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CS Live: Charity Norman

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August 6, 2013 02:36pmMessage by Culture Street

Calling all aspiring authors. Charity Norman grew up in Yorkshire and Birmingham. After several years' travel she became a barrister, specialising in crime and family law in the north east of England.In 2002,realising that her three children had barely met her, she took a break from the law and moved with her family to New Zealand. Her first novel, Freeing Grace, was published in 2010 and her second, Second Chances, in 2012 (published in the UK as After the Fall). The Son-in-Law, her third novel, was published in 2013. How did Charity achieve such success? Join us for a #CSLive chat with author Charity Norman on Friday August 9 at 1pm. You can start posting your questions now.

August 7, 2013 12:58pmMessage by Jonny

Hi Charity ... Where did your idea for The Son-in-Law come from?

August 7, 2013 01:02pmMessage by Jonny

And... How has your experience as a barrister informed your storytelling?

August 8, 2013 03:08pmMessage by Rebecca

Hi there Charity... Did growing up close to Bronte country influence your writing or decision to become a writer at all?

August 8, 2013 03:12pmMessage by Rebecca

And ... Do you find writing more or less of an isolating profession than being a barrister?

August 9, 2013 11:13amMessage by Patty

Hi Charity! The Son-in-Law is your third book - what's coming next? Are you still keen to explore family relationships?

August 9, 2013 11:14amMessage by Patty

And how many countries are you published now? How have the responses to your work differed?

August 9, 2013 11:17amMessage by Patty

One more! As a writer and a mother, what does a typical day look like for you?

August 9, 2013 12:37pmMessage by Victoria

Hi Charity! How long did it take you to write The Son-in-Law?

August 9, 2013 12:39pmMessage by Victoria

Have you ever experienced writer's block? If so, how did you come out of it?

August 9, 2013 12:58pmMessage by Alex

Hi Charity! I have read both Second Chances and The Son-in-Law. Do you think readers feel better about themselves and their own families when they read about families in crisis?

August 9, 2013 01:01pmMessage by Culture Street

Welcome to Charity Norman, our first guest on CS Live. We are thrilled to have her as our guest today and look forward to the discussion. You can post your questions now.

August 9, 2013 01:04pmMessage by Charity Norman

Culture Street wrote: "Welcome to Charity Norman, our first guest on CS Live. We are thrilled to have her as our guest today and look forward to the discussion. You can post your questions now."

Thank you! It is lovely to be here!

August 9, 2013 01:06pmMessage by Charity Norman

Jonny wrote: "Hi Charity ... Where did your idea for The Son-in-Law come from?"

Hi Jonny. The idea arrived very suddenly, though I think it had been somewhere in my mind for a long time. Years ago I acted for the children of a man who murdered his wife, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He wanted them to be brought to the prison to see him. It was a very different kind of case, and he was a dangerous man - but it started me thinking about fatherhood and forgiveness.

August 9, 2013 01:10pmMessage by Charity Norman

Jonny wrote: "And... How has your experience as a barrister informed your storytelling?"

In many ways, I think. The fifteen or so years' experience of working with people in crisis certainly helps me now. My characters are all fictional but it does help to see how real people think and react in these dramatic times. Then there's the little details - how judges can behave, and what the atmosphere is like in the waiting room - and how awful the coffee in the machine! And perhaps making all those jury speeches helped me learn to tell a story without being too darned boring.

August 9, 2013 01:14pmMessage by Charity Norman

Rebecca wrote: "Hi there Charity... Did growing up close to Bronte country influence your writing or decision to become a writer at all?"

Hello Rebecca. Yes, I think it did. I was one of seven children living in a vicarage near the moors, so there were parallels which I took rather too seriously! I read Wuthering Heights when I was about eight, thought it was wonderful (I still do) and decided I was Emily Bronte reincarnated!There was something about the romance and wildness of their story that really grabbed me. I even had a facsimile of one of the tiny, tiny books they made when they were small children. They were inspiring for me - I'm afraid I made up a lot of terrible poetry during this period of my childhood. I never quite let go of that thought that I might be able to be a writer, too.

August 9, 2013 01:16pmMessage by Charity Norman

Rebecca wrote: "And ... Do you find writing more or less of an isolating profession than being a barrister?"

Ooh ... I miss the barrister's robing room, and the camaraderie, and the support when you're all in a long case together. But I don't miss His Honour Judge Rottwelier! Writing is something I do absolutely alone, but I have more time to do things like being in the cathedral choir, and volunteering for Lifeline (telephone counselling). So although the job is more isolated, my life is not. Works for me!

August 9, 2013 01:20pmMessage by Charity Norman

Patty wrote: "Hi Charity! The Son-in-Law is your third book - what's coming next? Are you still keen to explore family relationships?"

Hi Patty! Yes, and other relationships too. I used to do commercial mediation, and I reckon the business world can be as fraught and full of drama and betrayal as any family! The next book is about a family going through a completely different kind of crisis: it's one they never saw coming, and which makes them question who they are, at a really fundamental level. I'm loving the research and getting to know all the characters.

August 9, 2013 01:22pmMessage by Alex

What research do you do for your novels?

August 9, 2013 01:22pmMessage by Jonny

Thanks for the reply Charity...

are you hopeful Son-in-Law will one day be made into a movie?

August 9, 2013 01:24pmMessage by Charity Norman

Patty wrote: "And how many countries are you published now? How have the responses to your work differed?"

So far it's Australia, NZ, the UK and France. I have other European countries in the pipeline but not yet on the shelves. In the UK, Second Chances is known as After the Fall - I'm so lucky, it's been really successful because it was picked by Richard and Judy for their W H Smith book club. The French sales of Freeing Grace had been lovely (it's called Tu Seras Notre Enfant over there) and Second Chances came out there last week. Different cultures seem to like different books - it's interesting.

August 9, 2013 01:29pmMessage by Charity Norman

Patty wrote: "One more! As a writer and a mother, what does a typical day look like for you?"

Chaos, Patty. It looks like chaos. Off they go to school, and I should start writing. But the phone rings, the emails ping, and the washing-up looks at me in disgust. Then suddenly the school day is over and we have to juggle the drama and music lessons. I spend a lot of time writing in cafes, in public libraries, even in the car while waiting for people's theatre rehearsals! I also write very late at night when the world is quiet. I wish I had the self-discipline to get up at 5 am, which I am sure would be great - but sadly I am just not strong enough! Sometimes I take a few days and go to a very isolated cottage, where I work all day and make a lot of progress. I love that.

August 9, 2013 01:30pmMessage by Charity Norman

Victoria wrote: "Hi Charity! How long did it take you to write The Son-in-Law?"

Hi Victoria! I wrote it the fastest of the three so far - in about a year. Then there was the editing and polishing. I do better with a deadline but there was some hair-tearing towards the end there!

August 9, 2013 01:33pmMessage by Charity Norman

Victoria wrote: "Have you ever experienced writer's block? If so, how did you come out of it?"

No, I don't think I really have. Sometimes I feel as though I am swimming in treacle but I just keep going. I make myself sit down and write. If that doesn't work, I go for a walk and think - or go to a cafe with my laptop for a change of scene - but I always keep writing. If I end up deleting what I write, that's okay - at least I'm writing.

August 9, 2013 01:33pmMessage by Culture Street

We are at the halfway mark! Keep the questions coming. Terrific answers Charity.
You have said that there are few truly evil, irredeemable villains in life. Is it important to you that your writing reflects this?

August 9, 2013 01:36pmMessage by Charity Norman

Alex wrote: "Hi Charity! I have read both Second Chances and The Son-in-Law. Do you think readers feel better about themselves and their own families when they read about families in crisis?"

Hello Alex. This is a really interesting question, which I've never clearly thought of before. And the answer is that I don't know - do you think they do? Um ... yes, I hope perhaps they may feel that there are others out there like them, and so feel better. I think when we feel understood, we are generally happier. But I'll think about your question a bit more from now on!

August 9, 2013 01:36pmMessage by Patrice

Hi Charity, Love your work and you are not boring! What comes first the characters or the idea?

August 9, 2013 01:39pmMessage by Rebecca

Thanks for your reply, Charity!! The Brontes are my inspiration too! What was it like growing up in a vicarage on the moors? Spooky?

August 9, 2013 01:39pmMessage by Charity Norman

Alex wrote: "What research do you do for your novels?"

Lots. I go to the library and may read several novels and non-fiction books on the subject. I read magazine articles, and online articles. I visit internet chatrooms (great when researching pure meth). I watch You Tube videos. I talk to people - I collar them if I think they can help me. My family would say that I become a bit obsessed with whatever it is I'm researching! The research takes me at least as long as the writing. I really enjoy it.

August 9, 2013 01:39pmMessage by Rebecca

Thanks for your reply, Charity!! The Brontes are my inspiration too! What was it like growing up in a vicarage on the moors? Spooky? Amazing?

August 9, 2013 01:41pmMessage by Rebecca

Also Charity, I would imagine the beautiful NZ landscape to be an inspiring backdrop for writers?

August 9, 2013 01:42pmMessage by Charity Norman

Culture Street wrote: "We are at the halfway mark! Keep the questions coming. Terrific answers Charity.
You have said that there are few truly evil, irredeemable villains in life. Is it important to you that your writing reflects this?"


Yes, it is. I know I sound a bit do-gooder about this, but I have this theory that very few people want to be wicked and cruel (there are exceptions, of course). It's a big subject.

August 9, 2013 01:43pmMessage by Charity Norman

Patrice wrote: "Hi Charity, Love your work and you are not boring! What comes first the characters or the idea?"

HI Patrice! Thank you! The idea, followed very swiftly by the characters ... who then go off on frolics of their own and change everything.

August 9, 2013 01:44pmMessage by Alex

Charity Norman wrote: "Alex wrote: "What research do you do for your novels?"

Lots. I go to the library and may read several novels and non-fiction books on the subject. I read magazine articles, and online articles. I visit internet chatrooms (great when researching pure meth). I watch You Tube videos. I talk to people - I collar them if I think they can help me. My family would say that I become a bit obsessed with whatever it is I'm researching! The research takes me at least as long as the writing. I really enjoy it."


Thanks Charity. Does your subject matter ever get you down? It must be bleak at times.

August 9, 2013 01:45pmMessage by Charity Norman

Rebecca wrote: "Thanks for your reply, Charity!! The Brontes are my inspiration too! What was it like growing up in a vicarage on the moors? Spooky? Amazing?"

Oh wow Rebecca,I loved it. Yes spooky .. my bedroom looked out over a graveyard and I could hear the cats yowling and sometimes courting couples too! - but so many fascinating people knocked on our door, every day. People with mental health problems, homeless people, people in trouble. We interacted with them all, and it was never dull and often inspiring.

August 9, 2013 01:47pmMessage by Charity Norman

Rebecca wrote: "Also Charity, I would imagine the beautiful NZ landscape to be an inspiring backdrop for writers?"

It never ceases to amaze me - today, for instance, the sea is glittering and the sky's a limpid blue - and tomorrow it will be different again. It was great fun to write Second Chances, partly because of the gorgeous landscape.

August 9, 2013 01:50pmMessage by Patrice

Do you meet lots of people who are writing books?

August 9, 2013 01:50pmMessage by Charity Norman

Alex wrote: "Charity Norman wrote: "Alex wrote: "What research do you do for your novels?"

Lots. I go to the library and may read several novels and non-fiction books on the subject. I read magazine articles, and online articles. I visit internet chatrooms (great when researching pure meth). I watch You Tube videos. I talk to people - I collar them if I think they can help me. My family would say that I become a bit obsessed with whatever it is I'm researching! The research takes me at least as long as the writing. I really enjoy it."


Thanks Charity. Does your subject matter ever get you down? It must be bleak at times."


Yes, it can be bleak. I think I had a lot of practice at this in my old life as a barrister, though. What sometimes affects my mood quite a lot is getting inside the heads of my characters. It can be very difficult to experience what they are feeling, and then try to emerge and be a nice, happy person to my family. I do not always succeed.

August 9, 2013 01:51pmMessage by Culture Street

We only have 10 minutes to go so get your questions in now.
Hi Charity! Going well.
We know that there are lots of aspiring authors out there keen to have their first novel published. Was your first published book the first novel you wrote?
What tips would you give aspiring authors?

August 9, 2013 01:51pmMessage by Charity Norman

Patrice wrote: "Do you meet lots of people who are writing books?"

Hmm, interesting. Yes Patrice, quite a few people tell me they are writing books. Many, many more tell me they would like to write a book. I'm always interested to hear how they're doing.

August 9, 2013 01:54pmMessage by Charity Norman

Culture Street wrote: "We only have 10 minutes to go so get your questions in now.
Hi Charity! Going well.
We know that there are lots of aspiring authors out there keen to have their first novel published. Was your first published book the first novel you wrote?
What tips would you give aspiring authors?"


No it wasn't. I have an unpublished novel - languishing in a drawer. And that's my first tip - don't get hung up on your first book. I know it's difficult, but be prepared to start another one. Above all, be prepared to edit, to cut, to rewrite, to take advice. It's a tricky business - hang in there.
Another tip is to get on and write. Just do it!

August 9, 2013 01:55pmMessage by Rebecca

With the Brontes as inspiration and having lived so close to the moors and even a graveyard, would you ever write a book in the gothic genre?

August 9, 2013 01:55pmMessage by Patrice

Charity Norman wrote: "Patrice wrote: "Do you meet lots of people who are writing books?"

Hmm, interesting. Yes Patrice, quite a few people tell me they are writing books. Many, many more tell me they would like to write a book. I'm always interested to hear how they're doing."


Guess what I'm doing... and not doing so well. At least I do like reading and thankfully, great books like yours keep me going.

August 9, 2013 01:56pmMessage by Alex

Hi Charity,
Why did you choose to narrate The Son-in-Law through the eyes of three different characters?

August 9, 2013 01:56pmMessage by Charity Norman

Rebecca wrote: "With the Brontes as inspiration and having lived so close to the moors and even a graveyard, would you ever write a book in the gothic genre?"

Now, there is a thought. I'll have to sleep on it. Not in the near future, anyway, but I like the way you're thinking!

August 9, 2013 01:57pmMessage by Charity Norman

Patrice wrote: "Charity Norman wrote: "Patrice wrote: "Do you meet lots of people who are writing books?"

Hmm, interesting. Yes Patrice, quite a few people tell me they are writing books. Many, many more tell me they would like to write a book. I'm always interested to hear how they're doing."


Guess what I'm doing... and not doing so well. At least I do like reading and thankfully, great books like yours keep me going."


Keep it up Patrice - good luck. I know how difficult it can be!

August 9, 2013 01:58pmMessage by Charity Norman

Alex wrote: "Hi Charity,
Why did you choose to narrate The Son-in-Law through the eyes of three different characters?"


There were three opposing stories to tell. I wanted to give each one a voice, a real and distinctive point of view. I think I am out of time!

August 9, 2013 01:59pmMessage by Charity Norman

Charity Norman wrote: "Alex wrote: "Hi Charity,
Why did you choose to narrate The Son-in-Law through the eyes of three different characters?"


There were three opposing stories to tell. I wanted to give each one a voice, a real and distinctive point of view. I think I am out of time!"

It was all to do with understanding each character's viewpoint, which is very important to me.

August 9, 2013 02:02pmMessage by Culture Street

Thank you Charity! We are out of time. Some fabulous answers to posted questions. Great discussion.
Stay tuned for our next #CSLive chat.

August 9, 2013 02:02pmMessage by Charity Norman

Culture Street wrote: "Thank you Charity! We are out of time. Some fabulous answers to posted questions. Great discussion.
Stay tuned for our next #CSLive chat."


Thank you so much! That was great fun, and really interesting questions. Thanks everyone.

This discussion is now closed. Thanks to everyone who participated.

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