Roar writer Laura Saracino interviews Ella Gibbons, author of Live Our Young Blood, on advice for aspiring writers.
I met Ella two years ago in a cold Swedish winter, out in the nowhere when you know no one in an exchange programme.
I saw her again yesterday for the first time since then. Her smiling face popped up on the screen of my smartphone, together with the light of an Illinois afternoon amplified by her newly dyed red hair.
A few months ago, she wrote her first book: Live Our Young Blood that was self-published through Amazon. The process was smooth, it was all about downloading a template to fill with the chapters, then waiting 72 hours for an approval. Her friend edited her writing, while another designed the cover. In a matter of three days, the book was up and available everywhere:
“I never imagined being 24 and with this book in my hands. I mean, I have always wanted to become a writer, but I did not see myself self-publishing a non-fictional book over two years’ time, with all the things that happened: I graduated, travelled to a lot of different places, worked many seasonal jobs, and on top of that, Covid! I cannot I say I didn’t feel vulnerable or panic a bit, I put myself in those essays, most of them coming from my journals. There are many personal things, all of what I have written is truly personal, but my goal was to bond with the readers. Make them feel as part of a community, with similar experience able to find support and reassurance, cheering up!”
I purchased it, and I was not even halfway through when I sent her a text: I wanted to interview her, ask about her experience and gather some advice for all the wannabe-writers out there.
She came up with five simple and effective tips:
- Stick to one idea: “Sometimes you can have all types of ideas. You start one writing project, then another and another, but never end up finishing any of them. It’s great to have lots of different ideas but sticking to one idea will help you focus and finish one project. Then of course, once you’re done, you can start your next whenever you feel ready.”
- To just keep writing: “Once you have your idea, keep going. A lot of the time the middle parts of books are hard to write and just feel like a lot of mush. If you keep pushing through the middle part of the book, you will obviously reach the end. For me, the end can be easier to write than the middle.”
- Take your time: “Nothing is going to happen overnight. Throughout high school and college, I would always follow all my favourite authors. A lot of them got published by huge publishers at such a young age with a multiple book deal. Throughout college, I thought I would get a huge book deal right after graduation, but that didn’t happen. I followed a completely different route of self-publishing, but someday I’m hoping to get a book deal with a big publisher, maybe on a different project. Always remember – everything takes time.”
- Don’t be afraid of change: “This is a nonfiction piece and I never thought that my first book would be in this genre. I’m a huge fan of fantasy and science fiction. I wrote a lot of those kind of stories throughout high school and college, so I always thought those would be my first books I would try to get published. I still want that to happen someday, but I want to say don’t be afraid of change and if your writing style has changed over the years. Write what you want to write or whatever feels right at the time.”
- Live A Little of Your Life: “I started writing this book in 2018 when I was 21, but I stopped because I realised that I needed to live my life a little more. I never thought I would come back to this book before I was 27 or 28, but I’m 24 now and had a lot of free time because of Covid, and I’ve had a lot of experiences since I started writing this book so I thought what the heck, might as well! Going off of that, don’t be afraid to stop a project and come back to it maybe a few months or years later. I did that with this project and I’m really proud how it turned out.”
Ella and I spent an hour chatting on being bookworms, on building community, on Covid and the effects on our wanderlust attitudes, talking of Faith and Sweden and being the family weirdo stand-alone. Quality time with a friend and an amazing writer, whom I wish the very best for life. I already long to read something new with Ella’s signature on.
To all the aspiring writers reading this: go chase your dreams and don’t forget to write along the way!