Sunday, 13 August 2017

Not Giving Up


This week, I gave up on two things.

The first was a book:

When I was younger, I would plough through a book to the end, regardless of how badly written/boring/annoying it was, just because I felt I ought to finish it. I'm not sure why I thought this. Maybe it was because I'm from a generation that was taught to eat up all their dinner because there were starving people in the world (I never understood that one) or finish the egg and spoon race even when there was no longer an egg in your spoon.This week, I had no qualms in giving up on a book that had many high-scoring reviews but which, to me, had narrative that was amateurish and a formulaic plot. I have too many books waiting to be read to waste time on those that aren't entertaining me so I gave myself permission to leave it and start a new one.

The second was a future concert:

Earlier this year, I was encouraged by some members of my choir to join them at the Royal Albert Hall in November to sing The Messiah. I was in two minds (not really knowing the piece and not being very good at reading music) but agreed to give it a go. For three months, we've been practising and last week I gave it up. Why? Because it's hard and to sing it well would need more time commitment than I am able (or willing) to give. The main reason though is that I was just not enjoying it. I know I'm probably in the minority here, but I found the music and words all rather depressing. His 'yolk' might have been 'heavy' and his 'burden light' but my burden was massively lightened when I gave myself permission to give the concert up. Luckily, someone has taken my place. Someone who I know will get a lot more pleasure from it than I would.

But, in a week where I've given up two things, there's been something I haven't given up on (even when the going's got tough) and this has allowed me to say these magic words:


I'VE FINISHED MY SECOND NOVEL

Yes indeed - novel two has left the building and is with my agent. It's also been sent to the RNA New Writers' Scheme for a critique. Yay!

I could easily have given up after my agent suggested that novel number one (which I still love) be put aside so that I could work on a different project. I could have given up when new ideas wouldn't form. I could have given up when I got to twenty thousand words and stalled. I could have given up when I was nearing the end and thought 'I've been here before'... but I didn't.

Why? Because this is something that's important to me. Because I knew I had it in me to do it. Because, as I wrote the book, I fell in love with it and you don't give up on something you love unless there's a mighty big reason, do you?

I was going to try and find some inspirational quote to end this post but gave up (ha ha). Instead, I'll just say this:

If it's not right, if it doesn't give you enjoyment, if it won't alter your life unbearably if you give something up, then give yourself permission to do so. But, some things are worth pushing on with and fighting through the hard times for. If you love them enough, you'll know which ones they are.




Tuesday, 1 August 2017

5 Top Tips for Editing Your Novel - Guest Post Alison May


I'm a big fan of Alison May. Why? Well, firstly, because she tells me it's OK to be a pantster (she's one too). Secondly, she gave the RNA Writing Conference 2017 a great lift with her humorous and informative talks. Mostly, though, it's because (despite her soft spot for aliens and her penchant for writing 'this is where stuff happens' in a synopsis) Alison clearly knows what she's talking about. So much so that after hearing her talk about editing in one of her conference sessions, I nabbed her and asked if she'd like to write a post for me on this same subject.

Luckily for us all, she said yes. So over to you, Alison.



Five Top Tips for Editing Your Own Novel


Editing your own novel is hard. It’s really hard. It can be really difficult to know where to start, and even more difficult to know when to stop. Editing is vital though. So often writing a first draft is a journey towards having something terrible. Editing, on the other hand, is a journey towards having something good or even – fingers crossed - great.

So having ridden my story-writing pony through the rocky outcrops of the self-edit a fair few times now, here are my top tips…


1. Editing is fun

Honestly it is. At least it can be, and if you try to view it as something fun and empowering rather than a trial that has to be survived, the process will go more easily. I think of it like this - you’re basically god of your own tiny universe, but unlike actual God if it turns out the world you’ve made isn’t that great, you get to change it around and fiddle with it until it’s all perfect and lovely.
So don’t feel overwhelmed by the challenge of revising your manuscript – try to feel empowered. You can do this. You can totally do this.


2. You’re allowed to hate your own book

In fact I pretty much insist upon it. If you never reach the point of utter despair and absolute certainty that the whole story is a steaming pile of poo then you’re probably not being sufficiently self-critical. As a writer, you need to be your own toughest critic AND your own biggest fan, sometimes simultaneously, which can be a little bit challenging.  But you do need to look your own book squarely in the eye and be honest with yourself about what doesn’t work. Focussing on the negatives will make you hate the book. Don’t panic – it’s temporary, I promise.


3. Always know what stage you’re up to

Editing is not just one process. It’s at least three processes, and one of the most common mistakes I see from newer writers is the tendency to jump past the bit where you make the actual story work, and onto proofreading.
I break self-editing down like this:

Stage 1 – Major Revisions
This is where you look to see if the actual story works. Are your characters consistent? Are there gaping plot holes? Does your timeline make sense? If you’re anything like me the answer to that last one is invariably no. My first drafts are replete with two month and two year pregnancies, but editing can fix that. So stage 1 is where you tackle the actual bones of the story and character arcs.

Stage 2 – Line by line
Now the story hangs together we can look at the prose itself. Is every sentence as punchy or as elegant as you can make it? Does your dialogue have the believable rhythm of speech? This might also be when you fact check any outstanding little details. Could your heroine really have travelled from Edinburgh to Bath in a day in 1901? What is the legal driving age in Mauritius? I have no idea, and you probably don’t either - this is your last chance to check.

Stage 3 – Proofreading
This is spelling, punctuation, and grammar time. It’s also time to check that you’ve been consistent with any disputed spellings eg. OK, Okay or Ok, and to check things like chapter numbering that might have been messed up if you moved things around during Stage 1.

Know which stage you’re at as you’re editing and resist the urge to jump ahead.


4. Don’t cut corners

Because editing is not just one process, that means it takes time. Don’t be tempted to submit your work (or publish your work) before it’s ready. Allow yourself enough time to edit and revise. If, like me, you’re somebody who writes without much of a plan, it’s quite likely that you’ll need longer to revise and polish the manuscript than you did to write a first draft. That’s fine so long as you allow yourself the time you need.


5. Know when to stop

This is the flip side of number 4. It can be very tempting to keep tweaking forever, and you could easily do that. No book is ever really finished – I never read my books after they’ve been published because I know the editing pen would want to come out again. Ultimately though you reach a point where you have to stop. Knowing what stage you’re at helps with that. When you’ve finished your proofread (the final stage) you’re done. Time to press ‘Send.’

Good luck and happy editing!



About Alison

Alison is an author, creative writing tutor and freelance editor. She has published five romantic comedies and numerous short stories https://alison-may.co.uk/books/ Her next full-length novel, All That Was Lost, will be released with Legend Press in 2018.

Alison is the current Vice-Chair of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. She is also a qualified teacher with a degree in Creative Writing. She runs novel-writing workshops and offers individual tutoring and manuscript appraisals. Her next scheduled courses are in Birmingham in November 2017, looking at Dialogue and Synopsis Writing: https://alison-may.co.uk/for-writers/workshops-and-courses/

You can find out more about Alison at www.alison-may.co.uk, on Facebook www.facebook.com/AlisonMayAuthor/ or on Twitter @MsAlisonMay


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Confessions of an RNA Conference Newbie - Guest Post Susan Griffin



What's it like to be a first timer at an RNA Conference? I thought I'd ask this question to friend and fellow writer, Susan Griffin. who attended this year's conference at Harper Adams University. Susan is a member of the RNA New Writers' Scheme.



This was your first RNA conference, Sue. What made you decide to go?

I was keen to meet other Facebook writers and to get to know more about the publishing industry and how it works.


You’ve been back from the conference a week now. Looking back, what was the highlight of your weekend?

The highlight of the conference was my two one-to-one pitches which I found really helpful.


Tell me a little about how it felt to be a ‘first timer’ and what was done to make you to feel welcome?

I immediately felt part of the whole conference experience despite being a first timer as soon as I arrived. Everyone was very helpful and friendly and there was a welcome drinks get together, in the lovely Kate Thomson’s kitchen. This helped me to connect with other first timers and break the ice.


A big part of the RNA conference is the one-to-one sessions with industry professionals. I know you took advantage of a couple of these. How did you prepare for them?

I prepared by writing notes on the novel I was pitching to the agents. This included key things about the novel I was likely to get asked, and anything I felt they needed to know about me. I also noted down a couple of questions I wanted to ask them.


I’m guessing you were nervous before your sessions. Do you have any hints for first timers on how to remain calm?

I did feel nervous about my one-to-ones and felt the best way to overcome this was to be well prepared.


The talks and workshops were many and various. If you could pick out two that were particularly helpful to you, which would they be?

The two workshops I found most helpful were: Playing with Time in Romantic Fiction, by Pia Fenton and Anna Belfrage, and Building Characters from the inside out, by Fiona Harper.


You’ve told us about the business side of things, what about the social aspect? As a first timer, was it daunting being with so many other writers?

It was good to meet with other writers I’ve only communicated with before through Facebook or Twitter. I enjoyed chatting to them and hearing about their publishing experiences.


Any tips on what to take with you?

Coffee and tea are provided so I took milk, snacks and my favourite tipple of Gin & Tonic (essential). Other than that, comfortable clothes and a dress for the Gala dinner is all you need.


Did this year’s conference, make you want to go to another?

Yes it did and I fully intend to go to the conference again next year in Leeds.


What is the main thing you’ve taken back from the RNA conference 2017?

A better idea of the way the publishing industry works and some very valuable feedback from the literary agent Felicity Trew.


Any tips for first timers thinking of going to the 2018 conference in Leeds?

Don’t feel worried about attending the conference, even if you’re thinking of going on your own. There is so much you can learn and experience while there, you’ll come away full of enthusiasm for your writing and with added knowledge about the whole industry.


Contact Susan:

Twitter @suegriffinwriter



Susan's novel, Bird in a Gilded Cage can be bought at Amazon

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

RNA Conference 2017 - and how I survived the door of doom.


Why the big smile? Well, it could have been because I had just arrived at the Romantic Novelist Association (RNA) Conference (at Harper Adams University in Telford) or that I'd just found out that the other writers in my university accommodation didn't drink Prosecco - only gin and tonic. You decide which.

Actually, I don't want to give you the wrong impression from this photograph. The weekend was more than just kitchen parties and bubbly. It was about attending talks and workshops to improve your writing and about meeting like-minded people. I went along with three of my writing friends, Liz Eeles, Sue Griffin and Merryn Allingham and we had a great time. Here we all are, complete with the obligatory name badges.



I could tell stories of trying to open the door to our flat by swiping the small plastic key fob against random articles instead of using the key, trying to grasp the mechanics of a second automatic door (nicknamed the door of doom) which kept shutting two of our party out into a darkened lobby and the underhand tactics we used to ensure we got a table at breakfast... but I'd better not.

Now, enough of the shenanigans and onto the serious stuff. The weekend consisted of a series of talks and workshops. Among others, there were sessions on writing dialogue, creating believable characters, using social media, timeslips and time travel, and how to not panic when you receive your novel revisions from the editor. There was even one on how to write unforgettable sex scenes (no, I didn't go to that one). 

It would take too long to list all the wonderful conference sessions so I'll just tell you about my favourite. It was a talk by Alison May and Bella Osborne called Plotter Vs Pantster and what a delightful double act they were! Strangely, I'd always considered myself to be a pantster, as my short stories have no plan, but after answering a few simple questions, I realised that, when it comes to my novel, I'm not. I came out as a rather smug 'inbetweener' veering slightly towards the plotter end of the scale. Surprised? I certainly was. Here's a picture of Alison in full flow.



I've been to an RNA conference once before (two years ago) and took advantage of the one-to-one sessions with an industry professional. This time, I attended the conference in the rather nice position of already having an agent and so was able to just relax and enjoy the talks without the worry of having to pitch anything.

The best thing for me, this year, was meeting writing friends I've made via social media in 'real life' and finding them just as lovely as I'd imagined them to be. Susanna Bavin, Kirsten Hesketh, Elaina James and Ellie Henshaw come to mind.  I also met two fellow People's Friend writers, Kate Blackadder and Ann Peck. It was so nice to be able to chat with other's who were part of the Friend family.

Speaking of which, I'm rather chuffed to have two stories in the last issue of The People's Friend. Here they are. 



Not only that, but before I went away, I received an email from a People's Friend reader who wanted to let me know how much she enjoyed my stories.. isn't that just lovely. Overall, a very good weekend.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

London... Really?


Have I ever mentioned that I am a bit of a country bumpkin? No? Well I am. If I haven't seen green fields or a cow for a while then I start to stress (actually I start to stress when I DO see a cow - but that's another story).

For the last thirty years, I've lived in a beautiful little town where I only have to walk down a road, and over a stile, to reach the river. The other direction takes me to the South Downs. Utter bliss. The only problem is... the longer I live here, the harder it becomes to spend a day in a city. A whole day without longing to be back in a place where there are no crowds, no back-to-back buses, no busy roads and no noise.

Is it because I'm getting older? Maybe.

So why, after explaining all this, was I up in London twice last week. Yes, TWICE! Well, the reason is, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and confront something you dislike in order to do something lovely. If I only stayed in my little town and never got on a plane, or a boat, or a train (don't get me started on my travel anxiety or we'll be here all day!) I'd have no new experiences and nothing to write stories about. Ultimately, I'd be missing out.



This is my daughter. You'll have met her in my previous post about Bath which you can read here. We do lovely things together and on Tuesday we did another as, for my birthday, she had paid for us to have an afternoon tea bus tour of London (yes - bus and London all in one breath but my daughter knows I love food so was unlikely to refuse her gift). She was right.

Wanting to make full use of our day, I caught the train in the morning, anticipating, as I always do, all the things that could go wrong before, during and after my journey. I can tell you, It's very tiring being me!

Happily, no disasters occurred and I arrived safely at Victoria Station to be met by my daughter. First stop was No.11 Pimlico road - a contemporary bar and restaurant - for a mezze lunch. We couldn't fault it and were only worried that we might not have room for our afternoon tea at 5pm (My agent's office is near here so I shall have to remember this lovely place for next time I'm in the area).

So far so good. Next on the agenda was the river bus to London Bridge Pier - gorgeous on a sunny day. The plan was for my daughter to give me a tour of The City of London, where she works, as I've never been to this part of the city before.

First, we bought a drink and sat on a bench in the beautiful garden in the ruins of  St Dunstan in the East. This little gem is in the heart of the city and is a must if you're in the area. The photo at the top of the blog post shows the garden through one of the empty windows (I love the contrast with the modern building in the background).


After that, we walked through the Victorian arches of Leadenhall Market to the Gherkin...




 ...and then on to the incredible Lloyds of London Building. All the electrical conduits and water pipes are on the outside, giving it the nickname 'inside out building'. It was like being on a sci-fi set. 




This building was amazing too - with all its coloured lifts on the outside. I have no idea what it is. Maybe someone could tell me.

Gone were the tourists, gone were the foreign students on their day visits. This was the habitat of the young office workers: the financiers in their slim blue suits. The advertising executives in their pencil skirts. I was the country cousin again, loving the spectacle but glad to be just a spectator.

In stark contrast to what we'd seen before, our next stop St Bartholomew the Great was a very big step back in time. Founded in 1123, it is the oldest church in London and has been used many times on TV and in films. If you look at the photo, you can see why.

It was at this point we looked at our watches and realised we were not going to have enough time to walk back along the South Bank as we'd planned. 

Instead, we hurried along the North Bank before it became obvious we'd never get back to Victoria in time to catch our afternoon tea bus. What were we to do? There was nothing for it - it would have to be the tube. The mere though sent me into a cold sweat but we had no alternative. Gritting my teeth and trying not to panic, we traveled the four stops to Victoria. Luckily, it wasn't crowded, hot or too deep underground. I survived. I can say no more.

Thankfully, we made it in time to get to Victoria Coach Station where our tea bus was waiting. We had the executive seat at the front on the top deck and the whole experience was wonderful. The tour is run by B Bakery and I have to say the food was delicious. What an experience!


Of course, if I'd stayed at home (as my country girl voice was telling me to do in the days leading up to this) I would have missed out on so much. It was a fabulous day.

So what of the second trip? Well, that was to see the spectacular 42nd Street at The Theatre Royal in Drury Lane with my mother and sister. Little did we know when we booked that it would coincide with London Pride Day... now that's another story!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Finding Mr Darcy in Bath


This post is for those of you who love beautiful places. It's not about writing but it is about inspiration. the weekend before last, my daughter and I had a weekend in the city of Bath. It's not the first time I've been but it was my daughter's first visit and I was keen to show her everything this amazing city had to offer.

The last time I was here was with a group of my girlfriends. Unfortunately, I had flu while we were there and can only remember wanting to be in bed... the rest was a bit of a blur. Trying not to spoil a visit for others is hard when you're running a temperature and ache all over. What I did get from that visit, though, was inspiration for a story. It was a contemporary story about a mother who took her daughter to Bath to find a husband but came back with one of her own. I sold it to Take a Break Fiction feast in 2013.

My husband remembers that story so was a little concerned when I told him my daughter and I would be going to Bath to 'find Mr Darcy' and that I was determined to enjoy my visit this time.

We stayed in Bathampton at the Tasburgh Hotel - a boutique hotel set high on a hill overlooking Bath. This view  was taken from my bedroom window. We could have easily just spent the weekend in the lovely gardens but we had places to visit and husbands to find.

A twenty five minute walk, along the Kennet and Avon canal, took us into the centre of Bath. After collecting our pre-booked tickets from the tourist office, we began our adventure. First, was an orientation tour of the city on the hop-on-hop-off open top bus. We stayed on for the whole circuit and found the commentary interesting. We then retraced the route but this time on foot, stopping at The Circus and No 1 Royal Crescent to see how the other half lived in Jane Austen times.


We walked back via the Assemble Rooms and popped into the fashion museum. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it but it was fascinating. How did people have such tiny feet!

By now it was very hot and we found this tiny square, shaded by trees. There was a little market there and lots of interesting eating places and shops. The perfect place to cool down after our sticky walk.

We finished our day with a meal in a Moroccan restaurant. It was delicious meal but might have been better if the waiter hadn't tipped my daughter's mussel shells into my lap as he was clearing the table!

The following day was just as hot. After breakfast, under a sunshade on the terrace, we made our way to the Roman Baths. At this time of the morning, there were no queues and we walked straight in. This has to be the highlight of our visit. It's the third time I've been there but I never tire of it.


Our weekend finished with afternoon tea in The Pump Rooms, complete with piano player, then a boat trip along the river to Bathampton. My friends were amused that I went to the city with a tick list of everything I wanted to do and see but I'm glad I did. It all went like clockwork and I'm happy that even if I didn't find her a husband, my daughter had a weekend to remember in a beautiful city.


My husband tells me he has never been to Bath so I feel another trip coming on. Of course, I won't need to find my Mr Darcy - I already have him.

And, hopefully, there will be another magazine story in it for me... I don't want to break with tradition now do I. 


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Interview with Commonwealth Prize Regional Winner - Tracy Fells


Today, I welcome back to my blog my good writing friend, and competition queen, Tracy Fells. The reason I've brought her back is because she's just had a momentous win - regional finalist of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize no less! It's an occasion that cannot be left unmarked so I thought you might like to hear more about her winning entry and Tracy's route to competition success.

First of all, congratulations on being regional winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Can you tell us a little more about the competition?

Thank you, Wendy! The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is run annually and is FREE to enter so it really is worth entering. However, you can only enter if you can demonstrate you are a national of one of the Commonwealth countries (if you get shortlisted you do have to provide proof!). From the shortlist five regional winners are chosen and I was lucky enough to win for Canada & Europe region. The five winning stories are published – this year they are on Granta magazine’s website – and then an overall winner is chosen (£5,000 is the prize). The competition usually opens in September and closes early November – more details here: http://www.commonwealthwriters.org/

You’ve been writing (and winning) competitions for a while now. Was this your first attempt at this prize?

No, not at all. In fact this is the second year I’ve reached the shortlist (first back in 2014), so I was amazed to hear another story had done it again. Looking at my competition spreadsheet (yes, I’m that anal) I can see that this year was the sixth time I’ve entered, proving that persistence pays off!

Your story The Naming of Moths is a worthy winner (I should know as I’ve read it) how would you describe it?

Hmm, I know you would describe it as a typical Tracy Fells’ story, as it has a distinctive thread of magical realism. Its origins come from an ancient folk legend but I would describe it as a contemporary fairy tale and love story.

What gave you your inspiration for the story?

Get yourself a cup of tea as this make take some time … September 2013 I was holidaying with hubby in Swanage (south coast of England). On a blustery and wet coastal walk we took shelter in a cliff-side castle’s café. The walls of that café were covered in glass panels – etched into the glass were the names of hundreds and hundreds of moths. I now wish I’d taken a photo at the time. The names were incredibly varied, lyrical and many of them were beautiful and not scientific at all. This gave me the title of a short story: The Naming of Moths. Unfortunately, the rest of the story refused to emerge even though I knew it would focus on moths and their names. Fast forward to early January 2016 and I was itching to write a story bringing in Hebrew folk history. Some inspiration came from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and ‘Feet of Clay’ in particular. Other research came from watching episodes of Supernatural and The X-Files. Then I can’t really remember but suddenly the full story sort of appeared in my head and I was ready to write it. I wish I could share the process (so I could replicate it myself!) but I trust to my subconscious to join the dots together.

If interested there’s a video of me talking about the story up on the Commonwealth Writers website here: http://www.commonwealthwriters.org/cssp-2017/

How long did it take you to write?

Again, I have a spreadsheet to check as I record daily any word count and what I was working on. Therefore, I can tell you the first draft was written over two days: 30 – 31 March 2016. It was reviewed by my workshop group, then further edits and proofread by hubby. Though I confess this was a story that wrote itself (when I actually sat down to it) and took little editing time to clean up. Some stories – often the really successful ones – are like that.

Are you a planner or a pantster when it comes to your competition stories?

This is easy! I am a planner and proud of it. I plan everything I write and can’t even begin to start the writing process until the arc of the story is complete in my head.

It’s rude, I know, to discuss money but…. let’s discuss money! The Commonwealth Prize is a serious win – mind spilling the beans?

Okay, just because it’s you, Wendy. I’ve won £2,500, which is the biggest prize I’ve won to date. As mentioned above the overall winner receives £5,000, which is still to be announced.

The presentation is going to be held somewhere very exciting. Can you tell us about it?

All the regional winners are being flown to Singapore for the prize giving event on 30 June (to be held in The Arts House, which looks beautiful). We’re staying on for a weekend of writing Masterclasses with Jacob Ross, one of the judges. To be honest this trip feels like winning another prize!

What are you most looking forward to on your visit?

Meeting the other regional winners and just experiencing Singapore. I’ve never visited Singapore or this part of the world so just hoping to soak it all up and not wilt in the heat …

What next for Tracy Fells. More competitions or a larger project perhaps?

As a short story writer I will continue entering competitions as these are one of the best ways to get your work noticed. I’ve just finished a new story which I’m hoping to enter into the Brighton Short Story Prize. I will be writing more short stories and flash, because how could I stop! And I’m excited about a new project, a novel which I hope to begin after the summer. It will have magical realism and all the elements that signal a Tracy Fells’ story! Right now I’m in that thinking phase for the novel, so not ready to start writing …

You can read Tracy's winning story here


If you want to find out more about Tracy’s writing then she shares a blog with The Literary Pig http://tracyfells.blogspot.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @theliterarypig.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Annie's Lovely Choir by the Sea - Guest Post Liz Eeles


I've said before how delighted I am to invite writing friends onto my blog to celebrate their successes and today is no exception. Author Liz Eeles lives very close to me on the South Coast and and we met through the RNA New Writers' Scheme. Last month Liz's debut romantic comedy, Annie's Lovely Choir by the Sea, was published by Bookouture and I thought it would be nice to find out more about Liz, her writing and her road to publication.


We’re in a lift. Sell me your novel before we reach the ground floor.

Romantic comedy Annie’s Lovely Choir by the Sea is Long Lost Family meets Poldark with a touch of Gareth Malone thrown in. City girl Annie struggles to adapt to life in a Cornish village with the great-aunt she’s only just met. Salt Bay is wet, windy and practically Wi-Fi-free and Annie is determined to escape – but then she learns of a local tragedy and resurrects the village choir in a bid to bring the community together.

Annie’s Lovely Choir by the Sea is set in Cornwall. Why this county?

I love Cornwall and it was the ideal location for Londoner Annie who feels like a fish out of water but gradually falls for the place and its people. I’m particularly fond of the Penzance area so that’s where I set the fictional village of Salt Bay. This necessitated a week-long holiday in Cornwall – for research purposes, obviously.

Do you base any of your characters on real people?

No, they’re all made-up though, in my head, handsome Cornish teacher Josh looks like a cross between Aidan Turner and Richard Armitage. A couple of people have said that Annie sometimes reminds them of me, which I’m taking as a compliment even though she’s rather sweary and has commitment issues.

How long did it take you to write the novel?

Not as long as my first novel, thank goodness, which took AGES because I kept faffing about with it. That book is now shut away in a drawer where it belongs. I was far more focused when it came to writing Annie’s Lovely Choir by the Sea and, in all, it took about a year from starting the first draft to having a completed version of the book that was published last month. 

Are you a pantster or do you plot?

Plot, definitely. Without a fairly tight framework, I write myself into a corner and end up banging my head on the desk. Having said that, there’s enough flexibility in my plot for storylines to develop unexpectedly as I write and sometimes head off at tangents. So maybe there’s a tad of pantsing mixed up in there.

Do you have a special time for writing? How is your day structured?

I probably should have a special time for writing each day but I’m horribly unstructured. My plan is to write in the morning but life gets in the way and I sometimes find myself notching up my word count at midnight. The only time I’m properly focused is when I’m on a tight deadline – then, I write all day until my eyes go blurry.

What did you find most difficult when writing your novel?

The most difficult thing was letting the novel go at the end, when it was written, edited and ready to be published. I always think it can be improved so doing a final read-through, accepting it was finished, and stepping back was painful. Even though I’m proud of the book and how well it’s doing, I can’t bear to read it now it’s published.

I know that you are in a choir yourself.  Can you tell me a little about it?

I’ve loved singing since joining my school choir and singing in Gloucester Cathedral – I went to an all-girls school and we got to sing with a local boys’ school which might explain my initial enthusiasm. Now I belong to a choir in my home town near Brighton and we sing everything from Mozart to Les Miserables. Choirs can bring communities together, as well as being great fun, and I wanted to get that across in my novel.

You secured a publishing deal with Bookouture without having an agent -  do you think that the role of a literary agent is as important as it once was?

As a debut author, I don’t feel I can answer that with any authority. All I know is that I’m doing ok without an agent, though I wouldn’t rule out trying to nab one in the future.

What next for Liz Eeles?

I’m very happy with Bookouture and have signed with them to write three books in the Salt Bay series. Right now, I’m working on a Christmas sequel to Annie’s Lovely Choir by the Sea which is due for publication around October time, with book three out next Spring. After that, who knows? Lots more books, I hope.




You can buy Annie's Lovely Choir by the sea here

You can follow Liz on Facebook here

or on Twitter here: @lizeelesauthor

Liz began her writing career as a journalist for newspapers and magazines before moving into the health sector as a communications manager and press officer. The low point of her career was abandoning an interview with Cliff Richard after two questions because she was about to faint – her excuse is that she was newly pregnant at the time.

Liz is from Gloucestershire but now lives by the sea in West Sussex with her husband and grown-up daughter. She spends a lot of time meaning to meditate, avoiding exercise, and missing her son who lives in London.


Monday, 5 June 2017

Like buses...


I was thinking the other day how good news in our writing world comes like buses. One day, there is no bus in sight (and you begin to imagine you'll be standing at that stop waiting for forever) and then the next minute two of more come along.

I had that feeling recently. I'd been working on my novel and had been subbing less magazine stories than usual during the previous months. Because of this, I hadn't had a sale for a while and my stories hadn't been appearing so frequently in the magazines. It was only to be expected but it made me sad nonetheless.

Had my stop become obsolete?

Were the buses favouring the stop round the corner with the new bus shelter and the shiny stop sign?

Then... just like those buses... good news came around the corner and pulled up at my bus stop. The driver waved two story sales at me and, just as I was preparing to leave that bus stop the following day, he waved two more!

"Oh, and you have two stories out this week," he said before pulling away.

And I did!

Yippee!

I'll try not to complain about having to wait for a bus again.

My story, 'On the Shore' and 'The Gift of Hope' can be found in this week's The People's Friend and The People's Friend Special.