Today I’m really pleased to be chatting with Honno’s latest find, Carol Lovekin
Carol’s photograph: ©Janey Stevens 2015
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you’re currently working on or promoting.
Hello, I’m Carol. I’ve lived in mid-Wales since 1979. My novel, Ghostbird will be published by Honno in March 2016. It’s a very exciting time for me. I always hoped that if the book was ever deemed good enough to warrant publication it would be with Honno. I’ve been a fan and a supporter of this unique press for years. I’m currently working on another story set in Wales.
Tell me a little about your writing history/background. What inspired you to write?
I’ve always been inspired to write. My problem has been arrested development – which I’ve suffered from for far too long frankly – and a sense of myself as not quite good enough or ready for publication. I allowed my personal life to get in the way for too long as well. I self-published my first book in 2008 – a venture I now view with mixed feelings although I learned a great deal from the experience.
Where do your ideas come from?
I love this question, even though it’s virtually impossible to answer. It makes me smile because more often than not an idea is ‘a moment’ I can’t necessarily describe. Ideas come when the word birds drop them in your path or leave them on the pillow. Ghostbird began life when I imagined the Welsh myth of Blodeuwedd from her point of view, as a reclaiming and a feminist issue. When I first read the story, my initial reaction was: why would it be considered a curse to be turned into a bird? What a gift! Blodeuwedd can fly away and escape her fate! From there the story began to take shape in my head. I have no clear memory as to why I decided on a teenage main protagonist. Not the likeliest choice for someone of my age. Cadi arrived one day, fully formed, and I fell for her.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?
Before I begin, I like to know as much as possible and create a fairly detailed outline. That said I don’t necessarily stick with the plan. I love it when paths open and characters boss me around or when missed opportunities present themselves.
What genre is your book?
It’s a contemporary ghost story with slivers of magic. Although it’s been suggested it might have YA cross-over potential and would appeal to upper-age teens, essentially, it’s a story for adults with adult themes.
How did you come up with the title of your novel?
In more than one mythology ‘ghostbird’ is another name for the barn owl – which is how Blodeuwedd is often depicted in illustrations for The Mabinogion, the book in which her story originated. The title began life as something entirely different however and the decision to change it was initiated by my editor, the discerning, sharp-eyed and lovely, Janet Thomas. A book cover is about perception and reader appeal. Janet was right about numberless aspects of the book and she was right about the title. As I was able to choose the alternative, it wasn’t hard to let go of the original. And in any case, I think having to change the title is a positive thing. It allows me to let go, in preparation for sending the book out into the world. The old title was pre-acceptance; the new one celebrates affirmation.
What has been your best moment as a writer?
Best moments are the ones when someone tells you what you write has touched them. Getting the email from Janet with the news that Honno were going to make me an offer was absolutely a ‘best’ moment!
Do you have a special time to write and how is your day structured?
My stories begin life as random, handwritten pencil notes. I’m not a linear writer and this note-writing process is ongoing. I often write in bed first thing in the morning accompanied by tea. Deciphering and working out where these isolated scraps and scenes fit into the main narrative can be challenging. At times it’s like having a dyslexic spider running round inside my head. I like to be at my computer by or before ten, or as I call it, writing o’clock. I work for at least four hours. When I’m on a roll, I’m disciplined and can self-manage. I swim two mornings a week and after the Wednesday session, hang out in a local café with my talented writing friend, Janey. We feed each other’s brains!
Do you write every day?
Yes, although I don’t necessarily work seven days a week on my current story. The ‘write everyday’ mantra is a stick writers can easily learn to beat themselves with. What matters to me is writing something every day. I write a letter to a friend in America 365 days a year which flexes my writing muscles.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I’m not sure ‘career’ is the right word. I’m seventy-one! I definitely intend to carry on writing. I’ve almost completed draft zero of my next story and I have another one tangled in the edges of my hair.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I don’t give advice. I do suggest: don’t give up! If you have a story you are passionate about and if you are willing to work hard, take advice, re-write, edit and work some more – and if you’re good enough – you are more likely to succeed.
Who are your favourite authors and what is it that you love about their work?
Top of the list has to be Virginia Woolf. I became mesmerised by her vision in my early twenties and remain fascinated by her writing. Reading her encouraged me to take risks. Although I love her novels, it is her letters and diaries I find most intriguing. I’ve read the major biographies about her life and most of the novels based on it.
Other writers I admire include Edna O’Brien, A S Byatt, Alice Hoffman, Cormac McCarthy, Susan Hill, Doris Lessing, Sebastian Faulks and Elizabeth Von Armin. And I recently discovered the rather splendid, Patrick Gale. Each of these writers possesses the ability to instantly create a doorway through which the reader simply has to step. Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle has the best fictional opening line ever and I reread Jane Eyre every few years. To Kill a Mockingbird would be my Desert Island book. It has everything. I own a lovely collection of books by Joanne Harris – all her adult novels in pretty, hardback editions. She understands authentic magic and knows the spells that makes it probable. All of these writers (and a myriad others) have encouraged me to do as Francine Prose suggests and “read like a writer” in order to maybe learn a few tricks of the trade, from my betters.
Tell me something unusual about yourself.
I overcame my fear of deep water two years ago and I’m now a MerCrone!
What’s your view on social media for marketing?
Used wisely, it’s hugely effective. Twitter in particular, opens doors. I’ve met many generous writers both famously published and on their way, and got to know some of them in real life. I’ve been encouraged and supported and taken care of.
Which social network works best for you?
Twitter for introductions and making contacts. After years away I recently re-joined Facebook, which to my surprise is proving useful too. Social media is like cake. Too much of it makes you sick. Get it right and, as we say in Wales, it’s lush!