Ask the Author: S.J. Watson

“Thanks for your questions! I'll answer as many as I can...” S.J. Watson

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S.J. Watson You know as much as me.
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S.J. Watson That sounds like a download error to be honest. The last word in the book is 'sleep', if that helps.
S.J. Watson There are lots and they can all help in different ways. I really like Scarlett Thomas's 'Monkeys with Typewriters' though, or Lajos Egri's 'Art of Dramatic Writing'.
S.J. Watson Thank you! I'd love to add you as a friend, but I only 'friend' people I know in real life I'm afraid. I hope you understand! Thank you for your kind words, though.
S.J. Watson I'm not sure when I'll be over there - hopefully next year. And I'd love to make a stop in Houston! I was there when Before I Go to Sleep came out, at Murder by the Book, and if I'm invited again I'd love to come back.
S.J. Watson Work. Write. Read. Write. Write some more. Read some more. Surround yourself with people who support and inspire you, or at least will understand that you're not coming to their party because you need to finish chapter 23 before the end of the week. Buy fancy stationery and a shiny new computer if you must, but they'll only help if you use them. Devour 'How to write' books if you want, but always be prepared to disagree with their advice and plough your own furrow. But most importantly just keep putting words on the page or screen, because that's the only way you'll get better.

Also - understand that the reason most books aren't published isn't that the publishing industry is a closed society that hates new writers. It's because they're just not good enough. Make yours good enough.
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S.J. Watson Hi Mawie - thanks for this question. I hadn't seen '50 First Dates' when I started the book, and I only watched it once I'd finished Before I Go to Sleep. I can see why people might think there's a similarity, but to me Before I Go to Sleep imagines what might happen once Drew Barrymore's character has aged visibly and her friends and family can no longer pretend nothing has happened.

(Thank you for your other comments, too. Not really a question in there, so I can't post other than to say I'm glad you liked the book!)
S.J. Watson Hi! The first draft was done quite quickly - about six to eight months - but then I left it alone for a while before editing. From the first idea until the moment it was done was about fourteen months, I'd say.

I don't have a strict schedule, other than I try to write every day. I'm not a fan of strict schedules - for me (and it's different for everyone) they just cause tension and it becomes impossible to do good work - so every day I take a look at the diary and see when will be best to sit down to work.

Writing at some point every day is vital. I aim for one thousand words. Sometimes I achieve them, sometimes I don't, but it's important to exercise the muscle and also to stay in the world of the novel. The more regularly you pierce the membrane that separates you from the fictional world the easier it gets, but the opposite is also true. A few days away can make it very hard to get back into the work.
S.J. Watson Thank you Suzanne - I'm actually delighted that you thought the author of the book was a woman! It's a huge compliment...

I think all novels and stories have to start with character, so I spent a lot of time thinking about Christine and who she was, and how she'd respond in the situations she finds herself. I tried very hard to imagine her perspective, and was also lucky enough to have a number of female friends who I could talk to. But ultimately I think the job of a writer is to think themselves into the head of someone who isn't them, and this can and should include people whose experience isn't directly comparable to theirs. So while the fact I was writing from a woman's perspective was a leap, it was jump I wanted to make...
S.J. Watson Reading allows you to travel through time and space and experience the world through some else's eyes and ears. It might challenge your beliefs and change the way you think and the person you are. If that's threatening to you then yes, reading is dangerous and damaging.
S.J. Watson Hi, I haven't had the chance to watch Paperboy yet, but the trailer makes it look interesting! Nicole is great in Before I Go to Sleep - I really think her performance will surprise a lot of people. I really hope you like the film!
S.J. Watson Thanks! So glad you enjoyed the book and I hope you enjoy it second time round!

With Before I Go to Sleep I mostly let the story evolve organically. I knew my starting point and my destination, but most of the route evolved along the way. The twists and turns weren't planned, as such, but they came about as part of that process. Often it was simply because I wanted very much to write a book that surprised the reader, so any time I felt things were getting a little stagnant I'd say to myself, 'What's the last thing people will expect here?'
S.J. Watson A bit of both. With Before I Go to Sleep I knew the beginning and I knew the end and I had a very rough idea of how I was going to get there. Most of the plot twists arose on the way, though. I like to leave a little bit of room for the characters to influence the story in ways I haven't necessarily predicted.
S.J. Watson Hi. I wrote Before I Go to Sleep without too much of a plan. I wanted to leave things loose so that I could explore any avenues as they opened up, but of course that did mean that I ended up meandering and writing scenes that I then had to cut. And yes, I saved everything, although I doubt they'll ever be used. Even so I don't consider them a waste of time as in many cases they taught me a little bit more about my characters and if nothing else showed me the way the book shouldn't go!

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