To celebrate the publication of Caro Land’s second novel Confessions, author Caroline England talks to me about her writing inspiration and publication journey.
Caroline, thank you so much for joining me and congratulations on the publication of Confessions – your second novel writing as Caro Land!
The hardest part of writing a book is often starting it in the first place. How long did it take to write your first manuscript?
I wrote my first manuscript when I was hiding in the novel closet! I had admitted to friends and family that I was writing a few poems and short stories, but I kept the novel writing to myself as I felt a bit of a fool trying to write one. At the time I was still working as a solicitor and I (naughtily) penned the first few lines of A Slight Diversion at my office desk. I’d had a dream the night before and thought the handsome fantasy guy would be a great character in a chick-lit up-and-down love story. Funnily enough, the novel was written from the POV of a female solicitor…
I really enjoyed writing the story and I finished the book fairly quickly. What I didn’t realise then was that it was too short – around 45,000 words – and that what I thought was a complete novel was actually just a first draft. Now I’m older and wiser I know that first drafts aren’t as brilliant as us writers think, and that it takes a lot of polishing until your plot, your vocabulary, your dialogue and characterisation positively gleams!
Writing the manuscript is the first step – how long did it take you to secure an agent?
Still in the novel closet (but writing more) I was approached by ACHUKA books. The editor had read one of my published short stories and asked if I had another eleven for a collection. I was delighted to say yes, and my short story collection Watching Horsepats Feed the Roses was published. This gave me the self belief to come out of the novel closet and offer A Slight Diversion to ACHUKA, which they were delighted to publish too.
It was wonderful to have both digital publications out in the world, but what was even better was the confidence it gave me in my own writing ability, and I concentrated more seriously on the other first draft manuscripts of the psychological thrillers I had already written. Beneath the Skin [now called ‘The Wife’s Secret’] was the first of those and I started sending it out to literary agents. Though, like most authors, I had a lot of rejections (and a book deal that fell through), I eventually got lucky and found my agent through submitting a short story (again! The moral is to get those short stories out there!).
Getting published is every writer’s dream! Tell me about your book deal moment.
The offer from HarperCollins came through a few months after signing up with my agent. Fortunately I didn’t know a great deal about the process back then, so I wasn’t constantly fretting or looking out for emails. My agent didn’t tell me about any rejections, but waited until an offer was made. I had assumed that if an editor liked a manuscript, that would be a yes, but in fact any new novel needs the thumbs up from various departments such as marketing and sales. I was thrilled to be offered a digital deal initially, but the real pleasure was when the publishers confirmed the book would be in paperback too!
What is your latest book Confessions about?
My psychological thrillers Beneath the Skin, My Husband’s Lies and Betray Her (out in July 2020) are written under my Caroline England name. I have also written two legal dramas, and because they are a different genre, they have been published by a different publisher and under the pen name Caro Land.
The first, Convictions, was published this January, and it introduced my protagonist Natalie Bach, a feisty but fun solicitor who returns to her old job with a broken heart. Nat faces moral, personal & legal dilemmas. With the help of fellow solicitor, Gavin Savage, she gets to the bottom of several challenging legal cases and conundrums.
The follow up, Confessions, has just been published. Nat is facing more personal turmoil and legal challenges. While trying to make a difference, she walks the fine line between being a help and a hinderance.
Seconded to criminal law firm, Savage Solicitors, she finds herself out of her depth when she’s handed a complicated and tragic case of assisted suicide. Will she get to the bottom of what really happened?
With a heavy workload to juggle, can Nat untangle her own feelings from another very personal and troubling investigation?
“This book made me cry, at times, and hold my breath in anticipation but it also made me smile, a lot. Once again, a captivating story of love, loss, friendship and family with a fascinating insight into the daily lives of solicitors. I LOVED it!”
Where did you find the inspiration for your Natalie Bach series?
They say to write what you know. I was once a solicitor, so I thought it might be a good idea to write a series revolving around… well, a feisty feminist solicitor! The firm I worked for as a trainee was a criminal law practise, then I moved onto divorce and after that professional indemnity work, so I have plenty of experiences and cases to draw ideas from!
Us writers often spend time alone, but how are you finding lockdown?
Apart from having a houseful, I have to confess that not a lot has changed for me writing-wise. I’m usually home-alone during the day, so suddenly having four other people making demands (how very dare they!) can be disruptive, but I’m still wearing joggers and a hoodie and scribbling away at my desk. At this time of the year I usually venture outside for the Newcastle Noir, CrimeFest and Theakston Old Peculiar’s crime writing festivals, so I have missed appearing on panels, chatting to readers, seeing writer friends such as yourself and stalking celebs!
What’s coming next for you book-wise?
The UK standard paperback of my Caroline England psychological thriller Betray Her will be published on the 16th July. Here’s a quote by the author Sheryl Browne to give you a flavour of the story:
“Betray Her is exquisitely written. I identified with the narrator so profoundly through her grief at one point, I literally stopped breathing. Alternating between present and past, this is a cleverly woven story, full of passion and intrigue, sexual tension and desperate longing. Two girls, poles apart in their early upbringing, are drawn together at boarding school to form an unlikely friendship that endures into adulthood. But as we examine the friendship, going back to the musty halls of the boarding school, forward into the girls’ teenage years, on to the present, it’s clear that the friendship is not all that it seems. There are secrets under the surface, secrets that shaped who the women now are. There is jealousy and manipulation, co-dependency to a degree. Their relationship is tumultuous and, with a man in the mix who is married to one friend, but has a history with the other, there is a tinderbox of emotion simply waiting for a spark to ignite it, bringing us the final explosive conclusion. I was fascinated by this book, in awe of the writing. Mesmerising storytelling. A taut, tantalising thriller and one I would highly recommend.“
Thank you so much, Caroline, for answering my questions.
Confessions by Caro England is out now!