dorothy koomson
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Answers by Dorothy Koomson, aged 31 and a half (with a little help from her fish Angel and Oprah).

What inspires you to write?
Odd things happen to me on a regular basis and I take that experience then build on it, taking the situation to its illogical conclusion. Other ideas come from me thinking too much, what my friends and I talk about, and constantly wanting to write about the things that interest me.

How long does it take you to write a novel?
It depends. Once I had the idea for The Cupid Effect it took virtually no time to write, compared to other ­ unpublished ­ novels I've written. It flowed from my pen so it took six/seven months. I was writing on the train on the way to work, in the evenings sat in front of the telly or in bed before I went to sleep. Then I spent another month or so rewriting. I write all my novels long-hand then type them up. I do rewrite and edit as I type them up. I've just finished my second novel and that took me nearly two years because I took a year off to write and rewrite Cupid, along with all the stuff that came from trying to get it published.

Do you have a writing routine? If so, what is it?
That depends too. If I'm working in Central London ­ my day job is as a journalist and editor (nope can't afford to give it up) ­ I'll write or edit on the train there and back. If I'm working at home, I work on my journalism or polish up my emailing skills ­ I'm up to about 20 a day. I'll start writing or editing at about 7pm when the soaps begin. I'll stick at it till about 2am, sometimes later ­ when I finished the last draft of my second novel I crawled into bed a couple of times when it was light outside.

Has your life changed since you became a novelist?
I've been writing fiction since I was 13 so I've always been a novelist in my head. But since I've been a published novelist, it's like I've been vindicated for all the long hours sat with a pen in my hand or in front of the computer while the rest of my friends were getting married and having babies. Also, it's my dream come true so yes my life has changed in that I live in a constant state of excitement and wonder.

How do you cure writer's block?
I 'go into the pain', ie I feel sorry for myself, eat jaffa cakes, whine to my fish about the injustice of life, then get on with it. It doesn't happen too often because I feel lost if I'm not writing either on paper, screen or in my head. Other people say they just write then edit it, which makes sense. But a lot of what I write gets dumped or rewritten so that's not a cure to me, it's the way I work.

Who is your all-time favourite author?
JG Ballard. He's a well-known sci-fi author, some of his short story collections ­ The Voices Of Time and The Day Of Forever ­ are amazing. His novellas The Drought and Running Wild both take you on journeys that seem to have a predictable destination, then have stunning endings. Also, his tales never have a 'Hollywood ending'­ all the 'heroes' have flaws, all 'villains' can have a good side and anyone can die. I could write a whole thesis on JG Ballard, so I'd better stop there. I love sci-fi so it influences my reading habits. I think Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett's novels are wildly funny, but I've read and enjoyed most modern women's writers ­ Jane Green, Marian Keyes, Sarah Ball, Madelaine Wickham and a bit of Andrea Semple. Plus Jane Austen. Ohh, ohh, I like Mark Barrowcliffe and Nick Hornby, too.

What are you reading at the moment?
I rarely read one thing at a time ­ that'd be far too uncomplicated for me. I'm re-reading Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway in bed, I'm reading Jane Green's Spellbound in the bathroom and I'm re-reading The Cupid Effect on the train to remind myself what works and what doesn't work. Am also reading some Descartes as research for one of my next novels in front of the telly.

What's the biggest myth about being a writer?
Erm, that you have to write for anyone except yourself. Most publishers and agents ­ and probably a few authors ­ will vilify me for saying that, but there¹s no point writing something if you wouldn't read it, is there?
The other big myth is that you can give up work and become a laydee who lunches when you get your first book deal. That's a particularly painful myth that was exploded for me because I believed it right up until I was turning on my computer at work the morning after I got my publishing deal.

What advice would you give budding authors?
Write something you'd want to read. Write. Believe in yourself and enjoy it. Write. Don¹t be tempted to do things you don't believe in ­ I listen to almost all advice, but I don't take it if it doesn't sit well with my conscious. So, trust your gut instincts. Oh, and stop talking and DO IT.

What can readers expect from you in the future?
Me trying to do everything. I want to adapt my novels for TV, work on Angel (the TV show), write a series of sci-fi novels and carry on writin
g women¹s fiction. So readers can expect almost anything from me.

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