Louise Walters studied for a Literature degree with The Open University between 1998 and 2010. She took Creative Writing and Advanced Creative Writing courses during the final two years of the degree, and she says that writing her first novel, Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase, has been one of the most positive experiences of her life.
Tell me what inspired you to write your novel?
It’s my fourth novel and the inspiration came from two things. One was an article in a local newspaper, years ago, which I cut out and kept. It was about a local hermit who used to go into town once a week to shop. Rumour had it that he had been betrayed in love by his own brother. The second inspiration was from even further back. As a teenager I stayed on an estate in Devon, in a holiday cottage. It was called Wiscombe Park and that is the inspiration for Rowan Park in the novel.
What came first the characters or the world?
The world, really. The action takes place on the fictional estate and in the nearby fictional seaside town, also based on a real town: Beer, in Devon. I thought about the characters for a long time… the novel has been on the needles for ten years or so.
How hard was it to get your first (debut) book published?
I only ever got my first novel trade published. The other three have been independently published at my indie press, Louise Walters Books. I sent The Hermit to twenty agents. Then I said to myself, enough is enough, and decided to bring it out at my indie press. A book deal would have been great financially. So it was worth a try.
How long did it take to write?
On and off, ten years or so. Mostly off, to be truthful! But it’s been around in my head, and on various laptops, for a decade.
How many publishers turned you down?
No publishers because I couldn’t get an agent! I tried one indie press, who rejected it with lots of encouragement, as did several of the agents.
What can you tell us about your next book?
I have 12k words so far and it’s the first in a planned saga, or series of novels, about the fortunes of a working-class family and their hangers-on, set over about thirty years. That’s the current plan. I have all the characters and the odd thing is I hardly had to think about them. I started writing it earlier this year, and there they were. Mainly inspired by my own families, on my mum’s side and my dad’s. I’ve sort of mashed them up into one big family.
Do you take notice of online reviews?
Yes and no. I don’t take them to heart. Or try not to. Everyone has an opinion and they are entitled to express it. I love the good reviews, of course!
Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?
Yes, I think so. I’d love to have a go at a ghost story.
What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?
I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years! Currently I’m a freelance editor, providing manuscript reports and developmental edits for hoping-to-be-published writers. This is my day job, really.
Which author(s) inspire you?
Lots! I’m really enjoying Kate Atkinson’s work. Joyce Carol Oates is great, perhaps my biggest inspiration. And I love Taylor Jenkins Reid at the moment. Making my way through these writers’ work is a total reading joy.
Which genres do you read yourself?
Mostly literary fiction with a plot. Joyce and Kate do literary-fiction-with-plots really well! Taylor is a little more commercial, but I’m well aware of the work involved in writing good commercial ficiton. In some ways it’s much harder then writing literary fiction. I take my hat off to writers who can pull off good commercial novels.
How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?
I have been working with the wonderful Jennie Rawlings since I started Louise Walters Books. I usually supply Jennie with a brief from me and the author, with our vague ideas of what the cover might look like… then Jennie does her own thing. Her ideas tend to be much better than mine or the author’s! I am however now turning to a single, generic, cover design for any books I may publish in the future. The Hermit is the first to carry this “brand” cover. I hope it will work out OK. I’ve had to completely re-think my publishing. DIY is the only way forward, realistically. It’s a constant financial struggle to run an indie press.
Were you a big reader as a child?
Yes. I read all the time. It was a source of comfort, and still is. I can’t imagine life without reading.
What were your favourite childhood books?
I wasn’t really into fantasy like Roald Dahl, not much. I loved the Chalet School Books, Ballet Shoes, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women… realist and literary-ish stuff. Penelope Lively was a favourite as a child, and she is now too. Moon Tiger is my favourite novel.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?
I used to work at the Old Hall Bookshop in Brackley, Northamptonshire. It was the inspiration for the bookshop in my debut novel, Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase. So that is my favourite bookshop. I also love Foyles on Charing Cross Road in London. It’s like a book cathedral. Blackwell’s in Oxford is always a great place to visit.
Do you have any rituals when writing?
No, none at all. I write when I can, and love it when I do. But no rituals. I’m quite workaday about my writing.
How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?
Currently around a dozen. Usually is! I try not to overwhelm myself with too big a pile. With my publishing and editing work, reading-for-pleasure time is quite limited. How ironic is that?
What is your current or latest read?
Currently reading Big Sky by Kate Atkinson. I have a little literary crush on her private investigator, Jackson Brodie. Yeah, I know… ridiculous…!
Any plans or projects in the near future you can tell us about?
I would love to complete a first draft of my new novel in 2023. That’s the goal. 12k words down, another 80k or so to go.
and finally, what inspired you to write the genre you do?
My reading. I love literary, realist stories, with good plots and characters. Always have, always will.