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Interview with April Grace

She has always lived in Milton Keynes and now lives with her boyfriend and, a few nights a week, his two cheeky sons. She has been writing young adult novels for twelve years now, which all started when she decided to write stories on Wattpad while she was supposed to be working hard on modules for her A Levels. (But she did go on to study Creative Writing at university the following year, so it all worked out in the end.)

She has worked for a popular UK bookstore, has temporarily worked for Ingram Spark’s Milton Keynes warehouse, was formerly the Head of Literature for a London-based charity providing creative opportunities for young people, and now owns her freelance editing company, Hooked On Words Editorial. She loves both reading and writing anything inspired by fairy tales and mythology.

Her first book, Steel Princess, is a YA fantasy novel with both magical and futuristic elements; elves, centaurs, mermaids, sirens, pirates, and sea monsters, and an adventure across the seas, but also androids and cyborgs. She couldn’t be more grateful for all of the love and support.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself that not many people know?
My nanna’s cousin is Patricia Hayes, an actress who starred in one of my all-time favorite fantasy films, Willow. I love the film and would have also loved to meet her.

Q.2 What inspired you to write Steel Princess?
I wrote this book originally when I was around fifteen or sixteen, when I loved reading books by authors like Sophie McKenzie and Malorie Blackman, and a little later on, Teri Terry

I loved Sophie’s books because she writes contemporary fiction for teens but they usually have some kind of different edge to them. For example, she has a book series where two main characters find out they are clones. Teri Terry does the same, and Malorie Blackman’s books are just really hard-hitting but in a gripping way. 

I wrote the book originally in a futuristic version of the UK, where my main character Silver is a female android (and she still is) who wants to find the man who built her, so she travels to the US with her friends. 

But as I started reading fantasy books a lot more, during Covid lockdowns, I had the idea that it would be cool to make Silver a princess and put her into a fantasy world, so I did exactly that, and Steel Princess was born. It was now a world full of androids and cyborgs but with an enemy kingdom full of magic and another, that Steel City wished to imitate. The whole book’s evolution took about twelve years overall. 

I spent a lot of years querying the original version, and it was an editor at Penguin who offered the advice that she loved the concept, but the worldbuilding didn’t quite click for her, so she was a big part of the book’s change. I then decided to self-publish, and I’m now working on my next book.

Q.3 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
Yes! As of last night, actually, I finished my final rewrite of the book I’ll be publishing next. I will be working on the rest of Steel Princess’s series, but in the meantime, I wanted to work on something I’d written a few years ago during Camp NaNoWriMo

So, my next book is a dark Snow White retelling called The Girl Behind The Glass, with my Snow White character having a stepsister and a whole coven of witches behind her as she tries to fight her evil stepmother.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I don’t really mind writing male characters, and in Steel Princess, I have a male narrator called Eden who is a tinker from the palace, but he’s quite bookish like my female characters tend to be. 

I struggle with writing dark and brooding male characters, and sometimes they come out too emotional, which isn’t always realistic, but I do enjoy writing them occasionally. I suppose you know your sex and you hope to understand the opposite one, but it can be hard to make it realistic sometimes.

Q.5 Do you plan out your books before you start writing, or do you just write and see where it takes you?
I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. I usually plan a little and then start writing and see where the story goes, and then I’ll plan some more when it starts forming a good story that I can restructure. I do like to have some kind of plan, but I also find that I write better when I don’t restrict myself in any way.

Q.6 How long, on average, does it takes you to write a book?
It depends; it can take anything from a few months to a year. I’ve done NaNoWriMo a few times and written most of a book in a month. I have quite a few books that I’ve shelved over the years because I was querying them to literary agents, but I may revise them all slowly and publish them when I think they’re ready. For example, I have a Sleeping Beauty retelling that could fit well into the world of my upcoming Snow White one, as well as a few other mythology-inspired ones.

Q.7 What’s your writing schedule while working?
It can be difficult to make a schedule that sticks because I work in a school, so I work Monday to Friday, but I also have a freelance editing business, so I have to prioritize my evenings for my client work. So a good chunk of my writing now gets done at weekends, some evenings, and a lot more in the school holidays.

Q.8 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Honestly, I can’t even picture it. Writing is a massive part of my life, and it keeps me sane haha. But I would probably start a travel blog or film YouTube videos a lot more. I often wish I could draw, but I’m not very good at it.

Q.9 Do you try to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Not really. I just tend to write what I love, which is mainly fairytales and mythology-inspired fiction. I have been tempted to write an enemies-to-lovers book with a lot of spice and romance, though, haha.

Q.10 It is vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing. Tell us about your marketing campaign?
I don’t really do a lot of marketing campaigns as such, but I have Amazon ads and a YouTube channel where I talk about my reading and writing a lot. I also use TikTok regularly for videos and live streams. 

Recently I’ve been working with a PR company called Authors In Focus, and they have been offering author interviews like this one, Facebook group opportunities for live streams, and weekly consultations about a book feature that I have coming up.

Q.11 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
I would love to be a witch. I just find them fascinating. So many powerful spells, and they’re usually such a tight-knit community of sisters, haha.

Q.12 If you could invite one character to dinner from your book, who would it be and why?
Probably Adelia from Steel Princess. She’s so powerful but also has a softer side that comes out toward the end of the book. She’s going to be a narrator in the book that follows because she just spoke to me so much.

Q.13 What three things can a reader expect from your book?
A. Steel Princess:
Pirates, a cruel female android queen, and a brooding winged prince. 

The Girl Behind The Glass: Witches, an evil stepmother, and great friendships.

Q.14 Among all the supporting characters in your book, who is dear to you and why?
As I mentioned in Steel Princess, I loved Adelia. She wasn’t even a character that I had many original plans for, but as I wrote Eden’s POV more, she stuck out as an interesting character with a haunted past and I loved her. Eden is a big softie and he’s so sweet. 

I also love Silver and her friends Isaria and Jaxon, who are there for her through everything. In The Girl Behind The Glass, I love narrators Winnie and Princess Frost, who are hateful toward each other at first but later become the best of friends.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select them?
A. Josephine Blake
at Covers and Cupcakes! She’s brilliant and designed two beautiful covers for me. I found her while looking around for cover designers in Facebook groups.

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
They just kind of come to me randomly, but I usually fall in love with them later haha.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I do because I don’t have that many, and I’m always wondering if more will come. I tend to just let the bad ones go over my head, and of course, the good ones make me feel great. But I try to take lessons from them if they’re specific.

Q.18 Do you have any unique or quirky writing habits?
Not really. I love to write in cool coffee shops and there’s a lovely café by a lake in my town, but doesn’t every writer do that? Haha.

Q.19 Are there any new books or authors in science fiction or fantasy (or both!) you are excited about? What are you reading right now?
I have way too many to count, haha. My TBR shelf is always overflowing. But I’m currently reading Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake, and it’s about three triplet queens who have to kill each other for the throne, and they all have different abilities. It’s intriguing and dark so far, and I’m enjoying it.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
It’s been a wild ride. I spent a lot of years querying my books to literary agents, but now I’m just happy to have all of the creative freedom for them. I love choosing cover designers and editors to hire and making them look pretty.

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