The Writing Life of: Nicola Mostyn
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Nicola Mostyn. Nicola will be sharing with us details of her writing life, telling us all about her latest book ‘The Love Delusion‘, which was released on 5th September 2019 and answering a few fun questions too. This post contains affiliate links.
Nicola Mostyn is the author of The Gods of Love, shortlisted for the Writers’ Guild Best First Novel and of the sequel, The Love Delusion, which is out now.
She is represented by Susan Armstrong of C+W Agency. Nicola lives in Manchester. She has a Master’s degree in English Literature and as well as writing fiction, works as a freelance writer, creativity coach and editor. She has co-written a writing handbook, Seven Creative Gremlins and runs the writing support website TheUnstoppableAuthor.com.
Nicola is currently working on her third novel.
1) As a child did you have a dream job in mind?
Yes, I always wanted to be an author! I started reading quite young, loved writing little stories and poems and was never happier than when I was leaving the library with an armful of books. Reading was so magical for me, I knew that creating stories was what I wanted to do with my life.
2) Who was your favourite childhood author (s)?
It would have to be C.S Lewis. I read the whole Narnia series and loved them. I distinctly remember the moment I realised that he’d created a religious allegory with Aslan. I was astounded that fiction could work on these levels. I still love those books. I’m re-reading them right now, in fact.
3) Was there a particular point in your life that you realised you wanted to be a writer?
As mentioned, I always knew I wanted to be a novelist. However, it took me a while to get there. After a stint as a bookseller and a copywriter I became a freelance journalist/columnist and literature editor in my mid twenties. I enjoyed this work as it allowed me to write creative non-fiction and learn how to entertain. I read a lot of books, met a lot of creative people and learned some valuable lessons. But it took me until I was around thirty (and the collapse of print journalism) to remember that I was supposed to be writing books myself!
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any special routines, word count, etc?
I get up at 7am, get a cup of hot water, set a timer for half an hour and sit in a tranquil spot (as pictured) with my journal. Sometimes I write whatever is on my mind (what Julia Cameron, writer of The Artists’ Way calls ‘Morning Pages’). Sometimes I just stare out of the window and watch the birds.
I’m an impatient person, so I used to resist this ‘non-productive’ time, but I’ve learned that taking time to calm my mind means I’m much more productive later. After that, I eat breakfast, make coffee and write fiction on the sofa, headphones in, music playing, from 8am to 9.45am.
I aim for around 1000- 1500 words, but I don’t obsess about wordcount. I write my first drafts fast just to work out what story I’m trying to tell. Then I go into my home office and do my other work, which is reading manuscripts and writing reports to help guide aspiring writers. In the past I’ve had the opportunity to write fiction full time, but honestly I never managed much beyond that initial morning blast anyway, so this routine works well for me, as long as I take care to rest my brain.
5) How many books have you written? Any unpublished work?
I’ve written two novels, including my debut The Gods of Love, which was the first novel I tried to write. Mind you, the version that is published came a long time after my first effort and bears very little in common with it. My second, The Love Delusion, is the sequel and together this duology tells an epic story which far surpasses anything I had in mind when I started all those years before.
I haven’t any unpublished novels, though I’ve quite a few scrappy half-drafts of books which have never yet seen the light of day. The seeds of those ideas will no doubt crop up again somewhere.
6) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m sort of both. I have to blast out a first draft to find out what story it is I am trying to tell. I don’t plan before I start because I depend on my subconscious for my story ideas and direction. I believe my brain is like google. It contains everything I’ve ever seen, read or experienced and if I don’t try too hard to direct my fiction I can draw on this fount of ‘forgotten’ information to create the best possible version of my story, (which I suspect my brain has already created and is just patiently waiting for me to catch up!)
Once I’ve got a ‘shitty first draft’ down, then I can start planning, and here I use the three act structure as a guide, using the ideas I’ve come up with in my first draft, making sure there’s enough happening in each part of the novel and that the story has a trajectory and a momentum that will keep people turning the pages. Still, even then, I might not know what’s going to happen in certain sections and I try not to force the story. I just leave these chapters empty until the action reveals itself. It always does.
Concerning your latest book:
Publisher – Piatkus
Pages – 384
Released – 5th September 2019
ISBN-13 – 978-0349415710
Format – ebook, paperback
LOVE IS . . . A MYTH?
That’s the belief of Frida McKenzie, devoted member of The Love Delusion movement, determined to cure humans of our ridiculous obsession with love.
But there’s something she’s forgotten…
When Frida finds a mysterious picture of herself with a man she barely knows, the certainties she has about her world begin to unravel.
What are the sinister roots of the cult that seems to have gripped humanity? Why can’t she remember anything about her life before – including the strange(ly attractive) man in that picture? And just when exactly did she take up fantasy role play?
As a battle approaches that’s been millennia in the making, it’s beginning to look like there’s only one question that really matters: if love conquers all, what happens when it’s gone?
7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
Because I’d had the idea for The Love Delusion for so long (since I began writing the first Gods book in 2008), I’d already done a lot of research about the Greek gods and goddesses. I read books and stories about Eros and Anteros, Medusa and Psyche (Eros’ wife) and all the other epic elements that turn up in this book which I won’t spoil by mentioning!
I also read and made extensive notes on Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, which was what inspired the idea of a group of people that are ‘Anterists’, who do not believe that love exists. In fact they believe that romantic love is a debasing force that is preventing humanity from evolving.
8) How long did it take to go from ideas stage to writing the last word?
This is a tricky question! I had a few abortive attempts to write The Love Delusion. Superhero sequels are extremely hard to write, it turns out. Also, I really wanted it to work for new readers and for those who loved my debut, so that took a bit of working out.
I started writing it in autumn 2017. After a lot of false starts and rewrites, I got a decent first draft sketched out in September 2018 and had it finished and ready to publish nine months after that. Working out what the story is meant to be is by far the hardest part. After that, writing is easy.
9) How did you come up with the title of your book?
I knew the book would contain an anti-love movement, and I’d always intended to name it after the Dawkins book, The God Delusion. Quite a lot of the arguments in that book could also be used against the concept of romantic love. Love, like faith, requires a trust in something unseen that can be easier or harder to believe in depending on your past experience and/or current circumstances. And, like faith, a lot of the societal rules around romantic love really only serve to keep people in line.
10) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
The protagonist is Frida McKenzie, a 30 year old divorce lawyer and a respected member of the Love Delusion movement. She’s a kind of every woman in that she’s trying to work out herself, her life and the world, and she really believes The Love Delusion is a force for good. But there are things about the world, and herself, that she’s forgotten and that she’ll have to remember if she’s going to survive.
Then there’s Dungeons and Dragons-obsessed Dan, a Love Delusion protester who Frida finds herself unaccountably drawn to.
We’ve got Psyche, a beautiful badass who is hunting Frida and Dan for reasons they don’t understand. And then there’s R.A Stone, the founder of the Love Delusion movement, a charismatic and powerful guru who is not at all what he seems…
11) What process did you go through to get your book published?
This was my second in a two book deal with Piatkus. To get that deal, I wrote my debut, The Gods of Love, and pitched to my dream agent, Susan Armstrong. Thankfully she loved it, we pitched it to publishers, Anna Boatman at Piatkus loved the book too and the team all worked really hard with me to create what we believe is a unique epic female hero story.
12) What’s next for you writing wise?
I’m now writing my third book, which I am very excited about. I can’t tell you anything about it, because I find speaking about unfinished projects takes the energy out of them! But I can say that it is not connected to the gods universe and it’s a bit different to what you’ve seen from me before.
1) If you could have any super power for the day which would you choose?
I’d love to fly. It looks so much fun. I once had a dream in which I knew I had the ability to fly and I asked a wise person how I could make it happen again. The advice was very zen: “Stop not flying.”
2) Do you have any pets?
I love animals and can often be found accosting other people’s dogs in the park but alas, our apartment does not allow pets. A dog is definitely on my wish list for the future. In the meantime, I have to make a fuss of my plants and my boyfriend instead.
3) If you decided to write an autobiography of your life, what would you call it?
Ooh great question! I think I’d call it ‘Can The Queen Jump?’ a question I asked my mum on the way home from school one day when I was tiny and all the mums (understandably) laughed at me. I was actually talking about chess. I was an intense child and that feeling of not being quite understood is one that has stayed with me, and is probably what makes me a writer.
4) Your book has been made into a feature film and you’ve been offered a cameo role, which part would you choose, or what would you be doing?
Love this idea. Very Stan Lee. Okay, I’d be…one of the protesters outside the church in Chapter Two. Maybe I’d shout something very derogatory at Frida as she passed.
5) Where is your favourite holiday destination?
There’s a cottage on a working farm in the Lake District that I go to every year with three writer friends who I’ve known since my journalism days. It didn’t happen this year, for obvious reasons. We’ve spent some amazing times there. When we started going, none of us were published. Now we all are, and there are plenty more exciting projects to come. I’m really looking forward to us making it back there soon.
6) A baseball cap wearing, talking duck casually wanders into your room, what is the first thing he says to you?
He says (when I look surprised): “What, don’t you remember? We made a deal. I get to write one chapter in each of your novels from now on.” And from that point on, one chapter in all my books was just quacking. Only the speaking duck could translate, but he refused because he said if the world wasn’t ready for his art, that was their tough luck.
I would like to say a big thank you to Nicola Mostyn for sharing with us details of her writing life and for a wonderful interview.