Featured debut author: Jess Kidd - Himself

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This week we'd like to introduce you to debut author Jess Kidd. We're sharing her top tips for aspiring authors - and giving away 50 copies of her first novel, Himself.  Apply for your copy now.

This giveaway is sponsored by Canongate

About the book

When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland's west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the lies of his past.

No one - living or dead - will tell Mahony what happened to the teenage mother who abandoned him as a baby, despite his certainty that more than one of the villagers knows the sinister truth.

Featuring a host of eccentric characters - from the town's sly priest and its pitiless nurse to a caustic elderly actress throwing herself into her final village play - this beautiful and darkly comic debut novel creates an unforgettable world of mystery, bloody violence and buried secrets.

Read an extract from the book

Praise for Himself

"An intriguing story of family secrets and haunting." – Andrew Michael Hurley, author of The Loney

"Lushly imagined, delightfully original and very, very funny." – ML Steadman, author of The Light Between Oceans

"I love this book... it has you smiling as you read." – Louis De Bernières

Photo credit: Travis McBride

About the author

Jess Kidd completed her first degree in Literature with The Open University, and has since taught creative writing and gained a PhD in Creative Writing Studies. She has also worked as a support worker, specialising in acquired brain injury.

Jess was brought up in London as part of a large family from Mayo, and plans to settle somewhere along the west coast of Ireland in the next few years. Until then, she lives in London with her daughter.

Jess Kidd's top tips for budding authors

1. Keep a notebook

Make it small so you don't mind carrying it everywhere. Whip it out and write in it whenever an idea strikes you. Read your notes back later and take what you need from them. Look out for odd juxtapositions and connections worthy of further development.

2. But... don't beat yourself up for not keeping a notebook

The words 'should' and 'ought' are not always helpful when it comes to writing. They can turn something you love into a chore. 

3. Find a writing partner or group

Having a writing partner can really help to spur you on. Ideally this will be someone who shares your passion for writing but has a very different voice to you. Set up each meeting as a fair and supportive exchange. Take the time to read and comment on each other's work honestly and constructively. 

Alternatively, seek out a creative writing class or writing group. The best ones will give you deadlines to aim for, inspire you to write regularly and provide quality feedback. These people are your ideal readers. One of the biggest downsides to being a writer is that you can't approach your work as an audience member. You've been behind the scenes too often.

4. Earwig

Listen to other people's conversations, or better still, strike up conversations of your own. People come with a wealth of incredible stories and some people want nothing more than to tell them. 

5. Honour your raw material

Don't be overly critical at the drafting stage. Do not expect a polished work of fiction for your first draft. Hold on to your original inspiration, the spark that set you writing. Imagine it becoming a dancing, crackling fire and think of carefully nurturing that little flame; feeding it twigs, bit by bit.

6. Trust your reader

Avoid over-explaining. Trust your reader to make connections if you've signposted their way through your story. Again, this is where feedback can be invaluable.

7. Break it down

If aiming for a finished novel seems daunting, then try thinking of your work in manageable chunks. Break it down to a chapter or a paragraph, a scene or an incident. When you're flagging, it's easier to focus on each step of a marathon rather than the entire race.

8. Read your work aloud

Notice particularly where you snag on a line, or miss out a word, or add one in. Make the changes, then re-read.

9. Edit. Lots.

Put your work aside and come back to it later. You can't go over it enough even when you are happy with the general shape of it. Every time you edit, aim to take your work to a higher level by polishing it a little bit more.

10. Target your work

Seek out competitions and publications and write towards them even if you don't feel ready to send your work off yet. A deadline and a theme can really help to focus your writing. Try out different forms and genres if they appeal to you. You may be a novel-writer but shorter fiction is still a great way to hone your writing skills and find new voices. Targeting your writing can also offset that 'what am I doing?' feeling by establishing in your mind that your work has an outcome, a purpose and a plan.

Book giveaway

We've got 50 copies of Himself to give away to Mumsnetters. This giveaway closes on Monday 31 October.

We ask all winners to share their thoughts about the book on the discussion thread. However, you don't have to win a free copy to take part in the discussion - anyone who has read Himself can post their feedback (and you can buy a copy now). 

Everyone who posts on the thread before 13 December will be entered into a prize draw to win a £100 Love2shop voucher.

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Last updated: over 1 year ago