Tag Archives: books

Become The Best You – an interview with Reneé Davis

Many of us dream of being a published author – the excitement, the satisfaction and (hopefully) the plaudits… but what’s the reality like? I was recently lucky enough to grab an interview with the author, blogger, mum-of-three and all-round lovely Reneé Davis. Reneé self-published her first book ‘Become The Best You’ last November. Here’s a bit about the book:#btby

After her dysfunctional upbringing Reneé Davis knew she wanted more out of life, but had no idea how she was going to achieve it. She lived life in self-destruct mode for years until she eventually made peace with the past, ditched bad influences and behaviour, and got comfortable with what she saw in the mirror.

This book tells you how you can do the same. How you can change your life and break your own cycle of dysfunction.

Anyone is capable of doing it. You just have to want to badly enough.

I read the book myself last year and found it very inspiring. It’s full of practical, sensible advice that makes it relevant for anyone whether you come from a similar background to Reneé or are just hoping to change a few things about your life. The memoir sections make it much more compelling and meaningful than your average self-help book. I recommend it!

Hi Reneé, congratulations on your book! How did it feel to hit the publish button? (Is there even a publish button? I’m imagining it big and shiny and that when you press it a mini firework display is activated? ;)

To be honest it’s all a bit of a blur! There’s definitely a button on Create Space (submit perhaps?) that you press once you’ve done all your uploading and filled in all the forms. It then goes off to be checked by them and usually goes live on Amazon 3-5 days later. It was pretty thrilling I have to say, but my book went live within 24 hours which took me by surprise. I wasn’t anticipating it being available to buy quite so fast, and had to rejig time off work to bring my launch day forward. It was all fab in the end, but is worth taking into consideration if you are thinking of self-publishing.

How have things gone with the book since? Are you where you hoped to be at this point?

Funnily enough I wrote a post about this recently. The book did amazingly well in it’s first couple of weeks and even made it into the Amazon Bestsellers Top 50, which I’m so very proud of. Since then I’ve hardly had a moment to breathe between the kids and work, so book promotion has been bottom of my list. My 3yo has just started nursery though, so I’ll have a little bit of spare time to work on my plans for world domination.

How long did it take you to write (and edit)?

From start to finish it was almost a year to the day. I began writing bits and pieces when I went on maternity leave in the January, then it all ground to a halt after my son was born on Valentine’s Day. I took two months off while we all adjusted to our new addition, and started writing again in the Spring. By the end of Summer I had a first draft on my hands, which I then paid handsomely to be critiqued by an editor at a top literary agency. He had some great advice for me which I took on board, and spent the next three months editing and filling in the gaps. Once I was happy with the manuscript I sent it away for a second edit to ensure it didn’t have any glaring typos or grammatical errors. After it came back I had to do some tweaks here and there, then it was ready to be published. I’m sure I could have carried on editing it forever, but there comes a point where you have to say ‘this is good enough’.

The book is built on your own experiences – was it painful to write? 

As I explain in the book, I made peace with my dysfunctional past a long time ago, and feel very emotionally detached from it now. I find writing about the things I’ve been through really cathartic, and I get a great sense of pride knowing that I’m also helping others to help themselves by sharing my story.

How did you find a balance between self-help and memoir?

The structure of the book changed several times throughout the course of me writing it. I don’t think I was too aware of the need for  balance, it just naturally worked out around half and half.

What made you decide to self-publish rather than go down the ‘traditional’ route?

Time was and is my biggest constraint. I have very little of the stuff going spare and didn’t want to sit on my manuscript while I trod the long treacherous route of trying to find an agent. A book like mine is so niche, and there aren’t going to be many out there willing to take it on. I firmly believe that if you have the talent as a self-published author an agent/publisher will come to you.

Is self publishing a difficult thing to do? Is it expensive (especially having paper versions made)?

Not at all, especially now that Create Space are an Amazon company they make it very easy to self-publish. As well being available on Kindle, they print orders on demand so there is no outlay for printing, and they have various distribution channels to help get your book into shops and libraries. In terms of cost, I spent a fair bit of money on the book. Having two professional edits and a professional cover designed, doesn’t come cheap but was worth every penny in my opinion as my book looks every bit as good as the next book does. Of course the flip side of this is that all the royalties are my own.

What have been the best and worst parts of your whole writing/publishing/marketing experience so far?

Just not having any time to dedicate to book promotion. I’ve had moments of real frustration over it lately, but this is the reality of life with small children, and I have three of them (including a baby who is still breastfeeding).

Do you have any advice for writers out there?

Just write write write. Even if the words don’t really make sense at first, the only way you’ll ever get better at anything is by practicing. If you truly utilise every single opportunity you get to write, you’ll be sitting in front of a first draft before you know it. I used to stay awake after the baby had his early morning feed around 4am which gave me an hour and a half to two hours of writing time each day before the rest of the house woke up. Who needs sleep?! Oh and don’t be fearful of the editing process. I would say half of my original content didn’t make the final book, but I didn’t shed a single tear because what was left was much better.

What’s next (for both the book and you)? 

Next step for Become the Best You is getting it in front of people that could take it further. Not necessarily literary agents but mental health charities, magazines, influential self-help authors. I’m thinking well and truly outside of the box on this one. Next step for me is to start working on my novel. Guess I need to take my own advice and get writing! Watch this space ;-)

Thanks Reneé and good luck!

mumturnedmom

What sort of writer are you? – a quiz!

Do you ever feel like there are so many different things you want to write you don’t know where to begin? At the moment I’m trying to write picture books, a psychological thriller and an adventure story for kids. I’m also slowly putting together a book of ghost stories and there’s an idea for a book – which is possibly Young Adult – that I’d love to explore too. Oh, and then there’s this blog.

Where should I focus my attention? Am I wise to be trying to write so many different genres? Should I just pick one and concentrate on developing my abilities in that area instead of spreading myself so thin?hanging booksIf these questions sound at all familiar then FEAR NOT, HELP IS AT HAND! A recent study from The Institute of Silly Suggestions has indicated that there is an easy way to work out which genre you should be dedicating yourself to.

As Professor Random Speculation explains, “Our investigations revealed that what writers eat and drink is an excellent insight into the type of writing they are most suited to.” Professor Tenuous Link added, “Simple things, like a favourite hot drink or snack can give clear indications of where they should focus their energies and talent,” while her colleague, Dr Wildly Implausible also commented, “We’re adding the finishing touches to a questionnaire right now which, when answered honestly, will give dazzling insights into a writer’s future possibilities.”

And guess what? By extremely clever and devious measures, here at Writing Bubble I have managed to get my hands on an advanced copy of the aforementioned questionnaire. It’s yet to be formally published so you are one of the very first writers in the world to be able to read and make use of it. Just answer these six easy questions and reveal your destiny!

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Question One: What is your usual breakfast?

A – Cereal in the shape of smiley faces or animals. Or smiley-faced animals.

B – Crumpets with runny strawberry jam that oozes out of the holes and across the plate. With a very sharp knife.

C – You flit from cereals to baked goods on a whim but generally, as long as it’s sprinkled with sugar, you’re happy.

D – Toast cut into triangles and presented in a sterling silver toast rack. With butter in a little dish.

E – You rarely eat breakfast. This morning you couldn’t reach the table due to levitating three feet above it in your prototype hover slippers. Last week you tried to cook sausages in your thought-powered frying pan but got distracted by a new brilliant idea for suggestive bedding and things got a little out of hand.

Question Two: What’s your favourite biscuit?

A – Malted Milk biscuits dunked in milk. No, Jaffa cakes. I WANT BOTH!

B – Jammy dodgers. You like to gouge out the centres with your fingernail before devouring them mercilessly.

C – You prefer cupcakes with pink frosting.

D – Shortbread on a fine bone china plate with a doily.

E – Whatever they’re serving on the jet.

Question Three: What’s your usual lunch?

A – A soft-boiled egg with toast soldiers.

B – A burger with lots of ketchup – you like the way it squelches out and drips on to the plate with every bite.

C – Pancakes with sugar, raspberry sauce and chocolate sprinkles.

D – Cucumber sandwiches.

E – It’s hard to eat on a camel.

Question Four: What’s your favourite hot drink?

A – Hot Ribena.

B – Black Coffee.

C – Hot Chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows.

D – Tea – served properly in a proper tea service and with lemon, not milk.

E – Your current favourite hot drink is one you devised yourself recently, it’s like a cross between coffee and a summer’s breeze with a hint of spiritual awakening. Might be your best beverage yet.

Question Five: What’s your usual evening meal?

A – Fish fingers and potato smiles. With peas on the side to flick across the room.

B – Steak. Rare and bloody.

C – Steamed fish and green beans – you are trying to lose weight after all – washed down with something fizzy.

D – Grouse with vegetables before retiring to the drawing room.

E – A slap-up feed somewhere fancy before your premier.

Question Six: What’s your favourite Tipple?

A – Orangina

B – Whiskey on the rocks in a smokey bar.

C – Gin and tonic or gin and biter lemon. Or just gin.

D – Whatever your butler fetches from the wine cellar.

E – Champagne… especially on a mountain peak – the altitude does wonders for the flavour.

 

That’s it – time to interpret your answers!

Mostly A’s – You should be writing for children. Now run off and play.

Mostly B’s – You’re clearly cut out for the Crime/Thriller Genre. Actually I’m a bit scared of you.

Mostly C’s – Chick lit. (Call me later I’ve got some juicy gossip to divulge.)

Mostly D’s – Historical novels. People did things properly back then, didn’t they?

Mostly E’s – With those achievements I assume you’re writing your autobiography. Probably in a hot air balloon over the Andes. (Either that or you’re a brilliant fantasist…)

Mostly none of them, all of them or any of them depending on your mood – You’re a blogger at heart with the ability to mix and match according to what appeals to you and your readers. Have fun!

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I hope that has been revealing! Let me know what what you learned. ;)

And in all seriousness – Do you think there are any traits that can be associated with particular genres? I’m almost tempted to set up my own institute and do some some research!

Writing Bubble

reading – #WhatImWriting

I love reading – always have, although I did go through a period of, ooh, close to two decades where I didn’t read more than a couple of books a year. I intended to read, I even wanted to read but somehow just didn’t seem to get round to it.
bookcase

All that changed a couple of years ago though when I got a kindle (well, I nicked my husband’s if I’m honest) and found myself going from book to book. I read any time, anywhere… in the dark while breastfeeding, while drying my hair, even when brushing my teeth. I never thought I would give up paper for an electronic device but I have to admit it revolutionised my reading life. In the past two years I’ve read well over a hundred books which I don’t think is bad going!

Anyway, this is my #WhatImWriting post – what does any of this have to do with what I’ve been writing this week? Well everything and nothing. It’s occurred to me that my increased reading pace has co-incided exactly with the period of my life when I decided to pursue my dream to become a published writer. These past two-and-a-bit years have been a major voyage of discovery for me in the literary world both as a writer and a reader.

So maybe the gear change in my reading wasn’t all about getting my hands on a kindle, maybe some of it was to do with just launching myself into another part of life? Then just as the more I wrote the more I wrote (writing breeds writing, right?), the more I read the more I read… and then the more I wrote the more I read, and the more I read the more I wrote (phew!) and it all piled up into a huge bonfire of magical worlds and other lives with sparks of creativity flying around in every direction.

And now the bonfire is ablaze and I’m dancing round it clutching books and journals and pens (and electronic devices but that doesn’t really fit with the image I’m trying to conjure up, so forget that bit) and toasting my hands before a fiery fictional frenzy.

Or something.

Anyway, I can certainly say I’m learning a lot from my reading and that’s not just – or at all – because I’m reading great serious works of literature it’s because my brain is constantly assessing everything it’s engaging with. Some books I love, some books I… tolerate but along the way there’s loads I’m learning about style and narrative and what works and what doesn’t.

Actually a brilliant learning experience for me recently was reading a book so badly written it was like a massive, flashing, neon sign saying “DO NOT WRITE LIKE THIS. EVER.” And I’m convinced it’s not just a matter of taste (because some books don’t work for me but I still can see that they’re well-written and others might like them) I really think it was just weak. It read like a first draft that needed editing (and to be fair, perhaps with some decent editing and story re-shaping it could have been fine), so much so that I actually found myself editing it as I read it – good practice for when I finally get to the editing stage of my book!

The best thing about reading though is being transported to other worlds and different lives where there are adventures to be had, mysteries to be solved, great emotions to be tussled with, tears to be shed and laughs to be sprinkled all around.  As a reader, books transform my life, as a writer they are my biggest source of inspiration.

How about you – do you read much? What impact do you think it has on your writing?

Muddled Manuscript

#HarryAugust

cropped-books.jpgEvery so often I read a book that’s so good I want to shout about it from the roof tops, to grasp strangers in the street by the lapels and exhort them to read it, and to phone all my friends and shout: “YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK!” at them ’till they relent.

I’ve just finished such a book and thought that instead of putting myself in slippery house-top peril, or at risk of being arrested, or deafening my friends I would blog about it.

It’s called The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.

It’s by Claire North.

And it’s amazing. Huge in scope yet beautiful in detail. About the whole of humanity and yet also – at its heart – simply about one human relationship. It’s about hate and love and ambition and sacrifice and…

Well, that’s basically all I’m going to say about it. I could tell you the bare outlines of the story but (apart from the fact you could read that elsewhere) I think this is a book that it’s good to just dive in and read. I could try to suggest that it’s one genre of book or another but actually it’s one of those books that is very hard to categorise. And categories can be misleading: in fact, even with what I’ve just told you, I may have suggested something about it that it’s not.

So, if you’re reading this then go, now, and read something else. Read The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August.

Go on.

books, glorious books

As a child, I loved reading. I could happily spend hours tucked into a big armchair with a book, the sounds of the house fading into the background as I disappeared into another world. My brothers and I also listened to masses of audio books, and I’m pretty sure that our nightly bed time stories went on for far longer than our poor sore-throated parents wanted them to!

library

As I got older though, I found myself reading less. Or at least, I read what I was required to for school or university and then didn’t feel much like reading anything else. TV and films gradually took the place of my beloved books. From time to time I would feel sad about that, but mostly it was just how it was. I still thought of myself as ‘a book lover’ but I rarely read for pleasure.

By my late twenties my first son had arrived, followed by his brother two years later. I was running my own business and the resulting racing around and tiredness left me struggling to even finish an article in a magazine some days. Deep down I felt I was missing something, but my ‘book worm’ days felt so far behind me it was hard to recapture them.

Then at the beginning of this year something changed. I was just starting maternity leave with baby-number-three, and – with my sons in school and nursery – my mornings were child-free. I was heavily pregnant so moving around was becoming less and less fun. My childhood memories of hiding in an armchair began calling to me. So I got my hands on an e-reader (and by ‘got my hands on’ I mean ‘swiped from my husband and he’s yet to get it back’), read a few book reviews, found something I fancied and off I went. I finished that book and started another, then another.

The months went by, and I read whenever I could. At all the times that I wasn’t writing (or dealing with kids, or housework… ) I’d grab my Kindle and slip quietly into whatever wonderful fictional reality awaited me. I read in labour (remember how I said mine went on for ages? I had to have something to do!) then I read while feeding the baby.

And now it’s early October and I’ve read nearly fifty books this year. That’s nearly…oooh… forty-nine more books than I read last year! And I’ve loved it. I won’t lie, they haven’t all been serious works of fiction. They weren’t all War and Peace. In fact, NONE of them were War and Peace. There have been many times – staggering around bleary-eyed after being up a gazillion times in the night – when I’ve just wanted something light and cheerful to distract me. But I’ve read some really fantastic books; books that have made me laugh and cry and some that have really made me think.

And as a writer, all of them have had value. They’ve helped me realise what I want to achieve, showing me everything from what I would love (in my wildest dreams) to emulate, to what I’d rather avoid. And sometimes what I’m just plain not interested in.

So I’ve decided I’m going to use this blog – over the coming weeks and months – to write about some of the books I’ve read. In part, as a written reminder for myself about what I learned from them, but largely just to talk about some books that I’ve really loved and to share them with anyone else that is interested. I’ve really got some gems to recommend!