Tag Archives: Interviews

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

Short Story Sunday #1

4 Jan

Hi guys, so this is just a new segment for my blog. On sundays I’ll be posting short stories that are from the ‘My writing’ folder on my laptop. Hopefully I can be posting weekly. It’s just a way for me to practice my writing and I’d appreciate your comments and feedback.

Note: The story you’re about to read was first posted on FF. I wrote it last year. I wanted it to be the first one that goes under my Short Story Sunday before I start sharing anything fresh 😀

TITLE: Just Her Luck…
Word Count: 2000

If there was one word that could be used to describe me other than boring or predictable, it would have to be…average.

I am of average height. I got average results in college and I was probably going to attend an interview that will take me one step closer to having an average job, so I can look forward to an average pay check. Pretty dull if you ask me.

The only thing about me that is beyond average is my hair. Most people who looked at me would think I was trying to rebel against society or something. Like it’s the last stand of a post teen female in her quest to be noticed or stand out. Because let’s face it, how many normal people walk around with pink hair? How many of those people are 22 year olds? My guess is, not that many.

The day I was going for my job interview at Lloyd and Daka started out like any normal day. I remember it very well because it’s a day that’s etched deeply and painfully in my brain. I’d gotten up, taken a quick shower and put on a tight fitting, knee length little black dress with my one good pair of platform heels. Lloyd and Daka was the most successful law firm in Ching City. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t study law and so my job interview was as a personal assistant.

The job market was a joke and so when I got the call for the interview, you can imagine my surprise and if I’m honest…my joy. It was going to be my big break. My one shot at making something of my life.

I left the loft I was sharing with my crazy room mate. By crazy I don’t mean, ‘padded cell and meds’ crazy but more like crazy spontaneous. I like her. We have been friends since high school and she is so close to me I sometimes see her as my sister. My crazy sister. She hadn’t come home the night before. She’d been on another one of her nights out with her boyfriend. Good for her.

Being an only child and coming from an average family, you can guess where I stand when it comes to wheels. I don’t have a car. If I should over share, I might as well mention that I have never even owned a bicycle. So it was walking and getting on buses and cabs for me.

One thing to be grateful for that day was that it wasn’t raining anymore. It had poured cats and dogs the night before but as I was walking on the sidewalk that day, the only reminder that it was the rain season was the wet ground and the puddles in the busy streets.

I was seriously rethinking wearing heels this high. Maybe I should’ve put on flats until I was near the interview building. But as I continued walking, I knew it was too late to do anything about it. Turning back would mean risking being late.

My stomach rumbled. Damn it. Just great. I’d forgotten to have breakfast. My phone suddenly buzzed and I found it was a text from my room mate and friend. The crazy one.

Her text was just wishing me all the best in my interview. See what I meant? She’s the best. I sent her a quick ‘thanks’. Note to self: Remember to turn the phone off.

I put my phone away and right after that, before I even had a chance to look up, I bumped into someone. I stumbled and struggled to keep myself standing and in my attempt not to fall, my heel broke and I almost fell to the damp ground.

The guy I had bumped into tried to help me. He ended up smearing mustard all over my dress instead. The hot dog he’d been about to eat fell, travelling down the length of my dress in a trail of gooey yellow until it reached the dirty, wet ground. The folder containing my credentials dropped to the ground as well.

I was only relieved because it was made of plastic and the papers inside were all safe.

“Shit!” I swore. No. No. No. How the heck was I supposed to attend an interview when I looked like I’d just been molested by hotdogs and mustard?

“Are you okay?” he enquired.

“Do I seriously look okay?” I picked up the folder, looked at my ruined dress and felt my heart sink, “Look what you just did to my dress and shoes.” I stood awkwardly, one leg higher than the other, feeling like tears were going to pour from my eyes any second. I didn’t even have any glue on me. My poor heels.

“Maybe not such a good idea to wear heels if you can’t walk in them.” His voice was calm and low. “But judging by your hair, I take it you are not a person known to make good decisions.”

“Excuse me?!” what the hell? I looked up at him and stared into his dark eyes. His lips curved in an annoying smirk. The son of a bitch actually had the audacity to smirk at me. I was livid.

“Hey, don’t bite my head off because you were too busy texting and acting like a teen instead of actually looking where you were going.” He put his hands in his pants pockets, making his tailored suit look even more fitted.

“Are you seriously going to blame me for this? You’re the one stuffing yourself with a hotdog in the early morning and rubbing mustard all over my dress.”

“Okay, my bad.” he looked me straight in the eyes and I could see the amusement in his, “Though I doubt it looked any better before.” He said under his breath but I heard him loud and clear. My blood boiled over. The hot dog seller faced away like he was embarrassed for me. How had the day turned out like this?

“You rude ass.” I said. My nostrils flaring like a bull about to charge towards a matador.

His laughter came out throaty and some of his pitch black hair came on his face. He ran his hands through it and it just annoyed me more, “That’s not very ladylike.”

“Ladylike?” I snorted. “And this isn’t funny. I am far from feeling like a lady right now, so I sure as heck will not act like one.” I bent over to get the heel that had detached from my one good shoe. Yeah, I knew I should have worn flats until I reached the building.

“Sir, we have to get going.” A muscular man stood next to us and motioned that the rude hotdog-eating man follow him.

The black haired man sighed and put his hand back in his pocket. “I guess we do.” He started walking away, “Oh, one more thing…” Reaching in his jacket, he grabbed his wallet and took out 5 notes, the highest denomination, which he put in my hands, “get yourself a better dress and new shoes.”

I slapped his hand away and the money dropped to the ground. “Screw you. I don’t need your money. So what, you think because daddy dearest can bend to your will and get you everything you desire, that it’s okay to treat people like this? You are pathetic.” I spat out.

He recoiled a bit and then smirked again. “Well, aren’t you a feisty one.” He walked away, leaving the money on the ground, “Get the money or don’t, I don’t really care. That foolish poor person’s pride will get you nowhere.” He climbed in the back seat of the expensive looking car and opened the window slightly, “Though I must add, between the one who has a personal driver and the one who is standing on the pavement with one shoe on and covered in mustard, who is really looking pathetic? Mmh?”

My lips twitched in annoyance and I thought I would scream out. “You rich people are all the same. Dicks, through and through.”

He smirked at me and the window started closing. “Good day.” The car drove off, leaving me fuming and wishing I had a gun or something. I got my phone and saw that I still had forty minutes till my interview time.

There had to be a cheap boutique with formal wear around here somewhere. Screw that infuriating son of a bitch and his money. I looked at the notes still by my feet. They stayed there for a second, taunting me, laughing at me. Then they blew away and a homeless man nearby dove for them. A huge smile formed on his face. Christmas had come early. Better him than me, I didn’t need that guy’s hand-outs.
What an ass.

With a frown on my face, I rushed awkwardly down the street, wearing one high heeled shoe and one broken one. This was probably what people referred to as a walk of shame. I finally saw a promising little boutique. It had in stock various designs of suits and dresses. The pencil skirts looked great and the bodycon dresses looked even better. The best part was that they were all affordable. I picked up a knee-high navy blue formal dress and black heels. I knew it was not a planned shopping outing and it would come and bite me in the ass later on but I still gave the cashier my debit card. Once I got the job, the money would be replaced.

I put the soiled LBD in a bag and started off for my destination.

~xoxo~

So, despite the crapstatic luck I’d had earlier, I’d managed to make it in time with 10 minutes to spare. Thanks universe, so maybe you aren’t a complete bitch after all. I walked to the receptionist and told her my business. She directed me to the elevator and told me the interviews were being conducted on the 10th floor.

Taking the elevator to the 10th floor, my heart started racing. The elevator door finally opened once I had reached the right floor and I took in a deep breath before I stepped out. My heels tapping as I took each step.

There were about five girls waiting in the foyer. Competition. I walked to the desk where a beautiful blonde was sitting. She looked more Victoria’s Secret Angel than personal assistant.

“Good morning.” I said, a smile on my face. “My name is Kristen Hamis. I have an interview at 9 o’clock.”

“Good morning. You are just in time.” She
replied, “Please take a seat. There is still someone in the office at the moment.”

“Thank you.” I told her and made my way to the seats. A smile was on my face as I said hi to the other girls.

Sitting down, my feet on the floor and the folder on my laps, I prepared to wait until my time came. My strength left me when I saw one distraught girl running out of the large office with the glass doors and walls. She was in tears and held her papers to her chest.

How tough was the interviewer?

The girl behind the desk shook her head and picked up the phone. She listened for a second and then put it back down. My heart raced.

“Miss Hamis,” I heard the blonde woman call for me, “he’s ready for you.” She gave me a smile that told me to be strong, or maybe I was just imagining it. Why would she offer me comfort?

My feet stood firmly on the ground and straightened my dress. Putting one foot in front of the other, I made my way to the office praying I didn’t come out of there in tears as well. I pushed the glass door and entered. I pushed further inside and the man seated by the table looked up at me. His black eyes made contact with brown ones and he smirked. My heart stopped beating. My legs froze where they stood. Oh God, please, no.

How much bad luck could one girl possibly have? My interviewer, my potential employer, my possible boss…was the jerk from the hot dog stand.

I immediately said bye to any hopes of getting this job. I’d called him a dick, an ass and told him ‘screw you’ right to his face. I was doomed. This was over for me.

“Good morning Miss Hamis, I’m Josh Lloyd…junior.” He stood up from his seat and gestured to the one opposite his, “Please, do take a seat.”

My legs couldn’t move as I looked at his clearly amused face. He obviously remembered me.

I took it back…the universe is a complete bitch.

The end.

Xoxo

I wanted the first one to be slightly long 🙂

Follow me on twitter Dee@The perks

-Dee

How do you pick your books?

11 Aug

The saying goes “do not judge a book by its cover” and most of the times that is true, especially if:

  1. You already know the author and you love them.
  2. One of your closest friends recommended it to you.
  3. The book has made such a hype that your just HAVE to read it, regardless of how the cover looks like.

But what about those sometimes rare moments when you just need to read something new? A new series or standalone novel? How do you pick up that new book when all you have is a title, a blurb, a cover and the genre?

I won’t lie to you, some of my best reads were as a result of those “OMG, this cover is so cute…I have to read this book” moments. I remember the first time I came across a Gena Showalter novel, one look at that Lords of the Underworld book and I knew I just had to read it. Don’t judge me, that turned out to be one of my greatest book choices in my life. Now here I am after 10 books and I still count her as one of my Favourite Authors. (Even though she has lost her “spark” and gone all clean and umm well just different from the Gena I felt in love with).

Before this amazing world of ebooks and ereaders, I remember walking home from school with my friends and at times when we had saved up enough money we would buy some books in the streets. Back then my reading just involved Sweet Valley Twins, Mills and Boon, Silhouette romance and the like. With the Wakefield twins, I didn’t care which one was on sale, I just had to get it. With romance I always found Medical romance a bit boring so I avoided those. But at times when I was in want of a book and nothing was available, I pretty much read anything. Call it a disease or just an addiction. It is possible right? To be addicted to reading? I guess that would give an explanation as to why I found myself reading the cereal packet or the bread wrapper during breakfast. Weird I know, but reading is reading. 😀
Anyway my point is it was easy to choose the books I wanted to read back then…powerful main character , good captivating blurb and that catchy title. Teenage me had it good.
I would go home, do my homework if I had any and get swallowed up in my latest purchase…okay fine, so maybe most of the books I read back then were all borrowed from someone 😛

These days though, I think people put too much thought in picking up the next book they want to read…I mean with so many books available and being published everyday, one might wonder how our brains don’t explode with the overwhelming force of it all. So many good books, so little time. Which one should I read now? Do I pick this one? Do I pick that one? This looks good. Oh wait so does that one. God!!! AAAAHHHHH

Sorry about that, I am good now. *takes a deep breath* But you see what I mean, right?

With Goodreads and Blogs and everything, I just have to ask…what influences you to choose that particular book? How do you pick one over the others? What criteria do you use?

-Dee

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