• Erica Judd

Interview With the Author

Hello dear readers. I thought that, with the upcoming release of my second novel, it was about time I wrote a bit more about myself on my website. Here's some insight into my writing process, and a few other things, in handy-dandy interview format. 😊

When did you first start writing?

Writing is something that I can't remember not doing. I remember being given an exercise book and being given time to write about "My Weekend" or to write stories when I was in kindergarten, and since none of the other kids did that, it stayed with me that writing was something that was a special thing of mine. My Dad has told me that even before I could hold a pencil, I was making up stories, so I guess it's always been a part of who I am.

What's the story behind your latest book?

Never Let Go was a book that I wrote because I wanted to try to write using a certain technique - which I'm not going to reveal here, since it's still a week and a half before the book is released and I don't want to give anything away! 😉 I think I managed to pull it off, but time will tell once I get some feedback from my readers.

Besides the technique, I wanted to write a story with a main character whose self esteem is constantly pulling her back and forth, making her doubt herself and the motivations of those around her. I wanted to explore the way that our views of ourselves impact our relationships and our assumptions of others.

What is your writing process?

My writing process is a messss, haha. No, not really. It's organic. I always feel like I need to make my approach more structured, but honestly, I need to stop doubting my scrambly garden and realise that if I can produce two full-length, published novels - and, if I'm being honest (but not bragging) pretty darn good ones - then my gardening style is as valid as the espalier framework my brain keeps insisting would be better.

I tend to start off with a seed of an idea, usually a scene or a line that gets into my head and won't leave. Sometimes a character who lives in my head for ages, wandering through stories until they find the right one (Reco from Lucky Seventh was a side character in two connected, unpublished novels I wrote in the mid-to-late nineties before he came into his own in 2013). If the idea has legs, I then add to it as ideas come along, write up character profiles, search out the plot by write reams of stream of consciousness notes to work out the connections and directions of the characters and events. And then I let things stew for a while. This part of the process generally happens while I'm still working on the previous novel, so it gives things plenty of time to develop without me staring at blank pages and tearing my hair out!

Once the actual writing starts, I'm no more organised. I generally write chronologically, but every now and then a later scene will leap to the fore and demand to be written, so I'll get that out and put it aside. Once I have a few of those littering the horizon, it becomes a matter of connecting the dots in between and then tidying things up to account for any changes that have happened to the story-line in the meantime. Oh, and I quite often have the ending written before I write more than the first paragraph or two. And it very seldom changes, except for a tweak or two. So my writing experience is a trip to see what happens getting from Point A to Point B.

What is your editing process? How do you feel about editing?

I love editing! It feels so good to go through my work and find the things that I've messed up and make them better, or realise that the best thing I can do is just jettison them altogether. I know that probably sounds strange - that people probably think writers are precious about their work and hate to change anything they write - but I love to improve my writing, and the best way to do that is to put my finished manuscript away for six to eight weeks, come at it with a fresh eye, and be as critical of myself as I can. Kill your darlings!

After the initial edit, I rinse and repeat. I don't tend to leave as long between each edit, but it does depend on what else is happening in my life. Lucky Seventh went through seven drafts over three years before I decided to throw caution to the wind and self publish, plus reading by two impartial readers. Never Let Go has had four drafts, impartial proofreading, and one other read-through over nine months. It's an evolving process as I navigate my way through self publishing and getting better at this whole Being an Author thing.

How do you approach cover design?

Cover design is something I play with when my brain is too foggy or my body is too sore for writing. I tend to brainstorm a few images that might work for the cover based on the main character and plot, and then go trawling through pixabay.com, pexels.com, freeimages.com and maybe a few other CC0 stock image sites if I don't find anything that tickles my fancy. I'll then grab a few images and open them up in Photoshop and have a play with them, cropping them to the right dimensions and adding the book's working title and my name. I tend to go through a bunch of concepts over the months it takes to get from the first germ of book idea to the finished manuscript, and the finished cover designs for Lucky Seventh and Never Let Go have been at the simpler end of the scale. I also have two designs I have done for future projects I intend to work on, and those are quite simple as well. One of those was pretty much the first concept that came to mind - it just fits the idea so far, though once I've fleshed it out more and actually written the book, that may change. The other took a few tries, but when the idea hit, it was another simple idea that I just loved, so when I (hopefully) have the confidence to tackle that book, I think the cover will still encapsulate what I want it to say.

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?

The greatest joy I get from writing is the "Yes, of course!" moment when a plot point that has been hazy (or just plain invisible!) becomes miraculously clear and everything falls into place. It's especially gratifying when something I've already written suddenly becomes so much more meaningful than I realised it was going to be and I realise that my subconscious writing brain has been laying this path for me without my silly old every-day brain catching on.

What are you working on next?

My next work is new territory for me - I've written ten novels in my life, and they have all been single-viewpoint. Now I've challenged myself to move onto writing from multiple viewpoints. One of the future projects mentioned above involves three viewpoint characters, but when I was going to start that last August, I was just exhausted and didn't have the energy to go from a first-person single-viewpoint to a third-person triple-viewpoint. I shelved that project and searched my notebook and brain for something to bridge the divide, and landed on an idea that I had jotted down a few months previously - a story involving domestic violence, told in part from the point of view of the abused husband. I wasn't sure which other character's viewpoint I was going to use, but after going through my usual writing process, the wife's best friend came up as the best choice. So now I'm in the process of intertwining Paul and Kirra's narratives with their lives in the small (fictional) Tasmanian coastal town of Ironbark Bay.

What motivated you to become an indie author?

I spent decades learning the ropes of the traditional publication process, sending my manuscripts off to publishing houses and collecting rejection letters. And there was a big part of me that resisted the idea of publishing my books myself - if I was good enough, a traditional publisher would publish me! I just had to keep working at it until the right editor discovered me.

But then I came to a realisation - my health is never going to be good enough for me to undertake the demands of a career as a traditionally published author. I wouldn't be able to sign a multi-book contract with delivery deadlines. I know that I'm capable of completing a manuscript, capable of editing a manuscript, capable of formatting a manuscript - but I can't ever say that I'll be able to do it by a certain date. I wouldn't be able to commit to author appearances (even going to the local market once a month can seem like a chore sometimes!), and even phone interviews would be challenging for me. Heck, even doing this typed interview with myself has taken three sessions over two days! And finally - marketing and promotion. Oh, how I am lacking in the energy for marketing and promotion. It's nine days until my new novel goes live, and I'm feeling all marketing/promotioned out. 😓

And so here I am, a primarily-one-woman show, doing this with the help and grace of a few friends and loved ones. Writing, editing, formatting, designing, publishing, promoting, marketing, selling. Being an indie author means that my books are out there, and people can find them. Maybe only a few outside my close circle will, maybe one day things will take off. Who knows. But the possibility is there in a way it wasn't when my books were sitting in envelopes buried in slush piles with thousands of other hopefuls.

Indie publishing is a way for me to share my work, while not compromising my health to meet a schedule.

Who are your favourite authors?

I have so many! My range of reading is fairly broad, so I'll break it into categories: Mystery/Suspense: Agatha Christie; Angela Marsons; Graham Masterton; Caroline Overington; Ellis Peters; Clare Boyd; K L Slater; Karen Perry Horror: Stephen King; Richard Laymon; Adam Nevill; Graham Masterton; James Herbert; Joe Hill Fantasy: J.R.R. Tolkien; Robert Jordan; Terry Pratchett; Terry Brooks; Eva Ibbotson; Susan Cooper; Isobelle Carmody Other fiction: Daphne du Maurier; Enid Blyton; Josephine, Christine and Diana Pullein-Thompson; Joanna Cannan; Edith Nesbit Non-fiction: Colin Wilson; Vikki Petraitis; Kevin Morgan; Alan Sharpe (true crime). Cathy Glass; Maria Landon; Rosie Lewis ('misery/foster memoir')

There are many more, but it would be an endless list if I included everyone!

What is your e-reading device of choice?

I love my Kobo! (I swear they're not paying me to say that, although if they'd like to... 😉) I started off with a generic e-book reader, just to see how I'd go with e-books. I confess, I was a "Real Book Snob" to begin with, but when I developed fibromyalgia and my hands became so sore that holding "real" books was too painful, I changed my tune pretty quickly. I realised that what I really love is stories, and the story remains the same no matter what the format. After my generic reader got annoying (push-button page turning, no wi-fi - positively primitive!!) I started using a tablet which I was also using to watch Netflix etc when I was bed-bound.

Eventually I decided to really commit and after some research I chose a Kobo Aura 2nd Edition. Two years later, we're still going strong. With the software updates, I can now borrow books from Libraries Tasmania without getting out of bed, which is fantastic for someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Another thing I love about the Kobo is that I can import books that aren't from the Kobo Store. That means when I'm fiddling with the formatting of my books, I can convert them in Calibre and import them onto my Kobo to see what they'll look like on a device quickly and easily. So convenient!

Okay folks, that's it for today. I hope you've enjoyed this peek into my authorial life. I swear I'll do my best to be a more regular blogger from now on - but I have a feeling I've sworn that many a time before... 🙄

Until next time,

~ Erica xo

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