This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Liz Trenow's latest novel, The Forgotten Seamstress, came out earlier this month as an ebook and will be out in paperback on 16th January. Here are a few questions Liz recently answered for our Novelicious readers.
I write in the mornings when my mind is freshest – usually starting around 8.30ish and continuing till my stomach rumbles for lunch. I start by reviewing and editing the section I wrote yesterday, to get me back into the ‘zone’ and then I usually try to write between 1,000 – 1,500 words each day. I always write in my study, a small room at the front of the house, where there are not too many distractions. My imagination seems to close down after lunch so then I do research, admin, replying to emails, blogging and, when I’ve got to that stage, proofreading.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
Because my novels are based on historical events, I read about the lives of people who were there at the time. I also look to friends, family and myself for inspiration, but no fictional character is precisely a real-life character; they are usually an amalgam of many. I usually trawl magazines, newspapers, the internet and old photo albums looking for people who physically look and/or dress like my characters, and pin these images up in my study, so that I can ‘see’ them as I write.What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
There are so many wonderful women writers who I admire for different reasons. I love anything written by Rose Tremain, Carol Shields, Tracy Chevalier, Isabel Allende – I could go on. But if I had to choose one it would be that pioneering example of Women’s Fiction – Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (sorry to be so predictable). The main female character, Elizabeth Bennet, is intelligent and independent-minded in an era when women were not meant to be, and she’s also a great flirt. I love the novel because it’s beautifully written, clever, romantic and funny, throws a light onto a period of history which I find extremely interesting, and it’s about a woman’s search for herself.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I usually know who the main characters are going to be and roughly what happens to them. But secondary characters and plotlines tend to pop up along the way and I love going with them to see where they lead – that’s the really exhilarating part of writing. I tend to redraft as I go along but The Forgotten Seamstress went to twelve drafts, because of the complex plot and restructuring dilemmas, before I even submitted it to my editor. By comparison, my next novel, The Poppy Factory, seemed to write itself in only one main draft (that’s before my editor gets her hands on it, though).
What was your journey to being a published author?
I studied English at university and spent most of my working life as a journalist, so I have always written. But although I have dabbled with short stories and poetry, I came to writing novels quite late. I knew I’d need help, so I enrolled on a part-time MA in Creative Writing at City University in London. The first draft of my debut novel, The Last Telegram, was written as the ‘dissertation’ for this degree, and on the strength of it, I was lucky enough to get an agent (Caroline Hardman, then with The Christopher Little Agency and now running her own agency). After lots of rejections HarperCollins Avon signed me for a two-book deal. The Forgotten Seamstress is my second novel.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That once you are published, your worries are over. They aren’t. You are only as good as the number of copies your last book sold and you can find yourself out in the wilderness at any time.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
My advice to aspiring authors is to join a group. The support of my fellow MA students was invaluable. Once you trust your fellow-writers, make sure you are really honest with each other in your constructive criticism. Don’t submit anything to an agent unless you are really confident of it. Have your readership in mind but don’t get hidebound by it.
What are you working on at the moment?
I have just submitted the first draft of my third novel, The Poppy Factory (working title), which will be published by HarperCollins Avon in Autumn 2014. As the title suggests, it is a First World War novel, but with a hard-hitting contemporary twist. I plan to set my next novel in the 18th century, so have already started research for that.