Ideas for a book or character can come from anywhere. I often get ideas from something I’ve read in the newspapers. In fact, I hoard any interesting articles I come across and file them away – I’ve got articles going back years! But I’ve also had many ideas come to me from snippets of conversations I’ve overheard at parties or while sitting on the subway – or even while listening to the chatter at the table next to me at a restaurant! Ideas can come from anything, and at anytime, which is why I always carry a tiny notebook with me so that I can jot any ideas down. I also find ideas often hit me just before I go to sleep – which is why I always keep a notebook at my bedside, too.
Every book is different and every author is different, so there’s no fast and easy answer for this question. I would say that you have to give the book you are writing the time that it needs to be written. For instance, I wrote the first notes to Model Under Cover: A Crime of Fashion, the first book in the MUC series, a few years before I was ready to actually sit down and write a complete first draft. I needed some time to work out the details of Axelle and her world in my mind before I committed them to paper. Of course, the following books in the series have gone much faster because I know where I’m going with the series and I’ve already mapped out the world the mysteries take place in. For any new project, though, I find that I have to let the idea sit in my mind for a while – and sometimes that can mean a few years! – before I’m ready to sit at my computer and write the story. Don’t rush your story. Only write it when it’s ready to be written.
These are my top four writing tips:
- Read! This is the number one tip! If you can’t read you can’t write, it’s that simple. You should be reading so much that your parents tell you – no, beg you – to stop reading for a while! And you should be reading everything: bestsellers, books your BFF has told you about, classics, whatever interests you. Reading good books will teach you about plot structure, character, dialogue and more. There’s no better – or fun – way to learn to write than to read! To check out some of my favourite books head over to my Goodreads page.
- Be bold! By this I mean get out there and do things. As an author it’s really exciting when your experiences can feed your writing. So try to meet new people, see museum exhibitions, try something you’ve never done before like rock-climbing or learning a new language. All of these experiences can be used in your writing later on!
- Carry a notebook. I always have a tiny pink notebook with me in my handbag. I also keep one by my bedside because the thing is, you never know when a good idea might strike and when it does, you want to be able to write it down! So I always tell anyone who wants to write that they should find a notebook they like – pick one that’s easy to carry around and that’s in a colour you like – and keep it with you at all times.
- Get real…So you’ve decided to write a book, you’ve written notes or an outline about your story, and now it’s time to start…only you panic because the thought of writing three hundred pages is intimidating. And you’re right – it is! Which is why you might want to break your story down into pages. For instance, you could commit to doing three pages a day and then, when you sit down to write, you think of only those three pages…if you do this you’ll find that slowly, day by day, the pages will quietly add up and then – surprise! – after a few months you’ll have a few hundred pages! Well done!
I prefer to write in the mornings when my mind is fresh and my energy is high. However, when I’ve got an urgent deadline hanging over me, I’ll work at any time: morning, afternoon, evening, and night. Anything to meet my deadline! And that can sometimes mean not washing my hair for a very long time…but I won’t get into that here!
I can write anywhere. I’ve written at airports, on trains, at friends’ houses and hotels – even at my hairdresser’s with my laptop on my knees! As long as my writing is going well I can do it anywhere. Having said that, however, I do enjoy working at home best. I like having all of my favourite reference books at hand and it helps me to see my mood board hanging over my computer. Of course, having all of my lovely dogs under my desk is the nicest thing about working from home…plus I can easily go to the kitchen for cups of tea and my favourite biscuits!
It’s the best job in the world! I love words and books so for me it’s a real dream to spend my days writing. I’m also someone who’s happy working alone – not everyone is! – so I enjoy the long amounts of time a writer has to spend working solo. Of course, no writer spends all day, everyday, at their desk…and, luckily for me, I do have to do research trips! For Model Under Cover this involves visiting glamorous fashion capitals like Paris, Milan, London and NYC! Another part of the job – and one that also takes me away from my desk – are book tours. I find book tours really exciting because I love meeting my readers! I have the best readers in the world and I really look forward to visiting them at their schools or meeting them at bookstores. Meeting with my readers is definitely a perk of this job! Otherwise, however, you have to be pretty disciplined to be a writer. By that I mean that you have to be able to say, okay, I’m going to work from this hour to that hour and I’m going to write this amount of words or pages, and then you have to do it – no matter what kind of distraction pops up in your day. And, like at any other job, there are good days and bad days. When the writing is going well, it’s hard to stop writing and I don’t want the day to end…but when I get stuck with my writing…I can get grumpy! That’s when I know it’s time to take my dogs out for a long walk, so that, hopefully, by the time I’m back home the plot snag will have worked itself out. As a writer I enjoy a lot of freedom – for instance, I can choose where, how, and when I want to work, which is great! But you also have to remember that if you are working on a book for a publisher then you have to be able to meet their deadlines and do the book tours when it fits into their schedule. Furthermore, if you are sensitive to what others think about you, you might want to develop some thick skin because as a published author, when your writing is out there, you will have lots of people you don’t know giving you their opinions on everything you write – and you may not like hearing it all! But as long as it’s constructive, remember that if it makes your story better, then that’s all that counts. So if you’re ready to handle all that, then you’ll have a blast being an author!
I’ve always loved mysteries – starting with Scooby-Doo, which had me glued to the television on Saturday mornings. By the time I was into Agatha Christie and Wilkie Collins I was yearning to read about a sassy and sharp girl detective who lived in the here and now, someone I could relate to. So I suppose Axelle is my answer to that yearning.
I wrote down the first notes about a girl detective who solves fashion mysteries while I was working in Paris as a PA to fashion designer John Galliano, who at that time was based at Christian Dior. The fast rhythm, eccentricity and chaos of fashion inspired me to set my mysteries in that world and because I’d spent a decade working as a model between New York and Paris I had plenty of memories to refer to – not that I was wishing someone would keel over on set to make the day more interesting! As I mentioned in my top four writing tips above, as a writer it’s very exciting when your personal experiences can feed your writing. So try to do and learn as much as you can because later it just might go into a book you write…When I was modelling I had no idea that one day I would write about the fashion world…but I’m thankful now for all of those experiences! They give me lots of scenarios to write about and add a strong taste of authenticity to the world I’ve created for Model Under Cover.
You bet my fashion experience has informed and shaped my writing! Find out more about this by heading over to my blog…
This is a tough question because there are so many books I love! Probably my all time favourite books are Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton and Middlemarch by George Elliot are two other favourites. As you can see I’m a huge fan of 19th and 20th century English classics (although Edith Wharton is American)! More favourites include Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins, Robert Louis Stevenson, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Dodie Smith and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Needless to say, I’ve been a fan of detective fiction since I cracked open my first Agatha Christie. To this day I love her mysteries and reread them often. I also love P.D. James, Josephine They, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Patricia Wentworth amongst many others. And when I was really little I loved everything by Beatrix Potter, Richard Scarry, Jean de Brunhoff and C.W. Anderson. As for authors writing now, I’m a huge fan of Judy Blume, Meg Cabot, Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Wilson, Eva Ibbotson, J.K. Rowling and David Walliams – but those are just a few names on a very, very long list! If you’d like to see more of the books I read and recommend head over to my Goodreads page.