Euggh, I’m a bloody hoarder, I admit it, damn it!
Not only am I incapable of chucking out that funky jelly-mould I might remember to use this summer, or the trousers I paid too much for back in 2003 when I actually had a chance of getting them up past my lower thighs without a heavy duty lubricant and reduced blood-flow to my feet, it would seem that I’m now hoarding bloody words, too!
Ah well, at least I’m recycling a few bits along the way. Like this! I was asked to spill the beans lately on the inner workings of this little writer’s bubble I’ve been happily floating around in for the last year and a bit. It seemed a shame not to whack my rambling responses on here, seeing as the regular bloggy contributions I was determined to make have fallen by the wayside while I’ve been bashing out more novels (totes unexpected!) and yelling and the kids (not at all unexpected).
So! As my brain is currently empty and the peeps behind the 2014 Virtual Romance Festival were kind enough to delve into that bubble I mentioned, here’s what we nattered about…
Tell us about yourself
Oh pants, I’m a waffler but I’ll try to keep this brief…
Bit of a dreamer, wayward hair.
Decent feet – hoorah! Horrendous roots – eugh.
Think my pals would say occasionally sensible, loyal to the bones, always up for a good cackle? The husband, on the other hand, well he’d just tell you that I’m generally pretty nightmarish to live with, untidy, disorganised and probably a bit bossy, blah blah blah.
Who listens to husbands though, right?
ActualIy I do listen to him occasionally, it’s kinda in the contract. He’s my favourite pain-in-the-ass, which is why I married him ten years after our initial flirtations at youth club. Ahh, nothing sets the scene for romance more effectively than a smouldering look across the ping-pong table and a plastic cup of Tizer. The summer of the shell suit – they were the days, alright.
Turns out, getting hitched was a good move. Phew! Together we’ve made two more cracking pains in the ass (Radley Bo, 9 & Loch, 7) plus we have a third hellbat due to crash into the world in nine weeks, so we’re pretty darned fortunate as it goes.
Hmm, what else…
Guess I’m prone to bouts of uncontrollable hysteria, usually in places where you’re supposed to be grown up and stuff, i.e. wedding services, speeches etc. I blame Jim for those though. He always starts it with one of those throaty/nasal sniggers about something completely infantile and stupid, and then we’re off.
What else, what else, what else…
Ooh, I have an actual degree! My first professional innings in the working world were as an interior designer for an architectural practice in Birmingham, which I loved, but I left to become a homebody and look after hellbats 1&2. Let me tell you, two kids under two was bloody hard work. Once they were at school though, I set up my own business, Nouskie Noo’s, in the supply of contemporary celebration cakes daftly thinking I’d have a better work-life balance. Turns out, running a business was even bloody harder! Who knew?
Anyway, it’s all worked out smashingly now because after getting fed up of not seeing the family every weekend, and closing my little cakery bakery and sulking about it for a while, I happened across a little writing competition on ITV back in January 2013 and, flippin’ heck… I won!
Three book deals later with a brilliant publishing team and life at Casa Knight has been exciting, frantic and utterly awesome since.
Tell us about your latest book
So my latest book (blimey, that still sounds un-be-lieve-able!) is out June 20th and is called ‘A Part of Me’
The story follows Amy along her arduous journey through the process of adoption, and the hurdles she has to navigate and life-changing decisions she has to make in order to realise the one thing she desperately yearns for, a family of her own.
Amy’s so nearly there. She’s finally slogged her way through the bulk of the adoption journey when the rug is unexpectedly yanked from beneath her feet and everything quickly starts to fall apart. Amy has some very difficult decisions to make and very little time to make them before the adoption authorities suss that something has gone very wrong somewhere, jeopardising her application. The very last thing she needs while she’s trying to work out how to hold it all together is for a distraction to stroll into her office and throw yet more chaos and challenges her way, but that’s exactly what she finds herself up against.
When did you start writing?
I started writing as an angstful teenager, I guess. I kept a diary for around four or five years which helped me to deal with all the usual peaks and troughs of teendom – unrequited love (the shell-suit wearing sort), mean girls, frustrating parents etc etc. Of course, I called them journals back then, sounded less naff than a dreary diary. I still have them, and trust me, that stuff is definitely not up for public consumption!
I’d say I started writing properly after I closed my cake shop in the summer of 2012. I’d been writing a fantasy novel just for myself for about a year beforehand, but with the shop shut I really threw myself into it as a bit of release from all the stress.
The more I wrote, the more I got sucked into it. It got to a point where this story I was writing was always there, bubbling away in the back of my head – on the school run, while I was washing up, hiding out in the bath from the kids etc – little threads of ideas would join themselves up and the plot grew and grew until I realised that I probably had enough going for a trilogy.
I was thinking about trying it out on Wattpad when I got ‘the call’ from ITV.
I’d love to get it published one day, but after working alongside a super-fly editor for the last year, I realise that my 180k word fantasy novel will need a leedle bit of sharpening up before I do anything with it.
Tell us about your experience of getting a literary agent.
Well due to coming into the arena of writing the way that I did, my publishing contract was already a done deal way before I had any inkling of agents and all of that side of things. I remember having lunch with a lovely guy, Nigel Stoneman – Jackie Collins’ UK agent (she has more than one agent don’tcha know) – idly pondering how wonderful it would be to ever actually need an agent of my own. I didn’t really give it much thought for a while though after that. I was so busy trying to get Since You’ve Been Gone out on time. Plus, I couldn’t stop thinking about Jerry Maguire and the mental image I had of shark-like bloodsuckers with very big teeth, waiting to gobble up any royalties I might earn. (What can I say? I’m learning as I go along here.)
It wasn’t until after I’d signed for my next two book deals that I really started giving more thought to looking into the whole representation bit. I was having another very nice lunch with the fabulous Victoria Fox when she walked me through the role of her literary agent. Foxy worked in publishing before heading out as an author in her own right, so when she raved about the Madeleine Milburn Agency I started to take note. I’d already been approached by the agency so I trundled down to London one morning and after another very agreeable lunch with Maddy Milburn, I done got myself my very own agent! And another few millimetres on the waistline. (There’s a lot of lunching involved in the writing world, I’ve found. I suspect the publishers and agents are quietly feeding us up to see us through endless months of ‘writing hibernation’ later on.)
There are lots of reasons a writer needs a literary agent but I think for me, because so many wonderful opportunities have come like a bolt out of the blue, there’s always going to be niggling voice in my head that keeps warning me It could all go away again just as quickly, Nousk… you might not be offered another publishing contract, ever!
Yikes. What a total buzz-killer that would be.
Having a literary agent has helped with all that though. I still worry about that side of things but I worry significantly less now because I have someone in the arena with me who can think about that stuff on my behalf, which leaves me to concentrate on the best bits – the writing and eating.
When did you get your first book deal?
I won my first book deal live on ITV’s Lorraine show on Valentine’s Day 2013. The premise of the competition was to submit one thousand words only of a racy read and hope like hell someone tasked at the other end with sifting through thousands of other submissions took a shine to yours!
What tips would you give to other aspiring romance authors, looking to be published?
From my own experience, it would be daft not to say definitely keep an eye out on any competitions being run by the big publishers. Check their websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds etc. It might sound like a long shot but it’s a chance of exposure, you have absolutely nothing to lose and, turns out, people do actually win and go on to further publication.
I’d also say don’t wait for lightening to strike though. There’s nothing stopping you slogging away at it. Forget starting that new TV series of Whatever at 9pm every night, use that time to write. Use bath time to think. Keep a note book and write, every day, whether you think you’re getting somewhere or not. It’ll come.
Finally, get your work out there. Anywhere you can think of, literary agencies, publishers… get going.
Where do you write?
Mainly on my bed, propped up by lots of pillows and surrounded by discarded biscuit packets. I have a desk in the spare room/office/laundry dumping ground, but the chair gives me a dead ass and just the sight of my ironing pile brings me out in hives.
I’m 31 weeks pregnant at the mo though, so everywhere’s bloody uncomfortable anyway.
It is easy to get distracted in your own home though – it’s a sunny day so I’ll just put a load of washing out, etc – so when I need to really knuckle down in the daytime I’ll sometimes use my sister’s house while she’s at work. She can do her own washing, plus she has a kickass snack cupboard.
Where do you look for writing inspiration?
For writing inspiration, as in the act of writing, you’ve got to read. You can’t imitate anyone else’s ‘voice’, that part has to be yours alone, but it’s vital that you tap into what kind of writing feels comfortable for you and the best way to do that is read broadly and find a selection of precedents you can take a few pointers from.
Where do I look for inspiration when it comes to the plot itself?
People, mainly. And issues that strike a chord with me. I don’t really look for inspiration, inspiration tends to find you I think. If something jumps up and grabs your attention or resonates in you, for whatever reason, you’ve probably got a very good anchor to tie your novel to.
The main themes behind A Part of Me were adoption and adaptability.
After two years of misdiagnosis, my kid sister was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma at nineteen years old. She was given the option of harvesting her eggs to safeguard her future fertility, but as the tumour in her leg was the size of a large orange she thought it best to crack on with the eleven months of chemotherapy she had ahead of her.
Thankfully, she still has her life, and a Wolverine-grade part-titanium leg, but until she’s bonkers enough to try for a child she won’t really know what hurdles she might have to face on that front. Added to that, two of my old school pals had recently gone through the adoption process and I was completely knocked out by their dedication. I take my family for granted all the time.
Coming back to my sister, when I was thrashing out the synopsis for A Part of Me, she told me a hilarious story she’d heard at a Teenage Cancer Trust event. The guy had lost his limb to cancer, but had found plenty of opportunity since to put his prosthetic to fantastically distasteful comedic use. After hearing that, not to mention previously being flawed by the awesomeness that was the 2012 Paralympics, I knew I had to have a perfectly imperfect hero to throw a bit of trouble into the plot of A Part of Me.
Which other authors do you admire?
I’m just nearing the end of Dan Brown’s Inferno. I was in Majorca when I read the majority of it, but I might as well have been pounding the streets of Florence and Venice for the vivid imagery he provides in his writing.
I have to say one of my fave authors of late would be Liane Moriarty. I love her voice. As soon as I’d finished gulping down her novel, all I wanted to do was cyber-stalk her until she agreed to be my BFF. I was gutted when I couldn’t find her on Twitter.
Maya Angelou and Harper Lee have stood the test of time. More recently, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Jojo Moyes, Laurell K Hamilton and Suzanne Collins, to name but a few – all for different reasons, obviously. I think my favourite author is usually the last one I read though! Does that make me some sort of ‘reading philanderer’?!
Are you on social media?
Yes! Unless I’m in deadline territory and I don’t want my editor to think I’m fraternising with the masses instead of grafting!
When I’m not in deadline territory, I can usually be found wittering on, either on Twitter @AnouskaKnight or my Facebook page, ingeniously entitled Anouska Knight, or even on my very own blog page, wait for it… wait for it… anouskaknight.wordpress.com
If so, tell us what you like about it.
I love the whole social networking shebang for a few reasons. First off, it’s instant and allows a very quick interchange with the outside world. Writing can be quite insular if you’re not careful, so being able to dip in and out of the world community, particularly amongst like-minded others who also love their reading and writing etc, can be a total life-saver when you’re desperate for five minutes out of your own head.
I also love social media because, well, I’m bloody nosey, aren’t I?
Hi, my name’s Anouska Knight and I’m a nosey parker.
Take note, Liane Moriarty. As soon as I find you out there, I am SO going to Like/Follow/Poke you.
Where were you born?
Lovely Lichfield, Staffordshire.
What is your earliest memory?
Probably falling down the stairs and biting my tongue off when I was two. Nothing sets a memory in stone like bloody horror. That said, I may have formulated the ‘memory’ after hearing about it in later years. Either way, shudder. They sewed it back on, btw.
Where do you live now?
We’re within walking distance of stunning Cannock Chase, which takes some beating as an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Dog or cat person?
Dog! I’ve yet to find a pooch repeatedly climbing into my back garden, terrorising the rabbits and leaving brown pressies all over the place for the kids to step in. That said, I did rather warm to the cat that went viral a few weeks ago… the one that saved the little lad from being mauled by a dog. Didn’t that cat open the Super Bowl, or something?!
When were you happiest?
There have been a fair few contenders for that title I’m fortunate enough to say.
When Jim and I got the keys to our first home, when our sons were born healthy, when I was crying like a muppet in the loos at ITV after Lorraine Kelly pulled my name out of a gold envelope and everything changed for all of us.
But to pick one moment would have to be when my sister got her all clear from that horrendous disease. Moments of happiness have a habit of jumping on you out of nowhere, but that one we were holding our breath a long time for.
What advice would you give your 18 year-old self?
Don’t drink Tequila. Liquor of the Devil.
Don’t spend all of your student loan on CDs, you need to eat for three years, stupid.
Don’t smoke, you do not look like Audrey Hepburn, you look like Slash.
Don’t worry so much about what other people think of you, you can’t win em all and, honestly, why feel the need to?
Do take more money to Glastonbury, £40 is not enough especially as you’ll spend a quarter of that on baby wipes and ciggies in the village shop before you even leave. Dur.
Start writing fiction! Trust me, you’ll LOVE it, so get cracking!
Get Jim and go travelling for a year once you graduate. Before you know it, you’ll be Mum and Dad and who wants to go back-packing with a papoose? ‘No money’ is no excuse. You’ll manage it, somehow, now go get your dreadlocks on.
And finally, don’t laugh when the old girl in the flowery frock gets blown over by the hovercraft at Portsmouth harbour – no-one else will and while she may have her dress over her head, you’ll look like the plonker.
What was your most embarrassing date?
That didn’t involve shell-suits and ping-pong? This is going to sound pretty naff, but I’ve never really done the dating thing. It’s only ever really been Jim, and mostly we’ve just always hung out irritating each other.
What is your favourite romantic moment?
With Jim? Erm… I’m still waiting for it. He said ‘he’s saving it up’.
What do you wish for when you blow out the candles?
To not accidentally spit a little bit on the cake.
What is your favourite smell?
Christmas trees on Cannock Chase.
What book would you choose to take on a desert island?
How To Epilate With Sand, Because No-one’s Gonna Rescue An Island Yeti.
What music would you choose to take on a desert island?
Would have to be Moby.
Three people you’d like to be stranded on a desert island with.
(Assuming the body hair situation is under control)
The husband, because he looks after me.
Ray Mears. He’d be handy and, I suspect, a thoroughly nice fellow.
And probably… Matthew Mcconaughey-hey-hey-there-handsome, because who doesn’t like a hotty with a bongo, right?
What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Family. Jim, Rad & Loch. Boring answer I know, but a fact is a fact is a fact.
What is your favourite romantic song?
Ahh, too many but I LOVE Scott Matthews’s Elusive. Absolutely beautiful.
What is your favourite romantic film?
It’s gotta be Dirty Dancing. The tension, the music, the Swayze. Yesss.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
I believe in love at first fight if that counts?
Sure you can be utterly mesmerised by some gorgeous shell-suit wearing bad boy with a ping-pong paddle in one hand and a cup of Tizer in the other, maybe even mesmerized enough to start a relationship that will see you through some fifteen-twenty years together or more. But I think that real love is a grower, and deserves not to be rushed. Get your first heavyweight bouts behind you, then you’ll know if it’s love.
Unless his name is Matthew and he likes to play bongos in the nuddy ;)