A Look Behind The Book With Ian Wilfred.

FullSizeRender 2.jpgIan Wilfred describes his perfect day as going for a walk on the beach with his dog, coming back and enjoying a lovely hot coffee and then writing.

Swap the dog for Freya and coffee for a hot chocolate and Ian and I are on the same page but we also have something else in common – having both adopted Norfolk as our home county.

Ian is the author of three books (so far), after publishing his debut in 2013 and then two more last year. I was so pleased when he agreed to be my first Behind The Book interviewee of 2018.

I hope you enjoy his answers as much as I did.

Can we begin by talking about when you first started writing? Have you written since you were a child or is it a more recent discovery?

My first serious writing started in 2012 and led to me publishing Putting Right The Past in 2013. It all came about as I gave up work to become my dad’s full time carer and, with a lot of time on my hands, I thought this is the perfect time to get started. I had always written little bits but no one had ever seen any of it.

You mention you’re a fan of Mills and Boon. I also love them and think they are totally underrated (as a lot of romantic fiction is). What do you like about them?

Oh yes, I’ve always loved Mills and Boon, their books seem to have been in my life as long as I can remember. Back in November I was very lucky to have lunch with the Norfolk chapter of The Romantic Novelist Association (RNA) and at the lunch were two Mills and Boon authors who between them have written 200 books – I was a little star struck. Also, I’m really looking forward to seeing the new look Mills and Boon as 2018 is the year they are having a big makeover. Exciting times ahead, I think.

Was it Mills and Boon that inspired you to write romance/women’s fiction?

I don’t know if it was Mills and Boon that influenced me but what I write is sort of all I know. I don’t think I could write in any other genre.

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I’ve been trying to hunt down statistics for what proportion of women’s fiction writers are men these days but they seem to vary – although they are all on the small side. Were you ever put off by the fact that so few men seem to write that genre – at least under their own names?

In the beginning people thought it a bit strange but there are more and more of us out there now. I know of quite a few that write under female names or just their initials but I’ve stuck to Ian.

 

As you’ve said, you published your debut, Putting Right The Past, in 2013. What was that like? It seems to have been very well received, as all your books have, what did it mean to have people connect with your writing?

I have learnt so much since Putting Right The Past and some things I would change knowing what I know now but not the actual story.  The feed back was lovely, I enjoyed the contact on Twitter and the emails with the readers, bloggers and other authors.

Last year you published two more books, The Little Terrace of Friendships and A Secret Visitor To Saltmarsh Quay. Was it an easier process?

After my dad died we moved from the Midlands to Norfolk. For the first few years, our lives were taken up with getting jobs, decorating, gardening and not forgetting a lot of time on the beach with a new puppy but a few things happened in the family and I felt I needed to return to my little world of writing. I first re-read loads of little projects I had started and that’s when The Little Terrace Of Friendships was born. Everything about that book coming together was so lovely from writing it to meeting Rebecca Emin at Gingersnap Books who organised and formatted it, Nancy Callegari who edited it, Maureen Vincent-Northam, proofreader, and working with the very talented Cathy Helms at Avalon Graphics on the cover. The icing on the cake was having it in the top 30 Amazon holiday chart for several months. It was such a happy time. I feel really blessed and I was so lucky to be able to work with these fabulous ladies again on my last book, A Secret Visitor To Saltmarsh Quay

Do you ever miss any of your characters? They take up such a big chunk of brain space and then suddenly they are gone, it must be like losing a friend in a way.

This is such a great question, Tara, I’ve never been asked this before and I’ve given it a lot of thought. One of the characters in Putting Right The Past was a women whose husband got his comeuppance for lying cheating and being a horrible individual but, as she wasn’t one of the main people in the book, we really didn’t know where her life could go. Perhaps one day I should return to her story and give her a happy ending but I find once I start writing something new I get involved with the new characters and they take over your life in a big way.

Can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment?

My next project (which at this point has three titles, not sure which one I like the most) is off to the lovely Nancy very soon. It is set in Norfolk and again with another fabulous female over 40 called Caroline whose husband has a secret and this leads to her starting a new and exciting life without him.

Do you have any writing tips to share please?

Me give writing tips? I’m the one always asking authors for their tips and they are so helpful and generous with their advice. The best bit of advice I have been given over and over again is keep writing everyday – even if it’s just a couple hundred words. I work full time so it’s not easy. I manage to write something about five days a week; anything from two hundred to three thousand words. I never go back I just plough through until I write THE END and that’s when the hard work for me starts – back at page one rewriting, cutting, adding, getting rid of characters that don’t need to be there and adding new ones doing this over and over again until I’m happy with it.

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Thank you very much to Ian for kicking off the 2018 series of Behind The Book, I love how modest he is – even with three very well received books under his belt. If you’d like to know more about him you can chat via Twitter or check out his page on Amazon here.

I’ve got some more fabulous authors lined up for this year so please pop back.

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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.

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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.

NaNoWriMo 2017 – I did it!

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Taking part in this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) hadn’t even crossed my mind – until the author Susanna Bavin suggested it.

Susanna, who has appeared in my Behind The Book series, wrote a blog post featuring quotes from her writer friends about their experiences of NaNo. Having completed it in 2015 (just), I added a comment and thought that was the end of it.

It wasn’t until a Twitter conversation later where Susanna invited me to be her buddy this year – and some of her friends and mine encouraged me – that I first thought ‘maybe I should do this?’ I talked it through with Mark because I knew from last time that I would need his support if I was going to manage it. He was all for it (I moan about him but he’s a good one really), so I signed up.

Did I mention it was already October 22nd and NaNo starts on November 1st? Not only that but I was just about to head off on holiday for half term week so not much time for prep. I decided to continue with the book I’ve been working on for Friday 500 – and luckily I convinced my writing buddy, Kate, to join in.

We began our Friday 500 project in September 2016 (the idea was that we would email each other a minimum of 500 words each week of our respective novels). It’s worked really well. I’ve had a lot of fun trying out different things. I’m writing third person but alternate between characters. I started with two main characters, went up to three, went back down again and then tried writing first person. I also realised that I really REALLY needed to have some sort of plan. So I stopped and spent a solid couple of weeks plotting and then I started again, almost from scratch.

By October, I had two chapters and a really quite detailed idea of where my story was going but I would have happily continued to plod along had Susanna not offered to be my buddy for NaNo.

I was really excited to get started. I didn’t include any of the words I had already written but, because I had spent so long thinking about the story (even dreaming scenes some nights), the words really flowed. I was still getting up at 5am and writing some days so I could get my word count up but, unsurprisingly, having Freya at school all day this time was a big help.

Nano stats

As you can see, some days were better than others. I realised at the start that I really needed to get some words in the bank because there were days, particularly weekends, where it would be a struggle. Once I had that safety net it pretty much sailed along. I even managed to finish a couple of days early – unlike last time when I was almost still typing up to deadline.

I actually found it quite emotional writing the final chapter, maybe because I had actually written all the chapters before it (I only had six and an ending last time and the rest were scenes).

What’s also been really great this time is having a supportive group of writing buddies to talk to via Twitter DM every day. Writing can be a lonely pursuit but they always gave me something to smile about.

And here it is, my certificate (isn’t it nice that it goes with my blog colours). I think even those who didn’t reach the 50k are winners. We all had our own goals but more importantly we all wanted to write – and that’s what we’ve done.

NaNo-2017-Winner-Certificate 2

Thank you very much to everyone who has supported me – and especially Susanna. I’m very excited to have an actual draft. Now on to editing.

Did you take part in NaNoWriMo this year (or in the past)? How did you get on?