Interview with author Katie Oliver

Interview with author Katie Oliver
Happy Tuesday everyone!
Today on the blog I have the honour of having a Q & A session with series author, Katie Oliver, whose Darcy-esque books are flying in the charts. I am sure you will enjoy reading this as much as I did!
  1. How did your writing journey start?

Probably when I learned I could go to a place called a library and – gasp! – take books home. Those books opened up new worlds to me, worlds a kid growing up in a quiet Washington, DC suburban neighborhood could only imagine. I spent time with Winnie the Pooh and Laura Ingalls, Narnia and the Pevensie children, Mary Lennox and Nancy Drew. I devoured those stories, and many more besides, and decided I wanted to write stories like that one day, too.

  1. Tell us about your amazing new ebook series?

It came about accidentally. My first series for Carina UK, Dating Mr Darcy, consisted of three books I’d written with overlapping characters.  Because the first book was called Prada and Prejudice, my agent and Carina decided to give the next two books Jane Austen-y titles as well to tie them all together. The problem was, the stories were only (very) nebulously based on Austen. They were first and foremost chick lit / romantic comedies. But when the marketing team came up with the Dating Mr Darcy series title, my Jane Austen fate – intentional or not – was set.

So the new Jane Austen Factor series was my deliberate attempt to put a modern spin on three beloved Austen classics – Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility. I hope I succeeded in creating stories that (a) remain true to the spirit of Austen but (b) have a fresh outlook at the same time. It was scary to attempt such a daunting task, since it’s impossible to follow in Austen’s footsteps, but I gave it my best shot. I had fun, too. Win-win!

  1. Have you always loved Austen? Who is your favourite female and male character?

To be honest, I really wasn’t much into the Austen thing when I started writing. *hangs head in shame* Oh, I’d seen the films and the BBC miniseries; like every other female, I’d ogled Colin Firth in his damp shirt and raced off to read Pride and Prejudice forthwith, and I had a passing familiarity with Regency cant from reading a few Georgette Heyer novels.

But it wasn’t until I saw Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet that I came to fully understand and appreciate Miss Austen’s skill as both a writer and a keen observer of human behavior.

My favorite female Austen character is unquestionably Emma Woodhouse. She’s that irritating person who thinks she knows best for all concerned…and doesn’t.  Yet at heart, despite her high-handed snobbery and interference, she really does mean well.

And while I know I should say Mr Darcy is my favorite male character (and he is amazing), I find Mr Knightley to be more approachable, a bit more human, despite his fondness for criticizing poor, misguided Emma. (But she deserves it, doesn’t she?) I like that Knightley sees the good in Emma where perhaps no one else does; and that despite her meddling, and her snobbery, and her wrong-headedness, he still loves her.

 

  1. What is next for your writing?

I’ve got a book finished and another half finished, both set in the US. I set them aside last summer to work on the Jane Austen Factor series. The first story is set in Baltimore and deals with an Irish-American family; the second takes place in New York, in the publishing world. They both offer up plenty of romance and drama. I’m looking forward to returning to those projects.

 

  1. Do you have a formula for your writing? Do you write at a set time/place?

No formula; the only prerequisite to anything I write is that it has to fuel my enthusiasm enough to imbue me with a strong desire to see the story through to the end. And I have to love my characters, even (especially) the villain.

My best time to write is in the mornings. I’m rested and my brain on coffee is much sharper than my brain on fumes later in the day. By three PM I’m useless.

  1. Tell us about the people in your life

Well, there’s my husband Mark – known to everyone through my blogs as “Mr Oliver.” He’s my biggest fan and my best, most ardent supporter. And he doesn’t mind cooking when I’m on a deadline. So he’s a writer’s dream.

 

My sons Jay and James are grown, with kids of their own – so thanks to them, I’m lucky enough to have a grandson and two granddaughters. (But don’t tell anyone I’m a gran. It’s just between us.)

 

  1. What are your snacking/drinking necessities when writing?

 

Coffee.  Coffee, and more coffee. Did I mention coffee?

 

Luckily, I’m not really hungry when I write – I’m so committed to getting stuff down on the page that hours just slide by with only coffee breaks or a granola bar to mark the passage of time. Maybe that could become a new diet – ‘The Writer’s Diet’ – where you can have all the coffee you want. But nothing else.

 

  1. Do you have a pet hate?

 

No, I really like pets. I even have a Belgian terrier named Duke.

 

Seriously, though. The one thing I really can’t stand is when someone talks down to someone else. I sometimes see people in restaurants talk to their servers like crap. Why do they do that? Stop it. Just stop it.

 

 

  1. Finally, if you could live in Austen times, would you? How do you think you would fare?

 

I would absolutely HATE to live in Austen times. I mean, no wifi? No iPad, no mobile phone? Not to mention a high likelihood of dying in childbirth and/or being married off to some guy with bad teeth? No, thank you.

 

While we tend to idealise the Regency period, the reality bore little resemblance to what’s typically portrayed in films. Roads were muddy and impassable for months at a time; body snatchers were a thing; visitors came to stay for weeks, even months, before leaving. You might be the richest, prettiest heiress in all of London, but once you married, your money became your husband’s property…and so did you. Who needs that?

 

So while I love the idea of the Regency, of the pretty, high-waisted gowns and silk slippers, and the cute Spencer jackets, I think I’d take a pass on actually living amongst the rakes and fashionable impures and just stay put where I am.

 

Besides, I’d complain so much I have no doubt they’d kick me right back to the future as fast as they could.

The third book in the series is out this week – exciting stuff!

More info below – lovely chatting with you Katie!

 

 

Who should rule – your head or your heart?

When sisters Marianne and Elinor Dashwood are forced to leave their family home to live in a rural Northumberland cottage, Marianne is convinced her social life is over. Somehow, she can’t see kitten heels coping well in the countryside – and being stuck in the middle of nowhere, miles from London, sounds about as exciting as watching paint dry. Not to mention her arrogant new boss, Dr Brandon, who doesn’t seem to think much of her city ways.

When she meets the gallant, charming and handsome Mr Willoughby, Marianne begins to think that country life might not be so bad after all…especially when he suggests that marriage might be on the cards.  But the countryside still has a few tricks up its sleeve for Marianne…after all, love rarely blossoms in the most convenient places!

 

Website/blog: http://katieoliver.com/ko/blog/

Facebook Author Page: http://www.facebook.com/KatieOliverWriter

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/katieoliver01/

Amazon Author Page US: http://www.amazon.com/author/katieoliver

Amazon Author Page UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Katie-Oliver/e/B00HGQ93VS

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7565829.Katie_Oliver

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/@katieoliver01

Carina UK/Pink Ink blog/website – https://pinkinkladies.wordpress.com

BIO:

Katie Oliver loves romantic comedies, characters who “meet cute,” Richard Curtis films, and Prosecco (not necessarily in that order). She currently resides in South Florida with her husband, two parakeets, and a dog.

Katie’s been writing since she was eight, and has a box crammed with (mostly unfinished) novels to prove it. With her sons grown and gone, she decided to get serious and write more (and hopefully, better) stories. She even finishes most of them.

 

BUY LINKS: Who Needs Mr Willoughby?

 

Amazon US – http://www.amazon.com/Who-Needs-Willoughby-Katie-Oliver-ebook/dp/B018QIKVRO

 

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Who-Needs-Willoughby-Katie-Oliver-ebook/dp/B018QIKVRO

Book review: Kook by Chris Vick

I was lucky to receive an advance copy of this book – I requested it in fact, for the tagline alone…

kook

SYNOPSIS

A heart-pounding love story that grips like a riptide, and doesn’t let go…

Fifteen-year old Sam has moved from the big city to the coast – stuck there with his mum and sister on the edge of nowhere.

Then he meets beautiful but damaged surfer-girl Jade. Soon he’s in love with her, and with surfing itself. But Jade is driven by an obsession: finding and riding a legendary huge wave no one has ever ridden.

As the weeks wear on, their relationship barrels forward with the force of a deep-water wave – into a storm, to danger … and to heartbreak.

This book is from the Harper Collins children’s range, and is out on 7th April.

I gave it 5 STARS. It’s a bit of a slow burn at first, but when it gets going, it goes grip you, and I flew through the last 100 pages as the adrenalin kicked in and the story came alive. I wasn’t surprised to find that the author is a keen surfer and is involved with sealife, as these elements are so real and honest in the book that I felt right there, with the characters, surfing the ocean.

I won’t spoil anything, but this book is ideal for the age range it is aimed at, and is a bit of a sneaky tear jerker too. Told from a male perspective, it is a truly original story, and it is told well. One for the summer holidays, and I love that it’s set on the Cornish coast.

Sarah Dahl talks Scrivener

Today on the blog, we have a double treat. Not only has Sarah come to talk to us, but she is telling us about Scrivener, which I for one am more than vaguely curious about!

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Working with Scrivener

corkboardview

Yes, I can only recommend this magical tool. In my opinion, every writer should at least give it a go and try. You’ll never look back at Word once you’ve got the hang of it.

IF you get that far. I admit, it’s daunting, and even authors working with it all the time are probably not using all the available functions. But then – you never use them all at once anyway, do you? You don’t have to understand it all at once either.

So one step after the other.

First: Read the manual that comes with Scrivener. Take your time. It’s very detailed, and yes, too detailed to not be scared. But relax – you won’t need all the info to start using Scrivener. Just try the little training tasks they assign. Play around. You can’t crash the thing, and you’ll learn faster by doing it than by reading it.

 

The basic setup is important, because it’s your fast-track to your preferred settings. What you want your text to look like while typing (just while you write, not finally! Everything else, the output, or compile, later on can be changed according to what you need the text to look like in the end.) You can find it under “Tools – Options” and then will have to work through the points that interest you. Fonts, margins, colours, etc. Very important, and well worth putting the effort in. Once this is set up, you could theoretically write all stories with your preferred settings, or go back there and change settings for every story, just as you like. (PICTURE “toolsoptions”)

All in one place

Scrivener’s strongest point in comparison to Word: you have just the ONE source text (and Scrivener automatically takes snapshots of it to save it, so you can go back to earlier versions at any time), and you can from there compile the story into every format you need. As e-book, for editing, for print, in dozens of formats you can choose from or set up your own. There are no limits and it’s a very fast way to get what you want for the type of task you want to do.

For example: I have several setups; and one is for my own printout-editing for editing drafts. Now I only choose “Compile As”- “Sarah_foredits” and print the compile in the formatting I set up for handwritten editing: wide margins, space and fonts etc.

Whatever you choose as compile option, the source text is NOT changed by this!

This also forces you to make all the changes in this one place, the source text. There is always your one, current file you work with, and you alter the output, the compiles, for your needs. So much less complications with several files in different formats, then if you want to edit, you don’t know where to save them and how to keep it all tidy.

With Scrivener, it’s always the recent version, BUT you can go back to earlier snapshots if you prefer that. From there you edit and from there you compile your output texts, in short-cut if you’ve setup your preferences for every task.

 

So how do you start?

Read and work with the manual, do their little assignments, and then start with something small. A short story, something that doesn’t need complicated chaptering.

You click “New Project” and choose the type of project you want to do. Fiction, non-fiction, novel, short story etc. You also choose where and how to save it. BEWARE: never alter the location of your .scriv-file while working on it, so choose wisely! Otherwise you’d pull out the rug from under Scrivener, and it can’t locate your project anymore, if you altered the name or location. All the snapshots and metadata etc. go in this chosen place. Keep it there.

Then you do your setup, as described above, “Tools – Options” etc. Play around with these, nothing can go wrong here.

 

If then you’re in your file, ready to write, just do. Don’t worry about the left and right-hand margins and the dozens of options there. You’ll naturally find what you may need later and can ignore what you don’t need. It’s what I did when I couldn’t make sense of the vast range of options. Bit by bit, I found what I needed, with the help of trial and error or the manual.

 

So what do you see in that confusing “Project” view?

If it’s a short story you write, just type down in the general project view until you finished.

If you work on a novel, or something that needs chaptering, I’d recommend you go into the “binder” to the LEFT and organise some files (scenes) and folders (chapters) first. This is done by drag-and-drop or double-click. I try to write every scene into one new file, which means the binder-content can become a very long list. Never fear. It’s much easier to work with that organised view. The scenes can then be packed into “folders”, and you can open or close them in the binder view while working.

 

The project “binder” is your contents. For longer works, the binder helps to keep an eye on the organisation, the chaptering, the subfiles, even additional info that doesn’t go INTO the text, such as People, Places, Research (pics or files), etc. Whatever you want. This I love: you can see all the additional info you may need, for example the notes you took about your characters, even pics of what they look like, without leaving your text. Word can’t do that.

 

For my longer Viking shieldmaiden project I have a very complicated chaptering and long additional list of people and places, along with pics and notes. I can click on anything WHILE I’m writing in Scrivener and it’s there.

For example: what did I say my shieldmaiden’s love-interest was? Half-Swede or half-Dane? One click on the left, at People – Kjartan (his name) and I have all the notes about his parents and upbringing.

For shorter works, you can just type along and ignore all these options 🙂

 

What is that corkboard option?

To sort my chapters and to get a handy summary for each one, I use the “Corkboard” option at the top middle of the project view. It’s basically a virtual corkboard with synopses you can shuffle around and type into. They are your binder-content!

That way, I can insert more chapters or scenes between the existing ones, or add more summary info for a quick reference to myself.  You can also add much more info there, if you want, such as POV for each scene (I did that), the state of the scene (first draft, second draft, done, etc.). This “metadata” is shown to the right in the Scrivener main project view.

You can make changes to the “metadata” directly on the right side without leaving your text. While writing a scene, you can quickly click to change the POV or draft options (metadata), or the synopsis of the scene (above right), or insert notes to yourself (bottom right).

I do include notes all the time, and again, Scrivener lets me see those while I type, in that bottom right corner. I can also flip forward to later scenes, and prepare them with notes. I love that.

So this is the RIGHT side, “Synopsis”, “General metadata” and “Document notes” explained. You change or ignore them according to your own needs.

 

What’s the “outliner” view for?

Then there’s one more option that can come in handy for longer projects. You can see it at the top middle, right beside the corkboard view-option. It’s the “outliner” view, and can be very helpful for an overview, and your outlining of novels or non-fiction. The outliner shows the subdocuments of a chosen group (e.g. a chapter-folder) with all their info, in table-format. You have the synopses, metadata, notes etc. at a glance there.

I used the outliner to plan my novel roughly before I started writing it. You can see my structure-ideas on the right side of the outliner in red, I called those “theory”. I’m a pantser by heart, but for this project needed some structure to place my main scenes and events. Where should that “inciting incident” go (in my case, a rape scene), when should the “point of no return” be (my shieldmaiden’s sister is threatened), or where are the subplot-points surfacing (her love-interest)?

With the outliner view, I can always remind myself of the structure I had in mind, it even shows me the word count for each subdocument, and I can see how balanced the novel is.

Scrivener is pretty damn good at saving your stuff

While you work, Scrivener does backups, takes snapshots, and stores the different layers of content (also metadata etc.) without you even noticing. Make sure you never change the location of all these files, so you can always re-open older documents if you want to make changes/edits. It’s a very thought-out structure I’m quite in awe of!

If you still are a bit daunted or apprehensive to give Scrivener a try, start small. You’ll learn by writing, and just playing around. Then there’s the manual, and very helpful forums of professionals and writer-colleagues always willing to help you out. I include myself there, although I’m definitely NOT a professional Scrivener user, but learned on-the-go and still am learning more each day. If there’s anything you want to know, pop over to my blog at sarah-dahl.com or message me on Facebook or Twitter 🙂

I hope you’ll have fun with this great writing tool and maybe become a faster, more organised writer (even a kind of plotter!) – it’s what happened to me 😉