Samantha HayesI grew up in the Midlands with my parents and younger brother. I always wanted to be a writer and pestered for my first typewriter when I was ten. It wasn’t a clear-cut path to my dream career and it took several decades longer to get there than I’d anticipated...
Autumn is here…
Just a note to mark the end of another annual phase… summer has well and truly faded to autumn, and my ideas are now a complete manuscript . In other words, I’ve finished and turned in my new novel!
I’m happy, relieved, tearful, and always slightly hysterical (for an hour or so) but I’m also hugely delighted to learn that my editors love it! I’m cracking on with the edits, and soon enough I’ll reveal the cover to you (and it’s FAB!). The novel is called IN TOO DEEP and if you’re really ahead of yourself, you can pre-order here.
And it’s not long either until the paperback of You Belong To Me is out in early December. Meantime, as I think about lighting the fire, here’s a memory of my summer – Port Erin, Isle of Man.
(Oh, and I wrote a little blog… Why Do I Write?)
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Real Life Make-Believe
There are two sides to my life—the real one and the made up one. All things considered, I probably spend and equal amount of time doing each. That’s not to say I’m literally at my keyboard for twelve hours a day making stuff up. If that was the case, I’d be writing about four books a year. Rather it’s the ‘imagining’ that goes on, the dreaming up ideas, the thrashing-out of key scenes, the getting to know the characters, untangling difficult dead ends I’ve written myself into, or how I’m going to link up threads satisfactorily that takes up much of the time.
The make-believe is perfect for me—someone who often used to get told off at school for daydreaming. I had to sit on ‘The Bench’ once to think about it. Perfect!
But of course ‘real life’ goes on, and as I write more and more books, I see the two blending in a way that allows me more direct access to what I need from the world to write. (No need for the men in white coats yet—but I’m about to begin my thirteenth book, so I reckon I’m in a position to see how this has changed.)
Naturally, I often get asked ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ or ‘Do you put people you know in your books?’ or ‘Are bits of you in all your characters?’ It’s not that simple.
I probably answer differently each time, not because I don’t know or I’m fibbing, but mainly because it changes and it depends when I’m asked, how I’m feeling. Ideas simply come from living—and I don’t mean experiencing crazy, adventure-packed days filled with intrigue and suspense. My life certainly isn’t like that. Rather, ideas come from ‘being’, from observing, from watching human interaction, from hearing other people’s stories (it helps to be a good listener and eavesdropper), and from being aware of how things affect me, the writer. It’s a cliché, but true—it’s being aware of the Human Condition.
In-between working on the edits of next year’s book, I’m also spending much time thinking about the book I’ll be starting soon. Rather oddly, a very apt title leapt out at me a few months ago (from the start of an overheard conversation), and while I already knew the theme of the book, the suggestive title helped me develop that throughout all the threads.
The other day, I had Radio 4 on while washing up, and a story about the Chinese government easing the ‘one-baby’ ban came on. A woman who’d illegally had two daughters was describing how her second child wasn’t allowed to go to school, receive medical treatment, and she wouldn’t be able to work. It was tragic and moving, especially hearing the little girl’s words. ‘My life doesn’t work,’ she said. ‘I don’t exist.’
My latest idea has nothing to do with China, but this story struck a huge chord and the rubber gloves immediately came off. I started dictating notes. The news item had just given me a crucial idea that will sit at the core of my new book. It wasn’t that I didn’t already have one—I pretty much have the story framework figured out—but rather this tale on the news injected the life-force I was looking for, a dose of humanity. It set the heart of my story beating. (It set my heart beating!)
I think friends are sometimes concerned (or hopeful?) that I’ll dump them into the pages of my book—a full-blown description of them, and that I’ll murder them to boot. The truth is, I don’t put ‘whole’ friends/family/people I know into my books. I chop them up into tiny, unrecognisable parts first. Then, if something is useful, relevant, and works for the story, I may use one or two little traits, nuances, or behaviours in my story. But that’s only really if ‘the shoe fits’.
Amongst all the ‘collectibles’ that people provide to writers, it’s interactions and the emotions that drive them which intrigue me most—one-off vignettes caught in the check-out queue, the pub, banter between a group of people, or intense one-on-one, emotional exchanges. Perhaps even simply a look (of love or otherwise) shared between two people. With so much missing background detail, it’s bliss to fill in the gaps, build a story around their story—and if it just happens to fit in with mine, then so much the better. I’m having that!More blog posts:
Why Do I Write? »
The ideas behind ‘Before You Die’ »
The End of a Book and the End of the Year »
Do Not Disturb – #AmEditing »