The worst radio interview ever

radio interview

‘That was Adele’s fantastic new single. Now I’m really excited about our next guest. I’ve been a big fan of his for ages. You’ve gotta love his books. And, ladies and gents, he’s got a new one out today. If it’s as good as the last one, we’re all in for a treat. Give it up for the one and only Ben Adams.’

‘What a great intro. Thanks Chris.’

‘Nick.’

‘Shit, sorry Nick.’

‘This is going well, isn’t it. I must apologise to anyone who was offended by Ben’s language. Ben, it’s lovely to have you on the show. I’m a huge fan. Six Months to Get a Life was a hilarious book. And now you’ve got a new one out… Is that your phone?’

‘God, sorry about this Chris. I mean Nick. It’s my son. Hang on a minute. Joe, what do you want, I’m live on the radio. An emergency? What sort of emergency? Well, how am I supposed to know where the bloody remote control is? Sorry about that, Nick. I’ve turned it off now.’

‘Kids eh, who’d have em. So, you were going to tell me about your new book.’

‘Yes, my award-winning second novel is called Six Lies…’

‘Award-winning? Has it won an award already?’

‘Well, not exactly, but it’s just a timing thing. Anyway, let me tell you about it. Dave Fazackerley is not in a good place. He has just buried his mother. His wife has left him for a librarian and neither his band nor his career as a City Banker is progressing smoothly. The only thing keeping him sane is his close relationship with his life-long role model, his father.’

‘Sounds intriguing, Ben.’

‘But all this changes when, the day after his mother’s funeral, he sifts through the condolence letters piled up on his doormat and finds an envelope addressed to him in his mother’s artsy hand. The letter reveals a secret…’

‘Oh, we need a drum-roll.’

‘That sounds more like the travel news jingle to me.’

‘Sorry, wrong button. Back to the secret. Do tell.’

‘Biologically-speaking, his mother isn’t his mother.’

‘Was that your stomach?’

‘Yeah, sorry. I had a kebab last night and it’s been repeating on me ever since.’

‘We’d best get back to the book I think. So, it’s like that programme Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall present on the BBC? Long Lost Family?’

‘Er, no, it’s nothing like that. Their families don’t have rows in supermarket isles, drummers throwing hissy fits, drunken pub quizzes, book dorks, Virginia the virgin or their best mate’s kids taking the piss, sorry micky, out of their sex lives…’

‘Wow, sounds great. Right, the producer’s giving me the evil eye. Time to play another record. Ah, I see where we’re going with this one. Nice link.’

‘Let me guess, ‘Paperback Writer’?’

‘No. ‘Shaddup You Face’.’

six lies cover for pc w endorse

And now for the boring bit…

Thanks to Debbie, my publicist and new best friend, my books are getting lots of really exciting coverage at the moment.

I’m doing the rounds of radio studios around the country. Fortunately, the above wasn’t a transcript of my appearance on either Radio Newcastle or Radio Coventry and Warwickshire. Hopefully, my chat with Allison Ferns on BBC Sussex this lunchtime won’t be anything like this either.

My diary is chock-a-block between now and Christmas. There’s more radio banter, an article for a national newspaper, some magazine work and a few personal appearances (get me!).

The BBC documentary I was involved in is being shown during the first week of January. There is talk of something even more stellar in the near future. I’ll blog about that in due course if it looks like comeing off.

Finally, for the writers amongst you, after a chat with my publisher, we have decided to make the e version of Six Lies available exclusively on Amazon for the next three months. By enrolling it in KDP Select, I am giving those who have signed up to Amazon’s Unlimited subscription service the opportunity to download my book for free. My thinking is that I might get more early reviews by going with this approach.

If you have views on KDP Select, or if you have any great tips on how to avoid messing up a radio interview, I would love to hear from you.

Ben

Writing is better than sex

Hand of female lying on bed with a man caressing her
Hand of female lying on bed with a man caressing her

Earlier this week, a fellow writer chap I met on twitter gave me a piece of advice that, quite frankly, gave me the heebie-jeebies. ‘To succeed as an author,’ he told me, ‘you need to prefer writing to sex’.

‘You’re joking?’ I replied. Surely no one in his or her right mind prefers writing to sex?

‘Nope,’ he told me, ‘I’m not joking. Writing is my life. I perk up when I develop a good plot, I get excited when my characters interact and I practically orgasm when I spin a great twist.’

My first reaction was to get straight onto twitter and unfollow the weirdo. Block, block, block!

But just as I was about to hit that blue button, I had a thought. What if he’s right? What if all successful authors shun the bedroom in favour of the study? Maybe they really do prefer alliteration to allure, epithets to erogenous zones, foreshadowing to foreplay, imagery to intercourse. sucking their pen to sucking… I’d better stop there.

Authors can be pretty solitary, selfish characters, right? They are slaves to their keyboards for days on end. I have read countless stories about writing widows and widowers. My twitter friend must be right. If you want to make it as an author, you have to love writing more than you love sex.

love typing

Coming around to my friend’s way of thinking was a thoroughly depressing experience. Instantly, I thought I might as well chuck my laptop out of the study window, dust off my CV and get myself a proper job. Being a red-blooded male, I haven’t got the love it takes to become a successful author.

Or have I?

As I was trying to find the key to undo my study window lock, another thought took hold. I really do love writing. I might even be able to convince myself that it is better than sex.

  • Writing lasts longer than sex. I have been known to write for eight hours in one stretch. Making sex last for eight minutes would be an achievement worth celebrating.
  • I can write more than twice a day without fear of letting myself down. You’ll forgive me if I don’t dwell on the comparison here.
  • People pay me for my writing.
  • I enjoy making people laugh. I occasionally manage it through my writing. If someone laughed at me during sex, I’d probably get a complex.
  • I’ll be able to show my grandchildren my books on Amazon…

Hold the bestsellers list, there’s hope for me yet!

And now for some real news…

Six Lies cover screen

My second novel, Six Lies, is being released by SliverWood Books on 23rd November.

The Royal National Institute for the Blind has asked if they can convert my debut romp, Six Months to Get a Life, into a talking book for those with sight impairments and unable to access normal print and online books. They normally only convert bestsellers. It’s a real honour to be asked and a thrill to be able to give something back to such a large community. I can’t wait to hear the narration.

My third book, the one set in a primary school, is the reason I haven’t updated this blog as often as I should have done. I’m utterly obsessed with it and can’t put it down. I’d almost go as far as to say writing it is better than…

Happy writing!

Ben

Crowdsourcing a title for my third novel

staffroom

The last three months – the time since I gave up my well-paid job to become an author – has been a hectic time for me. There’s been The Ashes, day-trips to the seaside with the kids and the dog, catching the rays in the garden, internet dating, champagne receptions and filming for a BBC documentary. Oh, and the occasional bit of writing too.

Those of you that have read my debut novel, Six Months to Get a Life, will know that I am big on characters and how they strive to negotiate their way through life’s many challenges, snatching the occasional bit of romance while negotiating the devastation, heartache and carnage that more commonly surrounds them. (Six Months… was recommended as a ‘great holiday read’ on BBC Radio 5’s Thursday night book club a couple of weeks ago – #honoured!)

My second book, Six Lies, continues the theme, following the lead character as his wife runs off with a librarian and his mother confesses from the grave that she wasn’t his mother after all. I finished Six Lies over the summer and it has now entered the sausage machine that is the publishing process. Hopefully it will be ready to consume in late November, to coincide with the airing of the BBC documentary.

I have even had an idea for a third book. In fact, my brain hasn’t switched off since I thought of the concept a week or so ago. I can’t wait until September when I return from my holiday and can really get cracking on the story.

My third book will definitely bring more of the same romantic comedy, farce and fun dialogue that I love so much. It is going to be set in a mythical primary school in Wimbledon. I know already that the senior staff will be under threat of losing their jobs if the school doesn’t improve during the course of the school year. Obviously, the key protagonists will also have their fair share of personal challenges, with alcoholism, unruly offspring, love triangles and the occasional politician making an appearance. An overbearing Head with her own issues and a new Governor will combine to keep everyone on their toes. Can you tell how much I’m looking forward to writing this book?

My list of fun anecdotes to include within the story is growing longer by the hour. A number of twitter friends have tweeted their ideas too (@benadamsauthor), for which I am very grateful.

But one thing I am struggling with is a working title. Some authors will tell you that the title comes to you after you start writing a novel. This may be true, but I always find that if you can get the title right to start with, it helps you shape the subject of the story. Hence me striving to come up with a good title upfront.

I am trying to conceive of something that captures the daily grind of working in a school while also drawing the rom-com reader in, something that hints at hilarity in school improvement while also appealing to the chick lit lovers out there. The four options on my notepad at the moment include:

Who Left Their Bra in the Staffroom?

The Staffroom

It all happens in the Staffroom

[insert school name] a la Waterloo Road

None of these ideas exactly hits the spot that I am aiming for. They don’t excite me as much as the thought of writing the book itself does.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

I’ve been a full-time writer for two months now and…

dog writing

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while now will know that, at the end of April, I gave up ‘work’ to become a full-time author.

The last couple of months have been really busy for me. I have been meaning to reflect upon my experience but, ironically, I have struggled to find the time. Now that my second book, Six Lies, is with my editor, I have suddenly got a bit more space to reflect upon my decision. Hence this blog.

Has my decision been the right one for me? Well, to answer that question, let me revisit the hopes and fears that preoccupied my mind as, with some trepidation, I took my resignation letter up to our HR department a few months ago.

My main reason for resigning from my day job was the pull of writing. After penning my first book in the early mornings and late evenings of 2014, I wanted to give myself the space to write more often, and for longer. With work and my boys keeping me busy, I was struggling to fully immerse myself in my characters. My writing was lagging behind my ideas.

In the two months since I have been a full-time writer, I have thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of being master of my own destiny. My routine has been to start tapping away at my keyboard once the boys head off to school, and then to carry on until either my concentration begins to wain or my German Shepherd, Albus, deposits his rugby ball on my brand new laptop. If I am lucky, I can write until lunchtime. I then have a break and walk the dog, before going back to writing, or possibly editing, for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

Albus

I have been quite productive in the last couple of months. Six Lies is now complete in draft form. My editor is hopefully reading it as I type. My aim is to work on her comments before we jet off to Turkey for a not particularly well-earned but nevertheless much looked forward-to holiday towards the end of August.

Had I still been fitting my writing around my work life, I would never have finished Six Lies so soon. It wouldn’t have been as good either. The best thing about being a writer is immersing yourself for hours on end in the minds of the characters you are creating. Writing full-time gives me the space to do that.

My main fear about giving up my day job, the fear that physically made my hand shake as I handed my note to Minal from HR, was that I would find the writer’s life too solitary. I am a sociable person and love debating the merits of Dan’s latest beard trim or Rebecca’s latest board report (quick double-check I got the names the right way round) at the tea point.

It is early days yet, but, at the moment I can safely say I am loving my new life. Before I gave up my job, I did muse about ruses like writing in coffee shops full of people to break up the monotony, or travelling with my laptop to friends’ houses and writing with them while they work from home. But, if truth be told, I haven’t needed to go down that route. Writing isn’t lonely. It’s completely fulfilling.

You can’t get lonely when you are in your characters’ heads. You can’t get lonely when you’ve got a TV crew filming you for a documentary about loneliness. You can’t get lonely when you are training for a 100+ KM walk. You can’t get lonely when the cricket’s on (you can’t get much work done either, mind). You can’t get lonely when you have tried internet dating for the first time and you have met… Actually, I’ll keep that one to myself for the time being.

Now that my second book is in someone else’s hands, I might begin to think differently about my routine. I need to keep up the momentum in my writing journey. I need to develop my author platform (yawn). I need to get out there and sell myself (gulp, I’m off to a champagne reception in Knightsbridge in a couple of weeks). I need to write more Huffpost blogs. This stuff doesn’t come as naturally to me as the novel writing, so it will take more effort. Will it keep me interested until my holiday, or will I begin to miss the human contact when I am slaving away? Only time will tell.

The other obvious fear I had when I was on the sixth floor of my Smith Square office clutching my life-changing letter was that I was throwing away a reliable and undeservingly high salary in pursuit of my dream. In common with Greece , my long-term economic prospects were uncertain.

To be frank, my finances are still uncertain. My first novel, Six Months to Get a Life, is receiving great reviews. Chick Lit Central loved it when they read it. But, no matter how hard you look, you won’t as yet find my name on the best-sellers list.

When I gave up my job, I vowed to give my dream every chance of succeeding and not to bottle it and get another job too soon. I am resolutely sticking to that plan. When I am back from my holiday, I intend to start work on a third book. My second book will be published in December. I will throw all I have (the kitchen sink, the dog and my limited imagination) at publicising my work. Hopefully, I will be able to coincide publication with the airing of the BBC documentary but we shall see.

Then in the new year, I will take stock. If my sales haven’t increased to a financially sustainable level, I will either sell a child or look for a new job. I may even do both. If I have to take up paid employment again, I won’t consider the whole experience to have been a waste of time. I will feel proud of myself for pursuing my dreams. As they say, you regret what you don’t do more than what you do do (they put it much more eloquently than that, but that’s the best I can do before breakfast).

Other things that have changed since I quit my day-job:

  • My lunches. I eat far less over-priced sandwiches and far more salad-based stuff. I do drink more coffee though. The post-lunch graveyard shift would quickly turn into an afternoon nap if it wasn’t for my fancy coffee machine.
  • I eat breakfast, or at least a mid-morning snack. I could never manage breakfast before the morning commute.
  • I am spending a fortune on dog treats to keep Albus from distracting me.
  • I have knocked my eldest son off the top spot in my dog’s affections.
  • I am getting a suntan. There is nothing quite like having lunch in the garden.
  • My kids hate not being able to come home from school and raid the fridge ‘without me knowing’.
  • I haven’t polished my shoes for two months.
  • I am forgetting the art of looking busy when really I’m just not. Or maybe that’s what this blog’s all about…

Happy days!

Ben

Can writing be a sociable activity?

Elephant house coffee shop

Two weeks from now, I will be a full-time author.

Becoming an author has been a long-held dream of mine. To be more specific, it became my lifetime ambition once I had realised that I wasn’t any good at football and couldn’t see well enough to drive a train.

From May onwards, I will spend my days pecking mercilessly at my laptop keyboard, concocting the masterpiece that will be my second novel.

When I told my mother that I was giving up my well paid job to become a professional author, she nearly choked on her cornflakes. ‘But you’ve only sold 27 copies of your first book,’ she spluttered.

How very dare she.

She wasn’t pacified when I had corrected her on the numbers. Or even when I told her that Six Months to Get a Life, my debut novel, had received yet more heart-warming reviews and praise on twitter over the past few days.

‘It’s not just about the money,’ she came back with, ‘you’ll go mad sitting on your own, writing all day.’

My mum has a point there. I love being with people. Sharing experiences, sharing views, sharing stories and sharing pizza is, for me, what makes me tick. I am a sociable person.

I can’t wait to be a full-time author, but the solitude of a writing life does worry me a bit. And being a single dad doesn’t help with the potential loneliness either. Will I spend all day writing, and all evening cooking, washing and supervising homework, with no adult company other than my friends at the supermarket checkout to keep me sane?

Obviously, I am determined that the answer will be ‘No.’

Over the past few weeks, I have spent some time looking in to a whole variety of ways of keeping myself sane while I write. It’s not as though I want to chat all day, but having the odd conversation with an adult every so often would be nice, even if I don’t get to share their pizza.

Being sociable online during breaks in my writing is one way I will reduce the feeling of isolation. I do enjoy engaging with fellow authors on sites such as the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and with my small but growing reader-base on Facebook and Twitter. No doubt a bit of twitter banter during the day will spur me on.

But online sociability is no substitute for actual vocal chord-exercising conversation.

So how will I meet ‘real people’ during my writing day?

My dog, Albus, will demand that I take him for a walk at least once during the day. Last week, he brought a rugby ball in from the garden and deposited it on my keyboard just as I was getting to the climax of a tense scene. Walking the dog normally results in at least some interaction with real people. But saying things like ‘Sorry my German Shepherd ate your Labradoodle’ or ‘he’ll leave you alone in a minute,’ isn’t necessarily the sort of interaction that will make me feel good about my life. I’ll need more than a dog walk a day to improve my sense of wellbeing as an author.

A number of my friends work from home. There’s Pete the musician. I might need headphones for most of the day but I can cope with that. Or there’s Barry the civil servant. He watches the cricket – I mean works from home – regularly. There’s even Ed, my politician friend. He’d be good company but his talk of long-term economic plans, austerity and ‘hard-working British people’ might get a bit monotonous after a while. The one advantage of Ed is that he won’t grill me on where the money’s coming from to fund my lifestyle.

I am not sure whether Stephen King would approve, but so many authors have talked about establishing a routine in which they regularly write in a local coffee shop. J.K. Rowling apparently started writing Harry Potter in the coffee shop pictured above.

Whether or not such authors form a relationship with the proprietor or with fellow customers, this sounds like an idea worth exploring to me. The caffeine will certainly stimulate my creative juices, as might the comings and goings in the café. ‘Cheeky Monkeys’ on Grand Drive, you can expect a visit from me in May. You never know, I might meet the odd yummy mummy in there too, but let’s not digress.

I am also intending to join a writing group. Until recently, I hadn’t realised that writers gathered together just to write. But a bit of internet research tells me that they do.

Groups like the London-based ‘Write Together’ organise sessions for authors to gather together, work on their own writing projects for a few hours and then socialise, should they so wish. ‘Write Together’ advertise the get-togethers to their members via www.meetup.com. Meetings take place in a variety of venues, from cafes to coffee shops. Meeting likeminded authors would be a tonic for me, and I can see how being surrounded by fellow authors would spur you on to work harder. It may also piss me off if my fellow scribblers all seem to be typing more than me though.

If you have other ideas on how I might write in company, I would love to hear from you.

Ben

The book club

bus ad

My ears were burning last Tuesday evening. By all accounts, a bunch of women were sitting in someone’s front room, eating cheese carrot sticks, drinking wine and talking about me.

More specifically, they were talking about my book, Six Months to Get a Life. My baby was the book of the month at the Chelsea Court book club.

Unfortunately, the book group meeting clashed with my eldest son’s birthday. After studying my conscience, tossing a coin and even trying to convince my son that he was actually born in August, I eventually gave in to my paternal instincts and reluctantly sent my apologies to the book group organiser.

Instead of a trip to the south coast to talk about the book, my extended family and I toddled off to a lovely steakhouse in Wimbledon.

I spent the first part of the evening trying not to think about the book group meeting. The literary ramblings refused to be shut out altogether though. At one point, I literally closed my eyes and envisaged the conversation taking place somewhere on the south coast.

‘The standard of writing’s appalling,’ Hilda might have muttered as she bit into her fifteenth cheese straw.

‘Yes, and the language is so vulgar,’ Olive agreed as she topped her glass up.

‘It’s worse than Jeffrey Archer,’ chimed in Lucinda from the kitchen doorway. ‘Pass me an olive, Olive.’

An impromptu chorus of happy birthday brought me back to my immediate surroundings with a jolt. Judging by his face whilst he was being serenaded, it rapidly became the birthday boy’s turn to imagine he was somewhere else. Anywhere else rather than being embarrassed by his overly affectionate family.

eldest embarrassed

As our family celebration continued, I managed to banish thoughts of the book group from my mind. My extended family and, more importantly, my son, had a lovely evening.

It was only when I woke up the next morning that I once again remembered the book group.

The organiser had promised to let me know what her band of friends made of my book. I checked my emails and was pleased to discoverer that she had emailed me late the previous evening once the group had gone their separate ways.

As I read the email, I gradually began to relax. By the time I had got to her goodbyes, I was positively beaming. The feedback was really positive. Hilda, Olive, Lucinda and their friends had thoroughly enjoyed the book.

In particular, they had enjoyed reading about divorce from a man’s point of view. They found the relationship between Graham and his sons to be real and evolving. They enjoyed the banter between father and sons too. The group could all apparently imagine seeing the book adapted for television as a mini-series . Two of them apparently took it away on holiday with them (to Eastbourne, or am I prematurely ageing the Chelsea Court book group?) and said it was perfect holiday reading.

The book group did comment that it would have been useful if I’d have published a set of book club questions to accompany the book. I will certainly look into this, as another group will be discussing Six Months to Get a Life in the coming few weeks.

One of the girls in the group apparently thought it was a shame that I hadn’t gone into more detail about the sex (obviously more of a Benidorm girl). I am currently writing my second book, Six Lies. I might try being a bit more explicit in that one, but I’m not sure it’s me.

I love receiving feedback on my work. I have received some good coverage on other people’s blogs during the past week or two. There are more reviews scheduled to be released next week.

What next for the book? Six Months to get a Life isn’t exactly setting the bestseller lists alight yet. I am still looking for that spark of magic that will propel me onto the radar of readers across the land. It will be featured on a couple more blogs over the next few weeks. There are some other significant conversations taking place too that might help. More of that in the next few weeks.

Have a great week.

I quit my job today!

champagne bottle

This week is a momentous week. I have officially handed in my notice. I have quit my job.

I leave on 30th April.

I will be saying goodbye to lots of fantastic work colleagues, all of whom care passionately about their work and the good that it brings to others.

I will also be saying cheerio to a regular salary, good banter at the water cooler, regular supplies of cake and paid annual leave too. Gulp.

And all because I want to be a full-time author.

I want to spend my days inventing and crafting stories. Having written my debut novel, Six Months to Get a Life, I now know that being an author is my passion of choice. It’s what I want to do. It’s what I want to be known for.

I have learnt something about myself over the past few years. When I respect myself, all is well in my world. I feel confident to face life’s challenges. I feel ten feet tall. I am proud that I have taken the decision to give writing a real chance.

But quitting my job is a huge financial gamble. I am a predominantly single dad and have a mortgage to pay. This will be the first time in my adult life that I haven’t brought home a regular salary. Some people may call me selfish for putting my family’s financial future at risk for the sake of a dream. They may be right.

Before writing my resignation letter, I took a long, hard look at my two boys. What would the impact of my decision be on them? They may have less fancy holidays in the future, but they will have a newly energised dad. And one who will be there to see them off to school and to welcome them home in the evenings. On balance, I am confident that I am making the right decision.

If it doesn’t work out, I can always get another job. Even in that case, when I look at myself in the mirror as I am shaving on the morning that I start my new job, I will nod to myself and be satisfied that at least I gave my dream every chance of succeeding.

Talking of resignation letters, I thought it would be fun to reproduce the resignation letter that Graham Hope, the protagonist in Six Months to Get a Life, writes to his employers. My own letter may differ slightly from the below, but one thing’s for certain, it won’t be dull!

“Hello soon-to-be-ex-colleagues,

After ten years of paper-shuffling, I am putting the world of logistics behind me and moving on to bigger and better things.  I can honestly say that I can’t wait to go, and if any of you lot had any balls, you would jump too before you are pushed. 

I will not miss being required to spend half my life thinking about blue skies or what is outside a box.  I am sick of cheap tea bags and can’t face another stale egg mayo sandwich.  Away-days are tedious beyond belief and appraisals aren’t worth the paper they are written on.  I won’t miss pretending not to notice Daniel’s tongue hanging out whenever Sarah walks in to the office.  I didn’t miss Sarah snogging Dean the post-room apprentice at last year’s Christmas party.

I will, however, miss Sheena from accounts.  I will miss being paid whilst spending the whole of the first half of 2012 searching online for Olympic tickets – I got loads in the end.  I will miss inserting rude words into lengthy performance reports just to see if anyone actually reads them.  After ten years of doing this, I can categorically say that they don’t.  Basically, I will miss the money. I am not sure I have earned it but it has come in useful.

Don’t bother writing a card or having a collection. I never put a penny into your birthday, wedding or new baby cards so I wouldn’t want you to have to feel you should contribute to a leaving card for me.  Actually, Danny boy, I hope you don’t mind but when your birthday collection came round a couple of months ago I was a bit skint at the time so I took a couple of quid out and paid for my lunch with it. 

Love and kisses.

Graham”

(Extract from ‘Six Months to Get a Life

The Last Rose: Wendy Clarke

My blog is all about writers and their journeys to becoming published authors. Normally I talk about my personal journey, but this week I am excited to introduce you to a different story. The story of a friend and fellow author I met via the internet’s thriving author community.

Wendy Clarke writes a great romance tale. Her first book, Room in Your Heart, is a collection of captivating stories that cannot fail to make you smile. In the interview below, Wendy tells me not only about her author journey but also about her latest projects.

If you have got a question you would like to put to Wendy, feel free to post it. I know that Wendy will be checking in here from time to time to respond.

Wendy Clarke      My interview with Wendy Clarke

Ben) So that we can get to know you a bit before we start, I’m going to fire a few quick-fire questions at you. Starting with your favourite author?

Wendy) Ann Weisgarber

Ben) Your favourite film?

Wendy) Life is Beautiful

Ben) Your favourite food

Wendy) Chilli con carne

Ben) Your favourite tipple?

Wendy) Red wine

Ben) You are a romance writer. What’s the most romantic place you have ever visited?

Wendy) Venice… oh, and the little Greek taverna on the island of Samos where my husband proposed to me.

Ben) And what’s your ambition as an author?

Wendy) To see my novel published and on bookshelves.

Your writing

Ben) Seeing your novel on bookshelves is my ambition too. Is your novel your latest project?

Wendy) I have got a few projects on the go. I have just finished putting together my second collection of short stories called ‘The Last Rose’. The theme is family and friendship and all the stories in it have previously been published in national magazines.

The Last Rose cover

Alongside this, I have been finishing my latest serial for The People’s Friend and have recently started writing my first novel.

Ben) You write lovely, atmospheric short stories. What are your top three tips for people who want to write short stories?

Wendy) 1. If you want to write for a magazine, make sure you read the guidelines carefully. 2. Try to think outside the box a little – editors are inundated with submissions so make yours stand out by being a little different. 3. Check your story has a strong ending. I’d also like to add another one: write from the heart – if you don’t love your story, nobody else will!

Ben) That’s a theme in my advice too. If you aren’t happy with what you are producing, then no one else will be happy when they read it. What, for you, are the essential elements of a great romantic tale?

Wendy) Your reader has to like and sympathise with your main character. Their emotions also need to be believable. Look deep inside yourself for memories of your own of love and loss and use these to make your characters’ emotions come alive. A great romance doesn’t necessarily have to end happily but there should always be hope or a sense of moving on.

Ben) What’s the nicest compliment you have been paid on work you have published?

Wendy) People have said some wonderful things in their reviews for Room in Your Heart but I think the greatest compliment was when my friend told me that my stories made her cry.

Your writing journey

Ben) What made you start writing?

Wendy) I started writing three years ago when the private school I was teaching in closed down and I was made redundant. I felt anchorless and had no idea what I wanted to do.

I was very lucky in that I had recently got married and my husband was very supportive, telling me that I should take my time to think about the future. It was my brother who suggested that I enrol in the online creative writing course he’d just completed – after all, I had been an English teacher. So I did.

Little did I know how much I would enjoy it – so much so, that I did a second course and when it had ended, I felt bereft! My tutor suggested I try writing for magazines and, with nothing to lose, I thought I’d have a go. I was very lucky to have stories accepted quite quickly and now I have sold over a hundred!

Liking a challenge, I then decided to try my hand at writing a serial. This was more difficult as I had to show the editors at The People’s Friend a synopsis first which meant I had to plan the whole thing out – something I’m not very good at! Luckily they liked the idea and I found the longer length fun to write. I have now written a second one for them.

Since then, I have joined the Romantic Novelist Association’s New Writers’ Scheme as I am in the early stages of writing my first romantic novel… so the journey is still continuing.

Ben) Other than the decision to write full-time, what was the most important decision you took in your writing journey?

Wendy) It may well be the decision to write the novel… but whether that decision will turn out good or bad is yet to be seen.

Ben) I’m sure it will be good! Can we get a sneak preview?

Wendy) I don’t want to jinx it by giving it away. Let’s just say, it involves two sisters, a beautiful Greek island and a mystery… oh and of course there’ll be romance in there too!

Connecting with Wendy

I hope you have enjoyed hearing from Wendy. I certainly did. If you would like to connect with Wendy directly, she has a great  blog, or you can find her on twitter @WendyClarke99 or on Facebook.

The Last Rose is available to buy on Amazon. The stories in this collection explore the intricate family relationships of thirteen ordinary people. In them, we discover the sorrow, love and joy that is shared… but not always spoken.

A tribute to Monday Blogs

I am at the stage in my writing journey now where I don’t mind making a confession. Because I had never bought a book as a result of reading someone’s blog, at the start of my author journey I didn’t see the point of writing a blog.

Yes, I was that selfish and short-sighted.

But gradually, as I read others’ blogs, I realised that I must have been missing something. Everyone else seemed to be doing it, so I thought I had better join the club. I started this blog last spring.

I am now officially enlightened.

Thinking up interesting and informative topics to blog about can be a challenge, but I no longer question the value that blogging adds, particularly for fledgling authors.

I have sold some books based on my utterings here. I’m glad not everyone is like me! But that isn’t why I am a convert to blogging.

I have learnt so much by joining the author blogging community. I have met lots of really insightful and helpful people through this blog. But just posting blogs yourself is such a small part of the story.

I have learnt even more from engaging with fellow authors via their own blogs.

I am in awe of the community spirit demonstrated every week by authors re-tweeting other authors’ blog posts – a process made so much easier by using the #Mondayblogs hashtag set up by author Rachel Thompson.

I would almost go as far as to say I love Mondays. Not quite, but almost.

As importantly as gathering more exposure for your own blog, you cannot fail to learn something through a quick scan of #MondayBlogs.

I have learnt so many valuable lessons – about writing, networking, book marketing and the author life. I have ‘met’ so many interesting people.

Within the last few weeks, I have read ‘5 steps to writing a best-selling novel’, ‘Ten top tips to get your book onto the bestsellers list’, ‘Fourteen ways to boost your book’s sales’ and ‘53 ways to make your fortune out of writing’.

I am now off to make my fortune. I will be writing to you from Barbados next Monday.

Is being a full-time author all it’s cracked up to be?

I love writing.

When I’m writing a new book, which is pretty much all of the time, I get obsessed with my characters. I take them to bed with me. I wake up with them too. It’s like having a wife but without the sex. On second thoughts, it’s like having a wife.

I’m so in love with writing but I hate the fact that I have to fit it in around other inconveniences like my day job, life admin and my children. OK, maybe the children aren’t that much of an inconvenience. Give them a bottle of cider and the Xbox and they’re happy.

My day job is such an inconvenience. Would you believe it, I have to be there all day. Whose idea was that?

Work pays the bills, but it doesn’t satisfy my writing addiction. It isn’t where I want to be.

I am seriously considering becoming a full-time author. Admittedly, this wouldn’t be a rational decision. My first book is doing well but it has only been on sale for a month. Never mind paying the mortgage, my income from my writing is barely enough to pay the milkman yet.

But my heart keeps beating faster than my head can shake. Why should I let practicalities like shelter and food stop me from pursuing my dream? They say you’ve got to be single-minded to be an author, right?

I would love to be able to write when I want to write, rather than when the kids are in bed or when the boss isn’t looking. (If my boss is reading this, then obviously the last aside was an example of my ‘creative writing’ skills).

But could I write all day? What would being a full-time author feel like? Would steam surge from my laptop keyboard as I knock out novel after novel? Or would I get bored with my own company, want to murder the daytime radio presenters for endlessly repeating themselves and be off down the pub by lunchtime?

There was only one way to find out.

Last week, I booked the week off work, cleared my diary and packed my boys off on a ski trip to Italy with their school mates. The dog and I had the house to ourselves. My aim was to significantly progress my second book, ‘Six Lies’.

This is how I got on.

Friday

Saw the boys off on their ski-ing trip, went to the pub after work to celebrate my week off and came home via the chip shop. Incapable of writing. Number of words written: 0.

Saturday

I can’t be creative with a hangover. Watched the rugby, checked latest sales figures for Six Months to Get a Life on Amazon and shunned Valentine’s Day in favour of Match of the Day. The FA Cup provided me with all the romance I needed. Number of words written: 0.

Sunday

Went for breakfast in Raynes Park with a friend. We arrived too late for breakfast so had lunch instead. Took the dog for a walk. Cooked a chilli. Checked book sales. Number of words written: 0.

Monday

Wrote during the morning, with short stops for putting the washing on, taking the dog out, eating everything I could find in the fridge and checking for new reviews of my book on Amazon. Got a couple of good lines in, including ‘your forehand is better than your foreplay’. Met another author via twitter. Ended up buying and reading her book. Thoroughly entertaining and highly distracting. A good day, finished off with a few pints in the Earl Beatty with the best man at my wedding. At least I’m still talking to him. Number of words written: 700.

Tuesday

Took the dog to have his balls cut off. His creative juices will never flow again. If it’s any consolation Albus, mine didn’t flow today either. Instead, I read the rest of ‘Being Sarah Chilton’. Very funny. Number of words written: 400, approximately 50 of which were spelt wrongly on account of my errant laptop’s habit of not registering random key impressions. Ggggrrrrrr.

Wednesday

Had to stop the dog licking his wounds all day. Eventually, gave him to my ex and went to meet friends in North London. Number of words written: 27.

Thursday

It is impossible to write with a hangover. Recovered, and went to meet another friend to give him a signed copy of Six Months to Get a Life for him to give away as a raffle prize in his work raffle. Number of words written: 0.

Friday

Started training for this summer’s British Heart Foundation charity London to Brighton walk. Trudged 15 miles through the Surrey countryside, followed by a few pints in the pub. Staggered home (dodgy hamstring / dodgy pint). Number of words written: 400, but they were all drunken emails that I should probably not have sent.

Saturday

The boys came home.

What have I learnt from my experiment? Being a full-time author is going to be good fun, but don’t expect my productivity to go up very much.

Update on Six Months to Get a Life

My debut contemporary fiction / romance novel is keeping me smiling. The reviews have continued to flood in. And as an added bonus, most of them are positive too.