Author Q&A – Lisa M Hawkins, Newmarket

I am incredibly excited to be writing this post.

I first met Lisa nearly a decade ago when I was dating her younger brother, and I instantly felt a connection with her as a kindred spirit. She opened my eyes to a whole new world when she introduced me to an array of her favourite fantasy fiction novels. My book case now groans under the weight of series upon series, and I am only allowed supervised visits to Waterstones.

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Over the years we have kept in touch and she has continued to inspire me with her writing, her recipes, her warmth and her humour. Lisa lives in East Anglia with her wonderful husband and her two daughters. She took up writing seriously after dabbling for many years, and thus, Andromeda Newton and the world she lives in was born.

In 2016, Lisa had her first book published on Amazon – “Magickal Beginnings”.

In a world where magic and its creatures are not only accepted but the norm, Andromeda Newton likes a quiet life. As a seventh generation witch however, perhaps she should have realised that wasn’t always going to be possible. 

When the local Fey Lord; the handsome and ancient Daoine Sidhe, Tiernan; reaches out to her for help Andromeda feels she has no choice but to assist him. Tiernan asks that she use her famed investigative skills and renowned powers to help him solve a series of mysterious attacks on local fey, leaving them drained of all their powers, but the more Andromeda learns the greater the danger she finds herself in, the repercussions resonation to the very core of who she is, turning her life on its head forever.  

magickal-beginnings

Available to order here for kindle version and here for paperback

I downloaded the book on to my kindle and demolished it in record time, keeping me vastly entertained on my long commute to London. It has all the ingredients that good fantasy needs: action, mystery and a dabbling of delicious men. I definitely think I fancy going out on a date or two with Alex! You can read all the character profiles here.

Midnight tonight marks the launch of the second book in the series, “Courting Trouble” in which we see Andromeda travel to Denver and Ireland on another adventure into modern magick and ancient myths.

It is available for pre-order on Kindle and personally I can’t wait for mine to magickally upload when the clock strikes 00:01!

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Available for pre-order here

Lisa kindly took time out of her busy schedule today to chat with me and answer a few questions:

Hey Lisa, thank you for agreeing to take part in my first Q&A session! You recently had your first book published, Magickal Beginnings. How did it feel to have that first hard copy in your hands?

Oh that first copy!  Having had MB published in digital format only for a few months was a little surreal, as there was nothing to actually show for my work other than a few facts and figures on a website, and likes on the Facebook page, but the arrival of the actual physical book, I don’t think I believed it until it was in my hands.  I filmed myself opening the package one handed and I was almost, almost, rendered speechless.  All I managed to say was; ‘Look at that!  Oh my gosh!’.

Despite all the digital sales this made it very, very real for me, to actually have the finished product in my hands was a very humbling moment.  I smiled for hours afterwards and it’s still quite weird having it sitting on my bookshelf along with some other urban fantasy heavy hitters.  I’m not sure I’m still over the shock!  The story of how I realised I had the option to put it out in paperback is something else entirely!

Tell us about that story, if you would?

I was hideously sleep deprived, I’m talking seven hours sleep in three days, and I was feeling the effects badly, but I thought I would sit down on the Saturday evening and check my Kindle Direct account.  It showed me the option to put my book out in paperback.  So I messaged my friend, Deni.  Told her there was the option.  She freaked out and told me to do it!  I went over everything, set up the cover, converted what needed converting, worked out how much it would cost per copy…then decided I must be hallucinating!  No way it was that easy!  I stopped.  Just sat and stared at it for a while as Deni told me she was actually talking to me and that she was sure it wasn’t me imagining it, and when my husband came home I made him confirm I wasn’t actually going doolally, that it was actually an option!  So I saved my progress and finished the set up the following day.  It went live that night, I ordered myself a copy and announced it on the Wednesday when I received it!  I still can’t quite believe it!

What first inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always written; even before I knew what fan fiction was I would write my own adventures for beloved fictional characters, way back as a child, and as an old school table top role player, writing character bios and adventures was second nature to me.  As for what started me writing when it comes to Andromeda and co, it all started when a friend and I were reading an interview with the author, Laurell K Hamilton, regarding her two series’; Anita Blake and Merry Gentry.  She said the two characters would never meet as there were differences between the two worlds and it would never work.  My friend turned to me and said; ‘I bet you could do it.’  So I did!  Another friend could tell how much enjoyment I was getting from the writing and suggested I create my own character in the same universe but I decided to go the whole hog and create my own universe, of a similar ilk but different enough to stand alone, and Andromeda was born.

What is your favourite book?

Oh, no, no no!  I can’t choose just one book!  Can I pick a few?  My goto series’ are definitely Laurell K Hamilton’s Anita Blake and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-hunter, but I have so many favourites I couldn’t pick a single one!  Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Weis and Hickman holds special meaning to me, but if I am feeling a little literary I will go back to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.  Little Women is another classic I could read repeatedly, then there is my go to reference book; A Beginners Guide to Witchcraft, which has helped Andi and I out so many times!  I also, weirdly yet proudly, spent my teens reading about 95 of the 101 Biggles novels by Captain W E Johns.  I bet you wish you hadn’t asked now!

Tell me more about Andromeda, do you remember the moment your mind first conceived her? Would you say there are any similarities between you and Andi? 

When I started that first chapter I had no idea about plot or background, other than the lead character would be a witch with bills to pay!  She didn’t even have a name!  The story ran away with me; I recall writing in my lunch breaks as an accounts clerk and cursing when the hour was up as the ideas were flowing.  Not wanting to give away any spoilers let’s just say what happened to Andi wasn’t meant to happen to Andi, it was as much a surprise to her as it was for me.  As for similarities between Andi and I, I am sure I am supposed to say that no, she is entirely a work of fiction, but I would be lying.  Heavily.  Andi and I have a lot in common, least of all being our height, being vegetarians and coeliacs, the reasoning behind that being another story entirely.  We have so much in common but for me that means I truly understand Andi’s head.  I can write what her reaction would be to something instinctively.  It’s another reason I think writing in the first person works so well for me, the mindset is already there.

Why did you decide to make Andi a vegetarian coeliac?

I suppose really it was for myself, as I was always reading books where the lead character would walk into a restaurant and literally just go; ‘yeah, that!’, and that is about as far a cry from my life as you can get.  I have other food intolerances too and eating out can be tricky, but like Andi I like to try and keep it simple, and with my youngest daughter also having coeliac disease I hope it will in future give her someone to look up to, in a way.  It also, obviously, helps raise awareness, which is never a bad thing.

Magickal Beginnings obviously includes a lot about the world of Magick and the Supernatural, what attracted you to it as a backdrop for your series? Did you do a lot of research in to it while you were writing and what is the favourite fact you learnt?

I think the reason I went for urban/contemporary fantasy as a background was for the simple reason there is so much scope.  You have a modern world, where everything is familiar, but magick and its creatures exist, the only limit is my own imagination, which, as it turns out, is particularly wild and untapped!  I am constantly researching, I have a wonderful collection of books on all things super- and preternatural as well as myths and legends from varying cultures.  If I thought I would write more and  procrastinate less I would disconnect the internet, however I am constantly searching small facts and figures to perhaps not necessarily enhance the story but certainly to cement an idea for myself and to feed my rabid plot bunnies!  As for a favourite fact, besides my browsing history looking like that of a serial killer (I am a writer, I swear!), I recently had to research the use of virgin blood in ancient civilisations and interestingly, despite popular culture leading us to believe otherwise, it was more common in ancient times to use virgin males rather than females for sacrifices, and that included not just humans but animals too!  You live and learn!

Do you have any funny stories about writing?

I think my favourite funny story was last year when I was out shopping with my mum and sister, and I had had enough of walking around so I decided to wait in the car.  At the time I was in the middle of writing the sixth book and Mum, being awesome, called through from the open boot to ask if I was okay.  I replied, loudly; ‘I’m fine!  I have a corpse in the bathtub!’  at which point an old man walked by and gave us a very worried look.  I followed up, trying to ease his worries, by screaming; ‘It’s okay!  I’m a writer!’  As loud as I could!  I’m not sure I actually helped matters however…

You’ve got some really strong male characters in your book. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

Writing in the first person makes it a little different, as all the other characters are met from Andi’s point of view, how they come across to her.  I like to think that each man in Andi’s life is different, with their own merits and idiosyncrasies that the reader can relate to, or have known someone similar, but I have tried to make them enduring characters in their own rights, although you may never know what exactly is going in their heads, you just have to take Andi’s word for it!

Are any of your characters based on people you know in real life? 

I could get in so much trouble here!  Nooooo!  And that’s a lie!  I have to admit that there are traits from people I know in parts of my characters, and he won’t mind me saying this, but my husband has had something of an influence on Tiernan, simply because he is my greatest supporter, understands my crazies, and is definitely my lifemate!  As for other people there are a few I have stolen small traits from, apart from one, whose first appearance is coming up in Book Three.  Based entirely on a very good friend of mine, we will often sit and hash out additional details or speech so it is perfect!  Watch out for Scottie, is all I’m going to say!

Obviously there is a lot more to explore with the World of Andromeda, but do you have any other ideas for another series bubbling away?

Is it weird I still write a lot of fan fiction when I have writers block with Andi?  Anyway, I do, I admit it, and it is simply because writing about an existing character and universe leaves me time to just stretch my artistic wings and work on plot, which can often lead me to ideas for Andi and uncork that which is bottled up.  As for another original series I did toy with one some time ago but it never flowed as well as Andi did.  Never say never, and it might even be someone in the Andi-verse we have already, or have yet, to meet, but there are always ideas bubbling away and not all of them have a home, so who knows?  Maybe.  Let’s leave it like that.

What is the writing process like for you? Do you have any writing rituals or things you do to help you get the inspiration flowing? 

Firstly, comfort.  I have to be comfortable.  Which for me means my MacBook, music, a heat-pad, and a bottle of water to hand!  I can either write Andi, or I can’t.  I am a great believer in the creative process and if I am stuck I can’t force it.  I have finally come to the conclusion that if I am struggling to get from point A to point B in a story then there is obviously an A 2.0 I have to bypass via, but I don’t know what that is yet or why.  Eventually it will come, but taking a break helps, including writing other things.

As long as I’m writing something it all helps, it’s all experience, and as I said in a previous answer, sometimes working on other characters will unlock a WWAD moment; What Would Andi Do? and entirely new plot bunnies will spawn.  I have recently changed the tools I use, switching from notepads and pens with a very regimented routine (a different colour for every chapter for ease looking back) to using a MacBook and it’s a little different as it is so much faster for me to type than hand write.  Sometimes I will have an idea that won’t go away until I have completely written it down, even in note format, sometimes entire scenes will play out in my mind and I then have to try fit them in somewhere at a later date, and it is not unusual for me to put in eighteen hour days and still be writing at 3am, having been up since five the day before.  Other days I will stare at the screen and procrastinate for hours before writing one solitary line.  If I am stuck, other than writing anything else, sometimes I will just delve into one of my mythology books, or do an online search for a particular legend or creature.  Often there are so many connotations of a single one that the scope is enormous.

Having said all of that I can write absolutely anywhere.  If I have appointments or the like I will write either on a tablet or my phone as all my devices are synced up to share documents.

You published via Amazon, how did you find the process? Would you recommend it to other aspiring writers? 

I have spent years and countless hours on submissions, and it is a heartbreakingly difficult process.  For me, writing was the easy part, trying to conform to so many rules, different per literary agent as most publishers do not take unsolicited manuscripts, was almost soul destroying, and makes you question your story’s worth.  I knew Andi’s story was one that should be told, that others would enjoy (although it still surprises me somehow!), but getting people to see her merits on half an A4 page seemed like an impossible task.  When I heard about Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) it seemed like the perfect chance for me to get word out without all the rigmarole and heart ache.  It can take just minutes to set up, once you have the right formats and information filled in, and I had someone go over it all with me to ensure I had read the details correctly.  Pushing that button though, to put it out to the public, seemed to happen really quickly, once I was ready, and I don’t regret it at all.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

Oh, tricky!  A sloth maybe?  Hah!  I’m going to go with hummingbirds.  My husband has always said I have a hummingbird mode, because when I am overtired, or excited, I will flit around, all but twitching, mentally and physically, trying to get as much done in as short a space of time as possible!  Andi’s though, she would have a dragonfly as her mascot.  They are a minor recurring theme in the series at the moment, and I am always stunned when I see one in person.  They’re so beautiful and elegant, almost mystical.

If there was one book you would have liked to have written, what would it be and why? 

I don’t think there actually is a book I would have liked to have written, simply because everyone has a different story to tell.

Do you feel emotionally connected to your Characters? 

** Spoiler!**  Oh goodness, yes!  I have shed so many tears over silly things in Andi’s life, and every time she gets upset it has been because I myself have got choked up!  I will never forget the first time I really cried along with Andi, inconsolably, was when she admits to Tiernan that no one ever understands when she tries to explain what comes naturally to her, what power and abilities flow through her, and how out of place she felt.  It was a very emotive segment to write.  I also try and empathise with the bad guys.  They have a reason for what they’re doing and even if the reader never knows what their full motivation was, I do.

If you could host a dinner party with any 5 people; dead or alive, real or fiction, who would you pick and why? 

Oh no, another choice!  Right, I’m going to cheat again!  5 real people alive/dead first!  Gene Kelly.  The man was a legend, and he just fascinates me.

Beside him will be Orlando Bloom, who I will try my best to convince he should play Tiernan and help me make Magickal Beginnings into a movie.  Just a thought.

Carrie Fisher.  She made me realise at a very young age that girls didn’t need to sit around and wait to be rescued.  She was a hero of mine and she has been through so much.  When she passed so unexpectedly I was truly shocked and saddened.

Walt Disney.  Oh my goodness the man was a creative genius, why would you not want him there?

Lastly, my mum.  She is totally amazing and deserves a good meal in good company

Fictional next; I am going to start with Andromeda, so I can apologise for all I put her through!  This is basically going to become the bad boys with good intentions who need a break, plus me and Andi dinner party, I think.

Beside Andi I’m going to put Loki, from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because firstly he knows how to behave despite being a trickster, but will also be fun and snarky.  We can have a sass off.

Next is Dean Winchester from Supernatural.  I want to see him eat pie, in person, just once, and see what his take on my supernatural world is.

Poor Bucky Barnes from the MCU is next, because I have a real soft spot for coerced bad boys who deserve a lot of love.

Lastly, Acheron from Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series, as who wouldn’t want an Atlantean god present, if you had the chance?  I’m going to give him Sprite and wait for the fireworks.

How have family and friends supported/reacted etc to your writing and publishing?

Well, I think!  I suspect it surprised some, that after so long I actually did it!  On the whole everyone has been so supportive and I don’t think I would have published when I did without the encouragement I received.  Part of me still doubted that anyone would actually want to read what had spiralled from a hobby into a lifestyle for me, but I’ve been proved wrong, and I’ve never been so happy!  Being able to tell people I’m an author when they ask what I do for a living is an enormous confidence booster too!

What is the best piece of advice that you could share with any budding authors out there?

Just write.  Write what you love, write what you want, don’t let anyone stop you!  Write fan fiction?  Put it out there for people to enjoy.  Want to get something published?  Do it!  Seriously, there are so many avenues available now for good writers, whether they write their own characters or not, that it is worth utilising that.  And you never know, one day your book may be someone’s favourite!

And finally…Any little author secrets about the series/book you could let us in on?

**SPOILERS!**  I think the biggest secret was the fact that Andi and Tiernan were never meant to get together.  She was going to be the one that got away and he a recurring character who was persistent.  Then the idea of lifemates hit me, quite early on really, and the rest is history.  Also, she wasn’t supposed to be fey or a princess!  I literally got Andi and Rico seated in her Mum’s kitchen and her mum dropped the bombshell on us all at the same time!  I did not see that coming!  As for the future, Alex has more in store for him, perhaps more than he’d like, and some higher power definitely has their eye on what’s occurring!

If you’d like more information on Lisa or Andromeda then you can check out the following links: 

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Youtube

Goodreads

 

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