The Many Hats of the Modern Novelist

Writing a novel is difficult and demanding, and many fall by the wayside. It’s tough but it’s a process with a clearcut and straightforward goal, right? An obvious beginning and end.

You have an idea. You labour to transfer it onto the page and fashion it into a book – let’s call it My Debut Tome. You struggle to find an agent, publisher – anyone! – who will help you get it out to readers. Eventually you succeed and MDT is published. You do a bit of publicity, heave a sigh of relief, and reward yourself with some time away from the keyboard.

Except, it’s not like that. Not at all. Let me tell you about the multiple literary hats I am currently wearing. My Tome Number Two – that is to say, the comic fiction A Novel Solution – is out in just under three weeks in March. Naturally I – along with my publisher SRL – am pulling out all the stops to get the title in front of as many readers, reviewers and booksellers as possible. That has to be my priority. My biggest bonnet, you could say.

However, at the same time, I can’t neglect My Debut Tome – that is, Note to Boy – since the launch of the new novel offers a great opportunity to promote my first, and find a fresh audience for it. Another hat.

However, qui n’avance pas, recule, as the French say. Those who don’t go forward, fall back. I need to plan ahead, and balance another titfer on top of the other two.                 

As every writer I know finds, before the ink is dry on the last book, people are asking ‘What are you working on now?’ Plus writing is an addiction. Without a text to tinker with, I’m like a vaper craving their next fix, and probably as grumpy. So, I am about 75% through drafting Tome Number Three and hoping to have it in good shape for submission later this year. We’re up to three hats.

However, as you may have noticed, I am also involved in a project with Breakthrough Books to publish short story anthologies. Two volumes have been produced already; the well received and reviewed Taking Liberties and Order & Chaos, both of which include stories from me as well as other established writers. Ideas for short stories are constantly bubbling in my brain, demanding attention. I need to work on them, ready if the call should come for a third anthology. Four hats.                              

All this is in addition to marketing and social media activities, and, if I’m lucky, finding time to read other writers’ books. By now the pile of hats is in danger of toppling.                    

Being a novelist, straightforward and clearcut? I should coco.                                                                                                                           

Out in March. Grab your copy.

Countdown to publication – one month to go

Only a month to wait now before Trish is launched into the world. I can hardly believe it. On 19 March, A Novel Solution will be published, to be followed a few weeks later, in June, by the paperback.

It’s taken a while. As you may have gathered from these occasional glimpses into my life and writing habits, I’m not the most organised of authors. Like a DIY decorator let loose with a paintbrush, I have to create an unholy mess before I can start to see exactly what it is I am actually aiming for.

I make no apologies for this unashamed ‘pants-ing’. For me, as I’ve said many times, the magic comes in the edit. It’s there that I explore my characters, shape the story into something that resembles a coherent plot, and add a few extra funny moments. Which means, though I can dash off a passable rough draft in a few weeks, the editing process takes an age and needs careful thought. With help from SRL Publishing and a host of writerly friends and supporters, I think I have pulled it off once more!

So, if you enjoyed Note to Boy (still available from the usual places) or my contributions to the short story anthologies Taking Liberties and Order and Chaos, please do take a look at A Novel Solution. One of my very favourite authors, the peerless Lissa Evans (Old Baggage, and many others), says kind things about it. You can preorder now – a good thing, they tell me, for favourable algo-whatsits.

PS Thank you to everyone who sent good wishes after my recent hip op. Happy to say, I am at last on the mend and on the move.

Looking forward to what 2024 brings

Happy New Year everyone! I’m a looking-forward sort of gal so, I am thinking ahead to what goodies 2024 will bring, while being thankful for the best bits of 2023 – a curate’s egg of a year fo me.

Very excitingly, Spring will see the publication of my latest, and I think funniest, book, A Novel Solution (a reminder of its zingy cover is below) with the lovely people of SRL Publishing. The hardback drops – is that the term? – in March, to be followed soon after by the paperback. But of course, if you wish you can put in a preorder NOW on Amazon. Keep your eyes open for further news of the launch.

The Breakthrough Book Collective, of which I am proud to be a part, launched in 2023 and I am happy to say goes from strength to strength. The publication of its first two anthologies of short stories, Taking Liberties and Order and Chaos, were extremely well received and another is planned. The Collective also published the novel In Truth, Madness by Imran Kahn, an important, timely and hugely readable book, which looks at the world’s trouble spots through the eyes of a fictional jaded foreign correspondent. I can’t praise it enough. We hope to add more books to the list as the year progresses. And I’d like to add, what a joy it is to work with such a talented, positive and generous bunch of writers.

Lastly, a personal note. I shall be hors de combat for a while since, as seems to be my habit, I shall be starting the New Year with a new hip. But back, as soon as I can, with a cobalt-chrome spring in my step.

Lookee here!

Excited and delighted to reveal the cover design for my latest comic fiction, A Novel Solution. Scroll down to see it in all its glory.

Wannabe author Trish gets nurtured by celebrity author Amanda. But when Amanda goes missing, is Trish woman enough for the rescue job?

Lissa Evans, the wonderful author (and, lest we forget, producer/director of TV’s sublime Father Ted) calls A Novel Solution ‘a clever genre-crossing novel of comedy and suspense’.

Available to preorder now. Published by SRL Publishing March 2024.

Spring cleaning

The roses are in full bloom. The sun is shining. And young and older person’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of … spring cleaning. Not the house! Of course not! Rather than going to the bother of dusting the cobwebs from the vacuum cleaner and trying to locate the polish, I decided to spring clean my website instead. That is, ask the lovely Jason* to give it a bit of a facelift.

The result is the pages as you see them now. In addition to more up-to-date pictures (and, sadly, my more up-to-date wrinkles!) and information on my comic novel Note to Boy, two new projects have been added: Taking Liberties, the short story anthology I contributed to, which is just out; and A Novel Solution, the comic fiction I am currently editing with the publisher, to be released in early 2024.

Hope you like the bright new look.

*Jason Harvey of Somefolk did all the hard work.

Quick Update

All good things have to come to an end. Much as I find editing satisfying, it was time to call a halt, bite the bullet and send A Novel Solution onto my lovely publisher, SRL, for their verdict. That happened yesterday. My nails are now chewed down to the quick. Hope they love my characters and story as much as I do.

What’s next? Write another novel, of course!

Editing, I Love It!

I just luurve editing, though I know some writers hate it. I can see their point. You’ve written a book. Typed ‘the end’ at … well, the end. You sigh with relief. It’s over. It’s done. Another one under your belt. But it’s not. Not by a long chalk.

Because, unless you’re the Mozart of writing and produce a perfect, error-free manuscript at the first attempt, then comes the editing process. I understand how it can feel tedious, nit picking and an anticlimax after the excitement of creating that first draft but, for me, editing is where the real magic happens.

My first drafts, you see, are rough around the edges, written in short bursts as ideas come to me. I do my editing in – meals, sleep and family commitments permitting – longer, more continuous writing sessions. This means working long hours, often unwashed, sometimes still in PJs. I edit late at the night, wake early and put in a couple of hours, or sometimes stay in bed til lunchtime.

This half-awake state seems to suit me. Inconsistencies and repetitions jump out. Typos become glaringly obvious. Plot holes loom into view and, with luck, are filled in. New, more lively ways of expressing a thought pop into my head. In short, my rough story becomes a more polished and professional creation.

I suspect other writers feel the same. I seem to remember reading that Daphne du Maurier said something along similar lines: that when she first starts to write, all that comes out is rubbish but if she keeps at it, keeps producing rubbish, eventually the rubbish turns into something rather good. Well, it worked for her!

That’s where I’m at now. Producing something, I hope, that is rather good that will become my second comic fiction, A NOVEL SOLUTION. The next stage – and this is a really scary one – is sending the manuscript off to the publisher, in my case SRL, for an editor’s verdict. And after that? Probably another round of polishing but I don’t mind. As I say, I just luurve editing!

New Year, new hip, new book

I have exciting news.

Fanfare please! it gives me great pleasure to announce that A NOVEL SOLUTION, the story of a life-long people pleaser who finally has had enough, has been signed to SRL Publishing, an amazing publisher. As well as being award-winning, SRL is the world’s first climate positive publisher.

I couldn’t be more thrilled to join the SRL family. For lots of reasons, 2022 was an up and down year for me but, I’m glad to say, it ended rather well. In October, my creaky old hip was replaced by a shiny new NHS one and as the new year began, my new comic fiction is embarking on the journey to publication. I look forward to working with the team at SRL.

A happy, belated New Year to you all. I hope yours will be a good one.