Raquel Lyon is a Fantasy and Romance author with a number of titles published. She was interviewed by Shaun Griffiths and the following gives us some insight into who she is and what she writes.
Being an only child, I’ve always had an active imagination and often had to rely on imaginary friends for company. It was only natural that I progressed to writing stories about them. I started writing my first book thirty years ago, but it didn’t get very far, and I always told myself that, one day, I would write another and actually finish it. Then seven years ago, I started A Brush with the Moon, just to see if I could. I wrote it in secret because I didn’t want my family laughing at me. Now I have eleven books published and don’t want to do anything else, I guess it’s not such a secret anymore!
Q: Raquel, congratulations on your book cover winning the One Stop Fiction Authors’ Resource Group’s vote for best cover. Did you have any idea in your own mind of what you wanted the cover to look like before it was created? Did you have a lot of input into the final image? Was it an enjoyable or hard process to execute?
A: Thank you. I absolutely love this cover. It’s my favourite of all my covers. I think it’s the turquoise colouring that appeals the most to me, and to be honest, my input was minimal. I simply told the designer that I wanted my character on the front, along with a couple of options for the background, and let her run with it. The first idea she came up with was so perfect I didn’t want to change a thing!
Q: Your Chronicles, Foxblood and Dragonblood series have very distinctive covers. They are all very eye-catching. Are they all from the same designer? Why did you choose this designer initially?
A: Actually, no. They’re not all the same designer. My Dragonblood series are by Ravven. I’ve always coveted her work and have stalked her website and Pinterest page for years, just to look at all the pretty designs. She’s a very sought after designer who’s booked up for months in advance. VERY occasionally she does a pre-made, and when I happened to spot a new one that was perfect for Dead Men Walking, I couldn’t write the email quickly enough! I asked if she could make two more to go with it, and was over the moon when she said yes. I hadn’t even written the books at this point, but sitting on a gorgeous set of covers, dying to show them off, is great motivation!
My Foxblood series is now on its fifth set of covers. I did all the previous ones myself, due to lack of funds, but as soon as I got some money saved up, I commissioned Rebecca Frank to give them a professional makeover.
Both of these ladies are, in my opinion, the best in producing fantasy covers, and I’m very lucky to have their excellent work showcasing my books.
Q: What do you feel makes a good Young Adult / Teen / Fantasy cover? How important are the fonts, layout, model images in this genre?
A: I think the most important job of a book cover, whatever the genre, is to let the reader know what type of story to expect. Being eye-catching and hitting the right tone is more important than trying to tell your whole story in one picture. Most people are visual animals and are drawn to things they find attractive. The days are gone when you could just stick a title on a stock photo and call it done. Even if it’s quite good, a good cover designer can really bring it to life and make it something special. You need to trust a professional to do that.
Q: Have you done a lot of research into cover design or is that all left for the designer? Which authors’ work do you admire? Which covers stand out for you?
A: In today’s competitive marketplace, having the right cover has become increasingly important, so my research consists of studying the cover styles of bestsellers in my genre to know what I’m looking for and then getting the right cover designer. Also, every time I see a cover that I like on Amazon, I search the look inside to see if the designer’s been given credit, and then look them up. I’ve found that different designers have different strengths, and I’m writing a new series at the moment, which I already know who I want to do the covers for. I’m just hoping they haven’t become too busy to fit me in!
Q: You have a large back catalog of work, have any plans to write in other genres?
A: It’s really quite funny that you think I have a large catalogue because I consider my number of works to be quite small compared to a lot of other authors who started writing at the same time as me. I wish it were more, but I’m a slow writer.
As for other genres… When I finished my Foxblood series, I was fantasy brain-dead, and NA was just becoming popular, so I thought I’d try my hand at romance. I really enjoyed writing it, and had plans to try other genres, too, but I started getting requests for more fantasy, so I went back to that and found that that’s where my heart really lies. My next series will be aimed more at the adult market, though. YA is a small market, and I’d like to branch out and grow my readership.
Q: Where is your writing space? Is it a personal office, kitchen table or cafe? Do you write to music, need silence or do you prefer hustle and bustle?
A: Good grief! No music or noise, please. My optimum writing environment is complete silence with no interruptions, but those times are few and far between in my current life, which is probably why I’m so slow. My workspace is a laptop on the living room sofa in a small house I share with my family, so there’s pretty much always someone else in the room, watching TV, talking, and asking me questions every two seconds. It’s very frustrating. I actually do my best work when I’m on holiday, sitting on a sun lounger with a pen and notebook. I’ve just written the first half of my next book in a week of doing that. If only I could have gone for a fortnight, I might have had it finished! As it is, it will probably take me about four months to do the rest at home.
Q: There doesn’t seem to be a fixed line between YA and NA genres, what do you think distinguishes the plot, characters or content that says this is YA or NA?
A: This is a difficult question to answer. I’ve always thought that YA was what readers moved on to when they outgrew teen books, but I received a few comments from angry mothers saying that my content wasn’t appropriate for their younger teens, which confused me as I never said that it was. I’ve since realised that people’s definition of what constitutes YA is extremely varied. The same goes for NA. Opinions are mixed. When I started out, there was no such thing. Then when it emerged, I thought, yes, finally there’s a better place to pitch my stories (bridging the gap between YA and adult), but that was before all the angst-filled erotic romances decided to take over. I’m seeing a bit of a resurgence of other genres now, though, and that can only be a good thing, in my opinion. I hope it settles into a better variety soon.
Q: What are your favourite work tools? Do you use Scrivener, Word or Google Documents? How do you communicate with your editor? What do you do to make the editorial (or Editor’s) task easier?
A: I’m pretty old school and like to keep things simple. I used to write all my novels in Word, but after hearing about the wonders of Scrivener, I bit the bullet and changed to that just over a year ago. I love it, but admit that I haven’t mastered all the bells and whistles, and still export my finished novel to Word for formatting. My editor gets the Word document too, which I run through a couple of online editing tools (Ginger and Editor) before sending to her, just to lessen the amount of red pen!
Q: How do you write? Do you work towards a word count per day, per week, or do you write till you drop? How long, on average, does it take to write a novel? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A: If I’m honest, it depends what else is going on in my life. I have a day job, a household to run, and kids to look after. They come first, even when I’d rather they didn’t. And then there’s all the marketing stuff you have to do if you don’t want your books to sink to the depths of the ebook ocean. That can be a huge time suck, too. I do try to write something every day, but I’m a pantser and my brain needs time to switch over into the mindset of my fictional world, so I’m not the kind of writer who can jot down a few words whilst standing in a queue, or making the family meal, or whatever. My first three Foxblood books took a year and a half each to write, but I’m getting quicker. The Dragonblood books took about five months each, and I’m hoping to trim that down even more for my new series.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve been given as an author, what one piece of advice would you offer to anyone starting out on their writing career?
A: Hmm… Don’t make the same mistakes, I did, I suppose, but I wouldn’t know where to start listing all the things I did wrong. The best advice I was given was to develop a thick skin. Not everyone is going to like what you write, and that’s okay. There are still plenty of people out there who will love it. My advice is to make sure your book is in the best possible shape before publishing: story, editing, cover etc. And start building a following and get a mailing list set up before you release, then don’t expect overnight success. It happens, but it’s rare. Keep going and don’t give up. Success could be just around the corner. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway!