15 Apr 2013

Author Interview: Laila Blake

I was born in 1985 into a family of artists, hippies and individualists in Cologne/Germany, creativity was fostered from an early age. Where my family focussed mainly on visual art (painters, sculptors, my mother was a brilliant puppet player!), I soon started to discover my love for the written word and have been writing and reading ever since.
Getting side-tracked by school and getting a serious and reputable degree (an MA in Applied Linguistics/Specialized Translating), I only truly and honestly allowed myself to give writing a real shot in my mid-twenties. I grew up not only bi-lingual and interested in the creative professions, I also learned how dangerous it can be to place one’s trust on talent alone. Now that I have a somewhat stable job, I have been writing in every free minute, trying to put together a good body of work.

On the side, I also write poetry, some songs, play the guitar really badly and like to play around with my beautiful DSLR. I have a little kitty called Nookie, and a long-distance girl-friend called Lorrie, to whom I owe the belief and motivation to finish my first book.

Withdrawn and with a reputation for her strange, eccentric ways, young Lady Moira Rochmond is old to be unwed. Rumors say she has been seen barefoot in the orchard, is awake all night in moon-struck rambles, and sleeps all day. Some even claim her ghostly pallor and aloof manner are signs of illness, a curse, or insanity.

The hopes of the peaceful succession to her father’s fief lie in an advantageous marriage. Moira, however, has a hard time attracting suitors. When one does show interest, her family pushes for a decision.

Almost resigned to the fact that she has no choice but to play the part she has been given in life, Moira is faced with Owain, a member of the mysterious Blaidyn creatures and a new guard in her father’s castle, specifically tasked to keep her safe. He is different from other people she knows and when one night under the full moon she makes the acquaintance of the wolf who shares Owain’s soul, she starts to trust him and seek his presence. As he becomes one of the few individuals who doesn’t make her want to hide and retreat, she wants to learn more about him and they grow closer until they share a kiss one night under the moon.

Faced with feelings and desires that overthrow everything she thought she knew about herself, Moira knows non-the-less that they have to be kept utterly secret. However much they try, they continue to be drawn to each other until one night, Owain discovers something about Moira that shakes him to his core.

1.  If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why? 

I love that question, because I actually am working together with an author and she is exactly who I would work with if I had that choice of any author in the world. Her name is Lorrie and she’s my best friend and writing buddy. And this, apart from her enormous talent and amazing writing voice, is exactly what qualifies her so uniquely. She is someone I trust implicitly. I am the kind of person who gets shy and who doesn’t want to step on anyone’s toes – I guess you could say I’m a bit of a doormat; I just to tend to go with what other people want rather than pressing my own idea through. In that regard, I have been used before – and even if someone didn’t do that on purpose, it would still be a terribly awkward and exhausting situation for me.
With my best friend, not only do I know that she is the same way, but I know immediately when she isn’t happy with something or tries to hide it, and she feels the same way about me. In something as intimate as writing, this is incredibly important to me.
We just finished a contemporary romance novel together and are now working on a longer New Adult post apocalypse story.

2.  What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?

I work part-time as an English teacher and then manage my city’s branch of the small language school from home. So four days a week I leave the house early and come back in the mid-afternoon, then I usually have a quick snack, and a break and then I take care of emails and other business.
Usually I write in the evening – afternoons aren’t good for me, but between seven and ten usually works. On days off, I try to jump in early and write in the morning, those are the best days. Generally, I try to give myself 1000 word goals. I have to work on the current high priority project (currently the Lakeside Sequel) until I reach at least 1000 words. After that I can blog (even though I am terrible at that), write short stories for submissions or work on other ideas.

3.  What is the hardest part of the writing for you? 

How long it all takes – and how very little there is in terms of instant gratification, other than what you create in your own mind. Even if you’re fast, writing a book takes months, then you usually have to let it lie for a while, then edit and edit again. You submit it and that takes a long time and then, if you are ridiculously lucky, like I was and someone accepts it, it’s still months until anything happens. And my publisher is really fast – it can take up to a year where you just have to wait for publication.
Similarly, even with submitting short stories – which obviously take less time in writing -- I have currently several accepted for publication but it probably will be 2014 until I see them in print -- and until I can list them in my publications.
For someone who isn’t quite gifted with a great amount of patience and instead has mountains of insecurities, and who tends to over-think a lot of things, this is difficult. Just the months of writing give you so much opportunity to obsess and hate it all and it really doesn’t end there. Especially for a new writer like me, this is something I hadn’t expected to be so nerve-wrecking.

4.  When and why did you first start writing? 

I know it was a very long time ago? I remember when I was in primary school, our teacher asked us to write a short story about something we experienced with a pet. Now, I grew up with a hippie mother on an old farm – we had donkeys and goats and sheep, chickens, dogs, cats, rabbits – a veritable children’s paradise. But like with everything in life, we want what we don’t have, so writing about pets just felt very boring to me. So I ended up writing about a dolphin that let me ride on its back into a secret cave where something or other happened.
I got a D. Missed the subject, but my teacher had a talk with my mother about my advanced vocabulary and writing style. I still cried.
I’m not exactly sure what that says about my writing – but I think even then I wrote for escapism, for letting my imagination roam and to escape the ordinary.

5.  How did you come up with the idea for the book your book? 

Honestly, it was a mix of things and a lot of very giggly discussions with my best friend. I find this question incredibly hard to answer, and I always have. I don’t really know how exactly I come up with anything I write… I have a character or a sentence… This one was once actually planned as collaboration and then quickly given up upon. A few months later, I had one sentence in my head – and from that I wrote a prologue and took some of the ideas into a different direction.

6.  Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now? 

I honestly have to say, not as much as I was. I used to pride myself on finishing or at least getting close to finishing the 50 book challenge quite a few times while I was still a student, but with work and writing and reading things from my writing peers, it really has gone down a lot. This year I am aiming for 25, because I felt so humiliated by last year’s 10.
I’m currently reading a friend’s manuscript actually and when I am finished with that I’ll go back to Looking for Alaska by John Green.

7.  Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?

Hm. In the undying words of Holden Caulfield – I don’t want to be a phony. I’m brand new, I have no idea how I got here. From everything I’ve seen, so much of this comes down to luck and somehow touching the right person at the right time – or even just being at the right place at the right time. I found my publisher through a twitter pitch event! Speaking of luck.

I think what I can honestly say is: work the scene. Write what you enjoy writing of course, but also make sure there is a market for it. And if necessary adapt your idea from the very beginning. You want to keep your own voice but you also should be aware that you create a product in a very competitive market-place. I am just a beginner and I’m a dreamer and hopeless romantic, but I do believe that we can attain what we want through hard work. I have never believed in a big break, a sudden wind-fall of success. I want to be a writer because I love writing; I want that to be my day job for the rest of my life. And so, I have time to one day make art – you know, once I have earned that chance. I am writing romance now because I knew I could and because I know there is a market. I also enjoy it immensely, but I think it is important to demystify the process in one’s head.

Don’t look at Stephanie Meyer, E.L. James or the like as your role models. They have won the lottery. Look at people who manage, just manage to scrape together a living with writing and if that life still appeals to you – go for it. Find your audience and do it. Don’t wait for a muse or inspiration, set yourself a schedule and write every day. I can promise you, once you finished one it gets easier and you ask yourself how you could ever have given up on a manuscript before. And even then, you need luck – so all of it is just not really a fair process – but you can do the work. Follow the right people on twitter and other social media, check calls for submissions and participate, get insights into the market, read, blog, try. Make it your life.

I don’t know if any of that is really helpful or new but, there it is.



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