Wednesday, 4 November 2015

A Notepad and a Dream - Cressida McLaughlin

In a series I call 'A Notepad and a Dream', I interview up-and-coming authors about their books, their writing process and their future plans. If you have a book shortly due for release and would like to take part, or know someone else who would, please let me know via the 'Contact Me' page above.

In this episode of 'A Notepad and a Dream' episode, we'll be meeting contemporary romance author Cressida McLaughlin.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your novel?

I originally come from London, but moved to Norwich to study English Literature at the University of East Anglia. I fell in love with the city and never went back. I’ve always loved books, but was only ever interested in reading them until I had the opportunity to try a free Adult Education course. I picked creative writing, and caught the bug.

Like lots of authors, my route to publication has been long and littered with rejections, so I’m over the moon to be approaching publication date for my first novel. It’s called 'A Christmas Tail', and was first published as four eBook novellas during 2015. It tells the story of Cat Palmer, who gets fired from her job at a nursery after taking a puppy into work, and decides to set up a dog walking business in the seaside community where she lives.

Have you always wanted to write romance novels?

I love reading all genres, and am a huge fan of a good crime novel, but when it comes to writing I love the will-they-won’t-they element, and the challenge of creating that and making it work over the course of a whole book. There’s nothing more satisfying than reading a really hard-won happy ending, and that feeling is multiplied when you write one. There’s also so much more to the stories than the romance element – there are no restrictions on plot or style or humour, and I love that freedom.

The success of romance novels is typically dependent on the chemistry between the central characters. Is creating this chemistry something that you've had to practise at length in order to perfect, or something that comes naturally to you?

I think it’s a mixture of both, but it’s something that I’ve got better at through years of writing, and also reading other books that do it brilliantly. It’s one of the most fun aspects of creating the story, keeping the tension alive so that it keeps readers interested and doesn’t become too predictable. It can be a real challenge, but it’s one that I love and don’t think I’ll ever get bored of.

What advantages do you think the traditional model of publishing offers you over those who might be thinking about the indie/self-publishing option?

There were a few occasions on my publication journey when I thought I might try self-publishing, but I never went ahead with it and held out for a traditional deal.

I think for me it’s having all the support that comes with traditional publishing; a great editor who values your writing and spends time helping you make it better, the marketing and publicity teams who know exactly how and where to promote your books, and then of course that amazing moment when you get to hold a copy of your own book, complete with pages and a cover and that great book smell, and know that it will be in bookshops.

I know you can buy in elements of this when you’re self-publishing – editors, cover-designers, publicity – and some people love the autonomy of being able to do everything themselves, but over the last year I have really loved, and valued, having an amazing team who have worked really hard on my book and have helped it to look and be the best it can be.

What would you say is your main strength as an author?

I think one of my main strengths is being open to ideas and prepared to learn. You never stop learning as a writer, whether that’s from editors, agents, other authors or readers, it’s important to be willing to take comments on board and work hard to improve. I want to keep writing, and being published, for years to come, and I want each book to be better than the last.

What will your next project be?

I’m writing my second book at the moment. It’s called The Canal Boat CafĂ© and will be another romance novel, again published in four eBook novellas before the paperback comes out next summer. It’s great to be exploring new characters and a brand new setting, and I hope readers enjoy reading it as much as I’m enjoying writing it.

Cressida McLaughlin will be hosting the launch of her book at Waterstones Norwich at 7:30pm on 4 November 2015.

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