1-How long have you been writing?
I've always written. Ever since I was a child I've written stories, told stories, consumed stories. Until the last few years, however, no one has read them. My family have never shown the slightest interest in my writing. In fact, when I was a child I would get told off regularly for 'all that nonsense'. There are no words to express how wonderful it is be free to write and have people read. Stories are just words on paper unless they're read.
2- What is your favorite genre to write?
It's difficult to say. What's a genre? I like to write for young people but is YA really a genre in itself? I also have almost exclusively gay protagonists. Is that a genre? I don't think it should be. The true genres are those such as sci fi, fantasy, horror, which actually tell you something about the story.
That being said, my favourite genre is fantasy. That's where my imagination can really take root and fly. I also like to write contemporary romance, although everything I write is flavoured deeply with shadow. Nothing is light and fluffy in my world.
Surprisingly, I don't really like to write erotica. It's where I started, and my absolute favourite books are out there in that genre. However, even my erotica has very little sex and I find myself bored writing the mechanics of it. I'm very much a sensual person, in my writing and my life and much prefer the sensuousness, the erotic, to the nuts and bolts of getting down to it. That's not to say I shy away when the scene or story demands it but these days I find it rarely does.
3-What are you working on now?
Apart from NaNo, I'm coming to the end of the first draft of the first in a three book YA fantasy series. It's been a real challenge, trying to get into the head of a sixteen year old boy, without using any swear words or sexual references. Not easy at all.
I'm also waiting to begin the editing process of a new YA with Featherweight Press, I've just signed the contract for.
I'm also working on the first round edits on the third book of the Upstaged series I'm writing with Stephanie Danielson.
I think there might be something else, but I've forgotten for now.
4-When you begin a story do you start with character or plot?
That's a difficult one. It depends. Sometimes, I start with a character, who will speak to me for a while, telling me things about themselves letting me get the feel of them. Then one day something will spark. Maybe a snatch of conversation I hear, or something I see or read, and it will get me thinking 'what if....' and my character will grab it an run with it.
Sometimes I start with a picture in my head, an image of a place, a person, a situation, an event. I l look at it and wonder what stories it has to tell. Then a character will step forward and start telling me their story.
Actually...it always the character isn't it. Most of the time I feel that I'm not really writing a story, I'm only writing it down, telling it on behalf of the characters who are the ones actually living it.
5-Tell us about your latest/upcoming release. What inspired it?
My blog post explains this in detail
The Face In The Window
There are those who can’t see, and those who don’t want to see, but we’re all blind sometimes
All writers will tell you they have conversations with their characters inside their heads. Well…most of them will, I’m sure.
I ‘speak’ to my characters a lot. We have conversations and they have conversations with each other. That’s where a lot of the dialogue comes from. When I write they’re here in the room with me and they inhabit my dreams.
Ace first came to me when I was on a bus one day. I live in a very small, Welsh valley and the bus route is up the main street, turn at the end, just before the mountain, and come back down the only other parallel street.
The bus waits for five minutes after it turns, pausing outside a large house. I’ve sat outside that house for years and been fascinated by it. It’s on its own, slightly apart from the rest of the houses, surrounded by a wall and bordered by the mountain. I have often looked at the windows, especially the dormer ones and wondered what would happen if I saw a face in the window. Who would it be? What would their story be?
Then, one day, I ‘saw’ a boy. He was strange as hell, wearing a shirt with an enormous daisy on it. I didn’t realise, at first, that he was blind. I just thought he had really bad taste in clothes. He had a loud ‘voice’ and a really bubbly personality that swept me away from the start. I can quite imagine the impression he made on Haze.
Ace and Haze are younger than the characters I’m used to writing, and they were much more wayward, in that the story took twists and turns I would never have imagined at the start. I found myself describing things in a different way, which required me to see things in a different way.
I researched all kinds of things that Ace might like… from phones to braille keyboards and computer programmes. He’s only just started to explore them all, although I have to admit he already knew about most of them.
When he told me he wants to go to university, I had my own experiences to draw from, as I was heavily involved with a programme of reading textbooks for blind students when I was at university. The girl I worked with was very much like Ace. She was albino, too. She was also very pretty and very sweet. She graduated with First Class Honours, which was better than I did. I was married with a small child at the time and I’m damn sure she got more out of her time at university than I did.
I have no doubt whatever that Ace will have an absolute blast, and he’ll drag Haze along with him.
Why not read about where my vision of the face in the window took me and introduce yourselves to Ace Richmond and Haze Fennell.
Ace is blind and Haze is damaged. They live in different worlds and not everyone is happy when they become boyfriends. Haze is struggling with the after effects of a traumatic event in his past that has left him at the mercy of an uncontrollable rage. When Ace’s brother steps up his campaign of torment against Ace, they’re all in danger from Haze’s outbursts, though it isn’t until things get completely out of control that the healing can really begin. But with Ace unseeing and Haze perched on the edge of a cliff, will either of them survive long enough to benefit?
Excerpt One – Meeting Ace
I will never forget the first time I saw Ace Richmond, not as long as I live and probably beyond. He was sitting at the kitchen table, the chair pushed back and his long legs crossed at the ankle under the table. There was a plate of sandwiches in front of him and he was eating an apple. I saw none of that.
To say that I had ‘seen’ him through the window would have been like saying that I had seen the reflection of the moon on the surface of a still lake or the sun setting into the sea. Beautiful but only a pale shadow of the real thing.
Today he was wearing an acid green t-shirt with a pink elephant on the front that was somewhat jarring on the eyes, especially matched with the lurid pink tartan trousers and the large jewel encrusted sunglasses that were completely out of place. I had to blink twice to fully take them in. However, if his clothing was something of a shock it was nothing compared to the rest of him.
He had appeared slender and ephemeral from my standpoint below, thin and pale. Up close he was far more substantial. He was not so slender at all, although there was a certain grace in the way he was lounging in the chair that made him seem more willowy than he was.
He was pale; his skin almost translucent, like the white hair that cascaded over his shoulders and obscured half of his face. He was gorgeous too; far better looking than I had observed or imagined, but not in the fragile, fey way that I had thought. He was very substantial indeed. Weird in the clothing sense but lovely and…real.
Excerpt Two – Ninja
We had lunch in the same restaurant that we had the first time, and Nick was suitably impressed. Ace enthused about the menus, the food, how nice the waitresses were, and Nick watched him with a slightly bemused expression on his face.
That was nothing though to the expression he wore when we went down onto the beach and I had Ace doing cartwheels again.
“Bloody hell,” he murmured under his breath as we watched Ace’s wild abandon. I don’t think he was physically able to say any more. Ace literally took his breath away.
“He’s full of surprises, isn’t he?”
Nick nodded, unable to take his eyes away from his brother.
Eventually Ace stopped and stood still, turning his face to the sea breeze, and simply waited, quietly.
“What’s he doing now?”
“Waiting for what?”
I couldn’t help a giggle. “For us, of course. He has no idea where he is now.”
“Oh. I…I didn’t think. He must trust you a lot; just to stand and wait and not be scared.”
“Ace is never scared. He’s the bravest person I know.”
We were walking by then, and Nick fell silent. We hadn’t quite got to Ace when he said, “I wish I could see the sea.” There wasn’t any sadness in his voice, just a hint of wistfulness. “It feels so…big and wild.”
“It is.” I slipped my arm around his waist, and he rested his head on my shoulder.
“Mister… Mister…” At the sound of the breathless but excited voices, we turned and I saw two boys, about eleven years old, racing across the beach toward us.
“That was awesome,” one of them gasped as they skidded to a halt.
“Can you do it again? Can you teach us?”
“How did you do it? Are you an acrobat?”
“Or a ninja?”
Ace laughed and shook his head; he frowned thoughtfully. “I don’t know how I do it, not really. It just feels…right. I don’t know if I could teach anyone, because I don’t know what I do myself.”
“Aww, but we really want to learn.” His voice was so earnest that Nick and I exchanged glances and stifled giggles.
“Please, Mister, just tell us what you do.”
“I just… You need to find something inside that really wants to come out, that needs to be free, and then you just throw yourself at it and it takes you over.
“I learned how to trust my body and the space around me at school. We do a lot of martial arts and most of the flipping and stuff are just part of the moves.”
One of the boys turned to the other and said, “See? I told you he was a ninja.”
“Ninjas,” said the other one, “wear black and don’t look like that. He’s all white with funny eyes.” His eyes widened, and his face got an excited expression. “Maybe he’s from one of those secret organisations, like the White Dragons or something, like we saw in that film. Maybe he’s an assassin.”
“WOW, Mister. Are you really? Are you? Are you a secret assassin?”
The other boy hit him in the shoulder so hard he almost fell over. “If it’s a secret, he’s not going to tell you about it, is he?”
“Oh. Sorry, Mister.” He was subdued for a moment, with downcast eyes, scuffing the sand. Then he brightened up and with a sly expression on his face. “But are you? Are you really? I mean you can trust us, because we’re only kids so you know we’re not like…like from a rival gang or something.”
His friend rolled his eyes and sighed. “Sorry. He’s a bit thick. Don’t worry, your secret is safe with us.” Ace was grinning as the boy dragged his friend away.
“Hehe, one day I’m an angel and the next a secret ninja assassin. Nice. I wonder what I’ll be tomorrow.”
I hugged him close. “Mine,” I said, and he giggled.
Cheryl was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.
Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.
Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a re enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.
It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.
In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son and her two cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. The part of her that needs to earn money is a lawyer, but the deepest, and most important part of her is a storyteller and artist, and always will be.