The Writing Life of: Nia Lucas
This week on ‘The Writing Life of:‘ I am thrilled to be interviewing author Nia Lucas. Nia will be sharing with us detail of her writing life, telling us all about her latest book ‘Love Punked‘, which was released on 5th August 2018, and answering a few fun questions too.
So without further ado I’ll hand you over to Nia Lucas
I am a UK based author of contemporary fiction who is passionate about telling the stories of strong, sympathetic, entertaining and engaging characters and the lives that they lead. My Welsh heritage and my life as a practising Social Worker with teenagers and their families heavily influences my work as does my love of all things 90’s and a misspent youth immersed in clubbing culture.
My books like to dip their toes in multiple genres – Contemporary Fiction, New Adult, ChickLit, Romantic fiction and even Suspense. I like to keep my options open and my readers hooked. My first novel, ‘Love Punked’ is now available on Amazon, rated 5* and my second Novel ‘Choices Shape, Losses Break’ is scheduled for release in early 2019.
1) As a child what did you want to do when you grew up?
A nun. No, really. I smile every time I say or type this but it’s the truth. Having grown up in a Catholic household, it seemed to be a genuine career option. I imagined singing arias oh-so-tunefully in echoing chapels, serenely tending to veggie patches and convincing Captain Von Trapp that I’d be a wise choice. It lasted for all of three months before I met a real nun. A truly terrifying French woman whose glacial glare was akin to a death ray and who shouted at me as I fidgeted during Mass. She killed that career choice stone dead.
Mind you, even if she hadn’t terrified me, I’m pretty sure that my first encounter with a poster of Jordan from New Kids on the Block when I was aged nine would have terminated that career plan anyway.
2) Who were your favourite childhood authors?
My favourite authors were Dodi Smith, Paul Zindel, Jean Estoril and Tessa Duder. I absorbed their books for hours and have even bought my kids their own copies of my favourite novels which sit unread…..gathering dust……as they watch morons on YouTube instead……
3) At what point in your life did you realise you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been pretty slow on the uptake and unsurprisingly this was no different. I have always loved writing. I really love it. I am a Social Worker in my ‘day job’ and the process of crafting things like Court Reports or Care Plans, about people who I was really invested in and wanted the best for, was something that I genuinely enjoyed. My reports and assessments were always twice as long as they needed to be, causing my poor bosses endless despair.
I only started writing for ‘fun’ about six years ago, when I started a blog for my own amusement. In February 2016, I sat down in my knackered old armchair and I started to write the story of characters who had lived in my brain for too long, detailing a story that I knew inside out because it had been in my head for years. That action of finger-tapping-key, writing an actual, full-length novel was probably the point at which I became a writer. So, in summary, it’s been 2 and a half years since I realised that I wanted to be a writer……you can see why my poor bosses felt that despair……a sentence would probably have answered this one, eh?
4) How did you go about following that dream?
I wrote. I spent a few months (it really didn’t take that long to write- it sort of fell out of me) typing for at least 4 hours a night (I don’t sleep). I wrote my book until I finished what I wanted to say. Then I sent it to an agent. He really liked it. He asked for the full manuscript. I sent it to him. You could hear the *gulp* in the email that asked…..”Er, how long is this manuscript?”. So I told him, “679,000 words”. I swear I could hear the hysterical laughter from the other end of the computer. He very gently told me that this was longer than War and Peace and that I might want to edit it. Cheeky I thought.
He told me to split it into several books and so I did, spending 8 months chopping up, rewriting and playing with my book (not easy, it was like dismembering my child, it made me feel awful). However, I finally sent it to him as a three part story and he told me that he didn’t have space in his schedule for a trilogy. I sent a grateful and polite reply back whilst mentally walloping him with a frozen halibut.
I then kept writing whilst sending out endless emails to Literary Agents and Publishers. Full manuscripts requested but more return emails followed with ‘We really like it but it doesn’t fit in with our publishing schedule/portfolio plans at this time’. Undeterred, I wrote four further books as the polite email rebuttals for my first book persisted. Still not so much as a nibble.
But people kept reading my drafts, they kept on telling me how much they loved the characters, how my words made them laugh and cry and become attached to fictional people. They told me that it ‘any day now’ somebody with the power to launch my books into the giddy heights of the Tesco reduced aisle, would email me back.
That day has yet to come. So I thought ‘bollocks to it’ and I clicked on Amazon’s KDP self-publishing toolkit. I’m doing this on my own because my book keeps on getting 5* reviews and people keep messaging me to tell me how much they regret reading it on the train because they snorted and cried aloud and made people look at them funny. An agent would be amazing, a bit like being married to Ryan Reynolds I imagine but as I have neither on offer right now, I’m following my dream solo.
5) What is your writing day like? Do you aim for a certain amount of pages or words before you stop for the day?
I write at night, when my kids/rabbits/hamsters/husband/distractions sleep. I write until I’m tired enough to go to sleep or until I finish a section that has captured me. I have pretty poor impulse control so I have to be careful. I once looked up from the screen and realised that it was 4.30am and I had two hours of sleep on offer before I had to go to work…….
6) Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I do. Nia Lucas is not my real name and this is out of necessity as opposed to vanity (my real name isn’t Hilda Ogglefart or anything). I am a practising Social Worker and I keep my work life and my writing life entirely separate.
7) Do you have any strange habits before starting, or whilst in the midst of writing?
Ah, if only it was just whilst I was in the writing process………in reality, I have many strange habits but few relate to writing. When I write, I do have to sit in my lopsided writing chair, with my legs tucked under me in a manner which will undoubtedly propel me into osteoarthritis and I like to type in a dark room. I do listen to music while I write, Trance music mainly from the 90’s. Other than that, I’m good.
8) Do you write longhand, typewriter, or on a computer?
On a laptop. A bitter, vindictive, stubborn and crumb-filled laptop with the battery life of a mayfly and a propensity for error codes and full-scale hard drive collapse.
9) How many books have you written? Do you have any unpublished work?
I have written five books in total so I have 4 unpublished. My next book is now scheduled for release in February 2019.
10) Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Pants. Every damn time.
11) Do you read all the reviews left for your book(s)?
I love reading reviews- good, bad or sad. I’m really, genuinely scared though because I’ve been fortunate enough to have only really had positive reviews so far (if you don’t count the deafening silence from agents that is…..) but my book’s Blog Tour is coming up soon. I can’t help but worry that all that good luck, all that positivity that I have experienced so far is going to be cosmically balanced out by a big dose of raspberries from the lovely bloggers on my tour. I’m not sure how well I’ll handle that……I know it will involve unseemly scenes with confectionary………
Concerning your latest book:
Pages – 438
Release Date – 5th August 2018
ISBN 13 – 978-1717868091
Format – ebook, paperback
When her life is irrevocably altered by a post-Rave tryst on her mother’s floral patio recliner, Erin Roberts’ long-standing relationship with Humiliation takes her down a path that’s not so much ‘less well trodden’, more ‘perilous descent down sheer cliffs’.
Armed with a fierce devotion to her best friend and the unrequited love for the boy she might have accidentally married at age seven, when Erin falls pregnant at sixteen, life veers off at a most unexpected tangent.
Her journey to adulthood is far from ordinary as Erin learns that protecting the hearts of those most precious to you isn’t balm enough when your Love Punked heart is as sore as your freshly tattooed arse.
Whilst raising football prodigies and trying not to get stuck in lifts with Social Work clients who hate her, Erin discovers that sometimes you have to circumnavigate the globe to find the very thing that was there all along.
12) How long did it take you to get from the idea’s stage to your date of publication?
I started writing ‘Love Punked’ in January 2018 and I published it on the 21st July 2018.
13) How did you come up with the names for your characters?
I always choose names that can have multiple contractions. For example, Erin, the protagonist in ‘Love Punked’, is referred to as Erin, Rinny or Rin by different people. I use contractions as a tool in my writing- characters will often stick to one particular contraction for a certain person and in multi-character scenes, I find this assists the reader. I use it to demonstrate affection too.
Nicknames and contractions were/are a big part of my Welsh family’s culture and we are rarely referred to by our proper names. In fact, I can count the number of times I’ve referred to my husband by his proper name on two hands and we have been together for over 20 years. I can’t remember the last time I used my brother’s real name. I think he may have been a baby in nappies. He is currently 37.
14) Can you give us an insight into your main character(s) life?, What makes them tick?
Erin and Jamel are, on paper, polar opposites. Erin is the feisty, gobby, quick-witted, up for anything and humiliation-prone best mate that we all wish we had. Jamel is an introverted, scowling, ‘bad lad’ with with a complicated and painful past. Erin has experienced stability, an affectionate family, she is an able pupil at school, she has supportive and positive friendships and she has clear goals for herself.
Jamel has experienced a disrupted and abusive adolescence, he’s lacked stability, he’s made truly terrible decisions and he enters the novel with few positive or supportive relationships. However, these characters are united by a life-changing event and their journey sees them bonded in ways they never imagined. At the heart of everything that Erin does is her kindness and her desire to be the best Mum she can be, as an unexpected tangent in her life becomes her greatest achievement. For Jamel, Erin’s arrival in his life turns out to be a miracle that had turned up looking like a disaster.
In all that they say and do, Jamel and Erin challenge stereotypes of young offenders and teenage parents, they get the reader to question the views that they hold about the ‘type’ of young people that they are. They are inadvertent ambassadors for the marginalised groups that they occupy.
Most crucially, they are both motivated by love. The love that binds families together, the sort of love that makes people sacrifice their own wants and needs for the sake of the people they care about the most.
15) Which was your hardest scene to write?
There is a scene in which Erin faces an unintentionally brutal rejection by somebody that she loves very deeply. Her heart is smashed right in front of the reader and she runs a whole gamut of emotions, including surprise and astonishment. The one that she reacts with eventually is anger, although I’d wrestled with the idea of her collapsing in tears, begging or walking out when I was writing the scene.
Erin is a genuinely endearing mix of feistiness and vulnerability but what she does is resolutely internalise her feelings, she rarely lets her vulnerability show. It was a scene I grappled with, more than any other. I needed to make her reaction demonstrate her strength, her resolve whilst she was at her most vulnerable. The other character in the scene has to convey a lot of important information, information that alters both Erin and the readers’ understanding of past events whilst he too grapples with loss, frustration and heartbreak.
I wrote a whole array of different versions of this scene. I hope I chose the right one for the book!
16) How did you come up with the title of your book?
For ages, I knew I wanted the title of the book to reflect the role that love, in all of its different forms, plays in the character’s lives. It was this sentence that Erin says in that difficult-to-write scene, that gave me the title,
“I am so sick of getting punked by heart-shit, I feel like on my grave they’re going to write, ‘Here lies Erin Roberts, she was eternally Love Punked but bore it like a friggin’ trouper’”
17) Did you get a family member/friend to read your work before sending to the publishers?
Absolutely! I had a whole load of people read ‘Love Punked’ before I considered publishing it. I took on board a lot of their suggestions, in particular some of the timelines were altered by a really useful bit of feedback from a close friend. I get friends, family and unconnected people to read all the things I write- it helps to reassure me!
18) What process did you go through to get your book published?
With no agent, I did get offered contracts by some of the very large companies that are sometimes referred to as ‘Vanity Publishers’. These are the companies that often offer ‘hybrid’ contracts to authors, needing the author to pay upfront for their services. I danced around like a lunatic when the offer letters turned up but then I turned on my brain and realised that if I was going to do all the hard work myself, I might as well use a method that didn’t require me to pay money as well! I know that those companies are very successful, with a model that many people find so useful but it wasn’t for me. I did a bit of research and found that the KDP toolkit was pretty idiot-proof and so I went with that!
19) What did you do once you had written the final word in your book?
Screamed- it turned out that my laptop had not synced with Google Docs for several weeks and all of my final amendments and edits had not saved properly. The fix involved random things like taking photos of pages on my ipad on my phone…..don’t ask. The celebration was marred somewhat.
20) What’s next for you, writing-wise?
I am currently tidying up, editing and amending my next book, “Choices Shape, Losses Break”. This is the first book I ever wrote, it is the 650k word behemoth that nearly made me assault an Agent with seafood. It is now a much more digestible size but it still needs work! It’s a lot darker in tone than ‘Love Punked’, exploring some really complex and dangerous relationships.
As with ‘Love Punked’, love remains one of the critical themes but in “Choices”, the focus is on the absence of love and the impact that this has on the three main characters and their relationship with each other.
It’s more challenging subject material tips it into the realms of contemporary fiction and suspense, whilst retaining New Adult and contemporary romance themes.
1) What’s your favourite food?
Anything cooked by my friend, Will Nimako. He owns his own small business, cooking from his house and his food is AMAZING!! He makes this incredible combination of simple favourites like mac’n’cheese but they’re mixed in with spicy African and Caribbean curries and stews. The boy can COOK! I would eat his cooking all day every day if I could……and then I’d wait for the firemen to have to cut the roof off my house and winch me out when I got too big to use the front door…..
This is the link to his FB Page: www.facebook.com/willsmeals
2) If you had a box of crayons and you could only choose one, which colour would you choose?
Electric blue. Every time.
3) What movie could you watch over and over again?
4) What would be the top song on your playlist?
Memories by Kid Cudi and David Guetta.
5) If you won millions, what would be your first purchase?
A classic Ford Capri which I’d spray Cadbury’s purple and fit out with electric blue velvet seats.
6) A talking duck walks into your room wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, whats the first thing he says to you?
“Where the f*ck are my car keys and why is Ryan Reynolds naked in your bed?”
You can find out more about Nia Lucas by visiting the website/social media sites below.
I would like to say a big thank you to Nia Lucas for sharing with us details of her writing life, and for a wonderful interview.