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You Gotta Read Reviews Admin Team

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Welcome Author Sara-Jayne Townsend...

YGR: Welcome! Tell us a little about yourself and your books.

Thank you!

I am a UK-based author, but I spent most of the 80s living in Canada when my family emigrated there. I moved back to England when I finished high school, but my family still live in Canada and I visit a lot. So I still have a connection to Canada, even though I consider myself British.

I don’t remember ever making a conscious decision to be a writer. I’ve always written stories, ever since I was a child. Telling stories has always been a part of my life. Whenever anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said “a writer”. The person would invariably say, “you can’t make a living doing that. You have to get a real job.” But I never wanted to do anything else.

Ultimately all those people were right – writing doesn’t pay the bills. So for a day job, I work as a Personal Assistant for a medical college, and I fit the writing in when I can.


YGR: Suffer the Children is your newest release. Can you give us a glimpse into the book?

The main character, Leanne, is an emotionally damaged young woman who goes to live with relatives she’s never met when her mother dies of a drugs overdose. As she’s trying to settle in to this new life, so far removed from her origins, she starts to investigate the disappearance of local teenagers and uncovers an unimaginable evil.


YGR: What inspired you to write the novel?

Years ago I had a job with a software distribution company, and it was local enough to walk to work. I used to walk past this empty house, that was neglected and in need of repair and used to look, to me, very creepy. I started imagining who or what might live there. I wrote a short story called ‘Kiddiwinks’ that was a take on Hansel and Gretel, about an old woman in a creepy house who ate children, and that short story formed the foundation of SUFFER THE CHILDREN.


YGR: Is horror the only genre you write? If so why?

I also write crime, and a combination of the two (the current work in process is an urban fantasy/supernatural crime novel). I like strong plots and exciting storylines involving life-threatening danger or supernatural beasties. And someone always dies a horrible death in everything I write.

I think for me writing is a form of exorcism. I write about negative feelings – grief, anger, hate, fear – as a way of dealing with them. Generally I don’t write ‘happy’ stories because those feelings I hold on to.


YGR: Do you have anything new in the works?

My next novel is the first in a mystery series. My amateur sleuth, Shara Summers, is a Canadian actress – paying homage to my own Canadian background. I’ve just signed the contract with Lyrical Press, who published SUFFER THE CHILDREN, so further information – and a release date – will be available soon.


YGR: What advice would you give unpublished writers?

Don’t take rejection personally. It’s easy to get wounded when a story you’ve poured your heart and soul into gets repeatedly rejected, but you’ve just got to keep sending it out again. And don’t give up. Eventually you will get a ‘yes’.


YGR: What is your writing process like?

I have to plan. I find I get ‘stuck’ otherwise. So for every novel I write, I first write a plot outline, and then I break that down further into a chapter-by-chapter plan, and then as I write I use that as a guide, so I know that, say, in Chapter 3 the main character discovers a major clue, or there’s a big argument in Chapter 5 that leads to some other event in Chapter 6, or whatever. My first draft is pretty rough. If I really don’t know what to do with a particular scene but know what happens after that, I might leave a couple of blank pages with a note saying, ‘Character X has to somehow discover Y here’ and move on. Hopefully by the time I get to the second draft I’ve worked out how to fix any major plot holes. I am quite fond of the expression ‘fix it in the rewrite’. I try to get to the end of the draft, rather than spend ages trying to work out a troublesome scene, and sort out any problems in the next draft.

At Draft 2 or 3 stage I might get my writing group to read it, since by that point I usually know there are problems but am too close to the manuscript to work out what’s still wrong. So then there’ll be a further draft or two to fix the things they come up with, and then there’ll be a further polishing before I feel the manuscript is anywhere near ready to start sending out. So there are usually at least seven drafts of a manuscript before it’s ready to submit.

I have to try and fit the writing around the day job, which can sometimes be difficult. Once upon a time I used to be able to stay up writing till 3am and then get up and go to work four hours later, but I can’t do that these days. I find it easier to get up early. A couple of times a week I will get up at 5:30am to get into London early, and sit in a coffee shop with my NetBook for an hour’s writing time before going to the office. On weekends I try to reserve Saturdays for the week’s chores – laundry, ironing, grocery shopping, whatever – so I can have most of Sunday to write. But it gets difficult trying to fit everything in sometimes.


YGR: Where do you get your inspiration?

When I am writing about supernatural things, I am attracted to monsters
of myths and legends. Greek mythology particularly interests me – the Greek myth of Lamia had an influence on SUFFER THE CHILDREN. Nordic mythology is influencing the urban fantasy WIP.

But I am also interested in the darkness in humanity – after all, every story that’s ever been told, no matter how horrible, has come from human imagination. What people can do to each other is far more terrible than anything a supernatural creature can inflict, on the whole.

Like most writers I carry a notebook around with me, and make notes about little inspirations that occur to me during the day. Sometimes I will write down conversations I overhear on the train. The advent of mobile phones has made people startlingly uninhibited about the kind of telephone conversations they will have in public. It’s all good material.


YGR: When you set aside your work in progress for the day, what sort of books do you like to read?

My reading tastes, like my writing, fall into the categories of crime and horror. Basically, if it hasn’t got a gruesome death in it, it doesn’t hold my interest very long.


YGR: What's the weirdest thing you've ever done in the name of research?

When I was writing the crime novel, I wanted to get the lowdown on what happens for real in a murder case, so I contacted my local police station to try to get an interview with a detective inspector. They were very obliging, and put me in touch with a guy I arranged to go and see. He gave me his mobile number and told me to ring him when I arrived at the station, and he’d come and fetch me so I wouldn’t have to sit with all the people in reception who were there because they’d committed crimes and had to report in. Only he’d switched his mobile phone off and forgotten, so when I arrived I couldn’t get through to him and had to sit in reception anyway, with aforementioned reprobates. I was there about an hour before he remembered and called me. I was listening to some very scary conversations in that time.


YGR: Where can we find you on the net?

My website is at http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com and my blog at http://sayssara.wordpress.com.

Anyone interested in following my writing-related activities on Facebook can join the SUFFER THE CHILDREN group, at http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=301037281383.

I’m also on My Space (http://www.myspace.com/shara_summers) and have a Goodreads profile at http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3500282.Sara_Jayne_Townsend


YGR: Where can we find out more about your books?

Suffer the Children is available as an e-book (no print version at this point in time) to purchase directly from the publisher’s website:
http://www.lyricalpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=1_52&products_id=288&zenid=t87cru6uvj0pbd4tgr4mh3qds3

and the kindle version from Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/Suffer-the-Children-ebook/dp/B003DBJD2E/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_1

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