Today “Sylvia Says” takes a virtual trip to London, UK, to catch up with solicitor (lawyer) and author Maria Savva.
SM: Maria, welcome to Sylvia Says. It’s a real pleasure to have you featuring on the blog today, and although I’m on a “virtual” visit here in London I still remember the time I spent in this wonderful place many moons ago. London is one of my favourite cities!
MS: Thank you very much for inviting me, Sylvia. I love London too. It’s changed a lot over the years, but it still has something special.
SM: Maria, reading through your website I noticed novels in a number of different genres. Would you say it’s fair to call you a multi-genre author? And if so, what is the reason as to why you decided to be multi-genre instead of sticking to one particular genre?
MS: Yes, I think it’s fair to say I’m a multi-genre author. It’s probably because I’ve never purposefully written a novel to fit into any particular genre. A lot of my fiction is inspired by or based on true events, so the genre will depend on what the subject matter is, I suppose. You’ll find elements of romance, thriller, comedy, and even horror/paranormal in my writing. I suppose it’s a reflection of life. Nothing is ever only one genre in real life, is it? My writing seems to have become darker over the years, but I think that’s more to do with getting older and having more of an understanding of the world around me, and let’s face it, the news is never very good these days. I find that I use writing as a kind of therapy, so I often tackle dark subjects as a way of digging deeper into my own feelings and as a way of trying to make sense of what people do and why.
SM: I agree with you there. I also find writing cathartic; it helps me cope with all the negativity and darkness of this world.
In your bio I discovered you were a prolific reader as a child, just like me, and that you pretty much read most genres, or at least went through different genre phases. By the way, I noticed you read most of the good old Mills & Boon (now Harlequin) romances. I confess I must’ve gone through most of their collection when I was a young teen while at the same time becoming hooked on Nancy Drew and Three Investigator mysteries. But like you, I grew up with books, and each of them became a friend to me. What was it that got you reading at such an early age (and I see you were an advanced reading pupil at school)?
MS: Yes, I read all those Mills and Boon romances as a teenager, but soon after I started reading paranormal/horror. Then I got hooked on chick-lit for a while and then I got into self-help books, fantasy fiction, and magical realism. My writing is probably a mixture of all those things!
I was able to read before I started school, and one of my earliest memories is reading a book to another child on what I think was one of my first days at school. My brother started school a couple of years before me and I used to copy everything he did, so I probably learned to read because he was learning to read. I was a very quiet child, shy, and self-conscious with a vivid imagination. I found an escape in books. I thought books were magical, and loved to read one after the other.
SM: So when did you start seriously thinking of writing a novel, and what inspired you to write it?
MS: I always enjoyed creative writing at school. I used to enter a lot of short story competitions in my twenties, so writing was something I enjoyed from a young age. I found myself out of work in 1997, and decided to write a novel as a challenge to myself. I’d just finished reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. It’s a short book and quite simply written, yet it has a great message and it inspired me to try to think of a story of my own that could perhaps change people’s lives.
At the time, I thought writing a novel was one of those impossible things and if I wrote one I would have achieved a dream. I actually found writing “Coincidences” quite easy. However, it was my first novel, and it was more about telling the story; I wasn’t paying too much attention to how I was writing it and how the reader would interpret it. It’s not an example of great literature, but it kick-started everything for me. My style of writing has developed a lot since then, and I’m learning more about writing every day.
It’s an ongoing process, as you probably know. These days, I try to be creative with the subject matter and the words I use, painstakingly searching for the exact word in each sentence (which is why it takes me years to edit my books!). “Coincidences” was what started it all, and after I wrote that I caught the writing bug and haven’t been able to stop writing.
SM: Oh, yes! I can relate to all the editing. I sometimes find myself doing more edits years later. Crazy, I know. But back to you, out of all the novels you’ve written to date, which would you say is your favourite and why?
MS: My most recent books are usually my favourites because my writing evolves with each book and story I write, so I feel that the latest book is usually more of an accurate reflection of where I’m at in my writing life.
My favourites at the moment are probably “Haunted” and “The Spider”, and the sequel to “The Spider” (which is not yet released).
Readers have told me “Haunted” is a story that stays with them. With that novel, I hopefully achieved what I wanted to achieve - to get people thinking. I had a message I wanted to convey with that book. It’s about the consequences of our actions, and living with the repercussions of one moment of anger, and not only the way our actions can alter our own lives, but the lives of many other people.
The main character in “The Spider”, Rex, is quite interesting, and I felt his story wasn’t quite over, which is why I was inspired to write a sequel.
SM: Having come from a very busy corporate career myself, I know how difficult it is to juggle work, family/friend commitments, and writing. Many people believe writing a novel is not that difficult; you just write the chapters and off you go. But authors know the painstaking work that goes into properly constructing an engaging plotline, giving life and depth to the characters, writing between five to ten drafts of the novel before we even begin to proofread properly and edit (and this happens before we engage the services of a proofreader/editor)! I know you can relate to all of this, but I simply want readers to know this is a true labour of love rather than writing to make money. So firstly, how did you manage your time to work at what obviously is a busy and stressful job and at the same time write?
MS: I’ve often wondered how I manage to concentrate long enough to put stories together, but then whenever I stop to think about it, I believe that the chaos is part of what creates inspiration and the stories that flow from that. I find that I am always being inspired by things that happen in my everyday life, so this helps when I put pen to paper and start writing a story. I find the actual writing of the stories relatively easy. It’s the editing/rewriting process that is hardest and takes the most time, and which can be quite frustrating. I agree with you, writing is hard work, you have to love doing it or you will end up giving up.
SM: Very true! And secondly, unless one hits the jackpot and gets discovered in what I call a “black swan event” and makes millions in royalties, what would your advice be to aspiring authors out there in regard to the reality of writing?
MS: Writing is a lonely business and it often means you spend a lot of time alone in a room. You really need to find people who will support you. I was lucky enough to connect online with a great community of independent authors (including you, Sylvia!) many years ago, and that has made all the difference.
If you’re an aspiring writer, I won’t tell you to do something else instead, but you shouldn’t go into it thinking you will make money. Writing has lots of other benefits. For example, I find it therapeutic.
SM: Yes. I have to say that writing is extremely therapeutic and, although a lonely business, most of the time I find I enjoy being in the company of all the characters inside my head. You’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I think all creatives are just a little bit crazy; otherwise, they wouldn’t be doing what we call a “labour of love”.
But I ramble... Maria, before we close off, is there anything else you would like to add, including what is the next writing project for you?
MS: I’d like to mention a few of my favourite independent authors who write fantastic books, which I’ve read and enjoyed. Whenever anyone is asked to name a favourite author, they usually mention someone famous. I’ve even seen other independent writers do that in interviews. Of course we all have famous authors who are our favourites, but let’s face it, they don’t need the publicity. Most of my favourite writers these days are independent authors and they don’t get any promotion. So here are a few I would recommend: J. Michael Radcliffe, Darcia Helle, Maria Haskins, Neil Schiller, Julie Elizabeth Powell, Jason McIntyre.
There is a whole world of undiscovered books out there, and I would ask every person reading this to try a book by one of those authors because you never know, they could end up being one of your favourites too.
As mentioned, my next writing project is the sequel to “The Spider”. It’s called “Evil Never Dies”. I’m working on the final edits now and hope to release it soon. The release has been delayed due to my busy work life this year, but hopefully it will be out next year. I’m looking forward to sharing it. I also have a collection of short stories that is almost ready to be published.
SM: Thank you so very much for taking the time to feature on Sylvia Says today, Maria. I really enjoyed learning more about you and your work, and I wish you all the best with your upcoming release! I hope next time we meet, I can physically get to lovely London in person.
MS: That would be wonderful! I’d also love to visit Australia one day!
SM: I’ll hold you to that and what’s more I’ll take you sightseeing!
For more information on Maria Savva and where you can check out her books please click HERE.
For those of you old enough to remember 1980s English post-punk group, Adam and the Ants, you’re in the wrong blog post. Today, I’m thrilled to have as a guest English scientist and sci-fi author extraordinaire, Ant Ryan. AND he’s got a thing about Spanish caves! So read on ...
SM: Welcome to Sylvia Says, Ant. It’s great to have you as a guest on my blog. From one animal and coffee lover to another, you’ve already captured my heart (just don’t tell the wife!). And I see you have cats and rabbits—I hope the cats are not staying up late at night swapping rabbit stew recipes.
AR: Thanks for the kind invite and nice to be “here”. Ha, yes, I need a lot of coffee to keep up with the cats and rabbits. Rabbit stew! I’d better not mention the 5ft fish tank then.
SM: True, forget about the fish. We don’t want to give the kitty cats any ideas. I see you’re from NW England. The only thing I know about this area is the Beatles Museum in Liverpool, which I visited in 1985 (giving away my age here). What’s it like to live in your part of the world?
AR: Actually, we’re just a few miles across the river from Liverpool. I was at that museum, too, in ’85 – I turn 40 this year ;-/ There are lots of great museums, art galleries, superb architecture, many restaurants, bars and cafes fit for writing in. This area has really improved since the 1980’s, when there were still World War II damaged buildings. Now, though still relatively small, it is vibrant, cosmopolitan, friendly and quite a pretty city. Plus several great football (soccer) teams are nearby. I really do love living near Liverpool. We have national parks within a short driving distance, also the Welsh coast and mountains, as well as Manchester and Chester cities nearby. You can even take a ferry to Dublin, Belfast, and the Isle of Man. I sound like a tourist guide on commission ;)
SM: Well, if I ever revisit your part of the world I expect a full tour, and I’ll buy you all the coffee you want! But tell me, being a scientist who tries to solve physics problems, I thought I’d ask you if you’ve come up with a way to travel through a wormhole into another galaxy or even a parallel universe. I’m forever trying to locate my idol, David Bowie; and I’m sure he’s somewhere in our universe. What do you think?
AR: I think that the overall universe is infinite in size as opposed to the observable universe, so in many theories, Bowie could indeed be performing still, or dressed as a Goblin King, but we could never meet that version. Sadly missed and on my favourite lists on iTunes by the way. I loved how his music made the Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes TV series more atmospheric; wish they had done a third called Starman.
SM: I have to confess I never saw the TV series, but when I watched the film “Martian” and they played Starman in one scene, I bawled my eyes out—just don’t tell anyone. And on that note, down to business: Just so we know a bit more about you, you’re a scientist, but you also write sci-fi short stories. Is that right? First of all, what kind of scientist are you, and what kind of work do you do as a scientist?
AR: I work in a chemistry lab pressing buttons, nothing too exciting. If I say "top secret" that might make it about 0.0001% more interesting ;)
Yes, short stories are what I’m getting into. I thought at first this was because I couldn’t write anything longer, but I actually think that it is what I prefer myself. Twitter has taught me to be concise (not that I am being here), but I value people’s time. There’s a fine balance between getting enough detail in to be able to tell your story well enough and superfluous text, and I hope this is something I will improve at.
SM: And what inspired you to write? As you probably know by now (unless you’re enjoying the fame of JKRowling or Stephen King) writing is very much a labour of love unless one is discovered. So please expand on why you started to write and how the creative mood strikes you.
AR: Great question. I think it was from writing theoretical physics papers. Friends had made the transition from science books into fiction, so I researched it and now I’m getting there I guess. I like the idea of leaving the real world with something that can outlive our lifetimes. It’s nice to create imaginary worlds and characters, and the process is becoming addictive. Creativity seems to strike randomly, so it’s useful to note these thoughts down as and when they do arrive.
SM: As novelists we always reflect something within ourselves through the characters we create. What do you feel you reflect most about yourself that is revealed through your characters?
AR: The big questions about the Universe – is there life out there – our obsession with (many different) gods – pushing boundaries of possibility and technologies, and humanity’s fantastic achievements versus our easily avoidable mistakes that we can’t seem to stop making.
SM: Yes, I can relate to that—the mistakes humanity keeps on making. But I won’t digress now, otherwise this blog post will turn into a long novel :) So please tell us a little about Celestial Spheres.
AR: Tri-gods sum it up. An extra-terrestrial binary star system with humans, and humanoids who exploit them; these “higher” beings have one of three god-like abilities – ultimate power, infinite knowledge or can travel freely in space-time. There are also lower humans, more zombie-like. Wars have occurred between the species and the finely balanced symbiotic status quo has been threatened before. It follows the story of a Potent (powerful humanoid) wanting to gain the other two abilities and explore the Universe, but society’s rulers don’t like this sort of ambition.
SM: Very interesting; and if I had to choose one ability I’d go for travelling freely in space-time. This could come in very useful. I also think this kind of story would make a good premise for a sci-fi film. So what are you working on at present, if anything?
AR: I’m finishing Celestial Spheres part 3; drafting part 4; and plotting part 5 (the final part). I’m also drafting/editing a standalone short entitled “Liver Pool”, which is sci-fi/fantasy, plus I’m plotting a fantasy short.
SM: Well, it sounds like you’re a busy bee then. You know, on writing, I feel it’s not always easy to tell the world what we think and feel through our stories; however, I feel blessed we can do this, even if it makes us feel vulnerable at times. I know some readers may not take away anything from our work, while others will go on to criticise and bring us down; but despite this, I believe that if we can touch just one heart or one soul with the stories we write, then we’ve done a good job. What do you think?
AR: Great way of looking at it. I think negativity is better than nothing, as it means one’s work has been read, plus we can learn from constructive criticism. The scientist side of me likes numbers, however, so the more reads and reviews we get the more accurate and precise the average view is. There will always be love and hate for most things. But note to self – grow a thicker skin now! ;)
SM: Well said. We can’t please everybody nor can we avoid those who love to ‘heckle’ us in a destructive rather than constructive way. But at least we got off our arses and did something useful. And as they say in Hollywood: "Everyone’s a critic." So let them criticise away! I think as authors we start off with fear of what others will think or write about us, but we know we’ve become veterans when we "don’t give a load of dingoes kidneys" what others think (the latter part of this sentence was borrowed from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). LOL.
Anyway, it was great having you on Sylvia Says, Ant. But before we go, what’s with the "caves in Spain" thingy?
AR: Sadly, I lost close family in the last few years, so I wanted to spend a small inheritance on something nice that I could enjoy in the future, and as a reminder of them. I named the cave after my loved ones “Casa Therene Robles”. The place is in the middle of a working town in a desert, so it’s great because a cave naturally stays warm in winter and cool in the very hot summer! 1.5L of wine is €1.10, and it is "muy bien".
SM: Actually, I’m going to correct your Spanish if you don’t mind :) and say "muy bueno" (meaning the wine is very good, which I’m sure this is what you meant to say). Yes, I know I’m a smartarse, but I still love you, my friend.
Thank you for clarifying the cave mystery, and thank you for being my guest today. I wish you all the best for the future, and I’ll be looking for that invite to your cave house in Spain!
AR: Likewise, and thanks very much for having me! The invite’s on its way :)
For more information about Ant Ryan, please click HERE
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