Friday, 13 January 2017

Getting To Know... Chantelle Atkins

Today on Getting To Know... I am extremely happy to welcome author Chantelle Atkins to my blog. 

Your novels are a lot more gritty than the usual contemporary fiction. What draws you to this genre and why the darker side of it?

I really don't know! I suppose it might come from the books I've been inspired by, especially when I was younger. The Outsiders was a major influence on me. I prefer to read things that are gritty and dark. I'm interested in human life, particularly the lives of those who are often unseen or unheard. I've always been one for people watching and wondering what's happened to people to make them the way they are. Human nature fascinates me. I also find it hard to find books written with working class characters in, reflecting their problems and lives. So many books these days tend to be written by middle-class writers and address middle-class problems, which I find hard to relate to.

Do have a favourite character that you have written so far?

Yes, it would have to be Danny from The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. I first wrote this book (or a very early version of it) when I was 12. I rewrote it at ages 16 and 19 and then finally got it done in my 30's, so his character has been with me since my own childhood. He was always in my head and still is now.

You have written both novels and short stories, do you have a preference over which you write?

Definitely novels, as I find short stories a real challenge. I am still mastering the art! Most of my shorts tend to be character snapshots, or extra scenes or alternative endings to my novels. The characters just keep coming back with more. I'm currently writing short stories and releasing them with my monthly newsletter and most of these are basically sample chapters for a series of books I am planning. I love writing novels as you can lose yourself in this world you have created for however long it takes to get it done. The characters get inside your head and you are never alone, and always working on it, even when walking the dogs or making the dinner. I do find, though, that the more short stories I write, the more ideas I get for them, so it's something I am getting more into and working harder to improve.

When you're writing do you have a set routine or schedule that you like to follow?

I don't tend to get much actual writing done in the day, as I have four children and the youngest is two. I do tap things into my phone and write in notebooks though! I do the bulk of my writing when the youngest is in bed, which usually gives me two-three hours a night. I'll start with emails and anything pressing such as preparing a blog post or being active on my social media pages and then I'll turn that all off and just write. 

Your books cover a range of topics from drug use to self harm and mental illness. Does a lot of research go into ensure that you portray them in the right way?

Yes, to an extent. Where there is something that I have absolutely no knowledge of and no one to ask, (such as making a speed bomb in The Boy) then I will research it. I can ask my brother anything relating to crime and punishment and police procedures as he is a policeman. A lot of the things I write about are things I have some experience of in some way, so a lot of is writing from that knowledge. But yes, Google is my friend when it comes to anything unknown. I did a lot of research into dementia, for This Is Nowhere, for example.

When you're not writing what would we find you doing?

Looking after the kids and the animals mostly. I have two dogs, two guinea pigs, one rabbit, nine chickens, one cockerel and three ducks! I am also trying my hardest to become more self-sufficient, so we have an ever growing vegetable patch, and where there is something we can do ourselves or make from scratch, we will. I love being outside, any weather, so walking my dogs is one of my favourite things to do. I also run with them to try to keep fit. I read a lot. I review books that are occasionally sent to me by other authors and I also review books for Underground Book Reviews. In between those books I have an ever increasing to-read list! I am also a huge music fan, so will go to gigs and festivals when finances allow, and music is on constantly in our house! I also run a writing business, Chasing Driftwood Writing Group. I only started it in 2015, and have many plans for the future. I run adult writing clubs and workshops and creative writing workshops for children too.

Music plays a big part in your books The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. Is music as important to you and do you have a favourite band or artist? 

Yes, music seems to creep into all of my books to varying degrees. Jake has his mother's music to remember her by in This Is Nowhere, and Joe is really into music and puts a band together in The Mess Of Me. My current WIP is also very musical; it's about a boy who wants to be a singer and is taking part in a local singing contest whilst also struggling with an alcohol problem and various other issues! But yes, I have loads; Britpop was my era, so Oasis are hugely important to me, as are Blur, Pulp and many others. I also adore The Stone Roses, Nirvana, The Clash, The Smiths, Johnny Cash, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Neil Young, Primal Scream! I like a lot of new stuff too, such as Jake Bugg, Jamie T, Frank Turner and Steve Mason. Oh and old stuff like The Four Tops and The Foundations! Hard to pick a favourite but if I did it would have to be Oasis.

Do you have a favourite author?

I have a few! It's mainly Stephen King, Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac

If you could give younger you any advice about your writing journey, what would it be?

Keep doing what you're doing, be brave, share it! Believe in it, and don't waste loads of years not writing at all because of small children and work!

What can we look forward to next from you?

I have two books that are close to release. The Tree Of Rebels is a YA dystopian novel that I've been working on for about two years now. I keep thinking it is ready and then change my mind. Currently, it is awaiting a bit of a rewrite actually, so is less ready than it was! It's very much an environmental novel, a warning about where we are all heading, and through the eyes of a 13-year-old girl. It's been a huge challenge. Then I have Elliot Pie's Guide To Human Nature which I wrote at the same time, basically just jumping back and forth between the two novels, while one was with beta readers I would work on the other and so on. This book is aimed at adults but has a young protagonist; 12-year-old Elliot whose single mother is sinking into depression and agoraphobia, as she is so terrified of the world and people and thinks everything is doomed. Optimist Elliot is on a mission to prove her wrong, and he decides to do this by befriending strangers! It's really an exploration of human nature and asks the question, is the world getting worse? Are people behaving worse than they used to? This one is currently having another once over by a beta reader, having gone through this process twice already. I think it will come out early next year. While I am waiting for those books to be ready, I am busying myself with the current WIP, with the aim of getting the first draft finished before I go back to Elliot and Tree Of Rebels and totally finish them both. The WIP is another story I started as a teenager and am finally rewriting. A Song For Bill Robinson, as I mentioned earlier, is about a teenage alcoholic with a massive singing talent. On top of this, I am writing the short stories for a future project, which I envision will be a four book YA series. I can't stop the ideas for this one coming, even though I have so many other things on the go, so I have planned it and written character bio's and write the short stories when the drama unfolds in my head. It's called The Day The Earth Turned and is essentially a Lord Of The Flies scenario, where all the adults have been deliberately killed off by nature itself, leaving the kids to work out how to proceed or suffer the same fate. Again, a strong environmental theme in this one!

To Connect With Chantelle Atkins

Twitter - @Chanatkins

The Mess Of Me

Everyone has one summer they will never forget. Lou Carling is 16 and obsessed with getting thinner. Joe is her best friend, and last night they found something they shouldn't have in Joe's older brothers wardrobe. Travis and Leon are shady figures, leading shadier lives, and during one summer Lou and Joe find themselves pulled into the drama, the confusion and the violence. Will Joe go to any lengths to impress his older brothers? Will Lou's obsession with losing weight spiral out of control? Is Marianne, her self-harming friend, really her friend, or an enemy in disguise? And will Lou and Joe ever be more than just best friends?

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