When Inspiration Vanishes - Interview with Aurelia B. Rowl
MBB is delighted to welcome back Aurelia B. Rowl, who has just released the second book in her POPPING THE CHERRY series. It's a wonderful read named A GIRL CALLED MALICE.
In a really interesting interview which is more like a chat, really, Aurelia shared some of her personal experiences while writing this book. She has some great insight to offer on what to do when the inspiration just isn't there when you need it.
Aurelia B. Rowl lives on the edge of the Peak District in the UK with her very understanding husband, their two fantastic children, and their mad rescue mutt who doesn’t mind being used as a sounding post and source of inspiration. She regularly wows them all with her curious, hastily thrown together meals when she gets too caught up with her latest writing project...or five!...and she has developed the fine art of ignoring the housework.
Aurelia writes Young Adult/New Adult crossover fiction and contemporary romance. To find out more about Aurelia, or check out which project she’s working on right now, you can visit her website: www.aureliabrowl.com
AURELIA B. ROWL ON THE WEB:
Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?
Inspiration is everywhere; from nature to entertainment, from social media and real life interactions, from stories in the media to the never-ending possibilities of ‘what if’ where you can think through alternate endings as though living in a series of parallel worlds.
The trick is not only catching the inspiration particles as they float in the air, but also remembering them and applying them to your stories, especially when it comes to emotions; the way something makes you feel from the stuttering heartbeat to the great sighing gush of relief or giddy laugh of joy.
What do you do when the inspiration just doesn’t flow?
Oh, this totally happened to me in my latest book, A Girl Called Malice and it is HARD when it happens. Not so much writers’ block, but struggling to find that missing element that links everything together.
By my very nature, I am more plotter than write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants author. I don’t like to micro-plot though, which is why the W-plot structure works for me. Rather than plotting every single scene, I have islands that I need to reach – think of the points and the path of the W with its ups and down - in order to keep the story on track but I have the freedom to choose how I actually get there, and I can let the characters lead me.
When writing A Girl Called Malice, I piled an enormous amount of pressure on myself. Not only was I writing to demand with deadlines, the story is a sequel yet the timeline overlaps with the first book; it had to be able to stand alone yet maintain continuity throughout while maintaining individual personalities from a huge cast of recurring characters. Hardest of all, I needed to make sure the voice of Alice was different to the voice of Lena, with both stories written in first person.
Alice is the most reviled character from book 1 and I knew it was a risk making her the main character for book 2. I had to make sure she remained true to the awful character portrayed in book 1, but I also needed to change readers opinion of her – fast – so that they wanted to follow her journey and also root for her, maybe learn to love her for all that she is and all that she has overcome in her life.
I still can’t quite believe I took on the challenge, especially since I would class myself as a fairly new writer. I’ve not even been writing three years yet so it was a massive undertaking, and if I’m honest, there were many moments when I thought I’d failed and I wanted to give up. Forever.
It took a long time for Alice to learn to trust me and to allow me to take a peek inside her head. She is so fiercely hidden behind her protective mental barriers that one deadline after another passed by the wayside and the pressure mounted.
The journeys between the islands that I mentioned before weren’t easy to navigate, with me quite often walking blindly one step in front of the other. Literally! Whenever I am struggling over plot or how to connect scenes, I pull on my boots, plug in my headphones and hit the road. In one week alone I think I walked sixteen miles, but it works for me. I live in a beautiful part of the Peak District in the UK, surrounded by rolling green hills and trees, which not only allows me to ground myself, the combination of nature and exercise recharges me and gets me out of the house away from distraction.
Another thing I did was compile a music soundtrack on Spotify, with songs representing key scenes or emotions, or actual people. They helped me to get into the moment, into the mood, or simply inside a character’s head.
I did it though, albeit six months after that initial deadline, and A Girl Called Malice stands at over 136,000 words, spanning almost two years. The HUGE story is the culmination of my blood, sweat, and tears and I have never been so proud of myself.
How did you make this story flow? I know it is inspired by the earlier book.
I shall let you in on a secret…when I started writing Popping the Cherry, I never intended it to be a series. When ‘the call’ came in from Carina UK for a two book deal, I hadn’t even got past chapter three of the first book let alone come up with a story for the second book. I happened to mention during that call that I was considering writing a spin off from Popping the Cherry and my wonderfully supportive editor made encouraging sounds. That was it. The total thought process at that time. I didn’t have the faintest idea whose story it was, let alone an idea for a plot, and busied myself with getting that first book written.
As the first draft progressed, I found myself more and more intrigued with Alice. Why was she so mean? What, or who, had made her that way? If she stayed on her current path, what would she become? Did she have any redeeming qualities? Could she be saved?
The title was actually the first thing that came to me…A Girl Called Malice…it had a certain ring to it and opened my mind to a plethora of possibilities. Alas, the story didn’t flow – not at all – but it also wouldn’t let me move on. Alice’s story had to be written, even if it broke me, which it very nearly did.
How do you relax when you’re not writing?
I have these wonderful little things known as ‘children’ – these ones in particular are a 7 year old boy and a 5 five year old girl – and they are a bundle of excitement, energy and activity. I try to make the rule that I don’t work when they’re around, so I write while they’re at school and then again once they’re in bed for the night. I take weekends off (unless a massive deadline dictates otherwise) and I don’t work during the daytime in school holidays. I go into ‘mum’ mode, and I think that’s where having a pseudonym helps me to distance the ‘writer’ version of me.
This past year, I have also taken up ballet – I don’t mind if you laugh! – since it is something I have always wanted to do but never got the opportunity. When my daughter’s dance school floated the suggestion of starting adult beginner classes, there was no stopping me. Almost a year on and I still love it. Fitness, posture and focus all rolled into one fun activity with a wonderful bunch of ladies.
Oh, and I read. Naturally. Sadly, I don’t get to read anywhere near as much as I would like at the moment so I tend to binge read during the school holidays.
Any tips for an aspiring writer whose inspiration has dried up?
Oooh, tricky one.
If a particular story you’re working on cannot hold your attention, maybe park it up and try something new – something that excites you – but if nothing comes to mind, I’ve actually found writing short stories fulfilling. It focuses the mind and hones your skill since there isn’t an unlimited amount of words at your disposal. You get to work through a plot from beginning to end over a short span of time and get to hold the finished article in your hands. Even if nobody else ever sees it, you yourself will know that you have written a whole story. Flash fiction and writing prompts are also great for this, and there are various groups on social media that welcome new members. Just keep writing. A person cannot decide to take up running and then put themselves in for a marathon the following week; it takes time to get fit and build up muscle tone and stamina. Writing is like a muscle that needs to be used and stretched in order to reach its potential.
Try to find what works for you to unlock your mind; for me it’s walking and nature, thinking in the shower, and also music. Where do you get your best ideas? Do you have a particular time of day when you feel more attuned to writing? Carry a notebook everywhere and jot down the little things in life that catch your eye.
Read outside your ‘usual’ genre to broaden your reading experience. Although you may never write a certain genre, you may discover writing styles or a voice that you can connect with it. A lot of young adult fiction is written in first person whereas romance tends to be written in third person, often from a dual point of view. Until I read one particular book by Joanna Wylde, I would never have considered writing a full length novel in first person but with a select few chapters written in third person from the secondary characters point of view but I immediately latched onto it and implemented it in the Popping the Cherry series, hopefully to great effect.
Feel free to experiment with your style and genre to discover your ‘voice’ – I have now had four different stories published yet each one is in a different genre, whilst I find what works for me. In reality, I actually enjoyed writing all of them but then I’m the type of person that gets bored in a job easily and very quickly so I like being able to jump from ‘teen angst’ to *cough* ‘adult romance’ and I also have plans for children’s adventure stories as well as a fantasy series.
Most of all, never compare yourself to another writer. We each have our own journeys and our own experiences to follow and draw upon. Comparing yourself to others strips you of your confidence and your self-esteem. Most ‘overnight successes’ have actually spent years honing their skills and could support a king-size bed with their discarded manuscripts. Similarly, try not to be disheartened when a newcomer finds a hidden shortcut; they will most likely be as shocked as you and may suddenly face the gargantuous task of having to write to demand without the time to make mistakes and learn their trade in private. Just be true to you.
Funnily enough, that’s exactly what the Popping the Cherry series is all about…being true to who you really are and then learning how to be yourself. There are two more books already contracted for the series, including my first attempt at gay romance, yet there are other characters jumping up and down in the wings asking for their stories to be told too, so who knows how many books there will be in total?
A GIRL CALLED MALICE
New Adult contemporary romance
Release date: 3 October 2014
Publisher: Carina UK (Harlequin)
Series: (awaiting series title, #2)
It’s not easy being the Queen Bee. Alice Taylor should know.
You know that girl. The one that the whole school’s social life seems to revolve around. Alice used to be that girl until she decided to quit sixth form college. Suddenly her ‘friends’ aren’t so interested in following her around and her attention-grabbing behaviour is about to get her kicked out of home. With nowhere to go and no one to turn to, her world starts spiralling seriously out of control.
Only new friend Zac Newton seems to believe in her. Lifeguard and poolside hottie, Zac is quite literally her lifesaver. But then, he’s never met ‘Malice’, her mean-girl alter ego, and Alice wants to keep it that way. She knows this is her last chance for a fresh start until her sordid past catches up with her at the worst possible moment.
As everything Alice has worked towards comes crashing down around her, she realises that the hardest thing of all is being yourself…