Tag Archives: character

Review: ‘Six Stories’ by Matt Wesolowski

If you haven’t already read Six Stories, I recommend that you rush to your nearest bookshop and purchase it now. And then read it. Most likely in one sitting.

Six Storiespublished by Orenda Books, is the book everyone is talking about and I, for one, would be happy to wax lyrical about it until… well, the end of this blog post but you know what I mean. In fact, I loved this book so much that if you meet me face-to-face, you will undoubtedly hear me refer to this book at least once during our conversation. I appeared at Pure Fiction on Thursday night and mentioned Six Stories during the Q&A. I did also mention other books too, obviously.

Anyway, Six Stories is a real stroke of genius. Following on from the success of podcasts like SerialSix Stories revisits a mysterious death that occurred on the fictional Scarclaw Fell in 1997. The official verdict was death by misadventure but, twenty years on, the podcast aims to reexamine the circumstances and relationships surrounding teenager Tom Jeffries’ death. The elusive presenter, Scott King, interviews the key players and encourages listeners to draw their own conclusions.

You can tell Wesolowski has taken a real interest in podcasts and he mimics the style of them with considerable aplomb. As with Serial, Six Stories builds up a picture each week and, just as you think you can conclude something, you’re given a new piece of information that confuses or confounds your theory.

This is a brilliant character study and an interesting take on the benefit and wisdom of hindsight. I also loved the sinister undertones (although it made walking around my house at night slightly terrifying).

Six Stories is utterly compelling and despite being entirely engrossed, I defy you not to be shocked by the ending.

An original concept with skilled execution – totally unputdownable!

Vic x

Guest Post: Anne Coates on Writing a Sequel.

Having worked with Urbane Publications, I’m happy to host one of their authors – Anne Coates – on the blog today.

Anne’s here to discuss her process for writing a sequel. Thanks to Anne for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk to us.

Vic x

Anne Coates

Writing the sequel to ‘Dancers in the Wind’.
By Anne Coates

The manuscript for my second book had to be with Urbane Publications on 1 October – thirteen days before the launch of ‘Dancers in the Wind. So as I was writing guest posts for my book blog tour, I was putting the finishing touches to ‘Death’s Silent Judgement, which continues Hannah Weybridge’s story a few months after the conclusion of book one.

dancers in the wind

Dancers in the Wind was conceived and written some twenty years ago – then left for dead. Last year, I completely rewrote it and found a published who was willing to take it on as part of a trilogy. I had written three chapters of book two all those years ago but it wasn’t really much to go on. I knew who had been murdered and where but not why.

The victim had been mentioned in ‘Dancers but had been working abroad. There were characters I had grown fond of in the first book that I wanted to keep but once in a while I came up with the problem of names. I have two characters named Sam in ‘Death’s Silent Judgement – one had a small but key role in the first book, to be developed in the second. The other was the name of a friend’s son who wanted to be a character in the book. So two very different men named Sam but in life there are often people of the same name in one’s office or social circle.

An added challenge was to ensure that characters were consistent so I had my blue book with descriptions of everyone from book one, which I added to as I wrote the sequel. There is a whole set of new characters in ‘Death’s Silent Judgement plus some from book one have come to the fore while others have taken a back seat. Some are gearing up to play more dominant roles in book three. I love the way characters take over, give me clues and nudge me along the way. One character, in particular, led me to a dramatic revelation which I’d had no idea of at the beginning.

One dominant factor which perforce must undergo changes, is that the Hannah of book one is fairly naive. By book two, almost everything she does is tempered by her earlier experiences, she has had to sharpen up. The events of the first book have left her feeling vulnerable and at risk. What she encounters in ‘Death’s Silent Judgement does nothing to alleviate this.

Dancers in the Wind has some of the action at King’s Cross and quite by chance, ‘Death’s Silent Judgement is centred in Waterloo, another London rail terminus. I’m not sure if railway stations will be a recurring theme in later books!

As I approach book three, the reviews I’ve had for ‘Dancers in the Wind have given me more confidence. Then I think, “What if I can’t pull it off again?” But I know I’ll keep on writing…

Guest Post: David McCaffrey on Beat Sheets

I’ve already started arranging the next Noir at the Bar NE. It may not be until February but we have more than half of the performers booked. One of those readers is David McCaffrey who has been very complimentary about Noir at the Bar.

David has very kindly taken time out of his busy schedule to chat to us about beat sheets. My thanks go to David for sharing his wisdom – see you in February. 

Vic x

Guest Post: David McCaffrey on Beat Sheets

Christopher Vogler wrote a book called ‘The Writers Journey‘, a writing textbook that focuses on the theory that most stories can be boiled down to a series of narrative structures and character archetypes. Basically he says that every story told has been told before and that every fictional story consists of the same components.

I explored this once in my blog where I discussed the writing process, but the gist of it is this –

1.) The hero is introduced in his/her ORDINARY WORLD
2.) The CALL TO ADVENTURE.
3.) The hero is reluctant at first. (REFUSAL OF THE CALL.)
4.) The hero is encouraged by the Wise Old Man or Woman. (MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.)
5.) The hero passes the first threshold.  (CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.)
6.) The hero encounters tests and helpers. (TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES.)
7.)  The hero reaches the innermost cave.  (APPROACH TO THE INMOST CAVE.)
8.) The hero endures the supreme ORDEAL.
9.) The hero seizes the sword. (SEIZING THE SWORD, REWARD)
10.)  THE ROAD BACK.
11.) RESURRECTION.
12.)  RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR

Every story can be structured around the above, not always in the same order, not always every element, but they are there in one form or another.

In line with these components, it is important that you plug variables into your story before you start writing for one simple reason: so you don’t back yourself into a corner.

It’s really easy to begin writing a story off the top of your head or with the most basic of narratives and think that you can just string all the various plot points together.  And some authors can do this (the talented John Nicholson being one of them), but many need a structure, an outline of the aforementioned variables in order to understand where their story starts, begins and ends. This outline can prevent you ending up somewhere inescapable.

For me, writers block is not having the research in which to frame and support your story. I learnt right at the beginning that research is key, especially for the kinds of novels I write as they are mostly psychological thrillers that require an element of philosophy and detail to make them believable.

In line with this, you need something that is high concept, meaning it can be described in one or two words.

“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.” This tells you exactly what ‘Jaws 2 is about in one sentence.

“His crimes – unspeakable. His death – inevitable. His suffering – just beginning.”

My debut novel ‘Hellbound had the above tagline and in only a few words gives you an idea of what the book is about.

Once you have your idea and concept, it needs to be backed up by that most important of elements – research. You need to be steeped in your subject matter in order to sell your concept realistically. If your story outline is a skeleton, your research adds flesh to its bones. It fleshes out the whole idea so you begin to see what it will truly look like once complete.

Then we get to what I was taught is the most important element of writing, at least for me – having a beat sheet.

Once I have the above in place, I write a beat sheet that consists of bullet points with key elements of each chapter in a very simplified form acting as my map. Bestselling author Steve Alten once said that a beat sheet was like lining up dominoes, so that if you push over the first one it will travel right to the end meaning that if the beat sheet is tight then your story will have every element in place before you start putting one word on paper.

It’s better to get your beat sheet right before you start then begin writing and realise that you have a character who disappeared inexplicably halfway through the story or a massive plot hole you hadn’t considered.

Not having those dominoes lined up can result in you becoming frustrated and potentially lost in your own writing process.

Granted, a beat sheet can also be classed as an outline and many authors hate writing outlines because it requires all the underlying planning to have been done to answer all the difficult questions about your story. But with your research you would have the answers to those questions and the rest is a piece of cake.

Your beat sheet doesn’t have to be detailed. It can be one or two words – sex, Joseph dies, Maggie drives to work… as long as you know what it means, that’s enough.

The beat sheet stops you having to confront the most horrific of questions – what shall I write next?

Your research and a tight beat sheet can prevent this most awful of writing circumstances. With it, you will always know where you are in your story, what happens next, what will further the dramatic tension etc.

And because they are just bullet points, if something is moving too slow or there is too much action in a particular scene, you can simply move the bullet points around until you are happy and the beat sheet is tight again.

The beat sheet not only tells you what the scene is, it tells you why it’s there in the first place. And for me, the best thing of all is with a beat sheet you are simply going into those bullet points and just fleshing them out, adding narrative around them because the framework is already there.

You might veer off as you go as different story beats come to mind or naturally develop with the story. This is the beauty of using a beat sheet: they leave you free to explore and flesh out the narrative that drives the story forward. As long as you end you where you intended at the very beginning, it isn’t as important how you get there – the story will take care of itself.

Make the beat sheet clear and simple. Remember, this is your document. You’re not trying to sell the story to anyone else, you’re just trying to get your head around the story as a whole.

Besides, it’s always nice after you’ve written a three hundred page novel to look back and see that it just started out as a forty bullet point piece of A4. You would probably struggle in reverse if asked to summarise your story in forty bullet points, but it goes to show that as Christopher Vogler believed, every story can be boiled down to key elements.

And we thought we all had original ideas!!!

Review: ‘Becoming’ by Chris Ord

Becoming

‘Becoming’ is a thoughtful, unique book regarding identity, morals and the idea of “community”.

The setting of Holy Island, and Northumberland in general, made this book more enjoyable for me because, thanks to Ord’s descriptions, I could imagine the action taking place in the wild coastal and countryside settings.

The characters in this novel are well-drawn and Gaia, the main protagonist, is a brilliant representation of a teenage girl. Comparisons may be drawn between Gaia and Katniss Everdeen but for all the right reasons. Chris Ord manages to capture the juxtaposition between being a vulnerable teenager and headstrong, principled young woman well.

If you like your books fast-paced and full of moral dilemmas alongside some excellent character development and beautiful imagery, ‘Becoming’ is the book for you!

Vic x

Guest Post: Chris Ord on ‘The First Novel?’

In my job as a copy editor, many manuscripts are sent to me for critical evaluation. Few have left me as impressed as ‘Becoming‘ by Chris Ord. Chris approached me earlier this year and I had the pleasure of reading his debut novel prior to its release. 

Becoming‘ is now available to download or buy in physical form and, although it’s a YA novel, it really is one that I’d happily recommend for adults too. Chris is here to talk to us about his experience as a first time novelist and share some of the lessons he’s learned. Thanks for taking the time to appear on the blog, Chris – I can’t wait to read your next novel.

Vic x

Becoming

The first novel?
By Chris Ord

 

On September 23rd 2016 I published my first novel ‘Becoming’. It feels strange, almost surreal typing that, as only a year ago my words were filled with nothing more than intent. Now they fizz with the excitement of achievement, the realisation of something I have wanted to do all my life. There are mixed emotions though. There is pride and satisfaction, but apprehension too. Now the book is out I appreciate I’m revealing my creation to others – friends, relatives, and strangers. I’m exposing a bit of my soul. Now is the time for judgement and thick skin. I loved writing ‘Becoming’ and if others love it too that is a bonus. I wanted to write a story that I would enjoy reading, one that engages and entertains, but also challenges and provokes. If I achieve any combination of these I’ll be happy.

Except I have a confession, ‘Becoming’ isn’t my first novel. It’s the first I have published. I have another buried in my hard drive, seen only by the handful that ever will. I took a long time to write that novel, about twenty five years. Twenty four and a half of those I was gathering thoughts and intention. I called it research and planning. In truth, I was dithering. I had lots of ideas, some I wrote down, most I didn’t and forgot. There was one that kept coming back, and I decided there must be a reason so it had to be the story.

Chris Ord

I reached the age of forty five and two family bereavements forced reflection and an existential crisis. Loss and grief made me realise I had to take chances before it was too late. So I gave up my full-time job in August 2015 to write. The years of planning were over. The moment was now. I was going to write that book. It was a risk, but I knew it was time to do what I love.

Most of the advice I read was to write what you know. This reassured me, as I needed all the structure and safety I could get. I was stepping into the unknown, trying to find an approach that would work, a method that would hold my hand. Writing from personal experience made perfect sense.

I developed my characters and my hero, someone whose story I had wanted to tell. I had a scenario. It was loose at first, but I was fine with that as I wanted the story to unfold and develop. I was looking to keep the process exciting and fresh, and I figured the more I made a storyboard before I began, the more barriers I was putting in my way. I know some writers like to plot their stories from the start, and I suspect with some types of novels it is essential. I don’t. Each to their own, as you have to find what works for you. I wanted to get the words down and see where they would take me.

I gave myself a minimum daily target of 1,000 words which I stuck to and often exceeded. The first draft flowed and the writing was fun. It was like a series of puzzles, and I love problem-solving. I had tough days, and scrapped a lot of words, but I kept going, spurred on by the growing sense of achievement. It was exciting and motivating to see the words mount and the story develop. I was disciplined, and above all else I would say that is the key quality you need to finish a novel. I suspect there are many great unfinished novels that would be completed with more structure and discipline. Page after page created my new world. Every day I would escape there and build, moulding and reshaping, bringing new characters to life, and getting rid of others. It was an exhilarating journey, and finally, the day came, I completed the first draft and was overcome with joy and relief. I had done it. I had written a novel, or at least a rough, unfinished first draft of a novel.

I asked myself – what do I do now? We all have someone who reads our work first. It has to be someone you trust, but who won’t sugarcoat the feedback. The early drafts are the beginning, but far from the end, and you need a first editor to tell you what does and doesn’t work and why. Eventually you will need a good copy-editor to look at a draft you’re happy with. External, professional input is vital, as no matter how good you think your work is it can be better and there are things you will miss. Before my draft ever got that far I wanted to give it to someone else for the first judgement.

I read somewhere you should never give your work to anyone you share Christmas dinner with. In my case we share a bed. Some would urge caution at giving your unfinished work to your wife. They may tell you what you want to hear, not what you need to. Thankfully, Julie doesn’t sweeten her feedback. She’s an English graduate, well-read, a teacher and, more importantly I trust and value her opinion. She’s honest, usually more than I would like. I used the term brutal to describe her comments, but she prefers honest and constructive.

I gave my wife a polished draft of my debut convinced she would love it. She was impressed, enjoyed it, and there were many things she admired about the novel. I was relieved. The quality of the writing was much higher than she’d expected, and I recall the phrase ‘it does read like a proper book’. My excitement was short-lived though. It was good, and there was a lot to build on, but it wasn’t there yet. It didn’t work. The characters and writing were strong, but the story was flimsy, too weak. This stung me, so I read it again, determined to convince myself she was wrong. She was right, as always. Her candour and constructive criticisms helped me realise where the faults lay in the book. I had followed the advice and written what I knew, but it was too personal, and though the characters were strong I had been so desperate to capture them that I had wrapped their relationship around a dull plot. It read more like a screenplay than a novel, and there was too much dialogue and not enough action. I had tried to use the characters as a vehicle for my ideas and it felt contrived. In sum, it was a valiant first attempt, but it wasn’t good enough, at least not yet. I could do better.

This realisation was a blow. I had put months of my life into this, and the excitement of completion had convinced me that this was the one. Yet time and reflection away from the draft, along with some objective feedback left me with a big decision. Did I persevere with the draft and make it better? Could I rewrite it, make it more literary and less cinematic? How could I improve the story-line and make it more dramatic and compelling? Failing all of that, should I put it to one side, learn from the experience, move on and write something else? I guess these are the questions writers ask all the time, or at least should.

This was a learning process and though I hadn’t succeeded with this novel, at least I knew where I had gone wrong. I had followed the advice and written what I knew, but for me this reassuring structure had been a constraint. For the ‘known’ I had drawn on the autobiographical too much, taken personal experiences and woven a shaky plot around them. Sometimes this works. In my case it didn’t. My desire was to bring particular characters to life, but in doing so I had overlooked a critical element of all good writing, the story. Of course, characters are important, but readers love a good narrative. More importantly, I hadn’t written a book I would want to read, I had written one I thought I should write. I had played safe and sometimes safe is dull.

I made a bold decision, set the manuscript to one side, buried it in a cyber vault. I decided to start again, write another, something different, based around a wild and imaginary scenario and setting. I focused on the story and let my imagination run free. This novel would not be about what I knew, but would be one that I would love to read. I kept my structure of determination and daily discipline, and allowed things to develop and unfold. This was the journey that led to ‘Becoming’, my second novel, but the first I am happy with, and have published. The failed first attempt was very important though. Without the failure and the lessons taken from it, ‘Becoming’ might never have been written.

What have I learned from my experience of writing my first novel? Discipline and humility are two of the most important qualities you need to be a writer. Being honest, even brutal, with yourself may be the next. Criticism of your writing will hurt, but being critical from draft one will save you more pain in the long term. Trust the opinion of someone who will be frank with you about your work. Don’t let ego or excitement overcome common sense and critical judgement. Give yourself plenty of time between edits, as it is good to look at something again with fresh eyes. At times it is important to admit to yourself that something doesn’t work. The first novel you complete may not be the first you should let the world see. Readers are often strangers who owe you nothing. If your first attempt makes the grade I applaud you, but there’s no shame in burying it. Keep it though, as it may come in useful in the future, and some of it will be good enough to steal. We learn from every writing experience, especially the ones that don’t turn out as we had hoped. We need the courage to move on and be better, but also to never give up.

Matching the Evidence Blog Tour: Graham Smith on the Creation of Characters.

Yesterday saw the release of Graham Smith’s short story Matching the Evidence. I feel very privileged to have Graham on the blog today to talk about the creation of characters. Following Graham’s post, you’ll get my review of his latest release. 

Graham has been massively pivotal in my life this year, encouraging me to set up the North East Noir at the Bar. In addition to that, his Crime and Publishment course setting me on the road to finally completing my novel. 

Congratulations on another job well done, Graham! 

Vic x

Matching the Evidence

Creation of Characters

Creating a character is about so much more than just picturing one face and writing about them. Sure every book has a lead character who more often than not is the narrator or focal point, but unless the book is Robinson Crusoe, you’ve got to think about the support characters. (Even Crusoe had a Man Friday)

These are the colleagues, the lovers, the criminals, the victims, the witnesses and a whole host of other people who are there to populate the story. To give the lead someone to interrogate. Or fall in love with. Or scheme against. Or pursue in a clichéd game of feline and rodent.

How our character interacts with these secondary characters is critical to the story’s success. A faithful sidekick can save the day. An over-bearing boss can haul the hero off the case. A long-suffering wife can walk out.

Every one of these relationships affects the story or character in one way or another, meaning us authors have to plot much more than just the plot. We have to consider each character in their own right and work out how the lead’s behaviour will affect them and their lives.

One of my favourite authors is Craig Russell and in his Lennox series he pulls off a marvellous trick of having cameo appearances from fantastic characters. He gives them no more than three of four pages of the story to themselves – in one case the character only got three lines – but they are scene stealers due to the way his lead Lennox  (as if it wasn’t obvious) reacts to and with them. I am such a fan of these “throwaway” (my word not his) characters that I have tried to emulate them in my own writing.

All of the characters in a novel have an agenda. All have hopes, fears and desires. This makes it imperative to never forget, “every character is the hero of their own story.”

Lots of famous leads have support characters who do more than just stand around doing nothing. Some of the best examples are

  • Sherlock Holmes had Dr Watson as a sidekick (explaining device) and Moriaty as a nemesis
  • Elvis Cole has Jo Pike as a friend who provides muscle as does Myron Bolitar in his friend Winn
  • Logan McRae has a co-dependent relationship with the incorrigible DI Roberta Steele
  • Bond has Blofeld as a nemesis
  • Jack Reacher has … (I’ll stop now before it becomes obvious I haven’t thought this through)

Whenever I introduce a new character; I have to spend a few minutes, or moments if I’m unusually lucky, working out what’s going through their heads. Are they afraid, or angry, or just plain bored? However they’re feeling, I have to depict them in a way that shows their emotions and allows my erstwhile lead DI Harry Evans continue to wreak his own brand of havoc.

***

Review: ‘Matching the Evidence‘ by Graham Smith.

Although ‘Matching the Evidence‘ is the third in the DI Harry Evans and Major Crimes Team series, don’t worry if this is your first meeting with Harry – ‘Matching the Evidence’, published by Caffeine Nights, can be read as a standalone story.

On the surface, this may look like the Major Crimes Team being punished for their prior bad behaviour and put on crowd control for a football match between Carlisle United and Millwall. However, things aren’t quite as they seem…

As always with Graham Smith’s writing, ‘Matching the Evidence‘ is dark, gritty and packs plenty of punches. There’s a real tension that runs throughout this story and, due to its length, you will want to devour it in one sitting. Not only do you get this brilliant short story but you also get a sneak preview of ‘I Know Your Secret’ – Harry Evans’s next case.

The Harry Evans series tackles a range of modern issues with a real grit and it looks like this cop is one who will be around for years to come.

Vic x

Getting to Know You: Shelley Day

I’ve been lucky enough to meet Shelley Day many times over the years at book events. I’m really chufffed to have her on the blog today to talk about her debut novel, ‘The Confession of Stella Moon‘. I’m also tremendously excited to be attending her book launch in Newcastle next week. Your time has come, Shelley! 

Vic x

 

Shelley Day
I’m so excited to read another crime book set in Newcastle. Tell me about your debut novel. What inspired it?
Thanks for inviting me onto the blog Vic!

My debut novel ‘The Confession of Stella Moon‘ is Domestic Noir and is indeed set in Newcastle! Well, it’s partly set in the city – in a semi-derelict boarding house in Heaton – and partly up on the Northumberland coast, in a run-down beach hut on the dunes between Beadnell and Embleton. I grew up in the North East, and although I’ve lived in a lot of different places, and I currently spend a lot of time in Scotland and Norway, the North East is my Home with a capital H. I belong here and it always pulls me back! I guess it’s these long-standing connections to this place that kind of inspired the book.

The Confession of Stella Moon‘ is being published as a crime novel, but it’s not a police procedural, or a whodunit. It’s more of a whydunnit, an exploration into the psychology behind the crime.

My publisher came up with this amazingly macabre-sounding strap-line which does actually capture the theme of the book: “Because dark secrets don’t decompose.”

It’s a novel essentially about a family secret. A black, brooding tale of matricide set in 1960s and 70s Newcastle in a family so dysfunctional it’s sinister. After serving a prison sentence for killing her mother, young Stella Moon is discharged to restart her life. But her plans are soon ruined when she falls prey to a dark family secret that pulls her back into the past. Strange rituals, shame and paranoia haunt her, like the persisting smell of her mother’s taxidermy in the abandoned boarding house. Stella is caught in a tangled web of guilt and manipulation.

I have a background in both law and psychology, so I’ve drawn on what I know about those things to write this novel.

Stella Moon

Tell us about Stella, your main character.
The entire novel was built around the Stella character. She came to me first and essentially the novel is her story.

Stella was born at Moniack Mhor, a remote Writing Centre up beyond Inverness. I’d gone there on a week-long Arvon residential writing course after I took redundancy from work. The tutor was Patrick Gale. It was in one of the writing exercises that Stella appeared, fully formed. As soon as she was there, I felt I knew her, and I just knew she and I were going to spend a lot of time together. It was Patrick who said I should put Stella into a novel. I thought about it, but I couldn’t do it straight away ‘cause after my redundancy, money ran out, I was flat out freelancing. So it wasn’t until years later that I sat down and wrote Stella’s story.

I wrote the very scrappy first draft during NaNoWriMo 2010. Stella has been described as a ‘disturbed and disturbing’ character. People say she gets under your skin. One agent – who I didn’t go with in the end – found Stella ‘haunting, difficult to put out of her mind…’ But Stella is also haunted, by the past, by the house, by the family secret she discovers. I hope readers will be rooting for her from the start because, as a character, she’s the kind of person who deserves support. I hope people will want to find out whether she makes it! Although she’s served a prison sentence for killing her mother, there’s a whole story behind her terrible crime, and basically the whole book is trying to ferret out what’s actually going on and asking questions about where criminal responsibility lies.

What can readers expect from your book?
My novel, on the face of it, is a story about a matricide, about a young women who’s released from jail only to find herself further imprisoned, but this time by the past, by conspiracies of silence, by a grim family secret she knew nothing about.

But it also tackles bigger themes –  mothers and daughters, for example. And I’ve already mentioned criminal responsibility. Readers can also expect a strong psychological dimension – about memory, and about the effects trauma can have on what you remember and how you see things. It’s about the longer-term effects of ‘abuse’, about how family secrets can blight a life.  At another level, it’s a story about how difficult it is to put together a coherent life story … I can’t really tell you any more without introducing spoilers, so I will shut up now!

When is it out?
The novel will be officially available on 7th July. On that day it will be launched at Waterstone’s in Edinburgh, and then on the 13th at Waterstone’s in Newcastle.

Most useful piece of writing advice? Who was it from? Have you got any advice for aspiring writers?
I’ve gathered lots of useful pieces of writing advice along the way! I’ll see if I can remember some!

AL Kennedy once told a writing group I was in: Fear is the main thing that stands in your way. It’s only fear you have to be afraid of. Now I think that’s a very basic lesson all new writers need to learn as soon as they can. If you can learn to put that fear to one side and let yourself get on with your writing, regardless, you are more than half way there. It’s easier said than done though! But it is possible to do it, and to do it again, and again … Really, starting to write is all about giving yourself permission; permission to take time out of your life to sit down and write, permission to write something far less than perfect for the first draft, permission to soldier on despite the fear of the page, of the pen, of everything. You just have to give yourself permission, and off you go. And keep going. And just keep going.

You have to develop a thick skin, coping with rejections is not the easiest thing, but you have to get used to them, and to try and learn from them. Another friend said: the successful people are the ones who haven’t given up. I keep remembering that.

Finally, a warning. Writing is difficult. It’s difficult because it can mean you are drawing on deep-down bits of yourself that, frankly, would prefer to be left undisturbed. So writing can churn you up. There’s no way this can be avoided in creative work. But if you know in advance that you’re setting off on a bumpy road with potholes and cliff edges and the prospect of stormy weather, you can at least pack a decent raincoat.

I love that analogy! What do you like and dislike about writing?
I don’t like writing. I can’t say I like sitting down and writing. There are a million things I would rather do and I will try all ways and means to avoid it. But equally, writing is a compulsion; I can’t not do it. If ever there is a time when, for whatever reason, I really am not writing, I don’t feel good at all.

What I like is having written. It’s a very good feeling when you have written something that’s not half bad and you know you’re going to be able to turn it into something worthwhile. That is what’s enjoyable. I’m compelled to write, I think, because writing is the only thing that makes me feel good about myself. That’s what keeps me doing it again and again.

Are you writing anything at the moment?
I am working on a short story collection. ‘A Policy of Constant Improvement‘ will be out in 2017. In 2015 I won a Northern Writer’s Award for it and am extremely fortunate to have been mentored by Carys Davies! And I’m working on a second novel. The protagonist is called Clara. As with Stella, I’m deeply attached to Clara even though she is leading me something of a merry dance at the moment. The working title is ‘Clara Says’ but I have a much more interesting one up my sleeve! I can’t tell you any more because I’m scared of putting a jinx on it!

Thanks sooo much for having me on your blog. And I really hope you enjoy ‘The Confession of Stella Moon!