Kate Ormand Interviews Alice Smales About Writing and Editing

Today I’m chatting to Alice Smales, Consultant Editor for my agent at Creative Authors Ltd. Alice has also worked with me on my YA novel, The Wanderers, which is published by Sky Pony Press.

Kate Ormand: Hi, Alice! Thanks for chatting with me today. First, can you tell us a bit about your editing process? What do you look for/make note of when reading a new submission?

Alice Smales: Hi Kate, thanks for inviting me! 

Editing, for me, is a mixture of objective and subjective. There’s the technical side of things – misplaced commas, spelling mistakes – and then there’s the way things feel. That’s where it gets interesting, when you really dig down into the meat of the story, put on its skin and walk around in it. I think that’s the most important bit, but it’s also the bit that’s hardest to describe. Sometimes things will leap out at me and I know they need looking at or changing, but sometimes it’s not until I take a second look that I know why that thing needs to be changed. It’s almost an instinctual thing, feeling my way through the rhythm and connotations that make up compelling prose.  

When I’m reading a new submission, the first thing I look for is character. If you have an interesting and vivid character with a true real voice, then I will be with you until the final page. Good spelling and grammar are important, but if you’ve got a character who I can root for or be interested by, then I’ll look past pretty much any other mistakes you might make. It can be hard to show a character right from the beginning without an info-dump, but it can be done! Often I can tell from the first page whether I’m going to like a submission or not, so first impressions are vital. 

KO: What stuck with you after reading The Wanderers for the first time?

AS: Flo’s transformation into a horse! I couldn’t think of another story with a horse shapeshifter – wolves and bears and other predators are more common choices. I loved that Flo’s animal shape was something that showed her vulnerability as well as her strength.  

the wanderers cover

KO: How does editing other work help you with your own writing?

AS: It makes me a lot more conscious of what makes a story work. When you’re picking apart other people’s words and seeing what’s effective and what’s not, it means you can apply that same critical eye to your own writing. For example, since becoming aware of how important the first page is when reading submissions, I’ve spent much more effort in trying to make my own first page and opening line as strong and memorable as they can be. 

KO: Flip the question! How does writing help you edit other work?

AS: There’s a knack to giving critical feedback that you become very aware of once you’ve been on the receiving end. If someone says, “Eh, it just didn’t click with me, I couldn’t sympathise with the character” it’s nowhere near as helpful as someone saying, “This dialogue here felt stilted, and here, why did the character act in this unnatural way?” Being specific is key. 

KO: What do you write and what are you working on at the moment? 

AS: I pretty much always write stories with a fantasy element, and I love taking a historical setting and adding something supernatural or paranormal. Currently I’m working on a novel set in Victorian London, where a guy from the streets with no magic is blackmailed into serving a rich wizard. Working together, even though they hate each other, they try to solve a case of kidnap and end up unravelling a conspiracy with personal roots for both of them and which may affect the whole future of magic in London. Fun features include demons, colourful insults, magic gangs, and fireballs.  

Assassins-Apprentice- cover

KO: And to finish, can you give us a selection of your favourite books?

AS: Ooo, that’s a hard one. Robin Hobb’s Tawny Man and Assassin books are a firm favourite, as is anything by Rosemary Sutcliff, especially The Lantern Bearers and her Arthurian trilogy. Also, PG Wodehouse. His books make me laugh like a demented hyena. 

Twitter: @themagickind 

Blog: i-will-eat-dynamite.tumblr.com

Writing samples (as A.S. Olivier): asolivierwriting.tumblr.com

Kate Ormand: DARK DAYS, THE WANDERERS, and THE PACK (Fall 2017) with Sky Pony Press.

Kate Louise: THE UPSIDE-DOWN FISH, PIERRE THE FRENCH BULLDOG RECYCLES, and TOUGH COOKIE (3 Nov 2015) with Sky Pony Press.

Website: www.kateormand.wordpress.com | Twitter: @kateormand | Facebook: Kate Ormand, YA Author

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Introducing Sarah Glenn Marsh and FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP!

Today we’re so excited to introduce you to TRYA co-founder Sarah Glenn Marsh and her YA Historical Fantasy Fear the Drowning Deep which is set to release September 2016!

  • Why did you choose the setting for your book? Did you draw from any real places to create your world?
    Fear takes place on the Isle of Man which, while it’s beautiful and rugged enough to be something out of a fantasy land, is very much a real island situated between England and Ireland. However, the town in the book is a fictional one called Port Coire. I loved having control over the layout of the town and its landmarks, so I made one up; it’s situated between the real towns of Peel and Kirk Michael. I chose the Isle of Man as my seaside setting because it’s exactly the sort of wild, untamed landscape where anything seems possible.
  • What was your inspiration for Fear the Drowning Deep?
    Reading the news: I was reading an article about a rare shark that had been spotted by fishermen (near Japan, if I recall) and it got me thinking about all the strange creatures in the ocean. It seems to me that people spend more time wondering about space, looking up, than they do wondering about what’s in the waters below us–way deep down, in the places we can’t see or touch…and the idea for Fear was born!
  • What was your favorite part about writing Fear the Drowning Deep?
    Researching the mythology, definitely. I had a great time learning about and shaping what my main character, Bridey, would be up against in her fight to save her town.
  • What was the hardest part about writing Fear the Drowning Deep?
    Without getting too spoilery, writing the Big Bad in this book really freaked me out! Also, Bridey’s so scared of the ocean that I often felt terrible about the things I was subjecting her to!
  • Who is your favorite rogue character from a book, TV show, or movie?
    River Tam from Firefly/Serenity! Also, Jayne Cobb from Firefly/Serenity. And Captain Mal, and…well, I’m sure everyone’s sensing a theme here, so I’ll stop now!
  • Your book takes place on Isle of Man in 1913. What sort of research did you do to get this unusual historical setting right?
    I ordered books from the Isle of Man itself (many weren’t in print here) to study their history. I also got a book on wildlife, and studied a lot of Manx fairy lore and cultural customs from reprints of books that dated back to the early-mid 1800s. I also watched videos of the Manx TT (Tourist Trophy) Motorcycle Race! While there are no motorcycles in FEAR of course, the TT race takes its competitors all across the island, and it was a way for me to hear some native Manx speakers as well as study the landscape in-depth! Mostly though, I just loved reading everything I could find about the Isle. Have a question about Manx life? Ask me!
  • Who is your favorite character from Fear the Drowning Deep and why?
    This is so tough to answer, but I’ll do my best! I’m going to choose Morag Maddrell. She’s the old woman who walks with a limp and lives above the town of Port Coire. Her cottage is dark, hidden deep in the woods like some feral creature, and the townspeople shun her because they think she’s a witch. I loved writing her (and can’t wait for you all to meet her) because she’s hilarious, sharp-tongued, stubborn, wise…and while she may not be a witch in the traditional sense, as Bridey learns, she knows a little magic and she’s there when it really counts. I love how their relationship evolves from witch and apprentice to something more like grandmother and granddaughter. And I’ll stop gushing now, but basically I adore her!
  • Many of the characters in your novel believe in fairies. Do you believe in anything supernatural or magical?
    I love this question! And I do. I believe there’s magic in the world that we overlook or explain away. With ghosts in particular (the first thing that comes to mind when I hear ‘supernatural’), many people I trust–clever, rational people–have had experiences I can’t just discount. I certainly think there are things around us that science can’t yet explain, and that it’s silly to close our minds to the possibility of something just because we don’t understand it!
  • Fear the Drowning Deep has such an evocative title! Can you share a little about your process of coming up with the title?
    Oh, how I wish I had a great story to share here! But it’s actually pretty simple. I was lying in bed one night, thinking about my new story idea (I’d only written the opening scene at the time), and how my character Bridey was so afraid of the ocean. The phrase “Fear the Drowning Deep” popped into my head, and I immediately woke my husband up and made him Google it! I was so sure it was a poem or a song lyric–but it wasn’t. Apparently, my brain just wanted to give me something cool before I fell asleep, and it’s stuck ever since!
  • What’s one thing you want readers to know about Fear the Drowning Deep
    Something readers might not guess from the title alone is that, while this book is full of mythology and monsters, it’s really a love story at its core. I’m a hopeless romantic, and this book has romance despite the dark things happening in Bridey’s town!

Introducing Kate Ormand and THE WANDERERS!

The WanderersToday, for our first TRYA author spotlight, we’re excited to introduce Kate Ormand, author of the upcoming YA paranormal novel THE WANDERERS. Kate is a multi-published author in both young adult novels and children’s picture books (writing as Kate Louise) who lives in the UK. She’s also the co-creator of Author Allsorts, an online group of published authors and illustrators. In short, she’s one busy author, but she’s graciously agreed to answer some questions today about her latest release!

  1. Why did you choose the setting for your book? Did you draw from any real places to create your world?
    There are places I’ve been and am familiar with that helped shape some of the locations in the book, but it’s kind of a mash up. The settings are all fictional.
  2.   What was your inspiration for THE WANDERERS?
    I saw a poster on my way to college one morning. It was bright yellow, faded and worn in places, advertising a circus. I remember catching sight of it as we drove by and saying, “What do you think about a circus book where all the animals are shapeshifters?” And then I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
  3. What was your favorite part about writing THE WANDERERS?
    Getting to know both sides of the characters, how their transformations feel, and the way shifting works for them.
  4. What was the hardest part about writing this book?
    It’s my first book set in the existing world, so I didn’t get to make the rules!
  5. Who is your favorite rogue character from a book, TV show, or movie?
    My fave (loveable) rogue is Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead!
  6. Which character in THE WANDERERS do you identify with most, and why?
    I think there’s a piece of me in most of them. Probably Flo, as the story is from her POV I naturally connected most with her.
  7. How did you decide which characters from the circus cast would accompany Flo on her journey (Jett, Pru, and the elephant triplets)?
    Jett and the triplets were always coming along. The five of them make up a bit of a group. Pru wasn’t with them in the first few drafts, but I liked her so much, and thought she was a really interesting character, so I had to keep her! There were others I’d have loved to have had go with Flo, but they had other journeys to take.
  8. Name a song that makes you think of THE WANDERERS.
    Shake it Out by Florence + the Machine. It’s hopeful and not at the same time, and fits Flo kind of perfectly.
  9. I love the idea of shapeshifters hiding their ability under the guise of the circus. What are some of the things that make your shifters unique?
    Thank you! There are a lot of animals – horses, bears, elephants, tigers, monkeys, lions, parrots, etc. – which I don’t think we often get to see. I found their shifting to be really special and a big part of the novel so readers will (hopefully) connect with them as both human and animal.
  10. Describe the type of reader you hope picks up this book when it’s on the shelves.
    Fans of DARK DAYS will hopefully enjoy this one as well. Readers who enjoy paranormal, romance, mystery, action. And fans of shows like the Vampire Diaries.

Kate Ormand is YA author of DARK DAYS and THE WANDERERS. She lives in the UK with her family, her partner, and a cocker spaniel called Freddie. She graduated from university with a first class degree in Fine Art Painting. It was during this course that Kate discovered her love of reading YA books, prompting her to try a new creative angle and experiment with writing. Kate is also member and co-creator of an online group of published writers and illustrators called Author Allsorts. And she writes children’s picture books under the name Kate Louise. Kate is represented by Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors Ltd. You can see more about Kate and her writing by visiting her website (www.kateormand.wordpress.com) or on Twitter (@kateormand).