Today I am delighted to be the next stop on Vanessa Matthews blog tour for her new book The Doctor’s Daughter. To see my review please click here.
Welcome Vanessa and many thanks for joining me on my blog today. Is writing something that you have always wanted to pursue as a career or were you like many other children and constantly changed your mind of career choice?
Thanks Sarah, and thanks for your lovely review too. Yes, I have always harboured a dream to be a novelist though I have also entertained lots of other ambitions along the way. My first plan from school was to work towards becoming a make-up artist, and whilst I did manage it briefly I decided to change tack and found the first office job I could get my hands on. It so happened that it was attached to the world of PR and from there I found I could combine my passion for that business with writing. It’s an industry that involves writing press release, features, product copy and all sorts so it was a way to indulge my love of writing along the way.
How hard/easy did you find getting your first book published?
I don’t think there is any easy route to getting work published. Whether it is pitching feature articles, a poetry collection or a novel. You learn to accept pretty early on that rejection is a very common outcome. There are so many obstacles to overcome before you even get close to seeing your writing out in the world. Finishing your manuscript is one step, getting beta readers and/or an editor on board is another, editing and redrafting, then finding and submitting to agents. If you are fortunate enough to get an agent then you and your agent go through that whole process again trying to pitch to publishers and then you start the editing process all over again! Whether you choose to self-publish or traditionally publish, you have to be prepared to work hard, be tenacious and believe in your project 100%. There are no quick wins so you have to have a long term goal.
What words of wisdom would you give to people that are considering a career in writing?
Firstly, I would say define what a ‘career in writing’ means to you. For some writers, a career means landing a six figure book deal and selling the movie rights for your bestseller. Others are happy to tick over writing freelance pieces for the media and having artistic projects on the side. For some people it is as simple as saying I am going to commit to writing every day whether I get paid to do it or not. It’s a very personal choice and I think each of those options and many variables in between are equally acceptable. Success means something different to everyone so I think it is important to identify what a career means to you and then look at what steps you need to take to move towards that goal. Then just keep writing. It’s a very competitive market so the more you can hone your craft the better you will get and the more likely you are to end up with pieces you can earn from.
Can you describe what your working space is like and what would your dream working area be like if money was no object?
Oh the mystery of the writer’s desk! Well, I’m afraid my space is not very glamorous at all. I most often write at my kitchen table with my dog and cat for company. If I can I try to sit at my laptop as soon as I have finished the school run in the mornings, but more often than not I have a number of ways to procrastinate before I get started. My dream writing space would be a little shepherd’s hut or summer house at the bottom of the garden but honestly, I think I would end up back at my kitchen table even if I had one!
Your new book is set in 1927. Why did you choose to write a story in this era instead of any other era?
I’m a huge fan of all things vintage so I guess it was only natural that I would end up writing about a time gone by. However, the specific choice of 1920s was actually prompted by my early research. I was quite fascinated by a few real life characters from that era and the more I got into it the more I became seduced by the decade. I felt it provided the perfect backdrop for the issues I wanted to explore.
Writing a book in a different century, country and having a medical nature to it, how much time did you have to spend doing research for your book and do you think it can make a difference to a reader if a book hasn’t been well researched?
It took almost as long to research as it did to write it, but the book is richer for it and readers certainly seem to appreciate the effort I put in. A little historical accuracy goes a long way when creating a believable story that feels authentic to its setting. I was very keen to keep the reader in my historical world and spent hours researching the cities my characters passed through. I tried to ensure that any landmarks, important buildings and street names existed, or were at least based on similar ones. The flora and fauna too, the food and even the dining habits of people at that time. I had to consider the literature, communication methods, education system, transport, medicine, clothing, social context and so much more. It would have been easy to ramble through a bunch of roaring twenties clichés, but my story is very much driven by character. Marta, Elise, Leopold and Arnold are living in the late 1920s, but they are also human beings affected by their experiences and bearing flaws that still resonate in people’s lives today.
Are you able to tell us what you’re are working on at the moment and if you can, a little bit about it?
I have made a start on my second book which follows two female members of a Victorian era street gang, and I have an opening page and notes on a third about a female doctor who masquerades as a man. I am very interested in playing around with gender, in particular looking at women operating in a ‘man’s world’. I can’t tell you much more but there will of course be some shocking plot twists and some psychological themes which I hope will please fans of The Doctor’s Daughter.
Finally, what is your favourite genre of book to read and who are some of your favourite authors?
I don’t think I could claim a favourite genre. I have quite a diverse taste but there are a number of authors I admire. For darker novels my favourite authors include Janet Fitch, Shirley Jackson, Grace McLeen, Chris Cleave and E.Lockhart but I also love Elizabeth Gilbert, Sue Monk Kidd, Ben Hatch and Maeve Binchy – her books are like being wrapped in a cosy duvet and sometimes that is just what you need. I also love Caitlin Moran though she is as famous for her newspaper column as her work as an author. She is one of those writers that makes me want to do better and work harder.
For more information about the author and her new book please click here