Friday, January 20, 2017

Author Interview: Liberty Gilmore

Liberty Gilmore is the author of the Hart and Soul series, long time book blogger and zombie enthusiast. If she’s not in her cramped little study, blogging or writing, you can usually find her with her nose stuck in a good book, experimenting with the slow cooker, and occasionally even out and about running. Except, it rather resembles stumbling most of the time. In fact, she usually looks a lot like those zombies she’s so fond of, and not the fast kind.

Liberty lives in Shropshire with her fiancé, who will get the upgrade to husband in June 2017. You can find her on Twitter at @libertyfallsdwn.

And her website is here:

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? 

When I first discovered RPG forums. I was probably twelve or thirteen and I used to love X-Men RPG forums. I went from that to fanfic, which gave me the bug for reader interaction. But nothing made me sure quite like having to choose what I wanted to do at University. When I came to look at courses, literally the only thing I could see myself studying for three years was writing.

How long does it take you to write a book?

My books are only short – 30,000 words or so, which I can comfortably write in a month if I have a solid outline. All the NaNoWriMo training I’ve done over the years has paid off in that respect! The planning and outlining takes a bit longer. I write series so I like to have a good idea of where the overall story is going before I start putting words on the page. For the Hart and Soul series, I knew it would be nine books – each book its own complete story, with a wider plot arc across the series. I did a rough outline for each book before I started writing, and figuring all that out took a few months.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I work full time during the week, so I’m stuck with evenings and weekends. My other half works shifts, so I try to fit in around him. My favourite for writing (though not for living with someone!) is when he’s on nights. I get up early and make him breakfast for when he gets home at 7am, then he goes to bed and I have the whole morning to myself to write. I’m at my best in the morning, and tend to be more focused. Right now I’m working on edits and rewrites for the next books in the Hart and Soul series, so my morning ‘writing’ usually involves editing a couple of chapters at a time, with short breaks in between to stretch out and not stare at the computer screen for a bit.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

Um… not sure if this is a quirk, but if I’m really struggling with a plot point, I love to clean my house. I used to work in a supermarket stacking shelves, and that was great for the writing, because it was so boring and required no thought whatsoever, which meant I could dedicate all my brain power to running through scenarios in my head. But now I’m an analyst, and though it’s numbers, so it doesn’t tire out my writing brain, it doesn’t leave much space for my mind to wander. Whenever I’m stuck, I like to simulate being back in the supermarket by doing menial jobs around the house. Like washing up or sweeping the floor.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

Like most people, I think, from a variety of places. I’m definitely inspired by films and books and stuff I read online, and also the things going on in my own life. I don’t lift people straight from my life onto the page, but there are definite shades of conversations I’ve had with people, and characteristics of friends and colleagues in there.

But usually, those tid-bits and inspirations are anchored around a ‘what-if’ scenario that I find intriguing. When I started planning the Hart and Soul series, I was really in to Supernatural, Kelley Armstrong and other Urban Fantasy type stories where there is a secret world of monsters and fairy tale creatures, and only certain people know about it. The ‘what-if’ for Hart and Soul was – what if the supernatural was just an every day reality and the police had to deal with it? What would that society be like, and what would those police officers be like?

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

My first ‘book’ that I finished was a 25,000 or so word story about my family being superheroes that I hand wrote when I was about 14. The basic concept was that my mother and her sisters were half alien secret agents and their alien DNA gave them super powers. They got kidnapped, and their children (me, my sisters and my cousins) had to go on a rescue mission, using the powers we’d only just discovered. My power was telekinesis (the best superpower) and my siblings and cousins all had powers based on their personalities – so my cousin who was really sporty had super-speed and my shy sister could turn invisible. It was really cheesy, but my parents were so impressed that they got me a laptop for my writing. This was before laptops were a thing that everybody had, and in a house with 3 other siblings, getting on the family computer wasn’t easy! It was this ancient, terrible laptop that they’d bought really cheap second hand, but I loved it, and it definitely kick started my writing career!

What do you like to do when you're not writing? 

I love music, and spend a lot of time playing the piano. Light of the Seven from the Game of Thrones finale is my current obsession, and I’m trying to learn it by heart. I also enjoy running – I find it great for not only easing all the aches from sitting all day, but also helping me solve plot tangles – it’s another activity that leaves your mind free to wander.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I think how neatly things can be tied together if you’re in the zone. One of my biggest fears in writing a series was over keeping the continuity across all the books. Hart and Soul is a nine book series. They’re only 30,000 words long – so that’s like a trilogy of average sized books – but each one is its own complete story, and so much happens, I was worried that plot threads would get dropped and it would all be a hot mess. Some of it is a hot mess, and will need a lot of editing work, but I found when I was writing regularly, and really living and breathing the world, that things came together surprisingly well – like characters I introduced in book 2 for the purpose of that story only coming back to help solve a problem in book 9. I’m definitely learning to trust my brain. And to trust that the messier bits can be sorted with a good edit!

Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?

There are so many. Philip Pullman, whose ‘His Dark Materials’ trilogy made me want to write something that amazing. JK Rowling, whose characters and world I abused over and over in my fanfiction. I seriously credit fanfiction with teaching me all the writing basics. From techniques like plotting and building realistic characters, to the more mechanical side of things – discipline, meeting deadlines, grammar and punctuation – fanfic gave me my grounding in writing, and I definitely wouldn’t have got so in to it without the need to feed my Harry Potter obsession. Kate Griffin, who writes really cool British Urban Fantasy. Kelley Armstrong, Mira Grant, Kristen Cashore, Lilith Saintcrow. There are others, but those are the first that come to mind.

What do you think makes a good story?

For me, it starts with the characters. It’s like the difference between The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad. I love both, but The Walking Dead gets me frustrated sometimes, because the characters are so changeable. They’re set up to be one thing in one episode, then do something completely opposite the next, which isn’t good story telling. If they need to force a plot point, they’ll just make a character do something completely out of character. In Breaking Bad, you know exactly what Walter White is going to do. And it’s always going to be the wrong thing, which is it’s own frustration, but it’s a better story. Because you have a character whose fatal flaw is always going to get him in to bad situations, but whose strengths make you think he probably has the intelligence and cunning to get out of it. The fun part is discovering how.

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