Writer Laura Jane Williams blogs at Superlatively Rude, has been published in several magazines including Grazia and Marie Claire, and her first ever book, a memoir called Becoming, is released on 2nd of June.
On a scale of one to a bajillion how exciting is it that you have a book coming out? With your name on and everything!
Oh my god - I just... this is everything I've been working towards for literally a decade. Since I was 20 years old I've been committed to a career as an author, and having my first book coming out feels like the biggest leap into the job of my dreams that I *almost* don't believe it is really happening. But... holy shit! It is! I'm over the moon that the hard work is paying off.
Let's start at the beginning - why and how did you start your blog? Did you want to be 'a blogger' or was it to showcase your writing work?
Great question! I started blogging in 2007, back when people like Single Mother on the Verge and Petite Anglaise were getting book deals from the diaries they were keeping online. I saw that they were attractive to publishers because they'd already built up an audience for their work, and understood that alongside developing my writing that it would be wise to do the same thing - to build a readership. I've never done sponsored content or brand deals for this reason - not because I object to that, but because I always wanted to keep it clear in my own mind that I was a writer first, with an online presence for a specific reason secondarily. All these years later, though, and I'm part of a tremendous community of like-minded, open, generous and supportive people without whom I would not have seen a book through to completion. Blogging - the internet - is wholly responsible for me ever finishing a book, outside of the initial desire to obtusely "write".
How would you describe Superlatively Rude and what changes has it been through?
I suppose I'd describe it as a "writing blog". There's no agenda beyond that - no agenda beyond "practice telling stories". It's been a medium wherein I've committed to 800 words once a week, and within that have experimented with telling tales as they happened, or sitting on them and waiting months to write retrospectively. I've told stories out-of-order and exactly-as-they-were and I never intended to be a memoirist, a documentarian, and yet here I am, having written a whole 88,000 words of memoir! I suppose there's been a lot of freedom in my just using the space to do exactly as I choose - to see what people responded to versus what I liked to write, and finding something in the middle that felt authentic and genuine for me.
Would you have been able to get a publishing deal without the blog?
In my initial book proposal it was very attractive to commissioning editors that I had a (very small! Let's not get carried away!) audience already. I had published a small ebook the summer we went on submission, so was able to "prove" in exact figures how much of my readership would convert from "clicks" to actual book sales. I think that was reassuring, for both my agent and potential publishers to know I understood not only how to write, but how to make my writing accessible in a way that made people value it enough to pay money for it. My readership is very generous with me that way. I wouldn't have a book deal were it not for those who have supported me as they have done - I truly cannot emphasise that enough.
You've said that writing is how you make sense of yourself. What do you think about the way the blogging industry has evolved into a commercial/celebrity-making beast? Is it becoming less about the writing?
There's not much I can say about this without sounding a bit mean and un-celebratory, to be honest. I salute anyone's business-savvy and entrepreneurship, and there are some genuinely inspiring commercial bloggers out there who I think have a great balance between aspirational and accessible - Meg from Wonderful You is one of my closest friends, for example. But... undisclosed sponsored content, and peer-to-peer advertising disguised as "OMG, THIS NEW LIPSTICK IS THE BEST!!!" really gets to me, and I think it's destructive in so many ways. I'm so into "micro-blogging" and the rise of the "micro-influencer" via places like Instagram, though, where everyday folks create communities of like-minded people. I've got a lot of time for that, and that feels so much more "real" than a lot of these blogger "brands".
What's the best thing that ever happened to you as a blogger? Before the book, obvs.
OOOOOH! Urm, I think that blogging led me to develop my social channels, and so through Twitter in particular I've had a lot of commissions from magazine editors. Anything I've done in Grazia, the Guardian, Red Magazine... it all came from Twitter. OH! When I got the email asking me to be Marie Claire Magazine's #BREAKFREE from Fear ambassador I had a "pinch me" moment. I was so proud that something like that came from me simply being myself online - by being flawed and a bit unsure and earnest and honest. That an editor saw that and said, "Yes, she is real".
How did IRL Panel come about and is it something you'll continue?
I made so many great friends through blogging and all the different social channels there are - mostly through Twitter. Emma (Gannon) and I wanted to expand that "meeting", and take online friendships offline, and so voila! That's what we did! I don't know what will happen in the future as this summer we'll both be focussing on our books, but I'm 200% committed to creating as many in-real-life opportunities as possible, whatever form they take.
When did you decide to write Becoming, and was memoir an obvious extension of blogging? What will happen to your blog now?
I was already blogging when my heartbreak happened - in fact, I was on a creative writing degree at university. It seem very natural to execute the number one rule of creative writing, which is "write what you know". I could've hidden the experience as fiction but everyone would've known I was really talking about myself, so I thought, fuck it, and wrote it in the first person, as me. I think part of me never thought I'd get published - that these words would never see the light of day. It is BIZARRE that they will, now. I think my mother will have a lot of questions! After I wrote The Book of Brave I realised there was a huge hunger for "real life" stories like BECOMING, and so I suspect my next book might be a collection of extended essays, but I'm collecting notes for a novel already, and letting the story of that develop in my mind. It's hard not to get carried away. And... and I don't know. I feel like blogging is over, in many ways. I much prefer those tiny little stories via Instagram these days. I don't know if I will carry on with Superlatively Rude.
Can you tell us a bit about the process of getting published?
God! There's so much to say about this! The short version is: I wrote a blog post about needing an agent, because somebody at a very big publishing house had emailed me to see if I had anything I could show her - a book proposal or some ideas. Because I had already written half of BECOMING, I decided I needed representation, and Ella, my agent, saw the blog after it got re-tweeted, and after a few Skype calls I decided she was the woman for me. We polished the proposal and sent it out on submission in the August, telling editors we'd take meetings in the September. We lined up a handful, and it was the meeting with Liz Caraffi at Hodder & Stoughton that left the biggest impression. Two days later they put in a pre-emptive offer, which means they offered a bit more money than they might otherwise do, but we had to say yes or no that day. It was them who I wanted to work with, so it was a no brainer. We signed!
What advice would you give to a blogger who wants to write for magazines, or write a book?
The only way to write, is to write. Don't just talk about it - practice and pitch and carry on even when it feels like you're not getting anywhere. Find your victories where you can, and know that so very much of it is luck -- but the longer you press on, the luckier you will be.
You wrote a piece recently about having burnout, and how you're taking a step back to write in your own time and on your own terms. How do you feel about this decision now, and is there pressure on writers to keep publishing after their first book?
Writing BECOMING slayed me, and so yeah - I'm nannying right now and enjoying the income that brings without worry, and the fact that without sitting at my Mac fourteen hours a day I can actually have a life, where I date and work out and cook from scratch and sleep properly. It's lovely! I'll carry on this way for the rest of the summer, for sure. I'm in no rush. Authorship is a life-long career for me - I've no desire to be "famous" or have people know my face, or be on the telly. I just want to write good books. My dream would be that people know my work, but get my name wrong. "That book about BECOMING!" I want them to say, "By that Lauren Jamie Wilkinson!"
Finally, which bloggers do you recommend we take a look at, and what's your favourite blog post from your own blog?
I mean, Meg Fee is the dream, as is Brianna Wiest. I read Hannah Brencher and Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open and Girls Gone Child and anything Chelsea Fagan writes. So many! And from my own blog, I think I am proudest of this one, about a man. I think the quality of the writing is so high because it came from a place of absolute truth. It's... pure. I know that sounds wanky, but you know what I mean.
Quick Fire Q's
Night in or Night Out NIGHT IN, ALMOST ALWAYS!
Full English breakfast or smoothie Urm.. both? For yin and yang!
Read or listen to music whilst commuting Listen to music and stare wistfully out of the window... though luckily commutes are a thing of the past for me now.
Song you can't get out of your head at the moment I'm so bad with new music! If it's not Whitney Houston, I'm just not interested
Last film you watched Half of Mockingjay part 2 on a flight to New York, but I was drunk so fell asleep after the first hour. Oooops! I loved the books though, so know how it ends ;)
Heels or flats FLATS FLATS FLATS FLATS
Bath or shower I've just had a bath three nights in a row, so I guess I'm no longer shower-obsessed!
What are you Netflixing right now Nothing! I am trying to work through House of Cards but I don't watch a lot of TV at all.
Best night out in London The best meal out I had lately is at Brawn on Columbia Road. I love brunch at Foxton's in my Stoke Newington neighbourhood, too!
Favourite podcast at the moment Can I say my own?! ;)
First 3 things you'd buy with a major lottery win - a house in London, a house in Sicily, and access to a bloody good dermatologist.
Ice cream flavour of champions Yoghurt gelato, every time.