Interview

How did you find yourself writing a book? What’s the story behind your career? I’ve always been an avid reader and, like so many people, hoped I’d write a book one day. Being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness as well as almost losing my sight made me realise I should stop day-dreaming and JFDI – just … do it. I asked for a novel writing correspondence course from The Writing Magazine for Christmas and Dying To See You was the end result.

What makes your subject interesting? We meet all sorts of people in our lives but how well do we really know them? We all have secrets or parts of ourselves we don’t wish to reveal. My story was inspired by carrying out security checks on potential employees and thinking back to the time when I first met my husband. It was six months before I met anyone who knew him and could verify that he was who he said he was. I was lucky but what if I’d met the wrong man like Sophie in the story did?

What makes you an interesting author? I have years of experience in social work and use this as well as my life experiences to colour my books with multi-faceted characters and challenging situations. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m interesting though. My family think I’m boring. All I talk about is books and writing. I’m a very determined person and once I decide to do something I will work and work at it until I achieve it.

How many times have you wished you’d started writing earlier? Every day! How could I have missed out on this wonderful pastime all these years?

Who are your favourite authors? I love Michael Robotham’s crime novels and am eagerly awaiting his new release in July. I had a couple of good ideas for novels but he has beaten me to them with his latest books. The last one was almost identical to the rough plot I’d drafted. My most recent gem of a find is Robert McCammon. I purchased Speaks the Nightbird on Audible and am now on book four of the series. This writer is phenomenal and the narrator, Edourdo Ballerini is fantastic. All I can say is ‘Wow! What a duo’.

How much time do you spend writing? Whenever I’m not working running my care agency I am in front of my laptop working on a novel.

What are you reading right now? I’m reading Travelling Through My Mind by Matthew Littlechild. It is a true account of a man describing his life with Paranoid Schizophrenia and if you can see past the poor grammar and editing it is a fascinating insight. I’m listening to The Providence Rider by Robert McCammon. Another 5* read.

What’s the biggest hurdle to getting words on the page and how do you overcome it? Carving time out of a busy day. Even if I’m not sure what to write I just put random thoughts to paper and then the ideas flow.

How do you feel about ebooks vs. print? I love e-books. Having grown up with paperbacks and lending libraries it still amazes me when I can select a book online and have it on my kindle ready to read within seconds. It would be incredible to see my book on a stand at the airport though and I still love the smell of a new paperback.

If you could work with any author who would it be? If I had to write a book with them I’d probably choose Kerry Fisher as I like her style and humour.

Night owl or early bird? I write at all different times of day and night and in different places. If I have a spare half hour or I can’t sleep I’m drawn straight to my laptop.

Other creative outlets? I love art and painting with watercolours but never have time these days. I have a sepia coloured painting on my wall that I did years ago of my son when he was a toddler sitting in a sunny doorway. When I retire I’d like to go on a painting holiday in Tuscany. I’m learning the piano as another item on my JFDI list is to play Moonlight Sonata all the way through by reading the music and not playing by ear as I currently do for the beginning of it. I’d love to be able to play the whole piece. I enjoy cooking at weekends with my Granddaughter.

Favourite books from childhood? Norgy in Littleland by Freda Hurt and Enid Blyton’s The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat.

Three favourite movies? Taken, Immortal Beloved and Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Favourite type of hero? Quiet, intelligent, resourceful – oh, and handsome of course!

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from? My mother read us stories at night but when she was incapacitated by a difficult pregnancy I was desperate to make sense of the black squiggles so I could read the book for myself. I longed to go to school with my older brothers so I could learn to read.

What cultural value do you see in writing/reading/storytelling/etc? I see writing books, even fiction ones, as a way to raise awareness of social issues, give people food for thought, evoke emotions and generate discussions.

What are some of the references that you used while researching this book? I did a lot of research for Dying to See You and scared the wits out of my husband a few times when he turned on the i-pad (he’s a tad squeamish). Knowing how long it takes a body to  decompose isn’t really his cup of tea. I spoke to professionals – fire, police, funeral director etc. and checked out all facts and procedures so no-one could complain in their reviews that the book wasn’t accurate.

What do you think most characterizes your writing? I love to see the positives in people as well as the negatives so even the wrong-doers in my books may have an appealing, human element. I think it is extremely  rare for someone to be purely good or purely evil.

What was the hardest part of writing this book? It was difficult to be taken seriously as a writer, particularly by my family, so I was thrilled when I was offered a publishing deal. I still get moaned at for being on the laptop all the time though and still work at my other job.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book? I was totally blown away by the exhilaration of writing and being in control of the story. So often I’ve read books and been disappointed by unrealistic coincidences or characters who behave in annoying ways. Writing my own novel made me feel like a teenager who had been given the keys to the family car for the first time and I could choose which direction to go in. A bit scary at times but I’m in the driving seat now!

Are there vocabulary words or concepts in your book that may be new to readers? Define some of those. I have a wide vocabulary but only use complex or unusual words if a simpler one just won’t do. I want the story to flow so don’t want to slow readers down by them wondering what a word means.

What inspires you? My mentor and editor Lesley Eames really encourages me. She takes on board my ideas than makes a minor suggestion that lifts the story out of the mediocre and into a polished piece of work.

What makes your book stand out from the crowd? My books are written to evoke a range of emotions – laughter, sadness, horror, confusion – and to make readers question their own values. I love it when reviewers make comments such as ‘This book really messed with my head’ and ‘The wicked acts perpetrated can’t be excused and yet readers as much as characters will question their instincts and ponder forgiveness.’ When I wrote Dying to See You I thought of the twist then built the story around it to create a jaw dropping surprise.

What are your plans for future projects? I have completed my second novel, ‘Who’s There?’ and am currently seeking a publisher. It is the story of a man with Down’s Syndrome whose flat is taken over by a drug gang. I am writing my third novel – another psychological thriller – which will be published in January 2019.

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