Lucy’s website: http://www.bang2write.com
Amazon Author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00EZ45CIC
Lucy V Hay has packed quite a lot into her young life. She is a screenwriter, editor and novelist, and is also a trained teacher, a fellow cancer survivor, and one of the organisers of the London Screenwriters’ Festival. If this isn’t enough she also has three children to look after! Lucy gives good advice to aspiring screenwriters and novelists on her website http://www.bang2write.com
1. Indie authors are constantly told to ‘increase their author platform’ to get their work noticed. How did you increase your author platform at the start of your writing career?
Blogging! I started years ago, back when AOL had “Hometown” – remember that?? – think it was 2004-5. I wasn’t an author back then, but I was trying to launch my new script reading business and I needed clients, basically. There was no Twitter or Facebook and writers (believe it or not) were difficult to find, then! It was a slog, but I posted in various bulletins, message boards and so on and eventually, bit by bit, I created a following. Though my business has always been called “Bang2write”, my blog originally was called “The Write Stuff” (le groan) and I imagined the only people reading it were my script reading clients … But then I started getting emails from readers all over the world, with feedback on my articles, the design, even writing questions! That’s when I realised I could create a “name” for myself doing this and get into the screenwriting world more that way – and I did.
2. Did you suffer years of rejection by literary agencies before finding representation?
I had an agent before I’d even written a book, because I was writing screenplays and doing corporate work. Because I know agents through my script reading and script editing, I never found it problematic to get an agent to represent a project if I needed one, then I moved on to being an actual client eventually. I think having those relationships are key: people will always help you if you help them and are good at what you do. Lots of writers think having an agent is the be-all and end-all, but having an agent made no difference to the amount of work I had to put in, or the amount of rejections I’ve had. That said, I would much prefer to have an agent than not have one – it’s someone in your corner, plus I genuinely like mine and the agency! – but it’s not a magic bullet. I think a lot of new writers don’t realise that.
3. Tell us about your latest book ‘Jasmine’s Story’. How much of yourself is in Jasmine?
THE DECISION: JASMINE’S STORY is a tale of best friends and betrayal. Jasmine and Olivia have been friends since they were babies and no one’s ever got between them, until Ellie. Ellie is the same age and a tourist girl who comes to Winby for the summer with her family, where The Decision Series is set. Ellie is from London and seems very sophisticated; Jasmine is very taken with her, though Olivia hates her. However, there’s lots Jasmine doesn’t know about the situation. Everything starts to unravel when Jasmine is invited to Ellie’s party and Olivia is not: Jasmine has to decide between being popular like Ellie, or loyalty to her oldest friend. What seems like a simple decision at first becomes more and more complicated as the book goes on.
As for Jasmine being part of me, all of my writing has autobiographical elements; I am inspired by real events and real people constantly. I don’t think it’s possible to NOT “write what you know” to some extent, because even when we try and look at the world with someone else’s eyes, we’re still processing it through our own. But Jasmine is not really me at all. She’s sporty (I’m so not); she’s into science and academia (nope); she’s an only child (I was part of a big family); she’s quiet, too (no way!). She’s also very mixed up, not sure of the right thing to do, whereas I’ve always been quite a straightforward person. So Jasmine does not come from me personally, but instead the many, many conversations I’ve had with teenage girls over the years about their friendships with other girls, especially when I was a teacher at secondary schools.
4. You’re also a screenwriter and editor as well as a novelist, and one of the organisers of the London Screenwriters’ Festival. How do you find the time for all these activities as well as being a mother to young children?
I just believe in the motto, “if you want something done, ask a busy person”! As a teen Mum, I was basically a parent before I was an adult, so it was a question of, “What do I want to do and how am I going to do it?” It was hard, sure, but I really think the biggest barrier anyone has is him/herself. But I’m in charge of myself, so believe I can take that barrier away. This is not possible for everyone and I am aware I have been in a privileged position: my parents did not flip out when I was a teen Mum and always supported me in my endeavours; they did not think my life was over, so why should I? And it’s for that reason I feel so strongly we must support teenage parents all we can.
5. You moved house quite a lot as a child. Which part of the country do you feel most at home in?
Where I live now, Devon. I love the sea, the hills, the trees and the clean air and even the fact it’s a slower pace of living down here, even if it means queues in shops are EVERYWHERE and WiFi is simply terrible where I am.
6. You are a trained teacher amongst your many accomplishments. When I was at school many moons ago and talked too much, I either got the board rubber thrown at me by the teacher, or hit over the knuckles with a ruler. This worked quite well in shutting me up. How does a modern teacher maintain discipline in the classroom? Is it difficult?
It’s very difficult being a teacher in general, because you have to juggle a lot and behaviour can be much worse than it was even just twenty years ago. Teachers are overly scrutinised and blamed a lot, too. The education system needs a complete overhaul in my opinion, many successive governments have eroded it horribly.
7. Do you think an Indie author should constantly tweet about their book? Do people actually read the tweets anyway?
Twitter is incredibly important. I know people read the tweets because I do! I have discovered so many great books, writers and even friends. All via Twitter.
8. Who is your favourite author?
Depends on the day! I love Sarah Dessen and Laurie Halse Anderson, but also Dean Koontz; Stephen King; Clive Barker and the classics as well.
9. Do you still suffer with anxiety sometimes?
Yes. People find this surprising because I come across as a very confident person, but sometimes I get panic attacks and you’ll usually find me throwing up before I do big events like London Screenwriters’ Festival!
10. Your website www.bang2write.com is a mine of useful information for would-be screenwriters and novelists. How do you deal with wannabes whose prose is so bad that there is no way you would ever be able to help them?
I don’t believe there is a writer alive who CAN’T improve, but they do have to want to and they do have to be open to constructive criticism. In the cases when they aren’t, I’ll grit my teeth and then never read for them again. I have a list!
11. Have any of your scripts been made into a film?
Not mine personally, but as a script editor I have consulted on many produced films, plus I’m the associate producer of DEVIATION (2012) and ASSASSIN (2014). You can see a list of produced films here www.bang2write.com/films
12. How many re-writes of a novel should an author do before it is ready to send to literary agencies?
How long is a piece of string? At the very LEAST, you should 3 I think – and I don’t mean tinkering and just moving words around on a page! I mean proper rewrites, looking at structure and character, right down to punctuation, spelling, eradicating passive voice, etc.
13. What is number one on your bucket list?
I’m not well travelled because I’ve never been well off, so there’s loads of places I want to go. Mostly to “off the beaten track” places, to see new cultures etc. I’m not interested in sitting on a beach.
14. You’ve done work experience in the past at a literary agency. Is there really a ‘slush’ pile that never gets looked at, or does every submission get read?
Depends on the agency. I have seen piles like The Leaning Tower of Pisa, but other places do read everything … and of course, the pile is not so obvious now, ‘cos so many agencies only want electronic submissions.
15. When every single subject has probably been written about hundreds of times before, how can an Indie author make their take on it stand out from the rest?
By bringing their POV and set of experiences to the story, but also by NOT relying just on gut instinct to tell them how great their idea is! We have to really make sure our concepts are bombproof. Writers often tell me, “Oh but if I’m writing it, then it must be unique!” No, it doesn’t. You HAVE to do a stack of market research and see what’s gone before. You’ve got to make sure you’re not accidentally copying, because this happens ALL THE TIME. Don’t believe me? Check out your nearest spec pile!
16. You are on a desert island:
Your one book – IMAJICA by Clive Barker
Your one piece of music – Songs of Faith & Devotion by Depeche Mode
Your one item of luxury – toothbrush!
17. You write about being a teenage mother. Will you dissuade your own children from falling into the teenage parent trap, or do you think it’s a good idea to have your children when you’re young and adaptable?
“Teenage parent trap” – that’s an interesting choice of words of a writer! 😉 I don’t think it’s a trap; society insists it is and can make it so, making it more difficult for young parents to achieve. I always think that’s odd, because if you think about it, help the teenage parent and you help the child and then society gets two for the price of one! But I achieved despite the odds and I know lots of young women (and men!) who’ve done the same. But none of us should have had to struggle like that. We didn’t do anything wrong; we only had babies! So if my children do become parents young – through accident or choice – I’ll help them do whatever they want or need to do, just as I will help them if they’re older parents too. Kids are a blessing and parenthood makes you see the world in new ways. There will be no proclamations of doom from me. Plus yes, I think I would have always chosen to have my kids younger than older. I had my last at 31 and I was shocked by how much more tired I was than at 18 or even 25. Plus, had I not had my son when I did at 18, I would never had a boy at all because I had two girls afterwards, followed by cancer at 32; I now can’t have any more kids. I would have missed my chance. That’s quite a sobering thought. We often say to young people, “have a kid later”, but the cancer taught me you don’t know if you will get a later biologically, whereas, your dreams and ambitions CAN be put on the back-burner. That’s not to say everyone should do it that way round, I believe it’s up to personal choice, but I am so glad I did!
18. Do you ever want to run away from it all and lie on a beach in perfect peace and quiet with nobody around?
No, it would be dull. I would like to be alone and go for a walk somewhere lovely though. I don’t get to be alone much! 😉
19. Who would you like to have been in history?
Me. And I am, so that’s good!
20. Any new projects in the pipeline?
Yes, London Screenwriters Festival 2014 is round the corner and I will be running the script labs there again; plus my latest screenwriting book, WRITING AND SELLING DRAMA SCREENPLAYS will also be out in October 2014. I’m also working on a romantic comedy book, called WEEKENDED. It’s a new adult title and a standalone book, not part of The Decision series. It started off as a novella of 30K words, but my Beta readers were so enthusiastic about it (particularly one character) that I’ve decided to extend it to a full novel. It’s about three friends who all find love in the course a single weekend and what impact it has on them all. And because I don’t have enough to do (!) I’m also writing a commissioned novella called SKYJACK that should be out the beginning of next year as part of Cannibal Films’ digital distribution strategy for their movie, TEAR ME APART www.tearmeapartmovie.com
Thanks Lucy for taking time out in your busy schedule to answer my questions, and giving such an informative and interesting interview. Also, thanks for joining my book club!