Catching up with Author Kitty Wilson

Kitty Wilson Author Photo

Welcome Kitty – so great to have you here!

Thanks ever so much for inviting me on your blog. It’s lovely to be here. I thought I’d talk a little about Christmas Wishes as it has just been released in paperback and we are fast approaching the time of year to snuggle down with Christmassy reads.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Cornish Village School – Christmas Wishes?

Cover of Christmas Wishes, a snowy village with floral Christmassy foliage framing a church.

The Cornish Village School series had been up and running for a little while by the time I wrote Christmas Wishes. Initially the series had been inspired by my love of Cornwall and the sense of community I found living there, my experience as an Infant teacher and the fact that I loved nothing better than to escape into a romantic comedy. As the series developed it was clear that the books were representing each of the seasons and I had always wanted to write a Christmas book, to steep myself in everything Christmas, so this book was a happy inevitability. I wanted a Nativity, Carols, choirs, Christmas elves, all the fun of being in a school in that last week of Christmas term where everything is glitter and snowmen and celebration so I crammed it all in.

I also wanted to write a book about the outrageously good-looking vicar in Penmenna. He had started off as a minor village character with all the women of the parish panting after him and I wanted to expand his role, have a hero that the world thought encapsulated handsome whilst he himself had so much baggage that not only did he not see it, the attention was completely inexplicable to him. I hope by the end of it, readers see him as a man who’s truly heroic because of his character and his actions, that his looks have very little at all to do with it. 

When did you start writing seriously?

I have always wanted to write, ever since I was a tiny little thing and have been putting pen to paper most of my life, but in truth never seriously until a few years ago. I was working as a Reception teacher and absolutely loved my job when chronic illness struck. Suddenly I was unable to work, unable to parent the way I always had and my life as it was disappeared before me. I did try and hang on for a very long time but it made me worse and worse. It wasn’t long before I was dependent upon my children and the community around me for the most basic of tasks.

It took a couple of years to get used to and after a little wallow I realised I could reframe things. I had always wanted to write and I believed that one day I would get back to the classroom but until then I would use the time to write and indulge the dream. If nothing else it would be good for me to have a purpose, be something to do on the days I was well enough to type, and show my children that just because life dealt tough blows didn’t mean you didn’t try again.

I may not be back in the classroom, and I don’t suppose I ever will be, but I have five books published, a new career that I absolutely love and have found my tribe within the writing community.

What do you love most about being an author?

This could easily become an essay. I love SO many things about being an author. There is all the obvious stuff like working from home, living in pyjamas and eating biscuits all day if I so choose. Then there is the sheer indulgence of being able to lose yourself in thought for hours at a time and claim it’s work. The world-building, the development of characters and setting and plot and all of that being a little bit tricksy until you have one magic moment where it all falls into place and you can’t wait to get it down onto paper. Seeing snippets of life as you walk around in the world and loving something so much that you then work out how to weave it into your manuscript. This is all bliss.

Holding a book in your hand that is full of words that wouldn’t exist if you hadn’t sat down day after day and made them up is pretty awesome and whenever I have a new book published into paperback I do spend a couple of days with a really daft grin on my face but I think the most special thing for me is when readers reach out. When I get a message or read a review saying thank you, this made me giggle at a time in my life I really needed it. That right there, that is the very best thing about being an author.

What are you working on now?

Oh joy, joy, joy! I am writing another Christmas book and I am so excited, I really am. It is a little different to the Cornish Village School, but is still a light-hearted romantic comedy. It’s set in Bristol – I moved here the same weekend the very first Cornish Village School book came out – but despite the city being very different to Cornwall I seem to be weaving community though as much as I did with Penmenna. I am thoroughly indulging my own humour and my inner geek as I write it – which is giving me far more joy than should be legal. And that is all I can tell you at the moment!

What do you hope readers will take away from Christmas Wishes?

I hope that Christmas Wishes gives my readers that real seasonal escape that festive reads bring every year. I hope that they get caught up in the humour and relax a little with the Penmenna community as they read and enjoy a few hours away in a fictional Cornish village at Christmas time. I have to admit I really love the mischievousness of this opening chapter and Ethel and Annie (an elderly parishioner and Dan the Vicar’s grandmother) are two of my favourite characters.

But as with most light-hearted reads there are deeper issues sitting underneath the comedy and the will-they-won’t-they romance, and this one is about identity, insecurity and how we perceive ourselves compared to how others in our community perceive us. So, I also hope it helps remind people that we are all too often our harshest critic and we should be as kind to ourselves as we are to those that we love, especially at this fabulous but slightly pressured time of year.

Here’s the blurb:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in Penmenna…

Teaching assistant Alice has sworn off men, which is fine because with Christmas coming she’s super busy organising the school Nativity. This should be a blast with the help of close friend and village vicar, Dan – if she can ignore those more-than-just-a-friend feelings she’s developed for him…

Dan is happy to help Alice – his secret crush – but not only is his beloved Granny Annie about to be made homeless, the church choir has disintegrated and he’s battling some dark demons from his past.

With meddling grannies and PTA wars thrown in the mix, can Alice and Dan overcome their past hurts to move forward? Will they be spending Christmas together as friends… or something more?

Here’s where you can get it:

Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | GooglePlay | Waterstones (UK)| Hive (UK)

And here’s where you can follow Kitty! She loves to hear from readers.

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Catching up (again) with Author Fiona Leitch

I am super excited to welcome back Fiona Leitch, the “mashup maven”. As well as adoring her, I am in awe of her incredible ability to combine my two favourite genres, Crime Fiction and Romance!

She has a new book coming out in a couple of weeks, and this is one not to miss because it’s the sequel to one of my fave books from 2019, Dead in Venice. It’s called Murder Ahoy!

Tell us about Bella Tyson, your heroine in Dead in Venice and Murder Ahoy!

Bella is a famous crime writer in her late 40s from South London. She dropped out of university and went off to have adventures, with a vague idea of writing about them. She loves chocolate, sex and travel, and her language can be pretty fruity. She’s probably my favourite character, as she’s the one most like me!

What do you love most about writing a series?

I love being able to introduce a character or a theme in one book, as maybe a sub plot or secondary character, and then expand on them in the next book. One of the main characters in Murder Ahoy! is talked about in the first novel and has had a profound effect on Bella in her past, but we don’t actually meet him until we’re onboard the cruise ship in book two.

What is the most challenging thing about writing a series?

I think the hardest thing is keeping it fresh. How many dead bodies can one woman come across without it sounding contrived?! I used to love ‘Midsummer Murders’ on the TV, but after a while it started to feel a bit daft – the murder rate in that cluster of small country villages was higher than that of New York!

You have been called the “mashup maven”. Tell us about how you bring genres together.

It all started when I tried to write something serious and it ended up being funny without me trying (if anything I was trying NOT to be funny). I can’t resist making it absurd or giving the characters witty dialogue. I’m also a sucker for romance and a happy ending. But as much as I love reading other people’s romcoms, and I adore the movies, I can’t seem to write a straight romcom. I think the frustrated filmmaker in me wants more action! So I gravitate towards writing mysteries, or romcoms with a darker edge. Readers seem to like a mash up but publishers, not so much sadly.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new series, The Nosey Parker Mysteries, set in Cornwall. Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is an ex-copper turned caterer who returns to the small Cornish seaside town she grew up in with her teenage daughter. She’s supposed to be retired from the force, but whenever there’s a crime she can’t resist sticking her nose in and helping solve it, along with hunky local CID officer Nathan, her old school friend, Tony, and a whole cast of colourful characters. The first book, Murder On The Menu, will be out in January.

Blurb for Murder Ahoy!

Famous crime writer Bella Tyson is hired to co-host a Murder Mystery cruise, on a luxury liner sailing from Southampton to New York. She’s expecting an easy ride; fun and games, surrounded by amateur sleuths and fans of her books, all the while staying in a deluxe cabin and enjoying the spa and the amazing restaurants on board, culminating in a visit to one of her favourite cities in the world – the Big Apple.

She’s NOT expecting to be stuck on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic with her two least favourite people in the world, her hot but unfaithful bastard ex-husband Joel Quigley and fellow crime writer, bitch goddess and Twitter frenemy, Louise Meyers. And when real live dead bodies start turning up – as well as fake not-really-dead bodies – Bella’s dreams of being pampered on the high seas turn sour.

Accused of a murder she would have liked to commit but didn’t, and helped (or hindered) by a gang of unlikely detectives, can Bella find out who the real murderer is before the ship reaches its destination and New York’s finest drag her off?

Buy links

Amazon AU | Amazon UK | Amazon US |

Follow Fiona

FacebookTwitterInstagram | Pinterest | fionaleitch.com

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?

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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 my breath

I am making time this afternoon to write a post, which I have (as you can see above) entitled ‘Catching my breath’. It’s a ‘fake it ’til you make it’ type strategy as I am professionally breathless.

I am still working fulltime and getting up every day to put in an hour or two of writing/editing/author biz before work. But soon I will be paring back to .9 (woo hoo), giving me every other Friday off to write like a little writing fiend.

When asked about my WIP (work in progress) I currently respond with, ‘which one?’ ’cause there is a little bit going on in my author world.

Status update:

  • My travel romcom series recently got a name: The Holiday Romance series
  • My third book got a name – not officially shouted out on social media yet, but it will be A Sunset in Sydney
  • The same cover artist who created the covers for Books 1 and 2 is – as you read this – creating a gorgeous depiction of Sydney (squee)
  • In January, I finished the first draft of my Christmas novel (coming in October), called The Christmas Swap
  • I am completing structural edits for A Sunset in Sydney right now (well, not right right now, as I am writing this post)
  • When structural edits are handed over, I go back to a re-write of The Christmas Swap which is due at the end of March
  • Once that’s handed over, I will get copy edits back for A Sunset in Sydney
  • In the midst of all this, I am working on the launch of Book 2, That Night in Paris (April 15 – pre-order now!)
  • In June, I go to the UK to attend the HarperCollins author party, the RNA Conference, and to meet my editor and agent in the personage
  • While in the UK, I will go up to Edinburgh for research, as it is the setting for the second half of my 5th book, the 4th book in The Holiday Romance series, which is about a supporting character from Book 2 (did you get all that?)
  • Also while in the UK, A Sunset in Sydney will be published, so lots to do in the lead up to that!
  • And once back from that trip, in early August, I will be finishing Book 5 and will receive structural edits for The Christmas Swap

Actual picture of me when I’m killing it:

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And sometimes me:

exhausted

But also me:

Jennifer-Aniston-gets-excited-after-winning-her-first-SAG-award

I really, really, really, love being an author and I am still pinching myself.

 

NoNo NaNo, WhyNo FOMO?

NSW Oct 2019

Next month is National Novel Writing Month, or as it’s called in the (writing) biz, NaNoWriMo, or NaNo for short. Yes, I know it sounds like something Mork would chant right after he called Orson, but NaNo is serious.

The goal is to write (at least) 50,000 words of your WIP (work-in-progress) in the month of November, an average of 1666.66 words a day, give or take a decimal point.

I did my first (and only) NaNo in 2018 while we lived in Porto during our sabbatical. I had written 30,000 words of my (then) WIP, and I set myself the goal of finishing the manuscript during NaNo. As we were on sabbatical and I didn’t have any contract work in November, I could dedicate myself to full-time writing. I smashed it. 75,000 words in three weeks.

I had an online support group — NaNo encourages community — and a group of young Portuguese writers who I got together with once.

Only once, because the in-person group weren’t really working towards getting published. One of the gals I met was doing her 12th NaNo. She looked so young , I jokingly asked her if she’d done her first one when she was ten years old. No, she’d been eleven. She’d written eleven manuscripts eleven years and none had seen the light of day since. The others in the group were the same — for them, NaNo was about the community, putting pen to paper, or fingers to keys, and letting the stream of consciousness flow.

For me, NaNo was about writing a novel I could get published. (The novel I finished last November, That Night in Paris, is being published in March by One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins. Watch this space — literally.) I gave these young writers online support for the rest of the month, but as we had very different goals, they weren’t really my writing tribe.

Flash forward to July this year. July is ‘Camp NaNo’ with the more achievable goal of 30,000 words in 31 days. I had an idea for a Christmas book and got 35 000 words in. The biggest difference between NaNo 2018 and Camp NaNo 2019 was that this year, I have a full-time job. I was happy with my Camp NaNo word count, and the manuscript — another ‘watch this space’ for Christmas 2020.

The intensive NaNo approach seems to work for me, so surely I am doing NaNo 2019?

No. NoNo NaNo for me this year.

And, as soon as I made that decision, I felt like I could breathe again.

Because, I’ve got enough to get on with in the next few months. Finalising edits for That Night in Paris, then handing over structural edits for the third book in my travel romcom series, then finishing my Christmas book.

I am already at capacity, and I already have the motivation I need to get the work done.

So this year, I will be championing my writer friends from the sidelines. You got this. You’re amazing. Practice self-care. And write, write, write.

The author’s juggling act

The past 6 months of ‘authorhood’ has seen me juggling quite a few projects and responsibilities. I am not complaining—it has been an incredible ride—but I tend to re-prioritise (nearly) daily.

In March, after job-hunting for a couple of months, I was notified that I’d landed a fulltime job at the company I’d worked for prior to my sabbatical. I was concurrently signing with HarperCollins. Timing wise, I would have about a month before I started fulltime work and received my structural edits for my debut novel.

I got to work, starting Book 4 in my travel romcom series, about a character called Jaelee (who you will meet in Book 2) taking herself off to Bali on sabbatical. In a month, I got 50000 words in.

Then I started my new job and received my structural edits, so Book 4 was left in the drawer. Once my edits went back to the publisher, I started on the marketing for my debut. With my agent and publisher, we teed up early readers and a book blog tour, and I shouted out about pre-orders. I built my online presence even more.

My debut launched at the end of June.

In July, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, tasking myself with writing as much as possible of a stand-alone Christmas novella, an idea that had arrived overnight in late June. I wrote 35000 words of the novella in July—while working fulltime and marketing my debut.

In August, I sent my half-finished novella to my agent, who loved it and had feedback. I tweaked it, and the manuscript, along with a lengthy synopsis of ‘what happens next’, went off to my Editor. I can’t say too much about this at the moment, but watch this space (hint, hint, it’s good news).

September came and I learned the publication date for Book 2 was being bumped up three months. EDITING TIME!!! The book was written, but I hadn’t touched it since January, so I gave it a comprehensive structural edit—particularly important as when I wrote it, it was 3rd in the series and now it will be 2nd, so some chronology to fix.

I sent the edits off in September and went back to Book 3 (which I wrote 2nd), conducting a similar structural edit to tighten up the writing and fix the chronology. I am about 70% through that edit, but I’ve just received edits for Book 2 back from my Editor, so I am switching gears again.

When Book 2 edits have been handed back, I can wrap up my edits of Book 3, which I will aim to have done by the end of the month.

But, back to the Christmas book or Book 4 in the series, both unfinished? I really want to do NaNoWriMo next month, with the lofty goal of 50000 in 30 days. BUT, the last time I did it (75000 words in 3 weeks!) I wasn’t working fulltime. Writing was my only job. And marketing for book 2 will start soon…

Mostly, the juggling feels like this:

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But sometimes, it’s like this:

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And occasionally, like this:

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But on the whole, I love this ‘being an author’ gig.

 

 

 

 

 

My #WIP

Now that my debut novel is out in the world, I am fielding lots of questions about what’s next, so I thought I’d blog about it and let you know!

Aside: I have been overwhelmed by the support from the writing community since my debut was published, especially romancelandia, and by the responses to One Summer in Santorini from readers. I’ve had messages, Tweets, Facebook comments and so many wonderful reviews and ratings. Around 95% of readers love my book and it is still sitting well in the charts. I am humbled, grateful and excited by this. Thank you!

But what now?

As you may know, I work fulltime for an educational company as a professional development specialist. My work is 90% reading, writing, and editing educational materials, so sometimes finding the impetus to write and edit fiction is tricky.

But, I have found a solution!

On weekdays, I get up 2-3 hours before I go to work, and I do author biz (respond to emails and messages, post to social media, and so forth), then I write or edit. The early starts have worked well for me.

In July, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo and wrote 35000 words of a Christmas novela – all in the wee hours. I’ve set that story aside for now, as I am currently (re)editing book #2.

Book #2 is actually the third book I wrote – after the sequel to One Summer in Santorini – and because it is in the same world (it’s about Sarah’s sister, Cat), I am editing to ‘fix’ the chronology. It now takes place right after One Summer in Santorini, and I’ve edited out all the spoilers for the sequel to Sarah’s story.

I had edited this book – I call it Cat’s book at the moment – last year, after I finished writing it, but I am a better writer now, so I have also tightened it up in this editorial pass. I will soon hand this over to my editor for their edit. When it comes back to me in a month or so, I will incorporate their edits and it goes back across to them. In the interim, it will get a name and a cover(!)

When I hand over Book #2 (sometime in the next 2 weeks), I have a few options. I can work on the Christmas story, which will now be a full-length novel, go back to Book #4, which is based on a character Cat meets in Book #2 (I’m about 50000 words in), or begin a structural edit of the sequel to Sarah’s book.

So many choices!!! However, the two unfinished stories do call me.

Essentially, what I have learned about being an author, is that there is always something to do. I move between writing and editing, and while I work on these 4 books – each in its own stage of development – there are other book ideas busting to get out. I temper those ideas by making notes, but not letting them take up any real estate in my mind – it’s already crowded in there.

Book #2, That Night in Paris, is about these two, Cat and Jean-Luc… Oolala!