My writing journey – Nadia Marks

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By Nadia Marks

From childhood I had a love for the written word. I would write stories and essays and as young as five I remember pretending to write love letters to an imaginary boyfriend. Alongside my passion for writing I also loved to draw. My two loves were in competition with each other and I couldn’t work out which I loved best.♥

In the end, the art won, I went to art school and started my professional career as a graphic designer and progressed to being an art director for some of the glossiest women’s magazines on the market. I worked my way up over a few years on Cosmopolitan to Company and then helped to re-launch SHE magazine with my good friend and colleague Linda Kelsey. I always worked closely with the editorial department feeling that words and pictures are of equal importance. The two had to work in close synergy because that was the only way a magazine could excel. No use having a brilliant article that sat on a page with no image to entice the reader into the words, and at the same time the reverse applies.

In my role as a creative director and deputy editor on SHE I gradually started to write the odd piece, read and comment on all the articles, come up with ideas for stories and interview the celebrities whose shoots I was art directing. That period in my career gave me the confidence and encouragement to write more, and then when I went freelance, instead of turning to photography as everyone thought I would, I turned to journalism. I was writing articles for magazines and newspapers both in the UK and abroad and without doubt I know my experience in magazines, and the knowledge I acquired working with writers helped me along the path of becoming a writer.

Not long after going freelance I was asked to write my first young adult book by Brenda Gardner, for Piccadilly Press, which she then asked me to follow up with a sequel. The novel was a fictionalized account based on my own experience of coming to England from Cyprus as a young girl and not speaking a word of English; the story dealt with the subjects of ethnic identity and alienation.

Writing a novel was a totally different experience to writing articles and interviews but the skill of keeping it real and interesting applies to both. Another great lesson learned from journalism was keeping to deadlines and editing myself. When I first started to write my novel I couldn’t imagine how I would be able to write seventy or eighty thousand words; the most I had ever written was just over two thousand.

I wrote my first adult novel Among the Lemon Trees purely because I needed to do it. Having written two YA books gave me the confidence to venture into this new genre. When I started Among the Lemon Trees I was without a contract but had a brilliant agent who encouraged me and believed in me. This way I had more time to indulge in writing and researching and pondering over it.

Once the book was sold and I was contracted to write a second novel, the process was quite different. This time I had a deadline and my journalistic experience kicked in. The discipline of writing to a time limit is quite harsh especially when it comes to fiction.

Writing articles and interviews have their own disciplines and each publication has its own requirements depending on readership and style but fiction is just down to one’s own imagination. You are alone with your head and your plot. I start with a basic idea and then – as I have heard many writers say – the story and the characters take a life of their own and lead you into places you never imagined. At least that is the way I have found I write. Every day of writing for me is a new journey of discovery and it is thrilling.

Nadia Marks is an author and journalist, her latest novel Among the Lemon Trees was published by Pan Macmillan on the 1st June 2017. She has written for newspapers and magazines both in Britain and abroad and has just finished her second novel, also for Pan Macmillan.

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