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Thursday, 16 December 2010

Author Interview with Poppet

Poppet lives in her own little world, and suffers from an intense crush on Cupid. So much so she's taken up archery to impress him. She's currently giving up her addiction to sarcasm by going cold turkey, loves jelly beans, and has a closet Lamborghini fetish. She also thinks planets rock, because they take up space.

Tell us about Darkroom in a few sentences.

Darkroom is a psychological thriller containing horror elements. It's set in Cape Town, where the female character Phoebe escapes to get away from her stalker. Vengeance is the alter ego for religious megalomaniac and psychopath Victor Ward. Raised to believe he's doing God's duty by torturing sin out of sinners (women sinners), Victor chooses to purify Phoebe. She's the first woman he's done this to who survives and moves into phase two of his diabolical plan. He can only marry a resurrected angel who is pure. Using reverse psychology and manipulation Victor insinuates himself into her life and pulls this off. Phoebe ends up falling in love with the very same person who destroyed her life and he continues to undermine her and abuse her as he struggles between his two aspects of Victor and Vengeance.

Exploits came out in November, and that book is about how easy it is for a young woman with no life experience to be sucked into a detrimental relationship. It's told with bags of humour because the story is quite serious. It's written to highlight what I call *victim mentality* - to help readers either identify with the character Stefanie and learn to notice the warning signs of an abusive relationship, or to show friends who all know someone like this, to see how their friend thinks to help them to get through to them and away from a bad relationship. (or buy the book and get her to read it). It's a coming of age story which results in defining what love matters most. It's never what a young woman thinks it is.

What was your journey as a writer?

Long. Many years ago I found an agent who charged me to review my work. I didn't realise it at the time but she was a rip off artist. She told me to gain writing credibility by first getting published in magazines (which I did). I did this for years, and kept going back to her for phase two. I wrote more than a million words worth of books, which after paying her to review each one and achieve the conditions (like getting published for credibility) - she eventually turned me down and said she only publishes diaries (WHAT?!)

Completely frustrated I turned to the online community, submitting to publishers and agents for years (to no avail). I joined Authonomy where the peer writers gave me invaluable writing critiques, divorcing my ego from the end product. This helped me to polish my style and find my writing voice. I received an editor's star for my novel Exploits in August 2009, which was signed with a publisher in March 2010. In August I also managed to get an agent for Exploits (based in Ireland). However she seldom communicated with me, seldom gave me any kind of feedback, and completely ignored me when I sought her advice on signing with the first publisher to accept Exploits. (So I gave up the idea of having an agent as my experience with them was utterly dismal).

Six months after signing Exploits, Darkroom was signed with Wild Wolf Publishing. After six months of editing Exploits I broke away from the contract with that publisher because I was unhappy. Fortunately for me Exploits was signed again just a few weeks later with UK publisher Night Publishing (who assured me that author happiness comes first with them) putting me at ease. Inside of two months of being accepted with Wild Wolf Publishing in the UK, Darkroom was out and available. This makes me a three times signed author in just this year. I also was part of an anthology released in October titled Under A Harvest Moon, where I submitted two stories (one horror -one romance) and designed the cover. I continue to submit work for free and have poetry out each month at SNM Horror Magazine. I do book reviews for a few publishing houses, and continue to write and submit my work out to agents and publishers. Becoming an author is a long journey, a costly journey, and until you've sold many copies and created a decent reputation as an author capable of consistently putting out high quality writing, you will also remain the poor artist. Being published is simply the beginning of another long journey to prove I am worthy of the public's support.

If you have a favourite character in your novel, why that particular one?

I'm going to skip novels here and mention my favourite character is Seithe. He's a demi-mortal who makes life really fun, mysterious, and a whole new experience.

What authors most inspire you?

Authors who have managed to achieve the level of success I hope to achieve. I greatly respect Rowling, because she tried a new genre and it paid off for her (despite it not being popular at the time she created an entirely new genre for children and it paid off for her and her publisher). I like authors who are willing to take a few risks (and publishers who let them).

How can people buy your books?

From my publisher directly:
Nooks from Barnes & Noble: Exploits here  and Fey's Adventures here.
From Amazon and from Smashwords.
Darkroom as Kindle.

What qualities make a successful writer?

Tenacity and a good story well told.

How was your experience with Wild Wolf Publishing?

Magnificent. They are efficient, dedicated, and workaholics. They communicate regularly, answer every email quickly, are willing to help their authors every way they can (with some delightful surprises thrown in). They review quickly, once they accept a book they offer the contract within a few days. After signing the contract I did a formatting edit, and the very same month my book came out. They work with you on every level and they accept personal boundaries without question. In short, I think they rock.

Beginning writers make many mistakes; what do you think is the most harmful?

The most harmful is the ego attachment to the work. This makes them deaf to criticism. All criticism ends up being useful. It takes time for any writer to realise this.

What is your writing process?

Obsession and dedication. Commit to write the book, do your research beforehand, then give yourself a deadline and stick to it. I'd like writing to be my career, which means being as dedicated to it as a full time job would entail. Eight hours a day (at least) splitting your time up between blogging, reviewing, social networking, PR, and writing. An author's role is synonymous with multitasking. In this day authors are as responsible for their success as their publishing house. If you don't have a huge marketing budget, you have to subsidize your writing with PR and communicating with reviewers and bloggers to help spread the word about your book. I miss the days when I could write all day. A few years ago I was paralyzed, and as I recovered I had the freedom to slowly type all day. I don't miss being paralyzed, but I do miss having the free time to fully immerse myself inside my latest project and just write.

How much revision of your MS do you do before you send it off?

A lot. I edit each one at least 10 times. And I still miss things. It's not perfect until every surplus thing is removed.

To what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?

I think it helps people purchase books they most enjoy. So yes I think genre is important.

How do you know where to begin any given story?

I begin with the scene in my head and work around it. Adding a beginning and what follows the scene as the bigger picture unfolds.

What sort of displacement activities keep you from actually writing?

Life :). Chores, responsibilities, and blogging and PR take a lot of time away from my love of sitting down to write.

Do you have support, either from family and friends or a writing group?

I have a number of author friends. I rely on them heavily for honest feedback and to share my journey with me.

Is presentation of the MS as important as most agents and publishers suggest?

I'm not sure. I don't think I've had any typical publisher relationships. I can say the publishers I'm with do not demand a lot from me after submission.

How long does it normally take you to write a novel, book, play, poem or story?

Three months for a novel. A poem maybe twenty minutes.

Who or what inspires you?

Everything inspires me. I find inspiration everywhere and in everything. I nearly drowned in January last year and my first thought when I got back to the beach was *now I can write that*. It's awful but I people watch, and listen a lot to pick up nuances for new characters.

If there’s a single aspect to writing that really frustrates you, what is it?

I tend to use the same word again and again while I write, and then have to go back eliminating the repetition.

Is there any aspect of writing that you really enjoy?

The feedback that it kept the reader engaged the entire way through, where they didn't want to stop, and read it in one sitting. This gives me such pleasure.

Do you think writing is a natural gift or an acquired skill?

I think writing is a natural gift but editing it well is an acquired skill.

What single piece of advice would you give to writers still hoping to be published?

Don't give up. It takes a lot of rejections to get anywhere. Look at rejection as elimination of people you wouldn't work well with.

What are you writing now?

A romance horror.

Do you have a website or a blog that readers can visit?

Yes. Many:
And my website is here.

Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment?

A library of my own. That is my dream.

Where do you actually write?

In a corner of my gym where I've set up my office.



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