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Thursday, 11 August 2011

Author Interview with Prue Batten


Hello Prue, please tell us about you, as a writer.

Hello Stuart and thank you so much for having me here on your blog.
Like many writers, I have been writing since I was young and that’s a looong time ago. For me, it was a form of emotional fulfilment, an escape and of course the obvious… a creative outlet. It’s interesting that as a child I learned ballet, had art classes and learned to horse-ride but at no time did I have a chance to learn the craft of writing because there was no such thing for primary school children. It was merely something that was vaguely alluded to in English at school under the rather generalised title of ‘composition’. All I knew was that when I was told we had ‘composition’, my heart sang and I would write like a devil possessed.

Your book A Thousand Glass Flowers is a fantasy. Perhaps you’d you give us some insight into it in a few sentences.

Okay, here goes:
Driven by the knowledge that charms exist that could kill the one remaining member of her mortal family in Eirie, Lalita Khatoun is desperate to find and destroy the infamous Cantrips of Unlife. Finnian, an Other, hunted by his insane grandmother after he fails in a murderous attempt on her life, is convinced the only thing that will rid him of her are those same cantrips and he too is desperate to find them. Fate contrives that Lalita and Finnian should seek together. In an ominous quest through a world where spine-tingling Others lace their way in and out of the lives of mortals, it’s a story of legend, love, and clashing ideals; a story of murder, regret and revenge… a story that journeys across a world too hauntingly like our own.

How did you come to write this particular book?

I’ve always been inspired by odd things: stumpwork embroidery, miniature books, pocketglobes, intricately woven fabric and in this particular case… paperweights. It was only a small step to imagine something dastardly and secret concealed within these things and for a ballad or myth to be created.

      Do you have a favourite character from the book? If so, who and why this particular one?

I think Lalita is a woman to be admired. Such loss and grief should have pitched her into a breakdown! But she’s a determined, feisty woman who knows how to handle a dagger and in addition, she’s a calligrapher and bookmaker and I once learned to book-bind at Art School so Lalita is dear to my heart. As for the co-protagonist, Finnian, he is a damaged man… attractive, dark and infinitely dangerous and could kill Lalita with a flick of his fingers, but…

Where can people buy your books?

All my books both in hard copy and e-format are available at Amazon.com http://amzn.to/ks8C6i and Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/m01qxa as well as for Apple, Kobo, Nook etc. A Thousand Glass Flowers will be released in September and I suggest readers keep an eye on my blog (see below) for details.

What qualities does a writer need to be successful?

Success is relative, I think. For me it’s the creation of a story that can take people out of themselves and far, far away. But in addition, that story has to be backed up by credible skills, by application, by research and dedication. In short, a form of obsession.

What’s the single biggest mistake made by beginner writers?

Its difficult to generalise but it would perhaps help to show what my own mistake was. A thing called Point of View. My POV would jump from one character to another in the space of a paragraph. It’s rarely handled well and can lead to a jumpy, incoherent narrative. It’s still the thing that terrifies me the most.

To what extent are grammar and spelling important in writing?

Vital. Vital, vital, vital! Enough said.

How much do you revise your MS before sending it off?

A hundred times and then I could revise a hundred times again. I honestly believe that any writer, published or not and re-reading their work in the future, will find things they could revise and write with more polish.

As a writer of fantasy and historical fiction, to what extent do you think genre is useful in the publishing world?

This is a bĂȘte noire for me. Genre is necessary to catalogue a work but there are so many subgenres that are rarely used that would make selection easier for a discerning reader. Take Glass Flowers. It’s fantasy. But if I could, I would classify it as any or all of fantasy ballad, fantasy romance or magical realism.

Many authors see marketing as a bind. What's your opinion on this, and how do you deal with it?

It’s a necessary part of the life of a published writer. Of course I would rather be writing but I’m able to engage with many readers as part of the marketing process and so many relationships have been formed with kindred spirits.
In terms of dealing with it, it’s very difficult because I live in the southern hemisphere and most of my readers are in the northern hemisphere. In order to engage properly, I should be awake all night and chatting on the internet! Suffice to say I do what I can and should do more and should have a timetable but I don’t.

      What’s your working method?

I research what has to be researched. I read monographs and internet detail. I use sticky notes a lot. Then I bullet-point my story with pen and paper. My characters have a style file including a photo of any likely face I have seen that fits. I also have a style sheet that I divide into squares in alphabetical order and into which I drop words so that spelling of names, places etc remains consistent. I write mostly on the computer but sometimes I have ideas in bed or in the bath or walking and I will jot those down. Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and will write pages in pen, taking off from where I stopped on the computer. I will then type that up next day. I edit the previous day roughly. When the story is finished, I edit on the screen and then print a hard copy and edit that with red pen and sticky notes. I send it off to London and when it comes back, I edit (and sometimes re-write chapters) again. Until it gets the seal of approval.

What sort of displacement activities keep you from writing?

I do love that term: displacement. My husband and I are farmers, growing the superfine merino wool for which Australia is famous, so that displaces me more than I want! In addition I have dogs I adore, I volunteer as a dog walker at our local dogs’ shelter, I am an obsessive embroiderer, I love the beach and the sea and spend a lot of time on and in the water.

What support, if any, do you receive from family and friends, or a writing group?

My family are supportive, my husband chiefly so. He is my backbone, my agent and my financial adviser. My friends are marvellous… beta readers of the best kind. I’m a member of YouWriteOn.com and have found the peer-review process to be the best sort of writing group.

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

Indeed. If one wishes to submit mainstream. After a period of time submitting, I decided to go the indie route and such presentation has stood me in good stead for any other publishing method I might follow.

How long does it take you to write a novel?

Taking into account the fact that I submit to an editorial consultancy in London, to bring the novel to the point where it’s considered commercially viable, it takes me two years.

Who or what inspires your writing?

My emotions and a feeling of writing what I need to. It’s the oddest sort of motivation. I’m an eclectic reader and because of that, I couldn’t honestly say it was one writer more than any other that inspires me. That said; I love Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. I love Yeats. I admire Dorothy Dunnett’s historical fiction and of course, Jane Austen is a given.

If there’s a single aspect of writing you find frustrating, what is it?

Line-editing… it’s excruciating and I always worry I’ve missed something.

Is there a particular feature of writing that you really enjoy?

Two things. Research because I am constantly learning and characterisation because the characters become real and it thrills me to see what happens to them. I think I might be a voyeur!

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

Being creative is a gift. Being a writer can be an acquired skill. To be a creative writer, you simply MUST have the imagination.

What are you writing now?

A historical fiction called Gisborne and based on the legendary Sir Guy of Gisborne. This is my take on what he may have been and what he might have become in different circumstances. The novel will be released for Christmas 2011.

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

I do. My website is merely an informative site (http://www.pruebatten.com) but my blog is interactive and welcomes all comers. (http://www.mesmered.wordpress.com) I’m also on Twitter if anybody tweets: @pruebatten and on Facebook: Prue Batten

Given unlimited resources, where would you do your writing?

Exactly where I do it now… except maybe the room would be much more of a library room than currently… shelves on all four walls and filled to the brim with books of interest, a sliding ladder, an illuminated manuscript on a lectern, tellurions, and orreries.

Where do you actually write?

At home, I write on a laptop on a couch because I love the sunshine through the window and the birds-eye view of the Derwent River and the city of Hobart. All my books and research are in another room and I jump up and down. It’s good exercise. But when we are at our tiny cottage by the sea, I have a table by a window (also masses of sunshine) where I can look out at the garden and hear the waves and the seabirds. Sometimes in both instances, the view can be a little distracting.
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