Literary Chats in the shade of a Saxon church

The world of the writer, reader, reviewer, book blogger, editor, copy editor and proofreader – (l fall into the last group) – is of necessity a solitary one, so it’s such a treat to talk to authors, buy their books, and meet and chat with other readers.

So off I went last weekend to the the annual Literary Festival organised by Cally Palot-Watts, in the village of Earls Barton, where my parents lived for 30 years.

 

The first person I met was Sue Moorcroft, who was being interviewed about her writing career. Sue is the very successful author of novels about life and love, published by Harper Collins. See her books here. She has also written scores of short stories for magazines.

I’ve met Sue at the London Book Fair and other literary events, and am always impressed by her work ethic, her well-deserved success, and her all-round friendliness.

Sue

Next a most enjoyable, informal talk by Louise Jensen and Darren O’Sullivan, artfully presented in the form of a conversation.

Louise and Darren

Louise started writing after a life-changing accident, submitted her first book to a whole host of agents and publishers, experienced two false starts with agents, but is now traditionally published and translated into 25 languages. Louise is not immune to hero worship; she admits to being starstruck when she met Amanda Jennings. You can read Louise’s blog, with all her info and short stories here.

Darren started out as an actor, and began writing in between what he termed ‘scarce’ acting jobs. Find out more about him and his psychological thrillers here.

My final visit was to Jane Isaac, author of crime novels. Jane, having always had a fascination for studying new subjects, went on a creative writing course and discovered her love of writing fiction with a twist in the tale. Her first book was taken on by an established agent; you can read about her and her books here.

I’ve had so many dealings with Jane over the last few years; I’ve proofread some of her short stories, and we’re in regular contact on social media, so I actually felt as if I’d met her in person before, even though I haven’t. I was impressed that she spoke for 45 minutes without a script – judging by one particular story about research into the preservative qualities of concrete on dead bodies, she could make a living in stand-up comedy if she ever needs a second career!

Throughout the weekend, I noticed that these authors had so much in common.  I expect these aspects of a writer’s life will be most familiar to any authors reading this, too:

  • The ups and downs: ‘Terrific! I’ve just been taken on by a great agent!’ ‘Darn, the agent can’t find me a publisher.’ ‘Great, there are two agents competing to take me on!’ ‘Ah – one is giving up the business, and the other’s changed his mind…’ ‘I’m so excited, they want me to write a second book.’ ‘Just one problem – I haven’t got a plot.’ ‘A new idea – I’m so excited!’ ‘Oh no, what if I’m deluding myself and it’s undiluted garbage?’ You get the picture.
  • You guessed it, they work hard. Sue and Darren are conscientious plotters, with a series of charts, papers and Post-Its along the wall of their writing space. Louise, on the other hand, says that, while she doesn’t exactly make it up as she goes along, she lets the story and her imagination guide her as she writes. Jane, unusually perhaps, writes her chapters out of order. Sue and Louise keep office hours, Darren and Jane not so much.
  • Drafting and redrafting, until they’re sick of the sight of the book. All these authors expressed a willingness to make changes if they’re suggested by someone who knows what they’re talking about, for example a trusted editor, a reputable agent or publisher.
  • Research – yes, it must be done. Sue is planning to go to Malta to research her next novel (a tough job, but someone’s got to do it) because, as she says, looking it up on Google isn’t enough, you have to see the colours, breathe in the smells of a place, listen to people talking. Darren visited the location where his character intended to hide a corpse, and asked locals where the best hiding places might be – yes, a potentially risky move, rather like when he visited a museum to see if it was possible to move an exhibit from one place to another!

A terrific weekend, and thank you so much to all who put so much hard work into it. A chance for us to live in the world of books for a couple of days, alongside new bookish friends.

 

 

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