We recently caught up with Celine Terranova, Sci-Fi Short Stories Writer, NaNoWriMo Winner and Author of the Fanfiction Eternal Snow, for an Interview where she talks about her life as a writer, some of the challenges she is trying to overcome and her forthcoming novel Healers.
Hi Celine, we are glad to have you on Mehara. Can you let us in on your life as a writer? A glimpse… What is it like for you?
Thank you for giving me this opportunity! My life as a writer is not very glamorous, I’m afraid. I have a full time job, so I need to be organised to have enough time for writing. I’m lucky because I work mostly evenings so I can write beforehand. It’s the most important step in my day. I don’t have any ritual, I just sit down and write, until it’s time to get ready for work.
In what ways did NaNoWriMo influence your writing career?
NaNoWriMo helped me develop professional habits as a writer. Before that, I was treating it as a hobby: slow, disorganised, I could go weeks without writing. Now, I’m quicker, and more importantly, I believe in myself. It also gave me an opportunity to write in English for the first time (before that, I was writing in French). Finally, winning NaNoWriMo also allowed me to buy Scrivener (I honestly don’t know how I would do without that software) and AutoCrit.
As a Belgian residing in the UK, how would you describe the Literary Scene in London?
One of the biggest difference between Belgium and the UK is that genre fiction is much more accepted here. If you write science fiction for example, it’s still very difficult to be taken seriously in French-speaking countries, while English-speaking ones are much more open. London in particular offers exposure to all kinds of genres. I’ve been to conferences and networking events where I could meet people who had the same kind of nerdy passions as me. I feel more accepted here.
My life as a writer is not very glamorous.
Do you think being a bilingual writer has contributed to your writing success so far?
I don’t think so, because it felt like I had to start from scratch. I was quite a successful fanfiction writer in French and I think many of my readers would have liked me to continue writing in that language. I would have had a small fanbase to start with, but I really wanted to write in English so I had to give all that up and start again. On the other hand, I had to completely reinvent myself as I writer, and it allowed me to experiment, try different styles and genres, find my own path. I would never have done that in French, so I’m happy that I went in that direction.
Funnily enough, for my upcoming novel I went back to my roots: one of my main characters speaks French!
You are currently working on a novel. Can you tell us about it? What inspired it and what should readers expect?
My novel Healers is a dystopian young adult book set in a world destroyed by deadly diseases. It’s the first book of a series that centres on two main characters: Alaina who has to free her mother from prison, and Gabriel who is kidnapped by an underground tribe. I had the idea years ago and I first tried to write it as a script for a TV series, then a web series, before settling on a series of novels. The readers can expect complex and diverse characters, action, suspense and a little bit of romance.
Apart from SciFi what other genre appeals to you and why?
I would really like to write a crime / thriller novel. I love them and I pretty much always guess the end, so I want to challenge myself trying to write an end that’s unexpected. Maybe for a future book!
Looking at how it has been for you, can you highlight some of the challenges you faced and think might be peculiar to other writers, especially the ones still unpublished. How did you overcome them?
I’ve only been published in a magazine, but that in itself was a challenge. I learned that the best strategy when it comes to submitting short stories is to be secretarial about it. I have a spreadsheet, I research, I have everything prepared in advance, and as soon as I get a rejection I submit elsewhere. It has allowed me to take a necessary distance with the submission process, and I’m much less anxious about it. I know that when I start querying for my novel (by the end of this year if everything goes according to plan), I’ll use the same method.
I struggled a lot with writing in English at first, so I did it in several steps: first I translated some of my short fanfictions, then I wrote a long new fanfiction, then I wrote short original stories, then I started writing my novel. Each step meant that I didn’t need to get everything perfect at once. I read a lot during that time, not only science fiction but non-fiction, magazines, plays, romance, thrillers, blogs… I turned the subtitles on when I watched films or series. Thanks to that and to my job in customer service, I learned a lot of new words and expressions in a very short amount of time. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.
Finally, my biggest challenge so far is getting enough time for writing, while juggling my full time job with the life of a freelance writer. I’m still learning how to overcome it, but I’ve read several books on time management and efficiency and it has helped. I have a yearly timeline of my projects, and a weekly planner where I set aside time for my writing. It’s not perfect, so I hope that this year I’ll be able to build the right balance.
Finally, my biggest challenge so far is getting enough time for writing, while juggling my full time job with the life of a freelance writer.
Which book have you ever read that stuck with you?
Non fiction: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (a must read for your creativity), The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson (small habits make big results), The Successful Author Mindset by Joanna Penn (it really helps to read from someone who has gone through the same struggles as an author).
Fiction: there are too many for me to remember all, so I’m just going to talk about the series that I’m reading at the moment: Red Rising by Pierce Brown. I am completely amazed by it, I would love to write something like that! If you like YA and Scifi, this is for you!
Any advice for upcoming writers?
It’s very easy to get discouraged. Maybe you don’t think your idea is good. Maybe you don’t like your style. Maybe you compare yourself to someone who seems inaccessible. Maybe you come from a town where no one is a writer. Maybe you think you’re too lazy, talentless, too busy, worthless, too poor, too tired, too old, too young, empty or uninteresting. I’ve told myself these things hundreds of time. I still do! But you have to understand: this voice is not you. It’s not your soul or your creative self. It’s your saboteur. It will follow you all your life, but you can learn to live with it and work through it. It takes patience and not every day is going to be a good day, but you can do it.
Just promise yourself one thing: every day, no matter how busy or tired, you will do something for your creativity. It might not be getting thousands of words on the page, maybe it will just be one. Or maybe it will be a blog post, or a tweet. Maybe just a voice memo between two chores. It doesn’t matter. Do something, anything, every day. Keep the flame going.
To keep up with more updates from Celine, you can visit her website http://www.celineterranova.com and follow her on Twitter: @CelineTerranova