Recently, I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them for guest-spots on my blog. (If you are interested in participating, please contact me.) I asked everyone thirty-five questions — some were basic, and others were multi-part inquiries — and I asked them to answer only what they wanted to or what was applicable. My friend and fellow-blogger, Sandra Danby, had some very interesting responses which I’m sure will captivate you, as well. After you read her interview, please be sure to hop on over to her blog and follow her for a regular dose of her charm. And now, I present Sandra…
Total book addict, reading them, writing them, buying them. Grew up on a small dairy farm at the bleak edge of East Yorkshire where England meets the North Sea. At the age of four I was making magazines full of my own stories, at 21 I was a journalist. Now I write fiction full-time.
Sandra Danby blog [Fiction – Short Stories – On reading and writing] http://www.sandra.danby.com/
Notes on a Spanish Valley blog [Living in rural Andalucía] http://www.notesonaspanishvalley.com/
Linked In – uk.linkedin.com/pub/sandra-danby/16/674/911/
Twitter @SandraDanby https://twitter.com/SandraDanby
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/Sandradan1
Read my flash fiction @ Ether Books – http://catalog.etherbooks.com/Authors/1037
Facebook – www.facebook.com/sandradanbyauthor
Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/sandradan1/
‘Ignoring Gravity’ is my first novel, now available to pre-order from BNBS Books. I’m writing the sequel now, ‘Connectedness’. I have plans for at least two more novels about Rose Haldane, adoption detective. After that, a stand-alone novel and a YA trilogy.
My published work:
‘Ignoring Gravity’ to be published by BNBS Books in September 2014. This is a new crowd-funding imprint in which the readers get to choose which books are actually published, so I need 250 pre-orders to get my publishing contract. Help me hit my target by pre-ordering ‘Ignoring Gravity’ now at www.britainsnextbestseller.co.uk/book/index/IgnoringGravity
My stories have been published in two anthologies:-
‘Tin-Can’ and ‘The Biscuit Tin’ in ‘The Milk of Female Kindness: an Honest Anthology of Motherhood’ [pub 2014, Kasia James] is available from Amazon and The Book Depository
‘Magic and Mischief’ in ‘Diaspora City: the London New Writing Anthology’ [pub 203, Arcadia], is out of print now but some copies still available from Amazon
Published or self-published?
My publishing contract with BNBS states that ‘Ignoring Gravity’ will be published if I get a minimum of 250 orders online. Publication is scheduled provisionally for September 2014. BNBS only accepts authors who are willing to self-promote. Talking to friends who are self-published, and others who are trying to go the traditional route, it seems to me that book publishing is changing radically. Gone are the days when an author could hide away. Everyone has to promote, including blogging, tweeting etc, as the most important thing is to build a relationship with readers. So the UK book publishing world is watching the BNBS launch with interest and not a little curiosity.
How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?
I actually can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing stories in some form or another. Writing is who I am.
What would you say motivates you to keep writing?
I dislike anything which distracts me from reading and writing. Journalism gave me the discipline to sit down every morning and write. I’ve never had writer’s block, something journalists don’t have the time for. And I love my characters, I want to tell their stories.
Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?
Currently reading ‘Citadel’ by Kate Mosse, the third in her Languedoc trilogy. I seem to be reading a lot of novels set around World War One and Two and the moment.
What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., kindle, nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?
I read on all platforms. I now review a lot of books for my blog which are sent to my Kindle. I love hardback books but a) they are expensive and b) take up a lot of shelf room. Books are piled on every available shelf in our house, and all over the floor of my study. Too many books… not enough time!
Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?
The earliest draft of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ was first person, past tense. On advice from my writing tutor I switched to third person, past tense, and made much quicker progress. I was at that difficult stage of extracting myself from my character, that’s much easier now all these years later.
Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books?
Always. I could never contemplate not reading a book.
How many books would you say you read in a year? How many at any one time?
I average one novel a week, so 52 a year. Plus non-fiction. That sounds like a lot!
ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK:
What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?
‘Ignoring Gravity’, my first novel, is currently with my wonderful copy-editor at Fiction Feedback.
What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre? What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?
I struggle with genre labels, I guess it is general fiction. It is a story of identity, adoption and family history, subjects which appeal to men and women, so I would not describe it as ‘women’s fiction’.
What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?
I’ve always been interested in identity, what makes us, us. I think it stems from my own childhood. I’m the youngest of three children, 8 years younger than my brother, 10 years younger than my sister. I was a very imaginative child and I used to invent scenarios: what if I belonged somewhere else, a different family, a different country. It’s something I think a lot of children think about. This idea stayed with me. It wasn’t something I actively thought about, but it was in the back of my mind. I should say I’m not adopted and I had a happy rural childhood.
What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?
Mostly female I think, though my male readers have enjoyed it too. All ages, I’ve had interest from people in their 20s and people in their 70s.
Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?
Rose is a journalist in her thirties who thinks her life is okay. She’d like a new job, a bigger flat, but on the whole her world is settled. Then she finds out she is adopted and everything changes. Her parents lied to her. She doesn’t know her real name anymore, her medical history, her genetic inheritances.
When a child is adopted today it is usual for the story of the adoption to be explained to the child from an early age. But this didn’t happen to Rose. She was given up for adoption in the 1960s when the rules were different. Secrecy was the big thing: to protect the child and both sets of parents from harassment. But that secrecy can cause huge problems for anyone trying to trace their birth parents now. And some birth parents never wanted to be found. Ever.
In the Sixties, to be a single mother was a shameful thing. Single parent families weren’t accepted by society as they are today, so more babies were adopted. And of course there were no computer records; files go missing, letters misfiled, names misspelled. So Rose decides to use old-fashioned journalistic research to discover the story of her birth.
ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE:
How often do you write?
Every weekday, and on weekends if at all possible.
Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?
I have no target, realistically 500 words minimum, maximum anything up to 4000.
Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?
My journalist training makes me a tight editor but nothing replaces the role of trusted readers. My husband always reads my drafts, and my regular writing group friends see every chapter from the very first exercises. Once I am happy with a final draft, it goes to my copy-editor.
What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters? Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)
A bit of all of those. I have a period in mind, and a subject, which I research. Usually during the course of that, the plot slowly starts to form. I start off with a broad brush plan which gets more detailed as I add in the clues and red herrings and work out Rose’s path to the truth; planning this is a bit like planning a murder mystery. I don’t write in chapters, I write in POV action sections so it’s easy to slip in a new section wherever it is needed.
Do you have a muse? If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?
No muse. I am driven to tell my story, that’s what makes me sit down each day.
How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?
It is 13 years since I started ‘Ignoring Gravity’, but there have been years of inaction in between. I’ve been writing ‘Connectedness’ for two years, again with breaks. If I sat down to write a novel and do absolutely nothing else, I guess it would take 1-2 years.
Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel? If so, please elaborate.
No word limit, no time limit.
How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?
I like inventing characters, I often choose names using the index of my atlas. I also have a baby names book, a bit cheesy but it does help. Quite often I will give a character a dummy name and then as the character becomes fully-formed on the page I find the real name occurs naturally to me.
How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?
I am always researching a future novel, it’s an ongoing process. This morning I clipped a story from the newspaper and typed up a few notes and stored them way. I enjoy researching and have to be careful that it doesn’t take over from the writing. So loads of notes.
Do you have any “must haves” to help you write? (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)
No, I can write anywhere, any time. Pen and paper, laptop, iPad, computer in a hotel business centre. Noisy, quiet. I’ve done them all.
Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location? If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?
Nope, anywhere will do, when I can grab the time. One successful short story was written on a train journey.
Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?
There is not enough time in the day to do everything, so I compromise and try not to be hard on myself.
What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?
Err, better ask my husband about that one!
ABOUT YOUR WORK:
If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?
I will always be fond of ‘Ignoring Gravity’, as my first novel. I think my writing improved during the course of writing it, so ‘Connectedness’ feels more accomplished. I am more confident and I think it shows on the page.
If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?
I’d like to be artist Justine Tree in ‘Connectedness’ with my art on display in major museums around the world like London’s Tate Modern and MoMA in New York.
If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?
George Clooney is about the right age for Nick Maddox in ‘Ignoring Gravity’, possibly Gemma Arterton for Rose.
What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?
The symptoms and causes of motion sickness.
What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?
Adoption, it is such a personal thing to discuss with people. The edges can be very raw for people, decades later.
Thank you, Sandra, for allowing me to interview you. I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.