Today, I am very excited to welcome fellow RNA member, talented writer and lovely friend Deirdre Palmer to my blog. Deirdre is the author of Remarkable Things and her second novel Dirty Weekend will be published on 4th August (both with Crooked Cat Publishing). Deirdre kindly made time in her busy writing schedule to answer some questions about her writing life.
Do you remember the moment you decided you wanted to be a writer?
I don’t think I ever made that decision. It’s something that’s always been there, right from the time I learned to read and write. When I was about eight, I announced in the playground that I wanted to be an author when I grew up, which met with a lot of bemused stares. Pity it took me so long (to become an author, I mean, not to grow up, although, come to think of it…)
What were you like at school? Would your English teacher be surprised to see that you have become a published author?
I was awful at arithmetic and, later, maths, and I hated PE and games, but the rest didn’t give me much trouble. English was always my best subject, and my early ‘compositions’ were read out a lot in class, so perhaps my junior school teacher wouldn’t be surprised. There was a lot more competition at grammar school - standards were very high - so I doubt any particular talent in that direction would have stood out.
Hard to say. I still had the day job when I started it, so I only wrote for a few hours each week. It went through the NWS twice, once as a partial, and got revised countless times along the way. So, over two years, probably.
I love the cover. How important do you think the cover is to a potential reader?
Thanks. I love it too, although the abstract design wasn’t anything like I’d originally had in mind, but I’m glad it turned out the way it did. I think the cover is fairly important, but the promise of a good story more so. With ebooks, though, the cover has to be eye-catching as you have only seconds to grab the potential reader’s attention.
Tell us something about the main character that will make us want to find out more about them.
There are two equal main characters in Remarkable Things, Gus Albourne and Millie Hope, although Gus’s story has slightly more importance than Millie’s. Gus has a strong sense of loyalty to his family, which is severely tested when he discovers their secrets. He’s not a stereotypical romantic hero; he isn’t afraid to show emotion and doesn’t care what other people think of him. Millie is a strong, independent woman but her sense of self falters when her daughter turns against her.
Are you a pantster or do you plot?
I’ve plotted less as I’ve gone along, probably because I’ve gained more confidence. I need a title, a theme, a couple of main characters, and a rough idea of where the story is going, but other than that I’m happy to wing it. I do make a lot of notes as I go along, though, and I keep a track of the chapters and what happens in each. Writing ‘Dirty Weekend’ was quite a revelation; I signed up to NaNoWriMo at the last minute, so had no time to plot beforehand. I just got the words down and it seemed to work. I had no idea I could write that way. It was very liberating!
What have you found to be the most difficult thing about writing a novel?
Sustaining the thing for 80,000 words or more. I’m always afraid the story will be over too quickly, but I also worry about introducing too many story threads and making the whole thing too confusing. Having said that, writing a full-length novel gives me far more satisfaction than writing shorter fiction. I like to know exactly what’s going on in my characters’ minds, analyse their emotions and their actions. That’s part of the reward for me as I find out a lot about myself in the process. You don’t get to do that with short fiction.
Do you have a special time for writing? How is your day structured?
The theory is that I write in the mornings, from about 8.30 to 12, as that is when I have the house to myself. But I’m not that disciplined so it doesn’t always happen. If I’m in the zone, I can write at any time, but I can’t be doing with too many interruptions.
Your first novel was self-published. What have been the advantages of having a traditional publisher for your second?
It’s been my lifetime’s ambition to have a book accepted by a publisher, so achieving that was amazing. Self-publishing is exciting and rewarding, but there is still some kudos attached to being traditionally published and I wanted that – well, I waited long enough, so why not? Getting a publication deal also gave me full membership of the RNA, which is nice. I like the sense of belonging that being with a publisher gives. Crooked Cat is like one big family really.
Your next novel, Dirty Weekend, is out on 4th August. Will it be in the same genre?
I’m never too clear about the genre of my books. Dirty Weekend will probably appeal to women more than men, so you could class it as women’s fiction, the same as Remarkable Things, but the style is completely different. It’s fast-paced with lots of humour, the main characters are only eighteen, it’s set in 1966, and it’s far less introspective than Remarkable Things, so I guess the answer to the question is no…
What next for Deirdre Palmer?
I’m halfway through the first draft of a new book called The Promise of Roses. It is a romance, this time between people in their twenties, but there are other themes such as entrapment and bereavement. There have been a few stops and starts with this one while I wrote some short stories and did other things, but I’m determined to get on and finish this one now, and get it in a fit state for submission by the autumn. I’d like to try my hand at a novella but I’m trying not to think about it in case I get sidetracked again.
Wendy, thanks very much for inviting me onto your blog. It’s been fun answering your questions.
You're very welcome, Deirdre. Thanks for being such a lovely guest.
Deirdre lives in Brighton, the city by the sea, on the south coast of England. Most of her working life has been spent in public sector administration, most recently at the University of Brighton.
Mostly she likes to write novels, but enjoys the occasional foray into short story writing, and blogs regularly with a group called ‘The Write Romantics’. She has twice been a major prizewinner in the Mail on Sunday Novel Competition, and has also won prizes for flash fiction.
She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
Deirdre's collection of short stories set in the 1960's is currently FREE! If you are interested in purchasing this or any other of Deirdre's books the Amazon link is here.
Dirty Weekend is available to pre-order here
You can find out more about Deirdre through her website