Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit it is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sorts of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.
Today I’m chatting to Maressa Mortimer about her writing and books. Welcome to the tearoom. May I ask you, Maressa what you would like to drink?
Thank you for the invite, Paula. Oh, could I have a Caramelatte, with only half the caramel shot, so it still tastes of coffee
Now we have our refreshments, may I start by asking you when you first begun your writing journey what drew you to your chosen genre?
I started writing after blogging about a fictional family. That made me look at the world around me more. My favourite genre is Christian novels, which is maybe a bit broad. What I mean is, any kind of story, but dealing with faith in everyday life. I like it because for many people faith seems to be a private, Sunday matter, and I love to see it working out in general life. I mainly write for my own enjoyment, but it’s wonderful to hear from people who have read my books.
What writing elements do you think is your strongest points, and what would you like to do better?
I love writing dialogue. I can just imagine people chatting with each other. I feel it’s my strongest point, as I struggle with descriptions. It’s hard, as I can picture the entire setup, but I forget to colour it in for my readers.
Tell us a little about latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?
I have just started a new project, whilst waiting for my wonderful editor to come back with my manuscript covered in red! I wanted to try out something completely new to me, to challenge myself and push myself, rather than just write what feels more natural. So I’m writing a Speculative Fiction/fantasy type book, named Burrowed, writing in First Person and using Past Tense, both are new to me. It is set on a fictional island called Ximiu (ksi mi-you) and I’m loving it. I thought of it whilst reading a book called Writing Fantasy and Sci-Fi during the Christmas Holidays.
Do you write a synopsis first or write the first chapter? If you only write short stories, or do you plan your story or let the characters lead you?
I’m a pantser, so I don’t plan my stories. It’s getting more complex though. I do plan the characters, and for Walled City I did quite a lot of world-building, which I loved. I have no idea where my story will lead me, although I might have snippets of conversation I want to be in the book…somewhere. This time around, with Burrowed, I have a proper plan! Some of the details will fill in themselves as I go along, so I’m still surprised by some of the stuff my characters come up with. Which is why I normally write present tense, as I have no idea what’s awaiting me or my characters. Having a plan allows me to write in the past tense for the first time, so I’m loving the change!
Were any of your characters inspired by real people?
Sapphire Beach was all about me making sense of a friend’s horrendous marriage. It grieved me, shocked me and taught me a lot. I started looking into domestic violence more and then wrote the book to process it all. The character is fictional but in a way a generic picture of what could be a victim of DV. For Burrowed I have downloaded images, to help me to picture the main characters. For the settings, I use either real-life places, as the wonderful beach in Sapphire Beach or fantasy maps. It helps me to picture the people or places, so I don’t make mistakes in describing them.
What did you learn when writing your book or story? In writing it, how much research did you do?
I ended up with a lot of research for Walled City, even though it was set in a fictional world! I was taken by surprise as you think you can make it all up! Worldbuilding still involved looking at a lot of facts and how things work. Sapphire Beach had a lot of research, like the little island in Crete and artefact thefts. I never realised before writing a novel how much you need to look up. It feels so smooth and natural when you read a book, doesn’t it? It’s easy to go down rabbits trails as well. Some of the research for Burrowed has been incredible, and easy to fill your days just reading up on facts.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I write in the evening once the kids are in bed. That is also the time to exercise, read and tidy up, haha. I love the quiet though, as it means I can settle down with my thoughts and dreams. I tend to write by chapter, and it’s hard to concentrate if other things are happening. It does feel rewarding, once a chapter is finished, to then just curl up with a book and chocolate.
Do you set yourself a daily word count?
Sapphire Beach and Beyond the Hills were written during NaNoWriMo, where the word count is 50,000 words in November. That helps tremendously, as it’s a good way to get your words in. For Burrowed I have set the word count at 60,000 by the end of February, which gives me almost 6 weeks. It’s just to encourage myself, and I use the NaNoWriMo site to keep track. I write chapters, and for Burrowed the chapters are just over 1,000 words, the same as Sapphire Beach. Walled City and its sequel, Beyond the Hills, were almost 3,000 words per chapter. That means that at the moment it is easy to write a chapter a day, or maybe even two. It takes the pressure off and feels like a quick dip into this exciting story.
How do you select the names of your characters? Do you know everything about them before you start writing their story?
I love thinking up names for characters. Sapphire Beach had ‘normal’ names, as it was more realistic. Martha seemed a good fit for my main character, even though she got on my nerves a lot. For Walled City I used Latin words, turning them into names, fitting the character of my people. Gax, the main character, is a different story. His is based on a fun word, which was the nickname of a friend’s son, haha, very involved, but fun for me.
Burrowed is the same, Latin words, made into surnames. For the first names, I used a baby names site for unusual names and looked again for meaning to fit the roles of my characters. I started to build a character sheet for my characters, as it helps a lot with their non-verbal communications, and the way the story will move forward. In Beyond the Hills, the character changed a lot during the story, although she did have a few brief lapses back into the rather unpleasant person she used to be.
How long on average does it take you to write a book or story?
It doesn’t take long to write my books. As long as I have book dreamed the story, haha. I do think about what might happen next to the characters, or things will come to mind. Sapphire beach took me six weeks to write, then a long time to have it edited and published. Walled City took a little longer to write, as it was so spread out. Beyond the Hills was two NaNoWriMos and an extra week. Stories are building up in my head at the moment, so Burrowed will have to be done in quite a disciplined way. I have a feeling my next few books will have to be like that too, otherwise it will take too long before I can tackle the next exciting project. I have really fallen in love with writing, and it’s harder to keep the stories in. I love the idea of setting writing goals, and it’s making it easier to then simply wait for the next story to start.
When I wrote Sapphire Beach, it was the only story in my heart and mind. Walled City came along, and halfway through, the next book announced itself, and the next… So now there are all these ideas and stories lined up in my head. I see an interesting picture, and a story grows. So I will have to be more disciplined! I’m loving it though, and have been writing for a magazine and various blogs as well, which allows me to try out different things, like poetry, short storytelling and non-fiction writing.
I also found that I’m more critical with what I have written, so I have started editing bits, which I never did before. In Burrowed, one of the characters is a poet, so I have included bits of poetry, again, just to challenge myself.
Thank you for joining me in the tearoom, Maressa. To find out more about Maressa’s work please click on the links below:
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEJw3r5gW6twS4XztDJpiww
If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Members’ Books, don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops, too.