I have the pleasure of welcoming Nia Lucas, author of Love Punked, today 🙂
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
Hi, I’m Nia and I’m the author of ‘Love Punked’. I’m a rapidly-aging, half-Welsh, ginger calamity with an assortment of children, pets and other liabilities keeping me occupied. I’m also a Social Worker with teenagers and have been for about 20 years, which adds to the general air of chaos that clings to me. ‘Love Punked’ is the fourth book I’ve written but it’s the first one that I’ve published. My writing is a bit of a tricky one to park in a particular genre- it often crosses the lines between Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, ChickLit and YA/NA and although it doesn’t make life easy, it hopefully means that a wider audience of readers will enjoy it than if it was sat firmly in just one camp! Set in the 90’s, ‘Love Punked’ follows the protagonist Erin through a life very much ‘less ordinary’ in a journey that makes the reader laugh, cry, snort and shout.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
I think it’s hard to pinpoint particular sources of ideas. ‘Love Punked’ is partly inspired by my own teenage years in the 90’s and several characters are influenced by people who were (and still are) in my life. The opening scene from ‘Love Punked’ involving a humiliating foam party incident are (horrifyingly) autobiographical, causing my mates who’ve read the book much amusement. As a Social Worker, I love watching people, observing their interactions and as a writer, I employ those skills when I’m out and about, to get ideas for stories. I’m also motivated to widen people’s awareness and challenge stereotypes where possible, particularly around young people who’ve had complex or difficult pasts. Two of ‘Love Punked’s protagonists are young people whose experiences of life as a young parent and a young offender are designed to challenge the reader in terms of their preconceptions about how those ‘types’ of young people react or behave. I am fiercely protective of my professional life as a Social Worker though- my writing might be influenced by my own views or experiences but I put my clients’ lives and experiences in a carefully sealed box and they’re not part of my writing.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
Some of my characters are most definitely based on a mixture of people from my personal life- I think it’s unavoidable really when they have been a part of shaping who you are! Plus, one of the best and lesser known benefits of writing books is that your mates spend hours pontificating on who or what particular parts of the story are based on. I like to mess with them, it’s one of the unexpected pleasures in life. I think writing allows you to live vicariously through your characters- you can right old wrongs or change outcomes with the tap of a keyboard. In ‘Love Punked’, Gio, Lees, Danny, Jay and of course Erin are all partial-mosaics of people that I’ve known or spent time with and many of my characters are people that I wish I’d known.
How do you pick your characters names?
In my family, people are rarely referred to by their ‘proper’ names, it’s always a contraction of their name or a nickname. Full names are only to be used when crimes have been committed or if priests are coming for tea. My Nana would verbally scroll through an entire Electoral Roll of mine and my Cousin’s names before she got to the right one and you’d bloody leg it fast if you were ‘full named’. I often choose names that have multiple contractions, it’s also a way of identifying particular relationships within dialogue (different characters calling each other specific nicknames). The characters in my books are often fully formed in my head before I name them too which means I have to ‘chew over’ names to see if they fit. Welsh names are a particular favourite of mine but I have written several books with characters who have Italian heritage and so I have to spend a while finding the right ‘fit’. Sometimes, I just pick names that I’ve always loved just because I can!
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
A character develops in my head, normally when I’m driving, walking or just daydreaming. Music is a big feature in my writing and I always listen to music when I’m thinking through a character. I’ll replay the character in my head, expanding their story and their identity for weeks, months sometimes, before I start writing. They can become quite preoccupying when I’m trying to work out their back-story. In the planning stage, my writing is character driven, not plot driven. Once I do start writing (and I write at night), I don’t plan the story fully. I am a ‘pantser’ not a ‘planner’ so the storyline can (and frequently does) take very unexpected turns as I write.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
My favourites are an eclectic bunch but I’m a comfort reader. I’m time-poor and rarely adventurous in my reading and it’s not something I’m proud of. Once I find somebody whose writing I love, I stick with them like chewing-gum on a bus seat and I’m a devil for the re-read. Caitlin Moran, Roddy Doyle, Sharon Penman, Philippa Gregory and Penelope Lively are my go-to authors. I have had a long-standing New Years Resolution to read more widely. 2019 will absolutely be the year I do it….it will…..honest….
If you could meet any author, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I blagged my way into the Writer’s Room at the Cheltenham Lit Festival last year. I sat, eating free cake and slack-jawed in awe, as Caitlin Moran sat not ten feet from me. I was unable to so much as smile in her direction but had I strapped on my Big Girl Pants and found the courage to ask her a question, I’d probably have asked, “How do you know when a book you’ve written is the best version it can be?”. It’s very possible that I will still be editing the first novel I ever wrote when I am eating jellied fruits in my nursing home…..I can’t seem to get to the point where I feel it’s ‘done’. Her advice would be very useful frankly.
Were you a big reader as a child?
Yes and I look back on those years of glorious, responsibility-free Sunday afternoons spent chilling with a book and I could wallop myself for not appreciating them more. I loved Paul Zindel, Jean Estoril, Tessa Duder and Dodie Smith in particular. Now, I spend my Sundays screeching at my family for their housekeeping misdemeanors (sounding scarily like my Mum) as they lounge about reading improving books* (*watching morons on YouTube).
When did you start to write?
I’ve always loved writing Social Work reports for work- it’s something my colleagues could never really understand but I loved the process of telling somebody’s story as clearly and with as much ‘life’ as possible, to do the clients justice. I dabbled a bit with a blog and with the odd article for things but I wanted to do something bigger. I’ve had chronic insomnia my whole life- it’s unusual for me to be in bed before 2am- and this time needed filling because honestly, there are only so many old episodes of Buffy, My So Called Life or The Gilmour Girls you can watch in the wee hours of the morning. ‘Lorna’ had been a character in my head for many years and I sat down one night, in February a couple of years ago and I just started to tell her story and the story of the people who shape and break her. I started to write and I didn’t stop. I wrote over 600k words in those extra hours of the day and the first draft was longer than ‘War and Peace’. The process was the most satisfying thing, I genuinely loved every tap of the keyboard, spinning every sentence. I wrote the rest of Lorna’s story in three and half books and then I got lost in a wormhole of editing, submissions and rejections. So I sat down and I wrote Erin’s story, over the course of a few weeks in early 2018. This was ‘Love Punked’ and this was the book that I chose to release first.
If you could re-write the ending to any book what would it be and what would you change?
There are few travesties greater than Hermione and Ron ending up together. I’ve yet to get over it.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Yes. ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ by Thomas Hardy. I would have spared generations of GCSE students the mind-numbing tedium with a complete re-write. There would be an ‘Eastenders-esque’ explosive revelation about Elizabeth Jane, Newson would have been absolutely gorgeous (think ‘Outlander’), Susan would have grown a pair and been far more feisty and the entire story would have been TEN PAGES LONG. I have never known something drag on with so many crazy swerves and this is from a woman whose first book was over 600k words long initially……
If you wrote an autobiography, what would your title be?
“What the f**k did she do now?”
If you could invite any fictional character for coffee who would it be and where would you take them?
Tess (of the D’Urbervilles). I would Social Work the bejesus out of that girl over a hot chocolate at Sketch in London. It’s one of my favourite places to go for a sit and a chat. The first time I saw the dinosaur-egg loos, I cried with laughter. I take all my mates who visit there, dragging them to the loos every time. I think Tess and I could sort out pretty much everything in a few hours to be honest and then follow it up with a club and kebab to shake off her Angel blues.
Tell us a random fact about yourself.
At eighteen, I worked in a Betting Shop for a few months. I learnt an astonishing amount of terminology, complex maths and betting strategies, becoming an expert at Yankee bets in the process. Within a few months of leaving the job, that complex knowledge just fell out of my brain. It literally packed up and left my cerebral cortex. It comes back in flashes but it was a valuable early lesson in ‘Use it or lose it’ when it comes to skill acquisition. I now struggle to help my 9-year-old with his maths homework.
What are you working on right now?
Before I wrote ‘Love Punked’, I’d written several other books. Those books follow the life of a protagonist ‘Lorna’ who, alongside the people in her life, has been in my head for years and years. Her story is precious to me but the books were RIDICULOUSLY long. Having re-worked, re-written and re-structured, I’m still editing those books. I’m not sure if I want to seek representation with them or if I just go straight to self-publish again. I’m hoping that the first book will be ready for release/submission in Summer 2019.
I’m also working on an entirely new book, with a really complicated protagonist whose journey changes every time I sit down and write her. She’s a real challenge (we don’t get on at times) but I’m really looking forward to seeking where her journey goes.
Tell us about your last release?
‘Love Punked’ was released in July 2018 on KDP via Amazon. It has been the most incredible learning journey for me- I’d never heard about Book Bloggers or BookTubers before that point and I only joined Twitter and Instagram that Summer too! From Day #1, it’s been rated 5* on Amazon which I’m really proud of.
”When her life is irrevocably altered by a post-Rave tryst on her mother’s floral patio recliner, Erin Roberts’ long-standing relationship with Humiliation takes her down a path that’s not so much ‘less well trodden’, more ‘perilous descent down sheer cliffs’. Armed with a fierce devotion to her best friend and the unrequited love for the boy she might have accidentally married at age seven, when Erin falls pregnant at sixteen, life veers off at a most unexpected tangent. Her journey to adulthood is far from ordinary as Erin learns that protecting the hearts of those most precious to you isn’t balm enough when your Love Punked heart is as sore as your freshly tattooed arse. Whilst raising football prodigies and trying not to get stuck in lifts with Social Work clients who hate her, Erin discovers that sometimes you have to circumnavigate the globe to find the very thing that was there all along”
‘Love Punked’, like all my writing, doesn’t fit neatly into a particular genre- the reviews on Amazon and GoodReads show that reviewers define it as a mixture of ChickLit, Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance and even YA/NA.
Growing up, I was desperate for heroines who looked, talked and behaved like me and I couldn’t find them. As a result, my protagonists may well always be redheads with Welsh heritage- I feel the strong need to represent us! Erin, the protagonist of ‘Love Punked’ is the feisty, daft, loveable but flawed best mate all we wish we’d had in our teens and twenties.
Do you have a new release due?
I’m hoping to release ‘Choices Shape, Losses Break’ in Summer 2019- watch this space!
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
Self-publishing is a funny one- it’s a very quiet business really. Much of the celebration goes on inside your head or via Social Media- there’s no agents to congratulate you or Bridget Jones-style ‘Kafka’s Motorbike’ Launch Party. It’s just you and your computer and pressing ‘Upload’ is the most TERRIFYING thing I’ve ever done. I get invited to Book Clubs as a guest author for ‘Love Punked’ and for me, that’s the best celebration. Having people talk about the characters that lived only in your head for so long, is like the best treat ever. I love talking about Erin, Jay, Gio, Lees and the rest of them and every time I get a chance to talk to somebody who’s read and enjoyed it, I get a bit giddy.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
I’m on Twitter @BooksNia (www.twitter.com/booksnia) and I’m on Instagram @NiaLucasBooks (www.instagram.com/nialucasbooks). My author page on Facebook is ‘Nia Lucas Books’ (www.facebook.com/nialucasbooks) . I’m always happy to turn up at Book Clubs/Groups and I offer free e-copies to any reading groups that want to feature ‘Love Punked’ in their schedule! Just drop me a line.
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
Oooooh, yes, two things really. First, big thanks to anyone who’s read or reviewed ‘Love Punked’- it genuinely means a lot. The other thing is a bit preachy but it’s close to my heart. Reviews, those little Amazon stars, the little golden GoodReads sparkles , they mean EVERYTHING when you’re a self-pub author. People may not realise but points do actually mean prizes. The number of reviews you get correlates to your profile increasing in the website algorithms. One word, one line, it all counts. If you loved a book, hated it, set fire to it or cling to it weeping every night, PLEASE take a few seconds to leave a review. Every little helps! Many thanks for letting me ramble on, I really appreciate it!
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Nia 🙂
When her life is irrevocably altered by a post-Rave tryst on her mother’s floral patio recliner, Erin Roberts’ long-standing relationship with Humiliation takes her down a path that’s not so much ‘less well trodden’, more ‘perilous descent down sheer cliffs’.
Armed with a fierce devotion to her best friend and the unrequited love for the boy she might have accidentally married at age seven, when Erin falls pregnant at sixteen, life veers off at a most unexpected tangent.
Her journey to adulthood is far from ordinary as Erin learns that protecting the hearts of those most precious to you isn’t balm enough when your Love Punked heart is as sore as your freshly tattooed arse.
Whilst raising football prodigies and trying not to get stuck in lifts with Social Work clients who hate her, Erin discovers that sometimes you have to circumnavigate the globe to find the very thing that was there all along.
happy reading 🙂