The Sunshine Blogger Award is a sort of electronic chain letter (for those who are old enough to remember when communication by mail required stamps) and is given to those who are inspiring and bring sunshine into the lives of their readers and fellow bloggers through their blogspace and/or their social media.
I'm not sure that I can claim such a title, but I was kindly nominated by someone who definitely should. He is one of the loveliest people with whom I have had the pleasure to connect over social media: Mr Douglas B. Wimmer. We shared some cat banter over Twitter, and frankly that's a badge of automatic awesome as far as I'm concerned. Douglas is an author with some very interesting works in progress, and also provides editing services. You can contact him via his website (which also houses his blog) or on Twitter.
The Sunshine Blogger Award does not operate in an atmosphere of chaos, ergo there are rules as follows:
Name drop and link to the blog of the person who nominated you.
Answer the eleven questions from the blogger who nominated you.
Nominate up to eleven wonderful bloggers and write (or borrow/steal) eleven questions for them to answer.
So, without further ado, here are my answers to the eleven questions Douglas posed to me:
Name the author you look up to the most or would like to emulate as you begin your Authorial Rise to Stardom?
Starting with a hard one, are we?
I suppose I'd like to be a Nalini Singh or a Charlaine Harris, because they write in the same kind of genre as I do and both have managed to found a career on writing. I really enjoy their books. Both also write prolifically, and they write several series, which is broadly where I'd like to go. That's the career path I'd like to emulate.
But then there are authors who write books and short stories that are a darker and more haunting, with imagery so strong that no matter how hard you try to shake it, it just stays irrevocably lodged in your brain. That's something to which I aspire. I'm a huge fan of Michael Marshall Smith, particularly his horrifying short story "More Tomorrow", and I really enjoy Lovecraft and Philip K. Dick (especially "Beyond Lies The Wub"). Then there's Ian McEwan's "The Cement Garden" and Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale"...
I'm going to stop listing books I love and get back to the question! I can't choose just one author, I'm afraid, because whilst I write paranormal romance I don't want to write fiction that's entirely comfortable to read: I want it to have romance, but horror too, and vivid images that stay with the reader long after they put the book down. I want my books to raise more moral questions than they answer. So I suppose I most look up to and want to emulate the fictional hybrid author Charlaine Marshall Smith.
What is your writer's fuel? Besides Coffee/Caffeine. Because let's face it that's like oxygen for a writer.
Chocolate. Actually, sugar in general. Unfortunately, to postpone the inevitable sugar crash I have to keep eating it all the way through the writing process, which is extremely bad for my waistline. So bad that I have to exercise like a beast or I'd be unable to leave the house without assistance. Which would actually probably help my writing. Hmm...
What is one writer's rule you know you probably should follow but you love to bend/break?
There are rules?
You have unlimited resources. What do you do with all of your wealth?
Purchase things that begin with "C". Everything good in life starts with "C": cats, cake, chocolate, curry, champagne... erm... curtains, candles, cuddles... No, wait, I wouldn't purchase that last one, even if cuddle prostitution were a real thing (is it?). The cats give cuddles away for free!
Do you have a book or author that is a "guilty pleasure" for you? You know... THAT one. You can tell me. I won't tell a soul.
Rob Grant and Doug Naylor's "Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers". I was a massive fan of the series when it was on TV while I was growing up and it's an intrinsic part of my young teenage years.
I read the book every time I'm sick or feeling sorry for myself, and lately I've been listening to Chris Barrie reading the audiobook, which is amazing. He's an incredible voice actor, and manages to emulate each of the characters so flawlessly that it's like listening to the whole cast. I strongly recommend it.
My paper copy has been carried around and dropped in the bath so often that it's looking a bit battered now. The worst thing is that it doesn't even belong to me; I pinched it off a friend about fifteen years ago and couldn't bear to return it. I think he's given up on ever getting it back now, but I'm scared to ask. It's mine now!
Many writers put snippets or pieces of themselves into their work, whether it be experiences, places they've lived, or people they've known. Roughly what percentage of You is in your work?
This is another hard one, and it depends on which of my books we're talking about. The first two books in my Solis Invicti series are set in Paternoster Square in London, which is an area I know very well as I used to work there back in 2008. The club that features in those two books is very loosely based on what used to be The Zodiac in Oxford, where I worked for a few years when I was at University (in contravention of the University's rules... You've probably gathered that I don't do rules very well). In terms of places, I guess about 20% of my settings are tweaked versions of real places I've been and seen.
Things get a bit trickier when we come to people and experiences. I've not deliberately included anyone, or any particular real experiences of mine. I do reflect on experiences I've had in the past to understand how my characters are likely to react. For example, if my protagonist is embarrassed and ashamed by something that's happened, I think about a time when I felt those emotions and use that experience to transcribe her external and internal reactions. But the key thing is that my characters usually react slightly differently from how I would react in a given situation, so while that experience can help in describing emotions, it can't tell me what emotion they're going to have. That's where observation of other people comes into play.
Given that process, it's difficult to quantify how much of the people I know has gone into my books, and I'm sure I channel a lot of people unconsciously. At the end of the day, we're all the sum of our experiences and it's difficult to imagine anything that isn't at least inspired by something, somewhere or someone you know. So, in reality, maybe the answer is that 100% of everything I write has at least part of me in it.
What will make you smile, without fail, even on the worst of days? It can be a thing, person, or even a thought. Everything is on the table. Whatever puts a grin on your face.
The idiot on the left. Yes, I'm a mad cat lady, and I've learned to embrace it rather than fight it. I firmly believe that the internet was created to allow crazy cat people to come together and meet like-minded crazy cat people.
Cats. Am I right?
You could not be more right (see above)! Meet Sparky and Gussie, my fuzzy housemates. The photo on the right was taken when they were still kittens, only about 4 months old. The one above is Gussie now he's grown up.
How long have you been writing, and why did you decide to take a run at it despite it being a very challenging career choice?
I've written stories for as long as I can remember, but I've only been serious about it for the past couple of years. I didn't really feel like I had much choice in the matter: after I'd got about quarter of the way through my first novel I was hooked and I couldn't stop. I think I have an addictive personality, but there are worse things on which to be reliant.
You wrote a best seller. Hollywood wants it and they're willing to pay you over a million for it. But they want the rights to sequels, spin offs, and remakes. How do you respond?
I get a good agent and a good lawyer! I'd definitely need some advice because I'd have no idea whether, in the current market, that was going to work out well for me or not. Sorry for the cop-out answer. Here, have another cat picture to make up for it:
Enough complicated questions. What is your favorite vacation spot?
The Lake District in Cumbria, or anywhere in the Northern English countryside. I love a good walking holiday, and the landscape there is just beautiful. I walked a 45 mile stretch of the Cumbria Way in a few days last year, and it was amazing. I sometimes think I only enjoy it so much because I know I will have earned a huge dinner after clambering up and down the hills all day. There's a small chance you may have noticed this already, but food is generally a big motivator for me.
Now that I've given my answers, here are the questions I would like to pose to my nominees:
1. Who's your weird celebrity crush and why?
2. You can only watch one film, as many times as you like, for the rest of your life. What do you choose?
3. How many of you does it take to change a lightbulb?
4. Coffee or tea?
5. What's the best gig/play you've ever seen?
6. You can go anywhere in the world, in any time period, with any person (living or dead). Where, when and with whom would you go?
7. What are you reading at the moment and how are you finding it?
8. Dragons or unicorns?
9. If you were a chart-topping recording star, what sort of music would you be making?
10. The entire world is shortly to be subjugated by a race of giant mutant ants. You have twelve hours before you are put to work in their colossal sugar factories. How do you spend your final hours of freedom?
11. When you were ten, what did you want to be when you grew up?
And the lovely nominees are:
Sullivan - Self-described as part of a large family of pigs living in the Netherlands, Ms McPig is addicted to reading, and posts reviews of the books she reads on her blog. You can find her on Twitter here.