This evening in the Library we have CJ Harter, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into her life as an author.
You are very welcome, CJ, please introduce yourself:
I’ve dissected human bodies in Sheffield (legitimately), shushed library-users in Wigan, shared poetry with people living with dementia in Liverpool, and organised bedbaths in Salford. More recently, I’ve dipped my toe into local TV interviewing. In 2013 I self-published a psychological suspense “Rowan’s Well”. This is an ongoing adventure. I’m learning so much about publishing and marketing, and picking up great reviews all the time. This year I won second prize in Liverpool’s Writing On The Wall Pulp Idol First Chapter contest with my work-in-progress Fitful Head, a ghost story, attracting interest from an agent and an indie publisher. I have a degree in Literature and Philosophy. I’m mother to two adults, wife to one and slave to two tiny dogs.
Did you read much as a child? Are you an avid reader now? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?
I feel I was born reading. I’m reader first, writer second. The first book I ever read for myself was “Clifford The Big Red Dog”. I hid under coats in the school cloakroom when I should have been playing out, aged four. I read all sorts from Dickens to Dostoyevsky in the classics, to contemporary women like Sarah Waters and Margaret Atwood, to the glorious Stephen King or, in crime, Irish writer Tana French. Right now, I’m reading lots of ghost stories as I’m writing one. Michelle Paver’s “Dark Matter” and Paul Tremblay’s “A Head Full Of Ghosts” stand out of my recent reads.
Are you self-published or traditionally published?
So far, self-published, although I recently attended the launch of “Firsts”, an anthology of the finalists’ first chapters from the Writing On The Wall’s Pulp Idol contest. I’m so excited!
Which genre do you write in and why?
My first novel is a psychological suspense. I don’t write to a genre. I write the story I need to write and decide what genre it is when I’m done.
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
Stylistically, probably the late great Iain Banks. I love his clarity and humour while telling the darkest tales. And I adore his family stories full of intrigue and human complexities. But really every author I’ve ever read has influenced me in some way. For instance, I realised only recently that the names of my two main protagonists are straight out of the Flambards novels by KM Peyton!
Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?
How can it not? I wouldn’t dare write beyond my culture. Although, in “Rowan’s Well”, the central character is a man. Is that writing outside my culture as a woman? Interesting…
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
For me, it’s the simple discipline of sitting down to write every day. I’m so easily distracted. I try to be strict and when I do get down to it I marvel at why I procrastinated, I love it so much.
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
Mornings, the earlier the better. Sadly, I have two dogs who beg to differ on that.
What is the best thing about being an author? And the flipside – what is the worst?
The best thing is hearing readers talk about my characters as if they are real people... because, of course, to me they are. I love going to book groups to meet my readers.
The worst thing? Writing synopses, no question. I loathe and detest that. It’s just too hard. Why can’t agents and publishers sit down with a cuppa and read the book? Is that too much to ask?
Is social media an essential chore or something you enjoy? Which forum do you prefer?
Enjoyment isn’t the word. Sad to confess I’m addicted to social media – facebook and twitter being my main vices. I should try to cut down on my social media time. Every author knows it’s anathema to writing and creativity.
If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?
I’ve had a long career in community work, working with volunteers and vulnerable people. Eventually, I’ll get back to that but I’ve got to finish this next novel first…
It’s the last day and the earth is facing oblivion – what book would you read?
“Anne Of Green Gables” by LM Montgomery. Anne Shirley was and still is my hero and role-model. I’d like to spend my final hours with her.
Please tell us about your latest published work.
Who is your best friend? What wouldn’t you do for them? Lie? Betray? Or worse…? When Will Cooper meets strange, tormented Mark Strachan at university he soon has cause to be thankful as they are caught up in a fatal accident. And when they marry sisters Olivia and Eloise Brooke, their fates are tied. But Will could never have imagined how strong Mark’s influence will become and that one day he will have to pay a price for their friendship. Because Mark has a secret flaw that goes to the very core of him. A secret so deep, he will wreck lives to protect it. Amazon Buy Link
If you would like to know more about CJ and her work please check out the links below: