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I had the pleasure of meeting Esther through the writers bureau, where I am studying a creative writing course and she is my really, truly fantastic tutor. :). Esther is an award winning writer, tutor, author, novelist, and generally awe inspiring freelance writer, so of course I had to ask her for an interview. To which she obliged…
When and how do your characters come to you? Is it in a moment of inspiration, an epiphany? Or do they grow in some murky recess of your mind?
They pop up in all sorts of places, when I’m doing all sorts of things – even cleaning the loo! And once they’re there, they refuse to go away until I’ve given them a story.
There’s an acceptance that authors often write in traits or characteristics of themselves into their work, you have several books, is there any part of you in any of your characters?
Yes, but only the lovely ones! On a serious note, yes, I think a small part of me is in each story, flaws and all.
How do you develop your characters? Do you let them brew in your subconscious, use character interview sheets, or something completely different?
They definitely brew away in my subconscious until they’re larger than life and ready to face the world on paper.
Are you a planner, or free writer?
A bit of both. I have a loose plan, but then I let my imagination go where it wants to. The events and characters have a way of developing for themselves and often the story goes off in a completely different way than I first thought but that’s all part of the excitement and enjoyment of writing.
When you are developing a book, what tools or techniques do you use, e.g. timelines, mood boards, character interviews, scraps of notes?
Timelines, character profiles and lots and lots of notes.
Has your technique changed over time?
I haven’t actually thought about it, but when I look back at my earlier work, it definitely has! Some of my early stuff was dire!
Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you actively look for it?
I don’t actually need to look for it. It comes to me in the form of books I read, author and actor interviews I read/watch on TV, writing magazines, blogs and last but definitely not least – my wonderful students who never cease to amaze me and make me feel so proud.
What kind of an environment do you write in? Day/night/silence/music/desk/sofa etc.
Any time! I’ve gotten used to fitting my writing in and around family, friends, school, tutoring etc. One book I wrote while sat on a rickety old picnic bench, surrounded by screaming children at a farm park while it started to pour with rain!
I’m 50 something thousand words into my first novel, it’s taking over my brain (as you know) What advice can you give me on completing it? Or maybe an easier question. What do you wish you had known about writing a book before you started the Siege?
In answer to the first question, book yourself time into your diary, just as you would for an appointment or meeting a friend. I block out specific times and then I know that’s what I’m doing at those times. It’s amazing what you can fit into an hour or two.
Re the second question, I wish I’d known how hard the marketing side of the book was going to be! The hardest part has been getting it out there and people knowing about it. But now it’s starting to snowball and I’ve been asked if I’ll think about doing a workshop for school children.
The publishing industry is in decline across the board. Do you think things like the Kindle are bridging the gap, is there still the same love for the written word, or is it being diluted by the modern obsession with tech and gadgets?
I think for a while tech and gadgets took over but a lot of school children seem to be rediscovering their love of reading – perhaps kick started by the Harry Potter books and now continuing with teen reads such as Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Mortal Instruments, The Maze Runner, Divergent etc. And yes, I certainly think different ways of reading help and how technology has adapted to bring new ways of reading to all the generations.
50 Shades of Grey author EL James was reported to make around £100k a day at the book’s height, and the upcoming film will make her millions. Do you find it a shame that the most lucrative and famous book franchise of the moment is one so widely derided for its lack of literary value? Or is it just good to have a book going mainstream?
Personally, I find it sad. Like many others, I think it’s very poorly written. There are so many brilliant writers out there who don’t get the recognition they deserve, but on the other hand, it gives hope that anyone can write a bestseller!
If a fascist regime was burning the worlds libraries, what books would you save? Or maybe I should ask what Hannah would do?
Ooh, that’s a hard one. Sooo many. The classics are a must – they need to go on and be loved by future generations.
Which publishing route have you taken? Did you always know you were going to go down this route, and if so why? And will you continue using this route?
For the book of short stories, I went down the self-publishing route. I knew none of the traditional publishers would even entertain taking me on as short story collections don’t sell very well unless you’re a household name.
For my children’s books, I always planned to go the traditional publishing route if I could. A publisher read the first three chapters of the first book and the synopsis for the rest and then asked for the whole series. They’ve been tested on children and now fingers crossed the children liked them!
What do you wish you knew about the publishing process before you started?
For self-publishing, as I mentioned, I wish I’d known how difficult the marketing process is. Self-publishing has opened so many doors and allowed literally anyone to publish a book, which is fantastic, but there are now millions of books out there, so how do you get people to notice yours?
For the traditional publishing route, I wish I’d know how long every little step takes!
What is the best advice you could give to aspiring novelists like me? Or what was the best advice you were ever given?
To never give up on the dream. Anything is possible.
Is fanfic to be welcomed as it broadens interaction and the readers experience or a scourge that devalues the ability of an author?
I can see both sides, but generally I think it’s good and it’s exciting to see where characters and the story can be taken by other writers.
I am finding more and more, that writers often have several creative outlets. Do you? Or is writing your one source?
Writing and words are it! I’m rubbish at drawing, sewing, baking etc.!
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
I love animals and volunteer for Cats Protection so I’d probably being doing something along those lines.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I always loved writing when I was at school so when I had an accident and couldn’t carry out my bank job anymore, I knew it was time to embrace the written word.
What authors do you admire, and why?
I admire J.K. Rowling because she’s being criticized left, right and centre for all sorts of reasons and she rises above it. There’s also no-one like J.K. for making you fall in love with her characters. By the end of a book, you feel you know them intimately and care about what happens to them.
At the moment, I love James Dashner’s The Maze Runner series. His imagination is to die for and talk about a page turner. I couldn’t put his books down and I haven’t felt like that about a book for a while.
I have to give a special mention to Enid Blyton. It’s down to her books, from The Faraway Tree, to The Famous Five, to Malory Towers, that I have a love of reading.
If you would like to know more about Esther, her bio is below:
I have been working as a freelance writer for fifteen years, regularly writing articles and short stories for magazines and newspapers such as Freelance Market News, Writers’ Forum, The Guardian, The Cat, and The People’s Friend to name a few.
Winner of Writing Magazine, Writers’ News and several other prestigious writing competitions and awards, I have also had the privilege of judging writing competitions. A collection of some of my prize winning stories has been put together in a book, ‘The Siege and Other Award Winning Stories’, which is available in e-book format and paperback from Amazon and all other on-line stores.
As well as working as a freelance writer, I have branched out into the exciting world of copywriting, providing copy for sales letters, brochures, leaflets, slogans and e-mails.
I love writing but I also enjoy helping others, which I achieve in my role as tutor for The Writers Bureau.