Writing in November

Hi All, Sorry I haven't been blogging much - Oct was manic! I did over 17 different school and library visits and spoke to over 1,000 children about writing - phew! It was fun but I'm glad to be back at my desk now, working on the new adult novel and re-writes for Amy Green 4.

November is a great writing month - it's dark, windy, wet and generally a bit depressing. Christmas is still a long way away (honest!), and there's no better time to get the head down and write. Or so I keep telling myself.

I was hoping not to have to do much Amy Green 4 rewriting and tweaking - but that was not to be. My editors thought otherwise! And I trust them 100% and now that I'm getting started on the rewrites I know that they are 110% right, it needs work. The bones are there, the characters are there, the emotion is there, I just have to wrestle it all into line a bit. I do tend to throw everything into every book I write, which can be confusing for the reader. But I've restructure it, I know what I have to do, and there's light at the end of the tunnel.

The adult novel is 3/4 finished - I've had to take a short break to work on the Amy Green edits - but again, I know exactly where I'm going.

I actually like rewriting once I get stuck in. It's when you start seeing patterns and themes that can be brought out more and woven into the early chapters more. It's a really important part of the writing process. Amy Green 4 has already been rewritten 8 times. This new rewrite is number 9. And I'm sure there will be at least 2 or 3 more before it's finished. Probably about 12 in total which is pretty average for me! Sounds like a lot, some writers do as many as 30 or 40 rewrites before they are happy.

I've pasted an interview with The Star below. As I'm not a reader, I have no idea when I ran (oops), but you might find some of it interesting or useful. At the very least it will keep you off Facebook! Watch out for the bit when she asks me about keeping slim for book publicity!!! As if!!!

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX

(From The Star, Ireland)

1) The writing industry is notoriously hard to get into. How did you get your foot in the door?

The honest answer is that I worked hard and I didn't take no for an answer. And luckily for me, what I love to write - popular fiction - is what people love to read. I had published several children's books when I approached Poolbeg with three chapters of an adult novel, which they accepted immediately. But it took me a long time to get my first book, Kids Can Cook, published.

2) Did you suffer many knockbacks? How did you handle rejection?

A lot of publishers rejected Kids Can Cook, but I kept sending it out until I found someone, Children's Press, who said yes. I was 25 when it was published, so I handled the rejection quite well. I'm not sure I'd handle it so well now. At the time I was determined to get it into print, so I refused to take no for an answer.

3) Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

No. I wanted to be a ballerina for years! But I knew I wanted to work with books. And I did - I was a bookseller for many years and still work with bookshops as a consultant to this day. Bookshops are amazing places to work. Once I was surrounded by books all day, meeting authors, I realised that I wanted to have one of my own books on the shelves.

4) Which authors inspired you growing up?

Judy Blume on the children's book side - she's amazing - utterly fearless. Maurice Sendak for picture books, an amazing artist and writer. And on the popular fiction side, Maeve Binchy was hugely inspirational - she lived down the road and was so loved and so popular world wide. And more recently, Marian Keyes. Another amazing writer.

6) You're a bestseller in fiction aimed at women. How do you come up with new stories to tell? Are your books based on your real-life experiences?

I don't have any problem coming up with characters and plots - my head is full of both! Settling on one idea can be a problem however. I'm blessed with a vivid imagination. Yes, some of my books use real life situations, twisted and changed to suit the plot. So they are not biographical, but real events certainly shape and inform them.

7) Do you watch Sex and the City at all? Do you think the show has popularised the romantic fiction genre and made readers more open to reading about love/sex/relationships? Do you enjoy reading it yourself?

Yes, I used to watch the television series. Hated the second film though. I felt it wasn't in the spirit of the tv series. No, I think women were reading about relationships long before the show. But I'm more of a Grey's Anatomy girl to be honest!

8) What advice would you give to aspiring writers of fiction? What do you think is the key to writing a good popular fiction novel?

Advice - read. And keep reading. Every writer I know is a huge reader. Be honest in your work. Write with joy, approach the page with a good attitude and keep writing as often as you can. The key - brilliant characters that people can identify with and grow to love. For me, fiction is all about fantastic characters. Benny in Circle of Friends, Rachel in Rachel's Holiday.

9) How do you feel about the plethora of celebrities writing autobiographies and tell-all books? Do you think they downgrade the writing industry by relying on sensationalism so much?

I can't comment because I've never actually read one to be honest.

10) How are you finding writing for the teen genre? What made you interested in doing this? Do you find your children are living in a very different world to the one you grew up in? Do your kids read your books a lot?

I adore writing for young teens. They are the best audience in the world. I get dozens of emails a week from young readers, asking me about the books and telling me about their lives which is amazing and I'm so flattered they want to share things with me.

I've always worked in children's books - I was and still am a children's bookseller and I review children's books regularly for papers and magazines. My first books were children's books, I got distracted for a while by the adult fiction, but now I'm back, and doing both!

No, teenagers still have the same feelings and a lot of the same problems - they just have different ways of communicating now with Facebook, Bebo, mobiles etc. Their world is a bit faster, but as emotionally charged as ever. I don't find it all that different at all to be honest, not if you scratch the surface. Luckily I remember exactly what being 13 was like, very helpful for raising teens and writing about them! No, my son is 16 and has no interest in reading any of my books, and my other children are too young.

11) Can you tell me a bit about your children (names/ages/ whether or not they're showing any interest in writing or anything like that)?

None of my children are showing any interest in writing, but all are huge readers, so I'll wait and see. The youngest is only 4, so he's a Thomas the Tank man. The other two read all kinds of things. Sam, 16, is an action adventure fan, Muchmore, Horowitz, Colfer, and especially Landy. Amy, 7, loves picture books, she's very visual.

12) I see you're working on your tenth adult novel and your fourth Ask Amy Green novel. Can you tell me a bit about each? When will they be published?

The Shoestring Club, the next adult novel, will be published in Spring 2012 and is about three very different girls, one very special dress and an amazing friendship. I can't really say any more at the moment as I'm still writing it! But it's set in Dublin and is quite hard hitting, yet funny (I hope!). Ask Amy Green 4: Party Drama-rama is about the hen party Amy organises for her mum and also about a very special boy with a huge secret. It's finished now and I'm a bit in love with it I must admit - I hated finishing it! It's out next May, 2011.

13) When you write a book these days, you're expected to publicise it, go on TV etc. Do you feel pressure to look slim as a result? Do you diet / exercise / eat healthily?

Slim? Jeepers, I've never been asked that before! No, not at all. Healthy, yes. I try to be as healthy as I can. But I am happy with the way I look and don't want to change anything really. I walk a lot and do yoga every week. I think it's important to give teen girls the message that being happy in your own skin is vital. So when I talk to them, I like to be myself, flaws and all!

14) Finally, have you got any favourite beauty products? What are your favourite shops and designers?

I use a lot of Clinique as it works for me and is easy to get in airports etc. My favourite shop is Stock Xchange, a second hand designer shop in Dun Laoghaire. I love second hand shops, you never know what you're going to find! I also like Rococco in Sandycove which has a lot of bright, fun clothes, and great staff; and Seagreen in Monkstown has great sales. Designers - I tend to be a bit of a mix and matcher, so I have all kinds of bits from different designers, mostly picked up second hand.