My star guest today is Kate Mallinder, a former student of mine who has just got herself an agent, Hannah Sheppard from the DHH Literary Agency. Not a mean feat for a busy mum of four! I asked Kate to tell us about her writing journey.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Looking back, I think it has always been there. At primary school I often wrote plays for everyone in my class (I liked casting people) and after university I wanted to write but never knew what to say. I started writing seriously in February 2013 (I can tell you the date too – it was the 15th) By this time I was 37 and had plenty to say. Ironically it was when I had the least amount of time as we had four young children. It seemed like madness to try and squeeze something else in but now it would be madness to stop – I feel like I’ve found a missing part of me. It was later that year that I met you, Karen. I'd realised that I needed someone to help me improve, which is exactly what you did. Every writer needs an inspiring mentor.
It was a pleasure, Kate. Your natural talent shone out. :)
Has any author inspired you?
So many authors have. Growing up I read authors like Michelle Magorian (Goodnight Mister Tom), Helen Cresswell (The Bagthorpe Saga), Enid Blyton of course and there was one book that I can vividly remember reading but can’t remember what it was called or who it was by. When I get some time, I’m going to look properly into finding out what that book was. Since I started writing, more authors have inspired me; Jenny McLachlan, Lara Williamson, Abi Elphinstone, Rebecca Westcott, Emma Carroll. There are also writers I have met through critique groups who have encouraged and influenced me who are on the route to being published.
Do you have special place for writing?
It’s the corner of our family room. When everyone’s at home, it’s a noisy, lively room, but when everyone’s out, it becomes my space where I can let my thoughts breathe.
Here it is, Kate's writing space. :)
What are you writing at the moment?
I’m writing several things – one is the second in a series for 7-9 year olds. I’m also writing a story for older middle grade children about a girl who is homeless. It’s contemporary but with an extra dollop of hope. I’m finding it hard though as the research is heart-rending but it’s a story that needs to be told. In between times, I’m working on a short monologue and considering writing a full length play after I enjoyed writing a short screenplay. I also blog about writing every fortnight.
Did you find it easy to get an agent?
No! I was roundly rejected for my first two books before I was signed with my third. However I’d set myself a decade to sign with an agent, so doing it in two years I’m ahead of schedule!
What advice would you give other writers trying to get an agent?
Keep reading, keep writing and keep querying agents, and if you take on board the advice you’re given, you will improve enough to interest an agent or two. Meet a few agents for 121s at festivals as you get cutting edge industry feedback. Go on twitter as it’s invaluable as a learning tool – agents regularly give out tips and advice and some run sessions for you to ask any questions you have. Join a critique group – they will support you and your writing which will help in the dark days, and find a few trusted and honest beta-readers.
Are you a pantser or a plotter?
Pantser. I tried plotting once but I got bored writing it as I knew the ending!
What time of the day do you write best?
I write when I have the time, which at the moment is when my youngest is at pre-school, so 9.30-noon, every week day. It wouldn’t do any good me saying I write best at 5pm, as all hell is breaking loose around the tea table. You are a very lucky writer if you get to write exactly when you want!
Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
The first car I ever bought was called Trevor and was a green, left-hand-drive Renault Twingo imported from Spain.
What’s your top writing tip for new writers?
Write every story. Try short stories, flash fiction, tell a story in a tweet, try a picture book. You never know which sort of story you are going to be good at telling until you’ve tried it. If a story idea pops into your head, jot it down. Have fun – no story is wasted. They all pave the path to becoming a skilful writer.
Great advice, Kate!
You can find out more about Kate here:
Thanks for dropping by and telling us about your writing journey, Kate. I'm sure it will inspire other aspiring writers. I look forward to hosting you again when your first book is published. :)