Life Cycle of a Writer ~ Jan Brigden ~ the fear and ultimate joy of my first author talk …

Earlier this year, my lovely publisher Choc Lit  announced they were off on tour and would be hosting events at various libraries around the country. On offer was an afternoon of author talks, Q&A sessions, fun quizzes, goody bags, a chance for aspiring authors to pitch their manuscripts to a Choc Lit editor. Oh, and plenty of choccies!

Tour-bus-with-books

When I heard that one of the events would be in Southampton, not on my doorstep, but a place I can get to by train direct from East Croydon, I was tempted to volunteer to be part of the author panel, but couldn’t see past my morbid fear of public speaking. I slept on it, talked to Mr B and as much as the thought of it gave me palpitations, a lingering ripple of excitement in my tummy told me I should go for it; that it would be good for me.

So I fired off an email to the Choc Lit team and before I could bottle out, booked my train ticket.

No backing out now, Jan, I thought.

I was Southampton-bound.

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Alongside me on the panel would be my fellow Romaniac, Laura James, who has written three books for Choc Lit, and Evonne Wareham and Liv Thomas (who writes under the name of Isabella Connor) – both ladies having published two books each. We’d be required to chat about our routes to publication and about our books themselves.

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My book!

 

Hideously nervous, I put together some notes, both detailed and bullet-pointed. Laura had given me a great tip to use highlighter pens for buzz words and phrases.

Other advice I received, all of which I was hugely grateful for, was as follows:

  1. Remember to breathe properly. Might sound obvious, but when I was practising my read-through, this was something Mr B picked up on, along with my habit of saying “Erm!” after nearly every sentence.
  2. It’s fine to slow things down if you feel yourself wanting to canter through it. It also gives you a chance to scan your notes if using them for reference as I did.
  3. Keep your focus on your audience soft as you begin,  until you settle into your rhythm, rather than trying to gain eye-contact with too many people too quickly.
  4. Be yourself. Smile. If you fluff a line, clam up or laugh inappropriately, it will be forgiven. You’re human. It’s your first time.

All of these tips proved invaluable, as did the public speaking/confidence hypnotherapy recordings my best friend sent me which I found really relaxing. Not for everyone, granted, but they did help me to focus on the ‘can do’ rather than ‘can’t’.

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I also drew comfort from my own memories of attending these types of events, sitting in the audience with my pad and pen, taking precious notes and listening to authors talk about their books and feeling so pleased that I’d gone along, as I learned so much. If I could in any way encourage the aspiring authors among our audience and convey to the readers and bloggers among us how very grateful we are for their time and support, it had to be worth all my doubts and fears, didn’t it?

And so off I set, armed with my wad of notes, caught my train to Southampton, which another of my lovely fellow Romaniacs, Sue Fortin, hopped on en-route as she was coming along to the event. We then bumped into Laura at the station and the three of us went for lunch, with both Sue and Laura doing everything they could to ease my last-minute jitters, having both given author talks themselves.

This nice plateful of food helped …

 

Jan Italian Meal

When we arrived at the venue, the rest  of the Choc Lit team welcomed us. I donned my T-shirt and after a lovely meet and greet session, we began our talk.

I heard the quiver in my voice as I began, was conscious of flapping my hands about a bit. I remembered everything I’d been told, though, and managed to engage the audience. We had a few laughs and talked about funny research memories and everyone on the panel had a different aspect and angle which gave the talk balance. I can’t deny I let out a long internal “Phew!” when my turn was over, but if I’m honest, I loved it and felt very proud that I’d seen it through.

FOUR CHOCLITEERS

L to R ~ Evonne Wareham, Me, Liv Thomas (Isabella Connor), Laura James

We then had a fun quiz, lots of interacting and more laughter and the whole event was professionally organised and wonderfully informal. We had some fantastic feedback and even managed to sell a few books. The chocolates kept coming throughout and it was great to meet so many of the people I speak to online.

 

Thank you to everyone at Choc Lit, readers, bloggers, writers and Southampton Library for helping to make my first author talk such an enjoyable, memorable experience.

Should anyone be interested in future Choc Lit library events, have a peep here Choc Lit on Tour for ticket info and notice of who will be in attendance.

Jan  X

 

HONNNNKKKKKKK!

HONNNKKKK!!!

The fireworks are being lit, the cake is coming out of the oven and the glasses are overflowing with pop as The Romaniacs celebrate the paperback release of our lovely Jan Brigden’s As Weekends Go.

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Laura: Many congratulations, Jan. What an exciting day! Your first paperback. And isn’t it gorgeous? I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a signed copy. I am thrilled for you. So well deserved, my lovely, hardworking friend xxx

Catherine: Congratulations, Jan! The honkometer cannot withstand such excitement! This level of celebration may be enough to put it into early retirement! Enjoy the day and we’ve stocked up on additional cake to mark the occasion! Xxx

Vanessa: HUGE congratulations, lovely Jan. I hope your day is filled with cake and champagne – I can’t wait to add the wonderful As Weekends Go to my Romaniac shelf!

Sue: Honkity-honk-honk-honk! Congratulations, Jan on the release of your paperback. It’s a fantastic story and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. It will take pride of place on my bookshelf with the other Romaniac publications! I also get to stroke Alex Heath!! Well done, my friend, thoroughly deserved. xx

Celia: Sooooo excited for you, our lovely, talented Jan! Loved the Kindle version and can’t wait to see the book in paperback form, in all its glory. Massive congratulations and honks. Very, very proud of you and all you’ve achieved xxxx

Lucie: How amazing is this, Jan? I am SUPER proud of you, my friend! I cannot wait for this to be on my shelf. You are an inspiration and I hope you are celebrating in true Romaniac-style with plenty of fizz and HONKS! Love you lots xxx 

 

With love from The Romaniacs

xxxxxxx

 

 

Life Cycle of a Writer ~ Jan Brigden ~ Interviewing your Characters

In the early stages of drafting As Weekends Go, I gobbled up every nugget of writerly advice going – I still do – you never stop learning and any guidance is invaluable.

I’d already created detailed profiles for each of my main characters, some secondary characters too, i.e. ages, physical descriptions, family backgrounds, schooling, jobs, habits, likes/dislikes, friendships, relationships, star signs. A further suggested exercise that proved brilliant for me was “literally” interviewing them. Instead of writing a structured Q&A for each, I let them chat away on the page (so to speak) to see how they viewed themselves, to hear their voices and obtain an insight into specific personality traits, hopes, values, etc.

Here’s a brief glimpse at two of the main cast members – random facts in no particular order –  to further illustrate what I mean :

Hello, could you please tell me a little bit about yourself...

“Hi, I’m Rebecca Stafford, married to Greg for four years, no children as yet, but having now moved into our new home, we plan to start a family, which I’m so excited about. I just hope Greg’s workload reduces. He’s been so stressed lately – a bit snappy too, (between you and me) – and could really do with relaxing a bit more. I do worry about him.

I’d say I’m a good listener, diplomatically honest, as I hate to hurt people’s feelings. I’m quite a home bod, and I love the company of my friends and family, especially my best friend Abi who I’ve known for years. I dress in what suits me. I’m not a dedicated follower of fashion as they say, but I do take pride in my appearance.”

Next please ... (1)

“Hello, I’m Alex Heath. Describe myself physically? Well, I’m very fit  – in the sporty sense (I wasn’t being vain!) as my profession demands it. I’ve always been active, trained hard and appreciated all the challenges and rewards it brings. I’m not really into the celebrity thing and shy away from publicity even though I know it’s all part of the job. I think it’s important to stay grounded, have good friends and family around me and never forget what a privilege it is to be doing what I love.

I’m a good judge of character. Some people say I can be stubborn, (my mum, usually!) which maybe I am, but it helps me to focus on what’s important. Nobody likes being taken for a fool, do they? Do I like being rich? Well, it certainly has its advantages. I’d be a liar if I said otherwise, but I’m level-headed with money; prefer spending it on other people than myself.”

***

Now I know these exercises won’t necessarily be for everyone. Admittedly, a lot of the pre-interview detailed character profile information I didn’t actually use in the book, i.e. Rebecca’s favourite film or her opinion of her first boss, but it did give me an insight into how she might react in certain scenes, or to the various people she met, whatever the situation. Same with Alex. So too, with my other main characters.

I did the same thing for my second book which I’m currently writing. If you think interviewing your characters is something that might help you develop your own stories, then give it a try. I can definitely recommend it.

 

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Love Jan x

SFTW: AS Weekends Go

WAHOOO!

This is a very special Something For The Weekend.

It’s publication day for Jan Brigden’s debut As Weekends Go!

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As Weekends Go won the Choc Lit and Whole Story Audiobooks Search For A Star competition 2014/2015, and we are immensely proud of and thrilled for Jan. It is a fabulous novel, with a stunning cover. Jan’s warmth oozes from the pages.

Under normal circumstances, Jan is custodian of the Romaniac Honkometer, but we liberated it from HQ so we could do this:

HONNNNNKKKKKK!!!!!

And now for a few words from the Romaniacs …

Laura: Jan, many congratulations on the release of your debut. It’s a huge achievement and I am absolutely delighted for you. Not only are you a wonderful writer, but a genuine, supportive and warm-hearted person, who I am very lucky to be able to call my friend. Have an incredible day – take it all in, enjoy it, have fun, and watch AWG fly 🙂 xxx

Vanessa: HUGE congratulations, Jan! I’m thrilled to bits for you and your wonderful book. Enjoy publication day!! xxx

Debbie: Woo hoo!  HONKETY HONK! Dearest Jan, I’m sounding the ‘honkometer’ on your behalf today. Our little treasure; you’re the first to encourage, support and congratulate our fellow writer friends. Today the spotlight is on YOU although knowing you as I do, I don’t suppose it will come easily being centre stage, seeing as you’re always one to hide your light under a bushel! However for today, I wish for you to bask in the celebration of your publication day, immerse yourself in the experience and revel in the celebrations our writer friends cast in your direction.

This is what you have been working for, Jan. It is so well deserved and I’m sending you, my lovely Romaniac friend, heartfelt congratulations and every success with XXXX. This is your moment!  This is the time …

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life’s dream. And no-one deserves it like you! xxx

Catherine: I was slightly concerned that as chief honker in Romaniac HQ that the rest of us wouldn’t be able to use the HONKOMETER without Jan backing us up with some kind of IT support! Turns out we only needed to give it a jiggle to sound the honkets! And they are so well deserved after all your hard work and support! Like the girls said, bask my lovely, for today is your day! 

Sue : Ah, my lovely friend, I am so pleased for you!!!!!!  As everyone knows, you are such a fabulous supporter of other writers and here at Romaniac HQ we are thoroughly delighted for you. I absolutely can’t wait to read As Weekends Go and I definitely want a turn of the Honkometer – if I can wrestle it from the others! Have a brilliant day! xxx

Lucie: oh my goodness, Jan! Your debut novel is up, up and away! And fly it will! You are an incredibly supportive, genuine, kind hearted person who deserves every second of this. You are always there, bigging everyone else up. Now it’s YOUR turn to enjoy it. This is SO well deserved, I’m so proud of you. Love you millions xxx

Jan, our lovely supportive buddy – you so, so deserve every success in the world. You never fail to prop me up when I’m down, you’re hugely talented and I’m sure you’re going to be a honkmungous success as a published author (see what I did there?) Love you squillions, Celia xxx

 

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Congratulations, Jan 😀

Love from

The Romaniacs

xxxxxxx

Life Cycle of a Writer: OUT OF THE OFFICE

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It’s an OUT OF THE OFFICE Life Cycle of a Writer this week, but unlike our Ce, who was in an office on her out of the office day, our lovely Jan Brigden is out-out  of the office.

If you peer into the dark, deep edits cave, you’ll see a twinkling light and you’ll hear the tappity tap of the keyboard.

Jan is in the midst of her first-ever edits, preparing her debut novel, As Weekends Go, for publication with Choc Lit.

Receiving your first editor’s report can be both scary and exciting. It’s not just about getting your head around the structural changes and rewrite, it’s about understanding the process, and learning the correct terminology, such as stet – a term used to request the retention of the original word or phrase, rather than use the suggested change. But, like the first day in a new job, once you’ve located your desk, the coffee machine and the rest room, everything else falls into place.

IMG_7040Jan is doing a fantastic job, and we’re sending supplies of cake and tea, delivered by pulley system so as not to disturb her, and enthusiastically, if quietly, waving our red and white pom-poms to cheer her on her way. When she leaves the edits cave, we’ll whip her straight down to the health spa for a much-needed dose of vitamin D and obligatory pampering.

It’s all part of the life cycle of a Romaniac writer … xx