Todays interview is with author Zella Compton about her upcoming book "The Ten Rules of Skimming", and her writing!
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself.
Zella Compton: I have always wanted to be a fiction writer, and so obviously have dedicated myself to everything but fiction writing! I’ve tried my hand at a few businesses, including running a bed and breakfast and importing bouncy castles (to Canada), but mostly I’ve made my living from feature writing, magazine editing, and as a columnist. I wrote bits and pieces of fiction in my spare time for years and years. And then one day I got the idea for Skimming and knew that it had to be written.
As well as writing, I do some contract work for the government (which sounds far more mysterious than it really is), and when nothing else is going on, I potter around my garden plotting slug genocide. I like to dance, I like to sing, and I like to bake without recipes.
Currently I live on the South Coast of England, overlooking the Solent. I grew up here, left when I was seventeen, and came back with husband and three children when I was in my mid-thirties, a few years ago.
Books & Writing: Do you remember the first story you wrote?
Zella Compton: My attic is stuffed full of stories and plays I’ve written which my parents kept hold of over the years. The first ones (that are decipherable) were written when I was about ten. Foxy and Friends was an epic thriller about the difficulties of getting a chaise longue into a den. That was closely followed by The Nurdles (about very small people who lived in a giant statue).
I remember the first story I submitted. It was for Jackie (a young teenage magazine), and I still have the handwritten rejection letter. It was about a girl who realized that she was a character in a book and didn’t like having someone else control her every thought and action.
Books & Writing: Were you inspired by someone or something?
Zella Compton: When I was a kid, the digital age was a science fiction dream. At home, we had three TV channels and the content I was allowed to watch was pretty dull. Having the box censored was ironic considering the books which I had at my disposal. I read whatever I could lay my hands on. From Enid Blyton to James Herbert, Nevil Shute to Tove Jansson. It was very eclectic. So while I wasn’t inspired by one particular author or person, I was inspired by my parents’ collection of books and of course, my local library.
Books & Writing: What do you love about writing a story?
Zella Compton: When I’m writing I enjoy the surprising things that my characters do. I always have a rough plan, and then someone goes and does or says something quite unexpected, and I have to rethink everything, or pull the character back into line. I love keeping a list of all the strings which need to be tied together, and then ticking them off when they’re done. I write myself notes on scraps of paper to remind me. Sometimes it takes me hours to remember quite what I meant, but when I do, well, it’s a glorious moment! You know what? I love everything about writing except the sicky feeling I get when someone reads my work for the first time.
Books & Writing: Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming book The Ten Rules of Skimming and the main characters?
Zella Compton: The Ten Rules of Skimming is about Adam, a teenage boy, discovering he can skim through people’s minds. Joy riding through minds is a dangerous hobby, especially when the Board (who govern skimming) are chasing you down. When Adam’s sister goes missing, he has to face the wrath of the Board in order to find her.
The book has graphic novel elements, so it has sequential illustrations on each page by the lovely Jess Swainson. It was fabulous to look at those as they were created, seeing how she brought people to life. There are lots of powerful characters in the book, and Jess has very much captured their essence. Like the gruesome questioner who opens the story, after locking Adam in a room with him.
I particularly like the way that Jess has drawn Adam’s friend Jenny-Ray (or Spod as she’s known), she has awesome curly hair – like me!
Books & Writing: How did you come up with the story for the book?
Zella Compton: I was sitting on the beach, and I suddenly thought: what if? What if you could skim through minds, how would that work? And wouldn’t it be dangerous? And with a power like that, wouldn’t other people want to use it for their own gains? And what would you do with it? And what if you had it, and then couldn’t do it anymore? The ‘what ifs’ kept coming and coming, and so I scrawled it all down on the back of an envelope, and that’s how it started.
Books & Writing: How long did it take you to write the book?
Zella Compton: I have no idea. I am a binge writer, so I sit for hours and hours and hours, and then take a month off, before bingeing some more. It took me a long time to show Skimming to anyone, but the first publisher I sent it to, said ‘yes please’.
Books & Writing: Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Zella Compton: Stop talking about doing it, and get on with it. Only you can write your book, no one else can. And when you’ve done it, read it, edit it, put it away for six months, and then read and edit again. Don’t stop because you’re tired of writing it, stop when you’re done.
Books & Writing: Which author inspires you?
Zella Compton: Every single one of them! They have been through the slog and made it out the other side, that’s inspiring.
Books & Writing: Where can people go and read your work?
Zella Compton: The Ten Rules of Skimming is available from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and via all good bookshops in the UK. It’s also available from Mogzilla.co.uk (my publisher). Ask your local library to stock a copy!
Books & Writing: Where can people find you on internet?
Zella Compton: Please come and say hello either on my website: zellacompton.co.uk, on my facebook page Zella Compton, or on twitter @zellacompton. Years ago I interviewed an author for a magazine, and she told me of the joy of seeing someone reading her book on the Tube. I would love to see people reading my book, so take a picture of yourself and send it to me!
Books & Writing: Is there anything else you want to share with the readers?
Zella Compton: I really hope that you enjoy the book! Thank you for reading, and thanks for interviewing me.
The Ten Rules of Skimming: excerpt
It was a simple question. “I need all the details,” the Questioner said. “The only way I can help you is if you tell me everything.”
Adam looked at the older man sat opposite him. He’d followed him into the basement of the hospital. The place had endless corridors with hundreds of sweaty feet squelching up and down in sandals, rising and falling, keeping time with the births and deaths. Now Adam was regretting his decision. He was going to be stuck here for hours and there was no guarantee that this man could save him from the fury of the Board and the consequences of his actions.
“Where shall I begin?” Adam asked.
“At the start. How did you discover you could skim?”
“It started in this hospital, a ward somewhere above here.”
Adam smiled at his Questioner, hoping he could remember all the details. He relaxed back into his chair and spoke so softly that the Questioner moved the old fashioned Dictaphone further forward and started taping their conversation.
“It happened like this...”
Adam put his hands behind his head and began his story.
PRICE: UK £7.99
SUGGESTED AGE: 10+
AVAILABLE: Sept 2012