Name Serina Hartwell
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I’m from the mill town that I write about, which is situated approximately six miles from the village where the Bronte Sisters lived. As a child I had a great group of friends and although none of the characters are based on me or my life, my happy childhood setting has come through in the writing. I have no formal education and only discovered I could write back in 2010. Since learning that it was second nature to me, I have been teaching myself the skills I need and wishing that I’d been less of a daydreamer in class and had paid more attention. That said, had I done that, I probably wouldn’t be a writer today, because I believe that it was my ability to daydream that qualified me the most.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My latest news is that I am currently editing the second book in the saga – Trapped. Trapped is quite different to Hidden, as are all of the novels in the series so far. They each take on a life of their own. Hidden is an urban fantasy, with emphasis on the urban elements of the story, but Trapped is far more fantasy. The second novel takes us deeper into Bayer’s world and we begin to learn more about those who pursue Bronte, and their intentions. I can’t wait to finish this and get it out to everyone, just so I can share a little more of this huge story. I’m aiming to get it out later this year, so watch this space.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Now there’s an interesting question. There are so many reasons why I became a writer. I had an itch that I just couldn’t scratch, and I couldn’t work out what it was. For years, I searched for this missing piece in my life. I knew that I was supposed to be doing something else, something bigger, but no matter what I tried, I couldn’t find it. I regularly changed my job, and ended up working in almost every sector, but still couldn’t find it until I became really sick and had a hard time at work. Those two events, running simultaneously, really made me focus on changing my life. I had a growing urge to write something, anything, it didn’t matter what. I just had a feeling that I should try it. I sat down one afternoon and wrote a couple of pages of a scene on an old computer, which died soon after, but that gave me a taste for it and I wanted to explore it further. It was another three months before I finally found the opportunity to write again and I snuck down the bottom of the garden with my daughter’s borrowed laptop and tried again. The urge to write having never left me, to this day I’ve never stopped writing in some shape or form.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The first time I considered myself a writer was by the end of the second chapter of Hidden. I know that’s early, but I just knew that I’d found what I was looking for and what I’d written was good enough for me to continue. From that moment on, I knew I would always be a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I would have to say nothing and everything to this. When I set out writing, I just wanted to play with words on a page. I never expected anything to come of it. I just wanted to see if I could even string a few sentences together. I had no formal training. The last thing I wrote creatively was back in secondary school, so I didn’t expect it to be any good at it, so originally there was no inspiration.
I tried to write a horror, because that was my most favored genre, but Hidden wasn’t a horror, and it soon took its own form. It shaped itself into a fantasy and then the science fiction began to come through. Living in the Yorkshire Dales surrounds you with natural beauty, and as I sat writing I found myself surrounded by the elements. I’d always had a particular interest in the weather and the elements very quickly became the main focus of the underlying story of the Hidden Saga.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I wrote the Hidden Saga in third person, but I’m also working on another project with a very good friend of mine – author Eric R. Johnston. We are writing a book together called, Behind The Cold. This is a vampire story and I’m experimenting with writing in first person. I haven’t quite got my head around it yet, but I’m really enjoying getting more intimate with my characters. I find that writing in first person allows me to go much deeper into my characters and really explore their emotions.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I have a very simple way of deciding my titles. Rule of thumb, I hate titles that are too long, so I try to make them as short as possible. I begin to tell the story to myself and see what key words I use to describe it. I chose Hidden, because it was the best way to describe the story in one word. The first book is about discovering a family secret. Trapped is a title that represents itself on two different levels. I’ll let the reader decide what those are.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes. The overall message in Hidden is that despite adversity, never lose hope and be flexible towards what life throws at you.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I take some credible ideas and lace them into my story, giving them a fantasy twist. I like to make my readers question accepted concepts – could that be? I always try to write stories within stories and make my readers read between the lines. I aim to make it as realistic as possible whilst I’m messing with your mind.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Although, initially I based the character’s background and setting in Hidden upon my own childhood, that’s where the likeness ends. The characters in my own childhood setting, as in the mills and the village I grew up in, for a couple of reasons. I wasn’t an experienced writer and could easily think back and describe where I grew up and secondly, I wanted to preserve some of the happiest time of my life for others to experience as well. Yes, I will be in trouble when my mum reads this and discovers that I used to play out of bounds in the mill grounds with my friends, but no, we weren’t as brave as Bronte and her friends. I think that Hidden is what I always imagined would happen if we ventured inside the mills that stood at the end of the street.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I would have to say Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. It was after I finished the saga and was hungry for more that I was finally driven to borrow my daughter’s laptop. The funny thing is that her saga was outside my usual genre. I only started reading it, because my teenage daughter was reading it and I wanted to know if it was suitable. It took me back to emotions I hadn’t felt since being a teenager and moved me to such an extent that I hope to capture those feelings in my work. I aim to draw on every emotion possible, as I take you on my journey.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m currently reading The Damaged by Simon David Law. What a spine chiller? This is one of the best horrors I’ve read in ages. I simply can’t put it down.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Again, Simon David Law – He has a talent for getting your mind racing. He is definitely an up and coming and another author who I’m currently supporting, but hasn’t released his first book yet is Aaron R. Scott. He is such a talented writer, but hasn’t found his confidence yet. I don’t think that he can see what I can already. When he finally gets his first book out, I want to be the one to say I discovered him first.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
My current projects are Trapped – I’m finishing up the writing of the second book in the saga and getting it ready for editing and I’m also writing another book, which is outside of the series with another author – Eric R. Johnston, the aforementioned Behind The Cold. I’m loving every minute of challenging my writing skills. I love learning what I can and can’t do.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
There have always been two main elements to what has supported me outside of my family, but right in the very beginning it was a site called Authonomy, a community created by Harper Collins. They used it to find new writers to publish. I found the support from the writing community invaluable. I’d finally found people to read my work and critique it honestly, something that is hard for writers to find. This is where I learnt how the publishing industry worked and made great contacts. The other element was what followed. I gained writing contacts in the trade. Many people might think that it’s ludicrous to support other authors. After all, you’re in competition with them, but in the Indie Author community, this just isn’t the case. We actually work together and support one another readily.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’m currently working on it. It is my intention to become a full-time writer.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No – and I have started over again with Hidden – I revamped it when I went from being a published author to a self-published author and ended putting chapters back in that I’d taken out for my publisher. It made the story more complete and added the depth back in that I’d lost for the sake of word count.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I was always great at analyzing texts. I could take a novel apart and look at it. I was able to think about plot lines and storylines without skipping a beat. I found it so natural that English became my favorite subject at school. So, even though I didn’t find writing until I was much older, that memories of my English lesson, discussing characters and plots came flooding back. I spent all my spare time at the library and read avidly as a child. My dad was a reader too, and I can’t ever remember not seeing him without a book in his hand, so the influences were there. The initial spark of creativity came when I’d read the Twilight series and The Vampire Diaries and literally ran out of reading material and asked myself if I could write something. That was when I had a go and realized I’d found the thing I’d been looking for my entire life. I was a natural writer.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Yes, this is unedited text, so it could change a little once my editor goes through it, but not by much. At least you will get a feel for it. It’s outside the text that will be published as free, so it’s a little exclusive bonus for the readers. I hope you enjoy. This is the opening scene to chapter one of Trapped – The Hidden Saga Book 2…
Bronte sat bolt upright, panting, pearls of sweat forming on her brow. The images of her dream remaining ever vivid in her mind. She looked around her shadow lit room, still unsure of where to find anything. Reaching out for her bedside lamp she knocked a photo frame to the floor. Jumping with the sharp sound, she realised that she was still hung over from her dream. The splintered glass splay across her dark wooden floor inviting an accident with one movement of poor judgement. She fumbled around until she found the switch and sat up looking over at the broken picture frame. The crumpled note from Jenson lay nearby like a sharp reminder of what he had said in his letter – They were over.
Tears burst to the surface again. Life in Ireland sucks. It’s hard enough as it is and now this. Like an open sore that had just been dressed with salt, the pain of being rejected was too much. Bronte had always known deep down that their relationship couldn’t last with her in Ireland and him back home, but she had clung to hope. Hope she had needed to get her through the first few months of living in Ireland.
The ring on her finger caught her eye and she thought about crossing it with her bracelet. The temptation was great; Bronte longed more than ever to go back, just for a short while to make things right with Jenson, but the words in his note left her without the chance of reconciliation. He had moved on. Riley had not been in touch since the night she left. It had been months. This only served to confirm her worst fears that he believed her visit just a dream. Loneliness welled within her. Filled with emptiness, she absentmindedly twisted the ring once more. Just one more visit…just one more.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Distraction. The problem with being a writer is that in order to write, daydreaming has to be your number 1 qualification, but it can also be your arch nemesis. This is something that I have to manage and keep in check.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
This is a tough one, because it’s like being asked to choose between your children, but after a lot of deliberating, I would have to say that it’s Stephenie Meyer. I connect with her work so easily. I’m never fighting the text, I’m a reader who needs loads of description, despite what you might hear about over describing things within the community. I think that she gets the balance right and I become her characters when I read. Her stories are packed with action and she tackles controversial subjects well. For me, Stephenie Meyer is a page turner and I can’t fault her work.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not presently, because although I’ve written quite a few books, I haven’t released them yet, so until I have more work out there, I’m just going to focus on writing the saga. Plus, every time I put something out, the response I get from readers is ‘Where’s the next one?’ I understand that energy, so I want to create a cushion before touring. However, I do plan to begin touring when I’m more established and know that that’s what my readers want next.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My cover designer is the exceptionally talented, Lindsay Anne Kendal of Lindsay Anne Kendal Graphics. She is a fellow author and artist, so understands the whole process and what you need from a cover. It’s been a pleasure working with her. She has done the covers to my next two books also.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Writing it was a piece of cake. It was once I’d written it that I struggled. Getting it published was really hard, because I was trying to enter an industry that I knew nothing about and there are a lot of rules to follow, so I made many mistakes in the beginning. I still do, but there’s always something new to learn.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learnt a lot about me through my writing. It taught me that I could finally have a place where I could be in complete control. I had a place to escape to and I was creating that place. I had to teach myself to write again. I surprised myself at how much I could learn in such a short time, and I never regarded myself as strong, until I hit the publishing and editorial industry. This is where I began to learn about how much stamina I had. Being knocked back by professionals constantly, isn’t easy, but it is worth it, because each time you learn something new.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Stop thinking about it and planning it, apart from a brief plan. Just get on with it. Most things I’ve over planned, I’ve thrown out. Writing always reads better and is more appealing when it comes from the heart. If it doesn’t flow, your reader will be working against the material and they’ll put it down. I do a five minute plan of a chapter in a mind map before I begin and then get on with it. The plan is literally just stepping stones, so I know where I’m going, but the story comes when I hit the keys. Often, I don’t look at the plan again after I start writing. Some of the process is about preparing my mind to write.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Look for the story within the story. I like to play on hidden meanings and reading between the lines. Also, if you enjoy my stories, shout about them. Let me know that you’ve enjoyed them through leaving me reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. These are more important to authors than you might think. We read every single one and we share the positive ones amongst our community.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I don’t remember the first book, but feel sure that it would have been something by Enid Blyton. I used to read The Folks of the Far Away Tree constantly. I loved that story.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I love when a writer takes me deep into their character and I feel that I am living their joy or trauma with them. This is something I try to put into my writing ALWAYS, because it’s what I look for when I’m reading.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
She needed a nudge, but got there in the end and finally started living her life.
It took for me to get sick to reflect upon my life and look at where all those dreams had gone. I wasn’t living life, I was just doing what I needed to get each day out of the way and survive. When you dance with the Old Grim Reaper, you soon begin to realize that life is very short, and if you don’t pack as much into your day as you can, then you’re really wasting the short amount of time you have here. I didn’t like my life and wanted to change it, so hence my inscription.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Yes. I am an amateur photographer and artist. I’m hardly ever without a camera in my hand, and I love to turn the worst pictures into art pieces, so I combine the best of both worlds. I use my photography as inspiration for my novels also and have started using it in my blogs about the saga too. I like to tell the story in pictures as well as words.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love Big Bang Theory, Friends, Horizon documentaries, anything by Dr Iain Stewart about the Earth and its elements and things by Dr Brian Cox, about the stars. I love to watch documentaries about science and particularly the weather and I think my current favorite film is Super 8.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Favourite food has to be warm apple pie and fresh double cream.
Favourite colours are turquoise/blue/violet
Favourite music is impossible to pinpoint, because my taste is so wide, but I listen to Florence and the Machine, Snow Patrol and Elbow. Readers can check my writing playlists out on You Tube.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I am a secondary school librarian and work with young people. I would always work with young people in some capacity.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
My blog is – https://serinahartwell.info/
My website is – http://www.serinahartwell.com/
I’m also a Goodreads Author –
This is my author page on Amazon – http://viewauthor.at/Serina_Hartwell
This is my photography. I use it as inspiration for my novels – Flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/serinahartwell/