C. H. Little is the author of “Escape”, a gripping thriller novella set on the exotic island of Menorca, Spain. “Gripping” is not a random promo word; I’ve read “Escape”, thoroughly enjoyed it, and that was my review’s key word. I am, therefore, very pleased that C. H. Little has agreed to be featured in my interview column, as we’d like to know more about herself and her work process.
Clare, thank you for coming. As a warm up, why don’t you tell us a few things about yourself?
Well I’m a teacher of English Language and Literature in the North West of England, but have been writing for the past year. My teaching job can be demanding, but I love the challenge of inspiring young people, especially to read and explore new books. I run a creative writing club at school and really enjoy reading the poems and stories that the teenagers I work with create, as well as writing fiction myself in any spare time I have. I am married with two wonderful children who keep me incredibly busy. I have always loved writing, but never created anything really sustained until I wrote and self-published my romantic thriller novella, called Escape, last year. I’m hooked now, and currently working on its sequel.
Exercise in lean writing: give us a synopsis of your current WIP in under 200 words.
As I said, it’s a sequel to my thriller novella Escape. It follows a British woman called Kate Morgan as she searches for her missing sister Penny, the central character from the first book. Kate arrives on the beautiful island of Menorca, where Penny was holidaying alone, and begins to try and discover what has happened to her sister. With the assistance of the frustrating Olly, Kate finds that prior to going missing, Penny had been spending time with a mysterious couple who have also since disappeared. At the same time, a woman is abducted from elsewhere on the island and readers begin to fear for the safety of Penny, and eventually Kate herself.
I can’t wait to read the sequel! Are you happy with the pace of your work? Do you aim at a specific word count each day?
I’m generally fairly unhappy with the pace of my work! On a good day I can write a large amount in quite a short time (not always publish-worthy material though!) I usually write in the two days per week when I am not at work teaching and my daughter is at nursery. This gives me around four and a half hours a week to write. What frustrates me is the fact that I can’t currently fit any more writing time than this into my schedule. So in a good week I can manage around 4,000 words, but if I had more hours in which to write, my sequel would be ready far faster!
Plotter, pantser or both?
I have tried both with varying degrees of success. I plotted out an entire 60 chapter novel once, and have written 15 chapters of it, but found the entire task so daunting that I put it to one side (one day I WILL finish it). However, my WIP has more than one point of view in its narrative and therefore required quite a bit of plotting. I started without doing this and had to go back and create a clear plan of how the alternating narrative worked, which took me quite a bit of time. Even when I plan my writing quite carefully though, I find the most exciting part is when a character or event takes on a life of its own. Often things happen which I had not planned on happening at all, for example a character who began as simply a bystander in Escape, ended up getting romantically involved with the heroine!
What’s your worst enemy in getting that first draft finished?
Time: see my earlier response! I try not to complain, but life is pretty busy and multi-tasking is a must if I’m going to get Escape’s sequel written sooner rather than later.
Have you experienced “writer’s block” and how do you overcome it?
Yes, most definitely. I have good days and bad days when writing. Sometimes the story takes care of itself, flowing from pen (make that keyboard) to page with ease, but other times I really don’t know what’s coming next. At that point I try and write another section of the story to re-inspire myself, which I can link up to later, or I go back to my plan and work out where I’m supposed to be up to. Sometimes missing out a chunk and jumping ahead in the story, or writing a scene from a different character’s perspective, really helps me to refocus. Of course, a good old cup of tea often helps too!
Yes, tea is an “enabler” and not only for the English! Could we take a look at your workspace? Is there a particular place you find inspiring?
I usually write in our dining room at home, obviously not when we’re eating in there! It’s a lovely space which overlooks the garden and is usually warm and peaceful. The sun is in the garden for most of the day so on a nice day (fairly rare, but we do have them occasionally!) the room feels really cosy and light.
Now your photo is “pinned” on my Featured Writers’ Workspace Board on Pinterest. A very tranquil ambience there! Apart from Word and Google, do you use any other writing or research tools and apps?
I use Thesaurus.com all the time, especially when I’m finding myself using the same vocabulary over and over. Dictionary.com is also useful, and since I set my novella in Spain I have used Google Translate to look up the odd Spanish word or phrase. I have regularly used Google to search the net for authentic Spanish names for any new characters. Google maps has proved similarly useful for providing real story locations on the island of Menorca.
If you use Thesaurus.com, you can imagine how useful it is to me, as English is not my mother tongue! How do you intend to celebrate writing “The End” on your draft?
Well I’ve only done it once so far and I think I was so surprised that I’d managed it, I forgot to properly celebrate! I think this time I’ll have a large glass of something fizzy with my husband and put off the editing until tomorrow!
Sounds great! Which book publishing processes are you going to outsource and which are you confident enough to undertake yourself?
I’m quite proud to say that Escape was all done from home. I edited it myself with help from a number of pre-readers (mostly family members, which is not always a good idea as they’re obviously quite biased!) With the sequel I’m planning to recruit a far wider set of proper beta readers in addition to my family. I was happy, however, that Escape was grammatically accurate when it was published. (I have only had one person tell me of an error which, with Amazon KDP being what it is, was fixed very rapidly!)
My husband is a computer programmer but also very talented in most things technical, so he helped me enormously. He formatted the novella, set me up with a range of social media links to help promote my book, designed a website for me and even created the book’s cover, which I sometimes think has had more compliments than the book itself! Great, considering he isn’t a graphic designer by trade!
I’ve said this time and again: the cover of Escape is amazing! I truly can’t imagine a better combination for an indie author: an English teacher with a tech-savvy husband. Lucky you! Do you have any marketing tips or favorite promotional sites you’d like to share?
I’m still getting to grips with social media to be honest, but I’m probably most at home on Twitter. I have a Facebook page and a Goodreads account, but currently struggle to find the time to really exploit these sites successfully to promote my books. Twitter seems to allow you contact with or exposure to a large amount of people with not too much time investment required (140 characters can be created pretty quickly). I really like Twitter now I’ve become more comfortable with the way it works.
I’d also recommend Buffer, which allows me to stock up new Tweets in preparation for days when I’m at work and know I won’t have time to create any. The first level of Buffer is free and allows you to store up to ten Tweets (as well as ten separate Facebook posts), which takes you over two days. It publishes one Tweet every four hours or so throughout the day, spacing them out and therefore maximizing the amount of people who see them, taking into consideration the time differences between Europe and the States, for example.
Setting up a Twitter scheduling service is in my immediate plans as well. Is “thriller” the genre you will brand yourself with or do you see yourself branching out in the future?
No, I think I’m still finding my genre. I have enjoyed writing in the thriller genre but have also had comments that my writing could partly qualify as “chick-lit”. As a teacher of young people I am also considering writing for Young Adults, and as I love dystopian fiction myself I would love to have a go at creating some kind of dystopian world at some point in the future. Watch this space!
Would you like to share with us links where we can find you and your work?
Thank you, Clare, you and best of luck with the sequel to Escape!