Well, I did tell you recently there would be some new features on the blog, more aimed at readers than other writers. We've had the first book review and me interviewing another author - which should become a fairly regular Fri feature.
But, now, I'd like to present an interview with a difference. Reader Andy Kelly, from Leicester kindly agreed to interview me about Sign of the Times and my writing. Lead on Macduff!
So, Holly, the Scottish Sagittarian author with a love of travel. Did you have any inspiration for this character?
Well, although I am Sagittarius, I am not Holly. She will, of course, share some of my traits, purely because I wanted her to be a true Sagittarius and I myself am very Sagittarian in nature. So, I love books, travelling, am loyal, as is Holly. As you will have gathered from the book, she looks nothing like me!
Were books and reading an important part of your life while you were growing up? If not, when did it start?
Yep, very much so. I could read by the time I was 4 and already had a pass to the adult library when I was 8, instead of the minimum age of 12, as I had read all of the books in the children’s library. I basically devoured them and used to cry if the library was closed and I had nothing to read!
People say that everyone has a book in them. Did you have an inspiration to start to write?
I used to write stories as a child and then as a teenager. I still have some of them. I think there were two key things that made me really want to write. I had an English teacher, who was an absolute tyrant and ridiculed everything I did. So I wanted to prove him wrong. The following year, I had an amazing English teacher. He loved the way I wrote and how I peppered my writing with other languages and made things come alive.
You say that you started writing the book whilst still working. How difficult was this to do? –
Very, Sign of the Times was a difficult book to write and quite frankly I’m not sure anyone in their right mind would have attempted it!! There are so many possibilities for continuity errors. I read, after writing it, that you should never have any more than 4 key characters. Strike one!! By the very nature of the story, I needed 12 main characters! I digress…basically I only wrote on holiday for the first 5 years and then I took a year off work to finish it. I finished it 5 months later and spent a further 5 months redrafting it and having it edited.
What gave you the idea for the basic concept of the book; the 12 characters / 12 star signs link?
Well, in the pure chick-lit genre, which Sign of the Times isn’t, but which I read a lot of at the time, other ideas like days of the week, months of the year, seasons, etc, had all been done. I was trying to think of something I could split into similar type chapter headings and zodiac signs suddenly struck me.
When you started, did you know where it was going to go, or did it evolve as you wrote / edited the book
I researched it a lot at the very beginning, so very quickly the characters took shape, their jobs, their personality traits, but after that I just wrote. I didn’t start redrafts and edits of the book until I had written at least half. I always knew I wanted the novel to be a little bit different, non-conformist and unpredictable. I added loads of scenes along the way and didn’t really write out a detailed list of scenes in advance, just jotted down ideas.
One of the central characters is from one of the new communities in the UK over the past few years. Was this a deliberate inclusion, or just a reflection of how you see Scotland is evolving?
This was intentional. I always wanted for my work to be up-to-date. I think it was Ben Elton who set me on this track (not that we’ve spoken!), but I liked how he did spoofs of the X Factor and Big Brother and topical items generally. My little sister had also recently had a Polish family move in next door, although Czeslawa and her family bear no resemblance to them. Plus we were beginning to see many more Poles in our daily lives and Polish items in supermarkets around the time I wrote this part of the novel.
It’s a question usually asked, but I’m still going to do it. How many of your 12 are influenced by people you know? –
None of the 12 is based on anyone I know, although I wish some of them were…Ben for example! But there are scenes from the book which I can directly relate to.
Writing seems to me to be something that needs real dedication. Who or what inspires you to keep going?
It does take dedication. I am a very driven person, so I don’t usually need anyone to chivvy me along. That said, recently comments from readers and support from other writers on Twitter has made me get my butt in gear! And knowing that I will have produced another book is inspiration enough. When you print it all off, or when you see it on Amazon ready to be downloaded, that’s an amazing feeling!
What’s next for you? Is writing now what you want to keep doing? –
I am doing some part-time freelance work at the moment, not related to writing. I would love to just write novels full-time, but when you’re an indie author, it’s difficult to make that pay the bills. I am looking at writing-related jobs and also translation work (as I speak 5 languages), which I would like to be able to do from home, whilst I also write my novels. I’m currently working on my second novel, The Dating Game which should be out late Sep 2012.
Finally, can you give me Lucy’s email address? –
Pleading the 5th on this one! And sorry, you’re too nice a guy, she’d eat you alive!!
Thanks very much to Andy for coming up with such great questions - see you back here on Wed for Part Deux!
Sign of the Times can be purchased from Amazon http://amzn.to/GKqZGd (UK) & http://amzn.to/IYN0Fc (US & other)