Welcome to the tenth post in my Author Spotlight series! Every month, I showcase an indie author and interview them to find out more about their writing life.
This month, the author in the spotlight is T. C. Emerys! I first heard of T. C. Emerys when I won her short story collection in an Instagram contest. Then she contacted me to be a guest speaker on The Midnight Quill Podcast with herself and editor Annelie Widholm; we had a ton of fun talking about self-editing on S2 E2: How to Edit Your Own Book.
Bio: T. C. Emerys is an author, ghostwriter, editor and publisher from the UK. She released her first short story collection The Weight of Rain last year and is planning to release the first book in her fantasy series in the latter half of 2022. She also has a podcast about writing and self-publishing called The Midnight Quill Podcast which she co-hosts with poet and scriptwriter Maisy Osbon and poet and writer Aimee Smith.
Q: What made you want to be a writer?
A: I have no memory of not wanting to be a writer, if I’m completely honest. It was something I always wanted to do from childhood, but that was more of a fascination with books and narratives than any practical application of writing as a career. It was only after several diversions in Secondary School and being told that writing wasn’t a job that I came back to it. Teachers, extended family, other adults in my life at the time, told me to be ‘practical’ and be a teacher or something else first and write "on the side."
That lead to me pursuing academia, then eventually editing academic essays for my peers. That opened a whole new door as I slowly moved over to editing fiction, which in turn led me to ghostwriting. Once I realised that actually I could make a living from editing fiction and ghostwriting, I remembered my original love for writing.
That’s a long way of saying I always wanted to be a writer, but it’s only been a reality in recent years.
Q: How do you choose your characters’ names?
A: With far more agony than should be needed! I think the writer cliché of a "name with a meaning" is very true, but the meaning is often more for me than the reader. The reader will fall in love with the character regardless of the name if I do the character-building correctly (fingers crossed).
Q: Have any of your characters surprised you? If so, how?
A: Constantly. I write with an outline (especially for ghostwriting clients) but I like to leave room for some freewriting in there. Often scenes start to take directions I wouldn’t have ever expected them to, and I think when that happens it is best to just lean into it and see what comes of it. The edits are always there to tighten things up again.
Q: Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g., lighting a candle before you write, meditating before you write, going for a walk to get ideas)
A: I like to listen to long ambience mixes on YouTube, for example "The Lord of the Rings 10 hour Ambience Mix" etc. and Pomodoro method–structured ambiences. I find it much easier to concentrate with wordless, soothless audio than silence. I also use "A Soft Murmur," which is an ambience website where you can increase and decrease levels of audio like waves crashing, rain, thunder, a fire crackling, etc.
Besides that, I always make sure I have my big stainless steel water bottle full so I can keep swigging it without having to get up and get another drink. If I’m using the Pomodoro timers (usually when I’m working on client chapters), I’ll use the break sections to garden, read, or watch YouTube videos.
Q: What does your research process look like for your writing, if there is one?
A: It really depends on the project. As a ghostwriter I’ve ended up researching a really wide range of topics from murder weapons to the tunnel systems under Scottish castles to the programming schedule of Irish TV channels. I’ll use any resource necessary whether it’s books, interviewing real people, watching documentaries, etc.
A recent example is a fiction project I’m writing for a client which takes place within the British armed forces. As I’m not in the armed forces my process has included a lot of reading and documentaries, but I also attended Harrogate Military College’s 16- to18-year-old training virtual open day. I felt pretty old (26) when the Zoom call first started, but thankfully most people turned off their cameras and the questions were anonymous. It was free to attend and I gathered a lot of useful information for background for the book (e.g., what types of food they eat in basic training, what sort of schooling they get, how much leave they get etc.).
Q: Do you have any specific authors or books that you've learned from on your writing journey?
A: Is it completely trite to say all of them? Okay, yeah, it is—a more specific answer, in terms of my self-publishing journey, would be the admins of the group 20booksto50k. It is predominantly a Facebook group for self-published authors seeking to make a living from their work. The admins earn 6 figures and are very open about not just their finances but their business model, marketing, cover design process, writing speed, release deadlines etc. etc. It’s been extremely eye-opening, and if I can just apply a 10th of the knowledge I’ve acquired I’d be very pleased.
Besides that, I would have to say the writing community on Instagram. There are so many resources available now and I’ve learnt so much just from networking with people on there.
Q: How did publishing your first book change your writing process?
A: I try not to let it change the process, but self-publishing for the first time definitely impacted how I viewed a book’s marketability. My short story collection exceeded my expectations in terms of sales and was definitely a practice run for future books, but I learnt quite quickly that short story collections have an extremely niche market and even collections by established big name authors don’t sell as well as novels. That was not something I considered before publishing it, and whilst it wouldn’t put me off doing so again in the future (if I have another short story collection in me) it does make me think more keenly about the marketing strategy for upcoming books.
Q: What’s your number one tip for tackling imposter syndrome?
A: I wish I had a definitive answer for this. I’m battling that demon every day.
Having said that, I would say that I’ve learnt that the more you pretend on social media, the worse you feel. If you post like you’ve got your shit together, you quickly compare yourself to a fake version of yourself. Being vulnerable in the online communities (not Twitter, that’s a hellscape I will never understand) can actually help you navigate those feelings and find other people who feel relieved that you shared your feelings. Being immersed in the communities can sometimes feel like a constant comparison, but actually those people are often feeling the same things you are.
You just need to talk about it. And I say "just" with a big heap of hypocrisy, as if it is so easy to do.
Q: What is your go-to snack and/or drink while writing?
A: Water. Just constant water. I love water, which is odd because it seems lots of people really don’t? Coffee and tea taste awful and make me anxious.
I can’t eat and write, I find it frustrating not to have both hands on the keyboard at all times haha! I like to let them fly and the one thing I will boast about is that I can type 90 words a minute (what a lame skill!) so when I’m on that roll, it’s the best feeling in the world.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I’m working on my debut fantasy series, hopefully a trilogy. The very basic premise is a quasi-Arthurian medieval world with twin queens who are born with equal claim to the throne. They quickly become political rivals, puppeted by ambitious family members in a world split between the magical religion of the Three Nymphs and atheism. I daren’t say anymore before it’s developmentally edited as who knows what will change yet!
It is a big project with a lot of subplots and influenced by my seven years in academia studying Medieval Arthurian Literature, but I’m really excited about it and fighting the imposter syndrome every day to get it ready.
If you'd like to follow T. C. Emerys on her writing journey or find out more about her stories, this is where you can find her:
Facebook: T. C. Emerys