Meet Elle – a famous writer living in a beautiful house in Cornwall. Today, she’s giving a Facebook live with her top writing tips…
The timer on my phone beeps.
One minute to go.
My stomach turns over with nerves. Several thousand people tuning in live.
I sit up straighter, pull my shoulders back. I know what I need to do. What everyone is expecting from me.
I reset my focus, drawing my gaze to my laptop. My own face glares back at me on screen using the laptop’s camera. Perhaps it’s just the tilt of the screen, or the way the light pours into the room, but for a moment, I don’t recognise myself.
I reach for the mouse, hovering it over the GO LIVE button.
My smile stretches across my face. I can hear it in my voice as I say, ‘Hello, everyone. I’m author, Elle Fielding, and I’m live today from my writing room here in Cornwall. Thanks so much for joining me. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the author of Wild Fear, a psychological thriller that was published last year.
‘Over the coming weeks I’m planning on chatting about my writing journey, sharing tips of what I’ve learned so far, and answering any of your questions.
‘Right, I suppose a good place to start would be with today’s writing tip. It’s something simple that we can all do: get a notebook. Keep it with you at all times. Our short-term memory retains information for three minutes, so unless it’s written down, ideas can be lost. This is my current one,’ I say, holding up a plain black notebook. ‘I keep it in my handbag, or by my bed at night, or anywhere I go. It reminds me that I’m always a writer, wherever I am, whatever I’m doing.’
I’m careful not to open it.
Not to show what is inside.
I take a breath. ‘Okay, so now it’s over to you and your questions.’ I peer at the left-hand side of the screen, where viewers are typing them in real-time. ‘I’ll do my best to answer as many as I can. The first one is from Cheryl Down. She asks, Your debut novel was an international bestseller. Does that put pressure on you for your second novel?’
I’m aware that Jane and her team will be watching. ‘Yes, there is some pressure – but, the good thing is that I began my second novel before Wild Fear was released, so I didn’t have any expectation at that point. I must admit, I’m a little behind in delivering – there was a house move and a big book tour – but things are finally settling, so I’m planning on getting my head down now.’
‘Next up, Adam Grant asks, What did you do before you became an author?’ I smile. ‘What didn’t I do? I waited tables, served coffees, worked on a reception desk, manned a nightclub cloakroom, cleaned offices. I travelled as much as I could afford. I lived in New Zealand for a while, and later, Canada. I pretty much spent my twenties bouncing from one thing to the next trying to work out what I wanted to do.’
Who I wanted to be.
‘And then I found it: writing. It just clicked. I felt stupid for not recognizing it earlier. The moment I started to write, I fell in love with it. I didn’t know if I was any good at it, or whether I could ever make my living from it. All I knew was that I loved it.’
That is the truth.
I answer half a dozen more questions, then take a sip of water and glance at the clock.
‘Time for just two more questions today. Amy Werden asks, Do you have any writing rituals? PS You have the perfect life!’
‘Perfect life? I’m obviously using too many filters! With regards to writing rituals, something that is important to me is writing down my early ideas by hand. There is something about the germ of an idea, when it feels too precious, too delicate to be tapped into a computer screen and locked there. I like the curve of words on the page, a lack of uniformity, the scratch of a pencil on cream paper. The ideas can flow and find their rhythm.’
If Fiona is watching this, she’ll be rolling her eyes.
‘The final question is from Booklover101.’ I immediately recognise the username. The accompanying profile picture is of a bike, its wicker basket filled with books. Booklover101 has followed me from the very beginning, commenting on almost every post I write. She tweets me, sends me direct messages, has sent me handwritten cards via my publishers.
‘As your no.1 fan,’ I read now, ‘I’m interested to know, does an author need to have a dark mind to write dark books?’
I should have skipped it – chosen a different question.
I keep my face set in a smile.
‘What you need,’ I say slowly, giving myself a moment to think, to get it right, ‘is an enquiring mind. To be able to look at any situation and see the possibility for shadows. To always ask, What if?’
I leave it there. I thank everyone again for tuning in and remind them that I’ll be live again next week.
My face disappears from the screen.
I sit for a moment, taking several deep, slow breaths. Almost pitch-perfect, I think. Jane will be pleased.
Then I push to my feet, moving away from the desk, and I open the window wider. Hooking a finger under the neckline of my top, I shake it to let air circulate to my flushed skin.
I stand there, gaze mapping the waves, waiting for my heartbeat to settle.
Tune into HarperCollins UK at 1pm on Thursday 30th August for a Facebook Live with real life author of You Let Me In, Lucy Clarke.