Saturday 29 September 2012

Question and Answer Session from Spooking paperback launch party

What was your inspiration? 
I actually can't remember. But the car in it, Binky, a blue Ford Fiesta, belonged to my son and then I bought it off him and allowed my daughter to use it. Some of the story takes place near Southampton, where I used to live, and some of it takes place at the University of Bangor, where I got my PhD.    

Did it take long to write? 
About nine months, including all of the editing I did before I sent it off. I try to write 2000 words a day.  Or deep edit 6000, or read through 10,000 or any combination of these. I usually work on more than one project at a time.    

Was there a particular reason to write it?
I wanted to start a new project whilst I was on Tenerife. The story had been flapping around at the back of my mind for some weeks. It also acted as a break between two volumes of my Peace Child trilogy.

When you were a student yourself did you ever imagine that one day you would be a published author and a lecturer?  
I always wanted to write but kept not getting round to it. My first degree was in modern languages, and I became a language teacher. I did everything I could in that profession. Then it was time to move on. So, I started writing - children's books and educational materials. I still like reading in other languages however. I kept the dream going even though at first I wasn't successful. I then had a chance to do a masters in Writing for Children.  The dream widened. I now wanted to be published and talk with authority about writing to university students. I wanted to be asked to do readings. Then I was published and started getting invited to talk to groups. I started a Ph D in Creative and Critical Writing. I was asked to teach some undergraduates. Then I got the Ph D and the post at the University of Salford.
It was always important to keep the vision alive.  Which is why I say IF you  really want to do it you can. But it is a big IF isn't it?  

Did you have a "What if?" question in your head when you wrote "Spooking?" and what was it? 
I guess I did. What would happen if.... a young man died in a car crash before he had really sorted things out with his girlfriend? So yes, the "what if" question is important. But some other things go on as well ...  

How do you determine how to end the story? Do you pretty much know the direction you'll take before you begin writing? 
I think I always know the beginning and the end of the story. But it can meander a little between those two points. Yes, and that beginning and end usually makes up the first statement of the query letter.
With Spooking also both the opening scene and the closing scene were pretty clear in my head ... and kind of similar!      

Do you plan all your story lines up front, or do you see where it takes you and add sub plots as you go? OR a mixture of the above?
Really a mixture, I guess. I do quite a bit of planning. Opening, complexities, crisis, climax, resolution. Then think about sub-plots. I also spend quite a bit of time on the characters and setting before I start. Often, though, mainly in my head - while I'm driving, cooking or walking. Many ideas actually come as I write.       

I'm interested that you were a language teacher. So was I. What age groups did you teach and how did this input on your book?
I taught mainly 11-16 though I have taught younger and older, and adults as well. I don't think languages come into this one that much BUT I wrote most of it on Tenerife and was speaking a lot of Spanish at the time. And yes, I have another ide for a book from that time there - it's in a queue behind two others. Some of the scenes in Spooking take place very close to a school where I used to teach. It's possible that both Tom and Amanda went to that school. Tom's French teacher's a bit useless and absolutley not based on anyone I know, though she does say something to her students that is similar to what one of our teachers used to say to some of us ....
BTW J K Rowling an I share a chemistry teacher ... who was the model for Snape.
People need to be careful around writers. We might put them in books!  Actually, though, I'd say that that can be quite dangerous.
Going back to languages: maybe my trademark is that I'll often sprinkle a few foreign words into what I'm writing.  Sometimes they're form a real language and sometimes they're made up.     

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