I have taken a shine to debut authors in the last year or so, finding their unique new perspectives and stories fascinating and wonderful. I have been so excited with this new feature and aim to keep it going as long as possible. Last time, I was lucky to interview Richard Pickard, debut author of The Peculiar Tale of the Tentacle Boy, Published by Chicken House Books. The link to his interview is below.
This week I am back with Chicken House Books and debut author Angharad Walker. Her debut book, The Ash House is a fantastic, thrilling and made for chilly Autumn evenings cosied up by a fire. I am so excited to share her answers to my interview questions. I love getting an insight into how authors work!
How long have you been hoping to become a published author?
It feels like forever! I think I was about 10 when an author visited my school and I realised that writing books could be a job. I haven’t wanted to do anything else since that realisation—which is lucky because writing is the only thing I’m good at. Before I was an author I made my living as a copywriter.
What have been the greatest challenges in getting published?
I think everybody faces different challenges. For me, being patient was a big one. When you’re starting out trying to get an agent and a deal, you’re on your own. You can spend years working on a book only for the industry to not want it. Then you just have to start again with a new idea, hoping that that will be ‘the one’. It’s a massive leap of faith and takes a lot of self-belief.
What is the most surprising thing you have learned about publishing?
I think when I was on the outside of the industry, everybody within it seemed like these stern, faceless gatekeepers. But once I broke through to the other side, I discovered that these gatekeepers are really generous, kind, enthusiastic people who have dedicated their careers to championing books they care about. People go out of their way to help you. My team at Chicken House and my agency have made the whole process so enjoyable.
With hindsight, is there anything you wish you had known?
That it’s still okay to have bad days and stuff you don’t enjoy. Just because you’ve achieved a dream and reached this wonderful goal doesn’t mean that you stop being human.
Do you have other stories waiting to be written or published?
Yes, my second novel with Chicken House! It’s coming out September 2022. I can’t say too much about it, other than it’s set in a whole new universe and has a new cast of characters. I’m incredibly excited for readers to get their hands on it.
What do you think makes a good story?
I spend a lot of time asking myself this when I’m first draft mode. Of course, we all know the nuts and bolts of storytelling: pace, plot, character arcs and all that. But there’s a sort of alchemy where all these things can come together in a singular way to make something brilliant. I guess that’s what keeps readers reading, and writers writing! All I know is that when I’ve read something truly special, I’ll feel something that I can only describe as a small pang of grief—sadness that I have to leave that world, gratitude that I got to go there at all.
What is your most interesting writing quirk?
Probably my writing playlists. I make a specific playlist for each project I work on that reflects the shape and themes of the book. I take a lot of time and trouble over them—they can be my writing companions for a long time! It’s been about four years since I started the first draft of The Ash House, but still if I hear the opening chords of that playlist, I’m instantly transported.
Can you describe your writing space?
I have a few that I bounce between. At home here in South London, I’m lucky enough to have a study where I can write. All my books are above my desk on lovely oak shelves my partner made for me. I have two ferns on my desk. One was a gift from my publisher, the other is an asparagus fern I named Steve. There are little French doors so I can watch the squirrels and pigeons fight over the bird food. In the summer I write in the garden.
I also like to write in libraries. I spent a lot of time in the Wellcome Library writing my second book. Now I’m in the London Library a few days a week—it’s the most wonderful place in the city.
How long do you spend writing on a daily basis?
It varies depending on where I am in a project and what else is going on in my life. If I’m doing a first draft, it’s maybe a couple of hours before my brain runs out of steam. But if I’m editing, I can spend longer at it and do a normal 9-5 day.
What tips would you give to other aspiring authors?
Don’t neglect the habits that help you feel happy and healthy for the sake of writing. When I was younger all the advice I consumed was ‘write, write, write’! I tend to take things to extremes, and I wish there had been some more balanced advice out there. It’s true, you need to put the hours in, but writing is a way of life and you need to look after your life. So go for walks, visit the beach, go to the cinema, see friends, stretch, get some sleep. All in all it will make you a better writer and give you the stamina you need.
Thank you to Angharad for taking the time to answer my questions!