Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Writer Spotlight - Neal Doran

On Coffee and Roses I like to bring you news of exciting authors who are either waiting to be published or published and worth checking out.

This week, I'm delighted to welcome the very wonderful (not to mention a fab former Future Star) NEAL DORAN into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight...

When did you decide you wanted to write?

I decided I wanted to write when I was a teenager.
I decided I was going to sit down and actually finish something when I was in my mid-30s.
For a while that gap between the two events did make me feel like I’d wasted DECADES not doing something I wanted to do. But more recently I’ve realised that taking that time was fine. Every half-finished project and idea that never came to anything – the attempts at short stories, stand-up, or screenplays, or whatever – was a part of the training that meant when I finally had the personal experience I needed to write about what I wanted to write about, I’d learnt what I needed to know about writing to be able to do it.
The difference between wanting to be a writer and becoming one feels to me to be a matter of timing. You might want something, but it takes a while for everything to fall into place so it can happen. Without wanting to get all Thought For The Day on you, I think that applies in most areas of life…

Are you a dedicated plotter or a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-winger?

When I started secondary school we were taught in English to write stories with this really clear and clever way of turning our ideas into something that resembled an actual proper story. This was done first by coming up with a series of ‘thoughts, words and phrases’ that summed up what we wanted to write about; we were then told to order these into a structure that would support a coherent story, and then write a sentence that would describe each paragraph. We could then use that plan to write the story.

I used to write the story, then go back and make up the plan when I’d finished it so I could hand it in with my homework as demanded.

This probably tells you all you need to know about my leanings on the plans/pants spectrum.

When do you write? What does your typical writing day look like?

I get my writing done in the time before the rest of the house has to get up at 7 in the morning, so I have an hour or two most days except Sunday when I get a lie-in.

It’s a brilliant time to work because it’s quiet in the house (and on the internet) and I think being half-asleep in a strange way makes it easier to write without being overly conscious and critical of what I’m doing. Then from 7am, when I wake up my wife, Jo, with a cup of tea, and get cracking on packed lunches, the rest of the day is daydreaming about what I’m going to write the next morning.

When people I’ve known since childhood hear that I get up before 6am, six days a week, to write novels the bit that surprises them most is I’m getting out of bed before I absolutely have to.

What inspires you as a writer?

I’d say it the little things, tiny details, minor setbacks, small triumphs. I think it’s in those run-of-the-mill aspects of life that everyone shares that you find the everyday romance that goes towards making up the big things in life.

Not What They Were Expecting is your new novel. Tell us about it!

Not What They Were Expecting is the story of Rebecca and James, a couple that have just found out they’re having a baby. Their exciting news is trumped though, when their family goes into meltdown after Rebecca’s dad, Howard, gets arrested for allegedly propositioning a policeman in a gents’ public lavatory. Then James’s activist parents start a protest campaign to bring attention to Howard’s plight and, as life gets even more complicated, the pressure builds on the relationships between everyone in the family -- including the parents-to-be.

It’s about two people trying to be strong together as the world around them goes crazy.

What inspired the story? I was looking for something about a couple going through a significant moment in their lives. Having a first child seemed a pretty important one… I remember when Jo was first pregnant what an exciting time it was, full of possibility from day one, even though in a lot of ways nothing had changed yet – we still had the time to think about what it could all mean. It was the most life-changing event that’s ever happened to me, and I wanted to write about it (although my whole family likes me to stress that all the incidents in the book are entirely made up).

Another thing that inspired me, particularly when writing about the grandparents-to-be, was that moment in your life when you go from being permanently on edge about your potentially embarrassing parents, to holding up your hands and saying ‘I have no responsibility for their behaviour whatsoever’ and letting them get on with it.

How did you find writing your second novel? Was it a different experience to writing your first, Dan Taylor Is Giving Up On Women?

The main difference was the help and support I had while I was doing it.

Writing Dan Taylor is Giving Up on Women was a pretty solitary experience. I didn’t show anyone anything till I was finished, and there weren’t many people that even knew I was writing.

The second time around it felt there were people cheering me on. Obviously, Miranda was a big help with her Future Stars support – listening when I got stuck in a slump at the halfway mark and not sure how to get out of it, and being an all-round magnificent cheerleader. Other writers have been lovely too, for example Matt Dunn, Kitty French, and the other authors who share my current publisher Carina. They’ve all answered questions, given friendly advice, and made me feel welcome in Write Club.

Then on Twitter and Facebook there were people who’d read Dan Taylor and were saying nice things about it, and how they were looking forward to what I did next. That in particular really, really helped on the mornings staring at the screen asking myself, ‘who would ever want to read this?’ I hope that the readers and bloggers that make that effort for authors realise how much it is truly appreciated.

What have you learned about your writing since becoming a published author?

I think I’ve learned to have more confidence in my writing, and to give ideas a bit more time and space. On my first novel I was obsessed with making sure the jokes and funny lines were coming at an almost sit-com pace. This time around I was more confident that the situations were funny and entertaining without having to constantly prove it.

Not What They Were Expecting is simultaneously more relaxed and more ambitious. It’s like Lord Sugar in the titles for The Apprentice, standing on his yacht. Or Des Lynam juggling seven flaming torches.

Do you have a dream project you'd love to write?

I’d love to create a cast of friends and family that would become part of the readers’ friends and family. A group of people dealing with everyday life in all its glory, and trying to figure out what it means. I’d love for it to start as a little seed of a group of young people really still starting out in life, but over years and decades (it’s a dream project: I can be ambitious…) it would become a story featuring multiple generations on a stonking big tree that’s full of life hidden in all sorts of places.

What's next for you? I’m hoping to make a go of something that could, in the end, become my dream project…

Not What They Were Expecting is available from Amazon and also all other good e-retailers! I am a massive fan of Neal's books - they will make you laugh, cry and think, with brilliantly warm characters you root for and a razor-sharp wit that will leave you breathless. I thoroughly recommend you add his novels to your e-reader as soon as possible. He's fast becoming a star in romantic comedy writing!

You can follow Neal on Twitter, @nealdoran and on Facebook.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Miranda Writes 30 - Do writers need agents?

All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my sixth novel, I'll Take New York. This week, there's another chance to #getinvolved with Book Seven and I talk about whether writers need agents...

Thank you so much for all your fab entries for last week's #getinvolved challenge - I reveal the winner in this week's vlog! I'm loving writing Book 7, even if it is currently in snatched hours between nappy changes and feeds... I've another chance for you to appear in the book this week, which I tell you all about in the vlog.

This week' question is one I'm asked a great deal: do writers need agents? I've been on both sides of the fence - without an agent for my first two book deals and with an agent for my third - so hopefully I can shed some light on the pros and cons. The lovely lady who asked this week's question is the wonderful Joanna Cannon, who is a phenomenal writer. Click here to visit her website and read some of her work.

If you have a question you'd like me to answer, ask me! Leave a comment below this post, email me at or tweet me @wurdsmyth.

Enjoy! xx

p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled:'The Invisible Chihuahua'

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Miranda Writes 29 - Overcoming The Fear...

All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my sixth novel, I'll Take New York. This week, I have another #getinvolved challenge for Book Seven and talk about facing The Fear as a writer...

I'm getting back to work after a few wonderful months of new-mum-hood and this week have been checking the page proofs for I'll Take New York - which has been lovely and scary in equal measure. It made me think about The Fear - a phenomenon known only too well to writers. How do you keep writing when the doubts creep in? When the inspiration won't come and you're staring at a blank page? In this week's vlog, I talk about how I tackle The Fear.

Talking of finding inspiration, have YOU booked your ticket for one of my WriteFoxy! Writers' Inspiration Days in November and February yet? They're going fast for both dates, so don't miss your chance to be inspired, fired up and have your love of writing rekindled by an amazing line-up of speakers. All the details are HERE...

So, here's this week's vlog - enjoy!

p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Si-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ing!'

Monday, May 26, 2014

Miranda Writes 26 - Plotting vs Pants-ing and New Mum Writing...

All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my sixth novel, I'll Take New York. This week, I talk about plotting novels, dream film adaptations and my new life as a Writing Mum...

I'm so chuffed that many of you loved last week's cheeky extract of I'll Take New York - keep your eyes peeled for more sneak-peeks coming soon... In the meantime, I answer your questions on writing, including whether I can see my books as films, how much I plot my novels and how becoming a mum has changed my writing process. You might be surprised by my answer!

What would you like to know about writing, publishing, books or anything else? Leave me a comment below, tweet me your question on Twitter @wurdsmyth, post it on my Facebook page or email me at

Enjoy! xx

This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled: 'Ooh, put that away!'

Writer Spotlight - Holly Martin

On Coffee and Roses I like to bring you news of exciting authors who are either waiting to be published or published and worth checking out.

This week, I'm delighted to welcome the lovely HOLLY MARTIN into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight...
When did you first decide that you wanted to write?

I've always written stories. Even when I was a child my first proper story was a piece of fan-fiction, my own version of The Animals of Farthing Wood, when I was about 9 years old. I asked for my own typewriter as a Christmas present one year when I was about 11. I started writing seriously about five years ago after reading gorgeous, rose-tinted stories by Jill Mansell and thinking I wanted to create something like that.

What interests you as a writer?

Being able to tell the kind of stories that I want to read with the wonderful characters that I want to read about. I can take my readers to different lands and immerse them in different experiences. Anything is possible when you open up a new story and start writing. The direction my books go will often surprise me.

Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?

I work full time at the moment, very long hours. I'm up at 4.30am most mornings and won't get back till 7pm most nights. My writing time is then crammed into the few hours before I fall asleep over my laptop or weekends. My best writing time is in the school holidays when I have a week or even 6 weeks off to write all day. Then I normally stay up till 3am writing and sleep in late.

Which authors inspire you and why?

I just want to tell gorgeous stories, with great characters. The kind of stories that leave you with a big smile on your face. So I love to read stories like that too. I'm a big fan of Miranda Dickinson, Jill Mansell, Belinda Jones, Catherine Alliott, Aven Ellis, Lisa Dickenson and Sophie Kinsella. This is chick-lit to perfection – funny, heart-warming stories with characters you just fall in love with.

Tell me about your latest book.

The Guestbook is a romance told solely through the messages in the guestbook of a holiday cottage. It's a unique way of telling a story. Annie Butterworth owns Willow Cottage and lives next door and it's mainly her story that unravels through her interactions with her guests. But the guests have their own story to tell and we get a little glimpse of their lives as they come and go, too.

What are the best things about being a writer?

The feedback you get from people who have read your book. The way it touches people in ways you could never hope to achieve. When I put out my fantasy YA book, The Sentinel, I never expected the response I got. The reviews I received were outstanding and from people I had never even met or spoken to. Their reviews and messages brought me to tears. After years of rejections from agents and publishers, the people that loved it were the most important people – the readers. It made me realise that I might have created something special. The response to The Guestbook has been the same and I still can't get over how much love and support I've received.

And the worst?

I suppose that your work is out their for public review. People will either love it or hate it. I've been fortunate enough not to get many bad reviews – the majority of my reviews are 5 or 4 stars but the 1 star reviews do hurt. You spend months, sometimes years crafting what you hope is something worthwhile and then people destroy it with a few hateful words. You develop a thick skin very quickly in this industry. The poor reviews always make me laugh now. People will either get my work or they won't and it would be a dull world if everyone loved the same books. I read a brilliant quote somewhere once that said something like, to attack a book with anger and hate is like dressing up in a full suit or armour to attack an ice cream sundae!

What are you working on now?

My next book to be published with Carina is called One Hundred Proposals and will be out in the summer. It's about two friends, Harry and Suzie, who work for a proposal company, helping couples to create the perfect proposal. Harry wants to know what Suzie's perfect proposal would be and sets about creating one hundred different proposals for her to find her perfect one. I'm also working on my book 2 in The Sentinel series, The Prophecies, which I hope will be out in June.

Do you have a dream project you would love to write?

Bizarrely I have ideas for a zom-rom-com, with zombies and love and a lot of comedy, but I've never got round to putting pen to paper. Maybe one day.

What are your top three tips for aspiring writers?

1.Read lots, read the people you love in the genre that you're writing for, see what works well for them, how they create dialogue and characters. Try to use some of those skills in your own writing.

2. Write. I know that sounds silly but if you are always thinking up ideas in your head and never write them down they will never turn into anything. Write down ideas for a scene, a conversation. It might turn into something, it might not, but writing it down, even if its just a few sentences, will help you think more about your ideas and how you can add to it. Finding time to write, even it's only five minutes a day is important, too.

3. Don't give up, you will get rejections, but just remember that is the opinion of one person and somewhere out there is a perfect match for you and your book.

Anything else you’d like to say?

I love finding new authors, someone I've not read before. I don't get a lot of reading time lately because of any limited spare time goes on writing, but when I do I love to find a little gem. One of my favourite new authors is Aven Ellis and her newest book, Waiting For Prince Harry,is just a superb, heart-warming read.

Thanks so much to Holly for a great interview! To find out more about Holly and her books, you can visit Holly's blog and follow her @hollymartin00 on Twitter.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Miranda Writes 25 - an EXCLUSIVE extract from I'll Take New York

All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my sixth novel, I'll Take New York. This week, I have a bit of a treat for you - an exclusive extract from the book!

I've been promising to share a sneaky snippet of Bea and Jake's story with you for some time, so I thought it was about time I did it! Below is just a snippet – but watch the vlog to see much more:

…For as long as she could remember, Bea had dreamed of one day owning her own bookstore.

She had loved books all her life. Real books, not electronic ones. Books you could carry in your bag and read on the subway. Books you could pretend to read in neighbourhood coffee shops while people-watching. Books you could snuggle up with and lose yourself in. Books you could fill your apartment with – packed onto shelves, propping up tables and piled up reassuringly by the side of your bed. If she left home without a book, Bea felt naked, bereft. But then, working in a bookshop meant there were always new friends to make and take home.

  Friends who never let her down. Friends she could trust…

I also answer your questions on my favourite characters and whether I have more stories to tell about them after my books are published. Plus, find out which of my characters will be returning in I'll Take New York - here's a clue: one of them comes from another of my novels...

Let me know what you think - I'd love to know if the extract I read in the vlog whets your appetite for more! Or ask me a question for next week... Leave a comment below, tweet me @wurdsmyth or email me at


Monday, May 19, 2014

Writer Spotlight - Rosie Blake

On Coffee and Roses I like to bring you news of exciting authors who are either waiting to be published or published and worth checking out.

This week, I'm delighted to welcome the gorgeous ROSIE BLAKE into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight...
When did you first decide that you wanted to write?

Quite late - I had spent my teenage years always wanting to work in television and it was only in between TV jobs in my early twenties that I realised I really loved writing. I had always written diaries and long rambling emails but then I started a novel, finished a novel, wrote short stories, read books about writing, started another novel and suddenly I realised it was years later and it had completely taken over. Now I don't work in TV but I do write.

What interests you as a writer?

People, people, people. For me a book is only a good book when you invest in the characters. I read widely and enjoy a huge range of books so be it a Lee Child or a Jilly Cooper I just need to care about the characters.

Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?

I still work around writing so no day is the same. At weekends and on days off I write best in the morning so now tend to do research* in the afternoons. I love to write a first draft under pressure so tend to want to race people too.

*google random stuff about Mysterious Pirate Gold/Beauty Pageant Fails/Dangerous Pets

Which authors inspire you and why?

A number of authors got me into writing: Jilly Cooper, Helen Fielding, Danny Wallace, William Sutcliffe, Enid Blyton etc, but there are now a lot of writers I know (mostly through social media and author events) that are living, breathing inspiration and their energy and enthusiasm rubs off on you (for me: Kirsty Greenwood, Mel Sherratt and Rowan Coleman, to name a few). I find the supportive nature of a lot of writers very inspiring. It doesn't feel in anyway like a closed shop.

Tell me about your latest book.

My latest book is my debut novel, How to Get a (Love) Life, which is a story about Nicola Brown – a rather controlling, uptight young woman. After a bet with a colleague she has to go on a search to find love by February 14th. A lot of hideous dates follow, a lot of men pass through and throughout it all Nicola learns a little more about herself. Fave bits: Lewis the idiot rapper, her bat-obsessed brother Mark's take on it all and, of course, the sea kayaking in November. It's a bright, funny read for those who love a good rom-com.

What are the best things about being a writer?

Making up worlds, new characters, exploring settings and writing about places you visit and love. Disappearing into a fantasy of your creation and, of course, seeing the lovely words all finished as part of a book that others will share with you. Wow.

Oh and the regular tea. And cake. And the pretending everything nice is "research for the book".

And the worst?

That dreadful stage, for me normally around 40k words, where you want to stop, throw what you are writing out of the window and say, "It is hopeless, I am hopeless, where is it going, how will it end, will anyone read it, why don't I make jewellery for a living instead?” etc, etc.

What are you working on now?

I am writing Book 2 and currently loving it (which is worrying as I am about to hit 40k...). It is about a girl who marries a boy, aged 8, in the playground at school. 20 years later her life has not panned out AT ALL as she planned and she becomes convinced it would have been fine if she had stayed married to Andrew Parker. So she decides to track him down. The trouble is he is on the other side of the world... CUE FUN and LOADS of monkeys.

Do you have a dream project you would love to write?

I've actually started work on the dream project. It involves writing with one of my best friends so it promises to be so much fun. More on that another time as I don't want to put pressure on him *stares at him meaningfully over this blog post, plays 'Under Pressure'*...

What are your top three tips for aspiring writers?

1) Get the first draft done and don't worry about the word count. THEN take a look at the main story. Pull out the themes, develop some of your fave characters, throw in a sub-plot. Don't be tempted to edit as you go along or you'll start fretting.

2) Work somewhere lovely. I am starting to realise that a desk looking out on a garden makes all the difference. Or is there a lovely café that you live near? Find somewhere you really WANT to work.

3) Don't force it. I know I achieve little when I am begging the words to come. Go for a walk or take a bath. Have a think about your book but don't write anything down. It's amazing what will happen.

Anything else you’d like to say?

Thanks so much for having me on Coffee and Roses - it's been fantastic! xx

Thanks so much to Rosie for braving the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight! You'll love her book - How to get a (Love) Life is a funny, fast-paced rom-com that I loved! Follow Rosie @RosieBBooks on Twitter, visit her on Facebook and check out her website.
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