A very warm welcome to you Phaedra, and can I thank you, for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today.
Thanks so much for inviting me to answer a few questions.
For the benefit of our International readers can you tell us a bit about the part of the world that you are currently resident in and why do you like living there?
I live in Saddleworth, which is in the North-West of England, around 10 miles from Manchester. I live in a small village at the edge of the moors, surrounded by green hills and close to a canal. It’s a lovely part of the world as it’s nice, quiet and picturesque for writing, but if you want to go into the city, it’s just a 25-minute train journey away.
Can I ask what sort of books did you like reading as a child?
I think I read all of Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and Famous Five books, however my favourites were fairy tales, especially books with lovely illustrations. When you read these kind of stories, it can transport you away to somewhere magical. Even though my own books are set in modern-day settings with everyday people, I still like to add a touch of make-believe.
Do you have a set routine when you are working on a novel?
Most of the time I drop my son at school in the morning, go for a walk to blow away the cobwebs and set down to work at around 9.30am, either at home or in a local cafe. I tackle my admin first then write or edit solidly until 12.30ish, when I stop for a bowl of soup or sandwich. After that I work through until 3.30pm. I always plan to work a full five-day week but often find myself doing the supermarket shop, meeting a friend for lunch or tidying up. It’s easy to be distracted when you work from home.
Where do you do your writing best?
I work on my laptop at a local cafe, or at a small desk set up in the corner of my kitchen. When I write by hand, I can do this anywhere – on the sofa, in bed, waiting for a bath to run…wherever. I even wrote part of 'The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper' whilst lying on my son’s trampoline!
You have previously written short stories. Did you find writing a full length novel more difficult?
They are both very different. With short stories there’s usually a strict word limit so you have to make every single word count. I like the challenge of writing something then having to chop it down, again and again, so it’s really tight. A novel is a different beast. Sometimes the thought of writing 90,000 words can be overwhelming, so I try to split it into a few sections, then into chapters, to make the task more manageable. A short story might take a few days to write whereas a novel can take 12 months.
When you are writing a novel, how do you place yourself into the time period that you are actually writing about?
I usually write modern-day stories, though in 'The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper' there are a few passages set in the past. For these, I thought about black-and-white photographs of my parents, and the music and fashion of those times.
How do you go about imagining, developing and give real lives and personalities to the characters that we read about within your book?
I fill in a four page document that I devised for myself about the main character. It covers everything from how they look, to what they might say if they banged their elbow, to where they buy their shoes and who cuts their hair.
I don’t think I know their full personality until I start to write about them. Then they might say or doing something which helps me to hook into their character. I remember the first time Arthur Pepper truly came to life was when his well-meaning neighbour Bernadette asks him yet another question. His tetchy response is, “Is this Mastermind? I don’t remember applying.” And with those words, I found Arthur.
Did you encounter any difficulties in getting your book accepted and published?
Not with this one, but it was my sixth attempt! My first three books languish in a drawer somewhere. My next two found a literary agent but no publisher. Fortunately, my current book didn't encounter much difficulty. I found a new agent (Clare Wallace at Darley Anderson) and she submitted it to English and overseas publishers at the same time. Italy was the first country to snap it up, which seemed most surreal for a book about a humble Yorkshireman. The book will now be published in eighteen countries.
Did you have to undertake any research for your novel?
I like to write about what I know, so the only research I did was to check out the geography and logistics of how to get to the places that Arthur Pepper visits.
What is your favourite book and why?
My favourite book of all time is ‘East of the Sun and West of the Moon’ by Kay Nielsen. It’s a book of fairy tales illustrated by a Danish artist. I got it when I was seven or eight years old and I still love it.
I don’t have a favourite novel but I always look out for books by Lucy Clarke, Sarah Addison-Allen, Dan Rhodes and Antoine Laurain.
Are you currently reading a book at the moment, and if so what is it?
The next book I have lined up to read is ‘The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra’ by Vaseem Khan. I love the cover and it sounds like a warm, quirky read.
Do you have any other hobbies or interests that you enjoy in order to give you a break from your normal routine and your writing?
I studied art at college for four years so now and again I might paint a canvas. I also like fiddling around making jewellery. I try to walk wherever I can, to get some fresh air and to clear my mind after writing all day.
Can you give us a hint about any other books that you may have in the making at the moment?
I've just completed the first draft of Book 2. It’s under wraps but I can say it offers the same poignancy, warmth and fun as 'The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper', and again it features a male hero.
If you could offer any advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?
Write when you can – before you go to sleep at night, on a train journey or on your lunch break…just get your words and ideas down. You’ll find that they really mount up. Then, when you do get more time, you can type it all up. I've published a free A-Z of writing tips on my website www.phaedra-patrick.com/writing-tips
Phaedra, I have been absolutely delighted and very honoured that you agreed to be interviewed for my literary site. I would also like to thank-you again for taking the time to speak to us today.
You’re very welcome. I'm delighted to have taken part.
If you would like to find out more about Phaedra and her writing, the link to her website is given below:
Sixty-nine year old Yorkshireman Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets up at 7.30 am, just as he did when his wife of 40 years, Miriam, was alive. He eats his breakfast, waters his plant, Frederica, and doesn't speak to anyone unless it is absolutely necessary. But on the first anniversary of Miriam's death, something changes.
When he finally makes himself sort through Miriam's wardrobe Arthur finds an unfamiliar gold charm bracelet. Upon closer examination, he finds a telephone number on the underside of a gold elephant charm and on a whim, he picks up the phone.
And so begins Arthur’s quest as he travels from the safety of home to London, Paris and India on an epic quest to discover, charm by charm, Miriam’s secret life before they met. And along the way, he might just find out more about himself.