To kick things off in style, I’ve got a little interview with one of my good writer friends, Lynne Milford, who has just published her first crime novel, A DEADLY REJECTION – whoohoo – nice one, Lynne. I’ve known Lynne for several years and I know how hard she’s worked on this book, so I am really delighted to be hosting here on my blog as a published author – if you’re looking for some ‘how to’ info on the writing process, you should check out Lynne’s blog, where she has shared lots of tips and tricks that she’s learnt along the way. Her hard work has finally paid off (and she makes me feel guilty, knowing how much she does on her commute while I slob around in my pyjamas…)
So, without further ado… Congratulations on your new release, Lynne. How does it feel to have your book baby out there in the wild?
Thank you. It’s been a long time coming. I keep using the phrase excited and terrified in equal measures and I think that just about sums it up. I’ve been working towards this point for so many years – I first started writing the book about 10 years ago – that it’s hard to believe that it’s finally out there. The cover has been really well received and hopefully the same thing will happen with the book itself. That’s the scary bit! Although I’m reliably informed by other writers that this is completely normal.
Totally normal, in fact, the scary bit never really goes away 😉 Can you tell us what it’s about?
It follows the story of local news reporter Dan Sullivan. He’s bored of his job and desperate for the Big Story that will make his career. He thinks he’s finally got onto something but then his source dies in mysterious circumstances and Dan is implicated. He has to clear his name while trying to track down the story. I think the tag line ‘How far would you go to get what you want?’ probably says it all.
Intriguing! What was the best and worst thing about writing it?
I loved writing the book. I joyfully pantsed through it and I can’t describe the feeling when I wrapped it up and typed ‘The End’. It was the first full-length novel I’d written. It had taken a long time because I was writing around a full-time job as a local news reporter (writing what I knew!) and because I didn’t have a clear idea of what I was doing or what was going on with the planning committee. But editing was a complete nightmare, almost having to go back to the drawing board and re-plot the book so that it makes sense. The editing process took about the same amount of time as it took to write and I’m sure in future I can speed that up! One of the biggest difficulties is having to write in short bursts, in time grabbed here and there. It makes it very difficult to keep track of what you’re doing and when you’re pantsing, keeping track is even harder.
You made a decision to self-publish. How has that process been?
It’s been a very steep learning curve. Even though I’ve read a lot of books and blogs posts and suchlike about it, when you’re immersed in the process it’s quite challenging. It’s fortunate that I’ve done project management in my day job because it helped me to set a timeline and more or less stick to it, but it’s been tough. I’ve learned a lot about it, though, and second time round there’s a few things that I’ll do very differently. I think the worst bit was trying to format the paperback version. I decided, in my great wisdom, to do it myself and ended up having to clear a Sunday and work on it for most of the day to get it done. But I managed to sort it out and I celebrated by playing the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves theme music at top volume. It definitely fitted my mood of feeling epic!
I like your celebration style! Have you got another book planned for the near future?
I’m possibly quite unusual in the sense that the second book is already written. Well, I should say a first draft is written. When I realised I was getting nowhere with the first one, I started writing the second book. That was in about 2010, I think, but full-time job and a long period of illness meant that, again, it took two years to write. And it was pantsed. I’m busy editing it at the moment – I’ve been working on that for about six months I think – and it’s coming together. I’ve developed a few tricks, like plotting cards all over the living room floor, which have been invaluable and I’m already using them to plan my third book. I don’t have a timescale for the second book yet, I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself at the moment! I also have a novella that tells the back story of one of the characters in the first and second books so I’ll be editing and producing that soon too. I wrote that a few years ago now, so I’ll be coming to it really cold, which will make it easier to be objective.
I love that feeling, when you have left something for so long that you barely remember writing it! So what are you working on now?
Editing the second book is the priority now that A Deadly Rejection is out, although alongside that I’ll be doing various marketing activities. I don’t have a fixed plan on those yet but once I’ve recovered from publishing the book I’ll get back on it. The blog comes in handy but there’s work to do to build the audience further on that as well as keeping pace with Twitter. It’s difficult to fit everything in around my day job, but I’m sure I’ll find a way.
You’re fitting in writing around your day job, and you still manage to write excellent blog posts. How do you remain so disciplined?
I think my background as a journalist certainly helps here, but I’ll admit to being more flexible than I was back then. Once I know what I’m writing about, my rule is to try and think of three points I want to make and then write around those. I love this type of writing, because it’s much easier, and I love sharing what I’ve learned. It’s the kind of writing that I find it easy to share because it’s like being back in the news days. I’ll admit to having a spreadsheet where I plan out all my ideas for a few weeks ahead. If I was really disciplined I’d write them well ahead of time but they tend to be written on a Saturday morning for the Monday. Once I get back into editing properly I’ll have to find a system where I write the post in the week – probably while I’m commuting – then I can use my Saturday time for editing. I have said in the past that I’m a writer who blogs and not a blogger who writes and when I’m short on time or taking a break, it’s the blog that gets side-lined. But it’s an important resource for me so I’ll always come back to it and try to be as regular as possible.
Which is exactly what I’m trying to do myself right now… Now that you’re published, is there anything you could go back and tell yourself to do (or not to do) that might have made it all easier?
Plotting will be the first stage of every book I write going forwards. Pantsing has left both my books in such a mess that it’s taken so much time to unknot them. The new process I’ve put together should make things much better. Now I understand the publishing process I’ll change my timeline style. Usually I start with an end date and work backwards but in future I’ll set the editing, proofreading and cover design pieces in place and have the completed book ready before I set a publication date. I think I’ll try and give myself an easier time as well. I’m very driven and when I have an end goal I tend to go at it like a bull in a china shop, as my dad would say. So instead of berating myself for not having things ready in time, I’ll cut myself a bit of slack. Working two jobs at once is exhausting and I need to look after myself as well as doing the writing work.
Yes, it’s something I have really noticed – how important it is to look after yourself when you are juggling many things (and sitting down at a keyboard most hours of the day). Finally, who (or what) inspires you?
My immediate inspirations for becoming a writer were Enid Blyton and JB Fletcher (from Murder, She Wrote). I knew I wanted to tell stories and to have some adventures along the way. I never got the adventures, but I’ve got the story-telling bit so one out of two isn’t bad! The inspiration to kick-start the self-publishing process was actually my dad. Back in April, we’d gone out for lunch (my mam and boyfriend were there as well) and after we’d eaten my dad leaned back in his chair and said ‘So when’s this book being published then?’. My response of ‘Oh, I don’t know’ sounded really lame and I decided that, as being published was what I really wanted to do, I’d better crack on. Six months on, I’ve done it and he has to take some of the credit for that! My Twitter crew (including your good self) are also an inspiration. Everyone works so hard and produces great work, but they always have time for a laugh and encouragement. I wouldn’t have got to where I am now without my Twitter crew.
Thanks, Lynne – all the best with the book – I hope it sells trillions 🙂
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: By day, I work in PR and communications; by night (and at weekends) I write crime fiction (as well as baking pies and chocolate brownies). In a previous life worked as a local newspaper reporter. This gave me the inspiration for the story that has become my first novel, A Deadly Rejection. I live in Kent and spend far too much time on trains commuting into London for work, which does however give me time to work on plotting and writing my books. You can keep tabs on what I’m up to by following me on Twitter @lmmilford or by checking out my blog www.lmmilford.wordpress.com I write about what I’m working on, advice on what I’ve learned through my work and how to move forward with writing.