How I assemble a book by Daniela Sacerdoti – guest post

Today I’m pleased to welcome Daniela Saceradoti to the blog. Daniela’s previous novels include Watch Over Me, Take Me Home, Don’t be Afraid and Set Me Free. Her latest novel, Keep Me Safe is published in paperback by Headline on 7 September 2017.

Today Daniela talks about how she assembles a book.

The seed of a book, for me, is always a single idea – in Watch Over Me it was a mother who doesn’t want to leave her son, even after death; in Take Me Home it was a young woman who stops talking; in Set Me Free a teenage girl who goes through the first, heartbreaking crush; in Don’t Be Afraid an artist who finds the strength to resolve her family ‘curse’ and climb out of despair; in Keep Me Safe a mother and daughter who find home and family in an unexpected place. This nugget then expands, more characters and storylines come into play, a plot is formed – but everything always starts from a single inspiration. One single idea carries the whole book.

Inspiration is a funny thing: it comes sudden and unexpected, and it feels like a gift – a grace. My family know when it comes because I usually grow silent, and then scramble for a notebook. It needs to be fed, though – by reading and writing and listening to people and pricking up your ears and opening your eyes. It comes both through noise and silence. Often, songs and poems offer me the spark, like in Watch Over Me, greatly inspired by Sorley McLean’s poem Hallaig. John and Mary’s story in Take Me Home was inspired by Don’t Forget my Love, again by Sorley McLean. My favourite books will always have suggestions for me, like the story of Inary herself was inspired by Kilmeny of the Orchard, by Lucy M.Montgomery. Once the first seed is decided, the expanding begins – and this requires one thing only: thinking. So when you see me looking out of the window, or wandering through the supermarket aisles, or strolling aimlessly around the village or up the hill to the castle…I am actually working. With two children, I’ve learnt to think through noise, TV, assorted little boys running around the house and several other distractions. When I first started, the little seed and some thinking would have been enough to make me jump to the laptop and start writing away. Big mistake. One of the best pieces of advice I’d ever had since I started was ‘plan your novel’. I now write a synopsis and a chapter breakdown to make sure I know where I’m going, even if things might change as I write. The following step is to chat with both my agent and my editor, and get their opinion and input on plot and characters. I used to be hyper-sensitive about this stage – the book is my baby! Nobody is allowed to say anything about it! But with time I came to look forward to this stage because it helps smooth, round and plump up the story just like you’d work dough, until it’s ready to go into the oven. Finally I’m ready to start writing. I made the process seem quick, but the seed stage actually can last years and the idea lay waiting in my heart for a long, long time. I don’t usually do research before writing but while writing, because I find that then I know exactly what information I need. At the beginning keep some kind of balance between life and work; I keep reading other books, socialising, watching TV. But once I go deep into the book I tend to become a bit of a monk: I don’t read anything except non-fiction, I struggle to follow films or TV programs and I put off coffees, long phone calls, evenings out or anything that distracts me until after I’m finished. Towards the end I get a little bit obsessed and I struggle to sleep, so by the time I press send I’m more than ready for a cry, a walk and a long, long sleep! I suppose my aim is to find a better balance between rest and work towards the end of the novel. Or maybe I enjoy the intensity of it, the sense of temporary suspension from the world and from life to live in my own creative bubble.

About the book

When Anna’s partner walks away from their relationship, she is shattered. But she worries about her daughter most of all. Six-year-old Ava falls silent for three days. When she does speak, her words are troubling. Ava wants to go home. To a place called Seal. To her other mother. Anna knows to unravel the mystery she must find Seal and take Ava there. She hopes this tiny island will provide the help, and hope, her daughter needs. But could it also offer a new life and unexpected love for Anna too?

About the author

Daniela Sacerdoti is a phenomenon. Over one million copies of her novels have been sold in eBook, her debut novel WATCH OVER ME was the 8th bestselling Kindle book of all time in 2015 and she was also ranked as the 11th top-selling Kindle author. Daniela writes beautiful, haunting and bestselling fiction for adults (the Glen Avich series), young adults (the Sarah Midnight trilogy) and children. Her novels have been translated in twelve languages. Daniela was born and raised in Italy. She studied Classics, then lived in Scotland for fourteen years, where she married and taught in a primary school. Daniela’s children’s book Really Weird Removals.Com was shortlisted for the Scottish Children’s Book Awards. She has also written for the BBC. Daniela, her husband and their two sons make their home in a tiny village in the Alps. To discover more about Daniela and her world, visit http://www.danielasacerdoti.com.

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