This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Today we're chatting to Kathryn Simmonds whose book, Love and Fallout, is out now. We will be reviewing it here soon.
Before motherhood I could spend hours reading articles about writing or colour coding my box files, but these days if there’s the luxury of writing time then I try to make the most of it – paying for childcare while reading the internet is too guilt-inducing. I don’t really have a writing routine and find it hard to work on one project all day long, so usually move between two or three different pieces of writing to keep my interest up. When I was writing Love and Fallout I was also working on a book of poems and this was a good distraction from the knotty issues of plot and character. But I found that editing the book needed full stretches of concentration, so that could take up 6-8 hours at a time. Because I’m so easily diverted I write at a computer which doesn’t have an internet connection.
2. When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
Not famous people, no, and I’ve tried never to base a character on anyone I know personally (what if they recognised themselves?), but inadvertently most writers must pick up on other peoples’ mannerisms, or squirrel away lines of intriguing dialogue to be refashioned at a later date.
3. What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Hmm, this depends on how you define women’s fiction – if it’s fiction written by a woman and concerning the lives and interests of women, then I could pick anything by Jane Austen, probably Persuasion because it still has her light touch but it’s that bit darker than her other novels. But ‘all time’ is difficult. Muriel Spark writes women brilliantly and The Girls of Slender Means is a favourite, full of wit and insight. I recently read Maria Semple’s Where D’You Go Bernadette which manages to combine pathos with laugh out loud moments, and also has a lot to say about the complexity of mother-daughter relationships.
4. What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
As someone who’s new to writing novels I’m still working this out. To begin with I asked novelist friends how they did it, thinking I could crack the code, but eventually, disappointingly, I realised everyone is different. So in the end I simply began to write, which was the only way I could move forward. It was fun to make discoveries along the way, it made writing more exciting because I genuinely didn’t know what would happen, all I knew was that I had to get a rather naïve suburban girl to Greenham Common. However, about 40,000 words in and I got stuck. Very stuck. This was when I had to sit down and do some proper thinking or I knew my story would fall apart in my hands. My lesson for next time is to do a bit of both – too much planning and there’s not enough room for surprise, but not enough and you can hit a wall. As to drafts, the whole novel must have gone through at least six drafts. But as the old saying goes, all writing is rewriting.
5. What was your journey to being a published author?
I’d always written poems and stories, and although I secretly wanted to be a writer I had no idea how to go about it so I got a book-related job in the foreign rights department of a large publishing house. Rights selling is a very necessary part of the publishing industry but unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – I was pretty terrible at it and was much better at daydreaming than working out unit costs. In the end I pursued my ambitions and took a masters in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, concentrating on poetry, and went on to publish from there. In some respects I’m glad I started with poetry because it gave me no expectations for making a career as a writer – poetry is about the bottom of the list in commercial terms and you have to write simply for the love of it.
6. What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
Writing a novel has confirmed to me what I already knew – that unless you write very commercially, or you’re incredibly lucky, being a novelist is not a way to pay the mortgage. That said, it’s a lot more fun than invoicing shipping costs.
7. What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Have faith and do it. You can’t ride a bike by thinking about it or reading books about it, and it’s the same with writing a novel, the only way to learn how is by having a go. Another thing I’d say is pick a subject that really absorbs you and characters you care about because you’ll be spending a lot of time together.
8. What are you working on at the moment?
I’m about to have another baby so my writing hours are soon to be squeezed. I’ve an idea in the back of my mind for another book, but until there’s space to start on a big project I’ll be happy to finish a few short stories.