About Me

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Bookish. Publisher at Louise Walters Books. Reader, writer, and editor. Working class gal.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Christmas Giveaway

Well, sort of a Christmas Giveaway... more of a pre-house-move-clear-out giveaway!

If you would like a signed copy of the US edition of Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase please reply in comments below and I will pick a winner (or two!) in a week's time, next Thursday, 26 November (Thanksgiving I believe, if you're in the USA!)

Signed, sealed and delivered in time for Christmas!

I also have German, Hungarian, Czech, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish and Italian copies to give away too, as well as UK and US audio versions.

Hungarian and Italian editions (the yellow strip is easily removed)

If you'd like any of these, or know anybody who might like any of them, again please just let me know in comments, stating which edition you would like. 

Thank you all xx

PS, I will post anywhere in the world, open to all.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Mrs Sinclair's Suitcase is coming to America

I'm thrilled to say my debut novel is going to be published in the USA tomorrow, Tuesday 4th August.

It's been quite a journey bringing this book to publication in the USA. Two summers ago my agent phoned me. She sounded excited, and told me the good news: We had a publication deal in the USA! Then she said, have you heard of Amy Einhorn? I said No. My agent explained to me who Amy Einhorn was and which books she had published, among them The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I got off the phone, looked Amy up on the internet, as you do, and I knew why my agent was so excited. I rang my husband to tell him the good news and he came home with this:

Amy rang me at home and we talked about my novel, and how she worked, and how she was hoping to sell Mrs Sinclair in America. A few weeks later we got to work on the US edits (some of which found their way into the UK version, just to keep things all tied up neatly).

A few months down the line, and we got the news from Amy that she was going to be leaving Putnam's Sons and I would have a new editor for Mrs Sinclair. I was a little disappointed, and daunted, but I needn't have worried. Amy's former assistant Liz Stein took over and she did a lovely job, over-seeing the cover design among other things.

Another few months down the line, and Liz rang me to tell me she was going to be leaving too! I was pretty worried this time, wondering if my book was going to disappear down a publishing black hole in between all these editors. We writers like, no, we LOVE and appreciate the stability of an editor who understands our work and is committed to it. Again, I needn't have worried. Helen Richard has taken over as my third US editor and has been a pleasure to work with. She keeps me posted about any reviews or write-ups and she seems as excited about Mrs Sinclair's fortunes in America as I am.

So there we are, and here I am on the eve of my first publication in the USA. It's been a long journey, and a learning curve, a pretty steep one at times. I've learned, again, that the pace of publishing is glacial... but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Writing is also a slow process and it's just the nature of it. I've also learned that nothing is permanent, people come and go just as they do in all other walks of life, and it doesn't pay to get freaked out over it. This is life, this is publishing. And actually I am fortunate to be having my novel published at all, something I try to remember when things don't always go to plan.

I have a signed US hardback copy to give away if anybody would like it. Please just leave a comment here on my blog or favourite/re-tweet/reply on Twitter @LouiseWalters12. Open to all, I'll post anywhere in this small world of ours.

Thank you!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Guest author: Rebecca Mascull

Today I'd like to welcome my friend and fellow author Rebecca Mascull to my blog. Rebecca's second novel, Song of the Seamaid is published tomorrow.

First things first - What is Song of the Sea Maid about?

It's the story of an C18th orphan girl, Dawnay Price, who is lucky enough to find a benefactor and is educated as a scientist. She defies the conventions of her day and travels abroad to further her studies. And there, she makes a remarkable discovery...It's set in London, Portugal and the Mediterranean and explores science, feminism, education, orphanages, the age of sail, the natural world, war and belief, as well as being a love story. So I hope it's got something for lots of different kinds of readers.

This is your second novel. Did you suffer from Second Novel Syndrome?

I did and I didn't! I was nervous about starting it, as I was convinced I couldn't write anything better than the last book. But I wrote 3 novels before my first published one - THE VISITORS - and I thought that every time! So, I'm used to it. But once I got started, I realised I just had to put that fear behind me and invest in the new story and in Dawnay. She was such a strong presence for me early on and I felt as if she took me by the hand and said, Come on! I think her resolve was partly my resolve to write again and be fearless. Once I started writing, I enjoyed myself tremendously and was quite bereft when I'd finished. I wanted to stay there!
I wrote about the 'difficult second novel' thing here - it sums up my feelings quite well, including fear and nausea!

You do a lot of research. Which process do you prefer - the research or the actual writing? 
That's a good question and my answer is - both! I love those early glimmerings, when the novel is starting to crystallise and that's when the research can drive the story. That's a very exciting stage and it feels open to all possibilities, an open road. Yet, there's also tremendous satisfaction when it starts to coalesce and I get a synopsis done, which I always do. And once that's done and a chapter plan, and I sit down to actually write the thing, that's where the hard work really starts for me: the drafting stage. I write quickly and scrappily and fill in gaps later. So my first draft takes a heck of a lot of mental energy. I feel like I'm holding my breath the whole way through. I don't want to spoil the magic and screw it up. In some senses, I'm glad when I finish the first draft, but I'm also very, very sad, as I know I'll never be in that first rush of creation with that story again, and the rest will just be pruning. It's a little like first love! That breathless rush and obsession with it, always thinking of it. But then, as a novelist with many more stories to tell, I get to have first love again each time I start a new story! I love my job in that way.

So far you've published historical fiction. Do you have any plans to publish a contemporary novel?

In general, I have to say that the modern world in fiction does rather bore me. I've tried to analyse this many times, as I am very interested in the modern world itself and watch the news every day and love keeping up with current events. Maybe it's to do with the fact that my favourite thing about fiction is the escapism of it, in getting away from my own current existence and inhabiting someone else's shoes. With that as my aim, I don't generally want to be in the modern world when I'm trying to escape it (if that makes sense!) Having said that, there are some books about modern life that absolutely grabbed me, like 'Where d'you go, Bernadette?' which I just adored. And that was bang up to date and completely absorbed me. But generally in my reading, and certainly in my own fiction, I want to imagine another world - and the past is that for me. But I'd never say never, and who knows? I might write about contemporary England one day. But no plans at the present!

(LW: I loved this one too!)

One of my favourite questions: who are your literary influences? Which writers or books could you not live without?

Oh gosh, that is such a hard question to answer, as you always want to come back and revise it! But I'd say my main influences are so disparate and unrelated, that there is very little pattern to it. I just stumble across books and writers I love, almost always by random accident. And it takes a rare writer for me to love all of their books. I love Margaret Atwood's historical or contemporary fiction, but I don't find her speculative fiction as compelling, as brilliantly written as it is. I love Charles Dickens, actually I quite worship him! But I didn't take to The Pickwick Papers at all and much prefer the darker books, like Great Expectations. 

Other writers who've influenced me are Annie Proulx, just in the sheer range and guts of a book like Accordian Crimes. Elizabeth Jane Howard is a recent discovery, and I fell head-first into her 5 Cazalet novels and came up about 3 months later bereft at having finished them all. It's too fresh for me to really understand how she did it, but I will be rereading and analysing it for years to try and work it out, believe me! And my most recent, breathtaking discovery was Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively, which you and I read together, of course - one of your favourites! (We wrote about it here)

(LW: one of my favourites indeed. It may even be my favourite now - is Jane Eyre finally toppled?)

The verve and honesty of it, and the messing about with perspective - this really made me feel I needed to just be brave and say, Stuff it, I'm gonna write this story however the bloody well I like. As that's what Lively did in that book. And that really inspired me. I wrote about my reading influences on my website here.

Do you have any advice for as yet unpublished writers? 
Well, there is no easy answer. It's a bloody minefield, this writing business. If you write novels and your aim is to be published, you have to accept that it is not going to be easy. It could take years - decades even - or never happen. It's about perseverance, self-belief and very hard work. There might be a modicum of luck in there somewhere too - but if someone says to a published novelist - You're so lucky - they've missed the point, I think. It wasn't luck that made that writer slog away for years honing their craft. For most writers I know, it's been a road of trials in one way or another. But all of that sounds rather negative, and I don't want to put people off! I'm just being honest. I've had a lot of disappointment along the way, and it's made me a stronger person and a better writer - I don't regret a moment of it. I adore my job and I am pretty grumpy doing any other form of work, to be honest! So it was all worth it.  But what I'd like to leave any aspiring writers with is this: KEEP GOING. There will be a thousand reasons to give up, but you mustn't let the bastards get you down. Keep writing from your heart, read great writers and improve your work constantly. Never be satisfied with sloppy, lazy writing and never stop working hard.  If you get enough signs from the world that what you're doing is good, and if you keep working hard, you'll get there.


Thank you Rebecca for your insights, not to mention some great reading recommendations. Those Cazalet novels are calling to me... and good luck with Song of the Seamaid.

Rebecca lives by the sea in the east of England with her partner Simon, their daughter Poppy and cat Tink. She has worked in education and has a Masters in Writing. She is also a member of The Prime Writers, a support group for those writers who commercially/traditionally published their first novel aged 40+.  

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Penelope Lively

This was one of  my very favourite childhood books:

Never did I dream as a child that one day I would meet the author of this wonderful novel, but last night I did just that. I went to Waterstones Piccadilly to attend the Society of Authors "In Conversation" evening  with Philip Pullman and Penelope Lively. I arrived, hot and bothered (it was unexpectedly warm and sunny in London) and who should be just a yard or two from me, also arriving, but Penelope herself. I was struck by how ordinary she looked, which sounds silly, but actually isn't. Writers enjoy a peculiar kind of fame: their names and works might be well known, but their faces, their personages, generally aren't. I've of course seen author photos of her, but photos can be misleading too. Penelope Lively is quite tall, which was unexpected, for some reason. I was struck by her dynamism and carriage - it's hard to believe she is in her eighties now.

Anyway, I took my seat and felt even hotter (the event was packed). The talk began, Penelope and Philip were introduced, and mention was made of their more famous books and the literary prizes they had won. Then Daniel Hahn started asking the questions. (Luckily the authors and Daniel were hooked up to microphones so the audience could hear them above the din of the London traffic).

I noticed some people were taking notes but I decided to just sit and take it all in, and I'm glad I did. Of course now I can't recall all that was said but some things struck me. Both authors had been keen readers as children, which is not at all surprising of course. Penelope, born in Egypt, didn't attend school until she was 12 years old. This fascinated me, as I home educate one of my children and it was illuminating to hear that Penelope essentially taught herself to read (with the help of another girl who was not much older than she was). Her early education consisted of reading and not much else, which was reassuring. In fact I felt quite envious!

At her (eventual) boarding school she and another girl secretly wrote poetry (and tellingly, did not share it with the teachers!)

Penelope came to writing quite late, in her thirties. She told us she simply wondered if she could write, and she gave it a try. I came to writing (or more accurately, publication) late too, my novel being published last year when I was 46.

Penelope, and I was delighted to hear this, can write anywhere, and often does. This was also reassuring to hear because I can, and often have to, write anywhere. This was interesting because Philip was the opposite, and prefers to work at his desk with his lucky charms around him. This set me to wondering if a gender difference is at play here: I wonder if women (mothers?) learn to live with the need to be flexible about where and how they write? When you have youngsters to look after it just isn't possible to shut yourself away from them and put in the regulation hours. This seemed to be Penelope's MO and it's certainly mine. Of course Penelope's children are now adults and she did say she used to start writing around half past nine and work until the evening. But less so nowadays, and she doesn't write every day either. Again, all very interesting for me as a writer who struggles to find time.

The talk ended all too soon, and then it was signings and wine. I picked up a copy of Penelope's memoir, Ammonites and Leaping Fish and asked her to sign it for me. I was utterly star-struck but determined to tell her how much I enjoyed her work. I told her I was a big fan of Moon Tiger. I wish I could have been a little less inane, but what else can you say? I then produced my own copy and she graciously signed that for me too.

I'll never forget last night and the absolute thrill of being in the presence of Penelope Lively. It was inspirational for me as a writer, a mother, a woman.

NB, Author Rebecca Mascull and I worked together on her blog recently, sharing our collective thoughts about Moon Tiger. It is shamelessly fan girl! - but I hope, interesting to read:


Thursday, 9 April 2015

Story-telling... but not writing

I've been making these! I have a project -  a quilt - that MUST be completed by December. Now that IS a deadline, because as anybody who makes hex quilts will know, they are time-consuming. Very time-consuming.

Actually. it's great to get away from writing for a while and concentrate on something else. Not only that, but it gives me quiet thinking and reflecting time, which as writers will know, is sometimes the most valuable part of the whole writing process. So I suppose I'm not really getting away from writing at all...

A pile of "rosettes" ready to be arranged and sewn together to form the quilt top. These are like the chapters of a story...

A pile of hex "petals" ready to be sewn together to make a rosette. A chapter in the making...

Fabrics cut and ready to be wrapped round the card template, ready for sewing. A chapter in the planning...

To add to the romance of this project, many of the rosettes were made back in the 1970s by my grandmother, part of an unfinished project. So the finished quilt will contain her work as well as mine. It will also contain fabrics from some of my daughter's old frocks (and mine), also some vintage fabrics given to me by my mother-in-law. So, a story in the making, but without words. I'll post updates on here as the project develops. 

Monday, 9 March 2015

One year on from publication and the things I've learned

On 27th February 2014 I became a published writer - an author. I can honestly say it was one of THE days of my life. It's right up there with the birth days of my children, my second wedding day, and the day my agent rang me to tell me I was going to be published.

I had a lovely launch party at The Old Hall Bookshop in Brackley, where I got to sign my book for the first time. What an evening!

Spotting the book in shops has been a thrill, and it still is. Here's one of the first sightings of the hardback "in the wild" at Waterstones in Banbury, five days before the official publication day:

There's a part of me that finds it hard to believe any of this has happened. Part of me even feels it shouldn't have happened... I don't really deserve it, a little voice tells me. In a way that's true. There is a certain amount of luck involved. Yes, I worked hard on my novel, but so do lots of writers. I found agent representation on the strength of it, and got published by a "big five" publisher. But so do all sorts of books, and some of those are of dubious merit, as we all know. I like to think my novel falls into the well-enough-written-with-a-strong-enough-hook category. The problem is, that's quite a difficult formula to replicate! 

Having one book out there doesn't guarantee there will be another. Currently, I have three "completed" novels under my belt. One of them got a book deal, and the others probably won't. Rejection really is part and parcel of a writer's life, published or not, and over this past year I've had my fair share of rejection. I've cried bitter tears, experienced a massive (but transient) confidence dip, and bored my nearest and dearest with my expletive-riddled whinges. My finger has even hovered over the "unfollow" button on Twitter (I got a grip. I didn't do it). 

Lessons learned: 

1. Rejection isn't personal. Most often it's a matter of taste and/or economics. It's that simple. Publishers are there to do a job, which is to publish profitable books. 

2. Publishers are not there to make my dreams, or anybody else's, come true. The dream-come-true bit is a by-product. 

3. I love writing. More than anything else, I love the thrill of making up people and their worlds. I love getting to know my characters so well that they become (almost) friends. I love the editing process, working on each sentence, trying to make it do exactly what I want it to do. I love hitting delete and getting rid of swathes of excess or useless or bad writing. I know I will continue to write whether I'm published again or not, and after much soul-searching I've realised I have to write the stories that only I can write. In fact, these are the only stories I can write. Hopefully one of them will hit the jackpot again one day. But if not, I hit it once and that makes me a very fortunate writer indeed. 

Happy Days!
Foyles, June 2014