The Writing Life of: Cristina Hodgson
This week on ‘The Writing Life of:‘ I am thrilled to be interviewing author Cristina Hodgson. Cristina will be sharing with us detail of her writing life, telling us all about her latest book ‘VALENTINA‘, which was released on 4th May 2018, and answering a few fun questions too.
So without further ado I’ll hand you over to Cristina Hodgson
Cristina Hodgson, mother of two, born in Wimbledon, London, currently lives in southern Spain. Cristina had a long career in sport, reaching national and international level and still actively participates in Triathlon races and enjoys outdoor activities.
In her spare time she also enjoys reading and writing. She won a sports scholarship to Boston College. After a period in Boston, she returned to the UK and graduated from Loughborough University with a degree in PE and Sports Science.
1) As a child what did you want to do when you grew up?
Once, when I was about ten, a teacher from school asked me what wanted to be when I grew up. I told her (I’d just come back from Disney World, Florida) that I wanted to become a Killer Whale trainer, my somewhat startled teacher explained that I should choose a more realistic career, so I’ve become a writer instead! I’m not sure if it’s quite what my teacher had in mind!
2) Who were your favourite childhood authors?
Edith Blyton, I think I read all the famous five books, those were the books that hooked me on reading. C. S. Lewis (For The Chronicles of Narnia). Edward Stratemeyer under Carolyn Keene for the Nancy Drew Series.
And then when I was older all the Daphne du Maurier and Agatha Christie books.
I guess it comes as no surprise I like to add a bit of mystery into my own books.
3) At what point in your life did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always enjoyed reading. When I was younger, I could read two to three books a week, so I guess, in my case, from the reader the writer was born. But it’s only been recently that I’ve made a conscious decision to take my writing seriously and turn it into a career.
I wrote “A little of Chantelle Rose” during a summer break between jobs and “Valentina” whist working full time as the Head Administrator of the Export department in a winery and it’s only with Book III (out this summer) that I’ve taken my writing more seriously and now write full-time. I can easily clock a 60 plus hour week. More than the conventional 9-to-5 job I’m afraid.
The main difference however, is that it doesn’t feel like work and I love it!
4) How did you go about following that dream?
Before I took the step to write full-time, I had been writing part-time for a while. But it got to a point where I was exhausted juggling both jobs. I have two young children also which take up most my time, anyway. I needed to decide which path to follow. Continue in my conventional 9-5 or take the risk and follow my dream.
There is a lovely quote by J.A.Shedd which is “A ship in harbour is safe, but that’s not what a ship is build for…” and I believe part of me is made to story-tell. I’m also extremely lucky to have the backing of my family. Without them, following this dream would not be possible.
5) What is your writing day like? Do you aim for a certain amount of pages or words before you stop for the day?
Like I’ve said, now I’m writing full time and I can easily clock a 60 plus hour week. Half of my time is taking up by writing / editing. I have to write at least 2000 words a day (Monday to Friday) before I can call it a day. The other half is taken up by marketing work, keeping my social media networking active and reading and researching on how to improve my writing skill as well as researching for my novels.
I usually wake up at 6 am and get an hour or so of work done before the school run. Then, once I’ve dropped my kids off at school I resume my position in front of the computer until 3pm, which is when I have to collect my kids again. The afternoon is taken up by homework supervision and after-school activities, etc. Once my kids have gone to bed, I’ll write again until about 11 pm. After that hour, I’m so tired that any ideas that come out of my head I have to scrap because they’re total nonsense.
6) Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
Yes, because there is a part of me that feels I’m an impostor. I still find it hard to call myself a writer and I think if my work was published under another name, I could pretend it wasn’t me. But it doesn’t actually work like that, because you need everyone to know who you are so that you can engage with them. Saying that I have another book that will be published soon which is totally different to the Chantelle Rose Series.
It’s much more serious and in line with conventional women’s fiction. I may publish this novel under a pseudonym name, linked somehow to me, just so that I don’t confuse the readers in thinking it will be similar to the Chantelle Rose Series and disappoint them with a serious book instead of a comedy.
7) Do you have any strange habits before starting, or whilst in the midst of writing?
Not yet, I can’t afford to, in the sense that, what I would really like is to leisurely sitting down at the computer with perhaps Mozart in the background as a soothing, inspirational composition. But I usually have the house filled with kids (only two are actually mine, but the neighbours kids have adopted my house, so there is always background noise when I write and believe me, it’s a far cry from Mozart’s symphony nº 40).
I do like to light a candle or an incense stick before I write, that’s the only peculiar writing habit I have right now.
8) Do you write longhand, typewriter, or on a computer?
OMG Computer!! I wouldn’t have made it as a writer if it hadn’t been for computers. My handwriting is terrible! I even struggle to decipher it at times! And spellcheck is my lifesaver! Even then I can invent words…
9) How many books have you written? Do you have any unpublished work?
Five books in total. Two full-length novels which form part of the Chantelle Rose Series. Another short story, “Simply Anna,” currently free on Amazon. Then I have two other unpublished works, one recently written and is going through the editing stages now to be released at the end of the summer, this third book also forms part of the Chantelle Rose Series. Then I have another unpublished novel, it’s actually the first book I ever wrote, over twenty years ago now. This novel has a much more serious story-line, and I’d like to re-write it for publication at the end of the year.
10) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Panster, as much as I try to plot. I can never stick to the structure. Something I have to work on because it’s much more time-effective to plot chapters before writing them. But my characters just run wild in my mind at the moment I’m afraid. This could be that in my normal day-to-day I’m a bit over-organised and I guess when I sit in front of the computer screen to write, my rebellious creative side takes over and pays to heed to structure what’s-so-ever!
11) Do you read all the reviews left for your book(s)?
Yes, I read all the reviews. I love getting positive feedback, a reader’s words are often what gives me the motivation to continue writing and the negative comments (even though I don’t like getting them and thankfully I haven’t got too many) if they are constructive, they can add to your writing. We can only learn from our errors and improve.
Concerning your latest book:
Pages – 333
Release Date – 4th May 2018
ISBN 13 – 978-1980932628
Format – ebook, paperback
Chantelle Rose is back. She has lived a fairytale. But will she ever get her Happy Ever After?
To find true happiness, she must discover who Robbie and Lionel really are. Their past holds the key to her future.
Her quest follows a trail that takes her to the depths of the Pampas lands of Argentina. There, the beautiful Valentina awaits – and holds the key.
But who is Valentina? What is the mystery surrounding her? And why is she so important to both Robbie and Lionel?
Will Chantelle discover the truth? And, more importantly, will she discover her destiny and the fidelity in her own heart?
12) How long did it take you to get from the idea’s stage to your date of publication?
This is how I wrote my second novel of the Chantelle Rose Series. I had a basic idea and just started writing. I was working full-time so could only find time to write 400 words every day from Monday to Friday. I would take Saturdays and Sundays off to enjoy time with my family. It took me a year. 400 words x 260 (days in the year excluding weekends) = 104,000 words.
My second novel is actually just under 90,000 words long, which calculates as even less than 400 words a day, five days a week. Easy! I would edit and write at the same time, which makes the actual writing process slower, but it was pretty much ready to send to my editor the very day I wrote “The End.” The official editing process took about another three weeks, and voila “Valentina.” was ready.
13) How did you come up with the names for your characters?
I’m terrible with names. The first that pops into my head will do, the problem is I seem to have a thing for names which start with “R” “S” and “G” so I named all my main characters and secondary characters with names that start with those letters. Which is a huge error as it makes it very confusing for the reader to keep track of who is who. So when my lovely editor suggested I re-name the characters, I agreed. But now I confuse myself. I mean “Who the hell is Flavia and Milena?” (Originally Sophia and Salma and I already have a Sally, Santiago and a Sav).
14) Can you give us an insight into your main character(s) life?, What makes them tick?
Chantelle: Despite being somewhat bonkers, she has a kind heart and even when she makes errors, she doesn’t intend to hurt anyone, just her impulsive nature gets the better of her and often leads her to trouble. But I think her errors make her more endearing and, perhaps for some, easy to relate to. She’s a “go-out-and-get-it” type of gal, which I love. She’ll take a risk before playing safe.
Valentina: Despite her heart-break, she’s not someone you find pitying, rather admiring. A strong, courageous woman. Someone who I would love to have as a best-friend.
15) Which was your hardest scene to write?
It wasn’t a scene as such, because I am a panster and I don’t think ahead when I write, I made a HUGE plot error in this novel. It was so huge I realised I would have to scrap the entire story and start again. (When I became aware of this boo boo I had written over 50 thousand words!) Basically I had set the story in the wrong country…I know, how is that even possible!?
After leaving the manuscript for about a week, too stressed to write and too devastated to scrap it and start again, I realised that I could actually use the error to my advantage by adding in an additional twist. Thank goodness for plot twists and creativity!
16) How did you come up with the title of your book?
The original name was: “The flowering of Chantelle Rose.” The whole MS was written under this name. But then I started working on the cover art, the original title just didn’t fit the image, literally…and I’m so glad it didn’t. I much prefer Valentina.
17) Did you get a family member/friend to read your work before sending to the publishers?
My dad. He’s the one who reads all my work first. He used to work as an editor for the BBC, so though he’s my dad, he’ll tell me if it’s crap if it’s what he believed. Thankfully he’s never had to say it…yet! lol.
18) What process did you go through to get your book published?
Ironically, on the 6th month anniversary of A little of Chantelle Rose, the very day I wrote “The End” to book II (Valentina) and the very week A little of Chantelle Rose got to nº2 in Amazon.com, under its respective category, British humour, my publisher told me they were closing. I think it took me about a week to get over the shock, but I tend to be positive and realised that during the year I had been with my publisher I had learnt so much about the publishing world, I could take the publication process on myself.
Valentina is self-published. Only time will tell if I decide to look for another publisher, but right now I’m quite happy to keep learning about the publishing world and be my own publisher.
19) What did you do once you had written the final word in your book?
The first time I wrote those magical words “THE END” I couldn’t quite believe I’d been capable of writing a full-length novel, but amazingly for some and especially for me I had. There is something divine about those two simple words, they are only six letters long but they are the sealing of a mystical world which you have created. Words that have breathed out through your fingers, or should I say bled and sweated out through your fingers. You step into a scene in your mind and you let it drip from your fingertips. I imagine that every writer has their own way of getting their story down on paper, but believe me, there is no glamour in the process, just hard work.
I usually end up crying on writing “The End.” Not heart-rending tears, but a tear or two usually find their way down my face. Tears of exhaustion, of happiness, also of grief because you’re saying goodbye to your characters.
20) What’s next for you, writing-wise?
During the next month or so I plan to re-write a book I originally wrote some twenty years ago, but never published. This story-line is much more serious. So as soon as I finish it, I’ll move onto another idea I have which will be more in line with my humorous stories.
1) What’s your favourite food?
Indian vegetable curry. I live in in-land Spain, so I don’t get to eat much Indian spicy foods, unless I cook it myself. Unfortunately there are no Indian spices in the local shops. I can’t even get HP brown sauce at the supermarket. A bit of a culinary nightmare to be honest.
2) If you had a box of crayons and you could only choose one, which colour would you choose?
Red. It’s always been my favourite colour. Passion, hot, visible, a bit like my characters.
3) What movie could you watch over and over again?
Dirty Dancing. The first time I ever watched it, I watched it twice through from start to end. Patrick Swayze was my childhood heart-throb!
4) What would be the top song on your playlist?
Right now, Versace. Bruno Mars. There is a couple of scenes in Valentina which I wrote listening to this song. So now whenever I hear the song, I’m taken back to those scenes and I find myself smiling in reminiscence.
5) If you won millions, what would be your first purchase?
A plane ticket for my whole family, to go see my brother and his family who live in Australia.
6) A talking duck walks into your room wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, whats the first thing he says to you?
‘Pack your bags doll, we’re leaving for Loony Toon’ (Of course, it would be a duck-shaped Freddy G, readers of “A little of Chantelle Rose” or “Valentina” will understand).
You can find out more about Cristina Hodgson by visiting the website/social media sites below.
I would like to say a big thank you to Cristina Hodgson for sharing with us details of her writing life, and for a wonderful interview.