I'd like to welcome you to my interview with writer Annaliese Matheron. Enjoy!
Hello Annaliese. Can you please introduce yourself?
I’m Annaliese Matheron and I live in North Suffolk, near the coast. I first moved to Suffolk about eleven years ago, when my family was a lot younger and a little bit smaller than it is now. I was born in Hampshire but I grew up in Essex.
North Suffolk is a lovely part of the world, so I hear! How long have you been writing?
I’ve always written, but I’ve been writing with purpose and the view of having my work published since I finished my degree about six years ago.
What first got you interested in writing?
When I was at school I enjoyed writing, but I didn’t even entertain the idea of becoming a writer. It wasn’t till I was doing my English literature and language degree and took a course on creative writing that I thought “I really enjoy this.” But it wasn’t a deep knowing like some writers have, or a eureka moment, it kind of crept up on me and gradually consumed me until it was all I thought about. I’d wake up thinking of my characters and I’d go to sleep thinking of their story and I’d dream about the worlds they inhabited. It just became the biggest part of me and I remember when I realised that writing was for me thinking "You wally, Annaliese," because I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t seen it before; it makes perfect sense and is so right for me. I don’t just love writing, I’m in love with it and I never want that to stop, ever!
It's great to see someone with such a passion for their craft. Do you attend a writing group?
No, I’ve never attended a writing group and I think because I’ve never attended one I don’t feel a need for one. Maybe I’m missing out?
There are some good writing groups out there, but if you do think about going to one, you need to find one that suits your needs. What genre(s) do you write? What drew you to this/these genre(s)?
I predominantly write for children, but my age ranges are quite broad from 7-YA.
I don’t limit myself to only writing one type of genre; I write as I feel inspired and engaged, I wouldn’t ever write about a subject that I didn’t feel drawn to or emotionally invested in. And so far I’ve written for a young audience because that’s the audience that would be inspired by my writing rather than my writing being inspired by a set audience.
Have you ever had anything published?
My fourth book, Wolflore, has been released as an ebook this week and is out as a paperback next month. It’s aimed at a slightly older audience (9-14) then my previous Ninja Nan books (7-11), and the subject matter and genre is quite different, but they both still have a playful and open essence.
The Ninja Nan series is all about a young boy called Ben who goes to stay at his grandparents house for the summer holidays, with his older brother Kieran, and whilst there he sees his Nan’s nasty neighbour, Mrs Gillespie, acting very mysteriously and decides to follow her around. Ben discovers that all of the old people who live in Honeypot Grove, including Nan and Grandad, are part of a spy ring, and when Ben and Kieran get kidnapped it’s up to the geriatric spies, with their age appropriate weaponry, to come and rescue them.
In Wolflore, Adam Blake and his mother, Lucinda, have always moved around. Different towns, different schools, different kids. Adam just didn't know how different some of them might have been, not until he finds out that he is almost as far from being human as it gets. Adam is catapulted into a new world which exists just below the fabric or reality. Where sirens stalk the halls and Demons plot their secret agenda behind closed doors. Where Vampires can be hired for muscle and Voodoo priestesses are seriously scary, and kind of hot. But when his best friend, Harry, goes missing Adam must use all that sets him apart from his human friend in order to save him.
Before your books were published, did you receive any rejections?
Rejection sucks, but you just have to remember that opinions aren’t facts; take them in and then let them go and keep striving. You’ll know if what you’re doing is right You just need to believe in your writing and not give up on it. Things take time.
Would you consider self-publishing/e-publishing? Are you interested in eBooks, or do you prefer the old fashioned paper-made books?
I think that the eBook market is growing and that to ignore it is futile. It’s like the threat of the Borg against the federation; most of us will probably be assimilated.But I love the tactile nature of a print book, you touch it and caress it and know its cover like the face of a friend. It hold’s your hand and takes you on an adventure. You experience something with it and you leave a little of yourself embedded in the paper. I’m not sure that an e-reader gives you the same pleasures, but I do think it offers something different. Freedom maybe, I don’t know, I haven’t worked it out yet.
Who/what influences your writing? Where do you get your inspiration from?
I think that my writing is influenced predominantly by the characters in my stories. I like to spend a lot of time getting to know my characters. I put them into situations outside of the context of the story to see how they would react and explore their background and their history so that when something crops up in the story I can instantly know how they will react and that’s really important to me because my characters are the driving for my plot rather than the other way around. I often start a story with an idea and have no idea how it’s going to turn out, or I have a vague idea but no real clue how the story might get there, luckily the characters guide the way through the interactions and reactions.Sometimes vague idea I had doesn’t come to fruition, but that’s fine because what does happen is usually a million times better.As for inspiration, well that’s all around. Sometimes my children do or say something or I’ll notice things when I’m out and think that’s interesting and I’ll pick it up and keep it for later reference. Sometimes you can trace back to a single inspiration and at other times its the sum of many musings that supply the impetus for a story.
How do you come up with your characters' names and personalities?
I once read that every character has a little bit of yourself inside it and I think that’s true to a certain extent, you have to be able to imagine all the facets of a character in order to be able to give them depth and substance. But I think that, apart from that small, but important, kernel that a character is born from, it comes in to its own as dictated by the nature of the environment that you need to put the character in and the way that it is nurtured by the characters around it.
I agree that characters all contain a bit of their authors. It's what makes them so great! What is your writing routine?
I try to write every day, or at least I have the intention to do so, sometimes it doesn’t turn out like that, especially if I have book related events of something of that nature happening. But even when I’m not writing I’m thinking about writing, constantly.
Me too! Do you start out with a complete idea for your stories, or do you just start writing and hope for the best?
When I start I have an idea and I’m in the getting to know stage with my characters and not much else. It’s not really hoping for the best, it’s more trusting in the characters that you have created getting you where you need to be. But no I don’t plot, I tend to flow.
Do you have an editing process?
Like most authors I write with the door closed and edit with the door open. So my first draft is all ways this super secretive thing, although sometimes I do get very excited and tell people what I’m writing about, but they don’t get to read it until it’s finished. That’s when the editing starts, and I’m lucky that I have some honest people whom I trust to tell me where I’ve gone astray.
That's what all writers need. It's no good if everyone just tells you how good something is without offering some constructive criticism. What do you enjoy the most/least about writing?
I love everything about writing. It’s all my favourite. There isn’t anything that I don’t find joy in; the whole process, for me, is fun. Sometimes it’s hard and frustrating, but it’s still the most rewarding and spectacular adventure that I get to go on, and I’m very privileged and grateful that I get to spend my days doing what I love.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you've been given with regards to writing?
Oh I’ve had lots of good advice but I think the most valuable piece came really early on when I was just starting to realise that I wanted to write as a career and was worried that I wasn’t good enough I was told that what I had to say was important and was worthy and good. And that I should continue and strive. Sometimes I think that we just need a little validation, permission almost, especially in such a highly critical field such as writing. You will be judged, your work will be judged; there’s nothing you can do about that. But you can be true to yourself and your work , be happy with what you have created and remember that you can’t please everyone all of the time.
That's such an important thing to remember. What advice could you give to a new writer?
Half of the battle is the doing. Sometimes we writers can get wrapped up in the thought process and the ideas that we sometimes find it hard to actually write. This happened to me a few months back and a friend said to me just write, if it doesn’t work you can change it that’s what editing is for. She was so right. I now call it doing the doing. If I get a little held up in a story I just go and do the doing and I’m usually able to power through.
I often get caught up with thinking, so I'd better get on with 'doing the doing' as I have so many ideas in my head; they need to be put on paper! How important is it for you to share your writing?
Sharing my writing, getting out in to the world and living is very important to me. I like to see my stories doing well and being enjoyed. Getting a message from someone who has read one of my books and enjoyed it is the best validation.
Have you ever entered any writing competitions?
Ninja Nan and Sidekick Grandad made it to the finals of The People’s Book Prize last year, so that was jolly exciting.
That's amazing. Well done! Apart from writing, what are your other interests/hobbies?
Apart from writing and her sister past time- reading, I read a lot of non-fiction, I like to run and do yoga. But even when I’m reading and running I’m thinking about writing, different projects current and future. I often find if I’m a little stuck and unsure where a story is going that if I go for a run I’ll sort it out. Usually in a eureka moment. I think sometimes your conscious mind needs to fully focus on something else in order for your unconscious mind to work its remarkable magic.I’m also interested in astronomy. Most of my non writing time is taken up by my family, but when I get some time those are the things that I enjoy doing.
I used to be really interested in astronomy. I can't remember much about it now, apart from the plough and cassiopeia ... anyway ... If you could have written anything, what do you wish that could have been?
This has only happened once. I read Philip Pullman’s His Dark Material Trilogy and I remember actually saying to myself “Man! I wish I’d written that!” - it’s an amazing story and so well told, you can’t help but be swept up in it.
That's on my bookshelf and on my 'to read' list! Do you have any favourite lines from novels/plays/poetry/songs, or any favourite literary quotations?
Do I, I have tones. I’ll list a few.My favourite Shakespeare play is Cymbeline, my favourite sonnet is 116.My favourite Austen is Persuasion, Favourite Dahl is Danny the Champion of the World, but my favourite Dahl character is The Grand High Witch. My favourite escapist fantasy book is Stardust. My Favourite King is The Dreamcatcher, Favourite old school horror- Dracula,Favourite book to read and do funny voices- The Gruffalo, Favourite book as a small child Meg, Mog and the Castle, Favourite book as a teenager The Hobbit, Favourite book to take on holiday- Jane Eyre. And my favourite literary quote is from Karl Largerfield, “Books are a hard-bound drug with no danger of overdose. I am the happy victim of books.” Couldn’t agree more.
That is a lovely quote. What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I’m writing a sequel to Wolflore as well as information gathering for a few other projects which I hope will come about over the next few years.
Do you have a website/blog/Twitter/Facebook dedicated to your writing?
My website is www.annaliesematheron.com
Twitter is @Matheron
And my facebook page is under my name, Annaliese Matheron
Would you be able to provide a short piece of your work?
This is an excerpt from Ninja Nan and Sidekick Grandad. It’s the first meeting between Ben and what is to become his evil arch enemy, Mrs Gillespie:
Ben paused and bent down, pretending to tie his shoelace, but really he was casing the joint. A thrill of excitement filled him for a moment, but then was gone the next as he realised something. All was unearthly quiet in the house; there was no barking from the dog, no sound of movement – nothing. It all seemed a bit too quiet. Then a thought struck Ben which made his mouth dry. What if the old woman was dead! You hear about it all the time, little old ladies who drop down dead and aren’t found for days. He stayed there for a few moments, crouched low, looking at the quiet house with the dead body inside it.
‘What do you think you’re doing loitering outside my house?’
Ben jumped up. It was the squeaky little voice of the very alive Mrs Gillespie, who fixed Ben with an icy stare over the top of her glasses. She was accompanied by Pixie who sat in the front basket of the motorised scooter, teeth bared and growling.
Ben tried to look her in the eye but couldn’t. His gaze was drawn to her chin which sprouted long white hairs, making it look like the end of a silver skin onion. He tried to move his gaze to her eyes but was caught by a second wave of hair sprouting from her nostrils and top lip. Ben forced his eyes to the floor. Perhaps she hadn’t noticed he was staring.
‘Well, what were you doing, boy?’ she demanded again, her voice sounding even squeakier.Ben shrugged his shoulders and started pushing the stone around with the tip of his shoe.Mrs Gillespie saw the stone. ‘Ahh!’ she exclaimed. ‘I know boys like you. Bored, got nothing to do except terrorise defenceless old ladies.’ She pulled her woolly blue cardigan about her thickset frame, as if it were a cold autumn’s day.
Ben stared at her in disbelief. ‘But I…’
‘Creeping up on them as they make their way home, waiting to ambush them or throw stones through their windows to give them a fright. Oh yes, I know boys like you!’ Mrs Gillespie leaned forward on her scooter, her face barely a hand’s width away.
Ben could see her stained brown teeth. The top ones were marked with a line of brilliant red lipstick, the remainder of which was smeared over her wrinkly little puckered lips. He could smell her breath – an unwholesome mixture of tobacco and kippers.
‘We have ways of dealing with boys like you, don’t we Pixie!’
The dog yapped in agreement then continued baring its teeth.
Mrs Gillespie put one bony hand into the pocket of her cardigan and produced a cold chicken drumstick; it was speckled with blue fluff.
She dangled the drumstick in front of the dog who gazed intently at it. The growling stopped.‘Wait for it!’ Mrs Gillespie said, her eyes fixed on Ben, who in turn was fixed on the fate of the drumstick. ‘Now!’ she ordered.
In a flash the dog lurched forward, snapped the drumstick in two and started to chomp on the bone and fleshy part it now had in its mouth. Mrs Gillespie continued to hold the other half with the knobbly knee joint between her fingers.
‘You may not know this, but the bones in a boy’s ankle are about the same size as the bone in a chicken drumstick. You also may not know that Pixie, here, is an extremely fast runner, much faster than you, I dare say.’
Ben was in shock. All he was able to do was nod his head up and down.
‘Here,’ said Mrs Gillespie, grabbing his hand and placing the dead drumstick remnant in it.
‘You can keep this. Call it a reminder never to creep up on people again. Now go back to your grandma’s, boy, before I have half a mind to tell her what you’ve been up to.’
Ben didn’t need telling twice. He ran all the way back to Nan’s, not stopping until he was down the side path and safely out of view. From there he watched Mrs Gillespie drive through the little gate up to her house.
The old hag! Making it out to be all him when she’s the one who was sneaking about. She’s the one who threatened to set her ferocious dog on him. She’s the one who’s up to something. Well, Ben wasn’t about to let her get away with it.
© Annaliese MatheronThank you very much Annaliese.