Catching my breath 2

It has been an incredible time over the past couple of months since I wrote the first ‘Catching my breath’ post. Here’s what I have been up to…

Like many of you, we are in lockdown here in Australia. In my ‘day job’ I work in adult education, specifically online adult education and as you can imagine, we have been ridiculously busy these past six weeks.

In addition to working fulltime, I have been a busy little author too.

  • I planned, book, and cancelled a BIG trip to the UK in June and July. I was particularly excited about this trip, because I was going to attend the RNA conference in Shropshire, meet my agent and some close author friends in Scotland (also part research trip), meet my editor and publishing team in London, and spend at least a month of that time writing while holed up with my family in Rugby. Instead, the whole thing is postponed until 2021.
  • In February, sent across my first round of edits for book 3 (and 3rd in my series), A Sunset in Sydney, and I just sent back my structural/copy edits a couple of days ago. It comes out early July so we are on track!
  • At the end of March I sent across my 4th book, The Christmas Swap, which is a stand-alone book that comes out in October.
  • My 2nd book, That Night in Paris, was published a few days ago, so my time on publicity and social media ramped up considerably this past week, and in the lead up to publication, I prepared 4 guest pieces, and arranged announcements with 4 associations. I even had a giveaway with ARRA.
  • I was an early reader for Sarah Louise Smith, Mandy Baggot, and Julie Houston‘s latest books (how could I say no?) They were all wonderful reads, by the way.
  • I’ve featured 4 authors on my site, Sasha Greene, Andie Newton, Nina Kaye, and Fiona Leitch.
  • I’ve updated my site and other author profiles with my upcoming books – covers and blurbs, and other behind-the-scenes author biz.
  • I’ve blogged about writing romance in the time of COVID.
  • Annnd, I am about to dive back into my 5th book, the 4th in the Holiday Romance series, which I started writing around this time last year and had to put aside when I commenced fulltime work. I am about 50% the way through, and for those who have read That Night in Paris (or are about to) my sneak peek is that it is about Jaelee and is set in Bali and New Zealand!

I hope you are all staying safe and well. Happy reading!

What’s in a (character) name?

writer-1421099_1280

As an author, choosing names can be one of the most fun aspects of writing or one of the trickiest.

An author can spend hours on baby name generators, or genealogy and history sites to come up with the perfect names―not only for their main characters, but every supporting character, the names of towns, and even fabricated company names. As an author, I’ve even ‘borrowed’ names from my friends, family and former students.

But why is naming so hard? For me, there are a few reasons.

Names are subjective and (often) have personal connotations for the reader

As a former schoolteacher, there are some names that I won’t touch with a barge pole, simply because they elicit memories of difficult students. Those names may be completely innocuous to most readers, but as I’ll spend the most time with my characters, they make the ‘no go’ list.

The same goes for names with varying ‘heat levels’. If I’m naming a sexy love interest, are some names off limits? Is Milo a hot guy’s name or a hot drink from Australia? Where will my readers land on Rupert (no for me) or Henry (yes for me―but only because of Cavill)?

And while I am a huge Keanu fan―and of course there are quite a few Keanu’s out there in the world, especially ones born after The Matrix came out in ‘99―it’s just too evocative of the Keanu that it’s on the ‘no go’ list too.

Names are ‘fashionable’ and ‘unfashionable’

As we know, names go in and out of fashion, with some names circling back onto the ‘fashionable’ list every other decade or so.

After the film, Splash, came out in the mid-80s, the most popular girls’ name for years was ‘Madison’―simply because a mermaid named herself after Madison Avenue in New York. Until then it was just a last name, but it might be perfect for a character born in the 80s.

And writers of historical fiction are limited even further. There probably weren’t (m)any Kylies or Kylos in the 1800s. As an aside, I have so much respect for historical fiction authors―all that research!

Names have to ‘fit’ the character

I’ve heard this from other authors, so I know I’m not the only one to do it, but sometimes I will choose a name for a character and as I am writing, I realise it doesn’t ‘fit’―that they are not an ‘Eleanor’, but more of a ‘Susan’. Of course, this ties back to my first point about names having connotations, but the name must suit the personality of the character, as it is one of the tools an author uses to evoke their characteristics.

In my 4th book, one of the characters is an actor and I’ve given him a stage name―his mother’s maiden name as his first name. And I got her maiden name from researching last names from Oxfordshire. I tried combinations of last names until I got one that just evoked ‘international film star’.

And many authors I know will name the villain or the antagonist after someone they’ve encountered in real life. It makes me wonder if there really was a ‘Hannibal’ in Thomas Harris’s life, when he penned The Silence of the Lambs.

When naming comes easily

Sometimes naming isn’t hard, like when a character arrives in my head (almost) fully formed, including their name. And some names are an homage to someone special.

In my 4th book, there are three main characters―best friends―and all their names begin with ‘L’, Lauren, Lisa, and Lucy. I have special friends with those names and writing their names into a book is a lovely way of honouring them. Even naming minor characters after people I know can a fun way to include them in my work.

So, next time a character’s name lands with you perfectly, or rubs you the wrong way, just know that the author may have agonised over that choice. And ask yourself if it hit or missed the mark because one of the reasons I’ve mentioned here.

Originally posted on Portable Magic as a stop on my blog tour for That Night in Paris.

Catching up with Author Andie Newton

Today I am very excited to welcome my friend and fellow author, Andie Newton, who is here to talk about her debut novel, The Girl I Left Behind, a taut, pacy, spy thriller set in Nazi Germany. Let’s talk to Andie!

Tell us what inspired you to write THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND? I wrote the first words of my debut novel, The Girl I Left Behind, just over ten years ago. I never thought I’d write a novel. Ever. One day I caught a documentary on the History Channel about Nuremberg’s historic Kunstbunker, a secret art bunker the townsfolk hid from Hitler, and I was instantly intrigued. More so, the documentary talked about the youth resistance. I have a degree in History, so I suppose you can say my thoughts are already in the past. In this case, I set out to learn more about the youth of the German Resistance. I tried to find a novel on the subject and couldn’t find one, and as corny as it sounds, set out to write the novel I wanted to read.

What research did you undertake when writing The Girl I Left Behind?

I read a lot. I read diaries, interviews and news articles about resistance members. I also contacted businesses in Germany and asked questions about their past. Yep. I did that too! One of the most interesting stories that came from these emails involved the Korn und Berg bookstore in Nuremberg. They wrote me a long email relaying a story about when Hitler came into their bookstore and demanded they change the shape of their windows because they weren’t modern enough. Oh, you better believe I wrote that into this book!

What was your favourite scene to write?

My favourite scene to write was the tea scene with Ella’s aunt and her Nazi friends. There’s so much going on here than just a group of gossiping women. I’d read that Hermann Göring’s family was elevated in status after his career in the Reich took off, so I wrote that into the scene with one of the ladies. Also, well… I don’t want to give anything away, but when Ella offers to serve her aunt’s guests…ooh, I love it!

What are you working on now?

My next book will be out this summer, THE GIRL FROM VICHY. It’s about a woman who joins the French Resistance (1942) and spies on her collaborator boyfriend—a gendarme in the Vichy police. This book is about a family that is politically divided, which was really interesting to write. This book, as with THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND, is very fast paced and full of suspense. My third book with Aria Fiction will be released in 2021. This book is still top secret, but what I can tell you is that it’s a WWII female-driven spy novel involving American women, and I absolutely love it.

When did you start writing seriously?

I started writing seriously the day I began my novel, October 3rd 2009. Really. I started with zero experience, armed only with my ideas. I think the number one thing that stops writers who have great ideas is not writing regularly. You don’t need to have years of writing experience or have longed to be an author your whole life. But you do need to sit down and write, AND then work at it every day (and hopefully get better at it). My first pages were awful. AWFUL. I just kept at it.

What do you love most about being an author?

This may shock people, but the part I love the most is also the part I hate the most: Structural edits. These are the changes my editor suggests in the form of an editorial letter. My first letter (for THE GIRL I LEFT BEHIND) was 7 pages long, my second letter (for THE GIRL FROM VICHY) was five. I think the biggest misconception is that people think an editor actually changes your manuscript, or the publisher does. Oh no, I’ve written every single word. The edit letter consists of broad suggestions, followed by smaller points. It is up to the writer to figure out how to apply those suggestions to the story.

The reason I love and hate structural edits is simple. I have to write under a deadline, which is stressful, but I love it because I can see the manuscript changing into something wonderful and strong, much stronger than it was originally, and that is why I love it. For me, the last day of edits is usually bittersweet, as it is the last time I’m knee deep in my character’s lives. What follows are the copy edits and proofs, and at this point all story elements are done.

Here’s more about Andie

Andie Newton writes female-driven historical fiction set in WWII. She’s the author of The Girl I Left Behind (Aria 2019) and The Girl from Vichy (Aria 2020). Andie holds a Bachelor degree in History and a Master in Teaching. She would love to say she spends her free time gardening and cooking, but she’s killed everything she’s ever planted and set off more fire alarms than she cares to admit. Andie does, however, love spending time with her family, trail running, and drinking copious amounts of coffee. Her next book, The Girl from Vichy, is coming in August this year.

You can find discussion questions for her novels on her website andienewton.com. And you can follow her on:

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Bookbub