So you get your deal and suddenly you’re under contract to produce the next book by a very clearly specified deadline! We asked bestseller Cally Taylor to tell us a little about that process and what a typical day for her is. Over to Cally…
When I sat down to plot my current psychological thriller, The Lie, I knew I wanted to write about a group of women in their twenties who, despite seeming like the best of friends, are hiding things from each other – petty jealousies, competitiveness and secrets. I had relationships like that in my twenties – friends who were effervescent, spontaneous and fun but who were also unpredictable, possessive and argumentative – and I wondered what would happen if a friendship group like that were put in a dangerous crucible-like situation that they couldn’t escape. Would they turn on each other or would they pull together? I’ve always been obsessed by cults and, in my late twenties I went to a mediation retreat with a friend that wasn’t innocuous as it seemed. We felt pressured to open up about any traumas in our lives and we weren’t allowed to talk to each other or spend any time alone. If we did a member of the retreat would join us and attempt to ‘council’ us. It was all a bit creepy and we left early, sneaking away before any could stop us.
I began plotting The Lie by thinking about my main character, Emma. Who is she? What’s her background? What flaws does she have? What’s her biggest secret? In this novel what does she want more than anything else in the world? Once I knew that I had to come up with obstacles to throw at her, to try and stop her from achieving that goal. One of the secrets to great conflict in a novel is if the secondary characters have goals that directly conflict the main character’s goal so I spent a lot of time getting to know those characters too.
My next task was to create the structure of the story. I tend to follow the three-act structure in my books and that meant identifying what the climax of Act 1 would be, what the mid-point reversal (or shock twist) would be in the middle of Act 2, what the climax at the end of Act 3 would be and how the book would end.
The Lie will be published by Avon HarperCollins on 23rd April and I’m currently 20,000 words into my third novel, The Forgetting. This is the most hectic time of year for any author – when you’re busy promoting one novel whilst trying to write another. Then there’s family, housework and exercise to fit in too (the last two tend to go out of the window).
My day begins at 5.30am when my partner gets up for work. I stir briefly then fall back asleep, only to be woken again around 6.30am when my 3 year old son appears in the doorway of our bedroom and announces that it’s time to get up. After milk for my son and coffee for me we get ready for the day then, at 8am, I take him to nursery.
I return home by 8.30am and zone out in front of the TV for an hour and catch up on social media then I go into my study which is one third desk, one third treadmill and one third guest sofa bed. Until the beginning of this year I held down a day job and worked from home but now the study’s just for writing (and occasional guests). The level of messiness directly reflects what stage of a book I’m working on.
I begin by attacking the new novel. My deadline for handing in the completed first draft of The Forgetting (word count 100,000 words) is 20th July so, as I only write four days a week, I need to write a minimum of 1,500 words a day. I normally manage about 1,000 in the morning, break for lunch at 12pm, and then squeeze out another 500 words. Once that’s done I try and fit in a few blog posts or articles. Normally I try to fit some exercise into my day but I’m too busy at the moment so I’ve come up with an alternative that allows me to write AND move – a laptop tray that attaches to my treadmill!
It sounds tricky, like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time, but once I get into the rhythm of walking and typing I barely even notice I’m moving. I can manage about an hour’s worth of writing this way before my back starts to twinge and I have to sit down again.
If I’ve hit my word count and done the promo I needed for the day I go into the living room at 4pm and read for forty-five minutes. I receive quite a few advanced review copies of other author’s books so there’s normally a sizeable pile to choose from.
At 4.45pm it’s time to put on my coat and collect my son from nursery. Once home he watches TV or plays on the Wii while I rush around the kitchen like a woman possessed, stacking the dishwasher and wiping down the surfaces. Then there’s just enough time for a game or a story with my son before my partner gets home at 6.30pm and we start the bedtime routine. After that I cook the dinner and collapse in a heap on the sofa. My aim is to crawl into bed by 10.30pm but that rarely happens. I always find a book to read, a film to watch or something distracting on the internet that keeps me up until 11.30pm. And then I’m out like a light.
(c) CL Taylor
About The Lie
This was no accident…
Haunting, compelling, this psychological thriller will have you hooked. Perfect for fans of Gone Girl and Daughter.
I know your name’s not really Jane Hughes . . .
Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She’s happier than she’s ever been but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist.
Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women.
Jane has tried to put the past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed Jane and everything she loves . . .
The Lie is in bookshops now or pick up your copy online here…