Please welcome my special guest, Sarah Dalton, author of The Blemished series. She recently created an anthology, Through a Tangled Wood, with six other writers, giving their takes on fairy tales. Please enjoy her insightful interview.
You need to share your work with other writers and open yourself up to criticism in order to learn. Before I did that, I was a hobbyist. After developing my skills with the help of other writers, I started to treat it as a serious prospect for a future career and that’s when the ideas began to take shape. Listening to criticism is really hard, but it’s an essential part of the process.
2. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Stick with me! I’m trying new ideas and genres all the time, so I’d love for readers to try those new ideas as well. I’m not just into dystopia. I love fantasy, horror, science fiction…and more. So keep in touch, and keep reading. 🙂
3. What are your thoughts on the fact that both trade and self-published authors have to promote their own work?
No one likes self-promotion. We all feel a bit weird about it, especially when you’re a nobody trying to get noticed. When I first released The Blemished I felt like a needy child constantly tweeting and updating my Facebook statuses to zero response. Writers need to be realistic. If you are not enthusiastic about your book, how can you expect others to get enthusiastic about it? Obviously spamming gets you nowhere, but networking, seeking reviewers, developing relationships with bloggers, being artistic about your promotions, advertising and giveaways all help.
I’m a firm believer that you can’t wait around for things to happen, and I think that applies to marketing while being trade published. You can’t expect the publisher to do everything for you. You have to have the ambition and drive to get out there and do something about your sales.
4. What genre do you write for? Your favorite aspect? Your least favorite aspect?
All of my books are YA. My favourite aspect of writing for teens is creating the main characters. I love shaping strong, brave people who are so young and carry so much responsibility, and yet cope with it far better than any adult could. When I was a teenager I loved to identify with the characters, from the Worst Witch, to the Little Vampire to all the Point Horror books. It was always the characters and relationships that kept me reading.
I’m not sure I have a least favourite aspect! Maybe it’s that the YA genre doesn’t seem as big in the UK. I love the fact that people in the US enjoy my books, but I would like the UK to get on board as well! But as long as the lovely readers in the US don’t mind my extra ‘U’s, strange dialect words and funny place names, I’m going to keep on writing in my UK style. 🙂
5. What are your current/next projects?
I’m working on a YA fantasy series called White Hart about a young girl who is the first craft-born–girl with magical abilities–for a number of decades and wanted by the King of Aegunlund to restore magic to the Red Palace and solve his money problems. It’s my first attempt at fantasy, and I have to say that I am loving it so far. I love constructing the world and creating beings straight from my own imagination. I really love the main character, Mae, who is a real tomboy with a heart of gold and many deep insecurities.
I’m also part of an anthology of short stories based on fairy tales called Through a Tangled Wood. My story is a futuristic dystopian retelling of Robin Hood. I don’t live far from Nottingham, and I’ve always been interested in the legend. I used to watch the Disney movie a LOT! This story–called I Am the Maid–sees Maid Marian as the Sheriff’s former housekeeper, who led a rebellion out of Nottingham and took up camp in Nottingham Forest’s football stadium, which exists in real-life. Robin Hood is an ex-child soldier who has turned to mugging people in order to survive. The two of them find themselves having to infiltrate Nottingham castle in order to save a young girl’s life. It’s a fab anthology with some great writers. It will also be free on Amazon, Smashwords and other vendors once it has been price-matched.
6. Do you prefer to work alone or with critique partners/beta-readers?
I think I largely work alone. With each book, I’m finding self-editing easier and easier. However, I never publish anything that has only been read by me. In the past I relied on beta readers to help me edit and proofread my books, but now that my writing is turning into a business, and time is an issue for a self-published writer, I tend to self-edit before sending my work straight to a professional editor. After they send the edits back, I go through the book once more, before sending it back to the editor for a proofread. The only issue I find with betas is that I rarely have time to read other people’s work. I really want to be able to give back to the people who have helped so much, but I’m often so busy that it becomes difficult.
7. How do you find time to write?
When I worked full-time I used to write a lot at my desk! That and the weekends.
I quit my job just over a month ago, so that means I have lots of time to write. Sometimes that can be very daunting! When it becomes your career there is a certain weight of responsibility hanging over the keyboard. However, I just have to trust myself, and keep writing one word after another…
8. Did you always want to become an author?
It was on and off. Towards the end of University I did, but I was disillusioned with the short stories I wrote. I wanted to be better than I was and couldn’t stop comparing myself to great writers.
It was only in my mid-twenties, when I was very lost career-wise, that I realised I needed to be doing something creative for a living. I sat down and started writing a book. I never stopped.
9. Is there any writing rituals you complete before creating your manuscripts/drafts?
Not that I can think of…Well, I have a list of words I know I repeat too much, so I have to cull them: ‘just’, ‘look’, ‘turn’, ‘I feel’. Plus adverbs!
10. Do you write the beginning/opening first or do you tend to write out of order (with whatever scenes interest you the most)?
No, I always write in order. Only very rarely do I leave a scene and come back to it.
11. Have you ever hated something you wrote?
I wrote a short story at University that makes me cringe when I think about it. I don’t even want to talk about it!
12. Which is the easiest for you–novel, novella, or short story? Why?
Short stories are the hardest. It’s the structure that I find difficult. It’s rare that I think of a theme or plot that fits perfectly into a short story. I especially admire literary writers who write short stories of around 1000 words. It’s a very difficult length. I’ve written flash fiction that I liked, but my short stories of 1000-2000 words have never turned out as well as I would have liked. My short stories almost always end up almost as long as novellas.
Novels are probably the easiest. They have a flow to them that I’m very familiar with because I’ve read so many books and it has become ingrained within me.
13. While you were writing, did you ever feel like you were one of your characters?
No, but sometimes I’ll sit back and realise that the themes of the book relate to my own worries or emotions at the time. The main characters often have small aspects of me, but they are more like the kind of people I want to be than anything else.
14. How did you come up with the title?
Ooh, which one? The Blemished came to me one day. I thought up the genetic aspect of the book, and the idea of the non-modified people being called Blemished just popped into my head. I’m really grateful for that idea, because it set the tone for the entire series.
15. What inspired you to write your latest book? What is the book about?
It was partly art with White Hart. I keep seeing illustrated stags everywhere! When watching Game of Thrones, I decided that I needed to tell a story about a girl who rides a white stag and has a grave mission to accomplish.
16. Any blogs, websites, social media you’d like to share?