Laura’s List by Dawn Kelly
After traditional publishing and constantly pursuing her writing ambitions, Dawn Kelly decided to take control. She independently published her latest Chick-Lit novel, Laura’s List. We catch up with Dawn to find out more about her writing journey and her latest novel…
1. Well done on publishing Laura’s List. Please tell us more about it.
My husband, Martin, is a widower and soon after we first met, one of his wife’s friends told me about his wife discussing which women ‘might do’ for him after she was gone. This inspired me to write Laura’s List. A lot of the story follows Tom’s journey and my attempt to understand how a man might cope with grief and loss, especially if they had a child.
As a mother, I felt that this added another dimension to Tom’s character. It also gave me an opportunity to explore how Laura might prepare her daughter for her passing, adding a deeper emotional layer to the book.
2. You originally tried to publish the book through traditional routes. What was your journey from this to independently publishing your novel?
I first came up with the idea for Laura’s List while I was doing my MA in Creative Writing at the University of Chichester. I had already had a novel published by Virgin Books and I was hoping I could find an agent who would support me as a writer.
“Having control over the finished product was very important to me”
Despite receiving some very positive feedback about my writing, nobody was willing to take a gamble on Laura’s List at that time. A few years later, I completely re-edited the story into a time-switch format. This drove me to go ahead and publish on my own small publishing label, Mapsong, with the help of TJ INK.
3. The story alternates in terms of perspective and time. What was your biggest obstacle with writing the novel?
One method I used to keep track of characters, places, times etc. was to use different coloured post-it notes spread out on a wall. This meant I could experiment with moving scenes around.Furthermore, I was able to check that the timings stayed in sequence.
4. Did you have a particular routine or tactic for writing the book that helped you to stay motivated?
Motivation was never a particular problem for me. Distractions and ‘life getting in the way’, however, meant that I easily left things for a while. I’d always find the need to pin myself back down to working again though. For a while, I used to set a time and duration e.g. mornings between 9am and 12pm. This worked for some of my favourite writers like Graham Greene, but not so well for me! I like to keep a notebook, iPad or laptop with me and push on whenever I get a new idea or insight.
5. What do you think are the main attributes to a chick-lit novel and do you believe in following a formula?
Chick-lit is always a term I’ve struggled with, although I can see that this book is likely to appeal to women. I’m a literate woman with a love for a wide variety of fiction and I wouldn’t like to be pinned down to one genre. I’m still hoping to express myself as a writer through a more literary form at some point, but I love a good story well told and I really wanted to write this book, in this way.
“I don’t think anyone should worry about publishing until they have written something they’re happy with.”
6. What was the biggest learning curve from independently publishing your book?
I’ve really enjoyed the process of fine-tuning Laura’s List. Copy-editing, editing, proof-reading, layout, cover design, blurb etc has all been thrilling. Having control over the finished product was very important to me and I’m delighted with the outcome. I think anyone self-publishing should pay close attention to all the little details so that they end up with a professional looking product.
The biggest problem I’ve had is allowing enough time for marketing. My husband and I are on an extended sailing trip and I didn’t allow enough time before I left to market the book properly. I hope to address this when I return next year.
7. The book is available in paperback, ebook and audiobook. What format do you believe most of your audience is reading and where do you see the industry heading?
Surprisingly, I’ve had a lot of interest in hard copies but have not yet finalised an easy distribution method. I set up a pre-order period on the ebook and this has worked well. Judging by what I’ve seen and read about the book market, hard copies are definitely here to stay even if percentage sales have reduced. Ebooks, however, are so convenient and popular, it’s important to offer this option. Audio has had a lot of attention recently. I’m looking forward to getting Laura’s List recorded and out soon.
8. Flat design seems to be a theme with book covers for women’s fiction right now. How did you come up with the idea for the final cover and how did you put the ‘Dawn Kelly’ spin on it?
The idea for the cover developed as I was writing the story. When I was ready to publish, I did an internet search for images of successful book covers to make sure my idea would fit in. Then, I moved on to graphic images of women’s heads and hair, script styles, lists etc. From these, I created a storyboard. I cut and pasted bits of images together until I had something that resembled my original idea and a cover I was happy with.
I’m not skilled in this area so I passed it on to a graphic designer. They made up the brilliant cover image for me. I think the cover looks really striking. I was so pleased with the help I received at TJ INK.
9. What advice would you give to someone thinking about writing and publishing their book?
Write it!!! As author, Jodi Picoult, once said, “You can’t edit a blank page.” I don’t think anyone should worry about publishing until they have written something they’re happy with. Write it first; get people other than your mother or best friend to read it and accept feedback. Rewrite, edit, discard and write again. When you’re ready, have a professional approach and make sure your book is free from errors and looks fantastic. Finally, plan in advance how you are going to let people know about your book. Research social media, email networks, local press/radio and other writer’s blogs and podcasts.
10. And finally, what would be your ‘desert island’ book?
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins… Funny, adorable and a clever tale – magical realism before the term was even thought of 🙂
“A sense of humour… is superior to any religion so far devised.”
“To achieve the impossible, it is precisely the unthinkable that must be thought.”
– Tom Robbins
Blurb for Laura’s List:
Single father Tom Kavanagh wrestles with the idea of returning to Ireland to rebuild family ties after the tragic loss of his wife, Laura. His life is pulled in different directions by his relatives and close friends, but what would Laura have wanted for her husband and young daughter? Should Tom follow the clues that she left for him in her last list?
Weaving intimate details of Tom’s struggle to survive in the present with his yearning to linger in the past, Laura’s List is a funny, sad and ultimately heart-warming tale of love, loss – and finding your way home.
About the author
Dawn Kelly is a British born writer and singer-songwriter of Irish parentage who grew up in Birmingham but spent her summers in rural Ireland with her grandparents.
She lived in London for more than twenty years, where she sang in a band, funded her studies by writing an erotic book and produced her first play. She now lives in Bristol with her husband, daughter and two collie dogs – when she’s not away sailing and/or singing.
You can currently buy Laura’s List as an ebook here.
If you think you’re ready to take the next step with your book, why not get in touch and see where it can take you?