What got you into writing?
It was a complete moment of inspiration when a number of ideas that had been mulling around in my head came together and I just had to start writing. I am a bookworm and like many people thought I might write a book one day but it was only when I began writing The Morrow Secrets that I became absolutely gripped. I had found my genre – Gothic fantasy or Young Adult fiction, I discovered I loved creating mysterious, fantasy worlds. Having done that and cut my teeth on fantasy, I do think at some point I will move on to horror or more adult fantasy.
As a child I loved getting lost in make-believe worlds such as the Narnia books, The Hobbit and The Borrowers by Mary Norton.
I wanted to recreate that excitement as a writer – the joy of not being able to put a book down, so that the reader was desperate to turn the page and find out what was happening next.
What’s your favourite book and why?
That’s a difficult question as there are so many books I love for very different reasons. Can I have three books?
Then I would choose Dracula for its creepy atmosphere and the wonderful way Bram Stoker describes the Count and his castle. I first read it in my late teens under the blankets at university. It was so scary, one night I slept with the light on!
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – what a story and what a storyteller! A master of characterization and a genius at naming his characters for example Uriah Heep in David Copperfield, immediately the reader knows that Uriah is going to be underhanded and sneaky just from his name.
Finally: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, which I first read at 15. I was transported into a dark, world with menacing characters, a love story and one without a happy ending. Also I am from North Yorkshire so I identified with the descriptions of landscape and the desolate moors.
What’s your writing routine?
To be honest I don’t really have a routine although I write most days. I like writing late at night and sometimes into the wee small hours and I guess for my dark narrative this works.
Tell me about The Morrow Secrets?
It’s a fantasy adventure about a headstrong girl called Tallitha who is determined to unearth the dark secrets of her sinister Morrow family. From the moment you step into Tallitha’s mysterious world and the weird old house of Winderling Spires the story takes you on a rollercoaster of delight, an epic adventure across dangerous lands, full of eccentric characters with scary twists and turns. It’s a story of intrigue, betrayal and magic.
The book has 20 5* Star Reviews on Amazon and 27 5* Star Reviews on Goodreads
The second book, The Shadow of the Swarm has just been published and both books are available on Amazon. http://myBook.to/TheMorrowSecrets
The third book in the trilogy will be published later in 2014.
You write YA Fantasy: what got you into this genre, and why do you love writing it?
As soon as I began writing my fantasy adventure story everything just fell into place. I find the experience of creating the make-believe worlds so fascinating and whenever I write it is like embarking on a fantastic journey, as you never know where you will end up. Its wonderful to be able to make up stories and have people read them and in many ways it’s like being a child again capturing the wonder and excitement of fairy stories and magic. That’s the best bit.
I love fantasy stories and movies. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are my all-time favourites and currently I am into Game of Thrones. Of course I love the Harry Potter movies and The Hunger Games. More in the Gothic genre I thoroughly enjoyed: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James and the Hammer House of Horror movies.
What inspired your Trilogy, “The Morrow Secrets”?
It was a combination of ideas – I have always been fascinated with dark spooky houses, with family history and the influence that past generations have on the present and also that families sometimes have secrets they keep from their children. So it was all these things that came together. I began imagining what it would be like to be a girl, caught in the web of her strange family with a mysterious past; a curious girl who couldn’t leave the past alone, who was headstrong and determined to embark on a dangerous quest and that was the kernel that started the book. I also added in the supernatural, a bit of magic, peculiar creatures and an epic journey across dangerous lands.
I can trace the idea for The Morrow Secrets to when I saw a children’s book illustration and it reminded me of how I loved reading about make-believe worlds as a child. I had this intense desire to recreate the wonderful excitement of reading a magical fantasy adventure story. I also wanted a strong female character as the lead and so Tallitha came into being.
I have always loved horror films and scary books, big rambling houses with secrets to unearth. I didn’t intend to write Gothic fantasy, the book just wrote itself. Once I had decided on the setting and some of the characters the story just tumbled out. It was a very odd experience looking back.
I watched a Stephen King “You Tube” interview recently and he said virtually the same. That is what is odd about it – do writers all have this inexplicable experience where they leave their present world in their imagination and enter another one? The only way I can describe it is that there is a real joy in engaging in this creative process – I sit down at my desk, read over the last chapter and bingo more of the story pours out… the characters take over – it is a bit like magic.
As a writer, I rarely plot story lines: I let them evolve.
As a series author, do you find it hard to keep the story fresh? What tips can you give aspiring authors about writing a series?
When I started writing the first book I only vaguely thought it would be a trilogy, but I didn’t focus on that at all, it would have been too daunting a task to envisage writing nearly 300,000 words!
As a series author, or indeed any author you have to be gripped by your story, if you’re not, believe me the process of writing a book is just too hard. So I love my story and I have been compelled to write it, it is almost like an addiction when you’re so deeply into it you can’t wait to start writing again the next day. I can imagine my characters in any situation and I know their personality and how they will react to different events. One of my writing tips is to get to know your characters and what they will do… When you begin thinking about them before going to sleep and when you wake up in the morning … you’re there!
You have to write the book you want to read.
Carry a notebook and jot ideas down when you have them,
Another tip would be to stop writing each day when you know where the plot is heading – have a few ideas jotted down for the next writing session. You may not use them but they will be a prompt to get going again.
I haven’t suffered from “writer’s block”. I have this mantra… just get the story down, no matter how rough and then you can go back and refine it later. No one ever wrote a great first draft so never give up.
There are 20 Gothic illustrations in The Morrow Secrets and in the second book in the trilogy The Shadow of the Swarm.
I get some of my inspiration from movie stills, imagining scenes in a film when I write – so I can see my characters acting their parts. I also get inspiration from the visual arts, photographs, paintings and drawings so I was keen to have my characters illustrated. You can find these illustrations on my website. www.themorrowsecrets.co.uk
They are by the artist and illustrator Luke Spooner at http://www.carrionhouse.com
Are your friends and family supportive of your writing career?
Another great question! My husband is a creative person and is a composer and early on he gave me some good advice…”sometimes you have to kill of your favourite children”. That sounds terrible but what he meant was that you have to be ruthless with yourself and edit large chunks (characters) out of your book.
He also said don’t read reviews!
My children have been very supportive and are my biggest fans! They are the first to have read my books along with my husband and have given me some great feedback including what I should change.
On the down side there are some people who you imagine will be supportive and who aren’t.
How do you manage your time? Is it hard balancing your writing life with your working life?
I am self-employed so I have the luxury of deciding when to write and when to work on my other career.
Are you self-published or with an agent?
I have a publisher called Sweet Cherry Publishing who specialise in YA and children’s trilogies and box sets. They have been fantastically supportive and I have done a lot of events with them. Last week I went to The London Book Fair which was amazing and I have done a number of book signings and school events.
I have also designed and led Creative Writing Workshops with young people that were fantastic fun. Seeing these participants fired up about writing their own stories was very inspirational.
How do you keep motivated?
You have to love writing otherwise it’s too difficult and I believe as a writer you have to love reading. Read lots of different authors from many genres and notice how they use dialogue and employ their craft. Watch movies and notice how directors and scriptwriters build suspense, dialogue and tension. I love the visual arts and can be motivated through art, cinema, photographs as well as the written word.
You have to treat professional writing as a job. I used the word “professional” there on purpose. Get up every day, sit down and start to write and believe me if you have writing in your blood you will write. Don’t wait for the mythical “inspiration” to occur, you have to create it. Sometimes you will write rubbish and other times the words will just flow out of you, which is an amazing feeling when you get your strange imaginings down on paper just the way you want it.
Thank you, Susan for a great interview!
Amazon Books: http://myBook.to/TheMorrowSecrets
Radio Interview: http://youtu.be/9ZJt4hlNX3w Writing tips for new and aspiring authors
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