Dear readers, I’m writing to apologise.
When I asked you to join my mailing list I promised you a new book – True Blue, very soon. I also said I would send you regular news about my novels. I’ve failed to do either.
On 9th March 2023 it’s the first ‘birthday’ – the one year anniversary of the day I published my second book, Deepest Aqua. I was nervous about its reception but I’ve had great reviews and I’m grateful for all the messages and emails asking for the next instalment in Tracy’s and Charlotte’s lives. As you have been so kind as to sign up to this list – therefore indicating you want to know more about my writing – I want to be upfront with you about what has prevented me from getting the new book to you . . . yet.
My third book in the True Colours series, True Blue, takes up Charlotte’s story after she has separated from Graham and is making a happy life for herself living in Puddlington and working at a friendly veterinary practice. We meet her again at Heathrow airport. She’s just flown in from Zephyr, where she had met Marvel for a lovely holiday, worked on her tan and tested the waters to see if her friendship with Chix could or should turn into something more. Her best friend Ali has come to pick her up and wants to know all the juicy gossip.
You might recall that this holiday is referenced at the end of Endless Turquoise where Tracy watches her brother dancing with a beautiful dark-haired girl. I’m not giving anything away (assuming you have all read Deepest Aqua) when I say we know that Charlotte and Chix are destined to be only friends. So what is next for Charlotte’s love life? And what’s going on with the lovely, funny, talented Ali – because she’s behaving in a rather odd way.
The reason I start True Blue this way is that I conceptualised these three books as a series. I like the idea that when someone reads, Endless Turquoise, they can decide if they want to go on to read Charlotte’s or Tracy’s story first – depending on which of my heroines they are most curious about and what happens next! I think it’s a cool idea but it involves quite a lot of plotting and, as I want the stories to be enjoyed as standalones as well, I have to be careful not to include too many ‘spoilers’.
All this to say I’ve plotted out True Blue and the book is written – in my head. I know how it ends, and I know where the action takes place and I’ve even physically written quite a lot of it – but I need to write the rest and really flesh out the conversations and characters, lovely locations and important interactions that make a book fun to read and write. And the way for me to do that is to go on an emergency writing streak to get it out of me.
I’ve listened to podcasts and articles about writing and it seems most authors are either plotters or ‘pantzers’ (which means writing free form and letting the story and characters take you where they need to go). I appear to be a bit of both. I think it’s because I have a whole series of True Colours books bubbling away at the back of my brain. I also have to write and tell a lot of stories in my ‘day job’ publishing TRUE Anguilla Magazine and releasing TRUE Anguilla TV.
I have a ‘formula’ for writing novels quite quickly. Sometimes I can ‘pantz’ 20–30,000 words in a week (my novels are between 75,000 and 85,000 words long). The words will definitely need a good edit but the story will have been told. My formula is to go somewhere where I can’t get too distracted from doing anything other than writing, so I can immerse myself in it day and night. I need to go somewhere where all my physical needs are taken care of – don’t giggle! When I say all my physical needs are taken care of, what I mean is that it’s comfortable, its beautiful (room/view), I can enjoy good food – without having to think about where and how and I can do some form of exercise. I will let your imagination fill in what that might be. Ha! Actually what is preferable is a nice pool or beach so I can swim. Big bonus would be daily aquarobics! I’ve used this ‘formula’ successfully in a few locations, including Costa Rica, Greece and Saint Maarten.
You are probably thinking, and I wouldn’t blame you, ‘What a prima donna! Doesn’t she write for a living? She can’t go rushing off to a hotel every week to do that.’ And if you see where I write and produce TRUE Anguilla from: a lovely desk with a view of my garden at True HQ or from ‘my’ table in Straw Hat restaurant with amazing vistas of the sea, you will think I am the ultimate in spoilt writers. But there is something about mixing commercial writing and creative writing in the same space that causes a block.
Also, it’s been a tough few years businesswise. Like many who are lucky enough to live in Anguilla, I make my living out of tourism. 100%. We had only just recovered from the battering the island received from hurricane Irma and had enjoyed one solitary good season before the pandemic shut us down (which on the bright side, gave me the incentive and time to publish my first two novels). However, for me and the other tourism-dependent businesses income has been sporadic to say the least. In fact, things looked so depressing that I hit a very low patch and thought I might have to close down my business. Luckily, I had the support of an amazing coach/friend, Beth Barry, who helped me not only keep TRUE Anguilla going but also to invest more into it. And, when 2022 ushered in a new normal and tourism arrivals increased, I was in a position to make hay while the sun shone. I branched out into TV production and was finally able to publish a new edition of my magazine for the first time in nearly three years. Both these enterprises rely on my energy, creativity and storytelling abilities and by the end of 2022, despite incredible support from my colleague Lily Moses, and my photography and videography team, my well was dry and I needed time to replenish it.
So now, it’s nearly a year since I published my last book – a much longer period of time than I had hoped for – but now I can finally concentrate on my novel writing again. And if that means spending time and money intentionally to take myself to a place that provides ‘the formula’ then that is what I will do. It’s an affirmation. A way of giving my novel writing even more value in my eyes.
I’m proud to say that I’m using the money I’ve made selling my books in Anguilla (thank you to all the vendors that stock it) to take me on a trip off island where I hope to ‘knock out’ a good chunk of a story that is dying to be told. If I don’t get it all done that week, I’ll go again until I do. March and April are designed as writing months. I’m taking a break from my full-time job and concentrating on writing a solid first draft.
Editing comes next. Oddly, that is a job I can do at my work desk (usually) – perhaps because it’s more like the commercial writing I do. After that, the publishing process begins and I send the first draft of the m/s to a beta or developmental reader(s) who should spot any plot holes or challenges. Not too long after that you will get an email from me asking who would like to be an Advance Copy Reader of True Blue and after that it goes onto my editor, Alex. That’s the point when I get to reveal the cover (which I already know is beautiful).
I’d love to hear any comments, thoughts or questions you might have about what I’ve shared with you here about my writing and the process I go through. I get so much pleasure from talking about my books or hearing from my readers so please feel free to message or email me any time. I’d love the encouragement and I promise to try to keep you better informed of True Blue’s progress.