Today I welcome a very special guest: my friend and fellow-author Cristina Hodgson, whose debut novel A Little of Chantelle Rose is released today. I had the pleasure of working with Cristina as editor of this novel.
Hi, Cristina. Well, this is a momentous day for both of us! Obviously I know a fair amount about the book, but for the benefit of new readers, can you summarise it in just a few words?
It tells an urban fairy tale. It's about a young London girl who through a series of hilarious, if bizarre, circumstances is propelled to Hollywood glamour, lovers, confusion, menace and a truly startling conclusion. Its twists and turns will grip the reader - and make them laugh, too! At least that's what I hope!! ;-)
A sort of Cinderella-type story, then. What was the inspiration for it?
After graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in PE and Sports Science, I travelled and worked in various jobs. One of these was as an extra in a British-produced gangster film which was filmed in Nerja, Spain. It goes without saying that my sport mechanics and kinetic energy knowledge weren’t put to maximum potential in this part-time job. But it was certainly a fun and unique experience, and most importantly it gave me an idea. A year later I sat down and started writing, and within three months Chantelle Rose was born.
Only three months? Gosh, I’m impressed. It usually takes me much longer!
How do you decide on the names for your characters?
I actually find this question quite amusing, because it took me over nine months to decide on names for both my children. But I can come up with a fictional character's name in less than two minutes; the names just pop into my head. I'm not sure if the pregnancy hormones crushed my inner creativity when choosing my children's names, but, to be honest, it may have been for the best. I could have come up with any bizarre child's name if my creative side, mixed with pregnancy hormones, had taken over…
Well, yes. That might explain (if not excuse) the weird names some celebrities inflict on their poor offspring.
Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?
Do you mean: am I a pantster or a plotter? Definitely a pantster. I begin with a vague idea which then propels me off on a journey into the unknown. Which, if you think about it, has to be a plus, because if even I don't know the ending to my novel until the last few chapters, I should be able to keep my readers guessing too!
Having said that, I would like to try and plot a little more, and have flow charts keeping things all neatly under control, so I don't lose track of my secondary characters' names or what they look like. But, to be honest, at the moment my characters just run a bit wild. I think this could be because in my real life I'm a bit over-organised. So when I sit down at the keyboard, it's like someone else takes over and pays no attention to order or routine. And quite right too. Sometimes It's good to just go with your inner feelings and not think too much.
That’s happened to me, too. I try to plot in advance, but it doesn’t always work out how I’d imagined. In one of my books, one of the characters took me totally by surprise by saying something which went on to change the entire course of the story. But he was totally right – my original idea would never have worked.
Which writers have influenced your own writing?
I would have to say Enid Blyton, not so much that she inspired me to become a writer or influences my writing style as such, rather that she made me a reader. As a child, I read all her Famous Five books. She opened a magical world to me and a passion for reading that has accompanied my whole life. She inspired me to read - and from the reader the writer is born.
I also greatly admire J K Rowling, a huge inspiration, not just for her incredible writing talent, but for her “rags to riches” life story. An amazing lady, together with everything she's achieved.
Now that the book is published and ‘out there’ how do you feel?
I'm obviously thrilled, but also very nervous. This is like the birth of my third child. Chantelle Rose isn't about me or my life but it's a part of me. And this part of me is now out there for all to read and criticise, and that alone is nerve-wracking. I'm aware that everyone has different literary tastes, I just hope that people who do read Chantelle Rose, or any novel, understand that behind the words sits an author who's shed more than one tear to finish the text and sweated more than most marathon runners do. The finish line in this case is when you type “The End.”
I couldn’t agree more. Been there, done that, spilled coffee all down the t-shirt.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
The main advice I would offer is: "never give up", which can be applied to any aspect of life really. For those struggling to finish their WIP (or even those who want to write but haven't started their project yet), consistency is the key. Just write a few words every day. Don't be overwhelmed by the thought that you have to write thousands of words a day. Choose a realistic, manageable daily word count, such as 400 words or so, and you'll get there in the end.
What can we expect from you in the future?
My current WIP is a bit of a secret at the moment. If you read my debut novel you'll understand why.
OK, enough said! As your editor, I was lucky enough to work with you on Chantelle Rose and watch the development from a rough manuscript to the eventual finished product. It was a fascinating process, particularly getting an insight into your writing style and your creative side. If this is the first time you've worked with an editor, did the process hold any surprises for you?
My dad went over the original text with me. He's an ex-editor for BBC News, but being my dad I'm not sure if it counts. So this editing experience was quite an eye-opener and learning experience for me. I certainly believe it has helped to improve my writing skills, an improvement which I have to thank you for. It was an absolute pleasure working with you, and I hope that we will be able to repeat the experience again soon.
I hope so too, Cristina. You were a delight to work with. The world of literature needs more authors like you!
Sue, your own latest novel, Never on Saturday, has recently been an Amazon best-seller. I read it recently and thoroughly recommend it. Please tell us a bit more about it.
Thanks - I'm so glad you liked it. Never on Saturday is a time-slip romance novella with a hint of mystery and a touch of the paranormal. It tells the story of Mel, a young Frenchwoman who arrives in North Wales attempting to escape from a troubled past. But she can't escape from her own dark and terrible secret, which threatens to destroy all her chances of happiness - even with the new love of her life...
Any new projects lined up?
One or two, but they're still very much in their infancy, so don't stay in specially waiting for them!
Thanks so much for hosting me, Sue. And here is Chantelle Rose with her proud editor (and a glass of rather fine red wine...)
To discover more about Cristina and her work, please go to:
BUY LINK: myBook.to/chantellerose