Today, we welcome women’s fiction author, Christine Stovell…
Hi Chris, so lovely to see you here at Romaniac HQ. First things first – Tea or Coffee? Ooh, and we’ve re-stocked the cupboards with lots of yummy cakes and biscuits (should the need grab us…)
Helloooo Jan! Thank you so much for having me here. What a lovely smell of baking! I’ll have coffee please and, oh, is that coffee and walnut cake? There’s nothing like kick-starting the day with plenty of caffeine… and sugar… and, er, fat, is there?
A little birdie tells us you’re busy working on novel number three for Choc Lit. Can you give us a teaser?
Well, since it’s you… I try not to talk too much about the early stages of the WIP, as that’s when all those ideas swirling around in the dark looking so mysterious and enticing can look a bit naff if I shine too much light on them! Hopefully I’m past that stage, so … Clearing the Decks will feature a return to my fictitious seaside town, Little Spitmarsh, the location for my first novel, Turning the Tide. It’s not a sequel, although we’ll catch up with one or two of the characters who live there as well as meeting new ones. I’m really enjoying writing this one, because I’m very fond of Little Spitmarsh. Also, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with my current heroine and hero; she’s funny and self-deprecating and he’s just a lovely guy. Pity I give them such a tough time then!
It’s no secret how much you love living and writing in Wales; indeed, Coralie Casey, heroine in your second novel , Move Over Darling, escapes there, so how would you pitch the Welsh charm to a (shamefully) yet-to-visit city girl like me?
Where do I start? Beautiful, undiscovered beaches (and I happen to live a short walk from one of them). Breathtaking scenery. Warm-hearted, witty people. Rugby. The Millennium Stadium. The Millennium Centre. Swansea Market. Richard Burton reading Under Milk Wood. The poet, Owen Sheers… I could keep going, I love living here, just don’t mention the weather!
When you begin a novel, do you draft out each chapter beforehand or do your characters have free rein to take you wherever their stories lead them?
I start with a title which reflects my feeling of what the novel’s about, then I set up a spreadsheet with a chapter list, some preliminary ideas about each character’s story arc and some rough notes for essential scenes… then I start writing and it all goes out the window! As you suggest, it’s when characters really come to life that the magic happens. Suddenly they’re telling their stories, which is the most brilliant, rewarding feeling.
You also write short stories. Do you find it easy/hard to switch between the two and how exciting was it to write ‘Touch Wood’ which was included in Choc Lit’s anthology – Love Match Selection?
Ah, do you know, I loved writing ‘Touch Wood’. I keep notebooks and cuttings of anything that catches my eye. Amongst them was an article about a craftswoman working with green oak and a fabulously moody photo of a trip hop musician – when I put those two together the story just happened.
A writing journey of 90,000 words, for me, is like running a half marathon so a short, satisfying 3k run every now and then just rings the changes and keeps me on course. I enjoy both.
What first gave you the writing bug?
Winning a prize of chocolate in a writing competition at primary school is the short answer. But growing up in a house full of books and having an inspirational English teacher helped too.
Do you have a set routine or any literary rituals?
Literary rituals? How about tickets for the complete Lions Tour 2013? I’m sure that would give me plenty to write about, Mr Gatland, if you’re reading this. Failing that, ‘Bum on Seat’ is the only ritual I know that works!
Any other creative (or otherwise) passions or hobbies, Chris?
I love running, especially living here on this beautiful coastline, and it really helps me work out those pesky knots in my plot, I’m a passionate rugby fan and I adore very depressing music. I love a good old blast of Nick Cave and one of my happiest moments was being just inches away from Radiohead at a recording of the Jonathan Ross show after they played their set twice.
Which three words would you say best describe you, and why?
Nasty, brutish and short. Especially when I’m trying to write.
And finally… No visit to Romaniac HQ would be complete without a few quick-fire questions, (plus another cuppa and wedge of cake, of course…) so here goes:
Favourite Welsh Celeb?
*Through mouth crammed with cake*, the entire Welsh Rugby Team!
Damn… it’s er, coffee and cake at *whispering* Dunelm Mill, Swansea. It’s just it’s a convenient place to stop before shopping in Swansea and it always sets my happiness levels soaring nicely!
Sunlounger or Ski Slopes?
Sunlounger and a good book. Bliss.
Three novels you’d magic out of thin air to re-read if you were marooned on a desert island for a week?
Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Sally Beauman’s Landscape of Love, Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven – three novels I never tire of re-reading.
Singer you’d most like to serenade you?
Kelly Jones; small but perfectly formed. Plus lots of Stereophonic tracks were playing in my head when I wrote ‘Move Over Darling’.
Ant or Dec?
Wrong on so many levels.
Paris or Rome?
I would love a Roman holiday!
Fave Chocolate bar?
A Crunchie – nice but not too naughty.
Chris, it’s been an absolute pleasure chatting to you. Best of luck with your next novel: ‘Clearing the Decks’.
Aw, Jan, it’s great to chat to you again, thanks to you and to all the fab Romaniacs for having me here – sorry about the crumbs. Let me give you a hand with the washing up.
Follow Christine on Twitter: @chrisstovell