Thursday 29 May 2014

Countdown to 5th June: Interview with Bali Rai

Today I'm very lucky to be joined by Bali Rai, just one of the authors releasing a book on 5th June this year. His book, Web Of Darkness sound gripping and fast-paced and I can't wait to read it when it comes out. 

Don't forget to check over to the Countdown website to find more fab books released on 5th June

I love hearing author's answers to my questions, they make for a fascinating read, so without further ado, I give you... Bali Rai

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

Writing is something I've always done - ever since I first read Roald Dahl's stories and wanted to create my own versions. In terms of my writing career, I showed some work to a local agent, back in the 19990s, and the agent took me on, and introduced me to publishers.

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

I do write full time, and was lucky enough to become full-time from just after my first book, (un)arranged marriage, was published in 2001. I do spend a huge amount of time on the road, doing school events, too.

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

I tend to write about modern Britain in the main. Some people may call the these novels "issue-based" (usually as some sort of put down, in my experience) but I prefer to call them reality-based dramas. I'm very much motivated by a desire to represent voices that are missing in contemporary fiction - and unfortunately if you're non-white, or even white and working class, yours is one of those voices.

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

I always develop the main characters first, and yes, most are based on real people - even if only physically. I'm a firm believer in using the world around you to inspire your writing. As the writing progresses, I add touches to my characters, and there's always something new that comes to mind as the plot unfolds. The characters tend to be about 805 fixed as I start, with the rest added along the way.

5. What was the inspiration behind Web of Darkness?

The new novel was inspired by stories about cyber-bullying initially. Then, as I fleshed out my three central characters, it took on even darker themes. The idea was to explore what would happen to a group of friends if their online social life was trolled by a psychopath. What drives trolls on? I'd read somewhere that internet trolls share something like 70% of their psychological profile with psychopaths and serial killers - the same sense of narcissism etc... - and I started to work around that. I've explored the darker side of human nature before, in Angel Collector and Killing Honour, and I wanted to take that further. I love crime thrillers, and I know that many, many young people do too. I wanted to write the sort of novel that would be happily accepted in the adult market, but with a YA flavour. I've always thought that young people aren't given the same respect as adults when it comes to books, and the themes within those books, and I still think that now. As adults, we are never told what to read, or which genres/subjects are best suited to us. That level of respect in reading choices should be applied to young adults too.

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

I start with characters - and I always have, Then I consider what they will face in the course of the story, and see how they react to those situations. I stick with the three-act principle on the whole. The idea that a character walks onto a page, you set up a major turning point or dilemma for them, and then they resolve or deal with that. I write in chapters, usually one or two a day, and always leave about 505 of my plot unwritten, to account for idea that arise as I write. I think it's natural that writers get more ideas as they write. The thought of a rigid, point-by-point plot makes me shiver. I don't understand where the creativity would come from in such a situation - but then again, we are all different and no two writers do things the same way. There really is no right or wrong way to do it - regardless of what some people might say. You can either write well or not - that's it. 

7. How much of you is reflected in your novel?

I've never finished a novel and though that i haven't left some of my own ideas/self in the pages. I find it hard not to do that. I think that your man in characters tend to take on your world view and even your politics or your ethical/moral code. Otherwise, you'd end up disliking them, and would;t want to write about them!

8. What kind of research do you do before/during writing your novels?

The research tends to be minimal for the modern-day, realistic fiction. I do research, but usually I've been inspired by something I've read or seen anyway, and I check my facts etc... as I go. With some of the other styles I've done, especially City of Ghosts, which is historical fiction, I did loads of research before and during the writing phase. Yet, even then, I let my imagination create the battlefields of World War One, and the streets of Amritsar (in India) during 1919. I love research and it's important, but I think writers can get too caught up in making every detail accurate. I like to have some creative licence too.

9. Do you have any plans to develop your novel further, turn it into a series or write a sequel?

Not with Web of Darkness, even though it is a possibility. The only novel I've ever written a sequel to is The Crew. That book was The Whisper, and I loved the process. City of Ghosts and Fire City are also stories with sequels planned, but I haven't written them yet. That's partly because I've gone onto other ideas, and also about the way the publishing market works. It has to be the right book, at the right time (for yourself, as a writer, and if I'm honest, for your editor too) and I am determined to write both sequels I've mentioned. It's just a question of when. Generally, however, I write stand-alone stories, although i am planning two series, both for younger readers, and will one day write the first of an adult crime thriller series that has been in my head since I was about thirty!

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

Haha - I have a weird relationship with reviews. It's obviously wonderful when reviewers love your books, and can be frustrating when they get slaughtered, and I've had both experiences! I also use social media to promote my books, so the good reviews get posted and the bad ones ignored! But, I have to to be honest too. I really, genuinely, don't care one way or the other. I know that there isn't a book anywhere which is universally loved by every reader - that's an impossibility. I also know that there are trends in reviewing and publishing. One year people promote and laud one style of writing, say historical fiction, and the next year it's an entirely new genre or style. That merry-go-round doesn't interest me in the slightest. I've been doing this for far too long to worry about trends etc... I simply write what I want to write, and if the reviews are great, so be it. If not, never mind. I've always said that writers should never get too big-headed about good reviews, nor should they get depressed by awful ones. The act of writing and getting a book published is hard enough without then becoming frantic at the thought of a bad review. Just do what you do, to the best of your ability, and understand that you'll never please everyone. 

11. Are friends and family supportive of your writing?

My friends and close family have always been supportive, and as my career grows, that support increases. They talk to me about it all the time, or send me newspaper clippings etc... Many of the next generation - children, even grandchildren - read my books, and that's a special feeling for me. My hero is and always will be Sue Townsend, despite her sad passing recently, and in my city we love and adore her and her work, and more importantly, the fact that she gave our city a voice in literature. I always wanted to add to that voice, and to represent the ordinary folk who live next door, or that you see on the bus, and I think that my social circle enjoy that aspect of what I do, and encourage it too.

12. How do you feel leading up to your publication day?

Over the past thirteen years, my publication day feelings have become less about nerves and being frantic, and more about impatience. Once the book is finished, I just want to get into schools with it, and to read it to groups. I'm still as excited as I always was about seeing for the first time, and about adding another title to my list. There's nothing like that feeling, for me. Becoming an author was my dream from the age of seven, and every year, there's a small part of me that still can't believe that I became one!

13. Which other authors inspire you or are there any you particularly enjoy reading?

How long have you got? Obviously Sue Townsend was a massive influence (and still is) but I can see one of my bookshelves as I write this, and the names Alan Gibbons, Anne Cassidy, Mal Peet, James Lee Burke and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are represented, and that's just one section! I love reading and adore books, so I'm happy to read anything, so long s it's good (which is, in itself, a very subjective thing, obviously!). I'm delighted by the current explosion in YA titles too, and looking forward to reading some great stuff this year.

14. What effect do you hope your novel will have on young people's awareness of safety?

I'm not sure Web of Darkness was written with an idea that it might affect how young people view online safety. I just wanted to write a story that worked, and was hopefully enjoyable and thrilling. If it makes people think a little more about their security online, that would be great, but it's not something I purposefully set out to achieve. I would like to think that my books challenge readers and make them think, but I have no control over whether that happens. It's just a welcome by-product of reading the stories, if it happens.

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

I'm working on a few ideas at the moment. My next longer novel is about a Year 9 boy who is struggling to find his place in the world, just like his peers, when he is faced with a life-changing family situation. It explores illness and the death of a loved one, and how teenagers cope with such things, but is much warmer than Web of Darkness, which has a very steely and cold edge to it. It's going very well, although with a deadline approaching fast, I'm working very hard! I'm also working on two younger ideas and also thinking about the next YA project too. 

Thanks again to Bali for stopping by! 

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