Happy New Year one and all! And what a lovely way to kick start the new year, by having the wonderful Nicola Morgan stop by to talk to us about writing. I hope this interview inspires you to get your pens out and start scribbling.
Nicola is a YA writer, has over ninety books published, several of which were bestsellers and have been shortlisted for many awards - the most recent [her novel 'Wasted'] being nominated for the Carnegie Medal. She's a prolific blogger and tweeter, and is proud to be the first result on google for 'crabbit old bat.' ;)
Hello Nicola – I'm very honoured to be welcoming you to my blog. Would you like tea or coffee [or perhaps a sneaky glass of white]?
Well, of course, it entirely depends on what time of day it is, or whether we are celebrating. I think I’ll play safe and have a coffee. With whipped cream on top and a small piece of shortbread to accompany it.
Now that you're all settled in, congratulations on being nominated for the Carnegie Medal. A fantastic achievement for a wonderful book. For those who haven't read 'Wasted,' can you sum it up for us, without any spoilers?
Thank you – I can’t tell you how happy I am. Well, I could, but you don’t really want to know. Okay, Wasted is about luck, chance, risk, passion, love, hate, fate, danger, and whether leaving the house ten seconds earlier could change your life.
Looking back on your writing career so far, what are the moments that stand out for you as your big achievements? And what are your ambitions for the future?
These are surprisingly difficult questions. Being shortlisted for things – and very occasionally winning – is pretty unbeatable but there’s always the knowledge that a lot of that is luck and that lots of good books are not lucky. As for ambitions – I have masses of ambitions because I’m in no way even slightly satisfied with what I’ve done. I’m much more affected by failures than successes, so one bad review is much more powerful than ten good ones. Perhaps my ambition is to reach a point where I can think, “Yes, I’ve done enough.”
You're no stranger to the internet [you can find Nicola's fantastic blog over at http://www.helpineed....blogspot.com]. You've helped so many people with publishing advice; how has talking to people online affected your own writing habits? Have there been incidents on Twitter which have given you inspiration for writing?
The online stuff has been very sudden, surprising and quite unplanned. I started blogging on a whim, with no plan and no rationale, and it has changed my life. On the one hand, I love it and it has made me friends and connections I never dreamt of. On the other hand, it has, frankly, stopped me writing. Or it’s at least slowed it to an ugly sludge. Everything has affected me, in ways I can’t begin to describe. Sometimes I think I should run away from it all, as it’s so pervasive. But I love it. Can’t stop.
Margaret Atwood says that she refuses to read her own books once they've been published because she reads it and thinks 'I would do that differently now.' Do you encounter similar problems?
OH YES! I can’t read a paragraph of mine without wanting to change it. I would change everything. Everything. Ugh.
Which one of your books are you most proud of, and why?
It has to be Wasted. I knew it was a risk when I wrote it but it was a book that had been in my head for a long time and in the end I had to write it. When I started to get the amazing feedback I was incredibly relieved, and the shortlists that it’s on at the moment have made me very proud. Even if it gets no further, I am really pleased with how it’s done.
You mentioned on your blog that you're branching out into more than YA at the moment – you truly are a queen of multi-tasking! Can you tell us a little more about that?
To be honest, I’m not very sure. It’s a case of “watch this space” and I’m watching it, too! I am doing some younger stuff but I’m also in the middle of a YA novel that my agent and I are both really keen on. I just have to see which of the various things in the pipe-line work out.
How do you manage to fit everything in? Writing, public speaking, family life, moving house! What is your writing routine?
Routine? *consults dictionary and is still flummoxed* I wish. I so wish. What has happened to me that I can’t settle and can’t control what my fingers do? My concentration is fruit-fly-sized and about as impressive. The answer, I suppose, is that I work stupid hours. I get away with it because my kids are away now, my husband works equally stupid hours, I don’t sleep much, I work fast and I’m healthy. When one of those changes, I’ll have a problem.
If you could give just one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
If you’re not good enough, work hard; if you’re good enough, work harder.
On our Book Forum, we have a Book Tree, where members choose their favourite book and post them round in a circle, so everyone reads each one and writes comments in them as they go. If you were to take part in our Book Tree, what book would you choose and why?
I’d choose Incendiary by Chris Cleave. It might not be my favourite book of all time – because I don’t have one – but I have recently read and adored it. It’s a book which gives every impression of breaking all the rules in the books and yet breaks none. It’s written from the heart (I assume) and yet for the reader. It made me laugh and cry in the same sentence. Often. I wish I’d written it.
And, final question: it's the New Year; what is your New Year's writing resolution?
Oh, you won’t catch me out with that! I’ve never kept a resolution yet so I’ve resolved not to make any.
Thank you so much for taking the time to come and talk to us :)
...Jack worships luck and decides his actions by the flip of a coin. No risk is too great if the coin demands it. Luck brings him Jess, a beautiful singer who will change his life. But Jack’s luck is running out, and soon the stakes are high. As chance and choice unravel, the risks of Jack’s game become terrifyingly clear. An evening of heady recklessness, and suddenly a life hangs in the balance, decided by the toss of a coin. In the end, it is the reader who must choose whether to spin that coin and determine: life or death.
You can read Nicola's blog over at http://www.helpineedapublisher.com. You can follow her on twitter at @nicolamorgan.