Saturday, 11 June 2016

Favourite Questions & Answers!

Hi everyone!

So! Paperback copies of my novel are now available to purchase and to celebrate this (and the publication of my novel) I've been featured on a few book blogs in order to spread the word about Gifted. Reviews and guest posts were involved, but many were interviews (as I enjoy answering questions), and since I got asked some amazing questions, I thought I'd share my favourites with you!

If you spot a Q&A you like or intrigues you, feel free to click on the name of the blogger (found at the end of the question) and it will lead you to the entire interview!

Can you tell us a little about yourself? Archaeolibrarian

My author name is J.A. George and my full name is Jessica George. I’ll leave the middle name a mystery. I like to read, write, bake, socialise with my friends and be at the cinema. I’m the author of GIFTED – The Hayven Series and I am a chocolate fiend. Seriously, it’s gotten to the point where I may need to seek professional help about it.

Are you a planner or a pantser? 

Ooooh, definitely a planner! I plan everything! My life would be chaos if I didn’t. I used to type everything out as I was thinking it, but now I write everything down on paper, wait a few hours and then type it out. That way, my plot lines are more developed, more interesting and just make more sense!

Can you tell us about your upcoming book? 

Boiled down, GIFTED is all about a nineteen year old university student who meets a woman a little on the strange side before meeting a young man a little more on the stranger side. These meetings lead to the eventual discovery of Hayven – a city separated from the rest of the world where only those with gifts can go. She makes an eclectic bunch of friends, who, even though I’m biased, are just awesome. But Hayven has its dark side and they’re called Cliders. Gifters turned rogue, Cliders are determined to see Hayven return to the way it was one thousand years ago when the city was under the dominion of Madrina. Want to know more about her? Read GIFTED.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers? 

Keep writing because if you want to be an author, I’m afraid to say you don’t have any other choice.

Is there a certain type of scene that is harder to write than others? 

Love scenes. I’m not a very…romantic person. I’m the kind of person who cringes at love scenes in books and sometimes skips over it. Want to hear something ironic? My first edition of Gifted was full of scenes like this and I hated it writing it. Honestly, I would wince at my desk as I typed it out. I just…blah… yeah, it’s not for me. I know what you’re thinking – so why write it? I added strong romance into my book because I thought that was what people wanted to read. Every author wants their book to sell and in order for it to sell, you have to write what people want to read, so I tried to do that. Until one evening, I’d just had enough and I deleted all of the romance scenes and completely revised my novel, resulting in edition two, and I am so happy with the way it is now.

Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad reviews? 

Remember that criticism can help. Also remember that bad reviews as well as the good are opinions, not facts.

The heroine in this story, Ava, has a very specific body type that is mentioned more than once. Is it important to you to create a strong female character that is not only beautiful but relatable? Bookmafia

It’s very important to me that Ava is relatable because I like reading about realistic people; it makes fantasy more exciting! I think some novels are saturated with the skinny protagonist and I was guilty of that too! In edition one of Gifted, Ava was a UK size 8. I literally sat up in bed one evening, right as I was about to fall asleep and I said aloud, “Why are all my characters skinny?” There was no one else in the room thank goodness, but it got me thinking. Why are all of my characters the same small size when that isn’t a true representation of women? How can I make my novel come across as realistic if the characters are not? Living in the UK, I am constantly surrounded by people of all different shapes and sizes, and in my group of friends, none of us are the same size. There’s nothing wrong with having tiny characters, but there’s nothing wrong with having curvier characters either.

Will each book in the series be a continuation of the story or will it break and follow additional characters? Should we expect the POV to change? 

The POV will change in books three and four and I am so excited for this! Things get a lot more serious in book two and onwards, and the group won’t always be together. So you’ll see what’s happening from each of the seven main character’s POV’s and maybe an additional extra *wiggles eyebrows*.

What genre do you write in? Coreena

Contemporary YA fantasy. I started off writing a novel because I wanted something to read. I wanted to read a contemporary YA fantasy novel that didn’t feature instant-love, a chosen one or a girl growing up in a dystopian society. I just wanted to read about someone normal, someone I could relate to. Someone who worries about the way she looks, but never says it out loud, has a sense of humour, thinks about the small stuff. Then I wanted to take her and place in a world she never thought existed. I wanted to explore real young adult relationships, friendships and modern-day topics such as, body weight issues and cheating in relationships. Gifted is a lot less sombre than it sounds, I promise!

How do you fuel your writing?

Chocolate. Occasionally I switch it up for something else just as sweet. I tried doughnuts once – things got a bit messy.

Tell us about your main character.

Her name is Ava and she’s the hardest character I’ve ever had to write. In my first edition of GIFTED, I tried to write a novel that everyone would like, until I realised that that was impossible. Long story short, Ava was a bit boring, in my opinion, because I was trying to follow trends I’d seen before, trying to fit her into too many different boxes. So after two years, I made the decision to write for myself. I can’t pinpoint when exactly I made this decision, but I honestly think I just woke up one evening (after a nap) and something just clicked. Now, Ava doesn’t really fit into a box; she’s just…Ava, and I love her.

If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

I’m torn between flight, simply so I could know what it feels like to fly through clouds, or invisibility.

Why is your novel about choices and decisions? Deborah Hill

Because I truly believe that’s what life is about. This edition of Gifted is my second edition and in my first edition, I hadn’t explored or even contemplated the effects choices and decisions have on your life. I know it sounds pretty obvious, like, of course your choices affect your future, but I don’t think we realise how much. One little decision, such as walking your dog in a different park could change your life. That new park may be the place you meet your life partner and they just happened to try out that new park that day too. You could witness an event that then impacts your life. We never really take into account what can occur from a ‘little’ choice or decision.

What’s special about your main character, Ava?

She’s real. She wasn’t very real in my first edition because I was trying to base her on female protagonists I’d read about in the past because I wanted my book to sell. After two years, I decided to drop that mentality and focus on making Gifted into a book I wanted to read and chose to forget about whether others would like it (although I still hope they will!) I didn’t want to read about a girl who wakes up and kicks butt on daily basis, I wanted to read about an ordinary girl. Ava is strong-willed, funny and sarcastic, but she’s also insecure and worries about the small stuff, like we all do. I really bond with her because I can see myself and many others in her and it’s nice to have a relatable character who experiences extra-ordinary things. For me, Ava makes the impossible seem a little more…possible.

Any romance? 

Uh-oh. Busted! I would say there isn’t much romance, but I’ve come to realise that I can’t really influence how people read and interpret my book. My main protagonists Theo and Ava are not in love, but some of my readers believe they are and if it’s true in their heads, why should I say they’re wrong? The only reason I say they’re not in love is because I don’t believe in instant-love, and because that can be quite a common trope, a lot of YA readers expect it. They read about a male protagonist and a female protagonist and think, yup, they’re in love! Theo isn’t a smoking-hot, bad-boy, he’s nice to look at and a little on the weird side. One of my readers said she didn’t understand why Ava was interested in Theo and I was just sat on my bed looking at my computer screen and thought, urmmm, because he’s her type? She’s attracted to people who make her laugh and interest her. We don’t all fall for the unobtainable guy who loves to brood and looks like he’s the son of Zeus and BeyoncĂ©.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?

Yes, and that’s trying not to write for other people. I wrote Gifted because I wanted to read a contemporary YA fantasy with a main character I could relate to. Somewhere along the line I lost that and began focusing on writing a book I thought readers would like and buy, dismissing my feelings entirely. In my second edition (the one that’s currently published), I happily returned to writing the book I want to read.

What’s the best weather to write in?

I really love to write when it’s raining outside. Just hearing the rain droplets hit my window puts me in a good writing mood.

Diversity plays a role in the novel, Ava’s friends are all unique and special in their own way. How important is diversity to you in YA? Emily

Very important. It is no secret that YA books are severely lacking in diversity; there’s just no question about it. Thanks to this, most books just aren’t relatable. I was born and raised in London, one of the most diverse cities in the world, so when I read a book where the majority of the characters are from one race group, the book makes less of an impact on me because it isn’t realistic and it isn’t relatable because the lack of diversity isn’t my world. In the next three books of my series I plan to introduce more diverse characters than seen in book one. I’ve already plotted story-lines and roles for Asian characters, Muslim characters, Latin characters and homosexual characters. I love diversity and I intend to pile it into my books as much as I can get away with!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers (about the publishing process, how to boost your confidence, dealing with criticism or rejection)? Fatima

Keep writing, not because everyone tells you to, but because you want to be a writer and there is no other way to do that than to write. Remember that rejection is not fact but opinion and the same goes for criticism. Not everybody is going to like your book, unfortunately. In fact, chances are, many people won’t. Focus on the positive reviews rather than the negative. I know this is all easier said than done, but you get better with practice. If all else fails, eat chocolate. If that doesn’t cheer you up, I’m afraid you may be a lost cause and good luck to you!

Did you always want to be a writer? 

No! I wanted to be a doctor, then a lawyer before I wanted to work in finance. Why? They all have high chances of providing a stable future. Being a writer does not, but I like to think it’s worth it.

What methods do you use to cope with writers block? Jillian

I usually just write a new scene whilst I wait for the block to be knocked down. Or eat copious amounts of chocolate – that also tends to help.

If chosen as a contestant in The Hunger Games, what would your strategy be and why? 

Throw books at people? That could cause a concussion, surely.

What Harry Potter house would you be in?

I want to say Gryffindor, but you have to be brave to be in that house and spiders render me speechless. But I’m much too soft for Slytherin. Can I be in Ravenclaw?

I received so many wonderful questions, too many for one blog post. So, look out for part two!

Friday, 27 May 2016

My favourites PART TWO!

I'm back!

I have returned to finish off my favourites blog post where I tell you a few of my favourite things in a bid to get to know me better. I think I left off on strawberry jam…

So, here’s another thing I make – chocolate!

Okay, granted I only made it once, but it wasn’t bad for chocolate with only three ingredients in it: cocoa powder, honey and coconut oil. I can't remember how you make it exactly, but I remember some freezing going on. I'm guessing, mix all the ingredients together and then freeze?

That leads me nicely onto my favourite thing of all time – chocolate. I LOVE chocolate! Eating a bar makes me so happy, it really does. I can't even elaborately describe how much I love this tasty treat. I just...I just like chocolate, okay? 

I use to have a big bar of chocolate every day, but upon realising that probably wasn’t the best way to live, I reduced my intake significantly. However, the amount of chocolate I eat now, after the reduction, can still be considered too much. Once, I ate all of these in one sitting.

Baby steps…

Now, taking this into account, will it surprise you to know that I’m not a fan of chocolate ice-cream or chocolate sauce? It usually does surprise people! I like chocolate, chocolate cookies, melted chocolate, brownies and chocolate cake, but chocolate ice-cream and sauce? No, thank you! I thought this was very strange until my friend told me that she hates coffee, but loves tiramisu and coffee ice-cream! I’m not looking so weird now, am I? I am? Oh.

Every day for breakfast, I used to have a bowl of Cheerios. I think I went three days straight eating Cheerios for breakfast, lunch and dinner; I was obsessed. I’m over it now, but I feel my love for the cereal needed to be mentioned because it was a love so strong. I couldn’t leave the supermarket without a box, and if it was half price? Well then, I couldn’t leave without a few.

I adore homemade things because I think they hold more sentimental value. I have a blanket that my friend Eve (remember her from my favourites part 1? The friend I watch all the superhero movies with) knitted for me and it is probably my most prized possession. It’s my favourite thing in the world, simply because she made it. I don’t even use it, it stays folded at the top of my cupboard, but whenever I look at it, I smile because I was so touched, and still am, at the fact that she took the time and effort to knit me that when I didn’t even ask for it. And it wasn’t a birthday or Christmas present. She just made it for me. *wipes away tear drop*

I like fairy lights. My goodness, I never used to! I thought they were too girly, but ever since I visited my friend Sanj (also mentioned in my favourites part one; the girl who ignited my love for baking) in Nottingham where she goes to university. We were just talking in her room after stuffing ourselves with food and she turned her main lights off and put her fairy lights on. Music was playing and it was one of the most relaxing moments ever, so I vowed to recreate the same experience in my room, and thus my love of fairy lights began.

That’s Thomas the bear. He was a birthday present from my friend Camila, nicknamed Marshmillo. He’s been with me, for I think, four years now? He's lovely, but doesn't say much...

I think cheesecake is my favourite dessert.

Chocolate doesn’t count as my favourite dessert because it’s just my favourite everything. My close friend Samira, who I call Sam, makes me the best oreo cheesecake and she only makes it for me.

Our mutual friends and her other friends beg her to make it for them, but she never does because it’s my cheesecake and it makes me feel so special when I get it. It tastes unbelievably good and I’m not ashamed to say I can finish more than half a tin in one sitting – and it’s a deep tin…

Sam once made me this epic cheesecake with multiple layers of oreo biscuit, digestive biscuit, oreo cream cheese, milk chocolate and caramel with crushed oreos on top. Perhaps not for those on a diet.

I like to eat. I like food. I like Nandos.

But the best way into my heart? Take me to a buffet.

I live in Sheffield at the moment whilst I’m at university. I came from London where I was born and raised and that is where my family home currently resides. I like my hometown, but I do like Sheffield.

It’s a lot quieter than London and less busy, which I like. I love living in both Sheffield and London because it’s nice to be in a busy, face-paced city sometimes, but it’s especially great because I know I can return to Sheffield, where things move a lot slower.

I study English Literature at university and I like my course. I used to study International Business and I hated that so I suppose any other course is better, but English Literature suits me because I like to read and write. Believe it or not, I detested my Creative Writing course. I took it in my first year and after the term was over, I did not return. Gosh, it was horrible. It’s because I didn’t like the teacher. We had to write poetry and she always had something negative to say if you made yours rhyme and I remember when it was my turn to present my poem to the class and she kept trying to get my classmates to say bad things about it. They never did which made me so happy and a little bit smug, but, yes, never will I return.

This just sums up my life really:

That’s it! Do you know me a little better now?

Friday, 20 May 2016

Writing For Myself

The book world is an interesting one to say the least.

Before I published the first edition of Gifted, I thought I had my novel all sorted out, nothing major to add, nothing major to take out, when for some reason, I googled, What do readers want in YA? And do you know what the most common answer was? Less romance. You couldn’t possibly imagine the look of shock on my face because the only reason I incorporated romance into my novel in the first place was because I thought that was what readers wanted. I’m not the gushy, romantic type; I’m the kind of person who cringes at the unrealistic love scenes in a book and will more often than not, skip over it. I honestly thought you couldn’t have a YA novel without romance, so I forced it into Gifted, despite my reservations and despite the fact that I hated writing it. Honestly, I would visibly cringe at my desk as I typed it out. I just…bleugh…it’s not for me. And now to find that readers don’t even want it anymore! To be fair, I think most readers are just tired of the unrealistic instant-love (love that develops unrealistically quickly) between two characters and then that love taking over the story, rather than not wanting romance at all. Correct me if I’m wrong! I’m basing all of this on a late-night Google search!

That very evening, I just said “screw it!” aloud (luckily I was on my own) and I deleted all of the unrealistic romance scenes and completely revised my novel, resulting in edition two. I can honestly say edition two only contains perhaps 5% of edition one. I’ve changed character’s personalities and plot-lines; I’ve taken out scenes and replaced them with entirely new ones, and I am unbelievably happy with the way it turned out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against romance in novels, in fact, Gifted still has hints of romance, it’s just not heavy, unrealistic, instant-love.

Taking out all those scenes and plot lines that I never wanted in the first place gave me room to breathe and room to write. Instead of writing about instant-love, I wrote about the complications of falling in love and how it isn’t as straight-forward as some movies would have us believe. I wrote about why one might fall in love, and how you know if you’re really in love or trying to hide another emotion you’d rather not accept. I wrote about real young adult relationships.

I think people are too quick to misconstrue fascination and lust for love. One reader of Gifted claimed there was an instant-love between my two main protagonists, Theo and Ava, and the only reason I can think as to why she would think that, is because Ava sometimes notes how good-looking Theo is and how much she likes how strange and enigmatic he is. Ava is not in love with Theo, but you can’t control how others read and interpret your book. I highly doubt Shakespeare intended all the metaphors and hidden meanings my English Literature/Language teachers would have me believe!

Breaking away from trying to write what I assumed readers wanted allowed me to write the novel I wanted to write in the first place – a novel I wanted to read. So along came Gifted, the second edition: a contemporary YA fantasy with elements of romance, mystery and a little comedy too. I also subtly integrate modern day issues such as weight, body image and cheating in relationships… Okay, Gifted isn’t as dark as I’m making it seem; it’s actually a fun read, I promise!

I may have wasted a lot of time writing up scenes I hated to read, but it was good that I did because it allowed me to finally accept that I was no longer writing Gifted for me, I was writing it for others. I have such a fear of failing in the author world that for so long, and without me even realising, I’ve let that fear actually control my writing. Everyone says you should write for yourself, more often, people say, write what you want to read. And I believe that is the best advice a writer can give to another.

Honestly, it’s just such a huge relief, it really is. To know the truth behind what’s been bothering me about Gifted for over two years! Then to not only fix it, but make it better and make it mine. An epiphany some call it. Common sense others might call it. Whatever it’s called, I’m going to treat myself to some form of chocolate.