Monday, November 4, 2013
Writer Spotlight: Lisa Dickenson
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 excited to welcome the very lovely LISA DICKENSON into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight.
When did you first decide that you wanted to write?
I was about eleven, and at a talk by Anne Fine in Plymouth. She was saying that when she was young she wrote loads of story beginnings, first chapters and opening paragraphs before moving on to the next idea. I do that, I thought. We’re the same! This means I will be a writer too! Then growing up I fell into that miserably British trait of assuming my dreams wouldn’t be reached because there was too much competition, but even so, if anyone actually ever says I can’t do something a little spark inside me always ignites and mumbles “I’ll bloody show you…”
Don’t tell anyone, but I’m quite interested in eavesdropping on and writing about interactions between people who think no-one’s listening, or when they can’t find the right words to say in a situation. That natural dialogue where you don’t produce the perfect, scripted comeback and it ends up sounding completely awkward and the reader – or listener – thinks, I know exactly how that feels!
My dream is to be a full-time writer, living near the beach and writing all day with the sand on my toes. But for now my typical writing day consists of sitting on a crowded bus full of teenagers for an hour in the morning and evening on route to the day job, hoping they don’t laugh at what I’m typing and call me a name I don’t understand. Actually, they have no interest in me whatsoever, so I can’t complain. If it’s a weekend my aim will be to write thousands of words on Saturday morning but then I procrastinate and “think” until Sunday night and then suddenly it all pours out.
Holidays! Be it a caravan in Cornwall or a holiday home in the Hollywood Hills. In my own abode it’s amazing how easy it is for my brain to procrastinate like hell – the house could do with a clean, the fridge needs a bit more stocking, those Real Housewives episodes need to be watched. Getting away, seeing new vistas, living a new life for whatever length of time, observing all new people with different, interesting lifestyles… those things inspire me, and I come back from each holiday with armfuls of ideas for locations, characters, scenes or even whole new stories.
Playing God – ha! Babbling on, unfolding a fictional life, doing to them what you will and putting words in their mouths. Each time I handed in the next two chapters of The Twelve Dates of Christmas to my lovely editor at Little, Brown, Manpreet Grewal, I was always amazed that it didn’t come back with everything edited out; I’d never before had a job with such freedom. Of course, there were edits, but the bulk was still there. My characters were allowed to be there, my scenes. It’s ever such a nice feeling. Oh, also that it’s practically in the job description that you have to laugh at your own jokes.
When you have a deadline and you’re tired and you don’t know how to write something and everything you’re putting on the page sounds like the crappest thing anyone’s ever written, ever, in the history of forever. Forcing creativity is the worst. I only had one meltdown, I think, at my editor, where I started furiously writing shouty capital emails saying – and I quote – “BUT WHAT IF I CAN'T THINK OF ANYTHING AND THE CLOCK TICKS AROUND TO 5PM AND ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT ARE DIAMANTES AND RED DRESSES AND WILLIES AND I AM DISOWNED IN THE WORLD OF PUBLISHING?????” She was like, “Okay, calm the heck down, it’ll come to you,” – and then the solution came to me that evening.
The Twelve Dates of Christmas
This is Claudia’s story of how she tries to pull her life out a big stale rut through the magic of Christmas in London. She struggles with the things we all do – grumpiness, heartache, indecision – but also faces a lot of fun, romance and discovery through her December of dating. From part one, Dates 1&2, through to part six, Dates 11&12, you’ll find lashings of snow, mulled wine, a host of sparkling dates, people showing off their lovely and not-so-lovely Christmas spirit and hopefully come out the end feeling like you should be knocking back a glass of Baileys and soaking in the season.
Why did you decide to release your book as a series rather than a stand-alone novel?
This was Manpreet at Little, Brown’s idea – she’d been thinking about the possibility of releasing a serialised novel and in the early days of Twelve Dates we talked about it and decided we’d give it a go. It splits rather neatly into six parts, and I like that it harks back to how Dickens would release his novels, because I firmly believe he wrote the best Christmas story of all time with The Christmas Carol (closely followed by The Jolly Christmas Postman).
What would be your top three tips for aspiring writers?
1. Enter writing competitions. Submit to agents. Find a friend who’s into writing and ask them to read it (you’ll be surprised once you admit you’re a writer how many friends say “I’ve been thinking of writing a book, too.”) It’s very easy to think ‘I like writing, my stuff sounds okay to me, but I don’t really know if I’m good enough,’ and subsequently do bugger all about it. If you submit your work at least someone is reading it, giving you feedback, taking you seriously. And you might just start the next ‘chapter’ of your life. Ha! Do you get it? Like, chapter of a book… They don’t call me an author for nothing.
2. Listen to podcasts from established authors. I have a whole host of Jackie Collins ones I keep on my iPod that I used to listen to when I felt like just sacking it all in and not bothering. Then I’d listen, and Jackie would chatter on about her successes, her struggles, her inspirations, her writing methods, and I’d always come away feeling a lot more revved up. This is what I want my life to be, I would think, and I would do something about it.
3. Carry a notepad everywhere! Don’t spend time trying to find a pretty ‘writer’ notepad with the perfect cover and an elastic doodah to hold it shut – you’ll never use it, because you won’t want it to be filled with scribbles and scrawls and half a chapter that started to get a bit too erotic and now you’re a little embarrassed it’s in there. Just have a crappy old notebook you may or may not have nicked from the office stationary cupboard, and jot down everything that springs to mind, from words of dialogue inspired by the song you’re listening to, to possible solutions to the end of a scene, to whole new story ideas. Shove it all in. Just remember to then go through it and collate your ideas from time to time!
Do you have a dream project you'd love to write?
Yes, two! I’d love to write a really chilling, eerie ghost story. Not one filled with shock, blood and gore, but the type that makes you unnerved. Like Rebecca or The Woman in Black. Something Hitchcock said which sticks in my mind is that if a bomb suddenly goes off it gives you ten seconds of fright, but if you know the bomb is there the whole dynamic is changed and you get foreboding and suspense. He was talking about films not novels, but I think it still applies, and that’s the type of novel I’d like to explore. The other project harks back to younger me and her dream to write an epic, Sweet Valley/Babysitters Club-style series with lovable characters that you keep coming back to, that people would want to collect the set and to follow their life stories (and still secretly love aged 30…).
Anything else you’d like to say?
I’m sure you’ve had enough of me harping on, but I think the only other thing I’d like to say is a whopping thank you, to Miranda, and to all the other authors and bloggers who’ve been incredibly supportive. It’s pretty scary putting yourself out there and saying “I WRITE THINGS, PLEASE LIKE THEM AND LIKE ME”, so a thanks to all of those who’ve helped me feel like I belong here and that they’re going through the same things, and everything’s going to be peachy.
Oh and one more thing: I WRITE THINGS, PLEASE LIKE THEM AND LIKE ME.
Thanks so much to Lisa for braving the Writer Spotlight! You can find out about Lisa at her website and follow her on Twitter @LisaWritesStuff.