Welcome to the first interview of the Emerging Writer Series! The first author I want to introduce to you is a lovely lady called Winna Layarda. When I first announced the Emerging Writers Interview Series I knew I wanted to interview her as we have talked over instagram about her book many, many months ago now. I am so happy that all her hard work has paid off and is now available on Smashwords. I hope you enjoy our interview as much as I did!
You and I first discussed your work as you were writing it many months ago. Now it is finished and I am so happy that I can interview about it and the fact that you are self-publishing! Congratulations!
Hi Shelly! Thank you for having me! Well, I was born in Indonesia and I will be 25 years old this year. I spent most of my life in Singapore (childhood, education and college), until recently. I've move back to Indonesia after I got married to my husband.
I took business as my major in University. My favourite genre to read is Chick Lit, especially books by Sophie Kinsella and Alexandra Potter. I launched into my writing career two years ago and was inspired by my boyfriend (now husband) to give my passion a try.
My favourite television show is Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and currently, I am so hooked with Big Bang Theory. Besides reading and writing, I enjoy cooking very much.
Did you always possess a passion for writing? When did you have the epiphany that you actually wanted to publish your work?
Eleven years ago, when I was fourteen, I couldn't fall asleep one night and this idea came up out of the blue. It was much of a surprise for me as a person who never took a keen interest in reading. So I went to grab a pen and a notebook, and I started writing the book I would love to read. Being at that age, I still loved fairy tales a lot. I remember I wrote for about three pages. I didn’t finish that book eventually, and I never had a serious thought about being a writer. I started reading actively during that time where the movie ‘Twilight’ became so popular that I had to get a copy.
Writing a novel for me was something I have always deemed as impossible, not to mention publishing. It was only when I started reading Fifty Shades of Grey where I went to Google for E L James’ successful story for this book, it was then I realised ‘Hey, it is possible!’
What else do you do for work? How do you balance work, life and writing?
I became a full time writer after I got married and I focus on writing every day. Usually, I will write for six hours a day but more than that and my writing become less productive. If I really can’t write anymore, I will just shut down the computer.
Abigail Fischer is 24 years old and has freshly graduated from university, but is currently jobless and living with her parents. Abby had always been a creative soul who loved to help people and was passionate about studying psychology. However, her boyfriend Nathaniel Lee had bigger plans for their life together and that meant aiming for a better profession in business. In order to help him fulfil his vision she completed a degree in Business. Just when they thought they would get married after Nate proposed four years ago, they had to postpone their wedding because Abby’s sister was pregnant, and she needed an emergency wedding. She thought he would never ask again, but he did and the date was now set.
The pressure of making the perfect wedding for her fiancé forces her to get a new job for more money as the personal assistant to Clarissa Stone, the mother of Seth Winston a handsome and very rich CEO. Abby finds herself attracted to this man but is conflicted with her confusing feelings for Nate. A series of crazy events occurs which leads to secrets being revealed, a marriage and a helicopter spiralling to the earth. Abby must still choose which man she will give her heart too.
I started writing this story a few months after I got married. I remember going through those wedding jitters and finally it is all over.
I read an article online about a pilot’s artificial hand become detached when he was landing. I tried to imagine the things that will go through the passenger’s mind during that situation. It inevitable links to the unfortunate event of September 11th where the victim rushes to call their loved one to bid final goodbye and that it is never too late to say ‘I love you’ to whoever.
Thus, that idea struck me instantly. I work backward from this idea which is why this part happens in the third quarter of this book. A simple idea like this helps me to search for who, what, when, where, why and how. Slowly, all the missing puzzle is filled up, that is how Til’ Seth Do Us Part is born.
I have never read a Chick Lit before; can you explain to me how they differ from contemporary romance and why this genre influences you?
That is a very intellectual question, Shelly.
When you tried to search for images of Chick Lit in the web, the colour that usually dominates the page is pink and the cover would be designed with girly illustration and it usually attracts female readers. Wikipedia mentioned that Chick lit usually focus to the issues of modern womanhood; it is light and humorous most of the time. I love to read books from Kinsella and Potter due to their wit and humour, they could create a female character in such a way that connects to most women and that it is okay to make mistake and laugh at ourselves.
Contemporary romance is stories that occurred in the period after World War Two, as explained by Wikipedia. Usually the plotting is more complicated and the characters were characterised in a more realistic way.
In conclusion, there is always a blurred line between contemporary romance and chick lit. Goodreads has combined both genres into a collection as well. Thus I would say that chick lit is more for a light reading, while contemporary romance is something more complex.
What research did you do for your novel? I understand that Nate comes from a strong Chinese background, how did you make his mannerisms and beliefs shine through the page?
I have researched for the studies about interracial marriage in United States, the results shows that the marriage between a white wife and Asian husband, 59 percent of them are likely to divorce compared with same race white couples (Madamenoire.com). Therefore, one in two couple were likely to divorce for interracial marriage between white wife and Asian husband.
I tried making audiences see the incompatibility of Nate and Abby through their cultural differences. Since I am a Chinese, I tried to blend in the traditional side of my culture into the story. In most Chinese family, the seniors (parents, grandparents) mostly have the final say in every decision. When it comes to weddings, we have to pick an auspicious date base on the Zodiac of the couple. To the people who are used to this practice, it became a norm. But for others who are not accustomed to this, some arguments might surface.
Furthermore, jokes about Asian counterpart have been popular recently. So I thought, why not? My decision alone is not sufficient to stereotype the entire Asian population; I just make Nate’s character in the most extreme way I can imagine. I have to admit that it was fun writing Nate’s part in the story.
I strongly believe reading is essential to write. After all, it is the same as cooking. You need to have the ingredients and the recipes to make a dish. As mentioned before, I read chick lit most of the time, it gave me an idea how I want my story to be.
Before I started writing I would watch movies and this, for me, was something more entertaining. I do this so that I may observe what the characters are doing, for example, their expression, their thoughts, and why did they feel this way. So, instead of fully indulging in the show, fifty percent of my attention were studying the movie. Sometimes I would have a note and pen on my hand while I was watching the movie that is helpful for my story.
Of course, there were writer’s block, in fact, there were countless time. All the frustration and vexation I have been feeing, lead me to complete this book. I find it very helpful to discuss with someone who can solve what is blocking you. When we are having meals, I will discuss with my husband about the stage of the story I am in, so the more we talk about it, the clearer picture I see and all the possibilities I could put into the story.
You are currently in the process of self-publishing. Why did you decide to go down this route as opposed to traditional publishers?
Since I lived in Indonesia permanently, there is a very minimal chance of the citizens here reading an English book. Furthermore, I have this fear of being rejected by publishers.
The idea of self publishing came up when I found Smashwords during the time when I started looking for publishers online. The word ‘self publishing’ was unfamiliar to me, thus, I tried to get to know what Smashwords is all about.
Surprisingly, I love the idea of self publishing very much, and Mark Coker, the founder of this incredible website has created this to help all authors! What appeals to me the most is that authors retain full control over their works, how it is published, sampled, priced and sold.
What have you done to prepare your manuscript for self-publishing?
Finishing the book is an important step; it is like fifty percent of the job done. What comes next is the editing; I have done arounds five editing to polish it, maybe more than that, because while I was writing, I did some minor editing too.
A book needs an attractive title and cover. I came up with the name ‘Til Seth Do Us Part’ while I was chopping a carrot, and because my male character’s name is Seth. This book is closely connected with wedding and marriage. So, I thought of ‘till death do us part’, and I tried to replace ‘death’ with ‘Seth’, it sound perfect for me!
I had to invest a certain amount for the book cover, because the first impression is always the deepest. Mark Coker strongly encourages authors to hire a professional designer for making a good cover. I did, and I was very satisfied with the final design.
In the end, when editing is done, title is chosen and book cover is ready, my final step in to go through the ‘Meatgrinder’ in Smashwords. Basically, it transforms the Word document into other format such as epub, pdf, mobi (Kindle) etc.
Do you have any plans for a sequel? If so, tell us a little about it!
At the moment, I would love to hear the review from my readers, if there is any demand, I might consider.
What can we see next from you? Where will your writing go? Will you be expanding in any other genres?
Currently I have started my research for the second book I would be writing, I am so excited! I have decided to write a contemporary romance book that focus on strong female characters. Stay tuned.
I would probably stick to Smashwords to publish my work, because I haven’t found any reason not to, yet.
Thank you Winna, this has been a great interview! Your book sounds super cute and it looks like you have put so much effort into it! I wish you the best of luck in self-publishing ‘Til Seth Do Us Part.
Same to you, Shelly, thank you for this incredible opportunity in featuring in your blog!
Winna has also supplied me with a one chapter sample for you to download for free to see if you like her work! Let us give Winna and all the other emerging writers as much support as we can!