Monday, December 16, 2013

Writer Spotlight - Cathy Bramley

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 wonderful CATHY BRAMLEY into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight.

When did you first decide that you wanted to write?
Last year. Most authors say that they’ve been writing stories since they were a child, but not me, which is a bit embarrassing. I’ve always been a huge fan of reading though – can’t go to sleep without reading a few pages. But last year, I was casting about for a new challenge: I always like to have a bit of a project on the go. We had not long moved into our new house that we’d self-built and I hit on the idea of writing a novel with a property theme. I attended a few courses, read up about it and decided to give it a go. Now I am totally hooked and cannot imagine not writing!

What interests you as a writer?
Two things immediately spring to mind:
I love words. Sometimes I can roll a word round in my head for days, waiting for an opportunity to use it! It saddens me that I can’t get ‘onomatopoeia’ into more sentences – such a waste of a good word.
You can’t beat a good laugh. I love a bit of visual humour. Stick me in front of an episode of ‘You’ve Been Framed’ with a cup of coffee and a chocolate biscuit and I’m as happy as Larry. Except when people hurt themselves. I’m not so keen on that. My friend’s daughter once slipped on a banana skin right in front of me; it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?
I was talking to my vet about this. He reckons that first thing in the morning before he has answered emails or checked Twitter or Facebook is his ‘Crystal Time’. I love this idea. I’m not sure that my brain is ever particularly crystal clear, but I can certainly concentrate more in the mornings.

My writing schedule starts in the evening. I consult my hi-tech spreadsheet to see what scene or chapter is coming up next and roughly plot it out with a few scribbled notes. Next morning, once I’ve located the notes, (I’m a terror for writing things on random scraps of paper) I write the scene and try not to keep getting distracted by Twitter alerts or by checking the Amazon ranking for Conditional Love! I write until I have to pick my daughters up from school.

What inspires you as a writer?
What inspires me most to write are the funny things people say to each other. Particularly off-the-cuff, unrehearsed remarks. I store them up like a squirrel burying nuts for the winter and then I unearth them and drop them into my story like nuggets of treasure. I’ve got a friend who has come up with some corkers over the years. I intend to plunder a few of his best bits in my next book.

For my own writing journey, I’m inspired by other writers’ success stories, particularly those who have self-published their novels with the intention of attracting the attention of an agent and publisher, lovely ladies like Kirsty Greenwood, Rachael Lucas and Annabell Scott. Following in their footsteps is my number one goal for 2014.

What are the best things about being a writer?
LOADS! So here are my top three:
1. I get to read fantastic books and call it ‘research’!
2. Receiving emails, tweets and messages from complete strangers, telling me how much they enjoyed Conditional Love. That makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.
3. Writing. Writing simply makes me so happy, I’ve had a varied and exciting career, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy as I am now.

And the worst?
The worst bit is about forty thousand words in when I look back at what I’ve written and decide it’s completely pants! None of the jokes are funny, the plot has gone off at a tangent and ever writing the words ‘The End’ seems highly unlikely.

Tell me about Conditional Love: what inspired the story?
My initial idea was to write a book with a property theme. I’ve always had a passion for property and love moving house. I grew up in Kings Heath in Birmingham (on the same road as Samantha Brick – the woman who claims that women don’t like her because she is too beautiful!) My parents have had three houses on that road, people used to sit at their front window and watch our belongings being wheeled past on a trailer on a regular basis. We were the main source of entertainment before X-Factor.

But as I got further along with the novel, I realised that the book was also about different kinds of love: for friends, family and lovers and that the love that we long for isn’t always the one that’s right for us… (cue dramatic drums!)

What was it like to see your published novel for the first time?
I squealed and leapt about from foot to foot, then I did that American thing of circling your arms like you're stirring a big pan of porridge, shouting, ‘Go Cathy, go Cathy!’ Which would have been absolutely fine, had I not insisted that the UPS delivery man wait while I opened the box of books so that I could share the moment with him!

What would be your top three tips for unpublished writers?
1. Don’t wait for the right time, the right desk or the right fancy notebook, just get on with it. Turn the telly off and write!
2. When you think your manuscript is ready (and I speak from painful experience here) it probably isn’t. Invest in a critique, even if it’s only on the first chapter. An expert will be able to tell straight away if your novel is ready to face the world.
3. Believe in yourself. Don’t dream about becoming a published author, make a plan and do it!

Do you have a dream project you'd love to write?
I wrote Conditional Love as a one-off, sorted everyone’s lives out and mentally said goodbye to all the characters. However, I have had so many people asking me what happens next to Sophie, that I’m thinking that I’d love to write a sequel. Fingers crossed!

Anything else you’d like to say?
Just a MASSIVE thank you to you, Miranda for inviting me onto your blog and to everyone else in booky world who has helped and supported me this year. It has made the world of difference to me.

Thanks to Cathy for a fab interview! You can find out more about Cathy at her website, follow her on Twitter @CathyBramley and on Facebook. Conditional Love is available from Amazon in e-book and paperback formats. It's a witty, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy with a protagonist you'll love and I highly recommend it!

Jane Austen in the lunch queue

Today is Jane Austen's birthday and around the world Austen fans are celebrating (with a dainty dance and a spot of witty banter, perhaps?) So today's post is in honour of the great lady (with apologies for my 21st century impertinence...)

The thing I love most about Jane Austen's writing is her ability to observe people in everyday situations. She was the consummate people-watcher of her day, noting the social quirks of her peers both in public and in private. While the love stories of her books will always be irresistible, what I adore more than anything about her work are the sparkling nuggets of overheard conversations, subtle (and not-so-subtle) gestures and the preposterousness of social conventions of the day. These were, and still remain today, the essential tools of writers - collecting people and inviting readers to spy on them.

Over two hundred years after her birth, people-watching is very much alive, although the gathering places have changed from the society balls and grand social occasions of Jane Austen's time. So, I found myself wondering today what she would make of the lunch queue where I used to work. (Like you do!)

Of course, had Jane Austen been alive today she would have just turned 236, so the odds of her standing for long enough to observe are decidedly slim... But supposing some kind soul had found her a debatably comfortable seat on a mock-pine melamine chair in the small coffee shop in the atrium of the office complex in Wolverhampton. What would she make of the motley crew of gathered office workers standing in line to buy their lunches?

Take, for example, the young guy who lined up every lunchtime with his mother. Blessed with an impressive mop of red hair and a perennial blush, he waited solemnly, head bowed, as his fifty-something companion (all richly-lined mouth and jangling gold jewellery) proudly regaled the assembled queuers with embarrassing tales of his seventeen-year-old life. "He brought a girl home the other day. Drippier than a stream of tap water and not much brighter, but she'll do for now..."

I think Jane would have seen it all and logged it in her mind, as writers do. I wonder if she might then have one day written a scene where he finds the courage to stand up to the overbearing mother and make his own way in the world...
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