Friday, 30 November 2012

Writer - Chris Stanley

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Chris Stanley.  Enjoy.

Chris Stanley

Hello Chris.  Can you please introduce yourself?
I'm Chris Stanley from Bristol.
How long have you been writing?
I don’t recall a time when I wasn’t writing. My mum tells a story where she picked me up from school and the teacher was reading to all the other children apart from me. I was sitting in the corner of the room, scribbling furiously in my notebook. My mum asked why I was being punished and the teacher said I wasn’t being punished, I was just finishing a really long story.
Mostly I write songs. I started writing short stories seriously this year.
What first got you interested in writing?
I don’t remember back that far. I do remember that I wrote my first novel having been inspired by Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves. His book was brilliant, mine was terrible.
Do you attend a writing group?
I joined the Bath Company of Writers in June 2012.
Why did you start going to a writing group?
Writing is a lonely (and quite bonkers) process and it’s good to know that there are other people like me out there. The Company of Writers is excellent: supportive and critical at the same time.
That's exactly what you need, otherwise you would go mad just staring at your computer screen!  What is the most valuable thing you've taken away from your writing group?
I’m not alone.
What genre(s) do you write?
I write adult literary fiction because it’s what I read. 
You mentioned earlier that you write short stories and songs.  Do you write anything else?
I've recently started a blog at called Diary of a Stay-at-Home Dad but it’s not strictly about writing—the clue is in the title.
Have you ever had anything published?
One day I hope to be published but it hasn’t happened yet.
There are many of us in that same boat.  Just don't give up.  Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?
I think e-publishing removes the challenge of getting published as well as several layers of quality control. It’s perfect in some situations and for some people, but it’s not for me.
I’ve read eBooks but I prefer to read hardbacks. 
Have you sent your writing to agents/publishers?  Have you received any rejections?
Yes (a long time ago) and yes. 
Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?
My ideas come from everywhere. It’s a question of observing the world around me and joining the dots. I tend to write stories where something extreme (car crash, flood, suicide) upsets an otherwise normal and balanced environment.
That sounds like my kind of story!  How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
For me, character is the most important part of a story. All of my characters start out as part me and part someone I know, and grow from there.
Do you have a writing routine?
I write when I feel like it but that tends to be every day. I’m at my most ambitious and creative first thing in the morning.
I wish I could be like that, but the most I can muster is actually getting out of bed first thing in the morning, and even then that's a struggle!  Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I used to do the latter but it always ended badly.
Do you have an editing process?
I love to edit. I love to surprise myself by coming up with passages and sentences that combine art and drama while remaining true to character and plot. I don’t have a process for editing other than to have fun while doing it.
I have others read my work as often as my writers’ circle will let me. I try not to involve family or non-writing friends because they struggle with objectivity.
I never read my work aloud to myself in front of the mirror. 
How important is it for you to share your writing?
It's why I write.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?  Have you ever won?
When I started writing stories again this year I found that entering short story competitions was a way of creating a deadline to which to work. I have yet to be successful in any of these competitions (although I was shortlisted for the InkTears inaugural flash fiction competition) but I have been productive. 
That's a great piece of positive thinking.  Have you ever attended open mic events for spoken word performers?
No but I regularly attend open mic nights for sung word performances.
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I enjoy the freedom and control. I don’t enjoy the constant, nagging self-doubt.
What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever been given?
Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing, The Social Network) says it well:
"The trick is to follow the rules of classic storytelling. Drama is basically about one thing: Somebody wants something, and something or someone is standing in the way of him getting it. What he wants—the money, the girl, the ticket to Philadelphia—doesn't really matter. But whatever it is, the audience has to want it for him." 
Brilliant!  What advice could you give to a new writer?
Join a writers’ circle before it’s too late.
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
I’m a performing singer/songwriter and a fairly keen photographer and cook. These days I’m mostly just a dad.
I bet you can get a lot of writing inspiration from being a dad!  What types of things do you read?  Do you think your writing reflects your book tastes?
I tend to read American literary and postmodern fiction by authors like Don Delillo, Jonathan Franzen, Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, etc. And a lot of first time authors.
And yes.
Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotations?
"Is Time’s cold scroll recoiling on itself until the dead years speak, or is it in the throb of now that the spectres wake and wander through the walls?" (Mervyn Peake, Gormenghast)

For some reason, whenever I read this, it’s always Patrick Stewart’s voice I hear in my head. 
If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
President John F. Kennedy’s “We Choose to go the Moon” speech. 

What are you working on at the moment?
These are things I’m currently writing:

  • A sitcom called A Stiff Drink (with Richard Nally).
  • New short stories called Perfect Cadence, Human Delicacy, and Little Horrors.
  • A re-write of a very old short story called Lost and Found.

In November, when I’ve finished my Diploma in Internal Communications, I shall start writing a novel and I’ll probably blog about the process. 
Good luck with that.  Novel writing is a tough but satisfying process.  And there's always lots of editing to do, so you'll enjoy that!  Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Earlier this year I went into the recording studio with five friends, none of whom had played together before and some of whom had never met, to record a song I’d written called Americana. They heard the song for the first time that morning and we had one day in which to record it. The final result can be heard here:

Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
This is the opening to a short story I’m currently writing called Perfect Cadence: 
This is not what the movie was supposed to be about. Not this. It was supposed to be a celebration of ten years’ hard work, a thank you to the fans, a rededication of the band and an opportunity to put a little money back in the bank. Instead, the photographers and runners, grips and gaffers were treated to a very different spectacle. They filmed the death of a dream. 
Malcolm Parry is the man at the centre of it all. Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, he’s a major chord in a dissonant world, shining just a little bit brighter than the people around him. But recently there has been a shift, a change in key that’s diminished his brilliance. For the first time in several weeks, he is alone. The audience has gone home, possibly forever, and his band, The Gators, has returned to the hotel. Will they split up? Malcolm wants to care but his mind is muddled and his face still hurts from the fight. The thing they don’t tell you about the limelight is that it can burn worse than the sun. He steps off the stage into the main arena of the Royal Albert Hall and tries to work out where it all went wrong. 
© Chris Stanley 
Thank you very much, Chris.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Writer - Carol Twinch

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Carol Twinch.  Enjoy.

Carol Twinch

Hello Carol.  Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Carol Twinch and I am based in Suffolk.  I was born in Eye and went to school in Harleston (Norfolk) and Lowestoft.
Ah Lowestoft.  I've heard that there's a lot of writing talent there!  How long have you been writing?
Since I was 15 – so a long time!       
What first got you interested in writing?
My father was an agricultural journalist and my brother went into newspaper journalism and is now a feature writer on The Australian: I don’t remember a time when I hadn’t thought of writing.  My daughter is now a journalist, my nephew writes poetry and I have a cousin who has written over 30 books, so perhaps it’s something in the genes!
Do you attend a writing group?
Not now but for many years I was a member of the Norwich Writer’s Circle which I found very enjoyable and valuable.  I would advise any new writer to join a writing group as it always helps to talk things over with others of similar ambition.

I am also a member of the Society of Authors, East Anglian Writers and the Guild of Agricultural Journalists which helps me to keep in touch and I attend their functions when possible. 
What genre(s) do you write?
Mostly social and local history but I have written short stories.  I suppose I followed the advice ‘write about what you know’ and as I knew something of rural life, and had an interest in local history, I tended to specialise in that area.  When I lived near Norwich I worked as a freelance for BBC East TV, Radio Norfolk and Anglia Television in various capacities which gave me an insight into that aspect of the media.

I once wrote a novel and sent it off to Mills and Boon.  They rejected it because it was too long and the storyline wasn’t strong enough but said that the dialogue ‘sparkled’ and they would look at it again if I shortened it.  At about the same time I sent a script off to the BBC Archers producers.  That too was rejected only this time the letter said that my dialogue was not ‘sparkly’ enough.  Strange that the same word should be used about my work by two completely separate editors who had differing opinions.  Just shows how important it is being in the right place at the right time and why making a break-through is sometimes just the luck of the draw. 
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
I have only ever written one poem!  Poetry eludes me, at least for the moment, though I have some affection for the familiar 19th century classics that we all had to learn by heart at school.  I don’t see myself ever writing poetry but then again, never say never!
You seem to have your finger in many pies with writing for various media outlets, plus your one poem.  What other types of things do you write?
As I said, I write mostly local and social history, topography and the arts.  I have been editor of various publications and have written numerous articles and pieces for magazines and newspapers and contributed to one or two anthologies.  I also review books and am currently a member of the theatre review team for the East Anglian Daily Times.  One of my short stories was shortlisted for the Ian St James awards and published in New Writer.  I think writing competitions can be a good way for new writers to get published.
Have you ever won any writing competitions?
I've only entered the Ian St James and I didn’t win, just shortlisted. 

One of my books The Little Book of Suffolk won an award in the 2008 East Anglian Book Awards 
What else have you had published?
As well as the aforementioned articles, reviews, etc., I have had 17 books published.  The new one is The Norwich Book of Days due to come out mid-October. 
What has been your experience with agents/publishers?
I once had an agent, many years ago, who negotiated a book for me with the Lutterworth Press (Women on the Land, Their Story during Two World Wars, 1990).  However, half way through the publishing process she decided to give up her literary agency and return to being a solicitor.  Unfortunately I was not able to stop her receiving a percentage of the advance, in spite of her no longer representing me, and as it turns out she got me a very mediocre contract.  Happily I persuaded the publisher not to send her an on-going royalty percentage.  I suppose that I should have tried to get another agent then but didn’t, having been put off the idea, and have never tried since.  I often think that if I had got another agent at that point of my writing career he or she might have been able to take me in a more successful or varied direction, but I shall never know!
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?
Yes, I have self-published three books, chiefly because they were not main stream subjects and I preferred to have absolute control over their distribution.  Two of them are about St Walstan (the East Anglian Patron Saint of Agriculture and Farm Workers) and the other is Tithe War 1918-1939: The Countryside in Revolt.  I did offer Tithe War to a local publisher but having shown initial interest in the end decided it was too big a project for him to take on. 

Three of my books are currently available as eBooks but, if the truth be told, I prefer real books to eBooks.  I understand the need and modernity of eBooks but think that the two are very different in nature and appeal.  I have not written a book specifically as an eBook and would probably not contemplate it, even if asked.  But, as I said, never say never! 
Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?
This is a question perhaps more properly addressed to a novelist.  I am not sure that anyone particularly influences me but when writing about, say, Suffolk or Norfolk it is impossible to ignore writers down the ages who have commentated or written on the subject.  I particularly like diaries and the immediacy they evoke.  My favourite author is Evelyn Waugh.
Do you have a writing routine?
If I have a book on the go I write most of the time, that is the computer goes on about 8am and is turned off sometimes around 10pm.  Of course I’m not working all the time as I often have to go on research trips or to a library.  If deadline is approaching it gets pretty intense.  Between books I tend to try and escape the computer but that isn’t very practical and I do something, even if it’s only making notes, most days. 
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
It’s always satisfying if you’re doing a piece and it comes out just right and what appears on the page is approximately what was in your head.  Doesn’t always happen, naturally!

The least enjoyable is sitting in front of the computer screen for long stretches.  
What is the most valuable piece of advice you've been given with regards to writing?
Some years ago my journalist brother told me that when writing an article, book or whatever, it is important to keep a single thought or theme in mind and relate everything to it.  Don’t try and capture the world, or be too smart, or pack in all you know about a particular subject into one article.  Good books and films usually have a single idea and each chapter or sequence brings out an aspect of that idea for either good, evil or both.
I'd never thought about it like that.  I may have to go back and do quite a bit of editing now!  What advice could you give to a new writer?
Don’t write to be famous, write to express yourself.  Of course everyone has an equal chance of coming up with just the right piece at just the right time and making it big, but until that happens just keep plying your trade and building a reputation.
Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotes?
Yes, it is from Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ which advises ‘… If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/And treat those two imposters just the same’.  Writers always have to guard against either imposter getting the upper hand. 
Do you have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook dedicated to your writing?
No.  I am advised that I ought to have a website but so far I haven’t got around to it. 
What are you working on at the moment?
As mentioned previously, I have a new book coming out this month so I will be promoting that between now and Christmas.  I don’t have anything specific in the pipeline but lots of possibilities.  I’m thinking it’s time for a change of direction.  I want to write something different and original and have taken this summer off to think about it.  Watch this space!
I certainly will!  Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Thank you for asking me to take part in your project and I wish you all success with your writing and other artistic pursuits. 
And thank you, Carol, for taking part.  It has been very interesting.  Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
Extract from WALKS THROUGH HISTORY: IPSWICH (DB Publishing, 2011) 
The Great White Horse is the only surviving inn that can be traced in Corporation records to before 1571.  Evidence exists for an inn or hostelry to have stood here since 1518 but undoubtedly its origins are much older.  The White Horse Inn (the Great did not appear until the early 19th century) has always been the largest and most prestigious in the town: George II stayed here in 1736 and Lord Nelson in 1800 (Walk 7).
Its chief claim to fame is an association with Charles Dickens (1812-70) for it was here that the famous novelist and commentator stayed on his several visits to the town in the 1830s.  He came here first in 1835 the year of the Municipal Reform Act to record the disreputable goings-on that then passed for electioneering and which later featured in The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1836-7).
Dickens was very critical of the Great White Horse and in particular the stone statue of ‘some rampacious (sic) animal with flowing mane and tail, distinctly resembling an insane cart-horse’ which stood above the main entrance. 
He used the inn’s idiosyncratic layout to good effect declaring that it was famous in the neighbourhood ‘in the same degree as a prize ox ... or turnip ... or unwieldy pig’.  The rambling nature of the building, with its labyrinths of uncarpeted passages and mouldy, ill-lit rooms, resulted in the famous scene when Mr Pickwick’s nocturnal wanderings led him mistakenly into a room where stood ‘a middle-aged lady, in yellow curlpapers, busily engaged in brushing what ladies call their backhair’.
So uncomplimentary was Dickens about the Great White Horse that the landlord, William Brooks, threatened him with a libel action. 
© Carol Twinch 
Thank you very much Carol.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Free book in exchange for review

A couple of weeks ago, I e-published my first book; a collection of Christmas short stories entitled 12 Days of Krista May Rose, inspired by the traditional song, 12 Days of Christmas.  It is available to buy for $1.99 (or £1.29) from Smashwords and Amazon.

And here is where I ask for a favour.  I would like to give away 12 (see what I did there?!) free PDF copies (or whatever format you would like) of my book to book-bloggers, in exchange for a review.  All I ask is that the review is honest (but as book-bloggers, I have faith that you are always honest with your reviews), and that it is done before Christmas if possible.

You can read excerpts of each chapter here.

If you are willing to do this, please e-mail me at so that I can respond with the PDF file and the front cover PNG file. Please publish the review to your blog/website, as well as putting something on the book's Amazon page and Goodreads page (if you have accounts with them).  Please let me know when you've done it by e-mailing me the link to the review on your blog/website. If you have any questions, just let me know at the above e-mail address.

Thanking you all very much in advance.


  1. Sarah at Books & Bridles - 4* review can be found here.
  2. Gemma at Gem's Book Reviews

LLBG November

Last night, Lowestoft Library Book Group met for their November meeting.  This past month we read The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad.  As you know, I don't do book reviews.  Even if I wanted to do book reviews, I couldn't for this one.  I found myself just reading the words and not taking in any of the story.  Nothing really stood out to capture my imagination and keep me gripped to the plot.  That's a bit of a lie.  The first chapter was good, and so were the last two chapters.  But everything in between seemed to pass me by.

The only bit that really interested me was towards the end, when a couple were getting married, and the groom came into possession of a bear.  The wedding party walk from town to town, and the bear dances and walks with them.  When the husband and wife get into their house, the bear comes too.  The husband seems to love the bear more than his wife, so she takes her revenge.  The husband trains the bear by hitting it with a stick.  The wife puts nails into the stick, which causes the bear to get injured whenever the husband hit it.  Because he loves the bear so much, he threatens his wife and tells her that whatever happens to the bear will happen to her also.  So she will eat whatever the bear eats, but if the bear isn't hungry, she will go without food.  She eventually runs away and gets sold as a prostitute. 

The book group discussion focussed on the social and cultural differences between England and Pakistan, where the book is set, such as the way they treat women and children, and how killing and disemboweling is a normal way of life.  I vaguely remember the negative treatment of women in the book, and obviously the word 'disembowel' is going to jump from the page.  But I was unimpressed with the whole thing, so I can't really say much more. 

The meeting last night was fairly hurried, as we had to leave by eight, giving us only an hour to talk.

Next month there won't be a meeting, as it would fall on Christmas Day and I don't think anyone would fancy that.  So we have two books to read before our meeting in January; The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths, and The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld.  Some cheery stuff to read over Christmas!

The Albert Poets

Welcome to my interview with Stephanie Bowgett from The Albert Poets.


Hello Stephanie.  Can you tell us a bit about your writing group?
We are called The Albert Poets and have been in existence since December 2012. We hold a writing workshop in the Albert Pub, Victoria Lane, Huddersfield every Monday evening (19.15 – 21.15 ish). Attendees who wish to take it in turn to lead the session. Everyone brings 6-10 copies of their poem which they read to the group who then discuss it. The group also hosts a reading on the second Thursday of each month featuring four invited readers each time. Each reader reads for 15-20 minutes with a 15 minute break between. Both events are free of charge and our writers (a mix of established and new writers) are not paid.
How many members on average does your group have?
The writing group has a core membership of 15-20 writers and is usually attended by 6-8, nobody goes every week and the group is open to anybody so people drift in and out, but there is a group of about eight writers who are very regular attendees The readings typically attract between 20 and 30 people – again no one comes to them all and we have a mailing list of about 150. 
Who are you and what is your role within the group?
I am one of the founder members and presently take responsibility for coordinating the sessions.
What have been some of your most popular/successful activities?
The readings have achieved a national reputation and we are lucky to have received support from many wonderful writers who attract big audiences.
What genres do the members of your group write?
Almost exclusively poetry, but occasionally short prose passages. The styles of writing are very diverse and the group is open to a wide range of styles and philosophy.
Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology?
For the first four years we produced anthologies featuring all the poets who had read for us. “First Draft”, “Re-draft”, “Over Draft” and “Final Draft”. We are considering reviving this tradition if we can find funding.
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
Several of the “regulars” are published poets and/or tutors or teachers of writing from Universities to Infant schools and many are published poets. I can only really talk about the support that I get from the group which is an incentive to write regularly, several informed, but objective critiques on my work and the huge inspiration and privilege of detailed insights into how other people write.
Where do you get your ideas/writing prompts from?
At the moment we are not doing writing exercises, but are considering a running a short series of workshops with writing activities. Because of the make-up of the group, we have run and attended many such sessions over the years, so there is no shortage of ideas. Writing prompts, in my experience usually come from places where you least expect them.
What is the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
Show don’t tell.
What is the best piece of writing advice you give?
Read widely and take risks.
Do you have guest speakers at your group?
No. at the moment we are entirely unfunded.
Does your writing group have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook?
We have a Twitter @TheAlbertPoets, and we're on Facebook.
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
By emailing me or just turning up at the pub!
Thank you very much, Stephanie.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Writer - Ruth Dugdall

I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer, Ruth Dugdall.  Enjoy.

Ruth Dugdall

Hello Ruth.  Can you please introduce yourself?
I’m Ruth Dugdall, and I’m based in Suffolk. My novels are all set in the county, in Lowestoft and Felixstowe as well as further in-land, and the setting is very important to me.
Ah, a local lady.  How long have you been writing?
I loved books as a child, and English was my favourite subject at school. I went on to study it at University. But I didn’t start to write a novel until 1998, when I got lost one Sunday and ended up in Polstead. I happened upon the story of Maria Marten and the Red Barn Murder. So many things about the case didn’t add up to me, that I began to research. And from there, a novel began to grow. 
I remember that story from drama classes at school.  What first got you interested in writing?
Writing is a wonderful way to make sense of the world, or to try to. My first novel started as a way to explain a historical murder in a way that made sense. My second novel was written during my maternity year, and explores the feelings of being a new mother… In short, what got my interested in writing was life!
And I love to read. Reading is the handmaiden of writing. There is nothing more inspiring than reading a good book! 
Do you attend a writing group?
I am a member of Scribblers in Felixstowe. I also run a smaller group, for serous novelists. Writing groups are a wonderful way to get feedback, and to learn about `what works`. They are also a chance to practice reading aloud, which is an important skill for the published writer.
What is the most valuable think you have taken away from your writing group?
To support each other. To be honest. To be constructive. 
What genre(s) do you write?
I am a crime writer. For many years I struggled with this label, as so much of what I write does not fit the typical crime genre. But I now accept that the genre is a broad church and I am on the `psychological thriller` end of the spectrum.
Are there any genres that you don't enjoy writing?
I would be unlikely to write a light, feel-good, romance.
For me, a novel has to be stimulating and thought provoking. I want to feel moved or challenged by what I read, and I can’t demand any less of what I write.  
What types of things do you write?
I am a novelist. A long-distance literary runner, if you like. But I also like to sprint and write a short story every now and again. I’ve dabbled with poetry, but not seriously.
Have you ever had anything published?
The James Version, Legend Press 
The Woman Before Me, Legend Press 
The Sacrificial Man, Legend Press 
Before having those books published, did you receive any rejections?
Rejections are a part of being a writer, so yes I have had plenty. To succeed in writing you need to be tenacious and resilient. 
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing?
Yes, my first novel was initially self-published. It’s a great option, as it allows you to test the market - and your marketing skills. It can also lead to other things; I was approached by agents after self-publishing, and The James Version is now commercially published by Legend Press. I am a great believer in authors taking control of their own destiny in this way. 
It's something I've been thinking about for a while.  I might just give it a go!  Have you ever entered any writing competitions?
Writing competitions have saved me! Literally! 
The Debut Dagger with The Woman Before Me was a massive coup, but winning the Luke Bitmead Bursary got me a publishing deal. I also won a print run of The James Version through a competition.
I’ve also `won` two mentorships (with Escalator and Apprenticeships in Fiction) and having a writing mentor is worth its weight in gold.  
Have you ever attended an open mic event for spoken word performers?
Yes, and I recommend it. Sometimes you have to do something that scares you to grow as a writer, and this would be an example of that. It is good to hear your own voice out loud, and to see a `live` reaction to your work. Earlier this year I hosted the IP-Art open mic session, and was sure to give everyone something positive to take away. It should be a good experience. 
How important is it for you to share your writing?
Writing is a private activity, but the aim of the published author is to reach an audience.  Scary though it may be, it’s vital for me to share my work, and listen to feedback, if I’m eventually going to release my novel into the public space. 
Who/what influences your writing?  Where do you get your inspiration from?
From life, situations I see, or things I hear about. It’s usually something emotional or bizarre, a story that lodges in my imagination and won’t let go.
I used to be a probation officer, so inevitably I draw on my background experiences. The protagonist in two of my novels (The Woman Before Me & The Sacrificial Man) is a probation officer, so it’s fair to say that my career is the inspiration for that! 
How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
Names are very important. I will choose a name carefully, and it always says something about the character. For example, `Rose` is a beautiful name, yet my character thinks she is ugly. Rose is also a flower with thorns.

The personalities grow, organically, as I write. My novels are driven by character, and I allow them to dictate the plot. 
Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
I will have an idea, a theme if you like, but it’s only when I have my main character that the plot begins to open up. My first draft will organic, growing as I write, without much planning. But after the first draft I will get my pens and flip chart out, and start sketching out themes and plot lines. That is when the craftwork begins. 
Do you have a writing routine?
Writing is now my day job, so once the kids are at school I sit and write. I have targets for each day, and won’t stop until I’ve met my daily goal. This, for me, is how I keep motivated.
Do you have an editing process?
Yes, I have a process that basically involves me working through the draft again and again until my agent and myself are satisfied. I’ll go on writing courses and workshops, all of which help, and my writing group keep me on track!
What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
Most: the writing. It has to be the best job in the world, to lose oneself in words and imagination. What a luxury!
Least: dealing with rejections and bad reviews. But it does come with the territory so I’ve learned to `suck it up` (as my teenage protagonist, Sam, would say).
What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever been given?
Glue your bum to the seat and write.
And what advice could you give to a new writer?
Keep going, through to the end, before you edit. Get that first draft done, then start to perfect it.
Also, don’t send it out to agents or publishers too early. They are only interested in the finished article, not a `work in progress`. (I have learned this to my cost!) 
Apart from writing, what are your other hobbies/interests?
Acting, which is a great discipline for a writer as you learn to get into another person’s head.
I also like walking, in Suffolk, on Sundays. Preferably ending up in a traditional pub! And as you can see from my earlier answer, sometimes getting lost can be a good thing. 
There are some lovely places around Suffolk to get lost in.  You may stumble across me and my dog one Sunday!  What types of things do you read?  
I generally read female authors. Right now I’m reading (and enjoying) The Casual Vacancy. My favourite crime writer is Gillian Flynn, though I read outside the crime genre and enjoy Jeanette Winterson and Margaret Attwood a great deal. 
Margaret Attwood is one of my favourite authors.  If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotations?
`Kill your darlings` is a good writing mantra.

My favourite literary line is from Doctor Zhivago. It’s spoken by Komarovsky, who gets all the best lines, “There are two types of women in the world. And you my dear, as we both well know, are certainly not the first kind.”

I love the book and film so much, I was inspired to visit Russia.

And I went to Denmark this year, so you can guess what inspired that!  
Moscow is on my list of places to visit.  What are you working on at the moment?
A novel entitled MY SISTER & OTHER LIARS. It is set in Ipswich and tells the story of Sam, a teenage girl whose older sister has been attacked and left brain damaged. As the police are closing the case, Sam is going to find the man who attacked her sister and kill him. 
Do you have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook dedicated to your writing?
I'm also on Twitter (@ruthdugdall) and I have a Ruth Dugdall Author page, which you can 'like' on Facebook.
I will certainly do that!  Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I’m always happy to visit book groups in person if they are reading one of my novels. I never take a single reader for granted, and take time to respond to messages from readers or other writers.
If you have read one of my novels and enjoyed it, a review on Amazon is very much appreciated!  
That's brilliant.  I'll have to tell my book group.  Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
This is an extract from my third novel, THE SACRIFICIAL MAN, when we meet my probation officer protagonist, Cate Austin: 
Lifting her head from the safety of her duvet cocoon Cate blinked at the white-bright bedroom, her breath drifting like smoke on the cold air. Through the window she could see snow falling, heavy floating flakes bumping against the glass and landing on the ledge. Closing her eyes she could still see the brightness, and knew how cold and clean the world would seem outside, but it was an illusion. Just a few drops of rain, a slither of sun, and the ground would be slushy with ice and grit, the mud and grime winning yet again. 
She checked the clock – it was early yet – so she snuggled back under the duvet, feeling the warm skin of her daughter’s leg. She hadn’t heard Amelia join her in the night and never really minded even though she felt obliged to make some show of telling her to stay in her own bed. But Amelia was lovely, especially asleep, when her long eyelashes brushed her pale skin, her face so peaceful and content. Cate cuddled her daughter gently, kissing her shoulder, but the girl didn’t stir. A shard of anger pricked under her skin; Tim had brought Amelia home late last night. It wasn’t fair, it left her exhausted the next day at school. But she also knew she couldn’t complain too loudly because without Sally, Tim’s girlfriend, Cate would have to find a childminder. She hated to feel gratitude to the woman who had stolen her husband, but there you have it. Life. 
© Ruth Dugdall 
Thank you very much, Ruth.

Monday, 26 November 2012

NaNoWriMo OhYes Finally

As many of you will know, I undertook the NaNoWriMo challenge this year for the first time, to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days.  It's something I'd wanted to do for years but never had the confidence to do it.  So I bit the bullet this year and sat down at my computer on 1st November in order to write my novel.  In order to complete this challenge, it's necessary to write 1,667 word per day, so that the 50,000th word will be written on 30th November.  I managed to write an average of 2,000 (ish) words per day, and I managed to hit the 50,000 word mark on Friday 23rd November.  The novel is far from finished, but I did it.  I won the challenge.  Yesterday I was rewarded with this lovely certificate.

And loads of little badges that I can post around the internet to show everyone how great I am that I completed this challenge.  I don't really know what to do with them, so I'll just post them all here and you can bow down to my greatness (!).  

Joking aside, it was something that I didn't think I could do, and then I went and did it.  I'm not going to say it was easy, because it wasn't.  During the first week, I used up all my energy and wrote until I couldn't keep my eyes open.  Then the second week came around and I found myself staring at the computer screen, not writing anything.  I tried to make sure I hit the 1,667 word count every day, just to stay on top of it.  I didn't want to let it slide and then find myself in a frantic panic in the final week.  In the third week I got my mojo back and charged over the finishing line.  I am having a bit of a rest from it now, and doing the things that I neglected to do over the past three weeks!  However, the first draft will be done before the end of the year.  I can't wait to get editing this bad boy.

The working title of my novel is Here We Find Ray, and it's a coming of age story, following the life of Ray from childhood to middle age, as his infatuation with Tina, a shop worker whom he met when he was five years old, grows into obsession.  I'm not going to give anything away, because I want everyone to buy it when it's published, but I'm pleased with how it's gone, and I can't wait to write the ending.  The ending is something I've never written before, but it was the first thing I thought of when I decided to write this novel.  I just hope it turns out how I expected it to.

Company of Writers

Welcome to my interview with Pauline Masurel from Company of Writers.


Hello Mazzy.  Can you tell us a bit about your writing group?
Our group is called Company of Writers and we meet once a month in a hotel bar in Bath on Monday evenings.  Our very first meeting was on 4th February 2008 at my flat, where we used to meet until I moved from Bath.
How many members, on average, does your group have?
We generally have about a dozen current members and typically 6-8 of these attend each meeting.  At one of our very early gatherings absolutely no one else turned I had a very jolly evening alone drinking wine, eating cheese and doing a spot of writing. 
Sounds lovely!  Who are you and what is your role within the group?
My name is Mazzy and I write under the pen name Pauline Masurel.  I started the group because I had enjoyed being a member of writing groups in the past and realised that I really missed the company of other writers.  I continue to be the main contact point and co-ordinator.  I set meeting dates, reserve a table at the venue, communicate news to members and solicit and circulate writing for feedback to the group.  I don't see myself as its leader,  more as its  main reminder-issuer.   I really should let the power go to my head a bit more and institute a series of random, despotic rules. 
That could be a creative writing task for the group there!  How are your sessions structured?
We normally  gather at 7.30 for a chat and a catch-up and then from around 8 o'clock onwards we workshop two or three pieces of writing from members of the group.  We aim to go 'round the table' on this so that everyone gets a turn to offer feedback, but we're a chatty, informal group and inevitably sometimes the conversation wanders.  But I don't think this is a bad thing, although that might be because I'm one of the main culprits.
I think that everything can be used as research/inspiration for writing, so I'm sure there have been some interesting conversations that could lead to something creative.  What types of things do you cover in your group?
Offering feedback on each others writing is our main activity.  There's also a strong social element to the group and a chance to share news about our successes and any advice and information about writing events and opportunities.  
What is the most popular aspect of your group?
You'd have to ask the members that.  For myself, it's the fact that the group really 'does what it says on the tin'.  I think that writers make great company.  I enjoy our evenings together and it's a real act of generosity when someone reads your work and offers considered, writerly feedback on how it has struck them.  Over the years I've found this hugely valuable.  I'm really pleased that the group has gone from strength to strength. 
What genres do the members of your group write?
Probably the majority of the writing we share is short fiction for adults, but the group also includes novelists, poets, playwrights and writers for children, flash fiction writers, writers for performance, those who write realist fiction and those who include elements of fantasy in their work. 
Sounds like an eclectic bunch!  Have you ever written collectively as a group, such as producing an anthology?
No, not yet.  The closest we've got so far is that three of our group were featured in the same book earlier this year, a collection of flash fiction by writers from the South West.
Are any of your members participating (or have they already participated) in NaNoWriMo [National Novel Writing Month]?
I've certainly had a go at this and a while ago we had an impromptu presentation from the organiser of a local NaNoWriMo group when he overheard us talking about writing.  It's not something that I'd try again at the moment, since I don't self-identify as a novelist, but I'm sure that group members would be keen to cheer each other on if any of us wanted to participate.
What kind of support does your writing group provide for its writers?
I hope that it provides a valuable feedback mechanism, friendship and encouragement. 
What's the best piece of writing advice you've been given?
Always make sure that you've got something else 'out there.'  That way, whenever you receive a rejection for a piece of work you can always shrug it off and be optimistic about your chances for some other submission or competition. 
What's the best piece of writing advice you give?
I stole it from Margot Fonteyn, who said, “The one important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous. ” 
Do you have guest speakers at your group?
This year, for the first time, we've invited a couple of guest writers along to meetings.  I asked a member of Thornbury Writers Circle to join us for an exchange of ideas and next month an ex-member of our own group will re-join us for a discussion about e-publishing.  Neither of these were intended to be formal 'speaking' events, simply asking someone along for a chat.  This is something we might do again in future if members of the group find it useful. 
Do the members of your group get a chance to run/lead a session or part of a session?
Not formally. No one leads our gatherings.  I tend to see it as my role to keep an eye on the time and invite someone to kick off the feedback, but the key point is that everyone gets their 'say'.  The group is eminently capable of self-organising this sort of thing in my absence and managed perfectly well when I disappeared off to New Zealand for a couple of months earlier this year. 
Does your writing group have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook?
No, we tend to keep a low badgers.  We have a listing on Diana Hayden's  Directory of Writers' Groups and get referrals from a few other places, which tends to produce at least one enquiry every month or two.
How would someone go about joining your writing group?
Well, at the moment we have a list of people already waiting for the chance to do this and so we're not actively recruiting.  In the past people have simply sent me an email and I've invited them along to the next meeting to see if the group was for them.  Writers are still welcome to drop me a line though as I can suggest contacts who run other groups in Bath, Bristol and Thornbury which might be able to accommodate new members. 
Thank you Pauline.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

My Next Big Thing Blog-Hop

My Next Big Thing - sounds dramatic, eh?  Well it kind of is.  I guess I'm Miss Popular, because I have been tagged by two writers/bloggers who have asked me to take part in this piece of internet exposure,and I am more than willing.  It's a brilliant way of advertising your books and, more importantly, yourself on this amazing internet invention.

The general concept is to answer a set of questions about your WIP (or work in progress) when you have been tagged to do so by another writer/blogger.  Once you have answered the questions, you tag five more writer/bloggers who do the same.  And so on, and so on.  It's like one of those chain mail things, but without the threat of death if you don't complete it!

First person to tag me is Louise Gibney (@MissWriteUK on Twitter), author of Girl Meets Boys, from Northamptonshire.  Have a looksee at her Next Big Thing.

Second person to tag me is Jean Dorricott, author of Ruin of the Soul, from Norwich.  Have a looksee at her Next Big Thing.

You can find out more about these two ladies via their websites.  Check them out.  You know you want to. 

So I guess I should answer some questions about my next book, I mean My Next Big Thing.


What is the working title of your next book?
Currently it's called Here We Find Ray.  I wanted to use that as a tag line throughout the book, as though the narrator was setting the scene before the scene actually started.  It was going to be a little narrative device, but I found it annoying after a while.  So I may change the title of the book, or I may change my text to include the 'here we find Ray' line, as per my original idea.  I don't know yet.  Knowing me, I'll change my mind about the title a good handful of times before settling on something (and no doubt, I still won't like it).  But for now this will do.

Where did the idea for the book come from?
I love writing from the perspective of male characters.  As a creative writer, I like to push my skill as far as possible, and by writing as a male I get to see things through alien eyes.  The general idea for the story kind of wrote itself.  I knew I wanted it to end with ..., well I don't want to spoil it.  But I had the ending written in my head first.  I wanted this ending because it's something I've never written about before and I thought it would be quite fun.  
What genre does your book fall under?
It's a sort of 'coming of age' thing crossed with a bit of a thriller, and I guess a bit of romance.  I'm not sure what shelf they'd put it on in the book shop though!
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I've often thought about my books/stories as films, but I can never think of who I'd like to play my characters.  All I know is that they're British (proper British, not Americans trying to do British - they can't), and I would want them to be unknown actors just so that they weren't associated with anything else.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of the book?
Ray loves Tina, but is his love for her purely innocent infatuation, or is it bordering on an unhealthy obsession?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Ideally, I would like all of my books to be traditionally published, but this is becoming increasingly difficult.  I recently e-published a collection of Christmas short stories, 12 Days of Krista May Rose, on Smashwords and Amazon, and it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be.  So this might be an option that I'll consider again for future books.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your masterpiece?
I'm still writing it!  Here We Find Ray is the result of the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.  Although I have written just over 50,000 words, I am nowhere near finished with the story, so it may take me a month and a half in total to finish the first draft.  Then comes the months of editing!
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
To be honest, I've not read anything like this before.  Not to say that it doesn't exist; it's just that I haven't come across it.  Most books that I read are set in a very short period of time.  However, Here We Find Ray spans from his early childhood to middle age.  If anyone knows of any books similar to mine, please let me know.  I'd love to read them.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
In the past year or so, I have read a number of books written in the male voice (Fatso by Lars RamslieSubmarine by Joe DunthorneThe Bird Room by Chris Killen), all with fairly dark undertones.  I usually write lighthearted pieces, tinged with flecks of sadness.  So this time I wanted to go for something deep and different.
What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
The main character of Ray is based, partially (not entirely), on me, so if you want to know a bit more about my childhood, you should read this book.  I won't, however, tell you which bits are fact and which bits are fiction; I'll let you work that out for yourselves!

So that's My Next Big Thing (every time I type that, I have a big, booming voice saying those words in my head, with an echo effect).  Thank you Louise and Jean for tagging me.  I hope you'll all buy a copy of Here We Find Ray (or whatever it ends up being called) when it's eventually published. 

And now it's over to you to answer these questions about Your Next Big Thing.  I am going to pass the baton on to these lovely literary fellows ...

(In my eagerness, I managed to tag six people - oops.)