Absolutely delighted to be the blog tour stop today for crime/thriller novel 'Volta' by the fabulous Nikki Dudley (editor of streetcake magazine and manager of MumWrite). This title won the annual Virginia Prize run by Aurora Metro Books.
Hope you enjoy this Q and A between Isabelle Kenyon and Nikki Dudley - and that it inspires you to start writing too!
Congrats on winning the Virginia Prize for fiction! What has this prize meant for you?
Oddly enough, I was so close to giving up on my fiction writing before I won this prize. I had some bad feedback on a different novel and I was starting to think I should stop wasting my energy! So it came as a huge surprise to be longlisted, shortlisted and then winning! It took a while for it to sink in and I had the contract checked loads because I was so nervous. It's been great for my novel writing, especially writing the revisions, as I realised that it's a perfectly natural process, and one that I probably haven't done well enough in the past.
How long has the journey been from initial idea to publication for ‘Volta’?
I have files about Volta on my computer from 2013! Essentially, the first chapter is very similar to the current one, so that's interesting! In the interim, I've had two children, so I've been a little busy... I managed to write in-between and decided I really wanted to finish the novel. It's changed a lot of course. I sent it off to the Virginia Prize in October 2019 and found out I'd won in July 2020. After that, we had rewrites, research, checking, cover design etc...
Were there any difficult decisions in the editing process? Equally, were there any liberating moments?
When I first got my rewrites back from Aurora Metro, I wanted to cry! There was a lot to work on, mostly around credibility. I didn't know quite where to start and felt unqualified to have written a novel featuring a lawyer, police officer and a therapist. But when I sat down and thought it all out, I realised I needed to break it down into manageable steps. I started asking around for help and found great resources around me - friends, ex-students of mine, friends of friends, and Facebook groups. All of these really helped me. I also attended a course about Custody and Interviewing and that put me in touch with an ex-police officer called Graham Bartlett, who's been invaluable for the novel. The best thing is I actually found most of the research interesting in the end and I'm pleased I learned more about all the necessary things so I could make the book more credible.
In terms of difficulties, it can be hard to step back as an author. When the publishers suggested cutting entire chapters, I really had to assess it. Sometimes I moved parts of it into other chapters, sometimes I literally cut the whole thing out. It felt like cutting a piece of me out! But when I look at the novel now, I think it was probably the best decision.
Do you base your characters on real life, and if so, how do you strike a balance between drawing on real life and using your creativity?
I don't like to base my characters on people I know but I might get a spark or an idea from a real-life story. For instance, my partner did jury duty for a criminal case and I think that had some input in the novel. I'm also fascinated by memory loss and false memories so any stories, films or books grab my attention and have helped me develop my own ideas.
How do you approach structuring your novels? Does it come together naturally, or do you have to plan it out meticulously?
I'm afraid I'm not a planner. I kind of wish I was! I normally have a start and an end in mind, as well as perhaps a few key scenes. After that, I tend to free write a lot. Sometimes I will write the chapters down and make a brief note about what it's about and write something about timing on it to help me ground it, especially if it gets moved at some point. Though overall, I am not a planner and that can be detrimental and require extra checking at the proofing stage!
The best place to pick up a copy of Volta is from Waterstones here but can also be found via Aurora Metro books and all online book retailers!