Saturday, 18 February 2017

Back Catalogue Books - Q&A with Chantelle Atkins

Back Catalogue Books is my new regular Saturday feature, focusing on books that are not the latest releases. There is going to be a mix of Q&As and also reviews, depending on what I have the space for. 

If you are an author wanting to take part in Back Catalogue Books then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you. 

I hope everyone enjoys this weekly look back at some of the slightly older books that are about but still great, and that I eventually make a dent in my TBRs as a result of it!

Hi, my name is Chantelle and I'm a mum of four from Christchurch, Dorset. I write in both the adult and YA genres and would describe my work as gritty and contemporary, covering other genres such as suspense, psychological, mystery and coming of age. For me though, everything is about the character!

1) Please tell me about your first book, and what started you writing in the first place

The first book I published is not the first book I wrote, but The Mess Of Me was ready first, and was published in 2013. I started writing when I was a child, inspired by the many books I became obsessed with. I used to write little stories about animals, which I would also illustrate and write back cover blurbs for! I wrote my first novel when I was twelve, and this book was developed and rewritten many times over my life, and was eventually released as my second novel The Boy With The Thorn In His Side in 2014. I think for me, writing was always a way to escape into my own mind, create characters I would have loved to know and see what adventures I could throw at them. 

2) How many books have you written and what are they?

I've written and published four novels and one short story collection, but also have two other novels written but not yet released, and I am nearing the end of another. The published books are The Mess Of Me, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, This Is The Day (sequel to The Boy...) and This is Nowhere. The short story collection is called Bird People and Other Stories and contains short stories and character snapshots related to my novels, published, and otherwise. The two unreleased novels are The Tree Of Rebels and Elliot Pie's Guide To Human Nature.

3) Which book are you most proud of writing?

I think The Boy With The Thorn In His Side because I wrote it when I was twelve, or at least had the main story and characters all in place. I went back to it so many times throughout my life and just couldn't shake it out of my head. I had a long break from writing in my life when I worked and raised children, but finally got back to it with a vengeance in 2011, and it was because of this book, which was still keeping me awake at night. It's a huge book. It was originally released in two parts, but is now all in one. I also wrote a sequel, This Is The Day, and have started work on a screenplay, as my ultimate dream would be to see it made into a TV series. I'm proud of it because I got there in the end!

4) Which book was your favourite to write?

Probably The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, because it never felt like work. I'd had these people and stories in my head for so long, it was just an utter pleasure to finally play around with them and get it all out. Elliot Pie's Guide To Human Nature would be a close second though. It's nearly ready for release and I enjoyed every second of writing it, mainly because I so fell in love the main character, twelve year old Elliot

5) Who are your favourite characters from your books and why?

Definitely Danny from The Boy With The Thorn In His Side, because he's quite a complex young man and goes on such a journey in the two books. I know him so well, having had him in my head for so much of my life. I would also say Lou from The Mess Of Me, as she became a feistier naughtier version of me, which was really fun to write! And definitely Elliot Pie from the unreleased book. He's just adorable and I sort of feel like his mother!

6) If you could go back and change anything from any of your books, what would it be, and why?

I would probably make some of the earlier ones shorter. They were cut down a lot, but are still very long books. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as it all needs to be there, but when it comes to editing, proofreading, formatting and so on, having a shorter book is far less of a headache! 

7) Which of your covers if your favourite and why?

I think it would have to be This Is Nowhere, as my friend Justine painted it, and the dog on the front cover is my lurcher Tink. Lurchers feature in the book, as does the location on the cover, which is a real place, my favourite place in the world, Sopley Common. I love being there, as it's sort of eerie and wild and silent, and I do all my best thinking there, so to see it on a cover is very cool.

8) Have you ever thought about changing genres, if so what else would you like to write?

I don't really stick to one genre anyway. I find it very hard describing my genre when people ask! The Mess Of Me is a YA coming of age drama, and The Boy With The Thorn In His Side also is, but as it is told from both the antagonist's and the protagonist's point of view, it steps into psychological thriller territory, and also horror to a certain extent. This Is Nowhere is a family mystery, but also a coming of age story. This Is The Day, the sequel to The best described as a crime thriller. I have no idea how to explain what genre Elliot Pie's Guide To Human Nature is! Adult, with a child narrator is as far as I have got at the moment! 

The Tree Of Rebels was a change of territory as it's the first book I've set in the future, so it's a speculative fiction piece as well as a YA dystopian. One of the books I have planned for the future is post apocalyptic and this will be the first time I've strayed into that genre. I just go where the ideas take me! The only thing I wouldn't have a stab at is romance. It's just not me!

9) Looking forward can you let us know what you are working on next?

Yes, the next two books ready for release will be The Tree of Rebels and Elliot Pie's Guide To Human Nature. Elliot will be first. It's about a twelve year old boy who decides to help his agoraphobic mother by attempting to prove to her that humans are not all bad, and he does this by befriending perfect strangers. It's about his resilience and positivity, versus her defeatism and cynicism. We see things from his point of view, as well as hers, to try to understand what's brought them to this point. Elliot has a lovely time making new friends, until it all inevitably goes wrong at the end, and he goes missing. The Tree Of Rebels is set in the future where barely any humans are left after endless wars. 

The survivors now exist in a seemingly perfect society, with everything provided for them. Food, for example, is all grown under massive domes and nature is controlled and owned. The main character one day strays too far from her community and discovers an apple tree growing all by itself, not in the domes. This discovery, along with the strange things her great-grandmother tries to tell her about the old world they no longer talk about, lead the girl, Lissie, into an uncertain and dangerous time. 

Both these books are finished but need polishing up! I am also nearly at the end of a work in progress called A Song For Bill Robinson, which is another book I wrote at a young age, sixteen, and have recently gone back to. It's a gritty YA drama about a teenage alcoholic who dreams of being a singer. When all of these books are finished and released I will be diving into a four book series I have planned and made notes and character bios for. I've also written some short stories for it. It's another YA drama, and involves nature turning on us and a human cull leaving only the young to inherit the angry earth.

10) I dare not ask for a favourite author, but is there any author’s back catalogue you admire and why?

I very much admire the author Kate Rigby, who I am now lucky enough to know personally. I followed her on social media and thought her books seemed similar in content to mine. She has a huge back catalogue which I am slowly working my way through, and I think she is amazing. Her books cover lots of social issues such as suicide, mental illness, domestic abuse, runaways and addiction. Down The Tubes is my favourite. It's just stunning.

11) Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your back catalogue of books?

Just that they are all really about the characters, as it is always them that come to me first. They're the most important part of it all, for me. They need a lot of time and attention, and I hope readers feel that when they read the books and get to meet them! 

Thank you so much Chantelle for coming onto Rachel's Random Reads and telling everyone about your back catalogue.

About Chantelle Atkins

Chantelle Atkins was born and raised in Dorset, England and still resides there now with her husband, four children and multiple pets. She is addicted to both reading and music, and is on a mission to become as self-sufficient as possible. She writes for both the young adult and adult genres. Her fiction is described as gritty, edgy and compelling. Her debut Young Adult novel The Mess Of Me deals with eating disorders, self-harm, fractured families and first love. Her second novel, The Boy With The Thorn In His Side follows the musical journey of a young boy attempting to escape his brutal home life. She is also a reviewer for Underground Book Reviews and has written several articles about writing for Author's Publish Magazine.

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