Cesca Major is a novelist and screenwriter. The author of several psychological thrillers under the name C.D. Major, Cesca’s titles include A Thin Place and the Amazon hit The Other Girl, which was longlisted for a CWA Gold Dagger Award. Having worked in television as a presenter, Cesca enjoys live events and festivals. She regularly vlogs writing tips and teaches creative writing at the Henley School of Art. She lives in Berkshire with her husband and three young children. She is so far resisting getting a dog.
The Gloss Book Club: The book’s title, ‘Maybe Next Time,’ is intriguing. Can you shed light on its significance and how it relates to the story?
Cesca Major: I love the title because it perfectly encapsulates the slightly desperate middle of the novel where we are living Emma’s panic, bewilderment and confusion as she wakes to the same day over and over again, always wondering if and when things will change. It feels hopeful too and I wanted this novel to be a book about love and hope and making peace with today.
TGBC: What does your writing process look like? Do you map each story out from start to finish or do you begin with an idea and see where it takes you?
CM: It has changed over the years and I now have a worksheet I fill in – a chapter outline that I edit as the book develops. There was one big surprise during the writing process of Maybe Next Time that changed the last third of the book, and I edited my worksheet first to check it worked and then wrote those new chapters. I really like trying to keep a handle on the structure of something so big in this way but it is such a subjective thing and I have excellent writer friends who don’t plot at all. You have to work it out for yourself I think – trial and error!
TGBC: Are there any particular authors who have influenced your writing style?
CM: I read widely and in lots of different genres. I’m not sure who has influenced me but I want to bring the humor from authors like Kirsty Greenwood, Emily Henry, Sophie Cousens, Nina Stibbe and others, alongside the romance of Holly Martin, Holly Miller and Paige Toon. I also wanted to deliver an intriguing read in the same vein as Rosie Walsh or Rebecca Serle who use hooks and big twists to make their books extra special. I love trying to surprise a reader.
TGBC: Without giving away too much, can you share a memorable scene or moment from the book that you particularly enjoyed writing?
CM: I loved that first chapter! The meet-cute on the tube between a younger Dan and Emma with Dan dressed in lederhosen and so awkward! I re-wrote it more than thirty or forty times always wondering which bits would work. It was half-based on a true story (which I rarely do) and that was fun to send it to the couple who had a similar experience and see their reaction to their meet-cute now recorded for all time!
TGBC: Many readers have mentioned the emotional impact of ‘Maybe Next Time.’ How do you balance storytelling with evoking strong emotions in your readers?
CM: I think to connect with readers you have to be truthful and, as much as I wanted a pacy page-turning story I knew the reader had to care what was happening and believe in my two characters. I think the love letters from Dan, sprinkled throughout the story and charting their relationship over the years, really helped us to see that we were catching this couple in a moment in time but we should truly care about them, because we could see all the things they’d been through.
TGBC: The book centers around a groundhog like day experience – reliving the same day over and over again – was it hard to make that type of story intriguing when it’s the same day on repeat?
CM: Absolutely. The challenge was to repeat the day but keep the reader hooked with the small reveals along the way, the drip drip of different secrets. I don’t think I could have plotted this book until now – it was a monster! I had spreadsheets with every minute of the day accounted for because characters could only change their day if Emma changed it so they always had to appear when they should and more. I loved the challenge and introduced reveals and twists that I would try to put into my thrillers to, I hope, create that page-turning feeling for the reader.
TGBC: I can picture this book as a movie or series – has there been any interest in that?
CM: Yes! Very excitingly the dream team that is Hello Sunshine and Apple Studios have teamed up to make the movie of Maybe Next Time. The most exciting and wonderful pairing and I cannot wait to see how the novel is transformed for the screen.
TGBC: Emma is a truly relatable character for many of us – is there something you hoped your readers would take away from the book?
CM: All women of all ages take on so many extra jobs, so many caring responsibilities, juggle work with home with family with friends with parents etc, and the most exhausting thing about that is the extra mental load. I think I wanted this book to address the way women are pulled in a hundred different directions, and reflect on how we might have the power to change some of that.
TGBC: How do you relate to Emma?
CM: Ha! I am Emma! I don’t think I quite appreciated how closely I related to Emma until I’d finished the book and read it back. So many of the things in Emma’s head are the things going round in my own. Alongside big work things, new book or film ideas there are the smaller thoughts that nudge the big ones out of the way: oh ring your sister because she needs a call, where is that fleece Barnaby used to wear?, did you pick up milk? Tell Ben to call the man back about the window in the bathroom etc Maybe Next Time is my 13th novel and Emma is the character I most relate to out of all of them!
TGBC: Any advice you can share with the aspiring writers within our community? What advice would you give to your younger self?
CM: Read definitely. Read and see how the books you love are constructed. How do they set up that reveal, that character you love, that bit that made you cry. I would tell my younger self to try to have something to say – not just a story but a message you want to get across (without bashing people over the head with it). I would also tell my younger self to invest in a better office chair.