Tuesday 27 December 2011

Author Interview - Liz Coley

Today, I'd like to give a huge welcome to Liz Coley, one of my fellow Lucky 13 authors whose debut novel, PRETTY GIRL-13, is out from HarperCollins in 2013. Liz has also self-published a YA novel called OUT OF XIBALBA, so I've asked her a bit more about both books and about the differences between the self-publishing and traditional publishing processes.

Hi Liz. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Liz Coley, mother of three teenagers, changing careers mid-life from volunteer extraordinaire/chauffeur to author. It’s going to be crazy interesting.

When did you start writing, and why?

I started writing seriously in 2002, when I wanted to create a sci-fi novel my two boys could enjoy. The Captain’s Kid was born over the next two years during piano lessons and taekwondo classes. It has never sold. I kept writing, though, because I was determined to give it a solid effort, and, I reassured myself, I was setting a great example for my kids of standing up in the face of rejection and plowing ahead with my dreams.

What is your writing process like?

First I have to go grocery shopping on the way home from school drop-off, then prep the vegetables or start a soup simmering. Some dusting or bill paying or sorting things or laundry might enter into it. Then there’s catching a missed episode of Daily/Colbert. Make a latte. Oh bother--it’s almost lunch time. You get the drift. Procrastination often steals the morning, but the afternoon can be a productive rush of writing frantically packed in before carpool.

You have a debut YA novel, PRETTY GIRL-13, coming out from HarperCollins in 2013, but you’ve also self-published a YA novel, OUT OF XIBALBA. What made you decide to self-publish XIBALBA, and what made you decide to pursue a traditional publishing deal for PRETTY GIRL-13?

I have written eight manuscripts by now, all with the goal of traditional publishing. OUT OF XIBALBA was a true labor of love, a story involving a lot of historical research about the Mayans, a sophisticated civilization that fell into ruins in the jungle a millennium ago. I drop a teenaged girl from Ohio alone into that world of human sacrifice, bloody warfare, and palace politics. As a time travel/alternate history/romance/2012 apocalypse story, it wasn’t something hot on the radar for teens, and in fact, many of my readers have been adult men and women. It refuses to be niched, which makes it impossible to sell traditionally. However, I knew I’d regret it forever if XIBALBA languished on my hard drive, so I made the decision to self-publish before the world ends.

Can you tell us a bit more about the process of self-publishing XIBALBA?

Using Createspace for my print platform and Kindle and Smashwords for my ebook editions, I learned so much from self-publishing--lessons that I believe make me a better author for my publishers. Since a self-pub author makes all the decisions, I now have a better appreciation for both cover and internal design--fonts and style decisions and typesetting. I appreciating what it means to be the final copy-editor and proofreader. I get the really important differences between e-pub and print, including use of images and fonts. Most of all, I appreciate the sizable challenges of promotion and distribution. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, and Nook all carry OUT OF XIBALBA now, and it is getting nice reviews. I’m working to get it into some libraries and schools. (see LCTeen.com)

And can you tell us a bit more about PRETTY GIRL-13’s journey to publication?

PG13 was my 2009 Nanowrimo novel. I had spent a year thinking about it, the prior summer doing the research, September and October clearing my plate of other projects, and November diving into what was a dark and difficult subject. I delivered the story to my agents in early 2010 and spent half a year in revision with them. They took the manuscript out on submission at the start of 2011, and I signed with HarperCollins in July.

If you could only own one book, what would it be (and why)?

This is too hard. Maybe the Oxford English Dictionary (with the magnifying glass and a really bright light) or maybe a favorite that I have reread to shreds but never get tired of--The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis or Memory by Lois McMaster Bujold.

If you could only own one album, what would it be (and why)?

A recording of Handel’s Messiah, because I could sing along.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

In terms of writing, I am always inspired by the stories and interviews I hear on NPR. In terms of how to live your life, I am inspired by my mom.

And finally, what’s next for you?

For Nanowrimo 2011, I am digging into another dark psychological story I hope will please PG13 readers. If PRETTY GIRL-13 is about secrets you can’t even tell yourself, this one is about a guilty secret that has to be told, even if it means losing everything.

Thanks for letting me interview you, Liz! It's been great to have you on the blog and to find out more about your books - they both sound fab!

You can also find out more about Liz here:






Tuesday 20 December 2011

Christmas Preparations…

…and a pile of edits have got the better of me this week, so I left the blog in the capable paws of The Hound. He promised me he'd come up with something witty, insightful and, erm…

Oh dear.

Seriously, I want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who's taken the time to read and  comment on my blog since I started writing it a few months ago. Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

N.B. - No Hounds were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Those Were The Days…

I had a blog post all ready for today. A serious one, about serious things. Then I saw a tweet from someone about a website that sells 80s TV-themed clothing and accessories, and of course, having grown up in the 80s and 90s, I just had to go and check it out. I also read a post by the lovely Rebecca Brown on her blog My Little Notepad about her forthcoming Happiness Project, where she talks about the things that used to make her happy as a kid. And after that, I didn’t really feel like being serious any more.

Instead, in a fit of internet-induced nostalgia, I’ve decided to share with you my top five favourite TV programmes from when I was a kid. The programmes that used to cheer me up after a long, frustrating day at school, or on a dark winter’s evening. That inspired the games me and my sister used to play when we were young and even, without me really knowing it, helped set me on the path that led to me becoming a writer.

So without further ado, here they are…

The Moondial
This was originally a novel written by Helen Creswell, who then adapted it for a BBC TV series. It told the story of Minty, a girl sent to stay with her aunt after her mother is injured in a car accident. She discovers a moondial that allows her to travel back in time, and ends up trying to help two children from the past. Deliciously spooky and at times, downright terrifying!

Children’s Ward
Children’s Ward was written by Paul Abbot and Kay Mellor. It ran for (I think) 12 series, but the first is the one I remember most clearly. Gritty and fast-paced, it dealt with many difficult issues, and although I watched it long before I realised I wanted to be a writer, I used to make up new storylines in my head that were even more dramatic than the existing ones. Plus, in one episode, a character played by a young Tim Vincent called someone a dickhead. You’d never get away with that now…

 I’m not even slightly ashamed to admit I own the entire box set of this. I was dog-mad as a kid (and still am), so this swashbuckling adventure, a cartoon adaptation of the Three Musketeers with canine and feline characters, was right up my street. It was jointly created by Spanish and Japanese animation studios and first broadcast in Japan, which meant the cartoon had a distinct anime flavour. And the theme tune was awesome (at least, until you got it stuck in your head…).

The Mysterious Cities of Gold
I was even more excited when I found the box set of this a couple of years ago. Another Japanese co-production, this time with a French studio, this was a truly epic series about a boy called Esteban who accompanies his father on a dangerous voyage to the New World in the 1500s to search for the lost Cities of Gold.

Hosted by the fabulously sinister Treguard of Dunshelm (Hugo Myatt), Knightmare was a fantasy-adventure game show where a team of kids guided one of their friends, known as a dungeoneer, through a virtual-reality dungeon that used CromaKey (bluescreen) technology. The dungeoneer would be ‘blinded from reality’ by a gigantic helmet that completely covered their eyes, meaning they had only the directions given by the others to help him or her overcome a series of puzzles and traps. They also had to pick up items of food to sustain their life-force, represented by an animation of a head, which would lose pieces as the force diminished. Hardly anyone ever completed their quest, so you were always wondering what sort of horrible end the dungeoneer would come to this time.

And then there's Thundercats… and Maid Marian and her Merry Men… and Count Duckula… and Trapdoor…

What TV did you love when you were a kid? Tell me in the comments below!

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Author Interview - Talli Roland

I'm thrilled to welcome the lovely Talli Roland to my blog this week. Talli's latest book, BUILD A MAN, launches today, so she's here to talk to me about it, and about a few other things too.

Welcome, Talli, and thanks for dropping by! Tell us a bit about yourself.
Oh, that’s a tough one to start off with. Um, okay… I’m Canadian, I’ve lived in London for almost eight years (oh yes, and I’m British now, too). I trained as a journalist, but soon discovered I much preferred making things up! I’m married to an Egyptian, which provides an endless source of entertaining cultural misunderstandings.

When did you start writing, and why?

I don’t even remember starting to writing – I just did! I was always scribbling down something . . . a poem, a short story, a make-believe newspaper article. When I was nine, I wrote my first travelogue, a non-fiction piece called ‘Disasters in Florida’, based on a family trip to Orlando. My real piece de résistance, though, was my novel called ‘Glint off the Gold’, which I completed on the Commodore 64 at age thirteen and sent off to various publishers. And thus began my long love affair with rejections!

My first big break was when a small publisher contracted me to write a London travel guide. I’d always dreamed of writing fiction, but as a former journalist, writing non-fiction came more naturally. Although non-fiction was never really my dream, I figured being published in any genre was a good first step. It taught me a lot about how the process works.

What is your writing process like?

I sketch out my characters and a basic plot – turning points, etcetera. Then, I sit down and write. I power straight through to the end. My first drafts are always rubbish, but there’s no way I could edit as I go – usually because while I know the main turning points, I have no idea how the characters will get there. It’s only once I have everything on paper that I can begin to shape it all into a narrative that makes sense. I do another four or five drafts, and voila! I’m done.

Your new novel, BUILD A MAN, is out today - congratulations! What's it about?
 BUILD A MAN follows an ambitious tabloid reporter who goes undercover to construct the nation’s perfect man. It’s set in a cosmetic surgery clinic, and it was inspired by my time working in a five-star spa in one of London’s wealthiest boroughs. I had so much fun writing it, because my main character gets to express many of the things I would have liked to!

You already have two novels, THE HATING GAME and WATCHING WILLOW WATTS published by Prospera Publishing, but you decided to publish BUILD A MAN yourself. Why was that, and what has the experience been like?

There are a lot of reasons why it’s the right decision for me to self-publish – you can read more about my thought process here. I’m not one of those self-publishing evangelists who thinks it’s the only way, though. If a big print publisher (or Amazon!) came my way, I’d definitely be more than open to hearing what they had to say.
The experience is remarkable similar. I worked with an editor and a cover designer on BUILD A MAN, the same way I had with a publisher. I always did my own marketing and promotion, so that hasn’t changed at all. In a way, I find it easier, because now I have complete ownership of my work and timelines.

Describe your perfect writing day…

I can sum it up in three words: coffee, writing, wine.
…and your actual writing day!
Coffee, writing, wine! Seriously, I am very lucky that I’m a full-time writer, so my time is my own. I love that, but it’s quite a responsibility to be ‘in charge’ of yourself. I sit down at the desk at eight and I do a good four or five hours of writing or revising before even attempting to answer emails and do promotional work. Writing has to come first for me.

If you could only own one book, what would it be (and why)?

Another tough question! Right, I have to say THE TIME TRAVELLER'S WIFE. I love the elaborate plotting, and the ending always makes me sob.

If you could only own one album, what would it be (and why)?

I’m going to be a dork here and admit I’m not really into the music scene. If I could only own one album, it would have to be something by Chopin or Sibelius, my two favourite composers.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would that be?
I’d tell my younger self that it’s okay to stop driving forward all the time; that you should stop to enjoy your accomplishments a bit more. Even now, I find that very difficult to do.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
Cheeseball alert! I really admire my husband. He works full-time, yet in the past five years, he’s managed to write, direct and edit two feature-length films. His dedication and determination is truly inspiring.

And finally… what’s next for you?

I’m currently working on CONSTRUCT A COUPLE, the sequel to BUILD A MAN. It will be out in Spring 2012.

Thanks again, Talli - it's been great talking to you!

Talli Roland has three loves in her life: chick lit, coffee and wine. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (coffee and wine). Despite training as a journalist, Talli soon found she preferred making up her own stories – complete with happy endings. Her debut novel, The Hating Game, was an Amazon Top 100 bestseller and shortlisted for Best Romantic Read at the UK’s Festival of Romance, and her second, Watching Willow Watts, was selected as a 2011 Amazon Customer Favourite. Build A Man is her latest release. Talli blogs here and can be found on Twitter here.