Writing is like spinning plates at the circus. Each plate is a character and when it begins to wobble you have to go back to it.
The advice comes from Felix Francis who is so successful carrying on his father’s mantle as a crime and thriller writer that his tips are worth listening to.
Felix is Dick Francis’s youngest son and worked as a Physics teacher before collaborating on a number of his father’s books and then continuing the franchise after Dick, a former steeplechase jockey, died in 2010.
‘Bloodline’ by Felix, published in 2012, became a best seller overnight and when he came to Ditchling Book Lovers’ Supper Club at the end of September, writers looking for their big break were all ears!
Felix, now 60, has just written ‘Refusal’ - a tale of deadly intrigue set around race fixing and. like all his novels, it is written in a simple, pacey style.
Felix said: “The rhythm of the sentence is very important. Literary figures don’t like to read Felix Francis books because they are not literary enough - damn right they’re not. It’s all about easy reading. It’s the difference between licking cream off a spoon and getting barbed wire stuck in your throat. “It’s one of the worst kept secrets in the book world that my father and mother worked together on his books. “My father was the ideas man and my mother knew the rhythm of a sentence.”
In a similar vein, Felix asks his wife to read his chapters out loud and if a sentence sounds clumsy, he thinks of another word or phrase to use instead.
Felix wishes he had started writing novels much earlier because he loves the whole process, but there are times when the going gets tough and writers’ block happens.
He said: “When people say to me ‘I stayed up all night to finish your book’, I just think Oh God - it took me a whole year to write that!”
The other guest at the latest Ditchling Book Club was former BBC news journalist Colette McBeth. After completing a creative writing course at the Faber Academy, Colette was lucky enough to have six agents interested in her first novel, Precious Thing, which is about a close female friendship that turns to obsession.
As a mother of three, Colette finds juggling home life with novel writing a constant challenge and says ideas might come to her when she is cooking fish-fingers or running to the shed to put clothes in the dryer!
For people who have been trying to get published for years, Colette will make you green with envy.
Her agent sent ‘Precious Thing’ off to publishers a year ago and within a week she had a book deal.
“Sometimes, I have to pinch myself,” said Colette, who is well on the way to completing her second novel before she turns 40.