Thursday, 24 April 2014

Debut Spotlight: Beth Thomas

Today I'd like to wish my debut spotlight guest Beth Thomas a happy publication day for her debut novel Carry You.

Having just read a sample biography, it seems that it's a good idea to insert details of your Booker and Pulitzer prizes on here. Which makes me think maybe I should leave it a while before I write this...

But who am I kidding? I like writing humorous observations on life and love, and that kind of thing never wins prizes. Although I think it definitely should. If it makes people feel good, then it's the same as penicillin, isn't it? And that stuff did pretty well.

I've always enjoyed writing, since I first held a pencil, in fact. No, really. My first novel to be published, 'Carry You', will be out this April - exactly forty years after I wrote my first book in 1974. I was six and the story was about a strange person in a strange land, coping with prejudice and fitting in. It sounds more complex than it is, but I was - and am - proud of it. I wrote short stories for many years but they weren't terribly satisfying. It was only once I had discovered the joy and pain of writing a novel that I knew I had found my niche at last, which is a fantastic feeling. I thoroughly recommend that if you haven't already got a niche, you should definitely get one.

'Carry You' draws heavily from my experience of walking the Moonwalk, so if you want to know more about what that is, you should definitely read it. It will make you laugh and cry, then laugh again, and probably smile a fair bit in between. Eat my dust, penicillin.

Follow me on Twitter @BethThomas68

“For you mum. This is all for you”

Daisy has lost her mum to breast cancer. She’s at rock bottom and doesn’t think she’ll ever get back up again. Her best friend Abi has other ideas – she tells it like it is and she’s determined to make Daisy remember the person she used to be.

What Daisy doesn’t know is that, thanks to Abi, her life is about to take an unexpected turn, when she signs them up to do a charity walk. Added to which, someone is about to burst into Daisy’s world in a riot of colour reminding her that life can be full of surprises.

Can you tell us a little bit about your debut book Carry You? 
Carry You is a story about friendship mostly, how a very good friend can help you up and support you when you most need it. Our leading lady, Daisy, is in a depression after a series of tragedies, and doesn’t know what to do with herself. Her life has completely stalled. But her best friend Abby won’t let her vegetate and literally gets her back on her feet. Of course there are some twists and turns and surprise revelations, as well as a romance in store for Daisy once she gets back out into the world again. 

Carry You sounds like an emotional read, where did the inspiration come from? 
My own mum died of cancer eleven years ago, so I have drawn from my own experience of that. Losing a parent happens to so many of us as we get older, but that doesn’t make it any easier to cope with. Also I have benefitted so many times in my life from the love and support of a wonderful friend, and wanted to show the world what that feels like! And when I walked the Moonwalk for the first time in 2010, I was so moved and uplifted by the experience, I wanted to write about it. 

Are you currently working on a new book? 
Yes I am. It’s the story of a husband who goes out for takeaway food one evening and doesn’t come back. Not drawn from my own experience, I hasten to add! But I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of people who just ‘pop out’ for something – a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of milk, a lottery ticket – and never return. What on earth happened to them in those twenty minutes? Did they decide in the corner shop, while wondering whether or not to buy a Wispa, that enough’s enough? Or have they been pulled away against their will? So interesting to think about.

Did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?
Oh yes. I’ve always loved it. I got immense pleasure out of writing stories from the age of six onwards, and am unbelievably excited to have achieved my lifelong ambition of being published. It’s taken me a while, but I really do feel like this is the start of a brand new chapter in my life, at the tender age of *mumbles indistinctly*-six.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?
My plan is always to get up early, exercise for an hour, shower and change and start writing around 10am. Sadly I often skip the exercise in favour of coffee and internet surfing for furniture and shoes and holidays. Must try harder. Once that’s out of my system, I start writing. I’m still working a day job full time so I don’t get to write every day, but on a writing day, my intention is to get a minimum of 1000 words done. When it’s going very well, it can be three times that much, which is a fantastic feeling. I have a gorgeous room at the end of my kitchen that looks out onto the garden, so I can stare off at the horizon whenever I need to. It really is the best job in the world.

Have you any exciting plans for publication day?
Yes I have! First thing in the morning, I will be jumping up and down and squealing. A trip to a book shop somewhere is definitely going to feature heavily. Probably more than one, if I’m honest. I’m having lunch with my lovely agent and my fantastic editor at Avon, which I’m so looking forward to. And then it will be out for dinner with the family in the evening. I can’t wait!

Are you going to treat yourself to something nice? 
Well I’ve just bought myself a new mountain bike, so I should really count that as my publishing day gift, shouldn’t I? Although it’s my birthday tomorrow, so I can tell myself that’s my birthday present to myself and get something else… Seen some gorgeous silver earrings in Canterbury that I kind of must have…

If you could go on a writing retreat anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
Goodness, that’s hard. Well it definitely wouldn’t be anywhere exotic, like a beach hut in the Caribbean - can’t see the laptop screen in the sunshine, so I’d be resentfully sitting indoors in the shade, muttering. I think I would be most productive in a cottage in Cornwall. That’s kind of my dream, actually. A brisk walk or bike ride first thing, hours of uninterrupted writing, then a delicious cream tea to celebrate. Sounds idyllic to me.

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