I had the absolute pleasure of meeting the lovely T.A Williams last weekend. Author of the popular What Happens... series with HQ, this insanely prolific author has something completely different up his sleeve with his next book Chasing Shadows. And considering I was part way through and hooked, I couldn't wait to pick his brain a little bit. So on a cloudy Sunday in Exeter, we gossiped over sticky toffee pudding, custard, and plenty of tea.
1. Can you tell us a little bit about the research for Chasing Shadows? Especially research you had to do around having a blind main character…
Chasing Shadows is a bit of a departure from my romantic comedies like the What Happens… series. In order to write Chasing Shadows, there were three main areas of research that needed to be undertaken. First, there was the pilgrims’ way to Compostela itself. I first got interested in the Camino (as it’s called) years ago when I drove along parts of it. After that, I knew I needed to see it more thoroughly so I cycled all the way from here in England, down through France and all along it, really soaking up the atmosphere and taking loads of photos. Second, there’s the history of the chosen period. I’ve been hooked on medieval history for years and years, in particular, the Knights Templar. I’ve probably got more non-fiction books history books on my shelves than fiction. So I have become pretty familiar with the Templars and that period. Finally, there was my decision (and I still don’t know why I chose to do this) to make the main protagonist(s) blind. Having no first hand experience of blindness, I have been greatly helped by local sight-loss charity Devon in Sight and, through them, I met Darren and his guide dog, Jet. From him I have learned many things about being blind, prime among which is the determination of most blind people not to let blindness get in the way of their lives. Darren himself is fiercely independent and I have ensured that I have passed that same spirit onto Amy.
2. Tell us a bit about your writing routine… how long it takes you to write a book, how you find your way into the story etc. And then a bit about the process of working with your editor.
My writing routine is pretty inflexible. I write on a desktop PC, tapping away with two fingers (among many regrets in my life, not learning to touch type is high on the list), in my study without music, radio or any other distractions. I even close the door if the washing machine is on. Once I’ve decided on my subject, setting and main characters, I write pretty fast. In fact, I am a self-confessed binge writer. Particularly in the summer when dawn can be as early as 6 o’clock, I tend to type most of the morning, then go for a long walk or a bike ride in the afternoon, before coming back and rereading what I wrote that morning and making amendments. I have never been able to plan a story in minute detail and stick to it. I love the way a book often leads me off in unexpected directions. I discover (presumably from my subconscious) new characters and new twists, sometimes fairly major changes. I like to go with the flow and see where these lead me. Generally (though not always) they tend to work out in a positive way.
Working with my editor at HQ (Harper Collins) is proving to be a challenge. My current editor has a very clear idea of what sort of book she wants from me and she insists upon a full and detailed synopsis in advance. Easier said than done. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love her to bits and she definitely brings something to my work that is needed – in particular as I’m a man trying to get inside a woman’s head, she can point out where I have or more often haven’t managed to sound convincing. The problem, as I know and she knows, is that the finished article often varies substantially from the summary for the reasons mentioned above. Still, as a relationship it somehow seems to work for the good of my writing.
3. Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on next and when it’s due to hit the shelves?
Yes, I’ve just finished another romcom for HQ called To Rome with Love. This is coming out on 24th February and is set on a charity bike ride from Venice to Rome. My main female protagonist is Sarah and she’s not happy. Not happy at all. Only a week before her wedding, her fiancé got cold feet and called it off. The bike ride turns out to be just the therapy she needs. After that, there’s another coming out in May (I did tell you I binge write, didn’t I?) called Dreaming of Venice, another romcom, this time about an artist who doesn’t believe in the phenomenon of love at first sight until it happens to her. Or does it? And currently I’m still at the planning stage of another book for HQ, hopefully coming out this summer. This one will probably be called To Dartmoor with Love and will be the second in the series after the Rome one. I can’t tell you much at this stage, but it will involve an old black and white movie star and a black Labrador.
4. What are your own reading habits like?
I read far too little. In particular, seeing as my books are often described as chicklit or romcoms for women, I suppose I really should be books in that genre, but I don’t. Instead, I read history books (I’m deeply into the First World War at the moment – do you realise, if I had been born just 50 years earlier, I would have been involved in that madness?) and an occasional thriller. My all time favourite contemporary author is John LeCarré and the TV version of The Night Manager was excellent.
5. Tell us the top 3 things on your bucket-list for 2017…
I’d love to see one of my books in the top 10 overall. The best I’ve achieved so far was #17, so it would be good to beat that. I am looking forward to visiting the battlefields of the First World War, no doubt armed with big box of Kleenex. And thirdly, I’m hoping my tennis improves from its present lamentable level to something a bit more respectable. Oh yes, and health, happiness and world peace…
|TA doing what he loves- on a bike somewhere along the pilgrims' way!|
A massive thank you to TA Williams for the great conversation and cake! You can pre-order your copy of Chasing Shadows here- it comes out on Monday. Pop back on Tuesday for my review!
Who ate all the cake....?! :)