Writing Kids' Books
with Marisa Noelle

Marisa Noelle Author

Author Marisa Noelle joins us to talk about writing kids' books and her debut  YA novel The Shadow Keepers.

Marisa is writes both middle grade and young adult novels. She lives in Surrey, in the UK with her husband and three sons.

Writing Kids' Books: Congratulations on the publication of The Shadow Keepers. Can you tell us what the book’s about? 

Writing Kids' Books - The Shadow Keepers Cover

Thank you! The book is about 16 year-old Georgia who sees shadowy, crow-like monsters in mirrors and other reflective surfaces, and of course, no one believes her.

She develops a severe anxiety disorder with OCD and when an incident ends in violence, she is court-ordered to one of the UK’s best mental health facilities to deal with her issues.

At the hospital, she is forced to face the mirror. But she discovers that she might not be the only one who sees these creatures. If she can prove their existence with the mysterious boy in the mirror world, she may just be able to stop the shadows breaching the human world.

Writing Kids' Books: I understand you’ve written 17 manuscripts. Are they standalone or part of a series? 

I have!  There are two trilogies wrapped up in that. The first of The Unadjusteds is due out November and the first of The Mermaid Chronicles is coming early next year (although this is part of a planned 5-book series).

Writing Kids' Books: How  old you were you when you first started  writing?

Although I loved reading, I never considered myself much good at story writing until much later in my life. I was always Maths & Science at school and never really considered I might be good at English. I ended up doing English A-level and adored it. But still didn’t think about a career in the writing world.

It wasn’t until I developed my own anxiety disorder that I turned to poetry to help me deal. After years of trying to get a handle on my own issues, my first attempt at writing was to put down my feelings in a memoir. It’s changed vastly over the years, but it gave me the cathartic release I needed. I'd gotten bitten by the writing bug and when my kids were tiny, I did loads of courses as I’d had no prior tuition. Everything went from there and now I can’t imagine a life without writing! I love escaping to my worlds.

Writing Kids' Books: You’ve really studied your craft. Is there anything in particular you’ve done that you would recommend to writers at the beginning of their journey? 

a. Over the years I have done many courses and had editors etc. Each is a building block and I’ve learned something different from every experience. A friend had always suggested the book The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass. But I couldn’t bring myself to start reading it until recently, as I feared I wasn’t quite ready for it. And I think that’s true of all the courses out there. There are different things for different stages.  

b. I think the best course I’ve done is the Writer’s HQ. They work on a monthly payment schedule and it’s incredibly affordable. You can learn anything from how to generate ideas, how to plot your novel and even how to edit your novel. It totally changed the way I approached writing and think this is one of the best value for money programs out there. This is great for any stage of your journey. 

Writing Kids' Books - Writing at a table

c. Which leads me on to Write Mentor. I am a mentor for this community, both in the summer program and in SPARKS. There is so much opportunity to learn here for very low prices.

We have weekly craft chat sessions or sessions with experts in the industry. We have first looks with agents where you won’t have to spend months on the slush pile. There is a weekly blog focussing on an aspect of writing which could be anything from the issues of “show, don’t tell” to “being on submission with a publisher.” We cover everything!

We also offer mentoring through the program and I’m really enjoying seeing how much my mentees are growing. This is great to start at the beginning of your journey but can also help seasoned writers when they are in the querying stages. There really is something for everything. And the community is one of the most supportive I’ve been apart of. That’s all down to Stuart White and his amazing vision.

d. I think I have to mention the Curtis Brown Creative course. Although this is much pricier, it brought me together with some of my best writing friends. Here, we learned how to critique work and spot weaknesses in other writing that we could recognize in ours.

Writing Kids' Books: What does your typical writing day look like?

My typical day would start by kicking the kids out of the car at their 3 respective schools as early as I can, racing to the gym to get in a swim and then back home for 10am. With a cup of tea and in the quiet, I sit with my laptop and work until I have to pick the kids up again.

This could be anything for writing a first draft, making notes for a new novel, editing, or more recently, working on some marketing and promotion elements. Occasionally I have time to squeeze in the odd coffee or lunch with a friend, but generally I am with my laptop until the very last minute when I have to be Mum again. 

Writing Kids' Books: Have you had a favourite character to write?

This is a tough question. When you write a novel you become so close to your MC that it’s hard to prefer one over the other. But having said that, there are some who stay in my head a bit longer. Silver, from The Unadjusteds will always be one of my favourites as she’s been with me the longest. Georgia, from The Shadow Keepers, shares many of my issues, and Cordelia from The Mermaid Chronicles shares my love of water. This is so hard! I do love to write a villain too. 

Writing Kids' Books: How does your degree in psychology influence your writing? 

Not only has it given me an understanding into my own issues with anxiety, but it’s helped me understand human emotion. The reactions of people. I’ll never forget learning about a young woman who was raped and murdered in NY city while 80 people witnessed the attack from the safety of their apartment building.

The theory of “Bystander non-intervention” is when people are either afraid of getting hurt themselves, and also assume that someone else has made that phone call to the police. No one did.

It’s this aspect of human behaviour that fascinates me and helps craft the character and reactions in my novels. I’ve always leaned to the darker side of psychology and have been fascinated by criminal profiling and the mind of serial killers. I hope that my grounding in psychology adds depth and nuance to my characters.

Writing Kids' Books: What are you most looking forward to about becoming a published author? 

Saying I’m a published author! It’s been a long road and it’s going to feel so good to be able to say that! I also am looking forward to touching people with my books. If I can give someone the joy of being totally immersed in a story and never wanting it to end, well, that’s why I write. I want my world to be special for someone else. For them to read my novel again and again, to tell their friends, to remember it fondly over the years, and maybe even take comfort from some of the issues I deal with in the novel. 

Writing Kids' Books: What are you currently working on?

I’ve just written a young adult sci-fi about AI, which has gone over to my agent. I am waiting for edits for my MG novel about 3 kids all with different neurodiverse issues from my agent and I’m plotting a YA thriller based on a remote island during a storm. I’m also trying to finish the Donald Maas book and of course I’m working with my mentees. I’ll be getting edits for The Mermaid Chronicles soon too. So there’s a lot going on!

Writing Kids' Books - Mermaid

Our website is called WritingNV.com In the spirit of that can you tell us if there’s any writers which make you green with envy?

For me, the little green monster appears when someone’s gotten a 6 figure advance for the first book they’ve ever written and it feels like they’ve had an easy ride of it. Of course, that’s what we see on the surface and it can often be more complicated. People getting film deals.

I’d love to see one of my books go that far. I’ve always seen them on the big screen; it’s how I see it in my head when I write. As for specific names, hmmm, probably David Walliams who tops the charts for weeks on end with every book and seems to squeeze out other less known voices. I do try to rise above those emotions, but I think it’s hard not to compare yourself to other people. Although it’s entirely pointless as everyone’s journey is so different.

Writing Kids' Books: Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? 

There are two things I always say:

1 – Persevere. If you give up, it will never happen. Keep writing, keep learning.

2 - Find your tribe. Find that support network of other writers who get what it’s all about. They can celebrate your successes and help pick you up in the face of countless rejections. I would be a bitter person without the #TWPteam and all the lovely individuals I’ve met on Twitter since I joined. 

Thank you Marisa for all the fantastic advice and congratulations on the publication of The Shadow Keepers.

You can follow Marisa on Twitter and Facebook and on her website.

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