Some of my most creative thoughts happen when on a dog walk, as do my best conversations with my dog-walking buddy. So I thought I’d invite some of my author friends along to join me and my girls and see if I can find out a little more about them and the book they are releasing.
‘My girls’ are Poppy and Ruby
Today they are enjoying the super September sunshine (I know my guest is a fan of alliteration!) though Ruby prefers the cosy comfort of having carpet under her!
So joining me today in her walking boots is Diane Mannion who is the author of non-fiction books Kids’ Clubs and Organizations – A Comprehensive UK Guide and Great Places for Kids’ Parties UK.
Diane tells me that when she isn’t writing books she works as a freelance copywriter and proof-reader and provides writing services to a broad client base. Her specialist subjects are parenting, consumer finance, energy and the Environment but today she has come to chat to me about the release of her first novel, Slur.
Now before we set off I should say that Diane is celebrating the launch of her crime thriller Slur today the 19th September 2014 with a quite spectacular online launch party at: http://dianewriting.wordpress.com/ featuring competitions including a Literary Quiz where she introduces her Fab Five authors (I did warn you about the alliteration). The Fab Five are a group of authors who have kindly agreed to offer a signed print copy of one of their books as a prize. The winner of the Literary Quiz wins all five books, and I am delighted, and extremely honoured, to have been asked to be one of the Fab Five. There will also be an end of day quiz where the winner will receive a £50 John Lewis voucher plus signed print copies of all of Diane’s books. It’s going to be quite an event!
Hi Diane, thanks for taking the time to talk to me today, I know you have a day of competitions and launch day frivolity planned over on your blog but I hope you’ve had a good journey here and you’re ready for a hike across the fields of sunny Cambridgeshire?
I am Georgia, thanks for inviting me, though I’m not sure I was expecting the terrain you have pictured here?
I know you’ve been tempting us with posts such as the first, and second, chapters for us to read Diane but this is your chance to tell me all about Slur and how you came to write a novel after two non-fiction books?
This is a long story so I hope you’ve got strong walking boots.
My long-term goal was always to publish the novel and I actually wrote it before the non-fiction books. Believe it or not I originally started writing it 15 years ago when I did a writing course. The course was very comprehensive and encouraged writers to have a go at many different types of writing so during that time I also came up with the outline for the kids’ clubs book.
I finished the course wanting to pursue many different avenues so I went from writing magazine articles to starting a writing services business to publishing my own books. In between having magazine articles published I used to write the novel when the children were toddlers after they had gone to bed. I found that it was pure escapism and it originally started off with a chic lit feel. However, I then decided that I wanted it to be grittier so I turned it into a crime thriller.
Slur is about two girls, Julie Quinley (20) and her best friend Rita (21) who are accused of a murder that they didn’t commit. Julie’s world falls apart and she reaches breaking point. Rita, on the other hand, is feisty and more resilient than Julie. Although she is also affected, she reacts differently. Where Julie sinks into a deep depression, Rita carries on with life and even manages to have a good time.
Julie reaches a turning point when her friends reveal that they may have found out who the real killer is. The only problem they then have is proving his guilt, and with a vicious killer that isn’t going to be easy. They also have to contend with a grumpy police inspector who doesn’t believe a word they say.
After I completed the novel I tried to get it published in the traditional way. Although I was unsuccessful, an agent encouraged me to carry on but I shelved it while I concentrated on other areas of my writing. I always knew that I would return to it eventually though.
Then, when independent publishing took off I decided to start small with the non-fiction books to see how things went before publishing the novel. By doing so, I could learn as I went along.
How have you found the process of writing a novel compared to your non-fiction books? And which do you think has been the most challenging?
As mentioned above, the idea with the non-fiction books was to start small, but it didn’t end up that way. I found that the more research I did, the more there was to write about. So, even though the word count for each of my non-fiction books is about 50% of the word count for the novel, they probably took just as long to produce.
Each has its own challenges but overall I think that the non-fiction books were more demanding and I definitely want to pursue fiction in the future because it gives me more control. One of the reasons why I found non-fiction demanding was because I verified all the information with the organisations involved. As there were more than 20 organisations in each book, it’s similar to having feedback from more than 20 beta readers. However, where beta readers give their opinion and you can choose whether or not to take it on board, if an organisation stipulates that their company name has to be quoted in a specific format, then you choose to ignore that stipulation at your own peril. Some of the large organisations can be very precious and a few of them seemed to think that my books were a marketing exercise for them so they wanted to rewrite specific chapters in their own format.
Another aspect with the second non-fiction book was the inclusion of colour images. Trying to produce a colour book cost-effectively is very challenging for an independent author, and I have to say that it is an experience that I definitely don’t want to repeat.
I know you’re an indie author Diane, and that you have your own Writing Services Business but we all need help at various stages of writing and I’d like to know more about the team you have behind you. Who helps you pull your books together until they’re ready to be published?
I do all of the writing, editing and proofreading myself. However, for Slur I found four excellent beta readers. Three of them were readers and the fourth was a published author so it was useful to get feedback from both perspectives. The author also recommended some editing software that I found useful as a few bad habits had crept into my writing such as the overuse of adverbs and a tendency to be too formal instead of getting straight to the point.
The formatting stage is something that I don’t enjoy. With the Kindle formatting I found it much easier this time as I had already done it twice with the non-fiction books. Whereas I had experienced problems with bullets and numbered lists when formatting the non-fiction books, there was none of that with the novel. In terms of the print book formatting, I cheated and used the services of Clare Davidson (http://www.claredavidson.com/) because I had seen one of her finished books and it was much better than anything I could produce.
My book cover designer was recommended to me after my original designer had let me down. He is called Chris Howard and I can’t recommend him enough. I’m so pleased with the cover he has produced and he’s one of those people who will work with you until you find something that you are both happy with.
Slur is set in the 1980’s. Did you have to do a lot of research? And if so what sort did you find most the challenging?
The main research that I focused on was related to police procedure in 1986. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act of 1984 meant that the rules relating to arrest changed so I had to make sure that I had my procedures right. Luckily, the staff that work for the Police History Society were a great help.
I also carried out some research into the fashions, music and other popular culture of that time but the Internet helped with that. In the earlier stages of writing the book I researched the effects of certain drugs and alcohol when combined, and researched court procedure. Again, the Internet was extremely useful.
The Internet definitely makes research a lot easier these days and it means that virtually nothing is out of reach. When I first started my writing course 15 years ago I would have to go down to Manchester Central Library with my notepad and wade through various books, manuals and reports.
A few quick fire ones then Diane.
Full English or fruit?
Cereals, but I do chop up fruit and add it with honey so I would have to say fruit.
Slippers or stilettos?
Stilettos when I’m dressing up, but slippers whenever I’m at home.
Which superpower would you like to have? And Why?
Invisibility probably. Just imagine what nuggets of information I could find out. Hopefully it wouldn’t be anything that I’d rather not have heard though.
What piece of advice would you like to give your 16 year old self – if you were given the opportunity to use a time machine!?
Gosh, this is a tricky one. Knowledge is power I suppose. I didn’t know enough back then and was probably held back by convention instead of breaking away and trying something new.
I believe that perfect days are unplanned, BUT if you were to plan your perfect day what would it look like?
It would probably be a week of days rolled into one so that I had time to fit everything in. As a writer I never have enough time to do all the things I want to do. I’ve worked out that if I write all the stories that are constantly whizzing around in my head, I can probably keep going until I’m about 90. No doubt lots of other writers feel the same way.
Thanks for joining me Diane, it’s been terrific getting to know a bit more about you and your work and I wish you every success for your launch today and for the sales of Slur – I am already reading it!
Thanks for inviting me Georgia – it’s been fun!
If you’d like to take a look at Slur you can find it here:-
You can find Diane here:-