Getting to know… Laurie Ellingham

Welcome back for another instalment of Getting to Know… Today we have author Laurie Bellingham with us. Laurie  is the author of The Reluctant Celebrity and How to Throw Your Life Away. She lives on the Suffolk/Essex border in the UK with her husband, two children and a cute cockerpoo. I think she loves coffee just as much as I do. 🙂 

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Author Laurie Ellingham

Laurie, tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from originally? 

Firstly, thanks Kim for having me here today. Such a treat to get virtually out and about as a writer. I’m grew up in Rayleigh, Essex and featured Rayleigh in my second novel How to Throw Your Life Away. I called the town Henley in the book so I could add a bit of creative license. I studied Psychology at Hull University and lived in East London for many years. I now live on the Essex/Suffolk borders with my hubby and two children who are six and five and both happily settled at the village school.

When I’m not ferrying the kids to clubs, cheering on the sidelines of football matches, cooking (which I don’t really enjoy), tidying and cleaning (I HATE), then I’m running in the countryside, writing and reading. Oh and I like chocolate too.

I love chocolate too. It’s one of my favourite things in the world… Now tidying and cleaning…hate doing them, but one must do what one must do. 🙂 When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

I had my first rejection letter when I was 10. I sent a story about a family of peas to the Oxford Press. They sent back a very nice letter and lots of stickers. I miss getting stickers with rejection 🙂

So you could say that I’ve always wanted to be an author. From a very young age I became interested in people and why they behave in certain ways, and filtered this into storytelling.

Imagine if every rejection letter came with nice stickers! That would make them a bit nicer to receive! 😀  Fast-forwarding to now: as a writer, are you a plotter or pantster?

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Oh, definitely a plotter, which is madness because the rest of my life is generally rather messy and chaotic *husband nods from over my shoulder.*

At the start of the year I read Stephen King’s On Writing and was taken with his suggestion to wing it and enjoy where the story takes me. I wrote the first 20,000 words of my latest novel like this but I had to stop and plan and get all my characters sorted out. Once the plan is in place I don’t go back and look at it, not once, but it’s comforting to know it’s there, and I’m happy to change direction if I have a great big light bulb moment when I’m brushing my teeth.
Q: Are you working on a new book now? Can you give us a sneak peek of the plot?
I am. It’s book two for my publisher, Carina (Harper Collins). I’m expecting the first draft finished in a couple of weeks and I cannot wait for the world to see it. Here’s my draft blurb and title (it all might change still)…
The Stranger on the Boat.
‘My name is Abigail Rose Wick. My parents are Sarah and Michael Wick. And I’ve been missing for fourteen years.’
A missing girl returns unharmed. A family torn apart by tragedy begin to heal.
But strange things begin to happen to the Wick family. The media are tipped off, throwing them into a spotlight they cannot hide from. DNA results go missing. Holes begin to appear in the girl’s story.
Is the mysterious girl Abigail Wick?
Who is the stranger on the boat who took Abigail?
What happened fourteen years ago?
Only one person knows the truth.

I sat down expecting this novel to be a fast-paced thriller, but it’s not that at all. I love it.

I know that feeling! I once started working on a book thinking it would be literary fiction and it suddenly veered into a holiday romance. But, wow, I really like the premise of your story!  I would definitely add this to my TBR list.

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Laurie’s writing space

So when you’re writing, do you have a favorite writing space? 

Here it is.

It used to be an entrance hall and front door, then it got an internal door and became a space to stash the dog when he gets under our feet, and now the dog has to share it with me. It smells like musky dog most of the time and doesn’t have a view, but it’s one of my favorite places to be.

I’m fortunate to live in the countryside so anytime I get a bit stir crazy I just take my notebook to the meadow behind our house and write outside for while.

By the way, which titles are on your must-read list this year?

Being part of a fantastic online book community for authors and bloggers (Book Connectors) I see so many amazing books I’m desperate to read. Next up I’m reading The Mountain in My Shoe by Louise Beech. I’m saving it for when my first draft is finished so I can give it the attention it deserves.

And what are you reading now?

Right now I’m reading A Suitable Lie by Michael J Malone. It’s the kind of book that stays with you long after you’ve put it down. For me it is compelling, gripping, and uncomfortable all in one.

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Her adorable dog, Rodney

So which authors would you recommend to people looking for someone new to read?

S.E Lynes or B.A Paris for a fabulous thriller, and Louise Beech and Catherine Miller for some amazing women’s fiction with depth.

What’s a typical day of writing like for you?

I like to sit down and crack on in the mornings, which means getting the kids off to school and being back at my desk for 9am. By 10.30 I’m ready for a break and Rodney (here’s a pic) is ready to go out so we either run or walk together for an hour.
Then it’s right back to my desk with more coffee and some chocolate (usually a Twix) until it’s time to collect the kids. These are the best days and I usually hit my daily word count of 1000 words with time to spare, but for every day like this there’s a day when life gets in the way and I’m up until late still tapping away at my laptop.

Sounds enviable. 🙂 So on these days when you’re writing,  do you imagine any particular actors/actresses as your leads? Or do you find inspiration elsewhere?

Yes. In fact, one of the first things I do when planning my novel is search Google Images for photos that fit with the images of the characters in my mind. I find it helps to look at these pictures at the start of each chapter as it reminds me of their different mannerisms as well as their personalities.

I do something similar with Pinterest and Google Images. I’ve got a few favourites who’ve become my muses and some characters I absolutely adore. What about you? Which of your characters is your favourite?

There is a character in my first book called Guy Rawson. He’s this brooding model turned singer, and hopelessly flawed. I missed him so I found a part for him in a later novel – Three Months to Live (out in April 2017). Although the two novels are nothing a like – the Reluctant Celebrity is a romantic comedy and Three Months to Live is edgy women’s fiction – Guy slotted in nicely for a little guest appearance.

screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-12-07-19One of the things I love about writing is when the story first begins to form in my head. What about you? What’s your favourite thing about being a writer?

I love creating a story in my head and characters that feel as real to me as anyone; this is the amazing thing about being a writer. I like hearing that people are enjoying my books as well but that comes later. Mostly though, writing is when I feel most like myself. I’m a mum and wife and a friend and a daughter and a sister, and that’s great, but when I’m writing I’m me.

What would you say is the most difficult part of being a writer and how do you deal with it? 

Loneliness and self-doubt.

The first is less of an issue in recent years because social media has opened up many wonderful writing communities which means I now feel part of something amazing.
The self-doubt is a harder fix. It can hit anytime and completely out of the blue. I try and just see it as the rough with the smooth as there are as many days I’m excited by what I’m writing.

I know exactly what you mean! But, just to change the subject a bit…a lot of people say they read to escape. They don’t want to be reminded of the harsh reality  of the world when they sit down to read a book. What’s your take on this? Should fiction address topical social issues? 

Absolutely. A skilled author can write about topical social issues whilst still offering the escapism of well written characters. Michael J Malone has done just this by writing about domestic abuse with the female as the abuser. It was uncomfortable at times but it had all the elements of a great read too. I feel richer for having read it.

I so agree with you. I think reading shouldn’t simply be about escaping, even if sometimes that’s all I want. Usually I  want to see things from another perspective, even if it means that the writer makes me feel uncomfortable. 

So tell me, what was the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

Read lots of books in lots of different genres. It keeps your mind focused on writing and novels and opens your eyes to other writing styles.

Before we close up, what advice would you give to novice writers?

Firstly, write. Then write some more. Prioritise writing in your life. If you wait until all your other jobs are done, you’ll never get any writing done.
And at the same time read. Then read some more.

Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Laurie! And readers–make sure you connect with Laurie and check out her novels! 🙂 

Connect with Laurie Ellingham

WebsiteTwitterFacebook – Goodreads

Guest Post: Claire Duffy & Life Is Swede Day on 21 February

A few months ago, a colleague told me about a blog I had to read–and I was hooked from Day One. That blog belonged to Claire Duffy, who is our guest blogger today at Kim Talks Books.

For six months last year, I blogged as a fictional character.  The idea – inspired by Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds – was to create a fictional world that initially appeared authentic, so that people could step right in, interact with the characters, and almost become part of the story themselves.  I’ve always been fascinated with that concept: who wouldn’t want to enter a novel they’re reading, ask questions or give a character a few home truths?

When I moved to Stockholm and the story of a lonely ex pat who gets drawn into a murder mystery began to form in my brain, I knew I’d found my War of the Worlds.  It felt organic: of course Regan would blog daily about her impressions and experiences struggling to settle into her new life.  Within weeks, she had built a fantastic, loyal following, who advised and supported her through culture clashes and the language barrier, a rough patch with Anders and her struggles dealing with his apparently cold and reserved friends.

Regan’s early accounts of being an ex pat in Stockholm are extremely autobiographical: one of my friends only clicked that it was fiction when she realized how much of what happened to Regan had happened to me. I love living in Stockholm, and love Swedish people – but my first year or so was definitely a struggle against loneliness, homesickness and frustration.

I remember at times feeling that I couldn’t read people any more – often I would meet someone and diagnose that they had no interest in being friends with me, then later discover that they were just being Swedishly reserved upon first meeting. For me it was just a case of getting to know and understand a new culture, but, but it was a ripe emotional state to toss a little murder into!  When one of Anders’ close friends is murdered and he is arrested, Regan sets out to clear his name – but unable to trust her perception of the people involved, unable to understand what she hears, it’s easier said than done!

Now that the final blog has been posted, the whole project has been put together into an ebook.

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Friday 21 February is Life is Swede day!!

The idea is to gather up all the fantastic support the blog has had over the last few months – and welcome some new friends into the fold – and see if we can get this little project that could onto the Amazon best seller list for a day*!

(*and also for the rest of all time. But you know, one step at a time 😉 )

To pull this off, we need to spread the word as much as possible to everybody in the whole world (ideally) to buy Life is Swede on Friday 21 February. Join Regan’s Army and blog, share, re-post, tweet, like, submit, pin with abandon! There’s even a Facebook group you can join and add your friends to if you really want to go wild!

Anyone who:

* tweets, shares, mentions the project on any social media will get a thank you & link of their choice on www.lifeisswedeblog.com

* hosts my guest post about the project & plan (I’ll email it on request!) or adds friends to the event Facebook group will get a thank you & blog button displayed on www.lifeisswedeblog.com, plus I’ll tweet & share to the Facebook group a link of your choice.

* blogs about the project (the story, the concept, the plan!) or reviews the book on Amazon will get the button on www.lifeisswedeblog.com, plus a thank you and link on the last page of the book itself, and will go into the draw to be name-checked as one of Regan’s blog friends in the text of the book.

These are just the thank yous I could think up myself (and though my fuzzy, cold addled brain!) – if you have any thoughts or co promotion ideas, I am all ears!! I’ll be monitoring any activity of course, but please do give me a heads up if you are getting involved so that I can be sure to thank you!!

Time to start holiday shopping for the book nerds in your life? I’ve got just the thing to help you…

Just a quickie here as I am busy, busy, busy at work but I had to share that the latest Gifts for Book Nerds List – Edition 2013 is taking shape on Pinterest. need help find cool Christmas or Chanukah gifts for the book nerds in your life? Then check out my suggestions here.

This year, I decided to keep everything in one place instead of having multiple posts here. But you never know–if I think of any good books as gifts, I’ll most likely post a list or two here. 🙂

In the meantime, I am deep in NaNoWriMo, so soon I will be posting excerpts–even though the novel this year is not as cohesive as last year’s first draft of Maybe Baby.

And before I forget: Snowbound should be live in a week or so! I thought it would be ready this week but formatting issues have caused delayed. Will keep you posted! 🙂

NaNoWriMo is coming…

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 2.27.25 PMIn a few days it will be that time again. That time when my friends will wonder if I’ve fallen off the face of the earth and my husband will be grumpy because I am not spending enough time with him. That time we call…NaNoWriMo.

For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and–despite being called “national” it’s actually a global phenomenon. The goal? Write a 50,000+ word novel between 1 and 30 November. The prize? There is none–this is all about staying motivated and encouraging others to reach their goal while you reach yours. So if you think you have a book inside you, why not give NaNoWriMo a try? Just think how pleased you’ll be when you write “The End”. And this gives you a good excuse to be anti-social for a while. 😉

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 11.08.21 PMThis is going to be the ninth time I embark on NaNoWriMo, and I hope I finish on time. I’ve got a busy November ahead, so I will have to pace myself and make sure I finish my 1650 words/day. My novel this year will be entitled Near Enough to Hold. I have two very different story ideas swirling around in my mind, but I think I have a pretty good idea which of them I will write. And as always, I will post rough and very unedited chapters here, so you’ll be able to follow my progress.

I also made a mock-up of a cover to help me stay motivated. No, this isn’t the final cover. I don’t own the rights to this image. I am just using it as inspiration for when I write. Whenever you get stuck, you need something to “unstick” you, and I think this will do the trick.

If you think you’re ready to give NaNoWriMo a try, head over to the official website. There is still time to sign up and it doesn’t cost you a single penny! Even if you don’t finish, the fact that you tried is impressive enough! 🙂

Happy writing (and reading)!

 

At the Women’s Fiction Festival 2013 — What happened today

Image, Matera, Women's Fiction Festival, Italy

The Sassi district in Matera, Italy

Well, it’s my second full day at the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy, and it’s been very insightful. We’ve had some great panel discussions, including one on screenwriting tips for novelists, which was led by James Dalessandro, author of 1906 and who also happens to be a poet/screenwriter/director/producer. Jane Corry led a very in-depth and compelling workshop on how to better revise your novel. David Gaughran was also on hand for a very interesting presentation of self-publishing and what one needs to think about when embarking on a self-publishing project.

Lessons I’ve learned today?

  • novels don’t have to have a nice, tidy ending (unless it’s a romance)
  • don’t write your novel thinking it would make a great film–write it thinking this is a great story
  • always read your writing aloud to make sure you have the right pitch and rhythm
  • keep main characters to a minimum–readers get lost when there are too many people “on stage”
  • don’t spend all day on Twitter–start a mailing list and send out updates to your readers this way
  • good metadata increases discoverability
  • invest in a good editor and a good cover designer

As always,  there was good wine and great food to be had. 🙂

It’s 30°C here today and I feel sapped of all energy, so I need a nap. And then I will do a little more writing. 🙂

By the way, if you haven’t heard yet, Ernessa T. Carter has a new book out called The Awesome Girl’s Guide to Dating Extraordinary Men and it’s…awesome! You need to read it ASAP!

Cover reveal: A Little Night Music

The lovely cover for A Little Night Music, designed by Andrew Brown from Design for Writers.

The lovely cover for A Little Night Music, designed by Andrew Brown from Design for Writers.

I was going to wait awhile before revealing the cover for A Little Night Music–I’m still tweaking the manuscript–but I love it so much I just had to share it.

I started A Little Night Music three years ago and then set it aside.  There were a lot of reasons I stopped working on it but then I decided to ignore them. I loved the story. I wanted it to see the light of day and people who’d read parts of it urged me to keep working on it. They cared about Naomi and Liam and wanted to find out the rest of their story.

So I resurrected the story, worked on it here and there. It’s nearly done and my plan is to launch it either late July or early August. I’ll keep you posted on the actual launch date. 🙂

Many thanks to Andrew Brown from Design for Writers for helping me with the cover design!

Happy reading (and writing)!

Need help with cover design? Check out these peeps…

Indie writers, we all know how insane it can be trying to find good covers for a book. We’ve done our research and scoped out benchmarks, figured out what we like and what we hate. Now we need to find people who can help us make our cover dreams realities. In my search good cover designs, I’ve found (on my own and with the help of fellow authors) great designers and now I’m sharing that info with you.

Custom or Pre-made?

Cover designed by Cover It! Designs

Cover designed by Cover It! Designs

If you’re not sure which option is best, you should check out designers who offer both. Cover It! Designs and Go On Write give you this flexibility. They have great pre-made covers to choose from. If none of them strike your fancy, then both offer affordable custom cover packages for ebooks, print books and promotional material.

I’ve already worked with Go On Write and been very pleased with the quick turnaround and flexibility. The gorgeous cover of Choose Me, the collection of short stories I’m finishing up and which I shared with you last week, is a Go On Write creation and I love it!

Author Ada Slowe has worked with Cover It! Designs and recommends them highly. The cover of her upcoming novel, The Power of Love, is atmospheric and hauntingly beautiful in my opinion.

 

Only Interested in Custom? 

Then you can try Design for Writers. You can check out their portfolio on their Facebook page. I am currently working with Andrew from Design for Writers and look forward to a cover reveal soon.

Gorgeous cover created by Sue Traynor

Gorgeous cover created by Sue Traynor

Or…you could work with an illustrator, which is what I’ve done for Playing House, a novel I plan on releasing in a few months. I worked with Sue Traynor, an illustrator whose work I’d first come across through istockphoto. I liked her whimsical style and I thought it would translate well for the story I was telling. I couldn’t find any stock images that worked for my story so I contacted her about creating custom images. I provided her with reference images, a short summary of the book’s plot and the feel I wanted to capture. And she created the cover for Playing House, which I think looks great. Can’t wait to finally be able to say the book is ready. For now, we’ll have to settle for a sneak peek at the cover.

Working with Sue was great. If you write women’s fiction or chick lit and you want an illustrated cover with custom images, then you should definitely get in touch with Sue.

That’s it for now. I’ll post links to more designers and illustrators as I continue compiling my reference list.

Happy reading (and writing)!

 

Happy Mother’s Day, Barbs!

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My mom, Barbara Golden

I don’t usually write about my mom here but I thought it was a good idea since it is Mother’s Day. My mom and I don’t see each other so often since I live in Sweden and she is still in Philadelphia. But once or twice a year, when I am in Philly, I drive her crazy with telling her what to do (like take more walks since her doctor said she should) and she drives me crazy by hovering when I try to cook dinner for her. We bicker with one another but we know we love each other.

When I first told my mom I wanted to be a writer, she thought I meant I wanted to be a journalist. Heck, I thought I wanted to be a journalist too. I thought I could be a clever news reporter by day and a novelist by night. When I was in high school, I won the chance to take part in a semester-long journalism workshop at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. While it was interesting, I realized I didn’t want to be a reporter. I wanted to be novelist. My mom (and my dad) wanted me to have a job with a steady income–I think she really wanted me to be an accountant or a lawyer. But I didn’t have a head for numbers and I thought courtroom antics were boring. Plus, I had this aversion to having to represent anyone I thought was guilty. And when I was in college, everyone I knew in law school always looked miserable. I didn’t want to be miserable. I wanted to be happy writing short stories and novels.

So when I told my mother I was going to graduate school to study creative writing, she was a little concerned. How would I support myself once I graduated? Would I be able to find a job that would pay enough to cover my student loans? While she tried to get me to see reason, she didn’t try to force me into something that wouldn’t make me happy. I think she realized that sending me to a high school that specialized in engineering and science was a big mistake since I didn’t understand anything while I was there. I am still amazed I graduated with as good of grades as I received. I felt lost the entire time.

My mom grew up in Smithfield, Virginia and moved to Philadelphia when she was a teenager. She didn’t get a chance to go to college until she was older and had already raised three kids. My granddad was a bit old school and didn’t believe in paying for his oldest daughter to go to college. He thought she would just drop out and get married. But going to college was always important to my mom, and she encouraged all of us to go–she didn’t want us to be stuck like a lot of other kids in similar situations. She wanted us to see the world and to experience new things. I watched her studying for her courses and it increased my interest in going to college. So–even if I didn’t always tell her this–she was a role model for me. I saw how she worked during the day and went to school in the evening, and I knew I could study too. I knew I could do whatever it took to get an education.

I never used to let my mom read the stories I wrote. I thought she would be shocked or angry about anything I wrote, especially since whatever was going on in my life usually ended up in my fiction. And my mom is more conservative than I am. But when she read my graduate thesis, she didn’t raise an eyebrow at the stories–not even the ones that were a little graphic. She just told me how proud she was of me. And that made me feel like I was doing the right thing.

So I hope my mom is having an awesome Mother’s Day in Philadelphia. I’m pretty sure my brother and sister have done something nice for her. I will treat Barbs to something nice when I am next in Philadelphia. I keep telling her that Tord and I are going to take her away from everything for a few days. Maybe we’ll actually succeed this time. 🙂

Love you, Mom! 🙂

English Project: The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, By: Heidi W. Durrow

the-girl-who-fell-from-the-sky coverA few years ago, I read Heidi Durrow‘s The Girl Who Fell From the Sky and loved it, told everyone I knew to read it (and I hope they did). Today Mixed American Life shared a cool video summary of the book. 🙂

Check it out…

English Project: The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, By: Heidi W. Durrow.

Have you heard of Riffle Books? No? Then you should check it out.

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Get thee to Riffle…

I wonder…how many of you are using Riffle Books? Yesterday I received an invitation to try it and I spent part of this evening checking it out. It’s like Goodreads in that it aims to be a community of readers and writers. You can find out about books, create lists to share with others of the books you’ve read or plan to read. I rather like it so far. If you’re interested in checking it out, click here.

I think I’ll continue with Goodreads and use Riffle, but for those of you who are anti-Amazon (the new owners of Goodreads) Riffle could be an alternative.

Anyway, go and check it out. It’s very visual–almost like Pinterest (my other favorite distraction) for books.

Happy reading (and writing)!