Nicola May reveals her secrets of writing a best seller!
Nicola May, 53, writes romance novels, but weaves in her personal experiences. In 2011 she self published first novel Working it Out and has published nine more. Her novel The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay was at number one spot on Kindle. Self published 10 novels after let down by traditional publisher and agent!
Nicola May, gave up her career to write full time – and weaves her personal experiences into her novels – which makes them very relatable.
An ex public relations professional, she uses her skill to promote her books.
Hear her secrets!
TheFutureOfPR.com: how does one can write bestsellers?
Nicola May: I think that’s the biggest question in the whole world of being an author and everyone wants to know that – but I was really lucky actually. I’ve actually written 11 books and this was my ninth book so I’ve worked really hard to get where I am.
To write this amazing bestseller which actually hit the number one spot on amazon not only once but twice!
So there’s a magic formula? is there? I don’t know. I’d actually be a billionaire if I could tell you, but I will tell you what I do think is – it’s easy reading. It’s about real life and real people.
I’ve got ages from a new-born up to a 90- year old and everybody’s real.
It’s not all sweet and sugary real life isn’t sweet and sugary. There are characters in there that you won’t like, that you love who do things wrong a lot and I think that’s really important.
TheFutureOfPR.com: How do you exactly write a book?
Nicola May: This was a funny little story. This corner shop is actually used to be down the road in my village and was a sweet shop. My father is an artist.
He’s 83 and he does all my covers he bought a photo of that corner shop to me and I was like I need a new subject for a book. I’m going to write it about a corner shop and put it down in Devon which is a lovely southwestern area in the UK that everybody loves.
So that was my idea and then I thought well that’s going to be a bit boring if it’s just about a shop. What can we do to make her interesting?
And so I made her from a deprived background she’s a foster girl she’s had a really tough upbringing and she inherits this shop from a mystery benefactor.
So you’re immediately you want her to do well so I think you’re immediately thinking – oh this girl has got everything. But of course she’s really feisty she doesn’t really want it.
She’s going to say “I’m going to get it. I’m going sell it for cash and I’m going to have an amazing life”. But there’s a proviso on the shop, so it’s another little plot twist – that she can’t sell it she has to hand it on to someone who truly deserves it when she’s got it up and running.
So immediately you’ve got all these little hooks of what’s going to happen to her? What’s going to happen to the shop? Is she going to succeed? And then I always look at romantic comedy a bit like Cinderella.
Do you know the Cinderella theme where you have the heroine you have your prince charming you have the conflict of the ugly sisters… and then maybe the fairy godmother who pulls it all together. So that’s how i write my books.
Because you’re championing for the underdog you like the little bits of the people who try and get in her way as well. So I think it’s creating a pantomime a drama that everyone knows there’s going to be a happy ending, but you’re not sure how you get to it.
I think bestseller wise – I end every chapter on a little cliff-hanger as well and so that’s what people have been saying about this book “oh my goodness! I stayed up all night or I read it seven hours of reading I couldn’t get that back”
And I think that’s the thing I keep putting little pointers of what’s going to happen next don’t write massive wordy prose either. Everything’s very straight to the point and also a little bit of magic in this one as well. One of my characters is quite into crystals and she sort of sees things and so it’s almost a little bit of a make-believe. But in the real world it’s a bit different I think and that’s what has made it so successful.
TheFutureOfPR.com: Do you know the dialogues and do you know what is good the story how do you imagine the dialogues and imagine the story?
Nicola May: This is the thing I don’t really write anything down about where the plot’s going. I have this this amazing talent I am going to say that the characters guide me as I go and I bring new people in and I rarely do a rewrite I’m very lucky I just seem to get it down and then just go back and edit.
Question: how long does it take you to write a book?
Nicola May: I’m very fast this one well this one actually took me about nine months. But one of my books the ‘School gates’ I wrote in four weeks and the ‘Christmas Book’ I’ve just wrote in five weeks because I literally when I start writing a book we’re going to go on to the process in a minute I’ll tell you why that happens but a year maximum for me.
TheFutureOfPR.com: You had some incident about the law of Attraction.
Nicola May: Because Jim Carrey the famous actor – I’ve read about him when he was a job in comedian with his father.
He had no money he thought I’m going to write myself a check for a million dollars and keep it in my wallet.
And anyway he did that kept it in there it was full of like holes where it got so old and then he pulled it out and he actually did reach his million dollar goal.
It might have been a different amount but I Thought if Jim Carry is going to do it and it worked, I’m going to do it.
So in 2011, I wrote a check to myself for the 3rd of march 2019. I don’t know why I thought eight years, but I thought I’ll give myself some time. Anyway on the 3rd March 2019 this book had got to number one in the amazon bestseller chart and the check that I wrote to myself was the exact amount that I’ve been earning for this book. And I was like Whoa!! that is the craziest thing.
So I’ve done it again for another few years ahead. But fundamentally I think you have to be kind to people and you have to visualize your goals my next goal is I’d love to be number one on the ‘Sunday Times’ bestseller chart which is for paperbacks.
I’ve been successful with e-books and that’s what I’m putting out there now. I’d love to be a number one bestseller then so I think it’s believing yourself as well I mean I literally kept going for years and years and knocking on doors in fact I walked into Waterstones the bookstore in the UK with a self-published book.
And I went- “hello I’ve just written this book I’d love you to read it” was really lucky the lady was very responsive read it and loved it. She said come in and do a signing this weekend, and from then on because I got all my friends or my family to queue around the door at Waterstones buy my book – they then sent an email out to all the stores in the southeast of England.
And I started that way and it was just being really bold. And I think be polite but be bold and I’m lucky that I have had a marketing and pr background as well as can write and not everybody has that!
I mean Working it Out is about a woman who does 12 jobs in 12 months to find the one of her dreams. And so she’s actually an events manager. I was in there so I bring in bits of my life.
And also I’ve travelled to many countries with my job because I was the European analyst and press events manager so I’ve been to probably about 40 different countries. I think again that gives you a lot of experience in life. Life experience because I’m older now as well I mean I think obviously as you get older you learn a lot more.
The character is a fostered girl in here. I lost my mum at a very young age and I think I am the heart of Rosa in that book and wasn’t fostered but I’ve had a big loss it’s a combination of heart soul and experience being a good writer.
TheFutureOfPR.com:What is your exact process of writing?
Nicola May: I’d love to say that I’m glamorous and lie and do it like that but No!
I literally write in my bed I’ve got this is sort of a kitchen area with a table I’ve got it all set up with a screen. I have to be really cosy and I know then I won’t stop and do any chores so I write in complete comfort.
And so my writing day, for example my Christmas book, I was getting up at 5:00 am having breakfast, starting at 6:00 and literally writing and typing till I couldn’t type anymore.
And I find the writing process – the quicker I do it and the more hours the better the book because you never forget anything then you’re always on it. But I am quite demented when I write like that and my family laughs at me. It’s a bit because I’m thinking and probably only have about four hours sleep at night. I’m so tired at the moment I need to catch up now the book’s finished but I’m very full-on.
TheFutureOfPR.com: Do you write directly onto a laptop?
Nicola May: Straight onto a laptop. My handwriting is appalling now because I have never actually use it. But yeah I write very fast and I aim to write between three thousand to five thousand words a day.
And this sort of book is seventy-five thousand words and that’s what I aim for so in theory. If you think of that amount of words that I type it isn’t going to take that long if as long as the thoughts are flowing.
TheFutureOfPR.com: Do you already have a plot in your mind? Or the plot goes ahead as you as the book goes ahead and the characters and their dialogues. How do they all take shape?
Nicola May: Writing a trilogy – it’s wonderful because you have all your characters and so I do think okay what’s going to happen to them in this one and how are they going to progress through to make a happy ending or and make things continue forward so.
I have rough ideas like in the ‘Christmas Book’ I knew a hotel inspector was going to come to the hotel and there was going to be some drama and wanted a character who hadn’t had a particularly love life to sort themselves out so I have the rough idea together and I’m not even sure how I just start typing and it seems to flow.
But I would say for one of the books I’ve written quite recently not the Christmas one I did do a synopsis. A full synopsis of about five pages and it was good then and I think if you’re starting out. I kept referring back to what was happening and it did help me draw the plot along so I knew that it so there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
TheFutureOfPR.com: I guess now publishers must be approaching you to take on your books because you’re now a bestseller?
Nicola May: This is the point where I have to say watch this space because there will be some news before Christmas!
TheFutureOfPR.com: Let’s do a synopsis of all your books tell us a little bit about from your first book till the book now.
Nicola May: Okay really briefly I’ve got to remember them all!
Now so in ‘Working It Out’- I’ve talked about already a woman got made redundant so she did 12 jobs. She was like a divorce lawyer, a funeral director, worked in an old people’s home for ex-celebrities. So it was a real comedy.
I wrote in ‘Starfish’ which was about a Persian woman who couldn’t find love. So she dates each sign of the zodiac and I had the 12 theme going and I thought because it’s so easy then to manage it.
I wrote the ‘School Gates’ which was about four mums and one dad and how their lives intertwined around the school gate. So again it was great drama.
‘Better Together’ which was about an older woman, younger man romance and how that was really real. How it can be great and exciting but also very difficult.
I wrote ‘Love Me Tinder’ which I thought would be my biggest hit which was about the Tinder dating app. I did a spin obviously on ‘lovely tender’ The Elvis song. So that’s now out there called “It Started with a Click” I changed the name.
I wrote a book actually about infertility ‘The SW19 Club’ A lot of people suffer from it, but it was I put it into fiction as a romantic comedy. A lady loses twins and she can’t have children. So she sets up an event heart for everyone who has fertility issues. So I dealt with a really sad issue which I’ve experienced myself and I’ve had so many letters from people or emails just thanking me for writing that book because, I address it in a way where people I had made them feel better which made me feel better.
All lined up now and then obviously the three ‘Cockleberry Bay’ which have been my greatest successes and the ‘Christmas Book’ is coming. I think I might miss one I don’t know oh and I wrote another Christmas book called ‘Christmas Evie’ which is a tiny little novella but which is a very spiritual book and it’s just 99p so if you haven’t read me before and want to start on something that might be a good start it’s just like a few pages.
TheFutureOfPR.com: Tell us about the Christmas book that’s coming.
Nicola May: Oh yes!! so “Christmas in Cockleberry Bay” ties up all the characters that are in the Cockleberry Bay series. And there is the hotel inspector who gets poisoned. and Rose are the main characters now. (She) got a baby, which people haven’t seen before. She’s arranging the Christmas carol Concert – so that causes lots of fun. So really it’s actually a very funny joyous book with a little bit of drama because you don’t know who’s poisoned the hotel inspector.
Thank you Nicola that was amazing and lovely to meet you in a quick round-up of all the amazing things that you’ve been doing.
Links to books by Nicola May: The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay (Best Seller!): https://amzn.to/3dWp5aA Meet Me in Cockleberry Bay: https://amzn.to/2G4aWvI The Gift of Cockleberry Bay: https://amzn.to/35z2uNI The Cockleberry Bay Trilogy: Read all 3 books from the much loved Cockleberry Bay series in one go! : https://amzn.to/3kwzSLj Working It Out: https://amzn.to/3kwvThF Let Love Win (sequel to Working it Out): https://amzn.to/3mpmPM4 Better Together: https://amzn.to/3kz5LD4 Christmas Spirit: https://amzn.to/37LKulQ The SW19 Club: https://amzn.to/3ovNwR0 The School Gates: https://amzn.to/3e0plFv Star Fish: https://amzn.to/2HCVh6M Love Me Tinder: https://amzn.to/3jEjHKD Christmas Evie: https://amzn.to/37M5d9g
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