Friday, December 19, 2014

No Pets - Not Even A Goldfish!

Welcome to today's guest, Alison May.

When did you decide to write your first book and how long did it take?
Well, it all depends when you count from really. I starting taking writing semi-seriously in 2002 when I signed up for a part-time creative writing degree, but at that point I was intending to be a serious playwright. I started my first novel nearly six years later when the serious play about Lord Nelson that was supposed to be my degree dissertation turned out to be indescribably terrible. I wrote the first three chapters of what eventually turned into Sweet Nothing in a blind panic so that I’d have something to submit for my degree. And lo, a novelist is born. That was in 2008. Sweet Nothing was published by Choc Lit at the end of 2013.

So you wanted to be a playwright?
No. When I was younger I mainly wanted to be Queen. To be honest, I sort of still do – I’d model my ruling style on Queenie from Blackadder II. Having said that, my mum recently reminded me that I wanted to be a journalist when I was younger. I think I was picturing myself as some sort of terribly daring Kate Adie type war correspondent. It turns out though that people like that tend to get shot at a lot, so I think I’m much better off staying home where it’s safe and making the stories up.

How do you fit your writing around your home life?
By being terribly organised, and getting up bright and early every morning and whipping off 2000 words before breakfast.
Not really. I fit writing around home life in two ways.
Firstly, I have a very minimalist home life. No kids. No pets, and a delightfully self-sufficient husband who is very relaxed about the length of time that elapses between clothes being put in the washing basket and clothes re-emerging from the great laundry black hole.
Secondly, I decided some time ago to embrace my own disorganisation. So I do have phases where I dedicatedly write 2000 words a day, but I also have phases where I watch a lot of Millionaire Matchmaker and write nothing, and phases where I don’t really wash or eat hot food and write 5000 words a day. It all balances out in the end.

Christmas is fast approaching and it seems a good time to ask you how you plan to promote your new released book, Cora’s Christmas Kiss ?
I’m supposed to have a plan? I’m not actually very good at promo. I come over all English and awkward when it comes to bigging up stuff I’ve written. I am writing a few guest blog posts for different sites, but when I write those I generally get carried away writing the post, and forget to mention how awesome the book is. Even on my own website I get very distracted when I’m supposed to be blogging about my books and almost always digress into a rant about whatever random thing has scuttled to the front of my brain at that moment. All of which reminds me - while I’m here, I probably ought to mention that Cora’s Christmas Kiss is awesome. It’s Christmassy, and romantic, and it has Father Christmas, and a mishap with a turkey, and a scene at the end that made me cry when I wrote it, and still made me cry when I read it at the proof-reading stage. You should probably all read it. If you want to. Or not. It’s up to you really. One wouldn’t want to impose.
See what I mean? Hopeless at promo.

You are also a short story writer. Do you find it difficult to ‘jump’ between novels and shorts?
Not really. I enjoy the completeness of short story writing – the fact that you can sit down with nothing and, one writing session later, have a complete draft with a beginning and an end, and if you’re lucky some semblance of a middle. I also think it’s really good practice for novel writing – all the skills of concision, and making every line and every scene work really hard that you hone in short story writing, you should be using in longer pieces too.

How good are you at planning your work? Do you prefer to wing it?
It varies from book to book. Cora’s Christmas Kiss was planned quite carefully because it has quite a complicated plot and some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey business thrown in for good measure. In contrast, the book I’m writing at the moment, which is about a professional psychic, is much more of a seat-of-my-pants endeavour. It’s different again if I’m writing an adaptation, like Sweet Nothing which was based on Much Ado About Nothing, because then I have to try to find a balance between planning how to interpret the original play but still leaving myself the freedom to put my own stamp on it.

Do you enjoy research?
Not even slightly. My wish to avoid research largely explains why I mainly write contemporary stories about British thirty-somethings getting drunk and making poor decisions.

What did you enjoy most about writing your latest book?
I had the most fun writing Liam’s storyline I think. Liam is a jobbing actor, and all-around nice guy, whose life is trundling along perfectly pleasantly, until… well I’m not going to tell you what happens, but it includes some very silly scenes indeed, and was a lot of fun to write.

How do relax when not working?
I do Zumba and Bokwa. Sometimes I even do yoga, but then I remember that I am not bendy and I basically hate yoga, so I stop again, and go and drink hot chocolate instead.

What is next for Alison May?
Well, I’m just finishing the first draft of my first non-romance novel. After that I’ll be writing part 3 of the Christmas Kisses series all ready for next year, and then, who knows? I’ve got a little notebook of novel ideas, and there are two that are really calling to me at the moment. The first is another Shakespeare adaptation, and the second involves a terribly well-mannered ghost. I might spend a bit of time writing odd scenes on both and see which one most grabs my attention.

Alison May is a novelist and short story writer, who writes romantic comedies for Choc Lit. Her debut novel, Sweet Nothing, was published in 2013, closely followed by Holly’s Christmas Kiss Alison lives in Worcester with her husband, but still no pets, on account of what happened to the goldfish.

Twitter @MsAlisonMay

About Cora’s Christmas Kiss: 
Can you expect a perfect Christmas after the year from hell?
Cora and Liam have both experienced horrible years that have led them to the same unlikely place – spending December working in the Grotto at Golding’s department store.
Under the cover of a Father Christmas fat suit and an extremely unflattering reindeer costume, they find comfort in sharing their tales of woe during their bleak staffroom lunch breaks. But is their new-found friendship just for Christmas? Or have they created something deeper, something that could carry them through to a hopeful new year?
Plus, keep your eyes peeled for characters you may recognise from Alison’s previous novella, Holly’s Christmas Kiss.

We are not even going to ask about the goldfish, Alison. Thank you for joining us today.

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Phillipa said...

Alison, hurrah for your ad hoc writing process, it makes me feel a lot better that not everyone has a rigid word count every day and goes with the flow. I'm not bendy either. Have a very happy Christmas and 2015.

Anonymous said...

I'm fundamentally slightly suspicious of bendy people Phillipa. I fear they may be up to something...

Rhoda Baxter said...

I am fairly bendy and love yoga, but too didorganised to get to a yoga class. So I bypass the guilt and go straight to the hot chocolate.
looking forward to Cora's book as I really enjoyed Holly's.

Sheryl Browne said...

Ohhh, I love this; "wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey business". I struggle with that a lot, Alison. A lovely post. You made me smile, as per. I wish you a lovely Christmas and Many Happy Sales!

angela britnell said...

Very amusing! I too have no pets, no kids left at home (all kicked out of the nest) and a self-sufficient husband and the combination certainly helps with the writing :) I'm looking forward to reading about Cora and Liam over Christmas.