Today I was lucky enough to speak to author Sandra Giles about her work and what projects she’s been up to lately. Here is the interview I did with her. Hope you all enjoy 😀
Hi Sandra. Please tell us a little bit about you – where you live, what genre you write etc.
I’m sorely tempted to paste my bio here as I hate talking about myself! Somehow it’s okay to talk about my writing, though. I don’t know why that is. To keep things short, I live in Cambridge and have done for all my life. The plan is to move to Bath in the next few years, but we’ll see. Both locations are beautiful, and my beloved hometown features in multiple novels. I write contemporary fantasy. There’s so much to be done with fantasy that just about every other genre can fit into it, which is why I love it so much.
Ah, Bath is one of my favourite cities! So beautiful and, of course, the home of the great Jane Austen herself! Perfect segue into the writing questions 🙂 Talk us through your writing process, from concept to finished product. Are you a plotter and planner or do you start at the beginning and just write it?
A little bit of both, really. More often than not an idea will come to mind and I’ll write it down, only to leave it until the time feels right. I’m generally working on a number of projects at once, so it’s hard to make time for new ideas. When I do get round to writing something new, I’ll just go for it without too much planning. My first novel was literally me sitting down and writing, without knowing a single thing about where the plot was going to go. I soon realised that it’s no good to go about things in such a way, and so now I will try to figure out as much of the plot as possible before starting. So I write my main points of interest, and then I’ll veer away from them as the story develops. The hardest part for me is starting. Once I have my opening, I can usually keep the story going until the end. That’s unless another narrator of mine pops up and demands attention. Then I have to leave a story and go onto the next.
You also do cover art – can you tell us about some of the people you’ve done work for, other than me obviously 😉
Well, they’ve all been great to work with, you included! In all honesty I don’t know much about the people I’ve made covers for. There are those I’ve kept in touch with one way or another, and they’re the ones whose novels I have samples of on my kindle. So hopefully I’ve gained some great reading material out of it all. I guess this isn’t really answering your question. Hmm. Well, I first started making covers for other people after a conversation with Stella Deleuze. She was growing tired of paying for a cover she didn’t particular like, and I’d recently rediscovered some skills in that area. She was very precise about what she wanted, and after many attempts we were able to make something she could use. I’ve since made more covers for her, and she suggested I try making money from it. I offer the free service to self-published authors because I know most can’t afford professional services, and it helps me build a portfolio. Through it I’ve gained some paid work, which is great. I’m grateful to everyone for being patient with me, and for helping me mould this new-found talent. It seems I’m getting side-tracked again! There’s also Rivka, whose cover for Sage is possibly my favourite 😉
You’re obviously a creative person – do you have other creative hobbies outside of writing and cover art?
It’s funny, because I’ve never classed myself as a creative person. In fact, I was in the presence of a couple of artists recently and, as they painted, I stated that it would be great to have such a gift. The way I make covers is purely technical, and I much prefer it when people guide me and state what it is they want. I’ll admit I have some creativity when it comes to writing (or at least I hope I do!), but that’s probably where it begins and ends. I love music, and have tried to play instruments in the past. It didn’t go well!
I know you’re a Disney fan – can you tell us who your favourite Disney character is and why?
No. It’s really hard to choose! It all started with a mouse, so in that respect it would be Mickey Mouse, but there are so many others! I was obsessed with 101 Dalmatians when I was a child, and had every piece of merchandise known to man. My favourite back then would have been Lucky, but not anymore. Thanks to my photo over on Amazon, I am known to most as a monster. The image is of me and Sulley from Monsters, Inc. so he’s definitely up there. Despite my answer so far, I am going to be adult about this (or as adult as I can be, at least), and say Belle from Beauty and the Beast. She loves to read, one of the films sees her writing a novel, and her world is just magical. She also loves animals and music, so I guess it’s just a matter of relating to her the most. Well, other than the whole being-trapped-in-an-enchanted-castle scenario, that is.
Your series of books is the Collision of Worlds series. Although I’ve downloaded two of them, I haven’t had a chance to read them yet, so can you tell us a little about the concept and the stories?
Have I not warned you against that?! Downloading my novels is a dangerous thing. There’s a reason the first is called Plead Insanity, you know!
The series is pretty extensive, despite there only being a couple available to purchase. I wanted to write something for me, which sounds pretty selfish! I like things that keep moving and aren’t repetitive, so created just that. The series as a whole sees various main characters of different backgrounds and abilities all trying to find their way in a human world. Jared is currently the only narrator released into the world, so to speak, as I’ve yet to decide on a time to release the others. He’s a vampire, which I know is mainstream and supposedly boring, but I started writing about him before hearing of Twilight or True Blood, and his books are nothing like them. He’s basically a regular guy who is thrown into strength and immortality, or at least the knowledge of having been born with them. When faced with a predicament, he’ll act in a human way. He’ll make mistakes and people get hurt. He may be immortal, but he can hurt and he can bleed, as can others around him. As with most novels, there’s love, hate, betrayal etc. and, as with most novels, it’s all a matter of taste. I could try to sell my series to you, but in the end it’s all about what appeals to your tastes. I can only ask that people give it a go.
What are your main inspirations when you’re writing? Are there any writers you aspire to be like, or music you like to listen to? Do your ideas come from your life experiences or are they self-generating? Do you have a special writing space?
I’m inspired by my characters. They’ve been given a life by my imagination, and a voice through the typing of words onto a document. I’ve grown as fond of them as I can of any living person. It may sound mental, but they don’t need a physical presence to be real. They are the ones to urge me forwards. When I’ve had enough of writing about one of them, another will step forwards and ask for his story to be told.
As for aspiring to be like anyone, it’s pretty much the opposite. I’ve read so many novels where things have bugged me, and I’m determined to learn from their mistakes. There’s one series in particular that I got into a few years ago, and I aspire to differ from it as much as possible. I won’t say the name of it or the author, but I have the apprehension of being like them to keep me on my toes. Their series should have died long ago. Mine will be long, but it will cross between characters to keep things new. The author I speak of used to write novels as short as my own, and most pages were filled with way too much description about clothing and weaponry. It grew tiresome pretty fast. After a few novels there was the introduction of sex, and the novels grew in length as the author had something else to over-describe. The plot died as this new obsession grew, and I feel that the later books are much more like erotica than anything else. Still the series grows. My only hope is that it will die soon.
I was actually the same with music. My favourite band has a line in one of their songs that I was determined to prove wrong. ‘How wrong we were to think that immortality meant never dying’. It does mean it, right? But no, many legends say that creatures of supposed immortality can die through stakes or fire. I’ll have to wait until the end of my series to learn whether or not my characters are truly immortal, and I really hope they are. I also never listen to this band when writing. They’re too much of a distraction, as are most bands I like. I listen to music, but it has to be quiet or I can’t focus.
As for having a special writing space, the best place is my bedroom, but if I have the ideas it doesn’t really matter where I am. I can’t write outside. I’ve tried it, and it just doesn’t feel right. It’s pretty good to write when traveling, though I never take my laptop, so it has to be done the old fashioned way. I’m not the fastest at putting pen to paper to form words, and my hand often hurts after a while, but I try! It helps for editing, too, as I can edit as I type it all up. It’s also amusing to find ‘typos’ in written work. I’m terrible when it comes to careless mistakes, and it’s pretty funny to see the same happen when I write with a pen.
I have a funny feeling I know which author you are describing. If it is the same person, I too have had a similar fear! A slightly more random question now – if you could have dinner with any 3 people alive in the world today, who would it be and why?
I have no idea. I am most comfortable with people I know, so if I want a nice relaxing meal, I’d say my two sisters and my mum. But that’s a little dull, isn’t it? If I were to go as my online self, the persona that is outgoing and that can be witty, I’d definitely choose to dine with Gerard Way. He is a massive inspiration to me, and his lyrics are truly empowering. I love the whole band, obviously, but he’s the frontman, and so the essence. There are four guys in the band, so unfortunately I can’t choose them all! I’d probably choose Jared Leto, too. Again I love his music, but he also acts, and I bet he has a lot to offer up as mealtime entertainment. Both men strike me as extremely intelligent, so I might be a little out of my league! I’d have to bring a dictionary to keep up with the conversation. If it were possible, I’d want to meet one of my characters. Come to think of it, they’d probably have good reason to be mad at me, so maybe not. This is actually really hard! Umm…I think I’ll go with Matthew Leone. Actually, I might trade Jared for Nathan Leone, so that both twins can come. They are possibly the most interesting men on this planet, and they’ve been through so much. I avoided using the word ‘hero’ to describe Gerard, but I don’t think I can achieve the same feat here. Matthew risked his life for a stranger. He laid everything on the line to keep a man from pulverising his partner, and for his efforts landed himself in hospital. I’d like to think a lot of us could summon the courage to do good in a similar situation, but the reality of the matter is that many would turn the other cheek. Sorry, I’m getting side-tracked again! Anyway, they’re my three.
I’m a Jared Leto fan too, albeit a fairly recent convert. 30 Seconds to Mars are a great band. Who is your favourite author? Do you have a favourite book?
I have two favourite authors. J. K. Rowling and Kelley Armstrong. The Harry Potter series is my favourite of all time, but I’ve never read anything else by Rowling, so it feels strange to call her my favourite. I’ve read more by Armstrong and can definitely say they’re among the best I’ve experienced, but I can’t imagine anything topping Harry Potter for me. If I had to choose just one book, I think it would be Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I’m a massive fan of reading series as opposed to stand alone novels, so it’s hard to pick just one. To me a series is a very long novel.
You just can’t beat Harry Potter. It changed a generation! What can we expect from you in 2013? Are there more books coming, or cover art that we should keep an eye out for?
It’s hard to say. I definitely have a short story coming next month. It’s my contribution to an anthology. I’m not sure what the anthology will be called just yet, but my story is Liquidising Love. The theme is romance for Valentine’s Day, so unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to brutally kill anyone, though I did come close to killing off both the main characters at the end. Hey, it worked for Romeo and Juliet!
My original plan was to release three novels a year. I figured it would be a good number to work with, as I’ve written enough novels to feel comfortable with it, and it should be enough to keep people interested if they’re following the series. Unfortunately I’ve fallen into the same trap as many self-published authors in that I’ve published with mistakes in the past. The ones I know about have been remedied, but that’s not to say my novels are perfect. Because of that, I want to have all novels professionally edited, which is very costly. I’m working on it, and hopefully there will be something new from me soon enough.
As for covers, I’ve already created a few this year, and will keep doing so for as long as writers ask me to. I might regret saying that!
Well you have designed the cover for a future book of mine this year, Winter’s Edge, so that’ll be worth looking out for in the late summer/early autumn. I think it’s great!
And so we’re onto our final question and it’s one I think I’ll ask all authors. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Just the one? Three words; don’t give up. This applies to anyone looking to take either route of publishing. If you want to self-publish, write, edit, promote, and take on board the advice of others while remembering that writing is still a type of art. You can’t expect everyone to like your work. In fact, you can’t expect anyone to like it, but it shouldn’t stop you. The only ‘wrong’ in writing is in the technicalities. Beyond that there are many paths you can take. What may seem absurd to one person could be perfect for someone else. It can be hard to keep believing in your writing when others show negativity, and there’s a lot of it going around, especially when it comes to self-published writers. I’m not saying to ignore the people who say you need to change aspects of your writing, but you do need to know when those people know what they’re talking about or not. Not everyone does, but many people think they do.
It’s the same with the traditional route. I can’t imagine anyone sending a sample off to a publisher or agency and getting published straight away. It takes many attempts to find a match. In the meantime you have to face countless rejections, and it can be hard. Just keep trying. No one can ask for more.
That’s great advice! Thank you so much for taking some time out to speak to us 🙂 It’s very much appreciated.
If anyone would like to know more about Sandra Giles, she does have a Facebook page, or you can see her blog here: www.sandragiles.blog.com