I am delighted to be involved in the blog tour for Clare Swatman's debut novel Before You Go. This is the story of Zoe and Ed. Just a few pages into the book Ed is the victim of a traffic accident and Zoe is left alone and devastated. Before You Go is the story of how Zoe gets the chance to revisit all the significant moments of their lives; university, friendship, jealousy, travel and marriage and second time around Zoe tries to say and do all the things she wished she's said the first time. This is a cleverly structured book which delves back into the protagonists shared past and lets Zoe examine every step they took together or apart as she attempts to prevent fate from intervening. A perfect escapist read and ideal for fans of One Day, Me Before You or The Time Traveller's Wife.
I asked Clare some questions about her inspiration for the book and about writing in general. This is what she said. Clare also has some great writing advice especially for parents and TV watchers!
Q1. What was the inspiration for Before You Go?
Most of my ideas for anything I write come from real people and their real stories. I spent many years working as a journalist on real life magazines and have interviewed lots of people over that time and honestly, people's real stories are far more amazing, heartbreaking and fascinating than anything you could make up! The idea for Before You Go was sparked from a story I read many years ago about a woman who had an accident and hit her head and when she woke up she had forgotten the last 20 years of her life and thought she was still 17. She didn't know who her husband and kids were. Although my story ended up being very different to this, it was the spark to make me think about what it would be like to wake up and be your younger self again. Before You Go grew from that seed.
Q2. Who are your favourite authors? Tell us about your favourite books?
There are so many but if I had to narrow it down I'd say Margaret Atwood, Maggie O'Farrell, Kate Atkinson and JK Rowling- writing as herself and as Robert Galbraith. They all have different styles of writing and write very different kinds of books, but they're all masters at plotting, characterisation and words. You won't be surprised to hear that most of my favourite books feature some by them! Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood- I haven't read it for a long time but it's always stuck with me. I also adore everything Maggie O'Farrell has ever written but if I had to choose I'd say The Hand That First Held Mine or Instructions for a Heatwave which are both very different. I adored The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenagger and also Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson. Pride and Prejudice is my go-to classic, although Wuthering Heights comes a close second.
Q3. What is your writing routine?
It depends on what part of the process I'm at. If I'm deep in the middle of the first draft then I'll try and get to my desk straight after dropping the kids to school and stay there until pick-up at 3pm. I start by getting emails, facebook, twitter and online shopping out of the way and then I try and stay away for the duration. (I don't always manage it!) I start by reading over what I wrote the day before and then try and write a minimum of 1000 words. It's usually more but sometimes it can be a struggle. If I'm editing it's fairly similar, but when I researching or plotting or writing characters, there's a lot more staring into space and brow-furrowing.
Q4. Has writing the book changed your perspective on spending time with loved ones?
Yes to some extent, although I've always been very aware that you need to make the most of every day because you don't know what the future holds. I think it starts to come home to you more when you have children and as you start to get older. I make sure I always give mu children a kiss and cuddle before they go to bed or in to school, just in case and I'd never let my husband go to work on an argument. Like Zoe you wouldn't want angry words to be the last ones you heard would you?
Q5. Any advice for aspiring writers? Tell us a bit about your journey to publication.
Make sure you ring fence some writing time and stick to it. It has to be a time when you know you WILL actually write though. I was freelance and stopped taking on any extra work so I could put Thursdays aside to work on Before You Go. It was a financial hit, especially as I was paying for childcare at the time, but i knew I'd stick to it that way. It's no good saying you'll work on your novel every evening, if you're like me and you just want to sit and watch TV. Your precious novel will become a chore and just not get written. So be realistic.
My journey to publication was great. I never actually thought anyone would want to read this book I'd written, but after a writer friend read it and encouraged me, i sent it out to some agents. It was less than a week afterwards that Judith Murray from Greene and Heaton agreed to represent me. I was beyond thrilled, and went away and made the changes to the manuscript that we'd discussed . That was in August 2015 and by October it was ready to send out to publishers. In the end I had two publishers interested in the book but I went with the wonderful Pan Macmillan who offered me a two book deal. Since then it's all been gearing up to the release of Before You Go and I've been learning how it all works. To keep my mind off it I've also been writing book two and I'm currently deep into the editing stage which I love. You just need to have faith in yourself and not be afraid to put yourself out there. It's scary but it pays off. So worth it.
Before You Go is available in hardback and trade paperback from 9th February.
The blog continues next week (details below) with stops at Jaffa Reads Too, Random Things through my letter box and Shaz's Book Blog, all great blogs you should check out.
Thanks to Jess Duffy at Pan Macmillan for a copy of the book.