Thank you so much for sharing your book with me and agreeing to do a Q&A for my readers.
Give us a quick summary of Expendables, the first book in The Wall Series!
Expendables is the story of two young people from very different backgrounds who have to learn to trust each other in order to survive in a divided dystopian London.
Aleesha is an Outsider and an illegal citizen. Her name doesn’t appear on government records but if she’s captured by the government’s sinister militia, the Metz, her life is over. She longs to find the truth about the father she’s never known and dreams of a new life inside the Wall.
Trey is an Insider. Son of a government minister, his life is turned upside down when he finds himself on the run from the Metz. Desperate, he seeks sanctuary outside the Wall. But the world of the Outsiders is more desperate than he could have imagined. His only way back home is to find out why he’s being hunted.
Recruited by a mysterious gang, Aleesha and Trey make their own bargains to stay alive and discover the truth about their pasts. The answers lie inside the government headquarters, but in that fortress, they find much more than they bargained for.
Expendables is the first book you published, but you’ve done others since, including collaborations. Was there any unique challenges in publishing your first book?
So many! I think publishing your first book is always unique as everything is new. As an indie publisher, every aspect of my book from the cover to the book description is under my control, which is really exciting but also pretty scary, particularly for a perfectionist like me.
I also found the process of writing it pretty tough, even though it’s not the first book I’ve written. I replotted Expendables 2-3 times and rewrote about 90% of the first draft to get it to a stage where it was ready for publication. Even then, I was a nervous wreck when I published it and started getting my first reviews in. I don’t think gets any easier with subsequent books, but at least you know what to expect!
Does your former career as an emergency planner influence your writing at all?
It definitely influenced my vision of what a dystopian future might look like. Expendables is set a fair way in the future and although I touch on the events that led to the formation of the society, I don’t delve into them in huge detail in this series. But my experience of how people and authorities respond to emergencies and disasters influenced a lot of the backstory to the series. Perhaps I’ll end up writing a post-apocalyptic book on this in the future!
The two main characters, Aleesha and Trey, live very different lives, culturally, financially, socially. How does that affect their friendship and the story?
Their backgrounds and life experiences influence how they respond to situations and other people, including each other. Aleesha’s a survivor – she’s always had to look out for herself – and she struggles to trust people because she’s been let down so much in the past. She comes across as hard-as-nails but under her tough exterior she carries some deep wounds.
Trey’s the opposite. He’s been brought up in the privileged side of society and as a result is far too trusting. He wears his heart on his sleeve and people think they can easily manipulate him. His experiences Outside challenge his deeply held beliefs and prejudices about the world he lives in, and how he responds to that challenge determines the course of his friendship with Aleesha and the other Outsiders.
Aleesha and Trey start off very much at odds with each other but as the story develops, they realise that they have more in common than they think and come to rely on each other, both practically and emotionally. But of course, things are never quite that simple…
How long did it take you to get this book published, from its initial conception to the release date?
I had the first inklings of the idea behind the book about five years ago, though the finished version was very different from that initial idea. I wrote about 30,000 words as part of NaNoWriMo in 2014 and then it sat, abandoned, until I picked it up seriously at the start of 2017. It then took about 11 months to finish writing and editing the book and get it ready to publish.
Your series is self-published through your own business, Windswept Writing. Can you share with us why you chose self-publishing?
Well, I’m a bit of a control freak and a perfectionist – a bad combination for going down the traditional publishing route! I’m also fascinated by the marketing side of publishing, so it was a natural fit for me to choose the indie author route. Plus, as someone who likes to finish things, I wasn’t so keen on the idea of writing book after book without them ever seeing the light of day because they weren’t what a publisher was looking for at a particular moment in time.
I’m really happy I decided to go down this route. The indie author community is so welcoming and supportive, and I’ve made so many friends from being a part of it.
What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome in completing your book?
Believing that I could do it. Overcoming my fear of failure was the by far the hardest part of the process for me.
What other books and authors inspire you?
There are so many! Every time I get that tingle of excitement from reading a really great book it inspires me to become a better writer. I enjoy reading a wide range of genres so I find inspiration in different styles of writing and storytelling, but I have to thank Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games for really sparking my love of YA dystopian fiction.
This isn’t the only science-fiction book you’ve written. What is it about science-fiction and dystopian stories, especially, that draws your interest?
As a reader, I crave escapism. But I also love books that have a connection to the real world and reflect on the challenges we face. Dystopian stories offer both escapism and a reflection on real-world issues. Throw in a bit of fantasy or mythology and I’m sold!
Part of Aleesha’s story is about her struggle with drug abuse. Was this a topic that you specifically wanted to address or something that came up naturally as you wrote?
It came up naturally as I developed the world the story is set in. My characters are all flawed in different ways and Aleesha’s addiction to a fictitious street drug is one of her flaws. There is more to it than that, but to find out how this feeds into the plot, you’ll need to read the book! 😉
The second book in The Wall series, Infiltrators, is already out. What can expect in the sequel to this exciting story?
Even more excitement! Infiltrators picks up where Expendables leaves off but delves a lot more into my character’s backgrounds, particularly Aleesha’s experiences growing up on the street. It gets pretty dark in places but it’s a gripping read with lots of plot twists. I aim to make every book I publish better than the last, and I think I achieved this with Infiltrators – I’m quite proud of it.
What is the first book that made you cry?
Watership Down. I defy anyone with a heart to read that book and not cry.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Sleep! I think I was a dormouse in a previous life as I seem to need a lot of sleep and if I don’t get it, my creativity definitely suffers. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those writers who manages to get up at 4am and have their writing for the day finished by the time the rest of the world is waking up.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers looking to publish their first novel?
I found getting feedback from beta readers and editors invaluable in developing and improving my story. A famous writer once said that you write your first draft for yourself and your second draft for your reader. Getting feedback from people who love reading books in your genre is the best way to know if what you’ve written is any good.
I’d also say not to give up. Writing and publishing your first novel is hard, but it’s incredibly rewarding.
What is your favorite book to recommend to others?
At the moment, I’m obsessed with Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series. It’s science fiction but with a fantasy flair and the worldbuilding and characters are brilliant.