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In the Spotlight: Interview with Joanna Corrance

Let’s start from the beginning. Who were the writers who inspired you to become an author?

At a very young age, I remember picking up Dracula by Bram Stoker and hiding under my duvet with a nightlight reading the beginning where Jonathan Harker is trapped in Dracula’s castle. I was terrified and thrilled at the same time and for me, that fuelled a lifelong love of horror. I have always loved books that can transport you somewhere else – even if that’s somewhere frightening. Other writers who have really inspired me in that way are Phillip Pullman, Angela Carter and Mary Shelley. I love the idea of being able to produce something that not just whisks the reader into another world, but that lingers with them long after reading.

What is the very first piece of fiction you ever wrote?

Outside of short stories and picture books which I loved creating when I was little, my first proper piece of writing (that I hope never sees the light of day!) was a (painfully long) fantasy trilogy I wrote when I was about nine years old. I can’t even remember the title of it now. It was all handwritten in countless jotters and notebooks with little illustrations and it was about a girl with magical powers who goes on an epic journey. It had very little structure and my character development left a lot to be desired! However, what it did teach me was that I could persevere with a project, and that I actually loved doing it!

Think back at your debut book. How did you approach the ‘getting published’ process? Any tips, resources that you can share with our readers?

When I first started looking into the process of getting published, I had no idea where to start. Fortunately, I’m a member of a local literature club that has plenty of published writers with a lot of experience in the industry. They advised me to have a look at The Writers’ And Artists’ Yearbook as a starting point and then once I got more to grips with it, I started doing my research for publishers and agents online. One of my friends advised me to sign up to Twitter and following that, I took part in the twitter pitch events for my books which got me in touch with publishers. If I were to give any tips, it would be to accept that rejection is part of the process and to just keep going – and definitely use criticism to your advantage, taking any advice following rejections on board. Also, take care with preparing submissions and ensure to be polite and professional.

Tell me about your book. What was the inspiration behind it?

For my sci fi novella John’s Eyes published by Luna Press Publishing, it started off almost as an experiment. I wrote a short story from the point of view of cybernetic eyes and their existence serving their master, John. It was really interesting writing from such an unusual perspective as the sole purpose of the eyes is to ensure John’s happiness and with a combination of naivety and skewed emotional intelligence, it results in a very different outlook on the world and social interactions. The idea for the book started off following a conversation I had with my dad who is a photographer when we were on a walk one day. He was describing the differences between what the human eye sees compared to what the camera sees and explained to me that a beautiful image to the eye does not necessarily translate into a beautiful photograph. That then got me thinking, with technology and artificial intelligence improving all the time, will there ever be a camera that is sophisticated enough to replace the human eye? Most of the images we see are already enhanced by filters or photo manipulation. What if our eyes could do that for us? The story took off from there!

Is there a particular character in the book that is closer to your heart? What makes it so?

There are two characters actually, John and the eyes. I found their relationship fascinating but also very sad to write about. John, without fully understanding that the eyes had autonomy, loved them because they provided him with sight, and the eyes loved John (although the eyes do question what ‘love’ actually is throughout the story) because their purpose was to serve him and ensure his happiness. However, the eyes efforts to please John are hindered by the fact that they do not understand social dynamics and as they begin to manipulate John’s images, they fail to anticipate the disastrous consequences of their meddling. John on the other hand, is clueless to the fact that the eyes have any independence or autonomy and as his life is manipulated, he becomes increasingly confused and distressed. Although these characters are flawed in their own ways, neither mean any harm and while I was writing, I couldn’t help but finding my heart ache for both of them as they struggled to understand what was going on around them.

How did you find the publishing process, in general?

I found the publishing process brilliant. My experience so far has been incredibly positive, and I felt very involved in the process from start to finish. Being very new to the industry, I had a lot of questions which were always answered, and my mind was very much put at ease throughout. It was also such a massive confidence boost to have someone believe in my writing which has spurred me on ever since!

What is the hardest part of writing, in your experience?

Perseverance! First of all, for seeing projects through and not being put off by the inevitable ‘writers’ block’ which has literally seen me hating my work for several days (sometimes weeks), before eventually convincing myself to come back to it. Then secondly, perseverance through rejections. The first few rejections I found to be the worst, as your writing is so personal to you, and it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there. However, as above, I think it’s important to acknowledge rejections and also to learn from them. Speaking from experience, I have received rejections with feedback that were absolutely vital for me. I took the criticism on board, went back to my work and made some big changes that ultimately improved my work and taught me lessons for writing in the future.

What do you think is the status of publishing today? I’m referring to issues such as representation, diversity, etc.

I’m still very new to the publishing industry, but certainly one thing I have noticed from my experience so far is that there is a real push to hear voices and stories from all different backgrounds and there is an appetite for change within the industry. This is really positive to see, as it means that different experiences and ideas that may previously not have been heard are being amplified.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on a novel called The Gingerbread Men which will be published by Haunt Publishing in October 2022. The Gingerbread Men tells the story of a man called Eric who abandons his fiancé at a Christmas market, following a mysterious woman back to her hotel in the Highlands of Scotland, which Eric realises is entirely staffed by men. By day, the men carry out their domestic chores in the hotel, cut off from the rest of the world by the snow and at night, they tell horror stories beside the fire, hoping to entertain the woman they serve. They don’t ask why there are never any guests, why it always snows, or why they can't go home.

If you had to recommend an author and/or a book, who would it be?

This is a really hard question! I mentioned authors that I love above (so I would definitely recommend them) but as for something more recent, I recently finished reading Things We Say In The Dark by Kirsty Logan and I absolutely loved it. It’s a collection of short stories that haunted me long after reading, all in very different ways – I highly recommend.

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