Friday, 18 October 2013
Interview: Shauney Watson
I have one book published, ‘Country Affairs’, which is to be the first in the ‘Hunterton Series’.
What genre(s) of book do you write?
‘Country Affairs’ is a chick lit set in the Scottish countryside. Initially, I wrote it as a young adult book, but as the characters developed, I began to think of it as a chick lit for any age, even though the protagonist is only sixteen.
What inspired you to write your first book?
‘Country Affairs’ came about when I was studying for exams one day. I was sitting with all my books and notes in front of me, looking for something – anything – to distract myself from spending the next hour reading about mitochondria, or whatever it was I was studying. That ‘thing’ came in the form of a sticky note. I doodled on it two people and a big rickety house – in such detail, I might add, I was suitably distracted for the next hour or so.
This was the start of Elsie, Mags and CalverBay House, the basis of my first ever novel. A few months later, once my exams were finished, I found that sticky note (thank goodness I never tidy up!) and it started me thinking. I’ve always loved telling stories so it was quite natural when one started forming in my head from seeing these two characters standing in front of their house. From there, I wrote the first eighty pages of ‘Country Affairs’ – then, simply called ‘CalverBay’.
I have to explain now, I am a perfectionist. I might procrastinate and leave things messy in my wake, but when I set my mind to something, it has to be done perfectly. For this reason, I became so disheartened when I read over my first eighty pages, I promptly gave up. To me, they were simply awful – nowhere near as good as all those authors I admired. I decided I clearly wasn’t able to write so there was no point in continuing.
About a month later, I was going through some old files on my computer and I came across the ‘CalverBay’ document. Without opening it, I right-clicked and scrolled down to the delete button. When I tell you I was this close to clicking, I mean I literally had my finger hovered over the button. What stopped me, I have no idea, but for some reason I opened the file instead, and started reading. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d first thought – it wasn’t brilliant, but it did have promise.
I carried on writing and, although it got tough and I sometimes lost a bit of faith in myself, I kept going. That was Summer 2012 and here we are, Autumn 2013, and I’ve caught the writing bug for good. I doubt I’ll ever stop!
How long did it take you to write “Country Affairs”?
In all, it took me just over a year to get ‘Country Affairs’ to the point where it could be published. Most of that was editing. It was my first novel so I was (and still am) trying to find my writing voice – for this reason, a lot of editing had to be done just to make the book flow consistently.
What is the working title of your next book(s)?
My next book will follow on from ‘Country Affairs’ and will be called ‘Picture Perfect’. It’s going to have a different set of main characters but it’ll still be set in the same village with all the same villagers. In my head, I see one more book after ‘Picture Perfect’ to round off the series, but who knows, maybe there will be a fourth…
When and why did you begin writing?
It might sound a bit cliché, but I have always loved writing. I’d write stories on scrap pieces of paper as a child and staple them together to turn them into books - I just desperately wanted to be an author, even at that age. This, combined with the endless stories I’ve fallen in love with throughout my life, inspired me to pick up a pen and get writing my own – I wanted a piece of the magic that people get from books to come from my pen.
Do you self-publish your books or go through an agency?
I self-published my book. I considered sending queries to agencies but I’m not, and don’t plan to be, a full time writer. Self-publishing seemed like the most flexible way to get my book to readers. I also know just how hard it is to get your book noticed by an agency and I figured, in the time I would spend waiting for replies, I could be selling eBooks instead.
What part of writing books do you find the hardest?
For me, the hardest part about writing books is the ‘mood factor’. Personally, I have to be ‘in the mood’. The best way to describe this is if I was to think about writing when I’m in the mood, I’d have an urge to grab a pen or the laptop and just write. Doesn’t matter what, I just want to write. The words flow, I don’t really have to try and the end result is always good. However, if I force myself to write when I’m not in the mood, it’s like a car crash in slow motion. And the end result is always awful. Sometimes I’ll go days without being in the mood and that’s the hard part because I feel like I should be writing – especially if I’ve set a deadline for myself. Some writers, I’ve found, can write every day for hours at a time. For me, it’s just not that easy unfortunately.
What do you do in your spare time?
Aside from writing, I look after a lot of horses, so in my spare time I ride. I live in the countryside so it’s not difficult to just hop on a horse and go for a gallop somewhere. I guess it’s another thing which inspired my novel!
Who is your favourite author?
It’s difficult to pinpoint my favourite author. I adore Debi Gliori’s children’s books about an Italian family who live in a Scottish castle alongside their dragons, beasts, frozen ancestors and talking spiders. I really do aspire to be able to tell a story like Gliori does. It really doesn’t matter what age you are – these books are so fantastically written, they appeal to anyone. I also love Fiona Walker’s Lodes Valley books – I think she started my love affair with country-set chick lit. Humour, romance, muddy boots and sweaty horses – what could be better?
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t try to be a writer you’re not. It’s all very well reading Pride and Prejudice and deciding you want to write like Jane Austen, but if you don’t naturally write in that style, the end result is going to sound really really bad. Your work will never be outstanding if you’re not true to who you really are. Spend a bit of time finding your own unique voice and I can promise you, your work will sound so much better for it. Trying to copy another writer’s style is only going to cast their shadow over your work, and then it will never stand out.