Posted on 08/21/2018 at 11:55 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
All Thorne Moore ever wanted to do was become a writer.
She declared this aspiration to her friends, overcoming her (unfounded) fear of mockery; she rejected a teacher’s suggestion that she study law because then she’d have to actually practice law; and she took (and quit) jobs that she hoped would provide enough downtime for her to write on the sly.
And at the same time, Moore walked this walk. She spent years submitting manuscripts and jumping through sometimes ridiculous hoops (seriously, check out this interview), only to keep receiving drawn-out rejections.
It was all, in her words, “just enough to keep me convinced that I would make it in the end.” Which, as you’ve guessed by the fact that we’re featuring her in an author Q&A, was accurate!
Here’s how Moore ultimately came to have published five psychological crime/family drama novels and a collection of short stories.
SADYE: How did you finally break through your holding pattern of rejections?
THORNE: I had been lying in hospital, strapped up with monitors, tubes and oxygen mask, thinking that I was probably going to die and not being at all bothered about it, because I felt so awful that dying seemed a helpful option.
And then, thanks to a doctor who decided to drill a hole in me, I was suddenly much better, and my whole mindset moved from passive surrender to bloody-minded positivity.
No more faffing around. I was going to get things done. Primarily, I was going to get published. ...
I’d always had this airy-fairy notion of my own integrity as a writer, i.e., I was going to write what I felt I ought to write, and if publishers, editors, agents, critics didn’t like it, they were just wrong and didn’t properly understand my genius.
I came out of hospital thinking they were probably right, or at least they were the ones with the power to say yes or no, so I’d better pretend they were right. If they wanted changes, I’d make changes.
I managed to win a prize with a short story, so that I could go to publishers with a proven track record, even if it was more egg and spoon than marathon.
I made some changes to my latest book, trying to look at it with a critic’s eye. I used YouWriteOn website to gauge readers’ reactions.
I figured that to stand out in the slush pile, I had to have a first sentence that really grabbed, a first paragraph that squeezed even tighter and a first chapter with a “can’t put it down now” crunch line.
I honed my skill at writing ingratiating letters. Whatever the magic trick was, it worked, because I’d had my book accepted within a year.
SADYE: You’ve mentioned that you were an indifferent student of history and that you only pursued a law degree after many years. So have these degrees, however grudgingly earned, benefited your writing?
THORNE: There’s a lot of history in my books, so in theory my history degree should be a great help. However, it was the history I learned for O and A level that has been far more useful.
I’d studied social and economic history, 1066-1939, for O level — three field systems, markets and fairs, industrial revolution, that sort of thing. It gave a meaningful understanding of the development of a country through a thousand years.
Then for A level I studied the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, concentrating mostly on things like the Reformation and the English civil war, so it was largely about what people believed, what drove them.
At university, I found myself studying political history, and it was a complete shock. ... I don’t think any of it was of much use, except a course on Welsh history.
Years later, I embarked on a law degree with the Open University, and that really was hugely useful.
Not the law part of it, though I do bear that in mind when writing. It was the requirement to submit regular assignments with very specific word counts.
Any word over the limit was discounted, and since an assignment always had to finish up with a summary, defining my answer, I had to learn to prune and prune and slash and refine, get rid of every word that wasn’t necessary and reward sentences to be a precise as possible.
It taught me how to cut the waffling. Never write a word more than is needed.
SADYE: What has been the most rewarding experience of your writing career (beyond finally publishing)?
THORNE: Getting enthusiastic reviews from people I don’t know.
Even with five novels published, I still feel a gush of relief and delight when it turns that someone actually enjoyed what I’d written.
Or, even better, had found themselves thinking about it, after they’d put the book down.
SADYE: You’ve done a great deal of genealogical work, but of course the people behind the names and dates are shadowy. Which ancestor or ancestors would you most like to learn more about?
THORNE: Well, there’s my great-great-grandfather, Nicholas Moore. I have a few very tantalizing details about him.
Baptised a Catholic on Jersey, son of a naval captain, who was probably Irish. Served in the Royal Marines. Got my sixteen-year-old great-great-grandmother pregnant in Portsmouth (she was convinced they were married). Last recorded 1861 as retired major in Hull.
I’d like to ask him if his father was at Trafalgar, if he was involved in the Crimean war, where he disappeared to after 1861 — and then I’d slap him hard for deserting my great-great-grandmother and leaving her to make her way to London to survive as a prostitute.
And then there’s my family in Pembrokeshire: a long line of descent through the unmarried female line, but they were also closely connected with the Methodists. They were obliquely involved with the “last invasion of Britain.”
A motley crew of French soldiers managed to land near Fishguard in 1797 and were very promptly rounded up, but so too were a number of local Methodists who, because of their religion, were assumed to be potential traitors, who might have aided the French.
A small number (three, I think) were held for months, awaiting a trial that came to nothing, but several others were hauled in for questioning, including two of mine who had heard about the invasion and ridden over to see what was happening.
SADYE: You’re a co-organizer of the Narberth Book Fair. What has been the most rewarding part of that experience?
THORNE: That it has grown, year by year, to be a popular success. Indie authors and publishers seldom get the chance to get much publicity, no matter how brilliant the books.
You don’t see them displayed in WH Smith stores or reviewed in The Guardian, but many of them deserve it.
The book fair offers one modest chance to showcase them and to let the authors have a chance to chat with the public.
I think it’s the sort of thing something like Literature Wales should be organizing, but they don’t — so if you want something doing, do it yourself.
Or, as they also say, if you want something doing, ask a busy woman.
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Categories: Author Interview