Isn’t that a beautiful title? Taken from a Dylan Thomas poem, the theme of which inspired the first novel of the incredible writing talent of Nicola Ann Roberts, who is being featured here today.
What I love about blogging is the amazing community of like-minded people that you find. There’s something so incredible about speaking to someone who is facing the same demons (and other fabulous things) that you are, grin. You feel like shouting : “Yes, I’m not alone!” or “So it’s not just me who loses sleep over how many adverbs I need to cut!” But in way that doesn’t scare your new friend away, of course …
Nicola, who is quite simply lovely, and whose blog Lost in Publishing is a beautifully written glimpse into her world; showcasing the highs, the lows, and everything in between, as she attempts to get her book published, has answered a few questions below about her gorgeous book, writing, finishing manuscripts, and why it’s important that you find a community, so that you don’t feel like you’re toiling in the dark.
Tell us a little about yourself and your book?
I should have written a book immediately after university, when I had plenty of time and energy but lacked the awareness of just how little of both I would have in the near future. Hindsight is a terrible affliction.
So, ironically, I carved time out of days filled with teaching, planning, marking and in recent years, caring for a baby, to read, plan, write and re-write. When there is less time for ‘yourself’, it becomes crucial to use the little time you do have wisely. I decided to use that twilight hour to do what I couldn’t do in the endless hours of my early 20s, I decided it was time to write my first novel.
The title, ‘For There Are Ghosts in the Air’, is a line from a poem by Dylan Thomas, and it is central to one of the main themes of the book, that the people, places and events that should be consigned to the past often haunt the present. The past and the present intertwine so that the reader will hopefully gain an understanding of the protagonist’s present situation through reading about her past mistakes and the characters that have influenced her. Branwen, the protagonist, leaves London to return to the stifling Welsh village she grew up in. The Welsh landscape and the crossroads in the village she escaped from at eighteen are central to the plot. Secrets, passions and sins are the three junctures of the crossroads, denial and the return to London are the fourth.
It’s a difficult book to summarise, a problem that will, I’m sure, hinder its progress! My next novel will be easy to categorise. Hopefully.
How did you go from being an apathetic writer to one that writes and finishes novels – any advice?
My partner hounded me for years to finish the book, but it never seemed to be the right time. Then I began to teach a small group of Year 13 students the new Creative Writing A-Level, and I suddenly started to feel like a fraud. Who was I to teach these talented 18 year olds how to craft narratives, someone with half a novel and no inclination to finish it? I think I started writing not long after the first lesson.
As for the writing of it, I had to squeeze it into every spare hour. I used to be a ‘morning writer’, but I had to train myself to become a late-at-night-before-bed scribbler. If it didn’t read too badly, I’d type it up the next day.
Putting your book into the world – and inviting the outside in is no mean feat, and is one of the hardest parts of this whole process, it’s also exciting – what has your experience been?
My experience has been mixed so far. I received a positive response from a very well-known literary agency three weeks after I initially sent my manuscript, requesting the rest of my novel. Unfortunately, the next day one of the partners passed away suddenly, which also seemed to herald the end for my book. Since then, I have received two rejection emails/letters, both personalized and stating that my novel ‘stood out’ from the many manuscripts they receive, but they were unable to offer me representation. The rejections are difficult, but I know that one agent enjoyed my opening chapters therefore I have to believe that someone else will too.
You started your blog to document your journey, how has your blog helped with the process and do you think having one is important for writers so that they can connect with others and perhaps not feel as alone?
I knew the hardest part of writing a novel would be to release it and then the long wait for someone, anyone, perhaps no-one to champion it. My blog documents that long and possibly fruitless wait. I began the blog as a way of punctuating time. Once my second draft was finished, I found that I missed writing every day but I wasn’t ready to start my next book, so beginning a blog seemed the obvious and admittedly, the laziest option! I wanted to connect with other writers as well as give agents a clearer idea of who I am. Even if the blog has no impact on prospective agents, I have still met some interesting and likeminded writers. Writing is a solitary pursuit, it’s good to know there are others toiling in the dark.
Thank you so much Nicola!