1) Tell us a bit about yourself and where you live and work.
I live on a farm in the wilds of Gloucestershire, near Bristol, England and am surrounded by beautiful countryside, woodlands and baaing sheep in spring. I love writing, reading, watching television and films, and swimming, though the sight of me in a swimming costume is not a pretty sight and when swimming in the sea constantly fear being harpooned by accident. I love seeing my friends and going to my book club once a month. These evenings are spent eating cake, drinking coffee and shrieking with laughter and occasionally discussing the books we’ve read.
2) Describe your journey to becoming an author.
I was an English and music teacher before almost losing my sense of humour (and mind) and deciding I needed to devote herself to the thing my loved most - writing. I wrote and published a number of children’s musicals while teaching and after leaving became a full-time television scriptwriter for children, on an award winning programme, Kideo. Putting words into the mouths of a donkey called Mr Chinwag was a unique and fun experience. I then entered a nationwide scriptwriting competition and was selected to be on the writing team of a popular South African soap, Generations, it was multilingual so often what I wrote would appear on screen translated into Sotho or Zulu or one of the other eleven official languages in South Africa-weird. I also worked as an advertising copywriter, wrote radio ads and jingles, educational textbooks and readers...anything writing related to keep the wolf from the door. Basically, I’m constantly writing, books and TV scripts and if not that then plotting, planning and scheming how to take over the world.
I spent a very long 20 years writing my first book, which went through numerous drafts and changes and now is a completely different book from how it started out- thank goodness. I– self published When Killers Cry, an adult political thriller set in apartheid South Africa just to see what would happen. A lot of it comes from my own experience growing up in those dark days, so it’s very personal for me. It’s available through Lulu.com and on Kindle. My first love is writing for children though. So I wrote two children’s fantasy books and am working on an animation script and other scripts, adapting my books for film. Blue Dust : Forbidden, the first in the Blue Dust series, will be published in November by Ghostly Publishing. It’s now out on Kindle. This too is based on my own experiences as an ‘alien’ and was born out of my struggles of being an immigrant. The other book, still to be named, will also be published later next year, which is great as I had a load of complimentary and encouraging rejections from people who thought it a ‘bit weird’. It’s been a long journey getting to this point, but worth every minute of aching arms and back and an ever increasing file of ‘This is great but it’s not for us’-type letters.
3) Who is your ideal reader?
For Blue Dust: Forbidden and the series, ideally pre-teen and teenage girls, but though the book has romance it’s not soppy and there is loads of action and adventure, humour too. Boys will also enjoy it and of course the theme of feeling alien and not fitting in, is universal so adults who read fantasy will take pleasure in it too I hope. It’s sort of ‘multi-genre’ and I’m hoping it will appeal to a wide audience.
4) Describe your path to publication. Has this experience met/exceeded your expectations?
It’s been hard getting to this point. I broke into television surprisingly easily and was expecting publishing to be the same, but it’s a whole other beast – everyone with a computer these days thinks they’re a writer. I’ve had loads of rejection – am thinking of wallpapering my lounge with all the rejection letters- but most were complimentary and encouraging and no one actually said ‘your work is rubbish’. I took that as something positive. Despite being told once that I had more chance of being eaten by a great white shark while being struck by lightning, than I did of writing a best seller, I chose to ignore that advice and with the support of friends and family, soldiered on, wrote constantly and took advice from wise editors. Being offered a publishing deal was a dream come true – sounds so cliché, but it was amazing and I’m finding it all fantastic, though a bit scary. Nothing is ever as you imagine it to be, but being an actual author with a book deal is everything I hoped and has certainly met my expectations. Now all I need to do is sell a couple of million copies.
5) How do you promote your work? What methods have worked best for you?
I’m new at this all, so am trying to get my head round the whole social media thing. I’m amazed at how much Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook are increasing interest in the book. I’ve done a small amount of local press so far, but will step it all up as the release date approaches. Of course I’m hoping for radio and newspaper interviews that will spread the news.
6) Who are your favorite authors? What is on your reading list right now?
I have a very eclectic taste. I love thrillers – Jo Nesbo, Christina Lackberg, John Grisham, Dick Francis but also Jane Austen, Dickens, and writers like Kate Atkinson, Zadie Smith, Alexander McSmith. I’m currently reading The Glass Room by Simon Mawer and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Maggoch. I’m also reading Un lun dun by China Mieville and am about to start Jimmy Threepwood and the Veil of Silence by Rich Pitman, another of the Ghostly Publishing authors. It’s a fine balance between writing my own stuff and reading the works of other great writers.
7) Describe a typical day in your life.
I get up, check emails, read the news on the BBC website, Twitter, Facebook stuff, re-read what I wrote the day before and get stuck in. I try to write every day for as long as possible – a bad back makes sitting for too long tricky – so I’ll have a short walk or go for a swim- my latest craze is aqua zumba, which is more like flapping about in water in time to music and is hilarious, then back to carry on writing. I often work late into the night as I work in short bursts. I’m finding the social media taking up a lot of my time, so am having to re-organise my time. I also take lunch off to watch my 2 favourite Ozzie soaps. I enjoy watching telly or a film in the evenings. I’ll often get an idea as I drift off to sleep and will get up to jot it down before trying again. Somehow the moments before slumber are very creative. I’ve spoken to a number of writers who experience the same. I tell myself a story as I go to sleep too, usually what happens in the next chapter or book or series of books. Most of the time this puts me right to sleep. Hmmm….
8) What projects do you have in the works?
The sequel to Blue Dust: Forbidden, due to be published next year. I feel a third book in the series brewing too. I’m also percolating another series, still in the ‘thoughts in my head’ stage. I also try to work on film (adapting books) and televisions scripts to give myself a bit of variety. Another book of mine will be published next year too, but I need to work on a few issues, so am mulling over these at the same time.
9) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?
Never give up! Write as much as you can, get a good editor – never send in the first draft, take advice from said good editors, don’t expect your family and friends to be much use in giving an honest opinion on your writing – unless they’re writers too, Learn how to rewrite, rewrite and rewrite, try not to be too ‘precious’ about your work. Sometimes you have to delete a sentence or paragraph or even chapter you love because it doesn’t contribute to the work as a whole. Read a lot, take time to find your own voice and the genre that suits you best. Never surrender!
I was born and raised in South Africa where I qualified as a teacher, teaching English and Music. I wrote five children’s musicals that were published in SA and sold extensively throughout the country and Africa, and are still being performed over there. I left teaching to become a full-time television scriptwriter in 1994, working on an award winning South African children’s programme, Kideo. I entered a nationwide scriptwriting competition and was selected to be on the writing team of Generations, a multi-lingual soap. I also wrote advertising copy, radio jingles and adverts and then moved into writing textbooks and readers for illiterate and semi-literate adults. I worked on CD rom voiceovers for the Independent Electoral Committee before the first democratic elections. Some of my music was performed to the United Nations observers and was also recorded and broadcast on South African television. I’ve also written corporate video scripts and created and directed a children’s series for Impact media in SA. I emigrated to the UK in 2000 and became a naturalised citizen in 2005. Since being in the UK I’ve written a number of animation scripts for Waterston TV (in development) and also wrote an Easter programme for the Swaziland Communication Department. I’ve completed two children’s fantasy books and an adult political thriller, and am working on an animation script. Blue Dust : Forbidden, the first in the Blue Dust series, will be published in November by Ghostly Publishing. It’s now out on Kindle.