Marianne Kavanagh hit the ground running last year with her debut novel, For Once In My Life, published by Simon & Schuster. She just released her second novel, Don’t Get Me Wrong, a book that has been described as “Pride & Prejudice for the modern era.”
Here, Marianne shares her experiences with the challenges of writing, including the ruination of both her social life and her leisurely mornings!
How long did it take to publish your first book?
Some writers manage to get their very first novel published. The rest of us just refuse to give up…Don’t Get Me Wrong is my sixth novel. Over the years, four previous completed novels had been turned down by various publishers and agents (one of my rejection letters said, ‘This isn’t a novel.’) I finally made it with For Once In My Life, which was published last year in the UK, the US, Australia and countries all round Europe.
How long did Don’t Get Me Wrong take to complete?
Don’t Get Me Wrong took me about eighteen months. I spent a year writing the first draft, and then another six months editing and rewriting.
Did you work on simultaneous projects?
I’ve worked as a freelance journalist for many years, so I carried on writing features for magazines and newspapers while I was working on Don’t Get Me Wrong. I was also starting to plot out my next novel, which I’ve just delivered to my agent…
What was the rest of your life like while writing the book? How did you fit your writing into the rest of your life?
I’ve never been very good at getting up early. But the house is often so full of family, friends and visitors that the only way to be sure of a completely uninterrupted space in which to write is to get up at about 5am. Once I get stuck in, I can ignore people having breakfast, asking for socks and trying to find lost phones. I work through until 10am, when I go for a walk, and then carry on until I can’t do any more, which is usually around 3pm. I get very excited about being rewarded with a glass of wine at 6pm, but can’t do late nights because of the early starts. Writing fiction ruins your social life.
Who gave you feedback as you worked through writing the book? Were you involved in a writer’s group?
My poor husband is the one who has to answer strange and random questions at all times of day (‘Who can tell me about hedge funds?’/’What medical tests do you need for RSI?’/’Would Eva like Bob Dylan?’). I have been known to wake him up on a Sunday morning when I’m stuck. My son Ben vetted the stand-up comedy sections, and my daughter Alice gave me courage to stick with Kim’s least likeable characteristics. My friends Yvonne, Alex and Sally read the first draft and scribbled queries all over it, and my agent suggested cutting a couple of scenes, which I did. I’ve never been involved in a writers’ group, but I’m a member of the London writers’ organisation Spread the Word, and have been to many of their workshops and seminars over the years.
Did you work with an agent?
I parted company with my first agent just as the second book was beginning to sell to different countries. After that, I looked very carefully for someone new to represent me and was delighted when Veronique Baxter from David Higham Associates agreed to take me on. My friend Chris Keil who is a brilliant novelist (Flirting at the Funeral is published by Cillian Press) doesn’t have an agent, so you don’t have to have representation to get published. But I think you have to be quite brave and determined to go it alone. Some publishers won’t even read your novel unless it comes through an agent.
What has surprised you most about this process?
Writing a novel is just the first step. If you want people to read what you’ve written, there’s still a huge amount to do – from getting a publisher interested to the whole business of marketing and publicity. That’s true of anything creative, I think. You need a bit of talent or skill to start with. But the rest is just like any other job – long hours, tight deadlines, and a lot of criticism when you get it wrong. On top of that, it’s a very solitary occupation. Most of the time, you have only your own thoughts for company. That’s why I’m so anxious when people at parties with interesting, secure and well-paid jobs say, ‘I’ve always wanted to write a novel.’ I think, ‘Really? Are you sure?’
Londoners Kim and Harry can’t see eye to eye…until the life of the person they both love most hangs in the balance. Kim has never grasped what her big sister Eva sees in a money-loving banker like Harry. He meanwhile finds everything about Kim funny—her beliefs, her friends, her job—and spends his life trying to wind her up. Both Harry and Kim are too trapped in their prejudices to care about what’s really going on in each other’s lives—until the worst of all tragedies strikes and long-buried secrets come to a head in ways that will change them forever.
Marianne Kavanagh is a writer and journalist. She has worked on staff for Woman, Tatler, Sunday Telegraph Magazineand Marie Claire, and has contributed features to a wide variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, including theTelegraph, the Guardian, Daily Mail, Woman & Home, Good Housekeeping, Easy Living, Red and My Daily. She lives in London. http://www.mariannekavanagh.com