Aug 23 2011
This week, I’m very happy to introduce Maria Savva. She is a lawyer and writer who lives and works in London. At the moment, she works at a college by day and writes her stories by night.
Hi Maria, thanks for being my guest this week. Please, tell the cool peeps a bit about yourself and your work.
Hi Molly, thanks for inviting me here. I’m an author. I have four published novels and three collections of short stories.
I know you’re very excited about your new novel, THE DREAM. What is it about?
My latest novel is a bit different to my other novels as it has a paranormal element to it. I have had a few paranormal experiences in my time, so they were bound to find their way into my writing at some stage. Thinking about it, my first novel, ‘Coincidences,’ was bordering on paranormal because of the dream the main character, Alice, had that spurred her on to look for her father. I suppose ‘The Dream’ is similar to that in some ways because the main character, Lynne, has a recurring dream. ‘The Dream’ explores the idea of whether the past can ever be changed. There is a time slip involved. ‘The Dream’ was fun to write because with paranormal there are not really any boundaries as such; things don’t need to make sense. Of course, it all makes sense to me, but I am a bit strange.
How would you describe yourself as an author? Are there common threads that readers will find in your work?
I would describe myself as an author who takes inspiration from life and the world around me. Many of my novels and stories are autobiographical in parts, although I write bits of myself or life experiences into my various characters. Basically, a lot of myself and my feelings go into my books. I also take characteristics or behavioural patterns of people I meet who may have made an impact on me in some way, and work those into my stories and novels. An important point here is that this is something I have discovered over the years as I reflect on my work. I never intentionally write a character to be like me or someone I know; it just kind of happens that way. All the characters that appear in my stories and novels are fictional, but they all contain little bits of me or someone who has made a lasting impression on me, and they tend to be composite characters, so they would never only be one particular person I know, but more likely a mix of two or three people who have similar characteristics. So watch out Molly, you could appear in my next novel.
I think the common threads that run through all my novels are suspense, mystery, romance, love and relationships. Each of the novels contain something of those.
Most writers I meet are always thinking ahead to the next project or book(s). Do you have myriad ideas dancing in your head? Do they fight with each other? Write ME next! No, ME!
I don’t think a day goes by without me having an idea for a story, which is probably why I have written so many short stories. Novels require a longer time commitment. I currently have a novel that I started writing a few years ago that is waiting for me to get to it. I also have an idea for a themed collection of short stories and another idea for a novel. At the moment the new novel idea is winning, I have written about 11,000 words so far. I have just started a full time day job, however, so this will cut down on the amount of time I have spare to write. But I might just have to go back to my old habit of writing at night. I might add you into the book, Molly, if I can find somewhere you’d fit. How about if I include a reference to your new book? That might work.
I love writing both, and I don’t have a preference. Some stories require more words than others, that is the only difference between short stories and novels in my opinion. The main difference in the writing process is that with a novel it is never going to happen that you’ll write the first draft and it will be perfect and ready to go to print (unless your name is Joel Blaine Kirkpatrick, but he’s just a rare phenomenon). I find that I have to edit my novels many times before I’m happy with them. For example, there is more chance that with a novel there may be continuity issues that occur, especially where (as is usually the case for me) you write the book over a number of years rather than in a few weeks or months. With a short story, it’s more likely that as there are fewer words, there will be fewer errors to look out for in the editing process.
Some writers like to share their work as they go along. For others, it is top secret until it’s finished. Do you ever share your writing as you are working?
Top secret until I get to the final editing stages. When I get to the stage where I think it’s ready for publishing I always get a few people to read it over to check for typos and for feedback. When I get feedback, I will go on to edit again, then when I’m finally happy with it I’ll get another few people to read it to check for the stray typos that like to find their way into books.
It’s always interesting to me how different writers go about their novels. Some start with an idea and see where it takes them, others write meticulous outlines. How about you, Maria? What is your process like? Does it differ from book to book?
I always have a plan, but never stick to it. That’s my writing process. I will write a basic outline on A4 paper, how I want to book to begin, what main events will occur, and how it will end. The fun part for me is that I always know the ending will never be what I expect. I never know what the ending will be until I get there. As characters develop, they take over, because things will happen, and I will decide that a certain character would or wouldn’t do something, and this could change a story line. It’s all a bit of a mystery to me how these books get written, but you know, the day I find out will be the day I give it up writing because it will no longer be as much fun.
Please, tell us about “BestsellerBound” and the short story anthology that includes your story, “Flames.”
BestsellerBound (BsB) is a message board for indie/small press authors and readers or independently published books. The brains behind the forum is the awesomely talented author Darcia Helle. She contacted me in the summer last year to tell me about her idea for the message board. She had already discussed it with mystery author Stacy Juba, and they asked me to join them as a resident author. I am honoured to be at the helm of the wonderful forum. The idea behind BsB was that we wanted a friendly environment where self-published, small press, emerging, and aspiring authors could mingle and chat with readers.
Stacy Juba described it as a kind of ‘reality show’ for readers where they could stop by and see what their favourite indie authors were up to and they could ask questions about writing, about the books they had read, and also discover new, talented writers that they might not ever get to hear about. I am proud to say that the site seems to attract the cream of the crop of indie authors. Those who are passionate about their writing and also supportive of other writers. It’s a very friendly board. I love being a part of it.
The BestsellerBound Short Story Anthology Volume 1, is an idea that was being bandied about because we wanted a way to showcase our work. Joel Blaine Kirkpatrick published a free sample anthology last year that includes snippets from novels and some short stories. Darcia Helle came up with the idea for a short story anthology. Initially, we were intending to support a literacy charity with the proceeds, but there is a lot of red tape involved and we weren’t sure about the tax implications, so we decided to offer the book as a free download. That way, people get lots of free short stories from new and established indie authors, and we get a bit of promotion too. My short story, ‘Flames,’ is a modern tale about obsessive love. I’ve read the whole anthology and would encourage readers to download it; all the stories are great. We are lucky to have such talented authors on BsB. Volume Two is in the process of being formatted and will soon be available. I have a short story featured in there too.
The world of publishing is changing so rapidly. It’s hard to keep up. Any thoughts about the ever-evolving landscape? Predictions?
I think it’s an exciting time for anyone involved in publishing. When I started off as a writer, about 15 years ago, practically the only way an unknown author like me could get published was by paying extortionate sums to vanity press publishers. Now, almost anyone can publish on their own through Lulu.com, CreateSpace, Amazon Kindle, Smashwords. It’s great! I know there are the naysayers out there who argue that because so many books are being published there is no way of making sure that the quality is of a good standard. I agree that in the old days all books were traditionally published and professionally edited, so there was less chance you could buy something with typos and grammatical errors. But I am all for the change. It’s not only for selfish reasons. Yes, I am a writer and I publish my own books so you’d expect me to say only good things about the changes in this sector of the industry.
But I am also speaking from the view of someone who reads a lot of books. I grew up reading the best-sellers, and yes, many of those will always be favourites. But, you know, most of the books I have read over the past three years have been by self-published authors and I am seeing so much talent out there. I got to the stage where I was actually bored with the books I was buying from mainstream publishers. Even my favourite writers seemed to be churning out the same old stories just packaged differently. It’s all about the hype with big publishers. They know that people will buy as long as they advertise. This indie revolution is something that was needed, in my opinion. We no longer have the same staid stories being written over and over again. Writers are pushing the boundaries, crossing over genres, using the written word to express themselves, writing real characters instead of caricatures. Most of my favourite authors are now self-published authors. And anyone who knows me knows that I can be just about as picky as you, Molly, when it comes to books.
It is a fallacy that all indie books are inferior in some way to traditionally published books. Of course, there will be some authors who publish without bothering to edit or check for typos, but these are very few and far between. Most indie authors I know work very hard to make sure their work is presented well. Sure, we are seeing a surge of self-published material because there is still a notion that all authors are rich, and everyone wants to publish the next best-seller. But I am sure that when people slowly realise that this is not something you can hope to make a living from (I know some authors do, but for the majority we still need to have a day job) , we will be left with the writers who are passionate about the art of the written word.
Predictions? I am sure that ebooks will continue to rise in popularity because the ereaders that are being designed are getting better and better. I love paperback and hardback books, but a few weeks ago I bought an ereader because there are so many great books that you can only buy as downloads these days. I absolutely love my Kindle and wish I’d bought it years ago. I’m sure books will continue to be published traditionally, but I’m liking the shift and hope it continues.
Many people write their first book and have no idea how to begin to promote it. What advice would you offer? What are the best ways to use and not to use social media?
That is the question I wish I knew the answer to. If I did, I would surely be a millionaire by now. The short answer is that there is no answer to that question. Who knows why I sell eight books in a day and then sell none for weeks, or why I sell 30 books in one month and only three in another? What am I doing right, what am I doing wrong? Up until now I haven’t been able to work this out. I’m thoroughly confused. If anyone has the answer to this, please let me know.
One piece of advice I can give is: connect with your readers and fellow authors. Indie authors are very supportive of each other and if you join sites such as BestsellerBound, you can get help and advice along your publishing journey.
I know that you’re an avid reader. What books do you most enjoy reading?
I think I’ve already partly answered that in an earlier question. But I would say that these days, I like books that offer me something new and different to what I am used to. I like trying different genres. I like books that surprise me and entertain me. I prefer fast paced books, more dialogue, less purple prose.
What do you know now that you wish you knew five years ago?
The lottery numbers.
But seriously, I’ve thought about this question, and the only real answer I can come up with is that there is no point looking back or having regrets. I think everything that happens in our life happens to take us to where we need to be, so going back and changing things really is not a good idea. I kind of touch on that subject in my new novel, ‘The Dream.’
What do you hope to know in five years that you don’t know now?
What it’s like to watch an adaptation of one of my novels in the cinema.
I’ve been forever called picky, but I maintain that we’re all picky creatures. What are you picky about?
Darcia Helle will back me up on this. I am picky to the point of obsession about the sentences in my novels. I rearrange them constantly until I am absolutely happy with them…this takes a long time.
Any parting words for the masses? Any shameless plugs? Where can people find you online?
Firstly, thank you to anyone who has ever bought a self-published book. You are stars. I would also like to encourage people to write reviews of independently published books when they enjoy them, because word of mouth is what sells books. We rely on you. If you like our books tell everyone: the postman, your neighbours, the strange man at the bus stop, the cashier at the local supermarket.
Secondly, a plea to those who haven’t read an independently published book: Please, buy at least one. If you love it, please buy some more and give them to your friends as gifts. And, remember to tell the postman, your neighbours, the strange man at the bus stop, and the cashier at the local supermarket. You could start with one of mine 🙂 I’m not sure whether that’s shameless self-promotion or shameful self-promotion, but there you go, I’ve said it.
Finally, we authors really do love it when you buy our books, you know. In fact, you could lend them from a library, that’s also good. Our books are like little pieces of our souls. We love them. We want you to love them. You can find me online at the following places:
I’d love to give away one signed print copy of ‘The Dream’ to a reader of your blog. International.