Writer Of The Week: Sarah Daniels

Our Writer Of The Week is Sarah Daniels, whose story, “Testing The Waters”, is in Special 256, on sale now.

The characters’ chemistry stood out in the story – was this easy to write?

Yes and no. I find when I’m writing that the mechanics of the story can come quite quickly and before too long I have a skeleton down. I knew that I wanted this to be a story about two people finding each other – about one being resistant to the chemistry and refusing to act until it’s almost too late. So, I knew from the start the elements I needed to include.

For me, the real chemistry comes later in the second (or third, or fourth) draft. That’s when I think about how two people interact; how their hidden feelings for each other might manifest even when they’re unwilling to express them to one another. Figuring that all out and getting it down on the page takes more effort than coming up with a plot.

Where did you find the inspiration for the story – a narrowboat holiday perhaps?

Almost! In our twenties, my husband and I lived on a narrowboat. It was both wonderful and challenging. The early mornings I found to be particularly atmospheric. The canal-side can be otherworldly and, at times, it felt very much like we were intruders in a world populated by water birds and fish. In hindsight, it’s easy to romanticise.

What are you writing plans for 2024?

Right now, I’m writing my first crime novel (a change in direction from my last two books, which were dystopian stories aimed at the Young Adult market).

What was the last book you simply couldn’t put down?

“The Maidens” by Alex Michaelides. It’s a gripping psychological thriller set in a Cambridge college. Dark academia always appeals to my gothic heart.

Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?

Definitely not an inspiring view. That’s a sure way to have me day dreaming instead of typing. For the rest, it depends on what stage I’m at in the process of writing. My laptop for that first messy draft, followed by a printed manuscript when I’m editing.

I don’t often use a notebook. Those I have are filled with half-formed ideas and unfinished plots that I never return to. I move around a lot when I write – it’s a trick that helps with writer’s block. If I can’t write on the sofa, moving to my desk or the kitchen table seems to press the reset button in my brain and helps me concentrate.

​What’s your one top tip for aspiring writers?

There’s power in telling people that you’re a writer. It will motivate you to get the words down. It also transforms writing into something real instead of something you store internally. And there’s nothing quite as motivating as being asked, “So, how’s the book coming along?”

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.