Dawn Goodwin studied on the very first of our online writing courses in 2013 – alongside fellow novelists Alice Clark-Platts and Catherine Bennetto. Her debut novel The Accident a gripping psychological thriller was published last year by Head of Zeus imprint Aria. Here Dawn discusses how the CBC course helped her to finish that first novel and then go on to write her second thriller The Pupil (published by Aria August 7), centered around an aspiring novelist, and partially inspired by her time on the CBC online novel-writing course.
My new novel The Pupil, to be published by Aria on 7 August, tells the story of Katie Hayes, who decides to go against everyone’s advice and pursue her childhood dream of being a writer. Of course, things are not as straightforward as that and she finds herself caught up in a triangle of lies and manipulation with her writing tutor, Sam Morton, and his literary agent wife, Viola Matthews, after she discovers that one moment twelve years earlier connects them all.
One of the themes of the book is the idea of finding the courage to step out of your comfort zone and finally try your hand at something you have always wanted to do. Katie is a suburban housewife with two beautiful children and a seemingly supportive husband on the surface. When she signs up to a writing course tutored by Sam, she finds that the odds are stacked against her ever achieving her dream. Her husband doesn’t think she can cope and seems determined to keep her trapped in her role as housewife, her best friend thinks she is silly for even contemplating a writing career when she already has everything she needs, and her mother has never believed in her and is more convinced she will fail than succeed.
The inspiration for setting the novel in the world of the debut novel slush pile came from my own personal experience with Curtis Brown Creative. Like Katie, I wanted to be a writer from a very young age, but my life veered off in a different direction and by the time I was approaching 40, I had written one novel, long buried in a drawer somewhere, and had dabbled in others. I started fleshing out an idea that had been banging around in my head for a while, but with a demanding career and two children, there were very few minutes in the day to dedicate to writing. However, I also realised that if it was something I was serious about doing, then I needed to commit. That’s when I signed up to the inaugural CBC three-month online writing course with the first few chapters of my book. It was perfectly suited to my busy schedule in that because it was online, the coursework could all be done in my own time. Run by Chris Wakling, the course fuelled my motivation to finish the novel, which I did before the three months was up, then I spent a few years fine-tuning it, submitting it to agents before finally seeing it become a bestseller (The Accident) as part of a four-book publishing deal.
Of course, I don’t have an unsupportive husband, doubting family or manipulative agent – quite the opposite! – so my journey has certainly been easier that Katie’s. She may be a woman with many flaws, but she is also a woman with courage and tenacity – and that should be applauded.
So if you’re in two minds about signing up to a CBC writing course, I would urge you to give it a go. I don’t think you’d ever regret trying and the worst that could happen would be that you will meet some like-minded and incredibly supportive people who will become lifelong friends and that you’ll have a lot of fun messing about with your work in progress.
If you want to study with us on one of our selective entry novel-writing courses, like Dawn did, our November starting courses are currently open for applications:
Three-Month Online Novel-Writing Course with Nikita Lalwani
Three-Month Novel-Writing Course in London with Charlotte Mendelson
Or, you can get advice and guidance on your novel writing, from our three short online courses designed to help writers at different stages of the writing process: Starting to Write Your Novel, Write to the End of Your Novel and Edit & Pitch Your Novel.