Author Lisa Stone on writing in the early hours

“In 2007, divorced and a single parent, I had my first international bestseller published under the pseudonym Cathy Glass. Since then I have written a further 25 books.” Lisa Stone – mother, foster carer and author – on writing in the very early hours…

I have always been a writer of sorts – starting when I was at school, with poems in the school magazine. In my teens I began writing short stories, articles, a few radio plays, and entering writing competitions. Like many writers it was a hobby – something I did almost furtively in my spare time, while working, and then having a family and fostering. I also began writing that novel – the one it is said we all have within us.

In 2007, divorced and a single parent, I had my first international bestseller published under the pseudonym Cathy Glass. Since then I have written a further 25 books using the same pen name, many of which have become bestsellers. It was good advice from my English teacher to write about what we know and feel passionately about. Even surreal fiction needs to be heartfelt and anchored in realism to make it sing.

But like many writers eventually I wanted to try my hand at a different genre and my head was buzzing with ideas. In July my first crime novel, The Darkness Within, will be published under the name Lisa Stone. Not a true story but it could be. Creepy! I scared myself writing it: Inexplicable changes in Jacob lead to his parents to confronting their worst nightmare. Has their son become a monster or is something else to blame?

My next thriller, out in July 2018, working title Devil’s Eye, shows how easy it is for someone to spy on you in your own home through the internet. Not sure about the one after that yet but I have an idea to set it in the field of cryogenics – freezing your body as you die to be brought back later. Ridiculous? Not to the 350 people who have already been frozen.

Writing in the early hours of the morning

I think a writing routine is very important and helps the creative process. Mine has to fit around my family and other commitments so I write very early in the morning. Sometimes I am up at 4.30am if I have a deadline to meet. When I write the first draft I need absolute quiet to be able to concentrate and in my house very early in morning is the only guaranteed quiet time.

I creep out of bed, downstairs, let the cat out and make a coffee which I take into the living room. My first draft is always in long hand – pen and paper – then I type it into my computer which is on the desk in my study. I only claimed the extension as ‘my study’ after my tenth book was published. Prior to that I didn’t feel I had the right to claim a space of my own, and I used the family computer in the front room.

When I am revising, editing, or proof-reading I tend to fit it in around the rest of the day – grabbing an hour here and there. Although my own children are young adults now and self-sufficient I still foster, so there is usually a little one in the house. These children often come with complex needs and can be demanding and sometimes challenging because of what they have suffered. Once the child (or children) is awake their needs take over and become my priority.

As many writers do, I keep a pen and notepad handy to jot down any ideas that suddenly come to mind. They may never be used but good ideas have a habit of appearing like moonbeams and as quickly disappearing.

I appreciate how lucky I am to be a successful author. Why did success come to me when it did? I think it was the right story to the right literary agent at the right time. Although my agent says talent will be discovered eventually, which is very kind of him. 

When asked to give advice to aspiring writers I usually say begin with what is in your head and simply write. You can perfect your grammar and sentence structure later when you edit. Get down that first draft, which will be immediate, passionate and raw, but form the basis of your story. Then polish, shine and check until you are convinced your work is word perfect. It won’t be; it never is, but don’t ever submit anything which is not your personal best.

For more tips on writing: About Writing and How To Publish by Cathy Glass.