When Sandra Danby contacted me for an interview, my first move was to check out her site and book covers. I ended up spending about an hour that I did not have there, drawn by the power of simplicity and her strong theme. Therefore, it’s with great pleasure, I feature Sandra and her work today.
Sandra Danby’s debut novel ‘Ignoring Gravity’ is just published and she is now writing the sequel ‘Connectedness’. Both novels examine how a person’s sense of identity is affected by adoption.
Sandra, thank you so much for being here. Before we talk about your WIP, why don’t you tell us a few things about yourself?
If I could, I would write all day every day. And when not writing, I would be reading. It’s always been that way. I grew up on a small dairy farm at the bleak edge of East Yorkshire where England meets the North Sea. So I am a proud Yorkshire woman, tea drinker and tennis fan. When I am not writing, which I can do while drinking tea, I can be found reading a book or watching tennis on television.
Exercise in lean writing: give us a synopsis of your current WIP in under 200 words.
‘Connectedness’ – the second book in the series about ‘Rose Haldane: Identity Detective’ – features controversial artist Justine Tree. She is a Marmite artist: some love her emotional honesty, others say she is attention-seeking. Disapproving critics say her work could be done by primary school children with empty cereal boxes, fingertips and potato prints. Fans say her work has an emotional freedom that 21st century society could learn from, that she has unbuttoned the British stiff upper lip. But are the emotions Justine puts into her collages real? Truth or Lies: only Justine knows how and why she manipulates the truth. So when she confronts her past and asks journalist Rose Haldane to find her lost baby, two strong personalities clash. Rose tries to untangle truth from lies in order to find Justine’s daughter who was given up for adoption when Justine was an art student. Justine, who has never told anyone she had a baby, is desperate to find her daughter but ashamed of the truth, desperate to have her daughter’s love but terrified she will find hate.
Connectedness will be published in late 2015.
This will make an interesting read! Are you happy with the pace of your work? Do you aim at a specific word count each day?
At the moment my writing has halted temporarily as I concentrate on promoting ‘Ignoring Gravity’, but I plan to return to ‘Connectedness’ in January 2015. I am a disciplined writer, which comes I think from 35+ years as a journalist. Writing is my job. I don’t have a specific daily word count and I don’t have a target word count for the book. My first draft of ‘Ignoring Gravity’ was 140,000! Through re-drafting and polishing, that finally came down to 99,000. I hadn’t targeted 99,000, I just polished the manuscript until it felt right.
Plotter, pantser or both?
Plotter, always a plotter. That’s the journalist in me again. But I have learned to plot loosely and let the story develop.
What’s your worst enemy in getting that first draft finished?
Easy, social media. Essential today for writers to promote their work. But it sucks the minutes out of a day.
Hear, hear. And if one is not as disciplined as you (that’s me!) then the writing time goes out the window. Have you ever experienced lack of inspiration or drive to write? If so, how do you motivate yourself?
Nope, never not wanted to write, never had writer’s block. I think my journalism training knocked that out of me years ago. When writing is your daily job, and you have a deadline and an empty page to fill, excuses don’t count.
Could we take a look at your workspace? Is there a particular place you find inspiring for writing?
This is my desk in the attic of our house. I have no view as the loft windows are higher than my desk so all I can see is sky. I am the first in the house to know it is raining. My desk faces the wall and I have a huge whiteboard to which are stuck photos of my characters, inspirational notes and photos of locations. All my books are here, the bookcases are bulging and books are beginning to form piles on the floor. There is a sofabed as my study doubles as a bedroom for visitors, but I rarely sit on it. I did entertain ideas of sitting there, reading… but that has never happened. What else? A floor-standing fan as the room gets stifling hot in the summer, and a small electric radiator to keep me warm in winter. And my CD collection, I couldn’t do without my music. As I write this, Mozart is playing gently in the background. I always write to classical music – Mozart, Verdi, Karl Jenkins, Elgar, Holst – as I find lyrics too distracting.
Lots of wonderful light there! The concept whiteboard is a great idea! Now your workspace pic is pinned on my Featured Writers’ Workspace Board on Pinterest! Apart from Word and Google, do you use any other writing or research tools and apps?
I have read a lot of adoption/family history, books, mostly requested from my local library or in the Reading Room at the British Library. For ‘Connectedness’ I researched art, again lots of reading but also visits to art galleries in London. My favourites are Tate Modern, Tate Britain, The Royal Academy, and the Victoria & Albert Museum. I also watch specialist television programmes. Two key TV series for me are ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ and ‘Long Lost Family’ have been enormously helpful. And the BBC has excellent arts coverage.
How do you intend to celebrate writing “The End” on your draft?
No celebration planned, the end of the first draft is the beginning of the next stage of the writing process for me. I find it useful to take a break from the work in progress though, so at the end of the first draft I will write shorter fiction, perhaps some flash fiction, and get out more. Go to art galleries and the theatre! It’s also a great time to research the next book. I am always thinking ahead.
Which book publishing processes are you going to outsource and which are you confident enough to undertake yourself?
I am a writer, that is what I do best. I outsourced copy editing, manuscript formatting, front cover design, book trailer production, website design and e-mail marketing.
Do you have any marketing tips or favorite promotional sites you’d like to share?
Network like mad: blog, tweet, Facebook and share. Don’t bore people with constant requests to buy your book, social media is swamped by repetitive messages like that. And don’t just retweet other people’s original thoughts. Find an original way to communicate, tweet your own ideas and support other writers. There is a great network of mutually-supportive writers out there to tap into.
True words! Your blog can be found here. Do you follow a specific branding pattern with your posts or is it a free writing platform?
My writing blog has transferred in the last few weeks to a website promoting my books, but the content and purpose of my blog remains the same. I’ve been blogging on WordPress since February 2013, my new website is WordPress too. I blog about my thoughts on writing and the world of books. What other writers are saying and doing, I review books [new releases and classics] and publish some of my own short fiction. Writers’ BLOCKbusters is an occasional series offering solutions to get the creative juices started.
Is contemporary women’s fiction the genre you will stick to or do you see yourself branching out in the future?
Who knows what the future will bring. At the moment I am concentrating on the ‘Rose Haldane: Identity Detective’ series, with storylines planned for books three, four and five. Beyond that, I have ideas for two standalone novels set in Yorkshire.
Fun stuff now: Let’s do a rapid fire round.
- Flavored sorbet or chocolate ice cream? Strawberry ice cream
- Pizza or sushi? Sushi
- Twilight or The Hunger Games? The Hunger Games
- Ryan Gosling or Benedict Cumberbatch? BC of course.
- Trek in the Andes or snorkeling in Tahiti? Trek in the Andes. I have flown over them, on the way to Santiago, Chile, and they look amazing.
- Ugg boots or red-soled designer stilettos? Scruffy blue Converse
Finally, please share with us links where we can find you and your work.
Watch the book trailer for ‘Ignoring Gravity’: http://youtu.be/jpzWKR4gx8I
Thank you, Sandra, and best of luck with your future projects!
Fate Accompli is now out on Amazon in two heat versions. The links below will take you directly to your Amazon store.
Fate Accompli Spicy: getBook.at/FateSpicy
Fate Accompli Clean: getBook.at/FateClean
If you’d like to read the first chapters of Fate Accompli, they’re available on Wattpad. (Almost 2,000 views in one week!)