As author Andrea Moulding publishes her first novel, Throwing Salt at the Devil, TAUK Publishing chatted to her about her writing, the 1980s and the health challenges she faced whilst creating this superb story. You have to read this piece if only to see if it jogs your memory of wearing mohair, Harmony hairspray and a tub of Studio Line hair gel.
This is your first book to be published. Tell us a little about it.
It’s a book about two girls, Mel and Tina, from opposite sides of the tracks, who run away to the seaside. Camping out in a dilapidated caravan, they forge strong friendships with Eddie, the ice cream man, and the local drunken artist, Mrs Wilbraham. They become embroiled in drug smuggling and owe money to a notorious family. Meanwhile, Mel’s Aunt Pauline is frantically trying to find them. While I have tried to include a lot of humour, some parts of it are very dark.
Who is this book aimed at?
I struggled with this. I wrote it from the heart, and while the protagonists are young, the story should appeal to older people, especially as it’s set in the 1980s.
Why did you set it in the 1980s?
The 1980s were probably the last generation that didn’t have phones or technology. Two runaways probably would have less chance of being caught in this era. I think there is a lot of nostalgia for this period. I was also the same age as the girls during this decade, so I could really relate.
Andrea in the 80s
Are you like any of the characters?
I think a lot of the anxiety that Mel feels I felt as a child. She is dumped in rural Suffolk and doesn’t share the accent. I remember feeling like an outsider when we moved there, so it didn’t take me long to learn that accent. I think a lot of kids feel intimidated and anxious. I am sure I was no exception.
You wrote this while having chemo. Did it help, or do you think it made it more challenging to complete?
I did write this when I was having treatment for breast cancer. Sitting around in hospital corridors or lying in bed, you have a lot of time on your hands. The book helped me deal with the trauma and kept me sane. I would go into my own little world with my characters and live out the story in my head. It also stopped me from getting ‘chemo brain’. Sometimes it was a struggle to write, but I needed something to keep me occupied. I am grateful that I managed to complete it and have something to show for the two years lost to treatment.
Have you always been writing?
I always wanted to, but life got in the way. I think I’ve always made stories up in my head, but never knew what to do with them. I wish I had started earlier, to be honest.
Do you feel like a writer now, or do you feel like a bit of a fraud? (An affliction of all authors.)
Hum… Imposter syndrome is something that we all feel, don’t we? I think everyone doubts themselves, but I am proud of this book. If only from the fact I managed to finish it.
How does your family feel about you being a published author?
My family is super proud, especially my mum. I am not sure how she will buy it as she doesn’t do computers, so it will be up to me to order and give her a copy. My kids, like all teenagers, take the rise out of me, but when it’s made into an international film, I am sure they will change their minds.
Will we see Tina or Mel again in a sequel?
I am working on a couple of ideas now. I am not sure they will be centre stage. There are a couple of characters that stayed with me once I had written it, and I would like to explore them in a lot more detail. Suffolk is also at the heart of the book, so I want any sequel to remain there.
What advice would you give to new authors?
My advice to new authors is just to keep going. Sometimes the words flow; other times, it’s a massive struggle. I managed 1,000 words some days, then only 200 on others. The main thing is to write every day if you can and be prepared to cut bits that don’t work. It’s painful but necessary.
Was there anything that surprised you about the publishing process?
Self-publishing isn’t the vanity project it used to be. I think it surprised me how far publishing has moved on from traditional routes. Despite thinking my manuscript was ready to be published, the editing process pulled up lots of mistakes. It just shows you need someone who knows what they are doing.
Why did you choose TAUK Publishing?
I chose TAUK Publishing because there was so much support and expertise. I looked forward to talking to Estelle, and no question was too stupid. Believe me, there were a lot of them.
What’s next for your writing career?
I have a book coming out in February called Stay on the Bus about breast cancer, and then who knows? The sky is the limit! I will look at a sequel to Throwing Salt at the Devil, but I will plan it a lot better next time.