Thursday, 20 September 2012

Beaulah Pragg - The Girl with the Interesting Name

I first heard of Beaulah from reading her article in the SpecFicNZ Voice.  She wrote about how she went about promoting her novel, "The Silver Hawk", and impressed me with her ideas.

I was also intrigued by her name.  Having an unusual name myself (well, first name anyway) I'm fond of names I haven't heard before.

I later found myself on the SpecFicNZ Committee with her and now have the opportunity to find out more about what makes Beaulah - and more specifically, her writing - tick.  You'd think I'd have thought to ask her about her name, but I didn't.  Apparently it's Hebrew for "bride".  Thank you Google.

So, Beaulah, tell me a bit about yourself.

I am twenty four years old and live in Christchurch. I teach writing to young people and am the co-founder of the Christchurch Writers' Guild. I am also a member of the SpecFicNZ committee. I'm always up to something and my spare time quickly gets filled up with everything from New Zealand Sign Language night classes to designing courses for Adobe Photoshop and InDesign (which I teach at Natcoll Design School). Relaxing is watching Doctor Who or playing 'Iron Man vs Dinosaur' with my friend's two-year-old.

What got you started with writing?

Definitely Nanowrimo. Taking on the crazy challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month made me stop judging my own writing and just let the characters take over. I've done it almost every year since then as a tribute to how I got started and a reminder not to take myself too seriously.
What sort of stories do you like to write?

I love to write about people dealing with issues much bigger than themselves. I tend to like writing characters my own age or younger because I can draw on my own experiences, but I believe that at their core, people have pretty much the same basic needs and wants whatever their age, so I'm starting to push myself to write a wider range of characters. Science Fiction and Fantasy are my favourite genres.

Are you more of a planner or a pantser when it comes to writing? As in, do you have an outline before you start or make it up as you go along?

I need to know basically where the story is meant to end otherwise I am more prone to getting stressed out along the way and 'losing the plot'. For me, the ending is the meaning - it's the point of going on the journey- and it has to be right. Other than that, my characters make it up as they go along, and then in re-writes they reserve the right to change their minds completely.
 Have you been published / where / how many rejections have you received?

I have had two short stories published in online magazines (Bastet on Hazard Cat and Jacket With Wings on Black Lantern). My novel, The Silver Hawk, is self-published via Create Space (Amazon) and Kindle. I decided to go down that path partially because of the difficulty of getting published traditionally and partially because I wanted to get on with writing and not spend all my time waiting around. I have enjoyed the whole process of self publishing and definitely intend to do it for my future books.

How do you feel about self publishing? What experiences/observations would you share? Pros and cons?

I love self-publishing. It really seems like the future of publishing to me. It's a lot of responsibility, but I like knowing that my ultimate success or failure rests on my own shoulders. I can work harder and see the result of my efforts and I can target my stories directly at people who I know will like them, rather than trying to be so mainstream.
I think the main thing to remember when taking on the challenge of self-publishing is to collaborate with others. Don't try to do it all yourself. I have had so many people help me with things I'm bad at (like editing) and I've been able to focus more on the things I love (cover art, layout, promotion etc). That's actually why I started my Christchurch Writers' Guild - people aren't going to have every single skill they need to self publish at a professional level, but with enough of us coming together, we can pull off something amazing!

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I love when my characters come to life on the page and act in ways I couldn't have predicted. I love when they surprise me.

What do you find most frustrating / difficult?

When my characters stop talking to me and I become overwhelmed by the fear of not knowing what's suppose to happen next.

Which of the stories you have written so far are you most proud of and why?

Definitely the Silver Hawk. A close friend at High School said to me once 'you never follow anything through' and self-publishing a novel gave me permission to let go of that comment and see myself as someone who could take on big projects and actually finish them.

Who is your biggest support when it comes to writing?

My friends and family are amazing. I wouldn't be a writer without them. I love when my Dad comes into my office and asks how I'm doing, or when my friends let me gossip about my characters. That's not to mention the financial support they've given over the years, buying my books and helping me do things like have a stall at Armageddon!

Do you have a critique partner or writing group?

I have had many critique partners over the years, but my Mum is always the one I rely on to do my line edit (she used to be a technical writer and is incredibly thorough). Having started the Christchurch Writers' Guild recently, I am discovering the awesomeness of having a whole group to share the experience of being a writer with.
Do you write more than you read, or read more than you write?

It depends on my mood. When I'm feeling inspired, I have no time to read. When I'm procrastinating, I can read seven books in a week. It's a cycle, but a healthy one. Books give me ideas - themes I want to try out - which gets me back in front of my computer ready to give it another go.

What advice do you have for new authors just starting out?

Write... A lot. I did Nanowrimo three years in a row and all of the 'novels' I wrote were terrible, but there were enough bits in there to make me smile or get a laugh out of my friends that I kept going.
I'd also recommend coming up with ways to practice editing (perhaps swapping with friends who are also writers) and seeing your work through other people's eyes. You will have so much more freedom as a writer once you can let go of that fear of criticism and start to embrace feedback as a way to improve and make your work really shine.

Find out more about Beaulah at her website,

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