Interview with Bestselling Author Helen Carey

I am so pleased to introduce the talented fiction author, Helen Carey. Helen is best known for her popular Lavender Road series, which is set in South London during the Second World War. The Lavender Road novels include Lavender Road, Some Sunny Day, On a Wing and a Prayer, London Calling and The Other Side of the Street.

Helen started writing about the war when she met a neighbour at a bus stop in London who pointed out where the air-raid shelters used to be on Clapham Common. That sparked an interest in the Second World War, especially for lesser known details, which now appear in Helen’s spell-binding novels.

Having lived in London, Germany, Switzerland and the West Indies, Helen now lives in Newport, Pembrokeshire in Wales, on a small coastal farm which she and her husband run as a conservation project. She is also a prize winning artist and has made a gallery out of a converted goat shed. As well as painting and writing she teaches Creative Writing at various universities and currently has a Royal Literary Fund fellowship at Aberystwyth University.

She has also written the exciting thriller novel, Slick Deals, which really piqued my interest due to its settings!

Helen, as the author of the popular Lavender Road series, a saga set in London during the WWII era, what inspired you to write Slick Deals, a thriller novel set in London and West Wales?

I was inspired to write SLICK DEALS after going out on a dolphin survey boat in Cardigan Bay just off the beautiful coast of Pembrokeshire where I live. We had a wonderful day, during which we saw masses of seabirds, gannets, terns, puffins, Manx shearwaters, and over a thousand dolphins. But on the way back we passed an oil exploration vessel, and we all agreed how terrible it would be if oil drilling was allowed to spoil such a fragile and beautiful environment. I used to work in the oil industry at one time so I knew the dangers. So I decided the best thing was to write a novel! As well as flagging up the local issue, I thought the conflict between the oil industry and environmentalists would make a good basis for an exciting crime thriller.

That sounds like some amazing inspiration with wisdom to back it up! Was there any particular inspiration behind the American character, Nick Jardine, who is the ‘irritatingly cool environmentalist’?

I suppose he’s a mix of various people I have met over the years, some Brits, some Americans. Yes, he is very cool, and a bit too laid-back at first, but only in a deliberate attempt to provoke the oil trader heroine of the story, Ella Crossley! In the end, of course, he turns out to be pretty tough, but I liked the idea of him pulling the wool over her eyes. I wanted to show that environmentalists aren’t all as ‘hippy-dippy’ as the media sometimes makes out. By the end of the book I was half in love with him myself!

Slick Deals also has a strong romantic suspense element, which seems to work very well in this novel, and many readers have asked for a sequel. Are you considering writing one, and if so, what can we look forward to in the next instalment?

I would love to write a sequel! I actually do have an idea in mind for another crime thriller, but at the moment I am finishing off my Lavender Road series. Once I have done that, and had a nice long holiday (!) I might well turn my attention to Ella Crossley and Nick Jardine once again.

Being a resident of West Wales yourself, your own experiences and familiarity with the countryside must have helped with writing the scenes in Slick Deals a great deal. What about Wales has drawn you to make it your home?

Yes, indeed, I don’t think I could have written Slick Deals without knowing the area and the varied mix of people who live here. The Welsh are extraordinarily tolerant and welcoming people. I think that’s partly why so many so-called ‘hippies’ settled here in the 70s!

The other reason that so many people come to live here in Pembrokeshire is that it is one of the most beautiful and unspoilt places in the world. My husband and I live on a small organic farm which we run as a conservation project. From our house, which is tucked under Carn Ingli (Mount of Angels), we have views out over Cardigan Bay and the Irish Sea. There are many other parts of the world that I love, but in the end I always want to come back here!

I can really picture Pembrokeshire as the perfect home for a writer! Are you planning another novel, and if so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

My next novel will be VICTORY GIRLS, the sixth in my Lavender Road series. It is set in the last year of World War Two. Like most of my books it is essentially about women trying to make their way in a male dominated world.

Helen de Burrel knows how dangerous it is in war-torn France, but it’s a long time since she heard from her French fiancé, André Cabillard, and now she has decided to go back to try to track him down.

Her friend Molly Coogan is finding it hard to stop thinking about a Canadian pilot she met while nursing overseas. But Molly wasn’t ‘good enough’ for him, and now she is back in London, determined to discover the truth about her family history, especially about the mother who gave her up for adoption when she was four years old.

The war may be nearly over, but the women of Lavender Road still have battles to fight!

As a prolific writer of seven novels, do you ever experience writer’s block, and if so, what tools and tricks do you use to overcome it?

I have never really experienced writer’s block, although that might be partly due to the fact that I have been commissioned to write most of my novels, and there is nothing more motivating than a publisher’s dead-line!

However, in between novels I do sometimes find myself floundering a bit and I have found Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, very helpful for getting me back on track.

My other tip for writers is to know your ending. Novelists, in particular, often get stuck when they don’t know for sure where they are headed. I spend a lot of time working out my plots, and that helps enormously, because I always know (more or less) what needs to happen in the next scene.

That’s great advice. I noticed that you are also a traditionally published author. What has been your experience with the traditional publishing industry?

Yes, my Lavender Road novels are published in the UK, Europe and Commonwealth by Headline Books, a major London publisher, and the audio version by Isis Soundings. I was previously published by Orion, another big London publishing house.

There are obviously plusses and minuses of being traditionally published and being an indie author. The plusses of the traditional publishers are that the books are professionally edited, and distributed into bookshops and libraries much more widely than I could do myself. I also get a nice fat advance on royalties!

The advantages of indie publishing are that I have much more control over content, covers and pricing.

I think the way I have it at the moment, retaining the US rights on my books, is a good compromise.

Helen, thank you so much for sharing your inspiration for Slick Deals and your insight on writing with us. Where can readers find your books and learn more about you?

I love hearing from readers.

You can visit my website: http://www.helencareybooks.co.uk

My books are all on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Helen-Carey/e/B0066LDO96

Or you can find me on Facebook and Twitter: @helencareybooks

 

Interview with Award-winning Author, D. Hart St. Martin

D. Hart St. Martin is one of my favorite authors of Young Adult Fantasy, and I am thrilled to be able to share her insights about writing with you today.

Hart is the author of the award-winning Lisen of Solsta series. In these incredible books, she pulls off the near impossible by creating a virtually genderless society of marsupial humanoids on another planet. When I say she “pulls it off” I mean she really, actually pulls it off, by writing about the characters and their world in a completely believable and compelling way.

Hart, I can definitely say the Lisen of Solsta series is not your run-of-the-mill fantasy on planet Earth. What  inspired you to write such unique fiction?

I began with the premise of a world with no sexism. It took me many years to figure out what that must look like, with little bits of the culture and the physiology required, I felt, for such a world to exist settling into place over time. I believed that the manner of procreation was the key. If men and women were to share equally in the nurturing of the child before birth, their brains might be hard-wired differently than on Earth. That’s when I came upon the concept of the marsupial pouch, but for both sexes. This was the final touch, believe it or not.

I think my favorite moments were writing what it was like for Korin to pouch and carry Rinli. I enjoyed watching him soften while still remaining the soldier he’d always been. I also loved comparing his experience and reaction to it with Lorain’s. He was joyful while she was simply performing her duty. Their two “pouching-ins” gave me the opportunity to fully explore many of the aspects of this thing that would be so strange to humans.

As for the setting, I read once that Tolkien placed The Lord of the Rings in an English/European setting because he felt that England had little to nothing in the way of mythology of its own. I thought why not set my story in a place I knew well–California, specifically Southern California. With the beautiful ocean communities to the west, a wide stretch to the mountains then into the desert to the east (well, sort of).

The characters in your series are remarkably real, even though both males and females have a “pouch” on their abdomen, and a member of either gender can carry the baby. How do you go about developing your characters so well? Do you make character sheets, charts, etc., or do you have a different method?

I am a sloppy writer. Not exactly disorganized, but I do little in the way of immortalizing my characters on paper (or in a document) before beginning the actual writing. I have a spread sheet of sorts that lists the name, age, hair color, eye color, height (tall or short when not average for this world), special notes (like which eye is Korin missing–it’s his left) and the scene in which the character first appears. My characters usually reveal themselves to me best not so much when I write a scene from their point of view but when another character’s POV shows me something new I hadn’t seen before.

It surprised me in the beginning when reviewers and readers would mention how true each character’s voice was to that character. It was only later that I realized that the reason it didn’t feel like I’d made an effort to accomplish that was because I was able to slip into a POV character’s skin when I wrote a scene through their eyes.

What is it about the Young Adult Fantasy genre that most appeals to you as a writer?

I fell in love with Science Fiction and Fantasy when I was in my teens, way back when there were little-to-no female heroes. I would always reconfigure things in my imagination so the hero had a sister or a daughter who would carry on the story. I have continued to read YA Fantasy (as well as other books with YA protagonists) because there is something redeeming in watching a young person come into their own while dealing with impossible odds.

Since you have written a successful series which is adored by fans – and won awards, no less! – is there any advice you can offer aspiring authors?

Wow. I think the hardest thing about writing is the fact that we sit alone in a room for months or years at a time–no cheerleaders, no fawning fans–and write our souls out. You can’t do it for the money because there are too many books and too little money out there. You have to do it because you can’t not do it. And you absolutely have to be honest. Whatever the genre, whether fiction or nonfiction, the most important thing is to speak your truth.

I love that answer, and I can see how you’ve sown your truth within the steps of your characters’ journeys. Does the story of Lisen teach us a moral lesson of any kind?

Well, obviously what the reader takes away from any story is up to them, but my hope is that a better understanding of how equality of the sexes without division of roles based on gender stereotypes will be the take-away. I made a point of showing families interacting–more so in book 4, Protector of Thristas, than in the first trilogy–because when I began writing this, Phyllis Schlafly, the antifeminist rabble rouser, was claiming equal rights for women would destroy the family. I wanted to prove it didn’t have to.

I’ve heard different schools of thought on the subject of what we should choose to write about. One is “You need to research the market and write what is selling.” Another is “Write what you would want to read.” Which do you think is correct, or do you have another philosophy?

The way I see it, the market is constantly changing. It takes months or, more often, years to complete the writing of a book. What is trending today will most likely not be trending when you’re ready to market your book. Write the best book you can, write the book you’d want to read if you saw it on the shelves of a brick-and-mortar book store or on Amazon, and then convince an agent, a publisher or your potential readers if you self-publish that they want your book. Were books about boys who discovered they were wizards trending when J.K. Rowling started writing the Harry Potter books? Were books about teen-age vampires trending when Stephenie Meyer began Twilight? No. Write what moves you to continue writing. If you go with what’s trending, you’re as likely to get bored and give up as to finish the thing.

How much time would you say you spent in the beta-reading and editing phase per book before you published each one? Do you have regular beta readers, or do you get new ones each time you produce a new work?

This is probably the hardest question to answer. Let’s start with Fractured and Tainted, books 1 and 2 of the series. I initially put pen to paper (literally) back in 1977. It took me 3 years to write what was essentially the very first draft of those books. I didn’t know what I was doing. The current incarnation of the story began taking shape in 2005 when a character named Ann became Lisen. I didn’t send her to earth then bring her back again until 2008. I relied on a writing group I belonged to at the time, and they were invaluable in guiding my edits. Hence, I never sent those books out to beta readers.

When I began Blooded, I decided to hire an editor, Todd Barselow, who is very good and very reasonable in his pricing because he believes in indie writers. I’d done my own proofing on books 1 and 2 myself, something everyone will tell you not to do (and they’re right), but in my case it worked. I have a complicated answer for why I can proof my own work, but let me simply say that it has to do with my former work as a medical transcriptionist. After three drafts, I sent Blooded off to Todd. He gave it his full attention but found very little to change. So, with Protector of Thristas, I decided to rely on beta readers only–a couple of author friends online and my sister (who is very, very picky).

Do you think you will write another Young Adult Fantasy series, and if so, what are some of the ideas you have?

Right now I’m working on the last two books for Lisen. I have found an ending that satisfies me and hopefully will satisfy the reader. The second three books are more New Adult than YA and have allowed me to explore an adult Lisen as leader, spouse and parent. As for a future beyond Lisen, there is a paranormal romance I finished some time ago, and when I hit a block with the current work in progress, I formatted that and have published it as a Kindle only. Beyond that, I have a couple of ideas, one a fantasy with dragons and the other a dystopian tale that takes place in the near future.

What has been the most rewarding thing about being an author?

Writing is bliss. Writing is that moment when you form a sentence or a paragraph and beam at its precision and beauty. Writing is the revelation that comes in the middle of the night solving a hole in the plot that’s been bugging you for months. Writing is living inside a character’s head and knowing you’ve nailed the narrative. Writing is life, about life, making life. I am a writer, a novelist who makes short stories long.

Where can readers find your books, blog, and website?

I have a website, but I haven’t touched it in months (shame on me). But you can find current info at these other places.

Amazon author site: https://www.amazon.com/St.-Martin-D.-Hart/e/B0099S9GWW/ref

Blog: https://dhartstmartin.blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DHartStMartinAuthor/

Thank you very much for the interview, Hart! I look forward to reading more of your work in the future.

      

My Writing Process

Welcome to the Writing Process Blog Tour.

Author Charles Stubbs recently took part in this unique blog tour on writing, and invited me to take it forward. I met Charles online and discovered that he writes mystery thriller novels set in North Wales! I can highly recommend Charles’ first two novels in the Travis Web of Deceit series, as I was very impressed with the situations he presented and his ability to “trick me” as the reader. This series of mystery thrillers deals with issues about how the media can manipulate public opinion and influence events. You can visit Charles’ website at http://webofdeceit.org/blogs to find out more about his writing process and learn more about his books. You can also visit other authors on this tour by following the links on Charles’ blog post and working back in time.

To continue the tour, I’ll be answering four questions:

1. What are you working on?
I’m currently working on Isle of Apples, the third and final book of my young adult fantasy trilogy. The book is in its final stages of editing and will be released next month. I’m very excited! Here’s the synopsis:

Bridget and Celena have shared a painful connection with Paul for thousands of years due to a tragedy in the ancient world – a crime that Bridget is still paying for today. What’s done is done; she doesn’t know how to erase the injustice. She does know that with magic stemming from the Isle of Apples, she can somehow change time, create a new future and fulfill a promise she made to the Goddess. The girls use an otherworldly portal to delve deep into the past for answers of exactly what to do. What is “The Forever Tree” and what do mysterious clay tablets reveal about their quest? How can they convince Paul to journey with them to the Isle to set things right when he’s bent only on making them suffer? Bridget learns that sometimes answers are found in the most unexpected ways – and from the most unexpected people. In an uncharted realm governed by different rules, she witnesses trust, magic and faith overcome adversity as a painful history draws to a close.

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
It’s rare to see a Welsh-themed trilogy (although there are a few out there), but even stranger to see one written by an American who’s never been to Wales. So I would say this is what sets my work apart from others the most. Isle of Apples is by far the “Welshest” of the three books. It was quite an adventure putting my own spin on many well-known Welsh creatures and legends.

Another main subject of the series is reincarnation and how events in the characters’ distant past have come back to haunt them in the present. Not everyone believes that we have lived before this lifetime of course, but whether readers do or not, the concept makes for a very unusual and entertaining story.

3. Why do you write what you do?
I believe that I don’t necessarily get to pick and choose what inspires me. If I am “inspired” to write about a certain thing, then I feel compelled to write about it as though I really don’t have a choice. I’ve been interested in Wales ever since I read about it in a few books when I was a teenager. Several years ago when I had the idea for my first book, I kept visualizing the characters in ancient Wales, even though I hadn’t read about that country in almost twenty years. I started researching, found Bryn Cader Faner (a Bronze Age cairn circle) that could be a “portal” to journey back in time, and I became so inspired and intrigued by this part of the world that I couldn’t have written about anything else if my life depended on it!

That said, the learning curve while writing these books was tough at times and there is definitely something to be said for the maxim “write what you know.” But now that this project is nearly completed I’m glad that I persisted. It’s been a humbling and satisfying experience that I could not have done without help from authors and readers in the United Kingdom.

4. How does your writing process work?
It starts with a concept of the tale I want to tell and the imagery and emotions I want to create in the reader’s mind. The inspiration and the story idea are of course linked in some way, which goes without saying. Muses play a big part in this. I view a muse as a sort of specialized compartment of inspiration – a person (or sometimes, people) who inspires me. And muses affect me the same way as general inspiration does. I really don’t pick my muses, they pick me. I have no control over who inspires me and who doesn’t, all I can say is that my affinity and admiration do play a big part in it.

I haven’t often been able to work out much of the story in my mind before writing it – maybe only about 25%, which is usually the beginning, ending, and the general idea of what happens. On rare occasions when I have written a chapter outline for the entire book, I usually come up with something better mid writing the novel and wind up changing it anyway. So most of the time, once I get my initial ideas, I have to start getting them down on paper and go from there. Each time I work on the book I discover a little more of the imaginary world in which the characters find themselves. It’s a journey which allows me a lot of freedom to create and surprise myself with twists and turns in the plot. This may not be the best way to write, but it’s the most enjoyable and allows me to grow as an author. One day I may do it differently.

For this series, I wrote the chapters of each book consecutively, from beginning to end. Once a book is complete, I go through it probably 5 – 10 times myself, picking up as many errors as I can, and rewriting parts I’m not satisfied with. Then I have other authors, readers and friends read the book and provide their feedback. I make any corrections needed and then I self-publish the book to Amazon for Kindle, to CreateSpace in paperback, and also on Smashwords, which converts the book into all eReader formats and PDF.

The three books of my Welsh-themed trilogy are Lake Caerwych, The Space Between Worlds and Isle of Apples.

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My post completes this leg of the blog tour, but it isn’t finished yet!

The next stop on the Writing Process Blog Tour you’ll be visiting is author Stephen Jennison-Smith on June 30th.

Stephen Jennison-Smith

Stephen had written a couple of books about 20 years ago and realised that with the advent of the Kindle he could publish them himself. So he wrote two more and self-published them three years ago. Since then he has written another 12 novellas and 20 short stories.

You’ll find Stephen’s Writing Process Tour post on his blog here:

http://stephenjennisonsmith.blogspot.co.uk

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I hope you’re enjoying the tour so far and that you’ll find new authors to add to your reading list. Thank you for visiting!

Author Interview on KCross Writing

Book Reviewer Katie Cross interviewed me on her excellent site. You can check out her blog here! http://kcrosswriting.com/

Author Interview: Jaime Conrad

What’s cooler than a self-published author? Nothing.

Let me introduce Jaime Conrad. (No, I didn’t spell it wrong. It’s the ol’ I before M rule.)

06b90d1224e30ac1d1881c.L._V143848561_SX200_1She’s the author of the incredible book Lake Caerwych. It was my first Kindle read, and a  martian life form couldn’t have pried it from my hands as soon as I started reading it.

Thanks for being here with us today, Jaime!

Before we get to your book, let’s talk about you as a writer. How long have you been writing?

I wrote a lot when I was a kid. When I was about 10 years old, it was normal behavior for me to sit on my grandma’s back porch and write out 300 pages in my notebook. I would say I first starting writing stories at about the age of 6 and continued until I was a teenager. Around that time, life started getting pretty busy and complex and I barely wrote a thing for almost twenty years. Two years ago, when I was 34, I realized that writing was actually what I wanted to do in life and it had been there all along – it just got buried under the day-to-day stresses. Shortly thereafter, I got the idea for this trilogy and started writing again.

Good for you! I’m always impressed with people who follow what they want. I have to admit, I’m curious: do you believe in muses? If so, do you have a writing muse?

Yes, I absolutely believe in them! I have several, and I switch around depending on the subject matter.

What has been the most exciting part about publishing your first book?

There have been so many things that it’s hard to pick just one! I think the most exciting part was that I finally confronted completing a book and sharing it with others publicly. I knew that if I really wanted to consider writing professionally in any capacity, I needed to come out of my shell and present my product. So I made myself do it, and it was very liberating and terrifying to see Lake Caerwych live on Amazon.

What has been the most difficult part about being a writer?

At first, the most difficult part was just letting others know that I’m a writer. I didn’t know what they would think of my chosen genre or my interest in Wales. After a while, I discovered that this uncertainty was all in my head. Friends, other authors and even the media have been very supportive. Once I got over this personal hurdle, I knew that I was the only one holding myself down and I just needed to get on with it.

Photo Credit: http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348199290l/12980572.jpg

What’s your favorite cereal? (Nosy readers like to know.)

You will love this answer: I really don’t eat cereal or any kind of sweet stuff for breakfast. I eat eggs and bacon – sometimes a burger! Yum!

(Isn’t she great, folks? A girl after my own heart who eats a healthy breakfast.)

Ok, now let’s get to the really good stuff! Can you give us a brief synopsis of Lake Caerwych?

Lake Caerwych is a story of friendship, time travel and haunting adventure in ancient Wales. Two American teenagers embark on the journey of their lives when they find a megalithic portal in Snowdonia which takes them back to 500 BC. Lake Caerwych is Book 1 of a Welsh-themed trilogy.

I noticed throughout the book that you introduce words from different Celtic languages, but I never got confused or felt overwhelmed by the unknown words. Was that difficult to balance?

No, it was relatively easy because I was able to introduce the words gradually as the girls did their research about Wales. I learned as they learned, and this allowed me to add the vocabulary bit by bit, rather than just throwing it at the reader all at once.

What made you decide to base the story in Wales?

I’ve had affinity for and interest in Wales ever since high school, but I didn’t pursue that interest back then the way I wanted to. When I started this trilogy, I decided that the characters must go to Wales. That would allow me to write in my area of interest and would also give the story a unique feel and atmosphere.

Have you ever been there?

No, I have never been there! I broke a cardinal rule of writing with this trilogy: I wrote about what I didn’t know. This took a lot of researching, correcting of errors, more researching, more correcting and lots and lots of editing. I received some great help from readers in Wales and one author in the UK in particular. Lake Caerwych is now published in its second edition and now readers say that they can’t believe I haven’t been there. So it can be done, if one has the patience to push through and keep learning and refining the work as needed.

There is a Wales Online article which goes into my “breaking the rules” as well: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/need-to-read/2012/06/18/snowdonia-the-setting-for-fantasy-novel-by-texas-author-91466-31203101/

Was it difficult to write from the viewpoint of a fourteen-year-old?

No, it was incredibly easy! Even when I was a kid, I had the idea that I wanted to write in the teen or young adult genre. It feels very natural.

Of all the characters you wrote about, which of them was your favorite? (My personal favorite was Bridget, of course.)

Photo credit:http://cache.smashwire.com/bookCovers/878bf9499e6efaa0c973fd198d7df64c7d27a808-thumb

I’m really glad that you liked Bridget! She is my favorite too. Bridget is actually a composite of my daughter and me, if we were fused together into one person.

Now, you have a sequel to Lake Caerwych, is that right? Is it available to read right now?

Yes, the sequel is The Space Between Worlds. It’s available right now in all formats, including paperback. You can get it on Amazon or Smashwords. In the sequel, we learn a lot more about Paul and what’s really going on with him. Be ready for a shocker!

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There you have it, guys! I’m on my way to get the second book.

Which means you should too.