Author Interview: Moira McPartlin

Moira-McPartlin

Today is publication day for Ways of the Doomed, the first in a planned trilogy of YA novels by Moira McPartlin. I have read some cracking YA fiction and this was no exception (you can check out my review here). I was therefore delighted when, as she prepared to release her latest book into the wild, Moira found the time to consider a few of my questions on her experiences as a writer. I hope that you find her answers as interesting as I did.

Please welcome to neverimitate, Moira McPartlin.

Where do you typically write?

Anywhere I can find a seat. Also it depends on what I’m working on. I always write the first draft in longhand. I choose fancy notebooks and find good quality pencils or pens. Notebooks are the greatest small pleasure in the world! I love to write in bed first thing in the morning. I’m most creative then. I live in a small village, so a trip to the local café can be unproductive if every second person joins you for a chat, but I often travel to the city to café-write. Even if there is music playing in the background I find cafés inspirational spaces.

Like many writers I suffer from backache, so I switch seats often when working for long stretches on a keyboard. I have a sunroom that looks out to the garden and the surrounding countryside – this is my favourite spot. Light and nature are so important to me. I like to seize every moment of it while I can. If it’s even slightly bright and dry I work in the sunroom. If it’s rainy and cold, which it often is in Scotland, I retreat to my small study where it is quiet and warm, although very dark.

Blogging and emails are done in the evening curled up on my sofa in front of a wood-burning stove. The common denominator here is my need to be cosy, comfortable and warm.

Tell us about your writing process.

I’m in the middle of writing my fourth novel (my first is buried under the bed). If I’d been asked this question a couple of years ago I’d have said I didn’t have a process, but I now realise I do.

I always start with a couple of big ideas or one simple story and create one or two characters to drive the story along. Then I embark on a month of writing (longhand) 2000 words a day. I often do this in November to coincide with NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. I never know what’s going to happen to my story. I let the characters take over: it’s fun and liberating to know you can write rubbish if you want and no one is going to judge you for it.

After the month is up I have notebooks filled with 60,000 words or so and a pretty good idea of what the book will be about. I don’t read it back but stick the notebooks in a drawer and continue with whatever project I’m supposed to be working on.

When the time comes to begin the novel I have a head start of 60,000 words to type up and on balance most of the words are not that bad. This wild approach normally gives me about two-thirds of the novel and I work on those, redrafting and editing, until I am ready to write the ending, which has been gestating in my head. The time I know a novel is alive is when I can’t stop thinking about it day and night. That is a wonderful feeling.

Tell us about your publishing experience.

I have a file filled with almost a hundred rejections from publishers and agents. I kept them all!

Some are encouraging, most are standard. With my first novel (the buried one) I had mostly standard rejections. With my debut novel, The Incomers, I knew I had something special. The full manuscript was requested by many publishers. Some were interested but were scared off by the racial content. Eventually Fledgling Press were brave enough to take it and they published it to critical acclaim in 2012.

Ways of the Doomed had a different journey. Saraband saw an early version, recognised its potential and gave me great editorial advice. Meanwhile I half-heartedly sent it out to some English publishers and received quite a bit of interest and positive rejections. I always wanted Saraband to publish so resisted sending to other Scottish Publishers. Saraband continued to provide me with editorial input even before the contract was signed and we are now both happy with the result.

In what ways do you promote your work?

Both Fledgling and Saraband are small independent publishers without the budgets larger companies can dedicate to marketing campaigns. I’ve always embraced the responsibility for promoting my books and work hard with my publishers to maximise my exposure.

Before The Incomers was published I contacted every book festival in the UK and every bookseller in Scotland to ask for an event, or even just a mention. I contacted all the publications who had even a tenuous connection with the subjects in the books – I even wrote a letter to Land Rover Monthly because Land Rover is mentioned twenty times in the book. They said they would publish the letter, but I don’t know if they did.

Before I began writing full time I worked for a large global corporation and that gave me a huge address list of good friends. Ebooks paid off for me here because no matter where they were in the world they could buy a copy. One pal was working in Kazakhstan and downloaded The Incomers the minute he received my mail.

I used social media, mostly Facebook, as much as I felt I could get away with before turning people off.

Ways of the Doomed is aimed at young adults as well as adults and I am working hard to do things differently.

Last year I joined the International organisation SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) and began to build a network of writers. The organisation is fantastic for providing training for all things promotional. They made me realise I was only scratching the surface of social media.

Ways of the Doomed is a good read for schools so I created a Teacher’s guide linked to the various curricula and have been systematically contacting local authorities, libraries and schools to introduce them to me and the novel.

During the publication period I am spending two weeks in London and have ten promotional events planned for that time. I can’t wait to meet some of my readers!

What are some of your current projects?

As well as the promotional work I am working on book two of the Sun Song Trilogy and thinking about the themes for book three which I plan to blitz during NaNoWriMo in November.

I am also an active member of Scottish PEN, an International organisation that campaigns for the rights of writers oppressed or imprisoned by extreme regimes. Through PEN I have been working with a group of female refugees and asylum seekers to produce new writing. I have been neglecting the ladies in the past few months but hope to get them involved in an event in September.

Where can readers find you?

Blog – www.moiramcpartlin.com

Twitter – @moiramcpartlin

Tumblr – theweemcp  (Sun Song)

Instagram – moiramcpartlin

Snapchat – moira.mcpartlin

Moira McPartlin is a Scot with Irish roots. Although born in the Scottish Borders, she was brought up in a Fife mining village. She has led an interesting life as a mother and successful business woman. Moira made a big impact with her debut novel The Incomers, which tells the tale of a West African woman moving to a small town in 1960s Scotland. It was shortlisted for the Saltire Society First Book of the Year Award and was a critical success. Moira is also a prolific writer of short stories and poetry, which have been published in a wide variety of literary magazines. She currently lives in Stirlingshire, Scotland.

wotd-3d

Author Interview: Rob Sinclair

8389261

I rarely accept self-published books for review but there are exceptions to every rule. When I checked out the synopsis and reader reviews for Rob Sinclair’s ‘Dance with the Enemy’ I decided that it was the sort of book that I would like to read. I was also interested in finding out more about the man behind the story.

Although I generally ask each of the author’s that I interview the same questions I always hope that they will use these as prompts and tell me more than I directly ask. Rob has come up trumps. He has not only given me the background to his writing process but has explained what he has learned along the way, thus providing useful tips for writer’s who may choose to follow the same path.

I hope that you will find this candid interview as interesting as I did.

Please welcome to neverimitate, Rob Sinclair.

Where do you typically write?

These days I typically write sat on the sofa in my lounge with my laptop. Its comfy, warm, and I have a nice view of our garden. But going back in time to when I first started Dance with the Enemy I was writing anywhere I could find the space and time. I had a full time job then so was writing early mornings before work, at lunch times, in the evenings before bed. I would write on the train, planes, ferries, in the office, in hotels in the UK and around the world, literally anywhere I could.

It would be great to have somewhere that I could really take myself away for long periods to concentrate on writing; a lodge in the mountains or a seafront villa – maybe one day. My parents live in the Lake District and whenever I visit there’s something about the place that makes you feel inspired – and it’s worked for plenty of famous writers in the past – so perhaps there. But for now, the lounge suits me just fine and its far better than sat on a cramped bunk of a ferry on choppy waters!

Tell us about your writing process.

I’ve finished drafting the third book in the Enemy series now and am currently editing it. I think I’ve finally started to get into a rhythm about how I tackle writing a book. Bear in mind that until five years ago I’d never attempted to write fiction at all so I really have been making this up as I go along!

I’ve started all three of the books with very little in terms of plot. I get one or two big ideas and then start to play out a few scenes in my head. Maybe the start of the book, or the end or just a page-turning scene in the middle. Then I just start writing. I’m a great believer in just getting things started, not just with writing but with anything in life. I’ve always hated planning things, at work when you sit in a meeting room with a team discussing for hours on end how to start a project. It’s not me at all. I like to get stuck in and see where things take me. That’s certainly how I approach writing. The first drafts of the books really don’t take me that long, a few weeks if I have sufficient time each day. It suits my style and even though I get writer’s block along the way, as every writer does, I seem to get through it and find that the quicker I write the more the ideas come to me. For the third book I set myself a word count target of 4,000 words a day. I think I hit it all but one day and my best was close to 10,000.

At the end of the first draft the meat of the story is there but it invariably needs a lot of polishing and editing. That’s the bit I dislike the most and it takes a lot more time. I edited and re-read Dance with the Enemy probably a dozen times before it was published. It can be painful and tedious at times reading through the same material over and over but it’s essential and it’s that stage of the process where the story really comes to life. During editing I also become more focused on the structure of the story; mapping out characters, timelines, chapter lengths, points of view to make sure everything flows smoothly and there are no major plot holes and the like. I’m a trained accountant so spreadsheets are my best friend. I have a big spreadsheet for each book breaking the whole thing down into tabular format, chapter by chapter (I know, once an accountant, always an accountant!). It’s a formula that seems to work for me so I’m sticking to it.

Tell us about your publishing experience.

I’m a complete novice really. I came into the whole writing/publishing process with no knowledge or experience of the industry. I was naïve and it didn’t pay off for me. After I’d drafted Dance with the Enemy, some four years ago, I was just so delighted to have finished a manuscript that I started to send it off to agents here, there and everywhere. I was young and out of my depth and I thought, very wrongly, that even though my draft needed work that someone would see potential in me. That’s just not the way the industry works. Agents and publishers want the finished article and needless to say I got universal rejections.

I started working on the book some more, improving it, and started sending it out again. Slowly the rejections I was getting became more personal, I started to get some praise and positive feedback and even pointers as to what to look at and change. This process went on for a couple of years but ultimately I was still getting rejected each time even though agents were telling me how much talent they thought I had.

In the end I got sick of it. I felt like I was wasting my life doing submissions to agents when I should have been writing. Me and my wife had also had two boys in the intervening period so my available time had dwindled to virtually nothing. It was at that time that I had a choice; quit altogether or self-publish. And it was a close call. Without the support of my wife I might have chosen to quit but through her encouragement, and that of my parents, I ploughed on and took a six month sabbatical from my job to give me the time I needed.

And it was then that I made the single most important step; I hired an editor. With hindsight I should have done it years before and I should never have sent out a single submission to an agent without having first done that. The editor was brilliant, she really helped me to finish Dance with the Enemy and make it publishable.

I self-published Dance with the Enemy in June 2014 and haven’t looked back since. In many ways I think self-publishing has suited me. I’m a bit of a control freak so it helps that I’m in charge of everything and get to decide when and how things happen. Maybe one day I’ll get back in touch with agents and the big publishers but for now I’m going to keep working hard at making as much of an impact as I can on my own.

In what ways do you promote your work?

Social media has been the number one forum for me for Dance with the Enemy. I’d never before used Twitter and rarely used Facebook until last summer but I now spend hours a day, not just promoting, but socialising which is very important. I do my fair amount of pushy marketing as it’s the only way to really stand out over the plethora of other authors (both self-published and traditionally published) that are out there trying their hardest to garner readers. But I also believe that the most effective way to sell books, build loyalty, is to be sociable with the people you meet.

In many ways social media was a shock to the system for me as in reality I’m a classic introvert, as are many writers. But in some ways that’s why I’ve fallen in line with Twitter and Facebook so easily – I feel much more comfortable behind the safety of my computer than if I had to meet and talk to all these people in real life!

I’ve also got to know a number of book bloggers/reviewers who have been immensely helpful in getting the word out about my work. On top of that I’ve had the odd flirt with traditional media; radio, local newspapers etc. For my next book, Rise of the Enemy, I’m hoping to make a much bigger splash in the mainstream media now that I’ve got the credentials and experience from Dance with the Enemy.

What are some of your current projects?

On the writing front my second book, Rise of the Enemy, is completed and due to be released in April 2015. I’m really excited about it and personally think it’s a better book than the first. It’s written in the first person, from the point of view of my main character, Carl Logan, and I really felt I got to know him during that book.

I drafted the third book last year and have been sat on it for a few months so my next task (outside of promoting books one and two) is to edit that. I let my wife and parents read the first draft and they all said it’s my best yet which was great to hear!

After that I’ve got ideas. I’ll begin my fourth book in the spring/summer if all goes to plan. I’ve got a great idea for a fourth Carl Logan book so I might put that one into action given that I’m building up a loyal following of him already. On the other hand there’s an idea for a standalone book that I’ve had for a while that I think would make a really great and complex story. I’ll give it a shot at some point but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Where can my readers find you?

On Twitter: Rob Sinclair (@RSinclairAuthor)

Website:  www.robsinclairauthor.com

Facebook: Rob Sinclair – Author

.

Rob began writing in 2009 following a promise to his wife, an avid reader, that he could pen a ‘can’t put down’ thriller.

Dance with the Enemy, the story of embattled intelligence agent Carl Logan, released in June 2014, was Rob’s first published novel and the first in a trilogy of novels following Carl Logan. Rise of the Enemy is the second book in the Enemy series, due for release in early 2015.

Rob is a qualified accountant. He has worked for a global accounting firm since graduating from The University of Nottingham in 2002, specialising in forensic fraud investigations at both national and international levels.

Originally from the North East of England, Rob has lived and worked in a number of fast paced cities, including New York, and is now settled in the West Midlands with his wife and young sons.

dance

Available to buy now from Amazon

Author Interview: Dinah Jefferies

20140520_190340-1

When I approach an author I am unfamiliar with for an interview, it is usually because there has been something about the way they write that has intrigued me. Dinah Jefferies’ life has presented her with some significant challenges, which is perhaps why she can imbue her female protagonists with such depth of feeling and strength whilst avoiding clichéd or cloying descriptions. Her prose is deft, her characters real.

From the people she has created in her first book, The Separation, I got the feeling that this author is an adroit judge of character as well as an intelligent and talented writer. The steamy setting, with its 1950’s housewives and pompous husbands, could easily have placed her book in that much maligned genre of romantic ‘chick lit’. This is sidestepped cannily, although I suspect that fans of the genre will enjoy her writing. Alongside the passion and intrigue she offers nuance and insight whilst avoiding any suggestion of earnestness.

I was eager to find out more about the creator of this book so was delighted when she consented to be interviewed.

Please welcome to neverimitate, Dinah Jefferies.

Where do you typically write?

I always write in my little work room at the back of our terraced Victorian house. I have a desk for the computer, and a desk for writing notes and for plotting my novels, although by the time a book is complete the layers of notebooks are usually a foot deep. When I have a tidy up at the end it shocks me how much stuff I’ve accumulated. There’s probably enough material for half a dozen books.

Tell us about your writing process.

I start with a location; so far all my books are set in the East. Once I’ve picked a country I’ll read about the history and hope to find a time period that fascinates me. Usually I’ll choose a period of upheaval, where social change is happening or is about to take place, and often that process of reading will suggest an idea for the story. Of course a lot of time and heartache will have to go into developing the idea, and that tends to happen at the same time as I develop the characters. I’m known for strong female characters who undergo an emotional journey during troubled times, so I look for challenging situations for my main characters. My favourite stage is when I’m thinking about how I’ll weave the characters into the time and place I’ve chosen. I don’t plan everything in advance, although I know what my themes are and I know what drives the central story. I usually write a first draft and while reworking it the deeper story unfolds. Sometimes it is a little different from the original idea. It’s a complex process of discovery and it can keep me awake at night.

Tell us about your publishing experience.

Well all I can say is that my publishers at Viking/Penguin have been fantastic and I’ve enjoyed every part of the experience. Their offices are on the Strand in London overlooking the river, so I love going up there for meetings. They’re also extremely friendly people and that helps.

In what ways do you promote your work?

I do all the usual things: blog tours, interviews, signings. Also I give talks at bookshops, libraries and Literature Festivals. I shall be appearing at three festivals this October: Beverley, Cheltenham and Ilkley. I’m also to be found on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. I love Pinterest because I tend to think visually. I’ve been interviewed on the radio several times but have yet to do television. Hopefully I will at some point.

What are some of your current projects?

I’ve just finished the edits for The Tea Planter’s Wife set in Ceylon between 1925 and 1934 which will be published by Penguin and in translation next year. I really loved writing it and I’m very pleased with the end result. Now I’m working on my third book a complex story set in Vietnam – and therefore terrifically hard to write. I’m at the fingers crossed stage. It always happens somewhere along the line and, so far, I’ve found my way through. Writing ‘on the edge’ you could call it!

Where can my readers find you?

On Twitter: Dinah Jefferies (@DinahJefferies)

My  blog: Dinah Jefferies – Author  (www.dinahjefferies.com)

On Facebook: Dinah Jefferies – Author, Penguin UK

On Pinterest: Dinah Jefferies – Author

The Separation is available for purchase now, from the publisher, Amazon and all good bookshops.

.

Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaya and moved to England at the age of nine. She still loves South East Asia and the Far East and jumps at the chance to travel there whenever she can. She once lived in a commune with a rock band, and has worked as an exhibiting artist. After also living in Italy and Spain, she now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and very naughty Norfolk Terrier where she writes full time. The Separation is her first novel.

The Separation Cover Final - Front - Medium

 

Author Interview: Sarah Hilary

sh9

Sarah Hilary lives just down the road from me, is also a wife and mother, but has recently become a published author with rave reviews in the national press. I love to see a writer succeed. Her debut novel, Someone Else’s Skin, is available from Headline in the UK and Penguin in America. It is the first in a series and at least three other books featuring the protagonist, DI Marnie Rome, will follow.

It has taken Sarah nearly thirty years to get to this point. Despite many rejections along the way she continued writing, listening to feedback, improving and not giving up. The result is an impressive crime thriller that I and many others have very much enjoyed. She deserves the long awaited accolades that are now coming her way.

So many people have a story inside, but few have the patience and skill to craft these into a book that others will want to read. If you are looking for a crime thriller with power, depth and a compelling plot then you will enjoy this author’s work.

Please welcome to neverimitate, Sarah Hilary.

Where do you typically write?

For preference? In cafés. Im a big fan of white noise. Im trying to get better at working at my desk at home, so if anyone has any suggestions for neat shelving or pin-boards to make my writing space exciting, please let me know!

Tell us about your writing process.

Im not a great plotter, as I get bored easily; one of the reasons I write is to find out what happens, and to be surprised by the characters. I found a really good (fun) list of different ways to plot on Chuck Wendig’s blog, so Im going to take a crack at a couple of his methods to see what gives. Usually, I start with a rough idea and write around 4,000 words to see if it excites me. Then I start jotting down questions, and twists. The story grows out of those. After that, its a matter of sitting down and writing a couple of thousand words every day until the first draft is done. Usually a lean draft that needs layers, but Im much happier when I have the whole story down, as thats my map for rewrites.

Tell us about your publishing experience.

It took me a long time to get good enough to be signed by the agent of my dreams (Jane Gregory) but after that it happened quite quickly. Someone Elses Skin and the follow-up, No Other Darkness, sold after an auction in the UK, and I have publishing deals in seven other countries, which is beyond a dream come true. I have a terrific editor at Headline (Vicki Mellor), and a great publicity team who launched Someone Elses Skin with fanfare earlier this year. Since then its been pretty much non-stop, as Ive been finishing No Other Darkness at the same time as travelling to events around the UK to promote Someone Elses Skin. And now Ive started the third book in the series; my heads still spinning a little, and I feel Ive learned a heck of a lot, very quickly, about the publishing process.

In what ways do you promote your work?

With the help of my publicists here and in the US, Ive done a lot of blogs and interviews, and a couple of live Twitter chats (it really helped that Id been active in social media for some time before I got a book deal, as I had a head-start). Ive also done events at independent bookshops, some first person features for newspapers and magazines, and radio interviews.

What are some of your current projects?

Ive just started the third book in the Marnie Rome series, and Im making notes for the fourth book, so that the long-term character arcs are in place.

Where can my readers find you?

On Twitter: Sarah Hilary (@sarah_hilary)

Author’s Blog: Crawl Space (http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.co.uk)

Facebook: Sarah Hilary (https://www.facebook.com/Sarah.Hilary.Author)

Someone Else’s Skin is available from the publisher, Amazon and all good bookshops.

.

Sarah Hilary lives in Bath with her husband and daughter, where she writes quirky copy for a well-loved travel publisher. She’s also worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. An award-winning short story writer, Sarah won the Cheshire Prize for Literature in 2012.

Someone Else’s Skin is her first novel, published by Headline in the UK, Penguin in the US, and in six other countries worldwide. A second book in the series will be published in 2015. Set in London, the books feature Detective Inspector Marnie Rome, a woman with a tragic past and a unique insight into domestic violence.

The Observer chose Someone Else’s Skin as its Thriller of the Month in March 2014, describing the book as Superbly disturbingan extraordinarily good debut.

 

Author Interview: Shelan Rodger

IMG_5037 copy

How much does a book tell the reader about its author? I am told that a work of fiction will reflect a plethora of the author’s experiences: people they have met, films they have watched, books they have read, the life they have lived. When I read a story that makes me think particularly cogently or in a new way, I want to know more about the creator of the words. Sometimes I conclude that they are simply good inventors, that my interpretation of their book is as much down to the experiences and prejudices that I bring to the story as to the author’s inspirations. Other times, the more I uncover about the writer the more I consider how enjoyable it would be to sit down and get lost in a discussion with a person capable of expressing such thoughts as they do.

Shelan Rodger has said of her first book, ‘Twin Truths grew out of two things: a fascination with the meaning of personal identity and the conviction that there is never only one reality.’ In a world where we are encouraged to follow where others lead, to think in terms of black and white, it was inspiring to find a story that explores more deeply the meaning of identity and perception. I was delighted to find that the author of this fabulous tale weaves her thoughts on life as perceptively as those she includes in her book.

To quote Shelan again, this time on how we allow ourselves to be distracted by our own busyness: ‘Food for thought…what gives you food for thought, if you stop juggling for a moment, if you let it in?’ She talks of connecting with nature, of the beauty of stillness. Given how busy she is and how she values her time, I feel honoured that she agreed to take part in this interview.

Please welcome to neverimitate, Shelan Rodger.

Where do you typically write?

My favourite place is in front of a window. There is something about looking through a window that opens me, inspires me. The actual view from the windows I’ve written through over the last few years has changed quite dramatically – from a garden in Sussex to flower farms in Kenya to the volcanic coastline of Cabo de Gata where I currently live in the south of Spain!

Tell us about your writing process.

I don’t have a disciplined approach and I’m a bit of an all or nothing person. So I like to write when I know I’ve got a big chunk of time to myself and can get completely lost in it. I find that the writing process when it really flows is like a form of meditation. A combination of letting go and being alert, a state of mental relaxation that is almost passive, so that the words flow through you…I think it is this freeing of the subconscious that is probably behind the idea so often quoted by writers of ‘characters taking over’.

Writing a novel is a bit like having a relationship. As you get to know someone, you kind of live with that person in your head. It is also very much a journey in itself. I set out with a notion of the destination I want to get to but no real idea of how I’m going to get there

Tell us about your publishing experience.

It took ages to make it happen! I have a whopping great file of rejections, including a few rave ones. I was lucky enough to find an agent who never gave up. Last year, I was passing through London on a work trip to the States and had arranged to meet my agent, Broo Doherty, for lunch. I was expecting it to be a bit of a ‘so where do we go now’ kind of thing but at the last minute she sent me an email saying change of venue, we’re going to meet a publisher who is interested in making an offer for Twin Truths. The catch? They want to meet you first. Oh my God, I thought, so if they don’t make an offer it’s because of me, not even because of the book! It was nerve-racking – but I had no time to panic or prepare so off we went. They were called Cutting Edge Press, a small new Indie publisher, whose motto is ‘fiercely independent.’ I loved them! And the moment they said yes was a moment of pure euphoria. Writing is, after all, only one arm of a body; the other is being read.

In what ways do you promote your work?

Well, the first thing to say is that I’m a complete novice at this and the idea of ‘self-promotion’ makes me feel very uncomfortable. So it is very much a learning curve. I started engaging in social media and a friend designed a website for me. I had a launch party at Goldsboro Books in London, which was a lot of fun and drew friends from all sorts of corners of my life, for which I am deeply grateful. I would love to do a few readings or talk to book clubs or more things like this and I am sure there is much more I could be doing to make this happen. I’m a little challenged by where I live (south of Spain) and by the need to juggle all this beside a full time job. But I am keen to do more and I know that Cutting Edge Press are always on the look out for opportunities so it’s very much a team approach. In the end, though, I also see it as Twin Truths’ own journey – word of mouth, the power of individual personal response to the book itself, if people like it they will talk…

What are some of your current projects?

I assume you mean writing projects! Well, my second novel, which is also due to be published by Cutting Edge Press, is in its final stages. Set in England and Kenya during the post-election crisis of 2008, Yellow Room is a drama about the power of secrets to run our lives.

My third novel is still growing in my head. Working title: A Paper Trail. It’s inspired by something that happened two weeks before my father died: he found a novel he’d forgotten he’d written in his twenties, read it, changed the last line and handed it over to me. This was the last time I saw him. In my book, an unpublished manuscript by her father falls in to the hands of Elisa and takes her to Kenya, where a twist presents the one person from her past she never wanted to meet again. This is another psychological twisty tale with dark undertones.

Where can my readers find you?

On my website/blog: www.shelanrodger.com

Or my Facebook author page: www.facebook.com/ShelanRodgerAuthor

Or on Twitter: Shelan Rodger (@ShelanRodger).

Twin Truths‘ is available to buy from the publisher, Amazon and all good bookshops.

.

Shelan’s life is a patchwork of different cultures and landscapes. Born in northern Nigeria, she grew up among the Tiwi, an aboriginal community on an island north of Darwin, and moved to England at the age of eleven. After graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford, she travelled to Argentina and stayed for nine years. Then another period in England followed by six years in Kenya on flower farms by Lake Naivasha and the lower slopes of Mount Kenya. She now lives in Andalucía, Spain. Her professional career has revolved around international education and learning and development, with an emphasis on anti-discrimination.

Author Interview: E.J. Kay

463347_109667769165443_56890787_o

Although Liz has been my next door neighbour for quite a number of years, I only discovered that she was a published author when she offered me a copy of her first novel, Watermark, for my Book Group to read in 2012. If you like a good murder mystery then go buy this book now, I couldn’t put it down.

As well as her day job (Professor of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of the West of England) Liz is currently working on her second novel, provisionally titled ‘The Salt Man’. As a novice writer I am always intrigued to learn more about those who have succeeded in the craft and was therefore delighted when Liz agreed to this interview.

Please welcome to neverimitate, E.J. Kay.

Where do you typically write?

For me, writing fiction is a two-part process. First there is getting down the ideas, keeping the flow going and not worrying too much about structure. In particular I write dialogue this way. I find I get ideas for characters and dialogue easily, so I use my laptop a lot when I’m writing the first pass at a chapter, or the first ideas for dialogue. I take it with me on holidays, or jot down ideas as they come to me. I find it easiest and most effective to be in a busy atmosphere to do this; if I’m sitting in a coffee shop, or whiling away an afternoon on holiday, particularly if I’m sailing or cruising, the ideas seem to pour out.

The second part is the reworking and editing – the polishing I guess you could call it. I tend to do that at my desktop as I find I need a quiet place. It’s strange, but if I sit down in a quiet atmosphere with a blank computer page in front of me I get writer’s block, but it’s the only kind of environment in which I can edit and rework something I’ve already written.

Tell us about your writing process.

Oops, I guess I’ve already started to answer this! Probably the best description of my writing process is patchy. It’s almost as though it has a life of its own and I ride the rising and falling tide, making the most of the creative periods and using the times when ideas dry up a bit to work on structure and editing.

I generally start from an idea, or set of ideas, that have been sparked by something I’ve experienced, read about or seen. I like to mix ideas too; to see how synthesising them can create a new or different way of looking at things. I also research a lot. Researching is a reflex I have developed over the past 25 years of academic writing, and it’s one I can’t shake off. Also, I like to write scientifically-based crime fiction, so research is vital.

Tell us about your publishing experience.

In my life as an academic I’ve been published in academic presses for over 20 years now, including a book, several book chapters and peer-reviewed conference proceedings and journal papers. I’ve also had several specialist magazine articles published and am on a number of editorial boards for academic journals. I do a lot of reviewing for journals too.

Writing fiction is a complete departure from all this, and gives me the freedom to create characters and stories; a freedom that I love. But, getting fiction published has proved very hard; I have tried finding an agent to represent me, but with no luck. I’ve tried sending copies of the manuscript of Watermark, my first fiction book, to publishers, but again with no luck.

So, I have gone down the self-publishing route on Kindle and Create Space (both Amazon) and found it both rewarding and frustrating! Rewarding because I do actually have a book published, but frustrating because the advertising and marketing channels available for self-published work don’t seem to be very effective. My book is lost as one of around a million on Amazon.

In what ways do you promote your work?

I have a blog as E.J.Kay (my fiction author name) which I get very little time to post to, unfortunately. I’ve tried Google AdWords and Facebook advertising, but the click-through rates are very low and these haven’t resulted in many sales at all. I have Facebook and Twitter accounts as E.J.Kay too, but again I have let these slide recently due to time pressures in my day job. Promoting the work is turning into more work than writing it! I need to sit down and draw up a promotion plan this summer, when I get a bit of time.

What are some of your current projects?

I am currently working on my next book – The Salt Man. Like Watermark, there will be two stories in the book; one in the ancient past and one in the present. I’m fascinated by how patterns repeat over time, and how stories might run in parallel over thousands or millions of years. As the old adage goes, there are no new stories!

I got the idea for The Salt Man whilst visiting the Castell Henllys Iron Age reconstruction site in Pembrokeshire a few years ago. Whilst we were chatting to the helpers there, they described how salt was very important to Iron Age cultures and how it is likely that it was delivered by salt traders. When the Romans came they commandeered the salt mines and brine evaporation sites, and would have been likely to use the salt traders to keep the supply going to both the native people and the Roman settlers. Salt was a very important commodity to the Romans too.

It struck me as we were chatting that the salt traders would visit many places and would be likely to hear gossip and tales. They would be an ancient information vector. And then I thought about how quickly and effectively information travels today, and wondered if a puzzle that couldn’t be solved in ancient times might be solvable now. This idea is explored through a murder mystery in The Salt Man.

I’m also interested in the idea of transmedia storytelling, where readers can take the ideas in a story and develop them through online media, such as video, blogging and 3D virtual worlds. I like the notion of a story developing further after an author has finished with it; the author ‘gives birth’ to the story and it can continue to have a life of its own after it has left home! So I’m beginning to develop a site in a virtual world (Second Life) where the stories in Watermark might be developed further by readers who can take various roles and play them out. It’s early days for this project though; it won’t be ready any time soon!

Where can my readers find you?

My blog is the best place  E.J.Kay’s blog | WordPress.com.

‘Watermark’ is available from Amazon in Kindle or paperback: Watermark: Amazon.co.uk: E J Kay: Books.

.

I’m a Lancastrian by birth, born in Bolton in the 1950’s. My family moved to Pembrokeshire when I was 14 and I went to college in Cardiff in the 1970’s. E.J.Kay is my maiden name; I use it for fiction writing to differentiate from my academic writing, for which I use my married name, Liz Falconer. I’m currently Professor of Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of the West of England. Before working at UWE I was at the University of Bath, and before that at the University of Salford.

My Twitter handle is E.J.Kay (@EJKay1).

My Facebook page is E.j. Kay.

Author Interview: Jess Law

10012177_864312243595155_3730567027226408425_o - Edited

I first met Jess when I gave birth to her seventeen years ago. In terms of publishing history, on line hits and just about every other measure of a writer’s success, my daughter is showing me the way. At fourteen she had her first article published in a magazine; at fifteen one of her short stories was included in a physical book; her serialised stories attract in excess of 20,000 readers on line.

For my first author interview, I decided that I need go no further than my own home.

Please welcome to neverimitate, Jess Law.

Where do you typically write?

In terms of physical location, my desk in my bedroom is where most of my stories are written. I do visit actual locations and scribble down ideas, but my best work happens where I am most comfortable.

In terms of where my work ends up, the majority of what I am writing at the moment is fanfiction – hence it ends up on websites like FanFiction or Archive of Our Own.

Tell us about your writing process.

That suggests that there is a typical process that I go through every time. There isn’t. With my fanfiction I think of an idea or am given a request or prompt and then I just sit down and write. In that way I can produce 5,000 or so words in a single sitting, before going back and editing to see if it works.

My original stories have a much longer and more arduous process, as I tend to do a lot of research and character building before I write anything down. I have an entire folder of characters and inspiration on my laptop to draw ideas from.

Tell us about your publishing experience.

The things I have had physically published – my magazine article and my short story – were very different experiences. For the article, I was contacted by the editor and asked to write an article on a specific topic. I was provided with background information and clear guidelines but it took me some time to write something that I thought was appropriate. For the short story, I was stressed after my first GCSE exam so sat down and wrote to try and calm down. I entered the result in a competition without expecting anything to come of it, and got a phone call several months later to say I had won and was being published in a collection of short stories. It was quite surreal.

Publishing fanfiction on line is different again. I have learned over the years what my readers like – fairly simplistic and cliché romance – so I just churn it out, send longer stories to my beta reader, and then upload it on two websites. It’s simple and stress-free, although it gets a bit tedious occasionally as I prefer complex fantasy to romance.

In what ways do you promote your work?

To be honest, I often don’t. On the rare occasions when I upload original work on line I promote it via Twitter, but my fanfiction has enough of a following from people just searching the sites. I’m not the most popular author by any means, but I don’t have enough free time to be constantly dealing with requests, so for now that suits me. I already have multiple pleas to expand on many of my short stories so I feel no need to promote and chase for even more readers.

What are some of your current projects?

I have a longer fanfiction project which I have been writing since December ; it is currently 50,000 words long and far from complete. I am also in the research stage of an original story which should end up being my third original novel – like the others I doubt it will be published anywhere, but I’ll enjoy writing it. Alongside that I will continue writing short 1,000-5,000 word fanfiction stories when my readers request them.

Where can my readers find you?

My fanfiction isn’t exactly great literature, but those who really want to read it can find me under the pseudonym of ThePenguinOfDeath on FanFiction or Archive of Our Own. I have also published a small number of stories and articles on Readwave. My published short story is in the anthology ‘Wild n Free‘, available on Amazon.

 

Jess Law, more commonly known as ThePenguinOfDeath, lives with her family and chickens in Wiltshire. As well as writing she enjoys hiking, reading and Explorer Scouts, and she is part of too many fandoms to retain her sanity. Her ambitions are to study Medicine, become a Doctor, and eventually publish an original novel in the Horror or Fantasy genre. 

You can follow Jess on Twitter (@FailFish) or marvel at her many fandoms on Tumblr where she blogs as #NotDead. and Loki’s Little Midgardian.