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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author DCR Bond talks about the inspiration behind her new fast paced domestic thriller novel, Sarah Needs Saving.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed DCR Bond about her life and career, the inspiration behind her new domestic thriller novel, Sarah Needs Saving, and her creative writing process.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
Hello! My name is Debbie but I write under the author name of DCR Bond.
I was born in London, but grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, then Lusaka, Zambia, and I feel that dimensions of this international upbringing feature in my writing. As a child my parents encouraged us, (I have a brother and a sister) to write and from a very early age I wanted to become a journalist. That was my great ambition.
I never did; instead, I studied law at Exeter University, then qualified as an accountant, working for a big firm in Brighton and subsequently I worked for twenty years in the City. I’m not sure I ever really enjoyed that job. So when I was freed from the shackles of the day job, I (eventually) reverted to my passion for writing and I love it.
When I am not writing, I play tennis (badly), bridge (a little better), spend time in the gym, walking my dogs on Exmoor, or tending my garden – I love growing fresh, organic vegetables and cooking my own produce for friends and family as well as exploring new international cuisines, the current fascination is with healthy Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. I love entertaining (and being entertained), in Devon this often happens in people’s homes. I live with my husband in rural North Devon, surrounded by our three miniature bull terriers and small flock of free-range hens.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I think I was about 7 years old. My family was living in Kingston Jamaica at the time, and we and two other families were sharing a holiday home near Ocho Rios. One of the adults came up with the idea of organizing a writing competition for the children…., I was hooked.
When did you take a step to start writing?
It was September 2020.
So it’s taken me a while since that Ocho Rios holiday! Several decades!
In terms of the steps, I found there were internal steps I needed to make, including to recognise the “desire” to actually write, metaphorically to put pen to paper, rather than just thinking about it. My husband and I were on holiday in Portugal at the time and suddenly the moment just felt right, so I started.
Then there was the step from writing, which gives me a great sense of fulfillment, to becoming “a writer” or even “author”, where, for me the emphasis shifted towards making other people happy, content, satisfied, writing to entertain. Since then it has become a (if not the) dominant use of my time, my days are almost always planned around my writing (and the dogs of course) but I enjoy it so much, it does not feel like work.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
A great question.
I’m not sure quite when the first book, “Sarah Needs Saving” became recognisable in its finished form.
Probably in the last 12 months.
It had many different working titles and was completely re-written at least twice. I was lucky enough to have some very early mentoring and guidance from a literary agent friend of my husband who’s advice “Go and learn the craft” was accompanied with an introduction to an editor who gave so much excellent and fairly direct advice (show don’t tell Debbie) and direction in the early stages of the original manuscripts and signposted me to various books about novels and novel writing. I would say it was that learning curve that took about two years and in the latter stages the book materialised.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
I wrote my second novel in parallel with my debut; while the first was being edited I concentrated on the second. So it will be released in just a few weeks’ time. Interestingly, with the second novel, the writing routine and editorial “strategy” if that’s not too grand a word, were more straightforward. There was a clearer roadmap to the finished manuscript and the planning and pacing of one’s writing to fit with editor’s, proofreaders, designers availability was more manageable.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Sarah Needs Saving?
My main reason for writing has always been to entertain. By entertain I mean to provide an escape, albeit temporary from whatever else is going on in the readers’ life and to give them something to enjoy. In my mind’s eye I have a very clear view of who I am writing for and the kind of issues they will respond to. So I set out very much with the reader in mind.
With “Sarah Needs Saving” some of the plot lines were loosely inspired by what happened after my mother in law died. Initially my husband and his sister were informed and had accepted, what they had been told by her third husband, that she had died intestate. (“but don’t worry, if there are any family knick-knacks you would like I won’t stand in your way”). Somehow the story just didn’t stack up and definitely was not what had been planned or expected. The numbers were very much smaller than in the book but the principle that it was for my mother in law to decide how her estate was bequeathed and that those wishes should not be changed by anyone manipulating her dementia weaknesses seemed important at the time.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Sarah Needs Saving?
Understanding what’s required from a Women’s Fiction Novel. Quickly. I have not trained formally as a writer. As, I imagine, for many debut novelists – learning the craft takes not just time but a mixture of love for the writing, effort and determination and a large pinch of belief. I was lucky to be guided by some true professionals on the writing disciplines and very talented designers who designed and formatted the various formats of the book.
When it comes to IT – hands up, it’s not my strongest suit. I’ve had some real humdingers with tracked changes! Also my backup/saved manuscript routine was a source of bemusement for my husband (our in-house IT department) on those occasions (thankfully rarer now) when manuscript copies are saved to the wrong places and or cannot be found.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
I knew I needed someone that was capable of withstanding all the headwinds she was going to face, just on the probate side for example, I had to go through that myself with my mother in law’s probate, it was hard work!. Sarah is not inspired by of based upon any one individual person. Instead she is an observation that many of us have multiple roles, mother, wife, employee, hostess and so on. Layer onto that an ambition, in her case a drive for acceptance through owning a smart house in the country and we have her Achilles heel. Advantage and social responsibility so often go hand in hand.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
The antagonist is Nick.
Strangely, as I was writing the book, I came across someone, a somewhat alternative character, who appeared mildly uncomfortable with his own skin and whom I concluded was using cannabis/dope regularly. (You could smell it!)
I doubt he was anything more than a casual user, I certainly can’t see him as a pusher but he was an intriguing enough enigma to base Nick’s character on. Physically he is certainly similar.
Nick, however, in an uncharacteristically eloquent moment, might lay claim to being an entrepreneur, a self-made man. Worthy of respect, but his psychopathic lack of empathy, poor behavioral control and persistent antisocial deviance, I imagine characterises the small criminal. (Not that I know any drug dealers!) With Nick respect is replaced by fear and his own agenda is literally all he cares about.
What is the inciting incident of Sarah Needs Saving?
When Sarah discovers something illegal is going on in her mother-in-law’s walled garden.
What is the main conflict of Sarah Needs Saving?
The main conflict in Sarah Needs Saving is character driven, it’s a struggle between the expectations of family members. Mary has dementia, she will leave a considerable estate, life changing sums, several characters feel entitled to benefit, the conflict is driven by both the morality and naivety of their respective tactics to inherit what they individually feel is rightly their entitlement. They can’t all have it their way!
Q: Did you plot Sarah Needs Saving in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
By nature I am a plotter not a “seat of your pants” person, but I do allow myself freedom within those confines when new ideas come to me. I am fortunate to be able to visualise the whole book and moving around it within my mind is second nature, and so working out what tweaks to make to earlier or later sections to accommodate new thoughts isn’t a drama.
Q: Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Sarah Needs Saving need?
Massive, inciteful, invaluable support.
I am extremely grateful.
A lot of the initial edit work was really teaching me the techniques of novel writing – from the very basics (please double space your scripts Debbie) then the structure, the art of showing, – so it wasn’t until I’d got that drummed into me that serious editing took place.
In total five formal edits on the first novel
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Decide if you want to write a story or a novel. They are two very different things.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Soon to be hot off the press. A duology. Book one of Two:
A domestic thriller set in the beautiful surroundings of the Algarve!
Our protagonist is living the dream in Central London until her workaholic husband unexpectedly loses his very lucrative job in the City and can’t get another. She soon discovers that they now have no income and a mountain of debt so she agrees to become a tax exile in Portugal in order to protect their remaining wealth and persona. Set in current times, with galloping interest rates, the cost of living crisis and her inability to accept her new circumstances, her life changes beyond recognition as the couple battle just to stay afloat financially in Portugal.
The second book in this duology has the same inciting incident, with him losing his job, but the protagonists decide to deal with it in a completely different way (dual story realities from the same event / a little bit like in Sliding Doors) – so readers will see familiar characters but within a very different plot evolution. I think it will be great fun.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
It’s a joy to see one’s first book in print, online etc. I love writing as much as I do reading, so I don’t think of it as an effort per se, more as a positive step in what will hopefully be a much longer journey. I really can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing. With the promotion starting now someone, a complete stranger, on Netgalley gave me 5 stars and wow, that’s a great feeling. I just hope lots of other people feel the same way! For me, that’s the return on effort.
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