The world might be on lockdown at the moment but the blog certainly is not as another busy week in store with author features, first up it's my pleasure to welcome Children's and YA fantasy author Jackie Marchant to the blog.
I’ve always been an avid reader. For me, the hero of a story was the author who wrote it – the person I looked up to, the person I most wanted to be. But it never occurred to me that I could be an author myself, until I read the wonderful ‘Becoming a Writer' by Dorothea Brande. If anyone is thinking about becoming a writer, I can hugely recommend this book. It won’t tell you how to write, but it will tell you if you were born to be a writer.
If you had to give an elevator pitch for your latest book The Sword of Red, what would it be?
Elevator pitches are so hard! You have to spend hours thinking up something that can repeated in 30 seconds. And, if it ever happens in real life, you are so nervous it comes out in a great babbling splurge. But, with the luxury of answering this question in writing, here goes:
Robin Hood meets Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in a land of plenty where sword-fighting is for pleasure and everyone is happy. But now a newcomer has arrived – someone who expects to rule, who can’t wait to bring war and chaos to this perfect little world. Exploiting their trusting, accepting nature will be cinch – or will it?
Your lead character’s name Neekra is a little unusual, does it have a meaning?
That’s a very interesting question. Most of my characters’ names are made up and Neekra came to me as a character with a name. It’s not a name I’d ever heard of and I’ve not seen it in a list of baby’s names, although there are people called Neekra out there, both real and fictional.
If The Sword of Red was to be made into a film, who would you cast in the leading roles?
I love this question. I love spotting someone in a film and thinking they’d be great as one of my characters. Sometimes I see people in real life who look like my characters, which is great, although I do have to try and not stare too much! What I’d really love would be for some up and coming actors to get their big break in The Sword of Red, the movie – we can dream! So, if I could go back in time, I’d cast an up and coming Joaquim Phoenix as Pool, with a newbie Claire Foy as Neekra.
Which comes first for you, characters or the plot?
For me it’s always the character. Who are they? Why are they here? What’s happened to them? How are they going to fix it? I just keep asking myself questions. I also ask my characters – after all, they drive the story for me.
You've written books for Children and now a YA fantasy, how different is the writing process for the different audiences?
My mid-grade humour and YA fantasy are completely different. I didn’t intend it that way, it’s just how it turned out. The process is much the same though – I start writing and keep writing until I’ve finished my first draft. Then I start all over again – and again, and again, and again. That’s because I do very little planning – I’m an absolute panster!
What do you think are the ingredients needed for a good fantasy novel?
Like any genre, characters your readers will engage with, whether they love or hate them. A plot that keeps them turning the pages. If they miss their stop, you know you’ve succeeded!
What is the first book that you read that made you think 'I would like to write something like that one day'?
Lord of the Rings. It was the first time I realized that fantasy was for adults too. Took me a very long time to think about writing fantasy myself though.
What would you say is the best thing about writing? And on the flip side, what is the hardest?
The absolute best is at a school visit when you have masses of enthusiastic hands going up to ask questions. Then a big queue of kids wanting to buy your book. When they jump up and down because they’ve being dying to meet you, it’s just wonderful.
The worst is the self-doubt. What makes me think anyone wants to read this rubbish? I ask myself that a lot and quite often I don’t have an answer.
If you could write in a collaboration with another author, who would you like to write with and why?
I don’t think I could collaborate with an author, but I’d love to collaborate with an illustrator for a children’s book. There are so many wonderful illustrators out there, so I’d be hard pushed to choose one.
And finally, what can we expect from you next?
Rulers and Rebels, which is the second of the Sword of Red series. I also have a mid-grade humour title out this autumn, about a girl called Tom, who tries to sell her grandmother.
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