“Breathe. Just breathe,” she murmured in the split second before the camera went live. The moment was almost upon her and she didn’t know if she was terrified or excited. She hadn’t seen him in what felt like forever. The producer counted down in her ear, and then it was time.
I've just handed the second book in the Appleton Vale series to my editor and I'm experiencing a mixture of emotions. On the one hand I'm delighted to have finished the manuscript, but on the other I'm feeling a huge sense of loss.
I enjoyed writing this novel so much - even more so than my first. I immerse myself in the world of Appleton Vale so completely when I am in the throws of writing that I sometimes find it hard to leave it behind. I love my characters and how they interact with each other, and I adore the world I have created. If I'm honest, I'd move there in a heartbeat if it were real.
The manuscript may be finished but it still doesn't have a title. How is it I can write almost 150,000 words and can't come up with a simple name for my book? I'm lucky enough to have some 'beta' readers for my work. Friends who are honest and give great feedback when I'm at first draft stage. Perhaps they can offer some suggestions? The pressure is on!
I'm itching to move onto book three and have already created some excellent new characters that are set to shake things up in the village. My aim is to have the first draft underway by mid-February and take it from there. But before that there's the still-unnamed book two to launch.
When it comes to writing I’m not a planner. I’m an editor’s nightmare!
It gives me a feeling of excitement not knowing how it’s going to end and I believe I do my best work when I sit down and write without an outline. This is NOT the way my editor would like me to write but it works for me.
The idea for The Sweet Spot came to me almost five years’ ago and I wrote the first draft within four months. It was rubbish. It then took me another two years’ to get around to the second draft and a further six months to write it. I realised I needed to add a great deal more dialogue for my characters to become truly four-dimensional. This is what I found the hardest part in the whole process.
A writer friend gave me a very good piece of advice before I started the second draft. She told me to write my conversations and then record myself reading back what I had written. It became clear very quickly that her advice was sound. Saying something you have written and hearing it back gives you a different perspective on what the reader will actually take away from a conversation.
To demonstrate how difficult I make life for myself, I wrote Sebastian’s ‘Piers Morgan’ interview first and the prologue last. I deleted a whole storyline between two characters at the end of the second draft and had to go back and re-edit the rest to make sure there was no mention of either of them or their story – they are now in book two! I also had to go back and add six link chapters where there were holes in my story. Had I written in chronological order I would have saved myself a lot of time and heartache.
The cast of characters in The Sweet Spot lived in my head for a very long time before I managed to get them down on paper. Life and work got in the way of my author aspirations. Once I started writing, each character developed in a really natural way. I wanted to make sure the interaction between them was genuine and honest, and to do that I had to see where they would take me. I always say my characters drive me and not the other way around.
I develop chapters and have full-blown conversations with characters in my head when I’m walking my dog. We go out on marathon walks twice a day and rarely bump into another soul. This gives me time to switch off from life and let my mind wander. I usually get home and start writing straight away so I don’t forget anything.
I’m often asked where I write. My answer? ‘Wherever my dog is’! When it’s warm and sunny I write in the garden. It’s very peaceful here. When I’m inside I sit in my comfortable armchair with my feet on a footstool and the laptop on my knees. This is NOT the way my editor would like me to write but it works for me!
You know you’re really in the zone when you start dreaming about your characters, especially if you’re interacting with them in your subconscious.
That’s what I’ve been doing every night for over a week now. It’s a very happy place to be because Appleton Vale really is an idyllic village full of gorgeous, funny, engaging people that I have met with and talked to in my dreams.
Now before you think I’m verging on madness, I truly believe that, if you want to write characters that have depth, emotions and a back-story you can trust, you need to live with them day and night. If that makes me a little bonkers then I’ll accept it knowing I have created a world where each and every one of my characters is fully rounded, 4D if you will.
We all know there’s a formula to writing a romance novel – girl meets boy, they fall in love after a few false starts and eventually live happily ever after. But it’s the quality of writing, the characterisation and a unique story that makes the great stand out from the not so great.
The Sweet Spot has all the ingredients of the best modern romance. There's a feisty heroine, a smouldering hero, a beautiful village setting, dogs, horses, love, hate, passion and plenty of action. It really hits the spot!
My fast-paced style of writing and the quality of the words I have put on paper have been applauded by many of the publishers and agents I contacted when The Sweet Spot was finally ready to go. Naturally I expected to receive a bucket load of rejections – the painful truth of being a writer – but I didn’t expect to be given such great feedback. It’s not often they take the time to send you anything more than a standard ‘thanks but no thanks’ email.
They complimented my writing, enjoyed my story but, for one reason or another, it wasn’t suitable for their lists. I was encouraged to send in my next book for review as ‘things always change’ and that gave me a real confidence boost. I knew I was onto a winner with The Sweet Spot, I just needed to find the right publisher who had room for a new romantic author on their roster.
I was incredibly fortunate that my publisher did have an opening and offered it to me. I’m one of the lucky ones.
I’m currently writing the follow up to The Sweet Spot which is why Sebastian, Olivia and the rest of the villagers are invading my every waking thought as well as my dreams. Once I get it all down on paper I’ll have to prepare for reentry into my ‘normal’ life. If I’m completely honest I’d rather stay in Appleton Vale!
We’ve all heard it a million times. Write what you know. Well I know about sports, sports stars, and what goes on behind the scenes at the world’s biggest sporting events. I also know about love, but then again, don’t we all?
When it came to inspiration for The Sweet Spot I didn’t have to look very far. I spent almost two decades working on the men’s professional golf tours in both Europe and the USA. I travelled all over the world hosting press conferences, doing interviews with stars, socializing with the biggest names in golf and learning more about the sport than I ever wanted or needed to.
I have witnessed sheer joy and utter devastation and every emotion in between. I have seen things I will never, ever be able to un-see and know far too much about what goes on inside the walls of the world’s most luxurious hotels suites when the cat’s away!
I live in a very pretty village nestled in the foothills of the South Downs, right on the Surrey and West Sussex border. It is full of an eclectic mix of residents, most of whom congregate in the pub on a Friday night to catch up on news, gossip and have a really good moan about the new ‘townies’ moving into the area. I like to remind them I used to be a ‘townie’. It only took me ten years to be accepted!
When it came to writing my first novel it made complete sense to combine my gorgeous little village with the ins and outs of my day job and that’s how The Sweet Spot was born.
My characters developed over time but are pretty much all loosely based on people I know or have met through work. I have stolen names, used quirky personality traits and foibles of my friends and family, exaggerating them in the process for comedy and depth. The Sweet Spot is full of people I know. Let’s just hope they don’t realise it!
I’ve personally visited all of the glamorous locations in my book and been faithful to them in my writing. It was a challenge to get the right balance of golf to make it credible but not enough to turn my readers off, and I think I achieved this. Above all it is a classic romance and one that, hopefully, leaves my readers continuing to imagine my characters stories long after they have finished the book.
I’ve been in love. I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve experienced joy and pain.
So yes, I really do know what I’m writing about.
It's August 2nd and I'm woefully behind on book two in the Appleton Vale series. A November delivery is looking decidedly shaky right now so it's time to reshuffle the diary and dedicate some time to my writing. No interruptions. Nothing except me, the laptop and the ever faithful and loving Hector at my feet.
I'm not yet in a position to give up the day job. Soon I hope, but right now I have an awful lot of work on my plate with deadline after deadline looming. Combine that with a horse that needs exercising and looking after, a dog that needs walking twice a day, and all the other bits and pieces that make up my life, it's no wonder I'm only a third of the way through the first draft. Gulp!
Next week is a writing week. I know I keep saying that but this time it's true! I can't let my publisher down, or myself for that matter, so I have every intention of delivering the final manuscript on time for its pre Christmas launch. Wish me luck!
It has been a couple of weeks since The Sweet Spot went on sale and what a fortnight it has been. Straight into the top 10 in the UK and America, hot new release, invited on blog tours....wow!
I believe in my book but there's always a seed of doubt when you put yourself and your work out there for others to read and critique. So far so good. Lots of five star ratings and some lovely reviews.
The second book in the Appleton Vale series is coming along nicely. I'm still on the first draft and keep going back to change things but I'm running on schedule in terms of delivering the final draft in November. I don't have an ending. In fact I have no idea where the story is going but that's just how I work. It all fits together eventually.
I do most of my character and chapter development when I'm walking Hector. We go out for a good couple of hours every day which gives me plenty of time to think in the peace and quiet of the countryside. I also have conversation after conversation with myself (or Hector if I'm struggling for inspiration!) which I turn into speech for the book. All I have to do is remember what I've decided upon by the time I get back to my laptop!
I still have a full time job (luckily working from home) so I'm finding it tough to block off some writing time at the moment. I've promised myself that this is the week I'll crack the first draft...but then again I say that every week.
Don't forget to buy The Sweet Spot http://mybook.to/TheSweetSpot and also to go back and review it afterwards. A recent review from one of Amazon's top bookworms says it all:
'Tasty, full of flavor and merely a hint of what a fun book this is to read' - Grady Harp.
The sun is shining, the birds are singing and I'm taking the afternoon off to nail a few chapters.
Happy book birthday to me! It has been a long time coming but The Sweet Spot is now on sale here http://mybook.to/TheSweetSpot and I'm thrilled!
What's even more exciting is that it went straight into the top 10 sports fiction books on the Kindle store and has been featured by Amazon as a 'hot new release'.
It's a classic romance with a sexy and contemporary edge and is packed full of engaging characters that you're sure to fall in love with. I lived with Olivia, Sebastian et al in my head for many years and it's so wonderful to finally see them come to life in print for others to enjoy.
I sincerely hope you love Appleton Vale as much as I do and that you stay tuned for news of the second book in the series - The Country Club.
I've been allowed to create my own cover for The Sweet Spot and I'm having so much fun with it. My very talented friend Louise Mizen Ferguson is bringing my vision of Appleton Vale to life and there's no one else in the world I would want to do it.
We're still in the sketching stages, changing the odd blade of grass and adding intricate detail, but very soon we'll see a first draft in all of its multi-coloured glory. I know it's going to look amazing.
The Sweet Spot has undergone final proofing and editing and is almost ready to launch. I've written my author biography (harder than you would think), had a photograph taken (under duress), and have almost completed my acknowledgements.
It's getting very real!
Stay tuned for a sneak peek of The Sweet Spot's final cover art.