Ep 154 How to be more creative in 10 minutes a day. And Hilary Spiers, author of “Love, Lies and Linguine”.

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podcast-artworkIn Episode 154 of So you want to be a writer: Make writing part of your daily life with the Creative Writing Bootcamp, discover Oxford Dictionary’s new words, and learn how to be more creative in 10 minutes a day. Impress your friends by casually dropping “halcyon” into your conversations. You’ll meet the delightful Hilary Spiers, author of Love, Lies and Linguine. Plus: discover what the difference between is between an author blog and an author website and much more!

Click play to listen to the podcast or find it on iTunes here. If you don’t use iTunes you can get the feed here, or listen to us on Stitcher radio.

Review of the Week
From Maree:

Valerie and Alison, you have changed my world. I listen to your podcast every week and some days will listen to old podcasts just because I need a “VaAl” fix. I have learned so much from you about writing, your hints and tips are great. I love your advice on different software and your great writer interviews. You inspire me to keep going and not to give up on my passion of writing. You never know, one day you could be interviewing me. Thank you for all that you do, keep up he great work.

Thanks, Maree!

Show Notes

Creative Writing 30-day Bootcamp

Oxford Dictionaries add ‘clicktivism’ and ‘haterade’ as new words for angry times

You Only Need 10 Minutes to be More Creative

Writer in Residence

Hilary Spiers

Hilary Spiers is a novelist, award-winning short story writer and playwright, who writes about ordinary women in sometimes extraordinary circumstances. She believes women’s complex and fascinating lives deserve more scrutiny than they often get.
Her second novel featuring Hester and Harriet is titled Hester & Harriet: Love, Lies & Linguine. She is currently working on a third novel, this time with a different protagonist – but still a lady of a certain age.

Visit Hilary’s website

 

Platform Building Tip

Why a writing blog and author website are different 

And you can find out more about Allison’s course “How to Build Your Author Platform”.

Competition

WIN: Double passes to “David Stratton: A Cinematic Life”!

Your hosts

Allison Tait

Valerie Khoo / Australian Writers’ Centre

Connect with us on twitter

@altait

@valeriekhoo

Email us

podcast at writerscentre.com.au

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Interview Transcript

 

Valerie

Thanks so much for joining us today Hilary.

Hilary

Oh it is a pleasure to be with you.

Valerie

Now, your latest book is Love, Lies and Linguine, which is a great title. Now, for those listeners who haven’t come across it yet or haven’t read it yet, can you tell us what it is about?

Hilary

Okay. Well, it picks up… It certainly is not a sequel, but it follows on, to some extent, my first book, which was Hester and Harriet. So we are back with the two widowed sisters and they have decided to broaden their horizons and to risk a trip to Italy. So they had quite an exciting six months and they leave for Italy. But unfortunately there is a severe coolness, is probably the best way to put it, between them, because Hester is nursing a secret to do with her sister and Harriet is trying to work out what on earth is going on in their relationship. Meanwhile back in England, they have left their house in the care of Daria, who is a Belarusian refugee they took in, which happened in the first book. And unfortunately there is also involved in that story their nephew Ben who is persuaded to do some very naughty things while they are away, which all turns catastrophically wrong. So there’s the dual stories running in England and Italy and then they come together. But it does definitely shake up the sisters’ lives and leads them to question who they are, what they want out of life, and indeed what they are going to do in the future and will it be together.

Valerie

Yes! Now Hester and Harriet are much loved and obviously, as you say, this is the second book, although it is not a sequel; it can be read as a standalone. When you came up with the idea of your first book…

Hilary

Yes.

Valerie

If you can just take me back there. And how did this idea form? How did you think, oh I am going to write about these two widows called Hester and Harriet?

Hilary

Well, what actually happened was, they started life in a short story when I was doing my MA in Creative Writing. And obviously my peer group read it and my friends who were not on the course, but all my reading friends read it. And everybody said, ‘Oh aren’t these two lovely characters! You should do something more with them.’ And I thought at the time, ‘Yes they are lovely characters.’ I really enjoyed writing about them. But I really didn’t give it much more thought, until my very dear writing buddy said to me, ‘I am going to set you a challenge. You need to write a book.’ I said, ‘Write a book? I am in the middle of writing a play at the moment.’ She said, ‘No, no, I think you should write a book.’ So I said, ‘But you know, most of what I have been doing is short stories, and a book is an awfully long thing to do.’ She said, ‘Never mind. I know how I will get you to do it. I will set you a challenge. And you give me three chapters a week and get them to me by 6 o’clock on Friday. I will look at them over the weekend, give you my comments, and you can start again the next week.’

Valerie

Ah!

Hilary

That was kind of the genesis of it; that it started as a bit of a challenge.

Valerie

Wow.

Hilary

But it did not actually quite frankly take long before I was sucked in and so enjoying it. I thought, ‘Why haven’t I done this sooner?’

Valerie

Wow.

Hilary

So I wrote the book against this artificial deadline.

Valerie

Yes! So when you were writing that book then… Because, you know, you were just delivering three chapters a week. Did you know what was going to happen? Were you actually writing with a novel in mind at the end? Obviously, those three chapters would stop at some point. And did you plan out the story or just kind of just write three chapters as you went? You know what I mean?

Hilary

Yes. No, no. I see what you are saying. I… Well, I have to say, I was listening to Natasha Lester on your podcast…

Valerie

Yes!

Hilary

And she said she was not a great plotter. And I thought, ‘Oh thank God for that!’ Because I am not a great plotter either. I prefer to just see where I am going to go with it. The weird thing is that when I am writing I always know where I am going to end up.

Valerie

Right.

Hilary

So although I might not know what happens between the beginning and the end, I know where I am headed so I can head in that general direction. But I quite often will go off on highways and byways and think, ‘Oh I haven’t quite intended that, but actually, this is an interesting thing to explore so I will go and explore that and see if it works.’ But I do generally, weirdly enough, have my last sentence in my head…

Valerie

Wow.

Hilary

Very early on.

Valerie

Okay.

Hilary

And I am aiming for that all the time.

Valerie

Yes, fantastic. So you know where you are going.

Hilary

I do.

Valerie

Now you have… You are quite learned. You have degrees in Law…

Hilary

Yes.

Valerie

And Speech Therapy.

Hilary

Yes.

Valerie

As well as, as you said, a Master’s in Creative Writing.

Hilary

Yes.

Valerie

And quite a lot of experience. Now, what… Which of these careers were you doing at the time where you decided to write Hester and Harriet?

Hilary

Well, I had by that stage given up my full-time job, because… My decision was that if I was going to really try to write I had to devote my time to it and serve an apprenticeship if you like. And the genesis of the whole making myself into a writer as opposed to what I was doing, which at that stage was working in Youth Services and for the Department of Health, on adolescent health mainly. The focus was that one of my… Well in fact two of my dear friends died. But one of them was actually quite a bit younger than I was. And his death prompted me to think how short life is.

Valerie

Right.

Hilary

And I know that is probably… Sounds slightly trite and a lot of people say it, but it hit me very hard and I thought, ‘If I really want to do this, then I’ve got to give it heart and soul.’ I can’t do it part-time and I know what will happen, I will get distracted. If I actually give up my full-time job and I say to myself, ‘Right. Serve your apprenticeship. Write the rubbish. Write better. Try each day to get something that is better than the day before. Then that is what I wanted to do.’ And I gulped and I did it. So that was kind of what I was doing at the time.

Valerie

Yes.

Hilary

When I started writing the novel. I was writing full-time, if you like.

Valerie

And so, did you always want to be a writer, from when you were very young, or was it something you discovered later?

Hilary

No, no, I always had written. I wrote an awful lot when I was much younger. I wrote some appalling poetry, as one does. And I wrote a lot of short stories. And I have always been involved with the theatre. So if outside of a straight production we were doing some… Let’s say we were doing community entertainment, I would usually be writing stuff for that or writing all the links for it.

Valerie

Right.

Hilary

And in my spare time I would be writing short stories. But not for consumption, just for my own satisfaction, as it were.

Valerie

Yes.

Hilary

What prompted the big, big decision, aside from these two deaths that I mentioned, was that I went with a friend… Really, just for a holiday, but on a writing holiday. And I was hooked. I thought this is what I want to do.

Valerie

You went on a writing holiday. What does that mean?

Hilary

I went on a holiday. This is going to sound very lovely. Indeed it was. I went on a holiday to a Greek island. Lots of lovely sun and swimming and all of that sort of thing. But part of it was a creative writing course. So…

Valerie

Okay.

Hilary

During the mornings we had kind of group sessions, and we did writing, we shared our writing, and I made some incredible friends. This was quite some while back, actually, about 12 years ago. I made some friends and we are still friends. And although two of them now live part of the year in New Zealand we still have a writing group. So we communicate by email and Skype.

Valerie

Wow. That is wonderful. So, you then… When you made that decision, you had those things occur, especially the deaths of your friends, and you thought, ‘Life is too short, I am going to do this full time and actually give it a go.’

Hilary

Yes.

Valerie

What… At that point, were you… Did you think, I am definitely going to work hard and get this novel published? Or… What was the goal of just writing full-time at the time?

Hilary

I think when I started the goal was, could I even get myself published.

Valerie

Right.

Hilary

You know, could I test myself and see if I could write. And I set myself right at the beginning, when I was both writing fiction and plays, I set myself the goal that every fortnight I would send something out somewhere. It didn’t matter what it was, it almost didn’t matter where it was going, but I had to send stuff out, because I thought to myself, if I am serious about this, there is no point sitting in my study, writing away, with all these words on my computer. I have got to be brave enough to send stuff out.

Valerie

Yes!

Hilary

And one of the first things I sent out, one of the first things I sent out was a short story to a local radio station who at that stage, unfortunately don’t do it anymore, but at that stage they would broadcast some short stories. I think now actually it was one short story a week on a Sunday night. And I thought, ‘Well, you know, I’ll get my toe in the water, send it off.’ And it was accepted. So, that was the first thing I sent out and it was accepted. And I thought at the time, I know it is only a local radio station, but somebody thinks my work has got some merit.

Valerie

Right.

Hilary

And I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t had… I mean, obviously like everybody, I had masses of rejections, masses of times I have sent work out and never heard anything. But I don’t know what would have happened if that very first time when it was accepted, it hadn’t been. I don’t know whether I would have thought, ‘I am cheating myself here. This is ridiculous. Whatever made me think I could write?’

Valerie

Yes, right.

Hilary

But I did have, you know, I had enough successes to think, ‘No. Keep going. Grit your teeth. Get on with it.’ And I did.

Valerie

Okay. So, then your first novel, which started off as a short story and then this, you know, three chapters a week challenge, Hester and Harriet. What age were you when you first started writing that?

Hilary

The novel? I was sixty-one.

Valerie

And so then, can you tell us about the road to publication? Like…

Hilary

Yes. Sure.

Valerie

What happened? How did it get picked up?

Hilary

Well, I finished the book and I was still writing quite a long play for my MA, my dissertation. And my friend, the friend I referred to earlier, the challenging friend…

Valerie

Yes.

Hilary

She said to me, ‘Get this book out there!’ And I said, ‘Yes, yes, I will, I will.’ And she kept nag, nag, nag. ‘Get it out there. Get it out there.’ So I said, ‘Yes, you are absolutely right. But I am quite busy.’ ‘No, no,’ she said. ‘Get on with it.’ She doesn’t give up easily. Which is fortunate for me. So I listed the agents that I wanted to send it to, because I knew I wanted a female agent.

Valerie

Yes.

Hilary

And I felt that my writing was, not intended to be just for women clearly, but I did feel that a female agent would sort of understand where I was coming from. So I sent it out, because on our course we were advised to not send it out to just one agent, because obviously it takes, generally it takes quite a while for them to come back. So I sent it out to three agents. By email. I was also being slightly mean thinking I don’t really want to send it to people who require it by mail so I never got to print it and pay for it. I am being slightly flippant here. And to my astonishment, within a couple of days I had a response from one of them asking for a manuscript. So I got thoroughly over excited as you can imagine and sent it off to them. And then, about a day or two later I got another email from another one of these agents asking me for the manuscript. And so I had to contact them and say, ‘Well, I have already sent it off to another agent because they asked me for it.’ Whereupon, the agent who is now my agent phoned me up and said, ‘No, no, no, no, don’t give them so much time. We want to read it. Phone them up and tell them they can only have however long it was.’ And I said, ‘Really? You know, can one do this?’ And she said, ‘Yes, of course you can. Of course you can.’ Anyway, I did. And long story short, that agent, the one who had actually phoned me up, is now my agent. So, it just all fell into place. I just didn’t expect it to happen that way. I was expecting to wait months for responses.

Valerie

Wow.

Hilary

That is what generally happens. And it must have just struck a chord, which is fantastic for me.

Valerie

Yes. Obviously. And so, so you got that agent and presumably they then, they subsequently got you the first book deal?

Hilary

Yes. That’s right. That’s right.

Valerie

So…

Hilary

I am very lucky actually, because my agent I think is one of the very few agents in London who has an in-house editor.

Valerie

Right.

Hilary

So I was able to work initially with Stephanie and do a lot of, you know, rewrites and just edits and things like that to get it, obviously as good as they thought it could be. And that in itself was a really great experience. And then Jane, my agent, obviously sent it out and I was lucky enough to get picked up by Allen & Unwin.

Valerie

Yes. Wonderful. Now, forgive me for asking these questions about age, but I just think it is relevant and inspiring. So, what age were you when the first book was released?

Hilary

Sixty-three.

Valerie

Right. Which is…

Hilary

Yes.

Valerie

Which is just fantastic because a lot of people leave things because they think that, you know, oh, I should have done it when I was 30. Or I should have done it when I was 25. Or whatever.

Hilary

Yes. Yes.

Valerie

But, you know, it is never too late. All right. So, then it was successful. Yes? Hester and Harriet, successful. People loved these characters. And at that point, did you already have the second book in your head?

Hilary

Oh yes.

Valerie

Or did you just think… Oh, you did?

Hilary

I had the second book in my head when I was writing the first.

Valerie

Okay. And?

Hilary

Because I thought, ‘Oh, there is lots more these two ladies can do. I can send them on far more adventures than just one. This will be, you know, great sadness to me if I never saw them again.’ So I already had another, I had the next plot in my head. And indeed I have got a third in my head as well.

Valerie

Wow.

Hilary

I just… They are with me all the time. It sounds ridiculous, but somebody said to me the other day, ‘Is there a day when you don’t think about them?’ And I said, ‘No, not really.’ Because wherever I am, I see somebody doing something or I hear somebody saying something and I think, ‘Oh, Hester. That would really suit Hester. That sort of thing.’ Or, you know, just, they are just with me all the time and they are great companions. So I hope to be able to continue having adventures with them for some time to come.

Valerie

Yes. Absolutely. And in terms of the adventures that they do have… So this one, Love, Lies, and Linguine… What kind of research or travel or, you know, well research, yes, do you have to do for Hester and Harriet’s adventures? Or did you do for this book anyway?

Hilary

For this one I was very fortunate in that my husband and I had gone on a painting holiday, not for me, but for my husband, in Italy. And I had such a fantastic time. I mean, I went along as partner, if you like. Having checked if it was okay to do that. And I thought, ‘How romantic would that be, sitting under a loggia or something, writing.’ Which is indeed what I did. But it also gave me the opportunity… Each time they went out on a painting trip I would say, ‘Is there room in the minibus for me?’ And there always was, which was lovely.

Valerie

Yes.

Hilary

And so I saw of the area that we were in, I saw quite a bit of the local towns and obviously the scenery and all that sort of thing. So for the Italian bit that was fantastic, because I had all the help there. The other area that has required quite a bit of research has been the issues around immigration and the status of people seeking asylum and that sort of thing. Because Daria, the young girl I mentioned earlier, she has overstayed her visa. She had a visa, but she has overstayed it. And the rules, I have no idea what it is like in Australia, but over here the rules seem to change on almost a weekly basis. And when I was writing, in fact for both books, I really thought, I need specialist help here, because I don’t want to make an absolute mistake, where somebody says, ‘Well that couldn’t possibly happen.’ And eventually, although I have got various friends in the profession, I have got several friends who are lawyers, none of them specialised in immigration law. And I was getting slightly panicky thinking, ‘Well, my Law Degree is decades out of date. I have no idea where you would start this.’ So I took, simply took a chance and phoned a firm in London who specialised in immigration law. And, as indeed has happened almost every time I have asked someone for help, they were delightful and said, ‘We can’t do it now, but phone us tomorrow at such and such time and we can give you 15 minutes, you know, with all your questions. Get your questions lined up and just give us a ring.’ And I did. And they gave me all the answers to the questions. And they said, ‘Don’t forget, this could all change next week.’ But it meant that at the time I was writing, I was relatively confident that things were accurate.

Valerie

And so….

Hilary

So that is the kind of research… Sorry…

Valerie

Yes, no, no, go on. Please go on.

Hilary

No, the only other one is… You may or may not have noticed that the ladies are, I hesitate to say, prodigious consumers of wine, but they do like their wine. And fortunately for me, so does my husband. In a sense that he enjoys wine. Sorry, I am making him sound like an alcoholic. He is not an alcoholic. He enjoys his wines and he knows quite a bit about them. I know nothing about them, so all of the information about what they are drinking and why it is so lovely is thanks to him.

Valerie

Wonderful. And no doubt you had to partake in many wine tastings just so that you could get it right.

Hilary

Well, it would be rude not to, I feel. You know, you have to experience these things.

Valerie

Yes. It definitely would be rude not to. Now, when you are writing… You know, focused on your writing, you are actually writing the first draft… Can you tell me what your typical day is like? Do you have a routine? Do you write to a word count target? Do you have other little deadline things, like you did with your three chapters and your challenging friend? How do you actually get the words on the page?

Hilary

Okay. So, when I gave up my job I decided this was my job. And I do like to be at my desk no later than 9 in the morning. And I generally start the day with having a swim, because I find that clears my head. So I go to our local leisure pool, which has swimming for adults first thing in the morning. And I have a swim and that is when I start thinking about things. Which is probably why I swim into a lot of people, because I am not paying attention. But… And then I get to my desk at 9 o’clock and my idea is to write something. I don’t generally set myself a target, unless I am doing one of my friend’s challenges. But generally I think, ‘No, today I just want to write something.’ And sometimes I will set off and I will be writing, I will still be writing at lunchtime thinking well this is going really well. Other days I am mucking about. I am doing bits of research, justifying those on the grounds that I will need them later. Because I can’t get my head in gear. But what I do do is, I write something every single day. So, sometimes I could be really productive and other days I will come away feeling I have cheated myself by not doing what I should have done. So in that sense I am fairly disciplined, except that, particularly if I am doing research, I do allow myself to get distracted. And that is a great fault and I so admire these people who can switch off the internet and switch off their emails and, you know, just concentrate on the page in front of them. I am afraid I am not that disciplined.

Valerie

Now, because you don’t… I mean, you know where you are going, because you know your last sentence. But you don’t plot, as you said. Do you then… How often do you find yourself going down rabbit holes that you can’t get out of? And then you have to toss 10,000 words or whatever and come back to a certain point and write that way? And related to that, do you write in a linear fashion or do you write scenes and put them together later?

Hilary

I tend to write in a linear fashion. Not always, but sometimes. And particularly if… Like, the book I am working on at the moment, I have got a particular character that I have not reached yet. But I keep having thoughts about her, so I have been writing little snatches of dialogue for her and putting those in a separate file, because I know I will want to come back to them. And as for rabbit holes, even if I do go down a rabbit hole, I have learned from bitter experience just to cut it out and pop it somewhere else. I used to, in the early days, cut it out and delete it.

Valerie

Oh my God!

Hilary

That was not… Yes, well, I know.

Valerie

Why would you do that?

Hilary

I did.

Valerie

Oh my God.

Hilary

I used to… I just used to have convinced myself, ‘This is not working so get rid of it.’ Well, I have learned my lesson, because obviously, you know what I am going to say. A few months later you might think, ‘Oh that scene I wrote… Well, you know, it would come in nicely here.’ And then you have to entirely recreate it.

Valerie

Yes.

Hilary

So, I am much better at not throwing things away these days.

Valerie

Yes. Yes.

Hilary

But I, I don’t…

Valerie

And like, storing them is free.

Hilary

I don’t know really that I often go down the rabbit hole. I mean, certainly I have been down rabbit holes and they have been pointed out to me by people saying, ‘What is this doing here?’ You know, it doesn’t advance the story. And I will accept that. I like to think I am quite good at taking criticism on the chin. But when I said I am not good at plotting, which I am not, that really presents me with problems, when I am asked for a synopsis. And I am rubbish.

Valerie

Of course.

Hilary

I am rubbish at writing a synopsis.

Valerie

Of course.

Hilary

Because I fail all the time. I fail a) it is such a… I don’t know. It is such an uncreative thing. You know. This happened and this happened and this happened. And part of me is thinking, ‘I don’t want people to know this yet.’ Which is crazy. But I do like to feel that I can surprise people. And if you are actually telling everybody your entire plot plus the absolute end of the book, I kind of feel it takes away from me some of the joy of discovering what they are getting up to. If that makes sense.

Valerie

Yes. Yes. That is…

Hilary

Yes.

Valerie

That is so… Yes, that is so true. And so, you must be writing the third book. Is that right?

Hilary

I am. The third book is not Hester and Harriet. I have in fact started, I started Hester and Harriet book three…

Valerie

Yes.

Hilary

But obviously I am waiting on the reaction to book two. But I have started an entirely other book about a particularly, you know, totally different protagonist. And I am well into that and I am hearing encouraging noises from my agent so I am, yes, I am really hammering away at that at the moment.

Valerie

Wow. And so, when you are… Are you sometimes writing the next book while editing the previous book?

Hilary

Yes. Actually yes I am. Yes. That is true. I have not thought about it like that but yes.

Valerie

And do you find that is… It obviously must come easy to you because you didn’t even think about it. So, it is not something… Do you have to consciously switch hats or get yourself back into the Hester and Harriet world? Or… You know what I mean?

Hilary

I do, I do know what you mean. No. At the moment what has been… I am just trying to think that when I was editing Love, Lies and Linguine… Yes, I was working on the one I am working on at the moment. But… I don’t know. I didn’t find, I didn’t find that too much of a challenge. I think partly because sometimes, when I am writing… I can be writing both a book and a play at the same time. And I find that… Somebody said to me, ‘Isn’t that very confusing?’ But actually I find it quite an enlivening thing to do. Because they are two totally different genres, obviously. But because I write quite dialogue-heavy books anyway I think, and that is I am sure a product of writing plays, I find an awful lot of crossover there…

Valerie

Yes.

Hilary

When I am writing a play and I am writing a book. So I am able to do that. And I suppose in a sense, writing… Editing one book and writing another is probably closer, to be honest, than writing a book and a play at the same time.

Valerie

Yes.

Hilary

If you see what I mean.

Valerie

Yes. Yes. And now, what would your advice be finally for aspiring writers who hope to be in a position like you are? Where, you know, they finally got their first and now second, and you are writing your third novel.

Hilary

Are these your top three tips?

Valerie

Yes. Go on. Tell me, tell me your top three tips.

Hilary

Okay. Well. I think the first one everybody in the world will have said to every writer, which is, ‘Write every day.’ And I do mean that.

Valerie

Yes.

Hilary

Write every day and write anything. I know, I know everybody says that but it is absolutely true, the more you write the easier it becomes and I think, I hope, the better you get. And I don’t mind sometimes if I come away and think, ‘Actually, all I have written today is a paragraph.’ Perhaps tomorrow I will change it and it will be totally different. Or I might even put it into one of my, not into the bin, literally, but into my, you know, my other file.

Valerie

Yes.

Hilary

But I have done something and I have used words and that is great. The other thing, and I don’t do this and I should, is… I find, and I am sure a lot of other writers do, that some of my best ideas come when I am either just about to fall asleep or maybe I wake in the night and I have just got an idea and it is floating around. Now, it is at those moments that I write my best prose but I don’t write it down. And the next morning when I wake up I think, ‘What was that sentence? What was I going to get them to do?’

Valerie

Yes.

Hilary

So what I could do is, would be a little pen with a light on it so I can write in the dark and not forget them. So I would say to everybody, ‘Don’t do as I do. Write it down when you think of it.’ It is like being out shopping and you see something and you get your notebook out and you just scribble a few words to remind yourself. You have to do it when it happens.

Valerie

Yes.

Hilary

I find that more and more as I get older. Do it while you remember it.

Valerie

Yes, definitely.

Hilary

So that would be my first tip. My second one would be to read as much as you can, as much time as you have got. Read and read and read. And read across genres. Read stuff that maybe you would never write, because something has always got a kernel of lovely writing, a plot device, a structure that I am not saying copy, but just feeds into your own work. I mean, I am quite lucky because I read, I record books for a charity called Calibre, over here, which is for blind and print impaired people. So I get to read a huge range of different books and they are books that I would not pick up in a bookshop necessarily. But I have learned that everything can teach you something. Even if you think at the end, ‘I didn’t enjoy that book that much. It is not my cup of tea.’ You still get something out of it. Because you are watching… You’re in a sense dissecting, particularly if you are reading for recording, you are dissecting the detail and structure of a book and I find that fascinating. Really, really helpful.

Valerie

Absolutely.

Hilary

And my last one would be, listen to everybody. Listen to your critical friends. Listen to anybody who reads your drafts. And listen to your editors. I feel readers know what they like to read, editors know what sells and what the market is interested in at the moment. And I am an absolute believer in that “kill your darlings” maxim. You know, my feeling is, if it stands out, then it sticks out. And if it does that, then you are trying too hard. And I know it is difficult sometimes. You write something and you say, ‘Oh, I am really pleased with that.’ But if you keep coming back to it and it snags the eye, from my perspective there is something wrong with it. So, you can bin that one. You can put that one in the bin. For sure.

Valerie

Yes. Kill your darlings and put them in the bin. And the other…

Hilary

Indeed.

Valerie

Yes. Put them in the might-be-used-one-day file.

Hilary

Or sometimes I think they should go in the never-be-used-and-definitely-permanently-delete file.

Valerie

I just can’t bring myself to do that. I really can’t. Because it is, you know, the storage is free. It is okay.

Hilary

No, that is true. That is true, yes. But the chances are, I find, I have got a terribly flibbertigibbet filing system in my head generally. It is when I want to find those things, then I think, ‘How did I file that? Where did I put that?’ I should be more organised.

Valerie

All right. Look, congratulations on the second book.

Hilary

Thank you.

Valerie

It is fantastic. So, Love, Lies and Linguine. And thank you so much for talking to us today Hilary. We really appreciate it.

Hilary

It has been a great pleasure. Thank you.

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