Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Inspiration Behind the Story - The Beloved Sea

"You never blog about the inspiration behind your stories anymore," someone said to me recently and, when I looked back on my blog, I realised it was true. I think the reason I haven't is that on the weeks when I've had a story in a magazine, I've had other news to tell or a lovely guest has visited my blog for an interview. 

To rectify this, I'm going to talk today about the inspiration behind my story in this week's People's Friend Special, called The Beloved Sea (Yay, they didn't change the title!). 

The story was the result of a holiday in Cornwall my husband and I had last year. During our week there, we (and Bonnie of course) walked a lot of the South West Coastal Path and one walk took us to the picturesque village of Mousehole - full of windy cobbled streets and granite cottages bustling around a harbour of colourful fishing boats. Despite its loveliness, our walking book told us that there was a sad story linked to Mousehole for, over thirty five years earlier, a tragedy had befallen the village.

It was on Saturday 19th December that disaster struck. The MV Union Star had suffered engine failure and was being swept towards the rocky coastline. A distress call was put out and the Penlee lifeboat, 'Solomon Browne', was launched from the lifeboat station near Mousehole. Sadly, after four people had been rescued from the stricken ship, neither vessels survived the storm and all involved lost their lives.

Wanting to find out more, my husband and I went to visit the disused lifeboat station at Penlee Point which has been left as a memorial to the brave lifeboat crew of the Solomon Browne.

I found the story very moving, especially after finding out that, within a day of the disaster, enough people from the village had volunteered to form a new lifeboat crew.

As we walked back along the coastal path, watching the waves pound the rocks below, I decided that when I got back from my holiday, I would incorporate what I'd learnt into a story of my own. 

Using the village we'd walked around as my backdrop, I wrote a present day story looking at how a young wife coped with being married to a lifeboatman - one whose family has been touched by the tragedy of 1981. 

It was a story of bravery, family loyalty and, above all, love.

That story was The Beloved Sea.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Playing the Waiting Game

I'm playing the waiting game at the moment... and I've realised I'm not very good at it. As my husband always says, when I want something, I want it straight away.

You see, my second novel is out there. The first three chapters are with a few agents and the complete manuscript is with two more, as well as a couple of publishers (two of whom are also reading my first novel as well). I know I should chill... take up crochet... meditate. Anything to take my mind off the wait - but it's hard.

Every time the phone rings, I jump.

Every time the email pings, I jump.

Every time a Twitter message comes through, I jump.

I'd make a good kangaroo.

You'd think I'd be good at waiting - after all, I've had five years experience in waiting for magazine editors to buy or reject my short stories - but, somehow, the wait to hear about the novels is worse. 

I brought up this topic in a Facebook post last week and author, Emma Darwin, came to my rescue. She'd recently written a blog post on this very subject and thought I might like to read it. It's actually aimed at writers with agents who have sent their manuscripts out to publishers but is equally relevant for those of us waiting to hear from agents. You can read it here.

Is Your novel Out on Submission - Welcome to Hell 

On the good news front (after a bit of waiting) I have, in the last month, sold eight stories - which I'm really chuffed about. The three hundred mark is moving ever closer!

If you're interested in reading one of my stories, The Beloved Sea will be published in The People's Friend Special this week.

Back to the submissions. My favourite piece of advice from Emma is, 'Find companions in misery'. So... are any of you waiting to hear about something too?

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Her Last Lie - Guest Post Amanda Brittany

Today, I'm delighted to welcome Amanda Brittany to my blog. Amanda is a fellow magazine writer and this week her debut novel, Her Last Lie, was published by HQ Digital. What makes this story so wonderful is that all proceeds from the sales will be donated to Cancer Research in memory of her younger sister.

I hope you'll enjoy hearing more about Amanda and her writing in this interview.

You first started your writing life as a women’s magazine writer. How difficult was it to move to something longer?

Hi Wendy. Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog. I think the main difficulty for me, is keeping the faith in a novel for so much longer than you would with a short story.

Women’s magazine fiction is known for being gentle and uplifting. How difficult was it to change genre?

Although I’ve written many gentle, uplifting stories for magazines, and really enjoy writing that kind of story, I have been known to go over to the dark side when writing short stories, and really enjoy writing twisty-turny thrillers for That’s Life! Australia, and Take a Break Fiction Feast. Maybe I was destined to write a psychological thriller. I know plotting short stories in that genre helped me a lot with my novel.

What were you like at school? Would your English teacher be surprised to see that you have become a published author?

If I’m honest, I was a bit of a dreamer at school. My English teacher was actually my favourite teacher, and she always said I had a great imagination, but she would get frustrated that I never applied myself. I think she would be shocked about my book, but I like to think she would be pleased too.

How long did it take you to write your novel?

I wrote the first draft fairly quickly. In six weeks, in fact. But the rewrites and edits took me a lot longer.

I love the cover. How important do you think the cover is to a potential reader?

I’m thrilled with the cover of Her Last Lie –the designer is amazingly talented. I think covers are very important. If they are eye-catching they can really draw the reader in, and also give the reader a good idea of the kind of genre the book is. In fact, I know someone who buys books purely based on the cover – so hopefully I’ve made one sale. J

Tell us something about the main character that will make us want to read more about them.
Six years ago, Isla Johnson survived an attack by a serial killer, and I hope readers will feel for her and the potential trauma she had been through, especially as she is now convinced the killer is out of prison and stalking her. But I also think the reader will feel conflicted by Isla’s present-day behaviour towards her partner the kind and caring Jack.

Are you a pantster of do you plot?

A bit of both, I think. For novels, I have a brief outline of the main plot, and where I want to go, and then I tend to let my characters take me there. I admit, it does mean I occasionally lose my way – characters can be naughty like that – so when I feel myself heading off on a tangent, I stop and reassess my plot and where I’m heading. For short stories, I sometimes have an outline, but often I write a whole story purely based on something I’ve heard someone say.

What have you found to be the most difficult thing about writing a novel?

The hardest thing when writing a novel, in my opinion, is keeping on keeping on, and, as I said earlier, not losing faith in what you are writing. I find the hardest moment is about halfway through, when I suddenly wonder if it’s any good at all. And the other difficulty is the temptation to keep on going over and over the first few chapters until they are perfect, instead of getting the first draft down.

What next for Amanda Brittany?

I love writing short stories, and hope to write more in 2018, but I’m not sure what the future holds for novels. I guess, for now, I’m taking it one step at a time.

Amanda Brittany lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two dogs. She loves travelling, and visiting Abisko in Sweden inspired her to write 'Her Last Lie'. 

She began writing fiction nine years ago, and has since gained a BA in Literature, a Diploma in Creative Writing, and has had 200 stories and articles published in magazines globally.

When her younger sister became terminally ill, Amanda’s hope was to write a novel where her royalties went to Cancer Research. 'Her Last Lie' is that book, and all of Amanda's royalties for downloads will go to that charity. 'Her Last Lie' is her debut novel.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Writing Targets for 2018

It's that time of year again when teacakes are eaten and writing goals are set.

On Monday, writing chum, Tracy Fells, and I met up in our favourite cafe. We ordered teacakes and coffee and went back over 2017 to see whether or not we'd achieved last year's goals (you can read them here). We also set new targets for the coming year. It's the fifth year we've done this as we've found it's a great way to keep us focused in the months ahead. 

Without further ado.... here are my 2018 writing goals. Hopefully I shall:

  • Continue to submit two stories a month to magazines.

  • Submit something new to the RNA New Writers' Scheme reader for a critique in August.

  • Continue to submit to agents/publishers with a view to having my first two novels published.

As with last years goals, I've tried to make them manageable ones. Also, you never know when life's going to throw you a curve ball and you have to change your plans (I certainly wasn't expecting to lose my agent last year and have to start again along that route). 

My other (non-writing related) news is that I'm taking up a new challenge... I'm learning the violin. Yes, you heard me correctly. The violin. A while ago, I got it into my head that I'd love to learn to play this instrument. I have no idea why and neither did anyone else! 

Imagine my surprise when I opened my Christmas present from my husband and found this...

His present to himself was earplugs and now that I've tried it out I can see why! I'm determined to learn though and my final goal is to be able to play some carols on it by next Christmas. Think I will succeed?

And that's the end of my goals for this year. Do you set yearly writing targets?