What inspired you to write this book? House of Grace originally began as a screen play for my BA Creative Writing dissertation. I was inspired by George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier, television series Mr Selfridge and House of Elliott.
Can you tell me about the book?
It’s a family saga and opens with sixteen-year-old protagonist, Grace Granville, who wants to be a fashion designer. Her father, Lord Granville, living in the past, wants her to marry a suitor of his choice. Grace, a strong determined young woman, rebels, leading to her being disowned. The reader goes on a journey with Grace through two decades, witnessing her ups and downs, with family conflict, tragedy, romance and friendship.
What is your writing process like?
Mostly I tend to use mornings as marketing time and editing others work. This leaves me the afternoon and evening for my own writing and editing. However, life sometimes gets in the way, so I never target myself with so many words. I do what I can.
Was the character inspired by a real person? If so, who? Grace Granville was inspired by my late mum in so much as she was elegant and although not of noble birth, her family were richer than my dad’s. Jack, who Grace meets at the Bolton Palais, was inspired by my dad, in looks and very poor working class background.
What do you think happened to the characters after the book ended? That’s an easy one. I’ve written a sequel, soon to be published. The Coal Miner’s Son, which is in the hands of beta readers as I respond to this question, and I’ve started book 3, untitled at this stage. All of the books in the trilogy may be read in their own right.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Writing definitely energizes me. If I don’t write I become exhausted from being deprived of the time to write. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
To become discouraged by rejection. Rejection is all part of the writing process and you can’t have one without the other. Just keep at it.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
The occasional self-doubt but luckily the phase doesn’t usually last very long before I push myself back up again. Rearing to go.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I write what I want, and my readers seem to like what I deliver.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I think I’ve answered this question. My books have connections, but you can pick any one of them up without reading the other. They all act as standalones.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Well I have The Coal Miner’s Son which is almost ready to go, Book 3 of the House of Grace series and I am also in the process of two completely separate novels, also family sagas. I also have at least two, if not three, poetry collections to publish.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I tend to research as I go. I use what I know and what I don’t, I research. The internet is fabulous for that, as are books, but also asking people. When I wrote House of Grace, although I knew of the Palais de Danse in Bolton, I’d never been there. The members of the Bolton Facebook groups, particularly Palais de Danse, were fantastic in letting me know what the interior of the Palais was like in the 50s. And when those members read my book, they said that I’d described it just the way they remembered. How long were you a part-time writer before you became a full-time one?
I started writing full time after finishing my MA in October last year but I still have to fit in family commitments, marketing, and editing for other writers too.
How many hours a day do you write?
I don’t have a set amount. Sometimes it can be as low as half-an-hour, whilst other days may be hours.
What period of your life do you find you write about most often? (child, teenager, young adult)
I use a lot of my childhood and teenage memories but also memories into adulthood. I write fiction but quite often my fiction is based on facts and I see where that takes me.
What did you edit out of this book?
Melo-dramatic scenes. Sometimes a writer can be over dramatic when writing scenes but luckily, I have a fantastic editor who pulls me back in line. How do you select the names of your characters? I tend to think back to the time era of people I knew and if that doesn’t work, I google popular names at that time.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work? I’ve finished my working career which is why I can now find time to write. During my working life I have been a shop assistant, an administrator, telephonist, receptionist, PA Secretary, Accounts Clerk, bank cashier, interviewer, and financial salesclerk. In between that I’ve also been a mum to three children and cared part-time for my late mum.
What was your hardest scene to write?
A child dying, and the funerals. I tend to try and jump away from these scenes but my editor herds me back in, saying ‘the readers want to see it.’
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
A year to write and then another year to edit. However, at the time of my first book I was also studying for an MA in Creative Writing. For Book 3 I hope to have this finished in three months with another three months to edit. Of course, I may be being a little ambitious, but we’ll see.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I’m sure Writer’s block exists but I’m lucky that I never get it. The problem for me is I have so many ideas but not enough time to do it all. I also have several projects on the go which is maybe why I don’t get Writer’s Block. If I’m stuck on a scene for one then I’ll move on to something else and before I know it, the problem scene pops into my head. What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?
For novels, my computer, for poetry, long hand. Although initially when starting novel work, it had to be done on paper first. And sometimes if I have a difficult scene, I use the pen and notebook first and move over to the computer later. When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer? I’ve loved writing since I was a child. In fact, I won my first poetry competition when I was around seven. However, it was only when I started studying for my BA degree and began a creative writing course that I started to think of writing in a more serious way. If you’d asked me ten years ago if I could write a novel, I’d have laughed at you.
How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?
Hard at first but when you write as a routine it becomes easier. It’s also fun working from a remit. For this I tend to use mind maps and brainstorm.
Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?
I think I answered this earlier in a roundabout way. No, I don’t aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day. And I never beat myself up if I haven’t managed any. There isn’t always time to do my own writing with my life’s commitments but if I can manage a bit of critique on someone else’s work, that satisfies me. If I can’t get to write then I’m working out plots in my head.
Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you? A bit of both. For House of Grace I knew exactly where I was going as I’d written it first as a screen play. For The Coal Miner’s Son it was a bit of both and for Book 3 (untitled) I’m just seeing where it takes me so once I have the first draft there will be an enormous amount of layering and editing to do. That’s my favorite part as that’s when the story comes alive.
Do you read much and, if so, who are your favorite authors? I read a lot, yes. I think you have to read in order to be a good writer. I belong to a reading group and read one book every month that I haven’t chosen myself. For my own reading, I enjoy a wide variety, particularly family sagas, but I also read lots of Indie books that are out there.
What is the most important thing about a book, in your opinion?
That the reader can lose themselves in the story. Become part of it.
How much of yourself do you put into your books?
It can vary. Sometimes not a lot at all but I do use my experiences where I can.
Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?
My daughter. She took me to a book signing event even when she was feeling really poorly. She’s a great salesperson too.
Writers are often believed to have a Muse, your thoughts on that?
Definitely. And my muse tends to visit me around 2am in the morning, just as I’m going to sleep. If I need an answer to anything in my writing, then I’ll think about it before I go to bed and the answer will come to me through my dreams. I’m known for waking up in the early hours of the morning and jotting down plots. This not only worked in my creative writing but also worked when I was writing my academic essays too.
Did any of your books get rejected by publishers?
I only attempted a couple of publishers with House of Grace. One came back and they really liked the plot but felt it was too mainstream. I was too impatient to wait longer and indie published instead. However, I’m considering trying for an agent/publisher with ‘The Coal Miner’s Son’. My editor insists I try.
What is your view on co-authoring books; have you done any?
I’ve never co-authored a book but never say never. I have recently done a conversational poetry pamphlet with a writer friend. That was fun.
Is writing book series more challenging?
I suppose it’s challenging to keep up with plot material but when writing sagas there is still so much more story to be told. For instance, I’m writing a trilogy for the House of Grace series, but after that I want to write either novels or novellas to tell the story of specific characters in the books that didn’t get much of a voice.
Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind some time earlier?
Very much so. That’s why I try to write the idea down as soon as the thought comes into my head. If I can’t write it down, particularly at night-time when I can’t turn the light on in the event that I disturb hubbie, I type in Notes on my phone/iPad.
Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts?
No. I keep everything.
Can you tell us about your current projects? Book 2, The Coal Miner’s Son is ready to go, and uses dual narratives in first person points of view. The first is nine-year-old, George, and the second his Aunt Elizabeth who didn’t have much of a part in House of Grace so it’s nice for the readers to hear her story.
‘The reader dives into the 60s and travels with 9yo George as he faces lies, betrayal, kidnap— From child into adolescence, George searches to find himself after taking on a new identity as his grandfather’s heir. DOWNTON ABBEY x MY FAIR LADY.’
Book 3 returns to Grace as a narrator along with George.
I’m also writing another couple of novels which are completely separate to House of Grace but are family sagas. Besides the novels, I have poetry collections that I am working on.
Had any of your literary teachers ever tell you growing up that you were going to become a published writer one day? I don’t remember so, but they did tell me that I had a great imagination. Imagination certainly helps a writer. I don’t have a problem coming up with new ideas.
Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid? Yes. Both my parents read all the time. I was down the library an awful lot in my childhood years picking up books for my Dad. He liked Westerns and said I chose him great books.
Have you ever turned a dream or a nightmare into a written piece? Lots of times. I see dreams and nightmares as a gift but the important thing is to get them down on paper immediately on waking otherwise a lot of it is lost.
How can readers find out more info about you and your books? Twitter: @PMOsborneWriter
Where can you purchase House of Grace, A Family Saga?
Also available to order from all good bookstores and libraries.