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Monday, 6 February 2017

Author Q&A - Diane Jeffrey

Being a newly published author is a huge deal - and one that brings with it a whole host of emotions! It's an amazing accomplishment and I love sharing in the excitement and nerves with other writers.

Today, I'm delighted to have Diane Jeffrey on my blog! 

She's talking about her publication journey, the ups and downs, her writing process and what's next for her.

Diane's debut psychological thriller, THOSE WHO LIE 

has just been published by HQ digital and is already climbing the charts and gaining fabulous reviews.

So, over to Diane:

How long did it take to write Those Who Lie?
It took me a year. I'm an English teacher and I'd applied for a year's study leave. My application was accepted. So, I had a year off during which I studied Spanish (a bit.) I had a lot of free time, so I wrote the novel during that year, and then it took me another year to rewrite it several times and get it into some sort of presentable shape.

What was your first draft like?  
It was organised, but it didn't read well. The language was stilted, it wasn't suspenseful enough and, as a few agents pointed out with their rejection letters, the "voice" needed work. This prompted the rewrites. 

Can you tell us your journey to publication?
I'd tried to get books published before. The first time it was a Chick Lit novel, which I wrote while my son was a baby. At the time, submissions had to be sent out by post, and from France that was complicated! My parents sent me loads of stamps for the return postage! Then I wrote the texts for a couple of children's picture books. I was unsuccessful in getting those published, too. In the end, as I read a lot of mystery and crime novels, I decided to try writing a psychological thriller.
     When I first sent it out to five or six agents, it was unanimously rejected, but two of the agents took the time to give me feedback instead of just sending back the standard rejection emails. When I'd gone through the manuscript and edited and amended heavily, I sent out the sample chapters and synopsis again, and more or less the same thing happened. This went on for a while... 
     Finally, I rewrote the first three chapters, changing the tense in two of them - the chapters that take place in the present day. I changed quite a lot of other things, too, as I felt that I could really hear my main character's voice in my head when writing in the present tense. Then I tried one more time and sent out to another five or six agents and HQ / Harper Collins. I got three requests for the full manuscript! But I'd only rewritten the first three chapters and needed to change the tense for over half of the book!
     So, I went on holiday to the Lake District last summer, armed with Mac (my laptop), got up early every day and spent about two hours every morning rewriting the book yet again! In the evenings, I got another one or two hours in while the rest of my family were watching the Olympics on replay! When I came home (to Lyon, France), I sent off the manuscript and about ten days later, "the call" came from HQ. 

How do you fit your writing around your family and work commitments?
Hmmm. I haven't managed to yet. I've written down notes and the plot for another psychological thriller, but I'm working full-time this year and so with work and looking after my three kids, I haven't managed to squeeze in much time for writing. So far, I've written the prologue and about half of the first chapter! That has taken me about three months! I also do about 5 hours of sport a week, so I have to fit writing around that, too. The problem with being a teacher is that there is often work to be done in the evenings... I might make progress during the Easter and summer holidays!

What do you need in order to write? 
Ideally, a clean house! I do the housework before I sit down to write if it's not clean and tidy! (Terrible OCD!) Peace and quiet, tea, coffee, chocolate. And my dog at my feet and sometimes my cat on my lap. In the winter, I like to work at the table by the log fire in the living / dining room. If my family are at home, I now work at my desk in my bedroom. The desk used to be in my office, but it's one of the few rooms in the house in which I've never worked(!), so when I was editing Those Who Lie, my husband and son took my desk upstairs with the printer and all my dictionaries and reference books and I'm much happier working in my bedroom. I can spread out pages all over the bed and no one disturbs me up there!

What’s your favourite stage of the writing process?
The best bit was the Author Amends. I was dreading it. I'd had two rounds of edits. That was very satisfying because my editor's comments were spot on and I could see the book improving as I went through them. But it was extremely hard work and stressful working to a deadline. I thought the Author Amends was going to be more of the same. But the copy editor was brilliant, too, and amazed me with the things she picked up. I really just had to agree or disagree (she was invariably right, so that was easy). Then I had to add the author bio and the acknowledgements. And that was it! I would never have to read my book again! That was such a great feeling!

What’s your least favourite?
The rejection emails were soul-destroying. I'm very grateful to the agents who took the time to give me personalised feedback. Without that, I might have given up. I think when you write to try and get published, there is a lot of self-doubt. And when you receive rejection upon rejection, the message you tell yourself is: my best isn't good enough. It is very hard to shine your way out of the slush pile and I took every single rejection very, very badly. On the bright side, I hope this has prepared me to a certain extent for the bad reviews! 

Why do you want to write – what’s your motivation?
I've always wanted to be a published author. When I was at school, I wrote for fun or to enter competitions, but being a published author was my childhood dream. If it hadn't worked, I would still be writing, though. Short stories, silly poems for friends, emails, letters of complaint... anything! It's just something I've always done and enjoyed.

What are you most looking forward to as a published author?
I've arranged to meet a few authors I'm in touch with online later this year and I'm soooo excited about that. And I'd love to meet my editor and the team at HQ.  But other than that, right now it's all very recent and I'm just enjoying the moment. 

Five things you can’t live without…
My family (my husband, our three children and our dog) - they are my world, chocolate, beer and sport (swimming, mainly, and a bit of running) and, of course, books!

What’s next for you?
At some point, I'll knuckle down and write this second book and see if it's any good, and my dream would really come true if one day I could hold one of my novels in my hands as a paperback. Well, I say hold in my hands, but I would probably strap it to my stomach and walk around it with it under my T-shirt during the day and sleep with it in on my pillow next to my head at night...

Thanks so much, Diane! It was great to find out more about your journey. Good luck with Those Who Lie - here's hoping it's as successful as it deserves to be. And, get going on that second novel! I'll look forward to chatting to you about the second-novel syndrome - haha!

You can link-up with Diane on 
Twitter - here
Facebook - here

THOSE WHO LIE is available to buy - here