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.

Advertisements

A Look Behind The Book With Natalina Reis.

MeWhile Natalina Reis has written other genres, she always comes back to her first love – romance.

Currently working on her sixth novel, Natalina juggles writing with teaching and family life.

Her latest release, Blind Magic, came out in November has been winning lots of praise on Good Reads so I was delighted when she agreed to let me quiz her for my Behind The Book series.

Here’s what she had to say.

You’ve strayed into other genres but always come back to romance. What is it you enjoy?

Romance makes me happy, gives me hope that no matter how bleak things look, there is always hope. Love transcends everything else, even death to a certain extent. And of course, there is always the happy ending.

You wrote your first book at 13. Has writing always been your thing?

Yes, I’ve been writing ever since I knew how. I wrote stories even in elementary school. Being an introvert who had the worst time expressing my feelings, writing offered me a way of doing so. For some reason the written word was always a form of solace, of therapy for my soul.

That first book was a collaboration with your best friend, can you explain how that worked? Do you write together or do you do a bit and then send it to her?

We were both on spring break and we spent our evenings in my room discussing characters and parts of the plot. She would suggest something and I would suggest something else. Once we agreed on what to write, I would write it down as part of the story. It was fun. Even though I haven’t done anything like that since, I still enjoy when my critique partners or friends make suggestions. Some great ideas came out of discussions just like those.

Blind Magic for jpegs_frontcover310In Blind Magic your main character, Marcy, is a witch. What made you want to include that magical element?

Marcy happened as a happy accident to be truthful. She first appeared as a sidekick on Loved You Always where I needed her as comic relief and also as an outrageous way of helping my two main characters out of a very dangerous situation. Turns out Marcy became so much more than that. My sister was also a great inspiration for Marcy’s occupation and beliefs, since she has always been interested in the esoteric.

Did you already have an idea for Marcy’s story when you were writing Loved You Always?

I never expected to love her so much and I definitely didn’t expect the readers would fall in love with her as hard as they did. There were so many requests to write Marcy’s own story that eventually I gave in and wrote it. She is one of my favorite characters.

Blind Magic is winning a lot of praise. How does it feel to know your readers have connected with your story?

It’s amazing. As a writer I love all my characters, but to have others love and connect with them as well is heartwarming and makes everything worthwhile. One of my favorite parts of the publishing process is the beta readers’ comments as they read the book. Marcy got a lot of oohs and aahs. She really touched a chord in many readers’ hearts (and so did her man, Oliver) and I’m still shocked (in a good way) by the reactions.

You don’t just write about male/female relationships, in Lavender Fields your main character, Sky, an angel of death, falls in love with another man. Can you talk about what made you want to explore that angle?

I wanted to write a story that my son, who is gay, could identify with. But most of all I just wanted to write a love story. It just happened that the two main characters are both men. All my books have a few things in common, and one of those is the theme of diversity and universal love. In fact I wrote my first M/M romance when I was about 19 years old (a story that will never see the light of day!).

Let’s go right back to the beginning and talk about your first published book, We Will Always Have The Closet. How long did it take to write? Did you submit it to many publishers?

I wrote The Closet in 30 days during National Novel Writing Month. I polished it, hired an editor and on a whim participated on a Twitter Pitmad and was shocked to have a publisher request the full manuscript. I was offered a contract shortly after and I think I’m still in shock.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a romantic comedy that started as a short story. It’s called Fictional-Ish and it’s set in Scotland where I lived for four years a long time ago. It’s a friends to lovers, second chance story with a lot of humor and, as in most of my stories, a bit of mystery drama.

Do you have any tips for writers?

Write, never stop writing no matter how much you doubt yourself. And don’t get too stuck on what the “experts” say because writing is as individual as humans are and what works for one writer may not work for another.

natalina quote

 ~

What fabulous answers, a huge thank you to Natalina for taking part. I love that she wrote a story for her son and her writing tips couldn’t be more relevant to me this week when I’m having yet another crisis of confidence. I’m definitely going to be taking note.

If you’d like to connect with Natalina you can do so in various ways. On Twitter, Instagram,  Facebook, and, of course, you can buy her books via Amazon.

A Look Behind The Book With Lynsey James.

me in jumperA school careers adviser once told Lynsey James that writing wasn’t a “good option”.

Six books later, I suspect she has something to say about that – and she’s still only in her 20s.

Her latest novel, A Winter’s Wish Come True, is a follow up to A Season Of Hopes And Dreams, which I was delighted about, as it marks a return of one of my favourite heroines of the year.

I was excited when Lynsey agreed to talk to me for my final Behind The Book post of 2017 as it was a chance to find out more about Cleo Jones and the inspiration behind her.

What a cracker to end on, as I hope you’ll agree.

Despite what the careers adviser told you, here you are a full time writer (yay!). Where did the confidence to follow your dreams come from? Has it been as you imagined?

Wow, what a brilliant first question to kick things off with. I think support from my family has definitely contributed to my confidence to follow my dreams. They’ve always believed I could do it, even when I didn’t. Apart from that, I genuinely couldn’t imagine loving anything as much as I love writing. It’s like oxygen to me. It’s been different to how I imagined, but in a good way. I’ve learned so much and made lots of amazing friends along the way.

What does your day look like? Do you treat it as a 9-5pm job? You’re still in your 20s, can you imagine doing anything else?

I get up, have breakfast, watch a bit of telly and then crack on with my writing. I don’t treat it as a 9-5 job as such, but I do structure my writing time and do some writing every day. If I don’t, things don’t feel right! I can’t imagine doing anything else, if I’m honest. Writing has always felt like the most natural thing in the world to me; I love it and I’ll do it forever if I can.

Can you talk about your path to publication? Did you submit your first book to agents or publishers? Was it an immediate hit?

I submitted my first book to agents first of all, and was lucky enough to get some amazing constructive feedback. Although they said no, I used the feedback to improve my draft and sent it off to Carina UK (now HQ Digital). A couple of weeks later, I got that wonderful email saying they’d like to publish me! It really was a dream come true. I signed with my awesome agent Sarah a year or so later. She’s a dynamo and truly the best in the business.

 

You now have an amazing SIX books under your belt, is there anything you know now that you wish you had known with your first novel? Are you ever tempted to go back and change something?

Wow, I know! Six books feels absolutely insane to think about. That’s a difficult question to answer because on the one hand, there are things I’d change if I was writing my first book now but on the other hand, I’m proud of how it turned out. And it’s kind of fun to see how my writing’s changed from book one to six.

I became a fan of your work after reading A Season Of Hopes And Dreams. I loved that your heroine had real struggles that she was still in the thick of. How much research did you do on the sensitive issues you tackle? What made you write her as still in the midst of them rather than having had them in the past?

A lot of the research actually came from my own experiences with body dysmorphia. It’s been in my life since I was teenager, but it got really bad a couple of years ago when I was trying to lose a significant amount of weight. I felt like I couldn’t trust my own self-perception and it really affected my confidence. It’s less severe now, but it really informed my decision to write Cleo as being in the midst of her struggles with it. I thought the journey would be an interesting one to write, and hoped it might help people going through similar things in their own lives. Body dysmorphia isn’t something I’ve seen a lot of in books, so to me it felt important to tell the story and to show how things can and do get better.

Your most recent book follows Cleo again. Can you talk about why you chose to continue her story (I’m thrilled you did).

In all honesty, I absolutely love Cleo. She’s one of my favourite characters I’ve ever written and I didn’t feel ready to say goodbye to her. I was talking to A L Michael, one of my best friends, and she told me to go for it and write a second part to Cleo’s story. I’m really glad I did!

I’m interested in the books you read – from your blog reviews you seem to have eclectic taste. Will there be a switch in writing genre for you in the future?

Never say never! I love to read a whole mix of books, so I’m really open to trying new things. As long as I’m creating stories for people to hopefully enjoy, I’m happy.

Did you ever consider using a pen name?

I haven’t so far, but if I decide to switch genres then I would.

Are you able to share what you working on at the moment?

I wish I could! All I’ll say is it’s top-secret and will be out next year. Watch this space for more announcements…

Do you have any writing tips you can pass on?

Read as many different books as you can. Have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment.

lynseyquote

 

~

Thank you very much to Lynsey for answering my questions so honestly, I really appreciate her opening up about her own struggles – and I have no doubt that Cleo Jones is an inspiration to many people, myself included.

You can find out more about Lynsey via her website, on Twitter or buy her books via her Amazon page here. Her latest, A Winter’s Wish Come True, is currently £1.99.

I’m looking forward to posting some more Behind The Book interviews in the New Year but, just in case you have missed any, you can find the archive here.