How many people can say that they are related to an author?! I’m so proud to say that my Mum hasn’t had just one book published, but 3 weeks ago she’s just had her 17th (yes – 17th!!) novel published.
The latest book is a called The Vets at Hope Green which she was commissioned to write by Ebury Books. I’ve read the story and have to say, even though I’m biased, that I enjoyed it a lot! I read it in a matter of days rather than the usual weeks and weeks that most other books seem to take me!
I don’t know about you, I always find it fascinating to find out more about the author behind the book – what they’re like, what fuels their inspiration and I’m especially interested in their writing habits! So I thought it would be fun to interview my Mum about her books and her writing:
1. Congrats on the recent publication of your novel! What’s the story about?
Thank you Cheryl! ‘The Vets at Hope Green’ is the story of a girl who dreams of changing her life, and how the animals she loves help to influence her decisions. Sam works as a receptionist in an inner-city vet’s, but she’s dissatisfied with her job, her life in London, and her relationship with her boyfriend. Staying with her nan in a small Dorset village makes her question whether she can make serious changes – but it’s complicated!
2. Have you always wanted to be a writer? How and when did you start on your first novel?
Yes; writing was always just what I did, ever since childhood – it was my hobby and my passion, but I didn’t really expect ever to be a published novelist. I started having short stories published in women’s magazines after winning two short story awards in the 1990s. I had several ‘false starts’ at writing a novel but when the idea for ‘The Trouble With Ally’ came to me – a ‘chick lit’ story but about an older woman – I had a good feeling about it and it was eventually accepted for publication.
3. This is your 17th novel how does it compare to having your first novel published back in 2003?
I think the biggest difference is that back then, despite being over 50 I was so clueless and naive about the publishing business. I have a lot more experience and understanding now, and have made friends with other authors, whereas back then I felt quite alone, and anxious about things like giving talks, interviews, etc. Now I enjoy every aspect of the business but I’m realistic enough to know success is hard-won and often fleeting!
4. Do you think your writing style has changed over the years? And do you find it easier or quicker to now write a novel?
I’ve written different types of books, so my writing style has had to adapt to suit the different genres. What was normal and acceptable for the chick lit novels I started out with, wouldn’t be right for the ‘cosy’ market I’m now writing for. But I think my writing is always fairly light and conversational. I’ve always written quite fast, and although I’ve never found writing itself difficult, the tricky thing has been to tackle different types of books. For instance, writing ‘The Vets at Hope Green’ in four instalments (it was published this way before being produced as an entire story) was a challenge – but one I very much enjoyed!
5. Tell us about your writing routine? Do you prefer a certain place and / or time to write?
Not really! I’ll write anywhere, any time, if necessary – and I think that’s because my first six novels were written while I was still working at the day job, so I had to fit in my writing whenever I could – evenings, weekends, lunch breaks. Since retiring, I have the luxury of being able to write whenever I want, but I still tend to fit it in around other things in my life rather than having a strict routine. When a deadline’s looming I just spend more time writing!
6. What inspires your stories?
Everyday life! I’ve always been fascinated by people’s relationships with each other – families, friends, lovers, work colleagues, whatever – and the way they interact and talk to each other. I think relationships are at the core of all my stories, and I prefer writing about ordinary people we can all relate to, and giving them situations where emotions come to the forefront. Even in my more recent animal-related stories, it’s the humans whose stories really carry the plot.
7. What’s the favourite novel that you’ve written and why?
That’s a difficult one! Strangely enough the two I feel most personally connected to, are two of my self-published novels, which are quite different from my others as they don’t have a contemporary setting. ‘Yesterday’ is set during the 1960s, which was great fun for me to write as I was a teenager in that era. And ‘Ticket to Ride’ is about the child migrants who were sent to Australia right up to the 1960s. But I’ve loved writing all of them, and the current animal-themed stories have been especially enjoyable to write.
8. Do you have any advice for wannabe writers (like me!) ?!
Well, although in my previous answers I might have made it sound like my writing career has been one constant round of fun, I have actually worked consistently hard at it over the years, and I think it’s important to remember that to be any good at anything, we have to work, practise, exercise, constantly. I don’t believe in writers’ block, and I’d say that even if you don’t know what to write about, just write – anything, whatever comes into your head – a diary, a letter, a poem, a story for your kids, a blog! – to keep your creative mind active. Write down funny conversations you’ve overheard, write about your thoughts, feelings, frustrations – save everything, and one day you might be able to use it in a story or a book!
Basically, don’t do it unless you love writing so much that you do it for pleasure, for its own sake. There’s no other sensible reason, as sadly the odds against publication have always been high. But it CAN happen. It did for me, so why not you!
So there you have it! I hoped you enjoyed finding out more about my Mum, her books and her writing. Here’s a selection of some of her other books, plus she’s now working on her next series – Part One The Pets at Primrose Cottage will be out in November or March for the complete novel.