Natalie Kleinman speaks…

To celebrate the publication of her first novel, Safe Harbour, Natalie Kleinman was good enough to stop by for a chat. In the past two and a half years she has sold (yes, sold) twenty-five short stories worldwide, so she must be doing something right – take heed, then, good folk…

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’d been writing for a few years, honing my craft, going to The Write Place creative writing school which I still attend every week, but I think the moment I felt confident enough to tell other people that I’m a writer (and therefore myself) was when I sold my first short story to a magazine in July 2012. I have since sold twenty-four more. I spent some time concentrating on short stories before attempting my first novel.

What was the hardest part of writing Safe Harbour?
There is a very different technique used in novel writing to that of the short story. With the latter everything needs to be told succinctly within a limited word count. Having the luxury to expand into a novel was exciting and liberating but the learned discipline was quite difficult to overcome.

How much of the book is realistic?
Although the story is entirely a figment of my imagination the settings are not. I’ve been lucky enough to go on a couple of cruises and visit the places mentioned in the book so I was able to draw on personal experience. There is a frisson of excitement from the moment of embarkation onto one of these floating hotels that stays, or did with me, throughout the voyages. I hope I have engendered enough of this feeling to stimulate the interest of anyone thinking of embarking on their own ocean going adventure. I certainly hope so. As far as the land-based part of Safe Harbour is concerned, Oxfordshire is a much-loved much-visited part of England and I had no difficulty at all with the location. So…a realistic story? I guess stranger things have happened.

Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
I probably have several strange habits, none of them to do with writing and none of them I’m prepared to share here.

What is your least favourite part of the publishing / writing process?
Self-promotion without a doubt. Like most writers, I believe, I’d rather be creating than marketing. I realise it’s very much a part of the whole process and it’s been a steep learning curve, and at times very interesting. However I am by nature not one to push myself at others. You know the sort of thing; I’m quite happy to collect for and bludgeon people into supporting charitable organisations but when it comes to saying ‘look at me’, well, it just doesn’t sit very well.

Is there a certain type of scene that’s always harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
There is one chapter in Safe Harbour that is quite racy. I didn’t find it all that difficult to do and I hope it comes over as being natural but I didn’t think long and hard before I wrote it. If I’d done so I’m sure it would have felt forced. Though I always have a plot outline I have a tendency to write by the seat of my pants. If I had to plan an action or a racy scene I doubt it would work and I’d probably have to abandon it.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
So far I’ve had nothing but praise and encouragement. I hope it continues. Feedback from other writers on Facebook and in person is invaluable. Networking is an important part of what we do.

Is there a message in Safe Harbour that you want readers to grasp?
I think maybe it’s that to a great extent we hold our fortune in our own hands. It isn’t what life throws at us, it’s what we do with it. Inevitably we all make mistakes but as long as we’re doing the best we can I think that’s the most we can expect. Oh, and it’s important to acknowledge when we’ve been wrong, particularly if it affects someone else, and to have the ability to say ‘I’m sorry’. Such a little phrase that holds so much.

What is your next project?
I was lucky enough to have a Pocket Novel, After All These Years, published by DC Thomson in the summer of 2014. This will soon be appearing on Amazon. A large print edition will be in libraries in due course. Another huge thing in my calendar for the year was being offered representation by Lisa Eveleigh of the Richford Becklow Literary Agency. The first draft of my next book is complete and in the process of being edited. So, with two books published in one year I am hoping that my association with Lisa will take me forward into a successful 2015.

Safe HarbourTwo books in one year? That’s quite an achievement – thanks for stopping by to show us how it’s done.
It’s been lovely chatting with you today, Simon. Thank you for inviting me.

You can buy Safe Harbour here,
and catch up with Natalie at…
Twitter: @NatKleinman


Of Agents and Editors

Words coverYou might think it was wrong to have a platypus for an agent. It is, shall we say, unconventional. But for me the choice was obvious. It was natural, clear, purposed. And the relationship is an excellent one, mutually beneficial – so, a word here about my rather spectacularly wonderful agent, and all that she does. She arranged the launches, the reviews, the feedback, helped with the blurb, the publicity and the promotion. She continues to help, setting up readings, signings, reviews, and all the other stuff that takes me so far away from the act of writing.

Before that – and here’s where is gets even odder – she helped with the editing process. Now, this may have been a common occurrence during those long-lost times of Raymond Carver, but these days an agent’s role rarely includes such services as offering editorial comment. S/He may comment on a text, and suggest revisions before it’s sent out to publishers, but that’s not the same as editing.

And my editors too, and the publishing house for which they work: I had a few options, but for this novel I chose to sign with a very small company who would give me slightly more control over the project, and could themselves pay far closer attention to its needs that one of the larger houses might. To Will and Kim, therefore, and all the others who worked on the book, thank you. You delivered on your promises – you said you’d do things and then did them, and I bet those who grabbed at the large advance and the ‘big house’ deal can’t say that.