Interview with A.D. Starrling

A.D. Starrling

Interview Date: 8/21/2012


AD Starrling was born on the small island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean and came to the UK at the age of twenty to study medicine. After five years of hard graft earning her MD and another five years working all of God's hours as a Paediatrician, she decided it was time for a change and returned to her first love, writing. Soul Meaning is her debut novel and the first in a supernatural thriller series entitled Seventeen. She currently lives in Warwickshire in the West Midlands, where she is busy writing the second novel in the series while drinking gallons of tea. She still practises medicine. AD Starrling is her pen name.
To find out more, please visit her at

When did you start writing, and was there a significant event that prompted you to do so?

The earliest memories I have of a bookstore are from when I was four years old. It was a small, dusty place filled with the smell of old and new books, in the depths of Port-Louis, the capital city of Mauritius. I laid my paws, er, hands on my first Babar story book and fell in love with reading. I was also a bit of a storyteller from then on. The writing bug came when I was twelve years old. I remember the event that triggered it distinctly. I had done a creative writing essay for my English class and shown it to my father. He blasted it in no uncertain terms. The story was about a group of children who went guava picking in the forests and came across a bear that had escaped from a visiting Russian circus. My father said, ‘A bear?! In Mauritius? That’s not believable in the least!’ I replied (I was a bit precocious at that age), ‘There’s a reason it’s called a creative writing essay. And it was a visiting Russian Circus. That scenario is plausible.’
To spite him, I went and wrote a few more short stories. Then, I wrote a novel. A second novel came after that. By the time I left school, I was on my third novel.

If you could have one superpower, what would it? (Assuming said power would be reasonably powerful.)

Would it be too saccharine to say heal?! In my other, non-writing life, I am a doctor. A pediatrician at that. I have seen a lot of hardship, as well as a lot of amazing miracles in my career to date. The ability to take away pain and ease suffering would be a great superpower to have, especially for the little ones.

Kev's response: I think that would be an awesome power. I've wished I had it numerous times when I've seen people with severe injuries.

Do you have a favorite superhero from novels, comics, or movies?

From Marvel, it would have to be Iron Man. And not just because of Robert Downey Jr. But the eye candy helps. From manga, I would have to say Ichigo Kurosaki from Bleach. The guy’s swordmanship kinda makes me drool. Plus, he’s hot for a manga/anime dude. I have to say, he came a close first to Rai (Cadis Etrama Di Raizel) from Noblesse, the manga.

Where do you get your inspiration for writing? What motivates you?

From some very strange dreams! I’m one of those people who remembers a lot of their dreams. Pre-bed cheese and alcohol boost the process quite well!
When I started writing again six years ago, it was after the three characters of a story walked into my head. They were loud. They were rude. They were funny. They wouldn’t stop talking to me. I couldn’t stop thinking about them. They became the main characters of a humorous fantasy series which I hope to start publishing next year.
As far as my first published novel Soul Meaning is concerned, it started life as a short story for the British Fantasy Society competition a few years ago. The idea stemmed from the number 17 painted in red on a marker stone in the middle of a sandbank in a lagoon off the island of Ile aux Cerfs, in Mauritius. I was at a loss what to write about though. Someone turning seventeen? That had been done a lot. Seventeen dwarfs? I couldn’t see where that was going to go except down a dark tunnel somewhere with suspicious 'heigh-ho' singing. Then it came to me. Seventeen deaths. What if I wrote a story about someone who could die up to seventeen times? The same day, Lucas Soul walked into my head. And he spoke. He said, ‘My name is Lucas Soul. Today I died again. This is my fifteenth death in the last four hundred and fifty years.’ From there came the concept of the two immortal races and a modern day plot for my main protagonist. I decided to call the series Seventeen. The short story made the top five in the BFS competition that year. It was obvious to me even before the shortlist came out that the story could progress to a full length novel. Even I wanted to know what happened next!
There is only one story concept where I actually sat down and deliberately tried to come up with a plot and characters for a story. This was after being told by a few agents that I should be writing epic fantasy, as that was what publishers wanted. It took me an entire evening, but I did create a storyline and characters for a dark fantasy trilogy which I plan to start writing at some point in the next five years.
As for motivation, I love writing. It’s the simple truth. I’ve been a story teller ever since I started elementary school and I like to entertain. Yes, the life of a writer is not a bed of roses but every career has its pros and cons (oh, the editing process!). Writing has more pros for me than cons.

Kev's response: Alcohol fueled dreams for stories...!

Do you pre-plan your stories, or are you a by-the-seat-of-the-pants style writer?

I’m the middle breed. I usually know how the story starts, ends and at least five to six big, crucial plot scenes. I will have the names and voices of my main characters in my head before I start to write. The rest is by-the-seat-of-the-pants/hey-let’s-just-see-where-this-goes writing.
I always do biographies for the main characters in any novel. They start off simple, like age, DOB, height, weight, hair, eyes, occupation. I add to these as the story progresses because the characters will grow and do things and say things I never expected to happen. I told a friend the other day that I was pleasantly pleased with the direction the second novel in the series Seventeen was headed in. She said, ‘You sound as if the book is writing itself.’ I said, ‘It is.’ To me, that’s when I know it’s right.
I have to admit that I’m now using a dry wipe board to plot out each novel in Seventeen. It has been a very helpful visual aid to try and link different parts of the plot.

Do you write only when inspired, or do you have a set schedule where you sit down to write?

I am trying to be more disciplined, especially now that I’ve published my first novel and said the second one would be out next summer! I sometimes write for eight to ten hours a day, achieving up to and slightly 2000 words in that time. Some days, I end up doing internet stuff for eight to ten hours and zilch writing. I believe a writer who wants to get published should try and develop a routine. My only excuse (and it’s getting slim) are the highly irregular and antisocial hours that I work. There is NO pattern or stability in my life. I can’t even stick to a regular exercise class as I would end up missing fifty percent of it every month.

Do you have a favorite genre to write in? To read?

My first novel at the age of twelve was a ‘Narnia’ meets ‘The Goonies’ fantasy yarn. The second one was a boarding school adventure tale. Six years ago, I started writing humorous fantasy. I’ve written a sci-fi horror short story that will hopefully make it as a free Kindle download and be available to read on my website when I get around to it! Seventeen is a supernatural thriller series which I also class as action-adventure. I have a dark fantasy trilogy planned, as well as two Young Adult series for the years ahead.
I always thought I’d write humorous fantasy. I never thought I could write action-adventure-thriller. I never thought I could write sci-fi. I never thought I could write dark fantasy. Time (and my readers) will tell me if I’m good at any of them!
My bookshelves are filled with adult fantasy, YA fantasy, action-adventure, thrillers and action-comedy novels. I used to binge read romance novels but I don’t think I’ve read one in the last six years.

What do you enjoy the most about writing?

Seeing a story take life and write itself before your eyes.

Kev's response: I love when that happens!

Is there any part of writing that you don't enjoy?

Editing. It doesn’t get any easier. It always feels like rabid dogs feasting on my brain!

Kev's response: I'm editing my book, H.E.R.O. - Incursion right now. I'd like to modify that to "rabid zombie dogs"...

Can you tell me something odd about yourself?

Now, if you were to ask my friends this, they’d come up with some humdingers. The only really odd one I can think of is on the subject of going to see a play or a musical. I can’t do it. Just can’t. I squirm and feel embarrassed for the performers. My ‘cringe’ face is not something any artist wants to see from the stage. It would put them right off.

Do you write one story at a time, or do you have several novels in the works at one time?

No, I have to write one story at a time. The only exception to this is the ‘leave it in the drawer’ period I have when I put a novel away for three-four weeks after I’ve finished the first draft. I will then attack another story.

Are you for, or against, evil plots to take over the world? (Not saying I'm doing that, but thought I'd ask, just in case....)

I’m all for them! It’s the basis for many a great story and movie.

Kev's response: Well ... they are also the basis for WORLD DOMINATION! Mwahahaha!

Where do you see the future as far as paper books versus digital e-books?

I think there’s a place for both. People will always want print books. I still love them and I have a Kindle. The two can co-exist. They just have to share the market, something traditional publishers may not be pleased about but, hey, they need to adapt and move with the times.

What are your current projects?

I’m halfway through writing the second novel in the series Seventeen: I’m having so much fun with it! The aim is to get the first draft done before December, send it off to beta readers and an editor, and start the rewrite by January. When I have my ‘leave it in the drawer’ month off, I will start rewriting the first novel in the humorous fantasy series which I hope to start publishing next year (I’ve already written two novels in that series). I will also be writing the third novel in Seventeen next year, with the aim to publish it early-mid 2014. 2013 is going to be busy!

Do you have any advice for others about self-publishing?

When I made the decision to start writing again six years ago, it was after doing a good three to four months of research. I realized it was going to be a long, hard road, filled with rejections and setbacks. I set myself six years as a target. At that point, getting a agent and a publisher within those six years was my ultimate goal and I saw self-publishing as the ‘last’ option. Over the years, the feedback I had received from professional editors, agents and publishers have been consistent: good writer, wrong material. I rewrote Soul Meaning last year for an agent who seemed very keen to take me on. I never heard from him again. Then, I got a Kindle for Christmas 2011. And a friend told me to check out an article about an author who had successfully self-published. I spent a month researching self-publishing. And I realized how much had changed in the six years since I last looked at it. It was so much more than the ‘vanity’ publishing idea I had had in my head. JA Konrath’s blog is probably the most infl uential thing I read that convinced me to take the leap. Here was a smart, logical sounding man who had been successfully traditionally published and who used to think self-publishing was not the right path for any author, and he changed his mind. And the reasons he gave were very valid ones.
So, my message is for other is this: write, hone your writing skills, attend writing events, approach agents and publishers and get feedback on your writing. Don’t start submitting until your writing is at its best. If you get an agent, and eventually a publisher, good for you. But set yourself a time limit. If after three, four, five, six, gosh seven years (and a lot of writers have been trying to get published for longer!), you think you’ve honed those skills and the writing is good and the feedback is consistently positive, but you still have no agent or publisher, then look at self-publishing. It’s not an easy road to take, not if you want to produce a novel that will be indistinguishable in look, feel and quality to a traditionally published one, but you’ll be in control of the entire process. And you’ll meet some great people who will become fantastic friends along the way!
Self publishing is no longer a ‘oh-bless-she-wasn’t-good-enough-to-get-an-agent-let’s-humor-her-and-buy-a-copy-of-her-book’ option. It’s an ever growing enterprise of respectable professionals producing good quality books and competing with (and at times beating!) the traditionally published lot. I’m not saying that all self-published books are a ‘must-buy’. There are a lot that could do with better editing and proofreading. But, there are also plenty of traditionally published books that I’ve looked at and thought ‘How the hell did that get in print?!

Do you have any online sites where readers can find out more about you (and your books)?

Yes. The book is available as a paperback and an ebook from Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Smashwords, Waterstones, the Book Depository, Blackwells and a whole heap of other online retailers through Lightning Source’s parent company, the Ingram Book Company.
Here’s my website
Facebook Fan Page
Note! A.D. is giving away 5 copies of Soul Meaning in a giveaway from August 15-Sept. 15, 2012. Details are HERE.

Kev's response: Wait, just those outlets? That's IT? :) A.D., thanks for joining me, good fortune on the second Seventeen book!

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