What are you currently writing/working on?
I’m 40,000 words into my ninth novel, which tells the tale of Alistair Veale, a teacher who makes a mistake on a school trip that uproots the solid foundations of his 20 year marriage.
When and how do your characters come to you? Is it in a moment of inspiration, an epiphany? Or do they grow in some murky recess of your mind?
I sit and purposely think about them and make notes about their characteristics and personality before I even start a novel.
There’s an acceptance that authors often write in traits or characteristics of themselves into their work, is there any part of you in any of your characters?
Yes, part of my life is in ‘The Porn Detective’, which was very therapeutic to write, but I’m glad it’s now over and I’ve moved on.
How do you develop your characters? Do you let them brew in your subconscious, use character interview sheets, or something completely different?
Just a notebook to write down their hair colour, eye colour, personality traits etc. In this way I can refer back to it if I’ve forgotten them when I’m a month and 30,000 words into the novel. Their actions come naturally to me as I write.
Are you a planner, or free writer?
I make the plot up as I go along. The idea I start out with might be completely different to the finished novel
When you are developing a book, what tools or techniques do you use, e.g. timelines, mood boards, character interviews, scraps of notes?
Only the aforesaid notebook to keep track of all my characters. Other than that, nothing.
Has your technique changed over time?
Not really. The only thing I do differently now is to add in more conversation
Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you actively look for it?
Often it’s a news item on TV that will get the cogs whirring. The inspiration for ‘A House Without Windows’ came from a news bulletin where three women were released from captivity after 30 years. This gave me the idea for Beth, held captive for 10 years, and her daughter Amy, born in captivity and who had never seen the outside world at all.
Other sources of inspiration are taken from my own experiences, or sometimes ideas just come to me early in the morning!
What kind of an environment do you write in? Day/night/silence/music/desk/sofa etc.
At my desk in silence during the day. I work better in the mornings too; my concentration starts wavering in the evenings and I give up.
Half way into writing my first novel, it’s taking over my brain! What advice can you give me on completing it? Or maybe an easier question. What do you wish you had known about writing a book before you started?
There’s so many little things you learn as you go along. Don’t keep repeating the same words, don’t use too many flowery adjectives, be aware of tenses and not letting your protagonist stray off course. De dah de dah de dah, the list of things you have to remember not to do seem to get longer with each story!
The publishing industry is in decline across the board. Do you think things like the Kindle are bridging the gap, is there still the same love for the written word, or is it being diluted by the modern obsession with tech and gadgets?
I’m not sure that’s true. There seems to be a proliferation of smaller publishing companies starting up. This is a good thing, as the larger publishing houses are to all extents and purposes unreachable except through an agent. You can submit your novel to a smaller publisher, and they actually respond! In this way your book gets professionally edited and can be printed in paperback form as well as electronically, but also with a modicum of marketing added. Of course you can do all this yourself, but the finished product I think probably looks more professional if printed by a small publisher.
50 Shades of Grey author EL James was reported to make around £100k a day at the book’s height, and the upcoming film will make her millions. Do you find it a shame that the most lucrative and famous book franchise of the moment is one so widely derided for its lack of literary value? Or is it just good to have a book going mainstream?
Good luck to E.L James I say, for writing what people want to read, which as far as I can tell seems to be sex, sex and more sex. In my humble opinion I think it’s a shame that a pornographic book has become so popular. What does this tell us about the state of the world we live in?
If a fascist regime was burning the worlds libraries, what books would you save?
Libraries will soon be obsolete within a generation anyway, so there’ll be no physical books left to save; they’ll either all be free to download onto your Kindle, or if a replacement paperback is needed you’ll be able to order it online. What a shame, but that’s progress……
Which publishing route have you taken? Did you always know you were going to go down this route, and if so why?
I started out self-published, but my eighth novel ‘The Daughter-in-law Syndrome’ will be published by Second Wind Publishing in May 2015. I eventually want to catch the eye of one of the big publishing houses, and I am nothing if not persistent…….
What do you wish you knew about the publishing process before you started?
How useless and time-wasting it is knocking on the doors of literary agencies; no-one is ever at home unless you’re a celebrity………
What is the best advice you could give to aspiring novelists like me? Or what was the best advice you were ever given?
Never give up in your efforts to reach your goal. Be persistent and learn from your mistakes.
Is fanfic to be welcomed as it broadens interaction and the readers experience or a scourge that devalues the ability of an author?
I had no idea what ‘Fanfic’ was until I looked it up on Google. If I borrowed somebody else’s characters to write a story about them, I would be worried about breaching copyright.
I am finding more and more, that writers often have several creative outlets. Do you? Or is writing your one source?
Yes, just writing. I’m not good at anything else
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always wanted to write since I was a child. The passion has always been there.
What authors do you admire, and why?
The classic writers; for example L.P Hartley, D. H Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh, John Steinbeck, and F.Scott Fitzgerald. Their lights shine brighter; their mastery of words leaves me spellbound.
To find out more about Stevie, read her Author Bio:
I’m a British writer, living in the wilds of East Anglia in a picturesque village that looks particularly good if you take photos of it when it’s covered in snow. I’m married with two grown up sons and four grandchildren, and work as a medical secretary in a busy NHS hospital. I write dark, sometimes humorous fiction, and my third novel ‘A House Without Windows’ has recently won a New Apple Book Award. My eighth novel ‘The Daughter-in-law Syndrome’ will be published in May 2015 through Second Wind Publishing.