I firmly believe there’s no better time to get stuck into a new series than when the cold weather’s rapidly approaching and Christmas is well on its way. I’m currently reading the romantic thriller, A Shimmer Of Heat, first book of the Resolution Security series*, by emerging author Christy Shields. I’m delighted to share with you today a chat with Christy, plus a cheeky giveaway where you can win signed copies of the books AND a £10 Amazon voucher for yourself. Discover her writing process, tips for creating an impactful read with strong characters, and the challenges of writing raunchy scenes in coffee shops…
Get to know Christy Shields:
You spent 10 years working as a lawyer in some of the trickiest parts of the Middle East, what made you want to become an author?
I’ve always wanted to be an author, but in my twenties I didn’t think it was something I was confident enough to do, so I became a lawyer. I think that lots of frustrated writers become lawyers because it still allows you to work with words and write to achieve an outcome, to be persuasive. And lots of things that I learned as a lawyer have been useful in my writing.
What’s the best thing about being a writer and what’s the most challenging?
The best thing is to write the first draft and just let your imagination take you away. Sometimes you can’t use what you’ve written, but that first draft is still hugely enjoyable. The most challenging is the editing, for me at least. It’s sometimes hard to go back and re-read and re-draft what you’ve written and maybe take out a sentence or a scene you love because it’s not quite right for where you are in the development of the story or the point of view you are writing in.
What’s your step by step process for writing a novel?
I’m not a great planner. I often have a concept in my head and I know where it will end and the part in the middle is quite woolly. Obviously, you need to plot more tightly than that and I try to have a high level view of what the various stages are before I start to write, but I’m usually impatient to get to the characters, so sometimes I start too soon. I always pay for that because it makes the editing more time consuming, so I do try to force myself to plan first.
What’s your typical writing day like?
I don’t have a typical day unfortunately. If I had free choice I would write in the evenings as that is when I find it flows better, but I have a family, so locking myself away when they are all home doesn’t really work. I tend to work in the morning for a few hours around breakfast and chores and when I have a clear day I can often get quite a lot done. Some days, I don’t write at all and some days it just flows and I can get a lot of words out. I need some noise sometimes, so I do find myself writing in coffee shops and hoping no one can see some of the more raunchy parts!
What are the best things about self-publishing and what are the challenges?
Self -publishing gives you a massive amount of control over everything (title, cover, timeline etc) which I like. I think I would find it hard to have anyone else too involved in the process especially if we didn’t agree about something like the cover! I certainly read comments from traditionally published authors that indicate that that is a challenge they face.
The flip side of having that level of control is the challenge; it’s all down to you and no one is good at all aspects. I find marketing very difficult for example, it’s not my forte, it doesn’t come naturally to me and I have to force myself to do that side of things, even though it is hugely important. You can’t find readers if you don’t market well.
What tips do you have for other aspiring authors when it comes to writing?
On the writing side, I think it’s all about researching what readers in your genre are interested in and what they don’t like and trying to be sufficiently commercial, without losing your vision of what you want to write and what you think others will enjoy reading.
What elements do you feel are needed in a good book?
Good characters of course, with flaws and blind spots and weaknesses. Personally, I like grown up characters that have a back story and baggage who’ve messed up on occasion, they are much more interesting to write and to read in my view.
I love a bit of action. While I do like books which are almost completely character driven, for me, the combination of the characters and some action just makes for a good read and I try to write what I like to read.
About the Resolution Security series:
Where did your inspiration come from for the series? (including genre, relationships between the characters, setting of Denver and the plot)
The Resolution series was something I had been thinking about for a while. I wanted to write about an international group of people, with different races, genders and religions. Having lived abroad for so many years I felt that I had the understanding to write those characters. I love romantic suspense, so that was a no brainer. When I started writing A Shimmer of Heat, I had been reading a Game of Thrones and I think I wanted to bring some of that ‘saga’ like quality to the series.
The Denver setting is because I felt that was a good size city, close to the mountains, it gives a whole host of options for how the action develops. It also means it makes sense that so many family members are close by and they become central to the plot.
The plots are much more driven by what I need to happen with the characters so that the relationship develops in the direction and at the pace I want.
When did you first start writing Shimmer of Heat and how long did it take to get it from an idea to paper?
I started A Shimmer off Heat in January 2016, my new year’s resolution was to see if I could write a book from start to finish having made so many attempts over the years. It took me nearly eighteen months to get it finished. It was a great experience and a massive learning curve for me.
There are five books in the series; was that planned from the start or did the idea to turn it into a series come about once you started writing?
It was always planned as a series. Originally there were eight and in my head there are still more to come, but they may take a little longer to appear. I can’t imagine not writing both Taj and Chess’s stories and Quiet’s is already quiet advanced in my head.
The characters in the book have some interesting names – did you have fun coming up with them?
I did have fun with some of them, but many of the characters came with their team name when I thought of them, Chess and Al were always called that in my head – coming up with their real names was actually more of a challenge at times!
Lots of your book reviews comment on the strength of the characters. What was the intention behind not just having two main characters, but multiple whose lives all intertwine?
I love to read stories that are a bit more complex, where characters have complicated lives. I’m always fascinated by what their parents and siblings are like even if they are very incidental to the story. I don’t really enjoy books where the characters have just one friend and no family and it’s totally centred on those two people.
One reviewer has commented that you’re giving EL James a run for her money, how do you feel about that?!
Given how successful she is, extremely flattered! But I wasn’t really aiming for that when I wrote them, I just wrote what I thought felt natural for the characters. The physical side of the relationship drives the plot, certainly in some of the later books and it needs to be believable, even if it’s a bit more Hollywood than real life.
[GIVEAWAY CLOSED] The series makes for a great gift idea for friends and family that love getting stuck into a good thriller, so I’d say it’s the ideal time for a gorgeously bookish giveaway! You could win SIGNED copies of all three of the Resolution Security novels, plus a £10 Amazon voucher, just in time for Christmas. To enter, simply follow as many or as few steps of the below as you like:
Follow @lifeofpippa and @ChristyShields_ on Instagram, and like and tag a friend on the competition post.
Leave a comment on this blog post, telling us what you’re reading at the moment.
Follow @lifeofpippa_ and @ChristyShield17 on Twitter, and RT the competition tweet.
Like Life Of Pippa Blog on Facebook, and like and comment on the competition post.
One winner will be randomly selected from entries across all four of the above platforms. Giveaway closes Tuesday 18th December 2018 and is open to UK residents only. Giveaway prize includes signed copies of the first three Resolution Security novels and a £10 Amazon voucher, courtesy of Christy Shields. Best of luck!
You can find more information on the Resolution Security series on Amazon*.
Links marked with * are affiliate links. I receive a small percentage in commission for any sales made through these links, at no extra cost to you. This piece and related social media posts are kindly sponsored by Christy Shields. If you enjoyed it, be sure to check out my other bookish shenanigans too!