Our regular Monday interview slot has been replaced by a new occasional slot, where we can select our absolute favourites from the new and established writers we have been privileged enough to meet, either online, or in person. We are delighted that Liv Thomas will be our first interviewee in the new slot.
Liv’s long held dreams of becoming a writer took a while to come to fruition, as it was only after she received praise for some Lord of the Rings fan-fiction that she decided to make it a reality.
Liv is a wife and mum, who works for the NHS in the hospital featured in the early series of One Born Every Minute. Liv wrote her debut novel, Beneath an Irish Sky, with fellow writer Val Olteanu, under the pen name Isabella Connor. Beneath an Irish Sky was released by Choc Lit last month and the second novel is well underway, despite Val and Liv never having met in person.
Hi Liv, welcome to the Write Romantics Blog and thank you for agreeing to an interview. We know that, like us, you were formerly a member of the NWS but we wondered if you could tell us a bit about how you came to join, how long you were a member for, the genre you write in and what inspired you to start writing?
I always wanted to write. I have loads of short stories that I’ve written over the years, but never had the nerve to submit anywhere. I joined the RNA in January 2010, after being put in touch with Katie Fforde by a friend who spoke with Katie on Twitter. Katie recommended the RNA, which I’d never heard of. That year we submitted a part work of the novel that became ‘Beneath an Irish Sky.’ We received valuable feedback, the best bit being “I think this novel is of a publishable standard”. Next year we submitted the whole thing, and again had great feedback. We were told the beginning and end were good but the middle sagged a bit, so we set about cutting and crisping it. Before sending it to the RNA it had reached 240k words – we thought there was a minimum length, not a maximum! We eventually trimmed it to around 120k, and then by another 10k before submitting to Choc Lit. Our current genre is Contemporary Women’s Fiction. (Or should that be Women’s Contemporary Fiction? )
Please can you tell us a bit about your journey so far, including how you came to start writing with Val and the impact this has had on the way in which you work, as well as any positives and negatives there might be to such a partnership and whether you would recommend it to others?
I’m still not sure how we came to be writing together! Well, I know how, but maybe not sure why. I barely knew Val who I’d got to know on a ‘Lord of the Rings’ message-board. (I know…geeks). I’d known other people for longer, and consequently knew them better, but …cue violins…fate drew me to Val. I just asked her if she wanted to write a novel with me, not really expecting her to say yes, but she went for it right away. I’d had this idea kicking around for a couple of years, and had started it, but never fully committed to it. I sent her what I’d done, and she promptly changed it all… only kidding there, but she did make suggestions which was the idea really, and very soon the novel had two voices. I had got the idea from her messages on the forum that she was both eloquent and verbose (in the nicest possible way). At the time (and maybe still, though I think I’ve improved), my biggest weakness was impatience, which led to a lack of detail in my writing, and from what I’d seen of Val’s postings, I felt – correctly – that she would be a huge help with that. Right from the beginning, I felt we shared the same feelings for the story and the characters. One of the best bits about writing as a partnership – you get to ‘read’ your own story! Well, the bits you haven’t written yourself obviously. So around half of the book is new to you – until you get the striking pen out and change it which is how we do it. Neither of us are frightened to change what the other has written. We use a colour code system which makes our drafts look either very pretty or a total mess – red for strikethroughs, blue for comments, green for bits up for arm-wrestling etc.
We would love to hear about your route to publication. What made you choose ChocLit publishing and how did ‘The Call’ for Beneath an Irish Sky come about?
I saw a piece in one of the writing magazines, and as our novel features the hero’s point of view, thought it would be worth a shot. We didn’t actually feel it would suit Choc Lit because although there are actually two love stories in it, the novel was never written as a romance with a traditional hero. We saw it more as a family drama, and the main relationship is really the one between the two male protagonists. It was also a plus that Choc Lit offered a response within 4-6 months. I’ve heard of unpublished authors waiting a lot longer than that. And they were as good as their word – we heard four months to the day after submission.
What’s next for you, Liv, with the recent launch of your first novel, your WIP second novel and future projects? Do either of you envisage going ‘solo’ at any point?
We have a series of novels planned, all set in the same area. Half of ‘Beneath An Irish Sky’ is set in Ireland, but the other half takes place in a small Cheshire village, one of a group of four in the same locale. We plan to write a novel for each village, and are half way through Village No. 2.
What are your dreams and aspirations as writers, in terms of your long-term careers?
To be recognized as a decent story-teller would suit me. Of course, I wouldn’t be averse to seeing BAIS turned into a six-part drama on TV.
What has been the single biggest benefit of joining the NWS, do you think?
The critique is invaluable. Also, the support and the advice.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us or any other advice you can offer?
Believe in yourself. Join a writing group, either online or physically. Social networking is very useful. And learn from those more experienced than yourself.
Thanks again for taking the time to share your story so far with us. The Write Romantics wish you every success for the future and we will be keeping a look out on the best seller lists for you!
Find out more about Liv and purchase Beneath an Irish Sky on the ChocLit website at: http://www.choc-lit.co.uk/html/isabella_connor.html
Or on Liv’s own blog at: http://livbet.webs.com/
Follow Liv on Twitter at: @Livbet
Join Liv on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/livvie.thomas
The link to Beneath an Irish Sky on Amazon can be found here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Beneath-Irish-Sky-Isabella-Connor/dp/1781890048/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378056623&sr=8-1&keywords=beneath+an+irish+sky