Crime authors spill their guts about writing...
This week: B.A. Paris
Tell us about yourself.
I was born in England and moved to France when I was twenty-one, where I’ve been living ever since. I worked in Finance for some years but stopped working when my first daughter was born and became a stay-at-home mum. Twelve years ago, when my youngest daughter - I have five - started school, I re-trained as a teacher and now teach Business English in companies in and around Paris. I’d always wanted to write but it was only eight years ago that I finally managed to grab a bit of time for myself.
How do you pick character names? Do any have special meaning to you?
I pick names that I like (even for evil characters like Jack in Behind Closed Doors) but never of people I know, except for maybe a lesser character, or because there is a special meaning behind it. For example, in my second novel, Every Little Thing, my character goes to a tea-room called Nicole’s and has a piece of coffee cake. My mum’s called Nicole and she makes fabulous coffee cake!
How do you go about plotting your book?
I have it all in my head and just write whatever comes. It means that the story sometimes goes in a direction that hadn’t occurred to me but it usually ends up working.
How long does your first draft take you?
Probably a few months. But the re-reading and editing take twice as long so it’s usually eight months before I have something I’m happy with!
What's the best writing tip you've ever been given? How has it influenced you?
Show not tell. It’s taken me a while to get my head around it and I still have to work at it but it definitely makes for a better reader experience.
How easy/hard was it to get your first break?
When I sent out my first book (not Behind Closed Doors) a few years back, I was lucky enough to get a personal reply from one of the agencies I’d sent it to, telling me that although they hadn’t chosen my book, I shouldn’t give up trying to get it published. The letter also included great feedback from some of the agents who had read it, which was a tremendous boost. I then had a couple of false starts with agents who didn’t succeed in placing my book or decided not to take me on after all, so in 2014 I decided to change genre and wrote Behind Closed Doors. It was picked up straightaway by the wonderful Camilla Wray at Darley Anderson. So although the road to publication sometimes seemed long and arduous, I feel I was relatively lucky.
What/who are your writing influences? Has this changed as your career has developed?
I spent my childhood reading, devouring everything from Enid Blyton to Jane Austen and if I am influenced by anything, it’s a writer’s ability to draw the reader into a great story and to keep them there. So not letting the pace flag is something I try to keep in mind when I’m writing.
Do you ever surprise yourself with what you’ve written?
Yes! Sometimes when I read over what I wrote the day before, I don’t remember writing it.
It’s as if, for a while, the characters took over.
What scene in your latest book did you most enjoy writing? And why?
The scene where Millie manages to wangle going to the Ladies with Grace so that she can give her the sleeping tablets, because it’s the first glimmer of hope we’ve had.
What’s the best and worst thing about being an author?
The best thing is being able to do something I love, the worst thing is not having enough time to do it!
What’s the secret of your success?
Holding on to the gut feeling that I could be a writer and never letting go.