A Look Behind The Book With Lucy Mitchell.

IMG_3074 2Monday mornings were always just that bit more manageable when I knew Lucy Mitchell would be posting the latest instalment of The Diary of Roxy Collins on her blog.

Her funny, warm and relatable series, featuring a single mother of three, looking for love after some disastrous relationships, has since been turned into a popular podcast, read by Lucy (links at the end).

For now though, Roxy is having to step aside – not that she’s very happy about it – while Lucy is busy writing her debut novel.

I’ve been a fan for years and can’t wait to see what she comes up with but first I was very happy when she agreed to chat to me for my latest Behind The Book post.

Let’s start with the big one, what’s the dream writing-wise? And how do you keep that dream alive?

I want to see one of my stories turned into a book. I want to frame the cover and put it on my living room wall. Every night I sit in my writing corner, in the lounge, and glance up at the bare wall, near my book shelves. One day it will contain a framed book cover and I will be so proud of myself.

At what age did you start writing? Were you encouraged at school?

I wrote a lot as a child and excelled at English at school. When I went to university I wrote to my mother every week. Instead of terrifying her with my student adventures I turned them all into little comedies. Mum tells me laughed her head off each breakfast time, as she read my lengthy account of student life, and she knew I would one day do something with my writing.

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You write romantic comedy fiction. Were you always interested in that genre? What was the lure? 

I enjoy writing stuff that makes people laugh and I also enjoy reading romance. I write about real romances as for years I have grown tired of reading about stick thin heroines with glamorous jobs and angelic children. It is time for the real life heroines with failed marriages, ex partners, unsuccessful diets, money issues and wild best friends, to make an appearance.

Can we talk about your very successful blog? When and why did you start it?

My kids and husband were doing my head in one Sunday back in April 2014. I crept upstairs and started my blog. I wanted a place where I could come out as a writer and gain some confidence.

You’re very open about the ups and downs of a writing life, which I can totally identify with. Was that a conscious decision? I know a lot of authors feel like they shouldn’t talk about rejections, what do you think?

My blog is a place where I sort out my head. I use each blog post to investigate an issue or deal with an emotional problem.

I will be talking about the highs and lows of my publishing journey on my blog.

How do you find time to blog, write, work and I’m sure do a million other different things?

I write in the bath, in motorway service stations, in hotel rooms, in cafes in my lunch hour and before I go to bed. I am tapping out words on dog walks, in lifts and in shopping centres. Writing is a huge part of my life.

 

Can you talk about your character Roxy Collins? As well as your blog, she also features on Wattpad and a very successful podcast.

Roxy Collins has become an old friend to me. I am so glad I turned her into a podcast and gave her a voice. She’s always in my head and never leaves me. Roxy makes me giggle as I know she gets jealous of new female characters who come into my mind.

The female character who makes it to publication better be tough enough to face up to Roxy.

How important do you think social media is to writers?

Social media has been a life saver for me. I have entered a supportive and encouraging community of creative people who have been like beacons of light for me on dark days.

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Who are your favourite authors to read?

I like Stephie Chapman, Victoria Cooke and Roxie Cooper. They all make me smile.

I know you share a lot of writing tips on your blog, do you have a top one you live by?

Keep writing. Even when you are having a tough time, keep writing.

~

Wise words, particularly at the end there. I completely agree about finding fellow writers on social media too – and Lucy has always been lovely.

You can find her brilliant blog, Blonde Write More, here, read Roxy’s story on Wattpad here and hear Lucy (and Roxy) in action on her podcast on iTunes here. It’s also available on Stitcher and Soundcloud.

A big thank you to Lucy for taking part and sending best wishes for her debut.

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A Look Behind The Book With Aby Moore.

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An undisputed star of the blogging world, Aby Moore could quite easily sit back and revel in the success her hard work has brought her. Instead, this Mamapreneur wants to inspire others to turn their hobby into a thriving business  – and she’s happy to show them how.

Among many other things, she writes articles offering tips on ways to make money from blogging on her own popular site, You Baby, Me Mummy, runs mentoring courses, workshops and has a busy Facebook community.  As if that wasn’t enough, Aby has just released her first book, Blogs Change Lives, to make it even easier for those wanting to take things to the next level.

Her daughter, Ava, is the same age as Freya and I first started reading Aby’s blog when she was focussed on parenting but, even at the start, she was always willing to offer help and encouragement. To see the way her blogging empire has grown and evolved over the years has been amazing but the best thing is, Aby has remained the same friendly, helpful person she always was.

I was thrilled when she agreed to be my latest Behind The Book interviewee.

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I can’t think of anyone better to write a book about blogging but what made you want to do it? What are you hoping people get from it?

Thanks so much, that’s very kind of you to say that. Growing up I longed to write a book. As a lover of a good project, the idea appealed to me, but I could never think of a suitable topic. I wanted it to be something I felt passionately about. Something that I could pour my heart into.

Years (and years!) passed and still no book. Then in 2013 I had my daughter and later that year was diagnosed with Post Natal Depression. My life totally and utterly changed, as it turned out eventually for the better! I wanted to capture the magic which had led to so many wonderful things happening in my life and so I wrote this book.

My blog fixed me and continues to do so every day. I’ve worked with international brands, had amazing opportunities and have also been able to support my family. Then it struck me! My story could help others. My story could show people who have never considered blogging just how powerful it is. While providing people who already have blogs with a clear roadmap for them to follow and succeed. I started writing mid way through November and just three months later the book was finished!

I’m so incredibly proud of Blogs Change Lives. I wrote it to show all the mamas out there that they do not have to put their dreams on hold. Nor do they have to leave their children to go out to work for someone else (if this is not what they want). They can create their own empires.

BlogschangelivesHow exactly has your blog changed your life?

My blog has always given me somewhere to escape to when I’ve needed it. Which over the years has proved invaluable.

However, the best thing that blogging has given me are some amazing friendships with beautiful, courageous and driven women that I have the pleasure of calling my friends.

My blog turned into a business which has supported my family, but also been a springboard to other things, such as starting a podcast, running an online summit, oh and writing a book!

You’ve carried your chatty and friendly but confident blog style through to your book. It’s almost like you’re our best friend and we’ve asked you for help. Did it just naturally happen that way? 

That’s so lovely to hear. I think it’s so important to show up with authenticity and so I had to write this book as me. It’s my story and I wanted to tell it in my own voice and make a connection with my readers that was genuine and would be cohesive with my voice across my other platforms.

Blogging has changed so much over the years. What’s one good thing and one bad thing you think has happened

I’m seeing more and more bloggers go on to achieve awesome things outside the blogging niche. This is so wonderful and is a testament to their creativity and hard work. More and more people are expanding and diversifying their work and subsequently their income streams. This is all so positive for bloggers.

However, I think there has been an influx of newer bloggers who think monetising a blog is easy (which we all know it isn’t!). They are expecting to work for a couple of hours a week and earn decent money in return.

Your own blog has also evolved. Did you make a conscious decision to write less about parenting Ava? Do you miss a more therapeutic style of blogging?

It definitely wasn’t a conscious decision. I absolutely love helping people with their blogs and so as my experience grew my niche changed. I would much rather talk about blogging and business, than potty training and weaning, so it’s a better fit for me. I still write about my family when it’s relevant and I really want to show people that I still walk the walk. I’m a working mum, who has to juggle her child with the demands of a business. I still work with brands and do all the things I’m training them to do, which I feel makes me authentic.

What’s your favourite part of your blogging life now (including things such as giving inspirational talks at blog meet ups etc)?

I love doing Facebook lives and helping my community. I also really enjoy creating videos for YouTube.

What about the actual task of writing the book. How did you fit that it around work and parenting?

I’m quite driven, so when I decided I wanted to start writing it I did. I’d just got on the Eurostar in London andy the time I reached Paris I had 3,000 words written. I repurposed some content too. Writing my book just became a daily priority. Even if you write 2,000 words a day you can create a decent room in around 3 months.

Can we talk self-publishing? Was it natural, as a blogger who has been self- publishing for years, to go down that route?

It is difficult, as I think there tends to be a certain degree of ‘extra’ status. However, I was seeing more and more entrepreneurs who I look up to self-publishing their own books successful. I also create my business so I’m not reliant on other people. I’m not tied to brand work. If that goes quiet, I have other products.

Aby Moore Quote

This is your first book, have you thought about writing any more? Maybe fiction?

I think it was a one time thing! To be honest I’m not the world’s most creative person. If you gave me a topic, I could write a book!

What is your top writing tip?

Break it down into a daily writing word count. My book is 75k words, so if you have a rough word count in mind and then always write your daily allocation your book will be finished before you know it.

~

I love Aby’s attitude to self-publishing, it makes complete sense when she says it like that.

I can’t thank her enough for answering my questions and wish her every success with her book, which, at the time of writing, has ALL five star reviews on Amazon.

Want to find out more? You can visit Aby’s site here, follow her on TwitterInstragram and Facebook, watch her YouTube videos and, of couse, you can buy Blogs Change Lives via Amazon here.

Are you a blogger? Have you thought about trying to take your blog to the next level?

A Look Behind The Book With Isabella Davidson.

IsabellaDavidsonPhoto2For years she wrote the popular but very much anonymous blog, Notting Hill Yummy Mummy, which gave a rather tongue in cheek peek at the glamorous, competitive and often bizarre world of the super rich of west London.

That changed when her first book, The Beta Mum: Adventures In Alpha Land, came out and she had to reveal herself as Isabella Davidson – not just to her readership but also to her neighbours and the school gate mums she sometimes wrote about.

In my latest Behind The Book post I was thrilled to be able to ask Isabella about what it was like to be thrust into the spotlight in such a big way (she was featured in the Times and other newspapers as well as on TV and radio) together with picking up some tips for bloggers hoping to become authors.

When did you start writing? Was it with the blog or even before that? Was it your dream to eventually publish a book?

I have always written, ever since I was a child, whether short stories in class or in my diary. I also took a creative writing class during university but having my work read and critiqued in class when I was 18 was quite hard to take in. Then, I went back to writing when I started my blog, which was a fun and creative outlet for me at the time, but my dream was always to write and publish a book.

Would you say blogging helped you, aside from subject matter, with your book?

Blogging has been a huge help for many reasons. Firstly, it forces you to write even when you don’t want to, but it also helps you hone your craft. As they say, the more you write, the better you get at it, so writing blogs is a way of writing which contributes to your writing skills. Of course, when people complimented me on my writing, it gave me confidence to think that perhaps I could write a book. And having a ready audience helps. You know that at least a few people will read your book!

You gave up your anonymity when you published your novel. What was that like? Was it a big decision to take? Was there any fallout for you?

It was a big decision to come out in the open. Originally, I wanted to publish my book under a pseudonym and keep the blog anonymous. But when the Times asked to interview me, I didn’t have much choice, because they wanted pictures of me (a massive two page insert of me in my house!) so I asked my husband if he was ok with it, and when he said ok, that was the end of my anonymity. Mostly, people have been very supportive and encouraging of my book, but they also said I was very brave. I am sure a lot of people have been talking about me and my book when I’m not there. There has been some fallout, but truthfully, not with any of my friends, who all know who I am and know that it was a bit of fun. It’s mostly people who don’t know me that have taken their distance, or people who are scared that I am going to write about them or expose their life or lifestyles. I keep it all anonymous and tongue and cheek and it’s not meant to be taken very seriously, but I understand that not everyone will be happy with what I have done.

Not only did your book get a lot of publicity when it was launched but so did you. I’ve seen some beautiful photos of you reclining on a lovely white sofa. Was that difficult to deal with, especially having been anonymous? Had you expected it? And did you get any help with managing it?

I knew that when the Times article came out, it would cause a stir, I just didn’t know how much. From there, I went on to be interviewed by The Daily Mail and went on TV and radio, but it was an intense period of time. I was being interviewed on a regular basis and it takes time and effort to prepare for the interviews and to look ‘good’ and to be ‘on’ all the time. It was quite draining. I didn’t get help with how to answer controversial questions I was asked, but I did in the end get some help with the PR because I couldn’t do it on my own. It was a lot of work. I am glad the publicity has died down somewhat and I can go back to my normal life without having people coming up to me and saying they saw me in the papers. In the process, I realised that I am a lot more private than I thought. I thought I would enjoy all the attention but after I while, all I wanted was some peace and quiet.

image1Your fabulous book follows the story of Sophie Bennett who arrives in London fresh from Canada and is thrown into the outrageous, entertaining but also sometimes quite cruel world of the Alpha Mums. I felt genuinely sorry for Sophie but by the end of the book I also (surprisingly) had some sympathy with the Alpha Mums. I think it would have been easy just to cast them as the bad guys and leave it at that but you made them very 3D. Was that important to you? 

Yes, it was important that I make them realistic too. I didn’t want my readers to think all these mums are horrid and evil, because for the most part they aren’t. There are a few exceptions like Kelly, that really exist, but most of the mums are absolutely lovely and nice. But there would be no story if everyone was nice! So I had to pile on the horridness. There is a lot of competition though, and that’s just very true in London in general or any big city. New York is 100 times worst. I also believe that most people are 3D characters and have reasons for acting certain ways, whether because they are unhappy or insecure or just negative people, so I try to understand the motivations behind people and try to have empathy towards everyone.

How much of the story was autobiographical? Is it really like that? And which side are you on?

Everyone thinks the story is autobiographical, but it’s not. People come up to me thinking I am like Sophie and are almost disappointed that I’m not. I am not Sophie in many ways, she is shy and reserved and that’s certainly not how my friends would describe me. I have lived in London for 15 years so that’s also very different. I used the set up of Sophie moving to London to really show an outsider’s point of view of London. I am probably more Alpha than Beta in the end as well… But I’d like the Alphas to be kinder to each other and not to take it all too seriously. Some parts of the book are influenced by real events that have happened to me or to people that I know, but mostly it is all fiction and fictionalised. The plot and all the characters are fiction and not based on any particular person.

Can you talk about how you were published? Did you submit to agents/publishers or were you discovered? What was the process like? How was it seeing a copy of your book in the shops for the first time?

My road to publishing in the end was very much my own path. I was first approached by an agent through my blog, (but he turned it down later) so that’s when I started thinking seriously about writing a novel. I then went on the Faber Academy novel writing course and wrote my novel that year. I did approach several agents and publishers, but after a few months, I decided to do it on my own terms and sent my manuscript to Silverwood, which is an independent self-funded publisher that I found through another writer who had done the Faber course as well. These days, there is more than one way to get your book published and I didn’t want to wait one and a half years to see if I could get a traditional publishing deal. Luckily, I already had a platform and visibility through the blog, which got me the Times interview. In the end, for me, I just wanted to see and feel my book in my hands, which was a wonderful thing. And having it all over the Notting Hill Bookshop window was pretty cool. I couldn’t have asked for a better place for it. But doing it on your own is so much work, so you need time and dedication and determination to get your book out there. Neither path is easy, but as they say in writing, you need perseverance.

You have lots of strings to your bow but I know you worked a medical doctor for a long time. Would you ever write about your experiences of that profession, either as a book or for newspapers and magazines?

Interestingly, I don’t have a need to write about medicine or being a doctor. When I was a doctor, I did quite a bit of medical research writing but for my fiction writing, I want to create a world outside of medicine. I can’t see myself blending those two worlds, which for me is a serious world (medicine) and a creative world (writing). I would love to write a book about Vietnam one day though (I am half Vietnamese).

How do you find time to write along with family life and all the many other things you have on your plate?

That’s a good question. When I was writing my novel, I dedicated that year to writing and said ‘no’ to coffee mornings, lunches, events and working out and spent my days between school drop offs and pick ups writing. Also, I need the mental space to get involved in my story and in my characters, so it is usually a solitary time for me. I didn’t do much blogging during that time. Then after the book was published it was about doing interviews, being on social media and doing blogger outreach and interviews, so it’s been a lot less about writing recently. Right now, I’m also enjoying doing book events, I had a book reading and signing last week and I have another one next week – and that’s also quite time consuming! But you have to find time and to prioritise if you want to write a novel. That meant while the kids were at school, after they went to bed, and sometimes when we were on holiday.

Is there another book in the pipeline? Can you talk about what you’re working on now?

I am not quite ready for my next book yet. I still need to digest this one and still need to do a bit of work with this one. There is a potential project with this book that is rather quite exciting, and if it took off, it would take up most of my time for the next year or so. But the chances that it will happen is 1/1000 or less so I think I can still keep dreaming. It’s always good to have a dream and a goal though, so that keeps me going.

Any tips for fellow bloggers interested in writing a book?

My writing tutor told me that the most important thing was ‘tenacity.’ As a writer, you have to have so much perseverance, dedication and determination. Of course talent helps, but what sets a writer apart is their hard work: to sit on that chair and write every day, to finish that book, to edit, edit, edit, to send it to agents and publishers, to accept rejection and to just keep going until one day you may get to see your book on a bookshelf in a bookstore. It is incredibly hard work, but to succeed, you need to work harder than anyone else and never give up.

Isabella quote

Oh, and luck really helps too, but unfortunately I can’t help you with that! What you can do though is to keep going…

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Many thanks to Isabella for answering my (often very long) questions. It’s great to find out more about her and her book. I think she handled her new found fame much better than I would have done. I can’t wait to see if her exciting project comes off, I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

You can read my review and an excerpt of The Beta Mum: Adventures In Alpha Land here. You can also follow more of Isabella’s adventures via her blog, on Twitter and, of course, you can buy her book via Amazon in paperback or for Kindle here.

I’ll have two more Behind The Book guests next month. Don’t forget you can now follow After The Rain on Facebook so you need never miss a post.