Interview with Catherine Evans

An Interview with Catherine Evans, author of The Wrong’un

Catherine Evans’s novel, The Wrong’un, was released by Unbound in May 2018. She’s the founder of www.pennyshorts.com, a website which offers short stories of all genres to readers around the world. She’s a trustee of the Chipping Norton Literary Festival and sponsor of the ChipLitFest Short Story Competition. She lives with her husband in Oxfordshire and has a daughter and three stepdaughters.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I abandoned my first novel for good. It was a thinly disguised memoir of a very turbulent time in my life. It’s intensely intimate, like reading my own secret diary.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Observation. The older you get the happier you are to just sit and watch.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

If I was a hermit I’m sure I could pump out a novel a year. My head is always way ahead of my hands; I have the next few books juggling around in my head.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I can write anywhere, usually directly onto my laptop, often with pencil and paper. The kitchen table is my favourite place because it’s warm and close to the kettle and I really don’t mind interruptions. I love working late into the night when everyone else is asleep; often I realise with a start that it’s 3am, my hands and feet are iceblocks and I have to get up in a couple of short hours for the school run, but I go to bed happy as I’ve done 3,000 words. Those are good nights.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I have an old schoolfriend who is a natural bookworm, and several other friends from the writer’s groups that I’ve been part of for the past 15 years who are always happy to read whatever I give them, so I’ve never used a beta-reader. My publisher, Unbound, assigned me my editor after I specifically requested her, as she had done such a wonderful job editing ‘A Thing Of The Moment’, by Bruno Noble, a friend with the same publisher. I was lucky she was available; she was forensic in her thoroughness and she really cared about the manuscript, the story, the voice and the characters. I accepted 99% of her suggestions, and I feel that the resulting book is ours, not just mine.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I love the look, feel and smell of a real book, the covers, the blurbs and I like to know exactly how far along I am and to be able to flip back and forth between the pages. E-books are very useful for travelling, and I often download the sample chapters, but there’s very little I love more than browsing for books, whether it’s in bookshops, in charity shops or at car boot sales, and whenever I go to someone’s house, I can’t stop myself from looking at the books on show. E-books will never replace real books.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I’m happy to read any genre as long as I care about the characters. I love books that confound genre, for example David Mitchell’s ‘Cloud Atlas’. I don’t much care for romance (reading about it, that is), but I loved David Nicholl’s very unconventional love story ‘One Day’. My tastes have definitely changed over time. I’ve become a much more critical reader, and I seldom finish a book without thinking about what the writer could have done to make it stronger.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I perform all the usual tasks that fall under the role of mother; feeding, instructing, lecturing, nagging, hectoring, threatening, bribing and chauffeuring. I’m a trustee of the Chipping Norton Literary Festival, now in its seventh year. We’re always scheming and dreaming up new ways to raise cash, including running writer’s workshops and Open Mic events. Every year in the run-up I wonder why I do it, then I always enjoy the Festival weekend so much and the feedback we receive always fills me with renewed passion for the following year. I’m the Editor of www.pennyshorts.com, a website which publishes short stories of all genres from writers around the world online, making them available for free download. It now features around 200 stories from new and established writers and is steadily growing.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

Much to my disgust too. Social media provides an anonymous forum for the most appalling rudeness and sheer vitriol, which then spills over into all other spheres of life. I seldom read a thread that doesn’t disintegrate into childish name-calling, and the inane virtue-signalling, loud calls for apologies and screams that this or that is ‘offensive’ can get incredibly boring.

Saying all that, when I add new stories to pennyshorts I tweet about them with a suitable picture and also post about them on Facebook with some info about the author. I’ve been told to open an Instagram account and to start an Author’s page on Facebook, but there never seems to be enough minutes in the day. That doesn’t mean I won’t do it, it just means it’s not high up on my list. It all seems to be a giant echo chamber. I’ve had a twitter account for three years, and have never read a book promoted by a tweet. Sometimes I get unsolicited direct messages from Indie authors, one of which was ‘I’d drink battery acid to get you to download a sample chapter of my book.’ Really? Please don’t, and no thanks.

As you don’t maximise social media, what do you do instead?

I think old-fashioned word of mouth is the most powerful way to promote books. Books demand something of their readers, and if you inhabit the world of a novel for a few hours of your life and love it, you will want others to share that experience. When a friend whose judgement I trust tells me that they loved a particular book, I pay attention, and will read it. I love reading book reviews in newspapers and magazines and online too. I get a lot of ideas from the Sunday Times ‘Culture’ mag.

Now that your first book is out, what’s next?

I’m actively working on two books simultaneously: a novel which examines the pernicious effects of early sexualisation on young girls and a non-fiction book about the philosophical teachings of Martial Arts, and how it can be of benefit in all spheres of life. Once I’m done with those, I’d like to write my mother’s life story. She grew up on a farm in rural Transvaal in the 40s and 50s and studied at the University of Cape Town in the 60s, where she met my father. She’s not a writer, but she’s a born storyteller, and has a unique perspective of South African history and apartheid and many tales to tell about farm life, relationships, neighbours, family and community dynamics. Lastly, I’d like to turn a three act play I wrote several years ago into a novel. So that’s four books in total that have yet to see the light of day – should keep me busy for the next few years.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next? 

Not at all. It’s like free therapy, innit?

Review: Scott Westerfeld – Impostors

Impostors
Scott Westerfeld

Frey and Rafi are identical twins and thus should do everything together. Instead, they are never seen in the same room – Frey is trained as a body double for Rafi, just because Rafi was born 26 minutes earlier. When a hostage is needed to secure the help of a nearby city, Frey is sent out and Rafi is hidden. But their father has other plans in mind than just that…

Despite being in the same world as Tally Youngblood’s Uglies/Pretties/Specials (and Extras), Impostors is well and truly its own novel. The world has moved on and the technology has significantly advanced. Imagine a world where even the dust is spying on you! Rafi is trained to kill, but has her own personality trapped in there.

I only forgive this novel for being the first in a trilogy because I knew from the very beginning that Westerfeld pretty much ALWAYS writes trilogies (Afterworlds is an exception). Additionally, this novel rounds out very nicely, and didn’t disappoint with its ending.

Unfortunately, this novel features the same trope as a couple of others I have read recently, including Ruined, Glass Sword and Ash Princess. The heroine always falls for the prince(s) and gets into trouble while / for doing so. I’m going to think positive thoughts to myself that Westerfeld was probably already writing it before those novels got popular…

I’m giving this novel 5 stars for its amazing characters and world building. Also, Westerfeld was my hero before Sanderson.

Allen & Unwin | 12th September 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

An Interview with Jimmy Brandmeier

An Interview with Jimmy Brandmeier, author of Be Who You Are, A Song For My Children

Jimmy Brandmeier is “the Dad” in a beautiful, wacky family of three daughters—Jamie (age 24), Jessie (age 23), and Josie (age 19)—Paula his wife of twenty-five years (ageless), two doves, a couple of goldfish, and a cat named Squeakers. Though their loving yellow lab, Satchmo, went to doggy heaven, his doggy hair will always be with them.

The couple moved their family from California to Wisconsin to raise their kids closer to family. They managed to be hands-on parents through the demands of two busy careers—Jimmy, a music industry veteran flying back and forth to California, and Paula, an airline pilot flying back and forth to Europe. Flexibility and priorities kept them from missing a beat in their children’s lives.

Apart from family, Brandmeier is a Telly Award winning composer/producer and a Summit award marketer. He’s worked directly with celebrity artists raging from Eric Clapton, Carole King, Avril Lavigne and Joss Stone, to Wynona Judd, Jason Mraz and Dave Mathews among others; written jingles for brands from Mazda to Mattel.

Brandmeier is a seasoned jazz flutist who has played everywhere from town halls to Carnegie Hall and a teacher, passionate about inspiring students to create a life of abundance and fulfillment. He has a deep-seated dedication to help people transcend inner and outer obstacles and understand the point of life, so they may live fulfilled and happy lives—which at its core, is the essence of his book Be Who You Are, A Song for My Children.

Why did you write Be Who You Are, A Song For My Children?

I didn’t intend to write a book. The book started out as a song, which took on a life of its own. Each line grew into a separate topic. The lyric spun like a thread that wove into the prose that unfolded into Be Who You Are: A Song for My Children. I was grabbed by the gut, by what turned out to be the tip of a message, which expanded as I wrote.

I wanted my three daughters to hold on to their authenticity—to the unrepeatable sparkle in their eyes—no matter what. I thought the right words could protect them; shelter them from the inner and outer storms of life. I didn’t want life suck the life out of them. And I wanted to leave them something they could lean on, long after I’m gone.

But it wasn’t until reaching the end the book that I fully understood what the book was about—what it really means to, Be Who You Are. That unexpected message has unfolded into an unexpected life mission, one that I believe will help people be happy no matter what happens and live their best lives.

So, you never expected your song to grow into a 368-page book?

Writing the book was a surprise. But the process of writing the book took me on an “unexpected” spiritual journey. Turns out the message I was grabbed by the gut to instill in my three daughters was the one I most needed to hear. Be Who You Are. And again, there are layers to being who you are, most people don’t think or care about.

So, what’s the overall message of Be Who You Are, A Song For My Children

The big picture message has three parts.

1-The Framework of Life: There are two roads, which layer and lead towards or away from who you are.

The inner road and sole purpose of life: Transcend the ego. Rise above fear (ego) into the essence of who you are. (Love!)

The outer road and secondary purpose of life: Make the most of yourself, your talents, your livelihood, and your life in this world. (Live!)

All you can imagine, do, be, achieve or experience is found on these two roads. The quality of your life depends on the relationship between them.

2-The Big Mistake:
Believing the outer road is the only road that matters.
Believing the outer road leads to happiness.
Everybody is scrounging for happiness in all the wrong places. Happiness is not an external event. Your inside life “is” life.

3-The Point:
The real journey in life is the voyage from fear to love.
Casting off from the ego and returning to who you are—born again into the love of your infinite essence—is the point and purpose of life.

Does being who you are mean, doing what you love?

Doing what you love is a beautiful part of life’s big picture, and part of the overarching message of this book. Doing what you love can also be part of the curriculum in the course of authenticity. It can fade the façade of appearance, into an opening for your essence to shine through like the sun.

Lose your self (ego) in what you love, and you’ll find your Self (Essence) through what you love.

But doing what you love is only a portal to the point, which is perfect happiness—being who you are, inside and out. And finding happiness on the outer road only, no matter how much you love it, is an impossibility. As comedian Jim Carrey says . . . “I wish people could realize all their dreams of wealth and fame, so they could see it’s not where you’ll find your sense of completion.”

What is the meaning of your cover illustration—two separate puzzle pieces, that when aligned, transform into birds soaring free?

The two puzzle pieces represent the inner and outer roads moving into alignment. When the amazing outer road of our talents, dreams, passions, career, finances, relationships, achievements, accolades, adventures, and motivations merge with the spiritual purpose of the inner road—the ultimate and only point of life. When heart and heaven beat as one, as the song lyric says—you’ll be happy, no matter what happens. You’ll be fearless. You’ll be free. You’ll have reached, The Point.

What would you say is the best way to improve your writing—to master your craft?

I probably come from a different writing background than most of the authors reading this. I’m a musician. My first non-fiction book started out as a song.

As a composer, I’ve been immersed in writing songs, jingles, scores, music beds and anything else the client of the moment asked for. What comes first—words or music? Answer—the phone call. But certain truths for mastering the mechanics of writing—in order to free the soul of writing—are universal. The most powerful and least glamourous tool of all . . . butt in chair.

Habit is a hammer that builds virtuosity. Consistency activates a creative force in the
universe sending us insights impossible to come up with sporadically, on our own. As Julia Cameron, author of The Artist Way, says, “were not thinking something up, were taking something down.” As I point out in my book, “world class dreams, require world class routines. Your goals and dreams must match your habits and routines.” What’s the difference between an artist and an amateur? According to Malcom Gladwell author of Outliers, about 8000 hours. Amateurs put in 2000 hours, by age 20, artists who’ve mastered their craft, put in 10,000. Talent is not enough.

I’ve noticed that many aspiring music students do not listen to music. I’ve met aspiring authors who do not read. If you want to be a better writer, be a better reader . . .

Read! Read! Read!

Creativity—at least the non-contrived, unexpected, happy accidents kind of creativity—originates almost entirely in the sub-conscious. You can program the sub-conscious with cable news and video games, or inspiring books, that shake the soul and expand your consciousness. Either way it’s going to come out in your writing.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I write most often in a quiet place, in my home. The challenge is . . . it’s not always quiet. In a crazy household filled with three wonderful daughters, (for whom I wrote the book), a fantastic wife, dogs, cats and pet rats, its necessary to escape to a coffee shop to get in the zone.

But for me it’s more about “time” than “place.” I’m most creative and tapped in to the muse, early in the morning. I set up my “writing chair” the night before—wake up at 3AM, meditate, pray, visualize and sip that first magical cup of coffee. After saying hello to my writing partner—a great big Evergreen tree outside my window—I get to work. (I know. Weird! Kind of like Tom Hanks talking to his soccer ball in the movie The Cast Away), But hey, me and the tree have been through a lot of writing together. 

It is easier to slip behind the veil of ego, and the white noise of world early in the morning. The wee small hours of the morning opens the channel, for insights to flow through me, (not from me) with ease. I call it a dialog with divinity. Call it the force, the source, the muse, the universe; It doesn’t matter—it’s all the same reservoir of creation to me.

On average, I write for 90 minutes and take a break, then write another 60 to 90 minutes. I walk away after that, and deliberately quit thinking about writing. It’s part of the creative process, as described by Graham Wallace in the book, The Art of Thought. Know it or not, whether you’re writing a book or baking cupcakes, the same 4 stages are happening.

1- Preparation. Questions, what does the story want, what do I want to say etc.
2- Incubation: Quit writing let the mind/universe process questions and problems.
3- Illumination: Aha! The answer/idea/insight comes when you least expect it.
4- Verification: Plug the answer and verify how it works. Adjust accordingly.

When I’m done with my morning, preparation stage, I work out, wake the kids, do errands in order to let the writing, incubate. Because the initial creative heavy lifting is over in the morning, total quiet isn’t necessary. I can write at a coffee shop for the next session. When I come back for round two, everything flows much easier.

And one more writing, so called, place: I love to walk my writing. Walking frees the mind. I’ll go on long 2-3-hour walks and record insights, ideas and paragraphs on my iPhone. I’ve written full songs without touching an instrument. When I get back to my desk and enter the verification stage, the ideas I’ve walked out of me generally stand up. Per the last part of this question. I write on a Mac Book Pro and always keep my iPhone handy.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor?

My wife belongs to a local book club that meets once a month. They were nice enough to beta-read my book. We had a party at our house for the book club. It not only helped the writing process, it was a lot of fun.

Review: Laura Sebastian – Ash Princess

Ash Princess
Laura Sebastian

Princess Theodosia has been a captive since she was six and is Princess in name only. Brought out on State occasions dressed sumtiously but with an ash crown, Theo is punished for any uprisings by her people. When she is offered the chance to escape, she can’t decide whether to stay or go.

I found this novel lacking and predictable. Of COURSE she’s going to fall for an inconvenient guy. OF COURSE she’s suddenly going to gain a backbone. Theo is a perfectly fine protagonist, but she’s just not believable. Her behaviour, particularly when she betrays someone close to her, is just repulsive. I couldn’t get behind her quick changes in personality and pathetic excuses either.

Perhaps I can say something positive about the world-building. I certainly could imagine the confines of Theo’s room, with the Shadow’s niches all around, but the world outside that was opaque. Perhaps this was deliberate on the author’s part to make the reader feel like they too were trapped in the castle. I’d like to give the benefit of doubt here, since otherwise the scenery was nice.

It’s a 3 star novel for me. I have just reread Amy Tintera’s Ruina series which has a similar princess/prince storyline, and honestly it is far better executed! Go and get your hands on Ruina (and its sequels) and don’t bother with Ash Princess.

Pan Macmillan | 24th April 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Review: Lexi Freiman – Inappropriation

Inappropriation
Lexi Freiman

Ziggy is going to have a great time at her new prestigious private girls’ school. With a feminist mother, a mild-mannered father and a holocaust-surviving grandma, you’d think Ziggy was full of personality. But she is just looking for her niche and a way to fit in.

I got a couple of chapters in, but I couldn’t work out the purpose of the novel. What was I gaining from wading through the psyche of Ziggy? If I wanted to read something written in a thick literary and nuanced style, I would have picked up an adult fiction novel. I had nothing else to read where I was, but I still put it down.

The cover promises me “You’ll laugh out loud and squirm and wince”… Well, I certainly squirmed and winced at the terrible ‘literary style’ of writing and irritating protagonist. Then it tells me “You sure won’t put it down”. Well, I did, and I felt such revulsion when I discovered it back on my reading shelf that I had to review it immediately to get it OUT.

I’ve tagged this under teenage, because the protagonist is teenager, but honestly I can’t think of a teenager who would be interested in reading it. The 19 year old who is currently perusing my bookshelves put it down in disgust as well, just from the blurb!

Don’t waste your money or your time. Resist its brilliant red cover and run for the hills. Choose anything else to read rather than this. 1 star.

Allen & Unwin | 1st August 2018 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Robert Muchamore – Killer T

Killer T
Robert Muchamore

Harry and Charlie might as well come from different sides of the world. Harry’s a displaced well-off European in the USA while Charlie’s a rock bottom USA native with a history of blowing things up. Harry has a fascination with the Media his whole life, and in Charlie he sees an opportunity to get a fabulous story…

Charlie and Harry form a symbiosis of true love that has to stand the test of time and misunderstandings. Harry’s persistence and Charlie’s brilliance make the novel gritty rather than touching, and actually make you feel like you are experiencing life with them. What more could I ask from a novel?

This is what the future will be! I have little faith in people to do the right things, and the idea of a world where different flu viruses threaten the population every day is exciting. I don’t have a problem with population control, but viruses that pick off the young aren’t really the right way to go about it. This novel was the one I wanted NK3 to be, and takes The Ego Cluster that one step further.

I actually enjoyed the jumps forward in time and alternative perspectives. It enabled Machamore to cram more into the novel and leave it as a standalone. Yay, a standalone novel that for once actually still provided a concrete conclusion and didn’t leave me thinking that the author wanted another book deal.

My finace was completely put off by the cover of my ARC copy, but I reassured her that the inside was far more exciting! I had difficulty predicting what would come next, and that’s what I need in a novel at the moment. I’m giving this novel 4 stars. I don’t think there is enough depth for me to reread, but I couldn’t put it down.

Allen & Unwin | 29th August 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Hayley Lawrence – Inside the Tiger

Inside the Tiger
Hayley Lawrence

Bel needs a social cause to support for a project at school. Rather than following in her father’s footsteps to promote harsher penalties for murderers, she chooses to write to a prisoner in the notorious Thailand ‘Tiger’ prison. Little does she know that she’s going to get in deeper than she imagined…

Bel is a likeable character, but it does feel a bit like ‘insta-love’. She falls really quickly for a boy she knows nothing about. I find it noble that she doesn’t care what Micah has done, but at the same time – wake up! Your own life should have tipped you off that nothing is what it seems.

I could have had more opinions from characters other than Bel. Bel seems to feel so sorry for herself all the time because she has a single parent who is busy all the time. I’m sorry, you have some really great friends and you’ve had this Christmas every year! Although Bel learns to speak up for what she wants, in the end she’s a pushover who somehow connives people into doing what she wants.

The ending is just as it should be. Good work Lawrence – it might not have been the ending we wanted, but it was the one we needed (I can’t remember what that’s from, but it’s a cliche sort of morning. It’s nice not to have a sugar coated ending.

I’m giving this 3 stars. I can’t say I was enthralled by it, but it wasn’t a bad read. It provides an interesting teenage insight into one of the toughest prisons in the world, with the most antiquated penalties.

Penguin Random House | 3rd September 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Tim Watson-Munro – A Shrink in the Clink

A Shrink in the Clink
Tim Watson-Munro

Tim Watson-Munro was one of the first psychologists to enter Australian prisons and offer insights into prisoner minds and motivations. Drawn into the dark criminal world, Tim himself fell into cocaine addition before finding his way back out. This non-fiction work provides another exposé of bad minds.

Well, I started off reading this book with avid fascination, and ended up not finishing it due to a sense of reading about exactly the same wrongdoings over and over again. The chapters are titled by the offenses detailed within them, yet the ‘characters’ have so much in common. I feel as if Tim tries to make them appear different, yet so many offenders have the same personality types (psychopath / narcissus) and the same upbringing (low socioeconomic status / abuse).

The writing style of this book is engaging, and an effort has been made to include different formats of text. For example, the Hoddle Street killer started to write poetry that conveyed his feelings while he was performing mass murder. I wonder what the Copyright is on these sort of things! For some reason, reading about some of these murders makes me wish the death penalty was still in place.

I first reviewed Dancing with Demons a year ago, and I haven’t revisited it. I think I’m going to pass these books onto another reader, and see what they make of them. I just feel like these two books do not really offer anything different – read one, but perhaps not both.

Macmillan | 31st July 2018 | AU$32.99 | paperback

Interview with Patrick Canning

An interview with Patrick Canning, author of The Colonel and the Bee

Patrick Canning was born in Wisconsin, grew up in Illinois, and now lives in California with his dog, Hank. He is primarily focused on turning coffee into words, words into money, money back into coffee.

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

The only other novel I have is called Cryptofauna so I’d that takes the prize. It’s a dark comedy set in the 1980’s, so drastically different than the whimsical Victorian Age world of The Colonel and the Bee. The genres are so different, I can’t imagine there will be too many reads of both (other than my Mom of course).

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

Cryptofauna (mentioned above) was my first foray into novel writing. It was pretty ugly at first but the revision/publication process was so long that it was able to morph into something I’m proud of today. But even if a writer has to relegate that first book to the drawer/hard drive, the good news is you can always take another crack at it later, or, more likely, just harvest the best stuff out of it for your other works. Some projects do die and go nowhere, but, manuscripts keep on giving, even in the afterlife (in addition to all you learned by writing it).

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

I’m trying to close the gap between the best ideation of a story and how it eventually ends up on paper. It’s very frustrating when something is amazing in your head, but you can’t communicate it well enough to match the initial vision. I think craft helps minimize that particular disparity, and while certain pockets of creativity are maddeningly impervious to time invested, craft is something that can be learned and improved with effort.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

I definitely let ideas percolate for a few years but there are always a few percolating at once, so hopefully my output ends up being closer to one of those novel a year people. I think the time required for each project is dropping as I become more comfortable with writing, but I think you can only push the delivery schedule so much before quality suffers. Time away from a project, after a first draft for instance, is massively valuable to retain some objectivity, so streamlining is only useful to a point.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I rotate through a cycle of maybe 10 coffee shops. I always work in Word. I’ve messed with Scrivener for more complex stories with lots of characters and world building, but I think simplicity is best, so usually it’s just Word. I’ve heard great things about pen and paper, especially for first drafts, but haven’t tried it yet. I’ve been typing so long now my handwriting is basically doctor-prescription-pad bad but some people swear by the analog method. In any case, it seems like most of the pros can write whenever, wherever, however, so I try to keep the qualifications at a minimum. Semantic procrastination costumes pretty easily as “essential” routine.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

Right now my beta-readers are family and friends. The trick is to be polite and grateful (they’re eating undercooked dough after all). I make sure the document is readable (a simple spell check should be the minimum decorum) and I always try to keep in mind this is a great deal of time for someone to spend on a project that isn’t at its best. I sought out my first editor freelance and had one assigned by my indie-press for the second book. There are many fantastic editors out there, it’s mostly just finding someone that understands your style of writing/the style of that particular book. Then trust that they’re usually right and be professional.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I’m with you on the great smell of books (especially books from like the 70’s and 80’s, they all have a decade-specific musk). Aside from that, I don’t care too much about format. I love paper books, but I have a e-reader that always surprises me with its readability whenever I come back to it. They’re great for vacations when lugging an omnibus in your carry-on is spinally inadvisable. I’m fully on board with audiobooks too. I live in LA, meaning lots of time in traffic. Audiobooks make it bearable.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I actually wouldn’t say I have a favorite genre. If something sounds interesting or comes highly recommended, I’ll pretty much check it out no matter what. I love going into books (and movies) knowing as little as possible. So as soon as the minimum level of interest is reached, I jump in, because additional information might serve only to spoil plot or unfairly raise expectations.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

The only social media I have for my books is Instagram. It’s still mostly a personal account (meaning an abundance of pictures of my dog) but hopefully I’ll have more and more book-related content. I like the idea of theoretically connecting directly with (theoretical) fans someday, but it’s not a huge factor in my career these days. Promotion of my work so far has come through book review bloggers! Those mysteriously benevolent people willing to read unknown authors. Twitter is probably the most popular for authors, but it seems like one of the more toxic social media ecosystems to me (and that’s saying something), so I’ve avoided it thus far.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

I’m always mortified when I tell someone a story and they say “You already told me this.” If you do 20 interviews about 1 book, you’re inevitably going to cover a lot of the same ground, but I always try to at the very least phrase it differently. I may eventually be forced into pig Latin, but I say death before repetition. Death before repetition.

Guest post by Ilona Slack

A Guest Post by Ilona Slack, author of Chauns

It’s time to learn about the Chauns [kawns] because they are out there, despite being very small and close to impossible to notice. Just like with other small creatures, we neither know what they are up to most of the time, nor attempt to learn about it. We see them and then forget about them because their life is so separate from ours. But would you ask what they usually do if you had a chance and they could reply? Would you believe the stories they told you? The book makes this possible with the Chauns. Now you can discover where they like to be, the things they tend to do and, because there are more than one, you might just pick a favourite; after all, they are adorable.

For me it all started with Connie, an original character never seen before. You can call him my imagination but his world is credible. It had to be or he would lose appeal, for looks are one thing but characteristics are the real deal. As his depicted world grew fast and steady in my head and on paper, something happened that would change my approach – thanks to the wind my husband’s glasses flew into the River Avon during his lunch break. Of course, this was my fault. After all, not that long before this I had chosen the more expensive ones, the ultra-lightweight ones (that glided so beautifully but instantly failed to float) and so his employer had to courier him home because he couldn’t see his computer screen (or much else) without his glasses. I was not going to hear the end of it, so I had to do something to make it worthwhile. My intention at once became to say to him one day “but of course, it had to be or else the book wouldn’t be the same” so an additional chapter was in order. But the Chauns don’t wear glasses; something else needed a twist to make this work and I came up with the narration frame for the stories to be somewhat broken up and yet still connected in a slightly more unusual way than just sequential chapters.

The two things that helped me shape the book the most (and in general to come up with thoughts to jot down) are walking and sitting in a car as a passenger, watching the scenery change. I do the first more often, and I prefer more distant, circular walks. I found Bristol very inspirational and I forged the core of many passages on or near the Bristol and Bath Railway Path. We have since moved to Wales and I’m sure this new location won’t disappoint either in what it has to offer for discovery; so worry not if you can’t get enough of the Chauns, because more stories of them are on the way and you can follow my (very new) Instagram account for upcoming sketches @ilona.slack!

PS my husband never brings up the lost specks. He does always opt for the cheaper kind though. I don’t get a say in it (yet!).

Chauns is available in paperback on Amazon and in ebook on Kindle.
See more at chauns.co.uk