Category Archives: Writing life

NEW VLOG – My BIG P-Day Surprise!

When I agreed to meet Cathy Bramley for lunch on P-Day for Somewhere Beyond the Sea, I had no idea what she’d secretly planned…

Instead of a quiet lunch and stock signing at Waterstones Birmingham, Cathy had arranged for my wonderful friends Jo QuinnRachael Lucas and my lovely agent Hannah to travel from all over the country to give me the BIGGEST surprise. I have never had a day like it!

I filmed a vlog on the day – you can see how utterly delighted and shocked I was! Apologies for the squeals! I’d expected publication day to be a quiet, little celebration but it turned into the biggest, sparkliest, most amazing P-Day of my career. And it meant so much. I didn’t feel alone, like I’d feared I might. The love I felt from everyone – my lovely friends and the brilliant booksellers at Waterstones Birmingham who were there, everyone who sent me gorgeous messages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – has been absolutely phenomenal and I am completely overwhelmed by it.

Thank you, too, if you’ve bought Somewhere Beyond the Sea in paperbackebook or the utterly wonderful audiobook narrated by Clare Corbett and Jonathan Bailey. Thank you for believing in the story I wanted to tell. It means more than I’ll ever be able to express.

So, here’s the vlog (including the spookily fab accordion player we met playing Somewhere Beyond the Sea as we left the bookshop!). Enjoy! xx

New vlog series – MEET JACK

How many times have you read a book and wanted to delve further into the world the author has created? That happens to me all the time. Also, having spent a year or more of writing my books, I love getting the chance to chat about them (you may have noticed…) This is what happens when you finally unleash an author from her writing office into the big wide world!

So, I’ve filmed a series of vlogs about Somewhere Beyond the Sea – talking about the characters, the locations I chose for the book and what it was like to write the book. I’m also going to give you some exclusive snippets about hidden gems in the book, who I’d cast in the movie version (*coughs* *looks around for any film producers in the area*) and what it was like to be involved in the amazing audiobook version of my story.

Here’s the first: Meet JACK DIXON. (full disclosure: I’m a bit in love with Jack…)

Happy watching – and let me know what you think in the comments below! xx

Magic moments – listen to this!

(I’m not singing this time, promise!) I’ve just been sent the finished audiobook of Somewhere Beyond the Sea and it’s absolutely blown me away… 

On Monday I went down to the studio in London to record some author bits for the audiobook and I could tell from the team that they were excited by the work Clare Corbett and Jonathan Bailey have done reading Seren and Jack’s chapters in the book.

But I wasn’t prepared for how amazing it would be.

Here’s the thing: probably most people don’t know that I studied Drama at university and for a long time my ambition was to be an actor. It didn’t happen (two awful auditions put paid to that idea – remind me to tell you about them some time…), but I have never lost my love of drama, film and theatre. When I write, I see it in my head like a film. I remember a writer telling me once that writing books is the best way to fulfil a secret acting ambition – we give ourselves all the best lines through our characters. In my case I think that’s true! So where I couldn’t appear on a physical stage, I create a stage – a TV screen, a film screen – on the page instead.

When words on the page are brought to life by performance, magic happens. I read all my books aloud when I’m editing – particularly when I’m doing the final proof edit. If the rhythm is wrong, especially for dialogue, I always work out the right one by speaking it first. I write with a particular rhythm in mind – it’s very similar to writing music. The beats have to be right, the light and shade placed correctly, otherwise it clunks and is difficult to read.

So when I listened to the two opening chapters featured in the Soundcloud clip below, I knew where all the beats were. It’s scary waiting to see how someone else has interpreted your words! And what happened next was magical. Every beat, every rhythm, every point of emotion and humour, wistfulness and pain were hit perfectly – and there was more, too: nuances in the dialogue that I hadn’t anticipated, moments where I was drawn closer to the characters as they spoke, moments that made me giggle. It was like hearing my story for the first time and I couldn’t believe I wrote that. I wrote that! Wow!

I dream of one day writing a script that’s produced as drama, either for TV or film. Listening to Clare and Jonathan’s performances of my words has made me think that it might yet be possible. Somewhere Beyond the Sea is written from Seren and Jack’s alternating perspectives and is the closest to a monologue/Talking Heads-style story I’ve ever written, so to hear it spoken and performed so perfectly has made me so proud of what I’ve created.

Being very British I’ve often downplayed pride in my work, but I’m changing that, starting now. Somewhere Beyond the Sea is my heart and soul and I’ve poured everything I’ve got into it. I am so utterly proud of it. And the way that Clare and Jonathan have not only respected my words but illuminated them, given them breath and life, is an absolute gift. Often as an author the mountain-top moments are few and far between, but this is one of those pinch-me-I’m-dreaming moments where it all comes together.

Want to hear what’s reduced me to tears and made me grin like a LOON all afternoon? Click this link to hear the first two chapters of the Somewhere Beyond the Sea audiobook, starring Clare Corbett as SEREN and Jonathan Bailey as JACK. Prepare to fall in love!

Clare-Corbett

CLARE CORBETT as SEREN

jonathan-bailey

JONATHAN BAILEY as JACK

MirandaWrites 57 – Almost here!

It’s less than a week until my very first Christmas novella, Christmas in St Ives, is published – eek! So in this week’s vlog, I’m going to tell you what you can expect from the story…

I’m so proud of this novella and I had an absolute blast writing it. I like to think you can tell as a reader when the author has enjoyed writing a story, so I hope you get that sense with Christmas in St Ives. It was also lovely to write a prequel to my next full-length novel, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, to be able to extend that world and really bring the characters alive. Both my novella and the novel are available for preorder now – Christmas in St Ives is published on 19th October, Somewhere Beyond the Sea will be published on 14th June 2018 (and we’ve included the first chapter of it in the back of the novella, so you’ll get a sneak-peek eight months early!)

Enjoy this week’s vlog – and ask me a question for next week by leaving a comment below!

M xx

WriteFoxy: A New Spin on Book Terms

I’ve had enough of beating myself up as a writer.

I don’t know about you, but the constant lurching between confidence and doubt is exhausting. I think I’ve conquered it and then, right in the middle of writing a new book – when I’m mired in first draft sludge around about 59k words, or going through a line edit where I’m losing sight of the story, it hits me:

Kaablaamo! Dastardly Doubt muscles in and ruins everything.

It’s worse when you hear people dismissing books with well-worn terms: ‘an easy read‘, ‘a holiday book‘, someone read it ‘in one sitting‘, a ‘guilty pleasure‘.

Shudders. Screaming at reviews. Dreading book discussions on social media. Feeling dismissed, undervalued and possibly in the wrong profession. It’s not pretty. Or even remotely fun.

But I’ve been thinking. What if there were a way to flip these terms to see a more positive version?

Let’s take them one at a time. (Brace yourself…)

ABC blocksAN EASY READ

Ugh. The ultimate dismissive term for the book you have invested a year of your life (or longer) lovingly crafting.

Or is it?

I used to work as a copywriter and there was a phrase we used in the design department: when you’ve done your job properly, nobody notices. I think that’s true of writing books, too. An ‘easy read’ seems like a criticism, but look at it this way: an easy read means the story flowed, the pace was good, dialogue felt natural and the reader easily entered into the world the book created.

When something is written well, you don’t notice the workings of it. You just enter in. And trust me, if the book was badly written, it wouldn’t be easy to read. It would be clunky, annoying, a book to be flung across the room rather than raced through.

To write something that flows and compels readers to keep turning the page is a hugely difficult thing to get right. The best comedy is effortless to watch but hides hours of work to perfect the timing, the rhythm, the punch line. It’s hard to write well. It takes skill and perseverance. But when you’ve done it right, nobody notices the effort. They just see the story.

If readers call your book an easy read, it means your pace, flow, characters, world-building and structure worked. That’s a world away from a dismissive term, don’t you think?

Holiday beach imageA HOLIDAY BOOK

A ‘beach read’. A ‘poolside book’.

Argh!

It conjures up images of cheap, trashy pulp fiction bought at the airport and hastily stashed in hand luggage. Something you wouldn’t dream of reading in your everyday life but, like Sambuca shots and stuffed donkeys, is somehow permissible on your week away in the sun.

Hang on, though.

Holidays are precious. We save hard for them and count down the days to them each year. Our one week away from work, from the concerns of our normal life, is hard-won and much longed for. So the books we choose to take with us have to be good. People agonise over which books to take: the right book can be a memorable part of your time away; the wrong book feels so much more of a let-down.

So, if someone has chosen to take your book on holiday – and invested time in their already precious time away to spend with your characters and your story – isn’t that the greatest compliment? They chose your book. And it was perfect for that moment. Whenever they see your book on their shelf at home, they’ll remember the beach they read it on, the pool your words kept them company by, and exactly where they were when they read your story.

That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Reading pileI READ IT IN ONE SITTING

You spend countless hours – years, even – perfecting your book. The unseen months of heartache, doubt and sheer hard graft are hidden within the pages of your novel. And then, eight hours after it’s published, someone tweets you to say they read it in an afternoon.

What?!

I understand the shudder of loathing that follows a review where the reader says they read your book in one sitting. It feels dismissive. It cheapens your effort. And it makes you wonder if they noticed all the brilliant, hard-fought paragraphs you sweated buckets over.

Or how about this..?

Imagine they became so caught up in the story you created that nothing else mattered. The piles of crockery remained dirty in the sink. The television was dark and silent. They never made it further than their car in the car park outside the book shop because they couldn’t bear to leave your beautiful book world for even a minute. They held their breath. Pages turned at speed as they rooted for your characters, rode the emotional roller-coaster of your story and raced towards the end because they had to know what happens…

You’ve read books like that. I have, too. And just because you were gripped by the story and dashed through it, I’ll bet you’re still thinking about it now. Imagine if someone said that about your book…

Wow.

Go ahead. Race through my book in one sitting, please!

Guilty imageA GUILTY PLEASURE

Okay, I’ll give you this one. It’s a horrible term. Feel free to kick it to the kerb, strap a jet-pack to its sorry back and blast it away from earth into the endless beyond. Nobody should ever feel guilty about reading. Ever.

…Although, if someone does say that about your book, there are two positives to take away from it. Firstly, it says more about their fear of literary snobs than the merit of your book. Secondly, they secretly loved it.

I would far rather someone termed my book a ‘pleasure’ than a chore. And if they are worried so much about what a snobbish lit-splainer might say, they wouldn’t feel guilty about finding a book hard to read. (Because literary snobs believe ‘difficult’ books are the only ones that matter.) The fact is, they loved your book. And they will probably buy your next one to snuggle up in secret with, too…

Being a writer is tough. We pour our hearts into what we do, but that means we wear our hearts on our sleeve, so it’s easy to get hurt. I hope these flipped book terms help you see them differently next time they are used to describe your books.

Keep doing what you do, lovely author. Keep caring. Because it matters.

Finished! Woo-hoo!

Just a quick post to let you know that I’ve FINISHED writing the first draft of my new book! Woo-hoo!

First Draft DONE

(In case the word count is confusing, I have a scene after THE END in this document that I’ve now snuggled into the middle of the book where it belongs…)

It’s taken lots of late nights (including five all-nighters, which I don’t recommend!), countless cups of tea and coffee, at least three different notebooks on the go at once and not an awful lot of sleep, but my ninth novel is finally written and I’m chuffed to bits with it.

Of course, there are edits to come – a structural edit, line edit, copyedit and final proof edit – but for now my book is out of my head and onto the page. All the locations are there, the cast and supporting cast (always important in my books) and a central town setting that is as much a character as the protagonists themselves. I hope you’ll be able to not just imagine yourself there but also experience the sights, sounds, scents and tastes of this story.

It’s my most romantic story to date, I think, written from the dual perspectives of Seren MacArthur and Jack Dixon. I’ve adored writing both their worlds and their voices came to me really quickly, which isn’t always the case. I think you’re going to love them, along with their friends and families. And a dog. There might be a dog…

I’m doing a final read-through today and then sending it to my editor at PanMacmillan tomorrow. It feels like the end of a mammoth journey, which has included moving house, being without internet for a month, things breaking and scary bills (who said being a full-time author was glamorous?!). In reality it’s only the first stage in a journey, but I think this is the most important – not to mention the most fun – where I get to tell myself the story first, before anyone else sees it. From the moment I hit send on the email taking it to my editor tomorrow, this story stops being just mine. And that’s okay because it’s one of the beautiful things about writing novels – your first draft is a single splash in a pool that then sends ripples out further than you can ever see.

But I might just hug my manuscript a little tonight, while it’s still just me and the story…

Book 9 – latest news from the coalface…

It’s been quiet on here lately and that has been due to a couple of factors. Firstly, we finally moved house after lots of hard work, decorating, unpacking and late nights. But it’s fabulous to be in at last and my new office is wonderful to write in!

Wurdy New Office

The light in my lovely new office is so inspiring – I love writing here already!

We’ve built bookshelves so I’m now surrounded by lovely book friends, which always makes a house feel like a home to me. I even managed a small book rainbow on one shelf – something I’ve wanted to do for ages…

Book Rainbow

A book rainbow – I need more yellow and green books…

The second reason for my web silence has been that I’ve been frantically writing Book 9, which at last has a title. I’m just waiting for the official okay from PanMacmillan and I’ll let you know as soon as I can. What I will say is that the title is absolutely perfect for the story and will also plant a song in your head that you’ll be humming for weeks!

I don’t know why I thought moving house during writing a novel would be a good idea, but oh my life it’s been a challenge. Packing and house stress aside, we also have no internet until almost the end of April, which is the deadline for the book. Lack of internet is good for writing (because no temptation to check Twitter, or Instagram, or Facebook), but quite scarily bad for backing up files, so I have been enjoying the complimentary WiFi of coffee shops, friends and parents wherever I can. My office has been mostly on the road in my car, in cafes and grabbing bits of writing time whenever and wherever possible…

SBTS Car writing

My mini writing mentors LegoElvis and LegoDollyP have been on hand to help…

When I can tell you the title, I’ll tell you where I’ve set my novel and what the story is about. I’m so excited about this one! What I can tell you for now is that it’s a properly romantic story, told from two people’s perspectives: Seren MacArthur and Jack Dixon. Writing in their voices, in present tense (which I haven’t used since Welcome to My World, so a bit of a departure for me) has been wonderful and it’s safe to say that I’ve fallen in love with them as I’ve been writing. I haven’t felt so invested in a pair of characters for a while and I think you’re going to love their story.

SBTS Seren and Jack PostIts

As I’m writing the book, I have a stack of Post-Its with reminders to keep me on track.

For now, here’s a sneaky-peek at a line from the book, which I shared for #onelinewednesday last week (I think it sums up the feeling of the whole book):

SBTS One Line Weds

EEK! I have tingles!

It’s hard work and there’s a lot to write, but my family have been amazing. It’s true that they are a huge part of my writing career – without their support I simply couldn’t do this for a job. But it does mean writing as much as I can, every day. No Easter holidays for me! I’m writing early in the morning, bits throughout the day and through the night into the early hours of the next morning to get the book written. Yesterday (Easter Sunday), I was able to write for most of the day, thanks to my wonderful in-laws looking after Bob and Flo…

SBTS Easter writing

As always, I’ve created a playlist to give a sense of the atmosphere I want for the book.

As soon as I have internet, my vlogs will be back, too. I’ll post one each week to keep you updated on Book 9. Follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook for more sneaky-peeks and exclusives, too. There’ll also be news of an extra project I’ve just had the green-light on, so I’ll tell you all about that as soon as I can. All in all, it’s an exciting – if tiring and slightly nerve-wracking – time and I can’t wait to share all the juicy details with you very soon.

Right, kettle’s on. Anyone fancy a cuppa?

New Home cuppa

MirandaWrites 52 – The Christmas Vlog!

Merry Christmas, lovelies!

Well, it’s been a very strange year, with lots of ups and downs, but one silver lining (pardon the pun) has been the fantastic response from you about the return of my vlogs. For this week’s vlog, I asked for your festive questions – and you gave me some great ones!

Which location makes me think of Christmas? Am I going to write any more novels set in New York? How many notebooks do people buy me for Christmas? These questions and more feature in a very festive vlog with special guests, a #LegoElvis exclusive newsflash (so exciting!) and even a bit of singing from me! Plus, I offer my advice for creating great vlogs for anyone interested in becoming a vlogger.

(I mention Hayley’s vlog – check out her YouTube channel here…)

(Read my Elvis-impersonators-fighting-alien-killer-zombies comedy novel, Elvis vs The End of the World here…)

So get ready for a bit of MirandaWrites festive fun – and thanks so much for watching! xx

Reality check…

Do you mind if I get a bit emotional for a minute?

This is just a short post but something happened to me today that I wanted to write down. To remind me that it happens.

As you know, I’m in the final stages of editing Book 8. It’s been hard. Really hard. After writing and editing eight novels you would think I’d expect this but somehow every year I forget once my book is handed in. This year has been brutal. I’m not going to apologise for saying it. Writing a book is hard work, editing it into some kind of coherent story is a long (but necessary) slog. And the final stages of an edit are the absolute worst bit. If you’ve ever written a book, you’ll understand.

Editing Book 8

My edit face – nope, it ain’t pretty…

But then today, right in the middle of it all, someone I’ve never met tweeted me to say they’d chosen my books to read during their week off.

I know how precious holiday reading time is. And how important it is to choose the right book to spend time with. So, hearing that a complete stranger has picked my book completely blows my mind.

As a published writer it’s too easy to get caught up in the tough bits – the hours nobody else sees you investing, the doubts, the heart-searching slog to find the best story – and forget why you wanted to write in the first place. Every now and again glimpses like this appear and they are wonderful.

There’s no great lesson from this, apart from the encouragement that as a writer what you do makes a difference to other people. I’m leaving this post here as a message to anyone slogging out a story – and as a message to a future, sleep-deprived, fed up, final-stage-edit me. Hang in for the good stuff. It happens.