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The Real Writing Process of Jen Williams
Episode 21327th June 2022 • The Real Writing Process • Tom Pepperdine
00:00:00 01:10:41

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Tom Pepperdine interviews Jen Williams about her writing process. Jen discusses her day-to-day writing, how her process has evolved to make her more productive, and describes some of the latest items to join the toy collection she keeps on her desk.

You can find all of Jen's information on her website here: https://www.sennydreadful.co.uk/

And you can follow her on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/sennydreadful

And you can find more information on our upcoming guests on the following links:

https://twitter.com/Therealwriting1

https://www.instagram.com/realwritingpro

https://www.facebook.com/therealwritingprocesspodcast

Transcripts

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Hello, and welcome to The Real Writing Process.

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I'm your host, Tom Pepperdine.

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And this week, my guest is the award-winning author.

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Jen Williams.

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Jen is most famous for her fantasy writing and has won the British

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Fantasy Award for Best Novel twice.

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The books that won were the first two installments of

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the Winnowing Flame trilogy.

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Now does that mean the third one is shit?

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No.

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She lost out to previous guest on the show.

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RJ Barker, when he launched his epic Tide Child trilogy with The Bone

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Ships, which as anyone who has read it can tell you, is a great book.

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Now like RJ, she has turned her hand to crime.

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Not literally, just writing in the genre.

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And her latest thriller, Dog Rose Dirt has already been picked up for

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development into a TV drama series.

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Jen is a fantastic guest, an amazing talent, and just

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generally pleasant to talk to.

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I enjoyed this chat immensely and I hope you do too.

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And here it is.

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And I'm joined by Jen Williams.

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Afternoon, Jen.

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Hello?

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Thanks for having me.

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Glad to be here.

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I'm pleased you're here as well.

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And my first official question as always, what are we drinking?

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Uh, well, We are drinking in a very civilized manner, we

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are having a gin and tonic.

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We are indeed.

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Yeah.

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I can hear my ice jangling.

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You've got some ice cube action there.

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Yeah.

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For context of listeners, who'll be listening to this

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in a couple of months time.

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Uh, We're in false summer uh, in March.

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Where we had those couple of days of 20 degree heat.

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So everyone got sunburnt and then it's gonna like snow in about two days.

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Joys of spring, basically.

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It is the joys of spring.

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It makes no sense.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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Cause yeah, I think it's about 20 today in Bristol and it's forecast

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to be 7 degrees in three days.

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Yeah, I'm sitting here in a really big jumper because it's cold in my flat,

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but if I go outside, it's really hot and I have to yeah, put a t-shirt on.

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We have that in our house, that our living room is cold and my wife's

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under a blanket, but if going to the conservatory, it's absolutely boiling

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cause the other side of the house.

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So it's just, yeah.

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Yeah.

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Love this country.

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I love it.

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It's great.

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So with gin and tonic, is this just a warm weather drink?

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Is this a writing drink?

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Is this a celebratory drink?

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What's a gin and tonic to you?

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Well, you know, I didn't used to like them at all.

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I didn't like gin at all for years and years and years.

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I think it was, I didn't like the spirit.

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I didn't like the taste of tonic or any of it.

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And I think somebody bought me a bottle without realizing that I didn't like it.

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So, you know, so I don't wanna waste it obviously, and I'm even

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less likely to give it to someone else because I'm stingy like that.

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So I trained myself to drink it and ended up really liking it.

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And I guess that was a couple of years ago and I discovered over lockdown

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that there are these little handy little cans that you can get from

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supermarkets where it's premixed.

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So yeah, it's become a little bit of a, I would say it's a lockdown treat tradition.

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It's you know, over the um, the long and miserable last couple of

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years, we would have a gin and tonic every now and then in the evening

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when my partner got home from work.

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And I had essentially clocked off for the day from my own,

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cause I work from home mostly.

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So, I would be like, right, it's half past five.

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Marty's home.

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Let's have a gin and tonic.

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Very nice.

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And it's quite nice.

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It feels very fancy.

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Uh, It feels quite, I know because I'm 40 now as well.

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I feel like I should be drinking more old lady drinks.

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And gin and tonic definitely feels like a old lady one.

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The one that I've got today actually is a pink gin.

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Oh very nice.

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Which feels especially, yes, like for your auntie drinks.

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I was gonna say you are week or two away from getting a blue rinse.

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That's.

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I had one of those accidentally when I was a teenager.

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Because I dyed my hair purple with a really dodgy dye from Camden market.

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And it came off on all of my mom's furniture for the next kind of

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month, which she loved obviously.

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But when it had gone, cause I had quite fair hair then.

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What you were left with, this kind of like blue purple tinge.

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Oh, wow.

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So I did in fact look like an old lady.

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It was great.

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Amazing.

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And, Where I'm speaking to you now, is this your writing desk, is this

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where all the creative magic happens?

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Yeah, pretty much.

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But we live in a one bedroom flat in London, so this is our bedroom and this

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corner is essentially my writing area.

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So I've got a little, just a little wooden desk which is next to our back door,

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which is this windowy bit on this side.

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And it's literally just cramed right in the corner.

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So you have to, cause for various reasons we ordered a bed that was much too big.

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So you essentially have to step over the corner of the

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bed to get to my writing desk.

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Yeah.

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And potentially if there's a fire, it is a massive fire

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hazard it, but haven't died yet.

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So.

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No, that's good.

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Yeah.

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So this, this is pretty much, where most of the books have been written.

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At least at this desk anyway.

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Yeah.

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So as it's tucked away in the corner of the room does it leave you a lot

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place for mementos or writing notes or do you just lay them out on the bed?

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I mean the bed kind of acts cuz the bed is right there.

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Yeah, it acts as like a secondary desk.

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So it's constantly, when I'm working, it's covered in books and notebooks basically.

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And whatever else crap was on the desk.

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And the desk itself is actually covered in toys.

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And other bits and bobs and photographs.

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There's some plants.

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Uh, there's put lots of bottles of ink.

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So basically there's loads of stuff.

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And then there's this tiny space where I just about managed to fit the Macbook.

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And that's where I write.

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Oh, and you know, Post It notes, notebooks, pens everywhere basically.

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Are the toys sort of memento of just happy memories or are they things

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that are actually almost totems for the project you're writing on?

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It's a mixture really, because I do, I will admit I do like toys.

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So I kind of have like a sort of ongoing, tiny, action figure collection.

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And I like Lego, so there's usually Lego scattered about here and there,

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but there are a few things that I bought over the years that are

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specifically tied to a project because I felt like you said like a totem,

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almost like a talisman of the project.

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And I wanted it to be on the desk in front of me while I was working.

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Cause it's...

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yeah, I dunno what that is, but it's this weird psychological thing isn't it?

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It's nice to have something there that reminds you.

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Like I've got this white porcelain fox thing.

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Okay.

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He's very sweet.

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Yeah.

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Very minimalist, but yeah.

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Yeah.

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I mean it's, he's just got a little face.

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Obviously, this is a podcast, so they can't see.

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Yeah.

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Great, great for audio, but it's, it's, it's, it's, it's,

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it's a white Fox sculpture.

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But very, yeah, impressionist.

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I would just say yeah, clean lines, not a lot of detail,.

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But that it's painted.

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It's got painted face on that.

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It's very stylistic.

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Yeah.

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Yes.

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Yeah.

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And I bought that at the beginning of writing The Ninth Rain because

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that kind of involves a lot of different beasts and things.

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And I just felt like that was a particularly magical looking

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beast that I wanted on my desk.

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But otherwise it's things like when you're thinking about it, I think it's often

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to do with stories that I've enjoyed.

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And so therefore they find a place on my desk, like Star Wars.

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I've got like a few.

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And I've got like a that's, that's Skeletor from He-Man somewhere.

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Amazing.

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A few Thundercats, some stuff from video games, so yeah, it is basically a mess.

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I don't think I'm the sort of person that can have an empty desk.

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Yeah.

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I just can't.

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My friend, Adam Christopher, who also writes science fiction.

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And he's writing a Star Wars book.

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His desk is completely clean.

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It's like nothing on it.

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And I always, it always makes me laugh cuz it, you couldn't find a more obvious

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kind of symbol of how different we are.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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So is there a totem or talisman that you have for a current project?

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At the moment.

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What am I doing at the moment?

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I have a plant currently that I've bought, which is like a little succulent thing.

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Okay.

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That's coincided with my current scene, cause I'm writing a fantasy book.

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Again.

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And it's got a lot to do with the forest and nature and being outside and stuff.

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So I thought it would be nice to have a a little plant on my desk for that.

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Although to be fair, they normally die.

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I've only got one living plant and it's a Marimo moss ball.

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They're like Japanese balls of moss.

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And keep them in like a jar of water.

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And that's it.

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You don't really do anything with them.

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So it could be dead.

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I wouldn't know.

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But it looks fine.

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So that's the only living plant that has survived more than a year with me.

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We'll see how this one goes.

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We'll see how this one is.

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It looks all right at the moment.

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So.

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How long have you had it?

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Had it about a month.

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Okay.

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So that's, so far it's looking green.

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It's not looking yellow.

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It's good.

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It's good.

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It's getting sunshine at the moment.

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That's good.

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Yes.

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Bits haven't fallen off.

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It's good.

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And is this, you know, this where I start like eeking little details

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out of your current project.

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Uh, So it's a fantasy book.

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Is this a fantasy book set in a world that you've created before,

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or is this a whole new system, a whole new series, or just a one off?

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This will be hopefully a whole new series.

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It's a slightly different situation than in my previous books, because

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it's not on contract with anybody yet.

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Okay.

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So I'm essentially writing it in the middle of doing other projects.

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I'm waiting for the edits to come back on my second thriller, which

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was contracted with HarperCollins.

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Yeah.

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So while that's going on, I'm keeping myself busy and writing a

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fantasy book because it's been a little while since I'd written once.

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I really wanted to get back to it.

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So this will be a completely new world.

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New characters.

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Completely separate to the previous two trilogies.

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Yeah.

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And was this an idea that had been kicking around a while in your head or was it

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just the edits went off for your thriller and you're just like, what should I do?

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And then just something popped into your head?

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Yeah.

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It's actually been, it's been kicking around for a while this project.

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So basically, cause I've been working for the last two years on crime thrillers.

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Every time there was a break, I would go off and do a little kind of palate

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cleansing fantasy writing because it's so different from writing crime.

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And there, there was a point where I had, I think, three

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different ideas for a fantasy book.

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And I couldn't decide on which one I was going to do.

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So I had probably about six months of bouncing between three different ideas.

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And being unable to really decide which one was the one

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that I really wanted to do.

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Which is unusual for me because I normally, there's an idea

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and I that's it, I get very focused on that and I'll be off.

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But with this, I dunno if it was because of everything else

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that was going on at the time.

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I didn't seem to be able to commit to one.

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So I ended up writing, I guess the first, I guess the first

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30,000 words of all of them.

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Okay.

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Wow.

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When it comes to epic fantasy writing, that isn't that much really.

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Yeah.

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And still not quite being able to commit.

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And then you know, eventually I just realized that the characters and

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the world in this one were much more compelling to me than the others.

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And so I had to officially put them away into a separate folder

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And focused in on this one.

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So I have been writing it on and off for quite a while.

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So it's yeah.

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So I'm hoping that I'll finish the first draft basically next

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month maybe, or the month after.

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So it's, I think it's about 120,000 words long at the moment, so it's oh, wow.

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It's definitely it's epic fantasy.

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I mean, it's definitely, yeah, definitely epic, but yeah.

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Yeah.

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It's almost there in terms of first draft.

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And when you have these sort of three ideas that you are jiggling

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around and trying to pick, do you tend to start ideas on a world basis?

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There's something about that world?

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Or is it a band of characters or a scenario within fantasy

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that you wish to explore?

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Was there a reason that they couldn't be combined?

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Were they very different worlds, for example?

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Yes.

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I think that essentially I usually start with characters.

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That's usually my jumping off point.

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And I knew that.

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Each character had a very different origin, so they couldn't

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really be in the same world.

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And what I tend to do is come up with a character that I really want to write.

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And then I ask myself where they came from and what's cause

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them to be the person they are.

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And that's where the world comes from.

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So I was building outwards from the character.

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Building the world and the story around it is generally how I work.

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So yeah, they were too different to mesh together.

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But I know what you mean because every now and then, and quite often really, books

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come about cause you have three disparate ideas that suddenly make sense together.

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And then it's a book.

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But um, yeah, I, I mean still like the other ideas and they might still happen.

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But I think possibly what they need is maybe a couple of years of composting

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as um, we say in this household uh, so you get to put things away for a bit

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and just let them your subconscious work on it in the background.

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Yeah.

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And then maybe they'll be, they'll make more sense in a couple of years time.

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Yeah, that's, um, that's a, that's a good analogy.

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I think that the one that I always return to is the cooking stove and

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that you've got a lot of pot simmering, and then it's just you, what needs

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to come to the fore and be seasoned.

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And it might be the dish that's next.

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But others need a bit more stewing, a bit more marinating to get the right flavors.

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But composting, I really like that as well.

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I think I got that from art college many years ago.

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It was to do with some sort of creative project.

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And the guest lecturer was talking about composting.

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And this idea that you would gather lots of, do lots of research and

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lots of sketches and just immerse yourself in a subject and kind

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of just let yourself sit with it.

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And that was, that would be the composting.

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And then eventually you'd have all this fertile ground

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yeah, in which to grow stuff.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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Yeah, that's great.

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That I really like that.

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You might hear that in later episodes, so I might start using that.

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Do spread it.

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I told my partner about it years ago and he still uses it and

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as an excuse not to do things.

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Have you done this and that?

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And he'd be like, oh yeah, I'm composting on that.

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That's not how it works (both laugh).

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So going back to how your, how you start, you know, start with some characters,

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you go back through the origin story.

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Is that a process that you do predominantly in your head?

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Do you start making notes?

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Do you write a biography of your character?

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Like actually like physically write it down or is it all just mental development?

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I think it's almost difficult to separate the two, I think.

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You know, you immediately, when a character pops up in your head,

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I think you are doing a lot of mental development straight away.

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But I am a big note taker and do like using a lot of notebooks.

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I will make loads and loads of notes essentially straight away.

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Cause I feel like that's, it's almost the way I think now is by

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like physically writing on a page.

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I think is the way that ideas come together, usually for me.

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So yeah, so I'll sit down, I'll have usually a notebook cuz I like to

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have as many notebooks as possible.

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There'll be one for characters and then there'll be one for

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what the world building stuff that might come out of that.

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And then eventually there'll be a notebook that's to do with plot and story.

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So yeah, a lot of note taking.

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And it's always, almost always starts with their name, where are they from,

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where did they grow up, what sort of childhood did they have, who do

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they know, who's their best friend?

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You know, what their family's like.

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Cause all of that stuff lets me get an idea of who they are and

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how they'd react in situations long before I have to write how are

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they gonna actually behave on page.

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Yeah.

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Yeah, I can see the benefit of that.

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Certainly when you hear writers where they get stuck over a situation where you go,

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I don't know how the character will get out of this or, or move the plot forward.

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But if you have an understanding of where they come from and how, why

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they would act the way that they act.

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If you have that understanding of their past, you can, and you can revisit

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and go this is how they grew up.

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These are the experience that they had.

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This is how they would interpret that situation.

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Cause you can interpret as a narrator and how you want the plot to go.

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But the character, although it has elements of you, isn't you.

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Has their own agency based on all of their experiences.

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And that can be a really good way to avoid those kind of sticking points.

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Yeah, absolutely.

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And cuz I I write, mostly I write close third person point of view.

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So each chapter will be from someone's point of view.

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So all of the prose will be filtered through their experiences, essentially.

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So that sort of thing isn't like, it's key really.

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So like in The Winnowing Flame trilogy, I have a character who has been

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locked up since she was 11 years old.

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And escapes when she's in her twenties.

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So obviously her life experience is completely different to

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someone who's lived a normal life in a city or some such.

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So how she reacts to things is completely different.

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And then on the other hand, I had a character who was 400 years

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old and had lived in this giant city full of elves essentially.

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So obviously they have a completely different approach to even

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like really tiny situations.

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They would see things differently.

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So that's always key for me, figuring out characters,

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definitely is their backs stories.

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That's character and backstory, is where I start, I think.

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Yeah.

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And then developing the world itself, like you said earlier, just it's once

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you know the characters it's like, what kind of world do they live in?

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Is that just as much fun or is it a bit more of a challenge

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to get a consistent world?

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And how much time do you dedicate to actually mapping out a world before

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you actually start working on the plot?

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Often I will start with a skeletal idea of it.

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So I've got some rules in place about where they are and some

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ideas about the magic system.

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But what I find is that as I'm writing the first draft, world building tends

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to come in and fill in the gaps as I go.

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So it's much more of an organic process with world building.

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And it's one of the great kind of cheats of being an epic fantasy writer.

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People will read the books and and say, oh well, you know, the world building is

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so complicated and she's obviously thought about this a lot and which is not untrue.

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But the reality will be that the first draft probably didn't have say

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50, 60% of the world building in it and I've realized it as I go along.

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And then your second draft can be the part where you fix all of the

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bits that're missing and fill in all those details that make it this sort

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big lush, believable, strange world.

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I say it's cheating.

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It's not, that's how writing works.

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Writing is rewriting as they say.

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Yeah.

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But but definitely, world building is always much more organic.

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I mean, at the moment I'm writing this fantasy book and as I said, I'm 120,000

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words in and I've just realized something.

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I think last week, I guess a magic system fact that solves several problems at once.

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And I was you know, over the moon but it does mean that when I rewrite

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it, there's gonna be a lot of adding things in and shifting stuff about.

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But ultimately, that's one of the big joys of writing for me.

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Is when a solution suddenly crops up like that, that you're not expecting.

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And then it's just, yeah, that's just fabulous.

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And obviously you've written two crime thrillers now.

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Your approach to world building, as it's a real world setting,

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I gather would be different?

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Um, Yes.

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So how's that approach?

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Do you still start with like a skeletal you know, what

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kind of community are they in?

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Uh, how, How does the world building start in a real world setting?

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Yeah.

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So obviously it's very different um, to writing a fantasy book.

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And it was a really interesting challenge because I hadn't, I hadn't really written

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anything that was contemporary before.

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Not even in my kind of practice books before my first book came out.

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They were mostly all fantasy or science fiction.

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So having to work within a real world framework was interesting.

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Because I couldn't solve problems anymore by just making stuff up.

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Yeah.

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Which is my usual kind of default.

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So yeah, it was a very different experience.

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And I think the main thing with Dog Rose Dirt, the first crime thriller

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was that it went through more edits than I have on any other book.

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And it changed quite drastically from the first draft to the kind of final draft.

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So I think it was a, it was definitely a case of me learning on the job.

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Finding out how crime thrillers work and how things like cliffhangers work

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and red herrings and clues and all this stuff that I suddenly had to contend with

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that you don't really in epic fantasy.

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So my approach was much more, much more as if it was the first book I'd written.

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Because I was trying all different ways to make it work.

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So I started off with a character that I wanted to write about and I

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had a hook, that's often the beginning with crime and thrillers, I think.

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Is I had a character who finds out that her mother, who has committed suicide,

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finds out that her mother has been writing to a serial killer for decades.

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That's the catalyst of the whole book.

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Yeah.

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So rather than starting with a character that I wanted to write about, it

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was more starting with that hook and then asking myself things like, why

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didn't she know that she was writing to a serial killer for decades?

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Which leads to things like perhaps she doesn't have a very good

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relationship with her mother.

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And then finding out why that was the case.

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And all through that I had a kind of mirror storyline where you

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are exploring the um, the serial killer who she's writing to.

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His backstory is the other kind of backbone of the book.

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So it was I almost approached his story as I would my fantasy books.

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In that I'm taught, who is this guy?

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Where is he from?

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What was his childhood like?

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And then the real meat and plot of the book was much more

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extrapolating from the central hook.

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And then tying the two together.

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Yeah.

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So yeah, I learned a lot.

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Yeah.

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And I pulled my hair out quite a lot.

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And your main protagonist, she's a journalist as well.

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So yes.

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Having a real world job and, in a fantasy book, you can have a wizard,

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a mage, a dragon hunter, and you're not gonna have dragon hunters and

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wizards read the book, but you may have journalists read the book.

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Yeah.

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So did you feel a pressure to make that an authentic portrayal of a journalist?

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And did you research journalists?

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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I didn't wanna throw myself really deeply into getting really focused

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on the idea of what would a real journalist be like, because I

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still wanna have fun with the book.

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It's not all about realism, even with a a genre like crime.

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But I did a lot, you do a lot reading around and read up on other

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people's biographies and all those sort of bits and pieces that you do.

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And I didn't base her on anyone in particular.

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But mostly what I wanted was her to feel like emotionally, like a real person.

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In fact, in the book, she, although she is a journalist, she's

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actually unemployed at the time.

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So in that sense, it was a little bit easier because all I really had,

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it doesn't have to be a good journalist, it's fine.

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She doesn't have to be a good journalist.

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She did get sacked uh, for different reasons, but mainly the

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main important part of her being a journalist was that she was curious

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and wanted to know the truth.

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And I think that was like the core journalistic trait

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that I needed her to have.

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Because a lot of the difficulty with writing something like a crime

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thriller, is that often people have to behave in ways that you

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wouldn't realistically behave.

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You would perhaps be straight down the police station and be like,

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terrible, scary things are happening.

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Yeah.

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A great interview I saw of Lee Child, of the Jack Reacher novels, was how he's

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so well regarded in the US military.

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Of people just going well, that doesn't happen in my unit,

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but really feels authentic.

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And he's a Brit and he just made it.

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And it's just no, you used to work on coronation street.

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I love it.

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And it's just no.

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I love it.

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Never been in the military, it's just sounds good.

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Sounds plausible.

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And if it sounds plausible, I'm making fiction anyway.

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I was like, God bless you, sir.

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Absolutely.

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And it's just if it's emotionally true.

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That's really what you're going for, at least it is for me.

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I want, and I think that's probably partly comes from a background in

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fantasy, because I'm not really ever gonna convince anyone that dragons are real.

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But you have to believe in the emotion of what's going on.

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And it's the same with Heather, I needed you to think that it felt authentic

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what she was going through rather than is she a Pulitzer winning journalist?

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No, she isn't.

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Yeah.

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And with plotting.

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Obviously, once you've got your world base and you're clear on

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your characters, how in detail do you structure your plot outline?

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Is it just very much a, "I start here, I want to end up there" or

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is it a rough chapter or is it very beat by beat of how it goes about?

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And again, we'll go through the differences of fantasy and your

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thrillers, but if we focus on your fantasy that you're working on at

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the moment, how detailed was your outline when you started this project?

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Yeah, so I, I think of myself really as the kind of chaotic planner.

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So I will start with a fairly detailed well, a reasonably detailed plan.

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I'm quite fond of the Save The Cat series.

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Yep.

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Do you know the screenplay writing?

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Yeah.

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Book where they also do Saves The Cat Writes A Novel with a lot of

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stuff about beat sheets in there.

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And I do quite like that kind of way of laying things out.

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So for this book in particular, I had, I think cuz there's four

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main characters in this fantasy book, so I had four beat sheets.

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And they're scribbled in these quite large flat notebooks that I have.

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So I would scribble out the beat sheets so that I have an idea

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of what I'm heading towards.

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So I know you know, what the catalyst is, what might be revealed at the

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midpoint, what the kind of all is lost moment might be and hopefully

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some idea of the end is always nice.

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So I will start off with those.

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And then generally what happens is I will get, I guess, about 50 to 60,000

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words into the book and decide that I need to rewrite all of the plans.

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So yeah.

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So they all get thrown out at that point or hugely changed anyway.

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Because that's, I think where I'm a combination of a plotter and a

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pantser, in that I like the plot, but I don't always pay attention to it.

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And I like the organic way that stories sometimes take their own turns and things.

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And again, that's one of the joys of writing fiction really,

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is when stories come alive and start doing their own thing.

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So what it turns out to be is a lot of kind of planning that often gets

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ignored and then there's more planning.

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Yes.

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So for example, at the moment what I'm doing is, I'm

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coming up to the, the finale.

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Like the final third of this book.

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So I know where I'm headed now.

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So what I'm doing is, as I go to write each chapter, I'm writing a series

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of notes of what I want to happen in the chapter and where the chapter

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needs to go, how am I ending it, and then I'll go off and write it.

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But still even at this very late stage, while I'm writing stuff could change.

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Yeah.

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So it's always subject to sudden changes.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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So what you were saying earlier about the sort of 60,000 word mark being

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where you ditch your initial plans, is that just because as you are writing

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you go, "oh, I'm way off track.

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I'm not even gonna attempt to circle back to where I was supposed to go.

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I should start writing another one."

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Or is it more of a sticking point where you get 60,000 words and go,

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"oh, where am I supposed to be?"

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And then it's like consulting the map and going, "oh, I'm nowhere near.

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And so is it more of a sticking point or just a natural self-reflection of, I need

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to update this map because it's wrong or is it I've tried to consult the map

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and I realize I have no idea where I am.

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It can, it, sometimes it can go either way really.

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So hopefully what happens is about the 60,000 word mark, the book has

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come to life a bit and I'm sort of writing it without really looking at

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the plan anymore because I'm feeling where it's going and I'm following the

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characters and just enjoying myself.

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And then I'd get to 60,000 words and I'll say, oh, I'll just have

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a look at the plan and see where I am and I'm nowhere near it.

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And it's like, that's fine because this was just, it was just a

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guidebook to get me started.

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So at that point, I'll be like no, I've got this story that's gone in

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slightly different direction, so I'll do another plan that kind of

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reflects where I think it's going now.

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And then sometimes though, it can just be a complete disaster.

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My second book The Iron Ghost, which was the follow up to The Copper

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Promise, I think I rewrote the first 60,000 words of that three times.

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Because it was completely wrong each time.

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So that was a sticking point one, where I got to 60,000 words and I

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thought, I don't know where it's going, my plan isn't helping, and

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I think I just need to start again.

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Which was terrific because it was my second book, which has a lot of

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very particular stress on it anyway.

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You know, because your first book's just come out.

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You are seeing reviews for the first book and getting reader reactions and such.

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And it's very hard not to be affected by all of that.

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Cuz I remember like reading reviews for the copper promise where people

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were saying, "oh, I loved the dungeon crawl at the beginning of this book.

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It's amazing."

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And then I'd read another review that said, "the dungeon crawl at

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the beginning of this was rubbish.

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I don't know what she's thinking."

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And then I'm sitting there looking at my second book saying do I need

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to put a dungeon crawl in or not?

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I dunno.

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So it's very, there's a a lot of anxiety around the second book which I think

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probably torpedoed it for me a few times.

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So yeah, that, that point I often feel like it's a turning point in my

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writing process is if I get 60,000 words and I'm happy then it's all good

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and I can just continue, regardless of whether it's following the plan or not.

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Yeah.

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If I get 60,000 words yeah and I want to die, then it's usually a sign actually

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that there's something wrong with the structure that I haven't spotted.

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So with The Iron Ghost, I had started the book too early, I

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think, was the problem with that.

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So they often say, you should start the book as close to the action as you can.

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Yeah.

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If that makes sense?

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So what I'd done that would start the book, six, nine months

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before anything really happened.

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You know, we have 60,000 words of people wondering about, which is, in epic

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fantasy, you do get a lot of people wondering about for long periods of

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time, but nothing was really happening.

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And I think subconsciously you know that you've cocked it up somehow

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and you now need to go back.

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But thankfully, touch wood, I haven't had quite that massive a cockup since.

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So I'm gonna,

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It was a learning experience.

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Yeah, it was.

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Yeah, absolutely.

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And do you know what?

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I hated The Iron Ghost when I finished it.

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I would've happily flung it into the sun and never seen it again.

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But over the years, cuz people have contacted me who

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really like The Iron Ghost.

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And I've gradually realized that it's, though I do like it, I, and

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I've come to love it as probably my favorite of that trilogy.

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Oh, great.

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So, so it was a difficult birth, but yeah, ultimately a child

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I could love, it turns out.

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I think I wanna touch on that you're saying, with time heals all wounds.

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And that you can look back yeah with the stressful book with fondness.

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But you were saying there sort of with the pressures of the second

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book, obviously, you have reader expectation and managing that.

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And I just find it really interesting how you went on writing two crime

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thrillers without a pseudonym.

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And I just wanna take a moment just to ask you sort of, how

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did crime thrillers come about?

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Was it like a long time thing that you wanted to do?

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And was there any discussion on whether you would have a pseudonym or not?

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Because it is a completely different genre.

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Or was it always no, I'm just Jen Williams writer and I will

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write whatever I damn well please?

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Yeah.

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I'd always kind of, I mean, I've read a lot of crime.

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I read a lot of crime and a lot of horror.

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I grew up reading horror really more than fantasy.

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So it was always in the background that I would like to write

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a scary book at some point.

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And I'd just gotten to the end of writing The Poison Song, which is

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the third book in my second trilogy.

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And I just felt completely exhausted with epic fantasy.

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I was at that stage where I thought if I have to write one more aerial

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battle with magic and wings, and swords and whatever, I will lose my mind.

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So I, it be just really good to write something completely different.

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And as it happened, I was talking to my agent a lot about true crime at the time,

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because we both watch a lot of the Netflix documentaries about terrible things.

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And we're often sending each other Wikipedia links about

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gruesome murders and stuff.

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And she said why don't you write a crime book?

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Why don't you write a book about a serial killer because

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we're always talking about them.

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And I'd inadvertently done a lot of research over the years

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because I just find it interesting.

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Yeah, so I just thought, that's a lovely idea because it's

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completely different genre.

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I'll learn a lot from doing it as well.

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And it won't take as long.

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I thought innocently.

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I thought it won't take as long because there're only like 90,000 words.

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My, I think my longest fantasy, but was 217,000 words.

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So I said, I can write a crime thriller really quick, surely.

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Which turned out not to be the case, but it was a learning experience.

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So yeah, so it was really just, I thought that it might make a nice

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change to try a different genre.

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And I guess I wasn't really thinking about it from any particularly

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a career angle or anything.

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I just sort thought it would be fun to do.

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And yeah, so when it got picked up by Harper Collins,

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which was great, obviously.

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There was, I think there was still a very brief discussion about it

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because I think I asked actually.

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Should I have a different name?

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Cuz you often people do, obviously when you hop genres, you might have a pseudonym

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or even just the little change to your name but I think the general feeling was I

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think people hoped that I might bring with me people who enjoyed my fantasy books.

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Although there's not a huge, I don't think traditionally there's a huge crossover

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with fantasy fans and crime fans.

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But I think there's enough.

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There was probably enough dark stuff in my fantasy books that there

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was a question over whether crime might also appeal to those readers.

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So you know, I was a little bit disappointed because I had picked

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out various ridiculous names.

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Yeah.

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I think I wanted to be so like Enid Ebony Night or something.

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And I had all these like really goth names that I was really

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excited about, but no still stuck with my very boring, real name.

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Yeah, so that was, yeah, so it was generally, there was only a very brief

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chat about it and I think it was just thought it would be better for me to

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go forward and hope that some of my fan base would be interested, I think.

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And you said when you were reading, when you were younger, you used to read more

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horror and crime that you did fantasy.

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Do you think you'll ever go an all out like supernatural horror at some point?

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I would like to, but I'm not sure when I'm gonna get the chance to do that.

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There's nothing composting.

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There's nothing composting?

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I mean both.

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Well, I say both what the second one isn't out yet.

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The Dog Rose Dirt has its kind of elements of weirdness to it.

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Mm.

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So there are a few.

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There's nothing concrete, but there's possibly a few suggestions that something

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weird is going on at certain points.

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And my second crime thriller, which will be out next year, I think.

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Similarly has quite a weird atmosphere to it.

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Okay.

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So I think I was pushing it as close to the edge of horror as I can get away with.

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Because one of the, one of the interesting things with crime as a genre

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is that, it has these rules and one of the rules, sort of unspoken rules,

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is that you can't cheat the reader out being able to guess who did it.

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So if you pull something like, oh, it turns out he was a vampire

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in a crime novel, then people will get very upset with you.

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Yeah.

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I think, see there's a very fine line to walk.

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If you're calling it crime, then you have to be careful, I think.

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Yeah.

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Although I am a, I'm a huge fan of John Connelly's Charlie Parker books.

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And he's basically, he's a private detective investigating

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horrible murders, as you do.

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Yeah.

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But they get increasingly weird and quite supernatural

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eventually, which I really love.

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So there's definitely, there's a, there's an audience for kind

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of crime supernatural meshing.

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Yeah.

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So it's a question of whether you can get away with it or not.

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But if somebody wanted me to write a full on horror novel, I was very happily to it.

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In fact, I've written a horror novella that hasn't been announced yet.

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Which I think is coming out at some point in this year and that's a full on horror.

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Oh, amazing!

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Yeah.

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So I did get to play around with that kind of thing a little bit.

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That's great.

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So that's all like edited ready to go.

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We're just waiting for a publication date on that?

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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I I, this is the thing.

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I'm not entirely sure if it's been properly announced yet or not, so I

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dunno, if I can even talk about it, but it should be coming out in the

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next few months or at least it's being announced in the next few months.

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Excellent.

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We'll keep an eye out for that.

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That's exciting.

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Onto the daily grind then, once you've got a outline that we're not gonna

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stick to but some very clear characters.

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What's your writing day like?

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Is it something that you get up first in the morning, get dressed,

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grab your coffee, sit at your desk, or is it you wait until end of

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the day everyone's gone to sleep.

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How, how do you plan out your writing?

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It has changed drastically over the years.

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So my first books were written when I had a full-time job.

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I would usually either write when I got home from work or if I had a vaguely late

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start, which I did for a little while when I was working as a receptionist, I would

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go and write in the morning before work.

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So I'd go into a cafe or a wetherspoons, back in the day.

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And I would, you know, get my writing done before the day starts, which is, it's

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like a really satisfying way of doing it.

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Because it feels like you've done, you've achieved what you needed to

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achieve right at the beginning of the day, which I always really liked.

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But now I mostly work from home and the reality is that I am not a morning person.

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Okay.

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At all.

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So usually my day at the moment or at least for the last couple

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of years is, I will get up and I will kind of potter around.

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I'll have tea, I will do any sort of admin stuff that needs doing, emails or

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any kind of written interview stuff that I have to do, or all of those things.

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And then when I'm feeling awake enough, I will start.

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Working usually about midday, I would say.

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And then I've got like a big, long stretch of day where I

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don't have anything else to do.

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I can really get into it then.

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Yeah.

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So my partner usually comes home about half six.

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So I will have, like six and a half hours.

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Mostly uninterrupted kind of pootling about.

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And that's when most of the writing gets done, I think, during the week.

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That's actually really refreshing.

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Cause I think I, I speak to a lot of writers who do work in

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the morning, so then afternoon's their admin time and interviews

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and emails and that sort of thing.

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So it is nice to have an opposing view.

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That's good.

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Yeah.

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I hate people that are good at doing morning stuff.

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That must be really useful to be, really with it straight away,

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but I am just not that person.

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Yeah.

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My wife and I, we work in different time zones, so yeah, same

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house, but different time zone.

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I'm always early morning and she's like yourself, and starts operating

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about midday, but then she won't go to bed till about two, 3:00 AM.

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Whereas I get nice and early and then about nine o'clock it's, okay, I'm

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gonna go to bed and read for a bit.

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But it's really nice cuz it gives us overlap time.

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So yeah, we have time together, but we also get a good chunk of time

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where one of us is asleep and the other has the house to themselves.

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It seems to work quite well.

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Yeah.

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Yeah, no, that's, that's very similar to me and my partner as well, especially

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at the weekends, when we're both home.

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I will sleep in basically on the weekend.

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And he'll get up and do something horribly healthy, like park run or

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something and I'll stay in bed and and crawl out at a half 10 or something.

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Yeah.

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But then I will stay up as you say until two in the morning.

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Cuz I'm all awake then, I just seem to, I think I'm just one of those night

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people, just happier at nighttime.

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Yeah.

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But yeah, I feel like I always worry slightly that I'm wasting

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the morning, but I mean, if you're working from 12 till six , that's a

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good chunk of time to get stuff done.

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And it seems to work.

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Oh, I joke with my wife that she was a Canadian in a former life

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and she's just on Canada time.

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And that's it.

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So whenever it's uh, she's going oh, I'm just wasting the day.

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I say, well, the time in Toronto is this and actually you are fine.

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I'm gonna remember that.

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Yeah.

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And it's just once you put yourself on a different time zone and just

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like that you operate on that and you are very consistent on that.

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It's a good way of just going I'm fine, I just happen to be in the wrong country.

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Yeah.

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And

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I like that

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with your six hour writing session, do you write more on how productive

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you're feeling that day, or do you have a minimum daily target, like

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a word count or a page count, or do you set little timers for yourself?

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That's, I've gotta do it like a blast of writing for a certain amount of time?

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Yeah.

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I seem to bounce back and forth through like several different approaches

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and I always have done, I think.

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I will go through periods where I wanna do daily word counts.

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I will say I need to do 2000 words this afternoon, so that will be my goal.

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And then other days I'll go for a period where I think now, you know, I, as long

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as I'm working on the book every day, it doesn't matter how much I'm getting done.

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Because I think it's more important to keep your head in the book than

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to achieve a certain word count.

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And then sometimes, recently I've been in a patch of wanting to do

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writing sprints where I time myself.

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So I'll have a 25 minute writing sprint, and then I'll have a 10 minute break.

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And then another 25 minutes, which I found actually is really productive.

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You really you get a quite steady rhythm going and that seems to work really well,

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but it does seem to depend on my mood.

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There will be days where I'll just write 500 words and be like,

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oh, I will just sketch out the next three chapters, for example.

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And figure out where the other characters are gonna be and what they're up to next.

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And that's vital as well in order for me to be able to feel like the

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next day, like I've got something to write, if that makes sense?

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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And I think if you're not writing straight away in the morning, you can

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revisit what you've written the day before and get back into that space.

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Yeah.

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Yeah, and I think that's probably one of the key things that I've learned

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over the years is, cuz I think there's always this ongoing debate about whether

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you should write every day or not.

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You know that it's always a little bit contentious.

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Yeah.

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And I think it's always a good idea to at least get your head in the book every day.

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Even if you don't get to sit down and write two, 3000 words

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or yeah, whatever you plan to do.

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As long as you are thinking about it and maybe writing some notes or thinking

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about dialogue or just, just writing things on post its or whatever, as

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long as you've got your head in it.

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I think that's the key thing and that keeps it all turning along.

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Whereas, if you have a few days where you don't do anything, it's so much

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harder to come back to it again.

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Yeah.

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And then you end up, you end up having to reread 120,000 words.

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I was like, yeah, what the hell's going on?

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Who are you?

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What's, who's this character?

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Who are all these people?

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Who's dead?

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And who's?

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They did what?

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I have no idea.

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Yeah.

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Which, you know, does happen.

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I haven't actually had many guests on the show yet that do this,

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but I'm aware that it happens.

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There are people who write a section in a writing session and then they

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go and, sort of cliff hanger, or, just gonna stop their end of chapter.

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End of paragraph, whatever.

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And there are other people who will consciously leave it mid-sentence so

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that when they come back the next day, it's, you've gotta complete the thought.

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That was like the last time you were sat down, is that something you've ever tried?

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And is that something that appeals or just horror?

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I think those people are unhinged, to be honest.

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I, because I can see how that would work because it keeps you mid

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flow in the middle of a sentence.

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But I feel like what inevitably would happen is I would sit there looking

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at it, thinking, what was I gonna say?

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Yeah, so my approach is much more, I prefer to finish a session at

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the end of the scene if I can.

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And then I could be like, so I feel like I've wrapped up

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that scene or that chapter.

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And then before I'd finished for the day, I can write some notes about what I

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think's gonna happen in the next chapter.

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So it sets me up for the next day.

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So, I guess that's my version of doing that, is to just do a very rough sketch

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of what I think is happening next.

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Rather than this unhinged part good sentence business.

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Yeah.

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And other thing that just, this question I don't ask that much, but

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it just suddenly occurred to me.

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As someone who writes and works from home and the pandemic has been

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very much people reassessing work life balance and comfort and making

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sure they have time for themselves.

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As you wait for your partner to come home, do you feel as it's in your

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bedroom, in the corner of the room that you need to dress for work or

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are you very much a loungewear writer?

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Because I think, often in movies you get this cliche of people shuffling around

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in a dressing gown and some people are very particular about their loungewear.

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And so I'm just kinda curious, are you someone who get dressed

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as yeah, they're going to work or is it just whatever's comfortable?

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I'm gonna be sat here for six hours.

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Yeah, I think, it depends on your definition of dressing for work.

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I guess I will change out of pajamas.

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Definitely.

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I will put some real clothes on, but I'm not dressing up cause I know some

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people will actually wear shoes and stuff and actually dress like they're

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going out, but that's definitely not me.

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So I will usually, as you say, dress comfortably, I think.

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Because you know, well you are sitting in the same place for a long time.

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And it's good not to feel really uncomfortable.

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And that's what goes for your your writing space as well.

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It's nice to have a space that feels comfy and comforting.

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But yeah, I, I have occasionally played with the idea of

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doing a kind of fake commute.

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Yeah?

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Because I am so bad at getting up in the morning and I thought, what if I

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got up it was a job that I had to go to an office for, and I actually left the

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house and perhaps got on the bus to a coffee shop and then worked in the coffee

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shop for a few hours and come back?

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But it's one of those ideas that I keep talking about

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and I've never actually done.

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There, there is an author who I won't announce, cuz it's season three and we

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haven't actually confirmed a date yet, but he uses a co-op shared working space.

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So he does actually have an office desk that he goes to.

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And actually we do have a guest on this season that used to do that before the

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pandemic where yeah, to have that kind of commute work thing of, you know,

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just renting a desk space in an office.

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And so actually having somewhere to go, but yeah, rather than it being a coffee

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shop, it is somewhere where he won't be disturbed, moved on and stuff like that.

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He's got his desk and he can set it up exactly how he likes.

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I like that idea, I quite like that, it might be nice to go to a desk that

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wasn't covered in crap all the time.

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Yeah, I think as we've in the UK taken away all the COVID restrictions,

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whether rightly or wrongly that's what's happened, but there's definitely

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people going, I've been home so much the desire to get out and be out.

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And obviously we've just had our fake summer in March of

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four days, everyone's outside.

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But yeah it's really interesting seeing human behavior at the moment.

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But yeah,

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I have to admit, I think I felt a bit feral eventually, after lockdown.

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Because at the beginning of lockdown, my partner was going

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through treatment for cancer.

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Okay.

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So we were both really strictly locked indoors.

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Yeah, and you know, to the point where we couldn't leave the front door.

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By the time things started to open again, I was climbing the walls and it

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was difficult to find the enthusiasm to go and sit at your writing desk.

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Because I'd seen so much of it.

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So yeah, I think this year, now that as you say, things have been relaxed.

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Whether that's a good idea or not I do feel the compulsion to get out a bit more.

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I think this time, because, when it was sunny the other day, like you

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said, we had those two hot days.

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I was like skipping my way up the park, basically with my notebook and

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so I do occasionally leave the house.

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That's good.

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And I also, I work a bookshop two days a week as well.

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Yeah, so I do get some outside time.

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That's good.

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Thankfully.

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A little bit of, a little bit of vitamin D.

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That's good.

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Yeah.

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Yeah.

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And going on to, going right back something that you said earlier.

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Cuz it's something that I always say, but you've already said it.

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The old adage writing is rewriting, and how you edit your work.

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Obviously with epic fantasy with such long drafts, I'm assuming that you don't

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write a draft and then go, I'm gonna start another draft from scratch, just

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taking notes from the previous draft.

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Jesus, no.

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Some people do that with books, obviously a lot shorter books.

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Yeah.

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I guess it's reworking individual scenes and chapters.

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Is it something that you do as you go, or is it that you write just almost a

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stream of consciousness first draft, and then you go back and go right,

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now how do we make this cohesive?

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Yeah, I think I, I get through the first draft as, as quickly as I can.

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And try and get everything out.

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Think of it as the vomit draft.

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Yeah.

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Where you just get it all out and you're telling yourself the story

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doesn't have to be perfect yet.

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Doesn't have to make sense completely.

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So you get it all out.

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And then usually what I do is as soon as I finish, I will make a load of notes on

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the stuff that I know needs to change.

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Because there's almost always several big things that need sorting out.

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So a character's motivation might have changed halfway through the

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book, or as I was saying earlier with the world building, I'd had this

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sudden solution at 120,000 words.

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So obviously that has to go back, be threaded back through the book.

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So I will make a list of all these things that I know need changing.

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And they're usually quite big things, they're usually character

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stuff or structural stuff.

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These things that I know instinctively need to be fixed.

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And that's my second draft will be fixing all of that basically.

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So I will go through the whole book from the beginning, adding in and

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chopping as I go, and try and get it into a version that's almost readable.

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And I think my first drafts generally are relatively clean.

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In that they do mostly hang together.

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It won't be anything really drastic that needs removing or anything like that.

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So they're mostly there.

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It's just all these sort of like tweaks and add-ins that I

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need to do in the second draft.

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So that will be the second draft is like the version.

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After that, I will probably be able to show it to other people, maybe.

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Who's the first person who sees it, um, once you've done it?

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These days, it will be Juliet, my agent, will be the first person that sees it.

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So yeah, it'll go off to her.

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And then she will usually come back with comments and then

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there'll be another draft.

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And then after that, usually it'll go to the editor.

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Have you ever used beta readers or is it just you've got such a good

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relationship with your agent that she's the only beta reader you need?

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Yeah, I used to use beta readers back in the day before I wrote The Copper Promise.

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Uh, I, you know, wrote a number of books and I had a little group of

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friends and we were all writers.

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And so we would read each other's work and give feedback and so on.

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And I think I did that with The Copper Promise as well.

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Because before it went off to be submitted anywhere, a few people, a few different

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people read it and gave me feedback.

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But these days there just isn't really the time for beta readers because

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I'm usually chasing a deadline.

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In a perfect world, then I would give it to a couple of my friends and have

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them read it and then I could do another edit, according to their feedback.

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And then it would probably go to Juliet.

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But these days they just I just don't have the time to do

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it, so it will go to Juliet.

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But the good thing is that Juliet is basically a genius.

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And she does a lot of editorial work with her clients.

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So I know that, she will always have good feedback for me and will

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know what's working and what isn't.

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So it's pretty much a godsend really.

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The first draft will be me telling myself the story.

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And then the second draft will be me trying to make the story

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readable for someone else.

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And then the third draft will be me incorporating feedback, basically.

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Yeah.

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And how do you cope with feedback?

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Is it just okay, I need a stiff drink.

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I need to go away and scream about how it's all wrong.

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And then I have to admit that they have a point.

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Or are you very receptive and just make my work better?

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Yeah.

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I think, yeah, it's useful to have a day or so where you

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allow yourself to sulk about it.

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Because I think deep down you, when you hand the book to someone

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else, you deep down, you believe that it's amazing and perfect.

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And so obviously they're gonna come back and tell you that it's

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the greatest book ever written and you don't have to change anything.

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So it's always a little bit of a shock when they're like,

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it's great, but it needs work.

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And you're like, what?!

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I have to do more work.

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Do you not realize that I've spent a year writing this?

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So I think you do have to give yourself a good day or so to

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sulk about it and get over it.

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Because I think 99% of the time when I've had editorial letters come back,

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it's always been entirely correct.

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And it's almost always stuff that I knew that it had to be fixed,

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but was hoping that I didn't have to because it's complicated.

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So you hope that people won't spot these massive errors, and

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all this stuff that needs fixing.

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But they do and you do have to fix it.

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Yeah.

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So you just have to get over yourself and do it, so eventually you come to terms

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of it and you're like, okay, at that point, you start to get excited again.

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Because you think, you know, that all of these things are

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just gonna make the book better.

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And in fact, I'm quite looking forward to fixing this and fixing that.

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And I think this bit will work much better with what they've suggested.

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So it becomes an exciting thing.

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Feedback.

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So you have to get over the initial grumps yeah that you have about it.

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And then it becomes actually a really positive experience, I think.

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When you had, after two successful trilogies of fantasy books, and

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you're doing your first crime thriller, did you have that feeling

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of this is gonna blow her socks off?

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Or was there a, because you said it was like quite a struggle with the

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edits, so was it quite a shock or was it I'm sending it to you because

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I don't know how to make it better.

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Was, Was there a different energy when that was being sent across?

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Yes, definitely.

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I think Dog Rose Dirt was very, it was a very different experience

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for me, from start to finish.

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Because I did cuz it had changed so much from the first draft and I

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bounced around all over it, trying to do one thing and then the other.

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And by the end, I didn't know if it worked or not, at all.

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Because I think you end up having to read the thing, I think 10, 11 times.

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Yeah.

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And you just think, I don't know if it works anymore.

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Because particularly with crime where you are giving the reader

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surprises and cliff hangers, it's very difficult to be surprised

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when you've read the book 10 times.

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So you say, I dunno if these surprises work.

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I dunno if these cliff hangers work, or any of it.

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So I did give it in with this kind of please tell me if it

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works and how I can make it work.

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And how's that been for the second thriller?

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Cause you said like the first one was a big learning experience.

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Has it been much easier on the second?

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I hesitate to say easier.

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It's currently with the copy editor at the moment, so I feel like there's a good

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chance, touch wood, that I won't have to do any more structural edits on it.

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Yeah.

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I'm probably safe to say that it has been easier than the first one.

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I took a lot of what I learned from Dog Rose Dirt and

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applied it to the second book.

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And I had a much better idea going in of things like how I wanted to structure it.

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How I wanted to use flashbacks.

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Cause it's basically the second book has two alternate timelines.

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So you've got what's happening in the Eighties, basically.

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And what's happening in the present day and how they had like

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more ideas about how they might interact and bump off of each other.

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And, yeah, so it was much more, it was still super difficult,

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I have to say (laughs).

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But I felt like I had a better idea of what I was doing.

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I had some experience to go on this time.

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And yeah, and it seemed to work out better, I think.

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Because there was less I had to do in the edit this time.

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It felt like it was more fully there by the time I sent it over.

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That's good.

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Yeah.

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A relief.

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Yeah.

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Yeah, that was, yeah.

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The pure unfiltered relief of the editor coming back and

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saying, oh, it's quite good.

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Yeah, the notes isn't just a huge binder sort of like we do.

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Yeah.

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Wasn't 30 pages of all of this is wrong.

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Yeah.

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With dual timeline and the Eighties, being an eighties child myself, is that

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something that, without going too much into the plot, is it narrow enough focus

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that it's just looking at someone's childhood or just looking at someone

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40 years ago, or did you actually have to do a lot of research into that time

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of I was quite young then, so I need to just establish that what I'm setting

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is actually fitting for the time period and the years that I'm writing about?

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So was there a lot of research into the past that you had to do?

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Yeah.

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First of all, it's still very upsetting when any, whenever anyone

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says the eighties was 40 years ago.

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Sorry.

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I was like, oh my God.

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Even though I am 41, I'm still like 40 years ago?

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Surely not.

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Yeah.

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Well, the, the focus in this, in the second book is very narrow

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and specific, I would say.

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Because the 1980s portion of it is very much directly based

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on my childhood holidays.

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So every year we used to go on a caravan holiday to a very small seaside

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town called Dymchurch, which is near Folkestone, uh, we would go every year.

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There'd be tons of us all cramed into one caravan, basically.

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It's all my uncles, aunts, cousins, Nan, granddad, mom, dad, everyone in a caravan.

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So the whole kind of plot line that's set in the Eighties

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is based on those holidays.

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And it's about something essentially going awry during that kind of two weeks

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in a caravan on the Southeast coast.

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I mean, those memories are so clear and so like almost central to my personality.

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Core memories.

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Core memories.

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Yeah, exactly.

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The core memory of growing up was these holidays in the caravan.

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So I felt there was a fair amount of Eighties research that you

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have to do because you you forget about like really tiny details.

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If they're listening to music in the caravan, how are they listening to it?

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Was it a radio?

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Did they have a boombox, not that we took boom boxes on holidays in the caravan.

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Did they have a TV?

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Obviously no one had a phone, all that sort of stuff.

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So you do have to persistently remind yourself of these little

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details that you just forget.

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Um, but mostly the research was to do with those holidays, and remembering

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how we all interacted, the sorts of things we did like going sit on the

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beach or going crabbing or going to the slots, all of that stuff.

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Yeah.

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I felt like I already had within me, because it was such

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a core memory, as you say.

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Yeah.

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So it felt not in any way like an easy thing to do, but it felt like a real

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pleasure to mine all of that stuff that was so important to me and then make

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it into a really horrible, scary book.

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Which, I'm sure I'm gonna get in trouble with several members of my family about.

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Because no actual murders happened when I was on holiday

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in Dymchurch that I'm aware of.

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Have you as part of your research just like casually, asked your parents in

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quite a nice soothing way, " let's reminisce over those childhood holidays."

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and they had no idea that it's research for this book and then the book's gonna

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come out and they're like, is this where you asked about that holiday?

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Oh yeah!

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But the thing is that they, we talk about it all the time anyway.

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I'm sure that all families are the same, but when we get together, I often

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go out for lunch with my mom and my aunties, and we always talk about those

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holidays and all the various incidents.

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The sort of you know, family memories that everyone has and

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we'll share and have a laugh about.

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So in a way I've been mining it for years.

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But yeah, there've been a few occasions where I've steered the conversation to

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get the finer details or, or I've gone through my mom's photographs as well

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of all those family holidays and such.

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It is almost impossible to resist putting these things in.

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Yeah.

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Because they were just so ripe for writing about in a way.

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When it's very evocative for you to recall those memories, it makes it slightly

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easier to write it in an evocative way.

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Because you are just drawing on your own experience.

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And how it felt, how it smelled, like the physical as well as the emotional

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sensations that you associate with that can be really good to tap into.

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Yeah, absolutely.

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And I think it's a, not that everybody's, you know, went on holiday to the Southeast

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coast, but I think most families have a similar experience with like a, a

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holiday home that they went back to a lot.

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And I think it's one of those kind of things that people can

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identify with really easily.

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Yeah.

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I, I think anyone who's had you know, the luxury of holidays, would've had a

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returning holiday destination, even if it's just an auntie's house or somewhere

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they went during the school holiday.

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Yeah.

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really look forward to that.

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That sounds amazing.

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Obviously we've touched on you sort of learning from the first crime

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thriller you know, and how that sort of has paid off in, into the second.

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I've just gonna wrap up cause I've realized we're

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filling our time very quickly.

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It's going great.

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But just to wrap up with my last two questions, I think it's really

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interesting to hear possibly how the two thrillers have and what you've

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learned through writing, those is now informing your next fantasy book.

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And is there anything particular that you learned through writing those thrillers

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that you are consciously aware of is now applying to your writing going forward?

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Yeah, that's, that is interesting.

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Cuz I think what I learned very quickly with the crime books is that

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you are, you're essentially hiding information from the readers a lot.

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Whereas with fantasy, we know my previous trilogies, what you are often

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trying to do is trying to convince the reader that stuff is real.

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So you are giving them a lot of information particularly about the

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characters, cuz you want them to believe in them as real people,

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even if the world is very strange.

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So you give them a lot of background and a lot of like their inner

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turmoil and all this stuff.

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Whereas with crime, what you're often doing is not telling

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the reader about things.

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And sewing these secrets through the book that keep the reader paging

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through because they wanna know the answers to these questions.

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So there's much more of a balance of who knows what, when, is a lot

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more complicated in a crime book.

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So I think with the fantasy book that I'm writing now, what I've been much more

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conscious of is the idea of putting these questions and seeding these questions

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throughout the fantasy book as well, which has been really interesting.

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So I've approached it with the idea that the central characters all have their own

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secrets, even if they're unaware of them.

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And so a lot more of the book turns around when people find out

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these kind of life changing things.

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And what that means for them and the world around them.

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So I think it has had an impact on the fantasy book, definitely.

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Because I'm much more conscious of what I'm letting the reader

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know and what I'm keeping from them, which is quite fun really.

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Yeah.

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No, absolutely.

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So I think so fans of your previous fantasy might be shocked that the

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way the events unfold in this book.

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It sounds like it'll be quite different.

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I think, possibly, yeah.

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I feel, I feel like there's more kind of explosive revelations.

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Okay.

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That's cool.

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In this one than yeah, than previously, hopefully.

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If it works.

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Oh well, I I'm sure it will.

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I look forward to it.

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And my final question, is there one piece of writing advice that either you've

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read or been told or overheard that you find yourself returning to, that

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applies to your writing and just a mantra that gets you through difficult times?

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Mm Oh God.

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I feel like there's a lot of different things that I return to quite often.

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I think, I guess the main one is very general and that's the

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idea that writing is a long game.

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And it takes as long as it takes, haha.

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And I think when you're just starting out, you want everything to happen

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immediately and you want the book to be great straight away, but the reality is

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that there's a lot of work involved and you do have to accept that it takes time.

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So you can't just necessarily bang out a book and it gets bought and it gets

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on the best seller list or any of that.

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So it takes a lot of work and it is a craft and you have

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a lot to learn all the time.

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I think that's one of the joys of writing is that I feel like

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I'm always learning new stuff.

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Yeah, every day is a day that you learn something with writing, I think.

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And it's good to have some patience with yourself about it.

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Absolutely.

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It's a marathon, not a sprint.

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Yeah, exactly.

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That's wonderful.

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And that's unfortunately all we have time for this week.

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But, Jen Williams, you have been a fantastic guest and uh, thank you

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very much for joining me this week.

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Oh, thanks for having me on.

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It's been a pleasure.

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And that was the real writing process of Jen Williams.

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Told you she was a great guest.

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If you'd like to learn more about Jen, then you're in luck

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for she has a proper website.

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Has a blog and everything.

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And not only does it have a link to all of her books, it has maps

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for all of her fantasy ones.

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Now, we all know it's not a decent fantasy book unless it has a map.

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But some people insist on listening to the audio book or reading it

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on Kindle and depriving themselves as the full map experience.

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So I find it's a nice touch to have the maps on the website and I approve.

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And other fantasy authors, please take note.

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The web address is in the show notes.

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And if you don't like reading the show notes, google exists.

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Anyway, we only have one episode of season two left.

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One left.

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Then I get to go on my summer holidays.

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Which is now working holiday, as I have 30 authors wanting to be

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on next season and only 10 spaces.

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That's a lot of reading, researching and responding to.

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You'll love it though.

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But before all that, here's a song to remind you to please keep

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