This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Katherine Webb's latest book, The Misbegotten, came out recently – here's our review. We also asked Katherine a few questions about her writing. Here's what she had to say…
I’m very ‘all or nothing’ when I’m writing – once a book is underway, I am very focussed on it and I’m at my desk by nine AM, and write at least 2000 words a day. Sometimes that takes all day, sometimes it takes a few hours. My record is 3000 words in two hours! If I’ve hit this word count, or a natural break in the plot, by lunchtime, then in the afternoon I’ll make some notes or do some extra research, or any other bits and bobs that need doing. However, before a book is properly underway, I am a terrible procrastinator. Anything – anything – else that needs doing, rather than work!
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When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
No, not at all. One character in A Half Forgotten Song was inspired by the artist Augustus John, but that was the first time I can honestly say I had based a character on a real person. Very occasionally, I’ll see a face in the street and think yes – that’s what that character looks like; but it’s never anybody I know.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
That’s a tricky question, and I have to say I’m not a big fan of the ‘women’s fiction’ tag – it just seems bound to perpetuate this aversion men have to reading anything written by a woman. Call it women’s fiction and straight away they’ll assume it’s not for them, and they’re not going to enjoy it! I think they miss out on a lot of great stories that way. There are so many books I’ve loved over the years it’s hard to pick out a favourite. Perhaps du Maurier’s Rebecca had the biggest impact on me, and stays with me – it was one of the first ‘grown up’ books I read in my early teens, and I was riveted. And when the big reveal came…I was completely blown away. I’d had no idea a book could be so thrilling!
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I plan a bit – mostly in my head, but I’m more of a dive-in type of writer. I have an outline of where/what the beginning, middle and end will be, but the details stay rather amorphous until I actually get to them. I certainly don’t write chapter plans or anything like that – couldn’t if I tried! I start each writing day by editing/redrafting what I wrote the day before, which gets me back ‘into the zone’, then I do another whole manuscript edit before showing it to anybody. Then there are always one or two redrafts once my editor has pointed out a few things…
What was your journey to being a published author?
It was long! I wrote seven books in the ten years after I graduated from university, and worked all the while to pay the bills – I sometimes had two jobs, and would write in the evenings before bed, and at weekends. The jobs were a random collection of unrelated things – I had no other career, as such. I also had an agent for a couple of years but he never actually sent anything out to a publisher – it got a bit frustrating. After a while we mutually agreed to part company, which felt like a backwards step at the time – going back to mailing out submissions to agents etc, but actually it wasn’t. Soon after that, another author told me about the Arts Council’s peer review site, youwriteon.com. I posted ten thousand words of The Legacy on there, and it was picked up by my publisher, Orion, a few weeks later. Which was a huge relief and such a thrill!
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That it’s in any way glamorous! There are isolated moments of glamour, of course – publisher/agency parties, publicity events, trips to Europe. But they really are isolated events. For the most part, writing full time involves sitting by yourself in silence, staring at a screen… When I went full time I promised myself I’d get dressed properly and wash my face every morning, and even go for a walk before I sat down each day, so that I didn’t slide into a completely slobby kind of hermitage…hmm…
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Just do it – that’s how you’ll find out if it’s for you or not. It’s very easy to think of an idea for a novel, much harder to form that idea into a coherent plot that will sustain an entire book, and much harder still to then commit to doing all the actual writing for months and months on end – the actual graft. If you’ve got the passion and the need to do it, you’ll do it.
What are you working on at the moment?
My next book, which will be out next year and doesn’t have a title yet. Titles are always really hard to find! It’s set in southern Italy in 1921, a turbulent time when a tentative socialist revolution was about to be crushed by the rise of fascism. With this backdrop, the story will centre on the disastrous fallout from an ill-advised love affair…