One of the coolest aspects of doing narration is getting to work with the incredible authors behind the writing.
Sometimes, I’m extra lucky in that they’re even willing to answer a few questions…
1. How and when did you first get the idea for Shelter?
After I published BOSS, I was going backwards and forwards between four different ideas and none of them were sticking. The idea for Shelter came so organically, it’s difficult to remember the exact moment it came to me but I remember the original question I asked myself was, “what would happen if two people met but one of them had completely hit rock bottom?” and it all spiraled from there! Caden and Elias were quickly born and the story filled itself in around that theme. I completely just ran with the idea and I didn’t spend much time second guessing it, which was nice.
2. How long did it take – from the first word to final manuscript – to write Shelter?
I’d say this was my quickest book that I’ve ever written. It’s one of the few books that I didn’t have a mini-meltdown during the writing process. I’d say I spent about a week outlining and plotting, another five weeks writing and then a couple of weeks in edits. Overall, it was under two months, which is quite quick for me. I usually take a bit longer but something about this book allowed me to work rather smoothly, which I was grateful for.
3. You were born and live in the UK, but like several of your other novels, Shelter takes place in the US. What difficulties do you encounter writing stories set in the US?
The main difficulty comes from the differences in language. You don’t realize how many words don’t translate across the pond until people point them out to you. I have fabulous BETA readers who catch those things for me now and after writing a handful of US based novels, I feel like I’ve picked up the lingo a little better.
At the end of the day though, it’s always about the story and the characters and some stories feel more natural to the US and some to the UK. I never really analyze why too much, I just go with my gut instinct. From the second I started writing Shelter, I knew it was going to be a US based story. I spent a couple of days researching about Maine and asking questions to my US BETA readers. It’s nice when they come back with “oh, you can add this in here because this” because it adds that extra level that I could never bring.
4. What was favorite moment or character to write, and why?
I think my favorite character to write was Elias because he is so complex. I know a lot of authors like to wrap their characters in cotton wool and sugar coat their downfalls but I enjoy putting them all on blast for everyone to see. At the beginning of the book, Elias was as low as Elias was ever going to get, so it was fun to explore that and then bring him up to a place he didn’t know he could go. The second I started writing Elias into scenes with Caden, the chemistry and the dynamics came so naturally, so I loved writing scenes where they were interacting.
5. Was there a particular scene or character that was a struggle to write?
I’d say the most difficult character to write was Elias’s mother, Judy James. I knew a lot of people weren’t going to understand why she was so mean and detached from her children but I knew from the start I didn’t want to soften her edges too much. I actually really enjoyed writing her scenes because she was a total bitch, but I knew getting her right was crucial to the story. Without her, there wouldn’t have been much conflict.
I know a lot of people didn’t like that she didn’t get what was coming to her in the end but that wasn’t what the story was about. The whole story was about redemption and breaking cycles. By the end of the book, they all have a fresh start, not so much a happily ever after. Not everybody is a natural parent and Judy James is one of those people.
6. While I think this might be a little obvious – is there a character you particularly identify with?
I’d say Caden is the character I identified with the most. I’ve always been a fixer. I like to try and fix people when I know they’re hurting, while ignoring what’s going on with myself. Caden threw himself into sorting out Elias’s life, while ignoring his own problems. I think we’ve all been in that position at one point or another.
7. What most surprised you when listening to Derrick’s narration?
It was such a surprise that he nailed all of the characters! After the first couple of chapters, I forgot I was listening to my book and I was totally sucked into the story. By the time I listened to the audiobook, it had been a couple of months since I had written Shelter, so I had forgotten a couple of scenes. Derrick’s narration made it sound fresh and new to me, which as an author is exciting. How you hear something in your head when you’re writing it can be totally different to how the reader, or in the case, the narrator hears it, so I loved hearing that new perspective.
8. What did you like most about Derrick’s narration of Shelter?
I loved the pacing, more than anything. Derrick has this great skill of letting the story breath when it needs to and going with the ebb and flow of the writing. His voice is so easy on the ears that it’s impossible not to get lost in the story.
9. Shelter is your first audiobook. Do you think it will be the first of many? Or the last?
I hope the first of many! It’s been an interesting experience and one I never thought I would do, so the whole process has been a learning curve. As an indie author, it’s always fun to take my work into directions that I never thought would be open to me. Audiobooks were one of those things I thought would never happen so I can happily tick that proudly off the bucket list!
10. BONUS QUESTION: Have you ever actually eaten grits? Do you really like them?
Haha! No I haven’t! That whole thing came from a group conversation I had with some of my readers during a Q&A session and I was totally perplexed by the concept of grits, because we don’t really have a comparative food in the UK. People were arguing about them, some liking them and some loathing them. After doing a little research, I thought it would be fun to throw them into the book as a little nod to that. If I ever go to the states again, I’ll make it a mission to try for myself.