Welcome to my weekly series – Author Interviews.
In these posts I delve a bit deeper into the person behind the book and at the same time get some useful tips on writing.
This week I am super excited and struggling to get a grip of myself.
The author of one of my favourite 2016 books (How I Changed My Life in a Year) is sat on my red chair – squeal!!
Have you ever had one of these weird moments where you read a good book and then half way through realise the author is one of your blog readers? OMG – it happened to me and it was a very surreal moment. The author of the book that I was enjoying was Shelley Wilson!
I got a bit carried away readers and started bombarding her with fan messages. To get me off her back she agreed to do this interview – lol!
BTW – Shelley was born in Leeds – my home town – and has a black cat! All the best people in the world are from Leeds and have a black pet cat. Sigh!
Ok I am going to calm down now and not give Shelley the impression l have a weird author crush going on.
Let me welcome author Shelley Wilson to my red chair!
1. Shelley, tell my readers all about yourself and the book / books you have written?
I’m a single mum to three fabulous teenagers and a loony black cat (she fits in well with my family!) I was born in Leeds but grew up in the West Midlands. My background is as a holistic health practitioner, and this led me to publish my non-fiction titles about meditation, vision boards, and my challenge themed book, How I Changed My Life in a Year. As a Gemini, I have a twin side (or maybe we should call her Ms. Hyde), that adores YA fantasy fiction, so I also write for this genre. I’ve published a trilogy about faeries, dragons, and witches (The Guardian Series) and have just completed the first draft of a werewolf novel called Oath Breaker.
2. When did you write your first book?
Back in 2013, I set myself a task to complete twelve challenges over a year. To hold myself accountable, I blogged the entire process My Resolution Challenge. When I started blogging I realised I needed to publish regular weekly content to keep my audience engaged, so my twelve challenges became fifty-two. When I was halfway through the year, I contacted a journalist friend and asked what I could do with all this content. He told me I had a ready-made book outline – twelve months, twelve chapters. As I worked in the mind, body, spirit sector, the blog to book was a perfect fit. I began editing the blogs to fit into an appropriate format and hey presto, my book was born.
3. How long did it take to write your first book?
I guess How I Changed My Life in a Year took a full year to write as it was a twelve-month challenge, but once I began to tweak the blog posts it all came together very quickly. My YA fantasy novels were much faster as I used NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) to write the first draft of each book in the trilogy.
4. What was your motivation to write your first book?
Since the age of eight, I have wanted to write a book but never found the discipline to get my act together. There are hundreds of notebooks in my house with half-finished novels, short stories, and flash fiction. The motivation behind starting the challenge blog, which eventually led to my first book, was to get into a regular writing routine – it worked! I knew I needed to change something in my life so I could action my dream of writing – or should I say ‘finishing’ – a book.
5. What writing issues did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?
I can’t say that I encountered any issues when writing How I Changed My Life in a Year. I enjoyed the entire process of writing, editing, and publishing. However, I am currently writing a second non-fiction title about motivation and have had to manage a few wobbles along the way. I fell ill last year which resulted in me closing my holistic business after seven years. Due to the nature of the illness, I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. Writing a motivational book is impossible if you are not ‘in the zone’ because this comes across in your writing voice. When writing self-help or wellbeing books, it is so important to give your reader 100% of yourself so they can resonate with what you are saying. I had to put my WIP to the side because I knew I wasn’t doing my best work. To overcome this I turned to my fantasy books, this is like an escape for me, and I can use my emotions to create dark creatures or scary settings – it’s hugely cathartic.
6. Did you go through any bad writing patches during writing your book – what kept you going?
As I mentioned in the previous question, dealing with my depression had a huge impact on my non-fiction writing. I live and breathe alternative therapies and holistic health, and so I was able to turn to these self-help tools to keep me going. Meditation, affirmations, writing in my journal, and taking a time out are all paramount to my wellbeing.
For me, writing is a healing element. It doesn’t matter if I’m jotting down a scene for my fantasy novels, or pouring out my heart in my daily journal, writing is a way to lift my mood. Every writer experiences moments of self-doubt. With anxiety and depression, those moments can be magnified and damage you enough to contemplate giving up – this is what I would refer to as a bad patch. Above my desk I have a row of affirmations that I read when I have a low moment – ‘I can’t make art to please everybody…I make art that I like’ and ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff – worrying is a waste of time’ are just two of my favourites.
7. Are you a plotter or do you just write / see what happens?
I used to be a pantser and start with a rough idea of a story and hope for the best. I think this was a big factor in the many unfinished stories I wrote over the years. It was taking part in my first NaNoWriMo back in 2013 that turned me into an obsessive plotter.
When I decided to take part in NaNo, I read the ‘rules’ and joined in with the forums and chat rooms. The advice was to use the weeks and months leading up to November to create your character bios, story arc, and rough plot. I took this advice and began plotting my first book. I had a wall in my office covered in post-it notes and character profiles. By the time November 1st rolled around, I knew the characters better than I knew my family! The story just flowed out of me, and I finished my 50,000 words in just nine days. I’ve plotted everything ever since.
8. What is the best thing about being a writer?
The best thing is receiving all the messages from readers after How I Changed My Life in a Year was published. I still receive tons of emails, Facebook messages, and tweets about it. Some of them have made me cry because the reader has been inspired to make changes to their own lives and thanked me for helping them. It’s the most incredible feeling in the world to know that what I have written has helped someone in such a wonderful way. I received an email from a lady who had recently been confined to a wheelchair. She felt cut-off and fed up. She told me how uplifted she felt after reading my book and realised that her disability didn’t have to stop her – she signed up for an Open University course that she could complete in her own time and pace.
9. What is the worst thing about being a writer?
I love everything about being a writer – even the editing process! For me, the worst thing is having far too many ideas and not enough time to work on them all. As I’m also a book reviewer I have to try and balance my writing and reading time – it’s a good job the kids know how to use the oven otherwise they might starve!
10. Have you ever considered quitting writing and if so how have you worked through this?
When I received my first bad review, it really stung, and my anxiety kicked in. I believed that this person’s opinion was the same as every person on the planet, and I seriously doubted my skill as a writer. I think receiving unpleasant reviews is tough – especially if they are more of a personal attack than creative criticism. I’ve learned to accept all opinions and not take them to heart. When you think that even the J.K.Rowling’s of the world can’t please everybody, then it helps to put these reviews into perspective.
With non-fiction, and especially self-help titles, the reader is more often than not on a very personal journey and will have a specific reason for choosing your book. They might have a question that they need answering and if your book doesn’t provide that then it’s branded as a load of rubbish. What I’ve found as a reader of self-help books is to put it aside until the time is right – that’s the beauty of self-help books, they arrive just when you need them.
11. What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Oh dear, if I own up to what my typical writing day looks like I might realise how much I procrastinate!
I’m always up and about by 6.30am (thanks to the kitten jumping on my head). I will check my social media and reply to my overseas followers who have been very active on my young adult fantasy author page through the night. I then try to rouse my teens for school and college – easier said than done! Once everyone is up and out, I make a large mug of Tetley tea and sit at my desk.
I’ll spend an hour on Twitter and Facebook doing likes, shares, and comments. I also read loads of blog posts but try to split this, so I read a few in the morning and the rest at night.
Once I start typing my current WIP, I zone out and quite often miss lunch unless my son gets in from college and reminds me to eat. I only read over the last few paragraphs before starting again – this stops me from doing a full on edit. I like to complete the first draft before I start hacking it apart. I’ll check in on social media throughout the day using my phone – I’ve noticed that if I leave the tabs for Twitter and Facebook open on my computer, I can lose hours of my day.
I stop writing when the kids get in from school, and we have a mad hour of ‘what did you do today,’ playing with the cat, and trying to stop them from eating the entire contents of the kitchen cupboards. After dinner, I normally do my reading and write up my book reviews, unless it’s Game of Thrones night and then everything can wait!
12. Do you suffer from procrastination and if so how do you handle it?
As you might have noticed from my other answers, procrastination is something I excel at, in fact, if there had been a GCSE in it then I would have been top of the class!
Instead of watching endless re-runs of friends I now switch off the telly and read. Using my phone for social media during the day will stop me from spending all day surfing, I can dip in and out with prompt replies without getting distracted. I use my diary to plan out blog posts/interviews/reviews, and this keeps me focused on my to-do list (I have a mild obsession with list writing!)
It’s too easy to slide into a period of procrastination, but I try not to beat myself up about it now. Another one of the affirmations above my desk is ‘the time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time’.
13. Which is more important – plot or characters and why?
Ooh, great question. I would have to say the characters. We bond with them, and it’s their passion and fire that drives you to find out what they do, how they do it, and why. If you don’t have compelling characters, then nobody is going to care about the plot.
14. What have been your 3 biggest learnings during your writing career?
To accept the opinion of others but not to take it to heart if they don’t like my work.
That I’m a good writer.
Writing is easy; marketing is hard – I’m still learning how to sell myself but with help from the incredible bloggers, reviewers, and online writing community I’m getting there.
(I just want to add a quick note that I went back and deleted ‘that I’m a good writer’ twice – that’s my anxiety. I have trouble believing in myself sometimes and then I look at the beautiful messages I receive (and my book sales) and start to think ‘actually, I am a good writer.’ So, thank you, Lucy, for pushing me to answer this question) J
15. How do you manage social media as a writer?
I embrace it and have a ton of fun doing so. I have a Twitter account that I use for my writing, blogs, books, and motivational stuff, as well as three Facebook pages (personal page, Resolution Challenge, and Fantasy Author S L Wilson). My stats are evenly matched with traffic at 49% Facebook/51% Twitter. I’ve recently joined Instagram as I was trying to target the YA audience – unfortunately, I discovered the incredible book bloggers and now spend far too much time drooling over their book images.
I love Pinterest and use this platform more for personal use than business, although I do create a new board for every book I write. LinkedIn is another platform where I have an account, but I rarely use it.
At the moment, I do all my social media as I go, but I’ve heard great things about HootSuite and Tweetdeck to help schedule posts and tweets. I’m going to look into it, but I don’t want it to detract from the interaction and chat that I enjoy with everyone.
I do find it incredibly helpful to have my two blogs linked to my social media accounts – every time I post, either on my WordPress blog or Blogger, each post is shared on Facebook and Twitter. If it’s an author interview, I also tag the person in on the title, so it shares to their feed too.
16. Do you have any tips or advice for budding aspiring authors?
Write! Stop waiting for the ideal time, for that week’s holiday, or for your partner to clear the spare room out. If you want it bad enough then you’ll make the time and space to achieve it. Fear can also prevent you from writing – fear that you aren’t good enough, fear that people will laugh at you, even fear that you pen a bestseller, and your life will change forever – rise above those feelings and get that first draft written. There are so many incredible beta readers, editors, and writing communities out there that can help you shape your manuscript into a novel – but you need to write it first.
17. Do you suffer from writer’s block and if so how do you overcome?
Fortunately, I’ve never had that problem. I probably have too many ideas in my head. I sometimes get stuck mid-way through writing something and do the ‘rabbit in head lights’ thing, but if I walk away from my desk and make a cuppa it normally sorts me out.
18. Do you ever think of the next book whilst writing?
As I was writing a trilogy, I was very conscious of the next book in the series. I needed to make sure that any questions I raised would be answered by the end.
When I was finishing up book three of the trilogy, I started to dream about the YA standalone book I’ve just completed. I knew I wanted to write it but hadn’t assigned a time to do it. It was quite strange to be living in two different worlds for a while. One was quite dark and full of demons, and the other was set in the beautiful forests of Nottinghamshire.
I’m writing another non-fiction book at the moment, but my head is already plotting out an alternative self-help book. I guess being a multi-tasking Gemini helps! Maybe I really am Miss Jekyll and Ms. Hyde!
19. What do you wear to write?
As my office is at the front of the house I’ve had to train myself to get dressed and not sit in my PJs all day – I used to get a few odd looks from the neighbours!
I only step it up by one level and go for joggers and sloppy jumpers, though. There are only two looks for me, I’m either fully made-up with hair and make-up done, or I look homeless!
Shelley – great interview! Wow!
I have so many things buzzing through my blonde mind right now.
I love your twin author side – Ms. Hyde and I can relate to this as even though I write ChickLit there is another side to me which adores Vampire fiction. I think its great how you flick between the two. I think I am going to name the Vampire side of me.
I think you are brill by turning a bad experience into a positive one and writing a fabulous motivational book. I can feel my author crush feelings coming on again.
Wow – you have changed from a pantser to an obsessive plotter! That is an achievement.
I loved reading your book, as I have said before it was like we were sat having coffee and you were talking to me. I love authors who can write in a warm and engaging way. So in answer to the ‘are you a good writer?’ then yes you are in my opinion!
Thank you so much for this wonderful interview.
How can my readers connect with you?
Ok, Twitter click here. I am @ShelleyWilson72.
Facebook click here.
My Author site is here.
On Amazon my books are here.
Next week Crime Writer Sue Coletta will be taking a seat in my red chair.
For other Author Interviews in this series please click here.