By Kirsty Nicole Pole
When I was offered the opportunity to go to the Books and the City event held by Simon and Schuster UK, I practically bit their hand off. By the time I had got lost in the car park of Birmingham NEC and ended up back on the motorway I feared I would never make it but after a helpful hand from the wonder that is Sat Nav, I made it and found myself in a room heaving with excited ladies all buzzing with the anticipation of seeing their favourite authors.
Rebecca Chance, Ali Harris, Louise Fennell, Milly Johnson and Helen Warner aka ‘The Fab Five Fictionistas’ were glorious. They spoke with such passion about their writing that I felt inspired within the first 10 minutes. The fab five spoke about the moment when they first get an idea that won’t leave them alone, Rebecca referred to it as an ‘Oooooooooooh’ moment, when you mention a story idea to a friend and they go “Ooooooooooh”. She shared with us the idea for a book based on Princess Diana that made the entire audience go “Oooooooh”, thus proving her point.
When asked about whether they plan every book before writing, the response was mixed, Ali explained that she had had to train herself to plan because if she didn’t her books would never get written, Rebecca shared that she spends a solid week planning so that everything has a place to be. On the flip side Helen and Milly said that they don’t plan, instead preferring to get the book down in writing and let it evolve and progress as they write before going back and editing. I particularly enjoyed Helen's story of how she wrote her first book on the train whilst commuting to and from London and as she didn’t plan she would find out what would happen in it every day which was exciting, not knowing what her characters would do next until she sat down to write that day.
One thing that all five fictionistas did agree on was that in order to write and write well you must know your genre, take time to find out which agents and publishers represent your favourite authors and before you submit your manuscript (look inside the front cover of the books that you read for all the details) make sure that you are submitting to the right agents. Milly’s advice on how to be a great author was simple “Read a lot” and learn from the writers that you love. Rebecca also spoke about knowing which genre is selling well commercially.
Taking questions from the audience, the fab five spoke about where they do their research, mainly the internet, and whether any of the characters in their books are based on themselves. Louise revealed that she enjoys making her characters do things that she would never do in real life.
Overall the panel all agreed on the importance of finding the writing style, space and method of planning that works best for you. There is no right or wrong way to be a fabulous author, only the way that is perfect for you.
After closing the talk to rapturous applause a very nervous me stopped by the Books and the City stand for a photograph with the fictionistas themselves -who were exactly that…fab.u.lous - before making my way home with a cheeky goodie bag in hand. Thank you Simon and Schuster and Books and the City for an absolutely fantastic day!