Nicola Doherty is the author of The Out Of Office Girl. You can read our review here.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
I’m lucky enough to be able to write all day long for two full days a week so I try not to waste them. I tend to get up around eight, go for a jog (ideally), come back and have porridge, check my email … and then just put my head down and start, whether or not I feel ‘inspired’!. At the start of a new book there’s lots of biting nails, sighing, looking at Twitter and Facebook and Shopbop and going out to buy Jaffa Cakes. Then towards the end, when I’m really caught up in what I’m doing, I can just start at nine am and then look up and realise that it’s suddenly five and I haven’t noticed the time go by.
When you are writing, do you use any celebrities or people you know as inspiration?
I definitely like to imagine which gorgeous actors I would cast as my heroes – for example in The Out of Office Girl, I mentally ‘cast’ Marc Blucas as Sam, which was fun. I think every writer is inspired in a general way by everyone they know, but I don’t base characters on specific real people – that’s dangerous territory to get into.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
I’m a huge Jilly Cooper fan and I love her early romances like Prudence, but also her blockbusters like Rivals and Riders – she’s so incredibly talented at bringing a large cast of vivid characters to life. I also love Marian Keyes’s Last Chance Saloon – it has huge themes like life and death and happiness but it’s incredibly light and funny too. I don’t know how she does it!
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
Like most people, I write a rough outline, so that I know the beginning, middle and end, and then I dive in. I would find it intimidating to have to make a very detailed chapter-by-chapter breakdown – if you have the time, it’s much better to blunder along and see where the story takes you. It’s hard to say how many drafts I do – maybe three or four? Not counting billions of little rewrites …
What was your journey to being a published author?
I worked in publishing, first as an editorial assistant and then as an editor, for about five years, but I never considered being a writer – I thought it required a magic ‘gift’ that you either had or didn’t. But then after I left my job to go freelance, I started writing on the side, just for fun. I started writing my first book purely as an experiment – I decided to look on it as a new hobby. Then I submitted it to two or three agents who turned it down, I went back and revised it massively, and sent it to my current agent who liked it and got me a two-book deal. I feel very lucky – I never would have predicted any of this happening.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
I think sometimes people think that being published means that your book will be reviewed everywhere, that you’ll do dozens of signings, that it will be in big piles at the front of every store and that you can give up your day job. That normally only happens for very successful authors – for the rest of us, getting published is only the start of the journey!
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Go for it. Your first efforts will probably be a bit ropey – mine were– but it doesn’t matter; you’re learning. Don’t expect to write something perfect on your first attempt and don’t judge your efforts on whether it’s publishable or not. If you took painting classes, you wouldn’t expect to be able to sell your paintings after a just a few weeks or even months – it’s the same with writing. Try to enjoy your writing for its own sake.
What are you working on at the moment?
My second novel. It’s set in London, and it’s about a girl called Zoe who goes back in time six months to fix a relationship that she has regrets about – it’s a ‘what if’ sort of story like Sliding Doors. I’m very excited about it and it’s taking up all my brain space!