Nikki Crutchley writes chilling mysteries about Auckland’s underworld. I’m very interested to find out more about Nikki and her writing processes across the Ditch in New Zealand.
LWOTW: Welcome, Nikki! Tell us, when did you write your first story?
Nikki: I remember when I was nine or ten I had started reading the Anne of Green Gables series of books. I l oved them and it was this series that made me want to become a writer. I remember writing a ‘story’ called ‘Jane’s Dream’s’. It must’ve taken up at least four of my school books! I wrote every chance I got. I was constantly bugging my teacher to mark it – I thought I’d done an amazing job!
I’m sure you did! What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
Where would any writer be without dreams and imagination? For me, my books start from a small seed. I don’t write a lot down in the beginning. I just let the ideas sit for a while. So a lot of my down time is put into day dreaming about new ideas for books. I am also a big planner. I like to know where my story is going. I don’t always have an ending worked out – or if I do it usually changes – but I do like to know what’s going to happen with the plot and my main characters.
What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
I probably have two. The first was my debut novel, Nothing Bad Happens Here, being a finalist in the Ngaio Marsh Award for best first novel (New Zealand’s crime writing awards). Being a self-published author, this was a big deal for me. And the second would be getting an agent (the wonderful High Spot Literary) a few months ago. Already my manuscripts have been read by publishers that wouldn’t have looked at me otherwise.
What are you most busy with at the moment?
I’m working on my third book, The Murder Club, which is a follow up to my debut, Nothing Bad Happens Here. There’s quite a lot of procrastinating going on at the moment!
If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
There will be rejection and people telling you you’re no good or can’t do it. Ignore them. If this is what you want to do – keep at it!
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Writer, reader, paralegal, knitter, and dog lover! Kellie Butler, today’s guest on Last Word of the Week, is my kind of author. Kellie’s historical novels in her series, The Laurelhurst Chronicles, are perfectly imagined and constructed stories dealing with love, passion, crime, and murder. The Laurelhurst Chronicles are Anglo-American stories set in the 1940s.
LWOTW: Welcome, Kellie! Thanks for being here. Tell me, when did you write your first story?
Kellie: I started writing when I was in high school. I was in a creative writing club, and I wrote for my student newspaper.
Good for you – great way to start. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
Some of my dreams make excellent fodder for scenes or stories. If I can remember them the next day, I will jot them down. I’ve always had a vivid imagination since I was a child, so I guess it’s a good thing that I’ve been able to turn it into a career. Planning. Hmmm. Since I write a series, planning is crucial for it all to make sense and for me to keep my deadlines on track. I give myself small manageable goals along the way to not feel overwhelmed. A dream without planning and execution won’t happen.
Excellent points, thanks Kellie. So, what’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Oh gosh. My first book received a five-star review from another historical novelist who I admire immensely. I was jumping up and down the day I received it. I also just had my first author chat and book signing this year.
Exciting times, then. Congratulations on the 5 stars, that is wonderful. What are you most busy with at the moment?
I’m writing the first draft for the third novel (working title The Broken Tree) in my Laurelhurst Chronicles series.
I hope we see it very soon. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Believe in yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from other writers. This process is a learning curve, and we all must start somewhere.
That’s great advice, thanks Kellie. One of the best things about this Last Word blog is hearing from other authors about their tips and processes. Finally, what’s your favorite colour?
Robin egg blue. It reminds me of spring.
Thank you so much for having me. 😊
An absolute pleasure, Kellie! Thank you so much for sharing.
Deborah Sheldon leans to the darker side. Although she too is a Melbourne-based author and a member of Writers Victoria, I met Deborah for the first time last year when she had Something to Say. Deborah’s novel Contrition was published late last year, and her new novel is about to be released.
Welcome to LWOTW, Deborah! Tell us, when did you write your first story?
I’ve been a professional writer since 1986 when I sold a feature article on steroid abuse to an Australian bodybuilding magazine. The first short story I ever wrote, “300 Degree Days”, was published by Quadrant magazine in 2005. I began switching my attention from non-fiction to fiction in 2007.
My fiction has always leaned towards the darker side, but I’ve been writing horror ever since Midnight Echo published my first horror story “Perfect Little Stitches” in 2015. I’m indulging myself in the various subgenres and having a blast.
What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
Dreams don’t often motivate me but when they do, it’s a punch to the face. My novelette “The Again-Walkers”, inspired by my interest in ninth-century Danish mythology and included in my collection Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories, began its life as a terrible dream. The nightmare woke me in a literal sweat, unable to return to sleep. In the dark, even as my heart raced, I thought: damn, that nightmare would make one hell of a climax to a story. And yes, I believe it did!
I plan everything I write but not meticulously. As soon as I envisage the premise, my imagination runs straight to the ending. With a finale in mind, I decide on the story’s length whether it be flash fiction, short story, novella or novel, as each form requires a drastically different approach from the get-go. My outlining is sparse. As an example, I’ll block out 24 points (with a sentence or two per point) for a 24-chapter novel. The outline prevents me from meandering in pointless circles as I write.
Imagination is critical. Premises, plots and characters are always noodling around in my thoughts. I keep a work diary, jotter pads and stacks of post-it notes on my desk.
What’s the highlight of your career so far?
As far as fiction is concerned, in June 2018, winning the Australian Shadows Award “Best Collected Work 2017” for Perfect Little Stitches and Other Stories. The collection getting long-listed for a Bram Stoker Award would come a very close second!
That said, every acceptance letter is a highlight. I celebrate a story getting published, a new contract with a publisher, a great review. My noir-horror novel Contrition was released in September 2018, which was another career highlight. (My favourite way to celebrate a book release is a restaurant meal with my husband and son, and plenty of chardonnay.)
About mid-year, I have a dark fiction collection coming out, and I’m looking forward to that very much.
That chardy sounds like a good plan! What are you most busy with at the moment?
During 2016 and 2017, I wrote two long-form titles back to back: the novel Contrition (IFWG Publishing Australia) and the bio-horror novella Thylacines (Severed Press). To help my brain to “decompress” and revitalise, I wrote short stories throughout most of 2018. The intensity of such a condensed and challenging medium always gives me an endorphin high.
Right now, I’m about halfway through a novel in a horror subgenre I’ve never attempted before, and loving every minute of it.
I’ll be interested to see what develops next! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Prepare yourself to commit to a lifelong endeavour. This is a joyful thing! Like Hemingway said, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” If you keep his words in mind and your ego in check, you will improve with every story you write.
And the last word of the week: What’s your favourite colour?
Lachlan Walter, writer, science-fiction critic and nursery-hand (the garden kind, not the baby kind) is today’s guest on Last Word of the Week. Lachlan’s Australian post-apocalyptic novel is called The Rain Never Cameand his next book will be the Kaiju story-cycle We Call It Monster. Lachlan also writes science fiction criticism for Aurealismagazine and reviews for the independent ‘weird music’ website Cyclic Defrost. Lachlan’s short fiction can be found floating around online, and he has completed a PhD that explored the relationship between Australian post-apocalyptic fiction and Australian notions of national identity.
LWOTW: Welcome, Lachlan! Tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer.
Lachlan: To me, the distinction between wanting to be a writer and actually being a writer is psychological more than anything else. Being a writer means accepting the fact that you don’t have to write a blockbuster (and probably won’t) or churn out a book a year, but instead have to put in the work and make the sacrifices needed. Lots of people who want to be writers seem to see it as some kind of glamorous calling that doesn’t actually involve any real work, whereas the truth is that it’s often a slog involving persistence and tenacity, in which a thick skin is utterly invaluable. To touch on an old chestnut: writing is about perspiration, not inspiration.
In my case, I realised that I was actually a writer when found myself unable to step away from my work-in-progress of the time. I was putting in ten and twelve-hour days, turning a simple idea into a novel (and neglecting my oh-so-forgiving family and friends), and waking up each morning dead-keen to do it all over again. There were good days and bad days, but the important thing was that they were all writing days, and ever-so-slowly my first book was coming together. By the time I’d completed the first draft, this had become a routine – wake up, have breakfast, clean up, start writing – and was the equivalent of punching a clock or reporting for duty. And thus, I considered myself a writer.
Of course, it helps to have your work affirmed through publication, positive feedback, in-depth reviews and sales, but they aren’t strictly necessary. What matters is your work ethic, getting on with the job and creating a body of work that you can be proud of.
That’s an interesting analysis, thank you. For your writing, do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?
I don’t think I’ve ever had a dream that resulted in a good piece of writing, so let’s scratch that off the list, which leaves imagination and planning. Both are important, but planning is a skill that can be refined whereas imagination is intuitive, inspiring and seems to strike like the metaphorical lightning bolt. An example: I had the idea for my first book long before I put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, which is more accurate though less poetic), but when I started writing it – and consequently started planning it – I really had no idea what I was doing. It wasn’t until a fellow writer gently pointed out that my plan was a bit long – three books long, by their estimate – that I realised how much I had to learn about this underappreciated skill.
In other words, I rely more on my imagination than anything else, but it’s the planning that really matters.
That sounds like a good balance of imagination and organsation. So what’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
This would have to be a tie between having my first book accepted for publication, and having my second book accepted.
Having your first book accepted is an incredible feeling, as all authors would know – it’s a validation of your hard work, and confirmation that the idea behind it and the writing within it is solid and of a high quality. Everyone’s first book is a labour of love, something that’s been happily sweated over, something that contains a little bit of your heart and soul, and mine was no different. As mentioned, I had the idea for it long before I put pen to paper, and nurtured this idea like an obsessed gardener growing the fussiest plants from seed.
But once your first book has been published you realise that if you want to be a writer, you have to do it all over again from the beginning. This can be a struggle because you carry within you an expectation that your second book has to happen sooner rather than later, and you have to conceive it and work at it quickly and diligently, whereas the ideas and writing of your first book just seemed to come naturally and at its own pace. However, once it’s completed to your satisfaction, having it accepted for publication somehow proves that you’ve got what it takes to keep on writing.
That letter (or email) acceptance is such a joy, isn’t it? What are you most looking forward to at the moment?
Finishing my third book, so that I can then get onto the next and the next after that and so on. I’m like most writers – I have more ideas than I do time to write them, and I just can’t wait to get them down and bring them to life.
Oh, yes, that’s the problem. Not where we get our ideas from but how to herd them! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Write, write and write some more – you can always be better, and the only way to achieve this is through dedication and work. And remember that not every piece of writing has to be a book: short stories, articles, reviews, blogs, criticism, they all help hone your talent.
And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?
The Doctor, without a doubt. He/she possesses everything that one would want in life, and that makes a good person: kindness, intelligence, inquisitiveness, childlike wonder, loyalty, a circle of loving friends who are loved in return, and a dedication to pacifism that only falters when absolutely necessary.
I thought you had a bit of a Tom Baker look about you! Thanks for speaking with me, Lachlan, and more power to your writing.
Louise Walters, the imaginative powerhouse behind Louise Walters Books (open for submissions!), is today’s guest. Louise Walters Books is a small indie publisher focussing on high quality output in adult and YA fiction in all genres. Louise is a first reader, and also a writer, and now editor and publisher.
LWOTW: Welcome Louise! So, when did you write your first story?
Louise: When I was ten years old. It was about a family of three children who spend the summer holidays with their cousin in her big rambling house in the country. It was full of adventures, and very episodic. I still have it!
That sounds like a perfect read for a holiday. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
What do I think of them? All three are important for writing. I day dream about my characters. I imagine conversations with them. I plan, to a degree; more with screenplays, less with novels.
That’s a few interesting conversations you must have. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
I’ve had some amazing experiences since I found my agent for my first novel, Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase, back in 2012. My debut being published was really something, a dream come true.
Long live such dreams, eh? What are you most busy with at the moment?
I am now a small indie publisher as well as a writer, and working on my authors’ novels keeps me very busy! I’ve been fortunate to find some wonderfully talented writers and I can’t wait to share their work with readers. Fallible Justice by Laura Laakso is the first book published by Louise Walters Books.
That’s marvellous – more power to you! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Don’t aspire. Write. Rid yourself of romantic notions of “being a writer”. Writers write, that’s all there is to it!
That’s great advice! And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Blessed with a wildly overactive imagination, English author Jeannie Wycherley is chatting with me today. Jeannie lives in Devon with her husband and the fur-kids, three beloved dogs who are spoilt rotten (something I totally understand). Jeannie writes stories that are dark, suspenseful, horror-filled … and sometimes just plain weird in a wonderful kind of way.
LWOTW: It’s so lovely to meet you, Jeannie! Tell us, when did you write your first story?
Jeannie: I suppose like most writers I began in school. I loved writing, but you know what careers officers are like. They put me off. Instead I followed an academic path – right through to a PhD in history (which I loved doing, don’t get me wrong) – and worked in education for a long time. I ended up burnt out, on anti-depressants and receiving counselling for my struggle with work. Turned out I was just doing the wrong job and needed something more creative.
I started to write again in my early-forties and fell in love with it. It’s a rare day indeed where I don’t now do something related to my writing. My first success was an erotic story entered into a competition. I forget what it was called but it won. I was hooked!
Thanks, Jeannie, that really is a marvellous story and a bit of a reminder to those of us who have put off writing to do something more mainstream! What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
Where would we be without any of those things? For as long as I can remember I have lived inside my imagination, a rich and colourful tapestry of weirdness for sure. I dwell there, with the characters I meet in other people’s work and the ones I conjure up myself. On long journeys I settle down for a good day-dream and put those characters in my head to work in different situations. My mind is a magical place, preferable to day-to-day reality sometimes!
Dreams are extremely important on a number of levels. I have my own dreams, as in my ambitions, driving me forward as a writer. I would love more people to delve into my stories. I’m sure there’s something for everyone. My ultimate dream is to write full time and support myself and my husband through sales, but at the moment it’s a balancing act.
I use my own nocturnal dreams as a starting point for stories. I recently wrote a love story (my first one as I usually write dark fantasy and horror) that came straight out of a dream. I awoke having experienced this coherent exploration of my feelings towards growing older, and feeling regret about things I miss from my younger years – a youthful body, the excitement of music and life and dancing, the first flush of true love etc. I really badly needed to write this up, and it became Keepers of the Flame. It’s a story I’m proud of, although a huge step away from what I normally write.
As for planning, well … I am a planner, and all my work is plotted. I find it makes writing easier, although there is room for manoeuvre within the story if things strike me of course. Sometimes characters – and events – can take me completely by surprise. I love it when that happens.
Yes, that’s brilliant, isn’t it? What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
At the time of writing, the highlight is probably the publication of my debut novel Crone (2017). Sometimes I flip through my own copy and I think, ‘Did I really write that?’ Hahaha! It’s won a few awards that I’m proud of. A Chill with a Book Readers’ Award, and an Indie B.R.A.G Medallion.
But by the time this piece goes out, it will definitely be TheMunicipality of Lost Souls. The characters and the setting have me totally hooked and I can’t wait to unleash it. It’s a Victorian Gothic ghost story set where I live on the East Devon (UK) coast – think Jamaica Inn meets TheWalking Dead but with ghosts rather than zombies. It’s special and due out in Spring 2019.
Jamaica Inn meets The Walking Dead? Now I’m scared! Congrats on the new publications too. What are you most busy with at the moment?
I am hugely busy! I’ve just launched a new series called The Wonky Inn Books. The first novel, The Wonkiest Witch launched on Halloween, along with the Christmas special, The Witch Who Killed Christmas. These are designed to be lighter than my normal fare – they are clean and cozy witch mysteries.
I’m having such fun putting this series together! Book 2, The Ghosts of Wonky Inn and Book 3, Weird Wedding at Wonky Inn are both written and will be out before the end of the year, with two more to follow in 2019.
I’m currently writing Book 4 and plotting Book 5. At any one time I seem to have a book being edited, one being formatted, one plotting, one being written and one in marketing. There’s nowhere near enough hours in the day!
That sounds intriguing. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Bum on seat. End of.
Oh yes!And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
My inspiration is drawn from the landscape, and I am so lucky to live where I do, where the forest meets the sea. My favourite colour is green.
Today we are speaking with English author Anne Coates, who writes crime thrillers featuring protagonist Hannah Weybridge, a single mother and freelance journalist who lives in South East London – three characteristics she shares with her creator. However Anne insists that the similarity ends there and that gripping fiction takes over in the novels…
LWOTW: Hello, Anne, lovely to meet you. Can you tell us when you wrote your first story?
Anne: I remember writing a poem when I was six or seven about a bumble bee and later, like many teens, carried on writing poetry before I moved on to short stories. The first one I had published was a “confession” story for a magazine I worked on. It was wonderful at the time but it took a few years before I had another story published.
A confession! That sounds interesting. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
Dreams are central to my writing life. I often think about my characters or the plot before I go to sleep which sometimes results in horrific nightmares as I write crime thrillers! However, my dreams often offer solutions and plot twists. I’m useless at planning in the early stages and like to let my imagination take over and go where it will. Once the first draft is complete I construct timelines and have a card for each chapter and character but even then I go with the imaginative flow.
That sounds like the best of both worlds – planning and pantsing. And it obviously brings about great results! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Being published is a huge buzz but nothing beats having people enjoy my books. It’s such a joy than being at a non-book event when someone says how much they enjoyed a Hannah Weybridge book. Most recently it happened to me at Tessa Jowell’s Memorial Service!
That’s totally awesome, good on you. What a great feeling. Tell us, what are you most busy with at the moment?
I’m writing the fourth in the Hannah Weybridge series. Plus on the back burner I’ve been toying with a stand-alone which is very different.
I suspect that like many writers, you have quite a number of back burners, Anne. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Read widely – not just your own genre – and write, write, write until you find your own voice. Then write some more.
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
That depends on my mood! Often yellow and red but never orange.
Very interesting! Thank you so much Anne for spending time with us on last Word of the Week.
Today we’re speaking with Tom Williams, English author of Napoleonic-era derring-do novels who can also dance a mean tango. We like the cut of his jib.
LWOTW: Welcome, Tom. Tell us, when did you write your first story?
I won a short story competition when I was 11. I presumably wrote something before that, but I can’t remember.
LWOTW: Congrats on the early success! What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
You need all three.
LWOTW: I totally agree. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
‘The White Rajah’ was briefly #2 in Amazon.uk’s list for biographical fiction. I felt pretty good about that.
LWOTW: What are you most busy with at the moment?
This minute I’m replying to a questionnaire. After that I’ll probably do some more research on Napoleon.
LWOTW: Very good idea! Now, if you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
You’ll be permanently broke, constantly failing to get any real work done and cursing your failure to make #1 in the biographical fiction charts. But if you really have what it takes to be a writer, you’ll ignore me and write anyway.
That is wonderful advice!
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Today I’m chatting with Karen King, who started her writing career writing for Jackie magazine (a British magazine for teenage girls), and children’s comics such as Postman Pat and Winnie the Pooh. Karen is a multi-published author of children’s books and romantic fiction. She has published 120 children’s books, two young adult novels, five romantic novels and several short stories for women’s magazines. Karen signed up with Bookouture (the hottest digital publisher around) earlier this year for two romantic novels. The first one, Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel, will be available on 9 November.
LWOTW: Welcome, Karen, it’s great to have you here. Tell us, when did you write your first story?
Karen: I can’t remember. I’ve written stories ever since I was a child and had a poem published when I was about ten. My first published story was in Jackie magazine back in the early eighties.
A lifelong writer, then. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
I think ideas for stories come in many different ways and often a dream can be the catalyst then imagination takes it further and planning knocks it into shape.
A very neat summary. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Being asked to open a library at a local school when I lived in Worcester and discovering that they’d actually written my name on a plaque on the wall. I was so touched and honoured.
That really is a highlight! What are you most busy with at the moment?
I had a two-book contract with Bookouture earlier this year and my first book, Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel, is out on 9th November so I’ve been busy doing edits for it. I’ve also just finished writing the second book (I can’t divulge the title of that yet) so no doubt will have edits for that soon.
That’s a lovely sort of busy. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Don’t think too much when you are writing your story. Get the story out of your head and down onto the screen/paper. Then you can think what works and what doesn’t, what you can improve, tweak, rewrite. The story comes first.
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Thank you so much, Karen, for joining us for the Last Word of the Week.
Today I’m thrilled to interview Paula Martin, a British author whose contemporary romances have great characters, intrigue, mystery, and fabulous settings such as Connemara in Ireland. That’s one of my favourite places in the whole world. I’m interested to hear about Paula’s writing journey.
LWOTW: Welcome, Paula, good to meet you. When did you write your first story?
Paula: Probably when I was about seven or eight. I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember (including cheesy romances for my friends to read when I was in my teens). In 1968, when I was in my twenties, I had my first acceptance of a short story by a magazine, and my first novel was also accepted and published by the first publisher I submitted it to. How lucky was that?
LWOTW: I think luck was only a small factor!But it is the stuff of dreams, I agree. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
We all need dreams, in some form or another, but we also have to accept that not all our dreams will come true – like reaching the #1 spot in the Amazon rankings, for example, which is probably my ‘wildest’ dream!
Imagination, however, is boundless, and can take us wherever we want to go. My imagination takes me on an emotional journey with all my characters, who become as real to me as any real-life friends. I can also re-visit some of my favourite places in my imagination while I write my stories, such as London’s West End theatre world, the English Lake District, Paris, New York, Egypt, and Ireland.
As for planning, this is where I am a contradiction. In real life, I tend to plan everything beforehand; in my writing, I am a basically a pantser. I have a vague idea about where my story is (or should be) going, but my characters take over and tell me their story.
LWOTW: That’s an interesting refelction on your writing processes. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
I can’t pinpoint any one highlight, as there have been so many. Obviously my very first acceptance by a ‘big’ publisher (Mills and Boon), when I was in my twenties, was one of them. Equally, after a long non-writing period, an acceptance by a publisher in 2010, restored my faith in myself as a writer.
Since then, and ten books later, there have been so many different highlights. Knowing people are buying and enjoying my books is wonderful, and a good review can make my day. Another highlight has been making some wonderful writing friends, both online and in ‘real life’.
LWOTW: What are you most busy with at the moment?
I’m busy promoting my ‘Mist Na Mara’ series. The first four books were originally published between 2014 and 2017, and sold steadily during those years. However, my publisher closed in the middle of 2017, and the books were offline for several months before being republished, so I lost the momentum of sales, and am now trying to promote them again. The fifth book in the series was published earlier this year.
All the books in the series are stand alone novels, with different heroes and heroines, but are linked by their setting at my imaginary Mist Na Mara House in the beautiful Connemara area in the west of Ireland. I didn’t set out to write a series, but somehow, one thing led to another!
At the same time, I’m writing the sixth in the series (as yet untitled), which is a reunion story following the acrimonious break-up several years earlier between the main characters.
LWOTW: You certainly have a lot on your plate. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Never say ‘That’ll do.’ Never be satisfied with less than your best, and keep trying to improve on your best.
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Blue, the colour of the sky and the sea.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me, Paula!