Maddie Please Talks About Her Debut Novel, Writing Retreats And The Importance Of Stationery

Posted on 7th April, 2017

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


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Comments (16)

Thanks for your comment, Lucille. Everyone who has commented has been astonished and delighted by Maddie's terrific output. It just shows what can be achieved!
Wonderful and inspiring blog post! Your work ethic is amazing Moira! I write most days but allow life to get in the way much too often ;-) Many congrats on your well deserved success.
Nice to hear from you, Jan. I agree - other writers' experiences are always interesting and can be inspiring. I think everyone is most impressed by the speed of Maddie's writing.
Thank you, Maddie and Susanna, for such an interesting post. I love hearing about other authors' roads to publication and yours is fascinating. I'm impressed by your work ethic, Maddie, and can't believe how quickly you've written both books. I wish you loads of good luck with 'The Summer of Second Chances' in July. :-)
Jen, I thought I had posted comment to you thanking you for your kind words, but maybe something went wrong? Anyway Lovely to hear from you, and let's think about it. Writing/research/thinking/editing/sitting/drinking coffee/writing a bit more/reading vs. Housework. which one sounds more interesting! x
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jen. I agree with you that Maddie's book sounds wonderful. When we were on the writing retreat, Maddie read out some of her work (from another book) and it was fun, witty and engaging. Thanks for commenting. It's always good to hear from you, Jen xx
Such a lovely interview, Maddie and Susanna. So much of what you said, Maddie, resonated with me. Congratulations on your success. 'The Summer of Second Chances' sounds like a wonderful read.

Although I'm not a speedy writer, you've inspired me! Perhaps it was that comment about housework!
Hi Julie and thanks for the kind words. Yes I remember, I am after all, the one with the agent!! As I said, I know I am very lucky indeed, I have the time, space and encouragement to write as much as I want . It wasn't always like that. Looking forward to reading your book too, just keep going!xx
Thanks, Julie. How nice to hear from you. I'm pleased you enjoyed Maddie's interview. Yes, her rate of output is outstanding, isn't it? It sounds as if you too are working hard at your writing in amongst everything else you have to do. It can be quite a juggling act, can't it? Thanks for dropping by.
So pleased to hear of your success - after we teased you mercilessly at the retreat last year: 'The one with the AGENT!'. You and Jane were so unflappable, even when Tesco failed to deliver the food.

Your work rate is admirable. I struggle because I'm working three days a week on a long term consultancy assignment, as well as writing blogs, newsletters, lead magnets and non-fiction books for my School Financial Success publishing empire (haha), so it's been incredibly difficult finding space for my fiction. I am a long way away from a million words but have been focusing on learning more about plotting and it has really made a difference, so I'm glad you talked about that.

I'm looking forward to buying your book when it is published - it is so motivating to see writers I've met, like you and Mandy, getting the success they deserve. Very excited for you!
Julie x
Thanks for your comments Kirsten. Of course we will do another retreat, we love having you there and all and any of the LL's too. Looking forward to reading your WIP too Kirsten, its only a matter of time!
I agree with you about the writing retreats, Kirsten. They are a source of enormous fun as well as inspiration. I'm glad you enjoyed reading about Maddie's experiences as a writer.
What a fab post, Maddie. Having followed some of your path to publication it was lovely to read it all in your own words. What a brilliant journey and how well deserved. Can't wait to read both books. And please arrange another retreat soon - they are fab!!
Thanks Karen, it was interesting to answer ,Sue's questions, it made me think k a lot about how and why I write, Coincidentally my mother has just sent me a story I wrote when I was ,10 and obsessed with ponies, I got as far as ch 7 and my notebook was full, hysterical stuff , Good luck with your writingjourney too, and thanks for all the support x
Thanks, Karen. The lovely thing about having a group of writing friends is that we all understand what the others are going through and we all get to celebrate the successes. Looking forward to our next get-together in June.
What a fascinating blog post! It's so lovely to have seen you on this journey to publication, Moira. I love your work ethic. So inspiring! Susanna, your blog is fab, as always :)