Surprise! I have yet another featured author for you to read about today. Chloe Hammond is participating in Britain’s Next Best Seller, and her pre-order period ends next Friday. As such, she could use your support. Enjoy!
Recently, I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them for guest-spots on my blog. (If you are interested in participating, please contact me.) I asked everyone thirty-five questions — some were basic, and others were multi-part inquiries — and I asked them to answer only what they wanted to or what was applicable. My friend and fellow-blogger, Chloe Hammond, had some very interesting responses which I’m sure will enchant you, as well. (Of course when you get to #25 and read about the character Rae/Rach, you’ll see why I’m a bit biased!) After you read her interview, please be sure to hop on over to her blog and follow her for a regular dose of her charisma and wit. And now, I turn the microphone over to Chloe…
1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:
My name is Chloe Hammond. I am thirty nine. I’m a shy, introverted reader, who decided to finally write a book. As a much more confident and clear sighted child I always knew I would write. English was my favourite subject throughout school despite my dreadful spelling. I was lucky enough to have a spectacular English teacher right the way through to university, who believed in me and encouraged my writing. At university I discovered Creative Writing was a degree subject! Why didn’t I know that sooner? However I really wanted to continue with the Behavioural Sciences course I was already on too. So I pestered people until they finally let me do both. That was my first lesson in the benefits of being that little bit more stubborn and determined than everyone else.
After graduating I concentrated on working as a support worker, a challenging, exhausting and very rewarding vocation which took up all my head space. I met and married my husband, and we became foster carers. We bought a big 6 bed Victorian house and set about renovating it. Seven years later, we’re still renovating it. It’s been an adventure, and I’ve learned to expect the unexpected with this house, including being asked if BBC3 could film Being Human here! The outside of our house is Honolulu Heights, and several of our rooms and the garden were used as other locations, our kitchen was also used by Casualty, the BBC hospital drama. It’s very exciting when the film crews arrive, and the foster kids love it.
I was diagnosed with anxiety last year after a very difficult year in my roles as a support worker and also foster carer. I was having real difficulty sleeping, and felt disconnected from myself. I started to dream vividly, and started to write my dreams down in the form of a story. I found that writing on the nights I couldn’t sleep calmed me and centred me. The story flowed and I became fascinated by what my characters would do next.
My husband and I dream of moving abroad. I’m desperate to live a more relaxed life in the sun and although we have been training as TEFL teachers as a practical option, what I would actually love to do is write full time. Darkly Dreaming is my first bold stride on the path to fulfilling my dream.
2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):
3. How many books have you written?
Darkly Dreaming is my first novel. I have made the preliminary notes on Darkly Dancing the sequel to Darkly Dreaming.
4. Has any of your work been published yet? If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:
I submitted my manuscript to a new publishing imprint Britain’s Next Bestseller, and happily I was one of about thirty authors to have my manuscript selected from over one thousand five hundred submissions to be one of their launch authors. Authors who choose Britain’s Next Bestseller are reliant on crowd funding from supportive fans to get their books published. I need 250 preorders for Darkly Dreaming to be published. http://britainsnextbestseller.co.uk/book/index/DarklyDreaming
5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing? Why? If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?
At Christmas time I was browsing the net looking for info on self-publishing and how to find an agent when I stumbled on the ad for Britain’s Next Bestseller. I immediately loved the idea of the reader getting to choose which books were published. I never lie, but that evening I sent my synopsis in claiming I had a finished manuscript. In all honesty I didn’t expect to hear anything back, so I just got on with writing a bit here and there whenever I had time. Then a week later they emailed me back asking for the full manuscript!
I wrote like a fiend for the next week, and then sent BNBS that draft of my manuscript. They liked it and asked me finish it to a level I was happy with by 1st March, which by some miracle- I’m still not sure how- I did it.
Why did I choose BNBS? Because just as I needed the opportunity, it was there in front of me. I love the vibrancy and can do attitude of Murielle Maupoint, the imprint’s creator, as well as her determination to be fair to her authors and readers.
6. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?
English was always my favourite subject in school, and I was always encouraged by my English teacher in secondary school to indulge my creative side, although I struggled with my spelling, she gave me extra help and kept encouraging me. However I can remember writing poems in primary school when I was seven and really enjoying it. From then on if I wasn’t reading in my spare time I was writing. I had always planned to be an author, it was just believing in myself enough to make the leap from one day to today that I found so hard.
7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?
I love imaging people enjoying my story, loving my characters, and looking forward to my next release like I do with my favourite authors. When I had written my first few chapters, I was having a self-doubting day, wondering if anyone would be interested in what I was writing. It was still a secret at this stage. No one at all knew I was even thinking about writing a book, never mind that I had started. I was at my hairdressers getting my hair done when I overheard a conversation between one of the other customers and her hairdresser; she was talking excitedly about her favourite vampire book, and I closed my eyes and imagined I was listening to her talking about my book. I imagined she was this excited about going home to read something I had written. The thought of giving someone so much uncomplicated pleasure kept me going anytime I doubted what I was doing.
8. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?
Anne Rice, Poppy Z Brite, Deborah Harkness, Terry Pratchett, Cecilia Ahern, Fay Weldon, Barbara Kingsolver, Anne Tyler, Toni Morrison- the list goes on and on! I’m reading the last few pages of Deborah Harkness’s book-
9. What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?
Paperback. I haven’t tried the Nook my Mum bought me for Christmas yet- I’m really hoping I’ll like it- my room is over flowing with books! And once I move to France it’ll mean I won’t bankrupt myself this time trying to find English reading material.
10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?
I’ve written in the first person in Darkly Dreaming. I found that when I tried to write in the third person it sounded trite, so I thought of the old adage of write what you know and switched to first and found it flowed much better for me. As the story started with the very vivid dreams I was having imaging I was my dream persona and writing as her, in the first person felt truer. I wrote in the past tense because I was imagining a future Rae looking back, telling the reader her story in her own inimitable way.
11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books?
I think I may actually be physically addicted to reading, if that’s possible? I have to have a book and reading and at least 3 more for when that’s finished at any one time. No matter how tired I am I have to read a bit before I go to sleep. When I lived in France after uni I didn’t think it through, and found myself without anything to read. I was buying 2 day old Broadsheet newspapers and even reading the sports pages I was so desperate. I only had a little job for a couple of hours a week, but when I found a shop that sold novels in English I bought them anyway. I was very relieved when I found a shop selling the classics in English for a pound each. I developed a real taste for the catty commentary of Anthony Trollope.
12. How many books would you say you read in a year? How many at any one time?
OO! Hard to say. I read all the time, but due to my dyslexia I am quite a slow reader, which pleases me- my favourite books last longer. When we were kids my brother and I would get new books for Christmas, and he’d speed read his and be finished in a few hours, and I’d still be happily ensconced in mine days late. So at a guess I probably average at about 2 books a week, so probably just over 100 a year? No wonder I need to change to my Nook! And do a car boot sale.
ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::
13. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?
14. What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre? What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?
I find it hard to put it in a genre. It’s about vampires, which makes it a love story, but it’s also about love in all it’s different forms, which would make it a romance, or even erotica- there’s rude bits, there’s fights, so it’s an adventure, and it’s set in a world where there is a virus you can contract by blood contact with an infected person’s mouth, which I suppose it could be called fantasy or sci-fi, but Darkly Dreaming is as much about Rae and her journey to discover who she really is and what is really important to her as it is about anything else. If you’ve ever thought back to your youth and wondered where that shiny, resilient, sure person disappeared to, then you’ll enjoy Rae’s story. My mother actively avoids horrors, and I forgot to warn her what the book was about because I was too worried about her reading the aforementioned rude bits, and she loved it. It gave her nightmares, but she loved it.
My life is filled with people from all walks of life- different ethnicities and sexual orientations, and I wanted this reflected in my novel. I didn’t want all my characters to be white, rich, beautiful, straight and young. I wanted Darkly Dreaming to be richer and more varied, like real life. I grew up reading Anne Rice and Poppy Z Brite. I was fed up with overly perfect, young characters in all the modern vampire stories I’d read recently. I was ready for a funny, flawed heroine who got things wrong, and made a fool of herself, but who loved intensely and loyally; someone who was determined and stubborn, and ready to die for her beliefs and her friends. I couldn’t find it, so I wrote it.
15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?
Dreams! I have always had very vivid dreams and I kept dreaming about vampires, and they were exciting dreams I didn’t want to wake up from. I started writing them down, and an exciting adventure started to emerge. I was rusty at first, and it was difficult to put get what I was picturing and feeling into words, but as Rae and Layla’s characters developed, and I got back into practice, I found the words just flowed.
16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?
Women like me. We grew up reading Anne Rice and Poppy Z Brite and now feel left behind by the teenage characters in the modern books. How am I, at almost 40, going to relate to the new generation of vampires? So now we have a woman hit 40, chuck a hand grenade into the staid life she’d grown to hate, and then skedaddle off to France to recapture her youth. Instead she is infected with the vampire virus, and all Hell breaks loose. Escapism for grown-ups. Having said I’ve written it for women, my husband, who isn’t usually a reader, really enjoyed it. I think he just liked the rude bits. I also think that younger readers will enjoy the story, and relate to the common themes of love, loss, and discovery of self.
17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?
A woman called Rae who has compromised herself away in the hope of fitting in; of finding love by pleasing others. She escapes the misery she’s created for herself by day dreaming, and then discovers she can dream more at night too. She is living a half-life until a conversation with her best friend, Layla, opens her eyes to what she is doing to herself. Rae throws a hand grenade into her life and she and Layla head off on holiday to France to escape the wreckage. They are infected by a vampire and Rae finds herself living a new and terrifying existence. She struggles to retain her essential self, which she has only just worked so hard to rediscover, but she is struggling against new and powerful drives and desires.
She discovers that she and the other vampires have special gifts which are different for everyone, and not always immediately apparent. She also discovers that vampires don’t dream. She has lost her escape, just as life gets so terrifying. Then she finds that fresh blood can fill her mind with narcotic mists of her victim’s memories. She is determined to retain her humanity and refuse to kill, but how can she resist such temptation?
She finds herself on the wrong side of a High Council, who she didn’t even know existed, for breaking rules she hadn’t been warned about.
With all this going on the last thing she needs is to fall head over heels in love with the head of the Pride, who seems to be actively avoiding her. So that’s exactly what she does.
My vampires aren’t undead, they have been infected by a virus and undergone as radical a transformation as a butterfly does during metamorphosis. My vampires are as beguiling, cruel and fatal as cats. I really hope everyone enjoys reading about Rae, Layla and the rest of the Pride.
ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::
18. How often do you write?
Whenever I can, but between my intense day job, fostering, trying to get the house finished so we can move to France, and promoting Darkly Dreaming I haven’t had time to really start Darkly Dancing properly yet, even though Rae keeps stamping around my head telling me she’s bored now and wants to come out to play.
19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?
I would either write a scene I had dreamed, or thought up all in one go- normally a couple of thousand words, or I would work on restructure and rewrites if I wasn’t in a creative mood, in which case I would write a lot less but I’d be making sure that what I had written on previous days made sense and was coherent.
20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?
I did as much as I could as I went along, spending one evening out of every three or four revising what I’d written previously, then I asked friends and family to read it and we had a meeting to look at what the story was missing- how to make my characters as three dimensional on paper as they were in my head. I’m a visual learner so I have to be aware of my tendency to hold a huge amount of information in my head, which I can forget to communicate, and then make assumptions in my writing that the reader knows what I know too. By getting others to read D.D for me from quite an early stage I was able to make sure I wasn’t doing this too much and I could rewrite easily to include more detail where it was needed so my characters and situations were more believable. Once everyone was happy the story was finished for now, ready for the next instalment, I sent it off to the copy editor. I didn’t like all the changes he made, so I went through a very unpleasant solid eighteen hours playing the world’s most arduous game of spot the difference with the version of D.D he’d edited on my laptop, and my original version on my laptop, next to each other trying to spot what he’d changed in each paragraph. Since this was my first novel I had thought he would have highlighted individual changes in red so I could decide whether or not to keep them in. however he had put a small red line besides all the paragraphs he’d made amendments in. The amendments might have been a complete rewrite of several sentences, or changing a comma to a semi colon. It had to be done in one go because I had to get it into BNBS by 1st of March and I finished the edit by 4am. I then had to get up at 8am to go and do a weekend TEFL course. Let’s just say I drank ALOT of coffee, and apparently I was quite grey at one stage!
21. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters? Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)
I dreamed scenes and wrote those up, then wrote up the backstory to them that made them make sense, then I wrote a very basic plan of where I expected the novel to go. Then I completely disregarded the plan and got hauled through the novel by the characters. I’d stay up until stupid o’clock writing the conversation I had imagined that afternoon, then as I tried to get to sleep the next stage of the story would be leaping around in my head. I couldn’t even go for a pee in peace! So I would write the bits that were vividly in my head as I imagined them, and worry about tying it all together on a day when I wasn’t feeling so creative. Those would be the days when I would research names, locations etc, and do my rewriting, checking for contradictions, or gap in the story. If I had an idea for part of the story, but wasn’t sure how to get the characters there (stubborn so and sos!) I’d go and lie in the bath and picture them at the point I’d left them, and then imagine how they could end up where I needed them to be. Sometimes I’d manage to get them there, but just as often they’d demand a different course of action.
22. Do you have a muse? If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?
My characters may have acquired some of the characteristics of people I know. How could I make them realistic otherwise? I wanted a loveable best friend to support Rae on her journey, so I borrowed some of the traits of the most loveable person I know. Everybody loves her, so I couldn’t go wrong, and she didn’t mind. Luckily!
23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?
I don’t know! When I read the advert for BNBS, inviting submissions I had about 17,000 words in a document, which was a sketchy outline of the basic story. Once they emailed asking to see the manuscript I managed to get that to 30,000 words within one week, but only because the ideas where already there, I was just fleshing them out. Once I knew My manuscript was accepted I wrote every spare second I had throughout February, and with the help and steering of my readers I was able to submit my 62,000 word manuscript. So did it take me 18+ months to write as I cogitated ideas back and fore, scribbled snatched scenes on bits of paper by my bed, text ideas to myself from the train, and emailed myself snippets from work, or did it take me four months, from November last year when I made the decision I was changing my life? We’ll find out when it comes to writing Darkly Dancing I suppose, although it has to be said that traditionally I have procrastinated until I have a completely unrealistic deadline, and then worked like a fiend to meet it.
24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel? If so, please elaborate.
As I’ve described above the deadlines were sort of set for me. BNBS kept reassuring me that my novel could be on the site later if need be, but having been offered the opportunity to be a launch author I knew I wanted to hit that target, and although I tell myself I like writing in a relaxed way, I actually respond best to a tight timetable to keep me focused. Setting a word limit wouldn’t have worked for me; I just wrote what was in my head ready each evening. When that was used up, I went to sleep, or had a long bath, to brew up some more.
25. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?
I changed my main characters names a few times as I started writing Darkly Dreaming, while I tried to find names that suited who I wanted them to be. I chose the name Rae because it’s an unusual derivative of Rachel, and made me think of sunshine. It also allowed me to demonstrate how badly her husband, James, misunderstood her when he insisted on calling her Rach. I could use it to reflect the different ways people interacted with her by what they called her, and I could represent Rae reclaiming her essential self when she shouts at James’s mother that her name is Rae not Rach, when she finally snaps with her mother-in-law.
I became more and more excited as I wrote Darkly Dreaming and I started noticing inspiration everywhere: a wildlife documentary revealed the wolverine frogs, whose bones rip out of their toes when they fight, and a newt who’s ribs snap and protrude through their skin to deflect predators. A holiday in France provided some locations, and I stumbled across perfect names like Ulla, which means Pearl, and Chloris, which means pale, while doing a search for German names. I used a combination of having facts I wanted to fit into the story, and having progressions in the story I needed to find facts for- like Guillaume’s car I needed a classic French open topped car, and a Google search kindly popped the Goddess up- perfect for what I was looking for. I was opportunistic with information I stumbled across, and persistent in hunting down exactly what I needed for the other parts.
26. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?
I had scribblings of scenes I’d made when an idea woke me up, but was all. I kept some notes as I went along, and wrote notes in my meeting with my readers, so I could beef out some of the lesser characters, who were essential to create the main ones and keep track of time scales and dates and times.
27. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write? (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)
I ideally like French Earl Grey tea in my favourite mug and Magic radio on, and a desk looking out to sea. I will however write just about anywhere- train, sofa, anywhere as long as I have some peace and quiet. I hate being disturbed when I’m lost in the flow of writing.
28. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location? If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?
I’m definitely more creative at night. I think it’s because that’s when I’m more relaxed, works done for the day, the foster kids are fed and in bed and I relax for a few hours. I just have to try not to get too distracted and write right into the night. It really helped my sleepless nights when I was first diagnosed last year to have something to distract my whirling thoughts.
29. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?
I have been fantastically lucky. Without even knowing it I choose the perfect husband for an author. He is an extrovert, but he nurtures my introvert tendencies, and has really supported my writing. He was worried about me last year, when I stopped sleeping and was suffering panic attacks. Seeing how much better writing made me further convinced him that writing is my future. When I came downstairs so shocked after the email asking for my full manuscript, he first of all belly laughed that I had been so thoroughly caught out the one time I lied, but then he promised me he would do whatever it took to help me get my manuscript written. Not only did he take over all the household chores while I wrote, he even read my first drafts for me, even though he isn’t really a reader, and if he does read it, it’s none fiction, and he professed to love them, and begged me to continue writing, even if only for him. Well! What more can a woman ask for than that? Now he is trogging around helping me promote Darkly Dreaming, which is lucky as it almost kills me to make the first move to people. I can happily chirrup on and on once I sense some interest, but making that initial foray is really hard for me.
30. What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?
I have discovered that I really enjoy wearing my purple and yellow velvet dragon onesie to write in, as long as I don’t accidentally sit on the tail!
ABOUT YOUR WORK::
31. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?
I’ve only written Darkly Dreaming so far!
32. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?
Um….. Patrice. She is utterly self -assured, if also utterly evil!
33. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?
Oo! What a fabulous question. Wouldn’t that be exciting? Let me see… I would love to see Kate Winslet cast as Rae, she can be dowdy and then gorgeous believably, and she has the very classic pre-Raphaelite beauty I have imagined for Rae, with the physical strength and curves to fit the role perfectly. Layla, who looks as much like a mischievous pixie as it’s possible for a grown woman to look, could be Reese Witherspoon, or maybe Rachel Weiss? Cate Blanchett would be a perfect Patrice, and I think Hannah Davey would make a convincing Melanie. I’ve always pictured Guillaume looking like Matthew Mcconnauhey, but if Robbie Williams wanted to turn his hand to acting I could change Guillaume’s colouring! And I think Russell Tovey would be great as Simon.
34. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?
How to slit your wrist! When Rae hunted the abusive predator humans she lured into her traps she needed to access their blood to read their memories to make sure they were as guilty as she believed them to be. She needed to be able to do this with no risk of contamination from the vampire virus, just in case one of them was innocent, and would need to be glamoured into forgetting into what had happened to him , and released, just a bit confused with a small cut and some kinky memories. However, if they were as guilty as their blundering into her carefully devised trap would indicate, she would need their death to look like a suicide if their bodies were found. It took a bit of research to make sure everything would work out as I planned biologically.
Thank you, Chloe, for allowing me to interview you. I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.