Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Confessions of a Suspense Author - Guest Post Zoe Lea

Continuing my 'psychological thriller author' series, I'd like to welcome the lovely Zoe Lea to my blog. Zoe is an author who first came to my attention on Instagram due to the wonderful photographs she posts, all set in the beautiful Lake District where she lives and writes. Loving this part of the country myself, I couldn't wait to ask Zoe some questions.

You’ve written two psychological thrillers. Have you always written in this genre?

The first time I tried to write a book it was for young adults and it was bad, really bad. I wrote several of these that were unsuccessful until an agent said that the book I was writing would be better suited to an adult audience. I gave that a go and it kind of went from there.

Could you describe ‘If He Wakes’ in three words?

Twisty. Page-turning. Shocking.

You live in the beautiful Lake District where my own thriller is set. How important do you think setting is to a novel?

Hugely. And it was something that I overlooked for such a long time, but I think setting is almost like another character in the novel. It sets the tone and atmosphere of the book; it gives the reader indications as to how everything builds. Without a good setting, I think a novel can become two dimensional.

Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when the idea for your latest novel came to you?

Not so much with The Secretary, I’d had an idea batting about for a while about a woman who does little acts of revenge on people she feels have wronged her. I think it was actually whilst on a school run that I thought a primary school would make an excellent setting!

Are you a plotter or a pantster and how long does it take you to write your thrillers?

I used to be a pantster and I love that way of writing, but it doesn’t work for me in the long run. I keep forgetting this and start giddily writing each novel as soon as I get a spark of an idea, but I need to have a good plan. I need to think about the plot and so, I usually get half way through a novel and then have to start planning which is not ideal at all. Because of this, it takes me a stupidly long time to write a thriller, but I’m working on it!

Could you describe your typical writing day?

As well as being an author, I also run a business so I don’t really have a typical writing day. But usually, my writing will happen either early morning or late afternoon, or on my lunch-break depending how the book is going, so it can vary from day to day.

I’m sure my readers would love to hear about your road to publication. Was it long and winding or did you take a short cut?

Oh it was a long road! I’ve been writing for years, but mostly short stories. I didn’t have the confidence to write a book for the longest time. Then it was YA books and then, with my first stab at an adult book I went on a Curtis Brown online course. That was invaluable, not only because of the advice and support I got, but because it made my attitude shift towards myself as a writer. I began to think I could actually do it. I got an agent from the novel that I started on the course and after several rewrites, got my deal with Canelo and now I’m working with Piatkus

You post great pictures on Instagram. How important do you think social media is to an author?

Hmmm, that’s a tricky one. I think it can be a really useful tool to building up an audience and community who know you and this can be wonderful for when you have a new book out or a deal that you want to announce. However, it takes a lot of time and can suck the life out of you if you’re not careful. I do Instagram because I adore it, it’s a hobby for me, a way of connecting with my readers and sharing my life as well as getting a peak into the lives of others, but I have to be careful it doesn’t take time away from my writing. If you’re an author, the main job is writing books, not spending ages on social media, and I think it’s important to remember that at all times!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love being outdoors. I try to get a hike in every weekend if I can with the family. I’m also starting to really enjoy cooking, which is a novelty for me as I’ve hated it in the past, but recently I’ve found a new love for it.

What does your family think of your writing?

They are immensely proud. My teenage son showing off my book to his mates was a joy to witness, and my husband, who is my writing rock, is delighted. He shares my every high and low and I absolutely would not be able to do it without his unwavering support.

But something quite pivotal happened when I got my proofs of The Secretary. I took a copy to my parents, who have been my biggest cheerleaders and supporters since I was a kid. Having a tangible book I could give them was a momentous thing in my head as I’d dreamed of handing a finished book to my parents for so long.

At the time I was going through a really rocky patch, I was full of self-doubt and as I handed the book to my dad, I said, ‘Finally, I did it. After all that time.’ And he hugged me and said, ‘love, we’re not suddenly proud just because of this book, we’ve always been proud of you.’
And it changed my perception of the whole process.

I think, when you’ve been chasing a dream for a long time, it can become an insurmountable goal that becomes more than it actually is. My dad’s comment that day taught me not to put so much pressure on the outcome, it reminded me that I write because I love it, and that’s so important to keep hold off as you go through the publishing process. So, my family are forever the wisest, best and most brilliant council I could ask for.

What next for Zoe Lea?

I’m just in the process of completing my next novel, The Influencer. It’s about a social media queen who gets involved in the case of a missing teenager. After that, more writing, more novels but I have no idea as yet as to what they’ll be!

Zoe Lea lives in the Lake District, UK with her husband, two children, dogs and peregrine falcons. As well as writing, she helps manage an animal tracking company used for raptors and other wildlife. She's previously worked as a teacher, photographer and in the television industry, but writing has always been her passion. She is currently working on her next novel.


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