The Writing Life of: Angela Wren
This week on ‘The Writing Life of:‘ I am thrilled to be interviewing author Angela Wren. Angela will be sharing with us detail of her writing life, telling us all about her latest book ‘Merle‘, which was released on 20th May 2017, and answering a few fun questions too.
So without further ado I’ll hand you over to Angela
Angela Wren is an actor and director at a small theatre a few miles from where she lives in the county of Yorkshire in the UK. She worked as a project and business change manager – very pressured and very demanding – but she managed to escape, and now she writes books.
She has always loved stories and story-telling, so it seemed a natural progression, to her, to try her hand at writing, starting with short stories. Her first ;published story was in an anthology, which was put together by the magazine ‘Ireland’s Own’ in 2011.
Angela particularly enjoys the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. Her short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. She also writes comic flash-fiction and has drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.
Her full-length stories are set in France, where she likes to spend as much time as possible each year. She’s currently researching and working on the follow-up to Merle.
1) As a child what did you want to do when you grew up?
I always cringe with embarrassment as I recall telling an elderly aunt that I wanted to be the next Shakespeare. But I was very young at the time and as you can probably guess, I’m still working on it!
2) Who were your favourite childhood authors?
Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson and Perrault. I still love fairy tales. When I was a little older it was C S Lewis, Robert Louis Stevenson, Lewis Carroll, E Nesbitt and many others. I’ve always been an avid reader.
3) At what point in your life did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
My initial decision, as above, was made when I was 7. Then I got distracted by other professions, law being one. Then life and the need to pay the mortgage took over and it was only when I escaped my very pressured and demanding job in project and business change management that I was able to consider the possibility of being a writer. It was in 2005 that I seriously began to pursue that goal.
4) How did you go about following that dream?
I joined two local writers’ groups and started submitting stories to competitions. My very first attempt failed, my second received a commendation and on my third attempt the story was published in an anthology in Ireland. That gave me the courage to attempt a full length novel and I also attended some writing workshops and short courses.
5) What is your writing day like? Do you aim for a certain amount of pages or words before you stop for the day?
My writing day? I so wish I could have those on a regular basis! I’m not just an author, I’m also an actor and director at a nearby theatre.
As the resident company we are responsible for the building so I regularly do shifts at the theatre which takes up a fair bit of my time. I meet with writing colleagues from time to time for whole days of nothing but writing, which are great. But in between everything else, I write as and when I can.
I don’t set a word count for each day/writing session, I think that can be counter-productive. I prefer to set myself an overall end date for a specific section, or set of chapters, or scenes. For example, I’m working to finish the current draft of book 3 in my Jacques Forêt series by the end of August.
6) Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Yes I did. When I submitted my first three chapters to Crooked Cat Publishing, I did so under a pseudonym. When they offered me a contract they suggested that I consider using my own. And I did.
7) Do you have any strange habits before starting, or whilst in the midst of writing?
Errr… No, I don’t think so. But then, it depends what you mean by ‘strange’! Whilst I was writing Messandrierre (book 1 in the series) I did undertake a mental structural edit whilst I was making ice cream one day. Would that count?
8) Do you write longhand, typewriter, or on a computer?
I use a computer and I draft straight to screen. It’s what I’m used to doing. In the very pressured environment of project management there’s no room for longhand or typing. You just have to get used to having all the info at your fingertips and transmitting it from keyboard to screen whilst attempting to get it right first time, every time. In such an environment, rework costs time and money so you really have to focus.
9) How many books have you written? Do you have any unpublished work?
I’ve written 3 other novels. The first has since been shredded and will never see the light of day. The second was actually more than one story and following detailed feedback from the New Writers Scheme within the Romantic Novelists’ Association I realised that I needed to refocus it and split it. That original story and the village in France where it is set have now become my Beauregard series of novels.
I want to move onto writing and re-writing those stories as soon as my Jacques Forêt series is complete.
10) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I write crime so I’m very much a plotter. But I don’t plot absolutely everything as I write through my characters and sometimes they take me completely off plan!
11) Do you read all the reviews left for your book(s)?
Yes I read them all and I’m very grateful to any reader who takes some of their very precious time to give me feedback. In my view all opinions are valid, good or bad and if I receive negative comments then I consider them carefully and decide what action, if any, I need to take. But I also remind myself that you can not please all of the people all of the time.
Concerning your latest book:
The Jacques Forêt Mystery Series Vol 2
Publisher – Crooked Cat
Pages – 209
Release Date – 5th July 2017
ISBN 13 – 978-1546811985
Format – ebook, paperback
Jacques Forêt, a former gendarme turned investigator, delves into the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where information is traded and used as a threat.
The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his own life is threatened.
When a body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to it.
Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?
12) How long did it take you to get from the idea’s stage to your date of publication?
About 3 years in total but spread over a much longer period of time. I knew way back in 2007 that the second book in the series would be set in a busy office and that Jacques’ personal circumstances would have changed between the end of book 1 and the beginning of book 2 and I developed the initial outline then.
Once Messandrierre was with the publisher I started thinking about Merle in much greater detail and making notes as and when ideas came to me. I actually started writing the first draft of Merle in the summer of 2015. It went through 4 drafts in total and was submitted to my publisher in March this year and published in July.
13) How did you come up with the names for your characters?
Mostly, I pinch them from war memorials and shop signs whilst I’m in France! But I specifically ‘christened’ Jacques myself by putting together various combinations of names until I felt I’d got the right one.
14) Can you give us an insight into your main character(s) life?, What makes them tick?
Jacques is a policeman through and through. He loves his job of investigating crimes. He’s smart and astute but he’s also steely and determined. He has a great sense of humour. He’s very patient and he likes children and is hoping for a son of his own if he can find the right person to share his life.
He has an eye for detail and he has a reputation for being well informed and quoting statistics. He’s also very kind and generous and always willing to help out a neighbour. He regrets that he can’t spend as much time as he would like with his father, sister and brother-in-law and their two sons, who all live in Paris.
Whilst he’s very much about doing things ‘by the book’, he isn’t afraid to take a short cut or an unusual approach if the need dictates it. And, perhaps his major flaw is that he hasn’t yet forgiven himself for not catching the drug baron he was after when he was working in Paris. All of which makes him a great character to write… Hmm, what a shame he isn’t real!
15) Which was your hardest scene to write?
The dénouement, I think. It’s quite a long scene and it involved a number of the characters in the book. There were also some key facts that had to come out and getting all of that in a sensible and logical order took some time to plan and execute.
16) How did you come up with the title of your book?
With my French dictionary and through some discussion with my writing colleagues at our regular monthly meetings.
17) Did you get a family member/friend to read your work before sending to the publishers?
No, I prefer to use the writing groups I attend and my close writing colleagues as my critics. They are a tough but honest bunch of people and I greatly appreciate their input. They are my beta readers.
18) What process did you go through to get your book published?
As I already had a publisher, Crooked Cat Publishing, I just sent them the manuscript as soon as it was ready. Myself and my editor then worked on the manuscript to get it polished. We went through 2 rounds of detailed edits and then the proofs were agreed and the book was published.
19) What did you do once you had written the final word in your book?
Put it in a drawer for 6 weeks and then went back to it and began editing and refining it before sending it to Crooked Cat.
20) What’s next for you, writing-wise?
I’m busily writing book 3, Montbel which I am hoping will be published towards the end of 2018 with book 4 completed and published in the year after that. I have my Beauregard series to work on and another project that I have only just picked up that I expect to come to fruition sometime between 2020 and 2022. I think I’m going to be very busy!
1) What’s your favourite food?
2) If you had a box of crayons and you could only choose one, which colour would you choose?
3) What movie could you watch over and over again?
There are loads of them – Brief Encounter, The Book Thief, The Diary of Ann Frank, A Room with a View, A Passage to India. How can you make me choose?
4) What would be the top song on your playlist?
The duet from The Pearl Fishers
5) If you won millions, what would be your first purchase?
A cup of black coffee! As I never win anything – not even raffles – I’d need it to help me get over the shock!
6) A talking duck walks into your room wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, whats the first thing he says to you?
‘Gee it’s real dark in here!’
You can find out more about Angela Wren by visiting the website/social media sites below.
I would like to say a big thank you to Angela for sharing with us details of her writing life, and for a wonderful interview.