Q8 - Do you always have to write about what you know?
Hi, Thanks for the question!
In truth, the answer is no. Writing about what you know is often the easiest thing to do. For example, I was born and grew up in and around Nottingham, England. So it would be easier and more logical for me to base
my stories in the Nottingham area (The Haunting of Willow Mead) is an example of my doing this - I'm almost finished with it and will launch it soon. There is a gorgeous old looking house in the village near where I live at the moment that I am basing Willow
Mead on, it has the right look about it and the area around the property is a perfect setting.
This isn't always going to be the case. A lot of my stories are based in the USA - I put this down to an urge I have to live there and also my love
of all things American. You can base your story wherever and whenever you like, but be sure that your research is up to scratch.
If you are basing a story in an area you don't know, make sure you research the area well, as readers who live in there
will know the difference. Yes, there is a thing called artistic temperament, but this is not an excuse not to do your research.
Of course, this is going to be difficult if your story is set well into the furture and involves an alien race, but anything
modern or historical should be researched before you start. There may be certain landmarks that you want to use or some such as reference points for your characters and your readers should be able to recognise where you are taking them without too much effort.
I hope that helps a little and by all means, let you know how you get on!
Q7 - If you're ever stuck for an place to start a book what do you do?
This question comes from a work friend of mine. I'll you the same thing I told them.
If I've gotten to the point that I'm not sure where to start I take a break. I read a book (ironic I know), or read on of my magazines (I like Writing Magazine
and Writer's Forum).
For someone wanting to either start a new plotline or someone starting to write for the first time, these magazines are great to read. Writer's Forum has a good regular feature which is a grid that has characters, traits, issues
and so on in it. To use the grid, you simply roll a dice according to the instructions you are given. So you roll twice to pick two characters, two job roles and so on until you have the start of a story to build on. The good thing about it, is you play the
grid as many times as you like and each story start will be different.
Another idea is to go sit in a coffee shop, take a notebook or laptop with you so you have a legit reason to be in there other than the good coffee and watch the types of people
that come in. Start a game with yourself where you imagine what the next person in the line does for a job, what is their background? Describe the person in your notebook on on your laptop, picture who their family is and away you go from there. Do they know
the person they are stood next to? How are they acting - Confident? Shy? Like they are in a hurry? Have they only got a short time to grab a coffee and run because their train is due?
It is little things like this that can be the start of great stories.
It is always easier to imagine what a strangers background is as opposed to one of your own family members (well, you know your family don't you?!), and you have the freedom to create whatever backgorund you like for the stranger in the coffee shop.
you think you have an idea in place, now imagine what the person waiting in line is thinking about why you are possibly in the coffee shop. The notebook on the table, the laptop you are working on say one thing about you - you are working away from your ususal
desk, but what is it that the person thinks you do for a living, why do they think you would rather work in the coffee shop than at home or in the office? You could be there to meet someone that you need to be in a public place to meet up with.....and so the
Try these for yourself and let me know how you get on!
Q1 - "Emma, Why do you write?"
To be honest, this is both an easy question to answer and also a difficult one. One way to look at it is to think "Why do you smoke?" (if you're a smoker), or "Why do you paint?"
The easy answer I guess, is that writing is just something I do. It is hard to say why except that for me it is an escape. Whilst writing about a far off land, or creating fantasy characters, I can lose myself
in the plot, in that little world that I've created and all of my problems go away for a short time at least.
I've always been very into my books, right from being a child - trust me, my
parents can vouch for that! I can't remember a time when I haven't had a book within 6 inches of my hand. No I haven't upgraded to a Kindle - I'm old fashioned, I like to hold a book, I like the smell of books. (I should have been a Librarian!) but i digress....
I write because I can, because i like to create characters in my mind, stories behind those characters, places those characters may have been, or live, or go to. I have a vivid imagination, which can
be both a blessing and a curse, but more than anything, I write because I love it.
I am a Writer, it is part of me, like an extension of my being, it is who I am not just what I do.
I can't say that this is same for all writers, I could be wrong, some people may do it as a hobby, like you might paint, or knit, or play football.
believe that everyone has a book in them, the talent lies in writing it down. Have a go yourself, it doesn't matter what you write - a diary, a letter, a short story. It doesn't have to be perfect, or completely brilliant - but you'll never know unless you
try - after all, what have you got to lose?
I hope that has answered your question. Keep the questions coming, I'm more than happy to answer them.
You can send me a question through my contact page, I promise, I answer every one I get!
Q2 "Where do you get your ideas from?"
Another good question, thank you.
As I mentioned before, I have a vivid imagination, so I'm constantly thinking about potential
stories. I don't always get full sentences in my mind, I sometimes see the idea like you'd see a scene from a movie, I see it unfolding with my characters taking on their own form and running amok. My only worry when that happens is that my head is tying an
actual movie to the characters I've made - that could spell bad news.
As I said, I'm always thinking, so much so that I have a lot of notebooks at home, A4, B5, all sizes. I use a different
notebook for each new idea, not to mention the notes I have stored elsewhere. I have notebooks within reach of me at night as more than once I've woken in the middle of the night and had to write something down fast. Plenty of times I've been in the middle
of working on my novel and then something else entirely has popped into my head.
An interesting fact that I didn't know, (Thank you Writing Magazine) is that Agatha Christie used notebooks
as well. I figure if I'm following her footsteps in style then I must be doing something right!
I'm a people watcher, on the bus, or sitting in a restaurant, I like watching others. A lot
of writers do. I like to look at a person and think about that persons background, what are their family like? what job do they do? and so on. This is a good way to start thinking about characters for your books - but I must stress this point, don't base a
character on a real person - you don't know if you are likely to offend them and face it, nobody wants to see themselves in a novel - especially if the character is not a nice one.
and short of it is that ideas come out of nowhere. I can be driving and suddenly I'm thinking of something, or even doing the grocery shop when i think of something - I've had to take to carrying a notepad with me now - old receipts are no use to me!
A challenge for you. Next time you're out and about, enjoying to sun, just sit back, stop and think. Feed the ducks even, do something that is calming to you. Let your mind wander - not to the point
you're thinking of the gas bill and what was is Mum said she wanted from the bakers? Just let your mind go and see where it takes you - you'll be surprised what can happen.
Q3 - Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time?
I was asked this on the bus just the other day by a friend of mine.
As I told my friend, I work a full time 'day job' so a lot
of my spare time is taken by writing, but I also spend a lot of time reading - I own an awful lot of books. I also enjoy listening to music - I have an ecclectic taste, so I listen to what takes my mood at the time. As I'm writing this, I'm listening to Lana
Del Rey - Blue Jeans, next I might swap and listen to Caro Emerald or Ellie Goulding. I'm not too sure yet, but for now more Lana Del Rey is on the stereo.
I like singing along to the radio,
I'm always singing in the car, windows down and the volume up high - apologies to fellow drivers who pull alongside me at traffic lights!
I'm quite creative, I like doing things that use
my hands, not to mention test my brain, so puzzles are good for me. I make earrings and bracelets too. I recently made myself a choker to go with an evening dress I have.
But, mostly my
time is spent in front of a notebook, pen in hand, earplugs in and I just write.
What about you? how do you spend your spare time?
Q4, what makes a good story?
ooh, a tough one.
Absolutely anything can make a good story if written in the right way. School children make really good storytellers, just listen to them as they go along to school, the tales get more elaborate as time goes on.
I was younger, I'd spend hours sitting in my room, tapping away on my typewriter (I still have it today) just making stories up as I went along. I can still hear my mum now shouting up the stairs for me to "stop that flaming racket!" - the keystrokes were
loud on the typewriter and it vibrated through the floor!
If you really want to try your hand at writing a story - and I say story, not novel - you can move onto those later, try this (and remember - don't stare at people - it isn't polite). Next time
you're on the bus, maybe going to work, or school, observe what happens around you. Watch the passengers getting on and off the bus, what are they wearing?, where do they sit? how old do you think they are? if the passengers are adults, what kind of job do
you think they do? (or did if they look as though they could be retired).
Now you have your answers, piece them together. Take the older gentleman with the white hair that sat in the 2nd row and the younger red haired lady sat with the pushchair at
the end of the buggy zone. Do they know each other? could they be neighbours?
Right, you're nearly ready. Look outside, what is the weather doing? is it bright and sunny? cloudy? raining cats,dogs and guinea pigs? you'd be surprised how much the state
of the weather can effect a persons mood.
Look back at your characters (the people you've chosen). Are they dressed for the weather? can you tell what kind of mood they're in? what do you imagine that they're thinking?
When you get home, write
down your thoughts about the journey, about the people you saw. you'll find that your story takes shape faster as you note things down. You'll expand on the details as you go without even thinking about it.
My very first successful story - I'm still
rather proud of it too, was a horror story I wrote in junior school in my 2nd year. What was only meant to be 1 side of A4 paper, turned into 6 rough notebooks and I still wasn't finished! I may have been told off for not finishing my work, but the teacher
really liked my haunted house spooky ghost story....
Q5, Is it easy to keep a blog?
A good question, thank you.
Blogs can be easy to keep, I end up with gaps in mine, despite my attempts to keep up to date on
a monthly basis, just through time constraints.
Have you ever kept a diary? a blog can work in the same way, it in effect becomes your diary, you can update on events you've been to, books
you've read, anything really, the subject isn't fixed.
As you've seen on here, my blog is a writing and books one, I update on progress, talk about events I've been to and whats coming up
next. That works for me. What I'd say is think about you, think about what you enjoy doing - do you have a hobby that you want to share with everyone? When I'm not writing (which is most of the time) or researching for a book, I like making beaded earrings
and bracelets. Simple, but it allows me to think whilst doing the threading and such. On a plus side, I may yet have a character that does something similar so it makes good practice.
you decide to start a blog, remember to keep it polite, most blogs are online and accessible to everyone. Keep it as interesting as possible. It doesn't have to be a long one, a couple of paragraphs for each update. Think about how frequent you want to update
the blog. Monthly/bi-monthly ones may be longer than say a weekly one.
Whatever you decide to do, good luck!
Q6: I want to begin writing, where should I start?
Thank you for the question, another good one.
Before you begin writing, I'd sit and think about what it is that you're interested
in. for example, if you like dealing with facts and figures, is fiction really the place for you to start?
For me, I've always been a story teller, I like wrting tales that grab the reader
and get the reader involved. The first thing that I really wrote was when I was in Junior School (2nd year). My teacher had set us writing a short story, any theme, and it was to be written in our notebooks before transferring into "Neat" and having a lovely
border pattern drawn around it.
I remember my story was a horror story about a Haunted House. I'm farly certain that vampires and ghosts were involved. But the thing was, I never actually
finished it. I filled 8 of the exercise books that we used for 'rough' and I still wasn't done. I did get told off by my teacher because I wasn't finished, but she did tell me that she had enjoyed reading the story. From then on, I've written, that was my
Another thing to think about is a diary. Do you keep one? I'm not good with Diaries, I just can't seem to get into the mind set of them. I forget to add an entry each day
and I can quickly lose interest, that's why my blog on here is ideal. I can write it monthly which allows me the time I need to do other things.
I think if you are starting from the beginning,
try this excercise and see what happens. Find a notebook and a pen or pencil to write with. Sounds easy doesn't it? You'd be wrong.
Next time you go into the local stationer's store,
look at the notebooks and pens/pencils. Do you pick one based on the cover? Hardback or Spiral bound? Soft covered (paperback)? Patterned or plain? A4 or A5? Lined pages, or plain? hole punched?
think about the paper itself. Most notebooks are made with the standard 80gsm paper, mosty recycled. Some notebooks, like those made by Nu are made with a thicker paper like 90 or 100gsm. Trust me when I say it makes a difference. Don't believe me? try it
for yourself, just rub the paper between your fingers - the thicker the paper, the softer it feels.
Now the pen or pencil to write with. Remember, anyone can use a PC or Laptop, but a true
writer knows how to use the basic materials (pen and paper). I always say, write with what you're comfortable with, whether that is ink pens, gel, biro or a HB pencil. At the end of the day, You're the one writing.
Once you have that excercise done, start to think about what you want to write. Start small. Think Letter to a loved one, or start a diary, maybe even a poem or two. I find that when I have the right paper and pen, the rest
comes easy, the writing nearly does itself. But whatever you do, don't stop, write every day for the first few weeks to get into the habit. It doesn't matter if what you write doesn't make much sense at first, how do you think my horror story was?
Lastly, I'd say look at subscribing to a writing magazine (or 2). I subscribe to Writers' Magazine and I also buy Writer's Forum. Both are good and offer a lot of advice and there are plenty
of articles to read. (Good stationer's will stock them both).
I hope that helps and answers your question! Keep the questions coming, I do promise to answer all of them!
Ask an Author weekend has begun!
Hi, I'm really excited to say that my 'Ask an Author' weekend has begun, and here's my first question.
From Garry, "How do I
get a copy of your book, possibly signed?"
Thank you for your question! I'm not currently published as yet, but I'm hoping to be sooner rather than later.
I'll announce th publication on here and also through Facebook. I may even run a competition or two once the book is printed. I'm also hoping to do a number of signing sessions across the UK.
Keep your eyes peeled and I promie to let you know as soon as I'm in print!
I hope tha this answers your query, have a great weekend!