Monday, September 23, 2013

Author, Illustrator, Bex Archer, Four Dragons Daughters

Author : Bex Archer
Book title: Four Dragons Daughters
Genre: kids\teen fantasy
Publisher: self-published
Buy link: at Amazon or  

Please tell us about yourself.
I live in East Anglia in the UK with my family. I came to writing through illustration, training at art school for four years then working in an archaeology unit drawing the finds for about 4 years before turning freelance. Over the next 20 years I worked for all sorts of different companies including Scholastic, BBC children's magazines, Heinemann and Ladybird doing mainly educational work. About 15 years ago I ran into some serious health problems and had to give up work, having tried various other things I'm now writing and illustrating my own work.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organise your writing time?
Still very much part time due to health but slowly and steadily increasing the amount of time I spend writing each day. I spread a couple of hours working over the whole day split into fifteen minute chunks and spend a lot of the time in between thinking about what I'm going to write next.

When and why did you begin writing?
I've always dabbled in it but never really took it seriously as illustration was always the top priority. I had come up with three or four children's books with the intention of illustrating them but never got round to it. Most of my illustration work was educational but I really loved story books. The best way of doing them seemed to be to write my own and illustrate them but as so often happens in life something else always seemed to need doing first. So my writing really consisted of small pieces, story ideas and plant catalogues (Gardening is a family obsession).

What inspired you to write your first book?
My oldest niece was 12 at the time and a devoted fan of Harry Potter. She had just got interested in vampire books and would often sit with us for an hour after school when we would chat about what she was reading. The germ of an idea for a book came out of one of these chats and it's sloshed about in my head for at least six months before I had a stab at writing it. Almost every idea I had to start with was ditched in the process of writing but if I hadn't had time to sit and talk to her I probably wouldn't have tackled a book at all.

What are your thoughts on promotion?
When someone says 'promotion' I usually think of running to the hills screaming and then I say to myself, "Get a grip. If other people can do it so can you." It is the area of the whole business that I find most difficult and challenging. I think the main aim will be to get my book in front of as many readers as possible on review sites and social networking.

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?
Yes, I learnt an awful lot. Even though I knew a lot about books having spent so long illustrating them but writing one was still a big challenge. Keeping to the same standard of work from start to finish and trying not to let it slip and start waffling was demanding and it gave me a lot of admiration for anyone who tackles a long novel. The sheer stamina and commitment you need to do it is impressive.

What are your current projects?
I've just finished a short story for 6-9 year olds, Cedric the frogboy, so I'm about to start working on the second draft of the sequel to Four Dragons Daughters. It's been sitting in a drawer for the last couple of months - the idea was that if I put it aside for a while then I'd be able to look at it with fresh eyes.

What influences your writing?
All sorts of different things.  Local legends and myths, which the UK does seem to be very rich in, are a favourite. I love a good mystery and history and nature have always been important to me so both of those tend to sneak into my work even when I don't intend them to.

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?
I had lots of ideas so I wrote them all down on separate bits of paper. Next I tried to put them roughly into order, this involved taking a pair of scissors and some tape, cutting out the bits I didn't need and taping together the bits that I wanted to keep. Then I rewrote it, adding in parts needed to link the ideas together until I had the first draft. For the second draft I reworked it again before the third draft which I shoved in a drawer for the best part of the year before I found out about self- publishing and decided to take another look at it. I'd already looked into the idea of approaching a publisher or an agent but no one seemed to be taking on new work or new clients at that time so I had more or less given up on it. With the possibility of self- publishing I took the third draft out of the drawer again and decided that with more work and a huge improvement in the grammar it might just be possible to turn it into a publishable book. I think I probably got to 8 or 9 drafts before I was finally happy with it.

Do you outline before you write?
Yes, absolutely. I have to get the plot sorted out so that I can work other threads into the story. If I didn't outline I wouldn't know who was doing what or where it was all going and the plot would probably drift off or fizzle out completely. A good strong outline gives me a structure to build the rest of the story on.

What comes first: the plot or the characters?
The characters. If they are clear enough and strong enough then I feel I can do something with them.

How did you decide how your characters should look?
For me this was quite an easy part and I did start with images in my head of a few actors I had seen on TV but they did evolve over time into distinct characters. As the characters became clearer to me I could visualise what kind of things they would wear, hairstyles, height and so on. Although one did change dramatically halfway through. I decided that if Cissy (in Four Dragons daughters) looked completely different it gave me a possibility for a sequel so she had a dramatic makeover.

What books have most influenced your life?
When I was a small child we lived in a very rural part of the country and the mobile library would visit once a month. It would park on the village green just outside our house. I was always getting the same book out, Borka the Goose by John Burningham. My mum insisted that we take it back and give someone else a chance to read it. When I found it on the shelves on the library's next visit I got it out again. This went on until I eventually grew out of it. I loved the pictures and the simple story so much so that when I found a copy in a bookshop a couple of years ago I bought it. Although I have moved on to purely written books I still love the combination of pictures and words — it's magical.

Describe your writing space.
Now I come to look at it the best way to describe it is messy. Not really messy but bad enough to need a tidy up. I'm restricted to one desk but the top is pretty much covered with stuff. On my right is a pink folder with a pile of notes, two books on reptiles bookmarked for frogs and snakes, a pile of grammar books that support a red striped vase, more notepads and booklets which are wedged into place with two mugs stuffed full of pens and pencils. Cards and photos are along the back while on the left another large pot full of pens sits next to a pot of ultramarine blue mineral pigment which I meant to put away the last time I tidied up but I like the colour so much I left it there. In front of that sits a basket full of more notes, rulers and scrap paper. Squashed into the middle is my laptop and there was a biscuit/cookie next to a mug of tea a minute ago but I just ate it!

How can we find you?

Four Dragon's Daughters
Neglected and bullied by their parents, who dump them at their grandparents' farm, Daisy and Lily Dunbar are just getting to know about their family when a cry for help changes everything. They may live for 2000 years but time is against them as they race to tackle the challenges ahead. Legendary faces from the past and new friends in unexpected places help Daisy to discover who — and what — she really is. But it takes courage to become a Dragon's daughter — does Daisy have enough?

Excerpt -

London sank into February gloom and rain spattered the dirty pavements as Daisy Dunbar, fourteen years old, skinny and cold, struggled to get home. It was late afternoon and the streets hustled and bustled with people hurrying to get indoors out of the winter chill. She dodged between two noisy businessmen hailing a taxi and a woman lugging an enormous bag full of shopping. A cyclist raced past her through a puddle, spraying water from his tyres onto her shoes. As she passed the bus stop a group of rowdy college students were getting off a red double-decker bus, sidestepping them she almost tripped over a tiny dog. Holding on to the other end of its lead an equally tiny old woman was almost lost under her own umbrella. Raindrops trickled down Daisy's face and the bitter wind bit into her neck so she pulled up the hood of her old, grey coat, forcing her long, brown hair inside it and kept walking. The brightly lit windows of Greta's bakery and café were steamed up as she stopped outside and pulled off her rucksack. Rummaging between the schoolbooks, she found her purse and counted out the last few coins inside it, just enough for two bread rolls, one each. Not much, but at least it was something. A wave of warm air wrapped itself around her as she pushed her way through the glass door.
  "Ah, my favourite taste tester," called Greta from behind the counter, "what's it to be today, Daisy?"
  "Two bread rolls, please," replied Daisy, pushing back her hood and gazing at the rows of perfect pastries, sticky-buns and cup-cakes.
  "I was hoping you'd come in today," Greta said, as she picked up the two bread rolls, "I've tried a new muffin recipe and I want to know what you think." She put two chocolate muffins in the same bag as the bread rolls. "Alright, sweetheart. You just tell me if they're any good next time you come in," she smiled as she passed the bag over the counter to Daisy.
  "Thanks," Daisy grinned back. She knew Greta was just being kind as the muffins were always the same, chocolate. As she handed over her money the sound of giggling came from behind her.
  "Oh, look everyone. Daisy's all drippy!" a voice sniggered.

1 comment:

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