Friday, 12 December 2014

In Defence of Our Dreams: Kristan (Dreamer 2.0)

In Defence Of Our Dreams’ is a project where I interview various people about their pursuit of a creative life. Pursing creativity and wanting to do something different or special with your life can be very challenging and disheartening at times, so I’ve always loved to read how other people are coping with it and how they find the drive to carry on when things are difficult. If you’d like to know more or you’d like to take part, look HERE.

Today I have the absolute honour of welcoming back my dear friend and partner in crime, Kristan Belle, author of THE SONS OF SATRINA: A Sons of Satrina Novel. If you missed Kristan’s first interview about THE SONS OF SATRINA, you can read it here.  Kristan is back today to catch us all up on what she’s been up to since we last spoke, and to give us an insight into what we can expect from her next.

DREEEEAMER! Welcome back! I’m so glad you’re here. What have you been up to since your last visit?

It’s good to be back!
So much! Life has been hectic, but a whole lot of fun! I published my first novel, which was a HUGE step, but one that I was so glad I made. I put it off for so long, and now I’m wondering why!

Yes! You did take the plunge and you decide to self-publish the first SONS OF SATRINA novel. What are three things that you learnt or experienced this past year that you didn’t expect?

1.       Well, the first thing would have to be the good reviews were a welcome surprise. I know that I had to have a lot of faith in The Sons of Satrina to actually put it out there, but to have other people like it also? That’s such a buzz. As a writer (as I’m sure you know yourself!) you are filled with self-doubt the majority of the time, so to have someone tell you how much they love your work, it’s amazing! I’m so grateful to the people that have left reviews, especially the ★★★★★!
2.       I’ve also learnt how easy it is to self-publish! I always found the whole experience to be daunting, but once you get down to it, it’s a piece of cake. The first main issue I had was with the front cover, as that it what usually attracts most readers to a book. I liked the one I did, but that was it – I only liked it. I didn’t love it. So, after much planning, I changed the cover and now I LOVE IT! That was the only part of the process that I felt I wasn’t ready to tackle, but I went away and came back and made the cover into something I was really proud of.
3.       Well, I’ve discovered I’m not much of a promoter! I don’t like to blow my own trumpet, but in the world of self-publishing, marketing it key so you kinda gotta do it! Personally, I’m not looking to take over the world and I’m more than happy to wait for word of mouth to spread, but that doesn’t mean I can sit on my bum and do nothing! Of course, I pop up on Twitter a lot with the link to my book on Amazon and if I see someone has a paranormal romance interest, I’ll let them know what I do and what they can check out. I’m constantly checking out other marketing ideas, but for me, the focus is on the writing.

As it should be! What has been the most stressful part of this journey?

I think it was actually deciding to go and ahead and take the plunge that was the most stressful part. I took forever umming and ahhing over whether to do it or not, but when I took that final dive, I realised it was all worth it. Provehito in Altum!*

What has been the most fun?

Realising that people out there actually liked what I did and were looking forward to more!
I’ve always found (when going down the traditional publishing route) that it is recommended that you don’t write a sequel until the first book has been published. So, now that the Sons of Satrina is out there, I had to quickly get my butt in gear and write the next one! It’s been fun to carry on the journey with Ash, Jackson, Kayleigh and Kelton. They’re a fun bunch of people that always have some drama or other to overcome so you never know what’s coming next. Isn’t it great when the imaginary friends in your head come to life?!

It really is just the best thing! Have any fan reactions to SONS OF SATRINA surprised you?

Yes! The fact that they loved it and wanted more was a great surprise to me. As stated, as a writer, we never know how our work is going to be perceived and to have it positively received is HUGE! I’m so stoked that they love it as much as me.
Plus, it’s always a different thing for strangers to like your writing. I have friends that read what I write, but there’s always that thought in the back of your head that wonders if they are only saying that they like it because they’re my friend. There’s that self-doubt rearing its ugly head again!

Yes, I agree completely. I value what my friends have to say, but it somehow carries more weight from a stranger. I guess it’s because the stranger has no investment in me…They don’t care about my feelings. I like to believe my friends would be honest if I wrote something they hated, but there’s always that small voice at the back of my head…
How has the reality from this past year differed from your expectations?

It’s been a journey that’s been a lot easier than I would have ever thought. It’s just made the writing bug worse for me, especially now that I have people that want to read more. I was dreading the prospect of one star reviews, but so far so good!

Not everyone is going to love you, no matter who you are. Don’t fear the one star reviews. Even Harry Potter got a couple of those, which is pure insanity. Seriously. Who doesn’t like Harry Potter?
If you could go back and speak to Kristan from last year, Kristan from before SONS OF SATRINA was published, what would you say to her? What advice would you give her, if any?

Also, get that goddamn cover right from the beginning and save yourself all that stress!

I have to say, Sons of Satrina REALLY blew me away. Can we expect a sequel in the near future? Say maybe…Hashtag soon?

#Soon and definitely not @JaredLeto’s soon! It’s actually with the proof-readers as we speak, the cover is all set and ready to go and should be out #soon!
It was a lot of fun to see how the story unravelled. Of course, I had a set idea where certain things were going to go, but I love the whole flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of writing so I got a couple of surprises myself!

Oh yes. I’m a pantser for life. Outlines are for the weak! [I don’t mean that. Outlines can be totally cool] Have you been working on anything new?

You know me – working on a million different projects at once! I have written several things over the last year, but none that are anywhere near the publishing stage.  But, hey, writing is writing. That’s what pushes us forward and you never know when the right one is going to hit you.
I’m currently working on a stand-alone novel that I hope to have with the proof-readers within the next couple of months. It’s a Djinn New Adult novel, so still sticking with the paranormal which I love, but something a little different.  Hopefully this will be like nothing you’ve read before. I’ll be letting everyone know when that one’s good to go!

Ooo, I can’t wait!! Has your writing process changed since the release of SONS OF SATRINA? If so, how?

Kind of. I tend more to write in the first person now than I did when I wrote SoS. My actually process hasn’t change – I’m quite set in my ways like that. I love to write the first draft out in long hand (not very environmentally friendly, I know!) and then type up the first re-write. Then type the second re-write and see how happy I am with it. Editing is a necessary evil that we all have to endure, but one that is vital. I often find not only grammatical mistakes during the editing, but the reading flow. It has to flow or readers will lose interest. It can be hard to lose focus on that when you’ve been writing the same novel over and over again. As a writer, you have to remember to see it with fresh eyes and see that it makes sense to someone that doesn’t know the plotline backwards, forwards and inside out.
So, yeah, the process is more or less the same but I’m still learning with every project I undertake.

Wow. Long hand! I am impressed. I make notes in long hand, but I type from the get go. Do you remember the moment you came up with the idea for SONS OF SATRINA series? Can you describe it to us?

Don’t ask!
Well, my best friend had a dream that her boyfriend was cheating with a female friend of ours. That’s it! Can you believe it? This simple dream became an entire novel…
Unfortunately/fortunately, I have such a warped mind that the story turned into the female becoming a stalker, wanting to kill my friend with a pink spotty umbrella to get her hands on her boyfriend…
The dark corners of a warped mind is a scary place!
I know, this sounds nothing like the vampire tale it is now, but this was actually the background story to Kayleigh (as you found out in SoS). The whole vampire thing came into it somehow because I’d always wanted to write a badass vampire novel and voila! The Sons of Satrina was born!
Plus, I didn’t want any wimpy vampires. I didn’t want to focus on drinking human blood and stalking the shadows of the night. So, vampire warriors was something that appealed to me, and a whole academy of fit, hunky warriors sounded even better!

Amazing where our inspiration comes from! I get it from the weirdest places. Okay. Mainly one place…Ha!
I know that with every novel or short story I write, I learn something new about myself. What have you learnt about yourself since you published SONS OF SATRINA?

One of the things I realised how big a part music plays in my life. Re-reading the novels that I’ve written so far, there are so many musical references and mentions of bands that I love (Thirty Seconds to Mars & Bring Me The Horizon to name just a couple!)
I love music (Post-hardcore being my main genre) and I often use the #NowPlaying hashtag on my Twitter account. I think it’s important to show the person behind the storytelling as opposed to simply plugging my book in every Tweet. It shows a sense of ‘real’, if you know what I mean.
My main passions are reading, writing and going to concerts. I’ve got quite a few planned for the next six months (Linkin Park, You Me At Six & All Time Low, Sleeping with Sirens & Pierce the Veil), which is going to be a blast! I’m thinking that my next project should veer away from the supernatural and maybe go for a rock star? That could be fun…
Also, that I shouldn’t have so much self-doubt. Even if everyone else thought the novel sucked, I should believe in myself a little more. Dreams are there for the taking, they just need some hard work and faith.

Oh yes. Anyone who has the misfortune of following me on Twitter knows I incessantly spew song lyrics whenever I write. I can’t even help it. Isn’t that why Twitter was invented? For global sing-alongs? No? 

Thank you so much for stopping by, Kristan!
You can find Kristan on Twitter and Facebook, and you can grab a copy of Sons of Satrina HERE!

Update: Since this interview, Kristan has released Dawn of A New Age: A Sons of Satrina Novel. You can pick it up HERE.

*Latin for launch forth into the deep

Monday, 1 December 2014

Apocalyptic and insane; my dreams will never change.

Exactly thirty days ago, I set myself a goal which, at the time, seemed insane.
I decided I was going to write a book in 30 days.
Well, part of a book. Fifty thousand words of a book.
This goal was part of the worldwide NaNoWriMo* Challenge, in which writers and authors (because we all know they’re not the same thing) from around the world set themselves the task of clawing their way through an average of at least 1667 words a day for 30 days straight. There are no prizes or incentives offered; ‘winning’ means the satisfaction of setting yourself a target and meeting it, and, of course, having 50,000 words of your next novel written.
It was brutal.
There were times when I wanted to go fetal.
There were times when I DID go fetal.
There were times when I sat and stared at my laptop from the other side of the room, glaring at it like it may grow teeth and bite off my fingers if I touch it.
There were times when I wanted to give up, and there were times when I almost did give up. The entire month was riddled with doubt, insecurities, fear, failure and pain. Oh, so much pain.
I won.

I’m going to say that again, mainly because it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.
I clawed my way through an average of 1774 words a day and reached the 50,000 target two days ago. Today I officially validated my novel (read: proved that I did, in fact, write over 50k in 30 days) and was rewarded with a giant banner that proclaimed me a WINNER. 

I am a winner.
Lately I’ve been feeling really…Desperate. I think that’s the best word to describe it. A quiet desperation’s building higher, right? It seems like the more I work on this crazy dream, the more I want it. It feels like it’s almost close enough to touch, yet every time I reach out for it, it slips away from me. NaNoWriMo is a prime example of this: Yes, I wrote 50,000 words, and yes, against all odds, it’s not all trash (I think. I hope), but all that 50,000 words has done is make me want the other 50,000 or so required to finish the novel. And then all I want to do is unleash Cubbins from his cage – where he has been kicking and screaming all month – and get started on the editing process. I always want more. The curse of the terminally dissatisfied. Honestly, I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I keep thinking back to that scene in Artifact where Jared says to Shannon, “Let’s encourage each other to enjoy it as well, this discovery.” I am definitely enjoying it. L490 is super fun to write, as is my drinking game, #TakeAShotOfAlmondMilk**. Which, by the way, everyone is expected to play if I ever achieve my dream of becoming a literary superstar. But I don’t know if my desire for more takes away from that. Like maybe I’m not fully appreciating the process. I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. All I know is that this desperation is increasing every day. I feel it, physically. This need. This drive. This passion.

I think it’s really important to find that thing in your that you are wildly, over-the-top insanely passionately about. In some ways I think too much passion is frowned upon, but that’s never made sense to me. How is it possible to love too much?? What’s the point of life if you don’t have something that drives you, something that inspires you, something that you love? What’s the point of living without passion? Is a life without dreams much of a life at all?

I think sometimes we’re afraid to admit what we’re passionate about. Afraid to admit what we dream to be. Who we dream to be. I know I used to be like that. There was a time where I’d rather roll around in barbed wire and salt than admit to anyone that I write and that I hope to one day become an author. That’s crazy, right? How silly to be ashamed to admit that you dream, that you are passionate about something! But I was, and in some ways, I still am. There are still many people in my “real life” (as opposed to my internet life) who don’t know I even know how to string to a sentence together.

Assuming, of course, that I do in fact know how to string a sentence together. That remains to be seen.

It’s an interesting mentality, really. I think most of it stems from fear of failure. I can’t tell people I want this thing, because what if I don’t get it? To use the example of NaNoWriMo, fear of failure was the reason that I hadn’t participated before this year. What if I didn’t get to 50k? Oh, the horror! Surely the world would implode. Surely. But if there’s two things that participating in NaNoWriMo has taught me, it’s that a) actively working on your dream drives you to want it even more, therefore you work harder to get it, and b) Failure is not as scary as you think it is. If I had failed to reach the 50k by today, three things would have happened:

a)      I’d feel sad and disappointed in myself, let’s be honest, but,
b)      The world would keep spinning, and
c)       I’d still be closer to my goal than I was because I’d be actively trying to achieve it.

It’s the trying that matters, you see. The active pursuit of what you want. Chasing a dream so real.

Chasing your dreams doesn’t mean you love every second of it, though. There were definitely days were the last thing I wanted to do was attempt to make something out of nothing, but I showed up anyway. I kept doing the work. I dragged myself through one-word-per hour days and can’t-I-just-drown-instead days. I did this, because I’ve found my passion. The thing I am compelled to do beyond a reasonable doubt. It may never amount to what I want it to be, but that doesn’t matter. Not really. What matters is that you find the thing that you love, and let it consume you. Everybody needs that thing. Everybody has that thing, if you look inside yourself. And I mean really look. Listen. Feel. See what drives you. What gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning. One of my favourite quotes (and the first thing I see every time I turn on my laptop) is this: You have to do what you’re passionate about, what inspires you.*** And you do. This doesn’t mean that you have to do it as a career or a job, because let’s be realistic, not all dreams come true. That is the sad reality. But so what? If you told me with absolute certainty that I would never be a published writer, do you think I’d stop writing? Not for a single second. I write for me. Of course I hope to share some of my words with others, and I hope that those words connect with people, but I do this because I’m passionate about it. Yes I am in a permanent state of terminal dissatisfaction, and yes I always want more, but ultimately, I write for me. I would hope that everyone who is reading this right now has that thing you want so badly that you can almost taste it. That thing that makes you feel desperate and insane. That keeps you awake at night. If you don’t have it, I would urge you to find it. As Roald Dahl says…

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life…If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”

My desperation has been keeping me awake at night. It’s been plaguing me, actually. This desire to create something that lives forever. That touches the core of every person who reads it. In times like this, I turn to my other passion: Music. Because we all know that where words fail, music speaks. It should not be a surprise that the music I turned to was all written by one particular band. In an effort to write these feelings out of me, I stole their lyrics and turned it them into a prayer. Into an outpouring of all the things I feel inside. It helped. Maybe it can help you too, if you are feeling desperate. If you are chasing a dream so real. If you are on the precipice of who you are and who you wish to be. All lyric credits to Jared Leto and Thirty Second To Mars. I don’t own any of these words. I hope one day I write something as powerful as their lyrics.

I lie awake in bed at night. And think about my life.
I want to be different.
I'm desperate and broken. I'm hopeless and taken.
I'm chasing a dream so real.

It is a thousand to one and a million to two, but I will fight to the death in defence of my dreams. My intentions never change. What I want just stays the same. And I know what I should do; it's time to set myself on fire, because there is a fire inside of this heart and a riot about to explode into flames. And I'm about to crash, crash, burn...But don't save me. Let it all burn. Don't save me. 'Cause I don't care.

Can you feel it? Things are changing. A revolution has begun today for me inside. It's automatic: I imagine. I believe. And I won't suffer, be broken, get tired or wasted, surrender to nothing or give up what I started. A new day is coming. A new age, a new face, a new love, a new drug. A new you. A new me. I've been dreaming of things yet to come. Living. Learning. Watching. Burning. Eyes on the sun.

I live. I die. I bleed. For the fantasy. I am a machine. No longer living; just a shell of what I've dreamed. I'm in love with this hell.

Underneath a falling sky, all my dreams are rushing by. But I chase them, because I am a queen of promise. I am a victim of myself. Maybe the child of a lesser God. Between Heaven and Hell.

Apocalyptic and insane; my dreams will never change.

TITLE LYRICS: ‘Edge of the Earth’ by Mars

* National Novel Writing Month

** Every time I drop a Mars reference in L490, you have to take a shot of almond milk. That title alone is worth at least three.


My laptop lock screen. Perfection.

[Song titles by paragraphs]
A Beautiful Lie
Kings and Queens
Up In The Air

Closer To The Edge
Kings and Queens
Was It A Dream?

End of the Beginning
The Fantasy
Bright Lights

The Fantasy

Up In The Air
Kings and Queens

Edge Of The Earth