CentreStage with Harriet Grace: How to Make Your Novel Fly

Welcome again to CentreStageCentreStage showcases fantastic authors from around the world, often introducing fellow featured authors at loveahappyending.com as well as my fellow authors in the Sapphire Star Publishing family.  On CentreStage, these authors might write for you about their lives, or their writing journey, or anything else that matters to them.  Every feature will be different in format and flavour, so watch out for a variety of stories and tales.

Today, it is my great pleasure to welcome loveahappyending.com featured author Harriet Grace! Harriet brings us a very unique post with hand-crafted, powerful images, and I absolutely adore the drawings!  So over to you, Harriet

How Make Your Novel Fly?

I’ve often wondered how successful novels started.  How did the author choose what to write about?  Was it the characters, the plot, or just the brilliant writing that made it successful?  Set out on the long journey of the novel and people will ask you ‘what are you writing about?’  Do you have a plan?  A synopsis?   But I don’t know these things until I’ve written book!

Over the years I have written 2 novels which found an agent but not a publisher;  completed an MA in Creative Writing and written another novel; found another agent, and nearly a publisher.  I was always at the writing end of the process, trying to create characters, a story, honing the craft of writing novels and wondering whether I was ever going to get to the end.  But I never let myself think about the end, let alone beyond it.  The idea that I might one day have to sell a book of mine, and therefore need to know at least one unique selling point about the book, if not several, was somewhere I wouldn’t go.  It felt like tempting fate.  Such hubris would invoke the wrath of the Gods and I would never see a book of mine in print.

My novel ‘Cells’ started off with an image I had of a woman of about forty sitting at her desk and looking across a busy open-plan office and seeing a young man she has never seen before and making a connection with him.  He looks a bit like Jesus and she feels weirdly attracted to him…  Fairly quickly, the woman at the desk becomes Martha,  Features Editor of a national newspaper, married to Grant.  They both have successful careers and live in a beautiful house in Putney on the river.  The young man becomes Jon, a bit of a loser.

And then – eureka! – I realised that Martha and Grant haven’t been able to have children.  They have tried IVF several times and it has failed, and they are trying to move on.  Suddenly, I had a MODERN DILEMMA (MD for short), although I didn’t realize it at the time, or how important that would be!

At my launch I said:

We live in an age of amazing medical advances where everything seems possible.  But what happens when the technology fails?  What does it do to people who have tried and tried to have a baby through IVF and failed?  How do they move on?  How does it affect their lives, their relationships?

Looking back, it felt like luck that I’d hit on this MD because it has made the novel so much easier to sell.  I had a hook, attractive enough to win me a reading at the Kingston-upon-Thames Readers Festival. The Head of the MA Publishing degree at Kingston University attended that reading and invited me to talk to her students about self-publishing, and then included me as a case study in her on book on self-publishing ‘The Naked Author’.  The MD helped me get reviews, was useful in press releases, on Twitter and Facebook, and as introductions to readings.  It appears that many women, like Martha, have gone through this experience.

So, here is me pretending to be Martha walking across the footbridge near her home at Putney.  We used this image for the cover of the first edition.

Here are the patterns in the river, which Martha gazes at and which to Martha look like cells.  Cells which refuse to fuse together to make a baby.

How do other writers choose what to write about in their novels?  Are they influenced by fashionable genres or subjects, or world events?  Do they write a plan?  A synopsis?  A strapline for the key idea the book is about?  Or do they just create characters they are interested in, get into their world, their story, and hope that the story picks up the Zeitgeist of the moment and makes the novel fly?

I would love to hear your comments…


Well–what can I say? Thank you for this amazing post. The ‘MD’ of your novel is something that I have seen a few of my friends go through–and it is tough. I love the swirling river imagery, that’s very powerful. I am eager to hear how readers find their inspiration for writing!

Let’s find out more about Cells, first of all!

CELLS – One woman, two men, a last chance for happiness

Peak time on the Features floor of a national newspaper and the computers crash.  Martha Morgan, Features Editor, has a migraine and is losing control of her job.  Head pounding she sits down, looks up and there is Jon, one of the messengers; and for a few seconds he seems like a saviour.

Martha is married to Grant, a successful analyst.  They have a beautiful home but no baby, in spite of IVF.  Jon, brought up by dysfunctional parents, can’t stick at a job or find a girlfriend.  When Martha decides to take him under her wing and invites him into their home, the lives of all three of them break open, bringing the past and present into an explosive future.

Format: Paperback and Kindle ISBN: 9781906236618 Language: English Publisher: SilverWood Books (2nd edition July 2011)

Cells is available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle; through bookshops; and directly from the publisher, SilverWood Books.

And now let’s find out more about Harriet Grace, Author:

Harriet Grace grew up in a small village called Inkpen (Inkpen features in the novel).   She has grown-up children and stepchildren and now lives in London.  She has an MA (Distinction) in Creative Writing and has had poems published.  Cells is her first novel.

Visit Harriet on her website , follow her on Twitter or find her on Facebook or at loveahappyending.com.

Now, dear reader, remember to let us know how you go about finding inspiration for your novels… Just how do you make your novels fly? We’d love to hear from you!

34 responses to “CentreStage with Harriet Grace: How to Make Your Novel Fly

  1. Lovely to read ‘the story’ behind the story! And fab to see you on Nicky’s ‘Centre Stage’.

    • I believe… I may be wrong but I’m sure Harriet said… and I hope I don’t get in trouble for disclosing this piece of information… but this may well be Harriet’s first ever guest post! Isn’t it great? So honoured to have her here today, and thanks for visiting, Linn!

  2. That was really interesting to read Harriet – thanks for sharing. Love the pictures :0)

    Cells is nearing the top of my reading list.


  3. I really enjoyed hearing about the background to this novel, Harriet, which sounds wonderful. You asked about what sparks ideas for a story… I usually get an idea from something that happens to me or I see happen to someone else in real life – something really interesting – but then I think ‘what if’. I make up some fictional characters and think about what they might do in the same situation and the reasons they might have for it (motivation is very important) and then I start to write, without any more of a plan than that, and I just hope the writing ‘flies’.

    Janice xx

    • That’s a really brilliant perspective, Janice, I love that you start from a real-life event moderated by a bit of ‘what if’ and a hole lot of imagination. That must be why your books are so captivating!!! Thanks for visiting today and for commenting. 🙂 x

  4. Many congrats to Harriet on what looks like a flying read! 🙂

  5. What an interesting breakdown of the creative process – great images too! Sounds like an intriguing premise for a novel.

  6. Really interesting to hear the background for this story – and I love the ‘extra personal touch’ of the drawings (what a superb idea!) I have witnessed the pain of repeat IVF failures, and of course it’s an emotive subject, so well done on tackling it, Harriet. I’ll be sampling CELLS once I’ve posted this comment!

    Inspiration? Well, we write in a fairly unusual genre (visionary fantasy fiction) so our approach might be ‘different’ than normal. Much of what I write is inspired by my work as a Reiki, crystal and energy healing practitioner, and what I’ve learned along the way . . . magical stuff!

    Great interview, Nicky – thanks for hosting.

    • Sending you big hugs for your fabulous comments, Joanna. You make me all smiley and happy-tingly. I’m so happy that we’ve made friends, and I hear what you’re saying about Harriet tackling an emotive subject. Happy reading, as always, and thanks for visiting and commenting, you star!

  7. Sounds like a great idea for a novel. Will have to put it on my list.Best of luck, Harriet.

  8. I’ve been out all day and have just got in and seen all these wonderful comments! And yes, Nicky, this is my first guest post… and a great experience so far!! Hopefully I’ll do some more. As to the pictures… Nicky said she wanted lots of pictures… and I only had a couple of relevant photos and so I thought, why not try and draw what I’m trying to say – a picture is worth a thousand words and all that. It was fun to do , and it did make me think in a different way about what I was writing, and about what it would be like if I was to write a short story with illustrations, or even a novel. Think of the original 19th century novels, which were usually beautifully illustrated. So lots of food for thought.
    Joanna, I’m really sorry to hear about your repeated IVF failures, and do hope you’ve been able to move on from them. Thank you for sharing that.
    And THANK YOU everyone for all these comments.

    • For a first guest post, I thought you were excellent, Harriet! I only hope we can do as well in our first blog interview – whenever that is!

      Thank you for your kindness on the IVF subject; the lady in question is a close family member, but of course it was painful to witness her heartbreak. But everything for a reason: a slight course-change, and hoping for smiles soon! Thanks again 🙂

    • Hee hee, Harriet, you are quite the star today. Maybe you should illustrate your books, too? A touch of humour and personal input? Just a thought–it would certainly make them different. Great post and you had lots of visitors today, fabulous news all round! Come back soon!!

  9. Loved reading this edition of Centre Stage with Harriet. Brilliant. Thank you ladies x

  10. Sounds like a very interesting book. What a great post AND a great first guest post! Congrats, Harriet. I must add this to my to read pile.

  11. Really enjoyed this post, Harriet! Very interesting to learn what inspires a book. Thanks for hosting, Nicky. And the art and photos are great!

  12. Intriguing!!! Harriet, this is a wonderful post. Thanks Nicky for providing this opportunity.

  13. Joanna, I’m glad it was not you who have suffered through IVF failures, but my sympathies to your family member, and I hope she can get through the great sadness, and find hope and meaning in the future. x

  14. Nicky…. illustrate my books? Well, perhaps if I’m up to it, ha ha!! It would be different. I wonder if anyone else has ever tried that. x

  15. Lovely interview, ladies. How nice to get to know Harriet and to learn about the intriguing story of her novel.

  16. debutnovelist

    Oh dear I’m a bit late but wanted to say how much I enjoyed this and Harriet’s amazing pictures. It’s fascinating to think about how novels start for us. With me there’s always a gap between the inspiration and the flying (when it happens!) which I think is mostly to do with plot. I am usually inspired by a partiucular place a person or memory, but writing novel 1 taught me that even if a novel has a USP or MD ot whatever, it still needs lots of other strands to keep it going. With Cells there’s that tension of potential infidelity alongside the infertility theme – and several other subplots which I won’t give away, because you are all going to read it, aren’t you? 😉

    Ali B

  17. Alison I go along with what you’re saying, there being a gap between the inspiration and the flying… and don’t I know it at the moment as I try and get into a new novel!! And yeah, there needs to be lots of strands! THANKS for your comments! xx

  18. Tried to leave a comment, but doesn’t appear to be appear. Will try again! Alison I so agree about the gap between the inspiration and the flying, particularly now as I try to get into a new novel! Soooo hard! Also that there are lots strands. Thank you for your comment and support everyone, and Nicky for giving me this space! x

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