I had the honour of being interviewed by the lovely Isabell from Dreaming with Open Eyes who featured me as a spotlight author this week.
Isabell is a well-known book blogger from Germany, who manages to fit in her reading love between her demanding day job as a talented media designer. Her reviews are very thoughtful and well-written, she’s very honest and I appreciate that. I’ve probably added close to 30 books to my wish list because of her recommendations. If you check out her site you’ll see all the beautiful illustrations she’s designed as well.
Here’s my spotlight interview from Dreaming with Open Eyes. Thanks so much Isabell!
Hello Lily, I’m delighted to welcome you on Dreaming With Open Eyes. For the readers who don’t know you, could you please introduce yourself?
Thank you so much for welcoming me on Dreaming with Open Eyes, it’s lovely to be here.
A bit about me? I have been a journalist for over ten years working for national newspapers and women’s glossies. I studied English literature at varsity, and spent years wishing that I could be a professional reader for a publishing house so that I could be paid to read (preferably in bed) as opposed to finding a proper job that involved cubicle farming but when that didn’t work out and I got allotted a cubicle of my own I decided to commit fiction and have been writing my stories late at night ever since. Though by late at night I mean 7pm really. My first novella The Postcard, a magical ghost story set in Cornwall was released in December last year.
The Postcard is your first self-published novella. What can you tell us about it that will pique the readers interest?
It’s really a story about a mothers love for her child, and asks the question : when someone that we loved passes away is that really the end? For Ivy Everton, a children’s book illustrator who moves to Cornwall to start a new life with her aspiring creative gardener of husband Stuart, it’s a question she begins to ask herself when she finds a curiously blank postcard addressed to her in her mother’s hand. As odd things begin to happen, items go missing in her studio, only to reappear magically transformed, Ivy begins to realise that the postcard was never really blank; it was only waiting for her to find it.
Can you tell us a little about your writing journey? How did you hone your skills and learn the craft?
As a lifelong lover of fiction, books and me have been linked in sentences for as long as I can remember and so I suppose along the way I figured I’d try writing myself. I dabbled with this in school, though it was only in varsity that I began to take it a bit more seriously and attempted writing actual novels. After studying literature then publishing (which I didn’t enjoy as it was more about the business side of things rather than finding and nurturing writers which is what I believed I’d be doing) I got a job as a junior reporter for a local weekly paper which was a complete crash course into writing.. Though I’m grateful that I began writing fiction before I began my training as a journalist because I got into the habit of getting the story down and of losing myself in the flow without interfering critical inner voices (like shouting editors and sub-editors) because the magic, for me at least, lies in that creative flow when your fingers can’t keep up with the wisps of story in your brain.
Tell us about your inspiration for the story – how did you come across the story of part ghost, part magical Christmas tale?
I was actually meant to write a different book when I thought about The Postcard. Very uncharacteristically for me I’d written an outline that was over 3000 words long, a story where I’d figured out the beginning middle and end, then found when it came down to actually writing it I couldn’t, my enthusiasm had run out.
I was driving to work and the idea of a postcard from beyond the grave from popped into my head. That was all I had. Nothing more. But it was enough. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I’ve always loved fantasy – my mother is in some ways the inspiration behind Alice, Ivy’s mother, who has an affinity for the unexpected, so I grew up loving those types of stories. From there it evolved.
Can you please describe your writing process for The Postcard?
I suppose like the book itself, there was a degree of magic to it, in the writing of it. I’m not quite sure what happened to me but for the first time in my writing career I just let go. I’ve never really been a planner, preferring to work quite freeform than with a plot as I find it can (for me at least) be very restricting and sometimes curtail the creativity, as I like to surprise myself. So I had no plan or outline, but as soon as I started writing it, it just enfolded, whole chapters came out and like a puzzle within a few weeks I had the story told. I wrote everyday, sometimes for up to ten hours a day. It was heady and exciting. Whole weekends were chewed up as I lost myself in magical Cornwall.
Of course, most people find this process mad, in some ways I do too. For a long time before I wrote The Postcard, I felt that perhaps I needed to refine my process, to become more of a planner and to work to a plot and in a way I allowed myself to be persuaded otherwise but it just doesn’t work for me. I proved that to myself the first time I actually wrote an outline and found that afterwards I just couldn’t write the story because I felt stifled. Writing became work and it shouldn’t feel that way. For me, writing has to be about abandon as that’s where the magic lies.
What made you decide to go into self-publishing and not trying finding a publisher?
I think it was a combination of things. Turning 30 was one, I always vowed I’d write a book by the time I was 30. Freedom was another. I had discovered blogging earlier and found that I loved the freedom that came from hitting publish without having someone else give it the okay, and I loved the idea of writing a book this way, where I could get to the readers without a middleman and really see what people thought before a publishing house put their stamp on it. In some ways it was like a personal test. It was more about the journey – the writing and editing and releasing of it (it was professionally edited by my editor friend) and I didn’t want to take this positive experience and take the chance of souring it with rejection slips. I’m still very interested in traditional publishing and I will be pursuing this in future (it’s still the dream for many I think!) but for now I wanted my first foray into publishing to be under my own steam. I think self-publishing is very exciting, it’s hasn’t got the stigma it had years ago but is now a real choice and I’ve loved every minute of it.
How was your publishing day?
Funny and nerve-wrecking! I did a very slow, soft launch. I’d heard so many horror stories of books not formatting correctly or sudden unseen problems. So I released it and didn’t tell anyone except my best-friend and husband. It was more of a very scared whisper, ‘I hit publish. I hit publish, oh god why did I hit publish?!’ Then my Internet went down so I didn’t even know it was up. My husband and I had to drive to a restaurant with Wi-Fi so we could see it! Once I was happy that no unforeseen issues had sprung up I told all my friends and family and we celebrated – I had lots of wine and chocolate! Since then it’s been the most amazing time, and every day I wake up excited especially when someone has left me a note to tell me they enjoyed it or I’ve seen that I’ve now gotten a new sale. It’s an incredible feeling, though it still doesn’t feel real.
What type of books do you like to read and who are your favorite authors?
I have such an eclectic reading taste, it often depends on my mood. I’m often found reading travel memoirs and pretending that I’m Peter Mayle, though with fiction, fantasy is often the firm favourite, Neil Gaimen, Robin Hobb, and Terry Pratchett are my go tos. I also love magical realism and my favourite authors there are Alice Hoffman and Joanne Harris and recently Erin Morgenstern. Though I also love romance and contemporary fiction and Jojo Moyes, Marian Keyes, and Sophie Kinsella are a joy to read.
Do you have your own writing space? Tell us a little about where you like to write?
I have the most beautiful writing room. It’s lined with books, painted a dove grey and has a lovely Queen Anne chair and a French inspired dining table that overlooks the garden. Though I very seldom write there which causes me endless guilt as I prefer to write in bed, often late at night, or stealing an hour or two before work, or snatched during lunch time. I have a dream of becoming a full-time author and getting my own writing garden room … though in reality I’d probably just write wherever we stick the fridge.
Are you working on a new novel at the moment? What’s next for you?
I’m busy revising my second book, a full length novel, called An Invincible Summer, set in Crete about a journalist who discovers a burnt down vineyard and tries to get to the bottom of what really happened, while dealing with her own loss and grief. It should be released sometime early this year. I’m also working on another magical story about a man who receives the heart of a girl after he gets a heart transplant, which I hope to release by the end of the year.
Lastly, tell us three reasons why a reader should pick up your novella.
I think if you enjoy a different story with a twist, a bit of romance, drama, and some magic you’ll enjoy The Postcard.