An interview with Aimee Horton

Mothers Ruined

Mothers Ruined

Aimee Horton, author of the Survival Series, talks to me about writing and her new novel – Survival of the Ginnest: Mothers Ruined

Her first book, Survival of the Ginnest, began the story of Dottie Harris and is presented to the reader in social media status style, making it one-of-a-kind. The only problem with this is that it leaves you thirsty for more Dottie. Aimee, not wanting to disappoint, released a witty short at Christmas and has now placed Dottie and her family in their own full length novel. This time, Dottie’s having another baby (while her husband is away on business), moving house and using what she’s accidentally overheard on the baby monitors to forge new friendships with her neighbours.

The Survival series

The Survival series

Me: Tell us what it was like to examine Dottie’s personality in more detail.

Aimee: I love Dottie! She’s like a nicer more loving version of me. It was interesting to see how she built her relationships with her friends and children.

Me: How did you use your own experiences in your writing?

Aimee: I have a feeling all my characters have some of my tendancies and personalities, that’s why I know them so well. I always try and laugh at things rather than get upset, so it’s in my nature to make everyday life a bit more exaggerated and comical.

Me: Your blog is packed with wit. How do you hold on to the humour in the darker moments?

Aimee: Gin. Other times I just have a good old cry and feel better!

Me: Tell us a bit about your writing ambitions.

Aimee: I think they’re fairly boring – I just want to write stories that make people laugh or think. If people enjoy what I write (and I can afford to feed my children!) I’m happy.

Me: How do you break good ol’ writer’s block?

Aimee: Music, have a dance around the room! Or go shopping – it’s an excellent excuse to look at shoes.

Me: What do you do when you’re writing and you get an idea for another novel?

Aimee: I write it down, I have to at least get a few hundred words down somewhere otherwise it won’t leave me alone!

Aimee is also a busy mum to two boys. She blogs about her experiences with touching insight and unwavering humour at www.passthegin.co.uk
Her books can be found on Amazon.

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A new office

Every now and again, I see a post showing off someone’s beautiful office. They usually have a gorgeous desk, some inspirational quotes, a cork board covered in ideas and brainstorms and a computer which doesn’t look like they’re trying out retrocomputing.

When I see these pictures, always artistic shots with well chosen filters, I’m jealous. Green with envy.

I have a few of the required ingredients:

Desk? Check (covered in dry Cheerios).
Computer? Check (reboots at random intervals. Can’t be bothered to troubleshoot the problem as it’s eight years old.)
Cork board? No. (But I wouldn’t want to cover up the “artwork” my children have kindly drawn on the magnolia paintwork.)
Peace and quiet? Not a hope.

As you can see, not really a writing haven. Most of my writing takes place on my sofa on my smartphone because it’s actually more powerful than the aforementioned computer.

Time to try something new.

The idea of a writing shed isn’t really new as such, but it filled me with excitement. I picked out my favourite, planned the interior and came up with insulation solutions only to realise it would be completely impractical in our garden.

Disheartened, I returned to sulking on the sofa being pounced on by cats while small children stuck their fingers up my nose.

What else could possibly keep me dry, sane and offer a place to get away?

A tent, of course!

When I get going, I like to really do my research so I came up with a list of attributes I needed to have in what I’d soon come to call my Anywhere Office.

1. Needs to be tall enough to sit in
2. Needs to have a sewn in groundsheet.
3. Needs to be easy to put up and easy to put down.

The answer came to me from Gelert. What I was looking for was a festival tent.

Not designed for hardcore camping (and I would never expect my usage to reach that level) the tent I ended up purchasing is the Quickpitch 2 . I chose black because I’m secretly a bit of a goth and I didn’t realise it had “Beer Tent” pasted all over the ends until I received it. I think this adds to the charm.

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I added an Anywhere Chair and Low Table from Go Outdoors and a couple of other bits:

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Now I have an office with everything a writer could need with the added bonus of being able to go anywhere.

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(With added kitten.)

I love my Beer Tent Office.

This post is not sponsored by any of the companies mentioned above

When writing is real

We’ve all heard the words “write what you know” at some point in our writing careers. If you’re writing fantasy or sci-fi or speculative fiction or some romance or…well, it’s not always possible. Perhaps it should be changed to “write what you can imagine.”

My first NaNoWriMo tackled bullying in the 90’s. The story is centred around a girl who has never quite fit in and how the cruelty of the others at the all girls’ secondary school drives her to madness.

As part of the story, the main character creates a purple teddy which she calls Normal. He becomes her rock and is symbolic of her sanity.

My mother is a very talented knitter, so after I explained some of the story, I was given a gift:

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This is Normal.

The second draft of the novel will include him more extensively.

Writing can, and often does, invade our lives in ways we thought impossible.

Here’s to my very own glimpse of Normal.

And then this happened.

WInning

WInning

Sanity is a friend away.

The last couple of weeks I’ve flip-flopped between writing nothing and binge writing. I’ve hated my work and myself.

It has been hard.

I was nominated for the Liebster award by Olivia and I’ve been thinking about what I would write but I’ve been so wrapped up in my weird fantasy world that I’ve been unable to do anything else.

So, in the meantime, before I have a chance to do the award and pass it forward, I’ll mention some of the online people who have kept me sane (ish).

Aimee has a lot of talent. She has a knack for finding ways to talk about the things that we as mothers all feel but are too afraid to say. And she makes it funny. Oh, and she has a novel coming out soon.

Beth is down to Earth, well-read, opinonated in a good way and will always say what she means. Her writing is deeply twisted and powerful, so if you get a chance to read any of her fiction, snap it up. The characters she creates for her worlds are divine.

Stephanie has a way with words and writes beautiful poetry mainly focusing on motherhood. She has been recently published in an anthology and keeps an important community alive with her Virtual Open Mic Nights. She’s jumped into writing with both feet and her commitment and passion show in both her blog and her poetry.

Maddy writes about finding time to write around her children, and the intrusions life can have on your writing time. Despite this, she consistently produces touching poetry and involves her children in her creativity.

Sadie is currently working on the second draft of her novel and blogs about her exciting journey. Her writing is an excellent insight into the world of a writer who is pushing herself as hard as she can and giving her novel the best possible chance. Sadie always has encouraging words when you find yourself in a writerly muddle.

Michelle is working on her exciting novel. She’s a brilliant blogger and has a kind heart.

Francesca is a wonderful example of what you can do when you listen to your heart and go with the flow. She was a fellow NaNoWriMo-er back in November and has gone on to edit her book which she will be releasing into the wild very soon.

Community is so important when you’re writing. It’s somewhere you can go to keep you sinking too far into the pit of your character’s despair, a place to run to in moments of confidence failure and people who will give you honest feedback on your ideas.

Writers know what it’s like to feel a little bit mad a lot of the time and we all need someone to help us through the darker days.

Enthusiasm wanes

Look, it’s day five! We’re all still excited about our new darlings and the paths they’re taking.

Aren’t we?

What if (like me) you’re secretly not as thrilled with everything as you thought you would be?

What if real life already has its huge foot on your head ready to push you under the water?

What if your research for your career, a tummy bug and clinical depression have thrown you into some kind of mental tailspin and you’re struggling to find which way is up? (Might just be me!)

What happens then?

You’re already behind, your word count looks pathetic next to others in the community and you can’t see a way out.
What do you do then?

Well, realistically you have two choices – give up or write the flip out of your mutherflipping story.

Which one will it be?

Giving up seems easiest, doesn’t it? After all, you’ve made a start, and no one asked for more than that. The only one not winning (there is no such thing as losing in this game) is you. And if you’re really not in it, then stop. Simple. There’s no need for the extra pressure, there’s no need to put your life on hold and prioritise your imagination, especially if the only thing you’ll gain is another first draft festering on a hard drive somewhere.

But what about the time you spent planning and thinking about this before the challenge started. Think about the brain power you’ve already put into your characters. Think about the characters themselves and their journeys; journeys that will never be if you don’t keep going.

What if this story is The One?

How great will it feel to get that winner’s badge?

So, to you (and mostly to myself) I’m saying keep going, get up to speed, you’re not so far behind that you can’t catch up.

Let’s do this!

How to win at NaNoWriMo

You could, if you wanted to, copy and paste 50,000 (or your chosen target for this challenge) random letters into the validation tool at the end of the month.

It would give you a win, but you’d really only be cheating yourself.

When I did my first November NaNoWriMo back in 2011 (all those years ago!) I had no idea whether I would be able to do it so I took to the forums and picked up a few tricks.

1. Use long double names for each character.
Names like Fredrick Joe and Sally Marie are great. Have your character insist their full name is used each time.

2. Do not use contractions.
No more “it’s”, “isn’t”, or “don’t”. Make it part of your style for this particular work.

3. Have a character who swears a lot.
If you don’t mind a few curse words that is. Be inventive with them too; imaginative combinations can add humour to the story.

4. Have a character who uses long sentences or finds it hard to get to the point.
This can be great when combined with or instead of the swearing method as it adds the potential for interesting dialogue which can push your work in a new direction.

5. Describe all of the things.
See that chair over there? Describe it. See the way the lamp lights the room? Describe it.

6. Give your character an inner monologue.
This can depend on which POV you’ve chosen but can add an unexpected depth to your character.

7. Copy and paste.
If it’s suitable, you can use a small amount of copy and paste. It gives the novel a groundhog day feel, and can be used to symbolize repetitive behaviour, or a week of mundane existence.

8. Use song lyrics
You’ll need some permissions if you want to use the lyrics in a published novel otherwise you could find yourself in trouble, but your character can certainly be overly appreciative of lyrics in the first draft.

9. Write every day.
The one thing you will notice about NaNoWriMo is that if you miss one day, you’ll very quickly find yourself becoming disheartened by having to find the additional words the following day. Writing every day, even if you don’t meet your wordcount, will get you in the right mindset and stop you falling too far behind.

10. Take five minutes out before doing your daily bit to plan what you’re going to write.
The blank page looks less daunting if you have a vague idea what you want to put there.

11. You are writing a first draft, so don’t worry too much about having additional names, or too much swearing, or big chunks of description. You can cut these in the editing phase if you need to.

12. Write. A lot. As often as you can.

13. It’s not supposed to be a chore.
It is supposed to push you and it is supposed to be hard, but it’s not supposed to give you a breakdown.

14. Be easy on yourself.
If you miss your target, or can’t write because real life has got in the way, that’s ok.

15. Winning isn’t everything
If you get 10,000 words of a story you’ve been trying to find time for, then you’ve won. Get the words down, get them out.

Most importantly, the best way to win NaNoWriMo is to have fun.

On your marks… Get set ….

April 1st, here we come!