I’m celebrating the rise of writers through a series of fabulous interviews. No longer will we write in isolation when we have the power of the internet to bring awareness to who we are, what we do and why we do it. Let’s get acquainted…
What do you do:
I’m an author.
Why do you do it?
I write because it is where I find my peace. I love storytelling and creating worlds and characters but mostly I love how it enables me to examine the world and people in my own way. For me, building a story consists of asking myself question after question and the story itself is the answers that I seek from the world.
What has been your biggest breakthrough?
I was 24 when I first realised that I loved to write (6 years ago) and I began writing on a free site called Wattpad. I wrote lots of bad and unfinished stories on the site and then deleted most of them and wrote the first story that I really wanted to. That story went on to get over 11 million reads, it was my first published book and an Amazon best seller. If you had asked me two years ago then I would have told you that that was my biggest break through but 6 years later after writing 6 stories under that pen name I can say that it wasn’t.
My biggest break through was the day that I decided to no longer be conditioned by society and what it had been feeding me subliminally. You see all 6 of those books had a white protagonist (and that’s not a problem) only I hadn’t truly realised my reasons for doing that. It was because that’s what I thought I had to do to sell a story. I had somehow come to a place where I believed that people didn’t connect with characters that looked like me. So my biggest breakthrough was seeing through that damaging lie and taking control of my life and what I wanted other little girls like me to see that I never saw growing up: themselves as the hero of the story.
So the biggest breakthrough was the day I decided that I would write under my real name and write a YA Fantasy book where a young black girl was the hero of the story. I’m working on that story now and it has been the best experience of my entire writing career!
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge has been patience. I have a terrible habit of getting very excited about something, jumping in head first and learning the lessons later. This was exactly how I approached my writing career.
When I published my first book I sold 10,000 copies in 2 months and I was over the moon but I didn’t sustain those figures or momentum because I didn’t truly understand the industry I was entering into and the immensely hard work that was entailed to do succeed. My biggest challenge has been learning to take a step back and learning to wait. I’ve learnt how to research and to take time to completely understand the industry and what is best for me as an author. It has taken me a few years but whilst it was my biggest challenge it was also the best decision I’ve ever made!
What is your favourite book and why?
Oh gosh, I can’t even begin to pick a favourite, I just can’t. What I can give you is two books that changed me and the first is called It Ends With Us by one of my favourite authors, Colleen Hoover. Her stories have a magical way of making you forget that you are reading and leaving you completely different by the end. You are left, literally, looking at the world in a completely different way and that impact is beautiful. That story definitely set the bar for the type of effect I wanted to leave behind for all my future readers.
The second is The Hate U Give (Thug) by Angie Thomas. It was the first book I read where the character looked like me, where I could connect with the culture and see myself in the story. This was one of the books that made me brave enough to stand up and say ‘I can be the hero of a story and I will be!’
What are your three tips for aspiring writers?
2. Get to the end! This sounds so obvious but you’d be surprised how many writers give up at the halfway point not realising that if they just finish they will have something to fix and turn into a book, because first drafts are not books they are simply the skeleton of what will be.
3. Read! The best way to become a better writer is to read and read widely. It will teach you so much about story telling, pacing, characters, plot, setting and sentence structure etc…that you just won’t get elsewhere.
Where can readers connect with you?