Fabulous Writing Advice From John Connolly


Writers Write hosted best-selling author, John Connolly for a literary dinner - A Winter's Tale - at The Bowery in Sandton. 

John was an inspirational guest and kept us in stitches for most of the evening. You can read the condensed version of the interview below, watch it on YouTube, or listen to our podcast, which includes jokes, giggles and lots of anecdotes. Just add your own wine. 
Author: John Connolly
Date: 30 July 2016
WhereThe Bowery, Sandton, South Africa
Interviewer: Mia Botha

1.  Describe your writing routine, if you have one.

Art comes out of craft; craft comes out of hard work. Out of hard work comes discipline and skill. You have to practise, it is not something that comes easily and if you have to set it aside for any length of time you become rusty. There is no point in waiting for the muse to strike. The muse is busy. If you’re not home when she calls she will go somewhere else. 

2.  How do you do it?

You need a target for every day. Most writers have a second job and that job is writing. I am lucky I can support myself with writing, but most writers support their writing by being accountants. It has to become part of a daily routine. Set yourself a very easy target, say 200 words a day. You can do it in your lunch break or wake up half an hour earlier. It has to be something that is done regularly. It has to become part of a routine. 

3.  What is your daily target?

I try to write a 1000 words a day. When I revise I do a chapter a day. There comes a time in the middle of a book when I will go away for ten days and write 3000 words a day and not talk to anyone apart from ordering alcohol. 

John Connolly with prize winners, Sibongile Zulu, Kerry Askew, and Lucy Jansen. Prizes courtesy of Writers Write and Jonathan Ball Publishers

4.  Where do you write?

In the beginning I was very precious about where I wrote. I had to be in my office, but I have learned to take my writing with me. I can write anywhere. 

5.  Do you plot?

You mean books or against other people? No, I don’t. I might know the opening 1000 words. Only after that will I know the next 1000. I like the process of discovering the book. It can make writing quite hard. One of the reasons why not plotting is difficult is because every book I have ever written I wanted to throw out after 20 000 words. All 28 of them. We start with enthusiasm, but that fades and then you get the siren call of the new idea. If plotting helps you stay on track, by all means plot. 

6.  Do you ever doubt your story or abandon your books?

I doubt every book I have ever written. If you don’t have any doubt, you are a sociopath. Doubt is part of the process for me. If you abandon things you set a pattern. You have to finish things. Most books are abandoned between 20 000 – 40 000 words. If you reach 40 000 you will finish the book. 

John Connolly answers questions

7.  When you wrote your first Charlie Parker Novel, did you think of it as a series?

No, you are a psychopath if you do. I was so surprised when it got accepted. It had been rejected by so many editors, but I persevered. Only around the 5th Parker novel did I start thinking about it. 

8.  Do you have a plot for the series for future books?

I am a sensible man, I go to the doctor to have my workings checked once a year, so yes I know how to end it or conclude the larger plot. 

9.  What annoys you the most about Charlie Parker?

That he is so much like me. 

10.  According to your press release you have worked as a journalist, a barman, a local government official, a waiter and a gofer at Harrods, which career has helped you the most to write novels and create characters?

I’d say journalism, because it taught me I can write even if I don’t feel like writing. Writers do a lot of jobs before they become writers, because they can’t conceive of themselves as writers. Some of us become writers through luck, pure resignation or because we have become unemployable. Journalism taught to write when I didn’t feel like writing, it made me a good hack and it taught me that anything can be researched. 

 John Connolly chats to his fans, Justin Denysschen, Emma Pinnock, and Hélène Pinnock

11.  You write a YA series with your partner, Jennifer Ridyard. What have you learnt about writing from her?

How to plot. You can’t collaborate if you don’t plot. You can’t write a book with someone else if you can’t tell them what is going to happen. It was very hard for me, but I do think the series is better for having been plotted. 

12.  What do you think about self-publishing?

Time is the friend of writers. We like instantaneous responses and self-publishing gives us that, but authors should focus on their craft; not on the money. 

You are every character in your books – John Connolly 

For more photographs from the event, click here

John Connolly was interviewed by Mia Botha

We first interviewed John in October 2006 and again in August 2012. We're grateful he agreed to visit us again in 2016. Follow John Connolly on Facebook and Twitter. Visit johnconnollybooks.com.

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

The Writers Write Interview - David Baldacci

Author: David Baldacci


Date of Birth: 5 August 1960
Date of Interview: 14 September 2015
Book on Promotion: The Keeper
Place of Interview: Reston, Virginia, U.S.A.

David Baldacci has published 30 best-selling novels for adults. Several of these have been adapted for film and television. They have been translated into more than 45 languages and they are sold in more than 80 countries. Over 110 million copies of his books are in print worldwide. We are thrilled that he agreed to answer our 20 Questions.

1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
Hercule Poirot, but only if played by David Suchet.

2. What is your most treasured possession?
An 1861 U.S. Springfield rifle my ancestor used in the Civil War fighting to free slaves.

3. Which living person do you most dislike?
Too numerous to mention. Many are running for president right now.

4. What is your greatest fear?
Running out of ideas.

5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
My wife, Michelle.

6. What is your greatest regret?
Not meeting my wife sooner.

7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
Tom Ripley – for the dark side. Phillip Marlowe – for the good side.

8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
The Sherlock Holmes stories.

9. What is your favourite journey?
Going home.

10. What is your favourite quotation?
“You can only come to the morning through the shadows.” ~JRR Tolkien

11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
Dogs.

12. What do you most value in a friend?
Compassion.

13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
Independence.

14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
Wish You Well. It’s a very personal story. (Established by David and his wife, Michelle, the Wish You Well Foundation supports family and adult literacy in the United States.)

15. What are your favourite names?
Michelle, Spencer and Collin

16. What do you do as a hobby?
Putter around.

17. Which are your three favourite books?

  1. Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  2. The Cider House Rules by John Irving
  3. Strangers On A Train by Patricia Highsmith
18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
In the shower.

19. What is your Writing Routine?
There’s nothing routine about it. Every day is different. I don’t count words or pages; I just write ‘till the tank is dry.

20. What are your Top Writing Tips?
  1. Write about things you’re interested in.
  2. Don’t count pages or words; it’s too artificial.
  3. Never treat writing as a job.
  4. Don’t know the ending before you start.
  5. Listen to comments from others.
The Guilty is available from 5 November 2015.

Follow David on Facebook, Twitter and visit DavidBaldacci.com

    ~~~

    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

    The Writers Write Interview - Janet Fitch

    Author: Janet Fitch

    People ask me which authors I still want to meet. There aren't many because I've been lucky enough to meet so many of my heroes. But, I gave it some thought and decided to approach Janet Fitch, the author of my favourite book - as a reader and as a writer - of all time, White Oleander. I sent her a message and asked her if she would answer my questionnaire. She was gracious and lovely and said 'yes'. I hope you enjoy her answers as much as I did.

    The Writers Write Interview 

    Date of Birth: 9 November 1955 (Scorpio, Capricorn rising.)
    Date of Interview: 6 May 2015
    Place: Los Angeles (via Email)
    The BookPaint It Black
    1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
    My favourite characters aren’t necessarily heroic… just ones who I can’t get enough of.  Leopold Bloom. Sabina in Spy in the House of Love. Every character in Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet—the Nessim’s mother. The old sailor, Clea. The whisky priest in The Power and the Glory. The narrator of Duras’ The Lover. Thomas Fowler inThe Quiet American.

    2. What is your most treasured possession?
    A silver letter opener in a flowing abstract shape I’ve use every day since I bought it as a teenager. 

    3. Which living person do you most dislike?
    Either of the Koch brothers. 

    4. What is your greatest fear?
    The loss of the biosphere. It’s such a beautiful, fragile web.  The planet will survive, but life on it, the plants and animals… looking pretty dire.

    5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
    The life of the imagination. 

    6. What is your greatest regret?
    Having been so attached to being romantically gloomy and difficult as a young person. I could have had a much sunnier and more fulfilling life early on if I hadn’t been so damned Byronic.

    7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
    Things end so badly for most of my favourite chararacters… I’d say it would be fun to be Queen Titania in Midsummer Night’s Dream. But that’s not a book… probably Wart (later King Arthur) in The Sword in the Stone.

    8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
    The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

    9. What is your favourite journey?
    Moving very slowly through Italy, spending days and weeks in places, off-season, drawing and painting.

    10. What is your favourite quotation?
    Look up—the hawk will not be walking in the road. 

    11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
    I love dogs but I live with a cat. I'm getting used to him, and vice versa.

    12. What do you most value in a friend?
    No drama.

    13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
    Creative energy.

    14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
    LIke a mother choosing among her children, I like them all for different reasons. I like the one that’s difficult because it’s harder for others to see its merits.  I like the one that’s most approachable because it’s nice to be popular.  I like the one that’s still a baby, because there’s no knowing what it will do in the world.  I like my first one because I waited so long for it to be born. 

    15. What are your favourite names?
    It so depends on the purpose.  Is this a character name? Then it has to be appropriate, memorable, have connotations for me. A name I’d pick for my own child? I prefer a conventional name, on the long side, spelled conventionally.  (For myself, I might like a name like Sunshine or Rain or Marigold, but for an actual child, I put “Dr.” in front of it, to make sure it’s got enough gravitas to go wherever she or he would want to go.) 

    16. What do you do as a hobby?
    Read, paint, draw, go to museums. Travel. Dance crazily to a variety of music all by myself. 

    17. Which are your three favourite books?

    1. The Alexandria Quartet (four books… oh well.) by Laurence Durrell
    2. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    3. Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
    18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
    While I'm writing.

    19. What is your Writing Routine?
    Work every day. Read for an hour, hour and a half. Write until about four. Walk. Read poetry, fiction, watch movies in the evening.

    20. What are your Top Writing Tips?

    I wrote a blog article about this—“Ten Writing Tips that Can Help Almost Anyone”—check it out!

    Visit Janet's website to find out more.

    Interviewer: Amanda Patterson. Follow her on PinterestFacebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and Twitter. 

    ~~~

    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

    The Writers Write Interview - Alex van Tonder

    Author: Alex van Tonder

    Alex van Tonder was promoting her debut novel, This One Time. Alex works full time in advertising and she has been a successful blogger. She used her experiences to create a social media thriller, with reality TV and advertising playing their part in a terrifying game.

    When she joined us for dinner, she was funny and self-deprecating. The guests enjoyed her answers, the incredible dinner and each other's company.

    The Writers Write Interview 

    Date of Birth: 8 July 1983
    Date of Interview: 21 May 2015
    Place: Winehouse, Ten Bompas Road, Dunkeld, Johannesburg
    The Book: This One Time

    1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
    I would go for a conflicted hero - someone like Victor Frankenstein. He had the best intentions but his creation still turns on him. I love characters who are not portrayed as totally good or totally bad.

    2. What is your most treasured possession?
    A rose gold charm bracelet that belonged to my gran. She was given a charm by my mom and my uncles and aunts for her birthdays.

    3. Which living person do you most dislike?
    Robert Mugabe is a human rights nightmare. What he's done is heartbreaking. He has taken all the power and wealth for himself. 

    4. What is your greatest fear?
    Reaching the end of my life and not having done everything I wanted to do.

    5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
    I guess I consider my relationship with creativity to be a relationship that has outlasted everything else. It is a conflicted one that I always come back to.

    6. What is your greatest regret?
    I have quite a lot. You learn from every regret. I am more on the introverted side of life and I tend to say no more often than yes and I regret this. I act out of fear in certain situations. When I was 25 I was offered a job travelling around the world 'evangelising' online travel, but I had just been appointed to an important position in an advertising company, and I feel that I had to keep my word.

    7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
    One of the female characters in Isabel Allende's novels. They are all a bit crazy, brave, and fearless about their emotional needs. 

    8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
    Catch 22 settles my mind. It's the right balance of a good story and a sense of humour. I go back to it once a year, read a few pages and put it down.

    9. What is your favourite journey?
    I am a big runner. One of my favourite runs a coastal one around the Base of Lion's Head. It takes you around the whole of Cape Town. It's a trail run.

    10. What is your favourite quotation?
    It changes a lot. It depends on what you're doing in your life.  'We make our own monsters, then fear them for what they show us about ourselves.' ~Mike Carey. It resonates with social media. The other is Nietsche's 'Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster... for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.'

    11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
    Cats. His name is Moolie.

    12. What do you most value in a friend?
    When you connect with someone and it's real. A sense of honesty. A willingness for people to be honest with themselves and that reflects in their character. People have to be themselves.

    13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
    The ability to think for yourself. The courage to be yourself. A lot of women are still really scared to be who they are. I love Lena Dunham and what she's done for women. She's brave.

    14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
    This One Time. This is my real writing voice. It's the kind of story I wan to write.

    15. What are your favourite names?
    Ariella
    Oberon - from A Midsummer Night's Dream 

    16. What do you do as a hobby?
    Olympic weight lifting, painting, running, and I write poetry.

    17. Which are your three favourite books?

    1. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
    2. Perfume by Patrick Süskind
    3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
    18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
    I am inspired by the Internet and social media and the effect it has on us. 

    19. What is your Writing Routine?
    Write. Work. Run. Write. I get up at 5:30am, get to work, write for about two hours. Then I work, go home, go for a run, and write again.

    20. What are your Top Writing Tips?

    1. Write the book you want to read and the one your friends want to read. Because then even if it's not published, it's still rewarding for you.
    2. Set yourself a goal of writing and finishing a bad first draft. That's not intimidating. Once you have that you can make it better.
    3. Learn the rules before you break them.You need to be writing while you're learning the rules. It's difficult to understand them if you haven't written. 
    4. Stay physically fit. I have a day job and it helps me with my mental endurance.
    5. I start with a plot. I am advertising trained. Everything needs to have a point. Once this has been done and the boundaries have been set, I have to find the characters who will serve the plot. The characters have to be a certain way to do this and I have to find out from them why they are there and how they got there.
    6. Writing every day is important. Time passes anyway. If you do 500 words every day, you will inevitably have a book.

    Follow this link for more photographs from This One Time - A Literary Dinner

    Follow Alex on Twitter .

    Interviewer: Amanda Patterson. Follow her on PinterestFacebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and Twitter. 

    ~~~

    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

    The Writers Write Interview - Barbara Kingsolver

    Author: Barbara Kingsolver

    We enjoyed hosting American author, Barbara Kingsolver, whose most famous books include The Poisonwood Bible;  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; The Lacuna; and her latest novel, Flight Behaviour

    Barbara was in Johannesburg on one of the hottest days of the year. She did not let the heat or her hectic schedule affect her. She says, 'I believe in passion. It’s not work, it’s love. I do the thing I have to do.' Her love for writing, travel and the world shone through her answers. She was gracious and charming and her fans adored her.

    The unrelenting heat allowed us to talk immediately about climate change - the subject of her latest book - Flight Behaviour. As she says, 'No one wants to talk about climate change. The human animal is not equipped to deal with the suffering of millions or large scale disasters. You can read about or see it on the news, but the novelist’s trick is to bring it closer to home – to make people care about six or seven characters. It’s a honest trick though.’

    The Writers Write Interview 

    Date of Birth: 8 April 1955
    Date of Interview: 10 February 2015
    Place: Winehouse, Ten Bompas Road, Dunkeld, Johannesburg
    The Book: Flight Behaviour

    1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
    Harriet Vane

    2. What is your most treasured possession?
    My first edition of Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

    3. Which living person do you most dislike?
    I can't name names, but they may have something to do with Amazon. 

    4. What is your greatest fear?
    Being useless.

    5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
    My children - Camille and Lily. 

    6. What is your greatest regret?
    That I waited this long to come to South Africa. 

    7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
    Harriet Vane, (the fictional creation of Dorothy L. Sayers) - so that I could have sex with Lord Peter Wimsey. 

    8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
    Definitely, Middlemarch. It is a book about everything and I read it every few years.

    9. What is your favourite journey?
    This one to South Africa. I am so blessed to be able to be here. I have spent the first two days before the tour started touring Soweto and Maropeng with my husband. We have loved being here.

    10. What is your favourite quotation?
    'The arc of the moral universe is long and progress is sure.' ~Dr Martin Luther King 

    11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
    Dogs. They love you back. P.S. I'm allergic to cats.

    12. What do you most value in a friend?
    Loyalty.

    13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
    Integrity.

    14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
    The Lacuna. It was the hardest to write - from the beginning to the end it was the most difficult thing I've ever done. It was also the novel where I most reveal myself through the viewpoint of the narrator, Harrison William Shepherd. 

    15. What are your favourite names?
    Dellarobia Turnbow
    Ovid Byron 

    16. What do you do as a hobby?
    I knit. I have my own sheep and I literally sheer the sheep and knot sweaters for friends and family from scratch.

    17. Which are your three favourite books?

    1. Middlemarch by George Eliot
    2. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
    3. ? I'm waiting to find the third one.
    18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
    When I lie down and can't go to sleep because I'm thinking about something. I know I have to write about the things that keep me awake at night.
     

    19. What is your Writing Routine?
    I write every moment that is humanly possible. I write every day and every night. The only discipline I lack is the discipline is to quit.

    20. What are your Top Writing Tips?

    1. Quit smoking in the hope of growing old. It takes a long time to write. People go to books for wisdom and older authors tend to have more of it.
    2. Notice. If you're writing, you're a writer. If you're talking about it or thinking about it, I'm not so sure. Writing is ninety-eight percent work and two percent magic.
    3. Plot comes first. The plot is the archictecture of your novel. You wouldn’t build a house without a plan. If I wrote without a plot, it would just be a pile of bricks. Characters are your servants. They must serve your plot.
    4. Pay attention to your passions. They are the key to starting and finishing the book you are meant to write. I don’t believe in talent. I believe in passion. 
    5. Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer.
    6. You can do hard things. When I wrote The Poisonwood Bible, I would practice writing one scene from the viewpoint of each of the four daughters – until their voices started to sound authentic. 
    7. It's a good idea to set yourself a daily word count. I am happy with 1 000 words a day.
    8. I research a novel six ways to Sunday. I don’t want to lie to the reader; I want you to trust me.

    Follow this link for more photographs from our Dinner with Barbara Kingsolver.

    Visit Barbara's website to find out more. Follow Barbara on Facebook .

    With thanks to Anthony Ehlers for the extra notes and quotations.

    Interviewer: Amanda Patterson. Follow her on PinterestFacebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and Twitter. 

    ~~~

    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

    The Writers Write Interview - Priscilla Holmes

    I first met Priscilla Homes about seven years ago when she attended our Writers Write courses in Johannesburg. She now hosts writing groups in Cape Town, where she lives with her husband, Jack. 

    She is the author of The Children of Mer, under the pseudonym P.J. Holmes, and she has published two other collaborative works of fiction, Women Like Us and The Man With The Blue Eyes. Her new book, Now I See You  has just been released.

    The Writers Write Interview 

    Author: Priscilla Holmes
    Date of Birth: 22 June
    Date of Interview: 30 October 2014
    Place: The San Deck, The Sandton Sun Hotel, Sandton, Johannesburg
    The BookNow I See You
    The Interviewer: Amanda Patterson
    1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
    Rhett Butler - the ultimate Alpha Male Hero. I grew up dreaming about him. I also like Sir Thomas Cromwell, from Hilary Mantel's books. He is a perfect anti-hero. He is powerful, but flawed, intelligent, yet devious. I like strong male characters.  

    2. What is your most treasured possession?
    My mother's wedding ring, which I have had incorporated into my own rings.  

    3. Which living person do you most dislike?
    Tony Blair. He is a nasty, slimy, little man who has changed the face of Britain. He oozes pseudo-sincerity. If I were on a desert island with him, I'd stone him to death with a coconut. 

    4. What is your greatest fear?
    Something terrible happening to my children.

    5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
    Jack, my current husband.  

    Priscilla Homes and Amanda Patterson

    6. What is your greatest regret?
    I would have to say not having started writing sooner. I have a degree in adult education and spent most of my life developing training and management skills in companies in South-East Asia and Australia.

    7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
    Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind, of course. She was strong, powerful, selfish - a beautifully flawed heroine. I would also have loved to be Anne Boleyn, though she was not a fictional character. I am fascinated by the way she kept King Henry VIII dangling for seven years. 

    8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
    Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre.

    9. What is your favourite journey?
    Walking 200km in Umbria, Italy. It had a huge impact on me. It was beautiful and I never thought I could walk that far.

    10. What is your favourite quotation?
    Carpe Diem.

    11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
    Dogs. I am allergic to cats. I don't have a dog now, because we've been travelling so much. I have plans for another dog, though. It will be a small, fluffy thing and I shall name it Crumpet. 

    12. What do you most value in a friend?
    A sense of humour, loyalty, and sincerity.

    13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
    The energy and ambition to get what they want.

    14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
    This one - Now I See You. It haunted me. It started out as a true story, and I have put so much time and energy into it. I have done lots of research over the years. When I first interviewed people for the story, the policewoman I got to know in the Eastern Cape was a constable. She is now a brigadier in Stellenbosch. She was at the launch in Cape Town. I worked hard to make the fictional characters as truthful as possible.

    15. What are your favourite names?
    Lucinda for a girl.
    Mark or Luke for a boy. (I like the biblical names)

    16. What do you do as a hobby?
    I got to gym. I walk on Table Mountain. I love attending concerts and theatre. I love music. And of course, reading. 

    17. Which are your three favourite books?

    1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
    2. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
    3. Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel.

    18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
    I go to coffee shops. I watch people. I observe body language. I eavesdrop. If I have to catch a plane, I get to the airport early. I watch people having fights. I keep newspaper headlines that interest me. I am always on red alert for stories.

    19. What is your Writing Routine?
    I am a morning writer. I write about four hours a day. I get up early and write from 6am to 8am. Then I go to the gym and deal with the world. I write again from 10 to 12pm. When I was re-writing Now I See You, I rented a hotel room and finished the book there. I had too many distractions at home. I also write on the computer, but if I'm writing something sensitive, I write it in longhand before I type it.

    20. What are your Top Writing Tips?

    1. Keep a notebook with you at all times. Especially, keep one by the bed.  
    2. Always be on the lookout for stories. They are everywhere. Read newspapers.
    3. You must write. It's no use waiting or wanting to write. The more you write the better you get at it.  
    4. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be frightened to follow stories. And really listen to people's answers. Write these incidents down as soon as you get home.
    5. Go to book launches. Go for walks. Live. Observe. Listen. Write.
    6. It's important for me to have my writing groups. It keeps me writing. I think it's a good idea for any writer. You get to have deadlines, and you learn from other people's mistakes and their successes.
    7.  Read. It's the most important part of my writing life. It keeps you connected. It keeps you critical.
    8. You need a structure - a plot, even though it may not always end up exactly as you've plotted it.
    9. Exercise your writing muscle and your imagination as much as possible.
    10. You need perspective when you write. It takes time. I could not have written this book when I was younger.

    Visit Priscilla's website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

     Amanda Patterson and Priscilla Homes

    Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Follow her on PinterestFacebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and Twitter. 

    ~~~

    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

    The Writers Write Interview - Jassy MacKenzie

    Jassy Mackenzie is a South African author who has written seven novels. She lives in Johannesburg with her partner, Deon, two horses and two cats. She writes crime and erotica and still wrestles a day job. She is witty and kind and has trouble saying no to carrot cake. 

    She says it’s funny that when she wrote crime no one ever asked if she had killed someone, but now that she writes erotica everyone asks about her sex life. She explains how she did her research, "I find lots of information on the internet. I read a book written by a mistress, which was very educational. I did have a similar background to Emma Caine, the protagonist in Folly." 

    About her latest book, Breathless: "All of us have been involved with abuse in different forms. I wanted to show how easy it is to be manipulated into believing it was your fault. I wanted to show a toxic relationship."

    The Writers Write Interview 

    Author: Jassy Mackenzie
    Date of Birth: 19 May 1970
    Date of Interview: 3 September 2014
    Place: Lonehill, Johannesburg
    The Book: Breathless

    1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
    Jack Reacher.

    2. What is your most treasured possession?
    My immortal nail file. I do a lot of nail filing when I think of words.

    3. Which living person do you most dislike?
    Anyone who seeks to gratify their own needs at the expense of other people or the environment.

    4. What is your greatest fear?
    Spiders.

    5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
    Deon, my partner. 

    6. What is your greatest regret?
    Having only one life. 

    7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
    The assassin in Kill your boss by Shane Kuhn.  

    8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
    A short history of almost everything by Bill Bryson.

    9. What is your favourite journey?
    Any road trip. 

    10. What is your favourite quotation?
    It is from The Lord of the Rings: All that is gold does not glitter 

    11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
    Cats. 

    12. What do you most value in a friend?
    Empathy.

    13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
    The ability to be artfully manipulative.

    14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
    I always love the most recent, because it is freshest in my mind and I have a very special place in my heart for Folly because it was so much fun. I started writing crime because I was reading a lot of crime. I did Folly because I wanted to try something different. Romance is more fun than thrillers. Falling in love is so enjoyable. 

    15. What are your favourite names?
    For a writer: the first one that comes conveniently to mind that doesn’t begin with the same letter as any other character’s name and that suits the character. 

    16. What do you do as a hobby?
    I ride horses and bicycles and, occasionally, I run. I also love to cook.

    17. Which are your three favourite books?

    I am going to choose three South African authors instead of books. They are Fiona Snyckers, Kgebetli Moele, and Louis Greenberg.

    18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
    It is impossible to say. Ideas don’t come when they are called, they pop into you head when they feel like it.

    19. What is your Writing Routine?
    I get in front of my computer and I stay there. I prefer writing in the morning, but I write whenever I can. 

    20. What are your Top Writing Tips?

    1. Try to write at least two or three times a week.
    2. Set a word target per session. Don’t stop until you’ve reached it.  
    3. Find something in the writing to get excited about.  
    4. If you need to make notes, do it before you start your session so that you know where you are going and won’t get stuck. 
    5. Try to keep going no matter what because it is always easier to rewrite. 

    Visit Jassy MacKenzie's Website to find out more. Follow Jassy on Facebook and Twitter.

    Interviewer: Mia Botha (Follow her on Pinterest and Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter)

    ~~~~~

    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

    The Writers Write Interview - Máire Fisher

    Maire Fisher is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Cape Town. Birdseye is her first novel.

    The Writers Write Interview 

    Author: Máire Fisher
    Date of Birth: 17 May 1958
    Date of Interview: 11 September 2014 (via email)
    Place: Somewhere in Cape Town
    The BookBirdseye
    1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
    That’s almost impossible to answer. When I was a young girl, I’d have answered in a flash, Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. Now it changes from year to year.

    2. What is your most treasured possession?
    My computer files packed with pictures of my husband Rob and my two sons, Dan and Kieran. 

    3. Which living person do you most dislike?
    There’s something about Vladimir Putin that gives me the deepest of deep creeps. But he has stiff competition from people like Sarah Palin, Anders Breivik, several of our cabinet ministers … the frackers and the tar sands miners and the mineral sands mining companies… Can’t say I like those people too much…

    4. What is your greatest fear?
    Having something happen to one of my children. That’s a crippling thought.

    5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
    I’m going to answer this with a Who: my husband Rob Fisher and a What: really great books – a great beginning, a solid middle and a totally satisfying ending. 

    6. What is your greatest regret?
    These are such difficult questions! I suppose in the context of this interview it would be not getting a novel written earlier than I did … so many reasons, so many excuses!

    7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
    I’d love to be someone like Thursday Next of SpecOps-27. Librarian, mother and Jasper Fforde’s Literary Detective who works for Jurisfiction (the policing agency within Fiction). Thursday Next was responsible for unravelling the mystery of Jane Eyre’s disappearance from the pages of Charlotte Brontë’s classic. After working tirelessly on The Eyre Affair she found herself Lost in a Good Book, deep in The Well of Lost Plots dealing with Something Rotten, and (not to be boastful), First Among Sequels. Things became worrisome when it was learned that One of our Thursdays is Missing, and that she might very well be The Woman Who Died a Lot

    8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
    Bel Canto, Pride and Prejudice, my ragged and falling-apart-at-the-seams collection of Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels. I tend to re-read poetry more than I do fiction: Sonnets to the Portuguese, anything by Christina Rossetti, the wonderful selection of South African poetry published by Colleen Higgs of Modjaji. Oh, and books on writing too. Stephen King’s On Writing,  Writing down the Bones and others by Natalie Goldberg, The Creative Writing Coursebook, one of my old favourites, edited by Julia Bell  and Paul Magrs . The moment I send this off, I know I’ll think of a dozen more. (And, once again, I can’t limit my answer to one.)

    9. What is your favourite journey?
    Metaphorically? The one I embark on when I start a novel (hoping to travel from that great beginning and onwards). Literally, and very much part of my life now: driving the coast road on my way home to Fish Hoek – sea to the left of me, mountains to the right and beyond. And then – going back many years to when Rob and I went sailing – our first ocean crossing on the gentle and benign Atlantic. 

    10. What is your favourite quotation?
    When I was in Std 5 (Grade 7) I saw Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet with Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. I can’t tell you how many times I read that play! Often enough to go beyond knowing ‘But soft what light from yonder window breaks’.

    Romeo
    If I profane with my unworthiest hand
    This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
    My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
    To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.
    Juliet
    Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
    Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
    For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
    And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss. 

    And of course: ‘Oh happy dagger, this is thy sheath, there rust and let me die…’ Each time I read it, I make a good dent in a box of tissues. 

    11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
    Dogs in general. Irish Terriers in particular. 

    12. What do you most value in a friend?
    Loyalty.

    13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
    Generosity.

    14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
    Well, that’s an easy one: Birdseye, my first and only thus far..

    15. What are your favourite names?
    Kate for a girl. (I used to love the name Dearbháil – or Dervla – but couldn’t imagine trying to explain the spelling of that … Máire has been enough of a battle at times…). Kieran and Daniel for boys (and Liam and Finn).

    16. What do you do as a hobby?
    I love watch a good movie, or, more and more often these days, a good series. Borgen is my absolute favourite at the moment! Reading of course. And I wish I could say walking, which I am trying to do more often. I used to sew, miles and miles of cotton knit on my overlocker, but that was more to clothe a bunch of little boys, than because I have any knack for it. 

    17. Which are your three favourite books?

    1. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
    2. The Blind Assassin by Kate Atkinson
    3. My Children Have Faces by Carol Campbell or The Spiral House by Claire Roberts.

    18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
    From free-writing. And in the shower, after I’ve woken up, in those half-asleep, half-awake moments, standing under the warm water. 

    19. What is your Writing Routine?
    I love to write in large chunks of time when I go away for a week’s retreat to write at the Grail in Kleinmond. Those are times when I can really leave my home work at home. Otherwise I’ll take myself off to a café and write for a whole morning. I am trying hard to get rid of the hang-up that I have about my desk at home. Whenever I sit there to do my own writing, I can literally hear other people’s work whispering, “But what about me? What about us?” One of the drawbacks of being a freelance editor… 

    20. What are your Top Writing Tips?

    1. Freewriting Nothing (for me) beats freewriting. Getting into that zone where your pen follows that first thought and letting it take you wherever it wants to go. So set your timer, grab a prompt and write. 
    2. & Focussed Freewriting When I have material that needs to be added in, I freewrite. If I know Jack needs to kiss Susie in a certain scene then I’ll make my prompt ‘In which Jack kisses Susie’. How will he do it? I’m not sure. Where? Also not sure. Will he even manage to pluck up the courage to do so? I’m not sure. All I know is, that’s my prompt and somehow, by the time I’ve written that scene – in a focussed freewrite, the Jack/Susie kiss will have come a long way, and any manner of interesting things might have happened along the way. (Will Susie let Jack kiss her? I don’t know. Will she slap him? I don’t know. Will Jack turn out to be the absolutely worst kisser in the whole world…? I’ll freewrite it and see.)
    3. Writing dates I like writing alone, and do so often, but a good way of committing a set time to writing is to make writing dates. Meet with a friend and write together. Some people hate this idea. I like the energy generated when I write with someone else or in a group.   
    4. Know your characters Whatever you do, get to know your characters. Even if it means that you do some writing that you may not use, this will never be wasted. Create a good bio data sheet. There’s an excellent one in So You Want to Write by Marge Piercy and Ira Wood. But don’t just jot down one word answers. Get your characters to answer you properly. Sometimes you can write for forty-five minutes or more on just one question. And as you ask them to tell you about anything, from the colour of their first car, to their job, to their greatest fear, you’ll get to hear how they speak, how they feel, and sometimes, even, what they don’t want to tell you. 
    5. Read your work aloud. What seems/sounds fine as you write it, often clunks when you read it aloud. Sometimes it’s just one word dragging a sentence down. When you read aloud you’ll hear it.
    6. Don’t judge your work the moment you’ve written it when you’re doing first-draft writing. When I do this, my inner critic is right there, sitting on my shoulder, telling me how awful it is. What I’m writing has hardly broken ground, and already I want to rip it up by its roots. I’d much rather spend that valuable time writing more of my first draft, getting the story down. That early writing time is such fun, and the ideas are so new and fresh. Why ruin it by trying to edit too early?
    7. Don’t forget to breathe (deeply and consciously) and remember to relax your neck and shoulders. Stretch. Get up from your seat and shake!
    8. Trust your writer’s mind. Your mind does wonderful work for you – while you’re sleeping, eating, chatting on the phone, your mind is chipping away at a problem, working on filling a plot hole, asking questions about why Jack wanted to kiss Susie in the first place. Just because they aren’t conscious thoughts, doesn’t mean they aren't happening. Sit down, write ‘In which Jack kisses Susie’ at the top of your page, follow that thought and let your story flow from those back burner thoughts.
    9. Contain your writing. It’s fine to let a few trusted friends/fellow writers in on your story, but try not to tell everyone and his brother what you’re writing. The more you tell your story, the less fresh it will be and (very likely) the less you want to write it. 
    10. Look up Nanowrimo. It’s a fantastic way to generate  first-draft words without becoming too precious about them. 

    Follow Máire on Facebook and Twitter.

     by Anthony Ehlers. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

    ~~~~~

    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

    The Writers Write Interview - Raymond E. Feist

    We had a wonderful time with Raymond E. Feist, the American best-selling fantasy author. 

    Raymond was in South Africa to promote his latest novel, Magician's End. Writers Write has never had a more in demand author. Enthusiastic fans were desperate to meet their legendary literary hero. If we had 500 tickets, we would have sold all of them. Alas, the hotel could only accommodate 80 of us. He charmed the guests and took time to chat with every one of his supporters. Unfortunately, Amanda Patterson was ill, but Mia Botha and Anthony Ehlers took over and everything was a huge success.

    During the live interview, Raymond shared some writing advice. “The hardest thing for a writer to conquer is fear,” Raymond says. This fear is sneaky and insidious and manifests in strange ways. Instead of settling down to write, you decide to reorganise your sock drawer, sharpen your pencils or nip down to the hardware to buy some supplies to fix the garage door. “Get over it,” he says. “You’re never going to write the perfect sentence—but just get something on the page. Start writing.”

    The Writers Write Interview 

    Author: Raymond E. Feist
    Date of Birth: 23 December 1945
    Date of Interview: 23 September 2014
    Place: Big Space, Ten Bompas Road, Dunkeld, Johannesburg
    The Book: Magician's End


    1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
    Robin Hood.

    2. What is your most treasured possession?
    I prefer people over possessions.

    3. Which living person do you most dislike?
    Rush Limbaugh

    4. What is your greatest fear?
    I am terrified that something will happen to my children.

    5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
    My children. 

    6. What is your greatest regret?
    Aristotle said, “A life lived without regrets is not a life worth living.” I do have regrets, a bunch, but I am kind of glad I did everything I did because it brought me to this moment. If you could guarantee that I would I have the exact same two kids, I might go back and change some things. 

    7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
    Huckleberry Finn. 

    8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
    I rarely reread, but I would have to say it is Huckleberry Finn. 

    9. What is your favourite journey?
    I am really liking this one, because it is my first visit to South Africa. But I like the journey into your own consciousness and your own personal growth in an attempt to become a better person.  

    10. What is your favourite quotation?
    “Never attribute to malice what can be satisfactorily explained by stupidity.” It is a Robert A. Heinlein take on a quote by Napoleon. 

    11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
    Cats. 

    12. What do you most value in a friend?
    Constancy.

    13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
    Keen self-awareness.

    14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
    None of them and all of them. 

    15. What are your favourite names?
    Nate for boys, and Molly for girls. 

    16. What do you do as a hobby?
    I don’t have a hobby, but I collect whiskey and sports jerseys.  

    17. Which are your three favourite books?

    1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    2. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
    3. The Last Plantagenets by Thomas B. Costain

    18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
    Who knows?

    19. What is your Writing Routine?
    I start early in the morning after a shower and a cup of coffee. I check my email and I avoid social media. The days when I play World of Warcraft with my daughter online are less productive, but I try to write 10 – 12 pages a day.  

    20. What are your Top Writing Tips?

    1. Write. Get your butt in the seat and your fingers on the keyboard. 
    2. If you are writing without action, your characters are nothing but ‘talking heads’, and if they are ‘talking heads’, they better be saying something important. 
    3. Give your reader someone to care about. 
    4. The hardest thing for a writer to conquer is fear. Get over it. You’re never going to write the perfect sentence—but just get something on the page. Start writing.
    5. Tell the story. Get the editor out of your head—turn the writer loose on the page.
    6. Don’t ever over re-write. You will never get it perfect. 
    7. Be aware of self-indulgence in description—give the reader enough information to get the picture, but don’t overdo it.
    8. When you're writing, the most important thing, your north star, is the ‎ending. Every word you write should be weighed against that, and if it isn't contributing to your ending, it's a sideline and should be omitted. Readers know instinctively when a writer doesn't have an ending yet.
    9. It’s easy and exciting to start a book, but the most important advice is to FINISH it!

    Follow this link for more photographs from the dinner with Raymond E. Feist

    Visit Raymond Feist's Website to find out more. Follow Raymond on Facebook and Twitter.

    Interviewer: Mia Botha (Follow her on Pinterest and Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter)

    ~~~~~

    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

    The Writers Write Interview - Mary Rolph Lamontagne

    I enjoyed meeting up with Mary Rolph Lamontagne again. The last time I saw her was when I was teaching her how to write a book on our Writers Write course in Cape Town. Now, we were meeting because she has written, and successfully published, a beautiful book, EATS. This is the first of five planned cookbooks. Mary has a vibrant blog, a regular guest spot on a cooking show in Canada and she is in the process of creating her own cooking television show.

    EATS: enjoy all the seconds is all about creating recipes from fruits and vegetables that have been poached, pureed, and roasted. It is about taking leftovers and reinventing them into tasty meals. Mary is passionate about the planet, but as she says, 'You don't have to look and act like a hippy to care about this.' If you care about doing one thing every day to make a difference to your environment, your wallet, and yourself, you are Mary's ideal audience. 

    Mary, a Canadian, has called South Africa home for a decade now. She has worked as a food consultant for a hotel group and in many game reserves in the region. The idea for EATS came to her when she was working at a luxury bush camp in Botswana. They were low on stock, leftovers were piling up, and guests were expecting a memorable meal. Using her skills, Mary decided to use what they had, and the guests were more than satisfied.


    The Writers Write Interview 

    Author: Mary Rolph Lamontagne
    Date of Birth: 15 July 1962
    Date of Interview: 1 September 2014
    Place: Club Lounge, The Hyatt, Johannesburg
    The BookEATS
    1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
    Sophie from the novel, Les Malheurs de Sophie by Comtesse de Ségur. She was a naughty girl who always got into trouble and I identified with her.

    2. What is your most treasured possession?
    There is very little I value. After my mother died when I was 11-years-old, all of our photographs were destroyed by water damage in a basement. As an adult all of my possessions, including jewellery and photographs, were stolen. I even had a first draft of a book on my laptop, which was stolen. I had no backup and I had to start again. Now, I back up all my photographs everywhere.

    3. Which living person do you most dislike?
    I don't really dislike anyone. I dislike dishonest behaviour. I have made a conscious decision only to surround myself with people I like and who like me! 

    4. What is your greatest fear?
    Snakes. I had two encounters in Botswana. One was in a shower, and when I looked up, there was a snake on the showerhead. I ran naked and screaming into the middle of the camp. I was literally this 'crazy white woman'. It wasn't even a venomous snake. The second was when a Black Mamba reared up over the front of the Landrover when we were on a game drive. That was terrifying.

    5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
    My husband, Paul Lamontagne. We met when I was 13-years-old. We started seeing each other when I was 16, and we were together for the rest of our lives after three months of dating. 

    6. What is your greatest regret?

    I have three: 

    1. Not believing in myself sooner. My family pushed me and believed in me. 
    2. Not seeing the Berlin Wall come down because we had a five-month-old baby, and it seemed overwhelming at the time. 
    3. I met with three other Marys for sixteen years for a Mary Tea every summer. One of the Marys died just before I finished my book, and I regret that she did not get to see it. Although she was in her 90s, she always inspired me and she supported me.

    7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
    Waldo from 'Where's Waldo'. Nobody ever knows where I am. 

    8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
    Charlotte's Web by EB White.

    9. What is your favourite journey?
    Going to Prout's Neck - a beach in Maine - every summer for almost every summer of my life. This is where we used to have the Mary Tea.

    10. What is your favourite quotation?
    I have two by George Bernard Shaw. 'There is no sincerer love than the love of food.' and 'Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.'

    11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
    Dogs. I like big dogs. I have two. One is a pavement special named Rusty, and I inherited the other, Maddy - a fluffy little white dog who has grown on me. 

    12. What do you most value in a friend?
    Loyalty and truthfulness.

    13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
    Personal strength.

    14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
    EATS. (I did once write a book about maple syrup.) And I am busy with the next in the series, Summer Eats.

    15. What are your favourite names?
    I like traditional names. I like names that can't really be mangled into variations as well. I love Madeleine and Sebastian.

    16. What do you do as a hobby?
    I climb mountains. I love sports. I cycle. I also enjoy sailing. Travelling is a hobby, and discovering something new every day is important to me.

    17. Which are your three favourite books?

    1. The OrphanTrain: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline
    2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
    3. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

    18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
    When I'm walking up mountains, or in planes. I had some of my greatest ideas travelling between South Africa and India.

    19. What is your Writing Routine?
    I write in the mornings. I am up by 7am. I catch up on emails and I spend time on Facebook. Then I write seriously, and I do a lot of research, sometimes for hours. 

    20. What are your Top Writing Tips?

    1. One of the things I learnt on your course was that I could write. I realised that you can learn anything if you want to do it enough.
    2. You have to do a lot of research. Know your stuff.  
    3. If you want to get published, you have to have a very thick skin. I met one publisher who tossed my book aside and asked why he should publish a book about 'rubbish'.
    4. Just write. Don't box yourself in with expectations. You can always cut back afterwards, and don't be afraid to cut out what should not be there.  
    5. You need a routine. You have to put aside a certain amount of time every day if you're serious about writing and getting published. 
    6. Keep a notebook. Write all your ideas down. You will forget if you don't.

    Visit Mary's blog Savour & Save. Follow Mary on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram.

    Interviewer: Amanda Patterson (Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest and Google+ and Tumblr and Twitter.) 

    ~~~

    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate