Writer-girl Wednesday: Hannah M. Davis

If you dig on teen favourites, Twilight and Vampire Diaries, and you love your books dark and sexy with a substantial pinch of fantasy, you will LOVE author-girl, Hannah Davis' YA fiction book, Voices of Angels.Hannah's pretty freakin' awesome too. She lived in Spain, met the dude o' her dreams and is now living back here in blighty, that's REAL love right there, leaving a delicious sunny locale in the pursuit o' true love. Sigh. She is a kick-ass author too, but what can I say? I'm a sucker for a love story... Describe yourself in a tweet... Cheeky #YA novelist, sucker for romance, likes the stars & the sea. Thinks BIG.

Your debut title book is Voices of Angels – LOVE IT! – for those who haven’t read it, can you tell us a little about what it’s about and why we NEED to read it? It’s a story of girl meets boy with a twist. The twist being the girl can see when people are about to die so this kind of makes relationships a bit awkward!

You NEED to read it because 15-year old Lizzie is the kind of girl most of us were (or still are) at some stage. She’s insecure, she desperately wants to fit in, she wants friends but doesn’t know how to connect with the other girls at school. She feels different. It’s only when she goes to live in Spain with her eccentric grandmother that she learns to accept herself – and her frightening gift – and be the real Lizzie. And when she is the real Lizzie, that’s when sexy flamenco guitar playing Rafa loves her best!

At heart this book is about self-worth and this is something close to my heart. From an early age I really struggled with the concept to accept myself and this lack of self-regard mostly manifested itself through my romantic relationships. How come I didn’t get the good looking boys? Or if I did – why didn’t they stick around? Growing up, how come my heart was always broken? It took me near-on 20 years of unsatisfactory relationships to realise I was partly to blame.

Even though I yearned for hearts and flowers and to be treated with respect, my own self-esteem and insecurity wouldn’t even allow this kind of man to come close. I just didn’t deserve it. So it wasn’t until I did some serious soul-searching, had a lot of emotional clearance work to clear my s*** and start to believe that I might actually be ‘worth loving’ that I did end up meeting the love of my love, Chris. I moved back from Spain to be with him and I can honestly say he’s the best boyfriend in the world ever and I am grateful every single day to have attracted him.

By the way, I share my story on my blog – all the self-worth stuff and how I got rid of it to meet Chris – and it’s amazing how many successful, beautiful women keep writing to me and asking the secret! And there is no secret other than to believe in yourself.

Have you always wanted to be an author-girl? I have actually!!! Ever since I was a little girl at school and got pretty owl stickers for my short stories. I’ve always loved to write. Like most writers, I’m also a real book-worm and love the way books can transport you to a different world. So wanting to ‘be’ a writer was always the dream! And now that dream has come true.

How did you turn your book from an idea in your head to an actual hold in your hand reality – can you tell us about the process for you as a new author? I’m not exactly the fastest writer on the block because this book took about 6 years in the making – from idea to sitting on the teen author section in my local bookstore.

The idea initially came as a decision really. A decision that I wanted to write a book. So one sunny afternoon I lay on my bed to do a guided visualisation (a CD a writer friend a lent me) which took me into a semi-trance. In that trance I ‘saw’ my book. Not the story or anything. But the physical book. It was a sea green colour (not the candy pink cover it is now!) and had the title, ‘Voices of Angels’ on its spine. I held it in my hands and knew this was the book I was meant to write.

Fast forward a few months and I got offered a writer in residence opportunity in a gorgeous boutique hotel in Sydney. I said yes of course. So I jetted off and wrote a quick 1st draft in 2 months. I was happy with the writing – the voice was 1st person and it had a poetic cadence about it that seemed straight out of my visualisation. It felt almost angelic. However, reality soon kicked in because when I went to submit it to agents, all of them said no. They were nice no’s but the feedback was how unmarketable the book was. Nice writing but no market.

I did some soul-searching and accepted they knew better than me. In truth, I hadn’t really written the book for any specific genre – it had just come straight out of my heart. As such no-one knew where to place it on the bookshelves. I took the advice to re-write it as a YA book and started again from page one. I changed the central protagonist from a 12-year old boy called Jake into a 15-year old misfit called Lizzie. When I started writing it from a female pov, suddenly it unleashed a lot more emotion and passion into the story. She became a real person in a way Jake had never been and I was able to put a lot of my life experience and emotions into her.

In summary, the biggest learning curve has been knowing how to turn an idea into something marketable – so I wasn’t just writing for me. I was writing for a specific audience.

What was your journey to being published for the first time like? Long! I liken it to running a marathon. I must be a mug because I’ve done both! But you need to prepare. You need to know you’re in it for the long haul. It’s not easy. You do want to give up. But ultimately, that feeling when you cross the finish line (getting a publisher) is the sweetest, most exhilarating feeling out there and makes it all worth while. Now when back and see I’ve written and published a book (and run a marathon!) it makes me feel not just proud; it makes me feel I can do anything. Because when you stretch yourself so far beyond your comfort zone – you become a different version of you and you know that previously undreamt of dreams can actually become a reality.

Did you get published straight away? Soul Rocks Books was the first publisher I submitted it to in its new guise of YA. They said yes and about 9 months later it was published first as an ebook and then as a paperback.

Did you have an agent? No, and I still don’t. I haven’t contacted any agents as yet because I want to put myself in a stronger position.

In today’s publishing world – where anything can happen really and we authors are the masters (or mistresses!) of our own destiny, it’s in our hands to market our books. Marketing, whether you like it or not, plays a huge role in author’s lives these days. I don’t know many authors who like it. It’s a grind. It takes you away from doing what you love which is writing. But it’s a must-do. I’m lucky because I’ve actually had a lot of training and experience in online marketing so I’m not afraid to try it and pump energy into it.

So my goal is to get a few more sales under my belt, demonstrate what I’m capable of in terms of promotion, and then aim for an agent to help me expand to the next level, i.e, international rights.

Do you have a room of your own where you write? I have a habit of writing in bed. I do have an office but I do boring stuff in there.

Where and when are you at your most creative? Or do you schedule in creativity as work? I prefer to write first thing. Literally the first thing I do after I get up and have my brekkie. I find if I don’t do it first thing, I tend to put it off and then I just feel this gnawing sense of guilt for the remainder of the day. My intention is once a week to do something creative, like an artist’s date (Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way) to restore my creativity. It might be go to the movies, bake a cake, go for a walk in nature, something spiritual etc etc. Basically something to connect me back to source.

Can you tell us about your actual book writing process please? How many drafts do you write? Do you write a shitty first draft and then go back and edit? Do you have a whiteboard, do you put characters on post it notes and write them a backstory? Do you edit as you go along? Spill your secrets author girl! I mentioned above that I wrote 2 completely different versions of Voices of Angels. So putting aside the original version, I then rewrote, tweaked, edited the 2nd version about 5 times. I actually posted the first 10,000 words on the Harper Collins site for new authors, Authonomy, where I got lots of great feedback so I edited the beginning A LOT! But that helped me immensely and I still have a whole bunch of author friends from that site.

I always try to map out the entire story, visually and in notes, but always seem to get lost along the way! What’s easier for me is to know a rough idea of the whole plot and map out the next 3 chapters and then just write. I find writing is an organic process so as I’m writing, ideas will beget ideas and the plot takes shape all of it’s own accord without me having to meddle in it. In fact, it’s when I meddle that I just end up confused! I’ve learnt I’m an intuitive writer and my biggest challenge is to trust the story is in me and will unfold naturally without having to force it. Which is a metaphor for life really.

What's the best thing about being a writer? Being able to work anywhere in the world.

What is your favourite book of all time? Unfair to just pick 1! I’m going for Narnia, His Dark Materials Trilogy and The Magic Faraway Tree. All 3 feature parallel worlds or universes and I am completely and utterly fascinated by this!

What's your literary pet peeve? Not sure I have one? Oh maybe that some traditional published authors look down on indie authors as if they are inferior. I have author friends in both categories and know they both come from the same source ultimately.

How important has promotion been to the success of your books? Promotion is key! But it’s important to know what is the right promotion and that only comes from trial and error. Not everything you do will result in sales. For example, I approached lots of book bloggers to review my book and haven’t really seen any noticeable sales spike from this. I’m still testing what works and have a BIG Christmas Promotion campaign planned. I’ve got local newspapers lined up to interview me and I’m always on Facebook. I’ll try some youtube videos next and I constantly update my blog. I find it hard to understand why anyone wouldn’t want to promote their book. For example, I really believe in the message in my book and if I don’t promote Voices of Angels, then I’m not reaching others with this message and that kind of defeats the purpose of writing it!

Do you do it yourself or do you have help from your publisher or an outside publicity agency? I do 99% of myself. My publisher is small and probably like most other authors published by small indie publishers I wish for more support from them! But it is what it is and I’m grateful for them for helping me publish my first book.

What are your top 3 tips for writers? - Write & promote for a specific market - Chose your publishing route carefully - Never give up

What's next in the world of Miss Hannah? As I mentioned, I’m doing a big Christmas promotional push for Voices of Angels but at the same time, I’m working on a collection of short stories which are going to be a companion guide to the main novel. I’m taking some of the main characters, like Rafa, Bee and Ariadne and writing sections of the novel but their perspective. It will give the readers a different insight into the book and answer some of those unanswered questions! I’ll publish this myself on Kindle Direct so I can take advantage of some of their promotional giveaways.

I would like to write a sequel eventually, but I’m more and more fascinated by the idea of writing my own parallel universe book first!

Follow Hannah’s ramblings on life, love and laughter on her blog: www.hannahmdavis.com

Say hi on Twitter: twitter.com/Hannah_Author

Download Voices of Angels from Amazon.

The Writer Girl DiariesLisa