Today's Author Spotlight is author Margot de Klerk! Read on for the full interview. Publication date: July 21st, 2021 Amazon |  Goodrea...

Author Spotlight || Margot de Klerk, Author of Wicked Magic

Today's Author Spotlight is author Margot de Klerk!

Read on for the full interview.

Publication date: July 21st, 2021

Nathan is a vampire hunter on the cusp of graduation. He’s been training for this his entire life: the moment he qualifies and joins the rest of his family in their noble calling.

If only it were that simple.

His grades are a mess, his social life is a disaster, and what’s worse, his best friend is a witch! Add to that, his vampire uncle is back in town and his crush might just be supernatural too, and you have one big melting pot of potential parental disapproval. Nathan doesn’t think he can take much more, and then the dark mages come to town.

As bodies begin piling up in the streets, Nathan finds himself pulled deeper into political intrigue and a deadly plot that will pit him against his own family. When the girl he likes comes under threat, Nathan races against time to solve the mystery... well aware that with every step he takes, he comes closer to his father exposing all his secrets.

What's your latest release? 

Wicked Magic, the first book in the Vampires of Oxford series, was released on 21 July 2021. Vampires of Oxford is a series of standalone novels, exploring the lives and adventures of different characters in an alternate universe where vampires and witches live amongst us. Wicked Magic is all about Nathan, a vampire hunter who finds himself siding with the vampires he’s supposed to hate.

Can you start out by telling us a little about your latest work? 

My debut novel is Wicked Magic. It’s a story about a vampire hunter-in-training, Nathan, who’s about to graduate. He finds himself doubting the values he’s been raised with. It’s very much a story about that awkward time in life, where you’re struggling with more and more responsibilities, trying to figure out who you are independent of your parents, and learning to stand on your own two feet. It also has a little bit of romance and a supernatural mystery.

Where did you get the inspiration to write this story?

This world has existed in my head for a long time, at least since 2013. I went to university in Oxford, and it’s a place which has always been very inspirational for me. I’ve also always loved vampire stories, and I knew my first novel would be a vampire novel.

Truth be told, I was actually working on a different novel in this series, and Nathan was a side character. One day, whilst I was working, I thought, “Hey, Nathan would be a really interesting character to explore some more.” The opening line popped into my head, and I started writing. One sleepless night later, I had fifteen thousand words written. I guess Nathan wanted his story to be told that badly.

When you developed the characters, did you already know who they were before you began writing or did they develop organically?

I start from a static point, knowing exactly how the character is at the beginning of the story. But I don’t plot out the character development. That grows organically. I like it the most when characters surprise me.

Which of your characters was your favorite to write and why?

I enjoy writing every character, but I think I love side characters the most. It’s so fun to think about who they really are, and then to filter that through the main character’s perspective. I especially love morally grey characters. They’re not the bad guys, but they’re going to do bad things. Through the main character’s perspective, I can make the reader think a certain thing about them. In Wicked Magic, I loved Adrian and Jeremiah the most. In my next novel, there’s one character… I can’t wait to see what people think of him.

Truth be told, though, I eventually fall in love with all my characters. If I don’t love them, it’s a sure sign that I need to cut them.

What was more important to you when you were writing: character development or plot?

A bit of both, I’d say. My novels are very character-driven. I like exploring who a person is and figuring out what they would or wouldn’t do. I’ll start with an overarching plot idea, but how it plays out will be decided by the characters. Who are they, where are they going? For me, they’re like real people with opinions, hopes, dreams. They don’t always do what I tell them to do! But I also love dropping hints about the main plot, and trying to trick the readers. My favourite thing is to write a character you think is good/bad… but they turn out to be the opposite.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned (about your story, about yourself, etc.) while writing?

I’ve been misusing the word “mercurial” my entire life! Also, I’m not as good as social media as I thought I was. My dad (who’s in his sixties) had to teach me how to use Twitter and Instagram. Ouch!

In your opinion what makes a good story?

It’s easy to say this is about world-building and characters, but for me it boils down to slightly more subtle things. The first is emotion. Do I, as the reader, feel the same things the character is feeling? I love a book that makes me excited when the characters are under stress, sad when they’re sad, etc. Writing style: I don’t like overly descriptive writing. A book that tells me how to feel is a no-no. I also don’t care where the doors and windows are. Dialogue: good dialogue will hook me in seconds. I’ll ignore a lot of flaws if the dialogue is great. Superb plot. I was reading a book recently, and I was literally a chapter away from DNFing it, and then the author killed off the love interest! Needless to say, I finished the book the same day. A story should be well thought out. I hate plot holes, and I really like to understand how the magic works from the start. I’ve read a few books that are about a character learning magic, and that’s fine, but that’s not an excuse to not explain what your magic is capable of from the start. Excellent worldbuilding: I’ll look at characters and plot first. To me the worldbuilding is the support staff. You might have great characters, but if the world has more holes in it than Swiss cheese, those characters are going to fall flat.

What can I say? I’m a fussy reader!

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Having only just published my debut novel, I’m not quite sure I’m qualified to answer this question yet, but I’ll give it a shot!

I used to be a very unstructured writer, working in fits and bursts. Publishing has forced me to get organised. I have lists and spreadsheets, and I work on the book and marketing for a few hours every day. I’ve had to be very disciplined, or else I’d have overshot my deadline.

Do you read your book reviews? What do you consider "good" /"bad"?

I read every review, and will continue to do so until I have too many reviews for it to be practical (and here’s to hoping that happens). I consider all feedback to be good feedback. That isn’t to say that negative feedback is fun! It hurts like an open wound. Generally, I have to take a day or two before I can consider objectively whether I want to address the negative feedback. I’m always glad when I can, because that’s when you learn, but sometimes it’s not possible/practical. Then I take it on board for the next book.

A bad review for me would be just trashing the book. I get nothing out of that, and I wonder why the reviewer bothered reading it? They didn’t get anything out of the reading, either. Those, I will ignore. Thankfully, there haven’t been any yet.

What led you to start writing?

I honestly don’t remember. Writing is just something I’ve always done, and I’ve known for years that I wanted to be an author. I remember being about eight years old. We were on the train back home from visiting my aunt, about a four-hour journey, and my brother and I wrote “mystery novels” on scrap paper with golf pencils. It was just something we always did.

Do you have any writing superstitions?

I don’t like sharing my manuscripts with anyone before I’ve finished the first draft. They’re always littered with mistakes and plot holes and random notes to myself. It also feels unlucky. I don’t know why, but I prefer for the first external feedback to be on a completed draft.

What attracted you to the genre(s) you write in?

I like young adult as an age group because I really enjoy exploring the tensions and conflicts that arise at that age. You’re not quite an adult, but very definitely not a child anymore. It was also a time of my life when books really helped me, so I want to honour that. As for fantasy, it’s a genre I’ve always loved. I love creating new worlds, drawing on mythology, and trying to find little bits of magic in everything.

What is one of your favorite words? OR Is there a word you find yourself using too often?

“Actually” and “really”. Grammarly and I had a bit of a disagreement on the necessity of those words.

What are you currently reading?

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg. No opinions yet, but I really do love the cover.

A lot of authors have a soundtrack while writing. Are there are songs you had on repeat?

I usually listen to lofi music or coffeeshop jazz. It helps me concentrate. I’m one of those people who gets distracted very easily by any changes in environment.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Perseverance and plotting are the most important things, not inspiration. If you’ve plotted out your novel, and you can follow that plot and just push through the bad moments, inspiration will come back.

Which animal would you say is your spirit animal and why?

Definitely a cat. I love cats. I look after all the community cats in the area I live.

Would you rather live in a haunted mansion or a cottage surrounded by fairytale creatures?

I’ll take the cottage. I love writing scary stuff, but in real life I’m a massive scaredy cat.

What is something about the genre that annoys you?

Ooh, that’s a hard one! I will read any trope/perspective/writing style so long as it’s well written. That makes me sound like a very flexible reader, and I’m actually not. I have high standards for what counts as “well-written”. So I’d say there’s no one trope that annoys me, but poor editing, poor grammar, unnatural dialogue, or an annoying MC are likely to make me DNF. I don’t like obvious plots, nor do I like plot holes or unexplained magic of deus ex machinas. Lately I’m also a bit tired of the masquerade, where a teenager discovers a new world and then turns out to have world-saving superpowers. I prefer books about ordinary people managing to save the day with the limited abilities they have.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I only drink coffee when I’m writing. The rest of the time I’ll only drink tea.

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you? What are your links?

I’m MargotDKwrites on both Twitter and Instagram, and I love chatting to people. I will reply on both, though I prefer Instagram.

What advice would you like to pass on to aspiring writers that is unconventional but true?

The people who are close to you might not care as much about your writing as you want them to, and that’s going to be really tough. For example, I sent a family member my final draft, and he replied that he “might have time to read it before it’s published”. That hurt! Remember you’re completely immersed in your work, and so you’re obviously going to be really passionate about it. They’ll probably get a little sick of you talking about it all the time. They’ll take ages to read manuscripts, or they might not want to read your book at all. That’s okay. Keep annoying them! One day, you’ll publish a book that will touch someone’s heart. That’s what it’s all about.

Do you have a WIP? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

Yes! I’m working on the second book in my series. It’s about Cynthia (the love interest from book one). She’s just graduated school, and is heading to Berlin for a few weeks. I love writing about Berlin. I used to live there. It’s a brilliant city, with so much history and culture. It’s magical all on its own. I hope I can do it justice.

The summary will be up on my website soon, so people can head over there and find out a bit more about the trouble that Cynthia’s going to get herself into. Hint: a lot of trouble. Really, she’s totally unprepared.

Margot de Klerk is a British-born young adult fantasy writer in her late twenties. Born to South African parents, she has lived in six different countries and speaks several languages. She read German at the University of Oxford, and has a passion for old languages and linguistics. Her debut novel, Wicked Magic, was inspired by her time living in Oxford. When not writing, she enjoys photography, travelling, sewing, and various sports. She currently resides in Dubai.

Margot, thank you so much for taking the time to be my guest on Cats Luv Coffee!