YA Shot Blog Tour: Interview With Author Liz de Jager.

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Can you please introduce yourself, and the fantastic novels you write?

My name s Liz de Jager. I am the author of the Blackhart Legacy trilogy.  The first two books in the trilogy - BANISHED and VOWED - are currently out in all good bookshops and available online.  The last book, JUDGED, is out January 2016.

How did you come up with the Blackhart Legacy, and the characters?

It started off with the question: what if Hansel and Gretel didn’t stop at the first which…and developed from there. I ended up having a family called the Blackharts who are descendants of Hansel and Gretel’s family of witch hunters. But I didn’t want them to be witch hunters. I wanted them to be more…besides, I think witches have been prosecuted enough through history, so it was nice cutting them some slack.  My characters form quite organically. I knew I wanted Kit to be part of a huge family. I wanted her to be new to the family. I needed her to be new to the Blackhart world, overall, so that she can be our guide into this weird world.  The family really is an amalgam of my huge family with so many cousins and aunts and uncles and different branches that it is difficult to keep them all straight.  The Fae were difficult to write - I needed them to be kind of old-wordly yet modern enough for readers to understand.  I know everyone expected a love triangle when it came to Kit, the Fae prince, Thorn and the werewolf boy, Aiden. But I didn’t want that. I have some really good platonic friendships with people of the opposite sex and I wanted to show that Kit could have a solid steadfast relationship with a boy that wasn’t romantically inclined.  And the feedback I’ve had from readers has been great so I’m really pleased with that.

What's it like to be a published author?

You know, it’s not that different, apart from doing school visits and asked to be on panels and things? For one thing, I work harder at my writing and keeping track of my life in general. I know I have to be more careful of my opinions online and not swear as a lot of my readers are younger and their parents would not approve of me. But you know, other than occasionally having to watch what I say online, I’m still pretty much me and do the stuff I’ve always done. I watch TV and read comics and books and go to the movies and chat to everyone who chats to me online. Seeing my books in the shops is amazing.  Utterly amazing. It’s a dream come true and for months after Banished was published and I saw the books in shops I couldn’t actually look at it directly…it was looking into the sun.

What advice can you give to aspiring authors?

I think it’s crucial that you read. It doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you read. Read the genre / age group you want to write for.  Read outside of that. Ask for recommendations.  And write.  Don’t worry about being perfect.  If it’s not for school, let yourself be a messy writer.  Don’t worry about crafting every sentence perfectly.  It’s not necessary.  What is necessary is getting the story done.  And write to your own pace.  Write a little bit every day, even if it is a hundred words.  The biggest thing about writing is forming the habit of writing.  And finish what you start. And then once you’re done, you let it sit in a drawer / hard drive for maybe a month, then you go read it and you start your rewrite.  Writing is editing.  And letting go.

How does publishing system work?

I can tell you how it worked for me:

- I wrote a book
- I revised the book a few times
- I sent it off to agents
- They didn’t like it
- I rewrote it from scratch
- I submitted it to another agent who did like it
- I got an agent
- She made me rewrite and revise it twice
- We went to the market – this means my agent sent the manuscript to a handful of editors at various publishing houses.
- We had interest from a few editors and my agent arranged for us to meet with them.
- The meetings were lovely and informal and essentially it was so that the editors could meet me and talk through the book (Banished) and find out what I had planned for the characters and stories and the world overall.
- My agent then did a call for best bids from the publishers and in the end, we chose to go with Tor Macmillan as their concept for the books and the characters lay closest to my own.
- From there, I had talks with my editor about cover design.
-There were rounds of editing between my editor and myself.  The book went to the copy editor too and once that came back, I had copy edits to do.  This is a line by line, word for word edit of your book.  It is also where you fix any kind of logic problems and jarring issues like character issues etc.
- Then it goes to the type setter for printing.
- The marketing machine then starts and you do interviews and blog tours in advance of your book coming out.
- Publication day – lots of crying and feelings of ‘how is this real’?
- And then you start all over again if you haven’t already started book two.

Do you have a writing fetish?

What a question! Yes and no. I have a dedicated notebook for the series and book I’m writing. I am very superstitious about this notebook. It’s gone missing in the past (it fell under the couch) and I was literally out of my mind trying to find it. My life was in there, or that’s how it felt. I plan characters and fight sequences in that notebook, complete with diagrams and art and it was just…scary as hell losing it.  But I’m lucky in that I can switch off and write mostly anywhere, as long as I have my iPod and music to accompany me.

Out of all of the books in the Blackhart Legacy, which one is your favourite?

Uhm. It will have to be Vowed. I got to explode the world a little bit and I got to bring in Dante. We got to learn more about the rules that govern the Blackhart world and we see Kit being a bit tougher but still a little unsure and scared.  We see Kit realizing the world she’s in isn’t a pleasant one and we see her form a close and lasting relationship with Dante.  Thorn’s world is explored too. We learn that he’s studying to become the guardian of the worlds and that all is still not well in the Otherwhere. I think if I could, Vowed would have been a thousand pages long, but my editor had other ideas.

Finally, how long did it take you to write each novel in the Blackhart Legacy?

Banished took about two years as I was learning how to write it and then including the edits and the complete rewrite.  Vowed took me five months to write…and Judged took around four months to write and then three months to rewrite.  So, the pace has been insane and it’s not something I recommend you do unless you’ve got your novels mapped out perfectly. Which I didn’t and I paid the price! Learn from my mistakes, newbie scribes!

Thank you to the AMAZING Liz for taking the time to do this interview with me! Follow Liz on Twitter, @LizUk. Read my reviews for Banished and Vowed.

YA Shot 2015: 

YA Shot is a one day Young Adult and Middle Grade book event that is in October and is hosted in Uxbridge, London. It will host sixty nine authors, and several blogging/ vlogging workshops. YA Shot is directed by author Alexia Casale (The Bone Dragon, House of Windows.) and it is to be a flagship event. Follow Alexia on Twitter: @AlexiaCasale. To find out more about YA Shot and to book tickets, then click here.

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