You’ve had a myriad of other jobs besides writing (Ghost hunting? Super jelly over here), what do you think influenced your writing the most?
Every job I had, and currently have, involves some sort of administrative role. I’m a highly organised person (I love lists!) which is probably why I stuck with that role for so long. So maybe that influences my writing to a higher degree and the types of roles my characters get saddled with initially. But I started writing to break away from my day job and do something more creative. I think as I go along that influence will lessen and other experiences will creep into the writing.
The ghost hunting followed years of watching every ghost hunting show I could. I’m an open minded sceptic who needs proof of ghostly occurrences before I’ll believe it. So I tried a night of hunting and I loved it so much I plan to do more!
Are you a planner or a pantser? Do you prefer to outline your work or let the characters guide you?
A bit of both. I start out with an outline then deepen that outline once I’ve written my first draft. I try not to stick too rigidly to the script because my characters often take over and steer the story in a particular direction. I’ve tried being a pantser but you just end up going around in circles. An outline is helpful to focus the mind and to make the best use of your writing time.
What goals do you have for your writing career? What would be your “dream come true” moment?
Thinking big, I’d love to see one of my stories on the big screen. But being more realistic, I’d love to make enough money where I can write full time and not worry about the bills. I doubled my income in 2015 compared to 2014, so I’m definitely on the right track!
What are some struggles you’ve faced with self-publishing? What are some of the highlights?
The biggest struggle I’ve faced in self-publishing is acceptance from industry professionals.
At the London Book Fair in 2013, an audio book company keen to work with me turned the other cheek when they heard I was self published. In 2012 when Amazon opened their doors to self published authors, some reader reviews pointed fingers at self-published authors accusing them of being part of the vanity publishing movement. Vanity publishers allow authors of any calibre to publish their books with them, regardless of quality and usually at a steep cost. But there was a market for it because some readers still equated quality with a publishing house name. Now the market is saturated with self-published books and the cream is finally rising to the top—I rarely hear the term vanity publishing being mentioned these days. Readers are noticing and demanding quality, caring less about whether a book is self-published or traditionally-published. That sets the bar higher for the rest of us, which is a good thing. Many self-published authors have gone on to accept traditional deals.
The highlight for me is the strong supportive community that exists within self publishing. The writers, regardless of their levels of success, are so generous with their time and advice. I was at the London Book Fair in 2014 and got to see Liliana Hart, Hugh Howey, Jasinda Wilder and more speak about their experiences. They were so open with their advice, and so accessible.
I also love the control I have over my product and where I sell it. And while self-published authors didn’t write the book on connecting with readers, they understand the value of doing so. They understand that readers are central to everything they do. Most traditional authors are equally as accessible but some hide behind agents and that can be off putting to a reader.
Where do you draw on your inspiration to write? When faced with writer’s block, how do you overcome it?
Life, movies, TV shows, books—any activity where I don’t have to think too much. The more I switch my brain off the better the ideas flow. Science Fiction is my go-to genre and I devour as many stories as I can. I study everything from characters to plot lines to things I like, things I hate. Tangential ideas will spring forth when I’m least expecting them.
Walking helps to unravel the stories or tease out the difficult parts I just can’t get past. And in the shower (this is a totally clean example, I promise!), my mind wanders and ideas just pop into my head.
What’s some of the best feedback you’ve received from fans? Have any stories?
I’ve received so many lovely emails from new fans (both male and female) who’ve read Becoming Human or all the books available in the series. A retired chemistry teacher emailed me recently to tell me he loved my book and another man told me his son at age fifteen had written a similar idea to mine but abandoned writing because he wasn’t given the right encouragement. Luckily our ideas were a little different :) His son is working in film now, so that was a happy ending.
My favourite was from a man who said my books gave him back his love of reading. That really blew me away. To influence someone in such a way is the highest compliment I can think of.
As a writer, how do you decipher between constructive criticism and destructive criticism?
It’s hard to accept any criticism, but the more you write the tougher you need to become. Constructive criticism to me is anything that highlights an issue with the book like something structural, character development, plot line or editing. But you can’t change everything. You have to let some of the good criticism go and accept the flaws, then move on and write the next book while keeping that criticism in mind. I’ve never read a book that was perfect. No matter how good a book is, there’s always something in it we don’t like.
Destructive criticism is anything that detracts from the effort you knowingly put into a story. For example if someone says the editing is terrible and you know you’ve had the book professionally edited, you can probably chalk that up to bad criticism. But if everyone is saying the same thing, there may be genuine errors in your work.
Someone simply not liking your work is neither constructive nor destructive. It’s just an opinion and authors should never respond to a review like that, no matter how much they disagree with the review. My preference is to respond to reviews that I feel have been constructive and thank them for taking the time to point out the error.
What’s your favourite part of writing sci-fi?
You get to go off the script a little! Modern day stories are easier to write, but you can’t put people on new planets or give them advanced weaponry. In Sci Fi it’s totally expected so you get to have a little fun creating new things.
What advice can you give to writers who want to break into self-publishing?
I’m not really sure you break into self-publishing. These days anyone can publish a book on Amazon or Kobo or Smashwords. What advice I’d give is don’t self-publish to make a quick buck. You won’t make it by the way!
To succeed in any new business you need to have drive and commitment for sure. But you also have to love what you’re doing. It takes long hours to build an author platform (social media, website, etc) and an even longer wait to find fans once the platform is in place. Once you’re ready to publish your first book, it should have a good cover and have been edited professionally at a minimum. But none of that matters unless your story is great. I’ve put all my energy and free time (and a little of my savings) into writing because I believe in what I’m doing.