DM. It has been different with every book, honestly, and I expect (hope!) that this will continue. For the last few books the first draft has been fast and it is getting faster. I think about a book for months before I start writing so I have a pretty good understanding of the key characters and situation before I start. And I always outline. But as I become more experienced I am also trusting my instincts much more, making decisions faster and leaning on my emotional responses to things. I think (hope!) that that is making for stronger books. Then my book goes off to my editors and I get very detailed structural editorial notes back. I really like to go to town with a structural edit. I take at least two months, sometimes three, to take a book apart, down into the sum of its parts, and rebuild it into something stronger. It’s ferociously hard sometimes, but very worth it. Sometimes a book doesn’t need that much work, of course. With The Good Turn only one storyline needed a significant rewrite, but I can always find something to do to make the story stronger. I try to put as much effort and energy and creativity into the edit as I did into the early drafts. It takes staying power, honestly, because the more you work a book the harder it gets…but it’s worth it.
After that we have copy-editing, which is much easier, and then a proof-read. I keep tweaking right up to final pages, and I always do one final read-through where I read the book out loud, trying to work on the rhythm of the lines. When it’s finally done I never want to see the book as long as I live! And then I see the cover and I remember why I loved it in the first place.
Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?
DM. In every possible way. I’ve drawn on elements of my life for every single book I’ve written.
Q. What’s your down time look like?
DM. Down time for me is mostly not really down time! The wonderful thing about being a writer is that you have maximum flexibility. But I’ve written at least a book a year over the past few years, sometimes a book and a novella, and that’s really a full time job if you want to produce quality books. Until a year ago I had a part-time day job too. And I have primary school aged kids. So I choose to arrange my writing day around the children – I write when they are at school, but I also have to do the usually household tasks during that time, which cuts into precious writing time. I spend most of my afternoons with the kids (and believe me, I know how lucky I am that I have that choice!) but it does mean that I usually still have work to do when then are asleep. For a long time I started my day at 6 am and finished work for the day at around 10 p.m. These days I usually get at least three nights off a week and I love to curl up on the couch with my husband and catch up on TV. This year’s favourites so far – Chernobyl, Morning Wars and His Dark Materials. TV is so extraordinarily good right now and the writing is very inspirational.
Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?
DM. I have a couple of long running stories that I write for the kids when I have time, and I would love to try my hand at properly writing a middle grade fiction some time. I do have a story in mind. But there are so many other stories I want to write first that I never seem to get around to it. Not that there’s any guarantee that I would be any good at it…but I’d really like to try!
Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)
DM. There have been so many. But the need for balance, maybe, has been the hardest lesson to learn and the most rewarding. When I was younger I saw hard work as the answer to every problem. That worked for a while…until I hit a few walls that were tougher than I was and paid the price. Now instead of throwing myself up against things in mad bursts of energy and effort, I try to do smaller things but very, very consistently. I rely on routine, I try to go easier on myself and take some time for relaxation and honestly, I am more productive and far happier.
MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with best-selling AUTHORS! December: Dervla McTiernan ~~ January: David Poyer
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