Why I write

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I have friends who just don’t get it. They don’t understand why I am prepared to sacrifice such a huge chunk of my life to writing.

‘You should come out more at the weekends and do stuff’ they say. ‘You need to expand your social circle and meet more people. It’s not healthy spending time cooped up indoors writing’.

For the record I think my social life is fine. I have plenty of friends and I generally dedicate one day of my weekend to seeing them or family and one day to writing. Truth be told, I could do with a few extra days in the week to fit everything in.

For those in any doubt, this is why I write.

Firstly, the boring reason. I write for added security.

I have a day job, but it’s one that pays barely enough to cover the bills. I live in a tiny one bedroom house and drive an eighteen year old car that keeps threatening to die on me. At the moment I have no future financial security. Until this year I couldn’t even afford to pay into a pension and I permanently live in my overdraft.

This was never the plan and it would be nice to look forward to a future where money wasn’t such a worry. No different to a million or so other people I expect.

Writing gives me a chance to have that added security. Okay, so I’m never going to make it on to the rich list alongside JK Rowling and James Patterson, but while my books are selling my income does receive a tiny boost and the more I write, hopefully, the bigger that boost will be.

The second reason I write is because I love it.

Telling stories is what I do. It’s what I have always wanted to do, it’s what I am good at, and no other job on the planet will ever give me the same buzz or satisfaction.

I love creating characters, fleshing them out into real people, building twisty tales around them, and trying to grab readers in those first few pages before dragging them on a rollercoaster adventure that climbs and climbs and climbs before an exhilarating drop back down to the finale.

I remember being in my early twenties and telling people I wanted to be an author. Most of them used to smirk, some politely humouring me. Writing was a career like singing or acting. It wasn’t a job that people in the real world got to do.

Well, guess what. I believed in my dream and I persevered, and eventually it came true. And if anyone thinks I am going to be complacent and assume the hard work is done, then you’re wrong, because now I have that dream in my grasp, I’m never going to let it go.

In fact, I’m just getting started.

 

 

Writing Highs – And why you should enter the Rethink Press New Novels Competition 2014

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It has been just over a year since I learnt I had won a package with Rethink Press to have my novel, Dead Letter Day, published and as I edit the sequel I am taking a moment to reflect back over the highs of the last twelve months.

Writing can be difficult. Depending on the day, staring at the blank page can be either terrifying or exhilarating. The story is in your head, but finding the right words to put it down on paper so other people can enjoy it can be challenging. You have to breathe life into characters, write believable dialogue and create realistic, but interesting scenarios that will make a reader want to turn the page.

To any aspiring writers and certainly anyone toying with entering the Rethink Press New Novels Competition 2014, let me share with you why persevering was worth it for me.

1/ There is no greater high than having someone read your book and then take the time to tell you how much they enjoyed it. I honestly had no idea how Dead Letter Day was going to be received, but the response was amazing and I have dozens of emails from people I have never met telling me how they were kept up most of the night unable to put the book down.  Several of these lovely people have continued to engage regularly through my Facebook Author Page, as they wait for the sequel, and I am so grateful for their support. I was also invited to talk to two book clubs – a surreal experience listening to the members discussing and dissecting my story, but also very rewarding – and both clubs are keen to invite me back once they have read the sequel.

2/ I never expected to get a good critical reception to Dead Letter Day. I always believed professional critics to favour literature over popular fiction; therefore I read the reviews of my book in the local press with trepidation. I honestly couldn’t have asked for better write ups and these helped restore my confidence and belief that I am good enough to do this writing lark.

3/ Holding the hard copy of your book for the first time is a feeling you will never forget. All the years of hard work, rejection and periods of self-doubt are sitting there in your hand. Dead Letter Day looked fantastic thanks to the folks at Rethink who designed a slick, classy and striking cover and seeing it sitting on the shelf in Jarrold Book Department alongside established authors such as Dan Brown and Mark Billingham just about blew me away.

4/ Finally, I turn to the Amazon sales ranking. Dead Letter Day spent much of the first month or so inside the top 5,000, which when you consider the millions of books on sale means it was doing pretty well. But the ultimate high came about three months after the release when a surge in sales saw it almost break into the top 1,000. The geek in me had to capture a screenshot to remember the moment.

Two months before I learnt of the Rethink Press New Novels Competition, I was sitting in a dead end job with a bleak future. I had taken so many knockbacks with my writing I had thrown in the towel, concluding I just wasn’t good enough. If this is you, do not give up on your dreams. Yes, I still have to do a dead end job, but winning has restored my faith in my writing ability and I know I have a future in this industry. I have just completed my new novel, working my butt off putting in ridiculously long days, but it has been worth every minute.

No I have not become an overnight success, but let’s be honest, how many people do? What I do have is the belief and the determination, and now the foundations to build on the opportunity I was given. And if you enter and your book wins, you could have this too.

For more details about the competition, please follow this link.  http://rethinkpress.com/new-novels-competition-2014/

Good luck to all of the entrants.

Twelve months in the life of this writer

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So another year has passed in the life of Beev and what a hell of a year it has been. Here are some things I learnt over the course of it.

My memory is steadily getting worse. Over the past 12 months I have routinely walked in the room, only to forget why I am there. I have also paid for my grocery shopping, then walked out of the store with an empty trolley, because I’ve left it all sitting on the checkout. That I don’t know my mobile number is excusable, but I changed my landline last winter and I CAN’T REMEMBER IT. To be fair, I don’t call myself, do I? As for my writing, I have to go back and check over earlier chapters because I keep forgetting details. Nothing major, just stuff like dates, locations, character names, who the killer is… I honestly believe I am going to finish the Dead Letter Day sequel and then be able to read it along with you guys, as I won’t have a clue what’s going to happen.

I still hate winter nights, but I am learning to cope with them. I am a summer girl. I like my maxi dresses, beer gardens and warm evenings that stay light till 10pm. Going to work and coming home in the dark depresses the hell out of me, but last winter I learnt that hot soapy bubble baths, snuggly PJs, scented candles and good food and wine can be pretty good. And all that darkness gets me in the mood for writing some sinister plotlines.

Grisly is no longer a word I spell incorrectly and I now know the difference between a cuddly brown bear and a gruesome scene. I also now know the entertainments editor of a certain national newspaper is a bit of a pedantic old witch, so not to cross her path.

I am still incredibly gullible. My work colleague told me the Channel Tunnel is closed at certain times of the year when we have heavy rainfall, as they have to repair the leaks. Yup, I was the stupid idiot who said, ‘really?’

I have learnt my periodic table. My quest to be the ultimate geek continues. Not content with learning all of the countries of the world, all of the capital cities of the world and all of the flags of the world, I decided to take on science. I may not know my own telephone number, but I’ve got all that yttrium, molybdenum and protactinium shit down pat.

My cooking is edible. For years I’ve been hiding behind diabolical culinary skills as an excuse to get everyone else to cook dinner for me. Now I finally accept I can make most things if I’m prepared to put the effort in. Of course I am Beev and the microwave is still my best friend. I never was very good at that “effort” business.

And finally, I have learnt to never give up on your dreams. A year ago today I was furiously typing away trying to get the Dead Letter Day manuscript ready for entry in the Rethink Press New Novels 2012 Competition.  Before that point, it had been sat in a cupboard under a few bottles of red wine gathering dust. Little did I know that it would win me a publishing package and remind me that, aside from family (human and fluffy) and friends, writing is the most important thing in my life. As I sit here working on the sequel I can’t believe I became so jaded I gave up. Seeing my book in print and reading the great reviews makes every year of struggling and every knockback so worthwhile. If you have a dream, stand tall above your critics and if you believe in yourself enough, you can make it happen.