ABOUT THE AUTHORThe book is an adventure/love story set in the unsettled weeks in 1553 when the Edward VI is dying and the succession is uncertain. My heroine, a girl from the wild marshes of the Blackwater, Essex, has a strange bond with animals. After she is branded a witch by the locals, she escapes with the grumpy, thin-skinned turnspit dog she’s rescued. Together the pair of misfits seek sanctuary at New Hall, Princess Mary’s palace. Here the girl meets a trio of players and acrobats, one of whom is hiding a devastating secret. The genre is historical with a touch of fantasy – it could be described as historical magical realism I suppose. It has those touches of the supernatural you often find in children’s fiction, but which are rarer in adult historical fiction.A captivating tale of friendship, love and loyalty set against the turbulent backdrop of Tudor England, from Sunday Times bestselling author Wanda Whiteley When you’re not working or writing, what do you do to relax?
You’ve had a long career in publishing. To what extent does this perspective help your own writing and do you follow your own advice?
Without giving away too much, can you please tell us a little about The Goldhanger Dog? Why this genre(s)?
Wanda Whiteley is co-author of the memoir, Streetkid, which spent three months in the top 10 of the Sunday Times non-fiction bestsellers list. The Goldhanger Dog is her debut novel.
I have a smallholding in Transylvania where villagers use horses and carts and we all have to be careful where we walk because of marauding bears. Sitting on my stoop, watching the world go by, is very relaxing. I want to bring writers out there to experience the land-that-time-forgot. My first writers’ retreat is happening this summer.
My thanks to Ben of Midas PR for the tour invite and to Wanda for kindly answering my questions. This book – historical fiction with an East Anglian setting is one that greatly appeals and I only wish I had been able to fit in a review as well for the tour. However it is on my to buy list.
Based on your own knowledge and experience, what’s the one piece of advice you would give to someone trying to get their novel published?
I love researching. I always say to writers: if you’re stuck or lacking in inspiration there’s only one thing for it – research. It’s a first-rate method to spark ideas. Writing is a totally immersive experience once you’re in the zone, but that’s not always the most comfortable feeling; it sucks everything out of you and leaves you feeling a bit drugged. Editing is a different feeling again – using that nerdy bit of brain that engages when you do a crossword puzzle. Very satisfying.
The hard grind of trying to sell my book. … But yes, I’m already researching my next one. I’m going to stick to the Tudors. I have world-built so hard that I don’t think I can think my way into another century.
Having worked in the industry, I think that I was humbled before I even started. There are so many fine writers out there, very few of whom make a living out of their books. Seeing at first hand how the industry works has definitely helped not to let my ego get the better of me. The best you can do is to write for yourself, enjoy the process, and focus on working hard to improve your skills. I know I’m sounding like a Buddhist monk – but it is a little like that.
Don’t send out your first draft to agents. Expect to be on draft 7 before you’re ready. You’ve got just one shot, so don’t blow it by giving them your work before it’s been road-tested by readers you can trust.
I am lucky because I can sit down anywhere and at any time to write. I am closer in type to a jobbing journalist or advertising copywriter than I am to the romantic writer in a garret, waiting for the muse to inspire me. I love the buzz of a café – I think the warmth, the companionship of strangers, and that hum of background noise bring on my best work.
When do you do your best writing and do you have a preferred writing space?
Is there any part of the writing process which you enjoy (or find the most difficult) – i.e. researching, writing, editing?
Finally, what’s next for you?
I have spent my working life critiquing writers’ work, first in publishing, then as editor at manuscriptdoctor.co.uk. During lockdown, I decided to have a go at writing a novel myself. Now I’m hooked. I have often advised writers not to give up their day job, because writing rarely pays, but I failed to heed my own advice.
Which comes first, plot or characters? Do you plan in detail or just see where the story takes you?
1553. Goldhanger, a tiny fishing village on the Blackwater marshes.
I love all kinds of fiction and narrative non-fiction. I tend to lap up the witty writers in today’s historical fiction writing. My new pleasure is reading Kate Saunders’ Laetitia Rodd mysteries. Fantastic fun, strong characters, well researched, gently humorous and tightly plotted. A close second, and much the same style, is The Devil in the Marshalsea, by Antonia Hodgson. The book that made the most impact in the last couple of years for me is the staggering little gem, Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean. Set in the Outer Hebrides in the eighteenth century, the novel should have been a major bestseller but it got a bit lost on the children’s fiction shelves. That’s the one I’ve been telling everyone to read.
Fifteen-year-old Dela’s strange bond with animals has her branded a witch by the locals.
I find I plan less when it comes to character – the personalities seem to take voice on the page as I write. But I am an absolute stickler for plot planning. Otherwise you simply find yourself with a saggy middle, a weak ending and the sort of flabby pace and plot that will never grip the reader.
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Running for her life, with only a rescued dog for a friend, Dela manages to find sanctuary at the palace of Princess Mary. These are dangerous times, with the boy-king Edward on his deathbed and the succession uncertain. Traumatised at first, in an alien world of spies and courtiers, Dela is befriended by a trio of acrobats and players. But when she is drawn to one of them, Fitz, she discovers he holds a terrible secret that promises to tear her fragile world apart.
Thank you Wanda. The Goldhanger Dog by Wanda Whiteley is available online and in bookstores now.
Q&A with Wanda Whiteley
Are there any authors whose books have made an impact on you? What type of book do you enjoy reading for pleasure, and what are you reading now?