin Quarter most weekends. Housed in the back of a converted church, it’s got contemporary décor, coffee and snacks on tap and some seriously cool little alcoves where you can curl up on a floor cushion and just write.
Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?
Absolutely. I tend to have a quick browse of a luxury property website or five. The mere idea of owning a fabulous apartment usually inspires me to get cracking on what will surely be a future best seller, and which will see me propelled on to the Sunday Times Rich List alongside EL James.
What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?
Write like your Mum won’t be reading what you’ve written – people usually want a bit more than ‘and then they finally kissed. The end.’
Writing takes time, energy and more chocolate biscuits that your local supermarket has in stock. It’s a long process; don’t expect miracles to happen overnight.
There will be people out there who don’t like your book, and this is totally fine. After all, no one can honestly say they’ve liked every book they’ve ever read. It’s important to remember that reading a book is very subjective. I’ve read books I’ve loved that a friend has hated, and she’s raved about books that have left me completely indifferent.
Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?
Keep writing. It’s easy to come out with the first couple of chapters, the challenge is to keep the momentum going until you finish. It’s important to write on a regular basis, but don’t feel that you have to write single every day if you don’t want to; you have to find what works for you. If you prefer to write for four hours every Sunday morning, and then take a well-deserved afternoon nap, then so be it. The important thing is that you are getting those words down on the page, and they’ll soon add up.
Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?
Yes, usually I start writing it when halfway through my current work-in-progress! There’s nothing like a fresh idea to get those creative juices flowing.
What do you wear to write?
Pyjamas and a hoodie. Unless I’m not writing in my bed, in which case I’ll make an effort to get dressed.
If readers want to get in touch how do they contact you?
Thank you Isabelle – great interview!
The things I took from this:
- It is great to see an author making use of Wattpad. I am a Wattpad author and I think its a super place for obtaining reader feedback.
- I liked how you have adopted an early morning writing routine.
- I love your ‘write like your Mum won’t be reading what you’ve written’ advice. I am considering toning down my 43k draft as my Mum might raise an eyebrow. Maybe I will keep those cheeky bits in – sigh!
- I love your tactic for stopping procrastination – I must try that!
Great interview and thanks 🙂
Next week I will be interviewing author Kimberly Wenzler on my blog. I am super excited!