My top 10 writing tips

  1. Don’t just say your character eyes are blue try adding more descriptive colours such as cornflower blue – it adds more texture and helps the reader build a picture of them in their head.
  2. Think about your characters names examples if you name one of your characters names is Anastasia – it means she will rise again so it will insinuate that your character is born feisty and brave.
  3. Don’t overuse adverbs – it’s lazy writing.
  4. Don’t mix up your tenses – I tend to do this a lot and thank goodness my editor has a lot of patience and will correct all the time I’m wrong.
  5. Try and keep a writing journal you could write down things that inspire you such as; song lyrics or even something you see you when you’re out and about or something in a newspaper article or something in the story someone is telling you.
  6. We’re going to write back to basics here; remember that your story has to have a beginning middle and end. It’s always nice to start your story off in the middle of an action so that way the momentum of the book and storyline gets going so it’s not too slow.
  7. Set yourself writing limits don’t be silly; When it comes to writing my sensible limit is right 1500 words and no more. Otherwise I just start typing rubbish because I’m too tired.
  8. Take inspiration from your favourite authors, for example when I’m writing a comedic story I tend to read Sophie Kinsella or Jenny Colgan.
  9. Start your social media presence now. Join every writers group that you can on Facebook and on Twitter always look for the hashtagwritingcommunity and for people Who are doing the same as you and make friends because writing a novel is not easy on your own. (A computer class may help you grasp the basics if you’re more notepad and pen)
  10. Make sure you plan a basic plot and stick to it but otherwise have fun and let your imagination run wild!

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Author interview: Kitty Neale

I recently had the privilege to sit down and talk with the writer Kitty Neale, she is definitely the Queen of the saga. Here’s what you had to say about my many many questions and about her new novel; a sister’s sorrow

I didn’t start writing until I was in my late fifties. Most of my books are set in Battersea, but I have done a few set in other areas.I’m afraid it’s hard to quantify where I get my ideas from. For my latest book it was hearing about people who were mudlark’s, scouring the shores of the River Thames for anything of value. It peaked my interest so I added a character who I could see searching the muddy shores, and the story was born.. With two books a year to write, it isn’t always easy to take time off, so yes I write every day.. No, I haven’t worked as I write. When I did start I think my poor hubby got a bit neglected until I leaned to balance my time. I think that having gone through a lot of trauma in my life, my stories do tend to focus on women or children having hard times. I tend to set them in a difficult situation, and then hope to portray them overcoming their problems, resulting in a happy ending.My hand writing is so appalling that I have to use a computer.Before I start my novels, I write a synopsis for my publisher, and try to follow it, but many times the story goes off on its own with a character taking on a larger role.. I am extremely proud of my daughter, and though it’s nice that she is following in my footsteps, I would be happy with whatever career choice she makes. If she’s happy, I’m happy and that is all that matters
 I’m afraid that at 76 years old now, I have very little memory of school or compositions. I do know that English was my favourite subject, but I have slight dyslexia and dyscalculia so becoming a writer was something I never even thought of.  I do know that I had a vivid imagination as a child and would make up stories, but I had no idea I could write a book. A small piece of advice had become invaluable. When starting a new book, list all your characters characteristics. Hair and eye colour, height, weight, and their birthdays, along with little habits that make them who they are. It’s amazing how often you will refer to these notes. 
Like so many writers that it’s impossible to name them all, except to say that I like a good psychological thriller. Nobody influences me with my writing style. It’s better to find your own style, and voice, one that’s totally yours. I try to start work at 10am and with a break for lunch I go on until about 4pm, though if I’m having one of those lovely days where everything is just flowing I sometimes forget to stop to eat.When I wrote my first book, I sent the first three chapters and a synopsis off to five literary agents. I got rejections slips from 4, but one, Judith Murdoch, asked to see the rest of the manuscript. She then went on to secure my first publishing contract. I’ve never had my writing ability questioned, but some editors may suggest changes to your manuscript. If I like their ideas I will use them, if not I nicely reject them. 
First tip, don’t copy anyone else. Find your own style. Second tip. Make your characters real. Give them personality traits, habits, and hint at body shape, such as a rotund tummy, or a large nose, maybe a squinty eye, anything that will make your readers see them without too much description. Nobody is prefect, so give your characters imperfections. A bit of a temper, or someone who is too soft, or giggly. There are so many to choose from. Third tip. Keep a running list of time passing and the seasons so your story moves along.  Forth tip. Don’t over describe a scene or place. Fifth tip and very important. Dialogue. Use plenty of dialogue as a book that is all narrative can be unexciting. I live in Spain, I have a kindle as it can be hard to find paperbacks here. However, I must admit I prefer a book.
The real me. Oh dear, this is a hard one. I think I am sensitive – I cry at the drop of a hat, even the film Bambi had me in tears. I am a mother, grandmother, and a great grandmother, so yes, I think I’m motherly. I think Im modest too, however, I have no idea how my fans see me. I like to see a variety of books on the shelves, something for everyone. I can’t imagine going into a bookshop or library and seeing only maybe horror or thrillers. I love it that children are reading again too and it’s nice to see so many children’s books. Oh dear, I’m afraid I find being a writer easy. When I first started to write, I didn’t find it hard, and still don’t. I think everyone has a natural talent for something. Take artists. I can’t even draw a matchstick man, so have great admiration for people who can paint. Then there singers. I can’t sing in tune, but love to listen to music and admire those who have beautiful voices. I think these are all natural talents and I wish I had found mine before I was in my late fifties. Even so, I don’t consider myself a literary writer, I didn’t have the education to achieve that. I call myself a storyteller and it’s lovely to hear that people enjoy my stories.
I can’t think of five facts that nobody knows about me. I’m a bit of an open book, with how I got into writing for all to see on my website along with pictures of me too. I suppose there are my fears. I hate spiders and big beetles. I can’t drive, so when it comes to being a passenger in a car, I hate speed. I’m a bit of a lazy bones and love curling up in front of the telly. My favourites programmes are, Call the Midwife, Strictly Come Dancing, EastEnders, and Luther. I love cats, dogs and other animals, but I’m sorry, I can’t think of anything else.

My Hemingway six word story challenge

Enjoy my attempt at the Hemingway Challenge She floated face down, ice cold.

Thunder struck, and hearts broke.

Their lips met also their souls.

Her face was illuminated, tears ran.

The sun shone, the world continued

Their limbs intertwined in passion’s dance.

He lit the spark in her.

Words flew between them; verbal war.

She teetered on the edge of reason.

Words said, bonds broken, time heals.

Angel with eyes of a devil

She escaped inner battles in daydream

Tapping away at the keyboard: Documenting.

The seasons came: He hadn’t changed.

Wars in her head, whilst in bed.

Miles to go, each step remembered .

Flags planted, possessions owned, life taken.

Kisses mean I am sorry or goodbye

The harp is the sound of love.

Worlds torn, uprooted, your flag planted.

My favourite authors

Happy Monday guys!! Here’s my top 10 authors (including children’s authors) and my favourite book they’ve written.

  1. Jaqueline Wilson – mm.. hard to pick as she was a massive part of my childhood. I’d have to say Queenie as it deals with hospitals in the 1950’s.
  2. Jenifer Worth – Call the midwife. Again a novel set in the late 40’s/50’s about midwifery but also about life in the east end.
  3. Jodi Picoult – The storyteller. I read this in day and follows the story of a former SS officer seeking forgiveness from a Jewish woman. Two other books of picoults I’m fond of are Leaving Time, which deals with childloss and Small Great Things which deals with modern day racsism and white supremists.
  4. William Horwood – Skallagrigg. A story from a point of view of a boy with a disability and his life in an institution.
  5. Diane Chamberline – Pretending to dance. Fans of Picoult will like this as the writing and subject is similar.
  6. Jenny Colgan – Little school by the sea. My ideal bit of romantic fluff.. ST Claire’s for grown ups.
  7. Emma Kennedy – The tent bucket and me. A laugh out loud comedy biography of holidays in the 70’s!
  8. Ellie Dean – Beach View Boarding House. The saga is ideal for fans of 1940’s fiction. The new book is out Thursday, needless to say I’m excited.
  9. Jody Klaire – Above and beyond series. Queen of lesbian fiction and the supernatural.
  10. Danielle Paige – Dorothy must die. 1984 for teens! Plus it brings back the escapism that WOOz brought us.

An interview with Models undercover author Carina Axelsson

So last summer I interviewed Carina after I got hooked on her detective turned model series, so I thought I’d share it here.

1. So I’m 3/4 my way through book 1 so no spoilers, please! What inspired you to write the book?

My fashion experiences! (I worked as a fashion model for many years before I became an author.) And my love of mysteries! Frankly, the thought did often cross my mind, on those days when I was modelling in a studio all day, that the enclosed space of a fashion photography studio, coupled with the outsized personalities of the usual fashion shoot crew, could lead to the perfect crime. Not that I was wishing someone would keel over and die whilst on set! But I’d read so many Agatha Christie mysteries as a teen that I couldn’t help but think that a fashion shoot was the perfect setting for a crime.

2. Is there any part of Axelle in you?

I wish! I always say Axelle is the clever, focused, fast-thinking, risk-taking me I’d like to be.

3. What was it like working in the fashion industry?

Fun, interesting, draining, colourful, relentless, and inspiring. The downside: I’m a homebody so all the travelling didn’t particularly suit me. The upside: I had oodles of downtime during which I could read!

4. When did you decide to write a book?

As soon as I could write. I must have been about seven, I think. As a child, I kept starting books but never managed to get past about page five. I still struggle with that today, actually!

5) how do you do your research?

I LOVE doing research! *glances at moodboard and looks at pictures of current research subjects* And my favourite way of doing it is to experience it. So, if, for example, Axelle is chasing someone through an abandoned building, I’ll find an abandoned building in the city the scene takes place in and spend some time exploring it. In book 4 Axelle goes to Milan and climbs onto the roof of the Duomo cathedral, and she eats lots of pizza. Needless to say, I had to do both! I also do mega amounts of reading when I’m researching a person, place or subject. As far as I’m concerned, research is the perfect excuse to buy more books or book a trip.

6) Do you like to use pen and paper or keyboard,

Pencil and paper for notes, computer for writing.

7) are you a night writer or early bird?

Early bird by nature, but morning, afternoon, and night writer when a deadline is looming. *gets panicky just thinking about the deadline and reaches for a cup of tea*

8) Do you ever use a playlist to get you in the mood to write certain scenes?

No. At times I might have a particular song in mind to inspire a certain scene or mood, but I’ll only let it play silently in my mind when I’m actually writing. And if I hear a song I think fits a scene or character I might play it more than usual when I’m away from my desk (like when I’m cooking), but, honestly, I need silence to write. I find music too distracting (because I like it too much!).

9) Does your Pinterest inspire you?

YES!!! I love Pinterest and always tell young writers that if they don’t have enough space in their bedroom to hang a moodboard, then they should use Pinterest. Whenever I start thinking about a new book I immediately create a secret Pinterest board for it and start pinning any relevant images that catch my eye. It helps me focus.

10) What was your favourite subject at school?

English, art, and history. That’s three but it was a tie!

11) Axelle is like an updated Nancy Drew – was that your aim?

Yes. As a young reader I was very inspired by Nancy and her adventures, but nevertheless I also very much wanted to read about a young girl detective in the here and now, someone I could more easily relate to. So Axelle is definitely my answer to that yearning.

12) Have you travelled to where all your books are set?

You bet! *leans back in writing chair and gets distracted thinking about all of the beautiful cities in the series* I worked as a model in all of them for many years and lived in two of them – Paris (book 1) and New York City (book 2) – for a long time.

13) Aunt Venita is a bit like Devil Wears Prada – was that intentional?

Good question…but no! Aunt Venetia is inspired by real editors I’ve worked with – not that any of them were half as devilish as she is. But editors do often seem to be of a certain type…a type that’s easy to play up and have fun with – as I did writing about Aunt Venetia.

14) Who was your favourite author growing up?

*Eyes widen because there were so many* Any list of mine would have to include, but not be limited to, the following fabulous authors: Beatrix Potter, Jean de Brunhoff, Astrid Lindgren, Marguerite Henry, Walter Farley, Richard Scarry, C.W. Anderson, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Daphne du Maurier…the list goes on and on, so I’ll stop here.

15) Who do you read now?

All of the above plus too many others to list them comprehensively here. I love 19th and 20th century European literature, especially all the usual English and French suspects: Wilkie Collins, Jane Austen, George Elliot (Middlemarch is one of my all time faves!), Proust, Flaubert, Colette, Anthony Trollope, Thackeray, Eudora Welty, Alice Munro, Anita Brookner, Dodie Smith, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, F.H. Burnett, Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville West. There are so many to choose from and, fortunately, the list of inspiring literature is a very, very rich and long one.

16) Why do I sense Sebastian is A’s love interest?

You said no spoilers!

17) Are you an armchair detective?

Absolutely. But I kind of have the sneaking suspicion that at heart we all are…

18) Do you ever get ideas for characters from a top model?

I’ve never watched it. I lived the real thing for too long to want to watch a television substitute!

19) If you could be invisible for a day what would you do?

It would be a great way to write because no one could find me and disturb me!

20) The idea of a perfect rainy Sunday?

Reading or writing with a cup of tea at hand, by the fireplace, after a walk with my dogs. Baking something like a cake or tart could add the finishing touch.

21) Winter or summer gal?

Winter! I enjoy watching the forest sleep and it’s easier to write in cool weather.

22) Is A’s mum based on yours?

How’d you guess???

23) Three things you could not live without?

Books, dogs, tea. *looks under the desk and sees four dogs*

24) Tea or Coffee person? With cake? Mug or teacup?

Tea always. Cake or biscuits are indispensable. Mug or cup depends on mood and choice of tea.

25) Any more Adventures for A on the cards/what are you working on?

The fourth book in the series, Dressed To Kill, has been published, and for the moment I’m working on a new series that is still a TOP SECRET project.

26) Describe your typical day?

I write in the mornings and do book stuff (finish writing whatever I meant to do in the morning, answer fan mail, do interviews, organize book tours or school visits, update my blog, etc.) in the afternoons. I take my dogs for long walks into the forest twice a day, regardless of the weather. I live in a large, old house so there is always a ton of house stuff to do, but if I don’t do it, who will? I fit it in as I can. I read. And I try to cook as often as I can because I find it relaxing!

27) Audrey Hepburn or Marylin Monroe?

Audrey!

28) Any hobbies?

Reading and drawing.

29) what’s the best thing about being a writer?

Having my characters come to life in published form and meeting my lovely readers!

30) Seen any Divas in the industry?

No. I’ve never met anyone working in the children’s books publishing world – be they fellow authors, or publishers, editors, whatever – who isn’t an unfailingly nice, funny, and friendly bookworm. I met plenty of divas in the fashion business though!