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.

2017-05-21 16.01.10

 

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.

AWG_FRONT_150dpi HIGH RES

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’.

DSC_0069

 

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

 

Advertisements

Summer in Tintagel – Amanda James tells all.

Mandyinterviewpic

The Romaniacs are delighted to have the very talented Amanda James reclining on our sofa today. Good morning Mandy, and welcome to HQ – Jan’s hoovered the Romaniac cat in readiness for your visit, Sue’s arranged the flowers, Laura, Debs, Vanessa and Lucie are tuning up for a welcome chorus and I’ve just made a fresh batch of scones, so settle back and relax. Jam? Clotted cream?

Mandy: Oooh lovely! Can I have cream and jam please?

Celia: Absolutely. I had a feeling you’d be celebrating in style because you’ve got exciting news for our blog spot and an ebook giveaway as a bonus. Tell us about the launch of your fabulous new novel.

Mandy: Well…ishst crawled Shummer  in… Phew sorry about that, not a good idea to speak through a mouthful of scone. Sorry, Celia? I have cream on my nose? Really? Gawd, thanks for the tissue. So glad we’re not on videocam or whatever it’s called. Okay, it’s called Summer in Tintagel and came out a few days ago. (Ed: It’s out today, folks 😀 ) As you can see from the blurb it’s full of mystery, secrets, love and a search for the truth. I am doing a blog tour and chatting nonsense… no, I mean telling people really interesting stuff about my life and writing. I’m giving an ebook away at the end, so please do try to keep awake. Celia, you’re snoring.

Celia: So, let’s go back in time. How long have you been writing and what started you off?

Mandy: I’ve been writing for a hundred years, or since I was about eight. I asked my parents for a typewriter for Christmas and I never looked back. I was published the next year and made the bestseller list. Okay, yes, I do realise that I might be exaggerating. So the truth is I wrote short stories and poems for years and years and years, but never did anything with them. For some reason I decided that I would take my writing a little bit more seriously around 2002 and eventually had a short story published in 2010. So it didn’t happen overnight as you can see. Since then I have had four novels published, Summer in Tintagel is the fifth .

Celia: My Kindle is waiting for it excitedly – I’ve loved all the others. Thinking more about your writing process now; what/where are your favourite places to write?

Mandy: My dream place to write would be in an old beach house by the side of the ocean. You know the ones one stilts that are found in California? The noonday sun would have peeled some of the paint from the outside and it everything would smell of salt air and hot sand. I would sit on the veranda in a huge straw hat with a cold glass of wine to hand and occasionally raise my head from the laptop to watch a pelican or two glide by… In reality I write in the back bedroom but I can see the ocean six-miles away on a clear day!

Celia: And what are you reading for pleasure at the moment?

Mandy: I’m reading a book that I have always meant to, but never got around to.  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou is just wonderful. It’s autobiographical and set in segregated Arkansas in the 1930s. I find it quite extraordinary how a poor black girl, more or less abandoned by her parents growing up in such times managed to achieve everything she did in her long life. The writing is stunningly beautiful and the story extremely moving, yet so inspirational. I’m really enjoying it and would recommend it to absolutely anyone. In fact, everyone go out and buy this book now!

Celia: How would your ideal writing day go? Talk us through it…

Mandy: Ideal? Okay, I wake very early and write for three hours, then I have a top chef cook me a very extravagant breakfast, after which I have a snooze on the veranda – see above. Then I write for another three hours and then go off for a walk on the beach. The rest of my day is filled by witty conversation with my friends and family, and to finish, a lovely barbeque on the beach at which everyone drinks champagne, swims in the sea and dances to live music under the light of an unfeasibly bright moon.

Celia: Just getting the sausages sizzling ready to join you. That sounds amazing! Picking up on the live music part, I know live gigs have been happening a lot around you lately – which bands/singers have inspired your writing and do you like to write with music in the background?

Mandy: Yes, I have been very lucky to see some excellent live music lately. Coldplay at Wembley, Tom Jones at the Eden Project and Jools Holland and his band in Falmouth. The highlight was the mighty Coldplay though – they make everyone so happy with their music so much so that you can see pure joy on every face. Having said that I didn’t count all 90,000 faces in Wembley – that would have been impossible. I have also seen Paul Simon a few times and find his music equally inspiring but in a different way. One of the first huge influences on my life and therefore my writing was David Bowie. He will be sadly missed by people of my age group and some younger folk too, I think. No, I don’t like music on in the background while I’m working – isn’t that odd?

Celia: I’m with you on that one. So, what’s your next ambition?

Mandy: To keep on writing and for my endeavours to be well received. Of course, I would eventually like to make best seller list and have the overnight success that in my case would have been a hundred years in the making.

Celia: I can already see your name at the top of that list alongside all the ones who’ve been hanging around there waiting for you to turn up. Speaking of other writers, which authors or books influenced you to start (and continue) reading as a child?

Mandy: I loved all the Enid Blyton ones, especially The Famous Five as they went to Cornwall, or perhaps it was Devon…anyway they had huge adventures. I wanted to be George as she was so feisty and gave the boys a run for their money. The Lord of The Rings was introduced to me when I was 13 and my goodness it was a revelation. I adored it and got totally lost in Tolkien’s world.

Celia: And so – this will probably be tricky – who are your three all time favourite authors?

Mandy: Yes it is a bit tricky…Okay, Dean Koontz because he’s a phenomenal writer and took the time to write to me three times, Charles Dickens because he always roots for the little guy and Tolkien because of the above.

Celia: Okay, now for some quick-fire questions so we can really get to know you;

Champagne or beer? Yes please…Oh I have to pick one? Champagne.

Seaside or mountains? Seaside.

Log fire or hot tub? Hot tub. Just off the veranda in my beach house…

Eric or Ernie? Eric. Loved that guy – he can still make me laugh, even though I know what’s coming.

Ant or Dec?  Neither. Can’t abide them.

Chocolate or cheese?  Cheese.

Dawn or dusk?  Dawn.

Heels or flats? In my head, heels. In reality – flats.

Dancing or swimming? Dancing.

Walking or running? Walking, my knees won’t take the running bit nowadays.

Jeans or frocks?  Jeans. Frocks for special occasions.

Home or away? Home, as Cornwall is just wonderful. Wouldn’t say no to away though!

Celia: Thanks for being with us today, Mandy – and just for being so interesting, you can have the last scone.

Mandy: Thanks, for having me Celia! I have really enjoyed it…and by the way, you have jam on your lip.

Celia: Oh, cheers! Pass the tissues over here, please. Hey, we forgot to give the details of the ebook giveaway competition thing…

*Mandy has promised the lucky winner of our competition a digital copy of Summer in Tintagel, hot off the press, as it were. All you have to do is tell us who is your all-time favourite author, and why – in no more than three sentences.*

Here’s some background information about Amanda James and her new book.

Mandycoverpic

Bio:

Amanda James has written since she was a child, but never imagined that her words would be published. Then in 2010, after many twists and turns, the dream of becoming a writer came true.

Amanda has written many short stories and has four novels currently published. A Stitch in Time was published in April of 2013 by http://www.choclitpublishing.co.uk and has met with great success.

Also with Choc Lit are Somewhere Beyond the Sea and Dancing in the Rain (March 2014)

Cross Stitch (December 2014)

Her latest novel is Summer in Tintagel – Urbane Publications and is out now.

Amanda’s blog – http://mandykjameswrites.blogspot.com/

Twitter – @akjames61

Summer at Tintagel

BLURB:

We all have secrets……

Ambitious journalist Rosa Fernley has been asked to fulfil her grandmother Jocelyn’s dying wish. Jocelyn has also passed on a secret – in the summer of 1968, fleeing from the terror of a bullying husband, she visited the mysterious Tintagel Castle. Jocelyn wasn’t seeking love, but she found it on the rugged clifftops in the shape of Jory, a local man as enigmatic and alluring as the region itself. But she was already married, and knew her husband would never let her find happiness and peace in Jory’s arms.

Now as her days are nearing their end, she begs Rosa to go back to Tintagel, but is unwilling, or unable, to tell her why. Rosa is reluctant – she has a job in London, a deadline that won’t wait and flights of fancy are just not in her nature. Nevertheless, she realises it might be the last thing she will do for her beloved grandmother and agrees to go.

Once in Tintagel, Rosa is challenged to confront secrets of her own, as shocking events threaten to change everything she has ever believed about herself and her family. She also meets a guide to the castle, Talan, a man who bears a striking resemblance to Jory.

Will the past remain cloaked in tragedy, sadness and the pain of unrequited love? Or can Rosa find the courage and strength to embrace the secrets of the past, and give hope to the future?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Summer-Tintagel-Amanda-James-ebook/dp/B01H9BS1JE?ie=UTF8&ref_=asap_bc

Summer in Tintagel eBook: Amanda James: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

www.amazon.co.uk

Summer in Tintagel eBook: Amanda James: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

 

Summer in Tintagel (Urbane Publications July 2016)

Cross Stitch (Choc Lit December 2014)

Somewhere Beyond the Sea ( Choc Lit April 2014)

Dancing in the Rain (Choc Lit March 2014)

A Stitch in Time (Choc Lit) – http://www.choc-lit.com/

Righteous Exposure (Crooked Cat) – http://www.crookedcatbooks.com/

Blog – http://mandykjameswrites.blogspot.co.uk/