About Jemima Pett [https://bookgoodies.com/interview-with-author-jemima-pett/]:
Jemima Pett has been living in a world of her own for many years. Day-dreaming in class, writing stories since she was eight, drawing maps of fantasy islands with train systems and timetables at ten.
Unfortunately no-one wanted a fantasy island designer then, so she tried a few careers, getting great experiences in business, environmental research and social work. She finally got back to building her own worlds, and wrote about them. Her business background enabled her to become an independent author, responsible for her own publications.
Her first series, the Princelings of the East, mystery adventures for advanced readers set in a world of tunnels and castles (and entirely populated by guinea pigs although you needn’t read them that way), now has nine books published. Number ten (due 2020) will be the last. Jemima does chapter illustrations for these.
She has also edited two volumes of Christmas stories for young readers, the BookElves Anthologies, and her father's memoirs White Water Landings, about the Imperial Airways flying boat service in Africa. She is now writing the third in her science fiction series set in the Viridian System, in which the aliens include sentient trees.
Jemima lives in a village in Norfolk with her guinea pigs, the first of whom, Fred, George, Victor and Hugo, provided the inspiration for her first stories, The Princelings of the East. She is now writing science fiction for grown-ups as well as completing the Princelings series, and writing more short stories for anthologies.
What inspires you to write?
Originally, the inspiration was my guinea pigs, Fred and George (yes, named for the Weasley twins). They were my first pets and I was in love with them.
After I'd written three books about their adventures in a world where they were kings, or at least princelings, I branched out.
At first, inspiration came from flash fiction prompts. I still love doing flash fiction, and I'm best when I'm writing to a title.
How I got inspired to write the Viridian series I don't know. I got an idea (often in my sleep), and sat down to start writing and see what happened.
So, mostly, ideas crop up, and I jot them down, and they mess around in my head for a while. Eventually I decide they have to come out – which is when I start writing.
What authors do you read when you aren’t writing?
Although I love science fiction, I find I have to avoid reading other authors because of the risk of idea clashes. My editor asked me if I'd read a certain book because I'd used farm planets in the second Viridian book. I hadn't, and it turned out that my concepts were uncomfortably close to the other author's.
I still do read scifi and fantasy, though, and my favourite contemporary writers are Becky Chambers, Clare O'Beara, Maggie Stiefvater and Lindsey Buroker.
I tend to read crime to get away from my own genres: Elly Griffiths (Ruth Galloway) is my favourite, although I've also started with Ann Cleeves (Vera). And I love Lindsey Davis's Falco series, and Rebecca Douglass's Pismawallop PTA cosy mystery series.
Strangely, those all seem to be women. Before I started writing, most of my influences were men – in the more classic scifi and fantasy genres.
Tell us about your writing process.
Although the first books wrote themselves, later ones have required more structure. When I'm doing books in a series, they have to be fairly well plotted, to pick up on things that have happened before.
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 realised I needed more than 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 used to be diligent with keeping a story timeline (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 character names and backgrounds (and things they've said, sometimes), planets, artefacts I’ve invented, food from other planets, alien characteristics, technology, and, especially, future swearwords and other terminology!
I don't use software for writing, although sometimes I wonder if it would help when I have to check back on other books for something that was said. But I suspect I'd go back to the source anyway. The spreadsheets help me enough, I think.
Oh, and I find that doing character interviews for the blog, or flash fiction back-stories for the individual websites, are great ways of really filling out my characters.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Yes. All the time, even when I'm not actually writing, sometimes.
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.
I've noticed something interesting, or weird, if you prefer: with the books that are first person narrative, I tend to listen to the characters, whereas with third person I tend to talk to them about what happens next. They still do exactly what they want. This also helps me sort out 'point of view' in the narrative.
With Pete and the Swede, I mainly tell them off for being so stupid when they have fallen headfirst into a plot trap. With Dolores and Maggie, we tend to discuss their ambitions – and the men.
What advice would you give other writers?
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.
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.
For example, it used to be a debate about books v eReaders. Well, I use both, and I think the debate is old hat. If you love one but not the other, I don't think either is going to go away, so fine.
What's more interesting is the way voice control is coming to the fore. People with purchasing power expect to ask their Siri, Alexa or whatever "find me a book" or "read me a story", with some sort of specifications. So if your book isn't in audio, that market isn't going to find it.
That's why I've invested in getting my first three Princelings books out as audiobooks next year.
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 indie-authors 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 (or indeed, my Viridian series). As long as they don’t get banned as in Fahrenheit 451.
What genres do you write?: fantasy, science fiction, short stories, childrens, non-fiction
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print, Audiobook
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.