Today I’m incredibly excited to be interviewing Chantelle Atkins Author of This Is Nowhere.
Welcome Chantelle please tell us a little about yourself and your book.
What inspired you to create…This Is Nowhere?
I had the character in my head for a while before the plot came. That’s usually the way it works with me. I knew he was male and had escaped a dysfunctional family in order to live life on his terms. Once I had his character it was easy enough to create the plot based around his poor relationship with his sister and father. It came to me early on that his mother went missing when he was a child and that he would return to his home town to solve the mystery of what happened to her. I was hugely inspired by where I live, which is a small village in Christchurch. The book is set here and I use a lot of the locations in the story. Sopley Common, for instance, is a beautiful, lonely place and every time I walked there I’d get more ideas for the book.
What is your writing routine? are you a pantster or planner?
I’m a bit of both. Usually, I get the character first, and as I get to know them in my head, their life and then the plot of a story starts to evolve. But sometimes the idea or concept arrives first. I have a notebook for each book, and once the ideas get too big in my head I start jotting things down, and a loose plan/plot will start to form, alongside bits of dialogue and character bios . By the time I get around to starting the first draft, I will know what the first few chapters will be like, and then I jot them down in the notebook as and when they come. This can look very messy and chaotic to anyone else but it always makes sense to me. Often the plot will take a different turn and I will figure things out as I go along.
Did you have a favourite place you like to write, while you were creating your novel?
Most of it was written in my kitchen, holding onto my then newborn son! Since then, I have acquired my own writing space upstairs in my room, which is a lot better. A lot of the book came together while walking my dogs over Sopley Common, which features heavily in the story. I’d find ideas slotting together and rush back home to write them down. The ending came to me while walking there, for instance
Describe what your Muse looks like to you in three words.
Obsessed, addicted, passionate
What part of writing your novel did you most enjoy? E.g. First draft, research, editing…
I always enjoy the second draft the most. The first is a bit scary as you attempt to pull off the ideas you’ve had in your head. It changes course and throws up obstacles and it’s also clunky and clumsy and nowhere near what it will end up being. The last drafts can be tedious and painstaking as you go over errors and get quite sick of the story. The second draft is fun because you are still familiarising yourself with the charactersand the plot, and you know it’s not perfect as there is so much more work to be done, but there’s no pressure at this point. The story is written so the bulk of the hard work is done, and the more tedious work comes later.
If you could be one of your characters, which one would you be and why?
In this book, I think I would be May. I love her sunny outlook. She’s unconventional and hasn’t had an easy time, but she doesn’t let it get her down, and she strives for something better. She’s also quite childlike which I can relate to!
Which character did you like writing about the most? Why?
In this book, I would say Jake. I liked writing Jake from the child’s point of view, and then the adults. I liked the journey he went on. He was interesting to me, because he was harmless and gentle, yet also strangely self-destructive and lost.
What’s your favourite subject to write about? Why?
I would say the complexities of family life. All my books seem to revolve around family issues and drama, mixed in with social issues.
Dreamer, damaged, lost
What is the darkest thing any of your characters have ever done?
In This Is Nowhere, the darkest thing Jake does is try to commit suicide several times. In my other books, one character becomes dangerously obsessed with her weight and in my darkest book, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, one of the characters is driven to murder.
Does any of your characters have any strong beliefs or fears if so what are they?
Yes, beliefs and fears are quite strong themes in this particular book. Jake was brought up by a fiercely religious father, but at a young age, meets a wild young boy who has been brought up as an atheist. He also has a homeless man as a friend who believes in nature, and nothing else. Jake struggles throughout the book to find something to believe in. He feels like he is nothing and nowhere, invisible and fading. The book is about his attempts to find meaning in life and his own existence.
Who are your favourite Authors?
My favourite authors are Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, S.E Hinton and the indie author Kate Rigby
What was the best advice you’ve ever had while writing your novels?
I love Stephen King’s advice about writing the first draft as if no one is ever going to see it. I think it allows you to relax and just spit it out and not worry about how bad it might be to start with. I also read that Lois Lowry was given some advice on how best to start a book, which was ‘start with the day that is different’, and that’s really stuck with me since then. I think she nailed it.
What projects are you working on next?
I have been working on the relaunch of This Is Nowhere. It’s had a revamped cover, and I’ve changed the book too, as originally I had fictionalised the location, although it was where I lived. In this new version I have changed all the street names, towns and so on, back to what they are actually called. So it is set in Hurn, Christchurch exactly as it is! I have two books that are nearly ready for release and I’ve been working on these for two years, back and forth. One is a YA dystopian novel, which is finished, and I am currently sending it out to small presses and competitions. If I don’t have any luck within three months I will place it with Pronoun, the self-publishing platform I have my other books with. The second book is Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature, which is an adult book about a boy who tries to prove to his mother that humans are not all terrible, by following and befriending strangers. It’s currently with one last beta reader, and will then have one last, final draft done before I also send it out to publishers and competitions. Both these books will hopefully be out in 2017! I have also completed the second draft of a gritty YA novel called A Song For Bill Robinson, which is about an alcoholic teenage singer. I wrote it when I was 16 and found it in a suitcase under my bed and knew I had to rewrite and release it. I also have a four book YA series plotted and planned!
Do you have any advice for fellow writers who maybe undertaking creating their first novel at this very moment?
Join a writing group if you can, for support and networking. Knowing other writers online and in real life has been invaluable to me. Family and friends don’t really get it, so there is a great need to surround yourself with like minded people, I find. You may have to give something up in order to get it done. I have four children and I also run writing groups and workshops, and I’m a dog walker. Something had to give so I don’t watch any TV except on Saturday. I do all my writing in the evening, six days a week without fail.
Any final words you would like to add?
I would like to thank you so much for showing and interest in me and my books and for having me on your blog!
Thank you Chantelle Atkins for taking time to do this blog interview, it has been a real pleasure to hear about your novel, I wish you well with your novel and all other writing projects you may undertake in the future.
This Is Nowhere.
Jake Morgan has never been scared of dying. It’s living he can’t quite commit to. Homeless, jobless and aimless, he thinks he is happy. Then one night his estranged sister Gina calls him back to the home he ran away from as a teenager. Their father is suffering from dementia and she thinks it is about time Jake grew up. With nowhere else to go, and loan sharks on his back, Jake returns to the small village he grew up in. He goes back to help his father, but ends up being forced to face the question he ran from. What really happened to his mother who vanished in 1996? Jake decides it’s time he had some answers, if only to stop himself constantly wondering what the point of his existence is. Will he be able to get Gina on side to uncover the truth? Will his confused father be able to help him work out what was wrong with his mother? And when he finds it, will Jake really be able to handle the truth? This Is Nowhere is a story about a family blown apart by untold truths. A mystery that must be solved in order for a fragile young man to find some meaning in life.
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