Author’s Spotlight: E. M. Kkoulla Interview

E.M. Kkoulla, author of the Ships of Britannia series.

1. First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

Hi! My name’s Elene. I use my maiden name to write under as my married one would have people expecting books by somebody else! My Dad was from Cyprus originally and the double k comes from a quirk of pronunciation that my Mum decided to keep. My first name’s the Greek version of Helen.

I’m originally from Lancashire, but I’ve lived in Yorkshire for a long time now. My husband jokes that he got me on a border raid.

2. Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

My most recent book, Prey of the Huntress: Ships of Britannia, Book 2 follows on from the first in the series, Wrath of Olympus, that I published last December. It’s definitely fantasy, though there’s a lot of history in there too. I think of it as The Handmaid’s Tale crossed with Hornblower, by way of Jason and the Argonauts. I started off by wondering what would have happened if the Romans had never left Britain and it grew from there, with the inclusion of Gods, myth and magic.

3. Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

tMy main character is Maia Abella, a sixteen-year-old foundling working as an indentured servant in the city of Portus (Portsmouth). She’s having a hard time of it at the start and then it gets worse! She’s almost at the very bottom of society and struggling to get through life, like so many of us. She has a dogged determination about her that I admire, especially when her situation changes drastically and she’s faced with some serious choices. I would say that her biggest weakness is for cake and sweets, rather like myself.

4. What was your hardest scene to write in this (or any) book?

I always think that the hardest scene to write is the first one. It has to grab the reader and draw them into a whole different world. I tend to agonise over the first line for days.

5. Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

I chose to self-publish, though I pay a small fee for a company to do the technical stuff, such as formatting and getting ISNBs and barcodes for the paperback. I like the control I have over my own work and timescales, though I’m my own worst boss ever. I want everything done yesterday!

6. What would you say is the most difficult part of your writing journey and what advice would you give to other writers?

The most difficult part has definitely been the technical side of everything – after honing my writing style over many years that is. Being an independent, I’ve had to learn everything from how to build a website and mailing list, to the best ways of negotiating social media in order to market my work. Believe me, I’m still learning.

7. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

My current books are part of a series which is basically one continuous story, so they need to be read in order. There is a also a free novella available through my website and I’m writing some short stories, all set in the same world and with some of the same characters.

8. What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

The first book I remember reading, aged four, was The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I was instantly hooked. Other favourite authors range from Terry Pratchett, to M. R. James, Jim Butcher, Anne McCaffrey, Ursula Le Guin and Neal Asher. I also love Jasper Fforde’s quirky Thursday Next series. It was the thought of creating my own worlds to escape to that got me writing from an early age. They’re places where I have control, unlike the real world that tends to be a confusing mess most of the time.

9. What would you say has been the best way to market your books?

Marketing has been difficult under the current circumstances. I started with friends, then went on to social media, where I’ve found lots of support, especially from the Writing Community on Twitter. I did pay for a free promotion which got me some downloads and took my first book to #2 in its category on a well-known site, but I’m still working out the whole ad thing. There are plenty of people out there willing to take your money, so it pays to be careful. This sea is full of sharks.

10. Are there any tropes, clichés, or writing styles that you dislike and, if so, what are they and why?

I tend to like books with fast-paced action so if nothing much happens for the first few chapters I get bored. Mostly, I’ll read anything well-written and imaginative that entertains and/or makes me think.

11. Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

I do read reviews, always with a feeling of trepidation. Constructive feedback is very useful, not just star ratings and that’s why reviews are so important. I re-wrote my first book after it got torn apart by beta readers. I think it’s good to remember that some people just won’t click with your book and there’s nothing wrong with that. Even best-selling prize winners can’t please everybody!

12. What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

I started by just writing things as they came to me, hence the need to rewrite! Now, I prefer to have an idea as to where the plot’s going, though I’m still surprised on occasion. Nothing’s set in stone and sometimes my characters take over. I prefer to listen to film scores, which provide the soundtracks to the scenes in my head. Hans Zimmer and Ramin Djawadi are particular favourites. You can’t beat a bit of Epic Trailer Music as well.

13. What is the best advice you’ve ever had when it comes to writing and what advice would you give to new writers?

Learn all you can. Recognise your weaknesses and work to strengthen them. Find people who give good advice (preferably for little cost). I read David Gaughran’s books on how to get published, which set out all the things an indie needs to know, and oh boy, that’s a lot. I would also highly recommend that you get a professional to take a look at your manuscript at some point, as you can learn from them. You want to avoid bad formatting, poor grammar and inconsistencies in the plot. Above all don’t give up!

14. What’s next for you? Are you currently working on any new books or stories?

I’m currently editing the third book in the series before sending it out to my faithful beta readers. I hope to have it out in the autumn, though I’ll be moving house then so it might be a tall order. Book Four is growing steadily in the back of my mind and the characters will be demanding my attention, so soon it will be nose to the grindstone once more.

15. Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

My website is below and you can find me on Twitter. Please say hi! I also have a Ships of Britannia series page on Facebook. Both my books are available on Kindle Unlimited.

If you’d like to be featured in an interview, please check out the interview submissions page to submit your answers.

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