Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Pippa Jay Interview
5/20/2012 8:05:48 AM
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Author Pippa Jay discusses her works and the writing life!
If you are a fan of science fiction that draws you in from that very first page, Iíd like to introduce you to author Pippa Jay, the creative mind behind Keir and The Bones of the Sea. Iíd like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, Pippa. What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
PJ: Thanks for inviting me! Well, I do a little freestyle street dance, try to play guitar and I mock up covers for my WIPs. I also have three young children, so days out with them are a blast. Favourite family outings are a walk in the woods or a day at the beach.
Has writing stories always been a part of your life and becoming a published author a life long dream?
PJ: Writing stories has always been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember. But the idea of publication was only a recent thing, one that came up after Iíd finished writing Keir at the end of 2009. I was faced with sticking it back in a drawer and doing nothing, or seeing if I could get it published. I decided to try for the latter.
I now make it a point of reading at the very least an excerpt from the works of the authors I select to feature here. To put it bluntly, after I read Keir I was blown away with your voice and powerful imagery! You have mastered the Ďshow, donít tellí technique needed to survive in this business. Your words drew me instantly into this imagined world, an incredible feat for a cynic like me as Iíve encountered so many novels that have such basic writing mistakes like the Ďgrocery listí description of the characters or misplaced modifiers, etc. So kudos to you! Now, can you tell me what was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Keirlan de Corizi?
PJ: Thank you so much! Keir started out as a dream. I saw this man in my head, beaten and broken, clad in rags and locked in a dungeon. I knew what he looked like under the rags, and as soon as I woke up I knew what to call him. That led to me writing a short story that eventually became part of the first chapter. But itís also based on my lifelong love of science fiction films and books, and my heartfelt dislike for discrimination against someone on the basis of their looks/religion/race etc.
Keir was born into a medieval-style civilization to the ruling family, but his freakish appearance earned him exclusion from his own society. They labeled him a demon because they had no other way to explain his discoloured skin, even though his fearsome reputation had no basis in fact. At the beginning of the story, heís given up. Heís ready to die. Then he meets Quin, and his world is turned upside down. Heís handed a second chanceÖand he learns the truth of his heritage. He isnít a demon, but he feels under just as much of a curse with that knowledge, and he has to come to terms with it.
Without giving away too much, can you reveal whatís in store for the readers when they crack open Keir?
PJ: Thereís time travel, a tortured hero, a multitude of worlds and races, a feisty heroine with a dark past, a sweet romance, a lot of action, and a mysterious antagonist.
Can you tell us about your other title, The Bones of the Sea and how it differs from Keir?
PJ: The Bones of the Sea is a straight science fiction short story, set in the same universe as Keir but otherwise not related to the series. The main character - Myasi - is a demolition contractor whoís faced with a moral dilemma, and the decision she ultimately makes might shock a few people. I wrote it as an experiment - both in terms of writing a short story, and because I wanted to test out the whole process of self-publishing and marketing. I didnít have a contract for Keir at the time so Iíd been researching self-publishing as a possible option.
The road to publication is difficult at the best of times. Was it difficult for you to land an agent? Do you have any advice youíd like to share with the author struggling to find representation?
PJ: Itís certainly a long and twisted road! I donít actually have an agent. Iím in the UK, and there are only about a dozen agents here who actively specialize in speculative fiction - most agents who represent general fiction state they wonít take authors in that genre at all. I applied to those agents that seemed a good fit for my book (and to a few who took general fiction), but although I got feedback from some that my writing was good, no one took me on. My best friend is a published author in the US, and she encouraged me to submit to small presses in the States. She helped me to build a list of possible publishers, and after a bit of research I chose my top three and submitted to them. Iím still stunned that one of them chose to take me on.
I think there are three key things to achieving publication: practice, research and dedication. Hone your craft, and keep on working at it. Make sure you read up on potential agents and publishers, and keep an eye out for opportunities like open pitch sessions. And be stubborn! If this is your dream, you have to stick at it, often for years.
Can you share that moment when you sold your story to Lyrical Press?
PJ: Even thinking back to it now still leaves me speechless. Itís a bit of a clichť, but I really could not believe it. I must have read the email three or four times before I actually took it in that they were offering me a contract rather than a rejection. I cried a few times. Screamed a bit. Jumped around a lot! I called my husband at work and freaked him out by shrieking at him. Then I started contacting a few friends to tell them. It was one of the most deliriously happy and exciting days of my life.
What is the most important lesson youíve learned on the road to publication?
PJ: Persistence is a huge part of the process. No matter what knockbacks you get, if this is the goal thatís important to you, you have to be prepared to dig in and drive forward.
Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
PJ: Iím a pantser. Iíve tried to write even vague outlines, but my muse would rather dive in and get going with the story. Usually I have a few key scenes or characters in my head and I get those down. Then Iíll work the rest of the story around them.
Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
PJ: One thing Iíve gotten into the habit of doing is getting up early and going straight onto the computer, to spend an hour or two free-writing every morning no matter what. Otherwise itís too easy for me to get sucked into answering emails or checking out Twitter. I listen to music all the time when Iím writing - in fact, much of the feel of my stories is down to the tracks I favoured at the time of writing. And coffeeÖah, what would I do without coffee? Although Iím trying to cut down on that.
At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writerís block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
PJ: I walk away. Go out and do something else. Walking or driving are both great for clearing my head and musing over anything thatís making the story stick. Sometimes Iíll do something else creative instead, like mocking up book covers or hunting through images on sites like Dreamstime.com for inspiration. Even housework if thatís all there is to do. Iíve found the worse thing you can do is to try and force it. Sometimes your muse just needs the break.
Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
PJ: Oh, I canít pick just one! Again, Iíve always read speculative fiction, although more fantasy than scifi to begin with. Ursula Le Guin and Tolkien were early favourites, and then I moved to scifi with Anne McCaffrey. At the moment my top two authors are Neal Asher and Jaine Fenn. Both make me determined to write bigger and better.
What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out from science fiction into other genres? Can your fans expect a sequel to Keir in the near future?
PJ: Iím going to keep on writing, whether or not it gets published. Keir is the first book in a series of five, so Iíd like to have all of those out in that time. I also have a YA scifi that prequels the series, and a science fiction novella that isnít related that I plan to submit this year. I may even self-publish a few things - I have another short story to finish that will be self-published - one of Quinís earlier adventures. As for genres - I do have a dark fantasy amongst my WIPs, and muse even threw me an idea for a paranormal fantasy last month. But I canít see myself stepping outside speculative fiction. I wonít say never though. My main aim is to work on improving my skills - I still have faults that I need to cure myself of, and I want to expand on the universe Iíve begun building with Keir.
The sequel to Keir has just come back from my editor, so Iím planning to put some hours into that over the next week. Iím hoping that will be out early next year, providing Lyrical want to take it.
Thank you very much for taking the time to discuss your writings and publishing experience, Pippa!
For more information about Pippa Jay and her works, check out:
Follow Pippa on Twitter: .pippajaygreen
Where to buy the book:
Lyrical Press Inc
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/keir-pippa-jay/1110110646
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