My writing ritual: stopping for an interview on my book blog tour

One of the stops on my recent book blog tour was at  Bforbookreview.wordpress.com

and it was an interview. Here is a transcript:

– When and where do you prefer to write?

Two main places: I do actually have my own study (husband banned, except for kindly plying me with coffee!) and I work at my antique desk with all my research books and papers handily in the big bookshelf next to me.  For A Shape on the Air, as with all my books, I have a ‘mood board’ on the wall beside me, with pics of inspirations for the main characters (it’s Rachel Weiss and James Norton) and pics that represent Dr Viv’s apartment, the mere and Anglo-Saxon life and times. I also like to write in the conservatory so that I can look out at the garden which gives me peace and inspiration. I write most weekdays as I resigned from the university in order to write fulltime and I try to write a session in the mornings and again in the afternoons, so I keep to ‘office times’ as far as  poss. It doesn’t always work out, though, because if it’s a nice day I want to be outside, walking in the countryside  or gardening!

– Do you have a certain ritual?

My main ritual really is that I go swimming first thing in the mornings (I do 20-30 lengths) and usually have a session in the gym while I’m there. Then when I get back home at about 9.30 I can feel ‘noble’ after my exercise and set my mind to my work. I ALWAYS take my first coffee of the day with me to the study. I check my emails first in case there’s anything I need to address, but I try to avoid social media until I’ve met my target for the day.

Is there a drink or some food that keeps you company while you write?

I’m afraid that I drink far too much fresh coffee while I’m working; I have a coffee pot constantly on the go. But I compensate with camomile tea at other times! I don’t eat while I’m on my computer but I do stop for breaks and usually have fresh fruit – or if I’ve been baking I grab a ginger flapjack or almond macaroon or whatever!

What is your favourite book?

It changes, because I’m an avid reader and the latest one is usually my current favourite. But some stand the test of time in my heart: I love anything by Kate Atkinson and Pamela Hartshorne. I love historicals and time-slips (because this is my ‘brand’ too)!

Would you consider writing a different genre in the future?

I have written in several genres already (contemporary and historical romance, children’s, etc) but at present I see my ‘brand’ as medieval time-slip mystery romance, which is what A Shape on the Air is – and also my WIP (working title The Dragon Tree)which is a sequel.

Do you sometimes base your characters on people you know?

I guess most writers base characters on people they know in some way (we’re terrible people-watchers) but mine are generally amalgamations of different people. I pick characteristics and merge them into my characters, so they are, hopefully, unique.  Possibly some of the characters in the Drumbeats Trilogy were nearer to known people than usual. But characters in A Shape in the Air mix up various friends of mine (don’t tell them!).

 Do you take a notebook everywhere in order to write down ideas that pop up?

I have a glorious collection of beautiful notebooks (constantly added to!) and I do usually have one in my bag, along with some of my collection of gorgeous pens. The only thing is that I tend to get ideas at awkward moments when I can’t pull the notebook out to write them down! I desperately try to keep the ideas in my head until I can scribble them down.

– Which genre do you not like at all?

I like most genres. I love crime, police procedurals and psychological thrillers, but I couldn’t ever write them (I don’t feel qualified enough). I don’t like anything gory or OTT blood-thirsty and I’m not keen on erotica or inflicted pain. I hated Fifty Shades!

– If you had the chance to co-write a book. Whom would it be with?

Barbara Erskine or Susanna Kearsley, because we’re on the same wave-length I think:  medieval -ish time-slip Or maybe my friend Lizzie Lamb: although we write entirely different sorts of books, she’s excellent at marketing and promotion, so I’d feed off her!

If you should travel to a foreign country to do research, which one would you chose and why?

Strangely enough, I’ve just been doing research in Madeira.  My latest WIP is set there and involves its medieval history, 14th and 16th centuries. It’s a time-slip again so there’s present day Madeira to imbibe too. It’s provisionally called The Dragon Tree and it has the same main protagonists as A Shape on the Air: Dr Viv and Rev Rory, because I liked them so much I couldn’t let them go! My next will be the third in the series but they will be back in England at the Derbyshire rectory and my other favourite character (Tilly) will be back.

A Shape on the Air is available from Amazon at

http://myBook.to/ASOTA

 

Which books make me cry? And 10 fun facts about me – hmm!

My book tour continues! Today I’m interviewed by Jasmine at http://bookreviewsbyjasmine.blogspot.com

She asks me about the books that made me cry and if you scroll down there are also ten fun facts about me that you never knew!

  1. What is the first book that made you cry?

Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) because I was mad with Jo and I thought that the gorgeous male protagonist married the wrong person (trying not to give spoilers). I was very young! Then One Day (David Nicholls) and latterly A Single Thread (Tracy Chevalier). I cry very easily, at just about everything! I even cry at my own books; A Shape on the Air, for example – what happened with Dr Viv’s partner, her mother, betrayal, Lady Vivianne’s betrothal, the mystery they had to solve … I’m almost in tears now!

  1. How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?

I usually reckon 6 months for research and 6 months to write the book. Even if I know the historical research base well (as with early medieval/Anglo-Saxon England which was my original research field), I have to research specifics for that particular book. For A Shape on the Air I had to research minute details of daily life in 499 AD. The same with my Drumbeats Trilogy, which begins in Ghana, West Africa in the 1960s, even though I had lived there I had to research the locations and what was happening at that time (music, books, politics, current events, etc). I love reading about how people lived in a different historical period so it’s a joy to do the research. My problem is where to stop!

  1. How do you select the names of your characters?

Oddly the names often arrive in my head before the complete plot. I tend to have a character and inciting incident/initial situation/conflict before I start. I always have a ‘mood board’ for each novel WIP on my pinboard beside my desk and when I have a picture of my character on it, the name follows pretty quickly. Maybe because when I sit in a restaurant/bus/train and do my naughty ‘people watching’ I give them names as well as jobs and situations. For A Shape on the Air, I chose a picture of Rachel Weiss and thought of Dr Viv, and James Norton and thought of Rev Rory. Don’t ask me why! But it’s also true that I had to find similar names that fitted both time periods: Dr Viv in the present and Lady Vivianne in 499 AD, Rev Rory/Sir Roland, Tilly/Tilda, and so on. I decided not to use completely authentic  names for 499 AD as the characters were from different ‘tribes’ or ethnicities (Roman, Celtic, Briton, Saxon etc) and some would not be so easy to read for the modern reader. For myself, I always found it hard to read names I have to really concentrate on to remember.

  1. What creature do you consider your “spirit animal” to be?

I’d like it to be a wise owl or an elegant horse or gazelle, but it’s probably a cat (curled up by the fire and looking piercingly at what’s going on around).

  1. What fictional character would you want to be friends with in real life?

Cormoran Strike (Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling). I think he’s fascinating, hard but a softy at heart. He’s had such interesting experiences and I think he’d be full of anecdotes. I feel he’d keep me laughing as well.

  1. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Don’t give up; keep at it and believe in yourself. Read through your finished draft as though you are the reader, not the writer; if it doesn’t capture your attention throughout, then it won’t for anyone else. Make a great opening that grabs the reader’s attention and a great ending that makes them rave about your book. Create memorable characters and get to know them inside out: make a profile of them, what do they look like (very important), what are their little foibles, what are their likes/dislikes, what’s their history? And for heavens’ sake, do your research!

  1. What book do you wish you had written?

Kate Atkinson’s Time After Time.  Brilliant. What an intriguing concept: what if there were different ‘realities’  and history could repeat itself, but change for the better (hopefully). It’s a bit like a time-slip, I guess, but one that actually alters history – something we normally try not to do in time-slips – for the benefit of mankind.

  1. Tell us 10 fun facts about yourself! 🙂
  • I love rhubarb and ginger gin and hate beer
  • I like rugby (watching!) and hate football
  • I love walking in the countryside and hate running (mainly because I have a spinal injury)
  • I love baking for family and friends: my current specialisms are ginger flapjacks (there seems to be a ginger theme going on here!) and almond macaroons, granary bread, and cauliflower & blue stilton cheese soup
  • I love crime novels, police procedurals and psychological thrillers, but I could never write them
  • I like gardening and growing my own vegetables and fruit
  • I’m really into healthy eating – all things fresh and homemade, not shop-bought, plastic wrapped and transport-miles
  • I actually have a PhD! In socio-linguistics, how men and women talk to each other. The research was fascinating!
  • I’m a qualified yoga teacher
  • I love clothes but hate shopping and changing rooms

And there we have it! That’s it for today. Let’s see what tomorrow has in store …

Finding Jess – what do I do all day and what do I hate about writing?

http://mybook.to/FindingJess

Wonderful interview with Anne Williams today on her lovely blog, Being Anne. It’s mainly about my newest book, Finding Jess, the last of my Drumbeats trilogy, out now. But it also mentions my other books too, and there are buy-links if you fancy trying one. Finding Jess is a stand-alone, in that I try to provide the context, so you don’t have to read all three. However, it is better, really, if you follow Jess through her traumas from the first of the series, Drumbeats and then on to the follow-up, Walking in the Rain, before Finding Jess.

http://Author.to/JuliaIbbotsonauthor

Anne’s blog is great – I love it. She does lots of research into her interviewees beforehand and her questions are so interesting, and tailor-made to the subject. Apart from asking me about my writing day and routines, she wanted to know what I liked and hated about being an author. Read it and find out!

https://beinganne.com/2018/09/interview-julia-ibbotson-author-of-the-drumbeats-trilogy-findingjess-juliaibbotson/

If you’ve forgotten the three books in the trilogy: let’s start with Drumbeats …

 

It’s 1965 and 18 year old Jess escapes her stifling English background for a gap year in Ghana, West Africa. But it’s a time of political turbulence across the region. Fighting to keep her young love who waits back in England, she’s thrown into the physical dangers of civil war, tragedy, and the emotional conflict of a disturbing new relationship. And why do the drumbeats haunt her dreams?

This is a rite of passage story which takes the reader hand in hand with Jess on her journey towards growing into the adult world.

 

Walking in the Rain

Jess happily marries the love of her life She wants to feel safe, secure and loved. But gradually it becomes clear that her beloved husband is not the man she thought him to be. She survived civil war and injury in Africa, but can she now survive the biggest challenge of her life?

A captivating story about a woman’s resilience, courage and second chances.

 

Finding Jess

It’s 1990 and single mother, Jess, has struggled to get her life back on track after the betrayal of her beloved husband and of her best friend. On the brink of losing everything, including her family, and still haunted by her past and the Ghanaian drumbeats that pervade her life, she feels that she can no longer trust anyone.

Then she is mysteriously sent a newspaper clipping of a temporary job back in Ghana. Could this be her lifeline? Can Jess turn back time and find herself again? And what, exactly, will she find?

Finding Jess is a passionate study of love and betrayal – and of one woman’s bid to reclaim her self-belief and trust after suffering great misfortune. It is a feel-good story of a woman’s strength and spirit rising above adversity.

An interview with Lizzie Lamb, author

A few weeks ago I was delighted to be chatting with Leicester author Lizzie Lamb. The interview appeared in my newsletter back in June for my summer edition. But don’t be late to the party and miss the interviews as soon as they are published! If you haven’t already signed up to receive my FREE newsletter, currently quarterly, just click on the link on the welcome page of my website and alongside. It looks like this, so you can’t miss it:

sign up image for website

And there is plenty of news, views, competitions and other stuff as well as interviews in the newsletter, which don’t appear on my blog, so do sign up to be included in the mailing list.

So, here’s Lizzie and her latest novel.

lizzie-lambscotch-on-the-rocks

 

Lizzie, tell me about your latest book

My latest book is Scotch on the Rocks which I published July 2015. Within two weeks it had reached #1 spot in its genre historical>Scottish, which was very gratifying. I write Scottish themed books because I find that Scotland is known the world over and is on many readers’ bucket list.

Here’s the blurb –

SCOTCH ON THE ROCKS

Where the men are men and the women are glad of it!

ISHABEL STUART is at the crossroads of her life.

Her wealthy industrialist father has died unexpectedly, leaving her a half-share in a ruined whisky distillery and the task of scattering his ashes on a Munro.  After discovering her fiancé playing away from home, she cancels their lavish Christmas wedding at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh and heads for the only place she feels safe – Eilean na Sgairbh, a windswept island on Scotland’s west coast -where the cormorants outnumber the inhabitants, ten to one.

When she arrives at her family home – now a bed and breakfast managed by her left-wing, firebrand Aunt Esme, she finds a guest in situ – BRODIE. Issy longs for peace and the chance to lick her wounds, but gorgeous, sexy American, Brodie, turns her world upside down.

In spite of her vow to steer clear of men, she grows to rely on Brodie.  However, she suspects him of having an ulterior motive for staying at her aunt’s B&B on remote Cormorant Island. Having been let down twice by the men in her life, will it be third time lucky for Issy? Is it wise to trust a man she knows nothing about – a man who presents her with more questions than answers?

As for Aunt Esme, she has secrets of her own . . .

What inspires you to write?

I love visiting and dreaming about the highlands of Scotland and the people who live there. I was born in Scotland and have very strong roots in the Central Belt, although it is the beautiful highlands and its culture which inspires me. The germ of an idea takes root in my sub conscious and before I know it, I’m talking to the characters in my head and – off we go, all the way to the end of the line when the book is finished. If I run out of inspiration I listen to my RUNRIG CD’s or watch OUTLANDER and it soon comes flooding back.

Where do you write? Do you have a special “den” or desk or work space?

I do have a ‘proper writing room’ at home which I refer to as my ‘study’. This room was used as a second sitting room when we bought our house and is reached through the conservatory and looks directly onto the garden through its own set of French doors. It’s book-lined, as you would expect, but it also has everything a writer could need – internet connection, iPhone docking system for playing music, three printers, filing cabinets, room for box files etc., its own coffee machine and is centrally heated. It feels like a place where serious writing (and daydreaming) takes place; somewhere where I can switch off the pc at the end of the day but can get straight down to work the next morning because everything will be just as I left it.  It’s very tidy and organised and I love it. My husband knows better than to go in there without permission to borrow post-its, sticky pads or pens, without written permission. Only kidding (but only JUST kidding). I also have a caravan with a designated writing space so that when we got on research trips the writing never stops.

What would you like to achieve as an author?

My main objective is to go on writing the books I would like to read, and to grow my readership – especially outside of the UK.  If the chance came along to be published by one of the ‘Big Five’ publishing houses: Pan MacMillan, Headline etc I’d certainly give it serious thought. It’s a bit unlikely at the moment, though, as I am not submitting to agents/editor or publishers. I’m quite happy to remain an indie author because of the control I have over price, cover, content etc. of my novels. I’m not sure I would be able to let an editor change my novel to suit her publishing house, as I’d probably end up having to write about cupcakes in a highland tea room. So NOT me!!

Thank you so much, Lizzie! Lovely to talk to you.

And here are Lizzie’s links:

Scotch on the Rocks – a contemporary romance set in the Highlands of Scotland

http://tinyurl.com/SOTR2015

Boot Camp Bride – Romance and Intrigue on the Norfolk marshes – November 2013

http://bit.ly/BCBLLamb

Tall, Dark and Kilted – Notting Hill Meets Monarch of the Glen – 2012

http://bit.ly/TDKLLamb

Hocus Pocus 14 short story anthology

http://tinyurl.com/Hocus-Pocus14

 Lizzie’s Links

https://www.amazon.com/author/lizzielamb

www.facebook.com/LizzieLambwriter

lizzielambwriter@gmail.com

website: www.lizzielamb.co.uk

Newsletter – http://tinyurl.com/ELNL-2016

Linked in: uk.linkedin.com/pub/lizzie-lamb/18/194/202/

Goodreads http://tinyurl.com/cbla48d

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/lizzielamb/

twitter: @lizzie_lamb

twitter: @newromantics4

www.facebook.com/newromantics4

2nd blog: www.newromanticspress.com

 

Author Lizzie Lamb for afternoon tea

P1010494sign up image for website

So good to sit and chat with Lizzie over tea (me) and coffee (Lizzie) and cakes (both!) I don’t usually copy the newsletter but I’m making an exception this time. If you want more, click the newsletter subscription (free!) on the right of my home page.

This is how the writerly chat went …

 

http://us12.campaign-archive2.com/?u=50bcb4c1628d7fe245e0fbf37&id=e48e3fb155&e=7f5d8e758d

Springtime, daffodils and an author interview

P1010634Spring is (hP1010635opefully!) coming at last! A vase of daffodils is a little ray of sunshine, isn’t it? I’m looking out of the window of my study at the daffodils, snowdrops (very late), drifts of crocuses  and grape hyacinths, which are all starting to open into bloom under the trees.

I’m sorry that I haven’t been in touch for a while but sadly we have had the final illness and passing of my mother-in-law recently and the funeral yesterday.

On a brighter note, I’m now preparing for the first of the Tamworth Literary Festival dates, Thursday April14th, when I’m taking part in an evening  session of the Festival’s food and books event. I will be talking about my book, The Old Rectory: escape to a country kitchen, which is a memoir of renovation and research, with recipes of food to soothe the soul. I may even take along some samples to tempt you.

The other two dates in the Tamworth festival are Saturday June11th focussed on Romance literature, when I’ll be promoting my Drumbeats trilogy, and Saturday October 29th on Hallowe’en, when I’ll be doing something spooky with my children’s novel, S.C.A.R.S.

In the meantime, those of you who have signed up for my quarterly newsletter will have received it today and read my interview with author Anne Harvey over tea and cakes. I’ll be featuring other authors in forthcoming editions, including some famous popular writers … whose names I’ll be dropping in a later post.

Just to give you a flavour, here is the start of my interview with Anne, whose latest novel is just released on Amazon and is called ‘Bittersweet Flight’ and is a nostalgic tale of self-discovery, courage, loss and love in 1950s Lancashire. Check it out at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01CBTQH54

So, as we sipped our Earl Grey tea and munched on French macarons, I asked Anne how and when she started writing for publication … she said,

In the early 1960s, I spent a short time living and working in the United States. So life-changing was the experience that I wove a fictional novel around it and naïvely sent it out to various publishers. With no luck, of course. It was still, I now realise, a long way off publication. By then, I was hooked on the love of writing. In the intervening years, I wrote another two novels, now all gathering dust on the shelf, probably the best place for them. I also got involved in tracing my family history and wrote articles, many of them commissioned, on my research for various journals and national magazines. I really only took my writing seriously after taking early retirement. Last year, I self-published my debut novel, A Suitable Young Man, with some moderate success, I’m pleased to say.”

To read the whole interview, click on the Newsletter pic on the right side of my home page, and subscribe.

See you again soon!