This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Stephanie's latest novel, The Other Half Of My Heart is out now!
Welcome, Stephanie. Please Tell us about your latest book.
The Other Half of my Heart is the story of Bettina May, a woman in her late thirties who runs an artisan bakery in the small village of Throckton, where my first novel, Letters to my Husband, was set. Bettina is passionate about what she does and is an intensely private person. As the novel unfolds, we discover what made her close down and how she opens up to the possibilities of life again.
Where do you find inspiration for your books?
Everywhere! I think of my mind as being like the drawer in your kitchen where you keep all the things that have no other place. Eventually, you’re going to pull out the spare lead for your iPod and discover that it’s attached itself to a scone cutter, a paper clip, and a cinema ticket from a film you saw three years ago. I ‘collect’ things all the time: something I overhear in a queue, the way snow fades from rooftops, a book with an old postcard as a bookmark found in a second-hand bookshop. Eventually a few of these things will stick together like the things in my kitchen drawer do, and there’s the basis of a story.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
My preference is to write first thing in the morning, before I engage with the day – I get up, make tea, go down to my writing studio in the garden in my PJs, and write 1,000 words before breakfast. They are not always good words. It doesn't matter. If I have something terrible, I can fix it.
But of course not all writing is writing. On other days I’m interviewing people, reading books, bugging Twitter with questions, and generally trying to figure out what the story is that I’m going to tell.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
Not really – not consciously. There will be phrases, quirks, anecdotes, handbags from all sorts of people in my ‘kitchen drawer’ though!
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Oh that’s a horrible question! I’m going to say Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. Because it’s pretty close to perfection.
What female writer has inspired you?
The ones who were writing before it was OK for a woman to do it: Jane Austen, the Brontes, George Eliot.
Can you give us three book recommendations?
I can give you three hundred! But here are three great books I’ve read (or re-read) this year:
Vigilante by Shelley Harris
Bitter Herbs by Kate Forsyth
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I have something between an idea and a plan – let’s call it an inkling of a novel. I write, I stop, I think/research, I rewrite what I’ve already got and build on that, I stop, I think/research, I rewrite what I’ve already got and build on that… so when I get to the end of a version I am happy for people to see, there’s a good chance that the beginning has been rewritten five times and the ending only once!
What was your journey to being a published author?
Circuitous! I was diagnosed with a breast cancer in 2008. I started to blog about my dance with the disease and as a consequence wrote How I Said Bah! to Cancer and The Bah! Guide to wellness after cancer. From there, I moved to fiction, and Letters to my Husband, and now The Other Half of my Heart. I feel much more vulnerable about my fiction than my cancer books, which surprises me.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That writing is about having time and inspiration. It’s not. It’s about making effort, and making time.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Write. Set a word target and hit it every day, even if it’s 100 words. Write and write and write. Don’t even think about agents/publishers until you have something that you know, in your gut, is the best you can make it. Writing a novel is not quick or simple but, if you give it time and your heart, it’s worth every word.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished a novel and sent it out to my trusted circle of first readers. Waiting to hear what they think is nerve-racking! I have the whisper of an idea for a new book too, and that’s exciting.
Thanks so much for chatting with us.