Friday, 4 March 2016

Debut Spotlight: Deborah Bee

Today it's my pleasure to be part of the blog tour for Deborah Bee's debut novel The Last Thing I Remember which was published last week by Twenty7, the new digital-first imprint of Bonnier Publishing, Twenty7 are certainly spoiling us with an abundance of exciting new authors to keep an eye on.

Deborah Bee studied fashion journalism at Central St Martins. She has worked at various magazines and newspapers including Vogue, Cosmopolitan, The Times and the Guardian as a writer, a fashion editor and later an editor. Currently, she is a Creative Director in luxury retail.

Sarah is in a coma.

Her memory is gone - she doesn't know how she got there. And she doesn't know how she might get out.

But then she discovers that her injury wasn't an accident. And that the assailant hasn't been caught.

Unable to speak, see or move, Sarah must use every clue that she overhears to piece together her own past.

And work out who it is that keeps coming into her room.

Can you tell us a little bit about your debut novel The Last Thing I Remember?
Sarah is in a coma. She is unable to move, unable to see, unable to communicate, unable to remember. Her past is a blank piece of paper. She doesn’t even know her own name. But she can hear. And she pieces together her past and present by overhearing the voices of her family and the medical team. Sarah was mugged. That’s what they all say. She’s in a coma. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She didn’t deserve any of it. She’s a nice girl from a nice family. A tragic victim of circumstance. They all agree on that. 

She may survive – or not. 

Kelly is in the waiting room. She’s just a kid, a typical schoolgirl. Bullied a bit, probably, given her prissy uniform. She doesn’t know anything. They all agree on that, too. So how come she’s there? Why does she keep turning up? What does she care? And who is the nameless man who keeps visiting at night?

If you had to describe The Last Thing I Remember in one sentence, what would it be?
It ain’t War and Peace, that’s for sure.

What can we expect next from you?
I’m about half way through my next book, which I hope will be structurally more simple (because The Last Thing I Remember was a nightmare structure) but still follow a dark theme. I’ve currently got two on the go but need to wait until my next holiday to get on with them. 

I see from your bio that you studied fashion journalism, had you always wanted to write a fiction novel? 
I set my sights on becoming the new Enid Blyton when I was about seven, but somewhere along the way I got into fashion journalism. I wasn’t a confident-enough writer to even try fiction until I’d been writing for about ten years. Journalism doesn’t prepare your for novel-writing at all. Features are mainly about other people, other things. Creating characters and making stuff up is incredibly personal. Journalism teaches you ‘how’ to write not ‘what’ to write.

Fiction and features are both fun. Writing fiction is certainly lonelier but more absorbing.

Describe a typical writing day.
I write on holiday or at weekends. I’m can’t dip in and out. And because the dialogue is so important in The Last Thing I Remember, it was really important to stay with it or I lost the voices of my characters. So I go away somewhere, usually to a cottage on the sea in Scotland, and I write all day. I don’t stop for meals – I have a kettle and a toaster and a fridge. I have short breaks for air but I don’t stop for the night until I have reached a place that will make it easy for me to pick it up the next day, so half way through a chapter rather than at the end. I go on my own and hide my phone from myself so I can’t call anyone.

Do you have any advice of other aspiring writers?
Let me preface this by saying that I don’t think I’m qualified to advise on writing a novel. I’ve only written one. However I can advise on writing in general as I’ve been writing and editing for magazines and newspapers for quite a few years. 

Write as often as you can, just to get used to expressing yourself in the written word. If you are working on something and get stuck, leave that bit and get on with somewhere else – a bit of dialogue that may push the piece along, then go back. If you get absolutely stuck, give yourself a break and read something amazing. I tell the fashion news writers that I work with to pick up something like American Vogue, or the Telegraph magazine. The tone of voice for those matches the tone of voice for the readers that I’m aiming at. The information is clear and concise but it’s ENTERTAINING. Most important. 

The other thing I’ve noticed when editing other people’s copy is that they try to sound clever. They use words in print that they would never use in speech. A bit like putting on your posh voice when you answer the phone. I think if you can tell an anecdote well, you can write well. You just need to take your pen (keyboard) out of your ****.

The funniest and most pertinent rules of writing are from Elmore Leonard. He says, “If it sounds like writing, rewrite it.” I also agree with his views on the weather, exclamation marks and using words like “grumbled, gasped, cautioned,” instead of “said.” Google them. He’s a genius.

Finally are you going to treat yourself to something nice for publishing your debut novel?
I am going to get my book framed so I can hang it on the wall. I know that’s a bit ridiculous but I’m really so happy to have done it. It’s my lifelong ambition. And I secretly thought I’d never get around to it – just because I didn’t have the confidence. 

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