Hi everyone, and today on the blog I’m delighted to welcome Danielle Owen-Jones.
Danielle works in Public Relations and has recently written a Liverpool based romantic comedy. She is represented by Clare Coombes at Liverpool’s first literary agency. I was delighted to find out more about her writing journey.
Over to you, Danielle…
1) As a child, did you have a favourite author? Was there a turning point with a book that made you go ‘Wow!’?
Growing up, I really enjoyed Jacqueline Wilson’s books, especially the ‘Girls’ series, as well as anything by Roald Dahl.
I was also very proud of my collection of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ by Lemony Snicket – I had the series neatly lined up on the bookshelves in my bedroom.
Harry Potter was probably the ‘wow’ turning point for me.
I was given the first book as a present and I remember unwrapping it and finishing it on the same day – I was instantly hooked. I have a fond memory of my nana telling me she had to queue up for ages outside WHSmith in Southport to buy Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire for me while I was at school.
2) Did you enjoy English at school? What is your earliest memory of writing?
I loved English, it was always my favourite and strongest subject. My mum has some hilarious copies of early ‘books’ I wrote, and I loved drawing my own newspapers and magazines too. I grew up with my mum working as a journalist, so that was probably where it came from!
3) How did you come up with the idea for your debut novel?
I’d been sitting on the rough idea and the half-written manuscript for a long time, ever since I watched a documentary about ‘dumpster diving’ (salvaging goods from supermarket bins) and it piqued my interest. I’m naturally drawn to transformative life stories – especially when somebody experiences the opposite of what they’re used to – so the riches to rags element of the book stemmed from that. I also really enjoy genres that blur the lines and surprise you. I admire how Marian Keyes does this, her books are typically deemed ‘chick lit’ but she tackles weighty themes. That was what I wanted to achieve with my book. It’s a romcom and it’s light-hearted escapism, but it also looks at important issues, such as homelessness and sustainability.
4) What normally comes first for you when write? Is it plot or character or the themes you want to explore?
Ooh, that’s tricky. Sometimes it feels like each element hits me all at once – that’s the dream! Other times, it’s a bit of a slow burner. I’d say that generally the theme comes first, followed by the character and then the plot. I wrote my first book as a ‘plotter’ and my second book as a ‘pantser’ – now I’d say I flit between the two. I love to be organised and have a plan and a structure, but I find I’m writing at my best when I just let go and write as the words come to me.
5) When do you write? What time of day is best for you? Do you have any writing rituals?
Over the last few years I’ve discovered, to my surprise, that I’m actually a bit of an early bird (it took a while to embrace the early rising habit!) but I’m definitely at my most productive in the morning.
I’ve been self-employed for more than five years now, so the nature of that has taught me discipline and how important it is to have a routine. My typical morning routine is a dog walk first thing, followed by coffee, and then I’ll settle down to write with my dog, Poppy, happily snoring at my feet.
My current writing set-up is the kitchen table, which is great for endless tea and coffee, but it’s also a constant battle to avoid the biscuit jar!
6) Have you found that your characters have unexpectedly surprised you? Do you let your characters dictate to you at all?
I let my characters dictate to me – I think this is where the ‘pantser’ element comes in. When I’m writing, I try and let my characters reveal themselves through the story without planning anything major, except some basic character profiles. I’ve found this is especially true when I’m writing dialogue. Quite often, I’ll write a dialogue scene in a script format, as if the characters are simply talking to each other. Then I’ll go back later, read through it again and add in the body language, descriptive elements etc. I hope it helps the dialogue sound natural and realistic, because I personally really enjoy that in books.
7) During lockdown, how have you found your writing process? Has it changed at all?
Funnily enough, I actually wrote half of my book while recovering from a lockdown Zoom party injury! It was my friend’s virtual birthday party and as a task, we all had to race to grab a vegetable from the kitchen. I did it a little too enthusiastically and fell up the stairs, cracking a rib in the process! I struggled to move much for a month, so while I was confined to bed (and after watching many box sets and reading lots of books), I thought, now’s the time to finally finish that manuscript and take the first step in pursuing my lifelong dream of being a published author. I’m now very grateful for that decision – and for being so competitive in the party task!
8) What are you currently watching on television? Have your television habits changed throughout lockdown?
When lockdown first began and my job quietened down, I felt like all I did was watch television and read. It was an easy distraction to switch off and try to ease the anxiety of living through a global pandemic. Reality TV is a guilty pleasure – I was hooked on Married at First Sight Australia, I’ve watched every series of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and I’m currently working my way through Below Deck. I also love true crime documentaries (I’ll Be Gone in The Dark is the best one I watched over lockdown) and you can’t go wrong with a heart-warming series like This is Us, or comedies such as Gavin and Stacey, Modern Family, Friends and Schitt’s Creek. My husband and I also binged Succession and re-watched Breaking Bad again. Strangely, Tiger King will always remind me of lockdown because we watched it right at the start and it was exactly the bizarre (but weirdly compelling) escapism we needed!
9) When you leave your desk on a Friday afternoon, what’s the first thing you do? On a Friday evening/the weekend, what do you do to relax?
I love a nice red wine on a Friday night after finishing work, and some Tony’s Chocolonely as an after dinner treat! In normal times, my husband and I would usually go out to one of the great pubs in the small town where we live, so we’re looking forward to doing that again when lockdown is eased.
We’re very lucky to have some great walks on our doorstep. We live in a town called Kirkby Lonsdale which is officially in Cumbria but is nestled between Lancashire and Yorkshire – this means a good walk is always on the agenda for the weekend. One of my favourite things to do at the weekend is start a new book, and I try to read at least three books a month.
10) What is your music taste like? Have you been missing live music in lockdown?
Yes, I have – although the last concert I went to was Paul McCartney at the Echo Arena in Liverpool and nothing will ever beat that. It was one of the best nights of my life and the perfect gig to finish on before a live music break! I’m a huge music fan and I love all types of music. It’s always jazz when I’m writing: Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. My favourite band of all time is The Beatles, closely followed by Fleetwood Mac, Bob Marley, David Bowie and Billy Joel. I also love The Teskey Brothers, Charles Bradley and Leon Bridges. I’m a big Kings of Leon fan and I’m enjoying their new album, as well as Celeste’s debut album.
Thank you for your time today Danielle. It has been a pleasure to interview you and find out about your writing process. All the best for submission to publishers with your novel!!
Bio: Danielle grew up in Southport, Merseyside, but now calls Cumbria home. She worked as a senior journalist and features writer on a number of publications in the north west, before moving into public relations.
In 2016, Danielle set up as a freelancer and launched Bloomin’ Creative – offering PR and content support to local businesses. Danielle was signed by Clare Coombes of the Liverpool Literary Agency in January 2021 and her debut novel, a Liverpool-based romcom, is currently out on submission to publishers.
Twitter: @danniowenjones Instagram: @danniowenjonesauthor