In December 2015, I made the difficult decision to revise The Shadow Series. Originally published in 2013, I felt such a strong connection to the story but as time passed and my writing skills grew, I became frustrated with the … Continue reading
Release Date – April 5th 2016 Shadow Hunters – Book Two of The Shadow Series BLURB “He said it wasn’t like the Valley, he never said it was paradise.” Selena has survived her transfer into the Shadowlands — she … Continue reading
Beyond the Shadows is FREE for a limited time only!
If your shadow was trying to consume you, how would you run from it?
What if you were afraid of something you could never escape?
Selena Parker’s journey into the unknown begins in her dreams, but the consequences are carried back into her conscious life and she soon realises paranormal forces are at work. Her shadow has become more than just an image, it is a gateway to a sinister new world where mysterious creatures roam and she is confronted by danger that challenges her will to survive.She finds the man whose fate is linked inexplicably to her own but she knows nothing of him and doubts his true nature. Her only option is to place her life in his hands while they search for a way to stop the shadows claiming them forever.
About the Author
When I was a child I wanted to be an author, it seemed like a perfectly attainable dream to me then, but of course I grew up and realised that writing was not the best way to make a future for myself. So I discarded the idea and decided to do something normal.
When I studied nursing I thought I’d found a place for myself, but within six months of working in that field I knew I needed more. So in July 2007 I bought myself a lap top and started writing in my spare time. It took me two years to complete my first book and by the time it was finished I felt as though I’d learnt enough to pursue the dream.
My love for writing has grown rapidly since then and now I know that it’s something I can’t live without. It’s a place where there is no limit, no exact destination and my mind is free to exist in many worlds.
It’s a beautiful sanctuary.
Find Anna Online
Mailing List http://bit.ly/1WSLXIq
Well there’s no denying it, writing a novel is hard work. I spent so long editing the Shadow Series that to some degree I forgot what it was like to actually write a novel, after all it has been a few years since I finished the last one!
There’s a lot of hard work, even when you have an outline for the story, things change. Characters get in the way, you realise something’s missing and you need to change directions or suddenly you discover a major plot flaw. To be honest it’s one of my favourite things about writing a book, I almost feel as though each little speed bump is steering the fate of the novel to a place it was always meant to end up. I’ve heard so many authors say it, and it’s absolutely true—you are just a vessel, the characters tell their own story. And the challenges make the accomplishment worth so much more!
In saying that, it does take determination to work through the pitfalls. There’s nothing better than sitting down with your laptop and letting the words pour out, but it isn’t always like that. There are times when you just sit and stare out the window wondering how you’re going to continue. The key is to never give up, even when the writing’s bad and the story sucks you just keep going, rewriting until every little piece fits together.
Here’s where my secret weapon comes into it.
People often ask how I find the motivation to write novels, for me the answer is quite simple—once I start, it’s harder for me to stop than it is to continue. I have an inability to leave any project unfinished, I’m not sure if it’s extreme motivation or just plain OCD. But I’m not complaining. Once the first chapter of a book is written, I’m following it right to the end. There are a lot of authors who have a few stories on the go, they work on different ideas and write new material while they are editing something old. This is pretty useful to distance yourself from a story but I just can’t do it. When I’m working on something I have to give it everything and there’s no space for anything else in my head. Without this little quirk in my personality I don’t know if I’d be a writer, it’s my driving force; the thing that keeps me going no matter what obstacles get in my way.
Who could wish for more right?
Well everything must have balance and this little obsession carries over to the rest of my life. No matter what I start I can’t leave it undone! Even if it’s a huge time waster. My examples might break a few hearts but I have to say it … Game of Thrones, I know everyone loves the TV series but I don’t. I hate it in fact, the characters are awful, I can’t relate to them, I don’t like the setting, the list goes on, but I had to watch the entire first series even though I knew I hated it after just a few episodes.
And a few years ago I subscribed to a movie magazine. I found myself reading every single article word for word, even the ones I wasn’t interested in. It was so time consuming, and I was barely absorbing the information but I couldn’t stop. It took great effort for me to acknowledge there just wasn’t time in my life for this magazine once a month.
Even when I’m reading a book, this little quirk looms over me. If I hate what I’m reading I have to finish it. It’s ridiculous! Sometimes my reading slows to a page a night but I can’t move on until it’s finished. Recently I attempted Anne Rice’s Violin, I made it halfway and decided this obsessive follow through had to stop, I hate the book! But even as I write this blog it sits on my shelf taunting me. All I have to do is resist the urge to pick it back up, eventually I’ll have to forget about it right?
What can I say it’s a blessing and a curse, my secret weapon. But reading things I despise and watching hours of bad TV shows is a small price to pay! OCD in a writer … maybe not such a bad thing.
Just over a month ago I released the four books in my series, a lot of people asked me what was next and my answer was always, “I’ll just keep writing.” People wanted to know if I would take a holiday, after years of writing and editing didn’t I want some time to relax? The truth is I don’t feel relaxed unless I’m writing, in fact I’m lost without it.
For the first three weeks after the book release much of my time went into promotional work and record keeping but as I got the hang of it all I found myself with spare time again. Part of me struggled with the idea of letting go of The Shadow Series, the thought of working with new characters did freak me out a bit, I felt like I was abandoning relationships with my friends—even if they were imaginary. I realised it might take me longer to adjust than I initially anticipated. And it scared me to think how long it could be before I was ready to work on something new.
I tried not to focus on it too much, but there was this underlying fear; what if the Shadow Series was all I had in me? What if I couldn’t move on? I’d also sent out a lot of review requests to book bloggers and I felt like I needed to be working on something new before the reviews came back. I opened my mind to new ideas, I started recording dreams and taking notes every time a potential plots came to me. I had plenty of inspirations and a few really cool pieces to fit into a book but individually they weren’t strong enough to work on their own.
It didn’t take long for my spare time to turn into immense boredom, there is a quote about writing which explains this perfectly, “Writers don’t take vacations, they are either writing or thinking about writing.” And that is exactly the reason I felt so bored without a project to work on. I can handle not writing if I can at least think about writing. I need those characters alive in my head all the time. I have a pretty active social life, with great friends and family there’s plenty of things I can do to fill my time but it’s the hours in between that kill me. What do people think about when they’re waiting at the traffic lights, exercising, waiting for a friend or trying to fall asleep?
My life feels aimless without a story to focus on so after a few weeks this boredom started to get to me. I decided the time was right. I didn’t have a fully formed plot but I had some cool ideas, I decided I would find a way to fit them all together.
I’ve been reading a lot of ghost stories lately, I loved being scared and feeling as though the story really got under my skin. I wanted to spend more time in that dark world and thought the only way to become more involved is to write it instead of just reading it. I decided that would be the premise for my new story. The Shadow Series is written in first person from the point of view of a female, I wanted to do the complete opposite in my new book, so the main character is male and it’s written in third person. The other elements are a combination of dreams, documentaries and nonfiction books I’ve read.
I started writing it on the 6th of June, but progress was slow. It took me a full week to finish the first chapter. It was just so strange working with a new character, after knowing my old characters so well this one felt too superficial. I pushed on but I was distracted. Partly because I was going to be submitting this chapter to my new writing group for critiquing and I was nervous about it. It was a work in progress but the quality of writing from the other members was so high I felt intimidated, I kept thinking, although it was a draft it had to be a damn good draft!
I went to the writer’s group and received my critique. All the anticipation was completely unwarranted. Everyone in the group is really supportive of each other, they gave amazing advice and after spending 3 hours in their company I felt my passion coming to life again. It wasn’t just receiving comments on my own work that inspired me but being involved in their stories as well. Seeing how some scenes affected all of us in the same way and realising the power in those words. I’ve received a lot of feedback on my writing from beta readers but the advice from writer to writer is quite different. It opened my eyes to new concepts and gave me more faith in letting the reader create the scene themselves. I can’t wait to see where it takes me!
So I went home and continued working on my ghost story, it took a little while to find my rhythm but by the end of the week I started to feel really excited about writing again. The character has more depth in my mind, the plot is almost completely mapped out and I have something to think about when I’m waiting at the traffic lights and trying to fall asleep. Everything is as it should be—life after The Shadow Series does go on!
In celebration of the release of The Shadow Series, what better topic to blog about than the creation of the books? Consider this the literary version of an audio commentary. In this blog you will learn about the finer details; where the inspiration came from, how I planned the storyline, the editing and finally the publishing (to be published as a three part series). Just like any other art form there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes and here’s where you get a sneak peak.
I actually started writing this blog back in 2011, it was more of a diary for my own records, at the time I had no idea I would publish it in the days leading up to the series launch. This journey has been the single most rewarding experience of my life and you’re about to get a little taste of the work that has gone into creating it.
In 2009 I had just finished working on a two year project, it was my first novel, which in all honesty was meant to be my only novel. I was in the process of editing that book when I started thinking about the concept for The Shadow Series. I can’t remember exactly what brought my attention to shadows but that single topic is literally the entire basis of this storyline.
Shadows are constantly used to represent fear of the unknown in an audience whether it be via movies, music or performance and I was feeling the draw towards a topic that could instil a sense of fear in a reader. I wanted to work on something dark and mysterious not just to scare them but to use it as a contrast for the light. I wanted to take my character to the very edge of her survival ability and then see how she could overcome it.
Shadows were always going to be the focus of the story, I knew that from the beginning but it took weeks of planning for me to decide exactly how I was going to turn that subject from a psychological thriller into a fantasy novel. I worked with the idea of my protagonist being afraid of her shadow, it was the perfect way to make her utterly powerless, no matter how fast she ran or how hard she tried to escape it her shadow would always be one step behind her. To bring the fantasy genre into it I made the shadow responsible for transporting the characters into an alternate universe, where there is no civilisation and the forest is filled with wild animals and soulless men who hunt humans. It wasn’t a psychological thriller if the phenomenon was really happening.
In my mind it was always a series, I’d written a standalone book and I wanted to try something a little more challenging. As soon as the characters were created in my head the storyline seemed to unfold on its own. For me the hardest thing about writing a book is coming up with the initial concept, once that’s done the ideas seem to reproduce and before long I’m thinking of them faster than I can write them down. I knew exactly how the story was going to end before I even started writing it—it gave me a sense of purpose, a clear direction, and made the writing process faster than I thought possible.
The first draft came out in a bit of a frenzy, words can’t really describe the exhilarating feeling of the all those ideas swimming around in my head while I was writing. It was almost like I was living the life of my character, every time she was running I was running, when she was afraid I felt it, when she was emotionally distraught my own heart was racing and by the end of the day I had lived 12 hours in this amazing and terrifying world known as the Shadowlands.
Writing this series took my desire to be a writer to a whole new level, at the time I was feeling a little lost in my career choice to be a nurse and the days I spent writing made me feel more alive than ever. It amazed me how I could spend hours in this tense and emotional state with my character and yet I felt so strong—no matter how much time I spent on it writing didn’t seem to tire me out it actually gave me more energy. It took me four months to write the draft of Beyond the Shadows and in that time something clicked into place, I knew I’d found exactly what I was looking for in life and there was no going back.
With my previous book I only allowed one person to read it, my sister, and it wasn’t until it was completely finished and edited that I sent it to her. For Beyond the Shadows I decided to change that tactic. I sent the first few chapters to my friend Kate, in hindsight I wouldn’t do it again because stopping to edit part way through stunted the writing process, but Kate’s advice had a huge impact on the structure of the book. She made me realise there was too much information being stuffed in the readers’ face and when I worked with the ‘less is more’ approach things shuffled into their rightful place. The entire series would be very different if it wasn’t for that change so she deserves an appropriate shout out. Thanks Kate!
When the draft was finished I shared it amongst friends and family, all of whom gave me amazing support and advice. Thanks to the first readers; Sarah, Mum, Kuch, Annette, Roz, Rachel, Frances, Sue and Jean, your enthusiasm and suggestions helped spur me on, I saved absolutely every piece of advice you gave me and it helped shape the future of the characters.
I truly don’t remember the exact number of times I edited that first book, I know it was at least four and that was before I even decided to publish it—more on that later.
The second book in the series burst out of me at an alarming speed, it took three months to write the draft but it was probably so easy because the characters and their world was already created, plus I’d figured out a pretty good writing rhythm. During this time I did all the cliché things you think a writer would do. I worked way past midnight, I fell asleep with notebooks on my chest, I woke up in the middle of the night to record new ideas, I shut the door and snapped at people who tried to interrupt me. I read an SAS Survival Guide from cover to cover and a book dedicated to the quest for alternate realities. My mum traced and cut out my own shadow for me so I could work on the concept with a visual aid. I was on a role and there was no stopping me.
I was also lulled into a false sense of security because of this book, at the time I didn’t realise that no matter how many books you’ve written the process changes every time. I smashed book two out, passed it onto my official editor—my sister—and moved right onto book three. Initially The Shadow Series was going to be a trilogy, I had no idea of the trouble waiting for me when I began the final book.
Everything changed when I started this book, I expected I would slip back into routine and everything would work out perfectly but that was certainly not the case. Since book three was meant to be the last there were a lot of loose ends to tie up. I had never worked on a storyline as complex as this, there were a lot of characters and a lot of simultaneous plots that needed to line up. I had so many notes and a clear structure of events that needed to happen in order for everything to tie together. It was really difficult to keep all those things in mind without letting it disrupt the flow of my sentences.
I ended up writing all the important events on individual pieces of paper, I knew all those things needed to happen but the order I initially intended for them was constantly changing. To make sure I didn’t miss anything out I stuck all those pieces of paper inside my wardrobe doors and moved them around each time the plot twisted in a direction I didn’t expect it to.
During the writing of book three I had a few moments of despair, days when I started thinking I had screwed it up completely and there was no way to fix it. I was quite close to the end of the draft when I suddenly felt like I had to stop and read it, I just had a feeling things weren’t working. I remember very clearly lying on the rug in my lounge room and reading the draft, within a few hours I went from thinking my manuscript was nearly complete to realising I was less than half way. It was pretty clear to me then that I had to split the book in two. It was a horrifying moment, I just felt like months of work were completely wasted. The problem was I’d tried to jam too many things into a short space and in order to correct the pacing of the story I had to rewrite the entire thing.
So I wrote it again … twice. Book three was the greatest writing challenge I have faced this far, it took close to a year to complete it but looking back I’m so glad I spent that time on it. It taught me a lot about my strength as a writer, I know now that no matter how bad it is there is always a way to fix it, I owed it to my characters to struggle through and finish their story. Of the people who have read advanced copies of the series a number of them told me book three was their favourite—it makes the whole thing worthwhile.
There’s a fine line when you’re developing multiple plotlines, sometimes just a few sentences can be the difference between intriguing the reader and giving everything away prematurely. I had been leaving clues for three books, I wanted the reader to be suspicious but of course I didn’t want them to be able to guess the ending. To begin with I did get that balance wrong and my test audience picked it up pretty quickly. I have to say this is the book where the feedback made the greatest difference, I went through it at least six times picking out all those little hints that gave the wrong idea. Even up to the week before this book went to print I was still rereading the first 50 pages and making subtle changes.
The writing is the part I love and it’s the dedication to the characters and the story that gave me the motivation to get through the editing and the publishing. The truth is these three aspects all hold the same value for the final product so there was no fair way to fit them into the same blog.
Part II Editing the Shadow Series will be published on Saturday 11th May.
When I was in primary school my mum was worried about the amount of homework I was bringing home, I don’t remember exactly what I was doing but at one point she did sit down with me and say I … Continue reading
The Shadowlands are the main setting in The Shadow Series I’m working on. It is a parallel universe where there is no civilisation, no law to protect you, it is you against nature and some of the brutal truths … Continue reading