I am a British Maltese author, born in October 1990 on the beautiful Mediterranean island, Malta, growing up in the small, seaside town of Bugibba with my mother, grandmother and two arrogant cats. In 2009, I left Malta for Gloucestershire University (about 40 minutes from Birmingham, UK) where I earned an English Literature and English Language Degree – despite many people questioning why I would ever leave such a beautiful country. My course gave her the opportunity to work in California at a summer camp and, along with being eaten by every mosquito in Mendocino, it was here I began to consider her next career move. As a graduate, I moved to Brighton, UK and, after a tough but rewarding year long example of the highs and lows of classroom life, gained a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE).
I now live in Surrey, dividing my time between writing novels and teaching English with almost no time to sleep in between the two. I am a lover of great books, good company and bad puns. i also run writer’s workshops on my website targeted at helping others improve their writing skills through exercises, tips, tricks and techniques, as well as talking about my experiences with publishing and offering guidance through this.
What inspires you to write?
Everything. the world around me is completely fascinating and I can find something to write about in absolutely anything I do. Being a teacher and constantly surrounded by teenagers, I find these are the easiest characters to write about as they seem the most ‘real’ to me in my writing and being a huge fan of fantasy and supernatural fiction, I do tend to mostly focus my writing on these. I love the human mind – it is a dark, unexplored and often twisted place so I do like to write about anything psychological. Often a lot of my writing starts with a simple ‘what if’ thought of mine, such as ‘what if I started seeing things nobody else could’ and from there it goes on to the how and where and so forth.
Tell us about your writing process.
I like to have an outline, even if this is incredibly basic. I will write it out on whatever I can find, though normally I keep it in a notebook as I’ve got hundreds of those that need using up (which I must stop buying!). I have in the past used sticky notes and tape to my walls but I now live in rented accommodation so I can no longer do this – it was possibly the most helpful thing in the world, however. Once I’ve got my rough outline down, I tend to do a lot of ‘seat of the pants’ writing where I just pen whatever comes to mind and let me writing run away with itself. This does end up leaving a long editing process ahead but I find it to be easier to get the story out in this way. I never used to write character sketches but with my most recent novel I found character sketches to be so helpful. There’s a lot I know about my characters that, though it hasn’t made it into the book, has really helped develop who the characters are in my head and helped me write them more coherently and much more consistently.
The most important thing to me is timelines. i ended up confusing myself so much as time moved and jumped around and without a timeline I do think it would have been a jumbled mess so this is a big point in my writing process – a visual timeline. I do edit and change it as I go but having it in front of me really helps.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I do listen to my characters actually. It almost feels like, when I’m writing, I have no control over them, they go off and do as they please and say what they please and I’m just recording it. I can tell instantly when I’ve written dialogue I’ve had to ‘force’ that hasn’t come ‘naturally’ from them because it just sounds different. So I listen to their voices and the accents they’ve got – my action is set in Yorkshire but my characters do sound different in my head so I listen to their voices and how they would word things, and I get them to repeat lines a few times to see if changes sound better or worse.
What advice would you give other writers?
You’ll get to a point where you really think you can’t go on but you need to keep pushing through that block. Writing is really hard and getting that story out of your mind and onto the paper, polished up and ready for others to read is not an easy thing to do, though there are quite a few people in the world who think so, so you need to be prepared for this. But don’t give up. Writing is fun and keep at the forefront of your mind why you decided to write and why this story in particular needed to be told, especially when it feels like all you want to do is throw in the towel! Also be brutal with yourself – yes this is your baby, but be honest about whether this scene/character/chapter/story is genuinely good, or good just because of your own bias towards it. If your bias is coming out, consider how you can make it genuinely good.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Self-publishing was always something at the back of my mind. I know the publishing industry is hard to crack into nowadays because of the boom in writers but decrease in readers so they’re taking less of a risk on new writers. I’d approached a few publishers and literary agents but the long time in between contacting and hearing back (they’re busy people so it could take upwards of 4 months to hear from some) wasn’t working for me, so I decided to self publish. Now this isn’t an easy feat! Self Publishing is hard because it’s not just putting your book out there on Amazon but it’s also promoting, marketing, getting readers, getting known, building websites and doing everything in between and it is hard work. I don’t think I slept properly during that first week, trying to get all my channels up and do my marketing! But I’ve found it to be infinitely better for me – I’ve got a more intimate relationship with my fans, able to directly communicate with and reach them, and I feel closer to my book’s reach and influence.
I would definitely recommend self publishing to new authors but beware – your book needs to be flawless or it will be instantly dismissed by readers. You’re judged as a self published author in a different light and if your cover doesn’t look professional, you’ve not been thoroughly edited or your blurb is slightly sub par you will be rejected by readers. Invest in an editing program or editor. I’m lucky enough to have a professional editor/photographer as a partner but if you have to, pay for a professional image and editing service for this. Make it look stunning. It is worth it!
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think it’s going to be rocky. I do think self publishing will continue to rise but the quality of various self published books may let it down. eBooks may just be the saving grace of book publishing however, as I did for a while think books would soon die out as less people were finding the time to read. I think we will see a bigger focus on eBooks and ePublishing.
What do you use?
What genres do you write?
Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Young Adult, Horror, Thriller
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print