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…
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!
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: http://www.choclitpublishing.co.uk/index.html
Christine Stovell: http://christinestovell.com/
Blog: Home Thoughts Weekly http://homethoughtsweekly.blogspot.com/