Bernardine Kennedy was born in London but spent most of her childhood in Singapore and Nigeria before settling in Essex, where she still lives with her husband Ian. She also has a son, Stephen, and daughter, Kate. Her varied working life has included careers as an air hostess, a swimming instructor and a social worker. She has been a freelance writer for many years, specialising in popular travel features for magazines. Her previous novels, Everything is Not Enough, My Sisters’ Keeper, Chain of Deception, Taken, Old Scores and Past Chances. Here, she shares how she creates her best-selling books.
‘I would love to be able to say that my Way of Writing is disciplined, motivated and focused but sadly it isn’t, well not as much I’d like it to be. I do try but it can be hard to turn the creative process on and off as required, sometimes the juices flow and it’s easy to get a few thousand words onto the page and I just want to carry on for hours but equally sometimes even a couple of hundred words of nonsense is a struggle and I have to force myself to stay in front of the computer screen. Hence my way of working is absolutely flexible to fit my mood but I do try and write something, anything, most days.
My previous 7 books (Headline Publishing), are generally described as gritty (!) and have all had storylines that revolved around topical social issues such as abandonment, betrayal, adoption, drugs, kidnapping, (to name but a few), subjects that I already knew a lot about so the research wasn’t too complex, however my current book, the first of four which will all be inter-linked, is set further back in the late forties and fifties and is a regional saga mostly set in Southend-on-Sea in Essex so I’ve had to do a lot of research of both the era and the area at that time. It’s interesting to read about but very time-consuming so I’ve probably been reading more than I’ve been writing for the past few months. And of course it’s at research times like these that the internet is an absolute Godsend.
Once I know what the thread of a book is going to be then I like to have an outline to work to and to know roughly where I’m going with it but other than that I write chapter at a time and I can’t move on until that chapter is right. I do write notes by hand and I just love drawing family trees and relationship charts, but I write the book straight onto screen printing out each chapter when it’s finished for a read-through.
Because I edit as I go it means that when I get to the end of the book I do a quick run-through and it’s finished and ready to send off. There will be editor and copy editor edits to follow but hopefully not too many! I sometimes wish I could thrash through a ‘dirty draft’ and then go over it several times to polish it but I don’t seem to be able to work like that.
Where I Write is very much a changeable venue depending on circumstances! I have a rather nice shed-office halfway down the garden with light, heating, carpets, a big desk, lots of books and no internet connection but I’m not so good at forcing myself out there when the weather’s rubbish. It’s nice in the summer but in winter I prefer to work at the desk in the conservatory with internet connection and the accompanying distractions of Facebook and Twitter, my favourite Work Displacement Activities! But working indoors depends on who’s in the house at the time; I don’t like to work in silence, in fact I often have the TV on, (can’t beat a bit of Jeremy Kyle for tragic inspiration!) but I don’t like people around as they need interacting with. I think that as a breed, working writers can be absorbed in their work to the point of being anti-social.
My writing and I have a love-hate relationship. Mostly I love it but every so often when it won’t go the way I want, I decide I hate it and just want to go lunching and shopping. And of course sometimes it feels as if my writing hates me in return.
The next four books will be written under the name of Megan Maxwell and are to be published by Avon@Harper Collins; the first, called Ruby is out in paperback and Kindle. It went to number 1 in the Kindle Family Saga chart and number 21 in the Kindle fiction chart, which I’m very pleased about.
Check out my website and blog for further information on me and my books.’