Thursday 31 December 2020

Did I achieve my 2020 Writing Goals?

First of all, I'd like to wish you all a very Happy New Year. 2020 has been an odd year to say the least... many of us at some time in the last twelve months have experienced lockdowns, tiers, panic buying, cancelled holidays, not being able to see who we like when we like and shops, pubs, restaurants, cinema and theatres closing. Sadly, many will also have had to cope with illness and bereavement (mercifully, we have escaped this so far).

But there has also been a silver lining to 2020. For one, my daughter who works and lives in London, started a new job which she could do from home, gave up her tenancy and moved back with us at the beginning of March. It's not just because she's good company that it's worked so well, she's a great cook too!

As a writer, I'm lucky that my working life hasn't changed much at all. After an initial first couple of weeks when I couldn't concentrate at all, I found that with less places to go (and less breaks away) I've actually been more productive than usual rather than less. And this leads me on to the main point of this post... to see if I have achieved the year's writing goals I set in January with writing buddy, Tracy Fells.

Here are the results:

Goal: To finish psychological thriller number 4.

Achieved? Yes! Not only did I finish it but His Hidden Wife is going to be published on February 4th. If you'd like to pre-order it here is the link.

Goal: To secure another book deal.

Achieved? Yes! I was offered another two-book deal with my brilliant publisher Bookouture in October and I couldn't be happier. Book five will be published at the end of 2021 and book 6 in 2022.

... and that's it for another year. Next week, Tracy and I will be meeting for a socially distanced walk and goal set which I'll post in a couple of weeks. In the meantime... HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Sunday 8 November 2020

Cover Reveal for His Hidden Wife

Just a quick post today as I have recently had the cover reveal for my next psychological thriller, HIS HIDDEN WIFE. My fourth thriller! How did that happen? It doesn't seem any time at all since my debut was published. Time certainly works in mysterious ways when it comes to writing books.

I actually think that seeing the cover for the first time is the most exciting part of the publishing process and I've been delighted with all of them. 

Every single one.

In fact, I'm still trying to decide which one is my favourite... maybe this one (but then I say that every time a new book comes out).

I'm really lucky because I've had the same cover designer for each of my novels. She uses a different colour combo for each and makes sure the 'motif' is strong: a pair of children's shoes, a pink hair band, black and white flowers and now a set of rings. Each giving a hint of what is to come in the book.

She also always uses the same font for the title and author name. This is so that when readers see it, they will, hopefully, recognise it as part of the Wendy Clarke 'brand'. Branding was mentioned a lot when I first signed with my publisher, Bookouture, but it's only now I have four books that I can definitely see what they mean. Don't they look lovely together... not that I'm biased or anything!


His Hidden Wife will be published by Bookouture on February 4th but you can pre-order it right now (only if you want to, of course!)

Amazon       Apple       Kobo       Google

Monday 26 October 2020

Behind the Closed Doors of a Thriller Writer - Guest Post Sadie Ryan

This week, I welcome online friend and thriller writer, Sadie Ryan, to my blog. She's the author of Behind Closed Doors and When He Finds You. I've been asking her about her novels and writing process. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.

You’ve written two thrillers. Have you ever been tempted to write in a different genre?

I’m now writing crime thrillers/police procedurals. Before I was published I used to write romance and rom/com. Then I had a break of five years with my writing and when I came back to it, I kind of lost my mojo for romance. After going through a divorce, moving house five times in five years, I guess I became a little cynical about romance.  I have wondered about going back to it now, but when I do have a go they end up too dark! LOL. What does that say about me! 


Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when the idea for your latest novel came to you?

The idea for When He Finds You came two me a couple of years ago, when Steve and I were out with friends for dinner and I overheard a conversation on the table behind me.

Can you describe it in one sentence?

You never know how far you will fall until you're pushed.


Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long does it take you to write your thrillers?

I’m definitely not a plotter.  If I’m left alone and didn’t have to work, I could write them in six weeks. Once I get going it’s full on. Sadly, I have a day job so I write in the evenings and weekends, sometimes into the early hours when it’s all flowing. So they usually take me three months.


Could you describe your typical writing day?

When I get back from work after dinner and a little R&R on the sofa, I go to my office around 9.30 and start writing. That can be flowing or gridlocked. I find a little chocolate and a G&T often helps nudge it along.


I’m sure my readers would love to hear about your road to publication. Was it long and winding or did you take a short cut?

God no, not so much as winding but meandering and certainly long. Ten years or so. When I started writing it was all by post. When I think about it now it was laborious, printing out the right demands for submissions, going to the post office and handing over a small fortune only to have it thump back on the door mat weeks later with a NO. Email submissions are so much easier on us and the trees. Two years ago, Ruby fiction took me on. I must admit, I was losing the faith by then.


Do you ever struggle to find inspiration?

I do, yes. But I don’t like to force it. I know it will come. Sometimes my books start in one direction then take a very different road of which I’m powerless to change. So have to go back to the beginning and make the right amendments to make it all fit. That’s the beauty of writing on a computer. The ease with which one can flick back and forth.


What aspects of the writing process do you find easiest and hardest?

I really enjoy the editing part the best. And the endings. I find the beginning the hardest to get right. I can’t move on until I’m happy with the beginning.


What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Walking. I love walking with my dog, Willow, although she’s not as keen as I am. She’s a little lazy. I enjoy gardening and find it relaxing tending my garden. Reading and listening to books is my other thing. I’ve always got an audio book on the go, in the car, when I’m cooking or cleaning and when I’m walking. Just plug my ear pods in and off I go. I just love books. I’ve loved them since I go into The Famous Five books at school.


What next for Sadie Ryan?

Book three with Ruby will be coming out in 2021 that’s a domestic noir, with a twist on strangers on a train by Patricia Highsmith.

Sadie Ryan is an author who loves animals and lives in leafy Cheshire in the North West of England. She has completed two psychological suspense/domestic noir novels. Her debut novel, Behind Closed Doors, was snapped up by publishers and published May 2019.   

Sadie's second novel WHEN HE FINDS YOU, came out in March 2020Book 3 will be out in 2021

You can buy Sadie's books here:


Contact Sadie here:




Wednesday 21 October 2020

Sorry Everyone!

This is an apology post. For being absent. For neglecting my blog. For neglecting you.

Although it will sound like a poor excuse, I feel I need to explain...

There was a time when I would post blog content once a week without fail but that was before my writing career took an upward turn (yay!). When I was writing stories for the magazines, which I loved doing by the way, I would write a story a week and how long it took me would vary. Sometimes, if it was a short story or one where the words flowed beautifully, I might complete it in a few hours. At other times, if I was struggling with an idea, it might take me three days before I wrote THE END. Either way, I had a lot of free time to do other things... including writing regular content for this blog.

Then my first novel, What She Saw, was accepted for publication and things changed.

Don't get me wrong, I love what I'm doing now (well most of the time!) and I do still get quieter periods when I can slow down a bit and catch up with things. What's different to before is these quieter times are not at regular intervals. I'll have a precious few weeks after I've handed a completed manuscript to my editor and the same again in between the many edits needed before it's ready to be published. Most of the year, though, I'll be working towards one deadline or another, and when this happens, all I can think about is my work in progress. The carpets go unhoovered, the washing piles up and interesting meals are a distant memory (thank goodness for the freezer). When at last I get that precious break, my poor little blog is at the very bottom of the list of things I need to do.

So how come I'm writing this post now? It's because I am in that beautiful place between line and copy edits. The carpets are clean, the washing is done and tonight's meal is... actually I haven't a clue as it's not my day to cook! Anyway, it's great to be writing on here again and I hope you haven't all deserted me as I have a cracking guest visiting my blog next week and I wouldn't want you to miss them.

It's been a bit of an odd year to say the least (for everyone, not just for me) but, overall, I've been very productive. During lockdown, I managed to write book four and complete two sets of rather difficult edits. If I'm honest, I did wonder at times whether I'd ever get them finished but I did and (despite a lot of hairpulling at the time) sending them off gave me a huge sense of achievement. It's a bit like having a baby... when it's all over you forget the pain. It's seems crazy that by next February I'll have had four psychological thrillers published... how did that happen?

Before I go, I just want to say I've seen the cover for Book 4 and I love it! I'm hoping I'll be able to show you it very soon but I have to go now as I have a very pressing appointment... with the reading book I put down at the beginning of the year!

Thursday 3 September 2020

The Perfect Romance - Guest Post Mandy Baggot

It's always lovely to welcome guests onto my blog who I've met in real life as well as on social media. This week it's author Mandy Baggot's turn to take the hot seat and she'll be talking about her writing process and her new novel, A Perfect Paris Christmas which is out today!



A Perfect Paris Christmas has just been published. How hard is it to write a Christmas book when the sun is shining and the birds are singing?

It is so so hard! I find it much harder to write Christmas in the nice weather than I do to write summer books in the autumn/winter. My deadlines have moved around a little bit recently though so I have been able to write slightly more in line with the seasons!

Could you describe your novel in a sentence?

Can two broken hearts heal in Paris at Christmas time?

Have you always wanted to write in the romantic comedy genre?

I have always written some form of romance since I was a child. All my stories have been based around that first flash of a connection and how that grows and develops. Comedy is part of who I am and so that has naturally come into my romance writing. I always think life is a perfect mix of love, life and laughs and that’s what I want my stories to reflect.

Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long did it take you to write A Perfect Paris Christmas?

I am a total pantster. When I submit the premise of my book to my publisher it’s quite vague because I really don’t exactly know what’s going to happen yet. My characters really do take me on the journey and I think if I planned everything out in the finest detail I would be bored writing it. The getting to know the characters as I write is the bit that I enjoy the most.

It takes me about 3-4 months to write a book. It was a challenge writing A Perfect Paris Christmas in lockdown with children being home schooled and a husband also working from home…

Are any of your characters ever based on real people?

No. You can never truly base characters on real people. But you can take traits you notice or things that happen in real life and weave them into stories. Actually though, Bo-Bo in A Perfect Paris Christmas was based on a dog in my little Greek village…

Most of your novels are set abroad. How has that come about?

I get asked this a lot. I write two books a year at the moment. One is a summer book usually set in Greece and the other a Christmas book usually set in either London, New York or Paris. I feel really comfortable writing about Greece as I have a house there and spend as much time in Corfu as I can. I provide the foreign escape people are craving, particularly during 2020 when travel was very difficult or non-existent for most people. I like exploring abroad and readers have come to expect me to take them on a trip somewhere that either they’ve been to and love or somewhere they’d like to go one day. My love stories are almost as much about the locations as they are about the characters.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I’ve always written. I never thought I would make it a full-time job. It seemed to be an elite profession that ‘normal’ people would never be able to achieve. But now it is more accessible as a career than ever before. Starting out self-publishing definitely shaped my career in the best of ways. Success had to be achieved on my own – there was no editor, no proof-reader, just me - and I am really proud of how things have developed since those humble beginnings. Were those first books perfect? Of course not! But readers are still loving and enjoying them now. Growing on the job, thrusting my work out onto Amazon and trusting my instincts that the stories would be enjoyed has been the best thing for me. I truly appreciate every stage of publishing now.

Could you describe your typical writing day?

Every day starts with a school run and usually some exercise and then I get down to social media first. Real writing of words starts around 11am until 3pm with answering emails in between and doing the mum stuff of washing and housework too. The pick-up school run starts about 3.15pm and I don’t usually write again unless I am on a tight deadline or need to edit or answer more emails. I try and have the weekends off but that depends on deadlines or if I have a book promotion that needs shouting about. It’s a really full on job but I love it!

What is the best piece of advice would you give to an aspiring romantic fiction writer?

Always trust your own writing voice and never try to emulate anyone else. Seek inspiration be reading and reading some more but remember your own style and stick to it. Don’t be put off by negative feedback, take the positives from every criticism, because there will be positives there. Enjoy your writing, because if you’re not enjoying it then what’s the point?

What next for Mandy Baggot?

Well, I am deep into my next book (my 22nd novel!) for summer 2021. I can’t tell you what it’s called yet, but it is set in Greece…

Mandy Baggot is an international bestselling and award-winning romance writer represented by Tanera Simons of The Darley Anderson Literary, TV and Film Agency.

Mandy is best-known for her laugh-out-loud romantic comedies featuring strong heroines, gorgeous heroes and always that happy-ever-after!

The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK's Festival of Romance, her novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy's books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian.

Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, wine, cheese, Netflix, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1's Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor.

Mandy is a member of the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

Visit Mandy's website at or follow her on Twitter @mandybaggot, Instagram @mandybaggot and Facebook @mandybaggotauthor.


Buy A Perfect Paris Christmas:-

Thursday 16 July 2020

Celebrating a BIG Milestone

I have some BIG news to celebrate. I hope you don't mind me shouting it from the rooftops but it is a huge milestone in my writing career. 

So what's happened

Well, today I heard from my publisher, Bookouture, that in the year since I published my first psychological thriller, What She Saw, my three thrillers have sold a total of 100K books. Yes, you read it right, a hundred thousand... I can hardly believe it either!

When I gave up writing short stories for the magazines, it was always going to be a risk. I'd had over three hundred stories published over the course of six years and become a regular writer for The People's Friend. It was a nice little earner. Whatever I'd thought, and I really did try, I found I couldn't write stories and novels alongside each other. I didn't have the time, but also, I didn't have enough head space to allow the ever-changing cast of characters that wandered through my short stories to co-exist with the ones in my thrillers - ones whose voices were louder and more insistent. 

So many things were going through my head when I made the decision to swap to novels: What if I couldn't do it? What if no agent or publisher liked what I'd written? What if the magazines no longer wanted my stories if my novels failed and I wanted to go back?

But I wanted the challenge. I needed to prove to myself that I could do it and the only way I could do that was by taking the plunge.

My journey from short story to novel has been documented in this blog, both the ups and downs and the highs and lows... and, yes, there have been many of both! It's been both exciting and terrifying and I couldn't have done it without faith. 

I'll be honest, there have been times when I wanted to give up, such as when the agent who plucked me out of the slush pile dropped me soon after, or when I had my first mean review. There have been great times as well, though: my debut winning the Flash500 Novel Competition for example or when I signed with Bookouture only a week after sending my novel to them. In fact, every time I hold a new novel in my hands for the first time, I want to burst with joy and pride.

This news today is the icing on the cake. When I took my first tentative steps along the novel-writing road, I imagined it would only be friends and family who might want to read my offerings.That a hundred thousand people (most of them strangers) have bought my psychological thrillers is humbling.

Mind you... my mum does have a large bookcase!

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Just for the Thrill - Guest Post Ruth Heald

It's been a while since I've has a guest on my blog so I'm particularly delighted that today I'm welcoming fellow Bookouture author, Ruth Heald, to the hot seat! Ruth's latest novel, I know Your Secret, was published last week and I've been dying to ask her a few questions about her writing. Here are her replies.

Have you always wanted to write in the psychological thriller genre?

For a long time I didn’t think about genre at all and just wrote books on themes or questions I was interested in. But I’d always read and loved psychological thrillers and I wanted to write something that would find an audience and that readers would really connect with. I saw how popular psychological thrillers were and decided to write one myself!


Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when the idea for your latest novel came to you?

My latest book is based on an idea that’s been drifting around in the back on my mind for years. I’ve always been interested in power imbalances, especially between women. I Know Your Secret is about a marriage counsellor and her client. Neither woman is exactly who they say they are and they both try to manipulate each other as the stakes get higher and higher.


Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long does it take you to write your thrillers?

I aspire to be a planner, but I can’t seem to stick to my outlines! I tend to know a few key scenes and the ending before I start and these usually stay the same throughout the drafting process. But no matter how much I plan the rest of the book, it all seems to change as the story evolves. 

My thrillers take about nine months to a year to write. I usually have a couple on the go at the same time.


Could you describe your typical writing day?

There’s no typical day! I’m looking after my young children a lot of the time, so I have to fit around them. When I have childcare I write the entire time without stopping. Otherwise I write when there’s the opportunity – so during nap time and evenings and weekends.


I’m sure my readers would love to hear about your road to publication. Was it long and winding or did you take a short cut?

It feels long, but I think that’s pretty typical! The most common characteristic amongst published writers seems to be resilience. My journey began way back in 2001, when I started writing my first novel but never finished it. Eleven years later I published 27: Six Friends, One Year. Following that I wrote four more novels and started many more, but just kept them on my hard drive. After my daughter was born in 2016, I decided to take my writing more seriously and I started writing The Mother’s Mistake, and I was very pleased when Bookouture acquired it the following year.  


Do you ever struggle to find inspiration?

Not at all – there’s inspiration absolutely everywhere, in every person and everything going on around us. I don’t struggle for ideas – I couldn’t write all the books in my head if I had all the time in the world. I do struggle to stay focused on one book at a time and not be tempted to start a new book whenever a new idea comes in.


Describe a typical publication day.

There’s always a lot of social media to do to let readers know the book’s out. I also make sure I take a bit of time to celebrate with a nice lunch with family and try to do something relaxing too like going for a walk or treating myself to a Thai massage.


What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

At the moment, I spend a lot of time with my young children, going out for walks and watching them delight in the simple pleasures of life.


Which writers in your genre inspire you?

There are so many brilliant writers in my genre. Recently I’ve really enjoyed books by Lisa Jewell, Tammy Cohen and Victoria Helen Stone.


Persuade my readers to buy your book in one sentence.

I think I’ll get someone else to do it for me! Here’s a quote from a review: “Completely unpredictable and a fantastic read from start to finish!”


What next for Ruth Heald?

I have another psychological thriller in the pipeline for release in February. It’s about a doomed wedding. I’ve just finished the first draft and I’m looking forward to the edits! 

Ruth Heald is the bestselling author of psychological thrillers The Mother's Mistake, The Woman Upstairs and I Know Your Secret.

Ruth studied Economics at Oxford University and then worked in an eclectic mix of sectors from nuclear decommissioning to management consulting. She worked at the BBC for nine years before leaving to write full time. Ruth is fascinated by psychology and finding out what drives people to violence, destruction and revenge. She’s married with two children and her novels explore our greatest fears in otherwise ordinary, domestic lives.

You can connect with Ruth on Twitter @RJ_Heald, or Facebook 


Amazon links to Ruth's books: 

I Know Your Secret

The Mother's Mistake

The Woman Upstairs

Thursday 28 May 2020

My First Lockdown Publication Day!

Last week was a very exciting week for me! Why? Because on Wednesday, I celebrated the publication of my third psychological thriller, 'The Bride'. Although of course, because of lockdown, this publication day was very different to my others.

Contrary to what readers of your novels might think, most of an author's day after the book has gone 'live' isn't spent hanging around bookshops stroking your cover or sitting on the Richard and Judy couch (okay so that doesn't happen now but I still imagine it). Instead, it's spent on social media: posting the news, sharing other people's posts, re-tweeting and thanking all the lovely well-wishers who have taken the time to message you their congratulations. It's very tiring on the typing fingers and mentally challenging trying to keep up with it all as the last thing you want to do is offend anyone.

Flowers from my husband
What I've done in the past to manage my day, is allow myself time to meet up with friends at lunchtime. For the launch of What We Saw, I had a sneaky pub meal with writing buddy, Tracy Fells and for We Were Sisters, I had a beach walk with fellow Bookouture author, Liz Eeles.

I also had evening celebrations - a small one involving Prosecco with local friends for the first novel and a full-blown book launch at the local bookshop for the second. Both fabulous occasions.

There was nothing like that this year of course but I still managed to raise a glass of Prosecco to 'The Bride'. Instead of meeting in real life, my friends and I had a publication day Zoom celebration... almost as good! This was followed by another celebration with my husband and daughter.

Strangely, it was the most relaxing publication day I've had. Nothing to organise and only myself to please!

The following day, I did  something a little more out of my comfort zone. I was invited to be one of the authors at Noir at the Bar Edinburgh. Under normal circumstances, this would involve going to a real bar (I'm all for that!) and speaking to a real audience (not so happy about that!) but, with lockdown in place, it was going to be completely virtual.

I spent most of the day preparing. From the way I was behaving, you'd have thought that it was an all day event not just a ten minute slot but I hate being taken by surprise (it's why, when I was a teacher, I never liked supply teaching). Can you believe I worried about what to wear, what extract of my novel to read, what questions I might be asked and even which room in the house looked least like a hoarder live there (we've emptied my daughter's flat and her things are everywhere!).

By the time I got to speak, I could have done with a real bar, but as often is the case when you stress about things, the event was lovely. In fact, the host couldn't have been more welcoming, there were no trick questions and I didn't make a complete fool of myself thank goodness. If you like, you can watch it here.

So now all the fun and games are over and I've allowed myself to wind down a little. I've nearly completed the first draft of the next novel and am looking forward to working on it before submitting to my editor.

My fingers are crossed that come December I'll be able to have a proper launch for the next book but, in the meantime, the sun is shining, my roses are blooming and I'm feeling proud to have published three novels.

If you'd like to read The Bride, you can buy it here: Amazon

Saturday 2 May 2020

A Year as a Published Novelist!

You know when people say that time flies? Well, it really does!

I can hardly believe that just one year ago, I was celebrating the publication of my debut psychological thriller, WHAT SHE SAW. A very different day it was too as you can see if you read my publication day post.

Happy Book Birthday!

The day started with a frenzy of social media retweets, Facebook shares and thank yous but I was able to take a break at lunchtime to celebrate the launch of my novel in the pub with writing buddy, Tracy Fells. After more publicity in the afternoon, the evening was spent with my good friends and family, raising a glass of Prosecco to my new book baby.

So it's a year on and I have now been a published novelist for exactly twelve months. And what a year it's been. In that time, I've had another thriller published (We Were Sisters) and my third (The Bride) will have it's launch on May 20th. I am also nearing the end of the first draft of novel number four.

Instead of leaving the house to celebrate, the Coronavirus has meant I'm in lockdown reflecting.

So what's this year really been like? Has being a novelist changed things? 

In a word 'yes'.

As most of my regular readers know, I've been a published writer of short stories since 2012 and have had a successful career writing for the women's magazines. You wouldn't think publishing a novel would be very different, but believe me it is. And mostly it's due to this unassuming little word... deadline. What I've learnt is that writing to a deadline is a very different thing to writing when you want to. With short stories, I had my own self-imposed deadlines but if I didn't stick to them, no one cared except me. Now, if I don't meet a deadline, a whole series of things will be affected: the timing of the cover reveal, the hiring of the copy editor, the date the book is due to go on NetGalley, the studio time for the studio bookings for the audio, the paperback printing. In other words, if one thing is delayed, everything else is too. It's not just yourself you're letting down, it's your publisher and a lot of other people.

The main difference is the emotional highs and lows you get from having written a novel. If you write a story and it doesn't get accepted, you just dust yourself down and write another. The magazine's publisher will have lost nothing and you might have lost a day of so of your time. With a novel, it's very different. If your novel doesn't meet your publisher's required standard then that's many months of work and expense down the drain. You will have let not just yourself but your publisher down. If, like me, you spend your life anxious to please, that can be a big weight on your shoulders and that's something you're very aware of.

And don't get me started on reviews! If you're lucky, a magazine might pass on to you a nice comment about your story from a reader. More often than not though, you'll have absolutely no idea how it's been received and you'll never know if a reader didn't like it. With a novel you are at the mercy of reviews (NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon) and although nothing beats the feeling of getting a glowing one, a bad review can send your emotions spiralling downwards.

After three novels, I should be used to all this but I'm not. Maybe I never will be.

But, would I change anything? Sometimes when I'm struggling to think where my novel is going, if I've had some difficult edits or I've received a bad review, I wonder if I might have been happier when I was a short story writer. But then I look at my books on my shelf or in my local bookshop, read the wonderful things people have said about them and remember how proud my family and friends are of what I've achieved. 

It's then I see that everything I've talked about (the good and the bad) is just part and parcel of being a novelist. I'm proud of having written three novels and I mustn't ever forget it.

If you'd like to wish What She Saw a Happy Birthday you can buy it here

Wednesday 8 April 2020

Confessions of a Debut Author - Guest Post Nikki Smith

I met today's guest, Nikki Smith, at a lunch for psychological thriller writers in London last year. We hit it off straight away and I was happy to hear that her debut thriller, 'ALL IN HER HEAD', would be coming out this year. That time has come and I'm delighted to welcome Nikki onto Wendy's Writing Now to answer a few questions.

Here are her answers.

Describe your latest novel in one sentence.

ALL IN HER HEAD is a timely psychological suspense novel that explores the darkest corners of a mother’s mind.

I’m sure my readers would love to hear about your road to publication. Was it long and winding or did you take a short cut?

I did an English degree & wrote a novel after leaving University, but it wasn’t very good & unsurprisingly wasn’t picked up by an agent. So, I gave up trying to write a book and went on to have a career in finance – it wasn’t really what I wanted to do, but it paid the bills. I still wrote, but just things for me. Then a couple of years ago, someone I was at school with contacted me on Facebook to ask if I’d ever done anything with my writing as she still remembered the stories I used to read out in class. It was a now or never moment, and I signed up for a Curtis Brown creative writing course, which I absolutely loved, and started writing All In Her Head. I subsequently won a competition that another author, Amanda Reynolds, was running and she became my mentor. After I’d worked on the first few chapters of my novel with her for a while, I sent it off to the amazing agent Sophie Lambert who had read my cover letter on the Curtis Brown course, and who I really, really hoped would like it. She agreed to represent me, and a few months later we submitted the manuscript to publishers where Orion offered me a two-book deal.

Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long does it take you to write your thrillers?

I’m a plotter. It might be down to my background in finance but I love a spreadsheet and plan my books on one – dividing it into chapters that I colour code so I can easily see what’s going on. For me, it’s a bit like working with post-it notes, but easier not to lose! I can write a first draft quite quickly – in around 2-3 months, but it takes at least a further 6 months to edit it.

Could you describe your typical writing day?

I’m more productive in the morning, so my ideal writing day would involve dropping my children at school and then writing until about 2-3pm. If I’m on a deadline I may then write more in the evening or at the weekends. I was working full-time when I wrote All In Her Head so I had to get up very early and work late. However, from Monday, I’ll be starting home schooling with my daughters, so I have no idea what my schedule is going to look like!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing I like to read, watch films and box sets, cook and travel. I love seeing new places and meeting new people. It is one of the things that I am going to miss most over the next few months.

When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

I have always enjoyed making up stories since I was really young. Creative writing was by far my favourite lesson at school, and I loved reading anything I could get my hands on. So, from that point of view, I would say that from very young I knew I wanted to be a writer. But it was only when I got my agent, Sophie Lambert, that I realised I had a real chance of getting a book published, and when my editor, Harriet Bourton, bought my book I knew I was going to become an author.

What does your family think of your writing?

My parents were on holiday in Australia when I told them I had a book deal and I’m not sure they actually believed me! All my family have been so supportive of my writing – my two daughters are my biggest cheerleaders – I dedicated my novel to them as I couldn’t have written it without them and I am so grateful for all their encouragement.

How important is social media to an author?

I think it is becoming ever more so. For two reasons – firstly because I think we can all see that in the current situation, the power of social media comes into its own. My physical book launch event, and all other publicity events (as with everyone else who is published at the moment) have been cancelled. I’ve found that online people have been wonderful at offering support – I have joined in Facebook Live virtual book launch parties and will be attending online events and festivals. Secondly, even before this horrendous situation arose, I found the writing community to be so willing to share their advice and expertise. I have made friends online through Twitter and Instagram who I have gone on to meet in person, and have set up WhatsApp groups with other authors who are a wonderful source of daily support in what can be quite a lonely business.

What next for Nikki Smith?

I’m working on my second book which will be published in 2021 – I can’t tell you much about it, except that it’s a psychological suspense novel which involves families and secrets!

About Nikki

Nikki Smith studied English Literature at Birmingham University, before pursuing a career in finance. Following a ‘now or never’ moment, she applied for a Curtis Brown Creative course where she started writing this book. She lives near Guildford with her husband, two daughters and a cat who thinks she’s a dog. All In Her Head is her first novel.


You can discover more about Nikki on social media

Thursday 2 April 2020

Writing in Lockdown - The New Normal

This is a very strange post to write because we are all, writers and readers alike, in a very strange, unprecedented situation.

social distancing

A few months ago, I'd never even heard of these things and if you'd told me they would soon be part of my everyday vocabulary, and affect every aspect of my life, I wouldn't have believed you.

So, how has this odd and scary situation affected me in general and as a writer in particular?

I thought I'd start with the not so good things and then finish with the good things (the best way I'm sure).

Not so good things

  • Even before we were required to stay in our homes as much as possible, I had anxiety issues about large social gatherings and travel in particular. My safe place was my home. I'm afraid that when this is all over, my brain will be whispering see you were right and my issues might get worse.

  • Despite what I've written above, I love going out and meeting people as long as it's in small groups or individually... and as long as it doesn't involve travelling long distances. I like to do this in measured doses though as too much socialising cuts into my writing time and I do like my own company and space. Because we can no longer go to cafes, WhatsApp, social media and video conferencing apps such as Zoom have come into their own. BUT... there are so many WhatsApp groups being formed, so many group chat requests, so many messages, so many phone calls. Frankly, it's overwhelming but, if I don't join in, I feel like I'll be judged or will be missing out on something.

  • Anxiety in the first week (before the full-lockdown) meant I wasn't able to concentrate on writing, so little was done.

  • I'm a full-time writer. I write on my own at home with my dog. I have my own space and time to organise things as I want. Now, I have both my husband and my adult daughter at home which requires a different way of working and thinking. Every day feels like a weekend. Thankfully, at the end of week one, we've found ourselves a routine of sorts and it doesn't seem to have affected my productivity (more of this in the 'good' things section).

  • My eldest daughter is a key worker in the prison service which is a constant worry.

  • I miss going to cafes. I miss visiting National Trust Gardens. I miss my ballroom dancing. I'm desperately sad I won't be visiting the Highlands and Skye for the first time in May. I miss seeing my friends and the members of my family who don't live with me. 

Good things

  • At the moment we are all well.

  • We live in a small town in the country so we have walks from our doorstop (river and downland). It would be nice to go further afield but I know we're very lucky.

  • As I said earlier, my husband is now working from home and I have my youngest adult daughter living with us. Despite my worries about how it would affect my working day, now that we're all used to rubbing along with each other, it actually makes the day more varied. There's always someone to chat to when I need a break and people to share the dog walk with. As long as I get my daily word count done at some time in the day, there are now other interesting things to do and share with my family.

  • I am still able to have my monthly teacakes and goal setting with writing pal Tracy. We've been having monthly meet-ups for the last eight years and a bit of social distancing isn't going to stop us!

  • Despite all of the clubs and activities I belong to closing (I do ballroom and Latin dancing, badminton, choir, Pilates and Fitsteps) my daughter and I have discovered a wealth of material online to help us stay fit. We've tried Pilates, yoga and have started Jo Wicks' morning workout (that was certainly a killer the day after).

  • As a family, we've rediscovered activities we used to play when the children were younger: boules, swingball and indoor darts. And have realised you don't need children to still enjoy them.

  • My daughter and I have also been learning new skills. She's learning German and we're both learning to play the ukulele. It's a really easy instrument to learn and we now have a repertoire of around ten songs which don't sound too bad, if I do say so myself.

It's and odd situation to be in but we're making the best of it.  

I'd like to finish this post by wishing all my readers the very best in these difficult times and hope you stay well and happy.