This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Jane MacKenzie's debut novel, Daughter of Catalonia, was published in April. Jane is lucky enough to split her year between the Scottish highlands and her dream home she built in Collioure, French Catalonia. Today, she's telling us a little about her book, set in beautiful French Catalonia in the years following the Second World War, and her route to publication.
I split my year between a beautiful town in the Catalan region of southern France, and the family home in the Scottish Highlands. My routine doesn’t change much, though, from one place to the other. I’m an early riser, and I like to spend an hour answering emails and getting odd jobs out of the way, and then by around 8.00am I’m reading through the previous day’s work before I begin writing. How long I write for depends on what else is happening – book signings etc and I still do some consultancy work for the UK government promoting science (I worked at CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider, for some years). But I try to write at least 1000 words a day, often more, writing for a full morning at least.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
No. My books are set in the past, and in sunny Mediterranean locations, and my characters are truly imagined, but based on a lifetime’s interest in people and what shapes and motivates them.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
There are so many! But when I read the question one popped into my mind instantly, and that’s Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers. I love her writing style, and the way she combines the genres of detective fiction and romance, all written with a fine literary hand. Who wouldn’t fall in love with Lord Peter Wimsey? In Gaudy Night he finally wins the woman he loves, and it’s a book which warmed my heart.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I plan very carefully, and then I amend the plan as I go along, because the novel always changes. I correct and rethink as I go, and then when it’s finished I take a pause before I do another real reworking of the novel with my agent, who is my best literary friend and has a brilliant editorial eye. Some distance and thinking and discussion allow me to refine and improve, to bring out aspects of character which I hadn’t fully explored, and generally make the story more complete.
What was your journey to being a published author?
Like many authors I speak to I wrote a first book which was never published, and that was my early learning curve. Then I wrote Daughter of Catalonia, and that very soon got my wonderful agent interested, and she worked with me to reshape the structure a bit. It took a few months before we were both happy to send it to publishers, and then another few months before we signed with Allison and Busby, and then they held publication for another ten months to be sure of the book coming out at the right time of year. It’s a great holiday read, so now’s the time to publish!
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That novelists are sort of inspired people for whom it all just flows. Novels are long exercises in crafting a story. It takes forever, and it isn’t always inspired!
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Work out a cracking plot, and then write one chapter at a time, methodically, and bear in mind that your readers want to be entertained, not to hear your life story (unless it’s exceptional). Don’t burden them with your research either. I write about the past, and by the time I write a book I know so much about the period and the place that it’s tempting to put in all that detail, but I stop myself, because all that knowledge should just create a rich backdrop for your plot, not dominate the book. It’s the story that matters.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m making the final revisions to the next book, which is linked to Daughter of Catalonia, with some characters overlapping. It’s set in Spain, in the beautiful area around Girona, during the troubled years of the Franco regime.