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!'
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