1. What first inspired you to write Making Marion?
I got the inspiration for Making Marion while staying on a beautiful campsite in France, set in the grounds of a crumbling chateau. I began thinking about how a campsite could be a peaceful place for a wounded woman to heal. Then I started asking questions like “who is this woman?” and “why has she come to a campsite?” and “why is her old life so easy to leave behind?” and went on from there.
2. Do you have a particular writing routine?
I try to write at least 3 days a week. I usually start with a quick run, and then make sure my kids have got themselves off to school before dealing with any day-to-day admin. Around 9.30 I settle down with a cup of tea and my laptop. The first thing I do is a quick edit of the previous day`s writing, to get myself back into the story. I then write almost continuously, with maybe a couple of short breaks to hang the washing out or eat a sandwich, until wrestling myself away around 4 or 5. I tend to set myself a word count for each week, which could be 5,000 words if I have a lot of other commitments, or 10,000 if I have the rare luxury of an empty diary. But the truth is, I`m writing in my head when I`m driving, cooking, cleaning, playing the piano and doing pretty much everything else.
3. Name the writing habit you rely on to get you through a first draft.
A plan: I draft a two/three page plotline, write notes on the main characters so I can get to know them, and have a separate word document to the main draft that contains all the random thoughts and snatches of story that come to me, so I can add them in as I go along. Then, as I approach each chunk I plan it in more detail. There will always be changes, characters who won`t behave themselves or new twists I wasn`t expecting, but planning helps me to eradicate waffle and stay on course.
4. Which book would you take to a desert island?
I would take the Bible. It has everything…wisdom, encouragement, inspiration, fascinating history and plenty of nail-biting stories. There`s even instructions on how to build a boat in there…
5. If I could rewrite history, I would . . .
There are so many things I would want to change I couldn`t possibly pick one. And I`ve read enough time-travel stories to know not to meddle with history. Having said that, I wouldn`t mind going back and putting the handbrake on my car this morning, saving over £1000 worth of damage to that nice elderly couple`s vehicle.
6. In another age I would have been . . .
I like to think I would have made a good pioneer. I`m pretty tough, and love the idea of having to survive on whatever limited resources are around. Like many writers, I can do with very little company and being able to create a life, a home and a community from scratch out in the wilderness appeals to my sense of optimism and adventure.
7. Who would your fantasy dinner guests be?
At the risk of sounding boring, I don`t find the idea of having strangers to dinner fun, or relaxing. I`m never happier than when my family are all together round the table. They have big hearts to match their appetites and make me laugh more than anyone else I know. These days that includes my two brothers, their wives and children and my mum. If it`s a fantasy I`d add in my late father. We still feel the ache of the empty space at the table.
8. Did any of the characters in your book surprise you while writing?
When I reread my 1st draft I was a little surprised by quite how unpleasant one character could be – and slightly startled that some of those comments came out of my head. Some of her remarks were so offensive I had to edit them out.
9. What is the worst piece of writing or career feedback you’ve received?
While I was waiting for a publishing deal a few people suggested I self-publish. The ideal route for some, but I knew my book needed a good, hard professional edit before I let it loose on the market. I also never would have found the courage to publicise my book without the backing of a publishing house.
10. What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Everything comes in seasons. In the depths of winter it can be hard to remember what it feels like to have the sun on your skin, and in the warmer times we forget that one day autumn will come. Celebrate the good times, persevere when things are tough. Neither will last forever.
11. How do you feel about physical books versus e-books?
I do read some e-books – I take a lot of books on holiday so my kindle means I can fit more less-essential items in my suitcase (like clothes, or a hairbrush). But I do still prefer paper books, having something tangible in my hand. You can flick through a book more easily, or skip back a couple of chapters to check something. The thing that I miss most with e-books is that I can`t pass them on to someone else.
12. Do you have any advice for an aspiring author?
You`re never going to find the time to write a novel unless you make the time. For most of us, getting a book published is a long, hard road, but if it`s your dream, it`s up to you to make it happen. And write what`s in your heart, and on your mind, what you care for and dream about. Those things that make you want to throw plates or bash your head against the desk or run up a mountain, fling your arms wide and sing hallelujah. Don`t ever write what you think someone else wants to read – or even worse, wants to publish. It takes courage to write with integrity, but your story is unique and precious, however you choose to express it.