What, Why and How I Write …

url Recently, I was asked by fellow writer Juliet  Wilson ( left) to take part in a blog tour on the theme of What, Why and How I Write. I was delighted to be asked by Juliet because she is a wonderful poet, an enthusiast of all things natural, a great writing tutor and generally a lovely person who is two thirds through writing her first novel.

Okay, this is how the blog tour works … a participating author answers four questions about their writing on their own blog, and then nominates another couple of writers to answer the same questions on their blog some time later, in turn, they nominate further participants and so on.

Here’s Juliet’s contribution from last week:  http://craftygreenpoet.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/writers-blog-tour.html

Juliet nominated me and Nasim at velogubbed and now it’s our turn. Here are my answers …

What am I working on?

I am in the process of finishing writing the sequel to bestselling  Food of Ghosts, the working title of which is Double Lives, Double Deaths. For those of you who don’t know, Food of Ghosts is a mystery crime novel set on Tarawa, a tiny remote  island  in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. My detective is DS Louisa Townsend.


In Double Lives, Double Deaths,  DS Townsend is visiting Fiji for a conference. There’s a murder  (of course!)  and Louisa gets caught up in the search for the killer. Double Lives, Double Deaths is due out in October and although I am way behind with my edits I am hoping,  fingers crossed, I will get everything finished  very soon and the book will be ready on time 🙂

How does my novel differ from other novels in the crime genre?

My DS Louisa Townsend crime novels  are set in remote faraway countries in the Pacific. Why there?  I have always been fascinated by foreign places and travel and spent some ten years living and working in the Pacific area. I was so blown away by the natural beauty of the region and the wonderful generous nature of the peoples that I wanted to share with others the uniqueness and quirkiness of the countries. However, there was also a darker side to life in these paradisiacal places, and I wanted to write as much about that as the good stuff. So, hopefully, the reader will not only get a sense of what it is like to live in these wonderful faraway places when reading my novels, but will also glean a sense of the darkness that lies beneath the surface of the beauty.

My detective Louisa Townsend is different from your usual detective sergeant in that she suffers from a secret obsessive compulsive disorder. She is also half Scottish and half Kiribati, which means she has one foot in both worlds but fully belongs to neither. She is feisty and fearless yet vulnerable – a maverick “outsider”.

Suva market, Fiji

Suva market, Fiji

picnic at nature reserve with me and number one son, Viti Levu, Fiji

picnic at nature reserve with number one son, in Viti Levu, Fiji

Fiji sunset :)

Fiji sunset 🙂

As soon as the edits for Double Lives, Double Deaths are finished I will start my next novel,  The Brown  Paper Package. The Brown Paper Package is the sequel to The Blue Suitcase. The Blue Suitcase is an historic fiction and is the story of a German Christian girl, Antonia, growing up in Nazi Germany. The novel finishes in 1947 and is inspired by my mother’s life.

ref=sib_dp_kd   mum's house, wlen, poland
The Brown Paper Package  is set in Leith, Edinburgh, and begins where The Blue Suitcase finishes, with  Antonia leaving Germany for Scotland. It tells the story of a middle class, well educated, catholic German girl,  who’s been forcibly expelled from her home, who falls in love with a working-class, uneducated, protestant  Scottish laddie ( my dad!). In other words it’s about poverty and culture clashes, perseverance, survival and love.

mum DAD

Why do I write what I do?

I love reading crime fiction and have many fond memories of staying up to the wee hours, gripped by a crime story, unable to put my book down until I had discovered who had done it and why – and that they were safely locked up! I believe a good crime novel can tell us as much about the dark side of society as any literary novel, and I am fascinated by the dark side of society – I think most of us are.  When I started writing it seemed natural to me that I should write a crime novel.

My historical fiction novels are based on my mother’s life. I was inspired to write the books  after finding her private letters and diaries. Her story is both shocking and sad and compelling and inspirational.

How does my writing process work?

I  like to write  Monday to Friday  for about 5-6 hours a day. I have weekends off and I also take holidays.  Some weeks I get more writing done than others  – I wouldn’t be behind with my edits, otherwise 😉 – but that’s okay because writing is sometimes like that.  That said, I do always try to write something every day Monday to Friday.

“The one ironclad rule is that I have to try. I have to walk into my writing room and pick up my pen every weekday morning.”
Anne Tyler

Okay, that’s my four answers.  If you have any questions about my answers, do ask!

Meanwhile my nominees are:

Louisa Dang, author of a collection of short stories, Up Pops The Devil; a great wee  guide on how to publish your e-book, Publishing and Selling Your ebook on Kindle; and  the wonderfully quirky and engaging Rest and be Thankful; and the soon-to-be-released YA novel Rain Catcher! http://southernwritersnetwork.blogspot.co.uk/

ref=la_B00DP96I0E_1_1 ref=la_B00DP96I0E_1_2 ref=la_B00DP96I0E_1_3


And Natalie Scott , author of the wonderfully evocative Berth, Voices of The Titanic.


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22 Responses to What, Why and How I Write …

  1. Ruth F Hunt says:

    Wow! You are unstoppable! I love the titles for your new books and love that The Blue Suitcase will have a sequel, great stuff, both books I’ll be get buying, of course. Interesting interview, Marianne, I try and write each day, but don’t do as many hours as you do. Maybe TSF would be finished now, if I put some more hours in?! 🙂
    Good luck with the edits!!

    • Awe thanks, Ruth. And I should have said, like you, I try and write every day! Some days, even though I sit down and start i don’t get very far – sometimes I can even seem to go backwards. Thanks again for good luck! 🙂

  2. Hi Marianne, thanks for taking part, I enjoyed reading your answers and look forward to reading these sequels!

  3. Thanks, Juliet. It’s been a nice way to get back into doing blog posts after a wee break 🙂

  4. I’m looking forward to the sequel to Food of Ghosts, Marianne! And I always enjoy your photography too. Nice to see you blogging again. 🙂

    • Thanks kindly, Belinda 🙂
      ps I’ve just found a heap of pics from Fiji I didn’t remember I had, which is a very handy for refreshing my memory about what life was like there. I’ll spare you them – for now 😉

  5. Louisa Dang says:

    Marianne, I’m also excited that sequels are in the works — and great titles! One of the things I like best about your writing is your fearlessness in exploring the darker side of society. Really looking forward to reading your new “installments”!

    • Thanks so much, Louisa, and I’m glad you like the titles. I’ve been using them as working titles for ages and for better or worse they just seem to have stuck! Look forward to reading your answers soon 🙂

  6. Hi Marianne

    Thank you for sharing your secrets on the writing process, and for nominating me. As I don’t have a blog yet (you’ve encouraged me to set one up!) I’ll share a few thoughts here:

    I admire your disciplined approach to writing, spending 5 or 6 hours a day. I can relate to this in the way I work, but for me it depends on what I am working on. When I was writing ‘Berth’, there was so much research involved in the process that I found myself being led by it in the way I approached the collection. I still have a shelf with all my Titanic books resting there, little fluorescent Post-Its sticking out from between the pages. Earmarked memories. I found myself setting daily targets to achieve in terms of what to read and write to move the process forward. I was also working towards the deadline of the centenary, so this was paramount.

    Equally though, and often simultaneously, I love the freedom that observational writing brings. There are no constraints on material, other than the way in which what you see and perceive are conveyed. A favourite poem I wrote was penned whilst looking through the window of a train. Just observing a brief and slightly blurred moment in time.

    I will say more when I set up my blog – a summer project! Looking forward to your sequel very much.


    • Hi Natalie, lovely to hear from you and good luck with the blog. It’s fascinating to hear your approach to writing. I can identify with being led astray by research – when I researched into the history of Silesia ( for The Blue Suitcase) I wanted too dig deeper and deeper, way beyond what I needed. For a project such as Berth, you must have needed such a lot of discipline and very good organisational skills, never mind the creativity to bring to life in a fresh way a part of history the reading public feel very familiar with. You’ve done such a great job without being in any way sentimental (which maybe could have been a temptation).

      I suppose I am in writing mode at the moment, which is why I am focussing on getting the words down rather than anything else. There are times when I spend les time on this part of the process. Other than when I need to do research ( if I need to) , I can also take time off to just let my ideas and thoughts stew in my head, and , yes, observe life passing by – I really believe in Julia Cameron’s advice about having a walk every day too. It’s all part of the process. Daily targets sound like a good idea, although I tend to stick to a time target, if I get behind one day I try and catch up the next. I’m really looking forward to reading more in your blog! Thanks again 🙂

  7. Wendy Clarke says:

    Thanks for asking me to follow in the blog tour – so sorry I couldn’t as I’d already been part of it last year. I am so impressed with your committed writing process – mine is all over the place, which is probably why I’ve yet to start my novel! So glad you’re doing a sequel to ‘The Blue Suitcase’ – I really enjoyed it (as did my husband and mum). Looking forward to reading Natalie’s leg of the blog tour – she was my first tutor at Writing Classes and I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her and the lovely Anne.

    • Natalie Scott says:

      Hi Wendy – that’s such a lovely thing to say, thank you. I’ll read your blog post with interest. Good luck with your writing! Natalie

  8. No probs, Wendy. I think I maybe sounded more organised than I am – ha ha ha! What I should have said is that while I like to write for five/six hours a day I don’t always manage it. I do like to sit down and start, though, even if I don’t always finish ;o) I’m looking forward to Natalie’s post too. I find it fascinating to hear how others go about this business of writing. You must be so pleased to have finished your serial. Yeh hey! I am just going to go over to your blog now and read all about how you did that!

  9. Kendra says:

    Hi Marianne,

    I really enjoyed your blog post, and am thrilled to hear that the sequel to Food of Ghosts is nearly finished. I look forward to reading it. I’m also excited to hear that there will be a sequel to The Blue Suitcase. I always wanted to follow Antonia to Edinburgh and find out what happened to her there.

    Best wishes,

    • Well, hello Kendra! Lovely to hear from you and thanks for your enthusiasm 🙂 How is all your writing going? Any news on your novel???

      • Kendra says:

        Hi Marianne,
        My writing is going well, thanks. I’ve sent the novel off to a few agents and am now waiting to hear back. I’m also looking into the possibility of doing an MA in Creative Writing. Do you have any thoughts on this? It would be interesting to hear what other people think of them. I know you don’t need a degree to write novels but I just thought it could be interesting, and also possibly a useful way to get into other writerly professions. Any thoughts, advice etc on this would be much appreciated.

        • Oh how exciting, Kendra. Good luck, and hang on in there with the waiting, I know it can take ages to hear back from anyone but that don’t let that put you off – in publishing everything seems to take forever! Regards an MA, I loved doing my MA in creative writing. I did it Newcastle Uni – all the lecturers that were there when I did it ( online) have since gone so i dont know what it is like now. It was a great experience. I learned heaps of stuff about the writing process and creativity and my own writing, which developed and flourished. It made me take my writing seriously and made me realise I could write and what is involved in writing. When i did my MA there were only about half a dozen unis in the UK doing MAs, now there seem to be hundreds. So, my only words of caution would be research, research research. Decide what you want to focus on ( some courses are not very practical) and ask around and say if you can find forums that talk about what the courses are really like etc. We have had MA students take courses with writingclasses.co.uk who told us they were learning more an getting more feedback on our short ten week courses than they were on their MA course! Its a lot of money, so you want t make sure you get the most out of it for you. Let us know how you get on with the book and what you decide to do about the MA 🙂

          • ps regards an MA, don’t necessarily be attracted to “big writer names”, just because someone can write very well, even beautifully, doesn’t mean they are good tutors!

          • Kendra says:

            Hi Marianne,
            Thanks for that–it is good advice! I will definitely research them well (had not thought to look at online forums) before accepting any offers. I will let you know how I get on with both the book and the MA. I’m glad to hear that yours was a positive experience! 🙂 I thought that having an MA might perhaps open up other doors to me as well (like teaching, editing etc) as well as helping me with my writing.
            Yes, one of the questions I keep asking is if the tutors read and comment on assignments (that is something I found invaluable at writingclasses.co.uk). I have had varying answers so far!

  10. good luck again and sorry about all the typos in my messages – I need to make the font on my screen bigger or get better glasses ;o)

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