Archive for the Category » How To Write Fiction «

What does it look like? From ‘no book’ to ‘finished book’?

A fellow writer and friend asked me this question:  “What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like?”  After years of writing my blog and interviewing other authors,  it seemed to be each featured author’s favorite question.  Having also completed  several novels  I’d like to add my two cents:

When writing my first novel, (Women Outside the Walls) I did not have a deadline and it probably would have really helped. I was my own deadline setter and that didn’t work out so well. On the other hand, I think having a publisher breathing down my neck would have stifled my creative flow.  When life got in the way I wouldn’t work on it for weeks but then I would get inspired and work on it for days, weeks, non-stop, sometimes 10-14 hours a day. So I guess it all evened out.  Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up if you don’t write for a few days….you’ll make up for it with better, more relaxed creative writing.

Because I inherently ‘rush’, I found that I had to watch-dog myself and be careful not to leave out important roads of the story. I was in early proofing of the final product of my novel and realized (in a countless re-read) that I had never described my female negotiator’s physical appearance. (Yikes!).  Again, (if the writer tends to rush) go back and re-read your work to see where you need to flesh out a chapter or a character.

I am not structured at all, if ‘structured’ means writing an outline, a story plot and character descriptions. I write a new project in my head for days, weeks and then when my brain is about to burst I begin putting it down on paper (or in my case, sitting at the keyboard). I also write out of sequence and I think that’s okay. My novel’s last chapter was completed months before the middle was written.

Some writers have actually written whole books while blogging; they found it less daunting by writing in segments. At the end they had a book and then they published.  If you need a deadline the days that you commit to writing a blog would serve.  For me this wouldn’t work;  I would feel too exposed having my rough draft out there for the world to see as I am a writer who slams it down the first time around and then edit, edit, delete, edit.  Did I mention that the lettering is worn off my ‘delete’ key?

Frequently I will begin a story that has inspired me, not knowing much about the subject. It has sometimes stopped me dead in my tracks while I researched (example: hostage negotiations for Women Outside the Walls).   I had 8 pages of a new play about Winston Churchill written and  had to stop to do research on his life during WW II. I find that it can be done while I am writing and that is what I prefer. It’s more fun and keeps me interested. I don’t think I would do well having my research all done before I put my story down. I find that the research itself inspires my story line.

And then there is that unseen, unheard phenomenon where, with any luck, the characters take over and you become the typist.  Your muse begins to tell you the story.  This has happened to me time and again, and while I resisted at first (being a control-freak) I now embrace and welcome it.  In Women Outside the Walls my character Alma, at sixteen, is abandoned by her promiscuous mother.  Alma is befriended by the ex-girl friend of the man Alma had a teen crush on.  They end up being room mates.  I could never have dreamed that one up;  but my characters got together and decided that this was what they would to do.books, authors, book stores, women writers,

I don’t think that there is a right or wrong way to go through the process. Each writer should be unique in how they work. Instead of thinking of it as a project/deadline ‘thing’; think of it as a work of art, created just for you and by you. Where possible, let the characters lead you. They will never steer you wrong!

well, there you have it…the process such as it is and how it works for me. (First posted January, 2013)
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy, July: Veronica Henry.
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Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy~Interview (part 3)

Don Bentley

Tom Clancy

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

DB. There are times when the words seem to fly from my keyboard onto the screen, but if I’m being honest, these instances are few and far between. Writing is work. Hard work. And while I enjoy writing, there are certainly aspects of it that I detest. First drafts are especially hard and, and are most often the times when I berate myself for not choosing an easier profession. Like rocket science! But writing also has some magical phases like writing the second draft. For me, that’s when the story comes alive as you untangle the narrative, build on themes you didn’t even realize you were there, and give that secondary character the starring role they deserve. This is when writing becomes fun, but to get there, you have to slog through the tediousness of the first draft.

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

DB. Yes to both! TARGET ACQUIRED, my first entry in the Tom Clancy Jack Ryan, Junior series comes out on 8 June 2021. I read my first Tom Clancy book when I was thirteen or fourteen, and he was my introduction to the military thriller genre. The notion that, thirty years later, I get to write in the universe he created really is incredible. In addition to my Tom Clancy book, I have my own thriller series starring Defense Intelligence Agency case officer, Matt Drake. I’m currently writing HOSTILE INTENT which is the third book in this series. It will be released in May 2022.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

DB. I decided to take my writing seriously in late 2001 when I signed up for a series of online classes from Writer’s Digest Magazine. These classes helped provide a foundational understanding of the process of crafting a novel which I was sorely lacking. I then went on to write two more novels, each of which was strong enough to garner an agent, but not good enough to sell to a publisher. I then decided I must still have more to learn about my craft before I could be commercially successful, so I enrolled in the Seton Hill MFA program. This is a low residency program unabashedly geared toward writers who want to sell commercially viable genre fiction. I wrote my third novel as part of this program, but this one didn’t sell either. About this time, I was starting to wonder whether or not I was ever going to make it as a writer. Thankfully, I had the great fortune to meet Nick Petrie, author of the Peter Ash series, at the ThrillerFest writing conference in New York. Nick was kind enough to listen to my tale of woe, but he did more than listen. After sharing that he also wrote three books that didn’t sell before writing his fourth that did, he told me to go home, quit sulking, and write my fourth book. So I did. That book became WITHOUT SANCTION which my agent, Barbara Poelle, sold in a two book deal in 2018. Fast forward three years, and I’m now writing my third book in that series as well as poking around in the Tom Clancy Universe. To quote Nick, I guess the moral of the story is quit sulking and write your book!

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

DB. I don’t. I think there’s something tactile about paper books that people love.

Did you miss Part 1 or Part 2 of our Interview with Don?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy, July: Veronica Henry.
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

 

 

 

 

Interview with author, Don Bentley, writing for Tom Clancy (part 2)

Don’s flying days

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

DB. Writing a book on spec is incredibly intimidating, especially when you have no idea whether or not it’s going to sell. This combined with the fact that writing progress on a book can seem so incremental as compared to say a short story can make it really easy to procrastinate. After all, if no one’s clamoring for your book, and it takes forever to write, it’s easy to come up with a thousand better ways to spend your time. With that in mind, I’ve found it helpful to give myself a deadline and then make a plan to meet it. For me, that works best if I put my engineering skills to use by mapping out a word count strategy and then tracking it in excel. Every week I compare the word count I was supposed to hit with what I actually wrote, and I also plot the cumulative progress on a line graph so I have a visual representation of where I am versus where I’m supposed to be. I’ve found that the terror that accompanies knowing that you’re exactly 4,326 words behind schedule is a great anecdote for procrastination!

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

A. That’s a great question! I write more organically, so many of my secondary characters come out in the first draft when I get to a scene and realize that I need another character for one reason or another. Often times a character I think will only have a cameo ends up showing up again in later scenes. After I finish my first draft, I further flesh out my characters during revisions and this is when they become real. I think the treatment of secondary characters is one of the things that separates good writers from great ones. For instance, if you pick up a Daniel Silva book, you’ll find that he doesn’t have any “throw away” characters. Even if they only share the stage for a single scene, each one of his characters is elaborately and realistically drawn.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

A cold beer and a warm cat……

DB. I’ve been telling myself stories for as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories were of listening to my mom read me a book, or watching a tv show or movie, and thinking how the story could have ended differently. When I was in fourth or fifth grade, I started writing what would now be known as “fan fiction” for Star Trek. Writing was always my favorite subject in school, and I attempted to write my first novel in high school. It didn’t go very far, and I think this was because like most amateur writers, I didn’t yet understand the a novel’s structure. I could write a scene, but figuring out what to do next confounded me. In my late twenties I finally got serious about writing and took some excellent online classes from Writer’s Digest. These gave me a foundational understanding that allowed me to finish my first novel sometime in my early thirties. This novel didn’t sell, and neither did the two that came after it, but each book that didn’t sell taught me something different about the writing process. I guess to answer your question, I never really felt inspired to write. The desire to tell stories is just part of who I am.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

DB. Secondary character usually come as I’m writing, but primary characters always come first ,even before the situation. New York Times Best Selling author Brad Taylor is one of my friends, and I pick his brain for writing advice every chance I get. He once told me that characters are what bring readers back from book to book, and I believe that’s true. You can have the most unique story idea in the world, but without a cast of characters that a reader enjoys enough to spend three hundred plus pages and hours of their lives getting to know, you won’t have a successful book. As I mentioned before, Daniel Silva does a superb job with characterization, so much so that reading his books feel like coming home. He’s one of the few authors that I will reread time and time again because I miss hanging out with the people he’s created. That’s how I want readers to feel about my books.

Did you miss part 1 of our Interview with Don?

Check out part 3 of this fascinating interview with Don Bentley, July 2nd
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy, July: Veronica Henry.
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

 

 

Adapting your Stage Play into a Novella or Storybook

Many of my stage plays have ended up being the story outline (or more) in creating a children’s story book, or a short story, or a novella, or the bones of a novel.  I thought that I would share, with my readers and fellow playwrights my process in converting these plays/stories. 
The demand really began with my friends and fans insisting on more of the story they’d read or seen in a play. It wasn’t enough. Satisfyingly, they wanted to know what happened after the play ended, or they wanted to know how my characters got to where they were in the play’s timeframe. 
Currently I am adapting my latest children’s play in to a story book. A  chapter book with colored illustrations. 

First I pull up the full script. I re-read it in sections to get immerse, once more, in the story. The blocking will be my guide on describing the ‘action’. I will be certain to describe each character as they appear in the story. Something you can’t do writing a stage play. After I read this section of the play, I begin to describe the characters, the environment, the emotions within the scene. Remember, playwrights, you are now free to write as much description as you want. (But don’t be redundant or boring, please.)  I copy and paste the section of the play script into my new manuscript. Then I write above the scene in the play. I am able to use almost all of the dialogue that I have created in the play. After I have written the new work I delete the play script and go on to the next.  Here’s a sample:

Chapter 1 ©

Agnes and Annie, sister Aardvarks, stepped off the path into the forest clearing. Except for the occasional rustle in the underbrush and bird song it was a quiet, sun-filled idyllic setting. The smells of forest; tree sap, damp moss, rotting tree trunks, and hidden flowers filled their busy noses. It was worlds away from the dusty deserts in their homeland of Africa. They both looked around fearfully. The fanciful hats atop their heads bobbled in the breeze.
“I think we’re lost, dear sister.” Agnes moaned.
“This doesn’t look anything like the pictures of Australia in our book.”
“Oh, dear, I’m quite afraid,” Annie whispered.
“Whooo?” Something said from high atop a tree.
Annie rushed closer to her sister, “Ekk. What was that?”
Annie had always been the shy Aardvark. Her sister, Agnes had always been the bold one, leading the way and protecting her younger sister.
“Who?” Came the cry again.
“What?” Agnes demanded, looking up into the tree where she thought the sound was coming from. “There are so many trees, all mashed together, I can’t tell where the creature is, Annie.”
“Who?”
“That.” Annie cried.
“What?” Agnes demanded.
“I can’t see anything.” Annie said. “What do you suppose it is?”
“Not certain,” Agnes replied. “But keep a look out anyway.”
“I don’t like this place, Agnes.”

ACT I ©   (The section we are adapting.)
Scene 1

At Rise: Morning in the fabled forest. Pale sunlight filters through the trees.

(ANNIE and AGNES enter. THEY cross into a clearing, looking all around. THEY are wearing ridiculous hats and are carrying suitcases and a book entitled Australia. The WOODLAND CREATURES scatter into the underbrush.)

AGNES
(Gazing up into the trees, HER nose switching as fast as possible.)
I think we’re lost, dear sister. This doesn’t look anything like the pictures of Australia in our book.
ANNIE
(Frowning.)
Oh, dear, I’m quite afraid.

STARE

Whooo?
ANNIE
(ANNIE runs over to AGNES.)

Ekk. What was that?

STARE
Who?

AGNES
What?

STARE

Who?

ANNIE
That.

AGNES

Not certain. But keep a look out anyway.

ANNIE
I don’t like this place, Agnes.

AGNES

You’re such a scaredy-cat, Annie. It’s a simple forest, much like the jungles of home.

(DONALD, a fairie, enters whistling a merry tune. HE sees the Aardvarks. AGNES and ANNIE turn to run.)

DONALD

Don’t go. I mean you no harm.

STARE
Who? Who?

PATSY
(Knitting her web very fast.)

Eye–eee! Por favor, who are these ugly newcomers? Dios mío, ¿se comerán mis insectos? The bugs are for me and me alone!

You have your character list to refer to so you don’t forget or leave out a character from your play. In the story books, I always use an illustrator to bring the story alive with their wonderful color drawings based upon the scene I chosen.  I try, as much as possible, to give the artist full rein; hoping that they will be inspired by the writing. That approach has been very successful for me.  Here’s another sample of adapting a section of my play:

 

©   A couple of days had passed since Emma had visited the clearing in the forest. She and Donald had still not solved the problem of helping Annie and Agnes on their journey to Australia. There suddenly came some rustling of the undergrowth and Stare, the owl began to hoot.
“Who? Who? Who?”
“What’s wrong, Stare?” Emma peered up through the leaves and branches trying to see the owl.
“Whooo?”
From the path a man stumbled into the clearing. He wore work clothes, suspenders and a bow tie. A tool belt hung from his waist. He carried a large tool box. He walked to the middle of the clearing and made a courtly bow.
“Greetings from the Royal Court.”
“Oh my.” Emma murmured.
Donald stepped forward a couple of paces. “Greetings to you. Who are you, sir?”
“Who?” Asked Stare.
“Who might you be, young sir?”
“I’m Donald, a fairie of this realm.”
Taking his half-glasses off his nose he polished them with a clean, white handkerchief, “Blimey. Don’t think I’ve ever seen one before.”
“And you, sir?”
“Who?”
“Not now Stare.” Donald glanced up.
“Allow me to formally introduce myself. I’m Sir Fergus, the royal engineer. I’ve been sent here by the⸺”
Emma sighed, “The Queen.”
“Our Queen.”
“Who?” Stare asked.
“Who?” Annie asked.
“What’s a queen?” Agnes asked.
Cheets began running around the clearing, “The Queen! The Queen! The Queen Cometh!”
Sir Fergus looked around, “No. I don’t think so. It’s just me with my toolbox.”
“Why have you been sent to us, Mr. Fergus?”
“The name’s just Fergus, Miss. Or at court, Sir Fergus.”
“And you’re here because⸺?” Donald inquired.
“To repair your portal⸺time machine⸺of course. It is broken, isn’t it?”
“Our portal?”
“We have a portal? Cheets whispered in awe but having no idea what a portal was. “What is a portal, exactly?”
“And the Queen knew ours is broken?” Emma asked.
“Yes. Yes. Indubitably.” Fergus became impatient to see it, “If you’ll just show me the way, I’ll begin my work.”
“I’m afraid we have no idea where it might be in the forest.” Emma explained. “Until the sisters arrived we didn’t know anything about a portal. They arrived from Africa.”

ACT I ©
Scene 5

At Rise: The clearing in the forest.

(FERGUS, the royal engineer enters from the forest path. HE wears formal clothes but with a large bow-tie and a pocket protector in his shirt pocket. HE carries a large toolbox.)

FERGUS
(Sets down toolbox and bows.)
Greetings from the Royal Court.
EMMA
Oh my.
DONALD
Greetings to you. Who are you?
STARE
Who?
FERGUS
Who might you be?
STARE
Whooo?
DONALD
I’m Donald, a fairie of this realm.
FERGUS
(Takes his half-glasses off and polishes them.)
Blimey. Don’t think I’ve ever seen one before.
DONALD
And who are you, sir?
STARE
Who?
FERGUS
Allow me to formally introduce myself. I’m Fergus, the royal engineer. I’ve been sent here by the⸺
EMMA
(Sighing.)
The Queen.
DONALD
Our Queen.
STARE
Who?

AGNES
Who?
ANNIE
What’s a queen?
CHEETS
(Jumping up and down.)

The Queen! The Queen! The Queen Cometh!

FERGUS
(Looking around.)
No. I don’t think so. It’s just me and my toolbox.
EMMA
Why have you been sent to us, Mr. Fergus?
FERGUS
It’s just Fergus, Miss. Or in more formal settings, Sir Fergus.
DONALD
And you’re here because⸺?
FERGUS
To repair your portal⸺time machine⸺of course. It is broken, isn’t it?

Your play script can grow into something much more ambitious than a novella or children’s story. I have written three full length novels using my stage play as the story outline.
Please leave your comments if you found this informative and helpful. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy.
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

 

 

 

 

Book Review ~~ the stepsisters by Susan Mallery

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

    4 out of 5 quills   ~~  A Book Review 

Susan Mallery delivers again. This author can do no wrong.
Families are complicated on any given day and certainly even more so when dads marry again and create a brand new stepsister for their daughter. Sometimes expectations are high; amidst the ruble of a divorce, sometimes girls long for the connection of a new sibling. Sage is lovely and graceful and popular; Daisy is not.  Sage didn’t have Daisy’s smarts.  Threatened by this, Sage put Daisy down at every opportunity.  Daisy was crushed by Sage’s hostility. So went the teenage years. Then Daisy did the unforgivable; she falls for and marries Sage’s first time love. Heartbroken, Sage can’t flee fast enough.  

Almost two decades later the now-grown women are thrown together again. But they must put aside all of their history for a familial common cause. 

 Another great story filled with human foibles. Well drawn characters who the reader will like to hate or stand up and cheer for.  I highly recommend this book to my readers. 

Did you miss my interview with Susan Mallery? 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy.
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

BOOKS BY TRISHA SUGAREK

 

Interview with Jenny Colgan, Writer (part 3)

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

JC. Yup, I have a full slate. I am working on a new Mure book for next summer, An Island Wedding, then coming out in June 2021 is Sunrise, a new Little Beach Street Bakery novel. And in October A Christmas Bookshop is coming out, which is set in Edinburgh and I really hope people are going to love it. We had so much snow in Edinburgh this winter and it just looked gorgeous so I wrote throughout the winter. And if we can pop it into the schedule, there’s a fourth boarding school book ready to go.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

JC. I have always written seriously. Seven-ish or so?

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

JC. No, but I am quite old. I think everything shook down; some people, like me, adore their kindles and the flexibility of carrying a library at your fingertips, some people tried it and went straight back to paper books. So it’s kind of balanced out.

Find the Dog!

Q. What makes a writer great?

JC. Well, I would consider myself a very decent writer, as are most professionals. There are barely any greats. The ones that are… I suppose they somehow touch on something in the human condition that is common to all of us, that immediately helps us understand the state of being human better.

Fairy tale home

I would say A Tale of Two Cities teaches us more about the ability of a human being to sacrifice themselves for others better, and certainly more entertainingly, than any science course, psychology textbook, survey or questionnaire ever devised. Pride and Prejudice has the plot of Cinderella yet somehow, at its essence, cracks the nut of what it is to fall in love better than anything else ever has. CS Lewis presented a world of wonder, of awe, to countless millions of children. To find inside one writer an entire world is an extraordinary- and crushingly rare.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

JC. Two hundred cups of coffee.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

JC. Oh, hugely. The Mure novels came out of me having to move back to Scotland when my mother was dying; you can really

Another fav of mine…and it’s a trilogy!

see it in the first one. I started writing lots of children in my books when I had my own children and realised that people often write children very badly, make them sassy little know it alls, rather than the adorably curious drunks most small kids behave like all the time.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

Princess daughter

JC. Piano playing, reading watching Buffy with my two youngest- we’re going through everything, we did Lost through lockdown, and Merlin, but Buffy is the big obsession at the moment. My husband is a mean bb-quer. We have been locked down for so long though, I cannot wait to reclaim all the stuff I used to love- I absolutely adore a party, a book festival, a big get together of friends and writers, travelling to new places. All of that stuff. I like most things.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

JC. I do, I write sci fi as Jenny T. Colgan. I don’t really believe in genre but it helps publishers know where to put you.

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

Nobody is ever thinking about you, they’re obsessing about their own shit, like ALL DAY. So get on and do whatever the hell it is you want to do, nobody gives a rat’s ass.

Did you miss the beginning of this Interview?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy.
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

Book Review ~~ Pay Back by Robert B. Parker (nes’ Mike Lupica)

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing5 out of 5 quills ~~  BOOK REVIEW

Flawless writing and plot. Sunny Randle, PI is like a horse fly.  No frills and tenacious.  Not unlike the fly, Sunny looks for a patch of unprotected skin and then she stings. It hurts like hell.

Mike Lupica is a maestro when writing in Robert B. Parker’s voice. In this new Sunny Randall murder mystery the whole gang has returned (I love when that happens.)   Jesse Stone, Richie Burke, Tony Marcus, Frank Bilson, Susan Silverman, Tie bop and all the rest. Sadly, Hawk was out of town. 
Robert B. Parker’s wonderful tales live on.   I highly recommend the book to the fans of Robert B. Parker, old and new. This collection of authors writing in Parker’s voice keeps his work alive and fresh. 

Did you miss my Interview with Mike? It’s great reading. He’s a fascinating guy. 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy.
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

Interview with author, Jenny Colgan (part 2)

TS.  As my readers know, I am (1) a voracious reader and (2) always looking for new (to me) authors. My first exposure to Jenny was
The Cafe by the Sea. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t certain that I would continue to buy her books. So quirky; I hadn’t before  heard this particular ‘voice’ in an author.  15 books (and counting) later, I admit to being a girl-fan.  I love her stories! The characters are real people trying to stumble through life, as we all are, as best we can. So imagine my joy when this prolific and busy author agreed to be interviewed. And she was so generous with her answers! 

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

JC. You don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. Lots of people think they’d like to be writers, but then just can’t get it done, and you know what, that’s fine, that’s okay, go do something else, don’t make yourself miserable. I wanted to be a stand up comedian, but I hated every single second of being onstage, and I realized I just wanted to call myself a stand up, I didn’t actually want to do the work. That’s fine. There’s plenty of books out there already, there’s absolutely no need to do it if you don’t want to, so find something else fun to do.

If you really want to, you’ll set your wordcount in your head, even if it’s only 500 words a day, and you’ll do it. Somehow. They never have to be your best words, they don’t even have to be any good. All that kind of stuff you fix in the edit. Your first draft you just have to find the momentum to get 1000 words down every day for 80 days, then look at what you have at the end.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

Husband, Andrew

JC. All over the place. Sometimes bits and pieces of people I’ve met, sometimes I just start them off and see. I’m writing a character now who is very beautiful. I wanted them to be difficult and impossible, but actually that didn’t work at all.

What turned out to be much more interesting are normal people’s reactions to someone who is extremely beautiful. It isn’t her fault at all; other people just become really weird around her when she’s in the room, and her experience of life is different from most people’s. So, they develop as you go. I worked with a scientist last year- I don’t usually meet a lot of scientists in my line of work- and he never said anything unless he knew it was absolutely a fact, the case. You could see the gears working in his brain every time he was asked for an opinion on anything. And I thought, that’s interesting, and wrote a character (who isn’t based on my colleague at all) who has that kind of rigorous thought process.

Q. What tools do you begin with? (from last week)

Sketch of Mure

JC. Sometimes I like to sketch my characters to get a view for what they look like and what they’re doing. If I’m a bit stuck, I’ll start drawing…..

Q. What first inspired you to write?

JC. Oh I was just a massive bookworm. Writing books is the closest you get to reading books your entire life. I write the kind of books I absolutely love reading and if I can’t find a book I want- eg a series for adults set amongst teachers in a boarding school- I just go write it myself.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

JC. The situation, generally. ‘What if you were a refugee and posted to a remote Scottish island?’ ‘What if you lost everything and could only get a really lowly job in a bakery?’ ‘What if you met an alien?’. Things I think might be interesting.

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

Another favorite

JC. Yeah, sometimes. Generally near the end of something. Not always, and it doesn’t have a huge effect on the work, really, I mean I don’t think the reader could tell the points where I’ve got very obsessed with it, but sometimes I get completely wrapped up in them and can’t think about anything else. My husband can always tell. 🙂

Q. Are you working on something now or have a new release coming up? If so tell us about it.

Did you miss Part 1 of this in-depth interview?

Don’t Miss part 3 of this spectacular Interview with Jenny. Coming May 21st. 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy.
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The Jenny Colgan Month ~~ Author Extraordinaire!

TS. Jenny Colgan, a Scottish lass, has a unique voice as a writer….quirky, fresh and bright. She left university in the 90s and started working for the NHS in administration, whilst always loving comedy and working on ‘funny things’- cartooning, a bit of stand up (horrible and very nerve-wracking); sketch writings and so on. She went on to write my first novel, Amanda’s Wedding, as a comedy novel and she was surprised when it got published. She’s gone on to write around 35 novels…she says she’s lost count. 

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? (please provide a photo of you at work in your shed, room, closet, barn, houseboat….) Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

JC. I work in coffee shops, or I did before the pandemic. I like the white noise, the sense of life happening all around you; I like that you can’t stay there too long or it’s rude, and I like that they bring you a sandwich. In fact I’m just about to head off to my nearest one, which has a stunning view of Edinburgh Castle and lets me take my dog in.

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

JC. No I think that kind of thing can be very dangerous for writers, and certainly is for wannabe writers. You end up living in an isolation box, driven mad by the noise of your own fridge. Instead, be a soldier about it and learn how to work anywhere, the way they learn to go to sleep on command.  Aeroplanes are good places to work, trains are terrific.

Once when the children were little I took them to see Chicken Run in an otherwise empty cinema. I snuck up to the back row and worked on a manuscript there. It had rather more chickens in it than my agent was expecting, but otherwise it worked absolutely fine. If I turn up ten minutes to pick up the kids from school, I can get 500 words in if I have to. Momentum is very important to novelists, so clear anything that can hold you up, like thinking you need a special notebook or whatever.

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

All written by Jenny

JC. I find writing quite easy, but I find playing the piano very difficult. I probably spend about as much time playing piano and worrying about it as I do thinking about my books.

Q. What tools do you begin with? Legal pad, spiral notebook, pencils, fountain pen, or do you go right to your keyboard?

JC. Sometimes I like to sketch my characters to get a view for what they look like and what they’re doing. If I’m a bit stuck, I’ll start drawing. I also keep a file of pictures from actors, people in the news who look a bit like my characters in my head. Otherwise it’s straight to the keyboard, wordcount at the ready. I’ll write 2,500 in a sitting or 3000 divided into two sittings depending on where I am with deadlines.

Perfect son, perfect dog

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

JC. Yeah, about 11.30am I like to start. So I have time in the morning to drink coffee, read the internet, get the kids to school, walk the dogs and take some exercise, shower, practice my scales. I’ll work till about 2 ish depending on how the word count is going.

 

 

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

Join us, May 14th,  for Part 2 of this wonderful Interview

Watch for my reviews!
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan, June: Don Bentley writing for Tom Clancy.
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Research Can Unearth Some Surprises!

Nazi codes in the hem of a dress?

After reading Susan Elia MacNeal’s Mr. Churchill’s Secretary I was inspired to write a short play about Winston Churchill and hisChurchills.Cat.BookCoverImage cat, Nelson.   Ms. MacNeal referred, in passing, to Mr. Churchill’s pets being allowed free rein to wander the war rooms at #10 Downing Street during Churchill’s time in office.  I could clearly see  the rotund, shambling figure of the Prime Minister with two pugs yapping at his heels while Admiral Nelson, the cat, sat high atop a side table. Silently observing his human and the general hysteria of the dogs.

Churchill was a master not only in crafting the English sentence but also in the coinage of words.  His tongue-in-cheek comment:  “A fanatic is one who won’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” is a favorite of mine.  In a World War I speech, (1914) Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty coined the phase ‘business as usual’.  Saying the maxim of the British people is “business as usual.”  Churchill gave the world the phrase: “Iron Curtain” in his speech in Missouri in 1946 when he said, “…..an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”

Having grown up during the post-war years, I knew something of Mr. Churchill.  A historic figure that was a great statesman, orator and leader.  But I really knew nothing of the man.  And once again, (as I have mentioned before) I began a project and then started my research.

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, (which I highly recommend) is fiction but based in fact.  Ms. MacNeal was fortunate enough to have several interviews with Churchill’s private secretary before her death.  The book is about a ‘typist’ who was relegated to a menial job because of her gender.  She was actually educated in mathematics and cryptology and could easily have fitted in with MI-Five (British CIA) but for her being a woman.  The novel’s heroine, Maggie, saves the Prime Minister from certain death by breaking a Nazi code.  And this brings me to the fashion advert that actually ran in the London Times and was full of Nazi messages.  All the stitching (around sleeves and hem) was Morse code for attacks at #10 Downing and St. Paul’s cathedral. 

“German spies hid secret messages in drawings of models wearing the latest fashions in an attempt to outwit Allied censors during World War Two, according to British security service files. Nazi agents relayed sensitive military information using the dots and dashes of Morse code incorporated in the drawings. They posted the letters to their handlers, hoping that counter-espionage experts would be fooled by the seemingly innocent pictures. But British secret service officials were aware of the ruse and issued censors with a code-breaking guide to intercept them.”  (actual advert from the London Times).

If not for my love of reading, my passion for writing, and the need for research, I would never have delved into Churchill’s life and his time in office. (my interests don’t generally take that path).  It’s an unexpected delight to learn more about this amazing statesman.  He was quirky, irritable, brilliant, and very funny.

And all because I had begun writing a short play about Mr. Churchill and his cat!  I love when that happens!!

(Originally published 2013)
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica, March: Lee Matthew Goldberg, May: Jenny Colgan
To receive my weekly posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!