Aug 16, 2011

Guest Post~Hannah Downing

Today we have a special treat. Hannah Downing, author of Pieces of Us has come over to visit. Thank you, Hannah for stopping by to talk to us and for including an excerpt of your book for us to enjoy.



When Carol posted on her Twitter that she was opening up her blog to guest posters I jumped at the chance. Carol and I are published by the same publishing house and have grown a wonderful friendship and supported each other over the months. So, thank you Carol for allowing me the opportunity to take over your blog for today!!

I wasn’t sure of a topic to write about and asked Carol for some guidance. She posed a very interesting topic that not only inspired this blog post, but also allowed me to see my writing and my current novel differently, which a wonderful gift.

Her question to me – “How is writing your second novel different from writing your first?”

It took a few days for me to really think about the vastness of this question, I had two immediate and contradicting answers and I had to decide which was more accurate. My first thought was that the process was completely different... but at the same time it was also very similar. Let me explain...

When I wrote my first book, it wasn’t for publishing. I was writing it for myself because the story was in my head and it wouldn’t leave me along. I had to write it or I would go mad with the dialogue and characters fighting in my head. So, I wrote it out and gave it a group of friends to read, who all loved it and encouraged me to pursue publishing.

So, my writing process there was very raw. I allowed the story to pretty much write itself and wasn’t thinking about format or structure, just the plot. This of course made the editing process more gruelling. I wasn’t a professional writer, I had no idea what a publisher would be looking for and that wasn’t my end goal anyway so I just wrote and let the characters do what they wanted.

For my second novel, which I am writing now, I don’t necessarily know that it will be published, but I hope it will so I am writing with that in mind. I still allow myself to be creative, I have to otherwise the story would be horrible. But, I have been through the editing process now and I know some little tricks to make my writing better.

I would not say that either way of writing is easier than the other. On the one hand, the free writing is easy because there are no boundaries, but there is more work in tidying it all up afterwards, whereas minor editing as I go makes the initial writing harder but the drafts are better and will need less work in the future... I guess it all evens out in the end.

The other difference with my writing now is just that I, and my skill, have grown. I have written a novel, had it edited and been through the whole publishing process. I know what to expect, what they are looking for and how to craft my words. So, the writing that I produce now is of a higher quality (I hope).

Another difference from then to now isn’t about HOW I write but more what makes me write. Getting tweets, emails, comments etc from people who have read my first novel really encourages me to write more. Having someone say that a certain section touched them or affected them in some way is a great motivator to try and recreate that effect for people who might read my new novel (one day, I hope).

writing notesMy writing process has stayed the same, but grown. For my first novel I had a small notebook that I would scribble ideas in for each chapter. Now, I have several that I use to write all different kinds of ideas. One has a detailed plan for each chapter in the book, one is full of character descriptions, background information, profiles and sketches and one is full of photocopies and print outs of research that I have done.

My writing is much more structured this time around and instead of just writing, I have taken a lot of time to work out who my characters are, how they would react in certain situations and what the cities and places are like, that I am writing about. It is a much more in-depth process and I am enjoying it immensely.

The other change I’ve made with my writing is that I don’t try to force it. With my first novel, I would sit there and try to push through writers block and the words that came out where never what I wanted. I would then spend hours reworking them. Now, I write when my muse is strong and the result is always very satisfactory. Sometimes I will sit down to write and ten thousand words will just spring out of my fingers with no effort. If I don’t feel like writing one day, that’s okay. I don’t push it.

For new writers, I’d say go with what works for you. Don’t try and be too structured until you know what the editing process is like because you might put in a whole lot of work that turns out to be wrong and needs to be redone. Write because you love it and enjoy the time you spend writing. If writing starts to bore me or I’m getting frustrated with it, I stop. That’s time to turn off the computer and take a break. Only write when you love it and the results will be so much better... well, that’s what I’ve found in my writing.

Some notes about me –

I’m almost 30 and this thought both terrifies and delights me. I am excited to enter a new chapter of my life where people older than me don’t look down on my because I’m “just in my 20s” and I think I am mature enough now to enjoy what my 30s will bring me but at the same time, there is a part of me that just thinks... am I really THAT old already?? Where is my life going? I hope the answer is that it’s been used to create beautiful words that captivate people and bring some joy to their lives. If that’s the case then bring on 30 and even 40, and many more books!

I was born in the USA but moved to Australia when I was young child. I am proud of my Australianisms and while I do try my best to remove them from my novel writing, my tweets are full of Aussie slang!

You can follow me on Twitter here –

You can like me on Facebook here –

You can read my blog here –

You can email me at –

My debut novel, Pieces of Us, is available now from the publisher – or from / by searching “Hannah Downing”. Below is a small excerpt on Pieces of Us.

I love you. I had such a wonderful time last night xxx

I read the text message from Lucy on Cam’s phone over and over, each time hoping the words would change. My brain just couldn’t compre­hend the message — sent from my best friend to my husband. I put his phone down on the counter and walked through the house in a daze. In the living room, I stood in front of the Christmas tree, which mocked me with its illusions of joy, love, and family. This would be only our third Christmas together — was my marriage already over?

I felt numb as I bent down and gathered the presents I’d bought for my husband and carried them out of the room. I placed them next to the front door, neatly stacking them so their shiny red and green bows wouldn’t be crushed. I stood there staring, trying to form a coherent thought. But the only thing in my head was the fact that my best friend was in love with my husband. I heard the shower turn off, and I automatically went to the bedroom and opened Cameron’s closet door.

“Babe, can you grab me something to wear?” he called.

I stepped into the walk-in closet, looked at his clothes hanging neatly in front of me, and selected a pair of dark-wash jeans and a navy blue t-shirt from one of the shelves. Pulling open his top drawer, I grabbed a pair of black boxer-briefs and stood by the bathroom door for our morning ritual.

I knew I should be yelling and screaming at him, yet I couldn’t bring myself to do anything but stand and wait for him to leave the bathroom. My heart thudded in my chest, my hands shook slightly, and I heard a weird static in my ears — as if my brain had tuned out.

Right on cue, the door opened slightly, and his hand stuck out. I placed the clothes in his grasp. He pulled them in and closed the door loudly.

I selected his clothes every morning. He said he liked that I dressed him, and if he’d dressed himself, he’d look like a vagrant. I didn’t mind this little quirk, and normally I enjoyed the task. But today I realized I’d been selecting the clothes Lucy had seen him in — and maybe even removed from his body.

The bathroom door opened fully, and he walked out, looking every bit as handsome as I knew he would. His dark hair was still wet and gleamed under the bright bathroom light. He gave me a smile as he kissed me lightly on the cheek.

“Thanks,” he said on his way out of the room and down the hall.

I couldn’t move. He was acting so normally, and yet my whole life had changed. I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff where a strong wind threatened to blow me over the edge, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

“Charlotte, did you move the coffee? I can’t find it anywhere,” he called from the kitchen.

Bile rose in my throat, and I swallowed hard before taking a few deep breaths, wanting to stay in control. I walked slowly down the hallway, like an inmate to her execution. I caught a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye, but I stayed focused on the cupboard behind him, afraid that if I saw his face, it would all become too real.

Tears welled in my eyes, and my heart continued to pound. I needed to talk to him — needed him to tell me Lucy was some crazy stalker and he wasn’t cheating on me. But I couldn’t get any words out. If I opened my mouth, I might vomit.

I looked down at the beautiful diamond ring on my left hand and choked back a strangled sob. We’d only been married for two years. Was he already bored with me? I pulled the ring off and placed it on the kitchen counter, then proceeded to remove my earrings, necklace, and watch — all gifts from Cameron. I set them carefully next to the wedding ring.

Tears streamed down my cheeks, and I could see Cameron staring at me in confusion.


I picked up his cell phone from the counter and handed it to him, the offending message still on the screen. His face paled as he read it, and he looked up at me nervously. The loud static in my ears was back, and I was starting to feel extremely hot.

Fuck!” he yelled, throwing the phone against the wall. It clattered to the floor undamaged, unlike my heart.

We stood staring at each other for a moment, neither of us saying a word. Then his eyes broke from mine and slowly moved down to my jewelry, abandoned on the counter.

“Charlotte,” he said softly, moving toward me with his arms out­stretched, as if to pull me into a hug.

“No,” I whispered, stepping backward and out of his grasp.

His face fell, and he stood still, staring at the floor.

“Do you love her?” I choked out between sobs. I felt the warm tears flowing over my cheeks as I watched him think about his answer.

He was silent for a moment, and his shoulders sagged.

“I feel something for her,” he said sadly.

I sank to the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. The numbness that had been clouding my heart suddenly lifted, and the pain of what was happening hit me all at once. There wasn’t a single part of my body that didn’t hurt. I watched as my tears dripped onto the polished wood floor. Cameron’s shadow moved toward me, but I held my hand up to stop him before he could touch me.

“Do you love me?” I whispered, looking up at him.

“Yes, very much!” he insisted, dropping to his knees in front of me. “I’m so confused. I know what this looks like, but I want you, Char. I love you — ”

“I think you should go,” I whispered, cutting him off. As much as I wanted to hear something that would explain away his infidelity, I couldn’t listen to him right now.

“What?” He leaned closer to hear me.

I glanced up and looked at his eyes for the first time since I’d learned he was cheating on me. He must have seen something reflected back because despair washed over his face.

“I want you to leave,” I replied a little louder.


Thanks so much for reading, and thanks Carol for hosting me.


  1. I enjoyed hearing about your process on the second book, Hannah--sounds a bit similar to mine. I agree with you that if the words aren't flowing, take a break (especially since neither of our livelihoods depend on our writing at this point).

  2. Thank you Hannah for sharing your process on your new book with us and the gut wrenching excerpt. I'm sure it was as difficult to write as it is to read. Nicely done. :)