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Sharing a Wonderful Moment With You...

Posted on 26th May, 2017

It's the last weekend of the month, which means you may be here expecting to read Kirsten's latest monthly round-up. I'm sorry to tell you she can't be here this week, but her absence does give me the chance to share something wonderful that happened today.

 

The postman brought an unexpected delivery....

... of my author copies of The Deserter's Daughter from Allison & Busby!

 

I knew I would receive a box of author copies, but I never expected them to arrive so far before publication day. In fact, when I saw the box, I assumed it was a computery thing my husband had ordered.

 

Woohoo! Holding my book - my book! - is just the best feeling.

 

One Month To Publication Day

Posted on 19th May, 2017

During the week of this blog falls May 22nd - and that means there's just one month to go until publication day! It hardly seems possible: this time last year I didn't even have an agent. In fact, I was still writing the fourth draft of the book, which was the draft that - finally - was good enough to be accepted.

 

Talking of writing, I am still hard at work on book 2. When I was a child, I had a recurring dream in which I was hurrying as fast as I could to get to a particular place; I can't recall what the place was, but I do remember that in the dream it was right ahead of me. But no matter how fast I went, I never got any closer. At the moment, I feel rather like that with book 2. No matter how much I write, the ending doesn't feel any nearer. Is it just me or do others out there ever feel like that about their writing? Is it having a deadline that's making me feel like this?

 

Other than that, what have I done in my Debut Novelist role this month? Well, I have appeared in my first blog interview. Usually in an interview, I'm the one asking the questions, but this time it was the other way round, with the questions being put by Tara Greaves for her Behind The Book blog. Many thanks to those of you who followed me over there and thanks also to those of Tara's regular readers who popped over here to take a look round my website. Judging by the comments on the interview, the main point of interest seemed to be the writing tips Tara asked me for and which was more important - rule 1 or rule 2? Don't know what I'm talking about? Pop over there and take a look!

 

I also had some wonderful news from my editor at Allison & Busby: The Deserter's Daughter is going to be published in audiobook form by Isis Soundings. I have been listening to audiobooks with great pleasure for years and Isis is one of the big names in the business and a name I am very familiar with, because of the many authors whose books I love whom they publish, such as Anna Jacobs, Ruth Hamilton, Lee Child and Lyn Andrews. For my book - my book! - to be an Isis Soundings audiobook is just wonderful.

 

And of course, this past month saw the cover reveal of The Deserter's Daughter.

 

I am hugely grateful to the talented Christina Griffiths at Allison & Busby for creating such a beautiful and atmospheric illustration that perfectly captures the spirit of the story.

 

Many thanks to all the lovely people on Twitter and Facebook who shared and retweeted so generously. Your kind comments had me glowing with pride - though really it should have been Christina gathering all the compliments.

 

There we are. That's the round-up of this past month as a debut novelist. A happier month altogether than last month. Next time I write one of these Debut Novelist blogs, it will be at the start of publication week itself. Wow! In the meantime, it's back to writing book 2...

 

 

I've interviewed many writers here on my blog, but today is special because this time I've done it the other way round. My first ever blog interview answering the questions instead of asking them! I'm feeling a bit nervous but very chuffed.

 

Many thanks to Tara Greaves for featuring me on her Behind The Book slot and thanks also to Catherine Boardman for introducing us.

 

Come and have a look. Here's the link. I'll see you there!

 

 

This week I am pleased to welcome Mandy James to my blog. Mandy is the author of numerous short stories as well as novels, including the Time Traveller books published by ChocLit; Summer in Tintagel; and her latest book, published a fortnight ago, Behind the Lie.

 

* * * *

 

Mandy, welcome to my blog. I simply have to start with where you live, because moving to Cornwall was a dream come true for you. That's especially interesting to me because coming to live in Llandudno was my own personal dream come true. Can you tell us the story of your move to Cornwall?

Thanks so much for inviting me, Sue. Yes, I first came to Cornwall on holiday when I was four. I came with my family , not on my own of course :)  The memory of that holiday stuck in my head for years afterwards and as an adult, I visited many times. We moved from Sheffield to Bristol where I taught for about twenty years, then four years ago we moved to Cornwall! It was a big step and it mean a considerable downsize, but I wouldn't live anywhere else now. The whole family moved too! We don't live in the same house , no that would be a nightmare...

 

 

Does Cornwall provide inspiration for your writing?

Yes. My last three novels are set here, and any future ones will be, I think. Walking by the ocean frees my mind and spirit and then the ideas just come.

 

You were a child writer, weren't you? What were your stories about? Was time travel an early interest?

I always wrote poems, songs and a few stories. I can't remember what they were now, but I think they had themes of  adventure and derring do. No, time-travel wasn't really on my radar until A Stitch in Time. I was thinking of a catchy title for my novel and came up with the old saying. Then the whole story just happened in my head. I wrote it in six weeks!

You have had time travel novels published and more recently suspense novels. In suspense, have you found your true writing niche?

 

That's difficult to say. The first book I ever wrote was Dancing in The Rain, which was published after the time travel ones. It was originally called Severe Weather Warning and is about special powers and saving the world. I loved that book as it was inspired by our many trips to Monument Valley in Utah/Arizona. I do like a story with lots of mystery and perhaps a twist or two, but find it difficult to be pigeon holed into one genre. Last year I wrote a totally quirky book called The Calico Cat. It's  about a woman who hates to conform and decides to just quit her job and walk around the South West Coast Path. She meets lots of interesting people on the way. It was a book that had to be written, but I'm not sure it is mainstream enough to be published. So  a very long answer to your question is - yes and no!

Your latest book, Behind the Lie, was published two weeks ago. Tell us a bit about it and about the character Holly.

 

Holly has had a difficult past but has at last turned her life around. She has a loving husband who's also wealthy and she shares her time between a beach house in Cornwall and an apartment in London. She's also carrying twins and though there are one or two regrets in her heart, she is happy and ready to be a mother. Then the worst happens. One of her babies dies shortly after being born and this plunges Holly into despair. But then she becomes convinced that her son didn't actually die. Nobody believes her of course, why would they? Her son died and everyone knows it. They think she's just imagining things because of her grief and past depression. Holly can't accept it though and then something happens which gives her proof that he is still alive...against all advice she decides that she won't stop until she finds him. 

When you started thinking about the book, was there a breakthrough moment when you knew you had a cracker of a plot?

Yes. I was walking on the beach, - the one that Holly's house overlooks - talking to my husband about the plot as I often do. He said yes, no, right, okay, as usual. He has learned not to say anything negative. When I told him the twisty bit he seemed to think it would work. So it was game on! Where the whole idea came from in the first place is unknown to me. Plots appear in my head and have to be written, or at least given a chance to explain themselves

 
What's next for your writing?

 

More twisty stories set in Cornwall I think. I have a few ideas and some bits of novels waiting for completion, so there's plenty to keep me going for a bit.

 

Thanks so much for having me as your guest, Sue. I have really enjoyed chatting!

 * * * *

You can visit Mandy's Author Page on Amazon 

 

 

It's the last weekend of the month again and so it's time for a catch-up with Kirsten to find out the latest in her writing life. This month she has some exciting news that will hearten all writers who are hoping to attract a literary agent.

 

Over to you, Kirsten!

 

* * * *

 

As many of you know, I love Twitter and I love entering Twitter writing contests. #Pitmad, #Pitchwars, #PitchCB …. you name it, I’m up for it. Much more exciting than slugging though Draft 367 of my WIP …

 

So, of course I entered #PitchDHH. It looked fun . A bit different. Send the usual submission package to your chosen agent and, if selected, come up to London to pitch your novel in person. What wasn’t to like. Even better, Broo Doherty represents a couple of very enthusiastic friends and I was going to submit to her anyway...

 

I had nothing to lose.

 

Then we made a last minute booking to our favourite holiday cottage in Cornwall. I think I may have registered it was the same week as #PitchDHH but, hey, we all really needed a break and I’d never get chosen …

 

Only I did.

 

I did!

 

It was so exciting! Pretty much the most thrilling thing that’s happened to me as an aspiring writer. Apparently there were over 500 entries to the five agents and they’d chosen twelve each and … mine was one of them. Wow!

 

Then the confusion and panic set in. I’d be miles away at Lantic Bay on the allotted day. What to do?

 

I should go. Of course I should go - opportunities like this don’t come along every day …

 

But then again, I’d be leaving the family holiday for a ten minute pitch and I might make a total tit of myself and maybe I should explain and we could just chat on the phone …

 

On the other hand, an agent wanted to meet me to discuss my work! I’d only be leaving Cornwall a day early and then I could go home and check on the 17 year old, home alone for the first time …

 

But …

 

And so on and so on. Round and round in circles. Pontification-Central.

 

In the end, I went. Of course I went.

 

And I’m so glad I did.

 

An early morning stroll to our favourite beach and then my lovely husband and daughter dropped me off at Plymouth Station. Four hours later I was basking in the sunshine at Trafalgar Square before making my way to The Library - a swanky members’ club on St Martin’s Lane. Waiting in reception, I got to meet some of the other pitchees and put faces to Twitter names (lovely to meet you, Rachael Dunlop.) Then I was ushered in for my ten minutes with Broo.

 

I was so over-hyped I can’t remember much. I think I went red in the face and babbled like an idiot for the entire ten minutes! I’m prone to do that! But Broo was lovely. She’d read and made notes on my submission so it was more a chat than a pitch. And it was absolutely brilliant! Can there be anything more valuable to an aspiring author than seeing your writing through the eyes of a top London agent? Having them taking your work seriously? I’m still buzzing about it and it has really spurred me on. Anyway, Broo liked my chapters (phew!) but wasn’t sure that the prologue is necessary and my synopsis is a bit all over the place (I hate synopses!) She was kind enough to request the full manuscript (squee!) and that was the icing on the cake but, even had she not, the session would still have been well worth attending.

 

DHH are planning to run this event again and, if you are an unagented writer, I’d thoroughly recommend going for it. Even if you have to travel all the way from Cornwall.

 

PS. Broo asked me to let her know that the 17 year old had survived being home alone. I’m pleased to report he’d been absolutely fine, the cats had been fed and the house was only marginally more untidy than normal! No raves. Win win all round!

 

 

Okay, so you've read the title of this blog and you're thinking: What a drama queen. Well, I'm not. I'm telling the simple truth.

 

Last month, in the week of the 22nd, I blogged about my experiences to date as a debut novelist, which mostly meant working hard at book number 2, but also involved getting my author photo taken... oh, yes, and dear old Amazon getting my name wrong.

 

Here I am a month later, again in the week of the 22nd and I was hoping to give you a jolly update, but unfortunately that isn't possible. I can start with a good thing, though - and not just good, but quite possibly the best moment of the whole process.

 

Because I did the copy edits more quickly than expected, this meant I was sent the proofs sooner than planned. It so happened that I was feeling rather fraught the day the email arrived with a socking great attachment plus a cheerful request to get working. My stress levels went through the roof, but I settled down and got started... and all at once, there was my title page.

 

Wow. Forget the stress: that evaporated on the spot. My very own title page. My first one. A wonderful moment. Pure goosebumps.

 

Working on the proofs was a complete delight. My proofs weren't sent to me on paper. They came via the computer, but being able to see what the pages will look like, I am proud to tell you that The Deserter's Daughter is going to be a handsome piece of book production. And I don't mind admitting I went back and looked at that title page more than once.

 

So - yes - the best moment... which was unfortunately followed by the worst. I have thought deeply about whether to share this, but I have decided that I will, because for me it feels such an important part of my journey to publication.

 

Auntie Barbara passed away unexpectedly last week. She was 94, so maybe it shouldn't have been unexpected, but it was. My late mum always said Barbara was 'a creaking gate' - meaning she always had some ailment or other, but she just kept on creaking. 'She'll outlive the lot of us,' Mum used to say - and she was right.

 

In her own generation, Barbara outlived Kathleen, Jessie, Gerald, Dennis, Bernard, Peter, Freddie, Greg, Beryl, Frank and Mark. The only one she didn't outlive was Auntie Colette, but in fairness to Auntie Barbara's staying power, I ought to point out that Colette is a whole decade younger.

 

Auntie Barbara was my biggest cheerleader. She was so pleased and proud about The Deserter's Daughter. Every time she saw me, she told me how she was going to go to the book shop on publication day and buy the first copy and after she had read it, she was going to write to the newspapers about it - her equivalent of posting a review on Amazon.

 

The last thing that Barbara did for me was to join with Colette to pay for my author photo; and I wore a crystal necklace that Barbara was given in the 1930s and which she passed on to me when I was in my teens.

 

And now she is gone. And while publication day is going to be a wonderful, exciting occasion, and one of the high points of my life, something unutterably special will be missing.

 

 

 

This week I am pleased to welcome Lynda Stacey back to my blog. Lynda was here last summer when her debut novel, House of Secrets, was published by ChocLit and now she is back to talk about her writing and her second book, Tell Me No Secrets, which was published earlier this week.

Your first novel, House of Secrets, recently received its 100th 5-star review on Amazon. That's a huge achievement. At what point did you realise you had such a success on your hands?

 

I  must admit, I did get really excited when it got into the Top 10 of Romantic Suspense. But I still wouldn't be so bold as to call it a success. I watch the numbers very carefully and  I read all the reviews and try and learn from what they say.

 

With a successful first book, and high reader expectations for book 2, did you panic about your follow-up novel?

 

In a word, yes. I panic about everything and I fully appreciate that the whole reading process is subjective and that not everyone will like it. All I can hope for is that the majority will love it and that I get the opportunity to keep writing.

 

In House of Secrets, you used a real place as the setting for the story. In fact, you did it so well that the house became almost another character. Have you used a real setting again?

 

Tell Me No Secrets is set in North Yorkshire. The villages of Ugathwaite and Caldwick are both fictional. However, Parker & Son's office is in Bedale and there are also scenes set in both Whitby and at Richmond Abbey.

 

On a more technical note, how long did Tell Me No Secrets take to write? Are you a 'don't get it right, get it written' person, who dashes through the first draft? Or you someone who writes more slowly and carefully, so as to have as perfect a first draft as possible?

 

Tell me no Secrets began five years ago. It's changed and changed over the years and has had many re-writes. This book was originally called Broken Jigsaw and was short listed for the 2013 Festival of Romance, New Talent Award. It was also my 'book baby,' the very first whole book I ever wrote, albeit it now bears little resemblance to the original manuscript.

 

What do you hope reviewers will specially pick up on in your new novel?

 

I hope they pick up on the diverse relationships that Kate has with everyone around her. She's very close to her twin sister, but poles apart from both her mother and father and then of course there's the relationship she has with Rob. He's manipulative and mean, but Kate stays with him because she feels 'lucky to be loved'... until of course she meets Ben Parker, who is the total opposite of her fiancé.

 

Having written House of Secrets and now Tell Me No Secrets, are you going to be known as the 'Secrets' author in future? More titles in the same vein? 

 

Yes... I guess I really will end up being the 'Secrets' author,lol. 

 

I love branding and after a discussion early on with my publisher, Lyn at Choc Lit, we decided that the word 'secrets' should be in the titles. So, we have House of Secrets, Tell me no Secrets published and upcoming will be House of Christmas Secrets (a sequel to House of Secrets) which should hopefully come out late this year and Twisted Secrets, to be published early next year.

 

Your publication day earlier this week was highly unusual, to say the least. Could you tell us a bit about that? And what was the day like for you? 

 

Choc Lit wanted to do a secret reveal. They have a lot of Choc Lit Stars, who read and review for them all the time and it was felt that to give them the honour of not only revealing the cover, but also being the first to get the opportunity to review it, would be a great idea. It was also hoped that by keeping some mystery behind the book, lots of people would buy it on launch day - and they did... Tell Me No Secrets very quickly shot up and into the Top 100 of Romantic Suspense. I was very happy.

 

Can a secret be worse than a lie? Every time Kate Duggan looks in a mirror she is confronted by her guilt; a long, red scar reminding her that she was ‘the one to walk away’ from the car accident. Not everyone was so lucky … On the surface her fiancé Rob is supportive – but the reality is different. He’s controlling, manipulative and, if the phone call Kate overhears is anything to go by, he has a secret. But just how dangerous is that secret? When Kate begins work at a firm of private investigators, she meets Ben Parker. His strong and silent persona is intriguing but it’s also a cover – because something devastating happened to Ben, something he can’t get over. As Kate and Ben begin their first assignment, they become close. But, what they don’t realise is how close to home the investigation will bring them, or who will be hurt in the process.

Lynda's links:

 

Meet Lynda on Twitter 

 

Visit her website    

 

Lynda's author page on Amazon  

 

 

Have you ever seen the list of actors and actresses in a film or a theatre programme, and at the end it says AND INTRODUCING... followed by the name of someone making their debut. Well, I'm feeling rather like an impresario today because I have the pleasure of introducing you to a debut novelist who is making her first blog appearance.

 

Maddie Please lives in Devon with her husband Brian. As she says, 'Fabulous views, friendly people and a hot tub!' Her writing style/genre is best described as feel good contemporary or romantic comedy.

 

Maddie, welcome to my blog. Thanks for being here to talk about your writing.
Many thanks for the invitation, I always enjoy your blog Susanna, and it’s fascinating to hear about other writers and how they work.

 

I've realised I don't know how you started writing. Were you a childhood writer or did writing come along later?
It’s a terrible cliche but I always wanted to be a writer. I was an unstoppable reader as a child and the love of books has never left me. I love historical fiction (particularly anything about Anne Boleyn) biographies, psychological drama, thrillers (as long as there’s no gore) and comic romance. I wrote for a while when my children were small but then for various reasons I put my writing aspirations on the back burner and they didn’t surface again until I met and married  Brian and he gave me the encouragement, belief and support I needed. Plus the desk and the laptop!
 
Solitary writer or sharer? I know you enjoy the company of other writers now. Has it always been like that?
I absolutely love having a week ahead when I have nothing planned and no appointments to keep and I know I can spend every day writing. 
My bestie Jane Ayres is also a writer and in the early days before we discovered the support Twitter groups have to offer, we often used to email each other free writing tasks every morning; write for 10 minutes on cheese or complaining or elephants. It’s a great way to get the writing muscles working. Another way is to have a word race, head down, write for an hour.
But of course it is lovely to meet up with writers occasionally to find out how they are getting on. Writers all seem to be very insecure and worry at some point that they aren’t good enough to get an agent or be published. It’s great to have a little group of chums like the Literary Lovelies who understand how you are feeling. They can offer support when things are difficult. Cheer when things go right and be furiously rude and  indignant on your behalf when things go wrong!
A special shout out here to you and Jane Ayres, Kirsten Hesketh, Karen Coles, Catherine Boardman, Christina Branach and Chris Manby. I would recommend all writers to form a group like ours for the invaluable support. LL’s Rock!
 
You also provide support to other writers through The Place To Write. Tell us about that. How did it start up? 
My best friend of 40 years Jane Ayres and I worked together as dentists and when we sold our practice we both wanted to write as a second career. We went twice to the Festival of Writing at York  (highly recommended) and when we couldn’t find a writing retreat that we liked, decided to do them ourselves. We started the Place to Write and have made many new friends and met some fantastic authors who have been our guest tutors on our retreats.
I met Debi Alper at the Festival of Writing in York and she was enthusiastic, helpful, and a wonderful editor. I recommend her Self Edit Course on the Writers Workshop to any new writer. Chris Manby, a lovely and generous tutor who taught me to plot. Adele Parks, what can I say that hasn’t been said already? She’s a legend, a wonderful writer and has just received a lifetime achievement award from the RNA. Claire Dyer a wonderful poet, writer and tutor who has a brilliant web site Fresh Pair of Eyes for her editing service.  That’s the great thing about a lot of writers, they are so generous with their time and always willing to talk about writing! We do all the catering and our guests have all day every day to write. In the evenings we love organising writing games and the courses are always incredible fun.
 
Tell us about writing your debut novel and getting an agent.
Jane and I went to a course that was part of the Cheltenham Literary Festival and the tutor said to learn to be a writer you need to write a million words. Which sounds an awful apprenticeship doesn’t it? But I have written 9 full length books and many short stories and a lot of writing exercises so I think I’m about there. Lots of people start to write a book but apparently finishing it is unusual. I started out writing paranormal romance, had a go at historical and then tried contemporary fiction. It wasn’t until I started writing feel good, romantic comedy that I found my ‘voice’. The Summer of Second Chances was the result.
Of course that didn’t stop me from sending out the other genres to agents! Occasionally I got some encouragement but generally I did what all debut authors do - sent it out far too early! The rejections were always disappointing, of course. Even more disappointing were the times when I sent my works of literary genius out and received no reply at all!
I sent out what was to become my debut The Summer of Second Chances to agents last April and this time I had a very positive response. I had a request for a full MS and then an offer of representation from Annette Green within days. I couldn’t believe it. It was a fabulous moment. And quite amazing to be able to tell other agencies - sorry but I’m taken!
Annette has worked so hard on my behalf and through her I have signed a two book deal with Avon Maze, part of Harper Collins.
 
And now you also have a publishing contract. Congratulations. What can you share about that?
I met up with my editor Rachel Faulkner Willcocks just after Christmas and we got on famously. Shortly after that they offered me a two book deal. That makes it all sound so straightforward doesn’t it? Just an ordinary day?

 

Trust me I was beside myself with excitement. Once the offer came through I laughed, I cried, I ran around like a mad thing, my husband bought champagne and flowers and a celebratory handbag! Wonderful friends sent me messages, flowers and congratulations.
The Summer of Second Chances has just been through a structural edit and all being well should be published in July. First as a digital book and then as a paperback. I have completed the first draft of my second book, provisionally called Cold Hands Warm Heart . It is due to be published in the New Year.
 
I think you are the speediest writer I have ever met. How disciplined are you? What strategies do you use?
I am very very lucky! Our house in Devon has a garden office where my husband and I work every day. (I have a 20 ft commute! It’s marvellous!) I have a lovely desk Brian bought me for my birthday, and I am officially Stationery Monitor. This means I can go to Staples and Paperchase and it counts as work!
The Summer of Second Chances  took 3 months to write
Cold Hands Warm Heart took 11 weeks.
The best advice I can share is 1) plot properly and 2) write every day and 3) plot properly! That is what made the difference between the 7 books that were not publishable and the one that is! 
I learnt how to plot from one of the nicest people I have met so far in the book world - Chris Manby. She came to tutor one of our retreats in Cornwall and explained how and why to plot. It might feel more exciting to just get going and dash off a book without a proper structure, but it was an invaluable lesson and it taught me how to keep the story going and how to avoid the book stuttering to a halt half way through. The dreaded ‘soggy middle’! 
Before I start I also like to write a structureless piece in a notebook with various things I think might be fun to add. Locations, events, disasters, bits of dialogue. Then when I’m at a loose end I look back over my notes and something will get me going again.
I write nearly every day. (My joke is if I didn’t I would have to go and do some housework!) I write on holiday, at the weekend, at Christmas. I have been known to write in the middle of the night. I always have a notebook in my handbag to write down snippets of conversation I overhear or plot ideas I have. I sometimes note down plots and incidents on my mobile too. I think a lot about plots.
 
This is Maddie busy plotting, mid-Atlantic style, on the Queen Mary 2.
I usually write for about 50 minutes out of every hour, after all there is coffee to be made, Twitter and Facebook to check and the paper to read. I used to think I was skiving but now I see it as 10 minutes breathing apace. Well, it works for me!

 

Put this together and you can see  I have some great excuses to 1) not do much housework 2)buy notebooks for myself even when I don’t actually need them 3) buy stationery and pens in every colour. I get a bit wobbly and light headed when I go into Paperchase or Staples. My son left me a note on my desk recently which ended P.S Mum, I think you need more Sharpies! 
 
Finally, what do you know now that you wish you'd known back when you started?
You can and will succeed if you  put the hours in. Unless you are just writing for your own pleasure it’s a job. Never give up, always believe in yourself, surround yourself with positive people and my personal mantra which applies in a lot of areas ; Keep Going!
 
Maddie, thanks for joining me today. I wish you every success with The Summer of Second Chances 
 
Maddie's links:
Meet her on Twitter
The Place to Write website

 

What's In A Name?

Posted on 1st April, 2017

What's in a name? Well, a heap of other names, for a start. If you think about it, you've probably been called by at least a dozen. Take me. At various times, and by various people, I've been called Susanna, Susannah with an H, Sue, Suzanne, Susie, Sukey, Sukey-Ackie... and that's just the Susanna derivatives.

 

As well as that, there have been various nicknames and pet-names, plus three surnames, two of which were routinely mis-spelled and/or mis-pronounced by other people. One surname rejoiced in five different versions on top of the real one.

 

One name I am specially fond of is Colette. That's what Mum and Gran often called me. And before you ask, no, Colette isn't my middle name or my sister's name. In fact, it's my aunt's name - my mum's sister. For some reason, as soon as my name was chosen, Mum and Gran started getting it mixed up with Colette's name. In fact, my mum used to have dreams in which Colette and I were interchangeable.

 

So I grew up being called Colette and always answered to it happily. I never knew any different, but it must have been rather annoying for Auntie Colette suddenly being called by another name at the age of 30.

 

Gran died a long time ago and Mum passed away in 2012, since when there has been no one left to call me Colette. It's surprising how that saddens me.

 

Because names matter. Colette is part of my name-identity.

 

Name-identity matters. As a writer, I want my characters to have the right names. Yes, a name that is true to the time period and social class, but also a name that conveys the right identity in a more personal, gut-reaction way. That, of course, is a matter of individual opinion and preference, but, boy, does it matter.

 

Take the heroine in my forthcoming novel, The Deserter's Daughter. I ought to explain, to start with, that there isn't just a daughter, there's also a stepdaughter. When I first thought of the stepdaughter, she appeared in my head fully formed - personality, looks, back-story, plot, name - the full works, all in one go. Perfect. Her name is Evadne Baxter, a name I never questioned because it is right for her. Just as Gwen is right for the girls' mother and Ralph Armstrong is right for the villain. These names just happened.

 

But with Carrie, my heroine, the deserter's daughter herself, it was a different matter. She started out as Julia. In fact, on my computer I have a folder called Julia, which contains the original version of the book, written several years ago. Not that Julia the character kept her name very long. Julia sounded too much on a par with Evadne, as if the two girls are equals, which, in spite of being half-sisters, they aren't. Julia also sounded - well - too assertive. My heroine isn't weak, by any means, but she's an unassuming girl who carries her strength on the inside.

 

I needed another name, something gentler-sounding: Polly. That had the right sort of feel. She was Polly for a while. Then - briefly - Kitty. And then I thought of Carrie, a name which slipped into place so naturally it seemed odd that I hadn't thought of it in the first place.

 

So that's how Carrie got her name. You know when it's the right name, because you can feel it. Gut-reaction.

 

*

 

Has this made you think about the various names you are/have been known by? Care to share any of them? Or if you're a writer, do you recognise my dilemmma over Carrie's name? Do leave a comment and let me know.

 

 

It's the last weekend of the month and that means it's time to welcome Kirsten back to tell us the latest about how she is getting on with her writing.

Over to you, Kirsten!

* * * *

 

The end of March - and how very welcome it is! The French doors are open, there’s a lovely buttery sun and the garden is full of cherry blossom and fat, sticky buds. The daffodils are out, the tulips are poised and even our slightly lardy cats are positively skittish. Life is good.Kirsten's cats, looking not quite so skittish...

 

But your resident (and slightly lardy) aspiring author is restless.

 

Susanna’s blog is full of lovely writers who are busy making their dreams come true and I’m suddenly impatient - itching - to be one of them. During the winter, I was introspective, contemplative. Now I want to fling open the windows and get OUT THERE!! I don’t want to be the ‘aspiring’ one forever …

 

So, I’ve been busy.

 

Really busy.

 

I’ve entered the Bath Novel award. Because … why not? I have a nearly polished manuscript I’m really proud of. Of course, the chance of making the long list, let alone the shortlist, is pretty small, but you’ve got to be in it to win it, right? It could be me.

 

I’ve submitted my partial to a couple more agents. One (DHH Literary Agency) has invited unrepresented writers to pitch in person. DHH represents my friends Amanda and Claire who are fulsome in their praise so I’d love to have the opportunity. You have to apply in advance and the deadline is looming so, all you fellow aspiring writers, submit, submit, submit …!

 

I’ve nearly finished my edits. The last third of my book has been completely rejigged and rewritten and - I hope - the narrative arc is now much smoother. I‘m really pleased with it. Pretty soon I’ll send it to the RNA New Writer’s Scheme for a critique and, not long afterwards, I hope to send it to the six agents who have requested the full. I really hope they remember me!

 

Finally, I’ve started Book 2. Details to follow but, if I say ‘laundry’, some of you might guess the route I’ve taken ….

 

And, on that note, I will wish you all a very happy and bountiful spring and I look forward to catching up at the end of April.

 

Thank you again to Susanna for the opportunity of a regular slot on her lovely blog xx