Back with a new interview, as I continue to work through my backlog of those who sent in their question responses. I was focused on SPFBO to the point I was neglecting them, my apologies!
Today’s interview is with Olga Gibbs. Enjoy!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
Hi, my name is Olga Gibbs. I write dark and high fantasies and I write psychological thrillers, so basically if you’re after anything twisted, gripping, fast-paced and dark – I’m your girl.
I don’t write sweet romances, cute love stories, and even if you see a romance brewing somewhere, don’t be fooled and don’t expect the “predictable” outcome.
I am a British author and when I don’t write, I work for “Juno Project” charity, which provides outreach work and support services to girls, who suffered abuse, who have a difficult family life, involved with gangs or at a risk of exclusion from school.
As well as this, I am a mother and a wife, so as you can see, my life is pretty full on.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
Sometimes my story starts with a character: I come up with a character and think how great it would be to dump him into a trouble. But sometimes I have a story and I have to think up of the characters to populate the landscape, but irrespective of the way I work, I always have to have a plan before I begin writing. Sometimes plans amend, extra stop points are added, extra twists come to light, but the line, the progression of the characters and the story remain the same.
In the case of “Celestial Creatures”, I had a character first. I had my main character Ariel and I wanted to give her voice, wanted to give her story.
Tell us about your current project.
I am finishing off the “Celestial Creatures” series, while I have already outlined one domestic psychological thriller and one crime thriller, inspired by the current social issues that plague UK.
I do have a few high fantasy ideas as well. I absolutely love high fantasies, new worlds, new creatures, new languages, new universes, following their own rules – I’m a sucker for fantasy, so fantasy will be coming soon too, once I figure out how to add a few more hours to a day!
But coming back to the “Celestial Creatures”, I’m writing the last two books, “Harbinger” and “Halo”, both will be high fantasy, set in an array of my imaginary worlds, full of angels, “human-herding” new creatures, flesh eating creatures, rebels creatures, full of Sumerian language: all the courtesy of my “screwed-up” brain.
And of course there will be battles, fight scenes, killings…and progression of Ariel from a weak, doubting herself child, into a fearless leader of a new order.
Is this your first entry into SPFBO? If not, how many times have you entered?
I have never entered.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
The main character is, without a doubt, Ariel. The story is about her and was written for her. It was written for girls I work with, girls like her, the girls who in their short lives experienced horrors that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, girls who doubt and loath, and hate themselves. I have written it for them too.
The “Celestial Creatures” was created to deliver the message of empowerment and self-believe, and although it’s a high fantasy, it’s a literary allegory, with messages of social classes, divide and struggles, abuse and its survivors, weaven behind the façade of the high fantasy story with angels.
I’ve place Ariel in a position where she’d be asking herself: “If you were abused by people, haven’t seen a good from anyone, even your family, the only people who supposed to be in your corner no matter what, if you had a power to end the world, would you spare humanity? Would you protect them or would you push for annihilation?”
There are a lot of moral questions raised in this story. Some readers have seen them behind and through the veil of fantasy, and some haven’t. Some readers didn’t like Ariel. There was a comment “if she had to be so broken?” The problem is, for us a society, that there are girls like her. I know it, and as much as she’s a collective representation image, in essence she’s very realistic in her struggles.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Don’t restrain your imagination and the story you’re trying to tell. I’ve learnt it a hard way. I’ve “mainstreamed” the first book, toning down on how graphic I wanted to write fight scenes, gore. I was clipping the wings to my voice. But I’ve let if go in the second book and I have achieved the incredible praise there.
So: don’t stem your imagination, don’t tone down your writing voice – sure it will not be an “everyone’s cup of tea”, but the ones who’d find your story and love it, would be your readers forever.
Of course, read a lot, everything, including news article and classics, and finally, write every day, even if it’s only a paragraph, a scene, a haiku, short observation – anything, as long as you’re writing. When life gets in the way, when you juggle children, job, career, home, it is very easy to forget your passion and put dreams aside.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
Mainly, my imagination. There were influences from different religious beliefs, ancient civilizations. My research was thorough: The Bible’s Book of Revelation, Jewish and Christian eschatology, Jewish beliefs, Christian doctrines, old Sumerian beliefs and language – as I have mentioned above, I use Sumerian language in my book – and a few angelic and celestial thesis books, Dante’s “Divine Comedy” drawings, all of it have entered my brain and came out as my new worlds. But the processor for all that data was my head.
What inspires you to write?
People and the stories I want to tell. Some stories haven’t been told before, certain people in our society were not given the voice, and it feels as if I ought it to them, to tell their stories if no one else can.
What was the hardest part of writing this series?
Accept that not everyone is going to love it and fear that I might’ve failed Ariel, in telling her story.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
I write the days I don’t work – these days are blocked out religiously, for writing purposes, and evening and weekends, if I don’t collapse from exhaustion and kids don’t need help that day with homework, etc. But I make sure to write every day, but I prefer mornings. In the mornings I’m full of energy, excitement, my work tend to go in leaps and bounds, whereas by the evenings, I am dead on my feet and have been know to fall asleep by 9pm.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
So far, my favourite book to write was “Hallow”.
I have decided to let go, not to worry about upsetting people, and let myself to tell the story as I wanted, needed, to tell it. In that book I had to break Ariel further in order to make her stronger for the battles to come, and I was pleased to read comments from my readers, who reported crying and sobbing over “Hallow”, as early as by the page 25! I was well pleased with that.
In general, the action scenes and world-building scenes are my favourite to write. I love to make up new worlds and emerge my readers in them, and I love the fast pacing of a battle or a sword fight. In these scenes my brain works faster than my fingers manage to type as my head is flooded with images.
In “Heavenward”, my favourite chapter would have to be Chapter 15. It has action, adventure, new world, scary new creatures and it’s a page-turner.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
Everyone learns something from every life experience, no matter how small, let alone something as big as a story-telling, book writing. I’ve learnt to listen to my gut more, trusting myself. I’ve found my voice. I’ve learnt that I can’t write “sweet romance” even if my life depended on it. I’ve learnt that I couldn’t please everyone with my books and I have learnt to accept it, and of course, I have learnt, and still learning, the craft of writing.
With every new word, with every new scene, I’m learning more and more of it.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
Plotter and architect. The second is only fitting as an Architectural University was one of the career paths I was considering. I need to know where my story is going and what I’m trying to say with it. But of course, pantser moments happen, but only to fill in small holes or to progress side characters.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
My psychological background helps. In majority, people are very predictable in their behaviour. Once you know their background, what made them and shaped them into the people that they’re now, you can predict, to a certain degree, the way they would behave. But of course, there’s always an exception to the rule.
I like to observe people. I watch them on the streets, at work; I talk to them. If only you’d listen, people would tell you everything you’d need to know. Plus I read news articles and watch news, interviews, documentaries.
What are your future project(s)?
Once the “Celestial Creatures” is written, I will be writing a thriller on current London gangs, and I have a few psychological thrillers in pipeline, along with a few high fantasies. I spoke about these projects above.
What is your favorite book ever written? Who are your favorite authors?
I don’t have a single favourite book, I like a few, and my taste in books is very eclectic. I like Tolkien, Martina Cole, Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, but equally I love Dostoevsky, Jerome K Jerome, Dumas.
My only need is for story to be original, or original enough to read it as fresh take. That’s the reason why romance is not my reading genre. “Happily ever after” is predictable and I don’t write or read predictable.
Even if you think my book leads to somewhere where you’ve been or read about before, please be assured, it’s not going to end as you think it might.
The readers have commented on unexpected twists in my books, especially the second, and let me tell you, I will not disappoint them for the end.
You think I’ve written a “love triangle” into a book to give readers a satisfying, happy love ending? Um, no. But I’m not going to give that away just yet.
What makes a good villain?
Tolstoy said that the “best story is the story where good is set against good”. I like it.
I’m using this concept for my psychological thriller. But I think an unpredictable villain is great, the ones who hide under a disguise of a fairy god-mother, or Father Christmas. But it’s a difficult act to balance, as writer still needs to give readers a villain they’d love to hate. I like to give my protagonists the villains I know they’d struggle to fight, because the villains would be a manifestation of a protagonist’s fears.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
What spare time?! (insert laughing face!) I struggle to find time to sleep.
Otherwise, I would love to travel more, more holidays to spend with my family.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
You can travel to any planet or moon in the Solar System. Where would you go, why and what would you do there?
I think Mars, as I have imagined its bared terrain when I was thinking about one of my worlds.
Finally, what is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
My website: https://olgagibbs.com/
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorOlgaGibbs/
PURCHASE LINKS (via multiple major platforms):