I am happy to welcome Kathryn Ledson back to Book’d Out today to talk about her new release, Monkey Business, a sequel to her popular debut novel, Rough Diamond. Melbourne-based, Kathryn has worked as a PA in the corporate world, for Hayman Island’s PR team, and as Peter Ustinov’s PA during his Australian tour. She has also been on the road with rock bands Dire Straits and AC/DC. She now works as a freelance editor, but her passion is writing popular fiction.
Rough Diamond is a funny, fast paced, romantic caper that introduces an unlikely heroine. Nursing a broken heart and a mountain of debt after being deserted by her cheating husband, Danny, Erica Jewell lives a quiet life working in media relations for an oil company, making weekly visits to join her parents for dinner and resisting her best friend’s efforts to rekindle her social life. But Erica’s world is turned upside down when she discovers a man, bleeding from a bullet wound, in her front yard begging her for her help. Action, humour, mystery and romance blend in Rough Diamond to create a lighthearted romp with an improbable plot involving terrorists armed with a hijacked load of fertiliser, a few villainous psychopaths and a secret team of well funded vigilantes protecting Melbourne from terrorist threats. It’s pure escapist fun, allowing the reader to fantasise about escaping their ordinary lives into the arms of a handsome, rich hero and saving the world, or at least their corner of the world, at the same time.
The sequel to Rough Diamond, Monkey Business sees Jack Jones heading out on another clandestine mission while Erica agonises over the status of their relationship and grows increasingly restless when he fails to return. When Erica realises Jack, and Joe, are actually missing-in-action and no one is willing to help him, she decides to go after him, flying to the troubled island of St Sebastian, where she quickly becomes entangled in some dangerous monkey business. My review of Monkey Business was posted earlier today, I thought it was a fast, easy read, offering plenty of laughs.
Read on to learn about about Erica Jewell, the heroine of Rough Diamond and Monkey Business and Kathryn’s writing process…
Hi Shelleyrae and thanks for inviting me to be a guest on your fabulous blog. Do you know, blogging scares the life out of me. I think because it’s ME talking, rather than Erica (my series character) who I can hide behind when writing my novels. I can blame HER for the nonsense. But with blogging, gulp, what if I say something stupid? But anyway, here goes. Hopefully nothing too stupid…
I’d like to talk about the writing process but first, a bit about Erica Jewell because, like the writing process, she fascinates me. I’m still trying to understand her, even though my sister reckons Erica IS me. And yet, I feel I know my hero, Jack Jones, so much better. Whatever the circumstances, I know what he’ll think and how he’ll respond. But Erica? Well, I’ve had to learn to trust her, to trust that she’ll know what needs to be done. That sounds crazy, I know, but it seems to be how it works. In fact, when I’m producing my best work I feel like it’s coming from someplace else. Someplace beyond mind and thought. Here’s an example of what I mean. Recently, while working on Grand Slam (no. 3 in the series), my writing stalled. I did something quite naughty, something authors know they shouldn’t do. Rather than moving on, writing something else, I circled a scene – this went on for weeks – afraid to put down the words. You see, I needed to introduce Erica to a new character, and I didn’t feel confident that I knew that character well enough yet. Finally, having listened to my editor’s ghost words whispering, “trust your process”, I decided to do just that. Instinctively, I knew I needed to start the scene to be able to create it – this is my process – if that makes sense. So I walked Erica across the room and as soon as those words were on the page, Erica took over. She held out her hand, and the new character jumped up so quickly her bag fell onto the floor. Now, I didn’t know that was going to happen, and I know it’s not very exciting, but guess what? Things fell out of that bag. Things that could give me, and the reader, information about this character. If I hadn’t trusted my process, that scene would never have been written because it wasn’t until it was written that I knew what would happen.
I had no idea about any of this when writing my first novel, Rough Diamond. In a way I was very innocent. I just tapped out the words with no expectations and pretty much no idea about how to write a novel. All I wanted was to see Jack and Erica together. Scene after romantic scene with barely a semblance of plot. I didn’t consider the process – any process really – or how the vague sub-plots fitted with the main story, whether or not a scene had anything to do with anything. Of course, when I submitted my manuscript to publishers, I thought it was perfectly wonderful! It wasn’t, but luckily Penguin believed in the voice of Erica Jewell. Rough Diamond needed a massive amount of work to pull it together structurally, and I did this work, but when I wrote Monkey Business, the next in the series, I was frozen with worry: “I did it, yes, but what if I can’t do it again?” I had stage fright. I was no longer writing this just for me. There was a contract, and an expectant audience. I felt like a roo staring into a set of speeding high beam lights. Of course, this is very normal and part of the whole “second novel syndrome” thing. And now, having survived it, and having taken that great leap of faith in trusting my process, I’m feeling more confident with writing Grand Slam, even though I’m constantly batting away the worry that if I put down the words, what if they’re the wrong ones? This is where I’m just starting to understand that there’s no end to the learning because at just 20,000 words into the story, the final scene keeps playing over and over in my head. I’m not sure what to do about it. Write it down? But if I write it down, will that allow my “process” to produce something else as I write toward that important climax? Something better might be waiting. I have no idea and I know I really shouldn’t dwell on it too much, trusting my process instead and just getting the words down so I can move on and away from it. Who knows what will happen with that scene? Anything could happen. And isn’t that exciting?