Today on the blog, I am going to interview a great author. I met JM Turner through the Dragon’s Rocketship a couple years ago, and we’ve stayed in touch. Well, she has a new book out, so it’s time for an interview!
So, can you please tell the audience about yourself?
Okay, I live in the UK and I’m a mum of two girls; one of them is married and has her own children now, and the other is almost 16 – don’t ask about the age gap, it wasn’t meant to be quite so huge! Apart from writing, during the day I work in education – with SEN and lower ability children. I also work as a proofreader for my local university, and I copy edit and proofread for local businesses as well as authors and aspiring authors.
When did you start writing? What motivates you to do so? What inspires your writing?
I started actually putting my ideas down in writing a few years ago now but have spent the last 30 years or so making stories up and telling them verbally to my children. It was my youngest daughter who insisted I write them down that set the idea in my head that she may be on to something. When she had a bad experience in school – she had a teacher who really didn’t like her and made it exceedingly obvious in class – she had no idea how to deal with what was going on. She was so upset by it all that, after I’d dealt with the matter, I began to write what became my first book where a little girl is ill-treated by a teacher but gains the upper-hand and overcomes it all in a way she could never have imagined.
Originally, the story was meant to be just for my daughter, but she loved it so much I decided to try and go further with it. The book turned into a trilogy and since then stories have clamoured to climb out of my brain and onto the page, so much so that if I don’t write I can’t sleep!
Inspiration comes from various things – The Seelie Princess trilogy came from what I’ve just mentioned; Nan Nose Best came about because I wondered what a teenager would do if she had a Nan who decided to get involved in social media and insisted on posting family things publically on the teenager’s page; and Sunshine Girl came about because of something that happened many, many, years ago that has played on my mind ever since.
Your latest book, Sunshine Girl, is a bit of a break from your works I am familiar with. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Yes, it’s a more adult story than the others and is quite a bit darker. It deals with the paranormal – a ghost girl called Kat, who at the outset is upset because nobody will talk to her. She finds out why when she sees her own body lying in the morgue and realizes that she’s dead, but not quite dead enough! She can see everyone she loves falling apart around her, but can’t communicate with them. She’s in limbo really, and to move on she has to find out who killed her, and why. To do that she has to find a way to let the living know what she discovers so that her murder can be solved.
Having worked my way through half of Sunshine Girl as of the time I am writing this interview, I am impressed. I’ve read your Seelie Princess series and I have to say, you’re a damn fine writer. So I have to ask, which genre do you like to write the most? What draws you to it? And why stray from your favorite genre?
Well, thank you very much for the compliment! I still love fantasy, but currently I’m into somewhat darker issues – the paranormal, murder, mystery type of things. I think this has come about now because my youngest child is older – she insists on reading everything I write so that part of my brain had to stay hidden until now! The fantasy side of things is still very much present though, and there’s a spin off from The Seelie Princess coming at some stage this year. It deals with an issue that was left slightly open-ended in the trilogy which readers have asked me about. (A favour was asked of someone and they were granted it with the proviso that the favour would be returned if needed – in the spin off, that favour is called in!)
At the moment, I am drawn to writing more for adults – Sunshine Girl has been waiting in the wings as I was unsure whether to publish it or not, purely because it is so different to the other books I have written. However, I saw and entered a competition to be traditionally published with a short story (10K words) based around the theme of a haunting. My story for the anthology is called ‘Joe’. I was the first writer accepted into it and the anthology is being released later this year. When I received the news that the owner of the publishing company had cried over my story, it gave me the push to release Sunshine Girl. I’m currently writing a book about a child abduction!
Now that I’ve mentioned it, can you tell the reader a bit about your Seelie Princess series? What other bodies of work do you have out there?
As I mentioned before, The Seelie Princess came about because of a bad teacher. The child in the story, Clary, is being pursued by her teacher who has a problem with the way Clary wears her hair (this was one of the things that happened between my own daughter and her teacher). Clary wears it over her face in an attempt to hide away and stay safe. In the book, the teacher is a banished Unseelie who needs Clary’s hair to get her powers back. Clary doesn’t know it, but she’s a Seelie Princess who was sent to Earth as a baby to escape the Seelie Wars. By the end of the first book, she discovers her latent powers and her father comes to take her and her mother back to Seelie.
The next two books follow on from that with what happens to her when she gets to Seelie, and what happens to the best friend she left back on Earth when the Unseelie try to kidnap him. He goes on the run and finds an unusual egg in his old teacher’s house, where he thinks Clary may have ended up. Clary rescues him and takes him (and the egg) into Seelie with her. When the egg hatches, they discover they’ve brought a dragon into the Kingdom… and then the Unseelie trick their way back into the land of Seelie.
The third book deals with the aftermath of the fresh Unseelie takeover, and how Clary and Sam deal with the loss of her family and her land. She has to try to find a way to take the Kingdom back.
Necessary fun question – If you could have one magical power, what would it be and why?
Oh wow! Magical power? To be able to go back and forth in time and stop it where necessary. I’d go back and tell my younger self not to be so damn stupid on more than one occasion! To be honest, I’d probably say the same to a few others, too! Ooh, and it would be great to be able to warn people not to be in certain places at certain times – or to physically remove people from situations that don’t have a good ending – a few good lives could be saved that way, especially one that is particularly close to home for me! And I’d stop Princess Diana from getting in that car!
Necessary fun question number two – Which of your many characters would you like to meet in person and have lunch with? Why and where would you go?
I’d quite like to meet Niamh, the feisty Shee. We’d go to the palace in Seelie (before the Unseelie take it over) and she’d show me how to kick ass and still come out on top!
I’d like to meet Sam and his dragon – she would take me on a flight all over Seelie so I could see all the creatures I presently see only in my head.
And I’d love to meet the Unseelie teacher after she’s come unstuck…!
The internet is an amazing thing. It can bring people that live on opposite sides of the world, or just a few states over, together. We became friends through a great FB group. Tell me, how have you used social media in your writing?
One of my books (Nan Nose Best) is about how social media can change lives! Personally, I have an FB author page and I’m on Twitter. I also have a website. I try to engage with people on each of them – some more successfully than others. At the moment, Twitter seems to be engaging the most people, which surprises me slightly as I personally know more people on FB. People re-tweet far more often than they share posts on FB. I share all the things I do, from editing and proofing to featuring other authors and posting my own musings on things.
And a follow up to the above questions, promotion is very important to any Indie Author / Artist. What techniques have you used that were successful? Unsuccessful? Wanting to try but haven’t yet?
I’ve tried using FB for promotion but, as we all know, unless you pay, very few people actually get to see your posts. It’s frustrating when you have xxx amount of followers and only a tiny amount of them get shown your posts. I’ve found (personally) that advertising on FB doesn’t justify the cost and it doesn’t make any money – unless you’ve got tons of money to invest in yourself and can plaster your books all over the site! (If you’re rich enough to do that, go for it!) I also think that there are so many authors advertising on FB nowadays that nobody takes any notice any more. They just scroll on past. Having said that, a lot of my sales have come from being a member of author groups. If you interact with the other members, they are more likely to buy what you write. It’s good, but very time consuming. Twitter is now starting to pick up without my having paid for advertising. It’s a numbers thing. The more followers you have, the more likely it is that people will take a chance on your work. The downside is that all I see on there are memes or book adverts. I’m currently advertising Sunshine Girl on AMS. I got all excited when I saw that I’d sold 7 books within the first few hours – turned out only one sale had come from the ads – the rest had come from people from the groups I mentioned on FB!
What are your plans for the future? Anything you can tell us about?
I’d like to be able to stop doing the day job and concentrate on writing, proofing and editing, but I’ll need to win the lottery to be able to do that!
And finally, the big question I ask to end every interview. It’s very cliché, but I have to ask it. What advice would you give a young (or old) author/artist out there just starting out?
If you’re writing to get rich quick you’re best off knowing someone with influence! If you don’t know anyone like that (and most of us don’t!) then write for the love of it. Don’t wait! Writing anything that you’d like other people to read is a steep learning curve and there will be highs as well as lows. Read a lot, too – discover what good writing is – find the kind of things you like to read and figure out why you like them.
Join author groups and read all the advice they throw your way – take what you know to be good advice and take the rest with a pinch of salt. Join critique groups (and develop a thick skin) – *caveat* – join good critique groups, not those where the people writing them are vicious! Learn the rules of writing; you have to know the rules to be able to break them convincingly! Talk to people. Authors are probably the most generous people I have ever come across and, in the main, will help you as much as they can. Join writing groups; lurk for a while and pay attention to what people say. Make friends with those who give good advice as opposed to those who like the sound of their own voices but don’t really know what they’re talking about by interacting with them. If you have any advice for people, give it kindly. Some groups are better than others for all of this and, if you’re serious about wanting to be a writer, (this is a long term thing) then be on good terms with other authors! Word gets around very quickly if someone acts like an ass!
When you have written your story, put it away for a few weeks and come back to it with fresh eyes. You’ll find mistakes that way. Spell check. Grammar check. Plot check. Tie up loose ends. Send it out to trusted beta readers (you’ll find them through the groups you’ve joined) and, if several of them point out something that’s not working, take it on board (after you’ve sulked/thrown a tantrum/sworn a bit – all on your own!) and work those kinks out. And, most importantly, if you want to do this seriously, get yourself a good editor. If you put your work out and it hasn’t been edited, it will show, and you’ll get a name for yourself in the wrong way! It’s worth the investment. Lastly, invest in a great cover to entice people into opening your book. You know that saying – you can’t judge a book by its cover? It may be true, but if you can’t even get them to open the book, no-one will ever know that your book is the next Harry Potter…
Good luck, and if you want to chat to me, feel free to drop by and say hello!
Jill, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. We wish you great success on your new book, and in the future.
Thanks for having me, Mike! It’s always a pleasure to talk to you!
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