Now the news is out about my upcoming book What Planet Can I Blame This On? I thought I would share an author Q&A. These are a few of the questions I have received from curious readers and aspiring writers since the announcement was made a few weeks back.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Currently, a lot of my ideas come from conversations I have with my friends. A novel I wrote during lockdown 1.0 was inspired by a drunken quote my best friend said to me when we were celebrating her birthday.
But prior to writing contemporary fiction, my ideas came from all over the place. A song I listened to on a walk, a dream I had, a story I was told, and more.
One story I wrote when I was 18 years old was inspired by research I was doing on my family tree. And another previously mentioned project – My My Keats – was inspired by the poetry of John Keats.
Ideas can come from anywhere, and I tend to let them appear rather than go looking for them. They’re playful things and like to hide when you seek them.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes and no. Subconsciously, yes. I have been writing non-stop since I was about six years old. My family members would visit and bring sweets for my brother and sister, and notebooks for me. But it wasn’t until I was at university that I seriously considered writing as a career path.
How did you get published?
It’s been a long winding road – although much shorter than other writers I know.
I started submitting my work to agents when I was sixteen years old; at the time I believed my first novel was epic and unputdownable. In actual fact it was shit, but I digress.
I wrote my fourth novel Who Do You Think You Are? when I was working at a publishing recruitment company in London. Four years later I submitted it to Simon & Schuster via their OneDay submissions program. It was selected as a top read by the editor and sales director and I was called in for a meeting. I did a lot of structural edits on it, based on the S&S feedback. At the same time, I also submitted it to an agent – Hannah Weatherill – at Northbank Talent Agency.
A few hours after it landed in her inbox she offered me representation.
I went to meet with her, and the wider Northbank team, and signed up immediately. More edits on WDYTYA came, but the S&S submission process didn’t work out due to the editor leaving. So we put it on submission to other publishers. But… it went on submission on the day of lockdown 2020! Bad timing right.
The feedback from editors was incredible, and it went to acquisitions a few times as there was genuine interest. But it wasn’t enough to tip it over the edge, and I was fine with that. I wrote that book when I was 20 years old. I was now 24, and my perspective and writing style had changed a lot during that period of time.
During lockdown I wrote another novel, the working title of which is Asking for a Friend I wrote this book because, like most people, I needed a project to pass the time. My agent was well aware of this, and when an editor of a new imprint came knocking at her inbox looking for a writer she submitted me right away.
I met with the editor and shared my writing, and an offer was made.
What’s your writing routine?
It varies month to month. I’m not a consistent writer, probably because I live in rented accommodation and am constantly moving around. It’s hard to have a routine when your local coffee shop changes on the regular, you sometimes have a desk and sometimes you don’t.
I write whenever I have the desire to write.
Without thinking about it, I always carry a notebook and pen with me, and if for some reason I don’t have one I will write on my phone. I love to sit at home and write, as I can read my work aloud and edit as I go. Also, I keep positive feedback of previous work available nearby so I can re-read it to motivate myself when I’m struggling to finish a project.
I wrote Who Do You Think You Are entirely in Cath Kidston notebooks in Starbucks on Baker Street. My Mr Keats was written in my university library on my laptop, and my previous books were written on my bed on weekends when I wasn’t at school.
Who knows what my writing routine will be next year. I look forward to finding out.
Do you plan your novels before you start writing?
For the most part, I write a plan for the beginning of the story and then go wherever it takes me. This process came about because I used to write my stories over a long period of time. But now, because I write novels in three-month blocks I tend to plan more extensively so as to keep up the momentum and not lose track of my characters.
How do you get to know your characters?
I tend to get to know them as I write them rather than planning them out beforehand. Their desires and habits grow edit by edit, rather than falling onto a page the moment I write them.
With my latest novel, What Planet Can I Blame This On? I’ve been getting to know them far in advance because of their astrological birth charts. I’m learning everything about their personalities, how they think, and what they love, just by calculating the planetary movements during their birth. This was not a strategy I ever thought I would use! But it’s a good one.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be an author?
It’s cliché advice but evergreen: keep writing.
One thing I know for sure as a writer, and as a publisher is that every book on a bookshelf has had at least five full-edits before it makes it there.
There’s the writer’s first draft, then their edits which can be infinite! Then, if they have an agent, you get agents edit. After that the editor gives their initial thoughts, then their structural edits, and then their line edits. After that, it’s copy-edited, and then proof-read. Finally, it’s printed.
You should never think ‘I’ll never be able to write like that‘ when you look at a book on a shelf because those books have had MANY eyes on them and many edits before they even reached the printing stage. So keep writing. You, your agent, and your editor can’t edit a blank page.
That’s it for my author Q&A. If you have any questions about writing, publishing, or my debut book, please leave a comment below. I always love to chat!
You can pre-order What Planet Can I Blame This On? now: hyperurl.co/WhatPlanetCanIBlame