Please ask your questions here:

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Please ask your questions here:

Leave your questions for Richard Aronowitz right here. He will be live on this forum from 1.00 p.m. to 2.00 p.m on Friday 9th April to answer any of your questions on his book, 'It's Just The Beating of my Heart', or on the writing or getting published process.

How do you become a writer?




Does being a writer become you? No, sorry...what I meant to ask was: Where, in the becoming a known writer process, should finding a manager be placed? Or, should that even be part of the equation?
Dear celticman, If you're posting on abctales, I guess that you're already writing, and therefore by definition a writer. If you mean 'How do you become a PUBLISHED writer?': if I had the answer to that, I would become a literary agent. All I can say is: practise, practise, practise until your skill is as honed as it is ever going to be. Write about things that really interest you, not just those that you think will be popular or connect with some issue that is all the rage right now (for instance, vampires or the environment), and you will find that other people will warm to it if your interest is conveyed in sufficiently clear, polished language and in an insightful way.


How much do you tend to plot your idea before you start writing? And how much of your writing stems from personal experience? Or do you invent everything from scratch?


Anonymous's picture
When did you start writing. Not just in your head but on paper? What did you do with early work?
Christine: I began writing poetry at nineteen when I went up to university and wrote poetry exclusively until I was thirty-one, when I began writing FIVE AMBER BEADS. I have been exceptionally lucky with my writing, and I suppose that about 30% of all my poems have been published in anthologies, journals, magazines and newspapers of various kinds. The rest I keep in a file at home (perhaps 100 in total), and look at them now and then; some with pleasure and others with mild queasiness. I still write five or six poems a year. My two attempts at full-length prose fiction have both been published, and I have written only two short stories, both of which have been on this site.


Niki72: my first novel, FIVE AMBER BEADS (2006), was very much drawn from personal experience, and the history of my family turned into fiction to make it more palatable to the general reader. I had a clear idea of the structure of the novel before I began, as it featured excerpt-chapters from a real diary written by my great-uncle at the beginning of the 1940s every fourth or fifth chapter. I knew who the narrator would be from the word go (my alter ego), but some other parts of the narrative were unplanned and surprised me. In IT'S JUST THE BEATING OF MY HEART, everything is pure fiction, although its two settings - the London art world and the beautiful landscape of Gloucestershire - are my two 'terrains' in real life as well. This novel was far less planned and grew more or less organically. The ending was a late decision, and came to me well into the first draft.


How much help has ABC tales been to you, honestly? Would you have written anyway? Are you a member at other sites?

Gibbous House:  Ewan's 1st Novel No Good Deed :  Ewan's 2nd Novel At the Back of the North Wind Ewan's 3rd Novel

Ewan: I would certainly have written anyway, as I had done so from nineteen until I discovered the site at thirty-eight. HOWEVER, I was faced with redrafting the whole of IT'S JUST THE BEATING OF MY HEART after some adverse feedback from my agent and publisher, and that seemed to me to be a near-impossible task. I posted the second draft chapter-by-chapter on to ABCtales and the feedback that I received, particularly from Tony Cook, got me through the thirteen-month process of redrafting. I was on the point of giving up and without Tony's support, it is unlikely that the new novel would be here.


How much revision work do you do with your prose? Do you spend hours cutting, pasting and polishing? Does you best work tend to come out all shining all a once, or do you find it more of a slow painstaking process?
o-bear: I write extremely slowly, so the polishing work for prose is perhaps less than that for poetry (where the sounds of the words that fall on the ear have a rather greater significance, perhaps). I write poetry long-hand always and wrote both of my first two novels the same way, and then edited and polished as I typed them up. The language comes out quite cleanly, then, but the real revision with fiction comes with the structuring, plotting and characterisation. It is tempting to be seduced by prose that is as pleasing to the ear as poetry, but in fiction one must of course remember that plot, structure and character place very different demands on you as a writer.


Sorry to be a bit late - my computer chose the right moment to blow up! How important do you think reading is to your writing - and who do you read?
Tony: I think that reading is central to my writing, but it has for the last decade taken rather a back-seat to the writing itself. I grew up without TV in a rather alternative home, at least until I was fifteen or sixteen, so spent my childhood reading poetry and novels. When I do read (on my train journey to and from work sometimes and before I go to sleep at night, currently Coetzee), I realise how damn difficult it is to write really well. Some of these writers, from the perspective of one who has tried, really tried, to write to his highest ability, must have been born with the gift in place: you just cannot learn it.


That's great to hear - and a spur to one and all to give good feedback I think!
What a great story! I think people sometimes forget how good ABC can be, as long as people are prepared to take an interest in others' work.

Gibbous House:  Ewan's 1st Novel No Good Deed :  Ewan's 2nd Novel At the Back of the North Wind Ewan's 3rd Novel

I have a very clear memory of it coming through chapter by chapter and really looking forward to seeing it on the 'spike'. This is a book that I can really recommend to you all - the central character is truly excellent. He is so believable that you just don't see the twist coming - and the twist is the biggest I've ever read in any book, ever. It turns the whole thing on its head. That is very brave - and at first I felt cheated by it - but the more I've thought about it, and the story has stayed in my head, the more I've enjoyed it.
More questions? I have some but don't want to hog the forum!
The central character in your new book is an alcoholic mess - yet, like many alcoholics, he retains a warmth and charm that endears him to women. Having met you, once, I didn't get the impression that he was you! Have you know someone like this well or is he an amalgamation of a number of people you have known over the years?
Tony: Much as I like a drink or three, I think that John Stack, the central character, is an amalgamation of various people I have known. However, my adumbration of some of the more disturbing impacts of his drinking, on his health both physical and mental and on those people closest to him, was down to my rather mordant imagination and my deftness with Google.


When you say you had an agent and a publisher, did you go through the conventional route and find the agent first? If you did, have you any tips, any encouragement for someone who's still putting her work out there. Misha.
Misha: I met the agent for my fiction before I had completed FIVE AMBER BEADS, and our meeting was a completely chance encounter where I used to work: I was proofing the manuscript of the novel on a quiet Sunday afternoon while on duty on the front desk at the small museum where I worked at the time as a curator. She asked what I was proofing, and when I told her that it weas my novel she told me that she was a literary agent. She read the draft of the novel when it was done and took it on very quickly, on 5th January 2004 (a day etched into my memory). She had huge hopes for it, and it went to various readings at Faber & Faber, etc. but was ultimately rejected twelve or thirteen times by most leading UK publishers before being picked up by Flambard. When it came out, it received - if I say so myself - very favourable reviews indeed by very respected reviewers. It has since been rejected the same amount of times in the US, so there is no accounting for the world of literary fiction publishing and its vagaries. It has never come out over there. My tips: talent, the daily practice of writing, more practice, more practice, luck, more luck, and chutzpah.


He doesn't know me, but it sounds familiar.

Gibbous House:  Ewan's 1st Novel No Good Deed :  Ewan's 2nd Novel At the Back of the North Wind Ewan's 3rd Novel

Thanks for your insightful answers. One more Q: Did you give up all other occupations to write and finish your novel? How did u find / make the time to do it properly?
o-bear: No, I gave nothing up. I wrote FIVE AMBER BEADS while working as a full-time art expert at Sotheby's and then as a curator of a small museum in London. I still have a very full-time job, as I have been back at Sotheby's as a Director since July 2006 and wrote much of IT'S JUST THE BEATING OF MY HEART while in this role. I commute daily between my home in Cambridge and my job in London, and that's when I do the writing. I travel abroad once or twice a month for work, otherwise I am at work at my desk in London for the auction house five days a week - taking, of course, this hour out over lunch to answer these questions. And I'm married... but without children as yet (more's the pity).


Yes I'm interested in that too. Can you truly squeeze in a full time job and writing at the same time? And how do you deal with rejection? I've found it particularly hard not to give up at times.


Niki72: I am irrefutable proof that you can do a full-time job and write. Dealing with rejection comes with being a writer, just as everyone casts a shadow that is dark and always trails in your wake. You get used to it, and soon don't notice it. As I mentioned, FIVE AMBER BEADS was rejected unanimously in the US, but came out to acclaim here before that. And IT'S JUST THE BEATING OF MY HEART is being rejected regularly now over in the US: I get one email from my US agent with another rejection, and then another from my UK editor alerting me to a glowing review in the papers or online here. Weird.


Well - you got it right. My father was an alcoholic and I think that you capture the self-delusion and desperation of the disease absolutely spot-on.
Do you write every day? How long do you write for in each session?
Tony: I write as often as my energy allows - perhaps on five of the ten train journeys that I make between Cambridge and King's Cross each week. Each writing session lasts for about forty minutes. That's pretty much it, apart from taking a notebook with me on my holidays and writing the odd poem and prose idea down in it.


Thanks, it puts it all in perspective. As you say some of it is luck and some sheer hard grind and never giving up. Actually I can't give up, every time I try to stop writing I find another story coming on. I was also encouraged to hear that it was one of the smaller publishing houses that took you on as I think that, and the internet in all its forms and guises, is probably the way to go.
A massive thankyou to Richard for his time and his brilliant answers to our many questions. I am very interested to know if this is an exercise that we would like to repeat - so please let me know on this forum. I'll leave this up for a few weeks so that people can read all of the above conversations and gain what they can from it.
Found it really useful and interesting. Thanks Richard and thanks Tony for organising!


Very well done then... that doesn't sound like nearly enough time. Where there's a will there are ways I guess.
Yes, thanks very much. I'd like to see more of these, please.

Gibbous House:  Ewan's 1st Novel No Good Deed :  Ewan's 2nd Novel At the Back of the North Wind Ewan's 3rd Novel

Heartily agree, thanks.
If you want to buy Richard's book then go to: You can also read an excellent interview with him here: Thankyou all for your participation. Tony
Tony, this has been great. It would be really good to do it again. Doing it in this way gives the interview such a personal feel which was both inspiring and encouraging. Many thanks to Richard for his replies. More please, Misha.
I totally forgot this was happening! I've just read it all and it's much better than I though it would be. Both questions and answers were brilliant. Yes please do more of them


I agree this was really great, I was working so couldn't participate at the time, but his comments were really insightful.
I've just read through the comments and it was illuminating. Thanks.


I missed this, though I found it interesting to read afterwards & would definatly like to join in one if you do more.

"I will make sense with a few reads \^^/ "

Well, i'll be, he must work hard, writing in his free time on the train to work and still getting his stuff published, very helpful little post, I always imagined published writers sat in a country cottage with a type writer and a wonderful landscape garden, pondering slowly over the next twist in the chapter, not rushing about trying to deal with commuting to a meeting whilst picking out flaws in the latest character. Give me a clockwork orange anyday.

Until we feel our thoughts our thinking remains unfelt

What a great idea. These sorts of forums are much more valuable than any book on writing, I believe. I too add my thanks to Tony and Richard.


Good stuff, enjoyed reading the interview.


barryj1 Fantastic interview. I'm relatively new to this site but would enjoy more of the same.


Thanks so much for leaving this up, Tony. Really interesting questions and well considered, intelligent answers. Very helpful.
Wow I have really enjoyed this too. Huge congrats Aronowitz!


Tess Davies I missed this too but have just read it through and it's great, yes, do some more of these, thanks very much.

Tess Davies

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