My Writing Life
Sandra Howard was one of the leading models of the 1960’s , appearing on the cover of American Vogue two months running . She worked as a freelance journalist as well as modeling before her first novel was published when she was in her 60’s. Her three novels, Glass Houses, Ursula’s Story and A Matter of Loyalty are available in paperback. She’s now working on her fourth novel.
Sandra, thank you so much for talking to Literary Chicks about your writing life. Before your first novel was published, did you ever do a writing course ?
No, I didn’t but I wish I had. I had to learn the hard way really; writing and re-writing followed by lots and lots of rejection slips. For a long time I thought that what I’d written was awful. I really lacked confidence and I think a course would have helped me enormously with that.
Is writing a novel something that people can learn?
That’s an interesting question. I think first and foremost you’ve got to really enjoy playing with words and the process of writing. You’ve got to want to sit down at your desk. If you can do that , then there are certainly tips about commercial writing that someone can teach you - if I can write a book, anyone can.
It took five years to get your first book published . what took you so long and do you now wish it had happened to you earlier?
Well I did a little bit of freelance journalism over the years but the simple matter is that I just didn’t have the confidence. There is a side of me that wishes I had started earlier, but there's also the enjoyment of it now. I think to be able to have passion all over again in your 60s is wonderfully unexpected.
Was it difficult after that time to start calling yourself a writer?
I had to get used to calling myself a writer but it was the biggest thrill of all time to have a book in print. I had a bus pass and a new career at the same time.
Isn’t that really encouraging for other people?
It really should be, I hope it is. It took an awful lot of perseverance; a lot of trial and error, but I never changed the story in all those years, I always knew what I wanted to write about.
Tell us about your writing life?
It is hampered because life is quite hectic with all sort of things connected with my husband’s constituency and the family -my daughter’s just produced a baby. Other than the odd bit of journalism, there's so much else going on in my life, so I just write whenever I possibly can. I find in life you make the time for the things that really matter to you; you do the things you really want to do. I used to garden and cook a lot but my husband doesn’t get as many home made meal these days.
Do you have a dedicated writing space?
I used to write at the kitchen or dining room table. Then my daughter suggested that I use her old bedroom which is up three floors ans is tiny; there’s hardly room even for a desk. However, I can write anywhere, absolutely anywhere. One of my favourite places to write is on a plane. I'd love to just keep going round the World because you I get into a little cocoon on long flights.
Do you plan each book out before you start writing it?
You need an outline if you're going to try and have a book published because you’ve got to have something to show your editor. When the characters become fully formed people, they don’t always do what you plan. My editor is wonderful and doesn’t expect me to stick to the synopsis exactly.
I do have an end point but they take a different route on the way.
Do you set yourself a a target number of words each day?
No. Sometimes it just comes falling out and on other days I can fiddle about with just one paragraph . I fiddle too much probably. I print it out endlessly – I write a bit on paper, put it on the laptop, print it out, correct on paper, put it back on… it always reads quite differently on paper.
You're working on a book at the moment?
Yes - the fourth one. I’ll have published four books in 6 years by the time it’s published.
Do you ever worry that this will be the last one, that there will be no more inspiration?
I've got an idea for a fifth book which is quite different. I don’t want to stop writing.
What’s your advice to someone reading this who’s always wanted to write ?
My advice would be to persevere; don’t be put off if you fall at the first hurdle or even the second and third hurdle. You learn all the time and you learn from your own mistakes.
Sandra’s website is at www.sandrahoward.co.uk