ON WRITING UNLUCKY DIP
I wrote the first draft of Unlucky Dip over 6 years ago. It’s hard to believe it took that 6 years to tweak, edit and then publish but, like so many other authors, I have to juggle a lot of other things – I work full-time, run a house, a son, cats, father, etc. - it can be difficult to find time to draw breath sometimes, let alone sit down and write!
With this particular story all I had in mind was the first section of the plot i.e. where Holly is thrown into the Thames by her step-mother. I didn’t sit down and work on a complete outline plot, I just let it go its own way as I wrote. Sometimes I do write in a more organised way but this time Unlucky Dip just took on its energy. I think it was helped along by the fact I constantly had a house full of teenagers around me so it was easy to pick up the way they spoke and thought about life – I just had to grab the moment while it was still there. I have, in fact, dedicated the book to my son and his friends because without them I wouldn’t have been able to write the book in the first place!
It took me a long time to come up with a title. The book had been written and was ready to go and really, you’d think it would be easy to come up with a title, but no, it really wasn’t and I ended up with pages and pages of ideas. Unlucky Dip came to me in the small hours of the morning (3.34am to be precise!). I woke up, wrote it down in a barely discernible scrawl on the notepad that I keep next to my bed and promptly went back to sleep! Unlucky Dip just seemed perfect to me - I like the tie-in with the ‘lucky dip’ sweets I used to buy when I was younger, i.e. life is just a unknown mixture of randomness, you never know what you’re getting and that feeling of surprise reflects the character of the storyline, although in Holly’s case her surprises are not necessarily nice ones! I also like the fact you can have a ‘dip’ in the water which ties in with the start of the novel when Holly is thrown into the Thames.
I had the book, I had the title and then all I needed was a front cover. I knew that one of my son’s friends, Elizabeth Eisen, was an artist and when I looked on her website, I absolutely loved her style so I invited her to design a cover for the book. Other than asking her to read the book I gave her no guidance whatsoever – I know that I work better when I’m allowed free rein, so I let her do what she wanted. I could not have been more pleased with the result; I have an unusual and eye-catching cover that is most certainly a one-off. Thank you Liz!
I have many stories, mostly YA fantasy, that are sitting on the hard drive of my computer but Unlucky Dip was the one I chose to publish first. I learnt a great deal along the way, mostly through trial and error about how to structure a story, the importance of character development, continuity, etc. I learnt that loving writing isn’t enough, it’s actually very hard work if you want your story to be captivating. I also learnt the importance of editing – you have to edit, edit and edit again! The reviews I’ve had from Unlucky Dip have taken me to the next step of actually believing that perhaps I can write, that I do have some small talent so that’s something else I’ve learnt!
At the moment I’m torn between completing the other YA works I have sitting on my hard-drive and seeing if I can build on my children’s books I have published already, The Burly and Grum Tales, because they seem to be doing well and I’m being invited to speak to school children, take part in events, etc. It’s a hard choice but one that I’m going to have to make a decision about very soon.
I can’t imagine life without writing but there’s so much more I know I need to learn in order to improve skills. I want to write wonderful stories that people can enjoy and being able to write full-time is certainly something that’s high on my agenda!
Thank you for inviting me onto your blog.
You can get Unlucky Dip here:
About the author: I live in Essex with my son, who is studying at University, and my two cats, Puzzle and Bud. I’ve always loved writing and in January 2011 I got together with some friends and set up a writers’ group at our local library. One of our first guest speakers was a young lady called Penelope Fletcher who talked to us about self-publishing – I was so inspired I went back home, found some stories I’d written for my son when he was young and started the process of learning how to self-publish. I published 3 books in the Burly & Grum series and then in July 2012 was lucky enough to be signed up by GMTA. I’ve enjoyed every single second of my journey so far, learnt an incredible amount and I’m looking forward to the future!
CONNECT WITH KATE
About the artist: Elizabeth Eisen is 23 year old freelance illustrator from North London. She graduated from the University of Westminster with a BA Hons in Illustration in 2011 and has since worked on commissions ranging from album artwork to editorial. Further examples of her work can be found at www.elizabetheisenillustration.co.uk.
About the book: There are always high stakes to play for in the world of gambling, but it’s a world 15 year-old Holly Maddon knows nothing about until her step-mother tries to kill her. The race is on as she tries to discover what her step-mother is up to and whether her father was murdered. She comes up against gangsters, multi-million pound land deals, treachery and deceit, she’s kidnapped, shot at and loses just about everything she loves – it’s a rollercoaster of a ride and Holly's intent on turning the tables.