Today it's my pleasure to welcome author Anouska Knight to the blog to talk about her latest book Letting You Go which was published last week.
At first glance Letting You Go is a story about guilt and the terrible slog Alex Foster has to endure just to have a chance at finally setting some of that down. Alex carries the heavy burden of knowing that if it hadn’t been for her lapse in concentration, had she not have been so preoccupied in the bushes with then boyfriend Finn instead of monitoring her little brother by the riverbank, Dillon’s fate would almost certainly have been different.
In the aftermath, Alex quickly learned that it was too painful to stay and witness the irreplaceable loss her family was suffering, compounded by her father’s obvious desire to keep Alex at arm’s length from their home town and everyone in it, particularly Finn and his undesirable background. So for the decade since Dill’s accident, Alex has been living a quiet, small life as far away as possible from the ghosts of her past. When Alex has to return to her home town though, it becomes clear that there’s more to her family history than she could have known and Alex isn’t the only one who’s made far-reaching mistakes. As she’s forced to confront her fractured family, Letting You Go becomes a story about family bonds and the challenges love in various forms brings with it.
How long did it take you to complete the writing/editing process for Letting You Go before you were ready to submit it to your agent or editor?
Letting You Go was roughly eight months’ work in draft before I started looking at tightening up the manuscript and implementing the suggestions my editor was making. However, I know my own weaknesses, and time-management is one of the whoppers! It just wouldn’t work for me to disappear for nearly a year and remerge with a manuscript in draft. I’m untrustworthy. There are too many distractions and I’d end up watching far too many box sets, procrastinating about character names and then panic-typing a load of guff just to hit my word count. So to keep myself on track I like to fire off about a quarter of my manuscript at a time and check with my editor that I’m not veering catastrophically off plan. Once the whole, dishevelled thing is down and saved and I’ve eaten a proper meal again, my long suffering editor and I spend another couple of months going back and forth through the tweaking process together.
Describe Letting You Go in one sentence.
The enduring love of one family in the aftermath of tragedy, infidelity and too many words left unsaid.
What can we expect from you next?
I have a little somethin’ in the pipeline… well, it’s just an outline at the mo but I’m very excited about it! It hasn’t quite sunk in yet but I’ve recently been offered further book deals with Harlequin/Harper Collins so I reeally hope they go for it when I pitch the new idea to them! The plot is possibly going to be a little darker in places than my previous books but there are plenty of light-hearted elements in there too thanks to a varied group of characters. I think the story is going to look at the less friendly side of social networking and how up close and personal we all seem to get with each other now that we’re all hooked up virtually. There are a few really unsavoury characters in there causing havoc already, I’m really excited to see where it will go for my three female leads.
How did your writing journey start?
In the most surreal way! With one thousand words and a hefty dose of luck!
ITV’s Lorraine Kelly was running an amazing competition called Racy Reads in light of the bonkers Fifty Shades success we were all hearing about at the time. All you had to do was submit a one-thousand word entry of an enjoyably steamy novel (rather than a filthy filth-fest) and one lucky winner was not only going to fly out first class to LA for a week of Hollywood bliss, but was also going to bag themself… A PUBLISHING DEAL!
In case that wasn’t tempting enough, competition judge and author-extraordinaire Jackie Collins (Jackie Collins!) was going to be hosting lunch in Beverly Hills’ Spago, dishing out not only Wolfgang Puck’s delicious fare but some sound advice on the all things authory. Not too shabby huh? I told you the competition was amazing!
It still stuns me that I somehow became that lucky, lucky winner.
It's been 2 years since your debut novel Since You've Been Gone won ITV Lorraine's Racy Reads competition, does it still feel like a dream that you won the publishing deal and are now able to write full-time?
Absolutely. I feel as though I’ve been given an extra facet to my life, one that sits snuggly alongside what was there before. I know how gushy that sounds, but I could never overstate how much or how wonderfully that first opportunity affected me and my family, how it still affects us.
To be given the chance to do something with my life that utterly satisfies me as a person is an extraordinarily precious thing. That writing has enabled me to work with an incredible team of professionals with all the buzz of the publishing arena and work in my PJs as often as I do, well that’s a very heady combination of fabulousness, I can tell you! As for the first book paving the way for further book deals like it has, well I haven’t got words big enough to explain what that’s meant to me.
If you were given the opportunity which character from one of your previous books would you love to go back and revisit again?
Definitely Holly (Since You’ve Been Gone). Holly is very special to me. She was my first. I was looking through Holly’s eyes when I wrote my entry for the ITV competition, Holly and her story got us there. She was the first character on this journey with me and the only one I gave exceptional cake-baking skills to (an obvious champ). I shared some of my favourite things with her – big ugly dogs, raucous old men, a fabulously nutty sister and a stunning forest backdrop. I miss her terribly.
When writing do you have the story all mapped out before you begin or do you start writing and see where the characters and/or storyline take you?
I’m more of a mapper now. My disorganisation necessitates it. I’m a sucker for overlooking my story’s pace, if I’m not careful I can easily hit the midway point on my word count and realise with horror that I’ve still got three quarters of a tale to tell. So I plan more these days, and detailed character profiles are a must. I do try to keep my eyes and ears peeled for any signs from the characters themselves that they want to head off in their own direction though. They do that, you know. Characters grow before your eyes, they get a mind of their own and everything. If you’re lucky enough and know them well enough, they can tell you where the novel should go next.
What essentials do you need to have to hand whilst writing?
I did joke in another blog that a firmly shut door was the only essential. The more I think about that though, the truer it becomes. I need peace and quiet, but my iPod usually has to be to hand. Music is a writer’s best pal, I think. That and red wine. Oh, and tea. Lots and lots of tea – strong, milky, one sugar. And maybe a biscuit. Or two. Packets. And my glasses, my prescription isn’t that drastic but I kinda feel like I’m putting my work uniform on when I don my specs. It’s weird, I know, but the tiny ritual of de-fingerprinting the lenses and slipping them onto my snout makes me switch into author-mode.
Do you set yourself writing targets?
I do, but only when I’ve eventually sat back, checked my progress and hyperventilated! It’s all nice and chilled in those first few weeks… tinker with this chapter, ponder on that one… and then the reality of a publication date expected some time this decade hits and that’s when I do start setting word or chapter goals. It’s a good thing that I write under contract, because I don’t think I’d ever finish a manuscript if I didn’t have someone gently tapping their watch from time to time.
When you've finished writing/or published your novels, do you treat yourself to a reward?
Er… no? Oh my goodness! Why do I not treat myself to a reward? This is a shocker! Is this what authors do then? I thought clean clothes and sleep were the reward! I am so getting on that, Icelandic health-spa here I come…
What if a tragedy occurred and you only had yourself to blame? How do you move on from the past?
Alex Foster lives a quiet life, avoiding the home she hasn’t visited in eight years. Then her sister Jaime calls. Their mother is sick, and Alex must return. Suddenly she’s plunged back into the past she’s been trying to escape.
Returning to her hometown, memories of the tragic accident that has haunted her and her family are impossible to ignore. Alex still blames herself for what happened to her brother and it’s soon clear that her father holds her responsible too. As Alex struggles to cope, can she ever escape the ghosts of the past?