[Interview #10] Jemima - "Always make a plan, learn to free-write, and use words that you know well"
Joining me to today is Jemima Forrester, author of: She Runs With Wolves, TheBeta's Daughter, The Hunter And The Vampire on Goodnovel. She has always wanted to be a writer since she was little and thanks to studying English and Literary Media in university, she has lots of advice and tips for young writers!
By Alex N.
November 2, 2020
Interviewer: What made you want to start writing to begin with?
Jemima: I've been writing since childhood - I remember making little handwritten books and stapling them together, and I think I've wanted to be an author ever since. It's just something I've always wanted to do. My parents read to me a lot, and then when I could read I read everything I could. I guess the obsession started from there!
Interviewer: I guess you also studied English at school and university?
Jemima: Yeah, so I studied English Language and Literature for school, then I went on to university to study a Bachelor's in English, and a Master's in Literary Media. I learned so much! The courses I studied were really broad and we had a lot of freedom to study the areas that interested us in particular, so a lot of my focus was on creative writing. We experimented a lot with different narrative types - we even got to make games at one point - and it allowed me to try out so many different avenues and find what I loved. Both my undergrad and postgrad dissertations were on experimental creative writing. The first one was about using setting as symbolism, and for my Master's I created a new literary style based on using filmic narrative techniques and applying them to literature - so you'd use things like camera angles to describe the scene, mise-en-scene, and setting was again really important. I also got to read so many great books for the literature portion of my courses, and I think reading widely is the best way to become a better writer.
Interviewer: All the books you write on Goodnovel are alpha/werewolf related. Why do you like writing that genre so much?
Jemima: I think it’s partly because of where I grew up. I live right next to this amazing witchy town called Glastonbury, and most of the shops there sell spell bags, potion kits, crystals, etc. It’s not unusual to see Druids walking around, or witches, or vampires, and the people there are all incredible – you see some amazing outfits, and the supernatural is everywhere. It’s a very mythical place – it’s where King Arthur is buried, even. We all celebrate the Pagan festivals there, like Imbolc, Samhain, the Solstices, etc, so my childhood was steeped in magic and mysticism. I guess I grew up in a kind of fantasy world, and I like writing about supernatural creatures – werewolves and vampires especially – because I’ve been fascinated by them my whole life. There’s so much room to play around with other interesting themes in werewolf books too, especially fate, nature, and folklore. I was really into those kind of books as a teenager, too, and I only write books that I’d like to read myself.
Interviewer: Quite a few authors I have interviewed do want to write horror/ supernatural but feel its difficult. Do you ever plan to write a pure horror?
Jemima: Absolutely not! I’m actually scared of horror films. I like incorporating those elements into my novels, but I could never write something that was pure horror. I love using dark themes, but I used to have to cover my eyes when I watched Doctor Who (and still do, sometimes). Before GoodNovel most of my novels were very literary and related to Modernism; I love exploring different styles and genres, especially anything romantic. But horror probably won’t ever be one of them.
Interviewer: Do you plan to challenge yourself in writing a different genre?
Jemima: I've definitely started to branch away from wolves with my Hunter series, but it's still very much supernatural. I love old folklore and supernatural creatures, so I think my novels will be rooted in that genre. GoodNovel is actually the only platform I write for at the moment! But yeah, I do think I would start with werewolves if I did post my stories elsewhere. They seem to be fairly popular and well received wherever they go.
Interviewer: There are lots of werewolf/alpha books GoodNovel. What is it about your writing that makes your book stand out?
Jemima: I think I have quite a nice writing style, which draws people in. I love exploring different narrative techniques, too. I put a lot of time into plotting, so that I can put a lot of foreshadowing in, which I think is really fun for when someone finishes a book and it all suddenly slots into place. There are so many incredible authors and books out there, so I think having characters that aren't a copy-paste from other books in the genre is really important. For me, characters are the key part of any narrative; I want mine to be beautifully human - especially the ones that aren't. I read somewhere that there are only seven basic types of plot in total, but the number of characters you can create are endless.
Interviewer: Where do you hope to progress with your writing career? Do you ever plan to go into publishing?
Jemima: Writing novels has always been my dream. I’ve been lucky enough to write full time since putting my novels on GoodNovel, but I’d love to hold my books in my hands physically one day, too, or see them in a bookshop window. But yeah – writing is my passion, and I’d be so happy if I could do this forever.
Interviewer: Which part of writing do you find the most difficult?
Jemima: Probably being concise. Some of the early chapters in The Beta's Daughter are about 6,000 words long, which is ridiculous. It's something I've tried to work on with She Runs With Wolves, and I think there's already a noticeable difference and improvement between the two. Hopefully that improvement continues!
Interviewer: Oh? So what did you edit out of The Beta’s Daughter then?
Jemima: In the first draft of The Beta's Daughter, Samyak's character was totally different. I initially wanted to write a love interest that wouldn't be a toxic example of what a relationship is like, as I think so many YA books glorify manipulation, and extreme swings between loving behavior and anger i.e Twilight with Edward and Jacob.
Though Samyak ended up being too perfect and pretty dull, so I rewrote him completely to have a dark backstory that changed his behavior, but I made sure that he didn't treat Arienne any differently. I still want their relationship to be a positive example of love to my younger readers, but they needed some sort of struggle too.
Interviewer: Last question, what advice would you give to young authors who want to write better?
Jemima: Three main recommendations: The first is don't use words you aren't familiar with unless you are sure what they mean though a thesaurus might show two words as having the same meaning, they might have slightly different connotations and be jarring for a reader. This doesn't mean don't try out new words, and I think this comes under the read widely advice. Reading allows you to pick up contextual clues and helps to understand how certain words fit into sentences, which you don't get if all you're reading is a thesaurus. Especially on platforms like GoodNovel, a lot of the readers aren't native English speakers, so keeping your language simple actually makes your writing flow better and helps you get your images and messages across.
I'd also recommend making a plan. Some may it up as they go along - but this involves more editing, and it makes for extra work in the long run. Having a plan is especially useful when you're starting out; if you start to struggle with motivation you have the plan laid out for you. You don't have to think so much - you can just focus on writing and enjoy the art of making words sounding beautiful together, and creating visuals that will stay with your readers. You can leave yourself a lot of creative freedom, and plans can always be changed, but writing a novel is a marathon and it's helpful to have the support of a plan as you work through it!
Finally, one thing we did a lot of at university was free-writing. This is where you set a timer (i.e 10 minutes), and just write anything. If you can't think, you just write "I don't know what to write" until something comes up. Not only does this help you write quicker - I think I can do about 1,300 words in ten minutes free-writing now, compared to 500 to begin with - but it also pulls up amazing ideas out of your subconscious. You can do this as a character from your book, or on a set topic - we used to start our journalism seminars with 5 minutes of free-writing, and our lecturer would shout out topics for us to write about, i.e "look out the window" to "first date nerves". This is also really helpful with writer's block, as you can't second guess everything you're writing - you just have to write.
**Interviewer: Thank you for your time, and hopefully those tips and advice can help our authors on the platform!
Interviews are out every Monday!