Q & A on the series and writing
Mrs Squirrel is busy collecting nuts for the winter. I know you’re all very patiently (or impatiently if you’re like me) waiting for the release of Hindsight. So I thought I’d answer some questions on the series, on Hindsight and on Pip.
What inspired the series?
The Above and Beyond Series was mostly inspired by my own journey through the Jesuit 19th Annotation. (Which is a meditative retreat which took me three years to complete!) It deals with fighting fear and doubt to be who you are meant to be.
What do you enjoy about writing the series?
I love the characters. I get an incredible buzz from sitting down with a blank page and watching Aeron ooze out onto it. Her voice, the first ever chapter is as it was when I first wrote it (corrections aside) and it sparked everything from the setting to what she was going through. So, when I hear her voice, it feels special.
I also love putting all the little nuances in because I want it to be a series that readers can re-read over and over and find new details.
What is the hard bit about it?
Waiting for the book to be released so everyone can enjoy it!
Also, getting the American geography and language spot on is always a tricky challenge. There are such intricate differences sometimes. I’m lucky my editor is an expert at being American
When is the next book out?
Publishing involves so many people doing a fantastic job. Bedazzled Ink want to make sure that you read the best version of the book they can put out. (As they do with all their books) so it means that each person involved in the process takes their time, makes sure they do a great job before passing it down the line. I’ve normally read and re-read the entire book painstakingly about umpteen times by the time it comes to you. So it’s a good thing I love reading them so much!
The look of the books has changed. Is that for a reason?
Book covers are one of my favourite parts of the process and I am lucky to have worked with two very different but fabulous cover designers. I love both of course! With La Vie En Bleu, the new cover is actually one of my paintings which is super cool!
How do you get ready to write?
I pick up a pen or open a laptop… Although by the time I’m writing I’ve plotted for Wales. I often re-plot to check I’m happy with the way the story is developing and to work with the characters when they have thrown a spanner in the works. Sometimes, like with Noble Heart, I’ve written three quarters and thought “hmm… I could do this again better” so I start again. Then there’s times in the editing process that I’ve needed to adjust something. For instance, the finished manuscript for Hindsight was submitted in March but little touches have changed to reflect the things I’ve learned about the characters when writing Noble Heart so it makes for a more consistent story.
You don’t start the series like most thrillers, why?
Thriller was the closest category the series fit into but I followed Aeron’s story. I thought a lot about how and why TV can be more popular than books and have tried to take what I think works for both art forms, along with what I’d learned from being a musician and performing, and meshed that into a book form. TV is great at showing a collection of people and getting you to care about them all individually and as a whole. With Aeron’s series (and Pip) I’ve tried to create the feeling that you are with friends. They feel that way to me so I hope so. Therefore it felt right that Aeron meets you at the front door to introduce herself, catch you up, fill in the basics for anyone new and that helps us get on with the story without the need for a lot of information being thrown at you. It’s not always easy because as the series progresses, I have to weigh up telling you five books worth of information. With Noble Heart, I’ve re-written the intro quite a few times. I’ve re-written the book too!
You always have Aeron and Renee together to finish the story. Was that intentional too?
Yes and no. Renee was meant to be a one or two scene character but decided otherwise but I’m glad she did. Whether or not they do get together (they make their own story, I just follow with a pen) their relationship is a massive part of the books. I love them being on a page together because they seem to bring something extra out of each other. They learn from each other and I loved that. It again uses that TV feel when you have an adventure with the characters and see them laugh, smile and hopefully leave you feeling uplifted.
La Vie En Bleu is very different. Will Best Maid Plans be much the same as that?
Yes. The Renovating Hearts Series is about romance and laughter. I get to show my ridiculous side and be a bit freer somehow. My guess would be that there is a more straightforward plot in some ways but I still try and pack it with the little details. Pippa is more scatty, more excitable in the way she speaks so the energy to a reader may feel very different too. Both series teach me how to write the other better and I love that.
America, France, Germany… You like different settings, don’t you?
I do. Best Maid Plans also takes in Wales and England too. I love exploring different cultures and using smatterings of their languages to accentuate that. It’s always a bit nerve-racking though as, although I can speak a little of these languages, I’m no native and make mistakes. Even with Pip, she’s from a country next door to mine but I’m not English and most likely at times make her sound a bit Welsh! Hopefully those things are removed by the time it gets to readers… if not, hopefully they are too small not too bother anyone!
I’m happy to give it my best shot and be brave as I really enjoy bringing these countries and cultures to life on the page.
Why did you decide to do The Whistleblower series for free?
Aeron has got such a big story and there are so many characters with their own tales that I wanted to explore them a bit more. I’d written The Whistleblower as a novel following Susan’s story but decided to break it up and share it. It is fun to write and hopefully it will keep readers enjoying the series between books.
What advice would you give to new writers?
Not so much advice because, to me, writing is an art not a science and therefore I’m a fellow student a little further down the road. What I’ve learned is that every part of writing has skills and tools that can help. Having someone knowledgeable to study under makes a massive difference, so do good courses, good books by people who know their art well BUT… Writing is sitting down in front of a blank page and creating a story. The everyday is one word after the other. If you love that, as I do, it is a joy. When you love something that much, it feels much easier and sees you through the tough bits because there are tough bits!
The easier you make the process (by plotting etc.) the closer you get to that romantic view of just sitting down and creating a masterpiece. That image just doesn’t show the fact you’ve plotted, researched, studied, reworked and re-written umpteen times!