Interview with Tessa Buckley author of Eye Spy
28 January 2016
Q Who are your greatest support – who believes in you?
I’m very lucky to live in an area where there is a huge community of artists and writers. I belong to Leigh Writer’s Group, which has abou t thirty members, and we give each other advice and support. I also belong to Southend Writers and Artists Network, which has over three hundred members and a very active Facebook page where we can post our successes and gripe about our failures. I couldn’t do without the help of my daughter, either – she is an editor in a large publishing company in London and she rums my website.
Q Where do you write from? e.g. Kitchen table? Study?Bedroom? Garden shed?
We recently moved to a new home where, for the first time ever, I have my own study. It’s a blissful sanctum, from everyday life where I can lock myself away and create imaginary worlds.
Q Do you write at set times e.g. morning, afternoon, evening, very early morning?
I tend to do chores, answer emails and do research in the mornings, and then write for about three hours in the afternoon.
Q What motivates you to write?
I started writing when I was a child, but I only took it up full time when my children were young, and my daughter complained she couldn’t find enough adventure stories to read in the library. I thought: “I could write a children’s story”. From then on, I never looked back.
Q What are the biggest distractions to your writing time?
I do a lot of family history research. When you’re on a roll and finding out lots of fascinating and unexpected facts, It’s really difficult to stop and do something else.
Q What part of the world do you live in?
I live on the Thames estuary, just down river from London. Our nearest town, Southend-on-Sea, is a large seaside resort with the longest pier in te world, and Leigh, where we live, is an old fishing village.
Q Are you from there originally?
I actually grew up in Surrey near Epsom race course where the famous Derby is held each year. Then when I was nine we moved to Wimbledon, home of the All England tennis club. Despite my background, though, I’vce never been either a horse rider or a tennis player!
Q Have you ever suffered from writers’ block and how did you overcome it?
After we moved into our present home I found myself totally unable to write anything. I finally worked out that I was depressed because I was missing our last house so much. We had lived there for twenty years, it was where we brought up our children, and leaving it was a form of bereavement. It was a couple of years before I woke up one morning and realised I actually loved our new home as much a s I had loved the old one. After that, the writing just started to flow again.
Q .Have you taken any writers’ courses and have they been worthwhile?
I taught myself to write using ‘How to’ books and articles in Writing magazine. Eye Spy was rewritten many, many times as I learned my craft.
Q.Have you ever belonged to a writers’ group? And what value did you gain from it?
See question 1.
Q.Is self-publishing satisfying enough for you or would you prefer to be traditionally published?
Successful self-published authors can make a lot more money than their traditionally published peers, but being chosen as worthy of publication by a mainstream publisher is a massive ego boost. Getting my first book (The MS Diet Book) published by the Sheldon Press gave me enough confidence in myself as a writer to self-publish my novel.
Q.Have you ever tried to find an agent?
My first children’s novel (a very early attempt) actually got as far as a second reading with one agency, but in the end they decided it needed too much rewriting for them to take it on.
Q.What would you expect an agent could do for you that you can’t do for yourself?
Sorting out contracts with publishers and swelling foreign rights etc.
Q.Do you think you can make a full-time career being an Indie writer?
I think it’s probably possible if you write novels that are part of a series and can build a following of loyal readers.
Q.How long have you been writing?
I wrote my first story when I was six, but I only started writing full-time about seventeen yuears ago, after health problems forced me to give up my career in architecture.
Q.What drew you to want to write a book?
My childhood ambition was to write and illustrate children’s books, so although my first published work was non-fiction, it was always my aim to write a novel.
Q.From where did you get the idea for this current story?
The story evolved slowly over many years. The first thing that came to me was Alex’s voice as he talked about his eccentric inventor father. Then I remembered how my mother-in-law said that her family had an old railway carriage at the bottom of their garden, and I thought that would make a great workshop for Alex’s dad.
My husband Gwyn was working as a teacher at the time, so I had a pretty good idea what went on in modern secondary schools in the UK, which helped when I was writing the school scenes. The setting came easily, too. “Write what you know”, everybody said, and as we live in a seaside town, that was the obvious setting to choose.
Characters such as Kath, the bag lady, Mademoiselle Boudet, and the man in the fur hat just seemed to leap onto the page fully-formed, but the twins Alex and Donna were probably inspired by a brother and sister I knew well when I was a child.
Q.How did you go about developing it?
The first draft was much too complicated, with far too many characters and plot lines.
After taking advice from an editorial agency, I eventually decided to cut out one of the plot lines completely, which reduced the number of characters needed. I then, on my daughter’s advice, rewrote the story, spending much more time describing the character’s emotions in more detail to help the reader to empathise with them.
Q What is your next project?
I’m using the plot line I removed from the first version of Eye Spy as a basis for Eye Spy II. I’m then going to turn my first, unpublished novel into Eye Spy III, finally bringing the series to an exciting conclusion in Eye Spy IV.
EYE SPY by Tessa Buckley is available on Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com