I’m excited to be on the blog tour for Unscripted by Claire Handscombe today and have a guest post to share with you.
Before I share my guest post with you here is a little about the book.
No-one is a bigger fan of actor Thomas Cassidy than Libby. No-one. That’s why she’s totally going to marry him.
She is going to write a novel, name the main character after Thom, and find a way to get it to him. Intrigued and flattered, he will read it, fall in love with her prose, write to her and ask to turn it into a movie. She will pretend to think about it for a week or so, then say, sure, but can I work on it with you? Their eyes will meet over the script, and fade to black. It is a fail-proof plan.
Except for the fact that he is a Hollywood star – not A list, perhaps not B list, but certainly C+ – and she is, well, not. Except for the fact that he lives in America. Except, too, for the teeny tiny age gap. Not even twenty years! Totally overcomable. All of the obstacles are totally overcomable. It’s all about determination.
Q&A with Claire Handscombe:
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with the West Wing. My vices include excessive tea- and coffee-drinking, acquiring books faster than I could ever hope to read them even though I already have enough for a lifetime, and a huge gap in TV knowledge because I’m constantly just rewatching Aaron Sorkin stuff. I spent a good few years working as a language tutor for adults in London and then Brusssels, and loved doing that – the first book I wrote was inspired by that experience and by one student in particular.
What do you do when you are not writing?
I read a lot for work and fun. I love going out with my friends for nice dinners (Washington is great for that) and going to the theatre and ballet. I’ve been dusting off my flute this year and playing that again, too.
Do you have a day job as well?
Not in the traditional sense. I spend a lot of time tending to my blog, the Brit Lit Blog, where I round up daily news and views from British books and publishing, and my podcast, the Brit Lit Podcast, is also a lot of work (and fun!). Crowdfunding with Unbound has also felt like a full-time job at times.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I wrote poems and “novels” prolifically between the ages of around ten and twelve. I started writing again as an adult in 2009 and finished that one in around 2011, I think.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I don’t know that it was a conscious choice. I started writing in a voice that fitted the story and felt natural to me, and what came out was upmarket women’s fiction, or, for people not steeped in industry jargon, “smart beach read”.
Where do you get your ideas?
A lot of them come from my own life or daydreams about what I’d like to happen to me and/or dread happening to me. Unscripted definitely falls into that category.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
It depends what you mean by writer’s block. I often feel emotionally resistant to getting myself to my desk with a blank piece of paper in front of me. I sometimes sit there and panic for a while. Then, if I’ve decided in advance that I’m going to write that day, I make myself write – using a prompt if I have to – and sometimes what comes out is good. Sometimes not.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I usually know in my head where the book is going and have some key scenes in mind. I might jot those down as a list to make sure I get them down and have a sense of progress, but I don’t use an outline in the traditional sense.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
So many! I read a lot and I think I learn something about writing from every book. That was especially true when I was just starting to write seriously around 2009-2010. I remember reading Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal when I was writing my first novel and some of the rhythms of that seeping into my own writing – she has a way of using adjectives in threes that I loved and adopted.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Oh my goodness, so many challenges. It’s been really quite discouraging and frustrating at times. Unscripted is the third novel I wrote (and now I have two more). I pitched my first to about 100 agents in the UK and the US, and I’m not even sure I got any requests for the full manuscript. I pitched Unscripted mostly in the US, and eventually got a referral from a writer I really admire and got an agent from that. It was so exciting! And I thought I was home and dry. Nobody warns you (or at least, nobody had warned me) that no matter how enthusiastic your highly regarded agent, your book just might not sell.
Editors said so many lovely things about Unscripted, but in the end nobody wanted to publish it. The most painful thing was when I got all the way to the phone-call-with-an-editor stage just a few weeks into my agent’s first round of editor submissions, and she wanted to make me an offer, and then her publisher vetoed her. I was heartbroken – though it was early enough in the process that I didn’t realise that was my one chance at traditional publishing slipping away.
I’m glad Unbound wanted to take my book on, and they produce really quality books, so I’m excited about that.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
A lot of is based on my real-life experiences with one particular celebrity crush. The scene in Cambridge about a third in where Libby meets Thom, the actor she loves for the first time is almost exactly what happened when I met my favourite actor there. Maybe that’s why that scene is one of my favourites. After I wrote my first novel, I daydreamed that I would write the script for it with my favourite actor – and that’s Libby’s dream, too, though she takes hers further than I do mine.
What was your hardest scene to write?
I don’t remember a specific scene, but I’m someone whose first drafts are too short, because I write the scenes that come to me most easily first, and it’s hard when I have to add others later – and even harder when my agent asks me for extra scenes which I hadn’t envisioned being part of the book. There is one scene that makes my stomach tighten – when Libby’s bank calls her about her post-student debt – because I distinctly remember how it felt to have that happen to me at about her age.
How did you come up with the title?
I’m not sure! I seem to like one-word adjectival titles with a negative prefix, though. My first novel (as yet unpublished) was called Inevitable and a memoir piece I’ve had published is called Indelible. “Unscripted” is a bit of word play that relates to the fact that at the heart of this story are a couple of actors, and also refers to the fact that Libby has a detailed plan… but it doesn’t quite go as set out in her blueprint.
What project are you working on now?
I’ve got five novels at various stages of preparedness, but I’m taking a break from any new novels at the moment to promote Unscripted and self-publish a political fiction novel under a different name (secrecy, sorry!). For NaNoWriMo this year, I think it might be fun to write a romance novel inspired by the Canadian figure skating champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (seriously, go and watch some YouTube videos of them), but we’ll see – I know zero about ice skating, so I’d need to do lot of research first!
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
You’re making me wish I’d kept a very detailed journal of such things. Sometimes people say Libby is little shallow and weird for being so obsessed with this actor guy, which is tough to hear because she’s so closely based on me! ! I think a compliment that really surprised me was a writer friend telling me I am good at writing scenes full of romantic tension.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
If you like the sound of Unscripted, please don’t wait for it to be in shops! If you pre-order it now by pledging on Unbound, you are helping make it happen – and you’ll get a thank you in the back, which is pretty cool.
About The Author:
Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA, but actually, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. (Like her main character Libby, she knows a thing or two about celebrity crushes and the life-changing power of a television series.) She was recently longlisted for the Bath Novel Award, and her journalism, poetry, and essays have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Bustle, Book Riot, Writers’ Forum, and the Washington Post. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a fortnightly show about news and views from British books and publishing.
Unbound is Claire’s third book, Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives can be found here.