Sunday, May 5, 2013

Special Guest Sunday - Zara Stoneley

Hello everyone,  Please help me welcome my Special Guest this week, Zara Stoneley!

Hi Sally, and thank you so much for letting me stop by your blog today.

If you follow my blog, you’ll know that I’ve talked about the importance of ‘voice’ before, and how finding my own led to me writing the story that was accepted for publication.
So, what is ‘voice’, where do we find it, why is it so important?
Okay, I think voice is linked heavily to being authentic, real, in your writing. If you don’t have your own ‘voice’ that a reader can relate to, then chances are you aren’t writing in a way that expresses the real you. And if it’s not real – people won’t be hooked, they won’t buy it.
In my opinion there are two main blocks to finding your voice. Firstly, a lot of us spend a lot of time covering up the ‘real us’, letting it out makes us feel exposed – after all criticism and rejection hurt a hell of a lot more when we’ve made ourselves vulnerable! Secondly, when we first start writing we often concentrate on what we think people want, we read the books of our chosen market and then, often unconsciously, try and mimic what we like. (Imitation might be the highest form of flattery but it doesn’t help as a writer!)
Imagine interviewing people (something I used to do a lot), all the interviewees have the right background and qualifications – you know that from their CV, and that’s why you’ve invited them in. So, who gets the job? Personally, I’m looking for enthusiasm - the person who is truly interested in the job, who is there not because they just want a job, any job, but this job. They’ve done their homework (their CV, or pitch, which was to the guidelines and addressed to the right person), and they know why they are the person I should pick. They aren’t giving the stock answers, they’re answering spontaneously (okay with research thrown in!), from the heart. I’m sold - I believe in them. They’re authentic, passionate – and they are being themselves, not pretending to be the person they think I want.
It’s much the same with that submission – you do your homework, stick to the formatting rules etc. but then the story stands out because it grabs attention, it convinces someone it could be a winner. It sings out. If you can hook the editor reading the sub then there’s a fair chance you can hook a potential reader – which at the end of the day is what it’s all about, isn’t it?

So far so good, but how do you find that elusive voice, and how do you know if you have? Believe me – you’ll know when you’ve got it, and if you’re not sure, then you probably haven’t!
You know when you read an email from someone, and you can actually imagine the person saying those words out loud? You know they wrote it, because you can hear them. That’s voice.
I think for me, it finally clicked when I thought long and hard about the characters in my story. Would the sparky heroine really say “What do you mean you love me, but you can’t commit”? No, she’d be more like “For fuck’s sake, what the hell are you scared of? You can do what we’ve just done and then just turn away and walk can you? Well, if it’s that fucking easy then go, I don’t want to be in love with a loser like that.” (Then she’d probably throw something at him!)

But it isn’t just about ‘voice’ in dialogue. What would you do if someone said they were leaving, how would it feel? Would it be –
Kate looked down at the floor and fought back the tears. He was going, leaving her like he had once before, years ago. She didn’t want him to go, they had something that was worth fighting for, she was sure.
Or is that a bit flat, is it really you or could someone else have written it? Is this better?
She wasn’t going to damn well cry. The nails digging into the palms of her hands hurt, but not as much as the lump in her throat. She swallowed hard, forced herself to unclench her fists. She wasn’t going to just let him walk out like he had before. Not again, no way. He was wrong. And she knew that this time she was going to fight back. She had to.

You’re giving your characters a ‘voice’, even when there isn’t dialogue. It’s more than just ‘show not tell’. When you express the way they feel, their emotions you’re drawing on your past experiences. Not some carbon copy of the last book you read, or the last film you saw. You’re drawing on real life. Not everyone has the same morals the same needs, the same desires. Not everyone has sweaty palms when they feel fear – some people hear a drumming in their ears, or their heart beat heavy in their body, or a panic that roots them to the spot….
Feel it, live it – that is what I think is at the root of your ‘voice’, because if you get drawn in then you will stop hesitating and trying to write like you think you should – you’ll get carried away! Feel the emotion and that feeling is unique to you, express it in your writing and you’ll be remembered. And when someone reads what you’ve written they’ll be hooked. At least for a little while!

In my latest novel, ‘Good Enough to Trust’, things finally start to make sense to Sophie when she hears her mother’s ‘voice’ in a letter she wrote – it’s important!

GOOD ENOUGH TO TRUST (Good Enough, Book 2)
An erotic romance, including menage, M/F/M and sex outdoors.

Do you trust the boy you loved, or the man you might?
Sophie has only one thing on her New Year’s resolution list – sorting out her life.
Losing her parents was hard, blaming herself hurt more – but was it really her fault, or was accepting the guilt easier than facing up to the truth?
Retracing her steps was never going to be easy, risking her heart again is even harder - and when there's two men to choose from will it be easier to trust the man she's never stopped loving, or the one that might give her the new start she needs?

BUY LINKSAmazon (UK), Amazon (US)


Zara Stoneley has been writing stories for as long as she’s been reading them. She submitted her first novel, a thriller, to a UK publisher when she was twelve years old.

After moving on to romance, she started off writing contemporary romance with a bit of sizzle, and then discovered she liked hot and erotic too. Her erotic work has been published by Xcite Books and Breathless Press. She also writes contemporary romance under the name Susie Medwell, and her latest romance is due to be published by Lyrical Press 6th May 2013.

Zara loves her family, sunshine, wine, good food, caffeine, cats, music, writing and reading - but not necessarily in that order!

Twitter - @zarastoneley