Featured Author: Nia Lucas!

Screen Shot 2018-11-27 at 13.39.51.pngAuthor, Nia Lucas, has recently published her new novel Love Punked! This bold, down-to-earth story will make you do everything from laugh to cry, stringing you along on the character’s journies as if they were your own. You can check out my review of Love Punked here!

Here’s a Q&A with Nia, all about her recent release of Love Punked, what she has planned for the future of her writing and her experiences with publishing a novel!

Congratulations on the publication of Love Punked, back in August this year! This book is split between so many genres (YA, Contemporary, Romance, etc), what made you want to combine them? Was it a conscious choice?

Thank you! If I’m honest, it would be a LOT easier if Love Punked sat neatly within one genre because it makes marketing it pretty tough. It was never a conscious choice to cross genres but it’s the result of being a ‘pantser’ rather than a ‘planner’. I don’t plan my books at all- I build the characters for ages in my head, then I use an event as a catalyst and off it goes!

I am drawn to write stories that show how intense teenage experiences can affect the way you view the world and shape your whole adulthood. My own teenage years completely shaped some of the key decisions I’ve made, the choices I took and even the career I entered so for me, that period feels critical. I’ve been with my husband since we were teenagers too so that also undoubtedly affects the way that I view relationships and romance. My books are definitely not aimed at the YA adult market- my language is too spicy for starters before we even get to the sex scenes but it strays into YA territory at times. I love the 90’s, it was my era and writing stories set in that period feels entirely natural. As for the romance? I LOVE a real, honest, gritty and heartbreaking love story and because I ultimately write stories that I know me and my mates will read, that’s where the story takes me! Maybe I need to start a new genre: IWIWAYAA *I Wish I Was A Young Adult Again*. Sounds about right for me and my mates!

One thing I really loved about this book is that the characters felt so real. I laughed with them, I cried for them, but I felt as if I knew them. Are they based on people you know?

The evasive answer is ‘Yes and No’. My stories are always a collage of influences with bits of people from my own life, things I’ve heard, stuff that has happened to me and around me mixed in with a lot of fiction and a healthy dose of imagination! For example, Love Punked starts with a foam party incident in a nightclub which is 100% true! That was me, aged sixteen in an incident that my mates still laugh about. I was separating two brawling lad-mates at an Under 18’s night, confident in my abilities to bring peace until we got clattered into by the bouncers and ended up under the foam. When I came home, covered in their blood and looking like ‘Carrie’, my Dad thought I’d been shot. It was just one example of the sort of shambolic chaos that has become a feature of my life!

All of the characters are, in part, real people. They have been changed into somebody different and are unrecognisable to anyone apart from me (and perhaps my best mates) but they are people that I love and people who are and were important to me. People sometimes assume that because Erin is ginger and mouthy, that she is me. She’s not. I fear I’m actually her Mum!

Without giving too much away, Love Punked contains a lot of different personalities, types of relationships and challenges. Was there a part of the book that was your favourite to write?

My absolute favourite parts to write were when Erin’s experiences as a parent are explored. I loved trying to convey the full range of horror, terror and hilarity that comes with parenting and it was really important to me that Erin’s experiences of it were real and relatable, regardless of whether or not they have kids. I always love writing anything to do with Jay too, his journey was really important to me. The ending was fun too. I bloody love that ending!

Perhaps similarly, who was your favourite character to write?

The easiest character was Erin because I know her inside out but I think my favourite character to write might be Danny. Danny is a mixture of three people from my life, all of them hilarious, sarky and entirely filthy. Writing him was the thing that made me laugh out loud at times and every word of his that I had to cut in the editing process killed me!

Your characters have such distinct ways of speaking, including accents and slang. Was it difficult to include this? Did you feel like you had to edit it to ensure that people who were unfamiliar with British colloquialisms would still understand and enjoy the story?

Yesterday night on the train home from work, there was a post by a very popular ‘Bookstagramer’ from Montreal in my Instagram feed. She had done a beautiful picture of Love Punked but had commented that she couldn’t understand a single word of the first chapter because the English in it was completely different from what she was familiar with. I did a noisy snort-laugh on the train, the sort that causes people near to you to look vaguely alarmed. She probably had a fair point. The characters in Love Punked are Welsh or of Welsh Heritage, they are from the West Country, Birmingham, New Zealand and even Italy and whilst (I hope!) it’s a piece of cake for somebody from the UK to read, colloquialisms like ‘chopsy’, ‘chuffed’ and a decent amount of British profanity, mean that for non-UK readers, they have a challenge! I have had a lot of positive reviews but I strongly suspect that there was a LOT of Googling going on. I think it’s probably a 50/50 thing for non-British readers, a bit of a Marmite situation. I guess that’s quite apt!

In real life, I have one of the strangest accents. It’s a proper mash-up of Welsh, West Country, South Yorkshire and West London. It changes depending on who I’m speaking to (I’m very Welsh when I’m tired, nervous or angry) but it’s pretty distinctive. I find accents really easy to hear in my head and to then write. I hope for any reader, they find the same, unless they’re from across the Atlantic maybe!

Erin and co. have some hilarious quips in this book! Are you naturally quite witty or did you find it difficult to make them as funny as they are?

Erm, well I think my friends and family would describe me as a bit ‘gobby’, a bit sweary and with the ‘gift of the gab’ (and that’s actually my Mum’s version of a compliment). The dialogue was genuinely easy to write and I do love making people laugh. In my ‘real life’, I’m a Social Worker and at times, especially in the most awful and heartbreaking situations, humour is one of the only tools I have to comfort and support people whose lives are falling apart. It’s always been part of my toolkit, even as a child. My mother tells anyone who listens that aged 2, during my brother’s Christening, I felt that everyone was getting too serious and so proceeded to do astonishingly speedy laps of the church, flashing my knickers and giggling like a banshee. I think that set the tone of my life really.

As for the plot of the story, one of the main things that your characters deal with is unexpected teenage pregnancy. What made you want to write about this?

This is a part of the story that was so important to me and is maybe one of two areas where my work life affected the direction that the story took. As a Social Worker, I have seen incredible teenaged parents who have had to fight prejudice, assumptions and ignorance in order to be viewed as competent. Similarly, I have seen some Biblically awful parenting from older, well educated, affluent parents whose failings were overlooked because of the same assumptions and prejudice. Teenage pregnancy rates are falling in the UK which on one hand is a good thing but on the other, it can further isolate the girls who are thrust into parenthood early on. I wanted Love Punked to challenge assumptions that the reader might hold about that group of young people. The same applies to Jamel and the journey he takes. I wanted to make the reader feel protective and attached to two characters who, on paper, people might ordinarily judge or condemn. If the reader invests in Erin and Jay as people, then I’ve achieved that!

The plot of this book definitely kept me on my toes. We follow your characters over about 10 years altogether and it really feels like a journey, what made you want to stay with them for that long?

It was always important to me that Love Punked really gripped those early, teenaged issues with the characters and then realistically followed them through their journeys to adulthood but it’s tough to give readers enough information to take them through the passing of time. These characters have lots going on in their lives- their relationships are not the centre of their universes because they are all building lives and building futures. These processes take time and energy and it would be unrealistic if they were solely focused on one particular issue. I didn’t know where Erin’s story would take her- I went off in ALL sorts of directions before the ending ‘fit’ but ultimately, it is about the journey and I was desperate to get Erin’s story told.

So, Nia, although Love Punked is not the first novel that you’ve written, it is the first one that’s been published. What encouraged you to keep pushing on with writing?

My characters are in my head for a long, long time before I start typing and by the time I get down to writing, I have almost become desperate for people to meet them! That’s what pushes me on, the desire for other people to get to know these people who previously lived only in my head. I’m writing my 5th book at the moment and the protagonist is called Jordanne. I saw an outfit in Primark yesterday and the voice in my head said, “Ooooh, Jordanne would love that”. Frankly, I write because there’s not enough room in my head to contain a crowd of fictional characters along with the mob of loons that are my real-life friends and family! Feedback is a big motivator too because if I write something that my friends love or that people invest time in reviewing, it drives me on to write more. When you don’t have any other measure of success apart from feedback/reviews, they become really precious to you.

The success of Love Punked must have been wonderful to see from readers. Are you planning to write a sequel, or are you looking to move onto another story altogether?

I feel very lucky that people are reading and reviewing a book by an unknown, self-published author- I’m pretty certain a lot of that is down to my friend Fiona Bridges’ cover art! I never intended for Love Punked to have a sequel but having spent time talking to people at Book Clubs that have read Love Punked, I am considering it! I’m not sure what it would look like or where it would go- part of me wonders if perhaps it needs to be in the context of the ‘2nd Generation’ because the ‘babies’ would be in their twenties now. Right now, I’m trying to edit the first book I ever wrote, which is part of a three book series. All three books are written and complete, they just need some serious word-chopping and editing. I’m really hoping to get the first one released in February 2019 but that deadline is scarily close!

Do you think the books that you’ll publish in the future will be of a similar genre or are you wanting to try out something completely different?

I think my future writing will be a mix of genres. I’ve got an embryonic idea for a story involving a group of women in their late thirties too. The books I’m editing right now though are similar to Love Punked in that they don’t sit neatly anywhere. They have that NA/YA flavour with Contemporary and Romance elements but they are much darker, much grittier and they have made my friends cry on buses and trains (I always take that as a good sign). The themes are darker, it examines relationships which are intensely flawed and it makes the reader question where they stand but there is still humour and a lightness to it. It needs a lot of editing and I’m starting to develop a ‘Love Hate’ relationship with the delete button.

Love Punked is self-published, and I read that you used KDP toolkit. What’s your experience with this process been like?

I am somebody whose 8-year-old has been able to out-tech me for at least five years, I am a catastrophe with anything IT-related. However, the KDP toolkit has been a piece of cake. I am not somebody who is looking to make a regular, dependable income from this particular release though so I can’t comment on how well it performs for people who have a more commercial need. It’s been good to me though and frankly, if I can operate it, that’s as good an accessibility advert as they could hope for. I don’t really have any knowledge of the other options so I’d always recommend that people shop around, especially as Amazon is not everyone’s favourite retailer.

Would you recommend self-publishing to other aspiring authors?

That’s a tough one!! Having taken the plunge with Self-Publishing Love Punked, I know that there are at least 75% of Agents and indeed Direct Submission Publishers who won’t consider taking it on now. I sort of knew that when I made the decision but it’s really sunk in and I feel a bit sad for Erin and Jamel that, for now, I’ve denied them the prospect of a bigger market!

I would love an Agent, a publishing deal or some sort of ‘Richard and Judy Bookclub’ moment but that is not on the table and so for me, self-publishing lets me build up interest in my writing, it allows me to get reviews and feedback and it lets me test the waters of this VERY competitive and crowded literary world. If I hadn’t self-published, I would not be writing this interview now, I’d never have been sneaked into a big Literary Festival’s Author’s Tent (long story) and I wouldn’t have bamboozled Canadian Bookstagramers whilst gathering a lush collection of Blog reviews and Amazon reviews. When I approach Agents in the future, I have these things to offer them as credentials and I’m pretty certain it can’t hurt!

I am lucky in that I LOVE my job. Being a Social Worker is everything to me and writing is the amazing hobby that has turned into a way of making strangers laugh and say nice things on the internet. It’s a fab balance. I don’t know if I could ever leave Social Work to be a full-time writer and so at the moment, self-publishing suits me perfectly. The only (significant) downside is that you have got to graft like a Trojan to keep the profile of your book going. This all takes time. I don’t sleep (insomnia) so I get an extra part of my day to do all this in, however, normal, sensible people who have day jobs and actually go to bed at a reasonable hour, they may struggle with the amount of work self-publishing takes.  At Royalties of 30p per paperback copy and a whopping £1.01 from ebooks, I won’t be ordering that Private Jet just yet!

Nia can be found on Twitter and Facebook, where she posts added extras, snippets and reviews to accompany her books.

You can purchase Love Punked on Amazon here (available in ebook and physical copy). Or you can browse her Amazon author’s page and keep an eye out for her other upcoming releases here.

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