Friday, June 22, 2018

Author Spotlight: Belinda Missen

This week we welcome Belinda Missen to Killing Time Blog. She has some amazing news she wants to share with us. 

Belinda, welcome and please share with our readers your amazing news, 
Books have always been a part of my life. From a young age, the best thing ever was the Scholastic Book Fair, or the monthly book club orders. I read everything I could get my hands on, often snaffling Dad's library card on weekends to check out more books than I could possibly read. I wrote when I was a teenager – mostly stuff that would classify as fanfic, or really melodramatic 'romance'. It was terrible, and I put it away in an attempt to be an adult and get a 'proper' job (whatever they are).

In 2013, I quit my job on the spot and started writing. It was the best thing I ever did. What started as fanfic became full blown stories with colourful characters and exotic destinations. I released my first self-published book, Red, in April 2015. Five more books followed – about one every six months – until, in November 2017, I signed a contract with HQDigitalUK (HarperCollins).  They optioned to publish a new book I'd written and submitted to them, as well as taking on all of my self-published works. 

Wow Belinda that is HUUUUUUUGE news. Congratulations and we all look forward to watching you grow as an author. 

How long have you been writing, and how did you become involved in writing?
I feel like I've been writing forever, and that I'll keep writing for as long as I possibly can. I love the ability to create worlds, to see characters come to life on page (and inside my head), and sharing them with those who want to read my work. It's a constant thrill.

I guess I became involved in writing because I wanted more stories. Writing my own became something I did to keep myself occupied as a young teenager. At least when I ran out of books to read, I had my own there to spill out onto the page.

What are you working on at the moment? I've just finished copy edits for A Recipe for Disaster. Next up is a rewrite of Red. I'm also hoping to start writing another book in between the rewrites.

Did you have any goals with writing, and if so, how well do you feel you’ve achieved them? What do you hope to achieve in the future? Originally, my five year plan was to get an agent in 2017, and workshop a book until it was ready to submit in late 2018. I kind of bypassed all of that by signing with HQ, so I need to reassess. One of the things on my 'hitlist' is to write a screenplay. If SunnyMarch were to buy/opt/produce it, that would be all my five year plans written off in one fell swoop.

How long does it take you to write a book? About six weeks – if the inspiration is good.

What are the hardest parts of being an author for you? I'm my own boss, so the motivation to keep going. That can be particularly hard if faced with 'writer's block'.

What do you enjoy most about being an author? In complete contrast to the above answer, I love that autonomy. I'm my own boss, and answer only to my publisher – which is amazing.

Do you have a spot where you like to write? In my office, door shut, music up, and world drowned out. Having said that, if ideas strike on the train, or on a trip, or walking around anywhere besides the office, I'm glad for the note function on my phone. Large chunks of Red were written on mobile phone .

Besides writing, what do you love doing?
Family history, genealogy. I can get lost for days and weeks researching the tiniest detail, record, or an obscure person who's popped up on my family tree. I think it's incredible to know where I've come from, and to see just how much other people have influenced my life – whether I'd ever met them or not.

What books or authors have had the most influence on you as an author? There are a few, I think. One of the first books I binge read was Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton. I was eleven years old at the time, and I remember thinking how wonderful it was. Judy Blume was another favourite as a young reader. In the last few years, I would say Lindsey Kelk, Mhairi McFarlane, and Christina Lauren have been huge influences. I think it was January 2016, I binge read all of Christina Lauren's books, and I could see a huge improvement in my writing afterwards. There's a lot to be learned about the craft of writing from all three of those authors.

What did you find most useful when you were learning to write and expanding your skills? Reading. So much reading. I'm still a voracious reader, and often lament that I don't have enough time to both read and write. I can't do audiobooks, so that makes it hard.

What are your thoughts about ebooks vs. print books? I am a traditionalist – I do love a good paperback, except that add massive weight to luggage allowances (you should see what I've picked up in London this time). EBooks have a place for me in that, if I'm not sure about a book, then I'll grab an e-copy first. If I love it, then I'll grab a print.

What are your thoughts about self-publishing vs traditional publishing? Both is good. What works for one doesn't always work for the other. Me? I'm not great at blowing my own trumpet, so I've always failed at the marketing side of self publishing, but I can see how other authors have thrived from it. They're both equally valid, and both hard work.

How often do you write, and how do you find or make time to write? Daily. I start writing at about ten in the morning, stop for dinner when my husband gets home from work. We eat, we chat, we catch up, and I'm often back in the office from about ten p.m to midnight, maybe later. It depends on the story.

Do you plan your whole book out in advance, or just let it flow? What does your writing process look like? It's a little bit of both for me. Originally, I didn't like plotlining, because I'd find I'd become bored a I wrote, because who wants spoilers? Not me. However, I now use cue cards – scenes ideas I've had, and I slot them in where they best fit in the story. So, it's a plot line, but it's flexible.

What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? I write in my office, surrounded by books and Marvel trinkets. There's lots of coffee, pyjamas, swearing, and being distracted by the internet.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block? If so, how do you deal with it? I'm not sure if it's writer's block, of if I'm just letting myself be distracted by the internet.

Do you read your own reviews? If so, how do you deal with bad reviews? I used to. Not anymore. You can't please everyone. I just like to hear from people who enjoyed my book, to make contact with them, and to have a good time.

Other than reviews, do you hear from your readers? What kinds of things do they say? The most amazing contact I had was when I first released Red. I was contacted by a reader who *loved* the story, and were so moved they wrote me a letter and sent me a candle. It was absolutely wonder. I keep that tacked up on my corkboard for whenever I feel like a bit of a fraud.

What are some ways in which you promote your books? What have you found most or least effective? I'm probably not the best one to ask about promotion. I suck at it.

How easy or hard do you think it is it to make a living as an author?
To make a living? I hope it's achievable, but it's such a huge market now, so we'll see.

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be an author? Keep reading. Read all the things, read all the genres, read for fun, and read for learning the craft. And write. Write the garbage as well as the good stuff.

Tell us a random fact about yourself I'm currently sitting in an Airbnb in Dagenham. It's a lot of fun. That's not really a 'fact', though, is it? Not about me. Fun fact: I would be chuffed to write a film for Hallmark. Because why the hell not? (Amanda note: Me too, I want to write a Christmas special)

Thank you again for dropping to share you news with us.  How can readers find out more about your and your books?

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