Friday 9 October 2015

The Write Way with Liz De Jager - UKYA Extravaganza

Well it's taken me a long time to convince her to come back on the blog, but I finally convinced her. I'm over the moon to welcome one of my oldest blogging friends, who is now the proud author of The Blackheart Legacy Trilogy. Liz is taking part in the UKYA Extravaganza which is taking place this Saturday in Waterstones in Nottingham. It will be a fabulous event brimming with UKYA authors!
You recently finished writing The Blackheart Legacy trilogy. Did you ever think you would reach the end and how does it feel to have it finally finished? 

I did, I sent the final book - JUDGED - back to the editorial department in July / August this year for type-setting. You know, starting out writing I never thought that I’d end up writing a trilogy. A duology maybe, but when Tor asked for a trilogy, well, how could I say no? 

As to how I feel? A little bit lost, maybe? I’ve spent the past five or six years living and breathing Kit, Thorn, Dante and Aiden and the Blackhart world in general. I know them and the world better than I know my own friends and my own world. 

Are you nervous for the January publication of Judged, the final book in the trilogy? 

I am nervous. But I’m also excited. I got to explore the Blackhart world a bit more in each book and I got to show how the characters developed. I got to show a relatively green and inexperienced Kit grow more confident in her role and by the third book we see that her responsibilities are taking a toll on her - not everything is sunshine and roses! 

Are you ready to embark on a new writing project? Can you give us any information on the direction you will take next?

I’m toying with three different ideas. One is for younger readers purely because I was so inspired by my niece’s little girl I met for the first time in South Africa back in May when I visited. I completely fell in love with this cute, stubborn, gutsy tomboy of a girl. The other ideas are kinda under wraps for now. It's a bit of a superstition of mine - talking too much about things dilutes the magic before they’ve been fully formed…

Your writing has been compared to the works of Cassandra Clare and Holly Black, how does that make you feel? 

Holy smokes. Terrified, to be honest. I mean, bloody hell. Being compared to Cassie and Holly is like…being a Mini Cooper being compared to a F1 racer car. I am hugely flattered though, especially as I admire both these ladies’ work ethic and only hope that one day I can match it. 

Knowing you from your book blogging days, I’m intrigued how different it feels from being a blogger to a published author? Did you find the transition easy? Is being an author all you expected it would be?

You know, I think it would have been a lot different if I’d not already been part of the world? As it was, getting the book deal and being published was just…another opportunity for me to talk about books with people whom I know and like. Because of blogging I already knew a load of bloggers, publishers, publicity people, fellow readers and fellow authors and I have to say I am grateful to everyone who treated me well both as a blogger and newbie author. I remember what it was like seeing friends getting agents, deals and being published, and how necessary it is for that support from everyone because, between you and I, your nerves get shot to smithereens! So, the transition for me was easy, thankfully, and being an author is odd. I mean, you get invited to stuff and expected to talk like a grown up about your writing and I’ll be honest: I am really good at talking at people about someone else’s books. One day I’m sure I’ll learn how to talk adequately about my own books. 

How do you fit writing around working full time?

I don’t know, I’ll be honest. I can’t remember what it was like NOT writing. It’s just a habit you fall into. I write before work, during lunch time and in the evenings from around nine to midnight if I can manage it. Definitely one day on the weekend gets set aside, or maybe an afternoon and evening. It’s just being strict about your time and not making excuses, really. Quitters don’t get to see their books on shelves. That bit of advice is directly from Zoe Marriott to me when I thought I’d never get an agent or get published. I took this to heart and you know, you just get on with it and get a little selfish about the time you carve out for yourself so that you can get to writing. 

I know you use the Pomodoro Technique to write, what advantages and disadvantages have you found from using that method?

The Pomodoro Technique is so clever - I suspect I don’t really do it properly, so let me explain how I came across it. I sat in on a class at a SCBWI Conference back in maybe 2009 or so, and the tutor brought out this little egg timer and said: okay, you’re going to write for the next half an hour. Don’t look at your watch or don’t try and think about things, apart from just writing. And I was all: this is so WEIRD but okay. And it was a revelation. Just trusting in that little egg timer going off meant I could literally give myself over to words. 
There’s this freedom that comes with Pomodoro / timed writing: you know that for the next forty minutes all you’re going to do is write. Nothing else is allowed to distract you. You’ll see a lot of writers, especially US writers actually do a call out on twitter for writing sprints. It’s exactly this: you write to a certain time and you set an alarm. At the end of that time limit, you check to see how much you’ve written, maybe make a note of it somewhere. Then you take a ten, fifteen minute break to catch up with social media / go walk the dog, have some tea etc., then you just go back to it. 

Writing this way you’ll be surprised to see how much you manage. You break down, say an eight hour day, into manageable chunks and suddenly by the end of the day, you have xxx amount of words written and you feel pretty damn good about yourself. 

I can’t really think about a down side of the technique, perhaps only that you can become really frustrated and negative when you have one really good session and then your others don’t match up. 

Who are your favourite #UKYA authors? 

*laughs like a drain* Oh god, where do I start? Derek Landy, CJ Daugherty, Zoe Marriott, Kaz Mahoney, Ruth Long, Non Pratt, Alexander Gordon Smith, Sarah Rees Brennan, Sharon Jones, Caitlin Kiernan, Keren Davis, Keris Stainton…uhm, the list is endless, it really is. UKYA authors are a unique lot and it’s always fun reading them because I know so many of them personally and yet I always manage to learn so much from them all as soon as I sink myself into their books. 

Do any authors make you star struck and if so, which ones?

Yes. Neil Gaiman. I mean, I can talk to anyone. Around Neil Gaiman I turn into this giggling mess. It’s awful. Someone else I adore hanging out with is Holly Black because she’s just so bloody interesting. Also, I love Ally Carter and just want to hug her endlessly for her Heist novels. Who else? Oh, Leigh Bardugo and Rainbow Rowell - these two ladies are just complete goddesses and I love their writing. One day when I grow up I want to be just like them. 

Do you have any advice for unpublished authors on dealing with rejection?

I think the biggest thing you need to realise is this: it’s not personal. That rejection by your dream agent or dream publisher isn’t meant AT YOU. It feels like it, but it’s not, really. Publishing is a business and it’s subjective. An editor acquiring a title has to utterly and completely love a book and back it 200%. An agent taking you on as a client has to love your writing and remember it’s a two way street - it’s business so not only are you being taken on as a client, you are taking her/him on as an agent. You have to know that you’ll be able to work together. Also remember that when you submit a work to an agent and then it goes to the market and gets bought: you have to love that book more than your first cup of coffee in the morning, because that book will live with you for the rest of your writing career. So here’s the thing, my bit of advice: 

1) Write what you love. 
2) Believe in yourself, even when you’re being rejected. 
3) Realise it’s not about you; it’s a business and it’s subjective. 
4) Never write to trend - by the time you’ve got the next (insert hottest trend type here) ready to send out, that trend is already old news.
5) Keep writing; never say die. 
6) Good luck!

Thank you Liz for sharing your writing wisdom with us today. I know I've definitely come away with a new found love of the Pomodoro Technique.

To find out more about Liz De Jager:


  1. Great interview. V interesting to hear about the Pomodoro method too. Congrats Liz on finishing the trilogy, and good luck with the next project (s)

  2. Brilliant interview - thanks for advice, its always much needed :)


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