My name is Johanna Craven and I’m the author of the historical novel Bridles Lane, loosely based on true events from 18th century Cornwall. I’m also a musician and I love travelling, cooking and anything scary! I live half the year in London and half the
year in Melbourne, Australia, meaning my year consists of two summers and two autumns.
When did you realise that you wanted to write and publish a book?
I’ve been writing as long as I can remember, but I made the decision to try and write a novel when I was in my early twenties. I’m sure I had vague thoughts about trying to get it published back then, but I didn’t become serious about it until a few years ago. I reworked (and reworked, and reworked, and reworked…) that first book I ever wrote and it became my debut novel Music From Standing Waves.
Okay, so you have decided to write a book, where did you start? Research? A scene that came to you? A character that you dreamed up? Tell us what got the ball rolling.
With Bridles Lane, I started with the setting. Cornwall is one of my favourite places in the world and I knew I wanted to set a story there in the days when smuggling was at its peak. Like all my historical novels, Bridles Lane is based around little-known true events. Once I had chosen the setting and era, I did a lot of reading about the time until I discovered the story of Richard Dodge, the ‘ghost-hunting vicar of Talland’. Dodge convinced his superstitious parishioners that the lane outside his church was haunted and should be avoided at night, providing a cover for local smugglers to carry their haul up the lane and hide it in the church. Once I knew I wanted to use these true events, the fictitious elements of the story grew up around it.
Once you had started, how long did the process take?
Around eighteen months. I was challenging myself to complete this book quicker than my last one!
What were the things along the way that both helped and hindered you during the writing of this book?
I also work as a film composer so one of the things that helps me is listening to music while I write. This really helps me set the scene and often assists with breaking writer’s block. My biggest hindrance is social media and my own lack of discipline! I’ve started to work with my Wi-Fi turned off, so I can’t be distracted by what’s going on online!
Did the process of writing this book come naturally to you? Did it run smoothly? Or was it an uphill battle?
A little of both! As I’m sure most writers can attest to, some days the writing flows and other days it is a total uphill battle. The things I really enjoyed while writing this book were creating flawed, multi-layered characters and writing descriptions of the beautiful Cornish surroundings.
The biggest challenge I faced was plotting the story. Bridles Lane is the first book in the West Country Trilogy. It is my first attempt at a series and has been a huge learning curve. I spent a lot of time working out how to make the book feel complete in itself, but also have enough unanswered questions to make readers want to carry on with book two.
Set the scene. When you sat down to write, where were you? What did you need to help you? Did you have a routine with your writing? Tell us what was conducive to a successful writing session.
Bridles Lane was written in a ridiculous number of different places including on the tube, the bus, in the middle of the Australian bush, numerous coffee shops and on the floor of the toilets in Jamaica Inn, in Cornwall! So no, I don’t have too much of a routine. I try and write whenever I can!
Did you enjoy the process and is it something that you plan to do again?
Absolutely! Book Two of the West Country Trilogy is due for release at the end of this year.
Whilst you were writing the book, what inspired you? What made you keep at it and not push delete?
I love telling stories and I love sharing them with others. It really inspires me when I hear from readers telling me they have enjoyed the characters and story I have created.
Now the book is written, finished and published, is there anything looking back that you would have done differently?
Yes, of course. I don’t think a book will ever be 100% ‘finished’. There are things I would like to change in every book I have published, but I do my best not to focus on them!
Did you find the cover design part of the process difficult or enjoyable? And what were the feelings and emotions of handing your creation over to someone else to have the cover designed?
The cover design of Bridles Lane was such a positive experience. I had no problems handing over my cover design to Tim as I have zero design expertise and would never consider making my own covers. A good cover is such a crucial part of marketing and selling a book, so I think it’s hugely important to work with a professional. When I saw Tim’s first draft of Bridles Lane, I was blown away at how perfectly he had captured what I wanted for the book. It was really exciting to see the vague ideas I had in my head come to life.
Is there any advice that you would like to offer anybody reading this who is currently writing, or thinking of writing a book?
Get all your thoughts down on paper (or computer!). It is much easier to edit a rubbish draft than to edit a blank page! And turn the Wi-Fi off…
Check out the amazing novel by Johanna Craven. A beautifully written story that is book one of the West Country Trilogy.
You can follow Johanna Craven at
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