Today I am very happy to welcome Cressida McLaughlin to the blog, to talk about her second novel The Canal Boat Café which comes out on July 28th. I read her funny and romantic first book, A Christmas Tail, when it came out last year and can’t wait to get my hands on this one. Her novels are published in four-part serials and then in paperback and here she is to tell you all about how she wrote her second.
When did you have the idea for your second novel, and was writing it part of your book deal?
I have wanted to write a story set on a narrowboat for a long time – I love everything about the landscape and wildlife along rivers, and thought that a river with narrowboats would be a wonderful setting – so the idea came about a couple of years ago, and was one I discussed with my editor. I knew she liked it, and so when I’d finished writing the Primrose Terrace series (A Christmas Tail), I brought it up again. My deal was for two books, and we decided that The Canal Boat Café could be the second book as part of that deal.
How long did it take you to write?
Altogether The Canal Boat Café took me about ten months to write, from planning to the final page proofs, though it had percolated in my mind for a lot longer than that.
How does the style and subject matter compare to your first novel?
There are definitely similarities between my first and second books. There are still lots of furry companions – as many cats as there are dogs this time – and there’s still a love story at the heart of it. But I also wanted to tackle some deeper emotional subjects with my second novel, such as Summer returning to her mother’s boat several months after her death, and how she’s dealt – or not dealt – with her grief. It was a challenge to do that, but one I really enjoyed taking on. I think most writers want to push themselves and try new things, and I really hope that, in my second novel, it’s worked.
How did the experience of writing it compare to your first novel?
It was easier in some places, and harder in others. I was getting used to the process – writing the book in four separate chunks, which meant I could be writing part four, editing part three and doing the copy edits for part two all at the same time. I knew what to expect from the editing process, and definitely felt more prepared. But, because I was writing about some more emotional subjects, I found a lot of it harder to write. I enjoyed it, but at times I did struggle. Then there was a point just over halfway through when it all seemed to click, and so writing, and editing, the last parts seemed a bit like a dream, and I was really proud of the result.
What did you love or hate most while writing it? What went well or badly?
I loved writing it! I really enjoyed the scene-setting, all the scenes with nature in, and I really love my hero in this book, though that is a bit of an obvious thing to say. But while I’ve been on a lot of narrowboat day trips, I’ve never lived on one, so doing the research and trying to get all the details right was tricky. Not that I don’t enjoy research, but I tend to get a bit panicky about whether it’s right, and end up triple and quadruple checking things, and then still not being convinced that I’m correct. And there was a point where, because of the feelings Summer is dealing with, I’d managed to make the whole tone of the book a bit miserable, and my editor helped to pull me out of that. So that didn’t go particularly well – it is meant to be a romantic comedy after all! But then once I’d done that I really got into the flow and, as I mentioned earlier, writing all the drama and tying up loose ends in the last part went a lot more smoothly than I’d expected.
Was your second novel harder than your first, or do you think that the ‘difficult second novel’ concept is a myth?
I don’t think that the ‘difficult second novel’ concept is a myth, but with that in mind, I had expected writing The Canal Boat Café to be a lot harder than it was. There were points where I was definitely going off track, and there was also more pressure, because of the weight of expectation from people who had read my first book – but to be honest I found that more encouraging than stressful. I’d had some good reviews for my first book, and there were readers who were looking forward to my second one, which spurred me on and made me want to try new things and make it as good as it could be. So while I was conscious of the concept, I was perhaps blowing it out of proportion, which meant than in the end it turned out not to be as bad as I was anticipating.
Thanks so much, Cressy! You can find links to her books here: