AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Yasmin Selena Butt
This week Gunshot Glitter author Yasmin Selena Butt will be joining us for our Q&A session, telling us more about her romantic crime-drama and letting us in on some writing tips! (And, of course, what Yasmin will be up to next...)
You can find out more about Yasmin Selena by reading her blog. Chapter One of Gunshot Glitter is available to read here!
Please describe your latest book in 15 words or fewer.
Gunshot Glitter is a 'Miss your stop, crime-drama about an incinerated boy who never quite goes away. Surprisingly romantic.'
What inspired you to write Gunshot Glitter?
Gunshot Glitter started off as a short story titled 'The Birthday Present,' which began with six words I saw on a milk carton: 'You can try me for free.' It piqued my curiosity. And I wondered where in life someone might use those words? And I literally put on my PC, opened up MSWord and started writing. The opener is on my blog. The story unfurled as if I was watching a film inside my head. It took on an energy all of its own and when I finished it, I was genuinely startled at what I'd written. I shared it with friends and every single one of them told me, 'You've just written the first chapter of the novel you've always talked about writing, what happens next?' I also showed it to an editor and he said it reminded him of Roald Dahl which delighted me. That was six years ago. It's been tweaked, but the essence hasn't changed at all.
In between Chapter One today there has been a rollercoaster of life, gigs, work, research, writing, a lot of re-writing, editing, proofing and all kinds of drama in between, but I am very proud of the published result. Gunshot Glitter is a story that takes the contemporary crime genre and turns it upside down on its head. I applied no filter to my imagination except knowing I wanted to write a story that would make you question your assumptions and sense of right and wrong. As a debut novelist, I was genuinely intimidated by the challenge I set myself. It is also fundamentally a story about redemption, love and the things people are willing to do in the name of it, on every kind of level from sister to lover to sinner.
Where do you do most of your writing?
I curl up on my gorgeous sofa with my laptop on my knees an awful lot at the moment. I actually have three desks in my flat, but since I've had this new, slinky Lenovo Ideapad, I've been pretty besotted with using her rather than sitting at my PC - and my sofa is dead comfy and a bit special.
What is your favourite book?
That's such a tough question! God, it veers between 'Geek Love' by Katherine Dunn, which as books go literally scared me to death with its insane premise and originality and 'Thirtynothing' by Lisa Jewell which engrossed me so much, that I went to slightly strange extremes to finish it in peace and quiet at work when I first read it. Ironically, Lisa Jewell bought a copy of Geek Love when I saw her at a signing in Waterstones last year, as I'd gone on about it so much. I came across it when I was twenty-one after hearing the same-titled song by Bang Bang Machine. I mention the song in Gunshot Glitter; it's excellent, you should track it down on You Tube.
Which part of Gunshot Glitter was the most enjoyable to write?
I am very proud of my opener, but the scene I loved most - and which is also the reason why my parents are banned from reading Gunshot Glitter is a love scene. It's sexy, gorgeous, tender, extremely sexually explicit, frank and completely human. It's critical to the narrative because it's about two people reconnecting on every level possible and remembering exactly what it was about their bond that made them so special and unique in the first place. I was worried about the response to it, but everyone who's read it has loved it, no EL James style criticism so far, phew. I love good erotica; I've written a novella called Venus. If people read Gunshot Glitter and love that scene they should definitely come back and read Venus. I might save it for Valentine's Day in 2013 to make peeps blush and then sending them racing to the bedroom.
What are you currently reading?
Marian Keyes' 'The Mystery of Mercy Close'. I love the fact that she's finally got round to tackling Helen Walsh, who has always been in the periphery in the Walsh series novels, stealing the scene, as this gleefully spiky sister. But Helen's now all grown up. I admire Keyes for presenting her to us with complex emotional issues. Keyes was going through a hell of a time herself with depression, so on some level she must have felt quite vulnerable penning this. Like many people who struggle with depression, Marian Keyes presents this resolutely upbeat exterior. I love her books, I got into them when I was working in the Maldives as a teacher. Her Twitter account is wonderful too.
Who is your favourite heroine?
As a wee one, the ones that made me sit up and think, 'I want to be like them!' were girls like Jo March in Little Women. I thought she was so cool! I loved the idea of this girl bravely setting off to do her own thing when it wasn't the done thing. I loved how these sisters would put on their own shows, had a lovely mum and sat up all night writing tales. And I adored Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables. Being a black sheep, growing up, I've always admired heroines who have differences that set them apart - and are loved by people around them all the more for them.
I still think Jo was a doofus for spurning Laurie in Little Women though, he was lovely! I'm sure the crusty school teacher she ended up with had his virtues though. But in modern fiction, I adored Nadine in Lisa Jewell's Thirtynothing, I was surprised, as she reminded me of me and I've had friends read the book and say, 'That's you! Your flat is just like that.' That was oddly reassuring because I loved her in that book. Reading about her made me feel less strange about myself back then which was really nice.
Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published authors?
Firstly if you're looking to get published, write, write, write. The more you write the better you'll get. Research your options, there are so many ways to get published, but each option has pros and cons. Research the reality of your options, talk to people already on those paths; obviously no two peoples experience are going to be the same, but it definitely helps in deciding which way to go. Get the Writers and Artist Handbook, educate yourself about the process. Talk to writers and experts on social media.
I talked to best-selling writers, agents and a Big Six publishing director and discovered that the traditional route wasn't for me, which was a shock as it was all I'd ever dreamed of! I'd written a book that one agent told me could make people miss their tube stop, which is a massive compliment, but was also advised to rewrite it to fit in one genre as the marketplace was risk adverse.
I wasn't prepared to do that. I discovered creative control meant everything to me. I want as many people as possible to read Gunshot Glitter, but as a story authentically told with no compromise on quality. Judging by reviews and feedback so far, I am deeply grateful I stuck to my guns. It was hard work, but I don't for a second regret having taken charge of Gunshot Glitter this way. Lisa Jewell loved the story and endorsed it which was wonderful. And Celene Petrulak who is my favourite artist designed the front cover in collaboration with me. Traditionally published writers don't normally get cover control. You need to think about what matters most to you, these were the things that mattered most to me.
Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
I've just had my erotic novella, Venus, proof-read by Jan Bridgen and I'm compiling a compendium of short stories together for an eBook titled, 'Ten Minute Tales'. I love short stories; they'll make perfect reading on smartphones and devices for people who'd like a fix of something surprising, sparky and different. I began writing a second novel, Diamond Life(working title), which is a love story about a geeky, quirky boy who doesn't realise how gorgeous he really is and drives this girl who does, insane. Like Gunshot Glitter, it started off as a short story but a lot of people who read it demanded to know what happened next. It's on my blog here.
But I am also tentatively toying with a possible spin-off from my debut, there is a minor, enigmatic, but absolutely pivotal character called Otis Valentine, who my proofreader, Jill Blair, fell madly in love with and it set off a few sparks in my imagination regarding his story. He's gorgeous; if Gunshot Glitter was ever filmed for the silver screen I would fight tooth and nail to get Aidan Turner who played Mitchell in Being Human to play Otis Valentine. He'd be perfect. In fact just thinking about that has got me excited about the idea of giving him his own novel.