Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hero worship and a blog tour to Bangkok

Cally, thanks for coming all the way to Bangkok as part of your new book’s blog tour. Come and have a seat out on the balcony... It's almost cool enough at this time of year.

When I heard you’d got a publishing deal, it was a defining moment for me. It was one of those moments in my writing life that I’ll always remember. It wasn’t bitter envy as some might expect; it wasn’t even gentle jealousy. My reaction was pure joy for you at having your efforts rewarded. You’d worked hard, persevered, studied books, blogs, rewritten and rewritten and then rewritten some more. I recognised that I hadn’t come close to the effort you’d put in and it completely changed my attitude to my own work. If I wanted a chance at what you'd achieved, I realised then that I had to do the same kind of hard work that you’d done.

Right now, on with the questions:

How did you start writing? Or taking your writing more seriously? Was there ever a defining moment for you?

I started writing 'books' when I was eight. I know that sounds really cliched but I loved reading as a child and Enid Blyton really inspired me - particularly "The Magic Faraway Tree" stories (I still love them).

As I grew older I continued to write on and off (mostly off), until 2003 when I joined a year-long creative writing evening class and found myself writing every week. The moment I decided to take writing more seriously was when my tutor handed my final assignment back to me and said, "You're a great writer, Cally." No one had ever said that to me before and it gave me the confidence to start sending my short stories out to magazines and competitions.

My second defining moment (I am allowed two aren't I?) was when I was awarded the Runner-up prize in the Woman's Own short story competition in 2006. I didn't think people like me (without a journalism/creative writing degree or contacts in the publishing industry) stood a chance in national competitions so it was a huge surprise. When my story was printed in the magazine a couple of months later I started to believe that maybe, just maybe, I could get a novel published one day.

At the risk of sounded like some sort of demented hero worshipper… you’ve got a full time job too. How do you manage it all?

With difficulty! I stay up very late (something my
Facebook friends will be aware of!) and I put a lot of hours in on the weekend too. I set myself a rough schedule - a certain number of words a week for example - and try and balance that with having a social life. When I sit down to work I try and do as many words as possible. That way, if I write double the amount I'd planned, I free up a day! Sometimes it works, sometimes life gets in the way.

You cut your teeth on the short story, but a novel’s not like a shortie. When times got tough during the writing of ‘Heaven Can Wait,’ what did you do? How did you find the impetus to carry on?

Not a lot of people know this but I've got two unfinished novels under my bed. When I started writing 'Heaven Can Wait' I was determined to actually finish a novel this time. It's bloody hard to write a novel and not many people manage it. I was determined to be one of the people that did.

Whenever I got stuck or blocked or hated every word I was writing I'd force myself to continue - telling myself that no one other than me was ever going to read it so it didn't matter if it was rubbish. That attitude really helped! Whenever I got stuck or blocked or hated every word I was writing I'd force myself to continue - telling myself that no one other than me was ever going to read it so it didn't matter if it was rubbish. That attitude really helped!

Once you’d done all that rewriting and rewriting, did you get feedback from anywhere or anyone once you’d finished?

did! The lovely Sally Quilford and the artist formerly known as A.Writer read my synopsis! I also posted the first five chapters in the Women's Fiction group on The feedback was terrifically helpful, particularly Sally's ruthless chopping of my lengthy synopsis!

Finally, how different is the experience of writing your second book?

Nggghhnnh! That's the sound of an author struggling with her second novel! The motivation to write my second novel isn't the same as the first. I've also structured it very differently. Neither of which make the process any easier! I'm also feeling a lot more pressure - mostly internal. It's fantastic when people say wonderful things about your first novel but it does make you worry that you'll never write anything as good. I've definitely written a very different novel this time but I'll have to wait until after 1st December - when I deliver it to my editor - to find out if it's worked. THAT'S scary!

Well, I've heard that Heaven Can Wait is flying off the shelves, so I have no doubts that your second book will be just as good.

Thanks so much for coming all the way to Tea Stains for your interview. While you're here, stay on the balcony and enjoy the warmth for a bit.


Debs said...

Great interview.

I especially needed to read the bit (paraphrased) where Cally states, when she hated every word she'd force herself to keep going, telling herself that no one other than her was going to read it so it didn't matter if it was rubbish.

Many thanks.

JJ Beattie said...

Debs, yes, it's definitely worth remembering that. No words? Nothing to edit. Rubbish words? Can edit THEM.

liz fenwick said...

JJ, I felt exactly the same about Cally getting published - sheer joy that her hard work had paid off.

Now I can't wait to get my hands on a copy!!!!


Fia said...

I agree with Debs. It's wonderful to know that someone else forces themself to writing even when the words don't please you.

B said...

Yep - Cally worked SO hard that I don't think anyone could begrudge her her success :)

And I also need to be inspired by her work ethic! It always amazes me how much Cally packs into life :) I think she's discovered the secret of packing 26 hours into every day ;)

SpiralSkies said...

It's just all so inspiring, isn't it?

I smile every time I see her novel, whether my own copy or comments around the internets. She totally deserves it. And me? Must clearly try harder. It's the only way.

RKCharron said...

Hi :)
Thank you for having Cally here today & thank you Cally for sharing.
I found this interview informative & inspiring.
Thanks again,

Colette said...

Great questions and answers. Thanks for being part of the virtual tour. I don't know about anyone else but I'm loving it.

Karen said...

Finishing the novel is definitely the thing - rubbish or not, it can at least be improved! Great answers :o))

HelenMHunt said...

Really inspirational stuff.

JJ Beattie said...

Liz, me too. I'm going to see if I can find it in Maidstone tomorrow.

Fia, we've just got to write, haven't we?

B, I wonder how she's done that? THAT'S what I should have asked her!

Spiral, you seem to work pretty hard m'dear!

RKC, thank you, and welcome.

Colette, thank you. It's great isn't it? I've loved being involved and look forward to following Cally around the net.

Karen, yes. Such an acheivement. I can't wait to finish!

Helen, she is, isn't she?

Lily Sheehan said...

I've had to tell myself to keep going no matter how down on my writing I get sometimes. Its inspiring to know that great work can be produced from someone who has thought the same way at one point or another. A testament to your hard work Cally! Thanks for the great Q&A JJ and Cally :)

Lane said...

Great interview and very inspiring.