Today is World Book Day, a day to promote reading and publishing. Hundreds of bookshops take part, thousands of children dress up as their favourite fictional character and more than 15 million £1 World Book Day book tokens are given to children and young people.
Rachael Blok is a local author whose first novel, Under the Ice, is also set in St Albans. Below is a Q&A session with Rachael where you can find out just what it takes to have a book published, as well as the challenges.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I have always wanted to be a writer but I worked as an English teacher which didn’t leave much time. I wrote my book on maternity leave, and used naptimes, ignoring the washing! Part of the reason I wrote then, was because I felt I had something to write about. Jen, the character in my novel, has recently become a mum.
Where’s your favourite place to write?
I write at my kitchen table. Both my children are now in school, so I drop them off and write before pick-up. The good thing with a laptop is that you can work anywhere, so I do frequently work in cafes too!
When you write your book, you first need to get an agent. I sent my manuscript off to seven agents and then crossed my fingers! Eve White offered representation very quickly; she’s a brilliant agent so I’m very lucky. The agent then tries for a book deal. I signed a two-book deal with Head of Zeus, and the moment I met my editor, Laura Palmer, I knew she was the right person to edit the book.
Who and what inspires you?
There are so many amazing authors out there who write in all sorts of difficult circumstances, and millions of brilliant books just waiting to be read. My favourite recent read is Normal People by Sally Rooney, but this changes all the time.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing?
There a lots of deadlines with writing. When a book gets published it goes through four major edits, and the deadlines for these are tricky. The week before a deadline I find I get nothing else done!
If you want to write a book you need to write. Actually sit down and try to do a little bit as often as possible. You’ll be amazing how quickly a few hundred words becomes a few thousand. Try to commit to a piece of time that works for you.
Ambition or talent. Which matters more?
Both are important. If you want this to be your job rather than a hobby then you need to write a book that people will buy, but your first book might not be the one. You need to stick with it. It takes some writers years to get published. You need to keep chugging away, and keep doing the best job you can do.
Which one book do you think everyone should read and what is your favourite word and why?
People should read what they should enjoy. Middlemarch by George Elliott and The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood are my two favourite books, but they won’t be for everyone!
What is your favourite word and why?
In my last novel, I’ve realised that skim is my favourite word, as I’ve written it so frequently! I’ve had to edit a few of those out. It changes all the time.
Under the Ice is out in paperback in May, so we’re just finishing off the preparations for that. My second, The Scorched Earth, is due out in November in hardback, so that’s keeping me busy!
Favourite pub or bar in St Albans?
I love the Waffle House, which featured in disguise as The Water Wheel Café in Under the Ice. For drinks, I love Suckerpunch.
Favourite place to get a coffee
I often write in the Beech House and Nkora, so I drink a lot of coffee there!
I love Bar Meze and Lussmans for a real treat.
Your favourite memory of St Albans
This is definitely walking round the park when I’d just had a baby. I felt so lucky to get all of this on my doorstep!
Favourite place to buy a gift
Without fail I go to Raindrops on Roses for every present I buy.