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September Author Interview – L.L McNeil 

This month I’m really excited to host not only a brilliant independent author but someone I feel I am lucky enough to now call a friend. 

Lauren is an independently published author who reached out to me back in the spring to ask me to read and review her debut novel Moroda. You can check out my review here: https://lifehasafunnywayofsneakinguponyou.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/moroda-by-l-l-mcneil-review/

Lauren has kindly agreed to do this month’s interview and I am very excited to host her! 

What was your background and how did you get into writing? 

I’m a Copywriter and have worked in Marketing / Marketing Communications for quite a few years now! I’ve always loved writing, and as a child I was always making up stories! I always wanted to make a living from writing, which is what I do, but there’s something incredible about writing your own novels!

What are your ambitions for your writing? 

My previous ambition was just to get published! Next it’ll be to get the remaining books in the series out, but also to the same standard as book one, if not higher! Five novels to go…

But in truth, I’d like to be an author full time – to have my bills paid with my books. That’d be an epic achievement!
I’m really excited for the next books in the series! Which writers inspire you? 

Many of them! In particular, those who create complex characters, worlds that come to life, even created languages! Right now I have a lot of admiration for Leigh Bardugo and Patrick Rothfuss.
Writing fantasy requires a lot of imagination, particularly high or epic fantasy like Moroda. 

I really need to get into Leigh Bardugo! Where did the idea for Moroda come from? 

I came up with the original concept back when I was sixteen, so quite a while ago, now! I remember handwriting pages and pages of this idea, trying to get it down before I lost the thread of it. It combined a lot of things I enjoyed – dragons and quests, magic stones, a vast world. I remember very clearly seeing the university at Berel, and the ballroom scene in the palace of Taban Yul in particular. I even hand-drew a map of the world!

Moroda herself was actually the weakest character up until almost final draft. She was kind of dwarfed by all these strong side characters and I struggled to find the character and voice of Moroda until very, very late on. She was just kind of swept up in events and didn’t do much for herself – so I hope I’ve brought her back to be a more balanced character, with real motives and understandable behavior!


Are you working on anything new at the moment? 

I’m working on a spin off / collection of short stories which details some of the characters’ lives before the events of book one. These are very short reads, only about 10,000 words. The first one I’m working on is all about Amarah and how she became a sky pirate!

I’ve also written the first draft of book two in the series, which is called Palom. I’m currently working on editing that in the hopes of publishing it later this year.



So that’s due anytime now then! What do you use to do your writing? Pen+paper, computer, typewriter etc. 

I use anything and everything to jot ideas down!! I’ve always got a notepad in my bag, a couple on my desk at work, and loads more floating around at home! It’s nice to be able to write down a bit of dialogue or description of a scene as and when ideas strike! I also keep one by my bed in case my dreams throw up anything worth exploring!

For actual writing I use my laptop and stick with Word. I often have many files of notes – so I have a whole document on the world of Linaria, another on various characters and their arcs, another on currency, another on things I’ve written that I’d like to keep for another book, etc. Plus all my outlining and plotting!



It all sounds very complex! Would you ever consider writing in a different genre or is there a genre you wish you could write? 

I’m a fantasy fan through and through, so I can’t see myself writing another genre. I’m in awe of those who write thrillers and mystery. All that plotting and foreshadowing. It’s very complex!!


How often do you write? Do you set yourself a word target or just go with it when inspiration strikes? 

I try and set aside a couple of hours every night (although that’s gone out the window since publishing!) – I can typically write 2,000 words an hour, so once I’ve completed my plotting, I can sit down and churn out quite a lot. NaNo is very good for helping with accountability, too! 

I do need to get back into a routine, but often when you’ve been at work all day, the last thing you want to do is spend another few hours looking at a laptop screen!


What sort of publishing route did you choose and why? 

I went for self-publishing, though it wasn’t my original plan. I wanted to go traditional, and purchased the Writers and Artists Yearbook, shortlisted agents I wanted to query, etc. But by the time I finished my manuscript, I’d had a change of heart.

I mentioned having a Marketing background, including many connections and colleagues. I could probably do a lot of the things a publisher would do, by myself. Plus I’d keep full creative control, and I could get it out there faster. If I was picked up by a publisher right now, it could be another eighteen months before the book went out on shelves.

There are also stories of wildly successful self-published authors who have later been picked up by a traditional publisher, so something like that could happen if my series takes off! You never know! 



From what I’ve seen so far Moroda is continuing to be very successful How do you market your books? What have been your marketing successes and failures? 

I’m quite active on Twitter and Facebook, so I’ve run a few ad campaigns there. I’ve also done some “author takeovers” and interviews like this one (many thanks again for the opportunity!). I’m part of a fantastic writing group called Garage Fiction who do a weekly podcast that I’m now involved with, which is awesome fun! 

I have an author website and blog which I post to at least weekly (including a series on my self-publishing journey and mistakes I made!), and I’m currently working on creating a book trailer. I’ve also commissioned an illustrator to create some beautiful artwork of the eight main characters from the book, which is awesome!

I approached people on Goodreads who typically read my genre and asked if they might like to receive a free copy for review, and I’ve also run a couple of Goodreads Giveaways, which has really helped with visibility and a few reviews have come from it. I’ll be exhibiting at some of the UK film/comic-cons, too!

It’s a constant learning curve. I don’t have an emailing list or newsletter (yet! I’m working on some added content for this), and a lot of my marketing efforts probably would have helped more if they were done before the book was released! But it helps to have this in place for when it comes to book two!

 
It sounds like you know what you’re doing! If you could be the original author of any book what would it have been and why? 


Oh gosh, that’s a tough one! So many! I’m in awe at the scope of A Game of Thrones, so I’d probably have to go with that one! Sorry for choosing the obvious!


What are your views on good and bad reviews? How much do you think the success of books relies on reviews? 


Touch wood, I’ve not received a bad review yet!! I’m still expecting one/several; certainly, as I have critiques about the book and shortcomings I’m not happy with. Good reviews make me giddy and I often cry when I read them, haha!

I am hugely influenced by reviews. If someone I follow on Goodreads leaves a four or five star review for a book and I like the synopsis, I’ll immediately add it to my “to read” list. If that book is part of a series, I add the rest of the series without looking! I love paperbacks too, so tend to rush out and buy those!

I think on a site like Goodreads, reviews will help the success of an unknown book or author. Amazon supplements this, too. 

Overall, reviews are very good, I think – especially when you hit about 50+, so I’m always asking those who’ve read my book if they’d be kind enough to leave a review!

Thank you so much for joining me this month Lauren it’s been a pleasure to have you! 

If you want to see more from Lauren and get the latest updates to can visit the website and social media pages below! 

http://www.llmcneil.com 
https://twitter.com/LLMcNeilAuthor https://www.facebook.com/LaurenAuthor/  http://www.llmcneil.com/blog/  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16468949.L_L_McNeil https://www.amazon.co.uk/L.-L.-McNeil/e/B06VVFY3DC/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0 

 

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August Author Interview -Kate Hughes 

Apologies for the slightly late posting of this month’s author interview, what with being in the Lake District with the absolute worse phone signal and no wifi last week, it’s had to wait, but it is well worth waiting for, this month I’m really pleased to welcome Kate Hughes author of Home. You can read my review of Home here: https://lifehasafunnywayofsneakinguponyou.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/home-by-kate-hughes-review/

What was your background and how did you get into writing? 

I have been a primary school teacher for over twenty years and I’ve been writing in one form or another for most of that time! I used to run a drama club at my first school and to get round copyright issues, I used to write my own plays for them to perform. It always gives me a thrill to hear that the school still sometimes uses my scripts. So really I’ve always enjoyed writing but it wasn’t until my kids got a bit older that I decided I had a bit more time and maybe I should give it a serious go. I’d had an idea for quite a while which was based on my teaching experience so I started to put pen to paper (I’m old school!) and Mr Brown’s Suitcase was born.

What are your ambitions for your writing? 

As I’m self published my dream is for a ‘proper’ publisher to pick up my book and allow my books to reach a much wider audience. There’s only so much I can do as one individual in promoting my book and I think every writer wants to be read by as many people as possible. I want to go on and write many more books. I have so many ideas floating around!

Which writers inspire you? 

I think any writer who has had to really work at getting their books out there is an inspiration to me, so for that reason I would have to choose J K Rowling. Her writing journey is amazing and the fact that she didn’t give up is so important. From a stylistic point of view, Khaled Hosseini is brilliant. I read A Thousand Splendid Suns in three days as it had me gripped.

I love both of those authors too! How much research went into writing Home? 

We’ve lived with autism in our family for many years so I like to think I know a great deal about the condition. However I did do some research into how a meltdown feels from an autistic person’s point of view since my niece is non-verbal and can’t explain to us what she is going through. As regards to the decision to put your child into residential care, well since Home is based on my sister’s experiences, obviously I’ve been close to her and her daughter and have seen with my own eyes what happened and how it affected everyone. I did need to ask her about details of the process involved in the decision etc. and I also had quite a few conversations with her about her feelings at the time. I’m really grateful to her for sharing some very personal thoughts with me as I know it was painful for her to relive such a terrible time.
I have autism in my family too so I can completely appreciate how personal sharing those experiences can be. What are you working on at the moment?

I’m brainstorming ideas at the moment. I know it’s going to be in a school and it will focus on the lives of the staff there, some with secrets…

That sounds really intriguing! Which of your books did you enjoy writing the most? 

I think I will always have a soft spot for Mr Brown’s Suitcase since it was my first book. It was a story that had been in my head for so long, it was wonderful to actually get in down on paper.
What do you use to do your writing? Pen+paper, computer, typewriter etc. 
I often jot down ideas on paper as you can do that anywhere. When I feel ready, I’ll sit at the computer to write properly but I am quite a slow typist!

How often do you write? Do you set yourself a word target or just go with it when inspiration strikes? 

I probably should set myself a word target, but I actually just write when I feel like it – when I have time! I think if I was too strict with myself the enjoyment would go.
I’m exactly the same! What sort of publishing route did you choose and why? 
Well I did try the traditional route but unfortunately it seems to be more difficult getting into the world of publishing than the White House! So if I didn’t want to just forget about my writing and leave it in a folder on my computer forever then the only route left for me was self publishing. A friend of mine had done it and had a lot of success so I thought why not? I’ve been pleased with the results and the process has been more straightforward that I’d originally thought.
How do you market your books? What have been your marketing successes and failures? 

I use social media a lot, getting my friends to help spread the word. I think Facebook has been particularly good. I also contact book bloggers who are willing to champion self published authors. They can reach a much wider audience. I think it’s getting harder though as there is now a huge amount of self published books out there.

If you could be the original author of any book what would it have been and why? 
That’s really hard as there are so many authors that I admire. If I had to choose though I think it would have to be My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult as that is one of the few books which made me cry out loud. I thought about it for a while after I’d finished too – the sign of a very good book!
I love Jodi Picoult’s books too they all make me cry! What are your views on good and bad reviews? How much do you think the success of books relies on reviews? 
I would be a liar if I said that I didn’t mind bad reviews. After all, if you’ve put your heart and soul into a book it feels like your baby by the end! However I realise that everyone has different views and some people may love my book while others may hate it and that’s fine. Fortunately I haven’t had a truly bad one yet. I like to think that I am strong enough to take constructive criticism as it will hopefully make my writing better. I think reviews are very important to a book’s success as I know how much importance I place on them before I buy a book for myself!
Thanks so much for joining me Kate, it’s been a pleasure to have you and I look forward to seeing more from you in the future! 

You can check out the latest updates from Kate here: 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/kjhughes70
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/katehbooks/?fref=ts

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8343208.Kate_Hughes
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kate-Hughes/e/B00KW8F25I/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

June Author Interview – Nicola Moriarty 

This month I have the pleasure of hosting Nicola Moriarty. Author of the wonderful The Fifth Letter which is also my recommended holiday read for 2017, and sister to authors Lianne and Jaclyn Moriarty. She is also author of three other novels; Captivation, Paper Chains and Free-Falling. You can read my review of The Fifth Letter here: https://lifehasafunnywayofsneakinguponyou.wordpress.com/2016/12/24/the-fifth-letter-by-nicola-moriarty-review/

So without further ado, let’s begin the interview, What was your background and how did you get into writing? 
 My background includes everything from swimming teacher to door-to-door sales person to advertising, marketing, waitressing, amateur theatre and everything in-between! But I grew up with a love of both reading and writing and my dream when I was in primary school was to become an author and illustrator of children’s books. I let go of that dream after realising I had none of the artistic talent required to illustrate books! Later on in life though, I completed a Bachelor of Arts degree with a Major in Writing and around that same time I started working on my first novel.

What are your ambitions for your writing? 

 I want to allow people to escape from the real world when they read my books, just for a little while. And then I want them to be left with that feel-good glow, even if it’s only for the rest of the day after they finish reading. Finally, I want them to be hungry for more words – and not necessarily just my words! 

That sounds like something you’ve experienced yourself when reading! Which writers inspire you? 

In no particular order (and by no means an exhaustive list!): Marian Keyes, Neil Gaiman, Enid Blyton, Wendy James, Roald Dahl, Diana Wynne Jones, Caroline Overington, Nick Hornby, Melanie La’Brooy, Jodi Picoult, Liane Moriarty and Jaclyn Moriarty.
Where did the idea come from for The Fifth Letter? It’s a very different take on the ‘usual’ sort of friendship novels. Did writing it involve much research? 

 I have a great group of friends that have been with me since high school (we’ve been in each other’s lives for more than 20 years now!) Obviously our friendships have had their ups and downs, but despite this, we’re all still very close and we have girls’ holidays away together every now and then. These holidays often result in lots of drinking and chatting way into the night and during these late night, wine-fueled conversations, all sorts of revelations from our past often come up. Sometimes we do argue or get frustrated with one another, but usually, we can move past any disagreements.

 I found myself wondering what would happen if something really serious, something really dark or sinister come up in one of these chats with my friends? What if it turned out that they were hiding secrets? That I didn’t actually know them as well as I thought I did?

 At the same time, I already had this completely random idea at the back of my mind of a group of friends swapping anonymous letters. I think originally I was actually envisioning a group of high school students doing it on a dare or as a bit of fun. The two ideas sort of merged together and from there, the story of a group of long-term female friends sharing secrets in anonymous letters was formed.

 I liked the concept of the feeling of helplessness you might feel if you read something heartbreaking in a letter and knew that one of your friends was hurting but you couldn’t help them because you didn’t know which friend it was.

 The story didn’t require a great deal of research, but I did have to find out a bit about certain infertility issues, plus I learned a little about abseiling and I asked the advice of some friends who are nurses to help determine the possible outcomes of a certain injury.

Are you working on anything new at the moment? 

 Yes, I’m working on my next novel, which is about parenting in general plus the divide between working mums, stay at home mums and women without children. It’s also about the judgement between parents and about the sometimes toxic influence of social media groups on women… and that’s all I can say at this stage without giving too much away!

 That sounds really interesting and I know I’ll definitely be giving it a read once it’s published! What do you use to do your writing? Pen+paper, computer, typewriter etc. 

 I mostly write on my laptop but I like to keep a little notepad and a pen on hand so I can jot down ideas that sometimes pop into my head. Pen and paper also sometimes comes in handy to do some timeline / plotting or character planning notes.

Would you ever consider writing in a different genre or is there a genre you wish you could write? 
 I did attempt to write a murder mystery / thriller once – but I made it far too complicated and I gave up after only 10,000 words. I’d love to write fantasy or adventure novels, but I’m not sure if I could pull it off!

There’s so many great books out there it is hard to pick and stick to a genre! How often do you write? Do you set yourself a word target or just go with it when inspiration strikes? 

Usually, at the start of a new novel, I just write when I can and when I’m feeling particularly creative. Then once I get into it (and especially once I’m getting closer to my next deadline), then I do often set myself word limits that I want to reach (either daily or weekly) to help me stay on track. Usually I find I have to leave the house to work – so I either go to a café or work in the office with my husband (we run a design business together). I also usually need music to write, preferably something like The Submarines or Group Love or Little Birdy.

 What sort of publishing route did you choose and why? 

 I sent my first manuscript off to a literary agent, who also represented my sister, Jaci. She was kind enough to pass it on to another agent – in order to avoid any conflict of interest. That agent then brokered my first book deal with Random House and she has represented me ever since. I’ve since moved on to HarperCollins here in Australia and the US and I’m with Penguin in the UK. The main reason for taking the traditional publishing route was simply because I wanted to give that a go first and I was lucky enough that it worked out for me. But I guess if that first agent hadn’t been interested I would have had a crack at the self-publishing path!

 If you could be the original author of any book what would it have been and why? 

The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton. It’s just such a wonderfully magical book that I adored as a child and I’d love to have that entire world inside my head!

That’s my absolute favourite Enid Blyton I loved that book as a child and still do to this day! What are your views on good and bad reviews? How much do you think the success of books relies on reviews? 
 Good reviews are THE BEST! To be honest, I don’t know how much a review would really influence a book’s success, all I know is that a good review about one of my own books can make my day and inspire me to write and cause my heart to sing! Bad reviews are something that I’m getting used to. I accept that they have to exist because it would be a boring world if everyone had the same opinion, but they can still cause your heart to hurt. Then again, sometimes they do push me to work harder!

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview with me Nicola and all the best for your writing in the future! 

If you want to see more from Nicola you can check out her social media pages and websites below: 

Website: http://www.nicolamoriarty.com.au

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/NikkiM3

 Facebook (author page not personal): https://www.facebook.com/NicolaMoriartyAuthor/

 Blog: http://www.nicolamoriarty.com.au/journal

 Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5347787.Nicola_Moriarty

May Interview – Rebecca Gransden 

For May’s interview I caught up with Rebecca Gransden, author of the fantasmagorically delightful Anemogram. Rebecca has also kindly offered a paperback giveaway of Anemogram to one lucky reader of this interview. All you have to do is retweet this interview on your twitter account to be in with a chance to win. You can read my review of Anemogram here: https://lifehasafunnywayofsneakinguponyou.wordpress.com/2016/09/12/anemogram-review/


What was your background and how did you get into writing? 

I’m from the south coast of England and have what I guess would be classified as a traditional working class background. I received a few encouraging words at school and they confirmed my unsteady assertion that I could write a bit if I put my mind to it. I’ve concentrated mostly on short stories over the years, until I attempted to write my first longer piece in 2014. That resulted in my first, and only release so far, Anemogram. 
You sound a lot like me there! Except I’m yet to finish my novel never mind have it published! What are your ambitions for your writing? 
To always push myself forwards, to strive to improve in the areas I think I need to, and to challenge myself. If I don’t feel I’ve moved forward in some way or another I see no point in releasing anything, especially with regard to novels. My predominant impulse is to not shortchange myself or do a disservice to anyone who might pick up my writing. For this reason I will always take risks. To me, feeling comfortable is a sign that I need to move on, whatever the outcome.

Which writers inspire you? 

I have writers I admire, probably too many to mention here, but I’ll say Paul Auster, Chekov for his short stories, JG Ballard, and Lydia Millet is great stylistically. I’m mostly inspired by fellow indie authors whose work connects with me, such as Leo X. Robertson, Harry Whitewolf and Rupert Dreyfus. It’s important to me to have the immediacy of those currently creating as an energising force. And their stuff is great.

Anemogram has a very unusual premise and theme, where did the idea come from? 

I wish I knew! I had about two weeks to come up with some basic ideas in order to take part in National Novel Writing Month. I knew that I wanted a female protagonist, and to cover some specific themes, and then embarked on a pretty intense month. Anemogram is the result.
It sounds like you work well under pressure in that case! Are you working on anything new at the moment? 
I’m taking a break from writing as intensely this year, but I do plan to fit in a novella at some point. I have a short story collection that I’m in the process of finalising in order to release. Last year I completed the first draft of a science fiction themed novel, and I will return to that to edit, although I have no idea if and when I’ll release it.
You have quite a lot going on then! What do you use to do your writing? Pen+paper, computer, typewriter etc. 
All my writing is now carried out on a laptop, just for convenience. My first few short stories were handwritten and it was valuable to transfer them to the laptop making adjustments and improvements as I went. I am interested in attempting something handwritten again as there is a difference in the process that could be creatively beneficial.

It can’t be denied that handwriting makes your arm hurt a lot more than typing though 🙂 Would you ever consider writing in a different genre or is there a genre you wish you could write? 

I’ll try anything in any mixture or permutation. I want to incorporate different areas, to make things interesting and keep pushing myself. Always willing to fall flat on my face if it’s fun! I’ve found it difficult to categorise Anemogram. I worry about genre placement after writing, if at all. I have a whole bunch of horror stories that may be released at some point.

How often do you write? Do you set yourself a word target or just go with it when inspiration strikes? 

I like to set aside specific periods of time to immerse myself in what I’m writing. It doesn’t suit me to have multiple projects active at once, as all my energy needs to point one way. I have a generalised minimum daily word count when I’m in a writing phase, though life does get in the way of that sometimes of course, but if that happens I’m mindful to play catchup the next day in order to stay on a self-imposed schedule. When I’m not actively writing I’m either editing, reading, researching, beta-reading, promoting or doing something to ensure I stay engaged.

What sort of publishing route did you choose and why? 

I’m a supporter of self-publishing as my instincts are that as far as possible writers, and anyone who produces a creative commodity, should retain ownership of their work. This puts pressure on those who do self-publish to ensure that what we release is high quality, especially with regard to formatting and presentation. I love the spirit of independent publishing, on whatever scale, and most of the interesting reading I come across originates from that world.
Without a big publishing house behind you though, how do you market your books? What have been your marketing successes and failures? 
As I have only one release so far my experience of promotion is quite limited. For me, it is important that any promotion I do is an extension of how I make my way through the world, and gives an accurate impression of what I and my writing stands for. I’m aware of what I won’t do—such as pay for reviews—and prefer to look for fun ways for my writing to find those who may be interested in reading it.
If you could be the original author of any book what would it have been and why? 
A book that I returned to endlessly as a kid called Encyclopaedia of Legendary Creatures by Tom McGowan. This was full of definitions of supernatural and mythological beings from around the world and each creature was depicted in an accompanying illustration by Victor Ambrus. His drawings are very distinctive and chilling. I think it would’ve been a fascinating project to put together, and exciting for the author to collaborate with such an amazing illustrator.
I might have to check that out as I love myths, legends, etc. What are your views on good and bad reviews? How much do you think the success of books relies on reviews? 
Reviews are great to have as they do help give a general impression of what a book is about. There’s no denying that it is helpful for a potential reader to have reviews available in order to gain further information about a book before they decide if it is for them or not. My strategy has been one of seeking out readers and reviewers who may get something out of reading my book. I’ve tried to be quite focused and I’ve had a mostly positive experience, whether my book has been enjoyed or not. My concern is not so much to do with a positive or negative reaction, but if my book has been fairly represented or not. I think discerning readers who are familiar with review sites and with review culture look for indications of whether the book will appeal to them, and can filter out much of the noise. Reviews mean less as they are distrusted more but they are still important at this stage, and there’s no doubt positive reviews have an effect.
Thank you so much for taking part in the interview Rebecca and for agreeing kindly to do a giveaway as well! 
If you’d like to see more from Rebecca you can check out her website, Amazon account and social media pages here: 

Website: https://rebeccagransden.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rlgransden

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rebecca-Gransden-1046981001979898/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14235808.Rebecca_Gransden
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rebecca-Gransden/e/B014I5D5OU/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1