This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Lisa O'Donnell author of The Death of Bees, recently answered a few questions for our Novelicious readers. Lisa was the winner of The Orange Prize for New Screenwriters with her screenplay The Wedding Gift in 2000, and in that same year she was nominated for the Dennis Potter New Writers Award. The Death of Bees is Lisa's first novel and we will be reviewing it here soon.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I live in LA and have two children and I juggle pen with domestic responsibility on a daily basis and that’s no easy feat. I’m up at 6 in the morning and checking emails. Then I’m out the door at 8am getting my kids off to school. I am back in the house around 9. Then I get to work, which includes messing around with Twitter and Facebook. It usually takes me a couple of hours to get into the “writing zone” and when you’re there it’s like 5 minutes went passed you because all of a sudden it’s 2pm and I have to go pick up the kids. I steal a few hours in the evening but I’m usually zonked by 9pm. The weekends are prime time for me. The kids are with their father and I get a lot done then but I also don’t shower or get dressed before 3 in the afternoon. I can work for hours when I start. I wrote my new novel in around 9 months. I’m not trying to show off when I say that, it was a time in my life where I really sought out places to hide and sitting in front of my computer is one of my favourite places.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know an inspiration?
My weird dysfunctional family inspires me. They probably won’t like me saying that, but it’s true. They’re all really f*cked up but totally hilarious. Every one laughs in my family and about the worst things in life. It’s obscene sometimes but it’s the fruit behind my voice and the reason I’m still alive.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. It’s a brilliant novel narrated by Dinah who is the daughter of Leah and Jacob. It’s set in biblical times around all the wives of Dinah’s father. The Red Tent is where the women of Jacob's tribe take refuge while menstruating or giving birth. Together they find mutual support and encouragement from their mothers, sisters and aunts. All the women have a story and they’re weaved together so beautifully. This book made me cry and feel really privileged to be a woman.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I’m a diver, I plunge myself right in and get busy with whatever idea is working for me at the time. I aim for five chapters and can usually tell by then if the book has a future or not. If I need clarity I’ll send it to my agent and I’ll get excellent notes and good advice. I trust my agent implicitly. He has a keen eye and we’re always on the same page. If I’m worried something is not working, it’s usually the first thing he picks up on in the read. I haven’t burdened him with too many efforts. I can usually tell myself if something just isn’t flowing and like I said, that takes me about five chapters. If you don’t have an agent, find someone around you who won’t blow smoke up your arse because they like you. You need honesty and a willingness to hear the worst. You can’t move forward until you know what’s wrong with your novel and in the first draft there is always something wrong with your novel.
What was your journey to being a published author?
I wrote The Death of Bees over the course of three years. I sent it to Conville and Walsh in 2010 and it was taken on by Alex Christofi. He gave me amazing notes and we revised the draft before sending it out to Publishers. It was picked up by Random House and published in March 2011. Then Harper Collins picked it up in 2012 for US Publication. It was released in January 2013. There’s been a lot of publicity for the novel and I got to do a Book Tour and travel to cool places in the San Francisco Bay Area. I actually met lots of American elderly people who really LOVED the book and given the Scottish and sometimes-profane content, I was pretty amazed by that and also grateful. All age groups are responding to the work.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
It’s all about the money. Haha. Most novelists don’t have any.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Write, write, write and when you get bored write some more.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on edits for my new novel, Closed Doors. It’s about a small Island where secrets are impossible to keep and the repercussions for a community when one secret is kept and guarded.