Young Adult Writer Rachel Ward Author Interview
Rachel Ward, author of the Num8ers Trilogy (Num8ers, Chaos and Infinity), takes readers on a perilous teen journey where the days to love and live are numbered.
- From your website I noticed you started writing later in life. What prompted you to become a writer at this time in your life?
I don’t really know what started it. I just thought I’d give it a try and see if I could do it. The first thing I wrote was a radio play, which was rejected. Next I wrote some short stories, and then I tried novels. I had two novels rejected before I found a publisher for ‘Numbers.’
- What daily writing process did you go through to create Num8ers? Were there any obstacles you had to overcome?
I still have a day job, although I’ve cut my hours recently. When I was writing ‘Numbers’ I was working four days a week. My normal routine is to get up really early, walk my dog and then write for 45 minutes or so before I have to wake up everyone else in my family. On non-working days, I write for longer in the morning. If I have a really tight deadline I’ll put in three writing sessions of a couple of hours each (morning, late afternoon and evening).
- How did you go about creating the characters in the book? Did you keep a series bible?
In a way I didn’t create my characters, I found them, or, rather, they found me. Jem and Spider both just wandered into my head fully formed, within 24 hours of each other. I knew straight away what they looked like, how they spoke, what their backgrounds were. It was weird, almost like they were out there waiting for me to be ready to write about them. I’m not remotely organised. I don’t keep proper notes about characters and plots, although by the time I got to book 3, my publisher kindly did timelines and character summaries for the first two books for me.
- Jem, the main character in Num8ers, has a special gift and has difficulty dealing with it. She also lived in a series of foster home situations. Did you do any on-site research for this part of the book?
Shamefully, I didn’t do any research – I just made it all up. Since the book’s been published I have heard from some readers in that situation and they’ve told me how realistic the book is, but it was just luck.
- One of the things I liked most about Jem’s character is that she is strong-willed. She is not a fighter in the sense of karate moves, but a fighter of spirit and mind. Is this how you first visualized her character, or did that develop over the course of writing the book?
Jem’s character really emerged when I wrote the first chapter. I wrote it really quickly as I was aiming to enter it into a short story competition and the deadline was approaching. After that, she was pretty much fixed in my head.
- When creating the story line did you already have the ending? and the sequel Chaos in your mind?
I had the ending very early on, or at least the event but not necessarily the mechanism (don’t want to include spoilers!). I had an idea for three books which I pitched to my publisher. They were only willing to give me a contract for one book, and then I ended up adding an extra chapter at the end for a final twist, which was, in effect, the whole of my planned Book 2. So I had to totally rethink the sequel and the third one. With ‘Chaos’ I was determined not to rewrite ‘Numbers.’ I wanted to continue exploring the implications of Jem’s gift, but move in on a level. And the same with ‘Infinity’ which is about to be published in the UK. I wanted to move things on, and not go over the same ground.
- What level of involvement have you had in making of the movie script for Num8ers?
So far I’ve had a phone conversation with the scriptwriter who is working for Warp Films. I’m due to see the first draft of the script and to comment on it. I think that will probably be it as far as my involvement goes. I’m fascinated to see how they will adapt the book. I’m really confident that Warp will do a great job.
- You are an active author with many speaking engagement at schools. How has this helped you connect to your audience in ways that you never expected?
I love doing school visits. Although I go prepared with a talk, each visit is different and I love discussing writing and being published and the concepts behind my books. I didn’t realise before how important it would be to go out and publicise my books, but it’s something I’ve really enjoyed. I tend to talk to Years 8 and 9, which in the UK is students aged 12-14, and I really like meeting them. I wrote my first book not knowing if it would ever get published or if anyone other than my family would read it. It’s so inspiring to know that there are people out there eagerly waiting for my next book!
- How do you balance writing with work and family?
Well, I do most of my writing when my husband and two children are still asleep so it doesn’t have a huge impact on them. When I’ve got a deadline, writing takes over a bit and it’s more difficult to keep on top of domestic life. Writing’s a very flexible thing, though. I love writing at home, but I also take my laptop when my son plays tennis and do an hour with one eye on the computer and one eye on him.
- What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?
I would say that aspiring writers should write something they would like to read, something that challenges, excites or scares them. Try to write every day. Writing a novel is very daunting, but if you nibble away at it every day you can get there in the end. I’m trying to learn more about editing at the moment, because it’s something I’ve found very difficult, so I would advise not being too precious about your first draft and to be open to constructive criticism (easy to say, difficult to do).
- What are your thoughts about social media (Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, etc) and how it helps or hinders writers in today’s market?
I think social media can be really helpful in building a writer’s profile within the writing community. I’m not sure how much this helps connect with readers. I’m quite a quiet, private person so I’m a bit scared of Twitter and Facebook!
Thank you Rachel!