Louise Beech – Q&A

Today I’m very pleased to welcome Louise Beech to the blog. Louise’s debut novel, How to be Brave, was published by Orenda Books on 17th September. I’ve yet to read this book but Karen at Orenda has a talent for publishing fantastic pieces of fiction so I can’t wait to read it. My mum has read it though and thought it was wonderful. She even read it when she woke in the middle of the night 🙂

Louise kindly answered a few of my questions

1. Tell us a little about How to be Brave. 

It all began a few years ago when my ten-year-old daughter Katy, who has Type 1 Diabetes, began rejecting her life-saving injections.  It was a horrible and difficult time for all of us.  The only way I managed to get her to have them was by storytelling to distract her.  Especially when I told her the true story of my grandfather, a merchant seaman called Colin Armitage who survived fifty days lost at sea during the war.  I realised how powerful it was that storytelling saved her life – and this inspired How to be Brave, where a fictional mum tells her diabetic daughter this very story to help her.

2. Having been through the creative process of writing and publishing a novel what have you learnt that you wish you’d known before you started?  

This is actually a really hard one to answer.  I’d want to say to never give up, but I already knew that and I didn’t.  I absolutely knew that the only way to succeed was to not let the multiple rejections (oh, hundreds and hundreds) stop my dreams.  I was also a harsh editor all along which is a big part of the process.  I wish maybe I’d known how busy I would end up being and pre planned.  But no, you can’t.  You just can’t.  And it’s all just wonderful!  Wouldn’t change a thing. 

3. What is your writing process? Do you plan it all before you start or just sit and write? How long does the process take you from first line to completed novel?

I’m very strict with myself!  I write early in the day, wake up full of life and creativity and ideas.  I don’t plan, in the sense that I never write an outline.  I’d rather just set off, no map, and see where I go.  Like life.  I may have a loose ending place in mind, but it very rarely happens that exact way.  From starting the first line of How to be Brave (on 31st October 2013) to the last (14th April 2014) was six months.  But after that came more months of editing before I sent it out.  And then of course the many tweaks once I got my book deal. 

4. What sort of books do you like to read? Who are the authors you turn to for when you are stuck in a book slump for example? 

I love such a variety of books.  I adore historical novels, like Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  I enjoy ones set in places I’ve not been to, like Life of Pi by Yann Martel and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.  But then I’ve also enjoyed crime books by Ruth Dugdall and Sophie Hannah – and also Cassandra Parkin and Amanda Jennings’ gorgeous indefinable works.

5. I like to end my Q&A’s with the same question so here we go. What question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer? 

Ooooh, that’s a good question.  Let me think!  I love it when I’m asked what training/courses/qualifications I did/took to learn how to write and I have to admit that the answer is none.  I used to be embarrassed at my lack of education but now I’m proud.  I learned to write by doing it.  By loving it.  By reading lots.  Hope that inspires people a little.

Thanks very much for taking the time to answer my questions and for appearing on the blog.

About the book:


“All the stories died that morning … until we found the one we’d always known.

When nine-year-old Rose is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Natalie must use her imagination to keep her daughter alive. They begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar, a man who has something for them. Through the magic of storytelling, Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat, where an ancestor survived for fifty days before being rescued. Poignant, beautifully written and tenderly told, How To Be Brave weaves together the contemporary story of a mother battling to save her child’s life with an extraordinary true account of bravery and a fight for survival in the Second World War. A simply unforgettable debut that celebrates the power of words, the redemptive energy of a mother’s love … and what it really means to be brave.”

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