Crime authors spill their guts about writing...

This week: Wendy Clarke

Tell us about yourself...

I used to be a teacher but now I’m a writer of psychological thrillers. The first two, ‘What She Saw’ and ‘We Were Sisters’ were published by Bookouture in 2019. Two more thrillers will be published this year. 

 

Before I wrote novels, I was better known as a magazine writer, having had over three hundred short stories and serials published in women’s magazines. I could have continued writing short women’s fiction but with a degree in psychology, it was inevitable that at some point I would move over to the darker side! 

 

I am a complete pantster when I write and have an aversion to planning. Even with a synopsis, I usually find my characters taking over and writing the plot for me. 

 

I live with my husband and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing am singing or following my passion for dance (my husband and I know over fifteen different styles). 

How do you pick character names? Do any have special meaning to you? 

I absolutely hate picking names for characters. When I do, it’s as if the name pool has shrunk to just a handful. When I was writing for the magazines, I swear I used the name Alex at least ten times. The biggest problem is trying not to use the names of people you know – but the older you are the harder that gets! 

How do you go about plotting your book? 

As mentioned earlier, I am a pantster rather than a planner by nature which makes life difficult when my publisher requires a synopsis before offering a contract! I use an App called Mind Map on my iPad to do a brief outline of my story then somehow (I’ve no idea how) bring all the points together into a synopsis. After this, I just write – no notes, no Post-its, no sketches of story arcs… just my computer and my fingers. 

How long does your first draft take you? 

Around six months, then a month to mull over what I’ve written and make it better. I edit as I go along which makes the writing slower but means I have a fairly clean draft by the end. 

Where do you most like to do your writing? 

I have a room at the top of the house with a desk, a printer and all the ‘How to’ books that I never read. It should be where I do my writing but it’s not, as the dog isn’t allowed upstairs and I feel sorry for her. Consequently, I write in my living room on a laptop in the winter and in my conservatory or garden in the summer. 

What’s your favourite distraction when procrastinating? 

Making cups of tea, social media, social media and social media! 

Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you tackle it? 

Yes, and I hate it. When I do, I either talk to my husband about it (he’s an engineer and brilliant at working out problems) or I take my dog for a walk. I’ve never had a block yet that I haven’t been able to work through. 

What’s your favourite part of the writing process and why?  

If have a few favourite parts. The first is when I come up with an idea that I know is going to work – it’s a bit of a eureka moment! I also like writing the final third of the novel, when you know exactly where everything is leading and it’s all downhill to the finish line. My least favourite part is the structural edit (you have to be very brave, objective and have faith in your editor for this part). 

How easy/hard was it to get your first break? 

My first writing break was with the magazines and I was very lucky… if rather naïve. Although I read the guidelines, I didn’t read any of the stories already printed. Instead, I wrote what I loved and kept sending them out. Within three months I’d had stories accepted by three magazines and continued to write for them for seven years. As I say, I was very lucky. 

What book do you wish you had written? 

I wish I’d written Room by Emma Donoghue. I love the idea of a novel set in one place, everything (thoughts, fears, hopes) concentrated and made stronger by being confined to the four walls. I didn’t write that book but my third thriller, which will be published in May this year, is set in just the one building. 

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