The muse runs in our blood and won't be silenced.
First, she released a hidden and ancient darkness which changed the life of Gabriel Davenport forever. Now, author Beverley Lee is back with her sequel, A Shining in the Shadows, to scare us all one more time. Here she gives us a sneaky peak behind the creative curtain, and an insight into her characters and blossoming career.
Q. The Making of Gabriel Davenport can be very dark. What is it about the dark fantasy genre that appeals to you so much?
A. It’s the poking about in what we’re all supposed to avoid. Darkness is frightening, intimidating, but yet I’m drawn to examining events and characters that might dwell there. Fantasy is such a wonderful genre to write in because there are no bounds to what the imagination conjures up. So if you add that to the appeal of creating characters who exist in shadowy spaces, it’s my happy place. I always counter balance the darkness though. In The Making of Gabriel Davenport there was always the indomitable thread of human courage and loyalty running through it, despite the ever present threat of *something* out there.
Q. Your writing style is very unique: eloquent and whimsical. Has this always been your style, or have you developed this over time? Or was it a style you adopted just for Gabriel?
A. This style is very much me. I’ve always married eloquence with things that make my reader’s heart pound. I used to write a good deal of poetry so it’s possible some of the eloquence came from there. But just because something is menacing doesn’t mean that it can’t be described beautifully.
Q. How does writing make you feel?
A. Either on top of the world, or plagued with self-doubt! When I’m writing and the words are flowing so quickly that I can’t get them on the screen quick enough, when you find that *perfect* word in a sentence, when a character is so alive that you think about them every minute of the day. The adrenalin of creating something that wasn’t there before is the closest thing to magic that you’ll ever find. But then there are those times when you spend hours over a few paragraphs and nothing happens. Those are the days where you have to power down and simply write, because you can’t edit a blank page, which, incidentally, is the best piece of writing advice I was ever given.
Q. How many hours a day do you write? Is writing your full time job?
A. At the moment writing is my full time job, but as an indie author I don't make millions. We don't write for the money though, we do it because we can’t imagine *not* doing it. The muse runs in our blood and won’t be silenced. That’s not to say that a nice little advance from a publisher wouldn’t go amiss though! Hours can be as little as one or as many as seven, depending on where I am in the process.
Q. If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
A. I’m a huge lover of nature and history so I’d like to work somewhere like the National Trust which is a conservation organisation that upkeeps historic places, coastlines, forests and gardens for future generations.
Q. Where do you see yourself in five years?
A. I would love to be a hybrid author, that is both traditionally and self-published. That would give me the best of both worlds. The freedom of indie v the security of traditional. A lot of big name authors are already on this route, very successfully.
Q. How do your family feel about your writing career?
A. I think they are quite proud of me but they haven’t a clue how much work actually goes into the whole process. People assumed at the start that if my book was good that it would end up on the best seller list…..if only!
Q. Honestly, how difficult is it to market a book?
A. It’s just like walking on a tightrope, blindfolded. And the tightrope is moving. A lot. And there are dragons. Seriously it is *hard*. I’m still at the point where I’m not sure what actually works so it’s all experimenting, which can get very costly. The book promotion newsletters that go out have to be paid for, and you need to reduce your price if you want sales. That means that a lot of the time you only break even, but it does push your ranking up which then should mean more sales. Or not. Word of mouth recommendation is still the best tool, I think. Most of my non newsletter sales have come from people talking about Gabriel, and that always makes me super happy.
Q. What was the hardest scene to write in Gabriel?
A. One of the final scenes, where everyone comes together and there is a key action point that determines the whole flow of the next book. For anyone who has already read, I’ll just say Olivia, palm crosses and shattered glass. I found it difficult to gather all those loose ends and incorporate them into just one scene.
Q. How important is it for writers to be avid readers too?
A. Absolutely critical. Reading is like a bottomless well. You can devour hundreds of books and the thirst for it never dries up. It’s the foundation stone for your creativity and food for your imagination. Stephen King says ‘you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.’ And who can argue with the Master.
Q. Was there anyone from your ‘real-life’ who inspired the creation or personality of any of your characters?
A. The only character based on a real person is Olivia Taverner: my fierce, independent, paranormal investigator. A lot of who she is and how she reacts is taken from my son’s fiancé, but it took me to the end of the book to realise that. Incidentally, the real life Olivia is very proud of her character doppelganger! There’s also a lot of me in Noah, my long suffering reverend and father-figure to Gabriel. Noah always tries to do the right thing even if it makes his life difficult, and his loyalty and support are what holds together a great deal of the story.
Q. What are the common traps for aspiring writers?
A. Thinking that everything has to be perfect the first time around. I fell into this trap for the longest time, and kept wondering why everything just felt clogged up and stilted. The most important thing is getting all the words on the paper/screen the first time around. Everything can be edited! Also, comparing yourself to other writers. Just because someone writes for seven hours a day in perfect silence, drinking green tea smoothies, doesn’t mean that you have to copy them. You need to find your own rhythm.
Q. How do you select the names of your characters?
A. It might seem strange but they always come to me *with* a name. I don’t change names at the end or write with just a place keeper. I think that’s because they are all pretty well fleshed out in my mind when I start the process. There are only two instances where I’ve altered things. One was the name of my demon in Gabriel, and that was because I found out that the original name had been used in quite a successful video game! And two was Gabriel's name before I started the book in earnest (previously, the beginning had been a few chapters where the baby was a girl, named Erin, and I couldn't find the flow so it was shelved. As soon as she became Gabriel, the whole story snowballed.
Q. The sequel, A Shining in the Shadows, is due to release on 7th April this year. How did you find this writing experience compared to the first book?
A. I had more of an idea of how the whole writing a book thing worked. I knew how many drafts it would take approximately, and I knew that I had to let it flow at its own pace. When I started Shadows all I had was the first and final scenes. I knew where my characters would be by then. I had a few key ideas and I just let my characters determine how I got there. This story is more involved. I had to answer a few questions that I’d left open at the end of Gabriel, and also set the scene a bit for the final book. So it was a much more complicated process. What I’d learned from Gabriel gave me the courage to attempt this.
Q. Do you want each book to be stand alone, or are you trying to achieve a body of work where each book connects to the next?
A. They are all definitely connected but I’ve tried to make A Shining in the Shadows understandable for anyone who hasn't read Gabriel. It’s a fine line though, between over explaining for your loyal readership and filling in the gaps for new. There’s a possibility of a couple of standalone novels concentrating on just one character and their back stories, though.
Q. Any last thoughts/comments for the readers?
A. Simply a heartfelt thank you to anyone who takes a chance on an unknown author/book. Being an independent writer is a wonderful experience but it’s also such a hard slog keeping your name out there amongst the thousands of others. Traditional publishers have a big budget for marketing and it’s very easy to get buried underneath all of this. So every single person who spends their hard earned cash on an unknown gets a huge dose of appreciation from me (and every other indie author out there would agree). They say you build your readership one person at a time, and there’s nothing I like better than interacting with my readers. Each mention or review is like a little ray of sunshine and I’ve met some incredible people through my writing, a lot of whom I now call my friends. Words forging new worlds and experiences. That’s magic.
Connect with Beverley Lee on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Find my review of The Making of Gabriel Davenport, here.