Werewolves and Maria Lewis. Who’s Afraid? #OnWriting

Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Maria Lewis. Maria is an exciting writing talent with her debut novel, Who’s Afraid? being released today! Happy birth book day!

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1. I bet you’re excited about the release of your novel, right? Most of my readers will know a little about your background from reading last week’s interview.  So today I’d like you to tell us what’s new in your writing and working life?

A book release is pretty much the definition of ‘new and exciting thing’ in my writing and working life. For the previous two years I’ve had an agent and Who’s Afraid? was being shopped around to various publishers, but now the exciting news is Who’s Afraid? is published – by an actual publisher and not an imaginary one in my dreams. The worldwide book deal with Little Brown Books and Piatkus Fiction in London has opened a lot of doors professionally, in that places who had been ‘kinda’ interested in what I was doing before now want first dibs on anything I write outside of the Who’s Afraid? universe. Which, you know, is not to say they will either a) like it or b) buy it, but as most aspiring writers know sometimes the hardest thing in this industry is trying to generate interest in your story, especially if you’re a debut, no-name writer not launching from a celebrity platform (like myself). I’ve also had the opportunity to be a part of several anthologies since the deal became public, which is amazing, as I was able to write a horror comic for a Berlin publication that has some of my favourite writers and artists attached, and expand my skill set to have a crack at short stories, which isn’t something I’ve dabbled in before.

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2. Your debut book is called, Who’s Afraid? How would you describe your book in one line?

Think Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde but with werewolves, feminism and cussing.

3. What are your expectations for this book?

Honestly, just getting published is such a dream come true for me so I guess my biggest expectation – or hope, at least – is that Who’s Afraid? finds its audience. I think that’s what most writers want: to have their book received by a bevy of loyal, passionate and enthusiastic book-lovers who connect with the characters and the story. It would be really cool to discuss Tommi Grayson – my protogonist – with complete strangers.

4. Is your debut novel a urban fantasy mixing elements of horror, fantasy and mystery and adventure? Is there a message in your book?

Who’s Afraid? isn’t a young adult book: all of the characters are in their mid-twenties and up. I don’t think there’s a single teenager in the story actually, so I have stress how not-YA this book is. It has a lot of adult themes – gore, sex, violence, language, substance use –  I wouldn’t encourage anyone under 16 to read it. This is a book for adults and the genre is urban fantasy, so think of a similar audience to those who loved Charlaine Harris’ True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse series and the works of Patricia Briggs, Keri Arthur, Richelle Mead. I guess the message of the book is power. It’s about gaining power, gaining the responsibilities power comes with and learning how to live with that power – even if you never wanted it to begin with.

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5. While on the subject of writing did you discover any positive and negative attributes about yourself or the writing process itself while scribing your first novel, and if so, how did you overcome the negative attributes?

A positive aspect was definitely my experience as a journalist. I’ve been a reporter for over a decade so I had some very ingrained research habits that have been endlessly useful when it comes to tracking down information that I need. A negative aspect was that I love the internet – probably too much. Every time I would hit a wall writing, I’d be like ‘Oh I’ll just see what’s going on over here on Twitter and Tumblr… ‘ Six hours and twenty two cups of tea later I’d be like ‘Where did the bloody time go?’ I’ve often found leaving my phone in a different room to the one I’m writing in helps. A lot.

6. In terms of your writing process are you a planner or a pantser, you might prefer, architect or gardener or are you a bit of both? Could you elaborate a little on your answer for my readers?

I initially heard this term when I did National Novel Writing Month for the first time in 2012 and kind of loved it! I’m actually a bit of both. In the case of Who’s Afraid? the character of Tommi Grayson walked into my head and refused to leave, so I played around with her back story for a few days until I thought ‘fuck it, I’m just going to put this on paper’. Her story evolved very naturally from there and I knew the direction it was going, right from the first book through to the fifth. These days I have the major plot points, settings and a few lines of dialogue written down and mapped out to help me stay on course as I work through the five-book series (just finished book three!). One hundred per cent of my stories, characters and ideas start in my head: I leave them there for a few days, toying with them and shaping them before I commit notes to paper. My notes are very loose, however, if they get too detailed I figure I may as well start writing the dang book instead of the notes. I have a skeleton before I start and I add meat, muscle and flesh to it from there.

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7. Do you have anything specific to say to your future readers?

Come at me bro! Seriously, if you like the book or you hate the book or you just want to talk about someone else’s book then please reach out. I love hearing from book lovers, whether that be on Twitter (@MovieMazz), on my official Facebook page (Maria Lewis Writer), Tumblr (Who’s Afraid? Art), Instagram (@MovieMazz) or at the website www.marialewis.com.au. One of my favourite things about this generation is connectivity, so I look forward to engaging with people across those mediums.

8. As one of the ambassadors for the Gold Coast Writers Festival could you tell my readers what “be part of the story” means to you?

It means engaging with more than just pages in a book. It means engaging with your favourite authors, it means engaging with ones you’ve never heard of before, it means picking their brains and asking them questions and discovering entirely new stories. You get to be a part of their festival experience just as much as they’re a part of yours, and that’s one of my favourite things about the Gold Coast Writers Festival.

9. What do like about writers festivals?

THE PEOPLE! No one is at a writers festival who doesn’t enjoy two things: reading and writers. Already you’re among a group of like-minded people, and that’s awesome! From hosting writers workshops at the Gold Coast Writers Festival I’m still touch with a bunch of students who attended and who reach out to me every now again with ideas or even just to share the latest Marvel movie news. I love that. I also love how every author I’ve met at the festival is still in touch with the others, via social media or email. You not only make friends but you make a network of lovely, talented and passionate people.

11. Here’s your sixty seconds of fame challenge. You’ve been given the spotlight at a festival for sixty seconds. What would you say or do to make the audience remember you?

Given that I have purple hair, too many tattoos and tend to dress like Joan Jett dipped in a paint bucket I’m quite certain they’ll remember me anyway but… If I had to say something, it would be to be diverse and be inclusive. Make your characters white, black, Asian, Eskimo. Make them tall, make them short, make them fat, make them skinny. Make them gay, make them straight, make them trans. Reading yet another book about an anglo-saxon male who saves the world is tiring. Create a story with characters that are just as diverse as the million or more possibilities you see out in the world every day.

Thank you Maria for showing us who you are and sharing your world of writing with us.

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And you can find Maria’s book on the links below!

BOOKTOPIA

GOODREADS

KINOKUNIYA

WORDERY

 

So until next time. Be brave and bold in your chosen field of creativity. And never be afraid to explore new techniques.

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