Do You Have Author Potential? Take The Author Test Today! #ASMSG #SundayBlogShare @SteveBoseley

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When horror and dark fiction author Steve Boseley contacted me to say that he shared my blonde humour, wanted to have some literary fun and had a cracking guest blog post up his sleeve, I had to have a sugary cup of tea and a lie down. It’s not everyday a young (ish), blonde, fluffy, cute (using certain filters and a good photo editing app), chicklit writer, like myself, gets an offer like this… especially not from a dashing horror author like Steve. *Sigh*

Steve’s guest post made me chuckle – so here it is.

Do You Have Author Potential?  Take The Author Test!

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Why Forgiveness Is So Important For Writers #MondayBlogs #Writers #AmWriting

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This past week I have learnt the importance of forgiveness in my creative life. It came to me after I read Spirit Junkie – A Radical Road To Discovering Self Love And Miracles by Gabrielle Bernstein. The book is excellent and really resonated with me. It is one of those wonderful self-help books where you read it and cringe a lot, as you can see yourself on the page.

There is an entire section of the book dedicated to forgiveness. I never thought about the importance of forgiveness until I read this book.

If I could rename myself I would be called Little Miss Bitterness.

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Author Interviews -Allie Potts @alliepottswrite #AmWriting #Writer

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Welcome to my weekly blog series – Author Interviews.

Every Saturday I get to interview inspiring authors who let me into their creative world. I get to hear how they overcame tough literary challenges, the highlights from their book writing journey and their answer to the big literary question –  what do they wear whilst working on their literary masterpieces?

This week I am joined by author and blogger Allie Potts. She describes herself as a ‘writer, geek and a constant self improver.’  I read her book ‘An Uncertain Faith’ last year and struggled to put it down, so she has been on my author hit list for sometime.

I do love Allie’s Twitter profile which reads ‘my Twitter activity may sometimes seem all over the place, but that is just how my mind works.’  This reminds me of how I approach Twitter.

Please welcome Allie Potts!

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How To Remain Patient With Your Favourite Author #SundayBlogShare #Books #Author

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It is not easy waiting for your favourite author to bring out their next book.

After binge reading all their books, fangirling them by email and social media, all you can do is sit and wait for their next offering.

This agonising waiting period will involve some serious finger drumming, a lot of social media stalking and you forcing yourself to enjoy other books (written by other authors – gasp!).

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Author Interviews Andrew Joyce @huckfinn76 #HistoricalFiction #Author

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Welcome to my weekly blog series – Author Interviews.

I love interviewing inspirational and interesting authors. They make my Saturday!  In these interviews I get to glean some insight into their writing life and understand what obstacles they encountered whilst writing their books.

BlondeWriteMore readers we are in for such a treat as author and blogger Andew Joyce has agreed to come sit in my red chair!  He lives on a boat, has a dog called Danny, has six books under his belt and I have heard he once threw his TV out of the window, before writing his first short story. As you can imagine I am bubbling with excitement about this interview. I do hope he talks about the TV incident and I hope his short story was worth it!

Hey Andrew!  Welcome to my blog and red chair. Tell my readers about yourself and the book/books you have written.

I live on a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with my dog, Danny. I write books. And when I’m not writing, I’m working with my editor. And when I’m not working with my editor, I’m marketing my latest book. Then I start the process all over again. I pace myself to one book a year. That way I don’t have to work so hard. Four months for writing, three for editing, and five for marketing (which I detest).

When did you write your first book?

One morning, about six years ago, I went crazy. I got out of bed, went downstairs, and threw my TV out the window. Then I sat down at the computer and wrote my first short story. Just for the hell of it, I threw it up on a writing site. A few months later, I was informed that it had been selected for publication in an anthology of the best short stories of 2011. I even got paid for it. That’s when I started writing Yellow Hair.

Oh my goodness Andrew – I am loving this crazy TV chucking stage you went through before writing a short story!  In my experience I tend to chuck things after I have written and have gone back to edit. 

Wow – your story got selected for publication! I need to go through this crazy stage of yours. I just hope my family are supportive when I lob our TV set out of the window. 

What was your motivation to write your first book?

It all started way back in 2011. My first book was a 164,000-word historical novel (Yellow Hair). And in the publishing world, anything over 80,000 words for a first-time author is heresy. Or so I was told time and time again when I approached an agent for representation. After two years of research and writing, and a year of trying to secure the services of an agent, I got angry. To be told that my efforts were meaningless was somewhat demoralizing to say the least. I mean, those rejections were coming from people who had never even read my book.

“So you want an 80,000-word novel?” I said to no one in particular, unless you count my dog, because he was the only one around at the time. Consequently, I decided to show them City Slickers that I could write an 80,000-word novel!

I had just finished reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for the third time, and I started thinking about what ever happened to those boys, Tom and Huck. They must have grown up, but then what? So I sat down at my computer, banged out REDEMPTION: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in two months, then sent out query letters to agents.

Less than a month later, the chairman of one of the biggest agencies in New York City emailed me that he loved the story. We signed a contract and it was off to the races, or so I thought. But then the real fun began: the serious editing. Seven months later, I gave birth to Huck and Tom as adults in the Old West. And just for the record, the final word count is 79,914.

The book went on to reach #1 status in its category on Amazon—twice. And it won the Editors’ Choice Award for best Western of 2013. The rest, as they say, is history.
But not quite.

My agent then wanted me to write a sequel, but I had other plans. I was in the middle of editing down Yellow Hair (that had been rejected by 1,876,324 agents . . . or so it seemed) from 164,000 words to the present 139,000. However, he was insistent about a sequel, so I started to think about it. Now, one thing you have to understand is that I tied up all the loose ends at the end of REDEMPTION, so there was no way that I could write a sequel. And that is when Molly asked me to tell her story. Molly was a minor character that we met briefly in the first chapter of REDEMPTION, and then she is not heard from again.
So I started to think about what ever happened to her. After a bit of time—and 100,000 words—we find out what did happen to Molly. It is an adventure tale where Huck Finn weaves through the periphery of a story driven by a strong female lead. Molly Lee was my second book, which achieved #2 status on Amazon.

Now I was finished with Huck Finn for good. Now I could go back to Yellow Hair and resume the editing process.

But not quite.

It was then that Huck and Molly ganged up on me and demanded that I resolve their lives once and for all. It seems that I had left them hanging—so to speak. Hence, RESOLUTION: Huck Finn’s Greatest Adventure.

Then I went back to editing, Yellow Hair.

I am speechless. Wow – what a literary experience!  

What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?

I encountered no issues while writing my first three published books. My muse was working overtime.

Did you go through any bad writing patches while writing your book – what kept you going?

While writing Yellow Hair, I had to stop to learn the Lakota language. I wanted to immerse myself in the Sioux culture and I wanted to give them dignity by using their language whenever possible. I also wanted to introduce them by their Sioux names. So, I had to learn the Lakota language. And that wasn’t easy. There is a consortium that will teach you, but they wanted only serious students. You have to know a smattering of the language before they will even deign to accept you. I had to take a test to prove that I knew some Lakota. I failed the first time and had to go back to my Lakota dictionary and do some more studying. I got in on my second try.

As to what kept me going, I could opt for the funny answer and say “vodka.” Or I could go with a pretentious answer and say, “The thirst for knowledge.” In reality, it was just so much damn fun.

Are you a plotter or do you just write/see what happens?

When I have an idea for a novel, I know the first sentence and the last paragraph (more or less). Then I sit down and start to tell the story. But the finished product is always different from what I set out to write. Sometimes I will take my characters to a place and they will rebel and take off on their own. Then I have no choice but to follow where they lead.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

The writing.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

The marketing.

Have you ever considered quitting writing, and if so how have you worked through this?

If I stopped writing, I’d probably buy a TV and watch soap operas all day long. The thought of that alone keeps me at the computer.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

I prefer to write in the early morning hours when things are quiet. I usually get up around 2:00 a.m. and go to work. The commute is not long . . . only a few steps to my computer.

Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?

Vodka.

Great answer Andrew! I am loving this interview. 

Which is more important, plot or characters and why?

I just tell stories. I don’t think about things like that.

What have been your biggest learning experiences during your writing career?

  • There is no escaping the marketing process.
  • Unless you have the sales of Stephen King, it’s better to be an Indie than have a big-time agent and a publishing house behind you.
  • How many books that I have to compete with on Amazon (8,000,000)!

How do you manage social media as a writer?

I don’t.

Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?

  • Read, read . . . and then read some more. Read everything you can get your hands on! Reading to a writer is as medical school is to a doctor, as physical training is to an athlete, as breathing is to life. When one reads stuff like the passage below, one cannot help but become a better writer.
    “The afternoon came down as imperceptibly as age comes to a happy man. A little gold entered into the sunlight. The bay became bluer and dimpled with shore-wind ripples. Those lonely fishermen who believe that the fish bite at high tide left their rocks and their places were taken by others, who were convinced that the fish bite at low tide.”—John Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat
  • Never, ever, ever, ever respond to a negative review!!!

Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome?

My problem, if you can call it a problem, is that I have too many words in my head. Apart from my novels, I have 150 short stories almost ready for publication and another thirty that I’ve started but don’t have the time to finish—at least not at the present time.

Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?

Only as a fleeting thought.

What do you wear to write?

I’m not tellin’.

If readers want to get in touch how do they contact you?

http://www.andrewjoyce76.com

Andrew, that has to be one of the most entertaining Author Interviews – thank you! 

I am taking several things from this interview:

  • I loved how Huck and Molly ganged up on you and demanded you resolve their lives. 
  • I love how the thought of buying another TV and watching soap operas all day keeps you at your writing desk. 
  • You are the first writer to be interviewed who chooses to get up at 2am to write. Fab!  I am at my best in the small hours too so I might try this…
  • Your writing tips are great and that passage is awesome. 

Thank you for a fab interview. 

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If you are an author and fancy sitting in my red chair please leave me a message in the comments box. 

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Author Interviews Ian Probert @truth42 #Writers #Author #Boxing

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Welcome to my weekly blog series – Author Interviews.

I spend a lot of my time pestering amazing authors and getting them to agree to an interview on my blog.

These interviews provide my readers with valuable insight into a writers’ life. I get to understand how they overcame tough challenges whilst writing their books, what learnings they have for aspiring authors and most importantly what they wear whilst writing their literary masterpieces.

This week I have managed to persuade author Ian Probert to sit in my chair.

Ian is a ‘fighter not a writer’ and on his website describes himself as ‘incredibly handsome. Indescribably intelligent. The most brilliant writer since… Since… Since… Well… William Dickens or Charles Shakespeare’.  He used to play guitar in the Beatles. he’s an opera singer. Beyoncé is his stalker (she’s so irritating!). He played football for Real Madrid. He has an Olympic gold medal for water polo. Andy Murray used to be his ball boy. He played clarinet with Lorraine Bowen and is the secret love child of Marlon Brando and Tessie O’Shea!’

I love his imagination! Almost as good as mine 🙂

Ian knows a bit about boxing, so I am putting on my virtual boxing gloves to do this interview.

Ian – welcome! Please take a seat in my red chair..

Tell my readers about yourself and the book / books you have written

Over the year I’ve had eight or nine books published. These range from children fiction, to teenage fiction, to adult fiction and autobiography. I’ve even had couple of book on photography; kid of a hobby of mine.

When did you write your first book?

My very first book would have been when I was about 12, although you’d have to call it a novella. What I used to do was hand in stories that were several exercise books in length to my bemused English teacher. The poor woman would then have to read them – she must have dreaded giving me homework.

How long did it take to write your first book?

My first published book was called ‘Internet Spy’. That was in 1995. It took about a month. It wasn’t very long.

What was your motivation to write your first book?

What basically happened was that I pitched a teenage fiction series to Kingfisher and they went for it.

I was then commissioned along with people like Terry Deary to write the books.

What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?

Well apart from the obvious one of typos, which I still don’t understand the psychology behind our ability to totally miss them, it’s always about making things interesting enough for readers to want to carry on reading. Obviously it is. I used to try to get a handle on this by drinking alcohol at the end of the day and then reading what I’d written. I was hoping that I could see things from a different point of view. I don’t think this approach was particularly successful. Although I did used to get very drunk.

Did you go through any bad writing patches during writing your book – what kept you going?

I went through a 15-year long bad writing patch, in which my brain was in a complete fog due to undiagnosed hypothyroid disease. This is one of the many symptoms of the disease – the inability to concentrate. And nothing kept me going – I eventually stopped completely until three years ago, when my condition finally diagnosed.

Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?

I like to have a basic framework or premise and then see where it takes me. If I can surprise myself then hopefully I can surprise others. In the kids book I did a couple of years ago – Johnny Nothing – I actually had no idea how it would end until suddenly the book was finished.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

To be in control of the entire universe.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

To have no say whatsoever in the universe you inhabit.

Also, no sick pay or paid holidays.

Have you ever considered quitting writing, and if so how have you worked through this?

Apart from my 15-year enforced hiatus, not really. I’m at the age where there’s nothing else I could do. I don’t see anyone suddenly offering me a job. Unless it’s an unpaid one at the local Oxfam.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

Start around 8:30 when everyone has left the house. Write until about 1:00 or 2:00. Then try to do marketing, household chores, etc.

Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?

Erm… Well… I… Um… Let’s see… No, not at all.

Which is more important – plot or characters and why?

I don’t see either being any more important than the other. It’s no good having a great story with rubbishy characters. And it’s equally useless having great characters with a crappy story. You gotta go for both at the same time.

What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?

Wow.

1. To be honest.

2. To read your work aloud to others – that way you’ll soon discover if it’s of any value.

3. To learn to accept criticism.

How do you manage social media as a writer?

It’s a necessary evil these days. Although I’m unconvinced that I’ve ever sold a single extra copy as a result of a tweet or a Facebook post. However, if you want a publisher to take you seriously you must have a pretty noticeable web imprint.

As well as a personal website and the obligatory WordPress blog, I tend to do everything. My motto is ‘Facebook for friends and family; Twitter to swear at and insult people you don’t know…’

Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?

Don’t do it. Seriously. Don’t. There are plenty of other ways out there to earn enough money to have a varied and full life.

Writing is like acting and music – only the top 5% make any money, the rest are waiters. And, of course, the fewer people decide to write the less competition there is out there for me!

Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome?

I’d say my entire life is a case of writer’s block. The only time I can manage to squeeze any words out of me is when i have a deadline two days away.

Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?

Yes, sometimes. In Dangerous some of the writing was done at my daughter’s hospital bedside while she fought for her life.I also blogged about it a lot, which the hospital found out about. They then asked me if I’d write a kids book to raise money for the hospital, which is what I’m working on right now.

What do you wear to write?

I’m always completely naked. This stops unnecessary interruptions and intrusions. Believe me, nobody wants to see me naked.

If readers want to get in touch how do they contact you?

The usual places: Twitter, Facebook, and there’s an email address on my personal website. On Thursday’s you’ll often find me in the Flask in Highgate.

Ian’s new book Dangerous came out on 15 September 2016.

Wow Ian – what an intervew! So many things to think about:

  • I totally agree about typos and our amazing ability to miss them or in my case ignore them! 
  • I love the idea of being in control of the entire universe. 
  • Your learnings are great – especially the one about being honest! 
  • Love your approach to Facebook and Twitter. 
  • So many authors are writing naked nowadays –  feel like I am missing out. Do edit naked as well?

Thanks for a great interview!  

 

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If you are an author and want to appear on my blog please leave me a message below in the comment box and I will get in contact 🙂

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Author Interviews @shuchikalra #Writerslife #Writers #Author

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Welcome to my Author Interview Blog Series!

This series allows me to interview some amazing and inspirational authors. In the interviews I glean some writing tips from them, find out how they have overcome their literary challenges and most importantly get some valuable insight into their creative life.

This week I am beyond excited as author Shuchi Singh Kalra is sat in my red interview chair. She is a ChickLit author from India, who loves Twitter and describes herself as a ‘free spirit, certified crazy, social awkward cat lady!’ My kind of author – sigh!

Hey, Shuchi! Welcome to my blog!  Please take a seat in my red chair.

Tell my readers about yourself and the book / books you have written

I currently have two books out in the market – both romantic comedies. The first one is ‘Done With Men’, which sounds like a Man-Haters Guide To The Galaxy but isn’t. It’s just a story of a ditzy girl who runs into a series of unfortunate disasters before she finds Mr.Right.

The second one is ‘I am Big. So What?‘ – India’s first plus sized romance. It is a light read but at the same time, touches upon issues of body shaming and self-love.

I like to create strong, zesty female characters that are flawed and yet very endearing. They are ditzy enough to mess up their lives but have it in them to put things back in place.

When did you write your first book?

I started writing ‘Done With Men’ in Jan 2013.

How long did it take to write your first book?

I finished Done With Men in three months flat and I’m still quite smug about it.

‘I am Big. So what?’ took me over a year to write.

What was your motivation to write your first book?

I always had recurrent author dreams of seeing a book with my name on it in a bookstore but I guess I took too long to actually do it. But hell, it’s never too late for anything.

What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?

Writing a book is actually the easiest part about being an author. The real battle begins when it is time to publish and market your work. I don’t know how it works in the west, but book publishing in India is a rather slow process and by the time a book comes out into the market, an author is very likely to have lost interest in it.

The market for romance is thriving – there are new authors coming in everyday and readers have too much to choose from. This also translates into stiff competition and the need for aggressive marketing and promotion, which can be quite exhausting for an author. Two books down, I am beginning to enjoy it a bit through.

Did you go through any bad writing patches during writing your book – what kept you going?

Oh yes. I run into roadblocks and dead ends more often than I’d like. It helps sometimes to change track. If the story isn’t turning out to be satisfactory, I just scrap it and begin all over again instead of wasting too much time trying to make it work.

It can be disheartening at times to trash all that you’ve written but I always keep my eyes on the larger goal.

Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?

I usually start off with a rough sketch of the story but I don’t plot very extensively. I begin with an idea and let the story take it’s course.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

With every book you write, you get to live so many lives and be so many people. When I write for a character, I have to “become” them in that moment to explore how their mind would work, how they’d respond to a situation and why they are what they are. I find that bit the most thrilling.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

That you live and work in an isolated bubble and you are the only person responsible to keep yourself driven. Procrastination is practically an epidemic among writers and some days it can be difficult to rap yourself on the knuckles and get some real work done.

Have you ever considered quitting writing, and if so how have you worked through this?

I have had my periods of slumps and stagnation but quitting? Never! I love expressing myself through the written word but there are phases when motivation takes a nosedive. When that happens, I try my hand at something new (by new I obviously mean another form of writing). For example, if I’ve been stuck with a book chapter, I’ll write some poetry for a change. I have found that indulging in other creative activities like crafts etc. also helps considerably.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

I run a writing firm so I am mostly juggling multiple projects at a time. Book writing is something I do when I can spare time from assignments, although I’d like to transition into full-time authoring eventually. I do most of my writing when my 5 year old daughter is in school or at night after everyone has gone to bed.

Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?

I think procrastination suffers from me. I can be such a slacker at times and I hate myself for it. And that happens only with book writing because when you are writing for businesses, you can’t afford to wait for inspiration to strike you. I keep pushing myself to write SOMETHING every day, even if it just small passage.

A small way forward is still a way forward and always better than stagnation.

Which is more important – plot or characters and why?

I think both those things are equally important. Intricate character development lends credibility to your story and makes it more realistic. It also helps the reader to relate more to your characters. At the same time, you need to keep the reader riveted with an interesting plotline and adequate twists and turns. I think one can’t do without the other.

What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?

  • It’s going to be slow. Very slow. There’s no such thing as instant gratification.
  • It’s not enough to be a good writer. You have to learn to market yourself well.
  • Don’t count on books for money, at least until you have a few bestsellers out in the market

How do you manage social media as a writer?

I manage it by being addicted to Twitter, which is the absolute wrong way to go about it. I am not a social animal but I’m definitely a social media animal. I love interacting with readers and interesting people online and I must say it has helped my book sales too.

Social media gives you a platform to express yourself as a person, which may motivate people to check out your other writings. I think it’s a great way to come across new opportunities and market your work.

Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?

As pleasurable and satisfying as it can be, writing can be sometimes disheartening because the returns are not immediate and competition is high.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to keep trudging along.

Take it one step at a time and don’t jump the gun.

Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome?

When it comes to my professional assignments, I can’t afford writer’s block because there are deadlines to be met and clients to answer to.

However, when it comes to my books, I give myself more leeway to slack. Reading books from the same genre you are writing is the best way to break out of a block. It helps bring your mind into the same zone and you are much more likely to find a trigger for the words to flow.

Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?

Yes. I’m usually thinking of too many books at the same time. But I try to work on one or at the most, two at a time just for the sake of my sanity.

What do you wear to write?

I work from home so you’ll usually find me in an old tee and a pair of shorts/PJs with my hair pulled up in a bun.

If readers want to get in touch how do they contact you?

I am fairly (okay, insanely) active on Twitter and I connect with most of my readers there. You could also email me for any queries.

Click for Twitter. 

Click for my website.

Wow – What a fab interview! 

There were so many things that stuck out for me in this interview:

  • I can really relate to ‘becoming’ a character in order to understand them and this can be exciting!
  • I think this is a great quote with regards procrastination – ‘small way forward is still a way forward and always better than stagnation’.
  • I can relate to being a ‘social media animal’ – love this!
  • Your learning about instant gratification is very true. You almost have to prepare yourself for years of small progress. 
  • The growing Indian romantic fiction market sounds interesting.
  • Your strong, zesty characters with flaws and wobbly bits sound like my chicklit character Roxy Collins. Yay – to these fun characters!

Thank you!

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For more great interviews click here!

If you are an author and would like to be interviewed in my blog please get in touch!

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Author Interviews @EdDavey1  #Writers #Writerslife #Author

Author Interviews-2

Welcome to my weekly blog series – Author Interviews. 

Each week I invite an author to sit in my red chair and tell me about how they write their books, the challenges that they overcome and their writer habits.

This week I am thrilled to announce that BBC Radio4 journalist Ed Davey is sat in my red chair. In his spare time Ed writes mind-blowing thrillers. They combine history and crazy adventure travel. I LOVE what he has done with the thriller genre.

So, grab a coffee, get comfy and let’s go meet Ed. This interview is going to be pretty special.

Ed, welcome to my blog!  

Tell the readers of BlondeWriteMore about yourself and the book / books you have written

I’m a journalist at the BBC who loves history and crazy adventure travel. A few years ago in a lecture at the British Museum I discovered that the ancient Etruscans – a little known civilisation that was the precursor to Rome – believed you could predict the future by studying bolts of lightning. The shape of the lightning bolts, where they hit, the date of the strike. The hairs on the back of my neck went up! There’s something so otherworldly about this belief that instantly captivated me. Rome inherited lightning prophecy from the Etruscans after their civilisation fell, and that too I found astounding. For a people who were so advanced – so like us in so many ways, from law to democracy to our aesthetics – to have adhered to this pagan science for centuries? It blew me away. Then and there I decided to write a thriller on the premise that lightning prophecy actually works.

The result was Foretold by Thunder, which came out last year – my first published book. It’s based in the present, but looks back to the ancient world and Nazi Germany, with a slight sci-fi edge to it. The action takes place in London, Turkey, Ethiopia and Rome; all the predicting the future stuff allowed me to get into some really interesting questions about fate and free will.

The sequel – titled The Napoleon Complex – has just been published. I think it’s a darker and more multifaceted book than the first. There are more subplots, more ethical uncertainties, more going on. I tried to make all the baddies and henchmen three-dimensional characters too, with their own motivations, the belief they are the good guys. I don’t want to give too much away, but I decided to spice things up a bit by including a maniacal Prime Minister who hopes to rebuild the British Empire by very foul means indeed …

When did you write your first book?

This was an unpublished novel I penned back in 2008. It’s the tale of two British backpackers who get kidnapped by pirates on the Amazon. When Stockholm Syndrome kicks in they begin to identify with their kidnappers and eventually became pirates themselves, sparking a worldwide tabloid race to find them. I suppose in many ways it was a bit of a naïve book, however many of the elements that are present in Foretold by Thunder and The Napoleon Complex were there. Principle among these was the inclusion of surprising, exotic and sometimes dangerous locations, all of which I have researched on the ground for authenticity. For The Napoleon Complex, I visited Sierra Leone, Burundi, Tanzania, Israel, Thailand and Austria … and even got chased by a hippo in West Africa. (I had to climb a tree to escape!) The idea is that I visit some madcap places so you don’t have to …

How long did it take to write your first book?

It took about a year to first draft, with another couple of months editing. For my subsequent books – which have a strong historical element – you can add another nine months of pure research onto that before I write a single chapter. And I spend a lot longer on the edit too now, at least six months. I have a full-time job as a journalist for the BBC, so let’s just say I don’t spend masses of time relaxing in front of the telly each week …

What was your motivation to write your first book?

I love reading unashamedly ripping yarns that zoom around the world – escapist adventure stories against a backdrop of mystery and intrigue. For some reason there’s a strange dearth of classic adventure fiction being published nowadays, perhaps it’s seen as a little old-fashioned. One of my favourite authors is Wilbur Smith, who does the swashbuckling adventure travel stuff better than I ever could. But alongside strapping, six-foot five hunks (deadly in combat and irresistible to women), I think the flawed, humble, everyday chap deserves a place in fiction too. My hope is that readers will identify with an unassuming hero thrown into an extraordinary setting and unstoppable chain of events. I couldn’t find anyone else writing those sort of main characters in the swashbuckling adventure fiction format, so did it myself.

What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?

My unpublished novels included comedic elements, which in hindsight I don’t think worked in a thriller context. So that’s something I removed from my later novels, which I hope are more unsettling and dark. I also used to overwrite copiously, using about twenty adjectives in a sentence when none would do! I’m certainly not averse to using the odd adjective nowadays, but the word count is so much lower without masses of them clogging up the page. With just as much happening in the plot but 15,000 less adjectives the whole is a far pacier read.

Did you go through any bad writing patches during writing your book – what kept you going?

Writing The Napoleon Complex – my first sequel – was a particular challenge. How much of the story from the first book to retell? How to take the characters on another convincing internal journey, when all the loose ends were (hopefully!) tied up and resolved in the denouement of Foretold by Thunder? How to create new tension with the fundamental mystery of the series already out there? The most important thing is that I was determined that the book could stand alone, and that the reader doesn’t have to have read the first novel to make sense of it. I wanted it to be a sequel that you could pick of the shelf and get stuck into without having read book one. This was a fine balancing act, so I had to write, write and re-write.

Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?

I embarked on my first (unpublished) book with only the barest notion of how it would end, but now I’m a complete convert to plotting. I create a word document with bullet points for each chapter, every development mapped out; I also create character profiles, plotting the internal journey of each protagonist so that these intersect with the main plot. I think it’s impossible to create a thriller with lots of twists, turns and reveals without plotting it all out in advance – you’d have to be some kind of Mozart of the typewriter.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

When you get that first sense that maybe – just maybe – your plot is working and it’s all coming together. And in the research stage, when you make those fist-pumping discoveries – real historical events that fit perfectly into the plot you’ve got planned. I use only genuine historical events and documents as evidence of the entirely fictional conspiracies at the heart of my books, so it can take a lot of reading and hunting about before I find the smoking gun document I’m looking for.

What is the worst thing about being a writer?

The extent to which gaining any kind of traction with your work feels like a lottery that you are utterly powerless to control.

Have you ever considered quitting writing, and if so how have you worked through this?

Yes. I wrote two novels that I was unable to find a publisher for, before finally getting lucky with the third (I decided against self-publishing, though I may yet do that one day). So I certainly had my fair share of setbacks before Duckworth took a chance on me.

My second unpublished novel was about a hunt for the Great Library of Alexandria, which I wrote in 2011. I researched the period painstakingly and flew out to Egypt to visit all the locations involved at considerable expense. Two agents were interested, and for a while I really thought I had a chance of getting representation for it – only for Pan Macmillan to sign A.M. Dean’s The Lost Library, killing my chances stone dead. I had written 85,000 words and it was back to square one.

After a period of mourning I dusted myself off and wrote Foretold by Thunder, the first of the Book of Thunder series, encouraged all the way by one of those two agents (the other had left the profession). When I finished it, convinced it was my best work, she rejected the manuscript almost immediately. I was so devastated that I didn’t send it out to any other agents. I had officially thrown in the towel; Foretold by Thunder sat in my drawer for more than a year. Then in 2013 I met someone completely by chance (on the day Andy Murray first won Wimbledon!) who knew Robin Wade of the RWLA agency. She introduced me to him, and with nothing to lose I sent it to across, which is how I got my first book deal. I signed the contract in 2014 … seven years and more than 350,000 words after first setting out to get published. So I cannot emphasise this strongly enough: NEVER GIVE UP!

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

Get up early-ish. Have a light breakfast and two strong cups of coffee. Go for a run, thinking about the chapter I’m about to write so my brain is buzzing with ideas, images and phrases before I start typing. Then sit down and bash out 2,000 words in two hours. After that I cannot write another word for at least three days; I need space to let the next chapter permeate through my mind and new treatment ideas occur to me. If I have time I go for a workout and a sauna before writing – even better than a run. The sauna/steam bath is my secret weapon!

Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?

No – once I’ve embarked upon a novel I write two chapters a week – every week – until it’s finished. (With breaks for a much-needed holiday every now and then!)

Which is more important – plot or characters and why?

That’s a very hard question to answer as both are of the essence when it comes to fiction. But at a scrape I’d say plot (for the commercial thriller genre only, this certainly is not the case for literary fiction). One of the things that I got wrong in my unpublished books is that I focused too much on plot, while neglecting character somewhat. It sounds obvious, but if you can marry them together you’re onto a winner.

What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?

  • The importance of character development, and how this must be intrinsically linked to key moments in the plot.
  • Restraint in my prose. The writers I look up to most – John Le Carré, Frederick Forsyth or Robert Harris, say – write beautiful and elegant sentences, and are not averse to the odd unusual word or adjective. But these are only deployed in highly controlled circumstances. I’ve earned that the most important thing is that the writing is clear and efficient and never brings you out of the story.
  • Be lucky.

How do you manage social media as a writer?

I tweet things on a daily basis, but I’m not convinced I make a particularly good fist of it! I see many self-published authors with vast social media followings and book sales that far outstrip my own and I’m in awe of how they do it. Perhaps I’m just a tedious tweeter!

Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?

  • Try to persuade someone who doesn’t know you to read your work – you’ll never get objective criticism from friends or family. Don’t be precious about your prose in any way – learn from all the advice you’re lucky enough to get, don’t be defensive, be willing change things.
  • When you are writing the first draft, bathe your mind in the very best exponents of prose there are: Roald Dahl or Winston Churchill, say.
  • Contact experts in the field you are writing about and try to lure them to meet you for a coffee – some unexpected detail will emerge from your meeting that you could not possibly have invented, which will give your novel more authenticity.
  • Change the font in your manuscript before you edit the first draft, it’s much easier to put yourselves in the mind of a fresh reader and you’ll spot things you’d otherwise have missed.

Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome?

I used to but not anymore. My only advice is just to crack on and try to push through it. If the worst comes to the worst, go for a run and try again.

Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?

Always – I have a permanent list of about four or five novels I’m considering writing next, jostling to be the one that gets written. The book I’ve just started work on, The Sapien Paradox, is a thriller about prehistory that’s been bubbling away in the back of my mind for a decade now.

What do you wear to write?

I dress up as a zebra.

Wow Ed – my blonde brain is boggling! Thanks for a great interview. 

Your interview is jam-packed with useful stuff. 

Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. I must try this sauna / steam before writing approach. Especially if I end up writing two chapters a week. 
  2. I also believe that the flawed, humble, everyday chap deserves a place in fiction too. Who wants to read about strapping, six-foot five hunks anyway?
  3. Your writing tips are fab!  The one about changing the font at editing sounds interesting. Seeing as I am about to start wading through my first draft I might try this. 
  4. I love your ‘just crack on!’ approach to writer’s block. 
  5. I am sure the readers of BlondeWriteMore will be disappointed at not getting a pic of you dressed as a zebra. Sigh!

Ed – fab interview and thx again! 

Good luck with the book promo

If you ever fancy doing a guest blog post on writing tips please let me know 🙂

If you are an author (published or self published) and would like to sit in my chair and be part of this popular series please get in contact with me! 

For more great interviews check out my Author Interview page. 

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20 Authors Reveal What They Wear Whilst Writing Their Books #Writerslife #Author #writer

Author Interviews

Welcome to my weekly blog series – Author Interviews. 

I am taking another week off interviewing this week as I just want to share this special post with you. It has been building up inside of me for sometime.

As you know I have been regularly interviewing authors about their writing practices and experiences. In each interview I have also asked the authors to tell me what they wear whilst working on their novels.

This valuable insight into a writer’s life deserves a summary blog post! 

So, let’s see what 20 authors wear whilst writing their books:

  1. Pyjamas covered in baby spit. Helen Treharne. 
  2. One wild and colourful item. Kelsey Horton.
  3. Tweed pyjamas, lucky pants and a fake beard. Tom Hocknell. 
  4. An authentic Tudor doublet and host, whilst wearing medieval shoes with fashionably long toes. Tony Riches. 
  5. Something cool and glamorous. Helen Jones. 
  6. Cheese and coffee stains. Geoff Le Pard.
  7. A comfortable outfit. Don Massenzio.
  8. A nice comfy fleece with M&S tracksuit or tartan pjs. Nicholas Rossis. 
  9. A smile and Chanel No. 5. Anita Dawes. 
  10. Whatever I have on before dropping the kids off at school. Rachael Ritchey. 
  11. T-shirts and shorts (all year round). Chris Mentzer.
  12. Pyjamas or nothing at all. S.K. Nicholls.
  13. Either fully made up with hair and makeup or I look homeless. Shelley Wilson. 
  14. Shorts and a tank top. Sue Coletta. 
  15. Yoga pants and a tank top. Tracy Krimmer. 
  16. Pyjamas and a hoodie. Isabelle Andover. 
  17. Sweats with or without chocolate stains, depending on the day I am having. Kimberly Wenzler.
  18.  Comfortable tops, old cardigans, slippers and socks, hair in a variety of hair bands and bulldog clips. Terry Tyler. 
  19. tracksuits pants and a black vest. Icy Sedgwick. 
  20. Yoga pants and gym clothes. Aila Stephens. 

Have a wonderful day and if you are a writer make sure you are wearing something from this list 🙂

For all my author interviews please click here.

If you would like to be interviewed as part of this popular series please get in contact. 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/79577679@N00/5448848999″>the chair in the attic</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

A Few Things Writers Can Learn From Olympic Athletes #writerslife #writers

 

What Lessons Can Writers Learn From The Olympics-2

I am really enjoying watching the Rio Olympics. It has been a really inspirational sporting event and…one which one makes me feel guilty for sitting on my sofa, wedging another slice of pizza into my mouth, as some poor athlete belts around the track.

The Olympics has also provided me with a creative boost which I thought I would share. There have been a couple of times recently where I have been slumped under a black cloud of creative doom and gloom (my face resembling a bulldog chewing a wasp). In a fit of desperation I have tuned into the Olympics and regained some positive vibes.

An hour later and I have been energetically bounding around my living room crying out “I can do this!” and “this rewrite will NOT beat me!”

I believe there are a few things that writers can learn from watching Olympic athletes.

  1. Getting back up and carrying on after failure. Whilst sat on my sofa I have watched Olympic gymnasts fall off various pieces of apparatus and…..get back up smiling and carry on!  I have been really impressed with their reaction to something going wrong. As a writer I struggle with failure. My standard response is to go in a mood (some might use the term ‘tantrum’) and then talk about quitting. I know I am not the only writer who gives a knee-jerk ‘I quit’ response. My creative journey will contain setbacks, this is inevitable. After seeing these athletes handle failure, I think there is a lot to learn from picking yourself up after a knock down, smiling and carrying on. I think I might try this.
  2. Ferocious work ethic. Olympic athletes work like crazy in their training sessions. Some of the athletes have talked about their gruelling training programmes in interviews and I have found myself feeling tired just listening to them.  Hard work pays off. These athletes even train when they are not feeling a hundred per cent. I doubt very much whether they are like me when I don’t feel hundred per cent about my passion i.e. writing. On these days I choose to sit on the sofa, in pjs, working my way through a packet of chocolate digestive biscuits and watching hours of my Sex & The City box set. If we are serious about our writing then we need to put the hard graft in…even when we are not feeling like it. I think I might try this as well.
  3. Never giving up on dreams. Some of the Olympic athletes have remarkable stories about the journeys and life obstacles they have overcome to get where they are today. No matter what life throws at them they have not given up on their dream. I have been really inspired by Olympic gold medal-winning diver Chris Mears who won the men’s synchronised 3m springboard final. In 2009 he was given a 5% chance of survival after contracting the Epstein-Barr virus. He never gave up on his dream. We shouldn’t give up on our literary dreams, no matter what life chucks our way.
  4. Focus and not get distracted by the competition. I have heard a lot of athletes say in interviews they just ran or swam their own race. They focused on their bit of the track or pool and did got get distracted by their competitors. As writers we do get distracted with what other writers are doing / not doing and this can dilute our focus. You heard it here first, I am just going to stick to my lane of the literary track! I don’t care what fancy athletic moves you lot are doing in your part of the track 🙂

Have a fabulous day folks!

Photo: Pixabay