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!

 

Christmas at Chatsworth

 

As usual Chatsworth was a delight at Christmas time and this year the theme was Charles Dickens – so wonderful for me, as a writer. The picture above isn’t our Christmas dinner at the Big House … look closely and you’ll see the cobwebs over a wedding feast. Yes, it’s Great Expectations, and Miss Haversham was there to greet us!

She was joined in other parts of the house by Ebenezer Scrooge, startled in his bed by the ghost of Christmas Past …

… and we loved Fagin, and the London Christmas of Oliver Twist….

…  the magical creations of houses sculpted from old book pages, the Christmas tree made from books …

It was all simply charming. But the day was truly icy as we wandered round the gardens, remembering the many days we’ve spent walking there in summer, along the river and across the parkland, but what a lovely walk it was, despite noses and mouths freezing. It was a fantastic start to the Christmas period and we look forward to next year’s theme.

Winter reading choices

Two lovely books I’ve just been reading, from author friends of mine: The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman and Together by Julie Cohen, both fellow members of the RNA. I highly recommend both of them. Rowan’s is an amazing time bending concept which left me thinking long after I finished it, and Julie’s is an intriguing relationship drama with quite a ‘gasp’ moment at the end. Now I’m reading Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear, a fascinating and well written debut novel – a police procedural (love those!) with an interesting and empathetic main protagonist. Three books for dark winter evenings!

Look out Great British Bake Off – TOR rising up the book charts on Amazon!

I’m thrilled that today I discovered that The Old Rectory is at #2 in the entire paid-for kindle sales in Canada and at #24 in the entire paid-for kindle sales in Australia! In the UK it’s #1 in the Food & Drink UK category, beating the Great British Bake Off, Mary Berry and Nadiya Hussain.

The Old Rectory: escape to a country kitchen has officially been awarded the ‘Best Seller’ badge!

http://myBook.to/TheOldRectory

A Shape on the Air has also reached #5 on Amazon so I’m pretty delighted!

http://myBook.to/ASOTA

Writing a time-slip novel: how hard can it be?

This week A Shape on the Air is on a book blog tour of the UK. I’ve had some lovely reviews so far on the tour, and here are just a few of them:

“I found this period in history quite fascinating”,

“a super read and a treasure hunt all rolled into one”,

“lovely details of the medieval period which really capture the essence of the place and the people living then”,

“in A Shape on the Air the (time-slip) switches feel natural and not contrived”. Thank you all for reading my book and taking the time to review it!

Today, I had a guest post published about writing a time-slip, and  I found a wonderful comment: “Great guest post” ! Aaagh! Made my day. So here is the post:

Writing a time-slip novel? Well, all you have to do is tell the story of someone from the present day finding herself in a different time, easy, right? Wrong! In fact it’s very difficult. There are all sorts of issues you have to work out. Why would this person suddenly fall into another period? How would she do it? What would be the trigger? If she could do it, why couldn’t everyone else? What makes her have this unique ability?

I love reading time-slip; I’m especially keen on Pamela Hartshorne’s novels of time-slip into the Tudor age in York (Time’s Echo, House of Shadows). They’re intriguing and exciting. I’m fascinated by theories of time and the whole concept of what time actually means? All these weird and wonderful theories: quantum mechanics, the Einstein-Bridge theory of portals and worm-holes!

I’ve wanted to write a time-slip story of my own for a long time, but in my case one set in the early medieval times because that’s the period I know best and am most interested in. But working it all out resulted in many a restless night, loss of hair and bitten fingernails! I wanted the tone and atmosphere to be a little spooky but still feel realistic and convincing (which isn’t easy if you’re writing about what we normally think of as ghosts). In the end I found writing the ghostly parts the easiest and the mechanics of the time-slip the most difficult.

It seemed to me that my main character, Viv, needed to be someone that anybody could identify with, someone pretty ‘normal’, but make her have a traumatic event in her life which might make her vulnerable and more susceptible to the paranormal. I made her an academic who deals with facts not fantasies, and gave her an awful partner in Pete who announces that he’s leaving her for her best friend – goodness, that would send anyone off balance! – and made her lovely home and the life she knew be at risk. I also made her drink rather a lot of red wine (understandable in the circumstances!) and go for a walk beside a lake!

I then had to make someone in a responsible job commanding authority and respect, empathise and become involved with her strange experience. Who might believe her? Someone whose job is connected with other-worldly things but could be a ‘pillar of society’? It had to be a vicar. So Rev Rory was born. And so was the love interest.

Although it would have been easier for the time-slip trigger to be the lake that started it all off, I didn’t want it to be that obvious, so I had to create a whole back-history for Viv, involving her parents, especially her mother, and their untimely death. Gradually it was coming together like a jigsaw. I can’t explain any more because it would give away the secrets of the book. You’ll just have to read it and find out! I hope you feel intrigued enough to do that, and I hope you enjoy the story. I certainly enjoyed writing it – and guess what? I’m writing another time-slip …

A Shape on the Air is available at all Amazon sites at http://myBook.to/ASOTA

Afternoon Tea Week!

It’s Afternoon Tea Week this week and I’m sharing a couple of recipes from my book The Old Rectory: escape to a country kitchen, soon to be re-released by Endeavour Press (a week on Friday, 25th August). Wait for 25th as it’ll be available on Amazon and cheaper, in ebook and paperback!

The book has received many 5* reviews including “enchantingly told”, ” delightful”, ” a most engaging read”.

Cream Tea Scones

makes 10–12

A staple of the traditional English cream tea.

You’ll need:

50 g. (2 oz.) butter

25 g. (1 oz.) caster sugar

5tbsp milk

1 egg

225 g. (9 oz.) self raising flour

1 tsp. baking powder

Pinch salt

A little beaten egg or milk to glaze

Strawberry jam and double whipped cream (or Cornish clotted cream) to sandwich the scones, and a little icing sugar to dust the tops.

 Preheat the oven to 220ºC, 425ºF/gas mark 7. Mix the flour, baking powder, and salt. Place all the ingredients into a bowl and mix to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board and roll out to about 1 cm. (0.5 in.) thickness. Cut into rounds with a 5-cm. (2-in.) cutter and place the scones on a greased baking sheet. Brush lightly with milk or a lightly beaten egg. Bake in the oven for about 12–15 minutes. Cool on a wire cooling tray. Split each scone and spread with a layer of good fruity strawberry jam, topped with a dollop of whipped double cream, then place the other half on the top and dust with sieved icing sugar.

 

Lemon Iced Buns

makes 8

 You’ll need:

250 g. (9 oz.) strong white flour, sifted

250 g. (9 oz.) plain flour, sifted

7 g. (0.25 oz.) fast-action dried yeast

2 tsp. fine sea salt

50 g. (2 oz.) caster sugar

125 ml. (4 fl. oz.) warmed milk

125 g. (4 fl. oz.) warmed water

1 egg, beaten

50 g. (2 oz.) butter, cut into cubes

Zest of 1 lemon

Vegetable oil for greasing

For the icing:

50 g. (2 oz.) icing sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

 Preheat the oven to 220ºC, 425ºF/gas mark 7. Sift the flours and salt into a bowl. Add the water, milk, yeast, sugar, and lemon zest and mix with a fork until combined. Add the beaten egg and butter and continue to mix until the mixture is a sticky dough. Put the dough on a lightly floured board and knead for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretches like elastic. Lightly oil a bowl with some of the vegetable oil. Turn the dough into the bowl and carefully turn until it is entirely coated with oil. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour. The dough should have doubled in size. Lightly grease two baking trays. Knock the dough back to its original size and then turn onto a floured board again. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape into fingers or rounds. Place on the greased baking sheets, ensuring plenty of space. Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for 30 minutes. Bake in the oven for about 20–25 minutes, until well risen and golden brown. Remove the buns from the oven and leave to cool on a wire cooling rack.

The icing for the top: Made by simply combining the icing sugar and fresh lemon juice until smooth. When the buns are cool, spread icing over each bun and set aside until hardened. You can decorate with a little lemon zest for that extra oomph.

Sweet and sticky, with a little zestiness from the lemon, these buns are a favourite for afternoon tea.

http://Author.to/JuliaIbbotsonauthor

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Old-Rectory-Escape-Country-Kitchen/dp/1909593753/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502726298&sr=1-4&keywords=julia+ibbotson

Deja Vu – ghosts, imprints on walls, shapes on the air?

Why do we experience that feeling of ‘deja vu’? How come we sometimes feel that an old house still bears the imprints of past inhabitants? I’m not talking about ‘ghosts’ or anything specific or corporeal, but what I have called in my latest novel  ‘shapes on the air’.

The idea for A Shape on the Air had been brewing in my mind for a long time. I had been reading about, and mulling over,  the notion of time slip and especially the concept of ‘worm-holes’ and the Einstein-Bridge theory of portals into other dimensions of time and space, in effect quantum mechanics. It sounds fanciful and Dr Who-ish, and oddly I’m not a great fan of fantasy, but I felt that this was in fact a more ‘logical’ (in some ways!) and scientific explanation of those everyday glimmers of ‘déjà vu’ and perceptions of the past that many of us experience, those intimations that maybe the spirits of history are embedded in the fabric of old houses and ancient geology. So, what if we could take it further and, somehow, actually slip into the world of the past, another world but one to which we might have a personal connection, through our own family links perhaps, which still reverberate through us; some kind of glimpse of shapes on the air.

Could, perhaps, our ancestors somehow reach out across time to ‘touch’ us in this world, not physically but spiritually or emotionally? Watching programmes like ‘Who do you think you are’ where the subjects research their ancestral history, I feel that there is a lot more in their discoveries than merely drawing up a family tree and timeline. They often find a rather eerie connection with their family members, in terms of character, situation, talents, life-views and professions. Of course, many of us, myself included, have looked into our family histories and see nothing at all in common with our ancestors, indeed sometimes they seem totally remote!

 

The theory of worm-holes and portals through which we could slip across the time-space continuum into other historic periods and places is really only that – a theory. It’s unproven – how could it be otherwise? But it does raise some wonderfully intriguing ideas. Such a gift for a creative writer. And since it is presented by great scientific minds such as Einstein’s, it lends itself to some serious thought.

As Rory says in A Shape on the Air, “Just think of the universe. Black holes. Even birth and death. What are they? How come you can suddenly become a thinking person, at birth, and nothing at death.” Dr Viv thinks she may be suffering some kind of temporary insanity after her traumatic experience with her partner and that has triggered the feelings of crossing the time dimension and merging with Lady Vivianne, but as the story progresses it seems that there is more to it than that …

Link:  myBook.to/ASOTA