Number 1 goes to Jodi Picoult for consistency. Beautiful words. Beautifully expressed, every time. Just beautiful. Without fail, her books suck me in. I'm yet to correctly predict an ending!
My number 2 has to be Veronica Roth. Her Divergent series was breathtaking. The concept of segregating the nation according to personality type felt so real and was so well fleshed out, it was truly chilling.
Stephen King - a nod to my teenage years, where my first adult book was IT and I thought I was so grown up for reading creepy horrors.
And last but not least, Phillip Pullman for the Northern Lights trilogy. I remember reading these books aloud with my sister and mother during what must have been early teenage years, and when we'd all gone to sleep, I crept into Mum's room to get the book and see what happened. She was awake, in bed, reading a magazine, and when I came closer, I found Northern Lights nestled into the spine of her magazine. She was as desperate to finish it as I was!
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I've always loved writing. I'm from a family of writers who love nothing more than to come home from the cinema and plot out how we would improve the ending or weave in a stronger plot twist to a particular film. But it was the Twilight series that inspired me to take it one step further. I had to explore the relationship between Renesmee and Jacob, and ended up with 'The Prophecy', a fan fiction novel which essentially became a coming of age story for the two characters as they grew up.
When it surpassed 20,000 reads on fanfiction.net along with a flurry of wonderful reviews, I thought.. hang on, I can do this. And so the journey towards Prosper began.
How do you approach cover design?
I am foolishly guilty of always judging a book by its cover. I must have gone through twenty different covers before settling on this 'heart and flames' one. The Shatter Me series by Tehereh Mafi has always drawn me in for its absolutely amazing cover design of an eye.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
A few years ago, my husband and I bought a derelict house at auction. With a property background, it was always my intention to develop or perhaps invest in property if the opportunity arose, but this one was a little different to anything I could have imagined.
Turned out, it was a half-way house for ex-cons, and when the owner passed away, as many as fifty men were bunking down on the linoleum floors of this house. The gory stories that neighbours and shopkeepers approached me with were enough to fill a volume of novels alone.
For nine months builders removed needles and white-powder filled bags. They put the stuffing back in the mattresses that had otherwise been used to soak up the pools of water that came in from where the lead flashing had been stolen from the roof. They drylined craters in the walls where the tenants had mislaid their room keys and punched holes through to the back of doors.
Lethargic and skint, we gave this property our all, and came out with a home on the other side. Now seventeen lovely tenants reside there, and I spend my time ensuring that they are comfortable in their home. So, in between book drafts on Scrivener, I change lightbulbs, clean ovens and replace damaged furniture. It's not where I thought my chartered surveying qualification would take me, but I wouldn't have it any other way.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Mostly through BookBub and The Book Club on Facebook. I didn't fully understand the importance of social media for authors until I came across the latter page. With over four thousand members, the admin (namely Tracy Fenton) manages to make it a personable experience for everyone.
Time is too limited these days to waste on a bad book. So I take heed of reviews and try as many books as possible, downloading the sample first or free books on BookBub which is typically the prelude to a series. Always download the sample and search out deals, often the best books are discounted. I'm not the patron saint of loving all books. Far from it. Writing turns you into the greatest critic, and I abandon a lot of books. But when I find a good one, it resonates with me for a long time.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I remember writing was at school - an A-level English piece I think. A girl called Sara Picken made me read it out to our entire art textiles class. No idea what it was about.
What is your writing process?
Storylines always come to me when I'm going to sleep. Having a five year old who wants me to take him to the toilet five times a night means I have many more opportunities to work through my storylines. Lucky me! I even write notes at silly hours if the inspiration is there. The nighttime is definitely when I'm most creative.
In general, I'll write a scene at a time, seeing where the story takes me, rather than having too controlled a storyline. Of course I always know the outcome, but I let the journey to get there meander somewhat, which allows me to introduce subplots and create suspense.
In heated sequences, I always write the dialogue first, punching out the words as the characters would, then paint the setting, adding the beats and the action later.
What do you read for pleasure?
These days I flit between psychological thrillers and young adult novels. In the world of Homeland and 24, being fast-paced and punchy is an absolute necessity, and this is something that's evident in the way I write.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle Kindle. I will never read a hard copy again (unless it's my own book, of which I have five that arrived from the publisher today, sitting on my bedside table).
Describe your desk
Soft, fluffy, pillows. You guessed it... my bed. I write everything on my bed, propped up against the headboard. In fact most of the first draft of Prosper was written on my iPhone which I later transferred onto Scrivener on my Mac.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Hale, a suburb of Manchester, UK, the middle of three children. I always dreamed that you could do anything you wanted if you put your mind to it. And you can.
What's the story behind your latest book?
In Prosper, Jade and Blue start off on two such different journeys. Through various events - seemingly coincidences - they face extreme animosity. Jade is a naive schoolgirl who has her heart broken by Blue and gets pregnant accidentally with the re-bound guy. Blue has spent his whole life dreaming of becoming a doctor which is shattered when he becomes caught up in a plot to steal the Fertility medication that has become so prolific, and essential to the world.
On the outside they have real issues to deal with, which lead them to make the extreme decisions they do. But on the inside, they must address parts of themselves which are otherwise going to be their downfall.
It's so true to everyday life. We're always so quick to blame others, so quick to judge. The moral here transcends time and circumstance, and I hope the message to always stand up for what's right resonates with the readers.
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