My Journey to Publication: Leona Deakin
At The Writers’ Academy, we really enjoy seeing how our courses help in boosting the careers of writers. Leona Deakin, who joined us on the Constructing a Novel course in January 2017, has recently had her debut thriller acquired by Transworld.
We caught up with Leona to discuss this exciting news and to find out more about her creative writing journey.
Leona Deakin is an author and Chartered Psychologist based in Yorkshire. She has a passion for writing psychology based crime thrillers and her debut novel Mind Games is due for publication by Transworld in early 2019.
Leona began her career as a psychologist for West Yorkshire police and takes inspiration for her writing from her varied career working as a consultant to organisations such as the Ministry of Defence and the Crown Prosecution Service.
You can follow Leona on Twitter here.
Congratulations on your news! Securing this publishing deal is a great achievement, how do you feel?
I’m incredibly excited as I’m sure you can imagine. It is a dream come true and still feels a little surreal. I can’t believe how enthusiastic my editor Lizzy Goudsmit and the Transworld team are about my story.
Tell us a little more about your book, where did you get your inspiration?
The story opens with four missing strangers. There are no clues regarding their whereabouts, except one. On the day they disappeared, each received a birthday card that read “Your gift is the game. Dare to play?”
My investigator, Dr Augusta Bloom is persuaded to help by the victims’ families. She is a psychologist and private investigator. She delves into their lives, their behaviours, their motives, their personalities and finds something that binds them all. And that something makes the missing people very dangerous indeed.
My inspiration came from the ability of social media to track who we are and what we do, essentially profiling us. I wondered what someone with a dark motivation might do with that type of insight and power.
What was it about writing thrillers that appealed to you most?
I have always loved thrillers and mystery novels. I grew up reading Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell, John Grisham and the like. I enjoy the process of seeing if I can beat the investigator to the solution, so I wanted to give readers that sort of experience with lots of twists and turns to keep them on their toes.
Tell us a little more about Dr. Augusta Bloom, what makes her different from other protagonists?
Bloom is a psychologist like me. But her expertise is in the darker aspects of human nature: criminals, psychopaths and narcissists. I wanted her to explore a mystery from the perspective of motives and character rather than evidence. She is a strong woman: intelligent, considered and unemotional. But she has a lovely side-kick in the form of ex-secret service agent Marcus Jameson who brings humour and passion to Bloom’s steady, scientific approach.
How much has your piece developed since you have left the course?
When I left the course I had half a dozen chapters written – an opening, a possible ending and some key scenes – along with my story outline. I am definitely a gardener rather than an architect when it comes to writing. I don’t plot everything in advance, my story evolves and changes as I write. So, a great deal of it was produced after the course, but the confidence in my idea and the tips and feedback I received were critical to the process.
What has been the most challenging aspect of the publishing process so far?
Securing a publishing deal is obviously the hardest. I have been writing for over ten years and trying to get something published the whole time. But I can see how the years of practice and persistence have paid off. My writing has improved vastly in that time and I’ve learned huge amounts from other writers, conferences and this course.
Prior to joining us for the ‘Constructing a Novel’ course, had you already been writing for a number of years? And have you always been interested in pursuing a career in writing?
Yes and no. I’ve always been an avid reader and I took an A-level in English Literature but the desire to write came later in life. I actually read a few popular books one summer holiday – I think Twilight might have been one – and I remember thinking, I could do this. I came home and set about writing a story to give to my sisters as a Christmas present. And I fell in love with the whole process.
Is there any advice you would give to writers who are hoping to get their work published?
I can’t stress the importance of persistence and practice. It’s said a lot but that’s because it’s true. Also I’d say grab any opportunity to learn, receive feedback and improve. That’s what’s great about a course like this. You learn from experienced writers, editors and publishers and you receive feedback from people who really do know what they are doing.
And keep the faith in your own work. The week before Lizzy called me to say she loved my first draft of Mind Games, I was at a conference where an agent who’d read my overview and opening chapters told me he just didn’t get it. It’s a hard thing to hear but you have to remind yourself how subjective fiction is. You just have to keep seeking that person who gets it!
Coming up with ideas and rewriting is bound to be stressful, what do you do to relax?
I’m a keen runner and often draft out scenes while running around the streets and fields of Yorkshire. I also have a four year old daughter so she keeps me busy, dressing up as a princess typically. You can’t feel too stressed when you’re wearing a tiara.
How did you learn about The Writers’ Academy?
I was looking for a good online course so searched Google and compared what was on offer. What I liked about The Writer’s Academy was that much of the teaching is done via clips of writers and editors talking about what works and what doesn’t. It seemed so much more practical than other courses and that appealed to me. I didn’t want the theory. I just wanted tips, techniques and the chance to have a go.
What was your experience with The Writers’ Academy like?
It was hugely motivating. I set aside every Monday to look at the lessons and exercises for the week and it became my favourite day. It was so interesting and useful – it would fill me with enthusiasm to write. Don’t get me wrong, there were some tricky parts where I, and my fellow delegates, would be tearing our hair out trying to get to grips with what was being asked of us. But more often than not, that’s where I learned the most.
It improved my writing technique and increased my confidence. My tutor Barbara Henderson was fantastic. She responded so quickly to the work done with a great balance of enthusiasm for my ideas, suggestions for how to strengthen it and feedback on writing tics she spotted. I’d say the learning was invaluable for me.
What advice would you have for anyone considering a creative writing course?
Be clear what you need and try to find someone who provides that. I wanted practical tips and feedback and that’s exactly what I got from The Writer’s Academy.
So, what’s next for you?
I am currently writing my follow up to Mind Games as my publishing deal was for two Augusta Bloom novels. I’m only a few chapters in but already feeling that addictive pull to write and write and write. I’m hoping to finish the first draft by early Autumn so I can get Lizzy on the case helping me to make it the best it can be.
To stay up to date with Leona, make sure to follow her on Twitter.