Welcome to Luxuread’s new author Q&A series. Designed with our wonderful readers in mind, each month we’ll be speaking to one of our favourite authors about their latest book. From finding out what inspires them to write, to learning more about the journey to becoming a published author, we hope you love reading these Q&As as much as we did.
First up, we spoke to the wonderful Julietta Henderson, author of The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman, which you can find in Luxuread’s February box.
Can you tell us a bit about your book, The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman?
The book is the story of a small boy with a big heart, a woman who would do anything for her son and a journey that will change their lives.
Twelve-year-old Norman and his best friend Jax had a plan to take their comedy act to the Edinburgh Fringe, but then Jax dies and Norman’s left devastated. Norman’s mother Sadie has to watch as her son tries to navigate his grief and all she wants is to see him smile again, so she resolves not only to make his dream come true and get him to the Fringe, but also to track down the father he’s never known.
The story of Norman and Sadie’s journey to Edinburgh (along with their friend Leonard) is about courage, hope and finding happiness in the face of unimaginable sadness.
Where did you find inspiration for your book?
The characters of Norman and Sadie came to me before their story did, so they were the inspiration for everything else that followed. I’ve always been really interested in the healing power of humour, and we all have to experience grief at some time or another, so I asked myself: what if the worst thing that ever happened to you could actually lead you to the best time in your life?
What does an average writing day look like for you?
I work as a freelance writer as well as writing novels, so I have to be fairly disciplined and motivated. That said, it’s sometimes hard! I tend to set aside big chunks of days dedicated just to novel writing, rather than mix the two, as it’s quite hard to stay focused creatively if I’m thinking about work deadlines. On a book day I usually go for my morning walk and have a think about where I’m at in the story, then come back and try to write for about 3-4 hours without too many interruptions. I aim for about 1,500 words a day – which doesn’t always happen, but then other days I might write more than that.
When writing, do you use people you know for inspiration?
No, I don’t think I’ve ever used anyone I know as inspiration for a character, but I certainly use traits of people I encounter. They’re usually complete strangers though and it’s just something they might say or do that I find interesting, so I might make a note (that I invariably lose). On the whole though, I have to say that a huge part of the fun of being a writer is you can make your characters say and do whatever you want!
Do you have a favourite book of all time?
I have many, many favourites, but I honestly couldn’t narrow it down to one. Instead maybe I’ll say these are some that I’ll definitely never forget: A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby, The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Flying Troutmans, by Miriam Toews and, most recently, The Last Migration, by Charlotte McConaghy. I could go on…
What do you love most about reading?
I think that reading widely and often is one of the best gifts you can give yourself – there’s no power like the power of the written word. It’s something you can do on your own, anywhere, and a good book can transport you to another world, another time and another life. Reading can also be really meditative, I think, because you’re forced to slow down and focus your mind on something other than yourself. I hope I die with a book in my hand, but not too soon!
Which writers have inspired you?
One of my favourite writers, and probably the one that gave me the courage to think maybe I could write a book too, is Nick Hornby. I admire his ability to convey so much with such a simple turn of phrase, and blend humour and pathos so seamlessly. Reading Tim Winton from a young age also made me realise how beautiful ordinary words and stories (and people) can become under the hands of an amazing writer.
How did you become a published author?
Well, we’ll have to skip past several years of blood, sweat and tears during the writing process itself (which is very real but inevitable), then when I was ready I sent off the manuscript to my dream agent, who I had researched thoroughly and I knew would be the perfect fit for my book. I didn’t have a Plan B, so when she offered to represent me it was the happiest day of my life. After that I worked with her editorially for a couple of months, then she sent it out to publishers and I was offered a two-book deal. I am really lucky in that the whole process from getting an agent to getting a publishing deal was quite quick, as it can often take many years of rejections, but I think part of the reason for that was that I took my time to make sure the manuscript was the absolute best I could make it before I sent it out into the world.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I think one of the most important things is to read, read, read. Reading is the best possible training for writing you could ever have, so read often and read widely – even outside the genres you might be used to. When you do sit down to write your own book, some of the best advice I’ve ever heard was to ‘write for your characters’. Don’t write to be published and don’t write what you think people want to read; write to bring your characters to life and write the book only you could have written. And, lastly, remember the only difference between a published author and an unpublished one is that they finished the book. So finish the book.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working very hard on book number two! Even though I can’t talk about it just yet, I’m really excited about how it’s coming along – I can’t wait to get to my laptop every morning, so that’s a good sign. Hopefully, just like The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman, it’ll make people laugh and cry in equal measure.
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