How did you first start out as an author? Have you always wanted to write?
Ever since I was a child I have been drawing or writing something. I still have some of the stories that I penned when I was a teenager (admittedly they are not very good though). Back then if you had asked me what I wanted to do with my life I would have said become an artist, a writer, or an archeologist (I made the first two, but I think I got sidetracked with the third and became a Psychologist and a teacher instead).
When I was at school I loved anything about adventure, mythology, magic and science fiction and moved effortlessly from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five and Secret Seven to John Wyndham’s Day of the Triffids and Midwich Cuckoos and then later to books by James Blish, James Herbert and the great Stephen King. More recently though I have become a big fan of fantasy and YA books, which began when I started to read the brilliant Harry Potter series with my children and discovered how much I loved the genre.
As a child I was always writing my own stories and escaping into my own little world. I didn’t have a very happy childhood, so my writing was an escape for me. Later when studying for my Psychology degree I discovered that many writers had started writing in order to escape the reality of a traumatic childhood. Psychologists such as Freud explain this tendency as the development of a fantasy prone personality in order to escape childhood trauma and I wouldn’t argue with that. As a child I would retreat into my own private fantasy world, where I could be anything I wanted to be, strong, powerful and even magical and therefore perfectly safe from all the chaos in my life.
I have started so many books over the last few years, but none have ever grabbed me the way the idea for this one did. Consequently they remain unfinished on my computer hard drive.
This book though was different right from the very start. I have a really long commute to work every day, I teach Psychology at a college which is almost sixty miles from where I live and so I spend around three hours in the car every day. It is during this time that my best plot ideas come to me. I quite often have to pull off the road so that I can jot down ideas before they disappear from my head. The whole of the idea for the book series came to me on one of these commutes and the idea grabbed me so strongly that I knew that I just had to write it. It was almost as if the story was floating out there in the ether and just found me to write about it… here I am, now write me!
I once heard an author mention how when reading a really good book she would catch herself thinking "I wish I had written this." If you could write a book that has already been written which book would you choose and why?
I suppose like a lot of fantasy writers the Harry Potter series would come to mind. I found the whole series so magical and I remember when I read the Philosophers Stone it took be right back to the time when, as a child, I would read Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories by torchlight under the bedcovers until the wee hours of the morning. J. K. Rowling’s books had all the rip-roaring adventure of Blyton’s books but magnified a hundredfold by the inclusion of magic. I cannot deny that I would have loved to have been the one to have written Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone.
If you could meet with any person, dead or alive, who would you choose?
Oh well I am much too greedy to just want to meet with one, I would have to have a dinner party and I would invite Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Rosa Parks, Ghandi, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Martin Luther King and J. K. Rowling. That should get the conversation going well! However you asked me for one person so I would have to go with Mark Twain.
Why? Well not simply because Mark Twain is well known for being extremely intelligent, a powerful author, and for having a killer sense of humour, but also because I would really love to ask him how he knew.
‘How he knew what?’ I hear you asking.
The answer is that in 1909 Twain reportedly said
"I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: 'Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.' "
Twain died of a heart attack on April 21, 1910, in Redding, Connecticut, one day after the comet's closest approach to Earth. How cool is that?!
What is your writing process?
My main system is to use Microsoft OneNote to keep track of all my story notes, character information, plot lines, and details of the developing world of the Afterlands etc. OneNote syncs over multiple devices so I always have my up-to-date notes with me which means I can pick up my work anywhere. I also save my work to Google Docs online for the same reason.
I have a characters note section where I file a page with a tag for each character and list their main characteristics which gives me a detailed character map of each of them so that hopefully, I always manage to write in the distinct voice of each character.
I have to be in a quiet room to write as I am very easily distracted. I try to write every day even when I am at work when I try to write in my lunch hour if I can. I write a chapter at a time in a linear fashion, each chapter in chronological order. Once I have an idea what is to happen in the chapter I just write a very quick first draft, exactly as the story unfolds in my head, and then as soon as I complete the chapter I do an immediate second draft before I go on to the next chapter. Then I pass the chapter on to my husband for proof reading.
How do you deal with writers block?
I have yet to experience much of a problem with writers block but sometimes the flow does tend to dry up a bit. I have realised that this tends to happen when I am tired and the words are not flowing as readily as I would like.
What I find works for me is to take a break and concentrate on doing something else, preferably a mundane task. Usually what happens then is when I am not consciously thinking about it, unconsciously my mind figures out where the story should go next and hey presto the solution pops into my head when I am cooking the tea or doing the ironing or whatever mundane task I chose to break the deadlock. This solution is supported by much Psychological research which has found that our minds work much better at figuring things out when they are occupied doing something mundane.
What is your favourite quote from the book?
That is a good but difficult question to answer. It is my book but I don’t really see it like the readers see it. It was a lot of hard work and choosing exactly the right words to include in the narrative was a sometimes arduous task so much of the time when I read the text I see the anguish that each sentence caused me. However I loved creating Eldwyn’s Prophecy and the songs for the book I should probably use the Prophecy of Eldwyn that starts the book as it is one of my favourites. It was one of the first things I set down on paper before I actually began the book so it probably deserves a special mention.
“When Whyte ascends in female frame,
And Aurum Sooth speaks Rhodium name.
When Bloods swarm o'er Ferrum fields
And the fiery gate of Tollen breaks its seals
When evil emerges from its brimstone core
To conquer our lands with fyre and war
Then shall the Incantatio seek and find
She with power to unite and bind
Rhodium will resurrect, and by her hands
Unity will reign in the Afterlands"
(Eldwyn the Whyte)
If you had to describe your book in three words what would they be?
Fantasy, afterlife adventure.
What books are you reading now or looking forward to reading?
I am reading Delerium by Lauren Oliver and I am really enjoying it but have quite a lot on my Goodreads ‘to read’ shelf including Jonathan Strouds The Whispering Skull, which I am going to be reading next. I love his books!
You are welcome to contact me and share your opinion on which one of these you think I should be reading next, but make sure that you provide me with some good reasons!