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message 1: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
Please welcome author Mhairi Simpson to our Q and A discussions.
For Mhairi, real life is just too real, which is why she writes fantasy, preferably for teenagers because they’re closer to her mental age. This can, and often does, involve griffins, unicorns, werewolves and/or vampires. And because she likes a laugh, there are also pink mice and gods with faulty moral compasses. But whatever she’s writing, there’ll be a lot of blood and a LOT of magic, because that’s what makes her worlds go round.

She’s been to six schools (seven if you include university) and lived in five countries on two continents. She speaks three languages and bits and pieces of three more. She once galloped a horse into a cow (by accident) while at work and she’s been to Machu Picchu three times. Apart from writing, she likes pretty shoes, making jewellery, films, dancing, reading and chocolate. Don’t forget the chocolate.

Her Goodreads Profile: Mhairi Simpson


message 2: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments Hi! Very glad to be here. How is everyone today?


message 3: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments I'm very well :) Had to go and buy chocolate, also known as The Writer's Fuel, but now I am fueled up and ready to go :)


message 4: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
Hi, Mhairi. I could use a big dose of coffee and chocolate today.
On to my question: What aspects of writing fantasy appeal to you the most?


message 5: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Comley (melcom) | 14 comments How is the editing coming along, Mhairi? I'm looking forward to reading your work. ;-)


message 6: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments A.F. wrote: "Hi, Mhairi. I could use a big dose of coffee and chocolate today.
On to my question: What aspects of writing fantasy appeal to you the most?"


I suppose it's the fact that I can bring alive creatures and characters that would never exist otherwise. I'm actually cringing writing that because deep down I hold out this hope (belief?) that there are dragons and witches and unicorns in the world. They just hide very very carefully :S

But yes, I like big explosions and the idea of flying and being powerful. I've never been powerful in real life, so fantasy writing allows me to explore all the different ways people can be powerful and the downsides of that.

Strange. I hadn't actually thought of it in quite those terms before, but yes, that's definitely it!


message 7: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments Mel wrote: "How is the editing coming along, Mhairi? I'm looking forward to reading your work. ;-)"

It's coming well, thank you! I'm 77% of the way through. Now thinking about the overall mood of the book. As this is my first novel and ostensibly the first of a series, I want it to really exemplify the kind of writing I want to become known for. But first I have to decide what that is!

The story is all set, that's not going to change, but now I've got one more editing pass after this one to really make it a story that only I could tell, you know?


message 8: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments Kyle wrote: "Mhairi wrote: "I'm very well :) Had to go and buy chocolate, also known as The Writer's Fuel, but now I am fueled up and ready to go :)"

YES! I AGREE ON THAT. CHOCOLATE AND COFFEE..THE WRITER'S FUELS OF CHOICE. LOVE IT!"


Exactly! I don't do so much with caffeine, my body gets to be FAR too reliant on it! But chocolate is my downfall. I absolutely require it in order to function. I'm currently on a slimming kick but I still eat chocolate most days. I refuse to live in a world without chocolate. It's almost as important as fireballs and dragons :D


message 9: by Mhairi (last edited Oct 28, 2011 08:25AM) (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments Kyle wrote: "Mhairi wrote: "Kyle wrote: "Mhairi wrote: "I'm very well :) Had to go and buy chocolate, also known as The Writer's Fuel, but now I am fueled up and ready to go :)"

YES! I AGREE ON THAT. CHOCOLATE AND COFFEE..TH..."
YOU SHOULD TASTE MY BOSTON CREAM PIE RECIPE...LOADS OF CHOCOLATE! THAT AND MY COFFEE AND I'M A FUNCTIONING HUMAN BEING."


Please don't encourage me. ;)


message 10: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments No probs. You might want to drop the caps to lower case too. Easier to read :)


message 11: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
Mhairi wrote: "A.F. wrote: "Hi, Mhairi. I could use a big dose of coffee and chocolate today.
On to my question: What aspects of writing fantasy appeal to you the most?"

I suppose it's the fact that I can brin..."


You are not alone in the secret hope/belief of all things dragons and unicorns.


message 12: by Mhairi (last edited Oct 28, 2011 08:53AM) (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments A.F. wrote: "You are not alone in the secret hope/belief of all things dragons and unicorns."

I didn't think so, which is another reason I write what I write. I love exploring what could be if we really let our imaginations go. I want a world full of magic and hugely powerful creatures and relationships that surpass species barriers. I'm a huge lover of animals, dogs and horses in particular, and I was an only child, so I grew somewhat lonely. This means that I always wanted a dog or a horse, something that would love me best, you know?

In my writing that's metamorphosed into creatures of all kinds being friends with all kinds of other creatures. There's a lot of politics in the book, simply because people who are alike often don't get on, and everyone's different, which means they all have points of view. I don't go for the - the entire world population of werewolves is going to be on your side just because this one is - universal view.

Sorry, got a bit carried away there!


message 13: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 97 comments I wonder if writing's like leading an exploration trip, following those elusive characters--and unicorns, etc. I'm not sure what that would make publishing though.

I keep the chocolate to reward "nice" rejections.


message 14: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments Sheila wrote: "I wonder if writing's like leading an exploration trip, following those elusive characters--and unicorns, etc. I'm not sure what that would make publishing though.

I keep the chocolate to reward "nice" rejections"


Excellent plan with the chocolate!

I really enjoy the period when I'm thinking of characters and their skills, abilities and relationships with others. Some things will come into my head for no reason and then I have to 'work out' why that particular thing should be. Depending on how much planning goes into the work, you get the exploration over with sooner or later.

Some people say sooner is better. One writer I know (soon to be traditionally published) doesn't even start writing the book until every chapter is planned out. Another (who I don't believe has a contract) says it takes all the fun out of the writing if she knows exactly where the story is going.

I seem to fall closer to that end than the other at this point, but will have to plan more as I go on. You can pants the first book in a series, but not the entire series!


message 15: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments I'm heading out now, but will be back later to answer more questions and generally chat :D


message 16: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 97 comments Good point about pantsing the first in a series but not the rest. I'm back fixing the pantsed first book in one my series--luckily still unpublished so fixable.


message 17: by D.D. Chant (new)

D.D. Chant (DDChant) | 33 comments Hi Mhari!

How did you come up with the plot of your book????

Was it a single scene that you thought of and it grew as you wondered 'what if'?

Or did you have the end of the book in mind from the beginning?


Geoff (G. Robbins) (merda constat variat altitudo) (snibborg) I remember having a discussion where you mentioned that you'd been picked up by a publisher for your book.

Do you have any tips for up and coming authors on how to get their books noticed by the main publishers?


message 19: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments D.d. wrote: "Hi Mhari!

How did you come up with the plot of your book????

Was it a single scene that you thought of and it grew as you wondered 'what if'?

Or did you have the end of the book in mind from the beginning?"


I actually had no idea how the book was going to end right up to the last few scenes. I was stalled on the book for three days because I couldn't work out how it ended.

The idea came from a scene that arose in my mind of a woman walking through a portal and taking a baby from its crib. The baby (a boy) had an older sister who was the only witness to the abduction and followed the woman through the portal.

In the event, the only thing that remains of this scene in the book is the girl going through the portal. I was having real issues sorting out the girl in that world, and I eventually realised she had to come through to this world instead.

I knew from the few original scenes I wrote (i.e. about 10k-15k words) that she had a best friend called Nick. He has actually stayed in the story, only now they're from different worlds :)

Almost everything has changed about this book except that first, core idea, that of a girl going through a portal. Once she was through I just had fun throwing various things at her and seeing how she handled them. Like I said, I was completely stalled for the last few scenes. There is something to be said for planning stuff out in advance!


message 20: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments Geoff (G. Robbins) wrote: "I remember having a discussion where you mentioned that you'd been picked up by a publisher for your book.

Do you have any tips for up and coming authors on how to get their books noticed by the main publishers?"


The book itself hasn't been picked up - I got chatting to someone who was setting up a publishing house and he was looking for writers to write in a world invented by the original founders of the house. In the end I backed out, partly because I came to have my doubts about the house and partly because I really wasn't feeling the world. I might adapt the story I wrote and the novella proposal I subsequently developed for future publications.

Which means I don't have much advice to give. I will say that I got chatting to this guy as a friend, and only later found out that he was starting his own publishing company when he asked me if I would like to write for it. Likewise, I got chatting to someone else (this happens to me a lot) and then found out he and a friend run one of the largest fantasy review sites in the UK (called Fantasy Book Review) when he asked me if I would be interested in blogging for them on a weekly basis.

There is much to be said for developing relationships with people online. I have no idea how the relationships I have developed so far will reflect on my sales. That remains to be seen after the book comes out, but so far I have had the opportunity to talk to published authors Suzanne McLeod and James Rollins, both of whom write books I both admire and enjoy. Then again, online relationships aren't everything. I met Peter V Brett because I got talking to his best friend in the gym at a conference.

I suppose in the end, there are no real secrets. The friends I have made on Twitter, which I only joined after I seriously committed myself to writing, are mostly writers or passionate readers and many of them love my writing. If people don't love your writing, they won't be bothered. So having writing samples (short stories, in my case) on your website seems to be a good idea. One frien, when we met at Readercon, greeted me with the words "I just have to say, first of all, you are an amazing writer. I've read your stuff. It's great." (I blushed mightily.)

My point is, your writing has to be good. I know everyone says this. Unfortunately, there's no massive conspiracy. It is actually true.

If my books get picked up by a major publisher, I will come back with information about that!



message 21: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments Sheila wrote: "Good point about pantsing the first in a series but not the rest. I'm back fixing the pantsed first book in one my series--luckily still unpublished so fixable."

One of my later critiquers said "the middle of your book feels what it is - pantsed." I cringed. A reader may be carried along by the action, but an experienced writer, and an industry professional, will notice the lack of structure. It's better to fix it now!


message 22: by Barbara (new)

Barbara Watkins (barbarawatkins) | 19 comments Welcome Mhairi, great to have you here! Your book sounds wonderful. I have a couple of questions concerning your marketing plan. Do you have a publicist or intend on hiring someone to help promote your work? How do you feel about on-line virtual book touring?


message 23: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments Barbiewatkins42 wrote: "Welcome Mhairi, great to have you here! Your book sounds wonderful. I have a couple of questions concerning your marketing plan. Do you have a publicist or intend on hiring someone to help promote your work? How do you feel about on-line virtual book touring?"

Hi Barbie! Sorry about the delay in getting back to you!

I don't have a publicist and I won't be hiring anyone. I simply can't afford it! And I'm also not entirely sure it would do me any good. As a self-published author most of the usual publicity routes (interviews with radio/paper/etc) are closed to me.

I will do an online tour, taking in various people's blogs and doing guest posts and interviews and contests and so on. I'm not sure it has much value when it comes to sales - I think it depends on who is following whom!

I suspect most of my publicity will happen through Goodreads (love this site), Twitter and Facebook. That said, I have some friends in this area so I'm hoping to get some physical grass-roots love going locally :) I'm going to try and get the book into Waterstones and WHSmiths and then I'll hopefully do some author events, but that's the mid-term plan. Short-term is online, mid-term UK events, long-term - conferences. I have started going to conferences and met some lovely people, but again, as a self-published author, I do feel that I need to prove myself before any traditional published author/agent/editor will take me seriously :)


message 24: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
Mhairi, what's your most favourite fantasy creature? Mine are dragons.


message 25: by D.D. Chant (new)

D.D. Chant (DDChant) | 33 comments Hi Mhairi! Me again!

What do you find is the hardest part of writing a book?


message 26: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments Mmmmm, that's a tough one! Historically mine is also a dragon. All that power and wings to boot, what's not to love?

That said, I hold a soft spot for several other races, most notably my unicorns (they shapeshift and can gift their horn to someone else when they die), and my twice-turned vampires, because they've suffered so much!

I might do another short story about the vampires. Did one already for an e-zine, but I don't think it's available anywhere online now. That issue has been and gone so...


message 27: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments D.d. wrote: "Hi Mhairi! Me again!

Hi!

What do you find is the hardest part of writing a book?"

Oh lord! I suppose it's deciding who your characters really are. I mean, it's one thing to run them through a story. You need to know them fairly well, but you don't have to have real in-depth knowledge to just make them endure a series of events and make decisions that lead to more events, etc.

The hard thing I'm going to have to do next, and I'm deliberately saving it for the last editing pass, is really working out what and who they are, deep down. This will inform the way they treat each other, their views of themselves and the way they look at what is happening around them. I've spent most of this year with these characters, but I've never really got inside them. They're strong enough that I could pretty much just wind them up and let them go, but I know that if I have the guts to really delve into them, I'll get so much more out of them, and so will the reader.

It's scary though, really digging into your characters. I want all my good guys to be perfect and of course they're not. None of them are. They've all got their flaws. But that doesn't quite come across in this draft, so I need to work on that. Because I'm not comfortable with acknowledging that my good guys have character flaws, it's going to be very hard, very emotional, for me to really get to know them properly, warts and all!


message 28: by J.H. (new)

J.H. Sked (jhsked) | 7 comments Hi Mhairi
I'm still sulking over the non-mead. Just wanted to say I am so looking forward to your book when it comes out - and loving the Q&A sessions here!


message 29: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments J.H. wrote: "Hi Mhairi
I'm still sulking over the non-mead. Just wanted to say I am so looking forward to your book when it comes out - and loving the Q&A sessions here!"


Hi!! Thanks for dropping by :D Oh, that non-mead. How could they do that to us???

Thank you so much for the support! I'm editing away, but it's editing that I have to really think about, so it's slower than just fixing typos :S Still, I am excited about it and can't wait to get it out into the big wide world!


message 30: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
Okay you two, explain non-mead. You have me curious.


message 31: by Mhairi (last edited Oct 30, 2011 08:48AM) (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments Hahahahahaha.

We went to a medieval fair for King Harold Day at Waltham Abbey (I think). JH assured me there would be mead, which was one of her main reasons for going. I was terribly excited about it because I've heard of mead but never actually had it before.

Then we got there and... NO MEAD. It was a non-mead day for us. There was no reason for them not to be there. As far as I know, they just didn't show up. Very disappointing :(

Edit: To the point where we're still complaining about it a month afterwards!!


message 32: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
Mhairi wrote: "Hahahahahaha.

We went to a medieval fair for King Harold Day at Waltham Abbey (I think). JH assured me there would be mead, which was one of her main reasons for going. I was terribly excited abou..."


I can understand that, your mead expectations were cruelly dashed.


message 33: by J.H. (new)

J.H. Sked (jhsked) | 7 comments I'm still sulking. I love my mead & it's almost impossible to get. It was a fun day though, lol.


message 34: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
J.H. wrote: "I'm still sulking. I love my mead & it's almost impossible to get. It was a fun day though, lol."

There's actually a local business here that makes fruit wines and mead.


message 35: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments A.F. wrote: "J.H. wrote: "I'm still sulking. I love my mead & it's almost impossible to get. It was a fun day though, lol."

There's actually a local business here that makes fruit wines and mead."


You see, now you're just taunting us.


message 36: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments J.H. wrote: "I'm still sulking. I love my mead & it's almost impossible to get. It was a fun day though, lol."

It was a great day. We'll have to made a recon trip to that local business A.F. mentioned :D


message 37: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
Mhairi wrote: "J.H. wrote: "I'm still sulking. I love my mead & it's almost impossible to get. It was a fun day though, lol."

It was a great day. We'll have to made a recon trip to that local business A.F. menti..."


The Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia is lovely in the spring time. We even have an Apple Blossom Festival in May.


message 38: by J.H. (new)

J.H. Sked (jhsked) | 7 comments Mhairi wrote: "A.F. wrote: "J.H. wrote: "I'm still sulking. I love my mead & it's almost impossible to get. It was a fun day though, lol."

There's actually a local business here that makes fruit Agree - I just read this and whined. Out loud.



message 39: by J.H. (new)

J.H. Sked (jhsked) | 7 comments And I have absolutely no idea how I managed the italic thingy above. Hmmn. Think it's lack of mead. Mhairi - you do know I'm going to bug you about writing more on that great short I was raving about a while ago, right? For everyone else - have a look at this and tell you don't want more from this world: http://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk/bl...


message 40: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments Did you look at where she lives though? That's going to be some expensive mead!!

Better be worth it, AF!!


message 41: by Mhairi (last edited Oct 30, 2011 11:29AM) (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments J.H. wrote: "And I have absolutely no idea how I managed the italic thingy above. Hmmn. Think it's lack of mead. Mhairi - you do know I'm going to bug you about writing more on that great short I was raving abo..."

I have actually been thinking about it. It's on my list of Books To Write That Aren't Nexus Chronicles.

Edit: That short would probably end up as a kind of prequel intro...


message 42: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
One last mead comment. As I understand it, you can make your own mead with a wine/mead-making kit and fresh clover honey.


message 43: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments A.F. wrote: "One last mead comment. As I understand it, you can make your own mead with a wine/mead-making kit and fresh clover honey."

Ooooohhhhh. JH, did you know this? Have you been holding out on me?


message 44: by J.H. (new)

J.H. Sked (jhsked) | 7 comments Mhairi wrote: "A.F. wrote: "One last mead comment. As I understand it, you can make your own mead with a wine/mead-making kit and fresh clover honey."

Ooooohhhhh. JH, did you know this? Have you been holding ou..."


I've heard about recipes. However considering a)how accident prone I am and b)the history of attempting home-made alcohol in my family, I've always thought it wiser not to attempt it. (My uncle managed to blow up most of a house with an attempt at home-made beer. 'Nuff said).

A kit on the other hand, makes it sound very, very tempting..


message 45: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments My dad has had great results with a wine-making kit. The red isn't great, but the white is lovely. Maybe I should ask him to give mead a shot. He's supposed to be home tomorrow...


message 46: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments Hey A.F.! Just wanted to say, thank you very much for this opportunity. I really enjoyed it! Really looking forward to doing it again when I have a book or three out and hopefully we'll get some more people to come and talk to me :D

Thanks again :)


message 47: by A.F. (new)

A.F. (scribe77) | 1777 comments Mod
Mhairi wrote: "Hey A.F.! Just wanted to say, thank you very much for this opportunity. I really enjoyed it! Really looking forward to doing it again when I have a book or three out and hopefully we'll get some mo..."

You're, welcome, Mhairi. It was a holiday weekend which could account for a bit of a low turnout.


message 48: by Mhairi (new)

Mhairi Simpson (mhairisimpson) | 142 comments Could be. I don't even mind. It was lovely all the same :D


message 49: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 97 comments A.F. wrote: "One last mead comment. As I understand it, you can make your own mead with a wine/mead-making kit and fresh clover honey."

Ah, honey mead - brings back memories.


message 50: by J.H. (new)

J.H. Sked (jhsked) | 7 comments Mhairi wrote: "J.H. wrote: "And I have absolutely no idea how I managed the italic thingy above. Hmmn. Think it's lack of mead. Mhairi - you do know I'm going to bug you about writing more on that great short I w..."

Yay!! I'll be looking forward to it :-)


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