make you feel?
slush pile! To be honest, I don’t think about it. I just try to write
entertaining stories about real people, and hope they appeal to both men and
women. If there’s one thing ‘unique’ about someone like me writing in this
genre, perhaps it’s simply that I can give the male point of view. Though I do
write as a woman (or two) as well in A Day At The Office, so maybe that’s all
the same publisher with those seven?
novels, but I published A Day At The Office myself.
You’re an accomplished writer of many novels, but how long did it
take you to get where you are today?
I’d known I wanted to write since I wrote/read out a piece at school assembly when I was fourteen – I’d put a few jokes in and they actually got a laugh, and I was hooked – but didn’t know what to do about it until I read High Fidelity in the late nineties, and realised there might be a readership for the kind of thing I wanted to write. A couple of years later I ‘decided’ to take a sabbatical (when my headhunting business collapsed thanks to 9/11) to write up the idea I’d been toying with, and actually finished the first draft pretty quickly. It took a while to get it published (see below) but to be honest, I wasn’t in any rush – rather than spend my evenings typing in a draughty garret, a friend of mine had loaned me his villa in the south of Spain, which was nice. From typing the first word to actually seeing the book on the shelves probably took around five years. Though playing a lot of tennis didn’t help speed the process up.
a long line of writing submissions and receiving the rejections before being
signed, or were you one of the lucky ones and found the process easy?
character you loved over all the rest? For me, I found Nathan a little cold and
self-absorbed, Sophie was an excellent chick-lit type of character, but my
favourite was Calum, the ginger short guy. So vulnerable and adorable!
tend to try not to show favouritism to any of my characters. Unlike my previous
novels, which were all told from the point of view of the main protagonist, A
Day At The Office is an ensemble piece, and I think it might have been tricky
to get the balance right if I’d been tempted to give all the best lines to one.
Having said that, I developed a real soft spot for Sophie.
particular is that the characters seem like your average Joe Blogs on the
street. There was one character that stayed with me (secondary character) who
was forever talking about cars. No matter the conversation, it always went back
to cars! I think the book was called The Good Bride Guide. Also, there isn’t
any swearing or too saucy scenes, do you have an aversion to writing those
hard to write real people, even though some of my characters (Dan from the
Ex-Boyfriend’s Handbook, for example) might seem like I’m pushing it a little.
And no – I don’t make my books overly sweary, or write sex scenes, for three
reasons – firstly I don’t think they add to the type of books I write, secondly
because my mum reads my books, and thirdly because I’d hate to write a sex
scene based on, ahem, personal knowledge, and find out I’d been doing it wrong
in real life!
writer? (confessions are encouraged here :))
to make up stories… Er… Nope. Oh yes, hang on, the osteopath bills, from
being hunched over my laptop all day every day! And my addiction to twitter.
And of course the rejection. Though if you’re a man who’s had any experience
asking girls out, you’re used to that.
like? An excuse for a booze up or full of serious like-minded people having
I’ve never been one for conventions – of any type. Book launch parties, on the other hand (when they still happen) are usually drunken affairs. In my experience, writers do drink a lot. Especially when someone else is picking up the tab.
plan, have charts and write a certain amount of words on a daily process, or do
you wing it.
In terms of planning, I start with a premise, and then come up with a title, write the first and last lines, then simply go about filling in the (90,000-odd word) gap. I tend not to plot beforehand – I quite like seeing where the characters take me en route to the ending. Then I re-draft and re-draft until I’m happy (or run out of time – which is more often the case).
genre you write or do you prefer to read something completely different?
really funny writers out there, but tend to read a real variety, and usually
have two or three books on the go at once; a couple of fiction, plus something
non-fiction. For example, I’m currently reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants, plus
Jonathan Tropper’s latest (he’s my current favourite writer), and The Hundred
Year Old Man… That’s the great thing about eBooks – you can carry loads with
you, and dip in and out of them, e.g. when you’re on the tube, or out shopping waiting
outside a changing room while your girlfriend tries on yet another pair of
jeans/shoes/parades around with a handbag she doesn’t need, etc.
– it was usually my agent who provided the initial feedback critique. A Day At
The Office was all me, though, which I kind of felt confident to do after six
whether people like the book or not! It’s hard not to be hurt by bad reviews,
just as it’s difficult not to let good ones go to your head. With the advent of
the internet, everyone’s a critic, and to be honest, they’re all entitled to
their opinion, though you certainly can’t please everyone. It’s when you’re not
pleasing anyone I think you should really sit up and take notice of what people
most of my author friends, it’s the nasty personal ones (and I’ve had a few) that
tend to surprise me most – you sometimes wonder what you’ve done to the reader
to inspire that sort of bile. Generally, though, being in touch with your
readers is a good thing, and thanks to the likes of twitter and facebook I get
to interact with readers on a regular basis, which is great.
who’d like to interrogate, er, ask you a few questions (I apologise in advance
marketplace, what would it take for you to publish independently yourself? –
I really wanted to write, thought it would work well as an eBook (and wanted to
get it out by Valentine’s Day), and was actually surprised by how quick and
easy (and stress-free) the whole process was.
if you knew and loved their work and even if they didn’t have huge sales? – Ey Wade
what I may think is good may not be the same as my agent/publisher does, or it
may simply be the fact that they don’t think there’s a market for it. Everyone has
to remember that publishing is a business, and unless a publisher thinks they
can sell your book, they aren’t going to publish it. It’s why self publishing
is such a good thing – people can put their own work out relatively
easily/cheaply, and let the public decide.
think they’ll continue to support your work? And how much effort do you put
into your own promotion? – Catherine Kirby.
novel, so yes, I’ll continue to support my work! And at the moment, I’m putting
an incredible amount of time into promotion, through twitter, facebook, blog
tours etc. Fortunately I LOVE social media, so it doesn’t really feel like
kept you going? – Francine LaSala.
some time or another. It’s a harsh industry, you spend a lot of time on your
own (which is when self doubt can develop) and the nature of the industry means
you suffer regular knockbacks. What kept/keeps me going is the lovely emails
and tweets I get from readers, and the constant supply of jokes I can’t stop
myself coming up with. Oh, and my mortgage/not knowing what else I’d do.
anyone the kiss of life? – Jane Grant
really, but actually, I have given CPR. Though it was a 70-year old man. And they lived
to tell the tale!
|Author Matt Dunn|