The Writing Life of: Sandra Danby
This week on ‘The Writing Life of:‘ I am thrilled to be interviewing author Sandra Danby. Sandra will be sharing with us detail of her writing life, telling us all about her latest book ‘Connectedness‘, which was released on 10th May 2018 and answering a few fun questions too.
So without further ado I’ll hand you over to Sandra Danby
Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted.
1) As a child what did you want to do when you grew up?
I always wanted to write stories. Interestingly, as I went on to be a journalist and turned to fiction later in life, I produced my first short stories in my own magazines when I was about five. I’ve always been rubbish at drawing though so all the illustrations were cut from my Mum’s magazines, which is cheating.
2) Who were your favourite childhood authors?
Enid Blyton, most definitely. First the Famous Five, then Malory Towers. After that I devoured Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series. Clearly I yearned for outdoor adventure.
I also developed an early taste for Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham. The James Herriot vet books were read by all the family. I grew up on a Yorkshire dairy farm and my father read about the first one, All Creatures Great and Small, in Farmers’ Weekly magazine and ordered the hardback.
3) At what point in your life did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
Always, dating from the point I realised that someone actually sat down and wrote the stories I was reading. I don’t know where I thought they came from, spontaneous publication? But I was about five!
4) How did you go about following that dream?
I read loads of books. All the time. All types. I read English at university, trained as a journalist and spent 35+ years writing about business, interior design, retailing and furnishing. These years taught me not only the skill of writing but also the discipline of sitting down and just doing it. My experience as magazine editor and publishing director has proved invaluable in understanding book production and marketing.
5) What is your writing day like? Do you aim for a certain amount of pages or words before you stop for the day?
I have never set myself a target. I simply treat writing as my job and sit at my desk five days a week. Some of that time is admin and marketing. I go to the gym or a yoga class most days because otherwise my shoulders and neck freeze up. If I’m up against a deadline I work late nights and weekends. Whatever needs to be done, I do.
6) Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I write under my maiden name, purely because that is the name I used throughout my journalistic career and it made sense to continue doing so. Danby is an unusual name and so easily remembered.
7) Do you have any strange habits before starting, or whilst in the midst of writing?
Not that I’m aware of, though my husband may disagree. We both work at home and have been known to text each other to arrange a cup of tea mid-morning.
8) Do you write longhand, typewriter, or on a computer?
Computer mostly. In the UK I write on a Mac desktop. If we are in Spain [where we live some of the time and where my second novel Connectedness is partly set] I write on an old Acer laptop with the wi-fi disabled. If I’m out and about, doing research or on a train, I write on my iPad using a dinky clip-on Bluetooth keyboard. But I return to my favourite Muji notebooks when I’m developing a new novel. I write exercises as I develop characters and experiment with scenes and these are usually written in pen in my notebook.
9) How many books have you written? Do you have any unpublished work?
I’ve published the first two novels in the ‘Identity Detective’ series and am about to start writing the third. I’m at the exercise stage with Sweet Joy and am deep into plotting. I have one unfinished novel sitting in a large box. Tiara was the second novel I started to write, but life got in the way. One day I will go back to it.
10) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Plotter by nature, I can’t start writing if I don’t know what the book is about or how it will end. I may not know every step but I do know where it is heading. The journalist in me makes me a plotter but when writing Connectedness I made a conscious effort to relax more and I think it’s a better novel for it.
11) Do you read all the reviews left for your book(s)?
I read reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and any posted by bloggers that I pick up on Twitter. There’s nothing better than reading a couple of sentences from a stranger, saying they enjoyed reading my book. But taste is a subjective thing so I totally understand if my book doesn’t suit someone. I don’t dwell on the negative ones, not that many of those thank goodness. I did once have a 2* review saying ‘It was okay but it didn’t change my life’ which I thought was perhaps setting the bar a tad high!
Concerning your latest book:
Identity Detective Book Two
Publisher – Beulah Press
Pages – 366
Release Date – 10th May 2018
ISBN 13 – 978-0993113444
Format – ebook, paperback
Justine art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decided to confront her past. She ask journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.
Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art?
This is a tale of art, adoption,romance and loss, moves between now and the eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Malaga , Spain.
12) How long did it take you to get from the idea’s stage to your date of publication?
Four years. I wish I could write quicker.
13) How did you come up with the names for your characters?
Justine Tree, the artist in Connectedness, is about my age so I tried to remember names of my schoolfriends so her name would be in keeping with her age. My storylines involve characters of all ages so I refer to baby name websites that show the most popular names by year. But at the end of the day, it’s what feels right.
14) Can you give us an insight into your main character(s) life?, What makes them tick?
The main character in the ‘Identity Detective’ series is Rose Haldane. In the first book, Ignoring Gravity, she’s a journalist who thinks her life is pretty sorted. She is thinking about changing her job and interviews a guy and wishes he would ask her out. Then one day she reads a diary and learns she was adopted as a baby. Ignoring Gravity is Rose’s story of finding out who she is.
In the second book in the series, Connectedness, which was published in May this year, Rose becomes an ‘identity detective’. She is employed by successful artist Justine Tree to find the baby she gave up for adoption when she was an art student. Rose and Justine are quite similar but they frustrate each other, both are suspicious of the other’s motives and Rose suspects Justine of lying. Rose will appear in each of the ‘Identity Detective’ books, solving the mysteries of another family separated by adoption years earlier with the hope of reuniting lost relatives.
In Sweet Joy she is on the paper trail of a mother and father in 1940 who left their baby daughter in a house which was bombed during The Blitz.
15) Which was your hardest scene to write?
All the scenes in Connectedness featuring Justine’s friend and mentor, Darya, who is elderly and suffering from dementia. My beloved mother suffered from this too; it is such a cruel disease that removes the personality from a loved one and turns them into a blank canvas with no memories or recognition of family.
16) How did you come up with the title of your book?
The theme running throughout the ‘Identity Detective’ series is identity, the sense of belonging and how family members are connected to each other through blood, genes and experience. ‘Connectedness’ is a popular modern noun referring to the connections of family members and opposite to that, the isolation of being unconnected.
17) Did you get a family member/friend to read your work before sending to the publishers?
First my writing group friends read the chapters in painstaking detail, then re-reading various drafts and suggesting structural tweaks. After that my books are always professionally copy edited and proofread.
18) What process did you go through to get your book published?
My books are indie published which means me! This is where my journalism experience pays dividends. I used Scrivener for the first time to produce the ebook of Connectedness and was impressed by what it can do. My covers are professionally designed by Jessica Bell who just seemed to ‘get’ the concept of the series and produced the cover for Ignoring Gravity at her first attempt.
19) What did you do once you had written the final word in your book?
Once I handed over the manuscript to my copy editor, the next stage of the self-publishing journey began including cover design, production and marketing plans. I was working to a timetable to enable me to send ARCs to book bloggers for previews. I also booked a schedule of PR features for up to five months after publication, including a radio interview, Spanish press talk and local newspaper coverage. It was pretty full-on.
20) What’s next for you, writing-wise?
Sweet Joy is beckoning me. I am still tempted to do research but truly know I am ready to start writing. One of my characters is a textile designer so I’ve been having fun learning about that.
1) What’s your favourite food?
Cherry tomatoes, I eat them like sweets!
2) If you had a box of crayons and you could only choose one, which colour would you choose?
Dark green, like a forest.
3) What movie could you watch over and over again?
All the President’s Men. It inspired me to become a journalist.
4) What would be the top song on your playlist?
‘Songbird’ by Fleetwood Mac. Just because.
5) If you won millions, what would be your first purchase?
I’d pay off the mortgage.
6) A talking duck walks into your room wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, whats the first thing he says to you?
“What do you mean you’re a vegetarian?”
You can find out more about Sandra Danby by visiting the website/social media sites below.
I would like to say a big thank you to Sandra Danby for sharing with us details of her writing life, and for a wonderful interview.