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Karen Millie-James

FAQs

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS – THE SHADOWS BEHIND HER SMILE

1. What made you start writing especially with your business interests?
I didn’t think there was a specific time or point but it’s something I always wanted to do. I started in April 2013 so to me that felt right. My business is very important to me and something I’ve built up over 24 years. Now I’m able to combine the two and in fact can utilise my business background by incorporating my experiences into the writing.

2. What is the background behind the story and the genre?
I liked the idea of having a strong businesswoman, which Cydney is. I started writing as a memoire for my family but I ran out of stories to be honest. I have always loved thrillers and the story wrote itself in that respect. The book fits into different genre. As Cydney is also a psychic medium, I thought it would be great for her to have inside knowledge of people’s agenda and advice to help her during her investigations.

3. How did you characterise Cydney? Do you see herself in you?
Well obviously you write about what you know, but novels are not real life. She is a businesswoman, so I do see myself in her but a novel gives you literary licence to expand. Some traits are very similar, considering my background and hers but I can separate myself. I do love her character actually.

4. What about your other characters?
I love all my characters in the book. I have lived with them for nearly 3 years and they are all very important to me. I know how they would think and behave. It’s like having close friends.

5. Cydney talks a lot about her dad? Was this intentional? Tell me about him. What about your mum?
My dad was an extremely strong influence in my childhood but he died very young when I was 12. He taught me to be the person I am today. When I read the story back, I realised how much of him was in the book – it was almost subliminal, or maybe unintentional.
Dad came from Germany and escaped in 1939 with the kindertransport. He was an amazing man who died so young before he had a chance to fulfil his potential.
My mum passed about 11 years ago. She brought me and my sister and two brothers up single-handedly and tried to give us as much as she could with hardly any money. She was not a particularly strong woman on the outside but she was selfless and we always came first. Her strength was quietly in the background supporting and loving us all equally.

6. How did you decide on the title?
I have to say it more or less decided itself. I always read books, having a background in languages and literature. I realised how important a title is as it’s the first thing people look at and it has to depict the book. The meaning of the title is two-fold; the shadows of spirit around Cydney and the sorrows and tragedy which she has had in her life.

7. How did the book cover come about?
Deciding on the cover was one of the hardest aspects ever. It had to be right and give the right message to my readers. We went through various trials until we hit this one and I have to say I absolutely love it.

8. What books or authors do you like?
I have always loved the classics, adventure stories and thrillers. Wilbur Smith and John Grisham are my favourites. They entice the reader into their stories through their descriptions. I realise now how difficult that is but I am learning all the time.

9. Has writing changed the way read books?
Yes, incredibly. I look at structure and how important this is, and I appreciate descriptions. Plus I notice mistakes. I can now understand how much effort goes behind a writer’s work to portray scenes. For example, you can’t just say blue sky. You have to make the reader see the type of sky through their eyes and it is not easy to put yourself in the mind of the reader.

10. What is the most challenging aspect?
Continuity – it’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle especially with three stories going on and more difficult once you reach 40,000 words plus. Also the characters change as you go along. What they would do at the beginning, once you get to know them, is not what they might do later on. So you have to keep going back and reviewing their actions.

11. How important is an editor?
Really vital, especially for the continuity. Also an editor will give you unbiased advice on the storyline. Mine got me to add in chapters which she thought were missing.

12. And the importance of research?
Very important as you need to put details and events correct for your reader as there will always be someone to tell you if you are wrong. Google makes life easier now of course.

13. What advice to someone writing a book for the first time?
Get your facts straight in your mind as to the type of book you want to write. What do you know yourself without having to do tremendous research. Keep it true.

14. Who do you write for?
I write for me as I enjoy it so much. It is an absolute passion. However, I always have my reader in mind as that is important to me.

15. What is your writing structure?
Not sure I have one. I usually write in the evenings and weekends. I keep a notebook by the side of the bed in case I get an idea in the middle of the night. I love writing in Spain and my house there has magnificent views of the mountains which I find so relaxing.

16. Who was the first person to read your novel?
My husband, Peter, but I kept changing it at the beginning so he gave up eventually. Then my daughter who loved it and encouraged me to carry on. I think everyone was a bit surprised to be honest.

17. Do you have any key messages?
Cydney is inspirational and proof that women can be successful on their own terms. Also the spiritual side as I personally find it comforting to know that my parents are looking over me.

18. What would be the most controversial aspect?
I suppose the spiritual side again. Some people will be sceptical. But is is known that premonitions do come true which is quite a scary thought.

19. To whom do you owe your success?
Not easy to answer as I think you have to have this in yourself to start with – the ability to want to be successful. However, losing my dad at such an early age gave me the instinct to survive and do well as I had to support my family. I am hard on myself.

20. What advice would you give to anyone writing?
Be true to yourself. Write for yourself and do so with honesty and integrity. That is really what I have tried to do.

21. Who would you like to read your book?
John Grisham probably. I would like him to know that I can write a thriller also. He started off as a lawyer and kept to what he knows best. That’s what I have done. I would love his opinion.

22. What did you feel when first held book?
Absolute amazement to have got this far. Incredible feeling. You’ve worked so hard for something and now it’s actually a tangible thing. It was a defining moment in my career.

23. What are your personal and professional goals?
This is a personal achievement for me and something I have wanted for a very long time. I would like to be recognised for that, and as an author. I also hope people read and enjoy what I have written.

24. Is there a sequel in the pipeline?
Yes – called ‘Where in the Dark’. How could I possibly leave Cydney? It follows Cydney and her family and a new investigation. I hope to release this at the end of the year.

25. How is your book different?
Because I wrote it!!!
It is a corporate book involving insider dealing, fraud, blackmail and attempted murder, with a touch of the paranormal and romance. It encompasses everything a reader could want so I hope I have catered for every taste. I don’t think there is anything like it on the market. It is not gender or age specific.

26. What do people say when you tell them you’ve written a book?
Can’t believe it! Neither can I!