Interview with author Erica Challis from New Zealand

Updated: Feb 21

Author interviews by "TheNZDream" blog

Tell me a bit about yourself….

I’m originally from Hastings. I studied music and played in the Auckland Philharmonia for years, and I still freelance a bit in Wellington where I live now. I’ve always dabbled in writing but went for long stretches - years and years - where I didn’t write anything creative. When I left the orchestra, I studied journalism. That was a big help in learning to write fast and tight, and keep in mind the question, “What does the reader want to or need to know?” It also led to a second career as a contract writer.

What genre/s do you write in?

Mostly fantasy and science fiction, with a bit of contemporary.

How long have you been writing?

In 2016, it felt like I finally gave myself “permission” to write whatever I wanted to. At first, that was just fanfiction, but pretty soon my own original characters started to demand their own worlds and stories.

Do you have any published books or articles? Tell me a bit about these and what publishing route you took.

A couple. I was one of the founders of the Lord of the Rings fan website We wrote and posted all kinds of articles on there, and as it was a very popular website back in the 2000s, we were approached by Cold Spring Press to collect those into an anthology, The People’s Guide to JRR Tolkien. I wrote for it and edited the other contributors’ work, and we went on to publish a second book, More People’s Guide to JRRT.

Did you use an editor? If so who?

I use beta readers. I’m looking for a good structural editor as I don’t think the pacing in my current novels is quite working.

Did you use a book formatter and cover designer?


Did you self-publish or get traditionally published? How did this go for you?

This year I’ve been learning about query letters, synopsis, and all that. I’ve had a story accepted into the 2021 SpecFic Aotearoa anthology, and in the past, I’ve had stories accepted in a couple of magazines. I’m looking for an agent for my novels. Just have to keep chipping away at it, I guess.

What social media and writing platforms would you recommend?

I write in Scrivener. For social media, I’m on Facebook for personal stuff and I’m on twitter as a loose way of keeping aware that other writers exist. I’m wary of falling into some kind of hive mind mentality - that seems to happen in fanfiction communities and the tumblr accounts that form around fandoms. Twitter seems little better, but I’m new to it so maybe I’ll discover some benefit to it one day.

Do you use an agent?

I would like to.

Do you use paid advertising? If so what?


Do you have a blog or website?

I’m trying. Wix and Wordpress both claim to be intuitive and easy to learn how to build websites on, but they’ve both reduced me to tears and I still don’t have a website.

What inspires you most to write?

Boredom, sadness, rage, tension makes me sit down at the keyboard. Words themselves keep me going. I love words.

What do you do to help with writers block?

Do something else, write something else. One day I polished the floor, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that again anytime soon.

Most blocks are born from fear of failure; the older I get, the less I care. I’ve failed at countless things, more than I can even remember, and none of those failures ended me. I won’t lose anything by keeping trying.

How do you plan your writing and start?

There’s a moment when an uncomfortable, itchy, restless feeling and a stew of words and ideas build up too much to ignore. Once I’m writing, there are scenes in the story that I don't know about, but I find my way to them by writing.

Is writing your full time job? If not what else do you do?

Writing is some of my work. Otherwise, I’m a music librarian and a freelance musician.

What are you working on at the moment?

Two linked space opera novels.

What is your target audience?

Bright teenagers and young adults who love space adventures.

How long does it take you to write a book?

So far, they’re taking a couple of years. I keep learning new things, so I go back and revise. Plus so far I haven’t got an agent interested in them, so there’s clearly more work to be done.

When did you first discover you enjoyed writing?

I always have.

What is your writing schedule look like?

I try to write in the mornings.

What does your family think about you writing?

They’re supportive and give me time. I used to read aloud to my son, and he seemed to dig it.

What do you do when you are not writing?

Reading. Too much social media. Lately started a morning walk routine with my son. We always look for the kereru that have appeared in our suburb since lockdowns started - I love birds, and they feature a lot in my stories.

Where do you get information and ideas for your writing?

I don’t consciously look for ideas.

What do you think makes a good story?

Surprises and resolutions that make sense within the world of the story. Imaginative new worlds or our own world imaginatively described. An engaging voice, complex characters, rich language.

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