Wednesday 25 September 2013

Author interview! Holly Smale

I was so excited when this brilliant author agreed to answer my interview questions and her answers were well worth the wait, as you can see. I am so excited for the release of Geek Girl: Model Misfit but without further ado, I hand you over to the FABULOUS author Holly Smale...

First question-bit of a cliche-how did you get into writing?

I’ve always been obsessed with words: my first memory is of reading the word GAS on a lorry going past, getting over-excited and scribbling it all over bits of the scrap paper my dad brought home from the office. I’ve wanted to be a writer from that moment, as cheesy as it sounds. I’ve been writing on scraps of paper ever since.

Do you write full time & if so, have you always done this?

I do, but I haven’t always. Like most writers, I spent most of my life fitting paragraphs and chapters into lunch-breaks, evenings, weekends; on buses, trains, escalators. I’ve done a lot of different jobs: pubs, PR, teaching, courgette-packing, cleaning, waitressing, bar-tending. It was only when I sold theGEEK GIRL series that I had the luxury of writing full time for a little bit. I don’t know if it will last,though - I may have to go back to cleaning floors -so I take every day as it comes and try to enjoy it while I can.

Do you have a particular writing style or genre that you prefer?

I have an enormously eclectic taste in literature (and music, and fashion… everything, in fact). I studied English classics at University, so I love Dickens, Hardy, Austen, Shakespeare, and I’m also a big fan of American classics: Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Fitzgerald. I love children’s classics as well, so Charlotte’s Web, Anne of Green Gables, The Faraway Tree etc. Saying that, there’s a lot of great stuff going out at the moment: both in YA/Children’s and in adult fiction. I think it’s important to read as wide a mix as possible, although I’ll admit I’ve never loved Dystopian very much. (Apart from 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451: three of my favourite books of all time.)

How do you develop your characters as you write, are any of them based on real people?

To be honest, I don’t really develop characters as such: I let the story do that for meOccasionally they’re based on “real” people, but generally they turn up fully formed: meeting my new characters is my favourite bit of the writing process. They feel so real to me, though, that the narrative tends to reveal them gradually just as it would reveal people in real life. As long as they react to situations and events and change the way real people do, I think that’s development: it’ll come through naturally. Forcing it is like going up to a stranger and shouting “I LIKE CHEESE” at the top of your voice.

What was the inspiration behind your Geek Girl?

I wanted to write something funny and different, and I modelled as a teenager so I thought that would be a fun topic. I sat down to write a story about models, and then realized it wasn’t actually about modeling at all: it was about how much of a geek I was at school, and feeling left out, and struggling to work out where I belonged. There was a heart to the story I hadn’t really thought about before, and by the time I’d written the first sentence I was excited about the story and I knew what I wanted from it.

What is your writing process-do you map it out first? Write a bit at a time?

With the first one, I kind of winged it: now that I’ve finished two I can see a pattern to my madness. I tend to have a general idea of where it’s going to go, scribble ideas on bits of paper, and then write a very bad first draft. Then I read it, realise exactly why it’s terrible and write it again from scratch. It’s not a very time-efficient way of doing it, but it works for me. I use the first draft to get the ideas and narrative down, and the second to turn it into a proper story. I’m just not organized enough to plan it all perfectly from the start.

How much of you is reflected in your novels?

All of me. It’s easy to draw a line between me and Harriet, but every single character comes from me: every breath, every movement, every word. There are parts of me in all of them: in Toby, in Wilbur, in Annabel, in Nat, in Richard. Even in Yuka or Alexa. It’s impossible to separate the writer from what they’re written: those characters come from a part of us. Even if we’re writing about somebody real we know, we’re writing what we see, how we interpret them. I don’t think there’s ever a real separation between the book and the author, even if there seems to be. They come from the unique ingredients that make us… US.

What kind of research did you do before/during writing Geek Girl?

I used the internet a lot for facts and details, but I was lucky enough to have a lot of experience in most areas: I was a geek at school, I modelled, and I’d already been to Russia on a school trip. For the second book, I lived in Japan for two years, so I had an entire database of information in my head ready for dipping into. The third will require a lot more research, so that’ll be an exciting challenge.

Do you have any plans to develop your novel further, write sequels, turn it into a series?

The second book in the series comes out on the September 26th, and I’m incredibly nervous. For the first book, I was an unknown debut so there were no expectations. This time I have readers, and I don’t want to disappoint anyone! There’ll be a third, and I’m thinking about what will happen after that at the moment.

How much attention do you pay to the reviews that you get?

At the beginning, I paid a huge amount of attention and read every single one: I was exhilarated and crushed on an almost hourly basis. Now, I tend to avoid them as much as I can. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, and I think it’s great that there’s so much active discussion on the internet, but it can be slightly damaging from an author’sperspective. What some people love, other people hate, and visa versa: it’s literally impossible to keepeverybody happy, and trying can leave you spinning in unproductive little circles. Now I focus on writing what I love and think is funny, and just hope that the right readers will find it rather than worrying about pleasing everybody. I can only do what I can.  

Are friends and family supportive of your writing?

Incredibly so. They always have been, so I’m very lucky. Even when I was waiting tables and “writing my book” in between shifts, they believed I’d get there. Without their faith in me, I have no idea if I’d have kept going. Writing can be hard, lonely and very demoralizing.

How did you feel leading up to your publication day?

For the first one, I felt scared, excited and nervous. For the second, I feel that x 10,000. There’s more on the line this time: people are waiting to compare it to the first book. I just desperately don’t want to let anyone down: if they loved the first one I want them to love this one too!

Which other authors inspire you or are there any you particularly enjoy

I’m inspired by so many authors: Roald Dahl, L.M. Montgomery, JK Rowling, John Green, Judith Kerr… Everyone who creates something amazing that wasn’t there before they started… that’s inspiring.

Finally...what are you working on right now?

I’m just tying up the very last bits of GG2 – Model Misfit: all I have to do now is approve page layoutbefore it goes to print. My next job is to start researching for GG3, and frankly that’s going to be a big job. I’m moving out of my comfort area, which is exciting and important. It would be incredibly lazy to just stick to exactly what I already know!! It’s going to involve a trip to New York, though, so I’m not going to complain. I have the best job in the world. 

Thank you very much to Holly for doing this interview. If you haven't read Geek Girl get ordering it now, I have not one but 3 reviews of it here on the blog so you can tell I'm a massive fan! And don't further to pre-order your copy of the Geek Girl sequel Model Misfit-can't wait for this one!

Just Click the links to get your copies now...

If you want to see my review of Geek Girl just click here

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