Many thanks to Francesca Tyer for her fabulous author and book photo pics. Other images created in Book Brush using Pixabay images. Screenshots taken by me, Allison Symes.
It is with great pleasure I welcome back Francesca Tyer to Chandler’s Ford Today. Francesca is one of many authors who are part of the Authors Reach stable (the driving creative force behind that is Richard Hardie, author of Leap of Faith and Trouble With Swords).
Francesca writes YA fantasy. Her first book was The Firestone and this was followed by The Seastone. Francesca tells me her third book in her YA fantasy series is due out at the end of June (The Earthstone) and, since we last talked on Chandler’s Ford Today, she has set up her Untold Stories Academy, where she offers writing workshops and editing/mentoring services for other authors.
It is a fact of life pretty much every author has to do work outside of “just” writing the books. Often it will be coaching or editing and some authors do both. I carry out editing work and run workshops (particularly but not exclusively on flash fiction). I also like to think of this as a way of paying back. Why? Because I was grateful (and remain so) for the help, support, and encouragement I received earlier in my career and I also love sharing the word about the joys of writing.
Workshops are another way also of an author getting their name out there and their works better known so additional work like this could and should be seen as part of an overall marketing strategy.
And now to catch up with Francesca’s news. There is plenty to share!
Welcome back to Chandler’s Ford Today, Francesca. Many congratulations on your second book, The Seastone, and on the launch of your third book – The Earthstone. Definitely time for an update from you!
1. What led you, Francesca, into writing YA fantasy? Were you inspired by other authors in that genre and, if so, who and why do you think their stories gripped you particularly?
I was an avid fantasy reader as a child and I have no doubt this inspired my decision to write in the fantasy genre. Carole Wilkinson’s Dragon Keeper series, Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain, Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series and of course Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings were absolute favourites. These series are not just about magic and adventure – they also reveal important truths about the world around us.
2. I note you also write poetry. Any plans for a collection? How do you find switching between poetry and prose writing?
I’ve thought about writing a second poetry collection several times but haven’t yet set the wheels in motion. While I’ve written a few short poems, there aren’t yet enough to publish and there’s no real thread linking them together. I’ve always written poetry; I enjoy trying to evoke rich descriptions and meanings in the space of just a few lines.
For me, poetry is a way of releasing emotion or describing objects and experiences without needing to write the full story. In my experience, writing poetry feels different to writing fiction. My poems are expressions of momentary thoughts, feelings and observations whereas my fiction emerges from months of planning and is driven by an insatiable need to write.
3. How did you find writing a second book? Some authors find this difficult. Others less so, mainly because they already had the ideas for a follow up when writing the first one in a lot of cases. Did you find writing the third one easier because you had got the notoriously difficult follow up book done and out there?
I think the first book is always the hardest. At that point, you are still finding your own style and learning what works and what doesn’t in terms of plot construction. It may be different for standalone novels, but in series writing, the second book (and others after that) will, to some extent, match the structure of the first.
While I found writing a second and third book easier to write in this regard, the main challenge of series writing is maintaining continuity. I found that especially with my third book, I had to not only think about the first two stories but also set up ideas for the final instalment.
4. Do you have a writing routine? What do you find works best for you?
I start out by planning a book in tiny sections. I’ll write down ideas in multiple notebooks and when I have enough, I create a rough plot plan. I always write my first draft by hand as I find I think better that way. With my first book, I used to write and/or edit about 3,000 words per day but life is much busier now so I aim for around 1,500. I set myself deadlines for when I want to complete each draft. Otherwise it would be all too easy to spend years writing a book and never get it to a satisfactory point!
5. Which three writing tips have you found most useful and why?
• Write and don’t look back – I don’t specifically remember anyone saying this to me but it’s something I learnt through experience and now advocate. When I started writing, my greatest hindrance was myself. I used to revisit the chapters I’d already written and critique them rather than simply ploughing on. A first draft isn’t meant to be perfect – save the critiquing for when you’ve reached the end.
Allison: The late, great Terry Pratchett said the first draft was you telling yourself the story. He was spot on with that. The author needs to know the story first before working out what needs to be improved.
• Cut out the word ‘very’ – I never used the word ‘very’ a great amount anyway but now I make sure that I never use it unless it’s absolutely necessary (which most of the time it isn’t). It was a Mark Twain quote that struck me with this piece of advice: “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
Allison: The word ‘very’ is one of my bug bear words, along with actually, particularly etc. These things are, at best, qualifiers. You, and your stories, work better by being specific. They don’t add anything to your story or article. A lot of the time “that” can go as well.
• Implement a marketing plan as soon as possible – whether you’re traditionally published, self-published, or somewhere in between, marketing is an essential tool for authors in the modern world. The sooner you start building an audience, the better. Knowing how to write is one thing – marketing is another thing altogether.
6. The writing life is full of ups and downs for all of us but what has been your most special “up” moment? (Mine was receiving the contract for my first book – it made it real).
Like you, receiving the contract for my first book was the best moment of all. Having longed to be a published author since the age of eight, that email began the career I’d always wanted. I also have to say that holding the print copy in my hands for the first time was a hard moment to beat. The magic of seeing an idea that’s been in your head for so many years bound into a book in your hands is an indescribable feeling.
7. Can you tell us something about the launches you have held for your first two books? What are your launch plans for the third one?
The Firestone launched in February 2020, first with an online Facebook event (discussions, competitions and prizes) and then officially in W.H.Smith with a signing event. I was interviewed by a local media creator and later by Wessex TV. Watching myself on TV later that evening was a surreal experience!
The Seastone launch was online only as Covid was still around but I attended some signing events later in the year.
As for The Earthstone, the launch will be in parts. There will be a series of articles and blogs coming out about the book and I have several events lined up in various locations.
8. What is next for you, writing wise?
Ultimately, I have the final novel in The Elemental Prophesy series to start writing. I also have a standalone novel up my sleeve however that I’m desperate to write. I’ve written a third of it already but I’m still working out the plot so I won’t give anything away just yet.
While I’m writing this one I will start planning the final book in my fantasy series. I admire authors who are promoting a recent release while writing the next book and while planning another behind the scenes. That’s what I’m aiming to do.
Many thanks for the first half of a fabulous two part interview, Francesca. I look forward to sharing Part 2 next week where Francesca and I discuss workshops, how Francesca became involved with Authors Reach, launches, and much else besides.
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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