We have a real treat in store today! Not only are we hosting an interview with Celia J Anderson, but we are also sharing an excerpt from her latest contemporary romance Living The Dream. Scroll down to read the interview, find out more about the book and enter a super giveaway. Without further ado, over to Celia!
Welcome to our humble corner of cyberspace Celia and thank you for allowing us to quiz you about Living the Dream, your new release. I am really intrigued by the premise behind this book, where dreams collide with reality!
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what prompted you to start writing?
Thanks for the invitation; it’s lovely to be here! I’ve always written to amuse myself but only really began to take it seriously when, hurtling towards my 40th birthday, I retrained as a teacher. The creative writing tutor at my local adult education place (I realised I needed a year of brain-refreshing lessons first) was inspirational and one of the projects was to come up with the first chapter of a book. It was an addictive task. That book – Moondancing – was pretty awful, but I carried on regardless and three novels later, Moondancing has had a huge revamp and is coming out in January 2016. Now I teach full time, the writing opportunities are dwindling, but the holidays are coming up…
2. Your novel delves into virtual reality, a subject which I find fascinating- somehow I’m imagining Keanu Reeves as Moriarty Miles (but enough of my fantasies). Did you have to do much research into this concept or did you give your imagination free reign?
I’ve got to confess I’m the most rubbish researcher ever. I only stop and dig deeper when I have to, or boredom takes over before I can get the story down. I’d love to be better at planning and so on, but it happens when it needs to, and that has to be enough at the moment. It’s a fascinating subject though. Incidentally, in my head, Moriarty is a cross between Andrew Scott of the Sherlock TV series who plays Jim Moriarty and the guy who was best man at my first wedding. Discretion prevents me from enlarging on this…
3. What was your inspiration for the story and the characters?
The heroine, Vita, was named after a charismatic friend of my mum’s who died in the prime of her life. I didn’t know her well because we only saw her once a year. She ran a wonderful B&B with a wild, rambling garden on the east coast, and she stayed in my mind, somehow, even though I was only a child when she died.
The story evolved from the trip that I took with my family in 2013 – across the USA mainly by train. It was amazing! I wanted to experience it again and again and the best way to keep the memories alive was to write them down. Vita’s journey is pretty much an exact copy, with a bit of artistic licence. The fantasy part came from my love of imagining the perfect holiday and place to have it. It was brilliant fun to write.
3. What did you find were the most challenging aspects of writing it?
Trying to make the whole thing hang together time-wise. It was really important to tie everything together properly and as I’ve already said, planning is my worst nightmare. Mandy James, critique partner extraordinaire, and Christine McPherson, my wonderful editor at Tirgearr knocked it into shape quite painlessly. I’ll be eternally grateful for their help.
4. What is your writing process like? To what extent do you plan the characters and plot and how much do you just let the words flow?
I usually get straight into writing the first couple of chapters and then make myself stop and focus on the characters’ ages, back stories, favourite foods, best moments etc. Then I go back in and write like crazy. I edit every time I write – it’s therapeutic playing with the words and polishing the work as it goes along.
5. Do you write every day? Also how do you cope if you experience writer’s block?
In the school holidays I write every day, and I try to fit a good chunk of work into the weekends during tranquil periods, but sometimes work is so full on that my brain won’t focus on writing at all. I’ve started to accept that situation more, instead of raging inwardly (and outwardly sometimes!) I really love working with children and you have to remind yourself that they deserve your whole attention. They only have one childhood and it needs to be the best possible one.
6. If you could give an aspiring author one tip, what would it be?
Learn to spoil yourself. Know what helps you to unwind and let the words flow, whether it’s a hot bubbly bath, a large glass of chilled wine, a cuddle, time to read a good book, a walk or if you’re very lucky, a writers’ retreat or a get together with your writing buddies. My fabulous friends, who blog as the Romaniacs, and Mandy James (mentioned above) are my sanity. We can discuss anything, we prop each other up when the rejections come in, celebrate the good times and get together in person as often as possible, although Facebook is our lifeline.
7. Have you any favourite genres or authors you like to read yourself?
I love Kate Atkinson, Mavis Cheek, Liane Moriarty, Elizabeth George, Alexander McCall Smith and numerous others. Lately I’ve been lucky enough to join a live Radio book club on BBC Radio Derby with Authors Tracy Bloom and Joanna Courtney, and some of the choices have taken me out of my comfort zone in the best possible way, but when I’m sad or worried I go back to my late mum’s ancient collection of novels by D.E Stevenson and Elizabeth Goudge. Bliss.
8. Can you share with us about what you are working on at the moment?
My work in progress is a bit darker than the norm for me. It’s called Hidden Depths, and centres round the relationship between a controlling mother and a previously repressed daughter. Strangely enough its focus is a cruise down the Rhone – guess where I went this summer?
9. And finally, have you a message for readers?
I’m thrilled to think some of you will read Living the Dream, and hope you’ll try the other two – Little Boxes and Sweet Proposal, with Moondancing and Hidden Depths to follow. Thanks for reading my ramblings – whether you’re an avid reader or a writer yourself (or both) I hope you continue to enjoy what you do.
Once again, thank you Celia for taking time out of your busy schedule. We wish you the best of luck with the release of Living the Dream and your career as a writer.
The stop press news of the day is that Ronan’s body is one day going to help others less fortunate. He made the announcement this morning just as I limped into the bedroom, still damp from the shower and with my left foot dripping with blood after standing on my razor. He’d taken ages in the bathroom so I was already late for work. He usually waits until he hears the door slam behind me before he even sticks a toe out of bed, but today he sneaked in there while I was making a cup of tea.
This isn’t the first time that Ronan’s seemed preoccupied with his own death. The idea that he’s not long for this world has been brewing for a week or two, ever since he had that dizzy spell when he was bending over to get the last bottle of vodka from the bargain bucket in Sainsbury’s.
‘I’m away into town to the solicitors to make my will,’ he said, frowning at the trail of blood on the cream carpet, ‘just in case you forget the details of what I want when the time comes.’
‘I’m not sure why you’re bothering. It’s bound to be a really boring will. Our flat’s rented and we haven’t got any children or savings, have we? Unless you know something I don’t?’
‘Well, that’s just the sort of thing you would say, Vita.’ Ronan gritted his teeth and sucked in his stomach. He’d made his choice of clothes for the day after some consideration, and was wearing his only suit for the first time in years but the trousers were refusing to fasten. ‘You never give a thought to the future, do you? Stuck in this one-horse town, doing a pointless job that’s nothing but putting up with people banging on about their own miserable little lives. You’ve got no ambitions.’
‘How do you know I’ve got no ambitions? When do you ever ask me about them? And anyway, I thought you liked living in Clayton-on-the-Bream? You always said it was the next best thing to the coast, with the river and the castle and everything.’ I ran out of steam, rather surprised at myself for jumping in to defend my home town so quickly and passionately. Okay, Clayton wasn’t the most exciting place on earth, but it was pretty and peaceful and not too touristy – far enough from the Cotswolds to miss out on the trippers looking for tea, scones and antiques, and only a couple of hours from St Pancras on a fast train. Ronan pulled a face.
‘This dead and alive hole? You’re kidding me, aren’t you? There’s nothing here for me – if I had my way I’d go right back to London in a heartbeat.’
When dreams and reality crash and mingle, escape can be the hardest challenge of all.
Longing to get away from her troubled marriage, the opportunity to cross America by train seems like a dream come true for Vita Craythorne. But charismatic travel agent Moriarty Miles has other ideas; by replacing her friend Jack on the trip, Vita has unwittingly set herself up as a guinea pig for Moriarty’s mind-blowing and potentially dangerous new virtual-holiday project. His idea is to give clients the holiday of a lifetime without ever having to leave the comfort of their favourite chair. It’s exciting. It’s innovative. It could be just what Vita needs. That is, if she can avoid becoming trapped inside her own, miraculous dream world.
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Celia J Anderson is passionate about writing, cake, wine and long walks in the Quantock hills or on random beaches. She is very proud to be the assistant head at a Catholic primary school in the Midlands and divides her time between walking off the cake, inventing imaginary worlds and teaching English and drama.
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