Second novel series: Isabelle Broom on writing two books a year

Next up in my second novel series is Isabelle Broom, whose beautiful debut, My Map of You, tells the story of Holly who is forced to confront her past when she inherits a house on the beautiful island of Zakynthos. It is a warm, poignant page-turner of a book that left me with tears on my face and an urgent need to book a Greek holiday. I can’t wait for her next novel, A Year and a Day, which is set in Prague. Here she talks about how she wrote it.

 When did you have the idea for your second novel, and was writing it part of your book deal? 

I can tell you exactly where I had the idea – it was on the corner of Euston Road in London, right by UCL Hospital. I was walking home from work furiously brainstorming after receiving an email from my agent earlier that day dropping a bombshell: my publisher had decided to put out two books in one year, and they wanted a new idea as soon as possible. Nothing like a bit of pressure to get the cogs turning! I was always going to write a second, as I had a two-book deal, but this meant that everything had to move forward more quickly.

How long did it take you to write?

 I started the first draft on 9th December 2015 and typed “the end” on 27th March in 2016, so three months and 18 days. But that doesn’t include the edits – I’m still doing those now and it’s early June!

How does the style and subject matter compare to your first novel?

 I write escapist romantic fiction, and just like in my first novel My Map Of You, my second book A Year And A Day is set in an overseas location. The first book was Zakynthos in Greece, while this new novel takes place in Prague. There are romantic elements to both stories, and the settings are just as important to the story as the characters.

How did the experience of writing it compare to your first novel?

 I had a deadline this time around – quite a tight one – so that was the main difference. My first novel took me a year to complete and I restarted and rewrote it several times. With this second one, I had a strict writing schedule and I barely went a day without getting some words down. It was tiring, yes, but also thrilling. I loved every second of it. I also visited Prague at the start of the year to do some additional research and wrote a large 20,000-word chunk of the book while I was in the city, something I hadn’t done for the first book, because I knew the island so well. I hope this helped book two become richer as a result.

What did you love or hate most while writing it? What went well? What went badly?

 I honestly didn’t hate anything about the writing experience at all. I was setting my alarm for 5.30am every day to write before work and actually feeling excited to get up and get cracking. I kept my characters so close to me while I was writing that I felt a constant pull to get back to them and move them forwards, and I was utterly absorbed throughout the entire process. I’m lucky in that aside from a little dog, I don’t really have anyone I have to prioritise, and this meant I could selfishly lock myself away for three months and really get under the skin of this book. When I got my first edit back, I knew that my structure needed work, so that’s something I had to acknowledge didn’t go as well as it could have, but I was really happy with how the various strands of the plot were resolved and with the emotional clout I managed to get in. My first readers were my mum, older sister and niece, and they all told me that they found it moving. Fingers crossed they aren’t the only ones!

Was your second novel harder than your first, or do you think that the ‘difficult second novel’ concept is a myth?

 Although I did write A Year and A Day in less time than the first novel, I wouldn’t say it was easier. Different, perhaps – but the second outing is always going to feel like a less daunting task. I learned so much during the process of publishing my first novel and I had far more confidence in my ability going into this one. I tried not to think of it as “the second novel” – I think mostly because it kind of came from nowhere and seemed to write itself. I’ve been so busy doing the first draft of this one and launching the first that I haven’t had too much time to stress. Having said that, in my darker moments I do worry that the readers who loved My Map Of You might not warm to my winter setting as much as they did to Greece, and of course it’s always daunting to have a basis for comparison out there. But I trust my editor and the team at Penguin, and I know they wouldn’t publish anything that wasn’t up to standard. I also know that I can put my hand on my heart and say that I wrote the best book I could. I just hope people enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it.

Thanks to Isabelle for answering my questions. You can find her books here:

My Map of You (out now):

A Year and a Day (out November 2016):