Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Author Interview: Zee Monodee

Today we welcome multi-published author and freelance editor Zee Monodee to our blog. But before we proceed, just a quick reminder as to why we're doing the author interviews on this blog. There is loads of information available on the internet on how to write and publish your novel. Self-help books, reference works and workshops offer plenty of advice on what to do and what not to do. I’ve found that learning how successful authors work and the tools they use, is often the best way to discover what works for you.

The purpose of these author interviews is to provide novice writers with some valuable insights and ideas on how to start, organize and finalize their writing process. Everyone is unique and no two writers work quite the same. By getting ideas on how other successful authors go about the business of writing a novel and be published, we might be able to help one aspiring author realize the dream of getting a contract.

Now back to Zee, who graciously agreed to answer some of our questions. 

What genre do you write in? Any specific reason why you chose the genre?

I write mainly contemporary. This can take the form of contemporary romance, romantic comedies, small-town romance, and even romantic suspense/espionage. There will always be romance involved, though, as well as a happy ending. I read for happy endings, and I assume most readers read for this destination, too.
As for the time period, I feel I have a better grasp on today’s world, the one we know first-hand, rather than, say, the historical world. There’s only so much information you can find online about historical resources, especially when you live in a small country like mine and don’t have physical access to big libraries and old records.
But with a click of the mouse on Google, I can find almost anything I need to know about, for example, St Pancras Station in London (specs, features, images; even Google Earth allows you to ‘see’ a place without being there. It’s how I have walked the streets of Prague for one of my books).

Where do you get the ideas for your books? How do you go from idea to outline?

I have to say that most of the time, my books start with characters. Like, say I start a series – let’s take the Island Girls Trilogy. The plan was to write The Other Side (Book1 and Lara’s story) and be done with it. But over the course of writing that book, I got better acquainted with Lara’s two sisters, Diya and Neha. They screamed to have their stories told...and each was as different as night from day. So it couldn’t be the same idea for every sister, so I worked with the characters as they’d already been established, and fleshed out their stories/found the story idea for each from that starting point.
So basically, it’s the character that leads me to the idea, and very rarely the other way round.
Though this can also happen. Take, for example, my Daimsbury Chronicles series. These are shorter stories set in the fictional Surrey town of Daimsbury. I originally imagined this world for a cancer-based story that would show the journey of the heroine, Megha, and her friends-to-lovers tale with her boss, Magnus. I came up with Daimsbury and thrust them in that little town. But while that book was on the backburner while I had to meet other deadlines, I found myself needing a setting to start a new sweet romance series...and then I reckoned I already had Daimsbury all set up.
I still haven’t finished Megha and Magnus’ story (hopefully, this will come out in 2015!) but in the meantime, there’s been 2 other books fitting into the Daimsbury world that have been written (one already published). So that’s a case where the idea for one story helped spawn a full, ongoing series.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why?

A little bit of both, I would say. I used to be an anal plotter – I’d have everything down to the smallest detail mapped out. I didn’t allow myself to veer from that outline...and this led me into walls quite a few times because I failed to realize my characters had morphed and evolved and no longer fit the rigid setup I had.
So I learned to accommodate a pantser’s nature into my outlining. Like, I know the strong/main points of the story and also how it starts and how it should end. I also jot down, along a timeline, key scenes that I already know must be in the tale. But the journey to get from one point to the other is a surprise as I’ll only know how it all happens when I’m actually writing the scene.

If you are a plotter, how thoroughly do you outline the plot?

I do the key points/strategic scenes, as well as the start and end. I also do my best to get to know the characters before I start writing.

If you have to choose only one element (setting/ character development/ structure/ conflict/ etc.) that is absolutely essential to every novel you’ve written, what would it be? Why?

I would say characters. If you have well-developed characters, they bring their own conflict to every page, then. Knowing your characters also allows you to show better, to have every page and every scene have meaning in your story.
This, to me, is especially important for shorter works, because you have to pack exposure, characterization, as well as relevant backstory, into a tighter scope so the story can also develop along the way.
But I feel that characters can give you conflict and structure all by themselves, so they’re essential to me whenever I am imagining a story. Knowing your characters like they’re real people allows you to anticipate how they will react in any situation, and this can get you out of a bind in the plot or even when you hit the dreaded wall of writer’s block.

What is the single most important thing a writer must do before he/she starts writing the first draft? Why?

I have 3 very important aspects I tackle before starting to write any story.
Know your characters – see above answer for why J
Know your setting – sometimes, the setting will provide a plot point all by itself and this can progress your story along. For example, if you have Vegas in a romance, you can almost bet there will be a wedding happening there. Now what sort of complications can/will this wedding cause? There you have it – the premise for further conflict. Same goes for a little town – there will surely be gossip there; what ramifications can this gossip have on the plot?
Know your world – it doesn’t matter if you’re writing contemporary or space opera or Game of Thrones-type fantasy; you need to know the scope, limits, values, mores, customs of that world like the back of your hand to portray a believable world.

What is your writing process like? Do you finish the first draft and then start editing or do you edit while you write? Is there any specific reason why you do it like that?

I edit as I go along. Most of the time, it allows me to see which words I might be crutching on or overusing, and I can already remedy that when I continue writing. Editing as I go also allows me to get back into the story and immerse myself into the feel before plunging back in for writing the next scene/chapter.
But my writing process is a very unhealthy one. I will work on one single story to the exclusion of everything else over 1-2-3 weeks, depending on the length of the story. I will write during every free moment I find during the day, and I will prolly stop reading or watching TV during that time, because my brain will be wired for the story and for the writing. I almost always crash and burn (hello, cold bug or even flu virus!) when I finish a story, so I don’t recommend my method of writing. But I’ve found this is what works for me; I cannot spend weeks to months spread out over a single story. I’ll lose interest or even lose the story itself if I let it ramble too much in time.

Do you only self-edit or hire a professional editor? Why?

Well, the question never arises when I work with a publisher, since edits are part of the deal there.
But I’m getting ready to self-publish some of my titles, and for these, yes, I am using a professional editor. There’s only so much you can see and address in your own writing, never mind if you are yourself an editor. My editor sees mainly the words I am overusing – something my eyes and brain gloss over when I re-read my writing.

If you hire a professional editor, can you recommend anyone and state the reason/s why this person is recommendable?

My editor is my bestie and editing business partner, Natalie G. Owens. She’s got a wonderful eye for detail (hence spotting those pesky repeats, echoes, and crutches) and as a writer, she’s got a wonderful, lovely, & lyrical way with words. She bring this to her edits, as well, and knows better than anyone I know or have worked with how to smooth out jarring sentences or chunky clauses or those pieces of writing that look awkward and you yourself have no clue how to reword.
You can find Natalie (and myself) at our editing space on the Net – Divas At Work Editing Services

How many drafts do you write before submitting to publishers?

Usually, just one. Unless I’ve been blocked along the way and have had to change the whole direction of the plot/characterization. Then I more often than not start a fresh new draft rather than work with the old.
I’ve found it is easier to rewrite from scratch rather than try to work around previous material.

What is your greatest consideration when selecting a publisher?

How are they going to treat me as one of their authors? Will I be just a name that brings in money for them, or will I be a member of their ‘family’ there?
I do my research by contacting authors I know who publish with said publisher before submitting to it. I’ve been burned in the past with publishers, and I prefer to take my precautions. This approach allowed me recently to steer clear of an outfit that I’d thought would be fantastic but was actually a disaster waiting to happen... So please, before you target a publisher, ask around with its authors how it works and treats said authors.

If you have to give one sentence advice to a novice writer, what would it be?

Write! As simple as that – if you’re a writer, you write. You don’t stop. You don’t allow doubts to get the better of you. Even if what you are writing is crap, it’s still better crap than a blank page or having nothing to show for yourself, not even that manuscript/s hidden under your bed or in the farthest reaches of your hard drive.
Ability to write more and better comes with writing – it doesn’t get more basic than that. I’ve seen this firsthand myself over my 10-year career. Where it took me countless drafts and edits at first to get the words as I wanted them to look like, today, I get away with one draft and a couple editing passes through it. I also write much faster now than I did when I started (for example, I rarely, if ever, wrote more than 1,000 words in a week when I was a novice. My brain refused to produce more. But now, I can push a 40,000 story over a week, or go as far as 77K over 19 days – as I did last Nano when I finished on Nov 25 all without writing during weekends).

Could you please give us a list of your published books and a short blurb about each one? Please state the publisher and year published as well.
Lol, we’re in for space here J Let’s start:

Once Upon A Stormy Night (Decadent Publishing, 1NS Series - 2012)

On the paradise island of Mauritius, British billionaire Lars Rutherford isn’t looking for a woman, and corporate law executive Simmi Moyer isn’t looking for a man. But when a matchmaker pairs them on a blind date, both face open doors toward a future they refused to contemplate...until now.

Once Upon A Second Chance (Decadent Publishing, 1NS Series – 2013)

Khalid abandoned Leila the morning after their wedding night, because he hides a deep, dark secret. Leila is adamant on getting answers; Khalid wants nothing but salvation. Will a second chance be possible for this couple, when they meet again through a blind 1NightStand date?

Inescapable (self-published, Eternelles #1 – 2013)

An immortal mother-daughter duo must put their personal struggles aside when the Apocalypse looms on Earth and an age-old prophecy implicates the daughter inextricably in this journey towards doom.

Indomitable (self-published, Eternelles #2 – 2013)

After having identified the threat on their world, immortal duo Adrasteia and Seraphine Dionysos must gang up against supernatural forces joining hands to bring chaos and destruction to Earth and every realm where supernatural creatures live.

The Other Side (Decadent Publishing, Island Girls Trilogy #1 - 2013)

Divorce paints a scarlet letter on Lara’s back when she returns to the culture-driven society of Mauritius. But this same spotlight shines as a beacon of hope for the man who never stopped loving her. Can the second time around be the right one for these former teenage sweethearts?

Light My World (Decadent Publishing, Island Girls Trilogy #2 - 2014)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that to find a prince, a girl has to kiss a few frogs along the way. But what happens when a modern-day princess comes across…an ogre?

Winds of Change (Decadent Publishing, Island Girls Trilogy #3 - 2014)

To be with him feels like playing Russian roulette blindfolded all while knowing she bet from borrowed lease. Can something this wrong be....right?

Bad Luck With Besties (Decadent Publishing, The Daimsbury Chronicles #1 - 2013)

Bad luck chases Honor Whelan with every male friend she’s ever had. The last has left her pregnant. And the first wants back in her life after having slept with another woman. What’s a girl to do when she has such bad luck with besties?

You Belong To Me (Decadent Publishing, Beyond Fairytales series - 2014)

A retelling of Grimm fairytale The Nix of the Mill Pond in modern-day London, whereby a young woman who is no damsel in distress sets out to save her kidnapped prince...only to find that true evil lives well and strong in the heart of a man bent on conquering the world.

Transient Hearts (Decadent Publishing, Western Escape Line – 2014)

It’s a clash of wills, dreams, and desire, when Indo-British chef Shayne Morea comes to Freewill, Wyoming, on a teaching mission. Prodigal son and New York Forex broker, Grayson Warner, is also back on his home turf. Neither plans to stay, but the land seems to have other plans.

You can find all these titles on my Amazon author page

Where can we find you on social media?

Facebook (where I am almost all the time! Catch me here the easiest!)!/zee.monodee

Thank you for taking the time to visit us today, Zee and for answering the questions we threw at you. I trust you are hard at work with the next release and that we don't have to wait too long to see another fantastic read from you again. 


  1. Thank you so much for having me over! :) LOL, yes, hard at work - I have my readers to thank for that, because they always encourage me to bring out more stories, and it's this support that makes every day, even the hardest, brighter

  2. Brilliant, Zee! Super interview - thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Gina! Lol, I hope I didn't bore anyone; I can get long-winded with answers ;) xoxo

  3. Hi Ladies :)

    Zee, I will always and forever be in awe of you! Truly.
    Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Lol, April! You're gonna make me blush :) Big hugs!!