Thursday, June 23, 2011

Writer Spotlight: Mandy Baggot

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 lovely MANDY BAGGOT into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight...

When did you first decide that you wanted to write?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write! I always had my shoulders hunched over a pad of A4 as early as my school days. By my late teens I was taking A4 pads and pens everywhere, even on nights out! There I was in the corner of the working men’s club with a half of soda water (the cheapest drink at 10p), a bag of pork scratchings and a lined pad of WH Smith’s finest. I sound like a right Billy No Mates now don’t I?!

Writing took a back seat in my twenties until I had my first daughter and then I needed something to help me step away from being just Mummy.

What interests you as a writer?
People! I absolutely love people watching and I do it all the time, wherever I am and whoever I’m with, which can get a bit annoying (so I’m told!). I find people fascinating, no two are the same, all have their own agendas and different ways they react to things. You wouldn’t believe the amount of inspiration you can get from just listening to other people – usually those who don’t know you’re listening to them. Now I sound like a right eavesdropper!

Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?
At the moment I am limited to three days a week, when my youngest daughter is at preschool. Typically I start about 9.30am by checking the latest goings on on Twitter, then I do a Zumba DVD, hang some washing out, email, blog and finally, usually about 11.00am I might get to start actually creating something on a page! If I’m really honest I probably only manage about 2 hours of ‘hardcore’ writing a day because when you’re having to do your own promoting and advertising its really hard work! That’s why I am looking for an agent and a ‘traditional’ publisher. I have the passion and the perseverance and shed loads of determination but I’m a writer at heart and need someone to take over the admin bit. Pretty please!!

Which authors inspire you and why?
I’m always amazed by how many fantastic authors there are out there! And what a lovely bunch of people they are too. I’ve met so many writer friends on Twitter and all of them have been brilliantly supportive to me and I hope I provide them with some laughs if not any pearls of wisdom!

No one author stands out as having inspired me, I like and admire lots of authors. I suppose I was inspired to write my first novel, Excess All Areas, because I felt slightly dissatisfied with some of the books I’d read. It wasn’t that they were terrible and I thought I could do better, it was just the story never seemed to go down the path I wanted it to and I thought I could write something different. My books are all about the dialogue, the banter between the leading characters - I don’t describe hues of anything, ever!

What are the best things about being a writer?
The best thing is waking up in the morning and knowing you’re doing your absolute dream job. Yes, it could be more perfect, I could have snagged that book deal from a mainstream publisher, but at the end of the day I really believe that will come my way some day – soon hopefully! When I was working as a Probate paralegal I used to meet so many people who lived and breathed their job and loved it and I thought how must that feel to have a job you love so much? Now I totally get that feeling!

The other thing I love is meeting my readers. There’s nothing better than someone coming up to you and telling you how much they enjoyed your book and asking when the next one’s coming out! I really appreciate everyone who takes a chance on an unknown name in fiction because I know how easy it is to just slip a Miranda Dickinson novel into your Sainsbury shopping basket – which you definitely should do as well because she’s a great writer!!

And the worst?
The agent rejections – without a doubt! I said on Twitter once that I’d developed a hide as thick as a Courts leather sofa and that’s what you have to have in this profession. It’s business, not personal - yes they’re rejecting the words I’ve slogged long and hard over but at the end of the day if my words don’t gel with them the chances are they’re not going to gel with me and you need to gel with an agent. They need to feel as passionate about your manuscript as you do and if they’re not feeling the passion the submission is dead in the water. But it works both ways, I mean I absolutely could not accept an agent if he/she didn’t appreciate my admiration of David Hasselhoff for example.

Tell me about your latest book.
Knowing Me Knowing You was published in February and it’s a romantic comedy. Solicitor Kate has been set up by her boss, The Lady Dragon Miranda, to take part in a relationship contest a bit like a cross between ‘Mr & Mrs’ and ‘The Generation Game’ but Kate’s date is a gorgeous male escort called Joel who she knows nothing about. Throw in a Love Dove, Kate’s 2 year old daughter, a tarot card reader called Hermione and a sod of an ex-husband and you have all the ingredients for a farcical romp.

Do you have a dream project you would love to write?
I would love one of my books to be made into a film or a TV series. I have visions of the cast of Dancing on Ice starring in an ITV mini series of my novel Breaking the Ice, which is set around an ice skating show. So, Granada Productions, if you’re listening…

Anything else?
I’ve just been invited to be a featured author on a fantastic new website called This launches on 29th June 2this year and is a chance for new and/or unpublished authors to get their work out there. The site is aiming to celebrate books which leave people with that ‘feel good’ factor, so it isn’t just about romance. There is something for everyone from poetry to passion. There are lots of exciting opportunities for readers to interact with authors and get lovely freebies on launch day and beyond! Come and visit us there!

Thanks, Mandy, for braving the Writer Spotlight! You can find all of Mandy's books at Amazon and her blog here.

If you are a writer - published, self-published, or waiting-to-be-published - and you would like to be considered for a future
Writer Spotlight, drop me a line at

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

It Started With a Kiss week 14: Time off!

All this year, I'm keeping a video diary of everything that goes into writing my third novel, It Started With a Kiss, due to be published on 10th November. This week, with the structural edit finally complete, I've been out and about enjoying some well-earned time off. Also the answers to your questions - it's author talks and ambitions this week...

While I'm waiting for the next round of edits to begin, I've been able to enjoy some real life! Join me on a mini-trip to Wales (including my favourite beach in the whole wide world - Llandanwg near Harlech), see a snippet of my gig at Jools Holland's Jam House in Birmingham (playing one of my album tracks with three of my friends who have inspired the band members of The Pinstripes in It Started With a Kiss...) and find out which books are in my TBR pile.

This week's vlog questions come from the lovely Donna and Suzy about giving author talks and my next big ambition after fulfilling my childhood dream of seeing my books in Kingswinford Library.

So next week, the dreaded line edits of doooooooom arrive. It's fair to say that I hate this edit (mainly because it's so nit-picky) but it has to be done! What would you like to know about the next stage of the publishing process? Ask me anything - just leave your question in the comments below or email me at:

Thanks for watching - enjoy!

p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze frame is entitled 'Strange Face and Specs in a Punto'...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Writer Spotlight: Lucy Diamond

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 really excited to welcome the wonderful LUCY DIAMOND aka SUE MONGREDIEN into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight.

Author Photo by Alexander James

Sue's new book as Lucy Diamond, The Beach Café is published today and I can't wait for my copy to arrive in the post (it's my post-editing reward!). So, without further ado, it's over to Sue!

When did you first decide that you wanted to write? (Was it a Damascus-esque flash or a slow-burn?)
It was a long, slow burn for me (ouch, that sounds painful – it wasn’t!). I have always written – lots of poems and stories as a child (including my prize-winning poem Aston Villa We Love You when I was six), diaries, letters etc. Then, after graduating, I managed to wangle my way into publishing, starting in the children’s editorial department in Random House. Part of my job was reading the slush pile which, depressingly, was largely atrocious. After rejecting the thousandth variation on Betty Bunny Has a Tedious Adventure I decided I could do better, and began writing my own teenage novel. (Plus, being rather shallow, I was lured by how attractive an author’s life appeared from the outside – we were always sending them flowers and new covers to approve and reprints etc. I thought, I’ll have a bit of that, please!)

What interests you as a writer?
Oh, all sorts of things. I am extremely nosy. Relationship dynamics, family dramas, falling in and out of love, betrayal, secrets – and I’m a sucker for heroics. I found the stories from the recent 7/7 inquest so moving, for example, the real-life heroism and humanity that was shown by so many people that day – awe-inspiring.

Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?
I have to write within school hours, so between 9am and 3pm, usually. It’s a short day and can be frustrating if I have to stop work right in the middle of a juicy scene to hurry back to school, but I find that having such time constraints is a good motivator to actually get stuff done. I try to write about 2,500 words in that time but it depends enormously on what else is happening.

What made you decide to write The Beach Café?
I remember as a little girl being on a seaside holiday in Cornwall and deciding that when I was a grown-up I would definitely live there and run the café. (The thought of ice cream all day every day played a big part in this ambition, but still… ) Sadly I have failed on both these counts, but it was great fun to revisit that dream and have my main character inherit a beach café in a gorgeous Cornish setting. It was even more fun being forced to research all those Cornish pasties and cakes…

What are the best things about being a writer?
The satisfaction of writing ‘The End’ on a first draft is pretty hard to beat, as is holding finished copies of a new book for the first time. Lovely emails and letters from readers are brilliant too – they make all the torturous parts of the process worthwhile.

And the worst?
The self-doubt that creeps in now and then that the book I’m writing is rubbish and no-one will want to read it. One-star Amazon reviews make me want to cry. And I sometimes miss all the banter and camaraderie from working in an office. Thank goodness for Twitter!

Tell me about what you're working on now.
I’ve just finished my sixth novel, which will be out next year. It’s about two very different sisters being forced to live together again – lots of arguing, jealousy and bitching – those scenes were a joy to write! I also write children’s books too, under my real name, Sue Mongredien, so by complete contrast, I am also working on a new adventure story featuring an evil witch, smelly trolls and lots of magic.

You've written books for both children and adults and have been short-listed for this year's Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance for your book Sweet Temptation. What would be your top three tips for aspiring writers?

a) Read your work out loud – I always say this, but it’s the best advice I can give. By reading your story aloud, you get a much better feel for the rhythm of the prose, you can hear whether or not the dialogue works, and any mistakes, repetition or boring bits will leap out at you.
b) Raise the stakes. Make things really difficult for your characters – don’t give them an easy ride. Every time they think the worst is over, ratchet the angst up a notch. It’ll make the novel a much more interesting read.
c) Stick to the story. Keep asking yourself – is this scene relevant to the main plot? You may have written the most brilliant or hilarious dialogue exchange in the world but if it doesn’t move the plot along in any way then sometimes it’s best to cut it out. Harsh, but ultimately for the best…

Do you have a dream project you'd love to write?
I’d love to write for television – it must be so exciting seeing actors speak your lines on the screen. Sadly I think writing for film and TV is probably even more competitive than book publishing so right now, it will have to remain a dream. But maybe one day…

The Beach Café by Lucy Diamond is published by Pan Macmillan on June 3rd. For more information on Lucy Diamond’s books, visit her website. I can’t wait to read The Beach Café - it's going to be a perfect summer read and I can't wait to get started on it! Why not treat yourself, too?
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