S. V. Leonard – Q&A

S. V. Leonard is the author of The Islanders which was published by Canelo on 11 March 2021.

She kindly answered a few of my questions.

1. Tell us a little about The Islanders.

Kimberley King has spent the last five years trying to outrun the reason she left the police force. Her life is a mess and she’s desperate for change. So when she is randomly selected for the new series of the hit show LoveWrecked, she can’t pass up the chance to win the £100,000 prize.

But the island isn’t the paradise she was promised and within hours, one of the contestants is dead. Then the announcement comes: one of the islanders is a murderer and Kimberley must find out who, live on television. For every hour it takes her, one more person will die. The game is rigged, everyone is hiding secrets, and time is running out…

2. What inspired the book?

The idea for THE ISLANDER came to me when I was watching Love Island during the summer of 2019. It did come in a flash, which is probably why I heavily overuse the phrase “like a lightning bolt” in my writing. I don’t know what made me think it but I thought how interesting it would be if a killer used that a reality television show for their crimes.

3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?

I sit firmly in the middle between being a planner and a pantser. I do a rough outline and then I’ll think more deeply about each section using bullet points to detail what I want to cover but my dedication to planning is short-lived and I’m soon itching to get writing. Once I have a general idea of the scene I want to write, it is such a fun feeling letting the words flow.

4. Is there anything about the process of publishing a book that surprised you?

Before getting published, I had done a lot of research about the industry so I generally knew what to expect but what surprised me was the speed. I’d prepared for everything to be slow because that is normally what happens with traditional publishing but because my publisher specialises in digital publishing (although I do also have print books with them as well) they are quick so from being offered the deal to being published it was exactly 6 months.

5. What do you do when you aren’t writing? What do you do to relax and get away from it all?

I love to read and know that reading is an essential part of being a writer. I love going for walks, during the pandemic I’ve been fortunate enough to live with my parents who live near the beach so long walks on the beach. When I’m in London (where I usually live), I love walking around London too. My boyfriend and I are huge fans of walking tours so we try to do one around a new part of London once a month or so. I also enjoy doing escape rooms, during Lockdown we’ve found some that you can do at home and they’ve been just as fun, so I’ll definitely carry on doing them at home in the future.

6. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?

This will probably feature as a regular answer on this blog but I must say Pride and Prejudice. I read it first as a teenager and it is one of the only books I can read more than once. It is a wonderful, wonderful book and I never tire of the story or Austen’s writing.

7. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?

What advice do you have for people starting out? [Surprisingly I haven’t been asked this yet]

If your goal is to publish (either self or traditional), do your research as you write or even before you start writing. I was only half way through my first novel when I started researching the industry and it helped me understand what a novel needed to be to be publishable. I learnt the importance of knowing your genre; of having the correct word count; I learnt about story beats and structure; I learnt how to write a query letter, a synopsis, and how to search for an agent; and about the difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing. There is loads of information available on the internet with many authors writing blogs or recording videos to teach those starting out how to pursue their goals so take advantage of all these amazing resources available.

Another piece of advice I’d share is that every authors journey is different and that is ok. I got my book deal through a twitter pitch contest called #PitMad. Sian Heap, my now editor, liked my tweet, read the book and offered. I wanted to have an agent because I wanted someone to support me navigate the journey long-term. So, I submitted to Emily and she offered me representation, she then worked with my publisher on finalising the deal. Without that Twitter pitch contest none of it would have happened and I never expected it to happen in the way that it did, but I wouldn’t change any of it.

And the final piece of advice is to enjoy every stage. It is easy to focus solely on the getting an agent or getting published (and admittedly my first piece of advice does recommend keeping an eye on that) but before publication there is so much joy to be had before you send your first query letter. Writers write because they love it so enjoy your time with your manuscript when it is just you and it.

About the Book

Kimberley King has spent the last five years trying to outrun the reason she left the police force. Her life is a mess and she’s desperate for change. So when she is randomly selected for the new series of the hit show LoveWrecked, she can’t pass up the chance to win the £100,000 prize. All Kimberley needs to do is couple up with one of her fellow contestants, win the infamous LoveWrecked challenges, and she will have enough cash for a fresh start.

But the island isn’t the paradise she was promised and within hours, one of the contestants is dead. Then the announcement comes: one of the islanders is a murderer and Kimberley must find out who, live on television. For every hour it takes her, one more person will die.

The game is rigged, everyone is hiding secrets, and time is running out…

About the Author

S. V. Leonard grew up in the little coastal town of Formby, a suburb of Liverpool. She studied Classics at Oxford University and has been lucky enough to live in Australia, Poland, and Malaysia. She is now based in London. When not writing, she can be found breaking out of escape rooms; doing historical walking tours of London; or drinking wine.

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