This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Sasha Wagstaff is the author of Changing Grooms, Wicked Games and the brand new (and fabulous) Heaven Scent
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
Having had my second baby four months ago, my writing schedule is all over the place, so I’ll give you an idea of my average day, rather than my current one! My eldest daughter goes to nursery three days a week and I start writing as soon as she’s safely delivered there. I like to start a new chapter at the beginning of the week and end it that same week, where possible, which gives me three full days to get it finished. Sometimes, this is a breeze but at other times, it’s a real struggle if the words aren’t flowing! I don’t work to a daily word count (although I do have it in mind overall), but I do like to finish the scene I’m working on that day.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
My inspiration for characters comes from all sorts of places. Often, I will just conjure them up in my head, but sometimes, they are inspired by people I might have read about in magazines. It might be their job that interests me or just their glamorous lifestyle but I will then go off at a tangent in my head as they form their own characteristics! Tessa, in ‘Changing Grooms’ was loosely based on a Cat Deely-type character, as an example, but usually I have an idea of my main characters purely from my own imagination and the rest of the plot evolves from there.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I’m sorry to be greedy, but I’m going to have to chose two! ‘Wuthering Heights’, by Emily Bronte, is one of my all-time favourite novels. I read it in a matter of hours because I was so intoxicated by Heathcliff and Cathy’s obsessive love story and I still find it a haunting and slightly twisted love story. For sheer glamour and entertainment, I absolutely love Jilly Cooper’s ‘Polo’ and I can (and do), read it time and time again. It’s really what pointed me towards writing in the bonk/blockbuster genre and it’s just a fantastic read.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first of dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I am definitely a planner! I like to have character notes, a full chapter structure and a full synopsis (although I hate writing the latter, as I find it too restrictive). However, from that point, my characters take even more shape when I start writing about them and the plot can easily change and develop as the novel takes hold. It will follow the original structure and I try not to deviate too much, but sometimes, I realise plotlines need to be tweaked or added to for the novel to be as strong as possible. As for how many drafts…this usually depends on my editor. She’s fantastic and makes brilliant suggestions, so this will often dictate how much re-writing or tweaking is required.
What was your journey to being a published author?
Rather long and soul-destroying, to be honest! It took me a while and I suffered some serious rejection, as I’m sure most published authors do (with the odd, lucky exception!) I was almost taken on by two or three agents, who then decided to decline after months of deliberation (nail biting in the extreme) but I was then lucky enough to be taken on by my agent, Diane Banks, who saw something in me that she was willing to nurture. From then, ‘Changing Grooms’ took shape and my book deal with Headline Review followed. So an ultimately rewarding journey and I consider myself to be very lucky to be able to do this job.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
Hmm. Either that we swan around in silk pyjamas quaffing champagne all day long (I wish!) or that because you’re doing a job you love, it’s easy. It isn’t! It’s fun and it’s amazing to be able to make stories up for a living, but it’s hard work and you have to be prepared to work late in the evenings or at weekends to meet deadlines. Oh, and for the record, J.K. Rowling is in a class of her own when it comes to the money-making!
Go for it. You’ll never know if you can do it until you try. And often, it will take more than one attempt, or you will need to attend a writing class to learn how to craft a novel (as pretentious as that sounds). But don’t just talk about it – do it; write, practice and enjoy it. Take a step back, then write it again if you need to. Read books on how to write novels, go to a class and email your favourite authors to see if they have any tips for you (some of them are nice enough to answer!) Then when you feel ready and think you have something you could show to an agent, polish it up and send it off. Then drink lots of wine as you wait for an answer.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on my fourth novel, which is set in Sorrento, Italy. It is about the Disanti family, who own a chain of restaurants all over the world. Cassia, a sensual food writer who makes Nigella Lawson look like a prude, is sent to Sorrento to shadow Rocco, the chef son in the family…a business man who is so focused on developing the family ‘brand’ and making sure the family don’t return to their humble roots, he has lost touch with his real passion – cooking. There is the glitzy wedding of Rocco’s model sister Aurelia taking place in Capri, as well as Cassia’s own wedding back in England, due to take place in a few months’ time. Throw in a family curse, some disapproving in-laws and an Adonis of a tennis player who is very, very naughty off court – and that just about sums it up! I am enjoying writing it so much – it’s lovely to escape to sun-drenched Sorrento with all this horrible weather outside, even if it’s only in my head!