Thursday, March 15, 2012

Guest author Christine Stovell: From chocolate to Choc Lit

Christine Stovell jokes that her journey to publication has taken her from chocolate to Choc Lit. Winning a tin of chocolate in a national essay competition at primary school inspired her to become a writer but losing her dad to cancer made her realise that if she was ever going to get a novel published she had to put her writing first.  Her first novel, Turning the Tide, published by independent publisher Choc Lit, is a Kindle bestseller in the UK.  Her second Choc Lit novel, Move Over Darling will be published this October.

Hello to you all and many thanks to Liane for inviting me over here.  I was fortunate to ‘meet’ Liane and Kevin (and guest, Mel Sherratt!) in the days of our online writing support group, the Novel Racers. I also came frustratingly close to meeting Liane in person last year when my elder stepson got married in Grenada where his bride’s mother was born.  The wedding party returned via Trinidad and I couldn’t help but think of the Novel Racer meet that might have been if only I’d been able to afford the trip!

When my dad died I finally woke up to the fact that time runs out.  I had to get on with it if I wanted to pursue my dream of getting a novel published. On the basis that pain is temporary but quitting lasts forever, I was determined not to give up until I’d achieved that dream.  I worked hard, I got my first draft of Turning the Tide appraised by a professional advisory service, I learned from a couple of near misses and I kept my eyes open for opportunities.  When I read about a new independent publisher called Choc Lit in the trade press it felt as if fate was giving me a nudge.  I wrote to Choc Lit that same afternoon…

Discovering Choc Lit felt serendipitous for another reason.  Choc Lit novels always include the hero’s point of view, and since this is something I thoroughly enjoy writing I hoped my typescript would be a good fit.  Sailing half way round Britain in a vintage wooden boat provided some of the initial inspiration for Turning the Tide, but the process really began with a mental image, like a ‘still’ from a film.  I ‘saw’ a troubled young woman, Harry Watling, wearing oily dungarees sitting by the side of a creek and knew I had to tell her story.   Matthew, the hero of Turning the Tide, was sitting in Harry’s favourite spot when I first saw him, but it was through ‘hearing’ his voice that I got to know him.  It’s really important for me to allow time for my characters to come through.  It doesn’t matter if they’re male or female so long as I understand them as people, before I start telling their stories.  Anything less and I’d be doing them – and the reader - a disservice.

The downside to living with and loving your characters for so long, is that it can be quite a wrench to leave them. That, and the reality of having a first novel ‘out there’ gave me terrible ‘stage fright’ when it came to getting the next book written.  Talking to other writers, like lovely supportive Liane, showed me that Second Novel Syndrome wasn’t unique to me and encouraged me to keep going.  As with many writerly-related problems, the cure seems to be to grit your teeth, apply butt to seat, and keep writing!

I might have been crippled by a crisis of confidence for a while, but I never stopped soaking up impressions of places.  Eventually, phew, those formed the basis of a story.  The setting for Turning the Tide was born out of all the sleepy, seaside towns I’ve visited whilst sailing.  Move Over Darling is influenced by the experience of living on the coast of west Wales.  One of the first things that struck me when I moved here was that the population of the entire county is roughly the same as the town in the south-east I’d just left.  With so few people spread out over such a large area, I started to wonder how couples ever found each other!  It’s an exquisitely beautiful part of Wales, attractive to tourists and second-homers, but some of the lowest wages too mean that employment prospects are often brighter elsewhere.  A trip to New York suggested the book’s premise: She’s escaped to the country.  He’s escaped from the country.  Who’s going to admit that home is where the heart is?  From there, I met Coralie Casey and Gethin Lewis.  Coralie doesn’t like the hand fate has dealt her so she’s taken charge of her own destiny.  Gethin’s an artist living in New York who thinks he’s escaped his home village for good – until I came up with other plans for him.  I also had fun with a cast of supporting characters to reflect the book’s theme which is about separation and reunion.

Separation and reunion was something of theme for my writing for a while too; there were times during the writing of both books when I almost gave up, so if there’s any advice I can pass on, it’s to hang on to your dream and keep going.  Thanks for having me as your guest here and good luck with your writing everyone.

Choc Lit:
Christine Stovell:
Blog: Home Thoughts Weekly
Twitter: @chrisstovell


Liane Spicer said...

Chris, it's a pleasure having you as our guest! Congratulations on the ripping success of TTT and wishing you all the best with Move Over Darling. You - are - living - the - dream!

Yup, that second book problem is a tough one. Thank heavens it's behind you! Thanks for sharing your process with us; I too can't rush the story, or the characters, and I've learned to let them reveal themselves at their own pace. I've always had the highest regard for the power of the subconscious; writing has served to turn that regard to awe.

...and sooo looking forward to that Novel Racers meet here in Trinidad. Are you listening, Kevin? :D

Chris Stovell said...

Thank you Liane, for inviting me to be here and for your friendship along the journey. I do feel very fortunate now, but, like everyone, there have been some dark moments along the way. (Have also woken up with an eye infection so it's not all perfect!!).

It's always a learning curve, writing, so I'm wondering what the third novel's going to throw at me!! I'll let you know!

And - wouldn't you know it? - the approved cover for Move Over Darling got the go ahead yesterday, too late to send to you, but it's on the Choc Lit blog!

Here's to that Novel Racers meet in Trinidad!

Bluestocking Mum said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bluestocking Mum said...

Hi Liane and Chris.

Love this blog, Liane! And of course it's a delight to see your interview with the lovely Chris ;)

I can't wait to read, 'Move over Darling,' Chris. It made me smile that Gethin is from New York and of course you met our Frances there but I missed out on that one.

Hopefully meet you both at some stage, ladies.

Bye for now

Chris Stovell said...

Hi Debbie, well it will be a crying shame if we don't manage to meet up one of these days, but in the meantime it's been great having the online friendship.

Thanks for your kind comments about Move Over Darling, that trip to New York was fantastic and Frances, of course, was a delight.

Chris Stovell said...

Oh thanks Liane - I know I'm ever so slightly biased, but gosh, that cover makes me smile!

Frances said...

Chris, when I read this interview, I heard your voice, remembered my thoughts as I read TTT, and hope that lots of others will soon be able to find what a fine writer and storyteller you are.


Chris Stovell said...

Frances, you are very kind to say such lovely things. Thank you. Cx

Fennie said...

I am another one looking forward to reading your new story, Chris (and another one who found it hard to leave your compelling characters behind - which surely must be a test of a great story). You left the reader wanting more - a bit like your writing generally so I think Choc Lit are onto a pretty sure fire winner.
Novel Racers seems an interesting blog.

Anonymous said...

Hello Chris {waves}, good luck with the new book.

Liane, I wish I could afford the plane ticket. Or did you mean KeVin?

Deborah (Debs) Carr said...

Ah, a Novel Racer Meet!

I loved TTT, Chris, and can't wait to read Move Over Darling I love the concept and especially your advice to keep going.

Liane Spicer said...

You're welcome, Chris. It's exciting to see the Racers making such waves in the publishing ocean!

I added your new cover the moment I saw your post on Facebook. Congratulations, it's lovely!

Liane Spicer said...

...and hope that infection goes away fast. Can't have you on medication when that bottle of champagne is opened!

Liane Spicer said...

Bluestocking Mom, lovely to see you here! Looking forward to meeting you some day too.

Liane Spicer said...

Captain Black, I meant KeVin, of course. He's the one who first suggested the Trinidad meet so he's responsible for working out the little details - like your ticket. ;)

Kath said...

Thanks for telling us a bit more about the new book, which I am really looking forward to reading! It has a great premise and a lovely cover and I'm sure what's between the covers will be every bit as good as Turning the Tide was.

It's kind of reassuring to hear that you nearly gave up along the way - I have too! - but I'm very glad that you didn't.

Chris Stovell said...

Hello! Sorry, not to reply to you all sooner! Fennie, thank you, and yes, you've found a new place to find your way round. Lots to interest you here!

Captain Black *waving back*, yep, all we need to do now is raise the money for the tickets. Are you up for it, Debs?! *wistful face*. I honestly think keeping going is the only answer, but in the dark hours it can be very tough to see the way ahead! It's some consolation that we all feel like that at times so you can bet that someone else is keeping you company out there!

Thanks, Liane, for putting the cover up so quickly and for your kind comments. Just for the record, there were a few cover designs some of which, it's fair to say, I liked more than others, but I was delighted to be given that particular design.

Btw, I'm back to wearing my contacts so it's time we popped open that virtual champagne!

We need a big lottery win so we can drag, BSM, Fennie Frances and Kath to our meet up too!

Kath *tapping foot* get back to your desk, if you haven't already, and start writing again! And thank you for taking the time to comment.

KeVin K. said...

Missed a week of columns to hit a deadline again (Editing someone else's words, not writing my own.) so I'm just catching up.

Chris, it is good to hear from you, and to see you're doing so well. Pretty impressed with your sticktoitiveness in getting both your novels out. Thanks for telling us a bit about the challenges and processes of each. I have not yet read TTT yet, but I shall.

Liane,Chris, other Kevin, Bluestocking, Deb and the rest of you Novel Racers are going to have to wait for my first movie deal if you expect me to buy the tickets. (Of course, we all could just type something while we're down there, use the word 'Trinidad' at least once, and write the whole trip off as a business expense. I'm sure the tax people will have no trouble with that.)

Chris Stovell said...

Hi KeVin, thanks for your kind comment. It's good to see you again, but, like you, I'm going to have to wait for the movie deal before we finally get that Novel Racers meet for real. And, that's an excellent idea to keep the costs down!

In the meantime, I'll keep visiting here instead!