Thursday, 27 August 2015

Shining a light on Wattpad - Sally Slater

Shining a Light on Wattpad!

Part 2 of my interview with Sally Slater, author YA fantasy novel Paladin. Here we discuss her writing journey using Wattpad and get her tips on using Wattpad effectively.

How did you discover Wattpad?
Wattpad actually discovered me. When I first attempted writing fiction, I began posting a story to a website called One Page Per Day. A reader on the site read my work and suggested I share my writing on Wattpad, where I could get a lot more feedback. I took a quick peek at Wattpad, followed the reader who reached out to me on One Page Per Day, who also had a Wattpad profile, and transferred my writing over. Once I started interacting with the Wattpad community, I was hooked.

How helpful has Wattpad been on your writing journey?
Honestly, Paladin wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Wattpad. Prior to joining Wattpad, I didn’t have a lot of faith in my writing, and I never thought I’d be capable of writing a full novel. The Wattpad community really pushed me to stick to a regular writing schedule and when I finally finished the first draft, supported my dream of publishing. There were definitely times that I thought about giving up on Paladin and questioned whether it was a story worth sharing, but Wattpad helped me navigate those periods of self-doubt and get back on track.
It’s probably also worth noting that I found both a literary agent and my eventual publisher through Wattpad. So in that sense, Wattpad played a major role in my journey from amateur writer to published author.

Congratulations on being included in the Wattpad Stars program.  What opportunities has this afforded you?
The Wattpad Star program has been tremendously helpful in furthering my writing career. The folks at Wattpad HQ connect me with amazing professional opportunities that I wouldn’t have access to on my own. Since joining the program, I’ve spoken on multiple panels (one at Penguin Random House’s NYC headquarters) and been commissioned to write for Wattpad’s corporate sponsors. I also got to participate in Hachette’s #WhereIWrite Periscope campaign. Next up, I’m slated to speak on a panel about new forms of publishing at Book Riot Live in November. Margaret Atwood (an active Wattpad participant) and many of my favourite authors will be there. I am going to be a total fangirl.

What advice would you give authors who are considering using Wattpad to garner a fanbase?
One question that often comes up about Wattpad is whether posting a novel online ruins your chances of securing a publishing deal or selling your work. I participated in a panel a little while back with a number of industry insiders, including a well-known literary agent and the Editor-in-Chief at Simon & Schuster. They noted that traditional publishers are actively mining platforms like Wattpad for good stories with sizeable fan bases because it suggests that the book will sell. And based on my own experience, having a free version of my novel (in first draft form) on Wattpad hasn’t negatively impacted sales. To the contrary, my Wattpad fan base has been tremendously supportive and helped push Paladin to a #1 Amazon bestseller in its first month.

All that said, growing a fan base on Wattpad takes a lot of work. To make the most out of Wattpad, authors need to commit to spending time on the website/app daily and interact frequently with their readers and other writers on the site. No matter how brilliant your story, if you don’t engage with the community and promote your work, you won’t find the readers you’re looking for.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Author Interview - Sally Slater


Sally Slater

Part 1 of my interview with the lovely Sally Slater, author of the #1 Amazon best selling YA fantasy, Paladin. Find out more about Sally's writing, Paladin,  and her thoughts on creating a strong female protagonist.

Tell us a little about yourself please
By day, I’m a twenty-something professional in marketing and public relations. In the wee hours of the night, I’m a writer of fantasy and an occasional blogger for sites like The Huffington Post. I’m also a CrossFit addict and managed to sneak in a strongman scene into my debut novel, Paladin. If I’m going to write about kickass heroines, I want to be kickass too.

What books did you like to read when you were growing up?
I went through a brief period where I was obsessed with American classics like Pollyanna, Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, but for the most part, I only read novels in the fantasy genre. Not surprisingly, my favourite books were those that starred strong female protagonists – books by authors like Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley and Anne McCaffrey. Those were the books that made me believe I could be strong and powerful when I grew up.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Nope! From age nine to 19, I dreamed of starring in musical theatre productions on Broadway.  All of my free time was spent in voice lessons and rehearsals.
It took a college professor telling me in no uncertain terms to pursue writing for me to start thinking about writing seriously. I remember exactly what he told me: “If you don’t find a way to write in your career, you’ll be miserable for the rest of my life.” Still, it wasn’t until I discovered Wattpad that I began writing stories in earnest.

Can you please tell us a little about Paladin?
Paladin is a young adult fantasy adventure with a healthy dollop of romance. The daughter of a duke, Lady Samantha – “Sam” – of Haywood isn’t interested in following the typical noblewoman’s path. A tragic accident prompts her to run away from her home in Haywood and join the Paladins, the kingdom’s most elite warriors. But there’s a hitch: the Paladins only accept men.  Disguised as a boy, Sam trains under a young Paladin who once saved her life but has yet to recognize her, along with a half-demon boy named Braeden. The story is very much a journey of self-discovery as Sam learns how to balance her dreams of fighting with her identity as a woman.

How did the idea for Paladin originate?
I always hear stories about authors who have had stories floating around in their heads for years or decades before they put their pen to paper. Paladin wasn’t like that for me. The ideas behind Paladin are really what pulled the story together. As a reader, I have always wanted to see more multidimensional female protagonists in the fantasy genre. And instead of waiting around for somebody else to write one, I decided to write on myself.

Did you always have a clear idea about Sam’s character and what you wanted her to represent? In creating her were you reacting against things you’ve read / seen in terms of the portrayal of young women?  Or did she just “turn out that way?”  
Yes, Sam’s character was clear to me from the beginning. My goal was to create a heroine that was realistic but still inspiring—a smart, strong lady who was fallible. I made her intelligent and physically strong because those are the traits I personally value, but I wanted to balance that with emotional vulnerability. That isn’t to say she’s a pushover. Frankly, I’m sick of all the female protagonists who for whatever reason can’t be decisive, whether it’s about their love lives or something else. While some readers might see Paladin as having a love triangle, I really don’t. Yes, there are two men who she spends a lot of time with, so she could conceivably fall in love with either one of them. But she only ever develops romantic feelings towards one—and doesn’t allow that romance to rule her life.

How difficult was it to walk the line between romance and action in the novel?  Did you find yourself getting carried away with either and having to rein in those arcs at any point?
One of my guilty pleasures is smutty romance—the kind with shirtless men on the covers and X-rated scenes. My mother has an entire romance library (1,000+ books) so I blame her for my deviance. The books were there so of course I had to read them…and then I got addicted.

So while the majority of books I’ve read are in the fantasy genre, all the romance I’ve read affects how I think about writing. When you’re writing a YA book and all you’ve read is adult romance, it’s hard! Romance scenes come really easily to me, but I have to make sure I don’t cross over into adult romance territory. I also didn’t want romance to be the main plot – Paladin is about Sam finding herself – so I definitely had to resist the impulse to throw in more heavy romance scenes.

How much planning did you do for the novel? How long did it take to write?
I started off writing Paladin with zero planning – and learned that was a huge mistake about 15 chapters in, when I got stuck with the plot. I had to go back and take a few months off to focus on putting together a thorough outline before I could continue with writing. I also ended up doing a fair amount of research on the medieval era (the time period during which Paladin is loosely based) and fighting methods.

The first draft took me about a year-and-half. Getting it fully revised, edited and published took another two-and-a-half years, with a few starts and stops along the way.

Do you have a favourite writing spot?
I live in a stereotypical New York City apartment, which means it’s teeny tiny. I don’t have a proper writing desk or anything like that. Most of the time I write in my bedroom, flopped diagonally on the bed. It’s not the most romantic place to write, but it’s comfortable!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t be scared to share your writing. The easiest way to get better is to let people read and respond to your work. I think a lot of new writers are scared of criticism, but criticism is an essential part of writing, especially in the early stages of developing a book.

Next Week: Part 2 of my interview with Sally.  We discuss her writing journey on Wattpad and get her tips on using it effectively.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Book Review

The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl

(The Peculiar Adventures of John Loveheart, Esq. Volume Two)

By Ishbelle Bee

(Pub: Angry Robot Books, 2015)

Welcome back to the bizarre world of John Loveheart Esq. in The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl by Ishbelle Bee - the sequel to The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath.  This is Victorian England as you’ve never seen it – unless of course you’ve read Bee’s first novel.  Although this second book in the series offers a few new very interesting twists to her world.

Early on in this book we are introduced to a character who is described as a “demonic multi-tasker.” (I laughed out loud when I read this scene; you’ll love it). We meet him as he is blissfully perusing dungeon equipment and lauding the fact that people invented it, not demons and he says “you make me smile.”  Here is our hero’s nemesis in all his deranged, pure evil, glory.

Our hero?  Well, Mr Loveheart is back!  He is still a wonderfully psychotic hero with a penchant for drama and an obsessive sweet tooth for pastries, sponges and custard tarts. Our dear deranged Mr Loveheart is lonely - he “seeks a queen” with a “good sense of humour. Fond of cakes. Mad as a kilt.”  When he finds his dream girl, he must not only win her, but save her.  He parades through the novel displaying his outrageous fashion sense and wielding a sword trying to defeat our mega multi-tasking demon.  He is aided in his mission by the return of Detective White and Constable Walnut of Scotland Yard.  These two are essentially the “straight men” to Loveheart and they really do help make this a fun book.

Structurally, I found The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl more fragmented than the The Singular and Extraordinary Tale of Mirror and Goliath. I found the multiple story threads were not quite as seamlessly integrated – although there was no problem with keeping track of the different POVs. It was merely that occasionally my reading experience was jarred by the transitions.  There was a battle in a church seemed a little too contrived – almost like Bee waved her wand to get out of a literary “corner”.  Although in a world so heavily laced with magic and with these characters perhaps they took control in their own inimitable fashion. These tiny issues were something I didn’t notice with the first book. However despite this The Contrary Tale of the Butterfly Girl is an action packed, hilariously horrific, engrossing story that I could not put down – I loved it!

Bee’s brilliance in lies in, not only her bizarre world vision, but in the wonderfully deranged stream of consciousness that she writes for her hero and his nemesis.  Her style in these passages, complete with varying font sizes and placement, make for hilarious reading that I  found myself reading aloud with delight - again.  Keep watch for the incident with the cursed sapphire and Wales – another laugh out loud moment. (Oh who am I kidding? There were lots of laugh out loud moments!)

The ending resolves the main plot arcs here nicely,  but leaves things open nicely for a new adventure – I can’t wait!

Four Stars!