Author's Blog and Latest News

Sunday
Jul082018

My two faces :)

I recently spoke to Sue Holmes (who is a wonderful book blogger - you should totally check out her site, Crushing Cinders!) about juggling my twin jobs as a psychologist and an author. I often get questions about this and if you're interested, read on!

 Writers always bring themselves — their hopes, fears, experiences — to their stories, and I am no exception. By profession, I’m a Counselling Psychologist in private practice, dealing primarily with adult victims of crime and trauma. It’s tough work and to combat creeping burnout, I started writing fiction several years ago. 

I think that being a psychologist helps me have a deeper understanding of human nature, and the problems that can occur. Many of my characters (like many people in real life) have problems of, for example, anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress.

And I think I write more accurately about this because I know what it looks and feels like. I think (I hope!) that my writing, guided by my learning and experience, is deeper, more nuanced, more complex and realistic when it comes to psychological issues.

Because I live in a society with high rates of inter-personal violence, I’ve heard the accounts of people who’ve experienced the real thing (or have relatives who have). I no longer have the stomach for graphic violence in books — the sort of “torture porn” that puts you in an almost complicit ride-along with the evil serial killer as he mutilates and brutalizes. I won’t write those books either.

Rather, I like to explore the character’s life and psyche after the event, showing the psychological and emotional consequences that victims of trauma are left to deal with. This aspect is often neglected in genre fiction — too often characters are bereaved, tortured, assaulted and experience all kinds of dramatic agonies, but are up and running, and pretty much back to normal by the next chapter. Take it from someone who listens to pain for a living: that’s not how it works in real life.

While my characters are informed by my knowledge of personality types, psychological traumas and psychopathology in general, I’m religious about keeping the specifics of my therapeutic work and my fiction-writing completely separate. My clients’ confidences are sacrosanct – they go into a locked vault in my brain and will never appear in one of my fictional characters or stories. What happens in therapy stays in therapy! I have no difficulty keeping them separate. My parallel jobs of writer and psychologist occupy very different head-spaces in me. I do them in separate physical locations, use different parts of my brain, and even do them on different days of the week.

My own training and experience as a psychologist obviously also influences how I write therapy scenes in my fiction — those, too, are regularly portrayed in very inaccurate ways in fiction.  

I do get a kick out of writing characters who are psychologists, and who are not themselves unhinged, callous, or unprofessional in any of the clichéd ways so popular in fiction and Hollywood tropes. My psychologists are ethical experts, though flawed and inevitably impacted by the weight of the pain and cruelty they hear and absorb on a daily basis. It has always bothered me that psychologists in books and movies are so often portrayed as severely dysfunctional, sexually predatory and unethical. Most of us are really nice, compassionate, responsible and (mostly) sane professionals!

Here is a picture of exactly what I don't look like when I'm in writing mode:

Sunday
Jul082018

Kingsmead Book Festival

In May, I was one of the authors invited to be on a panel at the wonderful Kingsmead Book Fair in Johannesburg, South Africa. Fellow author, Fiona Snyckers, and I chatted "Freaks and Geeks" - the theme of the outcast and misfit in YA fiction.

We had a great audience and my take-away from the session is that different readers read for different reasons, and want different things in a book - angsty issues or heartwarming stories, entertainment or education, fast-paced action or humor.

There truly is a book for every reader!

There's never enough time to answer all the audience questions, but there's always time afterwards! Fellow panelist and author Fiona Snyckers and I chat to a couple of readers. (I'm the tall girl, lol.)

Sunday
Jul082018

Using pictures to spark words

A picture paints a thousand words, they say. So if you like both books and pics, you might be interested to know that I have Pinterest boards for each of my books.

I generally start these even before I start writing the book, and use them to save pictures of potential characters and settings - though I may keep the board secret while I'm still writing the book. These help me to get a sense of of place in my head, and spark ideas for characters, scene settings and even story elements.

I usually pin ideas for cover pics, as well as various cover designs, too. And as I go along, I add anything that seems to belong to that book - quotes, photos of people that could be characters (especially book boyfriends), fan art (which I adore!), songs, covers of foreign translations - the whole nine yards  ! (The picture above is from my board for Recoil, and relates to fashions in my dystopian world, and the picture at the top of the email if from my current work in progress.)

I'm not always sure how Pinterest works - like, can you post a pic on someone else's board? Anyway, if you ever find (or create) a pic you think should be added to one of my boards, send it my way and I'll add it to the collection :)

You can take a peek at my boards here: Dark WhispersScarred,HushedThe law of Tall GirlsRecoilRefuseRebel, and Self Help Stories. The board for the book I'm currently writing (for adults) is here- any guesses on the subject?

Sunday
Jul082018

Audiobooks :)

I lurrvve audiobooks! It's how I do most of my reading these days.

I "read" while exercising, doing housework, driving, falling asleep at night, shopping, or doing mundane work like invoices and filing. I listen to hot, new books, but also to the classics I never got around to reading before.

You can listen on an iPod (as I do), or your smartphone, play it via your computer, or I think Alexa can even do it for you. On Amazon, if you've already bought the book, you can get the audiobook for cheaper (or maybe it's the other way around?).

I feel like audiobooks tap into the ancient tradition of story-telling - this is, after all, how the first stories were transmitted from writer/creator to listener/consumer. Plus, when you get the perfect narrator for a book, it gives the story a whole other dimension to enjoy. Perhaps my favorite audiobooks of all time are the Harry Potter novels - as read by Stephen Fry, who does such a perfect job of bringing them to life! I recently listened to Stephen King's It and that narrator was also exceptionally good.

Of course, sometimes you can hit a narrator you can't stand, so I've learned the hard way always to listen to a sample before buying. Buying on Audible.com or Audible.co.uk is a pleasure because if you don't like it, you can return it no questions asked and get a full refund. I also sign up to their daily special (excellent deals) and buy extra credits when they're on sale, so it doesn't work out too expensive at all.

In the last couple of years, I've found myself on the other side of the audiobook production process, and it's been fascinating.

With my YA romance, Scarred, I commissioned a production company to make the audiobook and I was very hands-on in finding and choosing the voice artists (one male, one female), and in having a say on how the book was read. I got to give input to the voice artists on the characters and how I'd like them read, and I listened to each chapter, picking up inconsistencies or where I thought the tone, expression or pronunciation was wrong. As a result, I think that book came out much as I imagined it.

Recently, one of the biggest audiobook producers, Tantor, bought the rights to The Law of Tall Girls and have just brought out a fabulous audiobook version - Yay!! I had a say in the cover and got to choose between two voices only, based on a quick sample, but other than that, I had no input. So it's been a very different experience, and although the book is different to how I "heard" it in my head while writing it, I love the result! I'm currently listening to it for the first time and it's terrific  and oddly moving - to hear my words come alive like this.

Have you tried reading by listening? What do you think of audiobooks? If there's a reluctant reader in your family, this might be a way to get them hooked on books.

You can check out my audiobooks (and listen to samples) over at Audible.com or Audible.co.uk, or wherever you get you audio from. Let me know what you think!

Monday
Nov132017

A bunch of giveaways!

I have so many giveaways for you thins month, you'd swear Christmas was coming!

Young Adult Book Central is doing a massive giveaway of YA books! In addition to weekly prizes (many of which are open internationally) there's also a Grand Prize giveaway of 38 paperbacks (US only, because of crazy-expensive shipping costs.) Enter here, and check out all the featured deals on the YABC website. 

 ****************************************************************************************

This YA Contemporary Romance Giveaway is smaller (so you stand a great chance of winning) plus it's open internationally! You could win five beautiful romances (including my favorite of Rainbow Rowell's books) PLUS Eleanor & Park jewelry and a Starbucks gift card. Coffee plus swag plus romance? Yes, please!

Enter here. Competition closes at the end of November.

**********************************************************************************************************

Here's an epic giveaway (open internationally) for lovers of young adult / new adult sci-fi and dystopian fiction. A bunch of paperbacks and ebooks are up for grabs, PLUS a $50 Amazon Gift Card for you to spoil yourself with!

Enter here. Giveaway closes Wednesday, December 6th.