I’d like to welcome debut author Lorraine Cannell to my blog. After hearing from my writer friends about how tough the YA market is at the moment, I invited fellow Golden Egg Lorraine to share her experiences of writing her book Hollow; and to find out why she’s decided to go down the self publishing route.
Tell us about the book, Lorraine!
Hollow is centred around Liv, a fifteen year old amnesiac, who joins her Aunt’s psychic circle for a laugh. But when she opens herself to spirit, she opens a gateway from which she can never return. Haunted by the spirits of faceless girls, and determined to find their killer, she starts to unlock the secrets and lies connected to her own past.
What kind of character is Liv?
Liv is stronger than she thinks. At the beginning of the story, all she knows is the ‘after me’. But she knows there was a ‘before me’, but her family won’t talk about that version of herself, and seem more than reluctant to drag up the past. To add to this, all that Liv was, and all that happened to her, is buried inside the Hollow within her mind. Despite these seemingly insurmountable blockers, Liv instinctively knows the way her family are, and how her parents live, and shut themselves off from the outside world isn’t right, and is already pushing at the boundaries. But it’s not until she opens herself to spirit, that she opens a gateway to the past, and memories long-forgotten.
What inspired you to write this story?
The story morphed somewhat from the original idea which was about a game of wits between a teenage psychic, her dead brother, and a ‘remorseful’ homicidal spirit intent on playing games. It developed over time so that there was a real, living and breathing threat to my main character. Also I have to pay credit to my 11 year old daughter, as she read an early draft of Hollow and challenged me on why I’d picked a particular character as the murderer. It got me thinking, and gave me the best twist (no spoilers though).
What draws you towards writing psychological thrillers?
I love a novel that keeps you guessing, and surprises you. Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn was like that for me, and that’s the kind of twist I aspire too – an unsettling feeling that at the end gives an unexpected validation.
Can you tell us about your personal writer’s journey?
I started my writing journey at age 11, with various short stories. My high point was a lovely, and at the time, what I thought was a promising rejection from Ladybird Books for a story called Bertha (it was a take on Hansel and Gretel – my favourite fairy tale). At age 13, a family death rocked me, and I didn’t write again for years. In my twenties, I decided to try again. I took on a technically challenging adult novel with multiple POVs and two time lines, and it was just too much. In my thirties, something just clicked, and I’ve been writing for around eight years now.
My style is largely YA, magical realism. I had a close call with Hollow and Chicken House about three years ago off the back of an introduction from Imogen Cooper, but I didn’t quite make it through the acquisitions process. That was when I asked Imogen to help me through her Golden Egg Academy, and she agreed to mentor me. I was mentored my Imogen for around 18 months before I became a graduate, and was deemed ready for submission. I submitted Hollow to over 20 agents and publishers, but during that time the perception of the market had changed. Right now, unless a YA is stand-out, in both concept and writing, I think it’s really hard to find someone willing to champion a debut author/book.
What do you believe has helped you to become a better writer?
Hollow was my fourth novel. I did get around to writing the technically challenging, adult novel but it will never see the light of day. I think there is something in continuing to write, and self-improve/attend conference workshops etc.
But being mentored by Imogen was a fantastic opportunity, and just helped me to see the way forward on my own without disappearing down rabbit holes. Many of the Golden Egg Academy one-day courses have also been fantastic in honing my skills. I particularly enjoyed the dramatic tension workshop with Sarah Mussi, and acting in front of Mark McGann.
What have you discovered about writing for YA on your writer’s journey?
My teenage years were difficult, and I think in some respects, I shut myself off from them, so I’ve had to learn to open myself up emotionally to how I felt back then. This has been my hardest challenge, and I hope that with Liv, I’ve allowed readers to connect with her and her story.
Which YA writers have had an influence on you? Any favourite books?
As a kid, I loved Stephen King, and James Herbert, and Virginia Andrews. I’m sure Sweet Valley High was in there too. I read a lot of YA fiction; whatever I can get my hands on, but it’s a case of too many books on the bookshelf, and not enough time.
What led to your decision to self publish? And how have you found it so far?
Hollow was three years in the making from concept to publication. The original manuscript didn’t make it through acquisitions at Chicken House, but I can see why. Imogen helped me, through mentoring with the Golden Egg Academy, to make it what it is today, and I’m extremely grateful for that experience. Because the YA market is particularly fickle right now, I decided to launch Hollow on my own.
The self-publishing journey is an interesting one, and I’m only at the start of it. A lot of time has been spent making sure the cover is right, and that I’m happy with the line edit, as I want to put a decent product out there. The creative design has in fact been the most exciting part of the process in terms of bringing my concept and story to life.
Getting a kindle book out through Amazon KDP has been relatively simple, but the paperback was more complicated, and I’m sure I can find a better and more effective way of producing, and opening up distribution channels for the paperback.
How did you go about getting the cover designed?
I found a lovely lady called Sharon Brownlie, who is a member of the One Stop Fiction group on Facebook. She was very reasonable, and was always online to help, advise, and suggest options. It was an extensive, extremely collaborative process, and helped turn my creative vision into something tangible.
Any advice for other YA writers contemplating self publishing?
I’ve heard of a lot of writers receiving decent, positive feedback from agents and publishers, but for whatever reason, on that day, for x reason, they just don’t get that lucky break. I think if you truly believe in a project, and can’t stomach waiting for that break, that self-publishing is the best option. But I would say that you are putting yourself, and your work out there, so make sure it’s the best that it can be. And use every resource you can to try and make it a success. Also research, and look at what other self-published authors are doing to see if you can learn tips.
What’s next for you with the writing?
I’m attempting a middle-grade series for now, as I’m still after a traditional deal, and think I may have more success with MG for now than YA. But I do have other YAs in the pipeline, so watch this space.
So much sound advice here – thank you Lorraine for sharing your story and your writer’s journey. To get the seal of approval from Golden Egg is a remarkable badge of honour! Good luck with Hollow, and your next writerly ventures.
You can find Lorraine on twitter @LorraineCannell and her book Hollow is available on Amazon.
Happy writing! Thanks for visiting
23rd February 2017