30 July 2013

Interview with Wanda Wiltshire, author of Betrothed

Author Wanda Wiltshire
It gives me pleasure to welcome Wanda Wiltshire to Carpe Librum today.  Wanda is the Australian author of Betrothed, a YA fantasy romance novel, published by Pantera Press this month.

I heard in an ABC interview recently that you only started writing 4 years ago, what gave you the confidence to begin?
Knowing it was what I was meant to do. Until a few years ago I was just dreaming my way through life, feeling like I didn’t fit and doing my best to be unconcerned by it. Then something happened that threw my world into chaos and began the most challenging time of my life – the kind of time that makes you question the meaning of it all. Eventually my questioning led me to God. It was quite literally like walking out of the storm and into the calm. Soon I realized that if He created me, then it had to have been for a purpose. It was a light-bulb moment. With no idea what that purpose might be, I asked Him to reveal it to me. Three little words came directly to my mind – ‘Write a book.’  I argued for a while, believing it far too big for me, but that quiet voice was insistent. Later that day I went to my daughter and said ‘God’s telling me to write a book.’ She rolled her eyes and said, ‘Whatever, Mum,’ but joined me in trying to come up with an idea. We came up with nothing. So that night I went to bed and prayed. ‘God, I hear you, but if you want me to write a book you’d better send me something because I’ve got nothing!’ The next morning, in that hazy time between sleeping and waking, Betrothed slipped into my mind. 

What was the hardest part of writing Betrothed?
I can’t say there was anything hard about writing Betrothed, but it was time consuming. It took around eight or nine months to complete the first draft which sat at around 126,000 words. I tucked it away and took it out six months later after I’d written the end on my second book. Then the real work on Betrothed began – all the editing and refining. 

Do you plan your writing in advance or does it unfold as you go?
With Betrothed, there was no planning at all. The story was given to me beautifully presented and complete – a gift. Even the characters came ready named and alive to me! As I wrote, it was almost as though the wrapping was being slowly peeled from the parcel as small details and surprises were revealed to me! With subsequent books, I have done a little planning, often in the form of notes which frequently get lost never to be found again.

When do you do your best work?  Where do you do most of your writing?
I do my best work when I begin early in the day – the earlier the better. Sometimes when I sit down to write at five or six in the morning, it’s nothing for me to still be going at midnight! But, if I procrastinate much beyond midday I’m lost and usually only endure til 6pm or so. I have an eight year old and need to be accessible to him, so I write in the family room. Although nowhere near as ideal as the lonely cottage by the sea of my dreams, it works well enough.

Why do you think the Young Adult (YA) genre is so popular at the moment compared to 10-15 years ago?
Hmm … The popularity of Harry Potter might have something to do with it. I clearly recall the criticism adult lovers of the first in J. K. Rowling’s series endured. These days however, it’s common to see older people reading books written for a younger audience. I’m not sure how accurate it is but I heard the target age for YA is now 13 – 55! With a greater number of people reading YA books, it stands to reason a greater number of people would choose to write them too. I love well written YA. It possesses a freshness and innocence lacking in adult literature.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished reading Jane Austen’s, Persuasion – again. As always, I’ve been left wanting more!

What are some of your favourite books/authors?
I love books that pull me quickly into the story. They also must make me feel deeply and create a vivid picture with as few words as possible.  My favourite authors are genius at this and include Anne Rice, Melina Marchetta, Maggie Stiefvater, Markus Zusak and Jane Austen. These five all combine compelling story with exceptional writing – the winning combination. (I'm a big fan of Anne Rice too!)

Do you buy your books or borrow them from the library? Do you prefer paper or e-books?
The library doesn’t work for me. I can rarely find the book I’m after and when I manage to, I usually end up with a fine for not returning it on time! Nor do e-books appeal. I’m way too forgetful and disorganised. Within a month I would leave my kindle somewhere and lose my entire collection in the space of a moment! So, when I want a book, I borrow from a friend or go to the bookshop and buy the paper kind.

The Enchanted Wood
by Enid Blyton was
one of Wanda's most
loved childhood books
Do you have any literary influences or want to mention any books that had a significant impact on your life?
I think every book a writer reads has the potential to influence his or her writing in some way or other, almost as though each book contains a lesson – what to do or what not to do. This has been true for me anyway. 

As for impacting my life, I would have to say that when I was young, books in general saved me from loneliness. I was an awkward child but if I had a book, I had a friend. Enid Blyton was my favourite author, The Enchanted Woods, my most loved book. It taught me the possibility of a more exciting world and ignited a lifelong love of fairies and fantasy!

I understand Betrothed is the first in a six book series, what’s the next book called? What can you tell us about it?
The next book in the series is called Allegiance. Readers can expect to be surprised. They can expect to be caught up in a whirlwind of twists and romance and revelation. They can also expect to spend a lot more time in Faera, discovering the beauty, customs and challenges of this magical world. 

Anything else you'd like to add?
Only, thanks for having me, Tracey!

You're more than welcome, and thanks so much!

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