Dawn Reno Langley – writer, traveller, blogger, teacher – provides today’s fascinating Last Word of the Week. Dawn has a PhD and loves gardening, and is a natural-born writer. Immediate connections! I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to speak with Dawn and find out a bit more about her. All those mysterious writing aliases, for example…
Dawn: It was so long ago! My first article was published in the local newspaper when I was 9, and I knew even then that I wanted to be a writer. I’d already read everything in my little local library, and my imagination had already begun creating my own stories. So, I guess I could say I realized I was a writer around the time I started putting sentences together.
You know, I was thinking about this just the other day. I’m a planner. I create outlines and know where the story is going, but I add to that with the dreams/imagination and keep me awake at night. When I’m writing fiction, I can rip into the story and totally take it apart, then put it back together again in a very different manner. Usually my imagination is more likely to be employed at the beginning of the process of writing (to birth the story) and during the rewrite process. That’s the time for long walks in the woods where I can’t get connectivity . . . .
There are two, actually. One, during the peak of my nonfiction career, I wrote the first book on African American art and collectibles, and when my book Collecting Black Americana was introduced in Washington, D.C., I had the front page of the Living Section of the Washington Post – and when the doors were opened to the antiques show where I had a tableful of books, people ran to the table. Ran! I still can’t get over that.
The second one is when I introduced my last novel, The Mourning Parade. I travelled across the United States via Amtrak, stopping at 18 different cities and visiting friends, family, and old students of mine along the way. I started the trip in my hometown, a small city near Boston, and I invited all of my family and friends to a local art gallery for a big launch party. It was the first real launch party I’d had in my career (and by that time, I’d been making a living as a writer for about 30 years and had written more than 30 books), and it was simply amazing. Almost everyone from my graduating class gathered to celebrate with me, and it gave me wings to do my cross-country trip.
Right now, I’m working on a rewrite of a novel that had its genesis when I was doing my PhD. My agent has suggested some changes that gave me the impetus to find a lot more depth to the story and exploded the main character. I’m excited about working on it and can’t wait to finish it. What I’m looking forward to most is my agent’s response to the changes I’m making.
Read the best writers. Gain experience. LISTEN to other writers, editors, and readers. Read. (Did I say that already?) Take classes, go to free readings, write things that make you uncomfortable. Read poetry if you’re a fiction writer. Read memoir if you write poetry. Read novels if you’re a memoirist.
That’s more than one thing, huh? Okay, the most important is to read.
This one’s easy. Sherlock Holmes. He’s got a distinctive character, is amazingly complex, and has equal parts humour and drama. Besides, I think brains are sexy, don’t you?
Dawn’s important links:
This week it’s all about the fabulous blog tour … The Stars in the Night is visiting the real world of readers and bloggers.
Many great links will be added here so you can see what happens when you go on tour. This time, what goes on tour comes home very happily!
Jo at Jaffa Reads Too: https://jaffareadstoo.blogspot.com/2019/04/blog-tour-and-giveaway-stars-in-night.html
Dragon Rose Books Galore Reviews: https://dbgreviews.blogspot.com/2019/04/blog-tour-stars-in-night-by-clare.html
Cheryl M-M’s Book Blog: https://cherylmmbookblog.blogspot.com/2019/04/blogtour-stars-in-night-by-clare-rhoden.html
My thanks to Harry’s travel agent, the lovely Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources.
Bone Lines, Stephanie Bretherton’s debut novel, considers what it is to be human by engaging us in the lives of two women, separated by millenia. Stephanie is a wonderful communicator who has a fascinating backstory of her own – Born in Hong Kong to a pair of Liverpudlians, she is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast, particularly far west Cornwall.
Stephanie: Probably the first time I got an A for a school composition! Those kind of dopamine hits can become as addictive as sugar. Just as well, really, as I have struggled with ‘numbers’ all my life. Words, on the other hand, have been my friends. It’s amazing what you can do with them, from creating and escaping into your own imaginary worlds, to coming back out into the ‘real’ world and communicating ideas, forming friendships, entertaining people, making them feel good.
If I had lived in the times of the prehistoric character in my book, Bone Lines, I would have been a rubbish hunter but would probably have made myself useful as the storyteller of the tribe.
I use all three. A dream might inspire, or help solve a problem, but that’s more passive. Active imagination is the key driver. Planning tends to come retrospectively, if that makes sense. I reverse engineer the planning once I have a character, a world, a theme, an idea that has been allowed to run free and take its own shape.
I have always worked with words, communication or ‘storytelling’ in one form or another, and there have been quite a few thrills and spills along the way, from reading the weather report on Hong Kong television to building my successful ‘boutique’ communications agency. But creative writing fiction in particular has always been my first love and publishing a book was a lifelong goal. So undoubtedly bringing my debut novel Bone Lines out into the world last September, as exciting and terrifying as that journey has been, has to be the highpoint so far
Three weeks unbroken chill at my bolthole in Cornwall in the summer, to rest, write, walk and play. I am very blessed to have found a corner of the world that fills my soul. I’ve had a rather nomadic life since childhood (though I have always been drawn to a coast) and I while recent generations of my family are not from Cornwall (we are misplaced Scousers) and I’d never spent much time there before, I had the strangest sense of ‘coming home’ when I visited friends near Land’s End three years ago.
I had a small inheritance after my widowed mother had died, and I found a tiny place near the sea that weekend, put in an offer on the train back to London and knew it would gradually become ‘my soul’s landscape.’ I still have to spend a lot of time in London for work, but whenever I can get back to Cornwall, it’s just magic. The perfect place to write. (And I really need to crack on with book two.)
If it’s what you want to do so badly that you are prepared to make sacrifices of your time, ego, cash flow, personal life, and sometimes what feels like your sanity, then just keep writing – whether you are ever published or not.
If you have something that has to be said, a story that has to told, a head full of characters demanding to written about, if you feel most ‘yourself’ (and at peace with yourself) when you are writing, then write, write, write. But there are no guarantees. Anything can happen and you can get lucky, but it’s a hard profession in which to make either headway or money. On the other hand it’s also a wonderful profession to be a part of. You can also self-publish – but do that as well as you can too. All readers deserve your best, most professional work.
Do the work, learn the craft, take advice from those whose track record speaks for itself. Work with a good editor. If you can, pick a genre. I haven’t really yet, so am no example, but it will help when it comes to selling to the industry and then marketing – and know that marketing is a huge part of being an author too, so start to learn those skills as well. Nothing will just come to you though. Take rejection on the chin. You are unique, but you are not ‘special’ (yet) – writing is graft, but worth every minute, at least it has been to me.
Atticus Finch, and Scout. The father in The Road, and his kid. Cathy and Heathcliffe. Pip, Abel Magwitch, and Estella. Or Joe and Biddy. Luke, Han and Leia. And Chewie. My Dr Eloise and all her lost lovers, and John, the priest. My ‘Sarah’ and all her ‘children.’ Aren’t we all the characters we have ever loved, learned from, or imagined?
LWOTW: Indeed we are! Writers and readers are the most changeable, and perecptive, of humand. Thank you so much for speaking with me, Stephanie, it has been pure joy.
Stephanie’s important links:
Stephanie’s Website is at http://stephaniebretherton.com/
Bone Lines is available online at all the usual places such as Book Depository
In this episode of Last Word of the Week, I’m excited to speak with Maisie Porter. Maisie works as a wedding photographer in Australia. We should make it clear right now that she has neither abducted nor been abducted by any competitors (something that *might* happen in her novels…). Maisie is an author at Crooked Cat Books.
Maisie: As well as writing, I work as a wedding photographer. In 2017, in between weddings, I began writing a story. At that time I had a desire to create something that wasn’t as fleeting as a photograph. So much work is put into creating visuals for social media (especially in the photography industry) that I was becoming disillusioned at the dispensability of photos. These days you can take a wonderful photo that has to be replaced immediately with another to feed the social media monster! So I started to write a story. It was a private and satisfying effort.
All three! In that exact order, I dream up the story, imagine it as I am writing, and plan and organise all the parts so it all fits together.
The highlight of my career is my first book No Reception being published by Crooked Cat Books.
I have just finished writing my next book, so I’m looking forward to when I dream up my next story.
I would say, get your book written and find a good editor to look at it for you. Then get it out there; either traditional, small press or self publishing. But don’t get to hung up on writing the story because the hard work of marketing your book is still before you.
Yikes! Now I’m truly scared 🙂 Thanks for speaking with us, Maisie, and all power to both your writing and photography careers.
Maisie’s Book Links:
Maisie on Twitter: https://twitter.com/eyeointment
Maisie on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maisieporterauthor/
Jamie Paradise has written a debut novel that takes crime to an audacious new level. Night Time Cool has been described as flamboyant, comic, and energetic: a tale of Christmas time in 2015 London with all its colour, exuberance and the odd swathe of violence. It’s the underbelly of Shoreditch and the characters, particularly Detective Inspector Frederick Street and his son Elvis, revel in their complex, seedy setting.
In the day time – when not hunkered down in a dark mansion surrounded by old family skulls and writing comic crime – Jamie is also a sports journalist called Jamie Jackson. He writes about football. “Soccer” to those of us in Australia who adhere to Aussie Rules.
Jamie: Good Question – I have a memory of being around nine and thinking, yes, writing for me – then at 21/22 I knew – after reading Henry Miller.
Imagination all the way – get an idea/opening scene/etcetera then away I go – so much fun.
Having my first novel compared to Martin Amis, Anthony Burgess, and it being reviewed by The Observer (the world’s oldest Sunday newspaper) as a “rip-roaring debut”.
The current novel I’m writing – about 2/3 in of 1st draft.
Read all the time, write all the time and keep DREAMING.
Peter Pan – I’m never growing up anyway. XXX
Barbara Quinn is an award-winning short story writer and author of a variety of novels including her latest, The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me, a novel about the healing power of the music of the Boss.
A longtime Springsteen fan, and native New Yorker with roots in the Bronx, Long Island, and Westchester, Barbara lives with her husband in Bradley Beach, NJ and Holmes Beach, FL. She has travelled to forty-seven states and six continents where she’s encountered fascinating settings and inspiring people that populate her work.
Barbara’s many past jobs include lawyer, record shop owner, reporter, process server, lingerie sales clerk, waitress, and postal worker. She enjoys spending time with her son and his family, planning her next adventure, and listening to the Boss.
With that background, I can’t wait to hear how Barbara approaches writing. ‘I’m sick of sitting right here trying to write this book’ (Dancing in the Dark) seems to be one line from the Boss that doesn’t apply!
Barbara: As a child I was drawn to books at an early age. I became lost in stories my parents read to me of far off lands and fairytales. I started writing stories and plays that my brother and I performed for family. I never stopped. My first produced play was for my Girl Scout troop. That was a fractured fairytale about a good wolf and an evil Red Riding Hood. Ah, I can still feel the joy caused by the audience clapping.
I have a vivid imagination. I can’t control it but have learned to depend on it and to suddenly be taken someplace new and unexpected. Once there, other skills take over.
Having my latest novel The Summer Springsteen’s Songs Saved Me published brought me so much pleasure. What a kick to see it out there. But the part that really made me happy was the incredible fan mail I received. There’s simply nothing like having complete strangers connect with my work to the extent that they are so moved they write and tell me about it. We are all human and that need to connect is real and is so rewarding when we accomplish it.
I’m looking forward to finishing another novel so stay tuned! And to traveling more now that my husband is retired.
Read widely. Write often. And find a place to share your work.
Alice in Wonderland! I so would love to jump down that rabbit hole.
That does sound like a great place to travel Thank you so much for talking with me today, Barbara. I can’t wait for news of the new novel.
I love them and their big hearts. That’s why they feature so much in my writing (like my beloved Mashtuk in the Pale series).
I’m keen to get hold of a new book to be released next month – The Wisdom of Wolves by Elli H. Radinger. It looks fascinating. The byline is ‘what wolves can teach us about being human.’ We cretainly need that!
This is a recent picture of my writing companion Aeryn. When she thinks I’ve done enough at the keyboard, she stands up and puts both front paws in my lap.
I’m sure my patronus is the wolf – what’s yours?
Laura Laakso, my fabulous guest today on Last Word of the Week, is a Finn who has spent most of her adult life in England. She currently lives in Hertfordshire with her two dogs (and you know I love dog people). Books and storytelling have always been a big part of Laura’s life, from writing fanfiction to running tabletop roleplaying games and now writing original fiction. When she is not writing, editing or plotting, Laura works as an accountant. With two degrees in archaeology, she possesses frighteningly useful skills for disposing of or digging up bodies, and if her internet search history is anything to go by, she is on several international watch lists.
Laura’s debut novel, Fallible Justice, was published last November by the excellent Louise Walters Books and her next two books in the Wilde Investigations series, Echo Murder and Roots of Corruption are due for publication in June 2019 and March 2020. Laura’s Wilde Investigations are paranormal crime novels set in modern day London, but with magic, murder and general mayhem.
Laura: Probably back at university, when I was preparing a Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying campaign. I got completely carried away with the world I’d created and suddenly realised that I cared more about the back story of my supporting characters than what my players were going to do in the present. Naturally, I had to write everything down. Many years later, I began dabbling in fanfiction, until an extraordinary beta reader showed that I have the skills to write original fiction and told me that I should do just that. My debut novel, Fallible Justice, was dedicated to him as a thank you.
Dreams and imagination are the greatest tools a writer has. Daring to dream big and imagine a different world, and then putting them into words is what makes writing so exciting. You never know what your mind creates, both awake and asleep!
That said, I’m a big fan of planning these days, given that I write paranormal crime novels. Having a detailed plan in place before I start writing not only helps me remember all the details, but gives me confidence in the story arcs and red herrings. If I draw up a story progression and it looks more like a tree than a straight line, I know I’m off to a good start. About half the time, my characters ignore the plans completely, but I feel better knowing I at least tried to plan the story.
Having readers contact me to say how much they loved one or more of my characters. It’s one thing for me to adore the people I’ve made up, but for others to share those feelings is simply extraordinary. My first reader even wrote me a fanfiction drabble about one of my characters, which I will always treasure. I recently dropped a few hints about my evil plans for future books and made people very anxious. I even received a few threats were I to start hurting their favourite characters.
You mean aside from the good night’s sleep? My publisher and I are about to start work on Roots of Corruption, the third book in my Wilde Investigations series. I absolutely adored writing the story and I can’t wait to see how the editing process turns it into a beautiful novel. I’m also ridiculously excited to see what our talented cover designer Jennie Rawlings will come up with for this book.
Dream boldly. The world is full of rules and restrictions, both in terms of writing and in general, and you need believe that you can do the things that keep you going. Be ambitions, but write with self-compassion.
I’d love to be Miss Marple’s regular sidekick!
You’d be perfect in the role. And all those cups of tea and biscuits, how fabulous :-). Thank you so much for sharing with me today. Go Wilde!
Buy Laura’s books here:
Rachel Sargeant is the author of Kindle Top Ten bestseller The Perfect Neighbours. She is a previous winner of Writing Magazine’s Crime Short Story competition and has been placed or shortlisted in various competitions, including the Bristol Short Story Prize. Her stories have appeared in My Weekly and the Accent Press Saucy Shorts series. Rachel grew up in Lincolnshire, spent several years living in Germany and now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and children. It’s wonderful to have Rachel here on Last Word of the Week. Here she is!
Hello, everyone and a big thank you to Clare for hosting me here.
I wrote my first short story about sixteen years ago and was overwhelmed when it won Writing Magazine’s Crime Short Story competition. This story has now become the basis for my latest novel The Good Teacher.
Ideas for scenes sometimes come to me when I’m swimming, but I don’t very often dream about my writing. I suppose planning is the most important to me. I’ll come up with an idea and need to plot it out to build it into something worthwhile. Sadly, I don’t have boundless imagination so I have to work at it.
The success of The Perfect Neighbours has been very special. I got a real buzz out of seeing it at WHSmith in Waterloo Station next to the Booker Prize winner. And it was lovely to get a bouquet of flowers from HarperCollins when it reached 100,000 sales. They are great to work with.
I’m working on the fourth draft of a serial killer thriller that features a new character, a forty-three year old detective inspector called Steph. I’m also gearing up for the promotional tour of The Roommates, a psychological thriller set in a university freshers’ week which comes out later this year.
Never give up. Despite beginner’s luck with my first story, it took me another fourteen years to improve my writing technique enough to attract an agent and a mainstream publisher. Just write, write and keep writing.
More about The Good Teacher by Rachel Sargeant
Even the good have to die.
A beloved teacher is murdered and left in a ditch beside a country lane. His wife is found beaten and gagged in their suburban home.
Even the best schools have secrets.
New detective Pippa Adams learns that the teacher ran a homework club for vulnerable pupils. But what did he really teach them?
Even the perfect family has something to hide.
When Pippa scratches the surface of the school community, she meets families who’ve learned a shattering lesson. And finally uncovers the good teacher’s darkest secrets…
Or for the rest of us via Amazon.com
Or HarperCollins website (various eBook formats):
Julie Ryan writes Romance with a Twist. Her three Greek Island mysteries reveal the darker side of those seductive getaways, and her latest contemporary romance Finding Rose links back to Tudor days and also the time of my own special interest — the Great War. Enjoyable and enthralling are some of the words readers use to describe Julie’s novels. Finding Rose is very high on my TBR list. You can see all of Julie’s books on her website.
Julie: Good question! I remember reading somewhere that Stephen King said something along the lines of … ‘if you receive a cheque for your writing and it pays the electricity bill and doesn’t bounce then you can consider yourself a writer’. Funnily enough, because I self-published my first book, I didn’t think of myself as a writer even when it did well. After it came out in paperback and I could physically hold a copy of my book, it all became a bit more real. Now, with five books behind me I still have to remind myself sometimes that I am a writer!
I start with a very rough plot and a couple of characters but by the end the finished product usually bears little resemblance to the original idea. I admire people who can plot out their book in every chapter but it’s not how I work. I quite like the idea that my book evolves as I write and I really have no idea how it’s going to end.
There are a couple of key moments that will always stand out for me. The first one was holding the print copy of my first book in my hands and realising that it now existed in another realm not just in my imagination. The second highlight was winning the Tim Poole Cup in 2018 with a poem I wrote.
I’m currently writing a script for our local amateur dramatic society. It’s a totally new departure for me and if they like it, I’m hoping it will be performed next year. That would be really awesome!
Sometimes the idea of wanting to create perfection can put people off writing. I would say just write and worry about editing it later. After all, you can’t edit a blank page.
I think I am already turning into Shirley Valentine. I saw that film five times when it first came out, as well as seeing the stage play. Not only did it provide inspiration for my first novel but I love the message of finding yourself. She’s also a really funny character but for me, any excuse to spend time in Greece is welcome.
How fabulous! Thank you so much for spending time with me on last Word of the Week.
Author Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/julieryanauthor
Author Central Account: http://www.amazon.com/Julie-Ryan/e/B00F0VYX34/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1
Julie’s Book links
Jenna’s Journey, the first in the Greek island trilogy is available here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jennas-Journey-Island-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B01GGOCKLK
Sophia’s Secret is the second book
Pandora’s Prophecy concludes the trilogy
Finding Rose Buy the book here