Hi Lisa, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background? I’m Australian, and live in our capital city, Canberra! Outside of writing, my second love is basketball. I play socially and am a passionate NBA fan – specifically of the New York Knicks. I can’t live without my daily coffee, and my last meal if I were on death row would be a cheeseburger and fries followed by chocolate cake!
What are your ambitions for your writing career? I would love to get to a point where I could sustain myself writing full time – I can’t think of anything better than being able to devote whole days to my writing, and then sharing my stories to entertain others.
So, what have you written? I’ve been writing since I was 17, so the short answer is I’ve written lots of bits and pieces here and there. All of it is fantasy adventure, and I’ve got a couple of full series in draft form, and some others which I’ve started but not finished. I recently self-published my first book – DarkSkull Hall, Book 1 of The Mage Chronicles series, a young adult fantasy.
What is your most recent novel? I started DarkSkull Hall over ten years ago, so it’s not my most recent. Before knuckling down to work on the DarkSkull Hall manuscript and get it up to publishing standard, I was working on the first draft of another fantasy series, which will hopefully see the light of day sometime in the not too distant future!
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special? At the start of the series, Alyx Egalion is a spoiled and snobby sixteen year old girl who has lived a sheltered life and knows very little about the ‘real world’. Underneath all that, however, she has a core of strength that – when forced to – she can draw upon to become a real force of nature. I don’t want to spoil the book too much, but Alyx has a particular ability that will set her apart from most others in the world she’s thrown into.
What genre are your books? DarkSkull Hall/The Mage Chronicles is Young Adult Fantasy. Pretty much everything else I’ve written is high fantasy.
What draws you to this genre? So many things! I love that you can have magic or special abilities in a fantasy world. Equally, I love how you can build a world to look/smell/sound different to the world we live in. For me, it’s the excitement of creating this fascinating, exciting world that I get to live in (and characters I get to spend time with) whenever I sit at the keyboard and start writing.
When did you decide to become a writer? Well, at 17 I simply decided one day that I would sit down at the keyboard and write a story. From then on, it was a hobby that I devoted hours to every week, simply because I loved it so much. About eighteen months ago, I made the decision to take my writing more seriously and try to make a go of it. I heavily researched the self-publishing vs traditional publishing routes, eventually deciding on self-publishing. And now here I am!
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? I always write on weekends, usually a couple of hours in the morning with my morning coffee (which I simply cannot live without!) and most times in the afternoons too. It’s harder during the week, but I always try to fit in at least a half-hour to an hour of writing every weeknight. Not only do I love it, but its something that never fails to relax me if I’m stressed.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day? No, never. The more I try to structure my writing process, the less I enjoy it. Whenever I sit down to write, I keep going until all the ideas are out of my head and on the page, and once the ideas/thoughts dry up, I stop and have a break. Sometimes I’ve only got 1000 words at a time in me, sometimes it can be up to 4000 words in one session.
Where do your ideas come from? Anywhere and everywhere! I might see a scene in a movie and think ‘Wow, that would be so cool if I adapted that to my story’. Sometimes I’ll see, hear, or read about conflicts between people, and it will inspire me to write a character dynamic in a similar way just to see how it plays out. When I’m in the shower, or falling asleep at night, or going for a run (basically whenever I’m not concentrating on something else) my story and characters are floating around in my head and I’m playing around with different things I could do with them.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? As above, the less structure the better for me. I’m definitely a panster. I usually start a story based on a theme or a visualisation of a key scene that has come into my head, and I’ll just start writing. I’ve seen it compared to driving in the fog where you can only see a short distance ahead of you at any one time, and it’s definitely like that! As I write, I know a little bit of what’s going to happen next, but not much beyond that. The further I get into a story however, the next bits just seem to fall into place, and it happens faster and faster as I get closer to the end. It can be hard to keep up with the ideas sometimes!
How long on average does it take you to write a book? That’s hard to say, because I don’t usually work on a story from start to finish in one go. Usually I’ll start something and keep writing until the ideas run out/I need a break from it. Then I’ll switch to something else, and come back to it later. I wrote DarkSkull Hall over several years, for example.
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? I’ve never really had a problem coming with an interesting story to write down, but boy have I learned so much about the writing process going through three rounds of editing for DarkSkull Hall. I thought I would hate having my manuscript picked apart by an editor, but I really enjoyed it – their suggestions tightened up my writing and the story, and I could feel all the while things clicking into place as I was going through working on the edits. I’m already applying the lessons I learned to my draft for book 2 in the series, and I know I’m going to learn even more going through the editing process for that one!
Do you read much and if so which writers inspire you? I love to read, but it can be hard finding the time! I’ve recently set myself a rule that I have to read for at least 15-20 minutes a night before I go to sleep – if I’m reading something good, that usually draws out closer to an hour :-). I read a bit of mystery here and there, but mostly I read fantasy (both young adult and adult). I’ve been inspired by several fantasy writers- particularly Robin Hobb, Sara Douglass and Isobelle Carmody. There are even more that would take too long to name, and many of them are Australian – we have some amazing authors here! JK Rowling deserves a special mention too, her stories are so rich. Right now I’m reading The Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey.
What is your favourite book and why? Hmm, I think it would be too hard to pick a favourite – instead I’m going to name my favourite series from each of the three authors above; these books were fundamental to my love of fantasy, and later, love of writing fantasy. I’ve read and re-read them and don’t think I’ll ever stop. Robin Hobb – The Farseer Trilogy; Sara Douglass – The Axis Trilogy; Isobelle Carmody – The Obernewtyn Chronicles.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why? This is a tough one! I think I’d have to answer none – they wouldn’t be the books they are if I’d written them, although I would love to one day develop the story-telling brilliance of some of the great authors out there.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers? If you love it, keep doing it. It can’t be about making money or getting famous – if you love to write, then you don’t need anything else. Even if I sell zero copies of DarkSkull Hall or subsequent books, you’ll still find me in front of my computer on a Saturday morning in ten years time, typing furiously away, steaming mug of coffee at my elbow.
Thank you very much Lisa for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.