Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Debut Spotlight: Stephanie Butland

Today I'm delighted to be taking part in the Surrounded by Water blog tour by introducing you to Stephanie Butland and her fantastic debut novel which was published last week.

Stephanie Butland is a professional trainer specialising in creativity and thinking skills. She also uses her unique skills and first-hand experience to support people with cancer. She helps to raise awareness and funds for many charities and has written two books about her life with the illness. 

She lives in Northumberland with her husband and two children. 


Twitter: @under_blue_sky

Elizabeth's world is turned upside down when her husband dies in a tragic drowning accident.

How typical of her kind, generous husband - a respected police officer - to sacrifice his own life saving a complete stranger's.

Or so she thinks.

What exactly was her husband doing at the lake that night? And what if his death isn't the most difficult thing she will have to deal with?

Elizabeth must face the consequences of her husband's actions. As she does so, it seems that the end of Mike's life is only the beginning of his wife truly getting to know him.

Can you tell us a little bit about your debut book Surrounded by Water? 
Surrounded By Water is set in a small town where everyone knows everyone. When Michael Gray, a 37year old police officer, dies after rescuing teenager Kate Micklethwaite from drowning, the whole community goes into shock. Michael's widow, Elizabeth, is sent reeling into a pit of grief. Then it becomes clear that there was more to Michael's life than even she knew, and she has to find a way to deal with this, whether she wants to or not.

What inspired the story about a wife discovering her husband was not the man she thought he was? 
This story came about less through inspiration and more through evolution. It began as a comic novel about a committee trying to erect a fence after a drowning accident. But some advice from an early reader suggested that the committee structure was holding the book back and, once I removed that constraint, I discovered that the story was actually a much more serious one, about love and grief and moving on. 

Did you always know that you wanted to write? 
Yes. I've tried writing longer answers to this question but it comes down to just that simple yes. 

What does a typical writing day look like for you? 
It depends which stage I'm at. My novels tend to have an initial burst of research and thinking, when a typical day might be anything from going to interview a doctor to reading a book about dressage to hanging out in Internet chat rooms asking a lot of questions of people who know the things I need to know for the book I have in mind. Then there's the 'back brain' period, which might take six months, when I am mulling the book over. This involves a lot of things that occupy my hands and leave my mind free - baking, knitting, dog-walking. I have to pause regularly to scribble things on post-its at odd times and in strange places. When I get on to the writing part, I tend to work quite quickly - I will do the majority of the work 
in about 3months, writing 1,000 - 2,000 words a day in the studio at the bottom of the garden. So then it's a case of have breakfast, write, have lunch, write, and (unless I'm mid-way through something I don't want to leave) stop at about 4 and potter about with post-its to hand. 

Have you any exciting plans for publication day? 
I love cooking, so I'm going to host a small dinner party. Apart from the fact it will be fun, a day in the kitchen will reduce the amount of time I can spend wondering about how my book is doing, out in the world on its own and out of my hands for the first time. 

Are you going to treat yourself to something nice to celebrate the publication of your debut novel?
Well.... I think I treated myself to something when I got the deal, and then something else when I got the money... But I do love Sheila Fleet's jewellery, especially her Snowdrop range, so you never know..... 

If you could go on a writing retreat anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
I love writing in my little studio, so I wouldn't really want to do that part anywhere else. But if I was in the 'back brain' period, I might head for somewhere with lots of wonderful trees. British Columbia would be good, all of those cedars and birches and firs and maples.

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