This week brings Megan Tayte, you can find out more about her on her website, goodreads, Facebook, twitter or pinterest. You can buy her books on Amazon UK or Amazon. Without further ado, I give you Megan.
What are you currently writing/working on?
I’m finishing up the edit for the third book in my Ceruleans series – YA paranormal romance with soul. Then I’ll be moving on to rewriting the fourth and fifth books. And then, finally, I’ll be able to start the brand-new project that’s been keeping me awake for months.
When and how do your characters come to you? Is it in a moment of inspiration, an epiphany? Or do they grow in some murky recess of your mind?
A mix of both. I get a spark of an idea, and I leave that spark to grow. One of the hardest things about being an author, I find, is having patience. When you’re all fired up over an idea, you want to dive in and get writing. But the more time you spend before you write developing the characters and the story, the easier and better the writing is. My characters are usually pretty well formed before I begin writing, but I did redevelop one character in the Ceruleans based on a moment of inspiration I had later on. Flexibility is key!
There’s an acceptance that authors often write in traits or characteristics of themselves into their work. Is there any part of you in any of your characters?
Yes, my heroine in the Ceruleans, Scarlett, is like me in some ways: independent at a young age, happy enough in her own company, sensitive when it comes to emotions, and definitely not at ease in a loud, crowded nightclub. But she differs from me in the decisions she makes and perhaps in her courage: she conquers her fear of the ocean and becomes a pretty kick-ass surfer, but I’d probably always remain as Scarlett is at the start of Death Wish – bobbing about on the waves, clinging to a surfboard for dear life and in dire need of rescue. Ideally, by a very hot surfer, of course.
How do you develop your characters? Do you let them brew in your subconscious, use character interview sheets, or something completely different?
Character development happens entirely in my head. I make notes, but that’s just record-keeping, not brainstorming. The characters live and breathe inside me, and it’s my job simply to get to know them really well. Often, that means imagining all sorts of scenarios and then seeing how they react. The five books of the Ceruleans series span around 350,000 words, but in my mind are so many more scenes never to be shared – the scenes I used to challenge my characters.
Are you a planner, or free writer?
A mix of both. I let ideas come freely for a long while, and then start planning. But once I have a detailed plan down, I still follow the creative process as I write. Sometimes that leads to a deviation that doesn’t work, and I cut the whole lot and go back to the plan. Sometimes the deviation turns out to be great, and I go with it and amend the plan accordingly.
When you are developing a book, what tools or techniques do you use, e.g. timelines, mood boards, character interviews, scraps of notes?
I have a lot of handwritten notes – some very rough that I scribble in the middle of the night or while cooking burning dinner; some more formally put together. Lists. Timelines. Spider diagrams. Huge posters. Stacks of annotated Post-Its. Character sketches. Actual sketches, sometimes (for no one’s eyes but mine – I’m a shocking artist). I also keep a lot of files on the computer. An Excel spreadsheet tracking chapter and book word counts, and a super-detailed timeline (geek alert!). A file of hyperlinks for research. A Pinterest image board with settings, outfits, artworks – all sorts. An iTunes playlist entitled ‘Music to Stir the Muse’.
Has your technique changed over time?
It’s become more fluid and creative, I think. Because I began writing books for a living, not for pleasure, in my day job as ghostwriter, I took a professional approach – lots of formal planning, which of course the client needs to see. But once I came to write for myself, I could have more fun with how I made notes and planned. For example, I wrote the end of the second Ceruleans book in a hotel room, and I ripped up every page of the free notepad provided and wrote plot points on each scrap, then had a lot of fun arranging them on the floor. It was a spacious room, and I pretty much carpeted it in notes. Which I then left there until I checked out because I quite liked the look of them.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you actively look for it?
I have many inspirations, from my own experiences to settings to culture to books. Often, the idea for a story comes to me when I let my mind wander – usually while I’m out walking or just about to fall asleep. When I’m in a particularly creative flow, I’m an insomniac, and once the muse was being so pushy my husband banned me from walking anywhere for a week, because I kept coming home all het up about a new idea. It can be a little exhausting when the ideas flood me like that, but with a notebook close at hand I try to capture everything, and often the jumble of ideas crystallises into something over time.
What kind of an environment do you write in?
At home I write in my writing room, which has a big desk overlooking the garden. But sometimes I need a change of scene and a bit of a buzz – and coffee! – so I decamp to a local cafe. My other favourite writing spot is in the arts library on the university campus near my home. The smell of old books there is intoxicating. Wherever I am, I write in ear plugs, which filter background noise into a pleasant buzz that doesn’t distract me.
When I’m in a writing phase, I write for as many hours as I can around family commitments. I’m an early bird, so I try to start by 7.30 a.m., and I go through solidly until lunch. Then I’ll go back until the school pick-up at 3, and then try to do some editing in the evening. Occasionally, I do a ‘writing binge’. Before my daughter came along I spent every Sunday night for a couple of months at a local hotel, writing from check-in at 2 p.m. until midnight, and then 6 a.m. to checkout at 12. It was a very productive time for me, away from distractions.
Half way into writing my first novel, it’s taking over my brain! What advice can you give me on completing it? Or maybe an easier question. What do you wish you had known about writing a book before you started?
It’s going to consume you, and that’s hard when you still have to do a day job and get some food shopping in and remember to comb your hair in the morning. But it’s normal and, if you accept it, it can be a fun part of writing. As for completion, don’t even worry about it. Just write every day and enjoy that writing, and one day you’ll reach the end. Then you’ll be sad you’re finished, and you’ll start another book (or, if you don’t, you’ll suffer withdrawal pangs).
The publishing industry is in decline across the board. Do you think things like the Kindle are bridging the gap, is there still the same love for the written word, or is it being diluted by the modern obsession with tech and gadgets?
I’ve written and talked extensively on this topic for my work in publishing. I think the future for digital publishing is very bright indeed. Books won’t die; if anything, readership is going to increase with the growth of ways in which to engage with books. Stories have been a part of our culture for so long that they’re an integral part of being. We use them to understand, to grow, to connect, to develop, to learn and to find comfort, escape and pleasure. No way will the digital revolution destroy that powerful need. I’m not sure the publishing industry is collapsing so much as changing. Savvy publishers are evolving and innovating, trying new mediums, new ways of bringing stories to readers. It’s a really exciting era in which to be writing, publishing and, of course, reading (because you’re not a writer if you’re not a reader first and foremost).
50 Shades of Grey author EL James was reported to make around £100k a day at the book’s height, and the upcoming film will make her millions. Do you find it a shame that the most lucrative and famous book franchise of the moment is one so widely derided for its lack of literary value? Or is it just good to have a book going mainstream?
I think many people have enjoyed criticising 50 Shades, but what they fail to realise is that when they do that, they’re also criticising the many, many people who bought the books. Readers have free will – they can buy what they like; they set the trends. I don’t hold with literary snobs. Read what you want to read, I say. What was brilliant about the 50 Shades phenomenon was that it drew lots of people into reading who’d given it up: it increased engagement with reading. And that can only be a good thing.
If a fascist regime was burning the world’s libraries, what books would you save?
All of them. Impossible. But I’d need to save all of them! Oh dear, I’ve got palpitations. I mean, I struggle to exit my local second-hand bookstore without rescuing armfuls of books. They call to me like little kittens sitting forlornly in a pet shop cage.
Which publishing route have you taken? Did you always know you were going to go down this route, and if so why?
I have several books traditionally published, and I knew I could take this path for my YA fiction. But I wanted to explore indie publishing, because I love the control you have over every aspect of the process and I love the creative freedom. Most of all, I believe in working hard to achieve your own success, and I like the challenge of doing this for myself – for now at least.
What do you wish you knew about the publishing process before you started?
To be honest, I’ve been working in publishing for so long there haven’t been any big surprises. The only thing that stands out as being new is how vulnerable publishing my own fiction has made me feel at times versus seeing something I’ve written for a publisher or author published. Being commissioned to write is actually a lot easier for me than writing for myself – but it doesn’t feed the need to write in the same way.
What is the best advice you could give to aspiring novelists like me?
Have fun and keep writing! In my day job I’ve worked with plenty of authors who risk killing the joy of writing and sharing that writing by getting bogged down in the business of being an author (and, consequently, give up after one book). I try not to take myself too seriously. I love to write, and if others enjoy reading what I write, that’s a brilliant bonus – but either way, I’ll still write.
Is fanfic to be welcomed as it broadens interaction and the reader’s experience or a scourge that devalues the ability of an author?
Welcomed. Fans are writing. Writing! Delving into their imaginations, gaining confidence, practising their craft. Just as running about in a robe with a broomstick honours JK Rowling’s literary endeavour, writing fanfiction honours an author’s work. It’s important, though, that the fanfic writer is being respectful of the original work: no plagiarising, no bizarre twisting. It’s also important, I think, that the fanfic writer isn’t benefiting financially from the writing, because they don’t own the rights over the concept they’re using.
I am finding more and more, that writers often have several creative outlets. Do you? Or is writing your one source?
It pretty much is, although my day job is also writing, so I guess I have the two outlets within the writing sphere. I would love to be able to paint, and I yearn to learn the art of book binding, but time and ability are against me. I was more ‘artsy’ when I was younger, and I performed a lot as an actress and vocal soloist then. These days I’ve accepted specialising in writing, and I feed my love for other forms of art as a spectator rather than creator – going to theatres and art galleries, for example.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
When I was very little, I would tell people I wanted to be a lollipop lady (traffic controller outside schools) or a fairy princess fireman, but the discovery that such a job as author existed blew those roles out of the water. In my teens, with Those In Charge muttering about ‘proper jobs’, I briefly considered some other career paths, but none of them fitted. After uni, I took jobs that involved writing, but I did take a break from the rat race in my mid-twenties and was a children’s nanny. Finger-painting and feeding the ducks as a job – awesome. I could do that again. Heck, I do that daily with my kids.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
It began with a passion for books. For as long as I can remember I’ve been book-obsessed. As a little girl the best outing in the world was to the village library, whose children’s section I’d read dry by the time I was ten. But it was my grandmother who provided the ‘Eureka!’ moment when she suggested that if I loved books so much, perhaps one day I should write my own. It was a revelation – the idea that I could be an author. I’ve held fast to that dream ever since.
What authors do you admire, and why?
I admire all authors. All of them. Because I know just how much dedication and perseverance and drive and courage it takes to write a book and then share that book with the world. Being an author is physically, mentally and emotionally difficult, and if I could change one thing in the book industry it would be this: universal respect for the creator. You may not love someone’s book, but if you love writing, if you love reading, if you love the arts, you have to love the fact that the author tried: they wrote.
You can find out more about Megan in her author bio below:
Once upon a time a little girl told her grandmother that when she grew up she wanted to be a writer. Or a lollipop lady. Or a fairy princess fireman. ‘Write, Megan,’ her grandmother advised. So that’s what she did.
Thirty-odd years later, Megan writes the kinds of books she loves to read: young-adult paranormal romance fiction. Young adult, because it’s the time of life that most embodies freedom and discovery and first love. Paranormal, because she’s always believed that there are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy. And romance, because she’s a misty-eyed dreamer who lives for those ‘life is so breathtakingly beautiful’ moments.
Megan grew up in the Royal County, a hop, skip and a (very long) jump from Windsor Castle, but these days she makes her home in Robin Hood’s county, Nottingham. She lives with her husband, a proud Scot who occasionally kicks back in a kilt; her son, a budding artist with the soul of a paleontologist; and her baby daughter, a keen pan-and-spoon drummer who sings in her sleep. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her walking someplace green, reading by the fire, or creating carnage in the kitchen as she pursues her impossible dream: of baking something edible.