-1. When the concept for The Nurse was only a vague idea, jotted down on the back of a massive Tesco receipt, my mind flipping from ‘I forgot to buy the dog food, to ‘Who is Rose?’, I knew I had something. This is a thrilling moment for any writer and it overtakes everything. I learned that if an idea has prodded continually and you can’t stop thinking about the character who will be carrying the story, you have to write the book. Because the character who walked through your door is here to stay. For me, Rose was that character.
2. I learnt that as you begin to write, seize on any serendipitous moments you might have, and use them to help form your story. I was still feeling my way into the plot when I made a trip up to Chesterfield, and using my satav to find my destination. The nav took me into Old Whittington. There it was – the place Rose lived. Also, I had a character trait for Theo – his inability to get anywhere without satnav, like me!
3. This leads me nicely onto another thing I learnt – the need for some humour in even the darkest of tales – to create balance and equilibrium. We humans survive the bleakest of times through humour; it’s a unique human trait. I hope I’ve managed to do this.
4. With this story, I learnt the joy of allowing characters to introduce themselves. This was evident particularly in Theo’s character. I really didn’t know who he was, how he thought, but by the time I’d written his first chapter, Theo’s character traits formed very quickly.
5. Back in 2017, I attended a talk given by Deborah Levy. The advice she gave was advice that I didn’t completely take on board until I was writing The Nurse. She talked about ‘a thumping and subtle sentence’. A book cannot be filled with these powerful lines, but a book that Seven Things I’ve Learnt Whilst Writing My Book JA Corrigan possesses some of these pithy sentences, is a book that will engage the reader fully. I’m unable to create Deborah’s brilliant prose, but I hope her advice filtered a little into my own writing.
6. In the early drafts of The Nurse, Morocco featured more in the story, and although much of this was taken out in later drafts, I still felt I had to ‘know’ about the country that is mentioned in the book – and so in true author fashion, I insisted on a family holiday to Morocco! It’s a writer’s job to know as much as they can about a subject, even if that subject, ultimately, takes up a tiny amount of page time. Research filling an entire notebook might only transcribe into a sentence or two. Authenticity in fiction is imperative in creating a good story, and not only in the veracity of location but also in the underlying tone of the novel.
7. I’ve learned during the publication process with The Nurse, the real importance of a publisher and editor’s enthusiasm for the author and their book. For a novel – and its author – to flourish it really does help if the editor is passionate, diligent and relentless – the publisher, innovative, inclusive and smart. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have found both, and I’m grateful for the significant lessons I've learned.
I’m probably a shopping addict: I had great fun creating the character of Anna who uses shopping as a coping mechanism. In the process I discovered I’m truly a mall-rat! I love combing the racks for bargains (bought three summer purses the other day because they were $10 each reduced from $79!). I find the whole mall experience incredibly relaxing. Like Anna, it’s my happy place!