We have a wonderful treat today... Zoe Brooks, author of Love of Shadows has stopped by!
Tell me, were you a reader before you were a writer? What do you enjoy reading?
I am told by my parents that I was making up poems before I learned how to read and write. So I was a writer (well a poet at least) before I was a reader. I love magic realism – books where the real world meets fantasy. I didn’t know that was what I liked until I went to fantasy conference in Leicester and was talking to another writer about my work. "Oh," he said. "You write magic realism." When I got home I googled magic realism and realized that not only did I write it but that most of my favourite books were in that genre too. In order to get a better understanding of the genre I have set myself the challenge of reading and reviewing a magic realism book a week for a year. You can follow my progress on http://www.magic-realism.net.
No, there have been quite a few books in which I learned how to craft books and which now sit in a drawer never to see the light of day. The first book to be published was Girl in the Glass – the prequel to Love of Shadows.
I had previously published books of poetry, but I won’t count those
Where their some particular inspirations for the character’s development or character traits for Love of Shadows?
The central character in the book is a young woman called Judith. She starts life in Girl in the Glass as Anya, but changes her name in order to escape someone who is pursuing her. For over twenty years I worked with disadvantaged women – refugees, victims of domestic abuse, the homeless – and I was inspired and humbled by their remarkable stories. In order to get my head around what I was hearing I used my imagination and made up stories. But after twenty years it all became too much, all those layers of thick skin had been worn away and I had to stop. I turned to writing and in so doing I hope helping my readers gain an insight into those women’s worlds.
Judith is influenced by those women. She’s a survivor, but she is damaged by her past. There is in her head a voice which tells her she is nothing and this means that she expects to be let down. She doubts that anyone can love her and tests those that do, but is also drawn to the wrong guys. She is driven by a need to heal and help others, but is bad at accepting help. She is loveable and at the same time frustrating. In addition to the women I met through work, there have been a couple of women who have been very dear to me and who were very influential on why and how I wrote about the character. People tend to think you write about yourself, but that isn’t true.
There are many roads that lead to becoming a published author, each one littered with its own potholes. What was the most challenging aspect of writing Love of Shadows? (dialogue, character development, creating names, etc)
For Love of Shadows the difficulty was that I was writing for some people who have not read Girl in the Glass as well as for people who have. This threw up a number of problems, most obviously how to provide enough backstory without being boring, but also how to start the novel. The opening of a novel is so crucial, it has to grab the reader, either when they flip open the book in a store or when they download the beginning from Amazon.
How did you tackle this challenge?
With hard work. I kept going back to the story and rereading it with the new reader in mind. Then I added elements, but avoided overloading the opening. When the book was finished I gave it to someone who hadn’t read Girl in the Glass and got their feedback. Beta readers are really important.
Being an author is so much more than just writing a good story. Besides the “pen and ink,” what is one of the most difficult things you’ve encountered on your journey as a published author? What helped you get a handle on it?
I am an introvert, brought up in a very British family where "showing off" was frowned on, so the hardest thing to do is promote my book. I just have to remind myself that if I don’t no one will read it and I will have let down those women who inspired it and the readers who would have loved it. Social media helps as it’s a lot easier than talking face to face. And people like you Lynn make it so much easier.
It sounds like you’ve come quite a distance. Thank you, Zoe Brooks, for coming today and sharing a little of your experience with us, for helping us avoid a few potholes on the journey to becoming a published author.
Find out more about this author:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ZoeBrooksAuthorWebsite: http://zoebrooks.blogspot.com