Author Interview: Caroline Smailes/WallaceHello folks, I am super excited to have a talented writer and friend to my blog for a wonderful Interview. Caroline Smailes gives an honest and inspiring account of her life as a writer, and it makes for an interesting read. So grab yourself a brew, have a seat and enjoy this fantastic interview.
Hello my lovely Caroline, thank you so much for agreeing to an interview, I am pleased to welcome you to my blog.
Thanks so much for inviting me to visit!
So tell me a little bit about yourself, where are you from and what do you write?
I’m a Geordie, ridiculously good at Battleship, a little too fond of cake and all things Disney. Although born in Newcastle, I came to Liverpool to study, fell in love with a scouser and couldn’t leave. I married him and we have three children. I was a teacher, then a lecturer, but now I work as an editor when I’m not writing. My novels are often described as urban fairy tales. The Observer said I was an ‘arch-experimentalist’, but I’m not entirely sure what that means.
What would you like to tell us about your books?
I’m obsessed with fairy tales and mythology. Although it’s not always obvious at first glance, my novels tend to be a reimagining of a myth or a fairy tale, or both. I love the art of retelling and reinventing stories. The Drowning of Arthur Braxton is a retelling of three classic myths (Apollo and Daphne, Medea and Jason, Castor and Pollux) but with a modern, northern (and somewhat sweary) twist.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I take inspiration from people I observe and experiences I’ve either had or imagined could happen. As a teen I learned to be insular, invisible even. I stood on the outskirts and observed. It was how I coped with life. Writing diaries, then angst-ridden poems (no one will ever see!) was my way of escaping. I was seen as weird, an outsider, and someone who you could ‘catch’ weird from. It wasn’t the best part of my life. My inspiration then and now remains the same. It’s always that I have an absolute need to write and that if I don’t write, then my head breaks a little bit. Creativity is my outlet. But, mainly, I’m inspired to write because I still have stories to tell and something to say. When that changes, that’s when I’ll stop.
What can you tell me about your typical writing day and what your process is?
On a writing day, I’ll be at my desk by 7:45 a.m. and I’ll move from my desk when I’ve written my target words. I write quickly and always tend to finish in the morning. I’ll stop when I hit my target, even if I really want to continue. I always end one day knowing what I’ll write the next. I’ll then redraft and edit in the afternoon.
Can you tell me about your journey to publication? How did that all happen?
Oh it’s a complicated one! I fell pregnant when I was a postgraduate student and had to drop out. It was eight years later when I returned to study, because I felt I should complete the qualification. I’d always written, but I’d also always listened to the people who said I needed a ‘proper job’, so writing was something I did in secret. Then, during my second year of PhD study I miscarried. In my sadness and grief I turned to writing, and that writing about my feelings surrounding the miscarriage developed into a story, and that story into something longer. I found myself stealing increasingly larger amounts of 'spare' time to write, and not studying.
Fast-forward five months to September 2005 and I was watching a repeat of a Richard and Judy programme. The presenters were talking about someone who Richard called ‘a nearly woman’. Richard gushed that this ‘nearly woman’ often tried new things, but she never finished them. The words hit home. I felt that I was ‘nearly’ finishing many things, but not fully committing to any.
Never one to do things without a dramatic flair, within the next two weeks I dropped out of my PhD study, cancelled my funding and I enrolled on an MA in Creative Writing. I finished the final draft of my debut novel, and the degree, a year later.
Then someone told me to start a blog, so I did. I put an extract from my novel on there and blogged about how I didn’t have a clue what to do next. It was three weeks later, in September 2006, that a publisher stumbled on my blog, read an extract from my novel and asked for the full manuscript. A week later, I received my first publishing contract.
I’d like to say that that was the beginning of a happily ever after, but this is publishing. The journey remains bumpy and never straightforward. I’m still here though, ten years on and seven novels later.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I’ve said this for many years and it remains unchanged. To write, write write! Obvious advice, I know. And to only ever give an early draft to someone who you trust to tell you what’s wrong with it. You want them to tell you what you already know, but are being too stubborn to face. The last thing you need is someone telling you that your writing is perfect. The best opinion is the one that wants you to make your writing even better.
What do your family and loved ones think of your success?
I’m fortunate and so truly grateful to be surrounded by amazing friends and family. I couldn’t do what I do without their support, reassurance, honesty and arse kickings. I never take them for granted.
I LOVE the new cover for Arthur Braxton, why the change?
4th Estate are republishing the novel, so it made sense to rebrand too. They’ve done such an amazing job of it. The cover’s striking and I’m hoping it’ll appeal to a wide audience. They’ve also included an introduction from YouTube sensation Luke Cutforth in the novel. Luke’s the director of the Arthur Braxton film and one of the best people I know.
I’ve seen some exciting images on your social media for the filming of Arthur Braxton, what can you tell me about it and when can I see it?
In 2013 I’d watched ‘My Mad Fat Diary’ and the character Tix (played by the talented Sophie Wright) hit a nerve. I sent Sophie a tweet, telling her that she’d make an amazing Laurel (the main female character in Arthur Braxton). Then, eighteen months later, Sophie was in a music video filmed by Fireflight Film (Josh Winslade and Luke Cutforth). She told Josh and Luke about my novel and how the film option had recently become available. This then led to them reading the novel, contacting me and a series of meetings and emails with my agents. The option was signed in September 2014 and kept a secret until August 2015 (I have no idea how, as I was bursting to tell people!). Then a successful Kickstarter campaign last summer led to the funding of the feature film. It’s been an amazing year and filming is now complete. They’re at the ‘post-production’ stage and are hoping for a spring 2017 release. They’ve actually split the novel into two films, so the first release will be Arthur’s story and a second film will be Laurel’s story. It’s overwhelming and magical and sometimes I honestly can’t believe it’s happening.
So what’s next for you, how is the writing going right now?
I’ve just finished the prequel to The Drowning of Arthur Braxton and hope that it’ll be out on submission this summer. I’ve loved every minute of writing it. Possibly a cliché, but this is the first time I’ve really loved writing! Writing is usually a little bit painful, but this experience was different. It needed to be written. Now I just need to pluck up the courage to let it go, and see if a publisher would like to publish it…
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions Caroline, as always you’re a star.
To get yourself a copy of 'The Drowning of Arthur Braxton' with the fab new cover, check out one of the links below:
About the Author:
Caroline Wallace worked as a lecturer for several years before turning her hand to fiction. She lives in Liverpool with her husband and their many children.