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

 

How to write 14 books in one year?

[‘Finding Jess’ launch day 10th July!]

Let me start by saying: I have no idea! I just read an amazing piece about a woman who has written over 40 books in less than 7 years; she likes to write a book every 6 weeks, and 14 in one year alone. I can only think that they are very short … and yes, judging by her Amazon profile they are what we call ‘novellas’ – or even ‘short novellas’. But good for her, she’s managed to buy a house and a farm with her royalties (no, I’m not jealous at all! Honest!).

I had this very conversation at a recent RNA chapter lunch where I was talking to some friends about whether to sign a contract with a publisher who wanted a commitment to two books a year, and most of us said no, we wouldn’t. But some of my friends do. Not perhaps 14, though! For me it would feel like too much stress and pressure just to commit to two a year. My novels are ones I need to research for weeks, if not months, before putting ‘pen to paper’ (or fingers to keyboard). I need to have a strong knowledge of the time and place: be it the early anglo-saxon period in England, the 1960s, Ghana, the Victorian kitchen, and so on. Additionally, my books are full novel length: 75 – 80k.

People ask me about my writing patterns. Well, I try to do my research during the summer, so that I can read and make notes in the fresh air and sunshine (if we have any in the UK!), and in Madeira. And then I write during the cold dark winter days.

But, to be fair, I don’t have to write for a living, and that makes a difference. Although since I retired from my post as senior lecturer at the university, it’s my ‘full time’ occupation, it isn’t my bread and butter, my sole income. So I can enjoy it, the research and the process of writing. And I’m so glad I don’t have to churn out 14 books in a year!

‘Finding Jess’, the last of the Drumbeats trilogy is being published on 10th July by my publisher, Endeavour. They will then be releasing an Omnibus edition (box set) of the three, although all will be available separately too. I hope you enjoy discovering what happens to Jess in the final part of her saga.

So,this summer I’ll be researching for my next novel (working title Azulejo) which is set in two or even three different time zones mainly in Madeira, each linked by a shard of volcanic rock and a mysterious document! The book opens with the volcanic eruption that created the island of Madeira millions of years ago with a huge explosion of basaltic lava fountains, rock and fire, the seas boiling and waves crashing … can’t wait to start writing it!

 

Madeira: sunshine, relaxation and 29 hours at one of the world’s most dangerous airports

The beautiful island of Madeira- we love it. It’s given us 18 years’ enjoyment of the chilled out holidays in the sun we all dream about. We swim before breakfast, then over a relaxed meal on our decking overlooking the deep azure blue ocean, we decide what we feel like doing that day: will it be sailing round the coast or to the Desertas Islands, taking the ferry over to the wide hot sands of Porto Santo, walking the levadas, golfing (my husband) or reading (me) … or maybe absolutely nothing but lying in the sun getting a smooth tan, and listening to Il Divo and Adele on the CD player/laptop iTunes?

The biggest decision we have to make is which restaurant we’ll choose for dinner: our favourite The Old Fort in Funchal, or the gorgeous O Classico, or musical Goya? Or maybe our annual retro meal at Casa Velha: steak diane and crepes suzette? Or perhaps we’ll just chill out on the balcony with a freshly caught espada, parcel-baked in our oven, jacket potatoes and salad? Listening to the haunting cries of the seagulls and watching the little bright-coloured fishing boats sail out.

Wherever else we go during the year for a more active holiday, we love to return to this ‘garden isle of the Atlantic’ with its beautiful scenery, flowers and interesting history. A novel set in Madeira is swirling round my head!

Each time we like to discover new things: last year I was exploring the old town of Funchal and photographing the lovely door paintings. This year we visited the new CR7 museum (Cristiano Ronaldo) and hotel, and we took the children to the waterpark for the first time.

And finally, another first – and this one, not so good. For the first time in 18 years we were subject to a delay at the airport. It happens in Madeira; it is, after all, one of the most difficult airport landings in the world, if the winds are high and especially if there are cross-winds that drive across the runway. We arrived at the airport to find that there were, oddly, no planes out there. After we had checked in the hold luggage we found out that no planes were landing in the winds. We could see the flares of forest wildfires above Funchal. We sat in the lounge watching the planes attempting to land but wooshing off into the distance. Our plane was supposed to be taking off at 5.25pm but there was no plane to take us off the island. In fact there were no planes. Full stop.

Eventually we heard (from the internet trackers) that our plane had been diverted to Tenerife. By midnight we were told to go to collect our hold baggage again (we’d have to go through the whole process again the next day) The comfortable premier lounge (which we always book because of my spinal injury) was closed for the night. No hotel was being organised for the passengers by Jet2. Yes, folks, we spent 29 hours on the hard airport seats – with all food/drink outlets closed. The temperature that day had been 34 degrees in the shade. We eventually were given a small bottle of water around 5.00am and a voucher for food around 9.00am – I had to queue for 1.5 hours to buy a sandwich and a coffee for us.

Our flight was rescheduled for 3.00pm the next day and then was delayed again until 7.30pm, with doubts as to whether we would, in fact, be taking off at all that day. Another night in excruciating spinal pain on hard seats was simply not on. We decided to claim our baggage back again and find a hotel ourselves. We were by then in contact with a friend and knew we had a room at a lovely hotel set aside for us. But at about 7.15 we saw on the departures board a call to the gate and that our flight was boarding. We pretty much ran!

We touched down in the UK nearly midnight and arrived home around 1.30am – exhausted. So, after such a wonderful sojourn in Madeira again, thank you (said with irony) Jet2 for our first – and hopefully last – experience of your passenger care policy …