I am so pleased to welcome Choc Lit author, Christine Stovell, onto the blog to tell us all her writing secrets today.
1) Your new novel, Follow a Star has just been published. How do you feel?
Thrilled and fortunate! I feel as if my dream’s come true for a third time and I’m grateful to everyone at Choc Lit for making it possible.
2) Can you give me a one line pitch for Follow A Star, so my readers can get a feel for the story?
Jaunty romance with darker undercurrents
3) What made you set this novel at sea?
Like my debut novel, Turning the Tide it draws heavily on the days when I was a sailing ingénue who happened to fall deeply in love with a keen sailor. Sailing’s given me so many unique experiences, from shaking with fear in huge seas off Land’s End to watching basking sharks in flat calm seas, being accompanied by a pod of dolphins playing in the bow waves or seeing puffins skittering across the water. I’ve been challenged and inspired by every moment I’ve spent at sea, so I hope even those of you who think you don’t like boats might find something to enjoy.
With each book, do you find the writing process gets easier?
Only in the sense that it’s more familiar. I know, for example, that there’s always a point when fear and doubt make me want to delete every word I’ve written and start again. This was especially true for my second novel, Move Over Darling, but it was pushing through past that point of despair which made me a stronger more confident writer. I know that doubt is an integral part of my creative process and accepting that it happens enables me to come out the other side to the happy place.
5) Do you try and aim for a daily word target when writing?
At the start of each novel, I’m grateful if I can manage a couple of hundred words because this is the point when I’m still getting to know the characters. My word count picks up as I move deeper into the story, especially towards the end, but 1500 is about my max. I’d like to write faster, but maybe this is the pace which suits me.
6) When is your ideal time to write? Morning, afternoon or evening?
I tend to edit in the mornings and write in the afternoons, but when I’m stuck there’s no substitute for some ‘freestyle’ writing first thing in the morning. Dorothea Brande’s classic book, ‘Becoming a Writer’ (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Becoming-Writer-Dorothea-Brande/dp/0874771641) isn’t my favourite, but she’s got a point about ‘harnessing the unconscious’. Waking up and writing down the first thoughts that come into my head has often shown me the way forwards when I’m stuck.
7) Do you edit as you go along or do you wait until the first draft is finished?
I edit as I go along which, I suspect, is why I’m a slow writer!
8) Are you a planner or a pantser?
Interesting! My novels always begin with a strong image in my mind’s eye, like a ‘still’ from a film. With Turning the Tide it was seeing Harry, a troubled young woman, sitting alone by the side of creek. Move Over Darling, started with Coralie, looking out of her workshop at the snow and Follow a Star, began with May, her rucksack slung over her shoulder, hoofing it down a lonely road. From that initial image I construct a basic framework of where I think the novel’s going to go … but the characters always surprise me during the writing. For example, I had no idea that May was hiding a secret until I was about a third of the way through the first draft!
9) Who are your favourite authors?
The one whose latest book has just blown me away – I’m fickle like that!
10) Do you have any advice for unpublished authors?
Write because you love writing and write what you love – there’s too much competition out there and not enough money to do it for any other reason.
Blurb for Follow a Star:
Sometimes your heart’s the only navigator you need
May Starling’s had enough of her demanding career and even more demanding ex. Responding to a ‘crew-wanted’ ad, she follows her dreams of escape only to find herself at sea with red-haired Bill Blythe.
Bill warns May that close-quartered living can create a boiling pot of emotions, but even May is surprised by the heat building up inside the vintage wooden boat. And when May and Bill tie up at Watling’s Boatyard in Little Spitmarsh, May’s determined to test her new-found feelings on dry land.
But May’s dream of escaping her former life is in danger of being swept away when several unwelcome blasts from the past follow her ashore, all seemingly hell-bent on reminding her it’s never that easy to clear the decks.
About the author:
Winning a tin of chocolate in a national essay competition at primary school inspired Christine Stovell to become a writer! After graduating from the University of East Anglia, she took various jobs in the public sector writing research papers and policy notes by day and filling up her spare drawers with embryonic novels by night. Losing her dad to cancer made her realise that if she was ever going to get a novel published she had to put her writing first. Setting off, with her husband, from a sleepy seaside resort on the east coast in a vintage wooden boat to sail halfway round Britain provided the inspiration for her debut novel
Turning the Tide and Follow a Star. Turning the Tide was a top 100 Bestseller with Amazon Kindle and spent months in the Top 10 Chart for Adult Contemporary Romance. Christine has also published numerous short stories and articles. Christine lives in Wales. Her novels include: Turning the Tide, Move Over Darling and Follow a Star. She also has a novella published with Choc Lit Lite called Only True in Fairy Tales.