The Importance of Creating Headspace

The last twelve months have passed in a bit of whirlwind with house moves, job changes, and of course, the book. Before acquiring my publishing contract for The Theatre of Dreams my forays into social media were limited to a personal Facebook page and a low-key blog about being an ex-pat.  Then I had to up my game and reach out into the whole new world of marketing. If writing a book is Dr Jekyll, then I’ve discovered  marketing it is my Mr Hyde. And unfortunately one doesn’t come without the other.

I’ve heard it said before that writers can feel consumed by their book. It’s true. It does take over your life. That baby you created, loved and cherished can easily become a monster.  The path from pitch to publication is a rollercoaster. There are the highs – the contract, the launch, and the lows – what comes after. It’s been a whole  witch’s brew of new skills. You don’t just have to be creative, you have to be tenacious,  relentless and/or extremely well organised.

Sometimes you have to step away from a situation to see it more clearly. When Mr T and I lived overseas we made the most of our weekends. We set out with our guide books to soak-up the history and culture of our adopted homeland. We promised ourselves that once we settled back in the UK, we would attack our local area with the same sense of  vigour. It’s very easy to overlook what’s on your own doorstep. In the Netherlands we explored towns – the Dutch countryside can be somewhat samey. But here in the UK even within a short distance of home the landscape changes. We’ve spent several recent weekends setting out on walks and hikes all within a thirty-minute drive of our home.  Up on the downs or down on the coast, the scenery and the exercise has proved quite liberating. Not only have we discovered some amazing new places, but more importantly these walks have provided the opportunity to gather thoughts and clear some headspace.

 

I’m a total novice into the world of book promotion but even I have quickly come to the conclusion that checking Twitter to see how many people have liked a tweet is not good for the soul.    I can be quite witty when I want to be, but that wit isn’t always spontaneous. Blink and a tweet is gone – and with it another missed opportunity!  I can’t be glued to my phone all day.  I’m not a teenager and I have to rise above it (and I’d just like to add in here I’d hate to be a teenager today, or even the parent of a teenager. Nobody needs that pressure!). Yes I am disappointed that my Amazon ranking is heading downhill with the speed of an Olympic skier – but my book is just one of many millions out there. It’s very hard to stand out from the crowd. I have to put it in perspective. It’s important to look at what you have achieved as opposed to dwelling on the perception of what you haven’t.

So okay, although not a bestseller (it always helps to lower your expectations) The Theatre of Dreams  has accumulated several 5* reviews on Amazon.  People have enjoyed it, and that’s why I write. My Instagram account is growing. Twitter – the necessary evil – has to be dealt with.  However, I do now have an author platform that didn’t exist twelve months ago and I’ll admit, I should have put more emphasis on building up that following before publication as opposed to after. I blame it on my upbringing – I was always told modesty is a virtue, but in today’s flooded book market, it really isn’t!

I’ve had my moments of serious self-doubt, but headspace cleared, and a deep breath of Hampshire air  I feel ready to continue the challenge.  Thanks to my publisher, Crooked Cat, my second book, Your Secret’s Safe With Me will be out next year.  More news about the book will follow soon – so watch this space, or even better subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss any updates!

Back in the Book Corner

I’ve been a big fan of Joanne Harris for some time; she’s another one of those authors who bring on a bout of wistful writer’s envy. If only I could write like that….

When I’ve moved across continents my Joanne Harris collection of well-thumbed paperbacks has travelled with me, like old friends.  If I’m honest, I do prefer her earlier books to the more recent works with their sinister undertones, but that may be just because I am so familiar with the locations, characters and stories, or simply I’m an old romantic at heart.
Chocolate is one of my favourite books of all time. I heard Joanne speak at the Winchester Writers Conference several years ago and her tale of persistence in getting Chocolate published was inspirational. She stuck to her guns and wrote the book she wanted. As for the film, the least said about that the better. Despite a cast of Judi Dench, Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp and Alfred Molina, Hollywood didn’t do it justice.
I came across Different Class while on library duty – I’m going to have to give up volunteering soon because my reading pile is now reaching Mount Everest proportions.
Travelling with hand-baggage only over the last few years I’ve tended to read from my Kindle as opposed to buying physical books, and have used my time to investigate the competitive field of commercial women’s fiction, regularly downloading 99p offers in order to suss out the market. But now I have an entire library of hardbacks and paperbacks at my disposal, I can get stuck into the meatier stuff, and I’m making the most of the opportunity.
They do say the more you read the better writer you become, so that’s encouraging, but right now, my writing has definitely taken a back seat while I catch up on some heavyweight reading.
Different Class is another story about the goings on at St Oswalds, the private boys’ school which featured in Players and Gentlemen (which I am now going to have to go back and re-read). The plot twists and turns between events of the past and present.  As always Joanne paints her characters with the perfect blend of black humour, menace and mystery. A proper page turner.
What more can I say other than I’m jealous.

The Book Corner

I thought I would make a regular feature talking about some of my favourite books.
I volunteer at my local community library. I know there’s a bit of a fuss about community libraries. The argument is of course that shouldn’t all libraries be funded by the government as an essential service, and if volunteers step in to prevent local facilities like libraries being closed, then it only encourages the powers that be to think they can get away with more cuts.  What next, a community GP surgery? Rest assured I wouldn’t be volunteering at that…
Anyway, back to the library, the downside of which is discovering all those books I want to read as I tidy the shelves.
This is my current favourite – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. I read A God In Ruins last year and really enjoyed it so when I saw this on the shelf, I grabbed it. If only I could write like Kate…..

Life After Life tells the story, or several stories in fact, of Ursula Todd. It’s a clever and unique concept (why didn’t I think of that?) answering all those what if’s; Ursula dies at birth, but what if she didn’t? What if she fell off the roof when she was 8, but then what if she didn’t? How different would her life have been? I find it hard enough to keep one plot and timeline consistent, yet Kate cleverly weaves one ‘life’ into another, locking all the different story threads and characters together. It’s funny, it’s sad, and definitely has that un-put-downable quality, which is how I judge a book. Five stars from me.

And talking of five stars, one thing I have learned since I joined this whole writing malarkey is never to judge a book by its Amazon reviews! Is it just me or does anyone else ever get that feeling you’re reading a totally different book to the one everyone else has given a glowing review to?!