Today we talk to “Friend” pocket novelist, poet, and Writer Of The Week John Darley.
What made you want to start writing pocket novels?
I have always enjoyed reading and writing. For many years poetry became my outlet for expression with the written word.
But I knew I had at least one story inside me; I just didn’t know how to get it out! Then, by chance, I came across a “People’s Friend Pocket Novel” in the supermarket. I liked everything about its appearance, from its size to the wonderful cover illustration. This is what I wanted to do.
I then read as many as I could get hold of, even scouring charity shops for copies, before attempting to write my own. I also checked out the guidelines so I knew what was required. The result was “Loving Lady Sarah” which you accepted. I could not have been more thrilled.
Tell us a little about “Out Of The Shadows” that comes out on Thursday.
As a child in the 1950’s I loved the freedom I enjoyed, but in later life I realised that it was not always the case for everybody, especially so for a lot of young women.
There was always that suffocating air of respectability, of having to consider what your neighbours would think if your actions exceeded the normal conventions of suburban life.
Without giving too much away, my main character, Clarissa, finds herself having to deal with everyone else’s problems at the expense of her own.
Her mother’s premature death has burdened her with the responsibility of running her parents’ house, – her home – at the expense of her career ambitions, while others around her seem to be enjoying the freedom she secretly craves. Fortunately, all things will work out – eventually!
How long does it take you to complete a pocket novel?
I think about the story for a good while before the actual writing process begins.
I want it to be original, plausible and to the same high standard that all the “People’s Friend Pocket Novels” achieve.
Once I am at the keyboard I set myself targets each day, not only of the word count but also of the steady progression of the story itself. What continually surprises me is how much gets added, unexpectedly it seems, to the story as I continue writing.
It’s as if my characters have a mind of their own at times, leading me in directions which I had not considered until I’d got myself immersed in the plot.
I generally take about eight weeks to complete a novel once it’s been approved. I am relieved when I reach the end, that I have completed it to my satisfaction; that all the pieces fit together and a happy ending is justifiably assured.
Do you have a favourite era to write about?
I don’t have any preferred era for my novels; so far I have set them in the forties, fifties, sixties and the present day.
I like to have the choice; it adds another interest and dimension.
Each decade has something different and unique about it and I like to reflect that in whatever story I write. Apart from the forties I have a memorable knowledge of these times and feel confident I can make it sound authentic.
How important is your writing to you?
After my family (which includes Millie, my dog, of course) writing is the most important thing in my life.
I love words and their versatility; how you are able to write poetry, song lyrics and novels with any or more of the words in an English dictionary.
And writing can be something you take everywhere with you, if you have a pen and a notebook. I have sat on Exmoor, on a gloriously sunny, summer’s day and written a poem about Christmas for the “Friend”. It’s that important to me.
What advice would you give someone who wants to write a pocket novel?
It’s the same advice that any other published author would give; read as many pocket novels as you can and then decide the era that would be best suited for your characters to be in.
Write with conviction and belief and always remember the audience you are aiming at.
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