Natalie Kleinman Escapes To The Cotswolds

We would like to extend a warm welcome to Natalie and her new novel Escape To The Cotswolds

Thank you for welcoming me to your blog. It’s lovely to be back here.

Photo courtesy of MJE Photography

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

It’s difficult to quantify. It may be that an idea rolls around in my head for some time while I’m still working on another project. It’s in the background but it is there, occasionally making its presence felt but most of the time just simmering away. A plot never arrives fully formed but I always know the beginning and end. It’s how to get from one to the other that’s the problem! That said, once I put fingers to keyboard the actual writing process takes anything from four to six months, which includes editing as I go. I’m very lucky to have beta readers who are ruthless with me and when the manuscript is finished it will be read and reread until we are all satisfied it’s as good as it can be before submission. All in all I would say the whole process takes between six and eight months, depending on how long it takes to complete the first draft.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Finding a plot I’m happy to work with. I know many writers who have a list of works just waiting to be written. I’m just not one of them. As I’ve said above, an idea may occur to me while I’m entrenched in my current project but usually I’m so engrossed there isn’t room in my small brain for any more. If anything does occur to me I’ll jot it down. Having said that, once subbing begins and my mind is clear something usually jumps into my head and that’s always very exciting.

The main characters in your Escape to the Cotswolds are called Holly Hunter and Adam Whitney. How do you select the names of your characters?

A good question for which I don’t have a satisfactory answer. They come seemingly out of nowhere and are frequently changed when the character lets me know very firmly that their name does not fit their personality and they demand it be changed. In Escape to the Cotswolds Holly was Holly from the word go. Adam went through two incarnations before he was happy with his name.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured and how many hours a day do you write?

I don’t have a rigid regime although I try to write in the morning, not to get it out of the way but because I become riddled with guilt if I haven’t got something under my belt by lunchtime. If life (yes, contrary to some people’s opinion I do have one) doesn’t get in the way I might be at my laptop from morning to night. It’s not all writing time of course. Social media has to be fitted in and my daily several online Scrabble games with my sister are a must.

Your novel is set, obviously, in the beautiful Cotswolds. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning?

It depends on whether I’m writing contemporary or historical – I write both. There’s a lot of online research if I’m writing a Regency and it’s very easy to get carried away so I restrict myself timewise or I’d never get the book finished. With a contemporary though it’s a different process. I’m lucky enough to live within striking distance of the Cotswolds and have visited the area many times. My second novel, Honey Bun, was also set in this lovely part of England. Google Earth is an amazing tool but there’s nothing quite like being there, so there I go…often. Or as often as possible. While I didn’t ‘lift’ it in its entirety, Cuffingham, where Holly lives, is based on a much loved much visited Cotswolds town.

How did publishing your first book, Safe Harbour, change your process of writing?

It didn’t so much change the process as my attitude to the process. It changed my focus. I’ve been committed to my writing since I began some fourteen years ago. I worked very hard and was lucky enough to have several short stories published before I decided I wanted to write a book. Prior to Safe Harbour being published the notion of having a book with my name on the cover was still a dream. When that was realised it wasn’t the end of the dream, it was merely the beginning. I couldn’t stop now if I wanted to. It’s become part of who I am – a very large part.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

Both. I think you will probably have grasped from my previous answer that I am pretty motivated and I now wake two hours earlier than I used to (I was never an early riser) because I can’t wait to get at it. That said, it’s often a very tired author who falls into bed at the end of the day.

Give us an insight into your main character, Holly. What does she do that is so special?

Holly deserves better than the cheating husband she got. After accepting her marriage wasn’t the forever relationship she’d always hoped for, she picks herself up, moves from town to country and starts over. It takes guts to do that. So I guess I’d say Holly is a big personality in a diminutive body.

What are you working on at the minute?

I’ve just started work on a book which is again set in the Cotswolds – there’s a bit of a theme going on here – but this time my heroine is an interior designer working on the renovation of an old country house. Like many old houses, this one is hiding a secret.

What a lovely set of questions. Thank you.

Biography: Natalie, a born and bred Londoner, has a not-so-secret wish to live in the area she so enjoys writing about. While this isn’t practical at the moment she stills allows herself to dream of honey-coloured stone cottages, quaint villages and rippling brooks. Maybe one day.

A late-comer to writing, she has two published novels prior to Escape to the Cotswolds and many short stories to her name. She attributes her success to a determination to improving her craft, attending any and every writing event she can. All that and a weekly attendance at The Write Place Creative School in Dartford where cream cakes are frequently on the agenda.

Natalie lives with her husband, Louis, in Blackheath, south-east London – except when she’s tripping off to The Cotswolds in the name of research. Somebody has to do it!

Amazon

Blog

Facebook

Twitter

Escape to the Cotswolds

Artist Holly Hunter is turning her life upside-down! She’s leaving the bright lights of London (and a cheating husband) behind her and hoping for a fresh start as she escapes to the peaceful Cotswolds countryside.

Men are off the cards for Holly. Instead, she’s focusing on her little gallery and adopting an adorable Border Collie puppy named Tubs. Or so she thought…

Because no matter how hard she tries to resist him, local vet Adam Whitney is utterly gorgeous. And in a village as small as this one, Holly can only avoid Adam for so long!

@RobertsElaine11

@FCapaldiBurgess

Retreating to the Seaside

Francesca reflects on the advantages and fun of writing retreats.

Hastings Old Town would make a good setting for a novel.

Hastings Old Town would make a good setting for a novel.

Do you ever go on writing retreats? I’ve been going on at least one a year since 2010 and I thoroughly recommend them. They’re an enjoyable way to achieve a good number of words, with no household or family day to day incidents to distract you.

That’s not to say that it’s all work, work, work. There’s got to be a balance. It helps to have an agreed format with those you’re on retreat with. In my experience it goes something along these lines:

  • Morning: work till coffee time. Go out for coffee
  • After coffee: work
  • Lunch: Snack lunch provided and shared by attendees
  • Afternoon: Write till around 3.30. Have a cup of tea and a natter.
  • Work till dinner time.
  • After dinner: Watch TV, a film, natter, feedback.
  • Work if you’re a night owl
Spring retreats are more conducive to sitting out! With writers Natalie Kleinman, Elaine Everest and Elaine Roberts

Spring retreats are more conducive to sitting out! With writers Natalie Kleinman, Elaine Everest and Elaine Roberts. Whitstable 2015.

The breaks seem plentiful but are an encouragement. Plenty of mini goals can be set which I always find spurs me on. Having breaks is also an opportunity for feedback.

The proportion of work the participants get done during each period depends on whether they’re a morning, afternoon or evening person. During my recent retreat in Hastings, my writing buddy, Angela Johnson, achieved more in the mornings, whereas I did more in the afternoons. She also managed to get an early morning walk in most days before even starting!

A feature of  some retreats I’ve been on is each person cooking an evening meal, which has provided at least four dinners during the week. The other days, particularly the first and last, we’ve eaten out. How much you do that depends on what people want to spend, so retreats can be tailored to a budget. Sharing a house obviously divides renting costs. If you’re prepared to share bedrooms (I’m afraid we never are), it brings the cost down again.

Hastings in the winter sun

Hastings in the winter sun

All but one of the retreats I’ve been on have taken place by the sea –Whitstable, Littlehampton and Hastings – so there is much to inspire a thalassophiliac* like me. Perhaps mountains or woods are more your thing and you prefer to hide yourself away completely. Personally I feel it helps to have shops nearby. The one retreat we did where we were in the middle of nowhere (if you can call being seven miles from Hastings that!), we couldn’t even pop out for milk.

The final feature of all the retreats I’ve attended has been a day out in the middle to somewhere interesting. It’s another chance to recharge those batteries and could even be a chance for a little research.

If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative and you have close family living at a distance, you could always ask to spend a week at theirs. It’s particularly useful if they’re at work during the day and you can get on, while enjoying their company in the evening. It’s not something I’ve done yet but I have thought about it.

To all those on a retreat soon, happy writing – and don’t get snowed in like we nearly did our first year in Whitstable!

Whitstable beach in the snow, 2010

Whitstable beach in the snow, 2010

* A thalassophiliac is someone who loves the sea!

 @FCapaldiBurgess

 

 

 

 

The Last Post!

Welcome to the last post of 2014. When we got together at the end of 2013 to start this blog the idea was that having a joint blog would be a group learning curve until such times as we were ready to blog ourselves and our writing careers had moved along enough to need to blog (or run a website) for ourselves. That time has come quicker than we envisaged and sadly that means that some of us are moving on to fresh fields in 2015. Good luck to the writers remaining with WMWP and no doubt readers will hear more about all of us as the year progresses. Below is an update of what we got up to in 2014 and what we have planned for 2015

Vivien Hampshire

I knew back in January that 2014 was going to be a year of change and adjustment for me. I had just left the day job and was embarking on the big adventure of becoming a full-time writer. Little did I know that I would also get engaged and married before the year was out! My one big writing aim for 2014 was to finish my novel and get it out to agents, and I am pleased to say that I managed just that, all 101,000 words of it. After one near miss with a top agency, it is being read by another London agent right now – and my fingers are well

I just love crosswords!

I just love crosswords!

and truly crossed! With more time at home, I had hoped to see my general writing output go up too, and it has! I have sold fifteen women’s magazine stories throughout the year as well as continuing to produce regular non-fiction pieces and book reviews for a range of professional childcare and nursery magazines. Looking at the year ahead, I am determined to get not only the current novel published but to crack on and finish the next, while still writing the articles that bring in an income and the shorter magazine fiction I love so much. I am very much a ‘Jill of all trades’ and as long as I am writing what I want to write and know that someone somewhere is enjoying reading it, then I will be happy!

This will sadly be my last post here, but you can still catch up with me and what’s happening in my writing life over on my own blog http://vivienhampshire.blogspot.co.uk/

 Natalie Kleinman

2014 has been a pretty full on year. Having graduated from the Romantic Novelists’ (RNA) Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, I was waiting with equal measures of anxiety and excitement for the release of my first book. During this period I submitted a novella, After All These Years, to DC Thomson with the result that both books were published within three weeks of each other. The large print version of After All These Years has since been sold to Ulverscroft and will appear in libraries in due course. To add to the elation I was lucky enough, at the RNA Summer Conference, to have the opportunity of a one2one interview with Lisa Eveleigh of the Richford Becklow Literary Agency. To my delight Lisa agreed to represent me. In the meantime, due to a change in circumstances of the publisher of my debut novel, our contract was terminated by mutual agreement. The book is now available on Amazon under the new title, Safe Harbour.

The first draft of my third novel is now finished and in the editorial stage. A lot of work remains to be done but I’m hoping it will be ready to submit to publishers by late spring/early summer of 2015.

Natalie Kleinman jpeg

In January of this year I wrote a post entitled ‘A Truffle, Black Forest Gateau or Both’ concluding that I would be able to be a novelist and short story writer in tandem. So far this hasn’t proved to be the case. I have written and submitted very few of the latter. However, I recently had a story accepted in Australia and am hoping this will be the catalyst for me to write some more of what, after all, was my first love.

My most recent new venture has been to set up my own blog. Some of you may be aware that I also co-manage the RNA blog with Elaine Everest. Working on the premise that one can have too much of a good thing it is with regret that I must now withdraw from WriteMindsWritePlace to pursue my own individual venture. I wish the very best of luck to those who remain.

Blog:

Facebook:

Twitter: 

Francesca Burgess

I said at the beginning of the year that I wanted to finish the novel I was working on by February, but I didn’t finish it till August, leaving very little time for editing (of which I normally do endlessly) before sending it to the RNA New Writers’ Scheme. Not a good idea, but personal and family events have rather overtaken everything else this year, so it’s a wonder I got it finished at all. What really suffered was my output of short stories, which I was hoping to get up to a reasonable level. It was not to be. As for getting a publisher for Ten Years Later, I have two currently interested, so I’m waiting for them to get back to me.FB from Winter Party 14

During November I did manage to write the rest of a novella I started a couple of years ago, adding 30,000 words to it, so that wasn’t too shabby. One of my goals for 2015 is to get that sent out and hopefully picked up. It would be great if Ten Years Later was picked by one of the interested parties, but if not, I’ll be sending it to do the rounds once more (hopefully resisting yet another edit!). I’ll also be editing my NWS entry. As for the short stories, I have hundreds of ideas outlined in notebooks, so I really need to get back to them. In addition, I have an idea for a new novel, but I need to resist it until I have some of the other items sorted out!

Currently I’m awaiting the publication of a story in an anthology, but don’t have a date as yet.

Twitter

Elaine Roberts

Looking back over my goals for 2014, I like to think I’ve done quite well.

I have completed two very different novel manuscripts, Taking it Back and Forgotten Love, which are currently with publishers; both needed changes to meet their requirements. One asked if I could change the setting, and of course I said yes, but this required a lot of research and a major rewrite. Although it was challenging, I’m proud I rose to it.

One of my goals was to write a short story each month, which I did at first, but then my novels took over and all thoughts of short stories disappeared. Looking back, this is IMG_1090something I regret. Writing and selling short stories gives me a lift in the short term. Metaphorically, novels are the marathon and short stories are the 100 yard sprint, but the short stories reinforce that my writing is on the right track, so this is something I need to get back to.

 

I have also been fortunate to have a short story accepted for an anthology, to be published by Pulse; the publication date has yet to be confirmed.

My 2015 goals are to have at least one of my novels published, although two would be great. Also, I aim to complete the novel I’m currently writing and research and start my next one, ideas are already buzzing around my head and distracting me from my current project.

I am also going to write my short stories again.

Elaine Everest

Where to begin? 2014 has been a fabulous year for me and not one that was planned twelve months ago. I’d not long seen my novel, Gracie’s War published with Myrmidon Books (Pulse). I was planning to work on a dog show related crime novel as well as another canine non-fiction book. I’d not long joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) as a committee member and was taking over control of their blog alongside Natalie Kleinman. I’d made a conscious effort to step back from my journalism work as well as short fiction in order to concentrate on writing books. A recent ‘big’ birthday had made me decide to follow my original writing dreams of being a novelist and not be side tracked any longer by shorter work.

Well, my writing life changed in January 2014 when I met literary agent, Caroline Sheldon of the eponymous Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency and was taken on for future representation. Already she has secured me a two book contract with Pan Macmillan which will see two saga based historical novels published in the next two years.

Another exciting event was in May when I was short listed for the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award with Gracie’s War. I didn’t win but the excitement of standing alongside such good writers and the kudos being on such a short list gives a writer is something I’ll never forget.ElaineESeptember2013

So what do I have to look forward to in 2015? Hopefully the first of my books with Pan Macmillan will be published at the end of the year and Gracie’s War will go into large print in libraries during the summer. Apart from that I will be pounding the keyboards with book number two and outlining ideas for further novels. My dog show related crime novels are on hold for now but watch this space…

Like Viv and Natalie this will be my last blog post for WriteMindsWritePlace but I will shortly have my own writerly website and news of my writing and teaching can be found on www.thewriteplace.org.uk Facebook and also Twitter (@elaineeverest)

Don’t forget to keep following the WriteMindsWritePlace blog during 2015 to see what exciting things Elaine and Francesca have in store for readers.

She’s No Mary Poppins

Was I ever this young!

Was I ever this young!

Natalie sings her heart out – but in private.

If anyone had told me in my teens I would end up being a writer I might not have been as surprised as if it had been mooted some years later. At that tender age I always had my nose in a book and I loved writing history essays at school though it ruined my handwriting forever. However, having trained as a secretary (I had a living to earn) I quickly rose to the dizzy heights of personal assistant to a managing director.

Had I had the courage the career I would have chosen for myself was singer. It has been said, not by me I hasten to add, that my voice was comparable to that of Julie Andrews. However, this sweet young and very shy thing, though bursting with song around the house, was too timid to perform in public. My parents begged me to have my voice trained but I refused. It is perhaps the one thing in my life I truly regret.

Me and My Girls

Me and My Girls

I married at twenty-three and was the mother of two by the age of twenty-six. I was an at home mum for many years. Then I took up riding and fell in love – with a beautiful skittish half-Arab gelding called Freddie (Fredrickson). Frightened of the merest shadow, or none at all, he once took exception to a milk float while I was on his back. I had no time to be scared because I had to reassure him, poor darling! Sadly, though it broke my heart, I had to let him go when divorce during my children’s teenage years necessitated me going back to work.

Wasn't I lucky!

Wasn’t I lucky!

There must be something about me and managing directors as I became PA to a very important man heading a very important company. My children went to university and eventually I met my husband. Only trouble was, he lived in southeast London and I lived in northwest London. Something had to give. He was running his own dental practice and had a son still at school. It was a no-brainer so I uprooted and crossed the capital, bringing two dogs and a cat with me.

Looks clever - was clever

Looks clever – was clever

Remained her whole life as scared as she looks here

Remained her whole life as scared as she looks here

We have been officially retired for some time now and neither of us has ever worked as hard before. My husband, whose affinity with his patients still causes them to stop him in the street after all this time, moved on to voluntary work in the health sector. I undertook an Open University science degree course which I abandoned after two years, not because I couldn’t cope – I was doing very well – but because I thought it was taking too much of the little time we had together. So I took up writing instead! Those writers among you who are reading this will appreciate the joke.

Cute kitten, beautiful cat

Cute kitten, beautiful cat

My love of animals didn’t stop with my own family pets, sadly now long gone, and were I able to go back in time I would most certainly have followed a career that in some way involved animals. I’m not embarrassed to say I’m absolutely silly about them and certainly there is nothing to compare with the unconditional love given by your own.

Most of my time these days is spent writing, though I am partial to the practice known as ladies who lunch, or even couples who lunch. My husband and I both enjoy visiting museums and galleries but somehow these activities always seem to involve food as well. I have just embarked on another diet – yet again!

So, would I do anything differently if I had my time over again? I’d like to say I’d follow that singing career but I’m honest enough to know that I still probably wouldn’t have the courage. What I do have now is a self-belief that eluded me for many years. I am happy in my skin and get a great deal of joy out of what I do. How many people can truly say that?

 

Graduating the New Writers’ Scheme – Natalie Kleinman

I’m delighted to be interviewing fellow WMWP blogger, Natalie Kleinman about her rise from the New Writers’ Scheme and what comes next.

All my fellow bloggers are talented writers. I can see there being a flurry of novels hitting the bookshelves in the next year.

Natalie lives with her husband, Louis, in Blackheath, southeast London. She discovered a love of writing when searching for something less time-consuming than an Open University degree course. It was one of the biggest mistakes she ever made – not the writing but her assessment of how much time it would take.IMG_1234-Version3

We often hear how difficult it can be to get onto the Romantic Novelist Associations’ New Writers’ Scheme due to the number of applicants. Did you find it hard and how long were you a member?

I was incredibly lucky on both counts. With finger poised late one night/early morning in January 2013, I punched the key – rather hard actually due to an excess of enthusiasm – and was accepted first time of applying. Then panic set it. Would I be able to get my book finished in time? I did and had a most encouraging review from my reader to whom I will be forever grateful. After working on her suggestions I submitted the edited manuscript and was accepted for publication in early November of the same year.

How and when did you graduate?

In November 2013, though my book, Voyage of Desire (Safkhet) wasn’t published until June 2014. I’m one of contenders for the Joan Hessayon Award in 2015 due to my book not being published until after the 2014 event.

How did it feel to become a full member of the RNA and did it affect the way you work as a novelist?

Very grown up and more than a little daunting. The New Writers’ Scheme is not only a wonderful opportunity for aspiring writers but also a cushion against the outside world. I’ve always been self-motivated but graduation brought with it an added responsibility. To those who had helped me on my way and to prove to myself I wasn’t a one hit wonder.

Tell us something about your writing day.

I write full time and have a huge admiration for those who hold down other jobs and still manage to produce a massive word count. I’m unfortunate in that I need at least eight hours sleep so I need to be disciplined during the time I have available. My laptop lid opens with my breakfast and closes when I go to bed. I don’t give myself a designated number of hours to write and I have no particular routine. Impossible though not to feel guilty if I move away from the table and look back to see my empty chair and my open laptop.

Do you write anything other than novels?

Indeed I do. I began by writing short stories and the love of that form has never left me. I’ve sold over twenty short stories to the international womens’ magazine market. To have an idea, to work on it and produce, in a couple of hours, something that didn’t exist before – magic!

VoD Cover

You have that magical second book about to be published. How does it differ from your first novel?

There was less external pressure because I didn’t have the deadline of the NWS submission date but the genre of After All These Years (DC Thomson) is the same. I am comfortable with contemporary romance which also forms the foundation for many of my short stories, though I have written sci-fi and mild horror, if there is such a thing as mild horror.

 

Do you have a secret yearning to write something different to your first two books?

A good thriller is my reading of choice but I know it’s something I could never write because I am a ‘panster’ and I suspect writing a thriller would need a lot more plotting than my natural tendency is capable of. I consider myself very lucky in that I can ‘escape’ to other genres in my short stories.

What’s next for author, Natalie Kleinman?

I have returned to my ‘bottom drawer’ novel, the first I wrote, but I like the theme and the setting. Not much has changed; not much that is except the point of view and the hero, not the original guy but another character who demanded the role. Sometimes they don’t give us a choice, do they? Certainly it’s a complete rewrite. I’m 16,000 words in at the time of writing. It’s still a contemporary romance though.SecretLoveCover

Thank you, Natalie. I look forward to reading After All These Years when it’s published next week.

Links:

Amazon UK

WriteMindsWritePlace blog

Facebook

Twitter