Archive | Interviews RSS feed for this section

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Ellen Allen Author of “The Sham”

12 Jan

Hey guys, remember when I mentioned that I’d introduce a new segment on my blog (as part of my resolutions)? Well, today I’ll post my first ever author interview. It’s an exciting day for me. Do stick around and read thoroughly. You’ll definitely learn something :).

Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing the lovely Ellen Allen, indie author of YA thriller The Sham.

Ellen Allen

Hi Ellen, thank you for agreeing to this interview. It’s great to have you on my little blog.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Three years’ ago I quit my job in London and moved with my small daughter to the south of France. The plan was to stay for a few months – to fulfill a lifelong dream of lollygagging in rosé wine vineyards, writing a book, getting the hang of French grammar, etc. – but we haven’t been able to leave!

We’ve built a new life here, complete with jobs, schools, and French subjunctive tenses – as well as the vineyards and writing! – and the best part is that we’re only a few hours away by train from our family in London. It’s also sunny here, roughly 300 days a year…

I’m not sure that I have many strange quirks but I love wild swimming; my favourite spots are under Pont du Gard in the south of France and Dosthill quarry in the Midlands, England.

When did you first develop an interest in writing?

I never set out to be an author but I’ve always been writing: at school, it was often some sort of trilogy involving magic kingdoms and dwarfs (I loved Tolkien); throughout my teens, I religiously recorded monumental events in my diary but mostly filled it with inconsequential lists of things I had to do each day (have a bath, feed the cat…); when I was pregnant with my daughter, I began writing plays, which was the first time that I actually considered that I might be able to write – I received a really encouraging critique from the BBC. Since then, I’ve written a few more plays as well as my first book, The Sham. It sounds a bit silly but I just have to write. It’s what makes me wildly happy.

When it comes to your writing, how do you stay inspired and motivated?

Writing books is hard work so to stay motivated, I find it best to give myself weekly, monthly and yearly goals. For example, this week I intend to blog twice and finish my plan for book two. This month, I intend to start writing my new book and this year, I intend to finish it! For inspiration, I read, read, read…

Where do you write? Do you like quiet or is music a must and part of your writing process?

Music is a must. I’ve attached the playlist for The Sham below.

To hear the music that was part of The Sham’s writing process, check out The Sham’s playlist.

To be a writer you HAVE to be a reader. Who is your favourite author?

I have lots of favourites: for dark teen issues, you can’t go wrong with anything by Laurie Halse Anderson; for literary fiction, my favourite is The Secret History by Donna Tartt – she writes characters that stay with you long after you finish her books; if I want comfort reading, I’ll read To Kill A Mockingbird or any Jane Austen; and no one can scare me as much as Stephen King.

The literary world is full of diversity and variety at times it gets overwhelming. Do you have a favourite genre?

I love writing YA because it’s a genre that seems to allow authors to take a crazy idea and run with it, much more than adult books. I love reading most things but mainly YA, adult thrillers and literary fiction.

After enough reading and getting swallowed up in other people’s work, some words just stick to us and touch us. What is your favourite book quote?

My favourite quote at the moment is by Stephen Chbosky from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I didn’t love the book as much as I think everyone else does but there are some wonderful phrases in it, such as “we accept the love we think we deserve.” So true.

Now we have to talk about your book, “The Sham”. To read my personal thoughts on The Sham, see my review.

The Sham

The Sham

Can you tell us a little about your book?

The Sham is a YA contemporary thriller, set in the fictional town of Clevesham in the Midlands, England. A girl called Emily meets a boy called Jack, the same day as her classmate is murdered (and later washes up in the local floods). As more of her classmates go missing, suspicion increasingly falls on Jack and Emily must decide who and what she trusts. Fast. Before the police can arrest him. Before another girl goes missing. Before he simply disappears.

What brought up the idea? The first chapter was a bit dark, did you intend it that way?

The idea came to me in a nightmare. I dreamed that I was 17 again, back in school, with the same group of 4 friends, involved in a murder of one of them. It was so vivid that I couldn’t get back to sleep and the only way I could get it out of my head was to write it all down. It is quite dark but necessarily so – it sets up the book.

The sham has an interesting cover…tell us about that. How it came up. Did you have a say in the design?

I was trying to think of an image from the book that would stand out on the shelves. I told BookBaby (who did the design) what I wanted and I loved what they came up with.

Do you think book covers contribute to buying process?

Absolutely! I think it’s a big part of our buying decision. It’s also one of the most difficult as it has to visually encapsulate what the book is about. It’s a tricky process.

Every book review blogger knows writing isn’t easy. It takes determination and pushing oneself. What’s the hardest part about writing for you?

I love each phase of the writing process – the research, the outline, the writing and the revision but I think the hardest part has to be just buckling down and doing it, whatever part of the process you’re on. It doesn’t get done itself!

 Was it hard getting an agent?

I sent my novel out to about fifteen agents and she replied the same day, asking to see more. She read it the following week and asked if I’d like to meet, so it was pretty straightforward. We had a great meeting – very constructive – and she gave me loads of advice. That said, when I sent her the rewrites, she’d left her job, so I managed to lose my agent very easily too! I’m currently waiting for another agent to read the full manuscript so we’ll see what happens.

Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you combat it?

If I can’t write anything, it’s usually because I haven’t thought through my ideas enough. Sometimes the best thing can just be to do everything other than writing… letting ideas just sit in your brain or reading, reading, reading. Sometimes a good book can spark other ideas in your head and set me off…

I’m no writer but I know feedback is very important. It’s great to read what your readers thought of your work. What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

I love the bad ones as much as the good. Seriously! As a newly self-published author, reviews are the only feedback that I’ll get on my writing and I’m really enjoying reading it (even if it is painful at times!). I think it’s the only way that authors like me will improve their work (identifying writing ticks, or plot holes, for instance).

It can be difficult to read bad reviews but I think you still have to remember to say “thank you”. From a reviewer’s perspective, a person has taken a lot of time and energy reading the book and writing a review and they’re entitled to their opinion. From my perspective, if one person has said something, it might or might not be true. When I read a hundred reviewers all saying the same thing, offering the same critique, then I’ll know it’s definitely true. It’s that feedback that I’ll be taking with me to the next book.

Do you think about giving books away for free?

I’ve given away tons of review copies and I happily run giveaways on blogs. I think it’s a great way of getting my book to people who have never heard of me at all. I’ve heard that free books are also great for authors who have other works for sale, which they can offer as a lead in to their work.

What advice can you give to any aspiring writers reading this?

I’m new to this so I don’t really feel qualified to offer advice to anyone. Instead, I’ll offer up the advice from others that I’m following religiously:

As Stephen King most famously says, “reading is writing”. You need to be reading widely and voraciously to write well. I have a non-writing job, so I find it hard to find the time to read as much as I should. The reading challenge on Goodreads has been great for helping me keep track of how many books I’m getting through and what’s next on my list.

Lionel Shriver – one of my favourite authors – was asked what the best advice was for new authors and she put it well: “Don’t turn it into a mystical process. Just get on with it!” You have to be disciplined, dogmatic, stubborn and organised to be a jobbing writer. I try not to think about the rest – the doubts about talent, whether anyone will read it – and I just get on with it. I want it to be my career, so I treat it as if it is.

There is tons of writing advice out there that isn’t very good – the irony in reading writing advice that isn’t well written! You can spend hours trawling through it, but it’s distracting and time wasting. Find a few blogs that you rate, a few sites that you trust, follow a few similar writers, watch how they progress and then – you guessed it – get on with it.

So, what’s next? Any work in progress at the moment?

I don’t like to talk about the books that I’m currently writing in too much detail, partly because I feel silly talking about stories before they’re solidified in my head. It is YA, it is a thriller, but it involves a wider group of people who are brought together for a certain purpose. I’m really enjoying how it’s coming, partly because I’m at the point where I’m working out if all the twists and turns work and who’s who. I hope it will be out sometime this year.

That was very eye opening on my part and I enjoyed the responses. I have a ton of questions but that’s all for today. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing The Sham with us.

Well readers, if you’d like to contact Ellen Allen or read more about her work, you can reach her (and The Sham) at the following links:

Ellen Allen’s Amazon author page

The Sham on goodreads

Ellen Allen on Twitter

Ellen Allen on Facebook

Ellen Allen’s writing blog


That’s it for my first author interview. Do leave me a comment on your thoughts and if you have already read The Sham, what did you think of it?

Follow me on twitter Dee@The perks

-Dee

ultimatemindsettoday

A great WordPress.com site

kelzbelzphotography

My journey - The good, bad and the ugly

booksandopinions.com

The Book Reviews You Can Trust!