My First Time...with Laura Purcell
Laura Purcell worked in local government, the financial industry and a bookshop before becoming a full-time writer. She lives in Colchester, the oldest recorded town in England, with her husband and pet guinea pigs. Fascinated by the darker side of royal history, Laura has also written two historical fiction novels about the Hanoverian dynasty.
Credit: Charlotte Graham
Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book.
It was at the Historical Novel Conference in September 2014. I’d been toying with the idea since my friend sent me a picture of a silent companion. My husband had urged me to write a scary story about one and I drew up a vague plot, but I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to embark upon the project. However, while at the conference I mentioned the premise to other delegates and an agent. The response was so enthusiastic, I decided I would definitely give it a try.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write it?
I wish I’d planned better and had a much clearer outline to start with. The first draft was just a jumble of random spooky things taking place, it took a lot of work to kick it into something more coherent.
What’s your go-to procrastination method?
Reading other people’s books and doing research. Because, you know, it’s ‘technically’ work.
What was the biggest tantrum you had while writing your book?
At one point I was asked to change some things, but then in the next draft told to put them back the way they were originally. There was some swearing involved.
Best thing about writing your book?
Coming up with inventive ways for characters to die. It’s harder than you think, but strangely fun!
And the worst?
I wanted to write a book that was tense and claustrophobic. Unfortunately, this meant I had to be in a constant state of tension while writing and it was exhausting. It was also hard to keep returning to the dreary, crumbling house where the story is set when it was sunny and warm outside.
Go-to writing snacks?
I don’t tend to snack while I write, but I do consume ridiculous amounts of tea and coffee.
Who or what inspires you to write?
There’s not a particular thing. I just have a compulsion to write, I can’t help myself.
The book that changed you?
There have been so many books! I don’t think there’s just one that’s had such a profound effect upon me. The first book to become truly important to me was Black Beauty. I was about 8 or 9 years old. People think of it as a children’s book, but with the war, death and animal cruelty, it’s really not!
Your pump up song?
I am a huge fan of 80s music and my favourite is 'St Elmo’s Fire' by John Parr.
If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer dead or alive, who would it be?
Jane Austen, without a doubt. Not only is she my favourite author, I’ve read her surviving letters and she seems like she’d be so much fun to hang out with.
One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get a book published?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. The first things you write are likely to be bad. Mine were awful. It’s all a learning experience and it takes time.