A Look Behind The Book With Kirsten Hesketh.

meWriter Kirsten Hesketh recently took a huge step towards making her dream to publish a book (or two) a reality after securing an agent.

Her debut novel is finished and she has another well underway – both of which sound like my cup of tea. Hopefully it’s just a matter of time before they are snapped up.

I first ‘met’ Kirsten via Twitter and we joined together as part of a lovely group of writers supporting each other through last year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I wouldn’t have even signed up with out their support let alone finished so I’m very grateful to them.

I was delighted when Kirsten agreed to take part in my Behind The Book series and I can relate to SO much of what she says.

Have a read and see what you think.

What’s your writing dream and how long have you been dreaming it?

Good question.  I had to think long and hard about this one and there are several different answers. My first dream, which I’ve held ever since I was a child, was to write a book that somehow captures my world and that people enjoy. At the end of the day, novels are all about entertainment, aren’t they? (Are they? Discuss!) Once I’d started my book, my second dream was to finish the damn thing, because writing a novel is hard. Bloody hard. And very long! Don’t let anyone tell you differently! I’m not always a great completer/ finisher in life – I can get bored and flit onto the next thing – so it became very important to me to actually type THE END … and then to edit it … and then to start polishing. And, then my dream changed to becoming published. To be honest, that feels a bit of a pipe dream at the moment, but I am discovering in myself a depth of tenacity and perseverance I never knew I had, so who knows. You have to keep the faith, don’t you?

Can you tell us about your writing?

I write commercial (hopefully!) women’s fiction and my novel is about a husband and wife whose marriage is tested to the limit after one of their sons is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. My twitter pitch is as follows:

One son recently diagnosed with autism. One teenager going off the rails. One marriage under pressure. One waistline out of control. And one woman desperately trying to hold it all together.

Writing

When did you know book one was finished?

I didn’t! First time around, I submitted far too early and I still cringe to think of what I send out. I don’t think it had a plot! But I got some requests for the full and some lovely rejections from agents with invitations to re-submit. I’ve now edited the book so we’ll see if it’s ready now. I’m not sure any creative endeavor is ever really finished, but I think I’ve got it as far as I can on my own.

How many people you know have read it? What was that like?

No one in ‘real’ – i.e. non-writing life – has read the whole thing although my family has dipped in and out. Three writing friends asked to read it – Chris Manby, Jane Ayres and Julie Cordiner. They were all enormously supportive and helpful and I’m very grateful to them all. It’s always a bit scary when people you know read something you’ve written but I love sharing my stuff. After all, I think most of us write to be read, don’t we?

How do you make time to write?

I treat it like a job. It’s not my main job yet – although I would love it to be – but I try to be vaguely professional about it. I am a freelance marketing consultant and the work tends to come in peaks and troughs …. Every time there’s a peak, I write in the evening and at weekends. When there’s a trough, I am at my desk from 9 to 5. If the muse comes calling, that’s a bonus!

How important has social media been for you as a writer connecting with other writers? What do you gain from it?

Twitter has been hugely important. Twitter is for writing, Facebook is for friends, LinkedIn for work and WhatsApp for family! Of course, there’s overlap – particularly as writers have become friends – but that’s basically how it works for me. I joined Twitter specifically to connect with the writing community after my friend, Susanna Scott at BritMums suggested it. At first it just seemed like a lot of noise and I was about to leave. Then I found ‘my’ people. More specifically, I found Maddie Please who was then also an aspiring author and she made me laugh. A lot.  Since then it’s been great. I’ve made very genuine friends, found out about retreats and conferences and agents and had a whole lot of fun along the way. And, of course, there are the LLs – Literary Lovelies – a message group where we support each other through the highs and lows. I don’t think I would have finished this book without them.

You regularly write for Susanna Bavin’s blog about how things are going. I’ve found your posts really inspiring as someone on a similar journey but do they help you take stock too?

Thank you, Tara. I’m so thrilled you find my posts inspiring.

I love contributing to Sue’s wonderful blog. I’m so grateful to her for giving me a regular slot. It’s hugely generous of her. I love writing the posts too. Writing and submitting can be such a glacial process that sometimes I wonder if I am making any progress at all but when I sit down to write the post, I realise that, each month, things arehappening albeit very, very slowly. It’s quite cathartic sharing the frustrations and disappointments and wonderful sharing the highs. And I love, love, love all the comments. It helps me feel plugged in to the wider world in what can be a pretty lonely business.

Is there something you have learnt during the process of submitting either to agents or publishers that you wish you had known at the start?

Not really except to make sure that you are actually ready to submit and have a plot rather than blindly pressing the button after Draft One! Also, it may sound contradictory, but make sure that you do submit.

Kirsten Quote

I actually really enjoy the submissions process – I love the thrill of the chase. It’s rather like chasing boys as a teenager. (Who? Me?)  Of course, the rejections aren’t very nice, but once the sting has subsided, I’ve found that every agent’s comment has actually turned out to be gold-dust in helping me move forward.

Are you able to share a little about what are you working on at the moment?

Of course. My second book is a love story set on an archaeological dig and affectionately nick-named Muddy Milly. I wrote about 25k words last summer and then added another 50k during NaNoWriMo last November. Wasn’t Nano fun? I very much enjoyed sharing it with you and the rest of the Ab Fab writers! I’ve just returned to Muddy Milly and – although there is loads of work to do, I’m quite pleased with it. Lots of clunky writing though –  you can really tell when it’s the end of each day and I was just battling to get those words down!

Do you have a top tip to share? Something that has helped you on your writing journey?

Something that Susanna Bavin advised me to do has really helped. Make sure when you stop writing each day, you know how you are going to carry on the next day. Mornings are never my best time, and it’s so dispiriting staring at the screen with a mushy brain and not knowing how or where to start. If you leave something flagged up from the day before, you’re flying!

~

Thank you very much to Kirsten for answering my questions so thoughtfully. I know I suffer from the same issue of sending things out long before they are ready. I think it’s because of the media industry we work in – normally we write something and it’s done. I need to remember that a novel is a VERY different beast and to take my time.

If you’d like to follow Kirsten’s path to publication you can find her on Twitter and you can read her latest blog post for Susanna Bavin here.

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Book Review: The Curious Heart Of Ailsa Rae.

AilsaRaeThis book left me tingling in a way that only happens when I know I’ve just read something special.

The Curious Heart Of Ailsa Rae is a beautiful (I don’t want to say heartwarming, given the nature of the beast), wonderfully written, touching journey, which almost felt like a true story.

I’m predicting big things for this book – if the film rights haven’t been bought yet I think someone will snap them up very soon.

Here’s the blurb:

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live.

She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that – just in time – saved her life. Life should be a joyful adventure. But . . .

Her relationship with her mother is at breaking point and she wants to find her father.

Have her friends left her behind?

And she’s felt so helpless for so long that she’s let polls on her blog make her decisions for her.

She barely knows where to start on her own.

Then there’s Lennox. Her best friend and one time lover. He was sick too. He didn’t make it. And now she’s supposed to face all of this without him.

But her new heart is a bold heart.

She just needs to learn to listen to it . . .

I’m trying very hard not to gush but it’s difficult because I really did enjoy it.

There’s something about Ailsa Rae that stuck with me long after the story finished but it’s more than that, I was invested in and cared about all the other characters too.

Having said that, it’s not just a great story, it’s raising awareness about the important issue of organ donation. Ailsa seems very aware that her new heart had a life before her. She gives it a name and thinks about the person it once belonged to and how they might have dealt with different situations. However, that was only one element, it felt like Stephanie took a 360 approach; looking at it not just from the recipient and donor but both families and also the people and families for whom time runs out. And she did all that without making it feel cumbersome, which deserves a round of applause in my opinion.

Maybe it’s helped by the way it’s written, the mix of story and blog posts moves it along and I liked the way Ailsa turned to her readers for help at first (as a blogger, that part of it was very familiar). It stops it being too heavy.

Add in a romance and some Shakespeare and it was job done for me. I urge you to give it a try.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £2.63 (via Amazon).

My rating: Five stars.

With thanks to Zaffre (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for an honest review.

Book Review: A Year Of Taking Chances.

AyearoftakinchancesShort, snappy chapters keep A Year Of Taking Chances moving along like the Eurostar whizzing its way into France, where some of this book is set.

This is Jennifer Bohnet’s 12th novel (yes, 12th!) but, surprisingly, it’s the first time I’ve read any of her work.

It’s a warm and uplifting story about two friends, Tina and Jodie, who discover that dreams can come true – although you still have to work at them.

Here’s the blurb:

Life is about to change forever…

When best friends, Tina and Jodie, make a drunken New Year’s Eve vow to change their lives before they hit the big 3 – 0, neither expected to end the year with much more than another hangover…

Twelve months later, Jodie is married and living in Provence – and Tina is exactly where she was a year ago (although now her rent is double). Tina can’t help but feel a little bit left behind, but as Jodie reminds her, she’s not thirty yet, there’s still time to quit her job, start her own literary agency and sign the man of her dreams!

I generally really like books where the main characters are in the panic stage of the count down to 30 – I vaguely remember it myself – but this one didn’t quite gel for me.

While I enjoyed the story and the way it was written I didn’t connect with Tina or Jodie on more than a surface level. Having said that, there were elements of it that I really liked, such as finding out more about life in France (and, as the author lives there, she clearly knows her stuff). There’s also a third character, Maisie, who I would have liked to have seen more of.

I know it’s proving popular with other reviewers, so I’d say give it a go and make your own mind up. In fact, I’d be pleased to hear what you think.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £1.99 via Amazon.

My rating: Three and a half stars.

Thank you to HQ Digital (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for an honest review.