Dr Gabriel Constans – Q&A

Dr Gabriel Constans

Dr Gabriel Constans

Two screenplays have been produced, with another in development. Written for numerous magazines and newspapers throughout North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Fourteen books (fiction and non-fiction) published in the U.S. Continuing to discover and write great stories, provide feedback and consultation services. Most recent fiction is THE LAST CONCEPTION (Melange Books) and a satirical collection of short stories titled ZEN MASTER TOVA TARANTINO TOSHIBA: THE ILLUSTRIOUS AND DELUSIONAL ABBESS OF SATIRE (Fountain Blue Publishing).

Website: http://www.gogabriel.com/
Twitter: @GabrielConstans

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

My debut novel was some time ago, and was inspired b a colleague who worked with me at hospice. She is a nurse from Austria and had a very interesting story about falling in love with a man when she was young and in nursing school, and then later falling in love with his brother. It is called “Loving Annalise”.

What came first the characters or the world?

The characters always come first (in my stories), but the world they inhabit is neck and neck.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

My first published work was a short story about grief, of a young mother dying of AIDS, and didn’t take long to find a publisher.

How long did it take to write?

It took about 3-4 months to write.

A B.R.A.V.E. Year

A B.R.A.V.E. Year

How many publishers turned you down?

For the first book published, it was about 10 publishers that turned me down before finding the one that took it on.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

The reactions to A B.R.A.V.E. YEAR have been very gratifying, as people tend to find it to be helpful and supportive.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

When someone says they “don’t believe in that stuff”, and then find that it works for them.

What can you tell us about your next book?

I’m not working on any book presently, but in the process of getting four screenplays I’ve written produced. One of them is a coming-of-age story (based on a friends book), about a young woman who tries to save turtles from oil spills and land developers on the Texas gulf, and takes place during the BP oil spill in 2010.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

All of the time. I appreciate anyone taking the time to read something and then leave a review of their reactions to it.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I don’t have any specific genre, so I’m always writing outside of it (or in it).

The Last Conception

The Last Conception

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I’ve been writing for over 30 years now, and worked in various organizations, hospitals, programs, and clinics, as a grief and trauma counselor (primarily at hospice).

Which author(s) inspire you?

It is endless. The most well known ones would be Bell Hooks, James Baldwin, Sarah Waters, Isabelle Allende, Zora Neal Hurston, Tara Brach, Amy Tan, McCall-Smith, Deena Metzger, William Stegner, Chitra Divakaruni, Barbara Klingsloffer, Toni Morrison, and Alice Munro.

Which genres do you read yourself?

Mostly literary, lesfic, romance, and historical fiction.

What is your biggest motivator?

The idea that something I’ve written has the possibility to entertain, enlighten, and/or improve, someone else’s life.

What will always distract you?

The cat, social media, and my beautiful wife whenever she walks by.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to collaborate on almost all of my book covers, accept for one, which was with a large publisher.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Not as a young child, but as a teen, I begin reading more and more.

What were your favourite childhood books?

Probably the ones I remember most are those we read to our children – Goodnight Moon, Winnie the Pooh, the Harry Potter series, The Dark Materials…

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

Our local book store, Bookshop Santa Cruz, is one of the best anywhere and has been around for over 50 years now.

What books can you not resist buying?

I can resist buying any book, but usually choose not too.

Buddha's Wife

Buddha’s Wife

Do you have any rituals when writing?

Before I write, I need to have everything in the house cleaned, put away, and other tasks all completed. If I don’t, I keep thinking about what I need to do later instead of being present to the writing at the moment.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Eight to ten.

What is your current or latest read?

Currently reading Affinity by Sarah Waters. Previous read was Anis Nin’s erotica.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

One script I wrote, has been turned into a series and is about to be pitched to a number of large studios. Another one (a short called “Yasodhara”) has one a number of screenwriting awards around the world and be made into a film.

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

In reference to the genre of nonfiction/self-help/health, it is an area I’ve been writing about for most of my adult life. What inspired me to do so, is when I discovered how much similar books helped me and what I was going through.


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Hilary Tailor – Q&A

Hilary Tailor Author Shot

Hilary Tailor

Hilary Tailor is a design consultant, and has worked with clients including adidas and Puma as a colour and trend forecaster. She was raised on the Wirral Peninsula and graduated from the Royal College of Art. The Vanishing Tide is her first novel.

Contact details for Hilary are:
Website: https://www.hilarytailor.com/
Instagram: @hilarytailorwrites
Twitter: @HilaryTailor

Tell me what inspired you to write your (debut) novel?

I won a paediatric first aid course in a raffle. When we were learning how to resuscitate children who had fallen into water, a really nasty, horrible thought entered my mind and I couldn’t shake it off. Over the next few weeks and months, it built into a story and I started to write it down.

What came first the characters or the world?

Definitely the world. I think about plot and setting way before I think about the personalities involved. I find it hard to read a book if the plot doesn’t hook me in from the get-go.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

The Vanishing Tide

The Vanishing Tide

I’m not going to lie, it was really, really, hard. I was pregnant when I did that paediatric first aid course and now my daughter is fifteen, so it’s been a long time coming. I was a complete novice. I didn’t share my work with anyone, I didn’t tell anyone I was writing – all the things you shouldn’t do. I just squeezed it in between working and child-rearing. When I finished a decent draft, I submitted to agents and absolutely nobody was interested, although I did get some quite nice rejections that made me think I was a decent writer. I decided I needed some professional help, so I shelved Book 1 (now called The Vanishing Tide) and started another. I applied for, and got into, the Curtis Brown six month novel writing course and this really made me take my ambition seriously. I absolutely loved learning about the trade, how to submit to agents, how to structure my novel. I also learned how to use Scrivener from my fellow coursemates, and this has really helped plan my work. But guess what? When I finished the course, I submitted Book 2, the rejections began to roll in. This time, many of them were full of praise and I got several full manuscript requests, so I knew I had improved. I decided to take what I had learned and apply it to Book 1 (The Vanishing Tide). I rewrote it while I received more rejections for Book 2. Eventually, an agent (Oli Munson) at AM Heath liked Book 2 but didn’t think it was right for his list. He asked if I had anything else and I was able to submit my new, shiny version of The Vanishing Tide. He read it, realised my work DEFINITELY wasn’t right for his list, but very kindly he gave the manuscript to a colleague who loved it. I signed with AM Heath and my agent, Rebecca Ritchie, sold the book in a fortnight. Later, I looked at my huge spreadsheet of agent submissions and saw that Becky was one of the very first agents I submitted The Vanishing Tide to, four years previously.

How long did it take to write?

That’s a really difficult question to answer because there were lots of gaps, and I even re-wrote a third of it last year when it was being edited by my publisher. So, I guess, from start to finish, it took fifteen years!

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

I just can’t listen to ANYTHING when I’m writing. I heard Deborah Levy on Desert Island Discs say she listened to Philip Glass when she wrote and I love his stuff, so I tried it the next day and found myself staring at a blank screen, listening to the music. I’m a good multitasker in a practical sense but I can’t do it when I’m writing and trying to think.

How many publishers turned you down?

My agent bumped into the editor at Lake Union who said she liked the idea before she had even read the book, so she got back very quickly with an offer when it was subbed out. There were three other editors who were still reading/thinking when the offer came through, but I figured they would have made an offer sooner if they had loved it as much as Victoria Oundjian did. I had waited long enough, and I wanted to work with someone enthusiastic and quick off the mark.

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

Obviously, my editor and publisher love it and so do I, but we are biased. My mum, who is incredibly well-read, told me she when she read the very first daft, she thought it was ‘better than Joanna Trollope but not as good as Ian McEwan.’ Which I thought was fair enough.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

The one from my agent when she said she wanted to sign me. You feel validated, that all the work was worth it and that you have an ounce of talent. I have an author friend who said he thought it was harder getting an agent than it was to get a book deal these days and I’m inclined to believe him. Everybody wrote a book over lockdown.

What can you tell us about your next book?

So, if you remember, Book 2 was the one I worked on during my stint with Curtis Brown Creative. It deals with similar themes: atoning for past mistakes, what it means to be a family. There’s a bit more back and forth between the past and present but I didn’t want it to be too much of a departure from The Vanishing Tide so there are elements that my readers will be familiar with.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

When the time comes, I’ll read them, for sure, and if there is a common thread among them that I need to address I will be aware of it when I’m writing my next book. Books are very subjective, though, and ultimately, you can’t please everyone, and you can’t write by opinion polls. Saying that, I often read book reviews before I buy a book or after I’ve read one and most of them are pretty helpful.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

With Book 2, I briefly considered writing it as a YA when I was doing the course, but it didn’t sit well with me. I don’t read YA, so it seemed a bit weird to write a YA book. My writing is a cross between commercial and literary fiction and I read both, so I could see myself crossing more into literary fiction at some point.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I still work as a colour and trend forecaster. I used to live in Germany and I worked for adidas and Puma before I set up my own company, HST Creative. Now I freelance with clients in the sportswear and outerwear arena. I also work with Pantone on their colour bible that comes out twice a year. There is a connection between designing and writing. As a designer, I am constantly editing my work and creating stories for my clients. Douglas Stuart (Shuggie Bain), has said the same thing. He studied menswear at the Royal College of Art and I studied Textiles there a few years before him. Stories are very important in many different creative industries.

Which author(s) inspire you?

Maggie O’Farrell, Celeste Ng and Anne Patchett can do no wrong.

Which genres do you read yourself?

Literary fiction, for sure, some commercial women’s fiction and I also really like biographies, autobiographies and factual exposés such as Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe which was jaw-dropping to read.

What is your biggest motivator?

The writing. It has to be. I don’t know any authors who are in it just for the money! I like creating my own worlds and being in charge of my own creative direction. I also love the collaborative process when I’ve finished a book and editors come in to shape it into something even better.

What will always distract you?

My dog. She is hideously entitled and whines at me if she hasn’t had enough attention and wants her belly scratching or something to eat. If I ignore her, she gets out of bed and nudges my knees with her nose. I can’t resist her.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

The Vanishing Tide

The Vanishing Tide

Well, I was under the impression I had a lot of say in my book cover design until I realised I was probably being politely managed by my publisher, who knows more than I do about what is going to work for readers of my genre, which is reading group. The book is going into several different countries and the biggest markets have a say in what they need from a product. The USA has a different take on cover design to the UK, for example, and I am a difficult author to please because of my design background. I had a fixed idea in my head at the beginning of the process, but ultimately, I had to bow to the expertise of Lake Union, who have a raft of research about what their customers expect to see. Luckily, the cover designer, a very talented and patient Emma Rogers, was able to please both me and my editors and we ended up with a cover everyone thought worked well. I love the upside-down child reflected in the water. I’m going to get it printed and framed.

Where you a big reader as a child?

Yes, my whole family are big readers. I was very lucky. It was just assumed we would want to read for pleasure and my parents were always willing to bring home books if I wanted something special. I still swap and discuss books with my mum. We are both members of book groups and often end up reading the same book at the same time.

What were your favourite childhood books?

I actually loved reading poetry as a child and remember being given A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson that I read a lot. Danny The Champion of the World sticks in my mind because a teacher at school read a few pages to us every day and then, for some reason, didn’t get to finish it, so I asked my parents for a copy so I could find out what happened in the end. My earliest reading memory comes from the school library where there was a slim set of books that concerned a ghost bus and a boy who could see and talk to ghosts on it. I cannot for the life me remember the title but I still think of it. That and Tom’s Midnight Garden which was a genius plot. I like a few ghosties here and there and incorporate a bit of the supernatural into my own work.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

Any book shop will do, really, as long as the staff are friendly. Lingham’s on the Wirral was the first bookshop I regularly frequented. Now I live in London I am spoiled but actually prefer the smaller bookshops as they don’t seem so overwhelming and it’s easier to talk to someone. The Children’s Bookshop in Muswell Hill and Pickled Pepper books in Crouch End were godsends when my kids were smaller as I wasn’t familiar with the stock and the staff in both shops are really well versed in what to recommend. Oxfam is great for unexpected gems you never thought you wanted.

What books can you not resist buying?

Anne Patchett could write something on the back of an envelope and I would buy it. Sometimes I’m seduced by the cover and I will end up buying a book because the cover is so nice. I recently saw a book cover on Twitter by Zoe Somerville called The Marsh House and I love the cover so much I’m going to buy it when it’s out. But generally, I read the first page and if the writing sucks me in, I’ll buy it. I had that experience with Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson. It’s written in the second person for a start, which is unusual, but his writing has a poetic quality that is brimming with atmosphere. And it’s a debut. I like reading debuts.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

Tea and quiet. I drink a lot of tea. I also sometimes need to stop writing and think about things so I will take the dog out for a long walk through the woods to figure out a problem. I am a great believer in letting things settle for a while and not writing blindly through a problem.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

Too many to count. I don’t have an English degree so I am painfully aware I haven’t read many classics that are often referred to, so I have a pile of classics I ‘should’ read and a pile of books for pleasure.

What is your current or latest read?

I just finished The Chiffon Trenches: A Memoir by Andre Leon Talley. Despite the odds being stacked against him, he was a giant in the fashion world and sadly died recently. I already had it on my TBR pile, but when his death was announced, I was drawn to read it. This happens a lot – if someone interesting to me is in the media, I want to know more about them. The same happened when Joan Didion died. I wasn’t familiar with her work and read The Year of Magical Thinking over Christmas to get some insight into a woman whose death provoked an outpouring of grief in the media. To counter those choices, I plan to read Rachel’s Holiday by Marion Keyes soon, as her much anticipated follow up is published this year and I never got round to reading the original.

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

Of course! There is apparently a new Celeste Ng in the pipeline. I cannot wait for that. Nonfiction: A Novel by Julie Myerson, another author I love and who hasn’t had a book out for a while, is due out in June. Jessie Burton has a sequel to the brilliant Miniaturist coming in July called The House of Fortune. Edward Enninful has written an autobiography that I would like to read called A Visible Man and Alan Rickman’s diaries should very interesting. I met him once and he was very gracious. He told me he used to be a graphic designer.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

I am writing a third book right now, also book club fiction, that is gradually taking shape. My second novel, title TBC is due out in 2023. My website www.hilarytailor.com should be up and running soon with news and snippets about what inspires me and how I work.

Any events in the near future?

The launch of my debut novel The Vanishing Tide in June this year of course! You can pre order it here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59979640-the-vanishing-tide

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

It wasn’t really a conscious decision, it just happened. I write in the same genre I read in. It’s what I understand and am familiar with. Book club fiction is great because the text should throw up ambivalence and questions that can be discussed afterwards. I like a book that stays with you after you have put it down.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

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Jeevani Charika – Q&A

Jeevani Charika

Jeevani Charika

Jeevani Charika is a microbiologist who also writes under the name Rhoda Baxter. Her books have been shortlisted for the RoNA awards, the Love Stories awards and the Joan Hessayon award. She is a member of the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors.

Website: www.jeevanicharika.com
Twitter: @rhodabaxter
Facebook: jeevani.charika
Link tree: linktr.ee/JeevaniC

Tell me what inspired you to write your novel?

Unlike normal, when I flail around trying to find a plausible source of inspiration, I can tell you that Playing For Love was inspired by the children’s TV show Miraculous Ladybug and Cat Noir. I started watching it with my kids. They grew out of it. I didn’t. The show has a wonderful dynamic between the two main characters (and their secret identity alter egos). I wanted to write a story that captured the same dynamic, but set in the real world. The only way I could think of to do that was to have the characters meet in an online game, where they don’t know their real life identities.

What came first the characters or the world?

In this case, the characters came first. The world … Playing For Love is a contemporary romcom set in a startup incubator. When it comes to settings, I tend to use fictionalised versions of real places. I used to work at a university enterprise hub, so the world of startups is familiar to me.

How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?

The first book I wrote didn’t get published for over a decade. In the mid 2000s, I wrote a book where the main characters were middle class British-Sri Lankans. I submitted it to agents and publishers and got a lot of very nice rejections. Someone suggested I wrote something ‘for fun’ while I was querying. So I wrote a rom com about white middle class people. I had an offer from a digital publisher within a year or so of submitting that one. I didn’t give up with that first book though. A Convenient Marriage was finally published by Hera books in 2019. It was shortlisted for the RoNA contemporary romantic novel of the year in 2020. I’d had seven other books published in the meantime.

How long did it take to write?

A Convenient Marriage (the first book I wrote) took three years to write. Playing For Love took six months. I don’t think writing a novel has got any easier, but I’ve got faster at going through the various stages of the process.

Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?

Hell no! I prefer to have silence when I write.

How many publishers turned you down?

So many that I’ve lost count! Even after the first book is published, it’s not always easy to stay published. I’ve had books published by five different publishers now. I’m writing book 2 of a two-book deal at the moment. The one after that might end up with the same publisher or have to go out on general submission again. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Playing for Love

Playing for Love

What kind of reactions have you had to your book?

It had 160 reviews on Netgalley, most of them positive. So that’s nice.

What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?

The heroine in my book is brown. My favourite reviews are the ones that said something along the lines of ‘I’ve been reading romance novels for years and it’s the first time I’ve seen someone like me in one’. I’ve come to realise that this is very important to me. Representation matters.

What can you tell us about your next book?

It’s a romcom again, this time set around the New Year. There’s a fake relationship trope. There’s probably something in there about social class and self belief, but I haven’t written enough of the book to know exactly what yet.

Do you take notice of online reviews?

Of course! It’s impossible not to. I try not to let the bad ones get me down, though. Reviews are for readers to tell other readers how they felt about the book. If someone didn’t like it, then that’s fine. If someone DOES like it, then that’s great. It’s all good. It’s all good. Pass the chocolate, please.

Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?

I currently write romantic comedy and women’s fiction (which are two different genres, with a bit of overlap). I’d love to write cosy crime. I just haven’t thought of a mystery with a nice twist in it yet.

What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?

I’m a microbiologist by training and I drifted into working with patents and other IP. I help universities manage their patent portfolios. I still work, but on a freelance basis.

Which author(s) inspire you?

Terry Pratchett. I’ve read the Discworld series many times and I find new things to think about every time I read one.

Which genres do you read yourself?

Romance (obviously), cosy crime, psychological thrillers, a bit of fantasy, a bit of sci fi and anything else that catches my eye. During the various lockdowns, I found it very difficult to read, but I’m getting back into reading again now, thank goodness.

What is your biggest motivator?

I’m not completely sure how to answer that. I am compelled to tell stories. The characters usually show up and start talking and the only way I can shut them up is to write it all down.

What will always distract you?

My children. I’m also fairly easily distracted by cake.

How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?

I don’t have much input into the covers. If I genuinely hate the cover the publisher suggests, they might tweak it … but generally, I don’t get much say. I usually take the view that they know how to market the books better than I do.

Were you a big reader as a child?

Yes. Voracious.

What were your favourite childhood books?

I read a lot of Enid Blyton. I adored the Famous Five. I read them again to my own children and loved them all over again.

Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?

Blackwells on Broad Street in Oxford. When I was a student, if I had any money left at the end of term, I’d go and mooch around in there and spend it on books. I love the Norrington Room – which is underground and the first time you see it, it’s the most wonderful surprise.

What books can you not resist buying?

All sorts. I’m a terrible one for impulse buying books.

Do you have any rituals when writing?

I have no special rituals. I wrote my first few books when I had very small children, so I got used to writing whenever I could. I still write at night, sitting in bed.

How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?

The physical TBR pile only has about five books on it. I dare not look at the ebook TBR pile. It’s so big, it’s probably sentient now. It might eat me.

What is your current or latest read?

I am currently reading an ARC of Four Aunties and a Murder by Jesse Sutano. It’s the sequel to Dial A For Aunties.

Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?

Jane Lovering will have a new book out sometime soon. I always drop everything to read her books. The same goes for Sue Moorcroft.

Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?

I’m currently writing the second romcom in the world of Playing For Love. It’s set in a Swiss ‘eco villa’. It doesn’t have a proper title yet . It’s due for publication in October 2022

Any events in the near future?

I will be at the Wild Words Festival (near London) in July, where I’ll be talking about romantic comedy and about the different publishing options we have available to us now.

and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?

Back in the early 2000s, when I had a long train commute, I read a lot (I picked books from the ‘just returned’ shelf of the library, so I read an eclectic selection). I found that I enjoyed the romcoms a lot, but I wished there were more books about competent, smart women and nice guy heroes. In the end I decided to write one, as mentioned above, for fun. I had a blast writing it and that comes across in the writing (I think). I do occasionally write darker books, but keep returning to the romcom. They make me smile and that’s got to be a good thing.


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Circe

Madeline Miller. Bloomsbury. (352p) ISBN 9781408890042
Circe

Circe

I was very late to reading this and never understood why, I had it on my bookshelf from the moment it came out in paperback as I’d loved Song of Achilles so much and was looking forward to it but it sat there for ages.

In the end I listened to it on the library audiobook service and that was absolutely perfect and seemed entirely apt to listen to a mythology as part of an oral storytelling tradition.

We are taken into the world of Greek mythology once more by Madeline Miller, this time to explore the myth of Circe through her eyes and with her words, not through the eyes of a hyper-male society and modern patriarchal adaptations.

This was a stunning adaptation, closely following the myth, with Madeline Miller’s lyrical text mirroring a lot of forms of Greek myth narrative style. Writing HERstory is always difficult as it is a voice that we’re not used to and it centres parts of the story that are often brushed aside or glorified when they really need to be highlighted.

Madeline Miller does an excellent job of this, and I especially loved the swine story and how it was viewed from Circe’s point of view.

I think it was also enhanced by listening to it, Perdita Weeks was the perfect narrator/voice, I could imagine listening to this in a public space being performed to an audience.


If you want to help and support this blog you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.