Crime authors spill their guts about writing...
This week: Nikki Smith
Tell us about yourself...
I’m Nikki Smith. I studied English Literature at Birmingham University, before pursuing a career in finance. A few years ago, I was contacted via Facebook by someone I was at school with (who I hadn’t seen for over 20 years) to ask if I’d ever done anything with my writing as she still remembered stories I’d read out in class at school. It was a ‘now or never’ moment and I applied for a Curtis Brown Creative course where I started writing my debut novel, All In Her Head, which will be published by Orion on 2 April this year. I live near Guildford with my husband, two daughters, and a Burmese cat called Saffi who thinks she’s a dog. I love red wine and dark chocolate and am passionate about travelling.
How long does your first draft take you?
If I’ve done a proper plan (!) then I can write a (very) rough first draft in 3 months. I try and write 1500 words a day, 5 days a week, but that isn’t always possible. And if I haven’t planned properly, then it can take a lot longer.
Where do you most like to do your writing?
I write at my kitchen table. I have a lovely view of my garden through my patio doors, and love watching how the light changes at different times of the day. It’s also warm, and most importantly, it’s near the kettle for the copious amount of coffee I drink when I’m writing!
What’s your favourite distraction when procrastinating?
Social media. And I know from talking to other authors that I’m not alone!! I find I can easily waste an hour going on twitter just to ‘check’ my messages or look at tweets. I’m trying to be much stricter with myself.
Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you tackle it?
So far, I’ve been lucky enough not to get writer’s block. I sit down at my computer early in the morning and try not to let myself leave until there are words on the page. That’s not to say that I won’t end up deleting what I’ve written, or have to edit it so much it turns into something else completely, but for me, I know if I can write something, it keeps the momentum going that I need in order to finish writing a book.
How much do your own life experiences appear in your writing?
All In Her Head is a psychological suspense novel and although it is a work of fiction, I don’t think I would have been able to write it so convincingly if I hadn’t had children. There are small parts of me in the protagonist in the story, but she isn’t actually me. I put small parts of lots of different people who I know, or have known in my life, into my characters, but I don’t base them solely on any one particular person.
Do you ever surprise yourself with what you’ve written?
Yes! And those are the times when I love writing the most – occasionally I come up with a sentence or paragraph and feel it expresses exactly what I want to say, or the metaphor is original but works really well. And sometimes when I go back to edit a draft that I haven’t read for a while I can’t remember having written parts of it at all!
What scene in your latest book did you most enjoy writing? And why?
I really enjoyed writing the prologue for All In Her Head. I had a very strong visual image of what I wanted the scene to portray, and I was pleased that what I was aiming for seemed to come out on the page. It doesn’t often happen like that!
What’s the best and worst thing about being an author?
For me, the best has to be hearing people tell you that they love your book. And the flexibility that allows me to work from home and see more of my daughters. The worst things are the constant self-doubt that what you’ve written isn’t good enough and the lack of steady income.
Do you find that your success has added or alleviated the pressure for the next book?
My debut is due out in April, so I currently have no idea of whether it will be a success (fingers crossed!) However, I knew I had a two-book deal last January, so after I finished my edits for All In Her Head, I started writing Book 2. Other authors had told me to try and get this done before the first book came out so I took their advice, but found it much harder to write than my first book in many ways – the time pressure of knowing I had to meet a deadline made the process much more intense.