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On The Table Read, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Ayn O’Reilly Walters talks about the inspiration behind her new YA time travel book, The Amulet’s Curse.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Ayn O’Reilly Walters about her life and career, what inspired her to start writing, and the story of her new novel, The Amulet’s Curse.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m a mother of three young children and originally from Australia. I moved to London in 2003 to pursue a career in finance and after 9 years working in finance I quit my job to start a family. In 2014 I undertook a degree in English Literature and completed it in 2018 at which point I had learnt so much about literature and history that I decided to become an author.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I’ve always wanted to write since I was a teenager at school. However, when I finished school I entered the workforce and soon slipped into the routine of working and building up my career so my writing aspirations fell by the wayside and life/work seemed to pass me by. It wasn’t until I was at university that I got the urge again.
When did you take a step to start writing?
In my first year at university I did a creative writing module and the feedback I got from my tutor was, in fact, brutal and it opened my eyes from writing like a business woman to the way in which a writer should tell a story. Then after completing my degree I found that I had some spare time on my hands when my children were at school. I began writing my first novel, Between the Trees, in 2018.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
It took a year to write during the pandemic in 2020. Then it took another eight months to find the right publisher so it was a long learning process to become a self published author. The artwork, proofreading and typesetting also took time in order to get it right.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
I wrote books 2 and 3 at the same time which took nine months in total. I prefer to write two at a time as I shuffle ideas around as I write. Some ideas worked for book 2 and some storylines were better off in book 3.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write The Amulet’s Curse?
The Amulet’s Curse is the second instalment in the Between the Trees series. With each of my books the Pritchard children go back to a different era in history. I love the idea of blending fantasy with little known, but important events, that happened throughout history and for this reason I thought it would be marvellous to blend the two into a great story.
What were your biggest challenges with writing The Amulet’s Curse?
The biggest challenge I faced was getting the timelines right. With any time travel story getting the timelines right and ensuring that the characters don’t cross over is a challenge. I have to whiteboard all of my stories and events so that it makes sense. Also, getting the historical facts right. It’s the tiny things you don’t think of that can make a big difference to the storyline.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
I have two protagonists, William and Isabel Pritchard who are 17 and 13. I wanted to write about the relationship between them and how they manage to overcome all the obstacles that life throws at them. Losing their father at a young age brings their family together and how they love and support each other during their hardships and of course, during the good times too.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
There’s a bad character in just about every book we read, which is what makes the story interesting. My antagonist is a witch called Raven, and she actually starts life as a good person. As tragic events happen early on in her life, she becomes bitter and angry so for me, it’s what happens in a persons life that can ultimately lead to their downfall.
What is the inciting incident of The Amulet’s Curse?
In The Amulet’s Curse, while visiting a palace the children see a painting in which a person is wearing an amulet that has been in the children’s possession for five hundred years. The amulet sets off a chain of events that require the children to travel back in time to save their mother who is inextricably linked to the amulet.
What is the main conflict of The Amulet’s Curse?
The relationship between Mrs Pritchard, a good witch, who choses a virtuous path in life and the relationship she has with her twin sister who is a really awful person. This doesn’t necessarily mean that good will prevail over evil, or does it?
Did you plot The Amulet’s Curse in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I tend to write freely. When I started writing the first chapter I had a general idea of where the book would end up but I’m not much of a planner so by the time I’m half way through the book I’ve created something completely different to how I thought it would end. I tend to get my best ideas as I’m writing and I love to give new characters life and personality as I go along.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did The Amulet’s Curse need?
As a self publisher, I don’t have any professional editing help. After I’ve finished my first complete draft of my novels, I read it over several times and take to it with a big red pen. Then just as I think I’ve created a masterpiece I read it one last time then find more corrections so it’s back to what I think will always be the final edit. Often I’ll have done several editing drafts before my manuscript is ready for my publisher.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Practice! Practice! With each novel I write, I get better at it. Even the best writers say that practice makes perfect and it’s definitely true. Not only do I get better with my writing style, but I get better ideas and I find there’s much less editing to do with each book I write.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I plan to write at least another five books in the series where the children’s adventures span through the Plantagenet, Stuart and Tudor periods and I have some ideas about the story developing into the house of Windsor. Who knows where the series will end up, I’ll just keep it going until I run out writing about every era in English history from a thousand years ago until now.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved. So far I’ve written three books (the third of which will be released after Christmas) and being a busy mum with three young children I’ve managed to write three really great books that children, and adults alike, will enjoy. I know it’s worth the effort when my children love reading my books and ask me lots of questions about the characters, the plot and what will happen next.
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