On 12.12.12 Suzanna Williams self-published her debut novel Shock Waves, an imaginative and action-packed YA novel. It is without question one of the best YA books I’ve read in a long, long time. I needed to find out more so I asked Suzanna some questions:
My husband and I were watching a programme on TV about books for boys. I was familiar with the authors they mentioned, Anthony Horowitz, Robert Muchamore and Andy McNab because they were books my children had read. As the person who reads the ingredients on Cornflake packets, I’d read them too. I thought YA books were great. I think I might have said ‘I could write like that’. My husband, always thinking about supply and demand and probably the earnings of J.K. Rowling said ‘go on then’. He helped with the plotting and four months later I had a manuscript.
The character of Lee was based on my son and his free-running friends whilst my daughter was the owner of a boy-racer Saxo complete with aftermarket bumper and neon lights.
2. How is your book different from other YA paranormal?
Although the telepathy in ShockWaves sets it in the paranormal category and Lee does use this ability to help find Paige, the rescue is only possible by Lee’s very normal, if somewhat extreme, free-running skills and Paige’s gymnastic/karate training. So, even though I love science-fiction, I tend to think of ShockWaves as an action/adventure with paranormal on the side.
I tried to make Lee and Paige’s visions a hindrance to them at times rather than a get-out-of-jail-free card because I prefer grounding any story, even a paranormal, in reality. I’ve planned the next book in the series so that there are reasons why their telepathy is blocked. (I didn’t want them having things too easy).
The other big difference is the parkour element. It’s the fastest growing sport in the world but many people still haven’t heard of it and although it’s featured in many films I haven’t heard of it in a fiction book yet. I hope this will be popular with my readers.
3. Did you design the cover yourself?
The cover was done by Plain Sight VFX aka my husband. It involved an awesome CGI helicopter and my son and his girlfriend balancing on a gate whilst the photographer lay underneath, which was actually quite dangerous.
4. Which character from the book are you most like? Lee? Paige? Andy? Joan? Not O’Shea I hope!
Umm. I wouldn’t be happy baking cakes and reading Mills and Book like Joan and, although I have two day jobs at the moment, it doesn’t take long before I get bored so I couldn’t stand working in the same factory all my life like Derek.
Please God, I am not like O’Shea, although I can be volatile when I’ve eaten chocolate (see question 11).
I don’t have Andy’s confidence to flirt and break rules although I do share Lee’s inability to give up even when things look impossible (some would call this stupidity).
And then there’s Paige. I would probably have learned karate if I thought it would have pleased my parents. I did have several cringe-worthy boyfriends. I’m good at keeping my fears secret and I’m known to cope well under pressure. So I guess I’m Paige. J
5. What will your next book be? Will it be out soon?
My next book is called Ninety-five per-cent Human although I’m halfway through the sequel to ShockWaves too.
Ninety-five per-cent Human is about a teenage boy who saves the life of a genetic experiment sent from another planet which triggers the invasion of Earth. I’m having lots of fun writing it and hope to have it out in Spring 2013.
Ooh, wait a minute. I just fell off my chair laughing. Me sporty? You’re talking to someone who can’t run, can’t jump, can’t catch, can’t throw and doesn’t do well with competitive events, which, as you can imagine, limits my involvement in the majority of sports. That said I did take up jogging last year so I’m not completely useless.
So, to get back to the question, my favourite sport to ‘watch’ would be gymnastics. I admire how much work and commitment it takes. I love the strength and the grace and the sheer nerve it takes to perform the routines. I can imagine how awesome it must feel to have so much control and confidence in your body. Maybe if I’d not had my nose in a book all the time as a child …
7. Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?
Unless I find a plot-line that really grabs me I several books on the go at the same time.
Right now, I have
- Delirium by Lauren Oliver out of the library (first chapters are a bit slow but we’ll see),
- I’m re-reading Where She Went by Gayle Forman (I love Adam)
- and, to prove I don’t always read YA, my bookmark is sticking out of Dying to be Me by Anita Moorjani (not my usual type of book but interesting. Inspiration for a story? Maybe).
8. When did you first realise you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?
I guess most writers say they’ve ‘always wanted to be an author’ but I think there’s a huge difference between dreaming of selling your latest ream of random scribblings and writing with a view for publication. So, whilst I’ve been scribbling and dreaming since I learned to hold a pen, it was not until fairly recently I seriously tried to become an author. The first draft of ShockWaves was completed in August 2007.
9. What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?
Get yourself an editor.
You will think your novel is the best thing since man set pen to paper but you’re too close to see the big picture and your mum will not tell you the truth. An editor will.
I thought the first draft of my ShockWaves was great, finished, ready to go. It wasn’t even close.
If you were a traditionally published author, they would pay to have your novel edited. Even mega-successful, experienced authors have editors. You need one too.
Can’t afford professional editing? Don’t publish until you can. Get another job. Sell your car.
Did I mention aspiring self-publishers need their books edited?
10. What’s the one best thing and the one worst thing about self-publishing, in your experience?
I’m a control freak, so the best thing about self-pubbing is having complete responsibility over every aspect of my book. And I’m not just talking choosing cover pictures or fonts for inside. One agent I worked with wanted the story to be an exploration into Paige’s feelings about her parent’s death; another favoured psychological thrillers so I changed my bad guy into a psychopathic serial killer. (Yes, I’ve done that many major re-writes.) But self-publishing has allowed me to leave ShockWaves as it was conceived, an action/adventure with a paranormal twist, and that makes me happy.
The worst thing is no publishers advance and having to front all the costs of getting your book into the world by yourself. I have an extra day job to fund my writing habit.
11. OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favourite foods?
Cheese; strong, tangy, goes with anything, eat anytime.
Fruit; can’t think of a fruit I don’t like. Especially good if you can pick your own.
And chocolate. Melt in your mouth, cannot stop until it’s finished. Dark chocolate is the best but any type will do. Which is the whole reason I don’t eat it anymore. It messes with my blood sugar and makes me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
12. What would you not be seen dead wearing?
Granny shoes. You know the kind; the colour of mud, a pretend basket weave pattern on the upper and a miniscule heel that clicks as you move to draw attention to their ugly presence. Now, I’m all for wearing comfortable shoes but, come on. I’m going to be a granny who wears trainers.
13. And finally, please describe your perfect day away from the computer and writing!
In a perfect, non-writing day, I’d rise early and take to the countryside. My family is all grown-up and scattered across the UK but I’d bring them all together and take them with me.
I love dramatic mountains, gurgling streams, towering cliffs and peaceful lakes. I like the springtime when everything’s green and new, in summer when it’s lush and relaxed, when autumn colours everything fire red and burnished gold and in winter when the land hides under a blanket of crunchy snow. And sharing these treasures with the people I love best would be my idea of heaven.
We’d stop at a country pub for a home cooked lunch and spend the evening chatting about our latest adventures before they return home. Ahh, when’s this happening????
Thanks to Suzanna for a fabulous interview. And do please pay particularly close attention to her answer to question 9!!! (In case you didn’t know, I’m an editor!)
Here’s where to buy ShockWaves.