This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Mark Edwards and co-author Louise Voss wrote Catch Your Death, the first self-published British book to reach the top of the Amazon charts. They have since signed a four book deal with HarperCollins.
Mark's first solo novel, The Magpies, is out now.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
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I don’t really have an average writing day – more like snatched moments and evenings. I work four days a week and the other three are mostly taken up stopping my young children from trashing the joint. Trying to write when you have an eighteen-month-old bashing you with a plastic dinosaur and a five-year-old begging you to play Barbies again (we have an ongoing Barbie saga centred around a ‘mean witch’ Barbie and a Ken who’s clothes have gone missing) is not easy. So I write whenever I get the chance, storing it all up in my head then writing in bursts. Somehow, by the end of 2013 I will have published five novels in two years – four of them co-written, though, which makes it possible.
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
We all use bits of people we’ve encountered or seen on telly. For example I have just written a scene in which one of the characters was loosely based on Paddy Doherty! In The Magpies, the nightmare neighbours were very much inspired by a pair of real neighbours, a horror couple whose names I can never reveal. They weren’t quite as psychopathic as the villains in the novel but they did their best to make my life hell for two years, and I thank them for giving me the idea for the book.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Hmm, I read a lot of novels written by women, but mostly crime and psychological thrillers. Would it be cheating to say my favourite women’s fiction book is Are You My Mother? by my co-author, Louise Voss, which is an engrossing and touching tale that includes a massage table scene that would give EL James a run for her money.
I recently read an amazing novel called The Playdate by Louise Millar which is a cross between women’s fiction and a thriller, which tells the story of a single mother and two of her neighbours, all with secrets that are slowly revealed as the book goes on. It’s beautifully written and compelling.
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
Louise and I have got much better at planning as the years have gone by. We used to make it up as we went along but our novels are becoming increasingly complex which requires a lot more planning. But we usually only plan a little way ahead and have great gaps which we have to go back to. It can be agonising. With our next one, Forward Slash, we came up with the twist when we were 95% done, which meant going back and rewriting the whole thing. We are firm believers that if you can’t surprise yourselves, you won’t surprise the reader. Plus it’s much more fun to discover the story as you go along.
What was your journey to being a published author?
I could grow a beard in the time it would take to answer that fully, but the short version is this: I started writing in my early twenties, wrote three novels before I got an agent who couldn’t get me a deal. Then I was on a TV programme about aspiring writers through which I met Louise. We started writing together in about 2001, and sold Killing Cupid to the BBC, but couldn’t get a deal and the programme was never made. In 2006 we wrote Catch Your Death, but couldn’t get an agent – at which point we gave up.
In 2010 I got a Kindle and heard about KDP, which led to Louise and I rewriting our two novels and putting them on Amazon. In summer 2011 they hit No.1 and 2 on the Kindle chart and everything went crazy for while – and we got a four-book deal with HarperCollins. When the paperback of Catch Your Death appeared in 2012 it was the culmination of almost 20 years of effort. But we still feel that we are at the very beginning of our careers. We have a long way to go.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
Firstly, I think most people believe that writing a book is easy as long as you have ideas, but ideas are the easy bit. I have two or three ideas for novels a day. Of course, most of them are rubbish. The hard part is turning your idea into a book that readers will love. Secondly, stories about JK Rowling and EL James mean that most people think published novelists are rich, but most of us look at church mice with envy.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Firstly, ask yourself if you really really want to do it – and why? You should write if you are compelled to do it and have no option but to write it. Secondly, if you are writing with the aim of getting a book deal – or having a self-published hit – you need to know that your book will appeal to agents, publishers and readers. It’s so easy to waste a year of your life writing something that nobody will want to read. Of course, it’s hard to know what other people will like but you need to try to look at it objectively; describe your book in a few sentences. Does it have an incredibly strong hook? It needs one if it’s going to be successful.
What are you working on at the moment?
Louise and I are writing a new book which is intended to be the first in a new series of psychological thrillers. I have also started writing a YA thriller, although finding any time to work on it is proving almost impossible.