Category Archives: Author Interviews
Continuing with the spooky theme – today I have a guest post from Sarah Epstein author of psychological thriller Small Spaces.
Tash Carmody has been traumatised since childhood, when she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away from a carnival. At the time nobody believed Tash, and she has since come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real. Now fifteen and mute, Mallory’s never spoken about the week she went missing. As disturbing memories resurface, Tash starts to see Sparrow again. And she realises Mallory is the key to unlocking the truth about a dark secret connecting them. Does Sparrow exist after all? Or is Tash more dangerous to others than she thinks?
Sarah Epstein spent her childhood drawing, daydreaming and cobbling together books at the kitchen table. A writer, illustrator and designer, she grew up in suburban Sydney and now lives in Melbourne with her husband and two sons. She is passionate about YA, especially the thriller genre, which is her favourite to read. Small Spaces is her first novel.
Are Characters Writers’ Imaginary Friends? by Sarah Epstein
Imaginary friends have always fascinated me. And while I don’t remember having one myself as a child, I’ve encountered plenty of people who did. When my own kids were small and attending playgroup and kindergarten, I’d hear stories from mothers about how they’d overheard their child’s one-sided conversations in the bath, or how their child’s invisible friend had to have a place set at the dinner table. I’d always think, where do these imaginary friends come from? Are they tied to emotional issues, loneliness or just boredom? Are they coping mechanisms, a cry for attention, or even, as some suggest, a spiritual presence that a child’s mind is open enough to see?
It was a subject I wanted to explore in a story. But in many ways I’ve been writing about imaginary friends for years – my own. The characters I create who tell me their story.
In Small Spaces, I wrote about my protagonist Tash’s experiences with her imaginary friend, Sparrow, both as a young child and as a teenager. To do this, I had to understand Tash’s character inside and out – her hopes, dreams, fears and faults – so I could figure out how she would react to the appearance of Sparrow and the situations his presence would put her through.
In a sense, Tash became my imaginary friend, because she was constantly talking in my head. She was with me while I walked my dog, took showers, and late at night when I was trying to switch my brain off to go to sleep. For writers, this is nothing new. Our characters are shadowing us everywhere we go, especially during the drafting stage of a novel when we’re trying to work out exactly who they are. You imagine how they look, speak, think and act, who they are closest to in the world, and what makes them angry or afraid. Soon they become more than just fictional characters – they become friends we are passionate about. They become friends we are rooting for, friends who are keeping us company on our writing journey as well as actively driving our stories.
And, until readers discover these characters, they are friends created in our imagination that no one else can see.
Is this so different from the imaginary friends some of us invented during childhood? If they were created for company, entertainment, comfort or even a bit of attention, perhaps it’s not so different at all. And while I may not set a place for Tash at my dinner table, or hold a conversation with her in the bath, she’s always with me, tucked away inside my head.
Thanks so much to Sarah for this insight into how characters can ‘live and breathe’ for the writer. Hope everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo has picked nice people to spend the next month with
For the first of my two stops on the blog tour for Forsaken Genesis I’d like to welcome author M. J. Marinescu with a guest post on the best things about being an author.
Hi everyone, today I’m going to go over some of my favourite things about being an author. This is by no means a be all end all list, but it’s just some of the things that I love most about my job.
Being your own boss: As an author, you get to be your own boss (for the most part). Some traditionally published authors do have a boss in a sense, they have a publisher who gives them a deadline or an agent that schedules events and meetings etc., but for the most part, even they are in control of their own day to day activities.
Self-published and Indie-published authors are in even more control of their day to day routines. This can be good or bad for people. It takes a highly motivated and driven person to succeed as a self-published or Indie author. You do not have an agent or publishing house marketing your work, so you need to get out there and do it all yourself. Being able to set your own schedule and pace can be very rewarding.
For me, this isn’t so bad because I love interacting with people, especially fans, not even necessarily my own fans but fans of sci-fi and fantasy in general. I, like many other writers, do have deep running anxiety about “being out in the world” but you need to learn to deal with the butterflies and get out there and spread the word.
Working at something you love: This should probably go without saying, but I love telling stories and sharing them with people. Shortly after I learned to read and write I started creating stories. My first story ever written was about a spacefaring penguin. I remember being so happy and proud of it and bringing it in to my kindergarten teacher. She was even impressed, and we used to read them out to the class. Ever since that day I was hooked.
I know it’s totally cliché to say but if you’re doing something you love you never have to work a day in your life.
Interacting with readers: The best part about writing to me is seeing peoples’ reactions to my stories. Having them fall in love with and/or hate certain characters. Reading fan theories or forums discussing little details most people may overlook. These are the best things about being a writer. There’s nothing better than knowing people love your work, the world and characters you’ve created. If I can make someone’s day a little better through my writing, then I’ve done my job, and without the wonderful fans, I could not do what I do.
Creation! A God am I: I love being able to create worlds and people. Something that I have really noticed lately, in Hollywood especially (sorry to call you out Hollywood) is the lack of original ideas or willingness to take risks on new ideas. We’re seeing this more and more with all the reboots from 80’s and 90’s movies and cartoons and generally predictable movies.
One thing that I enjoy doing is taking ideas and putting my own spin on them. You can see this in my novel Forsaken Genesis. While it’s an “Urban Fantasy” I have taken things and thrown them all together. It’s why I struggle to give my book a genre because it combines so many elements of different ones. Is it Cyberpunk? New Adult? Young Adult? Urban Fantasy? LGBTQ+ Fiction etc. etc.
Being able to let your imagination run wild to create fantastical worlds and places is a wonderful feeling. One word of warning, however, is that to always make sure you have a solid foundation for your worlds and abide by the rules you have created. One of my pet peeves as a fan (and I’m sure I’m not alone on this) is when a writer sets up a world and tells us the rules only to have something come along later and change things on us. Gravity will always be gravity, I don’t expect to wake up one morning, take a step outside and float off into space so don’t do that in your writing either. This may be a bit of an extreme example, but the notion holds true. Your readers deserve better than that so think twice before you do something “against your rules”.
The other thing I love about being free to create the stories I want to tell is that I can do just that. I can tell the story that I want to tell. If you want to see more diversity and representation in movies, art and literature sometimes you need to get out there and do it yourself. I pride myself on having diversity in my stories that doesn’t feel forced. My characters are who they are, period. They aren’t held back by their identity or used as a “token” they are fleshed out beings and I hope people can smile and feel proud and even relate to them.
There’s nothing in the world I would rather do than tell a good story.
So those are some of the things that I love most about being an author. What do you all think? What are some of your favourite things about writing? Let me know in the comments below or if you have any other questions or even if you just want to talk hit me up on Twitter @MJMarinescu. Thanks everyone for taking the time to read this, hope you all have a great day and I’ll talk to you soon.
Come back on Halloween to find out more about Forsaken Genesis.
Today I’m pleased to welcome Lisa Lueddecke to the blog with a very insightful piece on why writing your second published book can be tricky.
Writing that Difficult Second Book
Writing my first book, A Shiver of Snow and Sky, was one of the most exhilarating, organic things I’ve ever done. The story came from me so easily, to the point where I could write more words per day than I ever had before, for any consistent amount of time. I was bursting with ideas, and trying to find room to fit them all into one story, working hard to ensure that any future readers, if I were lucky enough to get an agent and a publisher, would see the world as I saw it. Could feel the world as I felt it. I wrote obsessively, over long and delirious hours, unable to quiet the characters and the scenes floating around in my mind. I wrote from before dawn, until afternoon or evening. I sometimes carried a notebook with me, so I didn’t forget anything if I was away from my computer.
When I did get lucky enough to get an agent and a publisher, I got something else as well: a two book deal. Instead of just editing the first book and preparing it for publication, I had to then think about writing a second one. This was good for me, because I already knew the story, and I knew how it would fit into the world and the bigger picture. I knew roughly where I wanted to go with it, and I thought that I would sit down and do what I had done before: let the story take over, and just write. But instead of writing thousands of words a day, I was writing a few hundred words per day, maybe a thousand. I found myself being extra careful, second-guessing myself and my voice, and editing as I went along. I realized very quickly that it was a completely different experience than writing my first book, because I knew that this one would be published. People were going to read it, and I knew when they would read it, and it silenced that thrilling voice and that sense of excitement that had been so vibrant the first time around.
For me, it wasn’t a case of having run out of ideas. I knew my world well, and I knew what stories still lay beneath its icy surface, waiting to be told. Instead, I found the knowledge that, as soon as I was done with it, and sent it from my computer, people would read it. It wasn’t simply between me and my keyboard, and even though I had hoped to be published while writing the first one, I didn’t know if I would. I just wrote it for me. Being published changed my relationship with writing, and in a way, I think it had to. It is different writing with deadlines than with all the time in the world, and it’s different writing to be read than writing for yourself, at least in my experience. While this is something that I am still working on to this day, I did manage to get through writing that second book, and I’m taking the things that I learned into writing new things. Publishing will always have deadlines, and books will always have readers. My job is to train my voice to carry on, and to be brave enough to keep telling stories I love, even though some things have changed.
A few things I did to try to make writing my second book a little bit easier:
• I set up a designated writing space that I found inspiring, devoid of clutter or too many distractions.
• I would turn off my wifi from time to time to keep myself from checking Twitter or other social media websites.
• I would play music I found inspiring for that scene, or music that I listened to while writing the first book.
• I made sure to take walks outside, or to at least sit outside to get some fresh air. It always seemed to reset my mind.
It may not always be as easy as it was when I was writing my first (published) book, but in time, I can learn to let go of the worries and the pressures and just do what I love the most: tell stories from the heart, and then set them free to find their homes.
A STORM OF ICE AND STARS by Lisa Lueddecke out now in paperback (£7.99, Scholastic)