This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Cathy Bramley drew on her own house building experiences when writing her debut novel, Conditional Love. Here, she talks about that as well as juggling writing with a full-time job and the books and authors that continue to inspire her.
Conditional Love was sparked by my passion for property (my name is Cathy Bramley and I’m addicted to Right Move!) In the story, Sophie Stone inherits an unappealing bungalow with a face like Eeyore and sets about making it her dream home. This is loosely based on our own self-build adventure. I got the idea for my next book at a funeral, not your most obvious setting for a comedy, but funerals are a bit of a wake-up call, aren’t they? I asked myself what would happen if three strangers vowed to ‘seize the day’ and make their own dreams come true before it’s too late.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I’m very lucky in that although I have a day job running a small PR agency, I am well-versed in the art of delegation and therefore manage to spend most of my working day writing! I have a general faff for an hour and then get stuck in. To start with, I re-read the last few hundred words of my work in progress to get me in the mood and then I scribble some notes for the scene of the day. After that, I force myself to keep writing until that scene or chapter is complete. The school run starts at 2.45pm and I’m home for 4 o’clock. As my daughters get older, they need me less in the evening, so sometimes I get a bit more work in or, of course, I go back to faffing.When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
I didn’t really think about doing that with Conditional Love although I did bump into a lovely man whilst out walking the dog. We only exchanged hellos, but he became the inspiration for the love interest. I saw him again recently and told him about his character in my book; I don’t know who was more embarrassed – me or him!
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I’ve had to leave this question until the end to cogitate over it and check my bookshelves. Right. I’ve made my decision and I’m going to plump for The Big Stone Gap series by Adriana Trigiana. The story follows Ave Maria, a pharmacist in a small town who had given up hope of finding love, as she begins a gentle romance with a man who has loved her all his life. The setting and characters are wonderful and I found myself itching for the next book in the series to be released. I’m now yearning to go and re-read them, so thank you, Novelicious, for reminding about these lovely books.
What female writer has inspired you?
Please can I choose three?
Jenny Colgan. My favourite three of Jenny’s books are: Meet me at the Cupcake Café, Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams and The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris. Not only do I love the stories and the worlds that she creates, but somehow, she seems to share a bit of herself with her readers through her books. It’s like being read to by a friend and it’s a great skill.
Marian Keyes. I can cry tears of sadness and happiness simultaneously when I read a Marian Keyes novel. I love her humour, and her ability to cover darker issues while still making me laugh takes my breath away.
Miranda Dickinson. What can’t this woman do? I met her in person in December at her book signing. She looked amazing, she was six months pregnant at the time, she had been playing a gig at the NEC with her band The Peppermints the previous night and after the book signing was planning on writing a few thousand words of her new book before bed! I bought a copy of It Started with a Kiss and after she signed it, she said ‘Oh here you go, here’s a CD of the songs I wrote and recorded especially for the book.’ The woman is an inspiration!
Can you give us three book recommendations?
Me before You by Jojo Moyes. Keep plenty of tissues up your sleeve. Fantastic book.
The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes. This is unputdownable and afterwards you will want to re-read every Marian Keyes book that you’ve ever read.
The Midwife’s Confession by Diane Chamberlain. Twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end. Superbly written.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
My writing process is in the development phase; I’m still new to it and am learning all the time. I’m definitely a planner though, I love a nice spreadsheet, me! Once I’ve got a nugget of an idea for a story, I jot down key scenes or plot points and decide who my main characters are. I like to write some passages in first person for each of my main characters, to get a good feel for them. Gradually, the story will come together and I will write a three act synopsis in a Word document. Once I’m happy with that, I open up a new spreadsheet and make a list of the key scenes. Then I start writing. Once I’m in full flow the spreadsheet gets tweaked as I progress with the novel. So far, three drafts seems to be the going rate.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
Luck has nothing to do with success! I have got lots of friends who say that they want to write a book but they don’t have time. I think that we make time for the things that are important to us. Before I was able to devote so much of my working day to writing, I went to bed early and got up an hour or two earlier to write. Every author I have met is so hard-working and deserves every bit of success that they get from their books.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Read as many books as you can within your chosen genre.
Write every day.
Don’t be tempted to go back and edit until you have finished your first draft. Just keep going until you’ve got to the end.
Don’t show anyone until you are 100% happy with it yourself.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m tweaking my second book, the working title of which is Tell Me What You Want, a comedy about three women who meet at a funeral and vow to make each other’s wishes come true by September. My next project is a sequel to Conditional Love, called Your Place or Mine? I’m really excited about that and can’t wait to get stuck in in the New Year.