In conversation with … Torquay author Stephanie Austin
12:00 am January 7, 2022
Bea Hutchings In conversation with… Stephanie Austin, local author of a mystery series set in and around Ashburton:
I recently had the pleasure of meeting Stephanie, who lives in Torquay with her husband Martin, and asking her about her prolific career as a writer.
One of the first questions I asked and many readers ask her is:
When did you start writing your novels?
“I’m a late beginner. I’ve always been a secret writer, but I didn’t start writing in earnest until I retired.
“I’ve always wanted to write a detective novel and I thought ‘it’s now or never.’
“I was inspired by various experiences when I worked as an antique dealer.
“I was lucky to have an agent and a publisher very quickly and my first book, ‘Dead in Devon’, was published in 2019.
“The fifth book, ‘A Devon Night’s Death’, comes out in February and I’m now working on the sixth book. It’s been a very steep learning curve.
“All of my books are set in and around Ashburton and have the same heroine, Juno Browne.
Many writers seem to have a preferred method of writing their books. Do you start a new story with a plot or a character?
“It’s also not how they combine to create a story. The plot is a series of events, what happens.
“But no matter how original or ingenious the plot is, it won’t captivate readers unless they sympathize with the protagonist.
“They have to care about who things are happening to in order to understand why that person is reacting to what is happening the way they are, which is what prompts them to act.
“At the same time, you can create the nicest characters, someone that readers can really relate to, but he or she won’t hold their interest if nothing exciting or curious happens to them.
“A good story is a combination, it’s about how you bring the character and the plot together.”
Do you have to have a favorite character?
“No, I don’t do favorites. I couldn’t tell you what my favorite color is. The characters come to mind.
“I say ‘thank you very much’ and then try to figure out what their story is. What were they doing before they got to the page. It’s important.”
So it seems to me that you have to be incredibly focused and have an amazing work schedule?
“I don’t really have a schedule. When I write a book, I have to put in hours, but I try to pace myself so that I can lead a reasonably normal life.
“Sitting in front of a computer all day is not healthy.
“If I don’t take the time to get some fresh air and exercise, I find this pale, plump person looking at me from the mirror, and I don’t like him very much.
“I tend to wake up around 4am when I’m working on a book. A lot of things get sorted out in my head in the early hours of the morning.”
Writing can trigger all kinds of feelings. How do you deal with the emotional impact on yourself when writing the story?
“It’s interesting. There’s a nice feeling that comes with knowing you’ve written something great, and at the end of a book I can get very emotional, for Juno’s sake, because she is always left to continue, bless her.
“But I think all writers need a sense of inner detachment to protect themselves from the rigors of writing, losing the plot, not knowing how things are going to end, to realize that a lot of what you wrote won’t match and you have to throw it away.
“You have to hang in there, make sure you’re going to straighten things out, and realize that even the most famous writers suffer from doubt.”
Thank you Stéphanie. One last question: what advice would you give to a new beginning writer?
“Write for love, not money, and learn to punctuate. ”
Stephanie Austin’s books are available at any good bookstore and online. Also available as e-books and audiobooks. Website: stephanieustin.co.uk.