I loved Michele Gorman's witty, sharp chick lit debut. Here she chats about her writing process and journey to publication. Enjoy...
1. Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
If you consider mandatory napping as discipline, then I am a disciplined writer. I wake around the same time each writing day and have a coffee in bed while reading a bit. Then I usually go for a jog, which gives me a daily dose of humility. As the world’s slowest jogger, I’m regularly passed by old ladies with zimmer-frames. Inspiration often strikes while jogging, though the fear of forgetting it by the time I get home hasn’t so far sped my progress. I’ve usually settled down to my laptop by around 9.30 or so, and I write on my living room sofa, or my bedroom, or on an improbably tiny terrace, depending on mood and weather. I write till I get hungry around lunchtime. After lunch I write for a few more hours, then have a nap in the name of creativity. I rarely write after a nap, unless I’ve worked out a plot twist that needs to be written down.
2. When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
I picture everything I write as a film, complete with musical crescendo in the pivotal scenes. However I don’t imagine specific actors in these scenes. This is because I have a terrible memory and can’t recall any actors’ names, even famous ones. Talking to me about film is like playing charades with an Alzheimer’s patient.
3. What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Confessions of a Shopaholic. Sophie Kinsella managed to build a likeable hapless character that you want to be friends with. She understood that there is a place for happy women’s fiction, without the need for “issues” to be addressed. It made me guffaw unattractively in public places, and that’s just about the highest compliment I can give a book.
4. What is your writing process? Do you plan first of dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I outline the entire book, chapter by chapter. I do this in Excel because I’m a bit of a geek and, as I said, I have a terrible memory. That way I can keep several plot lines moving along at a steady pace and make sure I don’t leave the reader having to flip back in the book to remember what’s going on.
In terms of drafts, I’ve probably done at least 30 complete rewrites of Single in the City, because it was a new genre and it took many attempts to teach myself how to write it well. Hopefully future books will be a bit easier!
5. What was journey to being a published author?
With no practical knowledge or writerly training, it was a rather long road to publication. I started out writing literary fiction, and was lucky enough to get an agent in New York with my second book. Unfortunately she left the agency soon after I joined. She passed me over to a well-known agent who already had a full client list and, consequently, little time to give editorial advice to a new writer. She shopped the book around for me though, amassing stacks of rave rejections from publishers that said ‘so close’ but still not publishable. The agent didn’t like my third book but didn’t have time to tell me how to fix it, and wouldn’t represent it as it was, which meant nearly two years of writing down the drain. I’d just found this out when I stumbled upon my first chick-lit book, in an airport on my way to Italy. It was an international best-seller. It was a terrible book. Incensed at having just had my third novel rejected when this book seemed to be in every bookshop on the planet, I decided over a bottle of wine to change genres, and outlined the idea for Single in the City that night. I wrote the book, fired my New York agent and after nearly two years to get it to the point that I knew it was good, decided to self-publish. I was confident in this book. At the last minute I decided to try to find the perfect agent here in London. I found her in Caroline Hardman, now at Christopher Little. She put the book out to a number of publishers and my commissioning editor at Penguin came back within about 48 hours with an offer.
Many people think we write when the creative mood strikes, and are surprised to hear that most writers have set times of the day when they write, whether they’ve got anything good to say or not. We write the words, whether good or bad, because the enemy of a writer isn’t a crappy chapter, it’s a blank page. It’s a job, at the end of the day. It’s a creative job that I love doing, and can’t imagine not being a writer, but it involves putting in the time just like any other occupation. On the days that inspiration coincides with tapping at the keyboard, we celebrate. On days when it doesn’t, we know we’ll rewrite the next day.
It is not a myth that we goof off regularly. Just look at the number of writers on Twitter and you’ll see that this is true.
7. What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Find your story. My books always spring from a question. What if? Single in the City began with the question: What happens when you take a hapless young American girl and move her to a city where she’s completely ill-equipped to live? Find your voice. We’re tempted to write in a style that we like to read, but like covers of songs, the copy is never as good as the original. It took me three books to find my voice, so experiment and see where you’re most comfortable, what seems most natural. Find a ‘new’ agent. When you’ve written the book and are searching for an agent, think about this. A new agent is just starting out. She’s hungry, she’s building her writer list and her career. She will have much more time for a new writer. Also, and this is key, she is going to have contacts in the publishing houses who are also starting out, and looking to build their writer lists and careers. It’s very tempting to think that an experienced agent is best, but for a new writer I’d advise a new agent any day.
8. What are you working on at the moment?
I have two books on the go. If Single in the City sells well, I’ll write a follow-up, because I love the characters and will happily spend some more time with them. If that doesn’t make sense commercially, I am also working on chick-lit for an older target market. There isn’t a genre for this yet, so I’d like to propose: NOT sell-by date chick-lit. Most of the books for thirty-somethings seem to involve cheating spouses, body issues, date-hindering children or deafening biological clocks. But there are a lot of women out there who are happy, well-adjusted and independent, in their late 30s, who may not have married yet, or have come out of a relationship, and are optimistic and enthusiastic about their future. There doesn't really seem to be much out there that reflects that kind of character. So I’m writing one.
You can visit Michele's website here
Follow her on Twitter here
Buy Single in the City here!