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In this episode of discovered word, Smith, I continue talking with Jackie Penn, who writes us Penny Appleton. Instead of interviewing This time, we’re actually discussing a topic of concern, which at the moment, is how to keep writing, when times are tough. We’ve all been dealing with the shutdown lockdown of our countries of our place of business of our stores. And sometimes that can affect you as a writer. And we discussed this a little bit back and forth. It’s a new format for the podcast, I hope you like it, let me know what you like or don’t like about it, or if you have ideas for future topics. So here’s the continuing discussion with Jackie pan.
I’m a bit stuck at the moment. And I go back to her books. And so I’ve got the successful author mindset here next to me, because it’s partly covered that I’ve just published one. So the sum of your Christmas wedding has, has just gone out. So it’s now out on Amazon. So that makes five and I’m a bit tired. But I thought during this time, I should be getting on with the next book. So I’ve got three good ideas. And one of the people on Joe’s website, Jane Dixon Smith, she’s she’s our cover designer, and she’s designed me three covers for the next three books. So I find it easier to work when I visually have got the idea. So the three covers of them. Anyway, I’m a bit blocked. So this is from Joe’s book, the successful author mindset. She said, if you’re blocked after finishing a book, when you think you should immediately start another one. Here’s an excerpt from my journal a week after finishing gates of hell, her fifth full length novel, my mind is completely empty. I will never have another idea. What if this book is the last one? Or what if I never have any more ideas, my whole life is now bound up in writing books, and being an author. And if I can’t write another one, I’m finished. I’m broken. This is underneath. I’ve written a number of other novels since then. So clearly that feeling is temporary. And I now understand that the emptiness is just another part of the creative process. So don’t worry, fill the creative well. And then trust emergence, do some research, read other things. Think of your mind as a pipe, you have to put things in at the top for the ideas to come out and the bottom, take a break. So that’s been really helpful because you think it’s only me, I’m all alone doing this. But actually, you’re not everybody feels like that.
Do you get patches. And I love that. And I get other patches where I feel overwhelmed with life and work. And I just have a hard time writing as for ideas that I have too many of sometimes. And I have to watch so I don’t jump to between one and the other and never finish anything.
Yes. This I can understand that. Especially since I’m retired and I live on my own and do you have a family and another job and you know that that’s quite difficult, isn’t it? You’ve actually got to do the discipline of setting aside the time when do you write
and do you actually write for me a lot of times in the morning, first thing I wake up a little earlier, and my wife has a couple days each week that she works 12 hours. So I will write in those couple hours after work. And before she gets home. And I do a lot on weekends on the mornings. She likes to sleep in I can’t sleep in regardless. So when I wake up by take the dogs for a walk, get some coffee, put on some music and then I’ll write for two or three hours. That’s been my routine. It seems that sounds good. We were going to talk about split this up like the interview part and discussion part and we were going to talk a bit about writing during these hard times or continuing to write after you’ve gotten stuck. You’re on your fifth book. What have other things have you done After books to get to the next one, you said the covers, or what have you been doing this year to get that fifth book done?
Yes. So I’m I’m very visual. And what I do is I research pictures, and I make a things that are cut out or a big album of pictures of the people as I visited them. So the two characters in some of your Christmas wedding are petitioner and Anthony. And when I found the pictures of the two people who I think are Patricia and Anthony, Jane put them on the cover for me. All of my books are set in a fictional village called Summerfield, but it’s actually the village I grew up in my American friends like English religious. So it had a has a church. And a pub, which is in English villages is not just a bar. It’s more like a community center. And it has a games room in place where it’s non alcoholics. And this people can take families in there. And it’s agricultural. So there’s a whole different lifestyle. Anthony, the main character in in this last book, he’s the son of what used to be the lord of the manor. So his father is so George Barna Brown, and he will be sir Anthony at one time. And Patricia is an ordinary sort of person, but she’s a Christian believer, and she wants to get the church really very much back into the center of the community. And she starts work to do that. And it’s doing very well, when Anthony turns up and actually it’s his family church and his mother is buried there. And he paid you this not only her wages, but he pays for the renovation. He doesn’t want her ideas. I make a picture book. I’ve got pictures of lovely old churches, I love churches and old graveyards if you walk around, English graveyard, they’re full. Now there’s nowhere else to bury people. It’s not like a lawn in the US where you can have a deep, deep grave with a lead lined coffin. There is no more room in English church art, send some of the graves are very, very old. And so they have a tremendous amount of atmosphere. And this particular church has got a crypt underneath it. And one of my American friends said no, no, you don’t bury people under churches, not in the US. But you do in the UK, big cathedrals like York and Westminster. They’ve all got crypts with famous people buried. But some country churches also have crypt family crypt, which a bit like a mausoleum really, they’re very old. So I kept pictures. You said what do I do to get ready and and to finish to give my imagination a continuity, I collect pictures and make picture books. Then I read lots of other romance books. A strong start is important than the strong progression through the middle. And then you’ve got to have a strong end as well. And I want someone to put the book down and go. I really enjoyed that. I feel satisfied and happy. I think I mentioned to my hairdresser, Claire and she reads Penny Appleton. And she said, I get out I get home from work. My feet are killing me. I’ve been charming and sweet to so many customers all day doing hair, my back hurts. And my husband doesn’t get home until a little bit later. So should I sit down with a cup of tea put my feet up or a glass of Prosecco? And my penny Appleton. And I read a chapter as my quiet time. And then I get on to dinner. And I think that was I thought that was lovely. I thought that is a real gift to give somebody. Anyway, back to you.
Yeah, that is yes. inspiration to you writing at the moment. Oh, yes, I’m actually, every year at Christmas. I have written a story for my kids. When I was my first marriage, and when I was single, it was just my two kids. I wrote little fan fiction of whatever things that they enjoyed at the moment. And a lot of times that was Star Wars fan fiction for them. But then I got remarried, and she had a couple kids. So now there’s six kids total. I didn’t want to write six separate stories. That would just take up all my time. So I created a group of these kids. It’s kind of like Scooby Doo. And they go on investigations of like Bigfoot and witches and things like that. And it’s based on all my kids. This year is the fourth book. And I’ve got a couple short stories and I’m actually thinking of publishing them. I need to do a little work on them, but I think they’re actually There’ll be a series I publish here soon. For me, yes, I love doing it. It’s so much fun. And that’s one of the things that keeps me writing and I was talking to somebody else about this. A lot of people say, oh, I’ve got one book, I’ve got to focus on it, I’ve got to get it done. And then I’ve got to write the second and third in the series. And that’s all I’ve got. And I’ve realized that that actually slowed me down that I actually stopped writing as much when I felt I had to get to that main book I was working on. So I let myself go. And I guess there’s the lesson, you know, learn yourself, because when I would say, you know what, I just am not feeling writing my main book, right now, I want to go write this other story, I would go do that for a little bit. And it actually recharged myself to go back to the main story. And sometimes I had to put the main story down for a couple days to approach it with something fresh, my brain was fresh. And I know a lot of people advise against that, you know, Oh, don’t jump around, you’ll never finish anything. Which has been true for me for a while. But now it’s kind of all catching up. So I’m coming out with Book Two of my main series. And I’m about to come out with a book one of another series that I’ve actually been working on longer. And then I’ve got my stuff with my kids where I’ve actually got five books I could get published. But while I’m getting all those finished and ready to go, the third book of my main fantasy series, I’m getting started on I feel rejuvenated, and I want to write it. So for me, it very much is better to do a little bit of jumping around, even if I’m not coming out with something every two or three months, I end up coming out with a lot of stuff within six, seven months. So I guess it’s a balance.
Yes. And I think that’s tremendous. Because you obviously have the discipline still to sit down and do your writing in the morning. I think that’s, you’ve got to have the discipline to say I’m writing something, do you think because it’s very moment with the pandemic here, I’ve got a little bit discouraged and thought, do you know I just won’t move on write anything at all for a bit. But if you get out of the habit of setting aside time, and just Joe says Get your bum on the seat and get the words on the page, to do a certain amount to keep your hand in to keep motivated. And then you can catch fire on on different things. I’ve got a workbook that she sent me She is wonderful, sends me all sorts of things. So there’s a writer called k m. Wayland, Wayland, w e, i l, A and D? Yes. And she’s particularly is it he or she? I don’t know. Anyway, her name’s Katie.
She has a really good podcast.
Oh, right. Great, thank you, I need to look that up. Because I’ve read her I read her book. But what is really helping me is her workbook. She’s got an outlining your novel workbook, step by step exercises in your best book. And it’s really good. It’s given me the discipline, to take the ideas for the next romance story. And actually really plot them using her book as a structure. And I’m doing a bit of that every day. So that’s really helping me where I can’t actually write on the computer. And I’m not dictaphone ing. I’m working on this outline. And I think, yeah, that’s good enough, isn’t it? As long as I’m working? Something’s happening. Yeah.
And I think that’s great. And I think a lot of people feel well, if I’m not sitting down writing 1000 words in my story, then oh, that doesn’t count. Now I feel guilty. And it’s a kind of self perpetuating, and they feel worse, so they don’t write and they feel, but what you’re doing, you know, sometimes, if you sit down at the computer, and you just start typing, I get going, and suddenly I have you know, 1000 words, 1500 words when I didn’t think I was gonna get any. But then if I just can’t get myself to sit down, you know, you can dictate and just start talking, and it’s different. So it kind of breaks your mind a little bit. It gets you out of that slump. And then and what you said you were doing with the workbooks, that’s doing something progressing, but it’s doing it in a different way. So your brain kind of gets out of that rut.
Yep. And walking as well. I don’t know if you watch while you’ve got the dogs. So you go for walks, don’t you? I know. Because I live in a senior’s community now which me has a very small communal garden so but where I live again, it’s in the countryside just on the edge of the city and you walk out, I walk through a beautiful word and through a great area of parkland. And I take the dictaphone, and a pad and the pen with me. And as I’m walking, all sorts of ideas come up, as well as first thing in the morning when I wake up, I keep a pad next to the bed, or the dictaphone. And often I’ll have been thinking of something. And in those sleepy, early morning, thoughts, you wake up, and I talk it into the dictaphone, or I scribble it in draft onto the paper. And what I compare it to is that, once you’ve got an idea, and you know where you’re going, it’s a bit like finding the different pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. And often, you want each of those individual ones to be fresh and colorful. And then it’s all got to fit together. But it may be that you are writing those pieces of jigsaw puzzle at different times. And then when you come to put it all together, you’ve got some of these marvelous pieces. Or as Joe said, You’ve got some gems in there, Mum, and you’ve got a load of rubbish as well.
Unknown Speaker 16:03
So, but when do you
write your gems that then you mentioned, what Kay and wildlands workbook I’ve got the same thing, what I discovered, and I love her podcast, I love her advice and listening to everything she talks about. But it may just be my mind, it may be my stage of writing. But sometimes, the way she breaks up her story, you know, at the 25% mark, you have the the plot point, you got pinch points, and he got the halfway mark, and you got this. To me, even though I’m a database analytical guy, it was a little overwhelming too much to think about sometimes. And so there’s another book and workbook by Jay Thorne and Zack bohannan, who also have a couple great podcast j especially. And it’s the three story method. And that clicked with me. And I was able to use that to really see the overall structure of my story better. And then when I went back to K on wildland stuff, it made more sense with me. But the three story method that Jay and Zack did. I mean, if I say it’s simpler, it makes it sound worse. But that’s it’s not at all. It’s it was much more easily digestible by me. And I actually was able to work within that framework better than having lots of too much structure. That makes sense.
Yes, it certainly does. And I think I’ve not been on her podcast, because I prefer the book form, because I can go to it at my own pace. And I do listen to Joanna write down damn owner on the on the Ask alley podcast, because that’s kind of Sparky and wacky, and they zoom around on all sorts of things. And anything that’s new is on there with them, isn’t it? It’s, it’s like the leading edge of what’s going on as an indie author. But when I’m structuring or trying to work on the book, Do you sometimes find that immensely frustrating? I’d rather just write it. But that’s the hard work that you have to do when you’ve got the ideas. But how do you make it into something that someone else will find easy to read, enjoyable to read, and we’ll take them on this journey is very different from your own journey, isn’t it?
The first book I wrote, I sat down, I just suddenly decided to write and the first weekend I wrote like, 15,000 words that was just flowing out of me. And I gave it to my family for Christmas. And then I sent it to an editor. And essentially, she sent back a 20 page report with, you know, a great editor, not like oh, my God, this sucked. And this is horrible. But here’s where you’re kind of slumping. Here’s where you need to improve. Here’s something that could be better or changed or taken out. And I ended up literally cutting out half of that book, which she didn’t tell me to do, but I read it. I’m like, oh, man, this, this part sucks. And why did I do this? And I’ve never done anything with that book yet. But I had to get that experience and get that writing. So that the other stuff made sense. I know some people that I talked to, I go to various conventions or local things here at the Library, or I used to, and they’ve been working on one book for like four years without publishing it without finishing it. And I realized now, they’re actually losing out on experience and learning that if they would just finish that book, move on to the next one, they would get much much better, but they’re kind of stuck in that and, and I think that causes some of them to get blocked, and they don’t know what to do because they get so mired in this one book. For me. I’ve found it It’s hard. But I know the book can’t be absolutely perfect. And that’s difficult for me and my personality. But if I get it written, I can go back and edit and make it much, much better through the second draft third draft, then I can just, you know, putzing around with it.
I agree with you. But it’s interesting to see when you look at other authors, do you know the head of the author called Hillary Montel series, wolf hall? No, the bodies, okay, she’s an English writer won a lot of prizes. And she took 20 years writing the first book, this of this trilogy. Okay. Well, no, 12 years for the first one, and then the others. And I think her work is tremendous, historically based. And I read wolf Hall, which is her first one. And then I read the second and then the third one has only just come out. But I went back and read all her early work, and I didn’t like any of it. I thought, Oh, my goodness, this is such a disappointment. But then I thought, No, masterpiece is this third trilogy, the trilogy of wolf Hall, is absolutely superb. And beautifully written. And you know, you can read it over and over and over again. And she’s a master writer. But she needed to do all those first ones to get to that point. And I think that’s what you’re saying really is, we should write and some, some of the ones won’t be as successful as the others, but you’re on the author’s journey. And it is a journey, isn’t it? And so exciting. addictive?
Yes, I love writing. It’s a lot like music. Um, I was in a couple bands, I’ve played music with cruise ship and various other things. And the you get a group, a band and artists, and they may have 30 albums out. But they’re only remembered for one or two, they only have one or two really successful ones. But they wouldn’t have got that without doing the other ones.
Now that sounds silly, right? Because it is all of it is a progression. It’s a journey for us. And I think now with being an indie author, there’s so much more support isn’t there. So when Joe, when Joe started 12 years ago, there was nothing. She was one of the first independent authors. And there was nothing to help she wrote it as she went along. And then she’s written the books to kind of say, Well, this is what I learned on the way so it doesn’t have to be quite so hard for you. And that’s how it has been, for me really, that her help means it’s a lot kind of journey to this poor, struggling author than it was to her.
And I think that’s great. And she does that through her podcast and writing for just about everybody. I know, some of the AI stuff she’s been talking about me being a computer guy always perks me up and makes me listen. And I’ve really been thinking about some of the voice changes coming to Amazon with Alexa, and how people are gonna be searching for books. And I’ve been talking to a lot of people that I think genre is almost becoming unnecessary in our book world today. Because that’s not how you look for books, necessarily. When you’re on Amazon, it’s usually you’re typing in keywords you’re typing. So the genre itself almost doesn’t matter so much as the interesting tags within the book. So I’ve just been listening to what she says and thinking a whole lot talking to a whole lot of people about changes that I think is coming to the world of searching for books and categorizing books. What would the tags be for your books? The best book No, that’s what everybody says right? I it’s middle grade fantasy, wizards magic coming of age young boy. I here’s a better thing. My next set of books coming out and this is also what helped start me on it is ay ay. Ay ix describe it to people as a cozy spy thriller set in alternative British with some steampunk.
Brilliant and I would deliberately not read it because I haven’t read that I think are no not steam punk.
What is your, what’s the age group that you’re aiming at? Or is there one,
that’s the thing. And that’s why I think about these tags because the book is not steampunk. But it has a few steampunk elements in it. So I wouldn’t categorize it as steampunk. But also people that like steampunk may be interested in it. And that’s where I think the genre isn’t as helpful. For some of these, and my example has been coming of age, that’s a big category of young adult books, middle grade books coming of age. And most of them are kind of the literary fiction. But you’ve also got Harry Potter with the wizard stuff. So that’s under fantasy, but it’s also a coming of age book. So if you just look at the section in the bookstore that says coming of age fiction, you might not see the Harry Potter stuff, or better yet, Stand By Me by Stephen King. That’s classified under horror. But that story is not horror in any sense of the word. But it is a coming of age story. So if you yell at someone says, oh, that Stephen King, that’s horror, you miss out on it. But if you like coming of age stories, you might like that story, even if you don’t like the vampire stuff.
Yeah, that’s, that’s really helpful. And probably that’s the so how else would you categorize then if you’re not going to use genre? Just keywords?
Well, that that’s Yeah, essentially it. In today’s world, the reality is, we’ve got genre. And we’ve got a little bit of keywords. My, the way I’ve been thinking of it in my head is, instead what we need is interest tags. And you have a whole list of tags that are portions of your book. Because if people are going to do voice searches, they’re going to talk and you know, ask the computer like they would tell somebody, well, I really want to get a fantasy book that might have some steampunk, but it doesn’t have to, but I really love dragons, if it would have dragons, you know, that’s how we talk to people. And if I know somebody, they go, Oh, yeah, I got just the book for you. And I think that’s where the AI and the voice talking with Alexa and Google’s going. But that doesn’t really fit with genre, and tags. Yes. Or with the keywords, you need a little more
genres and literary thing that was used in traditional publishing, but it doesn’t seem so relevant. Now, does it? Especially as you said, with the voice searches, right? That’s,
that’s been my thought, um, it’s just a hard concept to wrap your brain around, because we’re so embedded in the genre. But if you don’t walk into a bookstore, you know, I mean, if if I’m looking for sweet romance, I probably would cheap type in sweet romance, find a couple books I like, and then I stick with those authors or I find out, you know, what else are people reading that read these books, and Amazon’s been doing that, and they have a really good job of doing that. But the voice search changes it again, because you don’t need necessarily what other people have read or what you know, you’re, you’re looking for certain things. And I’m and the other thing that makes it difficult is I’m a very omnivorous reader. I read a little bit of everything. I don’t just stick with fantasy I read sci fi. I’ve got horror. I’ve even read the Sookie Stackhouse books, which are romance like with vampires. So and honestly, I’ve been interested to read your book. It’s on my list. But with all the great authors I’ve talked to my list is way too big right now.
I’m the same as you I read. And I think how have you done that? Since you were very young. So with me, I’ve always had my nose. And anything I can lay my hands on. I think to be an author to be a rock. You have to be passionate about books and readings. Absolutely.
I don’t understand the people that say, you know, I’ve decided to be an author, or what do you like to read? I don’t like to read. Okay, why don’t you go do something else?
I’ve never heard anyone do that. In the hard times. When you’re struggling to write your book. That’s the only thing that keeps you going really is that you say that it I’m or I say I’m not doing this. It’s too hard. I’m just going to drop it or I’m going to go and do some needlework. And but I can’t. It’s I read and then I’ve got maybe five books all going on at the same time in different rooms. And I’ll sit down and go Okay, I’m reading at the moment. You’ve all know. Harare Harare is Sapiens a brief history of humankind for the fourth time. And each time I read it, I think, Oh yeah, I thought that I’m reading a book called the obesity code, which is about intermittent fasting. So I like nonfiction, as well as fiction. Because most of the ideas in my books are based in real life in reality, I’m totally addicted books, I think. And it’s,
and I love that and agree and, you know, on the subject, you know, how do you write during these tough times, there’s the, the, you know, next thing, go read, pick something up and read it, stop reading, the one genre that you’ve been reading, go read a different genre, read nonfiction read, not just a self help book, you know, read a book about history, I find inspiration and get ideas from so many places, so many things that I I probably could write for 100 years and not run out of ideas and stories, because you know, of everything I have read in the fast, you know, differences in those books, it just inspires me.
And dejenne Oh, Steven, do you write in a journal, your own feelings, and you know, the passage of time and what’s going on for you?
That is something that has crossed my mind, but I have never done it never gotten into it. And I regret that to some degree. But it just something I haven’t been able to pick up and feel compelled to do.
It’s it’s a useful thing when you’re looking for emotion. One of the things that Joe, you said about people giving you feedback, and we’re not with the first book, john has said, you know, you, you have a limited emotional vocabulary. Because you’ve got to be able to say how your characters are thinking and feeling Not, not heads talking to each other. But you know, seeing rather than than just writing about it. So I’ve been using the emotional thesaurus,
Unknown Speaker 32:10
which I’ve read.
And there’s also a countryside, the source. And so that that extends your word power, as well. And the first few times, Joe gave me a lot of help with that. And then this last book, you were saying about your editor, and she still edits for me. And when I sent her the first draft, and he came back, she said, You’ve got 80% of it right, ma’am? Can you go?
80%. And then
she said, but here are some suggestions. You said, there were about four pages. But she she’s spot on. What she said was things like your chapter six is actually your chapter one. You need to get this stuff upfront. And she’s absolutely right. So I wanted to thank you very much indeed for this opportunity. And
yeah, no, yeah, we’ve been going quite long. We found out last week that we could probably talk for quite a while.
Yes, but it’s some how interested your listeners would be but if they if they came back with questions to you, we could do another one. Couldn’t we? Easy, easy. Yeah, absolutely. I’d
love to. So that’s it. Steven, thank you very much. Great.