Today, I’m delighted to welcome Chantelle Atkins to A Day in the Life, my occasional interview series in which authors talk about their writing processes and inspiration.
Chantelle was born and raised in Dorset, England and still resides there now with her husband, four children and multiple pets. She is addicted to both reading and music, and is on a mission to become as self-sufficient as possible. She writes for both the young adult and adult genres. Her fiction is described as gritty, edgy and compelling. Her debut Young Adult novel The Mess Of Me deals with eating disorders, self-harm, fractured families and first love. Her second novel, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side follows the musical journey of a young boy attempting to escape his brutal home life. She is also the author of This Is Nowhere, This Is The Day and a collection of short stories related to her novels called Bird People and Other Stories. Chantelle has had multiple articles about writing published by Author’s Publish magazine, and is also a reviewer with Underground Book Reviews. Her latest novel, The Tree of Rebels, a YA dystopian was released August 2017 and won a Chill With A Book Readers Award in January 2018. But I found her via her blog, The Glorious Outsiders, which has one of the best mission statements I’ve ever seen on an author website. I suggest you hop over there and read it.
Q: Please tell us how you came to be a writer.
I started writing stories when I was around 10 years old. I fell in love with Watership Down and started writing similar tales about animals in danger. I then progressed to writing about teenage drama and angst when a teenager myself. Unfortunately I let writing slip away from me in my early twenties when I had children and a job. It was not until my then youngest started school that I suddenly felt the urge again violently. I started writing and haven’t stopped since. I have had another child since then and this time I didn’t let the writing get away from me! I self-published in 2013 and now have six books published.
Q: Why do you write?
So many reasons. I write because I have to, because these characters fill up my head and there is no way I could ignore them. My head is so full of their noise and ideas for stories that I simply have to write, to get it all out. I also write because I’m quite introverted, and writing is the best way for me to get across what I think and feel. I think this is part of what attracted me to it as a child. I was very shy, but with writing, you have the time to think about your words and go over them to get them right. I write because it is fun, it’s magical, it’s escapism, and it makes life exciting every single day. I get that butterfly feeling in my stomach when I think about writing! It means you get to live more than one life and be more than one person! I can invent people I wish I knew and direct their lives! It’s incredible really.
Q: You mentioned being introverted. P D James says that it’s essential for writers to enjoy their own company. Are you a natural loner?
I do enjoy my own company. A full day alone is bliss for me. I’ve never felt lonely in my life. I have a head full of people to contend with, so how could I ever be lonely or bored? If I’m not writing, then there is reading, listening to music, gardening and walking. All things I like to do alone!
Q: Is your day job a distraction or does it add another element to your writing?
Well I sort of have two day jobs. I’m a dog walker, and I also run a writing group, which has just become a Community Interest Company. The aim is to deliver writing based projects and opportunities to the local community. The company is in the very early stages but I’m very excited about taking it forward. There are a few projects already in the pipeline. So, this certainly helps with the writing, and keeps me inspired! As for the dog walking, it’s a nice distraction. I crave the outdoors and nature, so walking dogs is perfect for me. And often, my characters will join us and tell me what happens next…
Q: I’m also a walker (although not a dog walker). Geoff Nicholson, author of The Lost Art of Walking wrote, “There is something about the pace of walking and the pace of thinking that goes together. Walking requires a certain amount of attention but it leaves great parts of the time open to thinking. I do believe once you get the blood flowing through the brain it does start working more creatively. Your senses are sharpened. As a writer, I also use it as a form of problem solving. I’m far more likely to find a solution by going for a walk than sitting at my desk and ‘thinking’.” I assume you’d agree.
Yes, I totally agree. I love walking. I need walking. Even when I was a teenager I preferred walking. I used to walk to bus stops, then walk to the next one, then the next one and end up at home because I didn’t want to stop walking. All my best ideas come when I am walking. All the ends tie up and make sense. I get conversations in my head, dialogue taking shape, characters evolving, endings sorted and so on. Walking is writing for me!
Q: You generally write in the genre of Young Adult. What can readers expect?
I do write adult as well, but my adult books contain young protagonists. I think any story is made better, faster, more dramatic, more emotional, if the main character is young. Readers can expect a gritty, contemporary read, full of family drama, rebellion, and universal themes such as first love, rejection, loss, and loneliness. My books are very character driven and I’m told the characters really get under your skin. You might start to think they’re real. I write about hard hitting issues such as mental illness, body image, drugs, violence, etc but I do feel very strongly that books should contain hope. I like to think of my books as dark but optimistic!
Q: Do you write with an imaginary reader in mind? If so, tell as a little about that person.
Funnily enough, I tend to write with me as a reader in mind. I think that Toni Morrison’s quote about writing the book you want to read, is very apt for me. I love reading and I will read almost any genre, but what I am really looking for all the time is the characters I can fall in love with, or totally loathe, can’t stop thinking about, wish were real, want to have a drink with and so on! I want gritty, dark storylines that make me flinch and wince. I want strong themes and issues I can relate to. I want to read about working class people. I want hope and optimism. In short, I want to find characters that make me want the writer to keep writing more books for them! And so, this is what I try to do, to satisfy my needs, I write what I want to read.
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The Tree of Rebels has received a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award.
“This is an exceptional book! Very thought provoking.”
“Lissie Turner is a character for the ages.”
“I was hooked from the beginning and enjoyed every word to the end (which was perfect).”
Q: Lisa Cron, in her book Wired for Story says, ‘We think in story. It’s hardwired in our brain. It’s how we make strategic sense of the otherwise overwhelming world around us.’ In what way are you trying to make sense of the world?
If I look back at my books, I can see the journeys I’ve gone through, and perhaps what was troubling me most at that time. The Mess Of Me deals with some issues I have experience of, and This Is Nowhere was written at a time when I was thinking a lot about life and death. The Tree Of Rebels very much reflects my love of nature and my fears of a future disconnected from it, and my next release, Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature is really an examination of human nature and society. Are things getting worse? Is this the worst the world has ever been? Those kinds of questions plague me and worm their way into my writing.
Q: Do you find yourself returning to any recurring themes within your writing and, if so, are you any closer to finding an answer?
I think there are two recurring themes. One is the alienation and rebellion of youth. I find myself consistently drawn to writing young characters who are outsiders, but proud of it. The other theme I keep coming back to is, the society we live in and human nature. Are we doomed? Is there hope? Is there a better world coming? Or are we seeing end days?
Q: What do you think the greatest advantage of self-publishing is?
Getting books out quickly. Not having to wait around for agents or publishers to reject you. You are in control and can get a few books out a year, if that’s how you want to do it.
Q: On the other hand, is there anything you feel self-published authors may miss out on?
Yes, getting exposure and an audience is very, very hard. It’s an ongoing battle that will never end.
Q: Do you feel there is more of a sense of community with self-publishing than there is with traditional publishing?
I don’t know, but there is definitely a community. I’m really lucky I have made so many friends through this. I have a real support network around me. They help each other out so much. There are so many amazing, under-rated indie books out there. I try to read indie more than trad.
Q: How do you feel when you finish writing a novel? Are there any particular characters that you’ve found it hard to let go of?
I feel many things when I finish a novel. Drained, exhausted, relieved, ecstatic, sad, excited to start the next one. I usually get a bit drunk, because it’s a celebration but also a bit weird. I have one character I can’t seem to let go of. Danny, from The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. He was the first real character I wrote as a kid. I was 12 when I wrote the first version of that book so I grew up with him, writing and rewriting his story. I then wrote a sequel, and I am currently working on a screenplay for the two books. I can’t let him go. He’s real. He’s my friend.
Want to find out more about Chantelle and her writing?
Website/blog : https://chantelleatkins.com/
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Written on February 13, 2018 at 9:52 am, by Jane Davis
Categories: Blog | Tags: A Day in the Life, alienation, Author Interviews, Body image, Chantelle Atkins, character driver, Community Interest Company, contemporary fiction, drugs, family drama, hope, Indie Authors, loneliness, loss, love, Mental Health issues, On writing, rebellion, rejection, Self-Publishing, The Glorious Outsiders, violence, Writing Group, Writing life, Young Adult
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