carole matthews
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Sunday Times best-seller, Carole Matthews, explains what it takes to become a novelist.

What inspires you to write?
I love stories and gossip! My partner always says that I never let the facts get in the way of a good story – what better start for a writer? Books have always been my passion so it’s a great way to channel that interest in all of human life. I love the way that small actions or a choice of words can dramatically change the way people live their lives and that’s what I focus on for my books. Maybe you say ‘yes’ in a situation that in your heart you know warrants a ‘no’. I love to deal with repercussions of that sort of scenario. And we’ve all been there, we’ve all done it!

How long does it take you to write a novel?
About 3 or 4 months straight writing depending on interruptions plus a couple of weeks of visiting people and places for research. Bizarrely, the more popular your books become the more you’re required to do publicity and promotional work and the less time you have to write! I spend the rest of the year writing scripts for TV and film, articles and short stories for magazines.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what is it?
Absolutely - if you want to be successful at anything you need to approach it with a certain discipline. I work from 10.00am to around 7.00pm, five days a week – if I’m on a roll or don’t have any commitments, I’ll work at the weekends too. I usually do some paperwork or admin first thing to get my brain going. When I’m ready to write, I then re-read what I’ve produced the day before and edit that to get into the flow of my story again.

Has your life changed since you became a novelist?
Beyond recognition. Before I started to write full-time, I spent several years running a beauty therapy business where I used to see twenty-five clients a day and spend all day yakking! Now I sit in a room alone for the vast majority of the week and have my most meaningful conversations with the cat! I have to force myself to go out and socialise in the week, so that I don’t go insane. Writing is a very insular profession and people tend to forget that - they assume that writers are out at fancy literary functions every night which generally isn’t the case anymore. My partner, Kevin, now runs the office for me and that helps a lot. If you have someone that understands the peculiar pressures on a writer it’s a godsend. I also feel that I’ve arrived at the place I should be in life - which is nice.

How do you cure writer's block?
Writer’s block? What’s that? Seriously - if you pay your mortgage by writing you can’t afford the luxury of writer’s block! I think the fact that I used to write magazine articles means that I’m used to working to deadlines - you can’t tell your editor that you didn’t feel like writing a piece today. I turn on my computer and go and long may it be that way. I’m sure that the way you approach your writing sorts out the pros from the wannabes. If you wait for something magical to happen before you feel moved to write you’re going to be sadly disappointed – the majority of it is just grinding it out. I will confess to tying my leg to my desk on occasions when I’ve been tempted to find the ironing pile or cleaning the oven more attractive than a blank computer screen!

Who is your all-time favourite author?
Tough question. I don’t think I have one. I admire so many writers for so many different things. I have very eclectic taste in reading material and a voracious appetite for it. James Patterson is the ultimate page-turner. Stephen King - a brilliant storyteller ( but, let’s face it, you wouldn’t want to be married to him!). Marian Keyes’ earlier books had her at the top of the chick-lit tree for me – now I enjoy Lisa Jewell, Chris Manby, Jill Mansell and Catherine Alliott. I love ‘bloke books’ – Nick Hornby, Tony Parsons, Alex Garland and David Baddiel . One of my favourite books is Tania Kindersley’s Goodbye Johnny Thunders – a beautifully-written love story that doesn’t have the traditional happy ending. I also admire Deborah Moggach, Anita Shreeve, Maggie O’Farrell, Elizabeth Buchan. Basically, I have respect for anyone who’s made it in this business! I love the classics too, but as I have to read so much contemporary fiction just to keep up, I never get time to indulge myself these days.

What are you reading at the moment?
I tend to read 2 or 3 novels a week, spending an hour every morning and about half an hour before I go to sleep immersed in a book. I’ve just finished Anita Shreeve’s Sea Glass. Out of curiosity, I bought Harlan Coben’s Gone For Good – he kept me out of the number four position in the Sunday Times Bestseller list with my latest book A Compromising Position – but I don’t mind as it’s such a great read! I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve got Maggie Farrell’s My Lover’s Lover and James Patterson’s 2nd Chance by the bed and I can’t decide which one I want to dip into first.

What's the biggest myth about being a writer?
That’s there some magic formula to doing it. It takes a lot of practise, a lot of hard work, endless hours at a computer and a fairly thick skin to cope with all the knock-backs you get. It’s a great job, but it’s not an easy way to earn a living. You’re only as good as your last book these days and most writers are wracked with insecurity. Very few of them are on good terms with their bank manager. It terrifies me when I go to writer’s groups, so many aspiring writers seem to think they can do it as a little hobby as quick route to riches - it ain’t like that folks! It takes determination, dedication and a masochistic streak a mile wide - a little talent doesn’t go amiss either : )

What advice would you give budding authors?
Dedicate time to learning and practising your craft. If it means paying a baby-sitter or a cleaner or a gardener while you get some time to yourself then do it! Give yourself emotional and physical space to write. If you want it bad enough, you will. To pinch the words of writer and full-time Paediatrician, Jonathan Gash who writes the Lovejoy books - “Shakespeare wasn’t known for cutting Anne Hathaway’s grass”. If you can never find time for your writing it’s worth re-assessing where your priorities really lie. Also, don’t be in a rush to dash off the first thing you write, spend time perfecting it. Publishing is a very small world - if you send a rubbishy manuscript to an agent, they’ll remember! Study the current market. I can’t believe how many people who profess to be trying to break into being a published writer don’t even read The Bookseller. How can you understand how a profession works if you don’t know the first thing about it?

What can readers expect from you in the future?
I’ve got another book coming out in the UK in August – The Sweetest Taboo. This one is set in LA and is a lot of fun! I’ve also got two books coming out in the USA with different publishers. A Compromising Position is going to be published by HarperCollins as Bare Necessity. That comes out in May. A Minor Indiscretion is published by Red Dress Ink in August. I’m also working on sitcoms, screenplays and some comedy drama - but all these things take so long to get in place, it could be a while yet! The film rights to For Better, For Worse have been sold to Hollywood and we’ve just got the final script for that – I have everything crossed that it will go ahead! Also, I’m about half way through writing my next book – Indecent Haste and am really enjoying that. It
all helps to keep me out of mischief – or do I mean gets me into mischief?

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