Catching up with Author Nina Kaye

It is a pleasure to welcome fellow author, Nina Kaye to my blog. I asked her some questions about her debut novel, The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating, which I absolutely loved, and about her work as an author.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating?

The seed of my debut novel, The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating, was first planted when my literary agent, Kate Nash, said to me, ‘whatever you write about, make sure it has gin in it’. But obviously there was more to it than that. The three key ingredients were the beautiful setting of Edinburgh, my experience working in the hospitality industry, and (of course) my appreciation of gin! It was important to me to bring real life issues into my novel, but I also wanted to show the light-hearted side of life in Scotland. I’ve actually written a guest blog post on ‘the story behind my story’. You can read it here.

When did you start writing seriously?

I started writing properly just over five and a half years ago when I was fighting a debilitating illness and desperate to get my life back. This is a story I intend to share when I’m able to bring my most recent work in progress to my readers, so I’ll park that for now and focus on my journey to publication instead.

My initial goal was to see if I could write a full-length novel. It was daunting to begin with, but it came more easily than I expected, and after six months I had my first full draft. Then, after lots of editing to shape and polish it, I asked myself: what next? I knew nothing about the publishing industry, so I did some research and decided I had nothing to lose by querying with Literary Agents. Fifteen rejections later (thankfully, with encouraging feedback!), I accepted that my first novel wasn’t going to be my big break and self-published instead. But a month later, a late response came back from my querying, and this turned into an offer of representation.

After more shaping and polishing, my manuscript went on submission to publishers for their consideration. I spent months biting my nails as one rejection after another flowed into my inbox (but with very encouraging feedback once again). By then, I was writing book number two and the focus had shifted to that. We then went through the same process, and first came the inevitable flurry of rejections – which I was used to by then. People kept saying to me, all it takes it one person to say ‘yes’, and they were right. The day my publishing offer flashed up as a notification on my phone, my legs went to jelly and I shared an emotional hug with a perfect stranger in the ladies toilets of my then workplace.

That was last June and after working closely with my publisher on yet more shaping and polishing, my debut novel, The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating, was released in November. It’s been an amazing (and nerve wracking!) process, and I’m so glad I kept at it. Now my focus is on building my profile as an author and getting visibility for my book.

What do you love most about being an author?

There’s so much I love about being an author. Someone once referred to me as a ‘frustrated creative’ and that label really struck a chord. In my day job I’m creative, but I’m also very structured and focused – and it’s those skills that people tend to seek me out for most often. I’ve long needed a creative outlet that’s mine and mine only, and writing is perfect for that. I love that I can escape into this whole other world where the story takes whatever direction I choose. It’s so vivid, I feel like I’m there watching it unfold.

I also love the new friendships and connections I’ve made through being a client of the Kate Nash Literary Agency and a member of the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA). So many like-minded people I can really connect with, and we’re all on this journey together. The RNA is fantastic. I’ve never been part of something that has such a sense of community before. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a newbie or an esteemed author, you’re welcomed and included – and everyone cheers each other on!

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on two different pieces. My main work in progress is another romantic fiction novel about a character who’s diagnosed with a life changing illness, and her determination to reclaim her life (including her romantic life). I’m using my own personal experience as inspiration for this. It’s perhaps a bit more poignant than my debut because of the subject matter, but I’ve used plenty of humour to keep it as light and engaging as possible.

My second piece is the sequel to my very first novel, which is currently unpublished. This ‘two-parter’ is a fast-paced, humorous story about a woman who’s very ambitious but who lacks the confidence to be the assertive, successful person she wants to be – and there’s a dollop of romance in there too.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating?

The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating is a light-hearted romcom, so I have no unrealistic expectations that it will change anyone’s life. But this is a tough world we live in, and I felt it was important to represent some of that struggle within the story. I also believe it’s important that we (and by ‘we’ I mean the human race) never lose our sense of humour. People say ‘laughter is the best medicine’, and while I realise this saying has become a bit of a cliché, I know that having a sense of humour has helped me through some very difficult times.

Ultimately, what I hope for is to give my readers a good laugh, make them think a bit, make them feel good – and give them that satisfying happy-ever-after.

If you haven’t read it already, here’s the book blurb:

When life gives you lemons… add a splash of gin! 

When Liv’s high-flying career goes off the rails, she finds herself working at a glitzy new gin bar to pay the bills. She’s never let romance distract her, but with one very hot colleague, a mysterious online follower who might just be her soulmate, and a lot of cocktails, her dating life is about to be shaken up…

But is Liv looking for a sparkling flirtation, or something a little stronger?

Sometimes you have to face up to your past, seize your future, and mix your own recipe for happy ever after…

And here’s where you can get your own copy:

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US


The Next Big Thing

I am cheating a little in posting this meme, as I was not tagged by the author who I follow via her blog, Charlotte’s Web, and that is part of the meme’s premise. That said, Charlotte Otter – a South African writer who lives with her family in Germany – has often inspired me to put pen to paper (‘finger to keyboard’ doesn’t quite sound right, does it?). I recommend checking out her blog, and when it is published, her novel. Simply, she is an exceptional writer.

This meme is timely for me, as I just submitted a well-honed draft of my book proposal to Jen and Kerry of the Business of Books for editing. They promise a return of the draft by December 1st and in the meantime I keep chipping away at the novel itself. I have been writing (almost) every day for two months now. Looking back over my calendar, I have only taken four ‘vacation’ days from writing, and I am benefiting greatly from the momentum. As Timothy McSweeney says in his Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Than You Normally Do,  writing is a muscle. I am pleased to say that I am getting some decent mental biceps from the consistent writing. I should note that not everything I write is always literally gold, but that’s what revisions are for.

The idea of this is that a writer puts up a post on his or her own blog answering ten questions about his/her work in progress, and then “tags” other writers to do the same. Then, the writer posts a link to his/her “tagger” and to the people he/she is “tagging” so that readers who are interested can visit those pages and perhaps discover some new authors whose work they’d like to read.

So, here we go…

What is the working title of your book?

All Over the Map. Previous working titles have include The World Ate My Oyster and Desperately Seeking Sarah, but I like this latest one best. And it came about organically while I was discussing the plot with Ben. I said, “She’s all over the map – literally,” and we both paused taking it in. “That should be the title,” he said, simply. And I agree.

Where did the idea come from for this book?

A decade ago I wrote several drafts of a travel biography. One of the people I handed it to was Simonne Michelle-Wells, who said, “This should be a novel. You need to re-write this as fiction.” I resisted for years and then made a half-hearted effort to write it as a novel a couple of years ago. I came back to it with renewed love and determination this year. So, now it is a novel.

What genre does your book fall under?

Contemporary women’s fiction. Some would say ‘chick lit’ which I am not adverse to. It is not a cutesy as quite a lot of chick lit, but it is a novel for and about women.

Which actors do you have in mind to play in the movie of your book?

I have a dear friend in Australia who is an exceptionally talented actress, Lisa Adam, and I have often pictured her as the protagonist, Sarah (who is an Aussie). I think this film would be cast with some fresh faces.

What’s the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I agree with Charlotte. This is hard.

Sarah, an Australian living in London, is devastated by the end of her seven-year relationship, and seeking a way to get on with her life, takes a job as a Tour Manager leading fellow travelers on tours around Europe.

(serious run-on sentence)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I hope to have it represented by an agency, hence the book proposal. There is a lot of merit in considering self-publication and I am studying up on that – just in case.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the novel?

The first draft of the travel biography, a few months – all hand-written. The first draft of the novel will take longer, as although there is good source material, I am inventing, amalgamating and re-crafting the tone and style. In the past two months I have drafted a third of the novel. This has included three total passes.

Which other books in this genre would you compare to your novel?

Marion Keyes, Maggie Alderson and Jennifer Weiner write novels that I’d like mine to sit next to in the bookstore.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My own experiences with a break-up, living in London and being a Tour Manager.

What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest?

Humor. I inject humor so as to reflect real life. Stories can’t be all misery, or all joy. Also, I am working especially hard on the characters. I want readers to recognize people they know from their own lives.

Who to tag?

Megs Thompson. I met her at the Whidbey Island Writers’ Retreat. She is dynamic and clever and I love the concept of the novel she is writing.

Simonne Michelle-Wells. I am not sure what Simonne is currently working on – she has been blogging quite a lot lately.

You’re it.