Monday, May 1, 2017

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Debbie Young

     Tell me a about yourself. What got you started in writing?

I’ve always loved writing, even when I was very young. I still have my old notebooks full of stories jotted down before I even learned to do joined-up writing. For several decades I earned my living by writing in various forms, as a trade press journalist, as a public relations consultant, a marketing manager, and latterly as a charity adminstrator for a children’s reading charity. I still earn my living from writing, partly from my role as commissioning editor of the Alliance of Independent Authors’ Author Advice Center blog, and partly from writing books. My priority now is writing novels, after spending most of my life writing everything but novels – how-to books, memoir, short stories, journalism. 


2.     How do you schedule your writing time? When do you write?

I try to write for a couple of hours first thing each weekday, after my teenage daughter has gone to school, kicking off with three “morning pages” to get the writing part of my brain into gear. I find that makes me much more productive with whatever I’m writing later on, whether it’s blog posts and non-fiction, or short stories or my work-in-progress novel (currently book 3 in my Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series).  Writing earlier rather than later taps into my creative brain when it’s fresher and more focused, before practicalities of daily living kick in. I confess I very often write in my pajamas and don’t get dressed till I’ve finished my daily writing stint around lunchtime! 

3.     How and where do you write? Do you prefer a lap top or some other method of getting your words down?

     I write my morning pages in a small hardback notebook on the sofa in our living room, where I sit with a cup of tea after my daughter’s gone to school, waiting to check the school bus has gone past the window with her on it! Usually I retreat upstairs to the PC in my study after breakfast to write for a couple of hours at my desk which overlooks our large rural garden in a small English village. But sometimes I’ll sit up in bed writing by hand in a large hardback spiral bound notebook, then read what I’ve written into my computer via Dragon’s speech recognition software to save me typing it. Outside of term-time, I’ll be more likely to write by hand, especially if we’re travelling as a family in our camper van on holiday.

     Funnily enough I’ve just bought a new laptop today, because I’m planning to start writing more in the garden over the summer, and in the new extension that my husband’s building which opens out into the garden. Being able to see sky and garden outside is important to me – I don’t think I’d write as well in a windowless room or facing away from the window.

4.     What's your favorite part about writing? Your least favorite part about writing?

My favourite part is when the characters and situations take over in my head, and the story starts writing itself. Although I plan my stories, I still get characters who turn up unexpectedly and take over a scene, often funny ones who cause chaos and make me laugh. My least favourite part is how quickly it makes the time go – I look up from my desk and realise the whole morning’s gone while I’ve been absorbed in a scene. Writing can be completely exhausting sometimes, when I get really immersed in a story, and if I don’t pace myself I end up so drained that I have to not write for a week or two to recharge my batteries.

5.     How did you come up with your book idea? How long did it take you to write your book?

I came up with the idea for Sophie Sayers while on a writing retreat on the small Greek island of Ithaca. (Yes, I know, lucky me!) My original plan was that the book would be about Sophie’s experience of such a retreat, but then I decided it really needed  a back story and a prequel, and then that the prequel needed a prequel and so on. The upshot of this is that I’m now writing a seven-book series in which the one set in the writers’ retreat will be #6! I wrote the first book over about six months, but mostly in a tearing hurry in about the last month of that, when I got impatient with how long it was taking me. I’d been starting to worry about running out of life before I could complete the whole series if I carried on at that pace, but I finished that book in November, the second by early January, and by the end of February I’d nearly completed book three!

6.     What types of marketing do you do to promote your writing?

     I’ve written a blog for seven years which started out as a place to muse about anything that captured my imagination, but now I mostly blog about my writing, and hope that people who enjoy my posts will try my books. I have a Facebook author page where most days I post something about writing, and I have 1000+ friends there too and am pretty active in commenting on their issues and sharing fun stuff. I’m on Twitter but have got a bit disenchanted with it lately. However I am very active socially offline, running two local author groups which help raise my profile, and I love reading at spoken word events locally and speaking at writing and literature festivals. I also run a small Lit Fest in my own village – the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival has just celebrated its third glorious year! I also write monthly columns in two local magazines. I appear on a monthly book club programme on the local radio station, and am quite often on other regional radio stations too. All of these activities make me pretty well known within the region and generate a lot of word-of-mouth interest in my work. You can’t beat word-of-mouth recommendation.


7.     What are you currently working on? Do you have a new book out?

Yes, I’ve just this month launched “Best Murder in Show”, the first in my planned series of seven Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries. I’m aiming at publishing books two and three in the series this year, so am currently editing book two, completing book three, and desperate to start writing book four, as I really love spending time in Sophie’s world!

8.     Do you have a project on the back burner? Tell me about it.

I always have tons of projects on the back burner! I’ve got about five planned short story collections, each on a specific theme, and I’m writing odd stories here and there to add to each. Whichever has the most stories first will be get published soonest! I aim at 15-20 stories per collection depending on their length. “Marry in Haste” has 15, while “Stocking Fillers” and “Quick Change” each have 20. “Repent at Leisure” is likely to be next up.

I also have a couple of non-fiction projects mapped out – “Travels by Camper Van”, an advice book based on my family’s experience of spending our holidays in a motorhome in the UK and Europe, plus a book offering moral support to families living with Type 1 diabetes, which affects both my husband and our daughter. That one will be a sequel to my “Coming to Terms with Type 1 Diabetes”. The latest addition to my list of plans is to write a book on how to set up and run an indie literature festival, in response to requests from others keen to replicate my Hawkesbury Upton Lit Fest. Not sure when I’m going to be able to bring these to the front burner, though!

9.     What would you tell a beginning writer who wants to publish but doesn't believe he/she has enough talent?

     Find your voice and your confidence by writing morning pages and a blog. Write every day, don’t expect your writing to be perfect first time, and edit, edit, edit. Writing is a craft – it takes practice and precision.  Write your first drafts uncritically, then refine and polish them afterwards. Don’t be afraid to murder your darlings. Writing and editing use two different parts of the brain – don’t try to use them both at once, it doesn’t work. If you can’t stick at it, maybe you’re not meant to be a writer, so find a different outlet for your creativity. But if you have a vocation as a writer, you will find you can’t stop yourself writing, so keep going, and don’t let anyone hold you back. And read – lots. Every writer should read a wide range of authors and styles and immerse themselves in books.

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(Debbie) A question I get asked a lot is “how do you find time to write?” My answer is that time isn’t sitting around waiting for me to find it – I make the time. My favourite way of making the time is to ignore the housework! How do you make time for your writing, I wonder?

(Kathryn) Time... I find there's always time to do what I love, even if that means putting something else on the back burner. I do a great juggling act every day. I make time to do housework, work on business (I also own and operate a publishing company), make time to write, do errands, spend time with family, etc. 

Like you, every day I make the time to write.

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