29th Aug2013

Interview with Colette McBeth

by Lloyd Paige

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Colette McBeth swapped life in the journalistic fast lane to be an author. After believing in her idea and enrolling onto a writing course, she produced Precious Thing, a story about friendship and obession. I wanted to find out more so I asked Colette about the book and a few other things too.


1. You used to be a BBC reporter and you’ve worked at Sky news, so why swap a strong journalistic career for life as an author?

Funnily enough it was the other way around. I always wanted to write a book but I knew I needed a profession so I went into journalism and found I loved it. You could say I was sidetracked for 13 years.

2. Your debut novel Precious Thing has its main focus on female friendship and obsession. I understand that you had the idea for it some time ago. When did that idea first transform into written words?

I had the idea in 1998 and it sort of percolated in my head until 2011 when I enrolled on the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course. I imagined myself at seventy and thought about what I would regret, and not writing a novel was at the top of my list. Besides, the characters had grown so big they were bursting out my head. I thought I might go insane if I didn’t give it a shot.

3. While writing Precious Thing what was your main focus, to get to the end of the line and have a finished book, or to finish the book and get it published as soon as possible?

I don’t think you can ever write a book simply because you want to be published. If you do that you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. I wrote the book because it demanded to be written and even in the moments – and there were many – when I thought I was wasting my time, I knew I couldn’t stop because I had to finish it. Of course you dream about getting it published and actually having people read it and enjoy it but I just wanted to do the story justice. I really believed in the idea.

4. As you’ve mentioned, you attended the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course. In what ways did it help you?

Well I had a full time job and two small children and I felt I didn’t have the space to write or the discipline. So I thought the course would help with that, which it did. But most importantly it made it seem achievable for the first time in my life. And my class was great, they’d tell me they liked it for a minute and spend the next 59 minutes pulling it apart. That was a huge help.

5. When you finished there, could you see the immediate difference in your writing?

I was more than half way through my first draft by the time I finished whereas previously I had only written three pages before I got bored so that was a huge difference. But more than that it taught me about novel writing and why some of my writing wasn’t working, so I guess it gave me a lot more confidence.

6. If you had not received positive interest in the story at the end of the course, what do you think you would have done next?

I was lucky to have six agents approach me but even if I hadn’t I would have finished the novel. I really believed in the story, I just didn’t know whether I could pull it off.

7. What do you like most about your character Rachel?

That you can’t keep her down for long but also that she surprised me and still does.

8. As the reviews for the book surface, how much of the feedback will you take on board for when you write your next book?

Probably none! I don’t mean that in an arrogant way either but I don’t see how you can write a book to please other people, that would be a recipe for disaster. You write the best book you can. And yes in an ideal world it would be great if everyone loved the book but that’s not going to happen. Novels are so subjective, you can’t please everyone.

9. On the subject of that, I understand you’re currently writing your new book. What can you tell us about it?

It’s changing all the time. I’m a long way into the first draft and I know one of the characters is hiding something from me, that is a huge frustration. It’s the story of two women who were both attacked by the same man years apart. Melody survived but feels dead inside, Eve was killed. When her body is found police connect the cases and Melody embarks on a mission to get to know the dead woman. But the more she finds out about her ‘friend’ the more she realises Eve is the only person who can teach her how to live again.

10. When you get an idea, is it the plot which drives you along the most or the make up of a particular character?

It’s difficult to say. With Precious Thing it was definitely the character that came to me first but with the book I’m writing now the plot did.

11. How did you find your experience of being on the New Blood Panel, was it what you expected?

It was fantastic. There was such a great atmosphere at Harrogate and everyone I met was very friendly and encouraging. You can’t really ask for more as a debut novelist.

12. As a debut author what has been the most valuable lesson that you’ve learned so far?

Don’t read Amazon reviews! But seriously it’s probably that just because you’ve written one book doesn’t mean the next one is going to be any easier. I’m finding it a bit like childbirth, I had forgotten all the painful parts.

13. Do you plan a book ahead or do you start the process when the current work in progress is done and dusted?

I had the idea for this one when I was writing the first draft of Precious Thing but it was nothing more than an idea. I wouldn’t want to turn my attention away from the book I’m writing but it definitely makes me feel more comfortable knowing what I’m going to write next. I’ve had the idea for the third book for about a year. I know that’s going to be a very tricky one to pull off!

14. Finally, do you ever see yourself writing a full length story with a male voice?

I’d love to. I might finally understand how they think.



Synopsis

Some friendships fizzle out. Rachel and Clara promised theirs would last for ever.

They met when Rachel was the new girl in class and Clara was the friend everyone wanted. Now in their

late twenties Rachel has everything while Clara’s life is spiralling further out of control. Then Clara

vanishes.



Imagine discovering something about your oldest friend that forces you to question everything you’ve

shared together. The truth is always there. But only if you choose to see it.


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