Then and Now: Louise Phillips, author of Red Ribbons

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For this month’s ‘Then and Now’ feature I am delighted to welcome crime writer, Louise Phillips, to the blog to share her ups and …. ups of the past twelve months. From many years of hard work to huge debut success, Louise is a fantastic example of how keeping going will reap rewards in the end. Over to Louise ….

Can you give an overview of where you were at with your writing this time last year.

This time last year, it was six months since I signed a 2 book deal with Hachette Books Ireland for Ireland, UK, and Commonwealth rights. The deal was negotiated through my agent, Ger Nichol of The Book Bureau, and I was working on the final edits of Red Ribbons. It was a challenging time because some restructuring was needed, and like all changes in a novel, especially in a crime novel, every change has an impact on the script. I had a publishing deadline, but I also had a family one. Our first grandchild was due early May. As my daughter was hoping Caitriona would arrive soon, I was hoping that she would stay there until I got the edits done! Thankfully, our new granddaughter was very obliging, managing to hold off until mid-May and the edits whisked themselves away!!!

What was causing you the greatest challenge/frustration with your writing?

Time is always the biggest challenge, because there is never enough of it. I work in the family business, so I need to split my time between working within the company and writing. Although our children are grown up, they’re a huge part of my life, not to mention my ever suffering hubby, so it’s always a juggling act. They say women can’t have it all – well none of us can. It is a constant struggle balancing your work and personal life, and many writers including myself find themselves writing into the early hours of the morning. But you wouldn’t do it unless it meant the world to you, so onwards and upwards with both the challenge and frustration!!

What important decisions did you make in the last 12 months?

Gosh that is a hard, because the last 12 months has been filled with one decision after another. Before I was published, I had no idea what was involved. I needed to get to grips with contracts, publicity, deadlines, decisions over cover options, the blurb, who you should thank in the acknowledgements, what kind of book launch would work best for you, do you take the plunge beyond blogging and create your own website, who do you purchase your domain names from, how many domains should you buy, will you create a book trailer, and on and on the questions and decisions went, until your head is somewhat frazzled. But then you remember – this is all a learning curve. No one faced into this knowing the right answers to everything. So you take one decision at a time, and between research and your gut, hope you make the right one.

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What was the pivotal moment for you in the last 12 months? How did that come about?

The pivotal moment was my book arriving on a shelf, and funnily enough, it wasn’t a shelf in a bookstore, but my bookshelf at home. I guess that was when the reality of the dream coming true finally registered with me. There it was, a copy of RED RIBBONS sitting neatly beside a favourite author of mine. It was an amazing feeling, because since I was a child visiting the library, I have been in awe of writers and books.

I guess there were many things that lead to the publication of RED RIBBONS, initially learning my writing craft through workshops and becoming part of a writing group, entering short story competitions, doing well and not so well, realising that essentially I was a novel writer, discovering that dark issues interested me most, but by far the clincher moment that led to publication wasn’t a conversation I had with a writer, a publisher or an agent, but with my middle daughter.

I was writing away at the novel, stuck in what I call the ‘murky middle’, and she asked me what I wanted. It was a simple question and one with a simple answer. I told her I wanted to publish a novel. She then asked me what do I had to do to make that happen. I said, well first I need to finish it. It might not sound like a huge thing, but if that afternoon hadn’t have happened, maybe I might have lost heart, maybe I might have let self-doubt get in the way, but in the end, I decided to finish the novel, without that, I couldn’t have been published.

What was/were the high point/s of the last twelve months?

The high point had to be RED RIBBONS being nominated for the Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year 2012 in the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards. Even now, I have to pinch myself when I think about it. It was phenomenal to be up there with such writing giants, and beyond any expectations I had. The memory will stay with me always.

What is the most important thing you have learnt about your writing during the last twelve months?

I’ve learned that the more I write, the more I learn about writing, and hopefully the better writer I become. I’ve learned to trust myself. I don’t plot, so my writing is what they call organic. This can lead you into plenty of cul-de-sacs that fire up challenges!! My writing is primarily character based, with an initial understanding of the theme/themes I want to explore. Although it might be the longer route, I’ve learned it’s the best one for me.

What are your hopes for the next twelve months – and/or what do you definitely have coming up in the next twelve months?

Right now it’s the release of RED RIBBONS into the mass paperback market (that’s the smaller paperback version), and I’m thrilled, along with bookstores nationwide, that it will be available in both Tesco and Dunnes Stores. In the writing sense, my hopes beyond that surround two things: THE DOLLS’ HOUSE which is coming out August 2013 – I think I’m more nervous this time around. My other hope is to get into writing LAST KISS, which will be my third novel. I can’t explain how exited I am about both of the above, one novel nearly ready to go to print, and the other one growing in my mind by the hour.

At the end of the day, as a writer, the most important aim/hope should be to write the best book you can, so I plan to do that!

Any other good news, inspirational or positive experiences to take away from the last twelve months?

News from the last year can be found on the website www.louise-phillips.com and there are plenty of great pics on the site too!!

‘Never give up’, is a bit of a cliché, as is, ‘dreams can come true’, but clichés are clichés for a reason, so if there is a novel in you, then write it, irrespective of it being published, irrespective of what others might think of it, irrespective of everything, other than your love for story, and knowing you have one in you.

Check out the trailer for RED RIBBONS here and continued success to Louise – a very inspiring lady indeed.

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