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There are certain questions I get asked about writing. They come up time and time again. So I thought I'd share them with you. 



Where do you find your inspiration? 

Oddly enough, ideas come at me from everywhere - too often and too randomly sometimes. I have endless ideas but of course there is not endless time to write them all! For instance, the idea behind After You Left came from an article I read in the New York Times about how looking at visual art - paintings, for instance, can help Alzheimer sufferers to remember things. I thought that was a wonderfully sad and yet encouraging thing that probably all of us would be touched by - haven't we all known and loved someone who ended up suffering from dementia? Wouldn't we all love to think there was hope? Other ideas come from the endless wandering of my mind - I could be on holiday and imagine my husband walking out of the door and never coming back!  Then I might ask myself, what if we were on honeymoon, if we had married after only a year of knowing one another, and if he went out for a swim and never came back? This formed the basis of  After You Left and somehow I was able to combine this idea with my thoughts on dementia and art. With Send Me A Lover, my husband once said to me that if he died before I did, he would want me to marry again. He said he would even make it his business, up in Heaven, to help find me that man - after all, he knew me better than anyone. I thought this was the sweetest thing I'd ever heard and thought, "I believe there's a book in there somewhere!' And so Send Me A Lover was born! Sometimes ideas come from things people tell me or things I overhear in conversations! That was the case of The Secrets of Married Women, but I will not tell you who, or what or where, because that's a secret! With The Shadow Between Us, I tapped into my worst nightmare: how would I live my life if I had been accidentally responsible for taking someone else's? With Little White Secrets, I read an article about parents worried about their teenagers hanging out with toxic friends. Ideas are everywhere. Sometimes they are great in theory, but try as hard as I do, I cannot turn them into a book. Sometimes they seem terrific but then I sleep on them and can't see where I would take an actual story. Ideas are challenging. They are there for the taking if you have the sort of mind that is secretly always seeking them out!

What is your writing routine?

I write full time, so I try to write Monday to Friday and sometimes on weekends. There used to be a time where I would sit there at the computer literally all day and produce either a lot or very little. This either made me very happy or very miserable! At the end of the day I was always tired, though, with sore eyes and a bad back from sitting so long staring at a computer. But I had started to see a pattern. I discovered that, no matter how I wanted my routine to be, the truth was, I was productive around 9 or 10 am for a couple of hours, but then at 4pm for some strange reason I became a writing dynamo. Ideas, solutions, everything would fall in place at that magic time and I could not get the words down fast enough. In theory that should mean I can do nothing all day and sit down at 3:55, but that would be a bliss I have not yet achieved! What it has done is show me that if I want to take a walk, talk to a friend, read a book, put the laundry in, I should go and do it. If I want a day off, I should take it - ideally it would be nice to be back late afternoon and see if I can hit the 4pm magic but the important thing is to be productive without being a slave to writing, or very often you find that what you are producing just isn't that good. 

Do you have to wait for inspiration to strike in order to be creative?

Good heavens, no! This is the biggest myth ever. If writers waited for inspiration to strike, there would be no books in the world. I mean, yes of course, some days inspiration does strike. In bed, during the night. Sometimes in actual dreams! In the grocery store. These are the moments writers need. But mostly it's just sitting in a chair and focussing with the end goal of writing THE END. It's hard most days. Some days it's a breeze. You want to give up but then you step away, take a pause, and hope that tomorrow is a new day. 

Do you suffer from writer's block? 

Yes.  There are plotters and pantsers. I usually know my beginning and my end but never the other 80%. If you plot your book out well, if you do a detailed outline, then you are usually able to write the actual book with less block. I just haven't worked that way in the past - though I am trying to be more of a plotter now. If I am blocked, then sitting around staring at the computer and getting frustrated and depressed does NOT help. Almost always, if I get in the car and get on the highway, put my music on, I will suddenly get some sort of idea coming to me, or some sort of clarity, that makes me think OK! I know what I'm doing now! I know what I want to go home and write! Just like I am more productive at 4pm, I can pretty much guarantee that highway driving will unlock something. Another thing is biking. I live part time in Santa Monica and have the luxury of the beautiful Marvin Braude bike path to go wild on. Something about the act of moving, and doing something mindless triggers creativity. Richard Branson once said something similar. 

have a novel I've almost finished. What do I do next? 

Finish it! Finish it, leave it for about 3 weeks without going near it, then re-read it and I promise you that you will see it with new eyes. Things will jump out at you - things you couldn't see when you were so immersed in writing. You will know immediately what is wrong and what is right with it and whether or not it truly is ready to go out into the world. Next, once you are truly convinced this book is the best it can be, make sure you know how to sell it in on sentence. In a movie it's called the log line. Essentially, you want to be able to write your idea on the back of a business card. It should be a short sentence that captures tone, genre and garners a compulsive "I must read this!" reaction from people you tell it/show it to. Next you need a short synopsis. Have a paragraph summarizing your book and also about 2 pages of a more detailed PLOT breakdown ready to go. Remember, writing is an art, it is fun, it can feel frivilous and it can feel a tremendous amount of work, but getting published is a BUSINESS. You won't get published if you don't understand how the industry works, who agents are, what they do, what they like and don't like, and who are the ones who will like your story. If you don't know this, you have a lot of work to do before you are ready to try to interest anyone in your novel. For example, do you know what genre your book is? The silliest answer I have heard to this question is, 'It's all genres!" No book belongs to all genres. Be sensible and be precise. Then when you are ready to go, approach the very best agent you can with your work - professionally - remember once again, WRITING IS A BUSINESS to agents and editors and they respond to authors who realise that and demonstrate it. Read their websites, their submission guidelines. Submit your work to them exactly in the manner they request. If they say email three chapters, then don't decide to add the entire book. You will tell them briefly who you are, what writing credits you have (if any), why you are qualified to write this book, who the book is aimed at (audience/genre), what its selling point is, and what it's about - probably all of this in 3 short paras. By then attaching the materials they ask for, you have done all you can. Then you must wait. Exepect to wait a long time. Some agents will give you an idea in their guidelines how long they will take, but remember that they get hundreds of submissions a day. Be positive, face rejection if you get it, in fact, expect it - heavens, I got loads! - and remember if someone gives you advice or feedback then take it. Listen to it, think about it, and before you shoot it down, try to remember that writing is an emotional thing, but when people in the industry give you comments about your work, don't react emotionally - be open to input, change, and always remember that novels are often re-written an embarrassing number of times. Sometimes you just have to find a different way of telling the same story. 

What do you think of self-publishing?

When I set out to get published, about 20 years ago, self-publishing was not an option. If I were setting out to get published today, I must admit it would not be an option for me. This is a personal choice, though, purely. Considering the vast number of self-published books that are out there, to stand out in that crowd, you have to bring much more to the table than just a great novel. If you are prepared to write at a very professional level, and tell a compelling story, and conduct your own marketing of that story, knowing exactly where it fits in the marketplace, and you are up to constantly exploring new and inventive ways of getting your name out there, then you might enjoy self-publishing and who knows, you might reap its rewards. As you know there have been some tremendous self-publishing success stories. Then again, there are many self-published authors who have only sold a handful of books. Finding a traditional publisher is even harder these days - publishers like fresh stories that contain big ideas that appeal to a lot of people. Writing that book is the challenge - coming up with that big idea is key. Getting that book into the hands of the right editors is also a challenge - and where a good agent is vital. I think before you write, you should ask yourself what you really want from it in the long run and what you are prepared to do to make that happen. 

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