Sure thing. I work as an administrator (yes, I have a full time job), and once upon a time I was a teacher. I have been writing ever since I was a kid, reading even longer than that. My poppa used to read me stories about witches, knights, ghosts, fairies, trolls and the beheading a giant worm (think it’s why I write fantasy and science fiction)! I maintain a regular blog of writing pieces and book reviews at www.solothefirst.wordpress.com
Can you tell us about The Butterfly Stone?
It is a YA fantasy fiction – sort of a Scoobie Doo mystery with magic or Nancy Drew mystery with magic, depending on your generation.
“DON’T LET THE SHADOW TOUCH YOU.”
Beware! Something is after Tracey Masters, a Mage-kind teen in a mostly non-magical world—a world where people like Tracey are often feared and oppressed. Add in a crazy family, the schizo pressures of school, friends, and bullies, and working a boring job as an assistant at her uncle’s detective agency for magical types, and life is not just hard, it’s chaos! That is, until a mysterious woman walks through the door with a case about a missing necklace known as the Butterfly Stone.
The case seems to be the break Tracey is looking for to prove herself, and her abilities, as Mage-kind. But, unexpectedly, she finds herself connected to the case when the evidence takes a turn and reveals secrets from Tracey’s past, placing her friends and family in mortal danger.
She also discovers that she’s being hunted by a shadow that senses her magic is the key to unlocking the power it’s after.
The magic within the Butterfly Stone is too powerful to be contained, but if Tracey doesn’t learn how to control it, and escape the threat of the shadow that surrounds it, she could lose everything and everyone she cares about … beginning with her younger sister, Sarah.
What prompted you to start writing this story?
I love a good prompt to come up with a story. I find prompts are a fantastic way to inspire the mind, whether it is a photo or a line, or something else to prompt the writing muse into gear. I am a member of the Friday Fictioneer’s prompting blog group, but it was actually a writing prompt (from way back in 2014) on the MAA Facebook site that inspired this story in its infancy. The prompt was…
“Open any book and pick a sentence to draw inspiration from.”
Well, I grabbed a book and picked my sentence and the short story “My life as a Magician PA” was born. I loved the character and the idea and so decided to expand on it and write a whole story. And that was how I came up with The Butterfly Stone. You can still find the short story on my blog if you look hard enough. And if you read The Butterfly Stone, you will find the bones of Tracey’s short story in one of the chapters.
This particular manuscript took me about three years all up. Eight months or so to write it and then two-and-a-bit years to edit, polish, edit some more, rewrite, query and so on.
You worked with The MAA in the development of your writing,
how do you feel that helped to shape your work?
When you write a book you start to explore how to publish it, and that’s when you realise all of the things you DON’T know. And it is a LOT of things! I researched editing and mentors and went down a lot of different paths. Happily, I found The MAA. Initially, I looked for someone to appraise my manuscript, but they also have editing services, and mentors. It’s really a whole package deal if you want it, or you can just focus in on the area where you need the most work. I worked with The MAA on two of my earlier manuscripts, and all of the lessons learnt from working with MAA on those other manuscripts were applied to this manuscript (along with lessons from my Beta Readers, Critique Partners and a few freelance editors.) I think the more eyes you can get on your work, the better. I’m lucky in that my manuscript Blood Fever will be published later this year. The MAA help me with an appraisal and mentoring to workshop Blood Fever to make it better.
The more advise you can get from different readers can only benefit your work. It certainly did with mine. I worked with MAA for some initial manuscript assessments and also with a mentor. Along my long and winding writing journey I have come to value all of the input I have received from MAA (and others) and have found I can apply them to every novel I write, from chapter endings to action sequences and characterisation. I would absolutely recommend MAA and/or any good freelance editor to hone your skills. Getting another pair of eyes on your work will find plot holes you might otherwise have missed, or descriptions that are too vague or characters that appear one minute and disappear the next. They will see what you can’t. You read your own manuscript over and over again, in so many iterations and versions, that you can forget what you have cut or rewritten… fresh eyes can see what your tired writer’s brain will miss. And in my case – hire a line (copy) editor (ugh my grammar is not my strong suit!)
Do you jot down all your ideas first or do they come to you as you write?
Great question, actually I tend to do a one-page breakdown of a story first, then I plot out a few dot points for the first several chapters. I also write up a few character descriptions and then jump straight in and start writing. After six-eight chapters I tend to find where the story is heading, (Sometimes the story decides to go in a direction I hadn’t initially envisioned) then I go back to plot out the rest of my chapters, providing a few more dot point details and potentially a B story if I’ve come up with one. About two thirds in I usually have a flash of insight about how my story is going to end. Then I got back to my dot points and rewrite my plot to reach that ending.
I absolutely love hearing about all the differing writing styles, it just shows that there is no right or wrong way to go about it!
Why did you decide to find a publisher?
I have always written, but it wasn’t until six years ago that I really decided to try to get published. It was a friend who encouraged me actually. But it took me six years of learning the process and the craft before I really got to a point where I could be serious about it. I am still learning, and writing, and there is always something more to learn in this industry. But you have to stick at it. And grow a thick skin!
What did you find easy, difficult, surprising about publishing?
I am published with an independent publisher based out of the US called Wyvern’s Peak Publishing. And they’ve become like a second family to me. The smaller publishing houses, I have found, tend to be a little more hands on, though you do have to assist more with publicity! Especially when your publisher doesn’t have a lot of reach into Australia – yet!
I have also found that having a network of writers is an amazing thing. We are all so supportive of each other. We love books and that translates into our work. I have found some wonderful author and #Amwriting friends online. Publishing is a hard world… but the people in it can be so wonderful, they make it all worthwhile.
What surprised me about the publishing process is how strong you have to be, mentally strong I mean. (Obviously not physically… though I can’t benchpress more than a couple of grocery bags.) Self doubt is a massively corrupting thing. It is insidious. Seriously, I think the worst villain a superhero story could come up with is ‘Self Doubt’ – I capitalise it because it is a living thing in my mind. Books and reading is such an individualised thing, what do they say, it is “subjective”. But as a writer it is hard not to wonder why people don’t like your work. Getting past Self Doubt when the rejections come in is the greatest battle a writer has to face. And it is daily (sometimes hourly). One minute you have written the best sentence known to peoplekind, you are a hero! People should worship at your feet… then next minute, it is the worst thing you have ever written, how could you have thought it was any good, you are hopeless, pathetic, why do you even bother! Phew, the mood swings I have been on are worse than any Bass Straight voyage you can imagine.
Self Doubt is absolutely crippling, we are such complex creatures, us humans!!
Where can we buy your book? And is there anywhere
else we can find out more about you?
You can get it as an ebook or in print. Basically anywhere online or direct through my publisher Wyvern’s Peak Publishing. You can purchase it through:
Tell us what’s next for you?
Well I have another book out in Spring of this year. ‘Blood Fever’ is my adult sci fi (Incendia books) and I have another sci fi out in January 2019 called ‘White Fire’.
I am currently writing book two of ‘The Butterfly Stone: Stones of Power’ series.
Thank you, for taking the time to answer our long list of questions, it is great to learn more about you and the process you went through to arrive at your publishing success! We wish you all the best for all future endeavours! Keep in touch!
But that’s not all, I have 10 quick final questions for you…
- Tea or coffee? Coffee please – I’m a writer ????
- Would you rather have a cat or dog? Dog… I like the honest sense of affection you get. They truly want you to be happy.
- Do you have a favourite quote? “Do or Do Not. There is not try” – Love Yoda! I apply this to my writing.
- If I went to your place and looked in your fridge, what would I most likely find? Chocolate
- What punctuation mark best describes your personality? Exclamation Mark! Everything I do or say is urgent! Active or over the top ????
- How do you feel about going to a movie alone, or eating alone in a restaurant? Love it. It gives me alone time (apart from the bathroom thing and fear of losing your seat/table) I usually write in café’s at lunchtime or early morning.
- If you could be a character from any novel you have ever read, whom would like to be and why? Hermione Granger – who wouldn’t want to be her? She works hard, is an excellent friend and come on – loves books. Come to think of it, I’d also like to be Emma Watson.
- What do you miss most about childhood? Reading whenever I wanted to.
- If you had your own talk show, who would be your first three guests? Robert Downey Jr, David Hewlett, Chuck Wendig and Delilah S. Dawson (sorry couldn’t pick three, wanted four)
- Favourite place you have ever travelled to, and why? Lake Como in Italy. I have never before felt such a sense of peace in a location. I’d love to one day go there to write.