I’m happy to introduce you to Maria Savva, author of, “Second Chances”.
About the book:
What is the book about?
‘Second Chances’ is a very modern novel about life and relationships.
There are two main characters in the book, James and Pamela, husband and wife.
When I initially started writing the book, the idea was to show how each partner dealt with the breakdown of their relationship and if I remember rightly, I wrote the book so that the first chapter was written from James’s perspective, the next chapter from Pamela’s perspective and so on, alternating the chapters between the main two characters.
I’d read a lot of mainstream fiction about relationships and books only seemed to show the breakdown of the relationship from one side. And especially in women’s fiction, you usually only get the female version of events. I wanted to write something showing how both parties were feeling. As I’ve already mentioned in another interview, the original title for the book was ‘Two Sides to Every Story’.
I wrote the book after I’d worked for a few years as a family lawyer, and during those years I heard a lot of stories and observed how people reacted when they were facing divorce. I think some of that must have influenced my writing.
What genre is the book in?
When did you start writing the book?
It was about 1998 or 1999, I can’t be sure.
How long did it take you to write it?
Again, I can’t be sure, but I would assume the actual first draft would have taken about 6 months to a year. I base that on how long it took me to write my first novel and my most recent (as yet unpublished) novel. I was writing ‘Second Chances’ while I was also working as a solicitor, so my time was limited to weekends and other spare time.
Where did you get the idea from?
I can’t really remember what the original idea was or where I got it from, unfortunately, as it was so long ago! However, I imagine that it would have been inspired by my years working as a lawyer, and also by my experience of working in crappy law firms where the bosses were not the nicest people you could hope to meet. I’d also suffered a spell of unemployment after being unfairly dismissed shortly before I started writing the book, and a lot of my emotions about that time; feelings of frustration, despair etc. were reflected in the book. James, my male protagonist, works as a solicitor in a solicitors’ firm where the bosses are mean and the working atmosphere is unhealthy. All that comes from my personal experience of trying to find my way in the legal profession during the early part of my career.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
Only struggling to find motivation to edit the book. I find that I can write the first draft without too many problems, I actually enjoy that part of the process. Then comes the editing. As an indie author much of the editing is left to me. This means having to read the book over and over again to correct and enhance the story. The first few edits can be fun, as I am adding more depth to the story, but when it comes to editing for eradication of typos or grammatical error, it’s no fun at all and I’d gladly hand that over to someone else!
What came easily?
The main story and developing the characters usually comes easily for me. I seem to be able to find inspiration in almost anything and write a fictional story about it. I don’t know how I do that, but it’s fun. I suppose the creative process is something which we don’t really know that much about.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
On the whole they are fictitious, but there will obviously be elements borrowed from the real world people I come into contact with. As a solicitor I come into contact with many different types of people in my job, so it’s not hard for me to delve into my subconscious and find the basis of a character for my novels. James’s bosses in ‘Second Chances’ are definitely loosely based on a few bosses I have been unfortunate enough to work for. And in ‘A Time to Tell’ some of my clients were the inspiration for Penelope, the character who is suffering domestic violence. Another one of my clients was the inspiration for one of James’s clients in ‘Second Chances’.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
I think every book I’ve read has most probably influenced me in some way, and I am continually being influenced by the books that I am reading. It is very important for someone who wants to be a writer that they read. I would go as far as to say that if you don’t like reading you should not attempt to write a book. I think, as authors, we need to be reading all the time to keep up with the way trends in writing are changing and to find our own imagination.
Authors that have influenced how I write would probably be Paulo Coelho, Maeve Binchy, maybe Gabriel Garcia Marquez and even Marian Keyes. They are some of the main authors I was reading before I decided to take a leap into writing novels, so I’m sure I would have been influenced by the way they write. That’s not a definitive list, though, as I say, I’m sure that every book I’ve read has influenced me in some ways, including those I read at school. My reading choices are very diverse and this is reflected in my writing.
Do you have a target reader?
Well, I have a target number of readers, hopefully about a million or so. But seriously, I would hope that everyone, from young adults to older people, men and women, would enjoy my writing. It’s free from excessive violence, swearing, sexual content (I only portray such elements where it’s absolutely essential for the story), so should appeal to all ages.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
I write short stories as well as novels, and my writing process differs slightly for each of these. For short stories, I tend to get an idea that pops into my head and I sit either with a pad of paper or in front of the computer and just write it. I edit as I go along and usually have a finished story in about an hour or so. When I was writing ‘Pieces of a Rainbow’ I had an idea to write a book of seven short stories each one based on an individual colour of the rainbow. I set myself a challenge to write one story a day. I had no idea what I would write about, just that the stories would be based on a certain colour. I wrote seven stories in seven days. It turned out that I didn’t really like the ‘yellow’ story, so had to write another one and one of my readers wasn’t sure about my original ‘green’ story, so I changed that and wrote a completely different one. But all in all, I finished the first draft of that book in a couple of weeks. I remember going to bed each night worried that I wouldn’t be able to think up a story for each colour, but as I sat in front of the computer the ideas came to me.
For my novels, I always have a plan. An A4 piece of paper where I list how the novel will start, what main events will happen and how it will end. I refer to the plan throughout my writing of the novel. I find that I can usually stick to the main plan to some extent, but there are always other twists and turns that find their way into the story as the characters develop, and more often than not the ending of the book will change.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just Chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
Yes, as I go along, I outline for each chapter what I expect will happen, but as I say, this usually changes along the way.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
I usually wait until I finish, but for my new novel (as yet unpublished) I’ve changed that. I decided to try to edit as much as I could as I went along to hopefully avoid having to do 100 edits of the book! This has helped a bit because there are some things that I’ve managed to straighten out, such as sentence structure, so I won’t have to go over it again. However, now I’m at the stage of re-reading it and am finding that there’s still a great deal of editing to be done. I suppose it’s something that we can never avoid completely.
Did you hire a professional editor?
I use a wonderful literary advice service, ‘Cornerstones’. They provide services for writers who need help with editing and will read your manuscript and give editorial advice. It’s run by Helen Corner who has years of experience in the publishing industry and contacts with Agents and major publishers. The readers who read the manuscripts are professional editors and will give advice about how the manuscript can be improved. I found the service very useful for my novels ‘A Time to Tell’ and ‘Second Chances’ and will be going back to them when I have completed my new manuscript.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
I think I submitted my work to all the agents and publishers in the country. But I made the mistake of submitting my work when my manuscripts were not fully edited and I can see now why they were rejected.
What made you decide to go Indie? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
I think it was gradual. I made a mistake of publishing with a vanity publisher for my first novel ‘Coincidences’. I thought they were reputable because they were listed in ‘The Writer’s Handbook’, but they didn’t help at all with marketing the book and they took a lot of money, overpriced my book and left me feeling a bit mugged to tell the truth. I don’t regret publishing through them though because due to all of that, I gained a lot of experience about what the publishing industry is about. I also learnt a lot about marketing and the other aspects of self-publishing when I published my second novel ‘A Time to Tell’ with a small press.
I’ve found that I actually like the freedom of being a self-published writer. I have gained experience in editing and marketing and feel that at the moment it’s the right choice for me. I get to keep the rights in my books and decide what to do with them. I don’t have to pay a percentage of my royalties to anyone. I can write at my own speed, write what I want without restriction as to word count or content. It suits me.
The only downside is that I’ve found there are people out there who just won’t read self-published books looking at them as if they are some type of inferior product. I’m sure attitudes will change as the publishing industry changes, especially now with e-publishing. It’s still not a fair playing field but I have found that at least some readers are starting to become a bit more open to reading something different. For the past couple of years I have mainly been reading self-published books because I’ve met a lot of writers online through networking. Some of my favourite books are now books that have been self-published. I would urge any book lovers out there to try an indie book when they are next looking for a book to read. You might be pleasantly surprised. I grew up reading mainstream fiction and I read a lot of books, and I’m being totally honest when I say that I don’t see a whole lot of difference these days between the books that are being produced by big publishers and those that are self-published.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did it you do it yourself?
For my last three books I’ve designed the covers. ‘Pieces of a Rainbow’’s cover is a watercolour painting I did myself. ‘Love and Loyalty’ is a photograph I found on the free website morguefile.com, which I altered using iphoto on my mac. For ‘Second Chances’ I used two photos from the same website .
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
I’ve been trying to establish an online presence to help marketing my books. I have a website which I keep updated with the latest news. I’m also very active on Twitter, my twitter name @Maria_Savva
I have an author page on Goodreads.com which I find is very good for marketing. I’m also a member on many other reader/writer websites.
I think as an indie author it’s important to stay active online if you want to find new readers.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
The most important advice is and it’s more of a plea from me really: EDIT YOUR BOOK!! I can’t even begin to explain how important this is. Okay, even when we try really hard there will be a few typos, but I’m not talking about that. I hate it when I read a perfectly wonderful book by an indie author when it’s riddled with typos and grammatical errors. This gives a bad name to ALL indie writers. By neglecting to get your book edited you are giving ammunition to all those haters out there who won’t read our books because they say they are not as good as those published by the big guns.
Do me a favour and do yourself a favour, and edit your book.
Also, get someone to read it who is independent, not your best friend or your mum, because they will always tell you they love it. Give it to someone who you know will tell you truth before you publish it.
The other important bit of advice is write for yourself. Don’t try to please everyone, because you’ll never be able to please everyone. Finally, have fun!
Where did you grow up?
In North London.
Where do you live now?
I’m back in North London, after living in Hertfordshire for a while.
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’m a resident author at Bestsellerbound.com which is a message board where readers can meet indie writers. I’d love my readers to join me there. It’s a fun place, we don’t have too many rules and you can chat with writers and learn more about their books, their inspiration, and the creative process. Most importantly, you can find lots of new books to read by up and coming authors.
End of Interview
Thanks Maria for your frank answers. One of the great things I get from doing these Indieviews is the chance to read books I would normally never read. Lately, I’ve read, Paranormal, Mystery, Thriller, Historical Fiction, Punk Fiction, SCI-FI, Cyberpunk, Chick Lit, Literary Fiction, and now Contemporary Fiction. What do I get out of this, apart from a lack of sleep?
It’s a great opportunity to read how other’s build tension and use words in a different context to our familiar tropes. I don’t have to love a genre or a book to read it. In that sense the reading I am doing in connection with Indieviews is not about reading – it’s about writing. It’s about being able to recognize what works, and what doesn’t, in any genre.