Denise: Hi Alex and thank you for inviting me to this interview!
I am hopeful that if I generate enough eBook sales, it will increase my chances of securing a literary agent and lead to a traditional publishing deal. However, I may opt to self-publish a print copy in the future if my eBook sales are high enough.
Alex: I know that you came up with the idea for Eternal while playing a game of Rory’s story cubes. For the readers that are less familiar with them, could you explain what they are?
Denise: Rory’s Story Cubes is a game that involves throwing nine dice – each side portraying a unique image; after the dice land, a combination of nine different pictures is displayed, and a story must be created from that. I can’t remember all of the combinations that fateful throw resulted in, but I do recall a ghost, a keyhole, a water droplet and a sheep.
The characters of Vala, Elvar and Amalia formed almost instantaneously, with Jelly and Max closely following. The characters took on a life of their own and the story just flowed; I did not actually have a fixed story outline from the beginning – I just wrote a scene and the next followed, though I did have the key points of the story in my head throughout.
Alex: You’ve already mentioned a few of the characters. Now, could you briefly explain what your book is about? What can readers expect to experience when reading your novel?
Denise: Eternal is a Young Adult Romantic Fantasy Adventure with an Arthurian flavour. It is set between two realms – the human world and Candalia, the fae realm. However, it also delves deeply into the relationships between the characters and the more everyday struggles they face. Nearly all the main characters are aged between seventeen and twenty-two and magical abilities aside they face the same challenges as the majority of their contemporaries. There is a strong emphasis in Eternal on the importance of family and friends, particularly on how relationships grow and change over time. It is a life-affirming, positive story about overcoming adversity, self-discovery, relationships and romance blended with magic, peril and the realisation that ‘there is no magic more powerful than that of love’. Eternal interlaces all these together in an exciting and highly readable form.
Vala believes she is just an ordinary teenager trying to find her place in the world with her closest friends, Jelly and Max.
But her splendid normality is quickly turned upside down when she happens upon Elvar, a handsome fae boy that Vala finds impossible to resist. The connection between Vala and Elvar is electric but their euphoric bliss quickly comes crashing down as Vala discovers the truth about her family, revealing who she really is.
Little does Vala know, this truth will be the catalyst for her parent’s disappearance and the reason for the darkness hovering over the fae realm.
With friendship and love as her only allies, Vala must face her fears in order to triumph against the evil that has beckoned her.
The story opens with Vala and her friends, Jelly and Max; it is clear from the outset that they each have a close bond with one another and at the darkest hour, Vala’s friends are there for her – even risking their lives to help her. The characters of Jelly and Max are not based on particular friends of mine but their qualities encompass all the wonderful attributes of my friends as a whole. I am hopeful this is something that readers of all ages can relate to or if they can’t, realise they should find better friends.
Vala is a strong female protagonist who, with the help of her friends and family, is able to overcome adversity, ultimately facing her fears and the antagonist of the story, the malevolent Spindler, with courage and strength. She is also a normal teenage girl with insecurities, desires and aspirations that make her character likeable and easy to identify with – an inspirational, yet believable heroine.
Eternal also explores Vala and Elvar’s relationships with their parents and siblings – again, I have included many elements that are easy to relate to and may even elicit a laugh or two.
Denise: Ostensibly, I stumbled into professional writing by accident, or perhaps it was serendipity or fate! The inspiration for Eternal originated from a game of Rory’s Story Cubes (see previous comment), and it was not until I started writing the short story that became the provenance of Eternal, that I realized I wanted to be an author. As it took on a life of its own, and I began to write, a continuous stream of ideas and plots flowed through my mind: Simultaneously the characters started to develop and come to life.
I started writing because I was born with a wild, unstoppable imagination; dreams and stories would form in my mind and I needed a way to express them coherently. I can still vividly recall dreams I had when I was just three years old. I first considered sharing these stories publicly after winning a short story contest at seven years old – it gave me the confidence to continue and the realisation that I had something wonderful to share with the world. Childhood favourites such as Maurice Sendak’s ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and ‘Outside Over There’ and various others such as Frank L Baum’s ‘Oz’ stories and paranormal anthologies also fuelled my imagination.
Although I initially intended to pursue a career in 3D Model Animation I continued to write stories and scripts throughout my time at university. However, my writing ambitions were put on hold as marriage and starting a family intervened.
I am now balancing writing full-time with family life, and will continue to do so for as long as I can draw breath.
Alex: What is it like for you when you sit down to write?
Denise: Writing for me is an entirely immersive experience that enables me to escape the real world and indulge in my imagination and fantasies. When I am writing, I am living vicariously through my female protagonist, feeling her emotions and thoughts. I believe this really helps create an authenticity and realism that would not otherwise be there. However, although I find writing provides solace, it can also be quite isolating at times; this is part of the reason I enjoyed making my trailer – it was a wonderful experience to work with others who shared my vision and we had a lovely camaraderie between us.
Alex: Editing is an important part of being an author. Are there any particular methods you used to edit your novel?
Denise: Editing is for me, the hardest part of being an author! The methods I employed actually evolved over time as I learnt more about my craft and what was involved in producing a professionally written novel.
Initially, my first three chapters were critiqued by a company providing editorial services; I took on board the comments I felt had some validity and dismissed those that did not. After this, my husband proofread my manuscript. However, it was not until I employed the services of Bronwyn and Alex Hemus at Standoutbooks (https://www.standoutbooks.co.uk/), and had my first three chapters content edited by Bronwyn, that I realized that my novel needed a much more comprehensive edit. Unfortunately, my finances did not permit me to have this done professionally so I solicited the services of my father, who very kindly took on the job of content editing my manuscript. As before, I took on board all the suggestions made, which not only involved corrections, but also shortening certain scenes and additional scenes and paragraphs. Following this, both myself and my father repeated this process twice – I then submitted my manuscript to Bronwyn for a professional proofread – I once again made corrections, my father and I read through it making further corrections, and then Bronwyn checked it again before it was finally ready.
Alex: I think a lot of authors, including myself, would agree that editing is the hardest part of being an author. Do you have any tips or suggestions for aspiring authors?
Denise: Above all, trust your instincts! If something doesn’t feel right, stay away from it! Spend money wisely on a reputable, professional editorial and marketing service such as Standoutbooks; they will perfect your book and help it achieve the prominence it deserves. A solid marketing strategy is fundamental, so explore the possibilities and utilise what feels right for you. Writing is a creative endeavour, but to sell your book, it also important to treat it like a business venture.
However, one essential that should be implemented is a professional, beautifully presented website. For me, the trailers were also imperative as they provide a visual representation of my book and allow readers to experience the world I have created in my novel.
Another author gave me a great piece of advice: your family and friends are your greatest asset. Friends and family provide a great network of support and offer great scope for future sales as they are more vociferous in helping to promote your book through writing informative reviews and spreading the words to their friends, who in turn will hopefully tell other friends and so on.
One final word: establish a good support network. A life/work balance is important so spend time with family and friends and enlist their help.
Alex: Thank you for stopping by, and good luck on your upcoming novel.
Denise: Thank you, Alex – all the very best of success to you too.