Can you tell us about your latest book, ‘Caution: Witch in Progress.’
Caution: Witch in Progress is a children’s humorous fantasy novel aimed at the eight years of age to young teen market. Gertie Grimthorpe comes from a long line of witches. Unfortunately, she hasn’t really got the hang of it. Being blonde-haired, blue-eyed and free of warts isn’t much of an advantage. Try as she might, Gertie’s spells fall flat. She manages to give her bat-headed umbrella the ability to talk, but then wishes she hadn’t when all he does is complain and insult people. Even finding an owl to be her Familiar doesn’t help. Then again, he is extremely shortsighted… Gertie is sent to The Academy to improve her spell casting skills and soon has a best friend in the form of Bertha Bobbit, a big girl, with a matching appetite. Add to that a Moat Monster with a flatulence problem, the weirdest array of witch’s Familiars possible, and a warlock determined to ruin Gertie’s chances of success, and the story unfolds. Not to mention the demon…
How much planning/research do you undertake?
I plan quite a lot. I’m a writer who always has pen and paper with me. Ideas can strike me at any time so I like to make a note of anything that springs to mind. My opinion is that it’s better to jot something down even if you might not use it, rather than lose the idea. Some of my best ideas come to me in the shower, but the pen and paper idea isn’t much use then… I do little research because I write fantasy, and fantasy is from personal imagination. Anything goes with fantasy! I did some research for ‘Caution’ where Gertie is learning about herbs and their uses in one of her classes, but my use of research is limited to small areas like this. I prefer to write from my mind.
What was your route to publication?
Initially I was published by YouWriteOn, a Writer’s site sponsored by the British Arts Council. I continued to search for what I considered to be a ‘real’ publisher, and eventually came across Ghostly Publishing on Facebook and Twitter. I sent my work to Ghostly Publishing and was lucky enough to be taken on as one of their authors! That sounds quite a short and easy route. Believe me, it wasn’t. The process took years, lots of learning, lots of improving my writing skills, and lots of rejection. It all worked out in the end, which is what counts!
Is there a fictional character you’d like to meet? Is there one you’d like to swap with for a day?
I would quite like to meet any of my characters. They gain a reality when writing about them, so to meet one in the flesh would be really something. I would also like to meet Terry Pratchett’s witches. They are so funny, maybe a bit silly, but strangely wise all at the same time. Terry has a way of making any character special. Maybe I would swap with Gertie from my book for a day. I would love to have a go at those spells, and be witchy enough to possibly achieve them!
What makes you laugh?
Terry Pratchett. He always makes me laugh. He has a way of turning ordinary things and occurrences around to make them amusing, so I guess that’s what makes me laugh. I enjoy humour that seems to come naturally and easily, not forced. I even make myself laugh when writing my own humorous fantasy books!
Which three things would you need with you on a desert island?
A ship would be nice for one, ready for when I tire of the solitude. A good shelter would be a must too. I guess I can’t take my computer…so let’s go for a book on DIY survival…
Ideal dinner guests?
Diabetic vegetarians, perhaps? Yes, I know. They might be nightmare guests for some, but as that is what I am I would feel right at home while we struggle to decide what we can eat together!
Five tips for new writers?
1) Don’t give up. If your book means enough to you, keep at it.
2) Try not to take rejection too personally. It happens to the very best, often.
3) Bear in mind that having a good story to tell is not enough. A lot of the process in getting your book accepted by a publisher is to present it correctly. It needs to be well written and punctuated following the structure and rules that they all seem to expect these days. Research the net. There is so much on there to give advice about writing rules.
4) Proofread your work thoroughly, and if possible get someone else to do this too. The more the merrier. Potential publishers won’t even read through your manuscript if met with glaring errors. Presentation is everything. This is the ‘boring’ side to writing a book, but it has to be done if you are to have any chance of being noticed.
5) Research your audience, and your publishers. Which books do well out there? Who are you aiming it at? Which publishers publish your genre? Is it much longer, or shorter than the books they currently publish? All these points will help you on your way to becoming a published author. It takes time, sometimes a long time, but when you hold that first book in your hand, fresh off the press, it all becomes worth it.