About Jemima Pett:
Once upon a time, Jemima wrote a story, carefully made into a booklet about two inches high by one across, entitled “The Little Stream”. Many years later she found it in the box in which her mother kept her most precious possessions. Jemima realised she’d always been writing, but had never had a strong plot or set of characters, until her guinea pigs came along. Fred, George, Victor and Hugo had personalities and stories that needed to be told.
So the years of training for and working in office jobs, writing newsletters and event reports in the evenings, of travelling round the country and wondering what it would be like to live in different places, of day dreaming of exciting adventures and reading books like they were going out of fashion finally came to a halt. She started writing. First came The Princelings of the East, which was always intended as a trilogy, with the second and third books titled before they had a plot. Then another book was needed, which turned out to be Hugo’s back-story, since he hadn’t had enough exposure in the trilogy. Then Victor wanted to be the star of his own book… and so it goes on, until The Princelings of the East series is now set to conclude at book 10.
But it wasn’t the only thing she wanted to write, and it showed in her weekly flash fiction. She’s always been a scifi reader… so her Viridian System series, starring two asteroid miners and their girlfriends, is now jiggling the delta waves of the universe.
Jemima lives in Norfolk with the next generation of guinea pigs, and several alien-inspiring plants.
What inspires you to write?
I don’t generally sit down and think ‘today I’m going to write X’. My first series was inspired by my first two guinea pigs – they had such amazing personalities that my characters were there, ready to have adventures in a world bigger than reality. I conceived the idea as a trilogy, and then it just wouldn’t lie down.
Then I started trying harder, working at my craft, and using prompts for flash fiction stories every week. Somehow these two characters, Pete and the Swede, asteroid miners, emerged from the unlikeliest of places, and they just demanded more stories written about them, too.
And once I start writing a story, I tend to get immersed in it, waking up having solved a plot point, or with inspiration for what happens next – if the characters haven’t already made their own minds up about that. They surprise me, sometimes.
Tell us about your writing process.
Although the first books wrote themselves, later ones have required more structure. I find a five sentence outline steers me to a satisfactory framework for working – the situation, the problem, the complication, the real doozy of a problem, and how they get out of it all. I haven’t outlined any more than that except for the later books in the Princelings of the East series, which is very complex with timelines and characters crossing and interacting through different books. I’ve always kept a story timeline when I do books (day 1, x, day 2, y etc, for each character, so you know when someone is miles away and you can’t have them bump into each other), but I now have a ‘potted history’ of the Princelings world so I can cross check major events more easily – especially if I want to do something with a plot point that is already published.
For the Viridian Series I also have to keep a huge spreadsheet of names, planets, artefacts I’ve invented, food from other planets, alien characteristics, technology, and, especially, future swearwords and other terminology! I started this on my old laptop, which is convenient because I can have that open by my side (and update it) and not have to worry about changing visible panes on my main screen.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Yes. Both. With the Princelings series I have the distinct advantage of actually talking to them – the major characters are inspired by my guinea pigs. Their personalities are the foundations for the characters. It’s interesting that with the books that are first person narratives, I tend to listen to them, whereas with the others I tend to talk to them about what happens next, although they still do exactly what they want.
With Pete and the Swede, I mainly tell them off for being so stupid when they have fallen headfirst into a plot trap, and discuss the men with their girls.
What advice would you give other writers?
Keep writing. If you’re stuck in the middle of a book and don’t know where you’re going, just keep writing. It doesn’t have to make sense, the story will come back to you, because the characters do what they do. The editing process is the most important part. That’s where you take out the rubbish. And write it better.
And you really do need to be very hard on those wonderful bits that you love, but may not advance the story at all. Keep them in another file. You can always make them into another story. A friend of mine was working on a technique that required every scene to go out differently from the way it came in. Something had to change for a scene to be worthwhile. I’m still testing that.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I did the usual round of sending manuscripts to agents, and when I got replies it was usually along the lines of “difficult to place in today’s commercial market”. Well, I knew that. My books are definitely not mainstream, but I think they are quirky enough that a fair number of people would enjoy them.
But I’m a bit of a control freak anyway, and I’ve had a lot of business experience, so when I realised how fast ebooks were growing, I decided to self-publish. The marketing is hard, but I’m getting better at that.
I’m lucky that I’ve been self-employed on a couple of occasions before so I can navigate my way around the business side of self-publishing. I’m not sure I’d recommend it to someone without a basic grasp of business management, but there are lots of advice books out there, so get a couple of good ones, and follow your star!
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think it will be more and more mixed up as people explore new ways of doing things. I hope that self-pub becomes more respectable, since I enjoy more self-pub books than I do trad-published. There’s something there for everyone; not all readers want the high (convoluted?) literary standards that colleges seem to press on us. However, we self-pubbers must be absolutely sure that our books are high quality products. It brings us a bad name if we don’t, and we have plenty of other hurdles to overcome without that. We have the flexibility to bring out an ebook and then revise it, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get it perfect first time.
There will probably be some other way of getting stories to people in my lifetime – maybe dream readers or something! I think there will always be books, but maybe they’ll be cherished antiques like in Star Trek. As long as they don’t get banned as in Fahrenheit 451.
What do you use?: Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Adventure, Children’s, Middle-grade, Mystery
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.