Author Interview: Pat Elliott – All In The Leaves

All In The Leaves by Pat Elliott

All In The Leaves by Pat Elliott

Today I am thrilled to welcome Pat Elliott, author of All In The Leaves, which tells the story of Anna, nearly thirty, living at home and single. When a chance bout of tears leads to a tea leaf reading she is shown a wonderful future: new career, new home, new husband. All by Christmas. All she has to do is get on and make the necessary changes to ensure it happens. When calamity strikes, the battle for happiness begins.

Pat spent eighteen years of her working life in a magazine company, before becoming self employed as a reflexologist. She has had factual pieces published on reflexology and on adopting a dog. All in the Leaves is her first novel, with a second, Leaves for Chloe, currently being written. She has also written a volume of short stories, called At Sanctuary’s Gate.

Pat was born in the Alexandra Palace area of London and currently resides in the Essex countryside, with her husband and adopted terrier. She has a great love for dogs, and is delighted when a rescue dog gets a second chance in life. She also loves to paint in watercolour. Her blog can be found here.

I asked Pat a few question about life, writing and All In The Leaves. I hope you enjoy learning more about her and her novel.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and how you decided to write fiction, after a life working in magazines?

I left the magazine world to set up my reflexology practice. I took up reflexology initially to help my husband, who had a back injury and suffered with subsequent depression. I feel that people who suffer injuries and depression are given short shrift in this world of ours – and if I can help them, I will. Living with injury and depression is not an easy road – either for the person suffering, or the one who tries to help. I see quite a few people who fall into this category. For the helper, it is paramount to maintain outside interests. With that in mind, I like to learn something new. I enrolled on an adult education course which attracted me – Creative Writing, Short Stories. This was such a fabulous course that I signed up for the follow up – Creative Writing, Novels. I was attracted to the fact that after initial instruction, you were out there on your own, getting on it with it. That fits my working life much better than something rigid.

It also means that I can be at home, yet still have an outside interest. The life of a writer can be one of any life they choose to write about. It’s a wonderful escape.

2. Your novel features dogs a great deal. Tell us about the dog(s) in your life

Pat and Missy

Pat and Missy

Yes, indeed. The love of dogs is a theme that runs in my novel. Anyone who owns a dog knows the unconditional love you get from these creatures. We are none of us so full of love, that we couldn’t do with a little extra.

My first dog was a jack russell, Spotty. She lived originally with my neighbours, but they were cruel to her. They’d split her head open by hitting her with a roofing tile – and then refused to take her to the vet. I took her. We spent our first night together under the duvet, on the sofa – after the vet had told us that her life hung in the balance. The first 24 hours were crucial. She lived, and stayed safe in our love for the next 16 years, until she passed, aged 18.

Once Spotty passed away, we went to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home to adopt another, where we met the wonderful Missy. Still a russell, but long legged and long haired – the opposite of Spotty. That was important to me, so that we’d never compare the two. Missy was in Battersea for almost two years, waiting for a home. I have nothing but admiration for the care that Battersea took over her. She was 8 years old when we adopted her. She’s 16 now and still a cheeky little minx – but I like that in a dog.

3. All in The Leaves is about tea leaf reading and has sections that are very spiritual. Are these drawn from your own experiences?

There are elements of my own experiences in the story. I did indeed have an Irish relative who could read tea leaves and was surprisingly accurate. Being the daughter of a Irishman, there is great Celtic lore and spirituality in my genes – and this shows in my writing. I like to weave some of that into my stories. I feel it adds another dimension.

4. The novel explores the beauty of Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular. As someone who lives in Essex, is there a secret yearning to live over the border? 🙂

I do live in Essex, yes! Originally my family were from Waterford, then Wexford, Eire. When the work situation forced some of the younger members of the family to spread their wings, some moved to London and some to Scotland. So I feel quite attached to both. Would I live there? I’d certainly consider it, should the opportunity present itself.

5. All in the Leaves is the first in a series of novels. Did you always intend to write a series?

No, originally, I didn’t. I started to write All in the Leaves as part of my novel writing course. When I spoke to other book reader friends, they asked would it be a series? I quite like each book to have an ending, so that’s what I did in Leaves, but I also saw the possibility that there could be other tea leaf readings and other books. Each complete to themselves. That’s when I decided to make a series.

6. The next book will be about Chloe. Tell us a little bit about it; is it set after All in the Leaves (and will we see more of horrid Howard and adorable Angus)?

Leaves for Chloe is set after All in the Leaves. It charts what happens to Chloe in the year after the end of the first book. Yes, horrid Howard does appear a fair bit in book two, like a bad penny, he always turns up! The adorable Angus also returns, patient and kind as ever. Some may say pushover, but he does have a core of steel.

7. You self-published your first novel. Was that something you intended from the start? How did you find the experience?

All In The Leaves - about tea leaf reading

All In The Leaves – about tea leaf reading

Originally, I would have been thrilled to have an agent and a publisher. However, the more research I did, that route did not feel fine to me. The absolute decider was when I read about one poor man, who’d spent two years of his life writing his book, only to see it pulped after a few months on the bookshelves. It hadn’t performed as well and as quickly as the distributors wanted, so it was pulled.

I understand that they are a business, and shelf space is at a premium, but my heart went out to the man who’d lost his dream. I decided that if I self published, All in the Leaves could stay on the virtual shelves until it found its own market.

I chose to use ebook partners to convert and distribute my book. I couldn’t be happier with their service. I am not the person to spend hours over the computer, trying to work out how to format a book. Nor spend time dealing with different countries’ tax requirements. I much prefer to pay someone to do all that, so that I can concentrate on what I enjoy. Plus, they only take a fee. No percentage of your sales. That was a big plus to me, because it fit my idea of a professional service

8. You’re an artist and a reflexologist as well as an author; how do you manage your time? Do you find yourself torn between your different creative outlets?

No, I’m never torn. Reflexology is my bread and butter. That time comes first. In any spaces between clients, I balance the other two. As a writer yourself, you know there are times that you could bang your head on a wall, in frustration at not finding the right plot or device. In those times, I paint!

9. You have also published a collection of short stories, At Sanctuary’s Gate; how is writing short stories different to writing novels? Which do you prefer?

Short stories are for me quick insights. A novel is more of a slow, developmental burn. My short stories are more observational than dialogue filled, my novel is more about dialogue and personal interaction. I like them both. That’s not a cop-out – they both fulfil a different need in the writer me.

10. Finally, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in their writing career?

Firstly, write! If there’s a class available, get some instruction. A good tutor will encourage, instruct and inspire. If there’s no class, find the resources online or in your library. Help is there, if you look for it.

You can find out more about All in the Leaves and purchase a copy here. Thanks for reading.

Life’s Curve-balls: 2013 365 Challenge #253

My son's first full day at preschool

My son’s first full day at preschool

Today was a good reminder that, no matter how tough you think life is, it’s always worse for someone else (and it can always get a little harder for you, too!)

When I texted my friend last night, to find out what her daughter was wearing to school, she said she might not even make it to school as she’d had a tumble from her scooter and they were off to hospital. Sure enough, my daughter’s best friend broke her arm and missed her first morning at school. We didn’t tell my daughter, as expecting her best friend to be there was the only thing keeping her calm. As it was she was fine. She ran in smiling and says she cried a little bit when she realised her friend wasn’t there, but she soon made a new friend and came running out still smiling (I, on the other hand, nearly sobbed with pride!)

We stopped off to see the poorly girl after school and my daughter found that much harder: it’s the first time she’s had a friend incapacitated by illness or injury.

To begin with she was brilliant, playing nurse, letting her friend choose the games and telelvision programs. After a while though the novelty wore off. When we left she started crying and said, “Mummy I want my friend back, she can’t play with me properly.”

So what should be such a fun and exciting time for both of them is going to have an extra challenge for a few weeks. And my poor girl, who didn’t want to have to worry about looking after someone at school (having looked after her brother at preschool all summer) has now been asked to look after her friend.

I'm off, Mummy, bye!

I’m off, Mummy, bye!

Of course it’s nothing to what my friend must be going through. I can’t express how bad I feel for her. After seven years, to finally be within hours of having both children at school, only to have to stay home from work and nurse a distraught child after leaving A&E at 3am. It put my tiredness – after little man was up 1am-3am last night – into perspective. Of course it didn’t stop me being grumpy and leaving childcare mostly to my hubbie this afternoon. Sometimes, even if another’s lot is worse than yours, it doesn’t make yours any easier. It just made me pray that one of our kids doesn’t break something. Fingers and toes crossed.

P.S. I have an author interview live today, over on Paul Western-Pittard’s blog, That Thing I Said. It was fun to re-read it, as I wrote it a few months ago (it says that Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes is on hold as a project – shows how much things can change in a short period of time!)

It would be lovely if you could stop by, not least because there is loads of great stuff on Paul’s blog.

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog: 

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“For God’s sake, I told you not to go.”

Josh rushed towards Claire as she walked away from the jet, dripping wet and clutching her neck. She immediately dropped her hand and forced a smile. Irritation fought with gratitude at the look of concern in his amber-flecked eyes. She longed to bury herself in his arms and have him smooth the pain away. At the same time, her hackles rose at his disapproving frown.

“What do you mean? It was excellent fun!” She looked down at her sodden clothing. “Do you mean this? I’m not as wet as I was this morning. I’ll know not to sit at the edge another time.”

Josh fell in step as Claire and Bethan waddled back to the bus to retrieve dry clothes. Claire willed her friend to stay with them as chaperone, but Bethan seemed oblivious to the brewing trouble, as she chatted to a couple of lads from the bus. Claire realised she was on her own.

“I’m not talking about you being drenched, and you know it. You were holding your neck, I saw you. You’ve given yourself whiplash, haven’t you?”

Claire went to shake her head, thought better of it, and folded her arms instead. “It’s fine. Nothing a cup of tea won’t fix.”

She heard Josh tut in annoyance, but he held his tongue.

*

Claire managed to avoid Josh for the rest of the day. She knew it was putting off the inevitable, but she couldn’t face a showdown. Her body ached with spent adrenalin and pain stabbed from her neck to her fingertips if she moved too quickly. A lecture from Josh would only exacerbate the already-blinding headache flashing in her head.

She was grateful they’d been allocated different dorm rooms and she had almost made it to bed undetected, when he finally tracked her down.

“Claire, please stop avoiding me. We need to talk.” He hurried after her, and she stopped in the corridor, not wanting him to follow her all the way to her room, which – judging by the raucous drinking going on elsewhere in the hostel – was likely to be empty at this early hour.

“Can’t it wait until the morning? I’m beat.”

“Do you need painkillers? I have some prescription strength ones that will help. I know you don’t want me mollycoddling you, I get it. But stupid to suffer in silence.”

“I told you, I’m fine. I took some ibuprofen earlier. What I need now is sleep.”

Josh rubbed his hand across the back of his neck and shuffled his feet. Something about his body language raised the hairs on Claire’s arm. She felt a declaration brewing, and didn’t want to hear it.

“Claire I–”

“Don’t say it.” She held up her hand. He reached forward and took it in a gentle grasp.

“No, I have to say it, before I chicken out. I haven’t had nearly enough beer.”

“Then go drink some more and let me go to bed.”

“I love you.”

The words rushed out and fell like rocks into her empty heart. Behind them a shout of laughter broke above the general hubbub, emphasising the silence between them. Claire felt acutely aware of his hand holding hers, as she stared at the floor and waited for it to open and rescue her.

After what felt like an eternity Josh spoke, his voice barely a whisper.

“Tell me you don’t love me. I won’t believe you.”

She looked up then, and saw a mixture of hope and assurance in his expression. She needed to speak, to end this. Short and sharp, like pulling off a plaster.

“I loved the idea of you: Josh the adventurer, Josh the husband and father. That’s all.”

“I can be those things again.”

He pulled her towards him but she tugged her hand free and folded her arms.

“You still are those things, just not with me. You have a wife who loves you, children who adore you. Don’t throw it away.” Claire thought about all she had lost. Her best friend, her boyfriend, her job, her family. There was nowhere she truly belonged.

“Don’t give up your readymade life for a pipe dream. What if we did get married and have kids? Life wouldn’t be any easier. Far harder, in fact. I’m not a natural parent like Fiona. You think it’s hard now, with her focussing on the baby? You’d be booking me into rehab after a week of looking after three children while my husband sodded off to England to nurse his guilty conscience.”

Suddenly her head crowded with the thought of all the pain this gorgeous man had caused, with his misplaced guilt and his refusal to take responsibility for his life. As he gazed at her like a puppy seeking praise, she felt a hundred years old.

“My advice to you, Josh? Appreciate what you have, before you no longer have it. Go back to Fiona. Beg forgiveness. Try harder. Hire a babysitter and take her out to dinner. Bring her breakfast in bed once in a while. Take the kids to the park so she can read a book or have a bath. And, for pity’s sake, grow up.”

As she walked away Claire remembered another conversation, a lifetime ago, when she’d said the same to Michael.

When am I going to find a man who wants a partner not a parent?

Puzzling over the impossible riddle, Claire headed to her room.

***

Interview With Author Amanda Martin and “Two-Hundred Steps Home” + Giveaway

Interview With Author Amanda Martin and “Two-Hundred Steps Home” + Giveaway.

Today I have the pleasure of being interviewed over on Susana’s Morning Room, talking about my daily blogging challenge and Two-Hundred Steps Home, with a free giveaway of the completed Baby Blues and Wedding Shoes to one lucky commenter.

I’ll be back in Susana’s Morning Room next week, talking about Dragon Wraiths.

Busy or Fruitful: 2013 365 Challenge #165

Son's first strawberry

Son’s first strawberry

Kirsten Lamb wrote a post today called, “Are you Being Busy or Fruitful?” It was timely, as I spent four hours working on something I didn’t think was due until next month, until the person emailed me and asked for it last night. What I should have been doing was writing Claire posts, because I’ve promised hubbie a weekend off to work on his new car.

Having the kids solo for the extra two days is likely to leave me exhausted and uncreative (there have been too many uncreative Claire posts recently… Re-reading the earlier volumes to brush up on Maggie, I realise I need to step it up.)

The gist of Kirsten’s post was identifying the difference between being fruitful and doing too much all at once. She explains that multi-tasking needs to be “one ‘thinking activity’ and one ‘mindless’.” Such as making the beds while phoning someone, or folding laundry while watching a movie. I write blog posts while walking the dog (not this one, it’s hammering with rain outside!), but that’s about the only one.

My biggest mistake is working on several things at once to ‘save time’ because my internet connection is so slow. I often sit with my iPad and my laptop, so I can check emails while a document is saving or loading. Unfortunately that just means I get distracted and wander off to read an interesting blog post or answer a message.

Daughter's first fruit

Daughter’s first fruit

I also have the same lack of focus with my writing. The task I did today (the one which meant I didn’t eat lunch until 3pm) was an author interview for the blog Susana’s Morning Room. I realised, when discussing my writing, that I have too many projects on the go. I’m trying to edit Baby Blues, write Two-Hundred Steps Home and promote Dragon Wraiths and the blog.

I tend to concentrate on the things I want to do, rather than have a structured plan. At the moment that means giving too much time to Baby Blues, because I want to get it fixed. I received a lovely five-star review for it today, so I’m even more motivated to set it free.

Unfortunately I also got my second set of Beta Reader feedback, and there is a lot to fix. More than I will manage to get done in a few hours twice a week, which is all I have right now. I’ve set myself a silly deadline, too, because I’m offering a free copy to commenters on my guest blogs, which go live on 5th and 12th July. A little over a month to change POV issues, a soggy middle and more grammar bugs than I care to think about!

Kirsten recommends lists to help us focus. I think I need more than lists: I need a personality transplant!

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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“What brings you to the National Forest, Maggie? I thought your heart belonged to Cumbria.”

Claire looked across at the woman over the top of her tea. She caught a flicker of consternation, before Maggie’s customary smile shone out.

“A group of garrulous girls!”

Claire raised an eyebrow, and Maggie laughed. “I’m here with some school children. They’ve come on a two-day visit.”

“Oh God, are they staying here?” The words were out before Claire could stop and think. She exhaled in relief when Maggie’s smile didn’t waver.

“They are, but don’t be concerned, I make sure they don’t cause any disturbance after hours. It isn’t the quietest hostel, I’m afraid. These new-builds don’t have the sturdy thick walls of a Victorian structure. You hear a lot of doors clattering; it seems to echo through the woodwork.”

Claire took a mental note to ensure her headphones were close at hand at bed time although she was so exhausted, sleep was unlikely to be a problem with even a hundred girls tramping along the corridors.

“Where are you taking them? I would have thought you’d be out and about by now?”

“The girls are. We arrived yesterday and I was on duty for the journey and settling in. Thankfully they’ve given me the morning off to recuperate. I’m only a volunteer. The teachers aren’t so lucky, poor things.”

“What marvellous activity are you missing out on?” Claire’s eyes twinkled in mischief.

“A visit to Conkers.” In answer to Claire’s questioning glance, Maggie added, “It’s the adventure play centre next door. They’ll be quite happily driving their teachers crazy, getting lost and falling off the climbing frames.”

“What exciting activity do you get to do then?”

Maggie sank her chin onto her hands. “Llama trekking,” she said, her voice low. Claire laughed.

“The manager tried to get me to do that today!”

Her friend’s head raised and she met Claire’s eyes. “Why not join with us tomorrow? The more the merrier, as long as you don’t mind doing the odd headcount and taking them to the toilet?”

Immediate words of denial formed on Claire’s lips. She swallowed them. I have to do something crazy soon, otherwise I’ll have Julia on my case again.

“Okay, why not?”

Maggie grinned. “What about you? What have you been up to? The last time I saw you, you were taking that charming Australian man to the airport. And how is your sister?”

Claire was impressed at Maggie’s memory. “Josh is happily back in Australia with his wife and children. Ruth is okay, we hope. The cancer had spread further than we thought, but she’s responding well to treatment.” I must call her, Claire added privately, realising she hadn’t called home in a few days.

“And what about you, Claire? Are you happier in your skin?” Maggie’s words wormed into the ebbing hangover-fog in Claire’s mind.

“That’s a strange thing to say.”

“Please don’t be offended: I’m not prying. I merely had the impression you were unhappy, particularly when that lovely young man came to meet you.” There was a pause, as if Maggie was considering her words. “Was he… Did you know he was married?” She looked around the hostel lounge, not meeting Claire’s eye.

Claire’ first reaction was to put the interfering woman in her place. But it was hard to see Maggie as anything other than sincere.

“No, I didn’t know he was married. But, in answer to your other question, no we weren’t lovers. He tried to kiss me once, but I pushed him away, and he never tried again.”

“You sound disappointed.”

Damn. Claire laughed reluctantly. “I guess. He is charming. But I look like his wife, that’s all.”

Something in her tone put an end to Maggie’s questioning. It hurt to talk about Josh, more than she would have expected. The realisation crept in slowly through the haze.

I miss him. Damn him.

***

Author Interview: Rinelle Grey

Rinelle Grey

Rinelle Grey

Today I’m happy to be interviewing Rinelle Grey, author of Reckless Rescue, A Barren Planet Romance.

Tell us about your routine as a writer (and more importantly how do you fit it all in with home-schooling your daughter and selling stock photography?)

Hmm, routine. That sounds nice.

I’d love to have a routine, but life here at home is so chaotic with all three of us (me, hubby and daughter) home all the time, that most routines go out the window. About the only routine we have is my daughter’s weekly outside the home activities. However, my husband and I take turns taking her to these, and getting work done. Homeschooling fits in around it all, everything we’re doing is a learning activity really. My daughter is getting a great introduction to the publishing world!

My photography has been taking a bit of a back seat to my novel right now, but luckily it goes on earning money for me even when I’m not doing it. (Just like my novels will). It’s cyclic, and some months I will get a lot done on one thing, some months focus on another. It all seems to work out in the end most of the time.

Reckless Rescue is your first published novel: Is it the first novel you have ever written? If not, why did you publish this one first?

No, Reckless Rescue is the third or fourth I’ve started, and the second I’ve finished. I started writing in November 2006 during NaNoWriMo, and finished that novel in January the following year. I LOVE that story, but it’s a lot more complex than Reckless Rescue, and I didn’t really feel it was a good bet for a first novel. I do still plan to go back and fix it (first novels need a lot of fixing!), when I have a little more experience under my belt to do it justice.

Reckless Rescue, follows the story of Marlee and Tyris. Can you tell us more about them, and their story (without giving too much away!)

Marlee and Tyris are from two very different worlds, in fact, the working title for this novel was Worlds Apart, but it had already been  used a few too many times by other people. Marlee’s world is simple, slow and small, while Tyris’s is a slightly exaggerated version of a city today, with people rushing around busily, and technology making every chore easier. It’s hard to imagine that they would have anything in common.

Their worlds are also opposite in that Tyris’s world is overpopulated, and many people (himself included), have been forbidden to have children, while on Marlee’s world, they are in danger of dying out due to a pollutant in the atmosphere, and couples who are unable to conceive are “encouraged” to try again with a new partner.

When Tyris crashes his spaceship on Marlee’s world, they have to work together, and pretend to live together, while they try to repair his ship and escape from the planet. But as they battle the harsh winter on the planet together, keeping their distance becomes even more challenging than the snow, the council and the risks of a real relationship…

 

Rinelle's first novel

Rinelle’s first novel

Reckless Rescue is set in the future: Do you think this is where our civilisation is heading? As a reader and writer of Sci Fi/Fantasy does the future worry you?

I did deliberately use many of the current issues in our world (overpopulation, fuel shortages etc) to base issues in Reckless Rescue off. However, I choose not to set the story in our world (Urslat and Zerris, the planets in the novel, are fantasy planets, not Earth in any way), so that I could explore these issues without implying that the events in the novels were what I thought would happen in our world.

As a reader and writer of Sci-fi Fantasy, and someone who is very interested in science and technology in general, I do see problems happening in the world. However, I also see the potential in science and humanity to rise to the challenge, and find better solutions in the future. I’m an optimist at heart, and I do feel that many of the problems we face can and will be solved, and much will be learned from doing so.

Your novel focuses heavily on the ability to have children: is this something you feel passionate about or did the theme develop with the novel?

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to have kids. In fact, I still have my primary school report card, where my “What I want to be when I grow up” is filled in with “mother”. So pregnancy and babies seem to make their way into every novel I write in one form or another!

The theme of infertility though, wasn’t one I have any personal experience with. It came up as the novel developed, and I went with it.

Did you always intend Reckless Rescue to be a series? Is that your preferred type of novel?

Initially Reckless Rescue was going to be a stand-alone novel, but as I wrote it, it began to expand into something that was just too large for one novel, so I ended up splitting it into two. It worked out well, with one novel being set on each planet. I have ideas for some follow up novels, following the story of some of the other characters in both Reckless Rescue and Reckless Rebellion, but we’ll see how they fit in with all the other stories I want to write!

You clearly love Sci Fi/ Fantasy romance: what other genres do you like to read (or write)?

I read pretty much everything romance! Fantasy is my favourite, and I’m just discovering Sci-fi. (I didn’t know sci-fi romance existed until I found I was writing it!) I like romance for its heavy focus on characters and character interaction, and the guaranteed HEA (Happy Ever After). I’m not a fan of sudden surprise horrible endings (like City of Angels, that movie will live in my mine as a trauma forever). I can handle sad endings that fit in with the story (like Love Story), but HEA’s are my favourite by far.

I haven’t read much paranormal romance, it just doesn’t appeal to me, and I’m not into suspense/thrillers at all!

You had an unusual upbringing, including living in a variety of homes (shacks and tents). How much did this influence Reckless Rescue and Marlee’s planet Zerris?

I think probably it did. I loved my childhood, and I never felt the lack of money or technology, I was too busy climbing trees and fishing in the river to notice! And I loved the freedom of not having to go to school (I had a lot of bad experiences with bullying before we started homeschooling), and to do all the things we would have missed if we hadn’t been home.

I think though, that Zerris was influenced as much by my experiences as an adult as those I had as a child. Even though I spent a few years enjoying city life, and all it has to offer, I was eventually drawn back to the country (where we live now), and to the simpler life of veggie gardens and backyard chickens. I’ve read a lot about homesteading and simple living, and many of the ideals appeal to me. However, I’m also not ready to give up my computers, internet and dishwasher!

I’m enjoying writing through the differences in the two lifestyles, and hoping I can find a balance between the two, both in my real life, and in the novels.

The Sequel

The Sequel

You’re busy writing the sequel to Reckless Rescue, Reckless Rebellion. I can’t wait! How much of the story for book two did you know when writing the first one? Has it been difficult, knowing the first novel is already published?

I had about 70% of Reckless Rebellion written when I published Reckless Rescue. Initially I had planned for them to be one novel, but I had to split them due to length, and I think they do work better as two separate stories. I didn’t have a complete ending though (I write sequentially), so trying to find an ending that works without changing anything that was written in the first book has it’s challenging methods.

If I was the patient type, I would have loved to have both books written and edited before publishing, but I’m just not. I’m more the ‘get out there and do it, and make it work later’ type!

Finally, you recently took part in the A to Z blogging challenge. Did you feel it was a worthwhile experience? Did it teach you anything about yourself as a writer?

The A to Z Blogging Challenge has been really great for me. I’ve struggled on and off with keeping up with my blog, even though I love to write it. With so many other things going on in my life, blogging tended to take a back seat, and there were many weeks when my blog didn’t get updated at all! The challenge helped me see that a lot of my problems with blogging were in planning, so I’m working on having a monthly blogging schedule (complete with what posts I’ll be writing on each day) worked out in advance. So far it’s working.

However, writing has suffered a little as a result. With a schedule for blogging, it tends to seem more urgent (have to have this post out by Wednesday…) than writing, so I tend to blog first, write second, and this often leads to me not getting to writing! That’s not a good thing, and I’m working on finding more of a balance between the two.

Links:

Webpage: http://rinellegrey.com – here you’ll find my blog with info about self publishing and writing, and my books.

Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00BLY2VB0 – with links to buy my books if you’re interested

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6950185.Rinelle_Grey

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RinelleGrey

Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/rinellegreyauthor

All About Me: 2013 365 Challenge #142

My Author Interview on Rinelle Grey's site

My Author Interview on Rinelle Grey’s site

I recently did a guest post over on the lovely Rinelle Grey‘s site, answering questions about my books and my writing. Then I realised I hadn’t reblogged it over here.

It’s a bit long, so apologies and if you’re reading for the Claire post just keep scrolling to the bottom!

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Today I have author Amanda Martin here to talk about her writing, blogging, being a mum, and her YA fantasy novel, Dragon Wraiths.

Have you always wanted to be an author, or did something else inspire you to write?

First of all, thank you Rinelle for letting me visit your lovely blog! It’s so nice to have a change of scenery, particularly as I spend far too much time on mine these days.

I’ve always loved stories and when I was younger I enjoyed creative writing. However a desire for grades took over and I discovered a passion for academia. Fiction fell by the wayside until I became pregnant with my first child and started a Creative Writing course to give me something to keep my brain active. I found that writing stories was even more fun than writing essays.

I had attempted to write a novel before, but never got past the first page because I didn’t think I had a good enough imagination. The Creative Writing course, together with discovering NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month – writing 50,000 words in 30 days), introduced me to an ability to write that I was previously unaware of. Thank goodness!

I know you have two small kids, any tips on finding time to write as a mother?

I am fortunate that they go to nursery for two days a week. Before starting the daily blog challenge I mostly wrote on those days. Now I do have to find time to write every day, as well as keeping up with the social media that accompanies self-publishing. I write my blog in the evenings after the children are in bed, often not getting to bed myself until midnight. The social media I do during the day on my phone or iPad. I do get told off by my children, but they are beginning to learn that Mummy has to do some work during the week.

I also write while walking the dog. I have an old-fashioned phone that still has a number-pad and I can tap out 1500 words in text messages on a 45-minute walk. I find the rhythm of walking particularly conducive to writing dialogue or the diary section of my daily blog.

Two-Hundred Steps Home Vol1

Two-Hundred Steps Home Vol1

This year you’ve committed to writing a post a day for the year. What inspired that, and how are you finding it? (I think you’re really brave by the way!)

Brave, or maybe crazy! The idea to take part in postaday 2013 came on New Year’s Eve. I was struggling with the lack of routine caused by my husband being made redundant (laid off) in October. I didn’t want to start a new manuscript as I was meant to be promotingDragon Wraiths and editing my contemporary women’s fiction novel, Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes. I thought writing a daily blog would give me a challenge without detracting from my other projects (I was wrong!).

I came up with the idea of writing a first draft of a novel in daily instalments, with a separate bit that originally was to be about the writing process but has ended up being more of a parenting diary.

As part of your blogging every day, you’re writing an instalment of “Two-Hundred Steps Home”, a story about Claire and her job to visit all the Youth Hostels. Do you have this planned out, or are you pantsing it?

Pantsing it, definitely! I’m a pantser to the core, although I did discover with Dragon Wraiths the pitfalls of making it up as you go. Sometimes you get in plot cul-de-sacs that are hard to get out of. With Two-Hundred Steps Home (named for the 200 YHA hostels in the UK) I obviously have the journey around the UK hostels as a rough guide, but the actual story is evolving daily. Some days I know what needs to happen next – for example I knew a week or two in advance that Claire’s niece would be travelling with Claire or I have an idea what the month-end cliff-hanger might be –  but I don’t know what I’m going to write on any given day until I open my laptop.

I’ve really enjoyed reading about Claire (The catch up novels are free by the way). What do you plan to do with Claire’s story once you’re finished? 

I have no idea! The daily blog was intended as a way to promote myself as a writer, bring more people to the blog and hopefully help build up a following. I suspect that hasn’t been entirely successful, as it is hard to write good prose every single day. I would like to edit Claire’s story down into a novel – it’s likely to be the length of three novels by the end of the year, and definitely needs cutting down as there is a lot of repetition for people who haven’t read from the beginning. Unfortunately the thing I have always found nigh-on impossible, as an academic and a fiction writer, is cutting out significant word count. For essays I had to write tightly to the necessary word target or I would fail. My novels are all over suggested length by an agent’s standards but I cannot cut out huge chunks of words.  Hopefully that will be something I learn to do as I grow and develop as a writer.

Dragon Wraiths cover

Dragon Wraiths cover

I loved your first published novel, Dragon Wraiths, do you want to tell us a little about it?

Dragon Wraiths follows the journey of orphan Leah as she learns to fight, love, and above all, survive.

It’s the day before Leah’s sixteenth birthday. Instead of planning the perfect party she’s stuck in a shabby B&B in the middle of nowhere. She’s not worrying about pimples and presents: she has bigger things to freak her out. Like her Mother’s dying words telling her she will die on her sixteenth birthday. Spending her teenage years escaping from falling trees, burning buildings, killer bees — and the unseen enemies trying to murder her. Or falling in love with a boy who won’t admit she exists, even though they’ve been on the run together for months.

As her birthday approaches, Leah tries to piece together the events that led her there and wonders if she’ll live past lunchtime. What she doesn’t know is her future will include conspiracies, dragons, new powers: Her first kiss. 

And the responsibility to save two worlds

What inspired you to write YA? Is it your normal genre?

YA was not my normal genre at all when I wrote Dragon Wraiths. You could say the book wrote me. I woke one-day with the story in my head, including the first line, and it grew from there. Initially I began writing because I needed a new challenge, after getting bogged down in revisions of Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes. I shelved the manuscript after the first 30,000 words as I couldn’t really see where it was heading. Then I read about the Mslexia Children’s Novel competition and decided to enter it for that. It was meant to go in for the Chicken House competition also but it ended up being 30,000 words too long. Did I mention I tend to over-write?

The dragons in your novel are rather unique, I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like them before. Where did the idea for them come from?

Thank you! It is a relief to hear that, as dragons are so often written about and it is difficult not to steal someone else’s great ideas. I love dragon stories – the one I read most recently (although after finishing the first draft of Dragon Wraiths) was Eragon by Christoper Paolini, so some of the finishing touches may be influenced by that. One reviewer compared the novel to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragons of Pern novels but I haven’t read any of them (and I’m scared to now!)

Mostly, the dragons evolved organically from Leah’s story. I can’t quite recall, as I draft from my subconscious rather than conscious mind, but I believe I had the title, Dragon Wraiths, in my mind from the beginning and the dragons evolved to fit the Wraith concept.

What do you think you’ll write next? YA again, or something different?

I really want to have a go at writing Middle Grade fiction. I’ve gone through a long period of reading only MG books (apart from Reckless Rescue!) and I love the genre. I like the world building and character development, heroism and morality, in MG fiction that is not overly-bogged down with politics or too much introspection. I also find that, while MG Fiction can be sad or scary, because it is aimed at the younger age-group it is gentle and uplifting to read. Since having children I find I can’t read books that affect me too deeply because it gives me nightmares. The joy of hormones I suppose!

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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Claire scurried into the dim building and caught her heel on a snaking line of black cabling stretched across the floor. Nearby a large speaker wobbled and threatened to topple forward. The world slowed to treacle. Before she could think Oh Shit! a man in black stepped out of the shadows and put a steadying hand on the teetering music system.

“I’m so sorry!” Claire’s voice echoed loud in the silent building, resonating high into the roof.

The man frowned and turned away without speaking. Remorse turned to indignation. “Charming,” she muttered, none too quietly. “What’s all this stuff doing in a cathedral anyway?”

“We recorded a BBC Three concert last night, and the lads are still packing up the equipment. My apologies.”

Claire turned at the sound of the lilting Scottish voice behind her. She felt as wobbly as the speaker as her gaze met a pair of chocolate-brown eyes, twinkling at her in the gloom.

“Er, that’s okay. I’m sorry I tripped. It’s raining cats and dogs outside, I was more interested in getting dry than looking where I was going.”

“Would you like a tour of the cathedral?” The stranger gestured along the aisle as he spoke. “The lads don’t need my supervision and, to be honest, it’ll be nice to have some refined company.”

The words were cheesy, but the smile seemed genuine, and the way he rolled his rs resonated deep in her chest. Claire shrugged. “Sure, why not. I need a few interesting stories for the blog. I don’t suppose you have any inside gossip?”

They walked on, side by side, their footsteps echoing around them. The man gave a low chuckle. “It depends what kind of blog you’re writing, Miss – I’m sorry, I’ve been very rude and haven’t introduced myself. The name’s Anthony.”

He held out his hand and Claire took it, trying not to notice the smooth skin or the grip that went on a fraction longer than expected.

“Claire.” The single word seemed inadequate and she searched for something else – something interesting – to fill the space. “It’s a travel blog, promoting the healthy outdoors.”

Anthony raised an eyebrow and flicked his gaze around the spectacular building surrounding them.

A blush suffused Claire’s face until her complexion matched the red glass of the stained window. “Yes, well, there isn’t much healthy outdoors I want to be doing in a thunderstorm. To be honest I write about whatever has happened to me on any given day, and you can’t always be scaling waterfalls or swinging through the trees.”

Her words raised a glint of interest in Anthony’s eyes and she felt her body respond to his renewed appreciation, like a flower twisting towards the sun. Following his broad shoulders as he led her around the cathedral, she thought how nice it was to let someone else take the lead for a change.

*

All too soon the tour was over and Anthony had located his team leader to discuss their progress. Claire hovered uncertainly, not sure if she had been dismissed. After a lengthy discussion with the man who had saved the loud speaker from crashing to the floor, Anthony turned back to Claire and raised his lips in a devastating half smile.

“We’re finished up here, would you like to go for a coffee?”

Is he asking me out? Claire felt awkward. After the confusion with Josh, she wasn’t sure she knew how to read the signs anymore. His smile was enticing, but she had fallen for a warm smile before, and found it only burned. Still, coffee was coffee, and she hadn’t yet managed her morning caffeine hit.

“Sure, coffee sounds great. Where’s the nearest Starbucks?”

***