Saturday, 27 February 2010

Jo interviews Rosalie Warren

Today I am very happy to welcome Coventry based author Rosalie Warren.

Rosalie's novel Charity's Child was published by Circaidy Gregory Press in 2008. She followed this with Low Tide, Lunan Bay, published in 2009 by Robert Hale.

With her next novel, Rosalie aims to attract younger readers...

So, Rosalie, would you like to share your news about the progress of your latest book?

Hello Jo, and thank you very much for inviting me onto your blog. I'm delighted to say that my first book for children, Coping with Chloe, has just been accepted for publication by Phoenix Yard Books, and should appear sometime early in 2011. It's aimed at age 11+ and will probably appeal mostly to girls, though there's no reason boys shouldn't read it too.
Is it possible to describe the feeling of having a novel accepted for publication?

No! Oh, hang on, I'm meant to be a writer, so I'd better try. All I can do is compare it to (a) getting my first swimming award - aged 10, (b) passing my driving test - aged 23, (c) discovering I was pregnant - aged 24. No, it's not quite as good as having a baby. Not quite...

I understand that with all three novels you have dealt directly with publishers rather than through an agent. How have you found that?

I've found it very straightforward. I met my first publisher (Kay Green of Circaidy Gregory Press) through having a short story shortlisted in a competition she ran. So, I already knew and trusted her, and she was wonderful to work with. When my second novel was accepted by Robert Hale I took advice from the Society of Authors regarding my contract. Hale were very good to work with too. And now, with my children's book, I again approached the Society of Authors for help in negotiating my contract. I've every confidence that, once again, I've found a great editor to work with. An agent would be good at some stage, but I'm in no great rush at the moment. I'd rather wait and find one who is exactly right for me, and who understands my need to write lots of different kinds of books.

How much time do you tend to spend working out the plot of a novel before you start the actual writing?

Very little. Usually the main character comes first, with a hint of the situation they are in. I scribble and doodle like mad, trying to get to know and understand them. Other characters emerge and I let them talk to each other, write emails to each other etc. Sometimes my characters even write poems (sadly their poems are not much better than mine!). This gradually merges into starting the story, which is always longhand at this stage. The first draft is my way of finding out what happens. If it's going well, I can't stop - it feels like reading and I can't wait to find out what happens next. It's not always as easy as that, of course. Sometimes I get stuck and it's painful to squeeze out my 1,000 words a day (that's the minimum I set myself to write). When the first draft is done, I rest it for a month or so, then I read it through and try to extract the plot. I write a long synopsis, then base my second draft on that. My books go through at least 4 drafts before they are ready for submission.

Do you dream in colour, and has your writing ever been influenced by a dream?

I think I dream in colour... yes, I do. When I'm working on something new, I try to start writing early in the morning, before I'm properly awake. That way, my dreams are still accessible. The end of my first novel, Charity's Child, was decided by a dream. My editor wasn't keen on the original ending. I could see she was right, but I didn't know how to change it. I struggled for several days, then went to sleep one night, still thinking. The dream I had wasn't exactly about my book - it was predominantly an intense feeling - but as soon as I woke I knew it was the state of mind my character had to have at the end of the book. So I rewrote the end to go with that - and it worked. Or at least, my editor was happy and so was I.

What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

I love the sea and spend time beside it (or in it) whenever I can. I like swimming, reading, messing about in the garden, cooking things, eating things... going to the theatre and spending time with my partner and my (grown-up) kids.

If you ever appear on Desert Island Discs, which book will you choose and why?

That's a really difficult one. It would need to be a long book because I read very quickly. And one that would bear reading over and over again. Perhaps an inspiring biography. Or maybe I can have a complete works? I know, I'll read Homer's Iliad - about time I did.

Is there any advice you would give to newer writers?

(a) Don't become a writer unless you absolutely love writing. If you don't, it's a terrible way to live. If you're meant to be a writer, you'll know it - possibly from a very early age. In that case, go with it - you'll be unhappy if you don't. But don't expect anything from it beyond the thrill of making up people and stories (and, if you're lucky, seeing other people enjoy them).

(b) Read lots. Write lots. Rewrite lots. Don't give up. Get used to disappointments - I get the impression they never stop.

(c) Find a way to turn off you inner editor/censor/monitor - whatever you want to call it. While you write your early drafts, that is. You'll need to turn it back on later.

(d) Write what you would most like to read. Ignore trends, unless they coincide with what you want to do.

(e) Find ways to console yourself (for rejections, days when you're stuck, poor sales figures, etc) that don't involve consuming zillions of calories. (If you discover any, please let me know...)

(f) Ignore advice from older writers - unless it clicks and you know it's for you.

What's next in your writing life, Rosalie?

I've just finished a novel for adults. It's short, more of a novella, so finding a publisher may be a challenge. I've no regrets - it was a book I had to write. I've another novel for age 11+, which needs further work. I'm also writing a fantasy/SF novel for slightly older readers. I have ideas for a series for 7-9 year olds, and two further novels for adults, one of which may be a sequel to Charity's Child. I want to write across as many genres and age-groups as I can - the ones that interest me, anyway. Perhaps eventually I'll settle down and stick to books of a certain kind, but in a way I hope not. I'd quite like to have a go at scriptwriting, too.

Well, thank you Rosalie for being my first guest on Zigzag Road. I'd like to wish you every success with Coping with Chloe, and with all your other future projects.

Thank you - I really enjoyed it.

For more about Rosalie and her work, please see her website.


Antonia Woodville said...

fascinating insight, Rosalie has been honest about her aspirations and her determination, which is good, and something all writers need to succeed. Thanks very much for the interview, Joanne and Rosalie for being such a good interviewee.

Suzanne Ross Jones said...

Great interview.

Teresa Ashby said...

Very interesting post - I love the advice to newer writers! Great questions Joanne and great answers Rosalie.

joanne fox said...

Thanks for your lovely comments. I learnt so much myself from interviewing Rosalie. It's interesting to hear how other writers work isn't it.

Clare said...

It's always nice to get an insider's perspective, especially when you've read and enjoyed their books.
I'm intrigued as to why Rosalie thinks new writers should ignore advice from older writers? (Maybe it's my senility setting in?!)
Thanks Jo and Rosalie for an interesting post.

Joanna said...

Hello Joanne, I'm really pleased to have discovered your blog.

I loved this interview with its excellent advice. It is such a benefit to see into the mind of writers, each with their own unique perspective. Many thanks!

joanne fox said...

Great to see you here Joanna.

Clare, I'm sure senility doesn't apply! Obviously I can't speak for Rosalie, but personally I believe we all have to figure out what works best for us as individuals. Also, we shouldn't be afraid to do our own thing in our own way. As Joanna says, we're all unique. Some writers will say something that immediately rings true for us, while others may seem on a very different planet.

In the story I'm currently working on I'm trying out Rosalie's technique of having my 2 main characters email each other, purely as a way for me to get to understand them better. It's really helpful. Thanks for the tip Rosalie.

Rosalie Warren said...

Hi Joanne and thanks again for interviewing me. Yes, my comment about not taking advice from older writers was a bit tongue-in-cheek - and by older I mean more experienced rather than any reference to senility :) I was really just trying to say: Don't take advice unless it really clicks with you...

Will be following your blog with interest, Jo.