30th September – 30 Days and Counting…

Don’t forget to vote for my Kindle Scout entry!

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20. What books have influenced you the most?

There are a few books that have influenced me greatly. The first is Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. To read about someone who had such strength, tenacity, sheer ability to live was very inspirational to me.

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Maya Angelou

Another book that I found very inspirational was Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, which introduced me to new narrative methods, the unreliable narrator, and just generally amazing writing. I’ll never forget: murderess, murderess…

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Margaret Atwood
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29th September – 31 Days and Counting…

19. What advice do you have for new writers? 

Keep writing! It’s as simple as that.

Honestly, people often say to me, “Oh, I want to be a writer, but I don’t think I’m good enough.” My response is usually along the same lines as I give my students: if you don’t make mistakes, you’ll never learn how to improve.

I remember back when I was fourteen or fifteen, and I was writing ALL the time. Every day, way into the wee hours. I loved it. I felt so free. I was liberated. It wasn’t until my self-confidence cracked that I stopped. For years, my work stagnated, because I didn’t write.

So my advice to new writers? Keep writing. Make mistakes. Write things you aren’t satisfied with. It’s only when you re-read and find the errors that you truly learn and grow.

28th September – 32 Days and Counting…

Don’t forget about my Kindle Scout campaign! Please visit and vote!

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18. What inspires you to get out of bed every day?

The knowledge that I’m still alive. Truly.

That might sound a bit strange, but it means a hell of a lot to me. I’ve been through a lot of tough times in my life, and as a result, I’ve tried to take my own life more than once. Before you panic, don’t. The last time was over six years ago. Regardless, those experiences have changed me – and every day I wake up grateful that I’m still here.

I’ve suffered from recurrent depression since I was a young teen, and have been diagnosed with a personality disorder. I’m also going to see a mental health specialist in October for a consultation on whether I’m bipolar or not – I think I am.

By the time I was fifteen, I’d suffered depression for many years, and then I became the victim of a stalker, which culminated in sexual assualt. I also realised I wasn’t heterosexual, nor was I sure of my gender.

I couldn’t cope. I told no-one.

Instead, I coped by becoming a prolific self-harmer, and eventually I decided I’d had enough. Nothing ever seemed to get better. Bad things kept happening. I fell into a cycle of self-harm, which worsened to the point of suicide attempts.

But I’m still here. I’m alive and kicking. I’ve got my husband, my pup, my friends, my family, and I’m trying to make a difference with my books. I hope that I can find me, somewhere out there, and that young person will find solace in Emmy, Charo, Zecha and Mantos’s story.

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27th September – 33 Days and Counting…

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18. How do you develop your plots and characters?

It’s a lengthy process! Honestly, the characters that I have now are a very far cry from the characters I had when I first conceived the story many years ago.

Emmy used to be a much darker character, and she committed suicide in the narrative, only to be brought back to life. She was a manifestation of the very, very dark places I occupied several years ago. I’m glad the character has changed—because it shows I’ve changed, too.

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Some VERY old artwork of Emmy. I’m glad that, not only have I changed, but that my art style has, too…

Zecha wasn’t always a main character. Initially, he was part of a pair of hunters who found Charo. The other was called Leyta, but as the narrative went on and I realised Zecha was more interesting than I’d given him credit for, his role grew and there was no place for Leyta any longer.

Charo was originally a completely different character, with a purpose in the novel related to Mantos and Bandim’s storyline. However, as the focus of the narrative shifted, her purpose had to change, too. She’s still very important, and she’ll eventually fulfil some of her original intent, but in a different way.

In terms of storyline, I start with a vague idea, and I know exactly where I need to end up. I find the process of plotting an organic thing. The more I write, the more I get to know my characters, the more the plot changes. It’s all very much in flux!

26th September – 34 Days and Counting…

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17. A good villain is hard to write. How did you get in touch with your inner villain(s)?

Ha! I can be a bit of a villain in real life, so it’s not as difficult as you might think. I find it really easy to ‘think’ my way into another person’s mind-set, so I can attempt to understand their train of thought and their motivations.

In Rise of the Darkwitch, there are a number of potential villains, so it depends on what kind of villain the character is. Krodge is a villain because she treats Emmy so badly, as is Mr Bose for the same reason. The more obvious ‘villain’ character is Bandim because of his actions towards Mantos and the empire, but in all honesty, none of them are THE villain.

No one is completely bad. I think there is good in everyone, even if it’s just a tiny smidgen of not-quite-so-bad-ness. I don’t like to write straight villain characters because they aren’t believable. Krodge has her inner not-so-bad-ness (let’s not go so far as to call it ‘goodness’) and Bandim isn’t a black and white character. He operates in a field of grey that only becomes murkier as the novels progress.

I agree. A good villain is hard to write. A great character is even more difficult, but ultimately, that’s what I aim to write.

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25th September – 35 Days and Counting…

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16. Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Sure! The first three chapters are available on Kindle Scout, so here’s something different. The start of Chapter Nine.

I’ll not labour on it too much, but this is about a quarter of the way through the novel, and is the first big external conflict. Emmy, Charo and Zecha find themselves in a lot of trouble when the Masvams finally arrive…

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The air filled with harrowed screams. The screeches were punctuated with booming explosions. The stinging taste of panic tainted the air like sulphur as males and females clattered along the streets, erratic as snow on the wind. Emmy watched as females of all ages and sizes gathered, armed with any weapons they could lay their claws on. Some were middle-aged with thickening waists, wielding swords from long-ago days in the King’s army. Others, who had never seen military service, grasped clubs and kitchen knives, looking no less determined. Zecha disappeared into Charber’s house and reappeared with a sweeping bow and a quiver of arrows on his back. He motioned for the other male tenants and guests to go into the house. The females were already gone.

‘You’ll be safer inside,’ Zecha said.

Mr Charber nodded and herded the rest back into the house, bustling and clucking as if they were curious children and there was nothing to worry about.

‘We need to get to the apothecary,’ Emmy said, heading towards the crowd. ‘We should gather what we can. We can escape, head for the Wailing Woods.’ She passed her claws through her fronds, ignoring Charo’s blanch at the name. ‘We might be safe there for a while, at least until this passes.’

‘Emmy,’ Zecha said, ‘we could be killed trying to make our way through the crowd.’ He jerked an elbow at the swirling maw. ‘Only the Goddess knows how many enemies are out there, whoever they are.’

‘I think we know who they are, Zecha,’ Emmy said. ‘It can only be the Masvams. They’ve come at last, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.’

Zecha paled under his dark armour and nodded, silenced by Emmy’s logic. Charo gripped Emmy’s arm.

‘You’re right, Emmy,’ she said. ‘If we stay here, we don’t stand a chance. If we try to leave, we might be safe.’

With the weight of the others’ eyes on him, Zecha relented.

‘All right,’ he said. ‘But, let’s try not to get ourselves killed.’

The sky darkened. The streets pulsed with panic and fear as the trio wound through the swirling crowds. As they reached the end of Charber’s street, the vista opened into the large space of the Circle, and Emmy’s chest tightened. From there, they could see right down to the port. Clear as glass, there were the three towering Masvam ships, silhouetted against the inky sky.

24th September – 36 Days and Counting…

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15. How do you select the names of your characters?

This is one of the coolest things about fantasy writing! I get so much scope to create new words and interesting sounds. But, as I have a background in language with a limited amount of linguistics, I have a good idea about how languages work. I hope that lets me avoid the many pitfalls of creating fantasy words and names—such as the infestation of apostrophes in the middle of words!

I use a site called Dialect Creator to help with this. It allows me to select a series of possible syllables, as well as the length of words generated, and whether consonants are randomly inserted in the middle of words for variety. This allows me to have creative freedom, within a specific set of lexical rules.

I’m still learning, and my “languages” are by no means actual languages. I haven’t done a Tolkien with grammar and all that. Frankly, I’m not skilled enough to do that. However, the generator allows me to generate thousands of words, some of which get used as character names.

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The name ‘Charo’ (character above) was generated using Dialect Creator.

23rd September – 37 Days and Counting

14. What’s your least favourite part of the writing experience?

Oh, man. What a question! I think the first line by line edit is my least favourite part.

Writing the first draft is stressful, but enjoyable. There are surprises when a character does something unexpected, or the plot takes a turn you hadn’t anticipated.

The first like edits, though… They’re painful. All of your mistakes, plot points you said you’d fix later… In line edits, you have to face it all. I find the process difficult because I’m so critical of myself, and I can demean myself so easily. It’s tough!

Overall, the process is worth it…but I hate it!

 

22nd September – 38 Days and Counting…

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13. What period of your life do you find you write about most often?

I find I draw a lot of inspiration from my teenage and just-into-twenties age. I went through a very tough time with my mental health from around the age of fourteen, and I was also the victim of a non-contact sexual assault at 15. My whole psyche kind of…fell apart. It took me a very long time to recover, and I still have recurrent depression and a personality disorder (so I’m told).

In Rise of the Darkwitch, Emmy’s inner anger is based on teenage me. I was so angry all the time—but I never knew how to express it. Eventually, I turned it on myself and became a prolific self-harmer. Emmy isn’t like that, as she’s a manifestation of how I wish I had been.

Emmy’s awful relationship with Krodge is an extended metaphor with my relationship with my own mind. Krodge lives in my head, and constantly berates me, just like she does to Emmy. The physical pain Emmy goes through is representative of the mental pain I experience when my mind starts telling me I’m a useless waste of space… Fun, huh?

Zecha’s struggle with his identity is something that comes from my teen years, too. I struggled with my gender identity for a long time, and never told anyone. I just tried to “fit in” and be what was expected, but eventually gave up. Now, I don’t struggle. I’ve accepted that I’m biologically female, but sometimes I feel differently in my head. I’m not transgender, because I don’t want to become something else. I’m me, whatever that means, and I’m finally happy with that.

The character Rel is also something from my teenage years, but with a twist. I wanted a Rel in my life. I wanted someone to talk me under my wing and want to help me, want to protect me. Rel’s like the big sister I always wished I’d had.

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I always wanted a big sister as a guardian… Never got it, but I can make one up now!