This afternoon, folks, I’m made up to welcome fiction writer Louise Beech to my blog. Here, Louise chats about writing her newspaper column for Hull Daily Mail, her local newspaper, how each of her novels have small parts of factual influences, and her main piece of advice for aspiring authors.
1) As a child, did you have a favourite author and do you have a favourite author now?
I absolutely loved reading the Heidi books by Joanna Spyri. I longed to be her, frolicking in the mountains! In my teen years, I adored Judy Blume (who didn’t?), Paul Zindell, Stephen King, and John Saul. I devoured horror back then but literally don’t read it at all now. I should try it again. Now? I simply couldn’t name a favourite. I read so many books – memoirs, crime, literary, historical. Just about anything. I do love John Irving. The World According to Garp made me want to be a novelist.
2) When did you start writing? Did you enjoy English at school?
As soon as I could. Seriously. At about eight I was writing mini books in notepads, complete with pictures and a contents page. I adored English. It was the only subject I could do. Though I spent half the time sitting outside the classroom because I was a chatterbox.
3) How did you find writing your columns for Hull Daily Mail?
Very easy. Natural. They were little pieces about being a parent so it was truly a joy. And now I have a diary in print of my son and daughter’s childhood.
4) I’ve read your a panster, that you don’t usually tend to plot. Have you done much plotting for your next book?
Haha. I actually have. I’m writing novel five. Novel four – The Lion Tamer Who Lost, which will hopefully be out next year – I first wrote back in 2010. So I’ve started my fifth, which is quite crimey. The plot is rather complex and so this time I have had to plan a little more than usual. I’ve had to write chapter outlines before I get to them for the first time. It’s very tricky. But a real lesson.
5) I LOVE ALL three of your books – so much so I can’t pick a favourite! How did you find the process of writing each book – did they all differ?
Yes. And no. The thing that was the same was the fact that they were all written without a publishing contract and so I was very free to more or less write how and when I liked. The thing that made them similar to write was that they all came from some true aspect of my life – my daughter’s illness, my grandad’s sea survival, my voluntary work, my tough childhood. The next two novels are entirely fictional!
6) Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
First of all, just write. You only learn to write by writing. A writer always writes. Second, be a little cheeky. Not rude, always have manners, but be brave. Approach a publisher by whatever means you can. And third, never, ever give up. It took me ten years and four novels and a million rejections.
7) What are your views on strong women in fiction?
I like real women in fiction. That’s what I like. That’s what strong is to me.
8) How do you work best – music or silence? Did you have a favourite genre of music growing up and has it changed?
Both. For editing I need silence. For writing I need music. As with my reading habits, I will listen to anything. Always have. Classical, popular, rock, opera, chart stuff…
9) What was the last book you read? Did you enjoy it?
It was The Surrogate by Louise Jensen, and yes I did, thoroughly.
10) I find writing is therapy for me, somewhere I escape to and where I feel I can lose myself in the written word, how do you feel when writing?
It is absolutely therapy for me too. Writing Maria in the Moon kept me sane after we were flooded in 2007. How to be Brave kept me sane when my daughter was ill. Writing is the place I always go to find my joy.