Interview with Zoe Harris of Upcoming Novel ‘Amaranth’

Who, Where, Book Title, Book Elevator Pitch/Synopsis
The easiest way to tell you about Amaranth is to share with you the basic pitch I am currently sending out to agents:
In ancient Greece the peerless beauty, Amaranth, walks into the Alcyonian Lake and drowns, becoming the first immortal eidolon. Thousands of years later in the modern-day city of Lennox, nineteen-year-old Eva Hamilton throws herself off a cliff and awakens unharmed on the rocks below. With no memory of why she jumped and unaware she is bound by the eidolon curse, she must dwell amongst the living, unseen and unheard, until she discovers the secret of her new existence.
Timothy, another eidolon who lived in the 1920s, believes he can guide Eva to a place of peace, but she is torn between his promises of release and her need to protect Nicky, an eight-year-old mortal girl who can see and hear eidolons.
Eva must choose between the love she feels for Nicky, her blossoming romance with Timothy and the promise of eternal rest. But the lost myth that binds her holds far darker secrets than merely the nature of her existence.
Amaranth is the first book in The Eidolon Trilogy.

What role does writing play in your life?
Writing has always played some role in my life, though at times it was not much more than a cameo. I wrote prolifically as a child and teenager, and always wanted to write a novel someday. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say, “I’m going to be an author”. From writing Dr Suess-style books and poems as a five-year-old, I went on to begin a high fantasy novel at age 13, but never completed it. As a project in my final year of high school I wrote a stage play adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “The Devoted Friend” which was later performed by matriculating drama students for assessment in the years after I finished school.
In 2002 I began an Advanced Diploma in Professional Writing, but completed only three of the four years, opting instead to move to Norway with my Norwegian partner.
I have pursued a career in IT project management, which has always required a certain amount of writing skill; I needed to write business proposals, statements of work and other business documents. But although I maintained a blog site that detailed my life as an ex-pat, I still itched to write creatively again. In 2009 the inspiration for Amaranth struck and I began to write in the evenings, on weekends and at any spare moment I could find.
Shortly afterwards I fell pregnant and the writing went back on the shelf. I was unsatisfied with the idea, and it needed time to properly form. During my pregnancy and the first year of my daughter’s life, the book would resurface here and there, morph, and slide back into my subconscious. In September 2011 when I went back to work, I was ready to pick up where I left off, and decided to keep one day per week for myself to write. I decided that if I had not been productive by the end of the year, I would stop writing and go back to work full time. This lit just the right kind of fire, and I worked hard, producing 3-5000 words per week. By March, the first draft was complete, and I was ready to edit.
My current day job is as a documentation specialist for Opera Software in Oslo.

Like most Authors, life requires you to wear many hats during the day, how have you made time in your business schedule to write?
As mentioned, I still take one day off work per week to write. I treat this day as I would any other work day; I stay focused on my writing, working straight through the day, often forgetting to stop for lunch. I make a plan on those mornings of what I want to achieve that day, and then I work solidly until my daughter gets home from daycare. I use the time it takes to walk her to daycare in the morning to form the scenes I want to write so that by the time I sit down at my computer, I’m ready to start.
If I have the energy, and boring things like housework don’t take over, I often work in the evenings and on weekends when my daughter is napping, though I rarely write at those times. I spend the time working on my marketing plan, networking with other writers and sending out submissions.

What are your aspirations for your titles?
I aim to publish, but how that will come about is still unsure. I am seeking representation from an agent while simultaneously submitting direct to smaller publishing houses in the UK, US and Australia. I have set myself a goal that if I have not had success through traditional publishing routes by September, I will self-publish. A fellow writer and I are currently in discussions regarding setting up our own publishing imprints under the indie publishing house my editor is establishing.

At what point writing Amaranth did you begin to work with an Editor? What benefits, insights or learnings have you gained through the process?
I was lucky enough to be offered editing assistance through a friend. She had recently worked with an editor who was looking for other similar novels to edit; she gave him a sample of mine and he was interested and contacted me. At this point I was two or three chapters from completing my first draft. I was nervous about the process at first, but in reality found it fascinating and inspiring. It was wonderful to work with someone who was as passionate about and involved with my characters as I was. He helped me add depth to the overall story as well as the characters themselves, and gave whole new layers to the book. He also helped me pick up on bad habits (repeated words, for example) and with pacing and general structure. It was an immensely positive experience, and the book has improved exponentially. If we ever disagreed, he would state his reasons for making a change, I’d consider them, and if I decided not to take his advice, he was fine with that. It’s important that authors are aware that a good editor will never try to make your writing their own; they will help you strengthen your own work.

Do you have any advice to other Authors who are looking to find a literary agent to work with?
Look for agents who represent your genre; research who they represent and personalise every submission. Don’t try to be “different” in your query letter/submission letter, just be clear, respectful and give as much information in as succinct way as possible. Read each agent’s submission guidelines carefully and follow them to the letter. Have other writers read your base letter and synopsis before sending it out. If submitting in the US, http://www.querytracker.net is an invaluable tool to keep track of your submissions and get information on agents.

You’re now working on the sequel to Amaranth, and you mention on your blog http://www.zoewrites.com [1] the difficulties of finding an authentic voice for your lead character the second time round, how are you shifting your mindset to allow the book to form?
As I mentioned in the blog post on this topic, for me the best way seems to be to use a “method acting” approach: I really have to get into my main character’s head. Think how she would think, react how she would react. So it’s essential to know who the characters are, how they interact with those around them and what they would do in any given situation. Nuances of speech are important, too. Knowing whether a character would swear, what kind of slang they use, how they address different people and even how their inner voice sounds when they think are all important things to keep in mind.

What role has building your online author platform, through your site and social media, played in developing your profile as an Author?
This is something I’m just starting now. I believe it is essential for any author today, regardless of whether you self-publish or have a traditional contract, to have a solid online presence. Authors are expected to take on some of their own marketing and networking, even if they have a “big six” contract, and this is especially true for me, since I am located in Norway and my target audience will primarily be in the English-speaking countries. In this sense, online media are crucial to raising awareness about my books and my future projects.

Do you have any other advice for those madly typing away or dreaming about doing so?
Many writers will tell you to write something, anything, every day, even if you end up deleting it. This approach works for some, but I don’t think it’s for everyone. My advice would be to pay attention to everything around you with a writer’s eyes and ears; there are stories everywhere. Inspiration is all around you. Whenever someone says or does something that makes you go “huh!”, there’s a story in it. Writing is as much in your mind as it is on paper, so to me, thinking about writing and story telling is as essential as writing itself. Oh, and read. A lot.
Beyond that, set yourself realistic goals with realistic time frames. Make time in your day to write, and make sure that you are free of distractions for that time. And I don’t mean five minutes, but a minimum of an hour, preferably longer. Turn off your wifi if you’re tempted to faff about on Facebook or check your mail every five minutes. Get a paper dictionary and thesaurus so you don’t need to be online to check words (i.e. avoid the temptation to get distracted). Think about your characters, story or conflicts whenever you have spare time, instead of playing with your phone: the shower, the toilet, at the gym, on the bus… all these are great times to let your imagination flow.
Never go anywhere without some means to write down an idea. Pen and paper, or smart phone, or voice recorder, whatever works for you. Believe me, that great idea is a slippery as wet jelly, and you will forget!

To follow Zoe’s journey as an Author, you can visit her blog at www.zoewrites.com

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3 thoughts on “Interview with Zoe Harris of Upcoming Novel ‘Amaranth’

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  3. Pingback: Partner With Barefoot Basics in 2014 | Rochelle Stone – Barefoot Basics – Soul Inspired Communication and Marketing Strategies for Women in Business

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