This week, the lovely Ngaire has agreed to an interview. Ngaire, along with a handful of other indie authors, took me under her wing way back when my first book came out. Together they've helped me find my way through the minefield of being an indie author and I'm forever grateful for their love, help, and wonderful words.
As well as writing, Ngaire runs an awesome blog and is always around to dole out advice and beautiful smiles. Please give her a huge, warm welcome!
Hi Ngaire! Thank you for stopping
by! Firstly, can you please tell us a little about yourself?
I am a married mother of four
magnificent children, originally from Scotland and now settled in
Southern Spain, in a small farmhouse, surrounded by lovely plants and
animals of all types. I have written three well received children's
books as part of a series called The Adventures of Cecilia Spark and
look forward to carrying on with that. I am a voracious reader and am
rarely without an on-going book and as part of my work as a
children's author, I visit schools in Spain and the UK and read to
young children, with the express purpose of encouraging literacy, a
love of animals and the great outdoors.
You write the awesome Cecilia Spark
series. What inspired you to write them? Was there anyone in
particular you wanted to write them for?
Having 4 children I was a major part of
their ‘reading-with-mum-to-reading-on-their-own’ transition. The
books we read were amazing and I think I was captured by the juvenile
fiction category. Furthermore, this age group (roughly 5-8/9 years)
is at such a magical stage in their life for discovering books and
defining their reading habits and genre that it seemed a natural
place to start my writing.
My aim is to encourage children to read
and motivate them to explore the great outdoors. I do this by
creating a magical world of rivers and forests and mountains,
populated with animals big and small. The adventures are bursting
with thrills and spills, with a humorous streak running through each
chapter. I hope to inspire their imagination and encourage them to
get outside and learn more for themselves, or at least, to pick up a
book about the natural world in which they live.
They've had an amazing response from
pretty much every corner of the globe and I admit that I'm hooked now
as well! Your writing is beautiful and flows so easily. How long have
you been writing for? When did you decide it was time to publish a
Thank you, Rae, for those lovely words
of encouragement for my writing. I have been writing since I was a
child; I wrote plays! But it wasn’t until about 7 or 8 years ago I
managed to find the time to put pen to paper. I wish I had kept those
plays, I am sure I would have had a chuckle reading them again.
You're a big advocate for indie
authors and we love you for it! What made you decide to go it alone
rather than approach a big publisher? If you went to a big publisher,
what kind of reactions did you receive?
My time schedule and the fact I cannot
work under pressure. I do set myself deadlines, but if I don’t make
it I don’t panic because I am not letting anyone down. Compared
with, if I was with a BIG publishing house, I dare say if you miss a
deadline they wouldn’t be too happy.
I don’t think I could work under that
sort of pressure.
And yes, at the start of my writing
career I approached a handful of publishers. I received a couple of
positive replies but nothing definite, but it didn’t put me off
publishing on my own. In fact it made me more determined to succeed!
For you, what are the advantages and
disadvantages of being an indie author?
Advantages and disadvantages … let me
see. For me the main advantage of being indie is being in control of
my work, and keeping all rights to my writing. I have also met some
great folks whom I am not afraid to approach and ask for their advice
The main disadvantage, in my opinion is
distribution and not getting the exposure that a traditionally
published author does. Some people still stigmatise Indie authors.
You have to handle all, or almost all, your own marketing and that
can be pretty time consuming.
The lovely Ngaire!
We've seen a huge shift in the
publishing industry in the past decade. Where do you see it going in
the next 10 years?
I think a gatekeeper to check on
quality is inevitable. I also think Amazon, with their purchases of
small publishing houses, will grow increasingly into a publisher and
not just a broker/intermediary. Lots more little publishing houses
will sprout up and audio books - an area I am involved in - will
become more and more prevalent in the area. Writers who don't create
audiobooks may struggle to sell their work. I think it is going to be
a battle, Rae, and more and more authors will struggle to sell books.
However, I don't think people will stop writing, but the expectations
of earning money for the vast majority of authors will have to be
The children's market is obviously
huge so how do you find being a part of it? What kinds of things do
you have to do differently as opposed to someone who writes adult
Coming up with an original idea and
theme for your stories. Not to be afraid of exploring other avenues,
say for example audio books, an area I have ventured into and I am
pleased with the result. Children’s authors have to be prepared to
interact with kids. So school and library visits should be at the
top of the list. Having fun things to do on your website is a must.
And being a big kid helps!
A lot of people want to write
children's books. What would your advice be to anyone who's starting
out in the industry? Are there any pitfalls that you'd advise them to
keep an eye out for?
Don’t try and do things yourself you
cannot carry off. See your vision clearly in your mind’s eye. If
you have a vision, the story will flow naturally and you should have
no problems. If you are just joining in a trend, this will show in
your work and you will struggle. Invest in a decent illustrator.
Make lots of friends on the social networks and never, ever put a
sock in the toaster!
Pitfalls, if I have come across any
they have not impacted upon me greatly …
Finally, tell us about your books
and let us know where to find you online!
My children’s series is an action and
adventure series called The Adventures of Cecilia Spark. To date
there are 3 books in the series: Brimstone Forest, the Mystical
Mountains of Terra, and Dragon’s Star.
All books are available as an ebook,
paperback and audio book. The series is suitable for boys and girls
aged 5-10 years old. The younger children will enjoy hearing the
stories being read to them whilst looking at the fabulous
illustrations (Peter Maddocks).
Another recent publication is My Nature
Friends which is an A-Z picture book and was wonderfully illustrated
by my daughter, Fearn. I am so proud of her.
I love the research stage for Cecilia
Spark’s adventures and I endeavour to base parts of the story on
real places; magical and unique locations in our world. In book 2 –
The Adventures of Cecilia Spark: the Mystical Mountains of Terra –
one place I was drawn to whilst researching for this adventure was
the mangroves in Brazil, in particular the Bahia region, and the lake
scene at the Mystical Mountains, was inspired by Lake Baikal in
Given this I believe every child that
reads a Cecilia Spark adventure will not only enjoy the thrills and
spills but will also learn about the world we live in and the
importance of friendship.
All books are available from Amazon
and other online book shops.
To counteract some of the dark issues I write about, I like to find people, photos, articles, and quotes which make the world a lighter, brighter, and much nicer place to live. This week I've been honoured to speak to Emm Roy. Emm runs Pleasestopbeingsad over on Tumblr. I discovered her blog a couple of months ago and check in every day for a dose of cute and happiness. Her doodles and advice reach thousands of people and if you need a pick-me-up, or just want to smile a bit more, her blog is guaranteed to do it. Without further ado, please welcome her to the blog!
"Firstly, tell us a little about
Hi! I’m a 22 year old French Canadian
illustrator. I like cats and drinking a lot of coffee.
Thanks! It wasn’t always the way it is now. It
started because I was in a bad place, and I thought it would be
helpful if I had a drawing diary to chronicle my progress as I tried
to heal and get out of that bad place. I also wanted to let my
friends know how I was doing, so I decided to put it online in blog
form instead of keeping a more traditional paperback diary.
Eventually, it started getting popular, and I decided to switch the
focus of the blog so it would be more about helping people and less
about my personal journey. “Your wonderful doodles make a
lot of people smile. What inspired you to start drawing? What do you
use to make them? On average how many do you draw a day?”
thank you. I’ve been drawing for as far as I can remember. When I
was younger, I was one of those kids who was always drawing in class
or skipping class to draw. I mainly draw using a wacom bamboo create
tablet and photoshop cs6. It’s hard to tell how many I make a day.
“A lot” would be my best guess.
“Sometimes you speak
about your daily life. Do you make time to draw every day? Is it an
“Okay, for the next hour this is what I’m going to do”? Or do
you just sit down and go for it whenever the mood takes you?” I’m
very into scheduling. I make schedules and I plan things so that I
can be more efficient and maximize my productivity. Drawing is
currently my only source of income, so I always make sure to organize
my schedule so that I draw at least 40 hours every week. To be honest
though, I’m always so excited about drawing and creating work that
my biggest problem is scheduling myself time for rest and breaks. I
find it a lot easier to draw than not to draw.
would you give to someone who wants to be creative but finds
themselves with a block? How do you deal with creative blocks?” I
think one of the easiest way to be blocked is to set your
expectations too high. I have friends who are very talented, but they
want everything they make to be perfect, and as soon as they make a
mistake or they reach a hard step, they start getting nervous and
unhappy about what they’re doing, and they’re no longer enjoying
it as much. It’s important to allow yourself to fail. I think
people should try to make bad art just for the sake of it sometimes.
It’s fun and it helps put perfectionism in perspective. I’m also
a big fan of drawing and painting with other people. It’s an
amazing feeling to be alone with your thoughts while working on a
painting, but company can be a lot of fun too. I’m also a big fan
of taking breaks. Everyone needs to recharge sometimes. It’s okay.
You’re not any less of an artist if you need to stop making art for
“You give out a lot of wonderful advice and I always
find myself smiling whenever I see it. If you could give one piece of
advice to everyone, what would it be?”
Be kind, but don’t
mistake kindness for letting people treat you badly. There is nothing
mean about standing up for yourself or putting yourself first. It
only means that you’re extending your kindness to yourself.
people will agree that the world’s not a great place at the moment.
What do you think could be done to make it better?”
need to be more considerate. So often we hurt people, not because
we’re bad people or because we want to hurt them, but because we
simply haven’t taken the time to fully consider the consequences of
our actions (or lack thereof). I think we need to pause and reflect
more on how we’re affecting the world. I believe that positive
change can happen, but I believe that it happens in small steps. I
don’t expect to end poverty, but I can donate a few dollars to
someone who needs it. I don’t expect to end bigotry, but I can tell
someone when their actions are hurting me, and I can listen when they
tell me that my actions are hurting them. I’m a big fan of the idea
that small steps are still important steps.
are available in books! Where can we find them?!”
Sometimes we have to leave our comfort
zones to realise what we want from life. Sometimes we have to stand
on the outside and look in to see the changes we need to make.
Which was partly why I went to Vegas.
Yes, it has been on my “To Travel To” list for about a decade.
But I needed to get away. Needed to look at myself in another light.
Needed to let off some of the steam which has been boiling away for
the past few years.
Sunrise in Vegas
Everything always looks more exciting
when we're there. When we're a tourist we can well imagine ourselves
living in the place we're visiting. And many of us chase that dream.
A few days after I arrived back from the States a friend of mine
moved to LA.
So I've made the decision to change my
life. It's been a long time coming but I needed something to kick
start it. I needed a change of perspective to see what I have and
what I want from life. And boy did I get the kick up the arse that I
British small town life isn't all that
great. It's pretty much like anywhere in the world. There's not a lot
to do, bands frequently pass you by for the bigger draw of London 100
miles away. Shops are closing faster than they're opening, and the
ones that are open don't stock anything you need (Unless you need
more greeting cards than you can shake a stick at, clothes that will
fall apart after one wash, and more mobile phones than you'll ever
need in one lifetime). Jobs are few and far between and the ones you
can find don't offer much in the way of promotion or pay. Yes, I know
it's like this all over the world. But are the prospects better
outside of what I know?
I don't know, which is why I'm trying.
I'm still writing but, at the same time, I'm applying for jobs all
over the world. I'm looking for new places to live. I want new
experiences and I have very little tying me down to where I live now.
And I definitely don't want to get to the end of my life thinking, “I
wish I'd done that.”
So I'm going to do it. I'm going to
knuckle up, get rid of my insecurities and go. It's a big world out
there and I don't want to miss any of it.
If you're a film or music buff, chances
are you've come across the stunning Sound City documentary. The film
is Dave Grohl's love letter to a studio which nearly went to the
wall, a building which has played host to some of the most famous
musicians in history. Fleetwood Mac, Rick Springfield, Buckingham
Nicks, Nine Inch Nails, REO Speedwagon, Tom Petty and, of course,
Nirvana have all graced the studio.
As we were planning a trip to LA, one
of our party (thanks, Kirri!) decided to get in touch with the
original owners to see if we could visit and take a look around. All
we were told was to turn up before mid-day.
So we did.
They've kept the famous painted sign
which welcomes you to the studios. Driving beneath it, you feel a
sense of calm and anticipation. How many people have driven through
that driveway? How many of them are the same people you now see
screaming around a stage in front of 80,000 people? How did they feel
when they first arrived? Were they excited? Nervous? Inspired?
We chose to drive up the ramp and onto
the parking lot on top of the building, before we realised that
actually, we probably should have parked right outside the studio. Oh
First port of call was to knock on the
door of Fairfax Recordings. The building, unlike the rest of them, is
now blue (The others have retained their famous cream colouring). The
door was answered by a nervous looking young man who had no idea who
we were looking for but kindly allowed us to use the bathroom and
clear a few bottles of water from the fridge. Finally, we discovered
that Sandy, our contact, hadn't yet arrived on the site.
It was just before 11am. We were
closing in on our deadline of mid-day so we decided to take a walk.
We found a Denny's a short way up the road and debated what to do. We
were hot, tired, and jet lagged. We'd driven for 4 hours. If we
didn't get in we'd at least been on the property. We'd driven, and
walked, beneath the famous sign and we'd seen a wall of records from
many of the artists who'd worked there.
But... There's always a but. What if we
didn't try again? We'd regret it for the rest of our lives.
We made the decision to go back and try
again. Besides, there was no harm, right? So we trudged back and took
another stab at the door. This time it was answered by the wonderful
Sandy and we were welcomed in like long lost friends! Suddenly we
were standing in the offices and looking around in awe. There were
photographs mounted on wooden plaques (what people would be given
before the invention of the gold record) and too many other things to
take in. Much to our delight, Tom, the founder and owner, was around.
Again, there was another big welcome and any nerves we'd been feeling
melted away. We were happy and excited. We'd travelled half way
around the world for this moment and it felt like every crazy dream
you've ever had was coming true.
It was time and, with fluttering
hearts, we made our way back to the blue building. The film gives you
the sense that the offices and studios are in one building. They're
not. You drive under the sign and find yourself in a parking lot with
buildings on three sides. The front buildings house the offices while
the ones in the back contain the studios. Facing the U-shaped
building, the part with the drum room is to your left, while the ones
straight ahead and to the right are now leased to other companies
(Sandy made the comment that they've gone from leasing studios to
We went back through the large, frosted
glass door and met the young man we'd originally spoken to. Gone are
the brown, carpeted walls. A few of the non-supporting walls have
been knocked down to open the space up. You find yourself in a large,
white area with a kitchen to your right and a snug, containing books,
records, and couches, straight ahead. To your left is a large door.
You're taken to the door and let in.
Your head snaps back and your jaw hits the floor. This is the room
you've heard so much about. This is the room which is famed for
recording drums in (bands, most notably Metallica, have done “blind
tests” on such rooms. A piece of drum sound is recorded and sent
back to the band. They then choose where to records based on that
sound. Metallica recorded “Death Magnetic” at Sound City based
purely on the snippet they heard).
And it's not changed. From the black
and white photos you've seen, to the film, to actually standing in
it, not one inch of it has been altered. No one knows exactly why the
room sounds like it does. Some attribute it the building once having
been used for making amplification. Others say it's because of
whatever was used in the brickwork. Whatever it is, the room has a
The door's closed behind you and a
pressure closes around you. Your ears pop. Part of it is to do with
it being a studio and it needing to be somewhat soundproof. The rest
of it I can only place on the people who have passed though it. Their
essence, their blood, sweat, and tears have soaked into the walls and
left behind an undeniable presence. You can feel them in the air and
see their ghostly images wandering back and forth. As my brother
said, rooms like that have a personality all of their own. It's an
inspiring place and I'm not sorry to say that I cried while I was
there. I could have spent many days just sitting in that room and
soaking up the atmosphere. I feel that some of my best work would
have come from just being there and I'm desperately trying to cling
on to the feelings and emotions which barreled through me.
Typical f-ing drummer. Just stands around and lets everyone else set up for them!
The control room, compared to many,
feels basic. It was refreshing, a beautiful break from the constant
glare of computers. Again, it's remained the same as it's always
been. The famous Neve desk is no longer there, having been bought by
Grohl when the studio was closing down. They do have another analogue
desk and, much to my excitement, a two inch tape machine. I hadn't
seen one of those since my early film-making days and I stared at it
like a long lost friend.
We were blessed to be witnesses to a
hundred different stories of the people who've been through the
studio. We learned a lot and I'm forever grateful to Sandy and Tom
for letting us invade their space for an hour. Tom returned to see us
off and handed out hugs and smiles like they were candy. It was an
experience which I hope, one day, to relive. Fingers crossed, our
musical family will wind up there one day. Until then, I'll hold on
to my photos, my Sound City shirt (Thanks, Sandy!), my DVD, and my
precious memories. Next time, I hope to be working there, with the
people who feel like a home away from home. A family, bonded together
by their love of music.
In 2011, Sound City ceased commercial
operations. Thanks to the film, and the resurgence in interest, the
studios are now operated by Fairfax Recordings. The famous drum room
is still there. It's still analogue (but they do have a ProTools
rig). The Neve desk, which features so heavily in the documentary
it's pretty much the main character, is now owned by Grohl. So you'll
have to go and knock on his front door if you want to use that.
If you haven't seen the film, go and
watch it. It really is a love letter, not just to the studio, but to
music in general.