What inspired you to write your first book?
I had a story idea that started to play out in my mind like a movie and I began writing it down. I found myself writing all day because the story just kept coming. I wrote at work, at home, while I ate, at night, in the middle of the night and first thing in the morning. I did this for about two weeks when I had my first rough draft of my very first novel I had ever written Hamster Heaven. I know that sounds crazy, just two weeks, but I don’t think the manuscript was full novel length anyway, in its first draft. Then I had the brilliant idea to add the boy character’s point of view, alternating with the girl character’s point of view, for each chapter. Once I added that in my manuscript was twice as long and at that point I think it was actually novel length. I edited Hamster Heaven on and off for about ten years. It is still my favourite novel that I’ve written. Since then, I’ve written a few more novels and my writing style has changed a lot. So I suppose my inspiration was just a great story idea that insisted on being written.
How did you come up with the title?
The title came to me during one of my early edits when I reached the part where Kati’s beloved hamster dies. The hamster is just a small part of the coming-of-age story, but it is Kati’s breaking point, when everything goes from bad to horrible, and she finally cries. Sometimes it takes a separate incident from all the pain you’re going through, to unleash the emotions and tears, like a sad movie or the death of a gold fish, etc. Once the title, Hamster Heaven, came to me it stuck.
Is this your first book? How many books have you written (published or unpublished)?
The novel I’m highlighting today (The Virgin Diaries) isn’t my first book, it is my fifth. Prior to The Virgin Diaries, I wrote Hamster Heaven, Moonlight Shadow and Emodroids and Boy Charming. They are all quite different.
-Hamster Heaven is a teen fiction novel set in the mid-1990’s.
-Moonlight Shadow is a Young Adult Sci-Fi (aliens) novel that takes place in the future, available to read at: http://www.wattpad.com/story/26524414-moonlight-shadow
-Emodroids is a Futuristic YA Dystopian Sci-fi novel about cyborgs that have developed emotional A.I.
-Boy Charming is a teen drama about a girl who becomes homeless. Available to read at: http://www.wattpad.com/story/14359883-boy-charming
–The Virgin Diaries, which is currently my most successful Wattpad novel (with over 5,200 views) is a contemporary Romance about Abby Blosym, who is still a virgin and about to be turning thirty. She is desperate to start living her adult life; marriage, a house, kids, etc. possibly with her boyfriend Ben. But when he proves to be the wrong one for her she leaves to ‘chase the sun’ and falls for Jade, who is considerably younger than her.
Available to read at:
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes. I did research on a little known condition known as Vaginismus, a muscle spasm, which makes it difficult and sometimes impossible for women to have intercourse. This is not an uncommon problem and yet it is not talked about or understood, even by doctors, because the condition is caused by psychological factors such as fear and anxiety. This is what my character Abby has to work through in this novel. Even for those who don’t have a condition to work through, having sex for the first time is a life milestone that can be intimidating, like a rite of passage into adulthood. This can be especially intimidating for women who have waited until they are older.
I decided to take the challenge of writing about a character who is making this transition, in conquering her fears and inhibitions so she can move into the next chapter of her life. I’ve heard it said that to be a successful writer you must write about something that makes you uncomfortable, or challenges you to delve into the difficult things of life, or about something that scares you. So with this novel, I took that challenge.
How much of the book is realistic?
Realistic? It’s a contemporary novel, with locations that really exist and situations that are relatable. One of the main locations, Penticton BC, is a place where I myself have vacationed, and I use descriptions in the novel from my recollections of my visits there; the S.S. Sicamous Museum, Okanagan Lake and Skaha Lake, the beach front, etc. Abby’s hometown is a small city in Southern Alberta, which is also familiar to me. The main character, I feel, is a realistic representation of women who are still trying to leave their parents’ overprotective influence over their lives create a life for themselves.
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Abby is a combination of character traits based on friends of mine that are not married yet, as well as character traits from my own self, before I was married. One of the things I find interesting is the powerful emotional impact that overprotective (or overbearing) mothers can have on their grown children’s lives. My mom doesn’t get too involved in the details of my life, but there are many women whose mothers try to control their decisions with emotional manipulation. I wanted to make Abby a woman with a mother like this, thereby putting her in a situation where setting up age-appropriate boundaries between parent and grown child would be essential in order for her to become independent and make the transition into adulthood. I love having a wide variety of friends in my life. My fictional characters can be as diverse as the personalities of the friends I’ve grown to know personally.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Always the beginning, maybe the first 1/4th of the novel. It’s where I always have the most difficulty, where I do the most editing, where I can never seem to be satisfied. So with The Virgin Diaries I’d want to tighten up the beginning a little in order to get to the first meeting between Abby and Jade sooner in the novel. I tried rearranging the order in which the chapters occur (with flashbacks, etc.) which was a nightmare with Wattpad, back before they created more user-friendly chapter editing options for writers who use Wattpad to publish their work.
But I don’t allow myself to look at the novel anymore because the moment I do I will begin editing again, wanting to change everything. I’m the type of author that is never satisfied with any draft, as happened with Hamster Heaven, which I edited over and over for ten years. It gets to the point where I realize I like my old drafts better than the new ones and I start putting old scenes back in. That’s when I know I need to stop editing and make a final copy. Whether or not the novel could have been better, at this point, doesn’t matter. There’s a time to finally let go. Wattpad helps me to do that. Once a chapter is published I let it go. I have to. Because if I keep making changes my poor followers will keep getting updates in their newsfeed alerting them that my chapter has been “updated”, and I don’t want to clutter their news feeds. This is one of the reasons I love Wattpad. I love connecting with the readers and it helps me build a platform of followers for the future when I will be selling novels or e-books for a cost.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
First of all, I’m SO grateful for those who have read, left comments or voted for my novels on Wattpad. It is always such a great feeling to know that someone has connected with my story or my characters. Any encouragement or nice comments can make a difficult day into an awesome day! But I also appreciate constructive feedback, which I got lots of in the comments section for The Virgin Diaries on Wattpad. I did make changes to the story due to some of the reader suggestions. And lastly I want to say to readers that if you enjoy a story, and it has made you feel, think, cry, laugh, see things in a new light or the story has entertained you, then please suggest the book to your friends! Word of mouth is one of the best ways to promote anything, including novels J it is a great way to show appreciation to the author for his or her endless hours of work in making a novel for others to read.
What is your favorite part/chapter of your book/project?
My favourite part… right off the top of my head I would say when Abby meets Jade in the waters of the Okanagan lake. It is a pivotal point in the story and Jade is the catalyst that propels Abby into one of the biggest and most difficult transitions of her life, and yet the whole scene is so unassuming and casual.
What is your favourite theme/genre to write?
There is always an element of romance in all my novels, whether it’s sci-fi, contemporary adult or teen fiction, and yet I wouldn’t say my favourite genre to write is Romance, but rather, Young Adult or Teen Fiction. As for theme, whether the story is about Alien conspiracies or a girl running away from home, my favourite theme is always ‘boy meets girl’.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
Horror or war memoirs, the holocaust, rape, psychological thrillers, or satanic cults and human sacrifices.
What book are you reading now?
I’m not one to read just one book before grabbing another and starting that as well, so currently I am reading the following books:
–Midnight In Austenland by Shannon Hale
–Scott Pilgrim Manga Series by Bryan Lee O’Malley
–Venus in Love Manga Series by Yuki Nakaji
–Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout (I’m really enjoying this one)
–The Academy Ghost Bird Series by C.L. Stone (e-book)
–Conquering Shame and Codependency by Darlene Lancer
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Yes, new to me at least. Ally Condie who wrote Matched is a really poetic author that packs so much meaning and depth into every sentence, and yet her writing style is easy to read and flows seamlessly. I LOVE her book Matched.
Also, C.L. Stone, an indie author who offers the first book of her book series for free as an e-book! It isn’t so much her writing specifically that grasped my interest but the fact that she was able to engage so many readers and grow her audience to such huge proportions with just a simple teen story.
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, but with screenwriting more than novel writing. I see myself selling screenplays, before any book publishing deals come along. Book publishers are very picky, they are buying the product that they hope to make money on so it has to be perfect. When you sell a script, most likely it will not be your script that will be used for the movie; rather, your script is given to a better known screenwriter who is paid $1 million to rewrite it.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I see myself having sold one or two film scripts and possibly publishing a novel, whether through traditional publishing or self-publishing one of my novels (in a printed book format, for sale, not free online as I’ve done on wattpad). I also see myself doing a lot more self-promotion. With my daughter being out of the house in ten years, I imagine I will be attending more writer’s conventions and festivals where I can promote my work and do readings, like I had the privilege of doing at last year’s Word On The Street festival in Lethbridge. I did a reading from my (still yet to be completed) novel Boy Charming in the Young Adult festival tent. It was a nerve-wracking experience! I’m also planning to attend the World Screenwriter’s Conference this year for the first time and hopefully get my foot in the door in the screenwriting world and sell a script or two, in the next ten years.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
The beginning. I know how important it is to capture the interest of the reader right from the start and I find that creates a lot of pressure on an author to write a compelling beginning. When I write a first draft I don’t worry too much about structure or rules, but once I get into the editing I do worry about these things, especially capturing the reader’s attention at the beginning and moving the action along fast enough yet still taking time to do world building and character building. In The Virgin Diaries for example, I was told that I should move the action along faster at the beginning because it takes too long for the main love interest (Jade) to be introduced. But I didn’t feel the reader would be invested emotionally enough in Abby’s character or have a sufficient enough understanding of her life situation and state of mind, if I skipped those beginning character building chapters.
Have you ever hated something you wrote?
That’s a tough question. I can say I’ve hated ‘sharing’ something I’ve written, that is, sharing it with the wrong audience for the work. But I can’t say I’ve never hated the work itself. Each work is a piece of you, a creation of your creative mind. If there was some effort, some emotion, something shared, then I don’t think I could hate it, even if I am uncomfortable with the work, or unhappy with its quality. Any piece of prose can be made better and improved, and there’s something beautiful about a first draft, the emotional honesty of it. I’ve also learned that not all writing is appreciated by all audiences and that you have to know when it makes sense to be vulnerable and present your work to others and when it isn’t the right place or time or audience. I attended a self-publishing workshop given by Linda J. Pedley from Dream Write Publishing (http://www.dreamwritepublishing.ca/), during which Linda said something that stuck with me to this very day and I will always remember, she said ‘be proud of your work’ [not embarrassed or ashamed or secretive about it]. She said some authors don’t want their picture on the back of their books, but it should be an honour to be the writer of your work. I realized that I too felt embarrassed sometimes by my work because it had a heated romance scene in it or had an uncomfortable topic like my novel The Virgin Diaries. But after listening to Linda speak at that workshop I realized that if I write something, that I believe in and have worked hard on, I have every reason to be proud of it.
What book do you wish you had written?
Matched by Ally Condie. It really captured me. It is brilliant in its simplicity and deep in its purity. Here is a quote from Chapter Twenty Five of Matched:
“Our time together feels like a storm, like wild wind and rain, like something too big to handle but too powerful to escape, it blows around me and tangles my hair, leaves water on my face, makes me know I am alive, alive, alive. There are moments of calm and pause as there are in every storm, and moments when our words fork lightning, at least for each other.”
What is your best marketing tip?
Get involved! Support and encourage other authors by following their blogs or Facebook pages, commenting or rating their work, etc. This can really make a difference for you and your own marketing in the long run. Attend conferences if you can. Make friends. Sell yourself.
There are millions of writers out there, millions of great books, just step into a used bookstore or a Chapters store, shelf after shelf of top quality writing. How will yours get noticed? If you sell your work to Random House then their marketing team will help you get noticed, but otherwise it’s important to network and socialize. What I mean by that is ‘care’, about your work and about others’. Care about those trying to do the same thing you are doing. Comment on their posts, follow them on twitter, leave positive feedback. Particularly in the world of Wattpad, it is important to read others’ work as much as it is to write and publish your own.
But in the end the best marketing strategy is to have a good manuscript. Word will spread and people will show interest. If it is a good novel it will get noticed, eventually, and hopefully not after you’ve passed away. If it isn’t a great novel, then no amount of marketing will make people invest their time in it. So make sure you have a great product that YOU are proud of and then share it with others, while also encouraging fellow writers (and your readers too). If you have just one reader tell them you appreciate them. Reply to comments they leave and (as I like to do on Wattpad) write them a thank-you message if they’ve left a comment or voted on your work.
Don’t despise small beginnings and celebrate your achievements, even the small ones.
What genre is your next project? What is it about?
My next novel that I will be uploading to Wattpad is Hamster Heaven (teen fiction) which will involve another read through / edit of the manuscript the chapters get posted week by week. This will be the first time Hamster Heaven is published to the public even though it was written over ten years ago.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
Hamster Heaven is a teen fiction novel about a 13 year old girl named Kati, from an immigrant family, who has never quite fit in, nor has she felt the need to. Then she crosses paths with David, also a child of immigrant parents. Before long he is the friend that she has always wanted and needed. But Kati’s sudden change of social status at school threatens to destroy their new found friendship.
How do we find your books, blog and bio?
All my e-book published novels are available on Wattpad at http://www.wattpad.com/BiancaWatson
You can also follow my Facebook Author’s Page for updates and info on upcoming book / e-book releases and of course to leave comments and contact me J www.facebook.com/BiancaRowena
More about Bianca:
Bianca writes teen fiction and YA (including sci-fi, romance and contemporary styles). She is the author of The Virgin Diaries, Boy Charming and Moonlight Shadow, which are available to read for free on wattpad at: www.wattpad.com/BiancaWatson
You can also follow her on her facebook author’s page at www.facebook.com/BiancaRowena
For the first 10 people to follow Bianca’s facebook page and receive a free bookmark.
When she isn’t writing, Bianca enjoys playing the piano, reading, going to plays or the symphony, frequenting used bookstores, going out for fancy cupcakes with her daughter, high-tea social events, watching Netflix and baking banana chocolate chip muffins.
“I will always write, because to not do so would be to deny my very self”
Please feel free to ask Bianca questions.