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Surrey writers share tips about how to become a published author

PUBLISHED: 16:22 14 January 2014 | UPDATED: 16:23 14 January 2014

Adele Parks

Adele Parks

Archant

Over the years, Surrey has been something of a haven for successful writers with the likes of Lewis Carroll, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and HG Wells all calling the county home and it’s not all that different today. They say that everyone has a book in them, and here we speak to 12 local authors from those making their debuts to international best-sellers to discover how they turned that age-old adage into a reality...

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine August 2011

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Playing every day

Adele Parks, 42, Guildford

Having written a total of 11 best-selling novels in 11 years, Adele Parks’ books have been translated into over 20 different languages. She is also a patron of Guildford Book Festival.

Tell us about your latest book…

About Last Night looks at the issues of betrayal, adultery, truth and trust.

How did you first get published?

I’d always dreamed of being a writer but I bided my time. I wrote one novel but didn’t submit it; it wasn’t up to it. I waited until I was at a stage of my life where I knew I had something compelling and different to write. I worked on my novel three times a week for three hours and for five hours at a weekend, while holding down an extremely busy day job. I was very disciplined and determined. I then did lots of research on which agent might be interested in my kind of work. It paid off; just three months from my initial approach to my agent, he secured me a deal for my first novel, Playing Away.

What would be your top tip for aspiring novelists?

I have two top tips. Firstly, read. Novels, articles, newspapers anything you can get your hands on. If you are not in love with the written word, you’ll never be a decent writer. Secondly, write. Seriously, it astonishes me how many people tell me they want to be a writer but then confess they never write anything more elaborate than a shopping list. Write every day; even if it’s only for 20 minutes. Discipline is key.

Where in Surrey do you escape to when inspiration is lacking?

The castle grounds in Guildford.

What are you reading at the moment?

A wonderful novel called The Butterfly Cabinet by Bernie McGill. It’s based on a real life case in Northern Ireland, in the early 19th century, in which an aristocratic woman was convicted of murdering her daughter. It’s a bit like a historical We Need To Talk About Kevin. It’s beautifully written but horribly unnerving.

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Fortune cookie

Adrian Winter, 35, Great Bookham

Having grown up in Surrey and worked as a primary schoolteacher, Adrian Winter currently lives in China where he teaches at a university near Hong Kong.

Tell us about your latest book…

It’s called The Little Book of Indoor Golf Games and contains a collection of fun and purposeful games to help golfers improve their putting in the comfort of their home or office.

How did you first get published?

I consider myself extremely fortunate. Three years ago, a New York agent read my work and offered to represent me, which certainly made the difficult job of finding a publisher a lot easier. Getting published is a long and hard process but I want to encourage anyone who is thinking of doing it to keep trying and never give up.

What would be your top tip for aspiring novelists?

Always write about something you enjoy. Writing a book is a big project that can take months or even years so it’s important that you enjoy doing it.

Where in Surrey do you escape to when inspiration is lacking?

Whenever I’m home, I love to get out into the Surrey countryside. Whether it’s a jog on Bookham Common, a walk at Polesden Lacey or a game of golf at North Downs Golf Club, I always enjoy being outside.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently reading Kafka of the Shore by the Japanese author Haruki Murakami.

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Legal matters

Alan Hammond, 67, Leatherhead

After 30 years toiling as a legal executive, Alan Hammond, father of Top Gear’s Richard, decided it was time to throw away the law books, move to leafy Leatherhead and write...

Tell us about your latest book…

All’s Fair in Love and Law is a collection of short stories centred around a firm of solicitors in a small market town somewhere in the Midlands. Believe it or not, legal practice can, at times, be hilarious though it’s not always easy to see the joke at the time.

How did you first get published?

From the age of around ten, I wanted to be an author. A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a literary agent, Luigi Bonomi of LBA, and my family (bless them) cajoled me into sending some of my bits and pieces to him. I felt rather embarrassed about doing so but, to my surprise, he spotted some mileage in one of my short stories.

What would be your top tip for aspiring novelists?

Make sure you have something to write about and get on with it.

Where in Surrey do you escape to when inspiration is lacking?

My wife Eileen and I feel more at home in Surrey than anywhere else we’ve lived. But, at times when inspiration for writing is at a low ebb, the last thing I need is to relax! My stories are about people living their lives so inspiration can only come from observing them.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just finished John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, which I consider to be a work of genius. If you’re interested in people and how they do what they have to do to deal with whatever life throws at them, I’d advise you to read it.

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Supply and demand

Annette Hart, 43, Fetcham

Born in Ewell, Annette Hart grew up in Epsom where she went to Rosebery School. As well as being a supply teacher, having taught in the local area at various primary schools, she also writes children’s books.

Tell us about your latest book…

The second in a fantasy series for older children/early teens, Escape and Betrayal is set in the medieval style country of Athlandia and follows the adventures of Bryony, her family and friends.

How did you first get published?

Perseverance! I continually submitted synopses and first chapters of my stories to various publishers until one was accepted.

What would be your top tip for aspiring novelists?

Keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas, descriptions, speeches and even sketches when you are out and about so you don’t forget them later.

Where in Surrey do you escape to when inspiration is lacking?

I often take a walk around Fetcham after the school run, sometimes down to the River Mole, to get my mind working. I also find Headley Heath an inspirational place.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just finished the young adult fantasy series of Study books by Maria V Snyder. It is very dark (with some disturbing events) but I did get hooked and had to finish them all, especially the first, Poison Study, where the magic didn’t feature so heavily.

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Music in words

Barbara Mutch, 55, Woking

Born and educated in South Africa, Barbara Mutch is an author, avid reader and keen observer of SA and international politics, pianist, golfer, and amateur botanist.

Tell us about your latest book…

Karoo Plainsong traces the story of Ada: illegitimate, unschooled, but a brilliant pianist who grows up in service to a family of Irish immigrants. As apartheid tightens its grip, Ada is drawn into an illegal relationship and bears a mixed race child.

How did you first get published?

Karoo Plainsong is my first published novel, having originally met my publishers, Troubador, at the London Book Fair in 2010. It was published in December 2010.

What would be your top tip for aspiring novelists?

Create a mind map! I borrowed this technique from business and created a vast mind map that described the development of the plot and the interplay of characters. Although aspects of the story evolved whilst I wrote, this early model was invaluable in helping me stay true to the original concept.

Where in Surrey do you escape to when inspiration is lacking?

I love to walk in Wisley Gardens. It is the perfect escape.

What are you reading at the moment?

Like Ada, the main character in Karoo Plainsong, I am a pianist and so I love books with a musical theme. I recently finished Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music.

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Flights of fantasy

Ben Galley, 23, Guildford

A young author from Surrey’s county town, Ben Galley has been writing since he could hold a pen, still believes in dragons and released his debut book this year.

Tell us about your latest book…

The Written is a fantasy novel set in a pseudo-Nordic world called Emaneska, a dark and brutal place. Although set in a medieval world, it has contemporary twists. The sequel, Pale Kings, is due late 2011.

How did you first get published?

I am self-published and do everything on my own without a publishing house. I’m a great believer that the book industry is changing, shifting power into the hands of the individual rather than the company.

What would be your top tip for aspiring novelists?

Write a detailed plan, and persevere!

Where in Surrey do you escape to when inspiration is lacking?

I like to go running around Newlands Corner, near Guildford, with my hilarious dog, Brodie.

What are you reading at the moment?

At the moment, I’m reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

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Strange tales

Garry Vaux, 40, West Molesey

A self confessed northern monkey ,Gary Vaux moved to Surrey in 1997 and has been writing stories since childhood, when he got a top grade for a story about an accident prone teddy bear.

Tell us about your latest book…

A fun guide to all the little monsters that cause disruption in our everyday lives, House Demons answers the great questions of our age: why socks vanish, why keys disappear and what lurks down the back of the sofa.

How did you first get published?

Self publishing was the way forward for myself and for others.

What would be your top tip for aspiring novelists?

All good stories start at night...

Where in Surrey do you escape to when inspiration is lacking?

I like to have a stroll at Hurst Park in Molesey.

What are you reading at the moment?

Yes Man by the author Danny Wallace.

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Golden prose

Jennifer Margrave, 62, Merrow

Jennifer Margrave runs a legal practice specialising in advising the elderly and has had three mystoricals published by the Guildford-based publisher Goldenford.

Tell us about your latest book…

I am currently working on a new novel describing Jane Austen’s secret love affair.

How did you first get published?

I had legal articles published years ago and since then have edited several legal books. My first novel, The Gawain Quest, was published by Goldenford Publishers, a joint venture publishing house set up by several Guildford Writers members of which I’m part of.

What would be your top tip for aspiring novelists?

Get on with it!

Where in Surrey do you escape to when inspiration is lacking?

Watts Gallery walking there on the Pilgrims Way from Guildford is a great walk when it’s not too hot.

What are you reading at the moment?

Oh dear, I’m re-reading Jane Austen again; she really is a master novelist. Readers have to realise she is a very dry, ironic writer.

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Serial thriller

Meg Gardiner, 53, Cobham

The award-winning author of nine thrillers, Meg Gardiner is a former lawyer from California who has now made her home in Cobham.

Tell us about your latest book…

The Nightmare Thief features Autumn Reiniger who is given an urban reality game by her father for her birthday. It’s a high-priced version of cops and robbers for Autumn and her friends, played with fake guns and fast cars in San Francisco.

How did you first get published?

Years of work and a determination to see my work in print. My debut, China Lake, was published in the UK in 2002.

What would be your top tip for aspiring novelists?

Read every novel you can get your hands on, so you learn exactly how good a story needs to be. And then, if your own story is burning to be written, don’t let anything stop you.

Where in Surrey do you escape to when inspiration is lacking?

Downside. Walk just off Cobham High Street and if I rounded a bend and met Jane Austen in the road, I wouldn’t be surprised.

What are you reading at the moment?

The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke, one of his superb crime novels set in Louisiana. It’s beautiful and raw.

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Home for history

Penny Rainbow, 49, Esher

In 1992, Penny Rainbows enthusiasm for history led her to study at Sotheby’s, which coincided with the purchase of her home Wayneflete Tower in Esher.

Tell us about your latest book…

It represents the culmination of 17 years of research into the history of my medieval home, Wayneflete Tower in Esher, originally the gatehouse to the Bishop of Winchester’s palace. Entitled A Complete History of the Tower of Esher: A William Wayneflete Landmark, my book is the first to be solely dedicated to the Palace of Esher and its impressive catalogue of residents, who include Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Robert Dudley and Sir Francis Drake.

How did you first get published?

It is said that there is a book in everyone and despite my scepticism, I felt compelled to print my findings. My book has never been a commercial venture, but more a labour of love, and I therefore chose to self publish.

What would be your top tip for aspiring novelists?

My path to becoming a published author didn’t follow traditional lines but what holds true for authors, whether of fiction or non-fiction, is a passion and interest in their subject.

Where in Surrey do you escape to when inspiration is lacking?

A meander along the River Mole with a glass of Sauvignon tends to do the trick!

What are you reading at the moment?

The book Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, for a second time. Much of the plot relating to Cardinal Wolsey’s demise is set in Esher and for obvious reasons I find it fascinating.

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On the web

Sinead Fitzgibbon, 34, Walton-on-Thames

After a busy, but ultimately unfulfilling, career in the world of investment banking, Sinead Fitzgibbon decided to focus on her ambition of becoming a writer and hasn’t looked back since.

Tell us about your latest book…

I have recently completed my first book: a short, non-fiction offering on the subject of Guy Fawkes. It will be published as part of the History in an Hour series: a collection of downloadable e-books and apps designed for the reader on the go.

How did you first get published?

I first came across History in an Hour on Twitter (which, by the way, is a great resource for the aspiring writer). I simply contacted them through their website with a few preliminary questions, and subsequently sent a book proposal.

What would be your top tip for aspiring novelists?

Research, research, research! It is important to do as much reading as possible on your chosen subject before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!). There is nothing more annoying than having to stop writing to check something.

Where in Surrey do you escape to when inspiration is lacking?

For a history writer, there is nowhere more inspiring than Hampton Court Palace.

What are you reading at the moment?

I have just finished reading Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman. It tells the story of a young boy, Harrison Opoku, who has recently arrived in Britain from Ghana. It is uplifting and heartbreaking by turns.

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Travelling life

Miriam Wakerly, 63, Frimley

Miriam Wakerly launched her first novel, tackling tensions between the travelling community and local residents, the day after she retired.

Tell us about your latest book…

No Gypsies Served is the sequel to Gypsies Stop Here. They can stand alone but are connected. Both are set in a fictitious Surrey-Hampshire village, Appley Green, and embrace tensions that can exist between the travelling community and local residents.

How did you first get published?

I used to get short stories and articles into magazines. Working in marketing and PR, I wrote feature articles on bizarre subjects, from cabling to bees! I decided that getting a publisher to take my novel (one agent told me a publisher would never look at a title with gypsies in it!) would be soul-destroying, so I set up my own one-man-band publishing company. It does not give me massive sales, but it does give me control.

What would be your top tip for aspiring novelists?

Be sure of your idea. Listen to feedback and keep going.

Where in Surrey do you escape to when inspiration is lacking?

Every day, I walk my dogs. I’m lucky to live by Surrey heathland.

What are you reading at the moment?

I have wide-ranging taste in books. My current book was for a holiday read, to make me smile: A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon.

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IS THERE A BOOK IN YOU?

Have you made your first tentative steps into the world of writing or would you like to? Then, get in touch with your own stories at www.facebook.com/SurreyLife and www.twitter.com/SurreyLife...

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