Laura Barnett and ‘Being Brave!’

I was excited for the opportunity to meet Laura Barnett at the Wakefield Literature festival back in September; I try and get along to as many local author events as I can. There is nobody better to inspire you than the ones who have ‘made it’ and inspiration was certainly the order of the day at this particular event.

Laura Barnett has recently published her debut novel The Versions of Us with overwhelming success. It is currently enjoying a renewed surge of publicity after being included in the Richard and Judy Spring 2016 Book Club. I was fascinated to hear Laura talk about her book; her inspirations for writing it and her journey from the last full stop to publication.

She was asked many questions about the book itself and her motivations for the plot and the characterisation. It was fascinating to learn that she wrote the book as one and not as three separate stories as one might have expected. For anyone who hasn’t read it, the book follows three versions of a life that might have been. One person asked her if she had a favourite version to which she responded good humouredly, “That’s like choosing a favourite child.”

I was particularly interested to hear about her writing life. She talked about the importance of carving out time for writing which can be something we all struggle to do. But, as she quite rightly pointed out, if it is important to you, you will make the time. Laura also talked about her writing routines and the planning techniques she had used when writing The Versions of Us. For anyone wanting to write, it is always intriguing to hear how published authors craft their ideas into words.

One anecdote that particularly stayed with me was when she talked about her experience of finding an agent. I imagined careful research; months of anguish and an array of rejection slips. But no. She picked a contemporary author she admired, in this case, Sarah Walters, and approached her agent. Luckily, the agent, Judith Murray, liked Laura’s work and her path to success began. From being accepted by the agent, her book has gone from strength to strength enjoying a spot as the Sunday Times number one bestseller. The book is also being optioned for a TV series; I will look out for that with eager anticipation.

Towards the end of the afternoon, I was lucky enough to speak to her personally and I told her about my own writing. I asked what her one piece of advice would be and she said, “Be Brave.” She went on to say that if you want to persue  a writing career, you have to say yes to things and put yourself ‘out there’. I really liked the advice and have tried to carry it around with me. As well as her advice, she kindly signed my book telling me to keep writing and keep dreaming.

I am sure we will see more from Laura as she builds her career as a writer and I, for one, wish her all the best.

Gavin Extence at Sheffield Library 

I went to see Gavin speak at Sheffield library recently. He talked about his second book: The mirror world of Melody Black. The books is, to a large extent, about the protagonist’s struggle with her mental health issues. I found the topic interesting as it is generally still a taboo subject in our culture. Gavin told us that some aspects of the book were taken from his own experiences and was very open when he was asked some particularly personal questions. I was surprised to find that the audience seemed more interested in the author than they did in the book.

His talk got me to thinking about how much of ourselves leaks into our writing. It is a commonly held belief that we are in everything we ever write and that is certainly true of me. My characters and settings are all rooted in personal experience because I would find it very difficult to bring them to life otherwise. I am, as they say, an open book. I think this is true of Gavin’s book too. The character’s story would not have had the depth it does had the author not had some knowledge of the topic first hand.

All in all it was an interesting event and I am looking forward to reading the book.

 

Joanne Harris at Waterstones

On Wednesday evening I went to see the bestselling Joanne Harris at my local Waterstones with a sense of eager anticipation. Having written such a diverse range of books, I wasn’t sure what to expect from her latest offering: The Gospel of Loki. As she enthused about her newest creation, I was mesmerised by the passion she had for her topic. She was an expert on Norse gods and mythology. She had read every reincarnation of the myths and had become so fascinated with the character of Loki that she felt compelled to write a version of the myths from his perspective.

I find it hard to imagine being so intrigued by a character that you can’t accept what little is known of them so you decide to write a book to fill the gaps. But that’s exactly what she’s done. It wouldn’t usually be my kind of read but it was hard not to get carried away with her exuberance and passion. So, of course, I left the shop with a signed copy and I’m looking forward to getting started.

I don’t only go along to these events to hear about the latest releases; I love to hear published writers talk about their journeys to success. In Joanne’s case, it all began in my own birth town of Barnsley. Her Saturday morning visits to Barnsley library introduced her to the world of books, fiction and particularly fantasy. It made me think about when I had first decided I wanted to become a writer and why. I think I was probably about 8 when I read The Secret Island by Enid Blyton. What a book! I just wanted to crawl into the pages and live with them on the island. It was then that I realised that I wanted to create people and places and worlds which were far more exciting than my own.

All in all it was a brilliant evening and I will look forward to sharing the next few weeks with the God of mischief 🙂